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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Banjo Jim's...

Just back from another open mic night in the East Village with Lacy. Open mic afternoon or evening is more like it. This one was at Banjo Jim's on Avenue C and E 9th Street. I've been to the bar before to see an old friend play with a blues band the first year I lived here. Historically, The East Village and Alphabet City has been one of my favorite neighborhoods and one that is still, in my mind, a quintessential New York neighborhood. There's something about it that's simultaneously edgy and homey, and the sense of history in it is everywhere. Some of my favorite New York adventures have taken place there, including the time I went to that speakeasy with Norah Jones' producer.

And I love the people in the East Village. This particular open mic had a really great neighborhood feel to it. All the musicians seemed to know each other well, like old friends, and they even knew each others' songs. Some of them started to sing along in harmony as the last few musicians got up to sing. You kind of got the sense that these guys had been supporting each others' careers for years.

At one point, an 8 year old girl got up to sing a song, a capella, that she had written. I found it very brave of her and in fact, touching, that someone that young could write something so heartfelt and get up and sing it in front of tons of other musicians. And everyone loved her!

We ended up having to go pretty early because there were some 20 people already signed up when we arrived. Our songs went over well though, I think. And we're getting better at playing together and more comfortable. We've kind of talked about how it'll be beneficial to start playing certain open mics over and over so we'll feel more and more comfortable with the crowd and be able to really rock things out. This is one of the ones I think we'll probably repeat a few times. Eventually we're talking about doing full sets as well in some of these places.

After the open mic finished up, we went to a great restaurant on Avenue A called Yuca where we sat outside despite the cooling temperatures. Mexican and Peruvian inspired cuisine. I had half a chicken and ate the whole thing, washed it down with a margarita while watching the bustle of Alphabet City breezing by. All in all a great evening that we capped off with a long-ish walk down to W. Houston Street to meet another good friend of mine at XR bar for one last drink before Lacy had to get back to Brooklyn and her car so she could head back to Philly.

And now here I sit typing this. Should be in bed though because tomorrow morning, the choir at Brooklyn Unitarian is performing my piece, "Wherever You Go." I promise a recording soon. I'm out for now!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blurb #24

They're planning on performing my choral piece, titled "Wherever You Go," next Sunday the 1st of May or perhaps two Sundays later on the 15th of May at the Brooklyn UU. I guess I'll know for certain in the next few days but it all hinges upon whether the director decides that we need an extra Sunday to rehearse it. If that's the case, it'll have to happen after the weekend of the 6th through the 8th, as I'll be back in Raleigh then for a good friend's wedding. I'm traveling so much lately it feels like. Toaster just dinged and I want bread with nutella so stand by for more updates later in the week. Just wanted to get this info out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Return trip...

Sitting in RDU airport, Gate C14, waiting for my flight. We're delayed by about 30 minutes which I'm assuming is due to the rain. Right now, though, I'm welcoming the time to reflect and relax. I've gotten pretty efficient at airport security lines these days, taking a cue from George Clooney's character in Up in the Air and wearing slip on shoes when I travel so I can get through the most uncomfortable part of travel as quickly as possible. What's more disconcerting than having all of your personal effects strewn on a conveyor belt while you hike up your belt-less pants and waddle in your sock feet through some kind of magnetic scanner wondering if you're being randomly profiled or if you actually look sketchy on that day?

Anyway, I had a fun time this week despite the fact that I'm certain I caught some kind of head cold from my petri dish-like nephews and niece. Last night's party at my folks' place (which they don't know I was planning on having) was low key but eventful and some friends showed up that I hadn't expected to see (thanks guys!). We tried to do a cook out, which worked out pretty well. Some brought sausages, others brought veggie burgers and I cooked hot wings and made a potato salad that got wholly neglected until my sister came over this afternoon with her kids.

The other days between Boone and my departure today consisted largely of me watching my parent's television and relaxing, a little yoga here and there, punctuated by a visit to my old TV station of News 14 and some time hanging at my favorite hometown brewery, Big Boss Tavern.

Tonight, an old friend from graduate school will be coming over to stay the weekend, while I go straight back to work tomorrow morning. Not too happy about that, but a guy's gotta eat, right? I'll get some time with my friend J. Scott. In fact, tomorrow night, I'm having a birthday dinner with some friends down in the West Village at Risotteria, a favorite restaurant of mine. (one at which I need to make a reservation before I forget!).

Finishing this blog as I sit at home finally unpacked and relaxing with my feet up, I now take back that bit about the most uncomfortable part of travel being the security lines. No, in fact, sometimes it can be that period of time when you're done taxiing to the gate but they still haven't turned off the fasten seat belt sign and decided to let you off the plane. I wasn't sure if I was going to like the return trip from JFK to my apartment, this being the first time I attempted it. I've ridden to JFK to meet people before (Karishma and her parents on different occasions), but never to fly in or out myself until this trip. Finding the AirTrain on the way out of the terminal was a bit of an ordeal, with me having to slide between temporary partitions and go down narrow hallways that I wasn't sure were leading me in the right direction. Actually riding the AirTrain, I kind of enjoy.

You're high up on a causeway at some points and you can see pretty far toward the city. I found myself smiling wide in spite of myself at that first glimpse of the skyline on the horizon. It still reels me in like that, this city. It reminds me of my journey and how far I've come and brings me back to the reasons why I'm up here. Never though I'd love a city this much. But here I am.

The rest of the train ride on the A was uneventful and thankfully the R train arrived fairly quickly forhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif my last connection but I was so tired of carrying bags (and having to blow my nose every five minutes) by then. So, it's good to be home home and readjusting finally. Katrina ordered us some Thai food which miraculously arrived seconds before I walked in the door. I think the delivery guy must have teleported out of my building because I didn't even see him.

Gotta love New York City. Anyway, by the end of the weekend I plan on diving back into my work on the score for Mohammad's film. Once I've got the Oud part scored out, I'll be sitting down to record that with the musician we've brought in for that. Then, I'm going to mix electronics and some samples and come up with a segue into the actual action of the film. Should be fun. Check out my new website meantime for new tutorial blogs as often as I can muster. See you around!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tattoos and Tornados...

Currently enjoying the fact that I can stream HD episodes of Prison Break, straight to my parents' HD TV from Netflix. And I'm finally getting a chance to sit down and blog about the past couple of days of my vacation. The house is quiet and I've been relaxing all afternoon since getting back from Boone.

I rose at 7 this morning and left with my bro and his wife, heading into downtown Boone where I hung out at one of my favorite coffee shops, Espresso News for a few hours, working on the laptop researching ad agencies and the like in NYC. I left off from Boone around 11 and arrived in Chapel Hill to visit a friend and meet her six week old baby. From there we took a drive over to Jordan Lake with some salads I'd bought over at Trader Joe's. Even with that nice few hours sitting out by the lake I feel like I've been riding around in a car most of my day.

The mountains were a nice break too, even if the trip was brief. I left Monday morning and arrived in the early afternoon in time for a brisk hike at Rough Ridge Overlook followed by a yoga class at a local holistic health clinic and a nice evening in watching youtube videos with Paul and Rosalie.

All this taking it easy comes after a comparatively hectic weekend, marked by all manner of excitement and activity. Friday night there was a cookout at the Oakwood Inn in Raleigh, where the wedding ceremony was to be held. The bride's parents own the inn. There I met most of the wedding party and the family from both sides and got to catch up with old friends while eating two types of hot dogs, one made in Rochester where the groom was from and the other, a brand from Michigan where the bride's family is from.

Saturday daytime, I had to first plan getting my tattoo. Originally, my brother and I intended to each get one done at a parlor in Boone but Paul received a recommendation against the one where he had made the reservation. He called me up while I was at the cookout the night before to see if I could call up Blue Flame, a fairly well known Raleigh tattoo parlor, and find out if they could slide us in on Saturday afternoon, when he planned to arrive from Boone.

The guy at Blue Flame told me to come in when they opened Saturday morning and let them know what I wanted to get so they could determine if they could fit us both in.

So, I went first thing to Blue Flame and made sure we'd be able to come in later in the afternoon and get inked. After that, I went to the Pit in downtown Raleigh to meet my friend Emily at a bluegrass and barbecue festival called 'cuegrass. Unfortunately, the weather was threatening to put a damper on that whole endeavor. They were forecasting severe thunderstorms for the day and by the time we were heading to downtown there was already a tornado watch in effect for Raleigh and almost all of the surrounding counties. When we arrived at 'cuegrass, the wind was picking up quite a bit and people were frantically taking down the stage and wheeling all the food back inside. I ran into an old friend of mine from high school and after chatting with him for a few minutes, Emily and I decided to make our way to somewhere inside where we could get lunch. We decided on Brewmasters down on the corner of Dawson and Martin Sts. and ordered a few beers and burgers to wait out the storm. We were able to get most of the way through our meal before I noticed, through the wide windows facing Dawson St., the construction cranes a few blocks away, spinning wildly in the wind. While fixated on them and trying to shoot some video with my phone, I heard an alarm, and simultaneously, the waitress yelling for everyone to get back in the kitchen because the tornado was coming right down the street. In all the excitement I didn't think to actually try to get a glimpse of it (that has always been a dream of mine to witness a tornado from a safe distance). Instead, I took one wistful look at the remaining bites of my burger, one more gulp of my beer and spun on my heels and ended up being the first one into the kitchen. The waitstaff suggested everyone get into one of the two walk-in coolers but with the lack of space most of the 30 odd patrons in the bar just hung around where we could fit, as far from the door to the kitchen as possible where we all joked about the danger until it passed.

When I surveyed the damage later on, we couldn't even really tell where the tornado had touched down. And while we were out walking the rain started up again in earnest and we were stranded several blocks from our cars and soaking wet. It wasn't until the following day that I drove past some of the actual damage on the way to the wedding and then again in Moore's square where there were a few downed trees. Shaw University apparently had to close, I heard a few days later, due to a few buildings that were destroyed by the storm.

By this time, 5pm had rolled around and it was time for me to go get my tattoo. I had spoken with Nathan earlier and he said that one of their artists, Christy, would be able to do my tattoo and my brother's. I decided to go ahead and get started before my brother arrived to ensure that we would both get a chance to get our tattoos done. Christy found a suitable Om off the internet, which she then printed and made into a stencil which she placed on my back. The whole process of tattooing my back took about 15 to 20 minutes and wasn't nearly as painful as I'd been led to believe it would be...but it was painful. Felt a bit like someone dragging a needle across my back. And the residual sensation afterward felt a bit like I was missing a layer of skin or had been burned. But now, the center of my back has a nice Om symbol tattooed on it. See here. My brother showed up shortly after Christy finished mine and got the same tattoo from the same artist but lower down on his back, while I watched and made fun of him for wincing. He's been tattooed before after all...but on his finger.

After finishing up at Blue Flame we stopped by the Whole Foods and picked up some groceries for making Indian food and headed back to my parents' house. Later on we met up with the wedding party at Capital Club 16 in downtown Raleigh for another night of drinking and catching up.

Sunday, the wedding was scheduled for 4pm at the Oakwood Inn so we had plenty of time for breakfast with our sister in Durham before heading back to Raleigh to get ready. The ceremony itself was brief but beautiful, the weather perfect. The reception was held in the City Market area of downtown Raleigh in the building where Greenshields pub used to be. The power was still out from the storm so they had generators set up but that didn't stop us from enjoying ourselves and dancing well into the evening. I even managed to sprain my thumb trying to break dance at one point. Here are some pics spanning from Friday afternoon through my trip to Boone on Monday and including the wedding.

Raleigh Trip Best of

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

30...something...

I have 10 days left in my 20s. I'm not at all depressed by that statement either. I'm looking at this next year as a chance to celebrate my life to this point and I have devised several ways to go about doing that. So, it's not a birthday celebration, nor a birthmonth celebration. Nay, it is a birthyear celebration. Wait, that doesn't make any sense.

Either way, the occasion is going to be marked by tons of things I've never done. Chief among them, getting my first tattoo, which will happen next Monday when I'm in NC. Beyond that, it's mostly NYC stuff. I have a pretty regular work schedule next month and normal days off so I can plan to do a ton of things. I'm already pretty solid on going to the top of the Statue of Liberty with an ex-coworker friend of mine (how have I lived here over two years and not done that!?). I think I'd like to tour NYC by boat, I even heard that there's an outrigger club that has lessons for people who want to paddle around in the Hudson River. There's plenty of opportunities to kayak as well so I may look into that, too. I have a long list of museums I want to visit, including but not limited to, the Queens Museum of Art, the Transit Museum and the Guggenheim. And I may even end up at a Mets game some Friday night.

This Friday, I fly out to Raleigh. I'm really looking forward to it. Mainly for a little time away from work...and I mean all work, not just the one I'm taking a vacation from. I'm spending it mostly chilling out, though, there is a wedding to go to on Sunday night and then I go to the mountains for a few days to hang out with my bro and get that tattoo I was talking about. Then I'm throwing a party on the actual day of my birthday and my last day in town.

I had wanted to do something a little wilder, maybe something Carribean or at least tropical but that'll have to wait until next year. Seriously though. Watch me.

Anyway, a little update on the VO stuff. I'm getting ready for a mailing campaign blitz type thing. I'm going to get a bunch of pens or post-its or something with my logo and do a few hundred emails and snail mails to all the casting agencies and production houses I can think of. It's going to take a while though to get it together so I'm taking my time to plan it out strategically. After a little over a week of getting bombarded with audition invitations from voice123.com but only being able to really audition for two of them, I've decided I can't rely on those solely to get started even. Plus, I really need to streamline the recording process at home. There are barriers to recording with the PC and using noise reduction to counteract whatever computer hum comes through my portable sound booth (i.e. noise reduction plugins are not fully effective) and then, while there's no noise in the bathroom, there's too much echo if I set up in there and use the Macbook Pro to record. Plus plus, I'm much more proficient at Sound Forge than Garage Band and Sound Forge can do more. So if I do it on the Mac while narrating in the bathroom, I'm tempted to bounce the audio over to my PC so I can edit using a program that I'm quick with. And that may take some time to smooth out that process. I have to try a few more things.

That's what I'm dealing with right now on that front. Maybe having a little time to clear my head will be good for me. Raleigh here I come!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Projects and Parties...

Had a meeting today with Mohammad and Chris Ibrahim, the musician who'll be helping with the score for Sides of the Track. We talked a lot about what we were capable of doing for this score insofar as what instruments we can bring to the party and threw around a lot of good ideas. It's getting very exciting now. Chris plays the Oud as well as guitar and piano and he owns a Darbuka, so there will be no shortage of instruments as we shape how the score is going to sound. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to jam next week a little up at Chris' place in Bushwick. I'm also considering adding a bit of electronics and some samples (mainly subway sounds, as the film will take place on a subway car) to the part of the music that will transition into the actual action of the film.

What we're writing is going to be the backdrop for an animated opening sequence that will chronicle the history of tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in America over the past few decades, setting the tone for a bleak future New York City where all Muslims must be registered following another terrorist attack. I won't give away too much more though.

On the voice-over front, no response to my first two audition proposals submitted online but I'm not going to get discouraged. I get these audition requests daily in my inbox and, while some of them, especially the ones generated by the website's automated system, do not fully fit my resume, enough of them seem like something I could do that, as soon as I have some more time to do so, I'll be submitting even more auditions. Karishma was gracious enough to put my name in the database of the agency where she works, and I have a few other similar possibilities on the horizon as well.

A few weeks ago, I got a courtesy call from Edge Studio asking me how I was doing post demo recording and I didn't have much to say, except that I've been volunteering at Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (they recently changed their name but I can't remember the new one) since December. So, after that call, I realized I should be stepping it up and, while I didn't move right away, when I got that job for the Discovery channel the following week, I decided to put it into high gear and follow up finally.

More on that as it develops...sheesh, I sound like a news anchor. I need to get out of broadcast news, man. Anyway, I had a good time last night...well, an interesting time. It was my cousin's birthday celebration. I arrived a little late to White Rabbit (down on Houston St. where my friend Adrienne had her party a few months ago) and most of her friends were already there. I met everybody really quickly, a handful of people from her current job and one of her last jobs as well as her college roommate and some of her friends. All around a great mix of people...except this one guy. He was there with one of Katrina's friends from the dance studio where she worked. So, friend of a friend. I was talking to the girl he was there with (she's from France so we hit it off talking about all things French and France) at the bar while we were ordering our first round of drinks and he comes up to the bartender and hands him the menu for the restaurant from which he had just ordered food. Apparently, he was upset because the menu had out-dated prices and he paid a 6 dollar difference for the food (big effing deal, right?). So, he thought it be real fun to take it out on the bartender and start reaming him out for giving him an old menu. It escalated so fast, the argument, that I couldn't quite understand how it had gotten so heated. But from what I remember the bartender was immediately offended that this guy was trying to make it his fault that the menu was out of date, saying he gave it to him as a favor and he didn't need to be getting angry with him about it. Then the other guy, apparently, a last word freak, wouldn't drop it and kept hammering his point home. Now, the bartender, as cool and New York as you can get, is just telling him if he doesn't like it he should just leave. At one point, the guy ask him what his boss' name was and the bartender quips, "my boss' name is 'go f@#$ yourself!'" Funny as it was it didn't help the situation so angry guy starts yelling his point to anyone at the bar who'll listen. Sadly, it was a group of people that were with our party but that had just gotten there and they were not very sympathetic. In fact, they were taking the bartender's side, though all he cared about was getting this asshole out of his bar.

Now, at this point, I just decided, even though I don't know this guy, that it was time to step in. So, I told him to cool off and let it go. Which prompted everyone in the party, most of all Katrina's spitfire ex-roommate, to join in trying to mediate. There was nothing to be done to cool off the asshole and the bartender couldn't be swayed from calling the cops. So, a bunch of us decided we should just get out of there and go somewhere else. On the way to somewhere else (which ended up being a hotel bar around the corner), asshole guy was in tow with the French friend he came with, she trying her best to level with him and make him realize that he'd basically made himself a pariah by making a scene on someone else's night. When we all regrouped at the new bar, he offered to buy everyone drinks but when there were no takers, he split...and ironically, left his food behind.

At that point the night was much calmer and conversation bounced back and forth from more light-hearted topics to what the hell was dude's deal. I guess it's not a party until someone gets belligerent.

Anyway, you don't have a night like that without being as tired as I am right now so I'm going to bed. I'll have more to post on the progress of the film music as it happens. Good night for now!

I've seen the preliminary cuts of the animation, done by a former NY1 employee who worked there slightly before my day. It's pretty awesome stuff.