I have spent the majority of my day thinking about Steven and the effects that my friendship with him had on my life. Steven Shaw changed my life. He was one of the most giving people that I have ever encountered and I am blessed to have known him. My sympathies and thoughts go to Ellen and P.J.
Though I haven't posted here in years, today I will and it's gonna be a long one because eGullet is where I think that this should go. I used to get alot of crap from Steven about starting fights and angry conversations on eGullet just because instead of typing a post about cake or something, I would write a long story with a question attached. Fights ensued. I have to admit, now, that I did kind of enjoy my first shot at being an erudite, albeit electronic, redneck.
I don't expect a battle from this one. I really miss the opportunity that I will never have again.
A long time ago my wife and my two boys were on their way home from Western N.C. where the boys had been at camp. In New Orleans there was a minor weather event (most of you would call it a hurricane) and driving into it seemed kinda stupid. It was the Fourth of July weekend and she elected to overnight with the boys in Memphis. She called and asked me if I would look up a few spots to eat that were great and not filled with tourists (young people-smart phones did not exist 15 years ago). I started bumping around on the internet, found her a hotel, a good list of dining options and fireworks times. Good dad.
The source that I ended up using was eGullet. I had never seen a food site or anything close to it. Suddenly, I realized that there were other people, all over the world, who wanted to talk about how to cook, where to eat, what they loved and what they hated. Lord, Thank You, I am home!
A couple of months later, after posting alot, I get a call from this guy in NY that I had enjoyed sparring with. Steven called (remember when people actually talked on phones?) and asked if I would be interested in meeting with his partner, Jason Perlow, who was going to be in New Orleans for a long weekend. I was a bit taken aback, given that I had never met a "virtual friend" in the then new blog universe and kind of mumbled an "ok" thinking that it would just take a few minutes. I was wrong. Way wrong. Turned out that nothing with Jason and his wife Rachel was quick...ever.We spent time doing things in New Orleans and then, at their insistence, took a long day drive through South Louisiana. We made alot of stops that day while traveling and Jason was either on the phone or texting Steven constantly. Though I directed a really bad stop to Poche's meat market (sorry Rachel, I swear that I said "take a right") we ended up becoming fast friends. By the end of the day, I put together what all of the texting was about. Steven and Jason asked me to take over the Louisiana board on eGullet. I was pretty fired up and immediately took the job. Little did I know that this one choice would change my entire life.
At the time, I was in temporary retirement from running breweries and working a weird job. I was a manager at an incall center and part of that job was spending all day on the net. I spent most of my time doing eGullet stuff instead of work stuff (how much time can you watch people wearing headsets selling Total Gyms and not try to find something else to do?). A rather overzealous tech person figured this out after awhile (thanks to an article that Todd Price wrote for Gambit about local food blogging-Thanks Todd!) and I got waxed in one fell swoop.
I wrote a supervisor only email to my eGullet colleagues about the dangers of farting around at work and, not an hour later, Steven called with a job lead for me in New Orleans that involved food and the internet. Bingo! I applied and, thanks to rec from Steven, was immediately hired. While it turned out this was kind of a weird company, I loved everything about it. Hell, they were paying me to do stuff like play on eGullet!
Not long after that event, I had to go to NY for the Fancy Food Show in New York and Steven asked me out to dinner. Of course I said yes. I was thinking Eleven Mad Park or somewhere else pretty swell. I was wrong. He asked me to meet him at Tavern on the Green. What the hell? A tourist trap? I didn't comment and showed up on time. What transpired changed alot of things in my life and it was all thanks to Steven.
We met at the front door and I was surprised that he had a guest with him. Because of Steven's influence and my gift at using the proper fork for any given course, I ended up with a regular column in a national magazine. The woman that he had brought with him was one of the owners of a niche publication called Chile Pepper magazine and he was setting me up to write pieces about the Deep South for them (Deep South because they weren't interested in just NOLA). He was of the opinion that I should write more and, as opposed to eGullet, actually get paid for it. It was, absolutely, the largest compliment that I have ever been paid.
Through that one, very bad, dinner I ended up getting all kinds of work in a broad variety of publications. Some paid well, some not, but it sure beat the hell out of arguing about Cake vs. Pie (cake wins, everytime).
Thanks to the ability to travel to NY over the years I regularly got to do things with Steven and it was always a pleasure as well as an educational experience.
I'm dragging on, because I can't help myself, but my point is that I have gotten jobs and done things that I NEVER would have been able to do without his interest, friendship and stewardship. I am not in this boat alone. He helped many, many people over the years just because he wanted to and because he could. Most of all, I made friends through this that I will treasure forever. For this I owe him more than could ever be repaid if he had lived to be 100 years old.
Thanks, Steven. I hope that you have a fast connection and bottomless memory where you are. We all miss you and I think that a number of us are sorry that we never expressed it sooner.
Rest well, my friend.
p.s.-I also had an editor at eGullet that taught me alot about writing. I wish she had a shot at this drivel that is being driven by sadness, wonder, happiness and Pappy's. Thanks, Mags. You are an awesome force, especially for a Northern type.
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