Tuesday, June 02, 2009

One Year Downtown

Hard as it is to believe, we closed on our condo a year ago. So one year downtown? Wow. It's true that we didn't sell our house until August, but we spent almost every night down here after we closed and (that same day) moved in a few things (a sleeper sofa, two chairs, boxes of CDs, a tiny flat screen TV we got off the Internet, a coffee table whose glass top we kept having to move around as we finished out our place out with built-ins, electronics, some new furniture). We spent a lot of our days at the house, packing, cleaning, tossing, organizing. We left our Capresso at the house and moved in a new coffee pot at first. (I knew we were committed when the Capresso came downtown and we tucked that new drip pot away for the disastrous day when our beloved caffeine machine fails us.)

There are pros and cons to everything, of course, and sure there are things I miss about being in my old neighborhood. I miss the restaurants that were convenient there (Fonda San Miguel, 34th St., Blue Star and Billy's on Burnet), watching nature unfold in the yard (although I don't miss trying to tame it or the poison ivy) and I miss being able to go out to my car if I forget something without riding the elevator.

But being downtown mostly rocks. All in all I might like to live in a more expensive building but it's hard to imagine a better location than this one with three restaurants (two well-established now and one soon to open) and a grocery store downstairs. Then there is Whole Foods only a half mile away and a multitude of other bars, restaurants and coffee shops within a half mile or so. We are right across the street from our beloved Butler Dance Education Center, the home of Ballet Austin, and really positioned for events there. We can easily walk to Long Center, the Paramount and, though it's a bit further afield, we've made our way on foot to the Blanton, Erwin Center, PAC, KLRU studios and Harry Ransom Center at UT. I was talking to one of the neighbors in my old hood the other day and they said it was just an illusion, a mindset, that it was no further from our old house to, say, the Performing Arts than from the new place. Actually, it is a mile and a third further. This is pretty significant, adding over two and a half miles of walking to a round trip. And, of course, walking downtown from the old place would be beyond daunting to me, not to mention time-consuming. Of course, we could bike but I'd be a danger to myself. Bikes, in fact are a dange to me when they don't yield to pedestrians in crosswalks or they ride on the sidewalks. I've become more sanguine about it over the months but it still makes me mad to be crowded or almost sideswiped by someone on a bike, riding where they really don't belong or disobeying traffic rules. I dodge and anticipate now, though. I also think we walk faster and smarter from all the practice. We sense when bikes or cars are going to threaten us. As it gets hot, we seem to find the shady side of the street more easily, too.

We can walk to Old West Austin, Clarksville, SoCo, South First, South Lamar. We claim any place we can easily walk to as our neighborhood. In the picture above, FFP stands on Bouldin Avenue as we were walking home after having Sunday brunch (a taco from Torchys trailer). It isn't hard to find your way home with a beacon like that.

We can go to Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar or Alamo Ritz and see a movie while eating and drinking beer. We can go to the Elephant Room any night of the week and see jazz.

While we don't have a yard with squirrels, birds, geckos (and pests, too), we do have an expansive view of streets and buildings and Lady Bird Lake. We can walk down by the lake and see plenty of plants and turtles and ducks and squirrels. We can walk to several parks. It is really nice to have a view of a vast sweep of sky. We can see east and, from the balcony south and north. A few steps across the hall we have a western view. We've enjoyed watching construction downtown on the Austonian, the W, Spring and, when we walk around, the Four Seasons.

We've worn out shoe leather and discovered innumerable things down here even though, in the past, we came downtown often enough. The good news is that Cathy's Cleaners picks up and delivers our cleaning and they do shoe repair.

Having sifted and sorted, we have to be more heartless about getting rid of stuff and not letting it pile up quite as much. Magazines and papers have to go to recycling sooner. The place is too small to tolerate not putting stuff away and picking up after ourselves a bit. In the old house, we sometimes locked the dog (who sadly died before we moved) and piles of junk in a room for a party. No such extra space now.

We still get lots of magazines and papers, though. The three papers are delivered to our door in the morning. No wet papers ever again. And nothing could ever stop us buying books so, one day, another purge will have to happen.

It's been a great year, really, if the first three months were a little tough going getting the house ready and sold and getting this place like we wanted. We've gotten into the rhythm of being downtown and what it means to drive certain places away from downtown during rush hour. (We mostly avoid this.) Our cars sometimes sit for days and if it weren't for our parents and our visits to the club (it's about four miles away...if not too far to walk, too time-consuming). Our life really is simpler in lots of ways and we are trying to find even more ways to make it so. We are banking at banks we can walk to and our main broker has a nearby office, too. We try to make every trip count when we leave the building, too.

We plan to live here until we can't take care of ourselves here or we claim our death. It will be interesting to see how things look in five, ten, fifteen even twenty years if we and the world last here.

We are going on a trip in a couple of weeks. We won't need a house sitter...a friend in the building can stop by and check stuff and retrieve mail if we like. The concierge will hold packages. We could even take a bus to the airport although we would have to walk a half mile to the Airport Flyer stop. Wish there were a closer one. They might want to reconsider that bus route based on all the residents on this end of downtown! (But I doubt they will...Capital Metro is too involved in massive fiascoes to consider something as simple as having a bus go a half mile west to make it convenient to, literally, probably 2000 more people. Not that I can't walk a half mile with my luggage but will I in the Texas heat?)

Yeah, it's a new, simpler lifestyle. It is amazingly, better in a lot of ways than I dreamed with no major disappointments. And if you are reading this and you are someone I see in person, please don't ask any of the following questions: (1) have you moved downtown yet? (2) do you love it? (3) are lots of the condos vacant? (4) how will they ever fill all those condos? (5) which building do you live in? (6) where is that? (7) how do you ever manage to get provisions living downtown so far from a grocery store? This last one is the funniest. While we have to drive a little over two miles to a Randall's, I bet many people who ask this live much further from one or at least as far. And we can literally go downstairs to a convenient store and deli for many things. And the biggest Whole Foods in the world is a half mile away and ridiculously easy to walk to.

It's not Manhattan, but it'll do.

1 comment:

Susan and Jerry Gatlin said...

Thanks Linda and Forrest for making us a part of your lives and sharing the details of living vicarously through you, what some of us only dream of; chucking the big house to live downtown in our great city!