2014 was a very busy year for me, so busy in fact that it seemed like it lasted for only a day. Knowing how short our lives are, I strove to do as much as I could this year. Here are some of the highlights.
On January 1, I participated in my fourth polar bear plunge at Coney island with about two dozen members of the Staten Island Athletic Club. Most exciting for me was doing it with my daughter Emma for the first time. She had a great time.
An experimental rapper named Uncommon Nasa from Staten Island was looking for some actors to be in his music video in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Emma and I jumped at the chance. In the scene below, two cops are escorting her deadbeat dad out in handcuffs while her mom consoles their crying daughter. The video is called Twenty-Two. To view it, click here.
Life can be funny at times. My daughter was called to be an extra on the hit comedy show called Louie. They requested that she wear pantyhose in the scene. Here I am for the first and hopefully the last time in my life purchasing a pair of panty hose for her.
And as it turned out, the wardrobe people decided that she did not need to wear pantyhose. Here she is after being dressed up to play a junior high school student in a flashback scene from 1980. In the scene, the main character Louie plays one of her classmates.
During the winter, there were a few major snowstorms. At that time, I went out to the Staten Island Greenbelt to run with SIAC Extreme Captain Darren Corona and the rest of the trail runners. As I was running through the snowy woods, I was inspired to film a music video about a father who loses his daughter there. My running buddy and fellow actor Mark Vogt filmed it while my daughter and I starred in it. I am proud of what we all did and am glad to have spent such a special moment working on this project with my daughter. You can view the music video here.
In March, I played a cop in the TV series Babylon Fields. It featured zombies and unfortunately the show never got picked up by any networks, so it was dead on arrival. I had fun with my role as you can see below.
In April, my kids and I engaged in a beach grass planting event down near Conference House Park in Staten Island. This was a great event that combined environmentalism and volunteerism. There I met John Kilcullen, a dedicated Parks Department employee in charge of maintaining and promoting events at Conference House Park. During Hurricane Sandy, Staten Island lost a lot of its beachfront due to erosion. The beach grass we planted helps anchor the grass in place which will create large sand dunes that will protect the nearby community from future storms.
Later in the month, my partner-in-crime Mark Vogt teamed up with me for the sixth time for the High Rock Challenge, a wildly popular adventure race that takes place in the Staten Island Greenbelt. Every year, Mark and I have fun giving our team a new name. We sometimes even wear outfits that reflect that team name. Here we are as the Notorious S.I.A.C. dressed as white gangsta’ rappers. And yes, we actually performed a rap song that Mark had written in front of many horrified adventure racers who had already finished their race.
Three years ago, I had requested that trees be planted around our condo building. They finally arrived! Eventually they will grow big and make my neighborhood more beautiful.
In June, we entered an anti-litter campaign promoted by the Staten Island Borough President James Oddo. My idea was crazy: to have a bunch of angry litter get revenge on a litterbug who kept on throwing them on the ground. My brother Aaron is very artistic and he was able to effectively draw very angry and evil faces on all the trash props I gave him. On the morning of the shoot, I was going to quit before we started, for I didn’t believe that I could pull this off. It took some convincing from my friend Mark to change my mind, which he did. My good friend Rob Lenza nailed his character and was very entertaining portraying the Litter Bug. Seasoned actor Joseph Martin made a cameo appearance at the end of the PSA playing Johnny Nash, the trash-talking guy. He also nailed his role. When the contest was over, we ended up coming in third place. A lot of our friends and family said that it was the funniest video of the bunch. And most importantly, we had a blast putting it together. See the video, “Anti-Litter PSA: Don’t Let Trash Get Out of Control” by clicking here.
By the end of June, I organized a beer run for my running club. We started and finished a four-mile run at the Flagship Brewery in Staten Island. Then the festivities began. We had a beer and pizza party at the brewery and much fun was had by all. There was even an article about our event in the Staten Island Advance.
In July, I had gotten an acting gig in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire. It was the final episode of the final season. Boardwalk Empire was on for five seasons and I was very lucky to have gotten a featured background gig for each and every season since it began five years ago. Here I am playing a janitor at a fancy hotel.
Another TV series, Gotham, about the life of a young Bruce Wayne before he later becomes Batman started filming this year. Before the first episode, I was a featured crime scene investigator in a TV promo for the series. If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see guy holding a plastic bag behind the yellow tape. That’s me holding an evidence bag. A “dead” body is lying directly in front of me in the middle of the street. Behind me is the character Ed Nygma. He’s a fellow cop who will later become The Riddler, one of Batman’s arch-enemies.
While I was at a teacher workshop in August, there were about a dozen classrooms that all the teachers had to enter to begin the workshop. I randomly chose the last classroom at the end of the hall. Sitting next to me was another teacher named Karen. It turns out that she is my distantly-related cousin. It was such an great coincidence and we were both excited to meet each other again after last meeting each other at a family reunion 19 years ago.
In September, Emma began her freshman year at Midwood High School. She decided to join the Girl’s Cross-Country Track Team. With no real running experience under her belt, she ran her first cross-country track meet at Prospect Park. She ran a 1.5-mile race and received her very first medal. This is a great start to a potentially amazing running career for her.
For years, I’ve always supported the idea of having a pedestrian path built on the Verrazano Bridge. All other bridges throughout New York have a way for bikers, walkers and runners to get across to the other boroughs. I find it very unfair that to get to Staten Island from Brooklyn or vice versa, you are forced to use a car. Putting action to this cause, I signed an online petition and have encouraged many of my friends and family to sign it. This year, I wanted to go one step further and got in touch with the man who was the Chairman of the Harbor Ring Committee. His name was Paul Gertner. In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Verrazano Bridge in November, Paul, Meredith Sladek, several other supporters and I worked together to hold a rally on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano. I was in charge of getting Staten Island runners and a few politicians to attend the rally. On October 21, the rally was held at the Alice Austen House. With the Verrazano Bridge serving as the perfect backdrop, several local politicians spoke about the need to make this pedestrian path a reality. The politicians, including Michael Cusick, Vincent Gentile and Martin Golden gave very moving speeches on the importance of this project and its benefit to all. Staten Island Athletic Club President Mark Vogt spoke recalling memories of the Bridge throughout his youth and how it has connected important moments in his life and how it continues to do so today with the friends he has made in Brooklyn. I even said a few words after he was done.
My friend Kristin Golat, a dedicated runner and teacher, chose the MR8 charity to help her gain entry into the NYC Marathon. This cause is in honor of Martin Richard, the little boy who was tragically killed at the Boston Marathon bombings the previous year. Kristin had raised over $4,000 in his honor. I am proud to have helped out with the cause. I sold my 2013 NYC Marathon finisher’s medal through eBay for $100 and immediately donated it to help Kristin out.
One of my newest friends from my running club had a fantastic running year, so great that she motivated myself and others in my club to achieve their goals. After both her parents had passed away less than a year ago, she had every reason not to do anything this year. Instead she chose to run as her outlet for coping. She ran many miles and participated in many races and often received medals for her performance. She ran the NYC Marathon and only two weeks later, ran the Philadelphia marathon beating her NYC Marathon time by over 30 minutes within that two-week period! Yes, Chre Soto’s contagious motivation had a positive effect on me this year. Thank you Chre! Below is a photo of us after we both ran a 23-mile NYC Marathon long training run together.
Also in October, I was a two-hour pacer for the Staten Island Half Marathon. There I met Jo Blackmore, a dedicated runner who co-paced with me. She had a fantastic sense of humor and helped to make our time pacing it together a rather entertaining event.
One of the most dramatic events for me this year was being a 4:30 pacer for the NYC Marathon in November. This was my second time pacing this event. One of the runners I paced came from Germany. Her name was Sohan and her goal was to break 4:30. She stayed with me throughout the race like a shadow. When I reached the 22-mile mark, I experienced excruciatingly-painful cramps in my leg and I had to stop running. Regardless, I was still able to push myself to cross the finish line with a time of 4:40:13. Read about the amazing story of what happened after I crossed the finish line in the following blog entry by clicking here.
On October 25, my coworkers and I were told by management that due to a one million dollar deficit combined with underpayment by the Staten Education Department, our school will be forced to close in 90 days in January. We turned our sadness and anger into action and did everything we could to help save our school. Finally, on December 23, just two days before Christmas, we found out that our school will be saved and will continue to stay open into the foreseeable future. We were ecstatic and felt that this was just the kind of Christmas present we were looking for. To read the full story about how we saved our school, click here.
My son Hunter has been continually improving in his piano skills after receiving lessons for the past three years. Here he is posing with his friend Gianna after performing a piano solo at a nursing home during the Christmas holidays.