2008 was a fantastic year for me, filled with new friendships, new challenges and goals, and magical experiences. 2008 paved the way for a fast and furious 2009. I am looking forward to radically expanding my horizons in the coming year-- by doing some things I have always wanted to do-- and crossing some things off of my own private 'bucket list.'
Here are twenty truly memorable things that I had the pleasure to experience this year:
20.) 'THIS WONDERFUL LIFE': Performing this show for folks is a spiritual experience. It is a conversation with the audience, a dialogue, and a celebration of one of the most beloved movies of all time. Every day I hear some positive word of encouragement from someone who shared in the joy of this heartwarming holiday story. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to be given this opportunity. Everything that I am-- as an actor and a human being-- is summoned each night and poured into this amazing narrative. I'd also like to say that being given the enormous responsibility of bringing Jimmy Stewart's 'George Bailey' back to life is one that I wholeheartedly embrace. More than just a beloved actor, Mr. Stewart is an icon and an American Hero, and letting him speak through me each night is quite a humbling thing. Thanks to all the crew and creative staff of Barksdale Theatre for helping to make this such a special event. THIS WONDERFUL LIFE runs through January 11th. Please don't miss it. For ticket information, go HERE.
19.) MANNY: I bid farewell to one of my favorite Red Sox players this year... Manny Ramirez. The Sox brass saw fit to unload him and his zany, unpredictable ways, shipping him to the Dodgers in a three-team trade which netted them Jason Bay and a bucket of batting practice balls. Manny was a lovable knucklehead in left field, a guy who played the outfield like a pudgy, uncoordinated little leauger-- but who hit the ball a country mile and had a tireless (pregame) work ethic. I will always remember Manny warming up while listening to his ipod; or stepping into the batter's box carrying water bottles in his back pockets; or disappearing into the left-field wall scoreboard to make a cell phone call between innings; Or flipping his helmet off theatrically as he rounded third, revealing that gnarled mane of dreadlocks. My last fond memory of Manny is his spectacular home-run robbing catch in left field at Camden Yards and subsequent high-five of a Sox fan-- before doubling off the runner at first base. Highlight-reel stuff. Farewell, Manny, and thanks for 2004, 2007 and all of the great memories. See you in pinstripes... Just kidding... Here is his acceptance speech in 2004 after being named World Series MVP, complete with the phrase "You make your own destination..." (He means to say 'Destiny', but hey, it works...)
18.) MY FIRST MARATHON: On March 16th, 2008 I completed my first full Marathon, The Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach-- running 26.2 Miles in 4 Hours, 20 Minutes and 42 Seconds. I trained long and hard, fought through a psoas muscle strain in early January, and learned that I could indeed tackle that grueling distance. My immediate goal in the aftermath of the race was to begin to shave off some serious time in an effort to get close to the Boston Marathon Qualifying time of 3 Hours, 15 Minutes. I would have some serious work to do, but luckily, I found a springboard to a higher level of training later on in the year...
17.) 'INTERSECTIONS': The opportunity opened up for me to work with talented film-maker Lucas Krost a few weeks back, and I jumped at the opportunity. The short film was the brainchild of Pulitzer-prize nominated author and playwright Clay McLeod Chapman and featured Beau Marie as a coked-out rover whose life intersects with a serial killer, played by yours truly. The five-minute short film looks absolutely phenomenal, and it won rave reviews from viewers in the YouTube Sundance 'Project Direct' Film Festival. I look forward to working with Lucas, Beau, Clay and the gang at the Branching Films again. Great guys, true professionals. Special props go out actress Heather Bailey, who endured hours of laying on the wet, cold ground in a wedding dress during a torrential rainstorm at 3am in December. That young lady has heart!! Here is the entire 5-minute film:
16.)THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Love them or hate them, you have to admire their tenacity and teamwork. After narrowly missing the opportunity to close out the 2007 season at 19-0 in Superbowl XLII in February (Causing a month-long spiral of depression for me) the Pats opened their 2008 Campaign by promptly losing All-World QB Tom Brady to a season-ending knee injury. They soon lost All-Pro Safety Rodney Harrison, Veteran Linebacker Tedy Bruschi and Defensive End Adalius Tomas, to name just a few. Many pundits proclaimed the season a lost cause. Boy, were they WRONG. Led by Matt Cassel, a doe-eyed career 'clipboard holder' who hadn't started a game at QB since High School, the Pats found their mojo again, and as of this writing, they stand on the precipice of an 11-5 season and a possible division crown. A few things have to happen for the Pats to make the playoffs, but no matter what, this season has been a testament to the vision and coaching ability of Bill Belichick. The Pats just plow forward, relentlessly, week after week. Every man does his job in concert with the man next to him. The team is more important than any individual. Success depends on everyone doing their part to the absolute best of his ability. Sounds like a pretty cool philosophy. Hm...Where did Coach 'Hoodie' learn all that stuff?? Easy. His Father, Steve Belichick, was the head coach at the US Naval Academy. 'Nuff said.
15.) THE SCOOTER: I get around town by dropping exactly $1.39 cents into my gas tank. Rain or shine, my little Blue Roughhouse 50cc Scooter gets me there. This little guy is so much fun to ride-- Chelsea & Matt at Scoot Richmond helped me make an informed choice that really helped ease the pain at the pump during an insane summer when gas was upwards of four bucks. I'm looking forward to the summer and a possible upgrade to a 110cc bike, but for now, my little blue 'Scooty' is the way to go. Best purchase I ever made!!
14.) MOM'S BIRTHDAY SURPRISE: On October 24th, I drove down to my Mom's house in Wilmington, NC and surprised my Mom at 2am on her birthday. She totally freaked out and we had the best weekend ever. My Aunt Sandy was there, and the three of us had a great weekend tooling around downtown Wilmington and soaking up the sun. I can still see the two sisters strolling along the beach in their bare feet under a sky you'd have to see to believe. One of my favorite memories ever. Mom said it was the best Birthday she's ever had. That makes me happy.
13.) THE BPFL GOES PRIME-TIME: Our quaint little weekly touch-football club got some major pub this year as STYLE WEEKLY Correspondent Mary Burress came out and did an inside-the-huddle feature on the Byrd Park Football league. This is perhaps one of the best-attended seasons we have had lately, and new faces like 'Rookie-of-the-year' Candidate Elliot Lau have made the league fun, competitive and challenging. You can read The STYLE Feature HERE.
12.) 'THE AIR WE SHARE'& 'THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF': Writing a script for Theatre IV is a challenging experience, and it presents numerous opportunities for creative expression. I was fortunate to be given two opportunities this yer to write scripts that toured to Virginia Schools. THE AIR WE SHARE was produced in conjunction with GRTC & I was featured in it as Donald Driver, the goofy-as-all-heck father whose resistance to conservation practices provides many hilarious moments. Then, in late September I watched gleefully as Director Robyn Arthur brought my script for 'THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF' to vibrant life before my very eyes. The show features great music by Julie Fulcher and a lot of laughs. Both shows featured enormously talented casts, and I am proud of the work they all did. I look forward to the next opportunity to write for Theatre IV!!
11.) FACEBOOK: I joined at the vehement insistence of my friend Mary Page, and I cannot imagine my life without it. I have been re-connected to so many important people from my past, it is unbelievable. I have found folks from elementary school, middle school & college. What a great way to see what your friends are up to-- and incredibly addictive, to boot. I was barely able to tear myself away from it to write this blog post...
10.) WALK-ON WEEK: Mark Persinger and I threw out the idea of doing a one-hour 'Walk-on-Week' Sports Talk radio hour for charity on WRNL Sports Radio 910. The proceeds went to support juvenile diabetes research. We had a great time shooting the breeze on the air about everything from Brett Favre to the Red Sox. A month later, we found ourselves hosting a four-hour drive-time show as pinch hitters for regular drive-time host Wes McElroy. I even got to interview Olympic Tennis phenom James Blake!! We had several amazing calls from family members and friends alike, as well as supportive text messages and e-mails. Thanks to everyone who voted for us, or called in! The wave of support was phenomenal. With a little luck, the 'Bleacher Creature' show will be back in 2009. I'm confident that one of these days, we'll have our own show!!!
9.)THE RED SOX COME BACK: Down 7-0 in the 7th inning of Game 5 of the ALCS, the Sox did what all Boston teams do so well-- they came roaring back from the dead. As JD Drew singled over the head of right fielder Gabe Gross to drive in Kevin Youkilis with the winning run, I was jumping up and down in my living room after midnight, still wearing the BoSox jacket I had on after walking in the door an hour earlier, fresh from an exhausting performance of RICHARD III. They may not have gone to the World Series this year, but just like the Pats, this Red Sox team had heart, guts, and grit-- and I would put them up there with my favorite all-time Boston teams, like the 1987 Celtics, who didn't win it all, but fought through injuries and showed just what they were made of. God, I love sports...
8.) THE CAST & CREW OF 'GUYS AND DOLLS': What a special group of people, and what a fun summer. Every now and then, you get a cast that just 'clicks' all the way through the lineup. That's what we had with 'GUYS AND DOLLS.' We had a few folks in from NYC (Jimmy Glidden, Rita Markova, Rachel Abrams, Chris Stewart) one from LA (Jody Ashworth) and lots of locals and a few newcomers-- and we did everything together. Softball, Karaoke, late-night dinners, Jazz clubs, you name it, we were there. Every now and then, you get a cast that feels like one big happy family. This was it for me, and they gave me the best summer I've had since I was seventeen years old. I wish them all well, wherever they are-- every brilliant, talented generous soul that graced that stage...
7.) MY FIRST COMIC BOOK: On the heels of THE AIR WE SHARE, GRTC gave me the opportunity to pen my first comic book, based on the TEAM RIDEFINDERS characters, which GRTC introduced to get kids thinking about conservation. I wrote the comic, and 'OddGodd Press' artist (and Velocity Comics owner) Pat Godfrey did the amazing artwork. TEAM RIDEFINDERS:CLEAN AIR HEROES was quite a collaboration, and if our schedules work out, Pat and I will be collaborating again soon!!
6.) THE BEASTIE BOYS SHOW: Stunning show, amazing energy, great cause. The B-Boys stunned the crowd as part of their 'GET OUT THE VOTE' tour, and they rocked the house. Adam Horovitz (King Adrock) Left a ticket for me at will call, and I still have it. Here is the opening of the show, with a kick-ass scratch routine by Mix-Master Mike, and a blistering rendition of 'Sure Shot':
5.) THE CELTICS WIN BANNER #17!!!: What can I say that hasn't already been said? To see my beloved Celtics jump from worst-to-first in one year was a stunning turn of events. The 24-point comeback in game four of the NBA Finals paved the way for a 39-point beatdown of the Lakers in Game Six to clinch the banner that we had been waiting 22 years for. Thanks to the tenacious, infectious energy of Kevin Garnett, the Celtics became more than just 'Relevant' again-- they showed the league that a commitment to defense is where championship teams are born. They show no sign of taking their foot off the gas, either. As of this writing, they sit at 27-4, and are primed to defend their championship with pride and passion. As a diehard Celtics fan, what more could I ask for??
4.) THE 2008 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AND MY COUSIN SHAUN: The events of the 2008 election are well-documented. The historic election of Senator Barack Obama is significant on many levels for The United States. Agree with his politics or not, there is a very intelligent, passionate man standing in the on-deck circle, ready to take the ultimate Leadership position as President, and he will need the help of every American to guide us through the treacherous waters of two wars, an economic crisis, environmental challenges, the terrorist threat, and many other obstacles. That part you know.
But, what you may NOT know is that my cousin Shaun graduated at the top of his class at the US Secret Service Academy in July of this past year. Shaun is a former Air Force EOD instructor, and just about the most committed and hard working young man you are likely to meet anywhere. He has our President's back. He is there at the shoulder of the Commander-in-Chief, and he is ready to do his part to ensure the safety and security of President Obama and his family. I could not be more proud of my cousin-- he has inspired me to think long and hard about the true meaning of service and sacrifice. Shaun is an American hero, whether he knows it or not, and I hope he knows just how proud we all are of him. We love him very, very much.
3.) RICHARD III: Every now and then a role comes along that you feel you just HAVE to play. RICHARD III was that role for me. Inspired by the amazing vision of Director James Ricks, and featuring a top-flight cast, RICHARD III was a journey inside the mind of a mad tyrant, and it gave me a chance to flex my muscles and really get down and dirty. I loved every second of it and I hope to get the chance to do it again someday. I know I will. Thanks again to Henley Street Theatre and every single one of my cast mates. It was an experience I'll never forget.
2.) THE RICHMOND MARATHON: I ran my second Marathon on November 15th, and I blew my own expectations away. Back in March of 2008, I ran my first Marathon in 4 Hours, 20 Minutes and 42 Seconds. This time around, however, I ran the same distance in 3 Hours, 20 Minutes and 44, meaning I cut almost ONE HOUR off of my Marathon time. Unbelievable stuff. I had one of the best days of my life, and I sprinted the last 100 yards across the finish line to a raucous ovation from the thousands of people lining the streets. It was an absolute 'Goosebump' Moment, and I got within 5 Minutes of the Qualifying time for Boston. Running Richmond was an expression of love for this city-- I am absolutely in love with Richmond, and I thank her for adopting me. Thanks to this Marathon, I have renewed confidence, and I hope to make my next Marathon even better. This year I hope to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC (In tribute to my Grandfather and My Uncle Mike, both Marines), and the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton Pa (As a gift to my Dad, who worked at Steamtown).
People ask me "How in the heck did you cut ONE HOUR off your Marathon time??" The answer?? I ran faster. But seriously, that question bring us to the number one thing that happened to me this year...
1.) SEAL TEAM PHYSICAL TRAINING: I wish I would have found this group five or ten years ago. I look forward to each workout with child-like anticipation. The instructors are incredible, the membership wide, diverse, supportive and caring, and the founder and CEO, former Navy SEAL John McGuire, is a hero to me and a dear, dear friend.
If you've been looking for a way to get back in shape, look no further. SEAL Team PT is the best fitness option you will ever find. STPT Helped me cut an hour off of my Marathon time, and it can help you reach whatever fitness goals you want to achieve. Come to a 'bring-a-friend day,' ask me when the next one is, and I'll hook you up. for more info, go their website, which is located HERE.
SEAL Team PT has helped me in countless ways. I'm more confident, stronger, faster, and have more endurance than I did was I was eighteen. I'm in the best shape of my life, and I'm facing 2009 with head up, eyes forward, showing confidence and optimism.
...2008 Taught me that, as Kevin Garnett said, "Anything is Possible!!" It also taught me about the transformative power of friendship, and the importance of teamwork and setting goals. I had a blast in 2008, and I look forward to living 2009 to the fullest. I hope to squeeze every moment out of this life with joy and gratitude.
Thank you for reading my blog, for being my friend, for supporting me. I sincerely feel like the 'Richest man in town.'
Blessing for a Happy New Year,