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After work today, I went to the Rose and Crown with a bunch of people from the Stanford Venture Studio, the office space/educational incubator where Bryce and I are working for the summer. We are all relatively focused in the office. We are in an open space, but we are so concentrated on our own ideas, that we don’t talk much.When we do, it is an opportunity for feedback, a great bonding experience, and an awesome way to see how other startups are making their decisions as they grow. I became a beta user of two products today. FriendCubed (friendcubed.com) and Kindred (a photobook company). I am excited to try both.

At Rose and Crown — which, by the way has the best beer selection in Palo Alto, enough to satisfy the likes of Win Bassett (@winbassett) during his time as one of the nation’s great beer writers — we talked about starting companies, how we met our cofounders, and the challenges of getting customers. More than those transactional things, though, I realized how far we have all come. Sebas, the FriendCubed member there, was already far along when he started, but other teams were raising money on a proven concept, acquiring customers, and pivoting when they came in with significantly less than all of that. Even Mark, my brother, who has been out here absorbing everything EdTech (and frankly anything else he can get his hands on) was talking about things like a veteran entrepreneur. He arrived in mid-June, and there will be a blog post dedicated to his experience soon.

This is a short post, and not particularly deep. I am really genuinely thankful for this summer. I have learned a lot. I have developed incredible relationships. There are several weeks left, and I already feel like I have become a more complete person. I have learned to deal with ambiguity in a new way. I have had a chance to royally screw up. I have been given the opportunity to recover from those screw ups. And maybe most importantly I have learned amazing lessons — both personally and professionally. That is the amazing part of business school, Stanford in particular. Every day we learn new professional things, but whether intended or not we learn personal lessons as well — inside the classroom and out.

In Office Space, Peter says “every day is worse than the day before, so every day is the worst day of my life.” I am the opposite. Thought I am reluctant to say that every day is the best day of my life — because there have been many unique high points — I consider myself extremely lucky to be here and have these experiences, meet these people, and learn these lessons. Every day builds on the last and is better than the last, and I cannot think of any better way to live life than that.

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I spent my college years at NC State, in Raleigh, NC. It is one of the three institutions at the heart of Research Triangle Park[ (RTP). RTP is known as a center for life science and software innovation. I spent my Masters year in Cambridge, in what the Brits sometimes refer to as Silicon Fen. They see Cambridge as their Stanford and nanotechnology as the new so-far-untapped source of innovation and business advantage. Now I am in Silicon Valley, and everything is different.

Go to any big city, and you will see incubators, mayors talking about new entrepreneurship initiatives, and universities aggressively trying to spin out technologies and negotiate big licensing deals for IP. They see Silicon Valley as something to be copied — a path to local economic success.

There are things here that can be replicated, no doubt. But there are features of this place that are amazing and unique (in no particular order, except number 6):

Beta testers. How many people know what Uber is? Lyft? Sidecar? How many people have used all 3? Almost everyone in SF has at least considered it. There is a huge culture here of hearing about new apps/sites/services/toys on Techcrunch or elsewhere and putting them to the test. It is a whole city of beta testers that can generate huge buzz.

Pitching ain’t easy. Whether they know it or not, people are constantly saying “wouldn’t it be cool if…” and very frequently, these people have the skills to do actually give them a shot. More important is practice. Since I have been working on my business, I have learned to be more creative and think about business ideas in a new way. By constantly pitching, people learn to vet these ideas. Even if they aren’t starting a company on them, the process is powerful. (Note to self: if I am leading a company, hold pitch days for my employees to get those creative juices flowing and understand better what is important to people. It is the ultimate suggestion box.)

Lots of talented people. I believe the best people anywhere are as good as the best people anywhere else. Everywhere I have been, smart people have totally blown me away. I think what differentiates this place is its position as a technical hub is that it has become such a destination for talented people with an entrepreneurial mindset. What’s more is that they are constantly talking about cool tech. Go to Boston, there are undoubtedly as many highly trained people (or NY, RTP, Austin, Seattle, to name a few others), but how many times have you heard a discussion on the T about why php is still a relevant language or the merits of Django v Ruby on Rails? These conversations were between total strangers. It is a powerful community that can dig in so deeply so quickly.

Starting a company is culturally riskless. Okay, this is not correct. There is tremendous personal and opportunity cost to starting a company. In Raleigh, within the startup community, failure isn’t frowned upon. I would guess in most startup communities, failure is learning. But here, with few exceptions, failing at starting a company is largely shrugged off. It is a good learning experience. I have no doubt that if I need to get a “real job”, I could do it because starting a company is not a blank spot on my resume, it is a highlight.

People get irrationally excited. There are crazy startup ideas here all the time that people are trying to launch. They might seem impossible, they might seem long term, the first product might seem like a very small first step. This area is an incredible echo chamber. People support each other and get insanely excited about other people’s ideas. Sometimes, it is good to have someone else remind you of how great and big your vision is, because sometimes it is easy to get lost in the weeds. This is some of the power of an incubator, you are accountable to someone else, but you also have an even tighter community of people to lift you up when you are down. My experience here is an entire community behaving like an incubator.

Investors. This explains itself, but it is last for a reason. I have many thoughts on investor dynamics, but from a growth standpoint, it is very good to have investors around. Some businesses need money, and having one place to go where there are a variety of openminded, smart investors with billions at their disposal is a very powerful thing.

Silicon Valley has a number of things going against it, too: a ridiculous cost of living (roughly offset by salaries, but it makes startups hard), some interesting social dynamics, and a focus on solving “problems” that questionably have any impact on the world at all (“We wanted flying cars, but we got 140 characters” — Peter Thiel).

Note that none of these features, good or bad, is government incentives or policy. These things are culture. Culture takes time. I really like Durham’s approach. Create space for people and give it time. Trying to force a new culture or kick innovation into high gear with a $25 million over 5 years doesn’t even work in Silicon Valley, it isn’t going to work elsewhere either. Let people be themselves and break rules. Most importantly, sign up to actually use the product that people in your community are building. Then get to know the builder. Give them feedback, then if you are sold, become a walking advertisement. The positive effects from this on the team, on the product, on the community, and even on you are hard to overstate.

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It’s been a long time since I last posted. As you might have seen on my About page, in Sept of 2012 I moved from NC to CA to attend business school at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB). I should have written about 100 blog posts since I arrived to capture even a small part of what I have experienced. Sadly, I have not, and I could not begin to capture the totality of my experiences.

What I can do is start, from today, start to blog again. First, I want to dive into a few highlights. There have been two ora

Rugby

Upon arriving at the GSB, I spotted a bunch of guys playing rugby outside my dorm. I decided to go give it a try. It was just touch — think a nonstop version of two-hand-touch football — but I thought I would give it a go. One of my good friends from high school, Clarke, had graduated in 2012 from the GSB and had been president of the team. But going into my first year, I had specifically said I wouldn’t play rugby because, let’s face it, I do not have a traditional rugby body, which we will get to in a moment.

Touch rugby is a tad infuriating, to be honest, but the group of guys that were out there were a great group so I decided to come back again and again. By the time real practices came, I couldn’t think of not going. It was a team mentality that I had missed, a new sport, and a great way to get some stress out. It was also the first sport that I have played where hitting it a real thing.

Contact rugby is a totally different game — and way more fun to me — than touch. In some ways, it is like American football if you take away the downs and forward pass. I realize to those who love the nuances of rugby find this statement offensive, but to a first order it is not all that different. I mentioned that I do not have a rugby body. That is a bit funny because almost anyone can play rugby. Big and slow: you are in the front row. Short and quick: you are a back. My problem is that I am tall but not that heavy, so my front row abilities aren’t great. I am reasonably fast — at least for my height — but my high center of gravity gives meaning to “the bigger they are the harder they fall”. It is a testament to the team that they have found places to put me, but writing this does remind me that I owe some visits to the weight room before the season starts to get ready.

I am still learning how to deal with contact. Hitting has been less of a big deal than getting hit. I am still learning to stay low when I have the ball, but I am trying to get better and better.

I had a chance to travel with the team to Austin, TX for a tournament and Las Vegas for another one. I missed the MBA World Cup at Duke last year, but I will not miss it again! The tournaments were real bonding opportunities with the team. They were also great weekends of a ton of rugby.

The best part about rugby is the brotherhood that it engenders on both sides of the ball. Jim Coulter, founder of TPG and GSB Rugby Alum, has a saying that in business you have to “be rugby competitive.” What he means is that rugby players aggressively tackle and physically beat up on each other on the field with no remorse. At the end of the match, everyone drinks beer and sings songs together as if they had just been on the same team. In business, you play fair but tough, and when it is over you shake hands and celebrate a job well done on both sides. There is something special about this feeling. Some of the people that I have gotten to know on the rugby pitch have become some of my closest friends in regular life, and just like rowing molded much of my high school and college experience, rugby is certainly molding my business school one.

Entrepreneurship

There are obviously many things that are molding my experience in business school, but another big one is the culture of entrepreneurship around here. I have founded some things in the past — mostly related to (weirdly) running and food/drink (happy to talk about these at a later date for those who don’t know my somewhat strange past). Starting a company is something a bit different. My only experience with this was in the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program at NC State in undergrad. It was one of the most growth-inducing academic experiences I had at NC State, and I have really put to use many of the lessons I learned in it. Within the program, in addition to our normal senior capstone project, we had to build a business plan and develop a simulated startup company. Ever since, I have been fascinated by the startup phenomenon. I love the culture of creating something on a deadline and having to build something that people want. I also love the creativity involved in coming up with new plans.

When I came to Stanford, I immediately started attending startup events. There are a ton of them around here. At first, it was just cool to be a part of the community. From inventors, to founders, to early employees, to investors, the community around here supports startups in a way I have never seen. Some of my classmates were already starting companies, and others had already been successful in starting and selling a company. It was inspirational and intimidating. I thought I wanted to start a company. I knew I wanted to do something where I could have an impact by bringing technologies to people who could use them to do good in the world. I just didn’t know what. Fortunately, this isn’t uncommon, and I made a great friend group that helped me think about what I wanted to do. By the end of the year, I and four of my friends were elected the 4 presidents of the Entrepreneurship Club (eClub) at the GSB, the largest club in the school. Yes, it is ridiculous that we have 4 presidents, but welcome to business school, think of it more as a “leadership team”. It is a big honor, and I am very excited to be part of such a great group.

This summer, I am starting a company with a great team, a great extended support network, and an exciting future. I will save details of what that company is until a later post, this one has gone long enough.

To wrap up, I haven’t touched on many of the things here that are very important, but I hope to post regularly — to me that means once or twice a week, but we will see if I can stick to that — to be able to share a small part of my experience here with you.

oaks

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This weekend, I ran my first half marathon: the City of Oaks. In March, one of my best friends Saket Vora, told me that his goal was to run a half marathon by the end of the year. It sounded like a good challenge, so I decided to join him in his mission. In fact, I committed to going to CA to actually run one with him at the end of November. I wanted to prove it to myself locally before I headed out to the left coast, first, so I decided to register for something a little more local. Originally, the intent was to do the Virginia Beach Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon, but I broke my foot a few weeks beforehand, and I was banned by my doctor from running in it.

The morning was cold in Raleigh. The temperature was in the mid-40s. I wore my Trinity Hall rowing vest to keep warm, and stretched out at home. Then, I headed to the course. Julia and Win were running, too, so I caught up with them, checked my bags, then headed to the start line. I killed time for 15 minutes talking to one of the crowd who had only a week before finished an Ironman. Now, she was doing a half marathon for fun. Clearly these people define “fun” differently than I do.

When the gun finally sounded, I headed off. At first, my goal was to break 2 hours and 15 mins, but as we left the start line I decided that my goal was to break 2 hours. I caught up to the 2:00 pacers, kept with them for the first 1.5 miles, then committed to myself not to let them catch me for the rest of the race.

At about mile 4, Ted Gross of Bottle Revolution caught up to me. We ended up running together for the rest of the race. He was good company. We talked little, but just having someone around to motivate was great.

The race itself was torture. It was rolling hills almost the entire time, with a few major climbs. Maybe for those people who run mountains, it was nothing, but for me, it was torture.

Around mile 9, I really started to feel the burn. I stopped being out of breath, but my legs were losing all power. Just then, as if he knew, I see Win running at me from the wrong direction. He had finished his leg of the marathon relay (they got second overall!!) and ran back to pace me for the last 4 miles. It really helped! He talked me through the last 4 miles, helping me drop my split every mile, passing people, and just crushing the 2:00 pacers.

Win was kind enough to carry my gloves for the last bit, because my hands were getting hot. With about 0.2mi to go, he dropped my glove and had to stop to pick it up. Somehow, being solo for the last push helped even more. I put on everything I had, dropped my split to 6:30, and beat it across the line. They handed me a medal and a  bottle of water, and I felt like I was going to collapse. I finished the race in 1:56:48.

Julia was waiting for me at the finish line (she crushed the half in 1:39 — 10th in her age group) and congratulated me. Win and Ted caught up only seconds later, and we all celebrated that we were done. We took some pictures, got some bananas, and hung out to cool down.

Will and Hannah caught up with us at the bellower shortly after. They had brought a post race beer, but we all decided a better finish to the morning would be to go to Flying Biscuit for breakfast and hang out.

It was a great morning, a great race, and an awesome feeling to finish my first half. Now, I’d better start eating bananas if I want my muscles to stop being sore for the Big Sur Half Marathon in just two weeks!

Me and Julia - Finishers!

Me and Win -- the guy who got me into this whole running thing in the first place.

A boat waiting to go under Eliot Bridge.

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A boat waiting to go under Eliot Bridge.

Friday

This last weekend, I had a chance to visit Boston and environs with friends for the Head of the Charles Regatta. It had been three years since I had last visited Boston, and though my last visit was blessed by sunny weather, I had always remembered my HOCR visits as being rainy and cold.

This weekend was very different. Everyone agreed that it was the first real weekend of autumn: cooler temperatures, sun, leaves changing, a crisp breeze, overnight coldness. It was the consummate New England weekend (at least in my limited New England experience).

I arrived on Friday morning — the first of my cadre to arrive, and dragged by bags from Logan to South Station to Andrew Station. Then I walked to the apartment that we had booked, but I was too early to check in. I dragged my suitcases around the block to a coffee shop. They did not accept cards, but I was lucky to have enough cash on hand to buy a coffee to enjoy while I got in touch with the apartment owner to check in a few minutes early. I finally did, deposited my bags at the apartment, and headed out exploring. Win told me that the internet had suggested Bukowski’s on Cambridge St. The food there was excellent, and they had some pretty awesome beers to try. After a quick beer and a huge, delicious plate of fish and chips, I set off once again.

I realized that I had left 2 things at home: a cord to charge my iPhone and the SD card for my camera. I realized this as my phone was about to die. With my phone’s dying breath, I looked up where I could find a Radio Shack or somewhere else that I could find these needed items. Unfortunately, my phone died before I could actually figure out where the store was in relation to me. I set off in what I thought was the right direction. After almost an hour of zigzagging streets and thinking that I would be lost in Cambrdige/Somerville forever, I cam upon an oasis, a burning light shining in the distance, a Target. I was able to score a charging cord and an SD card and headed outside. I plugged my phone into my laptop to get it charging, and I set off toward Cambridge to find a coffee shop, rest my tired legs, and get some emails written.

Shortly after getting to the coffee shop, Will called me to tell me that he and Sharon had arrived into Logan. I headed back to the apartment and met up with them. We went out for dinner (to Bukowski’s again) and then headed in to catch up with the others in our group. We were 9 in all. We spent the evening catching up at the apartment, talking, and finally falling asleep.

Saturday

Weld Boathouse from across the bridge.

On Saturday, Mark and I got up and went for a run. We headed toward the river — through the warehouse district of South End — all the way up to Boston Medical Center and back. It ended up being about 4 miles. I remember saying to Mark “this isn’t too bad, but I wouldn’t want to walk here late at night”. Of course, saying those words guaranteed that we would be walking there later that night.

When we got back, we finally got everyone up and showered, and headed to the race course. Will and Brian had left early to catch some of the morning races, but most of us were simply too tired to move that quickly. We got down to the race course. Brian and Will had staked out a bench, so we all sat around and watched races for most of the day. After a while, we headed up to Eliot bridge to see the races go below. Then we headed down to the vendor area to check out the SWAG there, grab some hot cider, and see what new tech was coming to the rowing world — let’s face it, this is basically the SXSW of the rowing world. On the walk down, I had one of the most memorable moments of the trip. I was recognized in my Trinity Hall Boat Club jacket.

For those that have not yet been dragged through the world of rowing: many older clubs have boat club jackets. In most cases, they are colored dinner jackets with highly contrasting piping on them and a crest on the pocket. When I rowed at Trinity Hall in Cambridge, I earned a boat club jacket and wear it proudly whenever I go to the HOCR. Almost everywhere except the largest rowing regattas, you will be looked at like some sort of fashion freak for wearing these ridiculous jackets, but fashion gets a pass at these events in the name of rowing posterity. The reason I said “in most cases” earlier is that my college’s colors are the supremely classy black and white. Rather than something ridiculous like navy blue and magenta, our colors are compatible with black tie affairs — so my white boat club jacket with black piping is not as ridiculous as some out there.

Me in my THBC Boat Club Jacket

As I am walking along the path beside the river, I hear “Trinity Hall!!” and see a British guy running my way. It turns out that he had rowed for my college a few years before I did. He told me that a boat from Downing (another Cambridge College) was racing this year. Even though on the Cam, Trinity Hall really dislikes Downing for having taken headship at bumps from them, this far away there is some small brotherhood. As the Downing boat rowed by a few hours later, I know that there were at least 2 fans yelling “Row Hall” at them — the American football equivalent of yelling “Go Wolfpack” in support of Chapel Hill in some far off land.

 

In the interim, waiting for Downing’s race, we took a look at the vendors out there. There are always lots of cool things for sale. Maybe the top one for me was the SmartOar. I have always had an interest in rowing data since Saket Vora, Win Bassett, I, and others worked on Advanced Rowing Instruments (pdf). The SmartOar took a very different approach than we had planned. While our focus was on boat analysis based on accelerometers (in 2006-2007, this was a totally new concept), SmartOar actually puts sensors on the oar to determine the flex of every shaft during the stroke to analyze power and motion. The upside is that it is highly accurate — though I’m not sure that I believe it will be 100% stable over time as the carbon and fiberglass of the oars begin to flex more and more over time — the downside is that it requires several hundred to one thousand dollars per oar. For big teams, this is not a huge deal. For small team, this cost is completely prohibitive. On a side note, Nielsen-Kellerman has just released gyroscope, accelerometer, and GPS based CoxBoxes in addition to modular batteries, a modular battery bullhorn, and a smaller CoxVox — all products on an ARI roadmap 5 years ago. It turns out we may have been on to something.

5 years later, NK finally gets our tech.

After watching the races for a bit longer, we all met up near Harvard Square. On the walk there, I ran into my Norfolk Acedemy classmate and coxswain Douglas Melchior. Douglas had just graduated from HBS, and invited me to come by his space in the brand new Harvard Innovation Lab. We exchanged phone numbers and said we would catch up later. It is amazing who you can run into in a totally different city if you keep your eyes open.

Once we met up with the rest of our group, we all decided that it was time to find some food. The first time I visited Boston, I was all about some chowda down by the race course. I have since had my eyes opened to the fact that there are better placed to eat in Boston, so the whole group decided to move on. A few of us decided to go to 9 Tastes just off of Harvard Square in Cambridge. It is a small Thai place below street level. Though when we first entered, it was rather empty, by the time we were leaving, there was a line out the door. Clearly, we are trendsetters…or something. The food there was really good. I ordered a traditional Thai soup to start and a regular vegetarian main. The main course had 1 pepper next to it, indicating slightly spicy. The soup had 2 peppers, indicating spicier than 1 pepper. It turns out that this scale is not linear. 2 peppers is 1,000,000 times spicier than 1 pepper. The food was really good, though, despite the fact that the soup nearly killed me after about 10 spoonfuls.

Riverside Boat Club

After dinner, the four of us walked around Harvard for a while, exploring different streets. We did not leave the area without a trip to Burdick’s, though. It is an incredible chocolate shop near Harvard Square. We got mochas and hot chocolates and started the walk to the T. When we arrived at the T, we discovered that the red line was shut down. Unfortunately, that was the line that was supposed to take us back to our apartment. Luckily, there was a shuttle that could take us to the South End, so we hopped on the packed bus and headed that way. We disembarked at the Boston Medical Center and started our hike south. This just happened to be on the streets that just hours before, during daylight, I had said I would not want to walk at night. They were dimly lit, warehousey, alley-filled streets. It wasn’t that there was anything particularly unsafe that I could point out other than the fact that we felt very alone out there. It was a relief to get back to the apartment — 2 miles later — and rest our tired legs. We watched the last of some west coast football and relaxed for the night.

Sunday

Sunday was the day we all were to go our separate ways. We had to check out of the apartment by 11:00, so we all got up and packed up our stuff. I got in touch with my friends Scott and Meghan about coming by, and headed off toward Somerville. Scott lived next door to me in Cambridge, was the President of the MCR at Trinity Hall, and had his PhD minted last year. Meghan was in Cambridge while I was as well, finished her Master’s, and returned to Boston. Scott proposed earlier this year, and I was really excited to wish them all the best in person.

I made my way to Somerville, and dragged my bags up and down hills until I found their house. They made a delicious brunch of pancakes and fruit, and we talked and caught up on old times. They are such great people, it had truly been too long since I had seen them. We reminisced about Cambridge and told stories about all that had happened in the last 3 years since we had last really seen each other. Time flew, so soon it was time for me and Scott to head down to the river to see the elite races — the real highlight of the HOCR. We donned our matching Trinity Hall scarves, and headed to the race.

Me and Scott in our matching Trinity Hall scarves.

 

We watched the races. I finally sprung for a new HOCR rugby shirt — my old one was >5 years old and had shrunk beyond wearability — and we caught up with my friends from down south. We walked around a while longer, then headed back to Scott and Meghan’s house.

Me and Megs (and Scott, not pictured) sharing wine and cheese before going to dinner with friends.

That night, we visited Scott and Meghan’s friends for dinner, where they made an amazing salmon dish. We all enjoyed some wine, great company, and good conversation. We then went back to Scott and Megan’s house and called it a night.

Dinner with friends!

Monday and Tuesday

Wellesley Hills Fall Colors

I spent Monday and Tuesday exploring around Boston and environs. I made it all the way out to Wellesley Hills where I had tea at an amazing tea shop and saw some really intense fall colors. I made it over to Kendall/MIT and had a chance to sit at a cafe and relax. I ate at the Clover food truck — a real treat.

On Tuesday, Meghan was kind enough to let me leave my suitcases at her office, very near to South Station where I would catch the Silver Line to the airport in the afternoon. Then, I headed across the river to Harvard Business School to meet up with Douglas. The Harvard Innovation Lab is a new building. It is very nice, open, and geared for collaboration. Douglas explained the company he was starting Vaiad, to me. It is essentially a new channel by which to sell website advertising. It looks to be extremely easy to use, well thought out, and poised for success. Hopefully we will see big things from them in the future. Douglas and his business partner took me around campus a bit. We finally headed to lunch at HBS’s amazing refectory.

From there, I hot-footed it back to South Station, picked up my bags, and caught the Silver Line back to Logan for my flight home.

It was a long 5 days: Many tens of miles of walking, lots of picture taking, great friends, and rowing. How much better does a long weekend get? The answer: not much. Thanks to everyone who made it such a great event.

The newly married couple

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The newly married couple

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend and participate in a beautiful wedding of two of my closest friends: Will Stoughton and Hannah Young. I was able to make it down to Swansboro in the late afternoon for the rehearsal — after a quick detour to the Jacksonville mall to get shirts for the groom and one of the groomsmen. The bride and groom had been kind enough to invite me to give a reading at their wedding, so I practiced going to the podium at the predetermined time and returning to my seat. The church was really beautiful, and I could see how the wedding was going to be a grand success in every way.

After the quick rehearsal, we all headed to the house that the Youngs rented for the weekend for the rehearsal. Jack and Deb Stoughton had arranged a classic Eastern NC pig pickin’ for the event. Will had even arranged to have local NC beer brought in for the event. It was great to catch up with all of the groomsmen and families, some of whom I had never met. I knew immediately that I would become great friends with them immediately, and how right I was! After finishing the pig (I even took a holiday from vegetarianism, and though worth it because the pig was amazing, I now remember well why I left the world of carnivores earlier this year), we all had some cake with strawberry filling inside. The seeds popped just right, and the icing was really light. It was the perfect finish to the meal. A few of us stayed late and enjoyed some bourbon and caught up on happenings since the last time we saw each other about a month ago.

After the rehearsal, we all headed out to our respective abodes for the evening. I was exhausted from a long day of preparing, driving, and rehearsing. I fell asleep quickly and arose early the next morning to get to work. Hannah had asked me to put together a graphic for the front of their wedding program. I used the tree image that Jack, Will’s father, had provided for the invitation and added a verse that the celebrant of the wedding has selected. Though I was limited on time, I think it turned out reasonably well and at least did not detract from the look of the wedding.

Invitation cover

I sent the image to Fr. Bert, and headed over to the groomsmen’s house, where Will (unbelievably for his wedding day) was making quiche. One of my favorite quotes of the day was his best man saying: “Will, want me to check on the quiche?” For the bunch of tough guys that that group can be, it was a pretty priceless line. With that said, the quiche was delicious.

We spent the day playing board games, enjoying the hot tub, and making trips to the beach until it was time to get ready for the big event. In some ways it is not fair because all of the gents were relaxing all day, while I’m sure Hannah was excited but extremely busy preparing.

I went back to my room above the Kayak shop where I was staying, and showered, shaved, and generally prepared mentally. I arrived at the wedding and took my seat with my co-reader Seth Ray. At the requisite time, I approached the podium, read my words, and descended back to my seat. I was very fortunate to have a very meaningful reading:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.

“Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.”

When they asked me if I had practiced before the wedding, I jokingly responded that I had been practicing reading for >20 years, but I was thankful when it was over and I had not rushed through or messed up any words. My day was a success!

After the wedding, the bride and groom took pictures, then mounted their tandem bike for the ride to the reception hall. Honestly, when they told me ahead of time that they were doing this, I thought for sure there would be at least 1 bloody groomsman, bridesmaid, or recently married person, but when they arrived at the main road to cross into the reception’s parking lot, everyone was intact!

There was, however, 1 very major road to cross. I (foolishly) volunteered to stop traffic so they could cross. At the appropriate time, I stepped into traffic, waving my arms about wildly and the huge pickup trucks grudgingly ground to a halt well shy of my demise. But immediately as they realized what was going on, horns started blaring and the cheers erupted! The whole wedding party crossed and made it safely to the reception hall, dismounted, and engaged their feet once again on the terra firma.

My stopping some car or other....there were no staged pictures of this event, this was me in action.

The reception started outside with Pimm’s — which is amazing because it takes me back to England — and shrimp. It was a nice light snack to hold everyone over while pictures were going on. We then moved inside, and the wedding party was introduced. We started right away with toasts. This was definitely one of the high points of the night. Each toast made everyone laugh and cry at times. Lindsay, the maid of honor, Ian, the best man, and Colonel Mike Young, the father of the bride, all gave amazing toasts. Col. Mike, though, blew everyone away with a toast that was at times so touching that the audience was breathless, and at other times it was difficult to hear because people were laughing so hard.

We danced, ate, and drank the night away. When the night was nearly over, Will and Hannah, the happy but I’m sure exhausted, couple boarded a boat to take them to a Bed and Breakfast where they were staying. The rest of us continued the festivities late into the night. It was an absolutely beautiful day and night, and I could not be prouder for my friends than I was.

The newly married couple as they leave on the boat.

The next morning, the wedding party and a few close friends came together at the house of a friend of the Youngs’. We had a nice brunch and talked about the night before. The morning ended with the traditional opening of gifts and many goodbyes. I had thought that this would be the end of my weekend, but the Youngs and Stoughtons invited me to stay with them for one more day at the beach and having a relaxing time. I got to know both families even better. The fall weather was just perfect, and it was really nice to have a truly relaxing time after a weekend of so many people and events. We all decompressed by reading and talking on the porch, listening to the crash of the waves, and eating good food.

Finally, on Monday morning, we all arose (relatively) early to pack up the house and return to our real lives. Though we were all sad to leave, we all were very proud that the weekend was a success. Two people were married into a happy life, and two families were joined in a very positive way.

It was more than a beautiful weekend. For me, it was a decompression weekend that I needed with a great group of people. Though I am not sure they will read this, I must thank the Youngs and Stoughtons once again. They are two of the loveliest groups of people I have ever met. They treated me like one of their own and allowed me to take part in a small way in one of the best days in all of their lives. They all even went a step further and allowed me to stay an extra day to enjoy their company. Hopefully I will see them all again soon.

Turkey Creek Sign

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A few weeks ago, Ben purchased a new camera — the Nikon SLR variety. Though I do not purport to be an excellent photographer, I offered to go on a few shoots with him to show him some of the less obvious features of his camera. We took our first hike through the woods with Dexter on Saturday.

Based on the photos he took, I honestly think Ben has a better eye for them than I do. We parked by Schenck Forest, but it does not allow dogs, so with Dexter in tow we started the hike toward Umstead. We took a quick right on the Loblolly Trail, and didn’t see another soul until we were back inside Umstead proper. It was a great chance to enjoy the beautiful morning weather, let Dex run around a bit, and take a few shots. As usual, I was disappointed with the photo opportunities presented by the Piedmont forest. To experience it is a wonderful thing, but the visual aspects — color, contrast, patterns — are just not as interesting as I might like. With that said, having Dexter along did give us the chance to take pictures of him.

Dexter Running