In March 2000 I finally got around to setting up a blog on Blogger and made my first couple of tentative posts. The next day, the entire blog community (or so it seemed) upped and left for Austin, Texas to attend SXSW 2000, and so began a multi-year cycle of envy and avid blog watching, wishing I could be there.
I made it there, finally, in 2007 and without exaggeration, it changed my life. My time there passed in a blur of learning and laughter. Something shifted in me that week and I didn't-couldn't-process at the time just exactly how much. I'm still not sure I can. I basked in the warmth of friends old and new and tried not to make too much of an arse of myself in front of people whose work I'd admired for many years.
From the woman who sat down next to me and started chatting when I grabbed a sandwich in the airport just as I arrived, to breakfast burritos and diet coke, to the yarn shop ladies who offered to take me to the airport if my friends couldn't because of family issues I was overwhelmed with the friendliness and positive of absolutely everyone I met.
I remember amazing salsas with handmade tortilla chips, pizzas the size of the moon and margaritas the size of my head. Chicken-fried Steak eaten outside in the balmy night air at the down-home restaurant with gingham tablecloths, trailers as restrooms and Sweet Home Alabama playing as we arrived. Chilli-fries that blew my mind (and cleared my sinuses) eaten while hiding in the patchy shade from the midday sun. The amazing steak I almost couldn't eat because I thought I might choke or spit it out because I was laughing so much.
I remember staggering back to my room every night, exhausted and overstimulated and almost too excited to sleep. Feeling like I was missing out because of my wimpish need to sleep. I remember having to obtain an additional suitcase to stow all the yarn related stuff I'd bought while there (and the comedy of the juxtaposition of said accoutrements and a US Army issue foam grenade in my suitcase).
When I read a tweet about breakfast on the balcony of the Hampton or frozen margaritas at the Iron Cactus, I'm there. If I close my eyes I can feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and hear the babble of conversation around me.
Eleven years after first following the yearly pilgrimage to SXSW, I'm yet again at home, wishing I was there. This year though, it's for a great reason. I'm pregnant, and pregnancy nausea is absolutely kicking my arse. Much as the part of my soul I left in Austin in 2007 is calling to me, I know it's better to be here at home, resting, putting all my energies into my growing child (and not throwing up).
So this year again, I watch and live SXSW vicariously through the tweets of others, there in spirit if not in body, but this year, I wouldn't have it any other way.