Austin Has Lost Something

RECEIVED Wed., Jan. 12, 2005

Dear Editor,
   Just what the hell is happening to Austin? I've lived here 14 years and seen some major changes: the buildup of the "warehouse" district and downtown, the meteoric rise of loft apartments and property taxes, the proliferation of tech companies, and, consequently, the loss of some of my favorite places, like Les Amis, Sound Exchange, Steamboat, and Liberty Lunch to name a few. Today, I walked into a sandwich shop on Burnet Road and I thought I was in the wrong place. The walls were painted a sterile, bland, peach color and all of the cool posters and paraphernalia that used to exist there were gone. One redeeming factor – they did leave the mural of Where the Wild Things Are, but it looks out of place in such a drab environment. I felt sick because I thought I was in a hospital. It seemed that "corporate" thought the place was too "mom & pop." All of the employees were also extremely upset over this change. I had to sit outside to eat. When will Austin learn that it’s the "local color" of these places that make Austin cool? Alamo Drafthouse, Amy's Ice Creams, Threadgill’s, Waterloo Records, and a list of others seem to understand. They create an atmosphere that doesn't suck the life out of their employees and customers. Austin is trying desperately to become so damn upscale and PC, but for what reason? We are giving up that old local Austin hippie feel of "peace and love" in exchange for the dull, lifeless material growth of the corporate machine. I personally don't want a Starbucks on every corner or have to pay a toll just to drive on major thoroughfares which used to be free – but that's where it's headed. Austin has definitely lost something, and everybody knows it. That's why we have the "Keep Austin Weird" slogan, but I guess Austin has failed to grasp that concept.
Michael Swanner
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