Valentine's weekend is here and Austin is no stranger to love—it's the type of city where young and old can fall in love and start or continue their stories.
Austonia interviewed Austin couples on their love stories, here's what they had to say.
Chiara Tomassini and Matt Graziano
What started as a friendship in the streets of Florence, Italy became a love story worth chasing around the world. Chiara and Matt met in Florence in 2015 while taking a class to get their certification for teaching English abroad. Matt, originally from the Chicago area, was paired up in a group with Chiara, who is originally from Rome.
"I was excited because I was studying Italian, and I have an Italian in my group," Matt said. "It just so happened that she was extremely beautiful and funny and way out of my league."
Besides the chemistry they seemed to have, Matt and Chiara were both in relationships and found it challenging to be around each other. After a month and a half of friendship and getting to know each other better, the pair, being young and in a foreign country said they couldn't resist the chemistry and feelings they had for each other.
It wasn't until the class was over and Matt returned to Chicago that the pair realized how hard it was to be apart. They kept in touch for over three months, messaging on WhatsApp and Skyping most days, until Chiara took the biggest leap and moved to Chicago to be with him.
"We didn't date, we jumped right in," Chiara said. "I was scared. I wasn't expecting dedication and commitment, but he proved me wrong."
Matt, who was determined to show Chiara how serious he was, said he started doing everything possible to step up his game for her, including flossing for the relationship. The couple faced challenges like most, but the biggest struggle was having to travel back and forth from Italy to Chicago every couple of months during the beginning of the relationship. Chiara was not expecting the U.S. to be so different.
"I lived abroad for a year (in London) so I thought I was ready for that experience but I didn't realize how different the U.S. is," Chiara said. "I remember thinking: The U.S. is a beautiful dress, but it's too large for me, it doesn't fit me."
After a year of living back and forth in Chicago and Italy due to Chiara's visa, the couple got married in September 2016 in Rome, with two witnesses and a photographer. In October of 2019, the couple decided to move to Austin due Chiara's "Italian blood" not loving the Chicago cold.
Matt and Chiara, being a young married couple, loved what Austin had to offer: warm weather, cool places and fun times. Since moving, the couple has found that their love wasn't rushed, it was meant to be.
Chiara, who is described by Matt as "extremely caring and thorough, and thorough in her caring," gave birth to their daughter last month. Lily, who was named after the flower in Florence's flag, is the new addition to the love story that the couple have written over the past six years.
"Our love story proves that there are no excuses," Chiara said. "If you really want something, go for it. Jump on a plane. Just chase it, be brave, and it will pay off if you really believe in it."
"When I'm with her, I feel all these crazy feelings, and when I'm not with her, I feel sick. Physically sick," Matt said.
Susan James and Jay Curlee
Susan and Jay have the type of story that people only read about. The couple originally met in the early 70's while living in Hawaii. Jay, who grew up in Arizona and is a television and film director, got Susan's attention with his fun sense of humor and adventurous spirit from their very first date.
The couple, quickly enamored with each other, dated and lived together for a couple of years in Hawaii until they faced their biggest enemy: time. Although the chemistry was there, the couple separated for over 16 years, each living on with their lives. Jay, married another woman for 14 years and had two kids while Susan lived with her boyfriend of 12 years.
It wasn't until Jay's divorce that the couple reunited for lunch on June 19, 1992, realized the chemistry was still there, started dating again and have been inseparable ever since. Jay and Susan got married on Feb. 14, 1993 in Kāhala Beach and will be celebrating their 28th wedding anniversary this year.
"I always considered him the love of my life," Susan said.
In 2014, the couple decided to move to Austin where they had many friends from over the years of going on the Delbert McClinton Sandy Beaches music cruise, where Jay spent a lot of time producing films. Jay, who was diagnosed with cancer in early 2020, is still working on his movie projects in Austin while in his loving marriage with fun-spirited Susan.
"If you're smart, funny, interesting and adventurous, I'm in," Jay said. "I'm a lucky guy because I got that."
When asked for what advice they would give to younger couples, Susan jokingly said "wait until you're old!" Although their love story had it's ups and downs over the years, Jay and Susan knew in the end, they would end up together.
Kay and Mike Platis
In 1978, a small town girl from Yoakum, Texas met a city boy from Houston at a fourplex in the Hyde Park area. Mike and Kay, who have been married since 1983, were both attending the University of Texas and immediately hit it off as neighbors. "She was the girl next door," Mike said.
The couple had their first date attending a production of Uncle Vanya at the University of Texas and then visiting Mount Bonnell, a classic date spot in Austin. Mike and Kay found themselves inseparable during their last semesters at UT. The only time they spent apart was when Mike would spend summers in Houston working while Kay worked in Austin. Without a lot of money and a new serious relationship ahead, the couple couldn't stay far apart for long.
"We just made it work, we didn't have a ton of money, but we made it work," Kay said.
After graduating and figuring out what kind of future the pair had in store, they stayed in Austin and grew in their relationship while having as much fun as a young couple living in town could.
"We partied a lot. We would go to 6th street, the Broken Spoke, Silver Dollar, Raul's," Mike said. "There were bands everywhere. Austin wasn't the live music capital of the world yet, but the music was here. There was a natural beauty everywhere."
After dating for a couple of years, Mike and Kay got married on May 28, 1983 in Yoakum, with about 600 people in attendance and a live performance from Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys. After their wedding, Mike and Kay did what any young married couple would do at the time, they bought a home and worked on building a life together.
"I feel really blessed to have found a mate," Kay said. "Somebody you can live with, somebody you can grow with, somebody you can grow a family with."
The couple, still young-spirited and completely enamored with each other, have two older children and are planning on moving to New Braunfels in 2021, after finally feeling that they have "out-aged" the city. Mike and Kay still find the joy in everyday things and feel lucky to have found each other.
"We are best friends as well as love birds. I think we're lucky, I really feel like we are," Mike said. "I feel lucky all the time."
Emma and Jay
Young love in Austin is around every corner, and newly-engaged couple Emma and Jay prove that it's not about age when you know you've found the right person.
The love birds met in early 2018 through an ex-girlfriend of Jay's and instantly bonded over their love for music, the outdoors, hiking, adventuring, old cars, old records and their life-long aspirations. It wasn't until November of that year that the pair decided to try things out, and they have been on a loving whirlwind ever since.
"Everything clicked with us, it was weird," Jay said. "It was kind of really weird. We were the exact same person about everything."
Jay and Emma not only had chemistry due to their similar personalities, but their adventurous and serious spirit for the future. Jay, who loves spending time with Emma's five younger siblings, the youngest being three years old, said that was an instant connection that brought them closer together.
"The first couple months of our relationship, we would tell each other 'I like you, I like you a lot' because we didn't want to jinx it by saying 'I love you' too fast," Jay said.
The couple have spent the last two years enjoying their time together, attending concerts such as Rex Orange County, Hozier and Austin City Limits music festival while still living in romance by having picnics at the Katherine Fletcher Park downtown.
Jay proposed to Emma in September of 2020, hoping it wasn't too soon but knowing they wanted to be with each other forever.
"I really didn't care how fast it was," Jay said. "We just want to hurry up and get married. Love is great, it's a really cool thing."
Jay and Emma have found that overly communicating, loving each other and going above and beyond for your significant other is the best way to deal with a relationship.
"Ever since I first met him, his strength and his courage in life inspired me," Emma said. "He's helped me grow to be a stronger and better person. To watch him go through his life experiences and be alongside it, I'm learning and watching him become stronger as a person."
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Just weeks after music fest Austin City Limits, Austin will be host to another global event as the Circuit of the Americas hosts Formula 1's United States Grand Prix race for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.
The weekend-long fest will have events stretching from Friday, Oct. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 31 for North America's premier Formula 1 race.
With three days of races, parades and more, it can be hard to know what to expect for an event that COTA chairman Bobby Epstein said would be "the biggest event on the planet this year."
Don't miss a beat:
But have no fear. Here's Austonia's complete guide to make sure your trip to the U.S. Grand Prix is out of this world:
What to bring
While some may have bought tickets just for the big race, others are planning for a three-day fest of constant outdoor activity. For the foreigners and out-of-towners, October weather in Austin may not be quite what you expect—many joke that a Texas "fall" is near-nonexistent. Check the weather often to see what's in store.
Our prediction is that shorts or flowy pants/skirts, a short-sleeve shirt and a light jacket may suffice. If it looks like rain is on the horizon, don't forget a poncho and/or small umbrella as there isn't much coverage from the elements once you're there.
Regardless of weather, it's a safe bet to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and some bug spray as well. Other not-so-typical items to pack in your bag—which should be smaller than 12x12x20 inches—include earplugs for the big race, binoculars and your phone camera to capture those Ferraris at full-speed.
Depending on your seats, don't forget a folding chair, and to pack a sealed plastic water bottle if you can—it's the only type of food or drink that's permitted on the property.
Keep all tents/canopies, coolers and large umbrellas at home. Check out more on what not to bring here.
Make sure you've got your tickets and you're all set!
trying to get from your parking spot to your seat 15 minutes before the race starts pic.twitter.com/2ly2DDcUVU— Circuit of The Americas (@COTA) February 8, 2021
COTA's notorious parking can be a doozy—F1 1 fan Kevin Andrew said he's spent two and a half hours in line for the venue's sprawling paved and grass lots.
If you're of the impatient sort, it may be smart to look for some early-bird treatment even before gates open at 7 a.m. Friday, 8 a.m. Saturday and 6:25 a.m. Sunday. Show up well before your first desired event starts, especially on Sunday.
For those looking to beat the crowd and keep some change, shuttles will pick up from five locations around the city for $15 a day. An additional Park-N-Ride lot, Lot Q, will also allow guests to drop their cars off and take the shuttle to COTA. Click here for shuttle information.
Additional transportation amenities include a drop-off spot for limos, taxis and rideshare apps. Bicyclists will have access to showers in the GEICO Premium RV Lot.
Food, music and more
COTA will become a "World Fair"-esque fest full of local eats, live music and out-of-the-ordinary activities as part of the U.S. Grand Prix. (Circuit of the Americas)
Once you've entered those gates, the actual event will be a lot to take in. Anywhere from 300-350K people are expected to attend the big race, and fans are more excited than ever after nearly two years with no F1 in North America.
But just as fun as the big race—at least for more casual viewers—are the many attractions leading up to it.
Some highlights include performances from Twenty One Pilots and Billy Joel on Friday and Saturday, respectively, two races for the all-women's racing championship W Series and junior championship FIA Formula 4, NASCAR demos and a driver's parade on Sunday just before the race.
This is also a chance for Austin to entertain guests from far and wide—like a "World's Fair," as Andrews put it—and COTA will ensure that Austin remains on the map.
The "Live Music Capital of the World" will earn its rep with over 20 concerts across multiple stages on Saturday and Sunday. Highlights include Kool and the Gang and 15 Austin ensembles including The Ghost Wolves, Mobley and three-time Best of Austin winner DJ Chorizo Funk.
That Austin flair is well-represented in cuisine as well—expect over 30 dining options including local favorites Bao'd Up, Easy Tiger, Amy's Ice Cream and Tiny Pies scattered across the grounds. Check out the Taste of Texas section for local eats, the Biergarten for Bavarian beer, food and polka dancing, Lone Star Land for Austin's classic Chicken Shit Bingo and line dancing, and La Cantina for some Tex-Mex and a Selena tribute.
Still not satisfied? COTA's Onederland claims to host the best F1 General Admission lawn in the world and is packed with more than just amusement park rides. Expect the annual SPAMARAMA (yes, a Spam-themed festival,) axe throwing, the Major League Eating Championship and plenty of performers on stilts. Don't forget to ink a COTA-themed tattoo with an on-site tattoo artist as well.
Formula 1—a breakdown
New to Formula 1? You're not alone—the sport has exploded in popularity in North America after gaining recognition from Netflix series "Drive To Survive." With a new track set to open in Miami, that growth will only continue.
Here's what you need to know to get caught up:
Formula 1 vehicles are arguably the fastest road-racing cars in the world. The open-wheeled single-seaters can reach top speeds around 215 miles per hour and all adhere to a "formula" set by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile.
Formula 1 is the top formula racing league in the world and consists of 20 drivers across 10 teams who compete in venues across North and South America, Central Asia and its native continent, Europe. F1 has existed in some form for over 70 years and features races on closed city streets as well as purpose-built racetracks like COTA.
The league is massively popular in Europe but has seen intermittent success in North America. The U.S. Grand Prix was first held in 1908 and flip-flopped across 10 different locales for 49 appearances over the next century, last spending seven years in Indianapolis from 2000-2007 before making a home in Austin in 2012.
This U.S. Grand Prix will be its 50th race and will be the 17th race of the season.
The Big Race—Hamilton v. Verstappen
Defending champion Lewis Hamilton is in for some stiff competition from a young Max Verstappen as they fight for the F1 Championship. (Mercedes-AFG Petronas F1 Team/Twitter) (Red Bull Racing/Twitter)
The league's 20 drivers have crisscrossed across the map through the season, adapting to locales across four continents with vastly different terrains. But one factor has remained constant—standouts Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have rarely left the leaderboard.
Just six points differentiate the two-star drivers with over a dozen races in—a margin low enough that the true winner may not be evident until the very end. With 262.5 points, Dutchman Verstappen holds the slight lead over Great Britain's Hamilton and both have over 1.5X the points of the next runner-up, Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Hamilton and Bottas make up Team Mercedes, the No.1 team in the league, while Verstappen and fifth-place Sergio Perez constitute second-place team Red Bull Racing Honda.
The evenly matched team, evenly-matched cars and neck-and-neck standings have brought forth a fan-fueled rivalry that F1 hasn't seen for quite some time.
This U.S. Grand Prix, much like the rest of the season, will be a testament of old vs. new. A 36-year-old Hamilton has taken home seven F1 championships, including a four-year dominance in the sport from 2017-2020, and has won on U.S. turf at COTA five times. Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Verstappen was once the youngest F1 driver and youngest Grand Prix race winner ever and has since finished third for two consecutive years.
The heated rivalry has culminated in three dangerous crashes throughout the season, including one at the Italian Grand Prix Sept. 13. Grand Prix Drivers' Association chairman Alex Wurz said it is "very likely" that they will again.
That next crash site may or may not be at COTA, but the U.S. Grand Prix will still see the two titans clash once more as the season nears its end. Expect either or both to end at the top of the leaderboard, and make sure to bring up either name to a committed fan if you're looking for some sideline banter.
Other racers to look out for include Bottas as a likely third-place contender and some mid-race fun from Perez and fourth-place rival Lando Norris.
For a full weekend schedule click here. Happy COTA days!
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With two weeks of rest, a dream team lineup and nearly 20 scoring attempts in the match, Austin FC could have come away with a three-match home win streak against Minnesota United on Saturday.
Instead, missed opportunities and an equally boisterous opponent forced Austin to leave Q2 with a 1-0 loss to Minnesota.
Austin FC brought what appeared to be their strongest lineup to date to the pitch after their two-week break, including breakout stars Sebastian Driussi and Moussa Djitte. But even with dozens of shots between the two teams, the home team couldn't find their footing in the back-and-forth match.
After landing a brace in the team's 2-1 win against Real Salt Lake, Austin's Cecilio Dominguez struck first in the match with a shot on goal in the eighth minute of play. The scoring attempt opened the floodgates—in just three minutes, teammates Moussa Djitte and Sebastian Driussi would follow suit with their own looks at goal.
Just seconds later, Minnesota bounced back with a shot that forced Austin keeper Brad Stuver to jump for his first save, but a bad sendoff from the Verde and Black left Stuver unable to block another as the Loons' Franco Fragapone scored from close range in the 16th minute.
Despite a wide array of scoring attempts—from Djitte's blocked high-fliers to Tomas Pochettino's many near misses—Minnesota would stay on top for the remainder of the match.
A few flops from Minnesota, including a poorly-acted fall from the Loons' Emmanuel Arriaga (which was unrewarded and resulted in an Arriaga yellow card) and a controversial foul given to Moussa Djitte as he nearly made a solo drive to goal added to Austin's woes.
The Verde and Black's final attempt came as Austin center back Julio Cascante placed a close-range header in the final seconds of regulation, but the home team was unable to capitalize on their many attempts.
Both teams shared over 30 shots in the match, with Austin making eight shots on target. Austin FC held over 65% possession and received 12 fouls to Minnesota's nine.
It could soon be impossible for Austin FC to reach the playoffs, but Verde fans still have two chances to catch their team at home. Austin's first season will wrap up with five final matches, including a 4 p.m. Sunday game against the Houston Dynamo on October 24 and an 8 p.m. Wednesday match against Sporting KC on Nov. 4.
Here's a live blog of the match:
80' Austin makes first subs
With just over 10 minutes left in regulation ,Austin FC made some late-game subs, swapping Diego Fagundez for Austinite McKinze Gaines and Sebastian Driussi for forward Jon Gallagher. Both have a history of clutch performances for the team: Gaines scored just 10 minutes in to his first match of the game back in September, while Gallagher was Austin's first scorer at Q2 Stadium.
It's looking more like a draw at best for Austin as the time continues to tick down on the match.
61' Djitte loses chance after controversial call
In the 61st minute of a less-cohesive half for Austin, Moussa Djitte found himself alone near the goal with a good chance at making the home team's first goal. But referees had another ideas, making another controversial call on the Senegalese striker.Refs stopped Djitte's menacing drive after Minnesota's Michael Boxall appeared to flop in a run-in with the striker, curbing Djitte's attempt to boos from the crowd. It's Djitte's second foul of the night and the team's ninth foul in the match. Both clubs host a yellow card, with center back Julio Cascante holding the home team's sole warning call. Minnesota's Emmanuel Reynoso holds the away team's yellow after an obvious flop that left him rolling on the ground for minutes, waiting on a call.
Blown whistles for both sides have slowed the match's tempo and left both clubs reeling as Austin looks for its first goal.
At the half: Austin still can't finish
45' still left to play. pic.twitter.com/39J1XnvvOc— Austin FC (@AustinFC) October 17, 2021
With minutes-long shooting sprees and more shots on goal than Minnesota, Austin could easily have the lead in the match. But each crowd-raising attempt has still been slightly skewed as the home team ends the half with nothing on the board.
In just 45 minutes, both Austin and Minnesota have reached the double-digits in scoring attempts, but Minnesota's ability to infiltrate Austin's penalty box has given them the leg up in the match. The Loons have sometimes found themselves nearly alone alarmingly close to goal, and they've capitalized on their chances with a 16thb minute goal by Franco Fragapane.
Austin FC, however, has not. The club has seen close calls from Dominguez and Driussi, headers from Djitte and near-misses from Tomas Pochettino, but missed opportunities and a few strokes of bad luck have left them scoreless. The team will need to shake their age-old scoring issues if they hope to get back into tonight's game.
16' Minnesota nabs 1-0 lead
Austin may have struck first, but Minnesota won the first points on the board as Franco Fragapane got one past keeper Brad Stuver from a close range in the 16th minute to make it 1-0. The Loons tested Stuver just as Austin did Miller, making two anxiety-inducing shots before Fragapane struck gold.
This goalie-vs.-goalie match has already seen three shots on goal from each team and a relatively quiet midfield as each team dukes it out in the box.
11' Austin tests Minnesota first
Austin FC has taken no time to threaten goal. In a three-minute span, the home team has racked up three shots, two of which are on goal, as the ball bounces between Austin attackers but can't quite find the net.
Dominguez strikes first as he looks to find his third goal in three matches in the eights minute, but Minnesota's Tyler Miller fights back with a clutch save. Djitte then tests Miller just seconds later, while Driussi takes a final shot from farther back that just misses the top left corner.
Austin's Fagundez and Pochettino were the playmakers of the three-minute shooting spree, but the club still came out scoreless. Minnesota soon rebounded with a shot of their own that was blocked by keeper Brad Stuver.
This may be Austin FC's most popular lineup— even the crankiest fans are commending the strong starting XI on Twitter. Tonight's starters are the same as in their win against Salt Lake.
New standouts Moussa Djitte and Sebastian Driussi are in alongside double-scorer Cecilio Dominguez up front, while fan favorite Diego Fagundez, Captain Alex Ring and Designated Player Tomas Pochettino take the midfield.
With Matt Besler still out on concussion protocol, Zan Kolmanic, Jhohan Romana and Julio Cascante take the back along with Hector Jimenez, who is in for right back Nick Lima. As (almost) always, Brad Stuver holds it down in goal.
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An Austin-based program manager for Apple Maps and one of two leaders for the #AppleToo activist movement said she has been fired after a suspension.
According to the New York Times, Janneke Parrish said she was put on suspension for several days while the company investigated her activities before she was fired by a human resources employee via phone call on Thursday.
Parrish was under investigation for allegedly leaking a recording of an Apple staff meeting to the media, which she said she didn't do.
The report said the company told Parrish, who is 30, that she was being fired for having deleted files off her company-issued phone and computer before handing them in for examination. Parrish said the files she deleted contained her personal and financial information.
Among the files she deleted were the Robinhood app, which she said was to keep Apple from seeing "how much money I lost investing in GameStop," the Pokemon Go app and screenshots of programming bugs she was fixing.
Parrish said she believes Apple was retaliating against her efforts in organizing #AppleToo, a group of employees working to expose the company's "culture of secrecy" that has been "faced disproportionately by our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues from minoritized racial, gender and historically marginalized groups of people."
Parrish had been publishing weekly accounts of workplace problems that had been shared anonymously with her from other employees, though she did not verify employment on all of them. The accounts she received were in the hundreds, so Parrish said she was hopeful her termination would lead to some justice within the company.
Employees at tech giants have been more outspoken than usual in recent months—with former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaking out against her former employer—and Parrish said the company's desire to keep under wraps has eroded trust by discouraging employees to come forward with issues like harassment or wage disparity.
Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock commented on the matter: "We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters."
Additionally, the email detailing her termination, which was obtained by the New York Times, said Apple had determined that Parrish "engaged in conduct in violation of Apple policies including, but not limited to, interfering with an investigation by deleting files on your company provided equipment after being specifically instructed not to do so."
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