Posts Tagged 'West campus'

Thank you, Austin, for Enabling My Curry Addiction

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Saul Elbein, and I’m addicted to curry. It’s taken me a long time to get to a point where I could admit that, but it’s true.

It wasn’t so bad at first. I’d go to someplace like Madam Mam’s and sometimes I’d order a Yellow Curry. Not always, mind. Sometimes I’d order Pad Thai, or Pad Kee Mao, or any kind of other noodle dish. And they were good. They were always good. But looking back, I have to admit, every time I did, I felt a little pang in my heart. Because it wasn’t curry.

But I was doing okay. I really was. It was too expensive for me to go that often. So most of the time I ate normal, healthy things, like pizza or hamburgers. Things that could be found in the line at Kinsolving or Jester dining hall.

And then my friend Mauro turned me on to Thai Noodles House, Etc. Tucked away behind the 7-11 at 26th and the Drag, with an incomprehensible menu, cheap plastic tables, and a staff that spoke neither English nor the language of basic human kindness, it was capital-A Authentic. Best of all, probably since they cut so many corners on their health policy, it was capital-C Cheap.

Or to put this in the drug terms you can all understand, Thai Noodle was crack to Madam Mam’s cocaine.

So I started going there a lot. I’d order a Massaman curry, no rice, slurp it down while the waitress was still standing there, glaring. Then sometimes I’d order another.

I stopped seeing friends and family. Girls would complain that I always smelled like ginger and coconut milk. Those were the bad days. When I saw friends, it would only be at Thai Noodle. If they wanted pizza or a sandwich, I’d say goodbye and traipse off behind the 7-11, alone with my shame.

Looking back, now, I realize that the low point was when I pawned my roommate’s TV for curry money. I bought an industrial size bin—Red curry cut with Panang. I know you’re not supposed to mix, but I was beyond caring. I ate it all in one epic twelve hour binge, my eyes tearing up from hot sauce and ecstasy.

Those were the bad days. Then I moved away, to the far end of West Campus, at 22nd and David Street, far from the Thai Row of 26th and the Drag.

Then Crave opened at 21st. At first, I tried to avoid it. I’d walk blocks out of my way so I wouldn’t have to walk past it, wouldn’t have to smell the succulent, sweet-sour aromas wafting over the Drag.

Until one day I was late for class. I passed by and—well, I want to say that the smell crawled into my room and forced me to skip class, to walk into Crave and put down all the money I had on Yellow Curry, extra spicy. But I’ve learned, by now, that that’s just me refusing to take responsibility for my own actions.

So I stand before you, today, to beg you. Close the Thai restaurants. Why must West Campus have three within four blocks of each other? This is a clear and present danger to the students of Austin. Maybe if we can take a stand now, they’ll go back to safer things, like alcohol, or chocolate, or LSD.

Also, to be on the safe side, we should probably close Pho too.

Thanks for your consideration.

Very Truly Yours,

Saul Elbein

High-Rises Suck

Here’s an idea, okay? Let’s say you’re a developer, right, and you want to make a lot of money by building in West Campus. You know college students and their parents, so used to substandard, below-code housing, will gladly pay a-lotsa, lotsa money for a nice, pretty high-rise. You know, someplace with a gate, and a nice paint job, and whatnot. Some place tall and high-density, so we can pack in lots of students, maybe make room for a pool on the roof.

Luckily for you, the city of Austin has rezoned West Campus to allow you to throw up (if you will) all kinds of new high-rises. Now you can charge $1700 for a two bedroom, poorly made apartment. And lo and behold, people pay it. Frat boys and sorority girls, flush with their parents money–of course, you expected that. But also other people. People who want to live somewhere nice. Or that looks nice, at least, when you show it to them.

And so the arms race starts. I see you making money, and I want in. So I by some land and throw up my own. Someplace like The Block (25th Street, 28th Street, et al) or The Texan (Salado, 25th and Pearl), or Stirling, or Quarters, or Jefferson 26. And so within two years, West Campus is filled with high-rises. Gleaming and sterile, they stretch to the sky from the Drag to Lamar, popping against the sky in bolts of creamy paint.

Except you’ve made a mistake. It’s no one’s fault, really, just a law of economics. It’s called a collective action problem, or the tragedy of the commons. None of us big-money developers wants housing prices in West Campus to crash. But we all have every incentive to throw up as many high-rises as possible. More money, right? So it should come as no surprise to find that we’ve over-saturated the market. And that $1700 you used to be getting from that two-bedroom? Well, now it’s more like $1400. Or less.

Now, we might say, okay, so we’re back where we started. The neighborhood is full of cheap housing. So far, so good.

Except that it’s not. Because what used to be an actual, um, what’s the word, ‘neighborhood,’ with actual houses and whatnot, is now a sea of identical beige monstrosities. They’re ugly, they’re poorly made, they have no character.

So thank you, developers. You’ve made my neighborhood suck just a little bit more.