What Would Johnny Say?

Mean Cat Meets Condo by Jann Alexander © 2010

That’s one Mean-Eyed Cat.

The signs of progress are overtaking the humble little bar on West 5th Street–witness the yellow-clad condo rising in a wink to the bar’s star and the explicit spelling of M E A N that dances across its front facade.

I’ve been photographing the Mean-Eyed Cat ever since I discovered it, about the time it opened, not long after I moved to Austin (as quick as I could). My image, above, Mean Cat Meets Condo is my nod to Johnny Cash (whose song, Mean-Eyed Cat, inspired the bar’s name, theme, just about everything except its former chainsaw-repair-shop roots). The environment that once let the dive bar with a lot of local color be just that, a funky dive bar at the end of the tracks, now mimics the song’s lyrics “Dear John, honey, baby, I’m long gone.”

Mean Cat by Jann Alexander © 2010
Mean Cat by Jann Alexander © 2010

It might have ended up worse. CMT.com reports that owner Dave Marsh fought the developers who’d planned to raze the building and replace it with condos; once historic designation was finalized, development was planned to work around the Mean-Eyed Cat rather than replace it. Hence, the startling proximity of new v. old, a modern condo that’s bound to end up all sleek and hip, in contrast to the once-condemned chainsaw-repair shed that turns out to have some history, after all.

I guess Johnny would be pleased. I know I am, that local color and new development managed to peacefully co-exist. ♣

BUY A PRINT: Choose from 99+ Vanishing Austin prints and a poster by Jann Alexander, starting at $25.

Endangered Species of Austin, poster by Jann Alexander © 2009

Endangered Species of Austin poster

Shop my Vanishing Austin series: While many Austin landmarks are lost, many are survivors still. Admire them all in a slideshow, HERE. Prints start at $35.

Marvel at what’s lost and what’s survived in my Endangered Species of Austin poster, featuring 16 Austin icons, and sized at a handsomely large 24 x 36,” available for $25, HERE.

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