We bought a record player.
It was a rare Saturday at home, a really ordinary Saturday afternoon back in the winter. Brooke was on the couch watching TV when it occurred to me that a record player was something we should have. "We're in Austin," I thought. "It's a big music town. I love music. We love music. Why not?"
So we bought a record player. And then, over the next few months, we bought a bunch of records to play on it.
It was an adventure, first to find the player - a turntable, which I learned to call it in the hipstery stores - and then to track down some of my favorite LPs. (At one point, I even record-shopped beside Elijah Wood, aka Frodo Baggins. I didn't realize he lived here until that moment.) Brooke found records she enjoyed. I found records I enjoyed. We found records we enjoyed together. We probably bought a few too many (me, in particular), but the hunt was a blast and they make for a great soundtrack to a work day at home. It changes the way you listen to music. Records require a certain intentionality that other mediums do not: You have to like the whole record, or most of it. You have to physically get up to flip it over or change from one vinyl disc to the next. It takes a little work, and it enriches the experience. It makes you appreciate it, as opposed to the various a la carte apps and websites and devices we are spoiled by now.
Anyway, as we prepare to leave Austin for Nashville, I'm thinking about that record player. I'm thinking about it because it's kind of the symbol of our time here. It was an adventure. It was a hunt. There was always music, as I'm very certain there will be in Nashville. That record player took us to places we wouldn't have ordinarily gone. Places like Superfly in San Marcos or Waterloo on West Sixth or End of an Ear on South First -- where Brooke found, at long last, the JURASSIC PARK soundtrack.
Our collection is very strong. We feel good about our collection.
And I'm glad we bought a record player.
This wasn't the plan. It was almost a year ago to the day that I plopped cowboy boots down in front of Brooke and pitched the idea of moving to Austin. Her immediate response, you might recall, was: "Where are the boxes?" She was ready to go. So was I. We really liked what we knew about Austin, and we embraced the idea of personal and professional adventure. I'd been suited for everywhere I'd ever lived, so I was game. Brooke would be closer to her family in Oklahoma, so she was in.
What we found over the next several months was a mixed bag. We adapted seamlessly in some areas, we really struggled in others. The biggest win was finding, rather quickly, a church home. Eric Bryant and the people at Gateway South are just unbelievable. I've never been around a pastor who so tirelessly works to make himself available to the congregation. He and his wife, Deb, are great examples, mentors - and just great people. I'll always appreciate them. I don't know how he does it, but we are so blessed to have found him and the church. It's an area where we really had a difficult time in Charlotte, finding a church home.
So the irony, I guess, is that we couldn't figure out a home home. We thought about it. We plotted. We would casually check the Zillow app. We'd drive around, almost always separately, and explore neighborhoods. I think, deep down, we each wanted to find the perfect area and then surprise the other. We were seeking the neighborhood that immediately jumped out to us and said, "This is it. You're home." It didn't have to be perfect. It just had to be home.
And that never, ever happened. Not for a lack of effort or thought or prayer, but it never happened. We were priced out of areas we thought were somewhat promising. We rejected the idea of moving to the far-reaching suburbs and facing commutes to work or concerts or, really, just general life downtown. I've heard of people who live in Round Rock -- less than a half-hour from downtown, when traffic is OK -- who never come to Austin; it might as well be Dallas to them, and that's not an exaggeration. And that's not us. For now, in this station of life -- even as we get closer to the exciting reality of starting a family in the next year or two -- we want to be "in-town people." Well, we can't be in-town people in Austin, Texas. We cannot afford to have the sort of house in the sort of area that we'd like. That's unfortunate. It came as a surprise, a disappointing surprise. But that's the reality that we were met with, in the end.
When I was a kid, going to Nashville was a treat. I have better recollection of most of those trips, often going to see my cousins David and Rachel, than I do trips to the beach. And not solely because of David relentlessly torturing me; he's the closest thing I ever had to a big brother, and I mean that in the worst way possible. But I recall going to the Stockyards steakhouse with my parents; telling on Rachel for going 90 mph on the freeway (why did I do that?? why didn't she kill me???); walking around at a golf tournament with my grandmother - and Brett Favre denying my autograph request because he "had to catch a flight" (he missed it); riding the Screamin' Delta Demon at Opryland (before it was turned into a dang mall); seeing Tennessee fans throw sugar cubes on the field at Vandy because the Vols were Sugar Bowl-bound in 1990.
There was always this sense of comfort and place in Nashville. And that was something that continued in adulthood. As a sophomore in college, my good friend Holly -- who is back in Nashville -- invited some friends and me to her home and a concert. Her mom, crazy and fun and so, so sweet, made us steak; I remember that. We went the next night to my first Dave Matthews Band concert, the first of many. What brought me back to those shows, more than anything, was the first one and how much fun it was to enjoy the whole experience -- parking-lot tailgate to final song of the encore -- with good friends. Emmylou Harris came out, and they sang an old Johnny Cash song.
I miss the old Starwood Amphitheatre, thinking about it now. We went back so many times in college and after. It became a pilgrimage ... to Smyrna. It was, on the surface, no different than any of the other outdoor music venues in the country -- there are similar ones in Atlanta and Charlotte and other places I've lived -- but there was something in the air at Starwood (no, not weed). It felt to me like the quintessential place to see a show. Forget the Ryman. This was the birthplace of my live music experience, really. Maybe that's the feeling that Eric Church is after on the song "Springsteen." It all fit into the comfortable feeling that Nashville has provided to me literally every time I've ever been there.
And that includes my spontaneous trip there in May. I was working in Knoxville, had an extra day and thought, 'Well, I haven't been in a while. What better place to go for a day?' I played golf with new friends during the day and had pizza with old friends during the evening. And all those thoughts and feelings came rushing back. It's inescapable, the feeling and sense of ... home. It's always been that way, and it will always be that way. I shared some of those thoughts with Brooke before I left town. Another move wasn't even remotely on our radars, and then, quite suddenly, it was something we were gravitating toward. That's very similar to how we felt a year ago -- but the deep-rooted and meaningful connection to Nashville is so different than the one we had to Central Texas.
When Brooke and I lived in Charlotte, we always talked about Nashville as a future home. You know, sometime down the road. Maybe like five years. Maybe 10. But now?
Being in Austin for only a year, that would seem on the surface like a failure. I've thought and wondered about that myself. But that way of thinking usually doesn't last long because I think about all the great things that have happened since we've been here.
We've met good friends, most notably my ESPN.com colleague Max Olson and his awesome girlfriend, Katie. We've had great experiences -- like the time me, Max and Brooke (sorry, Katie) ran into Tim Riggins (aka Taylor Kitsch) at a random spot on a Thursday night. He was very gracious to us. Or when I waited in line on the street for a few hours, later joined by Max, to see the Foo Fighters play their Austin City Limits taping.
Brooke and I both really had a good time interacting and sampling our first SXSW. It was around that time that we saw our friend, Josh Abbott, play the San Antonio Rodeo. That was a thrill. And then we hauled back a few members of the JAB team to their cars. That's just scratching the surface of what we've seen and done. We stayed on the San Antonio Riverwalk for Brooke's birthday. We're going to Garth in Houston coming up soon. And then there's all the tacos and the ridiculously delicious brisket we've sampled. That reminds me: I've got to cram in one more Franklin's trip.
Professionally, it's been highly beneficial to again be in the Big 12 footprint. I've gotten to know people I wouldn't have otherwise. The strong bond I've made with Kliff Kingsbury and the Texas Tech staff stands out. He's a remarkably good, genuine person. I know that now, in part because I was here. I had a first-row seat to TCU and Baylor's great 2014 seasons. I visited this spring with the two exciting new coaches at SMU and Houston, guys who will no doubt go on to do great things. I patched it up with Charlie Strong (I appreciate him reaching out). It's been good, all of this.
I love Austin, and I know Brooke does, too. I can't wait to come back and visit. But ... it just isn't home.
And Nashville is home.
I know that it is. I mean, I sure hope that it is. I'm reminded of that indie movie Away We Go, the one where Jim from The Office and Maya Rudolph audition different cities in America, trying to figure out where they want to live and raise a family. I liked the movie when I saw it, but I'm not sure I ever thought I would be in that position -- or that, now married, we would be in that position. And yet here we are. I'm confident Nashville will be home. I'm hopeful Nashville will be home. We both are. But, you know, we're just two people trying to figure it out.
Brooke has a great friend, Courtney, who is back in Nashville. I have longtime friends like Holly and Lindsay. And we know several others there. Both of our companies understood and are supporting our decision, and we appreciate that. Plus there's blood nearby: Brooke's extended family is on the south side of Indy, so they aren't too far away. She has a cousin in Kentucky, even closer. I have an aunt, uncle and cousins (and their kids) in Nashville, and the bulk of my family, including my mom, lives a couple of hours away in Cleveland. And, really, that's something that means a great deal to me in this, too.
For a long time, in my 20s, I didn't have the ability to choose where I lived. I had to go where the job was. In 2012, when ESPN hired me, it was the first time there was any flexibility at all. The company suggested Charlotte, because of the presence of ESPNU, but I could have picked anywhere within reason. I briefly talked with my new boss about three cities: Atlanta, Charlotte ... and Nashville. So I could have moved there then, and then Brooke could have followed.
But everything happened the way that it did for specific reasons. Some we can already see, some we'll see more clearly in time. We'll look back and see the ways God used us and taught us things in Charlotte and Austin. There were challenges, and there will be challenges in Nashville, too, I am sure. But we're different people as a result of our experiences, and we take with us all we've seen and done.
We're taking the record player with us to Nashville.
With his roots tied to rural Tennessee and a passion for urban adventures, Travis — T, sportswriter, husband and/or plus one — is a natural contributor to Rural Gone Urban. Also, he's married to the gal who owns this domain, so there's that.
moving is hard, man.
are you willing to wait in line?
acl live: the avett brothers, ryan adams and foo fighters
q&a with mr. travis haney
that time i was interviewed by a national writer ... aka my fiancé.