Empire State of Mind

I felt a brush of bare skin on my wrist, which was hanging over the edge of the bed. Without moving my body, I open my eyes. Through the haze of streetlight spilling in from around the corner I can distinctly see a bare woman’s thigh, the front of her panties, and the bottom of her T-Shirt only INCHES from my face. Who was this person and why are they in my room?

New York, New York! So nice they named it twice!

I’m a bit of a geek and one of my favorite media sources is NPR. In this particular interview they were interviewing Josh Groban who was having his Broadway debut! He was appearing in the new show “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812“. For this role he was wearing a padded suit (to make him look heavier), learned how to make his voice more gruff, and learned to play the accordion (while singing and moving up and down stairs). This particular show is written based on a specific set of 70 pages from “War and Peace”.

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Josh Groban in his role as Pierre -Photo credit: NPR

In the interview they explained how the stage was built in the round and they had to write computer code for this sound system. BORING NERD STUFF AHEAD! For a traditional sound system, when someone speaks into a microphone the sound is produced from all speakers in the system. Since this show is performed with actors in every corner of the room/aisle/balcony/restroom/etc the audience has no frame of reference as to who is speaking. Therefore, they wrote computer code so that only the speakers that are near the actor who is speaking will be producing sound, and thus assisting the audience to look in the direction in which the sound is coming!

Before the NPR interview had completed, I was researching show dates and prices. I came home that day and told Camette how I really wanted to go. She agreed and we planned our day trip for July 1, 2017. We made arrangements to park our car in the city for 24 hours and drop off our one suitcase at our AirBnB in the East Village.

We walked to the nearby brick and mortar store for DAVIDsTEA (a Canadian based tea company that Camette really likes). When we told them that we drove five hours to visit them, the staff were more than excited! (Can I say complementary refreshments?) Camette has been running an Instagram account exclusively dedicated to tea and over six months has accumulated over 600 followers. You can check that out at @qualitea_time_with_cami.

After that we took the MTA to uptown to try a recommended place call Rue La Rue Cafe. It’s a Golden Girls themed cafe! The owner, Michael LaRue was best friends with Rue McClanahan (Blanche). After she passed, he inherited all of her possessions and he’s been using them to decorate his business! We got to chat with him and he was sharing the backstory to all of the photos and costumes. He told us a funny story about Rue’s favorite picture, which is listed below.

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Camette and I with the owner of Rue La Rue Cafe, Mr. Michael LaRue.

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All four cast members for nominated for an Emmy Award after Season One of the “Golden Girls”. They went out on the town, drinking, in a limo and went to the award show. Betty White won the award. Notice anyone not smiling for Betty?

After the cafe we went to catch “The Great Comet”. It was very entertaining. I’ve never read “War and Peace”, but it was not required to understand the show. Cast members played instruments as they dances around the theatre. Coming into the balcony was a common occurrence. It was a really cool set and the music was phenomenal!

Afterward we took a pedicab to McSorely’s Old Ale House. This was a bit of a hike. Care to guess how much the pedicab ride cost? Seriously, you’ll have to guess.

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The two stars are the Imperial Theatre and McSorely’s Old Ale House. We took a pedicab!

McSorely’s is really cool. It’s over 160 years old. Abe Lincoln was once in the city giving a speech. Afterward he walked down to the pub for a drink. After he left they took the chair he was sitting in and hung it on the wall! Every inch of the walls are covered in old art or old photographs. Folks who have been visiting for years still find something they didn’t see before on those history strewn walls. McSorely’s only has two beers: light or dark. They brew their own beer and those are the options.

We went to McSorely’s to meet with a friend, Billy Procida. Billy is a comedian and podcast host from Brooklyn, and I’ve been listening to his show for almost a year. When we made arrangements to go to the city, Billy graciously accepted our invitation to meet up over a beer. No joke, I found Billy when I was downloading NPR podcasts from iTunes and his show was suggested in the sidebar. What is his show, you may ask? Esquire listed his show in the Top 10 for Sex themed podcasts. He is the host of “The Manwhore Podcast: A Sex-Positive Quest for Love” in which he interviews women that he’s hooked up with, along with fellow comedians, authors, doctors, lawyers, and many more to discuss love, dating, relationships, and sex. If the name turns you off, then don’t bother clicking any of the links in this paragraph. But if you are remotely curious, don’t feel ashamed or bashful and check it out. Yes, sometimes it’s a bit raunchy, considering the subject matter, but often his show has very educational components, which was something I appreciated in meeting Billy; he wanted to learn about what I enjoyed the most and least about his program. Truthfully, I really like when he has the more academic folks who speak about their line of work and how they try to help people. At any rate, Billy quit his day job to focus on comedy and podcasting, so I send him $5/month through Patreon and in return I receive a dirty haiku in the mail. A small price to support an original content creator. Thank you, Billy, for the meet and greet!

After McSorely’s we took a taxi in the rain to our second show of the day, “Attack of the Elvis Impersonators!” We bought our tickets from the TodayTix App, as recommended by my friend Keith Schneider. It was ridiculously campy and we LOVED IT! The show was written by Lory Lazarus, who also wrote “Courage the Cowardly Dog”. It’s staged in a small, off-broadway theatre that seats 75 people. The music was fun and energetic and the cast were equally so. The premise: Leading man (Think Axl Rose/Slash/Brett Michaels/Dee Snyder rolled into one) has a midlife crisis and experiences divine intervention from Elvis Presley, who inhabits his body to start a new religion called “Hound Dog” (Because DOG is GOD backwards). If you are in NYC, go check it out.

After the Elvis show, we were pooped and ready to turn in for the night. It took a little longer than expected since I accidentally took us a few blocks in the wrong direction. Camette was not pleased, which after five years of marriage I’ve learned the best way to fix this type of problem: Feed Camette. We stopped for pizza and drinks around the corner from our AirBnB. We got into the room around 11:30pm, ate our food, and turned in at 12:15am.

Oh, as for the teaser at the top of the blog? That happened. 1:15am the door opens to our closet (Literally a closet with a bunk bed futon allowing 8 inches to the wall) and two partially naked, partially intoxicated young women giggled into the room and climbed into the top bunk. When I opened my eyes and information rushed to my brain, it took a nanosecond to process “This isn’t my wife…who the efff is this…?” I rolled to Camette behind me and she whispered into my face, “I guess we’re not alone tonight.” As the mattress above us squeaked into submission.

When we left in the morning, the ladies were still asleep. We never knew who they were. While driving back to Pennsylvania, I reflected aloud, “No one got hurt. No one was robbed or raped. It was just weird. At the very least it will make for a good story. ” When I called AirBnB to discuss our experience, customer service were very polite in explaining the three categories of rentals: Whole house, private room, or SHARED room. I, indeed, did read the word shared but thought that it pertained to the apartment/bathroom arrangements. I never realized it meant THE CLOSET! Well, now we know…that Camette is in charge of booking all future AirBnBs.

Follow the link to see some pictures that we took on this day trip and leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you as we prepare for our 12 month road trip.

We’ve Only Just Begun

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The coveted presidential caricature, which embodies the personality and interests of the outgoing president.

“All raise a glass and, in true club fashion, welcome our new President Camette.”

“A toast! To truth, fairness, and goodwill to all for that is the Rotary way! CHEERS!”

And just like that, the year was over.

I was president of the Rotary Club of Richland from last July until now. In Rotary, the leadership changes every year and now I’ve witnessed my own cycle. It’s a feeling like most milestones (High School, College, etc.) in which the experience itself almost feels like it takes a long time and yet when it concludes it was over too soon.

Was it stressful? You bet. Did I have fun? I sure did. Would I do it again? ABSOLUTELY!

With encouragement and guidance from my club members we were able to accomplish a lot. We helped a local organization that packed backpacks with food for the local school kids to ensure they had meals over the weekend (Some children don’t get a meal unless it’s from the school), we made little kits for hospice patients that included basic toiletry items, we did two highway cleanups, hosted a business networking event (that was disguised as a party but played a game that resembled speed dating), we gave a local high school senior a $500 scholarship for college, served at the soup kitchen, hosted our annual rubber duck race, and more than I can remember at the moment.

Through our efforts we also were recognized in our Rotary District 7330 for having the second greatest net gain in membership AND the District Governor’s Crystal Citation (We met certain achievements). It’s pretty neat going from a club of 13 to 17 over the course of the year. Oh…did I neglect to mention that we are a small club? Don’t underestimate the small clubs.

If you wish to see more photos of what we did through the year you can check out the club Facebook Page. You can also relish in two facts: I wore a bow tie for every meeting AND I never take a serious picture. As for the picture at the top of the post (It was presented to me at the meeting) it accurately shows the Chorkie Dorks and how my face gets square when I smile.

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For the record: Chihuahua/Yorkie (Chorkie), all boys. (L to R) Logan is 5, Brixton is 2, and Presley is 5 years old. All different parents.

Now that my year as president is over, Camette will now be the fearless leader of the club. She was elected. Honestly. No nepotism. She was incredibly hesitant to accept but now excited to do it. She’s our super hero!

And don’t think that I’ll be taking things lightly now that I’m no longer president because I was asked to serve as Assistant Governor for my area! I’m just a middle man to four neighboring clubs to help them stay on track, but I plan to do a bang up job.

I know that I’ve got a full weekend in store and wanted to effectively write about what’s been going on.

What are you up to this weekend? Any plans for the 4th of July? Leave a comment. I would love to hear from you!

 

 

 

Thunderstruck

The forecast? Rain. Rain. Rain.

Before we were returning from Atlanta, Facebook was filled with horror stories that our friends were sharing in which their basements and streets were being flooded. As you can imagine (closing on our house, cramming all of that stuff in a one bedroom apartment, and leaving for Atlanta) that we did not provide all household items a proper placement in the apartment. Needless to say, the place was a mess, including the basement used for storage, with the intention of addressing it when we return.

The last two days in Atlanta were stressful, considering that we saw pictures of the nearby waterway spill over onto the street three blocks up the road from us. We were convinced that we would find the basement waist high with murky water.

 

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The culprit: Where the stream that flows below the street overflowed. Photo Credit: Barb Mitchell

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Three blocks down from the overflow. One block down from our new apartment. Photo Credit: Barb Mitchell

When we got home the basement was… bone dry. Exhale a sigh of relief, and then we heard it; that all too familiar sound in which dread sweeps over you, the distant engines of motorcycles which can only mean one thing: Thunder in the Valley.

Of course I say dread in jest. Thunder in the Valley is a HUGE motorcycle rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which started in 1998. It has grown to become a regional event that draws motorcycle enthusiasts and vendors from all over the country. For a city that has lost its steel industry and has had a struggling economy, having 200,000 visitors for an extended weekend is a worthwhile and small price to pay to help boost the economy and spirits of the locals.

Since we have all of those visitors, my Rotary Club (of Richland Township) capitalizes on this opportunity to host our only fundraiser for the year: The Annual Rubber Duck Race! Johnstown is known for floods that happened in 1889, 1936, and 1977 (#FloodCity) I’ll probably write about the floods another day. At any rate, we have a couple of rivers. This is our second year hosting this event and the notoriety has slowly been spreading. We drop the sold ducks (All identical with the ticket number on the underside) at once off of the Hickory Street bridge and they float approximately one mile to the Inclined Plane (The World’s Steepest Vehicular Incline). First place duck wins $2,000, followed by $1,000 and $500.

Here’s how we launch the ducks: Rotary Club of Richland Duck Drop

Remember when I said rain? Well, this year we had too much to safely pull this off.

My dear friend, Ivar Berge, took this video 24 hours before the scheduled release of the ducks. It didn’t get much better the next day, so we opted for “Plan B”: We pulled a ticket out of a squirrel cage. I know this is not as exciting, but we have it printed on the ticket that we reserve the right to do so given unsafe river conditions.

This fundraiser is right up my alley. I have been selling raffle tickets since I was in 7th grade and I’ve developed a knack for approaching strangers at large community events to ask if they would support the cause. We’ve established a great relationship with the Richland Fire Department and we set up a booth at their venue. This year, to kick off their “Bike Bash” they asked if I would rally the troops and ride the mechanical bull. Who am I to disappoint?

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And then imagine a combination of the hat and apron for the complete ensemble for my entire weekend (phew!).

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Here I am before a volunteer from the crowd selected this year’s duck winner. Photo Credit: Mary Berge

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Camette and I from last year sporting the duck hats. Just visualize this hat on me in the top photo with the apron.

Please imagine that tall drink of water walking up to leather clad, tattoo adorned, chain smoking, hard as nails bikers asking, “Did you hear about the Duck Race?”. Oh yeah, I kill it.

This year went very well and I owe it all to my very supportive club members who pulled together to make it happen.

What did you do for the weekend? Did you visit us at Thunder in the Valley? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment down below.

Georgia On My Mind

Let’s recap the timeline: Signed papers with the attorney for the sale of the house on Thursday night, went to work at 3:00 a.m. for a long shift, ran many errands, and met Camette at the apartment around 10:00 p.m. to throw some clothes in a suitcase. Next morning, Saturday, leave the apartment approximately 5:00 a.m. for the 11 hour drive to Atlanta, Georgia (With restroom and refuel breaks it took 12 hours).

We checked into our accommodations around 6:00 p.m. Where did we stay, you may ask?

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Our awesome accommodations from AirBnB in East Atlanta

That’s right, a teepee in someone’s back yard. It had a queen sized bed, with A/C and mini-fridge. It was freakin’ sweet!

We did spend an entire week in Atlanta, but mainly for the Rotary International Convention, which was hosted at the Georgia World Congress Center (That building is HUGE).

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This was the first International Convention that we’ve attended, and it was GREAT! We made new friends and learned about the good work that Rotary is achieving around the world.

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Our new Rotary friend from Arizona, Serena!

To ring in some of this good news was John Cena, sharing the Polio Moment. If you are unfamiliar with Polio, please check out the link https://www.endpolio.org/ I’ll come back to this topic on another day. We also had Bill Gates share that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be extending their two-to-one matching funds for three more years toward eradicating Polio. Then later in the day, Ashton Kutcher joined the panel discussion about efforts to end human trafficking. Kutcher is one of the founders of THORN which specializes in ending child pornography. We even had a brave guest on the panel who was a victim of sex trafficking. This was all on Monday before LUNCH!

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Ashton Kutcher, Bill Gates, and John Cena backstage at the 2017 Rotary International Convention. Photo credit: Rotary International

We met really cool people from around the world. An interesting and friendly gesture that I often partook of was to help someone take a group photo. So many people and they simply want a picture. It was easy to identify if the person who was taking the picture should have been in it. So I would faithfully walk over and offer to help. Despite what language the person spoke, they understood and were visibly thankful.

We attended several breakout sessions at the convention to bring some knowledge back to our club. I attended a session about securing partners/sponsorships, about club membership being a revolving door, and heard the most prolific interact members present (They are from Northern California District 5170). In so many words, Interact is like a Junior Rotary. It’s for high school students who are passionate about doing good work in the community and abroad while making friends and networking.

We saw the sights: World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, Oakland Historic Cemetery, Krog Tunnel, Village Theatre Improv Night

We ate great food: Daddy D’z BBQ, Kwan’s Deli & Korean Kitchen, Six Feet Under, Graveyard, Tijuana Garage, Thrive, The Flying Biscuit, The Vortex

Visited the Shops: Your Dekalb Farmers Market, Ponce City Market, Krog Street Market, (Nationally Recognized) East Atlanta Village Farmers Market

And much more!

In the past week, I’ve set up some social media accounts. Feel free to connect with us through Instagram @tumblereadblog or Twitter @tumblereadblog More ways to connect will be arriving soon.

Meanwhile, check out some of our pictures from this trip to Atlanta. We will be updating this album through the week.

Photo Albums

Thanks for reading. Send us some questions and we’d be happy to answer them.

 

Turn the Page

Tears silently roll down her cheeks.

I navigate the never ending detours as the Pennsylvania “state flowers” are in full bloom; the reflective orderly rows of orange and white whiz past my open driver’s window.

“Are you crying?”, I asked.

“No!”, my wife, Camette, lied through gentle sobs.

We are in route from our house, our first house, to the attorney’s office to sign the closing papers on the sale. The house where we’ve laid the five year foundation of our marriage, and now it’s going to be occupied by another family.

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A Bit About Us

When we were moving in we had a very different mindset. We were five years younger, I was working in insurance, and we had typical traditional objectives, but it didn’t take too long for our objectives to shift. Gradually our priorities have adjusted from desires of a white picket fence with 2.2 children and keeping up with the Jones’ to focusing on experiences. Several factors have influenced this mindset. To be brief, reasons include the ever unevenly growing inflation to income gap, finding peace through minimalism, thirst for adventure/travel, and understanding how experiences are the new social currency.

Social currency. The size of your house, the number of garage doors, the year/model of the car you drive, the size of your T.V., the extensive collections of memorabilia you’ve accumulated and so on were once coveted as it declared your status in this world. We are learning of a paradigm shift in which people are exchanging these THINGS for experiences. Experiences are the new social currency. Travel, culture, art, language and so much more are what I find to make people interesting. I would be more interested to meet someone with a pocket full of stories than hear someone brag about their new car and how expensive it was. To put it frankly, hearing someone boast about their possessions is off-putting for me.

As of this writing, I am 30 years old, have a B.A. in English and drive a garbage truck. There is so much more in this life that I wish to accomplish and I want you to follow the progression as this hopeful story unfolds.

 

Preface

I have been part of Rotary International for 5 years. With the Rotary Club of Johnstown, we did a project through First Book, in which we received for FREE, sorted, and distributed 40,000 books to impoverished kids. This was awesome. It touched me deeply to do this good work and with my love of storytelling, it was especially dear to my heart. An experience like this is what we call “A Rotary Moment”. When through your Rotary project you experience a deep human connection where it clicks, in a sense of enlightenment. This book project was my Rotary Moment.

 

The Goal

My wife and I (Along with our 3 TINY dogs) will embark on a 12 month road trip to see the country, visit 49 states, and HOPEFULLY partner with Rotary Clubs to do this First Book project in each state.

There is a lot of work to be accomplished before this can even start. I hope that you come back to learn of our progress and encourage us to press forward.

So when I told you about selling the house, that is what I call Phase One of the Master Plan. Please come back as the story unfolds.