Sunday, April 30, 2006

Where were they?

There must be a certain overlap between those who enjoy music and those who might be attending the opening 24 hours of the new Blanton, but there were certainly a great many empty seats at Don Giovanni. It's not that the tickets were not sold. Subscriptions are doing well. Anyhow, those not present really did miss a good show, even with the lighting misstep at the end. The orchestra was a bit muddy at first, and Dona Elvira is not a slapstick character. Otherwise, this was a fine performance for the singing alone, all apart from any contribution from the production values.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Tonight's just one more. And then there are decisions just over the horizon. Sometimes life seems to be more of an obstacle race, with the only pleasure being knowing that you can meet the challenge. But at what cost?

Friday, April 28, 2006

What's the world coming to?

McDonald's has ads for a salad that includes edamame. Not that I patronize that establishment. The meat, tried once, tasted of innards and sweetness and cereal. The French fries were once good, back when tallow was the frying medium. That was a long time ago.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Seventh, still

Inconspicuous as ever, Austin's Muzak depot is still there. I love David Owen's stuff anyhow, especially the one about the house as machine and what's behind the walls. He's got the same kinds of curiosity that I do, I think. In the April 10 New Yorker (The Soundtrack of Your Life) is factoid-rich and especially interesting on what makes a good segue (Paul Ray knows).

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Our weary hearts are yearning for a rest"

Bonnie Owens has left this world behind, where at least a tiny portion of her music was recorded and remains. On the turntable this morning is That Makes Two of Us (I see that this album was mentioned in October 2003). Although that entry mentions some favorites, there really are no bad tracks. I had always thought of her as the former Mrs. Haggard and stalwart backup vocalist with the Strangers. It was only recently that I learned why her name was Owens. This may be a faulty recollection, but I seem to remember that there was a very long piece on Merle Haggard once that included much about Bonnie Owens as well (in the New Yorker?). This album is Pickwick JS-6106 (by arrangement with Capitol; the label actually says "Hilltop"). There used to be several places on Congress downtown selling recorded music, from Woolworth's to the two music stores. This came from one of them, as did most of the conjunto music on vinyl here. The title of this entry is part of the lyric for one of the songs on the Merle / Bonnie album (a song recorded by everybody anybody could think of and some that are a surprise).

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Floral census

There's a lot of pink and a lot of blue: delphiniums and bachelor buttons predominate right now, with some contributions along that spectrum from lingering old-fashioned sweetpeas and the first of the four-o'clocks. Also seen are firewheels, black-eyed Susans, poppies, and one last member of the narcissus family (snowy perianth and medium-long and quite open lemon-yellow fluted trumpet with no ruffling on the edge). One of the mystery J&P experimental roses is in bloom for the first time in quite a while: blue-red semi-double, no scent to speak of. The last of the loquats have ripened. This may not be the most abundant year ever in numbers, but these are certainly individually the largest. We enjoy our cascades of last year's potted nasturtiums in every color. This evening we rescued a young tree lizard that had somehow find its way into the house. As we sat outside, there were raindrops in the air just now.

Monday, April 24, 2006


First we saw the monarch butterfly; later we saw that the chrysalis was empty. We forgot to count the days. The eggs on the thus far untouched milkweed are still eggs. The milkweeds left bare of leaves are starting to leaf out again.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


We don't use our dryer much, either, prefering indoor racks or outdoor hanging, depending on the time of day and the item in question. Outdoors has involved inprovisation since that work crew cut our line. We have everything it takes to get back in business, including two kinds of clothespins, mostly thanks to Breed & Co. hardware. We still miss our neighbors next door and their twice-a-day diaper and other baby laundry. It's time to rummage up that Alice Fulton poem again, if that's possible. In the Saturday feature by Denise Gamino, she does not mention that items drying in the sunniest times of the day during the summer can shrink right there on the line from the heat, although she does mention fading. It is shocking to read how much energy goes into artifial drying of laundry. Thanks again go to Denise Gamino.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why not just call in the bulldozer?

The TCAD database has not yet been updated, so there's nothing for comparison except the anecdotal reports of others, who either live nearby or live in similar close-in neighborhoods. Today's red-hot mail announced that the appraised value has dropped a bit on the improvements side and skyrocketed on the land side, for a total increase of over 80%. This marks a return to the good old days when the valuations would shoot up 100% or close to it and took years to reach those figures in actual market-value terms. Some people report that the appraised value of their improvements has really nosedived and that the appraised value of their land has truly doubled. How could the local daily report 16% as the scare figure?

Friday, April 21, 2006

How gullible are people supposed to be?

The Manchaca branch library is about to close "for a few months." That's what was said about the Terrazas branch, a favorite, and it's not open yet, after about two years.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


It wasn't on when the power went out but something must have happened when the power came back on. We have an old tuner, bought used to go with the amp and pre-amp that were new in 1967. We find that the programmed stations are gone, replaced by random spots on the dial. So there is something electrical requiring attention in the wake of the outage, despite all the mechanical clocks and other vestiges of days gone by on which this household depends.

Out there

The last ranunculus is crisp on the stem. The same is true of the last red-and-white florist's anemone. We had a couple of firewheels and somebody picked them, which is why we've pretty much abandoned doing anything out front, what with tramplers ("I don't see any flowers" and now you never will), giant dogs wandering at will and dropping their tooth-marked styrofoam-cup toys, which their owners leave where they fall, and bouquet-pickers. A wren is nesting in a pot of old trailing nasturtiums and one geranium slip, which makes it tough to water; we're using an ancient metal watering can with a very long skinny spout. The next-door kitten really does try to catch butterflies, launching herself right into the midst of the lantanas. We haven't seen her succeed, and hope not to. Bachelor buttons and late sweet peas add to the pinks and blues of the delphiniums. Only one oak tree is still dropping spent flowers. The pecan flowers haven't dried yet. For the past three mornings we've heard, but not been able to see, warblers. There are rosebuds. That was a freaky, sustained front after midnight; it woke lots of people around, judging by all the lights and front-porch voices. And I almost forgot to mention that we've spotted one monarch chrysalis. The setting sun shed a ray that fell right on the golden beads.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

And in further observance of National Indignation Day

A legal document requiring notarization had the wrong name on it, a version never used in any way, form, shape, or manner. After drawing a line through the wrong name, replacing it with the correct name, initialing the change, and duly appearing before the notary public, I mailed the affidavit. In response came a snippy letter along the following lines: "This letter is in acknowledgement [sic] of your statement on your affidavit . . . . It is the policy of . . . to use the name on the Social Security Card as the legal name entered into our database. This is in compliance with IRS regulations. If you would like to have [the] . . . name . . . entered as you stated on your form you will need to present a Social Security Card in the name you have used." What crap! These people have seen the Social Security card in question. The name on the form as they prepared it bears no resemblance to the name on the Social Security card. The corrected name is the one appearing on tax documents, a passport, and legal forms of all sorts. And just what are these manufactured IRS rules? This is a name that has always been good enough for Uncle Sam, so it should be good enough for you officious, ignorant, untruthful excuses for I-won't-say-what. I notice that there was no affidavit to be redone enclosed with the letter. Maybe because identification for the corrected name is what was presented to the notary public? There; now that I've written this, I won't write that letter, won't make that angry telephone call, and will return the stupid letter to the file.

So the crust doesn't count?

What's a pie recipe with filling only? Today's local daily lauds pies to the skies and says not a word about the pastry. Do these people buy theirs ready-made? Or do they in fact really make good pastry and make it with lard as they should but not want to let people in on the secret? Does the crust have sugar as it should not? What's the deal? Just wondering.

In the interests of accuracy

Today's local daily reports that "some parts of Austin were without power for as long as three hours." "As long as three hours"? That's kind of rounding it down, isn't it? The outage here was very nearly three and a half hours, and nobody at 3-1-1 or at "Austin Energy" could or would provide an estimate of how soon restoration could be expected, what areas of town were suffering the extended outage, or any other useful information. The problem was obviously not with the local transformer. When we asked whether power would be restored before dark, no one would provide a guess. Before morning? No response. "People might be disappointed if we didn't meet the estimate." Toward eight o'clock we could see a traffic signal in the distance return to life. Then could be seen some lit luminaires a little way off. Eventually surrounding areas brightened in all directions off in the distance, but closer to us quite an extended area in all directions from us and including us remained dark in the returning brightness and then at last had power restored all at once, including the households of all those idiots who bathe their homesteads in ugly-spectrum spotlights from dusk until dawn every night of the year.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Time to open the transoms?

We notice that all the traffic lights taken out were south of the river. This was known enough in advance to station police to manually direct traffic. All the accidents seemed to occur where traffic signals were left unaffected. The most politeness and consideration ever seen in Austin these days may be observed at intersections where the signals are out and there's nobody directing traffic. One would have guessed that there'd be no power interruptions for the main post office on tax-filing day. Nothing went out at all east of downtown. Downtown was spared by design. The City press release is less than informative. Yesterday when we called for information or updates, there wasn't much of either to be had. Once, the answer was "squirrels," which is patently untrue. The same people who believe that in winter the thermostat needs to be set at about ninety degrees set the summer thermostat at something like sixty. Meanwhile, the true basic needs go unmet. We were really stewing about the victuals in the refrigerator. We opened it just twice, once for food to heat on the gas stove plus all the ice cubes available and again, later, for not-so-frozen Blue Bell treats.

Monday, April 17, 2006

They're baaaaaack

The small-town feeling is gone; the noise has returned; the peaceful weekend is over.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

They left town

Even so, the tourists replacing the departed were clogging up parts of town (South Congress, for instance). On a weekend like this, there are many new dog-walkers out and about, some never seen again. We were able to enjoy the yard. It was late to put them in, but it's still lots of fun to see scarlet runner beans popping up in places where we didn't remember putting them. The leaves appear to be tasty treats to some creature or creature. There are monarch eggs all over the last potted milkweed that remains with leaves and flowers. We hope that our monarch caterpillars weren't consumed; we're not finding any chrysalises. The wrens keep trying to nest in surprising locations and we must remember to keep the mailbox closed up entirely.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Fill in the blanks

A person saw the current issue of Blender magazine, not a periodical known to him. It's one of those with some of the letters in the name obscured by the cover subjects. His guess was that the magazine's called Bleeper. There should be a magazine or newspaper with that name.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Not for wearing at a party

The wheat paste failed. An old fan-pleated clip-on lampshade was decades old anyhow, but after the wire part and the shade itself parted ways, we decided that the shade had become too yellow to make it worth glueing all together again. Target is where a new one was found, along with some black phony Vans to replace the recently worn-out plastic sandals for cheap quick-on footgear to be used for morning newspaper-gathering. There's nothing new in the world of electric fans. I still love those miniature tents that show how the full-sized ones will look when set up. So we got away with minimal expenditure and we've made good use of today's free time, swinging by the long-unvisited Manchaca library branch (closing for renovations after next Saturday) and checking out Matt's, which we seem to think of for long months at a time only on Tuesdays, when of course it's closed. I always remember this day as being observed in this fashion: any laundry out on the lines was always hauled in and nobody was out playing between the hours of noon and four or so.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Of three sorts

Sweet peas have no scent at all, or have a scent that's somewhat like cheap soap, or smell as wonderful as freesias. Some years we have no sweet peas before it's too hot; this year we have many sweet peas. For some reason, they're withstanding the heat very well, and the scent is truly delicious, very complex and very perceptible on the air. The color is a variegated, slightly mauve-tinged pink. Which sweet peas these are we have no idea.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tell it not in Gath

It's making too much of it to think "How hath the mighty fallen." All the same, for PC Magazine, once so fat with ads and appearing so often, to feature motor vehicles on the cover of the latest issue is very sad. (It's noted in passing that a recent UT Union catalogue for on-line informal classes was modeled on the PC Mag cover design, with the red block of horizontal stripes in the top left corner and a wind-swept canine seated in front of the monitor, guiding a mouse with its paw.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


We're seeing a few of the first California poppies that we've had in years. Some years there've been seedlings that survived and grew, but no flowers for a long, long time.

Monday, April 10, 2006

FC versus WD

Family Circle is listed first only because that's where it falls in alphabetical order; Woman's Day has just as much to offer. I love them both. I suppose that people who buy one usually buy the other as well; they're so full of information. In retrospect I've never been able to tell them apart, even way back when they cost a nickel at the checkout; that is, it's impossible to remember which mag published what. Family Circle has gone to an uncluttered cover, very Martha-like. Someday, I hope to find a minute to write to both magazines and beg whichever one first published the recipe for Breton chocolate pound cake to feature it again, this wonder that works even at high altitudes, 7,000 feet above sea level and up. Every few years, the recipe card has to be copied because it gets so worn and I'm not to sort who can remember the receipe for anything beyond popovers, pretty much. When we lived in the back of beyond, these magazines were such entertainment. Whichever published the fifty or so designs for little one-seam knitted woolen caps should do that again, also. Someday I'll find the copy that I'm sure I saved. Each design was a chance to try a different pattern, without a great investment of time. We wore a half-dozen or so of these out over the years.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Mysterious iris

These particular Dutch irises have never bloomed for us. So far, there are two flowers and there may be more. The standards appear from a distance to be a washed-out periwinkle blue; up close it can be seen that the blue is not all that pale but that there's white, also, creating a watercolor effect. The falls are brilliant white and ruffled with very regular curves along all the edges. Did they come from Sledd's? We've seen more bachelor buttons, more clematis, more delphiniums, more Shirley poppies, more geranium narcissi, more ipheieon, stragglers among the ranunculus and daffodils, and another round of red and of blue anemones. The leftover trailing nasturtiums are loving this weather. As to Dutch iris, we're seeing the purple ones with gold eyes, but no yellow, yellow-and-white, or just plain white ones yet. The last bunch of oak leaves is midway through dropping; the pecan is leafing out and blooming.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

In passing

I want to remember that it was in the April 2 issue of the Statesman, of all places (thank you Denise Gamino) that there was a long, long feature about the Book of Days killing. Austin was such a small town then. There are lots of photos; contemporary ones make people look old, old. It's nice to see Spellman's remembered (and also the old Steak and Ale). There's an on-line shrine to the Book of Days. I can't find any of mine right now and I never did enter them into my database of books, perhaps not considering them to be such. I also liked the Chron article about waiting on tables (and peripherally about running a restaurant in general). It answered the question that I've disagreed with people over for years and it's not the sort of thing that makes for a comfortable direct question to the person in question. I was right; one of the owners of Manuel's did wait tables at San Miguel way back when. I'll always be grateful to both of the owners of Manuel's. Back when it was pretty much a construction site before it opened, the weather was terrible, I was walking home, it was obviously going to take a long time, and I thought I should try to let people know what was happening; they unlocked the door and let me use their phone. Among the people speaking for publication are several familiar to us. Everybody was really quite circumspect. And there was no discussion of how important relationships are between the front of the house and the kitchen, although the Matt's waiter, familiar to us for ages and ages though never by name, does mention his busser. And speaking of circumspection (and of candor as well), this is evidenced in very different manners in two books recently read: one by Donald Hall and one by Ernestine Schlant Bradley. Each writer conveyed a strong sense of his or her personal character, though. If Hall had never written anything other than String Too Short to Be Saved he would have given pleasure to many readers, so it's never fair to be at all disappointed by any of his other writings.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tunes outstaying their welcome

There are two right now: the "Save the Baby" radio jingle and "Noddy Go 'Round the Bird Bath (No, the Bird Bath It Won't Hurt You)," once known under different lyrics as "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" (the Jaynetts). Save the Baby is still manufactured, apparently; it's like Vick's, only less camphory and more herbal in aroma. Noddy Bumppo was the neighbor who drove a Deerslayer (Pathfinder) and obsessively mowed his lawn in ever-increasing circles from his birdbath, for hours at a time, several times a week. Noddy was like a bobble-head doll (hence his apodo, a combination of an association with his vehicle and his physical appearance). He came from Beyond and eventually returned to his mothership. His theme-song remains.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


There used to be lots of "sanitary" enterprises: sanitary ice cream companies, sanitary dairies, sanitary tortilla companies. I suppose that sanitary tortillas were those first made by machine instead of patted out individually by hand, although, even so, most simple conveyor lines for tortillas rely on hand rolling, not scooping, of the balls of masa to be mechanically flattened. Did sanitary ice cream companies and sanitary dairies in general rely on milk from cows tested for and known to be free of tuberculosis?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Grand openings

This morning we saw bachelor buttons and several Tubergen's Gem species tulips. We'd given up on seeing any of the tulips, but maybe these are the first of many more to come before it's too hot altogether. The plants are numerous enough.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


This morning the first larkspurs of the season were open, with many, many more to come (the packet said giant imperial blend). The heat has pretty much done for the Shirley poppies ("Angels' Choir"), dusty pinks with picot edges and the like, semi-double. Today the first geranium narcissus in the side yard is open. The first cypress vine has germinated. I'd love these even if they didn't have flowers, but of course it's nice that they do, since they have so much allure for hummingbirds.

Back to the bugs

Best guess is that Mr. DeLay needs his campaign contributions more for defense attorneys than for campaign expenses. It will be interesting to see details and analysis on this. No offense against Fort Bend County, but it's gone from being sugar land literally to being prison territory to being the outer 'burbs, so it's not surprising that Mr. DeL. evidently plans to stay in D.C. The best headline seen on this stopic so far is a blog entry entitled "without DeLay."

Monday, April 03, 2006


The end is fast approaching; I have seen a Sign. There are monogrammed leather covers for paper books of matches. The item is somewhat akin to a leather checkbook cover. The matchbook's non-strike end is slid through a leather bar or strap, perhaps stitched on as a separate piece, perhaps just formed from two cuts in a lining. The matches themselves are in front of this strap or bar but under the cover. The book of matches may also slide beneath a strap inside the other half of the folded cover, but the illustration does not make that visible if such is the case. Thanks, Kate Spade / Jack Spade; the world's been waiting for this. The price is ten dollars; the photo is in the most recent Papermag.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Pleasant surprises

So we do have St. Joseph's lily in bloom, after giving up. And there may be more to come. What hasn't been stolen at the old library building downtown was also in bloom today. Courtesy of our one-dollar clematis plants (we bought three from Albertsons once at 98 cents apiece), we have spectacular flowers and the plants look more vigorous than ever, so we may expect more. The pomegranate is showy right next door. And for the first time in several years, we have flowers from an old-fashioned standard bearded iris; it's a beautiful mauve-y lavender with brown cross-hatching or striping over cream on the falling petals and tinges of golden rose at the edges. It's very difficult to describe visually and it has the most wonderful sweet licorice scent. It's not where it's easy to photograph. Old Mrs. H. didn't reveal the name when she passed it along. After those tall white irises that sometimes bloom all winter long in old yards and also have a wonderful scent, these are perhaps second in popularity from that era.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ours didn't bloom (or at least they haven't bloomed yet)

Every specimen from former neighbors and originating with the grandmother of one of them, the St. Joseph's lily is in bloom everywhere around here, but ours are showing no signs of flowering. I like this description, said to be by Elizabeth Lawrence. St. Joseph's day is March 19 and that's about when the first flowers began appearing. I like their scent just as much as I like that of the freesia or rose geranium. The site for St. Joseph and his attributes also has wonderful very large gallery of holy pictures. This site has an entire directory of patron saints.