During a recent bout of cabin fever, I headed west, bound for a landscape of limestone cliffs and prickly pear along an iconic Texas river. After only about forty minutes on the road, I arrived not at Big Bend National Park but at Milton Reimers Ranch Park—the largest park in Travis County, occupying more than 2,400 acres of the Texas Hill Country along three miles of the Pedernales River shoreline.
Reimers is just a stone’s throw from the Texanist-endorsed, but currently inaccessible, Hamilton Pool, where swimming is prohibited because of COVID-19. Speaking of stone-throwing, a highlight of my trip was pausing for a midhike granola bar and hunting for the perfect rock to skip across the lazy Pedernales. Although I wasn’t brave enough to take a dip, the shallow river is perfect for a socially distanced swim during warmer months.
The eighteen-plus miles of trail offer plenty for nonhikers—many sections allow mountain biking and horseback riding, and the weathered limestone is a draw for local rock climbers (though the park is closed for climbing for now). If you’re looking for a Central Texas day trip that’s a little more adventurous than Lady Bird Lake, Reimers is an ideal next step. Be sure to arrive early, especially on weekends; the park closes when it hits capacity.
–Will Brooks, editorial intern
Listen to Keshi’s Latest EP
Houston-native Keshi, a.k.a. Casey Luong, had been gaining recognition for his lo-fi hip-hop tracks even before he left his job as an oncology nurse at the Texas Medical Center to pursue music full time. Since then, he signed with Island Records in 2019, amassed more than three million monthly listeners on Spotify, and has even caught the attention of K-pop sensation BTS. Keshi’s latest EP, always, rounds out a trilogy—beginning with 2019’s skeletons and last March’s bandaids—in which he’s consistently produced soft yet powerful vocals, vulnerable lyrics, and distinct instrumentation.
Written entirely in quarantine, and perfectly capturing its melancholic essence, each of always’ tracks reflects on past relationship struggles. While the mood varies from song to song, they work together seamlessly as a whole. Jam to the upbeat energy of “B.Y.S.,” interspersed with rap-esque samples behind the lead vocals, or reminiscence about lost love in the more stripped-down “drunk.” In five songs, Keshi captures a wide range of emotions and tones, from nostalgic to frustrated to pleading. This EP trilogy, and always in particular, is the perfect precursor to Keshi’s not-yet-released debut album. “I wanted skeletons, bandaids & always to be an introduction to who I am as an artist,” Keshi wrote in a tweet. “Now that they’re done, it’s time to start working on the album.” In the meantime, I’ll just have to keep always on repeat.
–Morgan Pryor, editorial intern
Follow the Austin Aesthetic
As with many twentysomethings at the moment, an embarrassing percentage of screen time on my phone is allotted to TikTok. A casual “doomscroll” can go on for hours—or until a pop-up scolds me for being on the app for too long.
But my affinity for the video app helped me find an Austin-based content creator who is a fount of ideas for new things to try. The Austin Aesthetic, an influencer named Emily, boasts more than 33,000 followers on TikTok, and for good reason: she finds local gems around the city. Her videos informed me that you can see peacocks at Mayfield Park, that Slapbox Pizza has huge slices, and where to see the best view of the Austin skyline (Lou Neff Point on Lady Bird Lake). I often find myself going back to her account to see which places I should add to my endless “Need to Try” list on my phone.
It is a little scary how specific my TikTok For You Page is getting, but if you feel like you’ve been frequenting the same Austin locales, look to @theaustinaesthetic for new adventures.
–Daniela Perez, editorial intern
Virtually Attend OUTsider Fest
At some point in the pandemic, I stopped living my life under the guise of “when things go back to normal …” and instead began to wonder what “normal” will mean moving forward. If the lives we knew are changed forever, how will we continue to have fun? How will we connect to others?
Austin’s OUTsider Fest aims to answer those questions through a virtual version of the three-day trans-media festival (February 19–21). Since 2013, the nonprofit event has celebrated the work of LGBTQ+ creators by presenting “provocative, overlooked and out-of-the-box” film, dance, theater, performance art, music, writing, and visual art. And if you’re suffering from Zoom fatigue, feeling a little weary about logging on for yet another all-online festival—take heart. The program will grapple with those issues directly, recognizing head-on how dystopian online social events can feel.
Through dramatic, musical, and artistic presentations as well as drawing classes, psychic readings, and even exercise activities, the festival aims to continue connecting individuals of all backgrounds in the way LGBTQ+ spaces always have. OUTsider Fest may not have an exact answer regarding what “fun” looks like in our uncertain future, but if nothing else, it’s a great way to escape our homes and realities for a weekend. Passes are donation-based and available online.
–Juan Alfonso Núñez, editorial intern