Category Archives: PLACES

PHOTOS: WHO’S SEX POSITIVE? PREGNANT WOMEN ARE SEX POSITIVE.

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Moi.

So I’ve gone back and forth on posting these pictures. On the pro side, it’s:

“YAY! Pretty photos! To share on the Internet and prompt people to say nice things about me!!!”

And on the con side, it’s:

“Umm, ok. My pregnant body on the Internet! That’s a little weird! Vulnerable! Potentially embarrassing!”  

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that the concept of self-branding eludes me entirely and I’m just not very good at it. As an aerialist/yoga person, I am a-ok with pictures of all bodies, including mine, because human physiology is fascinating (to me) and its capabilities beautiful (to me).

But as a writer, I have a knee-jerk hesitation to showing any skin, because, because…well, I’m not entirely sure. Life of the mind vs. life of the body, I guess.

However, as previously discussed, a topic that captures both my interest in bodies and my interest in thinkerly, writer things is that of sex positivity for women. And specifically, pregnant women.

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Hence, this maternity photo shoot. I did it a few weeks ago with a very talented local photographer, Whitney Martin, and my dear friend Fannie, a stylist-slash-video game programmer. (Slash-badass.)

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(Slash-model.)

We shot it at Bull Creek, a craggy park in Austin overhung with ancient oak trees and wrapped in mossy caves. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.

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Over these past 37 (whoa) weeks, I’ve found that it’s very, very easy to feel infantalized as a pregnant women. The maternity wear complex creates clothes that make you feel like a giant baby yourself, with frilly, pastel outfits and message T’s that say things like, “I’m baking a GIRL!” with appliqued cupcakes or “Mama’s little RASCAL!” with an arrow pointing down to your belly. Why?

Maybe it’s because pregnancy is a clear, visible sign of sex being had, and cutesy outfits like that take the edge off, making a woman’s sex-having body less threatening.

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Anyway, that definitely wasn’t the route I wanted to go for a maternity shoot, but conversely, I knew I didn’t want a pregnancy boudoir shoot either. I’ve seen beautiful, sensual examples of that, but I’m just too immature to pull it off. I’d be snickering the whole time and acting a fool for the poor photographer.

So what did this picky photo subject want? Well, something that felt like me.

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I wanted something that captured the all-encompassing womanliness I’ve felt during this pregnancy, something that felt nature-y/natural, and something that felt interesting. And, maybe, something like Stevie Nicks.

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So Whitney, Fannie and I collaborated on putting together a session that didn’t divorce sexuality from the whole maternity experience, which is a very formal way of saying we shared a Pinterest board.

And how do I feel about the result?

I am THRILLED. I love them! These photos will probably humiliate my daughter to no end one day, but until that time, I’m happy to have a visual memory of this little sliver of my life, thanks to Fannie and Whitney.

Pregnancy is a time where I haven’t always felt 100% awesome about my body, but you know what? I think that’s good for me. I like to think I’m a feminist, but my perception of what is beautiful is just as influenced by media / American culture / the “male gaze” as anyone else’s. On top of that, pregnancy always seemed like this freaky, science fictional thing to me (probably because most science fiction is written by men), akin to Alien or Gremlins.

But now, corny as it sounds, I’ve been converted. I’m shocked at what the female body can do, and I like the idea that baby and I are working together as a team to make her strong. Nutrition / good sleep / prenatal care / blah blah are all parts of that, but sex was (obviously) a pretty essential part of it, too. “Sex positive” and “belly proud” don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts. You can celebrate the cute little baby growing inside your belly, and simultaneously celebrate the sex that brought him or her here. I don’t think anyone openly disputes this; I’m just ready for a culture that finds a portrayal balance between hyper-sexualized moms (i.e. MILF’s) and one that pretends moms are these harried, sexless creatures who are only focused on motherhood and THAT’S IT!

There’s a middle ground, I like to think.

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Thanks again to Whitney and Fannie – I love you both.

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DON’T CRY FOR ME, ARGENTINA.

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Do you ever have the kind of week that kicks your ass?

Not, “kicks ass.” Kicks your ass, specifically.

Last week was that way for me. It was shocking and happy for a little bit, then sad, then scary, then just settled down into this stagnant, uncomfortable muck.

I know. I sound very victim-y right now. But I felt like a victim, because stuff kept coming in succession, and after a little while I just didn’t have the emotional resources to deal with it. Or the eloquence to blog about it.

But…today is a new day. Keep calm, and eat a breakfast taco.

I actually wrote a story about the events of last week, and if I publish it anywhere, I’ll point you all to it. It involves the doctor, and a computer doctor, if you will. As well as a few laughs along the way. And if it doesn’t get published, I’ll just post it right here.

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You know what? Some genuinely good things came out of last week, too. The yoga studio at our house is almost done! Our hardwood floors came in, the ceiling is vaulted and beautiful, and we ordered a projector screen for when we just wanna watch movies in it. Ross’s parents came to visit, as well as my mom, and that filled me back up tremendously. My friends, too. God, my friends! You know who you are. You took care of me when I was a bitter mess of tears. I love you so much.

(Speaking of all this. My dad, who spent all day on the phone yesterday with Apple Support regarding his iPod, invented a new adjective to describe how he feels about bad days: ”Fuckterful!“ It’s a contraction of the f-word and “wonderful.” I hope it catches on.)

Pictures from last week: Mi casa, Mt. Bonnell, Qui.

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A PLACE IN THE SUN

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A Pack of Boozy She-Wolves, A Sorority for Thirty Year-Olds, A Ragtag Band of Aspiring Thelmas and Louises –

These are my beautiful, profane, dancey girlfriends. We all went to South Padre a couple of weeks ago; sort of an annual thing for us. We pack up our things, hop in a car, and drive!

I always come back from South Padre just a bit dreamier than before I left, fully ensconced in summer mode. This year we took a bar hostage, frightening our seated, fellow patrons, but also took full (full) advantage of the cover band, and hopefully made said band’s night.

It certainly made mine.

All photos by the unbelievable Nicki Lemon.

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ARE HIPSTERS SAVING “MADE IN AMERICA?”

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Ever since I wrote that ethical shopping post, I’ve been thinking about something.

Is it just me, or are hipsters saving Made in the America?

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It dawned on me while I was visiting HELM Boots for one of my writing clients. Run by the founder of Progress Coffee, Joshua Bingaman, HELM is flat-out beautiful: Inventory displayed artfully and with restraint, white like a gallery, vintage-looking darts placed just so. That’s right. Darts.

As my friend Lauren rightfully pointed out a few months ago, “we all have different definitions of the word hipster.” So let’s dispense with some of those definitions right now:

hip.ster / “HIP-ster:” noun: A typically white, left-leaning, young individual of privilege who embraces a craft/homespun/throwback lifestyle. Usage: “Did you hear about Mark’s small-batch fruit canning business? What a hipster.”

hip.ster / “HIP-ster:” noun: An individual younger than oneself whose clothing and tastes are not readily understood but are suspected to be emergent and tangentially cool and therefore provoke insecurity. Usage: “Yeah, my new social media intern rides her single-speed bike to work now instead of driving and parking in the employee lot like the rest of us. What a hipster.”

hip.ster / “HIP-ster:” noun: A social media and/or gadget-proficient individual who possesses deep knowledge of smart phone apps, often missing key vowels (ex: Snappr, Eatr, Tiny Dancr). Known to engage in said social media and/or gadget-usage while in the company of others. Usage: “We were all hanging out eating dinner and next thing you know, Mark checked us all in, shot a short video, uploaded it to Vine, and created a pictorial essay of our food on Instagram!  What a hipster.”

hip.ster / “HIP-ster:” verb:  A bar, restaurant, or store known to espouse a craft/homespun/throwback ethic, with care and attention paid to quality ingredients and/or materials and priced to reflect a clientele of at least modest privilege, except when said bar is a dive bar (see: The Brixton, Shangri-La). Usage: “This bar is so fucking hipster.”

It’s always pejorative; nobody likes hipsters and nobody wants to be called a hipster. Me?  The only hipster that truly bugs is the social media/gadget one, the one checking Facebook on his/her phone while we’re hanging out. It’s like…I guess I’m not entertaining enough for you? But that’s another post for another day.

ANYWAY. So we’ve established that the term “hipster” is derogatory, kind of like “douchebag” or “yuppie.” My personal theory of hipster hate is the fact that people assume/resent the fact that a lot of these kids come from means, and yet embrace lifestyles that call forth a thrifty era, as if they needed to be thrifty. Rather than eat out, they garden! Rather than drive and buy gas, they bike!* In short, we think they’re posers.

And maybe some of them are. Or, maybe they simply find mass market stuff boring.

Either way, I am thankful to hipsters these days, and here is why: They are saving Made in America.

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I remember, when I was very little, watching Wal-Mart commercials that proudly proclaimed, “Made in America.” I also remember that sophisticated people ate imported stuff. Wines. Cheese. Whatever.

Now, it has flipped. Wal-Mart makes/orders things from overseas because it is cheaper. Sophisticated people eat local things.

Which proves that Made in America can be made to scale. If Wal-Mart did it all those years ago…I mean I’m not saying their stuff is CUTE, I’m just saying it can be scaled.

Anyway, Wal-Mart shocked us a few years ago when they started stocking organic produce. Remember that? Some of us were all, “really???? Didn’t know you had it in ya, Wal-Mart!” and others were all, “greenwashing! Greenwashing! Don’t believe them! Their organic is fake organic, the bastards!” It stirred up a lot of capital-s Stuff.

Scaleable, organic food is hardly a perfect system. But – as important to perfecting that system, and imbuing it with industrial integrity, is making organic mainstream to the masses. To shake off the notion that organic is elitist, and more importantly, to make organic affordable for all.

But before Wal-Mart, whither organic food?

Farmers markets. Whole Foods. Small, local grocers. I.e., the domain of hipsters.

And those hipsters with money, or “yupsters” as I’ve heard them cleverly called, created enough of a market demand for organic food for it to get Wal-Mart’s attention.

So I think we’re just beginning to see the first teeny tiny, baby bird yelps from the hipster camps regarding Made in America clothes. But once those hipsters get older, and start raising families, and start shopping for those families at the emerging Whole Foods equivalent of a clothing store…maybe Wal-Mart will catch on again.

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Back at HELM, everything I saw was US-made. I slid my fingers along boots made in Maine, touched the caps of American Zippo lighters, heard Joshua talk about his original business, located right down the street.

I wondered then if it was possible to make stuff like this to scale. Crafted, locally- or US-made stuff. Was it like organic food? Could you make it affordable? Could you make it available to not only Austinites/Brooklynites/Seattleites/Portlandians, but everybody?

Could you make it (gulp) Wal-Martable? Should we make it Wal-Martable?

I’m asking because I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I would genuinely like to find out.

“Our stock has moved surprisingly well,” said Joshua when I asked him about the business.

“It’s like more people see what we’re trying to do here. I guess word is getting out.”

Photos: Me, attributed to The HUNT Guides. All shots of HELM Boots.

*For further reading: Stuff White People Like.

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A GUIDE TO CO-WORKING IN AUSTIN

Pictures of beautiful Vuka, co-working space just off S. 1st. I shot these for my travel guide client, HUNT Guides.

Lately, it seems like everyone I know is quitting their day jobs.

You’ll recall that I did last October. Since then, three of my friends have too. Some of them have new work lined up. Some of them are inventing the work. With things like healthcare and 401K plans available over the Internet, we figured, why not?

According to this Forbes article someone forwarded me, “many women view corporations today as being fundamentally flawed and limiting in their value structures.” That sounds about right. I’ve actually never worked for a big corporation — the biggest entity I worked for was the University of California system — but I’ve got enough friends at Dell to know it’s not just a woman thing.

My first big girl job here in Austin was with a book publishing company that went bankrupt several years ago. There were wonderful people at that job, but my God, were our offices depressing. Located in an office park not far from the one where Office Space was filmed, we had this vast concrete lot with one small, sad grassy knoll poking out of the middle. Sometimes, usually around 3:00, I’d go outside and stand on that grassy knoll, just barely big enough to hold me, and gaze out over the Taco Bell and Texaco in the distance. “This is my life,” I’d sigh. “Somebody help me.”   

Later, when the company moved to a building nearby, a man flew a plane into the IRS building down the street. All I’m saying is, there was some weird energy in that area.

So when I got a job in the same field, book publicity, only working from home, my first thought was – “this is my life, and it’s about to be AMAZING.” And I was right! It was amazing.

But eventually I figured out that PR wasn’t for me, and despite the cushiness of sleeping in, not commuting, only getting marginally dressed and only then when I felt like it, I realized that my job was indeed cool, but freelancing (specifically, freelance writing) would be even cooler. And I was right about that too! I love my work life now.

However, there are drawbacks to freelancing. Here are four:

1. Not getting dressed. I’m convinced that 50% of being a successful anything involves getting up and putting on new clothes that you haven’t slept in.

2. Not being nice. By which I mean, not socializing. This is the other 50% of being successful: being a person others want to be around. And when you are around others, being nice, you usually get more opportunities.

3. Not having a schedule. This really scrambled my digits when I went freelance: not having a stucture. Because trust me, on your first day of non-corporate job freedom, you will wake up at around 9 or 10, have a leisurely breakfast, do an hour of work, have a leisurely lunch, then go directly to Barton Springs. Why? Because you CAN! Work freedom really is like crack. It’s hard not to binge during those first glorious days.

But then, that lack of structure starts to make you feel weird, because you’re all, “am I lazy?” and then you start obsessively checking your bank account to prove to yourself that you are not, in fact, lazy, but productive and solvent, and to prove it, you stay up until 1am working because you did wake up at 11am after all and hey, gotta make up for lost time. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

4. Not knowing whether you’re doing it right. I’ve talked about this before, this feeling of wondering if you are professionally awesome or professionally floundering, and everyone’s just too nice to tell you. I think that’s why money becomes so important to freelancers. Money’s important to everyone, but when you divorce yourself from a tidy system of promotions and raises and company accolades, money (and your own mushy, unreliable inner cues) becomes an even more important (-seeming) yardstick for measuring your competence.

So. If you are freelancing, but also experiencing one of the unfortunate states above, what are you to do?

Co-work.

Listen: co-working if freaking fabulous. “But why would I pay for an office when I just quit an office?” I hear you saying. Oh my God, it’s so not like your old office. Soooooo not like your old office.

I’ve gotten clients from my various co-working spots. That’s because networking there is easy, unlike most awkward networking events. Also, your co-workers aren’t your competitors or bosses or anything like that, so there’s no pressure to manically x out of your Facebook page when someone walks by. And, although I haven’t been to all of them, most co-working spaces are pretty cool-looking.

Austin is positively exploding in rad co-working spaces right now. I sometimes go to Link, near my house, and also Vuka, which has free co-working on Fridays and has the added benefit of being beautiful. Now, granted — I still work from home, I still work from coffee shops; sometimes I’ll start the day working from home but get so stir crazy that I drive to a coffee shop; sometimes the coffee shop is too social and I have to come home! But, if you are a lone contractor/freelancer/real estate agent/someone else who usually works by his or herself and is wondering whether it’s actually worth a few hundred dollars to pay a monthly co-working membership fee, I’m saying, it is.

Here is an Austin co-working space list, broken down by neighborhood:

NORTH/CENTRAL:

Link

Posh Coworking

Plug and Play (perk: on-site childcare)

EAST:

Brainstorm Coworking

Opportunity Space

Perch Coworking

Soma Vida

Conjunctured

Space 12

Chicon Collective

Center61

DOWNTOWN:

GoLab Austin

Capital Factory

SOUTH:

Vuka (featured in those pics above)

Hub Austin

Go forth and co-work, my fellow Austin freelance brethren! And if you know of a co-working space in town that hasn’t been added to this list, please do let me know about it in comments. I’ll keep it updated as I hear of more.

If you already co-work, what has your experience been like?

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