The man in the mankini

Also known as the man behind the glasses, it's safe to say Moe Levin has his own personal logo that he also wears on his face. Pretty clever branding if you ask us. And clever he is. He might as well have invented the phrase "fake it 'til you make it." 

"Moe's a hustler," says Dom. "He knows I call him that too, I introduce him like that."

We caught Moe sitting in the sun outside his favorite coffee spot and dug a little deeper into his checkered, glasses-wearing past. Here's what we found out...

Cropbox: Tell us about Moe. Give us the whole shebang.

Moe Levin: The shebang started in the big city of Toronto in a Jewish household.

I've always looked for opportunity and I think that's because I grew up in a very religious household and I didn't really believe in a lot of that stuff. So I was always looking for ways to skirt the system or do something else.

I'll share a funny picture with you, my dad found it the other day. It was a letter I wrote, under my pillow for the tooth fairy. We used to get these Canadian silver dollars, they're worth like 50 cents or a couple bucks. So I wrote this note and it said, "Dear tooth fairy (Mom and Dad), If you don't have any silver dollars, I'll take five bucks instead." I must have been five years old at the time.

CB: Started negotiating at an early age! What did young Moe do from there?

ML: I left when I was 18 and I went to Israel. I got a degree in religious philosophy. Having gone to a really religious school for most of my life, only entering a more traditional school when I was 16, I was really handicapped when it came to traditional schooling. I had no foundation.

CB: It seems fairly nontraditional, going almost all the way through in a religious school and then going to university. Do most people do that?

ML: Most people go on to lead sort of religious lives or don't take jobs in the traditional workforce. So I was really handicapped. But it was also a blessing because by studying religion, especially Judaism, for so long and studying the intricacies of law, I saw that everything has a loophole. The laws were written so long ago so everything is kind of held together by duct tape. 

I think that gave me the basis for thinking outside the box a little bit. Because I'm able to see situations and think, well maybe we can do it this way, or has anybody tried that way? Especially now when for work. For example I'm given a proposal to do something and I'll say okay but what are the laws around it?

I spent a long time of doing weird jobs. Early on I had all sorts of weird jobs.

CB: What's the weirdest job you've ever had?

ML: They've all been schemes. In college, this was in 2006, I figured university text books were too expensive. So I thought, what if I scan them all and sell DVDs of the books online. And so I made an eBay business where I would sell university text books to people.

CB: Isn't that highly illegal?

ML: Well yes. I got a cease and desist from the McGraw Hill or one of those companies saying I couldn't do it. So that worked out well...

I also made some money during the depression. I was living in New York and all the big department stores overbought the year before. And my friend and I had some savings so we bought all this stuff from the department stores that they had overstocked and sold it on eBay in China. It worked really well. So that was fun.

CP: Okay schemes aside... so you lived in Israel, how long did you stay there and where did you go from there?

ML: I lived in Israel for two years and had a lot of fun there. And then I went to New York for awhile and then back to Toronto and I did a Bachelor's in psychology. And then I got a scholarship to study psychoanalysis in Austria. So I moved there and while I was there I started working for a supply chain conference company... Have I told you this story before?

CB: No.

ML: So I was in a bar. And there was this girl next to me who was pretty and she asked what I did and I said I was a photographer. Because that's sexy. We exchanged numbers and the next day I got a phone call from a guy in London saying "Hey I heard you're a photographer." He had this supply chain conference company and was doing an event in Vienna and their photographer dropped out and they needed a photographer.

So I said okay and I went to get a camera and learned how to take pictures.

CB: In a day?

ML: Yah in a day. Luckily people stand still at conferences.

CB: So they loved your work?

ML: They did, so I started working for them. And that paid for a lot of my schooling actually. And I got to travel around Europe taking pictures and listening to all these important people in supply chain and also watching how to make conferences. And at one of these conferences somebody was talking about BitCoin. So I looked it up and posted online in a forum that I knew how to do conferences.... One sec...

At this point, Moe has tracked down a bike police officer riding by to ask if he can get a new Dutch residence card without a police report. Shockingly he didn't ask for police report on the spot.

... Okay so I was living in Austria and I met my girlfriend and we moved to Amsterdam together. Around that same time I posted in the forum about BitCoin and said I know how to do conferences, can we do one about BitCoin? I got some support from the people in the community to do one so I did one in Amsterdam and it went off really well. A few months later I did one in Miami Beach and then started doing more and more and have since rolled it up into a conference company.

CB: So do you see a connection between your upbringing and your schooling and what you do now?

ML: Yes it's all related. Having a background in psychology helps to understand people and to be human. I went through psychotherapy for a while so I have the luxury of knowing myself a bit better which is an asset I think...

CB: Do you have a philosophy or something that inspires your attitude?

ML: I think just generally being open to stuff is interesting. I look at everything and get inspired in a certain way by different things and different people. I don't judge what's happening a lot. I just let it YOLO because things are so weird. The world is so weird. There's no way of making sense of it.

There's such a weird serendipity in the world and if you can tap into it, it can be really cool. That's what I try to do, I try to build a serendipity machine where if you get enough cool stuff and people together, other interesting stuff happens because the odds are higher.

CB: What makes you get out of bed each day?

ML: There's just so much interesting stuff happening. Every day, every week is different. This week for example a friend of mine is getting a tattoo of me in a mankini.

It goes back to what we were talking about with serendipity. It's like the butterfly flaps its wings kind of thing, and all this other stuff happens. You buy a coffee for someone and it changes their day, and then they change someone else's day. Or someone eats a Cropbox and it makes them happy and then they make someone else happy.

Or you send your friend a picture of yourself in a mankini and they get it tattooed on their body.

CB: How did you eat growing up? Did your mom cook?

ML: My mom cooked a lot. She's Spanish-Moroccan. So she made a lot of Spanish and Moroccan dishes. But she's Jewish too so she was always cooking for us, always feeding us. It was good food. She made this amazing brisket... still does. Like a honey-coated sweet brisket with some spicy mustard.

CB: Can you teach me something I don't know in the next few minutes?

ML: Here's how to do dream interpretation. I'll start with a story.

This woman comes to Freud and tells him her dream. She says, "This is all I remember from my dream. There was a horse and carriage walking through this park and in the park there were cobblestone roads and they walked across them."

Freud asks her what stands out the most in this dream for her and she says it was the stones that make up the cobblestone roads. So he tells her to speak as if she was the stone, to put herself in the stone's place. She thinks for a moment and says "Okay well why is everyone walking all over me and shitting on me?" And it was a moment of revelation for her where she was able to inhabit another thing, give it some sort of high level of thinking and learn more about herself.

So whatever dream you think of, if you're able to speak or feel as if you're something else, you get another insight into yourself and a different self-realization. Which is a powerful tool to use.

So if you have a dream where your teeth are falling out, you may read online that it means you're losing money. But if you think as if you were that tooth you think "I don't have anything to hold onto, I don't have a support system," you might realize that's something you're actually going through.

CB: What do you want to eat right now?

ML: I'm trying to lose weight so I just don't want to eat. (Thinking) Yah... I'm trying not to eat, I think that's the key to losing weight (laughs).

CB: (Also laughing) I'm not sure it works like that... Okay, since you're trying to lose weight what's your favorite vegetable?

ML: A chili pepper? Does that count? I really like spicy food.

CB: That counts. Okay, let's do some rapid fire...  

1. Dinner in front of the TV, okay or not okay? If you're with somebody you love it's okay.

2. Breakfast for dinner or dinner for breakfast? Breakfast for dinner.

3. Champagne or martini? Champagne. Every day.

4. Food on a skewer or food on a tiny spoon? Skewer. Because then you have a toothpick at the end.

5.  Would you rather have a coffee or red-wine spill on your favorite outfit? Red wine is a better story.

6. Buffet or sit-down dinner? Sit-down dinner

7. Soup or salad? Salad.

8. Nutella or Speculoos? Neither. Frank's Red Hot.

9. Worst food to get stuck in your teeth: Kale or poppy seeds? Poppy seeds. But popcorn seeds are even worse.

10. Edible flowers or edible gold? Edible gold.

11. Crushed ice or cubed ice? Cubed. But the big cubes.

12. Pizza or pasta? Pizza.

13. Sing in the shower or sing in the car? Shower. Better acoustics.

14. Are you a hunter or a gatherer? Hunter.

In the box today:

Briskety lentil burger with mustard and pickled red onion

Sweet potato chili frieds with smoky cashew cheese sauce

Classic Moroccan hummus

Crunchy kohlrabi, asparagus and cucumber salad with preserved lemon and apricots

Lemony vinaigrette