One of the tenets of being a successfully versatile writer is not only knowing when and where to say what, but how to say it. The folks in the corner offices of the world call this sort of thing "knowing your demographic," and by this point I've become pretty clear on the concept.
So, here's a hodgepodge of links to — and excerpts from — work I've done for a host of publishers and websites. Voices and audiences vary, as does subject matter (wilderness hiking, bad R.E.M. albums, mayonnaise, etc.). But hopefully, like that guy once suggested, the song remains the same.
Various travel pieces (Roughguides.com, 2014-2015)
Roughguides.com readers clearly enjoy articles with a "best-of" slant, so I play to the crowd with a flurry of features on what makes certain places around the US special — from San Francisco and Seattle to southern Louisiana and Shelburne Falls.
I Become a Better Citizen (Osmosis, 2009)
A six-part travelogue about a 48-mile hike I undertook through a particularly remote area of Yosemite National Park — and my story of getting there from San Francisco (and back) entirely via transit.
Blocker (SFist.com, 2007-2008)
My series on exploring San Francisco on a granular level, block by specific block. I researched, wrote, photographed, and produced over 40 such pieces for popular news and culture site SFist.com.
Burrito Obscuro (San Francisco Bay Guardian, 2005)
A tour of San Francisco's unlikeliest taqueria locations, as published in the city's late, longtime alternative weekly.
San Francisco, California (Pocket Rough Guide: San Francisco, 2014)
"As inspiring and charismatic as its singular setting, San Francisco stands apart from other US destinations; in fact, you'll struggle to find many places like it anywhere in the world. The famed city is surrounded on three sides by churning water and threaded with a grid of streets that courageously tackles thirty-degree gradients, elements that transcend geography to infuse San Francisco with the boldly independent spirit for which it's known. This impression is evident not only in the city's clanging cable cars and charming pastel-hued Victorian architecture, but also its reputation for championing progressive ideals and gay rights. Even the weather patterns here are idiosyncratic: Summer sometimes doesn't arrive until mid-September."
Bay Area Swimming Holes (The Rough Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area, 2012)
"These Bay Area swim spots offer the best warm-day alternatives to crashing pool parties in suburban back yards or being sucked undersea by swirling ocean currents...."
Cooke City, Montana (The Rough Guide to Yellowstone & Grand Teton, 2011)
"With its minimal civic services — there's no police station in sight, and the smattering of local kids are educated in a one-room schoolhouse — Cooke City's naturally insulated environs dictate far more than just its complete lack of cell phone reception. The town's rough edges are the stuff of Montana legend, from its hardscrabble beginnings as a mining outpost through its long-held romantic image as an end-of-the-highway enclave. In recent years, it's seen a changing of the guard in terms of business ownership, with a number of 'newer' arrivals who showed up in the 1990s having taken over bars and cafes from true Cooke City old-timers; it's a testament to the town's identity, then, how despite these changes, things here haven't changed all that much through the decades. Indeed, spend a short time poking into the few shops and eating (and drinking) around town, and you're bound to sense before long that everyone here really does know everyone else."
San Francisco Burrito Review #1000 (Burritoeater, 2013)
The final bites of my professional burrito-eating career occurred on the afternoon of December 7, 2013 at one of San Francisco's most failure-proof taquerias, La Espiga de Oro. Here's how the event tasted.
Superlative Slabs of the Aughts (Burritoeater, 2010)
An ultracondensed compendium of the best and worst burritos encountered by Burritoeater.com's "esteemed judges panel" (ie. yours truly) throughout the 2000s.
Mayonnaise (ChefsBest, 2009)
I can honestly say I've written authoritatively on mayonnaise.
Just For You (The Rough Guide to San Francisco and the Bay Area, 2012)
"One of San Francisco's true gems, this out-of-the-way destination produces some of the finest, fluffiest (and largest!) beignets outside of New Orleans — take home an extra, all slathered in powdered sugar, for a dollar and change. All breads are homemade (try the raisin cinnamon toast), while the enormous pancakes are the stuff of legend. Service can be as sassy as some of the signs around the place ('We reserve the right to pour coffee on your cell phone; please put it away'). Most everything's under $10. Breakfast and lunch only."
El Faro (Burritoeater, 2003-2013)
"We've had it on real good authority for quite some time that El Faro's original proprietor, Febronio Ontiveros, commissioned construction of the first super burrito on Tuesday, September 26, 1961, and we all know where the man's visionary concoction led us."
Apron with Great Mustache logo (Burritoeater Merch Bazaar)
"Accessorize that $600 backyard grill with some sharp-looking protectivewear, at a mere fraction of said grill. Baste pork with confidence! Balmy weather and tongs not included."
Throw pillow with Great Mustache logo (Burritoeater Merch Bazaar)
"Arm yourself for battle when that colossal pillow fight breaks out at your next sleepover. Also serves as a patient listener in the wee hours."
Memoryhouse (Brandracket client: RocketDog; 2012)
"The story goes that Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion of Memoryhouse never intended to collaborate in a proper band setting..."
Chairlift (Brandracket client: Roxy; 2011)
"After the success of their debut album, 2008's Does You Inspire You, synth-poppers Chairlift wanted to avoid the infamous sophomore slump, so they took their sweet time working on a follow-up...."
U2's Achtung Baby (Super Deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition) (Blogracket, 2012)
"Few artistic reinventions have been as successful as U2's between 1989-91. Their leap from frowny-faced, black-and-white-portrayed galvanizers of strident high school and college kids the world over, to funtime-loving, color-portrayed messengers of groove with a fusillade of televisions backing them up...it was all a calculated risk. But it completely worked. Achtung Baby has aged better and sounds fresher than anything else from the near-endless smorgasbord of early '90s rock. It's still a monster record — of any era."
Excerpt of review of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas soundtrack (MP3.com, 2004)
"It's not that some of the older fare here isn't up to snuff, for it's tough to top James Brown's ferocious revenge anthem 'The Payback' or The Ohio Players' sweaty 'Funky Worm.' But 'Barracuda'? 'Two Tickets to Paradise'? Come on. At the liquor cabinet of classic rock, tracks like these are the barnyard hooch you're better off not drinking."
Excerpt of review of R.E.M.'s Around the Sun (MP3.com, 2004)
"Around the Sun sounds like a rewrite of its 2001 predecessor, Reveal, which itself was a pulseless way to spend a listening hour. It's clear to anyone who's been paying attention since former drummer Bill Berry rode off into the sunset in 1997 that R.E.M. has chosen to permanently switch off the rock-it launch on its recording console. But the real tragedy is the songwriter's droop that has apparently set in on the veteran band. On 1992's Automatic for the People, the band turned down the volume considerably and yet proffered all-timers like the gorgeous 'Nightswimming' and the brooding 'Drive'; today, we get month-old breadsticks like Around the Sun's 'Wanderlust' and 'Aftermath.'"
Excerpt of review of Centro-matic's South San Gabriel Songs/Music (All Music Guide, 2002)
"Centro-matic's fifth album recalls the nervous anticipation that comes between snowstorms in the high plains, imploring the listener to get out for some 20-degree fresh air while you can before the next 16 inches arrive. The tension-filled mood peaks on the penultimate track 'Innocence Kindly Waits,' a lovely, barbiturated waltz punctuated by Scott Danbom's screaming fiddle. The gently strummed epilogue 'Destroyer' foreshadows the imminent snowstorm, just as the album's opening sounds of staccato typewriter keys on 'Ninety Secretaries Down' hint at the tempered calm ahead. South San Gabriel Songs/Music paints the most beautifully grim picture imaginable, as these atmospheric, wintry songs suggest that sometimes nothing feels so warm as the cold air on the back of your neck."
My Least Favorite Pastime: Cleaning Venetian Blinds (Justin-Siena High School, 1988)
Assigned to write my first essay in Honors English III on the activity I dread most, I turned this task into opportunity, grumbling comedically (for a kid, anyway) about a tedious domestic chore my mom annually handed down to me. Result: a perfect grade of 50 on the essay, and a newfound outlet for teen angst. Hooray for writing!