Author: <span class="vcard">Tony Zeoli</span>

Picture of Apple CEO Tim Cook
Tim Cook (Creative Commons)

This post is from my original Facebook post in October on Tim Cook’s announcement that he is gay. I corrected a couple of spelling errors and changed a few sentences, but for the most part, it’s the original post.

I’m happy that Tim Cook is letting the world know who is, but I’m looking forward to a day when the next Tim Cook never has to explain it.

You don’t see me being interviewed by CNN to ask me when I’m going to announce that I’m straight, do you? So, why gay people have this pressure to come out when really, why do we care?

I don’t want to go to a “gay” wedding. I want to go to a wedding that happens to have gay people in it, and I really don’t care if I know it or not.

I don’t want to go to a “gay” bar. I want to go to a bar where there happen to be gay people who I will hug and have a beer, share some wine, and have a conversation with.

I don’t want to fly a “gay” flag. I want to fly the United States flag, where all people, gay, straight and of all races, creeds and colors live underneath it. And, that flag protects each and every one of our rights as human beings and citizens of this country.

I don’t want to have to explain to kids in my volunteer program that no one should be bullied because they are gay. I want to make sure if any of those kids are LGBT, that they never have to hide their evolutionary and biological DNA from others.

If you’re LGBT, you’re LGBT. If you’re straight, you’re straight. If some people are not comfortable with that by now – in 2014 – let them be forever fearful of the boogeyman, the ghosts, or the day they profess the world will end. That day has come and gone a number of times!

I certainly respect the belief from some of my friends that marriage should be between a man and a woman. If that is their belief, they have every right to believe that for themselves and the community they participate in. And, if they want to guide their children in that belief, they have every right to do so. It’s part of their faith. In that, they can pursue that faith any way they want to. I just want to make sure that if they truly believe what they do, they don’t hate on someone for not living a similar world view.

A person who is black cannot change their blackness. A person who is white cannot change their whiteness. A person who is Chinese cannot change their Asian skin. We are born who we are and I believe LGBT people are born LGBT. That it is not a “choice.” It is part of their structural make-up. Some may be confused about this, because many LGBT people stay in the closet, then come out because after being pressured for so long to conform. Some people may view this as “choice.” But, it’s not choice. It’s breaking from the structure of societies predominantly straight culture.

There are people born without limbs. There are people born with autism. There are people born as geniuses. There are people born who can’t think their way out of a paper bag. There a people born who are CEOs of companies, many of whom are gay, yet we use their products everyday. They may be our teachers. They may be our hair stylists. They may be our realtors or farmers. But, because they are gay, their product or service didn’t turn you gay. You still use it. They are still incredible at what they do. You may have a friend who is gay and that friend has made a pass at you, but all you have to do is politely say that you’re not available, just like you would a straight person who is not right for you. Feelings are intense, but that doesn’t mean they are any different coming from an LGBT person or a straight person.

LGBT people are HUMAN beings. They have hearts, souls, and minds just like we all do. All they want to do is love and be loved back. All they want to do is walk this earth and celebrate their special moments with their families, their partners, their friends, and their colleagues.

We, as a society, are hurting Gay people deeply by telling them they are not allowed to be married to each other. Fortunately, this is now ending state by state because of the change in Federal law. Marriage is a social construct created by man and governments centuries ago to achieve social order. While some would say the Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman, we all must remember that the Bible was written by many individuals, each with his (or her – but not sure how many women actually wrote passages in the Bible) own idea of right and wrong. Each with a desire to shape society to their will, by writing about hearsay from centuries of chatter that was construed verbally across generations.

Let’s remember, back in biblical times, people didn’t write – they talked. They shared stories forward from person to person through discourse. Writing and books were for the elite, well before Gutenberg make publishing mainstream. Stories can change over time as they are shared forward, each time colored with that person adding their view of the world. Mouth to ear. All along this pathway the story changed and any real evidence was centuries old – left to interpretation by scholars with their own views of what a sentence might mean well after it was originally written.

The Bible was created and updated over many centuries – addendum to addendum. It was not written in one sitting, where everyone decided this is the way life should be. The bible was constructed by man as a guide, a tool, and a pathway for life lived. Each one with a different views and beliefs of what transpired before their time. In some cases, hundreds of years before, with no one to interview to correct the record.

It is a wonderful book, but it is full of references that even popes are challenging. For example, the one that says God waved his hand one day and there was the earth and then Adam and Eve. There is no more fantastical story than the story of God creating the earth in 7 days. If people believe that is actually true, then I can’t help you with that. I believe in evolution. Our world was created in space over a span of time and there is no proof that a God waved his hand and said, “Let there be light.” The power and energy of the Universe is God and God is a construct of man, because man needs to believe and follow in a higher power to make sense of the Universe.

My idea of God is an energy that somehow created a system. A galaxy of sorts. Through evolution, we are now here today. Each generation leaves us and a new generation arrives to start anew. Because whatever God is, is different to each one of us. God is different to Muslims, to Jews, to Christians, to Baptists, and to Buddhists. Everyone has a different take, so the confusion sets in as to who is right and that’s where religion fails us, as we now see with ISIS in Syria or in other fanatical, right-wing interpretations of God’s word and how people should live and behave. The Bible, the Torah, the Koran, and other scriptures are all written by man and inspired by faith. They are meant as a guide and not an absolute, but some take them as such. It’s their right to do so – to live by the book, so to speak. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have my view either.

Remember, your child can look at you one day and say, “Mom. Dad. I need to tell you something…I’m gay.” And, if your child looks at you and says that, what I hope you do is turn around and say, “Really? Great…now get back to your school work, because that’s far more important than announcing something that’s no big deal (meaning: not an issue in this household).”

That’s my rant for today.


Last year, I created a playlist called, “Vision of a Sky,” which got about 1,000 spins (as of this writing). Someone even posted they’d heard my playlist in store somewhere in Toronto! That’s what I love about DJing and creating playlists online. With streaming being so easy today, you can post and share your playlists and you never know where they are going to end up or who is listening to them.

That inspired me to continue the series. This mix, Visions of a Sky 2, continues on the same track of deep house and tech house with warm, lush elements like long layered synth pads and beautiful, introspective vocals. This is a sound that I’ve grown to love, because it combines the importance of songwriting and vocals with deep tracks that sound awesome on a big sound system in a club. They’re built to make you groove, but also think beyond just the beats themselves.

I’ve learned in the course of my DJ career that it’s very important to not just play tracks. A DJ supports artist’s creativity and that means going deep and finding special songs that resonate on the dancefloor and off. I think you’ll agree that this playlist follows that logic.

The photo was shot on the Blue Ridge Parkway near the top of Mt. Mitchell, close to Asheville in western North Carolina on a warm spring day (May 2014). I love sharing these introspective photos that we’re taking of our experiences here in North Carolina.

8tracks Music

Here’s my response to someone who posted their disapproval of Apple’s pending acquisition of Beats By Dre and Beats Music on the New York Tech Meetup list.
In it, I reference the fact that on the street, this news is going to travel far and fast. Every young person wearing Beats By Dre headphones is going to look up to Dr. Dre for his billion dollar and ask – how can I get there too? This exit will inspire generations of young people to continue to push the envelope and get into tech and music. That’s a good thing.
Here’s what I said:
As a music industry professional for 30-years, I am going to say that I completely disagree with you. This is a slick move by Apple.
1. Apple already has a deal with AT&T, who recently had done a deal with Beats Music and is now positioning itself to offload Muve in favor of a full Beats Music integration. If they replicate the Muve model, which Cricket Wireless perfected, it would be to bundle Beats Music with every iPhone, putting Apple squarely in the lead in streaming music overnight and pushing Spotify and Rdio further away from the ability to jump onto an integrated hardware platform.
2. Beats By Dre headphones do not have to be top quality for you or I to enjoy them. They are a fashion statement for a new generation who tired of ever worse quality by listening to MP3 with ear buds. No one likes the ear buds, which is why Beats By Dre, Skull and other designer headphone manufacturers come in. Even Sennheiser, Sony and AKG can’t compete in that consumer space. Winner: Beats By Dre and Apple, who have sold Beats By Dre headphones in all of their stores for a year or so anyway. But Beats By Dre is more than just headphones – it’s an iconic brand led by the West Coast version of P. Diddy. When you buy Beats By Dre and Beats Music, you’re buying Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, two of the most influential record industry executives in the business today.
3. No one has said this yet, but making Dr. Dre a billionaire is good business in terms of diversity. Escalating Dre to Billionaire status will be word on the streets everywhere. If you never lived the street life, which I had when I was younger, you won’t understand the dynamics of the natural reaction to this news. Everyone on the street will get hyped Dre got paid. It will go a long way, reaching some young people who will work hard to emulate that success story.
4. Apple knows downloads are starting to decline and its Apple Radio service is struggling. Putting the radio service together with Beats Music and pushing that out through its ecosystem instantly gives it a foothold in streaming music for years to come. Now, they have to go to the automobile. And, who’s to say they don’t innovate the headphone and make it into a battery powered device with wi-fi to stream music directly through the headset, bypassing the phone entirely. Stranger things have happened.
5. While artists may decry payments for streaming, the more heavy players get into streaming, the better for artists wallets. This deal will give more natural access to music streaming on the iPhone through an AT&T bundled partnership than any other service could ever dream of. The only thing that could rival it is if Verizon bought Spotify. Even then, Spotify is cool and all, but it doesn’t have Dre. That’s the difference. Dre has fans on the street. What he does is emulated by young people we call trendsetters. They may not have the money that translates to power, but they have street cred and rep, which transforms brands from wishful thinking into household names.
Everyone loves to pile on to these things when they happen, looking at Beats as half-ass to Apple quality, when, in fact you see Beats By Dre everywhere. They are as ubiquitous as the iPod was. And, they’ve attained knock-off status. Once the Chinese starting knocking something off, you know you got a hit.


Digital Music Music Opinion

Someone said this to me today:

“Thanks for teaching me how to DJ, I’ve seen the whole world and I never ever thought that would be possible. Thanks for helping me to realize a dream.”

I’m not going to say who. That’s not the point. The point is, this made me shed a tear happiness for someone I love. Someone I saw something special in. I made a choice to share my gift with this person, because it was the right thing to do at the right time. I have never known anyone to be so motivated, driven and passionate than this person.

This person has since traveled the world – all from a simple act of sharing what I knew. Passing your gift on and paying it forward. Always pass on your gift. Do not be selfish. It is not worth it.

I shared my gift with this person in the same way Bill Ace, father of my childhood friend, David Ace, shared his knowledge with me in the late 70s. In the same way David Jurman invited me to his office at Sony Music or picked up the phone to share his knowledge. In the same way Ramon Wells or Tony Monte and Ellyn Harris always took time out of their day for me, for no other reason then to share what they know, even after I was no longer a Billboard Dance Chart reporting DJ. Because, that didn’t matter to them. What mattered was being human. I follow in their footsteps…the footsteps of giants who made time for me and saw something in me no one else wanted to see.

Teaching others is a wonderful thing. There is nothing in life more satisfying than sharing your knowledge and giving someone a skill they can use and apply in their life – something that can truly take them around the world. I will tell you…I have seen it happen. There is no more satisfying of a feeling then to watch someone else’s life bloom because you took a few minutes out of your day to give them something they could use for their entire life. Something that transformed their world.

I did introduce this person to someone else that inspired them as well. I sincerely hope this person has washed her hand since then. Said they’d never wash that hand again, but I hope they did!

My Life

Friend and fellow DJ, Kenny Summit, posted this remix of the Terrance Parker’s, When Loves The Feeling. You can listen to it on SoundCloud or buy the download for your mix sets at Beatport using the embeds below.

This is definitely a dope record. It really captures the essence of house music. A urgent sounding, yet soulful male vocal with that deep rhythm that gets deeper and more stripped down through the middle a of the track. Hoping to include this one in my next mix show for


I was inspired to write this post after watching a YouTube video of Dallas, Texas sportscaster, Dale Hansen, defending Missouri’s Michael Sam–the best defensive player in college football–after Sam announced to the media he is gay. Too many times young people in locker rooms all over America make light of others by tagging those they deem to be weak with the word gay. Simply put, it is insulting to gay people. Just as many leaders and parents in the black community want to put a stop to the use of the N-word, it’s time for our society to recognize gay people for their strengths and contributions to our world. We need to stop applying the word gay as joke or a slur, as if it’s a weakness. The best defensive college football player in the country is gay. That is far from being weak.

I applaud Hansen for using his broadcast time to speak out on this topic. In a media culture that perpetuates stereotypes and a sports culture that being gay is pejorative, Hansen’s opinion piece was an act of courage. A straight man in a conservative state, Hansen took some personal and professional risk to defend the rights of Michael Sam to play the sport he loves, regardless of his sexual orientation. For, as Hansen points out, the NFL has looked the other way when it comes to players who have been adulterers, drunk drivers, animal abusers, as well as players caught with drugs and prostitutes.

This story is indicative of the two Americas we live in–the one America in which “all men are created equal” with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and the other America, which Hansen suggests is built on a national framework supporting divisiveness and discrimination.

It’s a shame to hear reports of some scouts asking questions about Michael Sam’s personal relationships before the NFL draft and others saying this revelation will force him to be picked lower than if he had said nothing. If no one is questioning the relationships of other potential draft picks, then why subject Michael Sam to unfair scrutiny?

Let’s change the conversation from one of discrimination and divisiveness to one of acceptance and tolerance. I hope the NFL and the team that drafts Michael Sam does the right thing and makes sure the best defensive player in college football is given the same treatment today as he was before he announced his sexuality.


Friends drinking at party
Friends drinking at party – © David, Bergin, Emmett and Elliott (License under Creative Commons)

I had a conversation with my wife about friendships. We are in our mid-40s. In our lifetimes we’ve accumulated lots of friends, acquaintances and business associates. While time has marched on and all those friends are now family units with steady jobs, two cars and children to run to soccer practice, dance lessons or birthday parties, we have less in common with most of them than when we were all single and available to meet after work for dinner or have a late night drink at a bar or club.

We’re proud of our friends who have families and enjoy hearing about their children. The life events. The celebrations. And, at times, the mishaps. We know if we had children same age as theirs, we would travel in similar circles and we’d probably see them more often. I’d be at basketball and practice or music lessons. Missy would be at an international event or traveling with a group of parents and teens to a foreign land for cultural immersion.

My wife and I found each other later in life. We met on She lived 60 miles from NYC. I was in Brooklyn. She was looking for someone far more creative and passionate than an accountant or stock broker . I was looking for someone with a stable life, career and an interest in arts and culture. We were in our late 30’s when we met. We worked on having children, but things didn’t pan out for us like they have for many of our friends. That has forced upon us the decision to look for another way to start a family.  We chose adoption. The adoption process can take some time and the Open Adoption process can take even longer as we wait for a birthmother and birthfather to choose us, instead of being the next number in line.

As our friends families grew, our close friendships seem to have shrunk. Our friends have busy lives. Everyone is working one or two jobs to pay the rent or mortgage and absorb the high costs of living we have all found ourselves facing.

In a New York Times column, Friends of a Certain Age: Why Is It Hard to Make Friends Over 30?, Alex Williams writes:

Our story is not unusual. In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply.

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.

Each time we are invited to a party or event we’re invited to, the alcohol is in abundance. We want to meet new friends, but we meet a lot of couples who enjoy a bottle (or two…or three) of wine and more beer in one sitting than I might drink in a year. That’s the conundrum.

We want to be invited to these events, but we can’t eat processed foods (since we’re generally gluten-free and organic) and we don’t drink a lot. I have Type 2 Diabetes, so gluten so the sugar in wine and wheat in bear is probably something I should stay away from. Since we’ve been here in Cuenca for 1 month and 3 weeks, I may have had a total of four bottles of the local Pilsener brand of beer, a few glasses of wine and a half a glass of champagne. On New Years Eve (12/31/2013), we went out to a party and found people our parents age smoking weed and drinking a good deal of wine, champagne and beer. Of course, that’s fine. I’m not in a position to tell other people how to enjoy their lives, it’s just more difficult for us to enjoy the company of others when they are imbibing to the point that their words are not as cautious and their actions are a bit over the top.

In the UK’s Daily Mail, Lucy Cavendish writes, 

But not drinking has changed my relationships. In the same way that people hate dieters — especially those who lose weight — they hate people who no longer get drunk. Try as I might to point out that it’s a personal decision, there are those who seem utterly affronted. Incapable of accepting that Diet Coke is my limit, they have stopped inviting me anywhere.

While I don’t want to judge others, my wife is not comfortable with people who drink to be social. She’d rather be discussing global initiatives over tea at a café. Of course, in a world where alcohol is in abundance and people use it to break down their social inhibitions, those conversations are fewer and further between, so we have to tolerate certain behavior and the social ills that come with them and see people for who they are when they don’t have a beer or glass of wine in their hands.

Our goal is to make lasting, lifelong friendships with interesting people who do amazing things that inspire us. We understand people enjoy their wine and beer, we’re just looking for friends in our lives who do drink, but drink to enjoy the taste of liquor or beer and not because they need it to be friendly. It’s hard enough to make friends as one gets older. It’s made more difficult when too much alcohol is involved.

What do you think about drinking and friendships? How do you look at drinking over 30? Over 40? Or, over 50? Do you feel pressure to drink, because everyone else is or because it’s hard to make friends if you don’t?

Health and Fitness My Life

In 2002, Trax Records released an updated version of the Larry Heard classic, “Can You Feel It” originally released under the moniker, Mr. Fingers.

In honor of MLK Day, I always post this version to remind myself and those in my circle of influence of the power of MLKs words. When mixed with one of my favorite house music track of all time, it takes on a special resonance.

  • Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It (Martin Luther King Jr Mix)
  • Label: Trax Records
  • Catalog#: TX476
  • Format: Vinyl, 12″, 33 ⅓ RPM
  • Country: US
  • Released: 2002
  • Genre: Electronic
  • Style: Deep House
  • Credits: Producer – Larry Heard
  • Written-By – L. Heard*
  • Notes: B1 samples a speech by Martin Luther King

Music Opinion

Picture of door of apartment 5c in Cuenca
Apartment 5C in Cuenca

My wife, Missy, and I are now down to eight days left of our visit to Ecuador. In just over one week, we’ll be back in the United States, returning to the lives we put on hold and friends we left on November 28th to experience this most interesting and joyful adventure. While I was very concerned about our journey here and what that might do to my job prospects and other opportunities for work at home, I grew to embrace this journey as a challenge and experience and I see how its helped me grow as a person.

In my lifetime, I have traveled to other countries, but never to Latin America and never for an extended period. There have always been thoughts in my head of living somewhere else, but I’ve never aggressively reached out through my networks to make the leap. So many friends and acquaintances have lived in other places. All my trips were short 7 to 10 day stays, mostly to Europe or Canada. It took marrying an International educator to show me how these things can be done. Once you take the leap and go, you’ll figure it out.

I don’t want to sugar coat this. Financially, we were fortunate that an investment that has grown over the past five years allowed us to take some of that growth and apply it to this trip. Without that, I’m not sure how we would have done it.

Almuerzo in Cuenca

We also knew that we would cut our rent in half here in Cuenca, where taxi fares are between $1.50 to $3.00 and “almuerzo,” a prix fixe lunch that is a cultural fixture of this area costs $2.50 to $3.00.

Mold in the bathroom in Cuenca apt
Mold in the bathrrom

Even at $600 a month, our rent is probably a bit high for Cuenca. That’s because we live in a modern, well-kept apartment building we found through a friend that had most of the comforts of home. We could have kept looking, but after having an issue with mold in the first apartment we’d rented, we knew we didn’t have the time to look around. We wanted to quickly settle in and make our plans.

Living and Thinking

Our building, La Cuadra II, sits on a hill overlooking the Coliseo Jefferson Perez, a major sports complex just across the Tomebamba River and along many other modern apartment buildings dotting the neighborhood informally called, “Gringolandia,” because of its popularity as a retirement area for expats from the US and other countries, as well as its proximity to a large supermarket, SuperMaxi, which caters to middle class Ecuadorians and expats.

Of course, I mistakenly thought before our move Cuenca and Quito would not be as modern as many places in the United States. In some respects, it isn’t. Heading in from the airport in Quito, I marveled at the many barrios we passed. Looking down each street from the main highway, there are block-long walls of nondescript, two-story apartment buildings that seem to go on for as long as each street is to their end, as far as the eye could see. What seems like huge, thick-walled villages that are there to simply house the masses of lower-income Ecuatorianos that live outside the city. I have to remember that New York City, Chicago, Boston and other cities in the northeast are full of ugly, red-brick apartment buildings housing low-income families. You realize people have to live somewhere and this is there somewhere.

Photo of Paute Ecuador street outside the town center
Paute street outside the town center

Here, it just looks different that what you’re used to seeing back in the USA. Maybe I’ve seen it so much, I’m not shocked at all. But when you see it somewhere else and it looks different, then it feels different, because it’s unfamiliar. Why I’m surprised, I don’t know. Seeing something new for the first time begets a range of thoughts and emotions that you’ve never had before, so you have to work within yourself to make sense of it all. You have to tell yourself not to judge, but to learn from what you’re seeing.

The Division of Class: Wealth and Poverty

The miles upon miles of housing pass you by. To the untrained eye, it looks exactly the same and it makes you realize how hard people work everywhere for a better life. How some are born into areas where there is far less opportunity or the connections to advance in society. Not all, but many conservative American voices I’ve heard seem think that like in the USA, people here could simply pull themselves out of poverty and into the middle class, if they just worked harder. What they don’t see is the depth of the hierarchical system that inhibits movement between the classes. Things they know exist in America, but refuse to acknowledge. Seeing it down here in Ecuador reinforces my understanding that the powerful and wealthy prevail and everyone else grinds it out to the best of their abilities.

I’m also reminded that some people simply enjoy their lives, no matter what their circumstances. It’s what they know and while they may marvel at everyone else’s money and means, they go back to their families in their barrio here in Ecuador or low-income areas elsewhere and they live their lives modestly. Not everyone needs a luxury apartment in NYC, London or even Quito.

Home in Paute Ecuador with gated entrance - photo
Home in Paute with gated entrance

Like any city, the barrios (neighborhoods) we visited in Quito, Paute and Cuenca also contain middle class and upper class homes that are either connected or only a few feet from each other. Because there are fewer zoning restrictions, you can have an ultra-modern luxury apartment building sitting next to a run down house with ducks and roosters grazing an empty lot. Most homes are surrounded by high walls and barbed wire with steel-gated fences leading into their driveways. It seems as if Ecuatorianos focus their energies on the inside of the walls and not the outside. The security precautions here are heavy, because petty crime and robberies are rampant. I’ve been told the police won’t investigate a petty crime if the value is less than $600

While Americans take great pride in exposing their carefully crafted lawns and gardens to anyone who happens to drive by, Ecuatorianos decorate in the same way, but it’s all contained within the walls and you don’t see it unless you pass through the security doors onto the property. Or, like the house shown here, through the iron fences. Of course, there are some incredible old, thick wood-carved doors or sleek ultra-modern fences protecting these properties as well. For many, it’s a necessity, but for those who can afford it, it’s a display of wealth and power.

Sure, in America, there are many walled communities you can only access by identifying yourself to a guard or pushing a buzzer.  I shouldn’t be shocked or surprised, but like I said, it’s just different. In most American suburbs, the entire community looks the same and in my experience, the houses surrounding the gated communities are maybe just a little older and not as big as what’s inside the walls, but most people would still call them very nice. In a place like Paute, you can have what looks like a $200,000 home sitting next to a row of run down apartment homes or vacant lots. In my mind, that’s the difference. Seeing it for the first time, it doesn’t make sense, but the more you understand the country and the culture, it begins to make perfect sense, because it simply is what it is. You’re somewhere else. You’re not at home. And, you can’t say it’s better or worse than what you know, because it’s not what you know. It’s what the people in the town you’re visiting know, so it’s important to be aware of it.

In just a week, we’ll return home to Asheville, North Carolina. We’ll move into a relatively new, modern apartment community with all the creature comforts and only a few miles from one of the most attractive destinations in the country. There are certainly some comparisons. While looking at housing options in Asheville, we definitely stumbled across some relatively lower-income communities, but nothing like I’ve seen in Ecuador. I hate to say that maybe some people don’t know how fortunate they are to live in Asheville. We know people who live there that do, because they’ve been around the world, but for those who don’t realize what Asheville represents, then I highly recommend taking a trip to Ecuador to understand the difference. Knowing the difference will give you a greater appreciation for what you have, but also makes you realize that not everyone chooses to live the way we do and that there are those who will never live the way we do, simply because of the circumstances they were born into.

My Life Travel

Tony Zeoli photo In Cuenca trying on panama hats at the Passe de Niño parade.
In Cuenca trying on Panama hats at the Passe de Niño parade.

What a year it has been. Last year at this time I was trying my best to lead an inexperienced start-up on a failed music project, which today still has no traction to speak of. It will never succeed, because everyone wants a show and no one wants to address the fundamental problems inherent in the business. Fast forward to today and I celebrated my one-year anniversary with my beautiful wife, Missy, as well as Christmas and New Year’s in Cuenca, Ecuador. That is a pretty amazing change of environments. Who knew I would be in Ecuador today, far from the whining, finger-pointing and nepotism? Not me, but I’m thoroughly enjoying this break from having to deal with a somewhat skewed work culture in the United States, which has affected me in my last two positions. On a positive note, I both learned a lot and I know that many people learned from my organizational, creative and management ability.

Today marks one month and a day that I’ve been in Cuenca. One of the most important things I’ve noticed is that people are not rushed here like they are in the United States and while people buy products and services here, there isn’t a heavy culture of consumerism that leads to selfishness and a me first attitude.” Some people would say that when you’re on a vacation, you’re not going to experience the same things you might if you actually lived there. They might be right, which is why living here for two months gives you a broader perspective. You take the bus. You negotiate the taxi fare with the driver. You make friends with the locals and expats who you will see again, because you go to regular places and not tourist haunts. You live every day like the locals live and that experience helps you on the surface to understand the culture. Of course, you have to really immerse yourself for months to appreciate the small details, but for two months, you can certainly get a strong idea of how people treat each other.

What I’ve learned on this trip is that the Ecuadorian people like the way they live. It’s lower stress. Shops close for lunch. 3:00 pm may mean 3:30 or even tomorrow and you’re expected to know this and not get stressed about it. People are kind and helpful. Just because the country is socialist doesn’t mean people are lazy. They work for money, but they also work for pride.

Of course, there are those who value time in the same way we do in the USA, but the way they value time is different. I’ve met some Ecuadorians who lived in the U.S. and they returned, despite the financial gain they may have realized in the United States. They realized that it is very expensive to live in the northeast and that it would be very difficult for an immigrant without a U.S. education or trouble speaking English to survive. There are those who went to work for cousins and uncles, but when things got bad in the U.S. a few years ago, they realized it was much better to return to Ecuador where the economy is improving. You can see how that is happening here in the public and private projects.

There’s a lot of commerce in Cuenca. Far more than I ever imagined. While it’s a smaller city with only 500,000 people, there are more restaurants and cafés here than in most major cities. The difference is that there are not as many huge chains that occupy every corner. They have chains, but it’s not like their is an Ann Taylor, Gap or McDonald’s on every corner. People shop at the “mercado” and not at Whole Foods to get their organic meats. Even the chains that are here many Ecuadorians know are growing to serve the rising middle class and over 4,000 to 5,000 expats (depending on who you talk to) in the Cuenca area.

That’s not to say that they are not motivated. That is not the truth. Everyone I’ve dealt with work hard, they just don’t work with as much stress as we do in the U.S. They’re economy does not seem to run on meeting demanding quarterly profits expected by Wall Street and investors. Many families own businesses here, including the many small, local Ecuadorian restaurants operated by mothers, fathers and their children. The culture of U.S. consumerism, while somewhat affecting the young, isn’t a strong as in the U.S. or Europe. For Christmas, children open one or two presents, not ten or twenty. And, the celebration of Christmas is not around Santa Claus coming with gifts, but around the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, as shown in the picture below of two young boys riding through the streets of Cuenca on horseback and dressed as the three kings that visited Jesus in the manager.

Photo of two men dressed as wise men on horses. Relgious symbolism at the Passe de Niño in Cuenca, Ecuador
Religious symbolism at the Passe de Niño in Cuenca, Ecuador

My wife likes to point out the difference to me. Yes, I am still tied to the American way of doing things. I work a lot and there are many Ecuadorians who work as hard as I do. I do value the way we work in the U.S., but I can see where the parallels end between here and there. in the U.S., we put timelines and deadlines on everything and if it doesn’t work out, regardless of fault, the finger-pointing ensues and people are fired or removed, only to be replaced with less experienced people, because the person(s) making the decision really don’t understand what they’re doing. The make those decisions at any cost, because they have been taught not to care about what happens to the other person. They’re taught they instead of working together, that anyone is disposable except themselves, even if their ideas have no legs and they have not knowledge or formal training and everyone can see that but themselves. I can’t say that I have any experience here with work and how people are given jobs, what their motivations are or how they are treated. I’m sure there are issues here and I am not forgetting that. I don’t want someone who reads this to think I believe the grass is greener. No, it’s not greener, it’s just a different shade of green. But, it’s a shade that we might be able to learn from back in the U.S. about respect for the other person. That is something I’ve always had. I rarely, if ever, have fired anyone, because the point is to find the right person and give them training and support. When we don’t do that, we fail the people we hire and we fail the systems we’re building.

In 2013, I saw my friends at 8tracks really grow the platform into the many millions of users. I see a very strong organization who have effectively and efficiently planned and strategized for that growth. I’m very proud to be an advisor to that company and from time to time, I contribute my knowledge in the hopes that my knowledge helps the project continue on its upward track. With Neighborbee founder, Anthony Lobosco and developers Jeffrey Marx and Michael McNeill, we finally launched a very cool social network that helps neighbors connect with other neighbors and talk about their neighborhoods. While we were busy building the web application, we missed the boat on mobile, but that’s not to say that we’re not going to be there in 2014. I think we have a running start and with a round of funding and more hands on board, I think we’ll get to the point where Neighborbee is a viable business. I play an advisory role at the moment, but am looking forward to the day I can join full time.

As far as full-time job goes, well, I’m looking…and looking. Applications are out and responses are slow due to the holidays. In the meantime, I’m working on developing my Digital Strategy Works consulting company, which has launched four major projects this year. We’re in a little lull at the moment, but we’re hoping to pick up in 2014. It’s important that I continue to look for full time employment and if that doesn’t work out, then it’s full force on DSW.

I have also been developing wireframes for my project. I’m hoping that in 2014, I find the time and through the help of others to rebuild into a marketplace for music production. That’s about all I can say right now on that front.

It’s New Year’s Day and I’m looking forward to a more productive 2014, where I control my own destiny instead of letting it be controlled by others.

My Life