My SXSW

Music Fest Diary

My SXSW
Illustration By Nathan Jensen

I arrived in Austin on Wednesday morning. My flight left New York City at 6:50am, so I decided not to sleep the night before. I stayed up all Tuesday night, into Wednesday morning, and went straight to LaGuardia Airport.

I had a great time on the flight to Austin. All I did was sleep. I woke up when the plane wheels hit the tarmac. I did eat some cashews before dozing off, and when I woke up from the runway jolt, I saw small pieces of cashew on my lap. Then I noticed that my zipper was undone. Some of the nuts had fallen into the opening, and the salt and sharp edges felt odd. I brushed myself off and got off the plane.

I had a lot of bags at the baggage claim, having brought about 200 pounds of camera equipment for my TV program Smokeshow. I'd planned to set up a studio in my hotel room. I checked into my room and started setting up the gear. My room was on a high floor, so I had a beautiful view of Austin and the river. I watching people coming into the Downtown intensity.

I've been to South by Southwest once before. I could already tell this time was going to be way more intense. There was a feeling in the air, a feeling in my gut, and the anticipation both excited and freaked me out. It was the best freaked out feeling I've ever had.

Since then, every day has been completely full. Originally, when we were planning out my time here, I had expected to have lots of open space to roam the landscape. Soon, however, it became clear that my time would be fully occupied.

I was invited to give a lecture and discussion on Friday at noon. I thought it would be good to do some talking earlier in the day – while people's heads were clear and their skies high. I was very pleased at the turnout. I went up on the stage and began to do a few physical movements. I wasn't doing crazy moves, just some solid twists and turns. During an especially mild spin, I felt my left knee pop and buckle. Then I felt it pop back into position. The pain was intense; it felt like the same overwhelming sensation as twisting your ankle. I collapsed on the stage and had trouble breathing. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I think people thought I was playing around, but I really couldn't stand or even speak.

Eventually I caught my breath and decided that my knee wasn't going to stop the lecture. I began talking, and the energy I felt from the audience – and the love in the room – gave me the focus I needed to express my thoughts and keep my mind off the excruciating pain in my knee. The crowd was so focused and engaged that I kind of went to another space – maybe just in my head, but I was no longer there in that room. At least not in the same way. After about 45 minutes, I didn't even feel my knee pain.

The topic of the lecture was Pure Fun and Total Love. I talked about ideas I had on how to be happy and how to experience life. Thinking back to what I said, I can't remember the exact words, but I do remember the feeling of possibility surging through the entire venue. I felt so grateful for the chance to connect with people and encourage them, and myself, to never doubt our loving impulses.

I felt this loving overtone resonating throughout all my experiences during this amazing festival. Whether I was doing TV interviews, performing at parties, or just talking to new and old friends, I couldn't deny the love I felt for others and the love they showed me. I used to not think love was very powerful, but more and more it seems that love is the most powerful feeling, and at the root of all the other wonderful sensations humans are capable of. Austin is love, and I love Austin. And the doctor just told me my knee is going to be perfectly okay.

Thank you.

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