Here’s in Austin, we enjoy the outdoors, regardless of heat, humidity, drought, and allergies. That’s why it’s kind of cute, don’t you think, that as soon as we get our first chilly day, many Austinites bundle up in boots and scarves, the car seat heaters come on, we stock up on firewood, and compare soup recipes. Our relatives up north shake their heads.
You’d think we’d love the cold weather. And when it’s between 90 – 110 degrees? We may complain a bit, move a little more slowly and find some shade. So what happens when temps dip below 40°F? Not so tough, many of us head outside and light a fire.
For most of us who choose to live here, the heat’s a perk. For others it’s a badge of honor that shows we’re tough. Same thing with a fire pit: heat’s a nice side affect for an activity that calls up cowboy roots.
Comfort is important, for sure, but we’re also into ambience. Fire is romantic, and heat is just better than cold. Who could argue? Can you really enjoy yourself outdoors when your teeth are chattering? Not a chance.
With winter around the corner, I went in search of some outdoor heating sources at Chair King. TJ, the sales associate, and a recent transplant, a comedian who lived in Singapore for the last 6 years, walked me through some options.
“People buy a lot of things in winter for different reasons,” he said. One woman recently bought chairs for her boat. (Winter boating!) Another gentleman bought chairs so his buddies could sit around a fire pit and smoke cigars. I was in search of a fire pit – maybe one set into a table — when the patio heaters caught my eye. I’m sure I’d spend more time outside if I were guaranteed toastiness. Since Singapore is a tropical jungle, I figured TJ would understand the aversion to cold weather.
He explained that Austin people actually go outside more in the winter than summer because the weather’s more enjoyable, and it’s easy to make memories outside in winter.
I got the feeling that he worries more about keeping it real with the people he meets in the course of his travels, than he does about keeping physically warm, which makes sense when you’ve traveled as much as TJ has. We chatted while we walked around the store.
Within minutes we were talking about other warmth-generating sources in town — writing jokes for other cultures, and meeting one of the Dixie Chicks at the Grove – while TJ showed me the beautiful and safe fixtures in the store.
By the way, did you know about half of all fire pits are lit with propane and emit no sparks? Or that patio heaters heat people up to 50 ft away? And yes, they are safe. The Public patios, bars, and decks wouldn’t use them it if they weren’t, TJ reminded me. I found one a little shorter than the ones you see at restaurants with a swirly flame that lights up a center column.
While I went in looking for an outdoor fire pit, by the time I left the store, I was convinced I could have a warmer covered deck first. I also didn’t know I’d be laughing at jokes by “the black ang mo (the black red-headed white man)” as his Singapore fans called him.
When you think about 110 people moving to Austin every day, do you wonder why people land here from all parts of the planet? Serendipity and Austin easy living draw a lot of folks.
Get to know the newcomers. Remember what it was like to live in Austin for the first time, and keep it warm and friendly as is befitting a true Texan. After all, winter warmth is one of our best features.
1. Chair King
2. The Real TJ
4. The Grove