Referral Friday

Referral Friday: The Secret City

I confess: I have broken my self-imposed hiatus a couple of times since I self-imposed it this past December.

Once, for a good friend and client. Because, hey, that’s what you do for a good friend and client.

The second time, most recently, for a friend I practically bullied into accepting a free session, I so believe in his work: Mr. Chris Wells, performer extraordinaire, heart big as all outdoors, and creator of The Big Artist workshop, which I attended last month and raved about here. Chris prepped his big-as-all-outdoors heart out beforehand, but the truth is he already had a mighty clear vision of where he wanted to take this puppy, and I mostly helped facilitate around the edges.

Chris has an equally clear vision for (of?) where he wants to take The Secret City, his celebrated NYC-for-now-based performance/celebration/art-church, which recently won an Obie Award for being so fucking fantastic. (Okay. It won strictly for being fantastic, but I am lost without my celebratory expletives.) And right now, he’s doing him some serious biggifying, as my friend Havi would say, raising $15,000 in 45 days via Kickstarter to take The Secret City to the next level: a bigger space; non-profit status; world domination by art. You get the idea.

You can pledge $25 and get a song on your voicemail. Pledge more and get art. T-shirts. Secret City board member Roseanne Cash serenading you in private. (You have to pledge a lot more for that one.) Or be a mini-titan with your name in the program and a personalized thank-you note for just a buck.

A patron of the arts! For a buck!

Either way, have a wonderful weekend filled with joy and art of your choice.

(But come on, a buck!)


Referral Friday: Bart’s Books

bart's books open-air used bookstore in Ojai, CA

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Roughly 15 years ago, when I first moved to L.A., I read a story in the L.A. Times Travel section about a little town tucked in a magical valley about two hours from town. (Okay, 90 minutes: traffic was better in 1995.)

I was looking for day trips back then, ways to escape the relentlessly suburban landscape I had yet to appreciate, without breaking the dwindling bank that was sustaining us. The article mentioned places to eat (fine) and hike (uh, no) and even spa, if you were so inclined, but what drew my attention, and ultimately me, to Ojai, again and again, was mention of a little open-air used bookseller named Bart’s Books.

I think I spent two hours and $75 I could ill afford there that day. I’ve spent many times more since, but now I’m savvy to the very drill the author mentioned in the piece: save up your books, bring to Bart’s for credit, come away with more books.

There are indoor rooms with finer books, but without question, what makes Bart’s Bart’s (and makes me want to buy it and live there one day) is the sprawling outdoor area. The books do get dusty, and in places, a bit moldy: there ain’t much precipitation here in SoCal, but we’re generally ill-prepared for what we do get.

No matter. The books are impossible to find and a delight to look for; mustiness just adds to the experience. I’ll confess to a slight dip in my interest level with a changing of owners a while back, but I have all kinds of problems with change, so let’s just say it’s me. Truth be told, there have been some nice, if subtle improvements over the past two years, chief among them how many more of my books seem to get accepted for trade-in. (Or hey, maybe I’m just reading a better class of book!)

If you’re doing a tool up or down the California coast, consider making a small detour inland to walk the magical streets of Ojai: maybe get a bite, maybe do some shopping, maybe even get yourself a little hot spa action.

But if you do turn off to Ojai, you must stop by Bart’s. All books are more enjoyable for being browsed under sunny blue skies…


Image by communicatrix via Flickr. You may reuse under this Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Groupon

vinyl banner with homer simpson holding donut and words "woo hoo"

I am mad for deals, especially when they converge with my guilty desire for self-indulgence and my weird attraction for making a game of whatever I can.

Groupon, a daily deal for some various local goody, neatly satisfies all three needs in one digital swoop. After signing up for your city’s deals at the main website, you receive a daily email with a deal which you can buy into for a specified window of time, 24 hours, usually. The trick is that the deal gets “unlocked” (i.e., available for purchase) only after the number of people willing to commit to purchase reaches some predetermined critical mass. (Here’s more about the “why” behind it and the inspiration for it, The Point, on Groupon’s “about” page.)

Not every deal will appeal to everyone; then again, how much money and time does any one person have? It seems like I’ve got less of both with each passing day. But I’ve scored some sweet deals for taking a small risk, not only delighted with the savings, but happy to have been introduced to some terrific new resource I might not otherwise have found out about (which is pretty much the incentive for offering door-buster deals as far as the vendors go).

One word of warning: if you’re a hoarder-of-happy like I am, beware, those expiration dates creep up more quickly than you’d guess. In the last week, I’ve gotten a haircut, my car detailed, and $20 worth of expensive takeout. Thank the heavens the relaxation types at the place I still have a massage coming to me get that some of us are foot-draggers (especially when the feet in question have a plantar wart we’d just as soon eliminate before humiliating ourselves in front of a total stranger…)


Available Groupon cities as of this writing:

(All of those city links? Also SHILL-FREE.)

Image by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. Especially good story and comments thread on this one, too.

Referral Friday: 11:11

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week.* For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

the communicatrix logo on an 11:11 vinyl bizcard holder

Well, it happened again, South By Southwest is just around the corner, and once again, I’m going to be scrambling to get my new cards done in time.

Honestly, though, I only care about the cards because I’m so screamingly, trippingly excited to whip out my brand, spankin’ new, super-foxy card holders from 11:11.

Who to the what now?

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them yet. You will. Jamila Tazewell & Patrick Ladro, the wife-and-husband co-owners of 11:11, makers of the world’s cutest ready- and custom-made vinyl hold-y products, will be well-known soon enough. Oprah-known, if I (and you, only you don’t know it yet) have any say in it.

The weird backstory

Patrick and Jamila found me in the most normal of modern ways: via Chris Guillebeau, when he announced his L.A. visit (which I helped pull together, as I am a crazy-mad fangirl of young Mr. Guillebeau). Only…he remembered me from somewhere else, like acting. Because he used to act in commercials, like I did, so he used to read my L.A. Casting column, and, well, you get the picture.

Speaking of pictures

This is where Jamila comes in. She’s been designing these adorable business-card holders and checkbook holders and other groovy holder-type things for awhile. A-dorable. And since we all have all this stuff in common, and they like my stuff, as a kind of thank-you Jamila makes me a custom business-card holder and Patrick sends it to me. And I go NUTS for this thing because it’s everything I want in something like that: cute, small, light and plastered all over with my picture.

So I say, “Hey! We need to make this a Referral Friday feature and get the word of this out there: can you give my readers a deal?”

And Patrick is like, “Hey! Righteous!” And even offers to send me a bunch more, so I can show them off at SXSW and totally make all the other cool kids jealous. HA. Take THAT, cool kids!

Anyway. Here’s the deal.

Fabulous deal for readers of communicatrix-dot-com only! Go to the 11:11 shop on Amazon and…

BONUS-EXTRA! I have it on good authority that if you buy two or more items with this code, 11:11 will throw in a random cardholder as a free gift. Rock the hell on, mighty soldiers!

Make sure to enter this promotion code at checkout: COMX9999

(Look, Ma! My own special checkout code!)

Offer good on orders placed from today, Friday, February 26th – Tuesday, March 2nd, and only on orders from the Amazon store. If you want custom items, well, you’ll have to take it up with Jamila and Patrick yourself. And no discounts. That I know of, anyway.

This is my first special communicatrix offer and I am so excited to offer it. Don’t be a jerk, order a bunch. Make me look good. For yourself! For your friends! Because how cute are these as gifts, right? You’re gonna get one free if you buy two!

Full disclosure: the kids have thrown me a few of these for free, because that’s how they roll. But I’m’a order me a jet-plane passport holder and a Siamese kitty checkbook cover anyway, full boat (minus discount!). Because that’s how I roll, mothatruckas!


Full set of photos available to view at Flickr.

*And so you know, the SECOND ANNUAL Make-a-Referral Week kicks off on Monday. Hop to it for the info, and get on board the get-this-goddamn-economy-moving-for-the-little-guy train!

Referral Friday: Shatterboxx Media

cupcakes, one of which has edible code fondant

If you’re reading this via email or RSS, you probably won’t notice, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll want to click on through to the other side today.

Because finally, as of today (or a little bit of yesterday that barely counts), I’ve managed to wrest this poor little blog from the ganky clutches of Frankenstein code I’ve cobbled together from various WordPress themes over the years, and into nice, clean Thesis.

Or rather, Jamie Varon and her team at Shatterboxx Media have.

Are you here yet, on the site? (Go on, do it! I’ll wait!) Okay, even if you won’t right now, at some point, you’re going to need to visit the site for something, back issues of the newsletter archives** or to find that recipe for Strawberry-Chicken-Walnut Salad* you’ve been dreaming about for years but finally are going to make this spring, for reals. And when you do, that site’s pages will load and reload and load again like a, well, I was going to make a luge joke, but it’s really too soon, even if it is a dreadful sport I never saw the point of.***

That’s because Thesis has been optimized within an inch of its life, or at least, a helluva lot better than Colleen’s Third Grade Stabs at Fixing CSS Code (which is an insult to nine-year-olds everywhere, I know). I laughed, laughed, I tell you!, at the idea that cleaning things up could positively affect page load; I figured the biggest benefit would be that I could now go in and fiddle under the hood and actually change things, instead of that code just staring back at me in that mysterious, impenetrable way. But no, ZIPPITY-DOO-DAH, the pages, they are loading! Which means all sorts of other nerdy bits of goodness, like Google’s bots having an easier time of indexing my pages and (we can only hope)  much lower “bounce rates” born of frustration.

What is most important to you, the reader (and I hope, potential blogger/website owner) is knowing about Jamie. She is fast, she is good, she provides excellent value and, glory hallelujah!, she is patient. We talked back in June of last year, after which conversation I immediately plunked down a 50% deposit (when you know, you know), after which…nothing. Because of me and my busy, busy schedule, and my massive disorganization and plate-spinning and such. Jamie just calmly emailed me now and again to touch base, to see what was what, to see if I needed any help/nudging.

When I finally gave the go-ahead, we had an easy-breezy 1/2-hour conversation about what I wanted vs. what had to happen; 24 hours later (if that), I had a schedule and a plan. Bada-bing, bada-boom! All of life should work this easily.

One more note: I’m not an affiliate for many items, even multiple items for the same person. I became an affiliate for Thesis because after installing it on The Virgo Guide to Marketing, I fell in love with its ease of use. There’s massive support for Thesis, and a big user community. If you’re really terrified of doing anything yourself, there’s a community of nice Thesis devs like Jamie and her partner and team who can help you with what you need for a reasonable fee. But really, it’s a great way to get your feet wet with webby stuff, because it’s so danged simple.

Brava, Shatterboxx! Bravo, Thesis!

Now, let’s get back to work…


UPDATE 7/16/10: While for now, this site is still using the Thesis theme, I can no longer recommend Thesis due to concerns I have about the ethics surrounding its release.

I may write a longer post about this, but for now, I’ll simply say that I’m very concerned about the hard line Chris Pearson is taking on the WordPress license issue, and very upset with myself for not doing due diligence when researching replacement themes for Grid Focus. I’d been meaning to take down my affiliate links anyway (more on that, soon, too, in the form of a policy) so I’ve gone ahead and done that, but I’m really hoping that Chris will do the right thing and release Thesis under the GPL, the license that WordPress itself is released under, and which all iterations are supposed to carry.

I still recommend Jamie Varon if you have your heart set on a Thesis customization.

*Yeah, sorry, I know I didn’t link to the actual post, but ain’t it great how FAST the site loads!?

**Uh…what I said above.

***Unless Dreamhost is down, AGAIN, and nothing is loading, in which case all you’ll get is a stupid “502 Error” page. Ugh.

Image by clevercupcakes via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Hotel Vertigo

hockney-esque photo collage of hotel vertigo, san francisco

Once upon a time, I was a medium-big traveler.

I never did it as much as my friends Shane or Chris, and certainly not as much as my father (o, he of the fabled American AAirpass!), but for a goodly stretch of my life, say, 22 – 32, I got around, and when I got there, I parked it in hotels.

I am a big fan of hotel-staying over couch-surfing, even when the couch is a lovely guest room with private bath or a beautiful detached guest house all to oneself on Mt. Tamalpais. (Yes, really. Another lifetime, and of course, friends of my father’s.) Unless my generous hosts are nowhere near the premises, I have problems with staying in someone else’s space.* Real, serious, physical problems.** Travel is hard enough on non-hardy introverts; throw a lot of activities into the mix, even activities you really, really enjoy, like hanging out with beloved friends, and you have a recipe for fried circuits and an exhausted nervous system, especially when you’re talking Virgos with Cancer rising.

What I am not a big fan of is overpaying for comfort. I’m down with comfort, but when it edges into what I call luxury, I get uncomfortable. I like parking my own car, hauling my own luggage, brewing my own espresso. If I had my way, I’d either rent houses or have my own everywhere I went (which is a lot of houses, probably even Oprah wouldn’t want to do that.) And yeah, I know that makes me just as much of a Wussy McWusserton, first-world person of privilege as any fatcat who stays at the Four Seasons on expense account. I guess my style is more “do whatever you can to fly under the radar while still protecting your soft, chewy center.” If there’s a tag like that.

So what I do now when I travel, especially right now, when I’m feeling a little bit tender and I need to travel, is find a great place with the right kind of “luxury” that doesn’t break the bank. This means such critical stuff as clean, safe, sleepy-bye bedding and (premium) cable, basically, somewhere that is at least as nice as my humble little rent-stabilized one-bedroom in an undisclosed area of Los Angeles. (Which, now that I think of it, is exactly what I’ve always wanted from a home-away-from-home, which is why some of those places seemed Saudi-prince-level-luxurious back when I lived with drafts and vermin in my Brooklyn shithole.)

Enter the Hotel Vertigo in just-a-little-too-beautiful-for-me San Francisco.

Named after the legendary Hitchcock classic, the Vertigo is one of a fambly of charming San Francisco hotels, each of which seem to be hipster-rehabbed properties which might have fallen on hard times. It’s beautifully decorated, loads of hipster color combo orange-‘n’-brown, furry scatter pillows, and Vertigo art, with wonderful attention to Colleen-crucial details: kickass bed/bedding, non-chintzy bathroom and bath accessories, adequate setup for on-the-road computing. The wise folk who run it are exceptionally blogger-savvy: like the Roger Smith in New York (a place you can bet your ass I’ll check out next chance I get, and similarly tout if it’s great), they go out of their way to accommodate nerds, and as a nerd, I say, It’s about fucking time this got me something!***

But they’re nice to everyone, or at least, they were as far as I could see. Can I tell you what a relief it is to find service that is great without being obsequious or otherwise creepy? Because it is. Like my recent world-changing experience with Virgin America, I now believe that there is some way to staff up with normal, nice, smart human beings, and then empower and treat said staff well enough that they continue to act like nice, normal, smart human beings whose job happens to be helping you deal with life on the road.

Because then, not only do your customers get their reservations sorted out by an actual friendly human when they stupidly screw up their flight plans; not only do they  get their airport transfers handled with something bordering on elegance; you get wild, crazy evangelists to go forth and do all your promoting for you for FREE. ZOMFG, the world may end, it’s such a radical business plan!

In my perfect world, there would be a wonderful little hotel like the Vertigo in San Francisco, or the Camas Hotel in picturesque Camas, WA, or the Jupiter in Portland, OR (only maybe a little quieter, for us fogeys), in every town I ever stepped foot in as a traveler: affordable, enjoyable, accommodating, non-icky.

Maybe there is. But I won’t know about them unless we all start telling each other. How about it, nerds? Give ’em up in the comments?


*In case you’re curious, I actually have a few outrageously generous and well-to-do friends who offer up their cush cribs to me while they’re on the road, for which privilege I happily run out and buy them all manner of shit for their houses, from coffee machines to designer toilet brushes to wireless routers.

**There were times when The Chief Atheist or The Youngster and I stayed with his parents where I would not poop for a week. A WEEK. Thankfully, The BF was 100% fine with not staying on the family property; that he shared my convictions of “camping” meaning “staying at a motel without premium cable” was one of many reasons we lasted as long as we did.

***Seriously, they could not have been more delightful and accommodating at every turn

Image by karen.tkr via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Virgin America

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

I got a little carried away by my newfound love for Sir Richard Branson’s winged brainchild.

On my second trip in as many weeks, I plugged in the laptop, plunked down $12.50 for some in-flight WiFi and did a little screencast plug for the greatest thing to happen to commercial aviation since the 747 Lounge. Roughly five minutes; if you can’t see it on your screen, you can view it on the YouTube.