I haven’t written in a while, but boy has life been exciting. I have a few gleeful surprises up my sleeve that I will soon be able to share.
I’d like to introduce you to my neighborhood – the community of East Austin – but first a little background on my upbringing: I was raised in a very Jewish part of New Jersey. With the exception of a few Korean families that moved into the neighborhood during grade school, everyone was white. (Mind you, I never thought of myself as white. I was Jewish. But that’s a different story…)
When I was about nine years old, I became obsessed with The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I would wear backwards hats, rap along with the theme song and began adopting the mannerisms of black culture. My parents weren’t overly thrilled, but they put up with it.
But as I grew up, I didn’t have any real interaction with black people and the few interactions that I had weren’t overly positive. (A close family member had been beat up by local black kids and my freshman college roommate hated me and would loudly remark on a weekly basis that she was “allergic to white people”.) Jahlysa was my first real introduction to black culture and my first real black friend, but even she was a little embarrassed to bring me home to her community as it just wasn’t cool to be friends with white people in her neighborhood, so my exposure was fairly limited.
When I found out that my co-op was in a safe but predominantly black neighborhood that happened to be on the same street as all the black churches in town, I was pumped. I’ve spent the past three weeks walking the streets of East Austin, discovering the quirks of the area and meeting my neighbors. I’ve enjoyed being one of the only white people at the local library, recreation center and African art museum.
My librarian Herbie is a jokester as are some of my neighbors – one of whom is trying to get me to call him “Mr. Surprise”. (Ha. Good luck to him.) I did get lost once on a scooter ride, but befriended a really nice sixteen-year-old kid who gave me directions and tried to play it cool by smiling and saying that he’d take care of me because “you’re on my side of town”.
Of course I can’t forget about the rest of weird and hipster-ed Austin. Just a few weeks ago, I took advantage of the annual Austin Free Day of Yoga when hundreds of free classes were offered at yoga studios across the city. It was there that I befriended Ozzy who represents one of the many deliciously weird flavors of Austin. A chai necklace, Jewish star and nipple rings? I’m not in Kansas anymore. :-)