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Posts Tagged ‘Austin’

xenu_scientology

Back in March I watched HBO’s much talked about documentary, Going Clear, which had me thinking about my own run in with Scientology over 15 years ago.

In 1999, my high school best friend and I packed up her car and drove off for the dorm rooms of the University of Texas. After unloading her car with the meager two boxes of possessions each that since then have morphed into full houses, we decided to take a stroll down The Drag.

The Drag is an Austin, Texas institution – a segment of Guadalupe Street that lines the edge of campus. It is home to MSG laden cafes, book stores, coffee houses, gimmicky shops and an eclectic mix of homeless kids, many with similarly eclectic dogs.

This is when we stumbled on the exact thing my mother feared we would find, well one of the many exact things my mother feared we would find. The Church of Scientology.

We were greeted by two employees of the center offering us stress tests on the sidewalk outside. Sure, we were game. We didn’t know what Scientology or stress tests were but we had 20 minutes to kill. We gripped onto the e-meters and prepared ourselves for a wild ride.

The questions ranged from the benign (name and age) to invasive (any past drug use and general fears). The two test administrators shared knowing glances at our answers. I sat in wonder as to whether anyone was ever going to explain to me what the heck Scientology was.

“If you could change something or improve something what would that be?” asked my test administrator.

I thought for a few seconds before coming up with something that I felt was an acceptable answer. “I wish that I was better at interacting with strangers. I wish I could talk and really connect easily with people,” I said.

The two administrators invited us inside for more info. BFF and I exchanged looks and shrugged. I still didn’t know what Scientology was and there didn’t seem any harm in going inside the building.

Once inside, my administrator began his sales pitch. “Hey. Hey. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could just…. talk to anybody?”

“Yes,” I answered. “That’s what I told you outside.”

“But… but… wouldn’t it be cool if you could.. you know. Talk to ANYONE?”

I looked over at BFF to see if her test administrator was any sharper than the one I was paired up with. My guy had one sales tactic and he was going for it.

He then showed me some basic printed information on courses that I could sign up and take through the organization, all of which would devour the $200 of waitressing cash I had in my pocket. The $200 needed to last me a few weeks, minimum. That is, if I wanted to eat.

“Um,” I said. “Isn’t there a cheaper way to just find out what Scientology is? Or maybe you could just tell me.”

Defeated, he pointed at a collection of Dianetic books written by L Ron Hubbard on display. “Oh cool,” I responded. “I can have one of those?”

“Those are actually for sell,” he answered.

“Hrm,” I said. “Maybe I’ll check one out from the library. Do they have them there?”

The man shrugged as he stood up and tucked in his chair.

I turned to BFF who was already collecting her things.

“So did you ever figure out what Scientology is?” I asked once we were outside the building.

“Nope,” she replied.

“Me neither,” I answered.

I’m not sure where we went from there. If I had to guess, I would say it was somewhere with a 99 cent menu so that we could spend 1/200th of my hard earned cash on a burrito or hamburger and ponder what it meant to be rejected by the Church of Scientology.

Obviously they were much less interested in recruiting BFF and I than Cruise or Travolta. I don’t know whether to be grateful or offended! I’ll say neither and go with amused.

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Since my move to London, my wardrobe has had to go through a harsh adjustment. The winter months were tough as I was  always cold and absolutely clueless on winter fashion. The summer months are difficult for another reason. The ladies are out in their spring dresses and flowery clips while I am still in full trousers and a jacket. Yet again, I am always cold.

In Texas, I developed a summer uniform. 60 consecutive days of 40° C will drain the effort out of you about the same way that too many days of dreary 5°C weather will. All you want is a short hike and a lovely cold spring to jump into. Hence, you travel light. Black tank, bikini, Reef flip flops. Before you leave the house, you check your pocket for your wallet, phone and keys. Sunglasses rest on your head. You are out the door headed to Barton Springs.

Let’s compare that to London spring/summer fashion. All of a sudden I’m not travelling very light anymore.

Rachel, a fellow former Austinite, was visiting a few months ago and commented on London street fashion. “It looks great, but there’s no way I could even think of putting together some of those outfits. It’s like they just keep adding things and somehow it works.”

And indeed, I believe that’s how it’s done. That dress is beautiful, but it’s way too cold to be wearing it. Let’s add some tights and a jacket. Also- those shoes? Impractical for commuting. Let’s put a spare pair of flats in your humongous bag. What else is in the bag? Well, first of all the sunglasses you aren’t wearing. An umbrella, because you never know when it is going to rain. Then your oyster card, a book for your commute, plasters (bandaids) for when your shoes give you blisters, your gym clothes because there’s no way you are making it home and then back out again after your day, a snack, and of course, phone wallet and keys. This is a minimum.

It’s taken a while for me to get this down and to accept the fact that the window for summer wear is so short. I think I’m finally getting there. Now if I could only figure out how to lug this bag around without having to see an osteopath later.

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When I came to London last May, I left friends,  a city I loved, and a very dear project and blog behind. I learned so much and had more fun than I ever imagined with Dining In Austin Blog. I met good friends and amazing acquaintances through it.  It was a project made out of love for life, food and community in the ATX. Best of all, I got to share it with my amazing friend, Mariah. This creative outlet designed to complement our rigid science-y careers told the stories of our lives as lived through our food. We included irreverent and offhand tales of life as a 20-something (and then 30-something) Austinite.  People started reading it and before we knew it, we were involved in the Austin food scene in a way that we’d never expected but that made us really happy.

This was a good lesson for me. Do the things you love. Success will come.

I consider Austin, Texas a home. The people and culture are unique. The city is a blend of urban cowboy, artist spirit and burgeoning eclectic beautiful city. A huge chunk of my heart will always be there, but I have wanted to experience another country and culture and the time and opportunity was right. My intuition said to go.

I have such a desire to love London with the same passion and tenacity. I’ve wanted to devour every bit of it and live it completely. I get frustrated and homesick when the impossibility of experiencing it all becomes obvious. I have had to dramatically adjust my mode of thinking.

…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.

– Samuel Johnson

The two cities are distinctively different. I found it difficult to experience all of Austin. I find it downright impossible to experience all of London. I can’t afford to. I don’t have the money. There will never be enough time. I don’t have the social network and close friends I had in Texas. My approach has to be entirely different. Friendships have to be developed. Places and experiences have to be explored for the first time. I feel less on top of everything and more like I’m swimming about, tasting life along the way. I’ve come to realize that this isn’t better or worse. It is just different.

Consequently, I can’t write about London like I wrote about Austin. I struggled with this at first. Should I create another dining blog? I couldn’t afford all the dining out and I definitely couldn’t write about London like an expert. I also wanted to expand. I wanted to write about events, art, community, food, yoga, life, travel, philosophy – the things that I love. Or just whatever happened. I didn’t want to be tied to a particular subject even though I knew successful blogs were more often singularly focused.

To hell with success. It’s ok for things to be about the process instead of the outcome.

So what did I do? I just wrote. I picked a name and I got on with it.

After a bike ride around town early on in this blog’s life, I arrived back at home and turned to then-Boyfriend “so… that’s London.” Thus a temporary name was formed.

And I wrote more. I let the blog take on it’s own personality. I let it develop organically and become what it was going to be – a reflection on life in London as told the only way I could tell it. The honest account of a Texas girl hanging out on this city along the Thames. Not quite the same Texas girl anymore. Definitely not British.

Now that I’ve found a voice, this blog has been appropriately renamed. You can now find me directly at www.TexasOnThames.com

I hope you enjoy.

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