Spike in Texas

I don’t intend to post a day by day, blow by blow description of my current trip to the U.S. Things are going well and I need to remain focused on the tasks at hand. But a few brief things to bring you up to date, just in case you were wondering what happened to me.

This is my second time in Texas, but the first time I never left the airport, I was only transiting, so really this is my first time here.

I arrived in Dallas the night of October 26th. I spent the next ten days at a slightly run down place in Richardson, just north of Dallas, a sort of mini-suite that had a full kitchen and a fireplace (that I did not use). The advantage of this place, aside from the price, was that it was in walking distance to at least 20 restaurants, so I didn’t need to rent a car. The few times that I went further away I used Uber.

(Every Uber driver I had had given thousands of rides within just a one or two year period. They all told me that an Uber driver in Dallas can make a great living because public transportation there is less than great. One of my Uber rides was a Jeep Renegade, another was a Cadillac.)

The sad bit is that there was no Texas style BBQ place in walking distance of the hotel and my one close friend in Dallas is a vegetarian. So I had some pretty decent food (my first meal in town was a taco) but still no BBQ.

On Monday I rented a car via Turo.com (the Uber of car rentals – individual people rent out their own cars, though in this case I rented from a guy who had a fleet of cars) and drove down to Austin.

I stayed in Austin for two days that were pretty great. I had forgotten that I have family there, and they offered to let me stay with them before I even had a chance to ask if that might be possible.

They took me out for a fabulous dinner, a very Austin-style Italian place called Olive and June. I had some pasta with Texas lamb that blew me away. And the setting was brilliant – a former private house with a courtyard with a huge tree in the center, converted into this wonderful restaurant.

The next day I went to meet a friend at a co-working space called Capital Factory. This place left me breathless.  55,000 square feet of co-working and collaboration space that basically featured everything I’ve seen on the internet (standing desks with treadmills, hidden conference rooms, hundreds of hipster-looking programmers huddled in small groups or disappearing into giant bean bag chairs while presumably creating the “Air B’n’B of …”). Kitchens, gyms, VR center, some big names I recognized, a lot more I didn’t. Hong Kong has nothing on this scale – not just in terms of size but in terms of the creativity I encountered in my three hours there.

This place isn’t cheap – it will cost you US$600 a month per seat. But the facilities and the networking opportunities were far better than anything I’ve ever seen before.

I took my friend to lunch at a wonderful restaurant called Eureka!, where I had their take on a Philly cheese steak, in this case made with flat iron steak, caramelized onions, pickled Fresno chiles, horseradish mustard aioli and Havarti. On the side I had sweet potato fries, but in this case they were sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey.

Then I went over to the Texas Capitol Building, taking some time to photograph the interior of the magnificent dome (haven’t transferred the pics from my SD card to the computer yet).

That night a group of people from a data center I used to use ganged up to take me out. We started off at Tim Love’s Lonesome Dove, where I had elk, antelope, wild boar, hush puppies with lobster, and black garlic crusted wagyu skirt steak served with potato churros. After all that food, a double shot of bourbon, and a (shared) bottle of Troublemaker wine, I thought the evening was done but I was wrong.

These guys insisted on bringing me to ATX Cocina, a new modern Mexican place. Our waitress had a gonzo fist tattooed on the back of her neck so of course I had to show her the Ralph Steadman Dr. Gonzo piece I have on my left leg. I was told the margaritas there were world class and went down quickly and smoothly but it was the triple shot of La Dolce Vita Extra Anejo 5 year old 100 proof tequila that I will really remember. We also had some of their Barbacoa beef short rib and some guacamole – these guys knew how to have a proper evening, that’s all I can say. I had to be back at the place I was staying before 11 so no chance to see the night time bar/music scene.

With the weather turning cold and wet today (Wednesday), I decided to just head back to Dallas rather than attempt any further sightseeing. With heavy rain and limited visibility on the road, I passed a couple of major accidents before I finally made it to my hotel in Addison.

I really liked what I saw of Austin and I’m happy that one potential opportunity I’m looking at right now would have me based there. I think I would like it there. I think my wife would like it there as well.

So now I’ve been in Texas for two weeks. My thought is that if I’m close to a job at the end of a month, I will stay here longer. If I’m not, I will return to HK/Manila and try to figure out something else. The good news is that after being here for only two weeks, I am making much more progress than I made in the previous 5 months of searching in Hong Kong.

That being said, if some company was to make me an offer where the position and money would be the same and the location choices were Austin, New York, San Francisco or Hong Kong, there is little doubt in my mind that I would choose Hong Kong.

But right now my priority isn’t location, it’s finding a job, hopefully a good solid position where I can contribute to a great company.

I’m sure that many of the people who are reading this think I am quite insane. That I left Hong Kong and traveled halfway around the world to a place I’ve never been in search of work. The former CEO from my previous company says it shows I have “spunk, energy and desire.”

Which made me think of this classic clip from the very first episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show: