Editor’s note; Billy Warden is a writer, marketing exec and multimedia producer based in the Research Triangle, where he co-founded the p.r. agency GBW Strategies.  He’s a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire. 


RALEIGH – If you’ve somehow avoided melting into a simmering puddle of human grease this summer, chances are you’re seizing on the season’s final weeks to get away and recharge.

These days, businesses of all kinds are quick to encourage, even INSIST on “restorative” breaks from the daily grind. I’m all for it, but for me, a break no longer means just noodling around on a beach. Nothing against surf, sand and sunburn. I’m just more interested in what I’ll call ‘meaningful mirth’ or ‘flings that sharpen my swing.’

Recently, I chatted with storied life science venture capitalist Art Pappas. Most days, hot or not, the founder of Pappas Capital is looking for “drug hunters,” scientists “who truly understand the disease target they’re going after” and can figure out ways to, for example, best breast cancer.

Art Pappas

When we talked, he was also preparing for a summer get-away – visiting the Virgin Islands where a live-in catamaran would be home base for skin and scuba diving adventures.

But this sounded like more than a random vacation. As a kid, Pappas “loved an old TV show called ‘Sea Hunt’” in which flinty Lloyd Bridges played a former Navy frogman who, among other exploits, salvaged errant items ranging from bikes and a nuclear missile to children trapped in a flooded cave.

The black-and-white chronicle of the sea – “this world hidden from view” – captivated the young Pappas when he was growing up near Yankee Stadium in the South Bronx. At 17, he started his own underwater salvage company. His ongoing fascination led him to take up marine biology. Eventually, he joined the military, which took him to North Carolina and his remarkable career here.

Decades later, his voice rippled with excitement as he described the thriving “flora arrangements, the forests of sea flora” waiting in the Virgin Islands. To me, it seemed he was about to dive into the wellspring of his life’s passion. What better way to spend a summer break?

To the mountains …

Meanwhile, Dix Park Conservancy CEO Janet Cowell is preparing to start construction on the Gipson Play Plaza, a 20-acre dreamscape of splash fountains, a massive sandpit and climbing walls. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that her August getaway took her to Shenandoah  National Park where she bouldered to the top of craggy mountains. 

What better way to connect with the spirit of fun and adventure … and to train for the endurance it takes to create a world class 300+ acre park? Play with a purpose!  

To Seattle …

Me, I like to jet into a strange city and get lost in its charms and harms. I’m in the marketing business, so in a way that’s my professional jam: parachuting into someone else’s world and quickly learning the geography, customs, showplaces and dark alleys.

A few weeks ago my target was Seattle. The midday temperature alone – 74 degrees – was worth the seemingly 74 hour flight. Free of the sweat shackles I wear in North Carolina, I ambled from ‘must-sees’ like the Space Needle to the obscure bookstore owned by a man who converses with a cadre of terrifying ventriloquist dummies to a bevy of Bigfoot believers. My kind of fun!

My sense of curiosity renewed, I returned to prowling my clients’ worlds, imagination alert to all their figurative shiny towers and hairy beasts.