The Good Life in Austin Texas


Keep Austin Texas Weird -What's that all about? (LOCALISM FEATURED)

Keep Austin Weird 5K"Wait, what was that, I ask?  My son responds again, "its 107 degrees according to that thermometer at the starting line".  I moan and try to figure out WHY I have agreed to participate with him in the Keep Austin Weird 5K (and costume contest with each entrant issued a pair of "Elvis" sunglasses) at 6pm in the afternoon in the middle of a brutal Texas summer... The event is a benefit for the RunTex Carrozza Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides running shoes, coaching and race entry fees for people with low incomes. Paul Carrozza is also the owner of RunTex, the absolute coolest running store on the planet located here in Austin Texas!

Keep Austin Weird 5KWe start off together and my son says he wants to go on ahead and I quickly agree mumbling something to the effect that I will catch up later (oh sure...) After two miles I am sweating like a politician in church and just about to say to "heck with it" when who should come running towards me? My son who has doubled back and is laughing as he tells me he wanted to be sure I was okay. I can barely see from the sweat pouring into my eyes and I am gasping for air in the torrid heat but I manage to say, I'm good! I struggle to keep moving and try and not pass out while slipping into that spacey zone that comes before heat exhaustion!

I am thinking all the while that we only have a mile to go and if I can keep from barfing up a lung I just might make it! He then tells me to "smile" for the photographers by the roadside and I do laugh when he catches a scoop of Amy's Ice Cream tossed from the Water/Ice Cream Stop by volunteers to anyone who picked up a cup a few yards earlier! (I told you this was weird!)

Keep Austin Weird

Keep Austin Weird is an axiom chosen by a group that promotes small local businesses in Austin, Texas.The Austin Independent Business Alliance picked the phrase from a remark made by a librarian at Austin Community College in a phone call to a local radio station. Red Wassenich and his wife, Karen Pavelka, placed the slogan on bumper stickers, distributing them free to businesses in Austin. "Keep Austin Weird" was later trademarked by and used to market T-shirts, hats, and mugs.

The slogan is a reference to the many small businesses, events, functions and personalities in Austin which give the city its unique cultural identity.  The Keep Austin Weird website describes itself as a "collaborative fission of coordinated individualism" and it gets somewhat weirder from there, learn more at: . The whole concept is really just a celebration of all the things that that make Austin so unique and enjoyable. Austin Mayor Will Wynn supports the foundation and the group focusing on supporting local business! I read this quote by him recently, "The city is so weird, he joked, that his parents bought a house in Round Rock. But what exactly makes Austin weird? Wynn said it is the high quality of life in a growing city that feels small. "We don't feel nearly as large . . . because we have a unique quality of life," Wynn said. And I could not agree more, every day brings some new and interesting weirdness!

Weird 5K finish lineWe finally cross the finish line behind a crowd that includes two girls rowing in a cardboard canoe, people running in various costumes, a scuba diver and a collection of Dr. Seuss characters. A short time later, after we manage to cool off and refuel with a few quarts of ice water, some Amy's Ice Cream and a half dozen slices of Mangia Pizza, we wander over to the Free stage to watch some great local music.

Keep Austin Weird Tie-DyeKeep Austin Weird is really about the rich diversity & eclectic ideas of our community and the melting pot nature of all the things that TRULY make Austin such a wonderful place to live. I love Austin and have lived here a long time and I even enjoy the fact that the Weird "slogan" sometimes irritates those who do not fully understand the meaning.  Of course, there are always party poopers in every crowd but in Austin they are vastly outnumbered!



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82 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 24 2008 01:58PM

Trust - The Critical Factor in Referral Business

Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.  Booker T. Washington

Whom do YOU trust?I am incredibly fortunate that approximately 70% of my business this year will arrive through personal referrals from friends, family, past clients and agents with whom I have done business in the past. This number varies over the years, higher some years and lower others but is always a reliable and consistent source of business. My referral business is built on one primary factor; TRUST. "Referrals are the highest form of compliment I can receive from a past client" - I see this written on the backs of business cards, beneath signatures, and repeated endlessly at closings. For me, this is not just an empty platitude, it must be backed up with reliability, professionalism and real service! I have a very good track record going back many years that has been built on a relationship of reliance. If I say I am going to do something I do it!

When I first joined ActiveRain last summer, one of my goals was to establish contact and build relationships for referrals across the country. This turned out to be one of the most amazing aspects about the community. In the past I have had to rely on various networks, catalogues and brochures to find someone and this proved to be a difficult proposition. I would look over various descriptions, profiles etc. and finally find someone to call. At that point, I would have a brief conversation and if everything seemed okay, pass along the information. With this scant amount of discussion I was passing along the trust of someone who trusted me. I have very high standards for my clients and want the referred agent to treat my clients in the same manner as I would.

Webster's Online Dictionary defines trust as: 1 a: assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something b: one in which confidence is placed

The key is learning about people and getting to know them over time through the communication provided here at ActiveRain. First impressions are important but here we have the inimitable opportunity to read others posts along with comments that reveal us more openly and deeply and at a visceral level that cannot be hidden. I will admit that I have seen comments, posts and behavior that is unappealing to me personally but I can assure you I am not judging anyone, I realize that there are some people out there for whom professionally and to some degree, personally, I am not a good fit which is just fine.

On the other hand, since joining Active Rain, I have had the great fortune of establishing some phenomenal relationships with brokers, agents, lenders, stagers, marketing gurus, artists and the general public that I absolutely value. The best part of the site, for me is the ability to genuinely get to know someone over time through the discourse offered and the communication between the members. One of the first people I met in person was Jason Crouch. I read a number of his posts and thought I would just call him up and ask him about the site and get to know him. We had an absolutely enjoyable time and I can tell you from personal experience he is as interesting and bright as you would imagine while at the same time devoid of any ego or attitude that all of us sometimes witness in this business. He was open and helpful and we have since become friends as we have gotten to know each other over time. Our companies and areas of business focus are different (geographically more than anything) and so recently, when I received a very good lead that was not in my particular area of expertise (or any of my associates) I immediately thought of Jason. AND WHY NOT, it's better to send good business to someone I trust so that we can all benefit (the client in particular) rather than just leaving them to call the next number they find in a phone book, the newspaper, online or from a yard sign.

I can tell you unequivocally that I have met at least two dozen people here (so far) whom I would not hesitate sending business all across the country because of the relationships I have established and nurtured here. Now that I think of it, I am going to write a post and mention everyone I am talking about (Y'all already know who you are)because my experience here has been the most exciting new thing to enter my world as a real estate broker in years!

               Thanks to ActiveRain and I look forward to meeting more of you in the future!


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103 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 16 2008 09:50AM

Architecture at the Umlauf - Lecture Series – November 6th

The final installment of the Architecture at the Umlauf Series season is coming and will take place Thursday, November 6th. The monthly series was founded and is produced by two of my associates at AvenueOne properties; Scott Harvey and Carla Umlauf (granddaughter of the esteemed sculptor) and is sponsored by our firm, AvenueOne Properties. The lectures take place at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and the series is now wrapping up its highly successful second season.  Mell Lawrence, FAIA is the featured speaker. There is a minimal charge of $5.00 for the event but is free to museum members.

Architecture at the Umlauf - Nov. 6th

Thanks again for your continued interest and support!


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21 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 14 2008 12:03PM

Amy's Ice Cream-Sweet Temptation: Taste an Austin, Texas Original

Amy's Ice Cream-Sweet Temptation: Taste an Austin, Texas Original

Temptation of EveI love ice cream; in fact I would say it is my favorite food in the world. If ice cream had been available in the Old Testament it would have easily replaced the apple as Eve's temptation. History reveals many stories and myths surrounding the tasty treat dating back to Roman times. My favorite tale revolves around a King who wanted a dessert that had both the elements of summer and winter in the same dish. And some intrepid soul invented the hot fudge sundae. (My current personal favorite!) 

Austin, Texas is home to the most original ice cream store on the planet. Amy's Ice Creams was founded by Amy Simons in 1980. She previously worked at another shop called Steve's. Amy's Ice CreamsSteve's establishment was popular for what, at that time, was the completely bizarre & unconventional practice of taking homemade ice cream and smashing different ingredients (cookies, candy, nuts, fruit, etc.) together and serving it in a cone or cup. Seems strange these days when you can buy pints of just about any flavor mixed with just about any ingredient at your local supermarket! Steve's closed and Amy went on to open her own shop and she now has 12 locations in Austin as well as stores in Houston and San Antonio. But don't look for mass growth. At Amy's its all about quality, service and community.

Amy's special secret is no secret at all. They use only the best quality ingredients and don't cut any corners in producing the highest quality ice cream available in the world. Flavors change on a rotating basis and there are also seasonal fruit, berry, and nut ice creams available. In additional to the standard sugar cones, Amy's also makes their own large waffle cones that are tasty by themselves as well as a vehicle for the most luxurious ice cream you will ever eat, taste, nibble, gorge, or devour. Lola

Amy's goes out of the way to employ interesting and compelling folks that know the true meaning of "Keep Austin Weird". The company mascot "Lola" an awesomely funny cow, is prevalent everywhere. Each store has its own whimsical personality and feeling. Children and adults alike are always delighted by the décor, the antics of the employees (there are often displays of ice cream juggling which, I know sounds strange but trust me on this one) and the overall ambience that goes along with the most flavorful, richest, tastiest, creamiest ice cream you will ever put in your mouth.Amy's Mira Vista

MelissaMy favorite location is, obviously, the one closest to my home. Amy's in the Mira Vista shopping center 2765  Bee Caves Road is managed by the wonderfully bright, energetic and cheerful Melissa Hanson. She is a true disciple of the Amy's mentality and a purveyor of all that is delicious in the world of ice cream. In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that our son, Morgan, was an employee at this location until he recently left for college. I don't mind admitting how proud his mom and I were that he managed to get hired because it is something of a challenge to get accepted. Amy's looks for employees who are a little different, somewhat interesting, and creative as well as hard working. Although maybe not as significant as being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys or  nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, we were thrilled to know someone on the inside of the Amy's empire. And I admit I may have used the connection to get a few extra sprinkles of "crushin's"!?!


Enough of this talk...  I cannot think of anything but ice cream now so, as soon as I post this I will be driving over to the Mira Vista store for my current favorite obsession. (My hands tremble in anticipation as I hasten to finish typing and I begin to expectantly look forward to the sinfully extravagent indulgence). Pictured at left and served up with good humor and a smile (by my favorite Pit Boss/Scoop at the Mira Vista location) the not so discrete object of my desire. A three scoops Sundae of Mexican vanilla, chocolate chip cookie dough and Belgium chocolate (with Oreos crushin's) covered partially with Amy's homemade hot fudge and a half scoop of their warm praline sauce.  This artery clogging concoction will be topped with freshly whipped cream, fresh sliced strawberries, and some mixed nuts. Eaten with a plastic spoon ONLY (to prevent freezing of the tastebuds and enhance the full flavor of the frozen dessert). Okay, I can hear all the health nuts and fussbudgets out there but before you start  preaching,  please remember, life is S H O R T, eat dessert first and... I know, I know.... I will have to run an extra 5 or 7...or, oh whatever, a bunch of extra  miles this week, but it will be worth it. Remember to indulge responsibly...


Do yourself a favor; if you are lucky enough to live in or travel to Austin, San Antonio or Houston Texas, visit Amy's and enjoy a world class treat that originated right here in Austin Texas!

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71 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 09 2008 07:56PM

Waiting for the other shoe to drop… The paralysis of FEAR

Well now, Congress finally managed to pass a bail-out..."Recovery Bill" at a cost $700 BILLION. But nothing has fundamentally changed. Jump-Wall Street ProtestPeople from all walks of life are worried because everyone wonders what is going to happen next. Unemployment numbers skyrocketed this past week and worldwide economic indicators are falling. But that's just part of it.  It seems like every time you turn on the T.V. there's more and more bad news. The level of worry and stress is going up everywhere while the overall mood of people keeps dropping.

Who can blame anyone? The same culture of corruption that has increasingly put us in the mess over the last eight years, telling us all along that "everything is fine and we are in a stable financial situation", suddenly pops up with a cry of alarm and a three page "solution", demanding that we just "TRUST" them. If I were to go on a listing appointment with the same flimsy approach and shoddy documentation, my clients would run me off without a second thought. Where is the accountability?

"In school, you couldn't get away with that garbage because the taxpayers know that if we don't uphold scholastic standards, we will wind up driving on badly designed bridges and go in for a tonsillectomy and come out missing our left lung, so we flunk the losers lest they gain power and hurt us, but in politics we bring forth phonies and love them to death." - Garrison Keillor

'Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress... But I repeat myself.'  --Mark Twain 

"Banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies" -Thomas Jefferson

And you want to know something? This is nothing new; check out this little tidbit from out the last century: "We the men in this hall, who control the economic destiny of the Nation, knew in 1927 that this terrible depression was coming, and we did nothing about it." - President of the American Bankers Association, speaking at their convention, in 1931

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I broke my crystal ball many years ago. I am not the smartest individual around and a good example is that I entered real estate in 1989, in Texas, in the depths of the S&L Crisis. Yep, there were thousands of foreclosures, many more thousands of homes on the market and what, maybe a few dozen buyers? It was the greatest financial dilemma since the depression but somehow, we made it.

X-Ray reveals...Now please don't get me wrong!  I am not one of those "Pie in the sky" dreamers jabbering empty platitudes and honestly, I tend at times to have a darker more cynical attitude that I have to monitor. This is a very sinister time and we have some incredible challenges so I just get up every day and go to work with my EYES WIDE OPEN. I will not wait around or be paralyzed by fear and I will not be a prisoner of my thoughts.  I make an effort to not give any power to those whose only path is that of failure on woe while offering nothing but complaints and never solutions. It's funny but I am amazed at how powerful my thinking can be as it determines my every day actions. I don't have to play that game--regardless of what's going on in the world.

Oh, by the way Congress...along with each and every one involved in getting the country into this mess, your X-RAY came back and I think we found the problem!

See you at work on next week!

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73 commentsRussell Lewis, Broker,CLHMS,GRI • October 04 2008 12:35PM