Archive for January, 2009

Proliferating parties

It was like that last night; it’ll be more like that tonight: celebrations everywhere. Nobody’s listings are anywhere close to complete, and I’m not even going to try.

I do collect these promotional cards that people hand out and leave under windshield wipers, and this is my favorite one so far for these events. It happens to be for an event at Karma that has already occurred. It’s my favorite because of the three images (one with a bad aspect ratio), but I love it because it’s presented by “Presidential Swagger” and because I love all the copy, including especially these lines:

“We want all Cultures & Races to come out
We must unite

I hear that there’s not a projector to be rented anywhere in town. All I know is that those inclined to attend a public celebration won’t have to look far at all. As I’ve seen on neighborhood lists, people ask if there’s a party nearby and then add that, if there’s not, the asker will hold one.

I haven’t caught up with 2009 yet; it was only after the appointment was made that I relized why it was so easy to line up a session with the dentist at noon today. Clueless. Just go right ahead and say so.

Chiming In On Austin In The Greater World

Coincidentally, I noticed Austin mentioned as a travel destination in a couple of magazines over the last few weeks, so I thought I’d add to the theme of the last post.

  • The Fall 2008 issue of Ty Pennington At Home mentions Austin under Ty Travels on page 100. It mentions Casino El Camino among a few other places around town. Don’t ask me how I know that. The Wife bought it. Really.
  • Budget Travel magazine named Austin a top domestic budget travel destination for 2009 along with Washington DC and Hawaii. They cite SXSW, ACL and outdoor activities as the draw.

Despite the downturn, we seem to be a travel destination of choice.

Austin in the greater world

  • In the Sunday NYT, there’s a lengthy article on the lodging business, with a focus on Austin’s Kimber Modern establishment. The discussion is related to the changing economy, and there are extensive quotations, plus four photographs (only one photo on line), in the hard copy (“A Modernist Inn, Built From Scratch,” byline Fred A. Bernstein, page 12 of the business section). I found the discussion of requirements for off-street parking, along with the need of the owners to structure this place as a bed-and-breakfast inn for zoning purposes, interesting indeed.
  • In the February issue of O, The Oprah Magazine (page 44, not yet on line), the new CD of Austin’s own Ruthie Foster tops a list of three new issues in which “fresh female voices sing about love and loss.” Ruthie plans a release party at Antone’s on February 3

South 1st Watch

Next in a series of semi-random, occaisional updates on whats going down on S 1st St.

After my report on the “Downtown” Event and Street closure task force, I took some flak from neighborhood folks for describing the area from Town Lake to Oltorf as downtown. So I’ll avoid that mistake this time.

So, a few changes and updates, nothing too radical but a few promising things. Heading north towards downtown from Oltorf:

2210 – The strip mall, most notable for Fair Been Coffe, DJ Dojo and South Side Bicycles, gone is The Furr Factor; in are Novapello Laser Hair removel and Shine Beauty Salon, both smart and minimalist looking modern places. Maybe I didn’t notice last time I was there, but in the corner is Cream Vintage.

2209 – Behind the veritable feast that is End of an Ear, is Deathtrap Motorcycles. They seem to be using it as a mail/storage for their ebay Auction site, unless you know better.

603 W Live Oak – The former home of Las Manos Magicas, the lot remains empty and looking for investors. The latest news from the city is that the developer has been granted a 90-day extension to address issues with the development plan.

2101 – The movie poster shop has gone, and next doors RedLine Hookahs has expanded into the space.

2009 – Development continues slowly at the up coming Once Over Coffee Bar.

507 W Mary – The shop formerly occupied by Mercury Clothing has been taken over by Austin Handmade.

1502 – In one of my first Austin metblog posts, I speculated that the VMUification of S 1st might be about to start. Well it hasn’t. The house on the lot at 1502 has gone now, presumably to be re-situated for the requisite developer tax break, but also to save the landfill. No sign of any development yet.

1417 The Live at Elizabeth development hasn’t started.

Next update, well, when theres something to add. If I’ve got anything wrong above or any of the new businesses have a web site I have not listed, please leave a comment. So, change happens, but slowly. Good luck to all the new businesses and welcome to the ‘hood.

All change at Cafe Caffeine

A sometime staple in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood is set for interesting times. Although I was aware of Cafe Caffeine, I’d only been there a few times, coffee was ok, but it really wasn’t on my way to anywhere. Then they ran a fantastic music event in parallel with South by South West in 2007.

Frustrated by the lack of change, and the lost potential, Cafe Caffeine has been bought out by local resident, sometime barista, one time general manager of Mothers Cafe, comedian and staple of many local Austin establishments, Les McGehee.

Les says he’s going to make many changes. He’s kept the current crew on but is getting them up to speed with how he wants to run the place. A major cleaning project is underway, and Les has already added some great food options, including Mangia Pizza fresh daily to-go (half-baked, finish it at home, fresher and cheaper than delivery), or the Tacodeli breakfast tacos we have now(sold great first day), or the Moonlight Bakery goods we’re bringing in. Les will also have his wife Christa taking care of baked goods, an Italian Mom Lidia cooking from time to time.

On the events front Les has said he’s not extending hours, not turning to loud music, but going to focus on local groups, local bands and doing some more grown-up music options. He already has Southpaw Jones, Russell Scanlon and a latin jazz trio, The Bobkats, a couple of touring acts, ComedySportz family comedy shows, a Capital City Comedy club sponsored stand-up showcase, some of my great comedy friends will host events as well like Owen and Jodi Egerton, Mary Jo Pehl (Mystery Science Theater), Dan French (Dennis Miller show, Best Damn Sports show), Austin Improv Collective, he’s also going to try some media events planned like my own film choices plus AustinShortFilmSociety.

Cafe Caffeine is on West Mary and South 5th.

Hopefully once he’s taken care of the real Cafe Caffeine, he’ll do something about the virtual one, the website. Best of luck Les!

Passed by no more, and now automated

Are we the last for miles around to have our meter changed out? We kept seeing trucks in the neighborhood and the guys would say that they were changing out old mechanical electric meters for ones that may be read remotely. We’d ask about us and the only answer would be that our house wasn’t on the list.

Today we came by to check on the mail and found a vehicle in front of the house: a person was aloft on a pole and another was trying to puzzle out the intricacies of opening the housing for the meter. They were there to change out the meter: and they did!

This notice arrived months ago but we were never “on the list” and we were beginning to believe that we never would be. Today we received one of these “mission completed” door-hangers.

The process seemed to be fast, but the technicians said that, because of the old (they were too polite to say “ancient”) meter and the need to change out some wiring, the installation took longer than most. We must have been visited by the senior experts. We were warned that “everything” in the house would have to be reset, but I don’t believe we have a single item that requires it. Luddites in residence.

Yu Sushi Izagaya quick-lunch

Apart from the title of the entry, I won’t be using the full name of this handsome establishment, and I won’t be able to report on the sushi aspect of it other than by appearance. There were three experts working at the sushi counter and everything appeared to be beautiful and fresh. The few sitting there yesterday during the noon-hour had the full attention of those on the other side of the bar.

This handsome space is one that will be even more attractive in the evening. The soundscape seems to be custom designed and incorporates a lot of techno aspects mashed up with other genres faintly in the background. It is not distracting. The napkins are cloth and of a generous size. I think that the waitperson asked whether we’d like to have salt and pepper (and perhaps some other addition) brought to the table, which I thought was amusing; we said that we’d trust the chef.

The luncheon and dinner menus are completely different. I forgot to ask whether they change frequently, but I suppose that they do, in accordance with market availability. I did notice that the evening menu has many charcoal-grilled dishes.

The miso that came to the table at lunch yesterday was beautiful and tasty. Floating in the broth were cubes of tofu in a perfect size, plus tiny enoki mushrooms, and parts of dark leaves of some green, along with rings of scallions or chives. There were two orders of dumplings at our table, both delicious, with five examples to an order priced at $5 and worth every penny: gyoza (pan-fried pork dumplings) and shumai (elegant shrimp dumplings). We shared an order of curry udon. One person should never, ever order one of the udon or ramen dishes for solo consumption. This order arrived pretty as a picture in a giant bowl of broth, fat round noodles (udon), and lots of vegetables artistically presented, along with two skewers of appetizing bits of grilled chicken. We were not hungry for the rest of the day!

As with McCormick & Schmick’s, the bar fronts on the street, with a lot of fenestration bringing in daytime sunlight, and must have a very different appearance in the evening. There are exotic sinks in the restrooms, with automatic taps and a surface that slants away at about a 45-degree angle. They disconcert some people.

Someone told me that Yu Sushi bears some relationship to Sushi Sake up north. If so, I suspect that Yu is missing a bet by not offering some of the Sushi Sake menu during the weekday-only lunch hours; I think that downtown workers would swarm there if there were more items more familiar to more people.

If there’s an on-line presence for this establishment, I haven’t found it, so here are some details: 206 Colorado Street, telephone 708-8887, facsimile 708-8886. I did find some evocative on-line photographs, apparently taken by the manager. I look forward to returning to try the dinner menu.

Austin in the greater world

  • In the February issue of Smart Money, on the newsstands now, there’s yet another interview of John Mackey, this one entitled “Growth Slows, but Mackey Doesn’t,” byline Janet Paskin. The blurb as printed is “Shopping may be down at Whole Foods, yet the company’s controversial CEO is still adding stores and pushing high-priced items” (this issue is not yet on line; start with page 24 in the hard copy). What’s especially entertaining is that the interview is conducted at WF world headquarters, and the reporter seems to be awed by the “monument to abundance.”
  • Not satisfied with revealing all about Lance Armstrong’s local abode, Architectural Digest has returned to Austin. In its February before-and-after issue, we see how a sort-of colonial revival house in Tarrytown is altered quite beyond recognition, floor plan included: “Putting a Fresh Spin on Tradition,” byline Jeff Turrentine. In a way, I think that the floor plan reveals more than the photographs do. The architectural firm credited is Miro Rivera. My favorite quotation from this piece is right at the very beginning: “Austin, Texas, is well known as a city that nurtures free expression and rewards eccentricity.”

Exposure on Colorado St – Friday!

I have to admit to spending more time than is probably healthy looking at photographs on Flickr over the last year. I started my work life out as a (junior) Photographer on the Gazette newspaper back in my home town in the UK. Photography is a love unrealized for me.

After cruising some of the displays at Art East and during the South 1st Art Walk, I realized how much I like photography over painted art, and how much more there was to it these days with all the extras digital has bought, not just ones and zeros.

Friday evening sees the opening of EXPOSURE – photos from Austin area photographers at IF+D. Friday evening there is an opening reception of work from Brian Alesi, Brian Birzer, Andrew Boyd, Aron Geizer, Liz Hoisington, Anaya Vaverko, and Keith Young. The reception runs between 6-10pm and will have music by DJ Chicken Geoge. IF+D is in the 2nd St Retail district and is at 208 Colorado St.

The scrap heap of history

Don’t consign your precious souvenirs of Austin to oblivion. Share them with others and keep them safe. The Austin History Center is always seeking documentation of life in this town in order to preserve it for posterity. This is one of the posters that I turned up when I was searching for Steve Jordan and some other visual documentation of music past. It’s from the Conjunto Pesado free festivals that used to be held in Parque Zaragoza before it all moved to Fiesta Gardens. I also found a cache of menus from establishments long gone and a certain amount of Juneteenth memorabilia.

Another find was a directory of membership of the Heritage Society of Austin. Members were not all that many, and all were listed with address and telephone number. This particular directory isn’t even all that old, but it calls forth memories of a much smaller and more intimate town.

Also turning up were three documents of Austin’s first efforts at energy conservation, back when Ron Mullen was mayor and programs of this sort fell under the purview of the City’s Resource Management Department. Layout and paste-up are obviously all by hand, with no PageMaker or the like involved. The organization of city government has changed several times, but the recommendations are still much the same.

Whenever it’s time to allow the history center to archive some of our personal holdings, we spend a lot of time enjoying the current exhibit, now photographs from a bygone Austin (ends January 18), and checking out those old city directories and school yearbooks. I love the old library building and am so happy that it has been preserved. It’s still one of the most peaceful places in town.

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