Austin’s Problems

That liberal blue dot in the middle of Texas (that everyone wants to move to) is an inclusive and progressive place, right? Actually not so much, considering the African-American population of the city dropped as the overall population grew by 20%.

To me, this is just the latest troubling facet of a city – which i still love dearly – but has clearly grown too damn fast and is a victim of reading its own press-releases. Lets take a brief tour of where we stand:

  • Affordable housing is a damned myth in this city, with voters nixing bond issues to support it and neighborhood associations engaging in trench warfare on increased density in the form of ‘granny flats’ – allowing single family homes to add small rentals or garage apartments on their properties.
  • We prioritize heath-care for musicians over heath care for children and the families in poverty. I appreciate the benefits of a music scene in this city, but this is just stupid and morally wrong.
  • Transportation has reached a mind-bogglingly inane level of incompetence – toll lanes on Mopac, but very little actual extra road, Toll projects that make no sense, a metro-rail alignment that – holy shit where do you even start with that? We’re going to build a $600M train to take everyone from Highland Mall to East Riverside, instead of the Guad–Lamar alignment that most people asked for?
  • We’re going to run out of water.
  • Looking at Transportation on a regional level should have started years ago – that anyone can look at I-35 and say, ‘hrm yeah, that seems like an ok situation,” is border-line insane. Regional rail is starting to come into the conversation, but honestly its five-years late.
  • Seriously, we are going to run out of water – why is no one else worried about this?
  • Back to the earlier point – Austin may actually be the most racially divided city in the state. Nobody likes to talk about it, and more importantly little is being done about it (see above).

Perhaps geographic city council districts (10-1) will be the start of fixing some of this, but as someone whose been here for 12 years of boom-town, it’s hard to see a place i love turned into another characterless urban jungle. Time will tell i guess if we can address our real problems and turn this into the real city it has the potential to be, or if we just continue to focus on keeping it weird for the sake of the tourists.








There’s something impressive about the Scottish guy on stage, sweating his ass off in the swampy-Texas-version-of-Fall, guitar slung upside down over his shoulder, pounding the crap out of a kettle drum while hundreds of fans sing along.

But let me back up.

Sometimes we get a little spoiled living here. The place is being over-run by hipsters in skinny jeans and downtown in dominated by carpet-bagging yuppies from California, staring down from their $500/sqft one-bedroom condos, complaining that we all talk funny here and that the eating melted cheeses on chips is uncivilized.

But then you get to go hang out a bar where the bartender remembers you (don’t judge), and you can eat some kickass food and have a few drinks before catching a pedicab over to a show at Stubbs to have some guys from Scotland rock your face off. And yeah it’s a Wednesday night, but this is Austin, and despite it all, we are still a kick-ass music town and Frightened Rabbit is putting on an awesome show to pretty packed house. Exhibit A: Half-way through a solo-acoustic version of Good Arms vs Bad Arms, Scott Hutchinson’s Guitar blows it’s pickup, so we’re suddenly left with only his vocals…the crowd steps up to the plate and sings along while he switches instruments, never missing a beat. In his words, “that was fucking brilliant.” Yes it was.

Before the 10:30 cutoff (thanks to the condos that went in across the street a few years ago). The band fires of a final salvo in the form of a face-melting, dance-your-ass-off-version of The Twist, then it’s time beat it back to the car.

This is not every Wednesday night. Most Wednesday’s find me yelling at a piece of code or web-bit that won’t behave, watching the Daily Show at 10 and passed out shortly there after. But we work to live in this town and this is a good place (to use a generalization), where we can have a night like this on a Wednesday, or watch 4th of July Fireworks from the Canoe, tear down some single track on the bike after work, or even just sit at Polvo’s, margarita in-hand. It’s worth the hipsters and the yuppies and working a little harder than I might otherwise.

Dear Jeffery’s,

Through the  years in Clarksville, while I’ve enjoyed the many other fine restaurants on West Lynn, I’d skipped you because I thought, that’s just a little to rich for my blood. Valet parking in this neighborhood? Really?  Ok whatever, I’m prejudiced, cause I can walk there and your customers always seem to be trying to kill me when I’m on my bike.

However last night, Groupon in hand, we broke the seal so to speak. At first blush you’ve got a nice place, although it does seem to cater exclusively to douches and blue-hairs (of which we are neither) but the wine is acceptable, and overall things are going well. Jeff (can i call you Jeff? you ripped me off so I’m going to), here’s where things started go poorly… maybe it was the fact the at we walked up to the place as opposed to rolling up in our Jag like everyone else (we don’t have a jag that was humor.. a form of communication your staff doesn’t really comprehend), maybe it was telling the server we have a discount and she assumed we would be poor tippers (I always tip at least 20% on the full check amount), or maybe it was just hot back there in the kitchen (unlike three out of the four dishes we ordered) and you guys were having a bad night. But nothing excuses the geologic age of a wait we had to sit through from one course to the next (I’ll give you that presentation of the check was very snappy), the luke warm dough lumps you’re grandly calling gnocchi, or the comically small portions to which the only benefit was making me feel like a giant while eating them.

So here’s the thing Jeff, you’ve been there for a while and i can respect that in the cut-throat world of the restaurateur. And you’ve provided an anchor for the other, much preferred spots on the street like Zocalo. Your barman can make a mean drink, and desert was tasty. But so help me, if i ever find myself in a position of eating a full meal at your establishment ever again, i hope you won’t mind if I walk next door and get a plate of non-douchey, reasonably-sized, properly-seasoned tacos. I’m sure they won’t be arranged as artfully as your plates, but at least that way I won’t inconvenience your staff by having them do their jobs.

Mother Clucker

Pinero told me about this, and I was skeptical. Then I tried it and my running theory for the idea behind this thing is that Buddah, Jesus, Allah and God had a mean a case of the munchies one night, and decided to create the ultimate snack/meal/pile-of awesome. I had to steal this pic from another website, as we ate ours so fast, I didn’t have time to snap a picture. Gordough’s, the fine, fine provider of quality donuts from their humble airstream on South Lamar, takes a fresh-fried ball of dough, tops it with honey butter and strips of just-slightly spicy fried chicken and dubs it the Mother Clucker.

This is up there in the pantheon of best-things-ever-eaten, and works fantastic as an appetizer to the Odd Duck food trailer, next door. An because its a savory treat, you can wash it down with a glass of cheap BYOB wine and still feel classy.


Austin’s second least favorite highway is getting a Windows ME-equivalent upgrade. From the world worst newspaper…

MoPac would not be widened. Instead, in the tight section between RM 2222 and the lake — where the Union Pacific railroad sits in the median — officials envision that the managed(tolled) lanes would be squeezed in by narrowing lanes slightly in some spots and using most of the existing shoulders. The new lanes would be separated from the free lanes by a row of flexible pylons and have a handful of entrances and exits.

As Germ said re-striping the shoulder is like putting a Band-aid on a severed arm. But hey, at least all those tolls are going to pay for those sound barriers in Tarrytown…God forbid that the house you over-paid for that next to a highway, be you know, loud. I know that TxDOT is secretly (or maybe not so secretly) trying to destroy Austin through a mix of strangling us with unused tollways, while letting I-35 (you know, the last free road) rot out from underneath us, but this is just absurd.

View From The Boat

Tourists waiting for the Bats on the Congress Ave Bridge. A bit early yet.


It reassures my faith in humanity that at the outdoor screening of Back to the Future in our neighborhood there was not one but two Deloreans in the parking lot. Awesome.


Gov. Good Hair is asking agencies for a 5% cut out of his ostensibly  ‘balanced budget.’ I wonder if he could reimburse us for the rent on his Westlake mansion as a good start.

In total, Perry’s initial request for proposal produced plans for reductions $1.7 billion in approved spending from all state agencies over the current biennium. Today’s announcement via the Legislative Budget Board cuts that to $1.25 billion, which is still no small chunk of change. Such cuts probably hurt basic service provision in Texas more than they would in many other states because (as is so well and widely reported) such services have been cut to the bone as is.

House Legislative Caucus Leader Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, was quick to point out that if the state had taken steps to receive up to $700 million in Race to the Top dollars and $500 million in unemployment insurance cash, then things might not be so bleak. The caveat that he doesn’t mention is that these would be dedicated dollars for specific projects, but, still, $1.2 billion is nothing to sneeze at, even in the best of times. Dunnam said, “Accepting the Federal unemployment insurance and education dollars would only have affected Perry’s false image as a Washington outsider (never mind the $16 billion in Federal Stimulus funds Perry and the Republican legislature used to balance the current state budget).”

I really don’t understand how he’s still ahead in the polls.

Guns at the Capitol

Only in Texas would increased security come with extensive clarification about what types of guns you CAN carry into the capitol building.

Under current state law, so-called “long guns” — rifles, shotguns and the like — will remain legal in the domed landmark if they are carried openly, in a non-threatening way.

And, under an exemption approved Tuesday as a part of a new security plan, Texans with a concealed-handgun license will be able to take their pistols into the statehouse as well.

The article goes on to clarify that we should all feel plenty safe as it’s only legal for legislators to carry concealed weapons into committee meetings but not into the public gallery.  Oh good.

Frightened Rabbit

At the Mohawk. Not only do they rock your face off in a live show (something i was a bit surprised by given the sound of their albums),  they also say  ‘fuck’  often and the way it’s meant to be spoken – with a Scottish accent.