Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"What do you wanna do?"

Or, "what kind of job would make you happy?"

Do you know how many times I’ve either asked myself those questions, or been asked it? Let’s just say… a lot.

I’ve also been extremely lucky to have many opportunities with my various “careers” thus far. Restaurateur, nightclub owner, radio talk show host, writer, editor, teacher, jello-maker and lemonade salesman. (There’s a list of about 40 more on my website, in case you’re interested.)

But, just for fun, I thought I might just jot down a few of the things I’d still like to do with my life… and maybe it would shed some light on why I find these gaps between jobs so angst-inducing.

I’d still like to:

• Work for FEMA
• Be a gap year consultant
• Sell my “Travel 101” book about how to travel fearlessly, maybe teach a class in it
• Consult on a “new-age” bowling center
• Finish my post-2012 apocalypse screenplay, a theatrical scenario
• Teach English as a Foreign Language somewhere like Turkey, Brazil or Laos
• Write a screenplay about a fascinating true story of Abe Lincoln and the slaves
• Start a retirement home for gays
• Be a self-employed project manager, doing one-off projects (i.e. finish and move on)
• Talent scout around the world for Cirque du Soleil
• Work for the New American Musical Theatre Festival in NYC
• Become a restaurant “tune-up” consultant using my 182 point inspection
• Run a piano bar in either NYC, Dublin or Cape Town
• Start a company where you don’t offer advice, only listen, called “Ears To You”
• Work for UNESCO, UN or USO
• Be a personal assistant to Kevin Spacey, Stephen Sondheim or Chris Rock
• Produce a TV show called “Exaltation” – about all the moments of triumph in history
• Open a soup and pie shop (two foods you’re always in the mood for)
• Write a series of travel stories called “First Impressions”
• Produce a TV show about singing divas from around the world (every city has one)
• Start a website and magazine all about high school musicals around the country
• Work on “The World” – the famous seafaring condo
• Start “Men In Kilts,” a window washing company
• Write a screenplay about these Mexican dishwashers in a Greek restaurant… who decide to go to Greece
• Produce a show called “Naked Straight Guys” (with Ronnie Larsen)
• Open “Santa CafĂ©,” a coffee/wine bar featuring my Santa Claus collection
• Write a comic book aimed at helping teens choose the right career path
• Start “Galapakid,” a company that takes kids on trips to the Galapagos Islands
• Help the Physically Handicapped Actors League expand to other cities
• Be a travel companion to a very rich person
• Write a screenplay about a group of survivalists who live on a freighter ship
• Develop my idea for marbles
• Produce a reality show called “America’s Funniest Flight Attendant”
• Direct my version of “My Fair Lady”
• Help produce a New Worlds Fair, to give hope to kids like the ones did in ’39 and ‘64
• Start ENVI, an environmental theater festival
• Produce a TV series about people who are ex-pats from the United States
• Open a restaurant that only prepares recipes from the previous months food magazines
• Write a book about famous travelers throughout history
• Research the 18th century French Prophets
• Produce a “star search” type TV series, but feature actors instead of dancers or singers
• Write a musical based on St. Francis of Assisi and his love, Claire

Maybe you can see why I get confused about what to do next. For me, ideas are the easy part -- it’s knowing what to do next that’s hard.
If you’d like to help with me on any of them, or if you have an idea as to how to make any of them happen, please feel free to write me (thom@thomwise.com). But if you steal ‘em, please pay me. Thanks.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yup, STILL in England!!

I know, this is getting ridiculous. But there's always something going on it seems.....
Last weekend was the great send off to Ed and his chums as they departed on the fifth annual "Mongol Rally." That's a very British thing where 230+ teams take off from Hyde Park on their way to..... Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia! (As you might remember, the site of some of more interesting travels in 2003...).
The top photo shows a glimmer of the "eccentrics" who took part in this very typically Brit adventure. There were three guys in a bathtub, next to a small Mini-Cooper with a red telephone booth on top of it.

The bottom photo is Ed, Charles and Max with the Mongolian ambassador to the UK, who came for the send off.
It was quite a festive occasion, with all the families there taking pictures of their boys (and a few girls) heading off on their three week sojurn — at least they all HOPE to make it to UB in about thee weeks. It's a rally, however, not a race, so everyone takes their own calculated route. The boys are going via "the Stans," as in Uzbekistan and those. It should be quite interesting. And, as always, as soon as I figure out how to post a photo gallery, I'll get more up. But here's one more I couldn't resist: They had a team of Mongol wrestlers there, which as you all remember is the No. 1 sport in Mongolia. Here's one action shot:

So there ya go.....
If you'd like to follow along, they (of course) have a website: www.teamdesertaxi.com, so you can read more about them and the race, and please make a donation! It's all for a good cause, and raises money for people helping people and animals in Mongolia.

What else? I've been trying to catch up on movies. Finally got to see Wall-E and loved the message it gave to us all. I was shocked ------ why am I still shocked?? ------- by the prices. 3.40 pounds (or $6.80) for a SMALL bag of unbuttered popcorn, on top of the $12 for a matinee ticket. (It can go as high as $26 for an evening movie, and you think I'm kidding?? Yep, 13 pounds.
They do a kinda cool thing tho, where you can buy unlimited movies at one of the largest chains, for $30 per month. If you only saw one movie a week, it would be worth it. The only catch is that you have to buy a one-year contract.
And no butter for the popcorn, can you believe it? Or you can also buy is "sweet," with sugar on top.
Then today I went to the first matinee of "Dark Knight." I've read so much about how well it did in the States in the first weekend, and I had to see it..... and glad I did. Very dark, indeed, with an interesting storyline. But I don't know that it will break records here. There were MAYBE 20 people in the screening I went to. Granted, it was the first day, but they're hyped it here with plenty of ads. It was a bit unsettling when The Joker went on about how much he likes killing with knives instead of a gun, because there have been 21 knife murders in London already this year..... and I would hate to think that this movie could "inspire" more copycats.

Let's see, in the news here:
The big story has been about this guy who faked his own death, but he was hiding in his house with his wife's knowledge the whole time. They LIED to their two sons, and the police and insurance companies, for six years. They wanted to get out of their debts here and start a new life in Panama, which might've worked until someone saw a photo of them on a website, buying real estate! Instead, they're serving six year sentences.
There's also been quite a bit of picking apart what the royals and the celebrities wear. They love to get pix of them in outfits that they've previously worn. The best was one of Princess Ann in a frock that she DARED to wear eight years ago. I think it's amazing that she could still fit in it!
They're now selling Coors beer here..... and the ads all say "Brewed in the UK." So much for Rocky Mountain Spring Water, eh?
When giving an email address, they ALWAYS say "forward slash" here, instead of just "slash." Does anyone USE the back slash?
My new favorite word: NUTTER. As in, he's a nutter, which is a nice way to say crazy person.
Everything here along Kings Road and the High Street is "final reductions." All retailing is hurting, that's for sure. Most everything is 70% off now, which ALMOST brings prices into a realistic zone.
I also loved reading about the innovations being doing by farmers in Wales. They're adding garlic to the cattle feed in hopes that it will reduce the amount of methane, and they're growing daffodils because there's something in them that might help slow down the onslaught of alzheimer's. Oh, and the culinary rage is all about mutton, not lamb. Mutton is two years or older, which gives it a gamier, stronger flavor, but it's having a resurgence in popularity, or so they say.
And I love the hand dryers here, the ones where you place your hands down into a trough, and it blows air at such a velocity that your hands are dry in seconds.

My friend Bill Stafford and I went down to Brighton last Sunday. I was just there a few weeks ago, but Bill knew some people down there so I tagged along. It's a college town, with tons of bars, and the beaches are rocks instead of sand... but it does have an allure. Here's one final parting shot of the Brighton Beach.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Miss a day, Miss a lot (and an English Royalty Lesson)

I’m hanging in the UK for a bit longer than I expected, but then… it’s not like I have a bus to catch! But here’s a bit of what’s been going on.

After the let-down of having Wimbledon and the Henley Regatta over, the only thing left was to watch “Competitive Bell Ringing” on the BBC. (You think I’m kidding??) Teams from all over the UK came for a full-day of clanging 12-bells. I did doze off a bit, but I think it was the team from Birmingham who wom. Or was it Leeds?
The Brits love their “presenters,” who are the hosts of various TV shows. Graham Norton is my favorite, not just because he’s such an outrageous gay man but because he’s really quite funny. And because he’s on late night, there’s lots of four-letter words!
I was channel surfing late one night, and whom did I spot but David Hasselhoff, and my bff from Las Vegas. (He and I exchanged some emails after I did an interview with him, and I was honored one night when he actually stood up and hugged me at a party a few weeks later, as if he really remembered me.) The Hoff was host of a show where the host changes each week, and they pull lots of silly stunts.
I do like how they start and end shows at odd times. A show can begin at 11:15, and it can run 40 minutes if they want. Sure, there’s still lots of 30 and 60 minute programming, but not all!
OK, just two more. I also try and catch a show called QI, the reverse of IQ, hosted by Stephen Fry. He has four people on who answer masterful questions about anything under the sun. But mostly it’s a humor show where they try and be wittier and pithier than the next, but none more so than the erudite Fry.
And, for all you family tree fans, there’s a show called “Heir Hunters” where a team goes on the road to find heirs to unclaimed fortunes. It’s amazing how they can build and build the excitement to the point where someone opens the door to find they’re going to inherit $20,000 unexpectedly. Where’s Ed McMahon when you need him?
And have I mentioned GINGERS before?? A “ginger,” in Brit parlance, is anyone with red hair. It’s a mildly derogatory, almost said with pity: “Oh, there’s a ginger…” like, you poor thing. It’s like a ginger is cursed by the devil, but everyone understands it’s out of their control.
Maybe the gingers are all the ones I see with the wild dyed hair: bright pinks, yellows and blues. Is that so 1980?
I caught a new musical called “Marguerite,” which was written by the guys from Les Miz, Boubil and Schonberg, with music by Michel Legrand. You’d think, wouldn’t you? But no, it was a bit of a disappointment. It stars Ruthie Henshall, who’s a big deal in the West End of London, but not very known in the States. The surprise was the romanic lead: Julien Overden. He’s done a bit in New York, but he’s got an amazing voice and quite a looker, too.

I’ve never quite understood the whole hierarchy of British royalty but now, thanks to Ali’s boyfriend Ed Monckton, here’s that list:
Monarch (King or Queen)
Royal Prince/Princess
Duke (addressed as Your Grace)
Earl (but written as Lord Whatever)
Viscount (again, addressed as Lord)
Baron (addressed as Lord, but using first name, as Lord Charles)
Knight (called Sir, as in Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber)
And then there are “courtesy titles,” which can be titles given just for the person’s lifetime (rather than a peerage that passes down to the children), and those cam be anything from Earl or Duke down to The Honourable. WHSmith is actually The Honourable WHSmith, but that’s only a written title, never spoken.
Phew, got it?

The "Big Party" Report

It’s Sunday, July 13 here in London, and I’ve been a lazy blogger. “The Big Party” was a week ago, and it took me a full three days to recover. NOT that I was hungover (I wasn’t, because I really didn’t have time to drink much at the party), just exhausted, as we all were.
But, essentially, the party was a huge success. It just proves once again that, if you have the right elements, putting on a great event isn’t a mystery. Great food, excellent music and an interesting mix of people – that’s all it takes.
The “marquee” (or tent) company took four days to put up on the lawn adjacent to the Manor House in Hambleden, where Henry’s mother lives. It involved the 4,100 square foot main tent, plus an attached tent for the cocktail reception and two auxiliary tents (for the kitchen and a room for the orchestra). Then the specialty lighting people took a day and a half, after which the caterer came in to set the tables and linen. The flower lady arrived on the morning of the event to place all her gorgeous flowers (that cost who-knows how much!), and the last to arrive were the furniture people, who put in the couches and tables into the reception tent, and finally the casino games people, who set up their tables in the conservatory.
Whoops, and don’t forget the valet car parking service, which is somewhat rare in England. Most of the time, you self-park but Sara insisted that people should be able to pull up in front of the Manor and walk in without having to slog through the car park field across the street. (We lucked out with good weather, but it would’ve been a total mess if we had had rain that day.) And, who can forget the portable loo – the most amazing porta-potty I’ve ever seen. It was the size of a trailer, and had nice towels, music and framed art inside. (Too bad it got clogged up by around 11 pm, but that’s another story…)
Canapes (what we would call heavy hors d’oeuvres) consisted of salmon, shrimp and tuna, as well as guacamole in pastry cups and sausages (of course, it’s England!). Then the curtains were drawn, and guests all took their seats. There were mostly tables of eight, and each had a place card – figuring out who sat where was a process that went on for a week beforehand. (I had a hand in it, and my biggest faux pas was evidently placing two “arch rivals” not only at the same table, but literally right next to each other. Whoops.)

Dinner was served around 9:30 pm: filet steaks with fancy spuds and veg, and it was delicious, I must say. Then there were speeches, where daddy Henry introduced and thanked everyone, then friends of Sara (the 21 year old) and Ali (the 18 year old) gave witty short talks about them, those clever Brits.
Dessert came next: American-style cupcakes with fresh berries. Then the 14-piece orchestra kicked in for a few hours of big band music, followed by a few more hours of “live DJ.” To top it off, the caterer brought out “bacon butties” and chips (French fries) at around 1 am, which are basically bacon on hamburget buns with ketchup, but the kids all scarfed them up without haste.

Everyone looked fantastic in their gowns and tuxes. Sally in her Carolina Herrera, and the girls in their designer togs as well. Earlier in the day, there was a team of hair, makeup and tanning people all over the house, making sure everyone looked their absolute best.
I was familiar with most of the guest names, since I kept the rsvp list and did the place cards. Henry came with Frida, aka Anna-Frid, the original brunette in ABBA. (They’re living together at her home in Zermatt.) The Duke and Duchess of Norfolk arrived, and they’re good friends of all the Smith’s. (The Duke, aka Eddie, is the secular head of the Catholic Church in England, and a very high peerage.) Lord Hambleden, the girls’ grandfather, wasn’t able to make it, evidently due to a sick doggie at home. Whatever.

After the party, some of the kids “retired” to their cars, where they slept, and a few even pitched tents. Mind you, these were the same kids who wore gowns and tuxes, but it’s considered completely normal for them to sleep it off in their cars and then drive home “sober” the next morning.
Sara had set up a sea of blow-up mattresses in her dad’s rental house not far away. I never made it over there, but 20 or so made it to the after party, which lasted til 6 am or so… (When I asked Sara is there was going to be some hanky-panky, what with all these virile 20-somethings, a lot of booze and a room full of mattresses, and she said: “No, we have more self-control than Americans.” Touche!)
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the details – like the guy who arrived in his helicopter! Of course, the fun of such an evening is then hearing all the stories for the next week or so. The biggest scandal of the night seems to be a toss up between the guy who got so drunk he tried to walk home but then someone found him passed out in the bushes with his legs sticking out – or there were the two guys who were discussing who’s who at the party, and one said to the other “who’s the one in the blue dress with the bad roots,” and the other guy said: “that’s my girlfriend.” Whoopsie!
All in all, it was an amazing evening, and I was glad I could be a part of it. But the question remains: how are the girls gonna top this at their weddings!?!?!