Cover Story: Austin Fires Back

Categories: Cover Story

austincover061611.jpg
Feelings have been hurt
So I'd gotten up at 5 a.m. and spent the day at NASA's Mission Control, where along with about fifty other writers, talking heads and camera crews from Houston, New York, London, Paris and Tokyo, I'd been granted unprecedented behind-the-scenes access to the final full-dress simulation for the 30-year-old American Space Shuttle program. (You can read much more about that trip here.)

I was mere feet away as a multitude of mock-malfunctions of the highest magnitude were solved by veteran Flight Director Richard Jones and Capcom Butch Wilmore and their astounding team of Mission Control scientists. Meanwhile the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis were bouncing around in their simulator a couple of buildings away, following Mission Control's terse instructions to the crisp letter.

One scenario had them ditching Atlantis shortly after take-off in Zaragoza, Spain. Another was so amazingly sadistic and complex even Jones had a hard time explaining all that went wrong. (It had something to do with a helium tank leak that, as Jones put it, "reduced our capacity to take heat away from the onboard computers." And that was just the beginning...)

Some of the breakdowns the Mission Control and the astronauts tamed were even unscripted. Just as that clusterfuck of a scenario was at its most outrageous, one of the flight sim's mikes got "hot." For the next few minutes, Atlantis Captain Douglas "Chunky" Hurley had to cut through everyone's chatter to hear Jones's and Willmore's urgent instructions while he multi-tasked a bevy of critical errors, all while imagining that the fate of the entire space program was at stake. And the steely-eyed Marine colonel pulled it off, along with the rest of the astronauts aboard the mock-Atlantis. In the press conference after the simulation ended, Hurley called that hardware breakdown his "favorite malfunction."

You can ask Tom Hanks, whose way-too-oft-repeated movie quote is far-too-seldom brought to its logical conclusion: Houston is a city that very famously solves problems.

axchroncover.jpg
Incoming
Such was my thinking as I drove back to the office from Johnson Space Center. My head was not in the clouds -- it was far above them, in orbit 200 miles above Earth along with the crew of the Atlantis.

So it was kind of a come-down to come back to my office, and that feeling was doubled when I learned that Austin Chronicle editor Louis Black had penned a response to what he called my "full-body takedown" on Austin last week.

And Black's opening salvo on why Austin was, in fact, better than Houston, was a list of current Austin bands that have recently been mentioned in British music magazines.

I repeat -- I come back from hanging out at Mission Control with freaking astronauts to a dick-swinging contest over trendy rock bands?

You can have White Denim, Louis. We'll take Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride and Mission Control badasses like Chris Kraft and Gene Kranz.

While acknowledging that both are Austin icons, Black also writes off two of my principal sources -- Eddie Wilson and Joe Nick Patoski -- as dial-a-curmudgeons, even though Wilson rhapsodized about Austin's musical talent today and the gist of what Patoski said was that Austin was more like Dallas and Houston than many of its residents would care to admit. Evidently that really touched a nerve.

Black isn't all bile. He notes that had my piece been written by an Austinite and run in an Austin paper, a great many people might have agreed with many of my points.

But then he closed with this: "Lomax didn't mention that another advantage of Houston is that there you could find a 6,000-to-7,000-word piece attacking Austin. You would never find a piece at that length attacking another Texas city in the Austin press. There's just too much other stuff to do here."

Well, there's lots of other stuff to do here in Houston too, but the thing is, I am a professional journalist, so writing is kind of my thing. And when I do write, I like to put my name on pieces that resonate with people. Judging by the response this article has gotten, I would say mission accomplished on that score.

It certainly seemed to resonate with Black. How else can I explain how he took enough time out from every Austinite's busy schedule of doing Cool Things to both read all 6,000 words of my story and pen a column in response?

But like I said, there's lots of other stuff to do here too, like cover the planet's manned space program at its very nerve center, so I've got to say bye for now and let you get back to clipping out those Band of Heathens reviews from that stack of British music magazines.


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
38 comments
allengodwinbis
allengodwinbis

Black isn't all bile. He notes that had my piece been written by an Austinite and run in an Austin paper, a great many people might have agreed with many of my points._________Allenhttp://www.sexyeditor.com 

Vintom Lebowski
Vintom Lebowski

I agree with some of the issues (traffic in Austin, in particular - a few Austinites have something of a snobbery) - But I found to love both cities the way they are (except that Austin needs a highway bypass badly)

In some ways they are similar - Austin has a lot of cars, so does Houston - Austin has ethnic neighborhoods (the Korean one in north Austin), and Houston does too, but a lot more of them and more variety.

Jus' Sayin'
Jus' Sayin'

In order to solve a problem, you have to admit you have one. 

Then Don't Live Here/There
Then Don't Live Here/There

I love the visual - "dick-swinging contest".  (I could say that "Houston's is bigger and Austin's is greener" but that would just feed this ridiculous Defenda-Fest.)  Consider this:  Sometimes lovin' thy neighbor can be a tough love venture.

Shuttle Instructor
Shuttle Instructor

Just a minor nit pick on the shuttle specs. The helium tank leak reduced the capability of one of the engines to produce thrust. A totally separate failure was the loss of both redundant water coolant loops, which are what removes heat from the shuttle cabin equipment (including the computers). I was one of the instructors in the simulator that day. Being evil is fun!

L014
L014

I can't wait til the recession is over and all the Austinites who live here go back to Central Texas. If I hear one more of them complain about Houston/wax nostalgic about Austin while enjoying the low-cost of living and job market of my city, I'll throw a can of Purple Stuff in their faces. If Austin is so fucking great, why aren't you there right now? Oh yeah, you can't afford it anymore because it's become a bastion of California-inspired waste and wealth with no jobs. A lot of the people I'm describing are also white, racist, millenials who thought they were hippies in Austin but are actually proto-yuppies who can't stand not having the Hispanics entirely confined to the East side of the city. You think that UT education would have taught them some appreciation for diversity. Go home, brats.

KG
KG

I moved to Austin from Dallas (originally from NYC) twenty years ago and agree with everything Lomax has written. The current Austin is just as pretentious or even more so, than Dallas or Houston. There are just as many BMW yuppies here, but they consider themselves cooler since they dress like hipsters and eat organic food. Austin is a third rate city with delusions of grandeur. Lomax's description of the 6th street bar scene is completely accurate. Because of neighborhood associations it is very difficult to get a bar liquor license outside of 6th street corridor. So everything locates downtown and turns it into a slime-fest on weekends.

The so called art scene consists of crafts or bad blue bonnet paintings, masquerading as fine art. If Austin is such a creative mecca, where are the museums like Dallas and Houston? And what about a decent zoo? When you look at the cultural scene in Dallas and Ft. Worth (only 45 minutes away) and Houston, the Austin alternatives pale in comparison. It will never happen here because Austin is all about superficial, trendy bullshit and lacks substance. I recently visited Dallas for the first time in years and was surprised how much better intown traffic is than Austin. Yes the highways are bad, just like they are in Austin. But if you live inside the loop, then getting around was easy. Dallas is a pretentious city, but it has been one for so long that it handles it with more grace and less self aggrandizement than Austin. If I hear 'Only in Austin' one more time, I'll puke. Austin is the most noveau-trendy/riche city in America. Oh yeah and spare me the asinine replies that tell me to move back to Dallas, if I like it so much. I'm already in the process.

H_e_x
H_e_x

When people take themselves very seriously you know they are full of shit. Austin needs to get over itself, there are much better cities out there.

Hustletown
Hustletown

KEEP AUSTIN 178 MILES FROM HOUSTON!

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

"dial-a-curmudgeons"

OMG, I am retiring from journalism right now to pursue this business venture.

atx
atx

Here is a better title for above column

Cover Story: Lomax goes to NASA, Black fires back, and now i fire back

I am from Austin and Louis Black doesn't represent me or Austin.

Oh ya,  don't move here!

GW
GW

Austin Shmaustin--that NASA stuff sounds like a great experience. 

All Oiled Up and Ready to Go
All Oiled Up and Ready to Go

Cut off the oil/gasoline pipeline from here to Austin....we'll see how long they keep dissin' Houston and how soon they come crawling back to beg for what keeps them motoring around in their traffic snarls!  In fact, we should charge them double for their gasoline, just for being smug!   So Austin, you wanna go "green"?  Start walkin'!

Vintom Lebowski
Vintom Lebowski

Even in Austin the Hispanics have settled in other parts of the city too (far north, south)

Erehwonmai
Erehwonmai

Proto-yuppies, I like that one ... as for the neo-hippies & hipsters I'll go with the gawker.com term "fauxhemians"

Vintom Lebowski
Vintom Lebowski

There are some museums in Austin - namely the art museum at UT and the Museum of Modern Art in Downtown Austin.

There is the Austin Zoo, but it's in far west Austin and it's not a municipal zoo. It's a private "rescue" zoo.

There are some things "only in Austin" like "Hippie Hollow" (only public park in Texas that allows nudity) - But likewise there are things "only in Houston" and "only in Dallas" etc. every big city has its own quirks :)

JB
JB

Leave faster if you detest the city so much. I grow tired of hearing all the bitching and moaning from people, but when the opportunity arrives to get involved and make a change, you sit on your hands and spout misconceived monstrosities about my city (I can say that I've lived here since the day I was born). I pity you my friend, you lack the know-how and sophistication to understand and appreciate the many, many things about Austin that make it such a unique gem. We may have some issues with growth and development, however keep in mind we are essentially only about 35 years old and have grown so fast we are still catching up. Good riddance! Oh, and by the way, KEEP AUSTIN WEIRD!!

MrPlow
MrPlow

Dallas and Fort Worth are 45 minutes away from Austin? For most people it's a three hour trip. I guess it depends on how fast you drive.

brisketexan
brisketexan

Of course, I'ma gonna suggest that there may be a BIT of irony in the fact that in the Smugolympics, it might be a photofinish between some smug austinites and some smug Houstonians' self-righteous disparagement of Austin.  Smug is smug.  Ain't pretty on South Congress, ain't pretty on NASA Road 1.

Allison
Allison

Take a number sweetie, those of us with the bonafides aren't giving up our posts any time soon ;)

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

Austin's a nice town that's grappling with growing pains - which was what Lomax's article was about.

There's no need to be a dick.

brisketexan
brisketexan

As an austinite and old classmate of John's who tends to agree with most of the points he made in his article (Austin is a great town, but being in denial about our faults and limitations is a recipe for making this a not-great town in short order), I thought I should point out a material factual error in All Oiled Up's comment: the gasoline pipeline to Austin runs from Corpus Christi, not Houston.  Being smug IS pretty stupid.  Being smug and wrong . . . .

KG
KG

 I don't need lessons in 'sophistication' from a Austin Hillbilly. You probably grew up in small town Texas where the biggest cultural attraction was the Dairy Queen!

KG
KG

Dallas is 45 minutes away from Ft. Worth.

H_e_x
H_e_x

All im saying is that cities like Paris, Rio, and Bangkok are cooler to be than Austin. The world is big and life is too short to live in such a small, smug town.

All Oiled Up and Ready to Go
All Oiled Up and Ready to Go

Hmmmm....not trying to be....but I've been to Austin and they seem to think that we are lesser because we live next to refineries....just don't appreciate their attitude towards blue collar types who allow them to go shopping at Whole Foods

All Oiled Up and Ready to Go
All Oiled Up and Ready to Go

Metaphors are beyond you?  I'm a refinery brat.....there's really no "gasoline" pipeline...just big, big trucks that haul around gasoline....be careful who you call "wrong"....bet you don't even know what a "cat cracker" is!  There's a whole buncha people who could use energy education and seems like you're one of them....

H_e_x
H_e_x

Little late to the dance, aren't we?

Vintom Lebowski
Vintom Lebowski

But not everybody has the money to go that far. Even though there isn't an interstate between Austin and Houston, it's really easy to get between the two by car.

brisketexan
brisketexan

And I clearly didn't deny that -- expressly stating that the smug attitude of many Austinites is unseemly.  But you have to admit the irony -- in the battle of "what's the coolest thing to do?," "crapping on Austin" is doing all it can to pass up "crowing about Austin."  Being smug about Austin is a bit of a bandwagon thing -- and crapping on Austin is rapidly becoming a parallel bandwagon.  I prefer to go where I want, when I want, for my own reasons.  Let the idiots ride in the bandwagons.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Whatever floats your boat. You obviously really like Austin. Good for you. Any city has problems, I never said they didn't and to assume so doesn't make sense. But come on, Austin is becoming a stereotype.

brisketexan
brisketexan

As opposed to living in a BIG smug town.  Got it.  I mean, Bangkok and Rio don't have epic poverty, corruption, and pollution, Paris doesn't have any smug people (seriously, you're ranting against the ethos of smugness and you cite a French city to support your thesis?).  I think all those are great cities, by the way -- but they've got PLENTY of downside, too.  Give an educated person 15 seconds, and they can find significant flaws in ANY city.  That same person can also usually find significant charms in most cities. In some cities, those charms are easier to think of -- I suspect that most folks could come of with a list of "10 great things about Austin" much more quickly than they could make the same list about Lubbock, for example.  The overly smug attitude of many Austinites is unseemly, and has caused Austin to ignore many issues that it needs to address.  But those facts don't take away from the fact that there IS much to like about Austin, and it IS a great town.  Doesn't mean that it's "better" than someplace else -- that all depends on what you're looking for.  E.g., if you want world-class asian food and a dynamic economic climate, don't move here -- go to Houston or SF.  If you want a pleasant city that still has a pretty relaxed vibe, still something of a small-town feel (I never go anywhere that I don't bump into SOMEONE I know), and great natural beauty, Austin should make that list.  I don't see any reaon for any person to get their panties in a wad over it either way.

Vintom Lebowski
Vintom Lebowski

There are a few cases where Austinites said that Austin's better or something. I just say "I like both cities"

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

Yeah, but a lot of Austinites are kids from Pigsknuckle, TX who went there to go to school and settled down after they flunked out/graduated. Saying, "I'm sorry," doesn't necessarily mean "having an attitude about 'blue collar types'"

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

I have had Austinites say "Oh I am so sorry" when I have told them I live in Houston. It has happened twice, at least.

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

did anyone actually SAY these things to you? Or are you just so insecure that you're imagining that those mean old Austinites MIGHT say these things?

brisketexan
brisketexan

Oiled up, stop digging that hole -- and you might be wise not to question my oil patch credentials (cat crackers, christmas trees, cathodic protection -- and those are just some of the industry terms starting with "c" that we could have a chat about).  Don't take my word for it, check Koch's website, discussing the exact pipeline I was talking about:"Koch Pipeline also operates a refined-products pipeline system that transports gasoline, jet and diesel fuels from Corpus Christi to Flint Hills Resources’ terminals in San Antonio, Austin, Bastrop, Mustang Ridge, Waco and Fort Worth. "  Sounds like a gasoline pipeline to me.  And I think the tanker trucks who fill up at the Koch terminal here in Austin would agree.  But what do I know?  Guess I need some more energy educatin'.

Now Trending

Houston Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

Loading...