Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Other Side of Urban

Although one of the seemingly less obvious locations to observe urban interactions between citizens and the city system, the northern most portion of Zilker Park became a sweet escape from the hectic, fast paced drone of the city bustle for Austinites Sunday evening. The park hosts a variety of daily occurrences and is located next to perhaps the most famous moonlight tower in Austin, that which provides the basis for the Zilker Christmas Tree. As sunset approached, the sky began to blanket the large open field with a calming orange hue, covering the various groups of people scattered throughout the field. Despite being expansive and very open, almost every area of the park provides a picture perfect view of the downtown Austin skyline. This view is the defining feature that makes the park a truly special and sought after location for people of various backgrounds. The draw is certainly not to the landscape, which is in horrible condition due to the Austin City Limits Festival that takes place here every year. A portion of the parking lot, completely destroyed and filled with all types of machinery, creates an extremely unattractive eye sore. Not to mention, Port-o-Potties provide the only means of relief, and yet, the park is filled daily with people who don’t even give these obstructions a second thought. To them, the park is a diamond in the rough, a beautiful release from the urban insanity that they can’t indefinitely deny a love for. However the escape is just a block away from said insanity, and therefore is urban indeed.

A specific pathway appeared to be the most concentrated of all the objects in the park. As I approached the start, a girl ran directly across the path, chasing a stray soccer ball her boyfriend had kicked too hard just to get a good laugh as she ran to try and catch it in vain. After she finally got the ball, she tried unsuccessfully, to get him back by counter-kicking it too hard but it just flew off in a random direction and thus she was forced to run after it once again. It was absolutely pitiful but they seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves in the cool evening air, taking in the beauty of the skyline and just enjoying the outside. Eventually they tired and settled on the massive boulder located in the center of the park, cuddling and peering across town lake to the ever shifting urban metropolis that is Austin.
By this time it was getting darker and I noticed a large group of people moving robotically across the pathway towards the parking lot. They almost never got more than a foot away from each other and they were walking very slowly. In order to avoid disturbing a group of young soccer players sitting next the path, this group chose to stay to the south of the path, never actually stepping onto it but following parallel. The group leader was a boy of about ten pushing a baby stroller followed by some female members of his family. A young girl in the group looked off towards downtown and said something unintelligible to another member of the group, to which the woman responded by pointing at the UT Tower, as if she were answering her question. When the group reached an especially muddy portion of earth, they veered further off the path to avoid getting the stroller stuck. In the process, they cut off a young girl in a Rasta hat walking north towards Town Lake. She paused politely, but quickly made up for lost time after they passed by running a few steps ahead. The group eventually intersected the pathway where it hit the parking lot and shuffled into a large minivan, concluding their relaxing day at the park.

The aforementioned Rasta girl listened to her Ipod and continued to walk swiftly down the path towards a group of teenagers gathered in a circle at the end of the path. The path ended abruptly in the center of the grass, which seemed odd for some reason. However, it was interesting to note how far from the parking lot people ventured before veering off in their own directions. This particular group settled right in the middle of all the action. It became apparent that these teenagers were very loud, hyper, and simply enjoying being in Zilker Park on such a beautiful day. The Rasta girl seemed slightly more withdrawn than her peers, and chose to stand on the outside of the mayhem as her friends kicked a soccer ball to one another. She and another girl set down together and shared headphones as Rasta girl played her favorite I Tunes for her friend. Eventually, they all settled in the grass staring towards downtown, laughing and talking about how much fun they had together in the park that day.

Darkness began to overwhelm the last remains of daylight as most people slowly exited the park via the pathway. I followed suit, however not before stepping in a large puddle of mud as I snapped one last picture of the fading Austin skyline.


eray said...

I love that you observed the moonlight tower that is used for the Zilker Christmas Tree. Like I said, I was oblivious to the existance of moonlight towers before this weekend and I had never really thought about what held up that massive tree I used to spin around under. I think that the Zilker Christmas Tree is perhaps the most interesting urban object one could study. First, it attracts swarms and swarms of people who don't mind waiting in hours of Mopac traffic just to visit and stand underneath it. What an event, and all they do is spin underneath like a bunch of drunken hooligans. Plus, you can see it from virtually every vantage point in Austin which makes it a beacon to urban activity. The Zilker Tree is perhaps one of the best loved and longest lasting of Austin traditions, and to think, it all takes place around a century-old moonlight tower. I love the connection of past to present. What a tradition!!!

Kirti said...

I liked that you chose to observe urban activity in Zilker Park, too. It was interesting to see the type of "urban" activity which took place in a setting which may otherwise not be considered urban on a day where it was difficult to find urban activity in the more obvious spots.

Heather said...

The last time I went out there was for ACL. It was really crowded. Its a shame that we didn't have this project when that was going on. Imagine the stuff you could have written about...a group of people lighting up a 'doobie', the millions of people waiting for the bathroom with the occasional girl claiming girl problems to cut in line...Imagine the possibilities.