Friday, December 16, 2016

New York

Help me take a bite out of the Big Apple.

Let's start with the word 'Yo.'

It means hello. Sometimes it means hey you. You say it in New York it makes perfect sense. In Nebraska not so much. A friend of mine, Ray White, told me this tale. He was getting off a train and was walking across the platform to his transfer. Ray is a disc jockey now, was then. I tell you that to tell you this--a guy recognized him and began yelling, "Yo!" at him from across the tracks.

Ray kept walking, the guy kept yelling and Ray, in telling me this story, said the funniest thing.

"I was thinking, stop Yo-ing me."

Only in New York can 'Yo' be a verb.

One of my best friends, Tony Mirante, is a New Yorker. He would say when he saw a guy with his hair messed up, "Looks like he combed his hair with a firecracker."

Tony also taught me to point to a knuckle on my hand and then point to my head, when a person was doing stoopid stuff.

Knuckle Head. Knuckle Head. Knucklehead.

When the Rangers finally won the Stanley Cup, the hockey championship, in 1994, the place went nuts. They hadn't won since 1942. That's a long time, baby. Instead of overturned cars and mayhem in the streets, like you have seen all too often on television after a championship, there was a classy calm and happiness that prevailed all across the city.

It was also the only time I saw nuns with Ranger caps, on their heads, on top of their habits.

There's more.

Sixth Avenue in Manhattan is also known as Avenue of the Americas.

By tourists.

Not by locals.

They always call it Sixth, never call it by it's other name. Also Lexington Avenue is always Lex to New Yorkers as well.

People always ask me what do I miss about New York.

I miss a few things.

When you go out to eat here in Orlando and look across the restaurant you see Orlando people looking back at you. In New York you might see Mick Jagger.

New York is known for it's diverse food so I have to say I miss that.

You can get great eats delivered to your door that cover all kinds of cuisines. Japanese, Indian, great Chinese, Mexican, delicious deli food, and don't get me going on Italian.

There's so much more that it's a wonder that everyone in New York doesn't weigh 400 pounds.

While we're talking, Dominoes, Papa John's and Pizza Hut don't stand a chance in New York.

There are pizza joints on every corner. Each one has great pizza. New York has great pizza.

Trust me on this one.

Now let's talk about things I don't miss.

The gruffness of, well, everybody. When I first moved there I was surprised by it. But you learn to deal and you find out there are good people underneath that gruff.

I don't miss the traffic.

Sometimes you can walk faster than you can drive.
New York will teach you the happiness you get in your heart when you see a traffic jam that you're not in.

I learned to enjoy a backup on the other side of the freeway.

Also lock your car.


Even that might not help. When I first got there I parked my car on the street. I got up early one day to go to work. I went out to my locked car and when I went to turn on my radio my arm went right into the dash.


Now, that could happen anywhere but the odds of that happening go up in New York.

I don't miss that.

One time when I lived there I went to Seattle for work. I was waiting in line at an ATM machine and the woman in front of me finished. As she was leaving she said to me, "Have a nice day." My first,  I live in New York, thought was, "What does she mean have a nice day?!"

I learned that what she meant was to have a nice day.

Just a knucklehead.

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Random Thoughts

I don't throw things out my car window.

By things I mean trash. I see all kinds of stuff on the road and in the grass beside the road. Cups for sodas and slurpees, wrappers from hamburgers and sandwiches, bottles, plus bags from fast food restaurants. I always wonder who the people that do that think is going to pick that stuff up.

I don't think it's an age thing because I've always thought that way. Bring trash home and put it in your trash can. I've been doing it for so long, I can't remember where I learned it.

It just always seemed to be the right thing to do.

On the other hand I have a bit of a lead foot. I've been lucky, knock on wood, that I haven't gotten a bunch of speeding tickets.

True story.

When I was a disc jockey long ago, in Chicago, I got pulled over on the freeway for just that, speeding. I was on my way to a disco, remember them? I had my girlfriends' car and when I opened the glove box to get the registration, out came stockings and a bra.


But that was the least of my worries. My radio station, WLUP-The Loop, was a big deal in that town and I showed the officer my station ID thinking it might help me out a bit.  He promptly swatted it away and said, "I don't listen to that station."

I told him I was new in town, hoping the old 'I don't know my way around yet' thing would work for me. Didn't register. He then proceeded to say this, "You'll find that this city is different. You can either deal with them downtown or deal with me." I had my wallet out at the time and said, "How much should I give you?" "Anything you want."

I gave him 40 dollars.

He said, "Thank you very much and watch your speed, sir." And then got back into his car and drove away. My hands were shaking as I thought about what had just happened. I put my car in Drive, got back on the highway and kept on keeping on to the club.

Watching my speed.

Like I said, true story.

Here's another story.

Manhattan is all about apartment living.

You knew the doormen, the cleaning guys, the fix your stuff guys, and each one is more than happy to get a tip. You could go broke just coming in and going up to your place. Have I mentioned New York is expensive? It is. And don't even get me going on the price of groceries.

Apartment living.

One of the things you get used to right quick is that there are people living below you, there are people living above you. Here's something you might not know...when living in an apartment you  learn to walk on your tip toes so as not to disturb the people below.

When I married Denise, she moved to New York from living in a house in the suburbs and walked on the heels of her feet. I know what that sounds like and I imagined eyes following her walking across our apartment. The next sound you heard was a broom handle on their ceiling, our floor.

You should have seen my face.

Denise is very nice and while I was waving my arms and saying no, she was sweetly saying, "What?"

Last, but not least, something I've always wondered about.

When Tom Hanks or Denzel Washington or Emma Stone makes a great movie we're bedazzled. Here's a question. Between movies do they work on their acting, do they go to a special acting class? Or did they learn their craft when they were younger and that was it?

You hear about thespians taking acting classes all the time. But that's mainly young actors trying to break into that world. You never hear about huge stars going back to the well, between films, to tighten things up a bit.

Just asking.

And those are a few random thoughts.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

First Time Acting

I just finished acting for my very first time.

The production was called Christmas Is Comin' Uptown. As you can imagine there's quite a story and here goes...

I was doing my grocery shopping, actually finding things on a list my wife gave me, and a guy I knew stopped me. He told me about Cultural Fusion which highlights African American and Latino playwrights. I mentioned that if there was any way I could help, I'd be happy to.

A couple of days later I found myself having breakfast with Cultural Fusion's Founder and Artistic Director, Ken Brown. Ken is a wonderful person, smart, talented, and very warm, with his heart firmly in the right place.
Ken Brown is on the far right

Here's where the story picks up.

We were talking and if you'd given me a thousand chances I wouldn't have remotely guessed what he said next. "How about you be in the production?"

The next sound you heard was my jaw hitting the floor. Although I'd been on camera a zillion times and had even given speeches on a stage, I'd never acted before. When I'm on live television I'm the writer, director, actor and producer. It's a bit different when you're playing a character. I believe in Cultural Fusion's mission plus I wanted my boys to see their dad onstage so I said yes.

Silly me.

Oh, Ken made it easy; my character, I was the Tenant's Rep, didn't have a whole bunch of lines but still. The phrase two left feet comes to mind. That would be me. This show, by the way, is based on the Charles Dickens tale, A Christmas Carol. You know, Tiny Tim, Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Past, and all that.

So off I went to my first rehearsal.

It was very, very, cool.

I wasn't prepared for the scope of it. All the characters, all the children! The youngest was five. The rehearsals were on the second floor of a dance studio.  Things you wall of the studio was mirrored and every time during the rehearsals one kid would spend the whole time looking at himself.

Too funny.
Earl Vennum with his son Kent

It started with everyone reading from their script and gradually over time it moved to the phrase that I dreaded, "No scripts."

Also, keep in mind it's a musical.

I've been singing Uptown's songs in the car, around the house, in my head, in my sleep, for weeks. And those songs? They should be on your iPod.

Earl Vennum is the Musical Director and he's really talented. And a great guy. To watch the songs come together under his guidance was a thing to behold. At first they were a cappella, or as I like to say acapulco, and then one night he brought the band we'd be using.

Hearing the songs with them was the difference between black and white and color.
The Pugh Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center

After what seemed like years in the studio we went to the theater that we actually were going to perform in to do the tech and dress rehearsals. Ken said that Broadway has weeks for each one. He told us how proud he was that we did it in two days.

We had sets. We had blocking. We had costumes. 

I had butterflies. Huge ones.

The air was crackling because we were about to go on. The air was also full of the cast being worn out. Everyone had jobs, or were parents, or had other things going on. Even the kids had school.

Troopers, just troopers all.

Also they all have this love and respect for, as the kids called him, Mr. Ken.

You know what's funny? When you're in the audience you have no idea what's going on backstage.

I didn't.

It's a madhouse of people in their underwear getting dressed in their costumes. Actors and actresses loosening up their vocal cords. Characters getting made up. Children playing video games. Everyone on their phones. Props everywhere. Folks telling old friends they look great.
Me and Kenyarda Scott aka Marley

And me.

Trying not to forget my lines.

In my costume someone told me I looked like a newsman with a touch of Dick Tracy.

I was okay with that.

The audience added a new element. You could feel them, you could hear them. When the house lights went down and the stage lights came up they were a part of the show. How? They laughed at all the right places, they applauded at the musical numbers, they were right there with the story.

It was big fun hearing their reactions.

During the show we were on the sides of the stage trying to stay out of the way of the flood of desks and beds and coffins and sets and characters going on and off that stage. We also congregated to watch great singers sing their songs again and again.

We did three performances and what struck me was this...when you come to see a show you see that one performance. When you put one on, each time is different. To the performers a show is a living, breathing, ever changing thing.

That, my friends, is Theater.

At the end of a show we came out and bowed and then we went out into the lobby, in costume, to greet the crowd. We took pictures, shook hands and kissed babies.

And that was my first acting experience.

One of the best experiences of my life.

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