Overalls at Austin Opera’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ Downtown Steakhouses and more

Christian Rodriguez and Brisa Ponce at Austin Opera's 'Romeo and Juliet.'
Christian Rodriguez and Brisa Ponce at Austin Opera’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

ARTS: I saw a man in overalls at the opera. Now, that’s a breakthrough. For an art form cursed with a high-brow social reputation, overalls are a good sign. Wasn’t always this way. From the late 18th century to the early 20th century, opera attracted all classes, especially in German and Italian-speaking countries. Here, German and Italian-speaking urban communities extended that tradition. In Texas, amateur companies sang operas in German and Czech in towns as small as Flatonia. It wasn’t until opera was sold as a socially exclusive, upper-crust experience — so that rich people would give money to support it on a grand scale — that the other classes were squeezed out.

Phyllis Kung and Joseph Herda at Austin Opera's 'Romeo and Juliet.'
Phyllis Kung and Joseph Herda at Austin Opera’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

Not always consistently, Austin Opera has done a good job of making everyone feel welcome. True, some people dress up. And they pay top prices for tickets — a form charitable giving, really. Other audience members, however, have always showed up in jeans, and, when the price is right, young and old from all backgrounds hang on every word and note. Such was the case Thursday, when Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” was the long but lovely offering at the Long Center.

Ken Sanborn and Victoria Alvarez at Austin Opera's "Romeo and Juliet."
Ken Sanborn and Victoria Alvarez at Austin Opera’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

We did a little non-scientific poll. Christian Rodriguez and Brisa Ponce hung out on the light platform in front of the terrace during the first intermission and called the show “magical.” Phyllis Kung said it was “classic,” while Joseph Herda described it as “rich.” Ken Sanborn and Victoria Alvarez judged their evening at “Romeo and Juliet” “enchanting!”

FOOD: Choose from 15 downtown Austin steakhouses. From Matthew Odam‘s story in the Statesman: “Can you have too many steakhouses? In downtown Austin, the answer seems to be “apparently not.” Just when you think we’ve reached a tipping point, another springs up. Most of these meat palaces are franchises of national brands, doing a good job of keeping Austin wide, if not weird. But there are a few locally owned steakhouses downtown, from Austin Land and Cattle on the west end to Vince Young Steakhouse on the east, with the legendary Original Hoffbrau sandwiched in between.” http://shar.es/1oHkcz

The first of many parties for the Paramount’s 100th

HISTORY: Paramount 100th anniversary party No. 1. The mood turned merry. Austin Theatre Alliance chief Jim Ritts welcomed everyone to the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday. He announced various centenary events, including the return of the vaudeville house’s vertical-blade sign, which hung over Congress Avenue from 1930 to 1964.

Congress Avenue in 1947.
Congress Avenue in 1947.

He also saluted previous managers of the theater, including Ken Stein, who put the place on solid financial footing, and Paul Beutel, who skillfully steered the ship through troubled times before that.

The Paramount, State and Queen theaters dominated the Congress Avenue entertainment district in 1942.
The Paramount, State and Queen theaters dominated the Congress Avenue entertainment district in 1942.

Even more praise was heaped on the trio of John Bernardoni, Charles Eckerman and Steven Scott, who salvaged the theater in the mid 1970s. “Tuna” actor Jaston Williams spoke movingly about what the old grande dame meant to him and stage partner, Joe Sears, then broadly hinted they’d be back on the boards with a project.

The Paramount Theatre’s vertical-blade sign lit up for the world premiere of “The Fabulous Texan” in 1947.
The Paramount Theatre’s vertical-blade sign lit up for the world premiere of “The Fabulous Texan” in 1947.

The biggest Paramount party is expected for late September before the official Oct. 11 birthday and after the vertical-blade sign is raised. Meanwhile, there are plenty of revels to keep us entertained and reminded. Ritts announced that Lyle Lovett, intimately connected to the theater, will return for the May 9 centennial gala, accompanied by pal Patty Griffin. Also, Lovett and Jerry Jeff Walker will be honored with stars on the sidewalk under the marquee; currently only Sears and Williams are so recognized.

Sidewalk day view of the Paramount sign before 1935. The State Theatre replaced the building to the left. (Photo: Jordan Ellison)
Sidewalk day view of the Paramount sign before 1935. The State Theatre replaced the building to the left. (Photo: Jordan Ellison)

Some other special themed events: April 1: free showing of the Marx Brothers‘ “A Night at the Opera. April 22-25: Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival. May 20: Free showing of “The Philadelphia Story” (the Paramount was among the only theaters in the country to host both movie and the play with Katharine Hepburn). A special evening with filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is also in the works. Keep your eye out for other ways to celebrate the centennial of this essential landmark.

Dell Children’s Gala, Angelina Eberly Lunch for Austin History Center, Susie Winston Bain and Fly Girls at the Bullock and more

Sarah Blyth and Kiran Thomas at Dell Children's Gala.
Sarah Blyth and Kiran Thomas at Dell Children’s Gala.

HEALTH: How do you raise $1.5 million in one night? Start with a smart in-house gala crew headed by Armando Zambrano. Add dazzling optics from Bryan Azar and Ilios Lighting Design and floral outbursts from David Kurio. Combine those with gala chiefs Jay and Sabrina Brown at the head of a guest list that included Longhorns coach Charlie Strong and bold givers such as Tom Meredith, Christine Messina and Wilma Mazaite. Make sure that Heath Hale and his hatted spotters call the auction. If you had to isolate one element, however, that did more than any other to loosen those purse strings: Testimonies from parents whose children were healed by the medical staff at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. These heart-wrenching stories, told in person and via video, repeated again and again the efficacy and centrality of this specialized Seton hospital. Who needed another reason?

John-Michael Cortez and Will Wynn at the Angelina Eberly Lunch for the Austin History Center Association.
John-Michael Cortez and Will Wynn at the Angelina Eberly Lunch for the Austin History Center Association.

HISTORY 1: Austin’s memory bank filled the room. The annual Angelina Eberly lunch, named after the Austinite who helped preserve our status during the Archive Wars, always attracts the hardcore history buffs to the Driskill Hotel to benefit the Austin History Center Association. It also attracts civic leaders. This week, the roll call included new mayoral chief of staff John-Michae Cortez, former mayors Will Wynn, Carole Keeton, Gus Garcia and Frank Cooksey, former city council member Chris Riley as well as current members Kathie Tovo, Ora Houston Sheri Gallo and Leslie Pool. They seem to understand that future perception of their legacies will be housed at the center that already is shifting some storage to the Faulk Central Library. Onstage, however, were preservationists of the highest order, including retiring Downtown Austin Alliance captain Charlie Betts, project super-manager Dealey Herndon, as well as designers/historians Wayne Bell, Peter Flagg Maxson, John Volz and Candace Volz. Hopefully, their anecdotes about saving the State Capitol, Governor’s Mansion, Hirshfeld House, Tips House were recorded for the ages.

Eli and Leslie Smith at Dell Children's Gala.
Eli and Leslie Smith at Dell Children’s Gala.

HISTORY 2: Austin’s Susie Winston Bain will never forget her days as a WW2 Fly Girl. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “On Dec. 7, 1941, Susie Winston Bain was returning to her University of Texas dormitory after a sorority meeting when she heard about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Like other students, she wanted to serve her country. At the start of the war, not many military jobs were open to women. Bain made up her mind to fly with the Women Airforce Service Pilots. “I really wanted to make some contribution to the war effort,” Bain says. “If Rosie the Riveter could rivet, why couldn’t I fly?” http://shar.es/1bD45w

Bryan Azar and Ilios Lighting Design, 2014 Austin global celebrities, Second Street District nightlife and more

Bryan Azar lights up the night with Ilios Lighting Design.
Bryan Azar lights up the night with Ilios Lighting Design.

NIGHTLIFE: Bryan Azar’s Ilios Lighting Design lights up the night. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “The walls of the Austin Convention Center banquet hall glowed with majestic woodland life. Like some latter-day Disney forest, the digital scenes altered with the progression of the seasons, then told storybook tales about enchanted children who overcame sickness and sadness. First-time visitors to the gala benefiting Dell Children’s Medical Center Foundation of Central Texas in 2014 came unprepared for such projected wizardry, the product of months of planning and execution by Austin’s Ilios Lighting Design. Yet regulars to the giant charity event — which returns tonight to the Convention Center — have been blown away for several years.” http://shar.es/1biqBP

FAME: Saluting Austin’s 2014 global celebrities. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “We lost one, gained one and regained one. During 2014, Austin mourned the sudden passing of a global celebrity in our midst, Ian McLagan. Open, kind and accessible, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer fit easily into Austin’s informal social sensibilities for decades. Last year, too, Charlie Strong muscled onto the social scene. The Longhorn Nation — which reaches from Austin to Alaska and back — cheered the new football coach for cleaning house. He won’t become a household name elsewhere, however, until he wins and wins big. Speaking of which, we fully regained Vince Young. After a roller-coaster career in the NFL, the charismatic quarterback took a position at the University of Texas — as an ambassador for the school’s inclusive culture — and socialized all over town, including frequent stints at his namesake steakhouse. Meanwhile, the Longhorn Network seems determined to make his Rose Bowl win the most telecast sporting event of all time.” http://shar.es/1bisXi

CITY: Second Street District develops a nightlife. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “Little Dallas. That is what Austin purists dubbed the Second Street District during its multistage rollout. They had a point: Several of the key retail and hospitality spots were filled by colonists from the Metroplex. That state of affairs, however, didn’t last long. In just a few years, the pedestrian-friendly district — which stretches from West Cesar Chavez Street to West Third Street and from Congress Avenue to San Antonio Street — has changed and changed again. That happens in cities.Austinites have naturalized Second Street. Its anchor entertainment venues, ACL Live and the Violet Crown Cinema, are, despite their modernity, deeply rooted in Austin culture. Homegrown Estilo is still the district’s fashion cornerstone, while Austin’s Milk + Honey Day Spa has not only thrived, but also expanded and moved its tempting treatments to roomier quarters on the other side of the district.” http://shar.es/1bissi

MEDIA: Out & About blog and column not the only places to find out about Austin’s people, places, culture and history. Social media commands more and more of our time. It can be both pleasant and pleasurable. For instance, I resisted Instagram for a long time. Then, at the doctor’s office, I signed up and, a couple of weeks later, I had almost 1,000 followers. If you like a visual format, see my images @outandaboutatx. Now if you are more driven by words and news, then catch my tweets on Twitter @outandabout. (More than 17,000 followers!) On Facebook, you can follow me as Michael Barnes or as Out & About. Six of one … Anyway, they all work together and help introduce Old Austin to New Austin and vice versa.

Thoughts on the Texas Inaugural Ball 2015

Dean and Andrea McWilliams at the Texas Inaugural Ball.
Dean and Andrea McWilliams at the Texas Inaugural Ball.

The social shift in Austin might be as telling as the political one.

“More Longhorns,” joked University of Texas System Regent Steve Hicks about the social changing of the guard in Austin with Gov. Greg Abbott’s hours-old administration. “Fewer Aggies!”

Beyond our usual loyalties — which outsiders ignore at their peril — there’s a sense of social renewal after 14 years of Gov. Rick Perry in the Governor’s Mansion.

“Abbott’s social style will be more relaxed yet classy,” said Jennifer Stevens, President & CEO, JHL Company. “That will apply to the Governor’s Mansion as well as to events such as the ball.”

Cameron Tanner and Vanessa Cortez at the Texas Inaugural Ball.
Cameron Tanner and Vanessa Cortez at the Texas Inaugural Ball.

Some social observers noted that Perry’s social tone could be elitist and, at the same time, oddly uncouth.

Perry detractors single out the choice of unedited gun enthusiast Ted Nugent as the 2007 inaugural ball material. Lady Antebellum and Pat Green were booked for tonight’s party.

Restricted access to the Governor’s Mansion during Perry’s time, even after the renovation, also rubbed some social leaders from both parties the wrong way.

As often is the case with a fresh start, enthusiasm and hope are common currency.

“Knowing our new Governor and Lt. Governor, and their wonderful families, there’s no doubt the inaugural ball will usher in a dazzling new era for our great state,” said lobbyist Andrea McWilliams before the ball.

Ricardo Gaitan, also a guest at the ball, thinks Abbott’s social circles “will be more open to other voices.”

Judith Alcid and Ricardo Gaitan at the Texas Inaugural Ball.
Judith Alcid and Ricardo Gaitan at the Texas Inaugural Ball.

There was no parade or black-tie ball for Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in 2010. A celebration party instead was considered less ostentatious during the Great Recession, also parades are usually reserved for first elections.

For security reasons, organizers had asked media to arrive at 5:45 p.m. for an 8 p.m. ball. That gave us plenty of time to examine the decor. Interesting, blue was the dominant color, often surrounding red completely. The inaugural logo was white on blue.

Organizers expected 10,000 guests. Where would they go? It’s a big room at the Austin Convention Center, but not that big.

Doors finally opened at 7:45 p.m. Guests surged in. “Let’s go for the food!

A man in a modified Confederate uniform and his companion, dressed as a riverboat gambler, mingled at the buffet line.

Melissa and Lenny Caballero at the Texas Inaugural Ball.
Melissa and Lenny Caballero at the Texas Inaugural Ball.

There might have been almost 10,000 guests there by the time my deadline loomed at 9 p.m., but they were already enjoying the opening act. A few told me more about their private thoughts on the subtle social alterations underway.

Clearly, the eats and drinks, and, especially, the lounge furniture were hits. How better to rest those tuxes and evening gowns?

Even given some of the outsized hair, “relaxed but classy” does seem the right way to describe the Texas Inaugural Ball 2015.

Stephen F. Austin, African-Americans in Austin’s economy, Kelso on Texas cities and more

di_09863_pubHISTORY: What recently rediscovered papers tell us about Stephen F. Austin. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “The large, thin sheet of ivory-colored paper folds into a neat, pocket-sized rectangle. Opened up for perusal, the printed Seal of Mexico looms over elegant cursive script, including the elaborate signature of the Mexican secretary of state. On the back of the single-page passport are darkly inked stamps for Mexico City, Veracruz and New Orleans, plus a written notice of a steamship departure from New Orleans on Aug. 22, 1835, for Brazoria, Texas. After lobbying for his Texas colonists in Mexico City — and spending time in a Mexican prison for his efforts — Stephen F. Austin returned home to the Brazos Valley. Several artifacts, including his passport and a receipt from a New Orleans bookseller — recently rediscovered in the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas — reveal some clues about his state of mind. “The receipt is a window into what he was thinking in Mexico City and into very tumultuous times,” says Brenda Gunn, director for research and collections at the Briscoe. “He’s thinking about revolution.” http://shar.es/1bcn6E

BUSINESS: The state of African-American mobility in Austin’s economy. Taken from Dan Zehr‘s story in the Statesman: “Natalie Madeira Cofield spent 12 years working in Los Angeles, New York and Washington. She knows what it’s like to live in a city with a large and vibrant African-American community. When Cofield moved to Austin in August 2011 — just 29 years old at the time — she became one of the youngest CEOs of any black chamber of commerce in the country. She understands what it’s like to be a successful, young professional in a booming Central Texas economy. But here in Austin, a city that takes pride in its reputation as a progressive and inclusive community, Cofield also knows that these two facets of her personal and professional lives don’t often overlap. “There’s no one place you can say: ‘There’s a black community center,’” said Cofield, head of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce.” http://projects.statesman.com/news/economic-mobility

LAW: What Gov.-elect Greg Abbott doesn’t get about Texas cities. Taken from John Kelso‘s column in the Statesman: “I doubt we’ll see our incoming governor dressed up like the sugar plum fairy at Eeyore’s Birthday Party anytime soon. Greg Abbott doesn’t seem the type to embrace the Austin vibe. I say this because he’s attacking the plastic grocery bag ban the city came up with to cut down on litter. See, plastic bags are like the Texas Legislature: They just won’t go away. If Washington had left a plastic grocery bag at Valley Forge, it would still be stuck to a fence, right? Abbott says city rules that restrict fracking, cutting trees in your yard or what bags stores hand out mess with our freedoms here in Texas. Or, as Patrick Henry once said, “Give me liberty or give me a plastic bag.” OK, so Patrick Henry didn’t say that, but Abbott might. All of these regulations should be the purview of the state, not cities, Abbott thinks.” http://shar.es/1bcnpH

Rita Lee, ‘Boyhood’ Oscar Noms, Marco Perella and more

rgz+Lee+03BUSINESS: From war-torn China to life’s rewards in Austin. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “Born in 1931, Rita Chiu-Yi Lee grew up in turbulent times. In 1937, the Japanese Empire invaded her native China, already torn by civil war. Her uncle sided with the Communist Chinese forces, her father with the Nationalists. After the Japanese publicly tortured the Austinite’s grandfather in front of their village, her family crossed the Japanese-Chinese war zone to find her father, Ma Chi Chuang, at the time an aide to Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. At another point, her father, by then an admiral, was given the task of escorting the Nationalist government’s treasures to the island of Taiwan when the Chinese Civil War (1927-1950) went the way of the Communists.” http://shar.es/1bpAoY

MOVIES 1: Austin’s “Boyhood” takes six Oscar nods. Taken from Joe Gross‘ story in the Statesman: “Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Birdman” and Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” each picked up nine Oscar nominations Thursday morning, with  “The Imitation Game” scoring eight. Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” and Austin favorite Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” had six each. The best picture nominees are “American Sniper,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “The Imitation Game,” “The Theory of Everything” and “Selma.” In addition to best picture, “Boyhood” picked up nods for best director, best editing (for editor Sandra Adair), best supporting actor for Ethan Hawke, best supporting actress for Patricia Arquette and best original screenplay.” http://bit.ly/1IDZtsN

MOVIES 2: Who’s that guy? Taken from Stephen Harrigan‘s story in Texas Monthly: “There are 65 acting credits listed for Marco Perella on the Internet Movie Database, some of them in high-profile productions like JFK, Lone Star, and Friday Night Lights. But the characters he’s played tend to be identified on IMDb by labels like “Cab Driver,” “Townsperson,” “2nd Young Guy,” “Preppy Customer,” “Starbucks Guy,” “Skinny Dude,” and “Jester (scenes deleted).” The Austin actor made a typically brief appearance in a television movie I wrote a dozen years ago, and I congratulate myself on having gone to the extra effort of providing his character, a psychopathic drifter in nineteenth-century Missouri, with an actual name.” http://bit.ly/1yhox7J

Black Rural Schools, Austin Snow Day 1985, Investigating CPS and more

Untitled - 39HISTORY: Studying 42 rural African-American schools in Travis County. Taken from my story in th the Statesman: “For decades, the Rev. Willie B. Routt Sr. retained fond memories of teachers at the tiny Gravel Hill School. “They cared for us at school as well as at home,” Routt told an interviewer about the Manor-area school in the 1930s. “We were all treated the same. It didn’t matter if we wore the same clothes every day, and the same the next year by a brother or sister. If we had no money or food, they would look out for us and showed love.” Built in 1928 on two acres of land in eastern Travis County, Gravel Hill was among 42 rural African-American schools that had been established near Austin by the mid-1930s. Most physical traces of these one-, two- or three-room schools have disappeared, but they have not been forgotten.”  http://shar.es/1HLaOf

CITY: Oh boy, do I remember the Austin snow days of 1984-1985! Taken from stories by Nancy Flores the Statesman: “When it snows in Central Texas, it’s a moment to remember. It’s now been 30 years since Austin’s last major snow event, when 7.5 inches fell on the capital city within a two-week stretch. When we asked Austinites what they recalled from the January 1985 snowstorm that paralyzed the city, the memories flooded in by the dozens. Recollections were funny, emotional and quirky. In lieu of appropriate winter clothes, for example, some Austinites wore socks on their hands instead of mittens. Others got creative with makeshift sleds or hosted snow parties.” http://shar.es/1HLaxC

HEALTH: Brilliant investigative work on Child Protective Services. Taken from stories by Andrea Ball and Eric Dexheimer in the Statesman: “In 2009, the Legislature ordered Child Protective Services to publicly record every abuse- and neglect-related death in the state in hopes of identifying patterns and discovering ways to prevent abuse deaths. But the Statesman has learned that CPS has not systematically analyzed those reports, meaning that in important ways, Texas’ child protection workers effectively have been operating with blinders, missing deadly patterns and key pieces of information that could help protect kids.” http://bit.ly/1y8z5mp

Barbara Mink, Mark Madrid, East Texas Massacre, 1942 Football and more

SCHOOL: Barbara Mink has embodied ACC’s ideals since Day 1. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “In July 1973, Barbara Mink drove a black Ford F-100 pickup truck from Statesville, N.C., to Austin. The new dean — among the very first hires at Austin Community College — found her offices hidden in a corner of the old L.C. Anderson High School in East Austin. The same two rooms at the newly renamed “Ridgeview Campus” served also as the tutoring lab, the testing center and the incipient college’s library, which owned so few books that teachers brought in textbooks and artfully distributed them around the shelves. “It was electric,” Mink recalls of those heady days at ACC. “We had to hire all the staff and faculty, develop curriculum and figure out how to register students. All of July, all of August, we were working. Everybody got together and said, ‘We are going to make this work!’ ” http://shar.es/1HweCQasz-122114-MINK-4

BUSINESS: Mark Madrid charges up Hispanic Chamber. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “Where is the self-proclaimed Cheeseburger Capital of Texas? “Friona is in the middle of nowhere,” says Mark Leroy Madrid of his Panhandle hometown 70 miles southwest of Amarillo and home to the Texas Cheeseburger Festival. “The cattle outnumber the people. There’s one stoplight, one Dairy Queen, and the stoplight was constructed when I was in elementary school.” wenty-four years ago, when the future president and CEO of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce enrolled at the University of Texas, almost as many people lived in his Austin dormitory complex as did in Friona, almost 500 miles away.” http://shar.es/1HwesZ

HISTORY: How should an East Texas massacre be remembered? Taken from Jonathon Tilove‘s story in the Statesman: “Slocum is a speck on the map — an East Texas crossroads in Anderson County about a dozen miles southeast of Palestine. It is home to a couple of hundred people, about what it’s always been. According to the Handbook of Texas, published by the Texas State Historical Association, Slocum’s defining struggle to get its own post office back in the 19th century was a “slow come,” and it’s now long gone. In 1929, Slocum was flattened by a tornado that killed eight people, injured as many as 150 others and left a mule stuck high in a tree. There is no mention anywhere in the handbook of the 1910 Slocum Massacre, in which a marauding mob of local whites went on a rampage, killing blacks pell-mell, and sending much of the local African-American population fleeing for their lives, abandoning homes and property, never to return.” http://shar.es/1Hwe0R

SPORTS: The year Austin won two state football championships. Taken from Danny Davis‘ story in the Statesman:  “Seventy-two years ago, the Texas high school football spotlight shined directly on the state capital. In the fall of 1942, the state’s two state high school championships were claimed by Austin schools. Austin High took home the University Interscholastic League’s Class 2A championship. Anderson High earned the top prize at the conclusion of the Prairie View Interscholastic League’s third-ever postseason tournament.” http://shar.es/1HwjVx

Your Own Austin History, Austin People to Watch, Lower Rio Grande Valley and more

During the slow holidays, we share some stories that have filled our time.

From the Texas State Library and Archives' current show of early Texas photographs.
From the Texas State Library and Archives’ current show of early Texas photographs.

HISTORY: Build your own Austin history project in 2015. Taken from my Statesman story: “Hey, do you remember when … ?” During 2015, your best resource on Austin’s past could be sitting right next to you. Or maybe that person is reading quietly in the guest bedroom. Or down the street on a porch watching the world go by. Austin histories start with questions for actual Austinites. Take this one: “How long has your family lived here?” That back-fence query, made 18 years ago, led to the discovery that our section of the Bouldin neighborhood was founded after the Civil War as one of Austin’s 15 freedmen communities. Some African-American families in South Austin — and elsewhere — didn’t move to East Austin after the 1920s, when city planners hoped to concentrate services there. Brackenridge or South Side, now subsumed in the SoCo frenzy, remained 100 percent African-American into the 1940s.” http://shar.es/1H4clG

CITY: Austin people to watch in 2015. Taken from group Statesman story: “From books and movies to recipe apps, new bars and new music, folks in Austin have a lot planned for 2015. The Austin360 staff rounded up a selection of people to watch, people we expect to do fun, inspiring and creative things well into the year and beyond. Cheers! … Mark Madrid: Few people injected more energy into the Austin social, business and nonprofit scenes in 2014 than Madrid, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He graduated from UT, spent time in New York, Mexico City and Houston, then hit the ground running last year here, uniting disparate forces around the chamber as never before. (Look for a larger profile on Madrid on Monday in print and online.) http://shar.es/1H4c5s

TRAVEL: Rivers, resacas and rare birds in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Taken from my travel story in the Statesman: “The Rio Grande staggers the imagination. Almost 2,000 miles long, it defies the type of sustained Texas “river tracing” that Houston buddy Joe Starr and I have ardently pursued by car and on foot during the past few years. The Texas-Mexico border alone is 1,000 miles long, which Keith Bowden tackled by kayak and canoe and then recorded in the riveting, even if sometimes irritating, “The Tecate Journals.” The Rio Bravo is further revealed — in fragments — in Jan Reid’s magnificently edited collection “Rio Grande,” which we dipped into on this, the 32nd of 50 planned Texas river tracings.” http://shar.es/1H4cUZ

CHARITY: Why the Salvation Army shortfall? Well … Taken from James Barragan‘s story in the Statesman: “The Salvation Army of Austin is facing a critical funding gap of $300,000 for 2014, without which the group might be unable to continue providing its services at the same level next year, the charity announced Tuesday. The charity’s branch in Austin provided food, shelter and other services to more than 400,000 people in Travis and Williamson counties in 2014, said Jan Gunter, communications and community relations director for the group. If the funding gap isn’t closed, she said, it could mean the Salvation Army won’t be able to serve as many people next year.”  http://shar.es/1H4cVE