Friday, August 31, 2007

SoCo Lodging

I mentioned here that South Congress had a couple of hip places to stay. This is the sign on the wall at Hotel San Jose. (Disclaimer: This picture was taken in July 2004 so your mileage may vary.) We've never stayed here although we tried once and couldn't get a reservation.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iconic Ice Cream

Describing Amy's Ice Cream in a short note isn't really possible. It's an Austin institution with a history (and an Amy). I'll leave the research to you (follow the link). If you are in Austin or other Texas cities you can find a location and try the high butter fat stuff yourself. FFP can't eat ice cream, but notice they do have Non-Dairy Vegan choices. This sign was captured a few weeks ago in SoCo but there is also a location near our current home on Burnet Road.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Right Under Your Nose

Congress Avenue from the bridge north to the Capitol has lots of high-profile office buildings and a few private homes but also still has lots of places to duck in for some real Austin atmosphere. Looking away from the controversy over the strip center trying to becoming a Marriott you can find spots like the Elephant Room, a local coffee shop (Little City) and some fine locally-owned restaurants. Between Sixth and Seventh on the east side you will find Hideout. Besides a coffee shop they have a little stage with occasional music groups up front, Internet access computers, piles of good reading to borrow and two performance spaces in back and upstairs. We've been to Cabaret-type shows and movies there. They are famous for comedy improv shows, though, and have one coming up. Besides an array of coffee drinks, beer, soda and such, Amy's Ice Cream and drinks made from same are available and some pretty nice food. (I had a three-cheese toasted sandwich the other day that was very good.) Their little screening room is sometimes pressed into service for film festivals, but we often take advantage of the coffee and food when we are going to the Paramount as well. FFP was mistaken for Sydney Pollack here during a fest. And the woman actually claimed to know Sydney.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Elephant in the Basement

I've talked about the Elephant Room on Congress a bit in this space and even mentioned that it is a basement club. If you are looking at your shoes as you walk on the east side of the street between Third and Fourth, you might notice the neon in the basement window inviting you in. There aren't too many basement places in Austin for the very good reason that basements are hard to dig here. Another downtown basement houses Bess, a bistro Sandra Bullock owns, under an old hotel (now offices I think) on West Sixth. Seems there are lots of basement clubs and restaurants in New York. The Village Vanguard is one of my favorites. It's also a jazz club.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Black and White

It's no surprise that the fashion is black and white. That just keeps coming back, doesn't it? But the mannequins look like the Blue Man Group! This is a shop window at The Domain, shot Saturday on our way to the free feed.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lucky Strikes

Last night we were invited to the opening of a new location of a chain restaurant in Austin. (As far as we could tell most everyone else in Austin was invited who was involved in any high-profile charity.) McCormick & Schmick's Seafood only had one Austin location before (downtown) but will soon open this store in the ultra uber shopping center (for Austin anyway!) The Domain. Actually the Domain has places to live, too. It wouldn't be my choice but for people who work nearby (out Mopac way) it might be nice. (I've chosen to call this area Northwest Austin. Some neighborhoods are easier to pin down than others.)

The Lucky Strikes entertained. I don't think too many people were paying attention to them, but FFP did and took this picture. They play swing style jazz and have been around Austin for years and years.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Old and New

This is the east side of the historic downtown hotel The Driskill between East Sixth and East Seventh Streets on Brazos. The modern face of downtown looms above in the form of the Frost tower. We showed a peek at the other side of the hotel from the terrace at the Norwood Tower a while back. This is the entrance a lot of car traffic uses and the portico leads to a fabulously restored lobby. If you are in downtown Austin, a walk through the hotel public areas is in order. You can enter through the bar on Seventh or the little casual cafe on Sixth but this is the most dramatic entrance.

Friday, August 24, 2007


This is the 100th post for LB and FFP's Austin Daily Photo. We aren't having a celebration, but I thought it would be good to show you the cake from our event on Wednesday night.

We were sponsors for a 'million dollar' party. In 1989 a friend of ours, Lew Aldridge, saw that in the fight against HIV and AIDS there was always an unmet need for emergency assistance. As the disease devastated individuals and families, many crises couldn't be assuaged with tightly-restricted dollars that came from governmental agencies. Lew thought that if he and his friends could raise some unrestricted funds, with no government rules, that the agency counseling victims in our community (AIDS Services Austin) would have a place to turn when people couldn't pay their rent or utilities or needed help with transportation or buying the increasingly expensive drugs needed in their fight. The funds could be set aside and a counselor could immediately draw the funds to make these peripheral problems go away. Lew's idea was that all his friends (and soon-to-be friends) would entertain their friends with dinners and theme parties, funding them out of their own pocket or getting sponsors, and then charge admission. The admission paid would go 100 percent to the fund (called the Paul Kirby fund after one of the first AIDS activists in our city). Basically Lew got a kitty going at many parties and dinners that would have been happening anyway. He organized a few annual special events and put in place a fun committee that people enjoyed being a part of. He called his brain child the Octopus Club because, I like to think, he knew it would send tentacles deep into the community. Amazingly the group survives and thrives and they threw a party to celebrate the millionth dollar flowing into the coffers. Since like all Octopus events, sponsors (corporate and individual) fully underwrote the food and drink (and the cake!) the gate from this event represented dollars that took the group to the one with six zeros. That's a real milestone. Amid tears for the losses in our community, there were tears of joy at all the friendships forged and the good done to help people in the community with the simplest crises with no strings attached.

Lew Aldridge is an iconic Austinite if there ever was one. He was a partner in a downtown restaurant, City Grill, for years and then helped developed a firm that primarily redevelops apartment complexes that have simple accommodations at affordable prices. (Alori Properties.) His firm systematically donates profits from the venture to organizations that serve the homeless, too.

It has to make us think, here at Austin Daily Photo, how we might be a force for good in our community. Try as we might, we'll never match Lew. But we can go along with some of his crazy good ideas.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Endangered Mural

Just off East Sixth Street (a land of bars for the much younger than I am) this mural graces a wall. It is on an old building that housed the Hard Rock Cafe Austin. It bit the dust in early 2006 after struggling to find a foothold in a land of independent music venues and eateries. Can't say I'm sorry that they packed up their memorabilia and hamburger grill and moved on. But they left this mural behind as evidence. It will stay a while I suppose, but I suspect this shot will be in the lost mural collection one day. It's a nice mural, really. Click to enjoy those Texas clich├ęs up close.

Tomorrow will be our 100th post. Can't decide how to celebrate. Thanks to the Daily Photo Movement for making us pull out the camera and look around.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Reflecting Downtown

The windows on the lobby of the new Butler Dance Education Center, the home of Ballet Austin, reflect some other downtown buildings. In particular you can see the Hobby Office building, One American Center and Plaza Lofts. FFP and I used to go to One American Center (the 'stair steps' building) all the time. It housed a club we belonged to until 2000 when it was pushed out by owners eager for higher rents. It used to look pretty distinguished on the skyline but other towers have made it less noticeable.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

That Swinging, Singing, Liz Morphis

Here's a shot of Liz Morphis I took at the benefit for Stanley Smith Sunday night at The Elephant Room. (See Linda's entry below.)

Liz is unusual in that she's a twenty-something whose repertoire encompasses the Great American Songbook -- stuff like "Honeysuckle Rose," "Is You Is or Is You Ain't" and "All of Me." Not the sort of thing you'd expect from someone this young -- and wow, does she do those tunes justice. She has also fronted a blues band and does a bit of country stuff, too.

Besides being a wildly-talented songstress, she goes the extra mile by snazzing out her look to match the occasion and even baking coffee cakes to serve to her audience. And yeah, as you can see, she's easy on the eyes, too. (Understatement.)

Another thing I like about her is that she really puts herself into her music. All her body language and gestures are tuned to "selling the song" as they say in the business. That's a sharp contrast to many of her contemporaries who just stand there, try to reduce melodies to a monotone exercise, have no sense of dynamics, and do their best not to emote.

What's more, she's a genuinely nice person. She saw me one day at the grocery store and when I didn't instantly recognize her because she had this big knitted cap on, she ran up to me and said, "Forrest! It's Liz Morphis!" and gave me a big hug. What a sweetheart.

Another case of a stunning Austin talent working a day job selling plants at a nursery, updating her website, trying to buy the right clothes to look good on stage, rehearsing whenever she can, and looking for a break.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Musician Bounces Back

Sometimes people and their music survive against all odds. The Jazz Pharaohs and other local bands keep entertaining in spite of the slim odds that they can make a living or keep big (seven players usually for the Pharaohs) groups together. After decades of old-school swinging jazz under his belt, Stanley Smith got pretty sick. Kidney failure. But you'd still see him out blowing his clarinet or playing guitar, a bandage covering the dialysis port. The other day we got an e-mail from young Liz Morphis announcing that Stanley had gotten a transplant. Imagine a musician surviving that financially in the U.S.A.? So last night on what was, I believe, Stan's 65th birthday [ed. Note: Liz says he's only 62], the Elephant Room turned into a big birthday bash with musicians donating CDs to sell and everyone passing the tip bucket for Stan. I'm sure it's literally a drop in the bucket for Stan's finances, but the music was great and the place was packed. FFP and I got there early, secured a great table for the first set, enjoyed the music and the comparatively cheap drinks for downtown and donated some spare cash in our wallets to the waitress and to Stan. I heard Stan say to one of his friends before playing, "My tone isn't what it used to be for the last four or five years. I don't know. Well, I got sick." I couldn't believe he was out there wailing away, but he was.

The Pharaohs usually handle the happy hour on Wednesday at the Elephant Room for those of you who find yourselves in downtown Austin seeking jazz. Fact is, the Elephant Room has a show every night and, save Sundays, usually two.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Some Things Endure

No, we didn't go out in the country to find this old cabin. It's within walking distance of our current home. The owners restored this cabin and other buildings, the Moore-Hancock house, and occupy them. This picture was actually taken in 2002, I believe, when FFP was writing a column about the owners. But the property is not much changed. There is a historical marker on it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This picture of graffiti was shot recently on the side of a building around Fourth and Nueces. If I wanted a recent picture, it was this or...another guitar! So here is a call to arms for what? I don't know. As interesting as graffiti can be I'm opposed to vandalism. It amazes me that people can do so much of it and rarely ever get arrested. The authorities are stretched with violent crimes and traffic accidents, I guess, even in a relatively safe city like Austin. Come to think of it, I'm against guns, too. It's a personal thing, though. I don't care if other people have them as long as they are sane and not criminals. Of course, how do you tell?

Now that I think of it couldn't these folks go to the library, get free access to the Internet, sign up for a free blogging account and get their message out online? No paint expense then. And no laws broken if you avoid libel and slander. I suppose that misses the point somehow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Obligatory Cat Picture

We don't have cats. I wouldn't say we don't like cats. They are cool-looking creatures. I've fed them during friends' absences and all that. But we are allergic. However, on a walk in our neighborhood a couple of weeks ago these two presented themselves posing on this car, doing their best to select the color that would camouflage them best. I snapped a picture so that, when they time came, I could offer a cat picture. As all blogs eventually do! I'm not sure if it's a sign of the denouement. No more than giant guitar after giant guitar I don't suppose.

By the way, we changed the heading a couple of days ago. I'll probably keep tweaking that. We are preparing for our 100 day anniversary here at Austin Daily Photo.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

On the Flip Side

The other day I asked you to guess what might be on the other side of the 'guitar art' piece in front of Austin City Hall. Well, no one even tried to guess, but here is the answer anyway. Some other musical icons are there. What do you see?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Top Drawer

Austin Daily Photo may seem to always be wandering downtown or in South Austin but sometimes we are closer to our current residence. Actually this was taken last year but it is pretty much the same today. Shown is a side view of one of the many thrift and junk shops on Burnet Road not far from our home. This one is called Top Drawer and is run by Project Transitions, a local charity providing housing and hospice for people with HIV and AIDS. We donate a lot of stuff there, especially lately as we downsize. We have occasionally bought a few things, too. FFP got an originally expensive tie for a dollar that he loves and I got some nice trade paperbacks. I think the cool decorations were done by art students from local schools. There is also a faux floor lamp about twelve feet high in the parking lot. I apologize for pictures that aren't taken recently. However, our 'stockpile' can show some of Austin that is and maybe sometimes we will show things that are now lost. Fortunately, Top Drawer is still there, at 49th and Burnet just in case you are in Austin and want to do some cool shopping or need to get rid of something.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Downtown Transportation

I am way too skittish (and accident prone) to go around on anything but two legs or four wheels. Others feel the price of gas and scant parking makes two-wheeled conveyances a natural downtown. This place on Third Street (photographed last year by FFP) has some scooters and some big honking bikes. There is another shop, on Fifth west of Lamar that has just scooters.

I'm hoping my feet will propel me on most urban adventures. To that end we have even purchased an urban shopping cart like those you see people using in Europe. I guess these two-wheeled purveyors are doing OK, though. The shops have been there for a while.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Guitar, Again!

This will have to be quick because I am running late today. So...another guitar! FFP is posing at Austin City Hall (the Cesar Chavez side) with a very Texas version of the giant decorated guitar. You can spy the longhorn cow and the Capitol Building. Try to guess what might be on the other side and I'll show it to you another time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Making Austin the Capital

Austin is the Capital of Texas. Maybe those of you who are citizens of the U.S. learned that in school. (I still have trouble remembering the Capitals of other states. Montpelier, Vermont always sticks in my mind but I've not tarried long in Vermont in my life.) This picture was taken on Congress Avenue. It is dedicated to Angelina Eberly who fired a cannon at Sixth and Congress to thwart Texas Rangers sent by Sam Houston to take the state records off to Houston, further east and, he thought, a more appropriate capital for the young nation. Yes, this was 1842, so Texas was an independent nation. Oh, she missed the Rangers but 'aroused the populace' according to this page. Folks chased down the Rangers and retrieved the archives. Lest you think her cannon wasn't loaded...she blew a hole in General Land Office building, three blocks north. Such are Texas heroines. Well, Austin heroines, I guess. I guess Houston would like to be our Capital City, but that seems so wrong.

Photo was taken at night using my Nikon Coolpix P4 and enhanced a little on the computer.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Iconic Austinite

FFP is pretty iconic himself. One of the few true, native-born Austinites you'll meet. (He likes to tell people he's been here sixty years. And his dad and a couple of generations back were born here, too.)

But I'm talking about Clifford Antone. Clifford started his blues club just before I moved to Austin (1975). It has had at least three homes and "Blues Guitar" is sitting outside the current location on West Fifth. Clifford died a little over a year ago. He was younger than we are. That is his face on the guitar.

FFP and I saw B.B. King at the original location some time in the seventies, I think. We saw various acts at the Guadalupe location, too. The night I shot this (Tuesday, I believe) hopefuls from the National Poetry Slam that is being held here were lining up outside the place.

Friday, August 10, 2007

One Fateful Day

This is a photo I took last night at the Austin City Council meeting in City Hall.

Here you see Austin Mayor Will Wynn presenting a thanks proclamation to Houston McCoy, the man who actually fired the shotgun blasts that killed the UT Tower Sniper Charles Whitman on August 1, 1966. It's a long, strange story how Houston and some of his colleagues on that fateful day (who were also there last night), have been denied coverage in the news media since that date.

But that's way beyond the scope of this forum. Forrest has his version of the day on his web journal, here.

All McCoy's living colleagues save one and relatives of the rest were there--including the UT employees who participated in helping the officers gain access to the Tower through the tunnel system and then operated the elevators to get them up there. Also, there was a representative from the UT Co-op accepting the award for Alan Crum, the Co-op Security Manager who went on top of the Tower with the officers.

The lady in the background looking up at Houston is the widow of George Shepard, one of the officers who was in the waiting area of the observation deck and was preparing to go out to help his colleagues while the confrontation took place.

Houston's daughter Monika was the driving force in making this ceremony happen.

If the shooting had taken place this summer, the media would have been exploring it from every angle, getting to the bottom of every person's story or, at least, repeating the same sound bites from some for weeks. Not so in 1966 although a Life Magazine did show the tower through the bullet hole in a window on the cover and it was the lead story on the national newscasts that night. But people went back to their lives and studies and jobs. There was no memorial to the victims until 1996 (a small pond north of the tower was created) and then it had no plaque until more recently. Little money was collected to help the victims and I don't think anyone was sued.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Rockabilly Guitar

Tuesday when we were downtown we walked around on Congress after the light had started to fade. FFP posed with the Rockabilly Guitar. It has its bona fides, too, because we noticed Billy Gibbons' autograph on there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Our Favorite Downtown Projects

For those following along at home, you know that one of our favorite non-profits is Ballet Austin and that we are going to move downtown to a building that is under construction. This photo we took last night at a pre-grand opening tour of the new Ballet Austin Butler Dance Education Center shows our building (the 360) going up behind the dance center. We are proud of the building and very excited to dream of one day being its neighbor.

We have shown you various other construction shots of the 360, here and here and right at the moment you can see it behind the collapsed Intel shell in the headline bar of the blog. Progress is being made on it although it needs about fourteen floors to be topped out. The BDEC home of Ballet Austin is lots closer with the space in use and the final painting and furniture and a few things going in before completion and grand opening.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Multi-Talented Muralist

I know a lot of talented people, but few with so many skills in so many areas as Emily, who you see here.

She has a degree in theater; works as a seamstress in the wardrobe department at Ballet Austin; teaches special needs kids, specializing in autism; and she's getting a good business going painting murals in children's bedrooms. Here you see some of her work -- as you can see, she can do a number of different styles.

I did one of my columns on her a few weeks ago and we used this photo in the article.

Ah, the adaptability and energy of the young!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Conversations in Film

Barbara Morgan, Executive Director of AFF, and Dan Petrie, Jr., Hollywood writer, director, producer.

The Austin Film Festival has been celebrating the writer's role in film for over a decade. In October, there is a huge film festival and conference. But there are some interesting events throughout the year, too. Yesterday, FFP and I heard Dan Petrie, Jr. talk about writing screenplays. Then we saw "Beverly Hills Cop" which he got writing credit for after the script had been through a Hollywood saga. He took some Q&A after that and put up with a reception where he was peppered with questions from would-be screenwriters. (Not us...we are dilettantes, quite happy to hear about the creative process and watch the results while writing other things. Well, FFP writes a column. I'll stick to my motto: "Pretending to write but only blogging.")

I left the AFF banner in here so you could observe the barbed wire logo. We have participants and films from all over the world. But the festival likes to play with its Texas roots with its logos and posters.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Fine Food and Clothes

We don't spend all our time on South Congress or somewhere else south of the river. (The river that is, really, a lake downtown. Town Lake. Soon to be Lady Bird Lake, I guess.) Indeed, we currently live in North Central Austin.

Last night we wanted some light fare and went to Fino which isn't far from home and is run by our friends Lisa and Emmett Fox. It seems that the cool thing for restaurants these days is to have four-letter names. In Austin we have Fino, Asti, Wink, Zoot and Cibo.

Fino is in a small center at 29th and San Gabriel near the northern reaches of the sprawling UT campus and Lamar Boulevard. The same center houses The Texas Clothier and you can see in this composition part of their sign and the big block letters on the stairs indicating Fino is up that way. I think the columns and brick and the shades Fino has up to block the brutal Texas setting sun make an interesting photo.

We had interesting dishes for our dinner: wild shrimp in garlic and olive oil, asparagus yogurt soup, scallop ceviche with homemade potato chips, a vegetable tagine, Greek condiments on pita. It's a nice place with lots of little plates and sharing.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

SoCo Music

Since we seem to have been touring around South Congress of late, I thought I'd show you the sign for the Continental Club. This music venue (and its sign!) is fifty years old. As this stretch of street ebbed and flowed in cachet, there has always been the Continental Club. Places like this help Austin lay its somewhat suspect claim to "Live Music Capital of the World." Anyway, we do have lots of musicians and music. And Texans have never been given to understatement!

Friday, August 3, 2007

SoCo for Tourists

South Congress is a popular hangout for Austin natives, of course. With shops, restaurants and clubs it has a little something for everyone from live music to funky clothes to locally grown groceries to Mexican Food and ice cream. But two unique, refurbished motels make it a great base of operations for outlanders, too. The Austin Motel has preserved this sign which always makes me laugh. And not just for the slogan on the reader board at the bottom. It is a bit funky although I suspect a step or two up from the old motel it used to be. The close in the slogan refers to the short distance to downtown.

The other place to stay in this area is the uber-sophisticated San Jose Hotel which was turned into a modern minimalist place popular with singers and stars and creative people. We've seen some rooms there and they are nice. The place had turned into a weekly motel for people on the down and out (if not actual drug dealers and prostitutes) when an acquaintance of ours took it over and made it a showcase. She ran the place (with its residents) while she put the deal together and she made a little film about the place before the transformation and the people who lived there. You wouldn't recognize the place from the Zen getaway that is there now. We will post some pictures of the San Jose one day.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Remembering a Horrible Day

August 1, 1966 was one of the those Austin days when there isn't a cloud in the sky and the heat seizes your skin and blasts through to your bones. I was a 20-year-old junior at The University of Texas, taking two courses in summer school. At 11:55 a.m. I had just gotten through having lunch with two of my Longhorn Band pals at Renfro's Drug Store across from campus and we were paying for our burgers. The cashier warned us that "a guy is out there shooting a gun." We blew her off and went outside anyway.

We stood there for a minute or so, trying to figure out what was happening and then I decided to go on to class. As I turned to my right, it was like a giant invisible hand pushed me back and I stood rooted to the sidewalk, feeling strangely queasy for some reason. About ten seconds later, a rifle shot whizzed past my right ear and hit a man -- a 38-year-old with six kids to support -- standing four feet from me. He died two hours later at a local hospital.

That of course, was the opening phase of the Charles Whitman siege. (If you want to read more, go here.)

Forty-one years later, about forty people, myself included, gathered at the small memorial The University of Texas finally erected in 1999, just north of the Tower, to remember the 16 dead and 31 wounded from that day. (The lack of memorial recognition about the incident by UT until 33 years later is another story.)

This was the first time ALL the brave officers who participated in subduing Whitman that day have been recognized and several of them, including one widow, were there to talk, remember, befriend each other, and try to heal. (There are a lot of side stories here that go way beyond what I should put on this forum.)

This photo I happened to take is especially meaningful. The two pretty ladies in the foreground are the daughter and granddaughter of Austin Police Officer Billy Speed, the only law enforcement officer killed during the rampage. Becky, the daughter, was all of 18 months old that fateful day. She never got to know her dad. Billy had been talking that morning about wanting to get out of police work and how he'd like to start his own photography business.

The children swinging in the tree are grandkids of Houston McCoy, the man who actually shot and killed Whitman, but has never been given proper credit for it in the news media. (A very long story, not appropriate for this forum.)

Somehow, this photo said a lot to me-- about the living and the dead.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wake Up and Smell the Migas

First you chop tomatoes and onions, then you start some eggs in butter. When eggs start to set, bring the tomatoes and onions to the party and scramble and stir everyone up. Crush in tortilla chips, cook and stir. When about done and eggs are cooked, add grated cheese and mix in until melt. Finally hit the plate with your share and bolster it with a little salsa. While this is a typical breakfast in Austin, it is not one you have every day. Not us anyway. Our usual is FFP cereal and yogurt and coffee and me black coffee. I captured FFP doing this one Sunday last month and made a collage for today's photo. Refried beans might be added in a restaurant version, but we just ate the eggs. Click on the collage for the bigger version. But grab a big cup of coffee before staring too long.

This month's Daily Photo Theme is Typical Breakfast. DP celebrates theme day on the first of each month.