Tuesday, December 30, 2008


one quest of the musical theater performer is to find good audition songs.  recently, a song was mentioned to me that i've really fallen for.  it's from "the scarlet pimpernel" (music by frank wildhorn and lyrics by nan knighton).  i'm endeavoring to make it my life paradigm song for the first few months of the new year.  given all the challenges in this new city for me, it seems more than appropriate.  i offer it to you, as well, for whatever challenges the new year brings your way.  

"into the fire"

david walked into the valley
with a stone clutched in his hand.
he was only a boy, but he knew someone must take a stand.
there will always be a valley,
always mountains one must scale.
there will always be perilous waters which someone must sail.

into valleys, into waters, into jungles, into hell.
let us ride, let us ride home again with a story to tell.
into darkness, into danger, into storms that rip the night.
don't give in, don't give up,
but give thanks for the glorious fight.

you can tremble, you can fear it
but keep your fighting spirit alive boys.
let the shiver of it sting you
fling into battle, spring to your feet boys.
never hold back your step for a moment.
never doubt that your courage will grow.
hold your head even higher and into the fire we go.

are there mountains that surround us?
are there wall that block the way?
knock 'em down, strip 'em back boys
and forward and into the fray.

into terror, into valor charge ahead, no, never turn.
yes, it's into the fire we fly and the devil will burn.
someone has to face the valley.
rush in, we have to rally and win boys.
when the world is saying not to
by god, you know you've got to march on, boys.
never hold back your step for a moment.
never doubt that your courage will grow.
hold your head ever higher and into the fire we go.

let the lightning strike,
let the flash of it shock you.
choke your fears away.
pull as tight as a wire.
let the fever spike.
let the force of it rock you.
we will have our day, sailing into the fire.

someone has to face the valley .
rush in!  we have to rally and win boys.
when the world is saying not to
by god, you know you've got to march on, boys.
never hold back your step for a moment.
look alive!  oh, your courage will grow.
yes, it's higher and higher and into the fire we go.
into fire!
onward, ho!

all the best to you in 2009 whatever fires you face.  may they be those of the refiner who continuously seeks to strengthen and shape us.  be encouraged!  
happy new year!

Monday, December 29, 2008


i suppose it had to happen at some point.  although, i thought it might be a little longer than this.  i've only been here five months, afterall.  and i can't say that i've really turned completely...just looking.  is that okay?  

the broncos went down big last night.  i've tried to support them as much as possible from here.  if their game was televised nationally, i was watching (like lastnight...thank you nbc).  the rest of the time, i was huddled in my apartment around my computer listening to the game by going to the websites of 850 koa in denver or 740 kvor in colorado springs and getting their audio streaming of the game.  sometimes i'd have some other game on tv just to get a visual.  that could be confusing right there.  admittedly, though, support has been difficult, with the distance and all their injuries...poor blighters.  and then last night...mm...losing by 31 points like that.  just wait til next year!!  i know they'll be back!

so i'm at this strange place of needing a team i can actually follow and watch and keep up with.  since this is how many americans determine how they are doing, whether they're a "winner" or not for their monday, etc.  the problem is, of course, this area has lots of teams to choose from.  what i'm needing is some help in this choice.  

i live on the upper west side of manhattan, across the street from central park, just off the b and c line.  am i supposed to like the jets or the giants?  i like favre since he's old like me and it's great to see him hand some youngin his lunch (although...hasn't happened as much as would be nice, i guess, for jets fans).  but i'm wondering if there's some kind of "line" through this city that determines allegiances, at least loosely.  

secondly, baseball season is just around the corner.  when spring training ends, i've got to have some sense of who to root for.  am i supposed to be a mets or yankees fan?  i just don't get it.  

so, if anyone has some helpful advice for me on who to choose and why, i'm listening.  it's all in the name of being a good and decent new yorker for whatever time i'm here.  so leave me a comment and share your logic!

until next year...go team.  go team go!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

in the midst of all the commercialism surrounding the celebration of jesus' birth, it's easy to forget what we really are celebrating.  in fact, it's all the craziness of this time with nuts schedules that makes slowing down seem impossible.  when do we find the time to rest?  

while sitting in church a couple weeks ago i heard something i've never heard before.  this is always a fun moment for a preacher since we think we've either heard everything or said it ourselves.  tim keller seems to keep saying things i've never heard before and that's great refreshing fun.  

so two weeks ago he was using the "begat" passage of matthew 1 with all the names of the generations leading up to jesus.  the list ends with a breakdown of the numbers of generations.  matthew says there were 14 generations from abraham to king david, 14 generations from david to the babylonian exile, and 14 generations from the exile to christ.  the next verse then describes the birth of jesus.  there's nothing new there, is there?  tim asked the question, "what is this 14, 14, 14 about?"  frankly, i didn't have a clue.  just seemed like information of a historical nature.  but no!  i should have remembered all that special theological training i received at fuller seminary and recalled that matthew never just throws in extraneous information just to be informative!  no no...he is a theological writer!  there is something deeper behind this 14, 14, 14.  

three 14's is also six 7's.  this makes jesus the 7th seven.  along with the divine number, matthew is wanting to remind us of the creation story and the six days of work.  the seventh day was a day of rest.  jesus, as the 7th seven, is the very rest we all crave in this world.  his coming into the world when he did (giving even more weight to the "at just the right time" concept) was to herald "rest" as something, or rather someone, that we could have a relationship with.  

new york amplifies the need, it seems, for rest.  but i know it's not just this place.  we all crave a kind of peace that seems elusive even when we do have the right job, or the right relationship, or the right living situation (the universal trifecta).  augustine said that our souls are restless until we find our rest in jesus.  and if we're honest, we know we have a restlessness that is rarely, if ever, satisfied.  so while you're enjoying gift giving and gift receiving today (and then returning them tomorrow :) and getting tired with it all), remember the "rest" that was born in a manger those many moons ago.  the 7th seven has come.  this is a rest i can relate to. 

merry christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


last friday, less than 24 hours after the arrival of my sister to the big city, we were sitting in radio city music hall ready for something spectacular.  we were not disappointed.  it started with the 36 rockettes dressed up like reindeer with cute little antlers as they pulled santa's sleigh from the north pole into rockefeller center through the help of a 3d movie.  i still have the special glasses.  it would have been nice if they could also magnify the stage so i could see all 72 of those rather amazing legs as they kicked in unison their trademark chorus line high kicks.  we were in the second mezzanine in the 5500 seat theater.  

but distance couldn't take away from the magic of my first new york show.  a flying santa, dancers kicking, toy wooden soldiers, real ice skating on stage, sugar plum fairies, the complete nativity, live camels, a donkey, more kicking, a double decker bus with dancing girls, singers, 72 legs synchronized with precision, tap dancing, a demonstration of how santa can be in so many places at the same time...there were oodles of dancing santas on stage at the same time.  i never knew his legs looked that good.  

there's a reason they call this production the radio city christmas spectacular.  the scope was tremendous!  the creative energy represented on that stage could probably light a small country for several weeks.  of course, creative energy is like that.  at this time of year, the opportunities abound to light up lives with our creative energy.  light 'em up!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


it's been snowing in new york for a couple days now.  very cold.  it's made for some pretty good puddles and slush at the street corners.  guaranteed to get your feet wet if you try to jump over or circumnavigate them.  there is one way to avoid them, however...take a cab.  

my sister is visiting the city and because of the generosity of a friend, she has a place to stay over on broadway.  my place is not too far away here on central park west.  we had been chatting about faith and science and using tim keller's book, "the reason for god" as the catalyst.  good stuff.  and i might just add how proud we are of our mother whose photo made the most recent copy of scientific american (on newsstands now!). 

at any rate...have to get up early to sing in the lessons and carols services of redeemer presbyterian church and my dear sister didn't want me walking home in the cold.  so, i took a cab.  my driver's name was bernard.  he was from ghana but has lived in jersey for the last 18 years or so.  he has retained the delightful accent of his homeland, even with a couple local phrases.  he won't be going home, either, for christmas.  he said he missed his home.  i know a little of how he feels.  

i asked him how the snow was impacting driving around the city and he made me laugh.  he said, "people same drive today as every day."  he didn't think that was a good thing.  he was just saying that a new york driver sees no reason to change their speed just because of a little moisture on the road.  that would be crazy!  bernard said he'd seen 4 accidents today.  he said all this while cutting off a new york cop in his cruiser going about 40 down broadway toward 96th, in the falling snow and on the wet roads.  it was pretty fun.  only cost me seven bucks for this thrill ride, too.  that's a bargain for a little risk-taking.  not like bungee jumping which, i just researched, ranges from $45 to $75 for the first jump and then tack on some more for subsequent leaps.  plus, there's a fun tunnel effect when racing down city streets with tall buildings on either side.  that's just a free bonus.  

bernard got me home safe.  tonight he was my saint bernard...sans internally warming beverage in a barrel.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


you never know what to expect when going to auditions in new york city.  although i've only been at it for three months, there are a few things that are somewhat standard.  when you show up, you have to sign up on a list.  usually this is so the order is set.  those who show up early get to do their thing and then leave.  many an actor gets up early in the morning to be first on the list when the doors open at 10:00 a.m., myself included.  

another commonality is the holding room.  this is a space where everyone waits til their number is called.  usually some of those metal folding chairs are around the edges of the room so everyone can stare at their competition.  sometimes there are hushed conversations.  sometimes there is one or two boisterous personalities who want everyone to know that they are there and they know someone.  i believe this is an attempt at intimidation so that those of us who don't know anyone feel that we're at some kind of disadvantage...which, who are we kidding, we are. knowing people makes all the difference.  

along with the sign in sheet and the holding room, there's the monitor.  this person keeps order, makes sure people are going where they need to go, and answers whatever questions there might be.  these are usually very kind people who love the industry and appreciate actors and all their woes.  they are also important for giving you a little information about the mood of the casting directors and other insider information that is meant to make you a little more comfortable before baring yourself to these strangers in the small room.  

today had all those things as i went in the stage door of the metropolitan opera just off west 65 th street, and moved past the security guard.  i signed in on the little sheet and looked for a place to sit around the edges of the room.  because the call was specifically for men, that's what the room was full of.  because it was also a call for gypsy/fighters who had combat experience, these were a certain sort of men.  and because the call was for those who had a percussion background, beating on stretched skin, there were a few fun long hair types, as well.  it was already looking slightly different than other auditions.

there were lots of guys in tank tops with muscles to show off.  one guy was clearly a body builder...and a good one.  when i came in he was polishing off three hard boiled eggs and some fruit while bulging through his polo shirt that could never have been meant to stretch that way.  he would certainly be interesting to look at on stage.  but there was more to this audition than appearance.  

i was led with 16 other met supernumerary potentials down into the bowels of the metropolitan opera theater.  we walked past huge and ornate set pieces in warehouse size rooms that were under the stage.  finally we arrived in what appeared to be a rehearsal room.  it was huge.  easily 25 foot ceilings and probably 50 by 60 feet on the floor.  we didn't know what was going to happen in here.  we handed our headshots to a guy as we came in and stood around looking at four long metal tubes about four inches in diameter and three feet long, sitting on benches.  there were large hammers laying next to them.  things were getting interesting.

i, of course, was never a percussionist growing up, nor did i ever do any combat, stage or otherwise, so i was feeling a little out of my element but one should go to every audition and let the casting director cut you.  don't cut yourself before even trying.  

the audition had two parts: a musical component which was really a timing issue, and the combat part.  four at a time, we approached the benches with the long metal tubes and heavy hammers, and lifted them.  some did practice swings, loosening up their shoulders.  others weren't sure what was about to happen.  too bad for them.  we were auditioning for the great "anvil chorus" from verdi's opera, "il travatore".  this was going to take timing, strength, acting, and some good old testosterone!  here's a link to the scene from a past performance.  you know the tune.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1YsHzTv7mg&feature=related  

two of each four were to play on beats 1 and 3, and the other two on 2 and 4 and to hit the anvil as hard as we could, or as the casting guy said, "beat the crap out of it!"  we were playing like we were beating out swords on the anvils.  how complicated could that be?  right.  not very.  but, as the director began to count in the piano player and bring in the anvils, there were a lot of timing issues which were somewhat painful for the rest of us.  not just because people were off the beat (it's important to think about the time it takes to swing your arm around so that the hammer hits the anvil on the beat...a few didn't seem to think about that), but because these were very loud pieces of metal being struck with blunt instruments...and we weren't given ear plugs.  

my love for gospel music and the ensuing rhythm that it seems to have instilled in my body was a big advantage for this audition.  probably unfair, but...everyone should be listening to kirk franklin.  i can't help it if they don't.  so i passed the first part of the audition just fine.  but next was hand to hand combat.  the next several minutes were spent learning and doing several hand to hand, choreographed fight moves complete with grunts and shouts...just like good gypsies would do.  i think i did alright.  it was nice to get some aggression out on the metal tubes and at least pretend to hit somebody.  

this would be a great gig.  a couple months of beating the crap out of some anvils at the metropolitan opera and getting paid for it.  but either way, this was the coolest audition i've been to yet!  :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

mary's song

heard these words in church this morning and was moved by them.  they are part of a larger poem by luci shaw as she imagines mary commenting on her baby jesus although with a theological perspective that is full.  

older than eternity, now he is new.
now native to earth as i am, nailed to my poor planet, 
caught that i might be free,
blind in my womb to know my darkness ended, 
brought to this birth for me to be new-born, 
and for him to see me mended
i must see him torn.  


there's a concert going on right now that i'm missing for the first time in over 10 years.  a favorite song of mine is very special this time of year and perhaps even more so this year.  it's by chris rice.

tears are falling, hearts are breaking
how we need to hear from god.
you've been promised. we've been waiting.
welcome holy child.  welcome holy child.

hope that you don't mind our manger
how i wish we would have known.
but long awaited holy stranger
make yourself at home.  please make yourself at home.

bring your peace into our violence
bid our hungry souls be filled.
word now breaking heaven's silence
welcome to our world.  welcome to our world

fragile finger sent to heal us
tender brow prepared for thorn
tiny heart whose blood will save us
unto us is born.  unto us is born. 

so wrap our injured flesh around you
breathe our air and walk our sod
rob our sin and make us holy
perfect son of god, perfect son of god.
welcome to our world.  

extra extra!

the past couple weeks have seen quite a bit of activity on the tv background front.  after my momentous appearance in a very brief scene on "life on mars," the method for getting "extra" work was known and understood.  more brief appearances have occurred in "kings" with ian mcshane.  he's shorter in person than he seemed in films.  that seems to be the regular thought as i see actors in person.  this was a long shoot (an 18 hour day followed by a second shorter day) at a mansion turned museum out on long island.  beautiful place that was right up to my standard of living.  :)   it really was extraordinary.  good place for a show about a king.  don't you think?  

this week, there was a pilot being shot for showtime directed by tim robbins.  yep, that's 
him eating with all of us non-union scrubs during the lunch break.  he was a pretty laid back director.  i think he's put on a couple pounds since the shawshank redemption days.  

after helping tim put his pilot together, there was work to do on a detective show called "the unusuals".  i may actually get a little air time on this one.  look for the guy shuffling through paper "investigating" something behind the stars of the show.  

then there was gossip girl.  i don't know anything about this show except that it's supposed to be the new 90210 but in new york city with kids from the upper east side.  my part in gossip girl was to appear in my tuxedo at the theater (supposedly the metropolitan opera - however we shot the scene on staten island at an old theater).  even after five hours of shooting, i'm still clueless about this show.  all i know is that two of the kids were on a date at the opera.  before the show starts and everyone is getting settled in (that was the masterful work of all of us background actors looking like uptown opera attenders getting into our seats, etc.), the girl starts to have some kind of coughing fit.  i guess it was funny for some reason, but i'm not sure how it fits into the story.  what's remarkable is that this scene in its final form will probably take no more than 2 minutes of air time...if that.  there were 250+ extras, all of us getting a minimum of $85 for the shoot and many getting more.  some quick math reveals that these two minutes cost about $25,000 in background actors alone.  that's before you start figuring in food, snacks, crew, the expensive talent, and other expenses.  i don't think the producers of gossip girl know there's a financial crisis going on.  in fact, i was just told that i was cut from my catering gig tomorrow...econmics. client needs to save money.  

there is a very curious background actor sub-culture.  i'm seeing many of the same faces at each of these shoots.  i don't think they're going for anything more than background work which is fine...they can make a bit of a living that way.  i'll do some more of it, but i will be auditioning for other things, as well.  with extra work, you never know what is going to turn up until the day before.  so one must live with faith that there will be work tomorrow even though it's unknown til the night before.  keeps things interesting.  

the wilderness...venturing the unknown, depending on manna from above...he is faithful.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

working actor

yes, it's true.  made my first dollars acting yesterday.  a whopping $80 for a day of shooting (mostly sitting around waiting to shoot) on the set of "life on mars" which airs on thursday evenings.  not sure when this show will air, but it will be sometime in the new year.  the basic plot involves a new york cop from 2008 who finds himself in 1973 after an accident.  obviously this calls for some fun wardrobe choices and excellent sideburns which made the set look very fun.  but not just the people, the set itself was like stepping into the past: rotary phones, typewriters (remember them?), massive steel desks, cigarette machines with the pull knobs before they moved all cigarettes behind the counter.  

the show stars harvey keitel and some others that i don't really know.  they were all on set as w
e crowded them, asking questions as extras playing various print, tv, and radio reporters.  the scene lasted about 20 seconds.  if i'm on
 camera at all, it will be about 2 seconds.
  that's 10% for you economically minded people.  yes, this is harvey.  

It was a fun day.  I've attached a few photos of yours truly trying to get into character in my sweet, vintage, 1970's three-piece suit.  and since i know you would ask, the cigarette is a prop!  and those bars are part of the set...no worries on my status in the city.  and the stuff on my boots was a kind of foam to cut down on noise during the shoot.  

it's pretty amazing the lengths we go to for our entertainment.  for this 20 second scene, there were probably 25 - 30 of us extras which is great cause everyone is cool and it's great to meet folks.  in fact, the photos of me on set were taken by one of the cool extras.  we got into a little trouble but nothing that should keep me from working in the future.  :)  each of us received our $80 (although there were a few s.a.g. folks who made more).  i know they'll make it all back in advertising dollars, but it was interesting to be a part of this aspect of our economy.  so thank you for supporting the advertisers of this show.  you helped me buy some yogurt and put something toward the pillow where i lay my head.  yay advertising supporters!!!

frankly, i think the shot of me on the phone looks like a regular detective on the show.  i should send it to them to consider.  i could just be the guy on the phone in the background of all the office shots.  i'm believable, aren't i?  maybe lose the pads on the shoes...

Monday, November 17, 2008

first public performance

after three and half months in the city, the first public performance of mark has now occurred!  granted, i was part of the chorus in a choral presentation, but a milestone nonetheless.  i'm sometimes disappointed or upset with myself that i haven't achieved more here in the big apple.  when i mention this to people here, they ask how long i've been here and i tell them, "oh, about three months."  that's when they give me a look that says something like, "get over yourself.  you're crazy to feel that way!"  that's not what they say, just what their faces say.  what they actually say is something more like, "you just got here!  it takes time to learn this city, meet contacts, learn music, etc."  and of course, they're right.  i've always had some kind of internal pressure to produce something in life.  it would appear that it is as healthy a drive on the east coast as it has been anywhere else.  

this was what was called a professional level chorus for this presentation of haydn's "creation".  this means that everyone in the choir has been paid to sing at some point but we all donated our time for this event.  there was an orchestra and soloists and it really was a great evening of music.  

but the music was just the setting for a lecture entitled, "can faith be green?"  a very interesting discussion concerning stewardship of the planet.  i'm glad that the christian community has a number of leaders who are encouraging their parishioners to be stewards of this world we have been given.  as the apostle john records our lord saying, "for god so loved the world, he gave his one and only son..."  this is to say that god loves what god created which includes us and the earth.  we were meant to be stewards of the garden, not destructive consumers.  now, even gardeners remove some trees for cultivation of the garden, so there is a balance to be sought.  christian theology, though, supplies compelling resources for working out this balance.  

my first public performance.  took less than four months from arrival date.  hopefully soon i'll be reporting on the first dollar earned for performance.  that remains an elusive target right now.  

this blog was written in a recyclable medium. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008


there's something sad about being sick in a place far from home.  family and friends care, but they really aren't nearby to come and put a damp washcloth on your forehead or whip up some chicken noodle soup.  

so here i am in a far away land.  people everywhere, but like many here, experiencing profound aloneness.  and now i'm sick.  can't even sing at the moment.  the economy is difficult so whenever there's a catering opportunity, i need to take it.  like this afternoon.  went in at 2:00 pm to do set up for a big benefit event at the hammerstein ballroom.  gorgeous place on 34th street between 8th and 9th avenue.  

i was already feeling bad when i arrived which must have shown since joe, my captain, commented on it.  he cut me early since i looked a bit like death warmed over but not before i got a few hours in which was gracious of him since i wasn't doing much heavy lifting.  mostly folding napkins.  the few hours will be helpful.  what was fun was hearing the artists doing their sound checks.  first up, alicia keys.  the other...well, see if you can guess from the photo i took during his sound check a few hours ago and posted below.  let me know.  he's at the piano, wearing the hat.  he's a pretty big deal to some people.  

so...i'm home now, writing this blog and heading to bed.  missing the music back at hammerstein, but finishing some chicken soup and soothing a hoarse voice.  if you know someone who's sick, offer something of yourself.  it will mean the world to them.  

Friday, November 7, 2008

houston, we have a...

...blessing.  houston drives the m66 crosstown bus.  crosstown busses are key for any uptown folks since there are no subways going under central park.  so for a guy like me at 94th on the upper west side to get to a meeting at 91st on the upper east side, it would be crazy to take the trains around the park.  in fact, to do that, i would have to take at the least three trains, and possibly four, to make that trip.  for example, the three train route would be to take the "b" train from 96th down to 7th ave.  there i would switch to the "e" train to lexington where i would jump on the "4", "5", or "6" to 86th street and walk up to 91st.  the four train option is to start off on the "c" train and make a transfer at columbus circle to a "b" or "d" train around the bend to 7th ave.  you may not believe me when i say this, but i just did all that from memory.  

anyway, houston was looking at a cd cover when i got on the bus to cross town at 66th.  i asked him about it and he said it was karaoke preparation for after work on friday afternoon.  apparently he gives some cheer to the bus drivers on friday afternoon to help them start their weekend with some fun thoughts and smiles.  i'd love to start my weekend that way since it was kind of a rough day on the audition circuit.  

houston and i struck up a conversation about music, singing, life, his marriage, etc.  basically life boils down to two things for him, doing right by himself and god.  after that, everything should be fine.  i was amazed at how generous he was with himself, sharing some of his failures with me.  but the icing was him offering me a gift.  he pulled his bag out and pulled a bus map out and gave it to me saying that now i could get anywhere in town.  i suppose since i've got the subways mastered it's time to do the graduate course in the new york city bus transit system.  the map was more than just directions since it came as a gift.  brother houston blessed me.

Monday, November 3, 2008


went to a choir concert tonight and cried during this song.  perspective is always nice to have from time to time...

as grains of sand, as stars,
as drops of dew,
numbered and treasured by the almighty hand, 
the saints triumphant throng
that holy land
where all things and jerusalem are new.
we know not half they sing
or half they do,
but this we know,
they rest and understand;
while like a conflagration freshly fanned
their love glows upward, 
thro' and thro'.
lo!  like a stream on incense launched on flame
fresh saints stream up from death to life above, 
to shine among those others and rejoice:
what matters tribulation whence they came?
all love and only love can find a voice
where god makes glad his saints,
for god is love.
~christina rosetti (1830-1894)

Friday, October 24, 2008

field promotion

the evening started like any other.  the 188 year old new york eye and ear infirmary was having their celebration dinner and i was assigned a table of happy eaters.  my orders from command were to keep the water and wine glasses charged which i followed to a 't'.  there was really nothing out of the ordinary about the beginnings of the evening.  we preset the first course.  had what i call the bermuda triangle glass set.  in fact, this is my first contribution to the new york catering world.  it has already moved from "bermuda triangle glass set" to "bt set up" which everyone knows is the white wine glass at the top of the knife, the red wine glass up and to the right, and the water glass up and to the left.  the bases of the three glasses forming the isosceles triangle (thanks, dad, for teaching me what that was so many years ago).  bermuda refers to the fact that any liquids in this triangle have a curious way of disappearing.  

after clearing the first course, we served the main.  the captain for the evening was roberto who i've worked with before.  a stickler for service who runs a tight ship and appreciates his soldiers.  in fact, i love that he says "thank you" to us several times a night.  last night he offered kisses to the entire company.  i didn't see any evidence of delivery.  in order to conquer the room more efficiently, we were divided into platoons and led by a couple sergeants who had direct communication with captain roberto at all times.  ear pieces, sleeve mics...the whole deal.  field communication advances in the dining room have come a long way.  

since i was supposed to stay in the dining room for clear up, my evening was just about over.  and then it happened.  the captain called me over for special duty.  he asked me to leave the clean up in the dining room and move to a new theater of activity...dessert!  this was taking place in another room on site with dueling pianos going at it.  fun room.  

however, the big moment was still to come.  at 9:45 pm with about 15 minutes left in the event, one of the sergeants promoted me to bartender!  finally my bartender's license put to good use.  
yep...not a bad night.  promoted in the field.  things are going to start happening to me now!


several nights ago i had dinner with some more celebrities.  quite the group, really.  mayor bloomberg, anna wintour (editor of vogue), tommy hilfiger, calvin klein, and emceed by deborah norville.  it was amazing to me, that when calvin told the group that "ralph couldn't make it," everyone knew exactly who he was talking about.  at my table was an up and coming actress and film maker i recognized from the movie city slickers that starred billy crystal.  what i didn't realize is that this woman at my table whose name plate read, "lindsay miller" is in fact lindsay crystal miller, the daughter of billy crystal.  and she was at my table.  i served her dinner.  and dessert.  and filled her water glass...she said hi to me.  

the event was a charity dinner to thank some top donors.  the fashion industry is among those donors but there were many others, including the mayor.  the group is called, "god's love, we deliver."  they deliver meals to people debilitated by various diseases including hiv/aids.  some 800,000 meals were delivered last year alone.  a great work and a tremendous number of volunteers that make it all happen.  my roommate's mother received meals here in the apartment i'm living in from this organization in the last couple years of her life.  

obviously, the organization's name caught my eye and caused some thoughts to brew in my mind since there was no mention of god during the dinner, or his love which was being delivered.  matthew 25:31 and following talks about the sheep and the goats being separated by particular activities.  "i was hungry and you gave me something to eat, i was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, i was a stranger and you invited me in, i needed clothes and you clothed me, i was sick and you looked after me, i was in prison and you came to visit me.  then the righteous (the sheep) will answer him, 'lord, when did we do all that?'  the king will reply, 'i tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."  it's difficult to argue with the actions of this group.  in fact, i'm not.  the sheep in the story appear to be surprised that they are among god's righteous and i'm sure there are others in this world who will be in this category.  probably some surprised goats, as well.  is all this delivery the spirit of christ at work?

the other side of the argument comes from john 6:28-29.  here some people ask jesus, "what must we do to do the works god requires?"  and jesus answers, "the work of god is this: to believe in the one he has sent."  this would appear to say that belief is the primary action for disciples.  is the spirit of christ at work in the charity without recognition of that spirit or is it merely human effort?  is it sufficient to believe correctly but not engage in the activities of the sheep?   

i have no real conclusion at this point beyond saying that both appear important.  i mean, jesus said both things.  you may have clearer thoughts.  these were just fun musings that ran through my mind during the dinner that ralph couldn't make.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

french service

who knew that the public library would be a venue for a wedding reception?  is that the first place you think of for your special party?  i guess this was the location for one of the "sex and the city" girls to have her reception.  i'm not too up on my episodes.  so someone figured they would do the same thing.  and heck, why not, if you have an extra $100,000 lying around just to rent the space! after that, you could drop another 300k on the designers and rental of tables, candelabras, dinnerware, etc.  then of course, you'll need lighting so you can light up the tableware just right...oh, and you'll need to light the entry hall, mezzanine level and third floor bars, and certainly can't forget the dance hall.  all of this is before paying me to cater your party, along with about 100 of my friends.  food and wine for the 400 guests and as many vodka shots as they want to down will be an additional cost.  the 12 piece band for the dance, the violinist to play jewish-russian wedding music, keeping the ice bar solid from 5 pm saturday night to 3 am sunday morning, and other sundries.  that should do it...shouldn't be more than 2 million dollars.  maybe a little more.  

this really was the most richly decorated event i've catered since arriving here.  the library itself is stunning.  you can check out basic pictures of the library at www.nypl.org.  the pics i've posted here are just the little ones i took with my phone of the event.  the library sits in bryant park between 40th and 42nd street with its entrance on 5th avenue.  by the way, all those candles on the steps of the entry were placed by yours truly and some cater buddies.  people were stopping constantly to ask what was going on.  some took advantage of the backdrop for their own photos.  one lady asked if it was a vigil for the war.  

the dining table was unbelievable.  the photo here doesn't really do it justice.  it almost looks like some kind of optical illusion photo, but it really does
 just keep going and going.  this i know, since i had to walk it an untold number of times in set up as well as during dinner.  200 per side.  imagine that space with 400 guests and another 50 or so waiters all trying to scoot past one another in the 2 feet behind the chairs which in this pic haven't been placed yet, and filled with 400 healthy bodies that like to sit a foot away from the table.  two words... may hem.  and then
 we were giving french service, as it's called.  this is when you take a 
tray with servings for 10 or so.  you dish it out at the table, always from the left of course which meant everyone was leaning to their right...right into their neighbor.  it was tight!  still...there was a kind of opulent elegance, or elegant opulence to the design of it all.  can those words be put together?

the day began at 4:15 am saturday morning for a catering gig in connecticut.  we arrived back in manhattan at 5:00 pm at which point i hustled over to the library for the wedding reception gig for the next 12 hours of my life.  yes...i pulled a 24 hour shift.  i think there are many who do this for a variety of reasons.  i just wanted to appear macho.  finished the breakdown of the ice bar (yep, the whole thing was made of ice!), glasses, leftover food, and a small glass of scotch with the boss around 4:00 am Sunday morning and made my way home.  dreamland by 5:00.  

next time you are at a catered event, say hi to your waiter.  they may be at the end of their strength, beyond 
even the effects of red bull.  they may be the next movie star or theater diva.  as with everything, there are so many unknown and hidden stories of those who serve us.  

Monday, October 13, 2008


i've made what is perhaps a very dangerous discovery...a wi-fi hot spot in central park.  now i can get real new york dust on my screen without it first going through the venetian blind filter over my apartment window.  

the fresh and lovely october air is nice too.  it's actually pretty warm out here.  

this will be the first of many visits to this tranquil spot, for sure.  and of course one hot spot means there could be another.  

i'm mark in central park...and i've just found, the internet.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


my roommate, eric, was gone this weekend.  i found myself doing what i love to do with an empty kitchen...make nachos.  but also, creme brulee, which to my mind is among the finest desserts somebody ever came up with.  nothing like raw egg yolks, sugar, heavy cream and some special flavoring.  everything a growing artery block needs.  ever since its first appearance in a 1691 cookbook in france, this dessert with it's carmelized sugar shell has been pleasing palates around the globe.  

well...i make the best creme brulee.  truly, you should try it sometime.  i prepared some for eric and he informed me of the same thing.  the fact that he had never had it before is really immaterial. it is his new favorite dessert!


it was a late night last night.  or early morning.  same thing, i guess.  another catering gig with the food network as the general client.  and what would a gig for the food network be without another celebrity that i've never heard of but everyone else says is a really cool guy?  so, this time it was chef duff, aka "the ace of cakes."  i can see why he was given this name.  he had made a huge cake in the shape of a whisk.  pretty impressive really.  it fit the location at "the tunnel" which runs from one avenue to another on 28th street between 11th and 12th avenue.  i was told it used to be a night club and i can tell it must have been a very cool place.  

since the party didn't start til 9:00 pm, i didn't have to be there til 8:00.  but that meant going to the wee hours of this morning.  got home about 3:00 am.  sleep by 3:3o or so and my ongoing issue of not being able to sleep more than about 6 hours meant waking up promptly at 9:30.  so i figured i would catch the sermon at redeemer on the west side at 64th.  service started at 9:15.  i was out the door at 9:41.  not bad, if you ask me.  ran to the subway, down the stairs, swiped my mta (metro transit authority) monthly pass, and quickly made my way to the platform.  looked down the tunnel and realized that there was no train in site.  the view from 96th looking uptown is clear for several stops.  no lights means no train!  no way i was going to make it to 64th in time for the sermon, but perhaps that was ok.  

still, i tried.  i ran back up the steps from the platform, through the turnstile, up the stairs to the sidewalk and saw the m10 across the street heading downtown.  i booked it over there and made it on, thanking the driver.  there weren't very many on the bus so i just stayed at the front and, as i like to do, started talking to the driver.  anisha told me i was lucky to get on the bus.  i told her i was late for church and grateful that she waited for me.  she smiled and said the reason i was lucky is because she was giving her tithe to the woman who was keeping the bus from moving and got off just before i got on.  this was a sister!  

she asked where i was heading and i told her.  then i asked where she went and she said that driving the bus made it pretty difficult to ever go, which made it all the more amazing to me that she was giving a tithe at all.  she said she likes preachers that keep her awake since so many cause her to go to sleep.  like this one preacher she enjoyed.  "he was a preacher with drama!" which meant that he preached on adultery and used the affair he was having as a sermon illustration while his wife sat in the front row and yelling "preach! preach!"  gotta love a church that is so real that the community allows for some sinners...in the pulpit! 

i told her she'd enjoy hearing me preach since i had drama too.  dr. keller at redeemer has been talking about community a lot recently.  luke 15 has the religious leaders upset with jesus since he was hangin with "sinners and tax collectors."  they had never seen a community like this before.  a community with sinners?!  crazy.  he ended his sermon by saying the body of christ must commit to the flock - the one jesus died to build.  this means committing to a community that allows each other to be sinners. 

what a gracious understanding of community.  anisha said that whatever drama i might have, god wouldn't have given it if he didn't know i could handle it.  i love it when bus drivers preach.  didn't even need to go to church anymore.  she had already reminded me of god's presence even in the isolation of this place.  and with that, had reminded me that he knew what real isolation was all about.  he experienced it for me so that ultimately, i wouldn't have to.

those 30 blocks by bus were a great start to the day.  don't worry, i still went to church.  another good sermon.  i'll save that for another time.  

Friday, October 10, 2008


you know i like burgers.  and i really like them with tasty crispy bacon under and over melted cheese.  sometimes i like to throw some bleu cheese on their for a little zing, but i have to have really thought through this since i don't keep bleu cheese around very often.  i've even waited in line for a burger before.  sometimes at wendy's where my standard order is a "double cheese plain, add bacon and mayonnaise."  sometimes i've waited at burger king where my order is similar to that of wendy's.  so i understand what it is to wait in line for a burger.

what i don't get is what i saw last night.  i've catered a number of events now.  i've seen some real celebrities.  i refreshed the water glass of michael phelps recently, and even bob costas!  it was exhilarating.  in fact i think i handle myself pretty well around celebrity types especially since one of the brat pack from some of those 80's movies lives in my building and we ride the elevator together.  you would know her.  but do i freak out when i see her?  do i get tongue tied?  do i rush to her for an autograph?  no, no, and no.  

so last night i was working at the chelsea market.  very cool building since it stretches from ninth avenue all the way to tenth.  that's a pretty good stretch for new york.  anywhere else it would simply not exist.  an indoor marketplace with cheese shops, wine shops, a couple more cheese vaults, a wine vault, some bread stores, a glassware shop with a selection of wine glasses for all the wine you can buy in the other shops...and i'm sure there must be a cutting board shop and some fun knives so you can cut up all those cheese varieties. 

chelsea market is primarily on the main floor.  the second floor is the headquarters of the food network.  yes we have a network entirely dedicated to food.  one of their celebrities is, apparently, a guy named bobby flay.  i almost titled this blog, "who the hell is bobby flay?!" since i had never heard of him.  i guess he is a burger chef who has become famous for taking a well shaped beef patty and dragging it by the stove, putting some potato chips on it and a bun and calling it a crunch burger.  the one i had was pretty rare.  sure it was tasty, but it was burger!  and where was the bacon?!!  

well, there was a burger station in chelsea market and that was the area i was bussing last night.  two words...night mare!  bottleneck all night.  and just to make it more fun, this booby flay guy comes out and stands behind his burger table every now and then.  the people went nuts for him.  cameras appeared out of nowhere, camera phones popped up over the crowd with their little blue screens jerkily tracking a moving target.  he'd stand there and smile his winning smile, serve a burger or two, sign autographs, and then disappear again behind the screen.  but the impact of his appearing made an already ridiculous crowd even worse and practically immobile.  felt like i was back at csu and some frat party with wall to wall people and very little movement.  i half expected to see a toga any moment or some naked people get passed overhead.  

behind the little screen was where i was going all the time with my teetering trays of empty wine glasses and mostly eaten burger plates for the trash.  i saw bobby back there.  seemed pretty normal to me.  nice guy.  i guess he makes a good burger.  

but once again i ask, where was the bacon?!

Friday, October 3, 2008


there are many beautiful planters around this town.  as you walk down the streets on the upper east or west sides, you pass the steep steps of classic brownstone town homes.  tree lined streets where the trees are surrounded by little barriers that hold in the dirt that gives home to the trees.  the same can be found in hell's kitchen, chelsea, the village and all the other neighborhoods in town.  

Some of these planters are made of bricks, others of wrought iron.  i've seen morning glories and clematis, impatiens and ivy, all growing at the base of leafy trees.  oak, maple, elm, birch, ash...you name it, it's probably growing in a planter somewhere in this city.

i used to think these planters were placed throughout these side streets for the beautification of the city and certainly this is a piece of the story since they are lovely and provide some nice flowers, after all.  but i know better now.  it is my observation that their primary function is to provide a place for the dogs of this city to evacuate their bladders...which they take full advantage of!  

the city is getting a bonanza on fertilizer.  


there are few things more frustrating than when you're waiting for a "c" train four "e" trains go by in a row!  

Monday, September 29, 2008


today i met earl.  he drives the number 10 bus up 8th ave. which turns into central park west along central park, and then frederick douglas boulevard north of 110th street.  the bus was crowded and i had a load of, if you can believe it, candles and cheap white t-shirts in a new duffel bag i bought in the garment district.  i'll never buy t-shirts for more than $1.75 again.  

since we were crowded into the bus and i hate that no one talks to one another, i asked the driver how he was doing.  he seemed surprised that i would address him but very willing to converse.  i had 20 blocks to go from the bed, bath, and beyond store so we chatted a bit.  certainly didn't want him to be neglected up there in the front seat.  he's been driving a bus for just over 10 years now and has developed some seniority which allows him to select from the various routes.  some of them pay better than others.  he's single and laughed when i suggested that we were both "bachelors to the rapture."  

there's a stereotype that we may have about bus drivers.  earl bucked it.  we talked about the economy and the vote today in congress.  he was happy that the bailout plan didn't pass.  angry, in fact, that he was being asked to pay for a problem he had no part in creating.  he has been thinking about how the economy will impact public transportation around new york and believes that his job is fairly secure.  as pocketbooks tighten, the bus becomes a more viable option than taxis.  a bus ride to anywhere in the city is $2.  a taxi ride starts at $2.50 to sit your cheeks down on the faux leather seat of the cab and goes up from there.  this leads him to think that more people will be riding buses in the coming months.  

i guess we'll find out if his speculations are correct.  either way, i hope i get to ride with earl again sometime soon.  talk to your bus drivers and make sure they have a good day for having met you.  they hold your life in their hands.  

Thursday, September 18, 2008

your 6

one of the fun things about growing up in a military family is all the acronyms that one becomes familiar with.  there are many letter ones like awol (absent without leave which is a bad thing), tdy (temporary duty which can be fun if the location you're sent to is exotic with waterfalls and such), and many others that you may have heard or not heard.  there are top secret ones too which i can't share here since i shouldn't reveal that i know them.  but trust me...there are.  

there are also some number ones that i enjoy.  someone may say, "i've got your six" which is to say that they are behind you or that they have your back since 6:00 would be your backside if you stood in the middle of a clock facing the twelve.  with me?  directionally, too, a pilot may reference where a bogey is by saying a particular time.  these are important instructions with life and death consequences. 

in the catering world, we have some important acronyms, as well, the consequences of which could be life and death with respect to your job!  last week in a salad preset (that's s.p. in my cosmos), the little salad included a half pear.  we were told clearly, pear goes at 12:00.  now i realize i grew up in a privileged household, not only because we could afford a kitchen clock that provided a big hand and a small hand that my loving parents could explain the time with, but the military aspect certainly helped, as well.  but still...how hard can it be to figure out that when the command is "pear goes at 12:00" you don't put it at 3:30, 6:00, or 9:45?!  this proved to be a difficult concept for many.  

compounding it was the order for the butter blossoms (those little butter pads molded to look like little flowers) to go at 3:00.  but there were two!  so does one of them go at 2:55 and the other at 3:05?  do you stack them both at 3:00?  are the blossoms as big as 15 minute intervals on the bread plate clock?!  this sent many of my catering contemporaries into a tailspin.  in the end, it seemed best to put the bottom butter blossom belatedly beyond 3:00 by barely a minute.  then leaning the other butter blossom on the bottom bud.  it turned out beautifully.  

p.s. new york has its own set of acronyms
uws = upper west side
ues = upper east side
cpw = central park west
hk = hell's kitchen

gut check

seems like every gig i cater for, there is an inevitability of a thought process that i'm working through.  somewhere around the third tray of empty champagne flutes, small plates, wine glasses, and soiled napkins, i think to myself, "i have a masters degree."  and then begins the mental sideshow that is unseen by my colleagues.  i have found that many of them have similar situations.  catered a party last week with a guy who has a ph.d. in psychology.  last night with a girl who also has a masters.  yet we play our role in this city providing service for party people who are hungry and providing jobs for people like myself who are living the dream.

i also find myself thinking about two people who some might say were misplaced with respect to their mental ability.  i can't say i'm in their league at all.  merely that i've been thinking about them and the satisfaction that they appear to have experienced in their lives.  brother lawrence as he simultaneoulsy peeled potatoes and deep theological connections to god in the kitchen of his monastery.  i think of his menial task and its provision for others as similar to the service i'm providing.  it brings a smile to my face and helps me care for the people i meet.  so many of them are in difficult places right now with all the financial meltdowns.  

i also think of henri nouwen and his work with mentally disabled people.  this is not to compar the people i'm serving to those that henri served, but to say that he could have been, and was, in far more prominent situations.  he chose to change that and serve in a less public venue.  

all those waiters and stuffed tuxedos that i remember growing up or seeing in restaurants, now have a new member in myself.  they are hard workers with dreams of better lives and the transitory world of food service is a ready support mechanism.  they are easy to overlook.  this may be what's difficult for such a social creature like myself.  that sense that i'm overlooked and taken for granted.  it's a good lesson for an ego the size of mine.  afterall...i have a masters degree! 

Saturday, September 13, 2008


one of the great disappointments of new york city is the fact that restaurants don't do free refills.  this is a mystery to anyone coming from just about anywhere else.  what i'm used to, of course, is getting a sprite or coke, draining it, and getting a new glass from the waiter before i'm even finished with the first.  i mean...it's sugar water.  it costs two cents.  i pay a buck and get served as much as i want.  but in new york it's a different story.  you pay two bucks and get your one glass, or can, or whatever unit of volume you like.  

before going up to new rochelle for a catering gig, i stopped off in the dining concourse of grand central station.  it's below the main concourse which you see in all the movies with its aptly named grand ceiling which seems to expand like the sky while still being indoors.  it really is huge in there and fun to blend into the crowd of travelers each with their own life and destination.  one hundred and seventeen different tracks come into grand central which means tons of activity and a very large food area to feed weary people along their way.  i was not so weary, but i was hungry so i scoped out a few joints in this food court.  one of them was a place called junior's.  seemed like the kind of place that might just have refills.  so i asked to be sure...but the answer was no.   very disappointing.

i walked on for a bit to lodge my protest against junior's.  the hostess was apologetic and because of that, after a few minutes of walking around looking at various food services, i went back, ordered a burger and a large coke.  everything was quite tasty, including the coke.  you know how you can get a coke at some places and it's a little too watery or there's not enough carbonation.  this was a good coke.  

then it happened.  i didn't really see it unfold until it was too late.  some businessman with a backpack was walking by my table.  we were all cramped in there pretty tight which is the nature of dining in new york.  i was so close to the next table that i couldn't help be hear the sad story of a woman talking about how her husband had walked out on her.  he's getting married this weekend to the woman he was having the affair with.  of course, the other thing about new york is that i'll never see her again and all i can do is say a prayer for her and her situation.  but anyway, we were all in there pretty tight.  so as the businessman with his backpack went by my table, a waiter was trying to get through, as well, from the other direction.  so of course, the businessman swung sideways to let the waiter by which slammed his backpack into my coke...my precious, no refill, perfect syrup, perfect carbonation, iced, cup of coke...and it landed on my french fries and lap.  another disappointment.  

he was apologetic, of course.  i didn't know what to say.  for a moment i thought about how i'd seen other new yorkers respond in similar situations.  usually i see tempers, flared arms and hands, raised voices, a scene, expectation of some kind of reparation, etc.  the moment had passed and i missed my window of opportunity to get upset with someone and to demand a free lunch.  

however, i did get a free refill.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


there works a young man as a caterer
which is really the same as a waiterer
he wakes up real early
to determine that surely
he'll always be sooner than laterer.

there once worked a man as a caterer
to support his desire as a daterer
he busted his tail 
serving hors d'oeuvres and ale
hoping as a lover not a haterer.

there worked a young man as a caterer
it would seem it was his faterer
to serve like c-three-pee-oh
without making a peep-e-oh
to please a boss like darth vaderer.

Monday, September 8, 2008

the rest of the story

remember the dell guy?  the dude that would say, "dude, you're gettin a dell!"  ever wonder what happened to him?  well, he's living in new york city of all places...bartending.  

this morning on the way to newark, new jersey, i got the full scoop.  another fun part of catering is the interesting people you work with.  one of them in the minivan with me (i was driving...but that's another story) began talking about this guy and how she had talked with him last night about something or other.  we all wondered what was happening with him.  she told us about the trouble he got into.  so, this is a spoiler alert.  if you really don't want to hear anything negative about the dell guy, stop reading now!  

she apparently was with him the night it happened.  some kind of birthday party that i'm sure was very fun depending on definitions.  for some reason the police came by and caught him with something illegal.  the kind of something that has a variety of names.  gange, weed, maui-wowi, grass...my years strolling the halls at the colorado college familiarized me with the strong emitted odor.  this was on a friday which meant his arrest would put him in the clink for the weekend since he couldn't be arraigned until monday.  

that would be bad enough, but to make matters worse, he was wearing a kilt.  you can almost imagine the humor of the scene if this was in a movie.  a 22 year old blonde kid, wearing a kilt, taken downtown for a weekend in the slammer...who turns out to be the dell guy.  i'm sure he would have made a number of friends even in such a short stint.  his friend, my passenger in the minivan, was getting very upset with the police for not letting him change his clothes before taking him and began taking names and badge numbers.  apparently, they began to see that it would be better for everyone if he was given the opportunity to at least put some pants on.   the new york post ran an article detailing the story, full of photos and a headline that read, "Dude, you're getting a cell!"  nice. 

he's 30 now, putting his life back together, acting in some theater pieces in the city, and working as a bartender.  i had asked myself a number of times when a dell ad came on what the story was and now we know...the rest of the story.


have you ever wondered what question you would ask if you were ever in a position to ask your deepest question to someone who is supposed to know the deepest answers to these kinds of things?  today i had such an opportunity.  very exciting, actually. 

to get to this opportunity i rose early and arrived at the car rental place on 37th on time at 8:30.  here i would meet others from the agency and head to our gig...in newark, new jersey.  the arch diocese of newark was celebrating the ordination of one of their bishops.  it was huge.  2000 people at the service.  kinda made me feel pretty inadequate.  i only had about 150 at my ordination service.  and there weren't any cardinals at my service, either.  but i couldn't think about this because these people needed to be fed and served drinks!  a task i've become fairly good at in recent weeks.  as an aside, i have to say it was a remarkable sight to see
one of the bar stations set up under a crucifix.  the picture is just to prove it.  still, there's something curiously poetic and maybe even right about the image.  i'll leave that to you to think about.   

the list of attendees was extensive and some of them were people i'd seen on tv when they want to ask a catholic about the position of the church on something.  priests, bishops, arch bishops, and even cardinal egan was there.  egan hangs out with the pope.  all these guys were hanging out in the library in their robes, various acoutremont', some had sandals, collars, colors, chains, and more trappings of roman catholicism.  in the middle of this gang was egan, friend and american mouthpiece of the pope.  able to answer the deepest of questions.  my moment had come and i knew it as i walked into the room.  i approached and asked the only question on my mind.  a question that had become programmed through hours of catering since arriving in this city that some have referred to as nineveh...

"would you like some tomato basil on bruschetta?"  

his answer was no.


one of the fun things about catering is having found a high-end company to work for.  saturday night there was a wedding for which i was asked to help serve, butler, and bus for.  doesn't that sound nice?  i'm butlering now.  this took place in a very cool penthouse space on 30th and 5th avenue.  i would love to live in this space.  huge open space that could house my 9' grand piano with ease, an alcove that is screaming for my king size bed, and plenty of other space for pretty much all the rest of my stuff.  not to mention the upstairs roof garden/patio...very nice.  i think it would only take jugillion dollars but it's all fantasy anyway, so who's counting?  

typical to these evenings is the "captain" talking us through all that is going to take place, the timing, and who's on what kind of detail.  todd was the captain saturday night and began taking us through the evening.  6:15 - start serving drinks to early guests.  7:00 - help seat the guests.  7:15 - ceremony begins.  7:30 - ceremony ends, groom steps on and breaks the glass with a hearty "la' chaim!"  7:31 - serve more drinks and clean up empty glasses (there were many).  7:32 - serve appetizers.   8:30 - put the little cheeseburgers on the buffet table...   at this point i became confused and perhaps you can see why.  it's just not kosher, but i was told that the wedding was only half jewish.  i guess that made it alright.  

the important thing, and the nice thing about working for this company, is that i can count on great food to eat when the time comes.  there's a magic moment when the captain gives you a nod and says, "take a break and eat some food."  mmmmmmmmmm...i couldn't have prepared any of this stuff even with all kinds of time to try.  i would have made nachos or something.  this was gourmet with little sauces and finger foods...and even vegetables.  i don't mind the vegetables, really.  when they're prepared, i'll eat 'em.

i should eat well this week.  that's a good thing.  i'm thanking god for provision.  

Sunday, August 31, 2008


what can one say?  when you're wrong, you're wrong.  i was wrong.

in my "sake and sushi" post i made quite a few cracks about dead sea creatures only being enjoyed as long as sufficient levels of sake are consumed to make just about anything taste alright.  this was before i was aware of sushi with a brazilian/peruvian smackdown!  think of it - two amazing taste cultures entering the octagon for spicy hand to hand combat.  the view of the spectator is pure entertainment as these two mix their distinctive flavors into a fantastically luscious succulent entertainment for the tongue.   my my my my my!  not sure what they're putting in the water down there, but it's working!  we should find out about these additives.  i mean, sure, it's nice to have a little fluoride in the water but honestly, how does that compare to the addition of latin love and flavor?!  if you want a sense of the experience, just go to sushisamba.com.  the opening beats are an auditory semblance of what the taste buds get to enjoy (there's also a place there to listen to five compelling compilations of lovely latin tunes. let me know what you think).  if you want the experience for yourself, you'll want to hang out on south 7th avenue and bleecker street.  

i was completely at the mercy of my friends who seemed to have a good sense of what should be ordered.  the only sushi i really knew was the old reliable california roll.  even typing that makes me laugh since that is first grade cafeteria sushi compared to sushisamba which can only be described, then, as doctoral level studies in flavor.  i was lost looking at the menu when, thankfully, tamsin and maria took over the ordering duties.  maria said i had to have the seabass and who was i to argue?  i wasn't prepared for how much i would enjoy these skewers of delight and any mental reluctance that lingered quickly evaporated into total trust of whatever else they ordered.  

tom, sarye, myself, and the aforementioned ordering gurus left this delight for one of new yorks many hidden treasures.  the "little branch" sits in the basement of the building at 7th ave. and leroy street.  very unassuming entrance.  just a little brass plaque on the door with the name so you have to be in the "in" crowd to know about this place.  or, like me who is not in the "in" crowd, be invited by those who are.  that's really my only hope in this place.  theologically speaking, it's the only hope that any of us have.  gotta love invitations!

if someone invites you to sushi samba, you should seriously consider.  if tamsin, tom, maria, and sarye do it, drop everything and go right then without hesitation!

Thursday, August 28, 2008


so last night i tried to find a subway station.  someone told me it was at 33rd and 6th.  made my way that direction, walking east on 33rd.  didn't see a sign for 6th, so i kept walking.  i get all the way to 5th which, obviously, is not right so i asked a group of guys where the station was.  they were great, eager to help, cool accents... 

the one that started tellin me where to go said i needed to go back where i had come from and take a left on broadway.  i repeated back just to be sure, head back where i had come from, make a left turn to the next block, "right?" i said.  i don't think this guy had been questioned much in his life.  he shortly said yeah that i needed to make a left and get to the next block.  he finished with, "it's on 33rd."  well...i had been walking on 33rd!  so of course i pointed this out, "isn't this 33rd we're on?"  

that was it for him.  he was done.  "it's in the next block buddy!"

i just called him out on his error.  that's all.  :)  so, that's how i got my first new york "buddy" comment.  

first audition

i had thought that my first audition would be the one at chelsea studios that i got up at 5:15 for.  when i arrived at 6:55 to sign up on the non equity list, i met another guy named danny.  nice fella who arrived in new york in february.  while we were waiting and chatting, he said he was heading over to ripley-grier studios for some commercial audition.  i asked him what that was and wasn't really sure.  so...went with him.  

ripley-grier is on 8th avenue in midtown and is a huge building full of practice rooms, audition rooms, etc.  actors, dancers, and singers are wandering all over the place which gives some commercial casting directors more people to see.  there were two commercials being cast and a ton of actors hanging in the hall way looking to pass off their headshot and resume and read for a part.  

so i read for a city tourism board ad from new jersey...and got called back!  my first new york audition...called back.  was batting a perfect game until 1:50 and the brain freeze.  then when i did return for the call back at ripley-grier, i think i was rattled.  what started as a good day became simply a day of learning.  :)   i guess those are good days, as well.  i may have had difficulty promoting perth amboy, nj anyway.  but it is the first state to ratify the bill of rights!  and if you're looking for a culturally diverse dining experience, they have over 40 ethnically diverse restaurants and cafes to choose from!  so if you're looking for 325 years of real history, culture and excitement, you know where to go.  i just typed all that from memory.  they should have hired me.

16 bars

that's all you get.  no time to warm up.  no room for error.  i went in with tremendous confidence.  i knew those 16 bars...and not the kind with beers.  you get a lot more than 16 of that kind in this place.  the audition was at chelsea studios on 26th st.  i arrived at 6:55 am in order to be among the first to sign up as a non-equity actor.  this turned out to be a good thing but i was still not heard til 1:50.  made for a full day.  

we all waited in the "holding room" for the equity actors to be heard first.  only then are the non-equity scrubs allowed to sing for the casting director.  many interesting people in this room.  one guy was looking at himself in the mirror and seemed to spot a rogue hair on one of his ears.  he appeared upset and left the room, presumably to address the situation.  another dude had his lucky stuffed animal strapped to the front of his backpack.  some are reading, others talking - some talking to themselves (which is okay in new york...everyone here is either crazy or rehearsing lines...if there's a difference)

so finally after nearly seven hours of waiting for this audition, my first in the musical theater world since college, my moment came.  walked in the little room, handed my music to the accompanist, she hit my starting note, the two casting guys looked on expectantly...total freeze.  the last time i had a freeze up like this was in the pikes peak center during a christmas concert but at least there i was surrounded by 2000 of my closest friends who seemed fine hearing me "la di da" my way through a section of music with a smile on my face.  this was a very foreign environment.  nobody asked how i was, what i was doing in new york, how i was enjoying myself, blah blah blah, no piano introduction beyond my one note starting point, no hugs, no "you're great, so glad you're here, delight us with your cords"...no, none of that.  only cold stares...especially from the pianist after i didn't start from the one note...since i was expecting a warm intro with an obvious pause that meant i should come in.  the kind i would get from don dyck back home.  

ah well, that one is behind me now.  it was a learning experience.  i imagine i'll be learning a lot in the weeks and months to come.  16 bars go by quickly...and entire futures hang on them.  

Friday, August 22, 2008

party - new york style

so...last night i hung out with roger federer, spike lee, serena williams, maria sharapova, a few actor types, and some sports celebs.  who would have thought i'd be hanging out at the grand opening of the nike store, new york.  i've only been here 3 weeks and already i'm hobnobbing with the upper echelon of the sports culture.  certainly you should check it out at 21 mercer street.  this was a huge party with over a thousand in attendance.  security with their little ear pieces (not sure who they were talking to), ushers in spiffy green jackets (they all looked like they just won the masters), open bars, hip hop music from a skilled dj, astroturf everywhere...and all in the middle of mercer street.   huge.  i even met travis mccoy.  i found his phone...he was generous to me for finding it. 

and then it seemed that the swedish and brazilian volleyball teams came strolling in...turned out to be about 100 models just to add some glam to the event and make us all feel that we were part of something special.  which we were.  i mean, it was the nike store!

yep...i felt pretty important last night.  the fact that i was one of the hired ushers should, in no way, diminish how cool you thought i was a few moments ago.  i did get a free pair of shoes...but i had to give back the green jacket. 

Thursday, August 21, 2008

big apples

met friends for a late drink in the empire hotel at lincoln center.  if i ever find myself going hungry in this city, i'll need to reread this post since there is a constantly replenished big bowl of apples on the check-in desk.  yay for free fruit!


so i'm walking down 51st street between 2nd and 3rd avenue and come across a little park.  the plaque said, "private park. open to the public."  it's not large, but that's not what matters here.  some beautiful person has built a waterfall in this little park rather than turn it into a very profitable building.  the water falls some 20 feet and there is a lot of it, such that the sound of the city is overwhelmed.  if you close your eyes here, you might as well be at seven fall in colorado, or out on one of the moks off lanikai beach listening to the crashing surf.  from an auditory perspective, the city becomes nigh unto invisible.  

i had almost forgotten how much i love this sound.  it's magic in its ability to transport a person.  everyone can remember a waterfall somewhere in the world.  i think of the waterfall at the gideon springs in israel, or several on maui, or spilling into the fjords of norway...close your eyes and you're there with just the soundscape of this generous little park on 51st.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


i've noticed something about the subway stations that just about everyone does.  in fact, i've fallen into the same practice.  it's walking to the very edge of the platform by the track and looking down the tunnel for the train.  i do this, and yet i don't know what it accomplishes at all.  actually, i know exactly what it accomplishes...nothing.  but for some reason it makes me feel more aware of reality or something.  wouldn't that be nice.  

there's an old adage, "a watched pot never boils."  i think there should be a similar one for the subways here.  "a watched track never brings a train."

Friday, August 15, 2008

note to self - supplemental

rather than paying my fine by mail, i figured i would just go to the environmental control board office in person.  always fun to learn a little more of the city and try talking to people on the subway.  i'm sure they all think i'm crazy since this is completely unacceptable behavior, but it's kind of fun, too.  

so the back of the ticket said the office could be visited by going to the 10th floor of a building down on john street.  this is a great street in the heart of downtown.  this part of town is leftover from the original layout of the city which wasn't planned very well.  streets are narrow and intersect curiously and with the height of the buildings it can feel almost claustrophobic.  i made my way to the elevators and waited to board the magic lift that would take me to the shake-down location.  

when i got there, i waited in line for a few minutes before speaking to a kind lady who told me that if i was paying cash i would need to do that on the 2nd floor, window 27.  i figured i would take the stairs down both for the exercise as well as relive the good ole days of coming down the manitou incline.  i was quickly reminded where i was when i smacked my pocketed ipod on the metal railing.  

a couple floors down in the stairwell, i saw the sign that makes any stairclimber take pause.  "no reentry except for floor 9 and 6".  I was already committed to my descent and picking up speed and found myself hoping that the second floor would somehow be unique, living in a different universe from the "no reentry" world.  not only was there no reentry on the second floor...there was no door with which to even dream of reentering.  had to completely leave the building and enter at the front door again.  which i did and finally made my way to the 2nd floor and window 27.

another line.  apparently there were many other lawbreakers paying various fines.  i'm sure they will put the money to good use so i don't mind making a small contribution to the city of new york.  maybe they'll put some of the fine toward the free-to-the-public ferry that runs out to governor's island every weekend.  

i ended up at window 26 which is close enough for me.  spoke to a very friendly woman with very red hair.  i like red, but hers was clearly foreign to her natural follicles.  it wasn't the beautiful natural red to strawberry to auburn color that flows out of some of the more regal heads in town.  

i paid her the money, she printed a receipt, stapled it to the original ticket i had received and handed it back to me saying, "hold on to that receipt for eight years, three months."  i couldn't believe it, so i said, "pardon me?  did you say eight years and three months?  it sounded like you said eight years and three months.  is it in the computer that i paid?"  even though the computer had it in there, the city might come back at some point in the next eight years (and three months) and accuse me of not paying.  so just in case they come after my three cheeseburgers with bacon fine, i need to find a safe place to store my receipt for the next eight years and three months.  that's a long time.  in dog years that's like 44 years.  maybe i should get a safety deposit box.  

Thursday, August 14, 2008


my dad suggested that i reflect on the pioneers with respect to my recent move to new york.  it's a fruitful exercise, really, and a spirit lifter when things seem only dusty and dry.  why should i expect anything else at this point?  i've come to a new place where no close family member has tilled the land previous to my arrival.  that ground is hard.  it will take time to soften the soil and begin to plant seeds that might bring a harvest.  and even then, harvest won't happen before spring.  

pioneers are lonely people in the sense that they go ahead of others to establish something.  my community here is small but growing.  it's a difficult thing to know who will want to partner with me in the building of this homestead.  some have their own pioneering projects going on.  i respect that and wouldn't want to interfere.  but i'm hopeful for friends who will join me in the journey.  in them i'll enjoy strength, fellowship, challenge, accountability, and growth.  

there is another who was called a pioneer.  hebrews 12:2 refers to jesus this way as the “pioneer and perfector of our faith.”  he certainly went into the previously undisturbed land of justice to secure my eternal life and satisfy the righteous requirements of god.  he was alone with no one to share in his struggles.  even his friends fell asleep when he needed them most.  i can't say that i have experienced anything near the intensity of his pioneering...just the dull ache of aloneness in this foreign land.

but not foreign for long.  that same pioneer who led me to this place is the perfector, as well.  even as i write this, there is a growing familiarity with the streets and avenues, the subway and the difference between local and express, and the beginning of friendships.  what will be built with them is as yet unknown, but the perfector will grow me in this place and provide building partners.  

this seems too serious since i have another side, as well.  on the lighter side of pioneering in this place, i have learned where to hunt.  everywhere!  there are markets, street vendors, and restaurants everywhere i look.  there has been no shortage of doritos, cheese, ice cream, meat, and other staple delicacies in my life.   there's even a 7-11 with those little cheeseburger dealies that are mashed into a cylindrical shape and kept warm on the steel rollers of magic heat along with hotdogs and sausages.  amazing creation.  i'm well taken care of here.  

i'll keep pioneering.  the ground will soften.  community will come.  maybe even a job...but we wouldn't want to rush anything.