Savannah is like Coldplay and San Antonio isn’t the same as black nail polish

Savannah is like Coldplay and San Antonio isn’t the same as black nail polish

Flying in an airplane gives you a lot of perspective on things. Like exactly just how many people own swimming pools. From the air, it seems like quite a few people do. My flight(s) from Savannah to Austin took place at that magical twilight hour. The clouds were those puffy cotton candy clouds that seem like Bob Ross might have painted them. And the sunset was a dreamy lavender color. Like pastel bakery frosting. It would have been easy to pretend I was riding on the back of a Pegasus instead of inside a 747.

But the reality of the situation was that I was on an ill-advised redeye trip back to Texas after spending a week in my hometown. Never again will I try to save money. Direct flights are always best. The $50 cheaper tickets always seem like a good idea when you’re snuggled in bed and booking the trip on your fully-charged laptop. They will become a horrible mistake when you’re waiting to exit an overheated airplane, and the flight attendant is scolding your fellow passengers for “dilly-dallying.”  When you’re watching your iPhone slowly and inexplicably drain as you gallop across the Dallas airport to make your 4th and final connection of the evening. Your mind will suddenly go to dark places. Like what would happen if your phone dies and you can’t remember your husband’s phone number? Or worse, he’s died on the way to pick you up, and the people at the hospital can’t reach you? Or what would happen if your phone died and you couldn’t use the Starbuck’s app to pay for your drink?

If all those terrifying possibilities don’t convince you of the err of your penny-pinching ways…Trust me, you’ll know in your heart that the extra $50 wasn’t worth it when finding yourself seated at Charlotte’s “authentic” airport “cantina” and the drink prices aren’t listed on the menu. You will wonder if the Mango Colada Margarita is indeed an authentic Mexican beverage and therefore actually worth anywhere between $9-$19 it inevitably costs. Plus a tip, mind you. You’ll know in your heart that wouldn’t need to purchase this Mexican beverage of questionable authenticity at an undetermined but surely unreasonable price point if you’d simply splurged on the direct flight.

Four airports later, I finally landed in Austin. I was weary with regret. It was 11:30. I wanted a hotel room and Whataburger. What at least an hour’s drive back to San Antonio. The hotel and fast food would certainly cost more than the $50 I saved on the ticket. All those months ago, I had thought I was booking an inexpensive trip to Savannah. What I had gotten was a cross-country tour of American airports.

And was it all worth it for a Savannah/Christen reunion? I love Savannah, y’all. I love the trees that drip with Spanish moss. The sound of cicadas and smell of freshly cut grass. I spent so much of my trip walking around my parent’s neighborhood just sniffing the air and admiring how southern it all was. The landscape is just so different from Texas. So is the landscaping. I’m pretty sure they don’t have magenta azaleas in Texas.

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When I returned to Savannah, I thought it would feel different. I thought it would feel like I had been gone for a long time. Honestly, it didn’t feel like I had been gone at all. I was expecting this dramatic “reunion feeling.” But it just felt like I had been transported back to my old life. Like San Antonio was a mystical fairytale city where time didn’t exist. Like I had fallen asleep and woke up Rip Van Winkle style. Had I actually been gone for 6 months? I felt like I had just returned from a short vacation.

I’d spent 17 years of my life in Savannah. The city had been as much as a friend to me as any of my close friends. I had spent many a night in City Market grabbing drinks with friends. Or wandering alone with my earbuds in, blasting Deathcab on rainy fall evenings. I had met my husband in the Broughton Street World of Beer. Savannah was the city of first kisses and first heart breaks. It was college and grad school. So many of my favorite memories took place in downtown Savannah.

I dragged my sister downtown on one of the last nights of my visit. Or rather, she played Uber for the evening. I was car-less, but I wanted to go see my old haunts before I flew back to San Antonio indefinitely. As my sister navigated the grid of the city, I felt myself longing to drive. I knew the way. She didn’t. She kept asking me where to turn. Or where Coffee Fox was located. That’s when I realized that she didn’t know Savannah like I knew Savannah. It was like when a friend decides to start watching your favorite TV show in the middle of the season, and they keep asking all these questions.

Downtown Savannah is my Savannah. It’s my favorite show. My sister didn’t love it liked I love it. Cue The Yeah Yeahs Yeahs song. Maaaappps, wait. They don’t love you like I love you….

She just didn’t understand.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve memorized the city. Flaws and all. As I walked down Broughton Street (Savannah’s main drag for local shops) with my sister last week, I noticed that a few of the local shops had closed on Broughton Street. And they’d added a few more commercial ones to the mix of existing local businesses. After they had opened, McDonald’s, followed by the Victoria’s Secret on Broughton Street a while back, a part of me had died inside. I knew at the time that Savannah was changing, but not in a good way. I liked her for the quirky local spots. The places that actually felt like a secret. The new Ben and Jerry’s I spotted was proof that the city hadn’t stopped changing in my absence. I can’t say I was surprised.  The Savannah I loved was Coldplay’s Parachutes album. This changing Savannah was a weird new duet with Rihanna. More commercial. More top 40/stadium anthem, and less mixtape/record store gem.

Sure, I think part of me will always be an angsty teenage fangirl for Savannah. Telling all my friends that I liked it before it was cool. Before Victoria’s Secret, H&M, and Blick swooped in and replaced the funkier local shops. I was one of Foxy Loxy’s first customers!

But I think I was right to start seeing other cities. Since I left Savannah in October, I think I’ve been telling myself that San Antonio is a fling. Like my misguided foray into black nail polish in 2008, San Antonio is something new. Something surprising. Something a little dangerous. I keep telling myself I’ll return to safer colors like blue and pink. Safer southern cities like Savannah or Charleston. But I’m beginning to think that San Antonio isn’t a fling. Maybe I like it as something more. Did this bit of perspective make my airport nightmare worth it? You bet it did.

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all the puffy tacos in the world couldn’t cure this feeling

all the puffy tacos in the world couldn’t cure this feeling

I’m going to be honest. Since March, I’ve been battling the homesickness like crazy. It’s not that I hate Texas. I really love it. But it’s just harder here. In fact, writing for this blog has been harder because I know I’m “supposed” to be writing about all the “Texas” things but I’ve felt uninspired.

I know it all sounds babyish. But everything here is really is harder than it was in Georgia.

Excuse me while I whine for a minute or Why Texas Sucks

In Georgia, my commute to work was five minutes. And I was almost never faced with my own morality on the way to work. Here in San Antonio, my commute is almost an hour. And I almost always almost die en route. These roads are treacherous, people! And not just the people in the cars on the roads. I mean the actual roads. “Everything is bigger in Texas” and so are the potholes. I have this reoccurring anxiety. What if I blow a tire in the middle of the highway because of a pothole? What will happen? I figure I will most certainly die. I mean, obviously, we are all going to die one day, unless we find some magic water like in Tuck Everlasting…Dying will happen. But I don’t like thinking about it all the time. And I don’t want to die via Texas pothole.

My yoga studio here doesn’t have a shower which makes pre-work yoga classes a no-go. I realize this isn’t a life or death situation. And oh yes, this is definitely a first-world problem. But how else am I supposed to work off all those tortillas?

Making friends here is freaking hard, too. I mean, it doesn’t help that I’m 27 and most people in my profession are in their mid to late 30s or older. What about the military wives, you ask? I’m generally 3 or more years older than most military wives I know. Most of them have/want kids. I have an MFA and a semi-healthy herb garden that would be dead if my husband didn’t remind me to water it. It’s all I can handle for the foreseeable future and I can barely handle it. For these reasons, I feel like an outsider. But that’s just how I feel about my life in general. So maybe that’s just a Christen problem and not a Texas/Georgia issue?

Culture shock is real. In Savannah, there was one Mexican bakery. I explained this to my Mexican-American students and their eyes widened in mix of shock and disgust. There’s probably a dozen Mexican bakeries on Zarzamora street alone. I’m not saying my Savannah upbringing makes me completely clueless. I grew up in a family that always appreciated international cuisine. And Nick’s Mexican heritage certainly helps; I know the difference between carne asada and carne guisada. But I’ve never had a paleta and my students schooled me on chamoy and mangonada last week.

But the Pollyanna inside me keeps telling me I should be optimistic despite all these things. So here you go:

Five Reasons Why I Like San Antonio

1. San Antonio has way more quality local coffee shops and bakeries than Savannah. If you know me, bakeries and coffee shops are my jam. Here, I have access to Local Coffee, Bakery Lorraine, The Breadbox, and Bird Bakery.

2. San Antonio has more than one Barnes and Noble. And a Half-Price Books where you can sell and buy used books. Yes, please!

3. My yoga studio in San Antonio is very much community-centered. They ask you to introduce yourselves and often hold socials. I could possibly make a friend there one day.

4. San Antonio has two Trader Joe’s stores. I will be depressed if ever have to leave Texas for a state that does not have a Trader Joe’s. Plus, whenever I feel friendless, I can always go talk to a TJ cashier. They care about me. I can tell by the way they always ask what I’ve got going on. One of the cashiers actually sang to me the other day. If it’s possible to be BFFs with grocery store, then I pick Trader Joe’s.

5. Less than a month after moving here, I somehow managed to land my dream job at a university people have actually heard of.

6. Texas has Tex Mex cuisine. And Lord, does San Antonio have it in ample supply. In fact, I recently witnessed the miracle that is Oscar’s Taco House’s puffy tacos. Puffy tacos are exclusive to this part of the country and it’s a damn shame. Not to be confused with a crispy taco, these Tex-Mex delights are a cross between a crispy taco, a Taco Bell gordita tortilla, and corn tortilla. A little bit crunchy, a little bit fluffy, and a little bit chewy. They will change your taco Tuesday game forever. Plus, you can get a plate of them for like $5.

So you see, I have endless coffee shop options, a friendly, shower-less yoga studio, grocery store friends, a great job, and puffy tacos. I shouldn’t be homesick at all. But it’s not that simple. Sometimes you just miss home.

I’ve planned a Mother’s Day trip back to Georgia next week. And I’m not sure if that will hurt or help. With homesickness are you supposed to just quit home cold turkey like you do with cigarettes or a break-up? What if I want to break up with Georgia but I want to still be friends? How does that work? Will seeing Georgia again bring back the old feelings? Will it cause some out-of-control peach cobbler binge? Will I feel the intense need to drunkenly karaoke John Mayer’s “Why Georgia”? Or will returning to Georgia make me realize that leaving Georgia was for the best? Here’s hoping for the latter.

“White Knuckling It”

“White Knuckling It”

 

Before my senior year of high school, I wasn’t much of a driver. I only drove when my parents pressured me. “You’ve got to get more road experience,” they warned. Whatever. My fifteen-year-old self was convinced that I would drive when I felt “ready.”  Well, I never felt “ready” until I turned 16 and it was, per social constructs, the age that I had to obtain my license or run the risk of looking emotionally stunted in front of my peers. So I guess when I say I “wasn’t much of a driver” I mean that I refused to drive at all until about 3 months before I took the test.

I passed my driver’s test by—well, I think I scared the man at the DMV. Something to do with the fact that I looked over my left shoulder when I backed out of parking spaces and braked on the freeway. I remember the bewildered look on the man’s face when I attempted to merge. “Land sakes, lady! Don’t brake!” He gripped the door handle like he was trapped on The Tower of Terror against his will instead of the passenger seat of my parents’ ‘99 Ford Taurus. He may have peed his pants. I was too nervous to notice. Anyway, the man passed me. For what reason beyond rattled nerves, I have no idea.

After passing the test, I still avoided driving most of the time. But when I enrolled in college…It kind of came with the package. I would have to take a math class and I would have to drive. College students drove unsupervised. They even drove their friends places. I couldn’t very well have my parents drive me to my classes. I’d seen enough John Hughes movies to know that wasn’t cool even in high school. It’d be social suicide in college. So I mapped out the easiest route to the downtown campus I could find; one that avoided left turns and highways. Highways had this way of triggering the brake pedal in my vehicle. My palms literally sweated when I had to merge. Merging was the worst.

The first few times I drove to campus it was terrifying. But each time I did it, I felt a little better. You know that adrenaline rush you get after riding a rollercoaster? I totally got that after the first several trips. By the time I finished grad school, the entire downtown college campus area was muscle memory. I could drive it half asleep. I probably did a few times during grad school.

Six years later, I decided to date this guy named Nick who happened to live an hour away from me. The only way I could visit him was by taking I-95. Oh, Nick. The loveable ukulele-player with a heart of gold. For this guy I would climb mountains, I’d undergo root canals…Mainly I just merged onto I-95 every other weekend to see his cute face. Look, you do a lot of extreme and dangerous things for Love. It took months, but I eventually came to view I-95 as a necessary evil.

But San Antonio highways? Those are a different animal. They all intersect at 80mph. I don’t know about you, but it kind of scares me to careen down a highway at 80mph when have I no idea where I’m going. Of course Siri tells me where to go. Sort of. Actually, Siri has this funny way of announcing “Take THE EXIT ON THE RIGHT” 5 seconds after insisting that I “KEEP LEFT. FOR TWO MILES KEEP LEFT.” Siri’s a fickle creature. I try to appease her but there’s usually a wall of F250s and Silverados standing between me and the “EXIT ON THE RIGHT.” One trick I’ve learned: you can ignore her for about for about 3 exits. Siri will reroute you eventually once she’s realized that she’s not going to get her way. Or, as punishment, she might take you past the same turn-around like 4 times before directing you to the right street. She likes to play games.

Since I work across town from where I live, I’ve had to get used to this driving situation real quick. I still use Siri (flaws and all) to get to work because I haven’t memorized the route. I just set the destination and “white knuckle it” the whole way. Last week I was feeling adventurous, though. I decided to explore The Alamo Heights neighborhood before going to a meeting. A Bird Bakery craving was worth the detour. When I took the detour down the Broadway Street exit, something clicked. I had by bearings. I knew how to get to downtown without even using Siri. Later during the weekend, Nick and I took his sister to Alamo Heights for dinner. Nick went to set the route to get home, but I stopped him. Because I already knew the way. And that felt amazing.

This weekend I realized how you get over your fears. You just face them. You drive to college. You take I-95 to your boyfriend’s house. You merge onto 410 without the GPS. You “white knuckle it” until you aren’t scared anymore. Until it feels familiar. Until you don’t leave sweat prints on the steering wheel. In the case of driving in San Antonio, specifically: You drive. You don’t die. You repeat.