Bob Simmons

Comments from an old Austin hippie


March 18 at 9:07 AM


Antediluvian. It's a favorite word of mine. I like to use it to describe the times before time began.

It goes along with ancienne regime, ancestors, and perhaps even precambrian. I refer of course to the 'old Austin.' The Austin that all the graybeards of my generation are complaining that is gone with the wind, the way of all flesh, and, yes, down the drain.

You know, 'Groovers Paradise', the 'velvet rut,', and 'Austintatious,' home of the weird and the slack.

I also refer to 'nostalgia' as the 'KY jelly of history,' and maybe it is. Like the Dead sang about in 'Box of Rain'.

What do you want me to do,

to do for you to see you through?

this is all a dream we dreamed

one afternoon long ago

The song is too long, and we might run afoul of copyright issues to quote the whole thing here, but it's one of those paeans to a world vanished but still with us as a part of our background and maybe even our DNA. (Chromosome damage?)

But it's just a box of rain

or a ribbon for your hair

Such a long long time to be gone

and a short time to be there

And so I drive down any street in my town to see houses in various stages of change and gentrification, and blocks of old buildings demolished in a day. These are places where three generations of locals were born, lived and died without seeing in four decades the kind of change that now happens in a couple months, changes we seem to accept with a shrug. Don't fall asleep too long, or when you awake you may not know where you are.

This plaint of mine is not a new one. Oldsters have whined about the callow thoughtlessness of youth since the Sumerians were grousing in cuneiform. I don't know if the ancient Tigris River valley inhabitants had to worry about high-rise luxury condos, cocktail and coffee bars and artisan pastry shops on every corner, but we sure do.

Think of all the places once here and now gone, not even a wisp of a memory, what's worse even the people who knew the places are gone too. The Stallion Drive Inn, The Nighthawk Restaurant, Jake's, The Alamo Hotel, El Toro, KVET studios (twice!), The Hancock Opera House, Caruso's, Griff's, Liberty Lunch, The Pier, The Split Rail, Fritz's, and so on for a thousand names and places, swallowed like our own wasted days and wasted nights.

Truly, one of the worst aspects of aging is knowing what is missing and how much degraded our lives have become. If you are young and think you are being short changed, I am here to tell you that you are. Really! I don't care if the air conditioning is better, or if the food is tastier, or there's a civilized drinking law now in place. I'm here to tell you, life in the old America was way better, and this air conditioned nightmare of jammed traffic, overpriced housing, and precious little restaurants run by kids you used to dodge when they were on their big wheel tricycles is crappy and double fugly.

Walk into splintered sunlight

Inch your way through dead dreams to another land

Maybe you're tired and broken

Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclear

What do you want me to do

To do for you, to see you through?

A box of rain will ease the pain and love will see you through.

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Thanks for this Paul.

Fascinated and intrigued.

Keep up the excellent work.


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I haven’t visited that many places in the US, but the more I read and hear about Austin, the higher it gets on my list of places to go, and who know one day move to...

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Delighted to hear you are finding Austin mesmerizes you. Born in Texas, I traveled to every state, at your age, exploring and growing. When I landed in Washington, DC, I had the feeling "You are home. Everything you desire is here." So I stayed for 25 years, until it turned weird. I moved back to Texas, not because I was born here, but because Texas--and Austin in particular, had become that hot, exciting, thriving, worldly, cool, unlimited place I felt when first arriving in Washington. I'm so glad you and Austin found each other for your basecamp, for observing and reporting on the modern world of work.

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I’ve always wanted to go to Austin. It sounds like a great place!! I especially like the popularity of non-drinkers. Ron is a drinker and I am not. How is the humidity??? I like warm weather too, but I dislike a lot of humidity. Sounds like you guys are doing well. Tell Angie hello. 😊

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If you haven't tried Paper Route Bakery yet... you MUST! It's a walk-up window and the sweetest human ever runs it. The cake will change your life.

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