For many people I know, 2016 has been looked upon as a year of sadness. Many singers and celebrities that I grew up with in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s died this past year. And with Donald Trump winning the Presidential election, many of my family and friends including myself were devastated. We now have to worry about the future of our country in the hands of somebody who seems very ill-prepared to be the leader of our country. On the surface, this year could easily be looked upon as one that many of us would like to forget. However, in reflecting upon my own personal life, a lot of good and interesting things did in fact happen to me. Some of these things involved personal growth in new endeavors in my life and some involved friends and family who did great things this year.
In January, I visited my brother Aaron and sisters Sarah and Rachel at my father’s house. They are actually my half-sisters, but that really doesn’t matter to me. I remember when they were both just born and how my family and I helped bring them up. I am proud that they have grown up to become intelligent, responsible, and caring women who both have interesting careers.
My brother Aaron got a job working with mentally challenged adults in Brooklyn. He helps them live as independently as possible and has really excelled at his job within a short period of time. With one of them who was severally autistic, Aaron was able to help bring him out of his shell by dancing and singing with him.
My brother was in a live comedy sketch show in February. He enjoyed the experience working with other actors. You can see highlights of her performance here.
I am proud of my brother is that he recently came out in public as bisexual, something that took a lot of strength and soul-searching for him to do.
Doing stand-up comedy has been on my bucket list for at least a dozen years. In April, I finally did it. With the help of my friend Darin Magras who was my role model, I went out on stage during an open mic at the Looney Bin Comedy Club in Staten Island. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but I was very relieved to finally get it done, kind of like taking a pee after having it stored in your bladder for 15 years. You can see all the carnage of my comedy act here.
The following month, my friend Will Sanchez contacted me about being a “very special guest” on his Manhattan public access cable show, Gotta Run With Will. This show features people who are fixtures throughout the New York City running community. At first I wondered why Will would want me to be a guest on his show being that I’m not the greatest runner and I wondered what could I possibly say that would interest his viewers. Will saw through my Facebook posts that I do have a life full of interesting things that could translate well on his show. After all, I am a teacher, background actor, filmmaker, comedian, and the publicity director of the Staten Island Athletic Club. But of all these things, Will was most interested in the fact that I played a naked dead guy on an episode of Law & Order: SVU. If you’d like to see how my interview may have “cracked” some people up, you can view it here.
Two years ago, my friend Michael Ring contracted this very rare muscle disease called CIDP. It incapacitated him for a long time. Last year his range of motion was very limited and he was often confined to a motorized wheelchair. Since then, has made amazing progress and attempted to walk the entire 13.1-mile length of the 2016 Brooklyn Half Marathon. I was asked to be one of his guides during his attempt. Because we were walking the entire length, I decided it would be a good idea to film him during the whole event. Here is a 6-minute documentary that I made using that footage to showcase his fantastic achievement: F*ck CIDP …One Year Later.
My daughter Emma loves art and was offered by her high school a fantastic opportunity to work as an art intern for a professional artist. From January to May, I had to leave my job 40 minutes early in order to pick her up from school, then drop her off at Smack Mellon, the place where her internship was held. Every Wednesday, I went on an Indiana Jones adventure with my car throughout the streets of Brooklyn in order to make sure she arrived at her internship by 4:00pm. It was difficult for me, but I knew that this opportunity was important for her future career in art.
My daughter’s friend had passed away and she was devastated by his death. To help her and his family deal with it, she used art therapy to heal. She drew a portrait of him made to look like his favorite anime character. She had this artwork displayed at a public art exhibition as part of the culminating event of her internship at Smack Mellon. After the exhibition was over, she presented it to his family as a gift and they were very pleased and grateful for receiving it.
This year, my friend George had been getting sick due to a failing kidney. He is a great guy with a great family including two beautiful little girls. His kidney was rapidly failing and he could not find a donor whose blood type was compatible with his. After many of his friends and family members including myself were unsuccessful blood matches for him, George finally got lucky with Darren Corona. Darren selflessly went through the whole medical procedure that essentially saved George’s life. Darren has served as a role model for me and I’m sure many other people as well. Soon after the surgery was a success, Darren and George were both featured in a news article which you can read here.
In November, I elected not to run the NYC Marathon. I ran the last three marathons as a pacer for the New York Road Runners Club and this time around I wanted to give it a rest. However, several of my friends including Jacky, Catherine, and Danielle were first-time marathoners and I would like to acknowledge their achievement here. One of them was Lisa Swan who probably worked harder than any of my friends to get to this point in her life. Lisa was a self-described couch potato and very overweight at the time. Just a few years ago she decided to get off of the couch and make a major change in her health and fitness for the better. She started running road races and shed a ton of pounds while dropping down a few dress sizes. Her stalwart determination to do what had to be done for her marathon training was unparalleled. She serves as a role model in determination for many runners in our running club. You can read all about Lisa’s amazing marathon story here.
My children continue to grow in many ways. My daughter continues to pursue her artwork and creativity and enjoys listening to rock and heavy metal while my son continues to improve in his piano playing. He has completed yet another year as a boy scout and loves playing Minecraft on the computer. His growth has shot up this year by several inches and he is now taller than my daughter. My daughter is happier at school and is surrounding herself with good friends more. And yes, my son doesn’t smile too much for photos; it could be because he has uncomfortable braces in his mouth. They will be coming out in 2017.