“The Live Music Capital of the World” may be the City of Austin’s trademarked slogan, but “Keep Austin Weird” appears on many bumper stickers, a slogan that expresses what many feel, that success has ruined the city, has replaced quirky with slick. They long for the old days when Leslie used to stand in the center of downtown, a guy in a thong and maybe a bra. His entry in Wikipedia is worth reading!
Hippies in Austin may have gone the way of the dinosaur, but a high regard for tolerance and eccentricity is still strong in the city’s character. That sounds good, but I fear that the quirky and weird are now seen as adorable instead of threatening.
Herbert Marcuse, one of my professors, worried about such things, and I find I do as well, that our prevailing culture has become so dominant it can trivialize every alternative, make it tame, make hell a quaint superstition and make heaven a pleasant pastel place of little consequence. But what do I know? Not much!
The photo is of a life-sized metal triceratops along the I-35 access road.
Anne wrote: I visited Austin about ten years ago. Loved every minute of my time there but had the sense it was undergoing a move to being “normal” that somehow felt out of place with the folks I was meeting. Really sad about your thoughts about moving from quirky to slick. Lost my “Keep Austin Weird” bumper sticker somewhere along the way.
Michelle wrote: I was driving once and saw a huge fake tomato about the size of a car in someone’s front yard. It was being used in a film. And that was normal for Austin ha!
Babin wrote: The hippies got priced out of Austin. Many are hanging out in the hills of Hays county, others skedaddled eastward. Happy to say my tribe is out here and thriving.
Connie wrote: I didn’t know you studied with Dr. Marcuse. I interviewed him when I was a senior at the Bishop’s School, researching the difference between communism and communalism. He didn’t think much of the latter, but we had a very respectful and interesting conversation. It impressed me that he would spend time with a gawky high schooler.
Bob wrote: In 1984 my spouse and I started looking for another place to live because we felt the onslaught of uncontrolled development, creeping Jaguar-ization, and the certainty of climate change bringing ever hotter temperatures was going to make Austin an unpleasant place for us to live. By late 1986 we were in the Pacific Northwest. Now we’re dealing with barely controlled development, creeping Tesla-ization and Porsche-ization, but the bad effects of climate change are still in the future. We don’t regret leaving Austin, especially with the political changes in the state and even in the city. We still visit since we have family there but I always prefer someone else do the driving. It was difficult to drive east to west in the central part of the city in the 80s. It’s an act of madness now.