I just finished reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I would have ordinarily stayed far away from the book because of the Pray in the title (a survival response I learned early as a heathen child growing up in the Bible Belt), but my Jewish friend Laura and my hippie sister Lindsey assured me that it had nothing to do with the fire and brimstone kind of praying. It was much closer to what they knew I was into: Buddhism and meditation. I couldn't put it down. I really enjoyed reading it.
Now hold on, all of you who are wary of a religious post -- I'm not going to go into all of that here.
No, I want to talk about Austin, but first you need to read a section that got me thinking. Here it is from Chapter 33.
I remember something that my friend’s husband, Giulio, said to me once. We were sitting in a cafe` and he asked me what I thought of Rome. I told him that I really loved the place, of course, but that I knew it was not my city. It was not where I would end up living for the rest of my life. There was something about Rome that didn’t quite belong to me, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Just as we were talking, a helpful visual aid walked by. It was the quintessential Roman woman – a fantastically maintained, jewellery-sodden forty-something dame, wearing four-inch heels, a tight skirt with a slit as long as my arm, and those sunglasses that look like race-cars! It was hard to imagine she had ever, even for 10 minutes of her life, NOT worn mascara! This woman was in every way the opposite of me!
I pointed that woman out to Giulio and I said, “See Giulio, THAT is a Roman woman! Rome cannot be her city and my city too. Only one of us really belongs here.”
Giulio said, “Maybe you and Rome just have different words.”
“What do you mean?”
He said, “The secret to understanding a city and its people, is to learn the WORD of that city.”
He went on to explain that every city has a word that defines it, and it identifies most of the people that live there. If you could read people’s thoughts, you would see that most of the people within a city have the same thought at some point during the day. Whatever the “majority thought” is, then that is the word of the city! And if your personal word is not similar to the word of the city, then you do not really belong there.
“What is Rome’s word?” I asked.
“SEX” he announced.
“But isn’t that a stereotype about Rome?”
“But surely there are some people in Rome who think about things other than sex!”He insisted, “No. All of them at some point during the day will think about SEX.”
“Even over at the Vatican?” I asked.
“That is different. The Vatican is not a part of Rome. They have a different word. Their word is POWER.”\
“You’d think it would be FAITH.
“Unfortunately, it’s POWER. Trust me. But here in Rome, our word is SEX.”
Now according to Giulio, that little word SEX is part of the cobblestones underneath your feet in Rome. It runs through the fountains and fills the air like traffic noises. Roman people are thinking about it, dressing for it, seeking it, considering it, refusing it, making a game out of it………all of the time. And it started to make sense why Rome did not feel like my hometown. Because SEX was not my word.
Giulio asked, “What is the word in New York?”
I thought about it for a moment, and then decided “It’s a verb of course….ACHIEVE.”(Which is subtly different to the word in Los Angeles which is SUCCEED. Later I shared this theory with my Swedish friend Sophie and asked her what Stockholm’s word was. “CONFORM” she said, which depressed us both).
I asked Giulio, “What is the word in Naples?” (where he was originally from).
“FIGHT” he said.
Then Giulio asked the next and most obvious question, “What is YOUR word? This word will tell you where you belong.”
I've been wondering what Austin's word is, the majority thought of our fair city. I think back to where I've lived in the past, too, and how I never felt like I fit in before. Austin is the first time I feel like I'm home and can easily live here the rest of my life. Austin's word and my word fit.
And all I can come up with for Austin's word seems overly simple and trite, but I can't help it: FUN.
Other words I came up with were more adjectives, not a driving force: UNPRETENTIOUS, CREATIVE, WHIMSICAL.
FUN seems to fit. As a whole, we're all looking for fun. We'd rather go out for beers and listen to live music than work 60 hours a week. We'd rather go bike riding than do yard work (ok, maybe that's just me :) ). It's alright that we have to wait 2 hours in line to get Franklin BBQ, because it's the best in the country and if you take beers and a deck of cards with you, it's downright FUN.
Side note -- that's just what my husband and I did this weekend. Nary a grumpy person in sight.
We find it more fun to go to P.Terry's Burger Stand than McDonalds. Austin brought back a fun sport from the oblivion: Roller Derby. We dress in a relaxed style and flip flops because it allows for easier access to fun.
We have tons of fun festivals, which brings me to my last point. WURSTFEST is in 2 weeks, y'all! The most fun you could possibly have while celebrating sausage, beer and potato pancakes!
Eins zwei g'suffa!