NASCAR Texas Hold ’em

Since when did Texas Hold ‘Em poker become NASCAR?

Every once in awhile I’ll catch the occasional WSOP tournament segment on ESPN and I started to notice a trend. Just recently I caught a brief portion of Poker After Dark on NBC, and this trend seems to be in full swing.

Poker After Dark boasts “When the world’s best poker players and the game’s biggest personalities get together to play in a high-stakes, winner-take-all tournament, you never know what’s going to happen.” Maybe not, but I sure do know what will happen. I’ll see things like over-sized sponsor logos poorly stitched on loud hockey jerseys. Logos awkwardly placed on 10 gallon hats, scarves, Banana Republic shirts and expensive sport coats. It seems that every player is sponsored by someone.,, and the list goes on… Poker stars are supposed to be cool. They’re the representatives of the bad ass gunslingers from the old west. You know, the guys who were ready to draw guns if the cards didn’t go their way.

Do you really think Billy the Kid would have let someone place a giant logo on his cowboy hat?


Something Happened On The Way To Act Two.

My son Joey grew up.

Five years ago, when Joey was 7 years old, he was in his first musical stage production. Pittsford Musicals produced Fiddler On the Roof. I was fortunate to be cast as Avram, the loopy town crier, and Joey was one of the children of Anatevka.  Julie and I thought it would be a good experience for him.  You see, my son was very shy and we wanted to expose him to things that would help break him out of his shell.

At 12, he’s more mature now, with multiple shows to his credit.  Seeing him on stage Thusdsay for the opening night performance of Webster Thomas High School’s musical production of Bye, Bye, Birdie was a wonderful experience. Proof positive that we had the right idea five years ago.  For all who don’t know, Bye Bye Birdie is a campy, silly, and over-the-top musical set around the singer Conrad Birdie, Albert his manager, his secretary Rose, and the MacAfee family.  Conrad Birdie, the teen heartthrob has been drafted into the U.S. Army, and he is about to give his one last kiss to a lucky girl (15 yr old Kim MacAfee) before he goes off to war.  In the production the girls scream, swoon and faint for Conrad, much like girls used to in the 50’s and 60’s for Elvis, The Beatles, and Conway Twitty.  The musical is a satire of American culture, and the Webster Thomas Players deliver by keeping the energy up and the humor high.

I could not help but get very emotional during the Ed Sullivan scene.  Joey, as the son Randolph, and the rest of the MacAfee family sang in nice 4 part harmony.  Joey, for a brief moment sang by himself in front of 500 people.  No more is he that shy little boy.  No more does he search for confidence to get up in front of people to share his talents.   I should mention that he is still in middle school.  He’s performing with high school kids where some are four and five years older than him.  And he is holding his own.  I was a proud papa indeed.

And this was just act one, but it was what happened after the show that was even more touching.

In musical theater it’s customary to come out after the show’s end and say hello to friends and family that have come to see the performance. Joey and I did exactly that.  After opening the hallways doors that lead into the lobby outside of the auditorium of Webster Thomas High School there stood an arc of about seven or eight middle school aged girls waiting.  When Joey and I came through, these girls reacted to Joey like he was the rock star, like he himself was Conrad Birdie.  They screamed “There he is!”, “He’s sooo cute”, “Wow!” and “That’s him, that’s him!”  It was very sweet, and as a Father I could not help but feel joy for my son for some well deserved attention from the ladies.  But, the funny thing is Joey was oblivious to his new fan club.  So, I did what any father faced with this situation would do.  I placed my hands on Joey’s shoulders.  Stopped him, and turned his body right into the line of fire. All the while saying “Hey Joe, do you see any one you know yet?” I stalled for time long enough for Joey to realize the girls were looking at him.  Two of whom told him he was cute and that they each wanted a hug.  Joey, just stood there… frozen.  By now there is a crowd watching this exchange.  Parents and kids alike.  Finally I told him “Joey, for God’s sake give the girls a hug!”  Which he finally did and the girls swooned.

As I turned him away from his new fan club into the sea of the remaining people I could not help but smile.  I knew I just witnessed something that as a father I will cherish and remember for the rest of my days.  And though Joey may not realize it now, I would venture to think he, albeit for different reasons, will feel the exact same way.

God bless Conrad Birdie.

The Cupcake Birthday

On May 5th, 2000 my oldest son Joey turned two and a half.  That was a big deal.  For me, two and a half symbolized the last of the baby age milestones.  For all those who have children, the early milestones of three, six, nine, and twelve months carry special meaning.  After two and a half, it’s all about the birthdays, three, four, five and so on.  So when Julie and I told Joey that he was turning two and a half, it was a special day.  Joey promptly replied with “If I get cake on my birfday… I should get cupcakes for my half birfday, because cupcakes are smaller that birfday cakes.”  Thus a new family tradition was born.

Now, every year on our half birthdays our family celebrates with cupcakes.  No presents.  Just a reason to eat the tasty treats, and make someone feel special with some extra attention for making it another 6 months. Over the years we have shared this story with friends who have inquired, and some now even celebrate them in their own households.  Pretty cool since this idea came from Joey. What would be your cupcake birthday?

Maybe that day back on May 5th was Joey’s ploy for extra sweets.  Probably so, but what Joey inadvertently gave us was a family tradition that will live on long after me, Julie and even he, is gone.

RPO Brand Illustrations

Last year I dedicated a lot of time in creating some brand illustrations for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) to use in their marketing communications. They have been one of my clients for several years now and they could not be a more appreciative organization to work for. These illustrations incorporated a color palate inspired by Maxfield Parrish, the accomplished American painter. One of his most famous works “The Lute Players” hangs in the Kodak Hall, at the Eastman Theatre in downtown Rochester New York. The original has since been moved to preserve it for future generations to enjoy. The Lute Players currently resides inside the Memorial Art Gallery, and a Kodak reproduction now hangs where the original once was. This campaign consists of the illustrations, posters, note cards, and the Bravo program covers. Many thanks to the four writers that helped craft the copy for this campaign… Matt Smythe, Matt Conn, Greg Shainman, and Angelo Juliano. The work was recognized at the 2010 RAF Addy Awards and thanks to can be seen online here.

Click the link here, and become a fan of the RPO on Facebook. Go see a performance or two this year.  The economy is on it’s way back, they are a cultural gem, and their performances are beyond measure.

Now, on to the work:

The Trombone.

The Trumpet.

The Bows.

The French Horn.

The Timpani.

The Clarinet.

The Piano.

The Upright Bass.

I’m planning to print, frame and sell these illustrations at some point,  so if your interested let me know and I will certainly expedite that process.