FTX Namibia Is A Go!!!!

i find my heart and my grill in Swakopmund, Namibia in Africa as plans get underway for FTX Namibia!!!!

the local German bakery here had never heard of Challah bred so i downloaded a few recipes off the internet for their baker to do a test loaf.

i grilled up a few test slices today in my apartment and it went the golden brown that i love so much.

the locals and co-workers i have met in the two weeks i’ve been here have already helped me in tracking down maple syrup, local music for our mix and possibly cinnamon gelato (just like at FTX Auckland in 2008!!).

the date for our event is still tbd but i’ll post more news once i have it.

FTX Namibia is a go!!!!

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FTX ♥ NY Wrap-Up

 

September 18th, 2011

FTX ♥ NY Wrap-Up

FTX #17

http://www.frenchtoastandhugs.com

 

A week ago today was one of the most powerful and greatest of my life.

———————————————————————————————————

Time and learning are mysteries for me. Something can occur so very long ago and then you realize later what it was for. Proof again for me that every moment, every person, every seemingly lost memory is connected. That hidden in these slight things we will find who we truly are and how we got here.

Among the many epic things that occurred last Sunday to and around me there was one of those times.

Our last public FTX was on May 15th, 2010 in my birthtown of Philadelphia. I was planning to set up at the Art Museum’s steps in front of the Rocky statue – one of my childhood heroes.

Since we never have permits to do an FTX I’m often asked if we get in trouble with the authorities. In truth we never have. The police have always been accepting of the unconditional gift we are handing out. The only issues have ever been with vendors because they could possibly look at us handing out free food as bad for their business. So in turn they can go to park rangers (if we are set up in a park area) and have us moved. This had never happened until May 2010 when the ranger told us that although he loved what we were doing we would have to go across the street to continue. Which we did and led to an amazing moment for me regarding my father who passed on in 1991.

You can read about it here:

http://frenchtoastandhugs.com/?p=414

I thought after having that experience with my father on that day in May that moving to a new location for FTX was ok with me.

But I was wrong.

I realized as FTX ♥ NY was approaching that I had fear in my heart.

With almost all FTXs I’ve had people express their fear or concern that we could create a disturbance with the police or be moved. And when we did the two FTXs in downtown Los Angeles I actually got letters from people warning me that we would be hurt by the homeless. In all those cases I recognized those worries as not my own and moved forward. And in each case we were a success and able to do the simple thing we wanted to do – hand out free french toast and hugs unconditionally.

But FTX YO! as I called the Rocky event was different. it wasn’t unconditional. I wanted something that had nothing to do with FTX. And I was shaken when I didn’t get it. Small and petty, but true nonetheless.

———————————————————————————————————

September 11th, 2001.

A day that changed the world.

Easy to write but in truth that day means something unique and complicated to each and every person.

As I wrote in my invite for our FTX ♥ NY my only goal to do this FTX in NYC on 9/11/11 was to find a connection with the people I would meet that day. And in that connection and communication and understanding to find love.

http://frenchtoastandhugs.com/?p=525

Before Brandy & I arrived in NY there was the usual concern about setting up our makeshift french toast stand without any permits. But as we scouted Battery Park days before 9/11 a deep and heavy fear sat inside my stomach. The park and area around it was filled with vendors, park rangers, police and military.

Hundreds of flags with the names of the victims of 9/11/01 filled the grass of the park around the Sphere monument erected there after it was damaged and scarred from its original home at the World Trade Center.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sphere

Brandy and I started to look for the spot where we would set up. Each spot she recommended with her good heart was vetoed by me as too likely to be “in the way” or “shut down”. I felt so silently depressed that I had to sit down on a bench.

This idea to do an FTX here on this day came to me months back without any prodding. There wasn’t any ulterior motive like I had at the Rocky statue was there? Why would this come to me only to never be realized?

It was then that I acknowledged how I felt about our Philly FTX. It was then that I started to deal with my fear.

We both got up and looked around for a bit more and finally left Battery Park. As we stood in front of the park on the sidewalk, green worn benches stretching out in either direction, a warm breeze filled my lungs and both she and I knew this was the spot. I had never chosen a location to be hidden but rather to be found. And here in front of everything, police lining the road, was it.

In that moment I stopped caring if we would be allowed to stay in Battery Park and I became excited about the idea of having to move to different areas of NYC on that special day. Washington Square Park was my second pick if we moved but in the end we never needed it. I’m a believer that there is nothing to fear on this planet but ourselves and this moment was proof again of it for me. Once I got over my fear things became clear and easy.

Here’s what happened….

 

I started with “Easy”.

Every FTX begins with me playing The JB’s “Breakin’ Bread” our unofficial theme song but when I woke up at 5am on Sunday the 11th I knew it had to be “Easy” by The Commodores.

Brandy & I met our mom Sandy who was staying with our amazing friend Ana. (Ana single handedly hosted this FTX with supplies, her car, a place for my mom, hard work and an endless amount of love and care).

We didn’t even know if we could GET to Battery Park because of road closures and warnings not to come down due to the many memorials and events taking place. But we went anyway. Brandy went with Ana in her packed to the roof car and I took a cab with my mom.

As my mom & I got out of the taxi I got a call from Brandy saying that they found parking! Now if you don’t live in Manhattan you have no idea what a miracle this was. I figured if we were lucky enough to find a lot open it would cost upwards of $100 to park on this day. But $16!?!?! (a Sunday special!) and the guy even let us park on the sidewalk until we unloaded all our gear!

We then crossed the road to Battery Park where there were more cops than I have ever seen in my life. Here we are, dressed in our bright gold FTX shirts and stickers, pushing a table, coolers, 25 loaves of challah bred, 25 pounds of strawberries and 3 cylinders of propane right past them!!

Brandy and I stopped in our “spot” and began to set up when a park ranger called me over to his car. He wouldn’t look me in the eye, probably expecting some sort of anger or confrontation, when he told me we weren’t allowed to setup. But thanks to FTX YO! I was prepared!! I explained that we are a gang who travels the earth handing out free french toast & hugs to the people. We love the people of NYC and on this day wanted to give them this unconditional gift. He still wouldn’t allow it and so I offered him some fruit which he declined. Unaffected i turned to Brandy & Ana for ideas. Should we move before even setting up? I was completely good with it but Brandy insisted this was still the place to be. She knew it in her heart.

That was when Jonathan, a new friend and local of Battery Park, told us we should just move across the street outside of the park ranger’s jurisdiction.

JUST LIKE IN PHILLY!!!!

We did, all the while with police everywhere. On that street corner was a little market and I went inside with Ana to see if they would be ok with us setting up on their sidewalk. I said the exact same thing to them that I did to the ranger but this time it was a success!

We set up outside and had a line immediately. “Easy” started to play out of my boombox as friends old and new helped out. (my ♥ to Sam, Charles, Sarah, Louisa, Bryan, Amanda, Phil, Haley & Christy)

We fed approximately 200 people over the next 3 hours comprising mostly NYPD, tourists and locals. I think we fed every cop stationed to watch over the park that was in our area at least twice. One sergeant even tried to teach me to project my voice so I could be heard above the crowd as I called to my friend Sam to give him an FTX soundtrack. “Son I’ve been a traffic cop for a whole lot of years, let me show you how it’s done. SAM!!!!” To which she immediately turned and came over with a smile to give him a cd. As she walked away (and as I was still grilling him up some tasty FT) I tried to give it a go. I cleared my throat and expanded my lungs and belted out “SAM!!!!” With absolutely no effect! The sergeant turned to me and in true NY fashion told me “to stick with french toast”.

Each person that came up to my grill was asked two questions: “How are you doing today?” & “How many slices?”. I got many people saying they were good and some saying they were just coping. The air was heavy with so many emotions. The speeches of Bush & Obama (both of whom later drove by us with their spouses – Obama waving to our crew) and various radio communications between the police could be heard broadcast over the area. I heard bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” as they resonated over the stillness.

Hernando, his name embroidered into his work uniform of a local apartment building, stood in front of me with tears on his cheeks telling me that he was in his building when he saw the planes hit the towers. I offered him up some food and a handshake and told him that we were here today for him. That maybe this moment would help. This connection.

In the end FTX ♥ NY was exactly what I dreamed it would be.

An unconditional gift of love for us all.

There was not a single negative moment in the day. When one person in line returned the favor and asked me how I was doing I replied with an enormous grin “I got married this year. And this is my second greatest day. My heart is literally bursting out of my body right now at you. Can you feel it?!”

As the same four of us left that park later that day my heart and hope were restored. I was reminded that there is no gift greater than unconditional love. And I personally want to thank everyone there that day who re-taught me that.

My boombox, still shuffling thru songs played it’s final one as we passed the flags, the Sphere, the park and the people of New York who I love so much. It was the perfect song and a fitting dedication to them and me and even more perfect – it was from my FTX YO! mix!!

Sly & The Family Stone’s – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin). Or in other words, thank you for letting me be myself again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YXPJOUD7G0

Thank you NYC. Thank you FTX. Thank you.

One of my guests in line jokingly told me that he heard I was a french toast “MASTER”. To which I quickly replied “I never said I was a master. I just said I was a LEGEND”.

Legends. Aren’t we all?

love shyam

FTX 1

 

I found this quote by an unknown author in my email at the end of that day sent to me by my friend Trudy, FTX 35. I couldn’t have said it better.

Awakening

In those days,

we finally chose

to walk like giants

& hold the world

in arms grown strong with love

& there may be many things we forget

in the days to come,

but this will not be one of them.

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FTX ♥ NY – September 11th, 2011 – Battery Park, NYC

august 13th, 2011

hello my friends, shyam here with the French Toast & Hugs Gang!!!!

it’s been awhile since last i wrote and a lot has happened but for now i’m just going to tell you about a recent moment in my life.

it was a perfect sunny day in my new home of ojai and i was walking along listening to music on my headphones trying to pick out songs for a mix cd i was going to hand out on my upcoming wedding day (like i said, a lot has happened! 🙂 ).

i was excited about the beautiful unknown hill my life was about to crest and feeling connected to every person i passed by.

my then beautiful bride to be, b, loves the beatles and i have never known much of their music so i dove in hoping to surprise her with a track or two from them when john lennon’s imagine began to play.

we all know this beautiful song but i had never really heard it until that instant.

it was one of those moments where time slowed and you could see the dust floating in the sunstreaked air.

i can only remember this happening to me once in my life before.

and without realizing it i had veered off thinking about my wedding and new life and  was rambling down the familiar road we call FTX when i heard my heart speak asking “what day is september 11th this year?”

i immediately looked it up and found fortune had placed it on a sunday!

that was it. our next public FTX (we did a small one at our wedding) would be in the city of NY on sunday september 11th!

FTX ♥ NY

so please come to battery park, nyc at 9am and join us as we hand out all the unconditional love we can muster for the people of this wonderful city.

i know that the date has a lot of meaning for everyone and i respect that.

as for me, i’m looking for the feeling i had on that sunny day in ojai.

a feeling of connection with life.

because we are all here now and what greater gift is there than that?

(except maybe have the mayor declare battery park – batter park!!!!)

so come on down and enjoy some tasty french toast, good music and friendship.

the bred is from a local baker who says he only bakes for happy occasions!

and the soundtrack mix we’re handing out ends with the very same song that started it all.

this FTX is unusual for me because i have had to rely entirely on the kindness of others to plan it as i find myself far far from home. i want to thank the enormous hearts of ana, sam & b for the gift of their energy.

we hope to see you there.

love shyam

FTX 1

here’s a google map of battery park:

http://tinyurl.com/ftx-battery-park

please check our facebook page on the day for an update status on exactly where we are as things can sometimes change. 🙂

also if you haven’t already, please sign up on our new facebook page because they will soon be shutting down the older version due to a new policy.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/FTX-French-Toast-and-Hugs-Gang/200794489956228

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FTX – The Principal’s Office

November 23rd, 2010

 

FTX – The Principal’s Office

http://www.frenchtoastandhugs.com

 

hi everyone, shyam with the French Toast & Hugs (FTX) gang here!!

 

in the states we are on the eve of our thanksgiving holiday. it’s a time for sharing, a time for connection with the people we love and a time for food! 🙂

 

i wanted to write you about a moment i experienced just yesterday that was all that for me. surprisingly it began when i was called in to the principal’s office!

 

now i’m 39 years old and have been out of school for a very very very long time but on november 15th i received a call that changed all that.

 

it was from Principal Javier Guzman of the Los Angeles New Village Charter all girl high school. he asked if i was the one who headed up FTX because he had a couple of students in his office that wanted to learn about our gang, what we do and when our next event would be.

 

i was speechless.

 

i had never gotten an FTX cold call before and would have never expected it to be this cool.

 

honored by the call but shy and embarrassed about it at the same time i quickly got off the phone with Javier only to find myself with more questions than i could contain.

 

i tracked him down and was excited to schedule a meeting with him and the two students (Roslyn & KZ) who were asking about FTX.

 

which brings me to yesterday.

 

plenty nervous i showed up at the school with a handful of FTX soundtracks and stickers. Principal Guzman led me in to his office and went to get the girls. as i sat there i couldn’t help feeling, even at 39, that i was in trouble and some sort of detention was imminent!

 

soon the girls arrived and i started to explain FTX to them. how we set up in public places and hand out free french toast and hugs to people walking by. how i really stumbled onto the idea with the help of my dog pal Daisy Mae. how this one small idea has taught me so very much. that an unconditional gift is the same as unconditional love. and that unconditional love is the most powerful force i’ve ever experienced. that by handing out food to strangers you create an atmosphere of community and connection. and you quickly learn that there really isn’t much difference between strangers and you except for the fact that you don’t them yet. and pretty soon strangers = friends and the gang gets bigger and your heart grows stronger because you’re learning the truth.

 

the truth that we are all connected.

 

and when you can see yourself in everyone you meet, fear of the unknown slips away and love replaces it. love for yourself & love for them. because in the end we are all each other.

 

the girls (who learned about FTX when a teacher showed them photos of an FTX Downtown Los Angeles event he previously went to) are now planning to start their own gang! their own family. right now they’re calling it “Happy Waffles & Hi-Fives” and i have to admit that’s pretty damn sweet. i can’t wait to see the logo!!! they are going to invite the community around their school to come to their first event which should be sometime soon.

 

i told them that our next FTX events will be in 2011 most likely in San Francisco & New York City but that i looked forward at some point to collaborating with them in our first HWHF / FTX event!!

 

as i waited in the front of the school to take a picture i talked briefly with Javier. he told me that a lot of the girls in this school come from rough backgrounds. poor backgrounds. that about 40% of them are either pregnant or already have children. and that the five years after they graduate is the time when their future most hangs in the balance. for him it wasn’t enough to just teach them 9th thru 12th grades and then let them go. he plans to keep in touch with all his students after they graduate to see how they are doing.

 

i am deeply humbled and inspired by these girls. because regardless of their backgrounds they are willing and able to give of their lives, of their time and of their hearts. if they can do that in 10th grade then what will they do 10 years from now???

 

as i left, Roslyn handed me a gift of a copy of a drawing she had recently made. it wasn’t until i was in my car that i realized she had written on the back of it.

 

she wrote:

 

“hope you keep doing what you are and helping the world to make it better for all of us”

 

on this thanksgiving i tell you that i am thankful for Roslyn. i am thankful for KZ. i am thankful for Javier. and i am thankful for all of you. because we all are family.

 

 

 

 

love shyam

FTX 1

 

link to photograph of Roslyn, KZ, myself & Principal Guzman

http://tiny.cc/ftx_new_village_pic

 

or

 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/83428839@N00/5205646433/

 

link to New Village Charter School

http://www.newvillagecharter.org

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1+110=1

FTX Echo Park, December 1st 2007

august 8th, 2010

 


in late 2007 i hesitated.

 

i was ready to celebrate FTX Echo in Echo Park, California and was just about to send out my email invite and flyer.

 

but i stood frozen, my finger hovering over the send button, as i wavered unsure of whether to add one more name to the list.

 

Brandy Nightingale.

 

it was the first and only time this had ever happened to me and i didn’t know what to do.

 

——–

 

i’m not sure how many truths there are in the world but i do know that in my time i’ve learned at least two.

and by learned i mean a belief that goes well beyond intellectual understanding.

 

a belief that becomes faith.

 

——–

 

in 2002 my great friend Sean transformed. for the first time in his life he listened to and followed the stirrings of his quiet heart.

 

and his heart soared!!!!

 

in 2001 he went to the Burning Man festival for the first time and was so taken aback by the art there that he came home and began to create his own.

 

an assistant by day but at night over the course of months he created three giant magnificent illuminated seahorse sculptures.

they were made of hand shaped steel and christmas lights and vibrant fabrics of purple and blue and yellow.

and with the help of his friends, he attached them to the front of an old van to drive in the Black Rock desert at the next years Burning Man.

 

and boy did they glow and shine!!! night after night i watched people bathed in the lights of his creation. all were smiling, some were crying, at the sheer beauty of it. “Love & Seahorses”, as it was named, was more than the sum of its parts. it was as naked and raw and fragile as holding someone’s heart for the first time.

 

and it was then, on one of those dusty nights, that i learned a truth.

that, without a doubt, any of us can do anything we want to with our lives. anything. as long as we are willing to take a leap of heart.

 

i will never forget this lesson, not just because he did something special, but because i SAW it happen.

 

that was 2002. the year that many of the fuses of my lifetime dormant dreams were lit to explode.

 

and in 2003 they did!!

 

it was the year i bought my first car, one i had wanted since i was born – a 1972 Chevrolet Chevelle built by my friend Gabriel.

her name is Grace.

 

it was the year FTX officially started, at where else but Burning Man, where with the help of my friends we fed over 500 people with 1,000 pieces of french toast over the course of a week.

 

and most importantly, the biggest and scariest leap of my life, for the first time ever i asked a girl to be my girlfriend.

 

and she said yes.

 

——–

 

but in 2005 our relationship ended. and i didn’t understand or know what to do with all the tumble of emotions inside me that felt like broken glass spinning inside a dryer.

 

it took me two and a half long years.

 

it was November 2007 and i was in Boston walking alone on a cold sidewalk when i was stopped in my tracks by a second truth.

we all deserve love. and i did too.

 

it may seem obvious or simple but i didn’t know it until that moment. instantly it became faith to me and transformed me forever.

 

one week before that moment though i was in Los Angeles, finger hovering over the send button, not realizing that i was in my final week of grief, regret and loss. that the decision to either keep or remove Brandy’s name from the FTX Echo invite would change my life forever.

 

Brandy, who i met at the same time as my past girlfriend in 2003, reminded me of that painful past and the things that would never be. and that was why i hesitated.

 

i was timid. i was afraid. i had been full of pain and fear for two and a half years.

 

and then without hesitation, without thought almost, i let it all go.

 

i added her name back in and hit send.

 

she IMMEDIATELY replied, excited to come to her first FTX and to see me again after so many years.

 

i returned from Boston with now two truths hugging my insides. on December 1st, 2007 the gang celebrated a uniquely small FTX with old, new and renewed friends and in one weeks time after that i asked Brandy to be my girlfriend.

 

my heart soared!!

 

our hearts soared!!!!

 

and in time, i, FTX 1 invited her to become FTX 110 in our gang family, and we travelled the world together, sharing and growing, laughing and crying.

 

today is August 8th. my birthday. a day of gifts. and today i listened to the stirrings of my quiet heart and took a leap.

 

i asked for the most special gift i could.

 

i asked Brandy to marry me.

 

and she said yes.

 

1+110=1



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FTX New Recruits – FTX 62, FTX 63, FTX 64 & FTX 71!!!!

FTX INDUCTEES – FTX 62, FTX 63, FTX 64 & FTX 71!!!!

http://www.frenchtoastandhugs.com

 

hey gang! i hope these summer months (for us over here in the states!) are finding you happy and well. i have found myself addicted to frozen yogurt and a renewed love of water slides!! 🙂

 

back in may we had our 15th FTX in Philadelphia and right around that time i inducted four new recruits into the gang!

please join me as i welcome in….

 

 

FTX 62

Taylor Rockwell!!!!

when i met Taylor at FTX #10 – Echo Park back in the winter of 2007 not only didn’t i realize i  was meeting someone who would become another stone cold FTX member, but i was also meeting a new and good friend.

 

Taylor was invited to that event by my future girlfriend Brandy (our future FTX 110!) and over time i got to know her better and the many things i love about her.

 

her sarcastic sense of humor is equal to her quick and easy laugh. and that laugh always makes me feel good like a sunny day in a hammock.

 

i soon learned how big her heart is but it wasn’t until FTX YO! that i realized how hard of a worker she is too. that day had not one but two locations and i have memories of her hauling the heavy coolers and goods without stopping and then spending the rest of the day working the toppings table.

 

i mean it when i say it, Taylor you are one of the best gifts i received back in Echo Park on that 1st of December.

 

 

FTX 63

Travis Barone!!!!

when i first heard of Travis it wasn’t by exactly that name. it was “Sweet Trav”!

 

during my high school years growing up in New Jersey i became close friends with the Ellis family. as you can see with THREE of them represented in FTX (FTX 15, FTX 16 & FTX 17)!!!!

 

one day after i moved to California, Jamie – FTX 15, told me her younger sister Tricia was dating a wonderful guy the whole family loved – “Sweet Trav”.

 

so in time i eventually got to meet him and what can i say? he IS sweet!!

 

he’s got a huge heart and i admire how brave it is when he shows how much he loves our Tricia. it doesn’t get much more stone cold than that.

 

welcome to the gang my brother.

 

 

FTX 64

Tricia Ellis!!!!

did i just write there are THREE Ellis’s in FTX?!?! i meant FOUR!!!!

i’ve known Tricia since she was a stone cold little girl in glasses.

well let me tell you, only the glasses have changed!

 

in college i made a strange short video about squirrel puppets trying to take over the world with poisoned nuts and i will always remember little Tricia’s highly vocal support of it when she yelled out “ I love ‘Those Dem Nuts!’ ”.

 

Tricia, you supported my heart then as you do now. i guess that’s what a good family does.

 

you’ve always been on my short list for FTX but i like to do things in my own time. thanks so much for waiting little sister.

 

 

FTX 71

Sam Mau!!!!

i met Sam in Melbourne back in 2005 as i randomly passed her office and noticed a new Nick Cave album sitting there. she let me borrow it and we quickly became friends sharing music and stories these past 5 years.

 

Sam is someone that stands up for herself as well as the people in her life in that uniquely Australian way.

 

as I believe FTX 50 said about her, “it’s great to meet someone who you know immediately is your friend for life”.

 

 

so please join in me in welcoming our newest recruits

http://www.frenchtoastandhugs.com/docs/pages/about.html

 

today i realized after writing about them that we could very easily substitute the word “gang” for “family” after FTX.

 

love,

 

shyam

FTX 1

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