The Junk King, Vince Hannemann
This is convoluted, I know.
Austin is weird. Happily so.
Home to SXSW (South by Southwest), the bars and honkytonks on Sixth Street and the University of Texas, and notwithstanding a secessionist numbskull of a governor who through secret and unknown to him irony adds to the weirdness, Austin tries to keep the contrariness in it's civic oeuvre.
Sadly, it's about to get a little less weird.
Vince Hannemann is the proprietor of the Cathedral of Junk in Austin. He's definitely part of the Keep Austin Weird civic mantra—so much so that various departments of the city government, including the Visitors' and Convention Bureau, have sent prospective clients and patrons alike to Vince's mecca of junk.
The front yard
It's a 22 year long artistic endeavor, social commentary and cultural landmark that is now in danger of being torn down due to various code violations. What started as a few mismatched hubcaps strung up on a fence has grown into the proud civic destination of weird—turning discards and trash into treasure.
Someone complained. It's not hard to understand a neighbor's complaint. Visitors from dawn to dusk, parking problems in the older neighborhood and some occasional rowdiness tends to cut into the quality of life.
Neighbors have complained in the past, but the complaint that brought the city code inspectors to the site was from someone who was visiting. On March 9 a guest complained to the city that he or she didn't feel safe inside one of the structures. Vince has until the April 9 to get the structures into code compliance or he'll have to get a permit for demolition.
The church view (A larger image of it is here.)
If you look at the opening above in one of the main structures, you might see some stone steps in the darkness. They lead upward and by means of ramps and ladders you can actually get to the very top just below the roof turbine at the top and behind the wire screen holding all the CDs. To me, it's a simple thing not to go where you don't feel safe. But everything is structurally sound—tied off in dozens of ways to make the art stable and secure. I've blogged before about my desperate fear of heights. I made it to the top of Vince's structures—so that tells you something.
The site in Hannemann's yard is not far from the south end of downtown, a short drive over the Congress Avenue Bridge into a neighborhood of small single-storey ranch homes. Some older houses are now being modernized and rebuilt. On the other hand, newer residents have had the advantage of seeing the art and the patrons in place before they moved into the neighborhood. Their newfound NIMBY attitude belies the longstanding and a priori tradition. And since visitors are not charged for entry, caveat emptor doesn't apply, but common sense should. Stay on terra firma and look if you wish to enjoy.
The CoJ relies on donations, of material and money. There is no admission fee and it's been open every day of the year for as long as anyone can remember. I hope that continues.
On a recent trip to Austin OS friends arrived like comets to orbit the lovely and loved CK Dexter Haven. She came to celebrate the thirty and the fifty, we came to celebrate our devotion and friendship. Some were novices in translating the 1s and 0s of the ether into flesh and blood; some were old hands at it. It was easy and natural and comfortable for all though because we had long been friends.
(The thirty and the fifty reference is a bit obtuse. It means that CK married young...one of those childhood arranged marriages maybe--they were celebrating being married for 30 years and celebrating her husband's 50th circumnavigation of the sun. Just look at how young she looks!)
I stayed at my son's home he shares with his girlfriend. He's a senior at the University of Texas. He'll be a senior again next year. In some typical weirdness, they were both in Dallas for a long weekend of work while I hajj-ed toward the Open Salon friends in Austin.
There are moments when taking a photograph that the confluence of the accidental moment and the collective bits of past ability come together for a happy result. Mypsyche (whose beautiful real name rhymes with "dream") showed up with beauty. But I think the shot above captured some further thing.
I'm not sure there was anyone in Austin that had a bigger, more infectious smile than Unbreakable. She's a giver, gifts intangible as affection and joy, but bestowed nonetheless.
Blue is simply adorable. She brought her equally adorable artist husband and their beautiful boy child along, but Blue proved her star/comet status all by her lonesome. Her laugh was infectious and she was always, always, smiling.
Skeletnwmn reminds me so much of the late Molly Ivins, and I'm not sure there's a better compliment I could give as I adored Molly. And she is amazingly tall, towering over everyone. In the group photo below, be aware that she is sitting down. What enormous talent she has, and OS has just scratched her surface.
CK warned me ahead of time that I would get the hell beat up if I tried to photograph her. I didn't pester her too much, though some others tried to get her to allow it. After one and and half margaritas—it doesn't take much boys—she relented. A bit.
(You know, I'm a lot nicer person than what I look like in photographs...there are good reasons I'm on one side of the camera. I'm hoping CK and the others will chime in here (please) and let people know that I might look a bit better in person. Deven, you can say so too.)
Sadly, JK Brady was not there. But we did raise bottles of beer and glasses of margaritas in her honor and at times shouted out her name as if we all had Canadian Tourette's Syndrome, simply to increase our own good karma and to tell her later that she was still the center of attention.
In a way, Open Salon is like a cathedral of junk. While Vince's is largely due to his own hands over a number of years, OS has tens of thousands of hands each doing our own part in building this Tower of Babel in less than two years, a dichotomy of scale and time. A Koyaanisqatsi of glory and mayhem. It is Open indeed to the beauty and beast alike. (Yes, I know, in the interweaving of the elements here I'm calling myself a beast of sorts, but just look at the juxtapositions. In truth, all of the friends brought some wonderful beauty with them...but you could have seen that all along here on OS as many already have.)
I'm approaching my second anniversary here on OS in a few weeks. In Internet and OS time, that is donkey's years. You can see a member's number, a relative indication of when you joined, in e-mails that are sent from the OS mothership. Mine is 198. I've seen beauties and beasts in my time here. I've been delighted and I've despaired. I think it's natural for those of us who started early on to feel a sense of propriety, and curiously, without a sense of exclusive ownership—that is, the beauty is there to share and celebrate regardless of the source.
Have you noticed, though, how much beauty has departed?
And then notice how much beauty has remained. Look at those faces above again (well, excluding mine of course) and contemplate from whence beauty comes.
I hope Open Salon survives for as long or longer than Vince's art. It has been my online home for two years. I'm not leaving. I'll still be here as I owe so much to Joan, Kerry, Thomas and Judy for what they've done for me. I'm just working out the frequency.
Addendum: I'm adding an additional image, prompted by Rita in the comments, of just how much Unbreakable and Blue made everyone enjoy themselves just by their happy presence. You can also see how CK was still at the point of denying that I can take a decent picture once in a while.
Here it is:
Unbreakable, CK (hidden) and Blue outside Juan in a Million where we had a brunch meetup. Juan's in east Austin is really one of the best places for local flavor.
all images copyright © 2009, 2010 by barry b. doyle • all rights reserved