Adventures In Surviving 2016

Cheers To The Friends

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Cheers To The Gatherings

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Cheers To The Travel

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Cheers To The Adventures

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And Cheers To The Memories

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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 Making Montages

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I always did love a good montage. 

But to master the ancient art of monTAGing, a pupil must first gain practice with the montage’s half dumb little brother, the COLLAGE. 

Like any other suburban 12-year-old girl with a subscription to Teen Vogue, my collaging skills have evolved over the years. 

If you scroll down to Adventures In Making Sense Of Your Childhood, you’ll see some of my early work, a pop culture collage of everything 1998 that still hangs on the wall of my childhood bedroom. (I recently discovered 12 other collages hidden in the bowels of my closet – from history projects to 9-foot long homemade X-Men posters, the top THIRD of which is shown to the right.)

Over the years, I’ve taken to making collages more so for other people, whether it be taking photographs of my family and printing them on slabs of wood as a birthday gift, or photographing friends spelling out “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” word by word over many years of Hanukkah parties as an ongoing holiday card. We’ve got one more verse to go! (See below)

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(Even this past December, when a casting director suddenly asked me to put together an acting reel in less than 90 minutes for a part in a major studio film, I had no choice but to – you guessed it – make one giant montage of YouTube style silliness. It feels like I made a blooper reel for an idiot’s funeral. You can check out the Oscar worthyness HERE.

Our lives are already vivid tapestries, aren’t they? I just have a compulsion to translate and realize that notion in a visual, artistic way. I enjoy building things. I revel in the act of creation. I’m enthralled by the connection of color, tone, aesthetic, feel, mood, narrative, design, discord, direction, and placement.

I lived in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2007. I returned this month for a week and a half trip after a two-year absence. I was amazed to see how much the city has developed since I left, and in my humble opinion, how much more culturally expansive and compelling it has quickly become. On a more personal level, it was wonderful to reconnect with old friends as if little time had past. (Though it so clearly had when three friends revealed their pregnancies.)

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To adhere to the mission of this blog, and savor simply the extraordinariness of old friends, I chose not to embark on too many epic adventures. I almost went on two spontaneous trips – one to Mexico, the other to Joshua Tree – but I refrained. I know I can stay put for two minutes. I know it. So while I’m clearly working on my addiction to adventure, perhaps my addiction to MONTAGE is a healthy addiction. Like. My addiction to oxygen, you know? Especially when it produces this many smiles. So enjoy this love letter to the city of Angels from some of my SoCal pals, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours. 

Watch it HERE.

Adventures In Romanticizing Europe

In retrospect, it was the most formative month of my life. Eight Aprils ago, I performed Shakespeare in London. I got lost in Venice, Florence, Chianti, Cortona, and Rome. I drove the perimeter of Ireland, from Dublin to Cork to Kinsale to the Cliffs of Mohr to Galway and back to Dublin again. In Paris I had tea with Sartre and Seurat, and read the entirety of Alan Watts’ “The Wisdom Of Insecurity” in one sitting in the middle of the train station. I got off in Marseille, thinking I was in Nice, so I stole a pizza and placed a $90 collect call home crying, “Je ne parle pas français! Je ne parle pas français!” When I finally arrived in Nice at 3 am, I was greeted by the howling call of my Rosalind, all wild hair and wicked smile, through second story windows overlooking the water. We woke up the next day, purchased a bottle of red and a bundle of warm chocolate croissants, and we danced on the beach to Morrison and Joplin until the sun went down. The next day, we hopped a train to Barcelona, and when we arrived, we met with Gaudi and Picasso. We purchased local grains and produce, and cooked a meal in our hostel before attending a flamenco performance in one of the local “tablaos”. The next day, my Rosalind left me, and I continued on by myself to Madrid and Toledo. Those days were lore in my history books, full of endless magic and possibility. But I’d like to think that any day can be full of great wonder, if I let it. “We had our whole lives ahead of us” is such an inaccurate cliché, because we ALWAYS have our whole lives ahead of us. So if I ever need a reminder, I can just look at a picture, open a journal, or simply close my eyes, and dance with a beautiful girl on the beach in the South of France.

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Rosalind and I, atop Park Guell, Barcelona

Adventures In Love At First Sight

A couple years ago, I saw two strangers, a gentleman and a lady, lock eyes across a room, a heat and attraction so immediate and so intense that it threatened to destroy every notion that “it could only happen like that in the movies”, ironic considering we were at the premiere of the lady’s first film. With camera in hand, and having just purchased a new lens earlier that day, I slowly backed up into a corner and watched silently as the dashing gentleman cooly approached the resplendent lady, as if they were jungle mammals in some nature documentary narrated by Richard Attenborough. I quietly but quickly held my camera to my face, snapping up just one photo before the lady noticed her old friend being a creeper with a camera in the corner. Later that evening, I apologized to the lady, telling her I had taken the photo because I wanted their grandchildren to see the moment Grandma and Grandpa first met on that perfect Autumn day in New York City. But really, more so, a couple years down the line, when I would at long last gaze upon her sparkling ring finger…I just wanted to be able to smile and say to one of my oldest friends, “I told you so.”

I TOLD YOU SO.

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