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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. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Obligatory end of year post...

Approximately 12 hours ago I was riding in the dark and the pouring rain to Indianapolis International Airport.  Yeah, that was about 5am.  The cheap flights are always early in the morning. But it's a mark of how well I'm doing that I'm not only traveling to see my girlfriend's family but also my own in a few weeks.  Yes, I may still be buying the cheaper plane tickets but I'm traveling twice for the holidays.  CNN has been treating me well over the last few months and money's not as tight as it was before I started working all three jobs two years ago.  Finally.  I'm really enjoying getting to work there not just for the view out my window that I can't stop posting pics of.  The people I work directly with are great, my boss is great and I'm meeting incredible people in all the other departments and learning that I can find opportunities to expand my duties there.  Sometimes they even find me.

I'm not sure I can post the last voice over I did for them but I swear I'll alert you...no wait! Here it is!
So, that was a lot of fun to do.  The job seems to get better every day and then some opportunity like that jumps in my lap.  A few weeks ago I was looking up new music for GPS with Fareed Zakaria using Turner's massive music library at my boss' request.  And I even helped translate an interview in French with one of the survivors of the attack on the Bataclan club in Paris for Anderson Cooper's show.  Apparently, I've effectively used all of my degrees at my job now.  What?!

Anyway, don't think this means I'm giving up on being a composer. Oh god, never. One of the things I can count on is one of the handful of directors I've worked with that have varying degrees of prolificness eventually calling me for a job.  I got a VO and a separate music job from the same guy last week just before leaving for my short vacation in Indy.

I will say that things were a little touch and go for a minute there as I was focusing on CNN and not really devoting time to it. Also my laptop was on the fritz.  All that is fixed now thanks to my friend with whom I had been trying to write music with.  He and his wife and I jammed together a bunch in the summer time but when their respective semesters started school just kept getting in the way for them.  Turns out though, he's a whiz with Macbooks and I happened to need a new hard drive installed and a memory upgrade.  And thanks to all those slips and disasters I had in the past, my diligence when it comes to backing up my data paid off.  I was back up and running within a few days or so once we did the install together.

And just in time too.  Mohammad came through with a quick music gig, a track for his directing reel and I busted it out in record time cuz that's how I do.  The VO for the sizzle reel (separate job) was, inevitably, a mock movie trailer voice so you can imagine I had fun with that one.  One thing that I really want to do next year is chase things like that down instead of this sitting around and waiting for them to come to me. Obviously, that's going to require a different approach and perhaps some outside encouragement.

So, what else happened during this fine year of 2015? Well besides a lot of traveling and a new job, I now have a partner in crime who just moved in with me back in November. And that's been real nice. No more roommates, I says.  And guess what else? We get to travel together, beyond going to see relatives.  Next stop is Guadeloupe this March.  A French speaking Caribbean nation...with an active volcano. Sounds right up my alley.

Another thing, I plan on doing next year is writing more in the blog...which requires having more things to write about, so look out for that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


This is seriously becoming a blog about travel.  Lately on the music and voice over fronts I've been languishing or just straight not doing much and waiting.  I've gotten a few royalty statements in the mail, I occasionally hear about the progress of The Life and True Love, the last two projects I worked on, I'm still trying to get back together with the couple I was jamming with but life and New York City get in the way.  And I even auditioned to be one of Voice Bunny's on demand voice talent but got a reality check instead about the mediocre state of my set up at home (too much room noise...too muffled, etc.).  But I've got plans to take over the closet in the other bedroom in my apartment once my girlfriend moves in in November.

That said, I'm getting a new feel for how much I truly do love to travel.  Traveling never lets me down.  When I get out there, no matter how much I've built up a trip in my head, I still have incredible experiences even if they don't live up to what I expected.  That is to say, I'm always pleasantly surprised because I always find something new, whether or not it's what I thought I might find.  And I come back vibrating with a new energy and enthusiasm about this place I've just seen, ranting and raving about it like I'm the first person to discover that place.  And I feel so alive.

Here's Colorado.  My friend from Carbondale planned out a whirlwind trip for us, showing me the finest her state has to offer, taking me to some of the highest places in the state and sometimes even in N. America.  We did a lot of driving and winging it when we needed to, shifting plans to accommodate our whims, having adventures and close shaves, climbing mountains and taking pictures to prove it.

On the list of sites:

We first hit Downtown Denver, then caught a show at Red Rocks Ampitheater (holy crap, what a beautiful venue), Sound Tribe Sector 9. They put on a fantastic show.  The next day we drove over Independence Pass then came through Aspen on our way back to her hometown, stopping briefly at a wine, beer and spirits tasting close to where my AirBnb was on the last trip.  We found a nice local cider, picked up some food and then went back to her place where I cooked us some steaks.

The following day, we took a yoga class at True Nature, a beautiful yoga studio and meditation center, which was followed by a singing bowl and gong meditation for an hour and change.  Then she took us back to Snowmass Village to hike the Rim Trail, a hike that was offered during Wanderlust but that I didn't take.  It was cool to be back in the village and the hike was a perfect way to acclimate to the elevation.  It features a pretty steep uphill climb for the first half hour to this ying yang feature:

...followed by an easy jaunt along the ridge with sweeping views on all sides and a few more climbs bringing you to an elevation of about 10,500 feet. After the hike we wound our way down to Aspen to have dinner at Pyramid Bistro and catch a show at Belly Up.

The next day, after a yoga class at another yoga studio, Kula, we got on the road again.  Back over Independence Pass to head down to The Great Sand Dunes and eventually back up to Breckenridge to crash for the night before heading up to the trail head for Grays and Torreys Peaks, the 14ers we had chosen to hike, doing a double summit in one day because we could.  On the way over Independence Pass again, crossing the continental divide yet again, we stopped to view Mt. Elbert, the highest of the 14ers.  Note the fall foliage which had begun changing color in between this ride and the first one.

Then we got on our way past Salida and Buena Vista, down the longest stretch of straight road I've been on since driving to the Outer Banks of NC on Hwy 70.  But what awaited us was nothing short of amazing. The sand dunes can be seen from miles away, butting up against the mountain range, and boast the tallest sand dune in N. America.  When you're upon them, they dominate the landscape, and what a weird landscape:

After playing around for a while, kicking up sand and acting like kids, and just enjoying the surroundings and the quietude (it was seriously dramatic how quiet it was when the wind wasn't blowing...it felt like a sensory deprivation tank or something), we sat and debated our options for the rest of the evening. We were trying to make it as close as possible to the trail head at Grays Peak that night so we could set out and be on the trail as early as possible the next morning. Originally, the plan had been make it all the way to Leadville or even Frisco, and we had been leaning toward Leadville for most of the day as we had lost some time getting out of The Roaring Fork Valley later than expected that morning, so everything had shifted. It was already going to take us almost four hours to get back up to Leadville and it was early evening at that point.  It was so long of a ride we almost considered going all the way back to Carbondale to stay at her place that night.

We scrapped that though because we hadn't even eaten dinner yet. We had our eyes on a steak restaurant in Leadville called Quincy's that only serves steak for $9.95 (seriously, the only decision you have to make is how you want it cooked and how you want your baked potato). Luckily, the restaurant had a location in Salida that was closer so once we got back out on the highway it looked liked we just might make it there before closing and have only an hour and a half left on our journey to Leadville.

We still made it to Leadville after all the hotels had already closed their front desks for the night and had to hit a couple of them before we found one that would book rooms after hours...and of course, we got the last one at the first place that would open up for us.  Good thing too because it was midnight at this point and we had to be up at 6am the next morning!

The following morning, we packed up and got on our way, with a short stop for breakfast in Frisco, making it to the trail head by 8 and setting out around 8:30.  The weather was dreary, cold and windy. Not a good prognosis for a day hike but we were prepared.  Or at least I thought I was.  My sweater, scarf and hat would eventually prove worthless against biting temps in the 30s, steady 40 mph winds and, yes, freaking snow and sleet. The climb was a bit brutal as such and we had driven up to 11,000 feet or so, so we still had about 3,000 feet of rise before we reached the top.  At one point I had to borrow a layer of clothing from my friend. Every 10 minutes or so, I'd have to stop and catch my breath and the higher we got, the longer I had to stop before I felt I could go on.

Due to the weather, we had discussed the possibility of turning back just to prepare ourselves for the disappointment of not being able to climb to the top.  But neither of us were keen on that idea. We came to climb. If anything, we debated turning back after Grays and forfeiting the opportunity to do the double summit.  But then something amazing happened.  I mean, I knew it would happen, to be honest.  I'm ever the optimist, so I knew we'd get some clearing.  There were breaks in the clouds and the winds had them moving off extremely quickly.

As soon as we hit the final stretch, one big gap opened in the clouds and as I stepped up onto the summit, I gasped as I saw clear views for miles and miles.

This was something I didn't get with my Concepcion volcano hike at the end of February. And the rush was enough that the two of us turned to the other peak, Torreys, barely a half mile away down a path that ran along the saddle between the two peaks, and said, "Why not?" We snacked and took selfies and set out, scrambling down the side of Grays and, slowly, back up the much steeper side of Torreys.  (Watch in this video when my friend pans around...the first peak you see is Grays, which we had just come off the top of; the one you see when the camera turns 180 degrees is Torreys).

At this point I was starting to notice how numb and red my hands were. I'd had them clenched inside the pockets of my jacket for too long and needed to move them around and warm them up.  We paused so I could do so and then beat the last stretch of scree reaching the top to find even more spectacular views.

The hike down was slow and easy once we were off the main slope of the mountain and we saw loads more wildlife on the way down, including scurrying pikas and the yellow bellied marmot who crossed our path and then proceeded to stand up on his hind legs and watch us for five full minutes before going back to his business.  My phone was dead or there'd be pictures. I only saw one mountain goat the whole time, far away on a ridge on our way up to the top. He promptly lumbered down the other side before I could snap a pic though.  

At the bottom, back at the car, my head ached, probably from dehydration and not elevation sickness, but I felt great otherwise. After devouring lunch we headed back to Carbondale by way of Glenwood Canyon, looking forward to an evening of lounging and Netflix.  

The final full day of the trip we blew off a lot of the planned activities in favor of trying to have a lower key day and fit in Maroon Bells which we had missed a few days back due to cramming too much in in one day.  We were going to ride bikes down Glenwood Canyon and hike to Hanging Lake but neither of us thought we'd be in any mood for physical activity after hiking two 14ers in one day. So, instead Maroon Bells it was.  In Aspen, you buy a bus ticket and they bus you up the valley into a protected wilderness site where you can take the picture that everyone takes: 

I mean, it is pretty gorgeous. We got some interesting facts on the way up from a knowledgeable guide who knew everything from local history to local geological facts to local wildlife. When we arrived, we opted for a short loop hike through the woods to take it all in and then wandered back to the bus stop.  Unfortunately, we had just missed a bus and had to wait an additional thirty minutes for the next one which set us back quite a bit (although we heard some fantastic Wild West trivia from the same guide on the way down). 

That night we were trying to make it all the way back to Denver to see another concert at Red Rocks (we found out at the STS9 concert that Counting Crows were playing at Red Rocks later in the week so we bought tickets right away).  Making it back there required one more trip over Independence Pass, so we loaded up on coffee in Aspen when we finally got out of Maroon Bells, then headed out. The time was dwindling away and, though Counting Crows had a few opening acts, we did the math and figured there was a slight possibility we'd miss some of their set if we didn't book it. Let's just say that Independence Pass was both thrilling and terrifying this time around.  

One last stop in Breckenridge for legendary crepes my friend raved about, barely set us back in terms of travel time, because where there is usually a colossal line, there wasn't a single soul waiting. Giddy at our fortune we chowed down on crepes in the car as we made our way past Breckenridge back to I-70.  We hit very few traffic snarls from there on and I finally saw the Milky Way out the car window. Arriving at Red Rocks, we found that they were between sets still.  We found our seats chatted for maybe two minutes before Counting Crows walked out on stage, almost as though they were waiting for us to get there.  

So, a perfect end to a near perfect last day.  If not for the crummy hotel I booked outside of Denver, we'd've been totally solid (we booked a non smoking room and it turned out all they had ready when we got there was a smoking room...people can still smoke in hotel rooms??).  But at the point we were so tired we just crashed.  And the following morning I had gluten free buttermilk pancakes in Denver before heading off to the airport and parting with my friend.  

What a trip! Crazy adventures, tall mountains, beautiful vistas, and three separate concerts.  And lots of driving.  Couldn't have asked for a better time and now I have reasons to go back.  As I always do. And I think I might actually have a mountain climbing addiction at this point. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015


It sometimes takes me a while these days to unpack my experience of a trip, the impressions, the things that changed me, and articulate it into a story.  And this blog, while it's been a chronicle of my time in New York City, has also allowed me an outlet for these kinds of stories.  The kinds of stories I've discovered that I love telling.  And perhaps that's why I started to travel again.  I've always had a bit of wanderlust ever since my parents dragged me (I say that lovingly...I was not really dragged) on a trip around the country at the tender yet excitable age of 8.  I've thirsted since to see more of the world.  When asked what I wanted for a graduation present from high school, without hesitation, I said a trip to Paris.

Fast forward to this year.  The fact that there is a festival called Wanderlust seemed like a no brainer. Yet, it was a friend who suggested we go and, therefore, not my idea.  A few months ago in the course of a twenty minute phone conversation, the plan was hatched.  This July, Snowmass Village, Colorado was hosting the festival.  I hadn't been to Colorado since that fateful trip as a wide-eyed eight year old. We rode the Durango to Silverton railroad and I gazed at canyons and roaring rivers out the window of the train, noticing only at the end of the trip how much soot had accumulated on my face.  In Silverton, I gestured toward snowy mountains and begged my parents to hike up so we could see snow in June.  My siblings laughed at my inability to judge distance. Here's me with the brakeman's hat on:

When my friend told me that the Wanderlust festival was in Colorado, I bit almost immediately.  A yoga festival? In Colorado? Of course!

So we began planning, reserved a rental car, and agreed on an AirBnb in Basalt, a town about thirty minutes away, to save money.  And I began getting excited about things like Acro Yoga and Stand-up Paddleboard Yoga (the classes were all full by the time we had bought out tickets unfortunately so I didn't get to try it) and Slackline Yoga, farm to table dinners, hiking and meditation in nature, as well as the fact that there would be music every night.  Outdoor music.  And then they sent out an email after we bought our tickets saying that freakin' Moby was headlining the festival!

Here's an album of photos from the festival.  There's so much to say about the festival so I'll just talk highlights and forego the blow by blow.  Probably one of the most inspiring moments of the festival for me was the meditation hike with Häana, a violinist who came to the festival as one of the performers. Her music was really awesome. She actually almost carpooled with us from Denver International Airport but her flight kept getting delayed. I had researched her when she answered my post on the Wanderlust Facebook page offering rides from Denver to other festival goers.

On the second day of the festival I got a chance to hear her play a full electronic set at one of the indoor meditation classes. That alone was amazing and really freaking cool.  But on this hike, she brought an old vintage violin that had this amazingly beautiful resonance.  We hiked a little ways into the Aspen groves where she led a brief meditation and while we continued to sit in the tall grasses, she improvised for about twenty minutes in a Norwegian influenced style. As the music swelled, the breeze tickled us and a small thunderstorm rolled in.  Just being out there in the open air, feeling the breeze, and hearing the haunting sounds of that violin.  It was so beautiful.  There are a couple good pics from the hike in that album as well as a video I took after hanging back on the hike down (you can hear the thunder in the background!)

Another spectacular moment was trying out Acro yoga for the first time and getting up in a handstand while balancing on another person's knees while they laid on the ground.  All the pics in that album where you see the dome tents set up is where we had all of those classes.  There were some other types of specialized yoga that happened there, but that I didn't get to try, like AiREAL yoga which has you balancing in fabric hammocks, doing moves meant to decompress the spine and strengthen your core.  There was also Slackline yoga which is essentially doing yoga on a tight rope.  The guy who did carpool with us from the airport was huge into this and my friend who came with me tried a few classes (she was also into the Hula classes which were a big thing).  My only attempt at slack-lining was after having a few drinks when it was late at night and dark out.  It did not go well.

Other highlights were of course all of the concerts, including Moby and the Wanderlust Spectacular, a full show of acrobatics and dancing that had my jaw dropping the whole time.  Then there was hanging out in Aspen on my last night with a local I'd met on my first night there and then having her show us around her town of Carbondale on our final day after the festival had ended.  Our AirBnb host even joined us at a local distillery there called Marble Distillery and then we all had dinner at a place called Town.  I tried rabbit tacos and they were excellent!

I gotta tell you, on a side note, the elevation up there did not kill me but it was certainly a bit harder to walk uphill while simultaneously making conversation with the new friends I was making.  And it took far fewer flights of stairs than normal for me to be winded.  But that was all okay because I've heard what altitude sickness can be like and I would much prefer just having a little difficulty breathing to that any day.

Anyway, now that I'm back, and I've made friends out there, I plan on going back in September and hiking one of the 14ers.  Because lately, I've been obsessed with tall mountains and the like.  See my previous trip to Nicaragua in February.  And I'm not worried about the elevation gain because I know I'll probably acclimate in the first few days and the peak my friend has recommended only has like a 4,200 ft. elevation gain.  Concepción was 5,200 ft. tall and I hiked that one from the bottom in 4 1/2 hours.

And before any of this I was planning on going to Peru to hike Huayna Picchu, the peak next to the Machu Picchu ruins.  But that trip may have to wait because my girlfriend and I are talking fairly seriously about hitting up Dominica in the Caribbean, an island I zeroed in on and then was sold on the moment I realized that it boasts one of the tallest mountain peaks in the Caribbean Islands.  Morne Diablotins at 4,700 ft.  So, there will be more stories of surmounting formidable peaks.

And speaking of which, metaphoric peaks are still in the works as well.  But it's a bit slower going on those.  I'll just say for now that I'm still working at doing voice over for CNN whenever they'll throw it my way and I have plans to build up a reel with that material.  Occasionally, my voice coach will throw me an audition or two.  And as for my most recent music outlet, I'm jamming with two new friends now.  Collaborating for the first time in a very long time.

The only other bit of news I got as far as music goes is that I got a statement in the mail from Medianet, showing that The Life has been generating me royalties.  The number is so low, though, I'm not even gonna tell you how much so far.  But hey.  Gotta start somewhere.

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Tangible success.  Finally, I can say it. I have a full time position at CNN now.

It's been six years since I first freelanced at CNN and at times it didn't look like it would turn into anything.  At other times, I seemed painfully close to getting the other foot in the door.  Through a turn of events some time last fall, I found myself in a position where I could really help out the department by just being available at a time of transition and it served to put me in the right place at the right time.  Not long after, a position opened up and I applied but there was another applicant who had the experience my new boss there was looking for.  The department had shrunk and we were being tasked with coming up with new procedures for media management and this new guy who got the position I had applied for had plenty of relevant post production experience.  My boss told me all this, saying it was a tough decision but he wanted me to stick around so he gave me a big fat raise and assured me that there'd be something else he'd need me for soon.  Sure enough, another person in that department got promoted a week later and her position opened up.  There was a month of waiting and hearing rumors that I was going to get the position until finally one day I received a call from my boss offering me the position.

Soon after, once we had solidified a start date, I put in my notice at NY1.  I gotta tell you, NY1 really knows how to give a send off.  There are a series of traditions whenever someone leaves NY1 on a good note.  First, a glowing email from your boss about your departure, detailing your accomplishments etc.  Then, your coworkers plan a going away party at a local bar and on your last day they get you cake in the conference room and you give a speech.  Somewhere along the line you send out your own goodbye email.  And by the end of it all, you're usually overcome with emotion.

They got me a nice gluten free cake from Tu Lu's bakery in the East Village:

My boss wrote a poem for me (which I still need him to send me) and I did a Letterman style Top 10 List in honor of David Letterman's last show the week before (Top 10 Things I Will Miss About NY1).  That Friday we all went to The Crooked Knife on 14th Street in Chelsea and toasted my time with the company.

So, it was a great send off and I left it all feeling supremely blessed to have worked with such a great group of people for so long.  And it was such a surreal feeling, too, the last time I swiped my ID badge through the card reader to punch my last out time.  I stopped after that swipe and said out loud to my friends that were standing there, "huh, I don't work here anymore," as I let that fact just wash over me. Walking toward the elevator, it really started to set in that I was leaving.  And the excitement of what lay ahead was immense.

Now, I'm a good two weeks into working at CNN full time and have gotten fully settled into the new routine, 9-5 hours, Monday through Friday, and with a view of Central Park out my window.  The guys I work with are hilarious and everyone has been super nice.  I've even run into a few old NY1 people who moved on to CNN years ago.

What's totally awesome though, is that in my first week, I had the good idea to get back in touch with the producer for one of the shows who had asked me to help him with voice overs a few months ago.  I told him about my recent move to full time status and that I'd be around the building every day now if he ever needed help.  Monday morning of the second week I worked there, he emailed me about reading a few scripts for Nancy Grace's show.  So I went into the audio tracking booth and banged it out really quickly and sent it down to him.  One revision, a little more intense and frenetic, and my segments were added to the show.  Two days later, a new script.  Not sure if this one made the show or not but he did cut a version of it so that I could have it for my reel.

So I'm just completely floored by that and then I get an email from one of Ann Wright's assistants, one of the agents that I've been chasing down and who sent me on an audition a few months back.  She wanted to have a meeting with me. That day. My voice coach told me these meetings are usually just about personality and them getting to know me and just to be myself and relax.  And it was.  It was a short meeting and I was thrown off slightly by her asking me for a hard copy of my demo (even though I had already emailed it to her) which I didn't have with me.  But all in all I felt good about it. So here's hoping I'll get sent on some more auditions soon.

That was one hell of a week last week.  And there's more to come.  I'm meeting all kinds of people at CNN that are connected in various ways to the things I want to do and I'm always meeting new musicians out and about.  It's still to early to be able to tell what kind of an effect these people will have on my career but I have never felt so on track.  It helps in that I feel at ease that I'm pointed in the right direction and now I can finally relax on the weekends for a change.   Relax on the weekends and do things like this.

Top 10 things I will miss about working at NY1:

10. Breaking News (Just kidding they have that at CNN, too...they even stay on it much longer).

9. Getting put up in the Dream hotel during storm coverage, even without electricity or hot water.

8. Holidays when they order food, especially if it's Dino BBQ.

7. The quality of sleep you get after an overnight shift.

6. Scaring tourists off the elevator.

5. Being called "The Voice." 

4. The assignment desk, producer's pod, politics and the control room all calling to ask, "are you rolling on the president?!" 

3. Mis amigos en NY1 Noticias que me ayudan a aprender español 

2. Breakdancing at the NY1 Christmas party (also, the NY1 Christmas party)

1. All of you crazy people.  

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Climbs, volcanoes and other trials...

The sneakers I've barely worn since Nicaragua still have black sand in them from the volcano.  I'm wearing them again as the weather starts to warm up consistently. The other day, as I kicked them off, a pile of the stuff spilled out onto my bedroom floor.  Days later, though I pounded them together upside down, I still feel the grit under my toes, reminding me of this:

Yes, I climbed to the top of that thing.  That being the Concepcion volcano on the Isla de Ometepe, a central destination of my late February trip to Nicaragua.  The one I had heard was a 10 hour hike. Part of my initial aversion to hiking it in the first place and the reason I had chosen, months earlier, to hike Maderas instead. The smaller, extinct volcano on the island's south side, was advertised as an 8 hour hike, which I'd heard people testify to scaling in a mere 5 hours.  But whatever, when I arrived on Ometepe, I was almost content to nix the idea of any volcano hike and just sit and enjoy this:

...instead of trying to cram in more activities in the short amount of time I had there. Not so much that my three day romp around Granada and the surrounding environs had taken it out of me.  No, it was just that beautiful there at Finca San Juan de la Isla that I thought, after all the hard work I'd done to afford the trip, I ought to just take it easy and enjoy the rum and the fried plantains with cheese and the sound of the lake and the birds and the hammocks and all the beautiful people I met there, most of them Canadians, some of them local hotel staff who were immensely kind and very open to helping me with my Spanish.  Also, cost was a factor. I was either going to have to find people to go in on hiring the guide, pay him the full amount myself, or go through an unappealing ordeal of phone calls and emails and attempts at Spanish to set up a tour with one of the many other options open to me.  I opted to just wait it out and see.

I met a couple from Edmonton, Canada and another from Toronto, my first full day there.  The Edmonton couple were recounting the story of their attempt at Concepcion the previous day, a feat they told us took them only 7 hours. The Toronto couple listened intently as they were planning on doing it themselves the following day.  I asked if I could join, figuring this was the sign I needed to make my decision.  The path of least resistance. They had already booked the guide and they were happy to let me join them. And I'm so glad I did. 7 hours seemed much more reasonable.

Why did I wait all this time to recount my tale? I don't know, part of me wanted to wait to blog again until I had some good news to share on the music and voice over fronts and even about my various day jobs; all the things that have been brewing there. I do, as a matter of fact, finally.  But in the meantime, life just got away from me and I didn't want to just type up a blow by blow of the whole trip. I had journaled it elsewhere for my own purposes, after all.  But also, I had to think through what it all means to me in terms of what happened to me on that mountain.

Guys, this was the hardest hike I'd ever experienced but I felt so damned alive at the end of it, like I could physically do anything and perhaps mentally do anything as well. Anything at all. Volcan Concepcion is 5,280 feet tall and perfectly cone shaped, making the hike relentlessly steep.  Hiking to the rim of the open and active crater took us a solid four and a half hours and the descent took another 3 hours.

The terrain was ever changing and kept our interest, with stunning views and exotic plant life, but the climb was brutal and taking a toll on us after only an hour, my calves burning with the exertion of continuous ascent.

My new friends and I brought liters upon liters of water that we carried with us, along with lunch that the hotel had packed (unfortunately, the only gluten free foods they could give me were plantain chips, some of their homemade cheese and a few oranges, pre peeled, of course).  We took frequent breaks but always kept going, determined not to stop or slow down for too long.  Although at times, individually, I'm sure we all felt like turning around. Something in me, personally, said no every time the thought came up.  I felt as though climbing this mountain symbolized something for me.  I had to keep going.  Maybe just to prove something to myself.  Maybe because I had set out on some mission and wanted to see it through to the end. Being able to conquer something despite ridiculous odds, to keep going when others would have stopped (another group that was supposed to have set out with us, was delayed and, upon our descent we learned they had quit after just an hour...no one else was on that mountain except us).

We passed through fields of plantain trees and rock strewn pits, and as the mountain steepened, we entered a dry forest with a sandy path that our feet slid into, making each step that much harder.  Everywhere was a chance to turn your ankle or slip. Every other tree branch we tried to grab onto for support had thorns protruding. Rocks were always loose, so part of what set our pace was having to be so sure of our footing each time we took a step. At some point along the way, the danger of what we were doing slowly became clear to us.

We left all the stunning vistas behind as we entered a white cloud and the wind began to blow relentlessly.

We were now in a cloud forest of mostly low shrubs, plants with giant leaves and more and more rocks to slip on.

Coming up out of that we entered a new terrain, unlike anything we had seen before.  Plant life had all but disappeared and all of us, except our guide, had to crawl up on all fours.

This was where I fell behind a little and had to keep talking to myself, telling myself I had to keep going. After all, regardless of whether I made it to the top, I still had to go all the way back down.  This realization was the most harrowing thing after everything we had gone through, knowing that, even after we reached the summit there was still a long road before we could finally rest. In a way, though, it helped knowing that no matter what we decided, we still had a long way ahead of us.  It would have been barely any relief to stop and go down at that point because the ordeal of descending such a steep slope was just as difficult, and ascending the 500 odd feet that we had left to climb would not have added all that much to our troubles. Only actually reaching the top could have lifted our spirits enough to power us for the rest of the hike, though.  That and lunch.  But only after we had reached the top, we agreed.

It was during this last stretch that I felt that something come over me again.  Something that told me to just go despite how hard it was.  I could feel my companions' spirits breaking a little.  I felt like each step was harder than the one before. I would get in five or six and then have to pause.

At one point our guide shouted down to us to get out of the way because there were rocks tumbling down.  Adrenaline pumping, not knowing, at first, exactly why he had told us to get out of the way, we scrambled sideways along the rocks as quickly as we could.  Someone who had hiked up on their own before us, had loosed a few rocks and sent them down in our direction unintentionally.  Seeing this bloke from California walking upright down the mountain past us like it was nothing was the last straw (you can see him in the shadows just out of sight in the above pic of my two Toronto friends).  I could smell the sulfur gas from the crater by now.  Knowing we were so close to the top I powered through, one last burst of climbing, grabbing at rocks and propelling myself upward, quicker than my body could signal the pain in my muscles. Behind me, Kelsey was saying she was done and ready to go down.  The wind was blowing her around so that she couldn't straighten up for a second without getting knocked over.  Just then I looked up and saw our guide perched on the edge of the crater.  I lifted myself into place right next to him and peered into the crater.

"No, c'mon! We're here.  It's right here, you can make it!" I shouted down to my companions.  I practically begged Kelsey and Ryan to come peer in the crater with me.  300 meters deep and 3 acres around at the bottom, and all of it obscured by sulfuric gas and clouds. She took one look and declared, "Nope!"

We all collapsed for this photo and agreed after a few moments of basking in our victory, that we should climb down out of the wind and eat our lunch before heading back down.  Without any shred of visibility there wasn't much in the way of views to take in.  I watched some YouTube videos of other people's hikes when I returned home, though, and concluded that, had we hiked up on a clear day, it would have been absolutely terrifying but exalting and gorgeous nonetheless. Here's my panorama when we came out of the cloud.  Close enough:

But what did I learn about myself from this climb? For one thing, that I'm strong and I can show determination and accomplish something big if I have my mind set on it.  Something I'm doing on a daily basis here in NYC but that I tend to forget. The other thing it taught me is to just keep going.  The last few months have been harrowing in their own way.  No stunning vistas, no payoffs, just waiting and waiting for one or more things that are up in the air, to show me some kind of sign I'm on the right track.  It's hard, even though you know you've done things and set other things in motion, to just wait for them to give you some sort of feedback.  It's hard to not always feel like I could be doing more. But then, that one thing happens that may or may not be a true accomplishment but that tells you that, yes, you're doing fine, you're on the right track, keep going.

It happened a few weeks ago.  An agent with whom I had spoken over a year ago, who had told me that I sounded as though I had some regionalisms in my voice, called me to tell me she liked the new demo I sent her and wanted to send me out on an audition for a job she thought I'd be good for.  Yes, an agent liked my demo.  So I went out there feeling pretty damn good, knowing that, even if I didn't get the job, it was still quite an accomplishment and felt like a nice step up to a new plateau.  The next day, another agent that I'd met at my voice coach's salon emailed me to say she loved my demo (exclamation point) but that she couldn't accommodate me as they keep a very short list and there isn't currently a space for me. There are still more steps to take up onto even higher plateaus but just to know that I have things ahead of me is exciting.

"The Life" finally had its premier screening a few weeks ago too and everyone in the cast and crew showed. It was amazing to see how many people were involved in bringing that thing to fruition and how many cared enough to come out for the screening.  Some of them hadn't even seen the whole thing yet so we got to see some candid reactions to the finished product which made it all the more worthwhile. Great things are ahead for this project, almost none of which I can speak on definitively and it's likely to be like this for a while but suffice it to say that I'm happy with the progression.

And I even had an opportunity to help out with the music on a web series called Redheads Anonymous that is getting all kinds of attention lately.  I played some guitar and bass parts on a song for the second episode which you can watch here. Huffington Post did an article on it and episode 2 even won Indie Series Network's Web Series of the Week award.  It's going to be a great affiliation, and they may yet call me for more music.

At any rate, I'm still feeling pretty good about this year so far. And if any of you are interested in seeing the rest of the pics from the trip to Nicaragua, I've posted them here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Volcanoes and monkeys and a quick update...

The East River has ice floating in it and it's 2 degrees F, with a wind chill of -15.

I think it's time to get out of town.  They're threatening snow/ice/rain whatever in the forecast on Sunday when I'm supposed to fly so I'm a tiny bit nervous.  I don't think anything will get cancelled. Worst case scenario, I'm delayed and I miss my connecting flight and the airline puts me on the next flight and I just have to call my hotel and have them send the cab driver a little later in the afternoon and maybe it's a tiny bit later when I finally touch down at my hotel in Granada, where it's likely going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 degrees F.

It's going to be fine. I'm so excited about this trip, as long as I can get there some time on Sunday I'll be happy.  This is the first time I've done anything like this.  Completely solo (as in, traveling solo, not meeting anyone when I get there, no one dictating what I do or when), very little Spanish under my belt (just enough to get by), everything planned to a T.   I'm going to have a blast.  I'm hiking volcanoes and learning to surf and exploring ancient petroglyphs and visiting coffee plantations.   And hammocks.  Lots of hammock time.  Maybe a massage...of course a massage!  Horses. Sea Turtles.  I'm going to see some freaking monkeys if it kills me.

So, yeah, despite all that excitement, I admit. There is a little nervousness.  But it's abating for the most part.  I mean, I've prepared for a lot here.  I even bought Skype credits in case I have to call someone while I'm there (I'm trying not to use minutes there at all because Verizon charges $2.89 a minute in Nicaragua while Skype is only 23.5 cents).  If I'm worried about my Spanish not being sufficient, a lot of people will speak English (hotel staff, ex-pats, etc.), I have Google translate, Duolingo, even a Learn Spanish in 7 days book saved in my Kindle app.  Puedo escribir en español right now if I really wanted to.

Before I run off to Nica land for a spell, though, I really wanted to drop in and update on what's been going on in the music/voice over/TV world.

The commercial I wrote music for?  It won that competition so now I'm going to get royalties when it starts airing on the web in UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in March.  Awesome, right?

The new voice over demo is in the hands of one agent and one casting director so far.  The casting director I met at Marla's voice over class just the other night, an old school guy who likes to listen to all of his submissions on his car CD player (necessitating a scramble to find my old CD labels and a case I could put the disc in).  The agent is a co worker's agent over at Access talent (a place that was on my list of places to submit to anyway, so when he offered to pass my demo along, I said, "hell yes!") When I return I will submit to about ten more.

And lastly, I have an interview at CNN today for a full time position.  Please wish me luck.

For now, that is all.  I will most likely update again after I touch down in Nica.  Expect some video this time around.  I'm going to be peering into an active volcano in a few days. You're gonna wanna see that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


January's been a good month so far.  Filled with things.  Happenings.  Memories made. Events attended. Adventures had.  Sure, I've worked my ass off in the interest of saving for this trip of mine next month but the social gatherings and shenanigans in between have made it all worthwhile. Impromptu concerts, bar nights, a date here and there and always yoga. I tried a new gluten free beer at a meetup, made new friends there and at the yoga studio, hitting up regular classes.  I seem to wind up at Rockwood or Barbes on the regular still.

At home, I got talked into taking in not one but two kittens, mischievous balls of fur which are vastly changing my routine around the apartment (always closing my bedroom door and making sure not to leave anything breakable on the table). There's of course been some excitement with the career(s), a new demo, the chance at getting in front of some agents and casting directors and with the screening for "The Life" looming, I get called to do a commercial for the same director.

In the midst of working on the music for this commercial, we get slammed by a blizzard and I have to spend a night in the city at a hotel so I can make it to work two hours earlier than normal this morning, forcing me to take a slight hiatus from working on it.  But tomorrow I dive back in, hopefully having caught up on my sleep tonight.

I got a look at the first cut just now which was shot and edited this weekend.  I composed the initial idea this past weekend (landed on it after just two takes) after having only read the treatment.  A fun way to work, no doubt.  I like doing it this way sometimes.  I get to come up with some idea based on the raw emotions instead of immediately being preoccupied with making it fit some time constraint.  But now, my work is to extend the musical idea and work on creating an arc that aligns with the images I'm seeing in the video.

Really looking forward to this process.  The deadline is approaching.  For now, though, I'm going to head home and get that much needed sleep, without which I cannot function.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 things...

It's 2015 and I'm doing things.  I've got a really good feeling about this year.  I wanted to wait until a few more things seemed certain before popping my head up and checking in here.  But I feel like talking about at least this:

I finally got around to updating this with the new coach I've been working with.  Two of my old spots are on there and then four more that my coach wrote for me.  We managed to wipe out recording them in under an hour as well, which makes me happy because it's going to be cheaper than I had thought.  And the engineer at Gramercy Post turned it around super quick too so I managed to get it posted up online the next day.  All in all, I was pretty pleased with the process.  Now, Marla and I are going to sit down this week and talk about getting it out to some agents she knows.  So excited for that.

And on top of that, the pilot episode of "The Life" will be screened next month and meanwhile the director has hired me to write music for a light-hearted commercial he's been tasked with directing for a competition.  Some piano tune that I'm currently zeroing in on.  So, I've got music work and potential voice over work and something else on the horizon of which I won't speak just yet.  ;)

And then, in a few weeks, I'm going back to Nicaragua, on my own, for my first solo trip ever.  And by solo, I mean, I'm traveling there alone, staying there alone, exploring alone.  I've been boning up on what little Spanish I know, using an app called Duolingo, talking with my co workers who have been and have even set up meeting a co worker's friends on Ometepe.  I have all my hotels and cab rides booked (I will not be riding any public transportation in the country) and I've got plans to hike several volcanoes.  Pictures and video will ensue.  It's going to be an adventure.  A great adventure and I'm going to have lots of stories.  I cannot wait.

That's where I'll leave it for now.  Every year, I do the whole New Year's Resolution/Where was I last year post, but I feel like waiting on that just a little.  I have things I want to do this year differently than last year but whether or not I'll be able to sort of hinges on that thing that's on the horizon that I won't mention yet until it's certain.  Suffice it to say that I did a lot of things career-wise last year and the year before that worked and I'm going to keep doing them.  And all of that workout more, drink less stuff will be in there too.

I might even blog more but we'll see.