Caption: Cathedral of Junk - Austin, TX, Credit: State of the Re:Union
Image by: State of the Re:Union 
Cathedral of Junk - Austin, TX 

Austin - Growing Pains

From: Al Letson
Series: State of the Re:Union Fall 2010 Season
Length: 53:53

Austin is a town wrestling with its identity, not as a result of a natural disaster or economic meltdown, but rather its success. The population has spiked and so have its economic advantages, but many residents worry that the development and growth might jeopardize the city's unique countercultural feel. SOTRU explores the balance of culture and success in the Texas capital.

Austin_small State of the Re:Union
Austin, TX: Growing Pains
SOTRU considers whether Austin, TX can grow up…and stay weird.

Host: Al Letson

DESCRIPTION: Unlike places that have been thrown into a state of crisis by a disaster, Austin, Texas has been thrown into crisis by success.  It’s become a hot place to move to-- in the 1970s, Austin had 325,000 people… Today it’s over a million. But, along with the economic advantages of that popularity, has come a considerable identity crisis. Austin has long prided itself on its funkiness, and many residents have grown worried new development and growth might jeopardize the city’s countercultural “feel”… So they’re doing all they can to make sure it survives. In this hour, SOTRU looks at the tension between “keeping Austin weird” and it’s growing success.

BILLBOARD (:59)
Incue: From P-R-X and N-P-R
Outcue: But first, this news

NEWS HOLE: 1:00-6:00

SEGMENT A (12:29)
Incue: You're listening to State of the Re:Union
Outcue: on State of the Re:Union


A. Explosion of Growth and How Austin Got Weird: In this opening segment, we hear from some longtime residents about the explosion of growth the city has seen in recent years, setting up the premise for the show. We meet a variety of weird characters that give the city its countercultural feel. We also hear about the origins and evolution of “weird” in Austin, to help set the scene. Josh Long, author of “Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin” helps us out… As does Eddie Wilson, founder of the famed Austin club Armadillo World Headquarters.

B. The origins of Keep Austin Weird: In this story, Red Wassinich, the creator of KAW, tells us about its origins. We then hear how the battle between local bookstore Book People and Borders helped turn the phrase from a little known slogan into an anthem for the city.

BREAK: 19:00-20:00

SEGMENT B (18:59)
Incue: You're Listening to State of the Re:Union
Outcue: P-R-X.O-R-G

A. Not Everything is Bigger in Texas: News of a Walmart coming to the city’s North Cross neighborhood was met with dismay by some… They thought that a  store planned to be as large as the stadium the Texas LongHorns play in just had no place in a downtown neighborhood filled with thriving local businesses and a pre-existing traffic problem. A group formed called Responsible Growth for Northcross. They held protests, including one forming a human chain across the proposed site to show how big it would be… and, while they haven’t been successful in stopping the Walmart, this is not a story of failure. Because of their dissent, the new store’s footprint has been reduced from 225-thousand square feet to only 92-thousand, less than half of what it was going to be. And it won’t be open 24 hours a day.

B. Is Austin Music in Need of Saving? Austin has been long known as the “live music capital of the world”—in fact, a city resolution made it official in 1991. And, while the scene is still vibrant, there are some worried about its future, amidst Austin’s exploding growth in recent years. One of the city’s biggest strips of music clubs—Red River—is adjacent to a fancy condo development that club owners are worried could threaten the beloved gritty night scene and culture. And, as the cost of living in an increasingly popular spot has risen over the past decade, the pay for most local musicians has stayed the same, or gotten lower. Still, people are coming together working on this issue. In 2005, a coalition of groups helped found HAAM, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. It provides healthcare for low-income, uninsured musicians in the city who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.

BREAK: 39:00-40:00

SEGMENT C (18:59)
Incue: You're listening to State of the Re:Union
Outcue: This is NPR

A. A Trailer Park Movement: Back in 2006, Michael Rypka wanted to open a restaurant, but didn’t have enough cash on hand to do it. So, he bought an airstream trailer and turned it into a taco stand, called Torchy’s Tacos, and parked it on South Congress Street. Lots of people came, and soon, others were opening up trailer-based restaurants. Hey Cupcake parked near Torchy’s Tacos, and it inspired Josh Frank to open TREAT, which sells s’mores kits from a trailer, with a little propane campfire set up out front, so you can toast your own marshmallows. Soon, hundreds of trailers were opening up in hubs around town, with good trailer eateries trying to recruit other good ones to park near them, to make their area a food destination. And that gave Josh Frank an idea: an official (restaurant) trailer park. He just opened EAT, which stands for East Austin Trailer Eatery. It turned a vacant lot into a restaurant trailer park, linked to a big (formerly) abandoned building that he’s turned into an arts complex, with studios for rent to local artists… And the trailer culture is even catching on with the non-edible world… It also may be the new face of entrepreneurship in general. Chad Swisher had worked in ad agencies for years, and wanted to open up his own shop, but couldn’t afford the office space. So he and a friend started Big Blue Sky Creative, which is an ad agency based out of an airstream trailer. They drive it around to client’s businesses, or park it in locations they think might appeal to their prospective customer.

B: Dear Austin Letter: A “Dear City” letter from Chad Swisher.

C. The Cathedral of Junk, and Public Art vs. City Codes: Vince Hanneman’s unearthly pile of junk in his backyard has inspired international visitors and awe from locals alike. He began it in the late 80s, and, at its height, it contained 60 tons of junk: lawnmower wheels, bicycle parts, stacked toilets, car bumpers, etc. Most of its contents have been items brought to Vince by visitors, over the years. But, as Vince’s neighborhood has become hot on the real estate market, his neighbors started complaining to the city.  They sent engineers to look at its safety and determined he needed to break it down into smaller pieces, and get permits to allow the public in to see them… This set off a long battle with the city to maintain some remnant of the cathedral, with community members volunteering to help disassemble it.

D. The Battle of the Weirds: With the evolution of the Keep Austin Weird slogan… there’s complaints about “Fake Weird”—the people who’ve seized on the slogan and are trying to sell t-shirts and other paraphernalia that capitalizes on it… and even… “Fake Normal.” A resident has started a “Make Austin Normal” campaign that is more than a little tongue in cheek, calling for big box stores and the eradication of weird.

E. Vox: The above leads us into the Vox section, which is a community wrangling with the notion of “weird”—is Austin weird? Will it remain that way in the future?

PROGRAM OUT @ 59:00

Broadcast Window Begins 9/18/10

The fall season of The State of the Re:Union is available now on PRX and the ContentDepot without charge to all public radio stations, and may be aired an unlimited number of times prior to May 31, 2011. The program may be streamed live on station websites but not archived. Excerpting is permitted for promotional purposes only.

NOTE:  Watch for news of a “bonus” SOTRU program intended for use on Veteran’s Day (November 11).

The State of the Re:Union is produced by Al Letson, and presented by PRX. Major funding for the State of the Re:Union comes from CPB, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Thanks for your consideration of this season of SOTRU.  Please contact Israel Smith at ismarketing@yahoo.com or 612-377-3256 with questions or to confirm carriage.

To hear the full audio, sign up for a free PRX account or log in.

Piece Description

State of the Re:Union
Austin, TX: Growing Pains
SOTRU considers whether Austin, TX can grow up…and stay weird.

Host: Al Letson

DESCRIPTION: Unlike places that have been thrown into a state of crisis by a disaster, Austin, Texas has been thrown into crisis by success.  It’s become a hot place to move to-- in the 1970s, Austin had 325,000 people… Today it’s over a million. But, along with the economic advantages of that popularity, has come a considerable identity crisis. Austin has long prided itself on its funkiness, and many residents have grown worried new development and growth might jeopardize the city’s countercultural “feel”… So they’re doing all they can to make sure it survives. In this hour, SOTRU looks at the tension between “keeping Austin weird” and it’s growing success.

BILLBOARD (:59)
Incue: From P-R-X and N-P-R
Outcue: But first, this news

NEWS HOLE: 1:00-6:00

SEGMENT A (12:29)
Incue: You're listening to State of the Re:Union
Outcue: on State of the Re:Union


A. Explosion of Growth and How Austin Got Weird: In this opening segment, we hear from some longtime residents about the explosion of growth the city has seen in recent years, setting up the premise for the show. We meet a variety of weird characters that give the city its countercultural feel. We also hear about the origins and evolution of “weird” in Austin, to help set the scene. Josh Long, author of “Weird City: Sense of Place and Creative Resistance in Austin” helps us out… As does Eddie Wilson, founder of the famed Austin club Armadillo World Headquarters.

B. The origins of Keep Austin Weird: In this story, Red Wassinich, the creator of KAW, tells us about its origins. We then hear how the battle between local bookstore Book People and Borders helped turn the phrase from a little known slogan into an anthem for the city.

BREAK: 19:00-20:00

SEGMENT B (18:59)
Incue: You're Listening to State of the Re:Union
Outcue: P-R-X.O-R-G

A. Not Everything is Bigger in Texas: News of a Walmart coming to the city’s North Cross neighborhood was met with dismay by some… They thought that a  store planned to be as large as the stadium the Texas LongHorns play in just had no place in a downtown neighborhood filled with thriving local businesses and a pre-existing traffic problem. A group formed called Responsible Growth for Northcross. They held protests, including one forming a human chain across the proposed site to show how big it would be… and, while they haven’t been successful in stopping the Walmart, this is not a story of failure. Because of their dissent, the new store’s footprint has been reduced from 225-thousand square feet to only 92-thousand, less than half of what it was going to be. And it won’t be open 24 hours a day.

B. Is Austin Music in Need of Saving? Austin has been long known as the “live music capital of the world”—in fact, a city resolution made it official in 1991. And, while the scene is still vibrant, there are some worried about its future, amidst Austin’s exploding growth in recent years. One of the city’s biggest strips of music clubs—Red River—is adjacent to a fancy condo development that club owners are worried could threaten the beloved gritty night scene and culture. And, as the cost of living in an increasingly popular spot has risen over the past decade, the pay for most local musicians has stayed the same, or gotten lower. Still, people are coming together working on this issue. In 2005, a coalition of groups helped found HAAM, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. It provides healthcare for low-income, uninsured musicians in the city who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.

BREAK: 39:00-40:00

SEGMENT C (18:59)
Incue: You're listening to State of the Re:Union
Outcue: This is NPR

A. A Trailer Park Movement: Back in 2006, Michael Rypka wanted to open a restaurant, but didn’t have enough cash on hand to do it. So, he bought an airstream trailer and turned it into a taco stand, called Torchy’s Tacos, and parked it on South Congress Street. Lots of people came, and soon, others were opening up trailer-based restaurants. Hey Cupcake parked near Torchy’s Tacos, and it inspired Josh Frank to open TREAT, which sells s’mores kits from a trailer, with a little propane campfire set up out front, so you can toast your own marshmallows. Soon, hundreds of trailers were opening up in hubs around town, with good trailer eateries trying to recruit other good ones to park near them, to make their area a food destination. And that gave Josh Frank an idea: an official (restaurant) trailer park. He just opened EAT, which stands for East Austin Trailer Eatery. It turned a vacant lot into a restaurant trailer park, linked to a big (formerly) abandoned building that he’s turned into an arts complex, with studios for rent to local artists… And the trailer culture is even catching on with the non-edible world… It also may be the new face of entrepreneurship in general. Chad Swisher had worked in ad agencies for years, and wanted to open up his own shop, but couldn’t afford the office space. So he and a friend started Big Blue Sky Creative, which is an ad agency based out of an airstream trailer. They drive it around to client’s businesses, or park it in locations they think might appeal to their prospective customer.

B: Dear Austin Letter: A “Dear City” letter from Chad Swisher.

C. The Cathedral of Junk, and Public Art vs. City Codes: Vince Hanneman’s unearthly pile of junk in his backyard has inspired international visitors and awe from locals alike. He began it in the late 80s, and, at its height, it contained 60 tons of junk: lawnmower wheels, bicycle parts, stacked toilets, car bumpers, etc. Most of its contents have been items brought to Vince by visitors, over the years. But, as Vince’s neighborhood has become hot on the real estate market, his neighbors started complaining to the city.  They sent engineers to look at its safety and determined he needed to break it down into smaller pieces, and get permits to allow the public in to see them… This set off a long battle with the city to maintain some remnant of the cathedral, with community members volunteering to help disassemble it.

D. The Battle of the Weirds: With the evolution of the Keep Austin Weird slogan… there’s complaints about “Fake Weird”—the people who’ve seized on the slogan and are trying to sell t-shirts and other paraphernalia that capitalizes on it… and even… “Fake Normal.” A resident has started a “Make Austin Normal” campaign that is more than a little tongue in cheek, calling for big box stores and the eradication of weird.

E. Vox: The above leads us into the Vox section, which is a community wrangling with the notion of “weird”—is Austin weird? Will it remain that way in the future?

PROGRAM OUT @ 59:00

Broadcast Window Begins 9/18/10

The fall season of The State of the Re:Union is available now on PRX and the ContentDepot without charge to all public radio stations, and may be aired an unlimited number of times prior to May 31, 2011. The program may be streamed live on station websites but not archived. Excerpting is permitted for promotional purposes only.

NOTE:  Watch for news of a “bonus” SOTRU program intended for use on Veteran’s Day (November 11).

The State of the Re:Union is produced by Al Letson, and presented by PRX. Major funding for the State of the Re:Union comes from CPB, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Thanks for your consideration of this season of SOTRU.  Please contact Israel Smith at ismarketing@yahoo.com or 612-377-3256 with questions or to confirm carriage.

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
Take Time T Bird and the Breaks Learn About It. T Bird and the Breaks 2009 05:09
Sin City The Flying Burrito Brothers The Gilded Palace of Sin. Edsel 1969 04:11
Music Is Happiness The Octopus Project One Ten Hundred Thousand Million. Peek A Boo 2004 03:39
Hold the Ladder The Octopus Project One Ten Hundred Thousand Million. Peek A Boo 2004 03:36
I Saw the Bright Shinies The Octopus Project Hello, Avalanche. Peek-A-Boo 2007 03:58
Loud Murmuring The Octopus Project Hello, Avalanche. Peek-A-Boo 2007 03:30
Half a Nice Day The Octopus Project Golden Beds. Peek-A-Boo 2009 04:28
Threads This Will Destroy You This Will Destroy You. Magic Bullet 2008 05:41
Whiskey River (Live) Willie Nelson Live at Billy Bob's Texas. Smith Entertainment 2004 02:18
There’s a Little Bit of Everything in Texas Willie Nelson Texas In My Soul. RCA 1968 02:22
Groover’s Paradise Doug Sahm Groover’s Paradise. Warner Music 1974 03:24
Come Alone Abandoned Warehouse :00
Welcome Ghosts (Adem Mix) Explosions in the Sky All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone. Temporary Residence 2007 05:43
Settler Balmorhea All Is Wild, All Is Silent. Western Vinyl Records 2009 06:39
Alps Ratatat LP4. XL 2010 04:20
Drag and Fly Dale Watson The Truckin' Sessions, Vol. 2. Hyena Records 2009 03:44
C-Boy’s Blues The Fabulous Thunderbirds Tacos Deluxe. Benchmark Recordings 2003 02:58
Friendly Ghost Harlem Hippies. Matador 2010 03:01
Unproclaimed Love Marti Brom Mean. Squarebird 1999 02:27
Mr. Dickles Golden Boys Electric Wolfman. Alien Snatch Records 2009 02:19
Is It True Wendy Colonna We Are One. 04:04
World of Love Nakia Water to Wine. Kiachia 2008 03:48