ATLAS: vol. 1 Austin, TX

20 Bus

The cheerful and helpful woman with a Texas-size beehive hairdo– dyed a purplely black– directs you to the 20 Bus in the direction of the city.  A single ride costs 1.25, while the full day pass is 2.50.

You’re the only passenger as it drives around the airport access roads and into the suburbs outside Austin.  But soon board passengers of all persuasions, dressed from shabby to sporty, all in their winter garb. One cowboy boards, long blonde hair dreaded down to his thighs, yellowed Stetson, jack knife clasped to his tan, loosely-fit jeans.

Across one block, between South Lakeshore drive and Manlove street, the strip-malls disappear, becoming outdoor sporting goods outlets and juice joints– empty lots replaced by potted palms and other succulent plants.

You ride almost an hour to the center of the city, and push the stop signal strip at Cesar Chavez avenue and East 3rd.

Grackle’s Throat

Glimmering specks of turquoise and navy blue gleam against its black feathered head.

At Ranch 616, Texas Style Icehouse

Weird enough for this town.

Certainly no shortage of neon at Ranch 616.  Worth notice is an air-conditioning duct turned piss-mean snake sculpture, complete with flashing neon-red tongue.  There’s an arched tin canopy over the patio, and, adjacent, a 15-foot high, neon-yellow, six-shooter sculpture.  Inside, the neon relaxes, now a dull blue emanating from a three-foot-by-five-foot Modelo beer sign.

The rib-eye is smokey and deeply flavorful, but the mashed potatoes would be better without the cheese and bacon.

Not Just Nice, Texas Nice

The Continental Club is recommended for live music, and, there, Rose is dancing a short of sashay.  She passes by you on the way to the bar a couple’a times, and she always smiles real nice.

She talks to you after the show, about life and love, the last musical act, where she’s from, and she continues to smile.  It’s an intimate smile– warm and inviting–  a longing smile, a smile that asks.

“You wanna meet the singer?” she asks you, “he’s prolly out back.”

They’re on a first name basis, and you three talk about pleasant, unimportant things.

Until the old singer says, “you get to over the age of 30 and you find there’s something higher out there.  But I’ll give you a piece of advice, boy.  Don’t pay it any attention.  ‘Cause when you notice it– it notices you.”

You kiss a little bit, and she agrees to meet you the next day.  She doesn’t.  But you still have her smile.

Not Just Mean, Texas Mean

The establishment looks quite closed, so you knock before twisting the handle, which does open the unmarked door.

“Why the hell’d you knock?” she asks, declaratively.

“I wasn’t sure you were open,” you shrug, calmly.

“Might try the door before you do that.”  She looks around the nearly empty establishment.  “There’s room at the bar.  What you want?”

You proceed to make friends over two Witherspoon– a Texas-style bourbon– neat, talking about her damn dog, the politicians she hates most, how her mamma shot a man in the hip, the ending of “Buch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

Texas Coffee Traders

The compound doesn’t look uninviting, at least.  The chain-link has one large, open gate, and its rusted barbed-wire doesn’t seem much tampered with.  A seating area inside the enclosure has tables and picnic benches, a tent to block the sun.

The east quarter of the warehouse houses the store– a large, open space with shelves stretching almost to the ceiling.  All nationalities of bean are represented, here, whole and ground, both.  For sale: drip-coffee machines and filters; french presses and espresso machines; grinders and kettles.  Around the corner, through plate glass, you can see the roasting facility at work.

Back outside, an unmarked van pulls inside the fence, and a garage door in the building center is rolled up by hand. A glimpse of the warehouse interior reveals sheet-metal shelves stacked high with product.

 more ATLAS

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