I am spending a few days in the city where I learned how to race bikes and ruined my life. The last time I was here was 2010 or so. Every time I come to Austin I’m told breathlessly how much it has changed.
“Development has taken over!”
“The things that make Austin Austin are being ruined!”
“East Austin is changing we hardly recognize it!”
“We have bike parking now!”
And all that is true. There are some new buildings and cars and people and bars on Pecan Street and coffe shops and craft breweries and a shit-ton of tract housing if I were inclined to go look at any of it.
But what really strikes me is that when I moved here in 1982 Austin was up in arms because of all the development and change and outsiders ruining what made Austin Austin, which in those days was weed and the Armadillo World Headquarters and Willie’s 4th of July Picnic and SRV.
In other words, weed.
In fact, Austin was being so ruined and de-Austinized in 1982 that there was a bumper sticker with an outline of the capitol over the neon light slogan, “No Vacancy.”
I never cared because all I ever did was ride my bike.
My parents came to visit me once in college but were so depressed they left and never returned until after I graduated. “Austin just isn’t the same,” they sighed before purchasing some prime real estate which is now probably worth $50 billion. “It’s changed.”
And it had. Because the last time they had lived here was 19-fucking-62.
So, yeah, shit changed in 20 years, and yeah, it has changed in the last 30, and call me crazy but 30 years hence it will have changed again and there is a super slight chance that Willie might even be dead.
What’s interesting to me is that none of the development that everyone hates while it raises their property values has ruined what makes Austin Austin, because what makes Austin Austin, aside from the geography of “30 square miles surrounded by reality,” is the wild-eyed stoner fantasy that you can have a progressive and liberal city in the right-wing, open-carry, fundie nutjob center of Hell.