West Austin Studio Tour – South

Took a short tour of a couple South venues on the West Austin Studio tour. I’ve been curious about the Space music rehearsal studio on Manchaca Road for awhile.  The Sound : Vision show featured work from the Austin Art Refugees, a roving band of artists I will be following, shown in the gallery below: Hannah Lee, Ann Wieding, Dave McClinton, Patrick Moran and Bart Kibbe.  I had to stop in at David Amdur’s studio to see his new stone and wood carvings and check out the latest addition to the Manchaca Road corridor, Articulture, making art out of life.  More to come next week, when we’ll have another chance to explore more Westside art.

Barton Creek and Blunn Creek – January 2016

It’s always nice to enjoy the trails along Barton Creek in January, when the weather is so very fine. Kids of all ages and their dogs swarm the greenbelt like happy bees with spring almost in the air, sun shining down like honey .

There were fewer people on the trail at the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve, an urban oasis in South Austin and one of several ancient volcanoes that dot the area from St. Edward’s University to Stacy Park in Travis Heights. My favorite oak, probably 500 years old, is queen of the forest and was too big to fit into my camera’s frame.

Water Meditation – Flowing

Big Sky Love

I’ll miss you, Texas
You and your giant clouds,
close enough to touch
Blue sky wrapping round
the mighty oaks standing tall,
like broccoli on the horizon

And dragon flies, big as goldfish
skimming waves of grass,
rippling like an ocean
in the golden afternoon light

I can’t say goodbye to cypress trees
and limestone springs, reminding me
that dinosaurs roam these lands
when the seas come and go
You have sunk a taproot deep in my heart
and perfumed the forest of my mind

Krause Springs cypress stand
Krause Springs cypress stand

Travis Heights – Past and Present

Took the day to follow the breadcrumbs to my old neighborhood. I spent the better part of three decades in Travis Heights, during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. So much of my youth played out in the streets and parks winding along South Congress (in the days before the circus came to stay.) My boyfriend played in a band, I played soccer and worked part time, went out most nights and enjoyed rent that went from $125 to $150, then $250 and eventually, after 25 years $425/mo. Soap Creek Saloon, the Austex Lounge and the lone survivor, The Continental Club were an easy walk. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting a musician or an artist. Today, the new homes are a mix of boxy, architectural digest McMansions and older bungalows on steroids, with a few originals sprinkled around awaiting transformation. It is the story of new, old and aging Austin, where gentrification is whimsical and typically lacking in grace.

Today, I wanted to walk the path at Stacy Park, sit in a tree and visit the places I once called home. Some of my fondest memories are there with my dogs: Star, a big black dog and Cosmo, who was white with black patches on his eyes and tail. CosmoThey streaked up and down the park and usually stayed close to the woman who ran with the wolves. It was fun, we were fast and I only got bowled over once, a painful tailbone injury I will never forget. The cliff that hung over a part of the creek bathed in the moon’s glow once long ago – stark white with 3 black dogs looking for rocks – had collapsed. That moment lingers in my minds eye, a memory silhouette infused with hexagonal moon tower light. The waterfall on the other side of Pecan Grove has been cleared and the creek flowed steady, but I didn’t check to see if the daddy long leg colony bounced in a bunch under the cliff and I missed the 9 foot tall cattails. There were crawdads in the creek then – the neighbor boy who tried to convince me (unsuccessfully) that Rush was the greatest band ever would bring me the big ones. 502EMary

502 E Mary Street was my home then, which I shared with my partner, Jim. The big tree in the back yard is still there, a stately tribute to the times Star would peel my cat Simba off by his head, running around the yard with him dangling in her mouth. I stayed for a while after Jim went west, living with Connie and then Saffron, who sang in the Chromatics. It was all about the music. SimbaStar

In 1980 I traded working part time at the library and going to school for the art gallery and video studio, waiting tables and partying like it was 1999, but in 1980. Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and David Bowie gave way to the B52s, Devo and Talking Heads. Antones moved to the old Shakey’s Pizza location on Guadalupe and we got Paul Ray and the Cobras, Stevie and Jimmy Vaughn and Angela Strehli. At Emmajo’s and Jalapeno Charlie’s Butch Hancock, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Joe Ely were playing alone and together – still are, though both Emmajo’s and Jalepeno Charlie are gone.

When I moved to a tiny house a few blocks over at 506 Leland it was raining men, women, transsexuals, all manner of strange bedfellows. There was no method to my madness, just a walk on the wild side. I remember Michael Florio in his platform shoes and his Puerto Rican afro singing that Lou Reed song to me in the back of a van just before I set off with a band of Merry Pranksters for the Shenandoah River Valley to camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But I digress. Gardener's Tiny House at 506 Leland

For ten years the Amdur Gallery informed much of my artistic and hedonistic sensibilities, while Dixie’s Bar and Bus Stop and Café Brasil helped close the chapter on my carefree, youthful indiscretions. Such a great time to write, paint, make videos, ride my bike and dance. While it didn’t do much to put money in the bank, living the life in my 20s and 30s infused my spirit with a joie de vivre I might not feel as often now but I can always remember, vividly. My parents might have had the war and the American dream, but my youth in Travis Heights was time well (mis)spent. Like an atmospheric southern novel, heavy with the sound of cicadas and the scent of blooming trees, I occasionally dream of those nights, laughing and prowling the streets with my friends. I felt it today when I walked the trail and returned to my homes, thinking of my loved ones come and gone and my daughter, who joined me on Leland and started a whole new life.

CottageIn the manner of people who don’t have much and whose guardian angels (my beloved landlords) provide welcome transitions, I moved next door from the gardeners shack to the slightly larger cottage at 508 Leland. Aurora, my daughter was just starting to walk when our friends helped hand carry our possessions over and we stretched out into a new yet familiar home. Lee, her dad and I managed to live together for a few years, and then it was just Aurora and me for the next few. There are so many wonderful memories of my friends and our children who grew up together in Travis Heights. Aurora jumping on the jogging trampoline in the rain in her bathing suit and umbrella, swimming at Stacy pool and walking with her to Travis Elementary, coffee cup in hand. We were close, in a way single parents and their only children are. Times were sometimes tough, but they were fun and filled with love as well. We made it through with the help of friends and family, for which I am eternally thankful.

AuroraEvWe didn’t stay alone for long and the next era, like Texas weather is filled with extremes: sunny by day, thunderstorms at night.

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. Dolly Parton

Barton Creek flowing into Twin Falls

Fall in the Barton Creek greenbelt brings out the butterflies and the Autumn flowers. While there are not as many cypress at Gus Fruh park, the clatter of the sycamore and cottonwood leaves lends an ambient aural texture to a sunny, cool South Austin saunter.

I miss the clouds of monarch butterflies wafting over campus, Ladybird Lake and my back yard, but the few brave travelers I saw this October made me realize how each one was unique.  Some were jaunty, dancing their way south, others seemed very determined and bent on reaching their goal, some had torn wings , a few that flitted merrily through sprinklers.  But they need milkweed, so please consider buying seeds or seedlings to help them in their long trip from Mexico to Canada and back.

What a relief to see and hear the rushing water of Barton Creek. It’s been a long parched summer but autumn in Texas is truly something worth celebrating.

South by South Austin 2013

What’s a local to do among the swarm of music crazed SXSWesters? Some of us were here in the beginning – we’re the ones saying it will never be that cool again.  And we’re right, from our perspective.  But there are ways to savor the flavor without getting trapped.  If someone handed me a Prince ticket I would have braved the crush, but I settled for what promises to become a growing South by South Austin fringe escapade, except for a quick walk across Ladybird Lake to see Alt-J and Richard Thompson (links are to music and interviews). Hats off, by the way, to these Brits for their tasty back beats and edgy vocals.  Running into friends, enjoying the serendipity of roaming – a welcome break in the routine – hunting for musical treasure. Anyone notice that the hipsters are getting younger every year?

Heading to South Congress seemed inevitable and given the 25 years I lived and partied in 78704, a homecoming.  It’s more of a circus these days than it used to be, so rather than dive into the fray I found a stool at Enoteca  and savored a glass of white wine.  Then I headed South.  As chance would have it, I found myself at one of my favorite South Austin restaurants, Evangeline’s. Besides some fine cajun family cooking they have good music, but better get there before 6 or you’ll have to wait for a table. Fueled and ready for a few hours of dancing, we found exactly what we were looking for at the One 2 One, dancing to the funky soul sounds of LZ Love .  The last time I went to the One 2 One I saw Sister 7, another great dance band.  Keep this club on your radar, it has a bigger dance floor than most and is a new venture by Danny Crooks, former impresario of Soap Creek Saloon.  South Lamar and Manchaca now boasts The Saxon Pub, the One 2 One and Strange Brew, recently named best new venue by the Austin Chronicle. Then there’s Patsy’s Cafe off Hwy 71 and Sam’s Town Point,  for a trip from hip into classic Austin. I only stayed for an hour at Sam’s but it was truly a Social Logical experience. I have SXSW to thank for showing me the sad, sweet songs by Rebekah Pulley, the soulful funk of transgender diva LZ Love and Brit sensation’s ALt-J and Richard Thompson’s brief appearance behind the fence at Waterloo Records.  To those who want a taste of SXSW without the parking hassle and badges – South Austin might just be a true haven for the weird.

Sunday Stroll and the Farmer’s Market at Community Renaissance Market

Braving the heat, I stayed on the South side of the hike and bike trail Sunday for my midday stroll. Courting the shade has its advantages, but it was still a little daft to wander out at noon. In need of refreshment, I stopped at the Sunday Farmer’s Market at my neighborhood Community Renaissance Market and visited with Don Morrow, the chef of Tomorrow’s Meals Today and food distributor for the farmers’ produce. They have a nice collaboration going with Native Nom Nom Cafe, profiled earlier, and great deals on food boxes, local olive oil and bakery products and mixes. Natural meats and prepared meals are now also being offered.

Inside, I lucked into Roz’s Red Hot Tamales. Roz is a third generation tamale maker and has preservative, gluten and lard free tamales, both savory and sweet. I tried the spinach and feta, the black bean and corn and the chicken tomatillo tamales. Bueno! She had already sold out of the pumpkin and sweet potato so I’ll get there a little earlier next time. Speaking of sweet, check out the key lime mini cheesecakes and the cupcakes from the Sugar Tooth Bakery and Sugar Pops. You will want to stop by sometime and sample the cafe and food table delights, both natural and home grown. This community space is rocking South Austin!

Native Nom Nom Cafe

The Community Renaissance Market at Westgate Dr. and William Cannon in South Austin is home to the natural, buy local Native Nom Nom Cafe.

Native Nom Nom is a chef-driven progressive natural food cafe offering awesome hand-crafted dishes. Breakfast: Tacos, sandwiches – Lunch/Dinner: Fried rice, spinach risotto, salads, specialty pizza pies. All made with local/native farm fresh ingredients!

The menu features pizza, breakfast tacos, sandwiches, soup and salads. So far I’ve sampled the pizza, which was fair, the breakfast tacos (featuring pastured raised Vital Farms eggs) which were really good and several excellent salads. Owner, Chris Rios is committed to serving healthy food, plenty of vegetarian options and a place for the community to gather, providing movies, music, poetry and art events in support of local artists and fans. The business model at the Community Renaissance Market is incubating a number of South Austin originals for locals of all ages. Opportunities for discounts with the contribution of foodstuffs to the Capital Area Food Bank are coming. A drop off station for recycled shoes and clothing is already in place by the front door.

I fondly refer to this younger generation of naturally minded foodies as granola hipsters and I couldn’t be happier they are finding a good home in South Austin.
The Native Salad Trio features the Thai Green Papya Salad, the Quinoa and Toasted Barley Salad and the the House Garden Salad, garnished with a very nice, light vinaigrette. I look forward to sampling the Kale salad and am glad to have unique taco options so close to home.