Saturday, February 6, 2010

Hell's Kitchen, LA

I was in LA the past week, working on promos for the show "Hell's Kitchen". I'm a big fan of Gordon Ramsey's shows, and to be honest, never working with him didn't know what to expect... would someone be humiliated? Maybe a crew member would be the victim of a raging tantrum? Maybe I would be lucky enough to have him throw something at me? A knife perhaps??? None of which happened.
What did happen? Gordon was amazing, often helping my assistant and I with prepping each shot, very respectful and humble. We had him crushing tomatoes with his bare hands, tossing large handfuls of spaghetti into camera, posing with pitchforks, spattering him down with chocolate sauce, nothing too crazy... until the FIRE!
I'm not a Pyrotech, nor do I promote myself as such. In the past I have been asked to work with fire barrels, smoke pots, flame bars, things that would be the equivalent to using a common BBQ. In NYC, they have very strict policies in regards to using open flame or flammable objects on set, LA is even worse.
I was introduced to the "Safety Advisor" to the show, a 17 year veteran of the LA fire department. At the Producers request I reluctantly explained what it was that we needed to do (light props on fire, large open flames, that Gordon himself was going to handle). Turns out he was very cool about it (or appeared to be) and appreciated that I took the precautions of having a 5 gallon pail of water and TWO fire extinguishers on set.
Some of the gags included torches, road flares, oversized lighters, then there was my "Bone" shot. I thought it would be cool to have Gordon hold an an oversized thigh bone, while its was on fire, like a torch. I doused one end in lighter fluid and my assist lit it, with only the fuel burning off (and not burning the actual bone) it worked perfectly. I showed the creatives my idea and they loved it. It worked perfectly on set, with Gordon asking for more fuel each time, making the flames larger. He was very into it. Then Gordon held the oversized bone in his teeth (let me make this clear, this was HIS idea) and asked if I could light BOTH ends. We tried it a few times, each time adding more fuel to sustain a larger flame. With the fuel dripping all over the bone I lit it again, Gordon gripping it in his teeth, the ENTIRE bone went up in flames, including Gordon's face! The crew gasped as Gordon muffled "MMUUTHRFUKKRRRGFF", flaming bone gripped in his teeth.
He spit out the bone immediately, luckily no injuries were sustained. One of Gordon's "handlers" jokingly yelled "That's A Wrap!!!". Gordon answered back "NO NO NO, ONE MORE TIME!!!", everyone laughed. He's one tough dude!
I'll be getting some shots for my portfolio at some point, you should be seeing them around town on the web, billboards, commercials, etc very soon. Until enjoy enjoy these "behind the scenes" shots....

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Winter, Enough Is Enough....

It's been a while since I posted to the blog. Reason being my moto is in the garage for the season, it's too cold to ride. I hate winter, and its only just begun.
My neighborhood looks like a desolate wasteland. Unfinished construction projects, barren trees, the sun low on the horizon. A mound of blackened snow mixed with garbage stands at 4' high, frozen solid where a great parking spot used to be.
I'm on set today, reading the NY times, and I came across this article about people who CHOOSE to live without heat, "Chilled By Choice". The article highlights a group of artists, some landscape designer, a "cat lady" and a few other idiots... The one thing they all have in common (besides frozen toothpaste) is the fact they don't have kids. Eco friendly, "clarifying", "non-isothermal", whatever the case... There is nothing "cool"(no pun intended) about NOT having heat. Utterly ridiculous. Back in the day if you didn't have heat you weren't "saving the planet", you were just POOR. I know this because growing up my family struggled with money. Being poor is not cool either.
The way I see it is that these people choose to live this way because of financial circumstance, the domiciles in which they live are not inhabitable by normal standards, lousy landlords or owners who would rather not invest the time and money of proper maintenance. It's sad that people have to live this way. Just because you live in a summer home during the winter doesn't make you a martyr, it makes you cold. Besides, who wants 5 roomates??? Good luck with that.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Game 2, World Series in the Bronx!!!

Our seats would be great if it weren't for this big yellow pole!!!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

"Seriously dude, it's 3am"

I was flattered when Peter told me his Mom reads the blog, so I'm posting this pic. You're welcome!
Unfortunately you can't see Peter's very expensive black thermal tech suit. Kind of looked like a member of Mummenschanz.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Behold!!! The Human Onion!!

Many, many layers... Cue the striptease music!

DAY 6... the end

Peter headed for NYC late last night. Screaming down the road at 80mph in the dark cold on i95 didn't seem very appealing at the time, especially with the pace this trip has been going, trying to get in as much riding as possible, I feel the toll on my body. I'm sore all over. I woke up with a call at 6am, the concierge said I needed to move my motorcycle. I left it in the roundabout in an unmarked spot in front of the hotel where it would be safe and out of the way, as I have done with EVERY hotel I've stayed at. He told me "you parked in the boss' spot", not realizing that hotels had "boss parking", as this was just an unmarked driveway. 2 minutes later someone came knocking on the hotel door. "Are you the guy with the motorcycle?"..."Yeah I'm moving it....". The hotel clerk said that "Homeland Security" was pissed that I left my bike where I did. I thought he was making a joke about the management... sure enough there were about a dozen black Suburban SUV's with lights flashing, door panels marked with the "Homeland Security" logo. WTH??? There were 50 guys in ball caps milling about with their black duffel bags, video cameras, stage lights... I was still half asleep, in my flip flops and pajamas. Actually I could of been sleepwalking, maybe I dreamt all of this. I walked the bike over to the street and left it, 10ft from its original spot. I was so annoyed. I later found out that the building hosts a small branch of "Homeland Security".

It was so cold this morning, what an ugly day. Did my best to stay comfortable. I wore everything I packed (all at once) to keep warm. It took a while for the bike to warm up too. Once it did I headed for Bob's BMW in Jessup MD, about 30 minutes away.

They have a few really cool vintage bikes on display. I bought a new pair of super warm gloves and a few T-shirts. My old gloves didn't survive the trip. I put them in a microwave hoping to dry out the dampness, I ended up cooking them like bacon... they shrank and bubbled into a leathery mess.

I made it to the Lewes ferry in Delaware, it was so cold and gray. The ride was flat, passing farms, fields of tall grass. Long and boring ride. Made it in under 3hrs, felt like an eternity. My hands were toasty, other than that... freeeezing. It totally sucked.

The plan for the rest of the day was to get to NJ and ride up the parkway along the coast. I was so exhausted, I had a quick beer and found a bench to crawl up into and took a nap. I woke up an hour later, feeling like human origami, managing to fit my 6'+ frame into 3' bench. It must of looked ridiculous.

I mounted the bike, it took a while to get her started. I was the only person dumb enough to ride a motorcycle and the first to get off the ferry. I was holding everyone up trying to get her started... FINALLY! I role off the platform onto solid ground, the engine cuts off. I roll to the side to let everyone pass, pretending everything is OK, I set the GPS to home. I try it again and again, eventually the bike starts up but won't hold, I have to constantly engage the engine. I don't feel like troubleshooting, too cold. I decide to move on, it starts to rain, lightly. Just perfect.

I stopped for gas, took a bathroom break. The rain stopped, it's been dark for a while now. I was close, just an hour out of the city. I headed back on the road, traffic moving pretty well, before I knew it I was on Staten Island.... "well that wasn't so bad!". All I could think about was being home with Michelle, I knew she would be cooking dinner for me. The miles seemed to melt the closer I got to home. Crossing the Verrazano Bridge to the BQE...."BROOKLYN"!!!

Riding on the BQE I see the downtown Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge, then signs for Flushing Ave... my exit. As I pull up to our apartment I park behind our car, look up and see Michelle's silhouette hard at work in the kitchen. I rev the engine, honk the horn and she appears, waving her arms in the air. Rolling up the window she yells "YOU MADE IT"!! I start to unpack the bike for the last time, when she appears running across the street and jumps into my arms.

I'm finally home!!

DAY 5...contd.

DAY 5...

Woke up around 9 am, the idea of getting on the bike again weighed over me like a chore. I checked the weather forecast, 70 degrees and clear blue skies!! For most of the ride its been really cold, even spending time in the rain. 70 degrees and blue skies, we deserved this. Getting dressed took half the time, I only need 4 layers today as opposed to 20....

After packing the bikes we went back into the hotel to have breakfast and discuss the days ride. We decided to eat quick and make the most of the day, settling on the buffet. We headed into the food area and was told the buffet wasn't ready yet, 5 minutes. As we sat back down at the table a busload of silver haired geriatrics strolled in and filled the dining hall. I felt like it was bingo night in a retirement home. Within minutes the dinning hall was full and the line at the buffet 50 people long, bottlenecking at the plate and silverware station. So much for a quick breakfast.... We ordered off the menu instead, 2 bloody marys later I didn't care that at any second someone would offer me a hard candy from their purse. My "breakfast" turkey wrap sucked... I was anxious to leave.
Peter said he wanted to be back in Brooklyn in the evening, which means we would basically have to get on the highway at full throttle. Not exactly what I had in mind considering the amazing weather. We agreed to stop at Bob's BMW in Maryland on the way and play it by ear regarding getting to NYC that night, meaning I would stay overnight in Baltimore. I set the GPS for Bob's in Jessup Maryland, AVOID HIGHWAYS. We eventually arrived on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This road has it all, long stretches of straight, soft bends, tight "S" curves, tons of scenic overviews. This is exactly what I had in mind when I organized this trip. Combined with the incredible weather and fall colors this was my favorite day of riding. Peter rode ahead while I stopped every few miles to take some pictures. The images don't do it justice. After a few hours I had my fix and set the GPS to head towards the interstate. I seemed to of lost Peter again. I waited at a crossroad, hoping that he would double back at some point. After 15 minutes I rode off towards the interstate via a back road that was equally as beautiful, stopping at the first town I came to. Finally a cell phone signal! I was in a town called "Buena Vista". I confirmed this with a local, when asked if this was "Buena Vista" he replied "yes, but you say it like a FOREIGNER"... comparing it to NYC's "Howsten" and Hughston" street in my head. "Yeah, I'm not from here"... I replied.
I met up with Peter at the first gas station off the interstate. The skies were still blue, however I could feel the temp starting to drop. I added on a few layers, gassed up, and we both headed on the highway towards Baltimore where we would meet Peter's representative from Bob's BMW (Peter owns a motorcycle repair shop in Red Hook, Brooklyn).
We arrived in Baltimore around 9pm. I've been there before for work, not remembering anything special about the city other than the downtown marina area. There was quite a bit of construction going on and tons of traffic. We met his rep at her art studio in the Camden area of Baltimore, which reminded me a bit of Greenpoint or Red Hook. I was inspired by the architecture of the building, which was an old cotton mill. We had dinner not far away at some local restaurant. It felt familiar, sinking into the banquet. I was really looking forward to a good meal considering the lousy breakfast I had. I was not disappointed, ordering a well prepared NY strip with herbed truffle butter and some roasted brussel sprouts. They also had my favorite beer, Schneider Weisse. I didn't want to leave...
After dinner we road the bikes to some bar for a quick drink before heading out. The scene was pretty funny, some local "B-boys" were battling each other on the dance floor, I'm guessing for the "Lamest Dance Crew" award. It was awful, we took our drinks outside. It was getting late, Peter decided he would go back to NYC tonight. Considering how cold it was and my level of fatigue, I was staying in Baltimore. Besides, I had plenty of miles ahead to milk this trip for a whole day of riding, not to mention the support of my wife telling me to take my time and enjoy myself (reminding me this was possibly my last ride until the spring).
Peter was off to Brooklyn via Rt95, I was off to a warm bed. Peter told me the following day that the ride home was cold and miserable. He also received a $145 ticket for riding in the break down lane, trying to avoid traffic. He eventually made it home at 5:30 am. I think I chose wisely.

Friday, October 16, 2009

DAY 4... contd.

My ride through "magical" Fog Mountain....

DAY 4...

Woke up around 10am on Monday to a cold gray day. As we were packing up the bikes it started to lightly rain, not a good sign. We hung out at the camp a little while in hopes the rain would clear up and to do some work on the bikes. We ate some reheated pancakes and discussed the route with Brent, the owner of the camp. The weather was a real problem, the entire country was covered in greens, yellows and red. We learned there was a tiny window of clear weather to the northeast towards Baltimore, but we had to hurry. The rain was coming down pretty hard now, but we knew it would eventually clear up. We mounted up and headed to Boone for some lunch, via the back roads.
The roads were incredible, winding through woods, leaves changing. Crossing rivers, small hand crafted cabins with rusted steel corrugated roofs. The rain let up a bit. I noticed I was riding alone! Where the hell is Peter??? I double backed about 15min, no sign. No signal on my phone. I waited on the side of the road for another 10 minutes. We both know to meet in Boone, I decided to move forward. The GPS took me deeper into the backwoods, through the mountains. I was on a road called "Jake's Mountain Pass" going uphill. The pavement disappeared, turning into a tight winding path with potholes filled with muddy water, wet with slippery leaves and large loose stone. Then there was the fog. The higher I climbed the foggier it became. It got pretty bad. Peter and I were joking days before about secret meth labs and toothless mountain people with sharp objects.... all of this started to cross my mind. I started to feel like I was putting myself into a bad situation. I stopped to take some pictures, this made me feel better. I kept climbing, the road becoming worse. I was big muddy mess, my goggles fogging up the entire time. Then the GPS loses its signal.... I kept going forward, 1st gear, slow and steady. Trying my best not to have the bike slip out from under me and over the sides. The road I was on was now a 3ft wide path!
Another 20 minutes of this pass through the fog. Out of nowhere I come to an intersection! Solid road, a GPS signal! I was in Boone! I guess I went over the mountain rather than around it. The road to the main street was still pretty thick with fog. I got a text from Peter saying he was at the bagel shop. I was only 10 minutes away.
It took 2 cups of hot chocolate and bagel with whitefish salad to calm my nerves.... Peter had gotten there 20m minutes earlier. He explained he thought his tires were low and pulled over to check out his bike. I was long gone. We discussed the route and weather. The rain wasn't letting up. We headed out, continuing northeast, figuring we would leave it up to the GPS where we stayed the night.
We rode for hours, cold and wet. The fog was really bad on the highway, visibility was about 20ft. We left our signals on and rode at a steady 30mph until it finally cleared up, seemed like we were driving in the foulness forever. We stopped at a gas station, I changed into dryer clothes. Peter and I stopped for a quick snapshot, it was FREEZING. After a few sips from my flask for warmth (which would become empty by the end of the night) we made it to Roanoke Virginia.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

DAY 3...

Slept late, missed breakfast. Almost everyone in the camp was gone for the day, the old guys tend to get up earlier. We decided we would ride the "Snake" via Rt 421 into Tennessee, then head to Ashville, NC for dinner. This would turn out to be another extremely long day of riding.
Riding "the Snake" was an exhilarating yet humbling experience. I realized how little I know about the dynamics of motorcycle riding. The constant downshifting, allowing the the engine to slow you down, upshifting. Always watching for oncoming traffic, watching for road hazards (oils slicks, roadkill, rocks). Peter, who is by far a more experienced rider than I went ahead and carved through the endless "S" curves and tight corners. I've never experienced roads like these, one side mountain wall, the other a steep drop off and no buffer or rails to protect you. The scenery is amazing, yet I had no time to look or take pictures, eyes fixated on the road ahead. For hours nothing but pure concentration, one bad move and you eat it. Visibility was low due to all the curves, one after another. I was happy when it was over. Not my favorite type of riding, especially when my bike kept bottoming out on every turn. I even scraped my engine bars while taking a turn too tight. Looks cool while you're riding, but bad for the chrome....
We stopped at a cross roads were we found a local "diner" biker hangout, full of Harley's, assorted japanese racing bikes and guys in full leathers. We had the only BMW's. It was great to catch my breath. From there we decided to headed south from Tennessee to Ashville, North Carolina for dinner. We set the GPS and headed for The Grove Inn, one of the oldest hotels in in North Carolina.
As the sun went down the temp dropped. I put on my rain gear to help protect me from the wind. We arrived at the Grove expecting to eat dinner. The building was amazing, kind of what I would expect from a mountain inn. Oversized stone fireplaces, rocking chairs, lots of tourists, a guy playing James Taylor cover songs at the bar, roaming bridal parties. Not really my scene. Peter and I sat amongst all the chaos, had a martini and discussed our next move. From my phone I googled the keywords "ashville restaurant hipster" and "The Admiral" came up. I read some brief reviews, when the words "foie gras" came up I knew I had found the right place. We pounded our drinks and headed off.
On the west side of Ashville, The Admiral was exactly the kind of place my wife and I would eat at in Williamsburg. The building was unassuming, even kind of divey. It looked like it was a converted garage. The crowd was an eclectic mix of young and old. We sat at the bar which over looked the kitchen prep area. The menu looked great, almost half of what they had was sold out (frustrating, but a good sign). I settled on the bangers and mash, peter had the pork chop. I ordered the wrong thing..... the pork chop came 2 inches thick with a side of sauteed greens, looked incredible. My plate was prepared well, but nothing compared to the pork. I had some serious food envy. I washed it down with a well priced bottle of Tuscan red, all was right again. Peter talked shop with the bartender, who himself owned a motorcycle. This meal was probably the best of the trip, and we had been eating pretty well! With a nice warmth going from the wine, I geared up, piling on as many layers as I had. I set the GPS for the camp, we headed out into the night stopping once for gas and beer. It was still a cold, damp ride.
We made it back to the camp, no campfire to greet us, everyone was a sleep. I opened a can of beer, had 2 sips and put on a DVD. I was asleep before the opening credits rolled.

DAY 2...

We made good time on the highway, no visible police, traffic moved well. We averaged roughly 70 to 80 mph the whole way down. The sky cleared up, lending itself to an incredible sunset. The sky was on fire with hues of pinks, purples, and blue. I could feel pockets of warm air as we rode through the valleys. By this point I had totally gotten over losing my sunglasses. The mountains started to appear, we were very close.
It was well after dark when we made it to North Carolina. The camp was just a few hours away. I set the GPS for the camp, it gave us two addresses, neither of which were correct. I improvised, choosing the address that was further away (there was a 400 marker, and a 1000 marker... we needed to go to 732) thinking we would eventually pass it on the way. There were a few roads into the park, I chose the road that was on the campsites address thinking it would take us there directly, Stony Fork Road. Little did I know this would turn out to be the "back way". Turning off the Highway, the road immediately tuned into a gravel road. Not small pebbles, but baseball and golf ball sized stones... It was pitch black with nothing but what our headlights could make out. With me taking the lead, I pushed forward through snaking "S" turns, slipping and sliding across loose rocks and wet leaves, coming extremely close to the edge at times. Of course we couldn't see what was over the edge, we found out later that was for the better. This went on for about and hour, until finally we see signs.... not for the camp, but for "ROAD CLOSED". My stomach turned... Peter and I stopped. There was no way I was going to turn around. I knew the camp was on this road, the signs must of been wrong (so I told myself). We rode on for about another mile when we saw more signs, eventually coming across a construction site. There lie before us a concrete slab, rebar poking out everywhere. Mounds of dirt and rocks. These were the later stages of a bridge, it wasn't pretty. We sat there for a few minutes, Peter cursing the GPS. I was certain we could get across this thing. I slipped into 1st gear and slowly made my way blindly across the slab, I could hear loud water moving on both sides....... I make it across!!! YES!! I honked my horn a few times to signal Peter. He reluctantly followed, slowly navigating the steel and concrete structure. With both of us safely on the other side we took a minute to catch our breath. The road across was exactly the same. Another 20 minutes of slipping and sliding we finally reached solid pavement.... and the camp!
I rode into camp with a feeling relief and a great sense of accomplishment. The first thing we did was pop open a few cans of the Tecate beer we bought at a local gas station and toasted, "We finally made it!! There was a group of people sitting by a camp fire. We introduced ourselves to the "old timers", we made quite an entrance arriving 4 hours late and from the WRONG direction. "We're the guys from Brooklyn"!! We told them about our ride in, they all kind of chuckled at the fact we came in from the backside, the "closed road". "Heck, I guess that bridge is open NOW?" said one of the guys. Another guy, who happened to be one of the founding members of "Airheads BMW Club" heard our story and said we were TRUE Airheads. "Hell, if you guys did that ride in the daylight, I guarantee you would of turned around"! Apparently the sides drop off pretty steep... Score 2 for Brooklyn!!
Right after we settled in to the cabin we were off again, headed to Boone (over an hour away), where we could eat and grab a drink. The Airheads people though we were INSANE... "So THAT'S how you guys do it in NYC". We took the CORRECT road this time, made it to Boone a "college" town (Appalachian College??) had dinner and a few drinks. We got back to camp around 3am. My sleeping bag never felt so good!!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

DAY 1...

We left Brooklyn pretty late in the day, taking the Holland Tunnel heading south through New Jersey for Virginia where we would stay overnight. The weather was great, blue skies, however the temp started dropping as the sun went down. 55 degrees feels great when you're standing still, however on a bike doing 80 mph, it feels closer to 30. To make matters worse, it started to rain. We made it to Harrisburg PA around 8pm and decided to stay the night. It's not as far as I would of liked to have gone on the first day, but considering the time and weather it was the wisest decision. Using my GPS we found a cheap hotel and a place to eat. The next morning the streets were wet from the night before. As we racked up the bikes I noticed I was missing my sunglasses, my VERY expensive Belstaff sunglasses (that I should of left home, but didn't because I'm an IDIOT). I searched everywhere and assumed the eyeglass case must of flew off my tank bag the night before. Peter reminded me not to dwell on it, sh*t happens... This turned out to be my mantra during the entire trip.
We spent about and hour looking for a place where Peter could get decent coffee. Driving in circles, we finally found a Starbucks. It was cool to drive around Harrisburg during the day, it's actually kind of charming. Built near the river, old buildings, a few bridges. Peter referred to it as the "Gateway to the South". We finally made it through that gateway around noon.... day two starts now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Just out of curiosity I've been reading a lot about this man. I'm finding it odd that the media isn't making a bigger deal over his death.What I didn't know about Patrick Swayze was that he loved to ride motorcycles, and has since he was a kid. Although not the "greatest" of actors, he has been in some pretty cool films, my favorite being "ROADHOUSE". Oh yeah, Patrick kicks major ass as the tiniest "Bouncer" in the world, it's just so "BELIEVABLE"! And don't forget that sweet (almost) mullet! (Left boot....)
I'll never forget his appearances on SNL, that "Chippendales" skit with Chris Farley still makes me laugh. "Red Dawn", "Too Wong Fu......", "Uncommon Valor", "Point Break", "Ghost", "Donnie Darko", and of course "The Outsiders". All of which are pretty solid films. I did NOT include "Dirty Dancing", I HATED that film. Hated, hated, HATED that film. I have yet to even see the entire movie! Just catching a glimpse of it or hearing that offensive soundtrack makes me want to throw myself under an ice cream truck! It's not Patrick's fault, I just don't get it.

North Carolina, nothing could be finer.

YEEEEHAW! READ THAT INVITE! I'm in the process of of rounding up some fellow enthusiasts for a few days of riding the Blue Ridge Mountains. Very excited! To be honest, I have been a bit depressed with the idea that my riding season is coming to an end (I'm not a fan of riding in anything below 49 degrees). Before you KNOW, the streets of NYC will be covered in SNOW... white snow, gray snow, yellow snow, black snow.... snow with chunks of vomit frozen in it, dog turd snow, rat turd snow... ok, ok, WE get it! (Dead pigeon snow.... sorry). So yeah, I'm a bit excited for this ride. I'm off to LA for the week to work on some promos for FOX, shooting some of their cast members. I'm also working on a promo campaign for their new show "Sons of Tucson", which is basically an updated version of "Malcom in the Middle". I'm creating the Arizona desert on a soundstage, should be a fun challenge.