I LOVE travel; but, when you can’t travel for whatever reason (time, fear of clowns, money, stuck cooking a rack of lamb), the most satisfying remedy is a “staycation”. Call it snobbery. Call it a blessing. Call it lucky. Call it True (or False?). Call it whatever you want; BUT… I’m calling Austin, Texas one of my Top 10 Favorite Cities in the World! And, if you haven’t already guessed by the title of this blog (Austin GlobeTrekker), I live here and I’m LOVING every minute of it! By the way… is “snobbery” a real word? Or did I just make that up? Well, it’s a word now.
The funny thing about Austin, is that you rarely actually meet somebody who was born and raised here. When you do… trust me, they’ll proudly let you know. And why not? The rest of us got here and stayed. My parents moved to Austin in 1991 while I was in college. I moved here in 2000. I think that gives me the right to call Austin my “home town”. You see, there are levels of “PRIDE”. Level 1 – PROUD to be an American. Level 2 – Proud to be from Texas. And then there’s Level 3 – Mach 5 with your hair on fire yelling and screaming while jumping out of an airplane strapped to the back of a great white shark – PROUD to live in Austin, TX!
I’ve recently discovered (thanks to Lesley Carter – The Most Interesting Travel Woman in the World!) that there are a LOT of people around the globe probably reading my blog for the 1st time who may (or may not) know anything about Austin, TX. For those of you who dare to venture deep into the heart of Texas – Austin Photo Book answers that ever looming question… Why do people LOVE Austin so much? (photography by my friend Peter Tsai @supertsai).
Last year, I wrote a blog called SXSW 2012: I LOVE Austin, TX! (Please… don’t move here!). And to steal some sentences from myself (well, I guess it’s not plagiarizing if I wrote them) I especially love Austin during the month of March, when Spring Break comes to town, and South by Southwest (SXSW) showcases the best in indie film, music and interactive from around the world. Last year’s highlight was spending time with my friend Kate (aka Cinnamon, aka K-Bone) and discovering artists like – Of Monsters and Men (Iceland), Team Me (Norway) and Ed Sheeran (England). Did I mention I also saw Jay-Z at Austin City Limits Moody Theater earlier that same week? But, I digress. The fact of the matter, it was GREAT to be in Austin, Texas! I remember thinking… I’m really happy I live here. If my memory serves me well, I think the night I dropped Kate off at her house, she turned from her front porch and yelled towards the car “Hey! Same time next year?”. Oh hail to the yeah! The only question was… How are we going to top 2012? That’s the beauty of Austin, Texas. You just never know!
I’m not sure if doing something for 2 years in a row is considered a “tradition”; but, for argument’s sake, let’s say that Kate and I have started a “tradition” because our 2013 Friday SXSW Experience began the same as our 2012 Friday SXSW Experience, with breakfast at an Austin culinary staple – the original Kerbey Lane Cafe on Kerbey Lane. Now don’t be fooled. There are other Kerbey Lane cafe’s; but, they’re not actually ON Kerbey Lane, so in my book… you’re not really at Kerbey Lane. Ok, that’s enough Shameless Free Advertising about Kerbey Lane. Go to the original. You’ll thank me later. I highly recommend the french toast with bacon. Cuz everything’s better with bacon. In the movie business, that would be called a “teaser”.
We really only had one requirement for SXSW 2013. Get to Rainey Street and enjoy the day of live music with our friends from Filter Magazine Showcase. They served us well last year, so keeping with tradition, that was our assignment. Mission Accomplished. I’m not sure what time it is socially acceptable to consume alcohol; but, let’s just say that when we hit our 1st venue on Rainey Street, we were the only souls at Craft Pride that didn’t actually work at Craft Pride. So what is this place? Well, the name says it all. Craft Pride is a local Austin bar that proudly (and exclusively) serves craft beers made and brewed in the State of Texas. I think “made” and “brewed” is the same thing; but, let’s just leave it alone. One of the coolest aspects of Craft Pride is that 90% of the interior’s wood was reclaimed after knocking down the previous establishment. I was feeling that Texas Pride!
I’m absolutely God awful about picking out wine, and unless I use Google, I couldn’t tell you a merlot from a pinot, or chardonnay. I thought I knew beer. Boy, was I wrong! Craft Pride has 50+ Texas brewed beers on tap. Stouts, lager, Scottish Ale, and my favorite… IPAs. The thing I loved most… as soon as time permitted for us to legally be served, they took the time and courtesy to truly educate us on their selections. You can’t help but fall in love with delectable talents of a well made beer. I would highly recommend 667 Neighbor of the Beast IPA, Deep Ellum Brewing IPA, Thirsty Goat Amber, and Jester King’s Wytchmayker IPA. Sister Kate tasted a few; but, I think she was a fan of Texas Honey Ale, and of course 667 Neighbor of the Beast and Devil’s Backbone Brewery.We started out the day the right way! So, if you’re ever in Austin, TX head on down to Craft Pride at the Southernmost end of Austin’s historic Rainey Street, ask for Russell, and tell him Cookie sent ya!
While we were at Craft Pride, we met a couple from Boston. Low and behold, they were “just visiting” Austin (because they heard it was a cool city) and had no idea it also happened to be SXSW until they arrived. Once again, I love travelers who take the time to ask for the “local recommendation”, so I helped where I could. Grab a cone at Amy’s Ice Cream; spend Sunday afternoon at Ginny’s Little Longhorn for Chicken Shit Bingo (or any of the dive bars on Burnet Road – La La’s, Buddy’s, C-Hunt’s, Poodle Dog Lounge); 2am Breakfast at Magnolia Cafe where the sign says “Sorry We’re Open”; stand under the rotunda at the State Capitol Building; check out the shops, bars, restaurants and food trucks on South Congress; Get a good view of Lake Austin and the city skyline from the top of Mt Bonnell; eat some real genuine Texas BBQ at the original Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX; take a short road trip for Sunday Jazz Brunch at Nutty Brown Cafe (Dripping Springs, TX); but, first and foremost, you’re already doing the #1 best thing you can do in Austin, TX… experiencing SXSW in the Live Music Capital of the World!
I can’t remember the rest of the conversation with the Bostonians, because Kate came running back into the bar to tell me “You’ve GOT to check this out. They’ve got a BACON food truck on the back patio!”. She had me at BACON.
The day continued with us walking aimlessly northward on Rainey Street. As mentioned previously, our intent… attending the Filter Magazine Showcase on Rainey Street (presented by Tumblr + GAP). The afternoon at Clive Bar was filled with music by Vacationer, Ducktails, Peace, Shout Out Louds, and Ra Ra Riot. I can tell you that before that day… I had never heard of ANY of these bands; but, there’s just something special and cool about chilling with friends and music lovers from all over the world in your home town. I couldn’t of been happier. And then it happened…
I was talking with my friends, snapping pictures (like I always do), laughing and joking around with a group of folks from Los Angeles. I put the camera in my bag and slung it over my shoulder whilst turning to take my beer back from my friend Marie. During the process, I accidentally bumped into the guy behind me. I sincerely apologized with an “Oh man, I’m so sorry bro.” He said, “No worries, it’s cool”. I started making small talk with him, and then my friend Marie says to me “Errr… Jason. You know this is Usher, right?”. To the surprise of many, black people blush. Well, at least I did! I was just having a conversation with him like it was nobody’s business. He laughed, we shook hands, and then did that brotherly hug thing. He was beyond cool, calm and collected. Just enjoying Austin, Texas and listening to some live music at SXSW. It was like meeting 007. Just cool.
We talked for maybe 5mins longer, and then he was discovered. I politely told him it was a pleasure hanging with him. Then I realized WAIT… this is Usher! Nobody will believe me! So, I asked. Can we get a picture? Because nobody will believe me. In typical Usher fashion, he said “Of course!”. Now… the problem with handing over your Nikon D7000 DSLR camera for people to take a picture of you and Usher… there’s ZERO time to give them a crash course in using the camera. Needless to say, I took what I could get which is Photo 1 with Usher blinking. Photo 2 with my head almost getting cut out of the picture; but, between the 2 photos… you get the idea. So for my “Are You Kidding Me?” award, the recipient is none other than Usher. Buy his albums, name your kid Usher, watch The Voice. I don’t care. Whatever you have to do… support that guy, because he is truly a class act and I’ll forever be a fan.
The afternoon turned to evening, and the music progressed, as did the capacity of the crowds. After a fun-filled day of excursions on Rainey Street at places like Clive Bar, Icenhauer’s, and The Bungalow, it only made sense that we venture back to where it all began at Craft Pride. It was time for a Deep Ellum IPA and a BACON sandwich (which just so happened to have a piece of grilled chicken on it).
sat·is·fac·tion (s t s-f k sh n). As we made our way out of the downtown scene, reflecting on the unlikely series of events our day unfolded, my olfactory senses were on fire with the carnival smell of funnel cakes doused with powdered sugar. My partner-in-crime launched herself from the vehicle as I sat patiently awaiting her return. As Kate jumped back into the car with a white paper plate bursting with funnel cake, we smiled (actually giggled) and I could only think of 2 words to sum up SXSW 2013. bad. ass.