Sunday, November 24, 2013 night
A quick review of Yelp led me to old Philadelphia, and the Khyber Pass Pub. I found myself on the corner of Chestnut and 2nd Street, unsure of where to go. To my good fortune, a young bearded guy was standing next to me, waiting to cross the street. "Hey, do you know where Khyber Pass is?" "Right there," he pointed, "The place with all the people." "Is it good?" I asked, "Have you been there?" "Yeah," he replied without passion, "a couple of times, I liked it (long pause) it's a dark bar." I wanted to offer him a literary medal for his outstanding use of adjectives, but instead just said thank you, and crossed the street.

The funny thing, Khyber Pass Pub is...a dark bar. Despite his youth, the bearded guy had wisdom. I walked in and found a seat on the dining room side of this place lit mostly with neon and Christmas lights. The music immediately grabbed me. It sounded like AC/DC playing a heavy blues line... I grabbed a two seater with a marble top, maybe the only in the place. The rest of the tables were colonial looking with plank tops. Bench seats flanked the walls, and I took one for the better view. As with every place I go, I took it all in. Beer sign, a little related art, some sconces on the wall, and a lot of happy looking people of all ages.

A young woman handed me a menu and a water, lighting the candle at my table. I looked over the menu, thinking too hard about how to solicit a recommendation. She's a girl, I reasoned, and this is guy do I ask the right questions... I would ask her what she liked, and then adjust my analysis based on those answers. A flawless plan, though in retrospect, perhaps a little sexist. Once again, my unrealized bias' failed me...assuming ribs are not female friendly (see next paragraph!).  My efforts, all that deep thought, all in vain. Another bearded guy arrived at my table, "Can I get you a beer sir?"

I had selected the bench side, waxed and slippery, but comfortable. I was pondering the menu when a server brought dinner to the three friends right next to me. It looked fantastic, and I couldn't help myself...impulsively I slid over boldly, "I know this is obnoxious as hell, but what did you get, and do you love it?!" My expression might have been pleading, with a huge smile as I asked.  Once the shock wore off, they each humored me. The man immediately to my left answered first. A good looking guy whose nationality I couldn't pinpoint in the dark and I found that curious. I decided he was a university professor. "Three mixed meats with mashed potatoes, though they don't look mashed." He was right, they looked liked crushed home fries. The second man, directly across from me, reminded me of Andy from The Shawshank Redemption. He'd ordered the Gumbo which looked more like chili.  And the woman...attractive, dark haired, and an immediate friend...she ordered the ribs! I thanked them for tolerating my intrusion, and disappeared back to my marble table top...the whole evening wondering if they really enjoyed their food.

My beer arrived, a Russian River Consecration. A sour ale, "like nothing you've ever had before." I had just one question, "Is that beard real, or is it just for November? "It's real," he assured me proudly, and based on his highest recommendation, I opted for consecration solely because of it's name.  I looked at it for a long time through the candles and red, and secretly wished the three had asked me to join them, after all, who likes to eat alone?  Oh, wait - me! I do. It's when I observe, experience, and write. I pondered the emotion of it, it wasn't disappointed or hurt, but perhaps a void of an experience that never happened. They seemed to be having a wonderful time together. Perhaps a promotion, a reunion, or just great friends getting together? It's fun to make up scenarios.

Somewhere between my beer arriving and my food, I knew I'd have to write. I scribbled furiously in a tiny Moleskin trying to capture it all. The sign on the wall, "Be nice or leave." The neon signs and the creepy men's room. And those wonderful mysterious people next to me. They didn't know it yet, but we'd connected, and I needed to share that connection. Tearing out a page, "In a few It might be fun!" For the next 20 minutes I tried not to spy, but glancing over every once in a while, waiting for just the right moment, just before they deliver the note. A perfectly planned, well executed plan, delivered with military precision.

As they left, the professor said...thank you

Monday, November 18, 2013

TEDx Albany - The Ghost of Jack Kerouac!

TEDx Albany!

Thursday, November 14th, 2013 was TEDx Albany at Overit Media. It was a fantastic event, and an opportunity for me to check an item off my bucket list, give a TED Talk!

Overit Media is a great venue, housed in a renovated church. It's open and creative in the speaking venue was intimate (think snug). We started at 9am, discussing running, and beer, and how pirates are ultimately responsible for global warming! E-security, and women, and how we need to adapt or die! The speakers and topic were wonderful, and I was lost in the day.

2pm rolled around however, and I panicked, "sweater or no sweater?!" Overit was very warm, and surely I'd be uncomfortable, but Gavrielle (15) informed me, "the sweater looks cool dad, you have to wear the green one."  I donned the sweater, and at 2:04, The stage was mine! "I'm in love with cities I've never been to..."  I wasn't prepared for how nervous I was as the talk began.  It occured to me, these people spent money, and expected something meaningful for their time. My voice and body soon found their groove, and the "Ghost of Jack Kerouac" was off!

I talked about Jack's typing, about meeting him...on Facebook, and about my daughter. And then, something happened.  Something magical, and it crept in like the fog of San Francisco. I began to connect with the audience. The hat lady, the beer guy, the race car driver. Our eyes began to meet. Not a corporate "we," but rather, one by one. Her eyes, his face, their gaze. Suddenly it wasn't me telling a story, but rather, WE were on a journey in San Francisco, chasing ghosts together! We rode a cable car together, shared a poem "...exploding like spiders across the stars," and even a shot of bourbon! As the story wove on, my stolen gazes became intention moments...eye to eye, dare I say, soul to soul? As if I were speaking to just one person, and at the same time, talking to everyone.

When it was all over, I was humbled by the responses. "Great job," and "How much of that was real?" and "I was there with you on the cable car..." Kind people delivering wonderful feedback, "I loved the way your words and voice worked together." I was thankful for the feedback, not because I needed the ego boost, but because I really wanted to know how it worked after laboring for so many hours to get each piece just right. I'll quit there, this isn't the 'Chris is great hour!' But I will say that delivering my TED Talk was one of the most meaningful moments in my life. Not the opportunity to perform, but the opportunity to really connect with others. To engage in that conversation that TED is all about. Meaningful conversations with wonderful people who share this "TED thing". Somewhere I decided to be bold and engage a half a dozen people out there directly, looking deep into their eyes for a few moments too long. It felt like my first jump from an airplane...terrifying and thrilling at the same time...and involving real risk. They didn't look away. I could see their faces engaged and smiling and enjoying the story.

I'm a different man today as a result of this experience, and I think that's what TED is all about. I'm especially thankful for that race car driver who was vulnerable enough to answer my question, "what did it feel like when I found your eyes on the cable car?" "It was great, I was there, it was like you were talking to just me, even though I knew you were talking to all of us...and it wasn't creepy." Phew!

I'm thankful for TEDx Albany, for Gavrielle, for Overit Media for the amazing venue, for those 100 people who will hopefully never look at Jack or SF the same way again, and for my sweet bride and family whom I tortured for months.

My audience of 0 was mesmerized ; )