Thursday, September 20, 2007

Shoebox Wisdom

I bought some shoes recently that deliberately don't have laces. Just like I used to wear them.

They are Timberland's. Inside the box lid is a great comment:

"How Will We Change Today?

The opportunity to make it better is everywhere if we choose to act. Better is seeing a void and filling it. Hearing a call for help and answering it. Taking a wrong and making it right. It is as small as making boots, shoes, and gear or as big as changing the world. Better is giving employees paid time to serve. Building a home. Painting a school. Empowering our youth. Feeding the hungry. Or revitalizing a community. Better is a call to action. A rallying cry. Fearless. Determined. Passionate. And connected. It is searching within. Reaching out. Heading into the eye of the storm. Adventuring out to the middle of nowhere. And doing so with purpose. So when the sun sets and we think about what tomorrow might bring, we understand that better is not what we do. It is who we are."

Friday, September 14, 2007


Smells are some of my best memories.
  • The smell of a horse when rubbing its nose or hugging its neck,
  • the smell of a dirt road when it's wet,
  • the smell of sagebrush,
  • the smell of a bog and a crick in a meadow,
  • the smell of pine trees,
  • the smoky smell of a snowy night,
  • the smell of a calf or colt when it is newborn,
  • the smell of leather tack,
  • the smell of new-mown hay and fresh-harvested grain,
  • the smell a gasoline spill evaporating on an old tractor,
  • the smell of air from my Grandmother's old organ,
  • the smell of fresh turned earth in the Spring,
  • the smell of my Mom's petunias,
  • the smell of my Grandmother's gladiolas,
  • the smell of coffee on my Grandfather,
  • the smell of naphtha soap covering a leak in the gas tank of my first Jeep,
  • the smell of my Uncle Louie's Bull Durham chewing tobacco,
  • the smell inside my Dad's army helmet from World War II,
  • the smell of a campfire with Basque sheepherders,
  • the smell of a leather baseball glove,
  • the smell of an old schoolhouse the first day each year,
  • the smell of a oil furnace early in the morning,
  • the smell of my sisters getting permanents,
  • the smell of talc and aftershave in a barber shop,
  • the smell after firing a hunting rifle,
  • the smell of hand-me-down football shoulder pads,
  • the smell of chlorine at a swimming pool,
  • the smell of fresh whole milk, warm from the cow,
  • the smell of burning salve while branding,
  • the smell the fresh morning air coming off the Tetons,
  • the underwater smells at the lake,
  • the smell of my Mom's White Shoulders perfume and my Dad's Old Spice cologne,
  • the smell of fresh popped corn.
When I first came to Durham, there was still one tobacco factory operating, and there was a time in the processing where the air Downtown was filled with a smell like a new-mown hayfield. Sweet, pungent, musky. I have allergies now. They came on after the first 10 years living in the Southeast. I can't smell as much. But smells are some of my best memories.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

People Who Cherry-Pick Durham

I'm always amused when people are drawn to Durham for some aspect, e.g., Duke, RTP but wish they were somewhere else when it comes to community.

First sign is they live in Chapel Hill, Cary, Raleigh etc. Good communities but not Durham. Next they try to convince me these communities are all "one big place" to try to realign reality to fit their preferences.

They really should have sought a job in those communities. They will always be swimming up stream... e.g., holding events outside Durham and mystified why it doesn't make sense or appeal to either community, bewildered why things won't work like it's one big place.

But mostly I feel sorry for them. They miss out on what's unique about Durham… what spawned these great institutions.

What a waste.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Hotels Were the Center of Early American Settlements

I've been blessed with great hoteliers. While only 3% of Durham's visitor-related stakeholders, they can often be the bane of a Bureau's existence. It is aptly said that hotels worry about today, CVBs about tomorrow.

According to historians like Daniel Boorstin, hotels are a uniquely American innovation. At one time, hotels were the center of our early settlements, and owners and managers were the most involved in the community; their lobbies were the original "civic meeting places," many the epitome of civic pride, the place where events took place, the center of the community.

Today, hoteliers are more often tethered so tightly by chains or franchise flags, if not owners, that they come and go every two years, three if a community is lucky. Often they don't even live in the destination where the hotel is physically located, which can make them even more detached. Their companies rarely give them time to be outside the hotel and often schedule visits or meetings without regard to a hotelier's commitments locally. With a few exceptions, regional and national overseers drop in at a minute's notice and demand hoteliers drop everything.

Fortunately a good friend, Richard Green, a VP at Marriott, is working with other chain counterparts to try and shift that paradigm.

But Durham and DCVB have been blessed. People like Martino, Hunter, Philbrick, Pokrass, Dempsey, Lile, McGhee, Teber, Wagner, Adams, Vickery, Defeo, Book, Simpson, Koll, Spencer and many, many others have come through Durham and taken a strong role in teaming with DCVB to build the Durham brand.

People like Ron Hunter started at entry level and worked up to general manager, while raising a family in Durham and giving back to the community in a way that has brought his hotel untold millions in business.

Mike MartinoMike Martino (pictured here) at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center is extraordinary. His hotel was built in the late '80s by a developer two towns away in nearby Raleigh. Early on, it probably wasn't clear the hotel knew it was located in Durham. But Mike's been here as long as I have. (We both had gray streaks in our hair until it all began to turn gray.)

Mike is upbeat, always can do, courageous, willing to stand up for what's right and never, never self-serving. He's bonded the hotel with Durham. He's supervised the property's contribution to Durham charitable causes, most recently running a can drive to support Durham Rescue Mission following a disastrous fire that wiped out its food supply.

Hotels are only 3% of the visitor-related businesses in Durham. They are virtually dependent on the destination (the very first decision any traveler makes is "where to go," not "where to stay").

But hotels can work with other visitor-related businesses, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, performing and visual arts, historic sites, sports clubs to forge a destination… or they can hijack a destination for special interests or they can hold a destination back.

Durham has been blessed with great hoteliers, and it has accelerated the community's evolution as a destination.