Austin People Issue
Local Love | December 2016
by Kristiana Vuong
Photographs by Holly Cowart
For our People issue, we wanted to explore friendships that arose from a shared community table and unleashed moments with furry friends. Sure, it’s hard to say “hi” to a stranger, but doing so spurred lasting relationships and cherished memories for the folks below. Here are their stories.
Red Bud Isle
Tuesday, Nov. 1, 5:30 p.m.
Lori Reeves (right) has been visiting Red Bud Isle since she was a child. While strolling with her dogs last August, she struck up a conversation with Leo Ferrerse (left) and Francesca Silvestrini (middle) who moved to Austin from Milan, Italy to open gelato shop Dolce Neve. Lori and the couple began regularly bumping into each other at the park and soon Lori and Francesca, both pregnant, discovered they were both pregnant with boys. The two would walk with their dogs and their pregnant bellies, while Leo teased that it was nice to have another woman for Francesca to complain with. Their friendly exchanges at Red Bud blossomed into a friendship beyond the park, and now they regularly get in touch about travel, politics and what they are cooking for dinner. More than a year later, they stroll together through Red Bud, only now their babies are in their arms.
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 6:00 p.m.
Couple Suze Kemper (right) and Jack Conover (left) sit beneath an overcast sky with their two fur babies at Yard Bar. Suze has spent much of her life in Austin and chats about the friendliness of the city as she recounts how quickly her friendship began with another Yard Bar regular, Jo. On a slow afternoon in May, Suze and Jo struck up a conversation. For the next couple of weeks, the ladies continued bumping into each other every day. One Yard Bar night, Suze and Jack saw Jo and invited her to join them. “One of my favorite things about that evening was exchanging stories about how Jack and I met and how Jo and her boyfriend met,” Suze shared. For Suze and Jo, what started as a casual conversation at Yard Bar has quickly turned into a close friendship.
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 4:00 pm
For Juliana Dierker (right) and Charles McClain (left), ABGB’s gracious live-oak trees and wide-open spaces keep them coming back. While the pair sit enjoying beers, Juliana reflects on the spontaneous connections they’ve experienced there while quenching with a craft. “It was an afternoon and we were all just hanging out. Our friend’s dog wandered under the table of the group behind us. So we go over there and conversation opens up. We started talking about the dogs because that’s always an easy thing to connect with people about, and then the other group just slowly turned their chairs toward us. We started breaking off into smaller conversations and we ended up spending the rest of our time here as one group.” Although no long-lasting friendships sprouted, the shared experience left Juliana with a sweet memory.
Casa de Luz
Sunday, Nov. 6, 8:30 a.m.
Every Sunday morning, Curt Finch (left) gathers with friends around the community table at Casa de Luz to indulge in nourishing food and philosophical conversations. He and Stuart Hersh (second from left) met a few years ago when Stuart’s fiancée persuaded him to give Casa de Luz a try. Though his fiancée has since passed, Stuart continues to eat at Casa de Luz regularly and banter with Curt. “We’re opposites philosophically,” Curt reflected. “Stuart thinks government can solve the problem; I think government is the problem, but Stuart is cogent and good at seeing other points of view.” While they have their differences, they agree that food is a great mediator of conversation. Curt’s friend Telford Knox (right), a newcomer to Casa de Luz, wasn’t ready to dive into the pre-set menu of leafy greens and vegan broths, but enjoyed the stimulating conversation this unique environment seems to foster. Curt’s story is a familiar one for many of the regulars, noted owner Eduardo Longoria (second from right), who connect more deeply to their food and to each other as well, coming as individuals and leaving as friends.
Starbucks in Tarrytown
Monday, Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m
Bob Ozer (right), Ben Crenshaw (middle) and Pete Phillips (left) sit together sipping coffee in the early hours of the morning. Bob and Ben knew each other casually at Austin High, where they were both on the golf team. Bob jokes that Ben never gave him the time of day because, even as a high schooler, Ben was the “best golfer in the world.” They have lived in the same neighborhood most of their lives, but it wasn’t until 2009 when a small group started meeting at Starbucks that their friendship began to develop. A short time later, Pete, a newcomer, quickly found himself wrapped up in these early morning, thought-provoking conversations and has since become great friends with Bob and Ben. When asked about the purpose of meeting up, Ben put it simply: “We like talking to each other. That’s it. Without the distraction of cellphones or the need to be somewhere else.”
Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.
If it weren’t for Mike, Kevin and trivia night at Pinthouse Pizza, this motley crew might never have met. Mike and Kevin had been coming to trivia night every Tuesday for more than a year, but they were not always on the same team. They decided to join forces one evening when they were sitting next to each other at a community table. After a few weeks as a team, the two began grabbing beers outside of trivia night and became roommates for a while. During tonight’s trivia showdown, Mike and Kevin test the theory of six degrees of separation by bringing together Mike’s high school pal, Doug, who knows Charlie, who works with Neal, who is roommates with Laura, who is friends with Kevin. These new friends now trivia team together to have all the answers at Pinthouse Pizza.
Read more from the Arts Issue | November 2016