Sunday, June 29, 2014

Getting to Know You, Austin #4 - Umlauf Sculpture Garden & a Disqualification

You can read about the introduction and reasoning behind this here...


This week's popsicle stick was slightly dramatic in the picking: there was an initial pick that got moved to next weekend (hey, the activity is FREE next weekend), the next pick marked the first official disqualification (more at the end) and then we finally got to the pick that happened:

You can find out about the gardens here.

If you look at the map page of the site, you'll see that it is quite literally in the middle of town. On a fairly busy road to get to another major city park. And it's probably one of the quietest places in town. It's beautiful, cooler than other places because it's so shaded and full of water and there are several places to sit and just think and contemplate and be around nature, arty things and beauty.
About 60% of the sculptures are religious - HEAVILY religious - with the longer, more minimalists faces of early 20th century and even medieval icon art.

One of my favorite things about this place is how carefully they thought out the placement of the sculptures in the natural setting. My favorite examples:

And another:

And when talking about the non-religious sculptures, there is an awareness of movement and detail that is awesome and beautiful:

And another:

This one reminds me of my friend Carlos - St. Francis & his little birds:

And all the rest:

Oh, and did I mention that it's free admission throughout the summer (donations are encouraged)? Even better!

However, even though it is quiet and peaceful and beautiful, it is something much more enjoyed with others. It's be a fabulous romantic date night or even proposal place. As well, the sculptures are never changed out - there is a rotating art exhibit (last photo) but those are fairly few and far between so this goes into the "don't need to do it again" jar. For myself solely. I'll gladly take guests there when they visit if they'd like and such, but I don't really NEED to go back.


Finally, the disqualification. The 2nd stick chose was for batting cages. BATTING CAGES. You know the ones: at a "family fun park" of some sort with a putt putt course and maybe some go carts that you can pop tokens in and hit big yellow balls at varying speeds depending on the cage you choose.
APPARENTLY those don't exist in abundance in Austin. As a matter of fact, there's only ONE. It's about 30-45 minutes (depending on traffic) north in Pflugerville. And you have to pay $8 for the privilege to pay for the batting cages! Usury! Out of the question! I just want to hit balls yo!
The only other options are these ultra competitive baseball camps for the high schoolers and university players to train at. The cages are inside only (no fun!) and they're expensive too! $20 for 30 minutes! And a high pressure environment?!? No thank you!
So, this stick has been disqualified. I'm slightly disappointed in this town today.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Getting to Know You, Austin #3 - City Wide Garage Sale

You can read about the introduction and reasoning behind this here...


I know it's been a couple of weeks, but work has been crazy. This week came popsicle stick #3:

This has been going on here in Austin for YEARS but I never went. I got curious because the signs are everywhere and I wanted to check out the format and such: is it really a bunch of people from a neighborhood getting together to sell their unused stuff? Or was it more of an antique mall set up? Or was it a whole bunch of sales people selling garages? Who knows?

As you can see here, the website is fairly unclear.

So, I convinced a friend of mine who hadn't been before either to come with me so we could see what this was all about. We go to the Palmer Events Center and pay $7 for parking and walk over to find that it costs $6 to get in. So... I have to pay to shop and rifle through other people's junk? Strike 1 right there.
We pay, we go in and we find that it's much more antique mall than it is garage sale. Yes, there's haggling and no price is fixed, but it's the same with an antique mall - nothing is really fixed at those as long as you can get a hold of the booth owner.
We gave it a chance and meandered through the aisles making sure to hit each booth/table/etc but it wasn't anything special. If you need a set of glass nubbled stemware from the late 70's that's missing a glass or entire boxes of sports cards or tables and tables of questionable linens, this is the place for you. Otherwise, disappointing. This stick goes in the "don't need to do this again" jar.

We left and were going to find something else to do but realized that we were virtually in the middle of town and why waste $7 on parking for an hour of disappointment? We decided to walk down to the park and find the new boardwalk on Town Lake (I'll never call it Lady Bird Lake) and see what the haps was. We weren't TOO far, but we were further than we thought away from the start of it so we had already walked about 2 miles to find it. It was hot, we were hungry and thirsty so we diverted to the Joe's Crab Shack (also very disappointing but it was the nearest food) for lunch and beverages before heading back. We took the main road back and stopped for some Sandy's Hamburgers and called it a day.

In reality, 3 popsicle sticks were completed on this day as Sandy's and Town Lake are in my jar but since they weren't the one chosen this week and because I want to do them again and right, this only counts as one.

Final tally: great day but paying to shop and paying to shop at a disappointing place/event = a big fat NO jar.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Getting to Know You, Austin #2 - Radha Madhav Dham Hindu Temple

You can read about the introduction and reasoning behind this here...


Today I picked popsicle stick #2:

You can find out more information about the temple here.

This gorgeous and quiet place is about 15 minutes outside of Austin proper, west of the "Y" (which is a place I've now decided I could totally live) in an area that's starting to blow up with houses on larger tracts of land. All along the road to get there, there are new developments or communities where you can buy the land and build your own home which is a neat idea, but a little sad because that means it won't stay as quiet and peaceful as it is for too long.

I arrived at the end of the Sunday Service, in time to watch the Satsang, which is the lighted devotional for Krishna and Lakshmi and all the other idols, including their Jagadguru, Shree Maharajji, which is the equivalent of a saint in the Hindu tradition. It's kind of silly and hokey in an awesome way the way they've pasted this guru's likeness in all of the scenes with the gods around the temple. They even have a cardboard cutout of him sitting in the throne-type chair that's in the temple. They have him photo-bombing everything and it's kind of rad. I didn't take any photos inside the temple or of the temple directly because it didn't feel right to, but you've got to believe it is sumptuous in only the way a temple in the Hill Country of Texas can be. If you let yourself be not cynical and choose to see the lightness of it all, it really is beautiful.

The temple sits on 200 acres that they have used to try to replicate holy places of the Hindu faith that are in India on. There is lily pond with dragonflies of all shapes and sizes as well as lotus blooms that is a recreation of the Prem Sarovar.

There is a "hill" (which I use very loosely) of flowers and plants surrounded be grazing land which is a replica of the Govardhan Hill and there are little cow statues chillin in the middle of the plants on the "hill".

There are several other little shrine areas around the grounds as well as more modern, western buildings because the temple also serves as a school, vacation area and retreat:

There are a couple of lady and dude peacocks squawking away too. Man, are they beautiful.

All in all, it was a very peaceful, very quiet place to just hang out. There are several picnic tables and benches around the property so you can bring a lunch or snack and sit and enjoy the area. And let me just say:

Damn, Texas. Damn.