The Austin Report Part 1

Everyone knows that Texas is full of cowboys, big belt buckles, and Republicans. I’ve been to Dallas and Houston; I’ve seen it myself!

Like so many others, I have sadly built up a stereotype of what to expect from the state of Texas. Sadly, little things like the recent legislation to allow legally blind people to hunt with the aid of laser sights only reinforces such ignorant generalizations.

So, I was a bit concerned when I recently learned that a good friend of mine was moving to Texas. I was concerned because this friend is a liberal, Prada-wearing, upscale, Bush hater–exactly the type that Wrangler-wearing cowboys like to string up on the edge of town and poke with cattle prods.

But, she explained to me, she was moving to Austin–a liberal oasis of blue in a massive red state. “Texas is Texas,” I countered and predicted she was going to hate it. Of course, I didn’t know what I was talking about at the time, having never visited this little corner of the state.

Well, I’m happy to report that I’ve recently returned from a visit and have found that my generalizations were ungrounded and completely wrong.

Austin, as it turns out, is a very progressive and hip little town that, were it not for the weather, could very well be located somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

Austin is a wonderful place where a large population of students, musicians and gays hodgepodge together in an eclectic, synergistic blend that seems duty-bound to uphold the unofficial town motto, “Keep Austin Weird.”

In the center of town, along 6th street, it’s the students from the University of Texas who seem to be in control. On the weekends, the street is closed down to traffic as undergrads pour in and out of the numerous bars and music venues in various states of intoxication. The Friday night I visited was a free-for-all but the mood changed drastically Saturday after the local football team lost its second game in a row and the fans began drowning their sorrows. It was fun, nonetheless, and exactly the type of place I’d expect to see a Girls Gone Wild camera crew coaxing undergrads out of their beer-soaked t-shirts.

Austin isn’t just a college town, however. It has great food, eclectic shopping and a vibrant musical scene that hosts two world-class events; Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. In the next few days I’ll be posting a few more dispatches about this alluring Texas town which surprisingly wooed me over. Check it out and you just might change your mind about Texas as well.

Tomorrow: Austin Shopping