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Tarzen: The Grand Slacker of Austin

I first met Tarzen 10 years ago while waiting in line to jump off the diving board at Barton Springs Pool. I was instantly struck by his ability to relate to everyone around him, from 5 year olds he encouraged on their first foray leaping off the diving board, to milliennials like me pondering big questions like 'what's the meaning of life?". But who is Tarzen? (Yes, allusions of Tarzan, but like a Zen master).

This short documentary directed by CIRCUS PICNIC collaborator Joey Chapman, explores Tarzen's personal philosophy--it's an intimate portrait of how to navigate life with more gratitude, presence, and play. Affectionately named the "GrandSlacker" for his role in shepherding the slackline scene in Austin, Texas, Tarzen is a real life grandfather that exemplifies the phrase "keep austin weird" authentically.

The more questions you ask him, the more impossibly beautiful and complicated his character reveals. He's collected too many odd jobs to count, that have undoubtedly influenced his role as "an experience creator". He's built homes, rigged for renowned aerial group Blue Lapis, and currently makes his living as a massage therapist. But any given day of the week you'll find him at the Adult Skate Night at the roller rink, setting up slack lines across bridges, or even riding a longboard down an empty parking garage. Tarzen truly makes "the world his playground", and transforms traditional public space into an opportunity for fun.

Tarzen the Grand Slacker
Tarzen and Moca on a field trip with friends in the El Potrero Chico Mountains. Photo by Jonathan Laing

Balancing equal time for work and play, he's a local legend that inspires (and outpaces) many adventurous Austinites half his age. In this film, other hometown heroes like Matt Shook (founder of JuiceLand) and Leslie Martin (founder of Bouldin Creek Cafe) speak to his unique personality that "goes against the grain" and "stands out". He's the guy with a little Chihuahua and a big heart. Rough hands, but a soft spot for teaching others. An old soul that's been weathered by traumatic events, but still frames his days through the lens of optimism.

For years, I've seen Tarzen greet others (including myself) with a big hug, and leave them with this genuine wish with every goodbye: "I hope you have the best day ever."

Enjoy this first video in a series of short documentary spotlights we're exploring, focused on Austin icons, produced by your friends here at CIRCUS PICNIC.

--Jefe Greenheart, CIRCUS PICNIC Co-Founder


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