Monday, January 16, 2017

Paint Strong Orlando

The Orange County Library System (101 E Central Blvd, Orlando, Florida 32801) hosted Paint Strong Orlando which is a collection of original works created in response to the tragedy at Pulse nightclub by local Orlando artists. Local art-supply store Sam Flax of Orlando donated materials to artists who wanted to create works of art dedicated to the victims and collected more than 250 pieces, which were on display at the Orlando Public from September 15 through October 2016.

The Paint Strong Orlando opening reception displayed these pieces, which celebrate the strength of our community. Sam Flax gave a brief talk himself about how he isn't an artist but he wanted to find a way to offer creative expression in the wake of the Pulse tragedy. Paintings were hung on every floor of the Library. The reception was incredibly crowded. It was tough finding the right angle to sketch. Linda Saracino offered her advice on where I might position myself. The sketch was done to the vertical dimensions of the Library newsletter, because it was considered as a possible cover image. The "Pulse Love" painting was done by Betsy Brabrandt and the eye bleeding a rainbow was painted by Della Morte.

K.C. Cali sat on the library floor beside me as I sketched. She had a painting in the show at though I never picked it out as one of her pieces. She was upset about the loss that the evening was honoring. 49 people lost their lives, and 250 works of art struggled to find meaning in the senseless loss. I have yet to count all the sketches 1 have done in the wake of the Pulse tragedy. The number continues to rise. K.C. wiped away tears and I stopped sketching to talk to her. This was the first sketch I didn't complete during the course of an event.

K.C. wanted to grab a bite to eat, and we went the the Irish Harp and Celt restaurant, a block a way. It was poker night which is another awesome sketch opportunity I need to follow up on. She called her husband to let him know where she was. I had fumbled that basic courtesy in my own marriage and now I'm suddenly single because of my single minded obsession.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Toxic Avenger roars into the Shakes.

I went to a dress rehearsal for the Central Florida premiere of The Toxic Avenger Musical! The show featured a live rock band on stage behind the action! Greater Orlando Actors Theatre is bringing this hilarious musical comedy to the stage.  The show has mature content and may not be appropriate for children.

Armed with superhuman strength and a heart as big as Newark, Melvin Ferd The Third (Adam McCabe) is out to save New Jersey, end global warming and woo the prettiest, blindest librarian in town. Don't miss The Toxic Avenger live on stage! It's like nothing you've ever seen before. The Toxic Avenger is based on the 1985 classic cult film from Troma Studios and features music and lyrics by David Bryan with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro.

I'm a sucker for a musical and this show features me home state of New Jersey being slimmed by the rich and sleazy Manhattan. When Melvin is thrown in a vat of toxic green sludge, he becomes the super human but malformed Toxic Avenger. The only girl who could love this misshapen beast with an eye ball on his cheek would be the blind librarian, Sarah (Jillian Gizzi). She does an amazing job of being sexy, funny and always facing the wrong way when speaking to someone. This has to be every single guys fantasy, to be loved by a girl who is blind his flaws. In many ways, the show reminded me of "Little Shop of Horrors" with the geek suddenly getting his every desire. Though the Avenger won the love of his girl he could not let her touch him for fear that she would discover just how malformed he was.

As the show was being rehearsed, the set was still being painted. A former student of mine, Megan was busy painting a stone facade along with Julia Gagne on the stage. My favorite song had to be, "Bitch, Bitch, slut, slut, lire, lire, whore. I find myself humming that song at the most inopportune times. Being an in it in, run through in the theatre there were a few staging mishaps, but even those were so funny that they added to the shows entertainment value. There was plenty of gender bending and one sultry, hairy legged dame said to me, "Draw like one of your French girls" as she-he, walked up the aisle on a break.   This show is as entertaining as a bounce house full of kids in from of a strip club. Don't miss it!

STARRING: Leesa Castaneda – Mayor Babs Belgoody/Ma Ferd/Nun Adam DelMedico, White Dude Daniel Martinez, Ethnic Dude Director, Jay Levy Musical Director, Theresa Leigh Smith-Levin, Choreographer – Shawn Michael Lowe, Producer – Paul Castaneda.

The remaining show times are January 15,19, 20, 21 and 22, 2017 at 8pm in the Lowndes Shakespeare Complex in the Mandell Theatre (812 E Rollins St. Orlando, Fl. 32803). For tickets go to or call 407-990-1887.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

ODD 19 at Wally's Liquors.

Once a month, I host a free sketch outing called, ODD (Orlando Drink and Draw). The first ODD event of 2017 was held at Wally's Mills Avenue Liquors, (1001 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803).
Wally's is a landmark dive bar with a rocking jukebox, serving beer and stiff drinks since 1954. My original goal for ODD was to visit Orlando's best dive bars. Wally's definitely is x epitome of a drive bar. 

Upon entering, there is a liquor store to the right with a wide assortment of bottles. Opposite that, two men sat at a table looking at a sports event on the tube. The bar itself is in the back. A U shaped bar fills the tight space. The wallpaper of nude women is the first thing the caught my eyes. I picked a stool at the corner of the bar and ordered a Rolling Rock. Two guys and a gal sat opposite me. Patrons go to Wally's with one objective, and that is to get drunk. The two guys seemed pretty wasted. The woman, sporting a nose ring and a skull cap fingered her phone and kept her friends amused with the latest Facebook news.  Within minutes of starting the sketch, one of the guys came over to see what I was up to. It turns out he is an artist himself and he spoke for some time about the quick two minute sketches he once did of the patrons at the bar. I overheard some of their conversation which was largely about who had slept with whom and the emotional ramifications. Orlando is a small down, and news travels fast on the streets.

Another bar patron approached me and he said my sketch reminded him of the work of a short little French artist. He got down on his knees to demonstrate the artists height, and I shouted, "Toulouse!" He had seen a movie about Toulouse Lautrec which was made back in the 60s. He said if Toulouse were to enter Wally's, he would be sketching, just like me. Though my sketch wasn't finished, he asked if he could share what I was doing. He lifted the sketchbook like a sacred document and shared it with everyone who was in the sketch. A poet entered the bar through the back door. He was asked to chime in on t sketch and he said, "I only can express an opinion about literature, I don' know much about visual arts." Then he looked at the sketch and simply shouted "Damn!" He is a man who knows how to use words. The bar maid checked on my progress several times.

Linda Saracino showed up and then Viviana Castro. Viviana could only stay for 20 minutes so she rushed to get a thumbnail sketch done. Then Wendy Wallenberg showed up and she lit up the Internet with a selfie and controversy. Online, Elizabeth Maupin said she had bee warned to never go in the place. She is an artist but I haven't convinced her to whip out her sketchbook yet. Out in the parking lot Wendy kept yelling at cars that parked to near her Porche. The guys windows were rolled down, so they might have heard her. I was afraid she might start a brawl. 

The night was an adventure. We listened to some good Beetles music on the Jukebox, joked with the regulars and had a couple of beers while sketching. Then Wendy stepped in despite the smoke to make the evening true ODD.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weekend Top 6 Picks for January 14th and 15th.

Saturday January 14, 2017 
 8am to 9pm $5 - $25 40th Annual Central Florida Highland Games. Saturday and Sunday. Central Winds Park 1000 Central Winds Dr, Winter Springs, Florida 32708. Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the games by watching traditional athletics, listening to Scottish music including bagpipes, learn about the Scottish Clans, and taste traditional Scottish food and beer. For more information about tickets and the games, please visit

5pm to 8pm Free. Crealde Night of Fire. Crealde School of Art, 600 St Andrews Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32792. Tour Crealdé’s studios and galleries, participate in hands-on workshops and demonstrations including a bronze pour, and register for specially priced classes. There will be live music, food, refreshments, and storytelling around the fire.

6pm to 8pm Free.  Art Splash. Downtown Mount Dora. Can sell art for free. Busking allowed.

Sunday January 15, 2017 
Noon to 3pm Donation. Music at the Casa. Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum, 656 N Park Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789. Matt Festa Jazz Saxophone. Members of the public are invited to visit our historic home museum to listen to live music and take a tour of our historic home museum and the James Gamble Rogers II Studio by trained docents.  Come as you are--casual attire, light refreshments served, children welcome! For information on upcoming "Music at the Casa" performances, visit Upcoming Events.

2pm to 4pm Free Yoga. Lake Eola Park, 195 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL. Every week.

7pm to 10pm Free. Going Native. Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, Autograph Collection, 325 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801. Exhibit featuring local artists,
Donna Dowless
Tom Sadler
Margaret Juul
Greg Byrd
Phillip Anthony
Ursela Schwartz
Sally Evans
Alana Ohern,Elizabeth St Hilare

Thursday, January 12, 2017

MTV Pulse Documentary at Falcon Bar.

MTV aired a documentary about Pulse survivors. Since I don't have a TV, I put out a call on Facebook, to see if anyone wanted a guest to watch the show. Melissa Marie let me know that they would air the show at Falcon Bar in Thornton Park. I arrived early and got a high top table with a view of the bar and The TVs.

The documentary was hard to watch in the beginning since it is all so close to home. Survivors got to meet people who helped them that night live on camera. Others visited memorials to honor friends they had lost. Two young women from Philadelphia had been visiting Orlando on the night of June 12th. They were both shot on their only experience of Orlando nightlife. Each woman was recovering in their own way. One seemed able to block the memories to feel secure day to day while the other relives the experience daily and is seeking on going counseling. Both are far from a full recovery.

Although the subject was raw and visceral, the show tended to feel a bit like a reality TV show in which incidents are manufactured for the sake of the drama. I'm glad I go to see the documentary however, which offered insights in to the emotional impact of surviving such a horrific public mass shooting. Only yesterday a gunman opened fire in a Fort Lauderdale airport. The gun was in his checked in baggage, which is legal as it turns out. I've always been afraid to even pack a shaving razor in my luggage since 9-11. This insane gun violence is out of control and any attempts at gun reform are always shot down.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Candlelight vigil at Walmart.

I went to a candlelight vigil at Walmart Supercenter, (3101 Princeton Street, Princeton, Orlando, FL). The vigil was in memory of Master Sergeant Debora Clayton, and Deputy Norm Lewis. Clayton was shot by Markeith Loyd, 41, while in pursuit. The shooter was a  suspect in the murder of  pregnant mother Sade Dixon who was believed to be killed by her ex-boyfriend. Clayton was shot after she spotted the suspect outside the Walmart on Princeton Street around 7:15 a.m. Monday. She was among the first wave of officers who responded on the evening of June 12th at the Pulse nightclub shoot in which 49 people lost the or lives.

After shooting Clayton, authorities said Loyd fled toward the Pine Hills neighborhood, where he fired shots at a deputy’s cruiser and carjacked a vehicle. Orange County Sheriff's Deputy Norman Lewis, an 11-year veteran, was killed in a crash as authorities gave pursuit. Markeith Loyd was still eluding capture on the day of the vigil. The reward is being raised from $60,000 to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of Loyd.

As I walked towards the vigil, two police cruisers were parked in front of the Walmart entrance. A makeshift memorial was set up with live flowers, Mylar helium balloons  and a large stuffed plush dalmatian. Photographers shot photos of the memorial and the small crowd lit candles. Votive candles were left burning curbside at the memorial.   Loud motorcycles rode into the parking lot. I thought a biker gang had stopped to pay their respects, but the bikes were parked and the biker gang went inside to shop.

I heard a metallic bang to my right as I sketched. Some careless driver had backed up into one of the motorcycles. The driver paused for a moment like a deer in the headlights when he realized there were police everywhere.  Then he drove away. A mourner pursued a bit on foot trying to read the license plate. He only caught the first three digits. When the biker came out of Walmart an officer apologized. The hit and run driver had gotten away. The bike wasn't knocked over, so the damage must have been minimal. Cowards flee, believing they protected their boundaries.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Déjà vu at IHOP.

Driving back to my downtown apartment, I decided to stop at IHOP (647 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803). I almost always get an eggs and ham melt and a Mountain Dew. The place was packed. I've never seen it so full. People must have been eating out in the gap between Christmas and New Years. There was a commotion as I entered. A waitress said "I'm not serving him!" "But he has money." replied the maitre d'. They weren't talking about me as it turned out. There was a disheveled man walking between tables holding two plastic shopping bags full of clothes. His fingers were like gnarled tree roots. He wore a black hoodie and a grey flannel jacket.

A tall waiter got him seated and served him orange juice and a coffee. He returned several times to check up on the gentleman who was too disoriented to order. He kept muttering to himself "Déjà vu' Déjà vu". He knotted his fingers into the shape of a gun, or a heart, then shouted, "Sean Connery is wrong". The waiter asked him to keep his voice down and once again asked if the gentleman would like to order anything. He said, "I like the juice." Since I've been sketching Pulse survivors and listening to their stories, I am on the defensive when it comes to unpredictable behavior. The man kept sprinkling salt in his hand and then licking it up. I needed to sketch to calm my nerves.

The folks at the table next to him got nervous and got up to leave. As they were leaving, he leaned over and shouted, "Can I have that!" He wanted a used napkin. The flustered costumer said "You might be better off getting a new one since this was used". He wanted the napkin regardless. The waiter returned and finally convinced the man to order some French toast and sausage links. He explained "I'll cover the bill, we need to look out for each other. Next time you see someone in need, help them out, you hear?" he told him. "It is what we do for each other. We need to protect our humanity." I'm not so sure the man understood. I've often thought that had some one reached out to the Pulse shooter in the weeks leading up to his insane flash of anger and hatred, perhaps he could have been defused. Perhaps in a perfect world, generosity and kindness can stop hate.

The stranger at the table in front of me finished before I did. In his conversation with himself, it sounded like he had just arrived in Orlando, as if he had been left here. Thanks to his guardian angel waiter, he was welcomed and respected at IHOP. I left the usual tip for the waitress who wanted the man removed, who happened to serve me. Then I found the waiter who had treated the man with such respect at the soda fountain and I gave him twice the tip, thanking him for how he treated the man. He seemed surprised but glad. I need to love and respect the people that remain in my life. This New Year brings uncertainty, but this holiday feast reminded me of what the holiday season is all about.

Monday, January 9, 2017

First light of the first day of 2017.

I usually host a New Year's Day party each year with my wife. Now that I'm separated, that didn't feel like the right thing to do. Besides my downtown apartment is too small. A friend suggested we see the sun rise at New Smirna Beach. The alarm went off at 5am and we were driving east by 6am. Thankfully there is just one country road that winds the whole way. The sky gradually grew lighter as we drove through farm country. Fog settled into the low lying fields and glowed a rich yellow punctuated by stately palms. As the sky got brighter, I got nervous that we might miss the first sliver of sun light. A long gentle incline up a causeway bridge opened up our view to the horizon. The sun had not peaked out yet.

The streets near the beach were deserted. We found a parking spot in front of Flagler Tavern, and then scrambled to get lawn chairs and sketching supplies ready. Runners in pink were beginning to assemble and register for a race in the beach side park. As soon as we sat down in the beach chairs, the first sliver of sun poked out above clouds at the horizon. A couple embraced in front of us while others shot cell phone photos. I documented the moment with a quick digital painting. We took a selfie holding up the January 1st Orlando Sentinel as we squinted into the morning light .

We spent most of the day relaxing on the beach, watching sand pipers as they raced down to the surf's edge and then back when the sliver of water rushed up onto the shore. They pecked incessantly, looking for tasty morsels just below the wet sand surface. Sea gulls would have angry aerial battles as they fought for crumbs of bread thrown up by tourists. Two seagulls became entangled in flight over a crumb, and they hit the hard sand with a thud. They shook it off and were back in flight in an instant to fight again. When the bread ran out they all stood on the mirror of wet sand looking stately and calm. They all faced the sun as if in deep Zen meditation.

A family strolled on the beach in front of us. The toddler was helping his dad by pushing the red wagon in the sand. His chubby legs moved with determination, he kept his head down watching every step. A heavy set bearded man stood and addressed the family. He was to far away for me to hear what he said. The teenage boy had on a wet suit and the man walked with him out into the waves. They spoke for a short while and then the boy held his nose. The man tipped him over backwards into an on coming wave. It was a baptism. Three others followed in quick succession followed by cheers from the onlooking family. A young girl who had bright neon red hair was dressed all in white. She gave the pastor a high five as she came back out of the surf. Another woman hugged him after screaming from the sudden plunge into the cold. The hug may have been affection, or a need for warmth.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Phantasmagoria Fire Dance to Ring in the New Year.

John DiDonna the producer of the Steam punk horror story telling group Phantasmagoria invited me to his home in Sanford for New Year's Eve. I of course expected lots of actors and actresses and was intent on sketching the midnight fire dance. House numbers were impossible to see at night, so we parked in the general facility and walked the neighborhood in search of the party. We walked past this state historic mansion even they I heard voices in the back yard. By process of elimination I finally decided that this had to be it. I heard John laughing in the backyard, so I walked across the lawn toward a gate on the side of the house. Of course most normal guest would knock on the front door, but I walked towards voices and then tried to open a stubborn old side gate. John saw me struggling and he came over to help me force the gate open. Bricks were piled everywhere and a garden hose slithered in all directions across the path. Guests were relaxing around a fire pit in the back yard. I shook hands with Seth Kubursky and hugged his wife Genevieve Bernard.

I was carrying a cold bottle of Prosecco and needed to drop it off in the kitchen. Dion Leonhard greeted us in the doorway. She grabbed the bottle and whisked us inside. She immediately started giving us a tour of the home. John and Dion had recent purchased the historic home from someone who had lost his partner and wanted to escape the memories. The price was a steal. An inspector working for John expected to find dry rot and structural problems, but after several hours, he pulled John aside and said "You have to buy this home." The original floor plans are hung in the entry hall and a giant staircase was decorated with dozens of framed theater posters. Dion pointed out what looked like a trap door in the floor. This is just on of six houses in Seminole county that has a basement. She opened the basement door, and I could see a skeleton reclined on a basement shelf. Original cabinetry, historic wallpaper and a giant four post bed really made the place feel like it had stepped back in time. The restoration is an ongoing project. Dion was very excited about a room at the top of the stairs that will soon be her dance studio.

The home has a ghost. The upstairs guest bedroom is where Minerva's body had been reclined for two weeks. It was a strangely long time to leave her lying there. It is believed that she still wanders the halls. It was getting close to midnight and Dion had to get ready for the fire dance. Guests gathered in front of the home  and the Phantasmagoria fire dancers used the sidewalk as a stage. I decided that the best view was "backstage'" across the street. My friend was confused by my choice and she huddled together with the rest of the theater audience on the front lawn. The count down began... 10, 9, 8, 7, . . . A midnight everyone cheered and the flames ignited. Each performer had a torch candelabra with four or fire flames in each hand. A car driving by honked its approval. Fireworks were exploding all around the neighborhood. It felt like I was sketching war zone. Hours later I would learn that a terrorist attack happened at Reina nightclub as hundreds of revelers marked the new year. In the report I read, 39 had died. That number has likely risen. It felt like June 12th all over again. At the Orlando Tournament of Roses Parade a float with a giant dove and rose pedal rainbow reminded us all of the senseless loss at Pulse.  New Year's Eve should be about new beginnings but madness prevails.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Voci Dance Paint Chips at Fringe Winter Mini-Fest.

I went to a Voci Dance dress rehearsal at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center (812 E Rollins St, Orlando, Florida 32803). Much time was spent getting the projector situated while the dancers stretched.

Fringe favorite Voci Dance is back and for the Orlando Fringe Winter Mini Fest, bringing the word jazz master Ken Nordine’s 1960s COLORS album to life through a quirky supersonic multimedia dance performance that brings to visual expression, the eccentric hues of the artists’ palette through Voci’s signature blend of creative movement, humor, wit, and grace. Treat yourself to an experience where the unexpected becomes the norm.

This show is playful and fun. Each dancer added their own quirky personality to the colors they portrayed. When layered with the music, colorful projected visuals and the beat generation near to the beat generation narration the playful irony was contagious. Blue and yellow were dear friends, but nasty green stepped in between and separated the pair.  Yellow wallowed in sorrow until blue realized that together they could make their own shade of green. Purple us proud and white split the dark as she aimed a small flashlight at herself. Mud slithered on the dance floor. Though each color was unique in personality, the magic happened as they collaborated.

Friday, January 6th @ 5:45pm and Sunday, January 8th@ 2pm in the Mandell Theatre at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center.
More info.

Dancers: Lisa Mie, Katherine Fabian, Larissa Humiston, Leah Marke, Sarah Lockard, Tymisha Harris, Dede Ramos, David Gabriel.