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The Austin Formula

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Understanding the magic / By Roy Spence

In previewing this wonderful edition of ATX Man, I was struck with the hypnotic, magical allure and draw of this city called Austin. As I pondered this cultural phenomenon, the same question kept calling me again and again. What is the magic formula of Austin? I first came to the Texas promised land as a kind of scared kid from Brownwood, TX. (And, by the way, Brownwood still feels like home to me.) I entered as a freshman at the University of Texas and began living the dream.

Those of you who went to UT in the late ’60s and ’70s also know that back then, there were distinct communities within the city: the city of Austin and the area encompassing the 40 Acres, Longhorn Stadium, The Drag, as well as neighboring Hippie Hollow and Armadillo World Headquarters. There was no Sixth Street or Fourth Street; Zilker Park was here, but it was a park. There was no ACL Festival, no Blues on the Green. In short, UT students hung out within the university community and knew little of the city of Austin. That has changed. The UT community is now one with the rest of Austin, as it should be.

As I travel across America, everywhere I go, I am asked, “Where are you from? Where do you call home?” I always pause then look them in the eye, tell them I am from Austin and wait for the same response every time: “Wow, Austin. I hear awesome things about it. My sister’s best friend lives there and I am like dying to get there. How are Willie and the boys? Got to get to ACL next year. Who is headlining this year? And hey, (slight punch to the arm), don’t mess with Texas. I hear there is a mobile-vending revolution down there. How’s the food? How’s the Longhorn Nation? Gonna kick your butt this year. Have you been hanging out on Sixth Street lately? Oh my gosh, South By Southwest is awesome. All my music, movie and tech bros live for it. When are Whole Foods and Alamo Drafthouse coming to my part of the world? And, wait a minute. This is nuts. But I hear (slight whisper) there is even going to be the first-ever Formula 1 racetrack built there. Crazy. Gotta keep Austin weird! Know what I mean? Can’t wait to take a dip in Barton Springs.”

And on and on and on. And yes, my second dad, big Red McCombs, and his band of epic entrepreneurs are indeed building the first ever Formula 1 racetrack and entertainment destination in the whole of the USA right here in Austin, TX. I got the chance to spend time with him and the team, then take the grand tour at the site. It is simply awesome in size and scope and dream. Classic McCombs. I love him so. So what is the magic formula for our one-of-a-kind city? There is not one. Although our high-tech dreamers can match up with the best, we don’t want to be the next Silicon Valley. People, when you try to be like something else, the best you will ever be is a worse them. Let’s simply be a better us. Forever young. No one is too good and everyone is good enough. Dreamers. Doers. Jumping off the building and building the wings on the way down. Creative. Tolerant. Talented. No limits. Longhorn Nation. ACL. South By Southwest. Formula 1. ATX Man. Last Word. Austin rocks. That’s the secret formula. Maybe you just have to live here and be a part of it all to really understand the magic.

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