You may have noticed that I haven't done any updating since Thursday of last week. That's because I was in Austin for a wedding this weekend. I would have liked to have given you some warning, but there's nothing good about telling thousands of strangers that you're going to be out of town for four days.
We drove to Austin. I love driving. I especially love the route to Austin via highway 290 that you catch via I-10 just after Junction, Texas. The road is sandwiched between some of the best ranches in the entire country to see exotic breeds of animals breed for sport. When you aren't spotting blesbok and kudu, you're seeing trophy sized white tail deer everywhere. We even saw a rather large bull elk that in my opinion would take a spot in the top 10 in the world if taken with bow out in the wild. All that makes the drive worth it.
Plus, my wife and I get to have some time where the cell phones are off and we can chat about anything without interference. It's a nice six to eight hours of time with the person I love most. If you think about it, spending eight hours with your spouse alone usually means your sleeping. We should all make an effort to work on that.
The meat of the subject - Austin.
My wife loves Austin. She spent ten years there and she misses it like nothing else. I've always thought the place was a refuge for liberal Yankees who got tired of cold winters and the extremely high cost of living up north. She tends to disagree with my assessment even though I'm 100 percent correct.
This was the first time I've ever been to Austin and didn't have a completely full schedule of political activities that require you camp out at the capital. I would be able to actually see what the city is like this trip.
This past weekend Austin was having its annual super concert called "ACL Fest." The big concert has a myriad of acts, attracts stars like the Wilson brothers and Sandra Bullock and is "the thing to do that weekend." We didn't do it... But we did stay in a friend's condo right next to the large outdoor venue. Needless to say, I got to see a lot of the locals.
Here's what I learned about Austin.
People who live in Austin are huge fans of Austin. Not one person in the entire city will be heard saying, "this place sucks." It doesn't happen. While in conversation with a couple from Houston who were talking about a recent trip to France that they had dreamed about for years, the only person from Austin withing earshot reminded us that Austin was in fact a better destination for history and art. This was not a joke. It also wasn't followed with any kind of justification - it just was better and that's it.
I started figuring out that the people in Austin are fiercely pro-Austin in a polite way. No place is better and they'll politely and pointedly let you know. Theirreverence for the town reminds me of certain American's reverence for their cultural heritage like the Italians and the Irish (we Germans are still a little shy given our recent massacre of six million Jews. However, we do give you Oktoberfest).
Austonians (I hate using "Austinites" for personal reasons) are so supportive of their town and culture that embrace everything whether it's good or bad. I'm talking food here. They have something they call "migas" there and it's not that good of a meal. However, they think it was prepared by Christ himself and will tell you so. This attitude is indicative of their view on all of their "Tex-Mex" efforts.
It astounds me that a group of people would take such pride in screwing up Mexican food that they'd rename it instead of doing it right. But that's how Austin is.
I have thought the food sucked most every time I ate there and I retain that opinion after last weekend.
The culture of Austin is what gets me the most. In a state like Texas there needed to be a place where the hippie-types could gather and feel at home in the 1960's. The seat of government for the state coupled with a large public university was the perfect spot for them to gather. Couple all that with great weather and the home of Texas' unique honky tonk style music scene and Austin became a destination.
Today's Austonian is a person who prides themselves on being unique. In fact, every single person there seems to be trying to out-unique everyone else. The result? Everybody looks exactly the same. Yep, they might standout in your hometown, but in Austin... they all look the same in an effort to be very different. I find it hilarious that the whole city is made up folks trying to be individuals and they end up all being just another flock of sheep - no different than each other at all.
In fact, my conservative/preppy attire set me apart pretty well. I got a lot of funny looks from folks in my wranglers and boots with a short-sleeve button up shirt. I didn't even have on cool boots, either. I was wearing a flat bottomed "concrete worker" made for a specific type of activity. Inadvertently I had out-uniqued all the unique people at a bar called Little Woodrow's. The bohemians were not happy.
The whole place just doesn't strike me as all that cool. If being a waiter with dirty clothes and a bunch of tattoos is your cup tea, then Austin is your place.
So there. That's my thought on Austin.