Sex Pistols Tourists

Effing Millennials

Killing time before the board meeting — for Worth Repeating, a Texas Public Radio storytelling project — the twenty-something next to me explained in great detail some factoid that had caught her interest. She’d researched the shit out of it online, she explained, “because, well, I’m a millennial.”

Later, I tried to remember if I’d ever explained any action of mine by saying “because I’m a Gen-Xer.” Had anybody born between 1965 and 1980 said that?

“I maintain this annoying pose of ironic detachment because, well, I’m a Gen-Xer.”

No Country for Old Men speaks to me in a profound way because I’m Gen-Xer.”

“I robbed the Seven-Eleven because I was bored and wanted to buy weed, which is another way of saying because I’m a Gen-Xer.”

Probably not. But I don’t know. Maybe.

I remember where I was when I heard Kurt Cobain was dead. I devoured the emptiness and nihilism of Bret Easton Ellis’s all-too-often crappy writing. I would never, ever, ever presume to speak for “my generation.” In fact, I would never say “my generation,” except with a smirk and air quotation marks.

This is my favorite knock-knock joke:

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Greg.

Greg who?

Greg Jefferson.

What I find most eerie about millennials is their messianic togetherness — their sense that they are part of a generation with its own values, sensibility, ethos. I’m convinced these kids have been knitted together by the Internet, like the victims in those icky Human Centipede movies.

I’m surely not the only middle-age customer who feels like they need to bring their passport to buy a latte at Local Coffee at the Pearl.

I think that’s one of the major reasons people in, you know, my age range are so down on millennials (born between 1981 and 2000). It’s true. When the conversation among Gen-Xers turns to the youngsters, you’d think their proper name is “Fucking Millennials,” and that the correct pronunciation requires an eye roll.

That’s not true of everybody in my age range, just as it’s not true that every millennial is a smiling agent of gentrification. Some Gen-Xers bought into Whitney Houston’s dangerous belief that children are our future. Others are age traitors who get super-psyched trying to figure out the best way to sell goods and services to these youngsters. Still others feed vampirically off the life force of the young. I recently saw a guy in his late-forties or early-fifties skateboarding at the Pearl. Vans, cargo shorts, tight fashionable tee, and a strong aversion to garlic and wolfsbane.

Then there are the ones who find Gen-X too barren, you know…. spiritually, I guess. Whatever.

When the conversation among Gen-Xers turns to the youngsters, you’d think their proper name is “Fucking Millennials,” and that the correct pronunciation requires an eye roll.

I assume it’s mostly Gen-Xers — the youngster wannabees, detractors, and defenders — who are commissioning and conducting the many tons of research on millennials. On their spending habits, why and how frequently they vote, their views on LGBT inclusion, their love of mass transit (of course), their rejection of organized religion and embrace of magic, etc., etc. Here’s some of the latest research.

As an aside, self-absorbed Baby Boomers didn’t want to know much about Generation X, though after we began taking over the financial markets, they probably wondered how deep our greed and selfishness ran. Answer: see The Great Recession. (Worth noting: the highest goal of the Gen-X protagonists in The Big Short, both the book and movie, was to make money off the housing bubble, not to protect ill-informed, semi-delusional homeowners.)

Anyway, I’m glad we’re learning everything we can about millennials. For their part, they’re not at all surprised the world is endlessly fascinated with them. Their parents made clear to them just how special they were. So they’re going to answer every survey question put to them, for the good of us all. Which works out beautifully. We need to know what we’re in for as they seize power in business, our civic and educational institutions, and government.

Leonardo-DiCaprio-and-Kat-009
Rose was a model Gen-Xer. She could have shared the door with Jack — it was big enough — but she didn’t want to.

It’s already happening in San Antonio.

After an extensive nation-wide search for a new CEO, the directors of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation selected a 29-year-old executive from CPS Energy. Tech Bloc, which represents S.A. technology companies, which means speaking on behalf of a bunch of millennials, is establishing itself as an agenda-setter, starting with its role in bringing rideshare back to San Antonio. The youngsters are also raising their hands for appointments to government boards and commissions and nonprofits, and running for school board seats.

We’re not talking generational warfare here. People my age, by and large, never enlisted. With San Antonio’s Old Guard of business, civic, and political leaders either leaving or preparing to leave the stage, the question asked incessantly is who’s going to replace them, besides maybe Graham Weston (who technically lives in New Braunfels) and Lew Moorman?

We don’t really buy into the whole idea of “community” or believe much in the possibility of “improving” said community.

Millennials believe in both, and they feel entitled to lead.

I guess I have to resign myself to following because, well, I’m a Gen-Xer.

 

 

 

I Live in SA’s Hollywood ‘Hood

I’m one of the luckier homeowners in my Northwest Side neighborhood. At least my star is still lodged in the collective memory.

I live on Cary Grant Drive.

My less fortunate neighbors’ houses sit on Ernie Kovak Drive, Edie Adams Drive, and a dozen or so other streets named for actors only senior citizens remember.

But the neighbors who have it the worst are the ones who live on streets named after TV and movie characters, instead of the people who played them. As an exercise in empathy, imagine having to say, “I live at  1234 Gomer Pyle Drive” when a clerk asks for your address at the bank or the DMV.

The very worst? Charlie Chan Drive.

My subdivision, Oak Hills Terrace, was built around 1974. If the developer had waited another three years or so to break ground, my family and I could have lived on John Travolta Drive or Darth Vader Drive. Then again, it could as easily have been Telly Savalas Drive or Bo “Bandit” Darville Drive. There’s a lesson here for our city about renaming streets or public facilities for people with a shaky claim on posterity.

But I don’t really think much about that. I’ve lived in San Antonio for 16 years, but as a native midwesterner, I still have a hard time getting excited about clashes over local history and street and building names.

Instead, I’m preoccupied with the feeling that San Antonio’s long, complicated, sometimes violent, always fascinating history ended with my neighborhood. Developers took over from there.

Overly simplistic, sure. But the last I checked, the world revolved around me and, by extension, my neighborhood.

Oak Hills Terrace materialized a little north of Loop 410 as the South Texas Medical Center, which is a mile or so to the east, took off and just six years after HemisFair touched off the city’s downtown transformation.

The Med Center is my marker when describing to people where I live.

Every morning, when my wife and I walk our two dogs, we arrive at the top of the hill on Cary Grant Drive. In front of us, the hospitals and medical office buildings that make up the Med Center float over the cluster of trees that separate our subdivision from the next one. As we descend the hill, the buildings sink into a green ocean.

When I tell people about my neighborhood, that’s my mental image. They, in turn, probably picture boxy little houses on the lots that are a sliver of an acre. Which is correct but deficient…  Mofo.

Not that it could be otherwise; the Jefferson-Van Dusen homestead looks from the outside like thousands upon thousands of others. I have a strong feeling that nobody is going to study San Antonio’s residential architecture of the early-to-mid 1970s.

The city’s political and cultural scenes were something else.

Describing San Antonio in 1974 as dynamic is like calling Donald Trump a bit nutso. The Good Government League, the Anglo business-civic group that had run the city for nearly two decades, was splintering and sputtering, well on the way to its collapse two years later. Chicano activism was blazing. Communities Organized for Public Service was beginning to raise hell, fighting for historically neglected neighborhoods’ share of city resources.

The developer of Oak Hills Terrace turned his back on all that. He created an oasis of reasonably-priced housing on what was then the far North Side, and named its streets to remind buyers of frothy moments in movie theaters or in front of the TV, which of course could’ve happened anywhere. (I’m waiting for the developer who will name the streets in his subdivision after porn stars or YouTube celebrities.)

He tried to build a comfy harbor for white flight, though it didn’t hold up over the years — my neighborhood is fairly diverse. Maybe the cheesy street names also made newcomers to San Antonio feel more at home, or the place at least less foreign.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather live on Cary Grant than Whispering Oak or Whispering Elm or Whispering Hackberry or Forest Breeze or Gentle Field of Flowers. At least Cary was real, as far as I know. But clearly none of these names have the weight — the baggage and the cachet — of a Guadalupe or Commerce or Walters.

Sometimes I think of San Antonio as two crates, one stacked on the other. They kind of form a whole, like the North Side and the rest of San Antonio form a whole, but they’re not connected. The crates have a hard time relating to one another, and only on very rare occasions do the crates visit one another.

San Antonio’s balkanization stemmed from a lot of the overlapping factors — the highway system, Anglos’ exodus from the center city and a troubled SAISD, available land on the North Side, the political influence of developers, and infrastructure spending that encouraged sprawl.

This, too, and everything it implies:IMG_0838

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gay Communist Gun Club Rides Again

Please Shut Up About Austin

 

Two weeks ago, Austinites said “screw you” to Uber. Knowing the rideshare company and its smaller competitor, Lyft, would likely bolt if they rejected a rollback of the City of Austin’s regulations, voters said no anyway.

Uber lost the referendum because voters detested the company’s strong-arm campaign tactics, which brought into sharp focus just how arrogant and strong-armed its business tactics have been.

But I’m going to exercise my blogger’s prerogative and offer up another, deeper reason, without any evidence whatsoever.

Many of the voters who rejected Uber’s ultimatum were fired up by the frustration of living in Austin these days. They are tired of the traffic that’s wasting more of their time and creating more air pollution. Their neighborhoods are being overrun by newcomers with little history in Austin and no sense of the place. As their homes value rise, their property taxes eat up more of their money.

For Austinites on the margins — most musicians and artists, servers and bartenders, hotel workers, and mechanics — the city has become hostile territory.

The reality of Austin is increasingly at odds with natives’ memories of Austin.

What’s changed is that Austin’s one of the big deals in the information economy. Apple, Google, and Facebook operate there. So do Ebay/Paypal, Oracle, Silicon Laboratories, and Applied Materials. San Antonio companies such as Rackspace Hosting and the cybersecurity firm Denim Group have a presence there because they need to access the city’s tech talent — it’s still way harder to come by in SA.

The impact of this growth shows most dramatically in Austin’s housing statistics. The city’s median home value last year was $227,800, according to the U.S. Census. San Antonio’s median? Just a shade more than half that — $114,600.

An aside: we’re hearing that San Antonio is a “city on the rise” much less often these days, for a few reasons. The biggest is that then-Mayor Julian Castro took off to fulfill his real ambition — to make Julian Castro a true national Democrat. Whatever the reasons, I’m glad “city on the rise” as a brand is withering away. I suspected that, to the people who repeated COTR ad nauseam, San Antonio would look an awful lot like Austin when it stopped rising.

Not that that’s even possible. Technological preeminence is not in San Antonio’s DNA.

Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City, published in September, gives a good historical rundown of Austin’s exceptionalism. It started after the Civil War with Austin leaders keeping tenement housing and other kinds of public housing out of their city. They didn’t want factory workers mucking up the place. Factory owners got the hint, and manufacturing never became a major part of the local economy.

Attempts to exclude the great unwashed didn’t stop there. 

“Historically, there has been a consistent failure on the part of city actors to make affordable housing a necessary part of urban growth in Austin,” wrote the authors of Invisible in Austin, which profiles 11 people struggling to survive their city’s economic boom.

Austin’s development was anchored in the University of Texas and state politics and government. From there, you get the idea — brain power, research capacity, and the rise of “the creative class.” It’s a short jump to tech Mecca.

And to Tesla Model S sedans cruising down Congress Avenue, the best concoctions that mixology has to offer, and glitzy condo highrises overlooking a city whose culture is under new management.

Uber and Lyft were at the heart of it all. They made up the transit system for the new elite.

On May 7, Austinites stuck with more of the downside than upside finally had a chance to act collectively, and they did a William F. Buckley Jr. They stood athwart history yelling “Stop!”