Introducing the New World Headquarters for Poe Communications

After a very trying five weeks full of dust, construction and contractor butt cracks, I am back in my office (sort of) and y’all….it is gorgeous. Poe Communications aka Poe Industries Building/Construction/Contracting Services and Project Management Inc. got a major upgrade (thanks to all the damage done to my office when we had to get completely new framing done on our house, but I digress).

I say “back in my office (sort of)” because just like “Brokeback Renovation,” our contractor just can’t seem to quit us. He’s got a few little details to attend to (some wall patching near a couple of outlet plugs, some sink scratches in the adjoining bathroom caused by haphazard painters and their trowels), but he keeps putting off the final bits and blobs. So I haven’t hung my artwork back up yet, and my desk is floating in the middle of the room so the workers can eventually do the patches they need to do.

But, here are a few pictures of my new office from the other morning. The lighting is crap because it was a lovely sunny morning, but I was too excited to wait for good lighting.

Office overview

Obviously, when considering what I wanted my worldwide headquarters for my multi-media infotainment empire to look like, I did what every self-respecting work-from-home writer does: I stalked Pinterest. (*I also relied very heavily on the advice of my own personal interior design guru, XFE).

From Pinterest, I immediately gleaned that my previous desk was far too modest for such an impressive endeavor as content creation and promotion. So, I immediately upgraded that bad boy to a giant frosted glass and chrome slab of sleekness (from Ikea. Sorry, Pinterest. I know everyone else had Jonathan Adler desks, but I didn’t win any lotteries this week. And I really, really like my Ikea table/desk!).

Desk

I also saw a lot of blogger offices with those twee little bar carts with cute little mint julep cups holding cute little striped straws. Yeah, that’s not me. I see you’re stupid bar cart and raise you a wine fridge. Also, note the lack of glassware. At Poe Communications, happy hour starts whenever I say and we drink from the bottle.

wine fridge

I also saw a lot of blogger offices that used a gold Moroccan poof as an additional seating option, but I knew that was not going to fly here. After considering a bean bag alternative, I finally settled on a nice, roomy velvety throne like chair for Petunia, the president of HR here at Poe Industries to sit on.

chair

Apparently, she prefers the sunny spot on the floor.

HR Petunia

But I did cave to conventional blogger dictates when it came to the lighting. I would have to get a chandelier. And, it’s probably my favorite thing in the room (besides the wine fridge. And the striped wall, which was XFE’s idea).

chandelier

Isn’t it glorious? And my second favorite thing (or is it my fourth?): XFE moved my rarely-used-but-when-needed-it-is-essential printer onto a shelf in the linen closet. H

printer

Poe Communications sure has come a long way from it’s early days at the dining room table. From this first office incarnation:

early office

To this inspiring space:

Office overview 2

Now maybe I can get back to work! (and blogging).

This Other Blog That Sometimes Lets Me Write for Them

Heading over to the gym for some more pain, but I wanted to shout from the interweb rooftops about a new blog that I’m contributing to. It’s part of Project: Time Off, an initiative to encourage people to take time off from work, which seems like such a no-brainer to someone who not only took ALL of her vacation days when she worked a 9-to-5, but usually ran a deficit at the beginning of each year.

Anyway, the new PTO website and blog was launched today an includes a post from your’s truly on getting your Jurassic World fix without getting eaten. Go and check it out, sign up for updates, share your own vacation Instagrams or time off experiences. And take some time off!

Dinosaurs on vacation, get it? By MP Davey, a fine artist I had never heard of until today.

Places I Never Thought I’d Go (or, be let into): Walt Disney World

I have tried several times now to sit down and write about our March trip to Cambodia, but I struggle with it each time.

Basically, Cambodia broke my heart.

A sign at tuol sleng prison reminding you that visiting a prison is not a laughing matter.
A sign at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum reminding you that laughter is not appropriate when visiting a former prison/torture/execution site.

It’s not just the fact that its people are desperately poor. I’ve been to plenty of economically disadvantaged places. My personal-travel-arranger-for-life XFE pointed out that many parts of Peru were very, very poor, and yet, I had hardly mentioned it when we visited in 2013. In hindsight, I suppose I was distracted by the intestinal parasites that were slam dancing through my bowels like it was an Anthrax concert to notice or comment on anything that was going on around me.

And, it wasn’t just the fact that Cambodia and its people had gone through a horrific genocide in the late 1970s. Again, pointing to Peru, which had its own history of internal terrorism. Or Croatia, which we visited in 2013 (dang, 2013 was a good travel year!) and had its own very recent, very violent ethnic wars. Or even Bali, which we visited just last year. That peaceful oasis lost roughly five percent of the island’s population as part of a hysterical anti-Communist purge during the Indonesian killings of 1965-1966. And well, we also went to South Africa last year (again, another damn good year for travel!), and we all know about South Africa’s long and tortured history.

(I swear, we’re not thanatourists. It’s just that every country seems to have some seriously messed up period in their history.)

Anyway, Cambodia’s recent history and continuing struggle to overcome its past moved me deeply and just made me very, very sad.

So, let’s switch gears abruptly and talk about the happiest place on Earth, shall we?

If you can't tell, I'm a bit creeped out.
If you can’t tell, I’m a bit creeped out.

I’ve been working on a freelance project involving the travel industry for the last five months. Thanks to that work, I was able to attend a major industry conference in Orlando recently. It was amazing. Seriously impressive. And one of the most impressive events was a private evening for conference attendees at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Now, I had never been to any Disney properties. Not for any political reasons or anything. It’s just that when you grow up in a trailer park, trips to magical pixie theme parks in far off California or Florida aren’t really a part of your childhood reality. Sure, we visited the Alamo once and the beach in Galveston, but definitely not anywhere out of state. My experiences with amusement parks involved a couple of trips to Six Flags and El Paso’s now defunct Magic Landing, which was a lot less magical than the name might suggest (lots of maimings and accidents during its four-year run).

To be truthful, I had built up a hardened adult shell towards all things Disney. I figured it was just a big scam to fill children’s brains with fantasy and drive them so mad with consumerist desire that they make their parents crazy until they fling their hard-earned money at every colorfully-clad mermaid or cricket or talking candlestick that approached them holding a t-shirt or snow cone.

I’m still not completely convinced that that’s not the primary objective, but I gotta say, Walt Disney Resort was pretty freaking magical. A group of about 6,000 of us arrived at dusk and were greeted by rows and rows of very friendly workers who were waving and smiling. This immediately aroused my suspicions. Working late for a private party? And you’re all happy with this? I figured they must be getting paid some serious overtime.

Minnie, one of our overlords....I mean, gracious hosts. (Photo Kerry Tice)
Minnie, one of our overlords….I mean, gracious hosts. (Photo by Kerry)

Next up, hitting some rides. I was totally unfamiliar with the different lands that were open to us (Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom, Boardwalk, Downtown), or their offerings. But, I had two experienced travel writers with me and they were Disney experts. They knew what rides were new and where they were, and they prioritized appropriately.

The rides were fun, nothing too scary or jarring. I was awestruck by the incredible attention to detail. When you flew over London in the Peter Pan or glided past Ursula in the Under the Sea ride, you really felt like you were there, inside the movie. But best of all, because it was a private event, there were no lines. No lines on anything, which is, I believe, unheard of.

Practically all to ourselves (Photo borrowed from Kerry Tice)
Practically all to ourselves (Photo borrowed from Kerry)

Since it was a party, there were free drinks (not even a tip jar, y’all) and some seriously great food that just kept being replenished without anyone seemingly bringing it out. I mean, I know they did and must have, but it seemed like there was just a ton of staff keeping an eye on things and making sure everything went smoothly. Again, they were all incredibly nice and patient, which then caused me to ask a few of them if Disney maybe gave them some special “happy vitamins” before their shift every day. I also urged one employee to blink three times if he was being held against his will. He just nicely asked me if I’d like some more lobster mac and cheese. (To which I obviously said, “hell yeah.”)

Photo borrowed from Kerry Tice.
Photo borrowed from Kerry. Those are some LeFeu Brew wenches in the background.

There were plenty of trash cans everywhere, but they were all painted to blend in with their surroundings and none of them were full or overflowing with discarded LeFeu Brews (a delicious nonalcoholic frozen drink that was being handed out at Gaston’s Pub.)

Photo: Kerry Tice
Photo: Kerry

It was fantastic. I used to think that these kinds of things (or, “experiences” to use travel industry parlance) were a rip off, but at Disney, you totally see where the money goes. And I’ve got to think a big part of the budget (besides the special “happy vitamins,” but I’m sure they get a discount) has got to be the fireworks. Those fireworks were amazing. I worried that it was all some trick and they were now going to burn the entire place down. They even run sprinklers on the roofs of the nearby buildings so that a random spark won’t catch on fire.

Then, when we were leaving, another parade of characters no doubt sweating in their elaborate costumes and heavy makeup. Including some of the characters from “Frozen,” who might have had it the worst of all, swathed in furs that were not at all weather appropriate for Florida.

I went in to Disney’s Magic Kingdom a skeptical adult and came out three hours later as a grinning……well, still an adult, but I did get into the spirit of things. I even put on a pair of free mouse ears to take pictures before passing off said free mouse ears to someone else who had children.

(Oh, one creepy side note about those “free” mouse ears….they lit up. And not only did they light up, they were synchronized with the rest of the 6,000 attendees free mouse ears. Which means we all lit up at the same time, in the same color and same pattern. So, yeah. Cult-like brainwashing isn’t totally off the table.)

With my two Disney experts.
With my two Disney experts.

Friday Links: The It’s Monday and Everybody Loves Will Ferrell Edition

Katy Perry/Will Ferrell mashup
Source: Paramount Pictures, Getty

That’s right, Friday’s links on a Monday. That’s because I went to a networking event on Thursday that morphed into a happy hour that turned into a very happy night so Poe Communications/Beverage Distributors Inc. was closed on Friday. Sometimes, happy hour gets in the way of running a multimedia communications empire.

Friday Links: Anti-Climatic News Edition

It’s been a busy week here at Poe Communications and Heavy Manufacturing, Inc. Getting back in the freelance grind after the extended holiday, meeting with clients on the coldest day of the year, and assembling a cat scratch post can really take a lot out of a girl. Heck, I even hurt myself at the gym yesterday. Not by over-extending myself or anything, but by just working out at all. It had been a while.

It’s supposed to still be freezing this weekend, so I predict lots of pasta eating, wine drinking and Pinteresting, although I’m sure my head el jefe, XFE is going to try to make me do the gym thing again at least once. Brrr.

Here’s a little Friday reading:

  • Discovery and a whole bunch of other news outlets covered what is probably the most anti-climatic time capsule opening ever. Honestly, why did they feel the need to open it again if they already knew what was in it from the last time they opened it? Were they expecting new items?
  • Disco clams are a thing and they lure their prey with a fantastic light show before killing them. Or, maybe, they warn their predators away with their light show. It’s still not clear. Thanks, science, for not clearing that up at all. Scientists did, however, rule out lighting-show-as-conducive-to-mating-ritual, which goes against everything I learned back in my clubbing days.
  • Pandas were at least enjoying the DC snow this week. Pile on the cuteness indeed.
  • Speaking of snow, this MentalFloss list of obscure regional terms to describe snow will come in handy. The “hinges of hell” one threw me, since I’d always thought that was describing heat. My personal favorite: “Colder than a witches’ teat,” doesn’t seem to have made the cut.
  • Poe Industries HR President Milady Petunia Potpie is worth approximately -$29.99. Yes, that would be a negative sign. Still, I don’t think I would trade her for the unimaginatively named “Blackie,” a cat worth $25 million, according to this list of the world’s six richest pets. That rooster seems nice, though.

The Emotional Healing Power of Naples (and Pizza)

My cab driver doesn’t seem to have enough hands.

I’m bumping along Naples chaotic, narrow, cobblestoned streets in the back of a cab. My cab driver is holding his phone up to his left ear, swerving in and out of the bumper-to-dented-bumper traffic. I think he’s fighting with the person on the other line. He’s yelling and using his hands to enunciate his point, which is a bit of a problem while holding the phone and driving. There’s definitely no 10 nor 2 at this point of the driving game.

He really needs another set of hands.

I feel much like my Neapolitan cab driver. I don’t have enough hands or arms to get them around all the feelings I’ve had over the past two months.

rainy street in Naples
It rained my first day in Naples, which suited my mood just fine.

I’ve been bouncing on the emotional trampoline. I’ve run the gamut – white-hot raging anger, debilitating fear and sense of rejection, plain-old-run-of-the-mill sadness, tears optional, although frequent, as it turns out in my case. The raw twin realizations of the number of people who I had misplaced my trust in, and the surprisingly small list of supporters who would reach out to me when I was no longer around. *

On a good day, a certain scabbed-over numbness would set in. Then I would wallow in a bit of a pity-party, who-cares, what’s-it-all-for mentality. All of which goes against my feisty, fighting nature.

Turns out, Naples, Italy is the perfect city to go to if you are hollowed out and disappointed by life and humanity and especially former co-workers who you thought were you’re friends.

First of all, it’s an incredibly human city, where you can watch the soap opera of life play out millions of times a day on its quaint little streets. Families fighting with each other, enjoying each other. Couples making out and pushing each other away. Strangers eyeing each other with suspicion or disinterest. It’s reassuring to see that emotions can run a gamut, not just on the negative end of the spectrum.

Neapolitan Santa

Also, Naples is dirty and has its scars. It was the most bombed Italian city during World War II, getting bombarded over 200 times by both Allied (good job there, Mussolini) and German forces after Italy switched sides. Today, plaster is falling off its buildings or they’re covered in graffiti. Trash piles up frequently due to garbage strikes and very small rubbish bins. Every car on the road bears scrapes, dents, dings. In many ways, it looks like they stopped building after the bombings.

Typical building at the Piazza del Plebiscito
Typical building at the Piazza del Plebiscito. Note plaster situation.

But Naples messiness is also achingly beautiful — that whole shrugging off unpleasantness and just getting on with life is admirable.

Naples grafitti

And it is a very, very proud city. Especially of its place in pizza history. Don’t even try to suggest the pizza was not invented in Naples.

Pizza at Brandi's in Naples
Plaque near the place where Margherita was invented.

It’s a city that has never given up, rolling with the fates, but never forgetting who it is at its fundamental core. Remember those Germans who bombed them? Yeah, eventually they also occupied Naples. But the people of Naples, they don’t put up with that kind of crap. In September 1943, the townspeople rose up and threw out their German occupiers right before the Allied forces rolled in on October 1 to “liberate” them. It’s known as the Four Days of Naples and it is pretty badass.

Naples defiance via shop window
Naples defiance via shop window. (It says “F&*%k You All!!! Best Price”)

I’ve been through some dirty stuff recently, and my psyche and ego are certainly a bit scarred. But I’ve also got an inordinate – perhaps even Neapolitan-sized — amount of pride. So, I’m glad I trampolined my way over to Naples for a quick visit and history lesson. Naples and its lessons on resilience have helped propel me to a new, more familiar emotional state – defiance.

Neapolitan cat don't care
Neapolitan cat don’t care.

(*I should also unequivocally state that there have been a handful of former ex-colleagues who have reached out and been incredibly helpful to me in so, so many ways, even if it’s just a cup of coffee and a vent session. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge them. And, of course, always XFE, who goes through it all and who took me to Naples anyway.)

Friday Links: Does This Blog Post Make My Butt Look Big (And/Or Shiny?) Edition

Kim's twin comets

I was a bit light on posting this weekend. Mostly because I was transfixed by the comet landing. I just don’t get it. Why would anyone want to land on a comet? I don’t get space exploration in general. And don’t even get me started on this nonsense about commercial space travel. Or NASA funding. Just avoid all space-related topics around me.

Anyway, that’s my excuse. And a roundup of some links that may or may not have distracted me from writing blog posts.

  • The Styleite story “behind” the overtly racist French artist who inspired the Kim Kardashian Paper cover. Yep, pun intended.
  • Who even knew that there was a beer mile record? Welp, there is and a mother of six broke it. Chris Kimbrough ran four laps and drank four beers in 6 minutes 28.6 seconds. Also known as Friday Happy Hour at Poe Industries. Minus the running laps part.
  • MentalFloss rounds up 11 common things people are trying to replace or redesign, including the toilet, which I’ve written about before. I mean, building a better toilet. I’ve written about that effort. Not just toilets, like randomly, or anything. OK. Time to be quiet now.
  • Sweet bat karma justice at work, via Revolver Magazine: New “Bat Frog” Found in Amazon, Named for Ozzy Osbourne
  • Lifehacker has some good tips on how not to become a hermit crab when working from home. I have to admit, I struggle with this, especially now that it’s getting cold out. I’ve been pretty good about going to the gym and I’m trying to get out to events, coffee dates, etc. But man, sometimes all I want to do is snuggle up on the couch with the cat and the computer.
  • What I’m cooking today (using up some leftover chicken – PLUS it has “scrumptious” in the name): Scrumptious Thai coconut red curry

Have a happy beer chugging, butt-oiling, and bat-frog-avoiding weekend!

Friday Links: Sneaker-Wearing Spiders Like Female Bosses (and Fritos Chili Pizza)

Spiders
That’s a sneaker-wearing spider above a spider web pizza. I’m not good at the Photoshopping.
  • Now that I’m working freelance from Poe Industries Worldwide Headquarters, my style needs have changed a bit (Jeans Day EVERYDAY). Plus, I’m coming up with a packing list for Italy and I know I’ll need to take my Pumas (cobblestones — WHY???). So this slideshow I found on Pinterest on cool sneakers and the outfits that work with them is pretty helpful and timely.
  • This guy in Canada bought his girlfriend a pretty awesome round-the-world trip for Christmas. Then she broke up with him. Now he’s looking for another Elizabeth Gallagher to use the plane tickets. Hmmm, yeah. Nothing could go wrong with that.
  • If you do go on that trip, check your earbuds. British pop star Katie Melua had a spider living in her ear for a week. She suspects it got in there from a pair of old in-ear monitors she used to block out the flight noise. IRONY ALERT: Katie Melua has a song called “Spider’s Web.” You can’t make this stuff up.
  • In light of the new abomination known as Papa John’s Fritos chili pizza, I feel like a few of these fast food disasters are on the verge of a comeback. I’m looking at you Burger King pumpkin burger
  • Well, I’ve had some really good female bosses, and not-so-good female bosses. Now this new poll suggests that 39% of women prefer male bosses to female ones.
  • I’ve been dinged by Uber’s surge pricing (although, mine was on a normal, ordinary, non-rainy, non-holiday Thursday). I guess I should’ve crowdfunded it!

When Life Hands You Lemons, Use Them as Weapons

At work a few weeks back, we did this exercise to kick off a brainstorming session <insert eyeroll>.

We were supposed to visualize a lemon, and then write on a piece of paper all the things that you could do with a lemon.

My new boss, Tina, filled her whole page with very practical, Hints from Heloise type stuff: “use the juice to clean windows,” “use the rind on a stinky garbage disposal,” “use it to lighten your hair in the sun.”

My old boss, Kevin, also filled his whole page, but he took a more philosophical approach, suggesting that you use the seeds to grow more trees, and more lemons.

I wrote down four things:

  1. Throw it at coworkers who make you sit through brainstorming sessions.
  2. Use it as a sidekick for a nice, frosty glass of sweet ice tea.
  3. Make a tiny, bitter jack-o-lantern.
  4. Squeeze the juice in someone’s eye and rob them.

I guess the invisible ink was already on the lemon juice-splashed wall.

My employer and I have consciously uncoupled. We’ve agreed to disagree, go our separate ways, and see other people.

I’m starting a new chapter. I’m available for freelance gigs. My resume and writing samples are available on this blog. And if anyone is looking for an experienced, hard-working, smart, funny, and yes, slightly warped writer/editor/digital storyteller who may or may not have a weird violent streak, drop me a line at thepoelog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Just don’t try to pay me in lemons.