Home to home through home

Perhaps I was a bit hard on Rochester in my last post. Overall, it really wasn’t too bad of a place to re-visit. It is amazing how much not being able to find something at a late hour can affect my judgment of a place.

On Wednesday, after a long day of recruiting at the job fair and running somewhat randomly into Favi and Nate, neither of whom I knew were still in Rochester (and were actually just there for the fair), I finally got to go do a few anticipated things.

First, Ben, one of the guys I was recruiting with from AMD, and I went over to the CE department to hand over a bunch of leftover t-shirts to the office for them to hand out to students. On our way into the new building, we actually bumped into Dr. Savakis, the CS department head. He quickly noticed our AMD shirts that we were wearing, and invited us in so that he could give us o tour us the new extension.

I must say, I wish that I had graduated High School in 2006 rather than college. I could have certainly enjoyed many of the new facilities that they have put in for new students. The CE department has moved from the Building 17 extension in all of its depressing darkness and into a much more friendly environment with plenty of natural light, space, collaboration areas, and fresh new laboratories. There is no way that Ben and I could not be jealous. RIT is certainly moving in the right direction, at least with the buildings.

As we were saying farewell to Dr. Savakis, one of the Intel recruiters walked up to the CE office. No, there was not bloodshed, and we actually had an interesting discussion. Dr. Savakis listened intently (or out of complete boredom, who knows) to our subtle digs at each other while maintaining professionalism. I thought the guy from Intel looked really familiar, and finally I realized that he was one of the guys who had interviewed me at Intel in Hudson, MA. He didn’t seem to remember me, though.

Ben and I headed out, and we stopped for a much-needed sub at Dibella’s. I had been longing for that gigantic NY-style brick-of-cheese on a bagel-crusted roll with delicious peppers and mustards for well over a year. Who would have thought that a simple sandwich could be so incredibly satisfying?

Later, I met up with Bill, a friend I had co-op’d with at Harris. It was good to see him again, and, apparently he had just proposed to his girlfriend the day prior. Luckily, I was there to celebrate with him a bit at Cibon, another much-missed restaurant of Rochester. We later headed over to Spot Coffee to meet up with some of my friends from La Hora de Español- Favi, Joe, and Jerry.

It was good to see them all again, though apparently the three of them had fallen out of touch pretty much since Favi and I went to Spain. We had a great time just chatting at the coffee shop (again, another place in Rochester which I dearly miss, and is in fact open late) and decided to go head over to Java’s down the street a bit later. I do really miss that group, and it was good to get all of us back together again. They even mentioned starting La Hora back up again, which would be great to have happen.

Six hours later, I was on a plane heading from home to home. With a connection through home. With a small amount of sleep and having just gotten accustomed to driving around Rochester again, it began to feel familiar and present. If I hadn’t met my friends, though, Rochester would have certainly felt void and foreign, and I like a ghost drifting along through a lost dream. But it was just enough exposure and intensity to remind me of how my life was there not too long ago.

Drifting in and out of sleep on the plane, I arrived in Cleveland. Home. Again. Where am I? Home? But I was just home? But neither of those are home now, right? I wander around the airport and grab a bagel, and remember many of the trips that I have taken from that Continental terminal. But my family was not there at the airport to receive me. I would never pass through the security gates and into the industrial Cleveland air, but would instead groggily board another plane to head home. To Austin, this time.

On the flight back, I woke up several times almost sick with confusion and disorientation of where I was and where I was going, and what parts were dream and what was real. Finally, after a clear bird’s-eye view of the downtown skyline and AMD, I was grounded. The plane landed. I was home. Really this time. I think.

It was like I’ve always lived in this mess.

The title is not meant to sound negative. In a way, its what Austin really is. This entire city is a contradiction in my mind, and that seems to be the way I operate. On contradictions. Oh, and, by the way, I am living in Austin, TX now. Should it not have been for my friend, Sumiko, beginning her Castellano blog, I probably wouldn’t have thought to update this.

Contradictions of Austin:

  • Texas, but liberal
  • America, but I hear more Spanish here than living in Spain
  • Texas, but lots of tech jobs
  • Bigger (everything’s bigger in Texas), yet somehow smaller and dense
  • Sidewalk cafes… but on 5-lane roads.
  • A music scene… but not country
  • An art scene… but not country bumpkin
  • Texas, but without the heavy accent
  • Bush came from this town, yet it seems everybody here hates him
  • Strip malls everywhere, but small business is valued highly
  • A lively downtown scene, nobody lives downtown
  • Football is bigger here than any other city I’ve lived in, yet there’s no NFL team
  • Freaking hot in the summer, but green trees and foliage everywhere
  • Good job market, high incomes, but low cost of living and no income tax
  • Hardly visible on a map, yet one of my favorite places on Earth

“It was like I’ve always lived in this mess.” — A quote from L’Auberge Espagnole. The chaos and contradictions of this place are what make me feel completely at home. Nothing seems to make sense, and yet, for exactly that reason, it does.

Stereotypes

Sometimes I find it amazing how little Texans know about how their state is generally viewed by the North. I’d say it gets about as much of a bad rep as, say, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Kansas. Oh, and if you are from any of those states and don’t think you are the source of many jokes… you are. I’m not out to offend anybody, after all I am from Ohio and I get my fair share of being made fun of. Stereotypes of cornfields and farmland as far as the eye can see – though true for western Ohio is hardly at all like the northeast. The same goes for Texas. What applies to Dallas, Houston, Amarillo, Lubbock, and the boonies and desert does not apply to Austin. Yet, for many of us northerns, the sound of “Texas” makes us cringe. I’m not quite sure why we react that way, but we do.

On the plus side, that same cringe effect is what keeps Austin from blowing up with a heavy northern population and losing its special Austin-ness. Austinites, cherish the fact that you are a blue oasis in a sea of red desert. That desert can be very scary and impenetrable by many, keeping your city population at a manageable size.

My Case

So why did I move here? Simple – AMD flew my down for a job interview. I got to see the city, and quickly became less afraid of the possibility of moving here. I saw the contradictions immediately, and that is what brought my immediate attraction. I accepted the job sometime last year, probably in November, and now I am here after a chaotic end at RIT, study abroad in Spain, temporary move back to Ohio, and temporary job as a wedding photographer.

The Company

AMD is an amazing company to work for. It is growing so quickly, that at times I wonder if it’s going to be able to handle itself. I’m pretty confident, though, as our upper management is quite amazing in my opinion, and I’m certain they know what they are doing. I love having a job for a company that is constantly in business news, on geek websites like digg.com and slashdot.org. We are doing amazing things at AMD, and I doubt that the company will ever stop impressing me.

The People

With a good company comes good people. I look up to so many people that I work with on a regular basis. Whether they be managers or co-workers or co-ops. The simple quality of people that end up here is outstanding. It is also one of the most diverse environments I’ve ever been in. My mentor is Mexican. My upper-manager is Korean. We have so many Asians, Indians, South Americans, and Europeans working for us … not just globally, but right here in Austin. This diversity is something that I never really got working at Harris or ProQuest. Anybody who knows me even slightly well knows how much I value different cultures.

The Apartment

Though this may not be L’Auberge Espagnole, it is still rather ideal. I’m living here with my friend from RIT, Ed. He’s a pretty chill guy, unless he’s hungry or anxious to leave somewhere. Then it’s like trying to control a 5 year old who wants to go to the ice-cream store. He’s quite aware of this, and now I just take it as quite amusing, where initially it was rather annoying. We each have our own quirks, and I’m sure it took him some time (and continues to) get used to me.

Overall, we work things out pretty well. The apartment is furnished and decorated quite nicely, and we are both very happy with how it turned out. Much of our furniture came from this guy named Joe who we found on Craigslist. He wholesales furniture from a little warehouse he has up north, but all of it is name-brand stuff at nearly half of the cost of anywhere else. For the small amount of money we spent, our apartment looks almost like a Crate & Barrel catalog showroom. I’m sure the folks at C&B would highly disagree. That’s fine, they can continue to overcharge for their particleboard yuppie furniture while I get it for cheap.

Living Room

The apartment brings a perfect blend of city-living and country feeling. The entrance to our apartment is on one of the busiest and coolest streets in Austin. Our apartment, however, feels like a tree house. We are at ground-level on the backside, so we have no stairs to climb, but as the apartment is on a slope, the back side with all of the windows is up 1 level, and is completely surrounded by trees which come right up to the balcony and windows. From the dining room, living room, and kitchen, all you can see are trees. At night, I hear crickets and frogs – not sirens, gunshots, and subwoofers. Downtown is a 25 minute walk away.

Bedroom

The Neighborhood

I live on South Congress avenue. I basically picked the neighborhood never having seen it by describing the things I liked about Park Ave in Rochester to some rental agents down here. Sidewalk cafe’s, cool and diverse restaurants, some art stores and cool shopping, young professionals, etc. I was told by 3 sources “oh then you’re looking for SoCo”. How could you turn down a name like SoCo, anyways? It sounds like SoHo but it is also the name of a Louisiana Whiskey.

Why is it called South Congress Ave? When you drive north on it, you are driving right into the State Capitol Building. It is quite a view, actually. You see all of the shops, followed by the S. Congress bridge over Town Lake (where 1.5 million bats call home over the summer), and the downtown skyscrapers forming two walls on the right and left of the avenue. Dead-centered at the end of the corridor is the massive Capitol building in all of its Everything’s-Bigger-In-Texas glory. That is my view on my drive home from work every day. That is why I live in SoCo.

There is so much more I can write about, but that is going to have to come with time. One of my problems with blog-writing is that I get so backed up with things to write about, that I feel I have to tackle everything in the queue first before I can write about the thing I’m thinking of at the moment. The sad part of it is, once I do an update like this, I’ll probably never write about, say, my extended trip to Paris, or my experience doing wedding photography for my friends KC and Andie. You’re not going to hear about Austin City Limits, either. If I don’t write about it the day or week of, its simply not going to happen ever. I wish this could be more complete, but that’s just not going to happen. So it goes.

Año Nuevo

So this is the new year, and it might be the first one where I actually feel different. This change is not just a tick of a clock and the rolling of the year’s least-significant digit. This year actually marks yet another new era in my life. William wrote about era shifts in his own live-journal, something that was heavily based on a thread of e-mails that he, Derek, Matt and I had shared.

2001 was the mark of graduating from High School and moving on to a new city, a new school, new life, new friends. 2001 was the mark of an era shift, and a good one at that.

2006 marks yet another new era. In 4 days, I will be leaving the country for a fairly extended period of time. I had a feeling that this wouldn’t make itself entirely apparent to my conciousness until after new-years-eve, and I was right. It hit me fast and hard. Out with the old, in with the new. Gone with the home-country and friends, in with the unknown and foreign.
5 months from now, I will be back here. By “here”, I don’t mean here where I sit (Ohio), but here in Rochester. However, it will not be back to the regular Rochester routine. I will not be taking any more classes of Computer Engineering. I will not be starting yet another co-op at Harris. I will not be sitting at Java’s attending weekly Spanish Hours. Instead, I will have yet another large era shift – graduation. This period should get its own year. Let’s call it 2006.5

Shortly thereafter will come yet another whirlwind to my life. Moving to Texas will be something exciting, interesting, and yet sad. I’ve spent so much time developing lives in Ohio and Rochester, and will have spent a relatively shorter but intense amount of time doing the same in Spain. All of that effort will hopefully prove itself worthwhile. My close friends will filter themselves out from the aquaintances. This is a natural progression, and I expect that I will be able to handle it, though it will be difficult.

If anything is comforting, it is that Austin may mark the first time in my life where I could see myself actually settling. It is early to tell, of course, since I’ve not even lived there yet. However, from a purely logistical standpoint, I’ll have completed high-school, my undergraduate studies, and done my long-desired study abroad. There really isn’t anything requiring a relocation from Austin, so long as things go smoothly with AMD (and I expect they will). It is somewhat relieving to finally see that option of settling down somewhere. Who knows, though. Maybe I never will. Maybe I’m a nomad at heart.

Whatever the far future holds, 2006 will be a year who’s face will stand out above the crowd. It is a year I look forward to and dread simultaneously. It is a year which I will look back upon and relive the moments which I have yet to sculpt from the material we call time.