Sunday, December 30, 2007

Through "the Roof"

A couple of weeks ago I agreed to be the guest teacher at LBC and gave their theater class a crash course in the world of improv. As a way of saying thank you, the professor, Kristen, gave Sarah and I two tickets to see "Fiddler on the Roof" now playing at the historic Fulton Theatre in downtown Lancaster.

I'd been in the theater before but not to see a performance, so this was the first time for both of us. Our friends John and Lisa were telling us that the Fulton is the oldest continuously-running theater in the country and it is indeed a beautiful place. I knew nothing about the show going into it. I'd heard a couple of the songs ("Tradition," "If I Were A Rich Man," "Sunrise, Sunset") but didn't have any idea what to expect.

Sarah and I were both pleasantly surprised at the amount of humor in the show and the cast did a great job. The mostly silver-haired audience seemed a little cold at the onset but that didn't deter the performers. They kept at it and turned out a first-rate performance and by the final bow the crowd was on their feet with cheers of "Bravo!" being shouted all around us.

Sarah and I are fortunate that we were able to walk the few short blocks down to the theater and despite the grand spectacle on the stage, the walk there and back was probably my favorite part of the evening. Hand in hand on a cool (not cold) December night, the streets to ourselves, and only the sound of Sarah's heels and our conversation floating around us to fill the still night.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Steve Martin Christmas

So, yea, Sarah got me the new Steve Martin autobiography for Christmas. I read it in just a couple of hours. Funny how quickly it goes when you're really into a book. It's called "Born Standing Up" and is a rare insight into a very private person. It was a great read and I was encouraged by how many things he experienced I was able to relate to (fortunately, having sex with Stormie Omartian was not one of them. But who knew?).

Sarah also got me a box set of DVDs. Yes, the one I blogged about a few months ago. The 10-disc Saturday Night Live "Best of" collection, featuring the best of Steve Martin (of course, we watched that one first), Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken, Will Ferrell, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, and Adam Sandler.

Yea, I got some stuff for her for Christmas but it's not nearly as awesome as what she got me.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hark the Hiram

I don't often blog about music and my recommendations because, and I'll be honest, I know my musical taste lies somewhere...somewhere most people aren't entirely down with. Not that I don't like good music (or, at least what other people consider "good"), but for every Ryan Adams or Akon song I have in my iTunes, there's a Weird Al or Snow track.

But at least I'm aware of it. I'm not entirely delusional in believing that I am the end-all-be-all when it comes to musicality. Especially when I know there are people like my friends Brewster and Brad Moist who really have their finger on the pulse of what's hot...and good.

But I think I may be on to something here. A couple of weeks ago a local artist named Hiram Ring came in to the WJTL studio and performed a few songs live on the morning show. I came in to film the appearance for the station YouTube site and became a fast fan.

Hiram lies somewhere between folk and jazz but again I blame my musical ignorance for not being able to direct you exactly where his artistry resides. Sarah and I went to watch Hiram play live that weekend and we were blown away. Hiram and friends played with a string accompaniment and it was indeed a magical night.

Friday night Hiram returned to the WJTL studios to play live on the air on Radio Friend Phil's eclectic music program, The Audio Lab. Again, I was there with the cameras rolling.

This isn't the first time I've been impressed with music but when I'm impressed by the person...well, that's when I get excited. As someone who's spent his fair share of time in and around the music industry, nothing turns me off faster than someone (especially a musician) who wants nothing more than to use you to get a foothold in the industry. They're easier to spot than a fat guy at a Victoria's Secret fashion show. (And when someone thinks I can do something for them, well, it's all the more amusing.)

Thankfully, Hiram is nothing of the music-scene-nightmare type. He's very soft-spoken and unassuming. When he talks to you he looks you in the eye and there's a sincerity in his voice that is a welcome change. Hiram even allows the spotlight to be taken off of himself, allowing his friends to take the lead on some of the songs while he steps back from the mic and plays acoustic rhythm or literally takes a back seat and thumps away on the djembe.

I'll stop myself before I start to gush (excessively) and will wrap things up by saying this. Check him out. Check out the video I shot. Check out his website. If you're in the Lancaster area you can get his music at Border's. If you're not in the area, you can find him on iTunes.

In a world filled with Starbucks and EMI and corporate takeovers, it's refreshing to see the little guy stepping up to the plate and hitting a home run.

Talking, Not Doing

'Tis the season to gather with old friends and family and reminisce about the "good old days." It's a lot of fun to laugh with and remind one another about past adventures and shenanigans, and also to pass the stories onto those who may not have been around at the time the event actually happened.

But in the last year or so, as much as I relish savoring these moments with friends, it's become relatively unsettling at the same time. I don't know what changed around (or in) me to bring on this new mindset, but I can recall standing around with my buddies and wondering to myself if this is all there would be. Will we continue to marvel at the same stories every time we get together?

Not that there's anything wrong with that, but why aren't we out there doing things, giving us more material to talk about in the future?

For instance, every time I get together with my good friend Todd in Indiana we enjoy talking about growing up together, working together, the time Doug dropped a beam on Sax and Sax cussed him out, the time Dad smacked Charlie's pipe out of his mouth, the time we were on TV....but I can't help but thinking "Is this it? Aren't there going to be any new stories?"

Is it just me, or do you find yourself guilty of the same thing? It's almost like, at some point, we decide we're good with the memories we have and stop trying to make new ones. I don't know about you, but I'm not done yet. I want to keep at it. Sure, people grow up and have families, careers come calling, and people move away. But that doesn't mean we should stop enjoying being with each other...or at least trying. 

Does it?

May your 2008 be filled with opportunities for new memories.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Merry Christmas to You

If you're reading this, then more than likely you are considered either a "friend" or "family." Maybe even both. Regardless, Sarah and I have made a special Christmas video just for you.

A Woody State of Mind

I happen to be a fan of Woody Allen movies. In a majority of his films he features a small (or sometimes large) circle of friends often times gathering together and talking. Sometimes they're sitting in a restaurant talking or standing around at an art museum talking or hanging out at someone's apartment talking or walking through the park talking. OK, I guess when you put it that way it sounds kind of boring but what's always drawn me to that is the fact that he always features a circle of friends talking about things of little or no consequence. It's not really what they're talking about, but just the fact that they are together.

This weekend was what I call a Woody weekend. On Sunday Sarah and I got together with Stacey to see Hiram Ring in concert. He did an amazing job and if you're in the Lancaster area you should definitely keep an eye on his schedule to see if he's appearing at a venue near you (otherwise check him out on iTunes or Borders).

After the show we went to Chuck & Ann's for a Christmas party and it was really cool just to gather around and talk about anything and everything. Relationships, Cinema Paradiso, Martin Sheen, cats and dogs.....we covered it all.

And it was good.

Maybe it's just the way I'm wired but if you ask me it doesn't get much better than getting together with your pals and yakking it up. Even if you're yakking about nothin'.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Year in Review (2007)

‘Tis the season for my annual look back at the previous year, a way for me to keep you informed on what I‘ve been doing and a way for me to spend a Saturday afternoon. A lot happened in ‘07 so let’s get right to it (in some cases I have written a blog about the events mentioned below and will direct you to the link rather than force you to re-live it all over again here. I‘m thoughtful like that).


A Timeline by Ed Placencia

As the year began I was living in Auburn, Indiana. I was back in the area where I grew up and working with Dad as a painter/wallpaper/general decorator guy. I had set three goals for 2007: Return to NYC to perform again at the National Comedy Theatre, visit London, and kiss a girl. One of my goals I never came close to reaching (Sorry, UK), one of them I came close to (I visited the gang at the improv theater), and one of them I more than met (hello, Sarah).
January 1 I ring in the new year by spending time with the Merrells, my brother’s wife’s family. Everyone is split into teams and games commence. Bowling, ping pong, card games, and Guitar Hero. Of course, my team (I’m paired with Ben and Myka) emerges triumphant. At midnight, though, the victory turns out to be short-lived, as I have no one to kiss. So I drink Pellegrino instead.
January 6 I attend an IPFW men’s basketball game with my Dad, Uncle Rick, and cousin Ricky. The cheerleaders are especially captivating.
January 26
I find out the Sundance Film Festival will be posting all of the entries in the short film division online for the world to see.
I watch them and am repulsed. Positive I can do better, I begin writing.

February 2 I begin filming my short film The Failures of Ed.
February 4 I stumble across a TV show on the SciFi Channel, Ghost Hunters. In 60 minutes I am hooked.
February 26 In response to a blog I posted online, my buddy John sends me a package of goodies to post on my bare refrigerator. It’s more than awesome. A few days letter, my friend Jen’s package of refrigerator art arrives. MARCH
March 1 I travel with Dad to the BelTerra Casino on the southern edge of Indiana. We have been hired to bring and set up our boxing ring for a fight that will be televised on Showtime. It’s a Don King production and my dreams of seeing a rigged fight in person are achieved.
March 17 Proving that racism, classism, and sexism are still alive and well, we travel to the Great Oaks Country Club in Rochester, Michigan (just outside Detroit). Their display of discrimination and segregation would make the old South proud.

March 28
I officially accept a job offer from Fred, the GM at WJTL, a radio station in Lancaster PA I worked at from 1999-2001. I am hired to do video and audio production. Not only is it a chance to work with people I miss and love, but is also conveniently close to New York City.

April 15
Todd, Dad, Ray, and I go to Ft Wayne to watch the double-feature Grindhouse. Todd and I laugh our heads off at the insane fun unspooling on the screen, Dad doesn’t know what to think, and Ray vows never to see another movie with us again.

May 3
My short story “5 Minutes of Fame” debuts online.
May 18 Still on my short film kick, I film the first in a series of three short films I have written called The Guys. Shooting on the first installment, The Coffee Shop, goes well and features a cast of characters I have met at Brewdaily’s, my Indiana coffee shop of choice. Matt, David, and Sarah make their video debut and more than exceed expectations.
May 24 Sarah and I officially begin “hanging out.” The rest is history.

June 2 Sarah and I share our first kiss, a so-romantic-it’s-almost-too-good-to-be-true smooch in a rain storm in the middle of the night. Jealous?
June 15 I introduce Sarah to my friends -- and the world -- via a short film simply called Meet Sarah.
June 16
I move to Lancaster PA to begin my new job at WJTL. Ann and Chuck are cool enough to open their house and let me stay with them as I search for an apartment and settle in.
June 22 My short film
The Failures of Ed is complete and debuts online, complete with original music by Fred McNaughton. JULY
July 2

The Coffee Shop debuts online, featuring original music from musician Steve Bridgeman.July 21 Sarah comes to PA to visit and we take a trip to Nissley Vineyard where I propose to her. Luckily, she accepts. My friends Ethan and Aubrey are there to capture the moment through photographs. AUGUST
August 13 I find out a co-worker, Kate, is moving out of her downtown apartment and I am soon living in downtown Lancaster enjoying the city life once again.

September 2 I head up to John & Lisa’s lake house along with our other co-workers Stacey, Mindy, and Ann. Nice to be on a tube again!
September 18 During another trip to Pennsylvania, Sarah and I take the train up to New York City. We visit the National Comedy Theater and say hello to Kramer, JT, and Lepine. We meet Sarah’s friends Courtney, Will, Ryan, and Ferrin and get to take a tour of the Saturday Night Live Studios.

October 5 I experience my first “First Friday,” a monthly celebration in downtown Lancaster of arts, music, and food, with Ethan and Aubrey.
October 19 I return home to Indiana to pick up Sarah and officially move her to Pennsylvania. In a grand gesture of kindness, her mom Suzy and step-dad Ken follow behind with Sarah’s furniture.
October 25 Sarah and I fly down to Daytona Beach to get married!
October 26 My good pal Brewster officiates our wedding on the beach.
Video of the event is captured and posted to share with our friends and family. The next day we leave for West Palm Beach, where we will spend the rest of our honeymoon.

November 7 Cleverly disguised as a night of Karaoke Revolution and Guitar Hero, the gang at the station throws Sarah and I a surprise wedding shower.
November 17 Sarah and I return to Indiana for our Indiana reception. We reconnect with old friends and have an in-general great time.
November 18 Sarah and I visit with her sister Stacy and her husband Nathan. We are introduced to the world of Settlers of Catan.
November 20 Back in Pennsylvania, Sarah and I buy a sequel to the board game Settlers of Catan, Starfarers of Catan, and geek out for a few days.
November 21 The film August Rush is released in theaters. I did extra work on the film back in spring of ‘05. It wasn’t worth the wait.
November 25 Sarah and I visit New York City again with our friends Lisa and Linda. We spend most of the day in The Village and enjoy a relaxing post-Thanksgiving detour.

December 1 Sarah and I travel to Reading PA to see The Katinas in concert with Michael W Smith and American Idol’s Mandisa. We get to go backstage and hang out with the guys and are treated to a private one-song concert.
December 6 My friend Mindy invites me to be the guest speaker at a theater class at LBC taught by her friend Kristen. For almost two hours I lead the class in a crash course in improv. Fun is had by all.
December 8 Our official Pennsylvania wedding shower is a blast. Good times with Ethan and Aubrey, Chris & Kathy, some of the Gross family, the Burkholders, the Blowereses, Stacey, Ashlea, and the Zucks!
December 13 I introduce Sarah to the game Perfection. And then show the world.
And that’s about it. So far. I didn’t even come close to touching on everything that went down and our calendar is full of fun things coming up. It’s been a great year and I’ve been blessed way beyond what I deserve. As you can see, one of the best ways to keep track of what we’re up to is by stopping by my blog or even my YouTube page (and, if you haven’t already, sign up for Facebook and be the first to find out about when the two aforementioned sites are updated).

As far as goal for 2008...that’s a good question. I’ve been given so much in 2007 it almost feels greedy to ask for anything for 2008. Actually, you know what? My goal for 2008 is to take care of what I was given in 2007. To be the best employee, friend, and husband I can be. That’ll be more than cool.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing from you to find out how you’re doing.

Keep in touch!


Friday, December 14, 2007

The Return of Aaron

Last night Aaron Marrs was alive again.

Aaron was a really good friend of mine who worked at Gotee Records with me in Nashville. He was an aspiring filmmaker who had traveled to Alaska to make a documentary on deep-sea crab fishermen. He then joined the crew for a season to earn money to finance the making of his film. It was nearly three years ago when his ship was lost at sea and Aaron went down with it. I blogged about his death in my old blog and when I look back on that entry now, it seems uncharacteristically short. One of those cases where there's so much to say you don't even make the attempt because you know you won't be able to capture it all, no doubt.

Since his death I've only had one other dream about him. It was December 2006 when that dream came to me and I blogged about it as well. In that dream Aaron was encouraging me to pursue my dreams and goals (i.e., comedy). The dream left me inspired and motivated for the new year.

Last night I dreamt of Aaron again only this time the message wasn't nearly as clear. In the dream I was a new employee at a big corporation and was being given the orientation tour. Jerusha, a friend who also worked at Gotee and was very close to Aaron as well, was also there as a new hire. As the group of hirees walked through the halls I told Jerusha about our other friends at Gotee and how a lot of them are all working together again at a new record label (which, in real life, is true).

Then, at the end of the hall, I saw Aaron. He was talking with someone else and my heart began to race. I approached him and he smiled at me and said, "Hey."

Aaron looked a little different. He was always a heavyset guy and the last time I saw him he had a thick bushy fisherman's beard (nothing like the clean-shaven Aaron that appears in the beginning of my Golgotha video). In my dream he was about 50 pounds lighter and looked healthy. He even seemed a bit taller and he had a full head of hair (something that would surely make Aaron laugh).

I wanted to touch his hand and see if he was real or if I was just imagining the whole thing. I went back and forth with whether or not I should and finally couldn't help myself. I reached out and touched one of his hands really quickly; he pulled away, laughing. "Hey, hey," he said, "That's a little weird."

I laughed too but it didn't make me any less incredulous. "What are you doing here? I thought you were dead."

At this point Aaron smiled again and his eyes got watery. "I told my parents, they know. But no one else does."

The first person I thought of was Brad, another close friend of Aaron's. Brad had to know. Brad would have told me if he knew. And if he didn't know, he should.

"I won't tell anyone," I said, betraying Brad in my dream.

And then I woke up and the dream was gone. I tried desperately to fall back asleep to somehow jump back in, but to no avail.

So what does it all mean? I don't know. The message, if there even is one, wasn't nearly as clear this time around.

I thought it odd that I dreamt about him again almost exactly a year after my first dream that had such a positive impact on me. I hadn't thought of Aaron in a while, so it was odd that he would come to me in my sleep.

Maybe the fact that in my dream Aaron looked better was a sign of how we often hero-ize people in their passing. With Aaron, though, I don't think that was the case. He really was a good guy.

I told Sarah about the dream and she asked if I thought Aaron was trying to contact me. I don't think so; I don't think it works like that. I have nothing to back up my claim but I think once you're in heaven, you don't really come back to hang out here and pass on messages (sorry, John Edward). But that's not to say that God couldn't use my memory of Aaron to encourage me or impart wisdom.

Or, of course, it could have just been a dream. Something I ate. Like Scrooge talking to the ghost of Jacob Marley, "there's more of gravy than of grave about you."

So there you have it. My dream last night that made me feel warm and fuzzy when I woke up but then mostly puzzled shortly after. I don't know what it means and won't pretend like I do. Your hints and suggestions are welcome, as always.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Pretty Good Day

We've all been asked the question whether it was in an email survey or a MySpace bulletin blast or even in conversation over coffee and fries: What would your perfect day be like?

I've never really cared for that question because I don't have an answer for it. There are so many things I like to do, so many people I like to be around....any combination of those things could very well constitute a "perfect day." And just what exactly makes a day perfect? Is it the way I feel at the end of the day? Or could it possibly be the way others feel who I encountered? I don't have an answer, and won't pretend to be wise enough to tell you what would be the perfect day.

But I'm also not naive enough to deny when I've been blessed with a pretty good one.

Saturday was one of those days. I won't go into detail on how it began but suffice it to say Sarah and I are newlyweds and we enjoy partaking in activities that are common to those usually stereotyped with the recently-hitched.

I had an audition for a play at 1:20. Because it's a darker show I couldn't go in with my usual Steve Martin ha-ha monologue I usually use. I went in with a new one I had just learned a couple of days before and was ushered in to the audition room while Sarah waited in the lobby, excited to be joining me on an adventure where I had promised her sightings of intense actors in "audition mode".

The two guys conducting the audition were really friendly. They took my picture, I did my monologue, we chatted for a few short seconds, and I was finished. I felt good about the audition but then again I've felt good about other auditions and nothing came of it so I don't have any expectations. Auditioning is actually much easier than many of my friends seem to think. It's my theory that ever since "American Idol" came around people tend to assume all auditions are conducted the same way. You go in, do your thing, and the panel tears you apart if they didn't like you. Fortunately, most people actually conduct their auditions in much the same way an 8th grade boy dates a girl. You go in, try to put your best foot forward (or at least an acceptable foot) and if you're not what they're looking for you just...never hear from them.

I left the audition and described to Sarah what went on inside as we returned to the car. From there we drove to Chuck and Ann's place. It seems they had a recliner they no longer needed and Sarah and I were more than happy to take it off their hands. Their house was all decorated for Christmas and it felt nice and cozy inside (not that their house isn't always nice and cozy. They definitely have what I refer to as "a grown-up house." Or at least a "more-grown-up-than-mine" house. There are no Simpsons DVDs on kitchen shelves or boxing trophies in the front room.). It's always nice to hang out and visit with Ann and so our little jaunt to Strasburg was a nice little boost to an already-pretty good day.

A few hours later Sarah and I drove to the station, picked up the video camera and the station van, and made the 40-minute drive to Reading, PA (pronounced redding....and yes, they do have a Reading Railroad) to catch up with my old pals The Katinas. They were one of the bands signed to Gotee Records while I was still there back in 2002-2004. They are five brothers from Samoa and are definitely the real deal. They actually remind me of hanging out with my uncles and cousins. Lots of laughing and then more laughing. The only difference is, these guys can sang. They are on the road with Michael W Smith and "American Idol's" Melinda Doolittle as part of a Christmas tour.

I hadn't seen the guys since December of '03 and I was really excited to get a chance to hang out and catch up. I had contacted their manager Niel about getting with them to record an interview for the station and was hooked up with their road manager Zander. He met us at the back gate and greeted us with a hug and a smile (we would later learn that Zander is the guys' cousin, which immediately explained how accommodating and welcoming he was). He led us through the backstage maze and into the guys' dressing room, where we would be doing the interview.

Four of the guys were finishing up eating in the craft services area but Joe Katina was already in the green room and I got a chance to introduce him to Sarah and catch up on what he's been up to. We talked for about 10 minutes and soon the other brothers began to trickle in. Sam, Jesse, and the twins John and James. There were of course lots of hugs and laughs and reminiscences (who could forget their endless hours of Madden NFL on the tour bus?) and after a few more minutes the interview was underway.

The guys did a great job - as always - and as I reached the end of my questions I decided to put the guys on the spot. I asked if they wouldn't mind singing a bar or two of something a capella. Until you've heard these guys sing, in person, with no instruments, you haven't heard singing. The guys smiled, whispered to each other for a moment or two, and then out of nowhere broke into an amazing version of my favorite Christmas song, "O Holy Night."

With their first note I felt my arms painted in goose bumps and Sarah teared up as well. Even though the camera was still rolling, she couldn't help but clap when they were done. Our own private mini-concert with some of the best vocals I'd heard live since I don't know when. It's hard to describe in words, so here's a link to the video I recorded of the song.

We wrapped up our time and Zander told us we could hang on to our All Access passes and stay and watch the concert. It was such a special night and I was so glad Sarah was there to share it with.

After the concert was over we got to check back in with the guys for a few more minutes and say our goodbyes. They even gave us three bags of Hawaiian coffee before we left!! When Sarah and I left the venue, we were still reeling, almost unable to believe what a great night we had. And it wasn't over yet.

After dropping off the video camera and the van at the station, we made our way to Reflections a bar/restaurant to watch Stacey's brother Aaron, who is the drummer for Kheris. Considering we were at the Lancaster Coffee Company the night before to see our buddy Tom Herr play (with percussive accompaniment by Mindy Lapp) this had indeed become a weekend full of great music (and friends!).

So, was it the perfect day? I don't know. I don't even know if such a thing is possible here on Earth but Sarah and I both agree that this weekend we got pretty darn close.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Where Ed meets Ed meets Ed

Today is going to be a pretty interesting day in that it will include a few different aspects of my life all rolled into one. I guess it's not unlike Scrooge where he visits various points in his past all in one day. Except that I'm not an old miserly British guy disgusted by the Spirit of Christmas. But I'm getting there and my Ebenezer muttonchops are still a goal I dream of attaining one day.

But I digress.

First on the agenda is an audition at a theater in Ephrata. They are doing a production of the play "The Pillowman." I'd heard of it before but didn't know much about it. A bit of research revealed to me what an intense and dark drama it is and that would be fun to do. I'm not going in with huge expectations. It looks like it's only a cast of 4 people and I'm sure there are four people around that are more talented than I am. It'll still be fun to go in and audition. I haven't auditioned for anything in a while and I'm looking forward to flexing my chops again.

After the big audition I'm heading out to Chuck and Ann's to pick up a recliner they are being so generous to hand down. I am definitely looking forward to reclining.

Later in the afternoon I am driving up to Reading to interview The Katinas. They are in concert with Michael W Smith and I first got to know the guys when they were still on Gotee Records and I was still working for the label. They are the real deal and not only will it be fun to record a video interview with them for work, but I'm just excited to see the guys again. It's been a few years since I've seen them and can't wait to hang out, even for a short time.

And then, tonight, I'm going to see Stacey's brother Aaron perform in his band Kheris. They're playing at a place called Reflections and I'm looking forward to that. I've only seen them play one time (at the Purple Door festival) and I definitely liked what I heard. Sort of a U2 meets Coldplay meets coolness vibe.

And of course, best of all, is the fact that Sarah will be with me on each adventure. She'll get to see me in actor-mode, ex-radio rep mode, husband-moving-furniture mode, and out-on-the-town mode.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday, really.