2018 – A Year In Review

The worst thing that happened to me in 2018 was that I was fired from two part-time jobs.  One was as a running coach for the New York Road Runners Club, the other was as a deliveryperson for the app-based delivery service called Postmates.  After working only two days for the NYRR, I’m still not sure why I was fired.  An explanation for why Postmates fired me can be explained here.  These were the only two negatives in what ended up being a very productive year for me.  And what especially made the year stand out for me was  that I spent more time helping others besides myself.

In February, I met with William Colton, the local Assemblyperson who represents my neighborhood.  We were discussing ways we can improve our neighborhood.  At the end of our meeting, he handed me nomination forms for the “Women of Distinction Award”.  He asked me if I knew any women who deserved recognition for their efforts to improve their community, I should nominate them using the forms.  This award “honors women whose outstanding contributions help make our community stronger”.  I nominated two friends I know who have worked tirelessly to support disabled runners.  As a result of my nomination, Nicoletta Narangis and Jacky Lee were both recognized at a formal ceremony.  Both received framed certificates and each gave speeches at the ceremony.  Afterwards, I had lunch with everyone including Mr. Colton and the mother of slain police officer WenJian Liu .


Nicoletta giving her speech upon receipt of her award.



Jacky posing with her award.

My son Hunter was previously was a member of a scout troop that was ethnically diverse.  This year, he joined a new scout troop that was entirely Asian.  This did not bother him in the least and he made many new friends there.  He completed his first year with them in June.


Emma had turned 18-years-old in May.  Since she officially became a woman, I wanted to film a music video that celebrated this fact while showing the conflicting feelings that I  had as her father.  We filmed scenes to the video in about a dozen different locations throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.  You can view the video here


Scene from the music video, The Edge of Eighteen.

Both of my children graduated in June.  Emma graduated from high school and Hunter graduated from junior high school.  In September, Hunter started high school while Emma started college.  I am excited that they are both becoming more independent people.

A friend of my cousin David had told him that he needed to hire a bunch of seat-fillers for a live music show that his son was going to produce in Queens.  Knowing that I was once a seat-filler years ago at an Andre Rieu concert, my cousin referred him to me thinking that I could help him in some way.  I told him that I can probably get a bunch of my actor friends to fill seats for his show if he paid them.  He liked the idea.  I then proceeded to find a bunch of friends who were a combination of actors, runners, and co-workers.  I found about 18 people in all.  They were each paid $40 to fill seats at a 2-hour show.  One of the singers in the show was really good and was in fact an American Idol finalist.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that my efforts in getting this venture together were a smashing success.


My friends and I posing together after seeing the show.

In August, I filmed a horror short called The Lovely Woods.  I submitted it into the 2018 Single-Take Film Challenge.  Out of 30+ submissions, my short was chosen as a semi-finalist.



The crew of friends who helped me make this film short a reality.

38641244_10156557316774785_5096448935493369856_nI originally had the ending credits of the film  displayed with no music.  Previously, my daughter introduced me to the music of Harley Poe.  One of his songs really excited me and I knew that the song would pair well with the ending credits.  But I needed Harley Poe’s permission to use the song.  I emailed him and within a matter of days, he responded and gave me permission to use it.   It was very rare to get this kind of permission, especially for someone like me who is an unknown filmmaker.  You can view the film short complete with Harley Poe’s song here.  I’d like to thank the following for helping me make this film happen: Anthony, Giovanni, Yolande, Emma, Andriana, Jacky, Michael, and Anthony Martinez.


In August, my family and I went on a 1,200-mile journey through Canada.  We visited the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, Toronto, the Thousand Islands, Montreal, Lake George, and Albany.  I’d like to thank my running friend Sarah Gariepy.  She is a fellow pacer for the NYRR who lives in Montreal.  She had brought me and my family on a nice tour when we visited that city.


Hunter and Emma on the Canadian side with the Horseshoe Falls behind them.

Will Sanchez is a running friend of mine who retired early due to making good decisions about his career.  He’s a life-long runner who embraces everything about the local running community in New York City.  He is a very soft-spoken and thoughtful guy who has created a running-themed TV series for public access television called Gotta Run With Will.  Two years ago I was interviewed for one of his shows.  Since then, I have been actively involved in finding new “talent” for Will to interview.  If I think the person has a great story, I will refer him/her to Will for a future show.  This year, I am proud to have recommended two runners.  One was John Pierre.  Many years ago, John was assaulted by a gang of thugs.  He was beaten so badly that he was left for dead.  Suffering from the damaging and painful effects of traumatic brain injury, John overcame his pain by resorting to running as his therapy.  Many marathons and half marathons later, John has become a kind of super-hero who is now known as The Ultimate Running Machine.  Realizing that he survived his ordeal, he wants to show people the power of overcoming hardships through his continued participation in race events.  He now runs every race donning a custom-made cape to add to his super-hero persona.  You can view his interview here.


Another runner I recommended was Wayne Pacconi.  I met Wayne while a pacer at New York Road Runners Club race events.  As I got to know Wayne’s interesting life through social media, I noticed that he had a very lighthearted approach to running.  Many of Wills episodes are about more serious topics.  Wayne was a breath of fresh air and his episode was rather entertaining.  Wayne is a race director who puts on various trail race events in New Jersey.  And he owns chickens too!  You can view his episode here.

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In October, I had the opportunity to support two friends who were running for office in their respective communities.  Andrew Gounardes ran against Marty Golden for the 22nd Senatorial District of Brooklyn.  Golden was the incumbent who served his district for over 16 years.  Gounardes was a relative newcomer who had to campaign hard to win the district.  The two candidates battled it out.  In the end, Gounardes won the seat by about 1,000 votes.  During his campaign, I ran with an “Andrew Gounardes for New York State Senate” campaign poster attached to my pacer stick.  I managed to run a total of 20 miles this way over a three-day period and exposed his message to potentially thousands of people during my runs.  I am very excited to see how Andrew will do his job.  He has a lot of great ideas on how to improve his district and has the energy to see them through.


On the Staten Island side, I actively supported my friend Michael DeVito for Congress.  Michael also campaigned hard, but in the end, Max Rose was the Democrat who won with more votes.  Michael is a very upstanding human being who radiates heaping doses of positivity whereever he goes.  I had the pleasure of having pizza with him and his wife Natalie while they were campaigning in Staten Island.  Through my desire to help Michael, I got to know both of them better.  I also brought (aka dragged) my son Hunter with me so he can learn more about the political process.


In the acting world, I got hired to be a badminton advisor for a series based on the life of Emily Dickinson.  This was one of the most surprising “acting” gigs I was ever hired for.  You can read why here.

Also, in one of the several acting gigs I worked on in 2018, I portrayed a small-town sheriff for the show Instinct.



Me patiently waiting for my required donut break.


My sister Sarah had gotten married in September to a great guy named Piotr.  I was in tears when she walked the aisle because I took care of her since she was a baby.  Now she’s a married woman.  I wish them the best of luck.


My dad walking his daughter down the aisle.

Life works in funny ways.  Right after I got fired from my coaching gig with the New York Road Runners Club after working for them for only two days, I soon got hired to be a professional pacer for the Mile High Running Club.  My job was to pace and lead a group of runners that were training for the NYC Marathon.  This gig lasted for several weeks up until the actual Marathon.  I did a well enough job that they will be hiring me again this January to pace runners for the 2019 NYC Half Marathon in March.


In December, I orchestrated a trail run in the Staten Island Greenbelt.  My efforts involved 22 runners from three different running clubs.  Most of the runners came from Brooklyn and had never run in the trails before.  Everyone enjoyed the 5.5-mile run.  I even connected a group of injured runners and had them walk with a very pregnant runner through the woods.



Finally, I spent many long Sundays at a cafe througout 2018 writing a book.  I finished it as a 75-page novella and I am now in the proofreading stages.  Writing something significant was on my bucket list for the past 30 years and I finally achieved it.

Failure is Sometimes an Option

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In the movie Apollo 13, flight director Gene Kranz warned that, “Failure is not an option” when NASA scientists back on Earth were trying to figure out how to bring the astronauts back home safely.  In many areas of society, the truth is that failure is an acceptable part of the pathway towards success.   The relationship between failure and success varies greatly depending on what one is engaged in.

Two months ago, I worked part-time as an independent contractor for Postmates.com, a delivery service that uses a cell phone app to send couriers to make local deliveries around their neighborhood.  After a few days of making deliveries in my spare time, I began to enjoy working the business.  I made good money and I liked that I was in control of when I wanted to work.  Two weeks afterward, I was shocked to find out that my delivery account was terminated.  In essence, I got “fired”.  I found out with each delivery I made, every customer received an email asking them to rate the quality of my service.  My overall rating after two weeks was a 4.2 out of 5.0; this was below the 4.7 threshold for me to continue working for them.

I was very upset and wondered what I had done wrong for most of my customers appeared to be very happy with my service.  I then realized that the Postmates corporation had a very high standard for those who worked for them.  Due to their high standard, in my eyes, I had “failed” as an independent contractor for them.  This made me think about the different ways that failure is viewed by society and how standards for failure vary greatly depending on what you’re involved with.

For Postmates, failure happened to those who scored below a 4.7 out of 5.0.  If I translated that to a percentage, a 4.7 would be 94%, 4.6 would be 92%.  In the Postmates world, a 92% or below is considered a failure.  In almost every school across the United States, a passing grade is a 65%.  For students, they can fail one-third of the time, yet still pass their overall grades.

A professional baseball player can fail 70% of the time when getting struck out at the plate and can still be considered having a successful season with a .300 average.

If an automobile salesman sells one car out of every 20 people he shows it to, he would have failed 95% of the time.  The 5% that he actually sells a car to would make him/her a success in the auto sales industry.  That salesman is well aware that if he wants to sell five cars, he will have to show them to 100 customers.

One of the greatest examples of a “failure” is with inventor Thomas Edison.  He experimented with over 10,000 light bulb designs that all failed before he finally designed the one that worked.  If you want to put that in percentage terms, Edison failed 99.99% of the time.  In his situation, he kept on failing until he succeeded.  His persistence and ability to accept failure at a high rate made him one of the most successful inventors of the 20th Century.

I am looking forward to failing as much as possible because I know that the more failures I go through, the more successes I will achieve.  Knowing what I know now, failure is a rather attractive option.



Fake it ’til you make it!

A few weeks ago, I submitted for an acting gig to portray a “Badminton Instructor”.  This was after a friend of mine convinced me to play badminton with her one day at the local YMCA.  I got good enough at it to convince myself that I could indeed pull off this role if the casting agent booked me for it.  As luck would have it, they called me about two weeks later and I got booked.  In my mind, I am thinking that I will be portraying a teacher who shows students how to play badminton in the scene.

The badminton scene was for an upcoming series that is set in the 1850s.  The day before the shoot, I received an email about what to bring to set.  For a period piece, actors are almost always fitted with a period costume at a separate wardrobe fitting days before the shoot.  I found it odd that I was not asked to go for a fitting, but to simply show up on set as is.  On the morning of the shoot, I was asked to report directly to the AD (Assistant Director) where I would receive further instructions from her.

I meet the AD Connie and she greets me with, “Good morning Josh, so you’re the badminton advisor for the actors?”.  I immediately say to myself, “What the f&ck?!”, then my acting skills kick in and I say, “Yes, of course I am”.  At that moment, I realized that the acting gig I had originally submitted for was not to portray a badminton instructor IN the scene; it was to teach the two principal actors how to really play badminton FOR the scene!    At this moment, I convinced myself to say and do whatever I had to in order to pull this gig off.  I do know how to play badminton after all.

The AD and another assistant then dropped an extremely old badminton set on the lawn and asked me to help them put it together.  The badminton set looked like it was from the 1800s which was appropriate for today’s shoot.  Through trial and error, I was able to get it set up for them.

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The two young actors who looked like they were in their mid- to late-20s show up fully dressed in period clothes.  The AD introduced them to me as their badminton instructor and we all shook hands.  They handed them the rackets and shuttlecock and they set themelves up on the court.  They are both looking at me now for guidance and of course I had to say something.  They’re paying me to do my job after all.

I tell them to always try to hit the shuttlecock up in the air for it will be much easier to hit it.  The actors agree and begin a volley.  At first they don’t get the hang of it, then after awhile, they start hitting consistently long volleys.  The director in me takes over and I ask them to start reading their lines as they practice their volleys.  It all comes together so well that the AD relieves me and signs me out after being there for 2 1/2 hours.  Not bad for a $200 gig!

Badminton advisor: add that to the list of many jobs I’ve had in my life.

The rainbow amidst the storm: How one LGBT member overcame hate by practicing love

Pride Photo

Members of the Young Democrats of Richmond County and the Pride Center of Staten Island participate in a “Rainbow Run” to support members of the LGBT community who are prohibited each year from marching in the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (March 4, 2018)

Being New Yorkers, one would think that we live in an open-minded society, but they would be wrong.  Even though our City as a whole is generally liberal-minded, diverse, and accepting, there are still those throughout the City with conservative beliefs who choose to practice prejudice and hate over acceptance and love.  Exactly a year ago, I wrote an article and sent it to the local paper, the Staten Island Advance.  Even though it was never published, I felt it necessary to share my story as it relates to one of my gay friends living in Staten Island and his experience running the 2017 Forest Avenue Mile, an annual race that is very popular throughout the Staten Island running community.  Reading his story will help others understand what the gay experience is like in a society that still has a long way to go in accepting others who may be different from you.

Below is the article in it’s entirety.

C’mon Staten Islanders, you’re better than that!
By Josh Pesin

I love Staten Island. I love the people, the communities, and the strong sense of patriotism, volunteerism and charity that permeates throughout all corners of the borough. When the tsunami of 2004 devastated Sri Lanka, Staten Islanders were the single largest donors to help that country. Staten Island is home to many public service workers who leave behind their loved ones every single day to serve and protect the City. Staten Islanders have engaged in grassroots causes from cancer awareness walks to pet adoption events and everything in between. Over the years, the borough has become more culturally diverse. All the new Polish, Albanian, Dominican, Russian, and other cultural businesses that have been popping up throughout the borough can attest to that.

You would think that I have only good things to say about the Island and I wish that were true. Something happened a few weeks ago in a very public way that reared Staten Island’s ugly head and reminded me that the Island is far from idyllic.

My running club, the Staten Island Athletic Club, hosted a one-mile race called The Forest Avenue Mile. This annual event takes place along the same route as the Staten Island St. Patrick’s Day Parade, an event that begins immediately after the ending of the race. With the help of our club president and members who share a common love for running, we make all new members feel welcome including those from the LGBT community whose population has been gradually growing in our club. I am friends with them and I’ve found them to be great people. Upon hearing that the LGBT community was not allowed to march in the Parade yet again, one of our club members, Chris, wore a rainbow-striped race shirt as a form of solidarity during the race. As the race began and the runners went off, Chris ran by throngs of families who were lined up along the Parade route. What happened to Chris during the race can best be summed up by what he posted on a social media site later that day:

“Today I pushed myself to a new height. Today I strived to be better than I was yesterday; better than I was last month; better than I was last year. I was blessed by a crowd of supporters including family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Running with my pride on full display for a borough and community that is negligent and hateful towards myself and my community, refusing to allow the LGBT community to march in the parade. Today I heard cheers for me. I saw people beaming with pride about my singlet. I gave people hope, along with my fellow runners with the Young Democrats of Richmond County. Today I heard more jeers than cheers. I heard people screaming pussy. I faintly blocked out the crowd hollering faggot. I didn’t allow the disgusted looks and leering stares deject me from my goals. Today I was me. Today I was freer than I have ever been. More open and vulnerable than I ever considered possible. Today I had more love for myself than I have ever felt before. Swelling with pride, with confidence, with self acceptance. Today I was fearless. To everyone who has followed my journey and continues to support me as I pursue and achieve my goals. As much inspiration as I gain from myself, all your love and support inspires me to be a greater runner and person. Today I was me. Today I was free. And tomorrow I will wake up a better version of myself.”

Chris later told me that people of all ages; children, teens and adults, were chanting gay-related obscenities at him along the route.  Out of the 140 runners who ran the race that day, Chris came in third place. Chris’ race performance and his resolve to overcome prejudice and hate to achieve success reaffirmed my belief that Staten Island can still be a great place to live if only more people embraced diversity like him.

2017 – A Year In Review

2017 was a memorable year for me for the simple fact that I turned 50-years-old in June.  Turning 50 affected me in a negative way and made me question and wonder about all that I have done in my life up to this point.  Summing up this year like I have done in previous years has helped me reflect on the things I have done and has been a kind of therapy for me.  Writing this blog has helped me realize that I truly do have a meaningful life if I spend the time to reflect on it through my writing.
I began January making a kind of comeback to running.  I registered for the bi-weekly Miles Mania speed series held at the Ocean Breeze Indoor Track in Staten Island.  At that time, I had a pronounced belly, but I gave it my all each time I ran a race event.  By March, I had accumulated enough points in the series to come in 2nd place out of 12 men in my age group.  I won a trophy for this not because I was the best runner, but because I showed up for the most races.  And running the races in this series brought me back in time to when I was on the boy’s track team at Sheepshead Bay High School.
March 4
My running club friends posing with our hard-earned trophies for the series.
In February, I did my first background acting gig of the year portraying a Russian KGB agent for the TV series, The Americans.  We filmed at a set made to look like the interior of the Russian KGB Headquarters back in 1980.  The set was located in Brooklyn, a far cry from it’s intended time and place.  I had to smoke in the scene, but production always gives the actors herbal cigarettes since they’re less toxic and irritating than the real thing.
During our Mid-Winter Break in February, I brought my kids snow-boarding in the Poconos.  It was the first time all of us had snowboarded.  I was in pain for the rest of the day from constantly falling, but I still had a good time with my kids.
February 3
In March, I ran as a 1:55 pacer for the NYC Half Marathon.  It was very difficult for me to maintain this pace since I was overweight and out of shape.  But I somehow managed to pull it off by crossing the finish line within 30 seconds of my pace goal.  By the look on my face in the photo below, you could see that the struggle was real.  My co-pacer Sarah on the other hand, seemed to be enjoying herself.  I was in a recovery for days as a result of this.
March 3
Also during March, I worked on an episode of Law & Order: SVU playing the strangest character: a big blue bunny.  I was actually portraying one of those cheap knock-off costumed characters walking around in Times Square.  Elmo and other popular characters cannot be used on shows like this since they are licensed characters and shows need to use only generic unlicensed characters like Mr. Big Blue Bunny.  In the scene, me and another costumed character were on a cigarette break sitting down with our heads off.  Our “action” was to smoke an herbal cigarette during the filming of the scene.  The director asked me to keep on taking puffs of my cigarette to show how stressed I was working as a big blue bunny.  I think I smoked the most in my life that evening.  If I ever get lung cancer, you’ll know why
My friend Jacky and I were teammates for the High Rock Challenge, a wildly popular adventure race held in the Staten Island Greenbelt every April.  This race had a series of mystery challenges that punctuated a 10k race course with challenging trails.  Our team was called Muddy Buddies.  We had fun taking on the challenges throughout the course and of course we got muddy.
After the race, my friend Darren Corona gave my friends and I challenge: eating a piece of the stinkiest food in the world: surstrÖmming.  This Swedish delicacy is fermented herring that according to one Japanese study, has one of the most putrid food smells in the world.  As soon as Darren opened up the can, a bunch of flies began flying over his head and almost every one of our friends ran far away from him.  Three brave souls ate a piece of this stuff: Darren, Mark Vogt, and I.  It was an experience bordering on insanity that I will never forget.
April 5
Celebrating our achievements with post-race beers
My friend Linus, a fellow runner and neighbor of mine, is a very creative person.  One of his hobbies is to g-write or run routes that draw out various shapes and words using his gps watch.  He dedicated one of his runs to spelling out my name in the neighborhood we both live in.  It takes special attention to detail to do something like this and that’s Linus’ forte.
April 3
Each May while I run as a pacer for the Brooklyn Half Marathon, my uncle Richard stands at Mile 7 and takes photos of all the runners he knows with his iPad.  The photo below is one of the last photos he took of me before he passed away in November.
In June, I “ran” the Palisades Climb, a grueling half-marathon along the very treasurous New Jersey Palisades.  I made the mistake of not carrying my own water since there was hardly any water stops except one.  The race director warned us of this in the race information we had to read.  The second half of this race was spent bouldering up and down huge rocks.  All of my teammates who participated with me had to be very careful not to lose their footing.  By the time I crossed the finish line, I had to be treated for dehydration by EMS.  This was a tough race for me, but I had something to prove to myself since I was turning 50-years-old the very next day.
June 2
The same month, I met marathon runner and Ironman triathlete John Young at an Achille’s International party in Manhattan.  His story was very motivational for me.  He took up running to lose weight and to serve as a role model for his son who was being picked on in school. Having dwarfism, he had to train and work harder than those of average height. We both shared stories of how we are role models for our sons.  He reminded me to put my own problems in perspective for just when we think we have the biggest life challenges, there is always someone else who has it harder than me.
By the end of July, my daughter auditioned for the role of Callie for an online drama series called Vantage Points.  We were both excited for her to get this role.  Her episode was filmed in a spooky house off of a Florida swamp.  We were there for a week for the filming and I even got a bit part playing a father of one of the other girls.  The series is still being marketed around and one of the interested buyers is Amazon Prime.  Stay tuned!
By the end of August, I planned an overnight hike along the Appalachian Trail with my kids.  However my son didn’t want to go and I ended up going with Emma.  We hiked for several miles along the New York section of the Appalachian Trail and had an exciting journey while disconnecting from civilization during those two days.  It was a much-needed repose for the both of us.
August 2
In September, my brother Aaron and I volunteered our time to help raise funds at a CIPD/GBS fundraiser race on the South Beach Boardwalk in Staten Island.  CIPD/GBS are rare debilitating diseases affecting one’s muscles that can sometimes be deadly.  It can affect people of all ages.  There were many survivors of this disease and their families who participated at the race that day.  My friend Michael Ring who is a CIPD/GBS survivor assisted us while we entertained the runners wearing Elmo and Cookie Monster costumes.  This was a very enjoyable way to spend time with my brother while we interacted with the small children at the event who wanted to play with our two lovable monster alter-egos.
September 2
In October, my friend Kathy invited me to volunteer my time to paint a senior center in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn through an organization called Bay Ridge Cares.  Knowing that my daughter needed community service credit and the fact that she loves painting, we painted the center together along with about a dozen other volunteers.
October 3
The following day, I was a pacer for the Staten Island Half Marathon.  It was a miserable, rainy day and my running shoes got waterlogged at the very beginning of the race.  My feet were becoming very uncomfortable from all the water in the shoes.  At the last mile, I decided to remove my shoes and socks and run barefoot to the finish line.  I still managed to fulfill my pacing duties by finishing just seconds within my pace goal.
October 2
Martin Scorsese was filming The Irishman, a made-for-Netflix production about the man who may have killed Jimmy Hoffa.  I was fitted to portray a 1970s Michigan cop.  The mustache and sideburns in the photo below is the real-deal; many of the other actors playing cops were given fake mustaches and sideburns to wear.  The only thing the makeup person had to do was dye my sideburns brown since there were too many hints of natural grey in them.
Since last year when I “dressed” as Hillary Clinton’s emails for Halloween (my son “dressed” as Trump’s tax returns), I wanted to continue making costumes based on recent news.  Below I decided to dress as a Russian Hacker complete with a Russian Hacking for Dummies book and a binder listing the passwords to the World’s Leaders.  And my hacker ID read, “Picov Andropov”.
One of my greatest accomplishments of 2017 was single-handedly producing the Brooklyn Triple Crown race series.  It started as only an idea on a piece of scrap paper at the beginning of the year that kind of evolved by accident.  At first, I was very fearful that I could pull this thing off by myself and raise enough funds through sponsorship to make this series financially viable.  By August, with the help of Mark Vogt and others from Complete Race Solutions, I had prospected enough race sponsors to generate $5,600.  Along with the 100+ runners who registered for the three-race series, an additional $3,500 in race fees was raised through my ongoing promotion of the series.  In all, my efforts helped generate over $9,000 in total sales.  A portion of this went to local charities.  While I did make some money from this since it was a business endeavor, my efforts in obtaining many freebies for the runners made this series a truly memorable experience for them.  For the last race, I was able to obtain free Starbucks coffee and pizza for all from a local pizzeria who sponsored our race by “paying” us in pizza.
In November, I was invited by the Partnership for the Parks to an event celebrating those who helped improve Kaiser Park, a park right next to Coney Island Creek.  While I was creating the Brooklyn Triple Crown race series, I decided to name one of the races the Coney Island Creek 5k.  I thought to myself, Coney Island is famously known for its amusement park and beaches.  I wanted to call the race something that is little-known about Coney Island which is the creek that is in need of TLC and public support.  Me naming the race after the creek brought awareness that it existed to many runners who never knew of it.  Due to this, I was asked to speak at the podium to all the supporters of Coney Island Creek.  It was both a surprise and an honor for me.  I was always an environmentalist since childhood and this was the perfect opportunity to let others know that.
November 4
My friend Diane is a photographer who turns her photos into functional coasters.  To sell coasters at an event in Rockaway, Queens, she asked me if I could dress as Santa and have him walk along the beach with Rockaway Bridge in the background.  The Santa you see on the coaster below is me.
November 5
My brother Aaron and my sisters Rachel and Sara spent Thanksgiving at my dad’s house.  We had a great time reconnecting as family since we hardly have any opportunities anymore to do this and we all have busy lives.
My son Hunter is an accomplished pianist who now writes and performs his own original music.  However, due to the fact that he chooses to be very private, he does not want me to post photos or videos of him performing.  He has been playing the piano for half his life now.
November 3
By far the worst thing to happen in 2017 was the untimely death of my uncle Richard.  It happened at the very end of November.  He was loved by all since he loved and embraced everyone he met, even strangers.  He would take the most difficult unsavory person he met and befriend them, humor them, and make them feel special.  He encouraged me with my running and always took pictures of all the runners during the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  I can still picture all the many great times I spent talking and joking with him and how much he meant to my entire family.  His death has left a hole in all of our hearts.
November 2
I’ve always liked to bring people together for I believe that half the world is waiting for the other half to become friends.  With this in mind, I arranged a multi-club trail run involving three running clubs: the Prospect Park Track Club, the Ukranian Running Club, and the Staten Island Athletic Club.  We had run together right after a fresh snowfall which made the woods of the Staten Island Greenbelt a magical winter wonderland.
December 5
Writing this blog entry was therapeutic for me for in my mind, I feel that after turning 50, I have done nothing with my life.  However, summarizing 2017 as I have just done here in my writing tells me that I am quite wrong with that way of thinking.

The Resurrection of the Brooklyn Triple Crown

BTC Photo

The Brooklyn Triple Crown, a wildly popular race series that ended with the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy back in 2012, made its triumphant return this year. Like the mythological Phoenix, this series came out of the ashes of its former self into something fresh and new. Originally comprised of the Dolan 5k, Cosme 5k, and Hoban 5-Miler under the directorship of Edwin Cosme, this year the race series was resurrected into three brand-new inaugural races with the help of Mark Vogt of Complete Race Solutions. This new series consisted of the Bay Ridge 4-Miler, Coney Island Creek 5k, and the Caesar’s Bay 5-Miler.

The series kicked off with the Bay Ridge 4-Miler in June. Tropical storm Cindy brought with it a heavy downpour of rain throughout the previous night and into race morning. Fortunately, with only 30 minutes before the race started, the skies cleared and the Sun came out just in time for the runners to toe the line. The race consisted of three distinct segments; the 79th Street Playground, the hilly Shore Road pedestrian path, and the flat Shore Promenade. Visual elements along the course included running up and down a staircase, the Narrows Botanical Garden, and the inspiring views of the Narrows along the Shore Promenade. A portion of the proceeds were donated to the Shore Road Conservancy.

Louise Demeo, a runner from Staten Island, broke her 3-mile personal record at the 3-mile mark of the race. This was the first 4-miler she had ever run. Diane Sassone of Bay Ridge had a very emotional response to this race. She said, “I had the pleasure of running two of the three Brooklyn Triple Crown races. There was a great build up being I am a Brooklynite who belongs to a Staten Island running club. It was that “must do” on my short list. The first race was a no-brainer being it was in my Bay Ridge Hood. I made sure my warm-up was an approximately half mile run in the rain to the start. Mark, Jenn and Rob Lenza were all there to welcome the runners. They are a few of the most dedicated people I know. Soon after, the race director arrived with his family in tow. Shortly after that, Bay Ridges’ own Senator Marty Golden arrived and spoke a few words and wished us well. At gun time, the sun suddenly came out and the steam was rising from the ground. I knew it was going to be a difficult one for me being I haven’t trained. But hey, it’s Bay Ridge, I had to be there. At the second volunteer spot, the director’s family was there directing and cheering the runners. What a great experience to be part of a family production! At the third volunteer station, his brother was handing out water. If it wasn’t for his comedic chanting, I may have DNF’d. I saw all these family members on the way back before spotting his daughter Emma with her camera at the finish. I tried to look as happy as I was feeling. (I really didn’t feel good, it was wicked hot). Beside the fact that this race was along my favorite running route, the Promenade, being part of a successful event that included family and friends was priceless. It was a great run for me. Not for time, but for the fact that I did what I love, in a place that I love and it was put on by people who love what they do. I look forward to running this one again next year.

A few weeks later, the Coney Island Creek 5k brought runners six miles south to Kaiser Park, a venue with amazing views of the Creek and the Verrazano Bridge. This small location demanded a 5k route that was full of exhilarating twists and turns much like the nearby Cyclones Roller Coaster. The excitement culminated when runners sprinted their last quarter-mile of the race on a track that was inside the park. The organizer of this race named it after the nearby creek to raise awareness to the greater Brooklyn community that Coney Island does in fact have a natural water habitat in need of conservation. Assembly member Pamela Harris spoke to the runners right before the race and mentioned how this event is a great asset to the Coney Island community. A portion of the proceeds from this race went to the Coney Island Beautification Project.

The series ended with the Caesar’s Bay 5-Miler in August. Race day was unseasonably cool and sunny in the 60s which was a perfect day for running. Assembly member William Colton officiated the start of the race after wishing all of the runners a great race. Many of the runners enjoyed the inspiring views of Caesar’s Bay and the grandeur of the Verrazano Bridge present throughout the course. As they made it to the 2.5-mile turnaround, their excitement grew as they could see the finish line from afar almost two miles away. Being a very flat course, runners were able to concentrate on their pace and speed as some strove to work on placing for trophies while others aimed to break their 5-mile personal records. A part of the proceeds for this race went to the Kiwanis of Brighton Beach and Coney Island.

Jacky Lee felt that the Caesar’s Bay race was the most challenging although she was still able to achieve a personal record with a 9:09 pace. Her children enjoyed running the Coney Island Creek race and helped pick runner’s names from a hat for a pizza raffle after the race.  For Amy Hernandez, the Brooklyn Triple Crown was a family affair. She and her husband Yakir and their two children Gabriel and Emily ran a few of the races in the series. They all enjoyed the events, especially the free pizza at the Caesar’s Bay post-race party.

Michael Ring, a life-long runner, member of the Prospect Park Track Club and survivor of GBS/CIDP, a rare and crippling muscle disease that affects the entire body, had completed all three race events under his own power. After contracting the disease three years ago, he was unable to engage in even the simplest of activities including standing up. Working hard with his physical therapist, he improved enough to complete the 2017 Brooklyn Half Marathon. He plans on completing the NYC Marathon this November. When asked about his time completing the Brooklyn Triple Crown series of races, he stated that by the third race, he felt like Norm from Cheers because everyone knew his name.

Laura Lombardo, a walker by choice who completed two of the race events, was an Achilles guide for Michael Ring. She said, “I was very grateful to Michael Ring and Jacky Lee for inspiring me to join Achilles International to guide those in need. They are a great group of runners to know. Even though I chose to walk and not run these events, participating in them was a thrill for me. During the races, I noticed that there was a lot of camaraderie amongst the runners. Amy Lenza, a Staten Island resident who ran all three events, had this to say about the series, “The highlight was running in Brooklyn in three different great neighborhoods and running with people from the Prospect Park Track Club”.

Race participant Lynn Holly-Love was a newly-minted runner as of last year. She had this to say about the series, “I appreciated having the three races scheduled throughout the summer because I don’t love to run in the heat and I needed the motivation. It was my first summer running season and I only ran my first race last November at the SIAC XC Championship at Freshkills Park. I was challenged and forced to push through and as a result I believe this made me a stronger runner. The courses varied in length and gave me the opportunity to run at longer distances. I also hit a PR for my fastest 5K at the Coney Island Creek race and placed 2nd in my age group. I enjoyed this running series and look forward to participating again next year”. Jennifer Marzella, a Staten Island native and active member of the Staten Island Athletic Club, was in shock after placing within the top three places in her 30-39 age group for each of the three race events. After being plagued by a year-long hamstring injury, she was ecstatic that she clinched the entire series for her age group. For Jennifer, running the Brooklyn races was like a homecoming for her since she remembers living in Bay Ridge while pushing her newborn daughter along the Promenade.

We’d like to thank all of the runners who participated and the following runners who ran at least two of the races in the series:

Amy Lenza, Angelique Demeo, Jazmine Alvarez, Jacky Lee, Lisa Swan, Alvin Prawda, Jennifer Marzella, Louise Demeo, Yakir Arteaga, Eduard Nogol, Lynn Holly Love, Michael Ring, Frank Tropea, Diane Sassone, Yolande Rose, Richard Cahn, Laura Lombardo, Davon Culley, Jonnie Soltan, Marc Cornier, John Cassidy, Ron Rudolph, Salvatore Pagano, Kathleen Lewis

We would also like to thank the following sponsors who helped make this series a success:

Unlimited Smiles, Bay Ridge Federal Credit Union, Klaygirl.com, IHOP of Coney Island, NYRET, The Vitamin Shoppe, Baya Bar, George Hamboussi Jr, Esq, Avenue O Multi-Specialty Clinic, Matoushi, My Three Sons Coffee Shop, Community Counseling, Fort Hamilton Foot Care, Sandro Frasca, DPM, Ben Bay Realty, Deloor Podiatry Group, Kitchen 21, Coney Island Brewery, Pizza D’Amore, Brooklyn Running Company, Chipotle, Gargiulo’s Italian Restaurant, Bagel Baazar, and Grimaldi’s of Coney Island.

Lastly, a big thank you to George Mattera, Matthew Lebow, Aaron Pesin, Jacky Lee, Richard and Kathleen Weaver, family members Emma, Hunter, and Bernie, the Explorers of the 60th Precinct, police officers Edward Raasch and Desiree Marino, Dionne Jordan Brown, Senator Marty Golden, Assembly Members William Colton and Pamela Harris, and Pamela Pettyjohn of the Coney Island Beautification Project (CIBP).

And of course, to Mark, Rob, Fred, and Tom of Complete Race Solutions. Without their expertise and equipment in putting on these events, these races wouldn’t have happened.

The Search for Richard Rose – A September 11 Story

On September 11, 2001, just two days after I had begun a new position as a preschool teacher at my school in Boro Park, Brooklyn, the horrendous terrorist attacks unfurled themselves at several locations throughout the country.  As I taught my students in a school building that was only several miles away and within clear view of the World Trade Center, I looked out of my window to see an unbelievable sight: buildings engulfed in mushroom clouds of black unforgiving smoke.  Little did I know that within the hour, those buildings and the 2,871 people inside them would be no more.  Upon leaving my school that afternoon, I found a piece of paper on the ground that gave me a small sense of hope amid a world of sudden desperation and despair.  That paper inspired me to write the following story that was later published in a Queens College newspaper.

The Search For Richard Rose (top)

the-search-for-richard-rose-bottom.pngUPDATE: Right before I was about to publish this blog 16 years after I wrote the above news article, I googled “Richard Rose” and “Aon” to find out whatever happened to him.  According to my google search, he is alive and well and still working for that company.