(The title of this post is a reference to "Head Up, Kid" by Major League. It's one of my favorite songs to listen to while I'm on the road; they were one of my favorite bands to photograph, and I'm sad to see them part ways.)
The weird thing about Austin is the lights. On our second day in Austin, we woke up early and headed to Whole Foods before going to the University of Texas. It was wild driving down 6th Street at 8am and seeing bars and clubs with lit-up signs!
Students at UT- Austin were smart, and they all had plenty of questions about our display; sometimes it can be challenging answering the hard questions, but it's always rewarding knowing I'm making a difference with every person I talk to. (And there's a lot- between me and my two tour mates Karla and Emily, we usually talk to upwards of 300 people a day- thanks to coffee for fueling me through that!).
After Austin, we headed a few hours north to the University of North Texas in Denton (near Dallas). The peta2 Campus Rep at UNT, Lila, has been vegan her entire life- how cool is that? I love meeting people who were raised vegan; with growing numbers of vegans in younger populations, it's exciting to think about how many kids of the next generation will be raised vegan.
The coolest part of UNT would have to be Mean Greens Café, the all-vegan dining hall on-campus! For a little over seven dollars (UNT students can use a meal swipe), I had lunch at the all-you-can-eat buffet (pizza, enchiladas, tacos... how do you even decide?!), and it was pretty spectacular. Karla talked to one of the chefs there, who ended up bringing us all some brownies when we went back for dinner. If you ever find yourself in Denton, Texas, Mean Greens is a great stop for vegan food.
We spent the weekend in Dallas, where I was able to shoot a show for the first time in over a month! But before that, a trip to the all-vegan Spiral Diner was a great way to start the day. Maybe it's the Jersey girl in me, but I can't pass up a diner when I see one (the diner in my hometown doesn't have much in the way of vegan options, but their veggie burger is bangin').
In all honesty, before seeing them at The Door / Prophet Bar in Dallas, I wasn't too familiar with Anti-Flag. I was excited to go to a punk show though, and as soon as I stepped inside, I felt like I was at home. Up first was the local opener, Peter Pan Complex. They played political-meets-jokey pop-punk that reminded me a lot of early Green Day and blink-182.
After their set, I drank water from an orange Home Depot water cooler, and realized for a second just how many of these orange coolers I've had water from, at shows all over the country. It's a weird sign of consistency from place to place, everywhere I go.
Up next was The Homeless Gospel Choir. Derek Zanetti is a one-man band and he plays a lot of "protest songs"- a lot of songs about feeling out of place in the world but right at home at a punk show, about how messed up society is, and how important it is to talk to your friends if you're dealing with a mental illness or just feeling lonely. I loved how frank- sometimes serious, sometimes silly, always honest- his lyrics were.
The highlight of the night for me was War On Women. A feminist hardcore band, their songs confronted street harassment, sexism in the workplace, and other topics that are very real for women in our society. I loved seeing their energy on stage; it felt so real.
The crowd was pretty intense during Anti Flag; the venue didn't have a barricade, so I grabbed just a few shots from the side of the room.
On the following day, before heading down to Houston, we went downtown to see the John F. Kennedy Memorial. It's kind of like a giant, open, concrete tomb; the slabs of concrete almost appear to be floating between their supports and it's a bit eerie (but very cool).
Our first day at Rice University in Houston started out dreary: it rained pretty hard for a few hours, so we leafleted inside. But once the sun rose, we were able to set up our full display outside- so many people stopped to ask us what we were doing and what it was all about!
After two days at Rice, we headed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for Louisiana State University. I had never been to Baton Rouge before; we didn't see much of the city, but a trip to Mellow Mushroom for pizza was a great way to end our day.
We were then on to New Orleans for two days at Tulane University. My younger brother, Luke, is a Tulane alum, and my dad has friends in the city, so I've been a few times- if you've never been to the Big Easy, I can't recommend visiting enough. It's so vibrant and yet- like most Southern cities are- it's more relaxed and easygoing than most of the North. One of my favorite places to stop when in New Orleans is Dat Dog: in addition to the traditional hot dog, they've got three veggie sausage options, which you can load up with toppings like hummus, relish, jalapenos, pickles, and blackberry sauce. Yum!
There are a lot of great parts of touring, but one of the best is watching the sunset in a different city every night, and seeing how different it looks. This sunset outside of our hotel in New Orleans was rather beautiful.
On our day off, we explored the French Quarter: right across from the Mississippi River, it's always vibrant and while parts of it are touristy, it's very historical as well. There were people making and selling art (everything from caricatures to abstract pieces featuring wood salvaged from homes destroyed in Hurricane Katrina), and people telling fortunes and reading Tarot cards. We also discovered a cute boutique called Coco Ally that sold t-shirts, bags, stickers, and more with animal-loving and vegan-friendly art designed by Ally Burguieres.
Our next stop was Florida State University in Tallahassee. We set up our display in an area that seemed hidden, so I was worried that we wouldn't see much foot traffic, but I shouldn't have been- it was as busy a day as any, with a regular flow of people very receptive to learning about how eating meat impacts the environment and curious about a vegan diet.
We were then on to the University of South Florida in Tampa. After our first day, we headed to Taco Bus to fuel up (butternut squash burritos with rice, beans, and loads of vegan cheese?! Yes, please!). Our second day at USF was a market of sorts on campus, with loads of organizations and vendors offering information to students- these events are always great because so many people walk by!
We just wrapped up two days at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where we had the pleasure of doing outreach alongside peta2 Campus Rep and former Warped Tour crew member Hunter. It was so inspiring watching him talk to people about how to go vegan and how important it is to think about how what we eat relates to the world around us; he was friendly and approachable, and very knowledgeable as well (two qualities that make a great activist!).
I'm finishing this blog in Downtown Orlando, waiting to go photograph a show; tomorrow I'm heading to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and I don't think I've ever been more excited for a day off!