Farewell, Indianapolis.

17 09 2012

The time has come…

The time has come for me to say goodbye – for now – to the wonderful city of Indianapolis and many of its incredibly awesome inhabitants who I’ve had the honor to call my friends.

Yes friends, I am leaving Indy.

Six years ago I was a budding college freshman from Evansville who had plans of taking over the world, and after a four year collegiate pit stop in Indianapolis, I planned to get the heck out of Dodge to do just that.

But it was during those four years, and two after, that Indy became more than just a place for me to go to college. It became my life, my passion and my home.

Heck, I even got an amazing job that paid me to convince people to visit Indy.

The past two years have been especially amazing. I’ve not only gained amazing professional experiences that will no doubt propel my career, but I’ve also had the opportunity to meet so many great people that make Indy an incredible place to live.

While I would absolutely love to stay in the Circle City for many consecutive years to come, an opportunity in the tourism industry came along that I couldn’t pass up.

After two years working as Visit Indy’s Marketing & Communications Coordinator, I have accepted a job to be the Marketing Manager at the Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau. With this great position and responsibility, I have another unique opportunity to promote another city that I have come to know and love.

It’s of course sad to leave the life I have built in the only state I have ever lived in for 24 years, but  I am so unbelievably excited to start the cliche “new chapter” in life. I also feel extremely lucky in today’s day and age to have the opportunity to go from one amazing employer to another.

So with this announcement, I just want to say thanks.

Thank you to the city. Thank you to Visit Indy for being such an important part of my life (and for being one hell of an employer).

But most importantly, thank you to every person and friend I’ve met in the last six years – from mentors and colleagues to chefs and tap room beer pourers – you will be the hardest thing to leave.

Now I have two more weeks before I pick up and move to Austin, Texas.

So if you’re one of the people that took time to read this and feel so inclined, call me, text me, leave a comment or whatever you have to do, and I hope to see or talk to you personally before I head south.

But for now I say farewell, Indianapolis and in the words of the great Indianapolitan Kurt Vonnegut:

All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis…If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.”


Just Keep Traveling.

18 10 2011

To travel is to live.

I enjoy what I do, I love that I get to promote such an amazing city and I love the fact that the work being done in the tourism industry is having such a tremendous impact on destinations and communities around the world.

While I could sit here and try to think up clever sentences to summarize why tourism is important to communities, I’d rather quote Victoria Isley, EVP/COO of Destination Marketing Association International, who recently wrote a super, eloquent article on the importance of investing in tourism and destination marketing. Although it was published a month or so ago, I was just able to read it and I guess you could say it pumped me up.

Here’s a snippet:

New visitors pump cash into local businesses and public coffers, enhance the lifestyle of residents, and importantly in this economy, create jobs. In fact, the travel and tourism industry and the job creation resulting from it is one of the few bright spots in our U.S. economy today.

The U.S. Labor Department’s latest figures show travel jobs in the U.S. increased for the eighth consecutive month. While the overall unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1%, the travel industry posted 9,200 new jobs in July.

While this is just a brief look at a fantastic article, I do encourage you to read the rest here.

Not many people realize the role that tourism plays in their own city. Even I didn’t truly understand it until I began working at the Indianapolis CVB. That said, there is no looking past the 69,000 jobs locally that are supported by the tourism industry and the more than $3 billion economic impact brought to this city each year- and I am proud to be a part of that. And if you have ever travelled, even on the most brief of trips, you should be too.

With that in mind, think of your trips differently. Even the shortest, cheapest most insignificant road trip make an impact on the places you visit. Each beer you drink, each laugh you have on the beach with your friends, each hotel room you sleep in and each order of waffle house hash browns you order- scattered, covered, smothered & topped, of course- makes you happy, keeps people employed and really does make a difference.

So keep traveling my friends… for your adventures reap many a reward for you and the world.

Travel more and make a difference. Really.

“Super” Construction is Only a Temporary Inconvenience

17 08 2011

To my dear Indianapolitans:

Construction sucks. There’s no doubt about it. But as you can see, there is construction everywhere you look in Indianapolis and for the most part, it’s actually getting done pretty quickly… except in Fountain Square for whatever reason.

No one I know has an explanation as to why it’s taking so long to get the Cultural Trail finished in Fountain Square, but whatever the reason is, it’s not good enough.

With that said, there has been a lot of chatter in Indy lately about the construction there and elsewhere, and unfortunately, a good amount of what I have seen isn’t exactly true. While this post is absolutely my opinion, and mine only,  I do have a job that has allowed me to get a front row seat view at all of these issues in the Circle City & this one, for whatever reason, has struck a chord. Here are just a couple of opinions I’ve seen floating around, and I’d like to offer mine in return.

1. “This Super Bowl Construction Sucks!”

Yes, ALL construction sucks- it’s just plain inconvenient. However, the construction that is being done now is not being done FOR the Super Bowl. Yes, they are ramping up efforts and trying to do as much as possible because we are about to host more than 150,000 world-wide visitors to Indianapolis, but it’s not FOR the Super Bowl. The construction that is taking place now has been in the works for years, long before we  even heard we were getting the Super Bowl. The Cultural Trail, road improvements, infrastructure additions, it’s all a part of a more than decade-long plan that also included $3 billion in new, tourism-related infrastructure ( think Lucas Oil, Airport, Convention Center Expansion, World’s Largest JW).

This construction and new infrastructure certainly helped us land the Super Bowl, but it’s being done to continue improving our city, to attract more people to Indianapolis that will support our more than $3.4 billion-a-year tourism industry and to allow people to more easily move around to areas of the city that they should be seeing….ahem… Fountain Square.

2. “All of this construction is a waste of time and money!”

While I won’t get into the politics behind fiscal decisions, it’s hard for me to believe that this construction is a waste of time and money. Politics aside, these construction efforts, all of them, will greatly improve our city and if we want to continue to be looked at by news outlets, other cities, and people as an amazing place to live and work, a place that encourages walking and healthy living, the silicon valley of the midwest, a boom town and one of the top 25 visited cities in the nation, these improvements HAVE to be made.

Here are my thoughts on the money aspect:

As an entrepreneurial, business-minded young man, when a business spends money on something, there better be some sort of return to validate that spending. In our case, these construction efforts have already started paying dividends.

Just by spending millions on expanding a convention center, we have already made that money back by signing more, bigger conventions with economic impacts that far outweigh the cost of construction. Because of the, hopefully, soon-to-be constructed cultural trail, more people will visit and spend money in areas like Fountain Square. Because of the JW Marriott, we were able to secure an event that will bring more than $400 million to Indianapolis. All of these projects, however, affect a visitors opinion of the city and the locals quality of life, and both of these will greatly improve because of the renovations being made.

Yes, I’m sure there are some instances where money could be allocated differently and certain contracts could have been negotiated better, but the fact that this much change and improvement is happening in Indiana is astonishing. Yes, it should have been done sooner, and yes, we still need things like mass transit, but in a place where progress is usually stalled by politics and the like, this much needed facelift is great news.

3. “Super Bowl Construction puts downtown businesses out of business.”

I won’t go too far in to this one, but I couldn’t disagree more with this statement. Yes, construction can and will affect the amount of traffic a store gets, but if a less than one mile stretch of one side of a road is to blame for a business’ demise, I’d be willing to bet that the business wasn’t going to be around for long anyway, as much as it pains me to say that.

Keep in mind that most successful businesses are successful because they offer a great product that people are willing to buy, whether there is construction or not. If all of the roundabouts in Carmel were shutdown, you can bet your bottom dollar that I WILL find away to get a slice of pizza from Pizzology, even though it’s insanely out of the way and inconvenient for me.

This construction WILL not only drive more business to these areas, but it will also make it easier for 18 million people a year to move around the city and spend more money in more places. And in the case of the Super Bowl specifically, a $400 million economic impact will do exactly that: create an opportunity for local businesses to thrive and make a killing.

4. “What’s the deal with Fountain Square?!”

To this statement, I wholeheartedly agree. I don’t think construction is bad for Fountain Square, I think the amount of time it’s taking and the weeds growing on top of construction rubble is. Plain and simple: it needs to get done, now. This construction is actually going to help business in the area, but my favorite cultural district in Indianapolis is an eye sore for the time being, and that’s not right.

So, to close, my point is just to think. Think about the future and the long-term effects of this temporary inconvenience. It’s taken a LONG time to get to a point where our city would commit to doing this much work, so embrace it- it’s been a long time coming.

It’s okay to be upset at inconvenience, and you SHOULD be pissed that the Fountain Square cultural trail work is taking this ridiculously long- I certainly am.

But make sure you’re pissed at the right things. Make sure you see the big picture, because I’m pumped…

Skitch and the Bastard Part II

12 05 2010

We met Andy Bastard, yes Bastard, completely by chance one late night during our stay in Austin.

A slightly inebriated friend gracefully stumbled to an ATM machine that just so happened to be situated right outside the tattoo parlor at which the Bastard worked. Covered in tattoos and piercings from head to toe, the Bastard emerged from the parlor as our friend struggled to withdraw some cash.

“Well, hello pretty lady,” the Bastard spoke as he lit his first, of many, cigarettes.

A snarky response from my friend, an hour and a tattoo later, we bid farewell to the Bastard thinking it was our last moment with the man.

Two hours later, after returning to 6th street from our hotel, we made the trek down the lively street. All of a sudden, we spotted the Bastard in another tattoo parlor, made our way in and said hello. Immediately after I asked him where we should spend our time that night, he stood up, told his boss he was leaving and took us down the street to a bar that somewhat resembled the inside of haunted house.

It should be noted that the movie Where the Wild Things Are was playing on the TVs.

We sat down, the man took a shot of whiskey and one of the most interesting conversations I have ever had began.

Andy Bastard is a professional body piercer who splits time between a few different tattoo parlors on 6th street in Austin, Texas. He loves his lady, his cigarettes, his boy, booze and rock and roll, and if you mess with any one of those things, the Bastard will not be happy.

By day he is a proud piercer of flesh and at night he is the lead rocker of THE BEXAR COUNTY BASTARDS, a rock and roll band that will melt your face.

Bastard is living his dream, and he loves it. He knows what it’s like to live in a van. He knows what it’s like to battle his demons. He also knows what it’s like to change his stars and go from nothing to something.

He’s not a famous rock and roll celebrity living in a mansion, and that’s the way he wants it.  “That’s pretentious,” the bastard exclaimed multiple times.

He likes the little things and he values his passions more than a pay check.

The bartender made the “last call” announcement, the Bastard took his last shot and we bid farewell.

Shortly before last call, Skitch, a friend of the Bastard and a tattoo artist with a face tattoo that made him look like a lizard, walked in to the bar and invited us back to the parlor to shoot the breeze with everyone.

Running in to Andy Bastard and the lessons learned were two things I could not have predicted.  He was a very kind person that didn’t have to be.  He chain smokes, curses like a sailor, is graphic about his exploits, but also geniunely cares about the people he meets, if they’re not pretentious that is.

Every person has a story, and now that I have met the Bastard, I do my best to stop and hear them.

Skitch and the Bastard Part I

30 03 2010

I like to travel.  As a matter of fact, I love and live to do it.  The new places, new smells and all of the new experiences and people that come along with traveling have kept me yearning for more.

My biggest “Aha!” moments have occurred during some of my most memorable trips and I don’t think I would be the same person had they not happened. Walking the empty, ancient streets of Rome in the middle of the night, talking to a delusional ice cream store owner in Nashville, driving to South Carolina to a beach home with friends only to learn that “money talks” and respectable real estate companies prefer not renting to fraternity brothers- every, single one of these adventures has left a lasting impression.

My most recent adventure to Texas was no different.  In my preparations for the trip, I decided to take a much different approach- I would be a sponge, an observer if you will, and completely take in all that would surround me. 

If I stumbled across a man walking around in a pink wig and thong, I would find out why. If a homeless man asked me to do some PR for his traveling “troupe of artists”, I would oblige him. And if a man, tattooed from head to toe, stepped out of his parlor to strike up a conversation- I would happily listen and learn.

The next two posts are the stories of some of the most interesting people I have ever met.  These are my observations.  These are their stories.

This is the introduction to a three-part series about my reflections of a journey to Austin, Tx.

Hang in there. That’s just about all you can do…

11 03 2010

As I mentioned in the first post of our #wifiwhip series, this trip had very few plans. In fact, there were only two: get to Austin and stay connected the ENTIRE time. Both are coming to fruition.

But the one thing we told ourselves was that we would chronicle our whole journey as it happened, through each of our own perspectives, and that we had to live in the moment and soak everything in.

12 hours have flown by thanks to multiple cans of energy drinks, bags of fast-food and great conversations within the vehicle and with various passersby in different states.

As we entered Texas, we made a stop at a gas station to refuel and stretch, but little did I know it would evolve into a life-lesson, much like the road-trip itself. As I strolled into the surprisingly pristine restroom, a 15-second conversation led to self-meditation and contemplation.

“How are you sir?” I said to a man washing his hands.

“I’m well, sir.” he delightfully replied, “How are you doing?”

“Good, I’m hanging in there.” I responded.

“Well, hang in there. That’s just about all you can do.” the man stated, and walked away.

For some odd reason, that brief conversation struck me immediately and I began to think. The man was right.

I am beginning to realize, through this trip and life, that there are just some things I cannot control, no matter how much I want to. I may not be able to control the stock of Texas Cheesesteak Melts a Waffle House in Arkansas has on hand, the weather or the bladder size of fellow passengers , but I can control my own demeanor and attitude, among other things.

So when you wake up in the morning, don’t worry.  Just hang in there- because sometimes, that’s just about all you can do.

I owe this post to the man in the bathroom, as weird as that sounds.

Road-Tripping: It’s what I do

11 03 2010

I’ve been on many road-trips in my day and I have enjoyed them all- some more than others.  But the key to properly approaching and experiencing this type of journey is keeping the proper perspective.

It’s not about the destination, how many souvenirs you can get for a few bucks or how fast it takes you to get to your vacation spot- it’s simply about the journey.  Living in the moment, to be precise.

Whether you’re traveling a couple of hours away, or like the #wififwhip, traveling 16 hours to Austin, Texas, it’s the moments in between take-off and arrival that need to be treasured and truly LIVED.  The late-night meals at a Waffle House and the soul-spilling conversations that occur between the passenger and driver while everyone else is asleep are the brilliant moments that pump me up and inspire.

It’s during those times I don’t have a care in the world.  I’m on a road-trip, a vacation if you will, so my meetings with Mr. Worry and Mrs. Obligation will have to be rescheduled for another time, because I am at peace.

So what are your tips for surviving those road-trips and long vacations?  What moments inspire you?