Thursday, August 14, 2014

To all my former Star colleagues recently let go or having to reapply for their jobs

I feel for you. Just a few short years ago, I was called into my editor's office and told my services were no longer required. I was devastated. I had sunk so much of my life in my job, I had no idea what to do. I drove home in shock and promptly had a mini-nervous breakdown on Twitter. The next morning, I started sending out e-mails to all the local publications, offering up a scratched-and-dented reporter for sale at dirt-cheap prices. I also canceled my subscription.

Over the coming weeks, I had deadline withdrawal. I missed the rush of getting a breaking news story in at the last minute. At the same time, I was dealing with Gannett's HR department, which was trying to screw me out of my contractually obligated severance. Because how could they pay me the money I paid into my unemployment and let the former CEO Craig Dubow walk away with a $37 million retirement package? He had bills to pay, dammit!

Since then, I've managed to carve out a pretty decent career as a freelancer specializing in cycling and outdoor travel journalism. (Ironically, during every review session, I would plead with my editors to let me write some travel features, but to no avail.) I've traveled to France and around the U.S. -- often on other folks' dime -- and written about my adventures for hundreds of thousands of readers. I'm always working, but on stories I'm passionate about and truly enjoy. As I sit here typing on my computer wearing a T-shirt and shorts, I can honestly tell you I am much, much happier now than I ever was at the Star.

For all of you fucked over by the greed of Gannett yet again, be glad you're out. You no longer have to be constantly looking over your shoulder looking for the inevitable axe to fall. You don't have to listen to some corporate talking head talking about recasting the newsroom with an eye on the future. Because if you think this is the last round of layoffs, you are sorely mistaken. Gannett doesn't care about our community or quality journalism, it cares about profit. Nothing more. And they are going to continue to downsize staff until they have squeezed every last nickel they can from the Star's carcass.

The good ship USS Indianapolis Star is taking on water and sinking. When it finally goes down -- and it will go down -- everyone left on that ship is going to be caught in the suction. (Although by that time there will likely only be one employee left, regurgitating press releases and covering the party crasher beat.) You have been given a life raft; use it to paddle away from Gannett and toward a brighter future.

I apologize for any mistakes, grammar errors or misspellings in this long-winded post. I didn't have a copy editor.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Here Are The Fruits Of My NAHBS Labor For Bike Magazine

Tim and I flanking the best looking bike at NAHBS 2014.
I had a great time at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show this weekend. I showed off my gorgeous new Shamrock Cycles travel bike, met a lot of new friends, learned a lot about a bunch of new bikes and products, got to ride with some cool folks and managed to squeeze in a little work at the same time.

Here are the links to my stories for Bike Magazine:

Big thanks to my friends at Bike for letting me represent the magazine at the show.

Already looking forward to the 2015 show in Louisville!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Covering NAHBS For Bike Magazine

As I type this, I'm sitting in a Charlotte, NC, Westin, overlooking the city. My friends at Bike Magazine asked me to cover the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, updating their online readers about all the cool mountain bike gear being introduced to the public this weekend. I'll also be hanging out at the Shamrock Cycles booth, talking about my gorgeous new travel bike that the incredibly talented Tim O'Donnell built for me.

If you see a middle-aged hipster with a long beard and Shamrock hat in Charlotte, flag me down and have me buy you a beer. I'd love to talk bikes with you.

My First Article For VeloNews Is Live!

I recently had the pleasure of working with Neal and Brian at VeloNews on a story about the incredible coaches and student-athletes at Marian University. You can read the piece here.

Although I hate bragging about my own work, I have to admit I'm really pleased with how the article turned out. But I think it owes less to my work as a writer and more to Marian Cycling Coach Dean Peterson's thoughtful, guiding hand and the tenacity and talent of his riders. Give it a read and let me know what you think.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I Preview Indy's Craft Brewery Scene for Beer Advocate Magazine

The folks at Beer Advocate Magazine were nice enough to hire me to write a piece on Indy's craft brew scene. After seemingly months of in-depth research -- I had to revisit several places time and time again -- I finally was able to come up with a list of my favorite spots.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Visiting Topsail Island With My Mom

For years, my mom tried to get me to come to the beach with her. I finally made it this week.

Located on the coast of North Carolina, Topsail got its name from the pirate ships the anchored just far enough off the coast that you could just see the tops of the ships’ sails. Years later, it gained infamy again, this time as a post-World War II testing ground for top-secret military rockets. In 1948, the government deserted the island, selling the land to the public.  

Topsail was a sleepy fishing village in the early 1960s when Vera and Jesse Arnold, my mom’s aunt and uncle, plunked down $500 for a trailer-sized lot near the ocean. Over the next 50 years, the island became my extended family’s respite from the stresses of work and real life. “There’s nothing fancy” about the beach bragged my Aunt Teresa, and not much to do save for fish, swim and drink – luckily the three needed ingredients for relaxation.

Not as popular as other Tarheel beaches like the Outer Banks and the Wrightsville Beach, the area remains a more blue-collar destination. It has its share of expensive beachfront homes, but beyond them lies more affordable housing for the 5,000 or so residents who live on the island full time. Topsail remains a working fishermen’s hub, with the shrimp boats selling their freshly caught wares on the pier nearby in Sneads Ferry. 

What doesn’t get sold to the public, often makes its way into the Riverview CafĂ©, which serves some of the freshest seafood in the state, judging by the number of stray cats lounging around the front entrance.  On our second night on the beach, we piled into the restaurant, gorging ourselves on clams, shrimp and fish that had been in the ocean just hours before.

Teresa owns a trailer about two miles from the beach, but with a half-dozen or so family members making the trip this time, we decided to chip in for a larger, beachfront property. I’d barely set my bags down when Teresa corrected me about the island’s pronunciation.

“It’s actually pronounced Top-sul by all the locals (and long-time visitors),” Teresa said. “It’s easy to tell who’s not from around here” just by hearing them pronounce the town’s name.  

Driving up Highway 210 over the bridge and onto the island, visitors pass the requisite cheesy T-shirt stores, karaoke bars and fudge shops. Vinyl-clad homes rise up from the gray sand on stilts, lining the beach as far as the eye can see in both directions.

Teresa points out where the Scotch Bonnet Pier used to stand before hurricanes washed it and several other warfs away years ago. There’s a reluctance to rebuild the piers, with weather forecasts predicting increasingly stronger storms in the coming years. Residents and visitors alike know the beach’s days are numbered.

My mom had moved away from North Carolina and weekends at Topsail years before, following my grandfather to Air Force bases in Mississippi and Indiana. It was in the latter, landlocked state where she would meet my dad and get married, bringing two kids into a mostly beach-less existence. I made it to Topsail once on a family vacation while I was still in elementary school. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much; my memories are less of a snapshot and more of a rough, hand-drawn sketch.

After her divorce, mom moved back to North Carolina to be closer to Teresa and the rest of her family. Just like in her youth, the beach became a near weekly custom. During our weekly phone conversations, she spoke of her last adventure at the beach – collecting seashells with the kids, fishing with my Uncle Steve or just wading around in the ocean.  While she didn’t have much money, she was always sure to bring something – a freshly baked cake, some lighthouse art she found at a thrift shop – to earn her keep.

The few times my wife and I visited her in North Carolina, mom would not-so-casually mention that we should head to the beach, but I always refused, preferring not to add a couple of extra hours to our cumulative driving time.

One cold January morning, I got the call I’d been dreading for years. Mom’s final days were in the intensive care ward of a Raleigh hospital, hooked up to multiple machines, drifting in and out of consciousness.

Now that she’s gone, I’ll never be able to experience her favorite place through her eyes, to see her in her element, truly happy. I’ll always regret that.

Just before high tide, we gathered on the beach. My sister etched our mother’s name in the gray sand, each of us taking turns spreading her ashes in the indentations as the tides inched closer and closer. Surrounded by family, she was soon enveloped by the waves, becoming a part of the ocean she loved.