Writer who stumbled into typesetting and the occasional cover wrap. Founder of King Shot Press, a micropublisher of radical literature. Currently in Portland, but also sometimes Athens and elsewhere.

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MAY 22 2021: Growing Into A Role

D’Angelo Barksdale: “You can say you’re somebody new, you can give yourself a whole new story. But what came first is who you really are and what happened before is what really happened. And it don't matter that some fool say he different. Because the only thing that make you different is what you really do, what you really go through. . . Like, all them books in his library. He frontin’ with all them books, but if you pull one down off the shelf, ain't none of the pages ever been opened. He got all them books and he ain't read near one of them. Gatsby, he was who he was and he did what he did. And ‘cause he wasn't ready to get real with the story, that shit caught up to him.”
I think about that monologue from The Wire a lot. D’Angelo was my favorite character in the early seasons, surpassed later by Marlo Stanfield, who plays at the narrative fulfillment of much of D’Angelo’s wisdom. Stanfield is like Gatsby by season five, he’s still who he is when he gets to the new place, and it does catch up to him.

Personally, I’ve always thought it better to pass on “success” when you aren’t ready than to just try to ride it and be bucked off and trampled. I kicked the brakes on King Shot twice in seven years when it felt like it was growing way too rapidly. Maybe that’s too cautious for some people, but I believe in a steady process. The way I see success these days isn’t just hitting a target a couple times—it’s stability, longevity. It’s laying a foundation to support height. It’s not burning out.

When I lived in Greece, I worked for a family-owned hostel for several years. At one point, they launched a bar adjacent to it. It wasn’t the best setup. Cheap/utilitarian decor, few beer options, handful of bottles of well liquor, basic mixers. About as minimal as you could be and still call the place a bar. At the time, I didn’t understand: The hostel was profitable, surely they could come up with something nicer. But there was a method to it, and it was exactly how they’d built the hostel itself. Keeping the expenses minimal means the business becomes sustainable much sooner. While growth takes a little longer, this means you also have time to establish a system, to refine, to get better, to expand organically and without excess risk. Over the years, that bar has evolved. Gradual renovations, nicer drink options, more staffing, etc. Today, it’s a pretty damned nice place that benefits from the hostel attached to it, but doesn’t necessarily rely on that. Regulars—locals, expats, diplomats, et al—now come to drink there. It’s a business that’s entering its second decade.