We finally made it to “Stretch Zone” in Miami Beach. I am writing about it for “Thethreetomatoes.com.” I made Eliot try it first. I took the photos. If you have Sciatica problems, this is the place for you. They have franchises all over the country.
Their website explains, “Thanks to the modern sedentary lifestyle many of us are living, most people start losing flexibility at an average rate of 1% a year. Strains and micro-stresses on your muscles compounded over time can glue them together. This “glue,” or scar tissue, tightens the surrounding tissue and restrains how you’re able to move. Over time, the snowballing loss of flexibility ages you.
“Stretch Zone’s isolation of individual muscles within a muscle group breaks up the glue, unwrapping the strangle hold on your posture and valuable energy. Proper stretching slows down the aging process. You can even feel younger by improving posture, circulation, and pain-free full range of motion.”
I recently asked my client, Mr. Moda, what his greatest challenge was being an artist today. His answer startled me. “People look at me and all they can see is an African American man who looks like trouble.” The reason I was so surprised by his answer was because that thought crossed my mind the first time I met him.
Eliot and I were meeting our friends, Ruth and Howard, for dinner at this fantastic Italian restaurant in downtown Miami, Soya e Pomodoro, when Eliot and I pulled up behind a truck with its back opened for moving goods. The street was dead quiet because most businesses were closed for the day.
Inside the truck was a very odd looking Black young guy who was talking very loudly on his cell while waving his hands in the air. There were two other guys, one White, standing outside the truck with items that were tightly wrapped for transporting. I didn’t know what was going on but it looked like a heist to me.
I turned around to Eliot from the passenger seat to tell him not to get out of the car. By the time the words were ready to come out of my mouth, Eliot was out of the car checking to see if he parked close enough to the curb. I thought to myself, “Good luck to us. Who the hell knows what’s really going on here.” I exited the car only to hear the young man in the truck tell Eliot that the car was positioned well. I went to the front of our Jeep to get a closer look at what was being carried out of the adjacent building. It turned out to be art work. Mr. Moda was bringing a painting to Music Artist “Lil Baby” when he headlined the iTHINK Amphitheater in West Palm Beach. I still thought it was strange that they were doing this in the dark.
We all introduced ourselves to each other, and when Mr. Moda heard I was a publicist he wanted to show us his work. Eliot and I loved all of his pieces because they were so complex, so graphic and so daring. I immediately told him I would help him get some publicity for his art, some of which he said sells for six figures. I was amazed. Not many artists achieve that kind of success. He explained that many people who are making big money like to own his art because they think it makes them look cool. However, that doesn’t make himself feel better about himself. “I don’t want people to see Black when they see me. I want them to see inside my head. I have a lot to say.”
I promised I would become his self appointed Jewish mother that would help him cross racial barriers. Meanwhile, Eliot pointed out later that I was one of those people who jump to conclusions without knowing the facts. “That is what Mr. Moda complains about.” To my defense, I would have been nervous about getting out of our Jeep if they were all White young men. The older I get, the more vulnerable I feel in all kinds of situations.
Mr. Moda loved the idea of working together. I was thrilled too because I would get the chance to promote his talents, his thoughts, and his endless energy that could possibly be applauded by very wide audiences.
Mr. Moda, who grew up in Jamaica, Queens, not far from where I lived as a child, wants to devote his life to expressing his feelings on canvas, clothing, sculptures, jewelry and footwear. It’s not uncommon to find weed, pills, blood, blades, masks, and even a gun incorporated into his work. He is all about making the world see and understand what Black men have to deal with all the time.
Mr. Moda’s recent sales prove that an increasing number of people really appreciate his work. Several well known real estate developers spent over six figures for his paintings in the last year or two. They particularly zeroed in on his work because they felt he would help them attract a young crowd in the offices and residential complexes they were building.
One of his collectors said “No one walks by anything that Mr. Moda creates. You are forced to stop and stare at the art because every piece has a serious story that we all have to confront today. The more we all face the realities of a young person’s life in these times, the more we will appreciate each other.”
Thank you Marcia Grand for emailing this WSJ article to me. As many of you know, I never studied art appreciation. Eliot knows much more than I do, yet we both found happiness in art many years ago. We just love seeing a piece of art, then finding out who created it, why it was created, and how the world views it. I am just getting used to looking at a piece of art without any explanation at all. That’s what most folks do. They look deep into the work and make their own determinations. Either way, the world of art gives me the ability to fantasize and build new beginnings
One of the best podcasts ever even though Gabriel Byrne barely lets Mitchell Kaplan speak. The whole talk was fascinating. Gerald Posner listen to what GB says about Pharmaceutical companies. GB also talks about being molested. Buy the book too.
Gabriel Byrne on Tracing His Memories Through Past and Present, Fact and Imagination The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan
On today’s episode of The Literary Life, Mitchell Kaplan talks to Gabriel Byrne about his new book, Walking with Ghosts, out now from Grove Press. ____________________ This episode of The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan was recorded between Miami and Maine. Subscribe now on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else you find your podcasts! Gabriel Byrne was born in Dublin and has starred in over 80 films for some of the cinema’s leading directors. He won a Golden Globe for his performance on HBO’s In Treatment. On Broadway he won the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and has been nominated twice for the Tony Award. He lives in Manhattan and Maine. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Jayda Knight’s art studio party was a very big success. Big crowd. See Jayda shows off her fashionista dress. Her father is the cutie in peach and real estate developer Mel Schlesser is with us below.
Fashion For The Daring
This has been happening more and more. Fashion designers are sharing studio spaces with artists. They inspire each other.
Meet Pangea Kali Virga
“My designs are entirely one of a kind couture pieces of art that take anywhere from 40 to 140 hours to make, crafted lovingly with handmade textiles and elaborate embellishment. I am very good at taking abstract thought and making it tangible through the fabric. I style creative editorials, beautiful photographic fashion narratives for magazines where I feature emerging and established designers from around the country. I also host regular workshops in my studio to teach people how to sew. I am most proud of my brand for having a totally original viewpoint when it comes to wearable art and my ability to bring large groups of people together to create things that are bigger than what we thought we were capable of.”
We met Dan when we first came to Miami Beach. Our dear friend, Elaine Bloom, introduced us. He’s been to our home. We’ve been to his. The following story doesn’t surprise me. He and his wife, Joan, are very community minded. This is a beautiful story that Dan wrote years ago. It starts after Dan’s Facebook post.
The Story from a Big Brother
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber writes about his friendship with a boy from a tough Miami neighborhood, and Travis Thomas, describes how that enduring relationship brought him to Tufts.
“Our backgrounds couldn’t have been more different, but we found common interests: sports, hanging out at the mall, going to bad Steven Seagal movies,” writes Dan Gelber. Travis Thomas is now in his third year at Tufts School of Dental Medicine.
I first joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters program while a Tufts undergraduate. My roommate, Rich Edlin signed me up to help mentor twin boys from Medford. It was pretty easy. We did entirely ordinary things with the boys—watched football and played basketball or watched basketball and played football.
Somehow doing ordinary things seemed less ordinary. It felt good.
When I returned home to Miami after law school, I joined my local Big Brothers chapter, with hopes of continuing the experience. Big Brothers matched me with a six-year-old gap-toothed boy living in an impoverished Miami neighborhood I knew only as a place to avoid driving through. That’s how I met Travis.
Travis was abandoned by his father at birth, and his mother struggled with substance abuse. He bounced around among relatives, neglected so much that a great aunt eventually took him in and agreed to care for him. She became his only caretaker, and called Big Brothers Big Sisters to give Travis some additional influences in his life.
I liked having a little kid I could boss around; he liked knowing someone who could drive; we both liked having a brother. And I finally had someone to give my hand-me-downs to. Travis looked good in my oversized Tufts Jumbo T-shirts.
I also appreciated getting a view of a world I knew little of. I had an interest in public service, and while I was able to return home after our weekend outings, what Travis confronted all the time was both eye-opening and moving.
Travis’ life wasn’t easy, and his prospects were uncertain. Through the years, I watched as his childhood friends went to jail, or died, or faded into the vortex of the inner city. His aunt—whose home was surrounded by abandoned dwellings that usually hosted crack dealers—did all she could to keep those influences away from him. She also made sure Travis had faith in his life.
But I always held my breath, hoping he would escape the fate of so many others. I had become a federal prosecutor, and in that role had seen my share of people whose lives had jumped the tracks.
Dan Gelber with Travis Thomas at his college graduation. Photo: Courtesy of Dan Gelber Travis had a work ethic, but lacked a seriousness of purpose, especially about school. I tried to push and prod and even bribe, but it didn’t seem to take.
But we stuck together through the years. When I met Joan, he proudly stood by me at my wedding. He was only 13.
Over the next decade, Travis watched me grow a family and saw the joy it brought me. He saw my vintage Mustang get replaced with a Honda minivan, and Hannah Montana elbow out Steven Seagal. He held each of my infant children, and saw me embrace the responsibility of being a spouse and a parent.
But Travis couldn’t seem to find his own way. He graduated high school, but each time he enrolled in a junior college, he quickly withdrew to return to the Miami streets. Like half the kids in his neighborhood, he developed a life plan based on pursuing a career as a rap star. At best it was a pipe dream. At worst, it would lead him nowhere good.
I was beginning to lose hope. Travis was slipping away.
Then Travis met a girl and fell in love, and things seemed to change. They wanted a family, so he shelved his rap career and asked me for help getting a job. I found him a position working for a friend’s extermination company. Travis was assigned the night shift. After three nights of chasing rodents in the dark he called, told me he’d had enough and asked if he could go back to school, again.
We enrolled him at Miami Dade College with hopes he could earn a two-year degree. This time he didn’t walk away. He soon married his girlfriend, Wilsa, in a beautiful ceremony. I was his best man, beaming in my rented Creamsicle-colored tux.
As Travis and Wilsa prepared for the birth of their child, he became even more serious. He told me he wanted to become a dentist, a profession that had interested him since childhood, when he’d been teased about the large gap between his front teeth.
I worried his goal was totally unrealistic. I even suggested to him that maybe he was aiming too high, and should consider something more attainable. My wife, Joan, really let me have it when she heard I’d tried to tamp down his aspirations.
So we went all in and, more importantly, so did Travis. He studied for every test like it would decide his future—like he would be left chasing rats on the night shift if he failed. He graduated from Miami Dade College with a two-year degree and enrolled at nearby Nova Southeastern University on an academic scholarship. There he sought out health science courses. By now, Travis was a driven student, regularly making the dean’s list and never giving up on his dream of being a dentist.
During all this time he continued to live in the same tiny house he was raised in, sharing it with his elderly aunt and other relatives. His young family made do by living in the dining room, which provided only a smidgen of separation from the angry neighborhood outside.
As he had vowed, Travis took the dental school admission test. I held my breath again. What would happen to him if he fell short? I wished Joan had not convinced me to bless this path.
They gave Travis his scores as he left the testing center. He called me as he walked out. He scored in the 93rd percentile overall, and his organic chemistry score was over 97 percent. He was so proud. I was without words. Joan wept.
Travis applied to dental schools across the country. Friends chipped in unused frequent flyer miles to get him to his interviews, and he borrowed luggage, ties and overcoats to look professional.
Here is how he answered a dental school application that asked if he believed he grew up “disadvantaged”:
I grew up in one of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods. I was abandoned by many who you would think would have nurtured me, and raised by my grandmother’s aunt. I remember, as a young boy, hiding inside my house for days after a drive-by shooting. But through it all, people—sometimes perfect strangers—inspired me to never give up and to always believe in myself. So yes, I did have a disadvantaged life by most definitions, but that life has made me better prepared and more appreciative of the opportunities and blessings I do have.
Dental programs across the country wanted him. Many offered scholarships. I thought staying in Florida made the most sense, believing it would be too difficult for him to start anew in another state.
Once again, Joan disassembled my argument, contending Travis and his family had every right to define their future on their terms. So Travis pulled out my old hand-me-down T-shirts and decided Tufts was where he wanted to be. It wasn’t because of me at all. Rather, it was because after his interview, the dean had pulled him aside, put his hand on Travis’ shoulder, and told him that the school believed in him.
That’s all Travis needed to hear. That’s all he’s ever needed to hear.
At the conclusion of his first year at Tufts School of Dental Medicine, I attended his white coat ceremony, marking his transition to the clinical side of his education. I think I must have got some dust in both eyes. At the end of his second year his grades continue to be exceptional.
Travis recently announced he might become an oral surgeon or a prosthodontist. I believe him.
Dan Gelber, a former Florida state senator, practices law in Miami. At Tufts he was a Truman Scholar.
From the Little Brother: He Never Gave Up on Me
By Travis Thomas
I can remember meeting Dan Gelber for the first time like it was yesterday. I was just six and playing in the street with friends when my Aunt Ruth opened the screen door and yelled Travisss! I rushed home and stationed myself on the couch by the living room window, anxiously watching every car that passed by. Finally one pulled up. It was Dan! He took me for ice cream.
Travis Thomas says he might want to become an oral surgeon or a prosthodontist. Photo: Kelvin MaAs a kid, I looked forward to spending a Saturday or Sunday with Dan because I knew we would have fun—even if I just went out with him for lunch or a movie, or watched him play pick-up basketball (he needed the moral support). Our outings usually concluded with a trip to the bookstore and a few words of wisdom.
Dan never missed the opportunity to sermonize about reading and education. Public service is huge in his family, and he shared its importance with me, whether that meant I tagged along to a festival for children battling cancer or helped him distribute gifts to other kids. I remember the time I got two garbage bags filled with toys, only to find out he expected me to keep just one toy and give the rest away to the kids in my neighborhood (Dan was a star on my block!).
As I grew older, though, Dan’s influence seemed to reach me less and less. I was no longer the adorable six-year-old Dan took for ice cream. Like most of my friends, I sported a gold grill, had a hip-hop swag and knew all of the drug dealers on my block. Clearly, I was going in a different direction. Maybe I had lost faith in myself and figured I wasn’t worthy, but I began to let go of the person I had called my big brother for more than a decade. Dan was starting his own family, and once I turned 18, I decided our relationship would end.
Dan would have none of it. He continued to remain a fixture in my life.
No matter what I thought of myself, Dan let me know he believed in me. Whatever doubts I had about myself, Dan had none. Eventually all those bookstore visits and sermons started to sink in. I met my wife, and we had our son—and for the first time I believed that maybe I could control my future.
Since my father didn’t raise me, I looked to Dan for guidance. I saw his honesty, his drive, his humility and most of all his love for his family. And when I decided to return to college for the third time, his family supported me in every way. There was no way I was letting them down! His wife, Joan, became one of my big supporters, and when I mentioned becoming a dentist to her, she urged me to “go for it.” And that’s when I realized she was smarter than Dan.
Dan didn’t have to volunteer to spend his time with me. He could have said coming into my neighborhood was too risky. Or he could have simply given up on me when I had given up on myself. But he didn’t. That is why I am paying it forward by caring for my own half-brother, who is in a situation nearly identical to the one that I was once in.
I know that I am succeeding in school because I work hard. But I also know that I would not be here if I didn’t have a big brother who taught me to believe in myself.
Dan, your little brother is going to be a dentist! Remember to floss.
I finally write about it in DigiDame. Everyone spends a fortune on weddings that eventually fade in my memory. I will remember every detail of this one.
The wedding of Rachel Heyman, 36 and Adam Joseph, 43, will forever be one of our favorite New York stories. Eliot and I are long time friends of the groom, Adam, and now we have the bonus of Rachael. We feel very fortunate.
We attended a number of other weddings with Adam. He is the first cousin of our two godson’s, Philip and Brett Sklaw. Adam often told me he was born to be married. He was looking for the right woman. There were a few attempts, but that’s to be expected when you are looking for the perfect fit.
We are so proud of this awesome couple. The pandemic didn’t stop them from getting married on one of the most important nights of the year, New Year’s Eve. They picked the most romantic spot ever, the balcony of Rachel’s childhood apartment in the best city in the world. NYC, the city that never sleeps, is now home to the most creative wedding ever. The New York Times covered this storybook dream come true.
Rachel Jennifer Heyman did some quick-fire swiping on the Tinder dating app at her apartment in Manhattan one Saturday evening in January 2019 with her friend over glasses of wine, a variety of Trader Joe’s appetizers and reality TV.
“At points we would take each other’s phone,” she said, and swiped right for each other while sitting by the fireplace in the duplex Ms. Heyman shared with another friend on the Upper West Side. “It was easily a night of 50 to 100 swipes. Not that I’m liking all of them.”
Ms. Heyman, on and off dating sites for a decade, said she let potential matches “marinate” a couple of days before reaching out to Adam Seth Joseph, whose “warm smile” on the photo he posted caught her eye.
“We had this great normal banter,” said Ms. Heyman, 36, a clinical social worker, is the director of the opioid treatment program at the Center for Comprehensive Health Practice in East Harlem in Manhattan. She graduated from Binghamton University, and received a master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania. “It was familiar, with no crazy red flags,” she said. “I loved that he was a special ed teacher and close to his family.”
Mr. Joseph, 43, works at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside, Queens, where he is a special-education teacher for P.S. Q23 at Queen’s Children Center. He graduated from SUNY Old Westbury and received a master’s degree in special education from Touro College.
“We understood the challenges of each other’s jobs,” she said.
But, the connection fizzled after two weeks. He was caught up in moving into his new co-op in Oakland Gardens, Queens, after a couple of years of staying with various friends after a tough breakup.
After losing touch for two weeks, something tugged at her while she was a mentor at a girl’s leadership retreat at the Main Idea at Camp Walden, a summer camp for economically-disadvantaged girls in Denmark, Maine.
“Camp makes me happy,” she recalled thinking. “These girls make me happy. Maybe, I was allowed to be happy. I reached out.”
That also gave Mr. Joseph, the boost he needed, and in mid-February, the day after he moved into his apartment, they met at an Upper West Side bar.
“I felt seen, and beautiful,” she said, as they walked over to Bar Veloce, after the first bar was too crowded.
Later when he asked if he passed the first level of the date, and she said yes, they went for sushi at Momoya across the street.
“It was the best first date I had ever been on,” he said, and they had a quick good-night kiss outside the 72nd Street subway.
After he began to walk away, he recalled, she shouted, “‘wait, wait, wait, one more.’” And, they had another quick kiss.
“I was honestly floating at that point,” she said.
They began dating and by the end of 2019 they spoke about getting married. She agreed to “change ZIP codes” and move to Queens after her lease was up in June 2020. But as the coronavirus pandemic set in, she began living there in March.
On Aug. 1, he proposed in a small park along the Hudson River in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.
On Dec. 31, around 6:30 p.m., Shawn A. Cammy, ordained by American Marriage Ministries and her brother-in-law, officiated at a ceremony incorporating Jewish elements. About 150 friends and family watched on Zoom, as they married on the Upper East Side apartment terrace of the bride’s parents. Only immediate family attended in person.
“It ended and began the year on a sweet note,” she said.
Several friends have used medicalmarijuana for some serious conditions. They felt it really helped them get through difficult times. When I saw this photo essay in WebMD, I knew I wanted to post it in DigiDame. Let’s know the facts as we get older. This could become an option for many seniors. Thank you!
The Home Shopping Network Features the Kodak’s 360 Degree Camera for the holidays. Steve Greenberg of the Today Show and Game Show, “What The Heck Is That!?,” was picked to showcase this innovative product.
See TV personality Steve Greenberg and Editorial Consultant Lois Whitman-Hess of zoom podcast, “Lying on the Beach,” interview David Chesky, an American pianist, composer, producer , arranger, and co-founder of the independent, audiophile label Chesky Records. He is also co-founder and CEO of HDtracks, an online music store that sells high-resolution digital music.
David Chesky has won Independent Music Awards and received Grammy Award nominations. He has written jazz tunes, orchestral and chamber music, opera, ballet, and a rap symphony.
We are talking to David today because he composed an opera for children that teaches about the absurdity of war and acceptance of cultural diversity while exposing them to classical music. It’s called “The Mice War.” David also turned the opera into an animated movie and a soon to be produced children’s book.
“The Mice War” is about industrious Blue Mice that live in the North and the passive Red Mice that live on an Island way in the south.
The Blue Mice need to make more money so they decide they need to have a war.
The reason for the war?
The Blue Mice eat blue cheese and the Red Mice eat yellow cheese.
What would happen if the Red Mice came and made the Blue Mice eat yellow Cheese?