Do you remember all those teenybopper songs about sweet sixteen and summers in the sand? Those idyllic days with transistor radios, the smell of coconut suntan lotion and greasy French fries, flip-flops, and sunburned shoulders? For me, these were vicarious pleasures. For two summers in high school, when my friends were camp counselors or working on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, I worked in a windowless mailroom at Gem, a discount department store.
One of the first restaurants to stake a claim on the east side, this bohemian spot is tricked out in gothic-meets-industrial style, with heavy velvet curtains for added drama. The daily specials are written not on a mundane blackboard but on a steel support beam high above the room. We loved the cauliflower three ways: pickled, tempura-fried, and puréed with garlic.
When Austin started billing itself as the Live Music Capital of the World, it forgot the first rule of nicknames: You don’t get to give them to yourself. And sure enough, the declaration had unintended consequences. As soon as it went into effect, every taco shack and barbecue joint in town decided it too needed to be a live music venue. So now you can’t eat an enchilada plate in Austin without having to endure some songwriter who should have left his guitar in his dorm room when he got out of college.
Halfway across the globe, where Texans are as foreign as rainy summers, 17-year-old Layla Adawieh set out to explore the world, unaware that it would land her in Texas for ten life-changing months. Located between Israel and Syria, and bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Layla’s journey from the liberal Arab country of Lebanon to the United States began long before her departure last August.
It seems simple enough—make tea, add sugar—but brewing a high-class glass of Southern champagne is “all about time, temperature, and quality,” according to Clayton Christopher, the founder of Austin-based Sweet Leaf Tea Company. He should know: In just over ten years, he’s gone from making batches of the stuff at home in 25-gallon crawfish pots to landing a $15.6 million investment by Nestlé Waters. All iced-tea recipes start with two core elements—tea and water—but the secret to making true ambrosia lies in the fine-tuning.
You may have noticed that it’s hot outside. If you’re like me, you’re wondering, “How did I end up in hell? I thought I was a semi-decent person.” When I walk outside in the morning, I feel like I may burst into flames. Before I get to my car I’m already sweating profusely and gasping for air, and once I get inside, I’m trapped in a virtual oven equipped with leather seats and a half-melted Dalí-esque steering wheel.
There’s nothing I love better than eating off the street. Once in Mexico City during an interminable traffic jam, I got out of the car to buy a taco that came off a grill sitting 6 inches above the curb (okay, gutter.) In a ten block walk along Central Park in NYC I will stop at ten carts to eat ten hot dogs. So when I was walking in downtown Austin yesterday I was delighted to find the Crepe Crazy cart, parked on the west side of the four hundred block of Congress Avenue.
You are loved. By someone. Well, actually by a bicycle courier who was part of the commissioned artist project unveiled at Art Night Austin 2009. That was the message I received at a night in the galleries, sponsored by Art Alliance Austin.
Watching couples coast around at the honky-tonk may intimidate the double-left-footed, but heck, if a cowboy can dance, how tough is it, really? “Two-stepping is just walking to a beat,” says Austin-based Rowdy DuFrene, a two-time United Country Western Dance Council World Champion. “While many variations exist, the true version follows a quick-quick-slow-slow pattern danced over six beats to music with four-four time.” To start, get into the traditional closed position.