Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Two People You Meet on Congress Ave

Today, I spent a bit of time doing something I haven’t done in years – wander around downtown taking pictures.

This one of the Frost Tower is my favorite from today. I spent a good amount of time trying to find an interesting shot, when I got the idea to go inside and see if there is an observation deck in this newest of Austin’s buildings.

I walked into a mostly deserted lobby and the security guy behind the desk jumped, half-shouting across the cavernous space, “Can I help you?”

“I was wondering if there’s an observation level here.”

“No sir. This is a private executive office building and closed to the public.”

I marveled at his ability to italicize so many words in one sentence, but I took the hint and read enough of his mind to make out, “…hit your ass on the way…,” and so off I went.

After crossing the street, I noticed this shot. I had to wait for a red so as not to get run over, and I had some help from a fellow photographer who was scouting places to shoot a parade next month. He shaded my lens for me and watched for oncoming cars while I took the picture.

Walking along I couldn’t help but marvel. Most people you see walking along the street on an ordinary day remain a mystery, but in the space of five minutes, unnecessary hostility had been erased by simple kindness.

Looking back at the Frost Tower, I thought about the way old gothic buildings were decorated with angels and devils, but today we build them steely clean with lines like highways to the heavens. Meanwhile, plenty of angels and devils can be found at street level.


  1. Great photo. From that angle, the building looks very art deco.

  2. That’s a great shot, but the even cooler thing is finding a random act of kindness from a perfect stranger.

  3. Nice story, James – I’m glad you met the nice Austin person!

    Would you like to see the inclusion of an observation level as a requirement for future Austin skyscrapers? That they should offer some access to the public?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  4. I just can’t get over that there was a time with dead enough traffic in downtown to be able to stand in an intersection and take a picture. Nicely done!

  5. Thanks everyone.

    Annie, I think that would be a very cool thing, and probably a great money maker for the buildings’ owners. Of course, then the unwashed rabble would be walking through the lobbies and we could never have that.

    Heather, It was president’s day, which eased the downtown traffic just enough, I think.

  6. James,

    On a forum I follow (skyscraperpage), there was at one time a series of images from somebody who got access to the inside of the pointy part of the Frost Tower. Might be worth a search.

  7. M1EK, Thanks for the tip. I’ll have to check it out.

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