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Textures: El Paso by a zugunruhe

For more info on Textures, click here.

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I’ve never received a clear definition for "El Chuco," a.k.a. El Paso.

I’ve read and heard it translates to “The ugly one,“ “disgusting,“ “dirty,“ and that it's a call back to Pachuco, the subculture of Mexican-Americans in the 1930’s associated with zoot suits that originated in the area.

The term is a self-deprecating term of endearment for the city. The people here know they don't live in a glamorous city and accept it in a positive way. Of course, there are some who mire in the self-defeating attitude of not realizing how unique and wonderful the area is, but there are others who do realize the region's potential and they are making such an amazing scene.

Vibrant colors set against the various sands of the Chihuahuan desert and the Franklin Mountains give the city its visual appeal while the people make everyone feel at home. Being in El Paso was such a wonderful experience from the first time I visited to the last time I left.

The problems in Juarez brought over established businesses and incredible food into EP, the kernels of establishing long-term art and music scene infrastructure are popping, and, well, Chico’s Tacos is amazing.

It’s the most beautiful ugly one I know.

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All shots in this post were made using a Sony A7Rii and Voigtlander 40mm f/1.2

Textures: Marfa by a zugunruhe

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My first trip to Marfa is what made me fall in love with West Texas. It was 2009 and I hadn’t experienced the slow dolly zoom of those straight-as-an-arrow roads in my 20 something years living in Texas.

Through five decades, this small section of Texas was taken over by artists and used, in a conscious manner, for its isolation and landscapes. It’s a wonderful experience to drive through miles of rocky pre-desert off an interstate to arrive at a town where an enormous late Warhol piece hangs a stone throw from the county courthouse.

By the time I visited, Marfa was already a force. Donald Judd had strewn his boxes about and the Prada store had existed, it just didn’t have Instagram and Beyonce. Over the years that I have come back, it slowly morphed into a tiny town with a hotel plucked out of SoHo, artisanal cocktail bitters, and possibly the worst Dairy Queen in the country.

While the town emits this varied vibe that is fun to take in and participate within, it’s beginning to feel like a West Texas town themed glamping complex.

Full disclosure: I bought the artisanal cocktail bitters.

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All shots in this post were made using a Sony A7Rii and Voigtlander 40mm f/1.2

Textures: Austin by a zugunruhe

For more info on Textures, click here.

I lived in Austin for six years when I only intended to be there for two. I got caught in the velvet rut.

I will always love Austin for what it was for such a long time; a haven for people in Texas who don’t fit in in their small towns. In political terms, it’s the blueberry in the tomato soup. But the left-leaning ideas didn’t matter as much to me as the incredible amount of expression and energy I was exposed to in this city. This discovery of other ideas and ways of life allowed me to completely retool how I see life and myself.

I had only lived in my home town of El Campo and the larger, but still small, city of Lufkin. It was in Austin that I became so aware of the world. And that’s what makes it so special for so many people. It’s a clusterfuck of people awkwardly stepping out into new skins surrounded by shepherds of the weird.

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All shots in this post were made using a Sony A7Rii and Voigtlander 40mm f/1.2

Textures: Baltimore by a zugunruhe

For more info on Textures, click here.

Baltimore is one of my favorite cities in the world.

This incredibly fun and wonderful city filled with smart and creative minds is constantly overlooked. The art birthed from this city has constantly made me appreciate what life is and can be.

There is an amazing charm in the facade of the buildings. Small chips taken out of walls and paint over time that add character and display a retained integrity. While there are examples of modern design around much of the downtown area. Most buildings and businesses cling to styles that appear vintage or classical as if to forego the present view of the future in order to focus on what already exists.

There exists a wonderful weirdness that I can identify with even if I do not fully grasp what it is to live there.

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Downtown Houston Tunnel System by a zugunruhe

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What began as a short tunnel connecting a few buildings in the 1930's has slowly evolved to nearly seven miles of color coded corridors that allow pedestrians to navigate downtown Houston without being exposed to 100 degree weather with 100% humidity.

Inspired by the underground system at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, the system grew for different needs. One early adopter connected a few of his theaters just to save on air conditioning. 

People are usually shocked when they first hear of the tunnels. Those having lived in and around Houston for years (even their entire lives) have no idea this system exists. They immediately assume it's some sort of urban exploration trek, akin to a large sewage passage or abandoned subway tunnel.

In fact, they are painfully boring.

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Imagine a mall that hit its peak two decades ago or a regional airport terminal. Wandering the carpet-covered walls in the mid-afternoon reveals a florescent-lit ghost town twenty feet under the city. Through a good chunk of the near-Brutalist geometries of the meandering hallways, it feels like you just snapped out of a day dream only to realize you have been working a soul-crushing job for the last thirty years.

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This is truly a utilitarian design.

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The entire experience isn't doom and gloom. The labyrinth has grown into a popular service station during the lunch hour. The hallways are populated with banks, doctors, barbershops, and cleaners, but mostly filled with food court-esque restaurants. Short stretches are adorned with Houston memorbilia ranging from sports to NASA.

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Turning corner after corner in this tiled bunker can dull all senses. Every so often you are rewarded for your resolve by a visual breath of air. Windows offer that escape, either exposing you to a courtyard or reminding you of the magnitude of the buildings you are under.

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Only a small area was undergoing construction after damage from Harvey. In 2001, after Hurricane Allison, large metal doors were put in place to seal the entire area off from flooding. Shipbuilders came in and fitted doors akin to submarine hatches across the tunnel system. As only a short stretch was affected, I'm sure a lot of small business owners throughout are incredibly grateful for this level of precaution.

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The tunnels serve a purpose and offer an interestingly banal view of the people and companies that use them on a day-to-day basis. In fact, this is one of the few places I've visited where one of the more popular places to eat is just called "Chicken Etcetera." Looking forward to its future rival, "Food Here."

There are multiple ways into the tunnels. The only street level entrances are at Wells Fargo Plaza and McKinney Garage. All others are in the lobies of buildings and aren't too hard to discover.