Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Austin, TX: y'All About Neon Signs & Murals

Bursting with creative energy and a refreshing live-and-let-live attitude, Austin, TX is an art lover's mecca just begging to be explored. Much like two of my other favorite cities, Miami and New Orleans, my first visit to Austin gave me a new appreciation for how unique travel experiences can still be in America, despite the increasing spread of chain stores and chain restaurants, not to mention the "I'm just going to stay in my hometown for the rest of the year" inertia that's easy to fall into sometimes.

My trip was a combination of staying at the hipster South Congress Hotel near downtown Austin, and visiting with awesome friends in the nearby town of Round Rock. Thanks to their hospitality and generosity, I experienced much more than I would have on my own. As I write this, Boston is getting buried by a blizzard, so I already miss being in warm, sunny Texas.

Exploring South Congress Avenue...

Colorful shops and restaurants line both sides of the street, many of them boasting one-of-a-kind neon signs and painted murals. Here is a sampling... (the signs look even more amazing at night, but my less than state-of-the-art smart phone camera couldn't really capture their magic, so these are all daytime shots).

Allens Boots, across the street from my hotel.
I especially like the rope design framing the rectangle, and the two els shaped like boots.
Bought an awesome studded black belt with an etched silver buckle here.

Enjoyed dinner at Guero's Taco Bar, which has outdoor seating, including a back garden.
I recommend the fish tacos.

An elaborate pizza restaurant neon sign, which looked really cool at night –
I think parts of it blink.

The Continental Club, a local speakeasy with live music.

LOVE the "subtlety" of this GLBT-friendly motel.

More really cool signs – of the non-neon type...

Hey Delicious Delicious!

Yes, this is a skeleton riding a bicycle framed with Christmas lights.

I especially like the bow tie shape –
the way the letters go from big to small to big.

A HUGE costume emporium.
Yes, that is a flamenco dancing zebra in a tiered dress and hat up top.

Please, please, please.

Murals around almost every corner...

SOCO Books, across from my hotel – found a cool 1st Edition Blondie book here with photos by Mick Rock.

Close-up of "BIG EYE" mural.

Horse or horsepower?
Whoa! It's a horse, of course.

Side of The Continental Club.

Close-up of Continental Club mural.
I don't know the identity of the guitarist at left.
The middle is Jimi Hendrix, with Stevie Ray Vaughn at right.

Please, please, please.

Distressed wall with "doorway" message – this is heading toward downtown Austin.

This shows typical flora of the region, including cacti and agave plants.
I think The Impeccable Pig is a clothing store – I didn't go in.

"Half Dead • Top Dogs" mural outside of The Launderette,
an excellent restaurant my friends treated me to for lunch.


My friend took me on an excursion to Georgetown, TX, a charming and historic town with unique architecture, fun shops and restaurants. Naturally, there was a wall mural...

Georgetown's historic architecture.

Took a stroll around the Beautiful Town Square.

I found this black wrought iron electric lantern in one of the antiques shops. The tag said "1940s," though I think it might not be that old. I especially like its curled iron details and the etched glass panels. I can't decide if it should hang in my living room or bedroom.

On my last day in Austin, my friends took me to lunch at Lucy's Fried Chicken, which features outdoor picnic tables overlooking beautiful Lake Travis. It felt like a mid-summer day with sunny skies and temps in the upper 80s.

Naturally, a friendly neon sign welcomes you to Lucy's Fried Chicken.
(This shot is courtesy of my friend, Erin).

Colorful sign inside the outdoor bandstand.

The last stop on my trip was to Austin's cool Graffiti Park. My friends informed me that the park was due to close and/or relocate to another site soon, so I'm glad I got to see it. Visitors bring their own cans of spray paint, so the murals are constantly evolving and changing. Here is a sampling...

Look up... and get high on the spray can fumes.


This cool shot is courtesy of my friend, Erin.

Look out! Monster afoot!

Yin-Yang on the ground.

Austin State Capitol rendered in graffiti.


Adios, Amigos!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My First Vintage Finds of 2018

A couple of recent short road trips yielded a few new vintage finds to kick off 2018, starting with two more cool TV lamps to add to my expanding collection (I now have a total of 10!).

The first is an African queen lamp with a curved paper/fiberglass shade edged with whip stitching. The unique ceramic form is tinged with green, so I put it on a shelf in my home office, which has a green and red color scheme. There are no markings on it but I suspect it may be a Royal Haeger, made in midwest USA back in the day.

The other lamp I found is the same size and shape, but with a plastic Asian pagoda scene shade, also edged with whip stitching. The ceramic part appears to be in the shape of a swan interacting with another bird, though it's tough to tell. This one has blue paint on it so I'm putting it in my kitchen, which has a blue, white and yellow color scheme.


On a separate nearby excursion, I found a couple of vintage clothing items, starting with this acrylic zip cardigan sweater originally from a Montgomery Ward department store. I'm guessing this is probably from the 1960s or early 1970s.

I especially like the zipper with the round pull, the angled pockets and the stitched-on suede stripes at the yoke. Truthfully, I have never seen a sweater quite like this one.

It came with its original tags intact. It hasn't gone up much in value. I paid $25 for it.

The other clothing item I discovered is this vintage tuxedo shirt in white (more off-white, really). I'm guessing it's from the 1970s, judging by the collar.

I like that the ruffles on the sleeve cuffs and front placket are detailed with fine black/grey stitching.

The tag inside says Palm Beach Formal Fashions.
It's tough to read the printed words above the tag, but I think it says,
Permanent Press
65% Dacron Polyester 35% Combed Cotton
Large 35

There's also a Made In USA Union Made label near the shirttail hem with groups of numbers and letters above it.

Finally, a little bit of political humor spotted at this very same vintage clothing emporium in Cambridge, MA...



Sunday, December 31, 2017

Frosty In Boston: A Very Vintage Christmas 2017

On this last day of 2017, we're in the midst of an extended deep freeze here in New England, which can feel endless and uncomfortable, but can also add to the festive look of the season, both outdoors and inside. This is the current view from my kitchen window...

The frigid weather – 10 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny with wind chill of -2 – means more time spent indoors with my Christmas decorations, which, sadly, will have to be dismantled by the end of the week.

This year's displays feature a number of new vintage items purchased during the course of the year, starting with the light-up Alpine Village on my fireplace mantel, purchased at Brimfield for $15.

This is the box it came in (the white store price sticker says "Barkers" and the date is 1978). I had to replace the bulbs to get the lights to work.

I printed out online images of the Swiss Alps and glued them to foamcore to create the backdrop. I probably should have made it a bit higher, but I was in a time crunch and didn't want to spend too much time on it. The electrical plug is hidden by the mountain of cotton snow behind the church.

I created two ponds with tinfoil, and the monster-sized deer are from an antiques shop in CT. The bottle brush green trees are from Target and the white ones are from Michael's.

I also found Santa and his reindeer at an antiques shop in CT.

The fun thing about these villages is being able to add to them or completely change them around from year to year. One of my friends gave me two different village house ornaments for Christmas that happen to fit in really well so I added them to the scene.


Due to a snowstorm, I purchased this year's living room Christmas tree at the local Home Depot, instead of cutting it down myself at a tree farm in CT as I usually do. Overall, I was pleased with how it looks, and the convenience. It's a 7-ft. Elite Silver Blue Balsam Fir imported from Canada.

For the first time, I used all C-6 white lights, including a couple of Reliance Krystal Stars, a pink rosette light, a few bubble lights, and a plastic angel light at the top, which I believe is from the 1950s.

I originally planned on draping gold tinsel garland onto the tree, but had already placed some ornaments on, so I decided to just add silver tinsel at the end to give it added sparkle. I like the cohesive look of all white lights, which also complement the frosty village on the mantel. Next year, I may do all C-7 white lights on the tree to change it up.


Another cool vintage Christmas discovery this year: a black metal Christmas card holder with its original box.

This hangs on a wall in my bedroom with the box on the floor underneath. I found it at an antiques shop in CT for $15.

Cool box – it says "Brooklyn, N.Y." at bottom right.

Holder with cards. I'm old-school and still like to send and receive these every year.
From the same antiques shop in CT, I found this unusual bell cookie jar with metallic painted accents.

For my home office/guest room, I found this cool painted wood shelf with oval cutouts on the sides, perfect for my growing pixie elf family. This, I believe, is one-of-a-kind, from Cambridge Antiques Market.

The angry elf is new this year, and a natural reflection of so much that has happened around the world in 2017.

"I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna stand for it!"
Also in the same room near this shelf, hangs the lighted poinsettia star my brother gave me for Christmas last year.

This is the cool box it came in, which I have displayed on a table...


No holiday season is complete without treats. Every year I make a pumpkin pie for Christmas. This time I decorated the top with a tree using mini vintage cookie cutters.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I visited the Boston Public Library, which has a lovely tea room. One of the treats served was a gingerbread man. I think this one sums up the year pretty accurately...

Oh no!!!


Happy New Year!