Shift into Spring


“First day of spring–
I keep thinking about
the end of autumn.”

-Matsuo Basho

Growing up in Austin, there always came a time during the spring semester of school, when I knew the season had officially arrived.  The weather shifted just so, between hot and cool, and mild breezes over fresh cut grass and blooming flowers, delivered a understated yet distinct smell to my nose.

A comparable sense would be the way pavement smells right before it’s amount to rain.  After a few times you’re keyed into that smell and your brain makes the connection between it, and the coming rains.

After 19 years here I feel attuned to shift into spring.  And with this shift came changes.  In the world and within myself, boy-to-teen-to-man.  And beyond all those things, there was something else: possibility.

Possibility of what?  I didn’t know.  But it was that uncertainty that I looked forward to.  An awakening into the new year (though the new year had started officially anywhere from two to three months prior to my ‘sensing’ spring).

So I feel spring in Austin yet again.  And just like when I was 8, 13, or 18, I feel that sweet, uncertain, possibility.


East Side Day Drifting

[I meant to post this on Friday, whoops!]

3:30pm, Wednesday

I picked an off hour to get my haircut.  At least that was the hope.  I hated waiting, even though, generally,  the free-flowing back and forth barbershop talks made time fly by.  It was a matter of engagement.  Find a thread and tune in.

Someone would talk about Obama and so-so Republican this, and that.  Someone else would be talking about the latest sporting event, currently the Texas Relays, and how their teams were doing.  And another dude would discuss what Houston rapper (Z-Ro) was, in fact, the most under-rated rapper in the industry.

As planned (and prayed for at my office desk), there was only one body between me and the fresh feeling low cut on a 75 degree day with light wind.  Perfect.  Cool, but not too cool, and clear skies with just the right amount of sunny heat.

I really just needed a line-up, a straight blade razor to frame my face inside the boarders of my hairline.  But my barber, on the days when I could catch him with a reservation or waiting line, convinced me to take a bit off all around.

I told him, low but not too low.  I didn’t want to see my scalp.  Lately I had been worried that cutting it too low might make catching signs of baldness all but impossible.

So off my barber went, buzzing and clipping away.  It was really a great day.  The shop’s front and exit doors were open, taking in the assorted sounds around 12th and Chicon.  I was in the East side of Austin, formerly what would be considered by some the “other side of the tracks.”

Since I’d lived in Austin, my only substantive memories of the East side were for haircuts, church, and occasionally chopped BBQ sandwiches.  The kind when even though wrapped tightly, the grease still showed on the brown paper bag.  The kind that, within 30 minutes of eating, guaranteed, you caught a case of the Itis (i.e. DEEP food coma).

So I should add smells to what I was taking in as my head was being worked over.  Because across the street and down a ways, less than a minute, there was a BBQ shop doing brisk business.  The sweet smokey smells of southern tradition drifted out of the building and radiated in every direction.

I found myself lost in the din of conversations around me, with the cacophony of hip-pop blaring from the shop’s surround sound system, and the whizzing of the clippers next to my ear.  I gave in and this world enveloped me like a unborn baby in the womb.

“This,” I thought,”is a moment worth capturing.”  The BBQ smells from across the street were mixing with the smells of the shop, the Kools on a few patrons breathe and clothes, the Church’s chicken someone had brought in, and various sprays needed to give black hair that fresh-cut sheen and smell.

My senses were fulfilled, and I wanted nothing more at that moment.



Yes. Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You’re walking along, minding your own business. You’re looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head’s in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you’re walking on air. And then you know what? You’re knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head!- Friend Owl, Bambi

I love this word!



SXSW: Done and Done.

“Suddenly the Fedora population in Austin decreased by 62%”

SXSW came and went, and for me, this year was my first really getting into the festivities.  I went to two movie premieres, one day party (including assorted bands playing), caught the tail end of another party following Wake Forest’s win over Texas (Go Deacs!), and survived a hipster stampede flea market rush.

I know, that wasn’t a whole lot for most folks, especially when other areas of my life are in a lull.  That SHOULD have been the time when I to picked up the pace: went hard, went long, got home late, and didn’t wake up until noon.  But I’m not that person (I know better, anyways).

When life gives you space, embrace it.  Don’t attempt to fill it.  That will take care of itself.  So I did my time.  I enjoyed myself when presented with those opportunities, which overall were very rewarding.  New faces and experiences added to my life mix.

Next year I’m promising myself (You are my witness) that I WILL attend double what I did this year.  That should put me in good stead with the hipster gods.

Here’s a few pics from the past week:



Interview Series: Zach Nelligan

DCM Photography

Pursuing your passion and turning it into a career is the American dream.  In this interview, Zach Nellian, tattoo artist and businessman, shares his life and what drives him.  

Could you fill readers in on your background?  

My name is Zach Nelligan.  I’m 26 years old and a life-long resident of Austin, TX.  I’m a tattooer and I work at Triple Crown Tattoo Parlour.  I have a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Texas at Austin.  Note of interest for people that might care:  AJ and I have been friends since the 3rd grade, and he’s always been a top notch dude.  Thank you so much for taking me into consideration for this.  

When did you realize you wanted to be an artist as a profession?  

 I’ve been drawing my entire life and have always wanted to do it as a living, and always just assumed it was what would happen.  Of course, this is rarely the case, so I couldn’t be more grateful that it actually happened!  I have no idea what I would do otherwise…
How did you decide on being tattoo artist?
It was at some point later in college.  I had been getting tattooed since I was 18, and they steadily got bigger and better.  I began researching the art and profession more and more.
Can you describe your experience breaking into the Austin tattoo scene?
Austin has a huge tattoo scene.  Just about everybody here is tattooed and we have one of the highest per capita counts of shops.  Some of the world’s finest tattooers work here and there are more and more everyday.  It’s very tough and competitive, but unlike other cities, there isn’t too much drama between shops.  As far as breaking in and making a name for myself, I’ve just done what I always do:  be as nice and genuine of a person as I can be, while working as hard as I can and constantly keeping up with my clients as far as communication and updates of my online and physical portfolios.
How would you describe your tattoo style?
I prefer to do primarily old school, traditional designs or subjects that evoke a vintage nostalgia.  I do bright, clean, bold tattoos that will hold up over time instead of super delicate, rendered, soft tattoos that will blur and fade quickly.
No tribal or Chinese characters then?
If that’s what you really want, I will gladly do it!

Bring ’em on!  I’m also here to get paid, haha.  


What has been the “wackest” tattoo you’ve given someone?
Wackest?  Maybe some of the stuff I was doing when I first started, haha.  Wackiest?  I do a lot of wacky tattoos.  I still really like the $%^# wizard riding the dragon.  It took up a girl’s entire thigh.

I do a lot of weird tattoos.  It’s a niche I’ve broken into.  See the answer above, and I also did a skull eating a @#$%&# in this dude’s armpit.  That was an interesting challenge.  

Whom or what do you draw (no pun) inspiration from?
Anything vintage or nostalgic, and also my clients’ ideas.  Old clip art, ads, tattoo designs, objects, etc.  I have a lot of reference material.

What’s your approach to attracting customers?  Any networking involved?
My business is primarily word of mouth.  If I’m kind and attentive to my customers and give them a nice tattoo worthy of being proud of, then they will pass my information along.  Besides that, the internet is huge.  I have a web site, Myspace, and Facebook for that.
Our shop also participates in different fund raisers, South By Southwest, East Austin Studio Tour, and we did a movie night for a while.  I also travel often for tattoo conventions, and our shop is involved with the Austin tattoo convention.
To what extent has the internet and social media been integrated into your business?
It’s a huge part of it.  I’d say half of my business comes from the internet, especially with Myspace, Facebook, and Yelp.  That’s where everybody turns to for everything now, so you have to participate and take advantage of its possibilities.  I try to keep all my stuff online as up to date as possible.
How long have you operating online?
I’ve had my site and profiles since I was an apprentice.  I guess about five years now.
Besides tattoos what other mediums do you work with?
When I paint, I use watercolor paper and liquid acrylics.  I used oil paint in college, but haven’t used it since then.
How do you see yourself advancing as an artist and businessman?
There’s no place to stop advancing.  It’s a natural thing to just want to get better at your craft, and it happens exponentially.  Especially now that tattooers and artists are getting better and better at younger and younger ages, it’s really important to always be on your toes.
As for business, I’ve recently broken into the publishing game, but it’s mostly been for fun.  I don’t plan on owning a shop until I have the means and the market needs another one.
What keeps you hungry to get there?
Personal growth primarily.  I don’t want to short change my potential or my customers with work that isn’t striving to be the best I can possibly strive to produce.
Lastly.  For those readers looking to get inked, where can you be reached?
I can be reached at:
Thanks Zach!

But, I Paid My Dues!

Photo Credit

This man (Lloyd, assistant with a Stanford MBA) can quote from the entire stack [of movie scripts], that is what he is willing to put in for his own success. He’s paying his dues. When have you paid yours?- Ari Gold, Entourage

I don’t think often we are aware of when we are “paying our dues.”  When people make the claim that they’ve paid their dues, it smacks of self-entitlement.

As if something is owed to them because they did something they felt warranted whatever reward/promotion they sought.

No one owes you anything.

True, one should be aware of the value and contributions you bring to an organization, and not be afraid, tactfully to bring those to the attention of the powers that be, but generally, if your good, if you’ve got “it”, you will be recognized and elevated.

But not before someone believes you are.

Get that.  You present through actions, someone else decides that you have paid your dues (though you could decide to quit, I guess).

I like analogies, so here’s one.  You want to make varsity on your ______ team/squad, so you train, hard.  You miss out on dates, you miss out on family time, you have only one thing on your mind.  And when the time comes, you don’t make varsity.  You may think “But I did everything I was supposed to, I paid my dues!”

It doesn’t matter.  The coach, for whatever reason, didn’t believe you were ready.  You don’t decide when enough is enough (if you are choosing to work in an organization or firm).  You do evaluate your past moves, adjust where necessary, and persist towards your goal (this is fundamental in life, and in your career).

At 26 years old, I’m still in that “verge zone.”  And I enjoy it.  Along the way I’ve accumulated some great (at least learning) experiences.  Have I paid my dues?  I don’t know.  I do know I have made hard decisions concerning my career goals.  Where they the right ones?  Only time will tell.

Remember this: It’s not a matter of dues being paid, but of you becoming someone who is worthy of that next step.


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New Hustle Music: Aleo Blacc

This the opening theme song for the new HBO series “How to Make It In America“. I found out earlier this week that it was in fact not a 70’s era soul song (think David Ruffin or Billy Paul).

The singer Aleo Blacc has made a great song. One that speaks to you, and that anyone trying to come up, whatever your situation, understands.


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