July 11, 2003
Things haven’t completely gone Aspen
If you hear an exasperated sigh from the tie-dyed, Birkenshod, Ewok-looking gent in front of you at the checkout at Whole Foods, it’s probably because he is remembering a time when a sixer of Shiner didn’t completely empty his embroidered Guatemalan change purse. More than likely, he’s just an innocent out-of-towner who stumbled into town with fond memories of a time when Austin was still cheap and easy. Nowadays things are a little more fast and furious. The nut seemed to turn shortly after Richard Linklater’s cinematic ode to creative loafing blew up and became the travel brochure that turned Austin from Slackerville to Hand-to-Mouthville. Invariably, hip people with no money are followed closely by hip people with stacks of it. From there, things can get out of hand and you end up with things like dress codes, doormen, and valet parking. By the turn of the millennium, the tech boom pretty much put the kibosh on cheap living, but there are still a few vestiges of the days when Texas Pride was $1.25 at the HEB, and if you were feeling particularly well heeled you could upgrade to the Falstaff over on the generic aisle for $1.49. There’s the Tamale House for instance, and Sandy’s Frozen Custard down on Barton Springs, the Dart Bowl bar, Deep Eddy Cabaret, and of course, relative newcomers like Beerland and Maria’s Taco X-Press, and you can still live cheaply and central if you’re willing to swap the ’04 on your zip code with the ’02 – so things haven’t completely gone Aspen. There’s also the cheap music. You may be hemorrhaging cash for everything else, but if you’re paying much more than a 10-spot to hear live music, you need to broaden your horizons. Every week, hundreds of musicians of staggering talent play for little more than tips and beer, and if you’re not getting in on that action, you’re paying too much to live here. For example: This Friday at Waterloo Records, Ray Benson will be doing an in-store for free. Where else in America can you see a nine-time Grammy winner for free and get free beer? What other state/city/town/mental institution even has a nine-time Grammy winner? Sure, there are probably a few, but none of them clock in at over six feet six inches (which by the way is an excellent height for a crowded in-store viewing). If you’ve been in Austin more than a couple of weeks and you haven’t seen Ray, you need to look up – or at least go to Waterloo this Friday. Ray is a larger-than-life entertainer and if you’re not so much into Western swing, just relax, enjoy the show, and sample some of the best-tasting beer in the world: free.