Little Sister Squires Protective Big Brother About Town
Not too long ago, I visited Austin, Texas for the second time this year and left a big piece of myself behind. Sounds pretty profound, huh? It's not really; I'm referring to the Big Gulp equivalent amount of perspiration I produced every hour on the hour in the early summer Texas heat. Now that I've publicly humbled myself before the suffocating temperatures I can get to the heart of this post.
The impetus of ATX round two was twofold. Rachael and I traveled down to hill country to celebrate the wedding of a good friend and former college roommate - Congratulations Alex and Ellie! The occasion afforded us the opportunity to see some of our closest Domer friends for the second time in as many weeks. But the opportunity to visit my sister in her new city for a few days occupied the bulk of our time.
Colleen, younger than me by a mere 18 months, moved from DC to Austin last July to serve as a VISTA Scholar with Americorps. I'll readily admit that I'm a protective big brother, despite the fact that my sister is in many ways better equipped to thrive in a new environment. Still, when Colleen decided to leave the predictable and safe nest of the Capital (sarcasm intended), I was sorry to see her go. She had chosen to venture off to a completely unknown city and willingly accepted all of the humbling challenges of Americorps. Most of all, I genuinely love being close to Colleen, which is the greatest reason her move was unpleasant for me . We may have bickered, taunted each other, and even resorted to adolescent violence as kids, but we've grown incredibly close in the last couple of years.
I shouldn't have been at all surprised when I discovered how savvy my sister is for a second time since since she ventured out on her own. If ever there was a quintessential ambassador to a city, Colleen is it. She first moved across the country to DC and crashed with Rachael and me in October 2013. I began to feel like a foreigner in my own home about a month into her stay due to the ease and speed with which she became intimately familiar with all of the Capital's hidden gems. Colleen recounted her experiences at concert venues, parks, cafes, bars, restaurants, museums, and galleries that I had never even heard of, let alone visited. I began to suspect she was showing me up. It was calculated. Ruthless. Mortifying. This is what bullying looks like. She had to go...
Fast forward two years and give her ten times as long to study up on her new home, and now Colleen is a regular ATX native. We had hardly set our bags down when she packed us into her tour mobile, preheated to a comfortable 175 degrees. From there we hit Hope Gallery graffiti park, an open patch of land on the outskirts of the city where artists and novices alike are free to tag a cascade of cement walls and walkways, and Mount Bonnell, ATX's (nearly) highest point overlooking the Colorado River, all before the car's A/C had any relieving effect. Colleen's friends Spenser and Cholula joined us for tacos at Tyson's - oh, the tacos - before venturing to 6th Street downtown.
Our forces essentially tripled as we linked up with the cavalry of ND grads in town for the wedding one by one on 6th Street. It was like the opening scene in D2 Mighty Ducks, but without roller blades, much to my chagrin. And just as Charlie Conway led Team America to an against-all-odds shootout victory over Gunner Stahl and the seemingly unbeatable Iceland hockey team in the Junior Olympics when Julie "The Cat" Gaffney stopped Gunner's triple deke slapshot gloveside, because Coach Bombay knows the kid's move, he always goes glove side, he's fancy... So too did Colleen lead us to victory over 6th Street.
And we were just getting started. But I hear you, this post is getting long-winded and heavy on details, so to get to move the story along, we're gonna do a Colleen-centric montage:
- Mountainous breakfast burritos at Juan in a Million
- Scouring expletive-riddled knick knacks on Congress Street
- Craft beer garden brunch and a live brass band at Bangers
- Mid-day beers, dogs, and tailgating games at The Bungalow on Rainey Street
- Local beer straight from the source at the Austin Beer Works brewery
- All capped off with an evening swim at the Strickland Arms B&B in Colleen's backyard (go for the spiced lamb shanks, stay for the hottub)
It takes a seasoned pro to gather the vast array of experiences that Colleen showed us last weekend in Austin, but that's exactly what she's become in a short period of time. A local with her finger on the pulse of her city. A welcoming ambassador of whatever locale and culture she chooses to represent.
My little sister moved away from DC nearly a year ago. I was sad to see her ship off to her next adventure when we had rediscovered such a personally and geographically close relationship, but this post isn't a sad one. It would be trite and melodramatic for me to say I lost a piece of myself the day she moved away. Quite the opposite in fact. Colleen afforded me so many valuable tips and memories about the city that I call home that it would truly be disingenuous to make such a claim. I've grown because of her influence. But I wouldn't hesitate to say that a piece of myself lives with my sister. And because of that, I'll just have to go visit it no matter where Colleen calls home next.