Self Made Storyteller

It's been a wild ride, but I don't regret a thing. I could have done without a few of the moments, but what's done is done and I wouldn't change a thing.

A Writer’s Life

If you’d have asked me five years ago, today, where I’d be in five years, none of my answers would’ve come close to my current reality. I’d have told you, you were out of your expletive mind.

No way in hell. You're crazy. That would never happen.

It happened. Here we are. Words of expressed reflection pouring from my fingertips.

I began writing in 2015, during the time between losing my job and registering Devilish Smirk.

At the time, I didn’t know how or where to begin, not beyond journaling and work email. Since I rarely journaled and had no job, a “blog” was an obvious choice.

Coming up with the name and securing its space was the easy part.

I still don’t know much about being a writer, other than I spend a lot of time doing it.

Writing requires a long game.

In the beginning, I was curious what writers in history had to say. The message that resonated with me was part of a quote slideshow.

I can't recall the exact quote, but the gist of it is "you cannot begin a story until the last word is written."

Whether or not that’s true, it stuck with me ever since. Its impact has everything to do with my mindset at the time: I had no end in sight.

Photo Credit: Jeff Brezovar

Understanding that, I realized my journey to writing signified a beginning.

I had (and have) a lot to learn about my story. I'm plotting my own unchartered path.

That’s when I registered Devilish Smirk.

I affectionately refer to Devilish Smirk as my hobby blog. It’s my training ground, one of the most important development tools on my journey to become a writer.

That was four years ago, in the summer of 2015. But let’s take it one step further, back to April 30, 2014.

It was a day that would become a significant live PIVOT (Personal Insight Visible Over Time) in my life.

Don't worry, this comes full circle.

Five Years Ago

It was April 29, 2014, on the eve of the sale of et alia, I was in the Detroit airport en route to Scottsdale for the signing.

A sudden last minute contingency was placed on the next day’s contracts. It came out of left field and was non-negotiable.

They placed a $600,000 holdback of purchase price, based on passing an SAP audit necessary for partnership status. That responsibility fell directly on my shoulders.

I accepted the responsibility as if I had a choice. My future was contingent on passing that audit, not to mention $600,000.

I missed my connection and stayed in Detroit overnight. I caught the first available flight to Phoenix the next morning.

April 30, 2014

It was finally the day. Four months of negotiations, meetings, and conversations came to a head. The entire day’s meeting was videotaped, or it was set up to look like it was.

The first thing unnatural that happened was the press release announcing the sale went out several hours before the signing.

I didn't know it at the time, but like the Grinch's heart, SAP's market cap increased by two billion that day.

Complete silence from the newest partner who bought in 8% even though he was about to lose half his investment.

His vocal gripe was his moving package. I wasn’t extended a contract. I was coming over as a straight-up employee. There were no guarantees for me; I was dispensable. They could terminate me at any time.

At one point, the CEO asked me how I felt things were going. Before I could answer, he brushed me off like I didn’t matter.

The last 15 years of my life meant nothing.

Not at that moment in time.

That’s a humbling blow at 39.

Dance with the Devil

The partners of et alia sold its assets along with “all known and unknown lawsuits” to Kiewit Technology, Inc.

Kiewit sent a substitute, contract attorney.

“Ever dance with the devil by the pale moonlight?”

After the five partners of et alia signed the purchase agreement, that’s the actual quote the then CEO of Kiewit Technology, Inc. (InEight) muttered.

He said it once the agreements were stacked neatly in front of him.

As he went in to sign I interrupted him, from across the table, with the rest of the quote from 1989’s Batman by Jack Nicholson’s Joker.

“I always ask that of all my prey, I just like the sound of it.”

The CEO’s ears perked up. He looked directly at me from across the table and said, “Travis, I may have underestimated you. I need to get to know you better.”

Then, he signed.

Immediately, my phone vibrated. It was a text from the et alia attorney who joined us at the table.

"Document that" was all it said.

That night, at dinner, I sat across the table from the CEO. He told me that I had no idea how impactful it was that I knew the Joker quote earlier. He said it changed his opinion of me.


I remember it well since it was the first and only time I ever ate a raw oyster.

Another thing that the CEO told me about contracts, when discussing my lack of one, was that “all contracts can be gotten out of through loopholes.”

That stuck with me ever since.


The CEO went on to say that after I moved to Scottsdale, we’d have to get together at his house for dinner, and he would show me his bat cave.

Fun fact: The CEO is a DC comics fanatic. He has a tattoo of Gotham City on his shoulder and wore Batman socks and t-shirts to work.

I was 39 so it’s not like it was a pedophile thing. Needless to say, I never made it to the bat cave.

Another fun fact: The CEO was the CIO of gulf-based contractor, Roy Anderson, who became an early CREW customer, almost immediately following Hurricane Katrina. History.

Over time, the impacts of his actions shed light on motives that began making a lot of other shit potentially make sense.

It was the strangest day of my life; the day we sold et alia.

Set Up to Fail

The 11 months I spent at Kiewit/InEight, I was being set up to fail.

Leading up to the sale, the CEO initially wanted Brad, my co-founding partner, to fire me before the transaction took place. That didn’t happen. When push came to shove, I was at least offered a position.

I don't know what those clowns expected, but I was a co-founder. Sadly for Kiewit, I came with the package.

Even still, the CEO even persisted and regularly informed Brad he was going to have him fire me within a year.

For whatever reason, they wanted me out of the picture.

I passed the SAP audit in June, renewing partnership compliance for one year. et alia received the $600,000 hold back, and I kept my job.

I was promoted twice the latter half of 2014.

At my first review, my manager said, “the expectation was that you’d get here, and you’d fall on your face.”

I was one of three promotions announced in December 2014 for new roles in January.

The review I received in February 2015 was great. My manager was incredibly happy with my performance, his sentiments reflected in the review he wrote.

I never imagined the escalation of HR accusations reported to me, against the CEO, by employees I managed, would result in my ousting.

April 2015 Departures

Brad Nicolaisen laid me off on April 13, 2015. He was constructively terminated on April 22, 2015.

A good place to start for the truth would be Kiewit’s then Director of Government Relations.

Hi Jill.

She only played a role in a few major incidents affecting me. Maybe her side could shed more light on why.

After 11 months and two promotions, they lumped me into a layoff of 30+ employees – some of whom participated in an investigation of anonymously reported HR incident(s) involving the CEO.

All previous attempts to get rid of me failed. They did it that way.

Overnight, I didn’t have anyone to manage, help, or assist. I had had nowhere to be, and no one to see.

I’d spent my entire career bound to the corporate world. After almost 16 years, I found myself jobless without many options.

Certainly, I was not about to return to that industry.

I had mixed feelings about it, but I knew, deep down, I’d rather die than have anything to do with that industry.

Plus, my attention was increasingly focused on other options. And I never signed a confidentiality agreement.

That's the best part.

Making Sense Out of the Nonsensical

I loved to write, but I’d never written anything for myself.

My degree is in Journalism. Of all things. This should come as no surprise. Finally, my college years made more sense.

My college experience was a whirlwind, but I didn’t attribute anything happening in my life because of my degree.

All this time I thought college was for the multitude of other experiences it afforded me. My inner journalist was stoked, but journalists aren’t beloved by everyone in this world.

The End

The end of this story is clear. There’s nowhere to go but up from here.

The events of yesterday matter as much as you make them.

Reel into your core, and have honest conversations with yourself. Look in a mirror if you have to. Eventually, you won’t need one. One day, the scales tip.

I realized the fine line between being careful and careless. Too much in one direction, and the overextended end flips your life in unproductive ways.

It’s hard to be optimistic these days. That’s when I stopped adapting to respond, and started adapting to understand.

It’s a line I toe daily.

The Devil Made Me Do It

I stand up for what’s right, I know how to fight, and that makes me a threat.

Travis Garrod, Devilish Smirk

Five years is a good timespan for the beginning and end of a story.

What the Hell Happened in Scottsdale?

April 2014: Dance with the Devil
2015: Devilish Smirk
2016: Domestic Terrorists Live Among Us
2017: Think Inside the Box, Pivot & Go
2018: Answers
April 2019: Phoenix Emerges from the Colorful Crap Ashes

Reading my stories from the top-down is a reverse version of my evolution, but an evolution nonetheless, but there’s no wrong place to start.

It is a form of Choose Your Own Adventure! Eventually all the stories tie into one another, and yours hopefully makes more sense.

2020: Foresight is 20/20

I feel like I’m crawling out of a steaming pile of extraordinarily colorful crap ashes.
*Currently In theaters in the future*

Where will you be in five years?

What were you doing on April 30, 2014?

I can’t believe I was eating a raw oyster, or that I was celebrating anything.

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The Great American Experiment


Welcome to the Great Experiment!

People got too comfortable playing the game. Picking up where The "Conversation" Game left off...

A lot of what I’ve learned about my life and the world around it makes me uncomfortable.

It makes me happy, sad, elated and doomed – truly doomed – all at once.

It takes us nine months to breathe on our own, but our time on earth is the real womb.

Everyday I learn to adapt, a little more, than the day before. Honestly, that’s all that matters to me.

Life beat the hell out of me before my attempt at beating the hell out of life. Living a life out of hell is worth fighting for.

Hell has no place in my life – inside and out. Real hell.

So here we are, beating the hell out of each other because life and I have a common goal.

My emotions don’t come one by one, they arrive in bundles. Like high speed internet, cable TV, and phone service, the price is too high to start separating my feelings.

If I’ve learned anything on my writing journey it’s that.

The demons are doing jumping jacks now. 

Be the Real Deal

Embrace emotions as they happen no matter what they are.

Feel your moments. Every last one of them.

Live like you were born in an arena. For all intents and purposes, you were. If you were born in America, that’s what this is.

You’ll be shocked how far long ago this was set in motion. More time ago than you can imagine.

For now, let's call them years.


Today, I realize how responsible I actually was as a kid. I’ve managed to justify my earlier existence. That’s the “C” student in me.

It's about damn time! I took that believing children are the future shit seriously.

I discovered a voice and, as a kid, I considered a typewriter a toy.

The Creative Guide

I attribute my evolution to having an open mind and heart.

I remind myself of this simple fact at every turn in this crazy reality.

That’s the only way I successfully began understanding the strange world in which I exist.

There’s only so much time before the thoughts behind this smirk are buried in forever.

Luckily, that's not the direction this is going.
Travis Garrod, Devilish Smirk

The stars aligned. Or not. The planets did. Or didn’t. Whatever it is, it feels like fireworks. Some days. Maybe.

I don’t know.

Moving on.

I feel like I’m crawling out of a steaming pile of extraordinarily colorful crap ashes.

Is it coincidence the Trump conclusion coincides with the final episodes of Game of Thrones which wraps on May 19, 2019 just ahead of the June 7, 2019 Dark Phoenix rise release?

And Sansa Stark stars in both?

Come on!

I’m merely a goose among geese, in a world searching for unicorns.

Don’t get me wrong, unicorns are great! They’re like a horse in permanent drag. However, unicorns shoot rainbows out of their butthole, and they don’t lay golden eggs.

A goose lays the golden eggs.

Where's that goose?

Will Ready Player win? Does Mario finally find his princess? Or prince?

Plot twist!

And all this time I thought I was an owl...
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The “Conversation” Game


It finally happened; another word made the list of my personal, verbal equivalents to nails on a chalkboard.

It’s a lurking word I’ve noticed inching its way into the everyday Jargonitis of election politics: Conversation.

"Conversation" is the buzzword to be wary of for crafty answer dodging for 2020 campaigns.

The good news is, that’s already obvious.

Don’t get me wrong, communication is key component to building a civilized society, especially a connected one.

I take issue with politicians who refuse to take a stance - for whatever reason. I would never vote for someone waiting for polls to tell them how to think.

When it comes to elections, it no longer matters what candidates say. They’ve had decades to figure out where they stand.

What matters is what they have done and continue to do.

Actions matter more than anything.

Want a conversation? Start a book club.

“Conversations” don’t need to be brought to Washington.

If a politician hasn’t developed an opinion beyond dinner table discussions, they have no business running for president.

That's not to say they have no business in public service. It's just they're not ready for the highest office of the land.

Birds of a Feather

Everyday on my dog walk, I see all kinds of waterfowl. Of course they were going to make it into my stories at some point.

Today’s political scenario – this level of synchronicity between the media, our government’s behavior, and public reactions – appears categorically unnatural.


Turn up the volume and wait for the end.
As if...

Motives can yank anything natural from everything. Let’s see where you stand.

The Cautious Goose Lacks Backbone

Nobody needs a new job title to take a stance.

Today, the same, (and more dangerous), tools are used to uproot political discourse amongst all of us since we were born: Political platforms. Both would have us believe we’re all fucked up.

20 years ago, Columbine happened and we’re still talking about guns. Somehow, sexuality is an issue and the Supreme Court is close to weighing in on whether or not I can be terminated for being me.

Abortion, religion, marriage, love, war, and Jesus are still arguments, and women still only make $0.70 to every man’s dollar, another statistic that appears unchanged from 20 years ago.

In the past 20 years, the Electoral College flipped the popular choice for POTUS results – twice!

What are the odds?

Naturally? Zero. Unnaturally? 100%

The only thing that hasn’t happened, God forbid, is another 9/11. September 11, 2001 will be 18 this year. It’s almost 20.

20 years ago, the Berlin Wall stood in history.

Today, we live in a country declared national emergency over funding of a wall.

Wait…what? Still?


The Careless Goose Lacks Heart

The presidential field is filled with fodder. I’m trying not to be too critical as there are other ongoing things from which we’re being distracted, so I’ll stick to the main careless goose: Donald Trump.

Trump was elected when Obama was president.

We can’t blame Trump on Trump. Trump happened as a result of something. A lot of somethings. Ever since the 2016 election, it’s been a turmoil spill.

The man who is responsible for “grab ’em by the pussy” in our vernacular is POTUS.

"Never in a million years..."

Welcome to year 1,000,001.

We've got a clean up on all aisles. All staff report for duty.

Pick a poison: Impeachment, resignation, wait, or Civil War? We know where Trump stands.

Our president reminded us how much of a fan he is of General Lee with his most recent defense of his “very fine people on both sides” Charlottesville, VA blunder.

Bill Clinton was impeached 20 years ago. By the same standards, Donald Trump would already be gone.

Before that, though, President Trump must face the music or we’re doomed to repeat something even more unsavory.

If only the Mueller Report would change it's name to either the Benghazi Report or the Starr Report. What would republicans do then? Wait, that already happened.

The Criminal Goose Goes to Jail

Hanging somewhere over us is the truth. It’s been captured. Rest assured things never end well for the criminal.

The challenge about truth is finding it. Once it’s found, it’s better to be on the right side of it, or figure out a way there.

Someone already nailed someone to that cross.

There is such a thing as too little too late.

Karma’s planning her own party. It’s no sweat off her back if she’s late. The last thing she wants to do is disappoint her guests.

The Courageous Goose Doesn’t Give a Duck

The only way out of this mess is to let the mess out of my mind.

The Ill Eagles

America doesn’t soar without Americans soaring.

Would you fly under Trump’s wing in a V formation? Do you trust the lift of the upwash from the wingtip vortices of that HBIC (head bird in charge)?

If anything he's making it harder to fly in this country.

Donald Trump never intended to win the presidency. His entire transition debacle made that evident. That, and his complete inability to keep his most senior positions filled.

It’s been a cascading turmoil slick ever since.

The President is too divisive of a figure at present time.

Plus, I can't imagine there isn't other shit he'd rather be doing. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up resigning. Any advisor to him who’s worth the dirt they walk on would encourage resignation this point.

I’ll be more surprised when this charade ends.

The shark tank smelled fishy before, but now it includes the added downgrade aroma of "carcass rotting in a swamp", which is ultimately what grabbed my pattention.

If it were up to me, this would have been over years ago. But, it’s not. Oh well.

The sooner we rid him from our marred democracy, the better off the country will be.

Mark my words.

What a day that will be.

Until then, brace yourselves for a bumpy ride.

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This Country’s Not Ready for An Election


Not Today, Satan!

What the hell is going on in this country? I’ll tell you. A bunch of bullshit.

Repetitive bullshit.

The 2020 narrative is a 1974 scandal coupled with an upside down list of 2016 contenders. This time it’s heavy on the D side.

The 2016 election was nothing more than a recycled 1992 ballot with the popular vote winner ultimately losing.

The only difference worth noting is that Florida decided the 2000 winner.

Never Say Never

What’s wrong with this picture?

If this doesn’t make you nervous, you forgot to never forget.

How do you prevent history from repeating itself?

Stop repeating it. Don't taunt the enemy. Stop inciting violence. Treat people equally. Unite Americans. Honor the Constitution. Fund education. Lead by example. Speak the truth. Solve problems. Stop being dicks. Understand your position, and the power of words.

Navigating a maze of metaphors is no way to live. There’s a very dark side to this story.

I don’t want to tell the deeply personal parts of this story from a Bird Box, but I’ll do what I have to do.

Trump is in the White House for one reason and one reason only: Careless oversight of a plan gone awry.

Instead of addressing the issue, they chose to ignore it.

Too big to fail is a myth. It failed. Too big to succeed? The struggle is real.

The unraveling has lasted four cruel summers so far.

I’m being deliberately vague. Details to follow in short order, including every name I know attached to this clusterfuck.

Brad Nicolaisen and I had nothing to do with this fucked up charade.

We’re just two gay citizens of the United States, and our lives have been shredded. Certain rights and civil liberties are out of our reach.

I'm 15% Native American. My grandmother was born on a reservation in North Dakota. She met my grandfather in the military in Virginia. He was born and raised in Alaska.They were married and had their first child in Virginia, then returned to Alaska.

I’ve explained pieces of the puzzle in past stories, but I’ve only scratched the surface.

It gets significantly worse, and the flood will come.

Jesus, Take the Narrative

Announcing 2020 candidacy today is like eating ice cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner and washing your hair with toothpaste. It doesn’t make sense.

We’re still “investigating” the legitimacy of the last election.

I don't believe that's what this investigation is really about, but let's say it is. Stay on script.

If we don’t have answers sooner than later, Russian hacking is the least of the problems we can’t solve.

Scapegoats, scapegoats, all around, but we have an Amber Alert for accountability and responsibility.

Baby steps, America! The narratives grow and multiply like gremlins. Stabilize our current problems before creating more.

Hey Leaders! Here’s an Idea, Lead!

Voters deserve to make an informed decision based on results, not promises.

I know it’s tempting to run for president while holding current office. The current session started in January.

You can’t do your job effectively and run for president. That’s a disservice to your nation.

Take your pick. Either resign and run a 110% campaign, or stay in your current position. Commit to your country or show up for your state.

Campaigning is not your job. It’s do or die.

If you’re going to change the world, then change it. That won’t happen unless you adapt to a new reality.

I believe this ends well for America, but that doesn’t mean it will. I’ve done what I can. The time has come to stop dicking around.

Lives are on the line.

Back to My Bubble

I have nothing to prove and no reason to lie. The only truth I know is mine. That’s all that matters to me.

If I wanted to invent truth, I'd write about having a sex life, a gym membership, and the waterproof butt swab pregnancy test I invented after flunking algebra.

True Feelings

I can’t imagine a worse career than being a public servant serving their own needs over the people they serve.

The only thing I have absolute control over are my own actions.

I don’t know much about the new crop of Congress members. Time will tell which ones get hog tied to the next 50-year corruption scandal.

If you think you’re getting away with something nefarious, think again. Think long and hard. Remember this word: Eventually.

Silly goose, if you want any attention, you have to pull out your wallet. That's how you make friends in Washington.

And then one day…T

Presidents have no business leading a country if they can’t instill confidence in its citizens.

Hope doesn’t cut it anymore. We’re ready to feel something new.

The law of diminishing returns applies to this lesson. This jet will stall.

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A Perfect Stage to Rattle Your Cage, Pt. 3


But First, the First Two

In case you missed the first two:
A Perfect Stage to Rattle Your Cage, Pt. 1
A Perfect Stage to Rattle Your Cage, Pt. 2

How Long Have I Been in This Cage?

It’s easy to draw parallels between pop culture, politics, and real life.

When a picture I took four years ago resonates with me more than the day I took it, it’s somewhat spooky.

I took title picture of this blog four years ago.

The stage was set in the basement of a restaurant in downtown Phoenix. At the bottom of the basement stairs was a small standing area, roughly 5×5.

The first thing you notice is the fence. And then there was this.

The fencing was moreso wrapped around the people staring at the dolls than the dolls themselves.

What’s funny is that this particular bar is that it’s a “sister” location to a Milwaukee-based restaurant located by Cathedral Square.

I captured that picture before I moved to the area, but I still moved to the area.

How Long Have I Been on This Road?

If there was ever a foreshadowing to my life that I didn’t think twice about, this was it. Talk about being unaware of your surroundings…

Welcome to the Doll Cage, also known as Devilish Smirk.

All the pieces are coming together. Or came together. Coming together. Whatever it is, I’m further ahead than you think.


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