Road Trip: 1,963 miles (Austin, TX)

Travel

These are only impressions of my first few days, but I’m surprised by how much Austin reminds me of other cities. South Austin has the same grungy, arty feel as Charlotte’s NoDa with all the good and bad that comes from such a comparison. Driving alongside the Colorado River I was reminded of parts of the Thames in the UK on those rare sunny days. Going through the neighborhoods of North Austin looked a lot like sections of Silver Lake (Los Angeles) with winding, hilly roads and beautiful houses. Perhaps noticing these similarities is a by-product of the years I’ve spent traveling or maybe it’s nostalgia making me more prone to these mental connections. Either way, déjà vu is a constant in Austin.

Who knew that having lived in Houston and Los Angeles would prepare me for my trip? Houston introduced me to the creative highway design that Texas is known for. Los Angeles gave me my first taste of insanely congested roads. Both were experiences that made driving through Austin much more bearable. I’m also thankful for a lots of surface roads and back ways. Just looking at I-35 during rush hour makes me break out in hives.

This is undeniably a vibrant and thriving city. The variety of events, lectures, festivals, and food is staggering. I just went to an Astronomy lecture that involved booze. I’ll be going to an early morning creative networking event at the Texas School for the Deaf later this week. There’s also a Writer’s League of Texas panel that I’m thinking of attending. It truly is an insane amount of interesting activities and I know this isn’t even Austin’s busy season.

Is Austin the city for me? No clue. Honestly, after a week there’s no way I could make that decision. I’m barely scratching the surface of this ecosystem and don’t have enough data to figure out if I’ll do well here. The one thing I can say with certainty is that Austin is a fun city. That’s good enough for now.

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The Mystery of 2016

Personal

A whole new year brimming with potential is stretched out before me. I have no idea what to expect. Last year ended with turmoil and radical change. This year started with a little comfort and a lot of uncertainty. I feel like my life is an Etch-a-Sketch that has been violently shaken. I’m sad for the art which was lost, but I’m excited at the possibilities contained within a blank slate.

For the first time in my life the identity I maintain is not dictated by outside forces. Even when I re-enter the workforce, in whatever fashion that may be, I’m still mindful enough to know that I am not my job. It was a tough lesson to learn and one I’ll continue to struggle with, but I’m holding on tightly to that nugget of wisdom.

I also stopped chasing happy. Happy is an emotion meant to be experienced not a state of being that has to be maintained at all costs. Instead I’m searching for satisfaction in what I do. That’s a sensation which will build me into the person I want to be and has a greater longevity than happiness. The hardest day of work will leave a smile on my face if satisfaction is a part of it.

These thoughts are a little woo-woo, so let me dive into the tangible accomplishments I have at the start of 2016.

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Road Trip: 1,822 miles (Houston, TX)

Travel

Note to self: driving 21+ hours across two days is a really stupid idea. I’m not in my twenties anymore. Also, driving INTO hurricane strength weather is equally inadvisable. In spite of all these boneheaded decisions, I made it into Houston safe and sound.

I’ll get to the other states later, but when I crossed the border into Texas two things greeted me. One was a smoothly paved highway with fast speed limits. The other was an enrapturing sunset. The sky was massive with painted hues streaked across it. When the sun was underneath the horizon, dark clouds came across the sky like someone pulling a curtain over the day. It was magnificent. I laughed and smiled while driving (and swerved a bit too).

Just as quickly as Texas showed its beauty, it gave me a taste of its bite. Highways split into multiple exits at the drop of a hat and every turn felt like a last minute hairpin. One axiom of Houston life became readily apparent.

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Road Trip: 409 miles (Falls Church, VA)

Travel

Leaving Virginia appears to be more difficult than I had anticipated. My plans for Nashville and Memphis fell through in a spectacular last-minute fashion which had me scrambling for a Plan B. Now I find myself staying in the “Old Dominion” state a bit longer while I reroute my entire road trip.

The upside is that I’m in familiar stomping grounds. I spent roughly a year here in 2013, working a government project, and have many fond memories of the place. It’ll be nice to see some old faces and hit the great restaurants that litter the area. Even as I write this I’m picturing one of my favorite Lebanese dishes which is a stone’s throw from where I’m staying. My mouth is watering at the thought. [click to continue…]

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Road Trip: 359 miles (Fredericksburg, VA)

Travel

The next leg of my journey was only an hour north of Richmond and yet it felt like a completely different planet. Yes, it’s the suburbs and a much smaller place (28K vs. 214K), but that’s not what set it apart. Just look at the photo above. Rustling trees. Absolute quiet. This is a world away.

The city was a welcomed distraction from the burnout of dwelling on heavy questions, but the quiet up here is exactly what I needed. Sitting on this deck I watched nature paint pictures in the sky and enjoyed a refreshing adult beverage while editing my good friend’s short story. This kind of calm atmosphere is what I have to find when I reach the end of my road trip. It doesn’t mean I’m moving to the sticks, only that having an easily accessible moment of Zen calmed my mind unlike anything else.

Finding my real trigger points—the things that affect me mind, body, and soul—has been an unexpected benefit of this endeavor. I can’t wait to see what else I discover. [click to continue…]

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7 Essential Books for Writers on the Road

Writing

When you’re couch surfin’ and road trippin’ you need to pack light, but what does a writer with a fondness for paperbacks do in such a situation? One main goal during my travels is to pound out words every day. Using that as my sole criteria, I chose only the physical books that would help me on my quest. Everything else was relegated to the Land of Kindle.

These assorted tomes have been essential resources for me as I’ve developed my writing. One book would help with the realities of the business while another would give me insight into story structure. Some were needed when writer’s block felt like concrete and a couple reminded me about the joy of the craft. I’ve recommend all these books to anyone looking to expand their skills with the written word because they’ve been invaluable to me over the years. [click to continue…]

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Road Trip: 303 miles (Richmond, VA)

Travel

As they say, the best laid plans often go awry, and mine have been no exception. My road trip started off much later than expected and driving for 4 1/2 hours isn’t as easy as it used to be, especially at night. The highway up to Virginia was often a dark corridor of massive trees crowding the road and leaving little leeway for tired mistakes. A couple of times the taillights ahead of me would disappear around a corner and it felt like I was flying through inky blackness at 90 mph toward places that didn’t exist on this world. Yeah, these are the thoughts that pop into my head on long journeys.

Luckily, I made it up in one piece (thank you, Red Bull & King-sized Twix) and reached my first stop – Richmond, VA. A very good friend of mine lives here and has offered me a place to stay for a while. I’ve known this guy for almost ten years and barely get to see him, but whenever we bump into each other it’s like we were hanging out just yesterday. That’s a rare friend.

Now that this endeavor has started in earnest, I thought it best to cover what I have and what I want to accomplish. [click to continue…]

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Couch Surfin’ USA

Personal

If you’ve kept up with this blog then you know I’ve made several changes in my life (after it kicked me in the balls) such as a move toward more quiet days for self-reflection and leaving the city of Charlotte for good (with no clear path ahead).

Now we’re reaching the end of August and it scares the shit out of me. I didn’t know where I was headed a month ago and little has changed since. When I talked to my friends about this almost everyone was quick to praise the freedoms of the open road with no constraints. I honestly think people are in love with the “idea” of the journey, but have no clue what it actually entails. Shit, I have no concept of its realities either yet I’m smart enough to know it’s not going to be an idealized recreation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road where I find myself while traveling the American landscape.

First of all, that version of America doesn’t exist anymore. Second, I’m not able to live off 10 bucks a week working random odd jobs. The cost of “finding oneself” has gone up drastically due to inflation and cynicism. Third, I’m not palling around with beat poets trading cosmic revelations in an extended creative vision quest. This will be me, myself, and I, in a car for long periods of time hoping to avoid toll roads and overeager State Troopers.

As vague as my future may be there are some things that I can count on. [click to continue…]

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OneDrive, Windows 10, & Ultrabooks Don’t Mix

Nerd

Let me start by saying I like Windows 10. The new OS has a clean interface, a much better Start Menu than either 7 or 8.1, and snappier overall performance. I really wanted to love the upgrade and I did, for a little while, until I slammed my head right into the OneDrive issue.

OneDrive (formerly known as SkyDrive) is a cloud storage service provided by Microsoft. It works well in Windows 7 and is integrated directly into the File Explorer in Windows 8.1. You get 15 GB free to start and can either accumulate more space through referrals or purchase more space through a subscription. It’s a solid addition to any cloud storage strategy (I also use Dropbox and CrashPlan).

Since OneDrive has become a key player in my writing workflow I can’t live without it, which is why Windows 10 changing the fundamental behavior of the service forced me to roll back to 8.1. Here’s a brief rundown for those unfamiliar with the Windows 10 debacle and how I tried to work around it. [click to continue…]

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Next Stop: Unknown

Personal

Rarely have I fallen in love with a place or city.  I’ve visited several parts of the world and thoroughly enjoyed many of them, but the head over heels reaction that you read about in travel blogs and see in movies has completely eluded me.  Too many questions cloud my mind to allow any sense of euphoria to take hold – What’s the cost of living? Is the job market good? Do I enjoy it only because I’m a tourist?

The one thing I know with 100% certainty is that I’m done with Charlotte, NC.  It may be an amazing place for some, but I’m burned out by its superficial friendliness and the swarm of bad memories lurking around every corner.  Too many personal and professional failures.  I want this new chapter in my life to start fresh without the baggage of my past.

So I do what any writer does when confronted with a dilemma, I put words to paper and figure it out on a blank page.  Hopefully—through the combination of my online noodling and the hive mind of the Internet—recommendations, advice, or warnings will find themselves in the comments section of this post. [click to continue…]

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Life Kicked Me in the Balls

Personal, Popular Articles

I used to love climbing up corporate ladders grabbing rung after rung.  The thrill of the chase and the joy of achievement were enough to keep me satisfied.  Brass rings, accolades… whatever you wanted to call them, I snagged those puppies on my race toward the capitalistic nirvana known as the American Dream.

For the longest time I thought this was the proper order of things.  Build financial security to rely upon later in life while enjoying the perks of being a traveling consultant, then fully immersing into my creative endeavors, once I was “comfortable” enough.  Of course, like any other pipe dream, reality had a different path in mind for me. [click to continue…]

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