Austin, Texas. Ground zero of all thing cool, hip, and lit. Once a haven to keeping things "weird", Austin is an overdeveloped maze of access roads and ever-expanding expressways of gluttonous growth. Remember, everything is BIGGER in Texas. I was curious how a GIANT flag would be received. My stay in the Austin area was part old friend reunion and new friend cultivation. Many thanks to Erin Cunningham & Keith and Sue for their gracious Texas hospitality!
When you drive around a giant American flag, you get some attention that you might not expect. While I was in Memphis I met Keith Wojcik. A sizable fella who teaches welding at a technical college outside Austin, Keith was really taken by my project. He exclaimed, "We need more guys like you who love America, willing do whatever it takes to get that message out." Of course I was grateful for his enthusiasm, as he continued, "When you come to Austin, look me up. I want you to talk to my students." "Sure," I replied, thinking maybe I would try and not lose his card. Six weeks later I'm thinking "Who do I know in Austin?" and sure enough I hadn't lost his card. I called Keith up, he remembered me and said he needed to check with his wife, Sue. He called back the next day and said, "Come on." Upon getting into town and finding their home in Round Rock, I met Mrs. Sue Wojcik. Sue was quite and shrewdly looked me over. As I explained what the project was about, she began to warm and explained that she thought she was a pretty good judge of character. With that she extended a key to her house and said "goodnight". As my stay went on, Sue took to me, sharing stories of her life and their retirement plans. I was tremendously grateful to be given the homestyle treatment to a weary road traveler. I look forward to seeing Keith and Sue again someday soon.
Keith took me to the technical college where he teaches welding. This school teaches hands on subjects like HVAC, construction management, and produces certified welders. I don't think technical colleges normally host politically charged touring artworks, but Keith brought everyone out to share the project, which was greatly received. I watch the faces of the youthful Texas boys as they approached the flag parked among all varieties of tricked out pickup trucks. I proceeded with my pitch, explaining my purpose and tour, as the group got more numerous, but no one was stepping up. Keith had recruited many of the instructors and administrators to come outside and participate also, where they quickly set the example of what to do. This loosened up the kids, but many of them had slipped around to the backside of the flag to share their thoughts in private. Many of their expressions reflected their experience; white, male, fortunate, republican, maybe a little sheltered, but who really has a grip on national politics at 20 years old? There were some ingrained attitudes, but they were gracious to share their thoughts and I suspect I made an impression, even if I was outside their normal universe.
My second stop was in the heart of Austin at Barton Springs. Not knowing exactly what I would find in Barton Springs, I got down there early and cruised around. About the only place to squeeze in the rig was at the Picnic Park, a cluster of food trucks gathered around a group of picnic tables. I figured I'd get the lunchtime crowd, which I did see a crowd, but I didn't get one person to participate in 3 hours. Maybe the saturation of election politics in our media had calloused some folks over, or maybe they only had an hour for lunch and didn't want to waste any time. I don't know. What I do know that when someone speaks to you, you generally make some attempt to express something back at them. This did not happen to me. I used my usual pitch and nothing, no looks, no smiles, no interest at all. I was staring to think I set up in the stuck-up part of town. Nobody would even look my way, which is hard to do when you have a GIANT flag. Maybe these Austinites were so use to Austin being "weird" that they simply ignore that which is outside their comfort zone. Maybe they make so much money they feel no need to be polite when a stranger talks to them. I am not sure what the problem was, but with no interaction in 3 hours, it was time to go. The road is too long for hanging out.