Downtown Chicago as seen from above

The view

A glass window stands

between me and world beyond

my family home


That’s not the view from my home (ha, I wish). It’s downtown Chicago, as seen from the 84th floor of a rather small building—by Chicago’s standards. The window wasn’t too clean, but I like that it serves as a reminder of the barrier.

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Why Austin

A while ago, I was lucky enough to stay in Austin for a couple of weeks while visiting the US on a work trip. My first instinct of the city, which kept growing with each dawn, is that it’s weird.

Austin is a weird city.

Now you could interpret that in many ways, and you should too because every street corner had something amusing that made me go “huh?”

I don’t mean that as a negative trait, though. It’s just that Austin is so… weird. And I was only there for two weeks!

The thing I found most peculiar and exciting about Austin is that it’s an amalgamation of some of the things other cities are known for. It’s as artsy as San Francisco, dry and hot as the Australian outback (well, I’ve seen pictures), folksy like Portland, industrial as Chicago (ok, not too much—no city can be as Chicago), well-made like Pleasanton, and difficult for pedestrians—just like Downtown Miami.

I don’t say that to brag that I’ve been to so many places, but my point is that Austin has so much more than what I expected to experience there. To cap it all, Austin has some of the greenest localities I’ve ever seen—and it sure as hell not what I expected to see from the stereotypical, cowboy state of Texas.

Let’s start with the art, shall we? There’re a few murals all around Austin that’s so iconic that they’ll show up on your map. I was following the route to the supermarket when I noticed my map pointing out a mural called Greetings from Austin. There’s more too—Keep Austin Weird, Hi, How Are You, You’re my Butter Half, I Love You so Much, Welcome to South Austin and so many more that jump at you from the most unexpected street corners. As if that weren’t enough, the local supermarket, HEB, has their wall smeared with Austin-ness. Complementing that are the murals inside Trader Joe’s which span off of the famous street murals.

Adding to fascinating artwork were creative signboards outside the many shops. It seemed to me like every business owner had taken considerable effort and interest in designing the exterior of their stores or restaurants.

Making matters more attractive is an entire street, its footpath illustrated with quirky messages and social awareness campaigns. I was more than stunned when I saw in the middle of a botanical garden, a large spade with the lettering, Scoop the Poop Austin.

Scoop the poop

All that, though strange and unexpected, was rather enjoyable. After all, you could say it’s Austin’s way of attracting tourists—they have great food trucks, the Texas State Capitol building where you can walk into state representatives’ offices without knocking, nature reserves that have streams running through them, a bat colony that people flock to watch, point, and gawk, and the infamous 6th Street which overflows with liveliness, bar with loud live music, shops and museums, and so many inviting folks.

Texas State Capitol

Aside from all of that, there’s one thing in Austin you’ll never find elsewhere—moonlight towers. Back in the 1880s and 1890s, moonlight towers were famous guardians of the night in many cities across the United States and Europe. One hundred sixty-five feet tall and illuminating a radius of 1500 feet, these light towers were all dismantled over time—except the thirteen towers still standing in Austin—the last ones in the world.

Moonlight tower in Austin, Texas
Moonlight tower

When people ask what’s great about Austin, you can’t say name one thing. It’s the little things with deep meaning and value that make the city such a great place to visit. If you’re ever anywhere near Austin, it’s well worth a trip.

Love yo’self

Self-love training. Pfft.

Don’t they know forcing it only invokes hatred? Like mother did.


A few days ago, I came across a challenge—write a story about love in 14 words. Since half the world is celebrating Valentine’s Day today, thought I might post it here. What 14-word love stories can you come up with?

Street mural in Austin, Texas

What we have in common

Thirst to quench the cold

flocking around flaming coal

share the fire, the goals


Photo: Street mural in Austin, Texas

Mornings

“Good morning, Sir,” the guard touched his cap as he greeted Jake, the regional manager.

Suited up with pointed shoes, he clutched his laptop bag as he strode along the campus pathway towards the open doors. What a great way to start the day, he though to himself as a second guard paid him a salute. He’s only been at the company a few months, but he’d already garnered the respect of all the men in guard duty. He couldn’t even enter the office without five to seven men acknowledging his dry-cleaned coat and trim beard.

Glowing in pride at himself, Jake approached the office doors. He pulled out his phone even before he’d stepped in, checking for views and comments on his latest Instagram story. His mind was already whirring with an idea for the next one.

Jake didn’t notice the security at the reception, who stood up to greet him a good morning and remained standing until Jake had walked passed him. Stifling a yawn, the security took his seat again looking forward to the end of his shift—sleep and home beckoned him dear.

Arriving at his destination, face alight by his smartphone’s brightness, Jake set the bag on his desk and fell back on his chair. He leaned behind in comfort, now scrolling through his Facebook feed, smiling every once a while at a cat video or a child’s tantrum over cereal. Then throwing a swift glance at the large clock on wall, he plopped his polished feet on the chair next to him.

He was early—according to the office timekeeper, he still had seven minutes before official hours began. As he scrolled on, someone else strolled in. In a black suit and pointed shoes, holding a laptop case, stood before Jake, his manager. Jumping to his feet, stumbling as his shoelace caught on the chair’s armrest, Jake stood up, perspiring. “Good—good morning, Sir”