From reading under the covers to hard-hitting elementary school journalism
Ever since I mastered the alphabet with the help of Wheel of Fortune (seriously, ask myparents), I’ve enjoyed reading and writing. Growing up just north of Boston, I hated going to bed, but my parents never seemed to mind if I stayed up reading under the covers. Or maybe that’s just how we choose to remember it. In any case, I also contributed to my elementary school’s newspaper (a quasi-annual publication) and was thrilled when my exposé on Halley’s Comet ended up on its front page (spoiler: the comet comes back).
In high school I was on the literary board of my school’s literary magazine and also took extra English classes as electives. (No, I didn’t go on many dates. Why do you ask?)
Writing about everything from Geoffrey Chaucer to Greg Brady in college
My interest in writing and reading continued at Wake Forest University. There I majored in English literature, minored in journalism, and worked in a variety of positions at The Old Gold & Black, the student newspaper, including news editor and arts and entertainment editor. I also built up a strong foundation of knowledge on liquor.
Highlights of my writing there included an investigative piece on basketball star Tim Duncan’s off-the-court impact at the university (it was substantial) and an interview with the actor Barry Williams who played one of my childhood heroes, Greg Brady.
Following the path of the typical liberal arts major: To work at a bank
Despite being excited about having articles on the front pages of both of those newspapers, I misplaced my soul after graduating and went to work at a bank, First Union (which then became Wachovia and later turned into Wells Fargo and I think is now part of Evil Corp). Don’t judge, we all made bad decisions in the 90s.
While that job gave me leadership experience and a detailed understanding of personal finance (I managed 16 people and earned a bunch of securities licensees), it was quickly clear that the job wasn’t a good fit. (Also, it was obvious that financial institutions were in for some problems: at 23, I was the most senior manager available in the evening at the call center for the nation’s sixth largest brokerage firm.) Coworkers knew of my English and journalism background, however, so I frequently was asked to help write and edit letters to clients, internal memos, and training material. I also edited some of their resumes. Because call center.
From Charlotte, NC, to Washington, DC, and from banking to editingIn 2000 I moved from Charlotte, NC, to the Washington, DC, area. And along with the geographical change, I made a career change: I left banking for editing. In the DC area, I worked in permanent, full-time jobs editing
- information technology and human factors documents for Booz Allen Hamilton (no, I didn’t know Edward Snowden—but I wish I did)
- reports on improving reproductive health and family planning services in developing countries through the private sector for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (where the office supply closet was home to a dildo of impressive size)
- network compatibility assessments and directives at the Headquarters, Department of the Army (I was government waste)
Zzz…But during that time I launched the original incarnation of this website, which contained op-ed pieces, humor columns (loose definition), a satirical business dictionary, and true stories of stupidity.
Going solo and expanding from editing to writing
In August 2004 I became a full-time freelancer. But first I took the three-month backpacking trip through Europe that I should’ve gone on right after college. (Yes, I did listen to The Cure while traveling. How’d you guess?) When I returned, I started reading travel blogs, including Gawker Media’s Gridskipper. When the editor there posted an ad looking for DC-based writers, I applied and got my first travel-writing gig.
I later wrote for The Wall Street Journal, Air Canada’s enRoute, USA Today, Condé Nast Traveller (U.K.), BlackBook, Curbed, Deadspin, Fox News, and other travel and lifestyle publications. I also was the founding editor of Eater Louisville. I’ve maintained this website since 2002 (and have been online since 1992 when I was dialing up bulletin boards with my Apple IIGs’s 2400-baud modem). In 2012, I became a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. And in 2017 I quit the Society of American Travel Writers because I wasn’t getting anything out of the membership. But still, I qualified!In 2013, after nine years of freelancing, I became the full-time senior editor at MapQuest (owned by Aol, it has 45 million monthly users). There I helped launch editorial content. And while the early results were good—such as the 192,000 views for this video on Disney Cruise Line that I produced, directed, wrote, edited, and hosted—in January 2015, MapQuest management decided the company needed to focus on its main functions. Like, you know, directions. While my experience there was great, I’m really excited to be freelancing again.
Most recently I’ve contributed to Condé Nast Traveller, Vox Creative, and Fox News (seriously!) and made an appearance on BBC World News. In 2015 I was accepted into the National Press Club. I’m also on the board of directors for the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and mange its social-media presence.
Since 2009, I’ve owned and operated Derby Home Rental, which advertises Louisville, Kentucky-area homes for rent on Derby weekend.
Reading and writing: It’s not just work
When I’m not reading or writing for work, I’m often reading and writing for pleasure. The last few books I read and would recommend are
- Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles
- The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
- Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
- The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
- Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin
In addition to reading, writing, and traveling, I enjoy
- eating great food (especially Spanish)
- sipping a little bourbon or rye
- listening to classic rock n’ roll, notably Bruce Springsteen and The Who
- playing with cameras
- taking in European painting of the Baroque period (like Caravaggio and Velazquez)
- investing in horse races
- spending time, of course, with my wife and two daughters