Safe Enough to Be Brave
This is a giant THANK YOU letter. I owe more thank you letters than this one, but this one needs to be public.
Dear Robert Faires, Sandy Carson, and the editors at the Austin Chronicle,
The picture on the right is the edition of the Austin Chronicle that featured me on the front cover. The copy of the Chron is sitting on a shopping cart at Fiesta, where I was buying groceries early in the morning with my best friend Eunice who was cooking food for the EAST preview party that night. There weren’t many shoppers in Fiesta at 8am on a Thursday morning, so it was noticeable when I screamed, the manager needed to be sure I was ok. I didn’t look quite as good in real life as the cover photo did, so it took a minute for the grocery store manager to believe me that it was me. Thank you Sandy for making me look good.
I BELIEVE in community. I believe like a fanatic. To quote Faulkner, “Memory believes before knowing remembers, believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. Believes, knows, remembers…” That’s how much of a believer I am, how much of a dork I am for community. That is because friends and connections saved my life. I grew up in hell as an at-risk kid, alone and feral, trying to escape religious, emotional, and sexual abuse. How I’m still alive still blows my mind every day. And I have a nice home, two great kids, and lots of friends, I am healthy, somewhat sane, and have work I care about. I learned how to do this from friends, from communities of like-minded people I found, by following the spark of connection and the scent of what interested me.
The first time I picked up a Chronicle was in 1987 when I came to visit Austin in my hot little ’72 Datsun 240Z. That issue had the annual musicians register in it. Line by line the contact info of every individual musician and band. I was hooked. I met Dave Davis who played in a band called Zulu Time and was smitten. He was also an Oklahoma ex-pat. I stayed in a corner room at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel. I was in heaven. I fell in love with a city.
And to again quote Battlestar Galactica, as I did in the article you wrote (because yes I am that much of a dork), community is what makes me feel safe enough to be brave. It is the network of people in our lives that you can reach out to. I don’t have family to count on, I have community. Family is who you get, but community is who you choose. And they are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, employees of businesses you go to. It is built by allowing your self to be seen, seeing others, and treating people well. It is a social economy in a particular place. We give and take.
The support I’ve received as an artist and as the quirky person that I am has allowed me to take risks. I want to think bigger than I do, I want to allow others the opportunity to come in more, and closer. I want to share how oddly grateful I am, even for the pain of my experiences. Because pain makes you reach out and ask, and need, and be seen. We can survive alone, but we need each other to thrive. The East Austin Studio Tour lets me invite everyone in, and to appreciate who shows up.
Being on the cover of the Austin Chronicle was the most meaningful message that what I give matters. I am valued most for doing what I enjoy most, and that is inviting people in to talk, play, and share my creativity in the home I am so fortunate to have. I can’t make new or better art without someone’s response and conversation with me about it. I can’t grow without you.
Robert, thank you so much for that article and for putting my silly self on the cover of the Austin Chronicle. You blew my heart open. I’m gonna have to dream bigger now.