Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Walk with Gene Burd

Patrick George wrote an interesting profile of UT journalism professor Gene Burd in today's Statesman. I never had a class with Burd when I was in J-school, but reading about his ascetic frugality made me wish I had.

The 76-year-old Burd lives in a small apartment off Barton Springs Rd. He doesn’t own a car. His daily walks to and from his office at UT make him something of an expert on how much downtown Austin has changed in recent years. I really like his quote about city hall and the cluster of condos and ground-floor retail that has emerged around Second Street.

“It’s like a bad marriage,” Burd said of city hall. “It’s ugly but you get used to it.”

I happen to like the new city hall. It’s one of the only architecturally distinctive buildings downtown and I think it will stand as a monument to its time long after our vibrant economy chokes on its own limestone.

As for the rest of the “Second Street District” (does every neighborhood in town need its own brand now?), it’s much too posh for my admittedly downmarket tastes. Just give me some Paciugo gelato and my business there is done. I’m not one to recklessly play the “Dallas” card, but if the marked-up loafer fits…

I used to make fun of all the aging hippies crowing about how Austin hasn’t been the same since the Armadillo shut down. Now I know how they feel. When AT&T can sponsor something called the “Keep Austin Weird Festival” with no residual stink regarding the prima facie ridiculousness of such commingling, it’s impossible to avoid feeling like the falsely omnipotent “market forces” we’ve put more faith in than Jesus on Steroids are slowly consigning large swaths of Austin into cultural exile.


David Wyatt said...

My attitude is to embrace change and welcome the new and unfamiliar with open arms. I say that not only because it's more fun than begrudging it, but because it's just plain inevitable. They say it's the only constant.

Besides, even if Austin could stay the same, or even change more slowly (which it can't), I don't think I'd want to live here - or live here with the me that would truly actually want that.

I say if it can't survive in the free marketplace then let it go. Sure, replace it responsibly, but don't sweat it. I don't see myself hanging out at Mad Dog's anyhow.

Greg said...

For me, the best position from which to engage the new and unfamiliar would be with a peace pipe in one hand and a tomahawk in the other.

I agree change is inevitable and some of it has turned out to be good for the city, but the marketplace isn't really free and there are a lot of intangible values contributing to livability that market values simply can't account for. You gotta have balance.

Either way, I try to take it all in with a sense of bemused incredulity rather than begrudging aversion because that is the Way of the Groover (cue fanfare).

Kat said...

>I say if it can't survive in the
>free marketplace then let it go.

You forgot the quotation marks around "free", dude.

Any town becoming a city is going to change, and not always slowly. But I don't have to like it! harumph.


A Music Page said...

I for one hail our Ant overlords.