Westward, HO!


Because life’s an adventure, and who knows what the New Year will bring?

After more than a decade in the neighborhood  – and two years planning & photographing events for East Falls Local — Denise Hasher hit the road for a cross-country drive to Albuquerque, New Mexico. A new job with an old friend beckoned and, frankly, she’d felt rather stalled in the Falls.

Denise took an EFL with her on her road trip, and filled us in on how it feels to start over at “midlife.”

How did you know it was time to leave the area?

Short story: he cheated. Long story: we’d been together almost ten years and I’d felt rather blindsided but also ready to be done with the bullshit. This was December 2016, and I had a bit of a scramble, changing addresses during the Holidays. I lucked into a great place, though, nearby in Germantown – I loved everything about it but I still felt unsettled. I felt stuck.

Then my friend (and now mentor) asked me to come train as a copy editor for her growing publishing company in New Mexico. She was relocating, herself, and offered me a room in her new house with her two awesome girls. No brainer!

Denise visits Graceland with an EFL

How was the drive out?

The drive was exhilarating! I felt like I’d sprung free. I took a Southern route, mapping out key spots I wanted to hit – Graceland, fall foliage in the Shenandoahs, the mighty Mississippi…  Friends guided me to great Southern grub like Martin’s BBQ in Nashville and Gus’s Famous Fried Chicken in Memphis. I did mostly a driving tour – 30 hours in 4 days, whew! Thank goodness for podcasts & Spotify.

 Any surprises along the way?

Yeah, I met this guy in Memphis at the Gibson Guitar museum – we were both drooling over displays then decided to bar hop the day away on Beale Street. He had intimate knowledge of the area, and showed me around quite a bit. We had a blast!

Scenes from Denise’s feed in New Mexico

How is it in New Mexico?

Out here it’s like the polar opposite of Philly – and the whole Northeast US, really. I’m a city girl so it’s an adjustment, all this clean & open scenery. Spectacular, but totally alien to what I’m used to. Mesmerizing sunsets, where the sky changes colors right before your eyes, then it gets pitch-black with a million stars.

Also, I love the attitude here around conservation. They recycle everything. And you’ll get penalized at the supermarket if you don’t bring your own bags. Love that. And buying beer & wine anywhere – gas stations, CVS, Target, supermarkets… Bring your own bag, though.

Does anything about it remind you of East Falls or Philly in any way?

I live in the suburbs of Albuquerque – like the Bucks County of Philly area in distance to Philly. This neighborhood’s a little less diverse as the rest of Albuquerque, and people do seem rather fearful of “the big city” here. There are some people that refuse to travel “downtown” because they’re scared “something will happen.” Reminds me of the warnings I’d get from my suburban friends who seemed incredulous I’d go out in Philly/East Falls by myself after dark.

Have you tried a “Philly” cheesesteak in New Mexico yet?

Ha!  I wouldn’t dare.

Denise at Murphy’s, Snowmageddon 2016

Have you found your Murphy’s yet?

No, but I just noticed a place called Molly’s nearby that could be a contender. I’ll have to stop by and see if they’ll make me a Cubano. And btw, no matter how good a bar I find, none are within walking distance – I will always miss snowy days where the whole neighborhood slogs to Murphy’s! On the other hand, Albuquerque has 35 breweries so that’s fun, too (Philly only has 25, neener neener). 

What do you like best about your new home?

I never had a garage-kept car before – this is fantastic! I also love the scenery, and how artsy everyone is, how cultured.

Would you recommend relocating as a way to reboot your life?

It definitely helps gain a fresh perspective but it’s not for everyone. I literally sold or dumped almost every material thing I owned because I was that ready for a fresh start. If that sounds freeing to you, I’d say do it. I feel so much lighter now, so much happier. My former life seems absurd. 

What are you looking forward to in 2018?

Making better decisions. Onward and upward!

Can you spell Albuquerque yet? 

I can. But as a copy editor, I am taught to look up everything — even if I know it’s right.

Do you miss us?

Like mad. See you in 2018! Party time.

Best wishes for big successes for the fabulous Hollywood Hasher! Cheers to Denise and to all of us looking forward to a new year of opportunities.  Follow Denise on Instagram for great pics from her journey out West.


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