Part of 2022 was remembered by the loss of some memorable friends. I went to high school with Paul Markowitz back in the early ’80s. In 2019, Paul surprised me by coming to my book signing at the Fab Cup Cafe in Staten Island. Paul was a great guy and retired cop who was loved by all. Sadly, Paul was in a coma since last year and he finally passed away in October of this year.
Mark Carles was a runner who I knew from my Staten Island running club. For the past few years, Mark suffered from a rare form of cancer that slowly wasted away his body, but not his spirit. Besides being a runner, Mark was a budding filmmaker who had an infectious personality and kept his sense of humor alive until the final days of his life. Mark loved superheroes, especially Spiderman. He was so impressed with the fact that I was a background actor in one of the Spiderman films. Mark finally passed away in February of this year. I had the privilege to interview Mark and his brother David last Fall on the YouTube show Gotta Run With Will. That episode can be viewed here.
In February, I had purchased the world’s first fully recycled running shoe, the Tarkine Goshawk. By the end of 2022, I had racked up 687 miles. According to the company that is based in Australia, these shoes can last for 700 miles. They’re still going strong and I think I can run a lot further on them at this point. You can read my current write-up about them here.
Last year, I portrayed a press photographer on an episode of the hit HBO series The Gilded Age. Now that the show is on the air, I can finally share how I looked like the day I worked on it. It was fun being dressed and having my appearance styled for the year 1885.
In March, I ran with a local running group called the Ridge Runners. Some members of the group are Ukrainian. At this time, Ukraine was being occupied by the Russian army under Vladimir Putin’s direction. To show our support for the Ukrainian people, we dedicated this run to them and wore the colors of the Ukrainian flag. A local Bay Ridge newspaper found this photo and published it.
In April, I went hiking with my friend Jacky Lee along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail. It was a great physical challenge to hike this section since we began our hike at sea level on the New Jersey side and had to climb one of the tall mountains once we were on the Pennsylvania side. We hiked a total of 14 miles over a two-day period. It was a tiring, but memorable experience.
I also visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It was an amazing experience learning about the stories and inspirations behind many of Rockwell’s greatest works.
As a parent, it’s great to see how my children achieve different levels of success in their lives. Emma graduated from SUNY Purchase with a double-major in graphic design and painting. Hunter graduated from Stuyvesant High School with high honors.
Feeling depressed due to not being able to be creative like I used to as a result of the pandemic, I was presented with the opportunity from my friend Rodney Umble to participate in weekly improv workshops under the direction of master improv teacher Rob Reese. Every week for several weeks, I, along with Rodney, Laura Petit, Dorit Elena, and several other performers, engaged in Avant Prov workshops. These workshops taught us the fundamentals of improv that were done in artful and sometimes outrageous ways. By the end of the program, our troupe of performers put on four live shows throughout June and July. For each performance, we had well over a dozen audience members enjoying a unique form of experimental improvisation that had them entertained throughout each performance. Being one who often questions my abilities, these experiences raised my confidence levels tenfold and pushed me beyond my comfort zone into a new and freeing world of creativity that was quite exciting for me. One highlight for me was being able to destroy a “priceless” work of art that my daughter had previously created for the show.
In July, I lead a beer run for my Staten Island running club. We finished our run at a local brewery where the runners shared locally-made beer and great food.
I played pitch-and-putt golf with my son for the first time. This was something that my dad used to do with me when I was young. Even though we each didn’t play well, we enjoyed eachother’s time together.
I’ve been friends with my friend Juan Perez for well over 25 years. We met eachother at the laundromat that we both used to wash our clothes at and quickly became friends. For years, we have been talking about going camping together. In August, we finally got to do that. We camped at Worthington State Park in New Jersey right off the Delaware Water Gap. It was great to finally do something together that we had talked about doing for so long.
I met Tommy Wiseau at the screening of his cult film The Room. This film is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. However, what makes it worth watching is that the acting and directing is so bad that it is quite comical and entertaining to watch. Tommy and his best friend Greg Sestero were once unknown actors with dreams of making it big in Hollywood. After going through many failed auditions, they decided to write, direct, and star in their own film. Tommy now travels the world showing his film to cult audiences and has become a multi-millionaire from this one film.
Leland Yu is a real-life superhero who, during the heat of the pandemic in 2020, ran 61 miles and raised $25,000 in a day. He used the money to help Chinese restaurant workers who lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic. He created Run for Chinatown, who, according to it’s website, “…is to inspire people and challenge limits through the sport of running. We host weekly runs and special events in an effort to spread awareness and provide economic support to the Asian & Pacific Islander communities in New York City”. In September, with the help of producer Will Sanchez, I had the priviledge to interview Leland on Gotta Run With Will. That interview can be viewed here.
I drove to the Bronx to find Little Amal walking through the streets with an entourage of followers. Little Amal is a gigantic puppet who has traveled the world. According to it’s website, “Little Amal is the 12 foot puppet of a 10 year old Syrian refugee child at the heart of The Walk. Over the last year she has become a global symbol of human rights, especially those of refugees.”
In October, I finally used two foldable kayaks that I had purchased at the beginning of the pandemic. I went out with my friend Steven Patzer and kayaked along Coney Island Creek. It was a nice adventure that was close to home.
During a swap meet I was a part of at the Coney Island Brewery, I hung out with fellow background actor Pierre Candra. Both Pierre and I portrayed dead bodies at least twice throughout our acting careers. Besides being a nice, friendly guy, my friend Mark Vogt and I regard him as the French Cary Grant.
I did a few interesting things in November. I was interviewed by cohosts Mike Gargiulo and Mike Celona for the podcast Best Job Never. I discussed the craziest acting jobs that I did in my life. I talked about my experiences portraying three separate dead bodies, an explosion survivor, a ninja in a coma, and many other crazy roles. You can listen to the Spotify podcast here.
Emma and I were both a part of a performance piece called Death By Plastic. Dressed in all black, we were part of a funeral procession where a transparent coffin was carried throughout Midtown Manhattan. Inside the coffin was an actress whose body was surrounded by plastic trash. A musician played a funeral dirge on his tuba and “mourners” handed out informational cards that explained how dangerous plastic is to all living things. Our group attracted a lot of attention from both tourists and locals alike. This was a very impactful event to show how prevalent and dangerous plastic is to all life on earth.
I was hired with about 100 other people to cheer on all of the runners during the NYC Marathon. This was paid for by the milk industry and was designed to promote milk as a natural energy drink to runners. We were all on our feet for eight hours dressed entirely in white clothing. It was a tiring, but fun event.
Emma is a big fan of modern-day children’s books, especially those that are artistically done with stories and parables that adults could relate to. One of the best authors of that genre of children’s books is Oliver Jeffers. Emma got the chance to meet him at a book signing event at a Brooklyn book store. She had him sign all of her books.
My friends Ryan Knutsen, Michael Schnall, and Jacky Lee inspired me to donate more of my blood. When I showed up for my appoinment in December at the New York Blood Center, I was asked if I wanted to volunteer and use a new technology that they were testing out that day. I agreed to wear a pair of “mixed reality” goggles while the technician drew my blood. These goggles made my eyes focus on a virtual world of butterflies and trees. I could use the pupils of my eyes to “catch” the butterflies that flew throughout the virtual presentation. I was so distracted while I participated in this virtual world that I didn’t even realize that my blood was being drawn. I often faint when my blood is drawn and this time I didn’t.
One of the last background acting jobs that I did for 2022 was working on the show And Just Like That. It was a super-boring experience, but it was fun to bump into Jim Bonanski, an old acting friend of mine who worked with me years ago on Boardwalk Empire.