Travis Smith: my resume, bio and photos back to the main blog page

One year in one journal entry: Even in a boring year, it’s an impossible task—in 2003, so inconceivable it’s laughable.

However, sometimes even when success is impossible, you learn from trying. I learned this by reading Bill Bryson’s newest, “A Short History of Everything”.*

I think I’ve grown a little this year.  That’s a good thing.  I’m 31 now; it had to start some time.  This point was driven home to me when I went out to a concert for the band “They Might Be Giants” with Susie’s younger brother and some of his friends, and found myself thinking, I haven’t had fun like this in years, and then realized that other than me, everyone in the car was 24 years old.  An evening that starts with Colt .45 from 7-Eleven and ends with a large, greasy plate of cheesy fries in a pool hall straight out of an Elmore Leonard novel is exactly the way to end a year, let me tell you.

But starting at the ending will lead nowhere.  So let me go back and start my story of the year that was, from the beginning.

In January, Susie and I went to Arizona, where close family friends have a condo located virtually in the parking lot of a major mall.  We played Boggle, saw a lot of movies, marveled at the dryness of Phoenix (Scottsdale, really).  It was my first time ever in Arizona, except for speeding tickets I’ve gotten in the very northwest corner where an interstate nicks the tip of the state.  The rest of January was busy with various movie industry events; it’s the month that the Academy Award race really is at its busiest. We also looked after two cats of our friend Zipporah.  Four cats is too much for this house.  It’s good to learn that the easy way (with guest cats).  Variety.com was been named the Best Premium B2B site in Min’s “Best of the Web” Award competition today. That’s a pretty big deal, and I got the plaque hung on the wall in the Web department.

In February, we attended our first wedding of the year, for Toni Sciacqua and Todd Bailey.  It was a busy year for weddings.  Susie was already wading into her semester at USC. She was teaching a course, and taking two others.  I had somehow thought that, by quitting her job at USC, this would mean Susie wouldn’t have to go there five days a week, but I was very mistaken.  I flew to Canada (Calgary) and saw my sister Virginia, Ashley, Stone, Grady, Cody and Clint. It was a fun trip, and only slightly chilly.  When I got back, I wanted to show Susie the snow that I’d just played in (at the last minute, I realized that snowballs wouldn’t last in my carry-on, damn it!) so we drove up to the mountains above Pasadena with Jae and Karin. We found a patch of snow and pretended we were hardy Arctic explorers.  Then we drove back down and went in the hot tub.

In March, my tall high school friend Mike (the one who plays guitar and has the best wife, Julie) drove down on his motorbike from points North, and his aunt Cathy had her annual birthday party / annual reunion in Palm Springs.  Susie and I went out there to participate as honorary Lathrop family members (I think they let us because we bring snacks.)  The next morning, we went for pancakes at a local hopping flapjack breakfast place; we were the youngest in the restaurant by about 45 years. It’s always good to see Mike; he’s the same as when we were in high school except now he can grow a moustache while I still can’t.

In April, a tree we own fell apart.  We had a great big coral tree in the back yard, and my sister was sitting out on the back porch with her not-boyfriend when suddenly the tree started to rustle and creak.  The air was very wet; it had been misting, but not really raining, all day.  The tree’s leaves were superheavy with water, and the one of the tree’s trunks gave away.  It fell over and luckily didn’t hit the house or the pool or the neighbor’s garage, missing everything and falling in a heap blocking the back steps.  When she called and told me about it, I thought she’d broken it (“Really, Trav, I was just sitting there watching it when it fell over!”) but when I got home and actually saw the wreckage, well, it was pretty amazing that no one was hurt and there’s no way you can just break a tree like that.  Her “rocket scientist” friend tried hanging from the other trunks to see if they’d also fall over; they didn’t. Later that month, I went to several conferences in New York over a weekend; my best man George, the smartest and oddest and funniest of my friends, came and met up with me, and we painted the town red in a dorky, “Let’s go see the U.N. building now” kind of way.  We also saw the “X-Men 2” movie and the band “The Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players” live.  It was a cultural whirlwind of a weekend. Also in April, was Variety’s annual editorial retreat.  It doesn’t really bear discussing. Neither does Susie and my trip to Calgary, this time as part of a “family meeting” where all four Smith kids and Susie got together to be upset with each other and Mom; Mom was trying to counteract some of the confusion that my Dad was spreading among us as part of her and his divorce, but the meeting of all of us was painful and didn’t change anyone’s feelings at that time.

In May, another wedding.  This time, it’s two friends who are lesbians, Jewish Debbie and gentile Tracy. This was a first for me in several ways: I was in the wedding party, on the bride’s side. Susie was in the wedding party as well. Both women are excellent dancers, as are many of their friends.  The reception really swung!  Variety was named a finalist in another award, the ASBPE ones this time. Yeah! Lance (who is now working on the Mars Rover Web site) and Susie and I went to Magic Mountain as part of the NASA special discount night; lots of happy geeks that night, though some with looks of nausea on their faces.  Susie has an aunt whom we visited in Needles, CA (on the border of AZ and NV).  They’re about 5 minutes from another time zone and two other towns, so all the movie listings in the paper make sure to mention what time zone the movie is in. That’s fairly bizarre, as is all of nearby Laughlin, Nevada.  Susie’s uncle has a huge and wonderful cactus garden, and we smuggled a bunch of broken-off botanicals back into California and are now growing them in our front yard.  We’ve finally found a plant that is able to survive our laisse-faire gardening style.  Well, that and rosemary, I suppose—there’s a huge, huge rosemary bush beside our front steps.  We could eat rosemary in our cereal and sandwiches for a year and still have some left over.  Susie didn’t go to her 10-year high school reunion in 2001; she’s still “too cool for school”.  But her other close friends got together in Scottsdale, AZ, in May, so I found myself for the third time in a year (also in my life) in Arizona.  Freaky.  This time, the temperature was about 105 F, and I began to understand the expression “hot enough to fry an egg on the steering wheel”.

In June, a trip to Paris.  What can I say about this? It was EXCELLENT, and we got there just before the heat wave, though it was still plenty hot. I still haven’t yet added captions to the photo album, but the pictures themselves are stupendous.  I spent a lot of time eating crepes and other amazing food, and Susie enjoyed all the public art; she knows a heck of a lot about it at this point. Our Europe-wandering friends Robin and Amy came and stayed with us in the apartment we’d rented; we also met up with our good friend Dorothy who you’ll be hearing about in a few months.  Susie hadn’t been back to Paris since we moved from there to L.A., and I was amazed by how much our old neighborhood had changed. Real estate prices had gone up tremendously in that area, and there was a real feeling of prosperity that wasn’t there when we lived in an artist’s loft there in 1998-99.  June was also the month I got moved out of my office at work and back into a cubicle.  Ah, to have flown so close to the sun and paid the price. Sigh.  At the end of June, another wedding, this one on a small island off the coast near Vancouver.  My friend from high school, Martin Spedding, and his exceptionally energetic fiancee, Tracy, did the deed. The trip to the island was long and difficult—it involved several ferries with huge, multi-hour waits because it was a long weekend.  We were evidently not the only people in Vancouver who wanted to go spend a nice weekend in the islands.  But once there, it was quiet, warm, and filled with good people, and it’s so nice to have a wedding where people spend time with each other.  My youngest sister Virginia, who had been going to school in Santa Barbara and driving to see me every week or two when she needed laundry done, drove back up to Montana to spend the summer with Dad.  She worked in the bar there and the store and finally at a fire camp where she met lots of cute guys and served huge quantities of food to them as they fought this summer’s fires.  She’s now in Portland, working in a Claire’s store in a mall. (Claire’s sells sparkly things and T-shirts and pencil cases and you can get your ears pierced there.)

July was quiet. It was around this time that my sister Staci moved out; she’d been living with us since October.  She’s now living in Santa Monica, but we don’t speak now (hopefully that will change in 2004).  Why no speaking?  Well, the simple answer is that my parents are getting divorced slo-o-o-o-wly, and pai-i-i-i-nfully, and that she’s a Dad supporter while I’m a Mom supporter.  But that’s a bit of a stock answer, because really, the causes are deeper.  She seems to be waiting for some sign to appear and show her what to do with her life—right now, she’s working at The Gap and has been for several years; and when Susie and I offered to let her stay here, it was with the objective of giving her somewhere where she could be while she explored some possibilities and set out on her next step in life.  When she didn’t seem ready or willing to step anywhere, or to treat us with respect, it caused a lot of tension in the house, and eventually we asked her to leave.  Long story short, July was a good chance for Susie and I just to enjoy the quiet, hang around home, go to the farmer’s market on the weekends, things like that. At work, I started writing a column for Variety.com called “A Wide Net.” It’s about Web sites that entertainment executives should know about.  I understand quite a few people read it.

August. We inaugurated The Smiths’ annual Swiss National Holiday party.  Basically, we didn’t get organized in time for a July 4th BBQ, so we held an August party and needed an excuse.  It went very well; everyone liked the chocolate and cheese plates.  Surprisingly, I had lots of work-related activities this month.  The annual Variety BBQ.  Softball games with the team from work. (Mostly sales folks, I guess editors aren’t so good at sports?)  A day-long power outage in my neighborhood when a phone company guy climbed the pole in my back yard and knocked down something he shouldn’t have. It landed in the pool.  Unrelated, after a year of delaying, we finally paid to have part of our roof replaced; hopefully it was the leaky part.  One nice thing about California—we won’t know if it was properly patched for months.  In August, I found out I have high cholesterol, which is, get this, apparently some sort of bad thing.  I told my doc I’d stop eating a bag of salami for lunch each day, and he seemed to think that would help. You see, there’s good cholesterol, and bad cholesterol.  My “good cholesterol” numbers were fine—I have enough of it, not but too much.  But apparently my bad cholesterol is really bad, it’s all death-row, killed-a-nun-with-a-spotted-owl cholesterol. So since August, I’ve been walking a lot, eating less bacon.  As you know, this is a Big Deal for me. And I’ve dropped some weight (and gained other weight), and I’m doing better. And of course, at the end of the month, the Great Birthday Race.  My friend Mike turned 30, and to celebrate, he had an elaborate, fabulous, frenzied race through L.A. with multiple teams, clues, envelopes, and at the end, a guest appearance at the bar by Phil Keoghan, the host of television’s Amazing Race show.  Did I mention that Mike is the television editor of Variety?  Stupendous.  Much fun.

Back to school in September.  Both Susie and I taught this fall.  She taught two online media courses this time, I taught a new course (for me) called Online Writing.  It involved eight weeks of teaching Web searching, writing for email, roundup reports, headlines and short Web news, etc. It also involved me teaching six weeks of pure grammar.  Wow, was that something I hadn’t studied in ages.  But it was fun, for me and maybe even for a few of my sharper students, and it really helped them write better; I could see the improvement.  Around this time, I started updating my online blog more.  I had let it sit stale a while; but between September and the end of the year, it really took off.  Susie was not only teaching, but also taking classes; she was also working on the first of her two books.  That’s right, books: she’s an author now.  The first book, “Dreamweaver MX 2004 for Dummies,” got released in November (below), but she was working her head off all of this month. She’s co-author, really, but that’s great, and I even got mentioned on the thank you page. It’s worth buying a copy just to see that.  You can find Susie now at Amazon.  That blows my mind.  As I mentioned above, Virginia moved to Portland, in with my other sister Nicole, who is going to restaurant management school.  In September, I also attached an antique telegraph device to the front of our house as a doorbell.  It has red wires sticking out the top of it, and every delivery person so far has said that they’ve never seen anything like it.  NASA Lance says that touching both posts didn’t electrocute him, but I still won’t try it.

October.  I woke up one day, and I was a whole year older. Not much else happened.

Then November. Used to be the ninth month of the year, but then Julius Caesar messed with things and “Nov-ember” got pushed back to make room for “Juli”. It’s good to be the boss, eh? In November, I went to Chicago for the annual Online News Association conference.  Met a lot of colleagues that I normally only see online.  Stood up to ask a question of a panel of very top news executives about whether Google was a friend or a foe; they seemed to think Google’s great, but I think long-term, Google’s going to step on big publishers—or at least provide the means for small publishers to do so.  While there, I went to the Chicago art gallery and loved it; took some nice photos.  Also in November, our friend Dorothy got her book own published.  Susie did the Web site for “Apprentice to the Dawn.” It’s a little more spiritual than my usual tastes—I more ofter read books like “Dreamweaver MX 2004 for Dummies”—have I mentioned what a good book that is? Why not pick up a copy of it today?  This marks the first full year of Susie’s business.  Her list of clients is very diverse, and she’s so much happier being her own boss.  It’s been a good year for her. I think November was when we had a strip of grass added to the middle of our driveway.  A neighbor had rented a jackhammer for some work on their driveway, and we though, what the heck.  It looks fairly nice now, and will look even better in the spring when the grass starts looking green again (our house, for some reason, has a brown lawn in the winter, while all our neighbors have lovely lawns.  I can’t suss it.)

Finally, December.  Days got shorter, things at Variety started getting really busy again.  The electrician came out and installed some new plugs and circuits, so I finally feel OK about how many electronic items we have simultaneously in use in our office. I call it “the server room” but it stared life as an extra bedroom.  I got called to jury duty for the first time in my life, but never made it out of the waiting room.  I spent the whole day with my laptop catching up on old email.  sigh.  Aimee and Lukaska, our two cats, sensed that we were going to leave for Christmas and started acting extra cute and annoying.  It made it so hard to leave them alone for two weeks (though the neighbor kids did a great job of taking care of them).  We went out East to Susie’s parents, had a great time hanging out with them.  We travelled a short ways to Williamsburg, Virginia.  The town has a restored central core where guides re-enact the daily routine of 1770s USA.  It’s a fun and educational place to visit; we were there two days.  We also separately visited the International Spy Museum.  I can’t tell you where it is: you don’t need to know.  Generally, we just ate and ate and laughed and relaxed and entertained ourselves with every form of media imaginable.  We saw Susie’s old friends Connie and Mel from high school.  They’re a riot.  I ordered a large beer while we were out with them, and the large is apparently “birdbath” size—I felt like a lush!  This month is when I read “A Short History of Everything.” 


*gasp* *gasp*


So, as we start 2004, what’s planned?  Oh, all sorts of things.  It’s going to be a busy year, that’s for sure.  I can’t tell you everything, or you won’t need to read my future emails, but here are some highlights.

Technically in January, we went up to Calgary and hung out with my mom.  Opened some presents—yeah!  Went to my friend Ashley’s wedding to long-time suitor Turner.  It was a fine ceremony with a vicar from England.  Everyone should get married with one of those.  The temperature got colder and colder during our visit, hitting -33C at one point.  That’s C.O.L.D. with a capital C.

Susie is in the process of creating a montrous web site that lists and reviews every book she’s read (starting this year and going back).  This seems like a good point to share that with you, though it’s not done yet. In the manner of Web sites, it’ll probably never be done, but it’s not even formally launched yet.  It’s at “UnfavorablePink.com”.


Susie’s still working on her masters of Public Art.  She’s also always looking for new clients.  If you know anyone that needs a Web site, a BETTER Web site, if they want to add an email newsletter, or if they just want training or help with any sort of online project, please let me know.  Susie has been doing work for people all over the world; distance and price are no object. 😊

If you need to hire us, call her at 626 794 9998 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

You can even test that right now—pick up the phone, go ahead, do it… 😊


I’m writing a lot.  I have my Web site / email newsletter.  It’s like this, but shorter. 😊 If you’re not signed up for it, just reply and ask me to add you to the list, or visit it to see if you’d be interested:

It’s funny or thoughtful (never both!), and it gets sent about once a week.

And last but not least, I’m doing research for a book.  I can’t say too much about it, but for it to be successful, I need to talk to people who are at a moment of great change in their life.  I need your help for this to work.  If you know someone who has just gotten engaged; someone who has just quit smoking; someone who has just gone back to school; someone who just decided to move across the country; someone who just fled a long-term relationship; or someone who made any other significant change in their life, please let me know.  This is something I’ll be doing research on for quite some time, so keep me in mind, and when a co-worker, friend or family member makes a sudden change, think of me and let me know immediately.  Ideally, I would be talking to people I’ve never met before, and out of this, a book will form.

OK, that’s it for this year.  May 2004 be twice as good for you as 2003, and half as good as 2005. Onwards!

TTFN
Travis Nep Smith
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


* I’ve decided to make up my own rules of punctuation. I hate how you are supposed to put periods and comma inside of quotes and titles.  It make no sense.  So, except where I have to, I’m going to start using more logical punctuation. To me. Logical.

Overheard

“The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.”

...who said it?

“Almost every American I know does trade large portions of his life for entertainment, hour by weeknight hour, binge by Saturday binge, Facebook check by Facebook check. I’m one of them. In the course of writing this I’ve watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards and who knows how many more West Wing episodes, and I’ve spent any number of blurred hours falling down internet rabbit holes. All instead of reading, or writing, or working, or spending real time with people I love.”

...who said it?

“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

...who said it?

“I play with variables constantly.”

...who said it?

“Only the person who has learned Continual Love coming from a heart of Gratitude/Worship can effectively deal with the problem of loneliness.”

...who said it?

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