About Joey

I'm left-handed.

The Halberts Take Manhattan

A week ago, Sam and I visited New York City, which was very exciting. Even though we only had two full days to run around NYC, we did our best to make the most of it. Kayla, our buddy who lives in Manhattan, was a big help in planning our time and in keeping us company.

We arrived at LaGuardia airport to find cold and rainy weather, which is perfect nap weather. The best thing to do on your first vacation without a baby is to take a nap immediately. This weather was perfect. I was so excited. We cabbed it from the airport to our hotel, the Sheraton!

[Before I get too into the trip, I want to say a little bit about New Yorkers. The stereotype of the rude, loud, New Yorker did not match our experience on this trip, or my own experience in NYC a decade ago. People may be a little more impatient in NYC because of the speed of the city. For example, the response that you get from asking a question the first time in NYC is like the response you would get after asking it three times in a row in the south. Maybe rough around the edges, but helpful and direct. People were generally amiable and helpful. Also, they were very cool. Everyone dresses cool in NYC. Look down at whatever you are wearing right now. Just shake your head and roll your eyes at yourself, because you look like such a dork compared to literally everyone in NYC. Sam observed that the coolest person from everyone’s high school moved to NYC. Seems about right.]

The Sheraton is right around 52nd Street and 7th Ave, so we were very close to Broadway theaters (theatres?), Central Park, and Times Square. Our room was on the 43rd floor, so we had a nice view of the big Times Square screens, Rockefeller Center, and even Radio City Music Hall! We grabbed a quick lunch at Cafe Duke down the street. It is kind of like a mall food court plus convenience store rolled into one. Sam got a fancy turkey sandwich and I got shrimp tempura udon. Then, we took naps! Glorious, quiet, undisturbed naps.

That night, Kayla met up with us and we cabbed it over to Dylan’s Candy Bar for snacks and Serendipity for dinner. If you have seen the movie Serendipity, then you have seen the restaurant Serendipity. I would describe it as quirky comfort food, which is perfect for cold and rainy nights. The food and service were fun, and the dessert called The Forbidden Broadway merits a photo (which I didn’t take but linked): 

Dylan’s Candy Bar also merits a photo for being so colorful and fun. Samantha mentioned that her thoughts always look like the interior of Dylan’s Candy Bar, and I believe her!

The next day we slept in, walked around, and ran into a member of the Brat Pack that I will not name because he lives there with his family and it seems rude to mention where they live. We also went to see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which is a very funny, Tony award-winning musical. After that, we headed down the street to Lillie’s bar, which was very cool looking on the inside.

All of the bartenders were very exotic and cool, but we were even cooler than them: A Chick Fil A had just opened in NYC and one of the bartenders waited half an hour just try try it. We have Chick Fil A all the time! Point, Halberts.

I had been sick for a few days by this point, so we called it a night to rest up for the next day, which would be full.

We got an early start on the day at Pret A Manger, which was a big sandwich place in the UK when I was studying abroad and is in the U.S. now. Sadly, the service was completely awful so that retroactively ruined my entire Oxford experience. Just kidding! Pret was pretty bad, though.

We jumped on the Subway (Sam’s actual reaction):

and headed to the Natural History Museum! It was very easy to spend three hours wandering the 40+ halls. My favorite was the Rose Center for Earth and Space. I love space! We’re all floating in space right now, if you think about it.

Next, we headed to the Union Park area to see a play called 39 Steps, which is kind of a Hitchcockian comedy. If you like Alfred Hitchcock and/or noir, you would enjoy this play. The set work in particular was very creative and fun.

We walked around in Central Park for awhile. We did not see Phoebe Buffay running around like a nut, which broke my heart a little bit.

For dinner, we ate at The Flatiron Room, which is a whiskey and jazz bar. It is the place that I was made to be. Behold!

For my cocktail, I chose the Lovely Kioto. It was made with Iwai Japanese whisky, plum tea, and lychee juice. Very good.

We slept in and cabbed it back to the airport. As much fun as we had in NYC, it’s always nice to be home!

Birthday Presents

Earlier this week, I celebrated my thirty-first birthday. It was a good one. It wasn’t the flashy kind of good. It was more like the spreading warmth in your chest from a hot drink on a cold day good.

This morning, after finishing a presentation at a job that I enjoy, I was thinking about how blessed I am, and how many presents God has given me. My plan is to live a very long life, as in, I will live in a sky apartment like the Jetsons. But if I were to be taken home today, I would’ve already had a lifetime’s fill of adventure at thirty-one.

In no particular order, I have:

  • Traveled all over three continents and more than a dozen countries.
  • Graduated from high school, college, grad school, law school.
  • Passed a bar exam.
  • Seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.
  • Seen the sun rise over the ocean in the morning.
  • Jumped out of a plane.
  • Rafted the Nile River.
  • Eaten a crepe in Paris.
  • Saw a play in Shakespeare’s Globe.
  • Met my dream girl.
  • Planted a kiss on my dream girl.
  • Married my dream girl!
  • Knocked up my dream girl!
  • Grown a circle of close friends I’ve had for more than a decade.
  • Worked as a legislative staffer.
  • Been to the top of the Texas Capitol dome.
  • Written human rights briefs for the highest court of a country.
  • Taught classes for my favorite university.
  • Moonwalked!
  • Grilled a steak.
  • Completed a triathlon.
  • Known God.
  • Through God’s grace, transitioned from a state of anxiety to a state of peace and contentment.
  • Through God’s grace, escaped from an island of isolation into becoming a member of a family.
  • To Be Determined

I feel humbled, loved, and lucky. Everything feels like icing on my birthday cake. Except that I didn’t have a birthday cake, I had birthday chocolate chip cookies stuffed with Oreos.

  • Ate chocolate chip cookies stuffed with Oreos.

Anyway, this is a love letter to God, to you. Thanks for the birthday presents. There’s only way to describe them:



Because of my work’s biennial cycle, my work days are getting longer and longer. This has led me to spending a lot of time with headphones and Spotify channels. I stumbled on Lissie and I can’t wait to throw my credit card at her merch table when she comes through town next.

And, if you just want something in the background for a while:

Everything is Different and the Same

My wife is pregnant! I’m going to be a father. Even though we’re working our way through the second trimester, I already think of myself as a dad. I do plenty of dad things:

  • Make sure all the lights are off when a room is empty.
  • Keep a baseball bat by the bed to take out any would-be home invaders.
  • Get a list ready of kid-friendly superhero cartoons, books, shows, etc.
  • Take pride in anything my boy does (right now this is mainly just being himself).

Bringing a new life into the world makes you think about the circle of life. In my case, that means thinking about my own mortality and immortality. God willing, I will be alive and kicking until our boy is old enough to be a good man on his own. If I’m not around though, I thought I had better provide him with some life advice. I wanted to give him a letter welcoming him to the world in case something happened to me. I thought it would be wise and sentimental, and here is what poured out:

Dear Son, the first thing you need to know is that we love you! The second thing you need to know is that your parents are cool. I played in bands! Also, your mom is hot. Those two facts are probably why you were created in the first place. If we aren’t cool when you’re reading this, the only thing that has changes is that we had you! So if you don’t think your parents are cool it is probably your fault. Anyway, we already love you and are proud of you and we can’t wait to meet you. Love, Dad

This isn’t exactly a Field of Dreams level conversation between father and son, but it was weirdly reassuring. Yes, there is a new life in the world, full of potential (and responsibility). Yes, my life and identity if fundamentally changing. But I’m still me. Sam is still Sam. We’re just getting to experience the world in a richer and fuller way. We’re raising up a little one in the way that he should go. So maybe I won’t give our kid that letter, but I do hope I can pass on the best of us and minimize the rest.

Basically, I can’t wait to become Phil Dunphy.