On my way to Ladybird Lake I couldn’t help noticing a smorgasbord of visual art dotting South Lamar. This photo essay is certainly an advertisement for the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture and bridges new and “classic” Austin. Next time I’ll look inside. I’m not sure West or North Austin can compete with South and East, but I’ll take my camera out someday and see.
Late to the party, I only recently heard about A is Red, drummer Don Harvey’s new collaboration with: Glenn Fukunaga–bass, Stefano Intelisano–Keyboards, Kullen Fuchs-Vibes, trumpet, Kevin Flatt–Trumpet, and Adam Sultan-Guitar. The Continental Club Gallery is the upstairs companion to the Continental Club with a nice wall of windows overlooking downtown Austin. It was a small space for a big sound, rolling over the audience in thunderous aural waves, courtesy of A is Red. Their music is described variously as jazz, fusion, world and soul but given its sensual impact and bouts of restrained cacophony, I’ll call it Kundalini jazz. Great mind/body sensations: serpentine textures created by unexpected pairings of trumpet, guitar, electric piano and vibes buoyed by melodic bass and drum syncopation energized and awakened attentive fans. I was held suspended like a bee in amber by music flowing around me like sweet, hard candy. In the end I moseyed home, uplifted and refreshed by a group of fine musicians who will continue to dazzle and surprise on Monday nights at the Continental Club Gallery. I’d like to see them at the Elephant Room in summer, underground in another cool cave on Congress and look forward in anticipation to new compositions from Harvey et al.
Art blooms on walls, in the river and in the streets of East Austin this Easter.
Back in my old neighborhood, enjoying the music with those who dared not venture downtown. I was certainly in my demographic, probably mostly locals out for a spin. Starting with a glass of white Bordeaux at Enoteca and stopping in at Perla’s helped keep us cool between stops. Alejandro Escovedo is always worth fighting the crowd to see. Forgive the shaky video, it’s worth hearing a snippet of Alejandro and the Orchestra.
Shown in the gallery of photos below, Sophia, a young violinist, stood in front of Vespaio playing for contributions to MS research. Her mother has MS and Sophia will ride from Houston to Austin to raise money with the hope of contributing to a cure. Please check Sofia’s website for information on how to contribute to efforts to combat Multiple Sclerosis.
It’s been how many years since our last snowfall? Eight? Ten? I know my cousins in Wisconsin will make fun of me but this is FUN for Austin!
Finding an oasis in the city like McKinney Falls, fed by Onion Creek, keeps ennui at bay. Walking in the afternoon sun on the last day of our winter break, Bill and I had to really use a sauntering eye. When the scenery is spectacular, it’s easy to overlook small delights. Maximizing little pleasures has long been a secret to keeping my heart fire lit, so with time and fresh air the flame steadies. I’ve been thinking about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and feeling chained by my work a day world. Time for meditation, reflection pictured below with shadow play to come. What is it about dreams, reflections, shadow and light that teases my imagination?
Searching for the soul of South Austin requires painting with a broad brush. Between Pluckers, Cherry Creek Catfish and Matt’s El Rancho (classic Bubba) and newcomers Soup Peddler, Full English Breakfast, Strange Brew, hipster, keeping it local enterprises, anything goes. We even have a second generation pseudo Bubba eatery in Red’s Porch. Much of the new growth can be attributed to the pioneering efforts of Central Market . As one of many homeowners in the Cherry Creek area, I can only say thank you, thank you very much, CM.
This weekend I made it to Full English with Bill and to the new Soup Peddler/Juice Box hybrid with Dottie. Full English breakfast was less together than I imagined, but this is a new establishment and I have high hopes for its success. The baked items and homemade chutneys are excellent. We were less impressed by the English breakfast. Bill’s suggestion that they plump up their plate with a more generous portion of mushrooms, a second slice of toast and a larger roasted tomato is a good one. The quality of the ingredients was very high, all local, organic or natural and homemade. They are offering a high tea for the holidays which I look forward to and I will be back to try another breakfast in the next few weeks.
The alliance of the Soup Peddler and Juice Box was born of mutual interest. Soup is popular in the Winter and Juice in summer. Thus, offering them together year round should boost the seasons for each. The New England clam chowder was delicious and the pineapple aguas frescas had little pomegranate seeds floating in it, very fresh. Standing on the border between 78704 and 78745, it represents the best of both. We got the funk, say it loud, keep it proud.
One way I stay in touch with Austin is to meet my friend Dottie at Ladybird Lake on Saturday for a stroll. The skyline is changing and there are new xeriscapes popping up here and there but the trees, the people are consistent, like the guy we say hello to who shares our time and space every Saturday but whose name we may never know. Some of the dogs are regulars too, a few are pictured below. People love to gush about their dogs. It’s a growing phenomenon, one that blurs the lines between species. PBS did a series on the plasticity of dog genes. They are so adaptive they can change physical form within a few generations. What we’re doing to the psyche of our dogs is worth considering. It used to be our kids, but now dogs are the new frontier in behavior mod. Take the undercover pug, better know to his fans as Ms. Douglas Bean. While I applaud the style with which Bean flaunts his neutered transexuality, did the pug get to pick the outfits?
And what are our dogs doing to us? Are they underscoring our pack mentality or could we learn a lot about unconditional love from our wards? I think guardian is a better term than owner, particularly given the expense to maintain our little buddies. Now is certainly an opportune time to wait out the great recession by generating a little side income in doggie paraphernalia. I’m hoping Addy will write that advice column I asked her editor about. The imagination is unchained. . . time to rethink the master/pet relationship at the very least.
Dinner found me in North Austin at the Peony Restaurant for a quick take out meal. While you may have problems downloading the menu, it’s worth a visit. I’ll wait until dining at the attractive, “casually elegant” restaurant to post a review. The sauce was flavorful and light with generous portions of fresh seafood with the pork fried rice fluffy, not oily. Looking forward to a future dining in experience.
Dim sum at Fortune for a birthday celebration led me deeper into North Austin, this time at Braker in the “China Town” complex of Asian shops and eateries. Dim Sum gives new meaning to the term fast food, whirling past at lightning speed. The conversation kept pace and two lazy susans got quite a workout. Savory bites of many appetizers with fresh, spicy condiments, who can complain? The large dining room filled with light from gilded age chandeliers and silk wall hangings convinced me that I would walk out the door into the streets of Singapore. Perhaps I exaggerate a bit. Even with the multi-national collection of families enjoying rolling carts of tasty delights, there was an insular, old world feeling, which of course dissipated as soon as we walked out into the parking lot. Normally I like smaller, less bright and quaint eateries, but the noisy human busyness complimented the experience. Two thumbs up.
I begin to wonder if there is a typical dining day in Austin. I started out at one of the best Mexican breakfast options in town, El Meson on Burleson Rd in SE Austin. There is something mysterious about this spot, but the food isn’t it. Great tacos, red hot but very flavorful hot sauce (you have to get there early for the really spicy one) and the best nopalitos and egg taco I’ve ever had. Bill swears by the chorizo and potato tacos. It’s self-serve and unvarnished, but home cooked goodness permeates the atmosphere. On a more pedestrian note, Dottie and I ate lunch at Scholtzky’s on South Lamar after walking Addy (the chihuahua with a Napoleon complex) around Lady Bird Lake. I wouldn’t mention it, but mid-way through my salad a magnificent rooster strolled by looking for a lunch snack. The staff said he comes by every day to visit, making out like a bandit I’m sure. I’ve seen some chickens loose in the woods by Lady Bird Lake before, so my guess is he makes the rounds; who knows where he has dinner?
After washing my car on Manchaca Rd., I noticed signs along the street for fresh, organic produce and eggs. I saw that a new cafe had opened with a large 78745 tag. Upon further investigation, I discovered Full English an English breakfast cafe and bakery that also serves high tea during the holidays. Their baked goods are all natural, mostly organic as are their eggs and bangers and their homemade chutney. What a find! I haven’t eaten there yet but did make off with some hearty raisin shortcakes that were delicious. They sell their baked goods at two South Austin Farmer’s markets. I knew about the Sunset Valley Market but the Austin Urban Farmer’s Market is one I will need to visit. The next time I’m out and about I will bring my camera.