Send your favorite daytripper or daytripper-to-be on a photographic journey through Austin or a uniquely Texan greasy-spoon odyssey.
Holiday gift giving for the day tripper who has everything can be a chore, but two recent unique publications can help. Austin & Vicinity CD-ROMs by local photographer Steve Schwartzman and Counter Culture Texas by Susie Kelly Flatau and Mark Dean expand the definition of guide books.
Murals, art, Armstrong, architecture, people, places, the ordinary, the unusual, farms, sculptures, animals, plants, and much more make up the photographs on two compact disks produced by Schwartzman. "I had this idea a couple of years ago," the former high school math teacher says. "I didn't want to walk into a store and see the CDs on the shelf and say to myself 'Why didn't I do that?'"
The project began in late 1997, when Schwartzman got his first Olympus digital camera. He actually devoted about a year collecting the bulk of the material. By the summer of 1999 he had more pictures than one CD could hold, so he decided to break the pictures into two categories. One CD covers "The Human World," the other "The World of Nature," each with more than 1,000 pictures.
What sets the CDs apart from other photo disks is that each picture is accompanied by a narrative that describes the subject and gives some background and history, plus most have related Web site addresses to visit for more information. Schwartzman says the stories are what makes the project unique, but were also the most time-consuming part of the project. The background descriptions were also the most enjoyable part for him because he got to research interesting topics and stories as well as meet a lot of interesting people.
This is not a Chamber of Commerce tour of Austin and the surrounding area, but it is one that visitors will find interesting, will give transplanted Texans a reminder of what they loved about Austin, and will guide current residents to some really neat things in their own back yard. The CD gives the story behind Andy Colquitt's art house at 1414 Holly and Art Space at 2209 S. First. A picture of a genuine totem pole segues into a history of Camp Mabry.
"Some days I would wander the streets to see what I could find," Schwartzman says of the research that went into the project, "other days I would set out with a particular subject in mind." He focused his camera on the famous parts of Austin, such as the bats under the Congress Avenue Bridge and the less well-known, such as the dove chiseled in the stone work above the door at the University Baptist Church. All of these elements make up the fabric of our city and make it unique.
From Albert Sidney Johnston's grave at the State Cemetery to Zilker Park, this labor of love is one that captures the beauty of the Austin region. This isn't an exhaustive or all-inclusive list of what makes Austin wonderful, but what list could be? These two CDs do come close to capturing the spirit of what makes the city unique.
Street person and sometime model Leslie Cochran is captured on the disk, as is the Hansen Family, who sell fresh veggies, eggs, and bread from their Pecan Springs Farm. Even the author himself is caught in a photograph titled "Bearded Man in CDs."
The CDs load fairly quickly on Macintosh or Windows computers. The Cumulus Browser that comes with the disks is easy to operate and includes a search function as well as two different indexing methods. The best way to enjoy the pictures is to scroll through the thumbnails of the photographs until you find one that is of interest. The small pictures can then be enlarged, or an information button brings up a window with a story about the photograph.
Each disk sells for $19.95 at finer book and gift stores in the area. For more information, visit http://www.visualdelights.net.
The counter in the title of Counter Culture Texas refers to lunch counters. My parents used to call the places "greasy spoons," but they always sought out the local, family-owned cafes whenever we were traveling. Now day trippers can find those hidden dining jewels that locals flock to for a meal or just a cup of coffee.
From Cope's Coney Island in the Panhandle town of Canyon to Corpus Christi's Hamlin Pharmacy, the book covers the state's classic roadhouse cafes. Flatau's wonderful descriptions and interviews along with Dean's beautiful black-and-white photographs make this a road map as well as a history book.
Get a copy of this tome and start driving before the last of the great old diners is gone. Two of the featured establishments closed before the authors could get the book off the presses. Available at most bookstores from Republic of Texas Press for $24.95. Visit http://www.wordware.com for more Texana titles.
Coming up this weekend ...
Christmas Candelight Stroll around the courthouse on Pine Street in Bastrop fills the evening with colorful lights, carolers, and hot drinks, Dec. 17. 512/303-0810.
Jerry Jeff Walker holds court at the oldest dance hall in Texas in Gruene for two nights for an annual classic Texas event, Dec. 17-18. 830/606-1281.
"A Timeless Christmas in Johnson City" combines a lamplight tour of the LBJ boyhood home with an 1860 Christmas at the cabin in the Johnson Settlement, Dec. 18. On that day, all purchases at the National Park Visitor Center's bookstore will be discounted 15%, including purchases made 6-9pm during the special tours. 830/868-7128.
Christmas Tree Lighting and Ranch Tours at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Historical Park hosts an evening of lighting the tree by a member of the Johnson family, a visit by Santa, a living Nativity Scene, music, free tours of the LBJ ranch, and snacks at the Sauer-Beckmann farm beginning at 5pm, Dec. 19. 830/644-2252.
Christmas Open House at the Winedale Historical Center in Round Top celebrates the season with carolers, refreshments, and old-fashioned decorations, Dec. 19. 409/278-3530.
Coming up ...
Cowboy Christmas Ball at the Luckenbach dance hall is taking reservations for the special evening in the Hill Country, Dec. 26. 830/997-3224 or http://www.luckenbachtexas.com.