Welcome to a new Sunday column! You might remember during the beginning of the season I would try to put together a weekly recap of the various happenings and stories surrounding the Denver Nuggets. Ultimately that column fell to the wayside and it was mainly because it was repetitive and the amount of research required to put together an article that didn’t allow for much creative input made it a rather arduous task. Still, we liked the idea of a Sunday column that captured some of the biggest news and best stories of the week.
Site manager Ryan Blackburn and I settled on the idea for this weekly musings article. At the bottom you’ll find some relevant links regarding Nuggets news this week, and whenever I come across a Nuggets related piece that’s particularly good I’ll throw it in there as well. For the majority of these weekly columns we won’t be talking Nuggets basketball though. In fact we’re not really going to talk sports at all. What will we be talking about? Depends, one of the things I love about working with Ryan is he the freedom he gives me to write whatever I want to write. I literally pitched him this idea as “writing whatever I feel like.” In that vein, think of this as sort of a similar approach to Matthew Berry’s “Love ‘em/Hate ‘em” weekly fantasy football columns on ESPN. Yes, Berry goes into who you should and should not start each week on your fantasy roster, but the majority of that column is Berry telling a story and rarely is it a sports story.
I have to admit, for the very first column of the series I struggled to come up with what my topic would be. Being granted such massive latitudes in creative choice turned out to be a hurdle to overcome. I know I want to have a greater discussion on life, philosophy and human thought process, particularly during a year that will be remembered long into history as one of the most difficult humankind has faced, at least in recent times. However, I didn’t want to harp on politics or religion, that’s still not what this site is for, nor did I want to reach for some overarching and self-righteous messages of how we’re supposed to feel. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized, quite randomly in fact, about the story I wanted to tell today. Without further adieu, let me tell you about my friend Josh.
The chances of Josh and I becoming friends, or even meeting for that matter, had to be incredibly slim. You see, Josh and I grew up over 7,500 miles apart from each other, about as close to opposite sides of the world as possible. I grew up in Colorado Springs, he grew up in Nelson, New Zealand. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of things that had to happen for us to both end up in a restaurant/nightclub called Liquidity in 2009. Everything from the great recession, to me getting fired from a waiter job in Fort Collins to the fact that I randomly ended up in front of Liquidity my first week in Christchurch with a stack of resumes in my hand. For whatever reason though, the cosmos decided to have us both be employed at that bar at that time. Sometimes when the day’s almost done, the kids are in bed and it’s the quietest moment of the day, I like to consider the people and moments that have helped shaped me as a person. I like to walk back all the different events that occurred prior in order to make those meetings and moments possible. It’s a humbling way of understanding how powerless we are to the motion of time.
For whatever reason, Josh was a person who came into my life and for that I am forever grateful. You see, Josh was brilliant. Maybe the best way to describe his brilliance was that passion came naturally to him. Josh didn’t need motivation, whether that was in his professional, personal or social life. There were no walls with him, and he was one of the least risk averse people I know. Combine that with the fact that he was an intelligent man and you were given a wonderful person who cared deeply for his family and friends, who invested wholly in his craft and whose general happy demeanor and passion for everything in life was infectious. Josh didn’t become a bartender to get through college or because he was just another American tourist wandering around “N-zid” for a year and needing to finance his travels. He became a bartender because he could see the chemistry in it combined with the ability to make it an art form. He did it because he loved it, because he was incredibly passionate about it and he did it better than anyone I have ever known. In fact, he’d go on to win national cocktail competitions with vodka, his favorite, that he infused himself.
His perfection of the craft led to other great things as well. In order to truly appreciate it you have to understand something, New Zealand bars aren’t like American bars. Bars in NZ are an experience, sure there are still the local spots and dives but far more, particularly downtown where we worked, are extravagant and huge beyond what you would see anywhere outside the most popular spots in America. With tourism making up almost 18% of the country’s total GDP (for reference tourism makes up just under 8% of America’s GDP), bars are big business. Josh of course didn’t bartend just at Liquidity. In fact, Liquidity was sort of the side gig just to make some extra cash in the middle of the week and also help out a place that had a struggling bar staff. I mean, they hired some American guy who had actually never bartended before, in fact had mostly been just a bus boy up to that point. They needed Josh. He was the head bartender at a much more popular nightclub called the Concrete Club. A pretty common night for many of the Liquidity staff was to wrap up around midnight, 1 AM, have a beer on the patio before locking the doors and heading over to Concrete Club until who knows. It was in a basement so if the sun started rising you wouldn’t really know.
The bar was doing so well with Josh behind it that the owners built out a little side storage room on the other side of the staircase just for him. Naturally, it was simply titled “The Vodka Room.” I remember how many times I’d come by Concrete Club to get a beer and they wouldn’t actually be open because they were working on remodeling TVR. Josh would let me in anyways, have a beer with me and take a break from building the bar back or setting the counter top or whatever it was he was building. The Vodka Room would end up having it’s grand opening the night before I flew back to the States. Josh had of course at this point moved on from Liquidity so he could focus solely on TVR, meanwhile I got in some last minute traveling around the South Island so it had been a few weeks since we had seen each other. I came down to see him during his grand opening because I knew it was the only time I had to say goodbye. The bar of course was packed, but I nestled into a spot near the middle and he quickly spotted me.
I’ll never forget the look on his face when he realized I was leaving in the morning. It was one of sadness but while some of that was for the fact that, like me, he understood that the chances of us seeing each other again were slim. I knew far more was simply because he had been so busy he had forgot that I was leaving and he was hurt that he forgot something that important about one of his friends. Of course he had every reason to but that wasn’t the way Josh was, his passion for his craft never surpassed his passion for the people he cared about. Despite it being his grand opening he spent the next hour just talking with me. while he broke out the best bottle he had. To this day it’s the only time I’ve ever drank vodka on the rocks, it was delicious. In a way, it was the perfect send off. Most people I knew in New Zealand I already said goodbye to before my last bit of traveling My last night I spent quietly with one of the best people I had met in my time in the country, sharing in what he loved most.
I flew home to the States in July of 2010, less than two months later the Canterbury region where Christchurch resides was hit with a magnitude 7.1 earthquake. It would be followed by a series of over 11,000 aftershocks over the next 18 months. The death toll was in the hundreds and the effects on Christchurch’s infrastructure was devastating. The 13 bedroom “house” I lived in the entire time I spent in NZ was badly damaged to the point that it closed. Liquidity was damaged beyond repair and ultimately would be torn down and yes, Concrete Club and The Vodka Room were lost as well. So much of what I knew as life in the city is no longer there today. That is unfortunately true of Josh as well.
He of course recovered just fine from the set backs of the earthquakes. He became the head bartender at another popular bar in Christchurch. He went on to win the regional 42BELOW World Cup cocktail competition. He met a girl and was loving their life together. It was only natural for someone as cheerful and passionate as him to be able to navigate through tumultuous times with ease. Sadly it was something far more commonplace, a car collision with a power pole, that would end up taking Josh from us in October of 2012. I was devastated when I heard the news. Josh was the first friend I ever lost to tragic circumstances. As an apprentice electrician with a new baby on the way and just getting into my first home with my new wife, attending his funeral was a financial impossibility. I think in some ways that’s for the best though. My friend, our time together, the places we experienced, those are all preserved in my memory, untainted by experiencing the tragedies that came after first hand. I have that incredible privilege to be able to remember him like that.
Which brings us to the end of our first weekly musings and comes full circle on the theme. Time is something that no man can control, and something everything on this earth succumbs to eventually. It is the giver, teacher and destroyer of all things. I’m not a religious man but I’ve always found the concepts of god and fate to manifest themselves most noticeably in the passage of time. Be mindful of it’s power, be mindful of how some of the seemingly most minute things are a consequence an uncountable sequence of events. Be mindful that everything is a fleeting moment, an infinitesimal moment in a much grander scheme. The decisions you make, no matter how small, have far reaching affects to you and to people you’ll never even know. Please wear your mask.