South by Southwest 2014

It’s been a week since I left Austin on one of the most gorgeous days on record with skies as blue as the newly sprouting bluebonnets along Texas State Highway 71. As the fresh air licked through my hair while I drove away from one of my favorite cities of all time, what rang clearer than ever is that even though an event like SXSW occurs every year, each year is guaranteed to be different than the last.  If you recall my post from last year, the main essence of  the festival was whatever one wanted it to be. This year, however, it may have been exactly what I needed it to be.

Despite having acquired a Platinum Badge this year via volunteering, it was difficult to enjoy its perk with the highly concentrated assembly of self-entitled yuppies crawling about.  They moaned about how ridiculous it was to not have gotten into (insert well known celebrity name here)’s conference, the length of the lines, and spoke to many of the volunteers as if they were somehow of a lesser intelligence when they were told they could not re-enter a certain room and had to go to the end of the line. But, I guess if you (or your company, really) paid up to $1600 for your badge you’re allowed to shit on the bartender after he’s run out of all the free booze he has to offer.

Dog chewed through it, and I didn't even care.
Dog chewed through it, and I didn’t even care.

Trying to deal with the inanities that the festival had flared up with, by Tuesday I had gotten so blackout drunk that I was found at local metal bar on 6th St. passed out in the bathroom and almost got my ass sent to jail. Not all adventures are fun, right? Just ask Frodo Baggins.  While it is not something that I am proud of, it is important to this post as it forced me to reevaluate the company I keep and the things that were learned soon after.

So, maybe I did do some cool things like see Schoolboy Q perform “Man of the Year”, visit the Game of Thrones Exhibit, and watch Donald Glover sit solemnly on a swing a few hundred feet away as he stayed in character for some play he was purportedly doing at some rich estate in west Austin.  However, that is not what this SX was about.

Many of us, especially those who hold Austin near and dear to our hearts, cannot pretend to be unaffected by the accident on March 13th at The Mohawk, which made national news. Having been volunteering that night nearby I was very fortunate to not have been one of the many injured. I cannot, however, also pretend that it does not bother me that it takes an incident of such coarse magnitude to make people all of the sudden care about each other, with myself included as you can perhaps gauge from my description of the “platinum” crowd I talked about a couple of paragraphs earlier compared to what I will say next.


Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman, via AP
Photo by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman, via AP

Before the incident, my mind often meandered to the darkest corners of human emotion, where thoughts of “if given the option of flicking life off like a light switch were available I’d be tempted to take it” were common. These were, at times, frightening, but unfortunately quickly becoming a normalcy of my life.

Then the accident happened, and the Atlanta Four showed up.

One old friend and three new ones visiting from the city of Hotlanta for a few days, I took the Atlanta Four to my favorite places in Austin during SXSW.  We ignored the countless organized events requiring wristbands, or RSVPs, or blow jobs, or a cover, sometimes all four or a combination of them, with lines and unguaranteed entries for said blow jobs (joking). Whatever we ran into, whatever sounded good, that’s where we went to and laughed and hung out.

From moshing at Heart of Texas Rockfest, to light jazz at the Elephant Room, to cumbia at Guero’s, to unexpected twerkathons at Holy Mountain, to Mexican rock bands on Rainey St.; we were part of so many different crowds where none of us were the same, yet we were all connected. Taking this path of least resistance in downtown Austin with four caring and hilarious friends surrounded by a sea of thousands provided me with a constant smile that I hadn’t felt in what seemed like forever.

It's easy to get lost in the crowd.  Photo by Aaron Rogosin
It’s easy to get lost in the crowd.  Photo by Aaron Rogosin

It was during this time that I also reunited and talked to some of the most inspiring friends that I have, and at the risk of sounding overly didactic, I just wish to say the following:

This is for every highly indebted law and med student, starving artist, uninsured musician, aspiring actor and actress, indie game creator, underpaid teacher and coach, struggling entrepreneur, traveler, freelance writer, dreamer, etc. just trying to make the world a better place.  The world is so random, full of good and bad accidents, but know that your worth is more than you know even if there isn’t a monetary value to it yet, or ever, for that matter. My admiration of your creative ambiences and fervent dedication to your ambitions from afar encourages me time and time again to go against the grain and continue to live, travel, and create through whatever means I see fit at the time. Thank you, from the deepest parts of my heart.

SXSW, of course, brings in thousands annually for technology, film, and music, but sometimes we leave taking from it far more than that or vice versa. For the three that perished, Jamie West, 27, Steven Craenmehr, 35, and Sandy Le, 26, it took so much more from them and their loved ones than we can understand.

So please, take care of each other while you can. Make sure the company you keep brings you more good than harm. Realize that the choices you make (or don’t) matter because, in the end,  it’s what we mean to one another and all the kindnesses and moments of laughter between us that make this double-edged sword we call “life” worth living. Finally, do the things that bring you true joy as HARD AS YOU FUCKING CAN, while you can, because as far as we know this is our only shot, and nobody is promised tomorrow.


Tanya Lopez-Marin is an aspiring Renaissance woman and traveler. You can follow her on Twitter  and Instagram @adventure_tits.

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