Good Light

If you live in the mid-atlantic region, you know that today was one of those rare, perfect-weather days–no humidity, bright sunshine, endless blue skies with a few wispy clouds on which to rest romantic notions of summertime. The entire day was a postcard-perfect setting for the last day of the semester, and for the end of another sort of era: Today I stood in my office for the last time. Although my final exams were done on Wednesday, I had come in for the day to have some quiet  time for grading, and to say goodbye to the space in Mitchell Hall that has been my home of sorts for 4 years. Starting Monday, Mitchell will be renovated into a more modern space, and will house other faculty members in the future.

I’ve done a lot of living in Mitchell Hall. My office regularly hosted “Crockpot Tuesdays,” a one-semester tradition with a communal lunchtime hangout surrounding the slow cooker. It saw “Fruit & Nut Hour,” a followup to the crockpot gathering. It fostered the formation of lifelong bonds with people who have changed the course of my life (in a good way). It ushered in the sunrise through my homemade curtains on dark winter mornings. It served as 221B Baker Street for my last Halloween party video invitation. And today, it reminded me about all those things for one last time.

Any photographer knows about Good Light–that fleeting series of minutes before the sun goes down when the landscape is bathed in a  golden glow. Everything, and everyone, is perfect in Good Light. And when you’re standing in Good Light, you know it because it feels magical. There is something about Good Light which peels back the veil that normally obscures the way we all fit together in the world. For just those few moments, the gossamer strands that connect everything around us become visible.

When I got home from the Friday Night Happy Hour Ride this evening, all the neighbors were sitting outside. Grilling, throwing a frisbee, or sitting out on the deck with a beer, everyone knew it was Good Light. As I rode home along the Struble Trail, all the walkers knew it was Good Light too. All of them, without exception, gave me a smile and a nod that said, “Hey–Good Light.”

I have to say the beautiful thing about being 39 is perspective. I’m old enough to recognize Good Light when I’m standing in it.  I know that on days like today, I need to pause and really feel the experience. I’m still young enough, however, to be able to do things like ride my mountain bike to an event like FHHR and have it seemingly require no more energy than breathing. I’m old enough, though, to be very, very grateful for that fact.

I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s officially summertime.

Good Light.

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A Perfect Combo

I realize that I’ve neglected to blog about my transformative experience as a new movie producer and director, and I promise I will get around to that soon, but in the meantime, check out the magnificent lunch that came out of my kitchen today!

IMG_1342Curried Cream of Celery Soup from Vegetarian Times.

Lemon coconut bundt cake from Veganomicon.


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An Unexpected Evening

So it was with mild trepidation that my friend Jess (yes, the Jess from Memphis Vegan Road Trip Odyssey 2012 fame) and I headed off in sleeting mid-March conditions to see my camera guy/editor Brendan play with his band at Mojo13 in Wilmington. His band, Daimonic Grey, plays progressive metal music, and last night, they were on the bill along with 5 other opening acts, all supporting the main act, a Brazilian band called Soulfly.

I need to give this adventure some context. Although I talk a lot (A LOT), I’m not a loud person, and the lyrical and musical rage expressed in metal music is not something that I find particularly resonant. I play acoustic guitar because electric is too loud; I garden; I ride a singlespeed mountain bike, in part because I love the enchanting silence of its gear-free whoosh. So a night filled with loud, athletic music and people who appreciate such music had me understandably worried. But I really wanted to support Brendan, and I also really wanted to see him play.

Jess and I arrived early and were promptly scolded just inside the door of Mojo13 by a mean ticket-selling man. Obviously, my big friendly smile and glasses pegged me as a troublemaker, and he wanted to make sure I stayed in line during the evening’s festivities.

So I immediately got a drink at the bar. According to my research, the Mojo13 bartenders enjoy making “surprise drinks,” so that’s what I requested. I got a glass of something blue that tasted mostly like a margarita, and I soon forgot the mirthless machinations of the bald guy at the door.

The first band, the Seeds of Perdition, finished setting up and let rip some ear-bleeding power chords. The lead singer started spinning his waist-length hair around and prowling through the audience while he sang, throwing back his head to release a low, guttural sound that offered a strangely human counterpoint to the screeching guitar. Jess and I kept looking at each other, both afraid to be the first to admit it.

It was freaking awesome.

Pretty much all music is at its best live, and metal is no different. The competing energies of the guitar and bass, along with the raging vocals, made for an incredibly visceral experience. I really had no idea.

Mojo13, as a place and as a venue, has a lot of character. It’s easy to pick out from the road because of the terrifying giant red clown face on the front of the building.  Clearly, this is a place with its own culture and rules. At one point, Jess and I returned to the bar to find a carefully placed placard with an Andy Warhol-style cat playing a keyboard. I thought it might be some type of code.

Me: What’s this mean?

Brendan: I dunno, I’ve never been dealt the cat card.

Jess: How do we find out?

Me: Well, I know I’m not going to ask the bald guy at the door.

Anyway, what a fun evening. We stayed for all the bands except Soulfly, hung out with Brendan, and totally enjoyed the vibe of the place and the people. What a great start to Spring Break week!

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Clean Getaway

Vegan month featured some unintended foraging in the meat world, my Strava Base Mile Blast miles remained in the unimpressive triple digit range, and I missed two entire weeks of Downtown Abbey. A lackluster finish to January? No way!

Clean Getaway, the short film I produced along with an amazing team over the course of three days in mid-January, is in the final stages of post production, and planning for the Black Tie Release Gala is well underway. (Mark your calendar–probably going to be a Sunday in March.) We’ll be screening Clean Getaway as part of a fun evening out in West Chester that will also be a fundraiser for a local charity. More details to come, but for now, a brief glimpse:

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The Year Starts Off Big in January

January is a big month this year.

Sure, there’s Season 3 of Downton Abbey, which necessitated a sleepover at my Mom’s house on Sunday. Never mind that I haven’t caught up with seasons 1 and 2 yet. I will!

Then, there’s the observance of “Vegan Month,” a tradition I started almost 10 years ago, that has become a treasured practice to start the new year off clean and energized. The idea is to observe a vegan eating plan for the month of January, because New Year’s resolutions are destined for failure, so why not focus on a month-long spiritual and physical cleansing instead? I love vegan month. I never experience so much joy in cooking and eating as I do during January.  Already the lovely corduroy jeans purchased for Christmas have slipped down my veganized hips, which at one point in time would have pleased me immensely, but today I mostly just find interesting. There’s also the little issue of the pulled pork sandwiches. More about that in a future post.

Next, I’m super excited about signing up for the Strava Base Mile Blast Challenge. If you’re unfamiliar with Strava, it is basically a web site where narcissists can upload their endurance-type workouts (cycling, running, etc.) and then record, view, and compare their activities. It’s great fun. I have an irreverent user name that perfectly captures my sentiments about the tool, and I have to admit it’s very motivating to be challenged to acquire as many miles as possible in January. I’ve gone out for a quick ride on days when I otherwise would sit on the couch and write crap on my blog. So far I’m in like 8,000th place! It would help if I hopped on my road bike and cranked out some miles, but it’s all good.

Lastly, the biggest thing about January is the short film I’m producing. Completely for the hell of it, I decided I wanted to write, direct, and produce an original short film. My original intention was to explore Blake Snyder’s 15-beat approach to writing a spec feature film screenplay. I wanted to apply the format to a much shorter project, to get a handle on using all the different beats. I pitched the idea to a handful of people, and next thing I know, my writing partner and I were putting the last words into the first draft on January 1.

Today, I met with the film crew and scouted our locations. Thursday we’ll be rehearsing, blocking scenes, and shooting some test footage. Friday and Saturday we’ll finish up filming. It’s so exciting! I can’t believe how much I’ve learned about the whole process of filmmaking already. Doing a project from inception to completion has also taught me more about screenwriting specifically, which has really surprised me.

I have a writing partner for the screenplay. Let me just say that when it comes to creative projects, I’m generally a loner. Especially writing projects. But Daquann wanted to learn about the craft of screenwriting, so I invited him to co-write, and it’s been amazing. We finished the first draft of the screenplay 4 days ahead of schedule. I will always vividly remember our Skype meeting on January 1 when we fleshed out the last scene, sat back, and said “wow, what do we do now?” We both enjoyed the process so much we’re already planning our next project. I absolutely would not have enjoyed writing the screenplay as much without him, and I know the final result would have fallen far short in terms of quality. I believe that’s what is commonly called a “defining moment.”

Anyhow, even if your January isn’t lining up to be so big, you can look forward to seeing Clean Getaway screened at our Black Tie Release Gala in the spring. And it’s not too late to start your own Vegan Month. Or at least catch up with Downton Abbey.

Happy New Year!

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Finding the Perfect Christmas Tree

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Powder Coated

First real snowfall of the season.

Adorable brick cape cod, circa 1948. Lemony vegan Linzer cookies, circa 2012.

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