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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
to one of the over passes.
The last Bike Gang Summit was
begin here in this epic, underused space but through bad timing and
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...