June 24, 2008
Keeping Austin weird is full-time work. The weirdness is not like it used to be. It’s on a much broader and more magnificent scale. You can’t just skate along baking pot brownies every morning or wearing glitter mascara and fairy wings when you go to the convenience store. Yawn. Seen it. Weird isn’t just about feathers and body paint and colored hair and dirty-faced children in soiled diapers with balloon animal hats. That kind of sophomoric shit might play in Omaha, but here in New Condonia, you need a couple of million dollars worth of Downtown dirt and a daring dream of building unaffordable housing for people who don’t exist. Now there’s an idea that just might be weird enough to actually work. If you were a loan officer, you would sign off on that, wouldn’t you? Big, crazy ideas aren’t exactly without precedent. A couple of thousand years before Christ, the ancient Egyptians put a lot of money and resources into high dollar housing for dead people. Keep in mind this was before resurrection was all the rage. Surely the pyramids were an insane idea 2500 years ago … they still are now, but you have to give props to Cheops; they are one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Awesome. Why are the pyramids a wonder? Because for the last 4500 years no sane person could look at them without wondering, “What the fuck?” Normal, reasoning people have a similar reaction when they see all the condos being built in Downtown Austin. Those huge monoliths to speculative zeal inspire the same incredulity as seeing Leslie Cochran on a street corner in a dirty thong and torn fishnets. The really weird thing is that Leslie is easier to explain to the tourists. Without a doubt, Austin’s entertainment district has a certain allure – especially for street-walking attention-whores like Leslie, but is it enough to lure some rich, fun-loving rube into dropping 500 large on a glass box with yearly maintenance fees? Maybe. After all, we’re one cute little city and more importantly … we put out. Austin doesn’t have any dry counties or bible belts or entrenched social stratification. This is the city where the mayor dated a local rock singer, where a local rock singer dated a movie star, and where a movie star got busted for getting stoned and playing bongos in the buff. And guess what? He wasn’t even trying to keep it weird. He didn’t try to run that idea past a group of investors and loan officers and city officials and political activists and have them all sign off on the deal. Even though he got a lot of ink, McConaughey was in the bush leagues of weird, which is probably the safest place for weirdness to be. When the weirdos start marching in lock step – that’s when the shit is about to hit the fan. If you’re looking to get your weird on in a mostly harmless way, put on your feathers and body paint (or slingshot and dog collar), and head down to Auditorium Shores this Saturday for the Keep Austin Weird 5K (yes, running is pretty freakin’ weird when you do it and don’t have to) and Festival. Not only can you sweat with your fellow weirdos – before, during, and after the 5K, you can see some pretty weird Austin acts as well: Alejandro Escovedo, What Made Milwaukee Famous, and Black Joe Lewis & the Honey Bears, among others. There’s also a costume contest, but if you’re really keeping it weird, you can’t call that thing a costume, now can you?