Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The weather's right, at least.

I'm not sure about the rest of the city, but then, it's hard to make a sound and solid judgment after 2 and a half days of pedaling frantically from one end of town to the other, desperate to soak it all in before that inevitable return flight.

Like any place, there are some things I've loved and some that I haven't. The availability of vegan food, the unerring sunshine, the self-reliant nature of people- these things I've enjoyed. I like how people seem smart, and I like even more that they don't seem to be snotty about it. My first afternoon, I received warm smiles every place I went, not to mention a free young coconut and a free vegan brownie.

Austin's bikeability is unmatched by Cleveland, except that perhaps it's busier here, as far as car traffic goes. Still, there are bike lanes on nearly every street, and drivers aren't actively trying to run me over (a big and welcome change). City streets bound up and down some hills, but the hills aren't big, and since I'm riding gears, they've been a fairly simple challenge. Winds coming up from the south, pressing against me as I ride home after an excursion; those pose a greater threat to my joints and state of calm than any incline I've encountered.

The things I haven't liked, or at least haven't taken an immediate liking to, are things I'm largely unfamiliar with. There's a strong Hispanic influence on the appearance and pulse of the city- buildings are sometimes covered in bright murals, and Mexican restaurants abound- and I'm not used to the squat structures lighting up the main roads with flashes of color. I'm not used to thoroughfares plastered on either side with businesses; I grew up with houses and trees. I'm not used to a campus that takes over half of the city, or, quite frankly, the remarkable lack of African Americans.

The biggest difference, though, is the gaping lack of coastline. There's a river to the south, but a river's banks are a poor substitution for someone who's always had a lake or sea to wonder at. The horizon here is land or building; at least one of my horizons has always been water. It makes me feel a little bit lonely, a little bit small- to know I'm a small bit of flesh and blood in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to go. Maybe having a waterfront satisfies my need to know I can escape, and maybe the lack of one makes me all too aware of my fallibility...of myself.

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