I am supposed to be working on my newsletter but my mind is in such turmoil, I can’t concentrate on anything. I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams as I anxiously flip from one news channel to another, then bound over to the computer to google online news sources and then back again to the TV.
The armed occupation that’s been going on at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for most of January and now part of February is very personal to me. Having spent several years there in the early 80s working as a cook at the field station, feeding various groups of bird watchers, biology and botany students and elder hostel groups, the desert area of South Eastern Oregon bubbles deep in my blood, having infected my soul with the wide open spaces, the spicy-sweet smell of sage brush, and the wailing call of coyotes at night. In this remote, almost isolated location, you learn how to rely on yourself for entertainment, which often involves lots of alcohol and listening to all sorts of music.
The take-over has ended in death, federal agents arresting some of the militants and those remaining at the field station vowing to fight on, although more arrests are imminent. Even though the occupiers are mostly dissipated, toxic emotions from those who feel they are speaking for all Americans continue to infect the small surrounding communities, leaving locals hiding in their houses for fear of getting caught up with the lunatic fringe of individuals who think everyone should think and act like they do.
What does any of this have to do with Gearhead? My business is an extension of myself and what goes on in my personal life directly affects my business, and by extension, you the customer. The events going on at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge matter to me and to pretend like nothing is happening except working on my business would be lying to myself and lying to Gearhead fans. Maybe I’m too open about the changing emotions that run through my mind and body as I try to run my company. Maybe I’m too earnest for my own good. But this is who I am and this is how I choose to run my company. I like people to know what goes on behind the scenes. I like people to feel like they know Gearhead.
A former business associate once told me that you should never let your customers see what’s really going on behind the scenes of your business, that you should keep up a false front that everything is great, even if it’s not. Even though Gearhead is a very small company, it has the reputation of being a huge corporation, with many employees. It has always had that larger than life footprint. It makes me laugh to think it’s just me, wearing many different hats through out the day, but I was warned never to destroy that illusion by revealing too much personal stuff. Apparently, that’s good business. Hmmmm….
The high I felt when I brought the new issue of Gearhead home was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. A mix of pride, and a stunned sense of accomplishment washed through my body, and continues to every time I pack a new order. This magazine is very personal to me. It is an extension of myself; all the stories mean something to me. To me, the more you know what goes into a project, the more you know about the people working on something, the more you know the stories, the more something matters to you, and the more personal it becomes. You become part of the community, you develop a relationship, and by extension, you become part of that thing too. What happens to it matters to you because you are now personally involved.
Everything we create and put out there is an extension of ourselves: the car you hobble together from scraps you pull from a junkyard, the song you labor over, getting the chorus just right, the garden you plant, the silly painting or doodle you make for your kids…. It’s all a part of who you are. When you say “I Made This”, it’s like saying look, this is a part of me!
Despite the fact that subscribers live around the world, if you see someone reading Gearhead, or commenting on it in their social media, you knowingly nod your head. They’re part of the club. They’re someone you could relate to. Back in the day (I sound like an old grandma, ha ha ha!) when you saw someone standing across the street with spiked purple hair, a leather jacket, and combat boots on, you knew they were part of the club. You knew you would have something in common with that person. They were punk, and you shared a common language expressed by how you looked. Not so much any more, now that “punk” is part of the mainstream Justin Beeber look. So you have to look for other clues, other signals.
Gearhead is more than a magazine. It is a lifestyle, a brand, a mindset, a community. It’s a place where we find like-minded “others” who we can relate to, with all our past experiences leading us to who we are now, in the present. Sharing what matters to us. It’s personal.
Rock 'n' Roll/Automotive Journalist, Influencer, Editor and Publisher of Gearhead Magazine,