AUSTIN — Discovering the alleys in Austin; some are paved, many are not. Some are clean and well maintained, bordered by manicured and modern houses. Others are grungy, overgrown and punctuated by abandoned furniture. Some alleys have front entrances to university student housing or apartments, while other alleys have back entrances to houses and workshops.
This alley runs behind a post office in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Austin.
One alley had a house where a man was in a backyard work area working on dirtbikes. The joyful screams of playing children echoed through another alley. I passed a house where some older guys were relaxing in the oddly pleasant early evening. A group of 20-somethings were gathered in another alley.
A church parking lot took over a different alley, with weathered wood utility poles marking a forgotten path. Some of the alleys fade into parking lots -- often with the original utility poles sort of in the middle of the way.
The alleys are a good way to explore a side of Austin not shown in news reports or public relations photos and writing. People ride their bikes or drive on the streets, not the alleys. Many still show a glimpse to older days in the City of the Violet Crown, before Hyde Park was gentrified, maybe to Prohibition or the Depression, maybe someone stood here on new-at-the-time asphalt when they heard about Kennedy’s assassination. Behind some of the fences that line the one-lane paths, sheds have wire-glass windows, gates are sometimes frozen open or blocked with broken furniture.
A birdhouse in the shape of a rabbit's head (with a railroad spike in its mouth?) adorns a recycling bit in one Hyde Park alley.
I plan to explore the alleys more and ride down all of them, shooting more pictures.
Its strange for an alley to be open like this on one side, but here it is. This is an empty lot and they want to keep it that way.
Some of the alleys seem to go on forever, but they're really only 5 or 6 blocks long, maybe more. Whenever I pass through Hyde Park I go out of my way to take the alleys whenever possible.
The point is, small adventures and alternate routes are everywhere. While the big adventures and thousand-mile treks are awesome and make good stories, never discount the unpaved route that lingers forgotten, bearing the burden of untold stories and unseen rabbit head birdhouses or stained glass gates.