So, I have had writers block this morning and decided to stop refreshing Facebook and go put on my face (ie my make-up). I listen to podcasts while I get ready because, really it’s the only quiet time (usually) that I have where I am sitting and can focus, but not focus (understand that?). Anyway, today on a podcast I was listening to (which I am sure I’ll share with you later - once I finish listening) the comment was made that if someone could live anywhere in Texas, they’d pick Austin. To which I made a snarky face and thought “last place I’d want to live.” Being a Dallas girl, I could never picture myself in Austin. Also, a majority of the people I grew up with on South Padre Island are now in Austin fueling my desire to avoid that area, but really I think the main reason is the one trip I took when I was a senior in high school. That is the story I want to share with you today.
During my senior year (in 1996 - yikes) I was a member of Future Homemakers of America - which is so me now, but was so far from me then. I am not sure why I joined except I thought I needed to be in a club and my interior design (my favorite class in school) teacher led the group. In the spring, before I graduated, we got to go to Austin for the weekend to attend the Future Homemakers of America Texas Conference (I am quite sure that isn’t what it was called), but oh man Austin, I was so excited. Because at that time in my life Austin was cool, it was eclectic and free! And there were boys going, not sure why they were a part of Future Homemakers, but hell, I didn’t care, they were boys!
I roomed with a friend who was just as much trouble as I was at the time. We received our first lecture not shortly after checking in to our hotel by our teacher, “ladies, I did not get us smoking rooms, so you need to please take your cigarettes outside.” I think we also had beer hidden under the bed - it was lovely and the reason why I think twice about Shelby going on school trips.
The first day we were there we were unleashed on the University of Texas Campus, unsupervised and I am just in shock typing that, how in the world did they get by with just saying, “Okay, go have fun and meet us back in the library at 3 pm.”
As many of my peers where taking their spending money to the Gap on the corner I was going in and out of used clothing stores looking for awesome vintage wares you can only find in Austin (or so I thought at the time). It was in the midst of my vintage euphoria when I met him. This dreamy blonde hair blue eyed guy who quickly struck up a conversation with me. He was selling cassette tapes (yep, the nineties) of music that him and his friends produced. He was so handsome and so into what I had to say that I bought two tapes and a very back roots style magazine that detailed their lives and how they lived. I pretty much gave this guy every penny of my spending money as we stood on the busy sidewalk of Guadalupe Street.
I quickly, popped it into my walkman and listened to it all night. I thought it was so awesome. I read every page of the newspaper quality magazine, I was hooked, I wanted to know these people, hang-out with these people. I shared it with my friends during our next day in Austin, they thought it was super cool and very “Austin” as well.
I don’t remember too much else from that trip, we skipped all of our conference activities and walked to the capital - we thought we were all that and bag of chips because we spent all day wondering the halls that we thought were off limits (they probably are now).
As soon as I got off the bus back in Dallas, I handed my mom the magazine saying, “Isn’t this just the coolest thing you’ve ever seen? And they all live together on this big farm and they make this awesome music. I really could see myself living there, wouldn’t that be cool?”
Her response, “Dana, this is cult and they are living on a commune.”
At that time I had no idea what either of those words meant other that hearing a baptist preacher saying something about a “hippy commune” once during a sermon. I was that girl, I was the type of girl cults look for, a girl that was a little too free spirited for her own good and oh, so trusting.
So, even though I know that it’s not a fair judgment, Austin will always be the home of the cult that almost sucked me in. I am pretty open and could be considered eclectic, but Austin is just a bit too much for me (or at least the conservative girl who also lives inside of me thinks so).
I jumped on google after writing this and located the group, it was Zendik Farm which at the time was in Bastrop. They were known for passing out their magazine in the area of Austin where I was and the pictures I have found are pretty similar to those that sucked me in. What a scary thought - I was so close to having a seriously bad life changing experience.