Farewell to a Sir of the Highest Order

April 30, 2012 was one night that I’ll never forget.

Driving a 24-foot U-Haul through the crowded streets of Manhattan, I had the accumulated possessions of myself, Dane May, and Ryan Moore as we headed from our first NYC apartments in the Village to our massive (by NYC standards) flat in TriBeCa. I was driving while Dane sat in the second seat. Ryan was crammed into the middle area without a proper seat complaining that he had been smashed in like a secondhand accordion.

A few wrong turns due to some dodgy directions and we were forced across the Brooklyn Bridge with no alternative but to go to Brooklyn and turn around to head back to the island.

We arrived about 11:15PM to an absolute trash heap. More accurately, a series of trash heaps.

We would come to find out later, that the previous occupants had been bankers, and had spent the last week of their lease playing cocaine flip cup with a bunch of strippers.

8 million residents live in the island estuary for world human migration known as New York City, so the odds of knowing similar people seem low. But Manhattan apartments of a certain size gain their own patinaed verbal history, transmitted by the social connections of their rotating cast of occupants.

We had a U-Haul full of our possessions that had to be returned that night otherwise we’d be paying a $250 ticket as well as an additional day on the truck.

Our friends, lovable bro-snakes that they were, were there waiting to help us move in our stuff in. They laughed, well more of a hearty grimace with sound, as they walked into our “new palace.” Shuffling through trash as we tried to pile it all into the living room, we got our possessions inside and the truck returned about 3:00.

This was our 5 man “Snakepit”, and it was an adventure in anthropological studies. Whether it was DJ practice at 2AM on Tuesday, or me needing to cajole an aspiring model to scoot down the counter to allow me access to my 4 cup Mr. Coffee pot at 5:30AM before work on a Thursday, this was a jungle far from home.

It was neither clean nor comfortable, but it was a place of massive maturation. A few weeks after we moved in, Dane came to the roommates and said that he had a proposition. An Aussie friend of a friend, Ben Harrison, was moving to NYC for the summer and was trying to avoid hiring his own apartment. The nature of temp visas nearly always made this an “arm and a leg” proposition. He was offering to pay a chunk of rent to put a loft in our massive “activities” area, where we had a full-sized basketball backboard and a ping pong table. Always the cheap ass, I wholeheartedly said yes, and everyone else shrugged as they indifferently agreed.

Ben walked in wearing loose leopard print “pants”, a vintage hat pushed back on his balding head and large, odd rings on both hands. Upon his back, he had no more possessions than could be navigated while running through an airport. His voice had a tinny vibrato that would crescendo until he found a point to ask, “Right?”

He had been coordinating outdoor music festivals in Australia for years and was now looking to come over and scrap his way around electronic music in NYC. His girlfriend, Alice, was a dance captain for a Broadway show. Having avoided winter for 3 years at that point, this was an opportunity to steal a summer spending time with her personally while advancing himself professionally.

From almost no contacts save for club guys we knew, Ben managed to make himself invaluable to the electronic music scene, finally being given a 5% ownership stake of a club for sweat equity.

This wasn’t his foremost achievement that summer. That would be me.

I’d always had a desire to travel. My parents made the “interesting” decision to allow me and my slightly older friend Alex Barnes to go visit our friends‘ family, the Stalls, who made an ex-pat career move to London for a few years. At the time, it was a 12-year-old and 15-year-old navigating through England with only our paper traveler’s cheques and a tube map with a 20 pence piece taped to it, the Stall’s phone number scrawled across the front.

We survived, as one does, after several hair-raising adventures, discussion of which still brings tears of laughter to our eyes.

I’d seen quite a bit of the US between family vacations and getting to spend a school year traveling with my father as he hawked asphalt planers, stump grinders, and slot cutters across the US.

Internationally I was still a neophyte though, and Benny told me about his unbelievable travels over the past 7 years. He’d been to something like 35 countries at that point, backpacking through Europe and North Africa for nearly a year when he was 21.

This was the roundabout way he’d become our roommate, via poor directions and a deceptively named hostel/brothel called “The Heart of Amsterdam” wherein he met fellow Boiler Clint Misamore, both of whom had hoped to be in bed at somewhere OTHER than a brothel.

I was amazed that someone could do that. Vacations in the US were nearly always under 2 weeks, with the majority of one’s 15 days being spent on obligatory holidays, weddings, and funerals. I never envisioned time during my career to go travel for long stretches like Ben had.

It was interesting to discuss, but this was the life of someone else. I was a trader, and traders had to be trading. A week here and there might be taken off, but there was no possibility of taking a massive hiatus and expecting a job when I returned.

Fast forward 3 years, and I have since traveled to 5 continents and 18 countries. Ben and I as of 7PM local time on July 31, 2015, had joined the 5 continent club, having seen North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America together. Not bad considering we live on opposite sides of the world most of the time.

Ben taught me that there is no such thing as the “way.” There are only goals and the motivation to achieve them.

Every choice leads somewhere.

One day I decided the path I was on would only lead to a life that I was unhappy with, so I jumped off, and emailed Ben the following subject line:

“Quit my job. Need an adventure. Call when you can.”

Ben called within 12 hours from the other side of the world and within 14 days, I was en route to Perth with a backpack and little else.

That took me on the trip of a lifetime, and totally refocused my perspective from one driven by money and the status afforded it, to a life view focused on where I wanted to do legitimate good in the world.

It was a choice that would take me to a bamboo railroad in Laos, a yacht in the Whitsundays, an elephant camp in Thailand, and countless sleeper busses in between.

Ben Harrison was an engineer.

He was a network sustainability engineer. Ben saw the world as a treat to be consumed, and he found that the most efficient way to do that was by becoming an asset to an ever-expanding network of friends in different time zones.

Millions of people have connected at an event thrown by Ben Harrison over the past 20 years. From promoting underage clubs in Melbourne as a high schooler to the DJ booth at the world-famous Pacha in Ibiza and hundreds of temporary stages in grassy fields around the world.

Ben designed spaces and experiences where people wanted to find themselves.

Ben found plenty of connections as the keyhole for the parties he threw, but his never-ending craving for authenticity drove him to connect with people whenever they came within shouting distance of that tinny, Aussie rasp of his.

It was Richard, the Shakespeare of enlightened profanity cab driver in Perth.

It was Hein smiling through broken English as Benny tried in vain to discern a particular point of emphasis as we cooked the stuffed squid roles in Vietnam.

It was Gomez, a broke 18-year-old kid trying to make it in the music business in NYC that Benny brought along like a little brother.

It was Ariana or Nat or any of the other broken women who found an unexpected side in Benny. One that mended her broken wing and shared the security and affirming rush of initial intimacy…only to be put back out to fly with a smile and a lifelong friend and the knowledge that it could never be permanent.

Ben had an endless heart for people he “rated.” He had a tight list of Aussie insults for those who didn’t. This discernment was important because from Ibiza to Melbourne to Tulum to Tunis, Benny had a friend. I’d be surprised if the Council on Foreign Relations could activate boots on the ground so quickly in so many places.

Benny had a guy or a “bird” for everything. And as soon as they answered the phone, they started smiling as he asked, “How ya goin’?” He’d ask whatever was on his mind, say “great, I’ll connect you” and tell you to call the next time you were in XYZ.

Even if he’d called someone who couldn’t help, they’d always pass him along to a friend who could, because it was almost impossible to not want to help Benny. You could vouch for Ben because he was a professional vagabond, who drank champagne next to the grapes and every place it would ever be shipped. That is a widely sought-after profession that very few outside of English nobility enjoy. Ben was a gentleman in very specific ways, and his complex moral compass, while difficult to decipher, never, ever deviated. So long as you understood it, you could take it to the bank.

Ben was the most frustratingly selfish human being on earth. His personality was so big, that as colorful as I am, I was merely grey wallpaper in many rooms where the Benny Show found an audience.

Whether it was the $800 bottle of champagne that he ordered that you’d be expected to split or the plans that he’d unilaterally change if he met a couple of girls who wanted to join…or his utter intractability once his mind was made up, no one ever called life with Ben easy.

I’m sure Nigel and Kerry would say he was an absolute nightmare to raise. If there was a teacher in his entire academic career who had something nice to say about him, I’d be surprised.

He could be a little bit like the sun, life-giving when you need it and oppressive if you can’t escape it.

He lived fast and hard. But whether he’d lived another 2 weeks or 40 years, I am certain that he could not have died more peace with the life he lived.

Life was to be lived today, not in some indefinite future.

He did it his way and he let me come along. Ben Harrison taught me how to love the world as no one else ever could. Taught me that life is a magnificent set of possibilities for those who are free. Showed me that it is possible to be unapologetically yourself.

There were many lessons Benny couldn’t teach, but there were some that ONLY he could teach. I was truly blessed to have that hairy, Lebanese incarnation of Krishna show me the entire world of possibilities residing underneath his breastplate and mine if only we’ll get amongst it.

I’ll miss Ben for the rest of my life. He wasn’t constituted for middle age, so he shoved an entire lifetime into half of it, and lived knowing that he’d maximized every day he was given.

It’ll be hard to not have him randomly call from literally anywhere on the globe, talk about the Bombers latest defeat, some liquor rep screwing something up, and where he’ll be next month.

To know that I became the sole living memory of our experiences across 5 continents together is hard. Memory is only original so long as it is shared. Absent that, it is only a replica, with all of the defects, both subtle and substantial, that make a replica inferior to the original. The entire course of my life changed in the company of Benny.

It never would’ve happened had I not gone through a miserable night in a trash pile of an apartment, unloading three beds, couches and everything else up a 1.5 floor walkup.

It wouldn’t have happened if I’d merely laughed when Ben told me that a lifestyle of travel and freedom was possible for anyone, not just the lucky lot in music.

It never would’ve happened if one day I looked in the mirror and said, “the money isn’t worth losing your soul. Do something different or you’ll never achieve a goal worth a tinker’s piss.”

Here’s to two roads and choosing the one less traveled by.

It has made all the difference.

Thank you Ben. I’ll miss you brother.

All Blues in Byron

Byron Blues and Roots was a fantastic 5 day festival. The lineup was absolutely incredible, and it was a total bonus on this trip. Ben got a Facebook message offering him VIP tickets when we were in Perth, looks over at me and said,

“Hey, what do you think about doing Byron Blues and Roots? Only cost is accom.”

Keeping in the spirit of the trip, I just said yes.

Getting the chance to see Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Jr. and the Doobie Brothers at the same venue as John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews Band and John Butler Trio wasn’t something I was planning on passing up. The only problem with this festival was that there were too many artists we wanted to see in 5 days.

The weather was perfect (for the first time in 5 years from what we were told) and the music was amazing. The festival is intended to hold 35,000-40,000 people or so a day, and being the 25th anniversary it was sold out for at least 3 of the days.


The festival itself was on a specifically designed site. A local businessman bought a tea farm about 7 miles outside of Byron Bay and excavated everything perfectly for a huge festival venue. From the culverts to the stage location, everything about this location was designed with this purpose in mind. About 60% of people camp at this festival, so you’re looking at another 20,000+ campsites plotted out as well.

The music was spectacular. From John Mayer being ripped out of his mind, singing jumbled up “dream songs” in between his hits, to John Butler Trio having 30k people sing “Betterman” we couldn’t have asked for a more outstanding musical performance.

Before arriving, we jotted down ten moments in the festival that we were particularly excited to see. At least one of us made one of them.

1. Jack Johnson- Flake



2. John Butler Trio- Better Man
3. Matt Corby- Souls A’fire
4. Buddy Guy – Sweet Home Chicago (my personal highlight of the week)

Sweet Home Chicago

Sweet Home Chicago

5. John Mayer- Who Says

John Mayer, telling 20k people about his "dream songs"

John Mayer, telling 20k people about his “dream songs”

6. Dave Matthews Band- Space Between

The Space Between

The Space Between

7. Erykah Badu- I Want You
8. India.Arie- Video


9. Gary Clark Jr.- Bright Lights
10. Chali 2na- Comin’ Thru

If anyone is a guitar fan and has a chance to see Gary Clark Jr., for the love of all that is holy go do it. He is an absolute legend with a guitar in his hands, and it is a truly incredible thing to see him go nuts.

Bright Lights

Bright Lights

Past that, we were pretty pleased with everyone’s performance. It was my first DMB concert, and I was impressed, if not obsessed with them. Great act, just not sure what the absurd cult-like following is about.

All and all, couldn’t be happier with the 5 days in Byron. More on the actual town to follow.

Leaving Paradise

I suppose if I set up permanent camp this quickly into the trip, the Moorman Conquest would have to rechristen itself the Moorman Siege. It almost happened with Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays. Rarely if ever have I been to a place more beautiful and untouched by human hands, and that beauty truly spoke to my soul.

After riding out the hurricane on Sunday, we piled into the boat and commandeered a mile of totally untouched beach on Monday. Seeing no one for miles on a perfectly white beach with sand so fine that you could buff the face of your watch was a nearly surreal experience.


We set up camp with a huge spread of food, drink and sporting equipment. Between biscuit (tube) rides behind the jet ski, snorkeling on the reef, a heated game of beach Foursquare, and a bunch of Aussies teaching me to how to properly kick a footy, we entertained ourselves for hours on this pristine coastline. I couldn’t believe that we had such beauty all to ourselves.




After that, we headed up to a lookout point over Whitehaven Beach. The tide was nearly completely out when we got there and there were hundreds of thousands of Soldier Crabs scurrying about looking for a meal before the waters came rushing back in. Seeing these palm sized crabs in such staggering numbers was a sight in itself, but then we got to the lookout point and got a better perspective on the enormity of the Whitsunday Island chain.

Uninhabited islands abounded in the area, from small hard spits of land no bigger than a semi-trailer, to massive miles long islands jealously keeping wildlife and waterfalls underneath a lush green canopy of deciduous and coniferous trees, there is a biological diversity that few areas can match.

Tuesday night, we celebrated my 27th birthday with a phenomenal Greek dinner of zucchini fries, mudcrab and lamb chops. Nick once again outdid himself, making a feast that most professional chefs would be proud to call their handiwork. God also jumped in on the birthday celebrations, leaving a beautiful lunar eclipse to be viewed over the vibrant blues of the ocean. It was just one more reminder of the amazing beauty that abounds in our world.

Look up from that iPhone screen, you might see something breathtaking.

Put down the iPhone

Put down the iPhone

Wednesday afternoon, we left for the Gold Coast en route to Byron Bay for the Blues and Roots Festival. While I hope I someday see the Whitsundays again, as Frost so eloquently stated in his immortal poem, “The Road Not Taken”,

“Yet knowing how way leads onto way, I doubted if I should ever come back.”

I suppose I should be thankful that I took the road less taken to begin with. The twinge of regret on the road not taken would be nothing compared to having never seen the fork.

Upon arriving to the Goldie, as it is affectionately known, we were taken to yet another beach lookout, where the full moon illuminated a massive swath of dark water into a lighted southeasterly arrow. I took some time to glance at a few of the constellations that I’ve been trying to learn (I’ve got you now Gemini and Cancer) and took in the pounding of the massive waves. Our friend Brittney asked if I was sick of ocean scenes yet, and I laughed that after spending 22 years living in the midst of cornfields, it would take a whole lot more than 3 weeks in OZ to lessen my appreciation for a lungful of salt air and the rhythmic onslaught of waves on rocks.

We stayed with Ben’s grandmother in the Gold Coast, a wonderful woman of 78 who made me realize that whether in the US or OZ, grandmothers know no borders.

I can’t act as if I wasn’t jealous, seeing a grandmother interact with her eldest grandson as I had so many times with my own, but it made me again appreciate the 26 years that I got to spend with the sainted women that called me their grandson. As with my trip to paradise, all things end.

What we so often fail to realize in our own lives, whether a relationship, a job, or a friendship is that an end does not diminish the good that was. I think it is an important lesson to reflect upon.

After the Storm

Growing up in the midst of cornfields, my experience with hurricanes has been limited to watching Jim Cantore get blown all over Florida, and a dud of a hurricane named Irene while I was in NYC. Tropical Cyclone Ita was a bit of a dud as well. It wasted a full day blowing around palm trees and lashing everything with a deluge of water, but there was never a period where we felt the awe inspiring power that hurricanes can sometimes bring.

Tropical Cyclone Ita

Storm rolling in

Tropical Cyclone Ita

Waking up Monday morning, the sky was an unmarked crystalline blue. Aside from a few rangy clouds on the western horizon, there was no mark of yesterday’s storm. As I read my book on the balcony this morning, the sun poked out from behind the mountain on Hamilton Island and bathed the marina in a gentle light. Gorgeous is not an adequate word to describe the illuminated palate of blues and greens.

Marina the Day After

Birds were everywhere, singing and making up for lost time by eating anything and everything. A cockatoo played chicken with me this morning on the balcony. Lithe as a gymnast on a balance beam, the cream colored bird trapezed along the aluminum rail as if I was the intruder. He would sidle up next to me as I read, only to scurry further away if I paid him any mind. His talons on aluminum made a very distinct noise, keeping time as I flipped from page to page. Occasionally I would look up to see him pacing back and forth, throwing up his neon mohawk whenever I took a few steps towards him.

Good Morning!

Part of the group is leaving today to head back to Melbourne, and the rest will be departing tomorrow. Even with the rain, we’ve had a good time drinking and feasting around the island. Nick seems to want to get out to the reef this week, so hopefully we’ll have time to get out about 50 nautical miles to see the heart of the Great Barrier Reef before Ben and I head down to Byron Bay for the Blues and Roots Festival.

Brisbane Hostel Life

After saying goodbye to Chad in Perth, Ben and I jumped on the overnight flight from Perth to Brisbane, landing at 5AM local time. Needless to say the 4 hour flight wasn’t the most conducive to sleeping, so we headed to the hostel to try to catch a few hours worth of Zzz’s.

Brisbane is a much more mature city than Perth, as evidenced by the architecture and city feel. In the oldest part of the city, streets are named after British Monarchs, with female streets running parallel one direction and males the other. When our waiter told us that at lunch, it definitely made navigation a ton easier.

Queen Victoria

Benny and I wandered down through the center of town, eating lunch near St. George square. Benny had a quick errand to run for some paperwork at the Medicare office, so I got a quick glance at completely socialized medicine. It was in the middle of the shopping center, and run like a DMV. As far as efficiency goes, we were in and out in 10 minutes, so I considered it a win.

We met up with some people for dinner, eating at Breakfast Creek, one of the oldest continuously run establishments in Brisbane. Open for 125 years, it has a fair share of ghost stories, high water marks from floods, and a cracking good petit filet.

Brisbane at Night

The hostel we’re staying at is attached to a bar, which leads to some late night comedy that money can’t buy. Stumbling drunk Asian guys hitting on standoffish British girls, the three angry looking German dudes standoffishly bogartting a corner, two dreadlocked hippies dancing in their own little world and everyone’s favorite, the selfie snapping American girl up from her study abroad program in Sydney.

The best thing about hostel life is that there is no social order going into an evening, so everyone just tosses themselves together with reckless abandon, and sees where the night is going to take them. Tomorrow there will be a whole new crew. Hilarity inevitably ensues.

Heading to Hamilton Island tomorrow en route to the Whitsundays. Looks like Tropical Storm Ita is going to be heading considerably north of us, so we won’t have to worry about that while we’re out on the boat. Internet will be scarce, so it might be a bit before the next post, but it will be full of pictures from the Great Barrier Reef.

The Conquest Witnesses Footy

We’re winding our time down in Perth and leaving for Brisbane tonight at 10:45 PM. We’ve had a great time here in Perth for the last 10 days. The people have been stunningly accommodating at every turn and staying with Chad has really given us the local flavor of the place.

The last couple days were spent running around Perth, from the outstanding weekend market to my first footy game which morphed into a late night out in Mount Lawley.

After we got going on Saturday morning, Chad took us 3 blocks from his flat to the Subiaco Market, which is a combination farmers market/international food fair. The food was fantastic and completely ethnic. There was a huge paella stand next to a Greek souvlaki place. Just down the row from them were two competing Indian vendors who were staring at a Vietnamese joint which shared a wall with a Turkish shop. I ate paella on Saturday and got a sampler from the Exotiful African Food stand on Sunday. When I asked Ben if he wanted me to get him anything, he said a club sandwich or something easy. The closest thing I found was a handmade Turkish diced chicken pocket. Standard food was no where to be seen. Turkish Stand

Turkish Stand

The place was completely bustling both days I was in there. There is also a huge fresh fruit and vegetable stand next to a fresh fish monger.

Subiaco Fresh Market

The whole scene was alive with color, chattering masses and some crooning Aussies covering Johnny and June Cash’s hit “Jackson.” It seemed that nothing made sense, but it was so haphazard that nothing seemed out of place either. All and all a great experience, which properly summed up the Australian culture as a nation of immigrants.Exotiful African Food

After the market, we met up with Ben’s Perth counterpart at Future Music, and had a few pints before heading to the footy game. The neighborhood around Patterson grounds isn’t exactly Wrigleyville, but all the pubs were jam packed with Eagles (West Coast) supporters prior to the game. The girls were sitting in the box for one of the big newspapers, while Benny and I were sitting in some seats arranged by Chad.

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

West Coast vs. St. Kilda

We weren’t expecting much, as St. Kilda were 58.5 dogs and 13:1 to win. However, the Saints gave it a real smashing effort in the early going, which helped keep us interested in the game. I was still fascinated that a sport that attracts 40k+ people 26 games a year is virtually unknown outside of Australia.

After the game we had a little vinyl party pre-game with our newly fixed record player. I think I might have to invest in one when I get home and settled. Quite a different sound than the digital we’ve gotten used to, and people seem absolutely fascinated by the things. After that Ben and I headed up to Mount Lawley with Sarah and Kate, where we had a good night and met up with some other people from the music industry.

Sarah is actually a top PR person for Western Australia tourism, so it was very interesting to hear her perspective on both the perceptions and reality of tourism in this part of the country. Most Americans tend to head to the east coast of Australia when they come down on holiday, so WA has made a big push into trying to capture part of that market. From what I’ve seen, they shouldn’t have too much of a problem attracting visitors. It is truly a beautiful and vibrant part of the world. She told me about a NYTimes article comparing Perth to Williamsburg in Brooklyn. She took it to be a compliment, which in some circles, I’m sure it is.

Yesterday was reserved for taking it easy on Cottesloe Beach and watching Essendon beat down on Carlton in the late afternoon footy game. Cottesloe was a gorgeous beach, which appears to be a real hot spot for kiteboarding. The sky was full of kites south of the break, and watching these guys go at it at pretty substantial rates of speed made me want to develop a new hobby. Kiteboarders off Cottesloe Beach

Benny and Chad went and punched it quite hard with some of Chad’s mates after the polo game, but I stayed in to catch up on some writing and sleep.

Brisbane tomorrow for a couple of days, then off to the Whitsundays, where we’ve heard that Tropical Cyclone Ita is going to come join us at least temporarily. We’ll keep an eye on it, but as of now it looks like it will be heading a decent bit north of us. Time will tell.

Well I’m sure everyone wants to get back to Game of Thrones so I’ll sign off. Next stop Brisbane!