Adventures In A Decade

As I reflect back on the last decade, it is a collection of small moments, professional and personal, surprising and spiritual, some in solitude, most in the company of friends and family, that stay with me, give me joy, and drive me forward with humility, gratitude, and optimism. I’ve been asking friends lately to share with me their favorite moments from the last 10 years.
Here are 15 memorable work moments for me.
 
1. COMPANY – New York Philharmonic. Sitting in front of Stephen Sondheim on a rapturous, sold out Opening Night, discreetly mortified that it’s my job as AD to take notes on his show in front of him.
Company
2. RESTORING LOVE – Cowboys Stadium. Choreographing an entire Baptist gospel choir in the basement of the largest venue in America, just a couple hours before live broadcasting across the world.
Restoring Love
3. LOST CAUSE – The Old Vic Theatre. Reveling in the cheeky anarchy of our actors Alison and Zoe trashing the stage of Olivier and Dench with literal American garbage, all to the sounds of a hard rock rendition of Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy.
Lost Cause
4. PETER PAN – Mt. Tamalpais. Arriving at the top of the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre to encounter our set designer Erik’s massive, wildly imaginative playground set being assembled on site, the San Francisco skyline floating on clouds in the distance.
Peter Pan
5. THE WIZARD OF LIES – Rosa Mexicana, Upper East Side. Improvising three takes of a three hander scene with Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer (that was later cut from the film.)
Wizard Of Lies
6. CONDÉ NAST – 1 World Trade Center. After a whirlwind, 48 hour prospective Editor-In-Chief initiation, suddenly pitching my ideas for the future of this global brand one by one to every executive at the top of 1 World Trade.
Conde Nast
7. THE TONY AWARDS – The Plaza Hotel. Walking the empty halls for the first time, wearing my Tommy Awards bowtie, gazing at black and white portraits of Monroe and Sinatra, minutes before the mad rush of after party attendees.
Tony Awards
8. ART BASEL – Miami. After a long, hot day, carefully placing the final inflatable ball on a makeshift art installation in the empty swimming pool of a beautiful waterfront mansion.
Art Basel
9. MONTANA – Lake Champlain. Sitting down for dinner at the lake house with our entire cast and crew the night before Day 1 of shooting, an image I’ve wanted to manifest since I was a little kid.
Montana
10. THE DROWSY CHAPERONE – Yale University. Barreling through a snow storm with my parents to arrive at our warm-in-every-way theatre on Opening Night, a week after Hurricane Sandy postponed our tech, eight months after my final grad school call back at Yale.
Drowsy Chaperone
11. SPICE IT UP – Burbank. Sharing a very specific look with my co-writer and one of my oldest friends Elspeth Keller Scott when an executive divulged some surprising information during our first pitch on the Warner Brothers lot.
Spice It Up
12. FIRE ALL OVER YOU – Venice Beach. Rehearsing and discovering a common movement vocabulary with our two remarkable and unique dancers, Rachel and Brianna, on the Casa Karmina rooftop at sunset.
Fire All Over You
13. THE HOMECOMING – A.C.T. Wordlessly communicating with Director and Artistic Director Carey Perloff across the Geary Theatre during tech, immersed in the language of a playwright I’ve loved since high school.
Homecoming
14. JULIUS CAESAR – Lincoln Center. Running around my rooftop screaming in disbelief after somehow managing to memorize Brutus in 4 days-time. (And then, in keeping with a week of quick turnarounds and bizarre career offshoots, finding out I was cast as Ryan Reynolds Body Double and needing to report to set the following morning. My screams quickly devolved into prayers that the title was not meant to be taken literally. My prayers were answered well.)
Julius Caesar
15. ALL STAR CODE – General Assembly. Leading team exercises and group conversations with our All Star Code students while the Black Lives Matter march roared on the streets below.
All Star Code
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Travel has also been one of the greatest joys in my life. It is my primary method for learning, exploring, adventuring, expanding. Travel has provided the right challenges for growth. It’s been my most dependable education. I’ve been crazy fortunate to experience some otherworldly luxury travel, but many of my trips have been full-on frugal, bootstrapping adventures. (I’m always happy to share insights from my frequent flier programs and color coded spreadsheets.) I think it’s important to place a greater focus of pride on unexpected moments of joy and wonder over accomplishments, accolades, and wins.
In keeping with this week’s reflective focus on all the small surprising moments from the last 10 years, and because long subway rides afford me the time to make long, introspective lists, here are some of my favorite travel moments from 15 different places around the world. (Unsurprisingly, food, dancing, mountaintops and bodies of water seem to be the running theme.)
 
1. JAPAN – Exploring the Hakone Open-Air Museum on a misty morning mountaintop / Surrounded by bowing deer and rainfall in Nara, turning the corner to discover the overwhelmingly majestic Tōdai-ji Temple, the world’s largest wooden structure, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha / Meditating with a Zen Buddhist monk in a temple outside Kyoto / Sitting in silence in the Teshima Art Museum
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2. JORDAN – Meeting with Queen Rania in Amman / Chasing after my flying hat in Wadi Rum / Smoking hookah and watching the World Cup on the beach with my parents in Aqaba
Jordan 2
3. CALIVIGNY ISLAND, GRENADA – Jet Skiing around the islands at sunset / Dancing with a massive beach bonfire under a starry night / Enjoying a thought provoking conversation over dinner with Grenada’s Minister Of Health
Grenada
4. RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Riding the cable car up Sugarloaf Mountain / Strapping myself to a man named Zero, jumping off a mountaintop and hang gliding down to Ipanema Beach
Brazil
5. CROATIA – Watching the sun set over the Southern islands and Adriatic Sea from the top of Srd Hill in Dubrovnik / Driving from Dubrovnik to Split, stopping to jump into the Kravica waterfalls of Bosnia and Herzegovina / Roaming the empty streets of a lavender scented mountain town on the island of Hvar / Fulfilling my #1 life goal of running around an inflatable, floating playground
Croatia
6. SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN – Pintxo hopping the streets of Basque country at night / Laughing my way through a water massage at the beachfront spa La Perla
San Sebastian
7. THAILAND – Dancing with elephants in a river outside Chiang Mai / Playing with room controls at The Peninsula Hotel in Bangkok / Learning how to make green curry in a stranger’s waterfront home on the Chao Phraya River / Praying at the golden mountaintop temple, Doi Suthep
Thailand
8. CERNAY-LA-VILLE, FRANCE – Dancing like mad with beautiful friends in the catacombs of Abbaye Des Vaux De Cernay, a Cistercian monastery, into the wee hours of the morning
France
9. MEXICO – Dining cliffside with friends old and new at El Farallon in Pedregal Resort, Cabo / Savoring one of my favorite meals ever at Arca, from Chef Jose Luis Hinostroza of Noma in Copenhagen / Surfing in Todos Santos / Reading on the back porch at El Banco
Mexico 2
10. BALI, INDONESIA – Questing through the monkey jungle in the middle of the night to discover the Nyepi parade’s final ritual / Riding the cliff tram down to Uluwatu Beach
Bali
11. CHIPPING NORTON, ENGLAND – Walking into our full fantasy cabin at SoHo Farmhouse, where a warm loaf of bread, a jug of fresh milk, and 1940’s radio was playing/ Feeding dear friends dessert across a table with extra long forks/ Dropping my mouth to the floor upon seeing a hot air balloon lighting up out back
England 3
12. SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA – Getting lost in Angkor Wat / Exploring the floating villages
Cambodia 2
13. GUATEMALA – Hiking Pacaya, an active volcano, outside Antigua / Visiting a voodoo priestess on Lake Atitlan / Sitting with monkeys atop Temple 4 in Tikal / Volunteering with my Dad at Hospital de La Familia in Nuevo Progreso, where he’s performed free eye surgeries for three decades, and watching a formerly blind Mother come out of her operation and see the face of her teenage son for the first time in her life
Guatemala 2
14. BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA – Taking 48 hours off work and soaking in Esalen’s cliffside hot springs with three of my best friends between 1 and 3 am on a warm, clear, starry night
Big Sur
15. MONTREAL, CANADA – Bike riding around a new city with dear friends, stopping every hour to eat somewhere unexpected and wonderful
Montreal
Thanks for reading, friends. Cheers to another ten years of story telling, heart opening, mind expanding, globe trotting, community building work with you all.

Adventures In Sharing Your Art

A small story of joy at the end of a dark week in our country.

As some of you know, I build experiences across unused, Class A commercial spaces for one of my clients. My job is to essentially engage, strengthen and connect disparate communities in any given building.

One of the ways we recently achieved this for a particular building in Midtown was by inviting all tenants who had side passions as creators, makers, and artists to exhibit their work in our common space. So an HR manager at a hedge fund brought in her homemade greeting cards, an executive assistant at a law firm brought in his 3D paintings, a front desk associate at a beverage distributor brought in her photographs, and so on. Once we collected and proudly displayed all their work on the walls of our common space, we threw everyone a big Art Party. They could invite their colleagues, friends and family to attend in celebration (and hopefully sell some of that side hustle work too.)

I was particularly struck by a series of prints that appeared to be images of microscopic specimens, so I tracked down the artist. She was unbelievably sweet. Her name is Stephanie, and she’s been a secretary at the same company for nearly 30 years.

I asked her about her work. It turns out they were prints of various recyclable objects found around her desk. For the last three decades, whenever she’d get bored at work, she’d collect discarded staples, trashed packaging straps, and wayward hole punches, and make beautiful pieces of art out of them.

I asked her if she had ever shown her art before. She laughed. These prints had been accumulating under her bed, collecting dust for thirty years. No one had ever seen them before. In fact, she had hundreds and hundreds more where these came from.

I then asked her why she hadn’t shown her art before. She said she didn’t think she was a “real artist.” She said she didn’t think people would like her art. She said she didn’t think she had permission.

So I told her I wanted to buy a piece. Her mouth dropped and stayed open. I changed my mind. I told her I wanted to buy three pieces. She fell to the floor and sobbed. What seemed like a small gesture on my part felt like a tidal wave to her. Later that day, she submitted a few of her pieces online to a contest. And this weekend, her work will be shown publicly for the first time in her life at an art show in Red Hook.

I share this story as a reminder, friends. Please don’t hide your art under your beds. I say that both literally and figuratively. Show your colors to the world. If you’re angry, share your anger. If you’re happy, share your happiness. Enjoy your process. Share your work. Share your passions. Share your story.

This world could afford a little more of your light.

And if you’re interested in purchasing a piece of Stephanie’s, I’ll gladly put you in touch.

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Adventures In 2018

2018 HIGHLIGHTS

FILM

Gempler Art 1.9 MBOur short film, Montana, based on my Sundance finalist TV pilot of the same name, played film festivals across the country this year, including
The Brooklyn Film Festival in New York, SeriesFest in Denver, and
The Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles.

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Montana will continue to play the festival circuit in the new year, and be available to watch online late Spring 2019. In a surprising but worthwhile development, I’m now hard at work writing the novel adaptation,
the manuscript of which has a target finish of mid Summer 2019.

Montana Poster

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EVENTS

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Some of our annual projects continued in 2018 with event directing
The 72nd Annual Tony Awards Events 
at The Rainbow Room, The Sofitel, and The Plaza Hotel in NYC
The 5th Annual All Star Code Summer Benefit 
at a private estate in East Hampton
Some of our new events this year included
The Phantom Of The Opera 30th Anniversary Celebration,
events for Art Basel Miami and
U.S. News & World Report.

EXPERIENTIAL

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Since February, I’ve additionally been Experiential Creative Director
of Better Spaces, a leader in tenant engagement. We’re creating and operating experiential amenity spaces in top commercial real estate portfolios across the country. It’s been an exciting opportunity to bring programming, design and a bit of theatricality to commercial spaces nationwide.

ONWARDS

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2018 was unequivocally Boat Ashore Productions’ most successful year yet.
I am most proud of the fact that we employed a record 75 different people on various film and event projects, and are on track to continue growing in 2019 with new experiences and TV projects in development. 

On a personal note, this year included a number of new travels,
from Tulum, Mexico to the Cotswolds of England
to Calivigny Island off the coast of Grenada.
2018 will likely be remembered as the year
I officiated my first wedding, moved to Brooklyn, and became an uncle!

Let’s continue to spread joy and make great things together in the new year.
Jackie_DeShannon_Grid
xx
Michael / The Adventure Addict / Boat Ashore Productions

CLICK HERE TO WATCH 2018 IN 60 SECONDS

 

Adventures In Self-Respect

I never share my craziest stories publicly, but this article gave me some major #TBT last week, and I think, I hope, the lesson is worth sharing.

Last Summer, smack dab in the middle of my Tony Awards Week, I suddenly found myself in ten interviews, from the Yale Club to the top of 1 World Trade, as the sole candidate for the newly created role of Editor-In-Chief, Experiential across all of Condé Nast’s titles. It was to be the first non-magazine, Editor-In-Chief role in the company’s history. (A role that, for the time being, would two months later become obsolete. But just imagine for a moment my wide eyes and slacked jaw when they told me that the in-house stylist was going to redo my entire wardrobe!)

I’ve had too many major job almosts to count. This one was certainly one of the most fascinating. It was a bananas, super “who me?” experience, and everyone I met with during that period was beyond wonderful and encouraging.

But through this experience and a confluence of other well-timed events, it was the first time in my life, at age 32, when I realized I was worth something. I’m not speaking of monetary value. I’m speaking of human value. Over the course of this wild year, I recognized something so essential: I was a human that was worthy of respect and worthy of love, just like everybody else. Perhaps I always knew that on my skin. But now I knew it deep in my bones. My college mentor told me “You are enough” on graduation day. I guess it took me a decade or so to finally listen.

Maybe it was the years of working some of the most degrading gigs I could find to barely make ends meet. Maybe it was the hundred No’s after auditions and festival submissions and directing program applications that came with every once-in-a-blue-moon Yes. Maybe it all goes back to my at times fanciful, at times miserable childhood. Maybe it was all the other external factors I could name that would ultimately take the responsibility off of looking after myself. “You can’t blame nobody but you,” Janet sang. “I’m starting with the man in the mirror,” Michael sang. Whatever it was, I don’t think I had much self-respect. Not love. “R. E. S. P. E. C. T.” (Aretha SANG.)

After I started to respect myself a little more, that’s when I found love.

After I started to respect my opportunities a little more, that’s when I found strength.

After I started to respect my life a little more, that’s when I found joy.

I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and family lately about Pascal’s Wager. “You might as well believe in God.” I can’t vouch either way for that statement. But I do believe, “You might as well believe in Good.” In this life, you might as well try to be good. You might as well try to feel good. You might as well try to do good. You might as well believe that humanity as a whole has the capacity for good. Every person’s unique circumstances could certainly argue otherwise, and this current administration does nothing to support my claim. But I can choose only how I aim to live. And for me, I think this is a directive worth aiming for.

Social media has become a scientifically proven dust bowl of psychosis, misinformation, and ultra targeted marketing. It’s the ultimate “You are NEVER enough.” Whenever I log on, I see that congratulations are in order for a multitude of things – a big job or promotion, a marriage or a baby. Heck I’ve seen people sincerely congratulate others on finding their light in a grungy bathroom selfie on the Lower East Side.

If you’ve read this far into my meandering, 2 am thoughts, here’s what I want to say to you:

I AM PROUD OF YOU.

Yes, YOU. I am proud of the jobs and the babies, yes. I am also proud of you on just a regular Monday like today. I am proud of you for taking the time to apply to all those jobs. I am proud of you for soldiering on after heartbreak. I am proud of you for busting through barriers on a regular basis. I am proud of you for waking up every morning and charging ahead when the world wants to eat you alive.

I am proud of your optimism. I am proud of your kindness. I am proud of your resilience.

If you ever need a reminder, let me know. You have to remind yourself every day.

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Adventures In Surviving 2016

Cheers To The Friends

friends

Cheers To The Gatherings

gatherings

Cheers To The Travel

travel

Cheers To The Adventures

adventures

And Cheers To The Memories

memories

2016 was certainly my most adventurous year yet, in every sense of the word. I am thankful for the opportunity to know so many incredible people and places around the globe. Let us all continue to combat insularity and hate and strive for a kinder, more generous, and more inclusive world.

Wishing excitement and prosperity, love and connection, strong hearts and open minds to all my fellow adventure addicts out there.

Adventures In Leaving Home

To the past and future ghosts of W. 84th Street –

I moved to W. 84th and Amsterdam in September of 2007.img_8044

Apt 2E. “Tooey” as I affectionately called the place, labeling it as such on the front door the month I moved in. It’s the nickname Seymour gave the plant in “Little Shop Of Horrors”. You know, the thing he nurtured that eventually ate him whole.

I was in New York three months earlier, the youngest participant in the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. I was a 22-year-old film actor in LA, masquerading as an assistant in the studio system, and I wanted to be a theatre director in New York. It was to be the smartest financial decision of my life. (🙄 )

I found this one month sublet at W. 84th and Amsterdam on Craigslist from a guy named Jonathan who was leaving to volunteer in Cambodia for a few weeks. I was back in LA, so “Cousin Jen” investigated the apartment for me. One room had a young girl from Texas. One room was acting as a storage closet for a rich girl who lived elsewhere with her boyfriend. And the third room was an office turned bedroom with a futon on the floor.

That room was to be mine.

I packed my bags. I had one month to see if New York was for me.

Then. Jonathan e-mailed me. He decided to stay in Cambodia. Full time.

The futon was mine if I wanted it. The lease was mine if I wanted it as well.

So I took over the lease and I found a steady gig as a middle school tutor.

Then. A month later, I booked a job on my first Broadway show. Sunday In The Park With George.

I guess I was staying in New York after all.

But things weren’t supposed to happen that fast, right? Where were my years of living pay check to pay check and feeling terrified I might end up sleeping on the streets? Oh that was to follow my Broadway debut? Got it.

Sunday In The Park opened. And the recession hit.

My Dad always told me, “Everything is negotiable.” So I negotiated my rent down. I hesitantly asked for a $300 decrease, thinking they’d laugh in my face. They said…”Sure.”

I was officially a lease holder on West 84th Street. 84. My birth year. 8, my lucky number. 4, the members of my immediate family. 8, the symbol for infinity, my greatest fear. 4, like a sail of a boat ashore, my greatest love. It is possible to find so much meaning, and yet look at an 84 sideways and you just might see a guy sticking his tongue out at you. After all, in Hebrew numerology, “84” means “G-d laughs.” Apropos. Do not look for meaning!

84th Street is also known as Edgar Allen Poe Way, but I won’t bore you with any far-reaching connections there.

In 2007 I became a New Yorker. I hustled and I hustled and I hustled. I took every job under the Sun. I did in fact live paycheck to paycheck for 6 years. I poured every dime into my work. I went broke twice. Red. The ATM actually said negative.

Every year I thought I’d finally move into my “real” place. But it never made sense to leave. There are fewer apartment buildings on W. 84th Street than any other residential block on the Upper West Side. That’s because there are two schools on 84th between Amsterdam and Columbus. My living room looked out on to a private garden and the bright blue sky.

The rent stayed down. And the neighborhood went up, up, up. Old Jews made way for New Strollers. The Columbia kids moved down. Good Enough to Eat moved to Columbus. And Jacob’s Pickles transformed the 7 block stretch.

Things changed after my bike accident three and a half years ago. I started writing more. I became more entrepreneurial. I created my own projects. And I started to make a living. I became a working, thriving artist. It was all I ever wanted to be.

I also started spending about a third of the year in California. Subletting out that office-turned-bedroom was the only way I could make it work.

W. 84th and Amsterdam has been my home for 9 years and 3 months. In that time, it has been home to a lot of other people as well. A LOT. I could tag half of my Facebook friends right now. Roommates and sublettors. In Betweeners and assorted vagabonds. People I met on Craigslist became roommates became lifelong friends. Thankfully, there was only one true crazy – the very first new roommate. She worked in “fashion”, did coke binges in her bedroom, and came out of her bedroom every five days to eat pizza on the hallway floor and scream in the middle of the night. img_9051

I stand now in this empty space staring at dead walls. But I’ll remember life here. I’ll remember profound joys and surmountable challenges. I’ll remember madcap Hanukkah celebrations. I’ll remember my roof. Oh will I remember my roof.

But more than anything else, I’ll remember the people. Roommates and friends. Deaf and nearly blind Miss Faagata across the hall. Sweet Miss Zingone on the 5th Floor. She must be 90 years old now. I always felt so bad living on the first floor while she slowly climbed five stories to the top.

I’ll remember Joe and Joe at the hair salon downstairs. I’ll remember the kids of Brandeis and PS 9. And I’ll remember Vivian at the laundromat on the corner. Vivian. Sweet, funny Vivian. I think I’ll miss you most of all.

I will be the keeper of this block. I will be its historian. W. 84th between Amsterdam and Columbus. 2007-2016. I walked this street a million times. I took notes. I told its stories. Now new people will come. I hope they’ll smile at their neighbors. I hope they’ll water the plants. Most of all, I just hope they’ll laugh at all of Vivian’s jokes.

My time here had its fair share of problems.
But for nearly a decade, this place was full of dreams.
For nearly a decade, this place was full of love.
For nearly a decade, this place was my home.

I might as well end with a quote from Poe himself:

“I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him.”

Fondly,

Michael

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Adventures In Visiting Small Cities, Part I

In anticipation of visiting San Sebastián, Spain next week, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite small cities and towns around the world.

KINSALE, IRELAND

img_6072I’ll kick off with Kinsale, a medieval fishing port turned “Gourmet Capital” on the Southwest coast of Ireland. Located in the province of Munster about 27 km/17 miles from Cork, Kinsale is known as Ireland’s Riviera.
I think I originally fell in love with Kinsale because it reminded me so much of Sausalito in my hometown of Marin County, California. Cafés, pubs, and restaurants line the River Bandon. (Which looks far more like a bay than a river.) The locals are warm and quick to tell excellent stories. And a stroll along the grassy knolls often leads you to what look like abandoned castles.

My father took this photo of me in 2005, jumping around Charles Fort, a military base on the water’s edge. (James’ Fort is located on the opposite side of the harbor.) If you find yourself in Ireland soon, Kinsale is definitely worth a visit.

Ticead amhain go dti an Kinsale, le do thoil!

CORTONA, ITALY
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About a decade ago, I stumbled upon Cortona, a small town perched on a mountaintop in the province of Arrezo in Tuscany, Italy. Traveling from Florence to Rome, I hopped off the train for an afternoon of exploration. Cortona was everything I wanted in a small Italian town – familial and romantic, featuring cobblestones and architecture rich with history, and a sunset view of Tuscany that would bring me to tears. (Alas, while the town was featured in the 2003 film “Under The Tuscan Sun,” Diane Lane was nowhere to be found.) I always encourage people to hop off trains while in unknown territories. You can always catch the next one, and you just might find an adventure you’ll be talking about for the rest of your life.

ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA

img_6310I’ve been to Guatemala twice, once at age 15, and again at 23. I went to volunteer at El Hospital de la Familia in Nuevo Progreso with my father, who’s been making the trip annually for decades. Of the many towns I love in Guatemala, from Tikal to Atitlan, Antigua always stands out as a special place. This photo was taken just outside Antigua at the peak of Mt. Pacaya, an active volcano. Want a one of a kind experience? Hike up some molten rock to the clouds, and watch the lava flow in crevices just a couple feet below you.

SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

img_6518I went backpacking through Eastern Europe in 2007 in search of my great-grandfather Leo’s art. He attended art school in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century. So I knew, at the very least, that Austria would be on the itinerary.

En route to Vienna, I spent a few days further West in Salzburg, birthplace to Mozart, home of the world renowned Salzburg Festival, and backdrop to the 1965 classic, The Sound Of Music.

Now I haven’t cried a lot in the last 10 years, but I did produce those perfect, slow-to-trickle-down-the-cheek Demi Moore style tears in Salzburg. And I encourage you to do the same.

Visit the Schloss Mirabell, admire the palace’s Baroque interior, walk up and down the Donnerstiege, a spectacular marble staircase. Then take in a performance of classical chamber music inside the Marble Hall. The night I visited, I was treated to a Dvořák string trio. It was the most beautiful music I had ever heard. (Cue those tears.)

If you have a spare day, I also a recommend a day trip to Mondsee, a lake town 27 kilometers outside the city. Enjoy a delicious Viennese coffee, then recreate Maria and Captain’s wedding in the historic medieval Mondsee Abbey.
Well, that’s what I did.

Adventures In Celebrating The High Holy Days

ROSH HASHANA

I’ve been thinking about this story.

A man went to his Rabbi and asked him how he could finally be free of all his problems, his anxieties, and all that was negative in his life.

The Rabbi told the man that the only time he’ll be free of his problems, his anxieties, and all that is negative is when he is dead.

The man decided he was willing to die so that he could be free.

So the Rabbi sat the man in a chair and said he’ll pour hot tar down the man’s throat.

And he did.

And the man screamed and convulsed as the hot tar shot down his throat and entered his stomach.

But. The man did not die. Because it wasn’t hot tar that now flowed through his body.

It was honey.

The man felt fine. The man felt free.

The man had to be willing to consume the hot tar only to find out that it was really honey.

The Rabbi could not have told the man that it was going to be honey to begin with.

The man felt fine. The man felt free.

Now, truth be told, you could say this Rabbi was a bit of an asshole.

But. I understand the point.

This year, may you take on your greatest challenges and fears head on.

May you come out the other side feeling less burdensome. May you carry less weight.

May you thrive in your work, in your love, and in your service to the world.

You can’t do everything. But you must do something.

Most of all, may you have a sweet, sweet, sweet new year.

L’shanah tovah tikateyvu v’tichatemu.

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Also, may you light a candle, draw a hot bath, and listen to Solange’s new album.

‘Cause that’ll make you feel real good too.

YOM KIPPUR

Today reminds me of a dream I had many many years ago. I’m in a chilled room of floor to ceiling windows overlooking a San Francisco drenched in fog.

G-d is my tailor, and he is measuring me up for a performance. He silently works around my body as I stare onto a desolate Union Square.

Suddenly behind my ear I hear, “Where are your wounds?”

“I have none,” I say.

He pauses.

Then he asks, “Was nothing worth fighting for?”

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Current mood/vibez/look.

 

 

Adventures In Meeting Your Childhood Heroes

I lost two of my childhood heroes in the last year:

Robin Williams and Gene Wilder.

I met Robin Williams when I was 10 years old.

Robin Williams was the The Pied Piper of my hometown, Marin County.

He was my fellow Redwood Giant.

I used to memorize his stand-up routines in high school and perform them for friends.

He tried teaching me to do a wheelie once on the set of “Jack” down the street from my house. I failed miserably.

He picked me back up and smiled and wheelied away with a cackle, sending me a photo and a note in the mail a few weeks later.

He was always so generous and so kind.

I met Gene Wilder about 5 years ago.

I was the bartender in the Presidential Suite at the US Open. (Never mind that at the time, I had never made a drink in my life – for myself let alone celebrities and international heads of state. But still, with a bit of mischief, I said sure, I can do that.)

It was a loud, boisterous scene. Mr. Wilder, one of my top five childhood idols, approached me. Quietly. Slowly. He walked with a cane, but no surprise tumbles were to come.

I want to say he ordered a soda water.

He kept his eyes on me as I made him his drink. Quietly. Intently. I’m no good at making conversation with my heroes, so I responded in the same manner. Quietly. Intently.

Images flashed across my mind. 7 year old me on stage, playing Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka. 9 year old me at home, wearing out VHS tapes of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles.

I handed him his beverage. He promptly took his wallet out of his pocket.

I said, “Oh no, sir. That won’t be necessary.” Tips were prohibited.

He paused to smile at me. A Mona Lisa smile. It felt as if he was studying me, discovering me. Or maybe he was letting me discover him.

He slowly turned his wallet upside down, holding it high above the bar. Then, he opened it wide. A few singles fell like feathers. Silence. He paused and smiled a little wider. He maintained eye contact with me. I was locked in his gaze.

Then, a few coins dropped out. Plop, Plop. Plop….Plop.

It was like a clown routine. Grace and perfect timing never eluded him.

He put his wallet back in his pocket, took my hand, then held it in his own.

“Sir, that won’t be necessary,” I repeated.

He glanced down for a moment, but only to look at my name tag. He looked back up.

“Michael. It’s very necessary.”

I could barely breathe. In his hands I felt play, vitality, honor, mischief. Great, lovely, wonderful mischief.

He released my hand, pushed $4.63 across the bar, nodded his head, then walked away.

geneolder_large
Thank you, Mr. Wilder.
We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
RobinWilliamsMagnum
Thank you, Mr. Williams.
All my love to you, poppet.