Detours on the road from A to B

For some months I’ve been thinking about writing regularly. Actually, that’s not true. I’ve been thinking about this for some years, come to think of it more than a decade. The No Dessert For You header on this is the header of the music blog I started in 2006, hired a writer, never really went anywhere. So I’m resuscitating the logo for my personal blog, on the occasion of my 58th birthday.

With the arrival of my Dad’s birthday present – a story of his history of skiing in the United States – and with my New Year’s resolution looming in the back of my head (“in 2021 I plan to start blogging and doubling down on interviewing interesting friends”), today’s the day to scribble a few lines to get things going. Thanks for being here.

What’s left of my garden is idling outside with a few chard plants struggling along under the snow in the chill of our east coast winter. Spring is on the horizon, trying to visualize how to maximize my small plot below. Graph paper out on the table. Lots tumbling around my brain, and today’s the day to let some of it out to play. This episode: DecentralizationGardenAvalanches and Skiing.

Last month’s big political upheaval in the States has really gotten me thinking about the business risk of centralization, in particular if (1) your business is one that prioritizes user base growth in order to monetize surveillance, and (2) your business name isn’t Facebook, Amazon, Apple, or Google. I thought Anthony Pompliano got it largely right with his latest free piece. It seems to me that too many businesses have been somewhat carelessly built on a shaky foundation of thinking that they can allow their customers to say what they want and at the same time capitalize on rapid-growth enabling infrastructure run by private companies with lots of young, possibly more liberal, employees.

I’m not a fan of advertising-driven business models tied to social engagement generally. The ability to send an unformed thought at light speed around the world to be multiplied based on level of outrageousness has offered at least as many negatives as positives in getting news, and to a much bigger potential audience.

Two years ago I decided to up my financial game by bringing on board a FinTech client, in order to create a bridge to more strategy-related work. This decision also brought me into the orbit of NYU Prof and serial entrepreneur Scott Galloway, someone who I’ve now had the pleasure to interface with and learn from in the last year as a teaching assistant at his new Section4 startup. Scott has talked at length about subscription models and their advantages in curbing the worst impulses of anonymous speech (yep: also presents an issue for those who *can’t* speak unless it’s anonymously).

For those interested, I interviewed the good professor last Fall on this and other topics, pop on the audio next time you’re cooking dinner and ready to THINK BIG THOUGHTS.

The end of February is typically when I start to figure out what 2021 is going to look like garden-wise, in my tiny 15’x15’ suburban garden in Sleepy Hollow. More on that in another post.

2019 was the watershed year my family left nearly 18 years in New York’s Hudson Valley, living in a 150-year old farmhouse in need of a lot of repair and running a growing music marketing/licensing/strategy business from a distant location that confounded and puzzled some of my colleagues. In my spare time I planted a garden and blogged about trading hand-picked organic vegetables for free dinners at our favorite NYC haunt Le Gigot, on Cornelia Street just down from where family friend Jim Rondinelli used to live. Musician friend Kristin Hersh’s son, Ryder, and his wife Jade, wwoofed in the (T)oolshed and helped me build the kitchen garden at our old farm below, complete with rainbow from heaven which is always there, even at night.

Avalanches and Skiing
This year’s a big one for me – my 25th anniversary which is the constant, but elsewhere some big changes coming down the pike. My fam? is hoping to get out to see some new places and make up for lost covid time. Two days before our annual pilgrimage to the Home of the Ski Gods – Utah – I received the news that a biking and skiing friend of 35 years had been caught in an avalanche at the Canyons, had been buried, and had not survived. Kurt was descending the right ridge in the photo off Square Top (photo below, look for the Square Top in the middle and you can see the slide off the Ninety-Nine 90 lift which leads to the backcountry gates).

This pretty much broke my heart and has taken some time to process, and my approach not atypically has been to pour myself into learning about avalanches to try to understand how he made his mistake (some might say that’s 40 years late and that I have been living on borrowed time). Kurt and I skied that very slope above together some number of years ago. Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain is being liberally marked up at the moment with notes, and my TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube feeds are pretty boring if you are not into watching close calls in the Wasatch mountains.

My oldest daughter Frenchie has been an inspiration in this regard, sending me photos of her exploits around the west and her efforts to better understand snow pack behavior.

I’m going to miss that man. He was one of those people whose door you could show up at, without warning after multiple years, whose next statement delivered matter-of-factly would be “hey there. when are we going skiing?”.

Time to wind this one up. I’ll leave you with a little excerpt from my Dad’s birthday story to me today, which btw is what I asked him for for my birthday, about his place in the history of skiing in the US. This made me realize exactly how much like my dad I am.

”At Michigan State we discovered the University had funds allocated for all kinds of lesser known sports. MSU gave us beautiful ski sweaters and an expense budget for trips to races. We gladly accepted the money, and then set about trying to use as little of it as possible on the ski trips. I remember a trip to Boyne Mt., when MSU’s ski team, (Ross Hohn, Homer Greer, and myself) and assorted friends drove up in a car packed to the gills with people and ski equipment.

The college age Night Manager at a hotel in Boyne City let us sleep on a couch and chairs in the lobby. For breakfast we went to the main dining room at Boyne and ordered coffee. They brought it along with the standard  basket of crackers and bread. Everyone asked for extra cream. We may have borrowed sugar bowls from adjoining tables as well. We poured the cream into the sugar bowls, which more or less dissolved the sugar, ate that, and finished off all the bread and crackers, as it was bad to skip breakfast before a race. We figured the sugar would be great for energy.”

Until next time…