Cooler and Warmer…

Cooler & warmer. That’s the slogan, along with a new logo, that was unveiled Monday, as the result of a $5-million marketing campaign for RI Tourism.  Ok, you’ve finished the sentence but have you figured out what that heck that means? No, not yet? Ok, I’ll ask again later…

cooler & warmerWhen I first heard that my adopted home state (more on that later) would be devoting big money to promoting tourism, I was psyched. I’ve been a one-woman Rhody billboard since first landing here in 1999 and learning the Rhode Island fight song at URI. I managed to convince my now-husband to move back here with me, despite the fact that he’d never stepped foot in the state before. Oh, also my brother and sister-in-law now reside here and my lifelong NY/NJ raised parents are considering spending their golden years here too. Safe to say, I’ve been singing the praise of RI and reveling in showing visitors all that the state has to offer for years. After college and a few years spent living the good life as a single gal waitress/wannabe writer in Newport, I finally caved to the unspoken golden rule that if you want a successful career (especially in my chosen field of journalism/PR) you need to move to a big city – ideally THE big city.

In 2006 I headed back to my parents house on LI, purchased my first pant suit and began my first grownup job in PR. I stayed in NY for 6 more years, transitioning into social media, moving into Manhattan, climbing the proverbial ladder, handing out my business card like I was a rock star, riding the subway daily and spending way too much money on rent. In the back of my mind I always secretly hoped I’d land back in RI one day, but the job prospects seemed slim. No one goes from NYC to RI as a step UP do they? Depends what you’re looking for I guess. For me, I needed to find a place that my now-husband and I could agree on (he was living in Buffalo, NY the last two years I was in NYC), and I knew the beach, the people and the charm of RI would welcome me back with open arms… if only I could find a job.  On a whim I applied to a Craig’s List posting and was on an Amtrak to Kingston a few days later for the interview. Long story short, that job wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but it got me back to RI and led me to find that there ARE a lot of great companies, creative talent and brilliant minds here. There are also unlimited possibilities for creating your own opportunities and shaping your career into exactly what you want, especially in the age of remote work.

So where am I going with my long and rambling life story? My message is this. I find it disheartening that RI essentially chose to ignore all this local talent, all the people who may have come from elsewhere but CHOSE to live and work here. All the people who were raised here, educated here at some of the best universities in the country (not claiming my alma-mater URI is one of them, but I think we can all agree RISD & Brown are pretty damn impressive on a resume) and have stayed here to lend their talents to a place they are proud to call home. The designer behind the new logo is Milton Glaser, who’s responsible for the iconic “I Love NY” logo. I think we can all agree that’s a classic. Simple, and to the point. It’s the stuff T-shirts and mugs are made for. Heck, I own a cheesy Christmas tree ornament with this logo emblazoned on it. I think it’s safe to say I will NOT be hanging a “Cooler & Warmer” ornament anytime soon… Plus, THE GUY LIVES IN NY! You mean to tell me in a state brimming with artists and art students (Remember, RISD?) you couldn’t find one local “up and comer” to design something a bit more authentic?

Despite my initial reaction to the logo and slogan (and those of other well-respected locals) I still have high hopes for this campaign and hope to see it succeed and bring great things to our state. I won’t even get into the other well-publicized blunders so far, but you can read about some of them here, if you’re so inclined.

Hey Gina, Betsy and the rest of the team, I live here, I love RI (you can often find me tweeting and instagramming my #rhodylove) and I KNOW I’m not alone. One amazing thing I’ve seen come out of all this is the outpouring of ideas and passion from the creative community here.  Let’s work together, utilize local talent and showcase our great little state.

Rhody Love Forever,

Allie Zog

Officially, Official!

No, I’m not a Mrs., but I am an official RI resident again – with license plates to prove it! After somehow managing to survive more than a year in Newport without a vehicle of my own, I recently purchased my first car after more than 5 years as a car-less city dweller.

Still set in my urban ways, I had no problem walking to the store, taking the train into Boston or home to NY, and even daring to ask if we can “call a cab” when heading out.  (You can’t, in case you were wondering there are maybe two cab companies in RI…). I relied on the kindness of my boyfriend and friends for rides (thanks guys) and walked anywhere I could. I only lived about a 5-minute walk to a grocery store, drug store, yoga studio, coffee shop, etc. and just up the hill from the entire downtown Newport scene, even the beach was less than a mile walk away. I didn’t think twice about walkin’ it, but after a year as “the girl without a car,” I resigned to the fact that a car of my own was inevitably in my future.

I should probably mention that in terms of my job, I am lucky enough to work from home for the most part, only having to go on assignments, to meetings or to an office once a week or so. Because of this, I found a car not completely necessary, and although I love being back in little Rhody, maybe a small part of me was still clinging to the notion of being a city girl…

The lifeline of my NYC car-free existence was my trusty Zipcar membership and when I found out Newport had recently been added as a Zipcar city, I was even less inclined to buy myself wheels. Gas, insurance, EZ pass and even a beach pass included? Yes, please! During the summer months there were cars at a nearby hotel only a few blocks from my apartment but when summer ended and I got the unpleasant surprise that my cute little summer ride was being moved to Salve Regina (the university in Newport that it about a mile or two up the road from me), I knew the time had come.

After a few not-so-fun shopping trips to find said car, which sidenote*, you should never do with your longterm live-in boyfriend whom you are not married to, I took the plunge and am now considered a normal Rhode Islander, meaning that I drive to get my morning coffee, even though there are at least 5 places totally walkable…

I guess there’s no turning back now, so cue up that Rhody fight song!

*Because invasive and pushy sales people will find a way to ask you if you are married/why you aren’t married/whether you plan on getting married and claim it’s to find you some sort of married person discount.  But, in defense of this awkwardness, I did in fact receive a $500 discount due to the fact that my not-husband/live-in boyfriend lease’s a competitive vehicle. Yay for living in sin!

The Blizzard of 2013: A Recap…

Photo Credit: The Newport Daily News Facebook page, photo by Dave Hansen

Photo Credit: The Newport Daily News Facebook page, photo by Dave Hansen

Turns out, I’m a wuss.  Also?  I’m not one of those people who could go on a digital detox or whatever the kids are calling it these days.  I have now confirmed that the internet (particularly social media) is my lifeline to the outside world and the way in which I get 99% of my news and information.  What confirmed it? 39 LONG HOURS WITHOUT POWER!

Snowstorm Nemo hit little Rhody hard and left the entire Aquidneck Island (Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth) without power starting Friday evening with some people going as long as four or more days without.  Hat’s off to those people, truly.

I’ll break it down for you with a rough timeline:

Approximately 10pm Fri night: Power goes out for 5 minutes, I freak out, power goes back on, I tweet about it.

Approximately 10:20 pm Fri night: Power goes back off…and stays off.  I tweet about it…and cry a little.

10:27pm: I text my mom frantically.  I check Twitter frantically.  I tweet to National Grid.

Sometime between 10:27 and 1am: – I fall asleep dreaming of waking up to the harsh light of my bedside lamp the TV blasting.

Photo Credit: Joanie Caffrey (I was too frantic to take pics!)

Photo Credit: Joanie Caffrey (I was too frantic to take pics!)

Saturday 5am-ish: I wake up…COLD.  My boyfriend rolls over and mumbles…”did the power go out?” (he’d slept through the whole thing, bless his soul)

Saturday – timeline hazy due to lack of heat, light, TV, hot coffee, etc: I find out through Facebook that one bar in town is open and serving food and possibly one hotel is serving free coffee.  We proceed to bundle up as there is no way in heck we are staying in our apartment where the thermostat has already reached 46 degrees.  We head out and head to the Hotel Viking, where they’re serving coffee and a “cold lunch”, there’s no heat.  We leave for greener pastures because at this point we are still hopeful there’s some magical oasis of heat, TV, coffee and bacon and eggs.  We head to Benjamins which, as per Facebook, IS in fact the only bar open in town at this point.  They’re PACKED and getting a table to be served food seems unlikely.  We decide to trek on, now hopeful there’s other places around.  We arrive at the Newport Marriott with high hopes.  Turns out they DID have a generator but it broke.  They’ve got bigger problems too because they’re hosting Reebok for some big wig type conference.  There’s no heat although it feels warmer than our apartment.  We spot some staff cleaning up and ask if their restaurant is open.  They say no and we must look pretty defeated because they sneak us behind some curtain and offer us what’s left from their morning buffet.  They tell us “everyone’s gotta eat today” and I understand in a miniscule way what it must feel like to be homeless or hungry and have to depend on people’s good will. I appreciate the gesture immensely and accept the coffee while my boyfriend, not one to turn down food, enjoys a sandwich, leftover salad and some sort of soup.  I again have an epiphany about myself realizing that I declined the food because I wasn’t  really in the mood for questionable looking deli meat, wilted salad greens and mystery soup but realize after the fact what the expression “beggars can’t be choosers” truly means.  If this was my reality every day (no warm home, limited food source) I’d have to be grateful for whatever I could get and not chose what I eat on my own freewill.

From here, the day seems like five and we go on to return home to warm up in our car, charge our cell phones, head to the local Stop & Shop (which is open, sorta, and resembles the zombie apocalypse) and add my friend and her pup to our tribe.  Eventually we found out that a friend’s parents on the other side of the island has power and another friend has gas heat and some food.  We are lucky, and we enjoy a warm meal and a toasty home then head to our friend’s parents for a warm bed.  By the time we return to our apartment early Sunday afternoon our power is back and I’ve learned about a hundred life lessons.  Here’s the highlights:

1) As the boy scouts said, always be prepared!  We were not, at all.  We thought that wine, ingredients for chili and homemade pizza, and a flashlight would get us through but we didn’t truly prepare for the reality of no heat, no cooking source or refrigeration, etc.

2) Cell phones (particularly iPhones) really are the greatest invention of our time and were literally my lifeline.  If I hadn’t been able to text friends and family, make quick calls and check social media sites for information on what was opened, when and where power would be restored, etc, I really don’t know where we’d have ended up. (I’m sure we would have made it through ONE night sleeping under a ton of blankets but damn, at the time, I really didn’t think I would.  It was COLD and we didn’t even have many extra blankets….which brings me back to lesson 1, always be prepared!)

3) Having people you can rely on is important.  I had a minor breakdown in which I realized that my closest family member was in Boston, which is pretty close but wasn’t nearly close enough at the time.  While I have some friends in town I was really very lucky to have somewhere to go and realized that although I’ve always been the type to move places and make new friends, there’s something to be said for having lots of family and friends and a close-knit support system nearby.

And now to bring it full circle…

When I was first asked to be part of IBM’s Social Influencer Think Tank and told that I’d be sharing my idea of smarter commerce, I had a million things in mind.  There are so many times that social media and technology tools have enriched my life, got me jobs, got me on TV, connected me with family and long distance loves, and so much more, but after experiencing the smallest taste of a crisis situation, my belief in the power of social media was reinforced 1000%.

Over the next month I’ll be sharing plenty more stories of how social media and the latest technology has bettered my life, from the big to the small. And now I ask you friends, how has it bettered YOUR life?  Please share your stories with me here in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #MYSMARTERCOMMERCE

PS, Special thanks to Frank, Joanie, Jedi, Heather, Steve, Allie, Kathleen, and the Hunt Family; the Newport Marriott for their hospitality; and What’s Up Newport and The Newport Patch for their great coverage and information for getting me through my first New England Blizzard.