OMG LINKME

Tastes Like Depeche Mode
Philly from the Inside out
Funny: Where It's At
Actually Useful for Something
Philly Blah, Blah and more Blah.


Club at an Irish bar.

PAST: FEBRUARY 11, 2009

I've just finished Week 2 of musical rehearsals with the cast of the 2009 Quadramics Spring Fling musical, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. This is the first musical by Stephen Sondheim and it had a revival on Broadway in 1996 with Nathan Lane. Casting as usual, was tough, but it was inspired. We cast Pseudolus and Hero as females - and very talented women as well! Musically, it's pretty simple since each person only has a few songs to do... well, Pseudolus has a LOT but everyone else has a fairly easy job of it. The hard part for the actors is going to be the choreography and direction... it's gotta be full of gags and hilarious as hell, otherwise it could fall flat. For me, it's going to be getting together an orchestra...

Pseudolus: Eileen Cella
Senex: Harrison Unger
Domina: Jess Dignam
Philia: Amanda Atkinson
Hero: Annie Norbitz
Lycus: Amin Osman
Hysterium: Corey Singer
Miles Gloriosus: John Vilanova
Erronious: Mike Silverstein
Proteans: Reni Ellis, Rebecca Levine
Courtesans: Tove Smith, Andrea Kohn (Vibrata), Christina Mancheno, Cass Ichniowski

Working on this show is weird but nice. A lot more one on one time than I've had on other shows, so I've had the opportunity to "hang out" a bit more with cast members. I've felt a few weird things, like the fact that I'm now finally working with 90s children - at least some of them. Some are 6-7 years younger, and some are just 2 years younger (so... can't call those ones my "kids"). They're all real interesting. Amanda has parents who work in AI and used to program for Apple; Jess has a large and musical family in the Philly Boys choir, founding community theatres, etc; Tove has traveled far and wide doing archaeology and studying abroad and whatnot but actually started college contemplating biophysics. She's a "former" punk, and seems to like odd, almost hipsterish dressup. Pretty cool. Annie shares a few of my tastes for TV (which is great if I wanna rave about Battlestar Galactica) and always has a sublime color scheme on (yea, yea, weird observation on my part). Corey is perfect as a Hysterium-like character (so I'm sure he gets typecast). I know Cass from way back and she's always a fun character. I can't wait to see what she does with her engineering/animation career. A few of the rest I don't know well at all. I know JV works at Rolling Stone and is an itinerant gossip, but who in theater isn't? I know Genna because he was/is? dating Allison and I'm really interested to see how he implements his ideas for the show - but really, I don't know too much about him.

In 2 weeks, I'm heading down to London with my cousin Hendrick for an entertaining 4 days. We're staying at the Sheraton Park Lane on Green Park and so will be at ground zero for the tourist trap attractions. This time, I'll finally see all the stuff on the Embankment, since all the other times I've been to London I've either spent only a day meeting people, or heading right out of the city to the beautiful countryside. I've seen so much more of rural UK than I've seen of London. Man, I wanted to revisit the Cliveden royal estates where I had a GREAT time (and on analysis, a very expensive time that I didn't pay for) but it's far enough out of London to not be included in the schedule. Same as Windsor and Oxford. If I had a few more weeks in which to travel, I'd want to hit up Dublin, Brussels and Paris too - except that'd become a very expensive holiday, and too long. Especially the TOO LONG.

So here's the list of stuff I'm seeing and shouldn't be made fun of for since I'm technically showing my cousin around who's never been to London :) : the Burlington Arcade, Royal Academy of the Arts, Christie's, St. Martin on the Fields, St. James Square, Piccadilly Circus, Trocadero, Theatre Royal, Tower of London, the Queen's Walk, Tower Bridge Exhibition, HMS Belfast, Globe Theater, Tate Modern, Royal Festival Hall/QE Hall, Jubilee Gardens, Westminster Palace, Buckingham Palace/Queen Victoria Memorial, St. James' Palace, St. James's Park, Scotland Yard, Westminster Abbey, Jewel Palace, Parliament/Big Ben, Foreign Office/Treasury/Downing St., Horse Guards at Whitehall, Admiralty Arch/Nelson's Column, St. Paul's Cathedral, Covent Garden market, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Diana Memorial Playground, Albert Memorial, Royal Albert Hall, Royal College of Music, Diana Memorial Fountain, Harrods, Hyde Park Corner, Canary Wharf, East London Mosque, Chinatown, Upton Park (Queen's Market, Roman Road), Aldgate, Old St. Pancras Station, The British Library and The British Museum. Whew. Total tourists. Doing it ALL so next time, I can concentrate on the clubs (and when I'm going with someone more temperamentally suited to clubbing).

I'm also seeing Wicked and Billy Elliott while I'm there, and trying a few one-star Michelin restaurants. I would go to the 2 and 3-star Michelins but wanted to save a little money just to be prudent. We're hitting up Benares and Wild Honey, and by myself, I'll probably grab a last meal at the Square before I leave. Or, for non-Michelin places, maybe the Gaucho Piccadilly. I miss Argentinean beef... I'm also getting cheap meals at the Scandinavian Kitchen, Rock & Sole Plaice, the Morgan Arms, Duncan's Pie, Mash and Eels, Fish Bone, Seafresh Fish Restaurant.

PAST: OCTOBER 5, 2008

Bruce "Monty" Montgomery was an extremely important man in the few years that I knew him. He passed away earlier this summer, but before that, I had many opportunities to see him at his most vibrant. I first got to know him through Gilbert & Sullivan, rehearsing shows with him for Penn Singers. But from there, I saw him often - through Glee Club every semester, and through the various G&S groups that he worked with outside of Penn. I got to meet and get to know a few members of his family, and was amazed at the constant support and respect he got from everyone. Hearing his stories, I knew that he had been everywhere and worked with tons of great people, and influenced thousands of students that tramped through Penn in the fifty years that he worked there... but it really wasn't until earlier this year that I realized what it was about him. He did make everyone feel special and chosen amongst everyone else (as Brendan O'Brien says) and he certainly made me feel special and chosen, though I knew he did the same with many other people.

He talked of me often, and though I'm sure I was talented enough, he often spoke of me when I wasn't around and pushed me harder than just another guy looking for competent musicians to work with. I often heard from people that he had been doing so and I felt great about it - and nervous, as his standards were very high and inevitably made other people expect more from me because they felt that anything Monty felt was great definitely WAS great. I know that when I played at the theatre christening ceremony earlier this year, I felt a great obligation to make it the best performance ever... as it was all his music, his life, his accomplishments that we were celebrating. The fact that a small theatre was named after him and that we'd been raising money for years with the Monty Singalongs (all of which I helped him with) was only incidental to the fact that he was getting recognized by everyone, from super-producers like Marc Platt all the way down to lowly baristas and nightshift workers who had momentary contact with him but couldn't forget it.

Monty had engaged me to play in a performance he felt to be extremely important just before he left for Maine. He was organizing the concert for Princess Diana's brother, Lord Spencer, held by Studio Incamminati of Philadelphia. Though the event finally only included Princess Di's personal chief of staff and was a bit abrasive to everyone involved since we were forced to be there extra long, we were all held there by the fact that we had promised to do this for him. We performed well under strange circumstances (though my solo cocktail music from earlier in the evening went fine - I played happy birthday for some rich old knighted millionaire and could have used a tip jar as I probably would have got some). But the performance wasn't the point - it was extremely important to him, for some private reason, and we all took that to heart. The day he came over to my house, extremely excited about the performance and babbling on about it and also about his forthcoming stay in Maine - I was very impressed by his energy and vitality and for a few minutes, joined him in his extreme pleasure at being asked. Maybe he was gratified that he still commanded a lot of musical respect in the society of the rich and powerful of Philadelphia. That was the last I actually saw of him in person.

Monty died July 21. I got the call about his death later that day, and then a followup call from his sister, asking me to play at his memorial service to happen sometime later in the year. I was in Chicago with Brenna, and I got the request early on a rainy morning. I was standing in her living room watching the dripping rain and really felt a burst of sadness and of pride, that I was going to be a part of his memorialization, that I could contribute with the one skill that I had to give. I played at his memorial service on October 5 at Irvine Auditorium. The place was full of his students, colleagues, family, friends and other passerby that knew him and of him. He was loved, and I felt that he would be happy knowing that he was so loved. When I go, I wish it could be with the wishes of thousands of people, honoring my works and my life with all the talents they have. The performance that day, at least from my side, was the best I ever gave for him. Everything was perfect, crisp, appropriate to the music and performers. The culmination of the entire performance was of a song that he had asked be done at his funeral, whenever it came: "Walk Him Up the Stairs" from Purlie. Though I certainly wasn't in the mood to do a happy song at the penultimate part of the memorial service (aka the saddest), everyone got it up to do the song justice. For a few minutes, his beloved Glee Club put on the performance of their lives and walked him up those stairs.

On July 8th, Monty's family released this open letter to Monty's family and friends.

I don't usually write so solemnly and so formally, but it comes out every once in a while for times that are really important to me. In a not so formal vein... I got to see Miranda Knowles again after no contact for at least 2 years. Back then, we parted on somewhat mysteriously bad terms. She's not extremely expressive, so I feel now that I probably read the signals wrong - because this time around, she certainly was happy to see me, and to see me again in future. She was part of Singers and often saw Glee Club stuff even though she wasn't in Glee Club in any capacity. I often wonder how I got to know her as well as I have by now - she's at least 6 years older than I am, and our circles were and are wildly different. I also got to see a lot of alumni that I haven't seen for ages, and a bunch I'm likely to not see again after this. I did see Katie McGill... she apparently knows Jim Potts from Camp Hill somehow, and I think I mentioned this to her before but can't remember for the life of me now. She's also someone I'm amazed I get along with as well as I have. Also older than me, rarely talked to while at Penn, but very interesting now. Maybe I'm a little more sociable these days.

PAST: June 27-29, 2008

Flew to LA on the 6 AM direct flight, and caught a cheap shuttle to my hotel in Century City. Apparently, LA was in the 100s last week and only cooled down this week...and with only very few clouds in sight and a cool breeze, it was PERFECT weather. Was able to run down for a quick lunch meeting with Sarah Butterfield from Traffic Venue at Sasabune's on Wilshire. The sushi was okay, just slightly better than Philadelphia, but it didn't seem like they were making any great effort on the food. Deema wasn't around, but I had enough to talk about with Sarah. Agreements to run a few more things, cross publish a few others, maybe some hosted offers here and there. Apparently she has one offer which is their mainstay, and does 4000 leads or so on it every day with $1 profit per lead. Not too shabby... but of course a little dangerous to have their mainstay be one offer. But they know what they're doing.

Took a ride in Sarah B's Beemer to Santa Monica. The Pier was beautiful, as were the women. But that's another story. TOok in the beach a little bit, and listened to the street performers.. then took a walk around Ocean Blvd and down the Third Street Promenade. Spent a good chunk of time down there but had to go back to make sure I caught dinner. Dinner was at Kumo's, and while it can be extremely expensive if you order the high end of the menu, there's lots of choice which can make it an average cost dinner. I had an awesome 8 course meal with a Kobe beef centerpiece and man, was that beef all kinds of good. I had too much sake, but man, drunk or not, I knew the Japanese food there was pretty awesome. Slow night, as they only had a few people in there on a Friday at 630.

Got a glimpse of Slash, and saw Grandmaster Flash at a bookstore on Sunset where he was signing/presenting his new autobiographical book. Went a little farther down the street and made it by Whisky A Go Go's, the Roxy and finally to the Key Club where I got to see Good with Grenades, The Stash and hellogoodbye as part of a Sunset Strip Music Festival gig. BTW, there's supposedly this awesome Monday night thing at the Key Club which has 4-5 guys actively pretend to be 80s rockers and do a whole floor show that way. Sarah J says it's awesome and we might have gone if I had stayed... but payments called. Anyway, hung out with the bassist of Good with Grenades a little bit, pretty cool guy. Was telling me about issues with touring, promoting themselves, etc. This must have been a pretty good gig for them, a little bit of exposure. Their CDs I think sold out pretty quickly. hellogoodbye had some tech issues, as their computer and keyboard both screwed up. This meant their entire set had to be acoustic. This actually improved a bunch of the songs and made them a lot more rocky instead of emo-y. The lead singer can sing fine at normal volumes, but sounds strained when he tried to belt louder... granted, I'm sure broken equipment is stressful and so is competing with the noise from everywhere (it was all set real loud). The set ended with Here (In Your Arms) with the whole audience singing along and finally him getting all the hot chicks to climb up on stage. Then all the others tried to follow and at the end of the set, half the place was on the stage. Yeah. End of concert right there, as some stupid people didn't want to get off.

A couple more bars and back to the hotel. I walked a LONG way... down Doheny, down Santa Monica, all the way through West Hollywood through Beverly Hills back to Century City. Stupid me, I chugged a Heineken AND a coke before taking a shower and crashing. I was drunk and caffeinated... though being real tired nullified all that pretty fast. Early Saturday, I got to Rodeo Dr and took a look at the nice houses in the residentials right off of Wilshire and of course, the shops. The houses were way more interesting. I'm sure all super expensive. I saw a lot of Nikki and Paris Hilton lookalikes... some people need to find a different plastic surgeon or not try to look exactly like plastic. Lots of MILFs that I'm sure are super super golddiggers, and lots of tourists after 10 AM. I like to think I didn't look like one. I dressed a step nicer than California casual and none of that douchebag sweater tied around neck garbage. Even for a preppy, there is absolutely no reason to wear one of those around your neck when it's hot.

Spago's for lunch with Sarah J from VintageMedia/WebTraffic2Go. Currently, my cutest affiliate network contact. Danielle ranks a close second. We spent 3 hours at Spago's (Wolfgang Puck's flagship that moved from Sunset down to 90210) and the food was amazing. Oysters and sashimi to share, and fish for me followed by a berry dessert with ice cream that was delicious. Though really, I didn't pay much attention to the food as the conversation was pretty good. A lot of business areas covered, and I think I know her a heck of a lot better than I did before. Some sad stuff in her recent family history, but seems like she's doing really well. She has a nice Benz, and drove me down to the W in Westwood Village by UCLA. That area is really hip in a college sort of way. She parked for a second just to pop up and shop the W boutique with me and take a look at the rooms... and it cost her $15 for a pretty short trip. I'm pretty sure she wasn't too happy about that. I had no trunks so she brought me down to the Village for some. She spent more than 4 hours... I was kinda impressed. I hope we get some more biz going, of course, and that I get to see her in Boston or Vegas soon.

LA Filmfest in neighborhood. I met Ron Perlman in the elevator at the W - he was there for the closing night gala premiere and party for Hellboy II. That was a big deal, as I came to the party later and tried to get in but was booted. Lots of people, cameras, street blockage, etc etc. Instead, I had a pretty crap dinner at Lawry's and then a makeup dinner and drinks at Geisha House. Melinda's life must suck since she has to work so much on the weekends. Bah on lawyers... hope the money's worth the pain. Geisha House had a LOT of fine chicks (not ashamed to admit I was watching) and was a pretty hip place. I expected the food to be ehhhh but it was actually pretty damn good. Toured the rest of Hollywood Blvd, saw the Chinese Theatre, the Walk of Fame, and then headed for some more boozing and schlepping at the bar at W. It felt good flashing my roomkey and passing a line of 40 people to go into the bar. Tons of people there, great DJ. This one bartendress had a dress on that looked like it was gonna fall off her cleavage any moment... I was actually concerned for her. Though can't say I didn't like the view. Didn't know what Chambord was and made me gin and Cointreau. Blecch. Talked to a few cuties there, got rid of the rest of my free drink coupons on them and then headed to bed.

Day from hell. Morning was okay, Starbucks breakfast, lots of college cuties walkin around. Nice chauffered car to the airport, no problems... until I get to the gate and the flight is delayed two times and is almost totally canceled but makes it back on the list only for there to be no chance of me catching the connecting flight to Philly. With payments, I was hyperventilating. Long ass line to get a rep to help me out, and heard that I had a low possibility of getting on an overbooked flight leaving 6 hours later as no. 2 on the Standby list. I waited for what seemed like forever before the next flight came up. Thank god this family going to Boston took the get off the plane deal... she got 4 free RT tickets for her party, as well as First Class on an earlier flight to Boston that was direct. She earned 4 free tickets AND got home earlier, more relaxed and faster than she would have. I was jealous. With that, I just barely had a spot on the plane. And then I get back and realize I didn't bring my keys. Whereupon a key dude drills the lock (the upper tough one) and replaces it with a new one. Expensive. I would have shopped but I was way too tired and had payments to do, so I just paid up and shuffled him away.

Lesson? Always bring keys, travel light and the W is a very nice hotel. I wanted more but there's only so much excitement you can have on a short holiday. Maybe I'll try the Wilshire the next time I'm in town, or one of the private hotels up in the hills... that'd be awesome. They won't have the real Bat bike and Bat car that was parked in front of the Wilshire though. I didn't take pics of it but it did seem pretty awesome. Some hotel employee was giving a talk on it.

PAST: June 21, 2008

On this day, my great friend and mentor Bruce Montgomery died. He celebrated his 81st birthday the previous day, and passed away in his bed at his beloved home in Maine. I actually am quite upset about it. I first got to know him while working with Penn Singers at Penn. Sure, he stopped in with Glee Club during some concerts, but I missed all the Story Time with Monty's (so I'll never know if all the dirty stories were as dirty as rumored, or true!) and so never actually spent any quality time with him then. With Penn Singers, I was the main accompanist under his iron fist - he ruled his Gilbert and Sullivan productions with a firm hand and I, as a frequent doodler on the piano, was a constant focus of his wrath. Not to say that it was ever unpleasant - I learned a lot about working with light opera from him, and it was a good chance for me to work with classical singers where otherwise it would have just been popular music.

After that first show, I worked with him every semester on some production or other. I gradually got to realizing that he had a left a great legacy to Penn in the form of Mask and Wig, Penn Singers, Penn Players and Penn Glee Club... he had been there in the early years and guided the growth of these groups for decades until his retirement. But even then, he still was at Penn constantly doing something, even if it was unpaid and not so glamorous as doing the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade or singing for Pablo Casals. After I graduated, I no longer worked with all the groups that he still worked with on campus - but he did start asking me to accompany for other things. A great mainstay was the Sing-Along with Monty concerts that brought various alumni back to the Studio Theater to hear Monty tell stories and sing old college songs (with them of course). I accompanied every single one of those and tired as I was of the same old format, it felt good to help keep his flame alive on campus... there's not too many people with a great history around, and it's important not to lose sight of some of these people. A sense I feel even greater now that he's dead.

I was lucky enough to meet and work closely with a lot of his former students and colleagues through long term accompaniment gigs for his Gilbert and Sullivan Society based out of West Chester, and gala performances like the christening of the Studio Theater as the Bruce Montgomery Theater. The timing of this event was especially good, as so many people were able to listen or enjoy performing his own music, honor his name with the theater dedication and see him in elegant form before he disappeared from all our lives.

He had many plans for future perfomances: perhaps a book and performance tour through California which he asked me to be on call for; a runthrough of his musical "Jesse" for producers (I was to take over from Marc-Andre Hamelin, who did the recording... big shoes to fill); and an especially big gig that we were both looking forward to. This was a performance of selected Gilbert and Sullivan numbers for Lord Spencer, Lady Diana's brother, and guests at the Union League in September. This performance is still going ahead, but his sister is now taking his spot. I don't really know what he liked about me, but it was apparent that he did: continually asking for my help, being on his Xmas card list, and hearing from others that he'd continually speak well of me... I really felt quite honored to mean this much to someone, and I tried hard to return the favor.

I will be attending the memorial service, whenever it happens, and the local GCGC reunion on July 2 at the Union League in remembrance of Monty. He's affected so many people's lives (including many, many great professional musicians in Philadelphia, New York and farther out!) and it's only appropriate that we all take some time to remember him. Though I am definitely saddened at his passing, I feel that he was very blessed to have been able to do so much during the time that he did have. When I am 81, I don't know if I will have been able to do half as much as he has already accomplished! Anyway... just wanted to get a few thoughts down.

PAST: April 17-19, 2008

Spent the entire weekend, essentially, with SFANW. The entire week too! The whole week the Colbert Report was filming in the Zellerbach Theater at Annenberg Center, while our show was in the Prince. We were originally asked to vacate Prince for the Colbert Report, but we refused. Good thing, because we had what we wanted AND we got to see some celebrities. Saw Stephen Colbert in the hallway. He looks more normal than he does on TV. He apparently called Mili and some other girl "glamorous" for fooling around in feather boas. Djo Fortunado remembers himself being a klutz in front of Colbert. And I was just a dude pushing a cart and briefly looking his way. Also saw Ed Rendell. Unfortunately, missed seeing the Roots, John Legend (though I was at his intimate concert at Penn a few years back... class of 1920 auditorium and him doing all his cuts from the CD, it was AWESOME) and the Iggles cheerleaders. Oh well. Secret Service was being tightass about security, so we didn't get to see Hillary, Edwards or Michelle Obama. Not that we would have wanted to go through the process to do so. Hillary held up traffic around Penn. Wonder what will happen to her in two days, what with the important primary, mass defections and lots of superstars campaigning for Obama.

Sound was messed up on Thursday. Partially fixed by Friday, and fully working by Saturday. Caroline blames it on shitty equipment - it's apparently rented out of Houston Hall from some local sound shop, and of course, it probably gets treated like shit by all the groups. Also, it was wireless and that always has issues. Johnny was always a problem to pick up because his voice was so breathy (and for good reason, he was singing way high). Band was tight (though best on Friday) and singers did a good job throughout. Friday and Saturday were definitely more inspired, though not because of the audience - the best audience came on Thursday.

Thursday, went out for beers with Djo (congas), Max Hass (bass) and Sebastian Modak (drums). Seb went to JIS for all of high school, and we caught up on general Indonesian stuff. Nasi G, bah-mee Gahjamada, blah blah blah. Djo is in with the hipster crowd at Penn, and Max looks older than his age. Got to the party late, but made a great appearance and gifting was successful (though man, I was a slacker about it. I could have gotten much better gifts for people if I had had till Saturday.

Friday, saw Forbidden Kingdom. Pretty awesome movie... like what kid wouldn't want to live this movie. Learn kung fu in a dream and be able to use it right away... and meet hot chicks that are apparently real. Yifei Liu and Bingbing Li are the two chicks in the movie, and whew. Cuties, man. Jet Li and Jackie Chan, awesome as usual. Wasn't Jet Li supposed to be done with this stuff? Guess not.

Saturday, had dinner with the cast at Bistro St. Tropez. Spent some quality time with the cast NOT celebrating Passover before we did strike. THe attendance at strike was a little anemic, so as usual, I helped a small bunch of people do a LOT of lifting. If I didn't like doing some manual labor every so often, I'd probably skip too... but I wouldn't do that to the crew. Especially a real fun crew :) Went to FroGro with Caroline, whom I learned has some rather unfortunate food allergies. I should count my blessings, really. I'd pretty much just curl up and die if I couldn't eat gluten any more - though in the scheme of things, that's a pretty tiny thing to have wrong. At least it's not ciliac disease. Spent the party getting Mili drunk, feeling sticky, wanting to talk to Jess but feeling so, so tired, and being altogether too sober, even after repeated trips back to the bar. The Princess Bride was showing. I'm going to miss some of these people. Off to better things, I hope.

PAST: February 24-26, 2008

Just got back from Vegas, where Norman and I attended the Affiliate Summit West conference at the Rio. It was a ridiculous few days. We stayed at the Hilton Grand Vacations the first night, which was a pretty good deal: $200 a night for a very large suite. It paled, however, in comparison with the suite we had at the Wynn the next night. Luckily enough, we were kept waiting in line for 30 minutes. Sound lucky? Not yet. I was definitely pissed, and it was evident there was something wrong with our floor. I never found out what, but by the time it was our turn, the receiptionist gave us the first other rooms available, no matter what it was. Our room was a huge upgrade... from a small cheap room in the "hoi polloi" section of the hotel to one of the Salon Suites in the five-diamond five-star Tower Suites at the Wynn, and at the rate for the small cheap room. Yes, I'm still entranced by wealth. So this 1800 square foot suite just swept me off my feet... massage table, 50" plasma HDTV, huge living room, wet bar, marble floors everywhere, enormous soaking tub, mirrors on the ceiling, and a sweet, sweet bed. Made up for losing $60 at the blackjack tables. I don't spend a lot on gambling, maybe up to $100 in a trip. I'd rather spend on my hotel room:)

And food. We went to a few great meals: Bouchon at the Venetian (in their Grand Suites section, pretty swanky), Tao at the Venetian (just like the New York one... and their sake samplers, oy veh!), and Bartolotta at the Wynn. The two breakfasts at the Palms and Rio don't count. Man, some amazing dishes. I've also never paid $80 for a half bottle of wine, so while that isn't crazy in the overall scheme of things (and in the world of GREAT wines), that's still a first for me. Even with the mountains of money we make, it's better off to stockpile it (and use it only once in a while in giant orgies of food). Shows? O was amazing. So was Crazy Horse ;)

I had a bazillion meetings there, with Andrew Buckingham, Jaeson Hildebrandy and Mitali Tayal from NeverblueAds, Matt Wasserman from RocketProfit, Chris Denk from Motive Interactive, Bryan VanAlmkerk from Aquasis Media, Victor Valdez and Kevin from Affnet, Nick Podrasky from Memolink, vincent Padilla from Monetizeit, Matt Patterson, Sam and Divya from Swish Marketing, Shannon Foley and Kim White from TheMediaCrew, Lou DiFulvio from Media Breakaway, Vinh Vo and Neville Campbell from Viral Media, Jackie Bates from LinkConnector, Rani Nagpal from Zanox, Sarah Jankowski from WebTraffic2Go, Michelle Ichinose from AKMG, Alejandro Correa from SilverCarrot, Danielle Eager from Kowabunga, Deema Chahine and Sarah Butterfield from TrafficVenue, Daniel Choi from Atrinsic, Matt Conlin and Diana Herriott from Clash Media, and even JP Sauve from MaxBounty (awkward as that meeting was). All these names may mean nothing to most people, but they mean hundreds of thousands in revenue for me - so I can't let any of them slip by without a hello. They're also good ins for the private parties (ahem Affnet at the Leadflash private party, ahem Danielle last year for that Pussycat Dolls private party at Pure). The other big party was at the club part of Tao, where I got to see Blue Man Group (eh, whatever), and long lineups at the bar. LONG lineups.

PAST: January 21-26, 2008

UPDATE: The cast has now been announced.

MAN 1: Johnny Lloyd
MAN 2: Dave Doyle
WOMAN 1: Maya Tepler
WOMAN 2: Sheira Feuerstein

Casting for Songs for a New World by Jason Robert Brown. While I can't give specific details, I can say that this was really hard. We had to cast a four person show, all of whom have to be great musicians and talented vocalists with large ranges and a powerful high range. Man 1 has to sing up to a high F#, which is SO high. And do it melodically. I can hit the note personally, but it's too high and sounds like a squawk. Thus... the problem. We found a lot of talented people, but we can only cast four. I'm excited for the rehearsal process now.

PAST: December 18 - January 3, 2008

UPDATE: The Vancouver trip is now over, sadly. The usual gluttonous orgy of food, food and more food. Though this time, it wasn't all Asian food! Yes, we did the usual "yamcha" lunches, duck soup dinners, hotpot, trips to Spicy House and the Taiwanese beef cafe and Japanese all you can eats... but did manage to get some continental gourmet specialties at Chambar, Feenie's, Cru and Mistral. Tried Wild Ginger in Seattle, which was pretty good. I wanted to try a few more places, but it was basically impossible to squeeze in. Angela and I managed to coordinate a spectacular set of games for the engagement party. Lots of awkwardness for Lou and Chris, and misconstrued situations by the family. I liked that I added to family gossip, as much as I get annoyed listening to it. Ha.

I did get to ski on Grouse Mountain, as well as a day of tubing. Hendrick and I went down the tube chute together and I guess it was extremely slippery... we went down really fast and had a few seconds of air time on the hump at the bottom, much higher and longer than anyone else. We landed HARD. Skiing was fun. I hadn't done it in a while, having snowboarded last - it took one danger fraught run to get the hang of it again. That was one SlOW run. Anyway, I got much better and managed only two falls on my last run down. No, it wasn't black diamond. I'm nowhere near that good. I did like the snowstorm and night skiing with no visibility - it really made the skiing interesting. Anyway, coming back from the Mountain after that was a real bitch. Traffic jams and a 2 hour trip that would have taken 30 minutes.

All in all, a great trip. Not relaxing by any means, but at least not very stressful. In addition, we did very well while there, and working wasn't as hard as it was last year. This year, though, we didn't get our own private ranch house to hang out in. Too bad... because the tennis courts and patio were all done this time, instead of a mudpile in the backyard. The next family engagement is Lou's wedding in Chicago during August. That's gonna be hell.

PAST: November 21-27, 2007

UPDATE: We're back (Brian and I) from Europe! Extremely tiring trip, but action-packed. From the 'Ms. Blankity Blank, you dropped your Vagisil at Gate 32' voice on the Newark Airport mic system to the hot chick on the ferris wheel by the Tuileries... it was all memorable. For me, anyway.

The Rundown

After touchdown at CDG, we found that we were on the tail end of a strike by the metro and bus union. For some reason, this was manifested in free fares for all trains in and around the city. It was great - free subway for a full day. I still squirm paying $800 for a hotel room (thank god for reward points and GCs...) but man, great location, hot showers and swank sheets. I swear they were like a billion thread count, they were that comfy. Non-stop through the Place de la Concorde, Jardin de Tuileries, Louvre, St. Germain l'Auxerrois church and down to the Ile Cite area for some good old climbing Notre Dame action. All typical tourist material, but I didn't get to do this the last time I was in Paris. A night spent fruitlessly wandering... we tried seeing a show at the Opera Bastille, but there was a strike there and the show was called off. Don't ask me who was having THAT strike. Then a walk by the Place Vendome for a quiet pricy Paris bistro dinner, some hot chocolate and a look at Hotel Costes and the George V. Capped it off with a Ferris wheel ride with the aforementioned hottie (from Moscow but living in Switzerland) and then a walk down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, some late night wandering at the Virgin Store and getting lost down 1st Arondissement alleyways.

Next day, some time at the Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, gourmet cheese, then Place de Trocadero and Palais de Chaillot for some nice views of the Eiffel Tower. Lunch at a 2-star Michelin for some great gourmet food and service. Managed to do it all with finesse in 1.5 hours - really cutting it close to being uncouth, but made it out with honor intact. Hotel checkout, bah... well, after getting settled in the Hilton Eiffel Tower (a head on view of the tower from our room), we did the Tower climb. Skipped the Musee D'Orsay (next time), but did get a good look at the area... Ecole Militaire, Hotel des Invalides, the Rodin, etc. Dinner at a chic French-Japanese place on the Boulevard St. Germain. Bought some funny flipbooks at a French bookstore to kill time, and watched other tourists and Parisians hangin' at Cafe Flore. I can't really chill at a cafe with my brother, we just look out of place!

A cheapo breakfast, a run for some Godiva and off to CDG for our connecting to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is much smaller than I expected. We stayed out on the East side by Waterlooplein, and within 5 minutes, found ourselves by the Oude Kerk, Beurs Berlage (enormous place) and the Damrak. Lots of tourists, lots of shopping, lots of restaurants... TONS of restaurants. Space shops (for your shrooms connoisseur) and head shops, lots of strip bars and girlie shows, and what else but rain. After a long fondue dinner and some good Dutch beer, we headed out into the rainy night to check out the Begijnhof at night. Passed by a filled De Admiraal, Amstel (being exceptionally quiet), and the Leidseplein neighborhood. That particular section of town didn't seem so exciting, or so we though at the time. We got all the way back to the hotel in 30 minutes after having basically covered all of downtown.

Early morning. Walk all the way down the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museums for some great time. I loved the Rijksmuseum; it was just the right size. This area was just beyond the Leidseplein area that I hadn't liked, and I found I liked the museum area a LOT. All the pricy boutiques were in this area, as well as the Concerthall. Less tourists (aside from the visitors to the museums) made the place more relaxing. Lunch at a Dutch bistro for some GREAT raw sliced tuna on alfalfa and bread, and hot tomato and cheese soup. And beer. Dinner with the relatives at some Chinese place, and a car trip around Amsterdam West. Very quiet suburbs. The East is supposed to be more ghetto - well, that's what all the Dutch rappers say :) More on French and Dutch music in the blog. Stop by a coffeeshop for some relief, and then sleep.

The awesomest soup shop in the world - more tomato and cheese soup. I was in heaven. Relaxing afternoon shopping, eating more chocolate and packing our bags to the max in order to head all the way back home... which we did. Back to CDG, smoked meats and cheese dinner, out to the Hilton Exec, one night, and a flight back.

PAST: November 5-7, 2007

UPDATE: We're back (Norman and I) from New York! Highly successful trip out. Spent a lot of time developing contacts: a bunch of guys in the SEO world, a lot of email guys, brand builders, partner networks (CX Interactive, Azoogle, Neverblue, Hydra, eAdvertising, CPAEmpire, and about ten thousand smaller ones). Went to a couple sessions, with lots of great speakers and panelists, including Arianna Huffington, the head of Fox Interactive, YouTube's VP for advertising, CEOs of major ad agencies (BBDO, Avenue A/Razorfish, etc.) and a major interactive advertising announcement by Mark Zuckerberg. Norman and I were both brought onto the VIP list by MediaWhiz for their poker tournament - it was pretty great, but I lost about 2 hours in. Norman stayed in for another 2 hours, eventually shoving it all in so he could get out. He didn't have to - he was in the Top 10 and so close to winning that spot on the World Poker Tour.

I caught up with Jeff Okubo from Swish Marketing and Sarah Jankowksi (formerly of eDebitPay, now of her own company) there, and went with them down to Club Pacha for the DJ Rob Base and Turbo party. I'm totally younger than all these ad people, because everybody else was like "OMG, Breakin! I loved that movie!" and I had no idea what they were talking about. "It Takes Two" and some of his other stuff were pretty good... yeah, yeah. Anyways, we met up with some of Sarah's girls, all So-Cal ad people. They were cute, they were good company, and I drank SO much. Went with them to two of the W Hotels and spent a lot of time hanging out. Also talked shop for a bit too. Hopefully, I can do some business with Sarah (and see her again, she's awesome). At the same bar were these two dudes who were also there for AdTech but apparently "only" owned a Swiss bank. I was like, what are you at the conference for then? Are you laundering money for someone? I never got around to asking cuz it was rude. Hahahaha.

Spamalot was good vocally and design-wise, but content-wise... not as enjoyable as Monty Python and the Holy Grail was. We went to Tao for dinner the first night, and had the Kobe beef shabu-shabu. Oh my freakin god, it was awesome. I need some more of that marbled beef in scallion broth. Argh. A pretty good followup was the steak at Sidecar by PJ Clarke's, right before Spamalot. Totally missed out on Marquee (LeadFlash throws good parties, but I'll wait till Vegas for their next one... possibly the Pussycat Dolls again?), also the Adverb Media thing. Too tired for it.

UPDATE: Yours truly will be going budget by staying at the Chelsea Star in New York City, next to Madison Square Gardens. Was going to stay at the Marriott, but I decided a tradeoff was necessary: gourmet food and entertainment, or nicer rooms. The sleep would be just the same, I'm sure. So. This means I can now grab meals at Asia de Cuba, Tao, Amalia and Sidecar at PJ Clarke's, plus see Spamalot and American Gangster. Meanwhile, I'll be attending the Ad-Tech NY conference and roaming the exhibition hall. On the night of the 5th, I was chosen to play in the MediaWhiz Poker Tournament at Club Strata, so hopefully I win something, anything. And not embarrass myself. Other than that, I'll be attending the Datran party at Marquee and the Money Makers party at Pacha. On the 6th, I will be attending Adverb Media's little soiree at Flute. It will be a busy few days... and during the week too!

UPDATE: I will be in New York now for the 5th as well. That night, we're going to some poker party hosted by MediaWhiz at Club Strata, and then heading over to the Jamster gig with DJ Rob Base at Pacha. It better be good... but Jamster usually puts on a good show when it wants to. Earlier this year, their Vegas party took up the MTV Suite at the Palms and went on into Rain and the Playboy Club. Pretty freakin awesome.

PAST: November 2-3, 2007

UPDATE: The Sayre performance went exceedingly well. The kids loved the cast (especially Lucy and Sally), and I didn't have to use the keyboard, which was probably broken anyway. I haven't been in that building since the afterschool programs I helped out with, and the vaccination program. Don't know where I stand with //ahem// but I think progress was made. Who knew being peppy, cool and self-contained could be so hard?

I patched things up with Steve so that I'm now talking to him - I'm sure there's more that we need to cover before we'll actually be termed acquaintances again. The Glee Club show was great in that the singing was of a much higher quality than before, and Penn Dance actually showed a little more variety in their choreography and execution. There was actually some interpretation in their interpretive dance! Tomorrow, will be heading over to Kate Allen's housewarming. Rebecca canceled her party, so I'm free to go to the afterparty for the Glee Club show. Saw Josh and Patrick tonight, both of whom I will not likely see tomorrow night.

PAST: October 26-27, 2007

UPDATE: Show is over. Went well... one entirely empty show because the scheduled kids couldn't come (bah rain), but the other three were packed. I've heard that this is one of the better Stim shows of the past few years, which is gratifying. Had many rough spots, but the cast pulled through. I'm sure they'll have a lot of stuff to go over at the post-mortem - political decisions that could have used some rethinking... but those are problems that happen in every group. With a little more organization, hopefully Stimulus won't have to resort to as much compromise as they seemed to have to do this semester. Musically, "Sally" was the best. "My New Philosophy" went great every night, and she had great comic timing throughout the show (omg, I freaking love the coat hanger monologue... squeeky wheel gets the grease!). I think that Stim was very lucky to get the cast members it did.

I miss doing strikes. I guess that's weird - but I love the manual labor component, it makes me feel good. I'm too lazy to do any DIY stuff around the house, so a structured session works great for me. The party, naturally, is the other best part of the whole experience (aside from the official performances themselves). I had an exceedingly fine time at this show party. Right next door to my old place, hookah, booze, great conversations. I think that was the fastest 5 hours I've had in a while. Seemed to me it started and suddenly it was over. A short initiation that was VERY tame (though PSP had it beat... and got the chapter disbanded and us blacklisted for that) plus some good gifting. I was extremely tired before the party, but I got it together because I wanted to actually have fun with these guys. Never actually had that time until Hell Week; the rest was just rehearsal and acting professional. Oh, what I do to make sure my reputation remains sound :)

UPDATE: I'm now a listed MD for the show, thanks to the kindness of the other MDs. I got referred by Dick Talens, apparently, to be pianist for the Fall 2007 production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" by Stimulus Children's Theater. While the production needs a LOT of work before it's ready, I'm excited just to be working on this show again. It's a fun show.

PAST: October 19-22, 2007

UPDATE: Rob McLemore from Camp Hill was in Chicago. Nick Lake too, but nobody's seen that guy since... well. He's running the standup circuit and doing odd jobs around town. I think he likes it. As far as the engagement goes, the Serbs got along fine with the Indos, and no huge gaffes were made. I'm sure Louisa is relieved not to be super-embarrassed by us... yet. We still have the wedding to cause a huge scene. Chris did have one cute cousin who just started an accounting job at KPMG. Speaking of KPMG, I just saw their Philly offices. Didn't notice it before, and I walk by there a lot. Selective blindness I guess.

I'm going to be in Chicago during this weekend in order to attend my cousin's engagement party. Though I will be busy with getting drunk and making a scene during the party Saturday night, I'm free the rest of the time to see people and chill out.