Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The past is calling.

Tomorrow morning at 9 am, we're leaving for NYC on a trip to see family, but for me, it is a long awaited event that I'm looking forward to.

Ten years ago this month, we made our move up here to Rochester, leaving friends, family, and a way of life behind. It was also the end of my career in emergency medical services. It was one of the hardest, if not the hardest decision I ever had to make, leaving a life and a career that I loved so very much. The problem was that the job was simply no longer any fun, and it was obvious to me that I needed to get away from it. I spent 22 years in that field, with a lot of amazing memories, many good ones, many bad ones, and a few that were flat out horrific. All-in-all, I would never have traded it for anything in the world. The greatest title I will ever have will have been that of New York City Paramedic. The subtitle of this blog, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe," is not only a line from Blade Runner, but it perfectly sums up the job. There is also another quote from the movie "Bringing Out The Dead," that also summarizes that job. the original novel was written by NYC paramedic Joe Connelly, who I remember, though I suspect he may not remember me.

I have never seen the movie, or read the book, and I'm I'm not sure I ever will. I lived too close to it, and don't need certain memories revisited. I did however, find this quote from the movie that made me shiver, as it was so frighteningly accurate:

"I realized that my training was useful in less than ten percent of the calls, and saving lives was rarer than that. After a while, I grew to understand that my role was less about saving lives than about bearing witness. I was a grief mop. It was enough that I simply turned up."

Now, that said, what made the job so worthwhile were the people I worked with, and none more so than at the place I spent 11 years at, St. Mary's Hospital in Brooklyn. The people that I worked with there became my extended family, were there for me at all times, especially when I was sick and waiting for my transplant. While we have all gone our separate ways, especially since they closed the hospital 3 years ago, many of us still keep in contact through Facebook. We called ourselves "Mary's Mercenaries," as we were paid to work in what was ostensibly a combat zone. Such was Brooklyn, and indeed NYC as a whole back in the mid-80's t0 mid-90's. I wore a level III-A Kevlar vest under my uniform shirt, and was shot at on occasion. We were proud of being the busiest ambulance garage in all the 9-1-1 system in NYC at that time, so much so that we had these off-duty shirts made:

(Front - I don't know why Blogger is rotating this pic this way.)
Now for the best part: In addition to seeing family, I am going to a St. Mary's Mercenary reunion out on Long Island at Robert Moses State Park and beach. There are many people I have not seen in almost 10 years, some a little longer, so this is going to be a lot of fun. I also have not seen the ocean in a long, long time as well. It will be great to be together again with people that mean the world to me, and a little sad remembering some of them that are no longer with us. We lost a few people over the years from my dept., either to accidents or disease.

Time for a lot of laughs, a lot of memories, and reconnecting with old friends.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mama took our Kodachrome away.

"Kodachrome/ They give us those nice bright colors/ They give us the greens of summers/ Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, Oh yeah/ I got a Nikon camera/ I love to take a photograph/ So mama don't take my Kodachrome away"

Paul Simon - "Kodachrome"

(photo from Democrat and Chronicle - Gannett News Service)

An American institution has bit the dust, a victim of technology and the laws of supply and demand.

When I first learned how to shoot 35mm in high school, Kodachrome was what I learned on, in addition to Kodak Tri-X black and white. It's hard to imagine that Kodachrome will be no more, but today's article in our local paper confirms it. While time marches on, it is also another reflection of the hard times Kodak faces. Modern Rochester was more or less built around Kodak, and it has been downsizing steadily over the past 15-20 years. Once the number one employer, it is now number three, behind the University of Rochester, and Wegman's.

I have not shot 35mm for a while, and my revered Olympus OM-10 has sat unused for sometime, but I am thinking that it might be time to resurrect it. I have thought about saving and getting a good digital 35, but there is something about loading a film roll into a camera, hearing the click of the shutter and mirror that is, well, nostalgic and magic at the same time.

I know there are several photographers that follow my blog, and I'd like you to chime in on this. There is this argument that, as far as I can tell, still persists amongst pro photographers:

Which is better - digital media or film?

Digital media has come a long way in the past 10 years, but I have met photographers that still insists that it doesn't have the color saturation or crispness of a Kodachrome, or other professional film.

Let the argument begin! No throwing of film canisters please.

Friday, June 19, 2009

It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing. Doo wah, doo wah, doo wah.

For the first time in some years, Mrs. N and I went to see some of the acts at the Rochester International Jazz Festival. This is only the 8th year of the festival, still young by the standards of say, Monterrey, Montreaux, or other, more well established venues. This doesn't mean it's not a big deal. In fact it has gained a reputation on the festival circuit as being one of the best run in the country, and this is from the artists themselves.

It all starts here, at the Eastman Theatre...
Built in 1922 by George Eastman of Kodak fame, it is home to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and serves as the principal venue for all the headliners at the jazz festival. It is also connected with the Eastman School of Music, the most prestigious music school in North America, even surpassing Julliard in many of its programs. Students come here from all over the world to study.

What is even more impressive is that in the face of economic hardship, when many other festivals have been canceled, (including the NYC jazz festival, of all places) Rochester's has expanded and is actually doing better and better every year. Like many other jazz festivals however, they have needed to book acts outside of what would be considered jazz, especially by purists of the art. Still, it makes for a fine music festival, with both international, national, and local musicians plying their trade in the music halls and streets of the East End of downtown Rochester.

We strolled down Gibbs St. after being on East Ave. to hear both Tower Of Power, and Robert Randolph and The Family Band, that were playing on opposite ends of East Ave. Mrs. N. is not a fan of funk, so we wound up listening to the Po' Boys, a band that does covers of everything from jazz to rock.

Of course there were the requisite vendor stands, with everything from hot dogs, to ice cream to t-shirts to what-have-you. To say that the streets were packed is an understatement

To get an idea of who was playing here, you simply came to the bill plastered on the side of the Eastman, and you get a pretty good feel for the scope of the concert:
There are some acts that have been here before, especially one guy, who some of you might know. He is, in no uncertain terms, a legend:
The man is 90 years old and still tours. He is the epitome of the jazz musician who will probably die doing what he loves.

There are other regulars too:
Yep, Rochester is a huge music town, and this festival is just one example. If you're in the area, there's still one night left, so, "Grab your flat hat and your axe/For tomorrow at ten, we'll be working again." (Steely Dan - "Teahouse On The Tracks.")

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blogger annonymity in the UK is dead.

I just read this story this morning, and almost spewed my morning cup of java all over the monitor:

Now I'm forced to wonder two things: First, how long will it be before something like this is tried here, and second, what about my UK blogger friends who choose to blog anonymously? How about it folks? Time to chime up with an opinion. Is this a restriction on free speech? Will this become a first amendment challenge here in the U.S.? What does this mean now for all you UK bloggers?

Let's hear it. Personally, I think it sucks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

This just in...

Okay, some updates, and a request. First, the shoulder is completely healed. Lots of ice and Ibuprofen did the trick, plus being careful when using it. What made this a little more annoying is that it was my left shoulder, and I am (very) left-handed. The biggest pain in the ass was sleeping, but I found a way to lay down to get to the point where I could get into a deep enough sleep.

Second: I got into the improv group! I won't be performing for at least a month, as they have a policy of seeing how newcomers mesh with the established troupe. Sounded reasonable to me. I am truly looking forward to this experience, and already feel good about the first two rehearsals I have under my belt.

Third, and most importantly: A very good friend, Brandie, has established a new blog. She did this as a way to help her deal with the illness of her father, who just underwent a stem-cell transplant as a treatment for an autoimmune condition that has been plaguing him for several years. I think she would love to have people visit, and also if anyone else out there has undergone, or knows of someone that has undergone stem cell therapy, it would be good for her to talk with people that have been through the experience. Her blog addy is:

I'll be in NYC in 2 weeks for a much anticipated reunion of my other family, namely the paramedics and EMT's I worked with for so long in Brooklyn. They closed St. Mary's, the hospital I worked at for 11 years over three years ago, and this will be a great time to catch up with a bunch of old friends. I actually have not seen some of them since I moved to Rochester 10 years ago this month. Others I have been fortunate enough to contact on Facebook. We'll be going to down for 5 days, a mini-vacation of sorts, and also will be getting together with some cousins I have not seen in a while.

Lots to do in the coming weeks.

Monday, June 8, 2009


This will be a short one. It was home repair day on Saturday, as we had to take off the heavy duty storm door from the front of the house. It got caught by a gust of wind over the winter, ripping the piston off, and causing the hinge to be misaligned. The door would close, but not the way it should, so we removed it, removed the hinge, banged the hinge straight again, put it back on the door put the door back.

Now, this is a fairly heavy door, even with the screen and lower window removed. It is something of a security door that the former owner put on. He was a boriqua from the city, and as soon as I saw it I knew why it was there. This is a commonplace type of door that one sees on homes in the inner city:I actually like it, but taking it off the frame can be a pain. Putting it back was a literal pain.

I have an old injury from my paramedic days, when I subluxated both my shoulders from lifting a patient. In short, I severely strained (but didn't tear) both my rotator cuff muscles in both shoulders back in 1992. A lot of physical therapy got things back to normal, but it would still bug me from time-to-time over the years.

Well, lifting the door back on to the frame I think, aggrivated the injury in my left shoulder. The right one is fine, but I feel the same kind of pain I did back in '92. I think that unless this resolves over the next 2 days, I am off to the doc for an x-ray.

Shit, I hope I didn't tear it, though I suspect I would be in even more pain and have less range of motion than I do now.

In the meantime, here are some garden pics. the irises are particularly beautiful this year:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Making it up as I go along.

On Saturday, I'm going to revisit a form of acting I tried a few years ago. I stopped doing it not because I wasn't any good at it, but because the company I was with simply didn't seem to know what they were doing. I guess the right word I'm looking for is "inconsistency." There were also too many company members that weren't specifically trained in this form of acting, so I often wondered if what iwas learning was accurate, or pure folly.

If you've ever watched "Whose Line Is It Anyway," whether the U.S. version or the original British version, you're watching something called "short-form improv comedy." Scenarios are given to the actor/improvisors with suggestions from the audience, and they improvise routines and sometimes songs on the spot. When it works, it can be as funny as hell. When it doesn't work, well...

Improvisation is part of acting, and part of the concept of "being in the moment." Using it on stage in a play or musical is somewhat different than using it in short-form (or long-form) comedy. While the general idea is the same, it still requires using slightly different intellectual muscles. When one does a play, one sticks to the script. Your performances may vary from one to the other slightly, but not in the form of the intentions of the character or of the playwright. Of course, in live theatre anything can happen and usually does. There you are, in the middle of a dialogue with another actor when suddenly, he/she goes up on a line. Nope, they can't remember it, and for what seems like an eternity on stage, it is up to you to bring them back to where they need to be. God knows this has happened to me, on both ends, and having good improvisational skills can more often than not get you out of a jam on stage.

I have a friend that is with a fairly new improv comedy troupe. I saw them for the first time a few months ago, and was very impressed. They made me laugh my ass off, which is a good way to impress me. I became friendly with the artistic director of the group, and am actually going to be working with them on a project to promote organ donation, which I'll blog about at a later date. Both my friend and the artistic director have been prodding me to audition for them. my friend knows my abilities, as she was the one that I acted with in a USO-style radio show (done live on stage, not on the radio) just a few weeks ago. I debated for some time on doing this, not because it didn't attract me, but because I was not sure I could commit even more time that I do not possess. I decided to give it a shot and see what happens.

I came to that decision after seeing that they require taking their improv classes, after determining your skill level, before they'll put you on stage. The audition determines where you need to go, basic, intermediate, or advanced. This makes sense to me, as you don't want to put someone on stage that doesn't have a good grasp of at least the basics of improv. The best part is that both my friend and the artistic director have training in this art, which I am hoping will make for a far better experience.

Just because everything on stage is made up on the stage, doesn't mean that there isn't preparation, rehearsal, and practice involved. On the contrary, it takes a lot continuous practice in order to build up improv skills. It's one thing to learn lines by rote memorization; quite another to have the ability to pull lines out of the blue depending on what is happening in front of you. The training you get from having this skill makes for a better actor, in my opinion. it is a sharp tool that you can add to your actor's toolbox.

The basic idea behind this is called "accepting the offer." The word "no" is the single dirtiest word in improv, and indeed, in other forms of acting as well. Working to learn how to accept the offer is the first task one needs to learn, in addition to break away from rote, and developing a flexible mind. For instance, if I'm working with a partner, and I say to them, "My, you're looking a bit like a cow in heat today, " the worst thing they could do is to say "No I'm not," or even "What do you mean?" A better response might be "Was it my leaking udder that gave it away?"

You get the idea.

so, off I go on Saturday to give it my best shot and see if I can do this.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Survivor Massacheusetts: Hers is the only vote that counts.

I have never been a fan of reality shows, save for maybe the occasional episode of "The Amazing Race." I have found these shows to be trite, whinny, and about as far removed from reality as possible. Any time you have cameras turned on you, reality tends to go out the window. There is always an element of "acting" that goes on, whether intended or not.

Real life however, doesn't allow for voting on one's survival. About the only similarity is that it can take a team effort to achieve a desired goal, or reward. This brings us to Claudia over at Dragonfly Dreaming. She has been given a challenge: A large lump was found in her breast the other day. The team she will be working with has only one goal in mind; keeping her alive.

Claudia is a survivor. She has survived cervical cancer. She has survived the death of her sister. She has survived an abusive past marriage. This is another obstacle that has been placed in her path, and she will need all the support possible to help her get through it.

Did I mention that she is also one hell of a writer? She is a very open person, and while she wears her emotions on her sleeve, she never smears them. Claudia carries enough love in her soul for 10 people, and her bawdy sense of humor is something that makes me love bantering with her. She loves her kids, her husband, her dogs, and her friends. She is passionate and erotic. She gives so much to others. It's time we gave back to her.

She is a survivor. I don't want her voted off the island.

Oh, and she's got great legs. I know, I've seen the pictures. *wink at Claudia*

So, please take some time out of your day, click on the highlighted Dragonfly Dreaming link above, and leave a message of support for Claudia. Tell her I sent you. Tell her she will beat this, or we will be forced to beat her. ;-)