In about 1972 or '73, a hippie restaurant was opened on Rio Grande a few blocks from the Capitol. The main two founders were John Dickerson and Fred Parker, and they called it "The Bo Tree" (short for "the bodhi tree" from the Buddhist tradition. Other investors/hangers on included Kurt N., Chuck, John C., Bonnie John, Buster Byrum, Bonnie John, Diane Huerrmann (from San Fran), and me. Fortunately, Diane and Bonnie could actually cook, a detail that might have been initially overlooked. The rest of us took up other tasks - e.g. waiting/bussing tables, washing dishes, general cleaning, etc. It was a lot more work than we had bargained for, but we persevered. The food was actually fairly good - at least some dishes - e.g. chef salad, vegie burger platter, and we even began to attract non-hippie clients such as State Capitol employees - for a while at least. :) Here are a couple of recollections:
1. I was serving a group of women from the Capitol, and one ordered a chef salad. I was really trying to do my 'waitress best' in the hope of attracting new customers. However, as I served the chef salad, one of those giant Austin cockroaches crawled out from under a large leaf of romaine lettuce, which was met by shreiks of horror/indignation and a hasty exit. Now, let's be clear that we weren't slobs, and our cooks had a high standard for cleanliness. However, this was Austin, and many neighborhoods were infested with roaches. So no matter how hard we tried, a few slipped by us now and then - much to our chagrin. Loyal customers just shrugged off such news, but this definitely put a dent in the diversity of our clientele.
2. One beautiful, spring Sunday, the Bo Tree folks decided to bring some food to a music festival at a local park to make an extra dime or two and contribute to the festivities. Unfortunately, no one realized that some Bo Tree person had laced the vat of soup with some downers, which adversely affected a few hippies who were apparently quite fond of soup. While packing up to leave, we noticed they seemed to be asleep, and quite wisely loaded them up in our van and took them back to the Bo Tree where they eventually awoke and went home.
Well, 2016 keeps on grinding through the good ones: I learned Sunday morning that Leon Russell had just passed. I'm just going to leave this here for now with a brief note:
"How many days has it been since I was born? How many days 'til I die?"
We're all strangers in a strange land.
As is not unusual... strange things happen in South Austin. Just this week, a house got stuck in the middle of the road. I feel that this is a convenient metaphor for old vs. new Austin. Consider this: This old duplex probably housed generations of old Austinites and the cheap "anything goes" duplex was actually the facilitator for the laid-back lifestyle that we all recall so fondly. However, the area around the stuck house is the currently trendy South Congress strip. This old relic was being moved to make room for some shiny new development or Hipster dream home. The house actually did it's best to resist change but in the end it gave up and moved to Lockhart.
I know some old Austinites that have take the same path.
Of all the nightclubs I used to frequent, there's one I never made it to: the South 40 on Ben White, long gone now. Anyone go there? Any stories? One friend told me it was just a friendly place with a good-sized dance floor...Another friend said it was a "pressure cooker" easy pickup place. What was it like? Ever have live bands there?
Thundercloud has been around a long time. I remember the original location on Lavaca but mostly, I went to the Riverside location... which is still there and still looks about the same. I always liked the bread and the hippie chicks behind the counter.
The main memory of Thundercloud for me was what I read in the Men's room there on Riverside one afternoon. My favorite joke of all time:
Why did the train stop in the woods?
To let the Lumberjack off.
Well, a quick search of this site shows a glaring omission: The Texas Chili Parlor.
One thing I like about TCP is that they still don't seem to have a working website and their Facebook page is more than five years out without a new post. That, my friends, is kickin' it old school in Austin, Texas.
The Chili Parlor has always been there, it seems, but in reality began in '76. At that time, it was next door to the Capitol Oyster Company and right around the corner from the original location of the Cedar Door. That stretch of Lavaca should be included in my High Karma Spots of Austin. There have been many hot spots around there.
For TCP itself, it was a response to the Chilympiad frenzy, which was a response to the Tolbert/Fowler World Chili Championship in Terlingua, which was responded to by Walker's Viva Terlingua as well as the chain Austin love's to hate, Chili's. As you can see, chili was a big deal in Texas in the 70's.
It is still there, menu is still basically the same, still holding that beacon of 70's pop culture.
As the Grim Reaper continues his march through 2016, we lost another Austin influence in Guy Clark. Guy was never truly an Austin picker. Just like his close friend and running-buddy Rodney Crowell, Clark was a Houston fellow. That being said, what he was to Austin was more like the Professor and Muse to the local scene. As you are hearing from these ranks now, Guy was their influence, often their songwriter, and certainly their idol.
I recall back in the 70's that there were two performances that captured the Cosmic Cowboy movement best: Frummox' Texas Trilogy, and Clark's Desperados Waiting for a Train recorded for Walker's epic Viva Terlingua. When either of these came on the radio, I was transported to some wonderland where new things and new ideas were happening.... Austin, Texas.
Lot's have been said recently of Guy's Dublin Blues and the lyric that ties him to the Texas Chili Parlor. No offense to to the late Guy Clark but bear in mind that 1) this song is circa 1995 and 2) it is near thematic clone of Nunn's London Homesick Blues from 1973 (same year as Clark's "Desperado"!)
Gary will be missed because he was the foundation for a movement. Looking back at the lyrics of Desperados, I am struck by how time makes a reversal of everyone's fortune. I can just hear Guy repeating, saying for himself, that last line "Come on Jack, that son-of-a-gun's a-comin'..."
The Lung family actually ran three restaurants as I recall... one of them a legit Chinese place. The others served the popular Austin fare of the times: steaks and Tex-Mex. The Tex-Mex place was incongruently named Lung's Cocina del Sur. It was on Anderson Ln. BUT not where current Jimmy Buffet fans think. The current inhabitant of the old Lung's place is called "Star of India"... still a restaurant, still Eastern.
The menu at Lung's "looked" to be your standard Tex-Mex fare but when it arrived at the table, you could tell the difference immediately. More sauce, different spices, and especially the chips and hot sauce. They coated their chips in a powder that made them taste a bit like Barbecue or smoked. Along with them, the salsa was the smallest bowl of salsa served in Austin, I think, and very thin and kind of weird itself. All of this is somewhat understandable as long as you consider that Lung's was 1) a way-north Austin place for the times and, 2) run by a Chinese family. It was in the same "white bread" center with Swenson's and Lock, Stock, and Barrel.
The claim to fame for Lung's was the night that Jimmy Buffet had one too many there and went home to pen the immortal party classic: Margaritaville. That song has never really spoken to Austin. However, Since it was penned by a young guitar picker who was sleeping on a borrowed couch in Austin during the 70's does redeem it in my mind.
If you have lived in Austin for any length of time, I am certain that you have passed the Say Hi store at Burnet and North Loop. I have been passing it for 38 years. In all that time, I never knew what it was, never went in, and always wondered about it.
Today, I went in. I was looking for a unique birthday present and thought Say Hi might have what I was looking for. They did. I met the storekeeper who gracefully said "This is my wife's store, not mine" and told me that Say Hi opened in 1974. He also told me that he would be gone in 6 months, closing the store and retiring.
Say Hi may be the purest remaining old Austin institution. Clearly they are not in it to get rich. Instead, they have held down that corner at North Loop and Burnet for 42 years without change.
That space will likely become a new-Austin bar or restaurant, which is not bad but it is the turning over of the city into something else door-by-door.
I demand that the first craft beer served in whatever becomes in that location be poured out in honor of Mr and Mrs Say Hi.
Well, I went upstairs to what was the domain of "Ray". Ray was the bar tender of the Orange Bull in 1965 when at times it was all right to sorta have long type hair and be a little "different", but the color was "Orange", Pete Lammons and (since I studied the defensive tackle position) Diron Talbert came in. Austin was split on "a whiter shade of pale." In other words, if you had long hair and were a guy,you usually didn't go there when there were Longhorns there. At that time, the "beat generation" was emerging and would soon be morphing into the Hippie thing. The Beatniks were the early guard of the Hippie to come, the Greenwich Village crowd.
It was around Christmas and one individual was incessantly playing Tom Jones's What's new, Pussycat? Janis Joplin had come to Threadgills and said she was a Beatnik, A Beatnik knows the world is going to hell, so you get stoned and have a good time, and get down in your guts on the music scene. This was before folks knew where Haight Ashbury was located and you watched your mouth because you did not know where people stood on the "beat" experience.
I had some friends who jammed all the time over in one of the old 1920s style homes on San Antonio, Blues legend Mance Lipscomb was crashing there and they made music. Some football players would come out of the dark and beat up on these types. Some "beats" came in fresh from California and got pounced. Somebody at the Bull did not see Merle Haggard in their looks and took them to task.
I had all sorts of friends and did see why they got what they got, but those times were extremely difficult because this was the beginning of a social revolution. People were taking sides, and the Orange Bull could swing either way, depending on who was in attendance at any given time. The counter culture was no "gimme". I saw my first mini skirt on main campus and liked that. British Mod with the plastic look was in (Twiggy), but you had to be careful and try to sense the real sweat and not the ambiance of the place. You could blunder into a bad situation when you were going out on the town because not everyone shared your youthful idealism. The new thing back then was LSD-25 (Timothy Leary) and was not accepted by many. It was not uncommon for LSD to be dropped on a unsuspecting person. You could feel the tension. The old term was you played it by ear.