Archive for June, 2008

Juneteenth tradition

Juneteenth marching band, AustinWe all wondered just how it was that the riders in the giant H-E-B self-propelled shopping cart got up there (scissor platform? giant forklift? bucket or cherry-picker truck?), but it was the live music that people came to hear at the traditional Juneteenth parade. Seeing and being seen were also right up there on the list.

Capital Metro was hanging on to those coveted free bouncing balls and not tossing many of them to the crowd, and H-E-B was pitching wholesome boxes of raisins (in contrast to the bubble gum and lollipops of others). Other popular favors were fans for cooling, free chilled drinking water, and Mardi Gras beads.

We took up our favorite station, in the shade almost across from the Fresh Up Club. Sheriff Greg Hamilton was the only dignitary that I noticed doing without an identifying sign and people did recognize him without that aid, so his confidence was justified. I was disappointed that we didn’t see the gaited horses in the parade this year (they may have been at the very end); Wells Fargo sent a stagecoach for the first time. My favorite float carried cosmetologists wielding a giant prop pair of scissors and accompanying mirror.

People were here all the way from Hearne to play and march, even though the Alvin Patterson Battle of the Bands and Drumline Competition is not until this Saturday (Nelson Athletic Stadium; advance tickets available from Mitchie’s Fine Art).

Update: See some brief video snippets from the parade, with more to come.

Pleeze, no cheeze

Fonda San Miguel, AustinPlease, no dairy. Please, no sour cream. That was the request. But everything came to the table with cheese anyhow, at least the first time around.

I love Fonda San Miguel, but last night’s experience was not a perfect one. The margarita was beyond reproach. Despite the no-dairy request, repeated with variations, stringy cheese was found at the bottom of the cup of soup, but for the most part could be avoided. The rice and pureed black beans were on the pedestrian side (and came the first time with cheese!). Entrees took a long time to arrive. The mole was still the best in town, with no hint of sweetness and with great complexity of flavor. The pork enchiladas in green sauce made their first appearance blanketed in cheese but the wait was not nearly so long for version number two, delicious in every way.

I’ve always thought that the vinaigrette dressing at Chez Nous is the best restaurant offering of its kind anywhere in Austin. The current dressing for the green salad at San Miguel rivals it, truly fresh and delicious tasting. Was that basil? or mint? or both?

We were a two-top and in the first seating. When we left, the tables were full and people were waiting in the bar area. There was music on the sound system and we recognized Vicente Fernandez before the lively hum of conversation dominated the acoustic environment.

Bend it, Stretch it – Yoga for free

I’m partial to a Yoga class, but not so dedicated that I’ll pay a regular membership, it’s tough fitting classes into the work, life, run, swim, bike and race schedule. I also enjoy a touch of the unusual. And here are two classes which address both.

Full Moon Yoga: Tonight sees the next in the Charles MacInerney Summer series of Yoga classes out at the scenic overlook at Ridge Oak Drive. Class starts at 7.30 tonight, and it’s a fun way to start a yoga following since it’s out in the open you won’t feel like everyones watching you and there is plenty of space. Charles leads the class in a somewhat relaxed way, you can make the positions as hard or easy as you want.

If you go, drive to the end of Ridge Oak Drive, I suggest a blanket or Yoga mat, arrive early, turn the car around since its a deadend and please be respectful of the residents and their driveways! Google maps here.

I can’t make tonights class, I’m doing one of the Summer Stampede runs.

Blanton Museum 3rd Thursday: When I discovered the class I decided to keep quiet about it, but couldn’t, it’s too good not to share. On the 3rd Thursday of the month the Blanton stays open until 9pm and entry is free. If that wasn’t good enough, up in the main gallery upstairs they host a free Yoga class.

The class is much more reverential, quiet and serious, but is still a good stretch. If you don’t have a yoga mat and are just starting, the instructor usually brings along a few. Class starts at 6.30pm. It’s probably one of the more unusual places for a class. Free parking is available opposite. Google maps here.

See you there!

Coldest place in town

There’s no air-conditioning here at the adobe hacienda, so we go to the movies a lot as a way to put us in cold-storage for a while. Today was no exception, but we made a stop along the way and found ourselves in the chilliest locale experienced outside Dallas.

Pre-movie hunger caused us to make a detour to Chipotle on East Stassney as we headed to the movies. This was a first-time Chipotle experience, and I’ll just say that the location was spotlessly clean, the carnitas were more than fine, portions were generous, all the indoor customers at the time we were there were speaking Spanish, and several people were dining outdoors. Everyone knows that Chipotle is a chain, and not a local one, once partly owned by MickeyD, although no longer. The environment was handsome, the recorded music was interesting, and the food was a fine value.

As for us, we loved the arctic air pouring from the exposed vents. It was novel and quite enjoyable to feel frigid for a while. I wonder whether there’s any place that’s cooler.

Fear not the tomato!

heirloom tomatoIf you didn’t grow your own, nearby farmers have done it for you, and they’re safe.

Those wishing to avoid difficulties arising from street-closures downtown tomorrow are likely to find tomatoes quickly and easily at the South Austin Farmers Market in the parking lot of El Gallo (generally from 9 am to 1 pm), where the crops are organic.

I know that there are those abstaining entirely from consuming tomatoes during this salmonella outbreak, but lycophene’s out there, and in forms not to cause alarm.

The picture shows tomatos on a plant bought as a seedling at the South Austin Farmers Market. I forget what this variety is, but another is the heirloom Brandywine. There were Brandywines there last week and I’d guess they’ll be there again tomorrow.

In case you haven’t been invited

Architectural Digest magazine visited the residence of Lance Armstrong in your stead, taking plenty of pictures to satisfy those who love house-tours. If you must view those large-scale staged photographs full size on glossy pages, head first for page 86 of the July issue; otherwise, check out the on-line slide show. All the credits for achieving that bland, impersonal result go to Austin firms: Ryan Street & Associates, RWM Design, and LandWest Design Group. The landscape is the least generic. The article makes the size of the house out to be 8,000 square feet. In appearance and effect, it’s more like a small conference center than anything else, no doubt great for holding parties of various sorts.

S 1st Bridge crossing, Town Lake trail access – Redux

Since metroblogs isn’t a magazine or newspaper, we are not limited to publishing something and then forgetting about it ;-)

and so it was I got back from my trip, and the first thing I noticed was access to S 1st Street Bridge crossing on the west side was still closed. Also access to the trail from the north of the bridge was still suspended. I called City project Manager Rick Colbrunn, who promptly called me back and explained they are having problems “sourcing material” for the retaining walls, and the project probably won’t be complete until the end of July 2008.

So, unlike people wanting to access the trail, this one continues to, err, run! I’ve updated my original “But my training plan says to do loops!” post, and this one is for those who use the RSS feed.

Don’t alter your plumbing, do alter your parking

At this weeks BCNA meeting the Austin Clean Water Program (ACWP) team briefed us on the work about to start between South Congress and South 1st.

ACWP has a great program to clean up the creeks and refurb/move lots of the ugly pipes in and around the creeks. This includes 80-miles of sanitary sewer system, nearly $400 million of funding. The big time work on this project starts Saturday with the closure of W Monroe between S Congress and S 1st, and will carry on until the roads are finally resurfaced in December 2008.

The good news is that it will see an end to the ugly above ground pipes, including one known to leak into the creek. The bad news is that it will put even more pressure of the already strained neighborhood roads, especially at w/e and First Thursdays.

It isn’t just the loss of roadside parking caused by the construction. There will also be heavy construction vehicles parked in the ‘hood as well as at various points, large parts of major roads blocked.

Net, net, if you visit South Congress between Johanna and Elizabeth Streets, please be patient, park carefully and be mindful of residents, especially on W. Monroe and W. Mary St which will be subject to closure.

Details on the plan, status, maps etc. can be found here, the project is called Govalle 1 Newton Street.

Summer’s here, no matter what the calendar says

transomAll the signs point to it. The wrens have stopped trying to nest in the mailbox and have settled down to rear a family in a pot of geraniums and hyacinth beans hanging from a fencepost. Hummingbirds are unafraid of the person hand-watering using the hose, and they hover or perch on a low limb really close, just to enjoy the cooling spray. Each day we put out fresh water for the winged and four-legged dwellers among us.

The temperature on the Shiner Beer thermometer downstairs has already risen once to its usual summer maximum, which is 80 degrees or one more. There are new erasers on the ends of the pencils that prop up the four transoms now open until cooler weather. The fans have been unpacked. We just received our utility bill and for the first time since last summer we’ve used over 400 kilowatt-hours of electricity, 426 to be exact. We’ll come close to 500 before the heat of summer tapers off. We revere iced tea even more than we usually do, thinking of it as the nectar of the gods. Whatever we cook, the amount of heat to be generated is taken into consideration, which means that the wok is in heavy rotation and that we’re looking into the notion of a solar oven.

Potted plans that are sold as suitable for sunny locations, and work that way in other places, must be moved into the shade. Geraniums, I’m talking about you! Laundry is now dried in the shade, because under the heat of the sun it may shrink. We sit outdoors every evening after supper these days and notice that a very small breeze usually springs up just as the sun sinks below the horizon. We attended a great many outdoor events during the last several weeks, toughening up for the summer ahead. I feel ready, but that doesn’t mean that fall won’t be a most welcome arrival when at last it arrives, as it always does, quite some time after its official beginning.

Gone batty

Fledermaus at the Long CenterI went as a doubter and left as a believer. I hope that the Austin-centric production of Die Fledermaus or The Bat is revived. By all appearances, every performance was sold out, and for good reason.

The music is delightful; the costumes were witty and so were the lyrics in English from the fine people of Esther’s Follies; the singers were in fine form and were wonderful comic actors as well. Each performance had cameo appearances: ours included one B. McCracken (who was roundly booed), B. Dunkerley, Moser the Style Avatar, the Biscuit Brothers, and Wammo (Asylum Street Spankers) doing his Batman riff.

The Long Center acoustics, experienced for the second time, were still disconcerting. Some of the percussion was heard as though coming from the back of the hall and not at all from the orchestra pit. It was easy to tell which female members of the audience had been to the Long Center before: they were the ones wearing flat shoes and not heels. The view toward downtown, changing almost daily, remains spectacular in all lights.

The audience did laugh and would laugh to see it again, I’d bet. Photos of many of the production’s costumes for Austin landmarks and people (Peter Pan, the tower, the capitol, Hyde Park french fries, Lance Armstrong, Willie Nelson, and more) may be seen at the opera’s site. And we all sounded loud, in tune, and rousing as we joined the Biscuit Brothers in singing You Are My Sunshine.

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