How To Survive And Thrive At #SXSW If You’re Not From Texas

I’ll be in Austin, TX this weekend to participate in South-by-Southwest Interactive. My panel “Big Data Smackdown on Cybersecurity” will be held Sunday, March 11 from 12:30PM - 1:30PM at the Austin Hilton Downtown. Hope to see you there.

Now, I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as soon as I could. I’ve lived in Dallas, TX for 30 years so I consider myself an adopted native-Texan. I’ll be at South-by-Southwest Interactive this weekend, so I thought I’d share some tips for all my current and future friends. For those of you from out-of-state – known as furriners – I hope you’ll find this advice helpful.

You’re coming to a foreign country.

One of our mottos is “Texas, It’s Like A Whole Other Country.” That’s not meant as a joke. Texas is a huge state. It takes 24 hours just to drive across it. You’ll go from the mountains and mesas in the west, to the piney woods of East Texas. We have our own power grid so we won’t have to share power with anyone, especially California. Our own Rob Whiteley likes to tell the story of a trip to one of our Security Forums in London where the gentlemen in the seat in front of him was clearly from Texas.  As the plane was nearing Heathrow Airport, the flight attendant handed out boarding cards. Soon the man in front punched his attendant call button. “Ma’am” he said in his thick Texas drawl, “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to write in here,” his finger pointing to the form. The flight attendant said “Sir, that’s where you put the country you’re from.” “Yes,” replied the Texan, “but I’m not sure if I should write down USA or Texas!”

Texans are friendly.

Texas is a friendly state and Texans are especially friendly people. Some furriners find this off-putting. Expect to hear folks say howdy a lot. In some cities in Texas, it is considered very rude to not reply with a howdy of your own. SXSW attendees don’t have a good reputation with the locals. Be sweet. Don’t make them want to “get a rope.” Also, Texans sometimes speak a different language. It might be good to catch up on your Texas vocab while on the plane.

And we love to eat.

There are really only three letters you need to know to enjoy Austin’s culinary delights: BBQ! I’m partial to County Line, but there are lots of others including Stubbs and Salt Lick that have their own fans. For breakfast, get to The Omelettry early (or late if you are still up from the night before). If you need a snack in the middle of the day, hop over to Walton's Fancy and Staple, a bakery owned by Sandra Bullock. Your evening will be spent party hopping from place to place, many of them on 6th Street. Stay sane, though, as there will be a big Austin Police presence this year.

Austin is the music capital of the world.

Even though SXSW is known as a premier music event, Austin is always filled with music. While in town, take time out from all the invading indie/hipster bands, and check out some real Texas music. One of my favorites is local Austinites Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros. They’ll be in and out of Austin throughout SXSW. Also take a trip up north to the original Threadgill’s restaurant. You’ll see the stage where Kenneth Threadgill first discovered Janis Joplin. Another legendary venue is Antone’s, the legacy of Clifford Antone who helped put Texas Blues King SRV on the map.

Don’t forget to take a guitar home.

Austin has a plethora of great guitar stores. My favorites are Guitar Resurrection, South Austin Guitars and Austin Vintage Guitars. A couple of years ago, I saw local guitar hero Eric Johnson at Austin Vintage looking at effects pedals. My son was too embarrassed to let me go over and say hi, but you never know who you’ll see in Austin.

See some sights.

There are lots of things to see and do. If you’re a Coen brothers fan, you’ll want to go to the top of Mount Bonnell where some of the scenes from the classic movie Blood Simple were filmed. Also the University of Texas Tower is open once again. Made notorious by Charles Whitman who used the tower as a sniper’s perch in 1966, killing 16 people. Closed for nearly 30 years, the tower is the visual centerpiece of Austin. Then, at night the bats come out. Yep, real bats live under the Congress Street Bridge. March is a little early to see them, but if we’re lucky they’ll decide to put on a show.

Finally, enjoy Texas.

We think Texas is the greatest place on earth, which is why so very few Texans leave the state and so many furriners migrate here.

Hope to see you in Austin. I’ll be tweeting @kindervag. Come to my session. Say howdy if you see me. And tweet at me if you’d like to meet up. Have a great #SXSW.