Has the afterglow worn off?
The doting South by Southwest masses have slinked back to Williamsburg and Echo Park, doubtless telling tales about this “locals only” barbecue joint called The Salt Lick. But as they stumble out of their Austin-induced atrophy, some might ask the harsh question: Is Austin really that great?
Sure, Google is the latest great to guzzle the Kool-Aid, but along with all that adoration comes a downside: The Daily Beast recently labeled Austin as one of the top five booziest cities in the states. And with Austin popularity’s comes increased costs of housing, not to mention exacerbation of Austin’s pronounced lack of diversity and continued cultural change – themes many writers have expounded upon recently.
Adding insult to injury, a travel writer recently lambasted Austin in the Huffington Post, labeling it the most overrated travel destination in the nation and saying sojourners would be better off visiting Houston.
If you ask Austin writer Michael Corcoran, Austin’s lost a bit of luster – although that’s a claim Corcoran’s been sounding for years in his work for The Austin Chronicle, the Austin American-Statesman and elsewhere. You may have seen his epic screed on Austin’s shortcomings, “Welcome to Mediocre, Texas,” which begins: “Only the mediocre are always at their best, someone said, which could be why Austin is so damn proud of itself.”
“I think that a lot of times it’s sort of like when a club is new and it’s really great,” Corcoran says. “And then everybody starts talking about that club and then the next thing you know it’s so crowded that it’s not fun anymore.”
Corcoran argues Austin maintains an amiable mediocrity: it will never be New York City or Los Angeles, but just Austin – a comfortable place filled with people that are content within the confines of the city limits.
But Houston seems to be gaining ground in the conquest of cool. It was recently named one of the “coolest places to live”, was in The New York Times’ Top 10 places to go in 2013 and one of the top five locations for young professionals.
Corcoran said none of that matters, for Austin or Houston.
“You’ve got all these websites that are trying to rate this and that,” he said “And there’s really no credibility to what they’re doing.”
He said that Austin will still be the “little town with the big head” and Houston will still be “it’s own state” because of its urban sprawl.
As for the Huffington Post’s endorsement of Houston over Austin, Corcoran sees the merit – citing Houston’s diverse blend of cultures – but finds it a less practical choice. Austin’s more fun, he said.
“It was probably just some blogger that just put it out there to get attention and it obviously worked.”