My latest in the interview series is my friend Dan who I’ve known for about let’s say twelve or so years. I have no idea. I am sure we met sometime in college when we went to the same college church group. It sure feels like a lifetime ago. I used to hang out with Dan and his brother-they are two really funny guys. Some of my best memories of them are wandering around Magic Mountain. And telling pickle jokes. More on that later.
JM: Tell us a little about yourself.
DH: Name: Daniel Ryan Hunt
Age: 33 years
Hair: Reddish-brown, short
Eyes: Blue, two
Height: 5′ 10″
Distinguishing features: Large sideburns, glasses, sardonic wit
Likes: Martial arts movies, video games, reading, writing, making people laugh, the spotlight, listing vague things like ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ as things I like to sound smart and/or creative
Dislikes: Unsolicited career advice, listing my previous work history, the word ‘douchebag,’ when Wikipedia is seen as a valid source of information
Favorite breakfast cereal: Cracklin’ Oat Bran
Outlook: Stoic, mostly
Demeanor: Pretty middle of the road
Marital status: Married to Sarah Hunt, going on 4 years
Highest education level: Some college
Current occupational status: Fledging stand-up comic, cab driver
I have been diagnosed with: schizoid personality, gout, 1 cavity
People think I have: Asperger’s syndrome, a sadistic streak, encyclopedic knowledge of computers and GPS-level knowledge of the Phoenix area, including locations of every building, everywhere
JM: So you cant just drop a completely unknown (relatively huge) fact like you have been diagnosed with schizoid personality on me without any details.
Can I ask you about it on the record?
Can you explain what it is?
When did you get diagnosed with it?
Did the diagnoses come with any emotions or a sense of clarity?
DH: You never knew…? I coulda swore… Okay.
From my understanding, being schizoid is where a person (me) levels out their emotional experiences. Lower highs, higher lows. The affected also have difficulty expressing emotions, having meaningful relationships, and other social awkwardnesses. I was diagnosed with this in my early to mid 20’s when I went to a therapist to seek help for depression I was going through. Well, it was the result of this test I took, SAT style, complete with bubble fill in sheet and #2 pencil.
When it comes to things like being schizoid, or depressed, or anti-social, or even things like possibly having Aspergers Syndrome, I shrug it off. I’m okay with me, and I’m at a point where I realize all the crap that happened so far was for a reason. I am the person I am, and I can not, will not, nor want to be anyone else. I feel that there’s a certain beauty in sadness, when you think about how bad a thing (whatever) is, you realize there is another thing (whatever) that is, to quote Teen Girl Squad, SO GOOD that not only does it make up for the sadness you feel, it surpasses that sadness, and all the other sadnesses that you’ve had or will have. I get sad. It happens. I also get happy. Sometimes the sadness in my life outweighs the happiness in quantity, it never comes close to it in quality. I guess the ultimate question here is, where does that happiness come from? How can it be better? One word: Christ. Knowing that all this (living life in this world) leads to something greater (eternity with Christ) nullifies all the crap this life can throw at me. Sometimes I forget that for a while, but I always come back to the security I have in Christ and the Father. The Spirit, too, even if I have a hard time understanding It.
That, and the Keebler Elves released a line of cookies that are versions of the Girl Scout’s Samoas that are available all year round. How can that NOT make someone happy?
JM: Thanks-you saved a lot of people from looking that up on wikipedia. Speaking of happy, tell us a pickle joke, and give us the background on pickle jokes in your family.
DH: Who’s green, Egyptian, and married Marc Anthony? Cleo-pickle. Who’s green and was shot nine times? Pickle Cent. What’s green and hangs above a baby’s crib? A mo-pickle.
I come from two large families. Mom had five brothers and sisters, Dad has six. The vast majorities of these large families lived far away from where I grew up, mostly in Portland, Oregon and various parts of Oklahoma. A lot of childhood memories I have involve riding in cars on long road trips for family reunions. Going to see the extended family was always a treat for my brother and I. Well, when you’re ten hours into a 20-hour road trip with no stops, people get tired, and random things get hilarious. Pickle jokes were born out of these late night/early morning drives, and they are part of those random things that get hilarious.
JM: Why do you find yourself drawn to stand up?
DH: I like laughing and I like making people laugh. I was doing improv, which qualifies, but I think I’m drawn to stand-up now because I get to control everything that comes out of my mouth (in theory). So if it’s funny, it’s funny that came from me and wasn’t dependent on something or someone else. That’s not to say that I’ll never do improv again, but now is the season for stand-up (again).
My foray into stand-up started a lot earlier than I realized, when I stop to think about it. Back in the fifth grade, I asked my teacher if I could tell jokes in front of the class during lunch. She let me, and I proceeded to bomb day after day for pretty much the entire school year. Fast forward about three years, and while I was attending middle school, I was put in the gifted/accelerated class with the other nerds. One of the things we did every year was a career assignment, where we would pick something that we were interested in doing when we were older, then we would be paired with someone who did that for a living, and we’d spend time with them as they did their job. I selected to do stand up one year, and I was paired with a comic whose name I no longer remember. I tagged along while he did a corporate gig. He gave me a video from one of his open mic nights that he hosted, and I remember all the comics either being filthy or extremely bad. To wrap that assignment up, we had a ‘career night’ where we had presentations of what we learned. I did about three minutes of material that I ripped out of a joke book. I remember everyone was polite about it. Since then, my desire to get on stage and make people laugh has manifested itself in various ways, like being the ‘announcement guy’ at VI, or doing improv at a theater in Scottsdale. Around the end of September last year I happened upon a class for stand-up comedy taught by one Tony Vicich, comedian who was prolific during the stand-up boom of the 80’s. I took the introductory and the advanced classes, and was in two showcases, one at Dave and Busters up in North Phoenix, and one at the Tempe Improv. Currently, I have an open-mic night coming up on the 30th in Scottsdale, and a set at ToSo’s up in North Phoenix on the 4th. Maybe it’s the 5th. I should probably find out. I’ve been told that I’m ‘edgy’ for whatever that’s worth.
JM: What would be the ideal comic job for you?
DH: As fun as it would be to be a touring comic, I think that would take me away from my wife and soon-to-be daughter too much. I’d be perfectly content to work a singular city like Vegas, LA or New York if I could provide for my family doing it. I also wouldn’t argue with acting, voice acting, or directing. But not producing. Maybe gaffing. That’s a ways off, though, I’m still working my way into the shallow end of the comedy pool.
JM: Who are you influenced by comically?
DH: I am influenced by any comic that can make a room full of people laugh without resorting to excessive swearing or crude/sexual/scatalogical/racial material. It’s a mistake to think that doing clean comedy is talking about rainbows and kittens and peaches. I actually pulled off a joke in which there is a baby that is on fire. You can be dark and edgy without dropping an f-bomb. Or an s-bomb. Want examples of who I am inspired by? Sure! In no particular order:
Eddie Izzard (I said excessive swearing)
I’ve also had the joy of being able to learn from good comics, both veteran and not-as-veteran. Tony Vicich, like I mentioned before, along with Emily Galati, Kevin Odea, Joleen Lunzer, Mike Gillerman, Dave Thurston, Jim Bambrough, Mike Bengoeceha… lots of people named Mike, all said and done.
JM: Would you like to share an internet link?
DH: As much as I think that the internet is nothing more than 99.99% filler and a horrible time suck, here are a couple things I like looking at:
this photo is from last night. it’s one of many in a long line of photos of my brother and i sharing a birthday celebration. yesterday was his birthday, and today is mine. we are three years apart to the day. next week is his daughter holly’s birthday so she was getting in on the candle action here.
on my husband’s side, his youngest brother‘s wife’s birthday was two days ago, his second youngest brother‘s wife’s birthday was yesterday, and mine is today. strange that we all have birthdays in a row. our nephew on that side also has a birthday tomorrow.
and i have about a million friends that all have birthdays this week. including our adopted son drew.
I knew who Joe was before I met him. Hes a bit of a local celebrity who dresses particularly and is known for his restaurants. But I knew him as the only person in my area who owned a Vespa. And I had just bought one. So about three years ago, I introduced myself, asked if I could go along on any group rides he was planning, and somehow found myself helping to open the future Liberty Market. But be careful! Once you are Joe’s friend, you must succumb to all kinds of crazy adventures-many of them involving blind taste tests of food. And believe me, this guy will wear you out! He’s made me visit more than five espresso joints in a day.
You can find many interviews with Joe and his journey of starting the Coffee Plantation, Joes Real BBQ, or the housing development complete with childhood-home-turned-restaurant Joes Farm Grill, but I would like to illuminate the more personal side of Joe. Because I dare to ask the questions!
JM: Please tell us a little about yourself.
JJ: That is an open question, so I’ll answer it a bunch of different ways.
I am happily married (to the lovely, talented, power-house: Cindy), have two married sons, and live in Gilbert.
I am chubby, moderate in build, wear a hat, have a titanium rod in my leg, blood pressure within the normal range.
I am self-deluded in thinking I can eat anything and not gain weight, that I am 30, that I am not dying, and certainly much more that I am oblivious to.
I am a visionary. I don’t mean that in a proud way any more than if I was to say that I am an artisan, a craftsman, or a farmer. The primary gift that God has given me is in the realm of ideas and how to advance them to become reality.
JM: I love the story of how you and Cindy met, would you mind sharing the tale?
JJ: At the time, I was an engineer and happily single, living in an apartment. I don’t mind being alone and don’t get bored easily, so I enjoyed working on cars and general tinkering. My mother was quite concerned that I would never get married. For one thing, she identified me as a nerd with fashion problems that might make me un-datable. To work on my fashion problem, she sent me to “Sincerely, Sandra”, a modeling and personal improvement shop at Dobson and Elliot. The basic idea was that the owner, Sandra, would color drape me and then teach me how to shop for clothes. Sandra is a vivacious lady of Lebanese ancestry. Through the process of figuring out that I was a “spring” and taking me shopping at Marshall’s, she decided I was a normal person, so she asked me if I would like to meet her sister. She hooked me up with her little sister, Cindy, who was living with Sandra and her husband at the time. It took me a while to get around to a first date. When we met, I thought she was beautiful … we got along fine. For many months we went out, just as friends and then we fell in love. That’s the best way.
JM: You have a distinct fashion style. Tell us how you created it and what your inspirations are.
JJ: My awareness of fashion started in the same way I met Cindy (see above). Since then, I have become more interested in fashion and have developed certain philosophies regarding dress:
1. Be comfortable with who you are and where you live.
I am a bit chubby (but cuddly), have a short inseam, a bald head, and ordinary looks (which I think of as a blessing). Doesn’t sound like a promising physique for fashion, but I have come to accept my situation and be happy about it. I also live in a warm state. Given these factors, I try to dress in ways that make sense. Being bald has opened up the world of hats, an area where people with hair seem timid to explore (except with the baseball cap [yuck!]). It protects from the sun and has many more options than hair. Being chubby, tight fitting clothes are a big no-no. Guayabera shirts are a favorite. They are loose fitting, a traditional shirt in warm climates, and come in great colors. I do not wear jeans. They emphasize the wrong part of my body. T-shirts: only at the gym.
2. Don’t go with the trends.
I used to wear classic Hawaiian shirts for the same reason as a Guayabera. Then they became popular and started showing up at Costco and all sorts of unstylish people started wearing them in horrible ways. I stopped wearing them. Hats have become popular again (I’ve been wearing them for 25 years), but most people buy cheap ones from China at Target, so it really hasn’t diluted quality hat wearing and I am not planning on abandoning hats. I avoid trends like “Affliction” shirts, Ed Hardy, and all of that stuff. I prefer classic, timeless pieces that go together well and last.
3. Buy quality.
I don’t buy poorly made stuff. It won’t last and it won’t feel good. That doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. Just be picky about quality, inspect your goods carefully, and then try to get the best price. For instance, my go-to fedoras are US made and are fashioned from wheat straw. They are very well made and cost about $35. Yes, that’s more than a Chinese “felt” fedora, but not that much more. It fits and lasts, plus you’re helping US workers. Some things are just plain expensive, but worth it. My LV “murse” is a great accessory that I use daily. It is SO well made and perfectly designed. It will last forever instead of some bad fitting, cheap mini-messenger bag. There’s some truth in the phrase “you get what you pay for”.
JM: Would you please share some Joe before pictures?
I met Emily when I met her parents Jim and Joy. She’s the younger sister of Hannah, and she has two more younger sisters as well. Emily is a firecracker. She’s tough yet full of passion. She isn’t afraid to tell you what she’s thinking and I know this girl is going places. I enjoyed our interview, and I encourage you to share your thoughts or ask her questions in the comments below.
JM: Please tell us a little about yourself.
ES: i am almost sixteen (finally!) and i am a sophomore at a high school i love. i moved to this school from a dinky little charter school in Gilbert. the academic portion of the school was not up to par (and some of the kids weren’t that great either). i like to read and i do it constantly. writing is one of my favorite past times and i like to think I’m really good at it. i like school not just because of the friends I’ve made but because of my really cool teachers and just the feeling of being a part of a big school. i am in the ASL (American sign language) club and i am trying to find ways to become more involved in my school. i have a dog who is my pride and joy. she is such a character and i love her so very much. i like to sing and music is very important to me. i use it as an escape from my surroundings. walks are my favorite medicine and i take one whenever i can. I’ve been told that i always look upset and angry but I’m actually a quite serious person. i think a lot about everything. i am a very loud and opinionated person and i have no problem telling people what i feel. i am always there for my friends and i am (a lot of the time) the person they come to for help. i like being there and comforting them, and helping them through whatever problems i can. i may not seem like it sometimes, but i am a very compassionate person.
JM:Why did you choose to be in the ASL club?
ES: i’ve always been interested in learning a new language and i have yet to come upon one that is really interesting to me. i like the idea of knowing someone who can speak the same language as me but in a different way, like sign language. so i’ve begun with the group and next year i can take the actual class.
JM:This is the middle of your first year at a new high school. But you didnt go to one of the feeder junior highs, you decided to leave a small charter school. Tell us about how and why you made that decision, and how has it panned out?
ES: my mom and i had been talking about me going to mountain view for a long time. its close to home and its where my mom used to go so she was a little biased. after my last year of junior high at a charter school in gilbert we decided that i would not be going back; mainly because the academics were not up to par. after a lot of struggling (on mostly my part) we decided mtn view would be the best place for me. it has worked out better than i expected. i fit in well and i have lots of friends. i enjoy doing all of the true high school things like joining clubs and going to football games. its a perfect fit.
(photo credit: Hannah Schroeder)
JM: You have a good relationship with your parents. What advice would you give to other kids parents if they wanted to have a good relationship with their kids?
ES: the reason i get along so well with my parents is because my parents are very open and that helps me to be open with them. they are very understanding and helpful and they do their best to not bring me down or get mad at me for my mistakes. they do their best to help me up, dust me off, and prepare me for the next big crisis (as a teenage girl i have a lot of those). parents just need to remember that every kid is different. they can’t hold their children back from who they want to be. and they cant be condescending. children need help sometimes but parents can’t hold their hand throughout their whole lives. let go and let the child live and screw up. if parents hold on too tight their relationship with their children will become complicated and strained and thats not good for anyone.
JM: Youve been involved with some social activism in the last couple of years. Could you name a group that you are involved with and why you believe in the cause?
ES: i have been involved in some social activism. invisible children and laundry love are two of the organizations i have been involved with the most. laundry love is an organization my parents came upon that helps those who cannot pay for their laundry. my family, along with some other family friends, go to a local laundromat once a month and pay for people’s laundry. i have gone to a few protests and i always enjoy standing up for what i think is right. sticking up for the underdog is a priority of mine and when i feel like someone is being treated unfairly i will confront the situation head on. like when the person in charge of a peaceful protest is yelling at a pastor who made comments about our president and gay people. yes that has happened before. 🙂 people are people and we all need to be treated like what we are, human.
JM:What is Laundry Love?
ES: laundry love is an organization that my parents found out about from one of their friends. we go to a laundromat the first friday of every month and we pay for people’s laundry, whoever shows up. its been lots of fun and the people ive met are really nice and happy to share their stories.
JM: what do you think of those television shows about teen mothers and fathers?
ES: i find that the shows about teen parents are not trying to over glamorize the idea of becoming pregnant at a young age, like most of our society today. while giving them their own tv show and paying them may give others the idea to get pregnant and on tv is a bad idea, they don’t try to show that its a good thing. the tv shows show how complicated life will really be for everyone in the family. so yes i like them, but people may not have the best of intentions when trying to get on the show.
JM: Do you have an internet link youd like to share?
ES: the only link i would like to share is for to write love on her arms. this organization is very important to me and has helped me a lot throughout the last 2 or 3 years. i want people to learn more about it and realize what they do and how they are helping people.
to write love on her arms is a non profit organization that helps teens and adults with addiction, depression, and different forms of self mutilation. they have people you can email and talk to and if you go on their website you can share your story. the staff even travel and speak at different cities around the nation. their purpose is to create a community of people who can all talk and share stories and just be there for each other. sometimes sharing your story and admitting you have a problem is the hardest and most helpful part of the journey.
I first met Kiersten over two years ago when I started working at Liberty Market. She has more energy than most people reminding me of a hummingbird. She constantly injects puns into her speech, and she forgets to eat often. You had better be ready to eat big though if you ever go to a restaurant with her and her husband because they will order EVERYTHING on the menu. They want to try it all!
KT: I grew up in Bozeman, Montana .the oldest of 4 kids. My Dad is a potter, and he and my Mom have owned and operated Mountain Arts Pottery since I was a kid. I grew up in a family where my parents were (and still are) very supportive and encouraging. Christianity was the foundation of all we did but we all knew our faith had to be ours not just because Dad and Mom said so.
I did pretty well as a track athlete in high school and decided to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to run. I wasnt very good at the check sheets in college and as such, ended up taking so many classes I have a Double Major in Elementary Education and Special Education as well as a minor in Deaf Education and a Masters in Special Education/Learning Disabilities and now I own a restaurant .go figure!
I moved to Arizona to work at ASU and met my husband at a dinner he was cooking for. Long story short we got married and work together as co-owners of Liberty Market in Gilbert.
JM: How did you get involved with Special and Deaf Education?
KT: My younger sister, Becky, who is, as she likes to point out, exactly four years and eleven months younger than I am, was diagnosed with a learning disability soon after she was born. Referred to as Global Retardation, her disability affects each aspect of her life in different ways. Becky has a difficult time with her fine motor skills including printing and tying her shoes but reads at a college level.
She didn’t talk for the first three years of her life, and I remember with absolute distinction when she said her very first words….”Indian hat”. We were traveling to an art show and had stopped somewhere to fill up for gas. They must have had one of those plastic Indian hats with fake red, green and blue feathers sticking out of the top and when she pointed at it and said, “Indian hat”, my parents purchased it in absolute shock. Since then, I don’t think she’s stopped talking!!! 🙂
She has a job at Fuddruckers making the guacamole and helping in the kitchen and has told David more than once that he needs to learn the recipe she has memorized. Her memory is one that baffles all of our family. She has always corrected us when we would say something like, “Remember when we went to visit Grandma in 1985?” by saying, “It wasn’t 1985, it was 1984, and it was a Tuesday.” We would laugh it off until we started checking her dates and she was correct. She has more Civil War knowledge than the guides she used to drive with when visiting Gettysburg and her bible study teacher has stopped checking facts when Becky brings something up from the bible, because she’s always right.
The deaf education part of my life came into being as a result of my cousin Courtney’s deafness. I loved sign language and started learning it to communicate with her when she would visit in the summer. I would practice with my brothers on Sundays after church when my grandparents would take us out to lunch. We had no ipod, itouch, ipad, phone….etc. and would have to self-entertain. Practicing the alphabet forwards and backwards was ingrained in my head and in college I quickly learned I could forego the foreign language component by taking sign language!
It sat dormant in my mind between college and the opening of Liberty Market when we hired two employees who are deaf. Having a glassed-in kitchen is the greatest thing because I can communicate across the restaurant and into the kitchen! It does confuse guests, however, when I ask them if everything is alright or explain something to them and realize I haven’t said anything!!!
JM: You grew up in Montana. Whats it like? Do you see yourself moving back there?
KT: You hear a lot about people from small towns itching to leave never to return, but I never felt that. God has allowed some amazing opportunities to insert themselves into my life that have moved me to the next chapter in my life but never because I didnt like the one I had just finished.
Bozeman is located in a valley surrounded by five mountain ranges and is amazingly beautiful. Its cold and snows for half the year but there are three ski hills within thirty minutes of my house, the sledding hill is literally over the creek, through the park and across the street. I spent a lot of my summers in the Gallatin National Forest at our cabin. The back door opens up to the forest and the running water is connected to an underground spring so if you want it any warmer than ice cold, you have to heat it up on the stove.
Its definitely a different world than Arizona. More REI-ish and less Fashion Square-ish. The magnitude of open space and sky is such a difference in comparison to Phoenix. It SMELLS .not bad .it just has a smell. When you get off the plane and walk out onto the tarmac (its a pretty little airport) it smells clean and clear, brisk and like pine. Its one of the best parts of the whole area!!!
Will I ever move back .probably not permanently. David and I have this small little thing going on here that takes up a lot of our time Liberty Market however, wed love to get to a place where we could spend time there over the summers. Im not sure what that looks like but I can guarantee you that summer in Montana is significantly more enjoyable than summer in Phoenix!!!
JM: You trained a work dog once-what was that like?
KT: We raised a service dog through an organization here in Phoenix, and it was amazing. Johnny was a Golden Retriever that we trained as a hearing dog to work with an individual who was deaf. I only recommend doing this if you have TONS of time. We were in the process of opening Liberty Market and I had no set location at which I needed to work, so I was able to take him everywhere with me. As a result, he became extremely social which made him a better trained service dog.
The day David and I turned him in, we went and watched the tail end of the Iron Man Triathlon because we figured they were the only people more miserable than we were! If we ever do it again, I think well do a dog with hospice. Even though we knew giving him up was in both ours and his best interest (we spent the first month of the restaurant opening working eighteen hours a day without a day off), it was the most ridiculously hard thing Ive ever done!!!
JM: Your family is full of creativity-your dad and you knit, your parents have a ceramics studio and bakery, your brother is a photographer (what else am I missing?)-was creativity something your parents fostered?
KT: My brother Tim is amazingly musically inclined, and my sister Becky who has a learning disability has moved socialization with people to a whole new level!
My parents made us take piano lessons from Kindergarten through our senior year in High School and I say made because I am not gifted in that realm in any way! 🙂 Other than that, they just encouraged and loved us. More and more, I see that the family I thought normal growing up was and is anything but normal. My parents are together, they love us, they support us, they let us be us.
I hesitate to express how amazing it is to have a shelter to come back to during good and bad because there is no way to give it the credit it deserves without sounding goofy! When you see kids (and I see a lot of them in the restaurant, at church, in stores) you can tell those kids who dont have to worry about the love of their family whatever that family looks like. They are secure in the fact that they are loved and accepted. That was the world I grew up in. It wasnt perfect I can list my fair share of fights!!….but it was safe.
So .back to your question, did they foster creativity .not so much as they fostered us and creativity came out of that!
JM: Give us a list of some of your favorite restaurants and why you love them.
1 El Pollo Supremo Beef or Chicken? Flour or Corn? Those are your only options great, inexpensive Mexican!
2 Pizzeria Bianco Its our favorite because it affords us, as a couple, of at least 3 hours of uninterrupted us time. But .we always eat something first!
3 Matts Big Breakfast I hope my trainer doesnt read this but I get the Hog + Chick with the ham steak, eggs scrambled on the side (and I give them to David) sourdough toast, hash browns and a waffle with bacon .but I then dont eat for the rest of the day. Mainly, because I cant move.
4 Houstons/Chelseas Kitchen in the vein of a little more costly, either of these two. Houstons is the best chain/non-chain. They do a great job with everything and the service is impeccable! Chelseas Kitchen has the best Rib-eye Tacos Ive ever had but I have a hard time justifying the price if I dont split them!
5 Café Wasabi A little Japanese place on Southern and McClintock. Its a nice place to get sushi at a reasonable price. You can get a salad and ten piece California Roll for $7 or $8.
JM: Is there an internet link youd like to share?