Chapter 51
Christmas in Austin
The Tales of Texas

1a - The Mysterious Ski Rack
1b - Wheres the Other Half of That Moose
1c - The Waiter Who Didnt Yall
1d - Scorpions, Scorpio
2a - Diet Soda
2b - Riding into the Sunrise
3 - Modest Magazines
4 - Down to Houston
5a - What Does That Sign Say
5b - Just Follow Your Nose
5c - They Call It the Sunbelt
5d - The State Tree
6 - The New House
7a - Billboards
7b - Billboards Again
8 - Stereo Upgrade
9 - Wineries
10 - Unintentionally Left Blank
11 - CBW in TX
12 - Ice House Radio
13 - Goats and Cotton
14 - Dig We Must
15 - Dan Moody
16 - Dry Heat
17 - Dead Animals
18a - Bookstore Culture
18b - On the Open Road
19 - Weather
20 - Sightings in Bertram and Buchanan
21 - Too Many Birds
22 - Road Hazards
23 - Sightings to and from Houston
24 - The Great Wall of Train
25 - In the Heat of the Day
26 - Bite Me
27 - Bid on This Skeleton
28 - Willie
29 - Rural Countryside
30 - SUV SUX!
31 - Kinky on the Texas Monthly Hour
32 - Strange Yellow Sky
33 - Football is a Serious Enterprise in Texas
34 - Remember the Alamoo!
35 - What's That on the Radio
36 - Trip to Houston through the small towns
37 - Shoe Story, an Austin Anecdote
38 - Unintended Fireworks
39 - Flash Flood Warning
40 - Sin City
41 - Live music in Austin, but in theaters not in clubs
42 - Fear of Overpass
43 - The Big Sneezy
44 - New Texas
45 - Front Ended by the French Fry Mobile
46 - Dirt Farm
47a - Heard at the Texas Book Festival 2008
48a - Texas Book Festival 2009
49 - Central Time Sucks
50 - Temple Texas
51 - Christmas in Austin
52 - Pennants in the Wind
53 - The Road Less Traveled
54 - Texas-size Thunderstorm
55 - Cool Van
56 - Your New House Is That-A-Way
57 - C.S.I. Austin
58 - New MTV Game Show
59 - Equine Technology
60 - Look at That Prairie
61 - Get Your Water Here
62 - Corporate Anniversaries
63 - College Sprawl
64 - Hire These Guys
65 - Preparing for Winter
66 - Careful What You Overhear
67 - Bonnie Raitt
68 - Perfume
69 - Questionable Skills
70 - All-American Day
71 - Read Me
72 - Weird Fog
73 - Overpackaged Food
74 - What Town Was That
75 - Texas Book Festival 2010
76 - Bulletproof Roof
77 - The Oldest Photo
78 - Cheesesteaks Part 1
79 - Cheesesteaks Part 2

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.