“JWU: Another Experiment?”
by Brian Cossack

Walking into the largest coffee shop company in America, feeling of diversity and reputation. Making our way up the slight incline to the counter I noticed the daily special: “Pumpkin Spice Latte and a Pumpkin muffin with a cream cheese filling.” Mr. Brandon Everett and I ordered our hot beverages for that crisp evening. Finding an empty seat in the corner closest to the door we sat in two forest green, artificially velvet cushioned chairs. Between the chairs we set our drinks down on a medium-sized, wooden table with a chess board imprinted on it. It was an early evening and the rain had stopped its onslaught. There was hardly a soul in the place as Brandon and I sipped our drinks while engaging in mindless banter. “Johnny Be Good” by Chuck Berry started playing over the speakers as we began the interview.
When I first met Brandon I never knew what type of person he really was. There was something about his character which intrigued me. It was the second week of classes and I had entered the dining area at the student ran cafeteria and as I walked up the stairs Brandon was sitting at a table with a girl from our Science class.
Brandon is a man of only twenty-years old but has experienced more in life than most could experience in two. From the multi colored skull cap to his worn leather sandals you can tell that he is a hundred percent laid back. He started off by telling me about his childhood, one that most families wouldn’t consider normal. When he was two he remembered moving into a really big house in Williamsburg, VA. “At that age you think everything is absolutely huge,” Brandon says staring off into the distance with a smile on his face as though he has entered that house again for the first time. A couple of years later his parents split up and he was forced to move back to South Carolina. 
Brandon was shifting a lot as though he were uncomfortable. Though, he was wearing shorts and those chairs easily irritated the skin. There were several minutes of silence as he searched his mind for memories that at one point could have been lost. With a couple more sips of coffee he was ready to proceed with his life story.
When his mother remarried a few years later, Brandon, his mother and her new husband went on tour with the “Grateful Dead.” For three years, at the age of seven, he lived in an old beat up, red and white micro-bus that crossed the country five times. There was a very potent smell of marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms that were being grown in the back of these micro-buses. He remembers sitting in the bus during the long drives making clothing to sell so that they could pay for the gas to get them across the country. Driving across country Brandon and his parents had to wash and bathe in lakes streams and sinks along the road and at gas stations. “At night we would build a great big bon fire, where we would all sit smoke pot and play the guitar,” he said making hand gestures of a big bon fire and taking a hit off a joint.  “This was the real experimental stage of my life. I didn’t hold back at this point. I did all sorts of drugs ranging from marijuana to Shrooms and even coke.” Brandon stated, “I know full well of the consequences of my actions and I am ready to take all the repercussions.” 
On the road he never went to a “real” school. “I don’t know how I did it, but I graduated Jr. High on time. For three years I didn’t go to school. It was just luck I suppose.” On the road he was taught how to play the Guitar, Banjo and the Mandolin, which would later lead him into playing for a friend’s blue grass band. I could tell he really enjoyed this part of his life. As he was telling me there was a large smile materializing on his face and he was finally sitting still. His legs were crossed with his hands sitting relaxed over his knee.
“The band started to break up and the touring was over. I had to return to South Carolina and try to have a “normal” life. For me it wasn’t normal and it was hard for me to adapt back into civilization.” It was the start of 9th grade and Brandon had to move in with his father because his grades were suffering and his step mother was a teacher that could help him with his studies. In 1995, Jerry Garcia, the lead singer and guitarist of the “Grateful Dead” died of a heart attack. This would be Brandon’s last tour with the “Grateful Dead.” They packed up the bus for the last time and headed west towards California. As Brandon told me about the journey his eyes started to tear up at the memory of attending Jerry Garcia’s funeral.
A week after graduating from York High School in South Carolina, he was on his way to Atlanta Georgia to attend Gupton- Johns College of funeral service where he met his best friend, Julie. Until then he had no motivation as to what he wanted to pursue as a long term career. While in college Brandon talked briefly about his experience working for a funeral home. Upon graduating Mortuary College with an Associates degree he quickly got a job working for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation as one of their medical examiners. His records for this job are marked as classified.
I finally asked him what made him decide to come to culinary school instead of furthering his career as an undertaker. Brandon hesitated for a couple minutes then said “I got out of the mortuary business right after my father died. I could not deal with all the death and the fact that my father too had passed.” Brandon expressed his next career interest of culinary arts. He went and studied at CSU for two years and graduated top of his class. To further his education in culinary arts his uncle, president of the Food Network Channel, agreed to pay for his tuition as long as he receives good grades in return. Brandon is now attending his freshman year here at Johnson & Wales University to better understand the industry he has come to love so much.
When Brandon graduates from Johnson & Wales he will be leaving with three associates and one bachelors of Science: two associates in culinary arts, one in Mortuary science and a bachelors in Restaurant Management. His main goal right now is to graduate college and never have to be a full time student again. As to what he wants to do after graduation, he has a small idea. “I want to teach as a culinary arts professor or open a fine dining restaurant. Lastly, I want to propose to my girlfriend of four years and start a family of my own.
I have great respect for Brandon and everything he has gone through in such a short amount of time. As we ended our interview it was cold and the rain started to pick up again as we made our way back to the dorms, clutching what was left of our now cold, bitter coffee. After interviewing Brandon I learned that everything I have gone through could not account for the amount of stress, heartache and adventure he has encountered through his travels across the United States and for that I tip my hat to him.