Archive for April, 2005

A for-real deal?

Here’s the heading: Free House for Lot in 78704 — This is not a joke! This craigslist posting has been up for a little over two weeks. The poster seeks to lease a building plot in 78704 in consideration of a house to be built on that land and that will revert to the owner of the land upon the death of the person posting.

Dove sono?

“Where are the lovely moments of sweetness and pleasure?” This is the beginning of one of the most meltingly beautiful pieces of music ever written. Last night was the big fancy-pants opening performance of the current run of The Marriage of Figaro. Friday night usually showcases the singers with bigger names.

Tonight is among the performances that will feature younger singers on their way up. Tickets to all the remaining performances are still available, and some of them are very cheap. All of them are worth the money, because opera is the original multi-sensory experience: orchestra, voices (solo, in groups, and in choruses), costumes, lighting for mood, stage scenery, everything that can ever possibly happen in a full stage performance, although no live animals in this one.

Mozart will not disappoint, and neither will guest conductor Peter Bay. I think this will be the second go at conducting for an opera by the conductor of the Austin Symphony.

Austin Lyric Opera has given performances in spaces as diverse as the Paramount and the old Coliseum (now demolished, and traditional home of professional wrestling in Austin). UT used to charter buses to go all the way to Houston or to the State Fairgrounds in Dallas, leaving at the crack of dawn for afternoon opera performances and returning to the Villa Capri very late at night. Since 1980, we’ve had our own.

Tickets are as cheap as $15 (for the upper balcony, Monday’s performance). Every ticket is worth every penny. There’s no need for fancy dress, just a love of music. Binoculars are fun to take along. Tonight’s at 7:30, tomorrow’s at 3, and Monday’s at 7:30 again.

Dragons on the water

The rain seems to be over, but the ground’s still wet. So lawn chairs are better than blankets when you head to Festival Beach for the seventh annual dragon boat races. It’s all free, although you should count on the vendors for food. With martial-arts demonstrations, performances by many dance companies, and much, much more, every year this event grows. Each boat carries a steersman, a team of paddlers, and a drummer to keep cadence. I can’t find my pictures from last year, but this is a great take-your-camera event.

Free, and great with turkey legs

When you go in search of a new beer-can pinwheel at the Spring Pecan Street Festival, don’t overlook these two musical attractions.

Austin’s own Cerronato plays the melancholy yet toe-tappingly festive sounds of Colombian vallenato Saturday at 5:00 pm.

Superstar Michael Salgado doesn’t get to Austin all that often and, when he does, you don’t hear him gratis. He plays the piano, not button, accordion and plays it left-handed. His voice is instantly recognizable. It’s rare to get around town without hearing “Cruz de madera” at least once, floating out from the open window of somebody’s camioneta. He’ll be headlining on the latin stage at 6:30 pm on Sunday.

UPDATE: Cerronato is now supposed to take the stage at 8:00 pm and play until 8:50, after the UT Brazilian group and before the UT Afropop group.

An early show, and not dubbed

Austin isn’t truly a late-night town. There are just those same few places serving food after midnight. It’s not an early-bird town, either. There are so many things it’s impossible to do before a certain hour of the day.

Tinseltown south has blessed us with a 10:30 am screening of Kung Fu Hustle, though, and the turnout last weekend at that hour was very decent. It was wonderful that the movie was not dubbed.

Many beloved veterans of the Hong Kong movie world populate this extravaganza. The screen is jammed with almost more than the eye can take in. Special favorites here were The Fated Lovers and the Musicians in Dark Spectacles. I have made a solemn vow to practice the Buddha Hand. This one needs to be seen on the big screen.

Well Played Old Bean

It’s unusual to see Robert E. Lee Rd. get so backed up on a Thursday night, even more so to have a carnival crowd of tents and people teeming within the Umlauf Sculpture Gardens. But if it’s Spring, it must be the annual Umlauf Garden Party.

DSCN2127.jpgNow in its 7th year, the Garden Party brings together the hoi polloi, upscale hipsters, and old guard blue bloods to celebrate and support this Austin institution. I’ve often wondered how to get invited to the shindig, until this year the wife discovered that you simply buy tickets in advance. Brilliant!

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden was created in 1991 after Charles and Angeline Umlauf had the extreme decency to donate their home, studio, and sizeable sculpture collection to the City of Austin. The garden’s modest endowment is dependent upon ongoing private support to maintain and improve the grounds, spawning this annual party as a central fundraising opportunity.

The party was a grand sampling of food and festivity. While the Nash Hernandez Orchestra entertained with a swing pastiche, the crowd of ersatz philanthropists sampled wine from Twin Liquors and appetizers from local restaurants. The buffalo meatballs from the Y Restaurant and Green Pastures‘ crab cakes were personal favorites, but how did we miss the offerings from 7 or wink? The fun kicked into high gear as the deadline for silent auctions approached and vino-fuelled bidders made their eBay-esque rush to victory. We almost nabbed Toni Price’s custom-painted flower pot, but instead focused on winning comfy pajamas for the Missus.

Having recently tied the knot amidst the oaks and knurled bronze, I am highly partial to the garden’s charms. Not only does it house a peaceful oasis of culture, it also captures an element of Austin’s history amid the increasingly-turbulent nearby urbania. Inside the gates of Umlauf, it’s not so hard to imagine how isolated the Zilker area must have felt in the days before luxury condos, soccer leagues, and ACL Fest. These are the places that keep the Old Austin in our hearts as the New Austin paves over the rest.

Permitted destruction

treemove.jpg This notice was left at some people’s doors on Tuesday night after sundown. The house is old and small. It’s being removed in favor of two McMonstrosities going in on the same lot. A giant live oak tree has already been felled.

People had been told that the move would occur at around four o’clock this morning. In fact, it began shortly after midnight. Two off-duty police officers in uniform and using their taxpayer-owned vehicles, as is perfectly legal, escorted the procession.

The towing, of course, was just a threat. Notice was short, in any event, and many neighbors travel on their jobs. Of course, they park on the streets, since older neighborhoods were built with few driveways. The base of the house could just barely pass if a vehicle was parked on one side in a given spot. The top, with its projecting eaves, was another story. Within a block, part of the house had been ripped off as it passed a tree.

Accompanying the house as it moved was the screech of branches scraping the house passing beneath them or alongside. Sometimes the house didn’t pass beneath, but just ripped branches from the trees, all of which afford the 14-foot clearance required by the City for the passage of sanitation trucks. Also accompanying the house were the shouts of outraged householders.

Neighbors were ordered not to obstruct the roadway. Where branches didn’t shear off to allow passage, the chainsaws came out. Householders who had seen these events ran ahead to awaken other tree-owners farther along the route.

Following the house was a vehicle drawing a trailer into which went the thickest fallen and sawn limbs. Smaller debris, such as twigs and leaves, was left in the roadway, but the larger evidence was carried away. Neighborhood photographers may have captured some of this.

Cop Out

The City of Austin has closed the book on an unfortunate incident with an unfortunate lack of culpability. Last December, a former APD Detective and his APD Commander wife died in a motorcycle crash shortly after leaving a police-sponsored event. Both had been drinking, registering a BAC between three and four times in excess of the legal limit, prompting criticism that those responsible for patrolling drunk driving instead promoted it. But a report released yesterday inexplicably chose to absolve everyone, other than the dead officers, of any responsibility for the incident.

we didn’t see nuthin’

Austin attorney Archie Carl Pierce, an independent investigator, found no evidence of wrong-doing among the officers in attendance. Indeed, Kurt and Shauna Jacobson drank themselves into intoxication and drove themselves into a guardrail. In George Bush’s land of extreme personal responsibility, this tragedy begins and ends with their decisions and the consequences thereof. In W.’s village, we don’t do pinko crap like help raise children or meddle in the affairs of others (unless they’re doing gay stuff or other things W. doesn’t like), so this report might seem appropriate in that light.

But Archie goes so far as to say “the Jacobsons’ actions should not reflect poorly on anyone else who participated in a charity motorcycle ride with them.” Holding a charity motorcycle event at a bar reflects well on the participants? Watching your buddy ride his bike into said bar and leave a burnout on the floor reflects well on the participants? Please Archie, the reality of the situation is a bit too ridiculous to ignore.

The officers in attendance either noticed the intoxication and failed to act, or they were oblivious to the whole scenario. In a choice between penitence or incompetence, APD appears to favor the latter. But doesn’t this call the entire DUI enforcement into question? If dozens of cops can’t identify a drunk when he smokes them out of a bar and rips off at 90 mph, then I’m thinking some regular folks have plenty of ammunition to contest citations based on the same quality of observation.

A wrestling match

tymco.jpgThat’s what it sounds like. Tymco and The Brute: they met at high noon in Austin. Did the tree flowers clog Tymco? First Tymco brushes and then it vacuums. Did something break? The Tymco operator was looking pretty bored and tired of waiting as The Brute appeared. If “The Brute” is an actual model of a tow truck or wrecker, Google didn’t find it. “The Brute,” in large blue block letters was probably added by those fine folks at Southside Wrecking, the ones who have the contract with the City and whose impoundment yard is down there around St. Elmo, along with other mysterious outfits like the St. Elmo-Tel and Southern States Giftwrap Company. I think “The Brute” has eight wheels and two stacks. It was an intricate job to get Tymco in a state to be towed away. Tymco could never ever look as clean and shiny bright as The Brute.

Drum circles, face painting, turkey legs and beer

Eeyore's 42nd Annual Birthday Party
As far as I’m concerned, there are two holidays each year that are specific to Austin/Central Texas. The first holiday of the year is this Saturday, Eeyore’s 42nd Annual Birthday Party, at Pease Park. Most long-time Austinites are aware of this holiday. Here’s a little history from the Eeyore’s website:

Eeyore’s Birthday Party was established by University of Texas students in 1963. In 1974 the event moved to Pease Park and in 1979 came under the leadership of the non-profit group, University of Texas YMCA. In 1999, The University of Texas YMCA changed their name to the Friends of the Forest Foundation. The event caters to all Austinites, young and old, and offers the only fundraising opportunity for many non-profit groups each year.

The non-profits host the food and drink booths around the park and proceeds go to their respective causes. Past participants have included Safe Place, AnimalKind Foundation and Hospice Austin among others.

Silver man
You really have to attend it to appreciate the oddness of it all. I think I first attended as a UT student in the early 90’s and have returned most years since, now indoctrinating my kids in the fun. There’s a costume contest for adults and kids in the early hours, followed by an egg toss and a sack race. There’s also face painting and other kid friendly activities. For the college students and adults, there’s plenty of beer and the perennial favorite, the drum circle, where genuine and ersatz hippies pound themselves into a rhythm-induced frenzy. Of all the local annual festivals, I think this is the most quintessentially Austin of the bunch. Even the beer has a local flavor with Real Ale and St. Arnold’s being frequent suppliers.

Eeyore’s signals the beginning of summer for me as the weather is almost always warm. This year is no exception with the forecast predicting a high of 87. The rain out date is always the following Saturday. Check the website for updated information. We generally camp out somewhere near the basketball courts under the trees to the east of the path, so come by and say hello. I’ll have my camera with me and will post a re-cap on Sunday.

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