Recession on 37th Street

Call me Scrooge, but in the dark, candy cane cavities of mind, I'm content that it's turning out to be such a hard candy Christmas this year. People are suddenly feeling the crunch, many of the same people who didn't care when their State Representatives (and potential future Senators) were supporting Bush's war in the House in 2003, and didn't care when Bush won reelection in 2004.

But it doesn't make it any easier to watch Christmas fade away. After a very short, uninspiring walk down 37th Street Sunday night, it occurred to me that while the world markets might rise and fall based on the US economy, the famous light display on 37th Street shines its own local light on the country annually.

This year, the outlook is dark.

A westward-facing shot of 37th Street.

In 2004, the street was traditionally and glaringly bright. The street's hot-topic political statements were exactly as the spin would want you to believe: Osama Bin Laden, George Bush and Martha Stewart's jail time. Remember the good ol' horse and buggy days, back when Bush was relevant, Bin Laden was the root of all our problems and insider trading was the worst corporate sin for your money? Them were the days.

37th St. circa 2004 - from here.

What a difference four years makes. The infamous volcano house sits dark and undecorated. Lockboxes on doorknobs and multiple FOR LEASE signs indicate a dim housing market. Overgrown yards with skeletal, unlit angels make weak, energy-saving efforts. Local Yelp chatter about 37th Street seems to have ended with the start of the recession in December of 2007. The one yard that did go all out (ironically the "Monopoly yard") has a banner strung from the porch reading "It's a Wonderful Life," with golden parachutes lit by twinkling yellow lights streaming down from the trees. Front and center, our President-elect makes his 37th St. appearance, dragging the country and its crashing economy on his back, his persistent, wide smile on his still on his face.

The Ghost of Christmas Past would remind us to see what's behind the shiny packaging and pay more attention to what matters. For now, we've got the Reality of Christmas Present and the Hope of Christmas Future to contend with. May we all be merry -- and bright.

5 Response to "Recession on 37th Street"

  • FUBAR Says:

    wow, it's almost as if I was there.

  • M1EK Says:

    I live a few blocks away (E 35th) and can tell you that this has been coming gradually for a while - several of the biggest displays are gone because those folks moved out a couple years back; and without their energy, everybody else just kind of slacks off. (The guy with the walk-around-yard display supposedly moved because the tenants next door actually had a fight with him - there's a really bad landlord or two on this street).

  • jolie Says:

    check the aus chron archives - last year, I think - there was something about a number of the old-timers selling off and moving on. the leading edge of change for the worse appeared there the year some enterprising soul set up a kettle korn cart in the empty corner lot on guadalupe. making money off the displays just felt wrong somehow.

    anyway, thanks for the heads up.

  • Libby at Aurora Primavera Says:

    Uhh... bummer? Or has the spirit of Christmas not now nor ever been anywhere near 37th Street? Discuss.

  • Anonymous Says:

    That's sad. One of the things I truly miss about living in Austin was going down to 37th Street with my wife and daughter.