We head west on Fifth Street from our hotel in downtown Austin, Texas, then turn south until we hit the Colorado River, where pedestrian crossings hang on either side of the First Street Bridge. At Butler Park, precisely where my phone said it would be, we find the stoic bronze statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan.

He stands with one hip cocked in a billowing poncho, trousers tucked into his cowboy boots and his flat-brimmed, gambler-style cowboy hat casting a shadow over his face, just as it did in life. A friend from the Austin Chronicle told me that the river can rise high enough to spill over the seawall and submerge Stevie up to his neck before it subsides.

After more than two years at the helm of Triad City Beat, I think I know what that feels like.

We gather in Austin with a couple hundred or so of our fellow alt-weekly troopers to share business and editorial strategies, prognosticate on the coming trends and have moments of fellowship that remind us all why we do this thing in the first place.

A friend from the Austin Chronicle told me that the river can rise high enough to spill over the seawall and submerge Stevie up to his neck before it subsides.

It’s not for money, though the largest papers in the Association of Alternative Newsmedia take in more than $10 million a year. And it’s not for fame, but there are people of renown in our little universe — daring publishers who have forged new streams of revenue in trying times, editors who transcend their roles, two-fisted journalists who create the kind of content that has the capacity to change the world.

This year, as it turns out, one of them is from the Triad.

Just hours after we paid our respects to Stevie Ray, we learned that TCB Senior Editor Jordan Green took Second Place honors in the Best Political Columns category for papers that print 45,000 copies and under. For our small paper, in its first year of eligibility, this is a moment for the ages.

Besides the accolade, we have numerous takeaways from the annual gathering of the alts, many of which you’ll see reflected in the pages of the newspaper over the months to come: some digital wizardry, a few brilliant story ideas we’ve pinched from our colleagues and some strategic collaboration, like this week’s cover story, “The 30 years that brought us HB 2,” beginning on page 16, that we’re running in conjunction with our friends at Indy Week over in the Triangle.

No waste of time we’re allowed today, as my old friend Stevie Ray Vaughan says. That’s how it happens living life by the drop.