"Texas Bound Part 1"

      I decided a few months back that I would be dodging the rest of the winter, and heading for the Texas coast with the lovely Chastaine Tallon, and my long time friend Staz. Well, those times have come and gone, and as usual, I've left my poor readers high and dry on the details. I've been keeping busy writing album reviews, short stories, planning a gallery show for next years SXSW, learning guitar, and of course, having all sorts of fun working random ass jobs all over America! I'm currently working on a farm in California, and since I'm so behind in my recent blogging habits, I figure I should do my best to catch up a bit. The "TEXAS BOUND" string of posts will follow my recent trip down to Texas, and the adventures and characters therein. If you feel a bit lost jumping in right here, click the following link to read the lead-in to this post here. Enjoy!
"New Destinations, Old Friends, and the Latest Addition to Our Crew"

"The Ever-Stressful Departing Process"
     Now'a days, I'm more so in my element while on the road then during the in-between points. Transition somehow becomes a fixed state of mind, and when none of your surroundings are familiar, you can at least cling to that mindset for a warm sense of consistency. If an object in motion tends to stay in motion, then that same object inert is probably somewhat restless, right? Needless to say, this makes the process of departure overwhelming to me time and time again. There's simply nothing you can do to remedy yourself of the inevitable feeling of unpreparedness, except leave sooner.   
    You can never truly be ready for whatever it is you'll come across, so you bring the basics, and deal with things as they come. Improvisational decision making becomes the norm, and all of the sudden, you realize that planning anything ahead of time is the only real way for you to potentially fail. "Expect absolutely nothing, always, and life will always, absolutely surpass your expectations--" a morose sort of philosophy that perhaps Buddha and Curt Cobain would have come up with together at a show in heaven for a Cranberries cover band. Yes, Curt Cobain and Buddha are both in heaven, which does exist, and yes, a Cranberries cover band is playing when they come up with this ludicrous quote about life and expectations. I digress…
     Anyhow, even knowing this conundrum intimately can't save you from the stress you will ultimately create for yourself, so unsurprisingly, my departure after a short two week stay in Milwaukee was no different. I turned the majority of my short time into a theoretical game of "what if" road scenarios. Hell, I even came up with lists of things we might need, simply so I could fail to provide them and then beat myself up for it in the end. The whole ordeal for me is less then fun, and with the added stress of having to be the veteran among our small group of three, I was just eager to hit the road and deal with tangible problems as opposed to imagined catastrophes. As you might guess, my imagination is a powerful force to compete with, even for me.

"Logistical Concerns and Blah Blah Blah..."
    This time around, we set ourselves up in a grand scheme to screw ourselves over by leaving in a vehicle that we knew we were riding to the ground.  Pretty smart, eh? When the absolute best-case-scenario for your vehicle is to go out in a blaze of glory, it's probably just best to not think about the worst case scenario.
    That said, among my rust-tinged history of beat-to-hell vehicles, there has also been discernible cases of triumph against all odds. Champions have risen among the titles of salvage and wreck. Tried and true relationships based on trust, reliability, and integrity have been forged between myself and the seemingly foul machines I have been led to buy through miscellaneous circumstance and cut-and-dry pennilessness. Now, as a budding young adult at the height of my deficiency in the "net worth" department, I had to ask myself: is it really time to start second guessing that fleeting glimmer of hope in a lost old Buick's headlamp? I decided it wasn't.
    And with nearly as senseless of an ideal, and a complete lack of concern for simple mechanical probabilities and/or worthy advice, we decided to pack the old Buick up to the brim and see what we could make of it. Against all odds, as usual. We figured the whole conquest of the vehicle was in the spirit of the journey, and if the thing broke down we'd either fix it, or sell it. The Buick had gotten Chassy around Milwaukee while I was in Washington, then it got her to North Dakota several months later to meet me, and it even mustered up the might to get us both back to Milwaukee. At the very least, the car deserved one last "hurah" we decided.
       As you can see, we weren't out of hand with our packing considering this was three peoples gear, but I was still uneasy for the simple reason that we had more then we could carry on our backs. This meant we had to rely upon our vehicle as a means of storage, and it also would limit us from having the option to sell the vehicle and simply take off on foot. Having to rely on much more than your backpack, boots, or flask can lead to problems in my experience, and it brings to mind Buddha and Cobain's quote about the pitfalls of having expectations. I won't repeat it, don't worry.  
    Anyhow, you pack as best you can for the lifestyle you are geared up for, which in this case, was a very broad definition of car camping. We wanted to be able to comfortably stay as long as we needed on the Texas beaches or in the parks, but we also wanted to be able to chase whatever sort of opportunities we might come across in cities along the way. Maybe I'd come across some art opportunities in Austin, or maybe we'd all get jobs catering in Corpus Christie for a bit-- hell, if I could land a job on a boat sorting mussels or something, who knows what kinds of characters I might get to meet! The point I'm getting at, is that when your living this open ended sort of lifestyle, you want to let the opportunities steer you from place to place, and to do that, you need to be ready for whatever comes at you. The last thing you want, is to have to be making decisions based on your gear.

     Anyone can compartmentalize their excessive pile of needs, fit it into a trunk, and bring it with them on vacation- but when the material weight they bear is equal to the amount of space that they have to fill with unnecessary shit, then what is a person really getting away from? Car, home, tent, backpack; they are all just places for a person to store their things. I've come to terms with the fact that my material needs will always require a significant portion of my attention, even if I can limit them to a backpack or two. The more you have, the more you have to lose in materials; and the less you have, the less you have to gain in opportunities. No matter how much or how little you bring, it seems inevitable that you'll be a slave to it, so my suggestion is to choose wisely.
    The main trick to being able to live out of a car in the city, is that you need to pack light enough where you can fit everything into the trunk so your car looks empty. I emphasize this firstly, because as sad as it may seem, my cameras, laptop, hard drive, and backpack are just about the only worldly possessions I have to lose. I also mention it because if you are living out of your car, a crucial order of your daily business is in constantly making it look like you are NOT living out of your car. This goes for clothing, personal hygiene, and the interior of your lovely home on wheels. Not only will this help you out at an interview, but it will discourage any local law from hassling you, raising eyebrows, or keeping tabs on your vehicle.

In San Francisco, they go so far as to post signs about not inhabiting your vehicle. Pfff, like I'm going to listen to a sign...

In the first leg of this trip, me and The Great B.O. had no issues sleeping in the old Safari van in the NoDa district of Charlotte, NC... You just can't really sleep in...

"On the Road Again!"   
    Despite my ever present pre-departure concerns, Me, Chassy, and Staz managed to get everything together in good timing and make our break for it. After a three month stint of working 80 hour weeks as both a cabinet maker and cook in the frigid oil boom-town of Minot, North Dakota, I was ready for a serious change of scenery. Me and Chassy had worked and saved as much as we could, and it was finally time to head South, dodge the rest of the winter, and make some serious plans to ensure that the final legs of this epic American journey were packed to the brim.     
    Once we were back on the road, and everything I needed in life was contained within the lavish red interior of our Buick Park Avenue, I began to feel at home once again. I leaned back in comfort as a great weight lifted from my shoulders, and a new chapter began.


My First "Decentralized Dance Party!"

    As you all fondly remember, there was a point in my travels this last summer where I had decided with two beautiful friends (Ellen & Scotty), that we would start our own dance crew called "Galactic Explosion," and tour the United States dancing our asses off. Wait, hold on-- I didn't tell you about all that? Shit…
    Okay, well surely you know that that whole idea stemmed from the amazing summer of relentless dance I had out in Trout Lake, Washington last year, which was prompted by a psychedelic dance transformation at the Rainbow Gathering-- right? What!? I didn't tell you about all that either?!
    What the hell have I been doing!?
    I guess without having kept up-to-date chronicles of my random lives around the country-- publicly at least-- I can't appropriately express how important dance, and inevitably, music, has become to my life in the recent years. Being so far from the studio, and having to sell my time for money in countless jobs so often, has had allot to do with it I'm sure, but lets forget about my problems for a minute, and focus on dance... 

    Among the whole mess of SxSW madness that takes place in Austin every March, I was lucky enough to have come upon a performative happening created by two crazy guys called TOM and GARY, who are living one of my dreams by touring the United States with one clear goal: DANCE! Thanks to a local friend of mine, Peter, me and Chassy were informed of this miraculous dance party that started on one side of the S. Lamer bridge, and danced all up and down the streets across downtown for nearly two hours!
    I won't waste time pontificating the artistic implications of this performance happening, or its relevancy to the artistic, cultural, or digital realms. Partially because it is surely a squarish intrusion to a form of expression that requires no literacy or theory, and partially because I obviously have much of my own writing to be catching up on. I guess the fact that the event was led by a man with a golden wig, a giant "disco-stick," and a shake-weight, also bears some relevancy, but who should I be to judge?
    These events are called "DE-CENTRALIZED DANCE PARTY'S," and are taking place all over North America as fast as TOM & GARY can put them together. The whole operation is entirely grassroots oriented. They fund their concept through "kickstarter," and though they've gotten some significant national coverage, they seem to promote mostly through Facebook, twitter, and social media sites. Though they have small kickstarter goals to fund their travels, the everyday dancer like yourself only needs to don some spandex, and dance your ass off.
    I can't tell you how much I enjoyed my experience at the "DDP," and how much I admire these guys for taking such a simple idea, and running with it. I'll post their website so you can find out more about TOM, GARY, and how you can get yourself to a DDP A.S.A.P! Be sure to watch their short little promo video explaining DDP's as well, it's definitely some badass D.I.Y. work! 
Who better to lead our dancing then a man upon a bike-chariot with a shake weight, and a disco stick? 
Meet Peter!
And of course, Liam!



"New Destinations, Old Friends, AND The Latest Addition to Our Crew"

     Hello there my good looking readers, I see you've come back to my warm literary embrace once again. Excellent timing!
    I was just about to share my latest travel plans here among the inter-webs, along with some more of my candid-- and more often then not, blurry-- photographs that you say you like so much (just pretend for me). So go ahead, take off your shoes and get comfortable. Play some soft classical in the background. Burn one down if thats your thing, and if not, well, do whatever it is that you do. You get the idea…

    As you may or may not already know, my decision to hit the road after graduating art school was synonymous with my dream to someday write a great american novel. Whatever that means. What you probably didn't know though, was that my reasoning was two-fold.
    Because I went to High School in the suburbs of Milwaukee, and then went directly to college in the city afterwords, I found myself in a uniquely new life situation upon graduating. For the first time in my young life, I actually had control over my living situation. This is why my immediate inclination upon graduating was to avoid the midwest winter at all costs. It also explains some of my earliest endeavors painfully hitchhiking through Florida, as well as the gem of a card I've had up my sleeve for damn near two years now...
    The gem I speak of, is none other then the Southern Texas Coast, which is our current general direction.

    Running from the Southern coastal city of Corpus Christie, all the way down to the Mexican border, is a vast stretch of barrier reefs broadly known as the Padre Islands. Of course, closer investigation quickly reveals that the various stretches of islands have different names and unique features, but for my immediate purposes, one outstanding attribute unites this enormous sprawl of beaches. Three words my friends. Three simple, delightful, freedom-loving words: FREE BEACH CAMPING.
    As it turns out, the Texas Coast is uniquely preserved by a policy declaring that most Texas beaches remain public land, and therefore, cannot be sold as private property. Because of this beautiful intervention by land management officials, the South Padre Islands remain the largest undeveloped barrier reef in the United States. Thank you Texas, for hitting this one out of the park! After a few months of 80 hour work weeks in North Dakota- I think its about time to go live on a beach for a while and work on my art and writing.
    Those of you who've kept up with me since my earlier travels know that I nearly made my way down to the Padres after one of my earlier couch surfing stints through Austin. It never ended up happening (which was probably for the best considering what I had for "gear") but ever since I looked into it, I've been slyly holding this card for a much needed winter escape. Why is now the perfect time? Context my friends. Context is everything


"The Broader Picture"
    I absolutely love my life, the characters, the adventures, and all the remarkable experiences I've had therein. The fact is though, that I need to start writing this book in the near future. I've written TONS, and documented everything in just about every imaginable medium, but as I realized in my first year of traveling, I need to be within sight of the "end" before I can properly start from the "beginning." What this means, essentially, is that I need to be seeing a great deal of America in the next year. I've covered a lot of ground in the past few years, but the N.E. has remained mostly untouched in my travels. I certainly can't write a book about the United States when I haven't even spent any time in New York City!
    What it comes down to then, is that I have some time to kill before I drag my journey through the NE. Why? Well, because as I have already prefaced with some conviction-- I'm just not a fan of the cold. This is why I'm headed for the Southern Gulf Coast of Texas!

"The New Crew" 
    When I first began this crazy nomadic study, I was naive enough to expect my traveling partners to be the same old crew, through and through. Three years later, I can tell you with more then a few chuckles that this is not at all the case. Throughout a fond mess of trials, tribulations, destinations, fallouts, and excruciating circumstances, I've learned that whatever my goals may be-- they are unique to me. People have come and gone, and I no longer see it as something to be fickle about. Everyone has their own journey, after all, and who should better understand that then me?
    So with that notion in mind, I will take this quick moment to introduce my current crew of freelance travelers. It doesn't matter if they are momentary vagabonds caught in the freeze-frame during the kicks, or tried and true champions of the unknown-- they're both in it for the ride, and in the end, thats all I'm really positive they'll get out of it! 

  CHASTAINE TALLON, a.k.a. "Chassy," "Chass," or "C- Word"


     Chassy is the tough yet tender gal who survived one of the hardest, most rewarding stints I've had so far. Myself, Chassy, and The Great B.O., traveled 6 passengers deep from Milwaukee to San Francisco, and then lived in our Buick Le Sabre while spending the summer traveling up the Pacific Northwest Coast. We ran out of money in Portland, so I got a job cooking while we spent the summer living in the back yards of people who are now some of my best friends. I've been prolonging much of a detailed account of this time so far, because it was too meaningful to be spit out in blog form for your immediate entertainment. Rest assured, nobody and nothing will be forgotten about this memorable time of my travels.
         Anyhow, Chassy has the wits of a bullfighter, the heart of a saint, and a mean enough right hook to keep my antics in order. She's had my heart since I've known her, and I'm a lucky man to have her joining me out on the open road.                 

    AARON STASIC, a.k.a. "Staz," "A.J."


     Staz is probably my oldest friend in the world. We've been out exploring life, getting into trouble, and making a ruckus since we were neighbors at seven years old! We've always spent our time together dreaming and contemplating various forms of world domination, and now, it appears that we might finally be in the right time and place to bring such a reality to fruition. If not, we can at least keep exploring life, getting into trouble, and creating a general ruckus, right?
    Staz went with me on my first family vacation throughout the states, where we sat crammed into the hot back-seat trying to figure out how to read a map. Many years later, we would embark on both of our first college-aged road trips to florida, where we sat as driver and navigator together putting those map reading skills to the test on the open road as young adults. Now, finally, for the next installment of our lives as travelers (and surely not the last), Staz will join me out on the open road as we make for the beaches of the Texas coast.
    I'm absolutely elated to have his company for however long he joins me... 
    Before I make my departure, I'll leave you with some photographs of one of my last nights in Milwaukee, and some of the great friends who made it out to say good-bye to me. Thanks to everyone who made it out!
    Stay tuned for the details of my adventure down to Texas, my time there, and whatever else I get around to sharing.

    Until We Meet Again…

    Joseph R. Reeves


STATUS UPDATE: A Farewell To Friends And Co-Workers from North Dakota

      A very gracious 'hello,' 'how do you do,' and slap on the ass to my ongoing readers, as well as some of my new friends following along here from North Dakota. I'm glad to see you found me here, and remember, that slap on the ass was consensual. It's been far too long since I've made an appearance here on my blog, but what can I say, 85 hour work weeks will do that to a man. Even a man as hearty as I. My apologies as always.
    With all that out of the way though, I'll move along with the agenda at hand because as usual, I'm way behind. Where I left off (in terms of a tangible/chronological sort of narrative), I was just beginning to get down to some of the details about my amazing summer spent working on a trail crew in the mountainous washington backcountry. I assure you that this is where I plan to continue "chapter posting" from in the near future, but for the moment, I'm going to have to interrupt that series to take a moment to thank some of the truly amazing people who played significant roles in showing me North Dakota from a whole different perspective (though they might not have known it).
    My whole experience in North Dakota was far richer then I could have possibly imagined, so I'll mention as a side note that the bulk of the content of this period will be accounted for in future postings at greater detail. The content of this post will only very briefly touch on my time in N.D., because translating the experience would require much more time and thought then I have to put down at this moment. Plus, I have my current plans to share.

    After the trail crew season ended in late October, I left my simple life of mountain labor, and cooking at the Trout Lake Country Inn. It wasn't as simple, or as easy as all that of course, but because I'm short on time I'll spare you the details for now. With a grand chariot of slurry, sullen comrades, we bar-hopped our way from Trout Lake, to White Salmon, to Hood River, and I eventually woke up sore at the aptly titled "Craft House" in Portland. I was among old friends and Advil. The universe was apparently in a very good mood.
    As much as I truly love my Portland friends, this transitional period was very rough for me. The five months I had spent out in Washington went by and ended so abruptly, that my puzzled caricature was among the few things left behind after the whirlwind of ceremonious good-bye's. With writerly aspirations, I was blankly trying to contemplate the deeper meaning of what had happened, and what the hell I was doing next. All I concretely knew, was that I was somewhere in the middle of writing a book about the american dream, and that the main character was struggling triumphantly to figure out where things went from here. I had created an entirely different life and persona for myself out there in Trout Lake, I was "Shovelin' Joe," for chrissakes! Now, wearily wandering from bar, to bus stop, to bar among the rainy city lights- I felt like a ghost.
    I hung around Portland for two weeks (another story in itself that I will hold off on sharing in this post), had some kicks, and eventually, I caught a train to North Dakota.

    Well, a great friend and brother of mine "Jay," happened to be running a store at the mall in Minot, North Dakota selling Cowboy Stuff. The name of the store was in fact called, "Cowboy Stuff."
    Jay told me about the current oil rush out in N.D., how the unemployment rate was nearly 0%, and how crazy the town had gotten since Minot had been nearly destroyed in a devastating flood from the earlier spring. Jay explained to me that housing was at about 0% as a result, but that he had a spare room I could stay in if I decided to head out that way. After researching some of the stories surrounding this contemporary oil rush, and looking at the massive need Minot had for workers- I decided I would indeed head out to Minot N.D..
    I left with the general goals in mind to see new parts of the country; observe the social, political, and soon-to-be historical discourse of the bakken-shale oil boom; and lastly, to make some damn money. In my hard pressed, life-consuming investigation of the ambiguously phrased: "American Dream," the fact cannot be ignored that money is largely at the roots of the general publics' life goals and aspirations. Though I could never share this dream, I've learned to despise the general premise less and less, and have began to simply consider it an americanizing feature of mainstream culture.
    This wasn't just about my american dream, it was about the american dream. With that realization, it suddenly began to seem fitting that I anchor myself there in the blistering midwest winter to chase the buck. As much as I might despise centering a life around money, I realized that much of my Washington life that focused on the value of work ethic would carry over easily. With loan company's constantly harassing my parents and family about the MASSIVE student loans I owe, I figured maybe it was time to make a bit of money and see exactly what the commonly sought, plasticized rendition of the American Dream was all about.
    So I headed to Minot North Dakota to get a job working in the oil fields.

"On The Road... Again" (Cover) w Jordan Meier

    During my stint there in North Dakota, I got very little time to work on my art and writing, which would inevitably be the deal-breaker for me. The economy out there was not only turbulent, but to a guy with a do-all resume, it was damn near compelling. I arrived in Minot N.D. Sunday night, and by Tuesday morning, I was putting in full days welding live-stock fencing. It was grueling labor, but I was entirely in charge of my own schedule, I was making 15-20 bucks an hour, and I was welding for the first time in a while. It felt great, but once I got good at the local job searching game, I saw more, and wanted more.
        I spent almost all my free time applying for jobs and going to interviews. The hourly rates in Minot N.D. are incredible compared to the rest of the country, so I considered every option with the intention of pushing my schedule to the absolute max, working myself to the bone, and making as much money as possible. The streets were lined with help wanted signs, and even fast food places were starting at 11 bucks an hour- so the key was finding two good full time jobs that paid well, and didn't have conflicting schedules. The other option was taking a job on the oil rigs, but since the rigs were all outside of the city, Id have been forced to live in a man camp on the outskirts of town.
    After about 30 applications and 20 interviews within two weeks, I finally found the right combination. I got a job working at a Cabinet shop from 7:30- 5:00 pm M-F, and then I'd walk to the restaurant across the street and work from 5:30- 12:30 as a line cook. It worked out well for several reasons. The restaurant was willing to give me 40+ hours a week, and I got a guaranteed 45 hours a week from the cabinet shop. I made a little less at the cabinet shop because I was taken in as somewhat of an apprentice, but I saw it as an educational experience, and I was happy to be working with my hands in a shop, and making things once again. Sure it wasn't all flowers and roses, but I learned a hell of a lot, and I believe that much of what I was doing will find a way into my artistic practice in the near future. We'll see.
    Everyone liked me pretty well at the shop, but I was always having to ask a lot of questions. I was pretty quick to catch on to things, and though I worked hard, there was still no shortage of mistakes for me to own up to and get hollered at for. It was all part of the learning process, and although most of the time I didn't let it didn't get to me, I still sometimes got tired of being the new guy. This is where my job cooking on the line fit in especially well.  
    I love cooking, plain and simple. I started working as a dishwasher for a small Italian restaurant when I was twelve years old, and fell in love with cooking before I even began art or writing. Thirteen years later, I can now say I've worked in restaurants over half of my life. I chose to go to Art school instead of Culinary school, because I knew I could use cooking as a means to support myself as an artist. It has always been a trade that I excel in, which is exactly why it filled a fundamental purpose for me in my 80+ hour work weeks. Because I was damn good at it.
    It might seem small of me to really "need" to be good at something, but after the nine hour shift, the cabinet shop usually had me worn thin on all levels. I was physically tired from all the lifting and hauling, mentally tired from learning all the new things, and I was even emotionally spent from the daily frustrations of having had a good, bad, or awful day. My twenty minute walk from the shop to the kitchen through the cold, was a good time to reflect and prepare myself for another shift.
    My shifts there in the kitchen were the complete opposite of the cabinet shop, which helped to make the 17 hour days more bearable. Of course your first week, the cooks kick you around a bit and aren't very nice- but kitchens are a competitive atmosphere, and if you're on anything more then a four man line, the dogging is pretty much customary. Anyhow, this short period didn't last too long for me. I learned the menu pretty quick, and in no time, I was able to keep up with the best of 'em. It worked out nicely not only because I had a job where I knew what I was doing, but because I was usually getting pounded so hard with orders, that by the time I had a second to even look at the clock- it was closing time.
    That was my day to day life in North Dakota. I was home by one, asleep by two, and I had a short four hours before I had to wake up and get ready to do it all over again. I learned a lot, I met many wonderful people, and I scraped together a pretty decent amount of cash as well. In the end though, sacrificing my work was the hardest part of it all…

     Before I get to the details of my current situation, and the news of my latest departure, I'm gonna put some necessary thank you's out there to all the amazing people I met in Minot who taught me so much, and essentially made my experience as enriching as it was.

    I cannot thank you enough for giving me the opportunity you did in your cabinet shop, and believing in me to the fullest. I respect and admire everything you've done with your company, and I hope that in it's exponential growth, you remain devoted to the creative integrity that sets you apart from the competition. I hope to keep in touch. Cabinet making is a trade I would like to continue developing. Lastly, kudos on putting together a shop made up of North Dakota's finest cabinet makers.
    You were as consistently up my ass about doing 'this' or 'that,' as you were about showing me HOW to do this or that, and in my mind, that makes you an excellent teacher. You were as good at breaking my balls as you were at encouraging me to think for myself, and I cannot thank you enough for patiently teaching me how to fix my mistakes, and never giving me the easy way out. I won't forget all the things I learned from you Scott, and you can expect that next time I come through town, I'll be calling you about getting a drink. You were a great mentor to me, and I hope you continue to take pride in watching people grow, learn, and develop. Lastly, don't sell yourself short buddy- whether you believe it or not, your an artist in your own way. I've seen it. 
    Steve (Watson),
    You were an inspiring character, with a tough-as-nails mentality that I'd expect from a fellow Milwaukee native. Though you came across as soft spoken, it didn't take me very long to realize that you're the wild card in the shop. Its always the quiet ones. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, I can only hope mine will someday compare. I remember the look in your eyes when you asked me if I was leaving, and I remember realizing that I am probably not much different then you were at my age. I can only hope to be so rich someday, Watson. Keep in touch, and keep the shop in line for me!   
    Thanks for always giving me a hand when I needed it, inserting the proper sarcasm where it was necessary, and really sharing so much of your knowledge with me whenever you were given the opportunity. We shared a lot of laughs, and your diligent pessimism always helped to pass the time... "Does this rag smell like lacquer to you?"  
    Your about the nicest damn fellow a guy could ever hope to work with, and I thank you for that. Any time a part was mis-stained, or the veneer was sanded through, or I shot a staple at the wrong angle- you reluctantly laughed and said "we've all been there," even though you were the one who had to cut an entirely new piece. Your patience was appreciated Cody, and I wish you well on your future house hunt.
    Having a low tolerance to lacquer fumes certainly prompted some interesting conversations between us, Doug. And who could forget the whole mess of fun it was cluelessly running the finishing room when Larry was out?! I'll have fond memory's of frantic sanding, and trying to figure out which coat of sanding sealer pieces were on. In the end we got them all done, and you were even starting to spray like a pro- but thats why you make the big bucks, right?  Either way, I'm glad to have known you. Wear a damn respirator, and keep in touch. I noticed that cough getting worse as time went on (we don't all have lungs of steel like Larry).
    I always loved working in the finish room with you because you knew how to get the job done without stressing out. You were always ready to save the day with your handy colored pencils, which is probably why you always seemed fairly confident in saying, "ehhh, It'll be alright." Your stain matching abilities are superb, and your a cowboy with that lacquer gun. Keep on keeping on my friend, and don't lose your mind there in the finish room.
    Thanks for always watching my back man. Every time I was about to do something I wasn't sure about, I would look up, and you were right there already to show me what I was doing wrong. When I was wandering, you usually had work to keep me busy, and when the entire shop was pissed off and stressing, you'd usually tell me what I could be doing so I didn't get yelled at. You seemed to be one of the few people that fully knew that I really had NO PREVIOUS KNOWLEDGE of cabinets, and you never made me feel stupid for asking you so many questions. Thanks for looking out for me, and telling me what's what. If I had a big brother in that shop, it was you. Next time I roll through town, expect a random call.     
    Your various projects kept you out of the shop most of the time, so I didn't get to talk to you as much as I'd have liked. I'd very much like to see some of your work, so maybe we could make that happen somehow. Anyways, thank you for teaching me a bit on the install, and thanks for recommending some good places to see music in Minot. Every time I listen to "Trampled by Turtles," I think of you. My art blog is JosephReeves.blogspot.com if your ever curious about seeing some of my stuff. As I said, it is interdisciplinary, and pretty weird. Shoot me a message if you ever travel. I wouldn't be surprised if our paths cross again. Also, expect a call when I come through town. I'll buy the beer.
    Your plum crazy, but hell, who isn't. After getting out of a summer of trail building on the mountains, I found myself sitting in a break room with a man insisting that anyone who wanted to climb a mountain was nuts, and should simply be shot. Seriously? Shot? Should we all just be happy with model airplanes and two and a half men? I only wish that out of the fifty times I heard you suggest someone be lynched or shot for thinking differently then you, that even ONE of those times, you seemed like you were kidding. You never did though. Like the Charleton Heston of Cabinet makers or something. Theres really no getting through to stubborn old guys like you, but in a strange sort of way, I guess that is admirable. As different as we may be, I respect you very much for your convictions- even if I think they are crazy. Your one of the best in the business Steve, so screw being sociable. Keep telling it like you think it is, and who knows, maybe someday I'll vote for Nugent too.

    To All,
    My Thank you's will be brief for the restaurant because I'm already connected with most of you on Facebook, and unlike the cabinet shop, I had a chance to say goodbye to most of you. 
    In my mind, you are the heart, soul, and voice of the midwest (don'tcha' know). Thank you for giving me this great opportunity, and making me a part of your wonderfully family. Thanks for being understanding of my schedule, and always insisting that I preserve my "quality of life." Please keep in touch. I will be checking in with the kitchen whenever possible. Lastly, you NEED a J.U.I.C.E. tattoo!  
    You remind me of me when I was your age, so don't let me down. Chase your dreams, and think big. Don't get stuck in one place. Cooking is a trade you can travel the world with! Thanks for the couch to crash on, you'll see me again.
    Your inner J.U.I.C.E. is remarkable brother, and I can't wait to introduce you to your ever growing family. Till then, keep hustling, and keep setting that bar ever higher to those who look up to you. Until we meet again!
    I saw you go from punk kid, to the man with the plan. You've got mad potential in whatever you set your mind to Cameron, so set it to something good.   
    My fellow new guy! I had a great time getting to know you buddy. We shared some great laughs and conversations, and I was always stoked when I was working flat top next to you. 
    Let me know when you start that band Jake. I'm working on metal spoons, alt. spoons, and death spoons as well. Keep your nephew in order, that kid is nuts.
    Keep 'girl pants' in check when he starts crying about his phone. With him around now, you've got two kids to look after. Give my best regards to your young family. You've got the skills to pay the bills, and I don't doubt your a great father. Keep it up buddy.
    Sorry about the pants burn. High school sucks, but you'll get over it. I had fun working with you except when you got whiney or lazy. Don't be whiney or lazy any more.
    I'll miss walking in and out of your random ass conversations in the prep area, buddy.Though your take on culture wasn't always enlightening, it was at least humorous. I'll be sure to call you and laugh in the future when your daughter marries someone you (ahem) disapprove of.
    It was great getting to know you, and thank you for halving all those chickens for me. Your a true american hero.
    Your one crazy dude, and I wish you the best of luck in prep. Next time I come into town, I'll pitch you a yam, and I expect a home run.  
    Kenzie and Brea,
    Thanks for keeping me hydrated and entertained from the other side of the line. You girls are absolute sweethearts, and I'll be keeping in touch as promised.
    Dub Spoons? Lets talk! Hit me up online so I can check out some more of your stuff.
    Hope school goes well for you, hit me up if your ever in Portland again. Thanks for getting Matt straight on the Nacho's.    
    Dan-O, Amanda, Alisha, Sloan,
    Thanks for everything you guys. You were really good managers. I really enjoyed working for you all, and I can't wait to come back, visit, and make you all get utterly wasted with me. Since I won't be a cook there, we can talk shit about the cooks together (sorry fellow cooks).

Will and Kenzie got J.U.I.C.E. tattoo's! I'll be sure to explain JUICE in a future posting, but to sum it up- it is a program signifying a lifetime devoted to excellence. Join Us In Creating Excellence! I'll have more on JUICE soon.

     As this is a very busy week of hello's and good-bye's and packing and un-packing here in Milwaukee, I'll cut this post off here. Expect something in the next few days about where we're headed next- (I'll give you a hint: it rhymes with Gulf Coast), and who 'we' is this time around. (we've got a special guest traveling with us!)

Until We Meet Again...

Joseph R. Reeves