As I mentioned in the last interview, Jill Rose immediately mentioned Courtney and Amy when I asked her to think of someone to refer to the project and I can see why. Amy marks the final interview for the second year of A Community Thread. So, she's the 60th for this year and the 110th since I began doing this. And I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wrap up this year. Amy’s heart and compassion shine through all of what she says below. She’s got zest and fire and an ever-ready smile, too. This was another of the more conversational interviews - a sign of what I hope is to become more regular in the future.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
Well, I'm a boss. I describe myself as just hardworking. Definitely like to have fun. Try not to take things too seriously. But I definitely find myself taking the small things seriously. And I think that that's just expectations. Especially in this business. The reason why I say I'm a boss is 'cause I work 60, 70 hours a week, but it's a seven day a week job. And I've got a lot that work with us and they haven't been doing this very long and it's instilling those practices of repetition and paying attention and focus. That's something I pride myself on - hugely - when I'm working; when I'm out in the world; when I'm hiking; when I'm even just in a grocery store with other people. Trying to be present and trying to be focused. I feel like that's so important. And I feel like it's kind of a lost art form as far as just a way to live. You know? So, yeah, just trying to be as present and responsible as possible. I have this (laughs) sort of mantra, if you will, I just never want to be embarrassed (laughs). So, you cover all your bases. You watch out for yourself. You watch out when you're backing up. You watch out for other people. Just don't embarrass yourself (laughs).
I think it comes from sports. That was pretty much my first love. Aside from food, sports was everything. I played basketball and soccer since I was five until I graduated college and it was just what I did. I was always part of a team. And that's what restaurants are for me now; that's what I lead now is a team. Not be cheesy, but I'm like the quarterback so I have to pay attention all the time. It all falls down on me. But that's how I feel when I'm out in the world, too. Even talking about being at a grocery store - there's just so much shit that can go wrong. You know? And if you're on your toes and you're constantly present then it's not gonna fall on you. And you can be helpful, which I think is important. I think people need to be more helpful; open doors for other people; just tell people that they look great; and tell people you love them; just be as 100% there as you can. It's so important. Helping each other is all we can do anymore. Really.
What matters to you or what motivates you?
My wife motivates me. My sister. My friends. Where I've been in the past. Not having a lot growing up. Being homeless growing up. Like, definitely never want to be in that spot again. Which wasn't my plan - it wasn't on me, anyways. It was just my parents being whacky and making stupid decisions and taking for granted that we lived in a super nice climate so, Hey, let's just live in this mobile park for a couple years and save some money. Which they just spent on drinking and partying and things like that. What motivates me is just to kind of stay above water, you know? To stay ahead of the game. To not necessarily save a bunch of money because I haven't been able to do that yet with owning a small business, but just having what I need and being capable of living with less. That's a huge motivation, especially in the last five years - realizing my time is the most valuable thing. Not the things that I have. Not the house that I have. Not the car that I have. Which I love all those things, but just being able to experience more is a huge motivation. Totally.
What concerns you or what gives you a heavy heart?
Just hate - people hating on people just for no reason. I'm not even sure where that comes from because it feels like there's just huge division right now. Not even just politically, but just in life in general. I feel like there's this huge division between people that like actually give a shit about other people and the fact that other people have their lives and other people do what they do and if it doesn't fit what they do or what they live or how they live or what their freakin' church that they go to says - it's hate.
There's not enough tolerance anymore. And tolerance almost seems like it's... what's a good word for it... tolerance seems like it's a negotiation. Whereas I'm not tolerant of people that aren't tolerant (laughs). I think we've gotten to this point where we have to be more vigilant - folks that are more tolerant have to be more vigilant against those that aren't and speak up for the ones that aren't. Like what's happening with transphobia - just speaking about recent events - and the fact that they want to write them out is just unbelievable. It's like thank god I don't feel that way. You know what I mean? Thank god you don't feel that way. Thank god you're happy with being a man. Thank god I'm happy with being a woman. Even though I'm a tomboy gay lesbian, at least I feel so comfortable in my skin. And the fact that there's just so many that don't feel comfortable in their skin and our government is now saying that they don't even want to recognize that they have a choice? You have to just take what you're given? There's not freedom there. That's taking away complete freedom of a minority group. I mean, that's just so scary. That's one of the scariest things that's happening 'cause it's bullying, too. It just goes along with the tolerance. It's like okay, because we don't believe in their god and their bible and it says man/woman woman/man bullshit, like that everybody has to do that? I feel like us as allies have to start sticking up for groups like that. Yeah, it's just scary. Hate. It's just so frightening. 'Cause it's basically the end, I think. Once you get to a point where the majority of people are hateful to the minority of people, I mean that's like the end of times in my opinion. So, it's scary. That's what scares me.
What do mean to each other - person to person?
I mean, we're neighbors. We're community members. We're definitely supposed to help each other. I feel that. It's like everybody's got something they can contribute. I think that selling food and selling yoga is a good thing, but I also think talking truth and connecting with folks like yourself that is willing to put himself out there - which you're doing - and just create a dialogue that we don't normally get to do in a normal life. You know? Create that setting. I feel like that can happen anytime. There's a funny thing that happens here - we call our front counter the Truth Desk. It's just funny, either food or yoga - people just come up to it and sometimes they just say something so random. It seems random because you're serving them lunch or you're gonna teach 'em a yoga class and they're like, Oh man, I just had the worse day. This happened, that happened. And when you answer them and talk to them and reciprocate what they're saying and feel their pain or whatever strife happened, you just gotta be like, Yeah, this is why we're doing this. Sure, serving people food, serving people yoga, sitting down having an interview with somebody is super important, but what's more important is just being there for each other. Because when the shit hits the fan, if you don't have those communications and you don't have those connections with people, then what are you gonna do? We have to form as many bonds as we can as often as we can with like-minded people. I think that's the only way that we're gonna be successful. Not to be dramatic, but as humanity, I feel like that's our greatest success is our compassion. And the willingness to talk and the willingness to console and the willingness to listen. I feel like that's the best thing we have going for us.
On the grander scheme, what does it mean to be part of community - to be in this with so many others?
It sometimes feels like a big responsibility to be present like that. To be ready. To be yourself, but to also see that other people are different. But I feel like the meaning of community is to show up and to support anyway you can each other and your passions. Whether that's coming here and getting lunch or it's going to see Shanan's show or going to see Jesse's movie. Those things are what creates a community and what makes a community strong is the support. It's going and sitting in the audience. You know? And going and buying a drink or a coffee from your favorite place. Small business, teachers, people that work in our field of sort of nurturing people's economic needs, food needs, you name it - just going and showing up for each other is what it means to be a community.
It's really difficult for me to understand the whole realm of social injustice. On a daily basis I encounter someone that pisses me off, but I don't want take them and everyone like them and put them into a group and take away their rights. What are your thoughts on this? What can you do about it? And at the end of the day, what clears your conscience and allows you to sleep at night and get up the next day and keep going?
I feel like social injustice has become a really broad topic because there are so many minorities that are being persecuted at this time by whatever - majority, by the government, whatever. But I feel like the biggest ones are fueled by racism. I don't know why white people are afraid of black people. It's the scariest thing. It's the saddest thing. It's rampant. Especially in the South. Especially in big cities. Classism is the same. Why people are afraid of poor people - I have no idea. It happens on a daily basis. You see a homeless person and you're like, Is my door locked? They're not gonna do anything to you! When was the last time that's happened?! They're not the ones that are the aggressors. They're not the ones that are out there murdering people and beating people. It's racism. It's classism. And I completely believe it comes from this fear and consumption idea that our government has instilled in our brains. America only works because so many people are afraid of the government and they stay at this low level. They don't vote. They're poorly educated. They're poorly nourished - which is an even bigger problem, in my opinion. And they fight wars for 'em. They're loyal to 'em for some un-godly-known reason. You think about it, it's the shittiest truck you see in town driving around with that huge American flag. You know what I mean? It's not this beautiful Range Rover with an American flag on the back. It's fear and consumption. Keep 'em dumb. Keep 'em buying shit at Walmart. Keep 'em down and out. And that's where it starts. That's where social injustice starts is with the big guys. You know? And this is just proof. It's beat into us to just buy shit and be afraid of your government. Buy shit, be afraid. Buy shit, be afraid.
Here's how I sleep at night. Here's the things that I do just to make myself feel better. We live in this in bubble, as you know. It's this tiny, little bubble of a place. It's fucking beautiful - we're so lucky. So happy that we all made this decision to move here. The way that I feel better about it is there are so many people trying to make it better. You know? The Women's March, Black Lives Matter, The World Muse here in town. I have some friends that are soccer players that travel the world through sports diplomacy trying to help folks. Just donate to those people. As much as I can. Give my space to Jesse who's making this film about the skatepark in Jordan. Just do as much as you can to help other people help other people. You definitely have to hold each other's hands to get across this fucking huge crevasse. And that's the only way to do it. I mean, we don't have so many resources as they do. Fuck those people. Fuck their lawyering 'cause that's how they've gotten to where they are. That's how they've stolen all these elections is these fucking tactics. And support the ACLU. Support Human Rights Campaign. Support those people. That's all we can do. And then just do your art. That's the only way I can sleep at night, honestly. I just try and make good food. My wife tries to teach good yoga. We just try and be nice. But, I mean, if it was up to me, I'd quit our jobs and go camp in front of the White House until they left. You know what I mean? I feel like if we could do that it might change something, but I feel like we're better sort of arming ourselves with each other.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
Yeah, I do. I feel like my sense of purpose is just to be myself as 100% as I can. We talked a little bit about food - that's my latest thing is just to remind people. I think a lot of people do know, but I think a lot of people don't know the importance of food. The importance of kids eating good food. It's such a weird thing. I was a super picky kid growing up - didn't like a lot of foods. And I really understand why I did that, though. I was sort of protesting. It was this way for me to protest the craziness that was going on around me. But I got sick from it. And I just recently found out that I was allergic to dairy. And it explains so much of my sickness as a young adult. And now that I'm in my 40s - now I finally find out. I just think it's so important for people to eat right and take care of themselves and move their bodies and that's just what I want to focus on. Just being there to offer something good. Being there to be like, Hey, this is actually good for you. It's better for you. It tastes good! And just start there. Just start somewhere as simple as that. And then be willing to go deeper if I have to. But just keeping the focus on that is really important to me right now.
What do you want more of in your life?
Time! I wish there was 28 hours in a day. I would read more. I just fall asleep when I read now 'cause I'm so tired. I used to read so much - in college, adolescence - I loved it. I would read a lot more. I would be outdoors more. I would try and come up with more recipes. I feel like I don't have enough time to do that right now. I would talk to more people. I would try and make more social events happen. You know how it is if you've worked in a restaurant before - it's a very social job. So once the day's over you're like, I don't know if I can go out. I don't know if I can actually put the energy into that. I would carve out some time to do that. Because every time I do I have so much fun. Connecting with people in a fun, non-emotional way is really cool. I like that. And it's so useful. It's like energy. Connecting with people. Just doing something random like going for a hike or watching a sports event or having dinner - it actually gives you so much energy. Especially when they're people that you care about. But finding that time is hard sometimes. It's definitely hard. But we try.
Do you have anything else that you'd like to put on the record?
Yeah. Thanks for the doing this. That's definitely what I want to say. It's always good to talk to guys - men - and hear their sensitivity. And the willingness to the put the time and effort into something like this is pretty cool. I think it's neat what you're doing and I appreciate it, for sure.
Do you have anything you'd like to ask me?
Do you want to turn this into a mixed-media sort of thing? Have you thought about doing audio with visual? And have you ever thought about doing live versions of it?
Yeah. This could be a long, long, long answer. It's extremely rare that I have a specific and detailed plan - and not out of a sense of laziness or irresponsibility - I think it's really neat to see how things form naturally. So, I'm open to lots of things about this project. And I'm trying to come up with ways. As a one-man show, there's only so many things that I can do with my energy and it being not financially sustainable - buying gear is difficult. There are a lot of challenges in that way, which I'm okay with for a bit longer. I want to find ways to make this more compelling. People are always asking me about video and I'm not really personally all that drawn to video. I really like photography. I really like portraiture. I think looking at somebody in the eye - being forced to just stare at someone staring back at you - can be really powerful.
But one of the projects right now that I find really, really cool - and it's obviously with totally different weight and funding and popularity - Letterman's newest program, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. If I could do it, I'd blend that platform - a live discussion in front of an audience. I think that's so powerful and I don't think it's only interesting because it's famous people. I think it's fascinating to hear people and look at people. Joe Rogan is doing really neat stuff. He's got a really cool platform.
I definitely wish it was more than what it is. And I'm also keen on it being more than just me. But that whole growth is an enigma. I don't know what to force. I don't know what to wait on. And I don't know what more I can do. Little tweaks, better questions, diving in. We were talking about making it more conversational and I think this interview, in particular, was a really good example of what that might look like. That's a really interesting way to close out year two. But, anyway, I'm open to suggestions and very excited about it growing and changing and evolving.