by Jann Alexander, AustinDetails.com © 2006
More than a year before a corporate giant’s expansion plans doomed Las Manitas, I enjoyed my first breakfast there amid the late Saturday morning hub-bub and was greeted as warmly as a regular by Cynthia Perez, one of two sisters who’ve owned the Congress Avenue café for over 25 years. She took note of my bandaged thumb, offering some homespun wisdom to aid its recovery from the car-door-slamming that had it throbbing that day, and suddenly lessened my focus on the pain with the unexpected comfort she gave.
Maybe that’s why the left-over neon of the old Avenue Café sign, vivid blue and framed against the turquoise of a new landmark building, the Frost Bank tower, caught me so suddenly when I left Las Manitas that day; the image was so clear. Old and new both embracing a cyan Austin sky. That’s when I made the photograph that would inspire my Vanishing Austin series and set me searching for more of Austin’s architectural funk before it bows to development. The little café that would become the icon for keeping Austin weird in another year had just become my icon for Vanishing Austin.