ConVirgins Journalists

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Shawn Lost in America: A Tribute to Where's Waldo

My life has consisted of many crazy journey’s, but none will ever compare to my trip this week coming back to Columbia from my internship in D.C.. When I woke at 8 a.m. I had no idea what this day, which was a Saturday by the way, would involve. Let alone, the crazy characters I would meet. I am going to attempt to summarize the events as they occurred and will ignore any unnecessary details. Remember, all of this is true and nothing is embellished, which is something Iam known for doing.

The drive from Washington D.C. to my apartment in Columbia, MO is approx: 990 miles which translates into 16 to 17 hours of driving based on speed, bathroom breaks, food breaks and how many times I decide to stop and observe the beautiful American landscape.
A week before I left D.C. I had my car checked because it had been overheating during drives to Baltimore. So, the shop had a look at it and made a few changes. I know, nothing too exciting so far.

Everything was going great on my drive until I approached a town about 90 miles from D.C. called Cumberland. That is where my car began to overheat and this journey of epic proportions began. First off, let me explain something about Cumberland, MD. Cumberland is sort of like Pleasantville in the movie with the same name except it's in color and the women don’t look nearly as hot as Reese Weatherspoon. In Cumberland, I had my car looked at a local gas station while I ate at Wendy’s (their new Wendy’s melt is delicious, I recommend it). By the way, there probably wasn’t a Wendy’s in Pleasantville but there should’ve been. Thinking my troubles were over, I continued on and got 20 miles when my car started to smoke like a NYC waitress on her lunch break (insert laugh track here).

I pulled to the side of the road and noticed green radiator fluid was splashed all over my car. The engine had burnt out, and the worst part was I had no idea where I was. In fact, I didn’t even know what state I was in.

Luckily, before I had left for college my Mom had given me her AAA card and said, “Shawn, you will need this one day.” Mom’s are always right. I gave the company a call and found out I was located in Maryland and that a tow-truck would pick me up in 30 minutes. So there I sat on the side of interstate 68, which among other things consisted of large beetle-like butterflies, rattle snakeskin’s, rude passerby’s and afternoon heat. The only thing keeping me from running into the highway and getting struck by a vehicle to prematurely end my life was listening to the audiobook version of Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs on my ipod.

After three and a half hours (yes that was 3 and half hours, no typo) of waiting for the tow truck to pick me and my dilapidated car up, they finally came. I don’t want to talk too much about what those three and half hours consisted of because I would just assume forget about it and never bring it up again.

The tow-truck guy was named Eric. He had the largest Adam’s apple I had ever seen.
Words don’t do this thing justice. It was as if a bee was stuck in his throat and consistently stinging him to inflate this thing. Anyway, Eric was so skinny he looked malnourished, smoked Marlboro reds, was wearing a T-shirt that had an American Flag and bald eagle on it, talked with a back-woods southern accent, and wore a trucker hat (since he was an actual trucker this means he wasn’t going for the KFed-Britney Spears look.)

Eric told me I had two options. Option 1 was to backtrack to Cumberland, MD and wait for them to look at my car while option 2 was to head 30 miles to Morgantown,VA. Going to Morgantown was the logical choice since it was in the direction I was going in. So, Eric loaded up my car lit up a cigarette and we were off. On the way, Eric told me about his band, which he said, “sounds like Metallica, but in the early years man.”

Eventually we reached Morganstown, home of the University of West Virginia, basketball legend Jerry West, and a lot of students who like to burn couches (see new Cingular commercial to see what I mean.) We went to the Honda dealership, but since it took so long for the towing service to find me it was now 6 p.m. and the service mechanics were gone. The only person at the dealership, in fact, was J.B.. J.B. is a salesman, maybe in his 40’s or 50’s, uses a strong scented hand-lotion and listens to modern pop music such as Taylor Hicks and every other musician that makes my ears bleed.

J.B. offered to give me a ride to find a hotel in his burnt orange Honda Element. Don’t you think if you were a salesman at a Honda dealership and could have your choice of vehicle you would chose something better than an Element? On the way to finding a hotel, he told me about how he used to be in law enforcement until some amateur photographer took a picture of a buddy of his throwing cash and drugs into his patrol car one evening. To say the least, I thought this was a weird thing to say to a stranger, but then again it was West Virginia and J.B. was the type of guy who loved to tell stories, and he told me loads of them. In a span of 20 minutes, J.B. told me his life. How he went to WVU during the “crazy hippie years”, how one of his roommates had a girlfriend who was a hooker and the money she made paid for their parties, how he became the first man to teach woman’s studies at WVU, how he has two adopted kids and one is “flamboyant” and gets weird looks outside of Morganstown, and how his team of salesman each made over 75K last year and spend their Sunday’s out on the lake drinking beer. He asked if I wanted to go. I firmly declined.

Finally, after getting severely tired of J.B.’s stories and his music, I checked in at a room at the Econo Lodge for two nights since the dealership was closed on Sunday. By the way, I should mention that the receptionist at the EL had a mustache thicker than mine, and that they still used keys, not card keys. This means anyone could make a copy of the key to come into my room and steal all of my shit or kill me. This probably was not the best place to stay, but like I said it was this or J.B. and I chose the EL.

I am hoping my car will be fixed by tomorrow and I can continue my trip back to CMO. But something tells me this epic journey has just begun and that this won’t be the last blog entry of Shawn Lost in America. Until next time, keep fighting the good fight.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

OH MY GOD!!!!

Hello all! I'm currently sitting safely in my grandparents house in Michigan. I left London a week early and am very glad I did given all of the troubles that are going on now. My friend who is still is London told me about the arrests, so I turned on FOX News. I then heard about an intern trying to go through security and I knew it was our Jenn Jarvis! She was just doing a live over the phone report! That's so awesome! Congratulations Jenn!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stanley Cup!

No, I didn't meet any ambassadors. But I did take my picture with THE Stanley Cup (or one of the 3 that they have out there) last weekend. If I ever get it developed, I'll post it.

But in the meantime, I'd love to call your attention to this:
Anderson Cooper, the man with really white hair!

This is the Anderson Cooper 360 blog. I kinda feel like the guys is overrated, but reading this blog (I'm sure Nikki would agree) brings back this feeling of being haunted by Katrina. Cooper and his producers and other correspondents in the field post here, and it seems like they are using this blog the same way Nikki and I did-- to bring a different level of perspective and emotion to the conflict at hand.

Its still interesting to me to read about what is happening over there from a not-news-package viewpoint-- it feels like the real news is whats posted on the blog, rather than the carefully scripted news stories in the papers and on TV.

And, I also bring it to your attention because Mizzou Con-Virgins did it first. CNN is a bunch of copy-cats!!

Margaritas, Ambassador's, and Marketing Oh My!

Have you ever been in the position to meet one of the most influential people in the world and made a complete ass out of yourself (sort of like when Forrest Gump pulled down his pants in front of Nixon to show he had been shot in the butt.) Because I have. Here is the set-up:

Last night I got home to my humble basement at around 9 p.m.. After I got off work I had decided to go to the gym and workout. Following my chase for that never possible six pack, I had a craving for some pita bread and hummus (my new food of choice.) So, as I walk into my house my focus is on the pita bread and hummus and nothing else. To my surprise, the family I live with was not asleep, but instead the husband, Homer, was dressed in a tux and his wife Zeyneb was in a party dress. There was another couple sitting on the couch enjoying some fine wine and were probably shocked to see a 21-year-old kid who had his tie half-way undone and smelled like he hadn't taken a shower in two weeks (hey, I have!) walk into their friend's home acting like he owned the place.
Obviously surprised at what I saw, and still focused on that pita and hummus (oh and now an ice cold frosty beer), I turned to Homer and said, "Oh I didn't get the invite to the party." (I thought it was funny and charming but the look on everyone else's faces indicated otherwise).
Homer then preceded to turn to me and tell me the man sitting on the couch was the ambassador of Turkey and the woman his wife.
"Ah," I said. I then shook hands with the ambassador and his wife and feeling like an ass went down to the basement and had a Corona Lite with my pita bread and hummus and watched two episodes of The Office.

By the way, if you haven't seen the following PSA announcements from The Office click the link. The Office Clips

Currently, I am spending some time in the marketing dept. at USATODAY.com and would tell you what I've been doing except I haven't done anything yet.

Going out for margaritas tonight for a farewell party for one my fellow interns. If you ever wanted to know who invented the margarita click the link. My Margarita

Before I leave here are some more words of wisdom from yours truly.
"In order to go forward you have to comeback to where you started."
Read that, taste it, chew it, enjoy it.

Greetings!

I am now officially published! In last week's issue of Retail Week, I designed five layouts, one of which was the main story. I didn't even realize that until my boss told me. My boss has been working on a special feature for this week's issue, so I've been laying out some of the pages for this week. I'm looking forward to all of the clips I will be getting.

I can't believe my last day is next Thursday. It seems like my time here at Retail Week has gone by quicker than I could have expected. I have enjoyed most of my time here and have learned a lot. I just wish I'd had more time so my boss could teach me more. He's great a what he does and has been a great teacher. Everyone at Retail Week has been great and I'm going to miss everyone here. However, I will be heading back to the US soon, so I won't be too sad about the whole thing.

Hope everyone else is doing well!

Monday, July 24, 2006

coming to a close...

So I'm down to about 10 days left in Toronto!! My mom comes Thursday with her 3 friends (its going to be like Ya-Ya sisterhood invades Canada, I think)- we're goin to Niagara Falls Saturday, then by the time she leaves, I have 3 days left!

Its been a wild experience to say the least- definitely a realization that the rest of the world DOES hate the U.S., but I'm still holding strong to my midwest values :)

And while there is nothing cooler than a thunderstorm in the heart of a city (it echoes off the buildings and sounds like things are falling down around you!), I've really missed the feeling of summer, be it sitting outside at Shiloh (sigh. I miss CoMo!), sweating your brains out and then going into A/C and feeling the relief of cold air (its been in the 70's and low 80's for the most part here), or smelling grass and things not being warm sewage on the street corners. I'm just ready to get back home.

I'm kinda surprised with myself-- I thought I'd enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city more than I have. And I thought I'd enjoy my time in the newsroom more than I have, as well-- its a totally different world working with adults who are indifferent about journalism! I have REALLY missed the passionate work ethic (even if we may fall asleep on the floor of the C-Lab from time to tome!) of the students in J-School...

which is bringing me to think that maybe I need to be reconsidering my direction in a year... at the moment, its heading to grad school, getting my Masters in Eductation and teaching HS Journalism!! (yep. here I go, changing my mind again!)

Friday, July 21, 2006

It has been too long my dear friends


Like my mother always said "home is where the heart is" and my heart is stuck in the convergence lab under the table near the server where people go to sleep when they are hungover. Although I am starting to get excited to return to CMO, I will miss USATODAY.com because I have learned an incredible amount and made some great relationships. I know its been awhile since I have blogged, but I have been extremely busy. Here are some samples of what I have been working on here at USAT (that's short for USATODAY.com...just to clarify). Injured Quarterbacks IsraelvHezbollah

Here is a rundown of other events that have occured since the last time I posted anything.

- Ate at the restaurant where JFK proposed to Jackie. Martin's

- Observed six five-star generals drink seven rounds of Scotch at a Chinese Restaurant located in a strip mall of a Virginia suburb. True story. In fact, one of them was General Tommy Franks (see the pic above.) I thought it was funny and ironic since it was day five of the Israel v. Hezbollah crisis.

- Lost my sister on the metro. Don't worry, we found her.

- Drank with all sorts of people at USATODAY.com including top editors. That was a blasty.

- Almost died of heat stroke while playing tennis with no water.

- Wore the same clothes to work two days in a row. I took a shower though so that counts, right?

- Watched a lot of TV at work to gather and edit Emmy clips. Life is good.

I think that about wraps it up. I am off to go see a Washington Nationals game with some fellow interns. Hopefully nothing too crazy occurs, but then again it's my life and there certainly will be a good story that will come out of this evening. Before I bid this post a proper adieu I want all of you to read these lyrics from Pocohontas and remember them because they will undoubtly change your life forever.

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned?
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountains?
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

Peace.

Monday, July 10, 2006

2nd times the charm

Hello! I started my new internship today and it was awesome! I started designing right off the bat. I did two designs that will be published and then fooled around with a couple of others just to play around. I've learned so much and it's only been one day! My supervisor is really talented and showed me a lot with photoshop and he has so much more he wants to teach me. I want to absorb everything I can since I only have 4 weeks.

I've been told the stuff I've been working on is for a supplement. A supplement I will design entirely on my own. Including the front cover! I'm going to get so much out of this! Michael says I'll be an InDesign expert by the time I leave since I'll be using it everyday. I'm finally excited to go to work everyday!

Germany was fabulous this weekend. It is so beautiful and it was awesome to finally put my German to good use. I just wish I could have been there longer to use it even more! It was so great to hear them speak it and actually understand! There were a few hiccups in our travelling, but all in all it was great.

I'm talking to Mike right now. He says Australia is great. Sounds like everyone is having a fairly good summer. That's good to hear. Now if I could just get my butt in gear and post my photos...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

new internship

Hello all!

I have a new internship. I start Monday as a designer for Retail Week. I'm going to be doing everything I hoped I'd be doing while I was here. I'm so excited to jump in and get going. I only have 4 weeks left and I have 4 weeks of experience to make up for! No more telemarketing or ironing shirts! I can't wait!

I hope everyone is enjoying their internships! The 4th was a little boring here. We all missed home a lot. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the train bombings. A few people are a little nervous terrorists will attack again. I think we'll be fine, but you never know.

Anyways, I'm going to get going. I have to pack for Germany.

Later!

4th of July in the Nation's Capitol

Celebrating the 4th of July in D.C. is like a giant citywide party where people who are usually fighting with one another, i.e. Republicans and Democrats, can put aside their differences and drink beers together and light off fireworks. If you ever get the chance to celebrate the 4th in D.C., I recommend it. Here is a chronicle of my day, which was pretty crazy actually.
8 a.m.-10 a.m.-- Went for a nice little run around G-town where people were already starting to barbeque and kids were running around with American flags. I even ran by a parade which was kind of strange because I think some of the people thought I was in the parade and they started to cheer me on as I ran. I sort of gave them that half parade wave back like you see Homecoming Queen's give as they ride in a Mustang down the street. I felt special.
10:15 a.m.-- Took a shower. That's Hot!
11:00 a.m.-- Went to Best Buy and bought a keyboard. That's right I am going to relearn how to play the piano and since I can't pay for a piano (I have an unpaid internship people) I decided on getting a keyboard. Actually, I still remember how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb and O Christmas Tree, which I thought was pretty good since I haven't played since I was 12.
2:00 p.m.-- Headed down to the National Mall with one of my fellow interns where we were supposed to meet up with other interns until it started pouring --again. Apparently the apocalypse is going down because I've never seen this much rain in my life. I am so sick of rain that now I know how Noah felt.
2:25 or something like that-- Escaped the rain and found a bar that had the Germany vs. Italy match on. Drank a few beers and pop pop called it day once my team Italy, (I am half Italian which might explain my love for garlic cheese bread and The Godfather movies) came out victorious. I will be rooting for the Italians when they take on those dirty Frenchmen on Sunday.
5:00 p.m.-- Bought some Miller Lite at a local convenience store where some Arabic guy said “enjoy your 4th of July” and then winked at me. I thought that was sort of strange at the time.
6:00 p.m.-- Went to a fellow interns casa where we ate fajitas and ate cheeps and cheese dip. Yes, true Americans. Nothing says red, white and blue like Mexican food. OK, I’m from California where that would make more sense.
6:30 p.m.-- Took two Tequila shots
6:31 p.m.-- Felt like throwing up
6:35 p.m.-- Took another Tequila shot
6:38 p.m -- Sat down and stared at the television for the next hour
8:00 p.m.-- Went to the National Mall to watch the fireworks. Ran into people wearing George Bush masks who were trying to light themselves on fire. They were not successful.
9:00 p.m.-- Fireworks start. Best fireworks show I have ever seen. During the show there was a full orchestra playing famous American songs. It was also great because the tequila shots started to wear off.
9:45 p.m.-- Tried to find funnel cake. Was not successful.
10:30 p.m.-- Went to random intern party. Drank 4 Miller Lites on a roof that overlooked the city while lighting off sparklers. That was cool!
11:30 p.m.-- Took the metro home which was filled with drunk people, or passed out people. Felt like eating funnel cake once again. Couldn't find any.
12:00 a.m.-- ????

The next day at work was not very fun. I was hung-over all day which made it very difficult to create a timeline on Kenneth Lay's life. Did you know that Lay is a proud grad of Missouri? I am sure glad that MU has had such proud alumni as Lay and Sam Walton. Why don't we just give the CEO of Starbucks an honorary degree to complete the triefecta of corporate greed? Well until next time, enjoy life and don't let the man get you down. Peace.