Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rivalry, Weirdness, and Homemaking in College Station

Pretty House

Those of you who aren’t native Texans or adopted Texans (like me, for now) may not be aware that there is a rivalry between College Station and Austin.  It’s not just about the two rival universities, though that is a big rivalry and one that doesn’t concern me at all.  I’ve been fraternizing with the enemy for a while now, and I plan to keep doing it because he’s cute and he makes delicious food for us to eat.

The rivalry I’m thinking about right now is between the two cities.  Even in university towns, there is a hope that there is life outside of the university, that there are fun things to do and people to meet and delicious things to eat when you leave campus.  As far as college towns go, College Station really is Aggieland, a place where the majority of us who aren’t students are employed by the university.  My sense is that this is not true for Austin, which is a much bigger city and the state capitol, so there’s all sorts of political business that takes place there, independent of the University of Texas.  Historically, Austin has been a haven for hippies, hipsters, and other folks who march barefoot to their own drummer.  They’ve got a saying in Austin, “Keep Austin weird,” which I assumed referred to all the hippies.  I was wrong.  Apparently, its real origins came from a desire to encourage people to support local business, to preserve Austin’s unique cultural heritage by putting dollars right into the economic heart of the city.

Or was I wrong?  If the slogan originated when some dude was looking around at all the tattoos and body piercings of the waitstaff at a diner, I might not be so far off in my guess about one thing that makes Austin weird.

Anyway, at some unknown point in time, College Station launched a counterslogan to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird.”  Their slogan?  “Keep College Station Normal.”  I’ve seen it on t-shirts around campus, and to be quite honest, I hate it.  Because really, what does it mean?  What is normal?  This question leads me into Michael Warner territory, and while I don’t want to open that can of worms today, I do think that this slogan is ridiculous.  College Station, for its own prosperity and economic future, could use more of Austin’s weirdness, more local business, more quirkiness, more diversity.  It could use more hippies and vegetarians and poets, dammit!

I think College Station suffers from an inferiority complex in regard to its feelings toward Austin.  Austin has worked hard to make itself a tourist town, a fun place to visit, a city with something for everybody.  College Station is more rural, more of a small town with a large university and a famous football program.  I hear rumblings of racism and homophobia in College Station, but I can’t say that there is more intolerance here than elsewhere.  And I can’t speak from experience because I’m a white woman with (comparatively) long hair and a closet full of skirts.  I hardly appear to be a target for hatred-spewing bigots, so I just don’t know what to say.

When I first moved here, Matt told me that there would be some gems in this area, but I’d have to work to find them.  That man speaks the truth because there are now many places around here that feel special to me.  All around town, I’ve sipped coffee, eaten delicious dinners, run miles and miles while training for half-marathons, and sat by a fountain and thought about life.  While I wouldn’t have chosen College Station for my home, College Station welcomed me with open arms and told me to settle into the swing of things.  And while I will look forward to more weirdness around here—please, somebody open a fresh juice bar!—I remain content that I am here, for now, gainfully employed and making friends and trying not to get sunburnt under the Texas sun.

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I started this post thinking I was going to tell you about a grocery find from today.  I think I’ll save that for tomorrow, because I just love how this post demonstrates the meandering nature of writing.  I think it’s one of my favorite quirks about writing: one never knows exactly what the final product is going to contain!

9 comments:

Chrissy (The New Me) said...

Nacogdoches and College Station are very, very similar. Small rural town centered around a college with few truly "local" or "unique" things to set it apart from the masses. Also, very conservative! And instead of football, we have lumberjacks. Make of that what you will.

I have seen the "Keep College Station Normal" slogan, and I think it's silly. Why strive to be generic? While I agree that Austin can be a little over the top, I much prefer to live a life that borders on the extreme than one that takes pride in "normalcy."

I'm glad you've found some corners of College Station that offer a little redemption. I first hated Nacogdoches when I came here, but now I really do love it (most of the time) and appreciate all the little things that make it unique - if not to the casual observer, than at least to the people who live here and know it well.

Rosiecat said...

Hi, Chrissy! I loved your comment, especially the part about learning to love your small town. I'll never love the conservative flavor of Texas, but it does make me appreciate finding and making friends down here. There are kindred souls to be found :-)

And about that "Keep College Station Normal" thing: because I don't know what people think this means when they wear their t-shirts, I'm going to start asking them (in a nonconfrontational way, of course). I'm curious about what the college students will say! Do they mean, "Build more big-box stores in College Station"? Or do they really mean, "I'm a racist and a homophobe who dislikes people who are different from me"?

Chrissy (The New Me) said...

Oh, I'll never love the conservative nature and narrow mindedness of many of the locals in Nacogdoches either! But it has made it easier to find the like-minded folks who make up my friends. We end up sticking out like a sore thumb. :)

Alex said...

Fuck Austin. They can keep their drum circles and Occupy Wall Street chapter.

Daijeri Smith said...

I am not native to Texas. I have tried hard to find the weirdos in CS and haven't had much luck. Most of my friends are conservative and I am so not. Sounds like I need to move to Austin.

Rosiecat said...

Hi, Daijeri! I'm sorry to hear it's been tough to find kindred spirits in College Station. If you'd like to meet for coffee or wine, feel free to leave me a comment here or drop me an e-mail at lifeloveandfood@gmail.com.

Good luck! College Station can be a nice place to live, but it can take some effort to find your tribe :-)

Rosiecat said...

Alex, to each his own!

Anonymous said...

Texas A&M seems to always be in a state of competition with UT, but usually not the other way around, kind of a like a feisty younger brother. Many small towns have a certain charm about them for better or for worse, and I'm not sure changing them to be "more like Austin" is a good thing, otherwise you ruin the uniqueness of Austin (and the towns!). Many small towns in Texas lean conservative, try to get over yourself and be more "tolerant" of the people instead of complaining so much about other peoples views and beliefs.

Rosiecat said...

Anonymous, rereading this post now, I hardly think my opinions qualify as "intolerant." Many, many small businesses in College Station use marketing that encourages people to buy local and support local business, which is EXACTLY the same idea as "Keep Austin Weird." Every business that identifies as being Aggie-owned or supporting Aggies is using location (in the heart of Aggieland) as a marketing pitch.

As for "getting over myself," to use your terminology, I don't even know what that is supposed to mean. Does that mean never writing about my observations or having an opinion of my own? I encounter people all the time who have beliefs and opinions that differ from mine; rarely do I get into arguments about our differences. That's fine if you want to disagree with me, but there's no need to be rude, especially on my personal blog.