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per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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a last little bit of Texas weirdness...

monsteralice and I have made a new travel resolution- any time we go someplace new in the States, we're going to check out the Roadside America entry for that area. I happened to think of this before our trip to Austin, and found the Cathedral of Junk. I looked at the entry. I showed it monsteralice. In one voice, we cried, "We must go there!"

And so we did. I contacted Vince Hannemann, the creator, a month or so ahead of our visit, and he told us that we were welcome to come by on Sunday in the late morning. His house is a fairly normal-looking bungalow, and we had to look hard to see the tip of his construction peeking out from the back yard. But there was no mistaking the address- the gate at the end of the driveway had a sign which proudly announced the wonders that lay within.

Vince greeted us as we approached; he was already at work on some mysterious bit of metalwork which no doubt would soon be taking its place in the Cathedral. He was friendly and quiet, and had a sort of inner peace and happiness to him. He invited us to look around and take our time, and to ask any questions we might have. "It just keeps growing," he informed us with an odd combination of satisfaction and resignation. "It's been seventeen years now… maybe it'll be done in another seventeen."

The first sight of the Cathedral was another "wow" moment for us. It's really impossible to describe- it was lyrical and funky, funny and serious all at the same time. Both a "clubhouse" (as Vince describes it) and a temple of the imagination. It only seemed chaotic at first glance- as we explored, it became apparent that everything in there was placed deliberately, according to some conscious or unconscious plan. Little bits of wit and wonder were scattered all around, to rest your eyes when you were tired of taking in things as a whole.

It was spooky in a good way, at least in the bright Texas sun, with an organic feel contributed both by the climbing plants growing in and around it and by the placement and assemblage of the junk that made up the structure. Strings of CDs hung from various points, moving in the breeze and scattering shifting spots of light around the structure- I kept thinking that I was seeing things moving, out of the corner of my eye. Even without that, there was an inhabited feeling to the place, and a sense of the numinous.

Needless to say, I took a lot of pictures

The city's unofficial motto is "Keep Austin Weird". In his own, quiet and unassuming but dedicated way, Vince Hannemann is doing his part.

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It's like living in the AVAM. Way cool.

It also puts me in the mind of certain passages from American Gods, especially in the Roadside America writeup when Hannemann mentions that he tried to stop creating and just went back to it.

It had a very AVAM feel to it. I think Hannemann is a visionary artist, by the definition I like- creating because he can't not create.

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