A Toast To Hardships And Imperfections

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[Found this while cleaning out some files on my laptop. Originally dated September 10, 2015]

 

Wanting to explain my surprise and excitement over a batch of wine derived from the Pineapple Hill “test vineyard”, I went looking for something Hemingway had said about trial and error… I ended up at a blog post about kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with seams of gold such that the container is made more beautiful than ever. What a perfect metaphor for where I am, finally, in my life now after having been, for the longest time it seemed, the poster child for “Stuff Happens”.

First, the transition to rural South Carolina from city life wasn’t as easy as planned (more on that another time –I’m writing a book called Blue Rubber Pool). Then, in rapid succession, my dog died, then a good friendship ended, then the recession hit as I was building an unusual house with an already unpredictable construction budget, then I lost my mom and daughter while, also, my dad slipped deeper into dementia. Then some other things happened too. Let’s just say I could write the sorriest country song ever.

All I could do was keep breathing. Keep forging ahead (like a sailboat pressing on, tacking back and forth, sometimes even backtracking and sidestepping, to cross a spot of snotty sky and pissed off sea). And, when I could, to clear my mind, go out to the pathetic little vineyard to tinker with its raggedy grapevines.

What you need to know, here and now, is that I once killed a 27-year-old Bonzai tree after owning it less than two weeks. My thumbs are not green. I do some things very well but other things not well at all. There’s a lot of hit and miss involved. For instance, some of my grapevines died slow horrible strangling deaths due to poor soil conditioning or not enough water. Others went down in the blink of an eye (weed wacker …or lawn tractor). And every year the making of the wine itself got better only enough to give another try next time (it’s amazing how even the seemingly thinnest of screw ups causes vivid red to become rusty brown practically overnight).

If you’ve seen The Replacements, you know what is meant by “quicksand” (the sudden arrival of an inexplicable force that pulls you down in a succession of setbacks). Others might call it a rut. Or bad karma. For me that succession of bad things that happened felt as if I’d walked into a giant sticky spider web and, no matter how hard I tried, couldn’t shake it off. Or like attempting to dislodge a streamer of toilet paper stuck to a shoe exiting an airport restroom.

But this year the grapes were good. Despite the drought, the deer, the weed wacker and all else, they were bigger and tastier and more abundant. And for the first time, a sampling of last year’s juice (between rackings) tasted just fine.

And a bunch of other great things have opened up around me –causing the world to feel like a meadow full of wildflowers again.

I will always miss the people I’ve lost …but I’ve discovered in myself the presence of a new resilience. Or, getting back to kintsukuroi, I’m improved from having been broken.

I’ve labeled this latest batch of wine “Pineapple Hill Blended Catawba Puerto”. Every glass is a toast to hardships and imperfections.

 “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”
Ernest Hemingway

Here’s a link to that blog about kintsukuroi

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–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Jonesville History: Horseshoe Robinson

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Today’s Jonesville History lesson connects the dots between Pineapple Hill in Jonesville and Morgan Square in downtown Spartanburg.

Morgan Square was once the center of Spartanburg. The first jail, courthouse, businesses and taverns were there (as far back as 1781). Today it includes the original town clock and the 1881 Daniel Morgan monument, from which the square derives its name, but the shopping and restaurant district has expanded far to the east along Main Street.

Daniel Morgan, now the protector of Morgan Square, is considered by some to be one of the most gifted battlefield tacticians of the American Revolutionary War. He’s credited with the British route at the Battle of Cowpens –now a national park, nearby and well worth visiting.

The confrontation at Cowpens was loosely portrayed in The Patriot starring Mel Gibson.

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Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot was based on South Carolina’s Francis Marion (aka The Swamp Fox”)

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The Upstate had its own “Swamp Fox” hero: “Horseshoe” Robinson.

The book about him is considered a bit more more fiction than fact. But one of its most exciting tales involves Horseshoe Robinson in Jonesville.

According to legend, Horseshoe Robinson was captured by the British and held prisoner in Christies Tavern in Jonesville. The ruins, on private property, are a short walk from Pineapple Hill.

In my opinion, if you have to be held prisoner, a tavern would be an excellent spot for that.

Anyway, our hero Horseshoe managed to escape through a secret trap door and, from there, ride away to many more adventures in that exciting moment of time, place and folklore.

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Horseshoe Robinson was an early ancestor of the Robinsons in Union County and across the Pacolet River in Cherokee County. Crystal is one of these Robinsons.

The family name has also been spelled Robeson and Robison. (It’s spelled two different ways on the same road not far from Pineapple Hill: One end says Robinson Farm Road, the other says Robison Farm Road.

# # #

— Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

If grapes could talk (Labor vs Management)

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This morning I found this photo of a handsome overhead arbor for grapevines and wondered if it would have been a better approach than stretching cable as I did at Pineapple Hill. My little  “test ” vineyard gets hit by deer every fall.

In business, hindsight isn’t always, as the saying goes, “20/20”. Sometimes hindsight remains blurry. Other times its way better than 20/20.

Creeping out on gravel, driving Pineapple Hill’s old but sadly not vintage Jaguar this morning, it hit home that if the grapes at Pineapple Hill had feelings, my grapes must be pretty miserable.

If my grapes could talk, there’d be a lot of serious “labor vs management” grumbling out at the strands of cable at night…

Firstly, there is the problem of Management’s lack of experience—not a good thing on its own and even worse when paired with totally unreasonably high expectations.

Management being me. Labor being the grapes.

Management demands that a dry wine grape variety succeed where usually only sweet wine varieties are found.

Management demands grapes that grow in bunches versus the native berry-like muscadine and scuppernong.

Management, of course, doesn’t really understand —and appreciate—what Labor is up against because Management has already moved on—mentally, physically and emotionally—to other matters (i.e., to whatever shiny object has next caught Management’s eye.

Management, in small business settings especially, must often address The World through a multi faceted, prism-like perspective of desires and fears.

Management often feels surrounded by snarling frothing rabid hyenas.

Management is tired. Management rewarded itself with too many sessions on the pool lounger this week and is nursing a sore shoulder. Management rewards itself with pool lounger time  because Management needs stress relief and networking and besides, if you can’t slip out away on a pool lounger, why even be in Management?

It’s true that, on Pineapple Hill, Labor faces awful working conditions and is expected to succeed in blazing hot sun with a minimum of water whilst totally exposed to the threats of Pearce’s disease, fire ants and hungry deer.

But Labor is counter positioned (i.e. “at odds with”) the realities of Management’s goal: (i.e., testing several different grape varieties to see which does best with the least amount of effort or expense).

Management’s attitude is one of water seeking “the course of least resistance” as it runs downhill.

Happy grapes, schmappy grapes.

Consequently, I doubt my grapes include Management in their prayers at night (other than to pray that Management someday “gets a clue” or, sweeter, is replaced by better management).

Labor wants the cables tighter.

Labor doesn’t just require more pruning, the pruning must be strategic if  Labor is to deliver greatest ROI.

More than anything, Labor needs Management to be more careful when leveraging the weed wacker and lawn mower. There’s a been a run of terrible on-the-job accidents lately.

And it doesn’t help matters that Management, despite the carnage, passes by Labor in an air conditioned British import, waving to Labor and smiling, eyes all a twinkle, as if to say “keep up the good work fellas”. No condolences or a promise to do better. Nothing.

If grapes had tempers, mine would be rounding up torches and pitch forks.

# # #

I’m going to run the numbers to see which is cheaper: Spending more to help Labor …or buying sturdier door locks for protection against Killer Grapes.

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Management spends too much time on the porch sipping wine and not enough among the vines growing wine.

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Management does not want to be a prisoner in its own home, constantly fearing retribution from Labor. Utopia, Management realizes now, requires a trip to Lowes for fertilizer, some irrigation hose, and more of those ratchet thingies that tighten cable.

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Management  also realizes it can probably do better than saying “ratchet thingy” –I’m sure the tool, whatever it’s called, has a better name.

Management realizes it must “man up” and take more responsibility—perhaps buy a book on grape growing. Perhaps take a class.

# # #

Management hopes to never again have “clueless” and “Management” used together on Pineapple Hill anymore.

# # #

IF grapes had feelings and could talk, of course.

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Union County. Get Smart.

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Union County, South Carolina, reminds me of Get Smart, the 1960s spy parody television series starring Don Adams.

Remember?.

Each episode opened with Agent Maxwell Smart (aka Agent 86 …”Max”) walking a long narrow hallway through a series of strange doors. One door opens to reveal a stairway. Another, fake prison bars, opens to reveal a simple telephone booth. And the booth, it turns out, is a trap door through which Max drops down into the secret headquarters of his spy agency.

Union County, where Pineapple Hill is in South Carolina, does the same thing …metaphorically.

It has secret entrances only the natives know about. Long winding roads that disappear into trees. You quickly vanish as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

After woods, you follow the path to a lovely meadow at which point the sky opens up on a bright blue sunny day.

All of a sudden you feel safe and at home. This land is for getting away, keeping the rest of the world and its unnecessary chaos at arm’s length. For some, at barrel’s length.

It’s the opposite of malls, movie theaters, crowded sidewalks and traffic jams. I came here because a woman made me. But most are here by choice and would have it no other way.

I get it now.

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

The Story of Bob

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One evening we found a baby bird on our sandy driveway, not far from a large oak tree, flopping around, unable to fly, unable even to stand.

We carefully scooped him up and created a substitute nest for him out of a shoe box.

We named him Bob.

Then we went online to find out what to do next. We found the phone number for a bird rescue person. We called and were told to keep Bob in his shoe box and him up in the oak tree.

So we did.

We punched holes in the shoe box, ran kite string through the holes, then used more string to suspend Bob’s cardboard nest from a low hanging branch (but high enough off the ground so that our outdoor cat, Ellie Mae, couldn’t get to it).

As nightfall came, there was a breeze and, looking out across the lawn to the oak tree and Bob’s swaying shoe box ,we were reminded of the lullaby:

Rock-a-bye baby on the treetops,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

The wind blew harder and harder. We could feel the heaviness of storm clouds moving in across the darkness. And then came a sprinkling of fat rain drops. Followed, soon, by a slamming downpour.

From time to time through the night we would peer out toward the oak tree and, in between flashes of lightening, would see the Bob’s shoe box swinging wildly in the wind.

And one of us would say “Wonder how Bob is?” or “Hope Bob’s okay.”

 

At first light, we went out to check Bob’s shoe box.

But Bob was gone.

We like to believe he made it back to his momma somehow.

However,  later that afternoon, Ellie May—the original Pineapple Hill mouse cat—showed up with bird parts in her mouth.

Small, Bob-sized bird parts…

We left the shoe box hanging from the tree limb for the longest time.

Eventually it became just a rumpled mass of cardboard and string that barely resembled a shoe box anymore and certainly no longer resembled a bird nest anymore.

Finally, without ceremony, I walked out to the oak tree one day with scissors and took down what was left of Bob’s cradle.

 

We still talk about Bob.

He belongs to this land eternally now and to our lives here as much as we do.

 

# # #

–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

On the Bright Side (Innovation During Crisis)

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“I read the news today O Boy… ”
(Remember that line from the Beatles’ song A Day In The Life?)

While sidelined with an injury, I’ve been following the

Checking out the new Pineapple Hill property with my bud Palmer, a West Coast entrepreneur making a deal on his cell phone, I led us up a hill and over a fence …stepping out in front a bull. Didn’t know if it would charge or not but Palmer never missed a beat on that call.

situations with Ferguson, Isis, Ebola, Mid term elections, IRS scandal, Secret Service screw ups, the up and down stock market, the global water shortage, global warming…

…and all the other things in the gator pile.

I’m not hiding under the bed in the fetal position sucking my thumb because I also remember George Harrison’s “All things must pass”.

I’m a big believer in Mankind’s ability to get out of the messes that seem to always come along on the timeline of history. Trouble rides the rails.

Looking back as the ground we’ve covered

so far you’ll see a connect-the-dots story of “bad things happening to good people” (Have you seen the commercial using that line?)

It may not always be pretty, but somehow “we” (the All Of Us that makes the world go ’round) not only survive but continue to advance the ball.

We figure something out. We break on through to the other side.

I’m not just mimicking Kevin Bacon in Animal House (“All is well!”).

I see evidence of Mankind’s ingenuity all around us.

It can be found in our bodies …and far into deep space.

 It’s so amazing what’s been achieved…

…and will continue to be achieved.

Not only has Mankind brought light to the world in its darkest hours –he continues to innovate better ways of doing so.

But don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a Wall Street Daily article on Innovation During Crisis.

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Although probably not inspired by crisis, you might enjoy this list of 33 Genius Products.

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Still think it’s the end of the world? …Check out “Fibanacci’s Golden Ratio” sometime.

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

Jonesville History: Civil War Hot Air Balloon

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Another Jonesville History lesson from the much too thin folder at Pineapple Hill…

There’s an unusual roadside marker in the Pea Ridge area of Union County near Jonesville. It tells the story of a Civil War Hot Air Balloon…

Just a week after Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter, Thaddeus Lowe took off from Ohio in a hot air balloon to prove that he could fly eastward on upper air currents.

Nine hours later his balloon landed in the Pea Ridge area of Jonesville.

Lowe was arrested as a Northern spy but managed to persuade his “hosts” he was on a scientific mission.

There’s a roadside marker in Pea Ridge sign marking the spot where Lowe’s hot air balloon landed.

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Have your picture taken beside this roadside marker in Union County –holding a balloon of course.

 

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From what I’ve seen so far, there’s some real talented moonshine makers in Pea Ridge. I assume they started drinking when they saw that balloon. A UFO for sure.

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Lawrence Richard Walters, nicknamed “Lawnchair Larry” or the “Lawn Chair Pilot”, (April 19, 1949 – October 6, 1993) was an American truck driver who took flight on July 2, 1982, in a homemade airship. Dubbed Inspiration I, the “flying machine” consisted of an ordinary patio chair with 45 helium-filled weather balloons attached to it. Here’s the Wikipedia entry. 

Don’t be so dumb as to try this.

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–Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

Why Pineapple Hill?

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The other day I heard from a good friend and, during the

Painting fish on pallet wood cleared writer’s block. I gave this up after the car wreck. It was a hobby that got out of hand.

course of catching up, asked him to check out this website.

He did, asking “what have you gotten yourself into now?” He knew me. Well. Knew about my taking up different interests all the time—sparkly things that caught my eye—such as scuba diving, guns, buying hundreds and hundreds of new and used books, growing grapes, researching the ruins of a Colonial era tavern down my road “because it’s there”. And so on.

Specifically, he mentioned my painting fish on pallet wood phase. At one point I practically had a factory going down in Pineapple Hill’s conference room (which I briefly renamed Board Room). Painting fish on pallet wood cleared writer’s block and got me out of the house at the height of my reclusive Howard Hughes period–a phase I’m still in somewhat.

Thank goodness the car wreck got me out of the pallet art business before I sent the labor-intensive production over to China or down to Mexico.

Anyway, after we got off the phone I decided I better explain this Pineapple Hill web site to my friend and to myself.

HERE’S THE LETTER I SENT OUT LATER:

Great talking to you yesterday. When mentioning Pineapple Hill earlier and asking you to take a look I really only expected a quick glance and perhaps a bit of feedback on colors (glad you like them) and navigation (sorry it moved a little slow for you –I need to check on that).

Wow! Very glad to have you weight in. It got me thinking. Made me decide to flesh out this website’s reason for being so if I have thoughts of moving on to something else—goat yoga, for instance—maybe I won’t.

The PURPOSE OF PINEAPPLE HILL

  • a place to express myself (I write “just for fun” for an hour or so every morning)
  • a way to be more sociable (compensating for my remote location in the boonies)
  • motivates me to finish the next book I’m writing now that Blue Rubber Pool is published.
  • showcases the surrounding community (history, climate, restaurants, attractions, etc)
  • builds relationships with like minded people: sailors, surfers, shooters, grape growers, bamboo and banana tree lovers, corn hole players and other writers too.
  • clear my head of the jetsam and flotsam so that, hopefully, it doesn’t end up in a book with my name on it.

Like I said, this is “just for fun”. Unless I can figure out how to monetize it. Then it’ll be my ticket to umbrella drinks on sugar white sand. More satisfying even than painting fish on pallet wood.

Bottom Line: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

 

Best regards as always,

Tim Bryant
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

 

Surfboards As Art

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On a day trip to Folly Beach near Charleston South Carolina, my surfing buddy and I sat it out for a while after being pounded to a pulp by waves hard as cement.

There was a storm offshore that day, I forget which one, but everybody raced down to the coast to surf.

Except for myself, I brought a board but was present mainly to chill beside a cooler, doing my thing as Surf Director. Not that I was ever a real good surfer. But this time I had an excuse to lay low except for  a few sorties out to pee in the ocean and make it look like I was jumping waves. I was still recovering from a broken hip. By that I mean a hip socket crushed like a saltine cracker, not a grandpa-type break, not a help-I’ve-fallen-down-and-can’t-get-up thing.

Anyway, the sound of crashing surf pummeled my ear drums in sync with gulls ,screeching, I’d been feeding crackers to.I watched my friend walk down the beach with his board, saying he was going to give it another try. Then, in the other direction, I watched another guy limping along carrying his shorty in two parts.

I wondered what he planned to do with it. If it was me, I’d have saved it as a wall hanger, a trophy of sorts, a Metal of Honor for fighting the waves that day instead of just sitting, drinking, thinking about nothing, accomplishing nada except my bag of empty cans.

As we were driving home I thought about that ruined surfboard. The image of it in my mind, for a reason I didn’t understand just then doing 85 on I-26, made me decide that one of these days I’ll paddle out there and try to stand up again. Keep the dream alive even if it’s broken in two.

Good art does that. Makes us turn in directions we’d given up or never considered in the first place.

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Check out what others have done –re-purposing surfboards as art. Article:  (Old retired surfboards get a new life as artwork.)

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— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Book Review: The Drunkard’s Walk

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I came home from the used book store with a copy of The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives,  a New York Times bestseller by physicist and author Leonard Mlodinow. It’s about the role of randomness in everyday events, and the cognitive biases that lead people to misinterpret random events and stochastic processes. For me (no mathematics scholarships in my past), The Brain Pain began just reading the introduction. Nevertheless, it’s a great addition to your private library book collection. A book for the beach. A book for the boat.

I brought it home in plastic grocery store bag. It was crammed in there with GONZO: The Life Of Hunter S. Thompson, PALM BEACH BABYLON: Sins, Scam and Scandals, FAMOUS MUGS (Stars Behind Bars), Hemingway’s Key West, and Wines & Beers of Old New England. Think of it as a Dagwood Sandwich for evening reading sessions in the back porch hammock. Drunkard’s Walk being the meat.

Sometimes I’ll have 3 – 4 different books going at once. Not unlike switching back and forth between channels on the television. Eventually, Drunkard’s Walk will be completed. And when that happens, I’ll “spike” it football style and do a victory dance on the sun deck.

But more than likely Gonzo, Mugs, Key West and Wines & Beers will have long been filed away on shelves in the new conference room library and I’ll have moved on to a Philly Steak created from other books brought home in sacks.

For instance, Keith Richard’s book Life. Or Outward Leg by Tristan Jones. And The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernieres. All of them also recent finds from the used book store.

What about you? What’s in your hammock?

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–Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill

Going Native (the soul of a whelk)

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(From a book I’m writing called Exaggerations And Lies Of A Sailor’s Life In Advertising)

 

Part of Going Native involves becoming true to oneself in business and at home—balancing both with perfect synergy.

I’ve worked with over a hundred entrepreneurs, VPs of marketing, company presidents, and CEOs. In my opinion, the best of the breed—the ones not only most successful but also happiest, even-keeled, and prepared for the long haul— understand that sometimes you have to go sideways in order to go forward.

They have what author John Irving would describe as “the patience of a time bomb.”

[Imagine, now, the situation of an actual bomb tick-tick-ticking calmly ever closer to a last moment; the grand finale of chaos and calamity –inching toward it quite surely, yet without even an eyelid twitching a little …a soul resembling that of a whelk from which, way deep inside, matches the soft yet unfaltering whispers of the sea and the infinite world beyond.]

* * *

The entrepreneurial spirit is not just a matter of confidence.

It’s self-awareness.

Syncing up with things “out there” beyond where eyes can see.

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The best of the breed understands that the straight line sometimes isn’t the most effective and efficient way…

Sometimes the course, for the long haul goal, requires zig-zagging against the wind.

* * *

I appreciate minds that reach out beyond where eyes can see to gather subtle clues instead of quickly passing them by impatiently, too sure of only one way being the right way, too quick to risk the long term to satisfy the short.

 

For sailors, time and space are multidimensional. In a sailors world a broad range of factors influence success—many of them beyond one’s control, beyond the radar screen—yet sailors become tuned to them instinctively across moments and hours, months and years.

The sound of water and wind have special meanings under sail versus the mindless droning on of motors.  Valuable information of use now and later on.

True, the motoring types get there sooner. But they arrive with less information having done less thinking through and having depended too much on unreliable bits and parts: electronics, engine components, fuel and electricity gauges. They become less engaged and less interesting.Less likely to have lively tales and deep channeling insights when I ring them up to meet on the veranda for Costa Rican coffee and Cuban cigars.

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We (all of us) can leverage an entrepreneur’s outlook, can be masters of life…

…away from the office

…and away from business altogether…

through the patience of a time bomb and by finding the whelk-like soul deep within.

 

Bottom line: Going Native is a “zest for living” thing…

that frees us (all of us) from the mundane.

* * *

— Tim Bryant
Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill