Monday, November 29, 2010

You Will Be Visited

Last month, Jacksonville Magazine recognized my talents and sent me and the girlfriend to an east coast beach town to report about how there was no oil on the beaches and how you should spend your vacation there. OK, she actually works at the magazine and got me the gig, but still.

See, no oil

Basically, the city's chamber of commerce put us and a couple other writers up at a swank condo, fed us about a thousand meals over the weekend and even got us VIP tickets to a wine festival featuring REO Speedwagon. In return, we would write articles in our respective magazines talking the place up.

We totally witnessed a murder in that room across the way.

The New York writers were mystified by our Southern traditions, like grits and hush puppies and were amazed that we had actually heard of cannoli. They were also much tanner than the Floridians. Weird.

So that was the fun part. The crappy part, of course, was actually sitting down and writing a story.

I had never written a travel piece (although I totally want to do more. Sign me up!), so I was a bit apprehensive. Plus, every time I tried to start, I was interrupted by some rather annoying ghosts.

The Ghost of 23 Year Old Me: "So you're really gonna stick it to those PR hacks, right? Expose them to the world?"

Adult Me: "What? No. Everyone was great. I mean, they've got to get the word out, you know? And it's not like I'm lying. It was a lot of fun.Great city. I know you're constantly broke, but you should have planned a trip there at least once."

23: "Sounds like selling out to me."

The Ghost of 17 Year Old Me: "And REO Speedwagon? Did you throw a rock at them or something? Yell at them for being lame and old?"

Me: "No. I - What? Why the hell would I want to do that? I'm not a fan or anything, but they're out there working hard, putting on a show, making people happy, you know?"

REO, making people happy.

17: "23 is right. You sold out, man."

Me: "I know you won't understand this, but I've been trying to sell out for years, just nobody wants to buy in. And besides, things change once you get older."

17: "Jesus, you sound like Dad. So what do you do when you're not watching lame old REO Speedwagon?"

Me: "I dunno, stuff. Work in the yard, I guess. Ride my bike. Go to the gym."

17: "Man, this is just depressing. Do you still skate?"

Me: "No. Remember, we weren't really that good to begin with. But you will start to enjoy all sorts of things you hated, or at least pretend you hate right now. Like country and classic rock, gardening, and football."

17: "Alright, I'm outta here." POOF!

23: "OK, now that the kid's gone, you can tell me. How does it feel to completely abandon all your journalistic principles?"

Me: "Now I remember why I never liked either one of you."

I was able to finish the article even with the interruptions(page 28 of December's issue! On newsstands now!), but about a week after I turned it in I happened to read a travel article in GQ. With my now-experienced eye, I could see what went into the article - Oh, that one motel he mentions must be the one he got put up in. Those 3 restaurants must be the ones they drove him to. Now I know how the sausages are made.


Keith said...

Why did I get saddled with "ethical" travel writing gigs? No comps, no perks, no wining and dining, no REO Speedwagon. Sometimes, no actual pay. I'm still waiting on a check from a few years ago. It's like $50. Come on, man!

Similar to the day I learned what it means to actually review electronic gadgets. You get it in the mail, you play with it...and then you have to send it back. Aw, man!

It's how I also learned that people who write for fluff magazines about parties are sad and ignored and awkward at the actual event, but when they write about it, make it seem like Diddy and Beyonce were throwing the party just for them, and that they were involved in every aspect of debauchery. I saw you, man, in the corner the whole night, not talking to anyone, nursing your $25 Grey Goose and cranberry and checking your iPhone like you were getting important messages when you were actually just reading your own twitter feed. You ain't foolin' nobody.

Patrick Hughes said...

Journalism... A quaint tradition, not wholly unlike sarsaparilla floats at the soda counter, or perhaps phrenology... Do they still practice it somewhere?