Georgetown Animal Shelter: making leaps and happy hounds, cats included

I work as an intern at Community Impact Newspaper. Here’s a smidge about the publication: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_Impact_Newspaper I found that the Georgetown community as a whole fosters an aggressive and fiery love for their pups and kittens (The people of Georgetown raised enough money for the shelter to have a spanking new facility versus a combination of trailers and old buildings) As my first real news reporting assignment, I was squirming with excitement to talk to these animal advocates. - I myself am an animal freak and secretly watch GIF images of canines and cats- My conversation with Jackie Carey, animal services manager, led me to my next project: I’m travelling on Saturday to Georgetown to video a ‘Micro’ success story of cats and the families who saved them from death with the barn cat adoption program. I guess I’ll have my own personal stash of cat B-roll to watch at weird hours in the dark. Don’t judge me.

If you live in or around the Austin area, visit the Community Impact website at http://impactnews.com/


I had not grasped the real chokehold that the drought has on Texas until I had the opportunity to fly over Austin and surrounding West Lake and Lake Travis areas. The landscape was like toast left to broil too long in the oven. It was almost like I could play God and scratch the burnt part off, but its going to take a lot of rain to get to that ‘good soft bread’ again. 

Well actually I found out through Mark Miller, our Transportation Services Manager, that this bus stop has been here since the 1980s. People completely forgot about it. They kept thinking it was a parking spot all these years, sticking out in the street 5 or 6 feet each time. We had to look back at the city plans to figure out what it originally was

(Above) Ed Polasek on the new- well I guess OLD- downtown bus stop at 9th Street and Main. My Georgetown Hidden History: Blurbs I’ll share about the town or other pieces of information that get lost on the way 

(Above) Pictured at the new stop is Don Hill, director of field operations for CARTS via 

city news release. 

T. Don Hughes: leather master, last-standing cowboy
  • T. Don Hughes: leather master, last-standing cowboy
  • Cali Bock

Click play, close your eyes and let me take you on an audio tour of T. Don’s leather repair shop in Georgetown, Texas. T. Don Hughes is a leather master of 40 years and a cowboy for the entirety of his life. He’s a realist, ex-bull rider and he’s also really tired. I swear you can hear it in his voice.

I feel in my heart that his weariness stems not from the daily grind of physical labor, but from a world that’s ushering in a knowledge age that almost demands change from a craftsman that wouldn’t believe a tool palette could look anything like Adobe Photoshop’s. 

He doesn’t own a computer, and the last time he wound up advertised in a newspaper, he told me he had to turn a lot of people away. 

“Too much work to do,” I nodded in agreement. 

No. He said that the younger generation just buys such shoddy-made shoes that it costs more to fix them than they’re worth. 

I looked into his jaded eyes, the historical shop, and then I locked the image deep inside to ground myself for when my instant-gratification characteristic rears its materialistic head. Why do I need the IPhone 67, the IPad 104? 

But more importantly, what’s to become of the Texas cowboy? A culture that’s sand is fast-sifting through the sieve. 

You might like this as well: Click here for a photo gallery of my time with T. Don and Barbara

Click here for the full text feature. 

T Don's Saddle & Shoe Repair Shop: A lifetime of leatherwork

Pictured Above: T Don takes a break from shoe soling so that I could snap his picture. 

By: Cali Bock 

At T. Don’s Shoe & Saddle Repair Shop, Tim McGraw’s muffled, “I Guess That’s Just the Cowboy in Me” played over a cantankerous-looking radio. Each of the shop’s three walls display snippets of its history including aged rodeo action shots, an autographed picture of Muhammad Ali and tools that have saved hundreds of boots.

Guarding it all is a life-size Navajo scout named Jim Charlie. 

The comfortable decibel level inside shattered when 58-year-old owner T. Don Hughes pounded fresh leather onto the sole of a customer’s scuffed pair of Western boots.

Hughes bought the business in Georgetown, located at 2803 Williams Drive, more than three years ago. However, he’s worked there for 16 years alongside the former owner, W.M. West, who opened the original saddle shop in 1986.

After West died in April 2002, Hughes said he convinced West’s son, Terry Don West, to keep the business open.

 “We agreed that I would run the shop and [younger] West would receive a percentage of the profits,” he said

Today Hughes continues to make knife scabbards, but the shop offers repairs including jackets, wallets, boots, saddles, purses and other shoes.

In addition to repairs, they also purchase used saddles and boots to resell in the store.  

Barbara Rodriguez, who’s worked at the shop for more than 8 months, said that Hughes is now teaching her how to stitch elastic on high heels, but the process is slow.

“I mean it’s the miracles that he does on the stuff he’s repaired,” said Rodriguez. “I wish I could do that.”

Hughes said, “It takes about five years to get confident.”

Although he’s worked at the store in Georgetown for more than 16 years, his lifetime of leatherwork is a family trade. Hughes began learning the craft from his father in Kempner, Texas more than 40 years ago.

“The last thing I ever wanted to be was a shoe repair man,” he said. “But I could work for my dad, I could rodeo and go to livestock sales.”

His work allowed him to compete in bull riding from 1968 to 1980. He walked away from the sport with a belt buckle from Mason, Texas and no serious injuries.  

“I was knocked out a few times, but that’s about it,” he said.

The store doesn’t advertise, Tweet or even house a computer. Business is based on reputation and spread by word of mouth.

“Our business is better than it’s ever been,” said Hughes. “Repair businesses are always good when the economy’s bad.”

In the future, he is looking to pass the business on to a younger man.

“I‘m just waiting for retirement, I don’t know.” He said. “When I get to be 62 I’ll figure it out, but I’ll probably never close.”   

Austin Drag: snippets of the day 2/7/12


Street Art: “Where did you come from?” I mused after stumbling upon this eye-level street expression. This art - or ad I suppose - caught my eye because of it’s crisp, stenciled persona. “Someone wants me to know what you are,” I said in a British accent as I personified Colours 365 as a Londoner in my head. (The spelling of ‘colours’ tipped me off) And so, the search for the person or entity behind this begins.  

Find of the day- After getting denied access to take pictures inside Urban Outfitters on the drag, I stuck my tongue out and used my middle finger to snap this picture of these amazing boutique cameras from Lomography in their window.  

Great ladies who made my lunch at Texadelphia. I didn’t know they had a semi-healthy turkey manwich. (Turkey, jalapenos, mayo, grilled mushrooms) Don’t mind their candid game faces either. The whole kitchen was filled with laughing, sizzling and kindly service.  

Georgetown gets new downtown bus stop, but what does it all mean?

By Cali Bock

(Georgetown, TX)- On Tuesday I reported on the Capital Area Rural Transportation System.- a bus service-Although it doesn’t have Lady GaGa sprinkled anywhere in the name, the deeper current of issues I found after some mild surface scratching reminded me of why I love to work with hyperlocal issues. The news of the new bus stop came in the form of a series of stagnant facts stacked in press release.

My first thought: What are my journalistic weapons of choice?

1. My addiction to raking out fresh angles  

2. Motivation at the challenge of keeping your eyes skimming my content. 

3. Reddi Whip in my coffee 

Anyway I found that the city of Georgetown hasn’t been able to meet the transit needs of the people for more than three years due to the lack of federal funding. Come to find out, this new stop with the three new routes gives people way more access to downtown Austin. Riders from Temple, Hutto and Taylor can now get easy one-block access to the county courthouse and the Square on one of the three new routes or one of the connections with Greyhound and Capital Metro. 

I called Georgetown Transportation Services Director Ed Polasek, who told me that if Georgetown gets classified as a small urban area, which is a 90 percent chance, CARTS wouldn’t be able to provide their service anymore. -Hence their service by definition, capital area RURAL transportation system- 

So, the service would be partially or fully privatized. 

Basically I hope this means we’re trickling a bit of oil back into this stiff tinman economy, local and all. 

Oh, sorry, and if you’re hipster I hope this really puts the wind in your turbines. 

Either way, ride on. 


Austin Locals Chris and Karin- Enlightenment gurus, Punjab’s Meditation Center and crafts draw this couple to India, more than 25 times and counting since 1985 

By Cali Bock

(Austin, TX)- On Sunday on Allandale street corners, day-old garage sale signs withered on their stakes and flapped in the light breeze.

The crinkled, crumpled neons grasped at their wilting dignity like the Veterans that beg on Airport Blvd. and 51st, hands oiled and clutching an equally grungy sign, their deep rivets and desolation haunting the car after you’ve gone.

Farther down road, a new recruit stood rigid on its wooden post, pointing energetically down Allandale Road.

The sign read ‘Indian Craft Sale’ and dazzled red in the sun. 

 Glitter. Nice flair.

 -Mental click of matching red Dorothy shoes-

 There’s no place like a craft sale on a Sunday. 


Austin local Chris and wife Karin - they didn’t really want to give their last name- sprawled their Indian wares across their front yard in a neat, booth-like display. Hand-stitched beadwork, vibrant tapestries and other trinkets gleamed in the streaming sun. 

Radha Soami Satsang Beas: The religion that started it all for Chris and Karin

Chris, now 57 years old- said God spoke to him at age 21, and told him to become a vegetarian. Thus he came to the Radha Soami  faith: 

                 “Sant-Mat (‘Science of Spirituality’) is the path to perfect liberation of the soul. It is the worship of the Supreme Divine Power (God). The expression Sant-Mat literally means the ‘point of view of the Saints’.

 Sant-Mat couples a powerful meditation practice with a dynamic, inclusive, positive way of living.

 Life Style: The path of Sant-Mat recommends ethical living. (I.e. inculcation of [asking for] forgiveness, nonviolence, mercy, sweet speech, charity, purity, non-avarice etc.)

 It’s also considered sine qua non- 'essential stepping stone’- to Spirituality. It’s believed that it’s very difficult to become a good human being at first, but if one becomes good, it is easy to find God!

It is the overcoming of the lowermost aspects of the Mind."  -RS blog

The meditation science also encourages you to be self-supporting, to maintain your freedom of choice and also any cultural or religious affiliations that you choose.   

                   “The basis of every religion is spirituality. RSSB is trying to maintain the core of spirituality without allowing it to take on a formal structure.

Radha’ (referring to the soul or spiritual master either of an individual or of the whole) and 'Soami’ (referring to the spiritual master who guides the disciple to soul liberation)… and all this through one God.

Radha Soami Satsang Beas is a philosophical organization based on the spiritual teachings of all religions and dedicated to a process of inner development under the guidance of a spiritual teacher.”- site

The religion states four basic principles to adhere to:

1. Vegetarianism

2. No drugs or alcohol to alter your state of mind

3. Lead a clean, moral life

4. Each day requires 2 ½ hours of meditation 

                 “By performing the meditation practice according to the teacher’s instructions, individuals can realize the presence of God within themselves.

It is a solitary practice that is done in the quiet of one’s own home.

Members commit themselves to a way of life that supports spiritual growth while carrying out their responsibilities to family, friends and society.”RS philosophy 

When asked about his form of meditation to reach 'God Consciousness’, Chris said, “If you can concentrate the mind on a mantra, on anything, the soul and mind leave the body. It’s a progression of one spiritual region to the next.”

‘God Conscious’, definition:

              “At the core of the RSSB philosophy is a belief that there is a spiritual purpose to human life – to experience the divinity of God who resides in all of us. It is through this experience that we will realize the truth of the concept that there is only one God and we are all expressions of his love.” –RS philosophy

Chris took his first trip to the meditation center, the ‘Dera’ in the Beas, Punjab (India) in 1985, and he said he’s now been between 20 and 30 times. 


Above: the Dera, where millions of Radha Soami followers travel each year to experience Satsangs, where followers meet with their spiritual guru to consult with him on their quests for the higher truth


Chris said, “I wanted to see the master, the guru in person.” 

In his and Karin’s religion, the guru is a spiritual teacher that guides people on their journey to reach the ultimate ‘God Conscious’ state of mind:

               “Central to the RSSB philosophy is a spiritual teacher who explains the purpose of life and guides and instructs members in a method of spirituality based on a daily meditation practice. The present teacher is Baba Gurinder Singh, who lives with his family at the main center in northern India.”site

“It’s a discipline in itself to be in the presence of an enlightened person.” Chris said, “ A matter of personal experience. You may not even like him, or you may feel an atmosphere of peace and love.”


Above: Beas, Punjab, the location of the Dera

The Dera: An Incredible Mini Township with a 32 and 42-acre roof

Pictures and text credits here, from the RSSB site. 

Dera Baba Jaimal Singh, or simply the ‘Dera’ as it is generally known, is a mini-township with 6,000 residents.


The Venue

In order to provide a sheltered venue for these gatherings, the Dera’s engineering department has constructed one of the largest covered structures in Asia, designed and fabricated on site using a lightweight space-frame technology. The roof covers more than 32 acres and can accommodate a crowd of 275,000. A computerized digital audio system was specially designed for the venue to provide the best possible sound for such a challenging environment 


The Community

The Dera seeks to be as self-sufficient and environmentally friendly as possible. Every year thousands of trees are planted. Many lawns and parks beautify the colony and provide space for visitors and residents to rest and relax. More than 1,000 acres of land are cultivated for growing vegetables and fruits that are used in the langar and by Dera residents. Organic farming methods are being adapted to local conditions. The Dera has its own water supply, water treatment plant and solid waste treatment facility. It has its own electrical sub-station and large electrical generator back-up facility to supply emergency power to the whole community. 


The Food

To feed the visitors three meals a day, several approaches are taken. The Langar (a place where food is served free of charge) is the primary means. The free langar complex covers over 48 acres and operates around the clock. Capable of feeding up to 300,000 people per meal, 50,000 in a single sitting, it has a mostly volunteer staff who prepare and serve simple but nourishing food suitable to local tastes. As an example, in 2006 the langar cooked more than 150,000 kilos of rice and used more than 2 million kilos of wheat to make the traditional flat breads. Meals are also served at canteens and snack bars at a nominal price.” 


All rights reserved by Jogindra Singh Danewalia                                                        

Above- Candid inside the Dera in Beas, Punjab


Chris and other Radha Soami adherers believe that peoples’ journeys to God Consciousness can span across lifetimes, rebirth is optional

When we die, we’ll each have a personal choice to say if we’ve accepted that there’s only one God and that we live as expressions of His love, or we can continue the quest for this realization and opt be born and live again.

Chris said he would not want to be born again.

“When you become detached from this world, you realize how unpleasant of a world it really is,” he said. “It’s not heaven. When you experience something, a better world than this, why would you want to come back?”

The Indian Craft Sale: A driveway-turned-Indian-street-vendor imposter.

The couple is committed to their religion, but they also stumbled and seized upon their other affinity, the handmade Indian goods that they now bring back home in bulk to host craft sales in their driveway three to four times each year. 


They sell the modestly priced, handmade Indian wares that the two have gleaned from their travels, browsing through more than 50 vendors on the streets.


 Handmade Indian rings, priced at $10 each

Chris said they normally buy the goods from Rajasthan and Maharashtra, India. 


Above- Rajasthan, where Chris and Karin shop for their wares and the largest state of the Republic of India 


Above- India’s richest state and second most populated, Marharashtra, Map courtesy of Wikipedia

The yard off of Allandale was also saturated with the undulating spectrum of batiks- products of the ancient craft of dying cloth using wax and dye- as they danced and lifted gracefully aloft. 

Above- Chris said batiks are typically used for bedsheets, tapestries and other traditional Indian home decoration.

Craft Sale Update Email: Subscribe

Chris and Karin said anyone’s welcome to sign up for their email list that alerts subscribers to the date and times of their upcoming sales.


You may also be interested in: 

Batik high fashion 2012: Meet Nanang Halim, revolutionizing yet preserving the cloth-making tradition 


"If it’s Friday, then chances are there are a lot of people wearing batik, and that’s all right with Nanang Halim. You see, it’s his job to give lovers of the fabric new choices. With his sister at the designer’s table and himself…” - Read more 

Click for Indian Traditional Jewelry:Meenakari 


“The art of Meena work came to India with the arrival of the Mughals. During the 16th century, the Maharaja of Rajasthan, Raja Man Singh introduced the Meenakari jewellery to Rajasthan. Due to its rapid increase in popularity, Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan became the hub of Meena work jewelry…”- Read more  

‘From Traditional Batik to Wedding Dress’- Read more 


MedMob Takes it to the Streets at the Car-Free Viva Festival in East Austin

A photoessay by Cali Bock 

(Austin, TX)- On May 20 MedMob Austin took their movement- to spread love through public meditation- to the Viva Street Festival along Sixth Street in East Austin. 

Below- Staked out route for the Viva Street Festival 

 Med Mob was established in July of 2011 by a group of peaceful, likeminded locals.


Above- Dustin Fedako , one of less than 10 founding members of MedMob, reflects in silent meditation. The flash mob has expanded to more than 300 cities across the world 

“A "flash mob” is a large group of people meeting in a crowded public place for the purpose of engaging in a coordinated, unexpected, inspiring activity.“

Med Mob Mission Statement

"MedMob aims to create spaces for public meditation. This creates opportunities for people to explore the practice of meditation and brings meditation into the public eye. Meditation cultivates an attitude of response rather than reaction, and this stimulates major paradigm shifts in thinking that sends ripples through all levels of society!" 


Above- Left to right: Gregory Nathan Hammond, ‘Thom Thumb’ Clint Greene and MedMob founder Markbob Bennett Shaw in silent meditation at Earth Day Celebration 2012 at Mueller Park in Austin 

From their Facebook

"MedMob will meet in silent meditation at high traffic areas around the city to promote meditation as a means to self discovery.

MedMob believes that meditating reveals deep inner truths and inspirations. 

Our intention:

1. To create an environment for people from all walks of life to come together in meditation.
2. To expose the World to meditation through public display of meditation.
3. To come together as a global community to send positive intentions out into the world.
4. To show that leading by example is the best way to lead. Simple acts can stimulate major paradigm shifts in thinking.”


Mueller Meditation: Earth Day Celebration 2012






Angie Adams, Austin’s Lomo gallery go-to girl, is pictured here with one of many camera boxes that feature her planting a smooch on her poodle Max at Lomography Gallery Austin. On Twitter she describes herself as “artist. lomographer. mother to one badass poodle” Listen to the short quip I recorded as she told me about Mr. Max. You can Tweet at her @helloang. 


Sharon Van Etten, The Shins, Diamond Rugs and More Added to SXSW Lineup :: Music :: News :: Paste

Hope all you natives and drifters will make it to @SXSW this year! I also rifled around Paste Magazine, and it actually distracted me from Planet Earth for a second. No thing can do that. It gets me sweaty just like Brennan watching COPS 

Foodheads New Hours: More mozzarella, melts and hunky hipster men for everyone!

After turning a cold palette to  Foodheads since winter break break, I parallel parked on the front curb- usually hard-to-find real estate- and zipped up the front steps to rush order a salami sandwich on multigrain with spinach, oil & vinegar, mozzarella along with Foodhead’s homemade cole slaw on the side. I could literally eat there every day if you put a SigSauer and one of those ‘If you could eat at one last place for the rest of your life’ scenarios in my face.  Here, take a look at their menu. Anyway, I wanted a decent Friday lunch buzz, and I found out that along with new hours, Foodheads allows you to BYOB.  The best part is that a Party Barn- complete with an attendant that’s a reliable Austin beer guru- is not even a frat boy’s throw away. (half a block maybe) Even better for all of us is that now, the artsy beast in reading glasses won’t be as intimidating after a few glasses of your picked poison, and you might be able to remember some lines from Kent  - or 30 Rock- to catch his eye, all four of them.