Come Back To The Five And Dime, Cameron Aubernon


Three years and two months ago, I stopped my Boxster on a darkened side street street in Louisville and invited a young woman to get in the car.

My expectation was that we would sleep together and probably never see or talk to each other again.

I was wrong on both counts.

Looking back, I have to smile a bit at my unflinching rapacity. I was in transit from a date in Nashville to one in Columbus, but insofar as that transit passed through Louisville and I kinda-sorta knew someone in Louisville, why not stop off and pull the trifecta right quick? It was the sort of thing I did all the time, for years, until the quantum waveform of my life collapsed into its current monogamous state.

If you’re a committed TTAC reader, you can guess that my plan ran into a minor snag. While very feminine and possessed of both enviable bone structure and peerless fashion sense, Cameron was in the middle of her transition from male to female at the time and I am, for better or worse, a remarkably straight-laced dude. It’s also possible that she didn’t dig me. Maybe probable. I was a little rumpled-looking at the time thanks to a few stressful days on the road, and I’m not handsome on my best days. I mostly seduce women with a combination of knowing what they want to hear and the ownership of some really great shoes.

So, as we sat across a table at some Loo-vul hipster joint, I pondered a backup plan. I had promised Cameron that we would talk about her writing, but that was just some line I was using so we could meet up and do stuff. Truth be told, however she was a solid writer who had already demonstrated an ability to put the recherche minutiae of the fashion world into everyday terms. She also knew how to turn out copy; she’d been writing fast pieces for a Louisville publication.

With those qualities in mind, I suggested that she submit some pieces to TTAC and offered to help with the editing. She didn’t need much help. It was a pleasure to work with someone who didn’t require wholesale reconstruction of sentences to achieve the barest semblance of transmitted meaning. In short, she was a pro.

Nearly a year and a half after meeting Cameron, I ascended to the sacred Pot-Metal Throne of TTAC with a mandate to save the site or, failing that, to preside over its termination. One of the first things I did was to overhaul the way we reported news. My predecessor, Bertel Schmitt, had managed to convince our corporate overlords to pay him the vast majority of the site budget every month. In exchange for this, he would produce several posts a day that were just regurgitated Reuters and Automotive News features. Once a week, he would send a “post report” to management that showed him, Bertel, producing more posts than everyone else combined and thus justifying his staggering compensation.

When I took Bertel’s gig, I suggested that they pay me half of what they paid Bertel and in exchange I would both save the website and hire some additional talent. As part of that, I created the “TTAC Staff” byline and hired various people to write the same kind of regurgitated news that Bertel had written, at approximately one-tenth the cost. I knew that we needed a news feed. Not because we could bring anything unique to the reporting of stuff like “GM Executive Tells Press That Blah Blah Factory Moving To Mexico”, but because if we didn’t have that stuff we’d be forcing our readers to look at another website every day. Think of it like the Acura SLX, which was a rebadged Isuzu trooper. The purpose of the SLX wasn’t to sell a bunch of rebadged Isuzu Troopers, it was to keep Acura customers from forming relationships with other brands just because they needed a truck.

“TTAC Staff” was my Acura SLX. Or my Honda Passport. Or my Chevy LUV, come to think of it.

It was a short-lived experiment because I failed to set adequate guidelines for attribution and some news sources thought I was giving them inadequate credit for reporting the original stories. So I came up with the idea of replacing “TTAC Staff” with Cameron.

Over the next twenty-two months, Cameron wrote thousands of short news features, serving as sort of a news aggregator for me and then for Derek when I was terminated as EIC. She had a real knack for boiling down a long story into the salient points, and she made very few mistakes. Of course, the B&B never failed to run her up the flagpole when she wrote something they didn’t like, and she took their abuse with an equanimity that few writers in this or any other business possess.

Cameron never called in sick, never failed to produce, even though she moved across the country and then up the coast during her tenure. She was largely typo-free and grammatically correct. She knew very little about cars, but part of my *ahem* genius in selecting her was realizing that you don’t need to be an ASE Master Tech to interpret news about business decisions and new-model announcements. She did all the dirty work for me, leaving me free to write opinion columns and drive fast cars and do talent scouting and recruit new writers and perform all the other tasks that I needed to perform in order to save TTAC and restore our traffic to its former, pre-Schmitt heights. That, too, was part of my *ahem* brilliance: to realize that the Editor-In-Chief post at TTAC is a leadership post, not a chance to earn six figures rehashing Autoblog’s content from the previous day and retyping press releases.

Along with Ronnie Schreiber, whose ability to write fascinating and deeply-researched pieces on a variety of automotive topics served as a central pillar of our appeal beyond the stereotypical “car forum guy”, Cameron was an essential and under-appreciated part of my team during 2013 and 2014. While TTAC is not all about the numbers — thank G-d, otherwise we’d have to run Top Ten listicles all day — it’s worth noting that Cameron, Ronnie, Derek, and a cast of thousands managed to beat the self-styled “fan favorites” like Doug DeMuro and Steve Lang every day of the week. We did our best numbers when we had original editorial work and high-quality car reviews supported by thorough and complete news reporting.

Yesterday afternoon Cameron announced her termination in a thoughtful post that contained many of her core virtues as a writer: cheerfulness, directness, an unfussy facility with language, and a steadfast belief in better days to come. I wish her the best, of course, but I also want to take this time to single her out as the hardest-working writer I’ve ever met. Anyone who wants to take advantage of TTAC’s decision here won’t regret it. I don’t think her sun will set for very long.

40 Replies to “Come Back To The Five And Dime, Cameron Aubernon”

  1. CGHill

    Just about every time I see her name on the screen, I lapse into Rick Springfield mode: “Where can I find a woman like that?”

    I’ve read some of her short fiction. She does world-building with grace and finesse. At least 90 percent of us struggling scribes could learn something from her.

  2. M3ntalward

    I was and still continue to be jealous of the sheer volume she can produce. Like you said, they aren’t wandering bits, but solid newsworthy contributions. Most don’t illicit a response beyond “hmmm.” or even “I thought so” but that was the point of TTAC, to gather the news we could find elsewhere but shouldn’t have to.

  3. kvndoom

    By “termination” I sure as fuck hope you mean “resignation.”

    Please don’t tell me she got canned just for not having a damn license.

    • Cameron

      It’s like I said in my own post: VerticalScope wanted someone who could drive and handle the news; I could only give my client — and they still are for the foreseeable future — half of what they wanted when they were looking to fill the role of news editor.

      But save your tears and your ire, darling, because I’m now free. I no longer need to comb through the Internet to bring you someone else’s news five times a day, five days a week. Instead, I can now be the original source of any news which isn’t pulled directly from a newswire or PR service, if so needed for the role.

      I can also write more original feature content, and I can offer my skills to businesses seeking someone who can write like no other, whether it’s a case study for one’s non-profit clinic, or a press release about Android Auto which may — funnily — turn up on TTAC.

      I can see the first light of my sun.

      • Power6

        Hmmm how about business technical stuff? Email me at andrew (at> agnostictech -dot- c0m if you might be interested…

        • Cameron

          If I can write about cars and fashion by simply diving in, I can write technical documents, too. I’ll shoot you an email within the next 24 hours or so. Thank you.

  4. Acd

    Based on the number of recent news stories by Mark Stevenson it looks like he may be going back to the Bertel model of being Superblogger. However considering that he never came out and stated that he was the new EIC in his announcement about him becoming EIC he may not be the best person to write news stories.

    Nice tribute to Cameron, Jack.

  5. Mark Stevenson

    Cameron is by far one of the most diligent, hard-working and solid writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. This is definitely a fitting tribute to her ethic.

  6. Cameron

    Perhaps if you were an attractive woman, you may have had a shot with me in the sack. ;P

    Anyway, this is the nicest, most wonderful tribute to wake up to in a long time. Thank you for this, and thank you for being one of my editors. I don’t know where I’d be if you hadn’t taken a chance on me those years and months ago.

  7. Power6

    I don’t think I really understood what it takes to keep those news posts going so thanks for the insight.

  8. Athos

    Terminations suck, badly. All the best to her. I love the gif she used in her classy farewell piece. Hers was almost the only content I was reading on TTAC, I always check MM’s junkyard forays.

  9. Stef

    Such a bummer to hear she’s not going to be handling TTAC’s news anymore. They’re losing one of the clearest, easiest to read voices the business. But I’m glad to hear she’ll pop up elsewhere, especially with longer content. Yay.

  10. arbuckle

    Three years and two months ago, I stopped my Boxster on a darkened side street in Louisville and invited a young woman to get in the car.

    My expectation was that we would sleep together and probably never see or talk to each other again.

    Wait, does that really work?!
    And most of the people that leave TTAC end up fairly successful, so I’m sure Cameron will be fine.

    • VolandoBajo

      I thought it was going to turn out that after he invited her to get into the car, he was going to get a badge flashed in his face, followed by being quickly surrounded by the Vice Squad. Glad the story took a different turn, though I do not like the turn it took.

      FWIW the link for the info about the “resignation” came back a 404. WTFO? I might have comprehended it as being pulled if on TTAC, but it is a link to Jack’s site.

      • Jack Baruth Post author

        Fixed it — it’s actually a link to TTAC.

        And sure, people have sex with people they’ve just met all the time. Most women over twenty, if they’re speaking honestly, can tell you a story about when they let it happen.

        • VolandoBajo

          This will probably sound like bragging, so in advance I offer what I believe it was Dizzy Dean who said it “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”

          But having been in my prime in the Golden Era — post-pill, pre-VD’s that weren’t eradicable — I don’t have to ask women over twenty. Cause I was there more than a couple of times.

          And interestingly enough, if I sensed that the woman wasn’t in the habit of jumping in the sack every chance she got, if it was the result of both of us responding to a strongly felt chemistry, I DID respect her in the morning…usually enough to try to fence off the territory right from the bat, at least until nature had run its course.

          Some of those times led to some of the best (and relatively long-lasting) relationships I had.

          As you probably know well yourself, Jack, if the feeling is right, you live with that other person in a magical space, where the past is at most prologue, and often just plain irrelevant.

          The story of that relationship begins with the first meeting (good thing I can spell, eh, wot?), and builds its own story.

          Now you’ve got me reminiscing. Fortunately the best one of all of those stories is the best one of all those stories…but that is all I will say about that.

          And on a related topic, I know a guy, the proverbial friend of mine, who saw a young lady walking down the street in a college district of a big city one weekend night, and he offered her a ride.

          Money wasn’t mentioned, just the possibility of transportation and possibly a late night breakfast and some conversation, plus whatever that might lead to.

          And that person suddenly found himself confronted with the badge and the squad. And a perjured report that said money was offered. All that mattered to them was that if my friend was out trolling after midnight, he was part of the cause of the alleged deterioration of an older gentrified neighborhood, and those arrest stats looked like they were doing something about it.

          So I was thinking about my friend, when I supplied what I thought would be remainder of the lead of your story.

          Glad that wasn’t the case for you. Though I suspect it is a far too common experience…guys like that are often viewed (conveniently) as predators, which in turn justifies their vilification and punishment, without too much regard for details.

          My MO tended to be to sidle up next to a hot nightspot’s service area, near where the waitresses and other servers picked up drinks for tables. If I got there early, I got the good seat. That in turn enabled a lot of friendly banter during the course of the night. And if I didn’t get sloshed, and managed to say a few things that connected, I often met a woman who was working her way through college, or something like that…to me, clearly a better choice than fishing in the pond of the vast dance floor and its denizens.

          I had other MO’s, but they are best left in my vague long-term memory, as I haven’t had a need for them for some time now, ever since the time that “lightning struck” for me. My life has never been the same, and for that, this old dog is very grateful.

          Twenty plus years “before the mast”, almost too old to be a father, or so I thought, and then one night my whole life changed. And has remained changed ever since.

          Hope you are that lucky some day before too long.

          You wouldn’t want to be like the cartoon post card I once saw in a FL tourist trap…three old men on the porch of an Old People’s Home, and one (who is clearly at least in his eighties), jumps up and says “By Golly! I’ve got it! I’ve finally figured women out!”.

          A day late and a dollar short, as the saying goes.

          For me, it happened much sooner, though until then I thought it was too late.

          I hope you find a similar fate, when the time and the woman are right.

          We could use multiple entries in the gene pool from someone as gifted and talented as you. And I’m sure you wouldn’t mind making the contribution/sacrifice(?!) if the opportunity presents itself.

          All the best to you, Jack. I hope our paths get to cross some day. If I weren’t so involved in trying to help my son get his own business going, I’d want to try to arrange some track time with you. But that probably isn’t in the cards for this old dog. Still, I hope we get to meet some day.

  11. Aleksey Dubrovensky

    By the way, I can’t help but be amused that you used a picture of Seattle, Washington at the top of a piece with a story set in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville happens to be my hometown and where I live and never in a million years would it be confused for Seattle. We don’t have mountains like that in the Bluegrass. We have bourbon, though.

      • Aleksey

        I figured that might be the reason, but I wasn’t sure.

        Now you know another person in Louisville, JB. Please feel free to drop me a line the next time you’re coming through town. I’m a huge fan of your and your brother’s writing. I’ve been a loyal follower of TTAC since 2009, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read everything you and “Bark” have published since then.

        • Bark M

          Dude, I live eighty miles from Louisville. Come see the happening metropolis of Winchester, KY, sometime.

  12. Aleksey

    You live in Winchestertonfieldville???! I kid, but that’s really close by. I have a 2011 Infiniti M37x that I’d love to have you guys do a review on or perhaps a reader-ride review. Sit me an email.

  13. VolandoBajo

    You’ll be missed, Cameron.

    Seems TTAC fell far from grace during the BS regime, then slowly climbed back, under the efforts of yourself, Jack and a few others, but primarily you two. And now it seems that whatever sandcastles were built in the air are slowly slipping back into the sea.

    D DeM’s writings are one big listicle, writ large.

    I found my way in the front door about the time Jack was being shown the door, in slow motion…have read a lot of history since then.

    These days, it seems that the best part of a day (or night) on TTAC is the content generated by the B&B, a few of whom give me a rash, and several of whom are both highly intelligent and informed, and highly witty.

    When Cameron and Jack are but memories on TTAC (hopefully not for a long time), there won’t be much else of an exceptional nature except for a subset of the commenters.

    Vaya con Dios, Cameron. I hope Jack will keep us pointed in the direction of some of your new writing.

    • Cameron

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Volando. I’ll pop up on TTAC now and again with more original works, as well as a few other publications, and whatever press releases and case studies someone needs me to write.

  14. -Nate

    Arbuckle Said : ” Wait, does that really work?! ”
    Yes , it really does .
    Spoiler : once you’ve tried it awhile , you begin to get really picky about how you get nekkid with .

  15. VolandoBajo

    And now, a sudden idea has crossed my often dormant mind.

    As a new driver, once you get your license, do a series of articles test driving various types of cars, and relating what the experience was like to a new, or newish, driver…what kind of adjustments you had to make, what it was like to drive them under various conditions, etc.

    Picture Cameron trying to drive a Panther platform vehicle, both on the highway and in city traffic. A descriptive article about overcoming the challenges of learning to drive a stick (OK, maybe not as the first in the series). Ask Jack to try to get you hooked up with the Huracán for a quick spin, perhaps at the Ohio Mile, where you could wind it out as fast as possible, up into stratospheric speeds (a Walter Mitty idea if there ever was on). Dealing with the pros and cons of a large SUV. Adjusting to the idea of having a backup camera to deal with — is it an aid or a distraction to a new driver? Navigating town and country in a Smart. Learning to deal with recharging issues in a Tesla used for various types of trips. What happens when you get a Hellcat as a rental car (if they exist) or just what it is like to drive vigorously, though without blatantly breaking the law, in one.

    Your imagination, coupled with both your and Jack’s knowledge and experience with cars, is sure to produce many other combinations that I am sure many would be fascinated to read.

    Another article on a car you’d recommend for taking your initial drivers test in. Coping with various new high tech auto entertainment systems while trying to keep the thing aimed between the lines, and moving at the speed of surrounding traffic. Maybe one on learning how to cope with basic driver/owner tasks such as checking the oil, checking tire pressure, etc.

    I would think that this would make a fascinating series of viewpoint articles, from someone new to driving as an adult, especially when the article would be written from the point of view of someone who is as talented a writer as you are.

    Hope I have become the one to find a way to get you back on TTAC on a regular basis. But if you would prefer another avenue, well, at least you can’t blame me for trying to get you to entertain and inform us with your new driving experiences.

    All the best to you.

    And for my final warped idea, before I shuffle off…how about an article in which you try to pass your driver test in a Lamborghini? The very thought of hearing you describe the look and the reaction of the examiner as he or she realizes that you are serious about wanting to drive, parallel park, etc., in a quarter of a million dollar low flying rocketship. And please, with video footage to go along with it.

    I promise I’ll stop, if you promise you’ll consider such a series, even if all your choices are different from my suggestions.

  16. -Nate

    do _NOT_ stop as your thoughts and writing style make for good reading .

    ‘ or just what it is like to drive vigorously, though without blatantly breaking the law, in one. ‘

    oh puh-LEASE ! according to the Highway patrol , I can’t even manage this in a bone stock 36 horsepower VW Beetle if the road (Angles Crest Highway) is remotely interesting .

    I have a couple funny/pathetic driver’s test stories , nothing like that .



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