On Sundays I reflect.
I didn’t drink alcohol this week, despite the open bar with Spotted Cow at Thanksgiving.
The week started for me with a snowstorm in the mountains. The roads were closed to and from Vail and the snowboarding was great. They’ve started opening more lifts on the mountain and hopefully by the time I get back my favorite spots are ready to ride. I took laps with one of our models Mal and her boyfriend and we had a great time. When I ride with Mal, a superb rider, we both put our headphones on and use hand signals to get around. We hardly speak, focusing only on the path ahead. Snowboarding forces me to stop thinking about anything that isn’t my route. I turn my phone on airplane mode and tune out all the responsibilities of work so I can be free to truly “be here now.” This is my escape. I work seven days a week, from the time I wake up until the minute I fall asleep. As an underfunded entrepreneur this has been my only option. The only time I’m “off” is when I snowboard, when I fly and when I’m with my family.
Family has been the focus of the rest of my week. I flew to Chicago Wednesday to spend thanksgiving with the fam. My brother had flown in the day before I did, and he and my mom drove to Lake Geneva without my dad and I since I got in late. Thursday morning my dad and I made the hour drive up to southern Wisconsin for the longest annual tradition of my life.
Since the early 90’s my large extended family has celebrated Thanksgiving at a resort called the Grand Geneva. Formerly the Playboy Club, this serene getaway has become a sort of haven for me year after year where I can leave the world behind and be with my self and my family. We have some standard practices, along with some evolving. Our family fills a ballroom with fifty to a hundred people for dinner, enjoys a buffet, and make a lot of the same jokes we’ve heard for the last twenty-five years. A lot of us hit the spa in the afternoon, which concludes with my favorite shower of the year (featuring three shower heads).
Traditionally I’ve consumed anywhere from ten to twenty Spotted Cows, my favorite beer, over the course of the day and late into the night. Additionally, my brother, our cousin Michael and I have often closed down the “club” and the lobby bar from which I would stumble to my room to pass out around 3am. This year we did close down the bar, but unlike years past I was not hungover Friday morning when the whole family reconvenes for brunch in the ballroom. I always hit the omelette station and the waffles are never a disappointment.
Between arguing about politics, we catch up on each other’s lives and discuss what we’re grateful for. Dinner is interrupted every year for us to discuss these things with our ten to twelve person table, and then one lucky family member from each table gets to share the summary with the group. I’m always humbled by this experience.
My brother and I developed the idea for Drinking Vessels and our philanthropy project four years go at the same Thanksgiving celebration, and every year I’m reminded of where this company started. At the time I was homeless, without a torch much less a lathe nor a studio to work in. I can imagine a whole bunch of things that might have sped up the process of building this brand, but I can honestly say that I’ve never worked as hard on anything as I have on this business and I’m thrilled with how far we’ve come. Annually I’m able to take a step back from the sixteen hour work days and appreciate what we’ve built in such a short time.
Being with family as an adult provides challenges for most everyone. I’m no exception. I grew up feeling a lot of pressure to fit inside a box that could not contain me. My father’s religious regiment and my mother’s strict nature created an environment in which I felt I could never fit inside. Since an early age I’ve been different and the social pressures I felt as my father’s son made me feel like an outsider. I wore my hair long and dressed unlike my peers. As an adult I choose to spend every day in sweatpants and hoodies, an unacceptable outfit for attending Shabbat services at my father’s temple. I was forced to make myself uncomfortable dressed up in dress shoes and slacks every Friday night, to fit a societal mold that dictates appropriate etiquette. I’ve been asked by my mother to tie my hair back more times than I can count, and for a long time it seemed no matter what I chose to wear I’d receive the “are you sure you want to wear that in front of our friends and family?”
I’m still dancing the line of being true to myself (and my comfort) while trying to respect my parents, our family, and their friends. We’re working as a family to appreciate each other for who we are even when we disagree with each other. It’s been a long and challenging process.
Despite all my frustrations with my family and theirs with me, I’m grateful they are my family. They’re very supportive of what I do in so many ways, and they all believe in me which resonates more than any other support I could ask for. While I usually feel challenged being with them, I’m doing my best to put work away when we spend time together.
On our way home from Lake Geneva we went a bit out of our way to Milwaukee to check out The Saint Kate, an art hotel my cousin Linda designed recently. I was blown away by the public spaces like the lobby and hallways as well as the galleries featuring rotating exhibitions. We were privileged to be taken into two of the five art rooms featured in the hotel. One was the music room and another the leopard room. While the music room was cool, the leopard room was the most interesting room I’ve ever been in besides maybe the jungle room at Elvis Presley’s estate Graceland in Memphis Tennessee. Linda did an incredible job on this hotel and I would say it’s a must see if you’re ever in Milwaukee. Try to get a reservation at their speakeasy style restaurant, hidden behind a secret door in the Champagne Bar. We didn’t have time to stay for dinner, but I’ll definitely be going back! I’m looking forward to hanging out with Linda in Miami this week at Art Basel.
Before I touch on Miami, I’ll mention the time I got to spend with my closest friends. I spent Friday evening with my old summer camp friend Max and his family before spending Saturday morning with another camp friend Joel and our mutual friend Molly. These are some of the most important people in my life, and I’m eternally grateful for the time I get to share with them. I don’t know where I would be without these few people who have always seemed to get me when it felt like nobody else did.
So now I prepare for my annual trip to Miami for Art Week and Basel. I’ll be kicking my brother out of his apartment and sending him up the block to his girlfriend’s for the week (sorry ladies he’s taken). The week will be jam packed with art experiences around the city along with as many meetings as I can fit in. The only thing on my agenda that isn’t work is attending the Soul Clap show Friday night and dancing my pants off until sunrise again. Last year’s show at the Electric Pickle was one of the most fun nights of my life (sober) and despite the fact that the Pickle shut down (my favorite club), I’m looking forward to checking out a new venue and getting funky with my favorite DJs.
I want to personally thank everyone who purchased something from the website during our Black Friday and weekend specials. Your support keeps this project alive, and we would not be able to do this without you. Sincerely from our team at Bat Country Studios and on behalf of all of the artists I represent, thank you.
A lot of work sold this weekend and we’re still adding products to the site from our last photo shoot. New cups have been coming in including the latest pair of tumblers from Cowboy and Rone, but we need to schedule another photo shoot with Red to get caught up (as always).
The rest of my time in Chicago will be spent with family and friends, plus a dentist appointment and a session with Carol my hair dresser (how do you think I stay looking so good all the time?) I’ll be going live on Instagram Tuesday morning at 10 am Chicago time if you want to tune in while I get my hair and beard cleaned up by another friend and long time supporter. Tune in for a little sesh before I fly to Miami.
Thank you for your continued support and for tuning in to my journey. Wishing you all the best,
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