Into The Woods

Tim endured SIX layovers when going home from my wedding in Amsterdam, so there was no way I would miss his nuptials, no matter where it happened.
Tim endured SIX layovers when going home from my wedding in Amsterdam, so there was no way I would miss his nuptials, no matter where it happened.

Went into the Santa Cruz mountains, home of the glorious Northern California redwood trees for the Tim Leong-Rachel Swaby nuptials-slash-YMCA-camp. We didn’t have to kill our own food. There were pretty nice little cabins shared among groups of 14 of us, just like Girl Scout camp. We had flushing toilets, but not two-ply toilet paper. These are some things that happened:

First I spent a night in SF hanging with my friend Chris. We came back to the apartment kind of drunk and promptly parked on the street. The next morning the car was gone. Guess what the minimum tow rate in SF is? $476. And on top of that, there are about $160 parking tickets to pay. So…somehow my one bad parking mistake cost more than my roundtrip airfare to San Francisco.

After getting out to the camp, we wandered into the “town” of Boulder Creek, CA and met some anti-government guys trying to get us to sign a petition against more gun restrictions. Had we signed, we could have gotten a “I don’t call 911” t-shirt with a giant AK-47 on it. We passed. But that night, one of our bunkmates was wearing the shirt.

Justin and I tried to go on a hike. The trail was awfully rocky and steep. The sign at its entrance told us it was named the Nit Trail, but upon turning back because of the rough terrain, we pulled away a leaf to realize the sign actually said “Not a Trail.”

Patrick Terpstra, yes, that guy, officiated the ceremony. He did a brilliant, funny, heartfelt job despite my utter disbelief anyone would choose him to officiate a wedding ceremony. After the bridal party exited, he ended his emceeing by saying, “Okay we’re good then.”

During a walk along the Embarcadero, I got some sage life advice from the appropriately-named Om, a lovely and generous human being who is now a venture capitalist but always a journalist at heart.

Capped off the weekend back in SF, where I took a nice long shower all by myself in a boutique hotel. The photos. Click on any image to begin the gallery:

Neighborhood Pig Roast Featuring Many Small Fires

The calm before the fires.
The calm before the fires.

 

2013 is halfway over and it’s been a riot so far. And sorta dangerous. Baby Eva keeps testing the bounds of her survival skills, rolling herself off furniture, squeezing the dog by the jowls or trying to crawl head first down the stairs. And we grown-ups keep acting like children.

A couple of weeks ago, my partner-in-shenanigans, Justin, visited DC. (You may remember him from previous blogged-about adventures.) We had already partied ourselves into a stupor on Friday night and thought we were going to lay low on Saturday by going to a neighborhood pig roast. A bluegrass band played the faves (but I couldn’t get them to do that David Allan Coe song because they didn’t know the long spoken interlude), the pork was that perfect blend of lean and moist and outside it felt cool and dry enough to actually enjoy a picnic. So relaxing was it that we got sleepy out there, with the tunes and the beers.

One of the many lantern crashes and subsequent fires. This one, in front of the band. But at the right it appears one lantern was trying to survive...
One of the many lantern crashes and subsequent fires. This one, in front of the band. But at the right it appears one lantern was trying to survive…

Then, after it turned dark, we got our second wind. To celebrate homeowner/hostess Hillary’s birthday, her friends had gotten Chinese lanterns, which, if made well, are easy to light and send floating into the sky. The more, the prettier. At this party, dozens of us got lanterns and the band started playing a little soundtrack to our impromptu lantern lightings. Justin and I successfully got one lit and watched it spirit away to the cheers of the group.

But that was an exception. Most of these lanterns ended up crashing to the ground before getting any lift and promptly setting grass, chairs, bags, plates — and very nearly, children — on fire. We were able to stomp out these fires, but they happened in various places around the lawn, and sometimes at the same time. When some lanterns actually made it up in the air, they wound up crashing into trees or the roof, which made for real close calls. Eventually many of us gave up on the lanterns and cleared the yard.

Suddenly, Justin and I were amped up to party some more! Headed out to U Street after leaving the fire dangers and enjoyed a long night with some other fantastic pals. Nothing like almost setting houses and people on fire with a well-meaning Chinese lantern activity to really get you going again.

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.

Justin, aka My Partner in Crime, Visits DC

With Justin in May 2010.

 

You may remember Justin from such adventures as “Confrustion: Trying to Figure Out How to Use Expensive Podcasting Mics“, or our weekly early morning breakfast summits, which we documented in a video. Or that time we were videotaping the inside of every Marriott hotel in Austin for a side job involving some Romanian employers who needed video of hotels. Or maybe you don’t know about that.

Justin is one of my besties. The Bert to my Ernie. My work-husband, even though I worked (and work) with my actual husband. We toiled together as a reporter-photog team at KVUE-TV, from 2006 to 2009. Then he joined us at The Texas Tribune, where he remains a multimedia producer today. But mostly we’ve involved ourselves with shenanigans, buffets and long nights that journeyed into daylight. There was one summer when we were obsessed with going to Cool River Cafe, a.k.a. “Cougar River” or “Cougar Town”, to dance to one-syllabled cover bands like MAXX or SUEDE with women who were old enough to be our moms, or Liza Minnelli.

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Look Out, You Just Got Lobbied

SAN ANTONIO — Anywhere there are hundreds of state lawmakers you will find just as many special interest groups. (American Society for Nude Recreation, anyone?) Here at the annual summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures, not only can you find lobbyists galore, you can also find plenty of the swag they give away to subtly (or not so subtly) communicate their brands.

My besties April, Blake and Justin helped me show off my favorite swag of the conference:

Breakfast Summits

We’re doing TT partnerships with TV stations all over the state and Wednesday is Waco liveshot day. After we’re done, photog Justin and I, plus our friend Reeve, meet for breakfast on the UT campus. It’s always a good time.

Fortune

Celebrated Chineseness on Thursday.

Mom was concerned about selecting an auspicious wedding date, which is apparently important in Chinese tradition. So she checked our selected date against Chinese almanacs and the universe said it was acceptable. (Thank God, cause I already begged, stole and borrowed to nab photographer Channing away from other couples on the now-auspicious date.)

That night, a new banquet hall/dim sum restaurant opened in  North Austin and I made the trek to eat some fried tofu. And shrimp dumplings. And Peking duck. And BBQ pork buns. Stiles couldn’t make it so my friend J-Dehn stepped in (because who turns down fried tofu?). He even donned a Matt Stiles nametag.

That move wound up causing some, uh, confusion. Like when the Statesman entertainment writer saw us and got a picture for his blog. At first he captioned Justin as Matt, and when corrected he changed it to this awesome moniker…

somedudesmall
I love this caption so hard.