In the corridor to the terminal as I leave the plane it hits me—the air covers me in sweat and I can already smell myself. Very quickly, I remember what it means to be in Texas.
Even though TXJS is what we sometimes call a “regional” conference it attracts a good number of familiar faces from around the country who I’m all too happy to catch up with. As usual, I spend a lot of time with Alex Russell as we tend to take our time arguing until we realize that we mostly agree with one another. As sudden hunger interrupts Chris Williams and I we join Joe McCann and Mandy Lauderdale for a dinner and when we walk the sidewalk shifts with cockroaches and crickets.
Each morning I wake early to prepare coffee I’ve brought with me which I roasted only a day before leaving home. In my hotel room this means tricking my coffee maker into running hotter than normal to make boiling water I pour into hand ground coffee over a filter.
TXJS opens with a hundred geeks descending on paper bags of breakfast burritos. The Alamo Drafthouse is a theatre where you can order food and drink along with your film. Walking the hall you can read the screen titles “Prometheus,” “Avengers,” “Mozilla Theater.” Many speakers, most of them good, but what stands out most is the booming voice of @fat and an eye opening demonstration of machine learning by Heather Arthur.
After the show a feast of Texas BBQ and good company and giant cups of sweet tea begin the evening. We have the run of a bowling alley for the closing party and it’s well stocked with whisky and the cocktails are passable. Sweaty developers emerge a few at a time from a cramped karaoke room grinning widely while I enjoy a scotch and a conversation and another scotch. I ask Joe and Mandy where we can get “proper cocktails” and their answer makes me insist we close the night at Peché. We’re unexpectedly joined by a good portion of the attendees for an unofficial after party. Peché makes beautiful glasses of absinthe and pisco and bourbon to imbibe. Last call saves us from what would have surely ended with many people missing their checkout time and their flights—and if we dragged on too long, their dignity.
Last year a bunch of speakers and staff spent the day after TXJS on inner tubes floating down a river. A drought meant the trip took nearly 4 hours and we all left burnt in strange places. This year a nice rain brings the voyage down to only 2 hours and stern warnings from our host Alex Sexton prompt us to routinely engulf ourselves in sprayed sunblock on our way down the river and so we emerge with only minor rashes from the friction of the tubes against our skin.
Joe had asked me to speak at AustinJS the Tuesday after TXJS so I stay around longer than most which means I say a sad goodbye to a new set of people every day and take up residence in Joe and Mandy’s guest room. They are tremendous hosts and I particularly enjoy having a real kettle to boil water in for my morning ritual of coffee and eggs.
Jed Schmidt is the last of the out-of-towners to leave and the locals and I hold a BBQ next to the pool at Joe’s house on his final night. Jed, who spent his college years in a barber shop quartet, breaks into song with Andrew Dupont, a surprise vocal savant. They are joined by Mandy who sings professionally but finding songs all three of them know is challenging. Alex brings a portion of his cocktail equipment and plays bartender lavishing us with smashes and sidecars. This lasts until it doesn’t and we turn to drinking wine from a bottle then whisky and then another bottle of whisky and then we get embarrassing.
AustinJS is a fantastic local meetup. It doesn’t suffer from the tropes of most meetups. Limited speakers, a more structured Q&A usually with the questions written on cards and a proper retirement to the Gingerman. It stresses quality over quantity and has a strong pull to the bar where the real conversations will happen.
On the morning of my flight Alex and I ship a heavy container of power strips and cables to Portland for NodeConf which makes my eventual Goodbye seem much more like a To Be Continued.