Bed-Stuy, Do or Die…

Today is the 25th anniversary of the premiere of “Do The Right Thing,” the movie that catapulted Spike Lee to prominence. I remember him filming it in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, specifically one scene where a young boy runs down the street, and is almost hit by a car. This mural, painted on the side of one of the buildings in that neighborhood served as a backdrop during several scenes. It stayed on the building for many a year afterwards:



“Bed-Stuy,” as it’s more commonly known, was a war zone back in 1989. Crack had gripped the community by the throat. The resulting drug gang wars made mincemeat of so many young lives. The summer nights were a cacophony of music, people talking, or yelling, and the sound of gunfire. Working that year is something that is so seared in my memory, I can still vividly recall it all. Cops were still carrying revolvers (“wheel guns”), out gunned by those wielding 9mm’s, Tec-9’s, Mac 5 and 10’s, and the occasional AK-47. Crack houses were death traps, and no EMS unit – including mine – would ever respond into a known one without a police presence of some kind.

Lee captured a lot of the feeling and desperation of the streets, but he couldn’t encompass it all.

“Da Mayor (Ossie Davis): Doctor…

Mookie (Spike Lee): C’mon, what. What?

Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.

Mookie: That’s it?

Da Mayor: That’s it.

Mookie: I got it, I’m gone.”

It’s a shame so many didn’t listen to Da Mayor’s advice.


A method to my madness

While getting settled here in Syracuse has been something of a challenge regarding getting full-time work, I have gotten cast in a show here that will let me restart my acting again. As I mentioned in one of my early posts, I have been acting on and off since 1984, when I did my first play in college on a dare from a friend. I felt very fortunate in Rochester, as the theatre community is so extensive for a smaller city, and it provided me with so many opportunities not only just to act, but to learn the craft from people who are far better than I am. I know I did improve over time, and it was in no small way due to the many former and current professional actors that I had the pleasure of working with while living there.

I have been cast in a production of “The Laramie Project,” a play I acted in once before, in Rochester back in 2001 when it was still a very new play. I’ll put a link to the production at the end of this post. I started ruminating about how the hell I got the guts to actually step on stage in the first place. It’s not a question I ever really pondered before. It finally hit me that I truly owe it all to my career in EMS.

Why, you ask? In a word; confidence. I never had a lot of it as a kid, and less of it as a teenager, until that moment came when I took the first-aid course at my local volunteer ambulance corps when I was 17, joined the youth squad of the corps, then began riding as crew member at 18. It took time, but it was that experience, and the ones that would follow in the years to come which provided me with the personal confidence (or insanity) to throw caution to the wind, and audition for that first play I was ever in, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” while in college in 1984.

That first stage experience taught me that I could do anything wanted to if I set my mind to it, even if it terrified me. It also gave me the kind of thrill I had only experienced while riding on the ambulance, and it also had the advantage of providing a getaway from EMS when I needed it. EMS has provided me with a great deal of things over the years, even as I have been removed from it for so long now. Close friendships from that time are still there, and while there has been an inordinate amount of death within our ranks since 9/11, we’ve always been there for each other, through both good times and bad. Those of us that played the game in NYC and beyond understand certain things that the general public never can, and have seen things most people should never see. I carry those things into all the productions I’ve ever been associated with, as they provide a wealth of experiences and emotions to be explored as I explore the characters I am playing at any given time.

With that in mind, should you find yourselves in the Syracuse are this coming September come check out the show. Info is here: