March 08, 2005

Austin Notes: A Spring Miscellany

1. Overheard in an outdoor café: “Austin’s the only town where people sit around talking about how great the town is and how lucky they are to live there.”

Sorry, Bubba. In Portland people say, “Portland’s the only town…” In Seattle people say, “Seattle’s the only town…” In Vancouver people say, “Vancouver’s the only town…” Etc etc etc. Even in Asheville NC they probably say it. Not to mention Ithaca.

2. You know how panhandlers stand at intersections with brown cardboard signs? “Dreaming of a Cheeseburger.” “Anything Will Help Have a Nice Day God Bless You.” Even one burly, cleancut, able–bodied–looking Mexican guy, stoically glowering, whose sign in big block capitals says bluntly, “I NEED HELP.”

Well, here’s a guy at Lamar and 12th holding a cardboard sign that’s blank. He’s staggering and reeling back and forth with a grin only he understands, zooming the brown rectangle forward into drivers’ faces, turning it upside down, dancing with it like a ballroom partner, facing it toward him and pretending to read it with a “Eureka!” look. Winking and waving to the drivers stopped at the light. I hope someone gives him some money, but it ain’t gonna be me.

(In fact, I’ve long suspected that these guys with the cardboard signs are organized. I imagine a black limousine dropping them off every sunrise and picking them up at night, taking a cut of the money. Otherwise how do they get to all their farflung street corners, and how do they arrange how to distribute themselves through the city, and where do they get the cardboard and the markers?)

3. The bicycle cops are wearing shorts. This one shows a tattooed calf as he tickets a cigarette–smoking trophy wife high up in a Hummer.

4. I’ve been paying attention to the bumper stickers, and I’m completely appalled at the number of them that say, “If you aren’t completely appalled, then you haven’t been paying attention.” Four in one day.