As the psychedelic wave of the 1960s swept through the U.S., Austin and San Antonio were early adopters of the scene, welcoming the free-spirited users who created a new genre of music—psychedelic rock—with the help of LSD, the popular drug at the time.
The psychedelic drug scene, including those who took acid (LSD) and magic mushrooms (psilocybin mushrooms) for a trip, may have quietly dissipated after the 70s but—just as trends of yore come in and out of style—psychedelics have been resurging in Austin, with a new generation to back them up this time.
'The hippies are already here'
Growing up in the 90s, 29-year-old Austin Gould said he feels like millennials and Generation Z will be more likely to embrace more casual and multifaceted uses for psychedelics. Gould said he uses psilocybin mushrooms, a naturally-occurring psychoactive and hallucinogenic, and DMT, a recreational chemical psychedelic, about once a year on different occasions with close friends.
As a tech sales worker in Austin, Gould has numerous reasons why he uses psychedelics: his stressful job, a desire to explore his own consciousness and a way to quit drinking.
"I think culturally us '90s Babies are in the office now and we're a little unbridled, we're less modest. We were exposed to more worldly and internet-based social experiences and that more comfortable with being our true selves," Gould said.
Gould, who has been using psychedelics for more than 10 years, doesn't want people to view him as a junkie or a high-chaser but rather as a productive person taking part in a cultural shift. The way Gould sees it, psychedelics allow people to feel their emotions in a raw state.
"It's not a party thing for me—it's better than Disneyland... if you're at a point in your life where you're pretty comfortable, and you can just be silly in a way," Gould said. "There's this spark of insanity and an almost naive childlike wonder involved with experiencing the world through psychedelics."
Gould said he sees a similar trend starting here the more Austin grows into "Little Silicon Valley," and follows in the footsteps of the microdosing-loving region. Microdosing, the consumption of very low amounts of psychedelic substances, is sometimes practiced by tech workers and creatives during an average workday.
"You've already got that underlying 'Keep Austin Weird' thing,'" Gould said. "The hippies are already here, the culture is here."
Research points to key benefits
Several studies over the years have linked the use of psychedelic drugs like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms to mental health benefits, lessening the symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.
Executive Director for Root Behavioral Health Andrea Turnipseed is readily prepared to delve into integration therapy as more psychedelics are authorized for medical use but for now she practices Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy, a guided session using a tenth of the anesthetic dose of Ketamine to produce a psychoactive result.
According to Turnipseed, KAP has shown 66% effectiveness with treatment-resistant depression, compared to about 30% with a prescription antidepressant. Turnipseed's clinic, located in Austin, was the first to start offering KAP in Texas, starting in 2018. She said she has seen people with treatment-resistant depression make real breakthroughs—like conquering alcoholism or long-term depression—through the treatment.
"A lot of research is out there to try to bring these things to the market so that we can do it in an ethical way," Turnipseed said. "Psychiatry hasn't had new medications or new drugs that are distinctly different like this in a long time and it's an innovative treatment that can really supercharge mental health treatment, which is awesome if it gets more people interested, but also gets more people safe and healthy."
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As summer temperatures continue to increase, so does Austin's "Party Island"—a hundreds-strong army of kayakers and paddle boarders who gather each weekend in the middle of Lady Bird Lake.
Born from the pandemic, the swarm of paddleboarding partiers has continued to grow each summer and can be seen from the nearby Lamar Boulevard Bridge. And while "Party Island" certainly lives up to one half of its name, it's not actually an island at all: instead, it's located at a shallow sandbar near Lou Neff Point.
With beers, burgers from portable grills and even DJ turntables in hand, more friends and strangers continue to beat the heat in new ways at the distinct Austin hangout.
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If you are a committed, grunge-wearing resident of the Pacific Northwest, it is easy–almost automatic–to look at Texas as an extraordinarily dry, hot and culturally oppressive place that is better to avoid, especially in the summer. Our two granddaughters live with their parents in Portland.
Recently we decided to take the older girl, who is 15, to Dallas. Setting aside the summer heat, a Portlander can adjust to the vibes of Austin without effort. So let’s take Texas with all of its excesses straight up. Dallas, here we come.
Our 15-year-old granddaughter and her sister, 12, have spent summer weeks with us, usually separately so that we could better get to know each individually. In visits focused on Austin and Port Aransas, the girls seemed to be developing an affection for Texas.
Houston and Dallas are two great American cities, the 4th and 9th largest, each loaded with cultural treasures, each standing in glittering and starchy contrast to Austin’s more louche, T-shirts and shorts ways.
Three hours up I-35, Dallas loomed before us as a set of gray skyscrapers in a filmy haze, accessed only through a concrete mixmaster of freeways, ramps and exits. I drove with false confidence. Be calm, I said to myself, it will all end in 10 minutes under the hotel entrance canopy. And it did.
The pool at the Crescent Court Hotel in Dallas. (Crescent Court Hotel)
We stayed three nights at the Crescent Court Hotel ($622 a night for two queens), a high-end hotel in Uptown, patronized by women in white blazers, business people in suits, and tall, lean professional athletes, their shiny Escalades and Corvettes darting in and out, and other celebrities like Bill Barr, the former attorney general who shoe-horned his ample self into a Toyota.
Each morning as I walked to Whole Foods for a cappuccino, a fellow identified by a bellman as Billy the Oilman arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Where does he park? “Wherever he wants to. He likes the Starbucks here.”
We garaged our more modest set of wheels for the visit. We were chauffeured for tips by Matt Cooney and Alfonza “The Rev” Scott in the hotel’s black Audi sedan. They drove us to museums, restaurants and past the enclaves of the rich and famous. In Highland Park, The Rev pointed out the homes of the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones and Troy Aikman along with the family compound of the Hunts, oil and gas tycoons.
The Dallas Museum of Art’s “Cartier and Islam” exhibit (until Sept. 18) attracted an older crowd; the nearby Perot Museum of Nature and Science was a powerful whirlpool of kids’ groups ricocheting from the Tyrannosaurus Rex to the oil fracking exhibit. Watch your shins.
A Geogia O'Keeffe oil painting called "Ranchos Church, New Mexico" at the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art. (Rich Oppel)
For us, the best museum was the Amon Carter Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, a 50-minute, madcap drive away via a 75 mph toll lane along I-30. Don’t try it during rush hour. The Carter has an exquisite collection of Remington paintings and sculptures and an excellent array of 19th and 20th-century paintings as well. Pick one museum? The Amon Carter. Peaceful, beautiful, uncrowded, free admission and small enough to manage in two hours.
The Fort Worth Stockyards, a place of history (with a dab of schmaltz), fun and good shopping, filled one of our mornings. The 98 acres brand the city as Cowboy Town, with a rodeo and a twice-daily (11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.) cattle drive. We shopped for boots, drank coffee and watched the “herd” of 18 longhorns. So languid was their progress that if this were a real market drive the beef would have been very tough and leathery before it hit the steakhouse dinner plate.
The cattle drive at the Fort Worth Stockyards. (Rich Oppel)
But we could identify: the temperature was 97. “I saw a dog chasing a cat today,” said the emcee, deploying a very old joke. “It was so hot that both were walking.”
With limited time, we chose three very different restaurants:
- Nobu, in the Crescent Court Hotel; Jia, a modern Chinese restaurant in Highland Park; and Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth. Nobu’s exotic Japanese menu set us back $480, with tip, for four (we had a guest), but it was worth it.
- Jia was an ordinary suburban strip mall restaurant, but with good food and a reasonable tab of $110 for four.
- Joe T.’s is an 85-year-old Fort Worth institution (think Matt’s El Rancho but larger), a fine Mexican restaurant where a meal with two drinks was $115.
Sushi at high-end restaurant Nobu. (Crescent Hotel)
It was all a splurge for a grandchild’s visit. Now we will get back to our ordinary road trips of Hampton Inns, where a room rate is closer to the Crescent Court’s overnight parking rate of $52. And to corner cafes in small towns.
Did Dallas change our 15-year-old’s view of Texas? “Yes. I think it’s a lot cooler than I did. The fashion, the food.” So, not only Austin is cool. Take Texas as a whole. It’s a big, complex, diverse and wonderful state.