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Batavia author introduces 'Passenger' in staged reading Nov. 9 and 11

By Joanne Beck
Eric Zwieg
Eric Zwieg of Batavia looks through the bannister at GO Art!, where his first staged reading, "Passenger: A Billion Little Pieces," will be presented at 7 p.m. Nov. 9. 
Photo by Howard Owens

A native of Rochester who has lived “everywhere” before settling down in Batavia eight years ago, Eric Zwieg could easily be described as a journeying artist.

Zwieg, who has more recently racked up academic degrees with no stopping in sight, spent his childhood in his grandmother’s cultural Chautauqua Institute surroundings, where he saw great jazz legends, later pursuing music performance in college before quitting after a year to indulge in the real thing — hitting the road for the next several years, forming his own bands, writing songs, recording albums, and scoring acting gigs for Indie movies. 

“I really wasn’t getting out of it what I wanted. My mother had been an opera singer in college, so she really wanted me to get the schooling, but it wasn’t meant for me. I’d rather hang in the bars,” Zwieg said during an interview with The Batavian. “I worked really hard. I was very industrious,” he said, adding the piece that most aspiring artists can relate to. “I was a personal trainer, did restaurant jobs, gallery jobs, I used to light shows for galleries, anything to make a buck here and there. And it all added up to put food on the table and pay rent.”

He dabbled in writing by drafting his own audition scripts for the theater “to help me stand out a little bit, you know, instead of the same old, same old stuff they hear.” 

“So I was always trying to be creative in that respect. That got me the Indie film parts," he said. "They didn’t pay anything, but you’re working, and you’re doing what you really want to do.”

Since all of that, for the last seven years, he’s been in school full-time, earning a bachelor’s degree in writing in 2016 and his master’s in writing four years later. And “that’s where my writing really started to take on some importance in my life,” he said.

He then obtained his master’s in fine arts at Goddard College this July, which is when he completed the thesis he is using as the basis for his staged reading of “Passenger: A Billion Little Pieces.” It debuts at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 at GO Art!’s main gallery, 201 East Main St., Batavia.  

“It’s a fully hybrid memoir, which is important that people understand that, and it’s based on postmodern writing disciplines and elements, and postmodern literature, having started after World War II … I’m using all the literary elements, I really wanted to pull a card trick off here, not only on my mentors but on the readers,” he said. “I really want to fill it chock full of all this stuff that, it’s aesthetically beautiful to read, but they don’t know what’s going on. And so it kind of takes one to know one. So there’s so much hidden, but it’s stylistically very academic.”

This presentation was made possible with Zwieg’s fifth Ripple grant award through GO Art!

“Passenger: A Billion Little Pieces—postmodern reflections in an attempt at several literary sensibilities, attitudes, and genre” is a hybrid of prose, poetry (Haiku, prosaic, anaphoric, repetition, lyric, narrative), definitions, quotes, lists, font variations, cut-and-paste, liberal punctuation, foreign language, dramatic and film dialogue insertions, homage, pastiche, text colorization, watermarks, absurdum, images, page breaks, use of whitespace, academic annotations, object blocks, postmodern concepts (metafiction, unreliable narration, intertextuality, anti-authorism, rejection-embracement of high and low culturalism, nonlinear storyline), embedded dramaturgical direction, irony, metaphor, existential thought, epistemology, naïve realism, philosophical skepticism, parody-satire, unrealistic narratives, paradox, sarcasm, humor, multiple POVs, dreams within dreams, stories within stories, nonuse of page numbers, contractions, quotation marks, and a bit of memoir, be it faux, pragmatic or idealistic.

Those are a lot of varying elements. Given the academic basis of the reading, and you say so much is hidden, will the audience get it? 
Maybe not. They might not fully understand the big picture, he said, but will get the vignettes. 

“They’ll get the chapters, and they’ll see this guy Henry Grace’s character,” Zwieg said. “He’s an everyman. He’s kind of an island.”

As Zwieg described Grace, and his own existence over the last number of years, one might wonder if there’s also some autobiography in here as well. There is some loneliness. 

Passenger is a professional reading with paid performers featuring Richard Ferris, Stephen VanValkenburg and Zwieg. While there are no costumes or sets, and perhaps because of that, it’s the words — their nuance, their lilt, their palpable meaning, their pronunciation and embrace as delivered by the performers — that make this show, Zwieg said.  

He pays homage to his favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, David Foster Wallace, and poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who founded City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. 

“I love these writers so much, you’re paying homage to them,” he said. I’m not trying to compare myself to them. I have my own twist on it too.”

Vonnegut is an American writer well known for his “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which Zwieg specifically referenced, and Foster Wallace is a postmodern novelist. His other muse, if it can be called that, was rock band Television’s album “Marquee Moon,” of which he painstakingly rifled through all eight tracks to pull references, quotes and footnotes that have significance for him. 

“There's a section when Henry falls in love with music as a teenager, right? And he goes to see that live band for the first time. So that's where this concept comes from Television. Unless you're a real music nerd, not a lot of people know about it. But this was at CBGBs in the mid-70s, which blew up with Blondie, The Ramones, Talking Heads, Television, on and on and on. It was just, that was the passion of music,” he said. “And so that's the connection to music for me. So the eight chapters, you know, See No Evil, Marquee Moon, whatever on down, are the track listings on that album. And there are quotes. There are footnotes throughout … there are seven or eight pages of footnotes that relate back to the photos, quotations, movie quotes, movie dialogue, all that stuff. 

"So I give credit to all those people. But there are a number of quotes from the lead singer and main songwriter on Television, who actually passed away just this year, Tom Verlaine. And so that's that energy I was trying to, you know, that element really means a lot to me.”

While working on each chapter, he would key in on one song and listen to it, he said, some 20 times in a four-hour period, to “define and pick a line out here that I can include in my prose texts somehow to make it that more of a convoluted postmodern type of experience.”

So there’s a lot going on, he said. An easy understatement. However, that’s the beauty of art and poetry and words, as Passenger’s own script states:  

You. You are. You are you. You have been.

You are. You will be forever. Breathe deeply. Listen. Allow life to be. Simple as a moment.

Fulfilling. The end is what you make it. Who are you? but existence without answers surrounded by suffering. 

Reaching for clarity in all things. Survival dependent upon the balance of randomness, choice, and the process of process. 

Journeys yet unfulfilled.

There will be a second show at 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at Pub Coffee Hub, 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia. There is no admission fee, and it is suggested for mature audiences only of age 17 and older. 

Owning a business can be done, but 'never underestimate the work' Batavia entrepreneur says

By Joanne Beck
Entrepreneur and ramen chef Rob Credi gets busy in the kitchen of his latest venture, Xavmen Ramen at 56 Harvester Ave., Batavia, which is a complement to his Pub Coffee Hub just down the street. 
Photo by Howard Owens

Twenty years ago, Rob Credi set out to blaze a trail of business ownership with a couple of other like-minded entrepreneurs, and they established a coffee shop in the middle of downtown Batavia on Main Street, hence its name Main Street Coffee. 

That was in December 2003, ending on New Year’s Eve in 2008. Fast forward to August 2020, when Credi opened Pub Coffee Hub on the other side of town, Harvester Avenue, with a bit more experience, business acumen, and hard-won lessons under his belt. 

“It was more of a learning lesson than a success,” he now says of those earlier days, though he wouldn’t exactly label them a failure either. “It does feel good to know it existed in its timeframe and served its purpose. It was obvious we didn’t know what we were doing. 

“Twenty years later, I opened Pub Hub. That was more of an immediate success,” Credi said.

Take his words with a grain of salt. Credi is also starkly honest about his professional journey so far: “I feel like I’m 75,” said the 40-year-old, who’s been married just under two years and celebrated the birth of his child this July. 

Although he felt that he knew what he was getting into — at least somewhat — running his own business was an eye-opener, especially the addition of  The Crapshoot Kitchen & Commissary just down the street from his Pub Coffee Hub Shop. 

The commissary is a large space where half of it houses Windy Brew, and the other side accommodates Linda Borinqueña, a Puerto Rican takeout, and Xavmen Ramen, Credi’s second foray into the culinary world with a takeout ramen restaurant. (See related article)

He couldn’t help himself but give it a go by renovating the place and making it amenable for caterers, bakers, restaurateurs, food truck operators and the like to have a space to prepare their dishes and sell them, he said.

“I’ve done enough, and I'm happy with what I've done; I don't need to keep going. The kitchen kind of fell into our laps where it's too good of an idea not to," he said. "I really want to do something that was focused on the community and not different than what my friends at Eli Fish did with their Fresh Lab, you know, giving someone who doesn't have the means to produce their own facility an option. That's exactly what I want to see here. I said (to Vee Echevarria, owner of Linda Borinqueña) my goal is for you to be so busy that you can't work here anymore, that you have to go find your own place.” 

There is still enough room for more behind-the-scenes businesses to operate and prepare their products there, but as for the two restaurants that sell directly to customers, that’s plenty for now, he said. 

Another venture that Credi has taken on is to have an employee who has baking experience begin to make baked goods there — muffins, danishes,  cookies, scones, chocolate-filled croissants, and a cinnamon roll with hot oozy icing, for the coffee shop.

So what would Credi advise someone like his younger self wanting to become a business owner?

"My number one advice would be to talk to someone who's done it. And there's so much like, behind-the-scenes stuff like everyone thinks that this is what I want to do. Okay, that's great. That's about five percent of what your business is actually going to be, you know, selling coffee is five percent of my business. And 95 percent is everything else I have to do to get to the point of selling coffee," he said. "And that's really something, I mean, for a young person, you can't sit down and think that through. You just don't have that experience or knowledge. So you really need to talk to someone. 

“Never underestimate how much work it is. You can do it but don’t underestimate how much work and stress is involved. Talk to someone who has done it," he said. "I’ve talked to a handful of people, it’s really valuable to get that firsthand knowledge."

He worked with a Small Business Development agency to write his business plan, which is invaluable and usually quite necessary, especially when obtaining loans. And then, of course, there's the part when you must just get busy operating your business, he said. 

He likes to regularly check in on local business owners to see what they're doing through their advertisements and promotions and by talking to them, he said. 

He also recommends checking in with customers and listening to them for reasonable feedback to know when to change what or how you’re doing something.  

“Being able to adapt and learn from the feedback,” he said. 

Credi decided to buy the space down the street also at Harvester Center that was formerly One World Goods -- a cavernous space that needed renovating and cleaning up to make it Health Department worthy. 

One section is occupied by Windy Brew, a tavern restaurant and tasting room, and the other side, known as The Crapshoot Kitchen & Commissary, has a kitchen with coolers and cooking and baking equipment for two restaurants and other future enterprises.

Xavmen Ramen was a stop-gap to fully utilize the space and try out an idea that he had while cooking with his wife Karie at home, he said. 

He has learned to carve out his time, with 15 hours a week at the coffee shop and the remaining time at the commissary, preparing and serving the food and checking in on customer feedback. 

Early on, he had a food truck for the Pub Hub and then sold that to The Harvester Center, which uses it on-site for Harvester events.

There isn’t an ending to this story yet, as Credi is planning for new offerings at the coffee shop — he learned that locals like their breakfast and he's gone from two to 11 morning items, including a new egg soufflé sandwich that will debut Wednesday and an egg, bleu cheese and hash brown wrap on Thursday — both of which are making good use of the commissary’s larger oven and space.

And Credi admits he dreams about having a second location with a drive-through even though his more reasonable side knows it’s not practical given his stress overload at the moment. 

Credi, who credits his success and existence to being “comprised of 30 different people” of family and friends who are a huge support system for him, has learned to scale back a smidge.

"I worked 20 hours a day; even in my sleep, I was still thinking about it," he said. "Now, for about five hours a day, I'm not thinking about it."

Photos: BMS choir sings Christmas carols at Pub Coffee Hub

By Howard B. Owens


The Batavia Middle School Choir performed Christmas carols on Friday evening at the Pub Coffee Hub on Harvester Avenue, Batavia.

The high school choir will be at the coffee shop this coming Saturday at 4 p.m.



Photo: Pub Coffee Hub finally gets its ribbon-cutting

By Howard B. Owens


Rob Credi did something unusual last summer -- he opened a physical location for his business -- Pub Coffee Hub, which up to that time had been purely mobile -- in the middle of a pandemic.

It hasn't hurt business at all. In fact, Credi said yesterday the business is doing well.

But it did mean there was no ribbon-cutting with the Chamber of Commerce.

That item on the business-opening checkbox was ticked off yesterday.  

Previously: Moon Java to become new location for Pub Coffee Hub under ownership of Rob Credi

Photo courtesy the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

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