I’ve been infesting the Zilker neighborhood in North South Austin for quite a while, but I never take for granted that the tumbledown bungalows, a vast expanse of’em stretching as far as the eye can see, are pullulating with world-class eccentrics. I base this assessment on the goofiness of the crap they put out in their front yards. The natives’ rebellion against the authority of taste is the best thing about the whole zip code.
I more or less revel in this subversive live-and-let-live ethos. I’m afraid my exile in St. Louis scarred me for life. I lived in a yuppie ghetto of uptight liberals where a rigid orthodoxy of "neighborhood standards" was enforced by an Association. Its members — my neighbors — were a bunch of stuck-up passive-aggressive honkys who worshiped quaint historical anachronism. They’d been able to buy their beautiful turn-of-the-century three-story red brick mansions for a song because the neighborhood was surrounded on all sides by poor black people. Thinking of themselves as urban pioneers in much the same way that Columbus fancied he had "discovered" America, they stuck "Celebrate Diversity!" bumperstickers on their Camrys and embarked on charming gentrification projects. Such as preventing a charity group from opening a women’s shelter nearby, and getting the basketball hoop removed from the tiny local park because it attracted scary poor black kids.
That Association. They were quite the class-conscious jive-turkeys.
In addition to ethnic cleansing, the Association also enforced community conformity. There was a rulebook, based on a compendium of Martha Stewart magazines, from which deviation was not permitted. Here’s how it worked: instead of calling you up and saying, "hey, your garbage can is always blocking my driveway, knock it off!" your neighbors would rat you out to the Association. If your grass got too long or if your paint was starting to peel or if your garage had a hole in the roof, the neighbors would rat you out. If you painted your front door lime green or if you didn’t rake your leaves for stupid House Tour Weekend or if your drunk bandmates had sex on your lawn at 3 in the morning, the neighbors would rat you out. Those goddam neighbors were as ratty a bunch of diversity-celebrating stoolies as ever swigged a decaf Frappuccino.
Once you’d been ratted out, the Association would send you a threatening letter (or in my case, lots of letters) that read "Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated." They would "take legal action" if you didn’t "correct" your weeds/dogs/sexy bandmates in 30 days.
I never actually saw any of the Association’s henchmen. They worked by stealth, under cover of morning.
It should come as no great surprise that this perennial butting-into of the personal edifice by an amorphous, unseen authority lost no time in chapping the Twisty hide, and sorely. I doubt if anyone has ever breathed a deeper sigh of relief than I did when, having finally made good my escape, I disembarked the stagecoach at the corner of Bluebonnet and Lamar in South Austin and fell into the waiting arms of the giant taco lady.
Which is why I am now so pleased, on my morning perambulations with the dog Zippy, to take in such sights as I took in this morning, which, for your convenience, I have reproduced below as visual aids.
Caution: if you belong to an Association, these pictures are too horrible for your delicate eyes.
Pictured is only a fraction of the wooden parrots nailed to this tree
This super-crappy eyesore-boat belongs to a nationally known musician
This yard has been covered in black plastic for over a year, without explanation
The Great Creepy Tiki Head of Barton Hills