Saturday, November 10, 2012


Olivia Dell

May 28, 2008. It’s my sister Madeline's birthday, and she gets to pick where we eat dinner. No one is surprised to find out that we're going to The Grove in Westlake, again.  The drive there is so familiar, that before I know it, we've arrived. The hostess greets us and leads us to our usual table. We've been here so many times, the entire family, besides my new stepmother, orders without glancing at the menu. We are surrounded by familiar families. We sit in our usual seats. We eat the usual. Not surprisingly, this is Madeline's favorite restaurant. Unlike Jordan, Madeline has always gravitated toward Westlake and our home.

November 2008. I’m thirteen years old. I'm in another screaming match with my mother over another unimportant detail when my oldest sister, Jordan, decides that she has had enough. She explains to my mother and I that we are making absolutely no progress, grabs my arm, and drags me to her car. I reluctantly get in, knowing that resisting will not end well for me. Jordan refuses to tell me where she’s taking me. We pull up to a parking lot covered in wall murals and I’m immediately aware that I’m not in Westlake anymore. I hesitantly get out of the car and follow Jordan down the path to the entrance of Spiderhouse Cafe. I follow her through the door and to the bar where she orders two hibiscus iced teas from the tall guy with gaged ears behind the counter. I’m completely out of my element. We make our way to the outside deck and find two empty seats amongst the hipsters wearing their tight jeans and t-shirts from bands that “you’ve probably never heard of” and smoking their cancer sticks. I want to go home, but I know Jordan isn’t interested in my opinion. After sitting in silence for what feels like hours, she begins to explain why she likes coming here. She talks about how Spiderhouse allows her to get away instead of getting frustrated by things out of her control. I decide that Jordan obviously doesn't know what she is talking about. We finish our teas, get in the car, and before I know it, I am surrounded by the familiarity of Westlake again.

September 2012. I’m seventeen now.  I walk onto the familiar deck at Flipnotics and find an empty table to work at. The men at the table next to me are having some kind of meeting in which they’re talking about new ways to ensure stable revenue for artists in Austin. The man at the table across from me works in silence on his laptop. I spread my work out on a picnic table. I ask the men if they would mind watching my things while I go inside to get a tea. They agree and one of them makes a joke about stealing my Environmental Science textbook. I walk past the newspaper stands and advertisements for local performances posted on the wall.

Pulp Fiction  on Fridays at 8 PM in September and October $10

Peace Out Party The End of an Era November 4th 1-6 PM

Waffle Fest Improv Comedy Festival and All You Can Eat Waffle Buffet

Today, the barista is a blonde woman with a short pixie cut and thick cat eye liner. I order my usual tea and head back to my temporary work station. I open my computer and begin. I work silently until I hear my name called. I grab my tea from the window and continue working. One of the men from the meeting takes a smoking break while the others continue their discussion. I work on my English homework until I hear my name again. This time it’s my neighbor, Courtney. We chat for a while, but then get back to work. I am so focused, that I don’t notice time passing by. Before I know it, it’s time to go home. I pack up my things and brace myself for my return to reality.

The people at Flipnotics are not typical Westlakers, but they’re also not the alternative crowd like the one at SpiderHouse Cafe. When I’m here, I only see a few people I know. I realize that the Austin I am experiencing now is completely different from the one I grew up in and different from my sisters’ Austin. Jordan, Madeline, and I have each created our own ideas of Austin and while they may resemble each other in some ways, in reality, my idea of Austin is completely different from that of my sisters. I know that I still have a lot to learn, but I've come a long way from my thirteen year old pessimistic attitude. My view of life has developed and expanded, bearing little resemblance to that of my thirteen year old perspective.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Austin allows outdoor lovers to live and work in a city, which is a hard-to-find aspect of city life that has come to define Austin's character. It's not fair to have a dog in a big city. If this is true, then how does Austin seem to have the happiest dogs on earth? It boils down to that fast-paced, relaxed, concrete, green lifestyle that us Austinites don't even think twice about. This dawned on me when I was sitting at home trying to come up with a place to choose for this project. I was sitting there, and my two dogs, Jake and Sammy, came and sat at my feet and stared at me. They knew it was the weekend, and they had decided that it was time for their trip to the creek. Succumbing to their demands, I drove down the highway in stop-and-go traffic, and a quick turn was all it took to get me to my dogs' favorite place. As I drove down the dirt road, my dogs started barking in excitement; they knew where we were headed. They are definitely not city dogs. With the noise of cars zipping down the highway to my right and the sound of running water to my left, I made my way to the creek, passing multiple signs politely asking to pick up after your dogs or keep them on leashes. Once you get to the creek and are lost wandering along the trails, the only sounds you hear are the water and the birds. The sights and sounds of Bull Creek somewhat contradict the fact that the creek and trails wind alongside busy highways and rapidly developing businesses and communities.

 I passed seven other dogs in the first five minutes of being there; the people accompanying the dogs definitely not looking like New Yorkers. Just by glancing at the dogs happily trotting along with muddy paws and wagging tails, you could tell that these weren’t the small, yappy dogs of normal city life. Austin is known for being an extremely dog-friendly city, and I think that this is a reflection of Austin’s culture. The presence of so many well-taken-care-of four-legged friends inadvertently points to the high number of outdoorsy, nature loving, environmentally conscious people living in Austin. The types of people that I just described are usually go-getters and like to get involved in their communities for the best. The presence of these people is what keeps Austin vibrant and unique. It is also what makes Austin one of the most sought-after cities to live in now. When hanging out at the creek, these friendly people are more than willing to start up a conversation, such as how to make your car stop smelling like wet dog. You can spot people from all walks of life along the creek, ranging anywhere from hipsters hanging out on the rocks, to old men getting in their exercise, to businessmen walking their pooches, to small children splashing in the water, and to seventeen-year-old girls doing their English project. The one thing that all of these people have in common is their love of the outdoors. They desire to escape the confines of the city, and can find that escape within 5 minutes from where they work. This shows how Austinites have been able to keep themselves from getting stuck in the monotonous routine of daily city life and break free from the machine. Being in nature alone with my thoughts keeps me sane and, I think, that the availability of this retreat to the people of Austin could very easily be why so much creativity lies within the city’s boundaries. 

The coexistence of urban and natural spaces within walking distance of each other is a defining characteristic of Austin. When you visit other cities, you may notice how every inch of the space is paved. Because of the large populations in the small area of a city, the most efficient use of the space is to cover the entire area with buildings and establishments, and then build upward. Austin has made a conscious effort not to do this. There is a huge importance of natural spaces to the culture of Austin. My personal favorite is Bull Creek.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Olivia Dell

While on the surface Richard Price's The Lush Life appears to be a novel mainly focused on the unsolved murder of Ike Marcus, in reality, the novel explores culture clash created by the new wave of immigrants in New York City and the complex and sometimes harsh reality of life in the city. In an interview with Clayton Moore, Price states,
"I wanted to portray this external high/low disparity that exists here,” he said. “You might think this is disingenuous but I never thought of myself as a mystery writer or a thriller writer or any sort of genre writer. I have a very complicated landscape. But I’ve discovered that if I follow the course of an investigation, it’s a very convenient horse to ride because the natural progression of an investigation will take you into all the worlds you want to touch in a very organized way. I don’t even care who did it. It’s an excuse to get into the world. I would rather say who did it in the first sentence and get it out of the way. There are so many dead ends in this book, so many things that go nowhere. This thing solves itself almost out of spite.”
 Price explains that the novel was not completely focused on Ike's murder, but rather used his murder as a way to explore many different aspects of city life. 
        The novel revolves around the investigation of Ike's murder, allowing Price to give the reader a glimpse into life in the city through Matty and Yolanda's investigation. Price effectively explores various cultures and people's lives in New York, thus complicating the reader's depiction of "good guys" vs "bad guys." For example, even though Tristan killed Ike, he is not portrayed as a dangerous killer, but rather as a victim of the city. By exploring the details of Tristan's life, Price is able to give the reader a different perspective of the murder and of life in the city. The reader's first impression of Tristan is a negative one, but as the novel continues and Tristan's living situation is further explored, it becomes apparent that Tristan is a victim of his environment. Through Tristan, Price describes environmental determinism in the city. The Washington Post's Stephen Amidon writes, 
"Lush Life remains a vivid study of contemporary urban landscape. Price's knowledge of his Lower East Side locale is positively synoptic, from his take on its tenements, haunted by the ghosts of the Jewish dead and now crammed with poor Asian laborers, to the posh clubs and restaurants, where those inclined can drink "a bottle of $250 Johnnie Walker Blue Label" or catch "a midnight puppet porno show." In this "Candyland of a neighborhood," where kids from all over the nation come to "walk around starring in the movie of their lives," it is hardly surprising that an ambitious suburban boy believes he can front up to armed muggers and live to write a treatment about it."  
Similarly, the novel explores the investigation through detectives Matty Clark and Yolanda Bello, further complicating the reader's perspective of the police force and the role of the detective. Throughout the novel, Price portrays both Matty and Yolanda as parental figures, suggesting that the role of the detective in the city is more important than it would appear. Upon hearing about the murder, Matty requests a paraffin test, but is unable to get permission to get one from his superiors. Later, when Matty is called into the police station to be scolded about the investigation of Ike's murder, he is asked why he did not call for a paraffin test, suggesting that the police system is corrupt. 
In addition to Price's exploration of police corruption and environmental determinism, he also touches on the changing environment of the city and the effects that a new wave of immigrants has brought to the city. 

Works Cited