The Best Of anything but khakis

703B6CED-3D6F-4D95-8C37-78FBDDFD98F7Friends, I was in West Virginia last weekend enjoying the PGA golf event held annually in the wild, wonderful state. It inspired this week’s “Best Of” post, because so many people shat on West Virginia, never having experienced it for themselves. Same goes for a lot of places and things.

Over the past year and few months, I have traveled about 50,000 miles to half of the US and a few countries.  No rhyme nor reason for most of it.  Just because I love it.  Some has been with family.  Others with friends.  Others alone.  Below are some of my favs (and least favs).  Some categories and answers may surprise you, but that is the point.  There are often sneaky little wonderful surprises in the strangest places.  Let’s go.


·       Best all-around weekend- Ocean Isle, NC

·       Most regal- Greenbrier, WV

·       Best encouragement that the world isn’t imploding-NYC Marathon


·       Most family fun-Apopka and Orlando, FL



·       Biggest disappointment that never happened-Toronto, Canada snowed out

·       Biggest disappointment that did happen-(tie) Miami, FL and In N Out Burger

·       Most remote-Round Island, Gulf of Mexico


·       Sickest I’ve been-my hotel room in Mexico City

•    Most emotional- IMAX video at Churchill Downs

•.   Never gets old- cheap Mexican food and Wingate soccer on a fall night


·       Best stadium- (tie)-Azteca, Mexico City and San Siro, Milan, Italy


·       More fun in less iconic stadiums-(tie)- UNAM Pumas, Mexico City and Bologna, Italy

·       Most scared-(tie)- Charlotte, NC and New Orleans, LA

·       Most touristy-(tie)-JFK site in Dallas, TX, Hollywood sign in Los Angeles, CA, Washington, DC Mall


·       Most unique-Kicking field goals at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, TX


·       Best place for a second home- Cody, WY

·       Most beautiful- Salt Lake City, UT


•       Best sunset- Ohio River, Evansville, Indiana


·       Coolest detour-Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a snowstorm

·       Hardest laughter- Evansville, Indiana at Kevin Hart show

·       Most red seen- Louisville, KY


·       Most blue seen- Lexington, KY

·       Coldest-Cleveland, OH


·       Hottest w/o sweating-Yellowstone Country Club in Billings, MT

·       Hottest while sweating-(tie)-Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA


·       Haven’t been, but want to go- Santa Fe, New Mexico and Tangier, Morocco

•       Next up- Houston


If you’ve followed along for a while now, you know that my 3 favorite ways to explore a city are through style, food/drink, and sports.  So to finish up, here are the standouts:

·       Best stores-Nick Fouquet in Venice, CA; Imogene + Willie in Nashville, TN; Wish in Atlanta, GA; JJ Hat Center in NYC; Kiton in Venice, Italy; TRC and Tabor in Charlotte, NC


·       Best sporting events- Lakers-Clippers at Staples;  A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier; Browns and Cavs weekend combo in Cleveland; Hornets away in Indy; Club America-Santos; UNAM Pumas-Queretero


•      Favorite in person performances- Porzingis at MSG, Mulholland vs Colorado Rapids, Dirk in Dallas, Palacio for Bologna, Perisic for Inter


·       Best drink-(tie)-Bourbon Barrel Ale in Lexington, KY and 70 year tequila in Mexico City


·       Best food-Jack Stack BBQ in Kansas City, MO; Antica Carbonera in Venice, Italy; Hattie B’s hot chicken in Nashville, TN; St. Elmo’s in Indianapolis, IN; Yardbird in Miami, FL; $.25 tacos in Mexico City; The Shed BBQ in Ocean Springs, MS, Donna Nellie’s in Hattiesburg, MS


Want to know who wins most welcoming and kindest?  Every damn place. And what did I learn from that. People are good. They want to showcase the places where they live and simply hope you enjoy.  But it’s about your open mind, not theirs.  I repeat. 

Have a great week.-Benj

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Bear with me this week friends. If you are a golf fan, then we are going to talk a little about my fascination with golf. If you are not a golf fan, don’t stop reading because this post is definitely NOT about golf. 

FE11E0B5-6460-4ECB-8349-3B4837478FF1Having said that, I want to tell you about my infatuation with golf. It’s about a 15 year journey, and I’m going to start with the present. I was down in Southern Mississippi last week, and I got in 2 rounds of golf at one of my new favorites, Shell Landing Golf Club. It’s gorgeous, perfectly manicured, and adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico. Round 1, I shot 87, which easily could have been an 80. Round 2, I shot 99, which easily could have been a 110. It’s maddening. 

6179CABF-74C8-4D2E-BE67-135E30ECA568I have a big goal to become a scratch golfer in 2019. In layman’s terms, that is the consistent ability to shoot at or around par. Before everyone starts laughing, let’s travel back a few years. My dad loves golf, and he tried to get me involved as a teenager. Not interested. Too boring. Early to mid 20s, I caught the bug bad. I joined 2 local rural clubs and played nearly every day, sometimes twice a day. Often, the darkness is what made me quit, only to have the first tee time at sunrise the following morning. 

801C899D-BF5B-4D9C-BDB8-34392E7B9D78During that time, I got my handicap down to around 3, not shooting out of the 70s for months at a time. Stellar for a complete amateur, and proof that it can be done. I took 1 lesson if I recall, and then just plugged away incessantly. But I had one major problem. I couldn’t be present and stay present. If I screwed up a hole, I couldn’t let it be. I would stew on it, which as you know, just made it worse. Contrastingly, if I had a really good round going, my mind would jump 5 holes ahead to how this could be the best round ever. And, of course, that just ruined it. My best score ever is 76, which I shot multiple times. And I firmly believe that I never beat that because I couldn’t be in the moment. Always behind or ahead. 

F762A507-4563-4BEE-AE5B-8B1D8F4559F5Okay, non-golfers. Here we go. There are a lot of experts and non-experts out there making noise about the importance of being present. I’m a non-expert, but over the past few years, I have focused in on this concept, that for whatever reason is hard as hell. Minus blow-up holes on the golf course which might have caused me to throw a club or 3 at one stage, I managed the past piece pretty well. Can’t really do anything about something that happened 10 years or even 10 minutes ago. It was the future piece that I had a hard time with. Looking 5 holes ahead. Looking 2 weeks ahead. My 5 year plan. Anything but the present (.com). Well, I’ve worked really hard to sort that out, and I encourage you to do the same.  Minus big picture personal goals, I rarely look more than a few hours ahead, really focused on enjoying who and what is in front of me. It’s been life changing. Really has. 

C1B1BF5F-A21B-4DC6-A764-99967B814921My 87 in round one was pretty focused, considering I’ve played no more than 10 times in 2018. The flaws were simply physical. No problem. My 99? Well let’s just say, I had 99 problems and that day, being present definitely was 1. Work in process. 

Have a great week. -Benj 

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Facing My Fears

When I was a teenager, I was pretty much afraid of everything.  Well not everything, but lots of things.  It was an uneasy feeling, and it all stemmed from things I was uninformed on or had never been introduced to.  Interestingly, things like public speaking, which my parents introduced me to very early on, didn’t scare me a lick.  (To this day, I love public speaking, which is like the number one fear in the world.) Some fears arise from bona fide life experiences, but many arise from irrationality or simply not knowing something.  So in my adult life, I have made it my mission to face my fears and expose myself to as much as I can, with a real emphasis over the past few years.  Irrational fear bothers me, and I believe it prevents people (myself included) from “going for the gold” in their own lives.  So let me detail a few of these for you.

F9EB9286-77D8-476E-BE4C-A3EA78E14FC8As a young guy, I was afraid of tight spaces, bridges, bodies of water, and what people thought of me, to name a few.  I was afraid of making a mistake, what would happen to me if I made said mistake, and not being in control.  And as I sit here right now, I can tell you that I have gone from being afraid of almost everything to almost nothing.  Not in a braggadocio way.  In a freeing way.  I didn’t like that feeling, so I went to work on me.

Sometimes I specifically sought out the fear, and sometimes the opportunity to face it simply presented itself.  It was my choice if  I ran the other way, or faced it dead on.  Below are some of the actual ways that I have overcome the above examples.

1.        Tight spaces-got on the subway with a zillion people to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City and to Yankees Stadium on game day.  Got stuck in an elevator.  With 10 people.  Who just ate Mexican food.  That solved that.

211EFB0C-89CC-4F8E-B2C5-4F0CDDBE3D512.       Bridges- Drove into a big storm over Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans.  That solved that.

7CB81ED4-E21C-41E0-BFFA-F6EF01B69C813.       Bodies of water- Got on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico where I couldn’t see land.   Tried to outrun a storm.  That solved that.

E0738EEA-2EB2-41B8-A591-8B863531DF534.       What people think of me-wrote an  article that 30,000 people read and that at least 500 of those ridiculed.  Created something weekly for the world to read.  Put myself out there.  Made myself vulnerable.  That solved that.

5.       Making a mistake-made a mistake. Actually, have made plenty of mistakes. Will likely make plenty more in life. Simple as that.  Usually not the end of the world.  That solved that.

6.       Not being in control-traveled 35,000+ miles last year. Rode airplanes over the ocean.  Rode an uber in Mexico City.  Rode a taxi in New York City.  Rode a boat into Venice, Italy.  A train to Milan. That solved that.

I could go on and on, but here is the simple point I want to make.  I like feeling free, as I am sure most people do, but it is something we all struggle with.  And so often, fear (and irrational fear) owns us.  I know I am a bit extreme with my examples above, but when I have a problem, I like to face it head on and get it solved.  So these things were owning me for years, and I wasn’t going to let that continue.

Want some easier, more practical steps to get started?  It’s doing something as simple as making a sales phone call.  If that scares you, just pick up the phone.  Face it. Worst case, you get cussed out.  Best case, they’re super interested in what you are selling.  Likely, somewhere in between, which makes it a non-event.  Scared of trying a new food?  Ask a friend or the waitress, and just order it.  Worst case, it sucks.  Afraid you don’t have anything to talk about with someone different than you?  Just say “Hi”.  That usually works for me.

I see and talk to loads of people who are afraid to try something new, talk to someone different than their clique, or get out of their comfort zone, among others. Let’s make a pact. Try something new this week. Especially if deep down you have been wanting to. It could be small step one to a much more enriching life.

Have a great week. – Benj

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Problem or Blessing?

I made a “mistake” this week.  Caused me a real problem for about 5 seconds, at which point I reminded myself quickly that many “problems” aren’t really problems.  Let me explain.

CE4BBEFC-41C1-4930-8680-E06F5C5854B6As many of you know, I have found great interest in hats over the past year and a half.  I co-designed my first one about 15 months ago in California, and did a second one earlier this year in Texas.  I keep telling anyone who will listen that I want to learn how to make hats, which I am still toying with honestly.  Do I want to know how to fully make them, or do I just want to take a base model and customize it?  It’s like, do I really need to know how to grow my own food, or just know how to cook it?  Anyways, I took my first blank base model a couple of weeks ago, and decided to customize it on my own.  First thing I did was set the hat on fire in a couple of different places to “distress” it.  I had no clue what I was doing, but sometimes you just have to dive in.  Then I took a leather necklace that had been made for me from Venetian glass and an Italian coin and wrapped it around the base.  Voila.  Not another one like it in the world…just how I prefer it.

66DD26FA-026D-4CBE-ADFF-8D2199BBACD0I wore this hat to a party the day I set it on fire, and it started the conversations that I thought it might.  People asked if it caught fire on accident.  Others thought the distressing was manure or that it had been dragged through the mud.  Regardless, it got people’s attention.  It got one of my mate’s attention enough that he has commissioned me to customize one for him.  So I am working on that tonight…my first one for someone else.  Maybe the beginning of a small business?

EADA7578-285A-4299-AF0F-541743CBA5F7In the meantime earlier this week, I took one of my older straw hats, and set it on fire.  And as you can imagine but I had not fully thought through, it burnt a nice hole in the damn thing.  Right in the front.  I was pissed.  That was my “mistake”.  Then I quickly reminded myself to keep on open mind, and that oftentimes the coolest surprises come out of our “biggest problems” if we keep a positive mindset.  So I calmed myself down, and then proceeded to set it on fire 4 or 5 more times.  I’ve let it rest on my table for most of the week, sneaking glances every chance I can because I secretly know it’s the coolest, most unique one I’ve done yet.

EBCB11CE-C5E1-4CD3-A8A8-BB0B521C3B83So what gives this week?  3 things.  First, many problems aren’t real problems if you keep an open mind and a positive attitude.  Second, if you want to customize hats or grow your own food or whatever sets you on fire (sorry, had to), what’s stopping you from doing it?  And third, if you want a custom hat or a custom anything, message me.  I absolute love doing it because I love what customization represents.  Always have.  Everyone in this world is unique, and yet so many people talk, act, think, and dress the same way.  Be you. Be free.

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There’s Magic in the Air

Occasionally, I get asked what part of the week I actually write the blog.  In the past, it was as early as Monday.  As of recent, I wait until Sunday.  You know why?  Because I never know when magic in life may occur.  Case in point, today.  I was in Atlanta with my family watching the Braves play the Padres.  That alone was exciting, but I just never know what is around the corner.  The Braves pitcher, Julio Teheran, pitched 6 no-hit innings before he was pulled for an elevated pitch count.  His replacement hit 100mph on the radar, which you don’t see every day. We thought about leaving because it was hot as hell.  But I don’t like missing magic.  In the 8th, Braves catcher Tyler Flowers hit a bomb to straight center field, right in front of our seats to put the Braves up 4-1.  And then Nick Markakis ended the game with a superb diving catch in right field.

F495FACB-F774-4A5D-9388-2277BAA17047Meanwhile, my new friends in Mexico were busy upsetting Germany in the World Cup, and the Swiss surprisingly drew with the Brazilians.  Pure magic.  See, I’m pulling for Mexico.  Team USA didn’t qualify.  The folks in Mexico City treated me like gold a few weeks ago.  Boom!  I’m pulling hard for them.

Meanwhile, the US Open was finishing up.  It is my favorite golf tournament (no questions asked) because it is the most demanding and rewards the best.  Not the most popular.  Not the trendiest.  The best.  In modern society, we often reward the strangest things now.  I just like to see the best.  I like to see the golf course swallow these legends whole and spit them out.  I like to see who is left complaining and who is left standing.  We got a show this weekend. Phil Mickelson lost his mind Saturday. The USGA lost the course Saturday. And we saw a magical 63 from young Tommy Fleetwood Sunday. In the end, the best (Brooks Koepka) was left standing. Back to back champion. Magic.

My dad loves golf. Like really loves it. And I  actually did not get to see him this Father’s Day, but I had a chance to play golf with him in March where we discussed how much the world needs magicians and geniuses.  As you might imagine, we were talking Tiger, but it applies everywhere.  Think about it.  We all know people who just provide something a little different to this world.  Something this world needs.  Something to make you get out of your seat.

EEC0E35C-BAB2-45D9-B7B9-FEEA1B3C24BASpeaking of which, my son is a bit of a magician in my eyes.  He makes me get out of my seat. There’s a sparkle there. I have been pondering all year what the most important things are that I want to teach my son.  Last year, I wrote about keeping that beautiful smile on his face .  This year, I tweak that slightly.  My main focus now is to instill in him a huge sense of self-worth and self-esteem.  If you read regularly, you know I harp on the importance of self.  It all starts with self.  I want him to be armed with confidence.  I want him full of resilience and not afraid to make a mistake.  Because he will, and I want him to know oftentimes the people who move this world forward the most are those who crash, burn, and then bounce back stronger than ever.

782DE005-5F86-4946-B424-260E4387C959Long story short, there is an immense amount of great stuff going on in the world right now.  Amazing talents.  Deep passion.  Unreal skills.  You personally may not be a professional golfer or soccer or baseball player, but I guarantee you that you possess some piece of magic.  In your field of work.  A hobby.  A skill.  Something.  The world needs it.  The world craves it.  Whatever it is, use it.  Make your dad proud.  Make your son proud. But most importantly, do yourself proud.

Have a great week.-Benj

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Starting from Scratch

0BC72335-CD0E-414D-AC95-C025FFA62A3ALet me tell you about the latest incarnation of Benj, in the hopes that you can glean something valuable from it. Let’s call it Benj 9.0, for simplicity’s sake. Benj 9.0 has a basic annual schedule now. Today through the first Sunday in November is racing season. The first Sunday in November through today is eating season. God, I love good food. 

On November 5, 2017, I ran the NYC Marathon. On November 4, 2018, I will run it again. Between now and then, I will run at least 3 other races in yet to be named places. Today, I started training. In the past 7 months, I’ve basically just eaten. And I’ve loved every second of it. But it’s time to get serious, and I want to share a few things with you. 

Today is an arbitrary day to start training. There is literally no importance to it, except I just picked it. I woke up this morning, ran a hot shower to loosen my joints up, put on some shoes and shorts, and headed to the track. I then proceeded to run a whopping 2 laps around the track. Can you believe that? Wild man, I know. Then I grabbed 5 pound dumbbells and worked out my arms, followed by a 10 minute core workout. I am literally starting over from scratch. Out of necessity and out of choice. 

E0A9D25D-9E14-4E91-917B-2FA50D11AA2CMy body can’t take constantly being in marathon shape, so I listen to it. My hunger for life and for literal good food is a choice I make. So I eat and I savor and I don’t care for a good part of the year. But then I crave a stern test that requires discipline, patience, and self awareness, and that’s where today comes in. 

I share this with you because I know how difficult it can be to want to do something (an activity, a passion, a challenge) and not know where to start. We tend to build up in our head some excuse that prevents us from taking the plunge that ends up being just that, an excuse. 

Over the past year, I wrote down 6 activities that I have interest in doing. They are: write, design, golf, invest, coach, teach. I am well on my way writing. Just started designing. Haven’t tackled the other 4 yet, but they are on the horizon. You know how I started writing? I freaking wrote something. You know how I started designing? I freaking designed something. “Being too busy or life getting in the way” is a lousy excuse to not do the things that you really want to do with your life. Real talk.  

29020294-69D5-425B-8A03-C6C902C5D807If having the country club membership or competing with your neighbor or being comfortable is important to you, go nuts. I’m not a hater. But if there are all these wonderful things that you personally want to do with your life that you are not doing, let me give you some advice. Walk your proverbial ass down to the proverbial track. Start with 2 laps. And see where it takes you. I had to learn this. Man, I had to learn this. But you know what? I ran 2 laps today. In a few months, I’ll be able to run 104 freaking laps. And along the way, I’m going to savor the journey once again. (And probably a few pizzas and burgers as long as y’all don’t tell.)

Have a great week.-Benj

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Special Occasions Call for Special Style

Let’s start with a couple of questions this week.  First, has anyone ever gone to a 3 day party with good family and friends?  Maybe some of these people are younger or more energetic than you?  Maybe they don’t have kids?  Maybe many are soccer players from foreign countries, and the pub is like their second home?  If just maybe you have encountered this, you can understand why the blog came out today, and not last night.  It would have been incoherent.


Next, has anyone ever been to an event that felt “different”?  I personally seek out and love different events, but I usually don’t put weddings in this category.  Sure, they are fun.  Nice.  Beautiful.  A few drinks.  Maybe a round of golf.  Some banter.  Not this one.  This one wasn’t nice.  It was absolutely awesome!  The whole damn weekend was.  I’m still buzzing.


Let’s start with the people, and of course, the two most important people first.  My friends Junior and Kellen, as reiterated over and over this weekend, are just fabulous people.  They are interesting, kind, passionate, and super fun.  Put them together, and that just doubles.  Junior hails from Cameroon and Kellen from the great Union County, NC, and they both went to Wingate University.  I tell you this because the guest list was as diverse and fantastic as you can imagine.  Folks from Africa and Europe.  I heard a gentleman was in from Kazakhstan.  Wingate people.  Union County people.  All mixing and mingling and having a great time.  I met new people and thoroughly enjoyed reigniting old friendships.  Being around good people is the foundation for a good time, but then some unique activities turned it from good to great.

7E61AB92-2809-46C4-843A-DFA7EBD4A0FCFriday night, there was a welcome party.  If you’ve ever been to a good party, I don’t need to say anything else.  Saturday morning, 40-50 people gathered on the beach for a wedding day yoga session.  Now this was new to me.  I had never done yoga.  I had never done yoga on a beach.  I had never done yoga on a beach on a morning after a welcome party.  Now I have.  And that was 48 hours ago, and I am still sore. But it was awesome!  After that, the afternoon was wide open until the ceremony at 5:30.  My wife and I ended up joining the legendary Wingate coaching staff of Gary Hamill and Joey Calandra for brunch at this local joint that was terrific.  We grabbed a table outside and ate and talked.  Before long, my mate Clarkie and his wife Jo came walking by, and we summoned them up to join us.  They had a drink, and before long we migrated to a wine bar about 5 steps away.  Fast forward some 5 hours later, and the stories that had been told and the bottles of wine that had been drunk were the perfect intro into wedding night.  (Let me remind you, that afternoon piece was totally impromptu.)  The ceremony and reception were great, followed by an after party on the beach under a pretty cool orange moon over the ocean.  And finally, Sunday was beach day, which for me ended with a 5 v. 5 soccer match on the beach.  I play soccer all the time, but usually not on the beach, and definitely not when the only language being spoken is French.  That was pretty cool!


Last but certainly not least, we must talk about style.  First off, the bride and all of the women were gorgeous, and I will just leave that there.  But the guys certainly held their own, with some terrific custom suits, plaid suits, panama hats, linen pants, among others.  It was a stylish crowd, and judging by the amount of random spectators on the beach watching, people were curious.  If you recall, I had the privilege of working with Junior on his wedding outfit a few months ago.  It turned out perfect, and he wore it like a boss.  The picture below is my favorite shot I got.  Now I personally know that they had just been pronounced husband and wife when I took this, but I’ll be damned if he could have also been simply auditioning to be the next James Bond.


Interesting, diverse people.  Cool, unique activities.  Style for days.  That’s a really good recipe for an unforgettable weekend.  This weekend was electric.  It was awesome.  It flowed perfectly.  It was different.  And if you’ve been following along for a while now, you know different is good.

And if you want a look like Junior’s for a special occasion or just every day wear, message me.  I would love to help.

Have a great week.-Benj

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