As I was about to celebrate the new year on December 31, 2014, I felt as if it was only yesterday that my family and I celebrated the last New Year’s Eve. 2014 seemed to last only a day in my life and I wondered why. It was a year of non-stop activity doing things I had never done before while taking advantage of all my free time to enjoy life. It was also a year that I spent time enjoying my friends from the running world, the acting world, and elsewhere.
In February, I had bought a pair of snowshoes and at the last minute, I decided to “run” a 10k race in the snowy trails of the Staten Island Greenbelt. Starting dead last, I ran in those things as fast as I could and was able to pass two dozen runners along the course. I was so exhausted afterwards, it took me a few days to be myself again.
Photo courtesy of Andy Cross of Run & Shoot Photography (runshootphoto.com).
In March, I played a survivor of a subway construction explosion for the show The Knick. My character was an Irish immigrant from the year 1900. It was an exciting experience and the special effects prosthetics that the makeup people applied to my face to make me look injured was amazing. You can read about my experience here. Most fun, however, was that I was able to hang out with my good buddy Mark Vogt along with Marshal Axt and Bob Denker. All four of us ironically are members of the Staten Island Athletic Club.
My friend Heriberto Medina lives a life similar to mine. He is a long-time runner as well as a preschool teacher. In March, his school was in danger of closing. He desperately needed support from his community, politicians, and friends to hold a rally to keep his school open. I picked up my son immediately after school and rushed out to Williamsburg where we met and marched together at the rally. Eventually his school on was saved as a result of the combined efforts of the community.
In March, my good friend Darren Corona invited a bunch of trail runners from my running club to run the Muddy Marathon. This 10k race involved scaling steep mountains and running through very treacherous, snowy and rocky terrain. The exhilaration and amazing runner’s high we all felt after we finished this epic race was greater than any race I had ever experienced before. You can read about the visceral experience I had here.
In April, I had entered the Disability Film Challenge. For the challenge, a person had 48 hours to write, film and edit a film short dealing with the subject of disability. My good friend Michael Ring was the subject of my film short since he has a rare condition that causes a physical disability. The competition had crazy rules to adhere to that would have made the elements in the film non-sensical. I decided at the last minute to create the kind of film I wanted to create and did not enter the contest at all. With the help of my friend Adrian and my brother Aaron, I was able to capture a moment in Michael Ring’s life while he narrated his own film. Here is a link to the finished film: F*ck CIDP
For Mother’s Day, my brother and I brought our mom to eat at Nathan’s in Coney Island. My brother and I are often busy with our own children and hardly ever have a moment to breathe, so spending quality time alone with our mom was extra-special for the both of us.
As my two children are getting bigger and more independent, I am able to free myself more to spend time with friends. During June, I spent time with a bunch of background actor friends at a barbecue and birthday party for my friend Merav in Jersey City, New Jersey. It was great to just chill out and joke around with this crazy group of guys and gals.
I have learned to balance my time between my children and my friends. It’s a tricky slope, but it’s doable. Here I am at the left with my son in Alpine, NJ about to hike down a steep and treacherous trail to the bottom of the Palisades.
My son’s 5th grade senior trip was the Circle Line trip around Manhattan. I was one of the chaperones and I had a fun time leading and guiding his class with other parent volunteers. Besides, I know for a fact that children love it when their parents go with them on class trips.
In June, my daughter finished running a full year with her girl’s high school track team. She performed very well and often finished in the top 20% of many of her races. She even earned a bunch of medals. Since then, she no longer runs track because she wants to focus her energy on her other love which is art. Below is a photo of the girl’s track team about to go to their year-end party at their coaches’ house. Can you spot my daughter in it?
In July, we went to my 2nd cousin Gail Zeitlin’s house in New Jersey for a pool party. Here is her son Steven hanging by the poolside with my daughter Emma, Hunter and her cousin Emma. The kids had a ton of fun and the adults were happy to see other family members who had travelled from as far away as Hawaii and Boston to see everyone.
A week later, I got the opportunity of a lifetime playing actor Ricky Gervais’ body double. Our scene was to drive cross-country in a 1955 red Ford. To make it as realistic as possible, we really did drive across America and the cameraman filmed us driving at key locations throughout the trip. It took us six days and we made it as far as Arizona. You can read about my whole working cross-country adventure here.
In August, my friend Lisa Swan, a sports enthusiast, writer and member of my running club wanted to start a fantasy football league. I knew nothing about fantasy football nor was I interested in joining the league. However, with her enthusiasm and perseverance, she was able to recruit nine club members into the league and needed one more. After thinking about it and wanting to help her out, I decided to be that 10th person. Of course when it came to naming my team, I naturally called myself “The 10th Guy”. For the next few months after initiating the league, I was often lost and did not know what the hell I was doing as you can see in the photo below. Lisa often came to my rescue and helped me survive just enough so I wouldn’t drown during the competition. She even taught me how to trash-talk the other players in the league. She’s got mad skills!
In September, I brought my daughter Emma and her cousin Emma to the Museum of Modern Art. We started at the top floor where there was very questionable “art”. As I was about to lead the kids out of that wing to get to the nationally famous artworks like Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Jackson Pollock paintings, I realized that I should expose my daughter to all forms of art no matter how questionable they may be. I wanted to broaden her definition of what art can be and I’m glad I did it.
I had a skin cancer growth surgically removed from my back in October. A little scary, but all is well now.
In November, I ran the NYC Marathon for the third time as a pacer. This time, I was a 4:45 pacer. After Mile 20, my legs started to break down, but with growing pain and fatigue, I miraculously was able to cross the finish line with a time of 4:44:28. I had a ton of fun throughout the race as you can read here. I want to thank Robin Howald and her son for taking care of me after I finished the race for I was not in good shape by that time. I could barely walk due to so much pain throughout my body. Robin and her son physically held me up and slowly walked with me until I reached the truck with my personal baggage. And I would like to thank Jacky Lee for picking me up in her car after the race and driving me back to Staten Island where my car was parked near the start of the Marathon.
One of my happy places this year and in years past was running the trails in the Staten Island Greenbelt with the Staten Island Extreme crew. With friends like Darren, Yessica, Stephanie, Jennifer, Amy, Anthony, Irma, Andy, and a bunch of others, running trails with these great people was always a pleasure.
I love my school, the children I teach and my co-workers. Each and every one of us does God’s work in helping the special population of children improve in all areas of their lives. Ever since we all worked together to help save our school a year ago, we have become more close-knit and a real family. Here’s a group photo of most of us at a holiday staff party taken in December.
One highlight of 2015 was meeting an old student of mine who was in my preschool class several years ago. Her name is Stephanie and she is a cancer survivor. I met her at a fund-raising event put on by my friend and cancer survivor Elaine. It hurt me to know that a child that I once taught had cancer at such a young age, but I was happy that it was successfully removed from her and she seemed happy to see her old teacher.
My 15-year-old daughter is a full-fledged teenager and everything about her makes me happy. She loves rock, heavy metal, death metal and wears a nose ring and rock t-shirts. She also loves everything that’s art and likes to repurpose found items that can be made into art. She loves writing poetry as well. In the Fall, she was accepted into an art internship program at Smack Mellon in DUMBO, Brooklyn. In early 2016, she will be working directly with a professional artist.