Episode 049

St Pete X features business and civic leaders in St. Petersburg Florida who share their insight, expertise and love of our special city. An initiative of the St. Petersburg Group, St Pete X strives to connect and elevate the city by sharing the voices of its citizens, and to bring awareness to the opportunities offered by the great St. Petersburg renaissance.


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02/11/2019 | Episode 049 | 29:42

Peter Kageyama, Author & Speaker

For the love of love itself: Peter Kageyama talks openness, evolution, and co-creation of well-loved cities

On this episode of SPx, renowned author and lover of cities, Peter Kageyama joins Joe in the studio for an emotional conversation about love and personal evolution, and how those have manifested in Kageyama's latest book. They share appreciation for one of St. Pete's best known co-creators, talk districts and how cities can address gentrification. Kageyama sheds light on the characteristics of a well-loved city, and how to keep St. Pete weird even with major developments on the horizon.

Key Insights

  • Today's guest is Peter Kageyama, speaker and author of For The Love of Cities and Love Where You Live.
  • For the Love of Cities was published in 2011, but Kageyama is still best known for this book. It resonated with people coming out of the Great Recession. In it, he says, "I write and talk about love and emotional engagement with our places; why it's a good thing for people to fall in love with their city."
  • What makes a well-loved city? Sure, aesthetics have something to do with it. But less than one might think: "There’s cities that are aesthetically, let's say, just less pleasing than others but are still incredibly well-loved, and they're certainly beautiful cities that sort of feel very hollow and cold at the same time."
  • How does Kageyama get to know a city? Hearing stories from the people who love that city: "'Show me something that you're proud of. Show me something that you think is really cool. Let me meet some people that are doing great things in your community.'”
  • Kageyama refers to himself as the Pied Piper of City Love, sharing the best things he finds in one city with others as he travels, "The stories that we tell about our cities - what are the rituals and traditions in particular place? Those are the things that really speak to me."
  • Naming districts: "That's the beginning of the story; you've given it a title. Now, how does that play out, the Warehouse Arts District, the Gateway District, Beach Drive, take your pick."
  • On love: "There's not a formula for love... it's more like alchemy in the sense that there are certainly ingredients that you’d put together and then it's a little bit of magic and prestidigitation and then you hope something interesting happens at the other end."
  • Kageyama's new book is more about love than about cities: "The new book feels manifestly different because I'm relating some more personal experience and what I've seen and what I felt about places."
  • Co-creators: "I've written about this idea of the co-creators, these people that are in every community, the ones who love their cities, their communities, will go above and beyond ordinary levels of citizenship. Here in St. Petersburg, the archetypal co-creator that I’ve first wrote about is Bob Devin Jones, the Creative Director of the Studio at 620."
  • Gentrification: "What I believe now as I've really thought about this is that, gentrification is more of an emotional problem or emotional challenge than it is per se an economic challenge."
  • Gentrification "oftentimes starts to happen when cities do the things that they're supposed to do, they put in better infrastructure, they put in transit, they put in a park, all of these things can actually be catalysts for this idea of gentrification.".
  • Does that mean we shouldn't do those things? Absolutely not, "what cities can legitimately do, I think, in that scenario, invest in the social underpinnings of those neighborhoods that, as they are changing."
  • "How do we break down those walls? Well, if they have dogs, people talk to each other at the dog park. If they have kids, the kids will get to know each other. If they can break bread, or have coffee or just sit in quiet, solitude, like most of us do in coffee shops, it doesn't quite feel as alien there and that's part of the thing is, cities can help us overcome this emotional fear of the other."
  • Change: "You’re changing and your city is changing... we tend to blame the city, not recognizing that we are different as well."
  • Parallels of Channelside and Tropicana Field: "If you think about what’s gonna happen with the redevelopment of the Tropicana site at some point, it's not gonna be little ones and twos, it will be a master developer of some kind. We will have sort of our version of Channelside happening right here in St. Pete and that's okay."
  • "There’s going to be people who love this sort of master plan, maybe a little more homogenous, okay. And there's going be other people who love the wild and the funky, and the weird stuff... and there's room for both in our city, and really, in every city. "

"We do not love alone. When we're in this together, we are actually forming sort of tight social capital, social cohesion, and that something clearly we need in abundance today."

"What we’re really afraid of is that the neighbors next door who I've known all my life are gonna move, and the folks who move in are gonna be different and I don't know them. I'm afraid of that kind of change."

(0:00 – 1:39) Introduction

(1:39 – 3:05) Understanding City Love

(3:05 – 6:30) Spreading Information

(6:30 – 7:36) City Love: Tangible Suggestions and Ideas

(7:36 – 7:30) The Meaning of Love

(7:30 – 13:24) City Love: Evolving and Transcending

(13:24 – 15:49) The Role of the Contrarian

(15:49 – 20:50) Handling Gentrification

(20:50 – 22:54) City Observations

(22:54 – 26:03) Life on the Speaking Circuit

(26:03 – 27:42) Next Arc to Career Trajectory

(27:42 – 28:33) A Different Kind of Life

(28:33 – 29:03) Shout-outs

(29:03 – 29:44) Conclusion

 

Full transcript:

St. Pete X Podcast

Peter Kageyama

 

Joe: Joining me on SPX today is author and speaker, and lover of cities, Peter Kageyama. Welcome, sir.

 

Peter: Thank you, Joe.

 

Joe: How did I do with the last name?

 

Peter: Pretty good. Better than most, actually.

 

Joe: Cool. So, just give us a little background out of the way your sort of first burst onto the scene with For the Love of Cities. And can you give us a brief journey since then?

 

Peter: Yeah. For the Love of Cities came out in 2011. I write and talk about love and emotional engagement with our places; why it’s a good thing for people to fall in love with their city. And if you take it back 2011, that was a pretty timely message, it turned out. I mean, we’re coming out of a massive economic upheaval. Cities were kind of struggling to make finances work again and I’m talking about something that everybody can relate to, feel positive about. So I think it was very timely. That was great. But what surprises me is that as we moved on from that, that the message continues to resonate that, yes people genuinely want to love and be emotionally connected with their town, their city, their village, their neighborhood. This has become a bigger idea than I even envisioned it eight, nine years ago.

 

Joe: So you travel a lot and when you get to a place, is there a way or a thing that you feel that makes you understand how much that city is loved? Are there cities where you just can feel the love flowing or…?

 

Peter: Sometimes, yes. I mean, sometimes cities that have sort of – oftentimes it’s a visual appeal. Cities that are visually beautiful, of course, as human beings, we respond to that.

 

Peter: So you know it’s easy to sort of get lost in that. But that’s not dispositive. I mean, there’s cities that are aesthetically, let’s say, just less pleasing than others but are still incredibly well-loved, and they’re certainly beautiful cities that sort of feel very hollow and cold at the same time. So beauty is certainly one of those things. But part of my work is when people invite me to come to their city – I’m gonna speak there, I’m gonna work with the city or the chamber, or the downtown organization, or the economic development folks, or something like that. They say, “Okay, well, what do you want to see?” I said, “Well, show me something that you’re proud of. Show me something that you think is really cool. Let me meet some people that are doing great things in your community.” These folks, they love their community because that’s the story I want to hear. So usually, I can get a sense of a place just by talking to those people who love that place. I mean, I can go and look around but I’m a tourist on many ways. I’m just looking at that stuff. When you sit here and you tell me how much you love St. Pete, I can understand that, I can feel that. You’re telling me this and am taking that in, in a different way. So yeah, that’s how I usually get a sense is – the people and the stories they tell me about their communities.

 

Joe: So understanding how information spreads. Now we can see that in a very quantitative way with viral spread of videos and things like that. Do you think that in many cities who are rich in love can you sort of trace that back to seeds, whether it be media efforts, or even people?

 

Peter: Yeah.

 

Joe: Because obviously, if you can come in and you essentially are a mobile seed where you go from city to city and sort of plant things that grow after you leave…

 

Peter: Hopefully, yes.

 

Joe: So ideally, is there some sort of a little bit of happenstance and some cities that are more mature in their appreciations because of messages that have been circulated?

 

Peter: Yeah. I mean, certainly. Every city is its own sort of unique puzzle, there’s no doubt about that. Every city is sort of differently situated in their particular journey. Some are newer. Some are older. Some are successful. Some are advancing. Some are retreating, growing, shrinking – all of the above. So, yeah, certainly the media messages play into that. I mean, that’s certainly why city branding is actually kind of important.

 

Peter: I oftentimes think it kinda misses the mark for a lot of reasons, but the stories that we tell about our cities. What are the rituals and traditions in particular place? Those are the things that really speak to me. What I try to do is, I try to get those people to and sharing that with me, and then now I have that as an example for the next city as well. So yeah, you’re right. I am sort of a Pied Piper of City Love because again, I pay it forward to your city, it’s like, “Tell me your story and I’ll pay it forward by telling that story to somebody else who needs that particular thing.” In that sense, yeah the media is important, but I’m far less concerned about the technology and the medium per se, I’m always looking for the good story because a good story has legs; a good story will find a way. Tweets and Instagram’s and photos and all that other stuff, I’m saying, “Yeah, okay that’s nice to have.” But at heart, as human beings we respond to a good story.

 

Joe: A lot of the work that the St. Petersburg Group does is trying to tell that story for St. Pete and I think all of us have a deep love for this city. We aren’t embedded in all the areas so that we can authentically tell the story as our own but yet, we’re familiar with it enough that we sorta want to overlay our storytelling ability. I was always a big fan of like The Beats. You noticed the Kerouac when you came in.

 

Peter: Yes.

 

Joe: But you hear the stories of Bob Dylan playing in a coffee shop in Soho in the 60s or Ginsberg reading at City Lights bookstore and those are very romantic, and they have a mythology around them, right? But they have that mythology because someone adeptly told the story. And it certainly spread word-of-mouth but a lot of times for those things to survive the ages, they need to be sorta codified in the books and things like that, too. So our next effort is St. Pete districts and to me, I could see 10 years down the road where our districts were – and they already are, but even a bigger voice and a bigger ingredient to the flavor that is St. Pete. But we’re sorta trying to manually build that and so that’s why I asked you about the other stories.

 

Peter: Well, if you think about it, the district itself, that becomes a sort of self-contained little story.

 

Peter: Just by giving a name to a district, you’ve given it a title, in some ways. That’s the beginning of the story; you’ve given it a title. Now, how does that play out, the Warehouse Arts District, the Gateway District, whatever, Beach Drive, take your pick. All those, okay, that’s a title and then how we fill in that story is an ongoing sort of process. But giving it that name, and giving it that identity on a macro level, that at least allows us to start filling in, what’s our version of Beach Drive, or the Warehouse Arts District or something like that.

 

Joe: When you’re talking, do you give people tangible suggestions on how to express their love or do you teach them how to think about their city?

 

Peter: I’d like think I give them more ideas, just something to think about. Because here’s the thing, I can’t tell you how to love something; that’d be very prescriptive and that’s incredibly limiting. Because love is this emotional response we have to things. There is certainly commonality. If we both hear the word, “love” probably 80%, 90% in agreement what that means but what it means to you and what it means to me, and how, when you say that word, who do you think of? Who do I think of? That’s gonna be different and sort of how that manifests could be a little bit different. So, the last thing I wanna do is tell people how to love their city. I wanna show them examples of other people and how they’ve loved their city and get them thinking about, “Yeah, I do love my city and maybe I could do this.” Or, “That really resonates with me and we should try that here.” Because yeah, there’s not a formula for love.

 

Joe: Sure.

 

Peter: If there was a formula for love, everyone would be doing it, right? So it’s more like alchemy in the sense that there are certainly ingredients that you’d put together and then it’s a little bit of magic and prestidigitation and then you hope something interesting happens at the other end.

 

Joe: Since you are someone who put so much thinking and a lot of your life is wrapped around the subject, can you articulate what love means to you?

 

Peter: Love is an open heart, I will stick with that, and the possibility of something wonderful.

 

Joe: Sort of a limitlessness.

 

Peter: Yeah. It’d be a real shame if love was limited. I think that’s maybe that’s part of the challenge with how cities embrace this idea of love. It’s because they want tangible outcomes. If we’re spending public dollars to do X, Y, or Z. We expect something to be built, something to happen there. So having love as an objective, it’s a little bit of a risk for some places because they are essentially opening themselves up to the criticisms like, “Why are you spending money on this ephemeral thing called love, when we have potholes to fix, we have roads, bridges, and schools that need money. And yet, you’re spending money on this silly idea of love?” “Yeah, because of the possibility.” Because roads and bridges and schools, while they’re necessary, and maybe we might love our school, but we’re never gonna love a road, we’re never gonna love a bridge, that’s a means to an end. So these other things, the small, oftentimes small things, but have that possibility. That’s what is going to connect us with our neighborhood, with our city, and actually to each other. Because we do not love alone. When we’re in this together, we are actually forming sort of tight social capital, social cohesion, and that something clearly we need in abundance today.

 

Joe: We’re talking before we went on air and you’d mentioned that because of the book and you’re brought in and talk about cities, and you were the City Love Guy and you said that you wish you’d just been the Love Guy.

 

Peter: Right.

 

Joe: There’s been sort of an evolution in you, and because you’ve been in the world of talking about love so much that obviously it transcends cities at some point, can you talk about that?

 

Peter: In my personal life, I’ve going through a fairly significant change. My long-term partner and I have split up, and that’s caused a lot of reflection about this because she was so integral to my journey to getting to be this Love Guy that she helps get me there in the first place. And in realizing that, and recognizing that work, and this personal expression and all this other stuff, we tend to separate the two. I get that for professional reasons, we have these different sort of boundaries. But the nature of my work is about this love and emotional engagement, and I really wish I had allowed more of myself to sort of come through earlier in my work.

 

Peter: The new book feels manifestly different because I’m relating some more personal experience and what I’ve seen and what I felt about places. And certainly it is because of that relationship beginning, middle, and then whatever is next, is all sort of tied up into that. That has me both excited and a bit terrified because love should be a little terrifying.

 

Joe: So, having gone through that, on one hand you have a love that’s on tap – it’s a love for a city, a love for ideas, a love for stories. Then on the other hand, there is a very important love that’s not something you can just snap your fingers and make happen.

 

Peter: No.

 

Joe: And so with moving out of that relationship, how has that affected your openness?

 

Peter: It’s made me appreciate how special it is when they somebody says they love something, someone, that’s a magic moment. That is important. I mean, I’ve always known it was important, but I think I’ve taken that to a different level of personal understanding in that. I’d like people to understand the importance of actually cherishing their communities. I talk about this, this is actually a very interesting point for me. I’ve written about this idea of the co-creators, these people that are in every community, the ones who love their cities, their communities, will go above and beyond ordinary levels of citizenship. Here in St. Petersburg, the archetypal co-creator that I’ve first wrote about is Bob Devin Jones, the Creative Director of the Studio at 620. Bob epitomizes – and I use the term, “archetype” because I use him in literally every presentation I do. I introduce to the audience and I tell the story about Bob and why Bob is exceptional. Bob is important to our community. I say that every community has their version of Bob Devin Jones. I say that you have to recognize how unique and how important that person is. What I’ve come to realize is that it’s not just enough to say, “Hey, we love Bob.” And then to support Bob like that.

 

Peter: You actually, I think, have to go above and beyond that, I think you actually have to cherish those people, the way that we would cherish a significant other because they are uniquely your cities and they will be the heroes of the story of your city. They’re the ones who are out there making content, they are making your city a better, more interesting, more lovable place just by the very nature of who they are and what they do. We tend to think that, it’s like, “It’s just Bob being Bob.” No. Bob being Bob is extraordinary and you need to cherish that. Oftentimes, I think when cities, they say, “Well, we can’t do this, we can’t do that.” I understand sometimes you have to say, “No” to your co-creators especially 50 some of their wildly creative and maybe some of their more out there ideas. But I think, what we need to recognize with these people because they are a special breed, is it’s not just sort of how we might say no to them or how we might say, “Well, we can’t really do. Let’s do this instead.” What they’re hearing, we think we’re saying no to an activity, they are offering something. We think it’s an activity. What they are hearing, what I’ve come to understand here is, when someone goes above and beyond and actually offer something to you and to your community and you say no, they hear a no to who they are as opposed to the activity. To me, that is the big difference in sort of how I understand the nature of the love that people have for each other, and for their communities, and for the work that they do. That it’s not just about an activity that when we offer something, when we love something, it is essentially, this is an offering of who we are.

 

Joe: Right. So what about the role of the contrarian in this? Bob Devin Jones is kinda easy to love, right? Because he’s hilarious and caring and bakes great cookies.

 

Peter: Bakes great cookies. Yes.

 

Joe: Brings art to our community. But in a lot of places, the people who give a lot of the real soul to the city might actually reject that being cherished and its part of who they are. So what’s that kinda second spectrum in understanding the harder to love/contrarian/edgier aspects of things that need to be loved in the city, too?

 

Peter: Yeah, it’s funny because you’re right. Some people, they don’t want the city necessarily. It’s like, “Don’t pay attention to me. I wanna go do my stuff.”

 

Peter: Yes, it’s nice that you love me, but I need my space. I certainly understand that. But I think it’s not necessarily that they are contrarians as they have the way they want to do it. I think oftentimes that those contrarians or what we perceive is contrarians, I just see that the city or the bureaucracy is just trying to sort of reign them in and sort of put brackets on them. Part of that is, I think it’s on the city to recognize, “Wait a minute, let’s not be always the city that says no in how we handle these folks. Even the most prickly of artists, and co-creators. Maybe we treat them a little bit differently in the sense because we do recognize how important they are. Yeah, it’s a good thing to have some of those prickly, spicy people as it were, who maybe don’t take the status quo quite the same way. You’re right. Bob is sort of the cuddly version of that. But there’s certainly more curmudgeonly versions out there. I think the trick for us as people who thinking leaders in places is to figure out ways to work with them. And that may mean you have to go to sometimes maybe more extraordinary levels. But recognizing that those people are really bringing something important to your community as well. Hopefully it’s worth the effort.

 

Joe: I’m a big Hunter S. Thompson guy and obviously he’s someone you’d love to have in the community but also be scared have in your community. Driving at high speed with who knows what in his system at all times.

 

Peter: And just what he might say, like he’s gonna drop something that’s gonna make you go, “Oh my god, that’s so great!” Or you go like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe he said that!” That’s the nature, I think, of creativity. When you invite creativity into the room, into the community, we’re hoping it’s gonna be nice and pretty, but it’s sometimes not. That is the challenge. And of course, we want creativity, want innovation, we want people who think differently. Most of the time those cities wanted in sort of a fairly narrow kind of bland sort of version of that. That’s really not creativity, that’s some sort of control. You’re trying to dress up as creative expressions, it’s really not. It’s control.

 

Joe: And how do you advise people to handle gentrification? Do cities ultimately move to a more vanilla place?

 

Peter: That’s a hard one. I’m writing about this in the next book.

 

Peter: Gentrification is a super challenging issue for cities for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s perceived as an economic issue. Certainly there is an economic component to it. What I believe now as I’ve really thought about this is that, gentrification is more of an emotional problem or emotional challenge than it is per se an economic challenge. Because actually, the data supports this idea that gentrification actually happens to a very small number of people who are actually displaced. But it feels like a really big problem and certainly if we’re in that, and if we’re in a neighborhood that is starting to change and feel different, and I’m starting to feel like an alien in the place that I’ve lived for years, that feels like a really big problem. So, the challenge then for cities is, what can we legitimately do? I think part of the sort of the American ethos around cities is, we don’t necessarily want our cities picking the economic winners and losers there. So in other words, we don’t want the city to put its thumb on one developer versus another versus another and pick neighborhoods. We want this neighborhood to get better and this. So we have to be more egalitarian about that. So what I’m trying to suggest to cities is that, when these economic forces that start to happen, and they oftentimes start to happen when cities do the things that they’re supposed to do, they put in better infrastructure, they put in transit, they put in a park, all of these things can actually be catalysts for this idea of gentrification. But what are we supposed to do as a city? We’re supposed to not put in transportation, and parks, and securities? No, of course not. They gotta do that. But what cities can legitimately do, I think, in that scenario, invest in the social underpinnings of those neighborhoods that, as they are changing. In other words, figure out what are the places in the neighborhood that is starting to “gentrify.”  What are the places where the people there, they actually come together? Where do they meet? Where do they have social interactions? Is it a coffee shop? Is it a park? Is it the playground? Is it a church? Is it a neighborhood diner that’s been there for decades? Whatever. And then, make those things better. Just make them better. Because what you’re hoping for is that, the newcomers and people who’ve been in that neighborhood for long period of time, they’re gonna be suspicious of each other, right?

 

Peter: How do we break down those walls? Well, if they have dogs, people talk to each other at the dog park. If they have kids, the kids will get to know each other. If they can break bread, or have coffee or just sit in quiet, solitude, like most of us do in coffee shops, it doesn’t quite feel as alien there and that’s part of the thing is, cities can help us overcome this emotional fear of the other. The biggest fear that people have, I think, around gentrification is not that they are going to necessarily be priced out of something, because certainly, a better restaurant is in town or in the neighborhood, a supermarket in the neighborhood that’s good. More infrastructure, better infrastructure, we know we appreciate that. What we’re really afraid of is that the neighbors next door who I’ve known all my life are gonna move, and the folks who move in are gonna be different and I don’t know them. I’m afraid of that kind of change. So if we can figure out how to break down some of those barriers and bring those folks together, that to me would go a long way towards easing the primal fear that we have around gentrification.

 

Joe: Your experiences then… Because I think of gentrification as we have a block, the 600, 700, 800 block of Central, and the next thing you know, there is a new 250-unit, $2,000/month for a one bedroom apartment block there, and which is happening right across the street. The value systems of the people who can afford that tend to be less different, grittier than the substance that made it cool in the first place. They seem to get that a little bit and St. Pete, they’re gonna protecting some of the buildings and saying you can have only independent shops or if it’s a chain, it has to be small. Then at some point, it’s like these people had these businesses all their life and they can cash out for a million dollars are not allowed to anymore, because the value’s been suppressed in such a tricky line to walk.

 

Peter: Do we want to stop them from reaping the rewards of their patience and their hard work? Certainly not. Cities are gonna evolve and change. We, as human beings, are evolving and changing. The thing is, is that there is an arc, there is a sign wave of how change is happening within us internally, within our cities as well.

 

Peter: Those things are not necessarily in sync there times when we are feeling in sync when we’re coming together. The city and me, we feel like we’re vibing, that’s when you say, “Hey, this is my city.” You’re changing and your city is changing. And maybe now, we’re starting to get out of that sync and all of a sudden I was like, “I don’t feel so good about this place. It doesn’t feel like it used to.” And we tend to blame the city, not recognizing that we are different as well. 50 something-year-old me certainly feels differently about cities and general activities than 20 something me. I think all of us would agree with that. We don’t this we see ourselves as being that different there. So I think there is a sort of personal introspection that needs to happen here as well. It’s not just, “Hey, the city is changing.” It’s like, “No, we’re changing as well.”

 

Joe: Yeah, it’s a good point people are usually reluctant to blame themselves for…

 

Peter: Yeah, we don’t want to look in the mirror and say, “Man, I’m a little grayer than I used to be.”

 

Joe: And one of things with St. Pete, it was a lack of planning that I think gave a lot of its character. Another one’s better than the others, it’s just different. Vinik basically planning out large portions of Tampa and St. Pete there is sort of an illogic to a lot of how stuff was built. So do you have any sort of observations on cities that had one large force that did a lot of the urban planning versus ones that were more organic?

 

Peter: Hey, if the local billionaire wants to invest his money and a bunch of other people’s money into your downtown, that’s a generational sort of project over there, certainly for Tampa. I’m sure the results are actually gonna be pretty amazing. The thing is, is like, yeah, you’re right St. Pete feels different because it evolved in a different space. But if you think about what’s gonna happen with the redevelopment of the Tropicana site at some point, it’s not gonna be little ones and twos, it will be a master developer of some kind. We will have sort of our version of Channelside happening right here in St. Pete and that’s okay. I mean that’s sort of the nature of space; at some point, it was small things individuals at another point, it’s going to be “Hey, this is a huge opportunity.” We need to kinda be okay with that idea, to try to open that up to all these micro forces, I think, would just be…kinda be chaos there.

 

Peter: One is not inherently better than the other and cities that have had now gone from sort of a central master plan, I’ve seen it done really well. There’s other cities have grown up completely organically and that has great results there as well. And that’s not to say that the Trop site may be master-planned but I guarantee that the neighborhoods that sort of surround that and work with that, they’re gonna be done on an individual far more piecemeal far more organic basis, and that’s can actually really work probably very well together. But there’s going to be people who love this sort of master plan, maybe a little more homogenous, okay. And there’s going be other people who love the wild and the funky, and the weird stuff. It’s gonna be sort of surrounding that, and there’s room for both in our city, and really, in every city.

 

Joe: No one will ever tame Ferg. Ferg’s, that’ll be the funky spot.

 

Peter: That’ll be the last place standing there with a flag flying.

 

Joe: The world of beer sign rolling in his trailers and buses.

 

Peter: Something like that. Yeah.

 

Joe: That’s great. I wanna segue a little bit. I’m really curious about life on the speaking circuit and sort of just getting gigs. This is segmenting – sort of going from in front of the curtain to behind the current. Tell me about that. How many talks are you doing a year?

 

Peter: I do, probably, between 30 and 40, sometimes more than that events a year. A lot of bigger ones, a lot of smaller ones. Meeting in between. So I’m traveling a pretty good amount. It is a bit seasonal for me. We sit here in November and my season is sort of over because at some point, it’s holidays, and people move into holiday mode and things will start happening for me again, sort of in January or so, and then things slowdown in the summer. There is somewhat a predictably that, but it is wildly unpredictable. I don’t know where the next gig is necessarily gonna come from. I do know advertising. I mean, I’ve been very lucky in the sense that people, they like what I say and they say, “Hey, have you heard Peter Kageyama speak?” So it’s been very much word-of-mouth, and that’s been awesome. And as a gig goes, it’s a great gig.

 

Peter: I travel. I see amazing people. I learned great stories. I see cool stuff. And then I get to share that with a community and people who are actually hungry and very receptive to that idea. I’m not one of the speakers who’s gonna talk about the economic forecast because that could be good, that could be bad, everything in between. It’s like, “I was getting information but man, what a downer.” It’s like, “No, this is the guy talks about love, and places, and tells great stories.” Like man, people are really positive about that. So I’ve got a great gig. I have no doubt about that. The only downside is the travel days. I’m not a big fan of those. As I’ve gotten older, it’s like at some point, “I’m traveling, it’s kind of cool and it’s interesting.” But the travel days now kind of suck. I was stuck in the Columbus Airport for 10 hours waiting for just flight delays. And it’s just like I sort of go into what I call low-power mode because there’s nothing you can do and you start getting mad, you just hurt yourself. So it happens. That’s the worst part about the gig.

 

Joe: With the audience, there’s a lot of people that you’re addressing are hearing this type of thing kinda the first time or they may have heard of but they’re really digging into it. And most people when they hear things, we’ll call them sort of toddlers at understanding this thought process, right? You grow into it.

 

Peter: Neophytes.

 

Joe: Neophytes. Yeah, toddler’s a bad word. So they’re neophytes. I’m projecting that I would get sort of bored with the sort of same rudimentary comments coming back or is it just that the uniqueness comes in the content versus their understanding because it’s something they can get deep pretty much quickly with?

 

Peter: Yes. So I appreciate that people have a really strong response to what I’m talking about. And yeah, it doesn’t have to be much deeper than that. I’m happy to have sort of a more thoughtful conversation about the nature of gentrification and social equity and places. Great. But for the most part, people come up and they’re smiling as they say, “Hey, that was so cool.” And then they want to show me something; something that resonates with them. Or they say, “Have you seen this?” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s great.” That I’ve helped open up their heart a little bit. I’ve given them a lens to look at the stuff that’s in their own cities and it’s like, “Yeah, that’s pretty cool.” That doesn’t get old at all.

 

Joe: That’s cool. With the next, the books coming out, and you’ve been on the road for a while, what do you sort of see as the next arc in the trajectory of your career? What do you hope it will be?

 

Peter: At some point, those travel days are probably gonna get even more onerous and I’m gonna go, “Why am I doing this?” I mean, I love what I do on the other end. But at some point, maybe the actual travel days get to the point, “Man, I just don’t want to get on a plane again.” Yeah, at that point, I don’t know. Become a hermit, figure out whatever the next career is. I suspect if there was a really interesting project here in St. Petersburg something like that, that would take up the vast majority of my time someday, I’d be interested in something like that. If there was a position that can – I don’t if I’m material to actually work with other people in an organization like that anymore. But it would be kind of an interesting challenge. I don’t know, may even politics at some point.

 

Joe: Interesting. Do you still enjoy writing or is it…?

 

Peter: Yeah, I do. I do when it’s done. I recently just handed off the first draft, the manuscript to my editor, and that feels really good. It’s like, “Okay, we got to this point.” There’s something very edifying about that. And when you read something back, and you’d go, “Man, that’s actually good, that’s a good feeling.” I’ll tell you this, you think you know stuff in your head, but when you actually have to write it, you’ll learn it in a completely different way.

 

Joe: I call that you have to fill in the gaps, I think, when you think. For me, at least, there’s a lot of assumptions that I make that sometimes when I put it out that, people, if they don’t know those assumptions and…

 

Peter: When you put a pen to paper as it were, that’s very analog but you have to fill in all of those things that maybe you kind of intellectually you get when you’re thinking that thought, or maybe when you’re talking about it, but to the paint the picture in words, requires a different sort of process. And again, you’re right. You absolutely have to fill in the gaps.

 

Joe: So I’d be curious if you were never had fallen in love with cities or if you were to phrase it a different way, never allowed to talk about cities again, what would you do?

 

Peter: That’s a good question. There was a point in time when I kind of enjoyed producing content. I produced conferences.

 

Peter: Did a few funky events at Studio@620. And I’ve also have this idea about sort of a hybrid event that involves music, history, and culture that’s part lecture, part performance, part all these other kind of stuff that wraps it together. It’s like, if I had to stick around for a while, maybe I’d actually finalize and actually produce that show just to see what happened. That’d be kind of fun.

 

Joe: Nice.

 

Peter: But that’d be a weird one. I really don’t know per se because so much of my identity and my… You are what you think about.

 

Joe: Sure.

 

Peter: I think about cities and love, and love very much.

 

Joe: To end the conversation, we finish each version with a shout out to someone that you to get some attention to.

 

Peter: Well, we’ve given a lot of love and attention to Bob Devin Jones. I’d like to give a shout out to my friends who I’ve been leaning on here a bit in the last year. To that former partner who continues to inspire me, to make me think about love in a better, deeper, more significant sort of way. Yeah, love matters.

 

Joe: Thank you.

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About the host

Joe Hamilton is the CEO of Big Sea and a founding Insight Board member at the St. Petersburg Group.  Joe brings a strong acumen for strategy and positioning businesses. He serves on several local boards, including TEDx Tampa Bay, which grew his desire to build a platform where the area’s thought leaders could share their valuable insight with the community at large.


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