If You Needed Another Reason Not To Put Couches Outside

Indoor furniture belongs indoor. Couches don’t belong on porches or in front yards, as the fabric is not designed to repel moisture or the sun’s rays. They are breeding grounds for filth. And yet, I see them on the daily as I pass the nearby trailer homes. That’s a fact. It’s nasty, especially when the rare and brief rains come. But who knew there was ever a possibility in Austin, Texas of snow falling down from the heavens to blanket these cesspools of cushion? Not I. I’ve lived here nearly half a decade, and the most snow we’ve ever seen was back in 1985, at 3-7 inches, depending on your locale. I know that’s pathetic to you Yankees, but I verily say it unto you.

However, Mother Nature surprised us 48 hours ago with a snowfall, the likes of which no one under 60 years old has ever seen in central Texas. First it was sleet, that sound of clinking against the window, which I heard pre-dawn. Then a few hours later, tiny flakes. We all peered outside to see if it could truly be. Then flurries, then bigger flakes, steady as she goes. Then the green rye grass in our yard began disappearing.

We rarely get an hour solid of RAIN down here, much less snow.  Yet hour after hour, it snowed, not letting up until the entire area was blanketed in glorious white powder, as you can see below, on proper outdoor furniture.

The cacti were taken by surprise. They knew not what fell upon them.

Neighbors dug through the backs of their closets to find gloves and winter caps not worn in eons. We made our way outside. It was SO QUIET, like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Just soft snow falling upon snow. MAGICAL! And bit by bit, the children appeared. Snow Day! No school! The hoops and hollers began. Children who had never seen a flake were now able to make snowmen–actual human-sized snowmen, with a bit of effort and collaboration. And for one brief moment, we forgot about politics and the purge of free speech, the division and violence, the pandemic of nearly a year, and we exhaled. We remember what it felt like to be excited, giddy even. Our brains had recall on this feeling of joy.

It’s gone now. The slant of north-facing roofs still hosts slushy white patches, but it’s melting in the sun. The scenes that inspired us to suddenly spout Robert Frost poems have disappeared. But for a moment, it was magic. It was the best Monday in years. And though I may be in my grave before I ever see more than “trace amounts,” I am ever so grateful for the experience.

Watch Me Engineer This


In the middle of WWII, Curtis-Wright Cadettes at the University of Texas trained for vital war work, living in the Campus Guild and getting hands-on experience in engineering.

When nightfall came, however, they traded jumpsuits for feminine pajamas and flowy gowns. Or at least they did for this article.

Per https://archives.lib.purdue.edu, the Engineering Cadette Program was started in 1943 at seven universities: Purdue University, Cornell, Pennsylvania State University, University of Minnesota, Iowa State University, Rensselear University, and University of Texas. During their time in the program, the women’s educational and lodging costs were covered by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, and they received a $10 per week stipend. The graduates of 1943 completed two and a half years of engineering curriculum in ten months. Upon completion of the program, the women were assigned positions in one of five Curtiss-Wright facilities in the country. Once the war was over, the majority of the women were replaced by returning male soldiers.

Jolly Good Form

1943 Cactus

On the right, we see Charles Umlauf, Professor of Life Drawing and Sculpture, during his first year of teaching at the University of Texas. While you may not be familiar with his name, chances are you have heard of one of his art major students, Farrah Fawcett, who called Umlauf her “favorite professor.” Understandably, she posed for him as a muse, as well as sculpted on her own. Here they are in his studio, during a very stripey 1971.

https://www.wmagazine.com/

Below is the bronze bust of a feathery Fawcett, made by Umlauf.

https://www.austinchronicle.com/

The Early Bird Gets The Worm

We didn’t know what to expect of our local polling place, a quick four minute drive from our home, when we stopped by this morning. Several cars lined the stretch of street up to the town hall, but to our surprise, no line existed. We donned our masks, went inside, handed them our registration cards and ID, used the touch screen in the polling booth, and were back in our car four minutes later. Add our names to the 21,500 early voters in our county so far. Easy peasy, life in the suburbs. Glad that’s done.

I Vant To Drink Your COVID Antibodies

Univ of Texas, Halloween 1976

This ape found his Chiquita Banana.

Although we bristle at this now, this was the reality of a 70s frat “Jungle Party” on 11/11/76. As Bob Wills says, “Time changes everything,” and we can see why.

That’s the great thing about yearbooks; they never get re-edited. So while it reveals a context with which we might now be uncomfortable, it also shows us how far we’ve come.

 

How I Feel When I Drive Into South Austin

Documerica: Searching for the 70s

Actually, this isn’t Austin at all. It was in downtown Cincinnati at something called D’aug Days back in the 70s. I used to be more tolerant of weirdness in my youth. Perhaps this is just interpretative dance. But as I age, I understand all the feelings of that family of four. The moon goddess doesn’t need your shaken tambourine, hippies. Go stretch your hip flexors back at the commune. This ground is filthy, and you’re going to get hepatitis–and you probably don’t have insurance, even though that’s the law, so my tax dollars will be paying for your antibiotics. This is clearly not the safety dance. 

I Want Strangers To Feed Me Again

Houston 175, James Coney Island on Walker Avenue, Houston

It’s a darn good thing I know how to cook, since I’ve had to cook 98% of our meals over these past nine weeks. My first thoughts in the morning are, “Take Bayer aspirin, give dog his pill, make coffee, thaw meat.” Meal prep is, as Willie Nelson sang, always on my mind. Manana in Texas means bars, yes, BARS, will open. Restaurants have already been plugging away at 25%, at least those that have not yet folded. A handful of iconic Austin restaurants operating for over 30 years each, have died a COVID death. Tomorrow, restaurants can allow 50% occupancy. And no, they will not shove blow-up sex dolls in booths to establish social distancing like a certain establishment in South Carolina did…

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Austin is known for keeping it weird, but that’s hella weird. Crazy weird. And yet, when I think of the flaky dim bulb brains of many hostesses I’ve known, it’s probably helpful, so they wouldn’t seat those tables. Nice touch with the bowls and forks.

Texas Landscapes of 1938

cover of the 1938 University of Texas Cactus yearbook by Ella K. Mewhinney

 

Red Bud Trees by Ella K. Mewhinney

 

Oilfield at Night by Edward M. Schiewetz

 

Governor’s Palace by Dawson Dawson-Watson (yes, that’s his name)

 

Waller Creek by Edward G. Esidenlohr

 

Fishing Boats by Paul R. Schumann