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Big wedding weekend! We traveled about 200 miles south on I-35 to that lovely central Texas oasis of Austin for the event. The capital city was, as always, a breath of fresh air. Nothing against Dallas or any of the wonderful cities I’ve traveled to or lived in to date, but Austin holds a place in my heart. And no matter how lofty my expectation gets, I have yet to feel let down. But, every trip gives me a new perspective on the place I spent my college youth, and there’s no shortage of strong opinions from locals about Austin’s direction.

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Yes, like any growing city, it has its problems – no one said being popular was easy. Anyone who’s ever visited the place has probably seen the slogan “Keep Austin Weird.” The website represents long-time Austinites’ defense against the mainstream and normalcy. And I understand, witnessing the explosion of Dallas’ suburbia clones. It’s a little alarming how long the drive has grown through the massive rings of the outer city, featuring bland, ubiquitous strip malls and mega stores. Or the newest mix-master highway interchanges that seem so out of place. Sadly, it seems the city planners can’t make new roads and lanes fast enough; traffic is is as bad as it has ever been. Don’t forget that strange skyscraper, which feels as unfamiliar as my trip around the University of Texas campus and surrounding area. “The Drag” is a drag from what it once was to me. Rows of quick-serve restaurant chains and retailers.

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On the bright side, seems there’s still lots more good than bad. It’s weird how cool and different Austin remains in spite of the changes. Local music is everywhere and for any taste. From the several closed circuit TV stations to the downtown street corners to the many bars and restaurants. Like Shiner Bock beer on the menu, it’s seems a prerequisite to have the minimum of a musician and a guitar. Then there’s the folk hero Leslie Cochran, the cross-dressing mayorial candidate and homeless advocate, who still struts the streets of downtown. Can you see him as the pride of your home town? 93.7 KLBJ, the rock of Austin, is still kickin’ it on the radio. And don’t forget the atypical Texas landscape, still stunning as the crown jewel of the community. A perfect setting for that laid-back vibe from the eclectic populous. There are also still of plenty of legendary Austin eateries to write home about: Magnolia Cafe, Trudy’s, Texas Chili Parlor and Hula Hut to name a few. I got very excited brainstorming the variety of places for some wedding friends from Philadelphia to check out.

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Seems to me that growth is good for the city’s future and longevity of the community. More people need more jobs and more roads to more chains to meet more demand and so on and so on the circle goes. More people also means more ideas, more energy, more festivals and more to share in a good thing. So, as long as growth is balanced with preserving the unique ideals of Austin’s core, everyone’s a winner.

But then again, maybe I’m just weird.

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