Category Archives: local



Omar Gallaga’s Statesman story about local podcasts from 2.10.14.

Forgive the sparks that I fear will shoot out of this blog post at any moment, Reader. Not only am I terribly excited, but I’m currently drinking coffee, REAL COFFEE, which to a pregnant woman is like Adderall combined with Four Loko combined with cocaine. I am hyper.

But I’m exercising restraint, because I want to tell you about this new culture podcast from the Austin American-Statesman that I’m a part of, without overselling it! You know when someone tells you about a movie, and they are like, “you have to see it. No, seriously. This weekend. F-k that. Right now! I will take you to see this movie RIGHT NOW and you will love it because I loved it and I have already seen it six times it’s just that meaningful”? And that creates pressure on your viewing experience, and then you just like the movie just ok, but you have to insert fake enthusiasm into your voice because your friend is so fanatical? (If you’ve ever discussed the claymation classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with me, then you already know what this uncomfortable situation is like.)

So I don’t want to do that, but I do want to say that the new culture podcast that Omar Gallaga (tech/culture writer at the Statesman) and I put together – “Statesman Shots” – is causing me a lot of happiness.

Each week, Omar, I, and a third guest talk about three items that are popping up in local Austin conversation – items mostly culture, and mostly local – and intersperse them with games. Sometimes our topics aren’t local at all: this week, for example, we discussed House of Cards and it’s return to Netflix with Season 2. Why? Because it’s amazing. But we also talk about things like Austin’s food scene, the evolving mission and huge-ness of SXSW, and Disney characters we feel very strongly about.

Right now, our third guests all come from Statesman‘s own newsroom, but we’re eventually going to expand that net to include other local folks as well.

It’s a project Omar and I have been cooking up for nearly a year and a half, after we spoke on a panel together for Online News Association and discovered we both had mutual geek affection for podcasts. WTF with Marc Maron, Radiolab, The Dinner Party…all the hits. That’s when we realized, uh – why doesn’t Austin have a culture show? Could we make a culture show? (If you’ve followed my weird little blog for a while you know this has been a longtime dream.)

So we put together a treatment for our show concept, pitched it around…et voila! Omar’s very own professional home, the Statesman, picked it up. We started it for real in January, and we love, love it. Maybe you’ll love it too! Here’s how you can listen/connect:

Statesman Shots Blog

iTunes! (i.e. your phone)

Statesman Shots Facebook Page

Statesman Shots Twitter

This is a weekly show, so we are always looking for topic and guest ideas. Seriously.

As a result though of the story Omar wrote about both our podcast and Austin podcasts in general last week, I realized that – duh! – Austin actually does have a lot of culture shows. Other programs like When in Austin, Austin Sessions, and more. It’s kind of a scattered community right now and reminds me of the early days of Austin’s blog scene, when we were all little islands and wondering how to do what we did better. We are very fortunate to have a platform like the Statesman to launch our show, and I personally am very fortunate to have a co-host like Omar, who is a hard worker, sharp writer, and overall gracious and kind human being. He midwifed our show into existence! But as Austin’s podcasting scene matures, perhaps we’ll start having little meetups or something where we can coalesce and get to know each other better, those of us in the podcasting scene.

Do you listen to podcasts, Reader?

Also, since we haven’t talked in a while, and because I’m still flying high on caffeine, I feel compelled to catch up on other aspects of life. Can we do that? Can we have a proper Cawfee Tawk?

CAWFEE TAWK #1: I’m still pregnant! Wow, I’m pregnant. This is how I look, and this is how I feel. I’m officially in the third trimester now, and we’re still dutifully attending our hummus-laden birth classes. Still teaching yoga, and even doing the teensiest, tiniest bit of aerial, but once baby girl is on the outside I’ll be very eager to hop back on the silks again.

CAWFEE TAWK #2: Speaking of silks, I’m in a new silks company! Did we discuss this already? I can’t remember. Anyway, it’s called Rapt Aerial Dance, and we’re putting together an open house during SXSW to celebrate our brand new space on E. Cesar Chavez. If you’d like to come by during the open house and take some free aerial classes, email me! Or leave a comment. And if you’d like to be an edible/drinkable (non-alcoholic) event sponsor, or a band that wants to come play, let me know too.

CAWFEE TAWK #3: Writing. I performed in a storytelling event for Austin Bat Cave on Tuesday (Story Department) that was a ton of fun, telling (naturally) my story about attending a naked yoga class. That thing just doesn’t get old. Also, I wrote a short piece for the Statesman about the House of Cards connection to Lyndon B. Johnson, and if you’re a fan of that show (like me) as well as a dork for presidential history (also like me), then perhaps you’ll enjoy it – it comes out this Sunday in the culture section. Oh, AND. Wrote a story for Citygram Magazine about moms with tattoos – “Mom Ink” – that came out today. Was a serious blast to write, and it probably deserves its own proper post. Other than that, just pitching my strange little ideas around, often getting rejected but sometimes accepted. (<–Which should be the title of an after-school special.)

Whew. I think that’s it. And you, Reader? How goes it on your end of the computer screen?





For the past couple of years, I’ve been thinking about Austin this way: that living here is like being married to a celebrity who got famous while you were married.

In this analogy, you and your spouse (Austin) meet, you fall ludicrously in love with their (Austin’s) quirks and charm, and you – but only you! – know intimately how special this soul (Austin) is.

That is, until your beloved (Austin) suddenly gets scouted by oh, say, Quentin Tarantino. And seemingly overnight, they (Austin) are a celebrity. Now everybody knows how beautiful, quirky, and special your spouse (Austin) is!

You’re happy to share their attention with adoring fans – at first. Because after a while, those at-home, two-spoons-in-one-spaghetti-bowl dinners are interrupted by their (Austin’s) cell phone constantly dinging with crazed fan tweets, calls from their agent, and Facebook push notifications that their millionth like just went through.

And it’s cool, you’re happy for them (Austin). They’re making more money after all.

Only, you’re worried that soon they (Austin) will be a little too fabulous for you, that their (Austin’s) tastes will change, and soon, this adorable little ragamuffin will be transformed into a slick, tanned, bleached-teeth copy of any other successful celebrity (wealthy city).

Also, they have less sex (water) to offer you. Their sex appeal (water reserves) is (are) being depleted by a ravenous public, and sometimes they’re just so tired (water levels so low) that they’re like, “not now baby, I’m just in a low energy (Stage 2 drought) place right now.”


I think that’s the visceral fear, anyway. Austinites old and new looooovvvee to get riled up about our city’s increasing popularity, becase like the non-famous spouse above they are worried, some with reasons completely valid, some less so.

Here is what Austinites are worried about:

1. Rising cost of living. (Valid.)

2. Diminishing water. (Valid.)

3. Sudden glut of condos. (Valid, but if the alternative is sprawl, I think I’ll take vertical growth. Condensed cities = walkable cities.)

4. Nefarious Californians eradicating our local culture. That Angelenos or other outsiders are moving here simply because it’s a scene, and as the theory goes, they’ll move on when they’ve sucked all the cultural life out of us. (BS. Let’s have a talk.)


That #4 link above is from this past week, when Reddit users jumped all over Lauren (Hipstercrite’s) post about living in Austin. Which to my mind, was a refreshingly balanced and non-cynical post, so the reaction surprised me. The whole thing got me thinking, what is my favorite thing about Austin? The easygoing people.

And I wondered [Carrie Bradshaw voiceover]: Where did my favorite, big-hearted Austinites came from?

From here:

Willie Nelson: Abbott, Texas.

Ann Richards: McLennan County, Texas.

Richard Linklater: Houston, Texas.

Leslie: Miami, Florida.

Molly Ivins: Monterey, California.

Mike Judge: Guayaquil, Ecuador. (Cool!)

Evan Smith: New York.

Kinky Friedman: Chicago.

Sarah Bird: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

So, if you were born and raised in Austin and are mad about new people coming to live here…I’m sorry.

This idea however that new people (particularly the LA boogiemen) are all opportunistic douchebags is just not accurate. You can move here from a different locale, and be invested in Austin. You can contribute enormously to the local culture.

But whining on Reddit does not further our local culture. Whenever I hear an Austinite mock newcomers just for not being from here, it makes me want to tweak their ear like an east Texas grandma and threaten to get the switch out. Didn’t your mama teach you any manners?

Population growth scares me too, but what scares me more is Austin’s spirit – that of a sweet island of misfits – evaporating. That, like the non-famous spouse above, our fear morphs into resent, leaving a bunch of cynical ass people walking around. Because who would be the douchebags then?





In elementary school and junior high, I had a handful of teachers who encouraged me to write. One of them, Mrs. Beeler, read one of my essays aloud to the class, a little piece I had written about flowers in the spring.

“Can you believe these adjectives?” she asked a roomful of bored seventh graders. “And the imagery! Tolly! This is wonderful. Just wonderful.”

Everyone else doodled on their shoes, no one was paying attention. But I was beaming.

“Euphoric!” she cried. “You used the word ‘euphoric!’ Wow!”

Up until, say, the eighth grade, I was a dork with braces who didn’t have a friend clique going yet. I liked theater and English, but I wasn’t a “smart” kid, or a “sporty” kid, or a “pretty” kid. But, writing? Writing made me feel like I had a thing. Even if that thing, unlike A-team volleyball or clothes from Banana Republic, didn’t have any hard social currency yet.

“Tolly, thank you for this essay,” Mrs. Beeler cooed. “A-plus.”

Ok, so that day was a little embarrassing. But Mrs. Beeler, God bless her, entered that essay for a school wide award, which it won. So after that, I did feel kind of smart.


Good English and writing teachers will always have a special place in my heart, so Thursday night, I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this local benefit: Austin Bat Cave’s Bat to School Bash.



Just what is Austin Bat Cave, you ask? Oh, only the coolest non-profit ever. They offer free writing classes to kids (including many underprivileged youth), and it’s staffed by volunteer writers! Our dear Lauren Modery of Hipstercrite just started teaching, for example.

Many from Austin’s writing and magazine community will be in attendance, as will Mother Falcon, who’s playing a set. There will also be readings from Texas Monthly‘s Karen Olsson, novelist and J.J. Abrams writing collaborator Doug Dorst, and writer Elizabeth McCracken, who edits one of my favorite authors on the planet, Ann Patchett (drool).

AND! It will be MC’d by me! (Oh dear.)

There are a ton of rad prizes being given away too, including nights at Hotel San Jose, dinners from Qui, and handwritten and illustrated writing advice from George Saunders, who gave that beautiful commencement speech at Syracuse earlier this year (text, video; I recommend both).

If you’d like to support this extremely worthy organization, are a fan of the written word, or just want get your rocks off with famous writers for a night, come on out to the Gibson Guitar Showroom (3601 South Congress Ave) at 7pm on Thursday.

See you there!




Yow! That’s a big ol’ image, isn’t it?

Anyway, my latest story for Citygram was a really interesting one to write. Beginning this fall, there will be construction coming to Barton Springs Pool – construction that’s been in talks for a while.

I’d heard little rumors here and there about a Barton Springs Pool renovation, but after hearing mentions about it on my friend Lauren’s blog, Hipstercrite, I did a little Google digging to see who had written about it already. This March story from the Statesman generated a whole slew of nervous/anxious/angry comments, and one in particular – a speculative comment about a future hotel at Barton Springs Pool – inspired my whole story.

During my reporting process, I spoke with one individual who lived across the street from Barton Springs Pool’s south entrance for eight years, but was never able to visit. You’ll find out why in the article, who’s behind the renovation, and the environmental efforts – as well as the emotions – that underpin the project.

Click on the image above to read. Or download it on your iPad, like the cool kids do.

While you’re there, consider “liking” Citygram on Facebook, will ya? And following them on Twitter. It’s a really cool new local publication that I’m proud to be a part of, and, true story: They are the sole reason I’m considering finally buying an iPad! The content combines video, print, and podcast, all very slick.  It’s a joy to consume.



For the longest time, I’ve felt too nervous to post any pictures here from my aerial performances. Because in truth? I’ve only been performing silks – actually performing – for about a year. And, every time I open up a batch of photos from a show, I get heart palpitations worrying that my feet (my feet!) are going to ruin the pictures. We’ve been down a long road, my feet and and I, of training ourselves not to sickle, not to club foot, and not to perform any other manner of positional weirdness. Yes, positional is a word that I just made up.

But! My feet are slowly learning to behave, and I am slowly getting up the guts to share pictures on my blog, with the Internet. So here we go.

My partner Susan and I have a duo called Vayu Aerials, and we were asked to perform a little number at a launch party for Velvet Dust Magazine, at The Parish. The party was circus/carnival-themed, so we had this loose concept of being mimes…which turned into tribal, dead, angry mimes. No smiling. I mean, NO SMILING. There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no smiling in angry mime land.

We danced to Ellie Goulding’s version of “Tesselate,” an Alt-J song, and it may be my favorite thing we’ve choreographed yet.

(These photos were taken by my dear friend and an incredible talent, Daniel Cavazos.)

Here we are, warming up…

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The SHOW begins…

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Take a bow!

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Thanks so much Daniel for taking these wonderful photos, and thank you Susan for always being a magical aerial partner. Who’s got two thumbs and is very lucky? This girl.