Survival. Change. Those are this year's "Best of Austin" themes. Look at Lance Armstrong, our BoA cover man. Sure, he's "big time," a bit of a digression from our underdoggy approach to BoA features, but Lance's story is so special, so intrinsic to Austin's fabric. Austin, in turn, is a part of him, as we learn from Lisa Tozzi's incisive interview with Lance. Tozzi's love of sport comes through (as do her natural warmth and smarts) even as she takes a back seat to our town's cycling hero.
Survival and change come with hefty price-tags. Read Wayne Alan Brenner's unflinching look at Lance and cancer through the eyes of one who's suffered loss, "Cyclical Thinking." Then read Margaret Moser's "Best in Peace," a handicapping romp through 10 years of Austin ups and downs as chronicled by the "Best of Austin." Are these themes showing through or what?
This year, it became undeniable. The steamroller of change that we so naively tried to ignore was barreling straight toward us -- a chilling vision -- especially for anyone who's survived economic booms and busts and the aftermaths (here or elsewhere).
In America, commerce has become how we define community. Sad but true. Of course, it doesn't have to be this way, and of course not everything is, but truly, our country, our state, our town are all guided by the dollar. Fortunately, for Austin, there are plenty of entrepreneurial folks here whose endeavors retain a spark of humanity despite the nature of our consumptive beast of a culture. So as we say goodbye to so many beloved people and things and enterprises which we've come to see as a part of Austin's fabric, we see good people filling vacancies.
We are confident that our affections for places now gone will be heaped upon old favorites and new joints like Jo's Hot Coffee & Good Food, for example. Or Jupiter Records. Or Gaby & Mo's. Or the Millennium Youth Center. Or the myriad of independently owned hubs of commerce and community across town.
This year's celebration of 10 years of "Best of Austin" is about survivors ... stalwarts ... favorites. Yes, we have our favorites (Critics Picks) and so do you (Readers Poll). (It is interesting to note that many stalwarts received posthumous votes despite no longer qualifying as survivors.) This is a great issue to keep handy throughout the year, to try some new things you haven't yet or to be inspired to visit old ones you might have forgotten.
We began running our BoA poll ballots early this summer. Thousands of you replied and cast your votes for Austin's best. (And for any of you naysaying know-it-alls who want to spout about what a crock polls are and how the results are just made up anyway, let me tell you, I was here missing the Women's World Cup finals as interns typed in every last ballot. Don't talk to me about crocks.) The results were tabulated, and we were not surprised to learn that many of last year's winners were back in first place again.
Thanks to Lindsey Simon's amazing databasing skills, for the first time, we could view all 10 year's worth of previous winners at a glance. You'll see some of Lindsey's handiwork throughout these sections; publisher Nick Barbaro spent hours dinking and culling the figures into digestible "Hall of Fame" chunks for you to peruse.
Critics Picks are an altogether different affair. While I don't "assign" these picks, I narrow the list from among the writers' nominees. These are the writers' favorites. Not our ad staff's. Not our publisher's. Most of the writers work outside of the Chronicle and have little to no professional interaction with the majority of the nominees. For the most part, the writers like to write outside of their fields.
In addition to the list of contributors listed on this page, check the staff box under Proofreaders, Interns, and Advertising Assistants, for a huge list of folks to thank for this issue. Additional thanks go out to interns old and new -- Vivian Curtis, Sarah Stevens, Jeremy Benoit, Kevin Wood, Michele Bacon, Leigh Ann Jackson, Giselle Rodriguez, and Angie Lee -- for help beyond the call. Writer Charles Harp lent extra human power, as did marketing director Tommi Ferguson, office manager Deborah Wilson, receptionist Reno Sanford, and out-going receptionist Iliana Rodreguez (and I say "out-going" because we are sadly losing her next week to the public service conmmunity). The list of people to thank has gotten almost as unbearably huge as the number of pages in this issue.
For me, personally, there are just too many places in Austin to write about. I have already started my list for next year's BOA. Then I rattle my brain and remind myself that I am just crazy in love with this town and need to take a nap and get some rest after we put this mammoth issue to bed.
I am spent.
I keep seeing that scene from Almodovar's Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, in the tunnel, on the way to the airport, only it's me on the back of that bike, teeth clenched, hair wild, and gun flailing in the wind.
What a year it's been. - Kate X Messer