Tuesday, January 5, 7:05 a.m.: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at the crack of dawn is typically a quiet place, but not so today. Two full days before the Longhorns play for the BCS National Championship, in the Rose Bowl, the scene at the curbside check-in looks like a fall Saturday turnstile at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium. Everywhere is burnt orange. Burnt-orange button-downs, sweatshirts, dresses, and pants. Burnt-orange backpacks, garment bags, duffels, and rollers.
Life is too short not to live it in Texas. But recently we asked ourselves an uncomfortable question: If we had only one year left on earth, what would we do in the Lone Star State? A spirited conversation ensued, writers and editors submitted their picks, and more than two hundred ideas poured forth. We overlooked suggestions like seeing the Alamo or going to the Capitol because we assumed that everyone has already done those things (you have done them, right?).
For the past two decades, virtually all the cinematic energy in Texas has been centered in Austin. Indie darlings such as Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater continue to call the city home. The South by Southwest Film Festival, which kicks off its seventeenth edition on March 12, gets more crowded each year.
By the time you read these words, early voting in the March 2 primaries will be under way. The race for the Republican nomination for governor, involving incumbent Rick Perry, United States senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and upstart challenger Debra Medina, has attracted the most attention, as it should. The outcome will influence the future of Texas, and the three leading Republican candidates have very different ideas about that future.
Night of the Living Nerd
Do you remember all those teenybopper songs about sweet sixteen and summers in the sand? Those idyllic days with transistor radios, the smell of coconut suntan lotion and greasy French fries, flip-flops, and sunburned shoulders? For me, these were vicarious pleasures. For two summers in high school, when my friends were camp counselors or working on the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, I worked in a windowless mailroom at Gem, a discount department store.
One of the first restaurants to stake a claim on the east side, this bohemian spot is tricked out in gothic-meets-industrial style, with heavy velvet curtains for added drama. The daily specials are written not on a mundane blackboard but on a steel support beam high above the room. We loved the cauliflower three ways: pickled, tempura-fried, and puréed with garlic.
When Austin started billing itself as the Live Music Capital of the World, it forgot the first rule of nicknames: You don’t get to give them to yourself. And sure enough, the declaration had unintended consequences. As soon as it went into effect, every taco shack and barbecue joint in town decided it too needed to be a live music venue. So now you can’t eat an enchilada plate in Austin without having to endure some songwriter who should have left his guitar in his dorm room when he got out of college.
Halfway across the globe, where Texans are as foreign as rainy summers, 17-year-old Layla Adawieh set out to explore the world, unaware that it would land her in Texas for ten life-changing months. Located between Israel and Syria, and bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Layla’s journey from the liberal Arab country of Lebanon to the United States began long before her departure last August.
It seems simple enough—make tea, add sugar—but brewing a high-class glass of Southern champagne is “all about time, temperature, and quality,” according to Clayton Christopher, the founder of Austin-based Sweet Leaf Tea Company. He should know: In just over ten years, he’s gone from making batches of the stuff at home in 25-gallon crawfish pots to landing a $15.6 million investment by Nestlé Waters. All iced-tea recipes start with two core elements—tea and water—but the secret to making true ambrosia lies in the fine-tuning.