Sunday, March 20, 2011


Talon [noun] (taa luhn)
  1. Claw of an animal, especially a bird of prey

I have returned from South by South West (SxSW) with the satisfaction of a once-hungry hawk with a hare locked in her talons.

I ventured to Austin with a goal to see it all: go to every panel on social media regulations, legality, measurement, and gaming that I could, eat at every out-of-this-world restaurant, food truck, and hubble I see, and embrace the weird that is this capitol city in Texas.   With a smidge of pride, I can say that I accomplished my goals everyday - panels and foodie opportunities bowed before me!  The weird I sought, however, remained elusive.  A local told me that I wasn't really seeing Austin during this week.

"This isn't Austin," she reported as we waited in line at kebabalicious on Commerce Ave., "This is the convention - Austin is much, much weirder."

Drat.  How was I going to find that touch of weird I so craved for this trip when everything had an aura of "convention" around it?  Sure, those giant Fandango mascots waltzing up 4th was strange, but very SxSW.  That "I wear my sunglasses at night" dance party?  Sponsored, no doubt.  And that trip to Emo's for Steampunk Burlesque?  Emo's is legit, but this was an interactive event after all.  Hm.

And then: I saw it.  While waltzing home from a late, late dinner, my cronies and I spotted what we thought was just another pedicab.  But it was not a pedicab: it was a rickshaw runner, carrying three people, and going at a decent clip down the street.  I stopped dead in my tracks and asked my group, "Is that really happening?"  Without a delay, a man riding in the ricksaw shouted, "Oh, yes! This is really happening!"

My mission couldn't be more clear: To fulfill my weird goal for Austin, I needed to get myself on a rickshaw. 

One day passed, and then two and three. It was the very last day of the conference, my crew was fairly certain we'd leave without another rickshaw sighting.  And then, we saw Steve, stretching outside the Convention Center after our last panel.

It was a miracle of Austin - and I filmed it.

Steve took us down alleys, into traffic, across intersections, and right to our hotel's front door.  And you know what?  There's no standard fee; they live on tips!  For fulfilling my final goal, I tipped in an obscene way and still thought I underpaid.

I now sit at home by my fireplace, reminiscing about the week away, and I'm satisfied with what I accomplished.  Even if it was only for a brief moment spread over seven days, I had a piece of the knowledge, ambition, and weirdness of Austin in my talons, and it felt pretty good.

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