Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Center of the Universe

"Look, look!" enthused an adorable little boy in swim trunks - I'd guess he was about two and a half - to Robbie and me, sitting on top of the hill overlooking the Long Center, Auditorium Shores, and the hike-and-bike trail. The man-made hill is crowned by a ring of stone benches surrounding a handsome limestone-and-granite map of Texas. Austin is picked out with a star on the map; several other, less relevant Texas cities are indicated by a dot, and under each dot the distance in miles from this, the sunniest, happiest, most beautiful city on Earth, is given. "Look!" said the little boy, zigzagging excitedly back and forth across the map. "It's the whole world!"

Who could disagree?

The little cutie was drawn to us by Bella, Robbie's miniature dachshund, who responded to his attentions by curling her tail tightly underneath her body and trying to hide under the bench. Robbie coaxed her out and held her in his arms so the little boy could pet her. The child caught sight of Robbie's watch. "Hey, what time is it?" he demanded urgently.

"It's almost four," Robbie told him.

"What's that mean??"

We weren't able to give a satisfactory answer, though, so the little fellow orbited the world a few more times before dashing down the hill to join his mother, grandfather, and brother, who were ambling along the spiral path that climbs the hill. The mother approached us after a few minutes and asked us, smiling, "How old is your son?"

"Wait - he isn't yours?!"

So I stood up and gazed down the hill towards the splashing water fountains until I spied a woman looking around, cupping her hands to her mouth and shouting. I waved to her. "Is that your mom in the red shirt?" I asked my little companion, "I think she's trying to find you." He dashed down the hill to a happy reunion. Awwwww... I guess it's just as well. Robbie's got Bella, and I already have a kitten.

I sat atop that same hill yesterday evening, too, with a new friend, who took me to see a new symphony by Dan Welcher, the Bruch Violin Concerto #1 with the amazing, energetic, and very snappily dressed Sarah Chang, and the Tchaikovsky Capriccio Italien.

The natives were restless - children waiting to splash in the water fountain plaza, which runs through cycles and pauses every several minutes to allow parents to drag away their exhausted offspring; but there were none of those last night. The tense, rhythmic chant of "Wa-ter! Wa-ter! Wa-ter!" was clearly audible from the top of the hill.

My friend has season tickets to the Austin Symphony Orchestra. In most cities, this would entail a good mix of classics and new pieces - and there's really no getting away from the pops concerts (nor from people who whisper to one another loudly during the performance, kick the back of your seat, and shout "Bravo!" at female soloists), but the one thing that kind of annoyed my friend was that a Charlie Daniels Band concert was included in his season subscription. "When I buy season tickets to the symphony," he remarked, quite reasonably I thought, "I am specifically paying NOT to see the Charlie Daniels Band."

I guess that's Austin for ya.

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