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Austin, Revisited!

1.jpgEmerging from the jet bridge into the terminal at Austin-Bergstrom Airport, it is immediately apparent that Austin, Texas has changed. An assembly of sleek looking young business men in corporate attire type away on their laptop computers and talk on the phone with the same level of intensity as New York stock traders. The scent of their various colognes saturates the air.

When I last came to Austin, Texas it was before the entire Covid ‘situation’ changed the world. Austin was the place that all the misfits from the rest of Texas fled to, in order to build a sanctuary for themselves. This was helped by unusually cheap housing prices that followed a housing boom in the 1980s. As well as the University of Texas at Austin drawing the youth, both of which ushered in an eccentric and progressive culture. All this was long before the phrase “Keep Austin Weird” made its debut in popular culture and weirdness became synonymous with the city itself.

2.jpgBut now, Austin is weirder than ever. The city still lacks cohesion. But now, there is a palpable collision happening between the unconventional, avant-garde culture and the ambitious business entrepreneur culture. Both of which demand to be catered to in very different ways. And both of which are in a silent competition about what is ‘cool’ and what is not. There is a collision between the small and local, independent businesses and the big and global corporations bent on commercialization. There is a collision between the uber-quirky neighborhoods and the high-rise condos. The prices are being driven up and up, making it ever harder for the very people who make Austin weird, to live here. When Covid created such a flood of migration, Austin, which had long been a city for tech pioneering, became the place of choice for California tech company migration (especially from the Bay Area, including Silicon Valley). And it is the tech giants that are seeking to claim and completely transform Austin. The economy is booming. Yet the qualities that once defined the city are up against serious competition. And are at risk of slipping away. So much so, that the dominant vibration of the city has changed. This means, my energetic diagnosis of Austin, Texas must also change. 

3.jpgNow, the dominant negative vibration of the city is: Engrossment. Each person in Austin has both their attention and interest absorbed by something. And that absorption, causes them to be in their own world. Because of it, they come across as deeply distracted. The people of Austin are not present. They are preoccupied, far away and disengaged from what is happening in the current moment (be it a conversation or something that is happening). This is as true of the odd-ball, alternative, hipster crowd as it is of the more mainstream, tech business crowd. It is a strange breed of isolation and narcissism, to be caught up in one’s own world and only the limited interests that belong to it. It is very hard to penetrate people’s little worlds built for one, where nothing outside of their limited interests, matters at all to them.   

The previous vibration of the city, un-relatability, is adding to this new dominant frequency of engrossment. Because the new business entrepreneurs and forward thinking tech professionals feel just like the eclectic individuals (that used to dominate the city) feel… Like no one understands them. After all, the very reason they are creating so much innovation in their professional fields is because they are off the beaten path.

4.jpgThough the city is still very peculiar, the dominant positive vibration of the city is now: Progression. The city, which is an epicenter for youth, is an absolute genesis ground for new ideas. New products and services and devices and methods and concepts will pour forth from Austin. It is a place for the unusual, the uncommon and the unique. Most especially those things that cause a change from what was to what will be. Austin is not a city that cares for tradition. The people of Austin are not looking backwards at what was. In truth, they are not even very good at looking at what is. Instead, they are looking to what is possible, what can be and what will be. Austin is poised to become a leading force regarding the shaping of the world and therefore of the human experience as part of it.

Aside from a whirlwind of in-studio podcasts and a synchronization workshop, my time here has been spent taking early morning runs in the neighborhoods and nature. Because of the overcast, it looks much colder outside than it actually is. Most of the trees are leafless, their crooked branches suspended in the lukewarm air.

5.jpgIn ancient Celtic society, there was much talk of “thin places”. Places where the visible, temporal world and invisible, spiritual world were in close proximity and the veil between them was negligible. The Edward’s Plateau, where Austin is Located, is one of these places. The Jumano, Coahuiltecan, Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche peoples, who used to occupy the riverside villages here, knew this. There is so much limestone in this region that to walk on the earth is to be submerged in the frequency of purification. The land upon which Austin was built removes what contaminates you on a physical, emotional and mental level. It pulls from you the things that are blocking your alignment with the non-physical (what most people call the spiritual level). It heals you by purifying you. And if you let that purification happen, you will be renewed. It is not a “light” energy landscape. It is deep and dark and even heavy. There is an above-ground life here and an underground life here. Many lifeforms live exclusively in one or the other. Some traverse both worlds. The cave systems here encourage the conscious and the subconscious to unite. In each and every one of us, there is an underworld… A world of things that are unseen; existing in darkness. Waiting to make their way to the world of light. And this landscape does not allow you to forget it. This underworld is tapping at the floorboards, and it causes the underworld of your own being to stir. The abundance of bat medicine in this area is available as a means of navigating these places of darkness within.  

6.jpgThis area is home to some of the largest bat colonies in the world. I struggle to sleep at night because I am so sensitive to their stirrings. When a ripple of agitation goes through a colony, that ripple continues out like a shock wave for miles upon miles. It is quieter this time of year, with the migratory bats gone. But the bats that are hibernating, cycle through periods of torpor and arousal. And during that time, when their body temperatures return to normal and they are in arousal, they emit a frequency that causes the nervous system of any animal within range to up-regulate. Because of this, it is very hard to relax in this landscape. I imagine that sometimes, the people that call this region home are hit with a sudden feeling of anxiety because of this. But likely, they have no idea it is being caused by the pulse of the arousal of the bats nearby.

348s.jpegThere is very little that is normal about Austin. As I write this, I am sitting in a little pocket of peculiarity. A tiny courtyard between Yarrow and Sage (a tiny metaphysical supply store). Bistro Vonish (a monthly supper club, turned edgy vegan food truck) and Zucchini Kill Bakery (a gluten free, vegan bakery that flies right in the face of the girly, wholesome, cute vibe of traditional cupcake culture; with its dark, feminist punk-rock vibe). I am flanked by three black coffins, each with flowers planted in them. On the picnic table in front of me, is an “Annihilation Lime Cupcake” and a “Cream Coffin”. I’d say they have accomplished their non-conformist aim. The expectation of emotional comfort food clashes with the experience of hard-edge flavors and a rough, dark atmosphere. With Punk rock’s violent tempo, shouted lyrics and distorted riffs, you can almost taste the music when you eat them. When all is said and done, this will not be an experience to forget… Punk-rock baked goods.

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