Jefe's House

On the Road

Mystery Train: the Amtrak Residency

by on Sep.24, 2014, under Books, Film & TV, On the Road, Theatre

The what? You heard me.  I’m thrilled beyond recognition — thrilled to a crisp, in fact — to share the exciting news that I’m one of 24 writers selected out of 16,100 entries in the first ever Amtrak Residency.  Not without its fascination and controversies, the residency has been covered microscopically in the New Yorker, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and HuffPo over the past 8 months.  For my money, Boris Kachka wrote the best overview in New York Magazine.   Basically, we each get to travel for a week in a private cabin on the Amtrak routes of our choosing during the next year as kind of a moving residency, as opposed to being at a cabin in the woods or artists colony like Yaddo where I have also stayed.

Alexander Chee, the writer who started it all.

This unique residency program started because last year in a PEN interview novelist Alexander Chee said that he did a lot of writing on trains and that he wished Amtrak had writers residencies. He was joking but Amtrak got wind of his remark and decided to heed his call and launch such a program for established writers. One of the writing samples I submitted was my Washington Post story from last year about my crazy spiritual experience aboard a commuter train between Penn Station and Philly.  However, my primary writing sample was an excerpt from my award-winning, yet unproduced (anyone?) screenplay Lords of Light, an historical drama about Nikola Tesla and his rivalry with Thomas Edison, written while I was a graduate student at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Speaking of this, I can’t help but proudly mention that out of the 24 residents, 3 of us are NYU alums.

Contrary to what you may have read, residents are not required to write about trains. As I presently have no idea when I’m leaving, where I’ll be going, or what I’ll be working on, this seems an appropriate celebratory song. I hope you’re enjoying it.

*

Thank you, Saraswati.

*

[vintage Amtrak postcard via reedyvillegoods.com. Alexander Chee photo via catchingdays.cynthianewberrymartin.com]

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Stingey Severance Package

by on Sep.17, 2014, under On the Road

Why does my new Amazon Chase Visa credit card’s travel accident insurance policy only cover the amputation and reattachment of selected fingers?

finger loss

I’m American, they should at least offer to protect my middle finger.

 

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Finally. Relief for my sweat itch-induced intertrigo.

by on Aug.14, 2014, under On the Road

“Relieves sweat itch due to intertrigo.”

When it comes to humidity-induced itching, a monsoon country like India don’t mess around when it comes to quick, potent, no-nonsense remedies.

I'm not even gonna ask about "dhobi itch."

I ain’t even gonna ask about “dhobi itch.”

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My Way or the Yahweh

by on Jul.23, 2013, under On the Road, The Press, The Sixth Borough, The Truth Is In Here

wapo

On Faith

A Jewish-Hindu connection

Jeffrey Stanley, 7/23/13

Talk about a crazy commute. After a spiritual encounter, a stranger and I spent the next 90 minutes discussing the nature of the universe.

Not so long ago after nearly 25 years as a hidebound New Yorker I moved to Philadelphia for my wife Pia’s career needs, inadvertently becoming part of a popular regional migration known to urban statisticians as the 6th borough phenomenon. She’s Indian-American and we’re raising our child in a bilingual home. I’m a writer and professor. She’s a scientist by day and an Indian classical dance professional by night. Religiously we are at best agnostic but culturally we are Hindus, and will identify ourselves as such when pressed, like on the hospital intake form the first time we took our baby in for a routine doctor’s visit.

This identification sits well with me. Despite growing up Nazarene in the Bible Belt I had long ago developed an affinity for Hindu philosophy—ever since I’d come across a used copy of the Bhagavad Gita at a flea market in high school and realized how similar it was to the New Testament. I still remember the perplexed look on my Sunday school teacher’s face the morning I brought the Gita to church. I had marked the sections that reminded me of Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount with an orange highlighter and asked him why Hindus were all going to Hell and we Christians weren’t. Suffice it say I quit going to church not long after that. Christianity just wasn’t speaking to me. When I met my wife-to-be years later while canoeing in Brooklyn’s fetid Gowanus Canal I fell in easily with her cultural worldview. We were a match made in moksha.

Imagine my surprise when, on a recent Friday afternoon while returning to Philly on a crowded New Jersey Transit train out of Manhattan’s Penn Station I came face to face with the power of YHWH.  (continue reading…)

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Four Pairs of Sandals as an Act of Faith

by on May.15, 2013, under On the Road, The Press, The Truth Is In Here

May15, 2013

On Faith

Four Pairs of Sandals as an Act of Faith

Walking a mile in another man’s shoes leads to kismet.

by Jeffrey Stanley

Three years ago I got married to my wife Bidisha in a traditional Bengali ceremony in Kolkata and spent three weeks touring the country. I bought a pair of sandals there which I wore throughout my trip and back home here in the States. This December my wife, our young son and I went back to India for a month to visit relatives. I brought my well-worn “India sandals” with me.  A week into the visit they broke irreparably and I tossed them. The location of their demise seemed appropriate — from India they had come and to India they would return. The next day while we were out sightseeing we stumbled upon a tiny shoe store, one of a zillion in Kolkata, where I found the perfect pair of replacement sandals. They were simple but unique enough that they suited me as a souvenir.

Nakhoda Masjid. Kolkata, West Bengal, India. January, 2013.

A few days later I struck out on my own to visit Nakhoda Masjid, the largest mosque in Kolkata, built in 1926. A billboard told me with no intended irony that this was Road Safety Week in India. Still the taxis, auto-rickshaws and pedestrians were up to their usual danse macabre.

After a requisite insane cab ride and a short walk down a crowded, narrow street full of screaming sidewalk merchants selling Muslim prayer rugs and other Islam-themed souvenirs I found the mosque. It was sparsely populated at that late morning hour. The (continue reading…)

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1:36:35

by on May.13, 2013, under On the Road, The Sixth Borough

jeff broad street run 2013b

How’s that for a juggernaut?

When you run 10 miles carrying Lord Jagannath on your chest, you run it 6 minutes faster than you did last year.  Just giving credit where credit is due.

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Yiga Choeling Buddhist Monastery

by on Feb.23, 2013, under On the Road

[10/31/13 - Supernatural Skeptics Don't Know What They're Missing.  "I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind." - read Jeffrey Stanley's latest in the Washington Post]

 

Built in 1850.  Also called Ghum or Ghoom Monastery in the town of Ghum just outside of Darjeeling in northern India.   Dig the wrathful deities.  Photos taken January 2013.

Cheepu
Cheepu
That's Cheepu guarding the gate. Cheepu eats snakes and is one of the Tibetan Buddhist "wrathful deities."
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Ghum Monastery
Ghum Monastery
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Giant prayer wheel about 8 feet tall.
Giant prayer wheel about 8 feet tall.
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Another giant prayer wheel about 8 feet tall.
Another giant prayer wheel about 8 feet tall.
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Maitraya Buddha (the Coming Buddha) in the main temple.
Maitraya Buddha (the Coming Buddha) in the main temple.
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Awesome wallpaper, eh?
Awesome wallpaper, eh?
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Maitraya Buddha up close.
Maitraya Buddha up close.
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Amazing.
Amazing.
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Tibetan "wrathful deity" Mahakala; the Buddhist version of Hindu god Shiva.
Tibetan "wrathful deity" Mahakala; the Buddhist version of Hindu god Shiva.
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Green Tara, a female version of the Buddha.
Green Tara, a female version of the Buddha.
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Cheepu eating snakes again.
Cheepu eating snakes again.
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Another of the Tibetan wrathful deities.
Another of the Tibetan wrathful deities.
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Yet another of the wrathful deities.
Yet another of the wrathful deities.
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IMG_1027.JPG
IMG_1027.JPG
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Prayer wheels.
Prayer wheels.
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Mahakala again.
Mahakala again.
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That's no painting. That's Mount Kachenjunga, the 3rd highest peak in the world after nearby Mt. Everest and K2 in the same range.
That's no painting. That's Mount Kachenjunga, the 3rd highest peak in the world after nearby Mt. Everest and K2 in the same range.
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The Absolutely Breathtaking Nakhoda Masjid

by on Feb.20, 2013, under On the Road

[10/31/13 - Supernatural Skeptics Don't Know What They're Missing.  "I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind." - read Jeffrey Stanley's latest in the Washington Post]

These photos were taken mid-morning between prayers so the place was nearly empty. January, 2013. Please also enjoy my related 5/15/13 Washington Post article about my otherworldly encounter with Allah just after I took these photos,Four Pairs of Sandals as an Act of Faith”.

"Nakhoka Masjid" sign in Arabic outside main entrance.
"Nakhoka Masjid" sign in Arabic outside main entrance.
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Prayer clocks
Prayer clocks
Muslim prayer times. Right to left it's the Fajar (dawn prayer), Zohar (midday prayer) Asar (afternoon prayer), Magrib (sunset prayer) and Esha (nighttime prayer). The last one, Juma, is the Friday prayer.
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Inlaid marble floors
Inlaid marble floors
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1st floor courtyard and covered reflecting pools
1st floor courtyard and covered reflecting pools
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2nd floor
2nd floor
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View from the 4th floor of Rabindra Sarani Street that runs alongside the mosque.
View from the 4th floor of Rabindra Sarani Street that runs alongside the mosque.
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A distant worshipper on the 3rd floor
A distant worshipper on the 3rd floor
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3rd floor; dig the ornate lattice work.
3rd floor; dig the ornate lattice work.
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Stained glass
Stained glass
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4th floor
4th floor
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Covered reflecting pools in 1st floor courtyard
Covered reflecting pools in 1st floor courtyard
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Main entrance on Zakaria Street
Main entrance on Zakaria Street
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Mosque kitty
Mosque kitty
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Time to Free Tibet

by on Feb.18, 2013, under On the Road, Politics

[10/31/13 - Supernatural Skeptics Don't Know What They're Missing.  "I try contacting the spirit world before live audiences to keep an element of hope simmering on the back burner of my mind." - read Jeffrey Stanley's latest in the Washington Post]

Enjoy these 16 images I took last month at the Tibetan Refugee  Self-Help Centre in Darjeeling, West Bengal, India in the foothills of the Himalayas just over the mountain from Tibet.  And if you support the idea that it’s time for China to get out of Tibet and leave the people and their natural resources alone then feel free to share the images with others.

Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center Orphanage
Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Center Orphanage
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Welfare Center for Tibetan Children
Welfare Center for Tibetan Children
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"Welfare Centre for Tibetan Children, donated by National Christian Council, Aug. 1963
"Welfare Centre for Tibetan Children, donated by National Christian Council, Aug. 1963
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Refugee Centre Store
Refugee Centre Store
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Workshop where some of the handicrafts are made that are sold in the store.
Workshop where some of the handicrafts are made that are sold in the store.
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Your purchase will help the people of this centre; our products are not sold outside shop.
Your purchase will help the people of this centre; our products are not sold outside shop.
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This site of 3.8060 acres is the gift of The American Emergency Committee for Tibetan Refugees, September 1964. Save Tibet.
This site of 3.8060 acres is the gift of The American Emergency Committee for Tibetan Refugees, September 1964. Save Tibet.
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Original site of the centre started in October 1959 with four workers and two rooms.
Original site of the centre started in October 1959 with four workers and two rooms.
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Intro to the Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels on the premises.
Intro to the Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels on the premises.
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Om Mani Padme Hum (or hung)
Om Mani Padme Hum (or hung)
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Prayer wheels.
Prayer wheels.
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Refugee handicrafts worker.
Refugee handicrafts worker.
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More refugee handicrafts workers.
More refugee handicrafts workers.
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Another refugee handicrafts worker.
Another refugee handicrafts worker.
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Rug in progress.
Rug in progress.
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Rug in progress.
Rug in progress.
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“Alcohol may have been a factor.”

by on Aug.30, 2012, under On the Road

You don’t say.  The Montana sasquatch story was front page news the morning we left breathtaking Glacier National Park, concluding 8 days of camping, fishing, wildlife spotting and glacier hopping across stunningly beautiful British Columbia and Alberta in the Banff National Park area before descending back south to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) before slipping across the largest and coolest undefended border in the world back into northern Montana and Idaho. The sasquatch story was ironic for me given that just the night before I had lamented to my better half that according to BFRO’s site there are hardly any sasquatch sightings on record for that region and you’d think it’d be lousy with them, especially given that Glacier is home to the mysterious Montana Vortex.

Then there’s the fact that I often have said if I were going to hoax a bigfoot sighting I’d skip the ridiculously fake gorilla suit idea for a more squatch-accurate ghillie suit like this guy used. This man was clearly a thinker.  Truly tragic when a genius like this is struck down in his prime. We have lost a great man. And now the story…

Sasquatch Stunt Takes a Tragic Turn

By JIM MANN/Daily Inter Lake, 8/27/12

A man dressed in a military-style “Ghillie suit” who was attempting to provoke a Bigfoot sighting was struck by two vehicles and killed on U.S. 93 south of Kalispell Sunday night.

“He was trying to make people think he was Sasquatch so people would call in a Sasquatch sighting,” Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Jim Schneider said. “You can’t make it up. I haven’t seen or heard of anything like this before. Obviously, his suit made it difficult for people to see him.”

The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office identified the man as Randy Lee Tenley, 44, of Kalispell.
Schneider said Tenley’s motivations were ascertained during interviews with friends who were not in the immediate area but were nearby when the man was struck at about 10:30 p.m.

“Alcohol may have been a factor,” Schneider said. “Impairment is up in the air.” CONT’D>>

2 quotes pulled from the orignal article’s comments section:

Nativebluesky posted at 1:34 pm on Mon, Aug 27, 2012.

Rest in Peace my friend. You will never be forgotten, nor will be the antics of an awesome friend. I will miss all the jokester pranks you pulled, it made you who you were, and that was a very special, individual person. You will be so missed here on earth and no convincing the man upstairs into more pranks. I will be watching for them and I will know where they originated. There are memories and non of them will be forgotten. God spead, until we meet again.

MT mom posted at 12:51 pm on Mon, Aug 27, 2012.

You know what this is my little 10 yr old brothers father. People really should keep their negative opinions to themselves. So what he was a jokster …that was HIM. As his family we are grieving his loss while u inconsiderate people joke.

 

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