Just a walk down a main street and then a side street–and I was already not wanting to leave. We move back down to Austin in five days, and I had just finished unloading a preliminary carload of stuff this morning. I was getting ready to head back up to Waco, but had to run an errand and look for some breakfast. It’s silly, I know, to feel this way about a place you’ve already lived for thirteen years–and before, you knew all of the best and worst Austin has to offer, which hasn’t changed that much. And it could be that I am really just tired with Waco, and can’t ever be completely happy anywhere I live. But, for whatever it’s worth–Austin, like any other city or town, has its own personality that you can feel almost instantly when you arrive in the downtown area. You can walk around downtown Waco and the Baylor campus, and you will have a completely different feeling than you would in say, a comparably sized town like Columbia, and certainly a different feeling than you get from Austin.
It’s hard to put my finger on what it is, but I would like to think that people really can and do give off vibes of how they feel. If the majority of people living in an area are uptight about seeing strangers come to their town, or angry about progress and changes, you can sense it without necessarily having any of it directed at you. People seem to be happier in places like SF and NYC, because those cities have been flooded with money and tourists. The poorer people struggling with survival have been pushed to the margins (literally and otherwise). So, of course, you sense more happiness being projected from people around you. The same goes for Austin, really, though I would say that at least some of the tension around pushing hard to make the next buck isn’t as strong there, and the happiness vibe comes off as a bit more genuine.
The feeling can be utterly deceptive. You might think that you are living in a totally open and accepting place, only to discover that many of its individuals aren’t even close to being that way. The vibe or energy, then, is an aggregate of the overall population. People are happier in Austin than they are in Waco. People are happier in Columbia, Missouri than they are in Waco. I can say this without having talked to even a modest statistical sampling, solely based on how I feel after walking down one of the downtown streets.
Such a bold assertion is delivered with tongue and cheek. Of course, I am not hooked up to the vibes or energy of the city–I am caught up in the moment of being happy to be living within walking distance of an art museum–even a small one like the Blanton.