Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dancing the Day Away

I had to run an errand to the Butler Dance Education Center this week and while I was there I snapped a few shots. Here you see summer trainees in the new building. Note that this rehearsal studio is open to the street so passers-by can see what's happening. It's all a part of emphasizing that Ballet Austin is indeed accessible to everyone.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Full Throttle

Old gauges still inside the Seaholm Power Plant. Downtown seems to be going "full throttle" on its "first stage."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Powerful Sight

Here's another good shot that Linda took at the abandoned Seaholm power plant near the shores of Town Lake in the heart of downtown Austin. These old smokestacks now stand as silent testimony to all the years they served our city.

In the next few years, construction crews will be transforming this area into a complex of retail shops and other businesses, a luxury hotel, and condos. A train stop for the rail system that will connect San Antonio and Austin is also planned for the west side of the old power plant. Just to the east, the new City Library is envisioned. (And Linda and I will be living about four blocks away, connected to this complex by footpaths. Am I excited? You bet!)

I love what's happening to our city.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Preserving a Power Plant

What was once an important power plant for a growing Austin has been sitting idle for some time. The iconic art deco decoration, the shape of the building and some (out of commission but visually interesting) stacks and boilers will remain but the building will become a multi-use retail and events center and have a hotel, condos, parking and green space around it. The Lance Armstrong bike way and the commuter rail will be nearby. That's the goal anyway. FFP and I went to a Heritage Society event where the future of the property was discussed. Thus I got close enough for some interesting pictures. Our new home will be mere steps aways from this property.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Local Coffee Shop

I will go to a Starbucks. But not willingly. I am a coffee addict and sometimes that's the only place you can find. I like one-off shops, though. In Austin, there is almost never an excuse to go to a chain. This is the sign for a shop with great coffee and tasty fresh food (including tacos, empanadas, omelets and some vegetarian treats). You can walk there from our house. Sunday we drove over before taking a trip to San Antonio to see a musical with friends. Pacha has a South American flavor and the coffee is very good. Sometimes we sit outside on one of the porches with our dog and our friend's standard poodle.

Even at the Austin airport, you won't find a Starbucks. I think the Schlotzsky's might serve their coffee. But if you are outside security you will find Fara Cafe which serves coffee grown in Nicaragua by some friends of mine. Our airport, you see, gives concessions to local purveyors almost exclusively.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Crape Myrtles

The Crape Myrtles (also called Crepe Myrtles, which looks most correct to me, or Lagerstroemia) are blooming around town just now. There are several types and species and they seem to bloom multiple times and different ones at different times. Some are as big as trees like this one with many trunks. Some are varieties that stay smaller. The blossoms are white or shades of light red or pink. I'm no plant expert. I am, in fact, the opposite of a plant expert. I'm plant stupid. This tall, pink-blossomed example is blooming near this stone structure at the cemetery entrance near our house. We have an example at our house which always seems to bloom out of sync with all the others, but it does have some blossoms now. We have had an exceptionally wet June, I think.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Elisabet Ney Museum

Linda snapped this photo the other day when we were taking a walking tour of Hyde Park with some friends. It shows a jaunty banner flying on top of the Elisabet Ney Museum. Elisabet Ney was a seminal figure in the Texas arts scene. Talk about a liberated woman! She built her studio called "Formosa" (which is now the museum) in Austin in 1892 and until her death in 1907, it was a central point for high level cultural discourse in Austin and all of Texas. (She kept her last name after she married, too.)

It was in this studio that she sculpted figures of the leading figures of Texas history, along with likenesses of many of the greats of Europe.

She and her husband Dr. Edmund Montgomery were key figures in establishing Texas universities and they had a lot to do with putting together the Texas Fine Arts Association.

If you're ever in Austin, the museum is open for tours and sculpting classes are held on the grounds.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Working Garden

The yellow cannas are part of the entrance walk to the Eastside Cafe vegetable garden you can see beyond them. I went to lunch there Thursday. The restaurant is east of Interstate 35 on Manor. (Go here in Google Earth by pressing here.) This stretch is now home to lots of eateries but Eastside has been there for nearly twenty years. The cafe (in an expanded old house) and a small cooking and gardening and take-out shop occupy part of the acre of land and about a third of it is given over to working garden where vegetables, herbs and flowers are organically grown for use in the restaurant. Needless to say the food is tasty. My friend and I waited twenty minutes for a table and we went after one o'clock to avoid the crowds. Thursday is the veritable beginning of the weekend in Austin, though, with everyone who works seeming to anticipate an easy Friday. We also saw big crowds at Jeffrey's bar on Thursday night when we were eating half price appetizers.

Friday, June 22, 2007

In the Shadow of the New Downtown

I went downtown on Tuesday to meet a couple of friends. I was snapping pictures of the high rise under construction that will be our home in a year or so from Sixth Street when I spotted this old sign. I remembered seeing it before. It's near the Hoffbrau Steakhouse which is an extremely funky old restaurant. Instead of running another picture of our rising high rise today, I decided to give you this one. And no, I can't fathom exactly what it means and that is not my long neck parked underneath.

I like to capture stuff like this before it fades away. Somewhere in my files are other murals, signs and public art that I captured and that are now gone.

My friends were impressed that I took the bus down to meet them on Tuesday. One of them lives near our current home but was coming downtown from her work down south. So I knew I could get a ride home. Unfortunately, riding the bus downtown from our house involves an almost half mile walk from the house, a possible fifteen minute wait for the bus and (given my destination this time) a little walk at the end. No big deal except that it is hot already in Texas. When I met my friends I cooled off with some air conditioning and a couple of Shiner Bocks!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tennis, anyone?

Here is the new tennis pro shop/locker room/clubhouse at our club -- Linda really enjoys playing tennis here and we have a dandy casual cafe in this facility as well. That means I can come over, get a good salad or sandwich, sit there and read a book and watch the players. Life is good. (I also work out every day at the main facility across the parking lot.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Neighbor's Flowers

Recently, the city put a sidewalk along the front curb of our houses all up and down our street. They let us chose if we wanted spaces for extra flower beds between the curb and the walk.

A neighbor a few houses south of us opted to have such a space and planted this bright assortment of pansies, petunias and marigolds. He plopped in some decorative rocks as well. It makes a nice splash of color as you're driving or walking down the street.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Downtown Shopping

The naysayers to our move downtown always act like we will starve for the lack of a grocery store "within walking distance." We always mention the Royal Blue, a little neighborhood place on Third. Most of them don't know about it. Of course, we aren't giving up our cars just yet either and there are two grocery stores along the ten minute drive to our club on Lake Austin. (Although for just exercise we won't need to go there...there's a gym in our building.)

So...I'm just saying. We don't know how our downtown 'lifestyle' will play out but we can always walk to the Royal Blue or, for that matter, Whole Foods. (I call Austin's downtown Whole Foods the Whole Foods Planet because it is the headquarters of that chain.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Top of Mount Bonnell on a Sunday

Before going to our club to work out yesterday, I made a trek up the steps to the top of Mount Bonnell, which overlooks Lake Austin. This vantage point yields one of the best views of the lake in town. Lake Austin, of course, is part of the system of manmade lakes formed by the dams on the Colorado River and it winds through the middle of our fair city.

As Linda points out in her comment, ours is the informally-monikered "Little" Colorado River, not the big daddy that starts in Colorado and goes to California.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Upon Reflection

I have shown restraint so far in this blog by showing only one reflection picture. But today I'm lazily digging through the archives for a photo. And this reflection of a shop window on South Lamar seemed like a perfect thing to show you. It was taken in March when we were attending the SXSW film festival. One of the venues was the Alamo Draft House on South Lamar and it is in a center with some funky little shops like this one. Yes, you can buy a cowboy hat in Austin, new or used. But you don't really see that many people wearing them unless you go to the Broken Spoke or take a drive out to some smaller towns.

I'll try to keep the reflection and shop window pictures to a minimum here on Austin Daily Photo and give you more straight up sights. But these kinds of pictures are something of an obsession that I've explored with my journal or blog photography over the years. My good friend SuRu even encouraged me to write an "artist's statement" for this work. Which I did. Tongue firmly in cheek. (That statement is accompanied by a photo from Paris. Apologies to Eric and other PDP folks.) For those of you who actually like this stuff you can check out the blog entries here (there are a lot so click 'older posts' if you aren't bored by the bottom of a page) or an old compendium here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Happy Hour Survey

FFP and I are always saying that we are going to make a spreadsheet on downtown Happy Hour 'deals' and rate the prices and food. Years ago we set out to do a martini tasting with mixed results. Even though we would order one martini (and one club soda) at each place and pace ourselves mightily we found the work slow and confusing and our notes less than legible.

Last night we decided to go downtown in spite of the fact that we had no particular destination. Himself had been downtown earlier for a lunch and had dropped by Ballet Austin's Butler Dance Education Center. He was so excited about the way the place is shaping up and the fact that kids were dancing in the Armstrong-Connelly studio. So braving the Lamar traffic until Fifteenth and heading downtown on Guadalupe we saw a parking place just shy of 6th or 7th and bailed out of the traffic to park and walk. It was six minutes until 5:30, the bewitching hour for most downtown Austin meters (beware of the ones near the Capitol, they retain the threat of a meter person until six). For one dime, FFP secured our spot for the night.

We walked over to the ballet building and admired the beautiful studios. We decided that our future high rise is up to about 23 or 24 floors now. Then we wandered down to 2nd and peeked in Cru where a few folks were sipping wine at the bar. We stopped in the Design within Reach studio, dreaming of modern new furniture for our condo. ("Beautiful chair but I think we'll have to eschew the designers!" I was heard to comment.) We briefly toyed with going to Sullivan's bar for a bite and a drink. Then we decided on Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. However, a sign in front of Starlite ("Happy Hour 4-7") convinced us to try it. We found out that "all drinks were $2 off" and there were no app specials. Nevertheless, we tried a beet salad, a tuna tartare and some wild mushroom and black truffle risotto with roasted fennel. We each had a glass of wine. It was quite tasty. They were a little slow on the delivery, though, and initially presented the three apps to the three top next to us in the bar. And the price wasn't the happiest...just north of the half century mark. Still, good food and sophisticated atmosphere.

We still had capacity at this point. We were noodling about going to the Elephant Room which can be counted on for jazz, any night.

But I digress. And this is photo of the day, not long-winded night life survey. So the photo?

Well, we walked on to Sixth and, near Congress, we ducked into the bar of the Ruth's Chris steakhouse. [Disclaimer: We've known the owners for decades.] As the clock ticked toward seven (surely the end of happy hour times) we ordered to glasses of wine, carpaccio, and a plate of seared tuna. Katie, our smiling server delivered the wine post haste, gave us some delicious bread and butter and before we knew it the apps arrived. The tuna is just visible in the picture beyond the carpaccio with its accouterments of shaved cheese, capers, onions, salad and delicous cheese toasts. Later FFP would be looking for a picture for the July theme day (the color red). Maybe I should have saved this picture for the wonderful color in the raw beef. The apps were half price and huge to boot, making us question whether the bill was calculated correctly. That's happy stuff.

So that's the picture. The rest of our evening? Well, we caught the end of the Happy Hour show at the Elephant Room which was a wonderful performance of the T. Jarrod trio. And we saw Tony Campise there and he said he was playing with Paul White and some other guys at 9:30. So we walked to the Four Seasons and had lavender-infused champagne and a pizza. It's been a long time since we hung out there. We saw people we knew, however. We went back to the Elephant and the show was great but we were tired and didn't see it to the end.

Some happy hours though.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Neighborhood Art

This bit of art in our neighborhood reminds me of a creature opening its mouth to grip part of a machine. This house often has outdoor art with weathered wood and metal. We walk by this house a lot on our excursions around the neighborhood. In truth, I took this one in 2005. I've been carrying my camera around a lot since we started this photo blog, but lately I haven't seen too many opportunities for a picture. So I've been digging through the archives. I like it when people put original sculpture in their yards. Beats the concrete statues bought on the roadside. Although sometimes those can amuse, too. Over on West Lynn there is a concrete gorilla that is huge. And the owners sometimes dress him for occasions. I looked to see if he was still there the other day. And he was, but unadorned.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cozy Rosedale Cottage

I took this shot on an early morning walk a few days ago. Many of the houses in our neighborhood were built in the forties and fifties and have a quaint look. I've often admired this one-- a small but accommodating porch, pretty blue/white paint and well-tended landscaping, plus a chimney built with creative rock work.

The dappled light gives it an especially warm look, I think.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Texas and Literature

In the rest of the world you don't often hear 'Texas' and 'literature' in the same breath. Not even here in the 'only state in the U.S. that was once an independent nation.' [Not that there is not great Texas Literature. Still sports talk surely outpaces literary talk in most circles here.]

But the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has collected literary archives that include a Gutenberg bible and letters and manuscripts from writers like James Joyce and Norman Mailer as well as books, photographs and personal effects.

The windows of the center are etched with illustrations from the collection, see above. ( was made in 2005.)

The Harry Ransom Center is well-known to librarians and archivists around the world. Apparently writers of renown (especially in the English-speaking world) and their heirs talk about "selling to Texas" as a way of raising some money late in life or just cleaning out the storage room. The Center puts on some fascinating exhibits from the vast store of materials, too.

The Center and its director, Tom Staley, are the subject of an article in the June 11/18 issue of "The New Yorker." Sometimes I envision getting a researcher's card and going to the center and seeing the actual archives. But since it took me almost two years to read Stuart Gilbert's explication of James Joyce's Ulysses and I've yet to read the actual book, I think my chances of becoming a scholar before I die are slim. So I'll probably just keep going to their wonderful exhibits and reading about their acquisitions in the newspaper.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bike and Bug

A couple of weekends ago Austin hosted both a huge bikers rally and the annual Gay Pride Parade, which is also a very large happening. Many of the bikers are affluent professionals who can maintain these expensive machines in fine style. Both incidents were quite peaceful and came off without a hitch or any conflicts at all.

On Sunday morning, I walked up to our local bakery for a coffee and a bran muffin. Outside, I caught a shot of this beautifully kept motorcycle sitting next to a modern day VW bug.

When we got married back in 1976, Linda's car was a gray VW shaped like this one. It's funny, but when I see a car like this, I still think back to that happy time in my life when we were getting to know each other.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not the Capitol Building

Friday night as FFP and I were driving home from our dinner out he said we should post a picture of the Capitol some time. But what we actually took pictures of were our entrées at our dinner at the fabulous Restaurant Jezebel on Congress Avenue. The coconut was just decoration but the sauce was made with coconut milk and the lobster was delicious. It was actually FFP's entrée but I did get a taste. Congress Avenue is getting to be a place with several darn good independent restaurants. And this isn't Tex-Mex! There has been big controversy of late because the City Council granted a forgivable loan to a Tex-Mex place, Las Manitas, a restaurant being displaced by its landlord so they can sell their property to a hotel development. The fact that the owners of the restaurant actually own property on Congress Avenue that they are moving to is astounding. Most of these other restaurants are struggling to pay rent I'm sure. And they probably don't own any real estate.

Every time I mention Restaurant Jezebel to someone and say it's on Congress, they ask if it is on South Congress. It isn't. It's in the heart of downtown on the part of Congress leading to the Capitol. There are several other very nice restaurants in this stretch including Cibo and La Traviata. People think of South Congress because it is becoming very trendy and gentrified. People call it SoCo without a trace of irony. It used to be all funk with Guero's Taco Bar, junk shops and the Continental Club. More on that area another day. Suffice to say the Congress Avenue north of the river is developing some charm and gentrification itself. We know several people who have wonderful homes in old converted storefronts with views of the Capitol Building from their front balconies. Yeah, we'll show the Capitol another day.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Blue Star's Flowers

Blue Star Cafeteria is a restaurant in our neighborhood run by our friend Eddie Bernal. They have some colorful flowers out front at all times. Here you see orange marigolds, deep purple salvia, and lavender agapanthus. The deep red bush is a barberry and I'd guess that the low green bushes are ligustrums. It's good to be able to take a leisurely six or seven minute walk and arrive at a nice restaurant like this.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

He's So Beautiful

There is a park across the street from our club and they have peacocks there. You sometimes see them wandering in the street or, as in this fellow's case, admiring themselves in a shiny car finish. Their cries sound like a high-pitched 'HELP!' and sometimes if you yell at yourself for a bad shot on the tennis court a cry from a peacock will answer.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Story of Texas

At the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, there is a floor depicting important things in Texas but it is as if you were looking straight down on them. Can you identify anything? One Hint: those white things, one of which hangs over the circle enclosing the floor painting, are horns, Longhorn cattle horns. If you click on the picture, you will also see that some museum visitors are also captured as part of the montage.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Heralding Summer

Sometimes the prettiest sights in town are right under your nose. Here are some trumpet plants that our neighbors around the corner and on the Hancock Branch of Shoal Creek have planted. They have some lush ferns in the background, too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Gardens and Restoration

Here is one view of the magnificent gardening job two friends of ours have done around their beautiful home in Hyde Park, a neighborhood a few minutes east of ours. (Click on the photo for a larger version.) Their home, which was built before the turn of the twentieth century, has been lovingly restored.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Captain Quackenbush's Mural

Here's another mural in the Hyde Park neighborhood. This one is on the side of a locally-owned and highly popular bakery/coffee shop called Captain Quackenbush's. ("Captain Quackenbush's Intergalactic Expresso & Dessert Company" to be exact.)

Their original location was on the Drag, near The University of Texas at Austin. I never understood why it was "Captain" Quackenbush's until I saw this mural explicating the myth. (Click on the photo for bigger version.)

Here we see a duck who is trying to lead a coffee cup/ship full of other cartoon characters against a Loch Ness style monster rising out of the sea. (His pals are abandoning the ship.) My guess - the symbolism here is that you need caffeine to withstand the monsters of reality. Whatever. Works for me.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Our Home -- Next Year

Thought that I would give you a look at the 360 Condominiums, our home to be.

This 44-story building at Third and Nueces in the heart of downtown Austin opens next April, if all is on schedule. (And they seem to be ahead of schedule at this point.) The condo that Linda and I have purchased is on the tenth floor, looking east back towards the downtown skyline. I went into Fireworks and outlined our windows with red marks here. (You can click on the photo for a bigger look.)

I took this shot a couple of weeks ago while standing in front of the new Ballet Austin Butler Dance Education Center just southeast of the 360. At this point, they have 22 stories up on the 360 and they aren't slowing down! Our new home will be a 2/2 and will be right across the hall from the exercise facility and one floor above the swimming pool terrace. The lower white building you see in the foreground is a state of Texas parking garage and it will stay there -- so our view is safe.

It will be a huge lifestyle change for us to go from our 3000 square foot home on 2/3 acre to a 1225 square foot condo, but we're ready to make the move. To say the least, this is an exciting time for us.

A note from Linda, who is in Denver but will be back midweek:

"And. . . at the moment our header picture shows our condo in an earlier stage in the background with the locally infamous Intel 'shell' being razed in the foreground. It has gotten higher since February!"

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Live Oaks at Westwood

This is a photo Linda took at Westwood Country Club the other day. I like the composition of the shot. Our new tennis center can be seen in the background. We are very fortunate to have such a nice club seven and a half minutes (we've timed it) from our driveway. You can click on this photo and get a larger version of it.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

It was about thirty years ago today

I guess seeing the stories about Sgt. Pepper's LHCB's 40th Anniversary got me in a sentimental mood. In that vein, here is a shot Linda took not long ago of an art deco clock and some antique pens in our entertainment room. I think we bought the pens at a charity benefit. (We go to a lot of those.) It's a total pain to reset the hands on the clock every time Daylight Savings Time dictates, since the back is held on by some almost invisible little nuts, but it is nice to look at.

As of August, we'll have been in this house for thirty years. We are in the process of winnowing down our inventory of possessions in preparation for the big move next year to a fancy new high rise condo which will have about 40% of the space we enjoy now. As a result, we are faced with making some tough choices about which of our possessions to save and which to dispose of -- either by selling them or giving them away. It's for certain that many knick-knacks like these won't make the cut. Every square inch at the new place will be just too valuable for non-essentials, though we will save a few decorative items.

But because we've grown to love so many of our things, it's painful to say goodbye to them.

Thirty years! So hard to imagine all that time has gone by. And yet, in the course of history it's a speck.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Looking Out Our Window

Here is the view from the back window of our home's entertainment room. We see this panorama when we wake up each day and let the dog out. In this photo, you can see four of our five "band members" who populate our back yard. Left to right: metal clarinet, French horn (small in back), tuba, and trumpet. We do love our big back yard. We have been in this house almost thirty years and it still is a wonder to me when I look at it. (Of course, if you click on this photo you will see a larger version which better shows the French horn and tuba.) The yellow house is a tool shed. Oh-- and the other band member is a trombone player-- but he's so far over to the right in a sitting spot we call the "Zen area" that I couldn't get him in the photo. The French hornist is definitely female, by the way!

Check out other participants in this Theme Day:
Seattle (WA), USA - Manila, Philippines - Albuquerque (NM), USA - Singapore, Singapore - Toruń, Poland - Baton Rouge (LA), USA - Seoul, Korea - Saint Paul (MN), USA - Vantaa, Finland - Madison (WI), USA - Saarbrücken, Germany - Cleveland (OH), USA - Chicago (IL), USA - Cottage Grove (MN), USA - Omaha (NE), USA - Bellefonte (PA), USA - Melbourne, Australia - Stockholm, Sweden - Grenoble, France - Lubbock (TX), USA - Boston (MA), USA - Arradon, France - Hyde, UK - Joplin (MO), USA - Kyoto, Japan - Tokyo, Japan - Kansas City (MO), USA - Naples (FL), USA - Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina - Manila, Philippines - Sydney, Australia - Stavanger, Norway - Bucaramanga (Santander), Colombia - London, UK - Chandler (AZ), USA - Nelson, New Zealand - Singapore, Singapore - Hamburg, Germany - Sydney, Australia - Tenerife, Spain - Moscow, Russia - Lyon, France - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Villigen, Switzerland - Anderson (SC), USA - Oslo, Norway - Evry, France - Hayle, UK - Mumbai, India - Kitakami, Japan - Wassenaar (ZH), Netherlands - Menton, France - Monte Carlo, Monaco - Los Angeles (CA), USA - Cypress (TX), USA - La Antigua, Guatemala - Paderborn, Germany - San Diego (CA), USA - Ampang (Selangor), Malaysia - Madrid, Spain - Lyon, France - Selma (AL), USA - Shanghai, China - Baziège, France - Cologne (NRW), Germany - North Bay (ON), Canada - Rotterdam, Netherlands - Stayton (OR), USA - Sharon (CT), USA - Austin (TX), USA - Hong Kong, China - Trier, Germany - Joensuu, Finland - Paris, France - Greenville (SC), USA - Wailea (HI), USA - Budapest, Hungary - Cork, Ireland - Bastia, France - Vancouver, Canada - Brookville (OH), USA - Jakarta, Indonesia - Mainz, Germany - Minneapolis (MN), USA - Zurich, Switzerland - Torino, Italy - Montréal (QC), Canada