FTX Gold – No Dramas

FTX Gold StickerFTX Gold – No Dramas

 

FTX Gold Crew Photo
FTX Gold Crew Photo

November 28, 2017

I left to work in the Gold Coast of Australia on April 24th of this year and did not return home until October 26th.

Australia.

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.

“No Dramas”.

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.

Burning Man 2003: Regina on the far left holding a plate of OG French Toast
Burning Man 2003: Regina on the far left holding a plate of OG French Toast

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.

No Dramas.

2016: FTX Paris - Regina and friend
2016: FTX Paris – Regina and friend
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FTX Gold Speech (FTX #22) ~ September 2nd, 2017

September 2, 2017 – FTX Gold Speech

Australia.

She’s been in my blood from birth.

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”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to….
FTX Gold

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FTX Gold Invite (FTX #22) ~ September 2nd, 2017

Long have I waited to do an FTX in Australia.
Land of Mad Max and AC/DC.
Two creations who have shaped me more than almost all others.

And now the time has come.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The French Toast and Hugs Gang (FTX) invite you to our 22nd event.

FTX GOLD

Gold for Gold Coast, Australia.
Gold for the colors of our FTX gang shirts.
Gold for the love we will share together as we celebrate the right here and right now.

Come meet the French Toast and Hugs Gang as we hand out FREE French Toast and Hugs near the Bouncy Pillow at Broadwater Parklands in Southport, Queensland, Australia

All are welcome because all are ONE.

My only question for you is:

Are You Ready?

Love always,

Toast
FTX 1

*Please click here to see and download flyer. Please share!*

To join us on the rest of our journey follow us on:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @ftxgang
#ftxgold #frenchtoastandhugs #ftxgang

French Toast And Hugs Website
http://frenchtoastandhugs.com

FTX (French Toast & Hugs) Gold Invitation – FTX #22
Saturday September 2nd, 2017
Broadwater Parklands’ Bouncy Pillow, Southport, Queensland, Australia
Starting At Approximately 9:30am

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FTX Roll Call / FTX Gold

FTX Roll Call / FTX Gold

To my dear FTX Gang,

It’s been a year and a half since my last FTX Roll Call letting you know about our newest Gang members.

Since then we’ve done two FTXs!!!! Paris and Standing Rock.

Please allow me to introduce you to our ten newest members.

In Gang number order:

FTX 74
Bodie!!!!
He’s the Jam to my Toast. We met in the Namibian desert in 2012.
A can-do guy, Bodie always has multiple ways to get past any hurdle.
Which helps greatly when you are griddling up some tasty bred on the sly from the local authorities.
After our shared FTX Namibia success I was lucky enough to find Bodie able to come to FTX Paris from his new home in London.

FTX 75
Scott!!!!
I’ve known Scott since 2003. That’s right, it took me 13 years to get my slow bones to inducting this legend.
Scott is easily one of the most unassuming and yet big hearted and capable people I’ve ever met. Even at his great height he has the ability to be invisible, always watching and waiting for just the moment to lend that hand when it is needed most.
I am forever grateful for his invitation to make Pain Perdu in Paris last year.
Thank you Scott!

FTX 76
Emmanuelle!!!!
All things are connected and Scott’s invitation to Paris led me to Emmanuelle.
Boundless positive energy, Emmanuelle threw herself into FTX Paris and made it very clear to me that she wanted into our Gang.
I’ve always believed saying what you want is great way to get it.
Emmanuelle, I will be forever blessed that you did.
And as always, life throws you the unexpected. Like her one of a kind blue sleeved and yet gold number FTX shirt. A mishap at the printers or were her Gang colors always meant to be unique? Just like our Emmanuelle.

FTX 78
Juniper FTX’s first kitty kat!!!!

Dearest Junebug. The best of friends to our FTX 3 and our co-founder Daisy, FTX 1. A little know fact is that Juniper was invited into our Gang right at it’s fruition. And in true cat style, turned us down cold. Stone Cold that is. But in the 14 years of FTX her heart softened to us strange kidz and when her ‘special delivery’ FTX Gang tag arrived last July I am told she wore it with pride and spunk.

From my deepest well of sadness I am sorry to write that lil June passed on a little over two months later. I believe she was greeted by her friend Daisy as well as FTX 0 – Jasmine. I will love you forever my little orange friend. You were and are the best of the bests.

FTX 79
James!!!!
I met James in Detroit in 2014.
And boy was I lucky I did.
If I was to sum up James it would be integrity.
Sure he’s funny, quirky, and loving like the rest of us. But behind all of his traits there is this beautiful golden thread of integrity.
I deeply admire James and am constantly astonished at how much our little Gang means to him. After his first FTX in Detroit he made it a point to fly out to our next two! Paris and Standing Rock. Two places not too easy to get to.
You can never have enough heart. And with James I can rest easy knowing our Gang will never have to worry about that.

FTX 80
Jerry!!!!
I’ve known Jerry for just over a decade. A quiet observant guy (who’s into the heaviest of heavy metal) it takes you to think outside of yourself to get to know him. What I’ve learned most about Jerry aren’t from his words (although he is a successful writer) but from his actions. The way he cares for his family (both human and animal).
I have to say what impressed me most was during our journey to Standing Rock. He held down the fort at home so FTX 3 could support us. But what will stick with me always is when I asked him if he had been able to go would he have, even if his job might have had a problem with it. He told me he’d have gone. Which means risking his livelihood, his safety net, his future and those of his family for what he believed was right. And that my friends is how you make the world better.

FTX 88
Julien!!!!
I met Julien in Paris in 2016 and as has been the case with my closest of friends I look back and realize I had no idea of the greatness I was in the presence of at the time. Julien is all in. Whatever I needed to pull off FTX Paris he was there for. He was my second griller. I trusted him with reading in French my deep felt and emotional FTX Paris speech where I talked about the loss of Daisy (FTX 1) and Jasmine (FTX 0). Julien is a brother. I look to the day when I see him again.

FTX 107
Nick. Now let me tell you about Nick.

When Nick found out about the situation going on at Standing Rock he had a deep concern for how we as Americans were treating the First People. He asked him mom about it and what could be done. When Brandy learned about Nick’s concern about Standing Rock she asked if he could be a part of our epic (and life changing) journey. I knew Nick was a solid and heart driven young man who I could depend on. I immediately said yes. When we scooped him up in Nevada on our way to North Dakota I warned him that this wasn’t a vacation. He was going to be put to work. None of that phased him and on the day of FTX Standing Rock he became our key utility person. Getting the three grillers heaping mountains of challah, making sure the topping tables were fully stocked, and helping bringing the batter and its empty containers back and forth from the the prep table.
In all truth I can’t imagine doing it without him.
On the drive home I looked at him in the rearview mirror and asked if he had a lucky number. My subtle way of trying to pick his future FTX number. He said 7, because that was the age that was the best year of his life.

FTX 113
Richard!!!!
Richard is the husband of Belen, FTX 26. I met him thru her and was lucky enough to be at their wedding as well as see them grow into wonderful parents. He came to our FTX Downtown events in 2009 and 2010 which means this induction has been a long time coming. I’m so grateful he didn’t give up asking me to join. This Gang means a lot to me but I never lose sight of how incredible it is that people want in. I can’t express how touching that really is. Thank you Richard, we’re lucky to have you.

FTX 117
Sophie!!!!
Ahhhh and my dear Sophie. I met Sophie thru FTX 75, Scott. Sophie is one of a kind. In a business that’s mostly about money here’s one of the good ones who makes it about people. Quick with a laugh and more than her share of mischief in her eyes I so do love our Sophie. She was the one who went with me that special morning in Paris when she asked l’Un Est l’Autre (in her native French) if they would allow us to do our event with them. It would not have happened without her. Stone Cold? Elle est pierre froide!!!!

And those are our newest 10 in a long list of future members.

Which leads me to our next event!!!!

That’s right!!!! Our 22nd FTX is happening this year and it’s called FTX Gold!!!!
Gold for Gold Coast, Australia. Right now I’m planning for Saturday September 2nd at the Broadwater Parklands Children’s Park.

Broadwater Parklands

Once I’ve locked it in I will let you know but I wanted to plant the seed in your head in case you wanted to come. The soundtrack is 99% done and it starts with AC/DC and ends with AC/DC and has our very own theme song “French Toast and Hugs” nestled in the center of the mix written by our very own FTX 23 – Sarah!!!!

Exciting times indeed. I’m so glad to have you all to share them with.

Love always,

Toast
FTX 1

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FTX Standing Rock Wrap Up (FTX #21)

FTX Standing Rock Wrap UpSeven days ago.

FTX Standing Rock was seven days ago.


From the start there was an urgency to all our actions.

From receiving the message to do our event, to the planning, to the almost 4,000 mile round trip journey thru eight states.

I felt a drive in me that would either burn myself out completely or successfully complete our task.

Why such a need? I do not know.

We arrived at the Oceti Sakowin camp early in the morning the day before our FTX. My single-minded focus for the past week had been only to serve our gift of french toast and hugs on Saturday the 26th.

But that focus was shattered forever that fateful Friday morning as we turned north on the 1806 highway.

There in the dawning light of blues, pinks, and oranges I drove across the Cannon Ball river. A few silhouettes of people walked the same road we drove as they went from the Sacred Stone camp to the Oceti Sakowin camp. The road curved to the right and the land sloped down into the valley below.

What I saw took my breath away.

Teepees, tents and make shift buildings as far as my eyes could see.
A thick blue mist of sage and smoke hovered above and moved around the housing as if it was a river of colored air.

The original idea of what I thought our goal was dissolved as a quiet stillness entered into me.

There were thousands here. Reported well over ten thousand.
A historical meeting of over 300 tribes as well as people the world over.

We were welcomed at the entrance by hushed voices who told us the water ceremony was underway.

We found parking and got out into the crisp air walking to one of the Sacred Fires of the camp. As we moved past tents we entered an open area where people of all lands and races were standing in ceremony and prayer.

Prayer for the water.
Prayer for the Water Protectors who would soon be walking again out onto that bridge.
Prayer for us all.

I could see tears in the eyes of my gang as the simple truth and power of the moment was revealed.

Everything we had read or thought before paled compared to actually standing with people who had such pure intention.


Throughout my life, even as a young young boy, I always questioned myself and my beliefs. I remember being in college and sitting in my dorm room rather than going out and systematically questioning what I believed and why I chose to follow or not follow specific laws.

It was then that I realized that laws were merely the opinions of those in power.

Although we are led to believe that laws are just, it has been repeated time and again that that is not always so.

It was once the law for my father to ride in the back of the bus when he first moved to America.


At the Oceti Sakowin camp there are many kitchens.

With the help of my friends Tim and Tyler we started our search for a place to set up at the California kitchen. California kitchen is run by Patti of the Hoopa tribe.

Brandy, Tim and I entered a small dark dining room tent where people were milling around looking for something to eat. At the back were two small swinging doors. We knocked and entered to find a large white supply tent that was illuminated by the sun shining thru. Stacks and stacks of canned goods were to the left side while the right was filled with volunteers washing dishes. We asked where we could find Patti and they motioned us to two more small doors near the back of this tent. We again knocked and went thru to find another small darkened tent that was filled with stoves and even a refrigerator. The kitchen.

Sitting around a stove for warmth were a handful of people. I stood nervously behind them and asked if Patti was there. A woman directly in front of me turned and said that was her. I quickly explained the French Toast & Hugs Gang and our mission here at Standing Rock. I wondered if we would be able to set up outside the front dining room tent to serve people the following morning. With a smile Patti asked if we ran a Hug gang then where was her hug?

Hugs were never my strong suit but I felt calmed by her and leaned in to give her one.

She told us we were welcome to set up wherever we liked but that it would be cold in the morning and we were more than welcome to set up inside any of the three kitchen tents they used each day. We chose the middle storage tent for its sun warmed large space. The idea was to have people line up thru the first small dining tent and enter the storage tent. There we would serve them freshly grilled french toast along with maple syrup, butter, powdered sugar, strawberries, blueberries, bananas, oranges, coconut, and chocolate syrup along with a bottle of water to wash it down with.

We left Patti knowing we had found the right person and the right place.

This is not something new for me and my experience with FTX.
The right people just CLICK when you find them, like a Lego piece.

But sometimes it takes longer than others to find those Legos. With our limited time to prepare I was grateful this daunting task of finding a location in a camp full of thousands was complete.

We then walked across the way to the orientation dome. Daily they give orientation talks to new people to give them not only a better understanding of what is going on with the specific situation of the oil pipeline and the Water Protectors but also of the experience of First Americans in the land today.

There was much we learned in the 2 ½ hours of orientation but what stood most with me was the young American Indian man who opened it with a prayer. It wasn’t the prayer you may think of in our western ways but more of a conversation told not only to our minds but to our hearts. He spoke with such strength about each of our uniqueness and place in the world. How we were each uniquely loved by our creator. The power in each of us and how we can use it for a better world. I could feel the people around me stirring as he spoke to their hearts, hearts that had been taught lies that filled them with uncertainty and missing confidence. Hearts that knew the truth when they heard it.

This is something I have always believed.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now.
We are legends.
All of us.
We just have to choose to be one in each day and in each instant.

As he finished his prayer he mentioned his mother runs the kitchen across the way cooking for 500 people each day. Helping and feeding people was one of the things we could do.

I couldn’t believe it. His mother is Patti!

Of course she is.


Me and my buddy, eleven year old Nick, then went out and put FTX flyers on the outside of the camp portapotty doors. Sometimes people were in them and we had to move quick as to not disturb them.

As we were leaving camp we ended where we started near the Sacred Fire.

There is a microphone there where camp events and messages are relayed.
As we were taught in orientation we offered the American Indian man with the mic some tobacco as a sign of respect. I then showed him my flyer and asked if he’d mention to the people about our free french toast event the next morning.

He shrewdly looked me up and down and told me I had to do it.
Something I did not want to do.

I took the mic and went into my head as I introduced myself as Toast and that we run a French Toast and Hugs gang that would be handing out free french toast at the California kitchen beginning at 8am the next day.

I was so nervous and lost in thought that it wasn’t until later that my sister Tara and Brandy told me that American Indian cheers and trills went up into the air after my announcement.

I gave the mic back to the man who slyly mentioned to the gathering crowd that as we were starting at 8am he would be in line at 7:59.


The gang began arriving throughout that evening to our Bismarck hotel room as we prepped the fruit and batter for the next morning.

We woke at 4am and made our way slowly to the camp once again.

Brandy and I went into the California kitchen and helped Patti and her crew move the dishwashing tables back so we could bring in our own. It was so cold that the cleaned camp dishes and cups were frozen to the tables and had to be broken off before they could be moved.

Unloading of our FTX items into the storage tent went quickly as unknown volunteer after volunteer silently helped.

The silence was something I noticed the day before.

This is a prayer and ceremony camp and being such any sound made needed to be done out of respect and love for others and for the intention of the group as a whole.

I knew right then that I would not be playing any of our FTX Soundtrack mixes.
The sounds of the people serving and eating and the grills frying would be the music for FTX Standing Rock.

After we set up in the white storage tent I gave a quick speech to my crew.
As with all FTX events, but none more so than this one, I wanted to remove my ego out of it as best I could.
We were here to serve. Nothing more and nothing less.

And then the dining room tent door was opened.


I do not know the number we fed that morning but I believe it to be over 200.
I never got a chance to go outside to see it but I was told the line went down the road and never diminished.
We had enough food for 500 but as we were taught in orientation, we are guests here and need to follow the non-linear flow of the Oceti Sakowin camp.
Around 10:30am Patti let me know that we needed to stop at 11am as the elders would be using her kitchen for a special meal.
I could tell Patti was a little sad to tell me the news but I knew that this was as it was to be. Again, my ego to feed more had to be removed from what was needed.

I spoke with her kitchen staff and they promised to use all our leftover eggs, bread and fruit for meals later that day and the days to follow. The weather was so cold I had no doubt that they would keep.

I left Oceti Sakowin wanting to do more.
And in reflection I believe that is a good place to be.


I leave you now with just a few more thoughts I got from my short stay at the Oceti Sakowin camp.

The land we are on is not our own.
Find out who lived on it before you.
Treat it with respect for what you are, a guest.

Our intentions matter. All of them.
What you eat, drink, drive, buy, invest in matters.
None more so I believe than how we treat each other.

I have witnessed so much division this year.
Division amongst friends and family and people of all lands, faiths and politics.
The question I humbly ask is who does this division serve?
If we look at each other and do not see brothers and sisters then who are we seeing?

There is much in disarray in our world.
But I believe there is much we can do to help it.
To me the first and foremost is communication.
Communication is a form of love.
Communication is sharing with someone who you are and listening to them tell you who they are. You don’t have to like or agree with every aspect of that person but you can listen. Because without listening there will never be a bridge of understanding.

It makes sense to me that the Water Protectors and the Police are facing off on a bridge.

One that has yet to be crossed.

The time has come to speak.
The time has come to listen.

Love always,

Toast
FTX 1

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French Toast And Hugs Website
http://frenchtoastandhugs.com

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*Update* FTX Standing Rock (FTX #21) – November 26, 2016

FTX Standing RockSeven days.

I still have to remind myself that it was only seven days ago today that the words “FTX Standing Rock” entered my mind.

So much has happened since then.

Let me share with you a couple of those stories.

As I wrote before, I love details.
Especially ones that have to do with planning FTX events.

Picking a bakery is a big one.
You see, it HAS to be a bakery.
I can’t just go to a bread aisle in a grocery store and see what they have.
The bread is the foundation on which I can build my love around.

Over the years Challah bread has stood out time and again as my favorite to make French Toast with.

So this past Monday morning I called one of the few bakeries in Bismarck, North Dakota.

They are a lovely family run company but sadly could not accommodate making 100 loaves of bread on such short notice and over a major holiday as well.

So I went to google maps and zoomed out to find the next city along my route.

Rapid City, South Dakota.

I googled, yelped and did the internet search dance until I found “Great Harvest Bread”.
I rang them up and asked if they made Challah as I couldn’t find it on their site.
They did, once a week, and were happy to bake 100 loaves for our event.

But unfortunately they are closed on Thanksgiving and the Friday after.

What to do, what to do? I plan to drive thru South Dakota on Thanksgiving day and I needed that bread!

I humbly asked the owner Marsha if there was ANY possible way she could open up for me on Thanksgiving so I could pick up the bread.

I apologized in advance for even asking but I told her I had to at least try.

There was a pause on the phone and then a laugh as she said “Sure. I live 10 minutes away. Just don’t do it during my dinner!”

The next day I was on to purchasing the fruit.
Strawberries, blueberries, bananas and oranges.
Buying fruit off season is not always an easy task.
But buying this much fruit in a state where I know no one also leads to the questions of where do I wash it and refrigerate it?

Some more of those pesky little details I love so much.

My lady Brandy was wise enough to have the idea that we should stay in a hotel that has a kitchenette. That way we would have two sinks in the room to wash all the fruit.

Great idea!!
(Why haven’t I thought of it in the past 13 years of the gang?!)

Ok but where to store it?

Fruit can go bad quickly (as seen in FTX Auckland New Zealand back in 2008) and a kitchenette fridge sure won’t be large enough to store the 30 pounds of blueberries, 100 pounds of strawberries, 130 pounds of oranges and 320 pounds of bananas we are getting.

I brought up a map image of the hotel and did a 360.

Right across the street was a local North Dakota grocery store!

So I called them up and got Matt, the produce manager, on the phone.

“No problem, I can order all that fruit for you.” he said in his North Dakota accent.

And then my brain stumbled upon a solution to my refrigeration problem.

Again as nervous as I was to ask the bakery to open on Thanksgiving I asked Matt if I could pick up the fruit on Friday the 25th, wash it at my hotel across the street and then bring it back to refrigerate in the market’s fridge overnight.

“Of course! No problem!!”

(Again, why hadn’t I thought of this before!? Store the fruit where you bought it!!)

But another detail rose to the surface.

“Matt, I need to pick this fruit up at 5:30am the next morning to make it to Standing Rock. Will that be possible?”

“Of course! We open at 5am!”

Unbelievable.

That’s the only word I can think of. Unbelievable. The planning of this FTX has fallen into place over the past week with story after story after story like the two above.

I can honestly tell you it wasn’t about money for those two people.
It was simple and honest kindness.
Kindness to a stranger with a kind of strange idea.

Marsha and Matt. Two people connected to a larger story. As we all are.

Our story.

We’re all in the details.

Love always,

Toast
FTX 1

*Please see updated flyer with new location information. Please share.*

To join us on the rest of our journey follow us on:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @ftxgang
#ftxstandingrock #frenchtoastandhugs #ftxgang

French Toast And Hugs Website
http://frenchtoastandhugs.com

FTX (French Toast & Hugs) Standing Rock Invitation – FTX #21
Saturday November 26th, 2016
Oceti Sakowin Camp, Cannon Ball, North Dakota
Starting At Approximately 8am

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FTX Standing Rock Invite (FTX #21) ~ November 26th, 2016

FTX Standing RockFour months.

That’s the average amount of time it takes me to plan an FTX (French Toast & Hugs) event.

“Why so long?” I’ve been asked many times before.

I would rattle off some information about the details required, the location scouting needed, the food storage and the transportation of it all.

But the hidden truth is that’s just who I am.

I’m the guy that can stare at a horizon for hours and days.
I’m the guy who will spend weeks, maybe months, working on each FTX Soundtrack. And even after I’ve picked the tracks I’ll then wear headphones and sample each release of the same song to listen for which one has been mixed best.

They say the devil is in the details.
I don’t know about that but I know I sure put my heart into them.

Which is why my gang has been shocked to learn that our next FTX is in less than two weeks!

You read that right.

I’m attempting to do something that takes me four months in less than two weeks.

Last Friday, November 11th, I was preparing to go to sleep when three words entered my mind without warning.

FTX Standing Rock

As most know, the Standing Rock Sioux have been holding their ground against an oil pipeline being constructed thru their sacred land, under both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and dangerously close to Lake Oahe.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dakota_Access_Pipeline_protests

When that pipeline breaks, as they have proven repeatedly to do, it will destroy their water supply.
But not just theirs, it will also destroy the water supply of 18 million people that live off of those rivers and lakes.

Just the very construction of the pipeline will desecrate their sacred lands.
Those are our lands too.

This is our country.
This is our world.
And there are millions of ways we can take it back from the faceless corporations, governments and people who are deaf and blind from their fear, hatred and greed.

We can treat each other with love by speaking our own personal truth without anger or hate.
We can treat each other with love by listening to another’s truth.
We can reach for understanding.

I don’t believe, I KNOW, that there is nothing more powerful than unconditional love.
And we must muster up all our will and strength to act accordingly.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of being bullied.
Bullied by the corporations, governments and people that believe in a power other than love.

The Standing Rock Sioux are standing for us.
All of us.

Let’s stand with them.
Let’s let them know they are not alone.

If you can come, then please come.
If you can or can’t come, please share this letter and flyer because I will need help.

I can’t do it alone. And I never have had to.

You’ve proven to me time after time that we are all one.

So please join me, in heart, in mind, in body on November 26th as we feed all we can to the world warriors at Oceti Sakowin Camp.

Four months into two weeks. Not a problem.

On November 11th I heard a voice in my head that said “FTX Standing Rock”.
These past five days I’ve realized the voice I heard was yours.

Love always,

Toast
FTX 1

French Toast And Hugs Website
http://frenchtoastandhugs.com

Keep In Touch.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: @ftxgang

FTX (French Toast & Hugs) Standing Rock Invitation – FTX #21
Saturday November 26th, 2016
Oceti Sakowin Camp, Cannon Ball, North Dakota
Starting At Approximately 8am

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FTX Paris (Pain Perdu Et Câlins) Speech – May 15th, 2016

FTX Paris Speech

May 15th, 2016
FTX Paris (Pain Perdu Et Câlins) Speech

On October 11th of last year my best friend died.
Her name is Daisy Mae and she changed my life forever.


Sixteen years ago she and her sisters were abandoned in the trash and found by people with kinder hearts.

Daisy, a brown eyed little puppy, was then adopted by two people who are dear to my heart. I can remember clearly the day I first met her.

I walked into her new home and this brown ball of energy and wonder barreled over to me.
She looked up at me with her deep dark brown eyes and clearly asked where I had been all this time as she and I were of course the best of friends.

In that moment my life took a sharp turn. Not left or right.
My life took a turn up.

At that time I had been living most of life with a black and thick hatred for myself.
Why?
I don’t know.
Why do any of us hurt ourselves?
Why do we believe our lies?

Two years later I was visiting my Daisy and she asked me why I had not been adopted off of the streets into a loving family as she had?
To her I was a quality puppy and also her best friend.
I told her I was working on it but I was shy and scared to open and risk my fragile heart.
I could tell opening her heart to others was never a risk for Daisy but she understood her friend was troubled and alone and she wanted to help.
So she offered some sage street advice.

“What you need to do is start a gang. That way while you’re on the cold hard streets no one will mess with my pal.”

It made sense to me.

And having Daisy (a self proclaimed brown belt ninja) in a gang with me would be a powerful ally.

I asked her what we should call our little gang and recommended my favorite breakfast that my mother made me when I was a boy. French Toast. Or as you call it Pain Perdu.

She agreed French Toast was a good choice as it was brown (the color of love according to Daisy) and tasty and made you feel loved and safe.
Just like her favorite thing in the world did – Hugs.

And with that one conversation the French Toast and Hugs Gang was born.
FTX for short.

Time passed and with Daisy as my friend I gradually began to open my heart to more and more people. Some of those people joined our gang and we began to travel the world together.

Feeding people French Toast and giving them Hugs.

Only now can I see clearly what Daisy had planned for me all along.
What Daisy gave to me.

A family.

Have you ever looked into someone’s eyes and seen total love and acceptance for who you are even if you can’t see who you are yourself?

That was my Daisy.

An abandoned kid from the street whose heart stayed soft.

There is an incredible strength in softness.
There is an incredible braveness in kindness.

What are our hearts but seeds of love?
The earth around them can grow hard and filled with the rocks and weeds of bad memories.
But Daisy knew that if you have a friend, just a single friend, who will water and garden the earth around your heart it will grow into the most beautiful of flowers.

A flower of light.

And she should know. After all she was a Daisy.

Which is why when we met sixteen years ago she was so very happy.
Because she had found her friend.

Two days before she passed away last October I went to visit her one last time.
Her bones rippled under her thin brown fur and her nose was cracked and dry as she panted and lay on her side unable to stand on her own.
Her breath was metallic and came in and out in hard and soft puffs.
Her body was shutting down and starving itself.
But her eyes were still clear, brown and present.

And her eyes saw her friend.

It was then that a miracle happened.
She wagged her tail, stood up, drank some water and then she held me.
I will never forget this monumental act of unconditional love.

I held her for as long as I could and I told her that my love for her would last forever.


I arrived in a cold and grey Paris two months later.

A hollow shell of a man.

Not only had my best friend passed but six others in the past year.

Even with my Gang, even with the teachings of love Daisy gave me I was lost.

“Lost” in French is perdu.
“French Toast” is simply translated as “lost bread”.
Which is how you see me now.

But then I met you.
All of you.
The French people.
And you watered my heart.

There is a softness here I have not seen anywhere else in the world.
There is a kindness here that I have never felt.
Here strangers care for strangers.
Here people share love for refugees.
I have been one of those strangers held up by another when I fell down the Metro stairs.
I have been protected by two elderly French men and their small dog when a poor lost drunken man threatened me.

I have begun once again to bloom.

And for that I thank you.

All of the people you meet here today have flowers in their hearts.
Some of their flowers need help.
Maybe some French Toast.
Maybe a Hug.
Let’s tend to them and to each other.

That was Daisy’s lesson to us all.

This FTX is dedicated to Jasmine June, Gary Sibley, Uncle Mike, dear sweet Lucy, gentle Ben, lovely Betty, Bryce Carroll-Coe and my little boy Teen.

This FTX is for Daisy.

When you get inducted into the French Toast and Hugs Gang you get a number. And it is yours for life.
Daisy and I shared our number.
It is the number 1.

Today we aren’t a gang.
Today we are an army.

An army of ONE.

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FTX Paris (Pain Perdu Et Câlins) Invite – May 15th, 2016

FTX Paris Flyer English Francais

FTX (French Toast & Hugs) Paris Invitation – FTX #20
Sunday May 15th, 2016
Behind Club “Glazart”
7-15 Avenue De La Porte De La Villette, 75019 Paris
Starting At 8am


September 11th, 2015
I get an email from an old friend, Scott.
Subject line: “Bonjour!”

Inside was a short but cryptic note asking if I wanted to serve French Toast….

in France!!!!


The first time I found myself walking around Paris was in 2011. I was lucky enough to be working in London and took the train to Paris to visit my friend Alex for the weekend. She showed me around all the sites a first timer would probably go see: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, pastry shops!

I remember standing in front of Notre Dame Cathedral and wondering if I would ever get to do an FTX (French Toast & Hugs) event here. What were the chances a small town guy from New Jersey would be here in Paris once let alone twice?

But in 2013 I was back. I was fortunate enough again to be working on an international show and one of the places we shot was in Paris! We were here for only about a week which was a far cry less than the four months it usually takes me to prepare an FTX. And so I just enjoyed the city and was on my way. Never once thinking I would be back here again.

Even as a small boy I never was one to expect more from life than what I’ve already received. I figured you enjoy what you have as much as you can and that’s pretty much that.

But life has a way of challenging us.

I feel what it challenges most is our hearts.

Since FTX Motor City took place in Detroit on September 14th of 2014 I’ve lost seven people close to me.

With each loss I tried my best to deal with it but another and then another and then another would happen. It is now at the point where I don’t really know what to do as I am so backlogged with grief.

And so when Scott wrote me about French Toast in France my immediate reaction was joy.

Joy not only to do French Toast in the country of its namesake (it is called pain perdu here which translates to “lost bred”, something I have been this past year and a half). But also joy for the opportunity to give again. It may sound like it should be the opposite but in truth when I am given the opportunity to do an FTX I am grateful because they fill me so much. They are four months of work and planning but in those few hours we hand strangers unconditional love I can’t imagine a person receiving more than me.

It is a healing time.


I left for Paris on December 26th, 2015 and said goodbye to my lovely wife Brandy and our two older pups Greta & Teen.

Shortly after being here Teen passed away as old age took its toll.

His passing has hollowed me out like an old tree in the woods.

I found myself unable to push forward to my goal of FTX Paris.

The weather was cold with rain and snow and wind.
The city was crowded and loud and there was nothing I wanted to do more than hide in my apartment.

Time passed and my friends Julien, Sophie, and Scott’s passion towards this FTX kept me moving forward.

I would walk early Sunday mornings trying to find the perfect place to do it but could never find more than a handful of people out. I have never in the previous 19 events had so much trouble in finding a location.

How can you give a gift when there is no one to receive it?

Because of recent attacks the city’s police force walks around in body armor and carry automatic weapons. There is a feeling of fear here that the locals told me grew and fed off of the November Bataclan attack.

Where would I go to find people and if I did what were the chances I wouldn’t be shut down by the police? I felt like giving up.

But it was Sophie who found the key.

I find there is much to be proud of in the French people.
They are kind and caring to strangers, on the metro they give up their seats to the old or mothers.
They are affectionate in the way they show you they love you with the gentle pats on the arm or the greeting kiss on your cheeks.
They took in refugees when many countries would not.

There are a few grass root organizations who feed the many refugees and homeless people here in Paris. I write many people but if you were to walk the streets of Paris you would only find one or two at any given place. I believe that’s because the police don’t allow them to congregate. Instead they are scattered and only are found in large numbers when they walk to the pre-planned places they know will have free meals.

Early on we tried to contact these organizations to ask if they had any recommendations of where we could do FTX Paris but never heard back.

Sophie found a website that listed a place that handed out lunches on Saturdays and Sundays and on March 20th she, Scott, & I made our way there.

Far from the beautiful parks of Paris we found ourselves in the 19th district in front of a graffiti covered former bus stop and now music club “Glazart”. Mere footsteps from the local police station.

Behind the club we saw a line of mostly men standing in front of what looks like two large shipping containers stacked one on top of the other. Sophie bravely went up to the door and asked who was in charge. Without question we were let in to find a clean and well used cafeteria being set up for that day’s lunch.

People were bustling around and we were asked to wait. A few minutes later an older man wearing a well used brown leather jacket came up to us. He had those clear piercing Clint Eastwood eyes but with an easy smile to accompany them. I have always been a fan of World War 2 movies and to me he felt like the French Resistance fighters James Coburn meets at the end of the film “The Great Escape”.

His name is Jean-Francois and this was the moment everything changed for me.

Jean-Francois is one of a few people who run l’Un Est l’Autre which translates to “the one is the other”. A belief I strongly hold to.

In minutes, without knowing us, without knowing what FTX really was or even my legal name as I was introduced to him as Toast he offered to let us do our FTX with them!!!!

He offered to open his cafeteria early on the day we do it so people can choose to eat inside or out.
He offered to have Fodil, the man who buys their supplies, to drive me to pick up FTX fixings at a discount restaurateur supply store that you can only get into with their card.
He put us under the blanket of their organization so that there was zero possibility of being shut down by the police.
And best of all, the people will come to us as close to 600 do each Saturday and Sunday when they get their lunch from l’Un Est l’Autre.

The one is the other.

That’s damn right.


It is with great happiness that I invite you to our 20th French Toast & Hugs event:
FTX Paris (Pain Perdu Et Câlins)!!!!

I know many of you won’t be able to make it but that shouldn’t stop you from being a part of it.

We will have live updates on the day on our facebook page so sign up and check in on May 15th. We plan to start at 8am Paris time.

FTX is free but if you would like to support the good people and good works of l’Un Est l’Autre please click the link below.

Please know l’Un Est l’Autre never asked for me to do this (and don’t even know that I am) but it feels right. Just like finding their place did that Sunday in March.

(When they ask for country on the donation page the United States is “Etats-Unis” and the United Kingdom is “Royaume-Uni”.)

It’s a funny thing. Every FTX had the location of where we were going to do it as the artwork because to me the location was always the heart of the event.

Every event except this one.

After meeting Jean-Francois and his team I realized that to me they were the heart of FTX Paris. They were the location I was looking for all along.

love,
toast

French Toast And Hugs Website
http://frenchtoastandhugs.com

French Toast And Hugs Facebook
http://tinyurl.com/ftx-facebook

l’Un Est l’Autre Donation Page
http://tinyurl.com/ftxparis

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