Being born in Los Angeles, CA, was not my first choice, but were it not for that, I may never have met my sister Sheryl. Along with our younger brother, Bill, we had a pretty good, carefree childhood – playing in the streets, going to the beach, and attending school. Well, two out of three isn't bad. Like most kids, we had a mother and father, which is probably where a lot of our habits and organizational skills came from. (Our mom’s grocery list was always mapped out by aisle – pretty impressive.)
A big portion of my younger years were spent at the beach, where I discovered my love of the ocean and waves. I didn't start surfing until I was 15, but in my mind I surfed every day. Thirty years later, that feeling hasn't changed and has taken me around the world and introduced me to interesting people and cultures.
Sadly, life isn't all surf. There is another four-letter word that changes the direction of everyone’s life: Work. Early on, I worked in the neighborhood for an older (at 13, everyone is older) man who was no longer able to prune his roses, pull weeds, or get around very well. My job was to do what he told me and listen while he regaled me with tales of the first school buses in California. At the time he was 84, which puts his birth year in 1896. I listened to history lessons (World Wars I and II, air travel, television) while learning how to prune roses and other shrubs.
That summer set me on a course for life. I continued to work for him and others in the neighborhood and then began working for a landscape contractor. From there I made my way to Morro Bay, CA, a humble little beach town on California's central coast and very close to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, the college I attended while studying horticulture. Life was good – surf, school, work, surf, study. Okay, four out of five isn't bad. When I wasn’t surfing and studying I was helping older folks in their gardens and working at furniture moving companies.
After graduation I trimmed trees until I landed a job at Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, CA, as the head of horticulture. I packed my bags and headed for Sonoma County, aka wine country. At the time, I had little knowledge of the area and its beauty and opportunity. I arrived and stared at the acres of lawn, hedging, flowers, landscaping, and the big, giant chateau modeled after the great French chateaus. It was, frankly, overwhelming, but like any project one step at a time makes it doable. And then came the managers’ meeting where the powers-that-be decided that the new guy could take on the olive orchard. Who knew where that would lead?
Before it could lead anywhere, a series of classes and a crash course in olive oil, olive trees, and olive management ensued. With no experience in food science, I became part of the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) tasting panel for extra virgin olive oil. Yes, in order for olive oil to be truly certified “extra virgin,” a panel of tasters must determine that the olive oil is free of defects from a taste perspective. The California olive oil industry was just starting at this point, so we were all learning from each other. It was a very exciting time and a great group of people to meet. I stayed at Jordan for nine years making their first eight vintages of olive oil, keeping the grounds, growing vegetables and cut flowers, and doing occasional garden tours.
About the same time I left Jordan, Sheryl was getting Org&Relo off the ground and needed some help in California. I was free and figured I had moved furniture back in school and should be able to do this. Day One on my feet taught me something – pulling weeds is way easier. But I liked it. I liked it, the same way I had enjoyed working for all the different people throughout my life. I was able to help them get their homes and offices weeded. I had always been a fan of systems and order, so it was pretty easy to transfer that skill to this new line of work. (Back in college when I loaned a friend a pair of socks he couldn’t get over how systematically my drawer was set up. I thought that was normal. Twenty-five years later he still gives me a hard time.)
Organizing, it turns out, is very much like gardening. We arrive at a job and determine what needs to be accomplished. To the client, the task is amazingly difficult with no clear starting point. To us, the job is broken down categorically, and we know where to start. The completed job frees clients to take on new habits they can continue for years to come. Like working in a clean garden, it is easier to work in a clean office than a messy one. Everyone feels better.
These days, along with working at Org&Relo, I also run an olive oil company, Merchants & Millers, continue to do landscaping, keep up with the surfing, and work in my own garden growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Even life at home is organized (I may be the only guy you know who can fit every single dish from even the largest dinner party into the dish drainer every time). I have, of all the crazy pets, a cute little LaMancha goat named Bella. Everything that I don't use from the garden, Bella gets. As a prize, she gets to go out on the SUP (stand up paddleboard) with me along the Russian River. People often say, “What kind of...um, is that, um...a dog? Oh! Oh my gosh, it's a goat.” I usually direct people to her Facebook page: Bella the Goat. There you can see her newest buddies, two little chicks named Chick and Petee.
See you on the job or in the water,