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Rules for Living in Austin
by Sebastian Wren

I love this town. All my life I've loved this town. However, it is changing. People are moving here from all over the world, and they're changing my beloved town. They just don't understand the rules for living in Austin. To help people who are moving here, I've written a little guidebook... I'll share it with you: 

1. First you must understand that Austin is not Texas, but Austin is in the heart of Texas. The rest of Texas is defined by two zones -- the vaguely scary, inbred country regions, and the extremely scary, urban, conservative mega-cities. In Austin, we respect both zones (they are, after all, in the great state of Texas), but we really don't have much in common with them. You may hear us speak disparagingly of other parts of Texas, but you are not allowed to do the same. The only thing we hate more than people from Houston coming to Austin and trying to turn Austin into Houston is people from outside of Texas coming to Austin and insulting our state. 

2. You should also understand that it is hot and humid as hell for at least 3 months out of the year. People in Austin know this, and they don't understand people who complain about it. The day lasts 24 hours. There are 7 days in a week. It's hot outside. None of these things are worth mentioning or complaining about. 

3. Austin has some peculiar conventions when it comes to traffic. First, if there is anything that could potentially distract Austin drivers, they stop dead in the middle of the road. If they see the scene of an accident on the other side of the highway, they stop. If they see rain, they stop. If there is snow, they stop and start sacrificing goats. Get used to stopping on highways.

At the same time, you should get over the idea that drivers in Austin will stop at other, more appropriate times. Austin drivers will not even slow down for a pedestrian, even if that pedestrian is clinging for life to the front grill of their Suburban Land Yacht. They also will not stop to talk on their cell phones, and they damn sure will not stop for a red light that is less than 10 seconds old. 

And, of course in Austin, as in the entire state of Texas, it is against the law to use a turn signal. A turn signal may distract other drivers, causing them to stop in the middle of the road, so it is best to not advertise your intentions to turn or change lanes. 

4. If you park your car in Austin, it will be towed. 

5. Getting around Austin requires a bit of training. First of all, it is relatively easy to go north and south in Austin, but not so easy to get east or west. And if you are going north or south, the directions will surely begin with, "Go down MoPac... 'cause you sure don't want to mess with I-35." Of course, this rule is changing as more and more people crowd onto MoPac, so in the future all instructions will begin with, "Actually, it's probably faster to just take Lamar." Lamar is a road with no beginning and no end, and everything is "just off" of Lamar, so it is just a matter of time before it becomes a parking lot similar to I-35 and MoPac. Eventually, a major flood of Shoal Creek will drown all the people parked on Lamar. We call this, "thinning the herd." 

There is no point going anywhere during "rush hour," which runs from 6:00 to 10:00 in the morning and from 3:00 to 7:00 in the afternoon every work day except Friday (when rush hour lasts all day). On most days, at least one driver is distracted by something during rush hour, which means that everybody has to stop. 

You should also make a note that Mopac IS Loop 1 -- they are one in the same. Similarly, Capital of Texas Hwy is 360, and Research is 183. 2222 is Northland or Allendale or Koenig, depending on what part of 2222 you are talking about. 290 is Ben White, but there are two 290 exits on I-35 -- one of which is 2222 (which, as mentioned earlier, is Northland, Allendale and Koenig). Don't try to figure it out. Just accept it. If you question the intelligence behind this naming convention, people will simply tilt their heads to the right and stare at you. 

6. Austin is effectively divided into two worlds. The new "tech" people who live "north" of town (north of 183), and the old "true" Austinites who live in the "middle" of town (although census data will no doubt reveal that the true "middle" of Austin is now well north of 183). South of town is hard to describe, so we'll pretend it doesn't exist, and East of town is embarrassing to describe, so we'll pretend it doesn't exist either. North Austin is a plastic, mass-produced world full of chain restaurants and movie theaters. The houses are huge, the yards are small, and the treeless streets have names like "Oak Forest View Circle." Central Austin, on the other hand, tends to attract the granola-eating, deodorant-shunning, aging hippy-types. The houses are small and structurally frightening, but they are no less astonishingly expensive, and the businesses tend to be small, privately owned specialty shops that don't sell anything you'd want to buy. 

7. There is no dress-code in Austin. How you look and what you're worth typically have little do to with each other here. In central Austin, it is quite common to see some scruffy, smelly hippie with dread-locks, tattoos and piercings driving a new Lexus or Mercedes. People in Austin like to look weird. The woman you see walking down the drag with the tattoo of a dragon across her back and the purple hair may be your child's kindergarten teacher. Your congressman might be a leather-clad biker. And the girl in the coffee shop serving you a latte may have a Ph.D. in astrophysics. Don't judge a book by it's cover here. In the extreme, there is Leslie, who is technically a bearded man, but who likes to hang out downtown in a teddy and a tiara. Leslie is clearly nuts, but he personifies Austin, and we're not going to get rid of him. 

8. Austin has a love-hate relationship with tech companies in general and Dell in particular. We love being progressive, and the tech companies represent "the future." However, they're boring, sanitized, and they tend to treat their employees like cattle. Dell is a nasty machine that uses people like a lubricant, grinding them up and cleaning them out when they get messy or inconvenient. People in Austin are beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that, if places like Dell are "the future," then George Orwell was right about everything except the date. 

9. Austinites are largely a bunch of tree-hugging environmentalists. For example, we're strangely and frighteningly proud of our bats. In the summer, the Congress Avenue Bridge is reminiscent of a Hitchcock film, but Austinites flock down there every night to see the show up close and personal. We have a statue devoted to the bats, and we named our hockey team after them (yes, we have a hockey team). The bats rule. 

As does our salamander.

At one time, money-grubbing developers (Freeport-MacMoRan mostly) were building irresponsibly along Barton Creek, and because the bastards (may they rot in hell) couldn't be bothered with things like proper sewage drainage, our beloved swimming hole, Barton Springs Pool, was being polluted with the sewage from Barton Creek Development residents (a.k.a., "rich scum spoor"). Most of the city council and the Texas legislature were in the pockets of the festering scumbag developers, so it was necessary to bring out the big guns -- the Barton Creek Salamander, an endangered species that was being threatened by the development sludge. For some reason, in Texas it is okay to make your citizens swim in crap, but it is illegal to make salamanders do so. 

10. And of course, there is music. Austin is supposed to be the "music capital of the world." We have a shrine for Stevie Ray Vaughan down on Town Lake (yes, it's a lake -- it looks like a river to you, but it's a lake); pay your respects if you come to town. While you're at it, swing by Threadgills and pay your respects to the memory of Janis Joplin, and drop by Antone's and pay your respects to the memory of Clifford Antone. He's not dead, but he's in a Texas prison on drug trafficking charges, and that may be just as bad.

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