- By Eric Webb American-Statesman Staff
As Jean-Paul Sartre once said, “Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.”
I don’t have anything to add to that, particularly. I just compiled a list of places in Austin to go when you’re sad, and I wanted to set the ambience in the room. Oh, like you’ve never used French existentialism as emotional track lighting, too?
Life in a city as vibrant as Austin is full of reasons for joy. But, as human experience and an endless news cycle of Kremlin-adjacent horrors dictate, we all get down in the dumps every now and then. If I’ve learned anything from Brené Brown TED Talks and pseudo-psychology memes I’ve read on Tumblr, it’s that self-care is important. So when you’re feeling blue here in this City of the Violet Crown, you’ve got to know where to go.
• There are two approaches to take when your serotonin levels go below sea level: cheer up or wallow. One place that’s great for both? The Butler Hike and Bike Trail. Soaking up nature and getting in a cathartic jog are guaranteed mood boosters. But if you prefer, tree-shaded benches and long waterside walks lend themselves to introspection, as do the smiles of happy, beautiful Austin runners — really, what do they have to be so happy about, anyway?
• Coffee shops: not just for writing your screenplay or going on a Tinder date anymore! Statesman breaking news reporter Katie Hall recommends Radio Coffee & Beer in South Austin (bluegrass night if you need cheering up, though she says it’s a perfectly cozy stewing location, too). Other submissions from Twitter: the patios at Thunderbird Coffee, Epoch Coffee, Spiderhouse, Once Over and Mozart’s.
• If you find yourself on the Forty Acres, the turtle pond at the University of Texas makes for placid perspectives. So, too, does the Blanton Museum of Art. A piece of art for whichever direction you want to go: abstract, chiaroscuro, weird as heck.
• Get away — far away. Austin, while not exactly a megalopolis, is certainly big enough to drive an opposite end and not see anyone you know. When the blues hit, get that alone time you crave. Live South? Get a queso for one at the Kerbey Lane Cafe off Research Boulevard or get lost at Ikea in Round Rock. Live north? Sounds like a great opportunity for retail therapy at Southpark Meadows, or maybe getting lost on Main Street in Buda. I’ve always been partial to bumming around Hill Country Galleria.
• Movie theaters: dark enough to sulk, entertaining enough to cheer you up. Alamo Drafthouse and Violet Crown Cinema have the added bonus of wine adjacency.
• On that note, nothing is better for sulking than a long, scenic drive. Pick your poison — Southwest Parkway, U.S. 290 out toward Dripping Springs, following Lamar Boulevard farther than you knew it stretched (it’s long). Just you, your thoughts and your stereo. I recommend Death Cab For Cutie’s “Transatlanticism” on a loop.
Maybe those ideas will help you keep your doldrums in check. But if not, Statesman online content producer Maribel Molina had an unhelpful but genius suggestion: Royal-Memorial Stadium on a game day, because there are bound to be plenty of people there having a Sartre-esque existential crisis to keep you company.
Machete kills (and bakes)
Danny Trejo: man, myth, Machete. The Los Angeles actor most famous for his collaborations with Austin director Robert Rodriguez turned 73 (!) on Tuesday, and it made us wonder: Whatever happened to that doughnut shop he planned to open?
Trejo’s Coffee & Donuts opened on the actor’s birthday on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, according to Eater. The foodie news outlet reports that, in addition to bags of “locally-fired beans that bear Trejo’s signature grimace,” lucky Angelenos would be able to score a machete-shaped doughnut.
It’s the other doughnuts on the menu, that grabbed our eye. Flavors behind the case include:
You can check out the full menu on the shop’s Facebook page. And while you’re at it, the photos of the doughnuts are pretty mouthwatering (even/especially the one with cheese on top).
Go west, be wet
So, uh … where did the little fish go?
That’s the question you might have asked yourself Wednesday if you follow Texas CCC Parks on Instagram. The account, dedicated to appreciating the Lone Star State’s New Deal-era parks, posted a picture of the spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park looking a little less splash-worthy than usual.
“Last week @balmorheastatepark cleaned its CCC-built pool,” the caption reads. “The pool has reopened and is ready for summer!
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The closest thing to Barton Springs Pool that you’ll find in the oft-parched West Texas expanse, the historic big dip is located four miles west of Balmorhea off Texas 17 and is known for the fish that mingle with swimmers (sometimes with a bite). The American-Statesman’s Pam LeBlanc wrote in 2014 that “visitors flock from around the state to dip a toe or two into the enormous V-shaped pool with a natural bottom. On hot summer weekends, the park fills to capacity by noon and cars are turned away.”
What about the fish, then? Remember, Balmorhea is home to two species of endangered fish — the Comanche Springs pupfish and the Pecos Gambusia. According to NewsWest9, those little swimmers were just fine while the pool was getting a glow-up in 2016. Water is diverted so that the level is just low enough to pressure wash the pool, the station reported, and enough wet stuff is left in the main channel for the fish to stay alive.
Well, speaking of pools …
If you grew up in Texas, chances are you have fond memories of beating the summer heat by running through the water sprinkler in your backyard. Because, let’s face it, when the temperatures top 100 degrees, you’ve got to stay cool by any means necessary. But if you grew up in rural Texas and your family didn’t have the money to shell out for a swimming pool, you may have memories of an even more unique way to stay cool: Taking a dip in the water trough your family used to feed animals.
Exciting news! You were ahead of the trend. According to Country Living, “stock tank pools” are the trendy way to stay cool this summer. No, really—if you search the hashtag #stocktankpool on Instagram, there are plenty of people using water troughs as swimming pools. And some of them look pretty fancy.
I don’t know about y’all, but my mid-’90s “stock tank pool” was basically just an ancient metal water trough with a questionable amount of rust (good thing I was up to date on my tetanus shot). My dad stood beside it, spraying me with the garden hose. If we wanted to get fancy, sometimes he’d even dump some Mr. Bubble in there. But I never got to use it for long, because, I mean, the cows needed water, too.
But hey. To each their own.
— Katey Psencik, American-Statesman staff