Apr 06

Why I Turned Down $300 for a $6 Jacket

Recently I celebrated by 23rd birthday on March 14th which was during the week of South By Southwest (SXSW). Birthdays have never really been that big of a deal to me. I have never really been the kind of person that wanted tons of gifts or anything like that. Just a simple party surrounded by people I love is really all I cared about.

David and I made our way through downtown to one of my favorite streets in Austin, Rainey Street. Rainey Street is great because it used to be a residential area but slowly the area transformed into bars and coffee shops. So all the bars look and feel like houses and have front yards with tables set up for people to hang out on and enjoy their beers as well as spacious backyards with picnic tables and usually a stage for bands to play. Along our way there we happened upon a yard sale where David insisted that we found some weird clothing for me to wear for my birthday. As we rummaged through the sale a girl popped out from behind a clothing rack, “You are gonna find the weirdest shit at this place,” she said with excitement.

“We are looking for something weird for him to wear for his birthday,” David said as he pointed at me.

“I got just the thing for you.” The girl said as she scurried over to a rack behind us and pulled out the strangest jacket I have ever seen. It looked like something straight out of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Its bright colors were sure to catch anyone’s eye, not to mention the plastic gems that were sewn on the left breast.

“Yes! That’s perfect!” David said. “How much?”

The girl handed it over to us. “Oh, I don’t work here, I’m just hanging out.”

We later found someone that was actually running the yard sale and sold it to us for a bargain of $6.00. David generously paid for it as a birthday present to me.

I slid the jacked on over my long sleeve button up and was instantly shot back in time to the early 90s when this jacket was popular.

We began wandering the streets in search of live music. I was embarrassed to be wearing such a ridiculous jacket until I reminded myself of all the strange people I see in Austin on a daily basis. Within only a few blocks I received several compliments on my new jacket. Maybe it was nostalgic for people, or maybe it was the flashy colors, but whatever it was the general public seemed to love my new jacket.

 

Fast-forward to about two weeks later: Jet, Ashley, and I went out to one of our favorite bars, The Blackheart on Rainey Street, to see one of Jet’s friend’s band play, the Harvest Thieves. We were hanging out on the front yard of the bar and I was having a conversation with Ashley until I was interrupted by some random guy who felt the need to compliment Ashley on her shaved head. He was a short fellow with long, wavy, brown hair that reached his shoulders. Some facial hair circled around his mouth and he very closely resembled Robert Downey Jr.

We began talking with him and before long the conversation shifted to my jacket. This man was very intrigued by its unique design and liked it so much that he was offering to buy it right off my back.

“I’ll give you $100 for that jacket right now.” He said.

Now I don’t have a lot of money to my name at the moment because I just relocated to Austin and was still in the process of job hunting so $100 is quite a bit of money to me. “$100?!” I said in disbelief. “You’re gonna pay me $100 for this jacket?!” My brain was having trouble processing why someone would want to pay so much money for such a ridiculous jacket. Especially since it was bought for only six bucks.

“Yeah, dude, a hundred bucks right now.” He insisted.

“Naw man, sorry, I can’t do it. I really like this jacket.”

“Okay, okay.” He lowered his head and thought for a second then raised it again. “How about $200?”

At this point I couldn’t help but laugh. There’s no way this man was being serious. I couldn’t believe anyone is their right mind to be paying so much for a jacket like this. But he didn’t appear to be drunk or on any type of drugs. “You can’t be serious right now.” I said in disbelief.

He reassured me, “200 bucks right now.”

“I’m sorry many but I can’t do it.”

“THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!” He yelled as he reached into his pocket and retrieved a money clip containing a wad of hundred dollar bills. He counted out three of them and held them up to me then proceeded to put the money in my hand to prove how serious he was. “Here. Take it.”

I was instantly shocked with the amount of money he had. “What the heck do you do that you have so much money? Are you like famous or something?” I was skeptical that he was just carrying around a wad of fake cash so I held it up to the light and there I saw Benjamin Franklin’s watermark staring at me confirming its authenticity.

He upped the ante even more. “I’ll even throw in my cowboy boots.” He pulled up one pant leg and turned his foot to the side to display his leather cowboy boots.

“Those are really nice boots.” He gained my interest a little more.

“Okay, maybe not the boots. I like these too much.” He quickly retrieved the offer. “But come on man. 300 FREAKING DOLLARS.”

I thought about it for a moment and thought about all the things I could buy with that money. Earlier that day I was camera shopping and found a camera I really wanted for about $700 so with this money I would be about halfway there to getting it.

But, then I thought more about it. Money has never really meant that much to me so I wasn’t really thinking about the money I was more thinking about what I could get with it. The more I thought the more I realized it wasn’t worth it. Sure, $300 is a lot of money right now but what about a month from now? Or how about a year? Would I still have that money? Hell, would I even remember getting that money? I could use that money now for quite a few things but honestly it’s not really that much. Heck, that’s about how much I pay each month in student loans.

I then thought about the jacket itself and all that it was brought me. Whenever I wear it I constantly have people come up to me and compliment it or ask the story behind it which creates an easy ice breaker and leads into meeting a new person.

So, if I were to sell this jacket then I wouldn’t just be selling an article of clothing but rather an opportunity. An opportunity to give anyone a reason to come up and talk to me and for me to get to know them. If I were to sell this jacket then it would almost feel like I would be selling a piece of myself.

If it were any other piece of clothing I had then I would gladly sell it for $300. Hell, I would sell my pants and walk around in my boxers for the rest of the night. Any other piece of clothing I could easily replace by going to the store. But a jacket like this I am sure I will never see again for the rest of my life.

I once again denied his offer, “I’m sorry man but I can’t sell it. This jacket means too much to me.”

He realized that I could not be bought, shook my hand, and went on his way.

Later I realized that there are certain material items that we all own that is nearly impossible to put price on. For some it may be an old family bible that has been passed down through generations, for me it’s something as simple as a jacket, and as for the gentlemen trying to purchase my jacket it was his cowboy boots. This man had plenty of money to buy whatever he wanted but when it came to him parting with something that meant a lot to him he was very quick to reject. We all own things that we hold a higher value to than any dollar sign which is what makes them sentimental. Maybe someday I will sell this jacket if the price is right but I think I’d rather trade it for something like a better opportunity. So until someone offers me my dream job of having my own show on the Travel Channel I’ll just continue walking around like I belong in a 90s sitcom. 

Apr 01

Saw Some Very Famous Bands…Accidentally (SXSW Continued)

AER

We woke up fairly early and rushed downtown to catch “Aer” perform. One of David’s friend’s is an up and coming rapper in the group “Aer” who were playing at The Palm Door on Sixth. They have a bit of Southern California beachy hip hop feel to them kind of like the group “The Dirty Heads.” We arrived a little late and didn’t have time to wait in line to get in. But, luckily, there were wrist bands reserved for us at the door which allowed us to bypass the line and get right in.

To my surprise, I really enjoyed these guys. Like many young bands from Southern California many of their songs are about smoking weed and partying but these guys definitely had a very catchy vibe to them. It wasn’t just purely rap, which set them apart from many other groups. They had a full band as well as a vocalist singing a catchy chorus between each verse. I should also mention that these guys are a lot of fun to watch perform live. Sometimes when you go to see a show you are more-or-less just listening to music. Sure, they are playing their instruments right in front of you and singing their hearts out but when I go to see a show I want to see a SHOW. Aer definitely delivers when it comes to that, the lead singer, Carter, has no shame in jumping around on stage like a goofball and pumping up the crowd with his upbeat lyrics. Even though I wasn’t able to sing along because I didn’t know any of the lyrics, Carter made it easy for the crowd to get on their feet and pumped up from the energy he was sending to everyone. If you’re in the mood for some feel good hip-hop then definitely check them out: http://www.freshaermovement.com/music/.

Shortly after their performance we headed back to the AirBnB so David could change and shower since all his stuff was still there.

American Authors and The Kooks

We wandered around some and decided to go back into The Palm Door on Sixth just to see if anyone good was playing and so we could hang out with David’s friend from Aer. When we arrived there was a looooong line stretching about a block down the sidewalk. I hate waiting in lines as much as the next person (unless I’m getting paid $100 to do so) and neither of us wanted to stand in line for some mystery band.

That’s when we remembered our wrist bands from earlier. We walked to the front of the line flashed our red wrist bands and walked right in. I felt like a celebrity with special VIP privileges. When we got in the next band was still setting up so we just hung around the bar tables and made small talk with some of the other attendees. That’s when I found out who was playing next, it was freaking American Authors!!!! Not only do I love this band, but they are HUGE now. If you haven’t heard of them then listen to this song and I’m sure it will sound familiar.

David and I pushed our way through the crowd and made it within about ten feet of the stage. They put on a great performance, as expected, and kept the crowd jumping with their uplifting music.

Once they finished David and I returned to the table where the rest of our friends were hanging out. After about 5 minutes I turned around to see the lead singer, Zac Barnett, making his way through the crowd. Without even thinking I instantly ran up to him to catch a quick celebrity shot.

We were about to leave, but once again another extremely famous band was about to take the stage, The Kooks. If you don’t know this band then just listen to this song and I guarantee the first few notes of the guitar with jog your memory.

Since this band is a bit more popular and has been around a bit longer than American Authors it made it more difficult to push our way to the front due to the density of the crowd. However, it was still a very enjoyable performance and now I can say I saw The Kooks live.

Since The Kooks were the last band to perform at this venue we finally decided to leave. We wandered around a bit and once again we noticed some of the strangest people walking the streets.

Balancer

Eventually we dipped into a random bar to watch some other random band. I couldn’t tell if we were just getting lucky hitting fantastic bands all week or if only really good bands managed to get gigs at SXSW. This band, called “Balancer,” was yet another extraordinary group. Balancer is a psychedelic rock group from New York City whose members are from Columbia and Puerto Rico. These guys are, without a doubt, were my favorite band I saw during all of SXSW. I watched them turn a semi empty bar into a packed house within a few songs as their beautiful addicting music flooded out to the streets. Their group seemed so in sync with one another it seemed as if somehow the universe pulled them together so they could bring the world their unique sounding music.

Typically when people are watching these smaller bands at SXSW, no one knows who they are and, therefore, no one knows the lyrics to sing along. People are usually just standing around, sipping on their craft beer, and sometimes bobbing their head to the beat. But for the first time, I watched a band not only rally a crowd with their music but they completely transformed the front lower stage into a giant dance floor. People couldn’t help but move their feet to the music; I watched strangers become quickly acquainted with one another and began dancing with each other. This was the most remarkable sight of all, this band had the power to build human relationships, and get people moving, just by performing their music. If there is only one band that you decide to listen to out of all the ones I’ve written about then this is the one you should check out, I promise you wont be disappointed: http://soundofbalance.com/.

Mar 28

South By Southwest (SXSW)

One of my closest friends from Bike & Build, David, flew down from Boston for a few days to visit and experience everything that SXSW had to offer. I met up with David at the airport around noon and then we went to meet up with a few of his other friends that were in town visiting. We all met up at a local barbeque joint and then back to the place where David’s friends were staying so he could drop off his luggage. His friends got a place very close to downtown through a website called airbnb.com. AirBnB is a website that allows users to post their apartment or home for rent for a few days much like a regular BnB.

The five of us headed out downtown to 6th street where all the music was. The entire street was blocked off and every step you took you could hear music playing in all directions from the bars to the street corners with artists trying to make it. We stepped into a small local bar called the Nook which had a small stage set up with a very classy band dressed in tuxedos belting out lyrics across the outdoor bar. After they finished I explained to the band’s front man that I am a travel writer and asked if his band had a CD I could get. He was excited to give me a CD free of charge.

The band is called “Matt Stansberry & the Romance” and you can check out their music here: https://soundcloud.com/mattstansberry.

Apparently through this encounter a woman in the crowd overheard my conversation and was VERY overeager to tell me about the next band playing because she is their band manager. She gave me her card and asked me to write an article about the band. I said I would give them a listen and possibly write an article.

I thought this was going to be the end of this woman…but I was wrong. She was very persistent. All I said was that I was a travel writer but to her she must have thought I worked for some big time music magazine like Rolling Stone or Spin and I had the capability of making her band the next big thing. I tried to ease myself away from her and walked back over to my group of friends that were hanging out near the back bar. Anytime I would glance over in this lady’s direction I noticed her staring at me with a giant smile on her face with a thumbs up indicating this band is great, you’re gonna love them. This lady was obviously way too desperate for her band to get discovered.

I gave them a listen for about two of three songs and honestly they were mediocre at best. I waved goodbye to the desperate band manager and went on my way to find a new bar with new music.

Next, we decided we wanted to check out a rooftop bar since the guys I was hanging out with were all from Boston rooftop bars are pretty much unheard of in their home city.

We climbed the stairs of the Blind Pig Pub to find three sisters from Sweeden on a stage before us playing an array of instruments. Watching this band, “Baskery,” play made me realize the true meaning of SXSW. This festival wasn’t about trying to see all the big name celebrities and rock stars that come out to perform. SXSW is about walking into some random bar and listening to a band from a different part of the world you would otherwise never have heard of. You can check out the band here: http://www.baskery.com/.

We roamed the streets for a little bit without the slightest clue as to what band we would discover next. Upon walking the streets we managed to encounter some of the most unique people. Everyone from a group of roller derby girls, to a street magician covered in chains, to band set up right on the street corner. This only deeper engraved the city of Austin’s slogan: “Keep Austin Weird.”

Later we found ourselves on top of another rooftop bar, but unfortunately, just as we made our way to the roof the band had finished their set. Although their music had stopped we noticed the televisions around the stage began showing another band just beginning their set. The music sounded like it was coming from right next to us rather than just the televisions. That’s when we looked across the street to see another stage set up on another roof top bar. The band Oh No Fiasco began tearing it up. Their lead singer, who sounded kind of like Paramore, sang her heart out in her cute black skirt. I quickly regretting not being on the adjacent stage to rock out with this incredible band. I definitely recommend anyone reading this to check out their music: http://www.reverbnation.com/ohnofiasco.

To end our night we headed to the Nook to see just one last band before heading home for the night and this was probably one of the best decisions we’ve made. The band “Bring Your Ray Gun” was up on stage who definitely knew how to put a show on. They are a disco punk band from Chicago who made the trip down to Austin to try and make a name for themselves, much like every other artist there. This band is very unique in the sense that two of their members are dedicated to just dancing on either side of the lead singer. I’m not sure if they are actual band members or were just taken on for the SXSW appearance. But, nonetheless, it definitely added to the enjoyment of their performance. I would also, highly recommend checking out this group: http://byrg.bandcamp.com/.

For the rest of the night we hung out at some random rooftop bar and gazed out at all the thousands of people flooding the streets.

Mar 25

Got Paid $100 to Stand in Line

South By  Southwest (SXSW) is a giant interactive, music, and film festival that takes place in Austin each year. It literally TAKES OVER the city. An extra 250,000 people flood the streets filling up every hotel, restaurant, and bar within the city limits. My first experience of this, despite only living her for a month, made me begin to feel like a bitter local. “What are all these people doing in my city, I thought to myself.  The bus routes were screwed up due to streets being blocked off, not to mention the over-crowdedness of tourists who filled the buses and caused them all to run late because they can’t figure out the simple system of purchasing a bus pass.

If you ever take a stroll through the city during SXSW you will notice one common theme: lines. Oh my God the lines! Lines to get into bars, lines to see movies, lines to see bands, even lines to use the freaking bathroom. If you happen to be blessed with wealth then you are foreign to these “lines” that I am speaking of because you probably purchased one of those premium ultra deluxe badges that will let you be the first person in the door at any event. But of course you must be willing to dish out a few thousand dollars for this said badge. However, if you don’t have a special badge but still have money to dish out then that’s where people like me come into play.

I awoke to a text message from my friend Erica asking me if I wanted to stand in line for someone for four hours for $100. This was an obvious yes. Erica has become a good friend of mine in the short amount of time I lived here. I was originally introduced to her through my friend Danny because she needed help creating a website. Erica is a doctor who wants to start the movement of prescribing nutrition to fix health issues rather than using pills. It was very inspiring getting to know her because she cares deeply about her patients and wants to see them get healthy by eating the right food and cleansing their bodies rather than loading them up with pills to hide their illness. I am actually in the process of building her website which we hope to complete by next week, ShinyHealthyPeople.com.

I gave her a call and she explained to me that a gentleman she knew, Walter, is a set designer for a film company in Hollywood had a film that was premiering at midnight and he didn’t have enough tickets for the rest of his family to get in so he was willing to pay $100 for someone to hold a place in line for him so he could buy extra tickets. She gave me his number and I called him next to confirm where and when I would be doing this.

Walter asked me to get to the box office by 7:30 p.m. to make sure I would be the first person in line  to get the tickets for the movie “Home” and then he asked if I had a friend that would be willing to join me who he would also pay $100 to stand in line. I said yes already knowing that Jet would be up for this offer. I was amazed by how much this guy was willing to spend just to see a movie. 

Erica and her nieces, Alyssa and Sarah, picked us up a little early so we had some time to hangout downtown before we had to stand in line for hours. As soon as I met Alyssa I knew we would get a long very well solely based on the fact that she kind of resembled Taylor Swift. And anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE Taylor Swift which is why #19 on my Life Goals list is to marry her.

We all relaxed with some coffee and tea as we got to know each other and then it was off to “work” for Jet and I. When we arrived at the box office we informed the employees at the booth that we wanted to start the line for the movie “Home.” The guy looked confused as if I was speaking a different language or something. “Uh, that movie doesn’t start til midnight,” he eventually said.

We informed him that it was very important that we were the first people in line and didn’t care how long we would be waiting.

“Um. Okay.” He still didn’t understand why we were so desperate to see this movie. “Well the line we have formed now is for a different movie premiere starting at 9:30 so how about you come back then once that line clears out but even then you will be very early for the midnight movie.”

We thanked him and went on our way. This meant we had another two hours on our hands to go exploring around SXSW. We took a walk down 6th street which is the main party street in Austin. It is loaded with bars and was completely blocked off leaving a sea of drunk people to stumble from bar to bar with no worries of traffic. It kind of reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.

We wandered around for a bit and were fairly limited to the places we could go since Alyssa and Sarah are only 19 and 15. However, we managed to find a pizza place that Erica claimed to have some of the best pizza in Austin. Now anyone that knows me knows just how passionate I am about pizza. I love pizza so much I could probably eat it everyday for the rest of my life. In fact, in college I would eat pizza five to seven times a week.

The place we decided to go to, recommended by Erica, is called Hoeks Pizza and is now my favorite pizza restaurant in Austin…so far. My goal is to try every single pizza place in the city.

When I stepped up to the counter I noticed they had the biggest slice of pizza I had ever seen in my life. It was a mega slice the size of my arm. For only 8 bucks I viewed this as a deal especially during SXSW when the price of everything seems to skyrocket in the city.

 

Walking through the crowded 6th Street I received looks from just about every passerby in awe at my giant slice of pizza.  I was so hungry I tore through it within minutes but once I hit the crust I hit a wall. My stomach was so stuffed but the pizza was so good I didn’t want to stop eating. I wolfed down a few more bites before I reluctantly threw it away.

Before too long Jet and I had to report to “work” and experience the hard labor of standing in line. We were the first ones in line, as expected, and had about two and a half hours to kill before Walter showed up.

Before the world of smart phones this could have been a very boring wait. But, thanks to modern technology and Netflix the time just seemed to fly by. Jet and I took a seat on the sidewalk leaning up against the building with Jet’s iPhone resting between us streaming one of our favorite TV shows off Netflix, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

The next thing we knew Walter was towering over us with a few of his friends or family trailing behind him. “Okay, gentlemen, I’m here to relieve you.”

He then reached into his pocket, retrieved his wallet, and pulled out a stack of 20s. He then handed Jet and I $100 each.

Jet and I walked away in excitement. We couldn’t believe that we just got paid so much money to just sit on the side walk for a few hours. This was, by far, the easiest gig of my life.

Feb 26

Met a Medal of Honor Recipient and Got to see a Familiar Face

Meeting a Medal of Honor Recipient

The Medal of Honor is the highest award anyone in the armed services can receive. In fact, it is so prestigious that only the president can hand them out. To receive such an award one must go far beyond the call of duty and due it’s rarity of recipients, many who receive the award were killed on the line of duty. In the United States history only 3,471 people have received the Medal of Honor and only 75 of them are still alive today.

One of which was in the Brass House tonight. The owners of the Brass House helped raise a large amount of money to help put a piece of military artifacts in a museum in Austin. The war veteran would be presenting the piece that weekend which is why he came to the bar tonight as a way of showing his thank you.

Brass House has about 50 employees, 35 of which are military veterans so having a Medal of Honor recipient in the house was a very big deal.

The Medal of Honor recipient, who I can’t remember the name of for the life of me, served in the Vietnam War and by the time he was my age he had already done three tours of duty. This only added to the intimidation I felt from meeting this war hero towering over me. I shook his hand and thanked him for his service and as I did I thought about all these things these hands had done: the machine guns they carried, the grenades they threw, and they pain they endured throughout the years of war. I was now shaking this large strong hand that could crush me with just one squeeze.

Along with meeting such an important person, tonight was also a special night for me as well. I got to work on the other side of the bar, the country side. Brass House currently is broken up into two sections: a jazz bar side and a tavern side that typically plays country or rock music. Tonight’s band was a nice change of pace. They played country, but none of this new annoying country on the radio today, they played old stuff from the 50′s and 60′s back when country music was good. Also, tonight I started my bar tending training. I was able to pour drinks and was introduced to the computer system to process transactions. This was so much more fun than constantly leaning over a steaming dishwasher loading and unloading glasses. I wasn’t able to make to many of the specialty drinks so I mainly just stuck with simple stuff like pouring draft beer and rum and cokes.

Typically the tavern only stays open until midnight but tonight they stayed open til 2 a.m.  The owners of the bar were happy getting drunk with a fellow military war hero which made for such a fun environment. It felt like I was at a house party…only I wasn’t allowed to drink.

 

A Familiar Face

A close friend of mine from college, Lexie, recently moved to Dallas which is only about two hours away from Austin. Lexie recently got and internship with Southwest Airlines which means on the weekend she can fly anywhere for free. This past weekend she decided to take a trip down to see me and brought along a fellow intern, Rebecca.

Unfortunately, the night that she got here I still had to work so I showed them a little bit of downtown and then set them on their way to go bar hopping while I worked. But the next day I had completely free and it was beautiful and sunny with a high of 85 degrees.

Since it was so hot I decided to take them to Barton Springs. We hiked for about a mile or so until we happened upon a peaceful place to take a dip. As we laid in the water we joked about how amazing it was to be able to go swimming in the middle of February and that if we were still back at school we would have to be bundled up with about thirty layers.

Foto Feb 23, 1 08 57 PM

Shortly after swimming Lexie and Rebecca had to leave to catch a flight back to Dallas but within the short time they were there they said that they had already fallen in love with Austin and would surely be back again.

Feb 18

More Running In Beautiful Weather And More Great News

Monday

I awoke to more perfect weather. 80 and sunny was the forecast for the day and not one cloud in the sky. I strapped on my five finger shoes and set out for a five mile run to Barton Springs. By mile two I was completely drenched in sweat when I decided to text my friend Vanessa from back home to rub it in. Vanessa is also a crazy runner such as myself. But, I think I would consider her even more insane because for some weird reason she LOVES running in the cold. She manages her own blog which is strictly about running, I recommend you check it out here. Vanessa is on a mission to run 365 days in a row, at least one mile a day. Right now she is on day 85, which means all the frigid temperature that Erie, PA has been getting she has still been running in it. When I was still living at home she made me run with her one day when it was only about 25 out. I’m not going to lie, she kicked my ass. I could hardly keep up and all I kept thinking was soon I’ll be in Austin running in the heat.

Finally, I was here dripping in sweat, pounding pavement, on my way to jump into an ice cold pool. Today was perfect. I had to text Vanessa to do some bragging about how great the weather was.

Once I arrived I Barton Springs I was met with a giant sign on the gate that read “AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.” The pool was closed. I lied out on the lawn and waited for my friend Rachel to arrive. As I lay there I watched numerous people approach the gate with towels and beach toys in hand ready to take a refreshing dip then slowly walk away in disappointment.

Since swimming was now out of the question, Rachel and I decided to go on a hike instead. The trails of Austin are yet another wonderful thing about this city. Just a mile outside of downtown you are instantly submerged into miles upon miles of hiking trails and natural springs where you will be sure to find groups of people hanging out.

Later on the evening, after returning home, Katie came over. Katie is the girl that will be helping me through my entire process of gaining dual citizenship in Italy. She could only stay for a short time but in that short time she managed to give me a surplus of information on websites to use, who to contact, and the most efficient way  to go about obtaining my citizenship. Although, I was still unsure if I was able to get it because of my dad’s job it was still nice to have the information on what I needed to do.

After Katie left Jet and I went out for one of my favorite meals in the world: pizza and beer. Which just so happened to be at a restaurant about a mile away from our house called, “Pizza and Beer.”

 

Tuesday

I spent today going to art galleries with Jet to deliver his art for display in hopes they would eventually get sold. The art gallery was in a very neat outdoor mall area. After dropping off a few paintings we did some exploring and during that time I received a very exciting phone call from my father. It turns out that he is technically not a federal employee which means that him and I can both obtain dual citizenship with no obstacles.

Later that day I received another phone call with great news, this time from my grandmother. She found my grandfather’s birth certificate!!! Which means that saves me a tedious step of collecting information about his parents to send a request, written in Italian, to Sicily requesting his birth certificate.

I can now, with ease, collect all my needed documents, get them translated, and go forth with my process of obtaining my citizenship.

To celebrate, Jet and I went out for pizza again for dinner. I of course got Sicilian style…and it was delicious!

Feb 17

This Past Week: Obtaining Dual Citizenship As Well As Some Very Exciting News

I would like to start out this post by saying how much I love Austin and how happy I am that I moved here. I went for a run around Lady Bird Lake the other day, because it was about 75 out and sunny, and it was just an amazing feeling to be able to run in February and not be bundled up in countless layers. Everyone in the city is very down to earth and it seems like everyone is happy all the time, probably because almost every day is sunny and beautiful. I definitely think I am here to stay for quite some time, which, for me, a long time is about a year.

Over the past few days I haven’t been doing much to be honest. Lots of writing and lots of research. You may have noticed in a previous post that I mentioned I wanted to start learning Italian. Well in addition to my Italian lessons I have been doing a little research and by a little I mean it’s almost been a full time job. Since my grandfather came over from Italy I have recently learned that I have the capability of obtaining dual citizenship. I’ve been corresponding with one of Jet’s friends who I met the last time I was in Austin, Katie, who went through the entire year long process of obtaining dual citizenship and is now an expert on the subject.

In order to be eligible for dual citizenship my grandfather must have ONLY been an Italian citizen during my father’s birth. That being said I learned that I made the cut only by a matter of less than a month. My father was born in late December of 1955 and my grandfather did not gain his American citizenship until January of 1956 which means my grandfather’s Italian citizenship was transferred through my father and could, therefore, be transferred to me. The only issue was that my father needs to become an Italian citizen as well which isn’t too big of a deal because we can apply for dual citizenship together.

So over the past couple days consisted of constant phone calls between my grandma and other relatives tracking down certain documents and pretty much rebuilding my entire family tree I finally had just about everything I needed to go forth with the process.

In order to complete this process I have to gather my grandparent’s birth certificate (my grandpa’s death certificate), U.S. citizenship certificate, marriage license, birth certificates of my parents and their marriage license, and lastly my birth certificate.

Then, once I have all those documents compiled it all has to be sent to an Apostille who translates everything into Italian which then further gets sent to an Italian Consulate, who I eventually have to have a meeting with.

Through further research of talking with other family members I learned that government employees are not allowed to have dual citizenship. That being said, I may be running into some issues since my father is a government employee. So this portion of the story will have to be continued until I find out if my dad technically does work for the federal government which, if he does, I will have to wait a few more years until he retires before I can obtain dual citizenship.

 

Received Very Exciting News Today

Several months ago I was going through the nerve-racking process of deciding where I should live as well as trying to find a job in numerous cities.

I sat on an overstuffed couch in a dimly lit garden apartment in Chicago. The girl I was dating at the time was off at work and I was left trying to figure out my life. Some calm indie music was playing through the TV that her roommate’s computer was hooked up to and I had about 50 tabs open on my laptop browser with half completed job applications. I was applying to jobs in Chicago, Austin, Boston, and New York City and wasn’t having much luck at all in the obtaining interviews. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: job hunting is a bitch.

I got sick of applying for dumb retail jobs and entry level business jobs in cities all over the country that I finally decided to say screw it and apply to be a flight attendant at just about every airline in the country as well apply to work on a cruise line as a server. This way I could work but still continue traveling at the same time. I’ve applied for these positions in the past but they are usually very hard to come by. Employers for these industries are usually looking for quite a bit of experience so even when I was applying I didn’t have my expectations set too high that I would receive a call back.

One of these companies that I was applying for was for a flight attendant position. The application process was pretty basic: cover letter, resume, and several boxes to fill out about my previous employment and what not.

Time passed and weeks turned into months; it wasn’t until the beginning of December that I heard back from them. I received an e mail congratulating me on making it to the next step of the interview process and that my next step was to complete a video interview. When I initially read that it would be a video interview I was under the assumption that it would be something along the lines of a Skype interview with a hiring manager. However, after further research I learned that I would just be listening to my computer reading me questions and my webcam would record all of my answers. The reason that they do this is because they receive such a high volume of applicants this helps weed out those who they don’t feel are as qualified.

I felt a little silly getting dressed up in a suit for an interview that would be conducted in my lap and I felt even sillier once the interview started. It’s very awkward giving your answers to a computer screen displaying nothing but a question at the top and your face recording what you are saying below. So, in a way, it felt like I was video chatting with myself. I was given up to four minutes to answer each one of the questions but given the context of the questions I answered each one in 30 seconds to 1 minute. I felt I wasn’t being thorough enough with my responses since I was given such a long time allowance and felt caught between trying to give a complete answer without sounding like I was rambling.

After the interview I still didn’t hear anything again for about another month when I received an e mail requesting me to update some of my information on my profile on their website which consisted of confirming that I was a U.S. citizen with capability of working in the United States as well as confirming I had a valid passport.

Another month went by and this job pretty much fell to the back of my mind with everything else going on in my life of traveling to Texas and trying to find a job down there.

Then, today I received a phone call informing me that I had made to the next round of the interview process where I would be flown to Dallas for a live interview. I informed the HR personnel that I was no longer living in Pennsylvania and that since I am currently in Austin it would only be a short bus ride for me to get to Dallas. But she insisted I get flown and also receive a free shuttle at the airport to take me to the interview.

My interview isn’t until March 5th which means from the time I first applied til the day of my interview the entire process will have taken nearly 5 months! Looking back to when I first applied I never would have thought I would make it this far in the interview process to actually be flown to an interview. I feel like I am some kind of important corporate business professional or something.

 

To complete this wonderful day I met up my friend Christine to go for a bike ride around Austin. I used Jet’s bike since I don’t have one yet. And if you are reading this wondering why I’m not using my bike from the Bike & Build the reason is I am too afraid of it getting stolen and, also, I move around way too much to continuously ship a bicycle to my new home.

Christine and I biked to a popular swim spot called Barton Springs. Barton Springs is a giant natural spring just south of the city where the water temperature is 68 degrees every day of the year. Today the air temperature was about 80 so after biking all day it felt great to jump into the ice cold water.

Feb 11

My New Job

Friday

Over the weekend I have been working as a bar-back for the Brass House which is a jazz bar in downtown Austin. In case you aren’t familiar with the duties of a bar-back, I pretty much do all the behind the scenes work to make the bar run more smoothly: wash glasses, empty trash, restock alcohol, refill ice, and pretty much any other random duties the bartenders need me to do. My first day was Friday and I got thrown to the wolves. The bar was packed. Luckily I was told to come in a little early so I was able to get trained before the flow of customers became too overwhelming. By the time 9 o’clock came around, and the show started, we were in full force. I could hardly keep the glasses on the shelves there were so many customers. I kept thinking throughout the night I better be making a lot of money in tips for this. I was running around like crazy trying to keep everything stocked but it just kept feeling like there would be no end. I was afraid to look at the clock in fear that hardly any time has passed. I kept thinking surely this had to end soon, there’s no way these people can be drinking for this long…and then I remembered college and realize that no one ever stops drinking. Ever.

It was weird being on the other side of the bar and hearing peoples speech going from sophisticated to slurred. There was a small group of girls sitting front and center of the bar who I thought were pretty cute when they walked in. But their attractive level drastically dropped once they started drinking. Their voices turned into high pitched loud obnoxious barbie dolls, almost like they were plastics from the movie Mean Girls. “Oh my god, my boobs are like so like totally smaller than yours.” One of them said. Which led into about a half hour conversation of how they will never find love because they have small boobs. I thought this conversation was funny for about the first five minutes but being that they were drunk it was like listening to a three minute conversation on loop for what felt like forever. After awhile my patience grew thin and I wanted to turn to them and be like:

Eventually they left and new people took their place and so continued the constant rotation of drunker and drunker people occupying the bar. My shift finally ended around 1 a.m. and one of the bartenders was kind enough to give me a ride home. As soon as I got home I crashed. My feet felt like they just ran a marathon and I began to contemplate if I could handle doing this every weekend. However, I could already tell I am going to LOVE all of my coworkers. Everyone is so easy going and willingness to help out it makes for a very pleasant work environment.

 

Saturday

Today was BEAUTIFUL!!! The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and it was yet another wonderful day to live in Austin. After going to bed so late I slept in til around noon with a slow relaxing start to my morning. It was so gorgeous out I just couldn’t stand the thought of spending it inside so I strapped on my barefoot shoes and went for a run. I wanted to discover some new land so I took random turns to see where I would end up. I found a neat park and walked and stretched while I called home. My dad informed me that it was about 14 degrees in Erie which made me even more thankful that I decided to move. It was about 65 in Austin and I was running in just shorts and a t-shirt. By the time I got back my Nike plus app informed me that I had gone about 7 miles but I wouldn’t really count all of it since I did some walking throughout my run.

Shortly after running I had to go to work again.

I was warned several times yesterday that today would be much more chaotic. The band that we were bringing in was very well known in Austin and we already had over 150 people reserved for seating and more wanting to come. The line was going to be out the door to see this band. (My apologies but for the life of me I cannot remember the name of the band.) I came in around 7 p.m. again and was ready to rock. Joey, one of bartenders, had me pouring shots and wines throughout the night to lighten his load because not only was he in charge of his half of the bar but he was also in charge of making drinks for all the cocktail waitress’ tables. I was excited about this because already I was gaining experience to become a bartender and it was only my second day.

My second day was much easier, I had a better feel for where everything is and when things started heating up it almost became like improvised dancing behind the bar. Myself and the two bartenders were gliding around one another making drinks and grabbing glasses it’s amazing that no one ever bumps into each other or break anything (*knock on wood*). When the band began to play I was hoping the bar would start to settle but of course I was wrong. With a full house there was always someone who wanted a drink and eventually it got to the point that we actually ran out of glasses. But, luckily Brass house owns the attached building where they are putting in their full restaurant and bar. I scurried through the back patio, through the kitchen of the restaurant, and rummaged though boxes until I found more martini glasses because for some reason it seemed like every person wanted a martini that night, which sucks. Not to say anything bad about martinis but even after working there for not even two days I already HATE martini glasses. The tops are so bit that they take up a lot of  room in the dishwasher and the glass is very thin on them and hard to see that you have to be extra cautious. I know this because my day of orientation the manager picked up one to show everyone and announced, “be extra careful with these, they are fragile and expensive as fuck.”

When the night began to slow down an lady at the bar, Beverly, who I later learned was a regular at Brass House told me how much she appreciated my work. She said they never had a bar back there before and there was a time that she had to wait an extra 30 minutes for a drink because they were out of glasses. She continued to explain that she had been watching me all night and admired how hard of a worker that I was. It felt so good to hear that a customer noticed how hard I was busting my ass all night.

Tonight I stayed later to learn how to/help close down the bar. Which consisted of wiping everything down, sweeping and mopping the floor, marking the opened wines with current dates, and restocking beer and wine. All of this took much longer than I expected and I didn’t get out of there til about 4 a.m.

This being such a laid back environment the manager never really exactly gave me a schedule. At the end of last night he pretty much told me to come in tomorrow at the same time. So before I left I went over to the restaurant side to ask Hunter, the manager, when I should work next. He was working at her computer when I stepped in.

“Hey man.” I said to get his attention.

“Fuck man, you’re still here!?” Hunter said with surprise.

“Yeah, I just helped close down. When do you want me working next?”

“Uh…fuck.”  He rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands trying to wake up enough to process his thoughts. “Can you come in tomorrow night?”

“Yeah, definitely. What time?”

“Come in around 9, that’ll be good. The show doesn’t start til 11.”

“Show?” I was confused as to why they were having a show on a Sunday night. “But tomorrow’s Sunday, who’s partying on a Sunday?”

“Ron White and his wife.”

“Who’s that?” I felt dumb for not knowing who this person was who was obviously pretty famous.

“He’s a famous comedian doing a show down the road with Willie Nelson and he is having his after party here.”

“Shit! So does that mean Willie Nelson is gonna be here?!” I could care less about this Ron White, I really wanted to meet Willie.

“Yes, there is a possibility.”

“Awesome, see ya tomorrow!”

After this conversation I knew I was happy about the place I was working. It seemed to be classy enough to be a hot spot for celebrities. Joey gave me a ride home again and once again I came home and crashed.

Sunday

Today I woke up around noon again with ambition to make out bunny, Edgar, a home outside. For the past few weeks, since Jet got him as a gift, he has been living in our closet which left all of our clothes throughout our room. So, obviously, I wanted our closet space back.

Jet had a couple pieces of plywood that he used for an art project awhile ago that were just laying in our backyard. They would be perfect for Edgar’s new home.

 

We drew up some plans and constructed our bunny a simple decorative home. Then, we went to Walmart to buy fencing so he couldn’t hop away. We finally finished everything around 7 p.m., just in time for me to head off to work for another eventful night.

I was so excited to go to work today, mainly because of the chance that Willie Nelson might be there.

As soon as I got in one of the bartenders asked me to get another bottle of Captian Morgan. I rushed to the closet behind the soundboard to see if we had any there but we didn’t which meant I needed to go next door to get one from the liquor cabnet over there. But on my way out of the narrow passage way out of the closet I turned my head to quickly and nicked my ear on the metal shelving in the closet. It hurt like hell but I figured I would be okay. On my way to the other side I ran into another employee who was just starting her first day. She stopped me to introduce herself and seemed very nice. The only issue was that at this point I could slowly feel my ear filling up with blood. I cut our conversation short and rushed next door to the bathroom in the restaurant. Despite it being a small cut the inside of my ear was pretty much covered in blood. I wet some paper towels and wiped off the blood then grabbed more paper towels to apply pressure to the cut. IT WOULD NOT STOP BLEEDING!!! Since the skin on the ear is so thin blood just kept pouring out. I eventually got it to slow down but that didn’t fix the problem. I didn’t think it would look very professional if the barback was walking around with blood spilling out of his ear. I then remembered that I had a band aid in my wallet. I tried to bandage it but that would of left me looking silly with a giant bandage on my ear. I then had the great idea of ripping off one of the sticky sides of the bandage and taping it shut. Luckily this worked.

After 45 minutes of dealing with my ear situation I FINALLY returned to the bar. The bartenders, of course, were wondering where I went so I had to explain the embarrassing story of how I cut my ear.

The night was much slower than they anticipated. They decided to have three bartenders on staff as well as myself which left behind the bar very crowded. I asked one of bartenders if Willie Nelson was in attendance. She said to walk down to the end and come back and I would see him sitting in a booth.

I was ecstatic trying to prepare myself for the starstruckness that I was about to encounter.  On my way back I saw an older gentlemen with a ponytail sitting in a booth with some other people marked ‘Reserved.’ He looked kind of like Willie Nelson but still wasn’t convinced it was him. I later asked the manager if he was here and he informed me that he wasn’t coming.

“Then who was that old dude sitting in the reserved booth?” I asked.

“That was Paul Mitchell,” he replied.

Okay so maybe I didn’t see Willie that night but it was still cool to see another famous person even if I had no interest in meeting him. For your comparison here are the two: Paul Mitchell is on the left and Willie Nelson is on the right.

Photos courtesy of exposay.com and wallrain.com.

I guess I could kind of see the comparison but I feel like it is an insult to both of them to mix up the two.

The rest of the night was pretty slow and I ended up getting off at 1 a.m. and since I was the only one leaving then I couldn’t get a ride from anyone which meant I had to take the bus home. However, since it was Sunday I came to the disappointing realization that buses don’t run late on Sundays so I had to take a cab home.

Feb 08

I Shaved a Girl’s Head Today

So today I didn’t do too much due to the weather, or as Austin calls it ‘inclement weather.’ It was about 30 degrees outside which means about half the city shut down. So myself, Jet, and Christine spent the afternoon and evening staying in and making dinner. Later on Ashley and Danny came over. I spoke with Ashley before about how I donated my hair and she was so moved by this that she wanted to do the same. Now her hair is fairly long, definitely long enough to cut it and still leave some to work with. But she insisted that if she was going to do it then she had to go all out and shave her head.

When she came over this time the idea came up again. “Let’s do it!” She said with excitement.

“What?” I was in disbelief.

“I want you to shave my head.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

Okay so apparently this evening was in for a lot more fun than I anticipated. I had never cut anyone’s hair before but I was going to start with shaving a girl’s head.

If we were going to do this then we would do it right. I took Ashley into the bathroom and washed her hair  under the faucet then Jet ran a comb through it separating it into sections.

As Ashley braided each section we took turns cutting it off. Then once we had all the braids cut it was time for the fun part, shaving her head. I took the razor and began gliding through her hair  like butter.

 

 

Once I finally finished Ashley said she couldn’t be happier. She loved her new look and said it felt so freeing to have nothing nothing atop her head.

 

Afterwards Danny loved her new look and decided he wanted to same done to him. His hair wasn’t nearly long enough to donate but he wanted that same freeing experience she just encountered. Jet took the lead on shaving his head.

 

 

At the end of the night we had two very happy customers. When I woke up this morning I didn’t think I would be shaving someone’s head that night but weird stuff happens in Austin.

 

 

 

Feb 07

First Day of Training

I walked into my first day of training to find that the Tavern was pretty full. Apparently they are hiring much more people than I anticipated. After talking with a few people waiting around I quickly learned that this was actually the second day of training and that everyone there was either a bartender, a server, or a cook. We reviewed the menu, the specialty drinks, and got a quick tour of the restaurant part that will be opening up next week. Throughout the day the manager, Hunter, repeatedly mentioned, “you guys all know this stuff; you all worked in restaurants before, that’s why I hired you.”

Uhhh, shit. I thought to myself. I have absolutely no restaurant experience. I was assuming that wouldn’t be an issue since I would just be a barback. Once training ended I clarified with Hunter about my lack of experience and he assured me I would be fine.

I stepped outside to catch a bus back home. It was so cold that it felt like I was still in Erie. I guess the Polar Vortex made its way to the South. I only had to wait about ten minutes for the next bus to come but standing in frigid temperatures it felt like forever. I checked my phone to find that it was actually 45 degrees out but it definitely felt like 10. I was relieved to find that by Saturday it will be back up to 70.

When I arrived home I spent the rest of the day inside catching up on some of my favorite TV shows: How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, and Workaholics.

Older posts «