December 17th, 2005

Bye-bye Le Fun.

So they're dismantling the arcade next to Metro. A few weeks ago it decided renewing its lease was too expensive, and this morning it finally had the big auction to sell off all its games. They're in bubble wrap on the sidewalk right now, and there are big trucks they're being loaded into (and trailers, and the occasional U-haul; lots of different buyers). A local news station was here with a video camera doing multiple takes, trying to figure out how the actress (ahem, "reporter") should walk while talking (she had about six feet of space to work with), and at one point both her wireless mike and the camera's mike were on at the same time, resulting in a funky echo...

The Cult of Scientology has metastacized into most of that building (Metro is technically in another building, although the real difference is just that the edge of the wall juts out about three feet at that point), and apparently the cult owns the whole thing now and Le Fun was renting from them. (Hence the price going up, Hubbard's Folly has always been a financially voracious entity.) And apparently, the cult will be expanding into the space Le Fun had, so no new store will be going into there.

Sigh. I'm disappointed in Elrond. Yeah, moonlighting as an evil computer program with sunglasses and kung-fu is sort of mitigated by the fact he's the mortal enemy of Keanu Reeves. But founding a cult was going too far. (He led all the elves across the sea and set them up giving "free IQ tests" to college students. Hint: if you take them up on it, you've failed. And whatever you do, skip the free kool-aid.)

The larger problem is that the Austin I knew is dying. The Daily Texan noticed that 7 stores on the drag have closed since the start of the semester. That doesn't count the ones that bailed before that (like Tower Records, Barnes and Noble...) I didn't even know Mojos was closing, they've been here as long as I've been in Austin. Metro hasn't closed, but it's scaled back its hours. West campus is all dug up now that the republicans pushed through the rezoning. I live on one corner of an intersection, with a fraternity on another corner. One of the other corners was flattened and had an apartment building put up, and they just flattened the other corner a few weeks ago (apartments coming). All the old idiosyncratic housing that made Austin unique is being rapidly bulldozed, and there are apartment buildings going up along 26th street, along San Gabriel...

This isn't exactly a surprise. In 2000 when this city developed a homeless problem and a crime rate, that was a surprise. And yeah, since then they paved the triangle and just passed a bond issue to fund the toll roads going in (not only are they making it so no commute of more than about a mile can be made without going on a toll road, but they passed a bond initiative to finance it with tax money. I don't like being explicitly taxed to build tollbooths I'll then have to pay at, on top of the gas tax I'm already paying. PICK ONE, GUYS!)

But it's the fact that the city I love is being demolished around me, and what it's being replaced with is impersonal and uninteresting.

I suppose it's some condolence that the McDonalds on MLK started offering free wireless a week or two back. (No login required.) This is still Austin, after all...

Rob
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