Thursday, January 16, 2014

On Going Vegan

Here's a picture of me and Elvis from a few years ago. He wanted to take me for a ride in his pink Cadillac. :/

Las Vegan, that is. (That's what they're called here. But it's pronounced "Vay-gan.")

By now you've probably heard that I've left the dirty D for the sunshine and neon lights of Las Vegas. It wasn't exactly a secret - I was very open about it on my personal social media accounts and discussed it at length with the food and beverage industry people closest to me as well as all of the media outlets I work for. I teased the announcement first in Model D here (which was followed up with something not entirely accurate but also not entirely inaccurate either). It was also announced in Real Detroit Weekly, with which I have a longer professional relationship than anywhere else.

But I didn't make any announcement on this blog or on the Facebook fan page. This is because I do not yet have an announcement to make.

First, some details: in October I started freelancing for VEGAS magazine as an online contributor. I had a good relationship with some of the people involved and a good understanding of the city and its culture as I am a frequent visitor and have been for several years. Ironically, as things so often have a funny way of working out, I joked for years that I was going to move to Las Vegas, even made very tentative plans a few years back that never evolved past the point of talk. Then in November, as I was out in Los Angeles looking at potential new neighborhoods to move into part-time (my original plan was to split my time between Detroit and L.A. this year, for reasons), I got a call about a Deputy Editor position open with VEGAS. Though not said in so many words, it was mine for the taking if I wanted it.

I spent the next week and a half agonizing over the decision. During this time I made a pit-stop in Vegas to meet with the Editor in Chief and the Publisher. (And to see Nine Inch Nails again for the third time last year and it was amazing.) I had to make the decision over Thanksgiving weekend and talked it out with everyone I could - weighing the pros and cons, the things I would potentially be gaining versus the things I would have to give up - and after getting some valuable advice from some unexpected sources, I made the decision to move. I make no decision lightly, so you can imagine how stressful that whole thing was.

I officially accepted the job on December 2. By December 20, I was moved out of my apartment and my entire life was on a truck en route to Vegas. Those 18 days in between were spent frantically deciding how I was going to move (get a Uhaul and drive across the Rockies in the dead of winter? hire movers to do it? rent a furnished place and make the trip in the summer?), searching for an apartment, (Vegas is tricky - what can seem like a great place is often in a skeezy area, not unlike Detroit - but I lucked out by finding a beautiful apartment in a beautiful neighborhood just 5 minutes from work just three days before the movers came), setting up utilities and insurance, changing my address, packing, figuring out how to ship my car, informing those who needed to know about my decision, making succession plans to place people I hand-selected in positions at Model D and Real Detroit, and maintaining whatever modicum of work I actually managed to eek out during all of that. And oh yeah, it was also the holidays, which further complicated things.

Don't ever move across the country during the holidays, is all I'm saying.

But, like the pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle that seem to be made of nothing but corners, everything eventually came together perfectly. I'm all moved in, sooooooooooooooo close to being all unpacked (current struggle: "What kind of dining set defines me as a person?" and the like - I am Jack's obsessive use of the Etsy mobile app), and have started a great new job working for people I tremendously respect with Greenspun Media Group, founded by Hank Greenspun, who has a huge chunk of the Las Vegas metro named after him (here's a great biopic on the man who started his media empire as a Bugsy Siegel's publicist). After December 20 I was able to spend the next 11 days with friends and family. Publications had gone dark, I had nothing due, my pre-planning work for the move was done, it was the holidays and many people were on vacation, so I went on a (thoroughly documented for those who paid attention) farewell tour - a "victory lap," as one friend put it - and got to say my goodbyes to so many of the people who have been wonderful friends (though I did still miss a few and hope to make it up to them). It was lovely, and the perfect way to say goodbye. I left for Las Vegas on January 1, which I thought was just terrifically symbolic - new year, new beginning, that whole thing.

Now, why did I do it? Why did I "abandon" Detroit? (Actually I thought I was going to get a lot more of that, but aside from a few Bitter Betties the response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive, if still occasionally heartbreaking.) Because I'm 32. I'm not getting younger. I got a late start in journalism and had to build my career from absolutely nothing, working manically over the last seven years to make a name for myself and build a strong reputation (admittedly, those two things  happened independently), eventually fostering relationships outside of the city with national media and local media in major markets. As a freelancer, I had hit my ceiling in Detroit. There was nowhere else for me to grow there, and I had no interest in pursuing full-time work in that market. I had accomplished what I set out to do, and it was time to move on so I could continue to grow my career.

Then the Deputy Editor position fell into my lap. Ask anyone in lifestyle media - this is not something that happens to anyone. Ever. It's the kind of opportunity I would have been foolish to turn down if I was really serious about taking the next step in my career. In short, I did this for my future. I could have stayed in Detroit forever, and would have continued being successful, but I was hungry for something new, something more.

During all that time I was frantically looking for a new home and getting things situated for the move, I had Eat It Detroit looming over my head. What was I going to do with it? How would I be able to make it carry on? I met with several people and had a lot of discussions about it, but then concerns about EID had to take a backseat to everything else I had to manage. Now I've been in Las Vegas for two weeks, and EID's future is still taking a backseat to the other things I have to manage. I started a new job in a new city. I'm making friends and learning the ropes, discovering as much as I can about my new home, just generally getting acclimated. I mean, I'm still unpacking, so a Detroit-based blog is just not my immediate priority right now.

Before I left, I started getting some things in motion so that the brand could carry on in my absence. Those discussions are still happening. Nothing is yet definitive, which is why I have not made any official announcements. I took two weeks off so I could focus on moving across the country and start a new job and a new life, and I just don't feel like I need to apologize for that. Besides, no news is good news, for now.

That being said, realistically I cannot manage EID from 2,000 miles away, nor do I want this weighing me down when I have other things to focus on (such as the job I moved 2,000 miles across the country to take). This does mean that yes, the future of EID could be in jeopardy, and I may choose to bid farewell to it should it come down to that. Better to whole-ass one thing than half-ass two, right? But other people want it to live on - people who want it so badly they have offered to work for free just to keep it going, and chefs who have called me to try to convince me to keep it going because it is "the most important piece of food writing in Michigan."

Not my words. Their words. And more than one.

I feel like I owe it to them - to the chefs I have built very close relationships with over the years who respect and appreciate what I have the same, and to the loyal readers who feel the same - to keep it going. It is an incredibly strong brand that I have put my heart and soul into building. While other sites exist as mere click-bait, an opportunistic cash-grab to capitalize on the current worldwide trendiness of Detroit, I always wrote with honesty and earnestness (and swears, lots of swears). That's what set me apart, and that's what made me a stronger and more respected voice than any of the others.

But EID is more than just a blog. It is a brand, and the auxiliary outfit of a person whose byline appears dozens of local and national publications. I was the Development News Editor and feature writer for Model D and Managing Editor of UIX Detroit. I was a long-time weekly contributor to Real Detroit Weekly, which included a several-month stint as Acting Managing Editor (to help out the then Editor in Chief who got dangerously sick and was hospitalized for several months and had to learn to walk again, so that when he recovered he would have a job to come back to). I regularly wrote features for Metromode, Ambassdor Magazine, edible WOW, Hour, Art Showcase Magazine, and dozens more on a less frequent basis.

I'm known as a food writer, but the body of my work includes a lot of arts and culture, film, business development, and entrepreneurship coverage (those just happen to be the things you don't see as much since they don't get re-posted on EID). I've been a regular travel writer for New York Post and Fox News, and have done client work for a diversity of companies ranging from Quicken Loans and Digerati to Walsh College to Traffic Jam & Snug. I have organized and promoted two sold-out events for Baconfest Michigan, and was the sole organizer (albeit that came as a last-minute surprise to me) of last year's Detroit Beer Week. My work with EID has led to other freelance writing opportunities, client work including PR and social media management, event organization and marketing opportunities, speaking engagements, radio spots, even a guest appearance on the Food Network. I have worked with or covered every single one of the biggest names on Michigan's culinary scene, not just Detroit. I have made some of the best friends I have in the world as a result of connecting with them through the blog. EID was a passion and a labor of love. Hell, it even helped land me this new job.

As a result of the social capital I've built, even now I still get alerted to "scoops" before anyone else that unfortunately get wasted on me at the moment (though I do still appreciate the emails and texts). In the last month I've had three more people contact me wanting me to manage their social media, not even caring that I moved away (one client begged me to stay on with him for at least a little longer). I got one more even today, as I wrote this.

That's a hell of a lot of cache I've built. And yes, it was hard as hell to walk away from that.

While on my "victory lap," I was incredibly honored and flattered by the things people had to say. "It's the end of an era." "It's a major loss for Detroit." "You are irreplaceable." "You are THE Nicole of Detroit." One chef told me I made his career. Another said the same, and then cried. Another still just cried. A couple of industry guys I randomly bumped into on my victory lap shared stories about how I was the first person to write about them and how much it meant. One even remembers his "anniversary" with me. Others just kept repeating, "I can't believe it. I can believe you're leaving," with dumbfounded looks on their faces. My relationships extend far outside the city and all over the state, and it broke my heart to say goodbye to all that which I've worked so hard to build. Still, I know in my heart it had to be done.

To all the owners, managers, chefs, servers, and bartenders who have been both fans and friends, who have supported me and inspired me, welcomed me with open arms, sat down with me for hours at a time, who called me to give me insider information before anyone else knew about it, who told me that what I wrote about them was the best thing anyone has ever written, who thanked me for my support of the city and of local businesses, who thanked me for everything I have done, and to all of the readers who appreciated my writing and all of the information I shared with you: thank you. YOU are what made this all worthwhile. You are the ones I care about. You are the ones I do not want to disappoint. You are the ones I work for. From you, I never expected anything in return, but still got an enormous amount of support and respect, far more than I ever could have hoped for or imagined. So thank you, for everything.

All of which makes this snotty little spot of speculation from Eater sound pretty silly, doesn't it?

Even now, from 2,000 miles away, those I've built such strong relationships with over the years remain fiercely loyal. The last two days my phone has been blowing up from chefs and other industry people outraged on my behalf. And I appreciate their support, I do, and their fury over what they unanimously regarded as a personal attack. Which it was, and it was meant as bait. And I know exactly who it really came from (and it wasn't the person whose byline appears on the post). To whom all I have to say is this: once upon a time I truly considered you my friend. I would have done anything for you.

And that's all I really need to say on that.

The Metro Times piece is slightly better in tone, though I wouldn't exactly call it glowing. Though Michael Jackman at least managed to get my reason for leaving correct. And the fact that the Metro Times acknowledged me at all is pretty huge, but that's a story that goes back a few years and is better saved for the memoirs.

So this is goodbye for now, but not necessarily forever. Whatever announcement comes after this regarding the fate of EID, I hope this serves as an adequate explanation from me. I'm sorry I've kept you in the dark, but as you can imagine, I've been a bit busy. Follow me on Twitter  (@ruperstarki) and Instagram (@eatsdrinksandleaves) to stay up to day on the goings on of Nicole Rupersburg, media superstar. And regarding the future of this blog, well, you'll know as soon as I do. Thank you for everything you've given me over the years, which is far more than I've given you. I love you all. XO