Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The neighborhood

I've lived in my house in Austin for nearly a year now. Which means it's time to start looking for a new place - since I moved out of the parent nest, I've moved every year. As I grow older, I keep hoping this intensively time-consuming tradition will end, but to no avail. I've decided that I need to spread my wings and fly, sans roommate, to a one bedroom apartment.

My current place is a lovely little house, which has been divided into two apartments. I live in the front, with a friend from college who agreed to live in the overheated loft, sight unseen. The street is very residential, and inhabited by UT law and architecture students, and Bruce Sterling, the very well known science fiction writer.
He has this huge, sprawling, out of place yellow and stone house that has utterly ignored the idea of landscaping. Something refreshing - yet confusing - for a rich person's house. Some sci-fi fanzine guys I ran into at a zine fest told me Sterling left his family in Austin to marry a Philippine woman and live in Hawaii or something, but I see him reclining on his hammock on his laptop and teaching his daughter to ride her bike on the weekends. I've checked the book jackets many times. I swear it's him. I think sometimes about going over and asking to borrow an egg or something, but then I recall that I don't associate with the neighbors across the street.

For to the left of Sterling's house is big sprawling Victorian house that has intimidated me since the day I moved in. It's lived in by a young hipster family, and a rotating cast of aging hipster friends. And a friend who stops by with her Hummer to water the lawn. (Of course, I want to pee on it and chide her for her consumption. Which reminds me of the time I looked outside and saw a Hummer speeding by my house, with a man hanging on the outside, yelling at the driver, "You're selfish! You don't care what anyone thinks!" I hoped he was just a random man, who goes around jumping and yelling on all Hummers, but he was probably a friend pointing out what the Hummer is compensating for.)

Anyhow, I'm intimidated by the house across the street because the house and the peoplelook like they stepped out of an issue of Ready-Made. I receive Ready-Made at home, having subscribed at the cost of $5 a year at the MAKE festival last fall, and never in even my wildest, most handy dreams would I do any of the projects in the magazine. On the cover of the last issue, the headline read, "Make this space age bench! Not as impossible as you think!" Inside, the main instruction was, "Call your local welder." Lesson learned: I should be friends with local craftspeople, and it's a point well taken. But really? No one can make this. So when I see one of the house people spending full weeks laying their own brick wall, plumb line, cement mixer, and all, I wonder what their deal is. Do they work? How do they own this house? And then I see a flyer for an art party at their address. I decide I'm going to work up my courage to go, with the aid of my more confidently artsy boyfriend. But he falls sick and I decide to cook him dinner instead. An easy out. When I come back, it looks like the party wasn't terribly well attended, but it was well lighted - round white paper globes are hanging tastefully from trees. And there's an antique car with balloons on the side windows, which hasn't moved since then. And there's a cellist playing on the porch. I sit on my steps and listen, and watch a skinny man in a three piece suit and hat stand silhouetted in the doorway, glowing in his own hipness. And then I go inside to my roommate getting high on the couch.

I actually do talk to the neighbors on my side of the street. The neighbor to my left - living in the same 1 bedroom + loft arrangement as me - has begun hosting a series of parties. It's called "Mondays with Miah." That means on Mondays, there's a keg of high-quality beer ("I refuse to drink shitty beer," he says) and good food only steps away from my porch. Last night it took until 10 pm for a giant vat of pad thai to be ready to be eaten. This is after I had been gnawing on Marshall for about an hour and a half. I've threatened to eat him so many times that he's begun to call my bluff. "I don't think you could do it," he said. "You would get grossed out at the first sight of blood." He'll see who's crying wolf - when I eat him.