We’re in Austin today.
I like Austin. It’s an idealist’s city. “Real” Austinites believe in public transportation and environmentalism and the power of local business. Real Austin is slowly disappearing, as more of Austin reminds me of Dallas every time I find myself here.
So, we’re in Austin today. Stef is at UT, with some of her choir students who are competing in a State Choir competition of some sort. She loves her kiddos and this is her last day with them as their teacher. Among all of the things that she is going to miss, they will be among those at the top of the list (along with our dog Joburg, consistent hot showers, general safety, and of course our family, which includes those who are family by birth and the family we gained in rebirth).
I am spending my morning at Spider House, an Austin classic. It is a coffee shop, vegan haven, patio bar, place to be the “real you”, and place to be whoever you’ve always wanted to pretend to be. It’s really a wonderful place. It’s the kind of place that Austinites come to from time to time to remind themselves of their identity,their uniqueness.
Take an old house with real wood-paneled walls, add dim yellow lighting throughout, fill it with eclectic furniture - leather armchairs and booths from a diner, rickety rocking chairs and mosaic tile tables - and quietly pump in some Bob Dylan music from what seems like 1926 and you might get an idea of the place. Don’t forget to turn what was once a backyard into one big patio, complete with fiesta-bulb lighting effects and the same meandering decorating scheme. Really, a charming place.
I have a dimly-lit, wood-paneled room to myself, as well as a slice of vegan pumpkin loaf and a bottle of water. I feel progressive somehow just by sitting here. (We may have just uncovered the reason that Spider House is so popular.)
Anyway, there is a quote on the wall that I wanted to share with you. Mind you, there are many quotes on the wall...and drawings, and curse words, and handwritten messages to future generations. Among the declarations that “PJ wuz here” and “I’m having triplets” and a picture of Vladimir Lenin telling me that I’m “lookin’ good, comradeski”, there really is a scribbling that I want to share.
Maybe it’s a song lyric or a line from a movie, I don’t really know. But I like it:
“You knew what you wanted and you fought so hard, just to find yourself sittin’ in a golden cage.”
I don’t know what that means to you. I’m not sure I know what that means to me.
It sounds to me like a man laying on his deathbed. And maybe an angel or a devil or old friend comes into the room and starts to go over this man’s life with him. They reminisce about junior high romances and “the one that got away” in college. They talk about his life’s work - maybe he was a banker or a salesman or a famous writer.
They smile as they talk about his family and all of the memories. The man’s brow furrows as the angel or devil or old friend starts to talk about more memories, only the man doesn’t remember these things at all. Slowly, he comes to the realization that he really missed quite a lot. His son’s graduation or his daughter’s dance recital, some friend’s wedding or another friend’s funeral. He hears the angel or the devil or the old friend talk about how much he worked and yearned for the things of the world and how he wanted them so badly - or at least he thought he did. And now, laying here alone, except for the company of this angel or devil or old friend, he begins to realize that all that he fought for surrounds him. And it was nothing more than a prison all along, a beautiful, shimmering, hard-earned prison.
I see the angel or the devil or the old friend kiss the man on the forehead gently, whisper something into his ear, and then softly glide out of the room. The man closes his eyes tightly, straining under the weight of his painful realization. When they open again, they are full of bitter tears. And as they pour down his face, our window into his world fades to black.
Like I said, I don’t know what that quote means to you.
We’re in Austin today.