>> Sunday, March 17, 2013
A Starbucks in Austin. So it's not the quote-unquote "weirdest" place you could be in Austin, TX, but it's here, here being near where I need to be. The ScatterKat is back at the hotel, sick, but we had plans to meet a cousin of mine for dinner and I'm out--hours beforehand--to keep the appointment and pass along the ScatterKat's regrets.
SXSW is more-or-less over. They have a softball game and barbecue today but the music has stopped. Well--not quite; it's coincidentally Saint Patrick's Day and there is Irish music on the street and blaring from some venues, and/or non-Irish music coming from venues hoping to help the citizenry express their solidarity with the Emerald Isle by getting drunk to Eminem or whatever. But the music and booze we came for is basically over but for the underhand pitches and pulled beef (and when you put it that way, it suddenly sounds like a metaphor for the music biz, don't it?).
We could have left town today, I guess. But I think I like having the day of rest, because leaving Austin is something you have to do early (at least where we're going home to) and it world be a little batshit (in my view) to close a show at two in the a.m. and go to the airport three, four hours later. Seems like a good way to go blind. Here's one day to decompress, walk around, have a chai latte from an industrial fast food coffee purveyor.
And there's a kind of vibration in the air you can feel walking down Fifth or Sixth, drifting past the dim dark eyes of the Convention Center. It reminds me of my drama geek years and the last performance of a show, or the moments after. This universe came from nothing and to nothing it returneth. Something pregnant with sorrow, something departs the world. Men carry dismantled scaffolding to the backs of trucks and it feels like they're breaking the city. Saloon doors yawn like broken-jaw mouths and looking down their throats is like looking down the pipes of a cartoon whale (sans swallowed pirate ships, though some of those tattooed gypsy-dressed men supervising the work could nearly pass for buccaneers). This is what it looks like after the storm; I'm kinda sad the ScatterKat has to miss it, but she needs her sleep and plenty of liquids.
Austin after the hurricane makes my hometown look like a provincial shithole. Back in Charlotte, they're arguing about noise ordinances and how to chisel money out of the public for football stadium renovations. These things aren't unrelated if you know that Charlotte, North Carolina has a massive inferiority complex and desperately wants to be a "world class city". (Not my words.) The city wants to go to bed early, something real world class cities never do at all, and there's a popular and mentally-deficient idea that Charlotte can be a world class city if we have a football team, a basketball team, a NASCAR museum.
Nobody travels literally and actually from the far side of the planet to see your fucking football team. They have their own local sports they passionately follow, and anyway, they all think football is something you play with a round ball you're not allowed to touch with your hands. They'll come for your music festival, your film festival, your tech conference; they'll come for something cultural or intellectual or, most of all, something generally relevant. I'm not knocking professional football though I frankly have no use for it at all, I'm just saying pro sports are something a big city might have, but they don't make a big city.
Twenty-seven years ago, a much of guys from the Austin alternative newspaper decided they were sick of flying to New York and L.A. for music industry events, so they invented a music conference out of thin air in an act of pure will. The cojones. I can't say what downtown Austin was in the 1980s, but now it's hotels and shops and restaurants and bars: people come here, and I don't even know if this place has any sports teams at all. Charlotte is hung up on spending time and money to subsidize a multi-million dollar corporate entity and staying very, very quiet after sunset. And then wants to pretend it's someplace when it's really still nowhere, no matter how many political conventions they might host. Someone once called it a nice place to live but you wouldn't want to visit; honestly, living there is a little on the dull and boring side, too.
Tomorrow we fly east into the land of dopes with schemes, our sleepy wannabe burg with its scamming politicos and grey men in suits. I miss my cat and there's a job there that puts food on the table and a roof over the food. I can't help feeling a certain level of disappointed contempt for my hometown, not for what it wants to be not even for what it is, but for the landfill gulf between the aspirations and the reality, and the greedy flies buzzroaring over the trashpit.