Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Music City U.S.A vs. The Live Music Capital of the World

In January of this year, KUT 90.5 in Austin aired this feature on the differences between the Nashville and Austin music industries. It's a debate viewed through Austin-colored glasses in this piece, but it's interesting nonetheless. Click the links below to listen.
Part One . . . Part Two

Here's the Nashville Chamber of Commerce Press Release regarding the music industry's impact in Nashville.

My two cents: The publishing epicenter of country music is located in Nashville. It is home to the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. Austin offers more live music venues per capita than any other U.S. city and is home to the longest-running concert music program on American television, Austin City Limits. While Nashville has a monopoly on country music, Austin strives to be more communal and diverse. It's the buffet to Nashville's steakhouse... which is a bad analogy because I don't like buffets and love steakhouses. You get the picture though.

Friday, July 21, 2006

NoCal Nuptials: Part Two

Jamye and I whiled away the morning around the hotel before heading into nearby Stinson Beach, an idyllic little vacation spot snuggled up against the base of Mount Tamalpais. After stopping in the local market and bookstore, we followed a tiny road down to the crescent-shaped beach where we were surprised at the number of people lounging about on the fog-enshrouded shoreline. While Jamye took a walk down the beach, I opted to stay put and rehearse the e.e. cummings poem Laura had given me to read in her ceremony.

Jamye returned with three tide-smoothed black rocks, and we headed back to the main street where we settled onto two barstools at the Sand Dollar Cafe, a Stinson Beach institution since 1921. The interior of the restaurant resembled the interior hull of a boat, and we sat and made small talk with the bartender while we lunched on fish and chips and fish tacos (yes, even here we can't escape them). As the afternoon began to wane, we headed back up and down the windy road from whence we came, stopping by the Pelican Inn to see everyone making preparations for the ceremony. Jamye snapped this picture of the misty hillsides from the balcony outside Kristen and Stuart's room before we returned to the hotel to get ready.

Two hours later, we were back at the Pelican Inn. The pre-ceremony wedding pictures were in full swing as we stepped into the Inn, and before long, we were all being seated on the front lawn of the property as an eclectic band of musicians filled the air with a collection of English tunes.

Laura looked radiant, and Greg looked cool as a cucumber as my tough-talking, no-nonsense friend stymied tears during the ceremony, which was short, simple and classy. I pulled off my reading towards the end of the ceremony without getting tongue-tied, and moments later the priest from New Jersey(?!?) was introducing Laura and Greg as husband and wife.

As the quaint, yet elaborate reception passed well into the night and a handful of people apart from the wedding party remained, Jamye and I helped set up a bonfire on nearby Muir Beach where we said our goodbyes shortly thereafter. We returned down the path to the Pelican Inn in the cool, wet air.

In the morning, we would leave and come home to Austin where we would spend the late afternoon having dinner and cold Lone Stars at Shady Grove. California had felt more foreign to me on this visit, but the glistening faces at our favorite restaurant looked as welcome as ever.

Monday, July 17, 2006

NoCal Nuptials: Part One

As we sped toward the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101, I was reminded why I hadn't left my heart in San Francisco (sorry, you knew it was coming). It had been seven years since I last visited this area of the Golden State and nothing had happened to change my mind that Frisco was an overstuffed, overhyped and overcrowded city with little to offer anybody who made less than six figures. I'm sorry if I'm stepping on somebody's toes here, but the place is a zoo. While it's a marvel of civil engineering and a veritable funhouse of amazing architecture, I couldn't imagine living there. I know, who invited me, right?

As the fog poured through the bay, we zipped across the bridge and into Marin County. My friend Laura was getting married at a little English inn in Muir Beach, and we were staying at a hotel in nearby Mill Valley just one exit north of Sausalito.

On the northside of the bridge, the hills folded out as the highway curved and tilted slightly upward. I had never been here, and as we churned forward in our rented Pontiac Vibe, I began to wonder why. This was the California I fell in love with in my youth, and it seemed miles and miles away from the teaming masses we had left behind only minutes earlier.

Our hotel was an unassuming little three-story building situated on the westside of the 101 and on a little inlet north of the bay. It shared what little parking it had with a nearby bank building. After we found a spot and piled into our equally unassuming little room, we set up shop for our 48-hour visit. From the sliding glass doors that led into a mulch bed (how odd) we could peer across the inlet at the hills separating us from the Pacific Ocean, and since we had a few hours to relax before we headed out to the rehearsal dinner that evening and little sleep the night before, we both kicked off our shoes and stretched out on our bed for what would inevitably become a two-hour nap.

We awoke to that post-nap afternoon haze and trudged around our little room aimlessly before getting cleaned up and dressed for the rehearsal dinner in nearby Sausalito.

It was a fine little establishment that neighbored a dock packed full of sailboats. The food was excellent, and we easily wiled away the next few hours reconnecting with the bride and groom and chatting with a table full of Laura and Greg's family and friends. Kristen and Stuart, Laura's friends from Malibu that we had the pleasure of meeting a year before, were a welcome sight in a sea of unfamiliar faces, and after the festivities ended, we lingered over a drink with them at the bar before heading back to the hotel and quickly going to sleep.

The wedding was set for the following afternoon, and my next post is set for the same.

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Anticlimactic 4th of July Story

There we were on the top floor of Opal Divine's Freehouse. We had secured a spot by the rail in hopes of seeing the city's fireworks show which was set to start at 9:30 in nearby Zilker Park. As thunderstorms rolled through town less than thirty minutes before the scheduled start time, we watched people scramble to and fro across Sixth Street. From our dry, comfortable, upstairs perch, we laughed at our good fortune regarding our decision not to go to the park to watch the show.

Then, the fireworks started, and we were laughing for another reason.

Situated directly southwest of our location, the Austin City Lofts building rises some 14 stories above the pavement, and this lone structure just happened to be in the direct eye line between us and the fireworks show. Naturally, it completely obstructed our view of said fireworks.

The following photo shows the building from the northwest as opposed to our vantage point from the northeast, but you get the picture.

We could hear the echoing booms and see the colors reflecting off the dense cloud cover, but that was it. Never in our wildest dreams would the city's big fireworks spectacular (which was over in less than 20 minutes) be concealed by one building, and since such a thing was even possible, I'm not sure that we missed much.

Nevertheless, the joke was on us.

The 4th of July was effectively over, but we still enjoyed our pints (only 2 apiece, moms and dads), cracked pepper fries with dill ranch, and divine quesadilla and managed to laugh about our tiny tragedy all the way home.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ye Olde Muni

Today, I have a funny story about Austin's Fourth of July fireworks display, but first, dear reader, I feel compelled to tell the story of my experience at "Old Muni", Austin's oldest municipal golf course and formally known as Lions Municipal Golf Course. A selection of hats in the clubhouse are emblazoned simply with "Muny", and this is the course's preferred nomenclature amongst the locals.

It's the kind of track I like to play alone so I can take in the surroundings and linger over certain aspects of the course and clubhouse without having to worry about holding up a playing partner. Measuring only 6001 yards from the tips, it's also the kind of course at which many players would look down their noses, and many more would consider too short in this world of 460cc drivers and Pro V1's. To be sure, its defenses are decidedly old school. The tight, twisting fairways are bound on either side by wide trees, and the small greens dare you to go long.

The place still has some caché with the area's best players though. Texas' oldest Amateur championship, The Firecracker Open, was held there this weekend, so the course was in great shape. The rough was up, the fairways were manicured, and the greens were speedier than I would have imagined.

The guy who maintains this website has a great hole-by-hole breakdown of the course with pictures, and I wish I had read his advice about everything breaking toward the river. Several putts outside of 15 feet left me scratching my head.

That's "Hogan's Hole" pictured at the top of this post. I don't know if the story about Hogan's "Where's the fairway?" comment upon seeing the hole is equal parts truth and equal parts Texas tall tale, but I do know that I made a heck of a double bogey on it after an attempted 3-iron draw found the trees down the right side and my chip out found the rough on the left side. Otherwise, I acquitted myself fairly admirably on the 78-year-old layout. After starting the round with a bogey and two doubles, I went on to shoot an 87, and I celebrated the palindromic feat with a trip through the Long John Silver's drive-in for lunch.

Tonight, I continue to go over today's round in my mind (as I'm prone to do), but the thing that keeps popping up instead of the individual shots is the unassuming little course with a big history.

Oh yeah, there was a story about fireworks wasn't there? I guess I'll save that for "tomorrow."

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Parent Trip: Part Four

Sunday morning in San Antonio found us checked out of the hotel and back at Mi Tierra for brunch. After that, we drove down the street to La Villita, a little arts and craft center near the Hemisfair Park before we made our way down the Mission Trail, a 10 mile stretch of back roads that connect four 18th century Spanish missions and comprise a National Historic Park on the southside of San Antonio. I only took pictures at the first one, Mission Concepcion. The other three were equally impressive in their own ways, but this is the one that grabbed me.

Take a gander at Concepcion below:

I was genuinely shocked when I first laid eyes on this structure. I believe I halfway expected a 300-year-old pile of rocks that sort of resembled an old church.

There's Mom craning her neck to take in Concepcion's Spanish Colonial architecture.

I think this is Mom's favorite picture... probably because she can envision those early Franciscans trudging down this arched, candlelit corridor with heads bowed.

Next on the trail were the Missions San Jose, San Juan and Espada. You can read about them all here. The sun was already beating down on us, and even though it was a dry heat... ahem... we took in these last three through the tinted windows of Dad's air-conditioned truck before heading back north to home and hearth.

The few days that my parents stayed after our return to Austin seemed like a uneventful denouement to the climax that was the historic treasures of San Antonio. I'm glad my parents were game companions, because we'll never be able to see the old San Antone through new eyes again. It won't stop us from going back though.