Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Penguins Be Trippin'....: Chapter One, "Philadelphia, Miami, Buenos Aires, and Ushuaia, 'The Jumpoff'" (Friday and Saturday, December 7 and 8, 2012)

Since I moved into a high rise building in Center City Philadelphia this past Summer, family and friends have taken to calling my spot "the deluxe apartment in the sky."  It was not, however, until I began the first leg of the trip that I experienced the real "George Jefferson treatment."  Apparently, to hail a cab outside my building, I need only ask the concierge in my building to flip a switch and a blue light on the awning of my building alerts every cabbie within sight that a fare is waiting.  By the time I made it to the street with my bags, a taxi was already waiting.

And my cabbie's name was "Luis."  True story.

I am officially 3-for-3 flying first class on American Airlines and having a celebrity fly with me.  For those of you who have read my New Zealand-Australia-Fiji blog from last year (below), you may recall that Nick Jonas was two rows ahead of me on my DFW to LAX flight and Jane Lynch was two rows behind me on my return LAX-DFW flight.  This time, on my PHL to MIA flight, I sat next to a former NFL star who retired as a Philadelphia Eagle and is now a prominent commentator on various national and regional sports networks (including Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, one of the networks my team and I represent).  Ironically, though I had never met anyone prior to my trip who had been to Antarctica, he had, and when I told him to where he was flying he knew immediately that I was headed to Antarctica.

Even just before a Midnight flight, Miami International Airport is colorful, vibrant, and full of energy.  There are roughly 47 languages being spoken in the building at any given moment, and easily 20 of them are beautiful Spanish dialects that are like music to the ear.  There's a constant din in the air that isn't loud or distracting, but gives the hint that at any moment a salsa-meringue fete might jump off.  That vibe - and concern that you might miss a bangin' party - is enough to keep anyone awake long enough to board a redeye.

There was no celebrity next to me on the 9 hour flight from Miami to Buenos Aires, but I did have a seat that laid out completely flat, a pillow, a blanket, two meals, and a backpack  containing every electronic gadget, adaptor, and plug I own.  The flight was smooth and I slept well.  Before I knew it, we were in Buenos Aires, where it was roughly 145 degrees... Celcius.
I collected my bags and beat it over to Passport Control, where I was confronted with the strangest language I've ever heard.  It's worth noting that, including junior high, high school, and college, I've had about 8 years of Spanish.  I've travelled to several Spanish-speaking countries and done quite well.  I've even applied my Spanish to get by in Italy.  But THIS... this was NOT Spanish.  This was people attempting to speak while balancing six marbles on their tongues, only to become frustrated on the third attempt, swallow the marbles, and speak to me in English.  Everywhere I turned, the Argentinians spoke to me in this "Marblespeak" that sounded about as much like Spanish as English does.
Perhaps this is why they turned on Evita.
I had to change airports in Buenos Aires, which required a hour-long cab ride across town to Newbury Aeroparque for my flight to Ushuaia on the Southern tip of Argentina.  I'm not sure what I thought Buenos Aires would look like, but I didn't count on a trip down memory lane... to the 1970s.  Although it's a clean and beautiful city rich with history, culture, and gastronomic delights, every building in Buenos Aires looks like it was designed by Mike Brady.  Some of the haircuts looked like his too.
Jorge Newbury Aeroparque, Buenos Aires' domestic airport, is undergoing renovations, but I was pretty sure I'd seen it somewhere before.  Then it hit me: this was the airport I built with my Girder & Panel set, circa 1980, and only slightly larger.  If you've ever been to New York's LaGuardia Airport and thought it was jammed precariously between the Grand Central Parkway, Flushing Bay, and Rikers Island... yeah, you ain't seen NOTHIN'!!!  And just when I thought it couldn't get worse than Marblespeak... there was Marblespeak over the PA system!  Vaya con Dios, indeed....
The three and a half hour flight from Buenos Aires took me to the very picturesque Ushuaia (pronounced "ooh-SHWY-uh"), the Southernmost city in the World, effectionately known as "El Fin del Mundo" or "The End of the World."  The temperature in Ushuaia was a balmy 4 degrees (Fahrenheit), so the fleece jacket that I wore to leave Philly went back on.  Collecting my bags and making my way to the shuttle that would take me to my overnight accommodations, I began to notice an aroma that was both gamey and ripe all at once.  I emerged from the airport and boarded the shuttle and the scent lingered, and as I checked in at the Hotel Los Nires and the smell didn't fade, I chalked it up to this being "what Ushuaia smells like."  I have a colleague who breeds and raises llamas, alpacas, and suris, and I was reminded that this is the part of the World from which the furry beasts originate.  But by the time I reached my room, set down my bags, and began to settle in for the evening, I was struck by an alarming revelation: like George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, I was "the source of some incredible funk"! 
After a thorough shower, I dressed and went down to dinner.  Unbeknownst to me, while I noshed in the hotel restaurant, several people who would become very important in the course of the expedition dined at tables nearby.  Just across from me, a man and a woman got acquainted over food and wine.  As I got up to return to my room after dinner, a gentleman dining with another gentleman introduced himself and asked if I was departing for Antarctica tomorrow... but more on the four of them later.

As I flipped through my Antarctica travel guide and got ready for bed, the sun was just beginning to set.  It was 10 PM.  Tomorrow... Snoopy gets his own TV network and we watch it on the way out!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

PLEASE DONATE In Support of This Time's Summer Developmental Workshop and Production

Last Summer I began a new and exciting chapter in my life, developing This Time - an original contemporary musical for which I have written book, music, and lyrics - the story of a man and woman who meet, fall in love, and discover they were partners in prior lives. Bridging the gap between traditional musical theatre and modern rock musical, This Time is a romantic odyssey across five centuries and multiple lifetimes.

My production partners and I will be mounting a full developmental workshop of This Time atTheater for the New City (TNC) in the East Village this Summer, ending with performances at TNC August 20-23, August 27-30, and September 3-6. I need your help raising $35,000 by August 1, 2015 to make This Time happen.

Please visit to quickly and easily make a donation of any amount. TNC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and is co-producing the workshop and performances, so any donation you make is 100% tax deductible.

If you can assist with a donation, please be sure to

(1) enter "'This Time' Production/Black Box Studios" in the "COMPANY/TITLE OF PRODUCTION" box and

(2) send an e-mail to with your name, donation amount, and date, so we can track and appropriately recognize your contribution.

No donation is too small and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support! For more information, check out or e-mail

Hey... what happened to the penguin bloggy thing?

If you've visited my blog in the last 2 1/2 years, you may be wondering why the Antarctica blog was never finished.  I teased an exciting tale of wonder and mystery at the bottom of the World and even shared a wacky penguin video, but where, you may have asked, is the rest of it.

I must be honest: I lost my diary with all the notes from my Antarctica trip!  30 months later and a move to Connecticut later, it still has not turned up.  It was there when I wrote the prologue to the Antarctica blog and then it wasn't.

So let me sum up the Antarctica expedition this way: it was the most incredible thing I've ever done!  Since that trip, I've visited Africa (Morocco) and completed my quest to visit all seven continents.  Antarctica remains one of, if not THE, single greatest experiences of my Life.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Penguins Be Trippin'....: The Prologue

PENGUINS MAKE ME HAPPY. I learned this early in my Antarctic expedition, but it became a theme throughout the rest of my voyage.  I chose to call the Antarctic portion of my blog "Penguins Be Trippin'...." because... well... see for yourself.

From the moment I began planning this vacation, nothing about it has been normal.  I don't know anyone else who has been to Antarctica (but see Chapter One).  When I told people I was vacationing on "The 7th Continent" - a dear friend pointed out that a trip to Antarctica is not so much a "vacation," as an "expedition" - most of them didn't think they'd heard me correctly.  A few would say, "Oh... nice...," I'd wait an average of five seconds, and then they'd add, "Wait... ANTARCTICA?!?!?"  Like me, most people don't know anyone who's ever ventured into the Antarctic Circle, so the natural question is "What made you want to go there?"  The natural answer for me is "Because it's there."

I purposely formed no expectations as I planned for and embarked on this expedition.  As with everything else in my life, I like to be surprised (and often am).  Since I approached the trip with no expectations, I saw things, enjoyed experiences, and forged genuine, what I hope will be lifelong friendships.  John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans"; instead of making plans, I let Life happen. I think it went well.

It's been my goal for a long time to visit all seven continents (there's that number 7 again!).  With the conclusion of this trip, Africa is the only continent that remains.  So, I give you "Penguins Be Trippin'...." If nothing else, I hope you take away from this portion of my blog that (1) Antarctica is accessible and available to everyone, (2) everyone should make an effort to see the last unspoiled frontier on the planet before it's too late, and (3) penguins actually "be trippin'...."

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava... Oi, Mate!: The Epilogue

I left Fiji at 10 PM, Thursday, October 27.  I landed at LAX at 1:30 PM, Thursday, October 27.  I know... crazy, right?

It was a beautiful, mild day in LALALand, and I was glad to be back in the US.  I picked up my bags and my rental car and beelined to the Westwood apartment of my childhood friend Dr. Roberto B. Vargas III.  I took the next two days to reacclimate to US time (albeit Pacific), remember how to drive, and reconnect with my people, including my "boy" and collaborator Andre "Black Nerd" Meadows aka Arnie Sykes.

By Friday night, the weather on the East Coast threatened to preclude my return to Philly on Saturday.  Once again, I was joined in first class on my way out of LAX by a celebrity, this time Jane Lynch, best known as Sue Sylvester on TV's "Glee."  To make matters worse, had I not changed my seat when I checked in for the flight, she would have been sitting next to me.  In other words, I missed the chance to learn how "Sue Cs it!"

I made it home, safe and sound, and with that, my "Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava" adventure came to an end.  As I finish this epilogue, more than two months have passed since I returned.  The passage of time has confirmed a few things for me. 

1.  This is an amazing World we live in and there's far too much to see, smell, taste, and experience to stay at home. 

2.  As different as languages, colors, and cultures may be, we all share the desire (and right) to live and be as happy as possible.

3.  Milford Sound is THE most beautiful, peaceful, and gracious place on this planet.


Kiwis, Koalas, and Kava... Oi, Mate!: Chapter Eight, "Fiji, 'Ni Sa Bula Vinaka... Y'all!'" (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 27 October 2011)

If you think Daylight Savings Time is rough, imagine landing in an exotic locale in the early evening only to learn it's an hour later because DST just kicked in that day!  (It's the Southern Hemisphere, so it's "Fall forward," kind of like the aftermath of a drinking binge.)  Such was my arrival in Nadi, Fiji.

Immediately upon landing and entering the terminal at Nadi (pronounced "Nan-DEE") International, I was struck by the beauty of this island country: the people, the culture, the language, the lifestyle, the landscape.  I cleared customs, grabbed my bags (each of which weighed roughly 3500 kilograms (400 tons) by now), and was met by the driver sent by my resort in Sigatoka (pronounced "Sing-ah-TOE-kah").  It was pitch black as we emerged from the terminal and found the car, and it was an incredibly dark, bumpy ride on barely paved roads  as we traveled 1 hour and 15 minutes Southwest to Sigatoka.

The Outrigger on the Lagoon is a sprawling, funky resort on the Pacific Ocean with fantastic restaurants, shops, and Fiji's best spa, perched high on a hill above the resort with panoramic views of the Ocean.  The festive sounds of a wedding reception filled the giant lobby as I checked in, and the bustle of "Sunday Night in Paradise" surrounded me as I was escorted from the lobby across the resort to my oceanfront room.  Everywhere I turned, I was met with a spirited "Bula!" (pronounced "MBU-lah"), the standard Fijian greeting.

I arrived at my room just in time to catch the second half of the Rugby World Cup finals between the New Zealand All Blacks and France.  (Sunday night... Rugby night... In Fiji...!)  Who won, you ask?  "GO THE ABs!!!" (See Chapter One.)

The next morning, my first full day in Paradise, began with buffet breakfast at the resort.  It was then that I realized I was thoroughly exhausted from weeks of packing and unpacking, getting on and off the coach, taking off and landing, and enjoying almost no downtime.  And it was then that I decided Fiji would be all about downtime.

SPOILER ALERT: My three full days in Fiji were comprised of walking the beach (actually a coral reef), enjoying tasty meals, catching up on movies and blogging (really!), and TWO FULL DAYS at the Bebe (pronounced "BEM-beh") Spa.  That's it.

Exciting, hunh?  Maybe not, but possibly the most relaxing three days of my life.

On my last day in Fiji, my flight was not leaving Nadi for LA until 10 PM.  Checkout time was 11 AM.  When I inquired about late checkout the day before, I was told to call the next morning and speak with the room coordinator.  I awoke bright and early, called the room coordinator, and she said... "NO DOGS ALLOWED!!!" (or something like that).  So I crammed everything into my already overstuffed bags, arranged a driver, and left the Outrigger.

The drive from Sigatoka to Nadi in daylight was the perfect punctuation to my four days in Paradise.  The island is rough and refined, dirty and pristine, ugly and immaculate.  It is unspoiled and real and special.  Fijians love their home and for good reason.

At the airport in Nadi, I learned two things: (1) I couldn't check in for my flight until 6:30 PM (it was 1 PM) and (2) I left my ultra-cool All Blacks hat in the car from the resort to the airport.  DOUBLE BUMMER.  I set up shop in a coffee shop in the airport, where I was "that guy in the airport with all his electronic devices plugged in" and I was able to get a wireless signal so I could continue blogging (really!).  I made the mistake of continuing to blog (really!) at 6:30 when check in for my flight opened, so when I packed it all up and went to check in at 8 PM, it looked as if the island was being evacuated.  I'm still not sure how 15,000 people managed to fit on a plane that seats 500, but we did.
Vinaka, Viti Levu! Moce! 

"I'm going going, back back, to Cali Cali...!"