On Burnet Road, Old Austin and New

060615Behind the knife shop, where chain mail stands by the door, are the targets. Practice your skills — throw and land, throw and land. Next door, the The Pit. Across the street at Maru, tilting toward the sidewalk, they call Chris a “faithful customer.” Add a bow. Then change your angle. You’re sipping a Barolo at a wine bar over oysters. You’re eating a taco with chili aoili swirled artistically over the top. You’re admiring what the architect has done with this space that used to be so humble.

June 6, 2015


Early Arrival

052615Before they unlock the doors, I loiter outside the tea house. It’s a new feeling, this arriving early, beating the traffic instead of sitting frantic in the middle of it. Inside, every table is set with white napkins. Plates are stacked, teapots in their shiny stainless steel lined up and waiting. Scones, so many scones. And spoons, and ramekins of jam, and rice paper soaking for spring rolls. The diners will come. The time will come for me to head to a doctor’s appointment then meetings then emails I don’t feel like sending. The week will begin. And my omelet—mushroom, tarragon, goat cheese—will be the first they make for the day.

May 26, 2015

Brave New World (Outside the Trader Joe’s)

050615First of all, we walk there. From our house along the boardwalk across the Pfluger pedestrian bridge then that odd wooden extension, then on broad pathways to the door. None of this was there when we chose Austin. Then the smokestacks, now architecturally interesting, and the grid works, and the sleek new buildings. It’s a plaza, of sorts. It’s Austin, and it isn’t. This is how it will be from now on. No returning to scruffy, no matter how you long for it. We sat at the bar of a downtown restaurant and ate sauteed squid. We wandered back out. Here the site of the future tallest building in town. There another glossy bar where the polished and well-coifed drink cocktails. Then through the lobby of the new J.W. Marriott. A little L.A., a little Las Vegas. Standing there I realized] what it really is, all this nattering about the Austin that once was. It a grief. Grief and–eyes agape–a bit of wonder.

May 6, 2015

Praise Song: Children at Play

042515Praise how a field, any field, means run! To the trees and back and–panting–let’s go again. Up and down on one leg or leaping like a frog or hand on the head because we are unicorns. Praise a pickup game of soccer behind the barbecue restaurant. Praise piggybacking the little kids as we sprint. Praise dusk coming on, the air April thick, parents waiting at picnic tables while the children keep going, keep going. Praise their breathlessness. Praise how fully they enter the action. Praise their dampened hair as we hug goodbye in the parking lot.

April 25, 2015

Praise Song: Comfort Food

042015The tom kha gai is tangy and creamy, the tofu crisped and floating in the broth. Back when I wrote stories for the university, I would head downstairs and sit at Madam Mam’s eating it, book or draft in hand. It’s the soup I chose when I was getting a cold. When the days sat too heavy on me. When I needed escape. The soup at Sap’s is the same, same woody bits to work around, same scoop of the whitest rice to the side. Praise the old standby. Praise spooning it onto the plate in a practiced way. Praise how it was there on the day I needed comfort. Praise umbrellas hanging from the ceiling. Praise the good husband who came when I called only an hour later, who sat in the room while a machine clanged and banged, all so that we can know that I’m okay. Praise being okay. Praise it every day.

April 20, 2015

Signed Sealed Delivered

032315For his birthday, we sat at a bar with walls made of salvaged wood, artfully assembled. We ordered the Moscow mules tinted with carrot juice, syrupy sweet. Because it was his day, he sent his back, got a Prosecco instead. Because it was his day, we kept going, away from the $9 tacos and strange grits to patatas bravas and paella down the street. We went to dance class, practiced the left side pass, the invitation. Without knowing it was his day, the women wanted to dance with him. He beamed. We kept going, on to a bar where a band spun Motown tunes, their claps, their side steps, their struts all in time. Ain’t Too ProudVoulez-vous Coucher Avec Moi, September. We spun on smooth-soled shoes. We threw our hands in the air. He beamed. What I want for him in this year: a little of what the night contained. Bubbles. Dancing. Smoked paprika. Joy.

March 23, 2015

These Two

031615So alike, from high forehead and deep-set eyes to tendency to talk over anyone in the room. Smart. Incisive. Ever reading, gathering data so that they are suddenly spouting about bitcoins or women’s rights in Eastern Europe or Jimmy Durante. Staying up too late. Forgetting to eat. Sweeping in to make everyone feel at home. Quick on their feet. Laughing. Dancing. Joking. Effusive. Unabashed over crispy brussel sprouts, smoky brisket, the touch of cardamom in the gelato. Fearless in social situations. Connectors. Bridge builders. Big thinkers. Writers of sweet cards you tuck in your suitcase and carry with you. Story tellers. Gesticulators. Endearing. Adorable. Father and daughter. Family.

March 16, 2015

Kitsch and Koriente


It’s good to have a favorite place, one where you’ve sat at all of the tables and sampled from much of the menu, but know the one item you’ll order, the one seat you’ll hope is open. I have that at Koriente, where Jay waves at me from behind the counter and comped my family’s entire meal when I stopped to eat on the way to my flight to Spain. I eat the mix mix bibimbap and bring the leftover spicy tuna sauce home to dab on my morning eggs. I don’t go to Koriente for the kitsch: chairs painted with quirky quotes, figurines tucked onto shelves, teapot markered with “RIP our first teapot. We loved u, why did u leak?” But it wouldn’t be the same place without those things. When I placed my order on Saturday after a morning work event, the new cashier asked, “Have you had the mixmix before?” I answered, “Only about 400 times.”

January 24, 2015