Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Another odd scrap of paper

It says "nee-YOCK-ee" and it must be something about the way somebody pronounced gnocchi.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

When did this happen?

In this neighborhood, we've received our first mailing from "Affluent Austin." Most of this outfit's business seems to be with the northwest part of Austin. This venture must be trying out the southside because it's close to downtown and, once the Texas Relays are over and the students have gone home, it's not going to be very busy around here, especially with the Capitol under so much security.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Before there was "Mediterranean" there was "Colonial"

The current issue of Nest magazine has several pages reproduced from a Cushman Colonial Creations catalogue of the 1950s. Cushman was in Bennington; Hale was in East Arlington; there were probably others. Most "Colonial" is just as ugly as most "Mediterranean." There's a very homely Colonial Revival three-light fixture in the dining room here and in another room a five-light fixture that's just as homely. A lot of the houses still have their original "lantern" hanging porch fixtures, which were never much in keeping with most of the houses around here, few of which are "Colonial" and most of which are either Craftsman bungalows of various sizes and types or have a vaguely Spanish territorial feel with a touch of moderne.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Don't fence me in

Every time a certain theme was played in last night's performance of The Flying Dutchman it was impossible to banish thoughts of Bob Cole's voice and the Viking Fence commercial. The Senta was Mary Jane Johnson, whom we hadn't heard sing since her student days, some years ago. Donnie Ray Albert sounded great.

Saturday, March 27, 2004


Rezalicious and Got Frybread? tee-shirts are out there. Today we received a note on some Got chile? home-designed stationery. It's creatures from petroglyphs who are asking.

Friday, March 26, 2004

A side-effect of the shortage

It's not only steel mini-mills (e.g., Nucor) that are suffering from the high current prices for and shortage of scrap iron; the Lodge cast-iron people, makers of our deep fryer and our popover pans, has higher manufacturing costs as a result.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Two of the biggest timewasters

Since Tetris in its original version there's been nothing so addictive. These two could give it a run for the money, though: aggregates news on any subject; Feedster permits searches of Mundo Blog and the results can be ranked by date, among other choices.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Reasons for a brighter outlook?

I. The Statesman did do a feature on Coach Wilson after all (yesterday) and even put it on the front page, although below the fold. II. When we arrived home on pickup day, the lid of our odious and odiferous City-issued plastic trashcan was open, not closed. When it's closed, that usually means that some neighborly dog-walking passerby has tossed a plastic sleeve full of canine excretory products into the trashcan rather than walk home with it and dispose of it there. The current sleeve of choice is the blue one used to protect a home-delivered New York Times from dissolving in spray from automatic lawn sprinklers. Nobody would walk around with a plain old Statesman sleeve these days. III. The yard still has alliums, way more returning Dutch tulips than could ever be expected, Tubergen's Gem species tulips, and lots of ipheion. There are fattening buds on more and more Dutch iris plants, and the neighbor's spirea is more spectacular than it has ever been. Our anemones all turned out to be blue and purple, but we have beautiful red-orange and saffron ranunculus flowers. IV. There was tremendous noise from a choque last night, complete with immediate helicopter, EMS, and police racket. This was shortly after 2 a.m. "Luckily" we were already awake, thanks to the noise-making efforts of the tenants across the way (super-loud key-blipper, repeated loud door slams from the multi-vehicle household, drunken conversations, and unmuffled late-model BMW coming and going from nightfall to dawn). This morning's radio stations report that some tractor-trailer turned over and blocked three lanes. We'll know more when we see the local daily tomorrow. V. Lupe, the neighbors' funny ginger tabby cat, has taken to reclining in a demilune window-basket suspended over the side of a five-foot fence. We call it her sidecar.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The old Texas theater gives advice

The Texas went from legitimate neighborhood movie house, to exhibitor of XXX offerings before videotapes did that business in, to home of some zippy Internet-related start-up the name of which has disappeared from the memory, to vacant, to temporary political-campaign headquarters, to vacant again. There have been sporadic attempts to resuscitate it in another incarnation, but all those who try are thwarted by the City's excessive requirements for off-street parking. Lately the marquee has "SERENITY!" as its message. What kind of serenity comes with an exclamation point?

Monday, March 22, 2004

Turning leaves

K. has taken the Eustace Diamonds down from the shelf (again!), and the parts read aloud are as amusing as ever. I'm trying to reduce the stack of periodicals that's been building while so much has been distracting us. The LRB review of a life of Vidocq is entertaining in and of itself. Catching up with the Statesman, the Economist, and the Manchester Guardian shows that the rest of the world knew what was going on in Haiti even though there wasn't much coverage here before the crisis. For some reason, "pages" were usually "leaves" in our house, and a paper-knife was used to deal with uncut leaves, not uncut pages. In Spanish, "hoja" comes more readily to mind than "pagina." Surviving paper-knives are now used to open envelopes, one would guess.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Foraging for food

At H-E-B, even though the parking lot was full and the carts were few, we lucked into a magic moment just after a shift-change when there were checkers available. Our checker was busy composing a improvised name-tag, stuck on her polo shirt with Da-Glo orange "thank you" stickers. She said she'd be written up if her supervisor caught her without some sort of name identification. Wheatsville was pretty cleaned out. Fran's was hoppin' and boppin' and rife with SxSW stayovers. A Humvee with California plates actually fit between the stanchions of the old drive-up canopy. Fran's still keeps Selena, Michael Salgado, and Roberto Pulido y los Classicos on the jukebox.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Coach Wilson in Nokoa and The Villager, but not in the Statesman

On Monday, 22 March, before the baseball game there'll be a program honoring Coach James R. Wilson, but there'll probably be nothing about it in the local daily, not even on the day of or the day after the event.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Toe-tappin' and happy-makin' music

We heard this when somebody was driving by and recognized it as Los Tucanes de Tijuana. We even found the radio station right away. Of course, there are never back announcements, but with the help of these slightly muddled lyrics, it's easy to tell that this is El Sinverguenza, and now we've got to find a copy of the "Imperio" CD. There's even a version out there "con banda sinaloense."

Thursday, March 18, 2004

More things we missed, thanks to SxSW

Ramon Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte hardly ever get up this way these days, and they were out at the rodeo arena this past weekend. We also would have stopped longer to listen to the band rehearsing at Miguel's La Bodega. There are people all over town, dressed in black, and looking way too hot.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Garden snapshot

Around about last weekend, but unreported 'til now, were same-day sightings of a half-grown giant grasshopper, one anole, and one tree lizard. Leaves are nearly all down from the oaks in one part of the yard; they're just beginning in another part. Fig leaves are showing themselves. Loquats are fat and turning color. Geranium narcissus, tiny not-Baby-Moon, muscari, blue florists' anemones, Thalia, leucojum, redbuds, ornamental pear, white allium, over-wintered geraniums and nasturtiums blooming in pots, the first ipheion, a yet different color of pink Dutch hyacinth and a different color of the blue (each type with several blooms), lilac wonder (species tulipa bakeri), white and blue Dutch iris, our first clusiana (alternate red-pink and white on the outside and blue-white inside; we don't have any Tubergen's yet), and more. This is just a quick once-over to remind us. There are even lots of buds on those old cheap Dutch tulips. Is this for the third year? Morning glories and moonflowers are germinating all over the place, but being nibbled on, of course. Lantana has put forth new leaves and quite a few flowers.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Community radio lives on

We have reason to be interested in KBBI-fm radio in Homer, Alaska, called by the local Chamber of Commerce "the city of secluded charm."

Monday, March 15, 2004

Decibel-rich dining

The middle of the night is the only time to head for Katz's, but some do insist on mid-afternoon, when it is completely impossible to hear anything, including one's own thoughts. Luckily, the waitstaff can read lips. K. ordered his preferred hot-turkey sandwich and chocolate milkshake. Katz's was doing a big takeout business. The souvenir case was filled with desserts. It's not even clear what all the rest of the table ordered, but the French fries and the potato pancakes, that wonderful dual-potato team, are as fine as ever. There was some plane reading, and perhaps some souvenir bumperstickers also, bought at BookPeople.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Seven-top at 7

In our never-ending quest to dine in peace during SxSW, we fixed on 7 (which is what the sign outside says; the menus are on cards printed anew daily and didn't show the name). Or is is "Seven"? The Chron may have had some foodie gossip about it recently. It's in the old Liberty Pies / Lambert's location. With the exception of roast chicken and perhaps catfish, all main courses, with fins or without them, came from saltwater and non-farmed sources. It's sold by the ounce and for once the diners are asked "how hot," which is to say how well cooked, they want their entree to be. K. had delicious sea scallops; my ahi tuna was perfect. The vegetables are fresh and pretty much local. Our waitperson was very good. The wines, along with the menu items, were not cheap. The place is very clean. We think we get a better bargain and fish just as good (seconds from the pan to the plate to the table) from Chez Nous, but trying to dine downtown wasn't something even to consider.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The only line of the year

We seldom do waiting in lines. Even the film part of SxSW is line-laden this year. Evidently people are admitted in this order: two kinds of badges, then wristbands, then ticketholders. This is true even in the early afternoon, when many are frist arising to face the day. Our line time was spent on Nuclear Family, by the guy (Don Howard) who did Letter from Waco. We loved the footage, but the concept and editing fought against it. We thought we caught a glimpse of the Reverend Harold O'Chester marrying somebody in the grounds of Green Pastures. There's no hope of seeing Bush's Brain (about Karl Rove), and we didn't see that there was El Cometa and the movie about Billy Joe Shaver until it was too late.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Surviving SxSW

The first rule is not to take a vehicle downtown. The second rule is don't try to have dinner downtown. The third rule is to dine early. There was room at the Tree House and the fish was fresh and the veal was like manna to those who ordered it. We'll probably forget to ask how long in advance the reservations were made at the Inn at Pearl Street. We do know that it's taking four arrivals to bring seven people to Austin, all departing from the same location.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Dazed by the soup? Or is it souped by the daze?

South Austin's own Soup Peddler gives an interview to Austin Daze. It's news that there's now a Soup Peddler shop or pickup depot at Mary and South First, open Monday through Thursday, 11 am to 1 pm, and from 5 to 7 pm. Loretta's cheesecakes used to be there.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Progress of the season

Every spring bulb that ever had any sort of existence in this year is making an appearance, and a productive one, this year; the latest to bloomare pink wood hyacinth, white Dutch iris, periwinkle Dutch iris, Carlton, Geranium, Lilac Wonder species tulip (no photograph will ever capture the quality of the mauve and of the bright saffron in these flowers), Flower Record, many mysteries among the daffodils, jonquils, and narcissi, and our first Baby Moon. The redbuds are pink, but the pear isn't yet white. Fig leaves are about to break out.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

To the doorstep

Having been haunted by the belongings of the departed, the inmates of this household have been doing their best to pare down their own. Among documents being saved for the Austin History Center are neighborhood newsletters and restaurant menus of days gone by. In what seems to be the very first leaflet for EatOutIn, from 1986, the food of just five establishments is offered, plus video delivery from London Video in Dobie and wine and beer from a source unnamed. The establishments were the Courtyard, Chuy's, Katz's, Chnatown, and Botticelli's. Chinatown exists, still, but is gone from downtown, Chuy's has expanded the number of locations, and Katz's remains as it has always been. The Courtyard was perhaps the very best place in town for carnivores expecting the very best. We were beneficiaries of comp meals a time or two and, back when John-Pear (Jean-Pierre what's-his-name) had that funny restaurant show on radio, we won free meals there a time or two. What seemed to be sky-high prices in those days probably wouldn't buy a meal at one of the junk chains.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Unadulterated paint?

Joe Ely collects panhandlers' signs. One of the collections here is of leaflets and fliers for those services that paint house-numbers on the curbs. These people were just soliciting from door to door personally, without accompanying literature. When they're driving a vehicle and not afoot, it's easy to suspect that the true object is to get up on porches and peer into windows. Usually curb-painters use fairly watered-down paint, both to save on expenses and to promote an early need to repaint. Yesterday's workers were producing a good dark black. We save our work for Lucian in case he ever comes through here again, because of his wonderful help when we had the scare about Mothra.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Tireless on Sunday

Los Lonely Boys use a publicity photo shot in front of Leal's Tires, but it's a fairly tight shot, so doesn't display this establishment in its true Aztec-inspired glory. One tire was flat as a pancake. On a Sunday in Austin. Leal's, which is pretty much open 'round the clock, for all we know otherwise, had a used tire. But Dan's Texaco came through, open earlier than the posted hours, and with a new tire on hand. Five minutes later, we were rolling again. Dan's has been so good about having air available for the tire with the slow leak that we're going to buy all our gas there from now on. Yes! Dan's is going to get the benefit of that giant purchase that we make every two weeks or so.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Four boat bags of current magazines weigh a ton

Ventana del Soul was very happy to have them, and we'll return. A wonderful feature of this free community meeting space is that there's reliance on natural light to a great extent; and there was no annoying background music of any kind. We were in a terrible rush but were glad not to have to go across the river to the Cepeda branch library. Going upstairs is something to be saved for another visit. There were Round Rock donuts, loaves from Texas French Bread, plants from Marbridge Ranch, coffee that didn't smell scorched, and people sitting and quietly chatting. Austin Wireless is involved.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Thank goodness for friends like these

We're talking about the kind of friends who don't require a top-to-bottom search for items to be tossed into the clothespress out of sight, the kind who are happy to eat what you eat, the ones who are able to entertain themselves, the people who laugh, the people who read. The door opens, they step across the threshold, and, no matter how long it's been, everything picks up right where it left off. I love this time of year, because it brings all sorts of people to Austin for all sorts of reasons, most of them fun! And there's no requirement to make elaborate preparations to entertain them, because our spending time together is the entertainment. Having voted early takes some of the time pressure off and lets us be more flexible.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Signs of the season

Observed were our first anole and our first, and it's to be hoped last, giant grasshopper of the season. We have more single jonquils than in many years, with no sign of bud blast. Their sharp color stars when the sky is overcast and before it's truly dark. We're beginning to enjoy our own spring snowflakes (leucojum), which are always later than the ones next door. Appearing for the first time in years is a yellow cyclamineus narcissus, name unknown for certain, though I know we did once have some Jack Snipe.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

"I'm gonna be a diamond some day"

"I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal" has always been a spirit-lifter. My favorite line is "I'm gonna be the world's best friend, gonna go 'round shakin' everybody's hand." John Anderson's version was great; unadorned Billy Joe Shaver is even greater. Thank you, Sam and Bob.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Giving rebates their bad reputation

We'll probably never receive the other. It's a tiny miracle that this one reached us and that we recognized it for the rebate sought months and months ago. The postal service is overwhelmed and a lot of our subscription matter does not reach us; the same is true of other sorts of mail. None of this is the fault of our wonderful letter carrier. The rebate check takes the form of one of those post cards that are invitations to come-ons: you have won, you're invited to a free meal, here's a free trip to Vegas for you. It looks like one of those, but it's not the ticket of admission to advice on the golden road to instant wealth, or the almost guaranteed gambling wins, or the opportunity to be part of the best time-share opportunity ever. It claims to be a check. No doubt the rebate people think that (a) most people won't make pests of themselves following up, (b) many will entirely forget they have a rebate owed to them, and (c) others won't recognize the inconspicuous post card for what it is and will throw it away, not cashing it at all and thereby saving the issuer scads of money. Of course, we'll probably lose this item before we ever have a minute to dash to the credit union. Was it mentioned that the documentation required to file for the rebate was onerous in the extreme?

Monday, March 01, 2004

Suzy and April Tears and blue florists' anemones

And muscari, the showy, old-fashioned ones from Bastrop. And our first Dutch iris, a white variety. How beautiful they are in the dawn light, joining their predecessors in the progression of bloom. Thinking of the names of the flowers in a series is a reminder of the mnemonic "Su-MER-ians, Babylonians, and As-SYR-ians, and Chaldeans." The tune's still there in the head, too, but what was the question? And why was it being asked of sixth-graders?