Complain all you want about the traffic, the cost of living, the condo jungle, the ACL Fest lineup, Joe Rogan, and how this once-sleepy college town has gone to hell in a Yeti cooler. But the luckiest residents of Austin are the ones who just moved here.
Huh? “You must also love those assholes who try to squeeze into a full elevator.”
Recent arrivals take a lot of organic crapola. But imagine how cool it is to live in an Austin where everything’s new. You know how you hear somebody talking about how they just started watching The Wire and you get a little jealous because that’s something you’ll never get to do again for the first time? It’s like that.
I moved to Austin 37 years ago and it’s hard for me to get excited about, say, going to the honky tonk preservation scene at the Broken Spoke. But the last time I went there, pre-pandemic, it was a fun place full of glowing newbies. Ain’t got nothing like this in Brooklyn, yeehaw!
Yes, it used to be so much better here, but those days are gone. Living in Austin is like sex in that what happened in the past has only sentimental value, which when it comes to sex is no value. Who would you rather be, the old guy hunched over his cereal who used to do Victoria Principal or the insufferable hipster in the trucker hat who goes home to that barista with only the one tattoo?
One advantage that newcomers have is that they don’t know what Austin used be. Oh, for the power. They can drive down South First without pining for Virginia’s Cafe, or make a turn at 2nd and Guadalupe without recalling, with some sadness, a favorite Neville Brothers concert. There’s no haunt to the jaunt.
The only Austin any of us know is the one we got. And I think now we have to get something straight. If you were born and raised in Austin and still live here, you’re rare, but not special. You and your parents thought Cactus Pryor was famous, so please stop bragging in Facebook comments. You’re annoying the 99% of us who moved here because where we lived before wasn’t so hot.
Some moved here for jobs. They’re called Round Rock residents. But most of us came because we loved the party, you know, the vibe. It started as a room full of conversations on Goodwill couches and someone pulled out a guitar and everyone sang “Blister In the Sun.” But the bash now rages with a D.J. and drink tickets. Who invited all these bubblebutts?
But they have every right to be at the party as you do. Legally, at least. You just got there early. And you’re free to leave. With the million dollars your eternal fixer-upper sells for.
What I did recently, and recommend to all, is look at Austin through new eyes. Pretend you’d just driven a U-Haul through Texarkana last week. See all the happy, colorful people hanging out on South First? That’s something you’d never see when Austin was cool.
But you’ll also see signs for $10 parking on street corners where you used to be able to buy a stereo for $10. Things change because paradise can never keep it’s trap shut.
Yellow lights on South Lamar, capital punishment, “Don’t Move Here” t-shirts: these are things that don’t deter. About 580,000 people have moved to the Austin metro area in the past 10 years. That’s a Black Pumas audience every three days. They can’t wait to push play on season one of life in the ATX.
cover photo by Jay Janner AAS
One thought on “The Allure of Austin Virginity”
I agree. I moved to Austin in 1979 and left in 2002. I love the old stuff that was there all those years I was. And it was a helluva lot better than Amarillo. I skipped out of Austin for about 12 years. Went back once in, say, 2006, and then stayed gone until about 2017. Now I return a few times a year and I love it. The new stuff is amazing, yet you can hang out in Hyde Park on a porch and not know what year it is. I had a fine UT (BA, MA, PhD), thorough punk education, classic jobs (Les Amis, Texas French Bread), and a broad political upbringing (from John Henry Faulk at a massive Anti-nuke protest, anti-Klan bona fides , and Capitol work (bill editor to chief of staff for a Senator). I have stories, but Austin keeps writing more.