Allergy-O-Rama: In Austin, the Fun Never Stops

When I found out I was moving to Austin, I was pretty excited. Austin's got a great reputation. In spite of having been the gubernatorial residence of Bush Junior, it's a pretty funky place. It's got a relatively young population - due to both the university and the high-tech industry - and a lot of great bars, clubs, and restaurants. Austin City Limits is taped here, and while "Live Music Capital of the World" may be an exaggeration, it's not by much. There are quite a few parks, and a river where people canoe on warm fall days. And the Congress Bridge bats are a nice touch.

Sure, Austin apparently had a few drawbacks. The city's extreme and fast growth - it's doubled in size in the last twenty years or so - has led to breathtaking traffic problems and a housing crunch. But given that, before Austin, I was living in Albuquerque - a city composed almost entirely of drawbacks - none of that fazed me.

But what everyone failed to mention was that Austin is also Allergy Capital of the World. Of course, even if they had, I probably would have ignored them. I've never had allergies before in my life.

Until I moved here.

And now, instead of being out on the town and enjoying the live music scene or the bars on Fourth Street (Sixth Street being where all the underage college kids go, which gets old as soon as you're, say, 23), I've been hosting a party inside my skull for a crew of tiny fat hairy men with tiny little sledgehammers. And that for nearly three months now. A list of all the allergy drugs I take could pass for an epic poem, and you know what? Symptoms? Still here.

My doctor even apologized to me today. "I'm sorry it's taking so long for you to feel better." He's tried whatever he could think of, and Austin doctors are pretty well equipped to deal with allergies. It's not his fault that I developed bronchitis and a sinus infection as a result of allergies, and that now the bronchitis won't go away no matter how many antibiotics I throw at it, making my doctor suggest that maybe, just maybe, it's TB. That would just be so very Victorian novel. Granted, I'd get a momentary kick out telling people I had consumption (which sounds ever so much sexier than TB and I don't know why they quit calling it that but they should bring it back), but I think I prefer the other option, unsatisfying though it is, basically "You're having coughing fits for no apparent reason." Oh, yay.

Not that all of this means I'd reconsider living here. I like the city, I love my house, and I absolutely adore my work (well, most days, anyway) and my colleagues. But as I head off to go get my chest x-rayed, and as cedar season ends and elm season begins, I figure I'm entitled to just a bit of bitching and moaning…


The Year in Allergies

The beginning of the year is the middle of cedar season. Cedar season is the worst; it runs from December through February, and the allergies are so commonplace and often so strong that they're known as Cedar Fever.
Even before the cedar's gone, the elm season starts.
The oaks are pollinating, and in March the pecan trees start to get randy, and they, too, party until May. When you've got a backyard full of trees, as we do, you're in trouble.
Pretty amazingly, they're mostly allergy-free, except of course for mold, which affects Austin year-round. On the other hand, given how hot it gets, hardly anyone goes out of doors in June and July anyway.
The fun starts up again with both ragweed and cedar elm season. My father has terrible ragweed allergies. So far, they've spared me, but I'm not even going to bother knocking on wood; I'm in Austin, so I'll develop ragweed allergies at some point before I leave…
This, of course, is when cedar season starts up again, and we take it from the top...


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Feb. 20, 2002

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