A city of many contradictions. Ultra-liberal capital of conservative Texas. Has more bars and clubs per capita than any other city in America, but also the highest rate of book purchases and internet connectivity. Home of corporate sell-out fest SXSW, but also one of the most fiercely independent music and film scenes anywhere. Headquarters of uber-death-preppie George W. Bush, but also more hippies, phish-heads and trustafarians than you can shake a thai stick at. Workaholic techie town where Eeyore's birthday is an official citywide holiday.

Austin's sobriquets include City of the Violet Crown, coined by sometime resident O. Henry in reference to the profusion of wildflowers which come up in spring, the positively Lovecraftian City of Perpetual Moonlight, because of the moonglobes, some of the first electric lights in any city, which still work, and Live Music Capital of the World, which is even on the arrival gates at the airport. Austin is one of the friendliest cities anywhere (except during SXSW), and is heaven if you happen to enjoy beer, ethnic food, marijuana, or any kind of music at all. Sadly, as other noders have noted, not even a fiercely pro-planned development city council has been able to keep growth under control, leading to awful traffic, a painful real estate crunch, and ever-increasing sprawl. Blame the dot-coms.

Even Austin's history is weird and a little magical. The (perhaps partially apocryphal) story of how Austin came to be the capital of Texas and gained its name, locally known as the story of the "archives war": In the early days of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau B. Lamar, a slightly unbalanced individual, was elected President of Texas on account of his opponent dying a few days before the election; the dead guy still almost got half of the vote. Lamar decided to move the capital of Texas from Houston to the little village of Waterloo in the Hill Country. Perhaps the name Waterloo was at caused Lamar to choose it, the B. in his name was short for Bonaparte. He envisioned the new capital as the seat of the empire he planned to build straight across the Comanche Country to California. After Lamar's term ended, and saner heads prevailed, the decision was made to move the capital back to Houston. The locals, having already figured out that being the capital of Texas was a good racket, hid the archives of the entire state in the Bee Caves south of town one dark night, and refused to release them unless Waterloo stayed the capital. Eventually a compromise was reached where Waterloo would remain the capital, but change its name to Austin in honor of Stephen F. Austin, one of the founding fathers of Texas who hadn't gotten anything named after him yet.

The hippie containment policy: maybe an urban legend, or maybe a fact, in either case, it seems to explain the large number of liberals and Ralph Naderites in Austin. The legend has it that in the 60's, as the powers that be attempted to deal with the growing hippie problem, they realized that they could not simply eliminate it, but maybe they could find a solution by driving all hippies to one location where they could be carefully monitored: deep in the heart of Texas, the capital, Austin, Texas.

Austin is not only Texas' capital city. It also happens to be the name of one of the streets that form part of Chicago's west border, separating Chicago proper from Oak Park, its nearest West suburb. Its the 3rd to the last stop going West on the Green Line El, and the 5th to the last stop West on the Blue Line. The dilapidated expanse of section 8 hood that sprawls from Austin Blvd towards downtown for miles to the South, North and East is also named Austin, after its bordering street. This hoodie, also known as Austin Village, is the main area constituting Chicago's infamous West Side.

I grew up in Oak Park, a few blocks in from Austin Blvd, and spent my fair share of time trapesing around Austin Village. After all, there was business to be done there. Austin was the perfect place for a 13 year old white girl to get unlimited booze without the slightest hint of a fake ID. I frequented corner liquor stores like K&K, Cut Rate, Glade's and Prestige. I would buy things like Cisco, 40 oz bottles of Crazy Horse and St. Ides, pints of Wild Irish Rose, Boones Farm and the occasional kiwi flavored Mad Dog. Then I'd go to the benches, tressult, Oak Street Beach or a park, drinking like a fish all the while.

When I was in high school, I thought it was cool going to the dimebag spots in Austin. Let me give a shout out to Spauling, Laramie and Dina's house on Grand, to name a few. We'd go to the preset corners and alleyways, aquiring handfuls of teeny ziplock baggies stuffed to the breaking point with crappy city chronic. Back in the car we'd divy em out and start rolling honey blunts and sit around feeling like bad asses. What dorks we were.

When the weather is nice, the streets of Austin are like filled with a zillion people. On the side streets the porches are so filled you'd think they would collapse. On the busy streets they don't really have yards so people just sit out on their folding chairs, drinkin and barbecuing right there on the sidewalks. People just walk carelessly in front of traffic like it aint no thing. They let their kids just run around, even on the busy streets. Some of them hope to get hit, try to even, cause it means a lawsuit; it means free money. You gotta watch out for those people, stepping right in front of your car.

I'm probably the only liberal in the good ol' US of A that doesn't dig Austin at all. I have all these friends who are always talking about what a groovy town it is, but to be honest, I found it to be too groovy. So groovy that it wasn't groovy anymore.

Everyone was all hip and liberal and artistic (or at least had artistic pretensions). I was bored out of my mind. There was no variation. I was stepping over dredlocks left and right. I would have given anything for someone to yell, "Ralph Nader was a fucking moron!" just so I'd have someone to debate with.

And beyond that, despite all the pretensions, there seemed to be an essential vacancy to everyone. I swear, the only things I heard people talk about there were drug experiences, indie rock & food. Granted, the food was great there. Great vegetarian fare. I guess, in short, Austin is a nice place to visit... in small doses.

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