Old Austin, Revisited

Old Austin, Revisited

To be clear, no one died. But the cause was to help clean out the mother-in-law’s house, a treasure trove of Americana kitsch from the last — long time.

In the shadow of Nature’s Treasures back door, almost.

“We had a reader cancellation, can anyone fill in?”

I wanted to, but I set up other appointments, and as the driving male, figured I had family business, not regular work.

The best part, got an AirBnB for a few nights. Not that the old house isn’t hospitable, but with more than half a century and two millennia of stuff scattered across bedrooms, yeah, too many ancestral memories.

Too many recollections, bugs, dust, spiders, and a single dead lizard, all desiccated. Gratefully, no more rodents thus far.

Old Austin, Revisited

It was the address for last week’s AirBnB that was cool. First off, cleaning out the house? The period feature I love, but only me? Pink tile bathroom.

“No, Kramer, I grew up with that. No. Just, no.”

The pink tile, pink sinks, pink toilet? The plumbing that uses about ten gallons per flush?

So the AirBnB, it was a retro Austin number, and close, plus? Pink tile bathroom, squeal!

There was another factor, compounding memories. The address, the street’s name was familiar.

Thirty years — or more — “Garage Sale” adventures, I encountered a vaguely familiar person. He was heavier, I was lighter, my hair was longer, and he was more challenged, like a tonsured blond monk. Washboard abs and an angry, hardened visage was replaced with grinning Buddhist countenance and merry belly.

“I know you,” and I recited his last name plus first initials.

He smiled, and gave up guessing where we knew each other from. He had Army training, then wound up as Marine MP, Captain. Between that, and his graduate work in social work, he had a far greater mental Rolodex than I did.

“In California, I used to run into former patients,” he said.

I knew him, but he didn’t recall me, not right away.

Think I’ve changed a bit.

As a spiritual mentor, more a teacher along the way, as we are the same era, he was, and his influence continues to this day, as a shining light. More like a fellow on a similar path. He was the first time I heard the term, “Shakespeare as a secular canon…”

At the time, he was living in an inherited sharecropper homestead, same street, just maybe a block or two away. He long since decamped; tony, sometimes tawdry Austin fails on certain levels. I get that. Always looking for the edge where the strange music starts.

Old Austin, Revisited

It was mere blocks away, years, now several decades in the distant past, but passing through yet again, family, futility, and friends, all of that swimming back in my mind.

It’s old Austin, revisited, and a perfect way to see where we’ve been, what’s changed, and what is the same. The neighborhood feels “cool” without some of the trendy, millennial trappings. I counted two or three of the houses still clad in what I’m pretty sure is asbestos tiles, dates the original construction to a certain era. Just a guess, but there are the echos of old Austin, still present.


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Tuesday in Austin at Nature’s Treasures
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