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XOXO 2019: Closing Thoughts and #gratitude

· 504 words · 3 min read

(Previously: Prologue, Part 1 - Monday, Part 2 - Tuesday, Part 3 - Wednesday, Part 4 - Thursday, Part 5 - Friday, Part 6 - Saturday, Part 7 - Sunday, Part 8 - Monday (after))

As I mentioned in the very first post, XOXO caught me at a particularly vulnerable and bad time, mental health-wise. Despite that, I had an overall amazing time at XOXO and for most of it, I managed to forget at least some of my worries and focus on spending time with all the amazing people in this community.

I got to spend time with a lot of amazing people, have great conversations, heard a bunch of good conference talks, watched great performances at Story and so much more.

I got to work on a couple of projects which I thoroughly enjoyed and others did too — my portraits and the prints of them, the XOXO bingo and the XOXO calendar.

This was the third XOXO I’ve been to and it was decidedly the best one. The festival gets refined every year, and it shows. There really isn’t anything I can complain about except to suggest having more Karaoke next year.

I hope to be back — the lottery willing — in 2020 as well. The XOXO community means so much to me: it’s an important part of my online, and for a small time of a year, offline social life, full of people I love spending time with (and they seem to like me too?)

XOXO gives me a special feeling: the feeling of “finding my people”. It just sucks that most of the people I want to hang out and spend time with live so far away.

To close things up, here is a non-exhaustive list of people and things I’m grateful for.

Sarah, thank you for telling me that “XOXO doesn’t start for me until I see you”. I love you and you are the best XOXO mom and person I know. Thank you for the karaoke as well.

Josh and Angela, thank you for being my friends, I always enjoy hanging with you, and I wish we could do it more often.

Julia and Riley, it was fun working with you on the bingo, let’s do it again next year.

Emory, it was fun traveling with you; I hope we get to do that again.

Jonah, it was great to finally meet, hang out and talk shop about infrastructure/sysadmin things, which I don’t get to do very often.

Everyone who came to that #ptsd meetup; it meant a lot to me.

Becky, Josh May, Eliza, Juan, Crystal, Dan, Lyndsey, Joel, Joshua Blunt, Danielle, Liene, Earl, Skyler, Jonathan, Dunja, Robert, Dylan, Tina, Vale, Doug, Jim and all the other people I got to hang out with, thank you for your company and often your kind words. They mean a lot to me.

And finally, Andy, Andy, Rachel, everyone else on the production team and all the volunteers, thank you for making XOXO an amazing experience for us.

XOXO 2019: Part 8 - Monday (after)

· 478 words · 3 min read

(Previously: Prologue, Part 1 - Monday, Part 2 - Tuesday, Part 3 - Wednesday, Part 4 - Thursday, Part 5 - Friday, Part 6 - Saturday, Part 7 - Sunday)

I woke up way too early, around 7:30 and checked the Slack as the previous night there were talks of having breakfast together with the people who were still in town. After returning the coats I got from Pendelton, I made my way to La Luna Cafe where we basically took over the whole place. I had some really great conversations with Tina and Liene about America, exceptionalism and different perspectives. I got a great compliment from Dylan, as he turned to someone: “You don’t know Tamas? Tamas is like a hub [for people].” Liene also gave me a compliment: “You’re an includer and I appreciate that.” All of this means a lot to me.

Afterward I got an invite to a lunch with a bunch of other people, which meant a lot to me (you know who you are.) I had a great time there as well, though anxiety started setting in again and the fact that XOXO is, in fact, over. I said goodbye to a few more people then went back to our Airbnb with Emory to check out. He was headed home, while my flight was the next day. I was staying at a kind XOXOer’s place who offered to host me for a night back when my travel plans changed.

I dropped off my things, Josh brought me a T-shirt that I ordered and arrived; we also said our goodbyes.

I took a bus to downtown, then scooted around to get a bunch of shopping done as well as return something to Amazon. I got a year’s worth of Omega 3 capsules that cost me peanuts compared to what I pay in Hungary; a couple of tiny bottles of Tylenol and Advil because I love those tiny bottles (and they are useful). At one point I ran into Dunja downtown and made plans to get dinner later.

I went by Powell’s to look for the kind of stickers Skyler gave me but unfortunately didn’t find any; then I scooted to REI to get a bunch of water bottles and socks I needed.

I met up with Dunja, Robert and Djordje at Sizzle Pie for dinner — they had decent slices but nothing special. We played with the Panic sign then said goodbye; I’ll see Robert back home next week and Dunja is just a short flight away in Berlin.

I went back to the place I was staying at and then, XOXO was really over. I had a flight the next morning home, a trip almost 2 days long for a variety of reasons.

To wrap things up, I have one more post, with a few closing thoughts and a bunch of #gratitude.

XOXO 2019 Part 7 - Sunday

· 815 words · 4 min read

(Previously: Prologue, Part 1 - Monday, Part 2 - Tuesday, Part 3 - Wednesday, Part 4 - Thursday, Part 5 - Friday, Part 6 - Saturday)

After getting to bed so late, I decided to sleep in, so I set an alarm for 10:45 am. The last few days have been eventful, and I was started getting sad about it being the last day of XOXO.

I got to Rev Hall short after 11. I got Pip’s for breakfast; I joined Dunja and some of her friends who offered me a scone with a jam made from a local berry; I think it might have been marionberry. In any case, it was really tasty.

I caught Lindsay Ellis’ talk, then went back to the park to hang out with Danielle who makes the app Dialup. It has groups (“lines”) you can join which have usually one call scheduled a week and it connects you with a random person in that group. I’m a huge fan of the app and I was already part of the XOXO line; I had a good call with Liene a few weeks before the festival. I also ran into Dieter (who writes for The Verge) and his wife Lisa at the same time. We had a great conversation; Danielle also gave us one of her cool custom floppy business cards and talked about how she found random old data on them when buying them from eBay, stuff like someone’s old thesis.

I ran into Emory again who was sitting next to Jessica; she organized a really cool pre-xoxo party in 2018. We talked quite a bit about mental health and different medications.

And then it started pouring rain and we all ran back to Rev Hall. I gave Lyndsey back a couple of her things I was safekeeping from the day before; I also ran into Dylan, Max and Sarah in the bar.

I went to Martha’s to get my daily writing done, then had a really good chat with Jonah about all things infrastructure, trading all kinds of war stories and geeking out over the stuff I don’t usually get to with people.

I went back to watch the last two talks; Jenny Odell’s was okay I guess — it didn’t say anything new if you’ve been following her — and also listened to Rhea Butcher doing standup which fell really flat for me.

The closing address was great as usual.

I went for dinner to a nearby pub with Sarah, Dylan, Tim and someone else, but the place had literally nothing I could eat so I took a Lyft back to Rev Hall. I started saying goodbye to a few people, since I didn’t know if we’d meet again at the closing party or the next day.

I had dinner in the Show Bar, went by the Karaoke place but they were still setting things up. I made the mistake of not getting my name on the list right then.

Back at the bar, I watched a bit of the interactive album debut of Neil Cicierega in which you could post things in a Slack channel and it would show up on the projector. It was pretty cool though I could barely hear any of the music.

The highlight of the day was, of course, the Karaoke by Baby Ketten: there were so many good performances, by Open Mike Eagle, Lindsay Ellis, Demi Adejuyigbe and a lot more people I forget right now. Joel closed up the evening with Ghostbusters. I was on the list, but like a lot of other people, didn’t get to sing, which kind of sucked; I was really set on doing karaoke at XOXO.

Not wanting the evening to end also wanting to do karaoke, a bunch of us went to Baby Ketten’s newly opened bar with Sarah, Jim and someone else; the place slowly filled up with more XOXOers. I got to see Kevin sing Common People; both Jim and Sarah sang Pet Shop Boys songs, while I ended up opting for — after changing my mind several times — Sweet Child of Mine, which was… a bit too ambitious in retrospect, but I did my best.

karaoke Let this blurry image be enough. I have a video of my full performance but I can’t bring myself to watch it.

By then it was 1 am or so, and I was getting tired. I said goodbye to Sarah who told me a few more kind words and went back to my Airbnb. I was profoundly sad that XOXO was over; but as learned the next day, it really wasn’t just yet.

(A postscript: a few days after a festival, someone posted on the slack about PSB’s new album, and one thing led to another and now I’m going to a PSB arena concert in London next May with a bunch of XOXO people.)

XOXO 2019: Part 6 - Saturday

· 899 words · 5 min read

(Previously: Prologue, Part 1 - Monday, Part 2 - Tuesday, Part 3 - Wednesday, Part 4 - Thursday, Part 5 - Friday)

I woke up around 8:30 to a horrible nightmare, in which I was banned from XOXO because I tried to sneak someone I know in who’s an asshole. On the way to Rev Hall, I took a duckface selfie for Jan, who couldn’t come this year.


I got to the venue around 9:30 and got breakfast once again at Fried Egg I’m in Love. It felt like the first day of fall: instead of shorts and sandals, I wore jeans and my new shoe, that needed some breaking in.

I took quite a few portraits that morning, including this one of Max, that’s one of my favorites:


I also ran into Avi, Dunja, Djordje and Robert as well.

avi Avi

dunja Dunja

I was about to get Pip’s for dessert when I ran into a group of people giving away free Blue Star donuts; they were quite good.

I went to Martha’s to get my usual morning coffee (a decaf iced latte) and to watch the simulcast of the conference; turns out it was only streamed to the other bar. I went over there but as it turns out, watching a talk and trying to write just doesn’t work, so back to Martha’s to finish the day’s post.

I do want to make note of the emcees’ “Who’s the Andy” joke, which was really funny.

Once I was done, I went back to watch Harry Brewis’ talk, which was not bad, though I somehow expected more than just the recap of his famous livestream last year. I also caught the tail end of Emma Kinema’s talk about game industry unions before that.

After the morning talks, we took a group photo of all the bald people we could gather, organized by Elly:

bald1 bald2

In the lunch break, I took more portraits. I also met F6x and got to thank him for the help he gives us.

beckyandjosh Becky and Josh

emoryeliza Emory and Eliza

lyndsey Lyndsey

sarah Sarah

Around 2 pm, we did an encore of Tim Tam Slam Jam, showing more people this now-tradition. Afterwards I got to chat a bit with Michael Hobbs and Sarah Marshall, hosts of one of my favorite podcast, You’re wrong about… Michael also tried slamming and liked it a lot. I also took their picture.

In the afternoon, I watched most of the talks: a couple of them were okay, the one that really stood out for me was by Hundred Rabbits; they talked about sailing around the world and all the challenges that come with that.

After the conference ended, I headed to Martha’s for a break where I ran into Doug Hanke. We talked like an hour about various life stuff and it was just a really great and meaningful conversation.

Before Story, I had a good chat with Elina Levkovskaya about fashion, and got to tell Matthew Bogart that I love Incredible Doom (I should finish reading it, now that the entire first volume is up online.)

I got a front seat for Story that started with You’re Wrong About. They talked about the Janet Jackson Superbowl Halftime Controversy and it was really great to see them live. This was followed by Everything is Alive that interviewed a chainsaw; it was surprisingly entertaining. I took a small break to find my favorite tote bag that I managed to lose twice one day, then went back and caught most of Yo, is this racist?, where Demi and Miel were guests. They had some really touching questions from the audience in the end.

Next, Helen Zaltzman talked about pronouns in a live production of The Allusionist. The final show that night was arguably the best one: the last episode of Punch up the Jam with Demi in it; they had Neil Cicierega and Open Mike Eagle for guests. The whole thing is up on Youtube and you should watch it; it’s laugh-out-loud hilarious. I don’t remember the last time I laughed that much listening to — well, watching — a podcast. They talked about the Ghostbusters theme song which turned into an in-joke for the rest of the conference. I even made a tribute page for it that lives at ghostbuste.rs.



The day was not yet over; earlier that night I got invited to a house party by Juan, so that was my next stop. The party was great but loud and that’s not my kind of thing so I ended up resting in a quieter room. Jonah ordered a bunch of pizza us; he also gave me another 90s temporary tattoo and I got two more for the future: one “Under Construction” and another that says “Sign My Guestbook.”

It was at that party I got to talk with Vale — who’s now a regular here at WriteTogether — about life, freelancing, 3D printing a fuck machine and she also showed her 3D-printed glow-in-the-dark Luigis on the cross with the Evangelion spear in their chest. I managed to get one of them in the form of a fridge magnet the next day.

I got home around 2:15 am and went to sleep around 3. It was also the first day that I wore my new sneakers, and they were not really comfortable; ultimately it turned out they are just not a good fit at all.

XOXO 2019: Part 5 - Friday (Social)

· 1073 words · 6 min read

(Previously: Prologue, Part 1 - Monday, Part 2 - Tuesday, Part 3 - Wednesday, Part 4 - Thursday)

Friday was Social, which is probably my favorite day and the highlight of XOXO, with all the community-organized events.

I got to Rev Hall early so I got my daily writing done, then went to a cafe nearby for the off-the-books #ptsd channel meetup. I was on the fence about going but I’m really glad I did; it was one of the best ones I’ve attended. It was great to connect with other people there, learn about several interesting resources and share experiences. The place also had really good vegan chocolate chip cookies.

After the meetup, I went back to Rev Hall for the second half of my breakfast; I got a Yolko Ono from Fried Egg I’m in Love. They were one of the highlights of XOXO 2016 and their breakfast sandwiches were almost as good as I remembered, which is to say, still pretty damn good.

By then it was time for the opening remarks, so I got a front-row seat in the Auditorium. The Andys were funny as usual, insert joke here about Andy Baio’s bathroom.

The Tim Tam Slam Jam kicked off the Social meetups for me, for which a sizable crowd had formed, one that was much bigger than 2018. I sort of assumed that quite a few people would bring Tim Tams and felt like the 12 boxes I got a few weeks before were overkill. That wasn’t the case; we only had a few more boxes on top of it. Someone said they were hard to come by in Portland.


And so we slammed and it was heaps of fun as usual; people keep saying that the caramel one is not that good for slamming but I disagree, they are my favorites.


Having gotten my sugar fix, I hung out with Skyler, Jonathan, Inness and Megan. We had a good conversation, Megan gave us her zine about not freaking out, and Jonathan showed off his interactive two-person story thing that uses Airpods. I got to try it last year at XOXO 2018 and was excited about the progress he made; the demo he showed was pretty fun.

jonathan Jonathan

inness Inness

skyler Skyler

I walked to the #visual-art meetup with Jonathan and Inness. On the way there, Jonathan talked about living in Venice Beach and all the scooters there.

The meetup was nice, in a small art gallery, with a lot of people drawing. There was also a lot of cool art on exhibition. I took a few portraits there, including one of Eler that turned out particularly well. I ran into Kevin there and bought an XOXO mug from Julia.

eler Eler

kevin Kevin

julia’s mug Julia’s mug

Next, I went to Glitch’s Appy Hour. I ran into Lyndsey there again as well as a few other friends. I watched Nicole He’s cool demo for her upcoming interactive project and a Powerpoint Karaoke that was fun. I got to talk with one of my Internet Heroes, Jason Kottke; we had a good chat. He told me to email him the link to my portraits after the festival, if I somehow end up on kottke.org I can die happy (so far it hasn’t happened.)

I took a scooter back to Rev Hall to check out Playdate, Panic’s upcoming quirky game console. They only had one game you could play it, and it’s a cool device but a lot will depend on the games people will develop for it. I finally got to meet Mike and got to know Vlad; I obviously took their portraits as well.

mike Mike

vlad Vlad

I ran into Skyler again and she told me about Earl’s concert at 4 at #music-making so after hanging out a bit in the park, that was my next stop. We watched him do some chill electro music (he has a soundcloud), it was pretty great and a good way to take a break from this marathon of a day. By then it was around 4:30 pm, so I decided to get a late lunch and got a grilled cheese (again.)

Afterwards I took a scooter to the #adhd meetup, where I got a 3D printed empathy emoji that I jury-rigged to my badge; earlier that day Lyndsey showed me the trick to sticking the pronoun pin to my badge so now my badge looked a lot better. I also took the chance to print out and stick my avatar there and wrote all the projects I did under my name as well.

picture of my XOXO badge My XOXO badge, now complete

Several people told me over the past few days that they liked my pictures and thanked me for the calendar I made, which felt great.

I didn’t stay too long at the #adhd meetup as I was getting a bit tired and peopled out. I stopped by the ADX open house for a bit before going back to Rev Hall for all the evening activities.

I talked on twitter with Jillian who had Snax, her zine with her. I bought one and it’s great; you should read it if you have the chance. It has an essay from Summer Farah that’s literally one of the best things I’ve read this month.

The food trucks were opening a bit late, so I hung out more with people and finally ran into Josh, who I’ve been meaning to meet for quite a while. We had a good conversation and he told me that “you have a whole vibe” which I took as a high compliment.

After getting dinner once again from the Filippino cart, I walked around Arcade and checked out the games. I caught Nerdwriter at Video, then went to check out Tabletop. There were some cool games, however the place was very noisy and cramped and it was around that time my brain started shutting down.

I went back to Video to see Earworm (and ran into Sarah again); they showed a video that I’ve seen before but it was still fun to watch it with others on the big screen. I went back to Arcade again and took pictures of the games I wanted to check out later, then back to Video for the final act, Unraveled. He showed a video about calculating your pet’s HP and it was hilarious, well worth staying up late.

Then I took a Lyft home, showered and went to sleep.

XOXO 2019: Part 4 - Thursday

· 760 words · 4 min read

(Previously: Prologue, Part 1 - Monday, Part 2 - Tuesday, Part 3 - Wednesday)

The excitement from the previous night lasted till the next morning as I woke up way too early, around 6 am. I had a Skype session with my therapist, then went to the La Luna Cafe for breakfast. The past week or so, I kept inviting XOXO friends, both old and new for a pre-registration breakfast. A lot of them came: Dan, Emory, Eliza, Georgie, her husband Nick, her friend Kylie, Andrew, Jim, Ben, Joel, Tiffany and I might be forgetting people. The food was the delicious and the company was great; by the end, though, I was a bit peopled out, and earlier that day something triggered my anxiety again, and I was starting to feel that.

group photo The breakfast crew

The previous night I somehow managed to knock down my entire nightstand and my glasses got slightly bent, so I went to Myopic Optometry to fix them (you guessed it, someone recommended them on Slack.) Jim gave me a ride back to Revolution Hall for registration; we arrived almost at noon sharp. After picking up my badge and the swag, I started taking and printing portraits. I also met old and new friends as people started trickling in.

revhall It’s on!

jim Jim

crystal Crystal

I was planning on staying there for a couple of hours, but the sun was literally burning my skin, so after a lunch at Meat Cheese Bread where I got way too many grilled cheese sandwiches, I went to Push X Pull a couple blocks away to take a break. I hung out with Lyndsey a bit there, then got some writing done. Georgie and Nick arrived shortly after, but we mostly just enjoyed each other’s company in silence, if that’s a thing (it’s a thing.)

georgie and nick Georgie and Nick

insta The printed photos

I went to the Metafilter meetup afterwards, though I didn’t stay too long. I did take this portrait of Josh and Phil, though:

josh and phil Josh and Phil

The lack of sleep and the high anxiety was really getting to me, so I went back to my Airbnb. I took a long bath and a nap; they helped a bit.

I arrived back at Revolution Hall around 6. While waiting I ran into Annika and her friends, got a Fronds pin and I admired her Raspberry Pi Zero/e-ink display project that she was wearing: it was showing stats from the XOXO Mastodon server that she’s running. I took a few more portraits, including a really good one of Joel.

Annika's project Annika’s project

Aaron Aaron had a similar thing going

Annika Annika

Joel Joel

More people trickled in. I ran into Dylan and had a random chat with someone who was also waiting for the park to open.

Once the clock hit 7 pm and the park opened for the opening party, I went straight for the food carts. I got dinner from the Filippino place and it was extremely good food. Rice, noodles, skewers of chicken and two pork egg rolls, all of them excellent. I topped them with a copious amount of sweet and sour/soy sauce.

For dessert I went to the Churros truck which did not disappoint either; it pains me that we only had them for the first two days.

I got to hang out with a lot of people at the opening party. I met Skyler and her friends: got a cute turtle sticker from her for my badge. I got to know Earl who was having a small concert the next day. I chatted with with Liene, who I knew from the Slack but we didn’t talk much in real life before. I met Max, with whom we helped to save/migrate one of Andy McMillan’s old sites a few weeks before; later I would take one of my favorite portraits of him. And I finally got to hang out with Sarah; we kind of knew each other from Twitter but never met before.

badge The turtle is really cute.

By 9 pm I was getting tired — the glass of wine I had didn’t help — so I sat down at a table, where I met with Dunja again. She wasn’t feeling that great either and it was great to commiserate with someone together over shared anxieties and such.

In the big tent, people were playing Johann Sebastian Joust; it looked fun, but there were a lot of people waiting for it, so I called it an evening just before 10 pm, went back to my Airbnb, took a shower, went to sleep.

XOXO 2019: Part 3 - Wednesday

· 873 words · 5 min read

(Previously: Prologue, Part 1 - Monday, Part 2 - Tuesday)

I’ve had an idea for a T-shirt for years, and the week before XOXO I finally acted on it. I wanted to have a T-shirt with “Helvetica” in big, bold letters. Here, this is how it looks like:


It’s cool, right? At first, it’s nothing special. It’s just “Helvetica” in Helvetica. Right?


There, I zoomed in a bit. Can you see it yet?

If you’re just confused right now, seriously, good for you. If you’re a person who knows a thing or two about typography, however, your eyes might start twitching. That’s because the font here is Arial, and this T-shirt is designed to piss off a certain kind of font nerd.

Anyways, it arrived the day before, so I decided it’s a good day to wear it.

The day started with breakfast at Zell’s Cafe with Emory. The place was highly rated, but the food was somewhat disappointing: way too much cheese on my eggs, disappointing fries, bread that tasted weird. For dessert, we took scooters to Voodoo Donuts, which I still prefer over Blue Star, don’t @ me (we can all agree that Pip’s is excellent, though, right?)

We wanted to check out the Panic sign since Emory has never seen it before. I managed to lead us six blocks the wrong way, so Emory took over GPS duties for the rest of the trip. I kept getting/feeling slightly lost in Portland throughout my whole stay and couldn’t quite get a handle of the city — even though I’ve been there twice before. My stress and anxiety might have had something to do with that.

We did get to the Panic sign eventually, but as it turns out, it’s not much fun during daytime; you can barely see the colors.

Our next stop was the nearby Pendelton store, where I got not one but two coats for a redacted amount of money. They were beautiful coats, but I ended up returning both of them after the festival, as neither of them was quite the right cut for my weird body shape. If I’m spending that much money on a cloth item, they better be a good fit.

I took a break at Powell’s cafe, carefully not taking a look at the books because I have a giant backlog of them already. I did finally pick up Amy Baio’s You Think You Know Me, though. It is, in a way, an investment in my future as I don’t have too many people I can play it with right now.

It was around that time I connected with Dunja, Robert and Djordje, who arrived the day before; we met up in front of Revolution Hall just before 2 pm. I met Dunja at XOXO 2016; she was one of the few people from Eastern Europe. She introduced me to Robert in 2018, who’s also from Hungary; we hung out a bunch the past year. I haven’t met Djordje before; it was his first XOXO. He was Dunja’s friend from Serbia.

I saw on Twitter that Andrew just got in town and was looking for something to do so I invited him along.

We walked around the city, north on SE 13th St. then turned right on E Burnside St, wandering around and exploring the city for at least an hour. We ended up in Laurelhurst Park, which was pretty beautiful. After a short break, we each went our separate ways: Andrew to a museum, Dunja & co to get SIM cards and I walked to Belmont to get a late lunch.

I found a place called Straight From New York Pizza, and they had decent slices, though the New York part felt like a bit of a stretch.

Anticipating a high anxiety day as something triggered that the day before, I booked a massage at the Common Ground Wellness Co-op that someone recommended on the Slack. They were my next stop; I took a Lyft there. After checking in, I got undressed — the place is clothing optional — and had a great massage I really needed. Afterwards, I relaxed in their hot tub. It was a great place, and I would probably be a regular if I’d be living in Portland.

Once done, I took another Lyft back to APEX, for the now-traditional pre-XOXO Wednesday night beers. I got to have a great conversation with Andy McMillan, Jonah, Crystal, Dan and a few other people whose name escape me right now. Andy told us about his zero-proof cocktail bar, and we also learned quite a bit about Northern Ireland. For dinner, I got a rice bowl from a Vietnamese place across the street; it was pretty okay. It was a fantastic evening; it was there where I started feeling the energy XOXO gives you, and that carried me through the rest of the week. That, and all the fantastic people.

Andy and Henry Andy and Henry. So cute. Henry, that is (Andy if you’re reading this you look great as well.)

I got back to my Airbnb around 11, and it took me a while to fall asleep: I was pretty excited about the next few days. XOXO would be (officially) starting the next day.

XOXO 2019: Part 2 - Tuesday

· 905 words · 5 min read

(Previously: Prologue, Part 1 - Monday)

Look, I know that Scooters Are Bad, but the thing is, they are also really fun. So I put up with the minuscule amount of guilt I had about that and decided to use scooters as much as possible during my stay in Portland. And on Tuesday, I devised myself a challenge.

I was going to hang out with Josh and Angela at their place (and then visit a few other spots.) Besides wanting to see them — they are my friends and I love them very much — I also wanted to check out all the art Josh produced the last year, and see his amazing stained glass pieces in person.

They live way up in St. Johns, at the northwestern part of Portland; my Airbnb was at SE. Would it be possible for me to get to their place by scooters only? I had to try.

I ended up taking two scooters, and I got pretty far: my second scooter died about 1.5 miles from their place. Unfortunately, there weren’t any around, so I walked a bit and took a bus the rest of the way.

(This was probably the first time I tried the Spin scooters, which turned out to be much better than the Lime ones; they were lighter and much quicker to accelerate. I stuck to mostly using them for the rest of the trip.)

Josh’s stained glass pieces are truly amazing to see; pictures don’t do them justice. If I ever get rich enough that I can drop several hundred dollars on art — and then some on shipping extremely fragile glass across the Atlantic — Josh’s work will be the first thing I’ll buy.

stained glass Again, the pictures really don’t do justice, but I tried.

Next, we went to Cathedral Coffee to get cinnamon rolls; they have by far the best ones I’ve had outside of Sweden, topped with a cream cheese frosting. We went there last year, but I was eager to have them again. I also tried their raspberry roll, which was not quite as good as the cinnamon version, but still pretty damn tasty.

buns So. Good.

With breakfast done, we went to visit Josh and Angela’s friends, who have a fascinating not-quite-tiny house in the neighborhood. The place is impressive, both inside and outside. The house is painted in the colors of the rainbow, with each piece of wood being a part of a gradient.

house (I was a dumdum and only took a picture of the place with them on it. However, they told me that they don’t want their pictures on the internet, hence the censorship.)

Interlude: My XOXO projects

It was there I first did my XOXO Thing, which is taking pictures of people and printing it out for them. For the photos, I use my iPhone, and I have two instant printers. One is Fuji’s Instax Share SP-2 that uses the polaroid-like Instax Mini film; the other is a Paperang P1 thermal printer — I use that with sticker paper. Both have a unique look and feel, and people loved them at the previous XOXOs, so I decided to do it again. I continued taking pictures throughout the festival and collected the photos at https://facesofxoxo2019.ktamas.com.

I had a few other projects this year as well. I helped to put together the XOXO bingo; I collected and put together the new clues, Julia Skott did the fantastic artwork and Riley Shaw handled the coding. I think we did an excellent job and a lot of people enjoyed it.

Finally, like last year, I put together a Google Calendar people could subscribe to with the complete schedule of the festival as well as all the Social meetups. A lot of people used it and thanked me for it over the long weekend.

Last but not least I was the de-facto co-organizer the Tim Tam Slam Jam, for which I brought like 12 packs of biscuits, which I thought would be too much but turned out to be just what we needed. It was a huge success, drawing by far the largest crowd so far. For next year I suggest that the Andys approach the manufacturer to sponsor the festival and give a complimentary package of Tim Tams as swag to each attendee.

timtams Ready to slam.

After meeting Josh and Angela’s friends, we got lunch at the Mississippi Pizza Pub; they had a perfectly decent slice of pizza, though it wasn’t anything special (I was told the place is quite popular.) After that, we parted ways, and I went by the Pendelton store, which is always a weak spot for me, but I didn’t buy anything… that day.

Unfortunately, I felt pretty crummy the rest of the day. I went back to the Airbnb and tried to rest for a few hours, without much success, then took a Lyft to the Drink and Draw at Bye Bye. They didn’t have any food I liked, so I got a few grilled cheese sandwiches around the corner. I had a good chat with Juan, who I ran into just as I was sitting down. Afterwards I went back to Bye Bye, and hung out there for about two hours; I got to chat with Becky a bit as well as a few other folks I didn’t know. Around 9 pm, I took a Lyft back to my Airbnb and went to sleep.

XOXO 2019: Part 1 - Monday

· 590 words · 3 min read

(Previously: Prologue)

I arrived at Portland on Labor Day. I intended to spend as much time in Portland as possible (and financially viable.) I knew from experience that even before the opening party on Thursday, there could be plenty of opportunities to hang out with people. Folks who live in Portland and others who also get in town a few days before.

One of the advantages of flying in from Canada is you get past CBP early, on the Canadian side: once you land in the US, you go directly to picking up your suitcases.

The US border is always a stressful place because of gestures at all the horror stories you can read on the internet but once again I cleared customs without significant issues. I got a big “X” on my returning ESTA slip because I said yes to the question “are you bringing any food, livestock, etc.” which was technically correct: I had twelve packs of Tim Tams in my suitcase. The fingerprint reader really didn’t like my right hand at the first border agent, so he redirected me to another one, where I finally got the OK I needed. In the process, I got to tell the border agent about XOXO, which meant I could check off the “tell someone about XOXO who hasn’t heard of it” box in the XOXO bingo, something I worked on this year; more on that later.

PDX Hello, PDX.

After an uneventful flight, I took a Lyft to our AirBnB; we arrived almost at the same time with Emory. The place we found had a great location: just four blocks from Revolution Hall, on the corner of SE Taylor and 13th. It had mostly great reviews, and it served its purpose, but neither of us was terribly happy with it. It had an odd layout, one of the beds were way too soft — at least for me —, the washing machine was small and slow and the wifi was absolutely terrible the whole time we were there.

We got a late lunch with Emory at the Rogue Eastside Pub & Pilot Brewery; then I took a scooter (well, two) to NE at the Dillingers Barber Shop, where I had an appointment with Emily. Someone recommended her on Slack, and she delivered; it was one of the best beard trims I’ve ever had. It pains me that after moving back to Hungary almost three years ago, I still can’t find a reliable barbershop. The best trims I’ve had in the past couple years were in San Francisco, New York and now Portland, respectively.

Selfie She really did a great job.

I got a couple of essentials in the Whole Foods across the street — you should not travel with an open bottle of Dr. Bronner’s, ask me how I know — then I took a scooter downtown to Oven and Shaker, where I met up with Sarah, Emory and Juan. I was particularly excited to see Sarah again; I’ll never forget the kindness she showed on my first XOXO, and she remains one of my favorite people, the best XOXO mom. She welcomed me saying how good to see me and how “XOXO starts for me when I first see you.”

We had a good dinner, talked a lot, caught up with each other, then Sarah took us home to our respective Airbnbs. I was anxious throughout the whole thing, but it was still great to hang out with everyone.

Us Us.

And that was the end of day 1: XOXO has begun.

XOXO 2019: Prologue

· 805 words · 4 min read

A friend told me a few years before, that “XOXO is a place full of people you want to hang out with all the time,” and boy was he right. In 2016, I got to attend the first time, and I was hooked and had a blast. Two years later I was back (I have yet to write that one up), and it was a different experience: so much has happened in those two years. And not just in the world, but also on a personal level. I became very active on the Slack, and I spent much of XOXO 2018 trying to meet all the people I only met online. That year the festival was bigger and in a different venue, and yeah, it was different, but it was still very much XOXO.

When the Andys made clear that in 2019 they’d go back to the old size, I was somewhat conflicted. On the one hand, I understood the toll it took on them and everyone else organizing the festival, having it twice as big. There was also a fair amount of feedback from the community that the larger size didn’t work for them. I personally had a good time and got to meet a lot of people I wanted to, but that’s my experience. The venue and the location were, in many ways, indeed worse. I was also worried, in a selfish but understandable way that with the smaller size I’m going to need more luck to get picked in the lottery for a ticket. In the last year or so the XOXO Slack became an even more significant part of my online life and the thought of not going felt, frankly, unbearable.

Since I’m writing about this, I obviously got lucky and got a ticket to XOXO this year as well; and I feel pretty confident saying that this year has been the best one I’ve attended so far. The smaller size indeed works better, and Revolution Hall is possibly the best location it can have, even with its (very minor) downsides.

I’ve written this as a travelogue because that’s the only way I know how to. Let’s get started, shall we?

A not-so-quick detour about my mental health because we talk about this stuff in this community

XOXO 2019 caught me at a particularly bad and vulnerable time. The previous few months were rough, mental health-wise — I became pretty isolated. I had a daily routine that kept me together and sane, though: I was moving between safe spaces. Wake up, get breakfast, go to my regular cafe, get work done, get home, order in something for dinner, binge on TV shows, go to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In the first half of 2019, I was on a 6-month therapy break. It was a necessary thing and in many ways, helpful; but by the end, I knew I needed to start again. After a false start, I got a new therapist late June and we clicked almost instantly. However, what was understandable but bad for my mental health is the fact that he took the entire month of August off for vacation.

I ended up going on a month-long trip, starting mid-August: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and finally Portland for XOXO. I thought all the travel, and going to new and exciting places — I’ve never been to Canada before — would make me feel better. Instead, the opposite happened.

All that structure I mentioned earlier suddenly disappeared and my mental health took a nosedive. I had a panic attack on the third day of the trip, which I mostly weathered thanks to an XOXOer who reached out — thank you, Stewart. For the rest of the trip, I was in a constant state of varying levels of anxiety, which is really not what I was going for.

After Toronto and Montreal (and back to Toronto for a few days), my next stop was Vancouver for a couple days with Emory, who I met at last year’s XOXO. I admit I was anxious about it: traveling with someone who you barely know can go both ways. In this case, it worked out pretty well for us, and it also improved my mental health quite a bit. Being around people, in general, helps; being around people I like and am comfortable with makes a much more significant difference, and I had a good time with him.

By the time I arrived in Portland, I felt, well, not great, but better. The kind of anxiety where your emotions get numbed down and much of what you feel is the anxiety itself followed me through my time in Portland and XOXO, unfortunately. That being said, I still had an absolute blast, and again: this was by far the best XOXO I’ve been to so far.