Dear Austin, the high cost of living has left us soulless in a sea of beard oil.

I went to the Austin Christmas Market last night in hopes of starting and completing my Christmas shopping.I envisioned something reminisce of a European Christmas market where my friend and I would wonder long isles of booths sipping mulled wine with gloved hands while shopping for cute handmade trinkets, wooden elves, elaborately painted ornaments and funky  artwork. I bought many Christmas gifts in such a markets in Ann Arbor and in New York City during the last few years. 

Austin’s Eastside Christmas Market, however, was decidedly different. I wasn't bothered by the fact organizers placed small booths at the edge of the sidewalk in front of El Corazon Luxury Apartments ensuring that the flow of traffic would stop for minutes at a time while 20-year-olds looked at the same wispy gold necklaces over and over again. I wasn’t bothered by the fact no mulled wine or spike tea or even hot chocolate was available or that the lighting was an afterthought forcing vendors to continuously hold their smartphones in the air shining the flashlight over tables. What was disappointing was the “locally, sourced curated talent”.

Yes, women love candles, but how many handmade lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint soy candles does one need? Not enough to justify half the booths selling them. And handmade soap, does anyone REALLY like handmade soap? No. And the beard oil. Ever since I realized it was easier to find beard oil than it was a head of broccoli at my local “farmer’s market”, beard oil has been on my shit list and it was out in full display last night. Cinnamon mint beard oil. Sexy Simple Beard Oil. A Big Thicket Beard Oil and Balm combo. How much oil does one really need for a beard? And honestly, hasn’t the sexy lumberjack thing run its course? 

Maybe I am being old fashioned, but last night I was expecting to see a few Christmas related items. A  wooden Santa, maybe a Mrs. Claus dish towel or cookie set or even an ornament. And where was Jesus? I am not a religious person, but the whole freaking holiday does revolve around his birth. Would it kill a hipster to make a nativity set? 

And if so, what about the art? Besides a few booths with hand lettering prints, I saw nothing. When I moved to Austin 13 years ago local markets were full of badass, original multi-media prints, photography, paintings and wood carvings.

This is what the continuously rising housing prices has done to Austin during the last ten years, forced artists to pack up and move leaving us with Etsy artists in front of overpriced apartment complexes named after the once heart of Austin’s Hispanic community that was priced out of their homes. Artists in Austin used to work a few shifts at Mr. Gatizs to pay bills, then spend all their free time creating original works of art. Now all the young people are so fucking busy working to afford their $1,500 a month one-bedroom apartments that all the creative energy they have left is to add some essential oils to a candle base, a beard oil base or a soap base and call it a day. 

I have always thought Leslie was the soul of Austin. Last night I pictured him walking through the Christmas Market wearing his high-heels, short skirt and belly shirt giving the finger to anyone who suggested he need beard oil to groom his massively wild, overgrown beard.