May 23, 2010
FTX Yo! Wrap-Up
it’s a grey rainy sunday morning in philadelphia and the dog park across the street is unusually quiet. but one week and a day ago the sun was warm and rolling across a great expanse of blue east coast sky. the wind was up and so were we as we headed out to the Rocky statue located at the art museum steps for our 15th FTX – FTX Yo!
born and raised in philadelphia and south jersey i grew up with a fascination with the Rocky story and statue. as my girlfriend Brandy and i will be heading back west soon i knew this would be my last FTX in philly for awhile and i was eager to do the city and my childhood memories right.
the gang assembled a little after 9am at the statue and started setting up. placing our table and heaps and heaps of food out they started to organize as i hurriedly got the grill going – eager to start, eager to hear and smell that first piece of cinnamony bred crackling, eager to be in front of the Rocky statue and connect a childhood dream with an amazing reality. i was so excited and moving so fast that i even forgot to hang the two photos i have at all recent FTXs: FTX’s co-creator, brown dog Daisy Mae and an old faded picture of me and my dad Vasant.
luckily Brandy, FTX 110, quickly noticed them missing and ran to put them up. as she did i hit play on “Gonna Fly Now”, the theme from Rocky, and ignited the grill.
15 minutes later we were shut down and told to move.
but i’m getting ahead of myself….
my dad was born in nagpur india and met my mom in nova scotia canada. a pediatrician and a nurse. how perfect is that? they moved to new jersey and he ran his practice in the ground floor of our haddon heights home.
as we all do, i learned a great deal by the actions of my parents. without a word ever being said i understood the importance of family to my father and mother.
he was at home almost all days and i have memories of how he would allow me in his office and answer an elementary school question while simultaneously giving a scared child an immunization shot.
my mom, each morning, got up early to make us a homemade breakfast every single day. (i’m sure you can tell how much an impact the french toast had on me! :))
when i reached the 8th grade my dad had his first heart attack. and from that hard experience i started to actively learn from him.
worried and unsure of how much longer he would be with me, i made a conscious choice to ask him every single question i could come up with. questions about death (he wasn’t afraid), questions about life and the future (his answers were to not worry, his actions were to swim deeply in the love of his family and friends).
but the asking of such direct questions and him giving equally direct and adult answers changed us.
no longer were we only father and son.
we were best friends.
when i moved to california for college i would spend nightly hours on the phone with him. each of us not speaking but going about our business, comforted knowing the other was there.
my third year in college my dad had his second and last heart attack.
i am forever grateful for the questions i asked him during the eight years between. and surprisingly i find there are few to none i would have for him now.
but i miss him. i miss my friend.
and so i hang his picture up at our FTXs.
FTX Yo! being no different.
i had scouted the Rocky statue for almost a year, that’s how much i wanted to do an FTX there. and i knew there was a chance we could be shut down as there is always a chance since we have no permits to hand out the food and music and love that we do.
but we had never been shut down before and like my dad’s answer to one of my questions, i try not to worry about the future.
in the end, it wasn’t a cop or a park ranger that got us moved.
it was a water ice vendor!
the Rocky statue is on land managed by parks and recreation where vendors have to get a permit to sell their foods.
the same was true when we did FTX C.Park in 2006 in NYC’s Central Park. if a vendor (or vendors in the case of Central Park) doesn’t complain then we’re all good. i find that police and park rangers are usually happy (and hungry!) when they stumble upon an FTX and since we aren’t selling anything but giving it away they are pleasantly surprised by the whole thing! 🙂
but this wasn’t true on the 15th.
the one and only vendor present wanted us gone.
and the park ranger was forced to oblige.
BUT the ranger loved us and what we were doing and said he wished we could stay. so he offered us the opportunity to move just across the street to set up in front of a huge running fountain.
and that’s just what we did!!!!
the gang and new found friends carried the whole thing over in a few short trips and before you could shout “Yo Adrian!” we were up and running!!
throughout the perfect day we got flocks of tourists and locals as they passed by. some for french toast, many more for hugs. far from the long lines of the FTXs in Downtown LA or Love Park there were many moments of pause as i turned off the grill and looked around me. (something that almost never happens at an FTX).
during one of those moments i took a step back from the group. i was still struggling with my ego of wanting to be at the statue and what this FTX was supposed to be when it happened.
i turned from facing the statue to facing the fountain.
and then there he was.
my thoughts spoke to myself “he is here” and for the first time in 19 years i saw my father.
i have never been more sure of anything in my life.
he was there at that fountain as its sun sparkled water reached for and touched the sky.
he was there as the clouds softened the yellow sun.
he was there in you. in all of your golden FTX shirts and smiling faces. in friends i have known since i was born, in friends i haven’t seen in far too long. and i felt a happiness so strong that it made my eyes cry.
it turns out that he was there all along.
and on that day i swam deeply in the love of my family and of my friends.
and i want to thank you, all of you who came, all of you that couldn’t, the ranger and the vendor, everyone.
i am honored and humbled by your love.
you take my breath away.