"Share Your World" takes us to Virginia where we find Eddie Gonzalez! Every interview thus far has given me insight into the person being highlighted. This is the first that has given me a glimpse not just into their world, but how they want to impact the world. As I was putting this interview together I found myself going through his Twitter timeline (for vetting purposes, of course) and being all, "ohh" and "hmm" and "well, I'll be".
Okay, what say we get down to the meat and potatoes?
KD: So first, let's dial in the icebreaker. Say you were on the world stage, give us an overall scope of what makes you the Eddie people know and love - or like, at the very least.
Eddie Gonzalez: My short summary: I grew up in Texas with my mother and brother right near the Mexican border almost as far south as you can go in the state. It was a great place to grow up. We were a lower income mom (as a single parent) household. We never took fancy vacations, but we always had a house and food on the table. I worked at a restaurant each summer to earn money for school clothes and to help my mom. I excelled in school and always knew college was my ticket out of my hometown. Most of my school either went to a local community college or one of the many Texas state schools. I decided to go to school out of state as my way of seeing the world. I got into Brown and spent four years in Rhode Island. I couldn’t afford to go home during the holidays so I would visit friends in the area for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring breaks, or stay on campus and water everyone’s plants. It was eye-opening visiting with friends at their homes and seeing how they grew up.
KD: You had me at Rhode Island. That state is on my travel wish list. What do you do for relaxation?
Eddie Gonzalez: I love cooking, and watching movies. I also decompress by driving around in my Jeep listening to tunes. I’m happiest when I’m outside in nature, especially if I’m on the water. I love camping, hiking, and kayaking. I also love traveling to new places to meet new people and see new things. Scuba diving is my passion and I travel to South Florida and the Caribbean a lot to dive. The salt life calls to me. Put me on a boat or a kayak and I’m in heaven.
I also love cooking and grilling. Back in 2014, I started a boutique spice company selling my own personal blends of seasonings. They are all blends I use. In a weird way, I relax from my day job by putting time and effort into my spice company. I get energized by tapping into my entrepreneurial spirit.
KD: Your own personal spices? Next time you host a shindig, give me a shout-out, I'll catch a flight! Speaking of shout-outs, send one out to your corner of the world by telling me the best thing about your neck of the woods.
Eddie Gonzalez: I’ve lived in the Washington, DC area since 1994. I like being close to the city but living across the river in Alexandria, Virginia. Even after 25 years, I still get a thrill from seeing the monuments and museums and motorcades. When you live in DC, you feel like you are living history in real time. One of my favorite drives is the loop down to Mount Vernon on the George Washington National Parkway. It flanks the Potomac River. Being around so much history and natural landscapes is amazing. There are a lot of forts and battlefields to visit. You really get a sense of what it took to create and maintain our country when you live here.
The other good thing about the area is that if you drive 30 minutes in any direction you are in the country. The area is surrounded by mountains, beaches, rivers, and lakes. Lots of outdoor activities. Whether you are a city person or a country person, the DC area has something for you.
KD: "You are living history in real time." I like that! Okay, one sentence parenting advice. What ya got?
Eddie Gonzalez: Your kids are a mirror of yourself. They are a product of the time, attention, and effort you give them. If you want them to be confident, be confident around them. If you want them to be empathetic, let them see what empathy looks like.
KD: I mean, technically that's four sentences, but it's good advice for parents, so we're gonna run with it. What got you into the world of conservation?
Eddie Gonzalez: When I was in high school, I had an epiphany. In a discussion about the planet during biology class, we began discussing environmental efforts like clean air and clean water. Humans were at the center of those movements. I remember saying, “It’s not an environmental movement, it’s a humanist movement.” That got my mind racing. To truly protect and preserve the planet, we needed to look at a scale far beyond the human species. Fortunately, we now know so much more about indicator species, apex predators, ecosystems services, climate change, anthropogenic impact, and other global processes. Conservation goes well beyond keeping the planet habitable for us. It is preserving and protecting all the gifts that exist on this planet.
KD: The beginnings of a good origin story. I like that. So this one is a three-parter. What genre of music/movies &shows/reading do you listen to/watch/read more than others?
Eddie Gonzalez: Music - I have two go-to tastes: country music and EDM. I grew up in a rural part of Texas so country music provides me with familiar tunes and stories. So many of the experiences in country music speak to me. As for EDM, there is something about the beat and the rhythm that zings the soul. Some folks don’t know that Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) is a EDM DJ. When asked why he likes the genre, he said it gives him the “adrenaline” his missed since retiring. It’s true, the crescendos and drops lift your spirit in ways only EDM can. It’s a weird juxtaposition against country music, but both leave me energized.
Movies & shows - My main genres of movies are science fiction, fantasy, and action movies, whether blockbusters or unknown gems. With so many streaming options, it is so easy to discover little-known, but amazing movies, and keep up with first-run movies. My daughter and I alternate choosing movies on movie night. It’s fun comparing our tastes. I smile when I pick a movie she really likes. We’ve also gone back and watched a lot of the old 80’s and 90’s movies of my youth.
Reading - Most of my reading involves online reports and articles. I love learning new things and daily find myself clicking on various LinkedIn articles or Twitter threads posted by people I respect in areas that interest me. Keeping up to date on the latest trends can be a challenge, but the diversity of information mediums available make it easier.
KD: Coffee, tea, or...?
Eddie Gonzalez: I enjoy coffee after a good meal. It is a great way to clear the pallet of the flavors from the meal and helps you focus on the memory of the tastes, textures, and scents you just had.
For daily drinking, though, I am #TeamTea. I had a chance to visit Egypt and Jordan a few months ago for my 50th birthday. Aside from all the people and places, one of my favorite parts was being served tea wherever we went. Whether on a boat crossing the Nile to visit a Nubian village, or visiting Bedouins in deserts of Jordan, or shopping for spices in downtown Cairo, tea-service was always part of our welcome.
KD: Proof that tea and coffee can co-exist in peace. Your Twitter profile mentions scuba. Can you tell me about a "wow" moment you experienced while scuba diving?
Eddie Gonzalez: I’ve been scuba diving since 1999. Since then, I’ve seen an incredible assortment of coral reefs, marine animals, and shipwrecks - from French Polynesia to the Caribbean. A whale shark in Cuba, the sand tiger sharks of North Carolina, the corals of Bonaire, and diving a volcanic crater in Maui that stretches thousands of feet to the ocean floor are highlights. However, my greatest “wow” moment was when my daughter got her Junior Open Water scuba certification at age 12. She breezed through her coursework and passed her exams with ease. I was a very proud dad and love having her as a dive buddy. We took our first trip to Key Largo in 2019 but had to wait until last summer before being able to get underwater again. Covid has limited our diving options. We hope to get back underwater soon.
KD: I had a "wow" moment just reading those wonderful experiences! Okay, so how would you describe yourself as far as personality and character?
Eddie Gonzales: I can be pretty high-strung when it comes to my work and my projects. I’m a planner who likes to know the big picture and the details. Personally, though, I try to be a lot more laid back. My daughter helps keep me balanced by reminding me that family is important. Spending time with her slows me down and helps me maintain a healthy quality of life.
KD: And how do you think your friends would describe you?
Eddie Gonzalez: My friends would describe me as an idealist. I’ve always worked for nonprofits focused on science, education, or conservation. My commitment to those areas also frame my personal interests in life. I like learning and sharing things about our world. I’m also a natural teacher. I like helping others understand the world around us and what it takes to preserve and protect it. When my friends think of someone who lives in service to others, I hope they think about me.
KD: Where do you land on the introvert - extrovert scale?
Eddie Gonzalez: I’m right at the introvert/extrovert transition. I’m much more extroverted professionally. Since I’m usually doing mission-oriented work, I’m always looking for new audiences or partnerships or networks that can enhance my work. I go out of my way to connect to individuals and programs that contribute to my portfolio to achieve impact. I can usually keep the energy level going as long as I’m in work mode. Once I’m home, or among friends, I tend to slow down. The extroverted part takes a lot of energy to maintain that I replenish in my personal time. I’m very happy by myself at home or cruising in my Jeep or paddling in my kayak or hiking on a trail.
KD: I see how you use Twitter, or at least I think I do. How active are you on social media as a whole?
Eddie Gonzalez: I’m pretty active on social media but use each differently. Instagram is useful to cultivate a global audience for my food or travel based posts. Facebook is a great way of keeping my circle of family and friends informed about my life and my interests. LinkedIn helps me keep up on subject matter experts, programs, and organizations representing my various professional interests. And Twitter serves as my newspaper. It lets me separate myself into my different personas and curate relevant follows and topics. I have a Twitter account for Apothecary Spices (@apothecaryspice) to keep up on food related topics, Scuba Diplomacy (@scubadiplomacy) to track scuba and travel related news, and my personal account (@rubrics4life) for personal interests like politics, archeology, spiders, bats, space, and everything else. I hope to use YouTube more to promote my spices by posting more cooking videos, but for now, I view - but don’t post.
KD: Seems whenever I interview someone and they mention Instagram, I'm reminded that I still need to do something with my Instagram account. Then I see a squirrel outside my window. Of course, that makes me think about wanting a white ferret (naturally). But what would be a good name for a white ferret? Dilly-Dilly, perhaps? Maybe, sure, but what if...well...nevermind. What, to you, is the greatest aspect of America?
Eddie Gonzalez: The greatest aspect of America is the diversity of geography and cultures she represents. I’ve been fortunate to have visited 49 of the 50 states. (Alaska was 48 and Hawaii was 49. Idaho continues to allude me.) Each state has its own vibe made up of different people, cultures, and histories. State pride is amazing to witness. The variety of foods, attractions, and experiences across this great country will blow your mind.
KD: That ever elusive Idaho. I mean, now ya gotta go just so you can hit that 50! What do you feel is the greatest issue facing America today?
Eddie Gonzalez: The greatest issue facing America is our inability to address systemic issues. Whether homelessness, access to affordable healthcare, veteran support, criminal justice reform, sustainable development, fair business practices, etc. we’ve lost the ability to create balanced systems that benefit everyone. Instead, we focus on mitigating the byproducts of that imbalance through social program after social program. We are only as strong as our weakest link and our weakest link is fast becoming the whole chain.
KD: I can understand and respect that. Name something you wish you would have known or learned way earlier than you did?
Eddie Gonzalez: I wish I had learned how to invest earlier in my life. Growing up, most folks I knew lived off social security when they retired. No one in my family had a retirement account or any sort of investments. Once I graduated and started working, I had no sense of how to establish and contribute to my personal retirement. I lost about 15 years of investing before finally figuring it out. Now that I’m 50, I continue to feel like I’m still catching up.
KD: You just echoed my sentiment as reasons I started delving more into investing. Pet peeve?
Eddie Gonzalez: My pet peeve is having to continuously update the various applications/operating systems on my work computer/home computer/tablet/phone/smartTV. It’s worse when the update makes older hardware unusable because the upgrade exceeds the hardware’s capabilities. You end up having to replace it in order to maintain any sense of efficiency and reliability. It’s maddening. Let’s normalize electronics that can last for more than 2 years.
KD: I've been holding on to the same cell phone for almost five years just for that reason. What was your biggest accomplishment of 2021? What's a goal you have for 2022?
Eddie Gonzalez: My biggest accomplishment of 2021 was to reconfigure the branding and marketing of my spices. It has opened me up to more potential markets and customers.
My goal for 2022 is continue to expand my spice company. I also just recently joined the board of the Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a local DC-based nonprofit that supports Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, a unit of the National Park Service. I’ve spent my career helping nonprofits advance conversation and education goals. I’ll get to use that experience to help a local natural and cultural icon.
KD: What's an unpopular opinion you stand by?
Eddie Gonzalez: I LOVE ham and pineapple pizza. I had it for the first time as a freshman in college at one of our local snack bars. (It wasn’t a pizza. It was a calzone.) I grew up in South Texas but went to college in Rhode Island. That exposed me to a lot of new foods. I hadn’t had a calzone before, and I had never heard of putting pineapple on pizza (or calzone). My mind was blown. That experience reminded me that there was a lot I didn’t know about the world.
KD: Pineapple on pizza? Sacrilege! Sigh...anyway...what are things that you wouldn't mind others knowing about you and your world?
Eddie Gonzalez: In addition to my spice company, I started a travel company called Scuba Diplomacy. The goal is to use scuba diving as a way of exploring other cultures. Prior to the pandemic, we were leading annual trips to Cuba working with a local conservation organization. We had just expanded by adding a trip to the Galapagos Islands, then COVID hit. We haven’t been able to run any trips since then and likely won’t in 2022, either. We hope to be back on the road in 2023.
KD: You, my friend, are a true entrepreneur. If peeps wanted to reach out and connect, what would be a preferred method?
Eddie Gonzalez: Email - Gonzalez.email@example.com.
Instagram - diver.spiceblender.
KD: I put your social media accounts as a link to make it easier for people to get at you. Time for a plug! Got a business, project, or website you'd like to promote?
Eddie Gonzalez: www.apothecaryspices.com
KD: Thank you for being a part of my "Share Your World" series. I can honestly say I learned a thing or two. That alone made this worth it. I'll see ya around Twitter!
My thanks to Eddie Gonzalez for sharing his world with me...with us. And, as before, my thanks to you, the reader, for engaging in this series! I really truly can't thank you enough!
I dunno, I guess my thing is this - with so much division in this world, maybe the key to at least some semblance of unity is to try to understand each other. Learn a bit more about each other. Perhaps that starts with sharing just a bit of our world with each other? Maybe, maybe not. But let's at least give it a shot, shall we?