Monday, October 29, 2007

Dustin Hoffman - Times 10

It happens every ten years to the day. Every decade since 1982 when I first met Dustin Hoffman in Vail, Colorado, I run into him on the streets of New York City.

The first time was on an early, cold winter's day when I was tasked by the manager at the ski shop where I was working to outfit the famous actor. This frumpy looking guy in a tattered green army coat came up the stairs to the ski department. I knew he was coming and I was excited and nervous as hell. After all, I'd been a fan of his for years and had done some acting myself by that time. The night before, Little Big Man was on T.V. and I couldn't wait to meet jack Crabb in person. I acted professional and nonchalant, as not to seem too excited. Mr. Hoffman seemed as if being outfitted for ski equipment and clothing was last thing he wanted to do and as it turned out it was. His wife prompted him to do it and he was being a big sport about it all. After skis, boots and poles where decide upon I summoned up the courage and asked if I could join him the next day on the slopes. He happily agreed and we arranged a meeting point.

Promptly at 8 a.m. I met Dustin, his family and a ski instructor at the lift ticket office. As it was Christmas time my employee season ski pass wasn't valid and I had to fork over $65 for a day's ticket. As I reached for my wallet, Dustin stepped in and paid the cashier. "Wow! What a guy!" I thought to myself. We rode the lift together to the top of the hill and I was so dumbstruck or just plain dumb that I couldn't speak. I was unable to ask him about acting, his life, his thoughts - anything! My muteness lasted for most of the day, even at lunch where Dustin held court at a mountaintop restaurant and told a rapt audience of how he lost his virginity and at the same time decided to become an actor. "Wow! What a guy!" (Again) It wasn't until we were prying ourselves out of our boots did I open my mouth to thank him for the day where he invited me to his condo to join him and his family for drinks. "Wow! What a guy!"

I did manage to speak when I was with the Hoffman Family and asked Dustin his advice on what I should do if I seriously wanted to pursue acting. "Move to New York." That was it. "Move to New York." So I did. Not right away but I did eventually and every ten years since I first met Dustin I see him on the street. The first time was on the corner of 72nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue walking with my friend Rick. As I approached Dustin to ask, "remember me?" a group of tourist pounced on and encircled him keeping him captive. My muteness returned and I walked away a bit deflated telling myself all the things I could have done or said. "Idiot! You're an actor in New York City now and He told you to come here. Maybe He would have put you in a movie or arranged a meeting with his people. Idiot, idiot, idiot!" Oh well...

Ten years after my missed chance at 72nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue I was having lunch with Rick at an outdoor cafe on Amsterdam and 71st Street and who walks buy our table? Yes, it was Him. My brain started to overheat with stimulation. That was Him. Get up. Get up now! Muscles, I'm commanding you. Move this instant and take this idiot to one of America's greatest contemporary actors who told him to move to New York. Move arms! Push up off the chair and catch up with Him and remind Him of who this idiot is! Not one muscle in my body twitched to respond. I just sat there and said to Rick, "That was Dustin Hoffman." To which he replied, "Hey, he lives around here." Deflation crept in once again like a fast moving storm until I realized that I'd see Him again in ten years and when I do He will be as old as Jack Crabb and He'll probably say, 'what the hell did you wait so long to talk to me for, you idiot.'

'Six degrees' you're probably thinking and I agree. The same thing happened with Harry Smith from CBS News. I sold him ski boots in Denver where I moved to after leaving Vail. Ten years after that encounter I ran him to him at Time Warner in Manhattan where I worked part-time catering events. Harry remembered me and it wasn't lip service. He remembered the name of the ski shop, Aspen Leaf and the color of the boots. I was impressed. As I served him a beer I asked him about CBS News and CBS Sunday Morning to which he was open and candid.

Yesterday, Sunday October 28th I went for a 12 mile training run in Central Park. I was approaching a hill near the Metropolitan Museum of Art when this guy strides past me. I decided to draft him up the hill until my competitive spirit kicked in and I pulled up beside him. I don't know why but I turned to him and asked him how old he was. It was an impulse. He looked at me and answered, fifty seven. "Harry?" I asked. "Ya'?" "Harry, it's me, Bruce Katlin." That's right, it was Harry Smith ten years to the day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Portland Pod People


They're everywhere in Portland, Oregon. If you live there you're probably one of them and if you have ever visited you've come into contact with them.

At first they're scary, just as any pod person would be but after you're around them a bit you come accustomed to their ways, their habits, the way they communicate. It's alarming at first, you want to trust them but you're a foreigner on a foreign planet and then without knowing it you accept them for who they are and what they offer. And before you know it you too, are acting just like a Portland Pod Person: you're nice and courteous. Like these strange creatures who say "thank you" and mean it, you naturally reciprocate and two difficult words slip effortlessly from your lips, "your welcome."

When you ask
Portlanders for directions they look you in the eyes and take the time to give you the instructions based on your needs not theirs. And most of all these wonderful and rare people - each and everyone of them is a true City ambassador. They tout the economic, environmental and friendliness of their city every chance they have. Come on, move here, you'll love it! Is their mantra. All this was not experienced on occasion, it was consistent for the two weeks I recently spent their after running what Runner's World deemed the "most friendly marathon in the USA." When my wife and I went to the movies (just $7 compared with $11 in NYC) the ticket taker welcomed us with soft and sincere eyes and said, "enjoy the movie." She really meant it! If that were not enough when we found that the only available seats in the theater were in the first row they refunded our money with no questions asked and then apologized for the inconvenience! Try getting that kind of service on 42nd Street In Manhattan.

Just who are these people and who took their anger, resentment and edginess? My wife Terry and I joked that we should open a restaurant called the Bitter and Jaded and offer lousy food with a side of New York style attitude. That will teach these poor saps to be so nice. Transplants Sue and Barry who recently left the Astoria, NY apartment building where we live met us for an incredible French style breakfast at St. Honoré Boulangerie.
They are still adjusting to the change in energy from NYC to the City of Roses. They left the Big Apple and its intensity for a slower pace in Portland but admitted that they had a longing for New York's insanity. As Sue put it, it's sick but you always miss your abuser but she also informed us that they wouldn't be moving back East anytime soon, as the "people here are so nice."

It is just this sincere 'niceness' that Portland has jumped to the top of our relocation list. What other city do you know would meet you for an hour over coffee to answer your questions and explain all the great reasons you should live in their fair metropolis? Yes, they did! Public Advocate Jeremy Van Keuren met with us at one of the City's attractions, Stump Town Coffee Roasters prepared with city data, handouts and charm abound. (Prior to our Portland trip I also wrote to the mayor of Seattle requesting a meeting but didn't receive a reply.) One other really important aspect of Portland life is that believe it or not pedestrians and cyclist supersede vehicles! That's right, no battles at the crosswalks and no honking of horns when crossing the street. All this adds to the peace and tranquility of the City.

We also met with a couple that I met on the streets of Miami this past August who have lived in Portland for over twenty years. They're ex-New Yorkers who have come to love Portland and the state of Oregon. Bob and Elaine took us to a sustainability investor's meeting so that we could be introduced to like minded people and see just how committed the citizens of Portland are to the preservation of theirs and our environment. We than went to a Thai restaurant that had some of the most delicious Thai food I have ever eaten. Afterwards they drove us to their condo (the advice, "don't let them take you to a second location" popped into my head as we proceeded down a dark I-5 locked in the back of their car) so that we could get a feel for the neighborhood and see what square footage is worth. (They took us back to our hotel unharmed.)

These pod people are the real McCoy. They're just what I've been looking for and they're located in a city that has arts, restaurants, entertainment, sports, intellectuals and books abound. Hats off to Portland and the people who make it such a wonderful place!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Marathon Post With Photos


I just received photo downloads of the marathon for your viewing pleasure.

Yes, it was dark when we starte
d.



I’m still in a state of shock. Did I actually run 26.2 miles/42.16 kilometers? After mile 17 I thought to myself, “what was I thinking trying to run a marathon? This is really hard!” I reached into my pocket and read the kind words from Rebecca Shourie of the Satya Niketan School, “Our prayers are with you. You are participating in God's plan for the city of Nagod. It is no small thing. You will run effortlessly and with Joy. God is with you.” Well, I don’t know how effortlessly I ran but run I did until I almost dropped. (It could have been much worse, I could have run this year’s Chicago Marathon where one runner died and over 300 were taken to hospital with heat exhaustion due to the extreme weather conditions.)


I ran between a 9:30-10:30 minute mile for the first 18 miles and then I started to bonk, right after the beautiful crossing of the St. John’s Bridge. Running too fast and not enough carb intake caused stomach cramps along with leg cramps. Alot of other runners complained of stomach problems too, which was probably due to dehydration. (It was cold but humid.) Along with referring to Rebecca’s words of encouragement I thought of the children in Nagod and elsewhere who have so little and ask for less. I received energy watching others run for their causes and loved ones. Many had pictures pinned to their shirts of friends and family who had suffered and passed on from cancer and other fatal illnesses.

Between miles 20 & 24 I swore that I would never run a marathon again - I was in that much pain. But I continued on. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to finish what I had started. Now, consider this: 70 year old Charles Nutter from Belliville, Kansas ran a 4:54:26. That’s one minute twenty-two seconds faster than my own finishing time! And 83 year old Kay Pearson from Milwaukie, Oregon ran a 7:13:35! Impressive? I’d say so.

The people of Portland, Oregon are wonderful, kind trusting and caring. To a New Yorker or anyone from the Northeast they seem too trusting. Believe it or not they leave their purses, coats and luggage unattended in restaurants and coffee shops. Only a blind woman who was sitting in Powell’s Books cafe asked if we would keep an eye on her Braille laptop as she went for more coffee. Many Portlanders lined the marathon route cheering with encouragement and the volunteers mostly made up of teenagers were so sweet and efficient and expedient in their tasks and responsibilities to aid the runners.

Running the marathon reminded me how similar to life this event is: there are hills and valleys, highs and lows, periods of strength and joy and miles of weakness and pain, but most of all how important it is to take ‘it’ one step at a time.

When I rounded the final tenth mile of the race the streets were lined with people cheering and I picked up my pace. I heard my name called from sidewalk. It was my wife Terry who hours earlier finished the 5 mile race. I slowed so she could snap a few photographs and to take in her big and loving smile. I crossed the finish line with arms raised and eyes filled with tears of joy and pain. The destination was reached through the journey. Two hours later I registered for the Philadelphia Half-Marathon, which takes place Sunday November 18th with the Paris, France Marathon scheduled for April 2008.





Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What If?

I was so struck by today's poem on the Writer's Almanac that I had to share it with you:

The God Who Loves You by Carl Dennis, from Practical Gods. © Penguin Poets, 2001.

It must be troubling for the god who loves you
To ponder how much happier you'd be today
Had you been able to glimpse your many futures.
It must be painful for him to watch you on Friday evenings
Driving home from the office, content with your week—
Three fine houses sold to deserving families—
Knowing as he does exactly what would have happened
Had you gone to your second choice for college,
Knowing the roommate you'd have been allotted
Whose ardent opinions on painting and music
Would have kindled in you a lifelong passion.
A life thirty points above the life you're living
On any scale of satisfaction. And every point
A thorn in the side of the god who loves you.
You don't want that, a large-souled man like you
Who tries to withhold from your wife the day's disappointments
So she can save her empathy for the children.
And would you want this god to compare your wife
With the woman you were destined to meet on the other campus?
It hurts you to think of him ranking the conversation
You'd have enjoyed over there higher in insight
Than the conversation you're used to.
And think how this loving god would feel
Knowing that the man next in line for your wife
Would have pleased her more than you ever will
Even on your best days, when you really try.
Can you sleep at night believing a god like that
Is pacing his cloudy bedroom, harassed by alternatives
You're spared by ignorance? The difference between what is
And what could have been will remain alive for him
Even after you cease existing, after you catch a chill
Running out in the snow for the morning paper,
Losing eleven years that the god who loves you
Will feel compelled to imagine scene by scene
Unless you come to the rescue by imagining him
No wiser than you are, no god at all, only a friend
No closer than the actual friend you made at college,
The one you haven't written in months. Sit down tonight
And write him about the life you can talk about
With a claim to authority, the life you've witnessed,
Which for all you know is the life you've chosen.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Mission Accomplished!

I’m still in a state of shock. Did I actually run 26.2 miles/42.16 kilometers? After mile 17 I thought to myself, “what was I thinking trying to run a marathon? This is really hard!” I reached into my pocket and read the kind words from Rebecca Shourie of the Satya Niketan School, “Our prayers are with you. You are participating in God's plan for the city of Nagod. It is no small thing. You will run effortlessly and with Joy. God is with you.” Well, I don’t know how effortlessly I ran but run I did until I almost dropped. (It could have been much worse, I could have run this year’s Chicago Marathon where one runner died and over 300 were taken to hospital with heat exhaustion due to the extreme weather conditions.)

I ran between a 9:30-10:30 minute mile for the first 18 miles and then I started to bonk, right after the beautiful crossing of the St. John’s Bridge. Running too fast and not enough carb intake caused stomach cramps along with leg cramps. Alot of other runners complained of stomach problems too, which was probably due to dehydration. (It was cold but humid.) Along with referring to Rebecca’s words of encouragement I thought of the children in Nagod and elsewhere who have so little and ask for less. I received energy watching others run for their causes and loved ones. Many had pictures pinned to their shirts of friends and family who had suffered and passed on from cancer and other fatal illnesses.

Between miles 20 & 24 I swore that I would never run a marathon again - I was in that much pain. But I continued on. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to finish what I had started. Now, consider this: 70 year old Charles Nutter from Belliville, Kansas ran a 4:54:26. That’s one minute twenty-two seconds faster than my own finishing time! And 83 year old Kay Pearson from Milwaukie, Oregon ran a 7:13:35! Impressive? I’d say so.

The people of Portland, Oregon are wonderful, kind trusting and caring. To a New Yorker or anyone from the Northeast they seem too trusting. Believe it or not they leave their purses, coats and luggage unattended in restaurants and coffee shops. Only a blind woman who was sitting in Powell’s Books cafe asked if we would keep an eye on her Braille laptop as she went for more coffee. Many Portlanders lined the marathon route cheering with encouragement and the volunteers mostly made up of teenagers were so sweet and efficient and expedient in their tasks and responsibilities to aid the runners.

Running the marathon reminded me how similar to life this event is: there are hills and valleys, highs and lows, periods of strength and joy and miles of weakness and pain, but most of all how important it is to take ‘it’ one step at a time.

When I rounded the final tenth mile of the race the streets were lined with people cheering and I picked up my pace. I heard my name called from sidewalk. It was my wife Terry who hours earlier finished the 5 mile race. I slowed so she could snap a few photographs and to take in her big and loving smile. I crossed the finish line with arms raised and eyes filled with tears of joy and pain. The destination was reached through the journey. Two hours later I registered for the Philadelphia Half-Marathon, which takes place Sunday November 18th with the Paris, France Marathon scheduled for April 2008.