Archive for November, 2009

Cycling (mixed)messages

Warning, pot hole ahead 2-cyclists injured?

Warning, pot hole ahead 2-cyclists injured?

While the city of Manor is doing it’s best to ban cyclists from it’s roads because of the poor surfaces, the City of Austin is doing it’s best to encourage use, without, it appears, considering the surfaces.

I took advantage of the nearly non-existent traffic on Thanksgiving morning to cycle downtown on my fat tire bike and take some pictures. Since these new road signs were painted on Guadalupe, I’ve wondered what they were really for?

When I cycle home from work, I ride down Gaudalupe, if it’s in peak traffic time, you have to go fast going South so that you can comfortably occupy a lane and not annoy the motorists also trying to get home. By fast I mean 25MPH and faster, yes, I do this on a bike, and no, not on my fat tire bike.

So, what do these signs mean? I’ve decided that the chevrtons indicate the number of cyclists injured by the pot holes just ahead. Take the one in this picture, at the junction of 12th St. Right after the junction is the pothole shown in the second picture.

On my fat tire this is no problem, on my fat tire I struggle to do more than 15MPH. However, on any normal road bike you could easily drop your front wheel in the hole to left of the cover, causing a puncture or crash, or almost worse, a last minute swerve in front of the cars.

Just after the "safe cycling" sign It’s not an isolated problem, there are dozens of places between the drag and Cesar Chavez with holes big enough to cause a puncture, swerve or crash, like the one shown in pitcure-3, right by the Post Office.

The same is true for many of the cycle lanes in Austin, I’m not just picking on Gaudalupe. However, if the city really wants to encourage cycling in urban areas, it needs to require the road repair crews to fix up access covers, when they resurface, not just to leave the cover at the original depth and raise up the surface by one or two inches. Doing this would also limit the cracking around the covers seen in these pictures.

Finally, before spending money painting signs on the road, and littering the streets with signs like “Share the road” and “Cycle routes” there should be an inspection to declare the road surface safe for cycling.

Just deep enough to cause trouble

Just deep enough to cause trouble

Itinerant tree stand found again

next to Taco Xpress

next to Taco Xpress

The trees are fresh, the people are friendly, and the signs are all painted or stenciled by hand.

Rudolph’s Christmas trees spent some time away from its customary location while Maria’s was moved and the drugstore and condos went up. But for at least the second season in a row, it’s back at the old location, just a bit less conspicuous than it used to be.

The staff will remove branches and make a fresh cut at the base of the tree selected.

Ours is up, drinking water, and filling the house with its balsamic scent. It’s so fresh that we know it will hang on to its needles right up to Three Kings Day and beyond.

Austin in print

Here’s a brief roundup of how the rest of the world has been looking at us lately.

  • For a full-page “36 Hours” feature, today’s NYT looks at Austin. The accompanying maps show such small-time streets as Gibson, Monroe, and Annie (NYT travel section, 29 November, byline Jaime Gross). The site includes a slide show and lots o’ links to Austin recommendations, and readers may add their own. See what you think. Austin’s lack of useful public transportation is noted, by the way, leading to advice to find other means of getting around town.
  • Time magazine’s long cover feature on “helicopter parents” includes a section set in Austin that’s introduced in this way: “Eleven parents are sitting in a circle in an airy, glass-walled living room in south Austin, Texas, eating organic, gluten-free, nondairy coconut ice cream.” It’s a Slow Family Living class. Austinites Carrie Contey and Bernadette Noll come in for a mention by name.
  • It’s thanks to the December issue of Vogue that I learned of a locally based outfit called Home Grow Micro Farms. This outfit says on its Web site that it delivers pre-planted, self-watering vegetable gardens in containers measuring 1 foot by 3. The article itself is an interview with Jesse Kamm, who touts Spartan on South Lamar.

“Keep Austin Weird” appears only in the NYT coverage. If “Live Music Capital of the World” popped up anyplace, I didn’t happen to notice it (or perhaps it was there somewhere and my eyes glazed over). It’s always a plus when any reporter writes anything that’s even the tiniest step away from the beaten path.

Chuy’s parade on the Avenue

elephant aloft

elephant aloft

Spirits were bright and the music was lively. The turnout was large, and dignitaries in the parade included our fire chief and our police chief.

Los Texas Wranglers were playing one of my favorite songs. I love it that the children’s gymnastics and dance groups mounted human pyramids and did handsprings all along the route.

I’m sorry that I didn’t get a good picture of the Travis High School band, always on hand for this event. There are more pix on line, as well as some videos. It did appear that, although Chuy’s parade itself seemed to be a bit less lavish than it has been in some years, the generosity displayed in the form of toy donations appeared to be greater than ever.

Pearl Jam on Austin City Limits

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get admission to Pearl Jam’s Austin City Limits taping back in October. The episode airs tomorrow night at 7pm on KLRU locally. Check your own listings on your local PBS station of you’re outside of Austin. The ACL people have posted a time lapse video of the day’s taping. If you’ve never been to an ACL taping, it gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the elevator up to the studio and the hallway to the studio where they pass out the free Ziegenbock and Budweiser on the way in. You can also see the historical marker that was added recently on the end of the bleacher risers on stage right. I’m pretty sure that’s part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame declaring ACL a rock and roll landmark. It wasn’t there when I was in the studio in June for the Okkervil River taping. I’m definitely going to miss the old studio when they move the operation downtown in a couple of years.

Here’s a couple of reviews of the taping that were posted right after it happened from Austin 360 and TwoFeetThick along with an outtakes addendum from Austin360 as well.

Speaking of ACL tapings, if you’re a fan of Pearl Jam, set your calendars for February 13th when the Them Crooked Vultures taping will air.

Provisioning for the holidays

Whole Earth Provision CompanyWhole the more intrepid shopper in the household braved the crowds at Central Market, I tarried at Whole Earth Provision Company and found to my surprise that I was able to accomplish nearly every bit of gift shopping necessary for the remainder of the year, holidays and birthdays included. It’s easy to forget that Whole Earth is a great place to shop for children: clothing, games, Uglydolls, toys, and books. There are wonderful sets of wooden architectural building blocks. There’s also a copious yet very well edited selection of books meant to be read to and read by children.

For adults, the books include recipe classics, travel accounts and guidebooks, outdoor how-to manuals, and many, many so-called coffeetable books to delight the discerning eye interested in architecture, travel, and much, much more. The 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles include Charley Harper, Aubudon, and other stylish and intricate subjects.

As always, those seeking aids, gadgets, and gear for the outdoor-person or the globetrotter will find examples of the latest ideas. There’s a world of footgear, headgear, clothing, jewelry, and more. And this is the place that may have the widest selection of “Keep Austin Weird” designs. Out-of-town visitors seem impelled to add to their KAW collections, no matter how many items they already possess. Whole Earth Provision Company is a very attractive all-in-one destination for the person who hates to shop (and the person who loves to). The word “eclectic” applies.

Montmartre for a night

faux arc de triomphe

faux arc de triomphe

This is a prop from the pre-show party at last night’s performance of La Bohème. We were also greeted by phony Parsian street-lamps, the spectacular and ever-changing view of downtown from the terrace, and a pianist and saxophonist playing jazzy music outdoors for all before the show and at intermission time.

For once, Musetta did not steal the show from Mimi. For once, the pink bonnet that figures in the plot was not a ridiculous-appearing and completely unbecoming item. The orchestra and chorus continue to sound better and better. The chorus of children was delightfully costumed and sang most professionally. The lighting was unremarkable. Alcindoro and Perpignol (Holton Johnson, who has been the juvenile star of so many Gilbert & Sullivan productions) were as fine as it’s possible to be.

Among the surprises of the evening was a return to singing the national anthem, but in a much snappier and expeditious arrangement, without lagging and grandiosity. For those who love singing in large groups (and I do), it was inspiriting, especially because words were not projected on the supertitle screens and the verse was over before the slower-witted even caught on. Another surprise was that our mayor, Lee Leffingwell, was unmasked as a uniformed bandsman during the Momus scene.

This is a excellent standard production of the opera, with singers who are agile and who sound fine. For me, the first scene is always tedious, and I always love the Cafe Momus scene entertaining no matter how it’s staged and am much more moved by the scenes preceding it than by the final scene itself. That was true last night, as well.

I don’t want to spoil the performance for those attending a performance of La Bohème for the first time, lured by the promotional allusions to Rent. It’s obvious that there were many in the audience who may not even be accustomed to going to the movies, let along a live theatrical performance. Evidence included late arrivals by people who expected to be seated at that time anyhow rather than wait, talking after the lights went down, kicking of seatbacks, applause in odd places, and a considerable exodus between the first scene and the second even though the hall was dark and there was no intermission listed in the program (they were kindly set straight by the ushers and returned to their seats).

This production is an excellent introduction to a stage standard. As always, there’s nothing to beat a performance that incorporates, acting, full costuming and staging, singing, and a complete orchestra, delighting the ears and right before your very eyes, in a hall that seems to have no bad sightlines. Remaining performances are this coming Wednesday at 7:30 pm; Friday, Novemer 13, at 7:30 pm; and Sunday, November 15, at 3 pm. There was valet parking available for $16 and people were actually using it.

South 1st Watch and Something for the w/e

Formerly known as Los Manicas

Just what South Austin needs, more unregulated food trailers

Yep, it’s the return of two popular series, well I enjoyed writing them…

It’s interesting that in the time I’ve been writing for Austin Metblogs there have been two major neighborhood and city planning efforts, both requiring significant time from any serious contributor. The last was the Vertical Mixed Use initiative, under then Mayor Will Wynn, the next is the Austin Comprehensive Planning process under new Mayor Leffingwell.

And so it was with some interest that I cruised South 1st from Barton Springs to Oltorf to make a note of the changes. One thing that hasn’t happened, is at least on the “downtown” section of South 1st, there isn’t a single VMU building going up, and to the best of my knowledge, not even one has been submitted for review. So former Councillor McCrackens dream hasn’t even started to get off the ground(pun intended). Interestingly, his fingerprints are all over the Comprehensive Plan, which starts with “Remember how it felt to dream about your future when you were a kid?”, his website says he’s been “thinking about the future since he was 14” – so thats alright then. More on this in a later post.

Meanwhile back on South 1st. ibuyAustin have pulled together the First Saturday Stroll from 12pm to 7pm along with the merchants who are offering sales, discounts and even a new opening. You just walk south on South 1st, follow the green balloons.

So, what’s changed on South 1st? Heading south from Barton Springs, first up(another pun).

1000 S 1st Stitch lab – which does all kinds and types sewing, seamstress work and classes on the fine arts.
1100 Teddies for Bettys – Lingerie, Loinge Wear, well being and some fab. pictures on their facebook page.
1104 The MARYE Company, Real Estate
1106 LOVELY Austin, consignment fashion, Jewelry, Decor

Meanwhile there’s been more change of on the east side of South 1st at the Trailer Park Eatery, and it(and I) are captured in the Austin Big Austin Events calendar, now available online and from stores. Holy Cacao has moved into the trailer park from it’s former home just down the street. My friend Sarah commented that make it possible to “follow your Dirty Sanchez with balls on a stick.

That leaves Izzoz Tacos alone on the lot that was formerly Torchies Tacos, which is now at the heart of the South Austin Trailer Park and Eatery just up the street. Are you keeping up ?

On the corner of W Mary and South 1st two new business have opened. Envy Clothing store new male and female clothes including lines from Civil Society.

Almost next door, and definitely a fun part of South 1st Saturday stroll, is Under Pressure a hands on screen printing shop… design and print your own t-shirts.

2003 sees the arrival of Longhorn Fire and Safety.

2008 Rivers and Reefs pet shop is in the process of moving over to the old Sinsations building from South Congress

The property at 603 Live Oak, The web site details what gthye’d hoped to build, formally known for Los manitas, is still vacant. While the somewhat retro design building is posted on the even stranger named They are advertising food trailer rental pitches on the propoerty. Which can’t be a good sign(another pun), see above.

2210 DJ Dojo has closed – moving to a warehouse, with the ever optimistic, be open soon in the window!

2214 Mana culture is the stand out change for this update. Some fantastic jewelry and accessories from Thailand, India, Istanbul Turkey Nepal and other places. I was assured they the goods were sourced fair trade and eco trade and hand made unique. There was certainly no sign of the usual “tourist” style mass produced good that

Meanwhile over behind End of an Ear at 2213 South 1st Audiotech services and AMP repairs will have it’s official opening and music as part of the First Saturday walk.

And that’s a wrap for this update. And no wrap wasn’t a pun, maybe I’ll see some of you following the green balloons on Saturday!

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