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How long have you been driving for Uber? Just for a little while. I’m actually a musician. But my tour got cancelled. Why’s that? ... I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this... **** The first time I spoke with Trey Pearson was through a rearview mirror. I’ve made it a habit—a pretty natural [...]
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How long have you been driving for Uber?

Just for a little while. I’m actually a musician. But my tour got cancelled.

Why’s that?

… I’m not sure why I’m telling you all this…

****

The first time I spoke with Trey Pearson was through a rearview mirror.

I’ve made it a habit—a pretty natural one as a storyteller—of chatting up my drivers since Uber took over the city’s social bus driver role, and there’s been plenty to dig into. The retired Air Force officer who smelled like Drakkar Noir. The catering chef who let me sing Lauryn Hill songs with her on my birthday. The out-of-town cop making weekend money to stash away for his daughter’s college fund. None stuck with me the way Trey did.
Just a few minutes before I departed for some assorted happy hour, Trey, arching his neck and speaking once more into the rearview, said something that bounced around in my head for the rest of the night, and to be honest, for several months after:
“I’m gay, and one of the only people who knows is my wife.”
On the balance, a story of a man coming to terms with his sexuality and coming out of the closet is no bombshell, especially not in a progressive city such as Columbus—but Trey wasn’t just a musician—he was a bona fide rock star.

Since 1997, he’s been the core of Everyday Sunday, a highly successful alternative outfit who’s sold hundreds of thousands of records, scored multiple #1 singles on the national radio charts, toured all 50 states and 20 countries, and signed to a reputable label in Nashville.

A Christian label.

We’ve taken pride in the carefully curated stories that appear in (614) Magazine every month, but in some cases, the story chooses you. Over the next five months, Trey and I maintained contact, sometimes just to play arcade games or have a beer and watch the Cavs, both aware that we had been placed in each other’s path for a reason.

With me, Trey is not a rock star; he’s an articulate man in his early 30s, not only confronting his own sexuality and how it will affect his family, but also shedding part of a persona he’s been maintaining for almost two decades, on stage and off.

This is not a normal story. Trey and I decided to tell this story together, for him to come out not just to his family and a handful of friends, but to the masses—where he could become a model and mentor for thousands in his musical flock still searching for acceptance and clarity within their faith.
Days before this article was printed, he walked into my office, and through tears, read me a copy of the letter he carefully penned for those closest to him, his words fragile and bold at the same time; a declaration of freedom for a man trapped in a life that wasn’t fully his to lead.

Here in these pages are passages from that letter, backed with Trey’s own perspective on coming to terms with it all.

“Most of us reach at least one pivotal moment in our lives that better defines who we are. These last several months have been the hardest—but also have ended up being the most freeing months—of my life. To make an extremely long story short, I have come to be able to admit to myself, and to my family, that I am gay.”

TP: There is a weight that has been lifted, and I have never felt so free. I cannot even believe the joy and lightness I feel from being able to accept myself, and love myself, for who I truly am … but I have also lost some of the closest people in my life. I have felt betrayal by people I loved a lot, and cared so much about. I have had some church people act like the worst people I have ever experienced in my life. I have some people in my life who I have felt a shift in the way they love me, and the way they see me. I want to be loved for who I am, not in spite of who I am. I’m starting over in so many ways. It is freeing, but it’s also starting out lonely.

Trey Edits-7

Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

“I grew up in a very conservative Christian home where I was taught that my sexual orientation was a matter of choice, and had put all my faith into that. I had never before admitted to myself that I was gay, let alone to anyone else. I never wanted to be gay. I was scared of what God would think and what all of these people I loved would think about me; so it never was an option for me. I have been suppressing these attractions and feelings since adolescence.  I’ve tried my whole life to be straight. I married a girl, and I even have two beautiful little kids. My daughter, Liv, is six and my son, Beckham, is two.”

Part of me feels guilty about it. But I wouldn’t change it. So much of me has so much heartache that I couldn’t grow up loving myself for who I am. I could not accept myself. I was so scared that God would hate me. That all of the people I loved wouldn’t see me the same way. I couldn’t allow being gay to be an option. I just hoped and prayed, with everything in me, that I could just be straight—that I could be attracted to women, and that it would all work. I tried. I have two kids. I wouldn’t trade everything in the world for them. They are a huge part of how I have made it through all of this. They are everything to me.

“I had always romanticized the idea of falling in love with a woman; and having a family had always been my dream. In many ways, that dream has come true. But I have also come to realize a lot of time has passed in my life pushing away, blocking out and not dealing with real feelings going on inside of me. I have tried not to be gay for more than 20 years of my life. I found so much comfort as a teen in 1 Samuel 18-20 and the intimacy of Jonathan and David. I thought and hoped that such male intimacy could fulfill that void I felt in my desire for male companionship. I always thought if I could find these intimate friendships, then that would be enough.Then I thought everything would come naturally on my wedding night. I honestly had never even made out with a girl before I got married. Of course, it felt anything but natural for me. Trying not to be gay, has only led to a desire for intimacy in friendships, which pushed friends away, and it has resulted in a marriage where I couldn’t love or satisfy my wife in a way that she needed. When Lauren and I got married, I committed to loving her to the best of my ability, and I had the full intention of spending the rest of my life with her. Despite our best efforts, however, I have come to accept that there is nothing that is going to change who I am.”

Lauren… Lauren is a beautiful soul. I love her so much, and I am so grateful to have been able to see her grow the way she has. We were on a journey together, and she was always willing to follow me, in my journey of faith, questions and exploring. I think we have both grown so much in the last 10 years together, and being married for 7 and a half of those. And when I needed her in this, she was able to hug me, and cry, and tell me how proud of me she was for being able to be honest with myself. I knew then it didn’t matter what anyone else thought, or did to me. I knew then that I had been set free.

I am never going to be able to change how I am, and no matter how healthy our relationship becomes, it’s never going to change what I know deep down: that I am gay. Lauren has been the most supportive, understanding, loving and gracious person I could ever ask for, as I have come to face this. And now I am trying to figure out how to co-parent while being her friend, and how to raise our children.

I have progressed so much in my faith over these last several years. I think I needed to be able to affirm other gay people before I could ever accept it for myself. Likewise, I couldn’t expect others to accept me how I am until I could come to terms with it first.

I know I have a long way to go. But if this honesty with myself about who I am, and who I was made by God to be, doesn’t constitute as the peace that passes all understanding, then I don’t know what does. It is like this weight I have been carrying my whole life has been lifted from me, and I have never felt such freedom.

So many of us live in fear. Most of the time it is fear of what we don’t know or understand. As much as I love Jesus, it is hard to see white, male pastors instill this fear of ignorance—who won’t even have the humility to have the conversation, to try and understand, when they don’t realize how damaging what they are doing is for so many people. It’s so easy when you have never had to be the minority, or the oppressed, or haven’t had to know what it’s like to not be able to be who you are. Maybe it is your church, your family, or your culture where you live that keeps you living in fear. But it’s not honest. That’s what creates the bubble so many people hate about church: the lack of honesty when it comes to questions about faith. The vast majority of people are tired of that. Faith can be a beautiful thing. But it has to start with honesty.

Trey Edits-22

Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

Part II – Looking Forward

How would you like to characterize what brought you to this moment? 

Being gay was never an option for me. I knew I had attractions. I knew how difficult it was for Lauren and me. But I never allowed myself to dwell on it. I knew I had a family, including my unbelievable kids. So I just had decided it was good enough, the way things were. I thought I could continue to find a way to make it work. I kept hoping it would get better, even though it had been seven and half years. Apparently, friends that I have been close to over the years have thought that I was gay, but no one ever talked to me about it. Think about that. No one has, lovingly, ever said, “Trey, do you think you might be gay”? That is part of what I mean by the lack of honesty so much of the church creates. It’s so taboo to talk about it. And we just think we were told it wasn’t natural, so we hope it just goes away.

I found one of your old tweets expressing sympathy over a gay teen telling her Christian parents they were gay. Years before your coming out, that part of your heart, does that play into why you feel a willingness to come out in such a public way? As a follow-up, do you think despite more overall acceptance and love toward the LGBTQ community within the Christian community there is still a dangerous level of rejection that can lead to self-harm, alcohol or drug abuse, etc.?

Part of it may stem from my own realization of how difficult my journey was going to be once I got married, but I honestly think it comes to deeper parts of my faith journey, my understanding of God and Jesus, that had allowed me to accept and affirm gay people as loved, children of God, made in God’s image, years ago. I know this is how God made me, and I am proud of who I am. I know there is nothing I can do to change it. Because I have worked through so many of these questions before accepting this for myself, I feel like it has made it that much easier for me to get through this, know that I am loved by God, and want to be a voice to tell others that they are as well. It feels like a calling. And it is the thing in our culture that must change, just like so many things have had to change before in culture, and in the church, from slavery to women’s rights … this is the pressing issue of our time. People commit suicide over this. People lose family and friends because of the ignorance, and lack of acceptance. I am a part of this, I have been a victim of this, and I will speak out for the equal rights of all people.

I also saw one of your quotes in another interview, where you reference a “system in place to sell albums [that] has a very narrow view of belief that they want to promote to their consumers.” Does this story and moving forward in your music give you a chance to change or affect that?

I don’t know. I never liked the formula of what record labels were looking for in the Christian music industry to sell albums. I feel like we always tried to be true to who we wanted to be. And I still want to do that. Be true to who I am, and what kind of music I want to do. I never wanted to just make music for Christians, or Christian radio, but I have always wanted to be honest in my music. A lot of being honest in my music is talking about my faith, but it’s also talking about all kinds of other things. I plan to continue to do all of that. I realize a lot of gate holders in that industry may want to never play my songs again, due to fear—but I also think the world is changing—and I think there are a lot of people out there that want to be a part of this conversation. So, wherever people are willing to listen to my music and my story, I will go.

Did any of these things ever find their way into your lyrics? Is that something you can reflect on now, whether you were trying to find some meaning between art, self, and church?

In these last several months, it is very interesting for me to go back and listen to my own lyrics on a lot of my songs. I can recognize my own pain and searching in many of the songs that very much have to do with what I am coming to accept in my own life now.

Do you worry about what the fans will say? How many among them do you think may be grappling with the same crisis of self and faith, whether to do with sexuality or not?

No. I think anyone who wants to get honest with themselves will be willing to listen and will try to understand. I think most people are grappling with the same crisis of self and faith. Most young people leave the church out of high school; a lot of these people you talk to will tell you about the god they were handed, that they can’t believe in. And when you hear the stories of the way they were taught to believe in God, you realize that’s not a god you could believe in either.

It’s been an intense six months for Trey Pearson. He is making room for “normal” life priorities—like finding time to see the new Captain America movie at the renovated Grandview Theatre down the street from his new place. Now, faced with a new life—in addition to being a single dad, facing a new romantic world—he’s working on a new album, and this month he’ll play one of the most meaningful shows of his life, headlining Columbus Pride. In the meantime, his faith continues to evolve, not unlike the letter he’s been writing and re-writing since coming to accept himself as a gay Christian man. The last few lines from his letter tell us that he, is beyond anything, hopeful

In sharing this publicly I’m taking another step into health and wholeness by accepting myself, and every part of me. It’s not only an idea for me that I’m gay; It’s my life. This is me being authentic and real with myself and other people. This is a part of who I am.

I hope people will hear my heart, and that I will still be loved. I’m still the same guy, with the same heart, who wants to love God and love people with everything I have. This is a part of me I have come to be able to accept, and now it is a part of me that you know as well. I trust God to help love do the rest.

I’m not worried. I’m free. I feel like there is nothing to hide, and there is nothing left to fear. No one can do anything to me, because I have experienced this freedom, and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world. I hope more and more people can find the freedom to be honest with me as I continue to tell my story.

Everyday Sunday will be headlining the 35th annual Columbus Pride Festival on Friday, June 17 at 8:45 p.m. in Goodale Park. For more info, visit columbuspride.org. For more of Pearson’s music, visit treypearson.com and follow @treypearson on Twitter.

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Total ClusterTruck: “Ghost kitchen” focuses on delivery-based dining

J.R. McMillan

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When Chris Baggott returns from a run to the ClusterTruck kitchen, he’s almost always late, and his fellow drivers don’t mind letting him know it. Tight delivery times aren’t just an expectation for the fledgling food service. It’s part of the brand, serving fresh fare to waiting patrons, often in less time than the average restaurant.

So what’s ClusterTruck’s trick to providing such a wide range of high-quality cuisine at a record pace? There’s no restaurant, and their slowest delivery driver, Chris Baggott, is also the CEO.

“I don’t go out as much as I used to, just to keep my hands in it. But when I get back minutes later than our more experienced drivers, they laugh at me,” Baggott confessed. “If you’ve been doing this for a year, you’re good at it. You know which corner or which door, a little shortcut here and there. Faster delivery is what makes our business work.”

Photos by Zane Osler

Quietly creeping into the local culinary scene between the flood of innovative eateries and a fleet of food trucks are so-called “ghost kitchens.” They’re restaurants without the restaurant, focusing exclusively on delivery without the hassle and overhead of running a retail establishment. Homegrown concepts like Food Fort Columbus and 1400 Food Lab help industry entrepreneurs prepare meals with all of the precision of their retail rivals. Kitchen United, which already operates locations in Pasadena and Chicago, is scheduled to open their latest facility in Grandview Yard this year as the next phase of an ambitious nationwide expansion. For those struggling to find and afford suitable space, it’s the culinary equivalent of co- working and part of an already $100 million food delivery industry.

But ClusterTruck remains the original, unapologetic disruptor. Operating out of an inconspicuous warehouse near downtown Columbus, it relies on its own dedicated delivery team instead of contract food couriers to serve their hungry customers.

“There’s a broken model in third-party food delivery, from delays that affect quality to low courier morale. If you look at Yelp, a lot of the negative reviews are really criticisms of the delivery process,” he explained. “When I first looked at this market, the restaurants weren’t happy, the customers weren’t happy, and the drivers weren’t happy. So we deconstructed it and built a system that serves all of its constituents.”

That approach may sound a little wonky for a phantom food truck operator. But Baggott didn’t work his way into the restaurant business busing tables. His former life as a software creator proved both profitable and liberating, with earlier endeavors snapped up by Salesforce and Oracle for handsome sums. Along the way, he got back to basics, exploring his growing passion for sustainable agriculture, going as far as starting his own grocery store, then founding three farm-to-table restaurants from scratch. Baggott is as much a chameleon as an iconoclast, as comfortable in a conference room as a chicken coop. Even with dirt under his fingernails, the gears of an engineer are always turning.

“Let’s say the customer is five minutes away from the kitchen, and I have 30 minutes to get the order there. Our software manages our drivers, so we may not start making your food immediately,” Baggott noted. “Our driver may be able to make another delivery before your order is ready. We’ll start making your order when the driver is five minutes away. That way, you get your order on time, and fresh from the kitchen.”

Comfort food is evolving by definition. From hearty carbs to sophisticated salads, “comfort” is now more a measure of how food makes you feel, not an arbitrary attribute that’s the same for everyone. Meeting that ever-expanding expectation is also an edge for such hyper- efficient eateries.

“Ghost kitchens can iterate and innovate. We recently launched a gyro in Indianapolis. We also launched a protein bowl with hummus we make in house,” Baggott recalled. “That’s when we realized we already have pita, tahini, and chickpeas—we should make a falafel. Now, we’re testing recipes to launch a falafel.”

Not all revelations are as obvious or unemotional. The Columbus customer base continues to grow, as are operations in Denver, Kansas City, and the original location in Indianapolis. But ClusterTruck locations in Cleveland and Minneapolis were temporarily suspended. Some menu items have also gone away when they didn’t make the cut, including their take on Johnny Marzetti.

“Dropping Johnny Marzetti was heartbreaking for me because we already had all of the ingredients. I loved it, but it just didn’t sell. But a big advantage we have over a brick-and-mortar restaurant is access to data. A traditional restaurant may launch a new menu item and sell 500 the first day,” he explained. “But they can’t see who orders it again, or worse, who ordered it and never came back. All of those transactions are anonymous. We see everything, order rates and reorder rates. We don’t just know what sells, we know how it impacts overall customer experience.”

ClusterTruck launched a tofu kimchi burrito that initially sold very well, but then seemed to taper off. They dropped it, but once they dug into the data, they discovered existing customers returned, but customers whose first order was the ill-fated burrito didn’t. Their online menu has since become more adaptive, featuring items with higher rates of reorder for new customers, something typical restaurants just can’t do, and an insight they probably would have missed.

“One of the challenges with Cleveland and Minneapolis was building the brand. We were great at building kitchens and software, but frankly, we weren’t great at marketing because what we do is so different,” he noted. “We haven’t abandoned those cities, we’re just refining our marketing before we reopen. It’s one of the advantages third-party food delivery services like Grubhub and DoorDash have. They’re just adding a new service to an existing restaurant. We have to introduce a whole new brand.”

The funny thing about brands is that they aren’t how you view your company, it’s how others view you. And that’s also an inherent challenge for restaurants minus retail, even as the market for prepared foods booms. Catering is key for most ghost kitchens, and ClusterTruck tapped into it early, making group orders easier for folks with restrictive and selective diets, even offering access through the popular office collaboration platform Slack. Now about a third of sales come from group orders. But every new business needs a little luck and a leap of faith. Fast, free delivery still came down to customers meeting couriers at the curb, a hunch that paid off.

“That’s our entire business model, and the one thing we couldn’t know for certain before we launched if customers would be willing to do. It’s why our drivers get four to six, even eight deliveries an hour, instead of just one or two,” Baggott explained. “We’ve had more than a million deliveries and I can count on one hand the number of complaints we’ve had about having to meet the driver. When it comes to quality, every efficiency matters. It’s why customers are as much a part of our success as our staff and our software. They come to us, online and outside, and that’s what makes ClusterTruck work.”

For menus and ordering, visit clustertruck.com.

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Dear I-670 drivers, your lives may never be the same

614now Staff

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Notice anything different on your I-670 and/or I-270 commute lately? Could be the nine 600-square-foot, 110,000-pound digital signs towering over the freeway.

These signs display information about the first ever Ohio SmartLane.

The I-670 "SmartLane" is the left shoulder that will be open when traffic slows to a crawl. It begins just east of I-71 in downtown Columbus and extends to I-270 on the East Side.

https://twitter.com/ODOT_Columbus/status/1187093122188079104

The SmartLane will be closed most of the time, indicated by a red X. But when traffic dips below 50 mph, The Dispatch reports traffic monitors will send signals to the overhead signs to open the SmartLane. When open, the speed limit is 45 mph.

“It might sound counter-intuitive, but studies have shown traveling at slower speeds actually keeps traffic moving better because it avoids the 'stop and go' conditions which can cause more accidents," said ODOT Director Jerry Wray. "Ultimately, we believe the combination of the extra travel lane and the reduced speed limits will allow for a more reliable commute for travelers along that route."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca-LdUrsmnc#action=share

ODOT has installed more than 30 traffic cameras to monitor the lane for any obstructions, reports The Dispatch. The right shoulder of I-670 will be free for disabled vehicles to use.

The $61 million project is officially complete. Visit ODOT.com for more information on the project and the new traffic patterns.

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5 reasons to attend the Circleville Pumpkin Show

Regina Fox

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For over a century, the small town of Circleville, OH has played host to one of the largest fall festivals in the midwest. The Circleville Pumpkin Show attracts more than 400,000 visitors over the course of the four day event who enjoy multiple parades, live entertainment, delicious eats, and plenty family fun.

If you're not already convinced, here are five reasons to check out the Circleville Pumpkin Show October 16- 19.

The Parades

Each day of the 4-day festival features unique and festive processions. To kick things off on Wednesday, the Little Miss Pumpkin Show Parade and Miss Pumpkin Show Parade are scheduled. Baby Parade and Bands & Youth Organizations are planned for Thursday with the Pet Parade and Fraternal Organizations slated for Friday. The Pumpkin Show will round out with a parade of Ohio Festival & Events Association Queens.

The Entertainment

In addition to the parades, live entertainment will swoon the festival crowd including Buckshot Band, Smokin' Ham Band, Brianna Hill, Todd Berry Music, Mac Thomas, Buckeye Nutz Cloggers, Kingston Kickers Line Dance, and many more!

Largest Pumpkins Show

We all love a good basketball-sized pumpkin for porch decoration, but have you ever seen a 1,607-pound bounty? Awe in the wonder of local farmers' harvests at the Circleville Largest Pumpkin Show!

The Food

From your deep fried favorites to seasonal creations like pumpkin pizza, the Circleville Pumpkin Show's food lineup does not disappoint. Approximately 23,000 pumpkin pies and over 100,000 pumpkin donuts are sold at the fest—will you be among the sales?

Also, don't forget to check out the 400-pound pumpkin pie from Lindsey's Bakery on West Main Street!

The Rides

Got the kids in tow? After gassing them up with pumpkin-spice everything, let them loose in the Circleville Pumpkin Show amusement park. For just $25 a day, your tikes will have access to 25-30 thrills across the fest—some even suitable for moms and dads!

The Circleville Pumpkin Show runs from Wednesday, October 6 through Saturday, October 19. Admission is free. For more information including parking and shuttle details, visit pumpkinshow.com.

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