Jefe's House

On the Road

My Dinner With Morris

by on Oct.06, 2017, under On the Road

20170830_220826

Morris with Adam Markham at the Wall Street Tavern.

I spent Labor Day weekend 2017, which also happened to mark my 50th birthday, in my hometown of Roanoke in southwestern Virginia, from which I’d bolted some 30 years previous at the age of 19 to put myself through college in New York City.

One nostalgic evening during my visit home last month, I Ubered downtown to see my old friend Adam playing classic rock covers on electric guitar at a joint called the Wall Street Tavern. He was outdoors under a covered patio. I sat squarely in front of him, alone at a table for two as the old song goes, sipping a Dewar’s and soda.

A homeless man approached and stood on the sidewalk trying to get my attention. (continue reading…)

Leave a Comment :, , , , , more...

Never Forget

by on Jan.20, 2017, under On the Road, Politics, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

line

 

20161223_092856

*

20161223_093442
I realize there are numerous examples of horrific cruelty in our history — the Middle Passage and Concentration Camps always come to mind first and foremost — but here’s one more. We might want to call such crimes unspeakable but they need to be spoken.

Look up Reginald Edward Harry Dyer for the full scoop. The thousands of citizens, including entire families, who gathered were attempting a Gandhian peaceful protest and also during a religious festival when the city of Amritsar was packed. This is just down the hill from the Sikhs’ Golden Temple.

20161223_09294920161223_092937The protest was on rented private property in a back alley courtyard. Dyer had stupidly issued a Jim Crow-like order barring Indians from congregating in groups of 6 or more (in their own country) and decided to make an example of this particular group that included children.  British sources gave a figure of 379 killed with 1,100 wounded. The Indian National Congress counted more than 1000 dead and 1500 injured. 

20161223_093457

“People were fired at from here.”

Churchill later called it a “monstrous” and UnBritish act. Dyer was also all about half-naked public floggings of private citizens and his soldiers fond of stopping pedestrians and making them slither down the street like worms at gunpoint. The British parliament viewed Dyer as a hero. By the way, it’s reenacted in the movie Gandhi as one of the watershed moments leading up to the widespread popularity of the independence movement.

20161223_094043

Martyrs Well.

20161223_094103

“To escape the deadly firing, many people fell into this well. About 120 dead bodies were recovered from it.”

 

 

 

 

20161223_094326

 

20161223_094341

20161222_212240

20161223_092814

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

These Guys

by on Jan.10, 2017, under On the Road, Shaheb Cafe

shahebcafe

A Shaheb’s Guide to India

line

 

20170109_134443

The Sharma Handicrafts Guys.

Great story here about how I finally scored a hookah with my name on it after multiple letdowns in Kolkata, Varanasi and Lucknow. The short version – these guys in Delhi at Sharma Handicrafts were the bomb and we made a good deal on my last day thanks largely to shrewdness and translation help from my cousin.

I’ll have to post a photo of this 42″ stunning work of art, black with polished brass inlays in the Moradabad (ancient Muslim city) style. The owner stuck by his product, bargained fairly and gave me his card and said if there were any problems to come back and see him.

As soon as I left with hookah in hand and turned to take a pic of the shop he came out and posed without waiting to be asked. Then his two assistants trailed out one by one and struck poses on either side of him (they must have been a rock band in a previous career given how they naturally fell in line as though posing for an album cover).

I promised them I’d give the shop a plug online so here it is. If you’re ever in Delhi and looking for a brass shop, head to Sharma Handicrafts, Janpath Market, Stall 6. Tell them the saheb who bought the big black hookah sent you.

20170113_083234

Mr. Sharma’s business card.

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , more...

An Icon Comes Home

by on Sep.25, 2016, under NYC, On the Road, The Truth Is In Here

How a Bogle, St. Mary and their Mysterious Human Operative Saved the Day

20160924_155506
Yesterday morning I hop off the train from Philly at NY Penn and head toward the A train to zoom down to NYU to teach when I realize my wallet is gone. Had I been pickpocketed or had it fallen out in my train seat? Argh! I make a mad dash back but then realize in the packed rush hour station that I have absolutely no clue which of the 21 tracks we’ve just come up from onto the main floor. Who pays attention to what track number they came in on? Besides, all of the escalators leading down to the platforms are still set to “up” so I have no immediate way down to any newly arrived train.

I run and find a uniformed employee hanging around a back corridor who tells me I have to check with customer service, on the far end of the building, naturally, and that they can tell me exactly which track my train had come in on. By that time my train and my wallet would be long gone anyway but I have no choice.

So I sprint through a million wrong turns and find the customer service office. They’re helpful but can only tell me they’re “pretty sure” my train would have arrived on track 1. I run down to track 1 and a train (my train?) is still sitting there but — Murphy’s Law — it’s locked. Coincidentally a motorman comes along at that time and unlocks the train. I hop on, explain my situation and he tells me to have a blast and look all I want because the train isn’t leaving anytime soon. I walk through the entire train to be safe, looking in the seats, under the seats, in the aisles, nothing. I have to face the fact that my wallet is gone. (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

Strange But True: I am now a certified open water scuba diver

by on Aug.25, 2016, under On the Road

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1070.

My first dive: coral reef about 10 meters down. Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, La Altagracia province, Dominican Republic, where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean. Photo via Claudia at Visual Reef.

My second dive, the final training dive after the written PADI international certification courses and two sessions of pool training offered by the Scuba Quatic watersports shop, occurred 12 meters down and was near the wreck of the Astron but it was just the trainer and myself with no photographer (sadly no pix). I am now continuing to dive with PADI-certified groups in the States. I’m not gonna lie to you, I am psyched to have discovered this exciting new hobby.

 

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , more...

Prepare to be Judged, Judges

by on Jul.16, 2016, under Film/TV, On the Road, Politics, The Press, Theatre

A fair question and an honest article and my honest, if not entirely fair, response…

dailydot

Why are 22 of the 24 new Amtrak writing residents white?

This year, a majority of those selected members are white, and many creatives aren’t happy about it.

Amtrak writes that “the residents offer a diverse representation of the writing community and hail from across the country.” There certainly is some representation of different backgrounds—lots of women, some LGBT writers, and some disabled writers, too. However, 22 of the 24 selected are white, and there is not a single black writer…

Residency judge Jeffrey Stanley provided the Daily Dot with a little more insight into the process.  CONT’D at Daily Dot>>

PS – Here’s the full text of my response:

Hi Jaya, I can only speak for myself as an individual judge. Indeed when I saw the photos of the winners yesterday for the first time when they were announced my heart sank. As you’ve said it’s diverse in so many other ways but there are no black faces. Obviously this wasn’t done intentionally. As a judge I had no clue of an applicant’s ethnicity, appearance, or with which affinity group they identify, unless they state it in their bio, artistic statement, or any autobiographical pieces they may have included with their writing samples. Judges aren’t given specific guidelines. Speaking for myself, I was looking first and foremost at the artistic merit of the sample, then their publication history that might qualify them as a professional writer pursing a writing career in earnest and not just as a hobby, and their statement on why this residency would be beneficial to them.  Should the application be modified for future applicants and judges instructed more specifically to weigh race in the application process?  Maybe so. These are issues faced by every theatre organization with which I’ve been involved as a board member, every screenwriting contest I’ve ever judged, any college admission portfolio I’ve been asked to evaluate.  I can’t speak for Amtrak but I would suspect they’d be wide open to suggestions for best practices for how to improve the diversity of the judges as well as the applicant pool.  Feel free to shoot me any followups. Happy to talk more.

Jeff

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , more...

Train Roll On

by on Jul.15, 2016, under Film/TV, On the Road, Theatre

 

Photo via Yahoo! News. The Empire Builder travels daily between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest along major portions of the Lewis and Clark trail, and takes customers on an exciting adventure through majestic wilderness, following the footsteps of early pioneers.

Now it can be told. This year I served as an Amtrak Writers Residency judge after being a recipient of a residency the previous year. The winners have just been announced. Last year I believe I was the only one of 24 writers who self-identified as a playwright or screenwriter. You’ll notice that this year there are several in the mix, not that I was the sole impetus for this but I was in there swinging. Some are recognizable heavy hitters and some are early career. Overall a good mix I think. If you’re a writer and haven’t entered this thing yet–why? I urge you to do so next year. It is unique and worthy and I’d love to see it continue to grow in scope and acceptance as an incubator for new work in all media.

 

Amtrak Residency Program Selects Writers

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — During the next year, selected members of the literary community will travel on Amtrak routes that crisscross the country and spend the time working on their writing projects, providing a unique journey and workspace as part of the #AmtrakResidency program.

This is the second group of writers selected for the program, which offers a travel experience with amazing scenery, an environment that fosters engaging connections, and the ability to explore and be inspired by the diversity of landscapes America has to offer.

“We are excited to build on the success of the residency program and offer a second group of writers a creative environment to focus on the work of their choice,” said Julia Quinn, Amtrak director of public relations. “Whether traveling for business or pleasure, passenger rail helps travelers avoid the frustrations and hurdles associated with other modes of transportation – continuously making Amtrak the smarter way to travel, which we are confident the writers will find inspiring.”

A diverse group of writers were selected for the residency program. About two writers per month will travel round trip on pre-selected (based on availability) trains, and cover all 15 of Amtrak’s long-distance routes.  A complete list of selected residents and bios can be found on the Amtrak blog.

Applications were reviewed by a panel representing the literary community including published writers and former Amtrak Residents Lindsay Moran and Jeffrey Stanley, Amtrak Senior Vice President of Government Affairs & Corporate Communications Joe McHugh and writer and teacher Jessica Gross.

Gross, a Manhattan-based writer, traveled on the Lake Shore Limited as a trial run of the residency program and her support spurred the launch of the formal program in March 2014. Her piece, “Writing The Lake Shore Limited” was published by the Paris Review.

“My 2014 Amtrak residency from New York to Chicago and back was peaceful, contemplative, and so fruitful for my writing,” Gross said. “I’m delighted to have played a part in sending a new crop of writers on the rails this year.”

For more information on Amtrak and the Amtrak Writer’s Residency experience, visit blog.amtrak.com or follow #AmtrakResidency.

 

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , more...

Nelly We Hardly Knew Ye

by on Apr.13, 2015, under On the Road, The Press

He was such a nice, together, humble, sober-seeming guy when I interviewed him briefly at a Monte Carlo poker tournament 6 years ago. I hope he gets past all this.

Cell phone video shot by yours truly.

Comments Off :, , , , , , , more...

Bachelors Grove Cemetery EVP session – 3/14/15

by on Mar.29, 2015, under On the Road, The Truth Is In Here, Theatre

(News Flash: Jeffrey Stanley’s BONEYARDS reincarnates in Philly this June at the Art Church of West Philadelphia as part of the 2015 SoLow Fest. Tickets and full details here.)

*

This posting is a promised addendum to my 3/14/15 visit to Bachelors Grove Cemetery, a brief stopover during my Amtrak Writers Residency trip across the US. To read about my witch encounter and see my Bachelors Grove Cemetery slideshow read the full entry here. (If you’re looking for the Hotel Colorado ghost photos and EVP session they’re here).

Now for the audio I recorded live from my P-SB7 spirit box at the Fulton family grave. As usual I have slowed it down but maintained the original pitch, boosted the volume and applied a little noise reduction. I stress again, as I’ve done here in the past and in my Washington Post story on this subject, that I remain agnostic about the existence of ghosts, and also view the spirit box as a form of surrealist art; an aural version of the old Exquisite Corpse game created by the Surrealists. That said, a transcript and my interpretation follow: (continue reading…)

4 Comments :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...

The Ghost of August Wilson

by on Mar.25, 2015, under On the Road, The Sixth Boro, Theatre

20150323_220621Amtrak Residency
Day 12
3/24/15

This morning while hurtling across western Pennsylvania I enjoyed my final Amtrak breakfast.  I sat next to a uniformed Amtrak police officer en route to a meeting at our final stop on the Capitol Limited, Washington, DC. From there I’ll take a two-hour ride  to Philadelphia on the Amtrak Acela Express and be home in time for dinner.

Across from us sat two elderly women from Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The officer had spent 26 years on the Chicago police force before retiring into a much less stressful “second career” working for Amtrak.

20150324_111119

Old round house; Martinsburg, WV station

After a few minutes of instinctively probing their names, destinations, life stories, I sprung it on them that I’m a (continue reading…)

Comments Off :, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , more...