I love Jay Fletcher for many reasons. He’s one of the most talented and prolific designers with whom I’ve ever had the good fortune to work. He’s funny, kind and makes the world better through design. And, he’s introduced me to some of my favorite people and clients. Enter Team Wilsondebriano.
Chevalo and Monique Wilsondebriano are incredibly warm, gracious people. They made me feel immediately at ease from the moment I met them. (Full disclosure: The fact that Chevalo is a Long Island native and Monique hails from my motherland, New Jersey, may add to my love for them.)
What you really need to know about this husband and wife team is that they turned their obsession into finding the perfect burger into making the perfect burger.
And they did it.
And it’s here in Charleston.
Their venture, Charleston Gourmet Burger Company, elevates the humble burger to legend status by keeping things simple and true. They use only locally-sourced, fresh-ground meat and their very own homemade marinade. Then they cook it to sizzling, juicy perfection and slip it into a tasty bun. Like so.
And it’s magic.
In addition to helping Monique and Chevalo tell their story (tagline and web copy), I had the pleasure of watching Jay Fletcher rock out the design and see Gregg at Limelight Custom Sign Co. whip up some incredibly original signage and be awed by Leapfrog PR as they shared the Charleston Burger Co. story with the world (I’m talking press and TV gigs, y’all!). Thanks to everyone for making this such a special project.
Check out the site for sure, and please, do yourself a solid and go get a burger, like now.
May 13, 2013
Thankfully, my Mom was never one of those Moms who commented on weight or personal appearance, other than to say things like, “Stop slouching. Stand up straight.” Or, “Are you sure there’s enough room in the crotch?”
I count myself lucky for that.
Both my Mom and Dad taught us from an early age that the world was not fair, that it didn’t owe us anything: a job, a car, or even love. It was, after all, up to us to learn everything we could; to be good people, good friends, good citizens in order to secure these things. As a result, my childhood was often like an ongoing lecture series in self-sufficiency, entitled: Here’s How, starring my mother.
“Here’s how to hold the potato when you peel it…”
“This is how to make a hospital corner…”
“How on earth have you gotten through life this far without knowing how to ____?”
“Ask the doctor questions. It’s your body.”
“Look it up.”
When my sister and I were young, Mom kept our hair short.
She says she kept it short because we screamed whenever she touched our hair, although I have no recollection of this. I do, however, remember her scorching the tips of our ears with the curling iron as she curled our short, Dorothy Hamill hairdos under.
Me, screeching: “You’re burning me! You’re burning me!”
Mom, flatly: “Don’t be silly. That’s just my finger.”
Because I had short hair and dressed in jeans and t-shirts, I was often mistaken for a boy.
This pained Mom to no end.
One might think a nifty solution to this problem might be say…grow the child’s hair out. Put it in pigtails. With ribbons even.
But if you did that, you’d miss the magic that is my Mother.
Rather than let my hair grow out, she decided it was a better idea to sew white eyelet lace around the back panel of my jean jacket.
My jean jacket.
It looked as horrific as you are imagining.
Even at six, I knew it was awful.
I refused to wear the jacket.
I joke with her now and again that white eyelet lace is the reason I’m gay.
She laughs. Most of the time.
Actually, she and I were folding underwear in her bedroom when I came out to her.
I chose neither the venue nor the timing of this discussion, but when she specifically asks me if the bar where I’m going that evening is a gay bar, I say yes.
She says nothing.
I fold and refold a pair of Dad’s underwear three times and realize this is the moment.
I say, “Is there anything else you want to ask me?”
She says no, and I am certain she means it.
Something inside me clenches with fear so fiercely that rather than come out, I tiptoe forward.
I say, “Well, I’m pretty sure that I’m gay.”
She stops folding and says, “I’ll go get your Father.”
Also not in the plan.
The other night I went to see a friend perform in a production of Oklahoma! She was amazing, and the bunch of us that attended were very proud. Also, we sat in the second row which is really not the best idea for a musical. The truth is, you need a little physical distance from people who burst into song every few moments.
At any rate, there’s a scene in which the “bad guy,” Jud, sings a song that turns into a monotone dirge about his own death. The line he sings is: “Poor Jud is dead. A candle lights his head.”
This is the very line my Mom would sing to us when she woke us when we were kids, or if she caught us dozing off somewhere, or if we were being overly dramatic teenagers who might “die” if we didn’t get to [insert the thing we wanted to do here]. So here I am at the play the other night, laughing uncontrollably at a scene which is decidedly not funny, all because my Mom sang that bit to me at least a thousand times.
I am certain that using that line to wake her slumbering babes was never part of her plan. I mean, at least I hope it wasn’t, because talk about dark…However, it is for just this reason and a thousand others that I love her, that I find her maddening and irreplaceable and funny and frustrating and perfectly mine. Happy Mother’s Day, Mama, there’s simply no one quite like you.
One of the many amazing things about Charleston is that every year, we play host to the Family Circle Cup, the largest women’s tennis tournament in the world. Each April, more than 100,000 tennis fans make their way to Charleston to see 70+ of the world’s greatest athletes do what they do best: volley, rally and smash into our lives in the most exciting way.
My friends at Obviouslee Marketing invited the super-talented Jay Fletcher and I to brainstorm concepts that highlight the beautiful harmony between one of the world’s greatest tennis tournaments and the Holy City it calls home.
April 29, 2013
Imagine my surprise when a dear, old (We’re not old. We’ve just known each other a while.) friend paid it forward blog-style and nominated me for a Liebster Award. In a nutshell, the Liebster Award is a way for bloggers to share the blogs they read and love with others. I’m all about that. Many thanks to my pal, The Forgetful Genius!
The other part of this Liebster thing is answering a slew of random questions and sharing 11 things about yourself. Which is a bit daunting for me. See, when I blog, I write about when I want to write about. The answering of questions? Well, let’s just say this is a growing moment for me. Enough preamble, here it is.
What is your favorite book?
Just one? I’m a writer. There are too many amazing books. Too many books that rocked my world. A quick list off the top of my head: Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim At Tinker Creek, An American Childhood and The Maytrees; Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird; Joan Didion’s The White Album and Magical Thinking; Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and Blubber; Tina Fey’s Bossypants; David Sedaris Me Talk Pretty One Day; Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird and Traveling Mercies. Phew.
What is your greatest fear?
Palmetto bugs on my face while I’m awake, unable to move and in a confined space. It’s very specific.
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
My gut response was Wonder Woman’s golden lasso, but I really don’t know what she used it for another than wrangling packs of bad guys. I’ll say flying.
What is the quality you are most proud of?
My ability to try and bring levity to otherwise icky moments, learned from my Mom.
Who is your idol?
When I was young: my brother, my sister and Pat Benatar. The order sometimes changed.
What is your most embarrassing moment?
We had a ridiculous “tradition” on my high school soccer team of de-pants-ing one another. Fortunately, this was era of wearing boxer shorts under our soccer shorts. I’m going to have a dig up photographic evidence of this, because I know it’s reading very ridiculous right now. Anyway, my friend Dana de-pants-ed me, right in front of our head coach. Not. Awesome.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
I try very hard not to get bogged down in nitty little things like this, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cringe a little when people misuse the contraction for you are. I can’t even write it. ACK.
Where do you draw inspiration for how you live your life?
My friends, artists whose work I admire, and from things my Dad said to me over the years.
If you could have lunch with ANYONE – living or dead – who would you choose?
This is so hard. I feel like I’m buckling under the pressure. Bruce Springsteen. And I’d want us to have meatball parm sandwiches. What?
If you could live in any era, which era would you choose?
This one is pretty epic. Maybe the roaring part of the 1920s. With the champagne.
What is your ultimate life goal?
Oh dear. More pressure. To remind people that they are not alone. That we are all more alike than we are different. That there’s beauty inherent in everything.
11 random things about me:
- I’m left handed.
- When I’m stuck creatively, I shower or take a walk.
- My go-to karaoke song is Careless Whisper by Wham!
- As a child, I was accidentally run over by a riding lawnmower. It’s a very funny story…now.
- My favorite song when I was seven was Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall. Which might explain a lot.
- I journal. On real paper even.
- If you mess with my peeps, you will hear from me.
- I believe truth is always stranger than fiction.
- My New Jersey roots are best revealed in traffic.
- One of my many nicknames is Shelby, because I can do a pretty spot-on imitation of Julia Roberts in Steel Magnolias.
- I once threw up while hanging out the side of a New Jersey transit train. It was food poisoning, I swear.
April 8, 2013
This is for you, Steph.
I grew up in suburban New Jersey in the late seventies and eighties in a tight-knit neighborhood full of kids. In those days, my best friends and most everything I loved or needed was a short walk away.
We played outside for hours at a stretch – in the creek, trees, streets, backyards, and basements.
We lived by simple truths:
Older brothers and sisters were in charge.
Mr. Rosenberg made the best pancakes.
The O’Connors had the biggest kickball team (11).
But perhaps one of the greatest but forgotten places to be during my childhood were the far flung regions of my friend’s parents’ station wagon – what we called “the way back.”
In literal terms, the “way back” was so physically far from the front seat it may has well been in a different universe, which I suppose, lent it its magic.
I remember crawling over the back seat to the “way back,” the scratchy feel of the avocado felt, like the fuzz of a new tennis ball, wiry enough to give you a rug burn, soft enough for hours of travel or adventure.
Sometimes we leaned against the leather-covered sideboards. Sometimes we lay on our backs, heads close to the back door and watched the sky whisk by, thin clouds racing, sunlight and shadows making patterns across our faces. On long trips, we made beds out of sleeping bags and pillows in Stars Wars and Muppet Show pillowcases.
The “way back” was a safe zone. You were much less likely to get pinched or punched or kicked or glared at by an older sibling if you were there.
On some summer evenings, while our parents sat in lawn chairs, talked and smoked (it was the ‘70s) in the backyard, we kids hung out in the front yard and driveway – sometimes sitting in the parked “way back” with the door open, like a kind of club house.
What I didn’t realize when I started digging into my “way back” memories is that the station wagon was much more than fun for us kids. It was a literal vehicle of empowerment and independence during the ‘70s. It was a call to take to the open road.
Don’t think so?
Think of The Brady Brunch journeying to the Grand Canyon.
Think of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, the movie on which the sitcom “Alice” was based. Alice packed up everything she owned in her station wagon, and she and her young son set out on a journey to find a better life. The station wagon their transitional home, big enough to hold all or most of their possessions, big enough to sleep in if they had to.
Think of One Day At A Time. Ann Romano as the quintessential ‘70s single Mom divorcee. She dumped her husband and packed up her girls and her life in their station wagon – and unpacked and remade them all in an apartment of their own, on their own.
And, let we forget, perhaps the most memorable station wagon of all, from National Lampoon’s Vacation.
I’m assuming the station wagon went out of fashion fast when the gas crisis hit, and when times got better, someone came up with the next generation: the minivan.
God, forgive us.
I guess the “way back” is gone forever. Children without seat belts romping around in the backs of fast-moving cars? Well, no.
Oh, 1970s, we miss you and your cavalier attitude, your winged hair, your independence.
But mostly, we miss the “way back.”
March 7, 2013
You put yourself through college playing gigs and working odd shifts at the local hospital.
Were you buddies with the other guys in the picture?
Is one of them actually Al Anderson?
In my head I hear you say, “They were all nice fellas.” That was one of your words.
Years later, when I was about eight, you said to six of my boy friends who were playing a bit too rough for your liking, “Hey fellas, take it easy.”
To this day I’m not sure if they stopped because of the inherent authority of your presence, or because they were so startled by the word “fellas.”
You called Steve, my brother, “Ace.”
Even me, once in a while too.
Neither of us knows from where that came.
I imagine you taking a break at that gig in the picture. Outside the back door of this school auditorium? Dance hall? It’s freezing cold, and you’re all hunched over in stiff tuxedos with smoky breaths rising, cigarettes cupped in your hands. You talk about what song to play next, which girl is the prettiest, how much snow will fall.
Isn’t it funny, this life you had? I’ve spent countless years trying to understand the Dad you were. These days I wonder about the younger you…before you were a Dad, a husband, a businessman, a coach. When you were just a horn player. Just a fella.
February 14, 2013
Love is patient, kind…and sometimes wears a monkey hat.
Love is not proud…unless it has a mink stole and a walkin’ stick, y’all!
Love keeps your food delicious…and free of extraneous hair.
Love is a DRAG QUEEN.
Everyone knows that.
Love is freedom and equality for all.
Love is the Pig Power t-shirt your Grandma did not understand, nor approve of, but never said a word about.
Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.
January 30, 2013
My Dad was a sensitive guy.
Sometimes it seemed like the whole world was too much for him.
Too loud. Too odiferous. Too crowded. Too bright. Too fast.
When overwhelmed by his senses, he raised one eyebrow in disapproval, lowered his newspaper, looked over at whoever was nearby, shook his head, muttered something inaudible, raised the paper again.
Mom called him, “The Nose,” because he could sniff out even a hint of spice or seasoning the second he walked in the door.
“Is that garlic?” he’d bellow, nose wrinkled in disgust.
Due to his sensitivity, we were raised on the blandest food, only ever-so-slightly salted.
Which might explain my lifelong longing for flavorful food.
Please, pass the garlic!
One night at home many years ago, I laughed hard at something and saw him out of the corner of my eye, fake-wincing in pain at the decibel level of my guffaw.
Which made me laugh even harder.
I said, “Sorry, Daddy,” not really meaning it.
He smiled broadly, shook his head in disbelief and said tiredly, but with love, “You’ve had that laugh since you were a little, little girl.”
January 24, 2013
Listening, reading, and watching much right now. The world provides much rich fodder.
Excerpts from President Obama’s Inaugural address. Here’s the full transcript.
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.
…We the people declare today that the most evident of truth that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
…Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.
From Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem:
The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs…
To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference.
…I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.
Jodie Foster, accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Golden Globes. Full transcript.
I hope you guys weren’t hoping this would be a big coming out speech tonight, because I already did my coming out about a thousand years ago, back in the stone age. In those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends and family, co-workers, and then gradually, proudly to everyone who knew her, to everyone she actually met.
…I will continue to tell stories, to move people by being moved, the greatest job in the world. It’s just that from now on, I may be holding a different talking stick. And maybe it won’t be as sparkly, maybe it won’t open on 3,000 screens, maybe it will be so quiet and delicate that only dogs can hear it whistle.
From Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim At Tinker Creek:
It snowed. It snowed all day yesterday and never emptied the sky, although the clouds looked so low and heavy they might drop all at once with a thud. The light is diffuse and hueless, like the light on paper inside a pewter bowl…
…My mind has been a blank slab of black asphalt for hours, but that doesn’t stop the sun’s wild wheel. I set my coffee beside me on the curb; I smell loam on the wind; I pat the puppy; I watch the mountain.
Phil Greer, CEO and founder of the Greer Companies, grew up in an Eastern Kentucky mining town, became a University of Kentucky football star and then a celebrated high school coach and teacher. All that before he moved into community development, real estate, restaurants and hotels. You could say he’s a busy guy with an idea or two.
Together with Blue Ion, I had the pleasure of telling the Greer story through a brand manifesto and site copy. In its simplest terms, the story of Phil Greer is the story of his company: honor the place you call home: its people, its land and everything that makes it a place unlike any other, yours.
Here’s the site.
We grew up in American kitchens, on Main Streets and side streets, in front yards of blue grass, on porches, and local football fields. We come from hard working people who worked overtime, raised children, tended gardens, canned vegetables, fixed cars, and always made time for sunsets and neighbors.
We believe in giving people more than they can imagine – and everything we’ve got. So we only serve up the same quality, value, and respect we give our own families. It’s why you’ll only find fresh, delicious, homemade and handmade food in our restaurants. Why our hotels offer only warm hospitality, great service, and exceptional value. It’s why we take the time to listen, shake hands, and do more than people expect. It’s why we own everything we build – and why Kentucky will always be the place we call home.
Because we know that the things that matter don’t come in fancy packaging or far-away factories. They come from years spent doing right by people and their families. They come from our hearts, minds, and hands – and they’re always made from scratch.