May 28, 2008
If you haven’t bought a cheap piece of East Austin, you’d better get on it. Recession or not, there’s a whole shitstorm of hipsters looking to put a down payment on authentic Austin. Sure, you could blow three-hundred large on a spacious ranch house out in disturbia, but all that gets you is a neighborhood full of truly authentic people who don’t appreciate authenticity. You don’t want to end up sandwiched between a car salesman and a UPS driver. You don’t want their real kids punting soccer balls into your organic vegetable garden or rolling up in front of your house in a Kia with spinny rims blasting Chamillionaire. Worse yet, you don’t want their parents to invite you over for surf and turf only to dry gulch you with an Amway presentation or maybe a meet-n-greet with the cool new pastor of their church. Everybody knows the best neighbors are aging blue-collar types on fixed pensions who can’t afford to upgrade their hearing aids. They might pop out into the daylight every once in a while at six in the morning to pick up the paper or pull aimlessly at random weeds in their lawn, but mostly they stay inside watching soap operas, cooking things in their Crock-Pots, and doing books of crossword puzzles. It doesn’t take much ontological acumen to realize it doesn’t get any realer than that. People who are simultaneously on death’s doorstep and a fixed income tend not to live large – certainly not large enough to get all up in your business. Sure, there may be occasional extravagances like an oil derrick mailbox or windows covered in tinfoil, but nothing as dangerous or frightening as a sullen suburban goth kid whose MySpace page is a homage to Columbine. You may also experience a few awkward, fence-side conversations while enduring the farty stench of an unchanged colostomy bag or maybe Cains coffee breath, circa 1973, but all things considered, your old buddy Carl from next door is not a bad guy, even if he never zips his fly and wears sneakers with no laces. Plus, you can invite Carl to all your parties in full confidence that he won’t show up because he’ll either forget or won’t care enough to put his pants on. If he actually shows up without pants, your party guests will certainly have something to blog about, won’t they? All in all, gentrification is a win-win situation, especially if you’re the gentry. If you’re not, you always have the option of selling that rattrap of a house you’ve been letting deteriorate for the last 40 years and moving into an assisted-living facility. With all the hot meals and Dixie cups full of meds, you’ll think you’re in heaven already. And if some hipster blows a couple hundred thou to remodel your 2-1 post-war tract home into a 3-2 green-friendly urban space, you’ll sleep peacefully knowing that in 50 years or so he’ll be just as cool as you are – maybe even cooler if his nurse parks his wheelchair over the floor vent in the sun room. Point is, if you want to get a piece of authentic Austin, you better get one now while you’re still young enough to bust your ass trying to make it livable. Once the tide of trendiness completely floods East Austin, you’ll have to head out to Pflugerville to look for something real. If you want to dip your toe into East Austin – both what it was and is – make some time to visit the Scoot Inn, a cool little bar at East Fourth and Navasota. Like it’s companion Longbranch Inn on East 11th, the Scoot Inn is an old dive bar dressed up just enough to draw the cool kids but still homey enough for the locals. If gentrification has a best-case scenario, this is probably it. On Saturday they’re hosting a benefit for the Austin Poetry Slam, which takes place Wednesdays at the Scoot. Poets are trendy people for sure, but fortunately they’re generally too broke to outbid you on your East Austin dream shack. Maybe the tide is already turning.