Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Story

You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. Some of my gifts this year for Christmas included new tires for my car, and new running shoes for my feet. Both gifts couple well with some of my favorite hobbies: long, often solo road trips... and long, always solo runs. I also have been both self-proclaimed as well as notoriously been dubbed by others as being somewhat of a Grinch and/or Scrooge. After graduating high school, my parents divorce, moving out of the house I grew up in, and a few lack-luster (and at times lonely) Christmases, my sense of jolly had fallen by the wayside. I, for the better part of the last decade, had alienated myself from the Christmas spirit.



Last year, I tried turning over a new leaf. I opened up to the idea of Christmas a little more, got to spend time with my family, and enjoyed seeing the joy on my nephew Jude's face as he opened presents and talked about Santa. It made me long for some of the holidays from my youth, when that special toy, popular shoes, or brand new bike were under the tree. It wasn't a sense of jealousy I felt, considering I was the boy in my kindergarten class who told everyone Santa wasn't real, but more just a longing to be excited about a time of year that everyone else I know looks forward to year round.

As I departed for East Texas on Friday evening at work, I turned on a playlist of some of my favorite tunes, turned my phone off to save the battery, and began battling the holiday traffic. Once I got close to Tyler, I began contacting friends and making plans for the night. Hours later, I was surrounded by old classmates, friends new and old, ex's and old teachers and bosses, what seemingly felt like all of Tyler. Getting to see so many people I hadn't in a long time, and more importantly seeing my closest friends that I miss all the time was a really good experience. I used to dread going out in Tyler, and still admit to being very snobby about the scene now for obvious reasons of being spoiled to the nightlife available in my new home of Austin. But on this night, I realized that I wasn't out just for the sake of being out, and that I hadn't driven excitedly with a smile on my face all 4 hours to Tyler because I was looking forward to a Jameson and water at Rick's. I was so excited just to be in the presence of good people, the kind of people who have known me my entire life, been there for me through my highs and lows, and genuinely love me despite knowing literally all my faults and flaws. Although I am still bitter that the bar closed at midnight, it was still awesome getting to see so many people, and I woke up Christmas Eve in a great mood, despite the typical hang-over and lack of sleep.



I went for a long run at my old spot, Rose Rudman, in the rain, and tried to sweat out the toxins from the night before. After lunch at Jason's with my dad, and watching football with friends for a few hours, I was feeling extremely at home. Like I had never left Tyler, doing all the same things I did throughout high school and college. That evening, I went to my mom's house for presents, food, and drinks. Spending time with my entire family, eating a wonderful meal, sharing stories, exchanging gifts, it was a perfect night. Jude of course was as excited as last year, which was no surprise, but what was shocking to me was the excitement and sheer joy I was feeling as well. The gifts I got were all perfect, despite me not asking or even hinting for any of them, and the gifts I purchased for everyone all turned out to be hits.


This weekend has been hands down one of the best Christmases I've had in years. I wasn't focused on taking pictures to look back on later, I was focusing on making memories that I will look back on forever. As I drove the long drizzly drive back to Austin this morning, it finally dawned on me what my problem had been all those years. The true meaning of Christmas, past all the religious, political, and economical riffraff is about surrounding yourself with the people you love, that love you in return, and being able to share not only food and drinks and presents with them, but more importantly to share with them your feelings. To let them know how much you love them, appreciate them, and are grateful for them. It doesn't matter if you got that iPad you wanted, or if that gift card you gave was warmly received, its about the handshakes, the hugs, the kisses, and the I Love You's that the holidays bring out in everyone.



So just wanted to say to all my friends and family, both the ones I saw this past weekend and the ones I didn't but hope to see soon, I just wanted to let you all know that I love you all, I am extremely grateful and appreciative of all the love, support, friendships, and bonds I've been able to create, develop, grow, and share with you. I hope that everyone has had a great and warm Christmas, and that the new year brings many blessings and happy times. I am overwhelmed with how lucky I am to be where I am, but most importantly being who I am, and I know that the person I am is a direct result of the people I've been so blessed to be surrounded by in my life. Thank you so much!

Happy Christmas!

-Jo Jo (Jo)



Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Ourselves

I apologize in advance for this being lengthy, hadn't updated in awhile...

The past 2 years, I've been living a life full of highs and lows (quite literally), and until recently I pretty much had been sticking to the high points when it came to updating this blog and more or less bragging about this wonderful life I've been living. Well this past week I hit probably the lowest point I've reached since moving to Austin, and ever since then I've been trying to find some semblance of sanity, a clear picture of clarity, an answer to this arrogance I have seemingly created in my on-the-surface Polaroid perfect life.

24 is a strange age, trying to balance that feeling of still being a young and dumb college kid, with the responsibilities and hardships of being an adult living in the so-called "real world." Instead of "what are you studying?" or "what do you want to be?" it's "what are you doing these days?" Well, truth be told, I've been living life centered more or less around one thing... myself. And although at times I have felt completely justified in that venture (see older blog posts for proof), claiming that I will only be this young with such little responsibility for so long, the truth is, I've been hiding the painful truth. The truth I've been either too stubborn or naive to look at, but one that reared its glaring and ugly face at me recently, and that is the fact that I am not entirely satisfied with the life I'm living or the way I've been living it.

Do I regret everything I have done the past 2 years? Not in the least. I have seen more concerts then just about anyone I know, met some incredible people, made friendships that will last a lifetime, found a wonderful girl who is patiently putting up with me and my constant mistakes, and accomplished many things on my bucket list. So I can't say the past 2 years have been a complete failure. But it dawned on my recently that I've been hiding behind my rock-n-roll lifestyle to mask some of my insecurities and deficiencies. I have slowly but surely been trying to numb myself, self medicating, and justifying it anyway I could.

I am the Occupy Wall Street generation. We have been taught our entire lives that if we did good in school, got into a good college, studied and worked hard, that we would graduate and find ourselves working jobs we could be proud of. That the transition from college to the real world would be as simple as the one from high school to college was. That we could have our cake and eat it too. Well reality is upon us, and the truth is we are struggling to get blue-collar jobs as much as we are to get white-collar ones. The man who sits behind me at work listens to conservative talk radio all day everyday, and I hear all these older right-wingers screaming how we all hold this feeling of entitlement, that they worked for everything they earned and we shouldn't be upset with where we are at right now, we should just suck it up and deal with it. Well its true, we may have this feeling of entitlement, but its because it was what we were raised to believe. What we were taught since birth, from that older generation, the ones who weren't too proud to flip burgers. They taught us that we should get an education, that unlike them we shouldn't have to start at the bottom and work our way up. They worked hard so that we could get that education, and not fight to make it just to get by.

Well here I am, 24, a college graduate, struggling to get by. Working a job I needed no education for, at the only place who would even give me an interview. I have numerous times flooded the job market, applying to hundreds (literally) of companies, sending my resume out to anyone who would read it, and don't even get contacted to be informed that I wouldn't be receiving an interview. The few employers who did all said the same thing, I lacked the work experience. Well duh, because I went to school the past 18+ years of my life, like I was told to do my entire life.

Growing up, I believed by 25 I'd have a firm grasp on my future. I'd have something concrete to cling to, a job to be proud of, a nice car, a fancy apartment or condo or house even. Possibly be engaged or even married, contemplating baby names and working towards my first million. The reality is; at 25, I hope that my nearly 10 year old car will still run, that my crummy apartment won't be entirely caved in as the foundation has slowly begun to sink in, that I make enough money to afford to pay all my bills and still afford to have any amount of fun and eat meals more complex then Ramen Noodles and spaghetti. As far as marriage and babies go, despite seeing a growing number of Facebook statuses changing and baby pictures being posted, I would never even consider looking at an engagement ring until I could not only afford one, but could afford to get married. And at the rate I'm going, that might happen when I'm... 40?

So I've numbed myself to the reality of my situation, I go out and party just to forget that in all honesty I'm pissed off with what I've worked so hard to achieve. The older generation looks down at me, scoffs at me, because they think I don't know what hard work is, that I haven't gone through hardships or been through what they've been through. Well I've got news for them, for the past 20 months I have missed exactly 1 day of work that wasn't a vacation day asked for months in advance (which was this past Friday). I've worked 50+ hour weeks for a majority of that time. I've supported myself, paid my own bills, and managed to stay completely debt free. I don't owe anyone anything, I don't have a credit card or student loans to pay off, and I am proud of the fact that I can look at myself in the mirror and say I am self-reliant. So this so-called sense of entitlement you claim I am so naively crying about is a bunch of bull shit, because I work hard and all I want is what I was promised my entire life. I want a return on my investment.

I may not be able to control the economy, or what companies will or wont hire me, but there are a few things I can control. Namely, my lifestyle and the type of person I'm striving to be. So instead of pretending that my reality isn't in fact my reality, I've decided its time for me to grow up a little bit. That at 24, maybe getting wasted all the time and spending most of my hard earned money on booze and concerts isn't necessarily justifiable just because I'm not satisfied with the job I've fallen into. So instead of that beer, tonight I'll pick up a book. Instead of watching that unrealistic TV show about the perfect family or deadbeat love-able "hero" who always manages to get by despite being a dumb-ass, I'll write, and go to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier to work even longer hours. Instead of self-medicating and trying to escape reality, I'll go for a run and try to improve my physical well-being even if I can't improve my financial one.

Friday morning, 11-11-11, I woke up with a new take on life. Thankful to be alive, with a feeling I had been given a second chance that I might not have even deserved, and I'm going to try hard not to waste it. I want to be an example that people from my generation are not worthless hippies who want hand-outs, we are capable, hardworking, educated 20-somethings who will change the world when someone finally gives us the chance. It starts with self-improvement, and I encourage all of my friends to do the same. Am I saying I will never have another drink or see another concert? Hell no, I moved to this city to enjoy it and I fully intend to keep doing it. But that doesn't mean I can't be smarter or more mature about it. And maybe, if I keep my head high and a firm grip on my reality, I can be the change I want to see not only in myself but in this fucked up world we live in right now.

I worked over 11 hours today. I grocery shopped to save money. I put gas in my 10 year old car. I ran 3 miles. I did laundry at the apartment I pay for. I ate healthy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I wrote this long blog that no one but myself will probably read. I will read a good book till I fall asleep. I told the people I care about how much they mean to me... And I will get up tomorrow and do it all over again. Life is a daily struggle, but its all about making choices. I'm here, taking it one day at a time, but in the end the only person I need to impress is myself. And today, for the first time in awhile, I am proud.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Austin City Limits 2011

Summer coming to an end meant one thing to me, 3 letters that people in Austin say nonchalantly like they are reciting their ABC's: A.C.L. Despite the weather still feeling like the dead of summer, I had once again been anxiously awaiting for this week to get here. Of course, I bought my tickets before the line-up was released way back in May, and the chances of me missing Austin City Limits was as likely as rain was in the forecast the past 4 months since I had purchased the tickets... zero percent.

I started off ACL week with Deadmau5 at Austin Music Hall. Being one of the more entertaining acts at last year's festival, I thought catching him at his own show would be a cool way to kick off what I like to refer to as my fall break. We got to the show a little too early unfortunately, but did get to see Tommy Lee do a DJ set, yes that Tommy Lee, which was surprisingly entertaining. Dubstep DJ Excision came on next, and was also pretty legit if you are into that kind of thing. I can be when in the right mood, but unfortunately was not quite at that level on this given night. So once Deadmau5 finally hit the stage I'm sad to say I was pretty tired, and being surrounded by high school kids with glow sticks was just not cutting it for me. We stayed for about 45 minutes, got to see some incredible visuals from Deadmau5, and hear his infamous electronic beats. All in all I left feeling a little dejected, and a little worried about how I was going to survive the next few days of all out music.

The only official ACL Aftershow I bought tickets to in advance was for Pretty Lights with Nas and Run DMT at Austin Music Hall the night before the festival officially got under way. I knew a few different people going, so I showed up solo and just made my rounds. Run DMT were a pair of local Austin DJ's, and they got things going with some good jams. Nas came on next, and a little intoxicated due to his birthday being the night before, put on a surprisingly impressive set complete with some of his older classic hits. The place was getting live to "Hate Me Now" and the energy in the venue was contagious. The anticipation for Pretty Lights was palpable, and when he finally came on, the place exploded. Pretty Lights went on a little after 11pm, and didn't stop playing till after 2am. It was by far the most visually entertaining show I've ever been to, and he straight up rocked out. The most important element to me at a show is crowd involvement, and not a single person at AMH was standing still for nearly 3 hours. His set, set-list, and crowd involvement were all flawless. I walked away knowing there was no way any show I could see at ACL the next 3 days would come close to touching what I had just been a part of. Easily top 3 best shows I've ever seen, if not the best. Do yourself a favor, and catch his act if you ever get a chance. Seriously. Do it.



So on very little sleep, I awoke Friday feeling rejuvenated and back to being excited thanks to the show the night before. After the ritualistic Kerbey Lane brunch filled with homefries and mimosas, it was off to the festival early to get our money's worth. After dropping off some flyers downtown for my friends over at Tortoise & Blonde (http://www.tortoiseandblonde.com/), I made my walk over to Zilker Park. Along the way I started chatting with another guy making the pilgrimage wearing a Caribou shirt (one of the best concerts I went to in 2010), and after about 20 minutes of trading stories and laughs, came to find out his name was Jordan. Small world. Having already gotten my money's worth the night before, I more or less just tagged along with my friends to whatever show they wanted to see, and since none of Jordan's friends had made it down there yet, he ended joining as well. We started at Theophilus London, and during his set the unthinkable happened... it started raining. Granted it wasn't a downpour, more of a light drizzle, the crowd still went pretty wild none the less, so thankful for the cool off during the hot day and the much needed rain the entire area of south Texas so desperately needs. Then we hiked over to the other side of the park and caught some of Wild Beasts, and Brandi Carlisle, whose Johnny Cash cover had the crowd feeling like shooting a guy down in Reno. James Blake was interesting, but not really my cup of tea, and despite my eternal love for Ray LaMontagne I just simply was too far away, and too hot, to truly enjoy his set. I tried to get over to catch some of Foster the People's highly anticipated set, but was left feeling very disappointed both by the poor sound and the overall performance of the hipsterish band. Thankfully, Nas saved the day again when him and Damian Marley put on a killer set on the main stage in the heat of the late afternoon. Was so happy I got to see anyone with the last name Marley, especially from as close as I got. Once their set was over I had a decision to make, keep my spot close and get mobbed in with the thousands of people piling in for Kanye West, or bail and watch it from a distance and make it to my ride in a timely fashion. I made a game-time decision and pushed my way close, having already seen Coldplay before I knew this would probably be the only headliner I'd actually see at the festival this year. Waiting an hour stuffed between 50 thousand people is an interesting experience, and in no way is fun, and I was getting quite cynical towards the end as I sobered up and waited for Kanye to come out, because lets face it... Kanye is an ass hole. I fully expected him to come out late, half-ass his performance, and leave me feeling completely unjustified in my decision. Note to self: always underestimate performers. Kanye came out in the middle of the crowd on a huge lift, only 5 minutes late, and absolutely killed it. His first 5 or 6 songs were all jams, and the crowd involvement was off the charts. I completely took back all my bad mouthing of him and was left pumping my fist watching the throne. The only downside was having to snake my way out of all those people to make it back to my ride waiting for me near downtown. Apparently I made the right decision once I finally got out of there (alive, thankfully) as I heard his show ended up being best at the beginning and declining a little towards the end. I ended up literally tripping over a friend on my way out of the park, as ACL never ceases to bring all types of people together. All in all it was a successful first day, thanks mainly in part to Kanye's surprisingly dope performance.

A little tired after a long first day of drinking in the sun, I slept in, went to lunch with Lauren, and took my sweet time getting down to Zilker. I decided rather than trying to stage hop all over Zilker like I had the day before, I would be better off just posting up at one stage all day, sending out a mass text to anyone I knew at the festival as to where I was letting them know I'd be there all day, and just sit back and enjoy the experience. I picked the Google+ stage, where Alexander, Skrillex, and TV on the Radio would be playing on that day. I had bathrooms 10 yards to my left, a water filling station 20 yards behind me, a bar 10 yards past that, and a prime spot about 20 yards away from the stage. During Alexander, some friends met up with me, and we enjoyed sitting around listening to the melodic tones, drinking, and letting the light rain that had started up cool us off. Skrillex came on and we got a little closer and enjoyed a very entertaining and fun set, with the surprisingly large crowd completely into it as much as we were. Surrounded by good friends I rarely get to see, we danced and had a great time dubbin out to his jams. Once his set finished up, I pushed even closer to get a prime spot about 3 rows back for one of my girlfriend's favorite bands, TV on the Radio, so I could find out just why she likes them so much. I quickly found out, as they put on the most impressive set musically I saw all weekend. I also was about 10 feet away from Christian Bale standing on the side stage apparently filming a movie, so whenever one comes out in a few months that involves him being at a festival or something, look for me snapping photos in the background.




Sunday, after not exerting as much energy the day before, I woke up early ready to make the most of my last day at the festival. After a burger and some beers at Black Sheep Lodge, I headed back to Zilker with the same game plan as Saturday, post up at Google+ and enjoy not trying to deal with maneuvering through 75,000 people. Chiddy Bang kicked the day off, and they put on a surprisingly entertaining set, as I was not impressed the first time I had seen them a few months back. The white guy playing drums made a huge difference, as did having a large group of friends around me again versus essentially seeing them alone the first time, and we all danced and had a great time despite the killer heat. Elbow went on next, a band my sister introduced to me a long time ago and I have always enjoyed. We had a great spot close for this show, and they put on a very good show musically. Empire of the Sun was the last show of the night at this stage, and I was not at all prepared for their wild and crazy show. It was like a 1980's band meets an Andy Warhol painting, and I was happy to be so surprised by a show. Those crazy Aussies had the place rockin, and having already seen Arcade Fire earlier this year, I didn't mind only catching a few of their songs from their headliner performance from way in the back before saying so long to ACL 2011.


I took work off Monday, a lesson I learned the hard way last year, and was lucky enough to win free entry to an ACL (the PBS TV show) taping of the British band Gomez. I didn't know much about them save the one song I had on an ACL Sampler I had downloaded a few weeks back, but I was third row for their hour long show and they were very impressive. It was a nice intimate way to finish up another successful festival week. Ironically enough, I ended this past week the way I started ACL last year, by seeing Neon Indian. This time it was at Mohawk, and it was another great night.



Its times like these that make me thankful to be alive, to be living in the town that I do, and being able to have the means to do the things I want to do. I am so grateful to be at this place in my life, where I have amazing friends, a great supportive family, a beautiful and caring girlfriend, a job that allows me to live where I want to and support myself, and an attitude that has challenged me to open up and meet new people, try new things, experience new events, and become a person I am happy and proud to be. I can't wait to go back and read this posting, just like I read last years "Austin City Limits 2010" post when packing for this years festival, and relive all the incredible moments I was lucky enough to be apart of. To everyone who were a part of this years memories, thanks! I don't know that I will be going all 3 days to ACL again next year, but it is definitely an experience I will always cherish and remember.

Cheers.

-J

Sunday, September 4, 2011

500 Days of Summer



It's Labor Day Weekend... already?! Where did this summer go? It's gone like all the water in Texas, and with ACL looming I figured it was time to update this because I'm sure I'll have an epic posting coming for that amazing festival weekend. A lot has happened since Memorial Day and New Orleans.

It's been a crazy, hot, rain-less summer here in Texas, and I kicked it off with a trip to Houston for Free Press Summerfest. A smaller, more intimate festival in the heart of downtown, I got to see some pretty good bands for cheap such as Beirut, The Black Angels, Yeasayer, Cut Copy, and the headliners Weezer. Other than sliding down the hill we were sitting on during the festival, fighting the overwhelming humidity and 100 degree temperatures, and a little rain (the last time I felt rain, and this was the first weekend in June) we had a great time with friends. Cut Copy had the show of the festival in my opinion, and I can't wait to see them again at ACL in less than 2 weeks.


The middle of June consisted of a few river trips for floats, a Girl Talk concert on the river that I won free tickets too, some free shows at Blues on the Green at Zilker Park, and a lucky free ticket to see Florence and the Machine's taping of their show for Austin City Limits on PBS #gingergotpipes. Since moving to Austin I've won more free things then I ever did before I moved here, tickets to shows namely (including the pair I use for the first date I went on with the ole lady), "swag" packs with beach towels and water bottles, etc. I digress, moral of the story is moving to Austin was the best decision I ever made. I'm a firm believer that you have to go out and make your own luck, and that being a positive person will mean positive things will happen for you. I'm living proof of that, and sometimes I feel like I'm Forrest Gump-ing my way through life, but that for better or worse it's brought me to exactly where I want to be with some amazing stories along the way.


The end of June brought me to the coast of Louisiana for my friend Blake's bachelor party with the boys. We did some fishing, ate some amazing fresh seafood, and I brought out the mustache for its debut. It got mixed reviews on Facebook, but I have to admit I grew kind of fond of the lip blanket over those 4 days. Trips like those with guys I have been friends with my entire life always help put things in perspective, and having a solid group of people I've constantly surrounded myself with like that is the sole reason I am the person that I am. Poker games, drinking games, constant jokes, and reminiscing on stories from our past, its hard to believe we are all where we are, moving on with our lives and growing older. These are people that have known me since I was 7, 8 years old, and accept me for who I am flaws and all. We've learned that no matter how long we go without seeing each other, how far apart we move away from each other, no time or distance can break the bonds we have forged, and I'm eternally grateful for not only those guys but all the people in my life both now and in the past, because without them I'm not sure I could have made it through some of the difficult times I've been through, and I know I wouldn't be the person I'm proud to be right now.


Fourth of July was spent grilling out with friends and avoiding the craziness of downtown. Not long after that, another group of guys I've been close with for a long time came down to Austin so we could all go see Kid Cudi, and once again he did not disappoint. A crazy night downtown followed, and another river trip the next day. My family I stayed with in Portland when we went back in May came down to Austin not long after that, and we got to party with them at an awesome mansion on Lake Austin they were renting out along with a few other friends and family, and I got to take my 21 year old cousin downtown to show him Austin on a Thursday night. We had a great time, and it was awesome getting to be around my aunt, uncle, and 3 cousins for a few days in my part of the world.

Next, I got to take Lauren to my hometown and show her all that Whitehouse/Tyler had to offer. We went to celebrate my nephew Jude's 4th birthday, which again makes me feel really old. Got to see some friends I hadn't a long time, my family and grandparents, and show Lauren the house I grew up in. It was a good trip, but also reminded me that as much as I'm thankful of my upbringing and growing up how and where I did, I'm even more thankful to be out of that place and on to bigger and better things. I use to be bitter towards Tyler, and even hard on it and the people that live there. I'm not quite so cynical anymore, but I still feel that Tyler has a way of trapping people who become comfortable there. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I just think some people who stay there too long become narrow minded and closed off to the rest of the world, and maybe should learn that there is more out there to see, do, and learn.

Anyways, the summer ended with a long awaited trip to Galveston to stay at a beach house with a bunch of friends. I had never been to Galveston before, or even seen the ocean in Texas before for that matter, so it was nice to finally experience that. The water was actually pretty nice, the house was awesome, including a deck on the roof with a great view of the gulf, and we had a great time drinking and hanging out with friends on the beach. There is nothing like the vast ocean to put you back in your place and help you understand how small you are. We are all just blips on the radar, and we are all here for just a second on the clock of the world, so I live my life trying to make it the best I can, experiencing the most I can, seeing everything there is to see, meeting anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of my life, and creating memories that will make this life seem worth living when I reflect on it in the future. No one lives forever, but we can all create moments, impressions, friendships, bonds, and love that will outlive us even after we are gone.


I kicked off what I dub as "concert season" here in Austin with a show at Emo's seeing The Ettes rock out, and the schedule of upcoming shows is just unreal. ACL, White Denim, Deadmau5, Pretty Lights, Neon Indian, Incubus, Death Cab for Cutie, Portugal the Man, Washed Out, Beats Antique, Minus the Bear, Ghostland Observatory, and Fun Fun Fun Fest. Also going to check out a tribute to the Beatles play that is coming in town straight from Broadway, as well as a play starring John Malkovich. I moved to Austin because it is the live music capital of the world, and I'm still taking full advantage of it.

The summer of 2011, the summer of no rain, will be one I will always look back on with a smile on my face. Portland, New Orleans, the ocean, the river, concerts, friends, and memories that I wouldn't trade for the world. Being 24 is an odd, sometimes awkward age, but I'm loving every minute of it. I'm still somewhere between being an immature, naive kid and growing up to become a functioning adult, but its fun hovering here in purgatory. To all my friends and family that took the time to read this, thank you so much for making my life one I can be proud of and happy with. I'm eternally grateful to each and every one of you, and I hope that we get to be together soon and make more memories I can write about here to look at later and smile at. I love you all.

-J


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

New Orleans

Memorial Day Weekend 2011, me and 9 other guys road tripped to New Orleans for our friend Chance's 25th birthday. Having just been to Portland 2 weekends before on a trip that was more or less completely planned by myself, going on this trip having not planned a single thing was quite refreshing. I didn't have to drive, I had no idea what hotel we were staying in, I was simply just along for the ride, and what a wild one it was. We drove to Houston on Thursday night to cut the drive down some, and went and caught The Hang Over 2. More or less the same plot as the first movie, but it was still entertaining none-the-less, especially with 10 guys who were about to head to a notoriously crazy party city. After an uncomfortable nights sleep on the floor, we woke up early and headed to "Nawlins."

The sudden bumps in the road made me look up from my lackadaisical day-dreaming facebook creeping and tweeting on my phone and I knew right off that we were in Louisiana. Entering that state often feels like entering a different county, from the people to the food to the architecture, everything just feels very different from home. I of course started drinking before we actually arrived in New Orleans, since it's so rare I'm afforded the opportunity to not be driving. So as we drove around the French Quarter looking for our not so noticeable hotel, I tried my best to hold the intoxicants in. After a few phone calls and u-turns we finally arrived, and I made it to the bathroom at a photo finish. From there we unloaded all of our stuff and instantly walked down to Bourbon to grab a drink and check out the sites.


Bourbon street is like Austin's 6th street, mixed with Memphis' Beale street, throw in a little of the Vegas strip, all mixed together in a shot tube which is ultimately taken out of the cleavage of some waitress in a bar you can't pronounce. We grabbed some of the famous "hand-grenade" drinks which are supposedly the strongest in New Orleans, and found a balcony to post up on and check out the other tourists. I still have no idea what are in those grenades, or how many of them we ended up drinking throughout the weekend, but I wouldn't be surprised if rufilin wasn't one of the main ingredients. A little tired from the drive, hungry, and sweaty from the south Louisiana humidity, we headed back to the hotel to regroup. After grabbing some pizza slices, we eventually ended up back on Bourbon at a bar called the Beach, which is where we spent the rest of the night. Some friends of ours that are locals came out, and we all drank hurricanes, grenades, and shots from girls who would slap us both before and after taking them, and pretty much danced non-stop till sometime late in the night (early in the morning). I managed to get lost somewhere between Bourbon and the casino, but after a few missed turns I managed to wind up back at the hotel.

The next morning, most likely still intoxicated which can be the only explanation as to why none of us were hung over, we all woke up laughing remembering the nights events. We walked down to a little hole in the wall joint called Hobnobber's for some shrimp poboys and gumbo. After that some of the fellas went over to the casino, while me Chance and Connor headed over to Jackson Square to check out the sites. We saw the Mississippi, which was extremely high. We had feared a few weeks earlier that our trip might get flooded out, but as high as the waters were they remained low enough for us to make it. On our way back from Jackson Square to a little sports bar beside our hotel to catch the UEFA Champions League Soccer Championship game on TV, I once again was playing on my phone when Connor says to me "Holy (crap) is that Vince Vaughn?!" When I looked up, not more than 10 feet away from me and walking in my direction, sure enough it was Vince. A little stunned, none of us could manage a word as we literally walked right by him. He seemed to be in a pretty serious conversation with whomever he was with, and his dark sunglasses also made it seem like he was trying rather hard to be conspicuous, so we thought it best not to chase after him for an autograph or picture. Still, it was another highlight from the trip.



Our friends met us at the sports bar as we watched Barca take on (and eventually beat) Man U, and we sipped on some cold beers and talked about how great a city New Orleans is (and how much we like day-drinking). From there, we went back out to Bourbon, where we saw a guy more or less get knocked unconscious by one of his drunk friends, saw some street performers that were apparently also on "America's Got Talent" at one point, and eventually made our way over to Frenchman street. Along the way, we stopped at another hole in the wall joint that our local friends knew about, and ate some amazing jambalaya, crawfish pie, and mac-n-cheese. The place didn't have seating, so we ate on a stoop outside some house in the middle of downtown New Orleans, and got some strange looks from people on carriage tours as they rode past. After we made friends with a bum who played on his drum, we went down to Frenchman to check out what would be the New Orleans equivalent of Austin's "east-side." We didn't feel like paying covers to get in anywhere however, so we just listen to some jazz from the sidewalk for awhile before heading back to the hotel to shower, dub out a little, and get ready for what was sure to be another crazy night on Bourbon.



Saturday night was equally as crazy as Friday night, complete with Shivers and Vrba ending up on stage at a bar doing their best Vanilla Ice and Justin Bieber impersonations, respectively. Most of us ended up staying out till 3 or 4am, and come Sunday morning we were all in pretty rough shape. The 8+ hour drive home from New Orleans was definitely the worst part of the trip, but all in all it was one of the best weekends ever and one that all of us will undoubtedly always remember.

New Orleans is high on my list of places that everyone should visit, just be prepared for the crazy people, the not so pleasant odors, and the strong drinks. The food, atmosphere, architecture, and history of the city are amazing, and I look forward to many more crazy weekends there in the future.




To the guys who are reading this who were on this trip: no homo. muff said. what is dubstep?!

Monday, May 23, 2011

May-day



A lot has happened since my last update back in March. I turned 24. I found out my "sprained" ankle is actually a stress fracture. I changed positions at my work. I went on vacation. It's been a crazy few weeks. Time to find some clarity in the midst of all the mayhem, my daily soul searching that has me closing my eyes when I hear certain songs and leaves me staring at my screen saver as pictures from my past scroll by.

My birthday was an eye-opener. Apparently at 24, I can't hold my liquor like I use to. After a crazy week filled with shows, a drama filled night downtown, reggae fest, and a not so fun-day Sunday, I realized that celebrating birthdays stops being as fun once you hit 21. Now instead of that seemingly never-ending upward journey towards "maturity," its just a depressing reminder that life comes at you fast, and you need to cherish the moments you get with your friends, family, and loved ones, and maybe not let the alcohol consumption throw a dark shadow over the bright light-hearted fun you had imagined. I was thankful for the eye-opener, because at 24 I learned that I'm far from being grown up, and that's okay... but that maybe doing a little bit of it now wouldn't hurt anything. Growing up is a weird, ironic journey. But I'm here trying my best to learn and grow from it everyday.

May came, and with it came a new position for me at Mercedes Benz of Austin. I am no longer the Service Cashier, or helping out in loaner cars, but am now the photographer for the Sales side. I essentially shoot photos of all the new and used cars we get into inventory and upload them onto our website, cars.com, autotrader, etc for customers to browse our selection before ever coming into the dealership. Although I lack professional photography experience, my bosses at MB realized I'm a pretty quick learner, and after a week of training I was on my own left with nothing but a $3000 camera and a studio to start perfecting my shots and getting on par with what they want. I'm really enjoying the position so far, as where instead of dealing with customers all day I spend most of my time alone in a studio with my iPod, camera, and whatever $50k+ car I have on the turn table. I eventually hope to get more into the website side of things, as well as potentially becoming more involved with the social-networking the company does (since obviously I like to do that already), so I feel that the move is a beneficial one for me. I just hope I can continue to improve, learn, and grow, since I'm still one of those college graduates who isn't using his degree and has no idea what he wants to do with his life. I live in the town I want to live, make enough to live on my own, attend all the concerts I want to, and still have enough left over to try and spoil my better half, so I can't complain. Everything happens for a reason, and with enough patience I think eventually I'll find something perfect for me, but for now this is a good fit.



With the arrival of May, some amazing concerts also came, including Arcade Fire, Rusko, and Fleet Foxes. Arcade Fire put on one of the best shows I've been to in a long time, easily in my top 5 performances ever to see live. Rusko had Stubb's rockin and yet again dubstep did not disappoint in providing a fun night. Fleet Foxes filled my eardrums with their sweet melodic tones at Stubb's during a cool evening. The rain that night subsided just in time for them to put on an great set. I've seen so many amazing performances since I've moved to Austin, and I'm eternally grateful for the opportunities I've had in my life to see some truly unique and unforgettable concerts.




Friday the 13th arrived (my notoriously "lucky" day) and with it came a long awaited vacation to Portland, Oregon. Despite a few hiccups along the way thanks to flying stand-by, me and the lil lady managed to make it to Portland late that Friday night. Saturday was filled with walking around beautiful downtown Portland, checking out a farmers market, eating some good "cart" (what we in Austin call "trailer") food, lots of vintage shops, a 3 story H&M, a few record stores, and an awesome cook-it-yourself "Hotpot" dinner at Lauren's uncle's house. Sunday we ate with my aunt, uncle, and cousin and did some more vintage shopping and walking around cool parts of Portland, and got lost in the massive bookstore called Powell's. Sunday night me and Lauren went to dinner at the fancy Portland City Grille. On the 30th floor of the tallest building downtown, it was a perfect place to enjoy some amazing food and take in the beautiful view of Portland. Monday, after we tried the world famous Voodoo Doughnuts, where I had the best donut I've ever had (it had maple bacon on it) we ended up getting stuck in Portland for another day (so sad right?) and got to go see Bridesmaid's and I ended the trip with a beer-flight of 10 amazing beers at a cool brewpub my uncle and aunt took us too. All in all it was one of the best trips I've been on in a long time, and it was nice to experience a unique and beautiful city like Portland. Austin is still home, but if I ever decided to relocate, Portland is high on the list of potential places.





This weekend I head to New Orleans for Chance's 25th birthday, and considering the Portland trip was the first time I had left Texas since going skiing in Colorado before moving to Austin last January, I think another trip out of state is still in order. Just the fellas on this trip, so hopefully we don't get into too much trouble. The following weekend I'll head to Free Press Summerfest in Houston to see some great bands like The Black Angels, Yeasayer, Beirut, Cut Copy, and Weezer just to name a few.

Summer is finally here, and with it is the inevitable river trips, amazing concerts, and the 100+ degree days Austin is famous for. I'm thankful for how great 2011 has been already, and I think Summer '11 in the ATX will be no different. I don't know how much longer I'll be in a place in my life where I can be selfish, do what I want whenever I want, and only be responsible for myself primarily, so with those thoughts in mind that is how I anticipate spending the rest of 2011. Hopefully once my ankle heals up I can start training for half-marathon number 2, which I also hope comes before the start of the fall soccer season for my club team Celtic. Already anticipating my second Kid Cudi concert in July, and looking forward to what else the summer has in store. One thing about living in Texas your whole life, you learn to enjoy those hot summer nights, where your skin is tinted tan and red from a fun day in the sun, and the breezethat hits you makes you close your eyes and reminds you how thankful you are that you have a cold beer in your hand and good friends laughing around you.

"And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." - Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March Madness

Heading into March and spring, I knew it was going to be a tough month. I already knew in advance I was scheduled to work 3 of the 4 Saturday's of the month up at Mercedes Benz, and throw in my first half marathon (see: A Race to Self Discovery), SXSW, a 10k, soccer games, pops spring break, the NCAA tournament, and the addition of some roommates, and this month has been downright madness.

I started this month off by completing my first half-marathon in San Marcos on a grueling 13.1 mile hill-filled course. That following week, I got to hang out with my dad for the first time in awhile as he came in town during his spring break week, and for the rally for Texas teachers at the capital. We got to play our usual tennis match (in which he finally won back the infamous trophy, on which I of course blame my sore legs since it was 2 days following my half-marathon), and we got to have some beers, laughs, and celebrate fat Tuesday together. Anytime I get to spend time with him, I realize how blessed I am to have such a cool father, and best friend. I learn more and more how much of who I am is directly because of who he is, and that I wouldn't be half the man I am were it not for the values he instilled in me from a young age. I can only hope to be half the man he is, as his selflessness, caring, and overall love for life is an inspiration to me everyday.


The following week I put in my second 60 hour work week ever, and ultimately had my ankle sprained by a cheap-shot foul during one of my club team's soccer games. Not exactly perfect timing considering SXSW was just kicking off, and a 10k and more soccer games were looming in my future. But I suffered through it, and after an eventful St. Patrick's day downtown with friends, I took my first paid-day off from Mercedes, and spent it working for a booth at the Style X(by) event at the convention center held during SXSW. This fashion based event offered booths of different types of styles, clothing, shoes, etc. and had fashion shows, alcohol, and tons of different vendors. I worked for an up-and-coming online eye-wear company called Tortoise & Blonde, and after two 12 hour days on my feet selling shades, I sadly couldn't muster up enough energy to ever use my artist wristband I had acquired to catch any South-By shows. But with money in my pocket, some new connections made, and hopefully a potential future career change (fingers crossed) I considered the week a success. Thanks to a heavy ankle brace, I managed to push through the exhaustion just long enough to play in our next soccer game, where we remained undefeated and took down the top team in the table.



This week I finally got a raise from the company I have been working at for the past year. Thursday night I went to an awesome jazz club on Congress and thats when this sense of peace started. Being in a pretty good place financially and mentally, I now open my doors to my sister and Jude who will be staying with me for the next few weeks as Monica looks for a new job here in Austin. It might get a little stressful at times considering how O.C.D. I am about everything, but I'm extremely excited to have them and get to spend time with them. I am especially excited that I may get the coolest person in the world to live in the same city as me again, as I love anytime I get to spend with my fashionista, all knowing musically, and overall better-than-hipster sister and rock star nephew.


Last night, as I prepared to have some friends over to celebrate my raise, I sat back listening to some Stevie Ray, and finally took a breath. Despite all the chaos, I again find myself in a really good place. Unlike the craziness that the NCAA tournament has held this year, I find myself at peace. I have a job that puts money in my pocket and allows me to live in a city where I can live the type of life I want to. I have friends who I can count on anytime I need them, and a girl that I absolutely adore. I have an amazing family that keeps me grounded and is primarily responsible for all the good that is in my life. I find these moments of nirvana are important to note, because when the times of chaos undoubtedly come again its being able to remember these moments that remind you that in the end it all works out for the best, and no matter how unpredictable it can be, more times than not it's usually worth it.


Tonight I am spoiling myself and finally updating my wardrobe some, and taking the girl that has been part of that nirvana feeling for me out to dinner. Tomorrow I run the Capital 10k and hope that my ankle holds up for my soccer game later that afternoon. This up-coming week I'll see Ghostland Observatory in concert for the fourth time, Cold War Kids for the first, and go camping for the first time in over a decade at Enchanted Rock with friends. April will be another chaotic month with shows such as Warpaint, Gogol Bordello, and Sleigh Bells; as well as some festivals such as Reggae Fest and Psych fest. I will also turn 24, and when I stop and look around at just where my life will be at that point, I can confidently say I will be for the most part satisfied. And I think that is something to be proud of, because I know not everyone my age can say the same. I read a quote today that I'll end this with because I found it very appropriate for this time in my life:

"Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something."- Thoreau


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Race... to Self-Discovery


As 2011 approached, I, like most people, contemplated what my "New Year's Resolutions" would be. The year of 2010 had been an incredible one, full of dozens of concerts and music festivals, late nights downtown followed by 4th meals, new restaurants and old habits. All extremely fun things, but not exactly the healthiest life-style I had ever had. Granted I did still run and work out here and there, I still knew that the new year brought an opportunity to reevaluate my choices and make a few changes that could improve my well-being. The typical things came to mind; get in shape, eat better, drink less, etc. These all seemed somewhat mundane and boring, however, and I wanted something a little more challenging. Something that would ultimately drive me to do all those things, but with an end goal. Something that I couldn't give up on after just a week and say "oh well, better luck next year." So with those things in mind, I decided to start training and sign-up for my first half-marathon. There was one in Austin towards the end of February, but 6 weeks seemed awfully soon to try and get enough running in to be prepared, plus it was pretty pricey, so when I stumbled across one in nearby San Marcos at the beginning of March for nearly half the price, I jumped on it and registered for "Moe's Better Half-Marathon."

After an extremely over-indulgent New Years Day full of alcohol and unhealthy food, I started training the second day of the year. I printed out some work-out routines, and started altering my diet. I ate fast food maybe one time a week if at all, cut-back on my drinking, and hit the pavement putting in miles. I had run cross-county in high school, and throughout college had run a few miles a week just because I liked the way it made me feel (aka helped me justify my vices from time to time). Just a month in, I was already running 4 to 5 miles a night 4 or 5 days a week, and seemingly making good progress. February hit, and the temptations for eating poorly began, so I tried to kick those out by doing even more athletically. I joined a soccer team in Austin's Men's Soccer Association league, and with trainings on Tuesday nights and games on Sunday's, I was given even more incentive to continue trying to stick to my resolution.

Shortly after Valentines day, I went on a run and managed to put in 8 miles. Now this might not seem like much considering the half I was training for would be 13.1 miles, but it was a milestone for me as I had never run more than 7 before at one time. Feeling confident, but also a little under the weather due to allergies, I took a few days off after that. Big mistake. For future reference, I will never do that again. I peaked in my training earlier than I had wanted to, and the last 3 weeks before the race I never ran more than 3 times a week, and never further than 5 miles. Soccer, work, concerts, and having a girlfriend all jammed up my schedule, and as race day approached, I felt a little uneasy about the prospect of trying to accomplish the goals I had set out for myself for the race, which were to run the entire thing without walking, and to finish it in under 2 hours (which would require a pace of around 9 minute miles). The weekend of the race I had come, and I ended up going downtown Friday night and staying out late drinking before I had to get up early for work, and didn't get in bed till after 11pm that night (due to nerves if nothing else) even though I had a 4am wake up call Sunday in order to make it down to San Marcos in time for the 7am start. To say I was nervous would be a massive understatement, but the day was here, I had paid my registration fee and picked up my race packet, so there was no turning back now.

Arriving to the Tanger Outlet Center in San Marcos where the start and finish line for the race were around 6am, I was trying to keep positive thoughts in mind. The weather was a little cooler than I would have preferred, a brisk 36 degrees, but there was a hallway by the bathrooms we hung out in to keep from the wind while we stretched and warmed up for the race. This was a great marathon to do as my first one, because it wasn't very crowded and pretty low-key. All the participants and organizers were friendly and up-beat, and I was losing my nervousness and finally sliding into that feeling of anticipation. I was ready, or at least as ready as I'd ever be, to see just how far I could push my body. We lined up near the front of the pack at the start, and at 7am set off on the 13.1 mile long course through the hilly San Marcos countryside.

Now although I rarely am awake for it, the times that I am and get to the sunrise I always have a sense of accomplishment no matter what I'm doing. So seeing the sun come up over the farms of the central Texas hill country as I ran by was a very rewarding feeling in itself. I was enjoying it so much that I ran my first mile entirely too fast, and thought there had been some kind of mistake as I passed by Mile Marker 1 and looked down at my watch to see 7:13, a little under my 9 minute pace I had intended to run at. I tried to slow myself down, but still came in too fast at Mile 2 around 14:45. This ended up being a good thing, because my nervous tick seems to be drinking water, and I had drank 2 to 3 bottles worth en route to San Marcos that morning. So at the first porta-potty stop at Mile 4, I had to make a pit-stop. Having to wait on someone in front of me, this took about 2 minutes time. So when I left I was just under 36 minutes, so right on pace for where I wanted to be. Miles 5 and 6 were both right on pace just under 9 minutes each, and as I approached the steep downhill between miles 6 and 7, I was feeling more and more confident.

As I finished zig-zagging the hill and realized I was just about halfway done with the course, I was having an out-of-body experience. Here I was at 8 in the morning and had already been up for 4 hours, was 7 miles into my first half marathon, the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, the temperature was a perfect 45 degrees, and I felt like I could run forever. I was smiling to myself, feeling very much like Forrest Gump, and almost as if on cue, "Freebird" came on my iPod. That lengthy song alone killed almost 2 miles, and an array of eclectic tunes accompanied me as I continued on my way from Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, to Radiohead and Rage Against the Machine. As I approached and then ran by Mile 8, I knew that anything past this point was a new personal best for my distance wise, and I know that the photographers and on-lookers cheering us on during the race probably found my huge smile a bit odd.

Entering double digits at Mile 10, I began having the debate with myself about rather I should try and pick up my pace a little (I was still hovering right around the pace I had set for myself of 9 minute miles), of if I should relish the fact that I was still feeling great and push myself more. It was at that exact moment that I saw for the first time of the race someone off the side throwing up. This to me was an omen that I did not ignore, and I maintained my pace rather than speeding up. After nearly being spit on by a guy running with his friend, I ended up staying with them for awhile as they seemed to be right at the same pace as me, and having been running alone for most of the race it was nice to have a little company. A few laughs as we hit Mile 12 and I decided that there was no point in leaving anything left on the course, so I kicked it into gear and decided to try and start passing anyone and everyone I could. The fact that a lot of the people in front of me were girls and/or people in their 50's and 60's was both impressive on their end, and made me become a little prideful on mine, and gave me just the motivation I needed to try and beat as many people as I could coming down the home stretch.


As I came around the last turn and could see the outlet center in my sights, I began running even faster. I then caught sight of my friend Blaine, who had already finished, with my camera (as I had asked him to) taking pictures, and that also helped pushed me through. I passed 2 girls on the last 100 yards and finished with a time of 1 hour 58 minutes and 12 seconds. I had accomplished all my goals; I hadn't walked any and I had finished in under 2 hours. The course was pretty challenging, as there were a lot of hills (a few of them pretty killer), and the colder weather at first and a slight breeze (headwind) here and there also came into play but all in all I would say it went about as perfect as possible. I devoured a cookie, banana, orange, and Gatorade, and had a permanent smile on my face the rest of the day.

I had my first experience at The Mighty Cone trailer on South Congress, and then went out to Zilker Park to check out the Austin Kite Festival. I finished off the near perfect Sunday with dinner and drinks at Chuy's with my dad. It was one of the best days of my life, and most rewarding, because I had accomplish a goal that I had set out completely for myself. I was not trying to impress anyone, or make a soccer team, or win a race, I had simply set out to achieve something, done it, and the reward was the feeling it left within me. Now I can cross that off my bucket list, and have a memory to look back on forever. Next up, I have a 10k in Austin at the end of March, as well as 5 more soccer games this season as we try to move up the table in our division. Its been a very rewarding year so far in 2011, and I can't wait to see what else I will be able to accomplish. I've already read more books in the past 3 months than I did all last year, and am planning on running at least one more half-marathon before 2012. So who knows what 2012 may hold, possibly a full marathon? The possibilities are endless, because when you learn how far you can push yourself, you learn how much it takes to be able to push it even further. And I think thats what this half-marathon meant to me, a journey, a race to self-discovery.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Nocturnal Festival

Labor day weekend of 2010, me and a few friends decided to make the drive out to Apache Pass Event Center outside of Rockdale, Texas which was more or less about an hour away from Austin. We had all purchased tickets for a music festival, one with a very interesting line-up and theme, and also one that in all reality we both didn't know much about, nor what to expect once we got there. The aptly named Nocturnal Festival lasted from 4pm to 4am every evening that weekend, and included such performers as Girl Talk, Bassnectar, and Rusko. We were heading out on Sunday evening to catch Lotus, Pretty Lights, and Kid Cudi. With much anticipation, excitement, and a little bit of uneasiness, we pre-gamed at my apartment in north Austin for a little bit and then left with the sunset around 8:30 to head up highway 79 to the pass. Almost immediately, we all realized we had made a very good decision.

En route, we passed Dell Diamond, home of the Round Rock Express baseball team. They had just finished up their game that night, and apparently were treating visitors to a surprisingly good fireworks show. We managed to pull up just as it had started, so I pulled my car over the side of the road and we got a free showing to start the trip off with. It seemed like fate, as we laughed and listened to some road-trip music and drank our "to-go" drinks (sorry mom, sorry dad) and watched the display. So once it finished up we continued on our way, our spirits even higher than before at this point.

Once in Rockdale, we decided to stop at the lonely gas station in town and pick up a few more supplies (water, ice, gatorade, advil, etc). It was at this point that I noticed the first dilemma of the trip. Looking at the reflection of my car in the store's window, I noticed my front headlight was out. I instantly was a bit panicked due to the aforementioned to-go drinks and knew that an out light was just the kind of excuse the cops in these po-dunk towns of central Texas would be looking for to pull me over on a night such as this one. But, having taken defensive driving shortly after moving to Austin (due to a speeding ticket I received speeding back to Tyler to pack up and move my things to the Atx), I knew that in this situation the smart, and legal, thing to do was to simply turn on my brights and hope for the best. Turns out having somewhat low-powered lights, although a problem in certain situations, was a blessing in this one. Because we safely made it to the venue and back to my apartment again much later that night without any issues, despite passing quite a few of Texas' finest along the way. Again, this night was shaping up to be a good one.

^Kid Cudi

So finally around 10 we made it the event center, a.k.a. the farm, parked, chugged, and found our way inside. Lotus was set to take the stage around 10:30, so we grabbed a few beers and found a good place in the crowd. The festival was set up into 4 different stages, each one themed, with about 8 artists a night performing at each. Lotus put on an incredible set, complete with a great light show and killer beats, and we were buzzing like bumblebees. But as good as Lotus was, that was just the kicker, because the only reason I bought a ticket in the first place was coming on next: Kid Cudi. I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd get a chance to see Kid Cudi at a festival, let alone at one this close to where I lived. So the second his name popped up on the Festival list, I instantly purchased a ticket (despite the increase in price that his name being added to the bill, added to the bill). Loving life, me and my friends all sang loudly together as we too were successfully on "the pursuit of happiness."


Kid Cudi's amazing set ended in fireworks, the only concert I've ever been to that did, and it was absolutely perfect. Pretty Lights came on after Cudi, and in retrospect I wish I would have stayed for more of that show than I did, but riding on high from Kid Cudi and general curiosity led us to venture away from the stage we were at and check out the other sights and sounds around the park. There were all kinds of lighting fixtures, some in trees, other's standing alone, and the unique array of concert attendees were a sight in themselves. It was one of the most eclectic displays of people in one place I have ever seen, with half-naked girls in body paint running past guys dressed in all black and gaudy gothic stones and belts, to your average wanna-be hipsters such as myself, and everything in between. After walking through a maze of Christmas lights complete with 3d glasses, we decided that it was getting pretty late and we should probably try to beat the rush out of the farm and head back to Austin at a somewhat decent hour (it was around 2am at this time).

^Pretty Lights

We successfully found our way back to my apartment, with me free-styling more or less the entire car ride home in order to ensure I stayed awake and coherent for the trip. Not wanting the seemingly perfect night to end, we all crammed into my hot tub once back at my apartment complex, where we had some cool stories to share with some intoxicated (even more than we were) neighbors, who's foreign accents to this day escape me as to where they were from. Finally crawling into bed around 5am, the smile I fell asleep with was one of pride, success, and contentment. We had conquered and survived Nocturnal, and come away with memories from a night that could only be described as simply perfect.


This April, Nocturnal Festival returns to the Apache Pass Event Center in Rockdale, Texas, and for 2 nights will transform peoples lives. I have not decided yet if I will be returning, as I am simply afraid to try and top such a perfect time, but I highly recommend that any and all who can attend this amazing event. My advice would be to try and find a designated driver (as you always should) since I have heard stories of people who were not as successful as we were at avoiding the 5-0. Also, bring lots of water for afterwards, which looking back on the night was the most important purchase of the evening at the gas station.



This years line up is amazing, and includes:
Above & Beyond
Bassnectar
Big Gigantic
Crystal Castles
Excision
Ghostland Observatory
Kaskade
STS9
Zeds dead


Here is also a link to the trailer for this years festival, which is footage shot from last years which I just described above:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Year One


On January 31, 2010, I packed every thing I owned into a u-haul and moved to Austin, Texas. I had lived in Whitehouse and/or Tyler in East Texas my entire life, and besides a few stints of living with some friends in apartments in Tyler here and there, had never lived completely on my own before, either. Needless to say, it was understood that moving from the shiny buckle of the bible belt to the liberal island floating in the sea of Texas conservatives that is Austin was going to be a bit of a "life-changer." Having been in Austin over a year now, and my one-year of working at Mercedes-Benz of Austin coming up on March 8th, I thought it was time to update the blog again and reflect on the past 13 (my lucky number) months of my life

When I moved down here, I did it almost on a whim. I had gotten a job at a Marketing Agency (that ended up being more or less a pyramid scheme selling Direct TV at Best Buy that I immediately quit 3 days later), and after receiving the job offer in mid January after a trip to Austin for a party following a "graduation trip" skiing in Colorado, I immediately found an apartment in North Austin near where my work would be in the Arboretum. After signing my lease and paying my deposit (and getting a ticket speeding on the way back to Tyler due to excitement), I packed up all my belongings, which sadly could all fit in a relatively normal sized u-haul, and made the move to the Live-Music Capital of the World.


Now to say this was completely on a whim is not entirely accurate. When I was 14 years old, I came to Austin for the first time with my dad over Thanksgiving break and got to watch the Longhorns take it to the Aggies at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, and I was forever changed. A few months later in March, I came back with my dad and sister for my dad's college roommate's dad's 80th birthday party (now that's a mouthful). That party took place at the Omni on 8th Street and just so happened to fall on the same week as the infamous South by Southwest music festival here in Austin. Even back then, my sister was always in the know and infinitely cooler than me, and she managed to find a few shows we could go to while we were in town. So as a freshman in high school with curly hair and a mouth full of braces, I hit SXSW and saw a few shows like Starsailor, and the kicker being Better Than Ezra with Johnny Lang at Stubbs. From that week on, I knew that if I were to stay in Texas past high school or college, that Austin would be the only place I would live. The people, the city, the music, the feeling, everything was different from what I had grown up with in my small little hometown of 4,000+ people in the East Texas pines. Through some circumstances outside of my control, I wasn't able to attend the University of Texas at Austin as was my dream, but I managed to live vicariously though other friends college experiences, and got to travel all over the country with the money I saved from staying close to home for college. But after graduating in December of 2009, it didn't take long for me to make the move out of that sea-of-settling Tyler trap that so many people fall into (no disrespect to all my friends still "on their grind" in Tyler, just wasn't for me).


So here I was, 22 years old and living out my dream, sort of. After quitting the pyramid, I was in a bit of a bind. I already had bills piling up from my new apartment, so I was on the job hunt hardcore. I don't think I've ever sent more emails out, browsed Craigslist and Google more, or had more sleepless nights due strictly to stress in my entire life than I did that month of February. Thanks to some graduation money I had saved up, and the love and generosity of my parents who I am and will forever be in debt to, I managed to survive until I lucked into a position with Mercedes-Benz of Austin through a Craigslist add I hadn't even remembered replying to. A year later, here I am still living paycheck to paycheck, but living a life as good if not better than I had imagined when I pulled out of me and my dad's apartment in Tyler for the last time (with teary eyes, I might add).

Since I've been here, I've been to more concerts than I would have ever dreamed imaginable (some of which can be read about in other blog posts i.e: Nocturnal Fest, ACL, etc.), met some of the most interesting people I will ever know (including a beautiful girl that lets me take her on dates), made some friendships that I think will last a lifetime, and still managed to stay close with the people that have always been in my life (and always will be). and through it all discovered not only a new city and a new life, but a new me. I've always been one to value self-awareness, but I never realized how much more important self-discovery is. Sure I try to pretend like I know exactly who I am or what I want, but the truth is that changes everyday. So I don't think anyone can ever be completely sure of those things. What I've learned is that you just have to roll with the punches, make yourself open to new people and new experiences, and try to do it all with an open mind.


I haven't left Texas since I moved here over a year ago, so I'm commemorating this amazing 1+ year in Austin by booking a trip to Portland, Oregon today in May. I made a promise to myself that Austin would change me for the better, and I can undoubtedly say it has. I've been crossing things off my Bucket List (see blog post) left and right, and this Sunday I will scratch another one off as I run in my first half-marathon in San Marcos. Fittingly enough, I will wrap up that day by heading to one of Austin's most popular locations, Zilker Park, to see a vintage Austin event, a Kite Festival. Followed by a visit from my old roommate, my dad, for his Spring Break. The next few months are lined up to be exactly what I moved down here for, full of amazing concerts and festivals, good times with friends and family, and experiences that I could not have if I were not living here.


So to everyone who has made Austin worth while for me since I've gotten here, I thank you. Without you, all of this would not be possible, and I would not be the person I am right now. I am so thankful to be this blessed and lucky, and I do not take you or my life for-granted. I know that mine is a life a lot of people would love to have, and I try to live daily as though it could all be taken away from me at any moment. Because in my nearly 24 years, I've learned that it really could.