Thanks Austin, for Inviting me to South by Southwest

Photo SXSW

I still can’t believe that NASA forgot to mention to me that this space telescope would be at the 2017 SXSW.

How can we live in Austin and not experience South by Southwest? I fall asleep doing some positive thinking as to how that might happen. The very next morning, a new pal texts me with a link to free events and says to be sure not to miss them!

South by Southwest (SXSW) is a yearly event held every March in Austin, Texas. It is known for its music and film festivals and conferences that focus on what’s next in music, film, culture and technology. People travel here from all-around the world and proudly wear the badges around their neck that they have paid anywhere from $825 to $1250 for.

As if the city isn’t already alive on any given day, during SXSW the excitement elevates. Pop-up events are held all over the city, then gone the next day, only to appear at a new location. Music is playing everywhere, there is a great vibe on the streets and you never know what experience awaits you around each corner.

JC* is always up for an adventure, so Mr. Wiz* and I invite her along. We are glad we get an early start because there is a lot out there for us to explore:

  • A young man dressed in an authentic sailing outfit from 1845 invites us to view a premiere of the new AMC show The Terror. As we enter the shipping container and seat ourselves in a boat, I am wondering what good could come from a ship called the HMS Terror.
    All of a sudden, it’s dark and the screens all-around us feature excerpts of the thrilling story of a British Royal Naval expedition in search of the Northwest Passage. If the sounds and sights don’t make us feel as if we are really there, the cold air blowing and the snow falling down on us really does!
  • Feeling like we are in need of a respite, we opt to visit the Yonomi Townhouse next. There is nothing like touring a smart home and learning about all the gadgets that can make our lives easier or just more bizarre (a light show in your living room?!) after visiting their complimentary open bar.
  • The sounds of a DJ lead us to our next stop. We are invited to have a MAC makeup artist touch us up, then head onto lavish photo sets decorated like a private jet and a yacht and told to pose as if we are high-rolling imposters, just like the new Bravo show The Imposters.

We can’t stop now; we’re feeling very trendy, so we’re off to the Wellness Expo:

  • I won’t lie to you, I am very fussy about food and politely decline anything that is being offered. Touted as scientifically modulated, energy healing, fueling body, mind and spirit and clean eating, I wonder why the samples are all mostly khaki green in color.
  • Though we could not convince Mr. Wiz* to enter the PeaceBox with us, JC and I did share the experience. We first choose from one of eight temporary tattoos called “Mindful Marks.” These are placed on us (arm or hand) as a reminder of our meditation intention. I must say, it really brought out the latent rebellious streak in me. I wore it proudly, missed it when it washed away a few days later and wondered deep down inside if I actually might be a candidate for a tattoo.
    Oy vey, not another shipping container! This time though, we are promised that this one is actually a studio that teaches meditation and mindfulness techniques. Once the headphones are placed on our ears, we close our eyes and relax. After 15 minutes, we rejoin the world feeling totally renewed.
  • We finish the day with a visit to Bulletproof, a cutting-edge food and beverage company. The oxygen bar is a new experience. It is said to remove toxins from the body and strengthen the immune system. If nothing else, it makes me feel energized and invigorated, which I now blame for my decision to try the Vibe Plate.
    Signing the release should have been the hint that I needed that this was not your grandmother’s way to increase blood flow. The last thing I hear as I step on to a large square of metal is “…If you experience dizziness, just bend your knees…” The on button is triggered and it activates “my natural reflexive response to vibrations 25 to 50 times per second.” Knees bent, I signal for an immediate stop to “the engagement of my muscles in a consistent and controlled manner.”

I can only attribute my heightened state of light headedness for accepting the sample of coffee with butter that is handed to me next. I don’t even drink coffee and am not sure that anyone has the right to drink butter, so I’m still perplexed as to how it all happened.

Deciding it best to call it a day and end our SXSW adventure, I stroll away with visions of the new edgier version of myself dancing in my still woozy head. It is the shouts from Mr. Wiz and JC that bring me back to reality. And remind me that I am walking the wrong way home.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

 

 

 

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Helping to Keep Austin Weird  

Photo Weird

I’m too excited to sleep. I blame you for this, Austin; you overstimulate me. You work hard to maintain your city’s official slogan “Keep Austin Weird” by tantalizing me with the bizarre, the off-beat, and you keep peaking my curiosity. And now that you have recently been named the best place to live in America by U.S. News and World Report, there will be no stopping you.

As I reflect on my first year of living here, it’s been a great ride, made up of interesting experiences that I am not sure could or would have happened anywhere else:

Central Market

On arrival, we need to get our bearings and Mr. Wiz* has a plan. Having visited a Central Market in Houston (shop at this gourmet marketplace on steroids, then dance to live music at night), he logically reasons that locating the Austin store will lead us to a great neighborhood, so he’ll ask at their information desk. Pointing out that the staff may be more prepared to locate a product by aisle than to relocate us, I decide to wait in the car. A few minutes later, I am surprised to see a woman in a cowboy hat and boots walk out of the store with Mr. Wiz and shake his hand. He had seen her on line at the information desk and perused her shopping cart. Noticing an excellent wine selection, he decided to ask her where we should live. He was not surprised at all that she enthusiastically lauded her neighborhood and pointed him in the direction of a new building. We signed a lease there two days later.

Pints and Poses

The Hyatt Hotel and I have accomplished the impossible; we got Mr. Wiz* to attend a monthly yoga class. Studies have proven that if you offer a guy a free beer, he will happily execute a downward dog pose, no questions asked. In the spirit of community (turns out that yoga and beer are great conversation starters), the hotel offers complimentary parking, a yoga class and a glass of craft beer.

Chicken S**t Bingo

The unassuming Little Longhorn Saloon is a tiny place that looks more like a church with a steeple than a bar. The band is loud, the beer is cold and the place is packed, both inside and out. It’s a Sunday afternoon and my family is still shocked that this was my birthday destination of choice. I explain to them that this is a famous venue and we’re going to be experiencing a bit of the original Austin. While we visit the chickens and chat with Ginny, “the chicken whisperer,” we learn that the afternoon will include “chickens, chicken feed and what happens after chickens eat.” The $2 ticket has a number on it and will get you one chance on the giant plywood bingo table. I’m sure that these chickens have their SAG cards; they are real professionals. They strut around the table, working the room into a cheering frenzy. As luck would have it, the chicken leaves her “mark” on my number and I am the winner of $115 in cash!

Keep Austin Weird Festival

We had so much fun last year volunteering to assist with the 5K check in that we decide to do it again. Known as the “Slowest 5K Race on the Planet,” everyone is welcome to participate and a bizarre costume will win you a prize. Young, old, babies in strollers and dogs all strut their stuff and stop along the way at different stations for beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic), ice cream and activities. At the festival, I cheered on aardvarks as they raced and chatted with a woman in a mermaid costume, who explained the story of her tattoos to me.

Weird Homes Tour

I am very excited for tour day to come and even more so now, since I am the winner of 2 VIP tickets that include the tour and the after-party. By the end of the day, we will have driven 90 miles all over Austin, investigating homes that range from a bucolic wonderland in a nature preserve, with quotes from Emily Dickinson poems written over the doorways and pastoral views out every French door to a series of domes lovingly pieced together into an artist’s retreat, rumored to have special healing powers to a traditional home on the outside and a Feng Shui inspired home on the inside with a red velvet lounge room and a royal blue cosmic room featuring a 100” flat-screen TV (most guys did not get past this point and just stood, gaping at the TV).

The owners of the next group of homes, self-confessed pack rats, delighted in the fact that they were living in a never to be completed work of art. Whether it was a police car hood with working sirens on the ceiling, doll heads under glass, a wall of salt and pepper shakers, a lamp made from a 1950s salon hair dryer or a hollowed-out armadillo containing guest washcloths, each treasure had a story. Chatting with the enthusiastic homeowners, who were so warm and welcoming, I left the day wondering if there was any room in my perfectionist personality for a little eccentricity. Sensing Mr. Wiz’s concern over the souvenirs I collect during the day, I ease his worries and announce that I am not adopting hoarding tendencies any time soon.

We arrive at Indra’s Awarehouse for the after-party. It’s a large metal roofed warehouse, filled to the brim with the owner’s art and collections of oddities. The surreal setting is right out of a Fellini film: a barefooted band plays on a carpeted stage; as if on cue, a dog drops a deflated ball at the feet of guests, prompting them to throw it on to the stage for him to chase; scantily dressed acro-yoginis glide up yards of silk fabric and perform above our heads. A cocktail seems in order, even though the professionally dressed bar staff looks out of place. We laughingly imagine that this is probably just another day for the owner; waking up to coffee in the morning and greeting some hangers-on at the bar (with bar staff still in uniform) and waving to the overhead performers that continue all day long. Hungry, we peruse the snacks. While, protein is always welcome, tonight it is in the form of bags of flavored crickets and mealy worms. We grab some regular popcorn and eagerly await some daring guests to taste them and offer a critique. We learn from the more adventurous that anything crunchy with a barbecue flavor is edible after some of Austin’s handmade Tito’s Vodka.

Austin, you give me the same feeling that I experienced whenever my grandmother would open her coat and let me snuggle in with her. You opened up your big, warm, wonderful, weird arms to me. Your people are so friendly and so welcoming. Sure, the temperature heats up, but living here makes me feel so cool. You have that big city vibe with the twang of Texas mixed in. You seem to bring out the best in me and I feel like this is where I am supposed to be. I only hope I can continue to do my civic duty and generate an accepted level of weirdness.

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.