It all started when…
I used to think my first job was working for the ice plant in Perry. Why my parents let me work there is beyond me. They were and are so protective. Then I went to work with all the drug dealers and ex-cons a small town can support. I was 15. My first job, though, was selling produce for my grandpa. From my grandpa, really. He’d grow it, then I’d sell it. I kept the money, and he convinced me I was farming with him and this was my pay. I didn’t know the slightest thing about farming. I was 6.
I did learn math, though. And how to sell. I was the kid in grade school with a locker full of candy for 10 cents a piece; the gangly high-schooler with the better grass; now the representative of farmers with vision.
After I erupted from the University of Oklahoma, toward the end of my first semester, I skipped north to Philly, got into restaurants, and came to the moment when the work life was more exciting than the life of the mind and I plunged into wine studies. Enter a two year foray into the swampy service beacon that is New Orleans, where I learned how to drink; how not to drink.
Chris Robles, a sommeliers’ sommelier, as they say, convinced me the New York was where I’d learn my craft, so I landed at Gotham Bar & Grill in 2000. Helluva first job in NYC. Taught me to fear every step and hate myself a little more with every service. I met Aaron Von Rock shortly after my first (of many) NY firings at a long-forgotten jewel box of a restaurant, Verbena. He helped me into Tribeca Grill, where I fled for a volunteer-reprieve inspired by a second trip to Burningman.
Compass, post-Katrina... enter John Fraser and a new intention and ferocity in food and service. Allen and Delancey taught me to look out for crooks, even while running one of the hottest places in the then-unheard-of lower east side. Then per se scooped me. I was recruited, up to the point I wouldn’t shave my mustache. I shaved. They fired me anyway. It was rad, working at the #1 restaurant in the world (Pellegrino list). I was so relieved to take that escalator down for the final time.
I wandered around NYC lost for a year, but light. I had a good support system of friends and coworkers wanting to see me succeed. That’s a recurring theme here...
I still like to joke that 20 years later, and I was back to selling acid again. I took a sales rep job at Acid Incorporated. We sold bracing bright brash acid-baby wines. And we killed. I started looping out to LA to sell wine there, and fell for the west coast.
2015 on some Wednesday I bolted up and realized that I needed,.. had, to go see the Dead in Chicago. 72 hours and a righteous Grateful Dead face-melter of an acid tab later, I saw the stasis and non-growth patterns I had been in. As Barbara likes to remind me, ‘I moved to California to challenge myself.’
So I’ve had my ass handed to me for the last 4 years.
I opened VinoCity in the beginning of 2018, after being left out to dry on a bad contract from a crook of an employer... and I thought I knew better. The wines were selling but the passion was gone. I was back in my NY pattern, but on the wrong coast. I needed more.
That’s when the vision and Gaia and, from just outside our galaxy, watching the earth breath. I had an understanding of my place in the system. Where the system is weak and how to strengthen it and I got the vision I asked for but it was far more vision than I wanted. With understanding comes responsibility, and now we move with deliberate intent.