Please indulge me in some idle memories.
Thirty years ago, I moved to Austin.
Twenty-five years ago, I wrote my first story for this newspaper.
Ten years ago, I submitted my first Out & About blog post, which evolved into this column, then opened the doors to write about Austin’s people, places, culture and history.
How did all that happen?
Austin beckoned for many reasons, but the inciting action was my entrance into graduate school at the University of Texas.
In 1984, Austin suffered from prolonged drought, enjoyed an unusually snowy winter and hobbled through a local and regional economic bust. Naturally, I assumed this was a semi-arid region with cold winters and, protected by state and university, inexperience with normal business cycles.
In truth, Austin endures a semi-humid climate — that might be changing — prone to terrible floods and mild winters. It’s also structurally, culturally and civically resilient.
We worry about traffic, affordability and inequality, but Austin muddles through pretty well.
I got to know the places of Austin by walking.
Those perambulations were confined within a three-mile radius of the State Capitol, in other words, pre-World War II Austin. Thirty years later, that’s still my home turf, although I’ll accept any excuse to explore the suburbs and exurbs with a car and a map.
I learned more about Texas and its history on road trips for research on my master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation, which looked at theatrical life in the state.
In 1989, the newspaper job started with a call from then-entertainment editor Ed Crowell.
Crowell: "Would you like to write some theater reviews for us?"
Me: "Who are you and how did you get my number?"
Crowell: "Your professor seems to think you’d be good at it."
Me: "But I have no background or training in journalism."
Crowell: "Why not give it a try?"
Because of the extraordinary access given to reporters, I got to know the growing arts community pretty quickly. Then, because of a boom in high-level arts during the 1990s, I became familiar with the city’s business, political and philanthropic leaders.
A five-year stint as entertainment editor introduced me to the film, music, food, media, literary and nightlife scenes. A short time as a lifestyle editor added style, faith, school, parenting, fitness, health, tech and hospitality contacts to my Rolodex.
(I kept that tattered wheel of cards long after it was made digitally obsolete.)
At a certain point, it became important to sort all these folks out. Informed by the likes of Jane Greig, Karen Spezia, Eugene Sepulveda, Kevin Smothers and others, we published what would become the Out & About 500, an attempt to list all the city’s social leaders. After five years, however, the list had served its purpose and was consigned to the dustbin of newspapers past.
It was time to dig deeper. Which led to the personality profiles, historical articles, scene reports and trend pieces that are my bread and butter these days.
I still walk. Still take road trips. Still can’t get enough of my city and my state.
And, oh yes, I continue to put out the near-daily blogs and the weekly social columns about New and Old Austin, supported by frequent forays into the realms of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I find those digital tools marvelously useful. Readers follow the progress of my stories from inception, through the incremental stages of reporting and writing. They often contribute tips and sage advice, along with the occasional tart retort.
It all works together. And the job never stops. I can’t leave the house without meeting more open, smart, kind, fun, fit Central Texans.
Their stories tell themselves.