I grew up on a small grape farm in upstate New York where I was home-schooled. In high school I read and wrote voraciously, camped, and hiked all over New York with the Scouts. As a result, by my mid-teens I was an Eagle Scout and had finished all 46 Adirondack high peaks (an accomplishment which I suspect my adult feet would be hard-pressed to replicate). When I was 17, I enrolled in college. I did not have a high school diploma because, at the time, they were only offered to students in public schools and I declined to take a GED. So I began by taking adult education courses, and once I had established a record, matriculated into the regular university system. Within 3 years I completed a major in English, a second major in Philosophy, and a minor in Anthropology by taking a 24 credit load per semester. Much of my education I paid for with a mix of manual labor and piano accompanist jobs (I was not terribly good at either, hence my lack of a music minor and my paunch).
I was accepted into a MFA program in Creative Writing with a full scholarship when I wasn’t old enough to drink, something which I would later learn was tremendously at odds with the accepted image of “writer.” I taught throughout my writing program at Mankato University in Minnesota, a program which I was fortunate to be part of as it provided numerous opportunities to teach classes in writing and composition solo, with teams, online, in traditional and web-enabled classrooms, and the pedagogical mentoring for a new teacher to thrive under. Somewhere in there I managed to work for a year as the Currents Clerk at the Mankato Free Press (I love the newsroom too – the show and the place).
When I left grad school in 2008, jobs were sparse, and jobs in academics were difficult sells with a CV stuffed with publications (mine was modest, but people with multiple books on the shelves weren’t getting work), and tenure-track positions were unicorns. I accepted a part-time English adjunct professorship at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was an excellent job, but adjuncting was no long term plan, and getting into a full time teaching job was still several years off. While I loved teaching, it was financially impractical for me to continue seeking a full-time professorship when that was likely a 2-3 year plan and I had more immediate 2-3 day concerns (food, shelter) and 2-3 month concerns (student loans, rent).
I had always been a rabid D&D player, occasional board gamer, and had a near-manic love of shuffling cards. So, on one of my forays into the robust Milwaukee gaming community, I asked James Mathe, then-owner at Game Universe if he wanted to hire a guy with zero retail experience but a helluva work ethic. He said, “can you clean a toilet?”, I said “how big of one?” I was soon employed at a part-time sales job at Game Universe in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Shortly after I was offered a management position at the store that demanded much of my time, but paid well, so I left my adjunct teaching job at Cardinal Stritch University and took on the mantle of store manager of the then 3000 square foot store.
Within 12 months of my starting, we opened a second location and I was a Regional Manager. In 2 more years we opened a 3rd location, and I was a partner in the businesses operations and profits. I found myself also engaged in board game design with Game Universe’s sister company, Minion Games, a board game publisher heavily involved in the early Kickstarter movement, and doing a bit of role-playing editing on the side. While at Minion and Game Universe I completed or spearheaded most management level projects.
- Editing work on Manhattan Project, Grave Business, Five-Fingered Severance, Nile, Venture Forth, several web articles, Kickstarter backer reports, and promotional articles
- Ground up opening of 3rd location in Menomonee Falls
- Moving of oldest store to larger location, redesign of interior traffic flow
- Creation of social networking communities, webpages, in-store community building
- Redesign of shipping logistics for Kickstarter fulfillment of companies first ala cart project with over 100,000 unique order pulls
- Staff training, manager training, hiring, firing, retraining
- Creation and running of SomeGuysCards.com
- Revision and relaunch of RPGShop.com
- Somewhere in here I became indirectly involved in the Independent RPG movement (Read: “I lurked in the Forge forums a lot, posted a little, and wrote a lot of rules light role-playing systems.”)
In 2015, my wife, Josephine’s family Christmas tree farm in Victor, NY became available for management. As we were the only debt-free, non-home owners in our extended family who also possessed the requisite foolhardy stubbornness and lunacy to run a farm, we returned to manage the property (also, all sanity aside, we were looking for a property on which to keep horses, and the farm had a barn in need of – and I estimate here – 172,653 hours of upkeep per week if nothing new broke. It was perfect). Simultaneously I said “It looks like east-side Rochester needs a neighborhood game store.” In the fall of 2015 we opened Just Games Rochester. It quickly became the top-rated game store in Rochester, and as of last update to this page, still maintains the highest Google and aggregate review rating of any tabletop game store in the metro area.
In spring of 2016 I passed the NYS falconry licensing exam. While I’ve had an interest in falconry since a teenager, it wasn’t until we settled down somewhere with property nearby larger than a suburban yard that felt I had the space and time to devote to the training of a wild hawk. I waited nearly twenty years, and many life changes to attempt this. It is perhaps one of the greatest satisfactions I have ever known, but of all the things I have done, falconry is the hardest. To anyone curious about it, I refer you to this quote from the NYS Falconry Association’s webpage “It is not a hobby. It is a lifestyle.” Or to TH White’s quote “Falconry is not a hobby or an amusement, it is a rage. You eat it, drink it, sleep it, and think it, even in recollection.” If either of those strike you as too all encompassing, I suggest making friends with a falconer; many of us who can are happy to have you along on a hunt sometime.
Much of my life has been spent saying “Yes, I’ll do that” to various jobs. I have enjoyed the challenge of teaching and retail ownership more than anything else, but I look for hobbies and tasks that require tight focus on a series of disparate tasks. I have found that I work best when I am left to my own devices, and when I am given limited materials to begin from. Building with what is at hand isn’t just a strength, I grow bored when the task is too easy, the answer too obvious, or the path too direct. Like a draft horse, I am happiest with a heavy task to pull against until it is done. Then I look for another.