My first week in Austin, I stayed at the Hostel International. It was jammed packed for SXSW. I think I reserved the last spot available 3 months earlier. The place was filled with developers from all over for interactive and Australians for film. The hostel is located right on the Colorado River and you can sit outside on picnic tables and hang out by this dock. The weather was perfect!
My first day in Austin, I offered a ride to this Chinese-American user-interface developer from San Francisco (Robin), who was also staying at the hostel. He needed to stop by the Car-To-Go rental place to get his key and I was having a ridiculous taco craving. We ended up meandering through this very hilly neighborhood with adorable houses and I tried to figure out with all the one-way streets how to get to the car rental store. I ended up just parking on a side street and walking to this place Tacos and Tequila. He wanted to treat me since I drove him and I’m not really one to turn down being treated. The tacos were amazing. They had three different ones offered for happy hour with a toppings bar. The brisket was the best. We sat at the bar sampling tacos and mixed drinks. After the restaurant we
decided to catch a bus and check out downtown. For some reason Robin decided to start treating me all girlfriendy, but I didn’t really care. He was a sweet guy to escort me around with his hand on the small of my back and lend me his jacket. When we walked back to my car, we were surprised to find a happening neighborhood bar right next to where I parked. We hung out in Donn’s Depot for a while for a bit of authentic Texas entertainment. Located inside an old train car, it was filled with older people two-stepping to the band… and the band played a mean harmonica.
The next day I was surprised to find an email in my inbox securing my reservation to Women’s 2.0 Founder Friday, a networking event for women entrepreneurs. I wondered how they got my name and email address and I went to print out my ticket. I found out later that my new friend found out about it on Eventbrite had signed me up. I meandered through the streets of Austin, business cards in hand to catch a career fair that was being conducted in a nearby restaurant. I was happy to meet the people from all kinds of companies I interact with on a regular basis, including HostGator, Survey Monkey, Pandora and Groupon. I mostly left with all sorts of swag. It’s hard to think about going back to an office when you’re traveling the country working for yourself. I’m not sure what type of work environment or salary raise would be enough to convince me to return to a stable location. I ended up eating free hors d’oeuvres for lunch and walking out with a bandana, a miniature gator, lots of cards, a thumbs-up pin and an invite to a hack-a-thon party at a local advertising agency.
Inside one of the Hilton’s ballrooms, the Women’s 2.0 event was mostly crowded. The speaker did give an inspiring talk about women in the technical workforce, but my favorite thing had to be the free drinks and my new shirt that boldly claims. “Entrepreneur. I make sh*t happen.” It’s my new favorite shirt. I can’t wait to wear it all over South Georgia. Outside the hotel I was approached by one of the many rickshaw drivers. I thought I’d make my way to the agency hack-a-thon. I didn’t realize how far away it was though. I told the driver, “I only can give you $10, so take me as far as you can go for that.” He ended up pedaling me much further than rickshaw territory, “It’s up that way. You’ll have to walk the rest. It’ll be about a 15 minute walk.” I ended up paying him $13. It was really far. The walk felt so much longer than 15 mins. It feels fine to walk with lots of people around, but walking down the highway sidewalks in the dark started to get creepy really quick. I started to get nervous as I walked by a ball field and under an overpass. I was so happy when I saw the glowing light in the distance of the agency. There through the dark glowed a big light that said T3.
Around the back of the building I could hear music. I walk up on a tent with a band underneath and multiple kegs on the concrete. I spy pizza by the door. I grab myself a slice and get a beer ticket. The kegs are actually filled with good beer. I’m shocked. Things are kinda boring for a while as everyone keeps to themselves, until I end up being included in a friendly group of guys. Two worked for an online telephone company, one was the founder of an online multi-player game and one was representing this company that connects large companies with freelancers for projects. Inside is filled with candy, t-shirts and the hackers. I always wondered what it would be like to go inside a big agency. I thought I might want to work for one someday. The inside was nice enough, but overall it was just an office, like most offices and filled with cubicles like most offices.
When the party started to die down, the online multi-player game founder (Alex) invited me to join him at a part of town known for it’s bars. I decided to join him, I needed a ride and the night was still early. Part of me thought it probably wasn’t smart to get in a car with a guy I just met, but he seemed friendly enough and I had all his information. We ended up walking around this area of Austin that is filled with old wooden houses converted into bars. We were stopped while walking by this man cooking crawfish behind a white picket fence. We got to talking, “Have a great time traveling. I had a great time traveling when I was about your age.” He points to a preteen sitting behind a table, “In fact me and his mother made Siddhartha when we were in Thailand.” A little blond boy perks up at the sound of his name. We ended up drinking cider on a patio at the place across the street and dancing together at a nearby club.
The next day after eating lunch with the game developer and his friend at this amazing BBQ food truck place, I ran into Robin at the hostel. I wondered how things would be if he knew I was out with the game founder. I felt like maybe I should feel bad, but I didn’t feel bad. He didn’t seem to notice I hadn’t been around the hostel anyway and he invited me to join him downtown. We walked around and ended up eating oysters and crawfish at this restaurant right by the river. We were wondering where this rumored pool party was going to be and if it was going to be. Once we found the place, we were disappointed by the only pool being a blow-up kiddie pool, but we enjoyed the free drinks and hung out on the patio.
As it was Sunday, wanted to peace out of the bar early to make this church service at a local high school. I finished my margarita and we headed that way. Robin thought I was a little weird for wanting to attend church, he said he didn’t know anyone who went to church. I invited him along, but he didn’t want to join. I made my way into a giant high school gym. The band was really good. I felt like the message was difficult for someone traveling full-time. How am I suppose to volunteer for a church, if I don’t actually stay in one spot more than a week at a time? By the time the service ended my phone was near dead. I was wondering how I was going to get back to the hostel, but I had a text message from the online multi-player game founder, Alex. I accepted his invitation to hang out, if he could pick me up.
We went to an awe-inspiring presentation by NASA on the universe and their telescopes. It was really relaxing and amazing. Afterwards we decided to check out ’80s night at the Elysium, the club I would be working at the next week. Alex and I had a great time dancing together at ’80s night. Yes, he was totally geeky, an awkward dancer with one of those awful New England accents and ill-fitting glasses, yet he was so endearing.
After working during the day, the next night I stood in line for a really really long time to see one of my favorite bands, Passion Pit. They were having an unofficial concert, co-sponsored by Taco Bell. I heard about it on the radio in Austin and got super excited as I’m a huge fan. They were interviewing some people about why they are such big fans, and I felt every single answer was sub-par. They all mentioned the new songs. No one mentioned how the first c.d. “Chunk of Change” was actually Michael Angelakos’ Valentine’s Day gift to his girlfriend and even though it launched the band it was never suppose to be for anyone else but her. I think it’s the most romantic story ever. Forget flowers, forget chocolates, to be an inspiration…. that gift is priceless. I once had a song written about me. I love it. It’s a combination flattering and embarrassing, but I still love it. I love the idea of being someone’s muse. I met this group from Showtime and I enjoyed their company. They were blogging about SXSW for work. After filling us with free drinks and tacos the concert began. It was just as fun and as good as I had hoped. I just wished they had played “Cuddle Fuddle”… lol.