I've been here a month, today. In this time I have developed a sneaking suspicion that Austin has grown up in the last several years since I've been here. In this sense, we're well matched. I'm past the days of working with musicians and running beside my boyfriend to push our indie label offerings. I'm here a bit more withdrawn, a misplaced person who stopped thinking of travel as adventures and more as a way of life when the economy of my world bottomed out. So, from the memories of watching the banks fall down and wondering how they got back up before I did, I came with little expectation to Austin, the state capitol of one of the most fabled states in the union, Texas a land known for oil and ranches.
So here I am, housesitting, for a friend who is off having a southeast Asia tour. I have her house. I have her dogs. I have her white picket fence and the space and time to do as I please. In a sense, this is every poor writer's dream. It's also a perfect recipe for my own type of disaster. Too much time alone, too much time with no schedule and I generally, implode. That's why I like living with roommates or partners, with family, basically with someone, other than the dogs, who will remind me to leave the laptop alone and to enjoy some of the sunshine. Having other people around, despite the distractions, helps me to be more productive in the end.
Knowing my own problems I decided to start attending the open mics of Austin. The first night I went out I got lost and wandered about in the downtown area talking to shopkeepers and finally, sheepishly, asking where such and such coffee shop might be. Eventually, I made my way, the first night, being a Tuesday, to the Ruta Maya open mic. There was a nice mic on a small but elevated stage. There was coffee and cheaply priced beer. I was excited. There were not too many people but there were enough. This was exactly the place where I needed to be, a place where I could test out my poems in front of an audience, not just this night, but seven days a week. To ensure I wouldn't get lost, somehow dropped a printout of all of the months weekly, bi-monthly and one-time offerings. These are printed and distributed diligently by a poet by the name of Thom Woodruff, aka Thom the World Poet.
In meeting Thom and participating in part of his schedule I've come to know that Austin has a truly amazing array of community to offer anyone wanting to read. There are theatrics aplenty, it's true, but at the core of it all is a serious dedication to the reading, performing and proliferation of free thinking and free verse. At the core of this community are Thom and those like him, many older poets and otherwise accomplished artists who don't only sit amongst themselves, but who go out, daily, weekly and monthly, to give and encourage. It's kind of amazing and I'll continue blogging now, somewhat daily to expand on what I'm seeing here in this grand landscape of coffee shops, state politics and a constantly changing face. To be honest, being from Brooklyn in Austin, well, it's just not that exotic.