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On the Street

Appetite for Construction  (Aka, "Destruction Can Be a Creative Force!")




For days I pondered making the impossible journey all the way up to Austin via bike. Almanacs were almost consulted.  Wind charts were somewhat referenced.   Temperature guages were considered heavily. And at 7:45 am when it was 37 degrees Fahrenheit, innate common sense took over.  Hell no.  I drove.  (I later considered trying again in  a few days, but that idea quickly fell away as well.)



I got there before my friends were available.  So I parked my car at the West Austin ranch house and continued by bike back into the city.  Going across the town lake I found this view.  Anyone who has driven south on Mopac by town lake has possibly peered into the distance and noticed these houses.  Why, I don't know either but they stand out in their ability to punctuate an otherwise arboreal landscape.



As the houses dissolved into the horizon I took a turn north onto what once was an interesting dilapidated trail that went underneath Mopac through various drainage ditches and  "frontier era" structures.  I went north a bit and then was turned back by construction.  A homeless seer was sitting next to a limestone wall acting like a gatekeeper out of a bad children's story.  We exchanged nods and left it at that.



I suppose all towns are built with concrete but there seemed to be an abundance in Austin.  It is a new city.  

And what to make of this glove?  



There was another urban trail that began underneath this bridge.  Behind us (basically) is the "famed" 6th & Lamar street intersection.  The glove gets lost in the shuffle.



I went underneath and went past this guy.  This was painful to see - someone holed up,  hiding in the middle of the day.



The ubiquitous crane flies across the sky.  I continued into the east side and found an abundance of loft/apartment buildings that seemed to be made for late 20 somethings who wanted to live in a place that looked like a college dormitory.

I also came across an abundance of small houses that were bought and remodelled. Behind many of these homes were newer, larger, Dwell-ier additions.  This trend has been likened to the larger  house in the back humping the smaller house in the front.  San Antonio Southtown/LaVaca homes haven't yet gone this way. Here the style is more of south Texas homestead and less European glass/steel modernism with hints of darkened wood.  At least for now.

Oxymoron?



While in the east side I thought I would stop by to see if an old friend was around. While he made popcorn,  he offered me a Diet Moxie, which is from some small town in Maine and tastes like Jagermeister without the alcohol.  Each year there is a Moxie festival with a parade and a pancake meal.  It's impossible to find around here.  Much less in Diet.  So Diet Moxie and...



...a hint of amaretto.  This combination must have been invented by my friend.  It really wasn't that bad.  For soda, Moxie has an earthiness that transcends other root based drinks.  I later found references to people mixing Diet Moxie with Allen's Coffee Brandy.  This is called a "Welfare Mom."  One part Moxie and two parts bourbon is a "Country Girl."  The best might be Moxie with Jagermeister, which is called a 'Mad Mailman."

My friend Doubek, aka the Doober, discussed his wrangling with his landlord, a huge audition coming up in Chicago, and other tales of survival in Austin.

My friends from the Westside called and said they were going to the Whole Foods mothership store. Doober and I biked over to meet them for a light meal.  Doober masterfully navigated the store's complimentary items. Afterwards, I headed west on 6th to meet my friends back at their ranch/house.

It was then that I came across this...



...a bike painted in all white with a R.I.P. sign attached to it.  I had heard of these memorials in Portland and NYC but didn't know it had come to Texas.  


After a meal at an amazing crepe cart (try the tarragon, spinach, and gruyere) and  few more days in Austin I was back in San Antonio.

Concrete Dreams



The river's edge.  No dead bodies or debuts by Keanu Reeves.  Just pipes and dirt.



With a further step back one can see that work is moving along fairly quickly - much more quickly than say if this was a freeway that was to be used by millions of people.    

Will the riverwalk extension succeed?  It might not initially but at least its better than spending money on another sports arena no one really likes.  The dead spot of the river will probably remain as such.  (I'm referring to the spot by Ruta Maya coffee.)  But if quality, local establishments set up on the northern part there is hope.  The downtown portion has already been surrendered to the tourists.  But if there was a place for locals to actually go to, then maybe it could work better than expected, especially if housing is finally finished along Avenue B and Jones.



Here at St. Philips, they too have purchased thousands of pounds of concrete.  It's everywhere I look now.



This fresh coat of paint betrays itself.  A scrap of paper hints at what once was here before.



This is the Nolan underpass a few blocks east of downtown.  Once these walls were covered with work from grafitti artists from around the country.  Initially there seemed to be support from the community but then it turned and pieces were slowly painted over. Up until recently the bulk was still there but in the distraction of the holidays everything has been removed.
 


A few blocks away is this sign.  



This is the "entrance" to the Hays Street Bridge which at some point will become a hike and bike trail into the east side.  Seeing it now one would have a hard time believing that, but yet it seems to be true.




A few other blocks away on N. Alamo is this building next to the indoor soccer league.  I remember riding by and coincidentally saw a huge party of people painting.  With the keep-out sign, the question is raised - is this to keep further artists away, or to keep away people from painting over their work?



And then a few more blocks away, I came across this lonely sign attached to one of the over passes.



The last Bike Gang Summit was supposed to begin here in this epic, underused space but through bad timing and poor judgement people herded themselves in the other field next to Pig Stand.



And then a few more blocks away the final stages of destruction were underway.  The process began two Fridays ago at night.  Broadway was filled with smoke and dust.  It was all very eerie and wonderful.



And a return to the chorus - 'what happens next?'



And in the distance, the Pearl Brewery and all its uncertainty.  Along with the riverwalk expansion, hope for the Pearl revitilization is high.  Surrounding businesses are trickling in yet the city still seems reluctant.



The setting sun or a new day rising?



And so goes another week on the streets of San Antonio.  As always, to be continued...


Posted by Mark Jones on 1/8/2008
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