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.


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!

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!


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.


Dear Robert Wilonsky,

Dallas is changing and for natives such as ourselves, that is either exciting or concerning. Very often it is both.

I moved back to Dallas about a year ago after living away for 6 years during college (Hook ‘em). When I go looking for info about this building being demolished or that botched city plan, I, more often than not, find an article you’ve penned. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the guy who understands the evolution of Dallas as well as any one person can.

By all measures the city is booming. Everywhere I turn there are cranes building new generic mid-rise apartment buildings. I wasn’t quite conscious for boom of the 80’s so to me, this feels like an unprecedented time of development. As a city grows up (hopefully Dallas is mostly done growing out), growing pains are to be expected. Room must be made for all this development, I understand that. But must development come at the expense of our few old, historic buildings?

Albeit, we’re not talking about demolishing ancient Greek ruins here (though if we did have ancient ruins, my guess is that they would have been razed in the 70’s for a freeway). Where does this ‘out with the old, in with the new’ culture stem from? It’s an inherently Dallas trait that I’ll never fully understand.

At least I’m not totally alone in my point of view. There are people are working to slow down this ‘demolish now ask questions later’ mentality but I’m afraid the tradition runs too deep. Other cities find a balance of restoration and new but this seems to escape Dallas.

I’m not trying to stop the progress. I’m excited about the direction our city is heading and I fully believe Dallas’ best days are ahead of it. I just don’t think you can understand where you’re going if you don’t remember where you’ve been.

PS: Are we every going to have a usable Trinity River?

Identity Theft

Me VS Linguine

Dear Brad Bird,

I’m want to know where you saw me. Was it at Disney Land? Maybe at a baseball game, or perhaps I served you a plate of food? The resemblance is too close to be a coincidence. To top it off, I even sound like him.

I am your character Linguini.

You appropriated my likeness without my expressed written consent. My personality rights as a citizen of the United States of America have been violated as (broadly) protected under the 1st Amendment. Even all these years later, people still make the connection. Because it is my image you’re selling. Luckily for you, Ratatouille is one of my favorite Pixar movies and I don’t mind the association. So instead of demanding my cut of the $206,445,654 gross domestic revenue, I just want a response for the blog.

You have 30 days to comply before you hear from my lawyers (Uncle Mike, lets get ready for court).



Free at last, Free at last

Dear Richard Branson,

Yes, Martin Luther King said it best. Great God Almighty, we are free at last from the oppression of the Wright Amendment. It really is a great day for the city of Dallas and all Dallasites who consider themselves travelers. It’s hard to believe that it took this long to repeal the dumb thing.

There is easily enough demand to fill both airports’ gates with flights across the globe, but American Airlines still won’t let Love Field use all it’s gates. Maybe if they took more pride in the quality of their product they wouldn’t need to use these corporate lobbyist bully tactics to withhold a tiny handful of gates from operation. ‘

Southwest Airlines has been running a massive advertising campaign celebrating their freedom (and new flights). By all measures it will be a boon for them but don’t think they’re not looking over their shoulder at you. I’ve noticed some Virgin America ads recently as well, but it’s not even close to their scale. I think you’ve got them shook a bit.

I’ve yet to fly Virgin America but I look forward to the new opportunity to do so. Furthermore, I look forward to my opportunity to fly to space with Virgin Galactic as well. Maybe I’ll ask for a trip to space for my birthday. (time to sell the house Dad?)

PS: What did you do with your day in Dallas?


Not Keeping it Weird

Dear “ The Charlies” (Charles Attal, Charlie Jones and Charlie Walker),

Everyone remembers their first time. It was 2006 and I was only a junior in high school. No, not my first time for that…it was my first music festival experience at Austin City Limits.

While it’s well documented that I’m mostly over the traditional mega-festival experience, I will say that ACL will always have a special place in my heart and I did make it down for the first Friday this year. I had to see my favorite hip-hop group of all time, Outkast, and the performance did not disappoint.

Tonight wraps up the second weekend of the Festival for yet another year. Was this year bittersweet for ya’ll as a buy-out from LiveNation looms of your heads?

The news comes as a bit of a disappointment to me, and here’s why. C3 Presents is (was?) an independent Austin company that rose up to become the third largest concert promoter in the country. That’s something to be really proud of;  something for the city to be proud of. A buy-out from LiveNation takes that away from Austin. That’s not keeping it “weird”. That’s moving up and out (a microcosm for what’s happening to Austin in general).

I’m always skeptical when the second largest company in an industry buys the third largest. How does this keep happening in our economy today? I don’t buy the notion that it makes for a better product or that it enables you to bring the experience to more people. It makes for less competition and a watered down experience. To that point, I do feel that the festival market is already over-saturated so maybe it’s a good time to sell.

Regardless of this news, I’m proud that ACL is one of the nation’s powerhouse festivals right here in Texas.

The Teacher

Dear Mr. Hagood,

In my first class with you some 12 years ago, you explained to us that we would be writing every day that year. That unlike math geniuses, greater writers are not born but made. That came as a relief to me because I had been terrible at math ever since two consecutive years of Ms. Owens as my math teacher. We wrote for 5ish minutes before each class started as well as on our own, one page per school night.

I still remember the first quote you had us write our thoughts about:

“Notice: Beach is closed after 10pm.”

I looked up after college and realized that writing is really my best skill. It’s what set me apart throughout college and stands as the one thing I can confidently point to when someone asks, “What can you do?” My motivation for this letter-a-day project spawned at least in part from the idea that if you write (or do anything) every day, you are destined to improve. If I fancy myself a writer, then I better strive to improve, daily.

What I’ve come to realize is that writing is just organized thinking. If you can express an idea in written words, it can be shared, improved on, and hopefully be worth something to someone. And as of today, I can call myself a copywriter (meaning I’m employed, at least partially through my ability to write). Back in 9th grade, I probably wouldn’t have guessed that writing would come to define a major part my professional life.

Every time I sit down to write, it is a challenge. A blank page is, and probably always will be, quite intimidating. So I start spewing broken thoughts onto the page, keeping some, reject most. I build from there until I have a direction and then it slowly comes together. Then someone *cough cough* with a red pen slashes it to pieces, which is frustrating but again part of the challenge. You pick up the (figurative) pieces and work from there. At the end of the process, you look at the finished work and almost forget how you got from that blank page to something worth ($?) reading.

I’ve come to thrive on that challenge and I thank you.

PS: I hope you still start your classes with a prompt/quote and make your students keep a journal. I’ve gone back and read some of my old thoughts and it’s a trip.




Thank you so much for the letter; it was totally unexpected!
I’m so glad to hear that you’re a writer, Hayden, even if you’re still on the first rung as a copy writer. I’ve had former students who started out the same way and one of them recently published an article in the on-line New Yorker over the recent book-banning controversy at Highland Park.  Hang in there!  You have all my encouragement and best wishes, Hayden, because, as you know, writing well is difficult, time-consuming, and the most intellectually challenging task you could ask for. You also have all my respect because sticking with something as hard as writing is rare.  
It was such a treat to get your letter.  Write back anytime, and let me know if I can do anything for you.
ps. As I no longer teach 8th and 9th grade, I do not do the journal, but the tradition is being carried on by Mr. Jennings.

Tim HagoodUpper School English Teacher

Upper School Philosophy Teacher

Lakehill Preparatory School

Missed Connections

To the sad and lonely person who stole the final clue to my girlfriend’s birthday scavenger hunt from the patio of Lakewood Theater,

I try to picture as you on that warm Sunday afternoon. You’re wearing the same ratty black T-shirt you slept in and last night’s beer is stale on your breath. You wanted to watch the Cowboys, but you overslept and now you’ve got nothing to do. The few (very few) people you hang out with are busy getting ready for their work week but you don’t have a job or a girl friend so you’re off kill the day at the bar. Alone.

You stare at the sidewalk as you walk but glance up to notice a shiny pink balloon in the shape of a heart swaying gently in the breeze. It looks like it’s waiting for someone, and hey there’s even a note.

Oh how sweet. It’s some girl’s birthday and this is the final piece to her scavenger hunt. I bet her boyfriend planned it for her and this FINAL balloon is the culmination of an awesome day. They must be so happy together.

You imagine that you planned an awesome day for your awesome girlfriend. How excited she is when finds the final note and jumps into your arms smiling. It’s like a scene from a movie and you lose yourself in the fantasy for a brief moment.

Then the headache from your hangover snaps you back to reality: you don’t have a girlfriend, you smell, and you’re alone. You’ve never actually had a girl friend. That one girl you liked so much in high school only used you for a few weeks to get back at her real boyfriend. And it still hurts all these years later.

So tear the balloon from the patio table and let it go. You watch it float away into the sky knowing that it will never reach the special person it was meant for. Ha! Knowing that almost covers up loneliness. As the balloon drifts out of sight, that familiar feeling of loneliness seeps back to it’s usual place, just below your heart in the pit of your stomach and you walk into the bar. Alone.

Maybe you kept the letter. Part of me hopes that you did. Read it when you feel like there’s no love left in this world and let it stand as proof.

Buddy Boy

Dear Bud Selig,

Seeing as how you proudly do not use e-mail, this letter will not won’t be nearly as relevant by the time my carrier pigeon reaches New York City.

Tonight we got to watch a spectacular baseball game.

It really had it all. The hot upstart team from a city hungry for a taste of the postseason facing a team learning to play up to high expectations and hopefully exceed them. True grit was on display. I remember when my fair Texas Rangers were in both those positions over recent years, though it feels far longer ago than that. We the people of DFW missed out on basically all the MLB action this season and tonight was a taste of what makes October baseball great.

The game itself tonight couldn’t have been any better, but I still believe that an entire baseball season (162 games! Way too many!) should not be decided by a one game play-off. My friend had a clever idea: best of three with a double header on the first day and if necessary, the deciding game a day later. Home field advantage would be given on the doubleheader game. It would be an entire day of baseball (and ad revenue).

Maybe I should be sending this idea to the Commissioner in wait, Rob Manfred, since you’re retiring after this season. Or maybe you can implement this like a lame duck president might and let the new guy untangle the mess.

Enjoy your final postseason as commissioner, Commissioner.

Just Do It

CEO Week

Dear Phil Knight,

What is a brand? I’ve heard dozens of definitions, all of which are true at some level.

A brand is a symbol.

A brand is a feeling.

A brand is concept.

A brand is a promise (-Stan Richards) .

At it’s best, a brand integrates itself into a person’s identity and contributes to their sense of self.  The term “lifestyle brand” is thrown around a lot but rarely does a brand live up to this big label. In my opinion, Nike is the quintessential lifestyle brand. How did that happen?

Weiden + Kennedy had a lot to do with it no doubt, but I think you were the first entrepreneur to really embrace the power of indorsement. Michael Jordan wears these shoes and he’s the best basketball player in the world, surely they’re good enough for your Sunday morning pick-up game. Nike wasn’t known as a golf brand until Tiger woods used Nike equipment as best golfer in the world.

This interactive list of the world’s most recognizable brands has Nike at #24. I think that is wayy off. I would place it somewhere just behind Coca-Cola. Athletics transcend all economic and geographic boundaries. Apple may have the most money, but Nike has touched every level of society in every corner of the globe.

Sweatshops aside, it’s an incredible brand.

PS: I found it interesting that you were the single largest contributor to the Oregon Ballot Measures 66 and 67 which increased taxes on large corporations and individuals making or than $250,000. Not to make sweeping generalizations about billionaire CEO’s, but wouldn’t that be the last thing you want? Maybe you’re actually self aware enough to realize that there the we’ve let the wealthiest corporations and people grab far too much of our nation’s capital.