Friday, October 31, 2008

Celebrate Spooky Times

These gigantic (and expensive) pumpkins were on sale at Whole Foods the other day. I started to post something else and I'd already shown pumpkins here and here (fake ones in this case). But before I post I glance at the other blogs recently updated and, well, Halloween is a sort of unintended theme day, isn't it? Meanwhile, I have to prepare for tomorrow which is the first of the month and so has an actual theme. (It is 'Books.')

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Downtown Living

Near the end of my long walk yesterday I popped up on Barton Springs for a coffee and taco at an upscale convenience store (Thom's Market). Snapped this photo at Pecan Grove trailer park. I think the other trailer park (Shady Grove) is a goner to development, but maybe this one will survive. I'm sure this gardener hopes so. Note the crane in the background.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Light from the Past

This is a moonlight tower. As you drive around Austin you will occasionally notice one of these gigantic (165 feet high) street lighting fixtures. Originally erected in 1895, some remain in use today. This one is at 9th and Guadalupe. They were refurbished for their hundredth anniversary and until the 20's they had carbon arc lamps light nightly by a workman using a built-in elevator. They use mercury vapor today. A replica of one is used to make a giant lighted 'Christmas tree' in Zilker park each year. Most sources I found say there are seventeen in use today, but I think this counts one that was at 4th and Nueces that was removed (temporarily? I had heard it would be re-erected somewhere at some point) to build the building in which I sit. You can see that tower in the distance on the far left here. It's hard to believe these structures are over a hundred years old. But it's hard to believe the Eiffel tower went up in 1889, too! You wonder if the Eiffel Tower and its Expo didn't influence cities around the U.S. to buy these. (Apparently, many cities had them in that era but only Austin has preserved them.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fun From the Past

This is the sign for a place on South First (Roadhouse Relics) that sells signs, neon and otherwise, and other ad relics from the past. It would be interesting to know what the Indian was touting in his past life.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Old and New Living

The Heritage Society had a talk yesterday on a small dead-end block north of Sixth Street. Harthan Street has some designated landmark homes but also some that merely contribute to a local historic district with rules on the exterior changes agreed to by the homeowners in advance and enforced by the Landmark Commission. The bungalows partially on view here, at 607 and 609, were built in 1915 and 1920 respectively. Looming behind them are two downtown high rises...the Monarch Apartments and behind it, the 360 Condominiums. The bungalow on the left has some colors and decorations that probably don't date to 1915! (And couches on porches were probably not de rigeur then either.) However, enough remains of its original state for it to contribute to the history of the street. The one on the right at 607 has had the wooden porch columns and original windows changed enough so that it is not considered 'contributing.' Personally I just like the juxtaposition of homes built almost a hundred years ago on a hill west of downtown with the skyscrapers over their shoulders.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Not All Upscale Stores on SoCo

If you are down on SoCo looking for a fancy meal or eclectic shopping, you might be surprised to find Hudson. So shoot something and they will prepare it for your freezer.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Art Car Downtown

You'd never lose this car in a parking lot. This one was parked on West Avenue, though. It is covered stem to stern with decoration.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Be Kind to the Earth

This tiny shop, in near South Austin on Elizabeth Street, sells earth friendly clothes and gadgets and even toys and such. Next to it are 'gas' pumps with bio-diesel and some other alternative fuel (vegetable oil?). Like everything else, oil has come off its peak but the world still needs saving and there is a global economic crisis to boot so I hope this little shop keeps going. I'm worried about a lot of small businesses in this economy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A House Downtown

Right downtown (7th Street from Guadalupe to San Antonio) you will find a block of historic homes. This is the south side of the John Bremond house. It was built in 1886. That is what passes for old in Texas and means it was built while our Capitol was being completed. The house has the offices of the Texas Classroom Teachers Association in it. I snapped this picture as we walked on Tuesday to our early voting location at the Travis County Courthouse (also our regular polling place now that we live downtown). It was closer to walk to our polling place in the old neighborhood. And you didn't have to pass through a security guard and a metal detector. But you couldn't vote early there.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Umlauf's Family

This giant Umlauf sculpture is outside the Perry-Castaneda Library at UT. We've taken you to the Umlauf Gardens before. It is simply called 'family.'

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another Ghost Bike

There are two more 'ghost bikes' on South Lamar. This one is on the west side of the street. I showed you one on West Sixth here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trash Goes Here

This tiled enclosure with a tall post is in a tiny park near Bouldin Creek between South First and South Third that isn't on any map. A street sign has similar decoration. We walked by this after eating at El Mercado yesterday when we decided to stroll back a different way.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Maybe The Season is Ending

There has been at least a hint of a nip in the air at night for a week or so and maybe this SnoCone trailer on South Lamar will be packing up soon. Or not. SnoCones could work most of the year here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Casting a Big Shadow

An uncommonly gifted blues guitarist who was born in Dallas and grew up in the Oak Cliff section of that city, Stevie Ray Vaughn was claimed by Austin as its own after he moved here as a youngster. He died in a helicopter crash in 1990. I believe this tribute statue was erected on the Hike and Bike Trail on Lady Bird Lake (then Town Lake) in 1994. It is near the water at Auditorium Shores. I photographed it on a cloudy day so only the bronze shadow is cast. He's holding a live floral tribute from a fan, I believe. Photo was taken Monday, October 13.

Friday, October 17, 2008

UT Tower

There's the UT Tower with someone's chalk drawing of same in the foreground. I don't think the chalk drawing is part of any public art show but it was near the spheres that were. You have to enlarge the photo to really appreciate the chalk drawing. The letters 'LH' stand for Longhorn, I guess.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Clever but Still Out of Business

This little UT drag bike shop had a clever 'sign' and window graphics but it didn't make it, I guess. Too bad. I'm afraid there will be more retail failures soon enough. And I figure Lance has enough money to keep Mellow Johnny's going.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

High Rise Living at UT

This high rise is not downtown but on the University of Texas campus. It's a high rise dorm called the Dobie with a few floors of mall on the bottom including the Dobie Theater.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cloud Mirror

Frost Bank Tower has appeared here a number of times before, but I couldn't resist it dressed in fluffy clouds a couple of Sundays ago.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Unidentified Sculpture

These spheres are obviously intended as works of art. I think they originally had another purpose given some stencils on them. The dots are pennies attached somehow at regular intervals. They were on a concrete pad that looked like it had once had a plaque. You could see where the plaque had been but it had gone missing. We were walking on the east side of the UT campus when we encountered the thing. I was puzzled! A quick search of the WEB, though, revealed that this is part of an effort to bring sculptures to campus borrowed from an institute no less esteemed then the Metropolitan Museum. The first story that popped up, though, was a UT student journalist complaining because the work wasn't beautiful and appealing. The second was the official site of this project with an admonition that photography was not permitted!. Isn't that interesting to place art outdoors in a public place with no identifying signs and not permit photos! Intrigued, I started reviewing the whole project and most of the works say 'photography not permitted.' Some are indoors so that may be more enforceable. It does not say what the penalty will be. Perhaps I'll receive a cease and desist. I remember reading about the project now and I am intrigued to locate and view (if not photograph) the pieces all around campus. The artist for this one, Donald Lipski, seems to me to be a vaguely familiar name so maybe I've seen his work before.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lone Star

The Story of Texas: The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is the mouthful name of this museum with the giant star in front. There are some permanents displays, special shows and two theaters, one an IMAX. It's located at MLK and Congress. So you can continue touring at the Blanton across the street to the north and/or go south to the Capitol.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Heat

What's that old saying? "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!" Parind Vora couldn't escape the kitchen last night. He is the chef/owner of Restaurant Jezebel on Congress Avenue. FFP snapped his picture in the open kitchen of the tiny, popular restaurant. Some other patrons in the window seats with us wanted to speak with him and were finally led back to peer over the counter into the open kitchen and tell him how much they loved the food. I had an innovative dish of salmon and pork loin which I couldn't finish because I enjoyed too much bread and warm olives with my delicious first course of salmon tartare. They bundled up our food and held it until we returned from the Paramount which is just down the street.

I love restaurants like this that are unique and driven by their own ideals and have a guy at the helm who can smile so warmly while steam and fire and bustle races around him.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Architectural Detail

The Central Christian Church at 11th and Guadalupe has some interesting details in the iron and stucco. It's fun to stop and look at details sometimes and a daily upload gives that chance.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cafe Medici

In spite of the name that evokes ancient Florence, Café Medici on The Drag has weirdly Jetson-looking furniture offsetting the old wood and the brick walls. I don't know how many shots of espresso they put in my Americano, but it was strong and good.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Daniel Johnston Original

Daniel Johnston is a singer/songwriter/artist and sufferer of bipolar disease. He painted this mural on the side of a store facing The Drag* fifteen years ago. (It was a secondhand music store called Sound Exchange at the time.) The mural has been preserved through store changes and is considered iconic by his fans. There was a documentary, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, released in 2006 about him. There is a fan site I found for him.

I like the picture because besides showing the stark black and white and simple lines of the preserved mural, the newspaper boxes (one conveniently toppled when I walked by) look like crayons ready to color it.

*The Drag is Guadalupe as it runs along the west side of the UT campus. You pronounce Guadalupe in Austin not in Spanish (Huadalupa) but GWAD-Loop or some such. Not that we don't know a lot of Spanish around here (we pronounce guacamole correctly about half the time) but for some reason street names have a pronunciation key all their own.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

A new place called Péché has opened up over on Fourth just east of Cedar Street courtyard. They have absinthe fountains and lots of people were having the green drink because they were included in the freebies in this opening event to benefit the March of Dimes. They were passing around samples of their pommes frites and other French bistro offerings. I'll be back to try the moules and croque madame. Since Capitol Brasserie was sold and became a pretentious Asian restaurant and bar I've missed a spot for that kind of fare. We'll see if this place can take its place. Somehow Bess (Sandra Bullock's sort of bistro) has never caught my fancy entirely. We are sort of lacking in places for stuff like this in Austin.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pho Shop Pigeons

We walked to the university yesterday and on Guadalupe (students call that commercial stretch of that street 'The Drag') we were wondering why there were pigeons all over the roof and on the sidewalk of this Pho shop. Then this guy came out to feed them and all was clear.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ballet Class

We were privileged to get to visit a rehearsal the other day of the main company of Ballet Austin as they prepared for their October opener. The studio lighting was sufficient to capture the dancers with only a little blurring with my point and shoot. We are excited about the new season. Ballet Austin is one of our passions and they have been a focus of some of our charity time and money for years and now they are our neighbors! (Their building as long-time readers know is in the next block from us.) This is the main company. There is also an apprentice company and, literally, thousands of students of all ages who use the school. Some of our money goes to provide scholarships to children who could not otherwise afford dance class and the company has thousands of hours of outreach into the community including welcoming clients of social service agencies to their dress rehearsal which brings a live ballet experience to some people who have never experienced it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Still Building

If you listened to all the doom and gloom about the markets, you'd think that all construction was halted and everyone was out of work. Actually, projects that are underway have a way of keeping going, for a while anyway, and even getting completed. (Of course, some things do get abandoned as Austinites are well aware from the last bust. See the Intel Shell which had to be demolished. That shell used to dominate what's now my neighborhood. Now it's a forgotten vacant lot.) We can't see into this construction site from our place, but recently we noticed a new crane over there. When we walked by on Lavaca yesterday I snapped this picture through a gap in the fence where workers were entering. They have a road down into the pit over where the General truck is and a catwalk with a temporary guard rail where this guy is standing (in his Austin vest). Kind of looks like a kids sandbox with some really cool construction toys.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fall Flamingos

There's a garden store at Bee Cave (RM 2244) and 360 (aka Cap. of Texas Hwy) that always has a display of pink plastic flamingos. One way you can tell it is fall is that pumpkins are mixed in with them. (Are they plastic, too? I think so, maybe. I took this from the passenger seat of the car so I didn't give it close inspection.) It's definitely October, I guess. Signs of fall here include pumpkins, a hint of cool in the air before it turns brutally hot and, of course, football (the kind with the odd-shaped ball Americans obsess over). The store is called Pots and Plants.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A Bee Cs of Relaxation

In an area that used to be on a river tucked deep in a working ranch, there is a spa that is wonderful in its tranquility. Tranquility has a steep price, though, and Lake Austin Spa is no exception. FFP and I bid on a two-night stay with all meals (and a massage each) at a charity auction back in June and were surprised to find that we had purchased it. We promised ourselves that we would treat ourselves after we crawled out of the moving morass of the summer. We had a wonderful and tranquil time. While we were walking around the garden I snapped this busy bee. He was oblivious of me while he did his duties.

The spa is wonderful and manages to maintain a serenity beyond belief even though the ranch is a huge housing and urban development now and the river is a lake with skiers and fishermen. I got good some good exercise, had a great massage, ate delicious portion-controlled calorie-reduced food and read and lounged. If you want the perfect place to be when the stock-market takes a deep dive, this is it.

By the way, we've had pictures of and near Lake Austin before but it is a long and winding lake so, for example, the bee's home is probably sixteen miles as the hawk flies down the lake to the dam that creates the lake which is much nearer Mt. Bonnell, our club and such. (And it's almost twenty by car on the roads you have to take.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In or Out?

Tennis players and fans know that a ball is in if it touches any part of the line. This (pink, breast cancer awareness) ball represents an edge where a serve might go and still be considered in. One day we were playing with some pink tennis balls (unusual for my group but someone had them) and we went looking for an errant ball. Later the groundskeeper found this one and tossed it to us, assuming it was ours. It wasn't. I saved it to take a photo on one of the club's newly refurbished courts.

By the way, if you struck a serve that landed in that spot, you would have a good chance of your opponent calling it out. The hopeful eye sees what it wants. The pros have linesmen and, in some cases, electronic review challenges. Us amateurs call the balls on our side.

Lines are everywhere today on City Daily Photo. That's because it's the first of the month and it's theme day and lines is the theme. Click here to view thumbnails for all participants