My pal Stingray is the only one of my old St. Louis posse to have finally come to her senses and decided to move to Austin. She’s staying here at the Twisty Bungalow until she finds an apartment.
Apartment hunting has caused Stingray no small anguish, for Austin, though excellent in nearly all other respects, will never win an Apartment Housing Beauty Contest. Unlike the palatial turn-of-the-century hardwood-stained-glass manses available for peanuts in the otherwise undesirable Midwest, Austin rental properties in Stingray’s price range tend to be stuffy little cubicles in blighted ghettos, called "complexes," which are long, low 2-story buildings inspired largely by 70′s-era cheap motel design, crammed with miniscule and identical "units." Typically these buildings sprawl over acres of landscape, converge somewhere on the horizon at the vanishing point of which is an algae-tinted swimming pool, and are built of spit and Kleenex. The inhabitants of the units are referred to as a "community." The units have 6-foot ceilings, beige carpeting, heinous galley kitchens the size of postage stamps, mold, and 70′s-era "design" details, such as fleur-de-lis-embossed particle-board cabinetry. It’s a good thing they’re only 400 square feet, because if they were any larger the sheer breadth of their hideosity would render the spinster aunt/aesthete unconscious.
The most vile apartment complex we have visited so far was in East Austin off of Oltorf, a nasty putrefaction of unfettered cheesiness percolating across a couple of the saddest acres you’ve ever seen. This complex was, and presumably still is, called The Metropolis, poetically subtitled on the brochure "City of Dreams." Some psychopath who has deeply misunderstood the "Keep Austin Weird" campaign has remodeled it to be "hip" by installing cheap light fixtures from Ikea (which they call "art deco lighting") and covering the exteriors of all the buildings in a sort of half-assed graffiti. I wept when I saw it.
There is a "clubhouse" dubbed "Club Met," of which we were given a tour by the 22-year-old apartment manager, a whiteboy jackass in flip-flops named Blaine of whom I immediately began to form a low opinion based on nothing but my aversion to jackasses named Blaine. Blaine showed us the "resort-style pool" and beach volleyball courts. Stingray, already somewhat pale, blanched visibly. "Everybody here," Blaine announced, to the tastefully introverted Stingray’s mounting horror, " knows everybody else, and when someone throws a kegger, pretty much everyone just shows up!"
"Bands practice here, we’ve got artists," he continued, "basically, we’ve got lots of diversity." Apparently, to young Blaine, a tribe of young white stoners constitutes lots of diversity.
Our ditzy big-haired apartment-hunting agent–did I forget to mention her? Probably that’s because she kept calling everybody "sweetie" and I had formed a low opinion of her, too– was clearly taken with the MTV allure of young Blaine and the Spring Break Apartments. She expressed to Blaine her keen interest in moving into The Metropolis herself. "What’s the average age of the apartment dwellers?" she enquired, although I don’t think "apartment dwellers" was the exact term she used. With blazing speed Blaine gave her the once-over, correctly assessed her age at something near 45, computed her fuckability, and said, in a discouraging tone, "well, there’s one guy who’s around 50, I guess…"
Update: Stingray, I am pleased to announce, has since found suitable digs in Central East Austin, where I am sure she will be very happy, because after all, she is finally in Texas, goddammit, and I pity anyone who isn’t.