Five Favorite Moments of 2012

Just one of those moments… Photo by Randy Stern

Am I really "living the dream?"

A better question is whether this is the catch phrase of 2012.

It has been bantered about from practically of majority of people I run into. For example, a co-worker at my day job would respond to the query of "how are you doing" with "I'm living the dream." If you listen carefully, she said it with a mix of emotions ranging from being grateful to have this job to utter defeat from the challenges we had in the throes of it.

In plenty of instances, I hear the term used as sarcasm. The undertone of saying the phrase points to a want of better in our lives. As the economy searches for better traction to distance itself from the global financial crisis, even the gainfully employed are finding dissatisfaction in them. They want a better dream to live.

It is the American Way.

Me? I can honestly say that in terms of the work of automotive writing, I have been "living the dream." Looking back over 2012, it was a giant leap from the rebranding and significant breakthroughs of 2011. Thinking about what I have accomplished in this work over these past twelve months is staggering. There were moments when reflecting back on whether to pinch myself to see if it really happened.

Why, yes, they did.

I guess it is time for the Five Favorite Moments of 2012…rather "living the dream:"

HANDING IT OFF: A dream of mine was to see whether I could award the Vehicle of The Year to the appropriate winner. That dream was sparked by a discussion at the 2011 Chicago Auto Show asking whether I had something to show for the award. When I announced the 2011 VOTY on Twitter, there was interest on seeing about creating an award.

Between discussions with Buick and having the certificate made, the moment came after the first press conference of the 2012 Chicago Auto Show. It took a short amount of sleep at a friend’s place in Madison and the bus ride into The Loop to get the nerve to do a simple hand off to Tony DiSalle, Buick’s Vice President of Marketing. It was pretty quick, required two sets of photos to accomplish. Oh, and I forgot to remove the cardboard protector from the frame…

Perhaps this is a start of a tradition. If it is, it shows that a little automotive website like V&R is seen on the same level as its larger companions. This is one heck of a compliment to accept.

JUNKETING TO AUSTIN: Having never been to a media drive before, I must admit a sense of winning the lottery upon fulfilling my invitation to drive the Dodge Dart before it hit the showroom floor. Yet, it also marked a number of firsts both professionally and personally. Having never stepped out of an airport terminal in Texas, heading to Austin was an absolute first. It was also the first manufacturer-sponsored trip I ever embarked on. That said, Chrysler were fantastic hosts for us social media folk – automotive or not.

The trip not only provided the chance to drive a vehicle prior to sale, it provided a chance to solidify relationships with colleagues and create new ones. It was evident whenever we had a meal together or doing one of the Twitter chats live from the hospitality suite. This connectivity provided a bond that continues today.

Media trips do not necessarily have to be all "hurry up and wait." There was resonance that happened on the trip to Austin.

BEING THAT GUY FROM LAVENDER: Yes, I am an automotive writer first and foremost. However, there are times when the chance to stretch the craft to fulfill the work of an outlet was made available. Other than my auto show coverage and vehicles reviews, I decided to give my Olympus DSLR a chance to earn its keep and do some "other duties as assigned."

This began by covering three Pride events within Minnesota. First stop was Pine City, over an hour away from The Cities. It yielded the most stories from any Pride, including a tip from the CBS station in Minneapolis about a Corvair-loving transgendered armed forces veteran. Then, there was Twin Cities Pride – my home Pride. I saw plenty of my photos published in Lavender from the parade and around the festival. My final stop was Rochester and a wonderful event right underneath the thumb of the Mayo Clinic downtown.

I am grateful for the support of my editor, Andy Lien, and the staff at Lavender. Because of my work with this magazine, many doors opened up for me in both the automotive and LGBT media realms. There will be much more to come…

MEMBERSHIP HAS ITS PRIVILEGES: I just completed my first year as a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. It was something that was not on my radar until a PR contact mentioned it at the 2011 Twin Cities Auto Show. I figured I would join the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and be over with.

Nope. I became a member of MAMA – and better for it.

The privileges of membership are the attendance of one of two drive events for its members. In May, the Spring Rally provides two days of driving adventure in and around Road America at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Sadly, I ended up missing that one. Instead, I attended the Fall Rally at a hotel in Hoffman Estates outside of Chicago. This provided a chance to reconnect with fellow MAMA members and others attending the event.

The weather was a bit damp for some honest driving, but I managed to accomplish some pre-VOTY work as well get acquainted with a few new vehicles. In all, it was a great experience being a part of a group of people whom share this dream alongside me regardless of where they work and their tenure of service to our trade. It was honor being there.

CALL TO ACTION: I am forever grateful to Richard Herod III for the mix of election campaign journalism and automotive writing. His townhome association dropped a letter to Herod stating that campaign yard signs were to be removed off his property. It was not just any campaign sign – it was one opposing Minnesota's "Marriage Amendment." He figured that if he could not get a yard sign on his lawn, Herod would put it on his car – a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Having been a veteran of vehicle wrapping, Herod’s skill of amplifying the “Vote No” message on his Evo became a movement.

Where I came in was a wrap of a few vehicles. Then, I tagged along for the ride – a caravan of dedicated people making sure that the definition of marriage would not become a permanent fixture on Minnesota's Constitution. I have seen friends jump on board to follow Herod's lead in making a bolder statement on this issue. In the end, the Marriage Amendment was defeated by a majority of voters in this state. Perhaps it was the vehicle wraps that made the difference.

My coverage of this story made it on five outlets – mainly my photography did. It would mark the first time any material of mine – written or photographic – made it onto a daily newspaper, the Duluth (MN) News Tribune. It was a benchmark story on a professional level. Personally, it was a triumph to see the state I call home send a message to the world that times are a changing…again.

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