Steve Sailer's Book Tour Does Austin, TX
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My book tour allowed me to finally spend a few days in Austin, Texas for the first time in my life. It was a lot of fun. I was funny at my dinner for three dozen on Thursday. On Friday I was a little dull at the more public evening for ~150, but, wow, Austin has a lot of terrific people asking tough questions.

Great town.

When I was at Rice University in Houston in the late 1970s, everybody told me I should go spend a weekend in Austin: “It’s much better than Houston,” said all the native Houstonians at Rice, students and faculty. Texans, as you may have noticed, tend to be ardent loyalists about their native soil, so all this testimony in favor of Austin from people from other parts of Texas impressed me. (As I’ve hoped you notice, I am not by nature a contrarian: I give a lot of weight to other people’s judgments.)

But I wound up only spending a couple of hours in 1979 at Austin’s pretty downtown Town (or Lady Bird) Lake. They’ve dammed the Colorado River (not the Colorado River, by the way) and created a lake a couple of miles long and maybe a half mile wide, surrounded by a park, right next to all the skyscrapers. I counted nine skyscrapers under construction. Somebody told me that four of the ten tallest skyscrapers under construction in America are in Austin. But the need for more big bridges creates traffic problems.

And I spent a day in Austin in 1993 when Dell Computer flew me in for job interviews. That’s one of the times I came quite close to jobs at companies where the stock options would have been lucrative, along with Intel in 1982 and Microsoft in 1987. But I can’t say they were wrong to ultimately turn me down because I really am, at heart, a bookish intellectual rather than a hard-charging money-maker.

A good friend who worked for me in Chicago in the mid-1980s went to work for Microsoft and had a spectacular career, going skydiving with Bill Gates when my wife and I visited him and his terrified wife in 1988: “We can’t go to the zoo with you tomorrow because we have to jump out of an airplane with Bill Gates and we’re going to die.”

Gates had decided that his consort and the mother of his dynasty would need to be willing to parachute with him, but his girlfriend at the time, no fool, bargained that she’d only be willing if another woman jumped with her. Gates reviewed the company roster and settled on my friend and his bride.

I suspect my friend would have become the Chief Operating Officer of Microsoft in the 2000s under eventual CEO Steve Ballmer.

But he died in 1999 at age 37 of the same kind of cancer I had survived a couple of years before. (As died Joey Ramone, whom I shook hands with on a Greenwich Village sidewalk in 1982 while he was eating an ice cream cone with his mom. Is cancer infectious?)

My wife is convinced my friend worked himself to death at Microsoft, while I had the good sense, working at a less world-conquering start-up, to go see a couple of doctors about this lump in my armpit. (The first one told me I had probably just pulled a muscle so don’t worry about it. The second one worried and got me a scan.)

OK, I’m getting extremely off track about Austin.

Austin is quite picturesque by Texas standards. Texas in general is extremely flat, but Austin is modestly hilly, so it has a large fraction of the best golf courses in Texas. Austin is also around the western edge of the green part of Texas, so it has a lot of 30-foot trees. It doesn’t have magnificent trees like, say, Philadelphia or Atlanta, but it does have trees.

In terms of architecture, what I could see from walking up and down Sixth Street, Austin’s endless restaurant row, is that Austin has a few monumental old buildings like the huge state capitol and the U. of Texas bell tower (which launched America’s school shooting fad), a lot of recent five-over-one apartment buildings (I stayed on the 1600 block of 6th Street, which is all new five-over-ones), and a lot of 21st-century skyscrapers.

But the authentic look of Austin seems to be concrete block crud architecture. That judgement may sound harsh, but keep in mind that much of the charm of Austin is that real estate is cheaper than in Brooklyn, so the Dream of the 2000s Is Alive in Austin. I kept winding up at Whisler’s at 1816 6th Street, which consists of two hipster bars, about an acre of picnic tables, and a food truck making superb hamburgers. I was definitely the oldest person there.

What Austin does have is a lot of smart white people. I got about a 50% higher turnout in fairly small Austin than in huge Los Angeles.

While Austin is a blue town, it also ranks with Nashville and Atlanta as the cultural capital of Red State America, home to film directors like Terrence Malick, Mike Judge, and Richard Linklater.

Genetics pundit Razib Khan, who participated in my Friday night event with Jeremy Carl of the Claremont Institute, has lived in Austin for 7 years. He says Austin trails San Francisco for sheer brains, but it’s not bad. He suggests that the U. of Texas at Austin go wholly meritocratic on test scores (the rest of Texas’ public colleges can keep their preference for high GPA students from bad high schools), while Berkeley and UCLA are immolating themselves to be Woke. Also, Austin should build a subway under its Town Lake.

Austin is probably the latest town I’ve ever been in. On Saturday round 1 PM, I looked up hamburger restaurants on 6th Street, but the one I wanted to go to didn’t open until 2 p.m. Sure enough, 6th Street on Saturday was still empty at 1 p.m. but jammed at 2 p.m.

Next week I’m off to Florida, then to the DC/WV area, then to NYC in early May. The NYC public event is already sold out and expected to be lit.

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