Monday, June 30, 2008


The blur in this photo is the UT rowing team flashing by on Lady Bird Lake (Town Lake to you old timers).

When we announced our intention to give up our house in the urban 'burbs (not that far out but with a little land around the house and a creek behind) people would 'tour' the backyard and sometimes they would wave a hand around and say "but won't you miss all this?"

We'd think of the time we spent working on the place, planting and weeding and chopping and the expense of paying others in recent years to do mowing and edging. (I once edged myself with a weed whacker. Whoa. That was hard on the back!) "No," we'd say uneasily.

"But you had all those great parties!"

We would both think, at that point, of all the effort to get things looking perfect, about how hard it was to get the ponds looking good and squirting water, about cleaning out the potting shed dozens of times (fighting against rat squatters often enough). About trying to have fish in the ponds when the raccoons like sushi. We'd think of the four of five giant cans of Yard Guard fog it took to tamp the mosquitoes for a four to six hour period for a party. We created an illusion of green wonder. But it was an illusion. Sometimes we used the yard for our own pleasure. We'd sit at the solid limestone picnic table after a party inside when the weather was nice. Or we would take The New York Times outside on a Sunday and lounge on our chaises and read and doze. (We'd often have to ignite citronella sticks and spray insect repellent on ourselves to avoid the bites.)

If we wanted to wander nature beyond our contained area, we could occasionally (during drought) walk in the Shoal Creek bed. Or we could go to Ramsey Park a mile away (and boring to boot, all developed with a ball field, swimming pool, playground and no interesting natural stuff although one time I saw Austin's monk parrots in the trees there). Northwest Park, a bit further afield has a nice pond. There is a wet land park behind Central Market that is kind of nice. Point? I do have one.

From our downtown condo, we can be on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in about a minute. There are things growing. There are swans. And last night I happened to look out the windows at about 8:20 and there were curling black ribbons over the lake which I recognized as the Mexican Free-Tailed bats going out to dinner. It was really an amazing view of them, showing no individual bats but the flight patterns (in several directions) of the whole group. (Yesterday we walked under the Congress Avenue Bridge and smelled the bats, too, by the way.) It is a better view from our place than from the Four Seasons where they are just curly streams but you are close enough that the patterns aren't as obvious. I'll have to walk down to the bridge some time and see that angle. (Although inside in the cool with a drink is my favorite way to watch nature. Not really. Well, sort of.)

We hope the move will be green in another way, too, eventually. (When we don't still have the house and our parents in two other houses.) We hope we will use our own two feet to walk to get groceries, dry cleaning, eat out, buy stuff. That we won't drive somewhere every day to get exercise. (I haven't given up tennis and it's a little far to walk there, I think. At least in the current weather.) We could walk to a lot of things in the old neighborhood (which can't be said for a lot of truly suburban areas).

So for everyone who thinks we've given up a private park for a bunch of sidewalks, well not so much. And no watering bill!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


We stopped by to check on my dad today. When he finishes newspapers he tosses them on a chair next to his. Same with junk mail, anything destined for paper recycling. When I stop by I always pick up all the papers and put them in a grocery bag. Sometimes he asks me to load or unload the dishwasher, too, as it requires more bending than his back needs. Today he asked me to unload it, but I found it mostly empty. Maybe the maid did it. There were a lot of dishes on the counter, though, so I put them in the dishwasher and washed his little French press by hand that he makes his one cup of coffee in every day. He keeps up the good fight (with the help of his weekly maid), but he always appreciates us doing a couple of things when we stop by. A little housekeeping.

When you have three houses, it can take a lot of housekeeping. How can there be laundry at both houses? And dishes? And dust?

Dad pointed out the other day that if you don't live in a place, it can "deteriorate fast." It's true of course. Sometimes even if you are living in it, the deterioration sets in.

I have good intentions, of course When I live in less space, I'll be a better housekeeper! Meanwhile I chase between all the houses and I'm always spotting something that needs to be done. Sadly, we've also found the need to buy new things for the condo. As much stuff as we have, we don't have the 'right' think for a spot.

The picture is a heirloom tomato ripening in a new bowl we bought at a charity auction for the condo.

We have brought some things to the condo from the house and made little areas that look fresh and new from our old stuff, rearranged. That's sort of fun. Even though we are waiting on some built-ins before we hand all our art, FFP had to hang a few things or he just wouldn't feel comfortable.

Too many houses. To keep.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Overheated Nostalgia

The picture is from last June which, it seems to me, was not as hot. In any case, it was provided by a junk shop on South Lamar.

I have spent the last twenty-four hours or so at the old house, Shoal Creek manor, the burbs. It reminds me of my younger days of drifting around, making lots of use of other people's couches and spare rooms and hospitality; of sometimes being left alone in a space not exactly mine (maybe the parents' house, an aunt's, my sister's, maybe a friend's place) and being welcomed to use, consume, read anything I liked. Last night Forrest and I sorted through some food that was left here and found an unopened package of mild cheddar and some Saltines. I made coffee with the one cup French press, boiling water in the tea kettle I retrieved from the condo. When I flipped on the flame, I thought, "pretty soon you won't be cooking with gas." We found a couple of frozen entrées in the old refrigerator's freezer and had them for dinner. I found a bit of small batch bourbon in the bottom of a bottle to go with mine.

Today I'm goofing off around two areas of the house while the floor guy works diligently on the old 1951 floors. I should be doing something useful. I took a box labeled 'sort!' into the big room at the back of the house. I watched some Wimbledon, snacked on some Boursin I found in the frig unopened (barely beyond its 'best by' date) and got interested in an article in an old New Yorker that was in that box. Also in the box was an abacus I bought in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1966 along with the crudely translated guide to using it. (The latter still had its price tag: twenty-five cents. "You can be sure...........if you've got ABACUS You don't need a paper or pencil. It releives you of intricacy of tedious ciphering.) The summer of 1966 my sister and I took a languid trip west to Sacramento where she left me with some people who were parents of a friend of hers and took my VW Beetle off to visit with her husband at his temporary duty station at some Air Force Base. I welcomed the solitude, really. The couple seemed lonely as their daughter was grown. They went to work each day, but left lots of snacks and they treated us to that trip to San Francisco, I think. I would go out in the backyard and 'work on my tan' for a while, reading. Then I'd sit in the AC and watch TV and eat snacks. (Those little Goldfish crackers were a favorite that summer.) I taught myself to add long columns of numbers on the abacus. I never bothered to master multiplication but I could fly through adding up a big sum. I walked around the neighborhood and took what I thought were artsy pictures of houses and cars. I wrote long letters to my friends and, if I remember correctly, got some answers while I stayed there.

That staying around my own house of thirty years now gives me this feeling of scrounging, of life put on hold but full of possibility, is, I think, amusing.

I worked out today in the gym at my club. Back to the house to check on things, I pondered which place to take a shower in. I feel dislocated, distant and yet wonderfully able to concentrate on my old abacus and remember that old self, seeking adventures in the junk of a Chinese souvenir shop. It was impossibly exciting in its own way.

The guy doing the floors has been marveling at the accumulated gunk that has built up in fifty-seven years (we don't think they've EVER been refinished). There is some of that gunk in my brain, too, and I keep hoping that cycling through the junk again and again will finally sand it down and I'll find the person I'm supposed to be in my seventh decade on earth. It won't be a moment too soon to figure this out.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The World (well Austin) at My Feet

We came back to the condo and did a few chores and decided to relax 'a minute' and faced our chairs to the windows and watched some dramatic lightning and the bike race. FFP decided to take a nap and he was blocking my view of the bike race so I moved to his chair where you see my laptop and my foot and part of my view. I can watch the bikers going around the corner of Guadalupe and Fourth and I can watch the traffic jam caused by the closed streets at Fifth and San Antonio. I might drift off to sleep, but first I have to fold some laundry. I didn't really think I'd ever get to sit downtown and really just look out the window. It's tempting to never move or go outside but just watch from here.

At the Market

There are things you miss by having a Saturday morning tennis game. Forrest went to the Austin Farmer's Market downtown today. He ran into old friends of ours Johnny Guffey (a famous waiter at the equally famous Jeffrey's in Clarksville) and Gordon Fowler (a painter and husband to famous singer Marcia Ball). Johnny had his poodles out for an outing, too.

Happily (?) we have settled into an easy life of living two places. I'm typing this on a computer at the suburban (well by condo standards) house and I'm about to take a quick shower here and then we have plans for goofing off in both neighborhoods for the rest of the day. I should be downsizing. But tennis and goofing off really call to me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Temporary Quarters

Until, say, the middle of August we will be living part time at the condo under a "temporary quarters" arrangement. Our custom bed will be built at some point, we will have a mattress we already paid for delivered and voilĂ , we won't be sleeping on the sleeper sofa. I was making it back into a sofa each day or at least when we had guests coming by, but I've stopped doing that and just spread a new comforter over some new sheets and added throw pillows pillaged (pillaged pillows, cool) from the master bedroom at home.

The master suite at home is a shadow of itself. Gone are the chairs we had in front of the TV. They flank the bed in this photo and are our official chairs for beginning life here. Ditto the couch, only not posing as a bed most of the time. Our joke is that the Extended Stay America on West Sixth will be our guest room. No, the condos don't have a unit you can rent on a short term basis for guests.

Also visible in this picture is one of the lamps we brought from our bedside in the old master suite. If we can get some more lighting installed in the ceiling we can maybe ditch these. Or we might buy something new. I'm terrible at picking lamps and liking lamps I pick. You can also see a couple of books stacked by FFP's yellow chair. They are on a temporary end table of a Palaset cube (see below). The end table issue will be resolved when the couch is against the wall (it was out from the wall for measuring and painting and we have just left it for future stuff) and when everything else is in place. I'm using an ottoman that converts from table to seat and has storage and rolls around. This was also filched from the master suite at the house. (I moved some other side tables to the spot at the house that originally were used in the media room when we watched TV in there). I'm thinking of trying to find another similar thing to buy.

Lastly, in the picture above you see a small flat screen TV and some other stuff and a tangle of wires. I bought the TV for the office (which has no furniture so far, just boxes and a couple of lamps, neither of which is destined to stay) and to use for the 'interim.' I figured we could watch it until we got a fancy flat screen screwed to the wall after we got built-ins. Below it is the DirecTV HD DVR. DirecTV has a monopoly here. We still have Time Warner and three (!) receivers at the house. One is a DVR. I think it is dutifully recording Jeopardy episodes I'm not watching. I took the DVD player out of our master suite, though, and it and its cables are adding to the mess here. (Now if I can just remember to get the remote from the house.) In addition I added a wireless router and its power and Internet cable. I added the cell phones and chargers there and another surge suppressor was needed. So. Wires and more wires. Won't be able to hide wires until we have built-ins and even then, you know, life is wired. (Although I've added a printer that is wireless. So, while it's plugged into the wall, is just off by itself. On a temporary piece of furniture, an Elfa rolling cart.) The TV and components are resting on two Palaset Cubes. They are made from some sort of plastic that you can sand and paint. I bought them about thirty-five years ago when I lived in an apartment in Dallas (actually it was in Highland Park). I grouped different ones with drawers and shelves and doors and put a desk top on them. These guys followed me from place to place and while the desk top disappeared years ago the cubes were everywhere, supporting things in my office and Forrest's and providing storage. I figure they will have a new life in the storage room I have here eventually. Although we are talking about painting some to use in a little space beside the door.

It's funny what things cling to you and what things go away.

What you can't see in this picture are the Costco folding chairs and card table that are standing in for our beautiful new dining table and chairs which we are going to leave at the store's storage until we aren't doing construction. Truthfully I like this spartan yet functional existence. I type on my laptop at a small built-in desk where I have a phone and answering machine, too.

We have moved a lot of things but not enough that we don't have closet and cabinet space to hide things away and tidy them up. Everything is just a few steps away in this place (except the car and storage unit which are down the elevator four floors). We probably save steps. So we need to step across the hall and go into the fitness center for a few more rounds with the cardio machines. Or else walk some place to have dinner.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I shot this picture out the window at the south end of the hallway at the condo. I was standing there the other day and realized that one could get a good case of vertigo there. Or one could just uproot everything at once, live in two places, puzzle over a new environment with an ever increasing cast of new neighbors.

Heck, we were driving in our 'burbs neighborhood today and we met a guy at a stop sign on a giant unicycle. First I thought he was a guy that we'd seen before but then I realized that the other guy was on one of those old-fashioned cycles with the large wheel in front and a tiny one in back.

Everything seems odd and disorienting. Clearly we have two (or more of everything.) We have enough clothes and shoes in the condo closet to sustain us (especially for the blazing hot days we've been having). There are also a couple of pieces of luggage there. But the closet in the house looks full.

Today we are trying to move our favorite coffee machine downtown. It leaves us without a way to make coffee at the house, really, unless we hunt up some ground coffee and some hot water (I took the kettle to condo, too) and use a French press. I could bring back the drip coffee maker, but it seems futile and backwards although without our office built out I'm still bringing stuff back to file and such.

I'm making a plan in my head for how the installation of built-ins, AV, shades, lighting can go in the next few weeks. There isn't much I can do to speed things up except sign contracts and bug the condo people about approvals and make appointments to bring in stuff on the freight elevator.

FFP thinks he will feel better with one piece of art on the wall so we are going to hang a poster in our bathroom out of the old bathroom.

A creepy feeling of sadness, excitement, anger, futility, vitality, confusion and a strange calm has come over me. The latter is from sitting in the condo in the one room with furniture watching something on the TV and/or reading and having coffee or a drink. It's very focused with a minimum of distraction. Like being off on a vacation with a minimum of 'stuff' along, just enough. Being in temporary quarters where you have stuff to eat and drink and all the clothes and toiletries you need and some entertainment but not too much 'baggage.'

I want to just sit down, though, and work on a creative project or read a book and not think about what isn't working at the condo or how much will be disrupted by our projects before we are settled or about how we have to empty and sell this house. Of course, I was always wanting that ever since retirement and something always seems to be in the way.

We are so lucky, though. We have two places to live that are high and dry and not in a war zone. Even with the roar of motorcycles we aren't bothered by the noise downtown as our friend who just moved in seems to be. She's also bothered by the light from the AMLI and Frost Bank (the condo people were too cheap to put shades over the door and another pane in the condo). Not me. I'm going to get shades but not black out ones, just something to reduce the solar gain. I think anyway. I'm really pretty happy in the glass box. Especially if the other rooms where furnished with a proper bed and proper office respectively.

I'm rambling, huh? I'm a little dizzy but not as dizzy as I sound in this. One step at a time, right? Meanwhile, FFP suggested that we test out downtown restaurants we hadn't tried before and we started trying to think what they were. Now doesn't that sound like fun? We ate a traditional breakfast today at Blue Star in our 'burbs. I fished a book by Tobias Wolff out of FFP's car and read it while eating and drinking coffee. Nothing settles me down like eating and reading. There's a lesson there. A stabilizer in the vertiginous sea.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Age Appropriate

Yesterday a friend of ours closed her condo. She called me on her cell and I stepped out on our balcony to see her peering through the railing of hers, one floor up and a few doors to the south.

Silly? Yes. Forgive us.

More and more people are moving in. OK, most are younger than us. We have two couple friends in the 'hood, though, who are our age and live in other downtown buildings. And our friend who moved in is younger but still 'our generation.'

We went out for some Mexican food and then walked over to Congress which was taken over by the Republic of Texas Biker Rally. I I saw this customized three-wheeler and thought "now I might could ride that!" Sure an SUV could take you out, but you wouldn't fall over or need as much finesse. Finesse has become more and more missing from my life.

I was thinking about my options yesterday for AV equipment, motorized shades, lighting and how long it was going to take to get the custom bed and bookshelves and desks and I realized that we would be the end of the summer or close to it before we had that stuff in and had everything ready here. I knew this before but what I didn't know is that, as I said in the last post, we'd keep sleeping here a lot of nights. Sadly, we seem to have two of everything so we can go back and forth. There are dilemmas, though. I'm considering packing up the Capresso and bringing it here although the new Cuisinart drip is serving us well down here. (I'll use it later to make decaf for friends or a pot of coffee to quickly fill a thermos or to use some special beans that might be too oily for the Capresso's internal burr grinder.) Yeah, coffee is important to us. There are probably a dozen coffee shops within three blocks of here, too. We could walk to several from our old house for that matter.

But I ramble. I've accepted that for another two months or so, life will be neither here nor there. And today, I've got to find time to go to our other house and visit my dad. Tomorrow is Father's Day after all. I was thinking of bringing him down here for a visit. I wonder if I could use the handicapped tag so we could park closer to the elevator and whether the elevator will keep working. Oh, yeah. The elevators worked for a couple of days. They are going to have to get this thing worked out, I tell you.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Home is Where the Heart Is

I'm not sure where my heart is or if my heart is in it. I keep working through the issues, moving along, checking things off lists, real or mental. I like my condo home but I feel despair when I'm knocking about the deserted house in the 'burbs. There is so much to sort, so many decisions to make. There are things we can't move until we have the built-ins built. This is a saga, but, ultimately I think they will look good and fit the odd walls better. When we sleep at the condo, we have to make up the sofa bed. (We are building a custom platform bed.) Still we keep sleeping here. Because we need to meet workmen here or because we just want to wake up here or because we don't want to go home at night after dinner downtown. When we do sleep at home, it feels right to be there and we have most of life's necessary elelments there. (As well as here.) You know: computing with the Internet, coffee, a few clothes, food, booze. Life won't be simpler, though, until we really only live one place. Financially expenses are inflated by the condo monthly costs and our income is reduced by having too much money in real estate. But we can't get serious about selling the house until we get the condo ready to receive the last of our possessions. (Oh, yeah, I know. We could put stuff in storage somewhere. I'm trying to avoid that.)

Every day we get closer. I hope anyway. My heart is in the downtown lifestyle for sure. I just hope my head can get around it and I can pull it off.

[Photo is some kids' art in the window on Congress of a Latino Arts Gallery.]

Monday, June 09, 2008

Notes From Downtown

I haven't been keeping a good 'personal' journal of what is going on with me. (I usually write down some notes in a Word document about what I do each day. Boring.) Last night I sat down to try to post here. (I already received one "Are you OK, Visible Woman?" note so I knew, given the statistics of such things that roughly four of you out there were wondering the same thing.) So. Yeah. Now, Austin Daily Photo has been going along, dutifully posting a pic a day. So there's that.

But what wisdom to post here?

I just couldn't decide.

Should I talk about sampling tacos downtown? (Las Manitas and Jo's so far and both are great, I must say.) But that's kind of boring. Lots of tacos in my old neighborhood, too.

Should I talk about the parking garage. How, being on level 6, it takes two minutes to get in or out? How the door from the elevators to parking sticks and we can't get them to fix it yet? Boring.

OK. How about what feels like 'home' at this point? Sometimes we stay in what we now call the 'big house' and we have a computer setup there with bells and whistles (scanners/printers/copiers, wireless, etc.) and we have a fancy bed we bought in 2004 and Time Warner Cable and DVR. Several rooms are almost empty. One room has too much stuff in it, stacked with paintings and such from other rooms. Our bedroom is missing our "TV-watching, sleeping, reading" chairs because they are at the condo. The Capresso, our beloved coffee machine, is still at home. We have a new Cuisinart drip coffee thing at the condo. We will ultimately use the Capresso every day at the condo and the Cuisnart as a backup or to make decaf for friends. We are back and forth, though, and need to be caffeinated at both ends. One of my neighbors said that they know when someone has really moved and that is when the computer moves. Well, I'm typing this on my laptop at the condo where Internet miraculously appeared in the wall when we moved in and, tonight, a nice wireless signal has also shown up. So, yeah, is someone moved when the computers move? Or the coffee? Well we have both at both ends. Confusing. And possibly, um, boring.

I feel pretty much at home at the condo, really. Oh, I have to go through quite a bit of stuff to make and unmake the sleeper sofa but after a few nights camping on it I have to say it is comfortable enough. Our night light is the Frost Tower and the green light band of the new AMLI building. I can see the red H on the Hilton, too. We are going to have a platform bed built and we have a new mattress ordered for it. But. First we have to (1) get the plan approved to attach some cabinetry to outside walls; and (2) get the cabinet guy in here with materials and get it done. I'm hopeful, though. The closet people almost did their thing today. Tomorrow they promise that things will be finished, that the right lengths of things and the proper brackets will finish it off. And, I feel better now that we have painted the walls something that is not white. Made the place feel better and more personal.

I could talk about the saga of the hot water heater. How the inspector I hired found that the lower element was burned out, how they repaired it without a washer and it leaked, how there is still moisture from somewhere in the upper element. (I had it inspected again!) Yeah, but, boring, yes?

Hey. I could write about how really close Whole Foods is to us. I walked there today. It was pretty hot but I didn't break a sweat. I had some tuna/avocado rolls and a Naked Juice Green Machine Super Food and then I bought some Hummus dips and Tofu dip and chips for the Austin Film Festival kids and walked further west for my film team meeting. FFP was handling the 'big house' and met me there. I was unbelievably smug about walking to Whole Foods and the Festival office. (It's less than a mile, but hey. I'm Urban Girl. OK, Urban Old Lady. Whatever.)

Did I mention that I got DirecTV installed (only choice here) and then over the weekend couldn't get some channels? But I commandeered the installer in the lobby today and he replaced something to strengthen my signal. I just have a 19 inch TV here but HD is reasonable.

Wait. Wait. The elevators. Actually today they worked OK although it was a bit slow getting our closet guy's stuff up and down. But we have had some annoying outages. Ho. Hum.

I know, I know! I'll talk about Lance Armstrong's bike and coffee shop next door. They are even delivering some free pastries and coffee to the club room for a while. Yeah, nothing much to go with that topic.

I guess I could talk about all that stuff still at the 'big house' that I don't need. Or how exciting it is to look forward to the day when we can pick and choose the art and books to come here. But then, what to do with the stuff left behind? Are you as bored with downsizing as I am?

Well, none of it matters much, does it? I met a woman yesterday whose life is so clearly delineated by tragedy that it completely refocused her life. Forever. There are lots of people like that, but most of us think that whether the TV works or we can find our socks matters.

All this typing. Still no focus. Well, anyway I'm here. I'm marching on. I have too many homes.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Embrace the Chaos

That's my motto for the day. For the coming days. (The photo is a shop window reflection photo of my nieces taken on South Congress of the window of Off the Wall, a weird little place with a combination of vintage and new mostly unnecessary items.)

I lost my favorite commuter cup yesterday. I probably left it on the tennis court. Not turned in, though. Have you ever noticed how lost and found deals are full of good stuff but never your stuff?

I worked out today a little. As I was using the recumbent bike and some weights I realized that I will probably be using the gym at the country club far less now that I have a gym at my building.

I have been moving stuff from room to room, trying to get things out of the way of the movers, collecting all but the bigger pieces of furniture in the living room, stuff we plan to carry ourselves in another room. I have possibly packed the last box for the movers although I may pack one more. FFP cleaned out the cupboards in the galley kitchen in his office (sink and small fridge with cabinets and a counter top). He finished a job I started a few weeks ago. We found stuff for the thrift store (almost two cubic feet), stuff to take to the condo, a basket full of garbage, etc. He said, "I've been in this office eleven years." Yikes. It's true, we finished this renovation in January 1997 and he moved here from a building we owned and leased the building out. Hard to believe.

So why am I blogging and not getting my act together? I believe it's ye old paralysis in the face of an overwhelming bunch of stuff that needs doing.

I'll Keep the Light On

Tomorrow we close on the condo. In a perhaps foolish move we will also have about a half a truck load of furniture and a few (maybe twelve} boxes delivered with notations on the outside that are sufficiently vague to make me open most of them to find anything. It will be crazy and dislocating. FFP has the idea to spend some nights soon downtown. You might see a lonely light on the right of the column in this picture, low down, just where the tiny balconies begin. (By the way, notice how there is a streak on the lighted circles at the Long Center. They are reflecting the 360.)

We've hired not only a mover but two other people tomorrow to supervise the activities at both ends. Oh, and a lawyer for the closing. My modus operandi now is to hire a new expert whenever I get overwhelmed. I hope all my experts get along where their purviews overlap. I think they will. They must. I'm too old for this!

I might not post too much for a while, but I know I'll be tempted to do it, to drag Visible Woman readers (as well as Austin Daily Photo ones) along on this adventure.