I Wear My Rockabilly Shirt and Shed a Tear

Woke up early this morning without an alarm clock; I guess I’m getting trained, which makes it all that more important, I suppose, to get to bed on time even on weekend nights. That happens, mostly, since I tend to turn into a pumpkin after midnight. I blame the post-coffee fatigue.

I’m heading up a posse to go see “The Watchmen” tonight at the Drafthouse. More like a double date. I’ve written about the Watchmen movie before, and that underscores how excited I am to be watching it tonight. I really, really hope it lives up to the book and does it justice. The ending better be intact; that’s what hit me the hardest about the book, and if they change that, or shift one small bit on the premise, so help me I’ll just…I’ll just fucking blog about it.

Had a thought yesterday on the road home. I was zooming past all of the new construction that’s going up everywhere. As I descended into the river valley, I could see 10 cranes in the sky; new condos going up where there used to be decay. Most would call that progress. I call it a travesty, and there are quite a few of you out there who would agree. This isn’t the town I moved to. But, in actuality, the town I moved to never really existed. It’s true that Austin has changed immensely during the 8 1/2 years I’ve been here; I’d expect no less than change…but not at the cost of the soul of this town.

The buildings and shopping centers and strip malls that pop up all over the hillsides…they multiply like bacteria across the landscape, like an E. coli bloom in the fertile petri dish of central Texas. And they lay to waste the precious resource of space, materials, community. And even though they try to buy the appearance of being “local”, they all look the same: large parking lot broken up with a handful of native, transplanted trees; planters lined in local limestone bricks; and the buildings are all made with steel beams, steel studs, and clad in stucco or thin limestone “bricks” for the façade. The shops that inhabit these places have no root here; they are chains, and they have no stake in the health, heart, or soul of this community. There is no soul to be found in them. It’s all money.

I’ve considered all of this before, but what’s unique about my train of thought yesterday is this: those of us who cry about and bemoan the loss of Our Olde Towne, we’re holding onto a stylized memory. When I think of old Austin, I think of a time that existed before I moved here, when abandoned auto dealerships were converted into coffeeshops, when punk-rock dive bars existed in converted garages, when people met in the marketplace instead of the marketplace moving out to the people. And people walked everywhere because everything was local, and people my age listened to indie rock and punk and blues and country. And the vegetation in the hidden spaces downtown felt a little wilder, the landscape was greener. The cold days felt warmer, the summer sun was brighter, the beer was cheaper, and the soul of this place was alive. The halcyon times. And that’s all the halcyon times are…warm fuzzy feelings on top of a communal memory.

Those places and scenes may have existed and flourished to the extent that we remember them, that’s a possibility. Or maybe it’s no more than an extension of our innate ability to artificially remember an idealized past that didn’t truly exist, to feel melancholy for what could have been, to feel nostalgia for the brief times that things were all right. Life was still tough then. The long-term memory of The Drag still had a four year timespan, and then everything’s forgotten. Everything is forgotten still, and all we have are the pictures, videos, movies to help us remember the warmer, happier times.

That Austin doesn’t exist anymore, and just like any other history of any other place, it’s an ideal. The same things happen now that happen then. People hang out, and the spaces they inhabit gain a bit of soul. People move on, soul dies. It happens. New spaces were built then, and those buildings are an integral part of our current environment. New construction today will be integral tomorrow. It’s the change that hurts. It’s the painful lesson that everything is temporal, and that what we cherish today will at one point die. That happens with life, and to some degree that happens to places. You can’t expect Mojo’s or Les Amís or Sound Exchange to exist and flourish forever. You just can’t.

But what you can do is get involved in something, some place, some scene, bring a bit of soul to the party, wherever it happens to be. Accept the change and be the change.

Published by Shawn

He's just this guy, you know?