Monday, October 20, 2014

What's Next?

I have been thinking about the passing of my friend René.  The one thing that unites us all is death, and yet it is the least understood journey of all.  Upon the death of the Maestro I heard a person say, "Well, I guess that means we all move up one place in line."  I think he was talking about career but it's also true for life; we all move one position closer to the exit at the death of those who are older.
There was a time when I thought of heaven as some great reunion.  Those whom we have known would be there to greet us and celebrate eternal life for well... eternity.  As I get closer to the actual experience I am not so clear about what is "there".  In fact I can't even conceive of what "there" is.
Teachers and philosophers will say that "knowing" is impossible.  The human mind can not conceive of what spiritual existence is.   Mortals can not quantify immorality. It's a catch 22.  Any human concept about immortality and eternity is incorrect.  This circular thinking does not sit well with my human reason.
It all comes down, not to concept but, to consciousness.  What will my consciousness be when I have "shed this mortal shell".   I assume in this human-less state I would be conscious of the Truth, Love and understand what Principle is but: will I be consciously aware of what I did or did not do while in that shell?  Will the consciousness I know as "me" still be intact or totally irrelevant?
Assuming that my consciousness remains individualized I would "know" other individualized conscious entities on the same plane.  That would be like a marathon celestial party in an esoteric way. I would know everyone in consciousness not necessarily by physical form since there would be no physical form on that plane. But what are we if we are not the sum total of what we have done as a human?
Who are we when we refer to ourselves as I am? What are we when we say I am? Conscious Awareness perhaps? I am aware of my existence. The only thing we can know is this moment. A conscious recognition of our own being. I AM.  The more we identify with this consciousness of I Am, the closer we are to immortality and eternity.  I AM seems to be the only consciousness that continues on after our death, but not the consciousness of I Am in human life but abstract existence.
Since all my earthly pleasures will be unavailable to me, consciousness is all that I will take.  If I am unsure of who I am in the realism of eternity, then I am unsure of eternity.  What I did or what I accomplished (or didn't) in this limited Earthly existence is irrelevant.  If I conceive of myself as the sum total of all the Earthly possessions and achievements, then I will be left without an identity in the next plane of existence.
Christianity believes in a "get out of Jail free" card.  I am not convinced that a ransom paid by an Earth bound deity is enough to give me the sense of I Am.  The belief that one can do anything they wish and at the last minute play the redemption card seems contrary to the way life works. Can we really gain this "heavenly reward" by publicly acknowledging a belief.  With faith in this belief we are saved?.. but saved from what?  Belief is important but it is trumped by knowing. What can I actually know about this divine bargain? We are back once again to what we can know as humans.
If I can't know what tomorrow will bring, how can I know what eternity will bring? To experience what happens in  the future,  I will have to know the I am that is experiencing it.   Otherwise the experience will take place without an observer and as we all know: a tree that falls in the Forrest when no one is there to hear it makes no sound.  
Once again we are back to circular logic.  I am then the observer of I am. I am not the observer of WHO I am but simply the observer of THE I AM.  I am observing the ever renewing eternal nature of life. For me that force is God.  Man, then, is the point at which God knows of his own existence.  Man is that knowledge of individual eternal Mind which is also our Mind. Like a grain of sand which is not the beach but the beach is a collective of individual grains of sand, we are not God but collectively represent God.  
This probably flies in the face of most organized religions. This I AM idea was not taught to me in the fundamental Methodist faith I was raised.  In that philosophy I was taught that there were rules I could follow and concepts I could acknowledge that would get me a line pass to this private club called heaven.  I had no reason to doubt it, but back then I also had no reason to doubt that Santa Claus had elves who made toys in a shop at the North Pole.  I have matured in both concepts enough to question the idea that something is true just because adults tell you it is.  Knowing that there is no North Pole workshop has not ruined the Christmas spirit for me.  Knowing that heaven is  not this "members only" after party in the sky does not ruin spirituality for me.
I am not trying to change anyone Else's idea of what eternity might be. It will always be the great unknown and unverified place we all seem to end up.  In the same way I am not looking for someone to "save" me from these thoughts.  It seems to me that if you are trying to know the I AM of God and that this God is the same to everyone everywhere, so we should all treat one another like we would want to be treated, and truly live that way.... then whatever reward is coming will not be withheld because we did not belong to the proper organization. 
That's just me.  You probably feel differently.  
As you were,
Jay 


Thursday, October 09, 2014

René the Artist

This is one of my favorite pictures of René in his "shop". I always preferred to call it his studio. The word shop seemed more appropriate for guys working on automobiles. In this Burbank space artists of varying talents sculpted heads from clay and designed miniature stage wardrobe for a tiny dancers and singers on strings. Other than the occasional reference to René's vintage Jaguar convertible there was never any "garage talk".  It is a studio. It holds a lifetime of memories for me.
"The Way I remember the Maestro."
Over the last 40 years I have lost count of how many hours I have spent sitting on a shop stool listening to René tell stories while we painted, glued but mostly sanded pink neoprene molded body parts. It was right there that I heard tales of the Ed Sullivan Show and days of the Hollywood Palace.  It is impossible to recall all the things I learned from watching René but for sure he taught me how to do "finish sanding".  
Since René painted his puppets with an airbrush finish the sanding had to be perfectly smooth.  Under an artistically applied base coat of lacquer paint, a slight error in sanding would stand out like a lighthouse beacon.  Several times a body part would be sent back to the sanding table for me to "work on" again, after that first coat of paint.  Since he never threw away sandpaper it was always a tough selection finding just the right piece with just the right level of wear to accomplish the task.  I didn't mind because sanding time meant more time for us to swap stories.  Besides I was only at the "shop" because I wanted to be there, not because I was on the clock. 
One of René's Creations
During the early days of my career I used that shop as a hiding place to get away.  In a day before cell phones it was easier to drop off the grid.  If I had a business deal to consider, a script to learn or just needed to vanish from show business for a while, the shop was the perfect Bat cave.  There were plenty of projects at the shop to take one's mind off just about any decision.  The Maestro (a name I gave to René - the lead puppeteer is always called the Master Puppeteer, so he was always the Maestro to me) was a strict gate keeper.  Even my personal manager did not have the number to the shop.  Unless it was Sandi trying to reach me I was "not there".  
Perhaps our best collaboration was for a short lived series called "Mrs Columbo".  The story was written for me and involved  (what else) but a crazy ventriloquist.  My character kills a puppet maker in his workshop.  The ventriloquist makes it look like a robbery but becomes haunted by a puppet who "witnessed" the killing .  It was my first dramatic acting role and I was trying to prepare for an experience I never had before.  
René was contracted to make the puppets for the script and they used a lot of  his work to dress the set.  The actual shooting workshop was very similar to the picture above. 
It was a couple of days before we started shooting the show. It was probably after 10:00 pm and the shop was dark and empty except for me and René. The Maestro was finishing up the puppets for the show, I was a nervous wreck. Since the set was very similar to the actual shop I decided to rehearse the murder scene while the Maestro was painting the final touches on a puppet face.  He was paying absolutely no attention to the words from the script I was yelling trying to make believable.  I tested several moves around the room to see what felt better.  
With the Maestro sitting in almost the same position in the same chair as in the picture above I was totally immersed in my character as a killer.  With all the method I knew to employ I started to picture how this character would kill a puppet maker in his own workshop.  Not thinking how it sounded that evening, I walked up behind the Maestro and calmly said, " Maestro, If I was going to kill you right now, what would I use to do it?"
René did not turn around nor did he pause to think or even divert his attention away from painting eyebrows on a puppet.  He simply grabbed a tool from his desk, and passed it back over his shoulder to me and said, "I'd use this." 
It was a wood worker's awl... a very sharp, heavy duty ice pick of a tool which, indeed, would make a very formidable murder weapon.  Even though I mimed a couple of stabbing motions in the Maestro's direction he neither flinched nor turned in my direction.   Although the director of the episode decided that the murder weapon should be a chisel on the day of shooting,  I still think the Maestro was correct in the selection of the right tool for the right job.  
I never thought of the Maestro as old, just older.  Over the last few years when he would express his frustration over the advancement of age,  I would tease him.  I thought he was teasing back one day when he said that one of his hands was older than the other.  He held out his hands turning them  palms up and palms down.  His left hand was much more wrinkled, worn and aged than his right hand. The difference was startling, his left hand looked like it belonged to another person 20 years older. It seems that the years of holding a puppet in his left hand while airbrushing lacquer based paint with his right hand had taken a toxic toll on his skin.  Clearly his left hand was much older looking than his right.  It was a graphic example of how our art expresses itself on our mortal coil. 
Only a few people knew that René was hospitalized after a stroke a week ago.  Yesterday with his life partner on one side and his business partner on the other, the Maestro took in one last breath and left the world stage.  The Maestro always said you could tell a professional by the way he took his exit bow.  René's final exit bow was humble, quiet, peaceful and he left us wanting more.He was definitely a Pro.  Rest in Peace, Maestro.
As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday Factoid


The odds on a piece of buttered bread falling butter side up on a carpet are directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.

A Glock 9mm beats for Aces in a game of Texas Hold 'em.

If a dog is man's best friend, then a cat is an Asian food delicacy.

If two wrongs do not make a right, then two Wrights make an airplane. 

Nine out of ten doctors surveyed say that they would not be surveyed again.  

Out of the 27 side effects of the flu drug Flangelsta 26 of them are the same as having the flu.

Everyone that ate home grown tomatoes in 1832 is dead.  

100 our of 17 people are poor at math.

A comic is someone who says funny things.  A clown is someone who says things funny.  That makes me a... ventriloquist.





Friday, September 26, 2014

Observing the Herd

I am about to get my land legs back after a trip at sea.  Between Newark and Bermuda we encountered high winds and a pretty good chop to the ocean.  For me there is something very relaxing about a ship that is rocking and rolling.  It reminds me of being rocked in a cradle before the "Bough Breaks." 
It never dawns on me that the motion is an issue to some passengers until I see pouches of "vomit bags" placed on the stair well of each deck.  That is when it becomes clear to me that most people do not share my love of the angry sea.  
Now in total honesty, when I am alone on a ship, I become a guiltless people watcher.  I pass the time watching those who are on vacation trying to get along.  I have come to the conclusion that some people save up for a long time to take a cruise so they can  have heated arguments about what to do for fun. While trying to appear that I am uninvolved with anything other than my iPad, I observe body language and study the countless types of people on board.  Since the odds are that I will be able to observe the same people for several days, I imagine what their stories might be.  Grandparents traveling with a grandkid, honeymooners, Old people who can barely make it down the corridor (part of a bucket list I assume), extremely large whale like humans being propelled by sit down scooters, and some of the worst examples of tattoos and  body art that one can imagine, are all fodder for my bored imagination. If they only knew the world they occupy in my sea fairing pastime.   
On day two of the trip I went to the Windjammer Buffet to have lunch. People were having trouble walking on deck due to the pitch and roll of the ship. The Windjammer is on one of the highest decks so the motion is much more pronounced.   I noticed a table occupied by a family with matching neon day glow colored tee shirts that said,  "The Bufano's - Bermuda or Bust".  Those shirts were hard to miss.  One of the little girls was looking quite pale leaning up against her Mom.  She wasn't eating nor did she look like that was even a possibility.  The Mother repositioned the little girl who came to rest on the shoulder of her older siister who was perhaps eight.  The sister did not have the same compassion for little sister's current situation and continued to eat. The Mother left the table to refill a drink. 
A moment or two later I hear the splatter of some viscus liquid hitting the floor of the dining hall.  Before I can quantify what the sound is I hear the scream of an eight year old girl followed immediately by a very loud call to her mother, "MOM.... PUKE!"  The word "puke" ricocheted  around the restaurant full blast. 
Like a herd of Antelope sensing an approaching lion, every head in the Windjammer turned in unison to the table of neon clad Bufano's.  The little girl continued heaving after covering the table, the deck and her sister with rejected breakfast.  
I suppressed a natural gag reflex as did others in the Antelope herd, and following the lead of most, excused myself from the area.  I fled quickly to a more pleasant deck no longer interested in the second act of the Bufano Story.  I assume the day glow shirt was washable. 
So here is my take away from this experience.  Next time I decide to enjoy the rock and roll of the Atlantic Ocean, I will enjoy it with room service, alone in my cabin.
As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

So... You Made it.

It was going to be an easy trip. I had been home for less than 12 hours after a trip from Atlanta, but the trip to Hailfax, Nova Scotia was just another day for a road warrior like myself.  I got my upgrade so I settled into my first class  seat ready for the flight, everything seemed to be AOK. How quicky things change.

I was connecting on my trip to the East coast of Canada via Chicago.  Chicago is a fine town but the airport is the black hole of air travel.  I rarelly change planes in Chicago without a two hour layover; this time it was only an hour but the weather couldn't have been more perfect for the trip. No worries. 
The pilot suddenly made an announcement.  It seems  the galley floor needed to be inspected by the mechanics. The mechanics had been called but the estimation was an hour before they could certify us to fly.  We would be more than an hour late to Chicago.  Any connections less than two hours of lay over time in Chicago were in trouble.  
There are two options given us unfortunate travelers.  One: stay on the plane, and they would try and get us to our destinations via another flight from Chicago. Two: get off  and rebook on another flight.  I called the main office of Royal Caribbean who had booked the flight. She checked her schedule and there were no flights to Nova Scotia that would work out of Chicago.  Even if I spent the night in Chicago, which the airline would pay for, all the flights the next day got me in too late to catch the ship I was contracted to work.  I took my carry-ons and left the comfort of my first class seat.
The customer service desk was swamped with 40 other people who were in the same situation as me.  It was 45 minutes before I got to a talk to a frazzled agent. The mechanics had signed off on the repairs and the Chicago flight was calling for all passengers to return immediately for take off.  
I explained my delimna to the agent.  I said, "Unless we can get my bag off that flight to Chicago there is no reason for me to make this trip."  The checked bag was undeniably connected to my reason for traveling that day.  She excused herself and  headed for the tarmack.  The jet way was being disconnected from the plane. There was no way to get my bag off that plane.
I called the office again and told them my situation.  The reality is... if I was not on the ship by the next day there would be no way to join it because it would be at sea.  I was trying to resign myself to the idea that I would be back home sooner than I thought.
But the United Airlines agent found a way to get me to Halifax before the ship sailed.  In thirty minutes there was a flight to Newark, New Jersey. At 7:00am the next morning there was a flight from Newark to Halifax.  I could make it.  "What about the checked bag?" I said.  
She explained that since it was an international flight to Hailfax from Chicago they would pull my bag after it got to Chicago if I wasn't on the flight. Then they could direct it to where ever I was. In fact there was a Chicago to Newark flight that would arrive before I did... my bag was going to be waiting for me when I landed.  
I ran to the gate to catch the Newark flight.  We took off. I have an app on my iPhone that registers stress.  The reading said, "Stress level very high... close your eyes and take deep breaths."
It was evening when I got to Newark.  I proceeded to baggage claim to get my bag.  Indeed it had not gotten there before I me. 
"The only thing I show on my screen is that the bag was checked in LA to Chicago." Said the agent.  I explained my situation and how I had to be on a ship before it sailed with that bag or... there was no reason from me continue my trip.  I also said that I would not get on a plane out of the country unless I had the bag with me. The options were very limited but she understood I was desparate.  
She dialed Chicago and after several unanswered calls an actual human answered.  We described my bag and the situation. The person said.  "Oh yes the bag is right here. It just arrive at the baggage office. We were wondering what to do with it." The Newark baggage agent said that bag had to be on the plane to Newark leaving Chicago in thirty minutes... it was the last flight that would work.  

The Newark agent said not to worry,  the bag would be delivered to the hotel room when the plane landed at 2:30 am.  Having run this drill before I said, "What is the turn around time to deliver the bag once it arrives?" In Los Angeles it is a minimun of 5 hours.  I said, "I am afraid that it will be delivered after I have checked out of the hotel to make the Hailfax plane tomorrow morning." She agreed that there was a possibliity of me and the bag missing each other at the hotel.  We decided the bag should stay at the airport and I could pick it up in the morning before my flight.  Unfortuantely it would arrive at the domestic terminal and I would be leaving from the Internationa terminal. I would need to pick the bag up no later than 5:30am to make it.  She said, "I will make a note to hold it here for you to pick up."   With that reassurance I proceeded to the Ramada Airport hotel for a very uncomfortable night's sleep.  I was up and out of the room by 5:00am.  I caught the bus to the domestic terminal and by 5:25 I was back at the very baggage desk I had been to only hours earlier.  
The morning shift agent was very nice.  She told me that indeed that bag had arrived on the early morning flight. I began to breath again but stopped when she said, "The truck just left to deliver the bags to the hotel."  I told her that it was supposed to be left here for me to pick up. She typed a little bit on the computer and said... "I don't see that note here."  
I was done.  Foiled by the joys of air travel. It was my last attempt to make it to the ship with my act. I was glad this happened before I left the country but it was of little solice.  The agent said, "What does the bag look like?" I told her and she went into the back storage room of baggage claim.  It took a long time for her to return. I was sure if I used the stress app. it would say.... "Go to the emergency room immediately".   The door to the back room opened and there she was... with my bag. There was a hand written note attached in bold letters.  HOLD FOR MR. JOHNSON TO PICK UP.   I rushed to the International terminal and, against my better senses checked it in again.
I slept like a baby on the flight to Canada.  It seemed I dodged a bullet and would actually be able to fulfill my contract on the Explorer of the Seas, next stop the ship.  But there was one more test of my resolve to entertain the aged passengers already on board.  Canadian immigration. 

The officer said as he looked the computer screen, "You have worked in Canada before?"  
"Yes, 20 years ago I did an American Television series that filmed in Vancouver." 
"Were you asked to leave?"
"No.  The series only went for half a season."
"Have you ever been arrested? Spent time in jail? Convicted of any offense?'
"No"
"Not at all? Ever?" Said the officer implying that it was a total lie.
"I got a speeding ticket 12 years ago on the Ventura Freeway."
"Driving too fast were you, eay?"  I didn't know what to answer to that question.  When I don't know what to say I usually go for the quip.
"I owned a BMW M3 at the time... It would idol at 85 mph."  He looked at me over his half glasses like a high school principle.
"How long will you be working in Canada?"
"I won't be working here."
"How long will you be here in Canada?"
"Long enough to drive to the dock and board the Explorer of the Seas."
"Where is that?"
"Next to the bay I would imagine."
"When will you do your shows?"
"I have no idea.  When ever the Cruise Director has me scheduled in the next week."
"So you will be here a week?"
"No sir... on the ship for a week.  I am on the ship till it gets to Bermuda."
"Do you have a work visa from Bermuda?"
"I'm not working in Bermuda.  I'm not even staying in Bermuda.  I get off the ship and go to the airport." 
He began to type and read the screen. Type some more and read again.  Finally I said very politely, "Can you get word to my driver who is waiting for me in the lobby? He may think I missed my flight again and leave."
"You missed a flight earlier? Why?"
"Faulty Galley floor on a United 747, I think."
"A flight from Newark?"
"No Los Angeles."
"You arrived on a flight from Newark New Jersey."
"Long story but it was the only way to get here before the ship leaves."
"Who paid for your flights?"
"Royal Caribean Cruiselines. And they are expecting me on the ship...If my ride leaves...."
"Well, you are about done here.  I just have to check your arrest record."
"I don't have a fucking arrest record you brainless idiot. I am a ventriloquist just trying to earn a living by getting on a ship, and I made it here by the skin of my teeth. Fuck you Fuck Canada and Fuck the Royal Canadian Mounted Police." 
No, I didn't say that... I was thinking it... but  better judgment took hold at that moment.
He was finally done with me.  I connected with my bag which had been taken off the belt and waiting to be sent to lost luggage. I was the only one left in the terminal. Except for the Customs agents it was completely empty of humans. I could see the exit and prayed there would be someone there with my name on a sign.  
The officer at the exit stopped me and pointed me toward a small room.  It was time for another officer to "check my luggage". Holy Mother of Pearl, it was time to start all over.  
"How long will you be in Canada?"
"Less than half an hour."
"Where will you be working?"  Bla Bla Bla.....take two. 
This lady officer asked me to open the "head box". I told her it was fragile but she gloved up. 
"You have anything sharp inside, any needles or anything that might stick me or hurt me?"
"No..."
With that she took a dive into the case. 
"What is that?"
"A puppet head"
 "What is all this fur?"
"A monkey."
"Is it an indangered species of Monkey?"
"I don't think so. It's a puppet. I use him in my act." 
"What kind of fur is it?"
"Monkey fur...I mean artificial monkey...uh...puppet fur.... it didn't come from an animal it came from a textile factory." 
"Where is that factory located?"
"I don't know. I didn't ask." 
She let me have the head box back to repack. Then she went through every item in my breif case.  She examined the change that had fallen to the bottom of the case and counted it in her hand. She asked me what the medicene was for in a perscription bottle. 
I said, "Anxiety and stress.  As a matter of fact I could used one now... could I get a glass of water?"
"There is no eating or drinking in the inspection area, Sir."  
She even took out my iPad... turned it on and scrolled through all the apps.  She then found the Pages app and scanned some of my essays and writings. She read a paragraph from each page to herself.  I thought it was funny that she moved her lips a little with each word.  Thank God she did not open an art app to see the depressingly dark images I love to draw.   
"You a writer? What do you write?"
"Stories about my travels.  I think I am going to be very busy writing about my last two days." 
And with that she left all my stuff on the counter for me to replace in the breif case and vanished into the back room.  I assummed I was free to go, but was not sure until Jimmy the driver was on the road to the dock and out of the airport property.  
On board ship the officer at the pursers desk said, "How was your trip from California?"
"My bags went to Chicago. I went to Newark. We connected again at 5:30am this morning after a miserable night in an Airport Ramada Inn and the Canadians kept me at immigration for over an hour." 
It was a rhetorical question. He was not listening nor even interested.
"So you made it.  Welcome aboard."  
"Glad to be here",  I said and really,  nothing else mattered.
As you were,
Jay

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Girl in the Scandalously Short Red Dress

Sandi Asbury-Johnson front and center in
"The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"
I have watched my wife dance in all kinds of productions.  I can pick her out of a line of dancers even if they are wigged and wardrobed exactly the same moving around in frantic artistry.  Instinctively my eye goes right to her no matter where she happens to be dancing at that moment.  It is a skill/habit that I embrace with great pride.

This is a picture from the movie, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas".  The beautiful lady in the center in the scandalously short red dress is my wife. Sandi was one of the "whores" in the movie with Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds.
It is not the only movie Sandi has done in her incredible career, but by nature of the subject matter perhaps the "sexiest" one.  This is the beginning of a dance number where they strip down to g-strings. Before they were finished filming that number I was thrown off the set.   It wasn't personal there were just too many people trying to watch that day and I was absolutely not essential to the production.

Years after the movie was released I was in Atlantic City performing.  A friend came to visit me from New York.  After my show he wanted to see some of the other shows in town and invited me to go with him.  He wanted to see a "drag queen" review that was at a different Hotel.  There was nothing better to do on that night so I went with him.
The star of the drag show was a Dolly Parton impersonator.  He/she was very good and I suppose if you can't see the real Dolly, this illusion works for some.  If you don't have a real Rolex a knock off watch will still tell you the time.
For the finale of Faux Dolly's act several other he/she dancers joined her/him on stage.  They recreated a production number from "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" down to the original Tony Stevens choreography and costumes.  I have to say after watching that movie countless times they did a very accurate recreation.
As I sipped my cocktail trying to remember I was watching a troupe of men I found myself tracking one particular dancer on stage. My eye went right to the same dancer almost ignoring the rest of the cast.  It was a guy in puffy hair and a scandalously short red dress.  At first I just thought I was drawn to the red color but then it hit me.  This drag queen was performing Sandi's part in the movie down to her costume. I was entranced by a drag queen on stage impersonating my wife.  The number ended to a big ovation, but I was still trying to come to grips with the fact that I had strange feelings of attraction to the boy/girl in the scandalously short red dress.  Life sometimes throws you a curve.  

As you were,
Jay  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Always Remember

So much has happened since then.  So much has changed... but my raw emotions never seem to change.  Here is the way I will always remember it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


September 11 Remembered...

Reprints from the past:

Those of us who did live past this day in 2001 we will never forget those who didn't.  They were all of us.  There were no blogs, no tweets, no texts, no smart phones connected to social media back then,  but it was seared into my consciousness nonetheless. It was seven years before I thought I could write about it here.

Written on: 
Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. No one of this generation will forget where they were when they heard the news about a plane hitting the World Trade Center that morning. Most of us were watching CNN by the time the second plane hit. I was in Boston, which immediately became part of the crime scene.

I was performing for an Insurance company. A week earlier they called and asked if I could move my performance/presentation to Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon. They had a scheduling problem and that would help. I had no problem with coming in and leaving a day later. I didn't think much about it until after the events of 9/11. My manager at the time just switched my flights around and adjusted everything by 24 hours. That change in schedule saved my life.

My traveling MO is to catch the first nonstop home to Los Angeles the morning after my performance. In most major cities American Airlines is my carrier of choice. I am a two and and a half million mile American Airlines AAvantage member and in 2001 had Executive Platinum status. It was of no help when all air travel stopped for a week after the towers fell.

Until the company delayed my performance by 24 hours I was booked on the first non stop home after my Monday afternoon show. I was booked in seat 4E non stop from Boston to Los Angeles, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, American Airlines #11. I remember at the time thinking that flight #11 on the 11th of the month seemed lucky. That plane hit the north Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 am. Because the show date changed I wasn't on that plane. I was waiting to go on stage.

Even with that graphic life changing example, I sometimes forget that everything happens for a reason. One small decision is sometimes the one that changes your life. Only with perspective do we understand it as either good or bad, and ultimately even good and bad are human judgments.

It would seem natural to thank God for saving my life, but doesn't that make him responsible for the 3000 souls he didn't save that day? There were people on flight #11 much more "deserving" to live than me, or at the least equally deserving. They prayed for protection and deliverance that morning.

I would have been sitting on the plane next to David Angel who was the very talented writer/creator of the television show "Frazier" had my show date remained as contracted. He was deserving to have another day in his life, but he rode the plane into the tower. Who did God love more, me or him? It is a stupid question.

That event does not define me. I do not count the days since I was saved. I have not used it as a testimony in Church. I don't think I was given a celestial "do over". I rarely even remember it unless prompted by some event. All I know is I am here to write briefly about it and David Angel is not. I wrestle with the name Angel trying to make it some sort of metaphor. It is as fruitless as thinking flight #11 on the 11th was lucky. It was what it was. Those who have moved on are not looking back, but here's to all of us who are left behind to try and figure it out.

We will never quite be as we were,
Jay