Mikaylah Bowman is a native Austinite and owns Farewell Books on East Cesar Chavez Street. Farewell Books is a progressive new and used bookshop and art gallery specializing in art books, zines, esoteric literature and philosophy, metaphysics, architecture and design.
1. Mayfield Park Originally purchased by Allison Mayfield as a summer and weekend retreat in 1909 the park was opened to the Austin public in the 1970s. Peacocks were gifted to the Mayfields in 1935 and a dozen of their descendants still roam the grounds freely. Going very early in the morning, let's say, 7 a.m., is perfect. The park is empty, the peacocks are congregating in strange half circles and, depending on the season, violently shaking feathers in an attempt to entrap a mate. You can check the sundial at the center of a cobbled courtyard, walk past the Sabal Mexicana Palms and sit at 1 of 5 lily ponds while the koi fish glide against the surface of the water when it's still cool enough, looking for food. There are community garden plots that can be adopted and folks plant beautiful varieties of flowers on the grounds. It's quiet, lush and otherworldly. When I visit I feel like I've been dreamily transported somewhere between Peter Weir's 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' and Octave Mirbeau's 'The Torture Garden'
2. Breakfast at Nau's Enfield Drug Nau's is Austin's last drugstore with a true soda fountain. I've been downing rootbeer floats and fresh squeezed limeades here since I was covering myself in paint at Habibi's Hutch Preschool down the street. Nau's has been around since 1951 and I expect it hasn't changed much. I always sit at the blue counter with the blue swivel chairs (and yeah, I swivel all the way around), order an omelet and watch the older men read their newspapers. They all know each other, it's friendly, it's calm. Also, a great newsstand and selection of candy. ;)
3. 'David with the Head of Goliath' by Claude Vignon at the Blanton Museum of Art. Although there's a nice selection of works to see in the permanent collection (Lee Lozano's 'Ream' and Mary Corse's 'Untitled' get mentions from me) but sometimes I go to the Blanton just to see a single painting. Claude Vignon's 'David with the Head of Goliath' was painted in 1623 and it's the closest thing Austin's got to a Caravaggio. Impossible to decide where blood, fur, cloth, hair end and begin at the center of the painting. The strokes on a mustard yellow sleeve and heavier, messier strokes of paint, heavily lacquered, on the fur hat give the overdone subject matter something stranger, riskier in execution. Like Caravaggio's boys, Vignon's is also beautiful and subjected to the same sensualities. But Vignon's David, to me, is different from Caravaggio's David in his apparent exhaustion and interior grief. I feel no pride, no violence in him, maybe impatience, insecurity... regret? I feel that Vignon's David has done the figure some delayed artistic justice just like JK Huysmans's Des Esseintes felt about Gustave Moreau's 'Salome Dancing Before Herod' in his flowery descriptions in 'Against Nature'
I would also like David's hat, please.
4. Green and White Grocery The Cazares Family has owned Green and White Grocery store for three generations. In 1996 John Cazares made the decision to stop selling groceries and to begin selling spiritual items. Here you can find herbs, statues, protective amulets and the best saint candles I have ever seen. I am proud that Green and White Grocery is still in operation and I hope it will be around the east side for generations to come. John Cazares is an extremely helpful and compassionate fellow, when you go in I highly suggest speaking with him.
5. McKinney Falls McKinney Falls has been a place that has marked a lot of "firsts" for me. First backflip into water, first encounter with water moccasins, first make-out session, first photo shoot (it was my 17th birthday and one of my more vivid memories) and some other firsts that probably shouldn't be publicly mentioned... When I'm there I turn into a kid again, hopping from rock formation to rock formation across streams that lead to waterfalls, a dimpled, uneven limestone surface that allows me to pretend that I'm walking on the moon, fitting my body into craters and lying belly down on rocks reading until the sun goes down.