FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon Speech (FTX #23) ~ September 2nd, 2018

FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon Speech: Remember The Love

September 2nd, 2018

Life.
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.

Remember the love.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome to FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon.

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FTX Roll Call!! (FTX 102, FTX 112, FTX 130)

Our three newest recruits!!!


Andrew ‘AJ’ Johnson – FTX 102

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!

As always, you can see our full roster here:
FTX Gang Roster

Love,
Toast

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FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon Location and Flyer (FTX #23)

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.

Please click here for our nifty flyer that you can download and share!!

This FTX has come together easily and I look forward to sharing our 23rd event with you.

If you have any questions you can email me at:

frenchtoastandhugs@gmail.com

See you there!!

Love,
Toast

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

#frenchtoastandhugs #ftxgang #ftx10 #ftxportland

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FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon Invite (FTX #23)



FTX 10 – Portland, Oregon
French Toast and Hugs #23
September 2nd, 2018
9am – 1pm
Location: TBD

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.

https://tinyurl.com/FTX-South-Park-Blocks

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:

frenchtoastandhugs@gmail.com

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.

Love,
Toast

http://frenchtoastandhugs.com/

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https://twitter.com/ftxgang/

 

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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:
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#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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