Maybe I’ve lived in this town too long.
My parents say we watched the ponies in a field I always remember being an HEB shopping center. I still think about the focaccia bread served at the tiny Italian restaurant located in that shopping center. A…something restaurant is there now. Before that was….something else. Nothing has been as good or as memorable as that Italian restaurant on the north side of Austin that now is described as having “nothing but chains.” The few local places, less than trendy and far from the highway, are more difficult to find.
Maybe I hold too closely to places and things. I should embrace change more.
But then I was driving on Burnet Road, like I do a lot — once a week or so — and saw that the old Farmer’s Market was torn down. Gone. In less than a week. It’d been closed for years — since the nineties. My ballet class used to walk there and buy peaches. Unlike the current weekend pop up tents it was a permanent farmer’s market with one long wooden table darkened from a slat roof. A few vendors had been trying a sad revival as a Saturday farmers/flea market.
That, I thought, would be the saddest tear down I saw in Austin.
Then I learned that Dog and Duck was closing. The building is being torn down for new development. I learned fond memories for this pub during college while playing pool and eating grilled vegetable sandwiches (never learned why they were called The Dante). Knowing the pub still stood, cluttered with knick knacks, was…comforting…even if I rarely felt like battling the UT and Downtown traffic for fish and chips.
Rumors are that Dog and Duck will soon be reopening somewhere in East Austin. Where exactly is a mystery I wonder about. Not in order to visit, but because of what East Austin is becoming — unaffordable.
I’m not trying to say that the city shouldn’t grow or that everything needs to last forever, but the lack of appreciation for what this city has been (which isn’t just music) makes me sad. I never have to see the plans to know that a trendy mixed-use development lacking in originality and independent businesses will be built; blocking out the rare violet crown sunsets this city used to be known for.
Being sad over losing a bar or an abandoned market might read as frivolous. What if it’s a home or a preservation that fails to preserve? What if it’s those in a bad situation who don’t have anywhere else.
Problems always have multiple sides. There isn’t always a clear right and wrong. Choosing the wealthiest option — which in this case means building and building and building — is the easiest. I guess. The building is always new and the development is always always about the money. A diverse city population doesn’t survive under this option.
Maybe I wouldn’t be so sad if any of these acres were being turned into a park or urban garden, if a dilapidated neighborhood was being rebuilt for the existing tenants, if we were creating a public service, if the history wasn’t relegated to archives. That’s a thought I’ll never have to learn the truth of.
A local chain bar recently opened a new location near me. It offers valet service because customers park on the nearby residential streets. The neighbors complained. Talking with friends about it, one exclaimed “what are they complaining about — it raises their property values.” “That’s only good if they plan on selling,” I returned. It’s just the same story again and again. (If you didn’t click on the bolded links in the earlier paragraph, you should get caught up.) In other words, history repeats itself.
The past is never without grime. I don’t intend to clean it away. Once gone the stories are easy to forget. Forgetting worries me. Tearing down all the buildings and kicking out all the people that lived before gives a really spotless, blank slate.
No, I don’t like what this city is becoming. But, maybe I’ve lived here too long.
Thanksgiving is next week. Apparently September ended quite a bit ago. The Thanksgiving spirit is keeping elusive this year. All joyful energy is being reserved for Christmas grandeur. In a Dickens style celebration this year I am thankful for the past. May we remember it always and let it lead our future.