For the past couple of years, I’ve been thinking about Austin this way: that living here is like being married to a celebrity who got famous while you were married.

In this analogy, you and your spouse (Austin) meet, you fall ludicrously in love with their (Austin’s) quirks and charm, and you – but only you! – know intimately how special this soul (Austin) is.

That is, until your beloved (Austin) suddenly gets scouted by oh, say, Quentin Tarantino. And seemingly overnight, they (Austin) are a celebrity. Now everybody knows how beautiful, quirky, and special your spouse (Austin) is!

You’re happy to share their attention with adoring fans – at first. Because after a while, those at-home, two-spoons-in-one-spaghetti-bowl dinners are interrupted by their (Austin’s) cell phone constantly dinging with crazed fan tweets, calls from their agent, and Facebook push notifications that their millionth like just went through.

And it’s cool, you’re happy for them (Austin). They’re making more money after all.

Only, you’re worried that soon they (Austin) will be a little too fabulous for you, that their (Austin’s) tastes will change, and soon, this adorable little ragamuffin will be transformed into a slick, tanned, bleached-teeth copy of any other successful celebrity (wealthy city).

Also, they have less sex (water) to offer you. Their sex appeal (water reserves) is (are) being depleted by a ravenous public, and sometimes they’re just so tired (water levels so low) that they’re like, “not now baby, I’m just in a low energy (Stage 2 drought) place right now.”


I think that’s the visceral fear, anyway. Austinites old and new looooovvvee to get riled up about our city’s increasing popularity, becase like the non-famous spouse above they are worried, some with reasons completely valid, some less so.

Here is what Austinites are worried about:

1. Rising cost of living. (Valid.)

2. Diminishing water. (Valid.)

3. Sudden glut of condos. (Valid, but if the alternative is sprawl, I think I’ll take vertical growth. Condensed cities = walkable cities.)

4. Nefarious Californians eradicating our local culture. That Angelenos or other outsiders are moving here simply because it’s a scene, and as the theory goes, they’ll move on when they’ve sucked all the cultural life out of us. (BS. Let’s have a talk.)


That #4 link above is from this past week, when Reddit users jumped all over Lauren (Hipstercrite’s) post about living in Austin. Which to my mind, was a refreshingly balanced and non-cynical post, so the reaction surprised me. The whole thing got me thinking, what is my favorite thing about Austin? The easygoing people.

And I wondered [Carrie Bradshaw voiceover]: Where did my favorite, big-hearted Austinites came from?

From here:

Willie Nelson: Abbott, Texas.

Ann Richards: McLennan County, Texas.

Richard Linklater: Houston, Texas.

Leslie: Miami, Florida.

Molly Ivins: Monterey, California.

Mike Judge: Guayaquil, Ecuador. (Cool!)

Evan Smith: New York.

Kinky Friedman: Chicago.

Sarah Bird: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

So, if you were born and raised in Austin and are mad about new people coming to live here…I’m sorry.

This idea however that new people (particularly the LA boogiemen) are all opportunistic douchebags is just not accurate. You can move here from a different locale, and be invested in Austin. You can contribute enormously to the local culture.

But whining on Reddit does not further our local culture. Whenever I hear an Austinite mock newcomers just for not being from here, it makes me want to tweak their ear like an east Texas grandma and threaten to get the switch out. Didn’t your mama teach you any manners?

Population growth scares me too, but what scares me more is Austin’s spirit – that of a sweet island of misfits – evaporating. That, like the non-famous spouse above, our fear morphs into resent, leaving a bunch of cynical ass people walking around. Because who would be the douchebags then?


  • Sam Abbott

    Abbott*, TX :D

    • http://www.austineavesdropper.com Tolly Moseley

      <3 you Sam! Fixed.

  • Natalie San Luis

    *slow, deep nods* –> *hallelujah hand in the air* –> *humbled slow clap*
    (my chronological reaction to this post)

  • Anslee

    I love you, Tolly.

  • http://genieinablog.com. Leigh Ann

    The thing about opening your work up to a larger audience is that you will inevitably have people who not only disagree with you, but do it in a downright nasty way. It’s like “Yay for thousands of eyes reading my essay!” But then it’s like “Someone called me a useless piece of shit who doesn’t deserve to live! Snort/sob/sniffle.” On Reddit, people are either going to love you or make you want to jump off a cliff. I have terribly thin skin; i could never take it. That’s why I’m so vanilla. O_O

  • christinerojas

    Thank you for sharing this! It’s exactly what I needed to hear at this point in my life. The soul will not be lost :)

  • http://www.artofguesture.com/ layla guest

    Oh Boy. First, I love Austin and I’ve never even been to the darn place. How about that? I love what I hear about it, the people I’ve met who come from it and the people I’ve met who have moved there and become Austin-lovers.

    Second, I was having dinner last month with three other folks, all from different states, one from Texas (not Austin – though a lover of Austin). At any rate, this Texan, also a Reddit ADDICT, read me the riot act about Austin being overpopulated by Californians and how sad that was because Californians are the worst and most unfriendly people in the world. (I was not only the only native Californian at the table, but also a native Angeleno). Your woes are the woes of people at dinner tables across the US.

    So really, this is a thank you letter. For speaking up on behalf of Californians and Angelenos, most of which, I promise are respectful and very kind people. (Let’s start a research project of people claiming to be from LA but are in fact transplants from other places…)

  • Chantelle Wallace

    Thank you for defending the vertical condo growth! Anything to ward off Houston-esque sprawl.

  • Elisa

    You are awesome, Tolly! Great post.