What’s The Word? With Justin Sawyer

What’s The Word? With Justin Sawyer

“Justin Sawyer is a Kenosha resident, with 15+ years in the food and beverage industry, as well as a former Tour Manager for national touring artists for 7 years. His interests and pieces will cover a wide variety of topics ranging from music & art, food & fashion, to mental health and self awareness. With an avid background and wealth of knowledge spanning several avenues, be sure to keep tabs on his pieces!”

​​Mental Health Check in

Are you there Guys? It’s Me Justin Sawyer. We’re just over halfway through 2021, and I think it’s necessary to do a mid-year check in on the ol’ noggin.

For many of us, myself included, we’re still reeling and feeling the effects of the hellacious year known as 2020. So ask yourself, where is my mental health and overall psyche doing?

I see so many friends, peers, and loved ones struggling with everything from anxiety & depression, to an overall feeling of just “lost”. If you fall into this category, my heart and soul go out to you, as I know those struggles all too well.

I feel for myself and others one of the most beneficial things to do, is to take an open and honest inventory of our lives. Ask yourself questions such as: What are my goals? What are my hobbies? Who do I find myself spending time with? Is what we’re doing providing hope, inspiration, or overall enjoyment?

Don’t feel bad for being more exclusive or “selfish” about your time, remember as we all get older life gets in the way of living, your time is precious. In the rate race of life, we juggle work, friends, family, and so much more. It’s immensely important to make sure you’re finding some “me time”. Whether that’s going for sunrise yoga, reading a book over a cup of tea at the local cafe, or browsing for that gem in the record store, you absolutely HAVE to do it.

This year is all about growth, within yourself, your career, your family and friends. I once heard a quote “ I’m like a shark, if I stop moving I’ll drown” There’s some truth to that that I sympathize with, as I find I am the happiest when I am almost too busy, where the candle is burning at both ends. As I’ve gotten older, my advice to you is this; Take the day off, go on that day trip, check out that new eclectic food spot. These are the moments that will keep you moving through the day to day, the times that you crave. Remember, life is about the journey, not the destination.

In closing, I leave you with this quote, one I hope to feel in my bones when I look back on my life.

“What a long, strange trip it’s been” – Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This blog was submitted on 7/28/21)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Finding Comfort in Yourself

  That’s right, we’re going to dig right into a somewhat sensitive and often avoided topic amongst adults. I remember the days when I was a teenager, growing up I was the poster child for street punk. I had the 14 inch colored mohawk, patches and studs everywhere, with a scowl on my face that would make Billy Idol jealous. I felt invincible, like nothing and no one could touch me, yet I always seemed to struggle with being comfortable and content with myself.

 As I exited my teen years, and stumbled blindly into adulthood, I found myself still struggling with those same issues that I had when I was that angry, punk rock kid. I could put on a front and jive with the best of them, but internally I was asking myself “ What are these people thinking? Should I be doing this? Did I say something stupid? Does this shirt look stupid?” Oftentimes I could shrug them off in the moment, only to have those thoughts creep back up later in the night, usually when I wanted to wind down and catch some sleep.

 Finally, after some heavy thinking, I started asking friends and family if they struggled with these same notions, and if so how were they able to manage them? I found the more and more I asked, people of various walks of life and age ranges this was something they currently or previously had struggled with. I started to realize this very well could be something that many, if not every human being will face at some point in their lives.

 As I entered my late 20s, I started finding myself thinking and reflecting a lot more than I had prior, I’ve always been an analytical person, but this was different. I was trying to solve issues within my mind that seemed to be knocking more often then I had wanted them to.

 No longer did I want these issues to keep becoming a manifestation that came out like self doubt, low self confidence, self worth, and trust amongst those around me from platonic to love relationships. In my mind, these were issues that should have been resolved years prior, and I was ready to cut the poison out.

 I started waking up, every day with the thought that all I needed to do was make it through the day, and if something happened that threw a wrench in the works, I would simply try to laugh it off and say “ So What” . If I was running late to dinner plans because I was trying to make sure what I wore I liked, then So What? Was it the end of the world? Not even in the slightest. I started embracing the things that I liked that were out of the “Norm” for someone like myself. I stopped thinking, “well maybe I’m just weird?” and started thinking “ If this is weird, then this is cool, and I’d rather be unique.”

 I think we as adults need to remember that it’s okay to take things day by day, moment by moment. Your parents once were just like you, just trying to make it through the day in the best way they could. It’s okay to make mistakes, they’re a learning process. If I can leave with one last sentiment, it’d be a quote I heard not too long ago, that I remind myself of daily.

 “Nobody Truly Interesting, is Universally Liked.”

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This article first appeared in the 3/25/21 issue of the Smart Reader)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


The New England Sound

Let’s chat about tunes shall we? For years I’ve had a rather odd connection to the East Coast. Growing up, my folks used to pile all of us kids into our conversion van, and we would escape to Rhode Island. My father’s family is from there, so it made sense for me to fall in love with that area.

Aside from the obvious notion and reasoning, what’s rather odd is I’ve had this slight obsession where I feel drawn to the East. You know how some people think they’ve lived past lives? I feel like I was a sea salted fisherman, spending nights on the deck of a fishing boat staring off in the distance, thinking of a love back home.

I think for me, It’s the music. Something about that area has given us (in my personal opinion) some of the greatest American songwriters. That little nook of the country has birthed artists such as; Aerosmith, The Cars, Donna Summer, James Taylor, Boston, The Pixies and of course, the man, the myth, the legend himself, Mr. Bruce Springsteen. In more recent decades we’ve seen acts like The Menzingers, Defeater, The Hotelier,Sorority Noise, and my personal favorite, The Gaslight Anthem.

Something about that working class, true grit and salt of the earth type of folks just….seem to get it more than anything. There’s a subtle overtone of romance, loss, love, hard work and spirit that radiates from the Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey area that just cannot be replicated.

Bruce Springsteen, first and foremost captures the heart & soul of the classic working class American life, and makes it sound like a romantic story that anyone would strive for. Peeling back the pages of his nearly 60 year career, you find there is much more to this artist than “Born To Run”. My personal take, Start with The River & Nebraska. Most recently he released “Letters to You”, which dances into the folk Americana side that we don’t see often enough. Most artists have trouble with avoiding the plateau and fizzling out, for The Boss it appears even at 71, there is still plenty of kerosene left in the tank.

Let’s drift away from rock for a brief moment, and discuss the melodic hardcore powerhouse that is Defeater. Forming in the blooming Boston hardcore scene amongst the likes of Bane & American Nightmare, brought something uncommon within the scene and genre. From their formation in 2008, they’ve consistently continued to be a concept band. With stories of family, drug use, and the pains felt by veterans of World War II, main writer and frontman Derek Archambault paints a very vivid and real look into these harsh topics. I’d strongly advise looking into their ever growing discography, the stories hidden within alone are worth a listen.

Let’s jump back to that Asbury sound briefly, in the form of The Gaslight Anthem. Described by Bruce Springsteen as “One of the last great American songwriters” is frontman Brian Fallon. The Gaslight Anthem is exactly what I would picture if Bruce walked into CBGB and decided to try his hand at punk rock. My take, start with the 59 sound. This album gives the quintessential peak into the masterminds of 4 guys from Jersey.

In closing, if you haven’t dabbled into the New England sound, where you pictured yourself inside a greasy diner at midnight over a cup of coffee, you owe it to yourself to take a glance, as the genius there is very much alive.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This article first appeared in the 2/25/21 issue of the Smart Reader)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Local Eats

If there is one thing that brings people together more than anything, it’s a great meal. People all over the world have been breaking bread together for centuries, it’s one of my personal favorite past times. Right now more than ever, the food and beverage industry is hitting hard times with brands that have been around for decades closing its doors for good.

For this edition, I’ll be featuring some amazing local Pop Up talent with people who took the hard time and turned it into an opportunity to make a love and passion of theirs into hard earned greenbacks.

“Mr. Wings”

Let’s talk about chicken. We all have had a good wing and bad wing experience. These wings are nothing like your Buffalo Wild Wings experience. The brain child of Manuel Ramirez, in the early spring of 2020 was formed by a chicken wing joint visit in Colorado “The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern” Known for their wings. Upon returning in mid february 2020 the idea came to fruition, where he put 2 months of Research and development.  April 2020 saw the first friends and family wing orders going out, with June seeing his first public appearance at Rustic Road, where over 700 wings were sold in less than 2 hours.

Let’s get back to the chicken; the magic begins with fresh, never frozen wings where bone in reigns supreme. Half the sauces and rubs are created in house, where influences stem from New York in the creation with a more true to style buffalo sauce brimming with a velvety vinegar base. My personal favorite comes in the form of Gold Digger, a southern style tangy mustard based bbq sauce. His newest mastermind? The cereal series, where chicken wings marry together with cereals like cinnamon toast crunch & a scratch made donut glaze. It sounds weird, but in the words of Chiddy Bang “Serial style, Cereal aisle needed checked.” With flavors and quality like this, it’s no surprise why in his first year he took home Kenosha’s Best Wings of 2020. He’s available for all your wing needs every Monday & Wednesday at TG’s Cocktails & Eatery (4120 7th ave) and Downtown R Saloon (707 56th st) Thursday & Friday, sunday.


It’s the love child of In & Out, meets White Castle.Everyone makes their burgers differently, and everyone thinks a burger should be done in a different way. David Nolder is No Different, when it comes to his brand “Phatman’s”

Starting in the food industry in his teens, working everywhere from Culvers to Abbvie, to the Local restaurant “The Red Oak Inn” David found a passion for food, and has never looked back.

Covid-19 hit many of us, and being a husband and father David knew he needed to make sure to provide for his own. Stemming from the inspiration of Mr. Wings, David tried his own brand June 1, 2020 introducing a pop up style breakfast experience at Sunnyside Club. After several pop up events, he decided to take a dive and go for something he loved more, Smash Burgers.

December 2020 saw Phatmans pt. 2, the pop up and smash brand, serving scratch made smash burgers. The recipe is simple, yet has you wanting more than just one. Starting with a brisket & chuck beef blend patty, topped with classic melted american cheese that would give the most Wisconsinite a smile, crisp pickles, and a secret sauce that is absolutely addictingly good.

This isn’t your typical large beef patty, lettuce, tomato and onion, on a potato roll bun. This is your “It’s friday night, I’ve had a few too many brews and buca bois, and I need food STAT.” This is a one handed, smash through it like a wrecking ball, burger experience that you cannot miss. My take? Phatman’s is serving up his burgers every Friday & Saturday at The Factory, located at 5014 7th Ave.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This article first appeared in the 2/11/21 issue of the Smart Reader)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Self sabotage

Let’s talk about your new favorite coping mechanism. It’s called “let’s destroy everything we love”. Yeah you know that feeling of self destruction? It’s not good.

 The path of course is easy, we’ve paved it that way for along time. No one said self improvement was easy. Is it worth it? Of course. But you’ve got to be willing to do the work.

 Self sabotage comes in many forms, from destroying friendships and romantic relationships to hitting taco Bell too often.

 Any time you think “I don’t deserve this” that’s self sabotage.you cannot cover it up and toe the line.self sabotage ends when self care begins.

 Look I get it, it’s hard to look at bad habits and figure out why you do them. We all self sabotage, even in the smallest size. not every act is grandioso, more often it’s so small you’d be surprised to see it.  

 Personally the worst part about the ordeal? You actually mess up what you truly want. 2021 is all about self love and care. Stop harming you, because the world needs more of you.

 Remember to take it day by day. It’s not always going to be easy, but I promise it’s worth it. Keep fighting the good fight, your corner bigger than ever.

Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Mental Health

I know, you’re thinking the same thing I was “That’s two words, pal.” Let’s face it, 2020 was a roller coaster version of a year long mid 20’s hangover that kept hanging around. You’re confused, queasy, tired, hungry, and afraid to open the blinds to see what havoc may be lingering from last night’s shenanigans.

The biggest question we need to ask ourselves as the year 2020 ends is this, plain and simple, “How is my mental health, and what’s my plan for it going into 2021?”

Society programmed us decades ago with the understanding that suffering from mental illness wasn’t real, that you shouldn’t talk about it, and that IF you did seek & accept help, it was a ​BOLD, ​flashing sign of weakness.

Going into 2021 we need to continue to break that stigma, especially amongst men. Growing up we heard things like “ Boy’s don’t cry” & “Walk it off, be a man, be tough”. This doctrine is, at its core, wrought with false teachings that ultimately lead too many young boys to grow up and become closed off, brick walls of men.

2020 has shown me personally that not only do I not always know how to handle every situation, but at times I still struggle to open up and discuss triggers & traumas. This doesn’t mean it’s always something “Over the Top” such as the loss of a job you held down for 5 years. It could be something as simple as “ I woke up late, but I’m still in a good mood. I then spill coffee all over myself when I slip on the sidewalk, and I instantly just want to crawl back in bed.”

It’s moments like those, that can completely throw our entire day right down the drain. This isn’t uncommon, in fact most people would have the exact same reaction. The problem is, we don’t discuss these times, or even begin to figure out how to cope with them.

These little things, slowly or rapidly, can and absolutely will add up. The straw that broke the camel’s back isn’t always something large. So take time to stop, close your eyes, drop your shoulders, and just take a breath. Sometimes that’s all it takes, 15 seconds of calm breathing and clarity.

2020 has also shown me another pill that is at times, difficult to digest. “When People Grow, People Go”. Now at first glance, that seems to have a somber, yet negative connotation to it. That I believe to be in the eye of the beholder. As with every challenge, we ultimately have a larger say in not only how we react, but what that outcome may be.

Growth is important, we as individuals, groups and a society at large, need to continue to crave and strive for progress. If you’re not progressing towards a goal, you’ve become stagnant. You should set short term, but attainable goals, that will ultimately become part of one large goal. Take it day by day, one step at time. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, so why are you picking out the color of the drapes when you haven’t even laid the first brick of foundation?

As we take steps into the new year, I implore you to continue looking at what you have, and being appreciative of it, and striving for one common goal; to find comfort in yourself. Be safe, be self aware, and remember, if you’re not at your best, what service are you to those around you?

Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out