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Stupid question time:

Saturday, 6 October, 2007

Several years ago folks inclined to “go out” would start hitting the “entertainment district” and similar regional spots about 9 or 10 in the evening. “Things” started “swinging” about 11 as everybody arrived at their final destination. My crowd traditionally met a particular adult-beverage oriented establishment earlier in the evening, sometimes as early as 7 PM but usually closer to 9, then headed out to the evening’s destination (art show, dance club, dance hall, &c.) thereafter. The end of the night in Austin was geared around Last Call which by statute is at 1:45 AM. That is, service of alcoholic beverages ends at 2 AM.

On very rare occasions, one club or another would stay open “after hours”, usually unannounced although two places which come to mind (Area 52, Atomic) wouldn’t start throwing people out until 3:30. By Austin standards that is very, very late.

Watching traffic patterns, you can tell when people are coming in. The first flood would be about midnight as the first to arrive were the first to come home. The next flood came just after two as the masses were making their way home. Stragglers were rare and sufficiently anomalous I could never establish a trend.

Assumption: Any vehicle carrying people, presumably under-30 in going-out clothes with club-related music playing, are just coming in if on the road after midnight. Similarly, any vehicle carrying two people or two couples who share body language communicating they don’t know one another are also assumed to be just coming in, if out after midnight.

These days, the first wave may come before 11 but blends in with existing traffic, or the people I notice are still on their way to their destination. This may not be establishable, or may not be happening. The first clear wave of those returning comes about 1 AM. The next wave comes, as expected, following Last Call, around 2:30. The unexpected part I have noticed lately are an unanticipated number of people apparently just coming in after 6 or when I am coming home from the plant and other mornings when I am wandering around. I started noticing this trend about Springtime. As of this morning I am sufficiently aware of such activity, that I shall declare it a phenomenon.

Have things escalated to the point (police presence) after-hours clubs and in particular underground (officially informal, unlicensed gatherings outside private homes or licensed premises) clubs now operate here? Is that where everyone who isn’t emulating the pictures found on TMZ or Last Nights Party are going? (Outside the system of “parties” in private homes of which I am currently aware.) Feeding into my perception is the paucity of people who do not emulate that certain, hyper-mainstream look found when one wanders the traditional entertainment districts.

Of course, shift change for the PD is between 3:45 and 4:30. The streets clear of roving tax collectors between those hours, and the new shift isn’t specifically looking for youth-related hijinks, They’re pretty much looking for coffee. I cannot believe I am the only person to have worked this out.

For the longest time I believed this was a function of both the overall economy and the fact that interesting (Under-25, wacky dressing with not-approved artistic pretensions) people avoid post-Austin like the plague. However, as a card-carrying member of the “scene” in the most middle-American of destinations I should have seen through that assumption immediately.

So, what the hell? And where do I find this world? I just want to look at it and restore my faith in humanity.

Related and update: My restored faith in humanity by way of seeing a more-or-less nude person in an unanticipated location (this was in June) is now annulled. The issue is that this sighting was of people operating under the veil of political protest, which is sufficiently similar in context to art that it doesn’t count.

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