Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Polish Hill

Marian and baby sis, Joanne in front of house they were born in on Polish Hill

Ah, Polish Hill. This is the neighborhood in Pittsburgh where Marian Sarnowski grew up. For me it was quite emotional to see I have to say. I am a sucker for ethnic neighborhoods and immigrant stories and the past in general. I feel the ethnic experience so deeply no matter if is something other than my own. It is because of my own story that I get it, I think.

This is Marian with his baby sister, Joanne, in front of the house that Marian not only grew up in, but was born in! I saw the room where all the kids were born. Now it is the TV and sitting room where Joanne and her husband watch Steelers games and "Two and a Half Men."

Wow. More on Polish Hill as I go on, but here I am and I am so glad.

My first home cooked meal in Pittsburgh. Stuffed Cabbage and mashed potatoes. (potatoes not pictured.) It was Polish manna. Joanne says she will make pierogi for me!

The Monogehala Incline

First order of business after lunch on my first day in Pittsburgh was a trip up to Mt. Washington on the Monogehala Incline. One of the oldest and steepest funiculars (funiculi?) in the United States. We didn't know quite how to get there so I asked this guy in the street. He said, "It's this way. I'll show you."

And we walked and walked. And I said to him, "It is really nice of you, but I don't want you to go to all the trouble to take us there. You can just point us in the direction."

He pulled back his jacket to show us the insignia on his shirt. He is the mechanic for the incline and was on his way to work!

He name is Dave and he couldn't have been nicer. He and Marian are both Polish and spoke in Polish. I loved it.

Dave and Marian, two Pittsburgh Poles.

One of the outlooks atop Mt. Washington. Incredible views of the city and the three rivers. We met people from the Bay Area and New York up there!

Marian and his city! I am thrilled beyond words to have this photo.
Coffee cup as prop. I am here! I am really here!

Bucket List #7 Pittsburgh, PA

Yes, Pittsburgh, PA is on my Bucket List and today I got here. Where some of you want to run a marathon before you die, I wanted to see Pittsburgh with my friend and neighbor from Los Angeles, Marian.

I lived in LA across the street from Marian for 12.5 years before moving to New York 2 years ago. He always told me stories of his life growing up on Polish Hill in Pittsburgh. I had hoped one day we would go and he would show me where he grew up and we would eat Polish food. All this while YOU fun a marathon!

Well today we converged here. He from LA and I from New York. We had not seen each other in a year and it was fantastic to see him! It IS fantastic to see him.

Viva Marian, Viva Pittsburgh, Viva Polish Hill!

Marian and Pat realizing a dream! What a GREAT PAL. I am so blessed. And here I am!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nelson - The Fabulous

My pal Nelson is now bi-coastal and we will be neighbors half of the year!

We planned tonight to meet for dinner and 8 others joined. It was a great night and I met so many really fun people. That is the Nelson touch I have to say. He knows how to pull 'em together.

Three of us talked about how to get rid of mice. Peanut butter seems to be the common thread.

I met a really WONDERFUL woman whom Nelson was in "One Life to Live" with years ago.

His good friend Glen and I both have Glaswegian mothers!

Vick lives in an area called Rambo (Right After the Manhattan Bridge)

Gemma works here for Australia Channel 7 and loves New York in that same newbie way I do!

And Nelson lives in my friend Andy's building and they went out on a date! How small a world is that?!

Maria and I talked grocery stores. She has issues with Whole Foods and hates Trader Joes. We agreed on Fairway or it would have been testy.

And James is a cranial-sacral guy and swears he can cure my balance problems! How great would that be?!

Oh, buy Nelson's books!

Monday, September 28, 2009

2 Years in New York City

Wow. I am here two years today. And STILL no regrets. No buyer's remorse, no hesitancy, no going back. I am here and I love it. Thank you New York! Thank you.

I reviewed my one year anniversary entry and I was unemployed then! But I was dating!

So to recap in this past year New York City has:

Broken up with me
Kept me unemployed
Given me Bell's Palsy and Vertigo

But still I love it!

Because it has given me so much more:

New wonderful evolving friendships
freelance work
care of doctors
new opportunities
volunteer work
Moderating screenings
Bagpiping in the streets
Fun trips to Maine and Virginia and home to California for Christmas and summer
Best man in my friends' wedding
Great visitors
Great theatre and concerts in the park and great walks.

I really need to read last year's entries to appreciate all that I have been given. I think I shall.

This seems silly all this, but I am reminded that no matter what is thrown one's way, one can turn on to life and I feel I have done that and I feel so blessed for it.

Now let's just hope for some work, love and more laughter and fun in year three!

I think it will happen.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Kingston, New York

Ellie and I took a train trip up the Hudson to have Sunday lunch with Ellie's friend Bridie and her family in Kingston, New York. It was a beautiful trip up and I felt like that is what one does when one lives in New York - one takes a train trip on a Sunday.

We did just that. Brian, Bridie's eldest son, picked us up at the station and took us on this most wonderful historical tour of the area which covered everything from George Washington to Dustin Hoffman. Brian knows his stuff and was just a super guy.

That George Washington was EVERYWHERE!

We saw many stone houses build during the Dutch era from the 17th century that are still used today. Amazing.

This is part of the only corner in the US where there are still-standing 17th century structures on each corner.
This, my friends, is a step for people to get onto carriages. The town never removed it or turned it into a drinking fountain for dogs.

From colonial days to the Tootsie Tour! Brian took us to the town of Hurley where they filmed many scenes from one of my fave movies of all time.

Here is the bar where Dustin Hoffman goes to talk to Charles Durning after Durning, who proposed to Tootsie, found out his beloved is really a man.

Here is the barn where Charles Durning's character lived and where Jessica Lange and Dustin Hoffman sat on a swing together. You can see a picture of them at this farm here.

Bridie and Tom and their wonderful family. Youngest son Tom made the feast and we talked all about Ireland and New York. I LOVED it. Bridie is from Donegal and had the most wonderful stories and photos. We had a great day. Lovely, lovely family and made me homesick for multi generations around a table having a home cooked me. It was wonderful.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Irish-American Historical Society

Today was Museum Day in New York. Just when you think this city cannot get any better they open the doors to all their museums and you can pick ONE to go to for free. (Other cities offer this as well so be sure and check it out in your area for next year.) My friend Sue who knows all about such things turned me on to this.

Of course I wanted to go to TWO museums for free. It was suggested I just photocopy my ticket and this is what I did and it worked. I don't recommend this at all because it is, well, dishonest!

But I got to go to the amazing Morgan Library and see a Gutenberg Bible, letters by Mart Twain and more first editions than you could possibly eat. His private library is a wonder.

I then trodded uptown to the really never open Irish American Historical Society on 5th Avenue directly across from the Met. The people there COULD NOT HAVE BEEN NICER. That is the Irish for you. I must say humbly that we are really, really, really charming people.

This mansion was built on spec! in the early 1900s and was occupied by a lady and her two daughters. The IAHS bought it in 1940 for $20, 000! Depression era prices. (Sadly the Scots would still be quibbling over the price and would be renting a hall to this day, but that is another story.)

Magnificent place. I got the full tour and it was great.

The Irish at one time were not allowed to be members of the New York Athletic Club so they started the Irish American Athletic Club. Many of the trophies from this era are here.

Eccentric firemen?

Mayor Mitchell and his wife. HOT! Youngest mayor of NYC. Fell out of an airplane to his death at age 39.
View of Met from front room. I would LOVE to live here!

My Dad's Stop on the 6 Line

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Haircut

I HATE getting my haircut. I loathe going, sitting, saying what I want. I hate having to give approval on the back when he holds the mirror up and I can't stand paying and tipping. I hate the whole thing.

I always think this is due to having to sit still and not being able to move. Much like an MRI, which drives me into a frenzy. Immobility is something I detest! (See: "Issues with Meditation.")

But today as I sat still in that chair and stared straight into that mirror in the subterranean barber shop with its lights blaring as if the bar was just closing, I thought, "I hate getting my hair cut because I am forced to sit still, stare straight ahead and really see how I am aging."

If one has to take a vanity pit stop, a barber shop is a good place since it is all about grooming.

The close proximity to the untinted mirror under the bright lights forces me to really LOOK. My hair is receding MUCHO. I have blotchy skin and wrinkles. I don't see much grey, but I know this is due to shoddy eyesight and the fact that it is mostly on the sides, but "Oh, there is a TON of it!" I think-say as massive amounts of follicles that I would like to paste onto my temples come drifting down into my lap - a nasty hairy spaghetti of brown and grey.

The guy getting shaved Mafia-style in the next chair is 24 I hear him say. And his buddy is as well. The two barbers are both in their early 20s too. I could have fathered everyone else in this room!

I am the old man in the sea of youth.

There are two chairs in this shop and I realize if there were 4 of 5 chairs we could line up the stages of man and in between me and swarthy junior would be a man in his 30s and to my right would be gentlemen in their 50s, 60s and 70s.

This thought forces me to accept that I have had my time in the first two chairs and I hope I get to sit in the 4th, 5th and 6th chairs someday. But right now I am in the blotchy, receding, wrinkling 40s chair and I am doing a good thing for myself by getting a hair cut.

Pizza and a Movie

Not really report-worthy in this blog about Grand Gotham, but I had one of those perfect nights where I met up with two friends, Frank and Sean, and we went to Sean's house and ordered pizza and watched a video. And I need to write about it!

I think it was the coalescence of the food, the friends and the film that just made it.

1. We ordered pizza from Two Boots Pizza. A slice there has always been okay to me, but ordering a pie was like Night and Day better. We got "The Newman" - Sopressata and Sweet Italian Sausage on a White Pie - that was so sublimely perfect I finally felt like I had some decent pizza in New York. I know! The Cheek! I am still thinking about the crust.

2. We watched "Valentino - The Last Emperor" about the famous Italian clothing designer. It was so well done and his life is so out of the it takes place mostly in Paris and Rome. I was hooked. I am not really a "fashion guy" but this film was gripping to me. And the spettacolo of this EVENT to celebrate his 45 years as a designer which takes place in from the Colosseum in Rome is breathtaking.

3. Ice Cream. In the 'do not try this at home" category, we each bought our own personal pint of ice cream and ate it out of the container while watching runway models the width of paper clips pose for the maestro. My ice cream tasted SO good and it was just Breyer's Oreo Cookie on sale at $1.5o/pint, but it tasted like a gelato from the Via Veneto for some reason. It was perfect.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Clive Owen - Bateau Rêveur

Though full time employment and love presently elude me. Oh and "hatred of ice cream" and freedom from vertigo, and decent healthcare, and a green thumb and ...

...I did get the pleasure of interviewing Clive Owen and director Scott Hicks after a screening of "The Boys are Back" at the Director's Guild in New York City tonight. Clive was great as usual and I loved Scott Hicks' film "Shine." They were both SO nice and we took photos together in the lobby before the Q & A. The kind women at the DGA pulled me aside afterwards and told me I had a booger in my nose. Nothing Photoshop can't fix, I pray.

My first question to Clive:

"Clive. I really enjoyed the picture, but the one thing I didn't understand was that throughout the film your character goes on about hot it is in Australia and yet you didn't take your shirt off, not once! What is up with that?" He laughed (thank God!) and said "So you would have liked that eh? " and I said "Well as Executive Producer I would think you would have been thinking about your ticket sales."

He is great in it and the actors who plays his sons (Nicholas McAnulty and George MacKay )are fantastic. And kudos to the director and the writer, Allan Cubitt who adapted Simon Carr's novel, "The Boys Are Back in Town" based on his own experiences. I have to say the young son's dialogue is so unpredictable and real to a kid's way of thinking. I marvelled at that.

When I was not marvelling at Clive.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bad Man in Hammock

(Bad iphoto shot, but you get the idea: man, mike, readers and interlude musicians. No hammock.)

I went to the The Kraine Theater on East 4th St in Manhattan's East Village this evening to see/hear a reading of some of my friend Greg Pierce's short stories. The evening was titled "Bad Man in Hammock" based on something Greg misread in Vermont.

I had never read/heard Greg's stuff before and it was fantastic! I really, really enjoyed myself. And was really impressed. This kid has a future!

In fact I had a sh*%ty day and this really lifted my spirits. I saved $165 on therapy.

In the "All About Me" portion of the evening that took place solely in my head, I was both depressed ("Can I write that well?") and encouraged ("Wow, this is possible!")

It was wonderful to hear actors (all great) read. I imagine for Greg he heard it in a way he had not thought. They really brought the material to life. It was funny at times and poignant at others.

And sometimes both.

To plug the talent, here is the list of excellent readers:

Hannah Cabell
Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone
Greg Keller
Debra Monk
David Hyde Pierce

The readings were separated by music from the The Future Shocks who were just wonderful.

A great evening. I wish Greg great success. Hopefully he will do more of these.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Me and President Obama. Oh, and Dave.

My friend Sue scored us amazing VIP tickets through a former life to see President Obama on Letterman. It is hard enough to get into a Letterman show where Tony Danza is the guest let alone the President of the United States.

We were ushered through security and passed lines of waiting audience members like we had fast passes at Disneyland.

To see him in person was so strange. I am still processing the experience. I went out to Ohio to canvas for him during the election and this was the first time I had ever seen him in person. It was really something. Surreal in fact. I think maybe he was animatronic like Lincoln at Disneyland.

THIS is the same guy 100 yards from me who is going to speak at the UN on Wednesday? He is dynamic and smart and thinks before he speaks. All traits that separate him and me...

It was just a thrill that I will never forget. One of the perks of being unemployed and free in the afternoon!



Security was REALLY tight as one would imagine. Broadway was shut down. Loads of police. Secret Service watched us from the wings in the Ed Sullivan Theatre! - like the SNL sketch when Gilda Radner and the Soviet Ballet came to town!

Inside the VIP antechamber. Women on chair gave the VIP chalk talk before going in.


1. No "WOOOO" ing
2. No "Awwww"ing
3. No cell phones or you will be thrown out.
4. No camera or you will be thrown out.
5. Clapping okay.
6. Laughing encouraged
7. No yelling "Yay Canada" or whatever or you will be thrown out.

But otherwise have a GREAT time!

My golden ticket. (hand model Sue Kiel)

Susan getting us through the VIP security gauntlet.

Watchtower on Broadway

Sue exiting into a life of uncertainty, unemployment and spotty healthcare. But we were happy!

A husband and wife and dog being interviewed for French Television ( Canal PLOOOOOOS)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Ah Manhattan, Such Gifts!

A crazy beautiful New York City day celebrating LIFE!

Beautiful weather.


Music on the Streets.


European men dancing to your music on the streets.

Check. (photo pending)

Time at the magical Tavern on the Green in Central Park with Clint and Amy treat of Amy's mom whose Aunt Dolores took her there when she was 16 years old.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Blackout Film Festival

Filmmaker Sean and Frank at the SVA Theater for the fest.

Frank and I went to the SVA Visual Arts Theater in Chelsea to support Sean whose film "7th Ave. Blues" was being shown in the Blackout Film Festival. The festival got its start when it screened films inspired by the blackout in New York City several years ago. And each year hence it centers itself around one theme. This year's was aptly THE RECESSION. I found it funny that people could cough up $12 to go it and there was no unemployment discount, but I was with a filmmaker so I was comped!

There are few people who climb Everest and there are few people who make a film and get it into a festival. I was really proud of Sean. It was exciting to see his short up on the big screen in front of a pretty packed house alongside many other creative pieces.

It is an event I would not have really heard of and it was very well attended and well done. I would go next year. The films overall were really good and the vibe in the theatre had the energy that reminded me why I have love working in the festival world.

Sean was up in front of the audience afterwards with the other filmmakers for a Q & A. I hope this inspires him to make more!

After we went to Waldys for pizza! Very good. I heard about it because a Facebook friend posted that he thought it was the best in New York and I go because of this and bring two friends. I love the power of social media!