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Any amount of time spent on media easily portrays a decline in social structures painting a bleak outlook for humanity and connection. We are encouraged to isolate ourselves and hide behind computers and our own inflated superiority complexes. Our modern technological conveniences have trapped us and we now communicate in cold, short comments or fluffy compliments, and sometimes it feels empty, perhaps even hopeless.  Fortunately, that is in part an illusion. It was funny man Rob Schneider who brilliantly told us, “If you turn off the news and just talk to your neighbors you’ll find that our great country is far more harmonious than you’re being told.”

I was reminded of this last February during the Denton Awanas Club Crawfish Boil at East Side. We have three children, one of whom is five, and at times it can be challenging going on outings with the kids. On this particular day, Jeff was working and I was on my own with the littles. The tables were filled and we were circulating for a spot. That’s when I met  Joe, a man who offered us his table, accompanied my son to get us waters and when our friends met us and we filled the table and I didn’t know what to do, he just quietly moved on without the slightest irritation. I felt so blessed in that interaction and reminded that we live in an exceptional community. It was at that moment that I was inspired to create this space to highlight this wonderful place where we live, and the beautiful people that make it so.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honored to feature Joe Brown as our first, Meet your neighbor.

Sitting Down with Joe back at East Side in the evening time on the heels of summer Jeff and I got to know him and learn more about Denton. Here are some highlights from that night out.

Jeff:  Where did you grow up? When did you move to Denton?

Joe: Growing up here {Lake Dallas} it was still very quaint. I was a kid then so I didn’t have maybe a full experience, I moved back to Denton sixteen years ago around 2002. At the time it was still very university driven as far as the social scene, and it all thrived around the square or Fry Street. The biggest change I’ve seen here is the community market, giving people an outlet for their art or to sell the vegetables that they’re growing… also, this set up here at East Side and what they are Doing at Oak Street Draft House, this convergence on this side of the Square has been huge as far as allowing a space for people our age to feel at home, not going out to college bars. So I don’t feel like a weirdo hanging out with a bunch of kids…This part of town has really grown with the high-end apartments and just an infusion of money and people.unnamed (9)

Stephanie: Is the attitude of service and giving a Texas thing? It just feels like it’s second nature to the people here.

Joe: The sense of community that you get from people that are just trying to make their way, and know what it is to receive a helping hand, Its a lot of where I stand politically We need to be helping people because it will make everybody better. We need to be helping those with the least, like especially without the sense of what am I going to get out of this, is how we make a better community. Having a community that is well educated and healthy means we can move on to different problems.

Stephanie: I’m laughing because you and I are pretty much on completely different scopes of the political spectrum but I know that our hearts are both so similar, and I love that we can move past those differences.

Joe:  Yeah there’s nothing wrong with these extremes in opinion as long as we can come back from it and meet back up in the middle. I have an entire community of friends that are marines that I served with and that I love, I would die for them, and they would die for me, even though at this point we have very little in common, because of this bond I cannot alienate them over disagreement, or for any reason. I respect them for their ideas even if in my mind they seem backward. These people have a piece of my heart and I theirs. There’s a guy who has a place for me in his arsenal if it hits the proverbial fan, there’s a portion of that arsenal that he has reserved for me if it all goes down, like he’s got a position for me in his armory, that’s a real thing.  And these are relationships that I’ll never be able to discount, and why should we? We should be embracing those differences.

Stephanie: One thing that is different for me in Texas, especially as a parent is how there is a lot of encouragement for kids to roughhouse, especially boys, but on the other hand I don’t see a lot of grown-ups acting poorly, So there is a balance something is happening in the right way that I find very unique…

Jeff: There’s something so beautiful in that too, Like how in Denton I can have some guy in a huge truck riding my tail and then I can turn the corner and see some dude wearing a keep Denton queer shirt. I like that people are just allowed to be themselves here even with differences. I’m a Gemini and I have different personalities, and that’s kind of what this means to me. Like, I love living in the heart of America, I love that red-blooded American idea sometimes, but I’ve also played in punk rock bands all my life and I enjoy the fringe of society too, like I like entropy but I also like stability and I have those two clashing sides to me and this town has that! I love that we live in the Bible belt now, This is the bible belt, right?

Joe: Yeah that idea that we want our guns and we want our weed and we want our prayer available everywhere… We are in the bible belt, I talk about how we’re in the giant Texas-shaped belt buckle of the bible belt it’s here, and at the same time we’re  also in one of the two most liberal areas in Texas, Denton and Austin are these blue spots in this sea of red and it’s one of those things that is kind of contradictory to what I’ve said already which is that I want a place that is more me but what keeps this place, this entire city culturally diverse like it is all of this. And we have two major universities keeping this town invigorated with young people in their prime that are wanting to have a good time they have expendable income, and time and energy … They’re still out here drinking and cussing and yelling at each other at three in the morning and it’s amazing. Then there’s that lull in the summertime when they all go away and the traffic becomes a lot friendlier calmer, it’s a real thing. Just a week after school lets out traffic dissipates its easier to get in and out of town during different times during the day, it becomes a non-issue in the summertime.unnamed (6)

 Jeff: Where Do you work?

Joe: I work over at Faded Blue now, It’s midcentury furniture, The guy that owns it, his name is Devon Drake, he’s a neat guy… He’s also branched into carrying dart supplies. So I play in a dart league, I’ve played in a dart league for about ten years.

Jeff: We are starting to love darts

Joe: Do You play at all?

Stephanie: Jeff is decent, I am not. We socially play

Joe: I got into it years ago through my friend Philippe “Pip” Becerra, he’s this amazing person. His mom is an English immigrant and his dad is a Mexican immigrant that were both worked for the U.S. state department They’ve got these kids who are just some of the greatest human beings I’ve ever known. Pip, went to high school in Azerbaijan, he’s just like beyond worldly. With his English background, his mom’s English background he played darts, I’d never done it and he taught me everything I needed to know in a couple days and we’ve been on the same dart team for going on ten years now. Cobra Kai dart club the whole idea behind that was the guy that was captain at the time liked the idea of playing as the bad guys, he always rooted for the bad guy, like he preferred Darth Vader and the dark side of the force, and people talk about how they love to play us because they love the chance to beat the bad guys.  We always play with this attitude that we will cheer on the other team, like we have a no mercy sweep the leg attitude while we’re playing but we bring that with a smile and we walk away at the end of the night hugging and laughing and buying the other team shots and all that goes along with that .

For the longest time the only place in town to buy dart supplies was Dusty’s but now, Faded Blue is carrying a large selection of supplies from like 25.00 to 150.00.  So our Team started playing at the Loophole, But then like five years ago when they went through and did the refurbish and change the menu they took away our dart pit and turned into the couch and sitting area they have in there now. So we moved off the Square to Two Charlies, who is the same owners, but the vibe is different. The loophole pit was totally unique because you would walk up the stairs and then down into the pit, So we had a home-field advantage because our team was used to playing that small space. So since they revamped they took away the free shot at the end of the night and moved the space upstairs, the beer price went up, that sort of thing…

Jeff: Yeah when my band used to play in Denver,  back in the day they venues would give us free drinks and pay us even if no one showed up, and then after a while they would get hip to it, and be like “So you can no longer drink for free, and we can’t afford to pay you…”

Joe: J&J’s used to be like that too, It used to be they would pay you to play there, and give you free food and free drinks…. Then they started only giving bands Schlitz as the free beer.., I mean they’d give you all the Schlitz you could drink all night long but it’s still Schlitz. There doing some venue things there still but not really too much anymore. Venue-wise the nicest venue in town, I believe is Harvest House. If you get in you’re going to have a good site line from in there for sure.

Stephanie: I like Harvest House, I’m super excited to go to more shows around here and meet and feature musicians and bands.

Joe: I can definitely help with that…

Stephanie: I’m so glad that we’ve met you, I hope you will continue to be part of this project in different capacities.

Joe: For Sure

Stephanie: It’s hilarious because all of this is so new to us, and when I tried to explain my idea for a basic meet your neighbor’s page Jeff was like “um, so we’re going to interview some dude you met at Eastside?”, and now I get to watch you guys totally bro down. You know how it is, Jeff is totally socially awkward.

Joe: I get it, I have some social anxiety that surrounds leaving my house, but after I’m out I’m totally fine.

Stephanie: Me too! That’s one the reasons I started taking and Selling Plexus, I’m not experiencing that anymore, I’m like a completely different person then I was in May

Joe: That’s great, That kind of goes along with the idea of doing what you can to be your best self, and live your best life.

Stephanie: totally

Jeff: So Joe, Tell us a little more about why You’ve chosen Denton as your home…

Stephanie: Well he grew up in Lake Dallas

Jeff: yeah but there’s like a purposeful reason that he lives here..

Joe: So Yeah, I was born in Dallas, Grew up in Lake Dallas, did my general schooling in Lake Dallas, then I got a Theatre Scholarship to Lindenwood University In St Louis Missouri, for a couple years, Fell in love with a girl, who kind of broke my heart, SO I left there in a haze then I joined the Marine Core in Addison, did four years in the Marines, and two years in Austin in the reserves, and then came back here.

Jeff: So what is about here that drew you back?

Stephanie: So I feel like you are an intentional human being and out of all the places you can live, I know there is a reason that you’ve chosen here.

Joe: For sure, for sure… Well I’ve finally found something that I really love to do, I work for a production company in Dallas, there are a lot of opportunities and in Ft Worth for what we do, we’re a party band,  so we are doing a lot in those areas, so what I really love about here is the serenity. I can walk from where I live down to a dozen places that my people are at. My tribe, my family my community…

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Stephanie: That’s awesome. I get that vibe here for sure… I want to hear about some of your favorites… What is your favorite local restaurant?

Joe: Right Now? So It changes pretty frequently but, right now my regular favorite place that I go regularly is called Sangam, It’s an Indian restaurant up on University…

Jeff: What’s your favorite Dish there?

Joe: It’s a buffet, I go for their lunch’s 9.99 from 11-3, that’s my go to

Stephanie: what are your words of wisdom?

Joe: Well I think the biggest thing, and someone pointed this out to me, that I say this a lot, and I really mean it, is that, I’m here to help.

Jeff: That’s how you two met

Joe: Yeah, yeah I mean I want to help people, I don’t ever want anyone to be afraid to ever ask me for something

Jeff: Ok so Now I need to know something else,

Joe: what?

Jeff:  Favorite movie?

Stephanie: Yes!

Joe: Oh wow, okay, umm top 3?

Jeff: ok

Joe: Ok, Young Frankenstein has to be up there, Boondock Saints, and True Romance

Stephanie: I knew You were going to say True Romance! That’s in my top list too!

Jeff: That and Paddington,

Stephanie:  Paddington 2!

Joe: I gotta throw in Princess Bride, The Dark Crystal, anything with Jim Henson really…

Stephanie: Yes! We love Joe!

The conversation went on like this for a while, It got deep it got awesome, it lasted three hours, and there is no way possible we could ever really illustrate how truly wonderful this man is. Denton You are our people, and we are honored to walk among you.  I’d like to thank Joe for his contribution to How Do You Denton, as he is the inspiration for this project, in the hope that it will our community together in the way that Joe does by his ideas of being there for each other.  We look forward to many more beers for years to come with Joe!


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