The Heart of Texas Is the Heart of America: Postmodern Cowboy Culture On Stolen Indian Land

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Photo Credit: David Martínez

Sitting along the banks of the other Colorado River, Austin is “deep in the heart of Texas,” as Alvino Rey and a host of others once sang. It is also in the heart of what was once the Tonakawa homeland, who called the area “Round Rock,” and whose neighbors were the Comanche and Lipan Apache. Perhaps when the Spanish, Mexican, and American settlers were taking turns invading the region there were still open plains and roaming coyotes of which the old song sings and which the Indigenous people knew firsthand. However, when my wife and I visited for the first time recently this summer, Austin was a sprawling metropolis, which, at least in the 6th Street area near the University of Texas campus, was abundantly proud of its “weirdness.”

Good food and great music complemented the extreme heat and humidity of our mid-July trip. And in case you’re wondering about Austin’s claim to weirdness, especially in comparison to, say, Portland or New Orleans, you need look no further than The Museum of the Weird, which is dedicated to freaks and oddities throughout modern history, including the Minnesota Ice Man and Texas Bigfoot!

As for music, we enjoyed everything from seeing The Sniffs perform at the Water Trough, which is part of the Lone Star Court to seeing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the Moody Theater for a taping of Austin City Limits. In-between was an arduous but worthwhile trek from Congress to Lamar to checkout the merch at Waterloo Records.

In a word, Austin was a blast! Be it the food at Thai Passion or Swift’s Attic, chocolate shakes at Hut’s, shopping for Ultraman action figures at Toy Joy, or waiting for the bat’s to swarm out from under the Congress Street bridge, you’ll have a memorable time. Like other cities in otherwise very conservative states, Austin maintains an unexpectedly liberal environment, which, I suppose, is commonplace in areas where there is a college or university nearby. In any case, come for the music and take back memories of the people. You may not see much of the Old West, but that’s okay, the “Old West” was Hollywood bullshit, anyway. Instead, go to The Jackalope for a beer and burger then head down to the Mexic-Arte Museum for a soul enriching experience.

My Austin Photo Album On Flickr

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