“WATCH YOUR FUCKING MOUTH WHEN YOU TALK TO MY WIFE!”, the 60 year old cider legend growled, eyes narrowed, veins popping, spittle flying from his mouth.
*freeze frame, record scratches to a halt*
i bet you’re wondering how i ended up in this situation….let’s go back to the start.
it’s important to note as i now reflect, i was awful. while my intention was okay – i wanted to be honest and direct – my execution was beyond terrible. i made an ass out of myself and downeast. it’ll be a long time before we dig ourselves out of this hole with these folks. the good news is that i’m just a small part of the company and everyone else is much more reasonable and hopefully these guys will meet the other people and think, “i like downeast, but ross sucks.” so without further ado:
[this is a true story. the events depicted took place in somerville in 2017. at the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred]
earlier this afternoon was the first meeting of the new england cider maker’s association (hereby referred to as the NECMA). actually, technically, there is no NECMA. this was the meeting to establish NECMA. cider makers came from near and far, including dillon, the organizer, who would spend 8 hours in his car today to come down from vermont.
about an hour goes by. there’s a lot of what you’d expect: intros, shop-talk, history…ya know, light-hearted jibber jabber.
so i raise my hand, “this is going to be awkward,” i start, “but i feel like i have to toss this out…”
i first touched upon the festival talk. a lot of people were talking about having a new england cider festival. it seemed to me to be one of the few actionable things that would come from this NECMA. and in my opinion, which could very well be wrong, i thought it was a terrible idea.
a. there’s already cider festivals, both those that are pure cider like franklin county cider days, and those that piggyback on beer, like drink craft beer’s cider festival.
b. if the point of the festival is to fundraise, there are a million more effective fundraisers. brew fests take a lot of time and energy and in the end, aren’t extremely profitable.
c. if the point of the festival is to market cider (a la ‘got milk?’) and raise awareness, i think having a cider festival would hit maybe 1,000 of the least useful people people in new england (pop. 15MM): those who are already aware of cider and so much in favor of it that they’re willing to attend a festival.
a comment, “it could be like restaurant week.” i’m aware i can be a half-glass-empty kinda guy, but there’s optimism and there’s living on fucking jupiter. massachusetts restaurants will generate $17 billion in revenue this year. they employ almost 1 in every 10 people in the state. i don’t know if we’re even 1/1,000th of that. we can’t compare ourselves with the restaurant association.
so…i’m sour on the festival thing. that’s my soft open. i also question what exactly we’re trying to do. maybe scrape together some pennies by throwing a cider festival? maybe educate 1,000 people who already know and like cider? maybe do some lobbying?*
*side note. i know nothing about lobbying, but it doesn’t seem like a fight you go in with some part-time kid funded by a cider festival. we’re also all from different states, which have different laws, and thus different priorities. conflicting interests.
it seems to me that we’re building a ship, everyone’s focused on the sail and nobody has even considered the rudder. i hate that. happens all the time at downeast and i’m sure elsewhere. everyone’s trying to solve the problem but nobody’s considered why, or to what end.
so anyway, my soft open is to take a steaming dump in the corner of the room. not a good way to start. now that the appetizer was out of the way, it was time to hit ’em with the entree.
side story: i’ve got beef with two of these companies (i guess now i technically have beef with most of them…or at least them with me)
company 1 we’ll call mike and dan’s big cider company, or MADHCC for short. we caught them redhanded creating google accounts to leave negative reviews on our taproom. when i confronted mike and dan, they denied. weasels.
company 2 we’ll call national cider company, NCC. on multiple occasions i’ve had people tell me that they’ve overheard representatives, and in one instance the owner, of NCC publicly speaking ill of us.
ok, back to it. there’s a turd in the corner, the appetizer, and now’s the time to piss in the punchbowl. i raise my hand, “this is going to be awkward,” i start, “but i feel like i have to toss this out. from my previous comments, you’re aware that i’m a little weary of this organization’s intentions and capabilities. on top of that, i have a problem with some of the people in this room. mike and dan piss me off [point at mike and dan] because [above] and christian pissed me off [point at christian] because [above].”
at this point, people are yelling at me….”c’mon!” “are you kidding me!”…dillon is trying to make peace at his meeting….it’s a mess…i continue through the jeers…
“as we all know with our companies, it’s hard enough to get stuff done with a group of like-minded individuals who get along.”…”fuck you, ross!*”…“how are we going to get a group of people that don’t get along” “you can get along with my asshole, you insufferable cunt!”* “and each with different goals, to band together and get something done…of which the ‘something’ is totally unclear” “suck a dick!*”
*okay, i took some creative liberty on the insults because i don’t feel they were harsh enough.
an argument erupts. we’ve all been in large arguments with groups of people, so i don’t need to explain what that looks like. it’s messy. loud. personal. emotional. but what’s important to note is that it’s clear i’m flying solo. well, technically, it was the room vs ross, with tyler waiting on the sideline to hopefully untangle the mess i was making for downeast.
at one point in the argument, this older woman was screaming at me to meditate. i responded with something along the lines of, “lady, i have no idea what you’re talking about, but you need to calm down.” and to clarify, this was not the mature use of “let’s all calm down”, but rather the much more popular and douchey, “i’m gonna tell you to calm down to rile you up further.”
that’s when the elder statesman in the group, a man who’s been doing this longer than i’ve been alive, locked eyed with me and gave me a strong “WATCH YOUR FUCKING MOUTH WHEN YOU TALK TO MY WIFE!” we just stared at one another, eyes locked in streams of hatred like voldermort and dumbledore facing off with one of those adava kedavra laser battles.
imagine the most awkward way a meeting could possibly end…whatever you’re picturing, that’s how the meeting ended.
good first day for NECMA.