The Take-Out

Austin can't go home again

The Take-Out

Over the last decade or two, so many local institutions have fallen that bemoaning their fall has become a sort of institution in itself. No Austin is as good as the Austin of our memory. No Lone Star tastes as good as the ones at Armadillo World Headquarters, no music as vital as the sets at Liberty Lunch. And so it goes with more contemporary institutions. We cried when Cheer Up Charlies left East Sixth. We have already begun mourning East Side Show Room.

I have my own list. 25th Street Theatre in Waco, Rubber Gloves in Denton. Little City here. On occasion, I still Google Baba Yega to make sure the Montrose staple is still kicking. The sentiment is kinda silly. Sure, that was where I had my first real date, but the guy turned out to be a dick. In memory, that doesn't matter. I felt so sophisticated ordering from the vegetarian menu. I felt so cool smoking a Benson & Hedges afterward, and walking to buy Manic Panic. Nothing particularly happened and everything was happening.ç

I'm sure there are people in town who started their relationship by crossing eyes across the cable-reel tables at Les Amis. But most of us have found the magic in the mundane – belly laughs after mediocre brunches, "deep" conversations after a couple of beers. I know that it sounds treasonous to say this, but none of the places listed above were all that special. They were just where life happened.

There are real issues affecting the character of Austin right now – gentrification, affordability, and the shrinking creative class – but it's telling that so much of the eternal grumble of Old Austin vs. New Austin has to do with restaurants and bars. It implies that our Austin is better than their Austin and their Austin is better than that. And it creates a certain unhealthy animus – the kind that causes some to reject anything new.

This is a city of transplants, even among those who insist they own it. Most of us moved because of a sense of possibility, and though more expensive, that is still here. There are still memories to be made over cheap breakfast tacos and bands to form over well shots. And yes, some new creative ventures are formed over $14 cocktails in a Michael Hsu space. What they like isn't what you have to like. Let each generation create their own hallowed ground.

An Austin that ossifies in the tar of nostalgia is contrary to the spirit of the town that gave us Cosmic Cowboys and Big Boys. There has always been a greener lawn, and youth has always rushed to piss in it. The spirit of Austin only dies when we stop living in it.

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Armadillo World Headquarters, Liberty Lunch, Little City, East Side Show Room, Les Amis, Cheer Up Charlies

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