Monday, September 17, 2012

A Man of Many Hats

I tend to like big wide brim hats, as many of my photos on here have shown, but when it comes to life, it's far to short to wear the hat of a single skill or profession. Recently when I jokingly posted on Facebook about my new acting role, some made a list of all the things I do or have done. When I got to thinking about it, I have actually taken on far more roles than the average 35 year old, and though my skills in a few of these fields is certainly a bit shallow, I've also worked hard and become rather adept at others. I may not be the most interesting man in the world, as one friend quipped, but I have worked hard at a number of skills that I currently combine and use to make for an enjoyable life.

What many of these roles seem to have in common is the act of creation. As someone who was always a very down to earth, athletic and no-nonsense kind of guy it took me most of my life to realize that at heart what I really loved was the art of creation. Be it creating food, or philosophical systems, graphic design, business plans, games, cocktails or exercise regimen what I love is making things and figuring out a better way to do things. The list below of the hats I wear on occasion, while quite varied has a recurring theme of creating something.

Restaurateur:  Somehow I ended up running and owning a restaurant. Not just any restaurant, but arguably one of the nicest in Kathmandu. My role here is one of part manager, part entertainer, part businessman, and part salesman. Talking about or selling the idea of the of the restaurant is something that comes easy to me because I really love it and believe we've put something special together. The other parts are what will make it financially viable and fun for other people to be here, which is the point of creating it in the first place. It also means having a vision for not only creating the place that we have, but having one for where it can go, and how to steer its future. 

Chef: I love food. I've always loved food. My mother tells me when I was a small child I use to ask for blue cheese dressing, and when I turned 5 my Grandmother bought a very large lobster for me. What I love about working with food is how many dimensions you have to work with; there's texture, smell, appearance and taste. Now cooking without financial restrictions can be challenging, but working within the bounds of what is financially viable, works within the menu and your kitchen and then also can be molded into something that can appeal to all those senses is something that is very challenging, and when done well I find very rewarding. Not everyone will love what you make, but I get enough people thanking me for creating the things that I do on a regular basis that I'm happy with what we've put together here. It's a job I really love.

Bartender- I know the trend is to say mixologist....but I'm not a fan of the term. I like making good drinks, ones that a variety of people will enjoy, and I like experimenting with flavors. One of my goals when opening this restaurant was to create a bar where people would order and drink cocktails. Nepal being a beer and whiskey drinking country, many people were skeptical if there was a market for it here, but the cocktails that we have created here have been outselling all else. Who knew Ecuadorian cocoa infused tequila, mixed with vanilla infused bourbon, cinnamon tincture and bit of simple syrup would be so good? Not me until I tried it, but damn those New World Chais are my favorites. 

The Sandwich & Burger Page I Designed For the Grill House

Graphic Designer: I actually enjoy graphic design quite bit, though I've never been paid to do any. All of the menus and ads we do for the restaurant I've done, and have been very happy with how they have come out. Now am I a pro? Nope. Is it something I'm confident at and enjoy doing? Yes. A reviewer for one of the largest English language daily papers was in here the other day and noted that it was the best menu in Nepal, and several customers have told me how it feels just like a menu from the US, which was what I was trying to accomplish. I've also designed our logo, our bottled product labels, and a number of signs and special event menus.

Philosopher: Again this is not some paid position, but I've spent a good deal of time and energy in its pursuit, and I have put together some theorems I'm rather proud of. The book I've written, and am still working on, The Purple Thread of Epictetus is something I'm quite happy with, though I'm still rewriting parts of it when I find a spare moment, and life's lessons force me to reconsider some things or their approach on a nearly constant basis. My main interests in this filed is theories of practiced philosophy, especially those presented by the Greco-Roman Stoics, Cynics, Pyhric Skeptics and many Buddhist teachings. While I find modern writings clarifying and interesting, they too often lack anything in practical application and are more about semantics and rhetoric than getting at how to live a better life. As a person who has no patience for religious practice, I find that logical philosophical inquiry into the big questions still gives meaningful answers that can help guide us on how we live our lives.

Project Leader / Surveyor /Architect: Yeah I never bothered to get liscenced in any of it...I'm not a fan of collecting paperwork, but these are all jobs I can do with varying degrees of proficiency. In fact I think I was  a very decent surveyor and I naturally fall into leadership positions, and enjoyed working as a project leader quite a bit. Before coming out to K Town I was in a position where I would be heading up our companies role in the largest Gas pipeline project to go into Manhattan. In many ways it's almost too bad you can't live multiple lives because I really would have enjoyed working on that. Still I was able to put many of my CAD skills to use here in designing the layout of the restaurant, drawing elevations for the bar, and coordinating much of the work that put this place together. My love of mapping and simple GIS has lead me to map out many of the big trails here and it's something I still enjoy, and would love to do projects here if the opportunity arose...maybe.

Runner: I am not that strength which in old days ran sub 5 minute miles, but that which we are, we are. Still I love to run, and continue to enjoy my running routes in Kathmandu, especially my runs to Boudha. In my old age I struggle usually to keep 7 minute miles, but it's more about the practice now, about the discipline it creates, and less about the speed. Still.this is a hat I would like to wear a little more frequently, and would enjoy doing some of the marathons they offer in the area. Within the next few years I want to train and participate in the route of the original Marathon that takes runners from the seaside town of Marathon in Greece to the Athens.

Traveler: If there is one hobby I enjoy the most it's travel. I absolutely love discovering new places, people and foods. Although it may not normally be thought of as something that someone is good at, I would say it is, and something that with years of practice I'm very comfortable with. The art of traveling is the creation of experience, about knowing how to use your time, be at ease where you are, and how to relax and still see the things that you want to see. For each person it may require a different approach, for me it usually means arriving with a loose plan of what I want to see and where I want to go, but an itinerary that is essentially made up as I go along. It usually means traveling on the cheap and enjoying small hidden gems of restaurants or moments with people off the beaten track.

Writer: I love writing. In fact I've found that the act of writing itself can help clarify my own thoughts, and thus I try to do at least a little every day as an exercise. To be fair though blogging and diary like entries aren't real writing, it's more of a stream of consciousness just put to typing. Real writing is the crafting of that raw stream that has come out of your head into something much more refined, appealing, and effective in its conveyance of ideas or feelings. I find fiction almost impossible to write well, something I have tried on occasion, but am never satisfied with the result. I am much more comfortable at analysis and breaking down and presenting ideas or selling concepts. I use to occasionally write articles for a Magic The Gathering web site, I've written a book on modern practiced philosophy based mostly on stoic and Buddhist teachings (as alluded to earlier), wrote the menu for the restaurant, and I've actually managed to keep this blog going for going on three years now.

Gamer: I don't think I ever bring it up on this blog, but I love games. Part of the reason I think I've been able to create so much here in Nepal is that the lack of any decent internet connections or gaming shops have required me to focus on other things entirely. As I just noted I use to play Magic enough that I wrote articles for it and played in tournaments, I lost a good portion of my 20s to MMORPGs, especially Everquest and still love military tactical games with the highest admiration for Rome: Total War's mod called Rome: Total Realism. I grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons, and though some might laugh (because wasting your time watching MTV is sooo cool right?) I learned a lot of very useful skills through all of this. All the writing I do started with gaming, learning excel and spread sheet design as well as graphic design? Gaming again. Typing and computer literacy? Required to play games online. Critical thinking, team work, situational assessment in a time sensative environment, historical literacy and an interest in geography, all of this I got from games. It shouldn't come as a surprise that one of my real loves is game design. In fact there aren't too many job offers that would make me go back to the US, but working on an MMO or for WotC would be pretty damn tempting. I'm even convinced that South Asia is a huge market for gaming that is entirely untapped, be it for trading card games or an MMO.

Actor: I write this mostly in jest, as I've never studied acting, and aside from my recent role in a movie I have no experience. Still, I just finished up three separate shoots that will be in a final film that should be released in December. I did get to do my montage scene, which made me very happy- though I did fall awkwardly into a this odd wicker rocking chair that I had to use, but the director seemed to like it. At the last shoot, the guy who was leading the editing came up to me and said that e was very surprised to learn that I had no experience, as my expressions and lines had been delivered very well. This was echoed by the director and choreographer, but my gut tells me they were mostly throwing sunlight up my rear. Still it was fun to do, and though it's not a hat that will get much wear, it's a cool experience.

They say  it takes about seven years to become really good at something, so I still have plenty of time to learn more skills and continue to apply those skills I have learned to the new ones that come along. Although my focus now is on the restaurant and making that a successful venture, in the back of my mind is always something wondering what I can learn to create next. 

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