A shaky home video posted online this month has opened a wormhole to an Austin in the flush of youth.
Shot in June of 1996 by a visiting student from Scotland, the leisurely drive down Guadalupe from the University of Texas campus to the river has tallied more than 25,000 views in the two weeks since it was posted by YouTube user Pete Reid Law, PLLC.
A search for that student brought KVUE to the South Austin office of local attorney Pete Reid, who still has the handheld camcorder he remembers purchasing with money from a student loan in 1994 for around $1,200 -- although it no longer works.
"It's a bit of a relic," said Reid, before jumping in the car with KVUE to retrace that car ride exactly twenty years later.
"At the time I was an exchange student from Edinburgh," said Reid, who arrived in Austin in 1995 with neither money nor a place to stay. The first to take advantage of a new exchange program, Reid recalls staying with a charitable university receptionist before finally finding student housing. Between law classes, he would take his camcorder on outings with friends.
"I didn't think I would ever come back," said Reid. "I thought that I was really just trying to capture the memories for me so that when I went back to Scotland and I wanted a bit of sunshine, I could watch the video."
While digitizing a batch of old home movies, Reid stumbled across the Guadalupe cruise and posted it online, figuring some may be interested in a portion featuring the long-lost Liberty Lunch.
The amount of feedback he's received since then left Reid surprised. Much has focused on his rolling commentary -- pointing out landmarks and sharing anecdotes, such as the time he met REM frontman Michael Stipe at Hole in the Wall.
After returning from an REM and Radiohead show, Reid recalled heading to the favorite student watering hole on a tip left on his answering machine.
"He was in the back, just having a drink," said Reid, who wore a "Mr. Daydream" character t-shirt on the occasion. "I remember I walked past him a few times, just like, looking at him, and eventually he was like, 'Nice t-shirt,' and I was like, 'Thanks.' So I felt like that counts as meeting him. We don't keep in touch."
"Every time I come down here there's something new," said Reid, who eventually returned to Austin, married and made the city his home.
In the two decades since, longtime establishments Tower Records, Miami Subs, Players and Dog and Duck are no longer to be found. The skyline has added numerous glittering luxury high rises, but at the time, Reid was marveling at other decadent features.
"I kept making comments about everything being drive-through because in Scotland we didn't have drive-through anything. So that was something quite glamorous, I thought," Reid laughed. "I mean the reason I made the film too is because I had fallen in love with Austin. It was just an amazing, magical place."
Much of the magic happened at legendary Liberty Lunch, which hosted live music on the corner now occupied by Lamberts, an upscale barbecue restaurant.
Reid remembers seeing such acts as Terence Trent D'Arby, Johnny Goudie, Blur, Echobelly and Garbage. "It just seemed really exciting to me."
After musing on the nearly unrecognizable skyline and nightmarish traffic of today's Austin, Reid reflected, "If I had to choose between it getting bigger and getting smaller, I'd choose getting bigger."
"I'm definitely sad that some of the things have gone," said Reid, "But I still think Austin's an amazing, magical place. I came back and I'm here, and I still love it."