A Love Supreme

It’s Tuesday, I think, and I’m sitting in the Oklahoma University Memorial Student Union, or at least in one part of it, anyway. The room that I’m in is the definition of the word “antechamber,” with large windows and a fireplace that my whole family could fit in. I don’t like how the word Memorial is in the building’s moniker. Although it’s honoring the lives of people who either died in wars for the country or wars for the state of Oklahoma, it imbues the building with a sense that students are sacrificed in a pit filled with jaguars or something equally as antiquated and barbaric. There’s marble everywhere, expensive furniture, lamps fashioned like lanterns, and bookshelves that make my pulse triple with envy. I like it.



I’m currently having some part of the college experience that I missed out on during my years at NYU, architecturally anyway. I’m broke. I’m living in a new city in a part of the country I had previously only reserved for fly-overs. My mother has basically disowned me via an email that sounded very much like a Dear John letter. I haven’t seen my best friend in nearly a year. Across from me, Simon is working on a new post for his blog. I sneak glances at him, blushing silently as he pokes at his bottom lip while editing. I try to read the writing on the screen reflected in his glasses. I’m helplessly in love with him, and I could conceivably say that the majority of the large decisions I’ve made in the past year and a half have been directed by the trajectory of the arrow that was shot through my heart once we got back in touch over email, after eight years of radio silence. That said, I don’t allow myself to trust that the relationship will last, and I like to think of myself as a bit of a womanizer-in-hibernation. Being ga-ga over someone isn’t easy for me. So when I received the email the other night from a thirty-four year old guy from New York, asking me for help writing an online dating profile, I was a little taken aback.

First of all, the unseen man donated money, as a show of good faith and lack of creepiness. Secondly, he wrote extremely well. From my point of view, I have no idea why he’d write to effed-up, bisexual me for dating support. Maybe he needed an encouraging stranger, but he didn’t need assistance in articulation. He had sent me a witty and concise email, that’s basically all you need for an online dating profile. Well, that and some rudimentary Photoshop skills.

“I was wondering, do people ever ask you for help writing dating profiles?” he wrote. “I’m having a hell of a time trying to strike the right tone while at the same time making it pithy and unique. I know that it has to be simultaneously edgy and widely accessible, grab someone with the first couple lines and move along quickly (like any short form writing assignment, I suppose). I would gladly pay for help. If not an outright rewrite, at least some pointers and recommendations on how to write “aggressively good prose.”’

The dude needed no help.

But I can only write so many posts about how difficult it is to find new work, and how I don’t understand Oklahomans’ affinity for chicken fried steak. Really, it was between reaching out and helping a stranger craft a few paragraphs on a new matchmaking-meets-wordsmithing endeavor, or writing about how, in one of my unpaid side projects, I was snobbishly snubbed for an interview by a porn star and sex activist.

My pride’s still a little wounded from that, so I’m glad to gush about how great it is to love someone, and how maybe, just maybe, my affinity for language can lead to some dude disrobing a female and falling into this messy minefield known as being in a relationship.

Online dating is the pits, but much like buying SUVs, reading The Secret, and taking pilates, everyone is doing it. One census study states that forty percent of single American adults have tried online dating. According to Wired, one in five singles looks for love on the Internet. With all of the sites out there looking to get you coupled up according to chemistry, “simple” profile tests, or your choice of kink, you’d think that writing a blurb about why strangers should fork over a Jackson for an order of jalapeño poppers and four margaritas would be easy by now. But, alas, no.

Some synopses are too elaborate, assailing the eyes with blocks of text that range from pretentious and opinionated essays about the latest Aronofsky flick, to impersonal CV-style career profiles. The hungry hyenas know this. People have become “online dating coaches” that offer you a leg up on trolling the ‘net for a pair of legs. There is money to be made in an industry that plays off of the insecure, the wounded, and the socially-awkward-but-busy. I know this because, after a four year relationship, the Internet seemed a safe place to look for single ladies. Well, that and Cattyshack in Brooklyn.


All of this said, I’m going to throw in my two cents. Take it or leave it, and take it from where it comes (a coupled-up, emotionally damaged, bisexual twenty-something who is also a recovering alcoholic) –

You should write about yourself the way you’d explain your favorite television show to a stranger on the subway. You only have a very brief amount of time to explain why they should watch it, what you like about it, and what makes you excited. Moreover, you have to blindly guess what interests them.

This idea is the cornerstone of our work, too. We don’t have all day (or all webpage) to tout the perfection that is the latest multimedia company, insurance agency, or ISP. The truth is, people don’t read all of the text in front of their eyes. They’re on the site already for a reason. In our case, it’s ‘cause they’re potential future clients. In Mr. Thirty-something Blue Eyes, it’s ‘cause the girl most likely saw his photo and wanted to see if there’s a reason to drop him a line.

Because that’s a universal truth to both online dating and advertising, it’s mainly a fickle, superficial process of elimination. Chances are, it was your photo that got you that last click-through. So you’d better make sure that your words increase the intrigue. I don’t need to tell you that if you don’t feel good about yourself, your bland profile isn’t what needs help. Fortunately for me, the guy who wrote has a lot to offer. Much like OU has a lot to offer when it comes to free Wi-Fi and football.

So what’s the next step in selling the latest must-have for women, otherwise known as that debonair and charming professional thirty-something gentleman who asked me for editing help? Stay tuned. I’ll let you know when I get the wedding invitation.

In a semi-related plea: if your company, or someone you know, is looking for any sort of text – from web copy to press releases, from corporate blogging to bios – please solicit samples from us. We’re looking for work.

Drop me a line at AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com, and thanks to all of you who donate. Happy New Year!

Oh, and if you like reading about online dating horror stories, check out this article.

Location, Location, Location

When we first arrived in Oklahoma, I excitedly took in my surroundings with the sort of vim and vigor rivaled only by terrier puppies. I researched local tattoo parlors. I wrote to Sooner design firms. I joyously yipped each time I saw a bar, pharmacy, or Church proudly use its signage to congratulate Sam Bradford on winning the Heisman. I was ready to call this flat stretch of dried brown grass home.

“Why don’t we change our Facebook and Twitter locations?” I asked Simon.

“Um, sure. Later,” he answered in the tone of meh.

When I used to live in New York I announced it with audible pride. I was from New York. I was a secretary in New York. I got drunk and tossed my cookies on the streets of New York. Even in this past week the answer to the question, “Where did you grow up?” was met with a kind of awe. There has always been reason to boast if you’re from the same turf as CBGBs, the Yankees, and Sinatra.

When I told people that I was living in Portland they judged me as being a white hipster who had tattoos and a bicycle, a college graduate with an affinity for thrift stores, vinyl, whining, and coffee. They were right. Where you’re originally from is rendered somewhat moot in comparison to where you currently reside. In a way, where you live represents who you are. Especially professionally.

There have been many who recently commented on the fact that we moved to Norman. Oklahoma is a red state. A football area. Okies are hard drinkin’, truck drivin’, gun totin’ kind of ‘mericans  who don’t ‘preciate city folk. Tattooed hipsters who enjoy books more than beer are supposed to get their asses kicked. That’s what most people (who are not from Norman) think anyway.

All of this is hilarious blog fodder and an interesting dinner conversation. But it doesn’t translate into something worthy of being announced in the annals of Ministry of Imagery‘s greatest assets.

Design is sleek, sophisticated, smart. It thinks, it arrives. At its best, it overachieves. Design is the foundation for all great ideas, for all successful advertising campaigns, for every Next Great Thing. To be a copywriter requires a certain amount of savvy. We scoff at the Comic Sans typeface. Animated avatars make us want to throw up. Simon is more likely to purchase something — anything, really — if it appeals to his aesthetic sensibilities, and he is the embodiment of what has become known as “the cult of Mac.” For our work we add words that match the visual and graphic expertise of exquisitely designed websites and products. We do not go cow chipping, we go word processing. Professional copywriters who work with elite design firms are from New York, San Francisco, or London. Not from Cleveland County, Oklahoma. It’s safe to say that right now we don’t quite fit in. Personally and financially the move East may  have been wise, but professionally it now seems a trifle counterintuitive.

Sometimes companies keep their area of operations a secret because they enjoy having an aura of mystery, or because they have a revolving roster of employees, or ’cause they’re outsourcing jobs to Bangalore, whatever. Just as with trying to keep your superhero identity a secret in order to continue to save Gotham, sometimes its best if the cyber-public didn’t know everything about the goings-on behind closed conference room doors. (For example, we don’t even have a conference room.) We don’t want to be judged as hicks. Not only ’cause we’re not hicks, but also ’cause hicks aren’t often regarded as the most articulate writers.

So if we announce that we’re here, while it may lead to more Twitter posts about hay bales and mime sex, it probably won’t lead to more nibbles from clients. After all, we don’t even know what sort of a client base we will have here, if any. This move was done for purely financial reasons, but it remains to be seen if we can cultivate any sort of following out here on the plain. For now, it’s probably best to just leave the location section on any social or professional networking sites blank. After all, we’ve never written copy for a tractor company, and we’d much rather people judge us on our portfolio rather than by where our desks rest.

Shout out your coordinates: AinsleyDrew at gmail dot calm. And thank you for donating! It helps to keep us on the map.

Give us directions, hire us.

Off The Road Again

Highlights of the move cross country included being stranded for 15 hours in the U-Haul while Highway 58 in California was shut down due to snow, eating one of the best plates of rice and beans I’ve ever had, doing Kegels as we passed the Grand Canyon, and learning that I could spend five days with Simon without interruption and not feel inclined to jump out of the truck and hitchhike my way to New York.

I also was exposed to a bunch of different jobs and individuals who otherwise would have remained a mystery if I’d remained in the hipster-filled puddles of Portland. Below are some toils observed in transit.



Commercial Truckers

One of the most obvious things that you notice when driving across country is that there are a lot of semi-trucks. The term “a lot” is a serious understatement here, it seems that nearly every other vehicle on the road is some form of mud-flap flipping, large blind-spot boasting, roar-of-the-road horn honking big rig. And a large percentage of these have drivers who wave and honk and are basically as friendly as a human being can be behind the wheel of a vehicle where you’re not a passenger.

Another thing that’s almost as copious as the wide loads themselves are the billboards that pepper the skyline. Throughout each state we traversed there were countless signs broadcasting every type of business, Church, or organization. Some, usually those for diners or buffets, were advertised as having a discount with a valid CDL, or commercial drivers license. If it means I can get an omelet and toast for less than three bucks, sign me up.

A CDL doesn’t require driving school, oddly enough. It’s simply a method of testing your knowledge of basic driving skills and truck know-how. Both written exams have to match the state that’s issuing the CDL, and the instructors who prep and test must have professional certification identical to the state instructors.

If commercial trucking is something that revs your engine, you can check out this article on preparing for your commercial truck driving license. Roadmaster Commercial Trucking School is also a good resource for all things rig related.

Waitressing

Anyone who has seen me eat a meal knows that I cannot waitress. Fortunately for the dining public, not every biped is as clumsy as myself. Three meals in particular leapt out as being exemplary while we wheeled our way to Oklahoma:

Penny’s Diner
Bettyjeane was our waitress, and she made our breakfast that much brighter. Penny’s is a quasi-1950s greasy spoon that serves the railroad workers in the neighborhood and those like us who were just passing through Yermo, California. I highly recommend their veggie omelet, and they have vanilla cola made with actual syrup. Good stuff.

Casa Blanca Café (located at 1201 E Second St Winslow, AZ 86047 (928) 289-4191)
Simon and I are big fans of Anthony Bourdain’s work, and we’ve learned from No Reservations that in order to get a good meal in a strange place, it’s best to ask the locals. The assistant manager of the Motel 6 we stayed in that night pointed us towards Casa Blanca, which lay at the end of a desolate stretch of road once referenced in an Eagles’ song. While the interior didn’t vary much from the standard Mexican places I used to frequent in Portland, the rice and beans, and the blue corn chimichangas, absolutely strayed from the average, entering into the transcendental. The woman who waited on us told relayed how Casa Blanca was her grandmother’s restaurant, and she’d been working there since she was eleven years old. Now a mother of a teenager herself, she and her daughter served us some history of the city while we ate some of the most incredible food of our lives.

I’m not a big fan of Denny’s, but after spending the night sleeping in the U-Haul (and peeing outside of it) a Grand Slam was more than enough to boost my mood. The woman who helped us get fed after a night subsisting on each others’ company and not much else deserves a medal of honor. She not only provided breakfast, but the number for California highway information. If you’d like to join the Denny’s ranks you can check their career opportunities page.

And if you need California highway information, you can check out the department of transportation website here.



Ranch Hands and Railroad Workers

On our journey we were lucky enough to encounter those who tend both to livestock and to laying down tracks. These men have long days, filled with the kind of labor that makes us city kids squirm. From laying ballast  to cattle branding, I could not handle a single hour in their shoes. Moreover, I can pretty much guarantee that they could kick some serious ass if pressed.

If you’d like to read about the technical elements required to become a ranch hand you could check out this article or this great career profile on being a cowgirl or cowboy.

You can also check out a site by railroad workers for railroad workers or their union site.

Kudos to cowboys and railway workers. Seriously.

Highway Patrol

Lastly, at eleven-thirty on Friday night we were stopped by a Texas state trooper who looked half our age. While I was terrified that he was going to arrest us if he found the bunch of bananas I’d accidentally left in the back of the U-Haul (smuggling fruit across state lines!) he instead just issued us a warning about the tags on the truck and sent us on our way wondering how we could get ourselves a Panasonic tough book and a nifty uniform like his.

Wanna become a Texas state trooper? I don’t think it’s easy.

Be safe traveling as you make your way to and from family and holiday happenings. I hear that Portland is completely shut-down with snow. I send you my sympathy, Pacific Northwesterners. Now I’m going to go and lasso me some tofu.

Feel free to swap cross-country tales, drop me a line at AinsleyDrew at gmail dot calm. And thank you to all who donate. It makes our holidays, you know, happy.

Hire us, we’re hungry for work!