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?
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?