Week 203 in Detroit. The week of The Tiger King. No topic is the center of more conversations than COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. A close second is a docu-series on Netflix about a guy in Oklahoma who legally changed his name to Joe Exotic and other “big cat” collectors around the country. Characters all. Joe Exotic is what you’d expect…ya know… a gay, drug-using, gun-loving, zookeeper-polygamist with a bleached mullet who owns 227 tigers and ran for the Governor of Oklahoma. See, exactly what you’d think.
I had read an article months ago about Joe and his rivalry with a big cat, animal-rights activist from Florida. But honestly, I don’t think I included in the Saturday Cup of Joe because it was too ridiculous. But, the reality is, it makes a much better documentary. This camera crew followed Joe for years and captures his bonkers theories, his antics, and ultimately his unfortunate (though not surprising) difficulties with the law.
Should you watch? Are you kidding me? Did you not understand — tigers, guns, conspiracy theories and mullets!
That said, be ready for the series to raise serious questions in your life. Questions like: Am I living my best life? Am I currently and unknowingly on a reality tv show about the gullible nature of the American public? Should I own more animal print t-shirts? What if I got a new tattoo? Should I own a jet ski? How am I not making more money? Why do all these stories end in Florida? How fast could a tiger eat a person? What does meth taste like? How much does a glamor shot blanket cost? Why is this the first I’m hearing about the Wal-Mart meat truck? Would I have voted for Joe Exotic as a joke? Would I vote for him for real? What else is going on in Oklahoma? Is it illegal to own 227 dogs? How much course work is involved in a Ph.D. of Mystical Sciences? What is the link between big cat lovers and polyamorous relationships? I wonder if Myrtle Beach is nice this time of year? Am I ever going to leave my house again?
The Tiger King is one of those shows that will now forever hold a place in everyone’s life because it was the show that brought us all together during peak social distancing.
One thing about the show that encourages me is that it reinforces there’s a community out there for everyone. Every now and then I end up in a conversation where someone is worried about the effect of social media or technology on today’s kids. While I do NOT believe today’s kids should be watching The Tiger King, the existence of Joe Exotic on Netflix much like the existence of Facebook groups and Reddit threads shows people of all different interests and backgrounds that there are others out there who feel the same way or are interested in the same things.
Before the Internet, depending on where you grew up, it could be hard to find another gay, gun-loving, big cat obsessing smoker. For a teenager, it could be difficult to even find a community that would accept you as gay. Social media, for all the potential risks and fake news and cyberbullying, it is also a portal into a search engine of people, of communities. You can find whatever you are into and find a group of people who will accept you. Do not focus on the darkest parts of the Internet for a second. Yes, this can also mean finding a community of deviant people who, like in our physical communities, also exist in our virtual ones. Don’t get me wrong, the groups of people in this documentary end up in some dark places too. I’m not advocating for this particular set of people since most of them appear to have ended up as criminals in one way or another. It’s insane.
Instead, I’m focused on the fact that people are finding comfort, or at least acceptance, in the world today. A virtual world, perhaps, but one that’s becoming more and more connected…and real. Joe Exotic is kinda a representation of the fact that we all determine the life we wanna live or, at least, the life we are living. If there’s not a better indication that you too can follow your passion or do the thing you wanna do, I don’t know if we’ll find it. At least not while we’re on quarantine. That’s for sure.
Live the life you wanna live.
“While there are plenty of things about this pandemic that are frightening, and alarming, and uncertain, one thing we can count on is that there always have been, and always will be, extremely bad opinions on the internet shared by people who can’t help but make things worse.” — Contributing writer to The Mission, Rafi Schwartz
Perfect timing to test autonomous vehicles, am I right? Is someone out there right now test driving AV? I feel like they should be.
Prediction: HouseParty is going to blow up. HouseParty is about to be most downloaded app, if it’s not already. This app allows for friends to quickly and easily meet in a “house” for video chat. It’s group FaceTime on demand with games, trivia and probably a whole bunch of photos that my middle-aged ass hasn’t found yet. Next big thing. HouseParty.
HouseParty got me thinking about friendship and I found this wonderful article about the lawlessness of friendship. Meaning, you are issued a license for marriage. There are consequences if it ends — payments and such. Friendship, though, is free and unregulated. In fact, it is governed entirely by feelings, commitments and loyalty…for now. As the treatment of others, generally, and bullying, specifically, become a greater focus in schools, it is possible to see friendship as policed.
I like any article that is celebrating areas of life where lawlessness is a positive thing and it’s clear that friendship is one of those areas. Protect the lawlessness of friendship!
I didn’t start out this week’s post with a theme but I got a sense pulling it together throughout the week that the theme was one of my favorites (shocker, I know): be intentional.
Part of living your best life is intentionality. Be determined to be you.
Part of community is intentional. It is a choice to support local businesses through this hard time.
Part of friendship, of staying connected through a quarantine, of meeting up on HouseParty is being intentional.
Choose your friends. Choose to commit to them. Choose joy. Choose love. I choose my friends so that when I steal their lines they don’t get mad (Thank you, Dana!).
But seriously, part of finding the positives in a global pandemic, finding the hope in economic recession, finding the comfort in shelter-in-place, emergency orders is being intentional about it. We’ve been anxious about COVID-19 risks. Life is precious and short. This virus has introduced pain — physical and economic (not to mention emotional) — to many people and families around the world. For me the anxiety is real and appropriate, just not all the time. I’ve tried hard to balance it with the positive mindset, the new found freedom of working from home and the hope of how many people in my life are choosing to be intentional with each other.
How should I balance that — maintaining a positive mindset — with the seriousness of the threat?
Put another way, is it bad form to post a positive (albeit painfully generic) message on social media or LinkedIn during a time of national crisis?
It helps me share where I’m at and stoke that hope I have. But I’m lucky and I’m privileged. I’m able to keep working. I’m able to keep my family safe and warm and fed. I’m able to reach out to friends and family frequently. Not as frequently as I’d like thanks to that working part I mentioned but you get the idea.
Being genuine and authentic has worked well. Acknowledging the threat alongside the desire to share has worked well (at least as far as I know). Hopefully it is taken in the spirit it is shared.
One of the ways that we’re trying to support our community during this crisis is continuing to order food (curbside), to over tip, to buy gift cards from our favorite spots. One way a local bakery that we love, seriously though that EVERYONE loves, is Sister Pie. Sister Pie is a bakery for cookies, scones, galettes a.k.a. eggalettes and pie.
During the last few weeks, Sister Pie has become a local grocery store too. Using the supply chain access SP already has, owner Lisa has begun selling incredible “care packages” of groceries.
I often write about innovation and usually I’m referring to technology innovation. Innovation that changes our lives in some way. Innovation that forces customers to dramatically rethink the product or the transaction. Here, innovation in the simplest form.
Go support Sister Pie — with or without groceries — they’ll still bring you cookies or a slice of pie to the curbside.
The question everyone is asking — what is going to change after COVID-19? Everything! Nothing! One article this week attempted to name COVID-19 crisis as “the GoFundMe Recession.” The article was equal parts right and wrong. The part the author got wrong was the tone. This borderline bitter, aggressive tone that the owners of business (in this case, restaurateurs) are not doing enough for their employees. The same tone came out when stadiums were forced to close and the Twitterverse demanded owners pay their employees despite being closed BEFORE the owners even had a chance to formulate and publish plans. Here, I don’t think the same timing applied but the same snarkiness is there.
The part the author got right was the sense of community. I’m sensing it in myself and hoping others are feeling the same. I do think this recession will be about a GoFundMe mentality. I do think we’ll rally around our friends, our favorite restaurant, our local bar, our bakery and give as much as we can to keep them afloat. I do think that’s part of being intentional. Be intentional with your spending.
In fact, this might be the thing that persists beyond the crisis. Some are saying that this crisis is so big and so scary that it will drive people back to safety. Back to the corporate job. Back to The Establishment. Some are saying that this crisis will spark an explosion of creativity of risk-taking. The feeling that life is short and can be taken away makes one rethink that corporate job. Perhaps the virus will end up making many people take bigger risks.
If you are a business owner, a leader or an entrepreneur, Benzinga posted a great column on threat to The Establishment. Will COVID-19 drive people back to safety or fuel the insurgency further? Anyone running a business, particularly a consumer-facing business, can start taking steps to track these changes even during the crisis. Whether for your company or yourself, be thinking about what’s changing and how you plan to respond.
“I knew, as everyone knows, that the easiest way to attract a crowd is to let it be known that at a given time and a given place some one is going to attempt something that in the event of failure will mean sudden death.” — Harry Houdini, born March 24, 1874, Budapest.
“The secret of happiness is something to do.” — John Burroughs
Last thought: What community do you want to be a part of? I’ve written all week about being intentional, about choices. Spending is lending support. Spending is voting. Consider this from the Aspen Institute: “The challenge ahead is not just getting the economy moving again and getting people back to work, but building an economy in which hard work is once again a pathway to a decent living and a life of dignity. In this perilous moment, we must choose. What kind of nation do we want to be? Will we build a future in which our tired, working poor, and beleaguered masses can at long last breathe free? The choice is upon us now. This time, let’s do everything.”
Continued success and continue to answer well,