The New Austinite: Keep Austin Weird takes on a whole new meaning
When we moved here from LA, Austin seemed like the secluded island escape that all artists dream about. Located in the middle of a conservative state, where all the surrounding areas are locked in a tradition that almost seems to breed its own sub-culture, Austin was the blue dot that welcomed artists world-wide to it’s cheap living and endless opportunities.
“Keep Austin Weird,”a mantra sung by all the dreamers who came to this city years ago, when their drug-induced, artistic expressions led to three simple words that seemed to describe it all. Maybe it was weird then, maybe it was weird by more than just Texas standards… At this point it is hard to say.
We rolled in expecting the strange world as promised. Whispered by Angelinos everywhere that it is “cool,” “neat,” and “fun,” arriving to find out, that like most things described by Angelinos, it was interesting, but nothing like the hype. In fact, Austin was about as weird as Cincinatti. The weirdest thing about it is that of all places in the world, someone settled here.
From our first day in the city, the downtown skyline has been filled with cranes that are adding and changing something that no one really talks about anyway. The weirdest thing about the city these days is that it is full of technology. And again I ask myself, why here?
Prices are rising, music disappears to a weekend escape, and everyone who’s anyone, works for an internet company while they plan their entrepreneurial adventure. Even the famous South By SouthWest Music festival is more about the tech than the artists.
“Keep Austin Weird” is something no one says. The only time you see it is in the two or three tourist shops around the city, still reminiscing the glory days. In fact, I saw someone wearing a shirt with that slogan in ironic fashion accessorized with man bun and skinny jeans. Yes sir, I see you, and I know that work as a tech man at IBM who has somehow picked up on popular trends. So weird.
Rather than moving here feeling inspired, I feel that my creative spirit has retired and surrendered to the white-picket-fence sociological expectation of all middle class Americans. In other words, it’s the final resting place. Where you describe your past adventures in the tense of a lifetime ago, you plan a starter home, then have dinner parties where the main topic is how great the public school system is.
I was excited to move here. Really. When we looked at apartments, they seemed huge in the price range of what we spent in LA’s Westside. When we settled into one, we realized that what we thought was comparatively cheap, was actually quite expensive for the average wages and starting salaries in this weird city. Thinking we were escaping to an artist’s haven, was in reality another cave to sink us into the overworking/underpaid lifestyle we pretended to enjoy on the Gold Coast. However, on the Gold Coast we could flaunt our underfed bodies at the beach.
Austin isn’t all bad. It’s a great place to work your way up at a Dot-Com company, or meet the brainy, go-getter white knight you’ve been waiting for all your life. You can find yourself easily jealous of the chick who looks about your same age, but already works for herself as she hires her own team of developers. When you do get that job at the internet startup, you can put your whole paycheck towards the bills as your gorge on the free food and unlimited snacks, while you wear sweatpants to work. Yes, Keep Austin Werid, all you ex-geek squad employees who may have once been described negatively using that “W” word.Welcome to Austin, where you are the norm.