Tuesday, April 28, 2009


yep, it's true.  getting into the best decade of life, right?  :)  it's hard to have a birthday now without spending at least a moment in 2 corinthians 4:16.  so much more reality to this verse in terms of outwardly wasting away with each passing year.  all birthdays are momentous, but this one is my first in new york.  it was chill.  enjoyed time with friends who bought me birthday drinks and food.  of course that's the other issue with each passing year...slower metabolism.  so, all the free goodies will take longer to work off.  but...that's okay, too.  

the other part of this verse is more troublesome.  the city makes it hard to know what is happening inwardly sometimes.  the noise, the people, constant activity, survival...these are not conducive to the cultivating of an inner life.  discipline has not been one of my hallmarks, so i have reflective moments but they seem to be while on the run.  

i think there is a renewal occurring but it is not the tranquil, sunny, gooey kind.  it's hard, gritty, revealing, painful, and beautiful all together.  this city is a crucible.  renewal has never been an easy process and something usually dies...but what you're left with is, by definition, new.  

whatever crucible you're in right now, hang in there.  you have good company and there is the promise of a tremendous hope, as well.  :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009


april 1st i moved into harlem.  it's actually across the street from the forgetful landlord.  i've seen him a few times and he seems unaware of who i am.  that's fine.  i'm grateful to have moved into a two bedroom with a cool roommate.  it's a 5th floor walk up which is good for burning a few more of my cheese calories off.  

i've been slowly making it a home for me.  it's coming along.  even found a good floor covering.

still need a tv.  the lesson for this month is that when applying the lessons from march, things work out alright.  

march 2

so now i'm back in my plush pad on central park west and have a couple weeks to conduct a search for the right place to live.  it's always difficult to find the balance you want of space, price, and location in new york city apartments.  basically, pick any two.  you might be able to get the space you want at the price you'd like but the location sucks.  or you could find a great location in midtown for a low price but your room is about size of your bed...and it's a twin on stilts with a hot plate under the headboard and a toilet down the hall.  yeah...pick any two.  

when i placed the "emergency" ad on craigslist the night of the 13th, there were a number of responses that showed the friendly side of new yorkers wanting to help someone in need.  certainly there was the place i stayed, but there were others who had apartments they thought would be good for me.  i went to look at one the following sunday afternoon and found myself pretty excited about the space.  in fact, i loved the space so much that i was willing to overlook the fact that there was no kitchen.  except for that, it seemed to have space, price, and a pretty good location.  triple threat as they say in new york.  

the woman i spoke with was acting as the property manager for the owner of the space.  we had a great conversation and talked about meeting the owner soon.  she said that he was going through a few things and he didn't want to meet too many people.  this was fine with me.  don't need to be pushy.  after a couple curious time delays in responding to my email questions about the place and where we were, she mentioned that he was at the beginning of dealing with alzheimer's which meant she was having trouble getting clarity from him about the space and a new tenant.  he seemed to change his mind a lot.  

it's now getting closer to the end of the month and things are sounding very good with the property manager.  i was thinking about being in my own place and the culinary delights i could cook in a microwave.  there really are a lot of options and they're not all cheese related...even though that's a great use of a microwave.   i was scheduled to visit with the owner on a sunday afternoon but just before heading up to harlem where the apartment was located, she called to say that it wasn't a good time for him.  while disappointing, she seemed to indicate that it was okay.  he trusted her to make the decision and she felt good about me moving in.  we would do it on wednesday morning.

because of all that was happening on wednesday, i rented the van on tuesday night.  not just the move was on my mind for the following day, but i was acting in a one-act with friends at the slipper room in the east village that evening and needed to get everything done and the van back to u-haul in time to get ready and meet my co-actors for a run through.  i drove over to the place tuesday night in the van and saw the property manager and talked through the details of the next morning.  i would bring the cash and she would have a key for me.  everything was set...

...set for another disaster!  wednesday morning i had the van by the building and was able to load it pretty easily, especially with the help of another friend.  we arrived in harlem about 10:00 am, found a place to park, walked up the steps of my new brownstone home and rang the doorbell.  no answer.  on the way over i called the phone number i had for the lady i had been speaking with but didn't reach her.  i kept calling the number and eventually the owner himself answered wondering who i was and what i wanted.  he didn't seem to know anything about it.  since i'd been through this a couple weeks earlier i didn't panic...but i thought about it.  the owner made it sound like someone else had rented the place the day before which made no sense to me since i thought i was the guy!  either way, there was no budging him.  and the property manager never came to the door.  i still don't know what really happened.  

gratefully, my friend with me said that everyone has some crazy new york moving stories.  i just piled two of them up in two weeks.  but i find that when i start telling my story, someone has a more horrendous one to tell and i guess mine isn't that impressive after all.  probably most reading this have already stopped since they can one-up me too.  well...that's fine!  this is cathartic!  the other thing my friend did was invite me to stay on he and his wife's couch until i found a place to move to.  this was extremely gracious of both of them.  

the lesson learned this time is to sign a lease and/or have keys in hand before loading up a moving van for a second time in as many weeks.  and perhaps all the more if you have a potentially forgetful landlord. 


goodness!  march is a blur.  i told my roommate at the end of february that i would be moving out by the end of march.  this began the process of finding something new.  i have been quite fortunate in terms of living situations, really.  i housesat for friends when i first arrived and it was a lovely one bedroom on the 23rd floor of a midtown high-rise right in the middle of everything and easy to get to things.  that couldn't last forever, of course, and i found a place on central park west.  the perfect location for getting out and enjoying the park and i was even able to enjoy some theological sparring with my roommate.  

we all have our vices.  mine is cheese which can really smell a place up.  his is smoking which can do similar things.  the former has seemed to improve my singing while the latter has hindered it, so as it seemed time to change settings, i started pounding the streets to find a new apartment...er...craigslist.    

if you've ever spent any time on craigslist you know that you can find just about anything on there.  some things shouldn't be found while other things can be quite beneficial.  the number of sublets in new york city at any one time is somewhat staggering.  i wrote to a number of them but also posted an ad in which i expressed my availability to be a renter for someone.  there was a response, i visited his place, and we worked out the details for me to move in mid-month.

in this case, mid month was friday the 13th.  i'm not very superstitious about things like this but maybe i will be now.  the day started in the normal way for a moving day.  woke up, went and rented the u-haul, drove back during new york rush hour morning traffic to my apartment building on central park west between 94th and 95th (kind of fun to drive again even if the ambience was the crazy streets of new york), met my friend who was helping me, loaded up all my things which aren't too much at this point and headed for battery park city where the new apartment was.  when we pulled up at the little guard station, the guy asked me what i was doing.  i of course told him.  he then said that i wasn't on the list.  this didn't bother me too much.  i just figured my new roommate hadn't called them to let them know.  i mentioned his name and was told that he wasn't on the lease.  now i'm a little nervous.  it turns out, i had become involved in an inappropriate sublet.  he was paying rent to someone else who was on the lease but didn't live there.  there's nothing wrong with that, but the amount he was paying was $400 more than the actual rent of the place.  this meant that the person on the lease was making a profit that the landlord wanted (and probably rightfully so since it's his place).  at any rate, after going back and forth with people for some time about my potentially moving in, it became apparent about 4:00 pm that it wasn't going to happen.  i had a full van of stuff, had moved out of my apartment, needed to return the van which was already in a penalty by this time, and i was supposed to be an extra on the angelina jolie movie "salt" the next morning which was filming some exploding funeral scene in manhattan.  in fact, i was supposed to be on set at 5:30 am.  even went to a fitting to make sure i looked right for the scene where they made it clear that there would be residue falling on my suit from whatever they were going to explode.  can't wait to see the finished film and all this residue on people.

anyway, this was as close to a melt down that i've come since moving to new york.  i forgot everything.  i forgot there was a god who loves me.  i forgot that i have friends here who would be happy to have me sleep on their couch.  i forgot about the apartment i left and that i had paid for the month of march and could go back there.  i began to panic and thought i could find something quickly on craigslist.  this was a crazy way to go.  to conclude this portion of the story, i'll just say that i spent the night on a random mattress on a random floor of a random apartment belonging to a random woman who responded to a random emergency ad i placed on craigslist.  crazy.

by the time i got to her place it was about midnight.  i still had the van full of things with no place to put them.  i was still supposed to be on the set of "salt" in a mere five hours.  thankfully i was able to tell central casting that i would not be able to make it.  of course, they may never cast me again, but they listened.  i found a place to park the van that was safe and in the morning when my head was clearer, i moved back into my place on central park west.  the doormen laughed at me but that was okay.  

i'd learned an important lesson about apartment hunting in new york...it's good to make sure that the sublet you're about to enter into is legal.  that and don't forget that you have friends who are happy to take care of you.  really.  they want to.  they are looking for opportunities to bless.  so let 'em know you need 'em.

Friday, February 20, 2009

opening night

in sixth grade, i was in my first musical.  "wheels" was great fun in which i played a caveman named 'rock' who was married to 'martha'.  rock discovered the wheel and in an homage to gilbert and sullivan proclaimed, "why martha it's a wheel.  it's got to be a wheel.  i'd stake my reputation on this quick evaluation.  i don't need substantiation.  it's a wheel!"  

so on the afternoon of the opening of "wheels" i asked our director when we were going to do a dress rehearsal.  she responded, "tonight!"  that put a small bit of trepidation into my system.  little did i know that this would be preparation for my first new york theater experience.  

until last night, i was in rehearsals for the off off broadway production of "land of the babydolls" by kristine hipps and lauren cavenaugh.  they have written a parody of the 1960's movie, "valley of the dolls" which followed the lives of a few performers and a secretary in new york city as they got involved in sex, drugs, and success.  i play 'tiger bedfellow', an entertainment agent involved in the lives of these people and as his name suggests, he relates well.  the story follows the rise and fall of 'stevie o'mara'.  starting as an obscure singer in the show of big star, 'stella dawson' she eventually becomes a big star herself before making drug choices that bring her down.  while a comedy/parody, it's a story that tells the truth, as well.  

because of the low budget nature of off off broadway productions, being able to buy the time in the actual theater space is difficult until the week of the show.  for us this meant one day this week before opening for our tech rehearsal in which lights get set, we figure out all the scene changes, and where we were putting various set pieces, etc.  what this means is, opening night was our first actual run through!  how fun!!  and fun it was.  this is a tremendous cast that is able to roll with anything and we did.  

another fun aspect to the off off broadway theater, at least in this case, is the backstage changing area.  all 13 of us actors were in a space smaller than my freshman dorm room.  there are a few chairs in front of small mirrors.  the portable racks for hanging all the costumes which aren't quite big enough for everything (a couple of the ladies had 14 costume changes).  the backstage/dressing room/green room is where everyone becomes close friends.

as a first experience in new york theater playing to a sold out and overflowing house, i have nothing to compare it to.  this is now the bar that everything to come will have to stack up against.  i can only hope to be surrounded by the same level of talent and performing passion in the future.  if you're in the area, i can promise you two and a half hours of solid entertainment.  "call me...tiger."

Thursday, February 5, 2009


i haven't heard too many new yorkers talk about this.  as i said in the last post, solitude is difficult to come by with some 70,000 people per square mile.  what a treat, then, to get several interesting minutes of solitude in the most unlikely of places.  

i was heading to a late rehearsal for my play, "land of the babydolls"...that's right, i'm in a play.  it goes in a couple weeks and if you're anywhere near the city, you should come.  it's my theater debut and it's happening in midtown manhattan.  hard to believe...but true.  so i was heading to this rehearsal which means i get on the "c" train up at 96th street and ride down to 34th.  now, 34th street has exits at 34th, of course, but it also has an exit at 35th street.  these trains are a couple blocks long so the cool stations have multiple exits.  uncool stations only have one exit in the middle which means if you're in the front or back of the train, you have to schlep it to the exit.  

our rehearsal space is in a building on 36th street.  since it's so cold, staying under ground as long as possible is a good idea.  and since the 34th street station on the "a" and "c" line is a cool station with the exit at 35th st, this means only having to walk one block above ground.  i know i sound like a wuss, but you'd do the same thing.  

the point of all that is to say that when i went down to catch the downtown train at 96th street, i knew that i should wait at the far uptown end of the platform so i could ride the back car which would let me out right at the 35th street exit of the 34th street station.  make sense?  as i looked up the track i could see the two approaching headlights illuminating the rails like two ever present lightning bolts.  always a welcome sight.  

as a train enters a station, it's common to look in the windows and see how crowded things look.  at 8:30 pm it wasn't too bad.  there would be plenty of available seats.  as the train slowed and the last few cars came alongside the platform, i was seeing fewer and fewer people.  the second to last car had one person in it.  the doors to the last car opened and i stepped inside...not a soul.  this was a first.  i took a moment to check for sleeping friends but nope...no one!  i had the entire subway car to myself.  how fun!  

what else could i do but sing at the top of my lungs?!  this was now a stage with props from floor to ceiling.  i pretended the poles that people use to steady themselves were young aspen trees and walked through them, swinging around them like julie andrews at the beginning of "the sound of music."  the great thing was that the car remained mine for three stops.  the singing continued...

sadly, no one witnessed my performance.  i'm sure it was agent-worthy.  this is what i do with solitude.  wouldn't you?  

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

density and diversity

recently i heard someone commenting on cities in which they said that cities are places with "density and diversity."  it's not difficult to understand this.  certainly in a place like new york, there is a tremendous packing of people in a small area.  in manhattan, the density is just under 70,500 per square mile.  that's amazing!  you can see why central park is so important to this city.  it's included in the square mile count of manhattan, of course.  if it wasn't there, the density would be over 75,000 per square mile.  there are some larger cities, but i'm not sure of any that have a density like that of manhattan.  

and the diversity is no secret.  there are over 170 languages spoken throughout the city.  one hundred seventy!  i took some spanish when i was in grade school.  some dutch while living in the netherlands.  a little latin in high school.  struggled through greek and hebrew in seminary.  not really sure if i'm doing english the justice it deserves (i don't even use capitals).  that's only six.  it's fun to stroll the streets or the parks and hear such a wide range of tongues.  it's rich.  

in the last week, i've enjoyed the diversity that this city provides in live entertainment.  several days ago i enjoyed my first trip to the metropolitan opera and a performance of rigoletto.  this is verdi's tragic story of the court jester and his daughter, gilda.  she is clearly a christ figure as she willingly gives her life for a wretch of an unfaithful man.  great singing, music, and unbelievable sets.  the creativity displayed on stage from verdi's writing and story telling to the vocal ability of the performers, and the set designs was staggering.  all that creative power right there in one place!  i really was moved.

and this week, live jazz.  three men on stage: piano player, bassist, and a percussion maestro who had what seemed like 50 different percussion devices (he appeared to use them all at some point through the evening).  this was a much smaller venue but the creativity was equal to what i saw on the met stage.  these three collaborated right before our eyes in ways that had never been rehearsed.  this is, of course, one of the joys of jazz.  it's fresh every time.  were they to play the "same" songs again, they would have similar melodies but would be very different.  and there is no way that the percussionist could duplicate his performance from one concert to the next except in terms of overall musicianship.  truly amazing to watch him maneuver his four limbs to play so many shakers, cymbals, bells, beads, bowls, boxes, and pots in such a short amount of time.  

this is the fun of this city.  diversity is healthy.  even the trinity, as our theology makes clear, has diversity within its unity.  there is a unity that new yorkers feel.  i'm sensing it, even though i can't claim to be a part of it, yet.  but i sense it and that's a start.  it's a desire to be good at something.  to care for others.  all those negative stereotypes of new yorkers being cold...i haven't seen it.  everyone is helpful.  even the crackhead on the subway will smile a toothless grin and give you directions for which train you need to get downtown.  and in a weird way, there is a unity in competition.  mainly that everyone is competing for a limited pot of dollars.  while competing, things can be rough.  but in conversation off the field, there is unity in the pursuit.  

tim keller said that culture is born in the midst of this combination.  like taking the raw bits of physical material and reorganizing them into buildings and streets.  this work of architects is a piece of our culture.  or composers taking the raw units of sound and duration and reorganizing them into music.  or the colors that are smeared on canvas or paper or a wall giving us the beauty of visual art.  because of the sheer numbers of people rubbing their ideas against one another and putting their personal touches on creative work in a city that never sleeps, these bits of cultural birth are constantly taking place.  

that's life in the city.  and now i'm in the milieu...what will i give birth to? 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

gossip girl

for those of you who are in love with the trashy teen tv show known as gossip girl, you'll enjoy this post.  don't worry, i won't give any episodic spoilers...but i could!   :)  had to promise not to give away any plot details.  this is the front of the mansion on long island where we were shooting this past week for an episode coming up in a few weeks.  i was, once again, an ever-loving extra but this time was different.  when i was called by central casting i was told i would be a "featured extra" which means i would have a little interaction with one or more principals.  
this home belonged to john phipps who partnered with carnegie in the steel business.  pretty amazing home.  my role was to be an "aide" to william who is nate's grandfather...for those following the show.   so we make a dramatic entry in a helicopter, jump out, and head to the house.  here's the helicopter.  and a shot from inside. 

nate's grandfather was played by james naughton.  he is a very familiar actor and a great guy.  enjoyed meeting him and watching him work.  very professional.  

there's a comment from the director that is sticking with me.  it's typical in a scene where there are a lot of extra running around to have a number of crew members telling us to be quiet.  of course we want to talk.  of course, also, the crew is talking and working out how they're going to get a particular shot.  so it's not always the fault of the extras that the director gets upset at the noise.  but we're an easy target.  anyway, usually when the director yells "cut" after a take, we smile, start talking, etc.  we've just been mouthing words for the last minute mimicking conversation at a party, what else are we going to do but actually talk.  feels natural.  then someone goes "shhhhh!" and then we hear, "reset to one" which is to say, go back to first position for that shot.  

the comment that stuck with me was the director in a pretty angry voice saying, "cut does not mean talk!  cut means go back to one!!"

you'd be amazed how many times we went back and did things again because someone made a mistake, missed their line, or tripped on a cable.  so different from reality where the first "mistake" stays on the film of life.  every now and then it would be nice to be able to yell, "reset to one!"  

but we get to keep every trip, every missed line...somehow life is a little richer for it, don't you think?  

oh...and i got to shake hands with chace crawford.  nice guy.

Friday, January 2, 2009


i've concluded that new york cab drivers use their car horns as sonar.  

Thursday, January 1, 2009


well, i did it.  or should i say, we did it.  myself and several hundred thousand brave (silly) souls made our way to times square in new york city.  i wish i could say it was some noble instinct that drew us to this place.  yes, we were like salmon with an uncontrollable urge to swim upstream for spawning.  we fought crowded obstacles, police barricades, and the cold to get a few inches closer to that well spring of activity and light.  here at the "crossroads of the world," where broadway and 7th avenue cross to create their little bow tie of six blocks, we had arrived.  it was now time to do the only thing we young salmon could do at this point...wait.

and wait we did.  people said arriving early was a must so we joined the madness and began our trek into the area from the north around 5:30 pm.  after a stop at columbus circle's whole foods for the bathroom, my friend and i headed down 8th avenue to find some vittles.  with warm paninis in hand, we tried to traverse 55th street over to broadway.  this proved unsuccessful but undaunted salmon that we were, we kept looking for that little passage way.  we found it on 54th street and made our way to broadway and then on over to 7th avenue.  from columbus circle to about 48th street, broadway runs between 8th and 7th avenues before crossing at times square and continuing its meandering trek toward downtown.  

we moved into a holding area...really looked like a cattle corral.  felt like it too as we were moved from one area to another.  we started at 54th street in a holding area and then were moved up to around 53rd.  then i heard a countdown happening.  people were screaming "9...8...7...6...5..."  i was suddenly concerned that i had missed something since there was no way it was midnight already.  one of the big screens in the square was flashing the numbers which seemed to make all of us yell them.  when it got to "0", it said, "five hours to go!"  i was already having second thoughts. 

i began doing some polling of the people around me asking if any of them had done this before.  no one had.  i now know why.  all my frugality before this night made it impossible that i would spend $200 for a party somewhere in the area.  as the night wore on, however, that $200 was sounding like a very viable option for food, drink, shelter, warmth, bathrooms and flexible people.  on the street there was none of that.  although there was a guy selling pizzas for $35 a pie.  with the economy where it is, it was fun to see free market capitalism in full swing.  

"9...8...7...6..."  "four hours to go!"  when will this end?  at midnight i guess.  moved up a little closer to the action.  by the end of the cattle herding, we were at 49th street.  just above times square.  7th avenue was packed all the way back to central park at 59th street and of course in front of us all the way to 43rd street and the 12,000 pound ball of light.  i did some more polling in my new location and found the same result...first time for everyone.  i get it.  i don't want to do this again, either.  this means that there are about half a million new suckers every year that crowd into times square.  next year all of us will be doing something wiser like going to that party, watching on tv, giving ourselves papercuts and pouring lemon juice on them...anything would be better than waiting in 17 degrees (windchill = 3 degrees) for a ball to drop.  

but having done it, i now have bragging rights and i will take full advantage of them.  i will drop it casually into any conversation i can that, "oh yeah...i've done that.  it was chilly but you know, dress for it and you'll be fine."  I'll try to be nonchalant about it but...never again.  :)   i didn't even get to see the jonas brothers!

may this truly be a blessed year for all of us.  it will see the beginning of an historic presidency, and hopefully the development of a musical/acting career for one young aspiring actor in new york.  many big days ahead, indeed! 

happy new year!