Christian Helms' Perfect Austin Day
One of Austin's most renowned graphic designers, Christian Helms (who has worked with everyone from HBO and Toyota to Spoon and Modest Mouse), shares his perfect Austin Day. And, 2011 is off to a big start, as he just launched Helms Workshop and continues to be a co-owner of FRANK. He is pictured above in a portrait by one of TRIBEZA's favorite photographers, Jay B. Sauceda.
I get up early. I like the solitude in being up before everyone else, and the satisfaction of accomplishing something early in the day. It’s the whole “we do more before 9am than most people do all day” mentality. I’m like the army, but with far fewer muscles and much better shoes.
My perfect day would start off with my dog and my truck. The dog is a Boston/Pug mix called “Scatter,” and the truck is a 1978 Ford F150 called “Baby.” Scatter is named after Elvis’ drinking, chain-smoking, lady-fondling pet chimpanzee. Baby is named after my dad’s F150, which was the same year and color. I’d imagine the chimp drooled less than Scatter, and I know my dad’s truck didn’t have a red Auto-zone gas-pedal spotlight left by the previous owner. Regardless, I love both of them. I’d get them both fired up, and go walk the Greenbelt.
Morning Edition on KUT (informative); Jason and Deb on 101x (guilty pleasure)
After the walk, I’d head to FRANK for breakfast and to do a little work. FRANK gets a lot of press for our crazy hot dogs, but most folks don’t know how great the breakfast is down there. Jody makes a fried egg, bacon and cheese cheddar biscuit that makes me feel like I’m back home in North Carolina.
It’s a little-known fact that there is a magic booth at FRANK, just under the mural, where the forces of creativity are at their strongest. I’ve come up with some of my best ideas there— often with writer Mike Woolf. I’m only allowed two coffees. After that I think everything is brilliant, and try to hug elderly people I don’t know.
Jesse Wooten (local fav and FRANK barista); Spoon, Modest Mouse and Built to Spill (random staples)
My wife and I like to walk most places when the weather is good. You notice little things that you miss in a car, and find unexpected surprises or bump into folks you know. I once found a five-spot with “festive penis” written on it. See? Unexpected.
We usually just talk and wander, or end up stopping by spots we like on South Congress like STAG or Yard Dog. I just picked up a few small pieces at the latter, by Arizona-born folk artist Fort Guerin. I love southern outsider art—it’s so unique and honest, and it makes me frustrated in just the right way. It makes me work harder.
Rockabilly (spilling out of Roadhouse Relics); Tejano (from a cheap radio on a porch on Mary)
We’ve been renovating a house in South Austin for the past two years, and every weekend there’s a new project of some sort. One piece at a time, Jenn and I have taken it from the scariest house on the block to something that’s finally starting to look presentable. And in the process we’ve made it ours.
The house was built in ’58, and has an inexplicably large 2-sided fireplace that separates the kitchen and living room. I have no idea why the builder felt it was necessary for Central Texas, but we’re grateful. We build a fire every night south of sixty degrees.
When I was a kid, I hated hauling wood in the fall more than anything (except creamed corn and clowns). Now one of my favorite parts of each weekend is chopping wood for the coming week. Funny, how that works. Plus, the workout makes me feel like I earned a walk over to Black Sheep Lodge for a beer. Or three. I really love beer, and Keith stocks a great selection. Workshop is in the middle of branding a new brewery in town, and I can’t wait to be able to see it on tap over there.
Bill Monroe, Lloyd Price (home); Minneapolis Indie-rock (Black Sheep)
So the chances of Will Johnson and Jim James opening for Tom Waits at The Continental Club are pretty slim, but it’s my perfect day in Austin.
My day ends back at home in the living room with Jenn, Scatter and a fire. I’m probably reading southern fiction, a Greek tragedy, or watching “Party Heat.” My favorite book in a good while is Donald Ray Pollard’s Knockemstiff. That, or anything by Larry Brown is a safe bet to keep me interested. Maybe we’d throw some vinyl on the little Crosley portable turntable before heading off to bed. Good day, done.
Playlist: Damien Jurado (Saint Bartlett)