Category Archives: 1700 Miles to Austin

1700 Miles to Austin – Part 12 – The Final Frame: Apartment

*NOTE* – I’m not quite sure why the above video got compressed so much, but it is what it is for now.  Also, here’s a drinking game:  For every time I say “things”, “such” and “kay”, take a shot of your liquor of choice.  Guaranteed eight minute buzz.


Three months in and I’m still waiting for it to sink in.  Moving to Austin hasn’t been a simple location change.  It’s a lifestyle switch.  Subways for highways.  Seemless takeout to five dollar delivery charges.  A local pub around the corner open to 4 AM for restraint on a Wednesday.  The constant 78 decibel street scream for a hushed sense of quiet, calm and peace.  Good, bad, indifferent, Austin is no New York.  Luckily for Texas’ capitol, it’s not trying to be.

The biggest difference hasn’t been zip codes and BBQ.  It’s working from home.  To provide some context, this has been my dream since I first sat in Route 21 traffic for my first gig at Allied Building Products.  The reason was simple.  Why schlep to an office when I can do the same work from my pajamas?  After three months of telecommuting, I realize why office buildings exist.  It’s nice to see something other than your own four walls.

Not that I’m complaining.  Sitting down for lunch to watch Louie on my big screen and having a fluffy dog at my feet is amazing.  The vibe is more relaxed, I can play my music without missing a phone call and there are surprisingly few distractions.  All while being just as productive (if not more) than I was on 5th Avenue.

The issue comes from the four wall syndrome.  We only have one car and while Jamie does ride her bike to work, it’s hard to me to get out.  As you’ll see in the below video, there’s a mall across the street but unless I’m craving Chikfilet or Panda Express, options are limited.  Jamie and I are working on some options to give me more mobility, but for the first three, it’s been cramped.

Austin itself has been super cool because of how “un-New York” it’s been.  Every eatery we’ve been to, with one exception, has been superb.  Much to the shock of this Jersey native, people are open and friendly.  There are weird quirks like the Congress Bridge bats, Magnolia Café and moon lights.  Fantastic brew pubs serving only Texas made beer.  The grocery shopping godsend known as H.E.B where your cart holds more than two chicken breasts and a six pack (take that Food Emporium).   The Alamo Drafthouse movie theater.  Rainey Street.  A slick little whiskey bar on 4th called Feche.  Esthers Follies.  Live music at every hour on every street corner.

Of course it isn’t all sunshine and roses.  Traffic is unbelievable.  Pubs close at 2:00 AM, fine for normal human beings but for night owls like me, problematic.  The distance and effort required to do the littlest of things.  Tangled webs of highways with hard to read signs.  The aforementioned lack of reasonable takeout.

But it’s all doable, all manageable.  We’re here for the right reasons.

This will be the last post in the moving to Austin series of articles.  It’s been a wild bucking bronco of a ride, a mad dash of change and growth.  While I’d be a liar if I said my heart doesn’t ache for the Empire State, I know I’ll be back on occasion.  This may not be where I want to be, it’s where I need to be.  And for a place I wasn’t planning on living, it’s been welcoming, warm and a much needed change of pace.  Austin certainly isn’t New York.  It’s an entirely lovely thing all to its own.

1700 Miles to Austin – Part 11 – What I’ve Learned, One Month In

Today marks exactly one full month of living in Austin.  Take that in for a second.  One.  Full.  Month.  Hardly seems possible.  At this point, I expected to be done with this blog.  Pictures of the apartment, a proper send off, etc.  But that hasn’t been the case.  So, before I do my final two posts, let’s take a look at some of the things I’ve learned since landing in the Lone Star State.

– Austin is massive.

– The city has the same stuff New York has, only spread out amongst 272 square miles of hills, valleys, Tex Mex joints and interstates.

– A Texan’s favorite thing in the world is being Texan.

– At any given moment, 65% of the population is wearing Longhorn burnt orange.  On game day Saturdays, the number jumps to 85%.

– Driving puts hate in Jamie’s heart, but she’s getting better.

– Flyovers, soaring highway connections tangled above a maze of roadways, are fun to drive on.  Think a tamer version of a roller coaster’s first hill and you’re halfway there.

– Forget East Village weirdoes.  There’s nothing more fascinating than people watching in a shopping mall at 2:00 in the afternoon.

– Bats.  Thousands of bats.

– Austin is home to three major lakes, Lake Austin, Lake Travis and Lady Bird Lake.  Don’t let them fool you.  They’re really rivers.

– Looking at a weather report in August Austin is senseless and unnecessary.  It’s always 100 degrees and sunny.

– Austin hipsters look just like Brooklyn hipsters, only with burlier beards and friendlier dispositions.

– You know how some NYC bars sell only American craft beer?  Austin has places that only sell Texan craft beer.

– Shinerbock is fine cheap alternative to PBR, but the rest of the line is decent yet uninspiring.

– As an addendum to the above statement, Saint Arnold Brewery, Thirsty Planet and Independence produce quality suds.

– 6th Street on the weekend is a mad house.  It’s as if the worst of NYU’s undergrads upchucked from the University of Texas onto a six block stretch of fratty bars and nightclubs.

– Rainey Street, a dusty stretch of killer eateries and dog friendly pourhouses, is our favorite spot so far.

– Food trucks.  ‘Nuff said.

– Working from home is lovely in stretches, maddening in others but the pluses outweigh the cons.

– Ming is allergic to grass.  He much prefers running around on the parking lot concrete.

– Having a movie theater across the street is fantastic.

– The scenery of Austin is awe inspiring as you cruise northward towards the Hill Country. Slate colored cliffs hug the highway as a blanket of tree tops paint the landscape with lush green brush strokes.  The sky hovers massive over the city, wide, blue and limitless like the far off horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.

– I love the quiet but miss the bustle.  Enjoy the clean air but crave Manhattan’s perpetual motion.  Austin is lovely but it’s not home yet.

– Yet.

1700 Miles to Austin – Part 10 – Zoom, Zoom

After long hours of Internet searches, sleazy salespeople and confusing words like “residuals”, Jamie and I have a rocking new ride. Zim Zimma, who got the keys to my Mazda. Hmmm. Doesn’t quite work, does it.

Quickie post but we love our new Mazda 3 and the lovely people at Roger Beasley for making the process easy and painless! One step closer to Texas integration.


A car in our reserved car port spot. This keeps getting more and more surreal.




Ming seems dubious about the new purchase.


Eeeh, he's warmed up to it.


Danglin' the keys, holding a phone and controlling a leash. Thrownme a flaming sword to juggle and I'm all set.


Jamie vouging in the new whip. Do they say whip anymore?

1700 Miles to Austin – Part 9 – Arrival and the Apartment

At 1:30 CST Saturday, it will be exactly four days since we first pulled up to The Cliffs at Barton Creek in the Big Bad Budget.  Four days since we signed and initialed fifty times on a new lease.  Four days since eighty boxes, fifteen pieces of furniture and a fuzzy dog got packed into #7212.

It still hasn’t sunk in yet.

Well, maybe a little.  A quick moment when Scott and Marie, like unloading robots, helped us heft an entire truck’s worth of stuff into our apartment.  No joke, we completed the schlep in about an hour and a half.  The reality wormed its way in as we began to methodically and painfully unpack box after box.  When we spent five hours at a Toyota dealership getting every sales trick known to man thrown at us, I rediscovered my hatred for car shopping.  All we wanted was a lease price on a damn Corolla.

Like all things strange, it’s dawning on me in fragments.  It’s in the tangled web of highways, US routes and fly overs surrounding Austin.  Frontage roads and freeway loops.  The dichotomy of sprawling plains and massive sky chocked with two million commuters.  The differences hit when I’m standing in the midst of a giant Walmart, looking out on an ocean of electronics, discount food stuffs and Taylor Swift jean shorts.  The shock of a massive H.E.B. replacing New York’s Gristedes, Dagastinos and Food Emporium.  It’s not like I didn’t grow up with Target Super Stores in Jersey.  I didn’t expect I’d be back to them so soon.

The apartment itself is a mixed bag of strangeness and open bliss.  I’m typing this from my office, a place where I can close a door and enjoy separated silence to work, write and dream.  It’s all a big tradeoff.  Swap the ability to walk ‘round the corner to grab breakfast for a bedroom of size and space.  The place is lovely and we’re halfway done unpacking, but it doesn’t feel quite like home just yet.

Despite the newness, the little things are what bring me back to a place of comfort and familiarity.  Mr. Ming running around squeaking the toy we bought him in Memphis.  Jamie watching a Bones marathon on her iPad.  The familiar clickity clack of my keyboard as I spew these words onto a Word doc.  Mom laughing at over the phone stories of scumbag car salesmen.  Emotionally recognizable elements shortening the distance.  The space between Point A and Point B reduced to null.  All things equal.

In the end the cliché holds true, no matter how many times you say it.  Home isn’t the roof over your head, your seventies modern décor or the numbers in your zip code.  It’s the people you choose to fill those walls with.  Even if they’re 1700 miles away.


NOTE:  For those looking for pictures of the new apartment, there are none.  Not until we get everything in and everything up.  Could take a few weeks, but I’d rather present the apartment as we want it to be as opposed to pics of how we found it.  Besides, it’s not home until we make it so.  Once done, there will be a whole multimedia presentation.  Pics, videos, the whole schmear.  Mmmm.  Bagels with lox and schmear.  Talk about things I’m going to miss…

1700 Miles to Austin – Part 8 – The Memphis Mishap

Last time on our Austin bound blog, we had escaped the dingy confines of a Bates Motel style Super 8. While we didnt have the forethought to take pics, we did snap a picture of one of the many abandoned buildings surrounding it. Look closely, and you may catch the ghostly blur of a long dead specter hovering in the darkness. Not really, but it’s fun to pretend.



In a word, Memphis is no Nashville. Full of history, most of it seeped in the struggle of civil rights, the city has seen better days.  The abandoned buildings and wandering homeless of the Arkansas border town give the area an arua of sadness and want. We actually rearranged our schedule to spend more time walking around but quickly discovered there wasn’t much to see. If you don’t love Elvis (we don’t), Memphis has little to offer. Aside from a gibberish spewing homeless man trying to hustle tourists into paying for free parking and the solem yet beautiful Loranie Hotel.

There were some bright spots. The Peabody Hotel is an oasis of high luxury and old fashioned Southern gentility. As the Old Man from Pawn Stars would say, “Now, this is class.” Complete with a special Jack Daniels blend for cocktails, beautiful vaulted ceilings and a flock of mallards swimming in the fountain, the Peabody was a lovely break from the dingy depression of downtown Memphis.



We also had some of the best fried chicken on the planet at Gus’s. Crispy, spicy and tender, the food made me forget we had to walk through the set of I Am Legend to get there. So yummy, I wrote an entire paragraph in their out of town guest book.

Sun Records and Graceland were no shows due to a lack of safe parking and our giant truck but by then, we’d had enough. Memphis wasn’t gross. It was sad. A dried out flowerbed with a few gastropubs and boutiques trying to sprout from the dust. Problem is, without a water source of economic growth to clear out the weeds, it’ll be a challenge for Memphis to reclaim Southwest Tennessee.

Right now, we’re southbound on US 79, two hours from Austin. Essentially, we’re over the trek. Over the noisy truck cab, over $100 fill ups at the gas pump, over the steady stream of suicidal insects splattering against the windshield. It’s been an adventure but we’re ready for it to end. We’re ready to go home. Our new home.

1700 Miles to Austin – Part 7 – Moonshine, Johnny Cash and the Case of the Moldy Bedroom

Note: I’m lacking pictures because everything was taken on my proper, non cell phone camera. Pics will be added eventually

When you pull up to a hotel after hours on the road, your first thought should not be, “Where the hell are we? I think we’re going to get killed.”

The culmination of miles on the highway, Motel 6’s and fattening road food, the Downtown Memphis Super 8 was the final sucker punch to a tired twosome who just wanted a place to rest. Without the window sills of dead flies and the stench of mold.

Earlier, we were in Nashville, home of the Grand Ol’ Oprey, CMT and Demo’s, a shining example of Tennessee charm and fantastic cookery. Their bacon wrapped steak made Uncle Jack’s look like grade D dog food.

Nashville was cozy, a standard metropolis with the standard sections. Financial buildings, towering condos and a bustling Broadway jammed with day drinking locals and tourists. Music burst from every barroom and the overall atmosphere was one of good natured revelry. They even had a mobile taproom. If you’ve ever wanted to pedal a roving bar down a main thoroughfare whist drinking PBR, this is your town.

We toured the Johnny Cash museum, sipped moonshine to covers of Merle Haggard and walked the city streets with our fuzzy dog in toe. When we jumped into the truck for our three hour zap to Memphis, we felt good about Tennessee.  Slightly rejuvenated.

Until we hit the Super 8.

Situated under the overpass of highway 55, the motel had the bedraggled aura of hookers, filth and Mother’s toasted cheese sandwiches. Ignore the creepy lobby that inexplicably played ominous music as we walked to the elevator. Don’t look at the dead beetles lining the outdoor walkway. Forget dirty walls and the moist, sticky carpet as we walked in. It was the mold. A wet hanging blanket of throat clogging mildew. It smelled like old coffins and rotting wood.

Needless to say, we escaped. Gathered up our stuff, got our money back from the desk manager (who admitted the room had a leak) and, after some frenzied phone calls, found ourselves at a La Quinta. You would have thought we landed at the St. Regis.

Today brings the heart of Memphis. Sum Records and the like. Here’s hoping the rest of the city trumps our first impressions.

1700 Miles to Austin – Part 6 – The Work Day


Mr. Ming steeling himself for the adventure ahead.

The apartment looks twice as big when there’s not a damn thing in it.

The last thing I thought when I closed the door to 490 East 74th St wasn’t waves of nostalgia or reminiscing about my three plus years in NYC. It was the practical matter of how my voice echoed in the empty living room. The ocean of space and opportunity a vacant apartment presents.

That’s the story of Day One. Practicality. The steadfast work of loading up the truck with everything we own. Jamie’s kung-fu kick to the box spring to get it down the stairs. The $200 payoff to the guy whose driver side mirror we wrecked pulling away. To our credit, he was double parked too.


The truck loading champions: Drew anf Jamie

It was the three hour trek to the Lincoln Tunnel. Two hours to go fifteen New York City blocks, during which I was able to walk to a hardware store, buy a lock for the truck, pick up some food stuffs and walk back to the vehicle. No worries, traffic had moved a block and a half. Could have had a full dinner if I wanted to.

It was the burst of adrenaline when we first broke free of the 495 slog and sprung onto Turnpike South. Exit 6 to the PA Turnpike and $20 tolls. A 9:00 Burger King dinner in an empty King of Prussia rest station. Bad food in worse lighting never tasted better.


Showing off the guns

As we settle down in a Pottstown, PA Motel 6, I can’t help but think of how much was done in fourteen hours. Drew Gilchrist’s heroic box moving. Bobby’s selfless dedication to lugging the heaviest furnature. The guy in the toll booth who said, “Must have been a long day”, when we pulled up to pay.

It was young fella. It was.

The only New York sadness hit unexpectedly. Driving along somewhere around hour six, the local radio station started playing Brass Monkey by the Beastie Boys. I looked up at a driving Jamie and said, “Awww. New York.”

Sometimes, even in the most practical of days, there’s a little room for old fashioned thoughtfulness.

Oh, and the truck looks tiny when there’s piles of crap resting in it.


1700 Miles To Austin – Part 5 – The Less Than Two Weeks Panic

Note: Many of these posts will be hammered out on the road in short style fashion. Please forgive the potential brevity, lack of entertaining images and dubious punctuation.


You’re never quite sure when the second shoe drops.

The footwear fell when Jamie and I spent a afternoon pulling DVD cases and whatnot off the walls of old 490.  Sitting with the growing stacks of boxes and packing material, the apartment, for the first time in almost four years, felt emptier.  Like it was when I first moved in with little more than toys, goalie equipment and boxes of unopened kitchen stuff from IKEA.

My thoughts drifted back to those days of uncertainty.  Alone for the first time in my life.  The days turned to months and as the clock swung circular, New York became my home.  With my new found freedom, I made new friends, found the love of my life and made my share of mistakes.  With all of New York’s opportunities, it’s still an emotionally dangerous place.  A place where nobody drives and cabs are the norm, it’s easy to get trapped sipping whiskey at 3 AM on a Tuesday.  New York doesn’t love a drunk.  It ignores them and lets them be.

But now we’re leaving, headed for the security and safety of the Austin outskirts.  When visiting, I told myself to not compare it to New York.  Nothing’s New York, for better and for worse.  And Austin is super cool.  Trendy, weird and diverse, Austin is about as close to a Texas Williamsburg as you can get.  Again, for better and for worse.

But there’s something strange about retreating to the living style of my Jersey up-bringing.  Compared to the constant energy and temptation of New York, Austin is safe.  Almost serene.  My fear turned to losing the forward thrust generated by eight million people pushing towards a personal goal.  Waves of humanity crashing against the shores of the East River.  Fail to move with them, and you risk getting swept away.

So is that what were doing?  Escaping the tide because we can’t deal with the undertow?  Even the word suburban indicates something inferior.  Broken down, it reads “sub urban” as if to say, “Oh, you couldn’t hack it in the big city?  Well come on down to the sub urban.  It’s safe and easy down here.”  The prospect of working from home and a quiet place to write is wonderful but my fear became one of inspiration.  What good is a home office when you run out of things to write about.

I knew this would happen.  The eventual, “Holy shit, we’re moving to Austin” freak out I alluded to in my first post.  But time and thought has helped quell the anxiety.  Moving to Austin isn’t going to stifle my storytelling.  It’ll give it a place to breathe.  Open expanse where my mind can swell and dream.  A tighter community of artists with whom I can network and learn.  A place where my girlfriend can smash the shackles of her current career and grow.  Every time I imagine Jamie walking through the door around 6:00 with a smile on her face, the sacrifices instantly become worthwhile.  Chill out, brain.  We’ll make it work here.

When big changes come to town, the second shoe has to drop at some point.  It’s inevitable.  But when the footwear stops wobbling and rests next to its partner, things always settle down.  So long as you learn from the madness, the panic is more than worthwhile.

1700 Miles To Austin – Part 4 – Bill and Jamie’s Old Timey Going Away Shindg

Me Silly Jamie Pretty

As you all know,  Jamie and I are heading to Austin on August 15th. As a convenient way to say farewell to our friends and loved ones, most of which are in the BTSH community, we’re holding our going away party at ACE bar after the Sunday games. That way, all the hockey folk can come by after their games and all our non-sporting chums can come by whenever.

Where: Ace Bar, 5th St between Ave A and Ave B

When: Sunday, August 11th, anytime after 4:00 PM

Notables: We’re trying to work out with the bar to have some food stuffs and drink specials. Hockey folk will already get the usual discount but I’ll see if I can extend that to people who are coming by.

Come on by to say farewell but not good bye to Jamie and I. We look forward to seeing our favorite people there!

1700 Miles to Austin – Part 3 – The Route

Whilst reading this post, listen to the above tune.  The energy of our cross country trip is perfectly captured by the great Ben Gibbard.


Hotels?  Check.

Truck friendly highways?  Check.

Enough road snacks to satiate a small colony?  Maybe.

Overall Map

Above is a Microsoft Paint cropped map of our long anticipated journey to Austin, Texas.  At first glance, our route looks like a diagonal Fruit Ninja slash through the belly of Southeast America.  1700 miles of highways, rest stops and the occasional cactus.  The trip will be a grand opportunity to discover places we’d never visit otherwise, all in the cab of a sixteen foot truck with questionable gas mileage.  Drive through dining will not be an option.  Below is the step by step tour of the trip.

August 15th: Separation

A to B

After spending the day packing up the vehicle, we’ll be in no shape for long distance traveling.  The goal for Thursday evening is to get a head start on the trip and crash out in Pottstown, PA.  We were aiming for Billy Joel’s Allentown, but due to a lack of truck parking and an inexplicable “no dog” policy, we opted for a town about 40 miles out.  According to the kindly gentleman at the front desk, there’s a steakhouse across the street and a variety of fast food joints in the area.  Over the lips and through the gums, look out stomach, here it comes.  Adventures in on the road eating.

August 16th:  Driving

B to C

The goal for Friday is to drive.  And drive.  And drive.  By far our longest day, the 600 miles between Pottstown and Newport, Tennessee will be a vehicular marathon.  While we wanted to end up in the hippie town of Asheville, North Carolina, the same issues of dog friendliness and available parking reared their ugly head.  You’re lucky you’re so darn cute, Ming…

August 17th:  Touring

C to D

After a breakneck day of highways and byways, Saturday will be a more relaxing affair.  Once we shove some groceries down our neck, we’ll head out on a three hour blast to Nashville.  There, we’ll do a bit of touring, have lunch and check out the scene.  From there is a four hour trip to Memphis where we’ll pack up the pup in the hotel and have dinner / drinks in the border bound city.  My Spidey Sense tells me we’ll be rather thirsty following a day on the road.

August 18th:  Texas

D to E

Sunday Funday will start off with a sleep in / sleep off followed by a quick two hour jaunt to Little Rock, Arkansas.  Lunch and then back on the road to the Lone Star State.  A scant five hour drive will take us into Palestine, Texas, a tiny town smack between Houston and Dallas.  Palestine is the home of Jamie’s mom and stepdad.  Familiar faces and relaxing sleep in a non-hotel bed will be most welcome.

August 19th:  Family

Monday will be spent relaxing in Palestine.  A day of noodling about, picking up needed Austin items and antiquing, all in preparation for…

August 20th:  Austin

E to F

Today’s the day we arrive in our new home.  Four hours from Palestine, we plan to arrive at our new place around noon where Jamie’s dad will help us unpack everything we own into the apartment.  A long day after a long trip, this marks the end of the journey and the beginning of our new lives in Austin.  Can’t wait to take the trek and see what random fun awaits.