Easy to answer on one hand, difficult on the other, as sometimes I wonder if it was a job I had or a dream that I lived. For almost 19 years prior to starting in real estate in 2004, I founded and ran one of the largest Grateful Dead licensed merchandise companies in the world, aptly named Grateful Graphics. As a young, energetic, obsessed kid in love with the music of the Grateful Dead and the scene that surrounded it, I knew I wanted more of it. I was hungry to go deeper. And so, with no experience, minimal art skills, and risking what little savings I had from working at a head shop in Newark, DE, I set out to design t-shirts with the Dancing Bears on them and shyly offer them for sale in the parking lot at the Dead shows in Hampton, VA in March of 1985. Much to my surprise, I immediately saw faces light up, hugs shared, and new friends made as fellow Deadheads bought out every shirt I had hand-painted for many weeks prior to the shows. From that point on, the Dancing Bears became as recognizable an icon in the world of the Grateful Dead as the Steal Your Face and Dancing Skeletons. Looking back, my premier of the Dancing Bears on t-shirts at those shows was the beginning of what became an amazing career taking me all over the world for sales opportunities, trade shows, licensing deals, and of course Grateful Dead shows. Lots of them. Nearly 350 of them to be somewhat precise. And yes, they were all with Jerry. And no, I don’t go anymore. When Jerry passed, the bus stopped and I got off. In retrospect, I recall thinking before the Hampton shows that I just wanted to make enough money to help me with tickets for the rest of the tour. Little did I know my passion would become my business for nearly two decades. I had amazing times at all those shows, have uncountable friends all over the world as a result, and still get a little buzz inside when I see people sporting the Dancing Bears. What a long, strange trip it’s been!
For me, I have always viewed one’s home as their foundation, both literally and figuratively, wherever one is in life. Much like the physical foundation of a home is the base upon which everything is built in order to protect and comfort those within, I also see one’s home as their spiritual foundation as it is the place where memories are made and moments lived, be they good, bad, difficult, happy, sad, challenging, or celebratory. Lest you think that I am saying only a solid foundation is necessary for comfort, success, or solace, I will add that in my view, wherever your “home” is, be it a yurt at Burning Man, a tent in the Yosemite backwoods, a hammock in Playa del Carmen, or a primitive hut in the Himalayas, the location doesn’t matter nor does the type of home. I know, I have “lived” in all of the above and so many more unconventional homes, and have always felt a sense of grounding, comfort, and solace in each.
Me? None at all. Come on, like why would I have any quirks. Quick question though, what is up with little paper clips? Right? You feel me? For goodness sake, please use the big ones, not the little wimpy ones which I promptly throw away. And while you’re at it, the toilet paper rolls come from the top, not the bottom. I should know, I fix them whenever I see them going the wrong way. Yes, you can thank me for fixing yours if I come to visit your house and hit the head. Finally, who doesn’t add up the numbers on the license plates on the cars in front of them? Anyway, as I said, I have no quirks at all. Uh-huh. . .
While I could think of innumerable places I have visited around the world and the 33 countries I have experienced, without question the best place ever visited was Areias Do Seixo in Santa Cruz, Portugal. My wife Melissa and I ended up here at the end of a two-week sojourn through Portugal and found our collective breath taken away by the beauty, comfort, remoteness, and most of all the people who worked there, as well as the other fellow travelers. Would but we could drop in again on a moment’s notice. . .
My why is rooted deep inside me, it’s my driving force and life energy, the place where connection, care, compassion, and kindness come together in an attempt to tap into the same with all who come into my life, both personally and professionally. Relationships matter most, be it sharing a simple smile with a stranger or a loving hug with a friend, relating to others and connecting on some level is paramount to who I am and what I feel is the greatest gift life has to offer us all.
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