Last night, the members of the Austin Critics Table were kind enough to induct me into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame, along with Annette Carlozzi, Donald Grantham, Stanley Hall and Steve Saugey.
During his gracious introduction, Austin Chronicle arts editor Robert Faires reminded folks of my first Front Page story back in 1993 when I reported that the local arts groups attracted more patrons than did all University of Texas athletic events put together.
"To be fair," I responded onstage, "the Longhorns were losing back then. My timing was right."
Here is the acceptance speech in its entirety: "To my fellow inductees, congratulations, honors much deserved. To the critics, thank you, honor much appreciated. To my husband of 22 years, Kip, I love you. To our precious, gorgeous Austin arts community, keep up the good work. Make us proud."
That works for an already long awards show. Other reflections were inevitable and belong on this blog.
Two evenings previous, I sat next to a thoughtful young man who had earned an advanced degree from a top American university. He holds down a swell job downtown and lives in a desirable near-in neighborhood very close to pretty parks and scores of singular Austin eateries and shops. He’s walking distance from downtown, right next to the most efficient bus route in the city.
Yet he is convinced that his quality of life is declining.
I was genuinely perplexed and peppered him with questions. Later, I realized what I had missed. Because he felt a diminishing quality of life, for him, it’s real.
Psychologists and medical doctors tell us that a persistent state of mind alters the chemistry of the brain. A biological event has occurred. Reality is manifest.
It’s like Austin traffic. I know it exists. I’ve seen pictures. People talk about it.
But I don’t experience bad traffic but once or twice annually because I don’t get in a car and take certain thoroughfares at certain hours of the day. Doesn’t mean people are not right to complain about what they are experiencing.
Here’s my reality, if you want to know: I fall in love with Austin every day when I leave our bungalow — not far from other other dinner guest’s — and head downhill to the social center of the city.
I cherish our arts, music, movies, fashion, sports, media, museums, nightlife, eateries, shops and parties.
I sing the praises of Great Streets, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, the State Capitol and the University of Texas campus. I linger over the reflections on Lady Bird Lake and the arcing green hills along the horizon.
It might take me a while to tear myself away from the book and the couch each evening, but as soon as I hit the social circuit by entering a room full of Austinites, I’m delighted.
These people are worth knowing! Blame my brain chemistry.
Most of all, I’m grateful for those who devote their hands and hearts to make sure that those less lucky than Kip and I have a place at the banquet that is Austin. They are the real heroes. I’m not talking about the sour sorts who leave abusive comments at the end of blogs — yes, I know they are coming — that my observations are squishy or myopic or culturally skewed.
Instead, I’m referring to the Austinites — New or Old — who make a difference in the lives of others every day. I salute you.