Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Brooklyn bound

It's all falling into place. Not only do a have a job (see previous post), but we have an apartment. Nicole and I just signed a lease for a great two-bedroom apartment in Boerum Hill, an up-and-coming neighborhood in Brooklyn. The apartment is in an amazing location, on Smith Street, right in the heart of the neighborhood, with lots of restaurants, specialty food stores and bars just out the door.

It's a little smaller than our LA apartment and rent is literally twice the price, but it does have two huge things that our old apartment didn't have: one and a half bathrooms (as opposed to one), and a washer/dryer in unit.  It also has a killer kitchen, which makes Nicole very, very happy.

I'm going to Tokyo

And no, I'm not driving a big yellow truck there. I'm flying. On a plane. I'm going for work.

travelzoo_logo[1].gifWhich means I have a job. Woo-hoo! I accepted a job earlier this week as editor of, the travel deals company best known for its weekly Top 20 deals newsletter. If you don't subscribe, you should. 

We've got lots of ideas for building out the site, and I'm really excited about the job. I start next Thursday.  But right off the bat, I'm going to Tokyo for a conference with the editors of the international versions of the site, as well as the newsletter publishers.  I'm looking forward to some amazing sushi, and hopefully getting to a baseball game while I'm there. I'll be there from July 23-27, so check back here for updates on the trip.

My job search was really interesting. At first, I looked at newspapers. When I was in New York in April, I interviewed with a handful of newspapers and magazines, but they were mostly informational interviews without actual open positions. The only paper with an open position was Newsday, and they offered me a job as a local news editor. It was a lower position and less money than I had in Los Angeles, and it would have been an ugly commute to Long Island, so I turned it down.

When I got back to LA, I expanded my search to companies that were in the web publishing business but not necessarily journalism.  I saw the Travelzoo listing on Craigslist, I believe, and had a few phone interviews with them before I got here. My first week back here, I had interviews lined up my first week with Travelzoo, Kickapps (a social networking software company) and NBC. All very different jobs.

Travelzoo and NBC were at the top of the list, and Travelzoo solidified that position when I interviewed with Ralph Bartel, their CEO.  We had a great conversation, and I was excited about his vision for where the company is heading. 

NBC had a few positions open. They at first considered me for an online news editor job in their Local Media division, and then Managing Editor of NBC is putting together a great team, and I love their digital strategy. Had they made a competitive offer against Travelzoo, I would've had to do some serious thinking. But the timing didn't work out - Travelzoo made the offer and needed an answer, and WNBC couldn't come back with an offer quickly enough.  That made the decision easy - the Travelzoo gig has so much potential, though, and I'm really, really excited about.

So two weeks of stress are over. I'm no longer unemployed.  And I'm going to have some damn good sushi..

Friday, June 20, 2008

This is just too good

Every now and then, you hear of something that is so good, so fantastic, that it amazes you that everybody's not talking about it. This is one of those situations

It's minor league baseball, Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets affliliate) vs. Staten Island Yankees. Ninth inning. The Yanks bring in a relief pitcher. But this isn't any relief pitcher. He's ambidextrous. That's right - the elusive switch-pitcher.

This guy was just drafted out of Creighton last week, so it must've been his first professional appearance. The Mets knew exactly what the situation called for - a switch-hitter

That's right - switch-pitcher versus switch-hitter. And hilarity ensues.

The pitcher puts the glove on his left hand.  The batter moves to the left-handed side of the plate. The pitcher then switches the glove to his right hand. The batter switches to the right-handed side of the plate. Repeat. The dance goes on.

And yes, we have video:

It only took a week...

... but I finally got the pics up from the third and fourth days of the trip.  Sorry for the delay - no good excuse, really.

Photos from June 10 can be found here, and photos from June 11 are here.

The highlights (note the last picture - I was worried we had driven in one 2500-mile circle):

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Random sighting: Jackson Bell

Nicole had her first day working at Yahoo's New York office yesterday, and I had an interview at KickApps, a social networking software company, two blocks away. So we decided to meet for lunch. We met about noon in Bryant Park, just in front of her office, and were walking to a Japanese place when a guy passing us says, 'Josh? Is that you?'

It took me a minute to place him: Jackson Bell, former reporter at the Glendale News-Press. Just about the last person I expected to run into. We worked together there about five years ago. He left a few years ago and moved to Paris, to go to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu. 

Turns out that he just moved to New York two weeks ago, and is starting today at a fancy New York restuarant, Oceana. Small world.

The interview was great, by the way. It went really well, and I really liked the people at KickApps, and I like what they do.  I have a few more interviews scheduled for this week, and I'll write more on the job search when I know more later this week.

The Truck Burger and other final thoughts

So we've been back in New York for four full days now, and I've had some time to reflect on the five days we spent cramped in the cab of a truck making our way to a new life. Here are some final thoughts:

1) We were amazingly lucky. Everywhere we went, it seems, was hit by storms, floods and tornadoes either two days before we got there or two days after we left. As we drove out of Oklahoma City, we commented to each other about the storm clouds settling in over the city. We drove east into beautiful weather, then watched on the news that night about storms pounding Oklahoma.  It was the same thing in Illinois.  Seems like we missed swimming cross-country by an inch.

2) I'd like to do this again some day, just not in a truck.  Before we left, we made a plan.  We bought a book called Roadfood, which tells you good and interesting places to eat on a roadtrip. We picked out lunch and dinner spots for most days of the trip. That was going to be our motivation - a good, unique meal that will give us a taste of local flavor at each stop. 

There were two things I didn't really anticipate. First of all, I thought we'd be driving 8 to 10 hours a day, based on an average speed of about 70-75 miles per hour.  That was impossible in this truck. Our average speed was probably about 60. That tacked 2-3 hours onto each day, which means we were arriving at our destinations pretty late, and we were pretty exhausted. Often, we just wanted to curl up in our hotel room and not bother going out for a meal.

The second thing I didn't anticipate is how difficult the rig would be to park.  I've written about this in the past on this blog, but to be blunt, it was a bitch.  Everywhere we went, we had to think about the parking situation.  Is there truck parking? Would we be able to maneuver the truck and trailer?  More often than not, the answer was no.  One day, we saw a sign for Wendy's on the freeway, and thought that sounded good for lunch.  We called from our cells to ask if they have truck parking. This conversation ensued:

Wendy's woman: "You want what kind of burger?"
Me: "Truck parking. I want to know if you have truck parking."
WW: "Truck burger? I don't think we have that."
Me: "No. We're driving a truck. We want to know if we can park it. So we can come inside and eat."
WW: "Oh, no, we don't have that."

The Wendy's Woman (truck burger? seriously?) was probably the second-most-stupid woman I dealt with on the trip. No. 1 goes to Barb at the Flying J in western Pennsylvania. This was Wednesday night.  We wanted to put gas in our truck, as many people are want to do at a gas station. I went inside, handed my credit card to Barb, asked her to activate Pump 19, then went back outside. Waiting behind me in line was a woman attempting to return a $500 GPS unit.  I pumped about $130 worth of gas, then went inside to pay.  One problem - while I was outside, Barb had accidentally swiped my credit card, instead of the woman's, and credited it $500 for the GPS. And she couldn't figure out how to void the transition. So instead, she figured she'd just charge my card $500, off-setting the credit. Except Mastercard saw this crediting/charging as suspicious and declined my card, putting a fraud alert on it.  All of this happened while I was outside. I came in to find a perplexed Barb, trying to figure out what to do. She called her manager. She called Mastercard. Nobody could help her. All along, I was standing there waiting for her to give me my card back - nearly 30 minutes in all. Finally, I said, "Listen, I got to go. You've got the transaction info on the receipts, you should be able to void this. Just give me my card back." She did.

Anyway, I digress. This was all about not being able to get around on our stops. We only went to a few of our planned stops - In N Out in Arizona (the furthest east In N Out they have, so we could have one last double-double), Cattleman's Cafe in Oklahoma City, the Dairy in Ohio - that's about it.  I'd like to do this trip in a car, where we'd have the freedom to explore these places. And hopefully avoid Barb.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Final Day: Breakdown on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

So this was our morning today: Wake up at 6:30 in Bedford, Pennsylvania, shower, feed Annie, load up the truck and hit the road. Just like the three days before it. A typical morning for this road trip.

And then this: We drive onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike, heading east from Bedford, and get half a mile up a steep hill when an alarm that sounded like an air-raid siren went off in the cab. Lights flashed. "Low coolant," the digital readout said. Our speed dropped from 45 mph to 35 to 25. The engine had shut down. My eyes are wide. I think I said something along the lines of, "Holy shit! Holy shit! Holy shit!"

I pulled onto the shoulder, but the shoulder wasn't as wide as the truck, and I couldn't get all the way over before the truck rolled to a stop. The trailer we were towing was sticking out into the right lane of the two eastbound lanes. A huge truck turned a corner and was barreling down on us. Thankfully, nobody was in the left-hand lane, and he was able to slide around us.

I closed my eyes for a second and thought, "Please God, let this work." Then I turned the ignition off, waited about 10 seconds, and turned it back on. Then I hit the gas. The big truck lurched forward. 

We drove slowly - about 20 miles per hour - for another two miles to the next rest stop. Thankfully it was so close. We called Penske, and they had a mechanic there in 25 minutes to fill the coolant. These trucks eat through coolant in the hills, Kevin the mechanic told us.  Well, now we know. (See that head peaking over the engine in the above photo? That's Kevin adding coolant.)

The truck was problem-free for the rest of day, and we rolled into New York at about 3:30. I'm in Mt. Kisco now, sitting next to my dad as I type this.  Five days and 2,923 miles later, we've made it across the country. It wasn't what I expected - the days were longer, it was more grueling than I thought it would be, and we didn't have the time or the energy to see much besides the Interstates - but it was fun.  I'll write more about that last part tomorrow. But we made it safe and sound, and we did it without killing each other or our puppy. I'd say that's pretty good...

We dropped off the trailer in Elmsford, NY this afternoon before heading to my parents house, where we'll stay until we find an apartment.  Tomorrow, we unload the truck into a storage unit and turn that in, too, officially ending the trip. But this blog will stay alive. It's been fun to write, and I'll keep contributing. So don't think that you should stop reading just because we stopped driving. 

Photos from today after the jump. I still need to update photos from the previous two days, and will probably do that tomorrow.

Photos from the final day:

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Photos! Photos!

Yes, I've posted some photos.  Not all of them. Just the ones from the first two days of the trip. So go back to the blog entries from those days and you can see the pics.

Or just click here for the first day, and click here for the second day.  Scroll down for the pics. The rest are coming soon...

One day left

We just arrived in Bedford, Pennsylvania, a small town in the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania. We drove through five states today - Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania - and are less than 350 miles from my parents house in Mt. Kisco, New York.  So close.

Driving through Indiana was interesting. Just four days after massive storms flooded much of the state, the weather was beautiful and the freeways were wide open.  We were initially going to drive further south to avoid the flood areas, but my brother did some research and told us that all the roads were open, so we stuck to the original route.

The devastation was pretty bad. We drove through miles of farmland that was completely flooded, crops ruined, soil spoiled (above).  At one point, we saw a farmer surveying his land, standing in the middle of a field of some now-dead crop, hands on hips, just shaking his head.  Pretty awful.

We stopped for lunch at a place called Young's Dairy in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The chicken sandwich was forgettable, but they're known for their ice cream, and we got a vanilla malt and a chocolate shake. They were INCREDIBLE.  If you ever happen to be in western Ohio, I highly recommend it.

Speaking of Ohio, we drove through Columbus today. We blasted The Victors the entire time.

Photos are coming, hopefully tonight. But no promises...

Update: Photos after the jump

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