Friday, March 15, 2013

Austin, Houston to Galveston

April 2012
Note: I have resumed the blog, people! I will be posting my transcribed voice memos I made during the trip last year over the next couple of months.
Another day in Austin…it’s hot and we head to Barton Springs for a dip in the cool spring waters. A local gives us a tip to hike past the pay area and take a path in the woods to a private spring. We hike in, trying to look for an area that isn’t full of algae, when we spot a mailman walking across an old cement jetty that has long ago crumbled. Mailmen are the best scouts; they know the area. He tells me to get over to the other side and hike up to a beautiful stone walled spring.  I walk over the cement while Diesel decides to walk across the creek.  He jumps in and disappears under the algae and is gone for what feels like minutes. I wonder, is this how it ends? I prepare myself to go after him. As if on cue, the water breaks with a flying greyhound that lands on the beach and shakes his skinny body ‘til all fours are off the ground.  He must have been surprised when he hit the bottom and used his steroid induced thigh muscles to launch himself straight up and out. Indignant over this experience he follows me shuddering, sputtering and sneezing along the cement jetty to the other side.  We find our spring and I soak but Diesel doesn’t trust the water anymore and stays in the shade.
That night, I found myself going with Ian to the Red River District to a bar, I think, named the White Swan. Its interior is all white and fashioned after a French apothecary.  Ian is a tall bearded redhead with a hint of granola lifestyle. He is now a computer programmer but his first career was that of a musician. He had played all the venues in Austin and sold a composition to Beyonce’s sister, Solange, who I had just met in Marfa. Given the size of Texas, it’s a bit telling that the creative class has so much overlap.

Street Graffiti in the Red River District

 Ian walks me around the Red River District and tells me about Austin’s South by-Southwest music event. I had heard of it but thought it was a big coliseum music concert and I’ve never been interested in mega concerts. But learning that it’s more like San Francisco’s Litquake crawl, where all different kinds of venues that host bands even at gas stations, it sounds like an amazing event not to miss. I will try sometime to get back to Austin for it. At the White Swan…The band comes on and it’s a speed core band. We exit to another club that is a turn of the century steam punk feel with a funky jazz trio. Here we can talk and discuss the peculiarities of Austin, what bands are in town and more dirt on Solange’s career.  As a parting tip, He tells me to stop in Houston on my way to Galveston if only for the art.  


Texas Business
Went to the Menil collection and as you enter, music in the bushes is set off by the pedestrians. It was so faint; I would have missed if it were not for the enthusiastic guard who told me about it. Coming from San Francisco, this “environmental-based interactive art has become commonplace in the coastal creative world. From Palo Alto to NYU’s Tisch School, to the playa at Burning Man, participatory art is a mainstay. I pretend amazement and feel guilty about my jadedness. If it doesn’t shoot fire, I have been known, along with my burner friends, to yell “Booor-ring”.
We enter the museum and take in the Menil collection of some amazing contemporary art. This neighborhood houses many of Houston’s best art treasures so we hit them all. Crossing the green lawns, Diesel is dogged by the heat, and is showing signs of a wilting spirit. We approach Rothko’s chapel and the dog picks up his pace, heading directly to the reflective pond.  Barnett Newman's “Broken Obelisk” elegantly pierces the water, its form reflected on the ripples emanating from the panting ribcage of a greyhound. His form and stillness, aside from his rhythmic panting, fits into the scene, at least in my head it does. I let him lie there for a while to cool off. Some tourists take his picture and then I leave him to plop down in the grass, groaning his appreciation. 

Diesel Reflecting in a Rothko Reflective pond

Entering the Rothko Chapel …a vast carpeted room with octagon walls, modern chairs, and a preacher podium.  There is something municipal to it rather than spiritual. A meeting room for atheists to worship in, perhaps. There were only three people in the chapel and they are all sitting and staring down at their hands. I walk the perimeter of the room to get a close-up of Rothko’s paintings. Huge panels that are monochromatic, or at least they seem so at first glance. Upon closer inspection the blacks are not all uniform and there is a topography that forms on the canvas surface. You can feel the labor under the simplicity of the work. 
Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX

After checking out Cy Twombly’s museum and another walk for Diesel to stretch his legs, we head for Galveston. It’s been three months since I have seen the sunset on the ocean. The gulf awaits us!