Christmas in Austin is Different
Christmas in Austin, 2002
Christmas down here sometimes lacks the seasonal spirit. Like snow. We never get snow. We rarely get cold. Sometimes we get actual warm. This year, Ms T and I went to the Oasis on the 20th for drinks at sunset. This is a restaurant on top a the hill overlooking Lake Travis. The lake is a large reservoir for the area, hundreds of feet deep in the sharp canyon cut by the river. The restaurant is a series of decks built off the side of the hill, from the top down five or six levels, all overlooking the spectacular scenery. Pictures attached.
How cool is it to sit there five days before Christmas out on the deck, sixty-five degrees, a little cooler when it got dark, sipping margaritas, grooving on the sunset. There weren't many people there with us, surprisingly. I guess it just doesn't occur to many sane people to go outside for a drink the day before the winter solstice.
As we were driving to the airport the next day, December 21st, to go north for the holidays, another sixty-five degree day and bright sun, we passed kids playing shirts-and-skins basketball outside.
The other side of this coin that most Texans neglect to mention is the three weeks over a hundred degrees in July and August. So I won't mention that.
Another Christmas tradition is the Annual Austin Armadillo Christmas Festival, the 26th this year. This is an arts and crafts fair held at the Austin Music Hall every year, down by da ribba, a famous music venue where many musicians whose names you would recognize played when they were getting started. One of the booths that's always there sells posters of the various musical events over the years, originals, for real bucks. There's live music in the evenings, too, the stage and some of the seats not being displaced by the vendor booths.
When I say "arts and crafts" festival, I mean mainly arts and few crafts, but pretty fancy crafts at that. It is, yes, mainly aging hippies with pony tails and suits, and western boots and hats, with really neat stuff. Not a macrame in sight. Some real art, some by fairly well-known and expensive artists, mostly local but not all. Mainly the same vendors year after year, and the boots of the repeat vendors tend to be in the same locations. Just the place to pick up something unique for a Christmas present.
Another Christmas-time repeat event is the Trail of Lights. This is sort of a parade where the floats stand still and the people go by. A winding path through a park just south of downtown. Christmas decorations and displays, trees full of lights, statues, Santas, arches of light.
Not small. This is not some chintzy little display of lights. It takes about an hour to walk from end to end. There is, for example, a tunnel at the entrance, a couple hundred feet long. I did a quick count and estimated a hundred thousand lights. Not Las Vegas, exactly, but pretty impressive. Every tree along the path is wrapped in lights. At the parking lot, here is a huge cone of lights, like a tree, strings of lights hung from the top of one of the city's "moonlight towers" to the ground. The tower is 165 feet tall. This is a real ornament visible from miles away. An odd thing about the tree: the strings of lights go straight from the top to the ground, slightly curved due to gravity of course, but the arrangement of lights in the strings contains several interlocking spirals. It's very disorienting to stand inside it and look up because of the spiral patterns.
And then there's the street of lights. There is one block of 37th street that puts on an incredible display every year. Sometime in the past, several people on the street started putting up light strings that ran in the trees up into high branches and *across* the street. Apparently it became a tradition to put out more and more elaborate, not to say gaudy, displays. Now every house in the street is involved. The displays are incredible, imaginative, bizarre even. Example: a bathroom sink and medicine cabinet, dozens of pill bottles each with a light bulb inside. Giant quantities of electricity must be consumed. Some of the houses have cans outside asking for donations to help with their electric bills.
Christmas in Austin, 2004
It was warm again this year, 65-75 degrees for the week before Christmas. We took the opportunity to perform a few unseasonal acts. First, when a friend from the cold, cold North came to visit, we repaired to the patio to imbibe pitchers of wonderful icy cold chocolate martinis. Then we went down to San Antonio. At the Christmas season, the Riverwalk in San Antonio is covered with artsy-craftsy booths all along the river for a couple miles, all peddling goodies for Christmas. And lights all over, in every tree, on every bridge. The walks are also lined with bars and restaurants. And they all have outside tables, decks and patios, and that's where we had dinner. On the deck, late December. Just too cool.
Christmas in Austin, 2006
It was very warm again ten days before Christmas, so we went to the Oasis restaurant again to have a drink. In shorts and short-sleeve shirts. A couple margaritas at sunset never hurt anyone. The decks were crowded with other people doing just the same thing. Everyone had a camera, including us. This is something to gloat about, so take pictures that you can send to those relatives up North.