Saturday, January 26, 2008

ftx 10

FTX 10 - December 1st, 2007

The rains all week were torrential and unrelenting. The waters from the grey sky slicked the roads and people as the temperature dropped. By the end of the week it was like the world had emptied out, everyone inside something else – dark silhouettes behind fogged glass.

I was worried and nervous that our ftx event in echo park would be washed out like our santa monica one had earlier in the year. (although rescheduled for the perfect day!)

But my friends had faith and I knew I couldn’t, no make that wouldn’t, change the date. There were too many important things about to happen. My great friend leslie (#46) was about about to have her first baby in less than a week and yet she was gutsy enough to still want to play music alongside her husband shel at our getogether.

Geoff (#7) was out of town for work but his family lovingly offered to drive down to help me out. The help I needed was the whole key to the event for me. Daisy Mae (legendary ftx #1 and brown pup extraordinaire) was going to be attending her first ftx! This girl had changed me for the better and more than anything I wanted her to feel the love I have received in no small part because of her. The time for only having her picture on display at an ftx was at an end.

So weather be damned. This wasn’t the time to throw up. This was the time to throw down!

I didn’t sleep most of the night and was up early to see the bright crisp sun stretch out across the blue blanket sky.

I had my funky ftx echo mix ready to go! Hell even the theme from ‘The Warriors” made it onto it.

I had the support of #23 in Melbourne and #36 in Morocco, each representing their gang colors across the globe.

I had #6’s parents, Dee & Tony, who had just driven in from Tennessee.

I had surprises like Cristina and Jovin (#45) both of whom I didn’t expect to see. Jovin even called me from around the corner telling me he couldn’t make it as he leisurely strolled into the park, flute in hand.

But mainly I had Daisy Mae. And she had flowers in her hair.

As you’ll soon see Daisy’s smile couldn’t get any bigger.

Echo Park, in a mainly Hispanic area of Los Angeles, usually has a mix of homeless as well as families. The lake it surrounds is inhabited with ducks and lotus flowers as children fish alongside parents. On weekends paddle boats glide around the vertical towers of shooting water from the center of the lake.

Probably because of the storm the park was emptier that morning than when I had scouted it beforehand. But as with every ftx it became what it was supposed to be – a celebration of friends and friends to be.

I’ve known Dalton, my friend Geoff’s nephew, since he was very young. At least I thought I did. But on the morning of December 1st I was amazed. This guy who has always called me “Uncle Shyam” became the heart of ftx echo park for me. After eating his toast he immediately got to work. He dunked bred. He chased down people to offer up ftx. He didn’t leave my side. Even when we tiredly got home that afternoon he spent almost an hour cleaning my stove and griddle. All unasked for. All appreciated. As he was leaving with his sisters and mom to go home, he turned and told me wasn’t going to call me “Uncle Shyam” anymore. From now on I was “Brother Shyam”. And he, although he didn’t know it at the time, would always be called by me FTX #49.

In the end there was music at the park. And the smell of buttery cinnamon toast. There was laughter and hugs. At one point I listened as Patty Griffin’s song “Heavenly Day” played. Her one and only love long. A song she wrote for her dog. And I knew without having to see her that Daisy was happy.

Which is all I ever wanted.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ftx santa monica

ftx santa monica

the sky was grey, hidden behind the thick sad clouds – if it was there at all.

it was saturday the 27th of january and raining. the night before my first ftx (french toast & hugs gang) event in los angeles and i was going to have to postpone.

if the stars were out i couldn’t see them.
i had something to wish for but nothing to wish on.

there were concerns that the following sunday, superbowl sunday, would be a mistake. but february 4th it was.

my good friend david drove me to santa monica in a van filled with fixins. pumpkin breds next to sweet breds, maple and honey and new zealand chocolate. many of the gang were already there, smiling as we drove up. i could see my friends and behind them the pacific stretched for miles. that was when i knew we had picked the right day.

it was one of those special days – you know the kind where it’s its own season. crisp air and ocean hinted scents. the sun made warm spots on the green grass with its dreamlike light. the kind of day where you see the pollen falling through the air alongside the laughter.

a perfect day.

there are, i’m sure, a lot of stories from that day by the pacific.

my first moment giving my good friend, young jack cline, his sky blue ftx 44 shirt.

like how the (santa monica) law fought daisy and how daisy won (him over).

the open air soundtrack accompanied on flute by ftx 45, jovin.

my beautiful friends mary, christian and baby luke in his red sleeved ftx 32.

france running down joggers.

sean’s purple seahorse and kevin’s gto – both timeless art made out of american steel.

there were friends i hadn’t seen in a long long time, mingling mingling.

it was so clear that day that i think i caught a glimpse of good friend sarah over there in oz.

i’ve been realizing more and more lately how everything is connected. how who we are effects everything else. i like to think of all of my friends as stars - each wonderful and unique. and when you pull back away you see the connections between them become constellations. pictures in the sky.

i realize i have a murky perception of myself. who i am hidden from myself by myself. and i realize that my friends out there can see me better than i can.
they can see to the horizon.

i’m working really hard at it, to have better vision. and on days like this day, a perfect day, i feel that i’m closer than ever before to seeing the big picture.





henry (scroll down a bit):


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Thursday, December 07, 2006

the nature of friendship

it’s taken me quite awhile to write this because I don’t know if I can truly do my friends and the importance of them to me justice.

in 2002 I went to my first burningman. it’s a weeklong arts festival in the nevada desert that means something different to each person that goes. self expression, self reliance, undefined art, music, dancing, community are some things many people get from burningman. it’s meant to be a gift society where people give freely without expecting compensation. for me in my first year the biggest gift I got was what I lost.

I was urged to go by my friend sean. he had gone the previous year and was moved by the art cars. you see when you arrive at this 30,000 plus event you are not allowed to drive your personal car. you bike, walk or whatever else you can think up. but you don’t drive. unless your car is considered a moving piece of art. after 2001 sean started making his first sculpture – an illuminated purple seahorse. with the help of many of his friends he made a seahorse art car. three tall seahorses lead out front as he drove atop a van that had two giant hearts on either side. soft squishy passionate music that he carefully chose gently reached out from the sides of the car. this was Love & Seahorses.

sean built that car as a thank you to the ones he had seen the year before. they had truly changed his life. it was made for and by his friends and that week we spent each night on top of his underwater chariot.

from 1971 to 2002 I was a shy internal person. truthfully I held back precious pieces of myself – too scared to let them into the light of the world. afraid that no one would notice them or not even care if they did. but worse than that – I believed all that time that those pieces were garbage. that I wasn’t worth loving.

but in august of 2002 deep into one night as I sat on sean’s seahorse car I felt a change. something in me told me that my fears about my little sis asha, my troubled mom, myself – they needed to leave.

I turned to sean and patrick (one of sean’s friends) and timidly began to speak. I felt uncomfortable about talking about serious things and possibly bringing down my friend who had worked so hard to make his art. I remember sean, generous and giving, stopping his car – what he had labored for a year for – and saying “hold on man, I want to hear this”. and patrick intently making eye contact with me as if to not let me crawl back and hide. it took some time but it all came out. about myself and how undeserving I felt of anything good. I remember feeling black chunky weights leaving my back and shoulders – floating up into the desert night. I remember the glowing purple and gold and blue lights of the seahorses and the soft cloud of hope filled music. when all the words I needed to say were gone the only thing I found left was the truth. the truth that I learned that night was that everyone is capable of doing anything.
and with good friends we are more than capable. I believe this and it can never be unlearned. even on my worst days I can still play one of sean’s seahorse songs (sugar plant’s ‘happy’) and remember.

my lessons weren’t done there but merely begun. since that time I have become more confident. life became alive. I have traveled the world and experienced emotions that I never let myself before.

now it’s 2006 and things are different. sean is a well known sculptor and both patrick and he were funded by burningman to bring art cars out. patrick’s were two 90’ tall driveable flowers (a daisy & a venus flytrap) and sean was bringing out another van this time surrounded by an illuminated sea dragon, dragonflies and a 25’ long two headed dragon with green laser eyes. as before two hearts leaned on either side of the van. this was Love & Dragons.

it was difficult this year. things didn’t flow and move as easily as 2002. all of my friendships got tested out there in the desert heat but in the end they became stronger. I realize now that the one common quality in all of you is how uncommon you all are. none of you are letting your life pass you by and I want to thank you for sweeping me up in your currents. you are the love in my life and everything good in me is because of and for you.

here are some personal highlights for my 2006 with you:

the french toast and hugs gang in new york city and at burningman (under patrick’s amazing flower!). our gang fed at least 500 people this year (and ftx santa monica will be happening early next year).

grace, my 1972 chevelle, at burningman. (patrick, who nothing seems to be impossible for, was able to get me a pass to drive my car out there even though it wasn’t registered as an art car. one of my favorite moments was when I stepped back one night as the 90’ tall daisy flower and the dragon car bookended my grace. I overheard two older guys talking and figured they were marveling at my friends’ work. but no, they were arguing whether grace was a ’71 or a ’72!)

patrick, sean and myself posing in front of our legendary vehicles.

I want to thank patrick, mez, donna rose, derek, aaron, justin, donna sobczak & dave for graciously allowing me to have a memorable dinner.

finding true love (in a pizza) at difara’s pizzeria (Be there December 17th!)

learning to drag race and shoot guns with my friend andrea (on separate days!) and help her with a short film. Turns out it DOESN’T matter if you’re cross-eyed dominant when you’re firing a submachinegun.

my friend leslie rents a house that has a whole bunch of gigantor avocado trees! from time to time she has an avocado pickin’ party where you just show up and pick cados. I’m telling you, I’ve never felt more like a man than after a freshly bagged crop of cados. (although I took so many this last time that I may be benched for the next event).

leah hardstark’s punch –n- pie party. she also did a grace photo shoot with mez and myself at an auto body shop called ‘funk bros.’

a coney island pilgrimage with the orphans (my 2nd gang).

bull lee
I’ve been friends with J. Dissed since college and have been fortunate enough to get to listen to him play guitar in a bunch of different styles. his current outfit is punk band ‘bull lee’. I imagine that watching him and his friend - bass player / horror film maestro BC - rock on stage to be like watching the ramones if the ramones had actually been brothers.

I was able to catch up with college friend jorah for a day. the result of which was a 3 page digital comic about grace complete with talking car voice and red switch for warp drive.

FINALLY getting to see in a theatre the double feature of mad max and the road warrior (the best movie ever made). I pull up to the theatre to meet mez and sure enough there’s my parking spot – right under the marquee.

it had been 4 years since my last visit to san francisco. there I met 1 year old barry (the son of kimery and arj). barry likes toys, the park, his cat. barry also likes chevelles. he has the honor of having the first kid’s seat in my car. who can really say if it was grace who rocked him to sleep or the exhaust.
does it matter?

my wonderful friends mary and christian got to adopt baby boy luke. luke is the 1st ftx toddler and represented his gang colors at the ocktoberfest in germany .

my friend daisy mertzel invited me on a short northern california road trip to walker, ca. there I watched my first rubber duck race as a 1000 rubber ducks were sent down a river to raise money to benefit local fishermen. if you don’t know daisy (ftx 5!) then now here’s your chance. she is an amazing person and started a non-profit called ‘send-a-hug’. through her time and love she has created a way for people to give a hug to a stranger. she collects stuffed animal donations as well as a Polaroid photo and letter from the donor. she then travels in her rv with her pup percy (ftx 4!) and finds people in need. she gives them a hug and a stuffed present with a note and a photo. they then write a thank you note and take a picture which is promptly dropped in the mail back to the giver. it seems simple and like good things it really is. it makes the world a bit smaller and a lot friendlier as you see the face of the person you helped smile on that day. daisy started this when hurricane Katrina hit but has much much bigger plans. her birthday is december 8th and I was happy to drive around southern california picking up send-a-hug donations to surprise her with. we closed in on around 100!

if you scroll down a bit my friend henry (ftx 38) wrote a bit about his young son jack’s grover donation:
jack’s send-a-hug experience

henry also has written about ftx and send-a-hug here:

these are daisy’s sites for send-a-hug. feel free to pass them on so that more people can learn about it!:

my new friend erica and her pup bailey introduced me to the wonders of a dog beach! am I the only one that never heard of this???

bel, one of my closest friends, will be having a baby girl next march. she is the first friend that I have been able to watch first hand as she grows and changes during her pregnancy. I love to document life and she has been kind enough to let me photograph the growth of her belly alongside grace. belen I am so proud to be your friend. you are one of the strongest people I know and have never looked lovelier.

dear sarah I want to thank you for the note you wrote me. it is full of friendship and hope in the future. I have never gotten anything like it and I will hold it close always.

all this and the year isn’t even over yet. I will be seeing my little sis asha soon (for a rocky 1 – 6 fest!) and my east coast friends Jamie, Linda, Jimmy, Trish, Debbie, Angela, Braden and Ken.

in closing (I know I know, but it’s been a full year!):
my favorite moment this year didn’t happen out there on the burningman playa. it was on the drive home. my friend messrob and I were hoping to drive grace up to the event at scorched-earth speeds but instead we needed to follow the truck holding the dragon sculptures at a dismal pace of 55mph. at one point I woke up to mez at the wheel (the first person I’ve really let take grace out) and heard some new sound. it was driving growling music from a band I’d never heard of – ‘the black angels’. the chorus for the song simply went “kill kill kill kill”. I listened to that song and then 2 more. they made me think of speeding into the night – with my car on fire! needless to say i loved it! I turned to him and said “if we’re gonna listen to music like this then I have to drive.” he laughed and let me take my girl out for a bit.

a week and a few days later it was just us three – we were coming home. mez, grace and i road down the black 5 fwy hitting the grapevine at 100mph.

road kill. road killers.

the black angels screamed and grace rumbled as mez and I spontaneously burst into laughter. it was a mad (max) crazy laugh. finally, at maximum velocity, my own art car around us, perfect music pushing forward and a great friend beside me I had finally found my seahorse moment for this year.

but this time it wasn’t me that opened up – it was grace.

to look at the photos that go with this story please go here:

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Sunday, July 09, 2006

new york moments

well I finally made it back to los angeles and the happiness of finding my friends (and car) in good hearts is a gift that grows as I begin to settle each day. but I will miss new york and the people I will temporarily not see. unlike la with our car rooms, this city with its subway and constant walking encourages interaction with all types of people. I know I’ve forgotten more of these moments than I may get all year in la but here are a few.


it’s pretty common to get on a subway car and have unexpected entertainment. a super skinny black guy with long dreads under his baseball cap tried to sell a ratty cardboard box with a sharpee “x” on it saying it was the newest sony “x box”. he then busted out a keyboard and started to jam but in one of his crazy movements dropped it to the floor. he immediately picked it up and started kissing it apologizing to the instrument. after which he took a bow spilling all his dreads completely off of his head! they were fake & attached to the ball cap!

another time a mariachi band came on with full horns and a standup bass and danced out a tune until they got off on the next stop. I really appreciated the giant metal Mexican flag belt buckle one of them had on.

exiting the subway one day my friend scott heard a subway cop singing black sabbath’s “war pigs”.


after seeing the Leonard Cohen documentary “i’m your man” my friend aaron and I wandered the humid night into Washington Square Park. now this is a definite ftx location when I return. with it’s beautiful archway and two dog parks it seems like a place that new yorkers go to and not just tourists. during the day i saw kids taking spills as they learned to roller blade while musicians of all types would wander up to other musicians and just begin to play. that night after declining numerous casual attempts to sell us weed we came upon a small group of random people playing music. their clothes were thin from age and and seemed to be an afterthought as the threads trail-mixed together from the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s. it was late but people were there with their little kids dancing to the sweaty melodies.


I was fortunate enough to go see in new jersey the last two nights of bruce springsteen on his 19 member pete seeger band tour. it was a true celebration of old time big band music that had its deep roots traveling as far as Irish protests to Louisiana celebrations. the band was filled with a whirling rich sound of trombone, tuba, banjo and 16 others! I arrived the first night early to see the parking lot FILLED with barbeques and pop-up shelters. I got out of my rental car and was immediately invited to sit down and have a drink as fans from jersey and dc told me their springsteen stories. the sky went east coast dark as the black warm rain poured down around us as the smell of burgers and hot dogs floated up to greet it. when I went inside the open air venue I found cheese steaks and dunkin donuts. I found pizzas and carvel ice cream! it was a true homecoming for this jersey boy. as I dripped rainbow sprinkles from my vanilla cone onto my brown boot I listened in as a young father in a white and blue baseball cap kneeled in front of his five year old son. “this is a big deal… bruce springsteen is a big deal… it’s not a small deal, it’s a BIG deal.” to which his little boy replied “it’s a BIGGGGGG deal!”. I remembered being an 8th grader and saving my paper route money to go see the boss for my first concert. I guess sometimes the small things that define us last longer than the bigger ones we think will. I ended up on the 2nd night with a 7th row seat. the smiling lady to my left was well in her 80s and danced the night away laughing out “more! more!” while the electrified jersey crowd boomed out “bruuuuuuuuccccccceeeee!”. I guess that dad was right, it was a big deal.


I like cheese.
that may be an understatement.
my dad was a huge fan of pizza. my mom always would say that she should have known it from the start since he took her for some pie on their very first date. I’ve been told stories by his friends that when he first moved to America after leaving India and Canada he drove across country with pizza in his glove box. that may seem strange to you but it makes perfect sense to his son. you never know when you’re going to need a good slice.

enter my new good friend henry cline. henry is from Brooklyn but now lives in LA. he took it upon himself to generate a list based on internet research and childhood memories of what may be some of the best pizza in nyc. we would take this list to the the restaurants and eat a basic margarita pie (we both agreed the best example of a pizza is to start simple with just tomato, cheese & basil). after eating we would write our review on my now sauce stained list. we went to lombardi’s in little italy and grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn bridge. I made repeat visits to patsy’s in harlem which I truly believed was the best one yet. until serendipity stepped in.

messrob, scott, henry, angela, debbie & I were all to take the subway down to coney island and try totonno’s. but the timing got all screwy and it ended up just being mes, scott and myself. after 40 minutes or so of subway travel (for $2!) we walked to the restaurant only to discover it is closed on mondays and tuesday! we wandered to the boardwalk and had some cardboard called pizza and I sat glum and bummed. eventually debbie and angela showed up and we made plans to head back home. all this while henry kept sending me text pictures to my phone of this other pizza place in Brooklyn he went to called di fara. I called him and he insisted that I not miss out (but later told me he was apprehensive to be pushy in fear that I would back away). I was so let down by the whole pizza experience of that day that I told him maybe some other time. our group hit the subway of which there are many different lines (Q, D, etc) and many cars to each train. stop after stop passed by until finally the doors opened and without one split second of hesitation, henry WALKS on to our car, hands me a box and says “here’s your pizza!”.
it was complete and total luck that he got on the exact same car on the exact same line at the exact time! we reheated up the slices that night and it was incredible. so messrob and I headed back the next morning at 11am to be the first in. Di Fara’s is run by Mr. Dominick DeMarco who has been making pizza for over 40 years. I say this in all sincerity, I have never met a more dedicated artist in my life to one thing. his store is on J street just off the Q line. it is small and hot and the greasy yellow walls are covered in newspaper stories on pizza. (one of which quotes mr. demarco as saying he has “only dropped two pies his whole career…. but I’ve burned quite a few!”). there is an old tiny radio hidden under the counter playing Italian music and the entire shop is coated in flour and cheese. his son works with him and is only allowed to fold the pizza boxes and cut the toppings. (when we asked him to put our pizza in a box he replied “I’m not allowed to touch it!”). Mr. DeMarco does all of this without ego or hostility, it’s just a man who is what he does so much that it would be less for him to hand anything over. each margarita pie is lovingly made with: weekly flown in buffalo mozzarella cheese from italy, italian olive oil is spiraled onto the dough, oregano that is still on the branches (you SCRAPE it off!) and fresh basil that he cuts with scissors over your pie. he always asks if you want extra cheese and if you do he takes out a huge wedge of fresh parmesan and grinds it in an old steel shredder. he takes a clump and just tosses it on. within two slices your paper plate becomes see-thru from all the oils. he only closes three days a year and his wife’s name is margarita!

when I took my first bite I was and still am completely overcome. I felt lightning and electricity run up my arms! it was like nothing I’d ever experienced – true love in pizza form. I humbly shook his hand as I left (which left mine coated in flour) and told him I would be bringing my car here next year. that it would be an honor to have him take a picture in front of his shop with her and a pizza on the hood. “oh! it must be a special car.” to which I replied “yes, a 72 chevelle”. “aahh, a good car. a good car. I used to have a fire engine red 50’s cadillac. when I started her up she sounded like a rocket ship!!!” to which I answered “really!! mine sounds like an earthquake!!!” and that was it, we were in sync: pizza guys / car guys. until next year Mr. DeMarco.


there were times last year that I felt that if I got hit by a flaming meteor not only would it be expected but I could check my watch and know whether it was late. everything was possible especially if it meant my downfall. these days I feel like I’m a bag of broken glass walkin around town, gradually tearing at the seams of the bag, threatening to fall and break some more. a week after ftx in central park I went by to look at the place one last time. I know what we did there was good and I wanted to see if I could feel some of that again. the skies were grey and missing that ‘abundant sunshine’ but it was a peaceful moment. I sat in front of the lake steps where the rowboats had approached and listened to my ipod. In time I noticed a lady had sat next to me with her dog. they were watching the wind etch the water like rain and her pup was fascinated by the turtles who would rise and fall just under the surface. I didn’t want to interrupt their quiet but I missed my friend daisy so much that my eyes would quickly glance at the pup hidden under my sunglasses. I noticed that her dog looked different on the surface than ms daisy but if I went to where the turtles were I saw that the light in her eyes and her wide brimmed smile were exactly the same! in a small amount of time all three of us were talking and laughing. I explained to the woman that those weren’t turtles but just underwater dogs tempting the poor water frightened pup with dreams of kibble and a green lake that was actually gravy. I told of the french toast just one week before and both girls regretted missing it. in a short amount of time I got to hug and hold the dog feeling better and better about what this year might amount to. (a doggie recharge!). when I asked what her pup’s name was the lady replied “faith”. I smiled and laughed out loud at how that works.

a moment before i had a little less. a moment later a little more.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

ftx central park - june 21, 2006

hello all my friends. greetings from wonderful nyc. last week the french toast & hugs gang took a stroll into central park and set up shop. henry (ftx 38) made a sweet flyer announcing that we would be at the Bethesda fountain and 250 color flyers later we had them attached to the call sheets for both 1st and 2nd unit of spidey 3.

my friend aaron was visiting me so he, bigmez (ftx 37) and myself went out and bought supplies tuesday the 20th at the fairway market on broadway. I’d learned my lesson from our times square extravaganza and stuck with challa bred only. 18 loaves of it in fact. along with 6 or 7 dozen eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, maple syrup, vanilla & chocolate whipped cream, powdered sugar and 6 large containers of strawberries plus blueberries & raspberries. all good things.

also new for this time was my grill. I’ve had mine since I went to burningman in 2003 when I made around 1000 pieces of ftx. I noticed a propane leak while finishing up in times square and decided it wouldn’t do to blow up some nice locals before they finished their carbs so I went down to the local k-mart and bought a new coleman stove. It’s a real beauty and sounds like chuck yeager’s x-1 when both burners are lit.

filling up the k-mart bag with all 18 loaves aaron & I wagoned out and met ftx 35 (trudy!), ftx 36 (messrob!), ftx 37 (danny boy!), ftx 38 (henry!) and soon to be ftx 40 (or like I like to call him – ftx 20/20… chris!).

I had finally made a playlist of happy breezy park songs to be played on 36’s player. they were a mix of old r&b and current ambient rock type stuff. (by the next day I had made our first ever ftx soundtrack to which I handed out to the people who showed this day). I had shuffled all of the tunes except for the walk into the park music which started with zz top’s sharp dressed man (to which bigmez hit play once I started to put on my apron). then it went into the jb’s which is funky james brown’s band. the first and most important discovery was the jb song “breakin bread” which is all about frying up tasty bred for your friends (there is even a line that says “I’m going to bring this bread to new york!”). so the gang headed out and bopped our way into sunny central park. that morning aaron read the weather forecast and it was rain, rain and more rain EXCEPT on this beautiful wednesday – its description was a telling “abundant sunshine”.

we made our way past painters setting up in front of a scenic bridge and down paths of grassy greens into bethseda. bethseda is a giant fountain with an angel in the center, a deep moss lake on one side and towering stairs on the other. a group of the crew was already waiting for us and I broke open the brand new stove. gang members sliced the fresh bred and fruit as groups of kids, locals and tourists wandered in and into our gathering. some central park conservancy people came over to tell us between bites that we didn’t have a propane license. but we kept on and they moved on.

I have to credit my crew. the bred was always sliced and ready when I needed it and the toast was handed out quickly before it cooled. ryan (a friend of holly who I just met) showed up with extra supplies and another cooler to go along with ftx39’s (debbie!) cooler. danny and messrob called out to the crowd while henry took 3-d photos between making new sets of batter. and of course trudy became our ambassador of hugs as people melted quicker than my butter into her arms. this gang keeps getting better and reminds me of how much I can’t do it alone.

Japanese & Australian tourists (in an Ireland jacket???) ambled by to have their first ever french toast! dogs played in the fountain behind me and a beautiful white pup named sadie ate some before me. when she finished she turned to the photo of our very own daisy mae (ftx1) and gave her a big tongues up salute. I took chevelle grace photos and determined henry actually got a couple to row in their boat to have lakeside delivery service. and danny boy even got one of the park vendors to eat some (even though I’m sure business was down). my friend scott showed up with his wife and kids mason & devyn. I gave scott a plate bending supersize serving and he didn’t disappoint when he finished it all. in total we went thru about 275 pieces of bred, feeding over 100 people.

I have to say, as usual, I got busy with the cooking and didn’t look up too much. but the soul soothing moments I remember weren’t seen but felt. moments like trudy & angela laughing or mez calling out “free french toast & hugs!”. the hum of people talking between bites and a dog laying at my feet. it was a day of abundant sunshine after all. before he left sean came up to me and told me toast wasn’t a big enough word for what was on his plate.

I’ve thought about that and about all of you. how great all the people in my life are. I can’t help but think that the world isn’t big enough for the beauty that you inspire.

but it’ll do.

i’m coming home. i love you all. –shyam.

check out photos from this day at:

Back to Dashboard

Thursday, June 01, 2006

ftx times square (may 31, 2006)

hi everyone. so if you don't already know it, i'm in nyc working on the
end part of spidey #3. one of the 3 reasons i took this show was to
get to represent the "french toast and hugs gang" in nyc by cooking
up some tasty foods in times square and central park. i have to say
i was nervous. i have never done this just to a normal public that
doesn't know me from anyone. let alone in the heart of the biggest
city in the world. but hey no one said being in a gang would be easy.
people were guessing that i would get shut down by the cops or
even tossed in jail for not having a permit (how badass would that
be... in jail for fried bred). some doomsayers said that people wouldn't take
free french toast because they wouldn't trust a stranger. but none of those things
worried me (and as it played out never should have). what worried me was would the french toast taste good.

i used jewish challah bred this time around. it was recommended to me
by the 2nd unit scripty robin. it turns out that this was a wise wise decision.

here's a short recap of wednesday the 31st. some ftx members and rock star
crew met in the essex hotel lobby at 9:30am on our day off and we headed
out - metrocards in hand.

taking the "F" train from central park south to times square we carried
all the ingredients plus the famous red wagon supplied by ftx6 down
the steep stairs and onto the train. so what if i'm carrying explosive
propane onto a public vehicle - it's not like it's my first time.

when we arrived the group decided setting up in the MIDDLE of times square
in a foot-traffic only island was the only way to go!

people came quick and fast and almost no one asked why we were doing
this. one businessman didn't even take of his headphones. he just took
his breakfast like we were his usual stop, ate and then headed on his way.

some samples of the people who came by were NY traffic cops, cab drivers, scooter riders, tourists, people going to work, and kids with milk moustaches delaying school just for 1 moment more.

one nypd cop even came over and asked us why we were there. to which
the gang responded to hand out free french toast. he said that we
can't be set up in the middle of the road like this but until someone
complains he'll just let us slide. his only regret... that he already
had breakfast. how can you NOT love nyc?

a traffic cop told her co-worker that was 6 blocks away about it via radio
and she came running. we fed so many traffic cops that i think that the
ftx gang has a permanent get out of j-walking pass.

we had strawberries, maple syrup, butter, cinnamon, powdered sugar, vanilla
and chocolate whipped cream and a photo of daisy mae.

messrob even supplied a statue of liberty lighter.

all in all a nice carb day and we left content and a bit tired.
june 21 will be ftx in central park. this time though i'll bring some tunes.

hope you all are well and enjoying the summer.

check out some photos here:

i miss you all.
love shyam.

Back to Dashboard

Monday, January 09, 2006

train trip


train trip

I grew up on Station Avenue in a small town in New Jersey. as a boy I could hear the horn and clack of the occasional train that crossed a few blocks up. I would run out into the sun and watch as it passed me by.

this past December I got on.

trains have always appealed to me by their pollution and presence. With their screams, the daylight reflections off the steel, the smell of oil and smoke.
they follow a straight line carrying their heavy burden.

my journey began with my friend Geoff as we went from here in Los Angeles up the Pacific coast and thru the Oregon and Washington woods to Seattle. i would continue on alone to Vancouver and east thru the rocky mountains to Toronto where I would fly to New Jersey to see my mom and sister Asha.

For days I watched as I moved south to north, left to right. there were clouds that looked like dogs, frozen waterfalls and one-street towns passing thru the scratched train glass windows. I was moving without moving. the static of my life slowly diminished as I felt pieces of my mind get stretched and coaxed into the landscapes I passed. bits of this past year were replaced with snow covered trees pointing up at the big country sky like white arrows - signs that should read “don’t forget to look up”.

I met a man on the train who failed and failed again at startup computer companies until one day he finally succeeded. not expecting to, he found himself without a plan on what to do with his life. so he rides the train because the train gives you time to think.

I visited sites of “Twin Peaks” and stayed in a room that smelled of burned oil where one of the murders occurred.

I walked the train trestle bridge and ate french toast and butterscotch sundaes at Norma’s diner.

I continued on to Vancouver where my b&b hostess made me texas sliced french toast with fresh strawberries, Canadian maple syrup & whipped cream on top. (a french toast and hugs gang shirt was sent to her promptly on my return)
in Vancouver, a beach path ribbons for miles as it wraps around the city’s harbor and into Stanley park. walking it I would stop to read the benches with their dedications to loved ones. the words spoke quietly of the people who watched the waters as they fell into love and families.

I continued on and stayed in the Rocky Mountains in a log cabin run by Elke, her son Jay and his pup Chinook. there I snowmobiled above the clouds in the great mountain bowls. these cupped white palms lined only by the tracks of other riders and their machines.

I headed back on the train east out of the forests and into the plains of Canada with purple skies and wispy grass stalks. Canada’s landscape, like my country’s, changed by the hour. I met Mike who is from Colorado by way of the Bronx. he looks and talks like Isaac Hayes, a full on black belt in karate traveling with his “Kung Fu” dvds and a strong love of pizza. we hit it off immediately.

two hours outside of Winnipeg our train derailed after a CN freight train broke the rail ahead of us. we were all ok and it gave me time to talk about music with corey who just graduated high school from my mom’s birthstate of Nova Scotia. we flew the rest of the way to Toronto where I headed to Ocean City, New Jersey to visit my mom, sis and longtime friends Jamie, Linda, Jimmy & Tricia. (Linda gave me a french toast scented candle complete with a wax butter wedge)

my sister asha is the best hugger I’ve ever experienced. she delivers both quality and quantity although she often uses your shirt as a napkin when you’re getting a hug.
she also has more attitude than any Hollywood bigshot I’ve ever met. my 2nd morning there I heard her slap my face IN MY DREAM it was so loud. I leaped up and she laughed in my face and signed that she wanted me to make her breakfast. confused and more than a little scared I did so. moments later there was a crash as I looked up to watch her giggling as she threw the food in the sink! such creativity! could a brother admire a sister more?! don’t worry I got her back, I thought it particularly funny since she has downs syndrome to get her a south park t-shirt for xmas with a crippled kid. on the shirt it reads “my mom always told me God has a plan… I guess I was plan B!” nice.

during my visit my mom showed me the bench she had dedicated to my father. I had forgotten she had done this. a pediatrician and a lover of children, I believe he would have smiled knowing it was placed in a children’s park. the last night of my stay I walked alone up the empty winter beach past all the deserted summer homes. benches dotted the vacant boardwalk for as far as I could see, each one a testament to someone who was loved. the Atlantic ocean to my left was churning as a bitter wind spiraled the sand around me. I turned to see my footprints begin to vanish. the sky was grey and the water black. an empty feeling began to fill me and I thought how good it would be to be named on a bench. to be a memory in the golden sun and a place for someone to rest.

Footnote: for me, 2005 was a long year. as I traveled out of the rocky mtns a thought entered me. it said simply “things will be good”. it was one of those sudden truths that is so accurate that you don’t argue with it. the words seeded themselves so deep in my heart that none of my fears or insecurities could remove it. i truly believe this year will be good, for me and for you.

I sure do love you all.

if you would like to see photos of my trip please go here:


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

the end is near.

Hi everyone. I know I haven’t written in awhile but I have been working a bunch. Things
are winding down here and I just wanted to give some quick stories of stuff I’ve been

Things are real fun on this set and I have to say they are some of the most talented
people I’ve worked with. pj is our first assistant director. For those that don’t know,
a 1st ad is someone who is in charge of the set. They keep things moving and their main
job is organization coupled with communication. If they can do those 2 things (and it’s
surprising how many 1st ads’ can’t) it really is an amazing thing. So this brings me to
concerts. It’s impossible to plan a social life while working on a movie because you
never truly know when you’ll finish each night and even where you’ll be. I still took
the chance to buy concert tickets to see tori amos out here (she hasn’t played in
Australia for over 10 years which would make for an awesome audience reaction) and also
nick cave (who being Australia was the top of my list of wanting to see here). so I
mention to pj that I have these gigs coming up. He’s really interested in nick cave (he
and his wife were even married to nick’s “the ship song”.) So first up is my 1st tori
show and pj schedules the night so that at the end of it there are no vfx shots. For an
ad who’s priority is to run the set and not people’s personal lives, it was a great
gift. I bailed and had a fantastic evening. The following week I went to see her 2nd
gig and sure enough, no vfx shots at the end of the night. The next day I was ready to
go see nick, a show that sold out in 10 minutes. But I found out we might be working
late. Nick was going to be on stage with his band The Bad Seeds plus 4 gospel singers.
Something he has only done in Europe. pj (who couldn’t get a ticket himself) not only
wrapped early (which is the equivalent of telling your whole company to go home) but
announced “that’s a wrap, shyam has a concert to go to.” Needless to say, the show was
incredible (he even played “the ship song”).

Then that following saturday may 21st I threw a surprise birthday party for bel, one of
our Australia vfx crew. I was planning to represent the ‘french toast & hugs’ gang I
started with daisy my sister’s pup with an early breakfast followed by gokart racing.
By the time the day arrived bel had already found out about the shindig but it was
still great fun. I bought 6 bottles of maple syrup, powdered sugar, peanut butter,
whipped cream, fresh strawberrys & bananas, cinnamon, butter and freshly baked bred for
the happening. Things as usual with this gang fell right into place and a great griddle
pan (thanks lisa!) fell into my hands. More ladies then gents showed up for the morning
food, I’m not sure what to make of that, and then we headed out to gokart race. Some of
the camera guys showed up and we hit the outdoor track. I’ve only been high-speed
gokarting once before in los angeles on an indoor track and it was not too fun. Too
many technical turns not enough straightaway full on / full out. This one was perfect.
At first I thought I can I learn this track, we only have 3 10 minute races but after
the first 2 laps you really dial it in. the first 2 races you qualify and try to get
your best time. The last one they average your speeds and the one with the best wins.
The karts get up to 70 kilometers per hour and really take the curves well. The smell
of gasoline is strong and I flipped up my helmet visor to get a stronger taste (it
reminds me of my chevelle). A lot of fun was had and I got 3rd place (plus a bunch of
bruises down my back and I think even a possible cracked rib!) nice.

This past weekend I made my final trek up to broken hill. I went early on with my bud
messrob to see mad max 2 locations and realized that I forgot my chevelle photo book.
For those of you that don’t know I like to take photos of my car with friends /
locations that I love or think are cool. When I can’t physically get the car there I
take a photo of the chevelle and photograph that in front of what I want. Last year I
snapped her in her glory in front of the taj mahal in India. So I returned one last
time to broken hill and got some excellent snaps of grace along side max’s v8 replica.

Peter fonda is in this film and I got invited to watch the dvd of ‘easy rider’ while he
give live commentary. It was such a surreal experience and his story was such a
rambling affair that it’s hard for me to put down into words. I would hear this guy
mumbling about boots and some sort of drug I’ve never heard of and then realize it was
the guy in the film. another surreal moment was before the film when I mentioned to him
that I worked with him on ‘escape from la’. He plays this acid rain surfer dude in the
film and upon mention of it both him and I yelled a piece of his dialogue “tsunami!”

Kevin my supervisor and I were working out some sort of crew gift to hand out. Noone
has handed out any on this show so we figure we might as be the ones. The first idea
was to make t-shirts with a kangaroo skull that was on fire on it. But noone realized
it was a roo skull so we mulled it over a bit. I mentioned to kev that I wanted to buy
a pair of the sweet vegas elvis shades that nic wears in the film. he plays this crazy
motorcycle stunt biker guy and even if he crashes and eats it he puts on these badass
shades. So that was it. We found out where to get them and bought EVERY pair in Sydney.
237 to be exact. It was a blast to hand them out to the crew and photograph them doing
their best ‘johnny blaze’ (nic’s character) badass stunt pose.

Kevin my supervisor and I are now are 2nd unit. We’ve been on first for most of the
show but visual fx are done there so we’re finishing up with a crew we don’t
necessarily know that well. Our first day last week with them I was getting the usual
getting to know you questions about why I have such strange eating habits and why do I
wear a dog tag around my neck. One of the guys looks at my small red heart necklace and
asked if my heart was really that tiny to which I replied ‘nah man, that’s just extra’.

Things have been really great on this show and my sister tara arrives on Thursday. We
are going to new Zealand next Monday for 1 ½ weeks before coming home. I can’t tell you
how excited I am to go back. Although the entire experience has been really positive
and good for me I’m at the point where I need to be with the people that I’ve known and
loved for so long. When I did the solo drive to broken hill I didn’t stop except for
gas. The only other time I stopped was to get an order of large fries from ‘hungry
jacks’, the Australia name for burger king. As I ate up and sat in the sun with a tasty
ginger beer I looked under the box to see if any fries had settled in the bottom of the
bag. When you find those fries and they aren’t burned edges but big tasty strips
covered in salt they seem extra special for some reason. A surprise. You guys are the
fries at the bottom of my bag. I’ll see you soon.

Love shyam.

To see the new additions to my Australia page please go here.

To see the crew Johnny blaze photos please check out snowmack’s link here.

Saturday, April 02, 2005