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Weird Austin — The Bohemian Heart of Texas

Known as a blue oasis, in a big red state, Austin is liberal and definitely offbeat. Even the affluence of the high tech boom of the 90’s has failed to alter its eccentric character. Bumper stickers and tie dyed T-shirts all make the same plea …Keep Austin Weird. One cannot spend any length of time in Austin and not become aware that the area south of the Colorado River has retained much of the city’s old time funk … in other words, there’s just a lot more weirdness in South Austin. Like the song of the Sirens luring Jason and Odysseus, South Austin kept beckoning us to return. Click here to better understand the phenomenon known as South of the River Bubbadom.

(Note: You can click on most photos on this page and the next for a larger view.)

We were constantly looking up as we walked along South Congress, because many of the businesses have great signs and sculptures attached to their roofs and storefronts. One would have to have a heart of stone not to love a zebra dressed up like Carmen Miranda on the costume shop Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds.

Cross the river from downtown and we entered a whole different environment … the trendy South Congress Avenue District. Known locally as SoCo, its part funky, part artsy, part trendy and definitely qualifies as Austin weird. It was fun strolling down this popular avenue with its cutting-edge boutiques, curiosity shops, eateries and clubs.  We were lucky enough to be here on the first Thursday of the month. This is when SoCo is at its best … thousands of folks come out to socialize, galleries and stores stay open late and the street is full of vendors and artist selling their wares and bands play on the sidewalks.

The vintage shop Uncommon Objects with its cowboy made out of muffler, riding a giant rabbit is a local legend.

We couldn’t’ help but notice that Austin has what can only be described as a cupcake fetish. All over town bakery display cases are chock full of colorfully decorated cupcakes. We loved the Cupcake Airstream on SoCo … at times there were dozens of folks ready to step up and make their sweet selection.

A sense of humor on display in Weird Austin. Be sure to ask for the key.

We couldn’t pass up going into the Big Top candy emporium and admiring its vintage circus posters, ephemera ... and candy!

The more we looked around ... the weirder it became. There is just no explanation for this display behind the counter.

We loved the graphic on the side of Roadhouse Relics located in South Austin’s Bouldin Creek area.

The Bouldin Creek area is another funky and eccentric South Austin neighborhood. With its Mexican bakeries, “revolutionary” bookstores, tattoo parlors, art galleys, various cafes and community-action oriented coffeehouse; it seems to have become a stronghold of the “Keep Austin Weird” movement. Homes are small and every street is unique … and yes, Bouldin Creek runs through the area.

Our favorite shop in Bouldin Creek was Roadhouse Relics … a place that gives a whole new meaning to the word unique. Here Todd Sanders, artist extraordinaire, designs and manufactures vintage looking neon signs and graphics. He has perfected weathering techniques that make each sign appear to be 50 years old. The list of movies and publications that have featured his neon signs and art is impressive. What was even more impressive was Todd’s generosity in spending time talking with us. He showed us his current project … a neon sign that was soon to be photographed and used on the cover of the LA Times Sunday magazine.

Future projects wait for Todd behind the shop.


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Is it weird in here, or is it just me?

— Steven Wright —