There’s a time honored tradition around here to roast the outgoing editors-in-chief to mask our internal sadness and disappointment. The news that he’s leaving us, and for a magazine no less, personally hit us very hard. And now we’re all going to hit him very hard.
It was probably inevitable that Travis would leave although I didn’t expect it so soon in his tenure. I guess it makes sense, since we’re going in different directions. Specifically, I’m going in the direction of trying to save car culture and he’s going in the direction of a huge pile of Hearst money.
While I’m loathe to start having to set up press cars for myself again, this does present a few opportunities for the site. For instance, now that Travis is no longer able to select music for the site in the morning maybe Google AdSense will stop running those AARP ads.
It makes sense that Travis is going to a magazine because he is the squarest man alive. He’s all right angles. He dresses like a particularly uncreative third-grader and the last five concerts he’s seen have been: Billy Joel, Billy Joel, Billy Joel, Grand Funk Railroad, and Billy Joel.
For his colleagues at Road & Track I leave you this: If you’re mad at him call him Tarvis. He hates it.
I will miss doing karaoke with him, though. Boy can sing.
Travis Okulski is a fraud. Actually, let me back up a bit. When Matt Hardigree suggested we roast Travis, my first thought was “who?” And then I remembered that there was some guy here running the show for almost the past three months, and that no, he wasn’t one of our endless stream of interns that we somehow keep killing.
And then I remembered one more thing. You, long-time readers, may find this hard to believe, but Travis has actually been here for longer than almost-but-not-quite three months. He’s been here for a lot longer than that. He’s actually been absurdly good to me as an editor, letting me basically write whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and I’m pretty sure he loathes me on a personal level. But somehow, he doesn’t even care that I actually rolled into the office around 11 AM on my early days. He writes a car review better than anyone else I’ve ever seen, and drives better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
One time, while he was here, I was in the car with him when he got a WRX STi completely perpendicular, in the snow, and somehow we didn’t die and somehow we didn’t end up with a video of him totally crashing it. But also during that time he was here, I actually saw him get pretty drunk once.
Actually, I saw him get drunk a lot of times, but the one time that sticks out in my mind is the time a few months back when he actually confessed that he doesn’t (or rather, didn’t, because who knows now with his dainty whims and flights of fancy) actually love the Mazda Miata anymore. It’s true. He said he basically got so deep into it, that now he can’t see the light and can’t claw his way out.
Sure he might’ve said he loved the new Miata, but who knows? I mean, who really knows the last time Travis drove his own Miata?
I’ve been at Jalopnik, working in various ways, since March of 2013. I’ve seen a McLaren F1 GT, and an original 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C.
I have never, ever, seen Travis’ Miata.
I met Travis Okulski only twice. The first time, he put me in the danger zone by letting me drive a C7 on summer tires in December in New Jersey. Things went well before he turned into a giant chicken who tried to calm his nerves in the passenger seat by telling me that if the cops stop us for anything, I’ll get deported since I’m not a US citizen.
The second time, we met in Germany, where he gave me the keys to a diesel Audi A8 before hopping into an R8 V10 Plus, which he drove through the land of no speed limits. We switched cars in France.
I think what I’ll miss about Travis the most is his magnanimous nature, his generosity and of course his expert knowledge of sugar-free, caffein enhanced beverages. There’s no doubt that Jalopnik now has a bigger hole to fill than the Corvette Museum.
Travis and I took a recent trip to Chicago, where I learned his biggest flaw:
Straight out of the airport, Travis and I picked up a press car and once the vehicle rounded the corner, the look on Travis’s face could only be described as utter disgust and disappointment, as if he had just gotten a whif of Ballaban’s feet.
Naturally, he blamed it on me, the “video guy”, that the aforementioned vehicle had four doors and a electronic liftgate, rather than two seats and five or more manually-operated forward gears. But since he was right, I shrugged it off, hopped in the passenger seat, and we headed to Gingerman raceway.
As any good co-pilot would, I navigated us around horrendous Chicago traffic at 6pm on a Monday, and got us to our destination in record time. RECORD time.
On the way back, since Mr. Okulski was so exhausted from driving race cars all day, he tossed the keys to me and we headed back to O’Hare.
The directions Travis proceeded to provide me were, literally, “going around your ass to get to your elbow.” He managed to stick us in the Chicago traffic I successfully avoided on the way there, and his only offer of solace to me, the driver, was “Well, we have 5+ hours to get to the airport!”
Though his direction on public roads might be the worst I’ve ever seen, his direction as a site lead is some of the best I’ve had the pleasure of working under. Hope you can navigate Road & Track better than Chicago’s city limits, Travis.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to know Travis as long as the other writers here, but I’m thankful for the short time I got to work with him and for him. I came into this gig without any real experience as a paid writer. Travis was incredibly supportive in helping me figure this whole blogging thing out. Though he did threaten to come to my house and dunk my head in a bowl of milk because I forgot to spell out “percent” for the hundredth time. For those of you readers with dreams of being an auto-journo...Travis makes it look easy (it is not).
My favorite memory of Travis is when I met him in person for the first time at the Jalopnik Film Festival....he had a few “Blinker Fluids” and interrupted our conversation so he could rock out to some Phil Collins.
I’ll throw back a Pepsi Max just for you “Man of Miatas.”
What I will miss the most about Travis is sending him 5,000 word Foxtrot Alpha diatribes at 4 a.m. and getting random sarcastic comments throughout the day such as:
“So could this be any longer?”
“Tyler just dropped an encyclopedia on me so I am a little busy right now!”
“Wow, the Bible, thanks at lot man!”
Good times, good times.
In all honesty, Travis has been a great friend to Foxtrot Alpha and it has been nothing but great working with him. Good luck in Miata heaven dude!
When I first started working for Travis, I thought he was a pessimistic geriatric stuck in a middle-age man’s body put on this Earth to stifle my creativity. Who else would edit the hilarious Doge jokes out of all my posts?!
After I got to know him a little better, I realized that was only partially true. Turns out he’s, like, actually close to my own age.
In spite of his youth Travis Okulski, or “TO” as we called him (the best nickname an office full of writers could come up with) sure knows a lot about the internet and was kind enough to pass on some of his skills to the rest of us. For that, and the fact I could always convince him drinking on the company card counted as being “too busy to do other assignments,” I say cheers, good luck, and you better bring your fancy “Road And/Or Track” posse if you come ‘round these parts now, fella.
You know what? Roasts are where we’re all supposed to take collective shits on someone for laughs, but that’s hard for me because I really only have nice things to say about Travis Okulski.
There’s a lot of great folks in the auto journalism world, but also a lot of douchebags. A lot of inflated egos, paranoia, entitlement and dick-swinging. The hyper-competitive nature of car culture bleeds into what we do.
But Travis, despite being one of the best writers and editors around (and someone who can drive circles around most jokers), has none of those qualities. He has a temperament and humility that’s rare in this industry. Someone recently said he’s the nicest person at Gawker Media. That’s probably true. He’s just a good, decent human being.
He does suck at sleeping in vans, though. He nearly froze to death in one when he, Matt and myself went to VIR and camped out in a Sprinter. Matt and I are from Texas so we don’t fuck around when it gets cold. Travis is from New Jersey and the only one of us who grew up dealing with actual cold, but he brought like a leather jacket and some t-shirts.
He bitched and moaned about it the entire time, too. I thought he was going to die and we’d have to dump his body in a forest, like one of our interns. He left the next day in his fancy 320i because it was too cold for him.
Hey, I guess I don’t only have nice things to say about him. Godspeed, Travis! See you in Detroit next January. Maybe bring a sweater or something.
I think in many ways, I’ll miss Travis the most, because he taught me a great lesson: humiligy. “Humiligy” is basically “humility,” but with a “g,” since I never actually learned anything about humility.
It was a fine mid-monsoon evening, and Matt Hardigree and I were sitting on one of the many verandas that encircled my tree-mansion. We were enjoying our traditional summer-sausages-smoked-as-cigars and Singapore Slings and generally enjoying ourselves, pausing only to re-light our sausages and deliver fierce, cruel slaps to my valet, who’s name I never bothered to learn.
Matt got that look in his eye that he sometimes does when he thinks he has a really stellar idea:
“Jasononsworth, my good man, I do believe I have an idea.”
I was intrigued. “Spill it, Mattholemew,” I implored, knowing by the way Matt kept gyrating his hips on his seat that this one was probably really good.
“I’ll wager you that I can make anyone — absolutely anyone — into a Jalopnik editor-in-chief.”
I goggled at him and what I thought was his intense foolishness, and extended the rubber hand I use when I must dain to shake another human hand.
“Put ‘er there, Mattholemew, you’ve got a wager!”
Matt wasted no time. A few phone calls later he found the location of the nearest secret government human-experiments facility and asked to speak to the person in charge of Completed/Failed Experiments and other Human Garbage. The gentleman in question proved to be Matt’s old boarding school chum, who owed him a favor for that time he helped get the Senator’s appendix out of the owl’s — well, that’s another story.
“Your worst surviving specimen, please,” Matt requested, “and have him delivered here at once!”
The crate arrived within the hour, and announced itself with an overpowering stench. Matt and I pried open the lid, and were greeted with a large, vaguely humanoid form, square of head and long of limb.
The eyes caught mine, and they — while I can’t say they held what I’d call true human intelligence — were nonetheless haunting. The beast then seized my arm and bit into it, hard and deep. I shrieked in pain and rage, right as Matt caught the brute in the neck with a tranquilizer dart from the blow gun he kept with him at all times.
From that moment on, Matt stayed in his chambers, expensive and dangerous equipment delivered daily, as screams and grotesque grinding sounds emanated from the rooms at all hours. Once, the beast (whom Matt had named “Travis Okulski” after one of his childhood horses) escaped, and I was amazed at what I saw — it walked upright, wore a gingham shirt — it was truly amazing.
Soon Matt had him engaged on the job, and, to my amazement, it worked! I shoved a sheaf of scrawled pages and newspaper clippings into his arms, and told him that it needed to be a column. Then I pestered him to run it every hour.
Incredibly, he somehow managed. Though I never was convinced he was ever really aware of who he was, or what he was doing, he nevertheless managed to produce content that at least seemed real. I was astounded.
In a way, I grew to love Travis, like one would love a mongrel, or maybe a favorite shoe tree.
I will miss the glorious freak that we called “Travis.” And now I owe Matt a locomotive.
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