With its low self-esteem and high urban blight, Hartford is the ultimate underdog city. Sad City Hartford documents the joys, sorrows and eccentricities of New England's Rising Star.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Austin is Weird, Hartford is an Underdog

(EDITOR'S NOTE: We're pleased to introduce "Travels in Other Sad Cities, new series on Sad City Hartford. Hakaan and Jumper have been on the road a lot lately so they are documenting their comings and goings. Don't worry...it will all still tie back to the homeland. Our first city will be the rather happy city of Austin, Texas.)

One of the coolest places to visit in the U.S. is Austin. While the majority of Texas can be a godawful place that's almost as bad as Arizona, within Austin city limits is pretty great. The country's best music, great food, a crazy bar scene that really only has one rule, it's hard to argue that Austin isn't one of the Top 5 cities in America.

One of the things that Hartford could stand to learn about from Austin is that Austin embraces who they are. Austin has an incredible amount of authenticity. They embrace their roots. They embrace the massive college that was dropped in the middle of town. They embrace their weirdness. Hell, their slogan is, "Keep Austin Weird." Austin is comfortable just being itself. One of my biggest issues with Hartford's efforts to brand itself is that it is trying too hard.

The consortium of business and civic organizations that have driven the rebranding process for the city have had the best intentions to drive people to Downtown Hartford, but the output has focused on what they think people want to hear - not who we actually are. We are the ultimate underdog city. People like underdogs. If we embrace that idea and let everything we do promote the city play off that character, I think we'll see a better result.


I first got to know Austin after my friend Jon passed away two years ago. Jon was a guy who lived with a ton of passion. He lived his entire life with an earnest honesty and infectious enthusiasm. Jon’s manner was always a breath of fresh air in a time of post-post-post modernism and people who walk around with irony oozing out of every single one of their pores.

Jon was also the kind of guy who brought people together. Every year friends of Jon's from around the country gather in Austin to hang out and celebrate him and all of the close friendships that he fueled. We got together again last weekend. The video below captures a bit of the spirit of the event.

Learn more about The Revival Fund, the charity that was started in Jon's memory.

Learn more about East Cameron Folkcore, the band that supplied the music for the video.

1 comment:

  1. Well I was there last weekend, too, and I think they have it backwards. The rest of Texas is weird, and Austin is just a big state capital and college town on steroids, with much better food. Mostly, I was reminded of Williamsburg. But I am glad to read of the celebration of your friend's memory and accomplishments in bringing you all together.