FTX 230: Darienne Alphonso FTX 82: Richard McMahon FTX 743: Pierre Roelofs
Three Australian legends!
FTX 230: Darienne Alphonso I met Darienne in 2017 while working in the Gold Coast on ‘Aquaman’. Easily one of the hardest workers on that show, Darienne is a can-do person. I knew as I was planning FTX Gold that year that I could depend on Darienne because her word is truth. She was essential then at FTX Gold and in 2019 at FTX Melbourne.
FTX 82: Richard McMahon I met Richard in 2007 in India for the wedding of our friend Rajni (FTX 28). We reconnected in 2017 when he flew up from Melbourne and threw down for FTX Gold! I can honestly say without his help FTX Melbourne (2019) would not have happened. He supplied almost everything: vehicle, coolers, tables, location scouting – for free.
A quick story: When I was boarding to fly from the Gold Coast to Melbourne with my historic FTX grills the airline pilot decided they weren’t allowed to be on his plane even though no propane fuel was inside or attached to them. The airline kindly offered to throw the very grills that have fed thousands worldwide into the trash! Instead I quickly put them in an airport locker, sent worried messages to my FTX Melbourne crew (FTX 14, 23, and 82) as I boarded and upon landing was taken to a local store by Richard to purchase a new grill. People like Richard are priceless because even in your weakest moment they stand by you and make you stronger than you ever were before.
FTX 743: Pierre Roelofs Pierre is a renowned dessert chef who lives in Melbourne with his wife Michelle (FTX 14) and their lovely children Garcia and Bernadette. Of course if I was only thinking of myself and the needs of FTX I would have leaped at getting a real chef into our gang! But Pierre is Stone Cold far beyond his skills at making the perfect batter. He’s someone I know I can rely on to put his heart into what he does as I’ve seen him do time and time again with his family. Having him in charge of our batter for FTX Gold and Melbourne not only gave me peace of mind but also some solid gold tips on how to make it better.
FTX 94: Ethan Shvartzman
I met Ethan thru his partner and our legendary FTX Member James (FTX 79).
Ethan delivers. Whether it’s at FTX Paris or FTX Standing Rock in 2016 or FTX Portland in 2018, I know I can always count on him.
I’m sure you can see a running theme here. FTX Gang Members’ words and actions are one.
From left to right: FTX 121: Grace Mirisch FTX 116: Sophie Mirisch
Sophie and Gracie are the daughters of Belen (FTX 26) and Richard (FTX 113).
A true Stone Cold FTX Family.
Sophie and Grace were always destined to be Stone Cold with parents like Belly and Richard to show them the path.
In fact Gracie threw down in 2009 when we did our first FTX Downtown Los Angeles and fed 700 people in need.
It’s an honor to have an FTX Family within our FTX Family. I love you both.
FTX 321: Jacquie Barnbrook
I first worked with Jacquie in 2003 on ‘The Haunted Mansion’ and was taken with her quick sense of humor and love of life. She’s just always one of those people that you feel good around.
My intention to not ask for or take monetary donations to fund FTX has for the most part always been in place because as Cyndi Lauper sang “Money Changes Everything”. But over the years Jacquie would send us donations if she couldn’t attend. Coming from her it never felt like money, it just felt like she was there standing beside us.
Because in truth she always has.
Your FTX numbers are yours and yours alone. Like each of you, they are unique and never to come again.
I am saddened to let you know of the passing of one of our founding members.
Percy – FTX 4
I met Percy thru his momma Daisy (FTX 5). A sweet little boy who traveled our earth with his mom spreading goodwill and love. As those of you who met them know, they were a force of nature when together. Much like John and Yoko, their names were always connected just as their hearts.
Percy was our one and only pup recipient of an FTX shirt which later became golden yellow heart tags for our animal members’ collars.
After his passing Daisy had his FTX number 4 and the tag she got him tattooed on her ankle.
I will miss you forever my sweet friend.
And so we find ourselves beginning another year. I wish love, peace, and happiness to you all as we stand together as friends.
I came here for work and left knowing I had just
lived in one of the greatest cities on Earth.
She is the home of Mad Max, AC⚡DC Lane, Bimbo Deluxe’s $4
pizzas, and Cascade ginger beer.
But more than that to me, Melbourne is where
I discovered some of my deepest friendships. People who poured their high
octane love into my heart to make me a far far better person than I ever could
Many of those people are standing here with
me today, 14 years later.
And so before I turn the ignition key on our
24th French Toast and Hugs event I want to thank them.
Michelle, Sarah, and Richard – I love you.
If it wasn’t for these three, FTX Melbourne
would not have happened.
In my travels I have learned it is a small
world my friends.
Because your best friend is standing right
beside you, even if you haven’t met them yet.
And it’s a large world too. It’s as large as
the love you give and the love that you receive.
From my heart I thank everyone standing here
with me today.
Because friendship is standing alongside each
other as one.
I dedicate our 24th FTX with love to Irene Swierzbinski.
She is my brother Justin’s grandmother, a
friend I love very much.
It is often said the world is a cold and hard
And that can be true.
But this is true too.
Strangers become friends. Friends become one
heart. That heart is here today.
As the FTX Gang walked triumphantly out of Broadwater Parklands I felt good. Better than good. We had fed hundreds of wonderful people, children played before us with the sun speckled sea behind us. AC⚡DC started our 22nd event with their gauntlet thrown down anthem “Are You Ready”.
Turns out we were.
As we were leaving I looked back at the children’s park and reflected on how transitory all of us and our actions are. That in a few hours, let alone a week later, the spinning spiral of positive energy and love we helped create would be elsewhere.
As it should be.
Not once did I think FTX would return to my favorite land so soon.
And yet here we are.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the FTX Gang invite you to our 24th event – FTX Melbourne!!!!
FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon Speech: Remember The Love
September 2nd, 2018
It’s all too short.
I’ve spent a good deal of mine watching others. It’s how I learn about myself.
From what I can see many of us live our lives as if we are immortal.
We plunge headlong forward without much reflection on our actions and how they will affect ourselves let alone others.
But once the inevitable happens: sickness, an accident, time – I see us surprised at how fragile we truly are.
I have thought about this fragility ever since I was young boy.
On drives with my parents I would put my hand on the car seat when someone got out and reflect on how quickly their body heat would dissipate.
How fast all trace of them was gone.
But no matter how much awareness I’ve tried to accrue, I too am surprised when a loved one leaves me.
I met Regina in 2003.
A ball of endless energy and love she planted herself fully into my life and quickly became #10 in my French Toast and Hugs Gang.
For the fourteen years I knew her never once did I imagine a world without her in it.
I couldn’t imagine it.
For how could someone so bright and vibrant diminish?
Regina passed away suddenly on November 25th of last year from a massive stroke.
It was three days before her 47th birthday.
No my friends, we are not immortal.
At least not in the way we think.
I have spent a lot of wasted time worrying on things that don’t really matter only to suddenly lose what matters most – someone I love.
When they are gone I think back on their final moments, their saddest moments, because they are the freshest in my mind.
When they are gone I think of what I’ve lost and of what will never be again.
But I realize now remembering those things is just more wasted time.
I tell you now we have to remember the love.
Those moments you shared with them that make you glow with life.
Those memories where they are alive again.
For in those memories they are and always will be what we the living mistakenly think we are – immortal.
Regina stood with me in 2003 when FTX was in its infancy and could have easily failed.
She stood by my side and strengthened me during that first week of our gang as we handed out French Toast and Hugs every day at Burning Man.
I dedicate this FTX to her.
Remember the love.
In 2012, my friend Georgie’s mom Frances worked a 60 hour week, and then traveled 30 hours on 3 planes to the remote desert of Namibia, Africa to hand deliver her darling daughter a suitcase stuffed with her favorite foods: fruit cake, macaroons, and biscuits.
Frances passed away suddenly late last year.
We dedicate this FTX to her.
Remember the love.
When Henry, FTX #38, was in the summer of his 10th grade he went away from home to work in a summer stock theatre. Only one problem: he completely forgot the pot plants he had recently planted in his mom’s backyard! A few weeks passed and he got a call from his mom, Barbara. Turns out the Montclair police department showed up to the house and seeing as she was the only responsible party there handcuffed and booked her. As Henry wrote me, “She took the wrap for me man!”
Barbara passed away on August 7th at the age of 93.
We dedicate this FTX to her.
Remember the love.
When I asked my friend Jorge to share a single memory of love of his father, George, he found it impossible to do.
His father, who always had time to play hide and seek with his son when he came home from work.
His father, who always took his family into the mountains every year to get a Christmas tree and to play in the snow.
His father, whose first response when his son came to him with trouble was always “How can I help?”
This past spring I watched my dear friend Jorge as he fought for hope as his father fought for his life.
Jorge wrote me that his father’s legacy is in the people that knew and loved him.
George passed away on May 21st surrounded by them.
We dedicate this FTX to him.
Remember the love.
Rachel, FTX #77, lost two of the loves of her life this year.
Her Grandma Dot, who not only gave her sweets when her dad wasn’t looking but also a cheeky little wink saying she knew she wasn’t supposed to.
From birth Rachel lived next door to her godmother Aunty Liz. Liz turned her own house into a second home for Rachel, the love they shared was so great one home could not contain it.
We dedicate this FTX to them.
Remember the love.
In 2016, the last thing Regina ever gave me was a note asking me to do a French Toast and Hugs in her home city of Portland.
(Hold up note and pause)
Here we are Regina.
We dedicate this FTX to her.
Remember the love.
She’s standing here right now. They’re all standing here right now. Immortal.
A few hours from now this FTX will have passed.
If you stood on this very spot one week from today there would be no trace of us.
But maybe one day, when you need it, you will think on what happens here today and be strengthened by it.
I met AJ in 2012 in the desert of Namibia on “Mad Max – Fury Road”.
A steadicam operator, I remember AJ yelling out his lens size to me over the roar of a legion of muscle cars as the sands of Africa would whip by us.
Dan Bethell – FTX 112
I also met Dan on “Mad Max” as he was our VFX Supervisor for the Action Unit.
There is always a calmness in Dan that I admire, even during the mania of a film like “Fury Road”. I trusted Dan so much that I made him one of my grillers when we did FTX Namibia and had his spatula engraved with a note from me.
Linda Narvaez – FTX 130
Dr. Linda Narvaez has been my personal doctor for longer than I remember.
My father, a huge influence in my life, was always my personal physician until I moved from New Jersey to California. Which meant any doctor I chose after him would have big big boots to fill. Dr Narvaez fits that bill. Going to see her is seeing a close friend and something I always look forward to.
In 2009 she flew out to Philadelphia for FTX Love.
At one of her previous offices she even put an FTX sticker on her waiting room window next to Visa/Mastercard as one of her accepted forms of payment!
Welcome 102, 112, and 130!!!! We are honored to have you in our Gang!
FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon Location and Flyer French Toast and Hugs #23 September 2nd, 2018 Approximately 9am – 1pm Location: Shemanski Fountain, South Park Blocks (Between Salmon and Main Streets) https://tinyurl.com/FTX10-Location
On the morning of September 2nd, exactly two weeks from today, FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon will be underway!
A lot has happened since I last wrote, most importantly we’ve picked our spot.
We’ll be setting up in the north end of South Park Blocks at Shemanski Fountain between Salmon Street and Main Street.
FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon
French Toast and Hugs #23
September 2nd, 2018
9am – 1pm
September 2nd, 2017 – The Gold Coast, Australia
It was a warm and sunny day as we set up at Broadwater Parklands for our 22nd French Toast and Hugs event.
For four months I had scouted and prepped never knowing if our day of free French Toast and Hugs would be allowed to happen.
Yes, the weather is something that can’t be controlled but neither are park officials or police who may have an issue with someone handing out free food and hugs without a permit.
It’s just something I can never plan for.
But the day went perfectly.
Police waited in line for their French Toast and soundtracks just like everyone else. 🙂
In truth all 22 events over the past 15 years have been EXACTLY what they were supposed to be.
But that doesn’t stop me from worrying. Planning. And worrying some more.
I returned back to sunny Ojai, California later last year for what I hoped would be a relaxing time with family and friends.
A few weeks passed and I received an email from Sean, the husband of my great friend Regina.
Regina has been in my life and my gang since the start of FTX.
She helped me at our first event back in 2003 as well as flew to Paris, France in 2016 to attend our FTX there. She always pushed for me to do one in her current city of Portland, Oregon.
Sean married Regina in September 2017 and it was with a heavy heart he wrote me on November 11th, 2017 to tell me that Regina suffered a stroke, was unconscious, and on life support.
On November 22nd, I sat on a lonely wall near my California home as Sean held his phone to her ear. I told her I loved her, that she was my one and only 10, and I promised her I would do my next FTX for her in her Portland.
On November 25th Regina passed away.
When inducted into FTX you are given a number.
It is yours and yours alone, never to be given to another.
Regina is number 10.
This year, on the morning of September 2nd, 2018 – one year to the day of FTX Gold in Australia, we will be doing our 23rd event.
Unlike all our past events that are named after the place we are in this one will be called FTX 10 in honor of our friend.
Please invite any and all who would like to come to FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon.
We will be serving up the best French Toast and Hugs we can and there will be soundtracks and stickers to give away (plus a special surprise I will announce on our facebook page later.)
BUT I NEED YOUR HELP
We don’t have our location picked yet.
I can’t scout the location as I always have in the past because I am not there.
My current goal is to do FTX at the South Park Blocks in downtown Portland.
But I have never been there and need to know how much foot traffic is there on a Sunday between 9am and 11am. That will help me decide how much food I should order.
I also need to know if there are food vendors there on a Sunday as vendors often have an issue with FTX because we are giving food away for free. (We are intentionally NOT doing FTX on a Saturday at South Park Blocks so we don’t interfere with their weekly farmer’s market).
If anyone in the area is able to go this Sunday, July 29th at 9am to scout and take photos of the different sections of the park I would be in your debt.
Or if you know of a better spot please let me know. Typically a happy park is a good place for us. As September 2nd will be Labor day weekend we hope there will be many people out.
I am out of town for work right now but can be reached by email at:
My love to you all, always.
I hope you can attend FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon in body or in spirit.
This one is for Regina, but in truth I feel she’d say this one is for us all.
I left to work in the Gold Coast of Australia on April 24th of this year and did not return home until October 26th.
My favorite land.
I write land and not country because countries were made by ideas of man but the land was here before. And it is the land that I connect to.
Most of us have been somewhere new and felt an immediate connection.
As if you had been there before or should have been there before.
That is how I have always felt about Australia.
• Red deserts with limitless horizons and black ribbon roads
• Clear blue waters and cinnamon sugar beaches
• AC/DC and Mad Max
• Ginger Beer (Bundaberg and my now favorite Saxbys)
• Kangaroos and Koalas and Whales and Dolphins as you go past
I had never been to the Gold Coast on Australia’s central east coast before but I will never forget her.
For it was here that I learned about “No Dramas”.
I had heard the saying “No Worries” before but it never resonated with me.
For I honestly don’t know how you can always not worry.
As I wrote at the start I was away from home for just over six months.
During that length of time I could not return to see my loved ones (human and pup alike). That stretch of time away is a normal one for me but has never become easy. For you see when I am away from home my heart tends to shatter more often than not when someone close to me passes away and I am not able to be there to say goodbye.
But saying goodbye was never something I could do.
Thru counseling I’ve come to realize that I carry all the deaths I have encountered since my start as a young boy in New Jersey.
From my first cat Boogie, to my father, and close friends and family.
When I walk I can sense them all walking with me and although there was much joy we shared when we were all breathing, now the air around me has turned to a sadness the color of the winter’s sun fading light and it is thru this sadness that I walk.
For a long time I felt I needed to and would eventually shed that sadness but I never have. I realize now that remembering and feeling those moments so deeply have helped me maintain empathy for all life that I come across each day.
That sadness has value and is not something to run from.
To carry it knowing that the sadness is in some way equal to the love I have been given.
Still though I worry when I leave home and have to say goodbye to the faces of my girls.
Even my Australian friends who aren’t from the Gold Coast had never heard “No Dramas” before.
It was simply a saying someone would tell you when you asked them for help.
But over those six months it came to mean much more to me.
Drama in life will come just as surely as it will go.
But for me “No Dramas” means that I do not need to create any of my own.
It keeps me centered in the moment and helps me realize there is nothing I should escalate to becoming a drama.
When I needed to find a location to do FTX Gold?
“No dramas, try Broadwater Parklands” said my friend Sabrina.
Turns out that is the only park that specifically says you can’t bring your own propane stove to the park.
“No dramas, just bring them anyway and if for some reason they tell you to stop you can use the free electric bbqs in the park” said my friend Scotty. “But I can’t imagine them not letting you use them.” (And he was right.)
When I needed to reserve all my strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and oranges?
“No dramas, Tugun Fruit Market is the local place I shop” said my friend Cal.
(The market wouldn’t even let me reserve them until closer to the event as it wasn’t a big deal for them and I had to use my “No Dramas” philosophy right there and then and trust they were right. Turns out they were.)
And so it went.
FTX Gold, like the land it took place in, was completely “No Dramas”.
Honestly it couldn’t have gone any better than it did.
After our two FTX events in 2016 – Paris and Standing Rock – I wanted to do one filled with sunlight, laughter, children playing, water glistening, music inspiring, and most importantly “No Dramas”.
And so it was. Children bounced on the park’s “bouncy pillow” all day as our line never got too long and never got too short. We fed a few hundred in an easy breezy way on a perfectly sunny day.
The police showed up and I tensed until I realized they were only waiting in line for some French Toast and Hugs. (I threw them a soundtrack to top it off.)
Up to that day I had worried my music mix would bother some of the families at this quiet public park but at the end of the day an older mom approached me, kissed me on the cheek, and thanked me for the music.
We had an abundance of people waiting to help and by my left side was a young girl, Charli, who I only met that day and learned that French Toast is her favorite food.
Charli would shrewdly eye each and every piece I put from my grill to her plate to check that they were quality. She would then turn and serve them to strangers. This little one did this for over four hours straight. You can see her with hands clasped standing in front of me in our crew photo.
In my six months away I was lucky enough to make new beautiful friendships.
And during that time I shared some of the pain of those new friends who lost loved ones or were mending those who had been seriously hurt.
Dramas come to us all but we can do our part to not create them and to carry those who are in them.
Learning the meaning of those two words has decreased my worries.
They are still there but the power is in my hands.
When you get inducted into the French Toast and Hugs Gang you are given a number. They are printed on the back of your FTX shirt in bright gold.
Some of my gang members carry their number with such respect that they often only call themselves by it.
Your number is yours forever.
I will never repeat it again because each of us cannot be repeated.
I met Regina at the Burning Man festival in 2003.
It was the first time I stepped forward as FTX 1 and handed out free French Toast and Hugs.
In fact I had never made French Toast before and had to learn quick during that weeklong art festival in the desert.
Leave it to me to give myself a job at Burning Man.
I set my alarm clock for 7 or 8 every morning and set out with a little red wagon that carried a stove, propane, a cooler of batter and butter, bred, syrup, plates, and napkins.
I was asked by FTX 12 when the festival was over why I hadn’t done it later each day rather than set an alarm clock for the early morning when most people would still be asleep. I had no answer. I guess I just tend to make things difficult.
In 2003 Regina was with John and they had just been married.
While others were out partying each night and then sleeping it off the next morning I remember Regina and John coming out with me each day as we wandered into someone’s camp and asked if they wanted some French Toast and Hugs.
It was a transformative moment in my life as I was and am terribly shy.
To have these two always by my side was like having two extra tanks of oxygen while deep sea diving.
When I returned home after that summer week I was a changed person.
And in no small part to them.
It was only after that week did I realize I had formed an unbreakable bond with a handful of people. A bond that would become a Gang.
I printed up t-shirts with numbers and had a celebration for the first recruits.
As with most everything, I was very specific on who got which number.
And while I would always love John who I gave the number 9 I knew that to the end of my days Regina would be my one and only 10.
Regina. FULL of energy, love, laughter, joy, and wonder. It was the wonder that always spoke to me most. Her ability to find fascination in life each day. It is how I felt during that week in 2003 and how I’ve felt every day since.
Regina and John moved to Washington and while I didn’t get to see them often I always felt their love. On the Fourth of July 2009 I did an FTX in my home city of Philadelphia and Regina (10) and John (9) did their own in Washington state. Coast to Coast FTX.
This photo of her standing by the side of the road with a plate of French Toast sums up Regina for me: standing strong, offering her heart.
Time passed and she and John went different ways.
In 2016 she flew to stay with me in Paris and I scheduled FTX Paris to coincide with her arrival. In fact she went straight from the airport to FTX!
FTX Paris was mostly attended by the homeless and refugees.
Regina found a friend in an older man who took joy that day in showering her with attention. They laughed as he spoke in French and she in English.
This past September Regina found love again and married Sean in Oregon.
On November 11th Sean wrote me that Regina had a massive stroke the evening of November 10th and was on life support.
Sean, who has never met me, kept me close as I watched Regina’s progress from afar. His strength of character speaks to me of hers.
On November 22nd, he put his phone to her ear and I read a note to her saying that I loved her and that she was and will always be my one and only 10.
On the evening of November 25th my dear friend passed away.
Today is her 47th birthday.
Dramas will come my friends.
Hold the ones who are in them, don’t make any of your own.
It’s simple really.
I’m not talking about a government because I don’t believe in them.
I’m not talking about a nation because I don’t identify with them.
I’m talking about the land.
I’m talking about the spirit of this land.
Picture a vast and seemingly empty red desert with a bleeding sun sky.
A single road ribbons in front of us as we speed along at high velocity.
We are in the blackest of muscle cars.
You can only hear three sounds and those sounds forge us into a single living breathing creature of flesh and steel.
The beating of our heart, the roar of our engine, and the screams of AC⚡DC.
That is Australia to me.
And every single time Grace, my high octane 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle, and I pull out of our driveway that is where we go.
That is what we become.
FTX Gold is a thank you to this land and all its inhabitants for making me.
For who would I be without AC⚡DC, the greatest band in the history of music?
Or without The Road Warrior or Fury Road, the greatest films in the history of cinema?
I want to dedicate our 22nd FTX to the loving and living memory of Charles Cornell, whose great heart can be found today in his granddaughter Naomi.
To Weesie Beans, a true friend, noble soul, and dear heart to one of my greatest friends, Daisy Mertzel.
And I ask you all to send all the joy and love we create today to fill and heal William Kinghorn.
As I often do, I will crack open a Bundaberg after our mission here today is through. But until then I leave you with the words of Young, Young, and Johnson:
“Stand up and be counted
For what you are about to receive
We are the dealers
We’ll give you everything you need
Hail hail to the good times
‘Cause rock has got the right of way
We ain’t no legend, ain’t no ’cause
We’re just livin’ for today”