Lifestyle

13 Facts About Austin That Are Actually Straight-up Lies

Sorry, y'all, ATX is the live music capital of nowhere.

Shutterstock
Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Austin is an awesome city. The people are all-welcoming and cool. The outdoor spaces are green and we do Tex-Mex to an exceptional standard. But let’s be real, we’re no London, Paris, or even Houston. Austin’s a small city, with small-city charms. There are no big stats to blow your mind, downtown has become a cookie-cutter, and the most famous person from these sticks is actually Amber Heard (Willie Nelson is from Abbott-sorry, music fans). Nothing wrong with that, but still, government officials, PR firms, realtors, students, and your next-door neighbor feel the need to exaggerate the facts, so much so that most of us are left scratching our heads thinking “that can’t be true?” So, before you accidentally become one of those know-it-alls who actually know nothing, we’ve vetted 13 common facts echoed through town that are completely made up‚Ķ because if there’s one thing Austinites pride ourselves on is the truth. That’s why ‚ÄėAustin has more honest people per capita than anywhere in the world’ (oh come on!).

James Wong
James Wong
James Wong

Austin is the “Live Music Capital of the World¬ģ”

Had friends in town recently and told them that they just entered the live music capital of the world? Well, you just told your buddies a big fat lie. Our famous (and heavily marketed) city slogan is based on a one-time fact concluded by counting newspaper listings in 1991 that Austin had more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in America. No official study was conducted globally, and no additional proof has surfaced since. In fact, with much of the city being bulldozed for luxury apartments and artists being priced out of town, the slogan couldn’t stand more untrue today.

Visit Austin, Texas
Visit Austin, Texas
Visit Austin, Texas

Austin’s ‚Äėcompletely different’ to the rest of Texas

In the same way that major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, and Miami have unique attributes to the rest of their home state, Austin has special qualities that make it a desirable place to live and visit. However, often it’s referred to as a whole other place, one that isn’t even in Texas. Ironic as it’s the capital of Texas. To be fair, most people that say this mean it in a political sense; but fellow cities Houston, El Paso, Dallas, and San Antonio all share majority democratic values too. In a nutshell, Austin isn’t the only place where love is love, women’s rights are human rights, and where diversity is embraced in Texas.

Miss Congeniality
Miss Congeniality
Miss Congeniality

Austin was the set for Miss Congeniality

Truth wildly exaggerated. You may have watched dear Sandy’s 2000 classic over and over in a desperate attempt to spot Barton Springs or Antone’s to no avail. That’s because the film is actually set in San Antonio, which is why all their recognizable landmarks are in the spotlight. The crew trekked up to nearby Austin only to shoot interior scenes such as in the Bass Concert Hall for the pageant. So, while the film was indeed shot in Austin, it by no means showcased our best assets.

Shutterstock
Shutterstock
Shutterstock

The Texas flag is the only flag that can fly as high as the American flag

Everyone in Austin loves this fact. It’s even relayed during tours at the Capitol building. Right after they explain the origins of the name “Six Flags,” you’ll hear how Texas is afforded this right because we were an independent nation prior to admission into the United States. The problem is it isn’t true. The Texas flag is allowed to fly as high as the US flag, but so is every other state flag in the country.

Flickr/Brandon Watts
Flickr/Brandon Watts
Flickr/Brandon Watts

The UT Tower looks like an owl because it was designed by a Rice University graduate

The second thing you’ll get told on your first day in Austin is the tale of the owl building. According to seemingly every Austinite, a scorned Rice University (in Houston) grad later became an architect and constructed the university’s tower as a homage to Rice’s mascot (an owl) and as humiliation to Austin. The problem is UT’s tower was designed by Paul Cret, who was born in Lyon, France and graduated from the √Čcole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Flickr/Brandon Watts
Flickr/Brandon Watts
Flickr/Brandon Watts

The Frost Bank building looks like an owl because it was designed by a Rice University graduate

If you don’t hear the UT tower was built by a Rice grad, you’ll hear the same story applied to the Frost Bank Tower in Downtown. Look at those eyes. The Frost Bank tower was designed by Duda/Paine Architects, LLP and HKS, Inc., neither with Rice affiliations or agenda. Can we please put both of these to rest now, please?

Flickr/Ron Guest
Flickr/Ron Guest
Flickr/Ron Guest

Picking bluebonnets is illegal

The state flower of Texas, the bluebonnet, is a sight to see out in the hill country. Inevitably someone wants to stop to strike the perfect bluebonnet Instagram pose. One over-enthusiastic friend will chime in with the fact it is illegal to pick them. Well, it’s not. There is no Texas law that forbids the picking of bluebonnets unless you’re trespassing on private property. (But also maybe just don’t do it anyway, ‘kay?)

Flickr/M&R Glasgow
Flickr/M&R Glasgow
Flickr/M&R Glasgow

The Texas Capitol faces south to honor the Texas Revolution

This one also has two common sayings. The first is that Texas built the Capitol facing south as a snub to the Union. The other is that it faces south towards Goliad or the Alamo as a nod to remember both the Texas Revolution battle sites. Remember the Alamo! The fact is it’s built on high ground and to face the river.

Texas has the right to secede back to the Republic of Texas

Blame Rick Perry for this one. In a 2009 interview Perry let out, “When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we’d be able to leave if we decided to do that.” Our former gov was sadly mistaken, as Texas has no right to secede, no matter what our Lone Star cans say. We could try, but as we saw in 1861, it doesn’t turn out too well.

Flickr/Matthew Rutledge
Flickr/Matthew Rutledge
Flickr/Matthew Rutledge

The moon light towers were put up to find a serial killer

Back in the day there was a serial killer known as the “Servant Girl Annihilator.”¬†Rumor has it Austin put up moon light towers to help find the man responsible. Unfortunately, this isn’t true, as the towers weren’t erected until 10 years after the murders took place.

Flickr/Kevin Harber
Flickr/Kevin Harber
Flickr/Kevin Harber

Austin has the most bars per capita

Every hard-drinking town loves to tote this “fact.” You hear it in Brooklyn, Portland, and from residents of every other city who wants to prove how cool their town is. The fact is, Austin’s too small to have the most amount of anything per capita, let alone bars. Studies in recent years have pulled out Pittsburgh and San Francisco as the most bar-dense cities. No official surveys have featured Austin in their top 10.

Flickr/Joe McGowan
Flickr/Joe McGowan
Flickr/Joe McGowan

Bevo got his name because of an A&M prank

Bevo, the beloved mascot of the Longhorns, is often said to have gotten his name in a rather embarrassing way. Legend has it that after a 13-0 lost to A&M, some students branded the score into poor old Bevo. Embarrassed, UT students altered the branding to read “Bevo” by changing the “13” to a “B,” the “-” to an “E,” and inserting a “V” between the dash and the “0.” This is not true. While Bevo was actually branded, his name was acquired prior to the infamous prank.

Austin is weird

Throwing “just keeping it weird” after any of your questionable actions doesn’t make Austin weird. The town, when compared to many others in this country (we’re looking at you New Orleans), is fairly normal. Particularly with the recent influx of investment and growth, Austin’s “motto” is a lie. We’re cookie-cutter AF (especially downtown) lately with our Whole Foods, Soul Cycle, and back-to-back Marriott hotels. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that at all-we still love this town weird or not.

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James Wong is a contributor for Thrillist.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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