Henry David Thoreau went to the woods to live deliberately, I can only assume, because he didn’t have survivalist reality TV to watch equally deliberately. But sometime during my third or fourth rewatch of Naked and Afraid—which I recommended in this space in the early days of the pandemic—I pondered that there must be more to life than watching others confront nature and discover that, before doing so, they had not lived. So I set out to find an outdoor activity that could replace my TV habit. Unfortunately, I was in a city and traveling was not safe, so I needed a pursuit approximating the experience of the great outdoors that could be done in an urban environment. Enter nighttime kayaking on Austin’s Lady Bird Lake.
Nighttime kayaking provides the standard joys of kayaking—feeling the water splash against your hands, gliding without disturbing the world beneath you—sans the pains of the daytime: sunburn, daily commitments, others paddleboarding nearby while playing pop songs at the noise level of a nightclub, etc. In lieu of a starry sky, the city’s skyline provides the light to guide you. Being on the lake at night is the closest thing to silence you can find in a city. Make sure to bring your own lights and go with others if possible, for safety. In the summer, Rowing Dock offers guided full-moon paddles.
Kayaking exercises both the body and the atrophying mind. It’s not quite a jaunt to Walden Pond, but it sure beats the Jersey Shore.
—Ben Rowen, associate editor
Watch Veronica Mars
I realize I’m over fifteen years late to Texas-bred Rob Thomas’s cult mystery series Veronica Mars—especially as someone who adores a show he cocreated, Party Down. Still, the spirits finally moved me to hit play on this neo-noir series a few weekends ago, and I’m glad they did.
The hard-boiled story follows teenage gumshoe Veronica (Kristen Bell), a high-schooler living in the wealthy, corrupt oceanside community of Neptune, California, who bugs plants and trails cheating spouses alongside her father, the disgraced former town sheriff turned private investigator Keith (Enrico Colantoni). Veronica cracks cases every episode while working toward a larger, more gnarled mystery over the course of a season—in the first installment, she sets out to find who murdered her best friend, Lilly Kane (Amanda Seyfried).
While some parts of the show haven’t aged well, its wisecrack-heavy dialogue and many mysteries, replete with red herrings and ample twists, make for a compelling watch. After blitzing through season one in a few days, trawling Reddit for clues, references, and visual cues in distinct episodes has become a new hobby of mine in quarantine. While I regret not getting into this show sooner, I’m grateful to be watching it at a time when I don’t have to wait a whole week, biting my fingernails, anxiously wondering what happens next.
—Paula Mejía, senior editor
Try a Plant-Based Plow Burger
My vegan roommate has always pushed my palate out of its comfort zone. At times, the plant-based meals she has forced me to try are delicious yet unsatisfying. They have always left me hungry for “protein,” a notion instilled in me as a child: no meal is complete without “real” meat. I changed my mind after she took me to Plow Burger, a plant-based burger, wing, and fry food truck with three locations around Austin.
I accompanied her one November afternoon to the Duval Street location after taking a generous bite out of her Plow Burger takeout a few days earlier. I ordered the Plow Burger and the “Chicken” Nuggets, worried that I would be straining my already-depleted bank account for another unfulfilling meal. As I sat at a picnic table adjacent to the truck, I was genuinely surprised after each delicious and satisfying bite. It was a perfectly crafted, environmentally conscious meal that didn’t leave me craving a real burger. Instead, I rationed my leftover “Chicken” Nuggets for a few meals, savoring every last bite. For once, my carnivore-ish needs were satisfied by plant-based products—an experience my roommate will never let me live down.
—Daniela Perez, editorial intern
Listen to Selena Gomez’s “De Una Vez”
Right now, each day bleeds into the next with a particular kind of dullness, so it’s such a pleasant surprise to come across something that brings up feelings of growth and empowerment. Selena Gomez’s second Spanish-language single, “De Una Vez,” does just that. The Grand Prairie native poetically details her journey with self-love and emotional growth. She encapsulates what it’s like to go through heartbreak and, eventually, heal and evolve into a stronger, more confident person.
These concepts are manifested too in the magical-realism-tinged music video, in which Gomez is adorned with a glowing beating heart—a reference to the Sacred Heart, a common motif in Mexican folk art. In soft makeup and a pale pink, flowy dress, she moves from room to room in an otherworldly house, her hypnotic voice echoing. We start in a bedroom with silk sheets and flowers that bloom as Gomez wakes up; the video ends in a room with vinyl records, instruments, and books that float up to the sky through a hole in the ceiling, representing the singer closing a chapter in her life and starting anew. If you want to escape to a fantasy world for a few minutes, “De Una Vez” will take you there.
—Aarohi Sheth, editorial intern