It’s Monday night at The Station, off Person Street in Raleigh.
I’m drinking a glass of Elmer T. Lee bourbon – something Josh Gruder, my co-worker Meagan’s fiancee, recommended. Smoother, and smokier than Bulleit, as he promised, I love it.
Although it’s November, a warm, welcoming wind continues to sweep through the outdoor bar area. Meagan is besides me, silently sipping her drink, as is Josh. I’m a bit mentally preoccupied, as only a few days before, my close to two year relationship abruptly ended.
The moment breaks when Josh says, a bit indignant:
Throughout this series, I’ve opened with an experience I had with the individual. From the moment Josh agreed to do this post, I knew that was the moment I wanted to capture. That night was a huge turning point of me, off the heels of heartbreak, that quickly transformed to a bit of anger and overall feeling of yes, “Fuck that.”
By the end of the evening, (thanks to Meagan and Josh), I felt happy and renewed.
Obviously… I contemplated whether sharing that particular anecdote was a good idea. I tend to be honest, but I’m rarely that raw. In real life, I’m very vocal about how I feel, whether it’s positive or negative. In my public writing, I’m meeker. Bold, yes, but never that candid.
I left that question in God’s hands for awhile, and it was immediately very clear, after interviewing Josh, what the answer was.
Be raw. Be honest. Be candid.
Because besides having excellent taste in bourbon, Josh turns out to be really straightforward. His answers were just that – raw, honest and candid.
“Honesty is huge,” Josh says. “Always knowing that my reality is what I perceive it to be is key.”
However, he confesses– “The idea of doing one thing for the rest of my life terrifies me. At the end of my life, I want to be able to look back on a multitude of distinct chapters.”
Josh’s life has had a lot of colorful, diverse chapters. He’s experienced a bit of everything – from being raised listening to Motown (though, he confesses, “I motherfucking love Phil Collins”) to going to college in New Orleans (“I’ve never lived in a place where I felt so connected to other people and the community as a whole,”).
One of the boldest things Josh has done, by far, was spending a month living off the land in the mountains of North Carolina.
“At the time, I was a drug addict and felon, and this was a last ditch effort by the courts and my family to save me before a long mandated jail sentence,” he tells me.
Josh hiked 26 miles in 29 days, building his own fires, and boiling his own water from creeks to drink.
“The high point of the trip was hiking to Inspiration Point, where the last scene in Last of The Mohicans was filmed,” Josh says.
“The low point was waking up in the middle of a torrential downpour, only to realize I messed up making my lien-to and I was laying in 3 inches of freezing water with all my stuff. It was such a critical moment in my life where I realized how at the mercy of nature and the limits of my own abilities I was/am.”
Though he has no desire to do it ever again, he admits it’s one of his proudest accomplishments.
We talk about how Josh sees his life, and he tells me about how he’s always envisioned the afterlife as a giant movie theater.
“Every person you’ve ever known who has passed away is watching your life play out like a movie,” Josh explains. “Whenever I start slacking, I think to myself how boring or disappointing I must look. When things go well, I’ll think, “Wow, I bet they fucking loved that”.
“It’s completely raw and unedited, so whatever I want people to think and know about me, has to actually materialize. It’s an inspiration and motivation to achieve.”
If what Josh envisions unfolds the way he anticipates, in the next five years, he’ll have achieved a lot – including expanding Porch Fly to be a lifestyle brand, starting a family with Meagan, and building a house on their land in the mountains of North Carolina.
“Or I could get drunk and fall down, and none of that will happen,” Josh says. “We’ll see.”
Josh’s ultimate goal is to make an impact on the world through investment in others.
“There are so many amazing individuals and projects around the world that could provide the next big springboard for our civilization, provided they are supported and not stifled.”
“We’ve developed the technology and knowledge to have free societies that are rich in resources, and devoid of servitude and debt. I’d like to be a part of that shift in societal thinking.”
Josh is inspired by the “illogical and irrational”, something he admits fuels his creativity in all of his endeavors.
“There’s a great Victor Hugo quote that inspires me everyday – “Each person should frame their life so that at some future hour, fact and dreaming meet”.
“I love that.”
Books: American Psycho, Less Than Zero, & Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis. (“As an individual he’s kind of a scumbag, but that’s what I love about his writing. He makes creepy behavior personal and relatable.”)
Authors: Vonnegut and Twain (“They inspire me to boil down every thought, action, and purpose into its most substantive form. Every time I create a new Porch Fly design, I always think, “How can I evoke some meaningful emotion from the audience, but do it in a way that’s completely unique and original”.)
Music: Sam Cooke (soul), Claude Debussy (classical) and slower piano jazz, such as Dave Brubeck.
Also, the “King of Wishful Thinking” music video (“A personal goal of mine is to recreate it scene-for-scene.”)