Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Predicting 2009

Since everyone will be making their predictions for the new year, I thought I'd show you the 'office' of a professional prognosticator. You can also buy a car, I guess. This place is on South Lamar.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Destruction and Revelation

There was going to be a Marriot Hotel complex on Congress. Tesoros Trading moved. Las Manitas closed with a vague promise to reopen in space the owners owned up the street. Even though the hotel is postponed the old buildings they occupied were torn down. My theory is it was a permit or tax issue. (See the bottom part of this collage which shows the old Tesoros mural before destruction.) Notice the interesting old ad murals revealed after Las Manitas is down.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A New Art Work/Memorial

It's important to walk the same paths you've been down before with your camera...in case the light is different or they tear something down or build something new. This work of art or memorial is going up near the Hike and Bike Trail and the Mexican American Cultural Center near Rainey Street. The name 'Perez' is on the arch above. In the background you can see the Milago condominiums and the Legacy apartments. The latter appear ready to take renters, if they haven't already.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Burger Joint

An Austin original, this is Hill-Bert's Burgers. It used to be on North Lamar and has now taken over a former Taco Bell on a little dead part of 35th. The old car (Jetta I think?) towing a burger? Can't explain. Haven't had their burgers in years but used to be excellent.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tee Shopping

We went to see "Milk" last night. (I highly recommend it, but I'm a little late with a movie review for that one.) That is relevant to this picture because this is the the T-Shirt store inside Alamo Ritz. (Downtown on Sixth.) If you are in town and want a really unusual Tee, stop in the movie lobby and shop. You can get a T-Shirt of something we shot for ADP even.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Lights on the River

FFP shot this walking back across Lady Bird Lake from Long Center the other night. The trees along the newly renovated south shore are lit up and behind the Silicon Labs building the lights in the southern spine of our building stream upwards. We got glimpses of and photographed the building many times before we lived there. (See here and here.) Now it's a beacon to draw us home.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hope Your Day is Bright

It's a bit dreary out this morning in Austin, but hopefully it will brighten up into beautiful day like yesterday. This is FFP posing with the tree in the lobby of the Chase building. His bright muffler (it was cold and dreary day before yesterday when this was taken) was given to me by a South African friend, hence the colors. (Although given the red and green it passes muster for Christmas.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Final Mother Ginger of the Season

Ballet Austin ended a successful run of the "Nutcracker" (its first at Long Center) last night. The social columnist of the Austin American-Statesman, Michael Barnes, surrounded himself with his friends, his partner and even his personal trainer while being transformed into make-up and costume for the role (inset) of Mother Ginger, played each year by a series of notables.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not Your Italian Pizza

The empanada stand at the Farmer's Market Saturday had some other offerings, among them pizza. Most looked to have ordinary toppings but that one in the foreground? Macaroni and cheese!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some Festive Lights

I chose some random lights in a yard in South Austin to give you something festive for today.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mother Ginger Ready for Her Entrance

Stephen Moser, fashion editor of the Austin Chronicle (the local alternative weekly) is all made up and ready to ride the skirt on Friday as Mother Ginger. This role in Ballet Austin's "Nutcracker" involves a very large skirt on wheels. A VIP dresses in the costume, gets the make-up, climbs aboard and rides the skirt on stage from which lots of little bonbon dancers emerge. Stephen joined the ranks of mayors, military men, coaches, educators, business leaders, athletes, singers and media personalities who have done the role over many years.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No, No with Qualifications, No

On Austin's new commuter trains, you may not smoke or play your boom box. (Do people still carry those around? Perhaps to break dance in the aisles?) You may not eat or drink either unless the drink is in a spill-proof cup. Given my success with commuter cups there is just no such thing as a spill-proof one. I took this the other day when the train made a test visit to the Convention Center station.t

Friday, December 19, 2008

Urban Plateau

Some rooftop bars that extend to the alley behind Congress between Fourth and Fifth seem to create an urban plateau, especially with the weathered look of that wall.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Decor

This year the Christmas decor on Congress Avenue consists of thin strands of LED lights that change colors. I guess they save energy but even at night they don't seem very festive. On East Sixth (that's the Driskill on the left) some old school tinsel stars recognize the holiday. Meanwhile kilowatts and sanity are squandered in Zilker park at something we like to call the Trial of Lights. (It's really the Trail of Lights to its fans.) I suppose now that I live downtown I could walk to this attraction, but this time of year a traffic jam for going downtown always made us testy over this display.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stairway to the Sky

One downtown building, at Congress and Sixth Street hasn't really had a closeup although it's appeared in the skyline in some pictures like this one. This stair step office building, called One American Center and built in 1984, had a private athletic and dining club occupying a couple of floors in it that we joined in 1985. They closed in the bust of 2000, but belonging there was an excuse to come downtown in the morning or evening for a lot of years. We also threw a major party in this space and did some other minor entertaining over the years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Texas Decor

Another shot of Texas-themed decor at GSDM's Idea City. Here armadillos climb a cactus 'tree.' We showed others here.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shiny New Train

I walked over to the convention center yesterday with the idle thought that I might go into the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. I bumped into Matt Curtis who works for Cap Metro and he said the train was pulling into the station about two o'clock. I hung around the bazaar and had a beer and listened to The Resentments and waited to see the shiny train. You, dear readers, had seen it from afar back in March when I caught the expensive train sitting out in a field, ahem, waiting its close up.

The train was beautiful, inside and out, and surely made me want to ride it except it doesn't go near anywhere I want to go. I'll still have to get in the car to tend to my elderly parents and play tennis. But maybe I'll ride it to Leander just to see what it's like and what my tax money has been spent on. Of course, the claim is that once you arrive at a train station you can take a bus to other areas. Of course, buses fan out from downtown to all sorts of locations so taking a train then a bus for us downtowners isn't very practical. But if you live in Leander you can drive (of course) to a train station and be downtown at the convention center in a short time. You won't need to take a bus from there to walk to lots of things, but the buses will be lined up to whisk you to your final destination conveniently. Or so they'd have you believe. The route of the train, by the way, was determined by existing freight tracks.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Irish Bar

The local newspaper (The Austin American-Statesman) recently did a comprehensive survey of bars. I guess in today's economic climate, surveying places to imbibe is timely. Anyway, the sheer size of the list amazed me and many were downtown, of course. I'm pretty sure that I will never set foot in 90 percent of them, but I have visited a few. This colorful joint, Mother Egan's Irish Pub, has hosted some events we've attended and serves up pints of Guinness and some good Irish grub. It's on West Sixth in a stretch with a number of other bars.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Incidental Decoration

This wall abuts a parking lot on West Sixth. It used to be used on the weekends as an Art Market and the wall might have been decorated then.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Wild, Wild Downtown


This picture shows a good growth of cacti with some downtown construction in the near distance. The thing is: this is growing on the roof of Whole Foods Market. I hadn't been on that roof until the other day when I went up there to get a picture of the ice skaters.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mexican Food Decor


The El Mercado on South First is a good place to eat and it takes Tex-Mex decor to giddy heights including this mosaic guitar player. The food is very good at this stop, too.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

There it Is

Sunday night at the Hilton, the pre-event cocktail party was in an area west of the big ballroom and the tree near the windows near Fourth could be lined up with our building to create this photo. We are often able to merely point when people ask where it is we live.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dancing for the Kids

We went to a fun benefit last night at the Hilton. Austin has an organization called The Center for Child Protection and they have a building where all interviews and exams and immediate follow-up needs (clothing, new supplies for school, therapy, etc.) are handled for children who have been neglected or physically or sexually abused. Police, prosecutors and social workers come together at the center to make the child's experience less threatening and to avoid repeated interviews for the same incident.

With such a solemn mission they sure throw a wonderfully fun event to raise the money to support it. They get outstanding community leaders to volunteer to participate in a dance contest. Above you see our friend, Larry Connelly, philanthropist, PhD Educator and former elementary school principal, and his professional dance partner cutting a rug to the Pink Panther theme. It was great. All the participants were fun. Including Art Acevedo, Chief of Police. He was such a good sport! As was everyone involved. After the cocktails, auction, dance contest and dinner the audience was ready to rock out, too, and the dance floor filled with people showing their own moves. (A highlight of this was seeing former Ballet Austin dance Jim Stein doing a quick step.)

The event was at the Hilton. And, yes, we walked back and forth and I think people who used the valet were jealous.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Texas Christmas

The big ad agency on West Sixth Street, GSD&M, puts out some very Texas decorations for the season. The snowman, sunning, is apropos since we are unlikely to see snowmen that aren't big blow-up guys bought at the likesl of Home Depot. On the hobby horse is a (baby?) armadillo. I rarely see them alive but they are around judging from the road kill.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

If You Must Shop

People with certain kinds of investments are depending on the American consumer who has been somewhat absent this holiday season. I can't bring myself to encourage people to the usual holiday excess, but if you feel like getting gifts...think outside the box. Outside the 'big box' store that is. These hats were on display at Uncommon Objects recently. There are some cool choices for unusual goods, new and old, on South Congress.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Warehouse District...Above the Fray

The Warehouse District along Fourth Street (this is the block between Lavaca and Colorado) is a bustling area of cramped sidewalks and old tall loading docks and stairs that make a mockery of handicapped access but is 'grandfathered' and preserved as bars and businesses. This photo is shot from above at the Headliners Club atop the Chase building. The red building is Oil Can Harry's, a gay bar as long as I remember. The gap between the buildings on the nearest (north) side of the street is Cedar Street Courtyard which has a stage with live music most nights. (Fourth was, I believe, Cedar Street in the old named for tree scheme before numbers). Also along the street are Qua (a bar with a nautical theme and velvet ropes that I've never bothered with because I'm not in the beautiful set and don't pretend to be); 219 West (a nice place for drinks and snacks); Fado (an Irish place for Guinness and Shepherd's Pie); and Halcyon (a great place for coffee and sandwiches as well as alcoholic drinks).

Thursday, December 4, 2008

House in the Trees

When we went to the East Austin Studio Tour a couple of weekends ago, some artists sharing a house as a work space invited us to tour their backyard where they had this wonderful retreat in the trees. Tree house, no trees necessary.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Man in Black?

I guess this is Johnny Cash. The mural is on the side of Wahoo's Fish Tacos on San Antonio between Fifth and Sixth. (Pretty good food there, by the way.) It appeared one day and there is a small sign nearby taking credit for it. Can't remember the company. I'll have to walk by again and catch that. It hasn't attracted graffiti yet either. Not that it will. But it is fresh and new right now. I'm not quite sure why it's there but it's colorful (man in white, red, blue?) and I like it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's Cold Outside!

Well, it's not really cold enough for winter sports, but Whole Foods Planet (my personal name for the world headquarters of same) has a roof and puts a tiny ice rink up there each winter. These folks were enjoying it Sunday when I climbed the steps to go up there. They have some cacti gardens, a tiny playscape, tables, etc. up there. I knew they had events 'on the roof' but had never been to one or just wandered up there. Now I know. On a pleasant day it might be a good place to go and eat your WF take out. It did struggle into the thirties today here so, if I went outside it would feel wintery, but I think I'll stay inside as it heads toward seventy.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stately Oak

This old tree is on the campus of St. Ed's. It's great to see trees preserved although I wonder if this one couldn't use a little more unpaved area around it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Finished Spring?

With tall buildings rising all around, it is our fervent hope that the money for them will last long enough to top them out and glass them in. We know sales have been tough and contracts falling off, but projects like this one (Spring on Bowie and Fourth near Lamar) would look pretty unsightly unfinished. That much smaller one, the project idle on Lavaca (I showed you the crane here), is said to be starting up again after stalling. But we'll see. Times are tough. The last bust left us the Intel shell, a tiny eyesore compared to the potential of some of the current projects.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Home Security

I could take a hike from my downtown condo and be standing in front of this house where security is enforced by chain link and old-fashioned iron bars on the windows instead of computer-controlled fobs and concierges and security cams. You don't see many people putting bars on their windows these days (there is the small matter of getting out in an emergency). I saw something different on this visit (Sunday for E.A.S.T.) to the area in newer infills and rehabs, though. Reflective mirror windows. I'm guessing for heat transfer and privacy? Like a one-way mirror? It was daytime and they looked exactly like mirrors.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Not Christmas

It's Thanksgiving. You would have thought it was Christmas since Halloween except for the independent shops like this one on SoCo called Blackmail. They were just transforming their window on Tuesday when we walked down there to enjoy a nice cool, sunny afternoon. This is Christmas at its 'blackest.' Very elegant like all the clothing and accessories in this store.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

E.A.S.T. Artist

Every year artists in East Austin have the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.). We went for a small stroll through a very small number of the venues Sunday. We will let the fabulous Jennifer Balkan represent the tour for the second year in a row. (See her with her work last year here.) This unfinished painting will have a collage or sewn surround, I think she said.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Old Main

St. Edward's University, a Catholic school perched on a hill off South Congress overlooking the Capital City has a main building with an architecture befitting a university back east. Built around the same time as the Capitol, the building has been through fires and tornadoes but has been rebuilt and remains the stately hub of this campus. If you turn around from where I stood to take this shot, you see the changing skyline of Austin but it was a dreary day with a little fog on the river and I don't have that great a camera so I didn't get a great picture.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cooking Thai

The way it works in Austin is you meet some people for dinner, bump into some other people and then end up getting invited to a Thai dinner on another night at someone's downtown abode. This is Sally Jackson and she and her sister have been stirring things up since returning to Texas to take care of their Mom. She was the lead cook. The food was stunning. The Jackson gals have a WEB site. They are funny and boy can they cook. Our other friends' uber-sized downtown apartment made a nice venue. The rest of us contributed wine or cocktails.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Skyscraper Heritage Again

I shot this yesterday from the Headliners Club on the 21st floor of the Chase building. When this building (The Norwood Tower on 7th between Colorado and Congress) was built in the twenties (it debuted in 1929) it was the tallest building in Austin. You saw it being dedicated as a Texas Historic Place here and you can get a closer look at the front here.

A couple of things to note about this photo. There is a new Perry's Steakhouse (a chain apparently) on the first floor below the parking structure. And part of the block across the street is vacant. During one boom time, that was going to be a very small footprint hotel. It never got built.

Hope I'm not boring everyone with skyline pictures. I'll do something different tomorrow. But we will continue to explore the skyline, both the historic and unchanging and the quickly evolving new stuff.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Skyscraper Heritage

On our way to the historic Driskill Hotel for the annual Heritage Society of Austin awards luncheon I decided to shoot the historic Littlefield building on the northeast corner of Sixth and Congress to show you. When it was built (1910) there was a rivalry with the Scarbrough building across the street for tallest Austin building. Therefore, Littlefield enclosed what was originally a pergola on the top of his eight-story building to make it the current nine stories. I found a postcard seller's blog who had actually sold a card showing the pergola. I also found online several assurances that, when it was completed, it was briefly the tallest building between New Orleans and San Francisco. This was the tallest building in Austin for 19 years until the Norwood tower was built.

Today, my condo building is the tallest building in Austin but in a few months it should be surpassed by the Austonian which will be over five times the height of the Littlefield building.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Sign Says It

This sign, on South First says it all in a word. I'm thinking the old house has been converted to a salon.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Music Capital?

I've shown you the center on South Lamar where Alamo Draft House and a bunch of local businesses abide. This is a collage of the signs for the three mostly guitar shops there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Art, New Walk

I was delighted yesterday that, despite ongoing construction, the access to the South First pedestrian bridges is largely complete. When I walked to SoCo yesterday with a friend to eat lunch at Woodland we were able to cross the street and get right on the bridge. Hallelujah. They had these unusual arty metal fences with squares that were covered with cardboard. When we came back a guy was polishing the fences and the cardboard was off and the squares showed old photos reproduced on metal of the river flooding in the thirties and such. (This is a famous one of a house going over the spillway.) You can see the placid Lady Bird (formerly Town) Lake in the background. The river (Little Colorado or here just 'Colorado' not to be confused with the real one) is damned up multiple times from east Austin north. Longhorn Dam makes Lady Bird Lake.

FFP and I used the bridge again, late last night, and the pictures were covered with cardboard again. I don't know why. Maybe they are going to be officially 'unveiled?' Maybe they are still working on putting a finish on it all. As with anything, one wonders how long before the graffiti guys deface it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Iconic Hero

We call them subs or submarine sandwiches around here, usually. This local chain of shops, Thundercloud Subs, has been around for over three decades. While they have branched out "all the way to San Antone" they are still considered a local business in our hearts. This shot was taken on 12th near Lamar at the shop closest to our current home. This is one of several businesses that we like to joke has an employment requirement of tattoos, piercings and/or hair colors not found in nature. (The others include Whole Foods, Wheatsville Coop, the Alamo Theaters and some I've forgotten but will remember when I go there and marvel at the body decoration.) The sandwiches are really good here, by the way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our Neighborhood Train

When we were walking to Whole Foods today a train came along beside the construction for the Spring Condominiums. This is the same track show here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Guitars are Back

After last year's display and sell-off of giant artist-decorated guitars, giant guitars have started appearing again. This one is on the east side of Congress. I showed you another of the new breed the other day. I was considering showing you yet another reflection on the skyline (and yes maybe Frost Bank) from the strange dusk light and clouds of Friday. But I ended up putting those on my other blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Donn's Depot Downtown Doings

The last stop on our downtown adventure last night was Donn's Depot on West Fifth. It's one of those places we ought to go more often. Our plan was to walk to two art show openings. The first, at Austin Museum of Art kicked off at six. We visited with friends while viewing the the incredible photographs of SebastiĆ£o Salgado of workers (I think it's safe to call them laborers) from all over the world. These photos showed massive projects (ships, dams, mines) as well as intimate views of the people who make these things, often by hand. They also had a show of many artists' interpretations of 'chair' masterminded by Damian Priour. That gallery was a little crowded to take in. We may have to go over there again to see it.

The second art show didn't kick off until eight so we went to the bar at Ruth's Chris. Visited with a few friends who work there while having carpaccio, a crabtini and a little wine. Andy Roddick came in. I'm not a fan so I wasn't impressed, but in case you are a celebrity watcher, dear reader, there it is. Most importantly to the shape of our evening, one of our friends who owns part of the place scooted out before we went to our opening at Art House Jones Center and told us he was going to the thirtieth anniversary party at Donn's Depot. Whoa, we thought, we should go there.

The Art House show was fun and provocative and there were friends there to visit with. But after seeing the show and a couple of drinks we took off for Donn's. It's kind of far so we went to the Stephen F. Austin bellman stand and ask if they could find a cab. They did. After a raucous couple of hours of dancing and visiting with friends and other hangers on and listening to Donn and his band (that's him on the keyboard above) we decided it was time to walk home. But, for once, one of those pedicab drivers came along and offered up a ride. That was fun and we tipped him well. (They work for tips.) These guys are always around when I don't need them so I was thrilled to get to take a ride.
Yep, just a carless (well if you don't count the cab) downtown evening.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Going Up

From our place we can watch the Austonian rising. It's going to be more than 54 stories supposedly. Currently it's at 25. This shot is from Third Street with their 'going up' promotional sign visible. It is going to be retail and luxury condos. And, yes, one wonders how subscribed it's going to be in this downturn. The building is on Congress on the west side between Second and Third. We have chronicled the rise of this building before all the way back to 'hole in ground.'

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bar-B-Que

There are many ways to spell barbecue (barbeque, Bar-B-Q, and Bar-B-Que as here) but in Texas it means slow-cooked beef brisket (and maybe sausage, chicken or even turkey) with a tangy red sauce usually and some sides like Cole slaw and potato salad and ranch beans. The slow cooking in a pit makes it tender. Guess what this sign said before the letters fell off (speaking of spelling)?

House Park Bar-B-Q is near House Park (a football venue for local schools) on W. Twelfth St.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nothing But Blue Skies

Actually, we had some clouds and a tiny bit of much-needed rain yesterday. But this picture was taken in October. Looking east on 17th from Guadalupe, we see an odd sign promoting a little cafe tucked on that off-the-beaten-path street and, beyond it, a crane in 17th Street which has been blocked east of Lavaca by construction of stalled condos/mixed use development for some time. We have just heard in the traditional media that the project has new investors. The project, if it gets finished, would be pitched to UT and lobbyist sorts since it's between UT and the Capitol Area.