How vicious barbecue withdrawals might kill me before I make it home…

Yeah, It’s gotten to that point now. I’m absolutely 100 percent ready to go back to the midwest.

There’s really no shame in saying it: I was homesick for a few weeks. It wasn’t a conventional homesickness, though, it was more of a constant, drawn out craving for the simple pleasures of Kansas. It took me a month to nail down two convenience stores that consistently sell Barq’s Root Beer (apparently Northeasterners don’t drink it?) and I haven’t seen a bottle of Sun Drop since leaving the terminal at KCI. When my favorite bands would release new CD’s, I always would load them immediately onto the iPod and take a drive with the windows down to listen to the whole album. When I got a hold of Sublime w/Rome, Incubus and 311’s new albums, I had to make do with a stroll from Greenwich Village up to midtown. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the same. I see the Facebook pictures every few days of all my friends with the ever familiar wooden-walls and bar banners of the Hawk. I hear all the stories of all my brothers getting rowdy at Summer Chapter. I miss that kind of stuff, but it’s not the incapacitating feeling that leads to quarantining myself with a 12-pack, sack of chips and redbox movies each night. Every time I get a moment to think, my mind’s on how good it’s going to feel to get back to being a kid again. I’ve had an amazing time working at the Huff Post all summer — and I’m not done, yet — but it’s time to go back to having little-to-no responsibility.

"Two Bearfights, please..."

Not to mention how hard I’m going to crush the entire Oklahoma Joe’s/Gates/Jack Stack/Bigg’s/Johnny’s/Danny Edward’s BBQ menu. Whichever I pass by first.

I'm about to shit myself in anticipation

I found out the other day that Saki and I no longer have the responsibility of writing those Patch-collaboration stories I always talked about anymore. I’m kind of relieved in a way, because lately there was a lot of confusion between us and them and things got harder to complete. Apparently he went to a meeting and they figured out a more efficient way, and for now, that way involves us not pitching any more stories to them. I’m happy about this as well, because juggling research for Saki, Patch stories and the story that I’m personally working on would have been really hard on this homestretch, not to mention all the packing I’m going to have to do. Saki’s gonna be out of the office for the next couple of days so I’m going to have some solid time to knock out the interviews for my story.

I’ve been somewhat vague on what, exactly, my story’s about. Initially, I was going to write a 500-worder on Go Skateboarding Day back in June. The powers-at-be decided against it, which left me sitting on about ten interviews that I’d gathered that day. Saki encouraged me to find a bigger story and write something over the course of the summer, so I did. I originally had planned to write it about the power struggle between police and skateboarders, but that story’s been so played out over the years and it wouldn’t really have a gripping angle. I started looking around and got in touch with a few sources within New York that are working to save legendary skate spots, and other professionals across the country are basically doing the same thing. I don’t want to give too many details out, given this mofo is open to the public, but it’s going to be along the lines of that. I know the chances of someone stealing the story idea of a 19-year-old intern are slim, but I also don’t really want to give everything away so you have something to read. I’m waiting to hear back from Tony Hawk and Rob Dyrdek’s publicists, so I’ll hopefully be speaking with them for the story as well (both of which will take the cake of being my biggest interviews yet).

That’s pretty much all I’ve got for you tonight. If you tivo-ed the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday, check a few minutes before extra time resumes and pause it when Times Square comes up. I’m on the right side of the screen in the blue shirt and white hat. I saw Taking Back Sunday that night too, and it easily was the best show I’ve ever been to. Usually you see a concert and leave without hearing a few songs that you’d have liked to hear. Their set was an exact 16-song list of every song I would have personally requested to hear. It doesn’t get any better than that.

You’ll hear more as the skateboarding foundations story progresses. That’ll be my last story of the summer, and I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot more engaging and entertaining than my previous stories on school boards and disability legislature…

All the best
AJ

A Brief Narrative on the Perils of Sleeping in a 92 Degree Room…

Just kidding…I’m not going to write you a brief narrative; I just thought that was a pretty bitchin’ title. Long story short: it seriously blows. I wake up in a pool of sweat every morning and I have to shower about three times a day just to keep my skin from developing enough oil to run a small car. It’s miserable, but we’ll leave it at that. When I go to work each day, my job is to write (though it’s been mainly researching as of late), so I don’t necessary feel like putting in an hour of effort to make a cool column-esque account of how sweaty my ass gets in the night. So, no narrative.

So I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I’m a lot more tired than I usually am (which translates to: ridiculously tired) for some reason and I’m not even working grueling hours like my first two weeks here. I sort of got into a different routine over the past week; one that consisted of going to work, getting dinner, napping, going to the gym and watching Parks and Recreation (or a slew of other Netflix-streaming shows) and going to bed. Initially, I’d fit in the “update-your-blog-so-Grandma-doesn’t-think-you’re-dead” in the slot that Netflix now occupies, but I made it a point to get back on the horse. I’ve been here for over a month now and as of a week ago, I can fully say that I’ve completely adjusted and acclimated to NYC. Though I’m just an intern, my neck hairs still perk up a bit every now and then when I remember that I’m only 19 and I’m here doing what I’ve wanted to do since I was 12.

That being said, I’m getting close to the point where I’m ready to head back west. I’m not really homesick, per se, but I miss having no responsibility at all. I’m a 19-year-old fratboy that — all spring semester — subconsciously daydreamed of a summer consisting solely of being poolside by day and inebriated by night. I’m very aware that a massive handful of people would switch places with me in a heartbeat, but it’s become increasingly obvious to me that I’m still a kid.  The fact that I have a farmer’s tan during July bothers the shit out of me. After wearing dress clothes all day, I could probably well up in awe at the sheer comfort of a t-shirt and shorts — regular summer attire for a kid my age.  I was talking to my mom about all of this last night and told her “there’s no way in hell I could do a full-time job like this year-round, yet. I wouldn’t be able to take it.” I really shouldn’t be able to, though; I can’t even legally drink a beer yet.

Saw the Red Bulls/DC United game Saturday...was pretty awesome.

So onto work:

As I mentioned earlier, the hours haven’t been as strenuous over the past week, but the work has been. I haven’t been published in a while (will change by the end of this week) because I’ve been working with Saki on “the secret story” — that’s what I’m going to call it from now on because I feel like I’m overclarifying its confidentiality each post…If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my previous stuff and familiarize yourself. Since we essentially opened up Pandora’s Box with this mofo, it’s been a constant stream of google-ing shit and making phone calls to tee everything up. The problem is once we talk to someone new, we get an entirely new angle for the story. I told Saki today that I’m really freaking glad that I’m not the one who has to write this thing (It’s going to be a 10,000 word piece and we’re not even ready to talk to our “dangerous” sources. This thing’s gonna press in August at the earliest) because he’s going to have to put the reader in some vantage point where they can easily analyze about 15 different narratives. That’s going to be rough, but it’s gonna be a lot of research pretty much until the day I leave.

Tim took us off Patch.com-collaboration-duty for the past week because we were working on the secret story, but as of today, we’re back at it. With my past few stories, Saki would gut the draft and walk me through its revision, which has helped a lot in clearing up my writing. Hopefully I’ve adapted enough to his approved style to the point where I’ll be able to take on some of these incoming Patch stories essentially by myself. When that happens, that means I get the big bylines 🙂 Hopefully if I get another one, I’ll be able to get a mugshot on there. I’ve become friends with one of the photographers, Damon, who’s working with me to film and shoot my story on solutions to the power-struggle between skateboarders and cops. Hopefully he’ll be able to get that mugshot taken care of for me.

I’ve got a long couple days ahead of me though, so once again, don’t expect this thing to be getting updated each night. This weekend should be a fun one, Damon and I might be going to Jersey City on Saturday to grab some footage/interviews for the skateboarding story and I’m planning on heading up to Long Island on Sunday to see Taking Back Sunday play in their hometown record store. Apparently I have to get there around 8 AM, but I haven’t seen a concert all summer so it’ll be worth it. Depending on how much I rake in on this Friday’s paycheck, I’ll probably be seeing them at the Best Buy Theater Sunday night. It sold out pretty fast and the cheapest tickets I’ve seen are around $70, but like I said: I haven’t seen a concert here yet and summer is all about concerts.

I can’t think of anything else to fill you in on. Shout out to all my Sigma Nu brothers who are going to be getting rowdy Thursday night for Summer Chapter. I’m really bummed out that I’m going to miss it. Crush brews for me, bros (and if anybody bumps me out of a room during the room draft, I’m going to fight them on move-in day)!

Classic picture from the early days of pledgeship. Miss all you sons of bitches...

All the best
AJ

P.S. I was late on the pictures for the last post. They’re up now.

Probably the most ass-backwards payment process I’ve ever encountered

Whew. I MIGHT be getting paid tomorrow…

So this really wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just seems like everything that could have possibly gone wrong — wait for it — went horribly wrong. I went in early on Tuesday to get things figured out…they got figured out…and then I realized they were sending my check to my house in KC. No bueno. I try calling them up to get them to re-route it, but they’re closed for the day. I finally get in touch with them today and they agree to send the check to my building here. There’s still another problem though — there are no USBanks in New York. Shit. So what do I have to do? Sit in Bank of America for two freaking hours to set up a new account. After all this BS, that check better be sitting pretty in my mailbox come lunch break. If not, I can’t make any promises for what I won’t do.

Sorry.

Fourth of July was pretty sweet. We woke up around 8 to head over to Maclean’s friend Ginny’s apartment in the Lower East Side. Building was very cool, and her apartment was on the top floor with two terraces; one overlooking downtown and the Brooklyn Bridge (the one where my Facebook picture is taken) and the other looking at the Empire State Building.

We start drinking because we’re supposed to be at Coney Island by 11 for the Hot Dog Eating Contest. Maclean and I both bought twelve packs but couldn’t finish them in this short time frame, so we threw the remaining beers into plastic bags and took them on the subway. We pass over the Brooklyn Bridge and boy, do I have to pee. We have about 22 stops left and it gets to the point where I can’t even talk to anyone because I’m afraid I’m going to let loose all over the Subway. We make it to about four stops away and I make the executive decision that me and my kidneys need to get off that train. Maclean comes with and we’re in a pretty dodgy part of Brooklyn and we’re both fratting moderately hard. I waddle down the stairs of the platform into a sandwich shop and a pharmacy looking for a bathroom but no one can help. I then figure out that the majority of these stores don’t have bathrooms, so I’ve gotta solve this problem. I find a strip of houses and scope out a sketchy alleyway that is pretty out-of-view. I make my way over there and pee fast enough to break the speed of sound –I had to, I can’t just leisurely urinate in the alleyway of some Brooklyn duplex — and we get back on the train to make it in time for the Hot Dog Eating Contest. Not going to lie, that thing is a lot more fun to watch on TV. It’s hot, crammed with people, and you can’t see a damn thing. Really anti-climactic, but hey, another cool thing to add to my belt.

We head back to the apartment and continue to drink, but at a steady pace. Ginny’s sister comes over and brings some of her work friends, and I quickly become the token 19-year-old at the party. It wasn’t too big of a problem though because everyone was really

All we could see 😦

nice. My buzz had kind of worn off at this point, and food had just been served, meaning I was bound to get tired. Couple those with the fact that I had only gotten a few hours of sleep that night and my prescription Vyvanse (stimulant) had just worn off. I started nodding off in the chair and decided that I needed to go home and sleep (I had work in the morning, too). I head back and go straight to bed.

The next thing I know, my door busts open at 3 am and three large security guards come in screaming my name. I shoot up (half-naked) and ask what’s going on when they tell me that they didn’t know if I was alive or not. Considering I wasn’t too drunk when I passed the reception desk, I had no idea why they would even be suspicious of that. Apparently, though, my mom had gotten worried because I had stopped tweeting (sure-fire way of knowing how drunk your kid is) and they had been calling my phone non-stop since about 8 o’clock (about when I went to bed). I’m an extremely heavy sleeper — only three of my fraternity brothers were consistently successful in waking me up throughout the entire year — and I hadn’t heard the security guards banging on the door to see if I was in there, so they logically busted in. I’m so dazed and confused and partially hungover at this point, so I call my mom to tell her that I’m fine and go back to bed still kind of freaked out. I am bummed that I missed the fireworks, but we were in the Lower East Side anyway, so we wouldn’t have been able to see them too well in the first place.

So I didn’t get a byline on Monday’s story (I don’t think it was intentional, we rushed to file it on Friday and Saki has to notify the newsdesk to put me on it, and it probably just slipped his mind). It was a good one though, I’m pretty happy with it. He’s out of town doing an interview for our big story so I’ll probably be pretty busy once he comes back and we start chasing people down and writing it. Meanwhile, I’ve got a few that I’m trying to write, so I’m probably going to get real busy in the next few days with those. Oh well though, it’s the home stretch.

I’m tired, I’m going to bed. I would give you some sort of creative, cute conclusion, but I just need sleep (and the faster I go to bed, the faster I get my paycheck).

All the best
AJ

If goosebumps were dollars…

Howdy.

So I said no weekend posts, but I don’t really have too much to do this time because my direct deposit never went through. It’s the fourth of July weekend, so there’s no one in the HR department at work and the bank is closed. I’m pretty much SOL. Thankfully, I let my mom know about this on Friday when it suspiciously didn’t show up, so she had time to lend me a quick hundred bucks that I promised I’d pay back once we get this thing figured out. It’ll get me through the weekend for sure, but I’ve gotta sacrifice going out pretty much until Monday. Drinks are so god damn expensive here I can pretty much only afford one day, and of course, that’s going to be the fourth. I was planning on having a cold $800 (give or take) on my card, so it was going to get pretty rowdy. Unfortunately, that won’t happen. Maybe that’s good though, I’m sure I’m going to find it easier to hold onto cash when it isn’t a big party weekend.

I worked my balls off this week (46 hours). I’ve got friends that claim to log 50 hour weeks doing landscaping or moving or whatever, but I feel that my job can hold a candle to those. Sure, I’m inside and I get to enjoy the luxury of air conditioning, free vending machines and cold beer starting at 3 on Fridays. However, it’s not all daisies and daffodils; being a journalist is hard. I never walk out sweating or sore, but my mind does for sure. I feel like I make it a bit harder for myself, too, because I’m so young and I have this ridiculously huge opportunity at such a big publication. I’ve made friends with reporters that have worked for places like the New York Times and Vibe magazine, which means I have to be hauling ass at ALL times so I leave these people with a good impressions. I pretty much almost shit myself when I heard that I’d gotten an internship at Huffington because I’m so young. If I continue to work harder than every single intern in the office (which, not being cocky, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing) I might be able to come back next summer. If not, I’d have a handful of people who I’ve worked with that could hopefully tell their old editors at other publications about me. HuffPo is an absolutely massive publication (Arianna, my boss, sold it for $315 million to AOL) and that’s a crazy name to have on my resume, and as long as I impress my editor and Saki, I’d win the trust of other publications. This job isn’t just re-filling coffee pots and shining shoes; I’ve got to outwork every single person there to make sure this isn’t just a one-time deal.

So that’s basically why I haven’t been as consistent in updating my blog in the past week. I can’t promise I’m going to get better at it though, because things are going to pick up starting Tuesday.

My job, technically, is to help Saki with whatever he wants. I mentioned that I’m helping him with a severely sketchy story recently…sketchy in the sense of I was willing to do the days of research and withhold my byline just because I didn’t want to get thrown in the line of fire. There’s been a dramatic turn of events behind the scenes of this story — a very exciting change of events. I spent about three days chasing down sources and gathering research (which, after you read the story, you’ll realize the details are VERY difficult to understand) until we finally found our golden ticket. To be honest, I didn’t think we were going to find a source like we did, but we did. These people are insanely hard to get in touch with (not even kidding, I’m sure I could have found Jesus Christ’s cell phone number and bank statements easier) but I made a lucky phone call and the man directed me to the right guy; a guy who personally knows EVERYONE we want. I’m still a padawan though, so Saki’s going to take the reins from here and I’m going to help when needed and watch the process. After this all happened, we went to some Swedish or German (I don’t know, but it was pretty fucking European) dive bar for a beer after work. He explained the direction he wants to take with our angle now, and I’m so excited. I couldn’t have been assigned to a better reporter, either. I have never savvied myself as a newspaper reporter because I feel like I’ve always excelled in telling very in-depth and thought-provoking feature stories, profiles or “think-pieces” (I’ve made an Almost Famous reference in like 20 posts so far, why stop now?). This is EXACTLY the kind of story I want to be involved with; an 8,000 word hair-raising, white-knuckle, pen-still-writing-as-bullets-whiz-by story.

The initial reason that I was so scared of having my name on this piece was because I knew that we were surely going to get a few things wrong (because we couldn’t talk to anyone involved), and you do NOT want to piss these people off. We’re going to have concrete facts straight from the horse’s mouth — and even if we don’t talk to some of them — we’ll still be able to say we tried and they won’t be able to justifiably get pissed. Plus, I’ve given so much time and effort to this thing, I feel like I’d be shooting myself in the foot if I pussed out and pulled my name. I just don’t think I was actually ready (even though I always said I was) to be looking down the barrel of the investigative journalism gun. I’d be a god damn moron if I backed out of this one, because this is what it’s all about.

Disclaimer: I’m still very sorry that I can’t tell you what this story’s about, why it’s dangerous, what our new angle is, etc. I hope you understand, but I do want to make something clear before it comes out. I’m very good at hyping things up just as I’m doing for this. There will be very few of you (probably just my Dad because he’s the only person I know that will understand all of the details of the story) that will legitimately find this story hair-raisingly compelling. It’s going to be long as hell, but I hope that my thoughts leading up to its conception will help you understand it better. My goal is to build this thing up for everyone so those who don’t care about the topic (I can’t even say exactly that I would read this thing if I hadn’t helped write it) will know what went on behind-the-scenes. Hopefully that makes it a bit more interesting, because frankly, this whole topic is so gripping to me because I’m personally knowledgeable about its danger. Saki and I are tackling this thing with a very specific game plan: “take a story that has been very widely covered, but without much depth or even quotes, and make it relatable to the average person.” Hopefully it will do that for you, and I can’t wait to tell the whole story after it gets published and we don’t have to be secretive anymore.

Felt like I owed you an explanation. But that’s enough about work.

"Hey, you in the black and white blouse...lighten up, will ya?"

I went to Times Square today (because I had nothing to do; they closed the gym for the whole weekend, which is bullshit). What a tourist trap…never again. I saw this guy too…I can’t decide whether to be mad at him or not:

You're wearing that on 4th of July weekend? Come on, vato.

Chicharito (The first Mexican ever to play for my father and I’s beloved club, Manchester United) is my new favorite player in the world, for sure. He has such a good attitude and smooth technique, but he plays for the Mexican National Team. I’m half-mexican, don’t get me wrong — and that’s why my dad and I love this guy — but I don’t like El Tri unless it’s the World Cup and the U.S. has already been eliminated (or we’re in another group). Mexico just shat all over the US a week ago, so I’m still bitter about it. But, it’s Chicharito…I don’t know. I’m just going to forget about it.

I really, really miss the midwest this weekend though. Every time I see one of those douche-y eurotrash hipsters wearing a deep V-neck and cut-off jean shorts (with the bottoms rolled up above the knee) I wish I was back at home lighting off a whole bunch of dangerous shit and sipping cold ones with the friends and family. I’m no country music connoisseur, but growing up in the BV area acclimated me to the beauty of it. I’ve been listening to it a lot lately, considering it’s America’s birthday. It reminds me of home, too, because they don’t like that stuff here.

Here’s a solid one for ya. Even if you don’t like country, I have a feeling you’ll dig this song (as I do).

Speaking of fireworks, look on the Huffington Post frontpage on the Fourth of July. I’m going to get my first frontpage story ever (I only got one in high school…I don’t count it…). Look for “Booming Business” and click on it. That’s it.

 

All the best
AJ