On Being 57 and 58: A Year of Wine and Oil

“And it will be if you diligently obey My commandments… I will give rain for your land at the proper time…and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil.”  

There are 613 commandments in the Torah ranging from honor your mother and father, to not benefitting from an ox condemned to be stoned.  A year and a half ago, I got my very own, bespoke commandment.  

I was giving anesthesia in operating room South 4 at Swedish Hospital in Seattle with a surgeon who was a few years older than me.  He looked up from the surgical field and said, “Rich, this is my last case.  I’m retiring.”  I felt a rush of self-pity, but I said “Congratulations.”  I had just finished a year of Meisner acting training and was frustrated to the point of tears every time I faced the conflict of my anesthesia schedule with my acting work.  Cue commandment:

“Richard, do not benefit from the condemned ox, and oh yeah, you need to retire.”  

But I didn’t have adequate grain, wine, and oil to retire. So, I did the closest thing.  I requested and received a year-long sabbatical from Kaiser, auditioned and was accepted for 12 month acting conservatories in NYC, tried to sublet our Seattle apt. but wasn’t able to so ended our apartment lease in Seattle, flew to NYC twice to sample the acting conservatories, flew back to NYC with Fajar to find and then sign a lease for an apartment with optimal train, food, and gym access, did spreadsheets on costs of storing our Seattle stuff and then renting or buying furniture in NYC vs. moving our stuff to NYC, decided on combo approach and moved 2/3’s of our stuff with help from Rose, Annie, and Paul to storage at my U-District house, found a moving company to take the rest to NYC, left Seattle and did a two week road trip down the Oregon Coast visiting my sister Laura in Astoria, drove back to Seattle, stored the car in the garage at my U-District house, flew with to NYC arriving to an apt. which would have no furniture other than air mattresses for 3 weeks so took a little trip to Montreal for fun and to meet Eric Gozlan of Goldrush Entertainment, a movie producer who a work colleague had invested with and suggested I might want to as well, learned that Eric didn’t want my money after all, but he wanted me to be Jewish (beyond my DNA) so he suggested I meet up with a Rabbi Yakov, a Chabad Rabbi, who runs Monday night Torah classes at his loft 2 blocks from our NYC apt. and that is where I learned about the commandments and the aforementioned promised grain, wine, and oil.  

At Chabad Headquarters 770 Eastern Parkway Crown Heights

Rose and Christopher feared that I was becoming a Hasid.  Not to worry dear children.  No beard for me and no following Deuteronomy 21: 18-21 “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious child who will not obey the voice of his father… his mother and father shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of the city… Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones.”  

Here’s what I did in NYC instead of stoning stubborn children (and you know who you are).  My primary program was the Year Long Professional Acting Conservatory Program at the Barrow Group. I was blessed to be taught by their founders Seth Barrish and Lee Brock who have taken traditional acting curricula and added and modified it with the goals of effective story telling in such a “natural way” that the audience couldn’t even tell you’re acting.  I feel that my craft has taken a giant leap forward thanks to these two stellar teachers and the other courses I took at Barrow Group, HB Studio, T Schreiber, the Funny School of Acting, Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Comedy Cellar.  My classes included: scene study, monologues, voice, speech and accents, the art of transformation, Alexander Technique, stage combat, improv, acting for commercials, self taping, personal clown, standup comedy.  

I knew I loved NYC.  I grew up on the East Coast and my communication style is East Coast direct which totally works here and feels good.  I love the New York high energy, commitment to excellence and of course, the quantity and quality of acting classes and work opportunities.  I became obsessed with staying here.  All I needed was enough grain, wine and oil.  I bought lottery tickets.  I prayed. But,

“…and you shall not follow after your heart and after your eyes by which you go astray—so that you may remember and fulfill all My commandments and be holy to your God.

My heart and eyes were telling me I needed to stay in NYC.  One of my acting teachers agreed, “Rich, you need to stay in New York and here’s how.  I have a student who’s an anesthesiologist like you and he works a lot as an actor, you should talk to him.”  Hallelujah. I was just about to find out how to stay in NYC.  I emailed him.   No answer. I checked back in with my teacher.  She reached out to him and told me to re-email, again no answer.  A couple of weeks later I got in an elevator for a class at a different studio and there was a guy in there and I just knew it was him. Do I ask a stranger in an elevator if he’s an anesthesiologist/actor who is going to teach me how to follow after my heart and my eyes so I can stay in NYC?  He and I walked down the hall, me not saying anything.  He went to the same studio as me, goes to the window to pay for his class, says his name and it was that guy.  Double Hallelujah!  

I’m gonna stay in New York! I’m gonna stay in New York! Sung to the opening turn of Ring Around the Rosie. Click arrow to hear me do it.

We talked.  I learned that it would take me several years doing locums anesthesia in New York to be well-enough known to people so that if I said no to work, they’d still call me back again.  Anesthesia is a field where you build up trust over years.  If I stayed in New York using his approach, I’d have much less schedule availability for acting than I would have if I went back to Seattle. Furthermore, by the time I could achieve his schedule flexibility, I’d already be retired for real.  Cue commandment:

“Richard, go back to Seattle, work part time with your fantastic medical colleagues there and immerse yourself in the Seattle acting community.  By the way, I wasn’t completely serious about stoning your children.”

But enough about me. Fajar, as always, has been a wonderful partner in life and love.   He encouraged me to take the New York sabbatical and then he joined in it.  He took the opportunity to pursue his passion for beauty and enrolled in classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.). He’s always been a genius with his own style and now he’s learned the science behind that artistic intuition.  

He’s even officially certified by F.I.T. in helping others to achieve their best style.  We have taken full advantage of our time here.  We have seen more than 40 Broadway and off-Broadway shows.  We’ve eaten our way through this world capital of international cuisine.  We have traveled to Florida, Montreal, and New England.  He’s looking forward to returning to Seattle to his primary career in early childhood education by helping children, families and their teachers. He is so beloved by his Seattle work colleagues that they are welcoming him back to his job with open arms.  

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Rose continues to deepen her love and compassion for Boo, her behaviorally-challenged drama-queen dog. When she’s not with him, she’s wrapping up her second year of Law School at University of Washington.  She was a winner of the University of Washington Appellate Advocacy Competition.  This summer, she is working at the King County Department of Public Defense.  Her most recent legal writings have included: “Can a person who climbed through a hole in a fence to feed an abused pot-bellied pig claim legal reimbursement from the owner after the pig bit him?” and “Can Washington’s decision to apply a stricter test to peremptory strikes based on race due to possible effects of implicit bias and its decision to abolish the death penalty due to its application in a racially biased manner be expanded to cases of unconscious racial bias in policing, prosecution, and school discipline?”  I have always wanted my children to be better and smarter than me.  By the way the answers are no and maybe.  

Christopher also gets commandments though he’d never call them that (see previously mentioned stubborn child).  

Picture to be explained below

His art commune house in Brooklyn fell apart due to people moving out and a police raid of one of their DIY events/concerts.  So he moved to LA stopping on the way to help Rachel move to Berkeley.  

He and his cousin Paul earned their 15 minutes of internet fame this year by making viral parody shoes. For example:

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Their Banaciaga Shoe that was re-posted hundreds of thousands times across every social media platform garnering the attention of larger fashion publications such as High Snobiety

and their Goth Crocs

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which blew up many orders of magnitude larger than the banana shoes, written up in a laundry list of publications including: NY Post, Fox News, Fox Local News Segment, Insider (with cool video), Lad Bible, The Brag, The Daily Dot, The Sun, Pretty 52, Bustle, VT Network (with video interview Christopher), Unilad, Style Insider (cool video 3 million views, 11k share) . B – list celebrity attention soon followed and they were publicly worn by Rico Nasty on stage at Coachella, requested by Billie Eillish’s personal stylist, and sported on social media by a long list of other influencers and rappers. You can buy them here.

Christopher wearing them at the mall became their most viral image.

The Goth Crocs inspired people to get in on the joke and add to it with fan art, goth croc inspired footwear popping up all over instagram. Crocs teamed up with Barneys to “steal” Christopher’s idea. See it here. Here’s some of the internet’s responses to Christopher and Paul’s goth crocs.

Christopher has also been continuing to make music. Here’s his most recent release

Lost My Mind by Christopher Snyder

So Rose is better and smarter than me and Christopher has more space on this piece than me. I have my own identity though. Here’s my Acting stuff. Here’s two 5 minute standup comedy sets on topics ranging from what it’s like to come out as a middle aged guy to wanting my inheritance now.

Click image to see my stand up !

I haven’t been wearing Goth Crocs myself. They don’t work with my plantar fasciitis.

But I am grateful for the commandments I have received.  

“…Indeed the righteous will extol Your Name; the upright will dwell in Your presence.”

7 thoughts on “On Being 57 and 58: A Year of Wine and Oil

  1. What fun to read about your adventures!
    Keep up the blog!!

  2. Richard: hilarious and heartwarming. And more than a little inspirational. Thanks for staying in touch!

  3. Love the “news” – what a great experience for you. Glad your family is well. Sorry you didn’t detour to NC.

  4. Hey, Rich. What an awesome adventure! After Meisner I sold my 800-sq-ft Seattle condo and moved to my hometown of Wenatchee where I bought a 2800-sq-ft house! (I was never going to be able to afford a house in King County!) I love the house, love the weather, and love my semi-retirement job working in a wine shop three days a week. I’ve been auditioning and have been cast in a show that starts rehearsals soon. I’m totally noticing a difference in my acting pre versus post Meisner.

  5. Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am taking your feeds also. Clarinda Gregoor Schuster

  6. Excellent write-up. I certainly love this site. Thanks! Nettle Garfield Tempa

  7. I relish, lead to I discovered exactly what I used to be looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye Marcille Austin Andrej

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