Cone of Shame and Other Blunders

Caesar’s in a cone of shame for a week. But I should be wearing it.

Caesar is in a cone because of my neglect. I am in charge of trimming the kitties fingernails and I have done so on the regular, for the past 13 years, in which our cat ownership has ranged from two to, at one point, five cats (one was a foster kitten, Miguel, for whom we found a “forever home.”) After Luna was born and I had to go back to work, I guess I just forgot about Caesar’s nails and yesterday when I tried to trim them, I discovered that several of them were ingrown, that is, they got so long that they GREW INTO his paw pads. Needless to say, I felt so horrible that I flipped out. The vet said we could come in right away, but I was cycling through crippling guilt so Matty had to be the one to take Caesar and receive the poor parenting lecture, which was then relayed to me. Caesar seems to be okay now and mainly relieved that someone finally remembered him.


Eddie Rodriguez, Memorable Running Buddy

Speaking of kittens, I’ve been really missing my old Austin running buddy, Eddie, lately. We used to have these rather insane experiences because we trained at five in the morning and you see some weird stuff at twilight. The scariest incident was catching a glimpse of a NUTRIA on Lavaca Street in downtown Austin and then watching it disappear down a sewer. That image still haunts me. Or there was the time we were speeding up the stairs of a bridge over Town Lake (I’m gonna keep calling it Town Lake, mmmkay?) and we were confronted with giant human feces on the steps. It was really, shockingly large. I suppose it could have come from a mastiff or something, but Eddie and I are convinced that dump was of the human variety.

Our most insane running adventure was the time we were on one of our final training runs before the San Antonio marathon and had to log 20 miles. Nothing memorable happened until we had only four miles to go and we heard the distinct sound of kittens crying from inside some bushes. We stopped to see what was going on, found kittens clearly in distress and no sign of a momma cat, so we somehow lured the kittens to us and withstood clawing to pick them up. We then held them against our bodies — he had two, I had one — and ran, bouncing up and down, WITH CLAWING KITTENS IN OUR ARMS for three miles. I took them home, we called Austin Pets Alive and got them fostered until they were adopted. That was dramatic, man.

I haven’t been to Austin since those four hours I stopped there for Hannah’s baby shower, so when I get back there again, Eddie and I are going on a reunion run for the ages. I hope we do not see nutria.


No Alarms (and No Surprises) Please

OK Computer turned 20. I am really enjoying all the tributes. The New York Times breakdown is the most thorough, but I also liked that NPR dug into its archives for the interview with Radiohead when it came out. During my quarterly existential dread, I play ‘No Surprises‘ in a loop and that’s how spouse Stiles knows that it’s time for my quarterly existential dread. I THINK I’m a cheerful person, but then again, my favorite song is ‘No Surprises’ so maybe I’m actually catatonic. “This is my final fit…”

Today Isabel broke our Obama bobblehead, which I feel like is a really sad metaphor. She ran around the house yelling, “BROKEN, BROKEN!” at the top of her lungs.

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That Time I Judged The DC Air Sex Championship

This is the contestant who went by "Victory Queef."

This is the contestant who went by “Victory Queef.”

This will go down as one of my highlights of 2013. Duh.

If you’ve never seen air sex, it’s like air guitar, only instead of fake-playing-a-guitar you are fake-boinking-an-imaginary partner. It’s a combination of performance art, improv comedy and a full on athletic event. Judges sit on stage and watch you perform (set to a song of your choice) before a crowd of cheering/jeering strangers. Then, just like on American Idol, the judges give you feed back one by one, though it’s never “Yo dawg, you sounded kind of pitchy.” It’s more like, “How many partners were you with in that scene? I couldn’t tell.” (More photos are available by Brightest Young Things and We Love DC.)

Why was I judging air sex? What qualifications did I have to judge such a competition? The answers are: Austin, and none. (But c’mon. Does ANYONE have qualifications to judge air sex?) I judged because Air Sex was introduced in the US at the Alamo Drafthouse, a small Austin chain of  theatres/event hubs that serve up beer and food and a whole film/TV show/comedy watching experience that can’t be matched anywhere else. The mastermind of the Drafthouse, Tim League, is responsible for launching air sex in America, and aren’t we all so grateful for it? Judging air sex was an emotional connection to home.

Air Sex host Chris Trew, me, and head judge Molly.

Air Sex host Chris Trew, me, and head judge Molly.

What I learned: Just as it is in life, the key to great air sex is commitment. You can’t break “character” or the scene you’ve set up. You have to go boldly after your invisible partner(s). One contestant created a narrative in which he was videotaping a woman he was air sexing and generally treating her like crap, another contestant (stage name “Victory Queef”) performed BJs on “four or five” partners, according to her count. The winner didn’t do anything particularly subversive — he was just expressive and enthusiastic and displayed a sense of confidence and creativity on stage unmatched by the rest. I and the other judges were quite pleased to give him the championship. A high honor, indeed.

If you’re into this whole notion, the air sex team is on a national tour and could be coming to a city near you. Meanwhile, if you want to see the air sex documentary someday, you can back the kickstarter now.

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SXSW 2013: The Year I Hit The Wall

Saturday night at SXSWi, when Blake, Reeve and I found a magically empty bar to hang with old friends at.

Saturday night at SXSWi, when Blake, Reeve and I found a magically empty bar to hang with old friends at.

Conference attendance at the interactive portion of the SXSW Film, Music and Interactive Fest swelled to 30,000 this year, and it showed. Walking around Austin among throngs of people with their heads lost in mobile devices, getting Red Bulls shoved in my face by one brand rep or another, battling an inbox full of one party promo after another felt like an absurd dystopia. Reality of the festival’s girth finally caught up with the years of complaints about it.

I spent way too much time in my rental car just trying to find an unclogged artery to get downtown. Once I got close, I spent too much time trying to find a place to park. And this year, I actually had places to go: I was doing tech and culture coverage online and on-air, and Team NPR was there to launch our new 30-and-under effort, Generation Listen. Thanks to the hard work of GenListen founder Danielle Deabler, NPR HR badass Lars Schmidt, the team at KUT Austin and my Austin pals Jimmy Stewart and Elaine Garza, we were able to go from zero to awesome, geek celebrity-filled party inside of three weeks. (Nerd king Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer were there, y’all.)

Despite all the marketing-laden madness and the rushing around to finish the story for Morning Edition (which also wouldn’t have been possible without the friendship and help of KUT)… a few magic South By moments did squeeze into the schedule, serendipitously.

  • Justin and I photo-boothed, which has become a real hobby of ours over the years.
  • Snuck in some time on the hike and bike trail. I was reporting at the time and didn’t actually EXERCISE, but hey, my feet touched the trail, okay?
  • P Terry’s! Tried the peanut butter shake. Mixed a little of it into Eva’s rice cereal and might have given her a sugar high. But I felt she HAD TO try it.
  • Took two groups of friends, on separate nights, to a SXSW hideout better known as The Elephant Room, Austin’s basement jazz club that was decidedly not participating in the South By madness. And how wondrous it was, for the first group — a bunch of my favorite people from Knight and MIT — and the second, politico pals Richard Wolffe and Johnathan Kopp, who spent our drinking time reminiscing about all the ‘gates of the Clinton Administration.
  • One night, exhausted by people everywhere and stubbornly refusing to stand in any line at SXSW, ever, my old friends Voggie, Blake, Reeve, Justin and I found a respite. A film about craft cocktail bartenders rented out a Rainey Street house/bar and almost no one showed up for the premiere party. We did. We found empty spaces with nonstop craft cocktails to lounge around in, and Friend Matt, who’d had a long day of speaking/presenting, joined us for some backyard chill time. Our friend Niran then showed up randomly, and so did my fave Austin gays – ex roommate Jarrod, ex coworker Tyler, and even more randomly, Bravo’s Andy Cohen, who the boys were rolling with that night.
  • A quiet brunch at our Austin hosts Melissa and Brett’s house. Melissa made bacon and sausage and quiche with her homemade crust and baked french toast and a fruit salad; the Rocaps joined us in eating it, with my five-year-old Friend Ellie blurting out “bacon!” over and over. It was pretty much the raddest.
  • Catch-up time with my most indefatigable boss ever, Evan. That he even found time for us to hang out despite his schedule was a huge treat.

I have many SXSW regrets this year, because there were too many events and too little time. I didn’t see a single film, which used to be my favorite thing to do during the festival back in the days I didn’t have to be accountable for my time there. I also didn’t see most of my Austin gal pals, who always provide a recharge hard to find from any other source. But the in between moments of socializing weren’t bad, and Eva was awesome to have with us the whole time. Now, I just need to go to sleep for a long time.

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Finally Getting to Fly Nonstop from DCA to AUS (And Back)

Due to my status as a slumlord (we kept our Austin house) and because Texas friends are getting married and/or having babies that require in-person celebration, we’ve made three-to-four trips back to Austin each year. I love going back but it’s been kind of pricey, not to mention a pain because flying out of Washington Reagan calls for time-zapping layovers in Dallas or Chicago.

A new DCA-AUS flight that Southwest Airlines introduced this week may be the antidote to my yuppie plight. It’s nonstop service between the only actual DC airport (the others are way too far out*) and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. I tried it out with my longtime pal Brad yesterday, and flew back to DCA just a few minutes ago. On the return flight was US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who volunteered for the exit row, which meant she was ready to help us all in an emergency evacuation. Luckily, there were no surprises and KBH spent her plane time just as I typically do — leaned up against the window, taking a nap.

My only travel mistake today was leaving a chicken fried steak sandwich from Dan’s Hamburgers in my carry-on until mid-flight, because the grease ended up soaking through into my stuff and the sandwich was so much less tasty cause of its short shelf life.


*As my pal and DC native Patrick Terpstra likes to say, “People in DC would rather do their taxes ten times in a row than fly out of Dulles. People in DC would rather run through flaming bags of shit than to fly out of Dulles. People in DC would rather be water tortured than to fly out of Dulles.”

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Slideshow: The Texas Barbecue Baby Shower

I’m constantly awed by the generosity and kindess of my loved ones, but especially my gal pals, who are a group of gorgeous women who are constantly giving of their time and talent. It was in full display on Saturday, when I returned to Texas where eight of my girlfriends hosted an amazing, classy baby shower that did not involve cheesy games or awkward gift opening sessions and was so-well orchestrated that my pal Blake called it “a sight to behold, those eight women putting that shower together.” Another pal, Brett, joked, “It was like watching a group of Amish women put up a barn.”

How awesome are these hostesses? Let me count the ways: I learned Saturday that Melissa put together an idea board with the color themes and plans for decor (including some badass balloons she ordered from Etsy) so that all eight women could coordinate according to a general plan, Virginia had my fave chicken salad flown-in on dry ice from Shreveport, and knowing how much I love Texas BBQ, they arranged to get Franklin BBQ (best brisket in Central Texas) picked up for barbecue slider sandwiches. Laura made insane cake balls. Nisha opened up her perfect party home and headed up an “optional craft”. Crystal, knowing it has been torture for me to abstain from drinking, created “mocktails” so that no one else would be drinking, either. As a surprise treat, the girls got their geek baby-daddy’s data visualizations printed onto onesies.

Photographer Callie Richmond, who shot for us at The Texas Tribune, stopped in for photos. I’m so glad she did, because this baby shower was the shizz.

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Hannah and Jed Get Hitched

For me, the people in a place always make the place. So I love Taipei because my six months there overlapped with that of other Chinese-American expat-types, also exploring their ancestral roots or themselves, and we became a family in a never-sleeps city with a fast-beating pulse and endless foods and bars and alleys to discover.

I love Austin because I actually stayed long enough to get to know Austin. I eventually came to feel OF Austin, even though the truth is, I grew up in Dallas. I am ambivalent about whether it was better as a gritty hippie town or as the more yuppied-out place it is now. I mainly love Austin because of the friends who became like family there.

Hannah is one of those friends. She’s the most-together person I know, talented in countless ways, and whenever I’m with Hannah, whether it’s for dinner or for a trip to remote West Texas, I know I never have to worry about a thing because she has a plan and a backup plan and a second-backup plan for everything. So I knew that when she married her beloved Jed, everything would be fantastic. And it was.

We were so happy to be back home for the weekend, and I loved getting to spend time with the Austin girls with whom I’ve shared so many meals — and many more adult beverages — over the years.

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An Open Letter to My Drinking Buddy About Our SXSW 2012 Plan

The brisket from Franklin BBQ makes me so, so happy.

Dear Justin,

It has been SO LONG (okay, like three weeks) since we’ve hung out and partied together! And South by Southwest has consistently been a real championship-level debauchery event for us. Now, because SXSW itself has gotten so out of control in recent years — WTF, there’s a list and a line to get into places like Buffalo Billiards?!? — I’d love to use this time to do off-campus, meaningful connecting with some of the coolest journos and digital media folk around.

There’s also a lot of pure Austin stuff I want to do, since the last time I was in town was so short (and most of it was in Fredericksburg.) Here is my to-do list of SX and not-so-SX stuff:

1. There is a new Bush’s Chicken down on Brodie near Slaughter. Hello?! Bush’s Chicken, a staple of my post-college diet when I lived in Waco, features the best combo of chicken trips, crinkle cut fries, yeast roll, white gravy and a 32 ounce giant sweet tea drink for UNDER $7.

2. I am going to the screening of HBO’s Game Change at the LBJ Library next Sunday. The authors of the book that inspired the movie, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, will be on hand for Q/A, and YOUR employer, The Texas Tribune, is putting it on. Hope to see you. I think I will bring our favorite movie critic, Chris Vognar, if he is free.

3. We are eating the following meals for deliciousness sake: The “Regular Dinner” at Maudies. The #2 at Dario’s. The Democrat and the Fried Avocado Tacos at Torchy’s. The fatty beef brisket at Franklin BBQ. Steak Frites at Justine’s. Beef Noodle Soup at Coco’s Cafe. Chicken Tikka Masala at G’Raj Mahal. The Love Cleanse Green Juice at Whole Foods. Assorted Dim Sum with the dim sum group at Shanghai. Family-style everything at Asia Cafe. And as for new restaurants, I still haven’t tried Contigo, which Hannah raves about.

Continue reading →

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Blinded By The Awesomeness Of My New Chicken Bag

Yes, this is my hot new handbag.

What is this? Why yes, yes it is a rubber chicken handbag. It’s lined on the inside, but pure rubber chicken material on the outside. I couldn’t even believe it when I saw my gal pal Skyler carrying it to a lobster dinner with me last week in Austin. The next day I squeezed in a trip to Tesoros, the South Congress gift shop where you can get them, so I could purchase my own.

It caused me to miss my flight but this handbag was so worth it.

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What I Love About ATX

Walking out of the office to a random alley concert. You know, right there behind the dumpster.

I think it was country music?

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The Dutch Dude Deejaying from Austin Mystery

This post is a little late cause I just found the video. Alas. We spent New Year’s Eve in Holland with my mom. Part of the experience was feeling like we were in a war zone, because as it turned out, there were no restrictions on setting off fireworks from your home. I was scared for the ducks.

On New Year’s Eve, it appeared there was a massive party on the beach in the port city of Rotterdam that we watched on TV. Seemed pretty standard fare – bad pop acts, drunken people dancing in a crowd, DJ deejaying via satellite from Austin, TX… WHY WAS A DUTCH DJ DEEJAYING NEW YEAR’S EVE FROM AUSTIN, TEXAS?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMNw73i9k3Y&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

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