SXSW Interactive: Sticks and brothels
Give a stick a good story and the stick becomes more than a stick, better than the stick it was. (It’s Harry Potter’s lost wand!) Well, that can happen with a bar, and even a conference.
Last night I sat in a dark, tiny, brick room that was exactly the size of a full-size mattress. I know this because just a few short months ago the room had been one of five in the back of a narrow brothel called Midnight Cowboy’s Oriental Massage on Austin’s Sixth active Street and a mattress fit squarely on the floor, stretching wall-to-wall. At six-four-four inches tall, I could not have fit on it without lying at a diagonal. The brothel had been shut down and converted into a very fancy bar that only served about 15 cocktails.
As I sat with five other people crammed along high-backed sofas that ran along two sides the room I couldn’t stop staring at the floor imagining all of the “massaging” that had gone on there for years. I swear I could clearly SEE people down there, as though there were eight (or maybe nine..ten?) of us in the room. It was oddly voyeuristic.
So the bar became more than the bar, better than the bar, because it had a story.
I’m looking for the story behind SXSW that makes it more than just another conference for a specific tribe. As I observed the attendees, and they are fun to observe, it amazed me how so many thousands of people can all look alike, sort of brainy, nerdy, attractive, cool fashionista-type. The “attractive,” “cool,” “fashionista” part is the news item for me. In my high school days these people would have all been members of:
- the short wave and AM/FM ‘radio’ club
- the computer club
- the animation club (I was its only member, and no on knew it existed)
- the chess club
- the AV club
- the honor society
But only the brainy-nerdy description would have applied to these kids; they were certainly not cool and most were certainly not cheerleader and quarterback attractive.
I was a nerd in high school. I was spit on in the showers by the football team (seriously), called fatso by beautiful girls and chased through shopping malls by bullies. I had a very weak support group, whereas I felt these evil doers were being cheered on by the whole school.
As long as there are meatheads, there will be bullies in school, but thanks to the internet, the nerd club is a strong one, and here at SXSW I’ve found my tribe, because I know their story.