LONG BIO: In my own words
I was born and raised in small towns in Alabama to parents who came from families that owned large companies. Largely unsupervised in my youth, I explored the wilds, trapped animals and built forts with my buddies. We also did crazy shit on our bikes and skateboards while also playing pickup, tackle football games that were more like epic battles rather than just the usual sport. Whenever settling down, I liked to read books, especially about the founding fathers, draw pictures and play the drums for my rock and roll band called "Chopped Liver."
For the first through eighth grades, I attended public schools in government projects where classrooms tended to be wild, full of rambunctious and intractable characters and teachers wielding wooden and carefully adorned paddles to attempt to maintain control. I learned little from formal education but rather so much from doing and interacting with others, through the stings and prods, and the thrills and cheers, of direct and unsupervised experience--all of which came to explain my unusual learning style later in life: autodidactic, learning through doing and experiencing, not through supervision.
Although born not too far removed from the Jim Crowe south, I was neither raised with prejudicial or liberal attitudes about race--and certainly not at all separated from African Americans, as we all attended the same schools, played on the same teams--although, in other ways, we were quite segregated from each other. During my early years our African American maid, Thelma, with her golden tooth and kind ways, was almost as dear to me as my own mother. Her son, Johnny, worked in our yard and as the star of the high-school football team, with his ripped muscles and stoic ways, ranked up there with Hercules in my mind. He also taught me how to hunt and fish and kill snakes.
After my freewheeling early years, however, I was sent to a traditional and rigorous Prep School. At first I conformed to the demands of that school by joining the football team and excelling academically. But I quickly became disenchanted and lost and neglecting my classes, slunk away to the library to read about anything that struck my fancy, such as African American and Transcendentalists Literature, with Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, "Self Reliance" and Thoreau's "Walden" becoming my personal canon. Whenever possible, I got off campus to pursue outdoor sports, such as whitewater paddling, biking and sailing; and I regularly snuck away to wonder the streets of the local city, stopping everywhere from fancy hotels to blue-collar bars to homeless shelters. As I became increasingly recalcitrant and rebellious, I was threatened with expulsion but instead I quite school at the completion of my junior year. For much of what would have been my senior year, I travelled through Nepal, Burma and Thailand, alternating between living with Hindu Families in mud and straw houses, to trekking and climbing through the Himalayas and later exploring through the islands of Thailand. When returning to the states, I lived along the coast of Florida while selling my Hobie Cat to and from work while catching my dinner along the way.
Soon thereafter, I attended Oberlin College where I at last was enabled to apply some of my autodidacticism to my academics, through researching and writing my own papers. I was also exposed to many ideas as well as many different people from all around the world, including many African and Asian friends. We liked to drink beer, dance at the Dionysus and make up stories about hunting tigers in Africa. During my free time I travelled through Central and South America with my backpack and also pursued various outdoor sports.
After Oberlin I worked along the east-coast, leading thirty-day, therapeutic wilderness courses for adjudicated teenagers from Philadelphia--both males and females who were stealing cars, selling drugs or gang banging. Generally these kids were dealing with dysfunctional families and schools as well as dangerous peers which, in turn, encouraged their delinquent behaviors. But I and my coworkers allowed them to experience environments that were both disciplined and supportive--even while physically demanding and subjectively dangerous--thus allowing them the opportunity to change their ways, to essentially become rambunctious and well-meaning kids, if only within the confines of our course. Furthermore, without all the affectations and emotional oppression of regular society, we were all incredibly raw, both physically and psychologically, which allowed me to see human nature in perhaps its most instinctual and expressive form.
After that, I worked for one of my family's businesses and sometime later even spearheaded an attempt to transform the "governance" of the company but I soon realized that corporations are about as antithetical to my nature as prep school so I split once and for all for the open landscapes of the American West. While living in Boulder, CO, I was mostly interested in pursuing skiing and rock-climbing and otherwise living free and wild in the mountains and deserts. But I also did my first entrepreneurial project--a cool and progressive natural foods restaurant called "Native," which operated for several years.
Over the years, I had suffered through periods of anxiety and insomnia which were becoming worse and even chronic. Reaching crisis, I soon realized that I needed to withdraw from my usual earthly challenges and focus on the proverbial self. Thus starting my inward journey, I was partially unemployed for couple of years while exploring several modalities of healing, including psychotherapy, family systems theory, nutrition, yoga, trance dancing, contact improv, psychedelics, meditation and Burning Man, while also reading lots of Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung and other thinkers. During this time I managed to overcome my more neurotic tendencies and emerge with greater intellectual depth as well as psychological stability. And while developing my spiritual sensitivities, I also became more skeptical of many forms of spirituality.
And perhaps for that reason, I found myself increasingly intrigued by science and specifically evolution as one of the best ways to understand the human condition. The theory, in this context, is rather literal: that through the eons, evolution designed us humans to be certain ways that these days are oppressed to some extent due to the structures and demands of modern society. But when allowed to express those "ways," we humans are more likely to feel more alive in all of its complexity and diversity which in turn can vastly improve the richness of our life. I soon started to apply this theory to human nutrition and over the past seven years of life, in between various other projects, I have doggedly pursued, with increasing scientific precision, the relationship between our own evolution, both biological and cultural, and nutrition with the intention of delineating the diet for which we humans are best designed to eat, culminating in the enormous and epic project entitled: "The First Supper," which is actually close to completion.
After my inward phase, I returned to work with the goal of writing, directing and producing various projects that were informed from my experiences and interests in life. My novel, "Yoke of Wind," emerged from my southern heritage and upbringing as well as my experiences in prep school and my work with adjudicated teenagers. "The Portal" was largely inspired by my own journey of self-exploration. And "The First Supper" naturally stemmed from my desire to heal myself and understand my own biological and indigenous diet. "Arise" and "Ride the Dragon" have been inspired by my many years at "Burning Man" and other festivals, as well as my participation in many forms of ritualized and communal gatherings and dances. And underneath all of these projects is one common thread--that is, the desire to help modern humans transcend, if only momentarily, some of the constraints of modern society to live in accord with his real and true roots in greater freedom, adventure and love.
Since I was not especially trained in most of these endeavors, I was once again that boy back in the woods learning through experience with my buddies, guided in equal measure by adventure, curiosity and dogged and even self-harming determination. I confess that its been an enormous adventure but also difficult and exhaustive.
These days I trudge onward. I am mostly motivated by the act of creation and exploration--and the deep flow and trance states therein. However, in order to see my work prosper, I am also striving to improve my skills in entrepreneurship for most of us artists always have to learn that universal rule, especially of American culture: money rules. Despite not being driven by greed or status, I have come to realize that you either play the business game--or, otherwise, just not play at all. I have also increasingly learned the enormous benefit of surrounding myself with exceptional people: my mother, my assistant (Kelly Oliver): "The Portal" team (Jared Caruso, Tierro Lee, Grace Star and others), my coproducers on "Arise" (Tierro Lee and Paul Bassis and their staff); my excellent research assistant on "The First Supper" (Rebecca Cox) and my producer on "Ride the Dragon" (Salem McLaughlin), as well as the many other people who show me their love and support in life and work.
Overall my career path has been different from the norm. Instead of preparing for some particular job or just following the demands of the market, I instead followed my own inclinations, obsessions and exploration while using my own style of learning. Evidently, too, I like projects that provide real cultural and human value and innovation, even when that makes them way more risky. Oddly enough, I feel I have had to historically curtail my more altruistic and innovative nature for capitalistic values to help my work prosper better in our particular culture. Most of the time it seemed like I was not upon any meaningful career path at all; and even now, my pursuits are so diverse, as well as my mediums, that I obviously needed to write this longer bio to attempt to explain my rather bazaar and zigzagged and otherwise inexplicable career. It is my hope that pursuing so many different endeavors actually makes me better at all of them, as skills from one can transfer to another; but I dunno; its not recommended.
My immediate goals are the re-release of "The Portal," including seeing it develop into a national brand that either tours or settles into NYC. Once that is complete, I hope to refocus on "Arise," especially on various aspects of the festival that pertain to the felt, artistic and visual experience of the event. Simultaneously, I intend to refocus on the "First Supper" to finish the first of those two books and begin another era in the understanding of human nutrition and evolution. Even still, I hope to continue to direct live-shows, if the market can sustain them, specifically through innovating the use of multi-media to give audiences fuller, richer and more immersive experiences. I may choose to develop my experimental project, "Ride the Dragon," into something more commercial.
Outside of work I continue on with the pursuit of various outdoor sports, as well as dance and tennis. And I hope someday to find the right person and get married.