Save Me

Dear Ben Baldanza,
As I write this letter, I am sitting on the runway at LAX after a quick trip to Los Angeles. My flight should have landedin Dallas almost two hours ago and the mood is tense on this plane. They just turned on the A/C – a luxury I’m surprised we’re being afforded – to cool off the rising tempers.

Wait, now we’re back at the gate and apparently we aren’t going anywhere tonight. “Abnormal smell and sound in the rear of the aircraft.” I smelled it way back in seat 26D but assumed it was just the by-product of some substandard cleaning product in the restroom. A 12 hour delay awaits us all which for me means more time with my girl friend who I came to visit (silver linings).

I’d heard Spirit Airlines horror stories of 12, 18, even 24 hour delays on social media but had had no issue after two recent trips. When I bought this $125 roundtrip ticket I felt like I was almost stealing something. It knew it was a gamble and this time I came up snake eyes. The wager was time and potentially my job, we’ll see how much I lost.

Considering it all, I can’t say I won’t fly Spirit again. I have a long distance relationship to maintain and price is my number 1 concern right now. In fact I think I want to buy some stock in Spirit. Ya’ll have keyed into a market segment that other American airlines won’t acknowledge (or are afraid to) and are making money in a volatile industry.

All signs point to a society deeply divided by economic standing. These traditional airlines aim to provide a middle-of-the-road experience to a middle class customer. Truth is that they aren’t far from the bottom themselves. As the middle class disappears it’s time for brands to choose which side of the divide they will serve.

Spirit Airlines is a proud, unapologetic bottom-feeder which I respect in some perverse way. At least you’re self-aware which is more than I can say about most companies.

Until my next ultra bargain flight, GET ME THE FUCK OFF THIS RUNWAY.

Don’t Buy This Jacket

Dear Yvon Chouinard,

Today is Cyber Monday. Consumers will spend an estimated 2.5 billion dollars shopping online today for…well what are they really shopping for? I guess people justify it because we are selflessly buying things for other. That makes it a noble endeavor.

Then who can blame you for trying to save a few bucks when you are obligated to buy something for all your family, friends, and co-workers (For the first time this year I heard about online deals that start at 5:00am, similar to the doorbuster deals of Black Friday. I value my sleep far too much.)? You don’t want to look like the greedy dude who sits back and only receives during the holidays. Plus, if we don’t buy all our friends a gift they might think we don’t care about them or our family members might assume we don’t love them.

A few years ago on Cyber Monday, Patagonia ran my favorite advertisement of all time. The line was “Don’t Buy This Jack”, urging people to examine their consumption habits. It probably didn’t help sales that day, but it was a brand building piece that keyed into exactly what people love about your brand and it absolutely hooked me. It encourages us to buy something when we need it and plan to use it well. And when that time does come for a new jacket, Patagonia will provide a high-quality and conscious produced item. It’s refreshingly honest and in stark contrast to every other brand, not only competitors in the outdoor apparel category, but all consumer goods. It’s so crazy that it works, just like a lot of ideas you are behind.

So this year, rather than spending money on our family, lets spend time with our family. Lets take that time to reflect, both inwardly and together, on what is really valuable to us: our family, friends, environment (I’ve already lamented on the narrow definition of environment), and new episodes of Louie.

Reasonably Not Crazy

Dear Dana McClendon,

You seem like a straight shooter Dana. Not because you’re a well documented gun advocate, but because you so boldly dissected the murky and often complex task of dating. People (who can’t take a joke) are calling you a misogynist or worse for your viral and hilarious video on finding the right woman. That rating a person (woman in this case) on a 1-10 scale is inherently sexist. Well is it sexist for a women to rate men the same way? Have any men voiced their offense at your Cute/Money axis?

As a divorce and family lawyer I will defer to your authority on this subject. I’m sure you deal with people over the crazy line every day. They might have benefited from your graph. Have you ever considered that producing this video may lead to longer, happier marriages and possibly less clients for yourself? Don’t run yourself out of business, those crazy ones are your meal ticket. Conversely, you could be the guy who single-handedly reduces the number of marriages ending in divorce. Congratulations!

PS: One minor amendment: Girls named Victoria need to be added to the Danger Zone and are to be avoided as well.

I’m Looking Through You

Dear Dallas Police Chief David Brown,

It’s been a year of heavy scrutiny for police officers everywhere. Even pre-Michael Brown, there has been mounting pressure for more accountability for officers’ actions here in Dallas. One proposed measure is to mount a body camera on every officer’s uniform. How do you think a body camera might have changed this Michael Brown situation?

I do appreciate the efforts from the police department to become more transparent. The new searchable crime website shows me that a suspect was shot at and missed on the street behind me last year (and the SWAT team eventually got him after a standoff). Good to know, I think.

All jest aside, it’s nice that DPD is being proactive about being more transparent and building it’s relationship with the citizens. Here’s a song in honor of that:

PS: If I somehow become a police officer one day, how do get the assignment of riding a bike around White Rock Lake all day?

Jack of One Trade

Dear Malcolm Gladwell,

10,000 hours you say…

10,000 hours to master something, anything. If someone puts in that extreme amount of time, they are bound to be one of the best. It’s a really encouraging idea.

What have I spent the most hours in my life doing? Sadly, it’s probably watching TV or driving (not unlike most people). But what have I consciously dedicated the most hours to? Hmm. With some quick and very rough math, I here is the top three:

Writing: This is hard to quantify because it’s something that most people do every day at some level. Is texting writing? Is learning cursive in 3rd grade writing? For the sake of this, I’m going to say yes. I’ll say I spent an average of 1 hour per day writing throughout grades 1-12 for around 2,000 hours. For college, I’ll be generous and say I also spent 1 hour per day for another 1,000 hours. This past year, I’ll be generous again and say I wrote for an average of at least 1 hour every day which is still only about 300 hours. Grand total = 3,300ish hours

Basketball: Practice and games from 7th grade through high school for maybe 7 hours a week for around 2,000 hours. Sprinkle in pick-up and intramurals throughout college to today for 2 hours per week for 700 more. Total of = 2,700ish hours

Bike: 12,000 miles on my bike at 17mph = 705 hours. Add in trips to school and around town for another 300. Total of about 1,000 hours

If I add up all the time I spent doing my 3 favorite things, it barely cracks 7,000 hours. 10,000 hours is an amazing feat and it makes sense that anyone (crazy enough…) to do something for that long ought to be awesome at it. Where do people find the time? Seriously though.

This all brings me to my real question. Society is becoming more and more specialized; few professions require a generalist outlook. Is someone better off finding one single thing and sticking to it until they are awesome at it? Or is there still a place in this world for someone who is just “good” at a handful of things? Balanced vs. or one dimensional.

PS: Do you really think Macklemore put in his 10,000 hours?

His Airness

 

 

Michael Jordan Free Throw Line Dunk

Dear Michael Jordan,

I come bearing a letter of general thoughts concerning basketball, my of favorite sports, the sport which you so dominated in your time.

Basketball has become a global game. Second only to soccer, basketball is played in the most countries around the world. First off,  it doesn’t take much equipment to play basketball. A ball and a public hoop; a wire hanger bent and hooked onto a closet door plus a few rolled up socks and you’re “playing basketball”. The sport is accessible.

In your time, you helped plant the seeds for basketball to become a global game. Through the hard work of the NBA and coaches across the globe it has fully come to fruition in recent years. The most dominate franchise of the last decade (whom I will not name) has been lead by 3 foreign born players. And just last week, Dirk Nowitzki, who you are on record saying would have excelled in your era just as he does today, became the number 9 all-time leading scorer in NBA history. Now kids all over the world have NBA superstars to aspire to, from China to Israel, Argentina to Puerto Rico.

Its an American cultural export that I’m proud to be a part of. And as hard as the NFL may try, I have no expectation that it will ever be widely played outside of the USA (even in England).

Hope to hear some more inflammatory comments on the state of the NBA from you soon.

PS: Thanks for the great years at Jordan Flight School.

My favorite Veteran

IMG_1759-0.JPG

Dear Jack Bernstein,

Happy Veterans Days! You are my favorite veteran by a longshot. As a veteran of a foreign war, I want to thank you for preserving the peace that was fought for in the Korean War.

From what I know about your service, you, thankfully, did not see combat because you arrived after the July 1953 armistice (or if you did see action, you’ve never mentioned it to me). Did you receive a Korean Defense Service Medal for serving after 1954? Apparently George W. Bush created the honor in 2002. It’s time to collect if you haven’t!

Any time that you’ve talked about your time in the Army, it seems like it was a good experience for you overall. A favorite story of mine is about “Stinky”, the stray dog you kept while stationed there. I remember being so sad that you had to leave Stinky behind when you returned home and always wondered what happened to him. Stinky is the legacy you left in Korea; perhaps his descendants are still wandering the streets today.

You’ve always talked about traveling back to Korea all these years later. I’m ready when you are and hope we can make that trip happen someday. What are some of your favorite memories from your time in Korea? Any moments of cultural exchange that helped shape your outlook?

RESPONSE:

Hayden: You made my day.that you remembered some of my “war stories” means so much to me.
also that as you have grown up and gone in your own directions our bond has only grown stronger. How lucky and proud I am to have you as a grandson.

I didn’t reply to your question. without getting into to much detail and thought which we can discuss when we are together I will say that my 2 years in the military and 18 months in Korea changed me as a person in a very positive way and helped me become successful in my career.

WikiLinks

 

 

Dear Jimmy Wales,

I just donated $3 to Wikipedia, a laughably small amount considering how often I reference Wikipedia. The little disclaimer called me to action and I donated. A simple appeal to Logos is all it took. How do I know what Logos mean? I looked it up on Wikipedia.

How did people settle petty arguments around the dinner table before Wikipedia (or the Internet in general)? Fistacuffs I assume.

Cumulatively, I’ve probably spent days of my life just surfing through links on Wikipedia. It never gets old because there is always news direction to go, another vein of information to discover. Sometimes I’ll click around and see how many links it takes to get from one article to a seemingly totally unrelated one. Here’s are some good examples:

Spongebob Squarepants to Hitler- 4 clicks

Steve Jobs to Jesus- 3 clicks

Texas to Obseity- 1 click (obviously)

RESPONSE:

Search for “Wiki race” on Youtube – there are some funny videos of
people racing to get from one place to another on Wikipedia in the
fewest clicks.

 

Bertito

Booze Week

Dear Tito Beveridge,

Ok right off the bat, your last name is Beveridge and you are in the beverage business.

That raises some red flags. It’s just is too perfectly matched and I’m a bit skeptical. Are you a real person “Tito”, or are you the creation of some copywriter? Because if you are just a skillfully crafted personality, like the Most Interesting Man in the World for instance, I’d be ok with it. Your story is still darn good.

Assuming you are real, there is one part of your story in which I’m particularly interested. The press I’ve found doesn’t goes into much detail about how you came to hold the first distillery permit in Texas. Was it simply persistence and a careful read of the TABC codes? That seems even less likely than your name.

I want a story about a smooth-talking Texas moonshiner who came to legitimize his illegal distilling activities through a series of back channels and shady go-betweens that eventually landed him (you) in the Texas Governer’s office. A deal was cut that night between you and the Governer, the details of which never left that room. Alls we know is that you walked out with a golden ticket to turn corn into fun. They could make a movie about you starring Matthew McConnahay. Don’t you want to be played by Matthew McConnahay? Yes you do. Every Texan  wants to be played by Matthew McConnahay.

Well however it went, way to stick it to the Ruskies and make some great Vodka right here in Texas.

RESPONSE:

Hi Hayden -
Thanks so much for sending this letter through! I made sure Tito got a copy of it as well :)
Sadly, it was not a shady deal that led to Tito having the first legal permit to distill in Texas. But it was good, old fashioned stubbornness coupled with the ability to read government documents (learned from his days as a geologist in the oil business). The TABC told him he couldn’t do it, so he read the code and discovered there was nothing in there to stop him. They still wouldn’t let him do it, so he went to the Feds and got them to agree, and finally TABC changed their mind. It’s been a wild ride ever since …
Thanks again for writing to Tito. Hope your blog project is going well!
Cheers,
Nicole

Nicole A Portwood
VP Brand Marketing
Fifth Generation, Inc
Home of Tito’s Handmade Vodka 

America’s Original Craft Vodka

 

Full Bodied With Hints of Hope

Booze Week

The Austin Winery

Dear Austin Winery,

I am a self proclaimed beer snob but have next to no idea when it comes to wine. Ok there’s red and white of course, and I know that a Zinfandel is stronger (more full bodied?) than a Pinot Noir with Merlot somewhere in between. That’s about the extent of my wine knowledge.

Aside from the advantages it would give me as a waiter at a fine-dining restaurant, I want to gain an understanding and appreciation of wine for my own satisfaction. Beer was easy to get into; it seems so accessible in comparison. The nicest beer at the store might cost $20, when “nice” bottles of wine barely start at that price. Breweries are casual places filled with jolly bearded dudes while the only vineyard I’ve been to was mostly about looking good while drinking the wine. Beer feels inclusive, wine feels exclusive. Basically, I’m a little bit intimidated by the wine world.

Part of the problem is that I don’t know where to begin. The wine aisle a mysterious place. I want to taste the black cherries and currant but I don’t even know what currant is (Google tells me it’s basically a cherry). Sometimes I think my palate isn’t refined enough and that makes me sad. Maybe I’m not cut out for wine.

So as a young wine entrepreneurs maybe you can give me (and other like me, surely I’m not alone) hope that I too can appreciate wine. Maybe you can help re-brand wine to be more approachable for those of us who can’t or won’t spend $100+ on a bottle. Teach us, guide us, and together we will break down the barriers of wine exclusivity and all enjoy.

PS: What grape grows best in Texas? Go!

RESPONSE: 

Thanks for the letter, Hayden. 

Many of the concerns you raised about the snobby side of wine culture, and general inaccessibility are valid. As curious young wine drinkers, we experienced the same barriers to entry as you: wine was expensive, we knew little, and it took a while for us to confidently differentiate what we were drinking. We wanted to break down these walls, and founded our winery on a few guiding principles – produce high quality, regionally expressive, snob-free wine. 

That being said, understanding and appreciating wine has a lot to do with understanding geography and climate. Knowing what kind of wines come from cool, moist places versus dry and hot is a big start. Therein lies the answer to your “what grapes grow best in TX” question: Earthy, Mediterranean varietals from Spain, Italy, Portugal like Tempranillo, Sangiovese, and Tenat (respectively).

In regards to wine analysis and all the flowery words you hear spouting out of a Somm’s mouth: don’t be scared. Use reference points that makes sense to you – if it tastes more jolly rancher than raspberry, say that. You always reserve the right to disagree. You know more than you think: start with color (red/white/rose’) then go oak/unoak, fruit, spice, finish.
 At our heart, we want to make wine for the people of Austin, which we see is very much like New Orleans: centered around food culture, a sense of community, and snob-free (or al least we used to be). The model we employ (sourcing fruit from all over the country) allows us to achieve a very broad spectrum of flavors and aromas and gives us the freedom to try and make a style of wine for every kind of wine drinker. Even better than that we want to help you establish a frame of reference for expressing why that wine spoke to you and recommend wines (ours or other producers) who may be in a similar style. All of our wines are between $15-$50, so if you’re a college kid trying to make date night with a pizza, you can do it, this isn’t exclusively for the Westlake Doctor, but we think he/she will like it too.
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