West Coasters who visit Austin for the first time – those who spend a few days getting to know the place – often remark about how people here are “unpretentious” or “genuine.” It’s basically the same thing people from Austin say about people in Giddings or Lampasas – the same thing that could be said about a huge swath of America, the Western hemisphere, or even the world. But really, what’s the point of saying the people of Tikrit are down to earth? Does it mean that they have nothing left to eat but dirt? Does it mean somebody just screamed, “Incoming!”? Or, could it simply mean that they’re too busy scraping out a subsistence to worry about what anyone else thinks? Here in Austin, we’re hardly scraping out subsistence. In fact, we get along well enough that we have plenty of free time and energy to engage in all sorts of dorky pursuits, and we do so shamelessly. We’re so immersed in our dorkitude, in fact, that we sometimes forget that anyone is paying attention to us at all. We’re basically a town full of nutty professors, wandering around in a daze with our heads crammed full of arcane facts about things like Frisbee golf, hallucinogenic mushrooms, zombie movies, minor league soccer, interpretive dance, and Townes Van Zandt. Not only that, we’re willing to share this information with anyone unfortunate enough to meet our gaze for more than an instant. Sure, it may seem like earnest sincerity to the uninitiated, but really it’s just psychotic self-absorption. Is that an admirable quality? Who knows? What people really mean when they say Austin is “authentic” is that we embrace our dorkiness instead of hiding it. We’re unabashed. We go to the grocery store in spandex biking shorts and hiking sandals; we freely admit to attending renaissance fairs, sci-fi film festivals, and drum circles; we ride Segways, dance salsa, and participate in live action role-playing, then talk about it over beers at Opal Divine’s. It’s precious, really, until your landlord hands you a flyer for his experimental performance art piece at the Off Center. The upshot of all of this unrepentant dorkiness is that it’s really hard in Austin to be a bigger dork than everyone else. You have to really work at it, and that’s just not the Austin way. So, you can pretty much revel in all the dorky shit your heart desires. This weekend you can do just that when Scare for a Cure opens its World of Horrorcraft (no, that’s not a misprint) haunted house at the Elks Lodge on Dawson Road. For $20 you can scream your lungs out and dirt your trousers in support of local cancer-related charities. After all, a pretend haunted house is scary but not nearly as frightening as cancer, which is about as unpretentious as you can get.
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