On Sunday’s I reflect.
I didn’t drink alcohol this week. I guess I had a sip of Giashreddi’s champagne on the hill at gaper day at Vail. I’m not beating myself up over it. It has been years since I “quit drinking” and these days I have found myself drinking on occasion here or there. It is rare that I have more than one drink on the occasions that I do choose to drink. There are many times I find myself declining drinks, and even more times I choose not to drink after the thought pops in my mind of how nice it would be to just have a beer and chill. I don’t really write about that here, and it definitely does not affect my life the way it used to. I simply use this space to track if I consumed alcohol or not each week, even if it’s just a sip.
This was a pretty crazy week, as they all seem to be these days. It is snowing as I write this, and it has been on and off this week so I have been riding a snowboard. This week I wasn’t riding my snowboard, but the third demo board from Weston Snowboards I wanted to try. The last few weeks I tried their Hatchet 154 which is a wide board but was too small for me. It was fun to pop around as a super soft board but not the right fit. I tried the Hatchet 159 which fit better and still just didn’t win me over. I took these things all over the mountain in all kinds of conditions and terrain. Then this week I got on the one I always wanted but I was intimidated by it for a while. The Japow is a super directional stiff powder board with a cut tail giving a “V” on the back side and the longest widest nose I have ever ridden. I rode it three days this week and my bank account is not thrilled with what’s about to hit it. Good thing I have a good relationship with the neighbors! This is the most fun board I have ever ridden and I have to add one to my collection. Next year’s graphic might even be my favorite on any board I have seen as well so it’s a double whammy!
While my partnership with Weston is fun and friendly, they have made it explicitly clear that I am not a sponsored rider and can’t be sponsored without riding the back country (something I don’t currently have time or energy to commit to). We joke about it a lot and they know I don’t even care about the free stuff or perks. I just want to be able to say that I am officially a sponsored snowboarder for the glory. I am definitely not good enough to be a sponsored or competitive snowboarder, nor do I have any desire to compete. Riding a snowboard is my zen. When I am on the mountain nothing else matters, no matter how big or small.
This week I did begin a real partnership with Dialed In Rosin Gummies. With help from some friends recently I had a meeting with Tucker from Dialed In who visited my studio with the intention of forming a partnership. Currently the company is leading the edible market in quality from what I can tell. Tucker approached me about collaboration for a new product they have coming out soon. I can’t share here what’s on deck but I can say that 15 year old Ben who got arrested for smoking marijuana would not believe it if you told him that he would be legally partnering with a marijuana company at age 32. Maybe the optimist in him would have believed you, but it is hard to recognize the world we live in regarding marijuana culture compared to growing up in the 90’s and 2000’s. I heard the House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize marijuana federally this week (not the first time this has happened). We’ll see if the Senate and President make it official, but I don’t think they will. I do think it will happen during our lifetime.
I also did some glass blowing this week. I am slowly getting prepped for the big projects on my plate. Very slowly.
Jeremy OLDGREED came up to work on the lathe and help me with some small things while developing his skills and learning to work with glass. He has been handling all the embroidery for my clothing line and is also making flyers and graphics for me now. Jeremy is one of the most talented artists I have worked with, and over the last few years we have become close friends. When I FaceTime him (multiple times a week) he answers and immediately identifies the call is coming from “Business Ben”. He takes in my insane list of projects and notes for him, but always interrupts me to ask how I’m doing at some point. He makes it clear he is not asking about business. We catch up on life between the bullshit. He forces me to be a human, instead of a company. Without his support right now my company would not be what it is. He is another person behind the scenes who helps bring my vision to life with skills I do not possess. He has the longest commute (from Denver) of anyone on the team besides my brother. Jeremy shows up week after week to keep the train moving.
The rest of this essay is going to be about my brother, Jonathon.
Yesterday was my brother’s birthday. He turned 29. I was too busy to make time for him. It’s a long story why yesterday was so busy for me that isn’t important. My dad saved my ass with a reminder text asking if I had called my brother yet. I would have seen it on social media eventually last night but haven’t been using my phone much this week and rarely know what day it is. I got to speak to my brother on the phone for a few minutes while driving somewhere and he was getting ready to meet his in-laws and then friends.
I think my brother and I speak on the phone more days in a week than we don’t. He is my closest confidant. My brother is three years younger than me and when he was born I asked my parents to "take him back”. I was not stoked to share their attention with him. When we were growing up my brother didn’t say very much. I never shut up which probably contributed to that. From an early age my brother wanted to be around me and do what I was doing. I remember feeling like he was a burden on me and I remember feeling like he would get me in trouble (inadvertently) with my very strict parents by sharing with them whatever I was up to. It’s hard to remember why specifically but I did not enjoy having him join in plans with my friends. I was not good at sharing or including him in activities and yet for some reason he always seemed to want to be a part of whatever I had going on.
I’m not sure if I was an asshole to everyone as a kid or just my brother. I was miserable most of the time, and suspect that came out towards others. As an adult I try to be aware of this, but don’t always succeed. I think giving up alcohol has had the greatest impact on my awareness of how I treat and interact with other people. There is still much work to be done beyond abstaining from drinking.
By the time I got to high school my brother and I were living separate lives aside from family dinner every night and other family gatherings or trips. Historically, our family trips were spent visiting family which was pretty boring for both my brother and I, or visiting national parks which was also pretty boring to us. Around 2006 or 2007 our parents planned a Spring Break trip for us to Breckenridge in Colorado. It was the first trip we were each allowed to bring a friend on. We had never gone on vacation with another friend’s family but that was definitely not uncommon in our circles growing up.
We grew up snowboarding at Wilmot, Lake Geneva, and Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. I am sure I had ridden a bit with my brother at those hills, but it is important to note that my parents do not ski. I remember buying used gear at Play It Again Sports and signing up for a “ski trip” through them that they offered on the weekends. A bus would take us to the hill before sunrise, we would ride all day and get meal vouchers or something. Then the bus would drive us all of an hour or two home. A few of my friends did the trips with me and I am sure my brother was in a younger age group or something. Once we both got into it my mom would drive us up sometimes on the weekends to ride with a few friends or something. The lifts took ten minutes longer than the runs down that we were riding. I’m sure my brother and I had fun snowboarding together as kids on some of those trips but other than that I think we mostly ignored each other.
When we got to Breck everything changed. We had a condo on the bus line in town and my parents got us passes to ride basically every day. Some days we rode Breck in the morning and then went to Keystone after for night riding. I never rode so hard in my life. My brother kept up with me from my recollection which is impressive given all I knew how to do was straight-line it. We had two friends with us and during that week we rode four or five resorts. My parents would take us to wherever we were riding if it wasn’t Breck and they would hang in the lodge all day. We were beyond exhausted every night of the trip but one restaurant that stands out was Rasta Pasta that we all went to. I was slightly obsessed with weed culture in high school and being in Colorado on that trip just blew my mind. I remember going into a head shop and seeing signs for medical marijuana. This was my second time to Colorado, but the first trip was a summer camping trip in the mountains far from civilization and weed.
So the Breck trip was over a decade ago and a lot of it is foggy but there is a day that stands out. My dad drove us in a whiteout from Breck over Vail Pass to Vail. We had finally started to learn our way around Breck or Keystone to where we kind of knew the runs but Vail was a whole different beast and we couldn’t see anything. If you know Vail skiing you know it has many catwalks which are BRUTAL for a snowboarder. Remember now this was before modern technology and we likely didn’t have fresh wax either. To save money we bought gear we could grow into… which didn’t help us either.
I can identify some of the places we ended up now that I am an adult knowing Vail as my home mountain. I vividly remember strapping in under the Legendary Back Bowls sign. We probably had to unstrap and walk because without knowing to bomb that hill going into the cat walk on a powder day you are completely screwed. It is hard to say what exact route we took but I know we ended up at China Bowl at some point and I think we made it across the bridge below that to get to Blue Sky Basin. My brother and I had never been in powder like that and even though we were both physically destroyed (along with our friends) from all the cat walks I remember having the time of my life.
My brother is my favorite person to snowboard with to this day. He knows my routes, and he keeps up. He is a great rider and I can tell he enjoys it as much as I do when we’re out there together. We usually get five to ten days in together in a season. One of these days I want to ride Japan with him, but Vail and Beaver Creek are just fine for now.
Jonathan visited me a few times in Bloomington Indiana when I was in college and he was in high school. I took him to frat parties and he visited during Little 500. He became close with my friends and was finally someone I wanted to have around even though he was a jock playing center on the football team and hanging out with degenerates. Part of me wanted him to come to IU so that we could overlap there for a year (not knowing I would stay for two years after graduation). Some of his friends did end up there, and he visited regularly though he chose to go to The U in Miami.
I remember his college search. He wanted to go somewhere warm and sunny. I think my mom took him to Tulane and Miami for tours. This would have been my Sophomore and Junior years of college. One of those summers my Dad, J and I went to California to check out the schools. We stayed at a cousin’s in LA who let us borrow a car for the trip. We went to UCLA, USC, UC Berkley, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco if I recall. That must have been the trip with the most interesting elevator ride of any of our lives.
My father was known (at least to me) to book travel accommodations without having the full context of where we were going or when we were going there. One time in Toronto we found ourselves in a nice hotel that I assume was a great deal but was also in the center of the red light district and the glowing ten story sign for ZANZIBAR adult entertainment nightclub could be seen out the window. Our trip to San Francisco happened to be during the Dore Alley Festival unbeknownst to any of us.
After checking into our room at the hotel desk, my father and brother and I made our way to the elevator. Inside were two men who generously held the door for us. One was wearing only shoes and a leather “dong strap” along with maybe some suspenders also made from leather and chains. The other had on an outfit that could only be described with the words “Leather Daddy”. As we entered the elevator, the two men chuckled a bit and asked if we were there for the Dore Alley Festival. This was obviously an event known about by everyone besides us, and my brother and I laughed harder once we got to our room than maybe ever before. It’s not that my father the Rabbi is closed minded, and he certainly is not. Maybe it was just the juxtaposition of us being fully clothed and my father wearing his Kippah (a Jewish head covering) or maybe it was the fact that we saw the couple from the elevator again later on the street where they avoided us and made us feel like we were the ones out of place.
Jonathon settled on University of Miami and I still don’t really know what he studied. I think he took scuba diving for credit. I also think he got a religious studies minor. What I do know is that in every conversation we had over those four years my brother had no idea what he wanted to do. I was very fortunate to find my passion during college, but of course outside of my curriculum. I don’t exactly remember when the trips to Miami began for me, but I know I went for J’s 21st birthday. I wanted to make it special for him but I was broke and definitely had no insight or connections to Miami nightlife. I remember my frat bro brought over a magnum bottle of grey goose and we partied at my brother’s frat before hitting some bars. I think he had a good time, and I know we at least got one good picture together.
Now the timeline gets confusing, but at one point when I was probably at my lowest around 2014 or 2015, my brother came to NYC to see me. I was living on my friend Yoni’s L couch at the time. I think it was for my band’s concert at Arlene’s Grocery and maybe it was around my birthday. When my brother arrived I had told him I would make sure he had a place to stay (a hard promise to make as a basically homeless person). We went to check out some hostels around the city. One of them was basically a crack den that I deemed to horrific to subject my brother to. I probably would have slept outside before staying at that place. To my brother’s chagrin, we shared the L couch at Yoni’s. Yoni didn’t mind, but his roommate was not thrilled as I was already overstaying my welcome. We have a good picture from the rooftop together that day. There is a big patch in my beard missing which at this point I have to assume was from the immense amount of stress I was experiencing.
Fast forward a bit. I’m living in Fort Collins so it must be around 2015 or 2016. My brother leaves his job at the digital marketing agency, his first job out of college. At thanksgiving dinner one year my brother and I discussed the idea that would become what Drinking Vessels is today. At the time I am living in Fort Collins renting a room in a house that is being renovated (while I am living in it). My brother slept on a mattress on the floor for a few weeks. He spent every day helping me form DV which was at the time only an idea. We got to spend a few days snowboarding on that trip, and we laid the foundation for what DV would become. That was the beginning of my brother working for this company without compensation. I can’t count the hours he has put in, but it has consumed weeks of his life. Other than the brief window when he stayed on my floor, my brother has managed to maintain a full time job since graduating college, and somehow juggles his responsibilities for DV along with his personal life.
On my brother’s time off from work he came out to Colorado and attended trade shows and industry events. When I signed the lease for Bat Country Studios, my brother came out and vacuumed and then wiped down every surface in the room which was entirely covered in sawdust from the previous wood shop that occupied the space. My brother built our website and managed email marketing for a while. My brother learned the nuances of our scene and familiarized himself with artists and techniques. My brother knows how to turn on a GTT and melt colors together into a blob. On his own he had very little interest in this subculture until he immersed himself in it to support me. He now boasts at least a cabinet full of glass drinkware in his home along with other art he has acquired along the way.
Today my brother is married to an amazing woman named Pri, and he works for a foundation making grants in the world of journalism and the arts as well as for local Miami community projects. I am proud of my brother despite my desire for him to leave everything behind and come work for our company full time. He is my partner in this business regardless of the time he has to contribute, and he is always there for me when I need him.
By now most of you reading this know me personally or least via online interactions. A smaller group of you have had the privilege of spending time with my brother. All of you have indirectly been affected by my brother’s work whether you are an artist, collector or just following along on my journey. Our company exists to support artists. My brother has helped create a platform that will continue to maintain that mission. I am eternally grateful for his help and support because without him I would not have made it this far. I spend every day interacting with you and feeling appreciated for what I do, but my brother does all of this work without hardly any mention and with even less compensation. I get to spend a weekend with my brother coming up and will be able to pay him for what I think is the second time ever. Maybe its the third time but its been over five years of hard work and the amount is laughable. I wish I could afford to hire my brother full time. More so, I hope he finds his passion like I did and goes all in.
I want to publicly thank my brother Jonathan for everything that he has done for this company and for me. I cherish the time we get to spend together and wish I could have been in Miami for his birthday. Happy Birthday J!
Thanks for tuning in for today’s longer than usual submission. I will be running Sunday Specials when I get to the studio later today but first I need to eat and call my brother.
Enjoy your Sunday,
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