John Denver was wrong, at least about the sunshine. Since leaving Kansas the weather has been cold and rainy. So after 36 hours in Fort Collins with Grandpa Art, we’re headed south. Despite the weather it was good to be here. Resting up and hanging out. We saw Mad Max. We played Batman video games. We ate great food. Rocky Mountain National Park will have to wait for another day.
Art runs an indoor football team here called the Colorado Ice. These are the guys who played in college but didn’t make the cut for NFL. They were good, but there are something like 700 colleges fielding football teams, and each year thousands of guys graduate. Dozens are drafted into the League. The Ice players get $250 per game, room and board for the four-month season, and to keep the dream alive.
I did hot yoga and had dinner in Boulder with Kimbal Musk on Tuesday. He opened The Kitchen in 2006 and has been slowly but steadily growing the business and its related farm program ever since. I’m an eternal Memphis optimist, but Crosstown and Shelby Farms scared me. I remember Todd Richardson sharing his vertical village vision with me, and Linda Brashear pitching the Shelby Farms restaurant idea. To both I thought, “hmmm…. that’s nice.” But then they got it done.
Now enter Musk. It’s still risky as hell to open restaurants of this caliber at these locations. But he’s doing it, and bringing a wealth of knowledge about how to scale and integrate local farms. He’s helping turn 1000 acres of farmland surrounding Shelby Farms organic. He’s putting 100 learning gardens into local schools. This is not the kind of thing you do for a return on investment; this is what you do because you care.
One measure of a city’s vitality is the number of new restaurants opening. Denver has 50 permits pending approval; Nashville almost 150. I’m not saying those kind of numbers are wise or sustainable. But when Memphis has fewer than ten during perhaps the most bullish springtime we’ve had in a decade, it’s telling. Maybe if all the people heaping negativity on new projects would just go out and have a drink once in a while, we’d be in a better spot.
As for Andrew, Calvin and me, we’re heading south for some sun. See you soon, Santa Fe.