Hi. Hello. Hi. We have departed Austin, so this will likely be my last post, unless something particularly wacky and hilarious happens on the dynamic 3-hour drive between here and Dallas. Which, um, can we all pray it doesn’t?
SCHMIDT HANGOVER INDEX
Do you all know about the Schmidt Sting Pain Index? This entomologist named Justin Schmidt invented a pain scale to measure how bad various insect stings hurt, but the descriptions are all written in really weird, irreverent, evocative language. Like: “Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.”
Anyway, there are some days when I try to describe my hangovers along those lines. Today is, hmm… like a poisonous fuzzy caterpillar worming its way along the folds of my brain? How’s that? Pretty good?
OK, SO THE R.V. WAS PROBABLY A MISSTEP
When Justin told me he was thinking about getting an R.V. for Sx way back when, it seemed like an absolutely amazing idea. We’d rock around the streets of Austin like royalty, doing weird little pop-up dance parties, mobile opium dens, etc., etc., etc. But, as it turns out, you need a sober driver for most of those things, and no wanted to deal with that trash, clearly, so mostly the RV just sat around this whole trip and provided reasonably comfortable sleeping quarters for any overflow Keenies who couldn’t fit in the AirBnb. (The RV was parked kind of tilty, though, so I found myself slowly rolling off the bed over the course of each evening.)
Favor has shifted even more against the R.V., however, as we are driving back now, and something is wrong with the waste tank or something, because everything smells like poop. There is a distinct poopy smell. It is… not great. I can’t really explain to you how not great it is, to be trapped with this smell, hungover and exhausted and emotionally drained. I do not super recommend it.
That said, it is a little funny, still, in that sort of masochistic gallows humor way I enjoy. The internet has not been super helpful with responses to my search for “poop rv smell,” so we mostly just have all the windows open and have stuffed toilet paper or ear plugs in our noses. This all seems kind of fitting to our collective mood, I guess is what I’m saying.
Not the happiest bear in the woods, perhaps.
UPDATE: We stopped at a gas station, and I bought a handful of car air fresheners to strew about the place. They may not help with the smell, but they will certainly help us with Courage.
OUTLET MALL PURGATORY
Tim Falls needed coffee, so he won’t nod off and steer us into a traffic embankment, so we stopped for Starbucks and a grim food court lunch at an outlet mall 30 miles outside of Austin.
I’m sure it’s more our collective mood than anything, but this place just seemed buh-leak. Like, I am sure it is a fine place if you’re in the mood to wander about and get bargain store prices on brand name goods™, but in the state we’re in, it just felt like sheer depression. We sat there, miserably eating our Subway sandwiches and kind of avoiding eye contact with each other, and I was like, “I imagine this is what Purgatory will be like.”
Seriously, hooray for everything.
They also had a sad, lonely Easter Bunny on-hand you could have your kid’s portrait taken with. I really, really wanted to get a morose group shot of us — “Happy SxSW Aftermath!” — but I don’t think anyone else wanted to stay there any longer than they could help it.
Purgatory is gonna be a looooooong wait, huh?
PROP-UP AFTERMATH DAY
This might actually be a pretty short post (haha no it won’t), as yesterday wasn’t nearly as eventful as Saturday. If Saturday was our superhero day, Sunday was more like our kryptonite. We were all kind of beaten and broken and burned out, and it took us a looooong time to rally. (Some of us never actually managed, I’m pretty sure.) Justin’s stomach was a 5th-grade Science Fair volcano, for example, and I spent a disproportionate amount of time doing dead stares into the middle distance all day. WOO LET’S PARTY, is my point.
It took me twice as long (and like 3 times as many substances) to get through yesterday’s field report — although it’s been getting pretty good feedback from people, so that’s nice!
(Although, it needs to be said, John and Andrew, I am so sorry I apparently amalgamated you into “some guy” who quoted my field reports back at me. I am normally pretty good at names, because I write little mnemonic poems about everyone I meet — e.g., “Steve with the rolled-up sleeves” — but I clearly dropped the ball on this one! Ahh, sorry!)
That’s the tricky balance about this sort of writing, though — to actually sit down and write all this shit out, you’re probably going to have to miss out on some things. I DO THIS FOR YOU, INTERNET.
Pictured: Me, Substances, Writing.
Anyway, I finally got out the door around 4 pm, just in time for our impromptu pop-up party at Weather Up, which was a brilliant move on Justin’s part because a) that is an amazing bar, with a lovely porch and friendly dogs and delicious drinks and hand-cut artisanal ice (which is apparently a thing humans can care about?) and b) because we still got to meet people without actually having to move or do things.
You could really see just how rough of a state we were in for the first hour or so, all kind of just quietly sitting in a circle and trying to choke back enough alcohol to prop ourselves up and start interacting with other humans again. Taylor came by with a bunch of her school friends, and they were all so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I’m sure they saw us lurching around and were like, “What kind of dead-eyed ancients work at this company, anyway?”
I hate to say it, but the time may have come for some younger Keenies.
After a couple hours and a couple shots of house-recipe Fireball, though (I imagine it’s just Hot Tamales soaked in whiskey?), we started to get a little more sociable. Actually, truth be told, I kind of overshot my mark a bit and ended up quite trashed there for a while, handing out sloppy tarot card readings that kept predicting, over and over, that our night would end in disaster. (Which…)
Lots of great people showed up, though — Andrew and Cobi from Taplytics, Ryan from Galvanize, Matt and Simon from Adnostic came all the way from England! Tony from Context.IO was there (Hope your call went well!), Kerry of Night Mode fame came along for the evening. (He’s actually with SolarCity, but I believe popping the lenses out of sunglasses at night will be his true claim to fame). Basically, we were super thrilled and flattered y’all made the hike out to East Austin to hang with us!
After sunset, a bunch of us grabbed dinner at that little food truck area on 6th for the third time in as many days (The people at the Philly cheesesteak truck remembered me from my drunken Nic Cage tirade. Hooray! I have notoriety!), and then we kind of aimlessly wandered for a bit. It’s nice having gotten to know people enough that you start to have random run-ins with them on the street — additional shout-outs to Jo and Crystal and Constantine and Daryna (Sorry I kept calling you Serena apparently? I have no recollection of this.)
We popped into Latitude 30 for a minute, because the line at something else looked horrible, and I stood enthralled with some folk duo called Paper Aeroplanes for like 40 straight minutes. It’s pretty great how you can just walk into any random bar in Austin, and like the best band you’ve ever heard just happens to be playing there, no big.
After, we met up with Justin’s roommate, Sarah from Sprinklr, who took us all up to the top floor of the Bank of America building to see their offices… then just as quickly took us back out again when it became clear the people up there didn’t super want like 15 rowdy Keen monsters stomping about.
*I* wanted to go to this place, but apparently I was in the minority there. (P.S. I like how their icon for food is a beer.)
But THEN we hit this basement party at a wine bar, and we all just kind of hit a wall. Well, not Tim and Justin and Dustin, bless their hearts, who gamely kept up the good fight and mingled the night away, but the rest of us were just kind of done.
Days upon days of talking and drinking and partying and wandering finally caught up to us, and even the extroverts among us were pretty much ready to call it. We all found a quiet room off to the side of the main party and formed a foreboding-looking circle of desperate exhaustion and protracted silences. A few kind souls tried to come over and chat, and I’m pretty sure we just made dementor moans at them.
Like I said before, we love talking to strangers at Keen, but we were just plumb out of extrovert gas, and if you can’t give it your all, you shouldn’t be out there doing it, so we decided it was time to bail.
OK, parties are kind of a passion project of mine, so forgive me for going on the teensy tiniest little bit of a rant here for a second.
The one thing that sort of annoyed me about SxSW as a whole has been a lot of people’s attitude towards the parties here — this weird mix of FOMO and perpetual dissatisfaction and status flashing that kind of makes us come off as entitled and gross.
The entire time we’ve been here, it’s always seemed like, whatever we were doing, some people were always holding out for something better. No one ever liked where they were at, unless they were still in line for it. As soon as you got to a place, you’d start planning for the thing you’d go to next. And I understand that there is something really fun about the thrill of the chase — the seeking matters more than the finding and all that. Rumors flying around, sharing secret passwords and passes with friends, the common struggle of standing in a boring line together — that stuff is totally fun in its own right. But it made me a little sad how unappreciative and impatient some people were with the parties they were already at.
It sort of seemed like, underneath it all, everyone was always in search of this one mythical Perfect Party — the platonic ideal of a party — which I found pretty funny, because every event we showed up to usually ended up being pretty much the exact same as the last: A buncha people standing around, sipping drinks, and chatting. And not that that’s bad by any stretch of the imagination, but what exactly is everyone hunting around for, anyway?
(Admittedly, there might have been a bunch of crazypants parties that I just totally missed out on — raves and drug orgies and costume balls. Maybe I just don’t hear about the cool shit?)
And then, even with the events that did seem kind of big and fun and crazy, it seemed like lots of people enjoyed them more for the bragging rights than because they actually had a good time? Like, I was talking with this one guy, and he was like:
Guy: “Yeah, so I managed to get VIP passes to see Spoon at such and such a thing…”
Me: “Oh, awesome! Do you like Spoon?”
Guy: “Eh, they’re OK.”
I guess what I’m gradually working my way around to saying is that maybe there is no Perfect Party out there — that instead (and this is totally cornball, I realize), maybe the Perfect Party is inside all of us. Rather than scouring around, waiting to be handed some sort of magical, perfect event that has been custom-tailored to give you everything you’ve ever wanted, why not appreciate all of the stuff we have been given and then try and turn it into something even more magical yourself?
I have helped host events before — I spent no small amount of time helping put KeenCon together, for instance — so I have at least some small idea of the absolutely insane amount of time and energy and resources that have gone into creating every single one of these parties, parties that most people seem to start writing off as soon as they get into them.
I think the least we can do is take a second to actually appreciate all that effort that’s been done for our benefit, and try to return the favor by being awesome, amazing party guests in turn. You want a crazy dance party? Grab a bunch of people and get them moving! You want to get into some hijinks? Start thinking some up! A party is a symbiotic beast — if we want them to be great, we have to give back as much as the party gives us.
OK, sorry for getting preachy. I hate to generalize like this — I met tons and tons of people who were having a great time wherever they were at — but I think there is a lesson here we could all maybe benefit from a bit.
OK, back to business. Heading out, we knew we didn’t have the right energy to really get into deep conversations any longer, but we did still have enough energy to bond through the connective power of dance!
So, we asked Taylor, our resident Austinite, to take us to all the hot spots where the youths go to dance. (Taylor is 22, by the way, and seems to derive a sick pleasure in reminding the rest of us how grotesquely old we all are. “Oh yeah, I listened to that band…. in MIDDLE SCHOOL.” AUGH, WHY, TAYLOR.)
Unfortunately, even during Sx, a Sunday night is still a Sunday night, and the dancing prospects were pretty, pretty dire. We began a comically depressing march down 6th St., poking our heads in any place that looked remotely promising and then pretty much immediately fleeing in terror at the sad, deserted dance floors. We also began mainlining tequila, it should be said, to try and increase our odds of finding this whole endeavor acceptable.
Yeah, that face pretty much sums it up.
Eventually, we’d surveyed pretty much the entire lineup of bars, with no luck. So, with grim resolve, we made our way back to a place we’d seen early on but had instantly dismissed out-of-hand because it was so, so not our scene.
KRAVE. Whose name I mention only so I’ll remember to never go there again.
KRAVE. Which was definitely 100% an 18-and-over bar and therefore completely mortifying as a 30-year-old.
KRAVE. Whose DJs seemed more concerned with yelling catchphrases than playing actual music. (”Y’ALL READY TO DANCE? MAKE SOME NOISE! WHO’S READY, AUSTIN! HERE COMES THE BEAT! HERE IT COMES! HERE IT COMES! adhfuiahsuhq834&09r3augh just play the song you fuckers)
KRAVE. Which featured a crowd of immobile, incredibly angry-looking women in the center of the dance floor, who seemed to be there mostly to glare at us for existing.
KRAVE. Which ate my lovely blue cardigan, never to be seen again.
KRAVE. 5 stars. Find us on Yelp.
OK, actually, it was pretty fun, in a buswrecky shitshow sort of way. It’s certainly the most I laughed the entire trip, just at the pure molten horribleness of it. I don’t think there has ever been a place on earth that was less our scene.
We held on for about 45 minutes, and then, our dance task complete, we headed home and all piled in the hammock for a while, while Tim regaled us with the tale of the 2 kinds of Domino’s Pizza he had eaten that night. (Thin crust and regular!)
And, yeah. That’s pretty much it. Mischief managed. I am now on a plane, heading back to SF, and already feeling the initial onslaught of the inevitable death illness that allows follows trips like this. South By SARSWest, I think someone called it.
I GUESS THIS IS IT?
I mean it.
Thanks for reading, for sharing, and for being part of these adventures. Thanks for talking to us and hanging out with us and hosting us and buying us booze and food and teaching us new things and becoming new friends and just being rad in general. Thank you, Austin, for being a wonderful host and a perfectly lovely city I am trying to con my parents into moving to. Thank you, Keen, for letting me come along on this trip and document it in whatever weird way I wanted to (although, admittedly, I didn’t really “ask” so much as “just started posting shit”).
I’m not sure these field reports were useful in any particular way, or even all that representative of the SxSW experience, but I do hope they were at least sort of entertaining. It’s weird. I feel like I did so much over the past several days, and yet there was so much that I missed, too. But this was just my random experience. I would totally love to hear about yours, if you ever wanna drop me a line.
If you liked these field reports, let us know, and I imagine we’ll keep doing them for future events. If you didn’t like them, let us know as well, and I will begin self-flagellating IMMEDIATELY. I guess I also have a blog and twitter and stuff, if you are just super enamored with my cool brain and thoughts or whatever, but otherwise, I hope you had as great and weird and exhausting of a South By as all of us at Keen did!
This was a blast; let’s never do it again. (’til next year.)