Photo Call for ‘Mad Men, Austin-Style’

B-875ILVAAARdMQOn Feb. 28, 2015, I posted this photo of passengers deplaning at Old Mueller Airport. I noted that it looked “very Mad Men.” Especially the guy posing on the upper deck and the woman clutching the purse.

Inspired by this image, we are collecting thematic photos from that period in Austin for a story to run on the date of the finale, May 17. Send images from Austin in the 1960s to mbarnes@statesman.com.

Here’s my list:

1. A building from the era, like the American National Bank, now beautifully restored (done).
2. A group of men in hats.
3. A typical display ad from the period, which should be easy, since that new ProQuest searchable database of the Statesman takes you to ads as well.
3. Someone smoking a cigarette.
4. Someone drinking a martini.
5. A high-fashion housewife.
6. A young female executive.
7. An actress or model in late 60s Mod.
8. Ooo … maybe Top Notch hamburger stand, since they represented Burger Chef (done).
9. A car from the period, parked somewhere in Austin. Which line do they represent?
10. Well dressed children from the period.

Am I missing something?

Pink Party, $5 Billion Annually for Travis County Nonprofits, ‘Kiss Me Kate’ at Texas State

Lindsay and Steven Katz at Pink for Komen Austin.
Lindsay and Steven Katz at Pink for Komen Austin.

CHARITY 1: One sign of good health among Austin nonprofits: Benefits that grow swiftly and surely. In charity years, Pink, which helps out Komen Austin, is a mere toddler. Its better known Race for the Cure is a known quantity. Pink, however, started modestly if energetically at Shoal Creek Crossing just a few years ago. Last week, it moved into the large Zilker Banquet Room at the Hyatt Regency Austin under the tutelage of two seasoned fundraisers, Karen Shultz, who doubles as the breast cancer group’s interim director, and Jennifer Stevens, the infinitely energetic “un-lobbyist” behind Mack, Jack & McConauhey. They started the evening with a little social mixing, followed by a cappella singing from One Note Stand, wry remarks from radio’s Ed Clements, Pink Diamond Awards, dinner, a speech from Dr. Powel Brown from Houston’s M.D. Anderson Center, an auction called by Heath Hale Auctioneers and an after-party. It won’t net the $1 million-plus that MJ&M brought in — no official totals for that giant party yet — but already Pink is peachy.

Names to come for this couple at Pink for Komen Austin.
David Elcock and Tracye McDaniel at Pink for Komen Austin.

CHARITY 2: The $5 billion-a-year good news is worth repeating. Annual revenues for Travis County’s almost 6,000 nonprofits almost doubled between 2004 and 2014. That, according to a study by the supremely reliable Greenlights group. Ever precise, CEO Matt Kouri and crack researcher Marisa Zappone tell me that “total revenue for nonprofits in Travis County in 2004 was $2,421,132,885 and in 2014 it was $4,716,095,440.” Almost $5 billion a year is pretty darn good considering that Austin usually gets dinged in the Chronicle of Philanthropy rankings, which tallies itemized claims from  income tax returns. That method leaves out three huge factors: Our young demographics (giving usually increases with age, as do itemized tax claims), lack of multi-generational wealth (the first big fortunes were made here in the 1990s, not the 1890s) and the high rates of valued volunteerism (Greenlights also found that only 15 percent of those 6,000 nonprofits can claim paid staff, which means a lot is being done by volunteers).

'Kiss Me Kate' at Texas State University
‘Kiss Me Kate’ at Texas State University

SCHOOL: The musicals live in San Marcos. For the past few years, Texas State University has flourished as a regional leader for training musical theater artists. The level of talent is astounding, as witnessed recently in the company of Suzie Harriman, Robert Faires and Barbara Chisholm, among others who made the trip for a Sunday matinee. So even when the dynamic husband-and-wife duo of Kaitlin Hopkins and Jim Price are not the captains of a particular production, we go assured of a good time. Cassie Abate choreographed and directed the current, glorious production of Cole Porter‘s “Kiss Me Kate,” while Emily Goldman did the musical direction. They didn’t shy away from some uncomfortable material and the cast is superb.

Umlauf Garden Party, Toast of the Town with H.W. Brands, Chris Tyson, Austin Parks Primer

John Arrow and Natalie Yerkovich at Umlauf Garden Party.
John Arrow and Natalie Yerkovich at Umlauf Garden Party.

ARTS: The splendid Umlauf Garden Party dodged the rain. But not the humidity. Still, most guests didn’t sweat it. After all, the stylish benefit for the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum has grown into one of the city’s premier sip-and-sample events. Director Nina Seely filled me in on the center’s 99-year lease with the City of Austin and the master planning underway for the hilltop residence and studio donated by the late Angie and Charles Umlauf, located above the gardens. Biggies such as Sinclair Black and Larry Speck are part of the planning team. Curator Katie Robinson Edwards told me about the spot’s programming, as we discussed her fine book, “Midcentury Modern Art in Texas,” as well as a cache of Seymour Fogel paintings stashed out west. Fogel and Umlauf were colleagues at UT, not always on the best of terms, I hear (not from the circumspect curator).

Glenn and Britta Dukes at Umlauf Garden Party.
Glenn and Britta Dukes at Umlauf Garden Party.

HISTORY: University of Texas historian H.W. Brands is a prolific speaker as well as writer. Over dinner at the sky-top Fours Seasons Residences home of Walter and Sandra Wilkie, Brands ranged over topics such as the Civil War, historical movies, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Native Americans, Jacksonian democracy and the nature of war itself. After dinner, he was introduced by the Texas Book Festival‘s Lois Kim — the event was staged in tandem with St. David’s Foundation‘s Toast of the Town small-scale benefit series. Brands talked about how he turned a proposal for a six-volume American history into six biographies instead — Ben Franklin, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and, now, Ronald Reagan, thus covering a lot of the same historical territory. He previewed “Reagan: The Life,” with insights about the late president’s relationships with his father and his wife, Nancy Reagan, including an amazing anecdote about the nuclear arms talks in Iceland.

H.W. Brands and Julie Gold at Toast of the Town. Photo by Robert Godwin.
H.W. Brands and Julie Gold at Toast of the Town. Photo by Robert Godwin.

SPORTS: Chris Tyson has turned sports memorabilia collection into a charity operation. Taken from my column in the Statesman: “On Jan. 15, 1978, young Chris Tyson’s dad sat him down in front of the television set. “Son, the Dallas Cowboys are the greatest football team ever,” Tony Tyson, these ays a retired U.S. Army major, said. “I want you to watch this game.” The owner of Tyson Fundraising, now 49, watched awestruck as the Cowboys, led by quarterback Roger Staubach and running back Tony Dorsett, beat the Denver Broncos. “I liked sports,” Chris Tyson says. “But that day I fell in love with sports and with that team. I thought it would be cool to meet Dorsett and Staubach. Later in life, that would come to be.” https://shar.es/1p5fO4

NATURE: Start your Austin-area parks adventure here. Taken from a story by Kristin Finan in the Statesman: “Swim. Bike. Play. Hike. Repeat. If you’ve been looking to change up your routine this spring, look no further than one of the Austin area’s many parks for inspiration. Now — before the orange, blue and white mosaics of wildflowers give way to sunflowers, and while breezes can be considered refreshing and even cool — is an ideal time to discover a new place to get back to nature. There are so many great parks to choose from in the Austin area. Here are seven of our favorites.”

Fashion X Austin, ‘Robber Bridegroom,’ Ransom Williams Farmstead and more

Anthony Ryan and Amanda Valentine at Fashion X Austin.
Anthony Ryan and Amanda Valentine at Fashion X Austin.

STYLE: As I walked to Fashion X Austin during Austin Fashion Week, a car slowed down. A young woman yelled out the window in an approving tone: “Sassy!” An angel just earned her wings. Honestly, I don’t know why a lug like me covers Austin’s premier fashion events, but I’m not complaining. Under Matt Swinney, Fashion X Austin has colonized the Austin Music Hall like no other predecessor. Upstairs one finds a discreet VIP lounge — nothing too tony or indulgent — and a glorious gallery of fashion vendors. Downstairs, chairs are arranged around a U-shaped runway for maximum viewing. Friday, the show featured “Project Runway” contestants, including standouts Daniel Esquivel (Austin), Amanda Valentine (Nashville), Anthony Ryan (Baton Rouge) and Korto Momolu (Little Rock). Saturday, Another eight collections were combined with efficient notices about the Austin Fashion Awards winners, plus the popular Mash Up and Capsule projects, the latter consisting of groups of three looks from 10 promising Texas designers. Selected from these, Spire the Label won the Austin Fashion Fund Award, which includes a package of career-boosting gifts. Several Rising Stars winners were honored: Jessi Afshin, Chris & Wendy Bykowski, Evan Streusand and Paola Moore. Trailblazer honorees were Laura Del Villaggio, Roy Fredericks, Joshua MartinStephanie O’Neill and Rory McNeill. The list of collaborative Mash Up winners is too long to share here. We were pleased with the variety and the polish of the 26 collections — some micro-collections — that we viewed over two nights.

Ralph Macabitas and Yanira Leon at Fashion X Austin.
Ralph Macabitas and Yanira Leon at Fashion X Austin.

ARTS: When neither Suzie Harriman nor I have seen a particular musical, it must be somewhat obscure. That would apply to “Robber Bridegroom,” a Southern fairy tale adapted from a novella by Eudora Welty. It played twice, but only briefly, on Broadway. Aligned with “Into the Woods” and “Story Theater,” it conjures up a darkly funny world with a minimum of spectacle and maximum of fun. An adorable cast at St. Edward’s University made Harriman — who hosted a longtime, respected radio program about show tunes — and I grateful to finally see this odd but satisfying show. We were told that some of the more unsavory elements were eliminated, but it’s plenty dark on subjects of sexuality, violence and so forth, made palatable by the age-old conventions of fairy tales.

Dominique Walker and Sonya Henderson at Fashion X Austin.
Dominique Walker and Sonya Henderson at Fashion X Austin.

HISTORY: Unprecedented history unearthed at freed slave’s Travis County farmstead. From my story in the American Statesman: “Diggers at the Ransom Williams Farmstead in remote southern Travis County found two unusual items that they for a while called “mystery artifacts.” The small, notched metal slabs obviously served some specific purpose, but none of the archaeologists or historians who looked at them knew what they were. Or why they would be among the 25,000 objects dug up at the staggeringly copious farm site that belonged to a freed slave whose family lived there from 1871 to 1905. The solution came in a roundabout way.” http://shar.es/1pHAFg

Anai Ramirez and Omar Salcido at Fashion X Austin.
Anai Ramirez and Omar Salcido at Fashion X Austin.

Mack, Jack & McConaughey, Monica Maldonado Williams, Terrance Keith Isaac, the Independent Tower and more

Jordan Shipley and Sunny Helms at Mack, Jack & McConaughey.
Jordan Shipley and Sunny Helms at Mack, Jack & McConaughey.

CHARITY 1: Emcee Bob Cole deemed Mack, Jack & McConaughey the premier benefit in Austin. Worth discussing. Thursday night, ACL Live was full to overflowing with three tiers of guests — diners on the floor, snackers on the first balcony, music fans on the third. After introducing their various children’s charities, including a new one, CureDuchenne, Mack Brown, Jack Ingram and Matthew McConaughey stepped aside to let auctioneer Heath Hale do what he does best: Raise the roof. MJ&M management is very wary of releasing numbers until they are confirmed, but it looked like Hale was closing in on $1 million during the live auction alone. My ears might have deceived me, but it sounded like poker with Brown and Ingram in McConaughey’s Royal-Memorial suite went for $150,000 while a private premiere with the Oscar winner sold for more than $300,000. I marveled at the marvelously unpredictable Little Big Town, but didn’t stay long enough for Toby Keith, whom Ingram has tried to recruit since Day 1 of MJ&M. The two-day affair continues today with golf — weather permitting — and Jack and Friends back at ACL Live.

CHARITY 2: Monica Maldonado Williams cracks the charity code. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “In 2007, while Monica Maldonado Williams worked for the Austin Bar Association, lawyers often expressed an interest in doing community service. Williams spent a lot of time reaching out to nonprofits to see how the lawyers could get involved. “It was frustrating,” says the writer and editor who became the publisher of Giving City, a respected, mostly online magazine about local philanthropy. “I’ve since learned why and how nonprofits work — and why they don’t always have the capacity to serve volunteers.” http://shar.es/1p1SpB

CHARITY 3: Terrance Keith Isaac blessed by Trinity Center. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “What put Terrance Keith Isaac out on the streets? Isaac: “Bad luck and child support.” What took him off? “A lot of people got behind me wanting to help me do it,” he says. “It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. And I was beyond ready. … It was a golden opportunity. People offered me resources, but I had to do all the shoe leather.” Isaac, 50, found a helping community at the Trinity Center, a project of St. David’s Episcopal Church on Trinity and East Seventh streets. Nowadays, with a job and an apartment that he shares with his girlfriend, the Michigan native gives back by working in the center’s kitchen.” http://shar.es/1p1SP4

CITY: Kerplunk! Here are three more ideas for new Austin skyscrapers. Taken from Dale Roe’s column in the Statesman. “Where do you stand on the Independent, the planned 58-story tower that would become Austin’s tallest building and, according to an American-Statesman story by Lori Hawkins and Shonda Novak, the largest residential tower west of the Mississippi River? Wrong. You can’t stand anywhere on it; it hasn’t been built (a groundbreaking date should be revealed within a few months). The Independent, designed by Austin architectural firm Rhode:Partners, is already being referred to on social media as the “Jenga building” (after the wooden block-stacking game) because of its staggered-layer shape (one Facebook user even created the hashtag #jengatower).” http://shar.es/1p1V98

Toast of the Town, Cookbook Collections and Texas LGBT Business Climate

Roberta Wright and Mary Ellen Harrigan at Toast of the Town.
Mary Ellen Harrigan and Roberta Wright at Toast of the Town.

HEALTH: Who could ask for anything more? Scenery, food, wine. Three Texas authors. A good cause. My first Toast of the Town party this season — the events benefit the Neal Kocurek Scholarships given by the St. David’s Foundation — took place at the Fall Creek Vineyards colony in Driftwood. Ed and Susan Auler were Hill Country Wine pioneers 40 years ago in Tow and had been scouting for a second location. Scott Roberts of Salt Lick Barbecue told them about a place across the road on FM 1826 that was built as a residence, but looks a lot like a winery. They snapped it up and added the first of several vineyards above scenic Onion Creek. They opened the guest house and some other bedrooms as a tiny inn. On a blissful evening, guests gathered for chat and dinner and then a free-for-all talk from a trio of friends: Bill Wittliff, Lawrence Wright and Stephen Harrigan. They chatted about their collaborative efforts, the differences they’d discovered in a variety of literary genres, and the writing process in general. All three were funny, informative and entertaining.

FOOD 1: Revealing the 124-year-old secrets of Austin’s first cookbook. Taken from a story by Addie Broyles in the Statesman: “Before Austin had its famous moontowers, we had a cookbook. The moonlight towers were installed throughout the city in the mid-1890s and continue to illuminate the night sky. But in 1891, a group of women pulled together 300 recipes to publish Austin’s first cookbook. It was small and blue with a cloth cover, filled with “receipts” for dishes such as sweet pickle peaches, beef loaf, chicken pie and cream biscuits, not to mention six recipes for Charlotte Russe, a molded custard that Mrs. Alice Littlefield, one of the wealthiest women in Austin, enjoyed so much that she submitted three variations. Flipping through the History Center’s copy, which is not advisable considering its fragile state, you’ll find that “Our Home Cookbook” was compiled by Mrs. I. V. Davis and Mrs. Paul F. Thornton for the benefit of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church.” http://shar.es/1gVIi6

FOOD 2: Houston collector’s cookbooks reflect Texas communities. Taken from a story by Addie Broyles in the Statesman: “Few people know as much about the history of Texas cookbooks as Elizabeth White. About 25 years ago, the Houstonian started picking up cookbooks at garage sales and then on eBay. Having spent her career as a librarian at Houston Academy of Medicine’s medical library, White knew the value of preserving historical documents. As a cook, she appreciated cookbooks as a source of that kind of information. “You get to see what people thought they should be putting on their tables,” she says. The first cookbook in Texas was “Texas Cook Book; a thorough treatise on the art of cookery,” a compilation from the Ladies of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston in 1883.” http://shar.es/1gV80E

BUSINESS: Leaders say Texas must be gay friendly. Taken from a story by Claudia Grisales in the Statesman: “Saying that Texas would be hurt by business environment that’s not welcoming to gay, bisexual and transgender people, more than 100 Texas companies and business alliances said they have joined in an effort supporting equal rights for those communities. The initiative — named Texas Competes — includes among its members Dell Inc., Whole Foods Market and Southwest Airlines. It also includes American Airlines, Austin ad agency GSD&M, HomeAway, Alamo Drafthouse, SXSW Interactive, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the Texas Association of Business.” ttp://shar.es/1gVI57

American Red Cross Gala, Contentment Camping Preview, Austin Symphony Orchestra, Nature Tour Guide Victor Emanuel

Gabriel Guillen and Raquel Lopez at American Red Cross Gala.
Gabriel Guillen and Raquel Lopez at American Red Cross Gala.

CHARITY: American Red Cross gets serious. Just a few years ago, the Central Texas chapter of the American Red Cross held its big annual benefit at a Japanese chain restaurant. Last week, it filled the bigger banquet hall at the Four Seasons Hotel. And look who showed up: Luci Baines Johnson, speaking like an old-time orator as she conferred the Lady Bird Johnson Award on Ann Showers Butler, her mother’s friend and collaborator on downtown trail around the lake, now named for Butler and her late husband, Mayor Roy Butler. At a nearby table were UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven, past UT presidents Peter Flawn and Bill Cunningham — who also served as Chancellor — Congressman Michael McCaul, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, Admiral Bobby Inman — the other Admiral in the room along with McRaven — and real estate empire builder Emily Moreland. IBM was tipped for Red Cross’s Public Partner Award and volunteer extraordinaire Mike Wadino won the Greg Coleman Tribute Award.

Famed nature tour guide Victor Emanuel. Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell / Statesman.
Famed nature tour guide Victor Emanuel. Photo: Ricardo B. Brazziell / Statesman.

NATURE 1: Back to nature with fame tour guide Victor Emanuel. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “A few years ago, Victor Emanuel was walking in Stacy Park near his Travis Heights home. He guessed in advance that there would be frost on the grass of the baseball field above Blunn Creek. “I didn’t know that I’d be walking when the angle of the sun was perfect,” says the world-famed nature guide and bird lover. “The field was filled with jewels of blue, green, red and yellow. Most people walking by wouldn’t notice it. We notice things. That’s the great gift that birders have.” Houston-born Emanuel, 74, has been helping people notice things for a long time. His Austin-based company, Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, is among the largest of its kind in the world. His far-flung army of guides put people close to nature from Kazakhstan to Tanzania, but also closer to home in prime spots around Texas.” http://shar.es/1g91Rb

Monica Peraza and Amy Rudy at Contentment Camping Preview.
Monica Peraza and Amy Rudy at Contentment Camping Preview.

NATURE 2: What were upscale tents doing around fires in a Tarrytown backyard? We really didn’t know. Gracious and down-to-earth Amy Rudy had invited us to join her family on the generously-sized lawn behind a 1922 house they’ve owned for three years. She introduced us to Patricia Jensen, owner of Contentment Camping, and Kelly Ostendorf, the company’s Austin representative.  The women knew each other in Buffalo, N.Y. and, after years of teaching, Ostendorf joined her buddy in the biz. They’ve found Central Texans very open to the idea of rented tents that include basic comforts such as solid beds, chairs and tables. The company sets them up for you and they seem ideal for people attending the city’s mega-festivals. We plan to find out more about these little islands of contentment.

IMG_3400ARTS: Signs that Austin Symphony Orchestra’s social transformation is well underway: 1. Long lines for student discount tickets. 2. More people there for the Previn viola-and-cello concerto preview than for the reliably thrilling Elgar “Enigma Variations.” 3. More women than ever — front and center — in the ensemble. 4. Slick video testimonials before the concert, in the manner of Ballet Austin’s admired pre-show campaign. 5. Clear marketing for the orchestra‘s side ventures, like the Youth Leadership Council. 6. Two standing ovations for the triad of Dvorak, Previn and Elgar, well-deserved and enthusiastic rather than perfunctory.

Champions of Justice Gala, Reading Austin’s Rings, Three Generations of Brewing and more

Peter Hofer and Kelly Walton at the Champions of Justice Gala.
Peter Hofer and Kelly Walton at the Champions of Justice Gala.

LAW: How many times do all nine justices of the Supreme Court of Texas attend the same party? Any party? What if you added two former Chief Justices, the current Speaker of the House and a mass of legislators? And, as the keynote speaker, why not invite a retired four-star Admiral and Navy Seal — whose team killed Osama Bin Laden — who now serves as Chancellor of the University of Texas System? That would be some party! On Tuesday, the Champions of Justice Gala benefited the Texas Access to Justice Commission, a group founded in 2001 by the Supreme Court of Texas to help with the state’s anemic legal aid safety net. Chancellor William McRaven‘s speech was stirring on the subjects of America’s challengers in the world and the status of returning veterans, the theme of the evening. Retired Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and longtime legal aid champion James Sales received the Emily Jones Lifetime Achievement Award, named after the former director of the commission. I was able to corner civil rights lawyer Peter Hofer, winner of the James Sales Boots on the Ground Award, and convince him to share his roundabout life story with our newspaper.

CITY: Reading the rings of Austin’s development. Taken from my column in the Statesman: “We tend to split Austin into east and west. For a long time, the dividing line followed East Avenue, before it became Interstate 35. At other times, we have split the city north and south, with the Colorado River as the boundary. But what if we visualized the city — socially, historically and culturally — as united instead by concentric bands of complementary development? What could we learn from these Austin tree rings? Take, for instance, the thick girdle of 1930s and ’40s cottages. These houses are modest in scale, solid in assembly, some made of brick, often with fireplaces. They run through Travis Heights, Bouldin, Zilker, Old West Austin, West Campus, Heritage, Hancock, French Place and Central East Austin. Even segregation did not break this continuity. We can read into this circle of cottages, first, a longing for snug domesticity and social closeness. From anecdotal and archival evidence, we can also surmise that the Great Depression and World War II did not hit Austin as hard as elsewhere in Texas.” http://shar.es/1gkmHS

FOOD: Three generations of Austin brewers. Taken from Ari Auber‘s story in the Statesman: “Daytona Camps has tasted countless beers, worked at two breweries and recently brewed her own recipe, a Belgian red ale. That might seem like only the beginning of a long career as a brewer — but it’s all the more remarkable considering that she turned 21 just two weeks ago. She’s simply following in her family’s footsteps. Her grandfather and her mother, Pierre and Christine Celis, were also very young when they were bitten by the beer bug: Pierre was only 16 and living in Hoegaarden, Belgium, when he began mastering the witbier recipe that would later transform Austin’s definition of what good beer is. Before he ever brought it to Texas, he was making Hoegaarden a household name, and it’s at that brewery where Christine learned all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a brewery run.” http://shar.es/1gkaMv

People’s Community Clinic Lunch, Mapmaker Hal Weiner and Seton’s Christann Vasquez

Nancy Scanlan and Chris Riley at People's Community Clinic Luncheon.
Nancy Scanlan and Chris Riley at People’s Community Clinic Luncheon.

HEALTH 1: Becky Beaver started the happy hullabaloo. It is the custom at the “No Such Thing as a Free Lunch” benefit for People’s Community Clinic to place one’s pledge envelope in a metal lunchbox located at the center of one’s shared table. The Austin attorney thought ahead. Beaver urged guests at Table No. 17 to pledge early, so when the emcee indicated it was time, her gang yelled out “17”! Every other table at the Four Seasons Hotel lunch followed suit, inciting glorious cacophony. At least one guy must have been a yell leader in a former life. Other highlights: Meeting Olympic gold medalist Shaun Jordan; hearing radio cut-ups Bob Duke and Art Markman chatting about brain functions in a community setting, and hearing that, once it opens a much larger outlet in Northeast Austin, the clinic will hold onto its current central location to specialize in women’s health and prenatal care. Milton Hime of Studio 8 Architects was honored at this function for his free or reduced-fee consulting on these projects.

Shaun Jordan and Joy Authur at People's Community Clinic Lunch.
Shaun Jordan and Joy Authur at People’s Community Clinic Lunch.

HEALTH 2: Christann Vasquez is changing Austin’s health care. Taken from my story in the Statesman: Christann Vasquez has seen close-up what happens when people don’t have health insurance. Her father, Benny Barreto, an air-conditioning repairman in Chicago, passed away at age 42. Her mother, Lucy Gonzalez Barreto, who raised five children, lived to age 53.  “They both had a chronic disease and no access to regular care,” says the president of the under-construction Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas and, at the same time, chief of University Medical Center Brackenridge, which the teaching hospital will replace. “My parents could have still been here if they had had access to care.” That is why catchphrases such as “human care,” which the Seton Healthcare Family employs regularly these days, mean more than just hospital rebranding for Vasquez.” http://www.mystatesman.com/news/lifestyles/christann-vasquez-part-of-radical-change-in-health/nkjYD/#7ec6dfde.257351.735695

HISTORY: Hal Weiner is mad about mapmaking. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “For almost 30 years, Hal Weiner, a trained graphic artist who landed in the Austin real-estate business, has taught an informal class called “Homebuyers 101.” Early on, a student asked why there wasn’t a readily available map that showed all the region’s subdivisions. Weiner, fascinated by maps since childhood, drafted one on a small scale, showing Austin from U.S. 183 to William Cannon Drive west to Lake Travis, on legal-sized paper. “I just kept improving it,” Weiner says from his office overlooking Northwest Hills, where he now lives. “Five years ago, I did a larger one — marking out 700 subdivisions — and handed them out in class.” Business colleagues got interested, so Weiner, 65, started selling them for $5 on the City Properties website and $10 at the Austin Board of Realtors store. He’s sold 3,000 so far. A third edition is slated to come out by the end of the year. This modest success stoked his old obsession with mapmaking.” http://www.mystatesman.com/news/entertainment/hal-weiner-is-mad-for-mapmaking/nkkDw/

Tricky spring hiking in Minnesota

A fresh dusting of snow made the Caribou Trail easier to negotiate.
A fresh dusting of snow made the Caribou Trail easier to negotiate.

Previously, we’ve hiked Minnesota in the bloom of summer and the dead of winter. Spring presents novel challenges. Snow and ice are melting, but unevenly. Six hikes this week taught us some valuable lessons.

The sun makes its mark on the ice and snow atop this small lake.
The sun makes its mark on the ice and snow atop this small lake.

1. Once the snowmobilers are done for the season, Minnesota State Trails are ideal for hiking. Wide, smooth and free from obstacles, they are safe and well-marked. We did a total of 12 miles on two separate hikes along the Caribou Trail above Lutsen on the North Shore of Lake Superior, then six miles on the asphalt-based Sakatah Trail near Mankato in Southern Minnesota. All three hikes, the first two on fresh snow, were excellent.

The last of the ice at Grand Marais near the Canadian border.
The last of the ice at Grand Marais near the Canadian border.

2. Cross-country skiing trails are somewhat less reliable in spring. We hiked five or six miles on the Norpine Trail, maintained by a community group, not the state. It proved uneven, rutted and plagued with fallen brush. To make it worse, quickly melting snow and ice fed fresh rivulets that blocked our way. Still, we got our workout.

Rob contemplates the iron-streaked snow melt on the Norpine Trail, reserved in winter for cross-country skiing.
Rob contemplates the iron-streaked snow melt on the Norpine Trail, reserved in winter for cross-country skiing.

3. Pay attention to signs about closed trails. One four-mile hike on the Minnesota Valley State Trail near Jordan, Minn. proved a muddy mess. We figured the sign at the entryway indicated it was unsuitable for horseback riding, but simple hiking turned problematic, too, as did an embarrassing medical panic attack. (All is fine.) Still, the wooded banks of the Minnesota River are gorgeous and full of wildlife.

The melting ice at the falls on the Cascade River creates eerie, temporary caves.
The melting ice at the falls on the Cascade River creates eerie, temporary caves.

4. Once the snow ices over, don’t try steep inclines. We discovered this in Cascade River State Park on the North Shore near Grand Marais, not far from the border with Canada. We had visited this spectacular spot during the summer to witness the roaring waterfall from fenced observation points. These fences lose their protectiveness when one is slipping up and down the canyon side. This turned into a very short hike.

Dawn at in the 1934 Sawbill Lodge, part of the family-owned Solbakken Resort on Lake Superior.
Dawn at in the 1934 Sawbill Lodge, part of the family-owned Solbakken Resort on Lake Superior.

5. Even in winter, bring water and sunglasses. Sunscreen optional. Most of our hikes were deep in the woods, during the morning or afternoon, so we often walked in the shade. Spruces and pines lined the way at higher elevations. Maples and birches lower down the mountains. I couldn’t identify the trees — still without leaves this time of year — along the Minnesota River or near Mankato.

A muddy track met us on the Minnesota River Trail near Jordan, Minn.
A muddy track met us on the Minnesota River Trail near Jordan, Minn.

6. Expect see these birds at the first note of spring: Bald eagles, American goldfinches, pileated woodpeckers, slate-colored juncos, meadow larks, American kestrels, American robins, Brewer’s blackbirds, black-capped chickadees, Canada geese, house sparrows, field sparrows, ravens, crows, plus various gulls, ducks and tiny forest birds.

By the time we returned to Southern Minnesota, the snows had melted on the Sakatah Trail near Mankato.
By the time we returned to Southern Minnesota, the snows had melted on the Sakatah Trail near Mankato.

7. Take advice when looking for food. We cooked or snacked in St. Peter and Lutsen, but also found, with help or research, four neat spots to sample: 112 Eatery (Minneapolis), Duluth Grill (Duluth), New Scenic Cafe (North Shore) and India Palace (Mankato). Near Lutsen, we stayed at the rustic, family-owned Solbakken Resort, which offers lakeside cabins, suites and motel rooms clustered around the 1934-era Sawbill Lodge.