The Paradox of Living in a Cool Place
Events in Austin often remind me of one of Yogi Berra’s famous quotes (about a restaurant that had become very popular): “Nobody goes there any more because it’s too crowded.” Although I’ve never heard urban planners refer to this phenomenon, it is my theory that the very qualities that make a place attractive to creative types eventually becomes overrun and/or too expensive for the same artsy-boho folks, who move on to find new lofts to rehab.
Austin is without doubt one of the coolest cities in the country (though of course not literally, especially from May through October). There are so many fun, family friendly events that there is usually more to do than there is time and money to partake. Austin is known nationally for the SXSW music and film festivals and the Austin City Limits Festival. Last year international auto racing was added, with an F1 race track. There are the entertainment areas of Sixth Street and the Warehouse District, the hip SoCo shopping area, and thousands of interesting places to eat, from taco trucks to fine dining.
After living here for 30 years I have become spoiled, jaded and a bit skeptical. The annual spring kite festival used to be one of my favorite Austin events, especially with the grandkids, but last year the waits for shuttles and porta-potties were so long I vowed never to return. When I took my granddaughter to a new event at the University of Texas’ Brackenridge Field Labs, called “Insecta Fiesta,” last spring, I could not imagine we’d have to park a mile away and wait 45 minutes for a shuttle. Traffic is so bad during SXSW and the Republic of Texas Biker Rally (not to mention the NOISE) that we prefer to be away.
This year, for the second time, Austin received a visit from Architects of Air’s luminarium, called Exxopolis. When I read about it and saw a piece on TV, I decided to take my granddaughter to see it, but I was concerned about it being so well publicized. How to avoid crowds and long waits? My older daughter took my grandson yesterday, and they had a two-hour wait.
Since today was a school holiday I decided to take Chloe, and we got there 15 minutes before opening. There was a line of at least 100 people ahead of us, but it was a nice day and there were lots of families with young children, so the wait wasn’t too bad up to the ticket stand. But they let in only a certain number of people at once, and the wait after we got tickets seemed longer.
Chloe loved it. She danced and lay down and fully enjoyed the experience. I found it a little dizzying. The intensity of the colors and light was almost unbearable. I am glad we went, and it was worth the wait for Chloe, but it still leaves the mystery of how to live in a place with such cool stuff to do without wishing you had a private VIP pass.