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Cover Story: Taking Austitude Down A Peg Or Two

I love Austin. Really, I do. I was born there. My family has had at least an off-and-on presence there since 1895, when my great-grandfather entered the University as a 28-year-old freshman, and his career with UT continued on to include a stint as registrar and a role in helping found the Texas Exes. My grandfather was born and raised in West Campus, and he, my dad and I all also attended UT. (The former two even graduated.)

And as a kid in the 1970s, with its live oaks, laid-back lakes, and enchanted violet-crowned hills, Austin always seemed like a magic place to me. I can't really tell what it was, but being in Austin felt as odd and different in its own way as it did to be in New Orleans. It didn't feel quite like America or even Houston; it was, indeed, weird.

Today, that old-time feeling is gone. As Houston blogger Lou Minatti has so ably pointed out, today's Austin is less weird than it is merely pretentious.

Insipid suburbia extends into surrounding counties in all directions. Roads haven't kept pace with people, and traffic jams abound. Families can no longer afford living in the lovely neighborhoods to the west of downtown, and the entire working class has been priced to the margins of town and beyond.

The music scene -- once so unique and proud of its Texan-ness -- is now a muddle of the same kind of smartypants indie rock you find in every "hipster archipelago" city from Seattle to Boston.

Austin is a lot more like Houston and Dallas than most Austin people would care to admit, but to hear our capital city cousins tell it, you'd never know that was true.

On at least two of my visits to South By Southwest in fairly recent years, I've had people look at me as if I'd just announced the death of my dog when I've told them I live in Houston.

"Oh, I'm so sorry," one old hippie-lady said to me from beneath a halo made of smug.

That attitude -- or Austitude -- has always chapped our Houston-proud hide. And so that's why we penned this week's cover story.


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