Monday, March 20, 2006
I Heart Austin
Everything's bigger in Texas, and if Texas is its own country, then Austin is a Nation-State within. This is a city so propelled by music that it literally floods out of every open doorway. Those dive bars and saloons, the bad shot clubs, and the cool outdoor eateries. Music: honky tonk, rock n' roll, punk, metal, country, rockabilly, even hip hop. Bumper stickers say "Keep Austin Weird" and tell us to elect Kinky for Governor. Old gas stations have been turned into bars, taco stands, and nurseries. Even the grafitti in the bathrooms is distinctly Austin. (In Beerland, during South by Southwest, I saw love letters to Austin, and my favorite: "Have you fueled the music today?") Independent businesses thrive and everything is painted brightly-- no proliferation of Southwest colors here. This city is alive.
And yet it's Texas, even though it can read differently. There are cowboy hats and hipsters, the streets opening up like an Urban Outfitters ad gone wild. The street names are all in spanish, though with a Texas/American spin, where Manchaca is prounounced "Man-Shack" and Blanco becomes "Blank-o". The river is called Town Lake. Breakfast tacos are advertised alongside slick sushi joints, and in Austin the Jewish Cowboy is the prophetical antithesis to Dubya. It's Texas all right, but not the gun-toting, football playing stereotype you might think.
Austin is borne of strangeness, music, contradiction, and independence. It's both the two-steppin' saloon and the iPod streaming sound on the streets. And Austin for me was simply this: a city that rocks, a city that knows what's going on and who it is. Austin is a city that doesn't care about what fits, it just cares about what's real. And man, that city breathes. It's impossible not to feel it, or to see it in the people.
So this is my love letter to Austin, and the following posts will give you the Austin I saw, as well as what I think that can mean for St. Louis. And there is a lot of meaning. I'd hate to think we can go experience a place and not think about the place where we spend our everyday. I'd hate to think we can't end up loving both, even though we eventually always leave one to live in the other.