Uniqueness of Austin will be missed by reporter

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2000

"Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes.

Wednesday, November 08, 2000

"Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends."

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– from Illusions, The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, by Richard Bach.

It’s a quote I’ve turned to for reassurance more than once in my life as I leave friends to start somewhere new.

When I moved here in March 1997, I left a life in London to start over at the family homestead. I came here because my Grandpa Frank Vilt wasn’t well, and because the family had put his house on the market and I certainly wasn’t going to let anyone outside the family buy it. I needed a yard, too – eight years in London left me wishing for my own space, but without the funding to acquire more than a portable potty somewhere.

I am a great believer in paying attention to the signs, and the ease with which I gained the writing job I’d always dreamed of told me that I’d made the right decision by moving to Austin. Meeting Jimmy McDermott on St. Patrick’s Day confirmed that, so did a trip to the Park Plaza on a jazz night.

That first trip to jazz night came not long after Alan Ginsburg died. I met Dave Hunter then, and heard tales of time he spent with Ginsburg when the poet visited Mankato State many years ago. I talked to a sign painter named Tim who looked like Ginsburg. I listened to Bruce Heiny talk about karma, and how bad Austin must be with all the animals that are slaughtered here daily.

I thought, "Wow, this place is full of amazing people."

Although my initial impression that Austin made room for those who marched to the beat of a different drummer has been tempered somewhat – Austin makes room, mostly by ignoring them in any kind of power structure – the impression that Austin is a microcosm of the bigger world has been affirmed.

We have the big company, the businesses, the beatniks and the nature nuts. We have drug problems, homelessness, church dinners and a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. We have murders and we have scandal. We have the rich and the poor and the larger middle class in between.

We don’t have a lot of Bobos (the Bohemian Bourgeois that have resulted from a melding of the intellectual elite with the upper class), because we remain a company town and many of us make our living in a very physical manner.

That’s OK though – it keeps us honest. I, according to one old Bohemian, need some time shoveling chicken poop to make this writer more honest.

Austin, and the people who make up this town and the surrounding county, has been a delight.

Here I got my big yard; I failed with my garden three years running – although the herbs are thriving – and I got to know my larger family better. I got to spend time with my grandpa before he died and I get to visit my grandma in Worthington more often.

Most importantly, I have my own family. And it is for them that I’m leaving.

Brady and Frances and I are moving to Pocatello, Idaho, so Brady can take the next step in the world of sports writing.

He left last Friday. He says it’s so beautiful there that he keeps getting lost; the view is that distracting. Franny and I will leave sometime between now and December.

I don’t know yet what I’ll do in Idaho. I might not be up to another love affair with city politics out there – and I might end up shot by a survivalist if I were allowed an opinion column.

My goodbye to London was difficult, but nothing compared to my feelings about saying farewell to Austin.

I hope we’ll be back a few years from now, with enough money so I can live my dream of having a functional garden, time to read and play with Franny and Brady, and a lucrative free-lance writing business. We’re keeping the house – although we’ll have to rent it out – that makes a return more likely.

Like Scarlet O’Hara in "Gone with the Wind," the rich (and frequently flooded) soil of Vilt’s Valley gives me strength.