May—People, Places, Events, Attractions


Coast into summer with a warm-up trip to the Texas beach: Our 367 miles of shore offer hundreds of sandy little oases, and along with fishing and birding, there are oceans of inexpensive activities at various state parks. On May 1, 8, and 15, play sea-creature roulette when you join a Galveston Island State Park ranger for bay seining; anything from a homely flounder to a poisonous Portuguese man-of-war might show up in the net. During beachcombing tours on May 14 and 21 at Matagorda Island State Park, the seagull-eyed may spot a lightning whelk (Texas’s official seashell) or other fetching flotsam. Up for other tunes besides the surf’s lullaby? Listen to live music at Rockport’s imposing Fulton Mansion State Historic Site on May 9. And at Sea Center Texas, in Lake Jackson, young groupies can share Gordon the Grouper’s twentieth-birthday cake on May 21. But the celebrant himself will get none; he already tips the scales (ha-ha) at nearly three hundred pounds. ANNE DINGUS

(For directions and more information, see Galveston, Points of Interest)

STREET SMARTS | a quickie guide to…

South Congress Avenue, Austin
Where the Capital City’s bohemian spirit still lives.

by Lauren Carrozzi and Kimberly Stauffer

1 With spring come fresh anchovies at Vespaio, Austin’s dimly lit Italian grotto. Try them in antipasti, on pizza napoletana, or pan-seared and served with a pesto dipping sauce. Enhance your choice with a Provence rosé, a chilled red Sancerre, or a white Burgundy from the extensive by-the-glass menu. 1610 S. Congress Ave., 512-441-6100.

2 Ostrich? Alligator? Stingray? With 4,200 pairs and perhaps the biggest women’s vintage-style selection in the U.S. to choose from, your search ends at Allens Boots. Hats, belts, and Western wear abound too, so no need to fret about what goes with those lime-green Luccheses you just tried on. 1522 S. Congress Ave., 512-447-1413.

3 You can spend hours roaming alcoves of vintage dresses, framed Joan Crawford movie posters, and antique jewelry at Uncommon Objects. Discover a 1910 rosewood-key xylophone next to a train transformer and an old electric guitar, or hunt for the souvenir baby spoon that completes your collection. 1512 S. Congress Ave., 512-442-4000.

4 Don’t miss Yard Dog Folk Art, which has showcased the mud paintings of Jimmy Lee Sudduth, wood carvings by Isaac Smith, and aluminum-siding birdhouses (modeled on world-famous buildings) by Samuel Mirelez. New show on May 7: the cartoon-inspired paintings of Nashville artist Mr. Hooper. 1510 S. Congress Ave., 512-912-1613.

5 This is minimalism at its best: From the sprawling pathways lined with cacti and Zen-like garden space to the cool concrete floors and elegant architecture, the Hotel San Jose is a haven from the hurly-burly outside the front door. See and be seen at the courtyard bar while you sip on white-wine sangria or a michelada. 1316 S. Congress Ave., 512-444-7322.

6 The Continental Club has hosted the authentic Austin sound since 1957. Intimate, with decor from its early days, it’s one of the best live-music venues in town. Catch Dale Watson on May 13 or the most famous regular gig: Folk and blues singer Toni Price performs every Tuesday night for Hippie Hour. 1315 S. Congress Ave., 512-441-2444.

7 Not dressed up but have places to go? Gomi claims trendy New York fashions as well as one-of-a-kind pieces from local designers. Hang at the tiny art gallery and pick up that hard-to-find toy you’ve been pining for. The cat-head sculpture outside may disappear soon by city ordinance, so pay your respects before its last meow. 1313 S. Congress Ave., 512-442-9977.

8 It’s not much to look at—just a small coffee bar and some funky outdoor tables—but Jo’s Hot Coffee–Good Food is a perfect place to while away the hours. Order an espresso-infused Ice Turbo and catch live music every Sunday or, on Thursday evenings in May, a Gene Wilder film in the parking lot. 1300 S. Congress Ave., 512-444-3800.

9 Dreamy decor, interior Mexican cuisine, live music, and local art: The spirit of Austin lives at El Sol y la Luna. Dig into breakfast tacos any time of day or savor the smoked-salmon enchiladas for dinner. Stop by on Cinco de Mayo and groove with Mariachi La Compañía on the covered patio. 1224 S. Congress Ave., 512-444-7770.

10 “A woman without a little black dress has no future” reads a Coco Chanel quote on Blackmail’s wall. Secure your evening wear at this monochromatic paradise, where cowboy shirts, dinner plates, and jewelry take on the specialty color: black. Let your eyes readjust at sister store Vivid, a parallel universe of rainbow colors. 1202 S. Congress Ave., 512-326-7670.

COMING ATTRACTIONS | The month in Asian art.

West Meets East

The world’s most exquisite Asian art is closer than you may think—a lot closer. Once the narrow domain of scholars, it is quickly piquing the interest of Texans across the state, and nowhere is that more evident than at the San Antonio Museum of Art, which flings open the doors to its new Lenora and Walter F. Brown Asian Art Wing on May 14. A stunning 15,000-square-foot gallery space, with “light harvesting” walls and deliberately placed shadows, the addition will feature more than one thousand Asian artifacts, the largest collection of its kind in Texas (above, from left, a sixteenth-century Vietnamese censer, a Japanese Jomon-period jar, and a Chinese Qing dynasty porcelain jar). Contemplate the intricate and rare preserved Tibetan sand mandala, tread lightly before wrathful gilded-bronze Himalayan deities, and immerse yourself in the life of an upper-class Chinese woman by stepping into a reconstructed Qing dynasty bedroom. (See page 54.) JORDAN BREAL

(For directions and more information, see San Antonio, Museums/Galleries)

Cultural Evolution

Other opportunities to broaden your horizons.

You have through May 15 to check out “From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru” at the Trammell and Margaret Crow Collection of Asian Art, in Dallas. It’s a dazzling display of the clothing, furniture, and souvenirs of the popular Japanese entertainer with the “nightingale-like” voice. Catch the Dallas Museum of Art’s blockbuster exhibit “Splendors of China’S Forbidden City: The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong” before it closes on May 29 to imagine yourself a Qing dynasty emperor with 9,999 buildings and lavish gardens. And for the best Japanese woodblock prints from the Edo era? Head to the Panhandle. Visitors fly in from across the country just to see the Amarillo Museum of Art’s collection of Southeast Asian sculpture and Buddhist and Hindu pieces dating back to the second century B.C. JORDAN BREAL

(For directions and more information, see Dallas, Museums/Galleries and Amarillo, Museums/Galleries)

Anchee Min

China’s last empress, Tzu Hsi, or Empress Orchid, rose from being a concubine in the Forbidden City to governing China in the late 1800’s. On May 13 Chinese-born novelist Anchee Min, who details the sovereign’s life in Empress Orchid, performs a scene from the novel as part of the Arts & Letters Live literary series at the Dallas Museum of Art, in conjunction with its “Splendors of China’s Forbidden City” exhibit.

What will you perform? The scene when Orchid, still a young concubine, tries to rise above her competition—the emperor’s three thousand other women—by bribing the chief eunuch. The scene shows her as a daring woman who was able to rise at any cost. I’ll play the bad guy, the chief eunuch. My daughter, Lauryann, who’s fourteen, will play Orchid. We’ll also present a short Chinese opera piece from Orchid’s hometown.

Empress Orchid is often portrayed as a ruthless tyrant. What is your take on her? Historians say she wanted to ruin China. But China was her home; why would she want to ruin it? In my research I found that she was such a smart woman that she knew how to hide her intelligence, to rule through the emperor. She contributed to China as a country, but she gets no credit from historians because she’s a woman.

What would Empress Orchid think of the DMA exhibit? The exhibit recognizes China as a culture of richness and inspiration, so she would be pleased. You know, in a way, I think the imperial style really brings out the essence, the best, of Chinese culture. Katharyn Rodemann

(For directions and more information, see Dallas, Other Events)