by MP Mueller
Photographs by Dagny Piasecki
The week before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Christine and Terrence Moline bought their first house in the Crescent City. As the rain started to come down, they moved to higher ground in preparation for flooding. Later, watching the disaster covered on CNN, they saw their new neighborhood under 10 feet of water. They realized then that they wouldn’t be going home for awhile. They moved to Austin with the few things they had packed before the storm. They soon found a warm, welcoming embrace in Central Austin’s Brentwood neighborhood.
Christine, a communications and organizing consultant and Terrence, an interactive marketing director, like to call their cozy gray home The Love Shack. It’s 730 square feet of minimalist living that has become a lifestyle choice. The freedom they’ve gained from living tiny has empowered them to exercise their gypsy hearts, traveling to Paris, Spain, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico and Cuba. They always pack light and love the flexibility it gives them to see and do so much more. “After each visit, we returned home to purge items we had not touched or utilized in six months or less,” said Christine. “That includes clothing, books, technology and anything elsethat was taking up our limited real estate without earning its keep.”
And they return home to neighbors they have grown close to in Brentwood. Like Josephine Bartz, “Ms. Jo,” a widow who keeps her eye on all the neighborhood happenings. “When she sees our car pull up, she often runs outside to say hello.” Ms. Jo, in her 80s, still works at the
nearby DPS office where she’s been employed for 34 years. She and her late husband bought their tidy yellow 775-square-foot cottage for $8,000 in 1958. At the time, nearby Threadgill’s on North Lamar was the last restaurant on the way out of town on a two-lane highway to Waco.
It’s obvious Ms. Jo is very fond of her NOLA transplants and vice versa. She enters their house through the back door and warm hugs are exchanged. “They are the sweetest things,” she smiled. “Terrence mows my yard for me and he’s handy if you ever need something fixed. They are good people, they really are. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
“Over there,” she pointed, “lives a UT professor, a mathematician from France. Last year he went off for six to eight months. When he comes home I’m so glad to see him. That means everybody is home and the neighborhood is full.”
Joanna James, her husband Jeremy and their two-year-old Lukas live across the street. She and Christine meet up for walks, yoga classes, happy hours and enjoy running into other neighbors at some of the many coffee shops closeby. They say the neighborhood is growing and continues to attract friendly people who are passionate about soaking in all Austin has to offer.
“It’s affordable and so close in,” Joanna, a stay-at-home mom, shared. “We really like being walking distance to so many things.”
Not too long ago, Christine left her lunchbox on the bus on her way to work. After posting about it on social media and calling Cap Metro, it was clear it was AWOL. Returning home that day, she found a new lunchbox with a bow on it, tied to her doorknob and waiting for her. “My neighbor Leah put it there,” Christine recounted. “We have the sweetest neighbors.”
Read more from the Neighborhoods Issue | June 2016