an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas
I grew up in a South Texas town, a caliche pit of farm equipment yards and suburbs searching for urbs… no core, no history. South Texas stretches across some of the toughest and most unforgiving terrain outside the Sahara. I imagine its settlers and developers struggled for survival and had little time to consider the aesthetics of urban development, or the legacy of public spaces. We didn’t even have a McDonald’s until 1992. That is no longer the case.
My public education, however lacking, imparted upon me one haunting line of prose penned by Thomas Wolfe in 1940, “You can’t go home again.” He went on to write, “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” I can still recall my sophomore English teacher. He walked with a cane and a diabetic limp. His eyes widened as he reared his head back and uttered those words, “you can’t go home again!” I froze! What did he mean? I knew where my home was. I knew the cross streets. Why couldn’t I go there again? The line bothered my thoughts and musings for days. I guess it never really stopped bothering me.
In the ensuing years since I left my hometown for the comparatively bustling metropolis of Austin, the agricultural fields of my youth disappeared. I used to walk up and down tilled rows of cantaloupe fields with my grandfather. I used to wonder at the muffled conversations of produce truck drivers over CB speakers. I used to wander in the mud behind my father’s house after it rained. I lost more than one shoe in the quicksand! The land remains, but transformed, developed, a Wal-Mart every half-mile, my father’s house now encircled by subdivisions.
What does this have to do with Austin’s changing culture and demography? I’m not sure. Cities have to grow. Developers have to develop. When the media starts placing your town in “best of” lists, watch out! Transition awaits you as the amenities that wowed the media will dwindle under the burden of ever-hungry followers of “cool.” You can’t go home again. You can only engage. You can only take part in the development that unfolds. Go to city council meetings. Vote locally! Run for mayor! Stay aware, and tell your children how much cooler Austin was when you moved here in 1982, or 1992, or 2002, or 2012.
Ryan Morris has been writing authentic from the heart rock songs since 2005. Ryan plays solo and full band shows with the all-star-band, Fluoxetine, backing him up. Ryan and Fluoxetine have been gracing the stages of Texas for many years in classic rooms such as The Hole in the Wall, Momo’s, Ego’s, and the ever dingy Trophy’s. His song, “Your Hometown,” appears in TEOA with his permission.