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.
My favorite land.
I write land and not country because countries were made by ideas of man but the land was here before. And it is the land that I connect to.
Most of us have been somewhere new and felt an immediate connection.
As if you had been there before or should have been there before.
That is how I have always felt about Australia.
• Red deserts with limitless horizons and black ribbon roads
• Clear blue waters and cinnamon sugar beaches
• AC/DC and Mad Max
• Ginger Beer (Bundaberg and my now favorite Saxbys)
• Kangaroos and Koalas and Whales and Dolphins as you go past
I had never been to the Gold Coast on Australia’s central east coast before but I will never forget her.
For it was here that I learned about “No Dramas”.
I had heard the saying “No Worries” before but it never resonated with me.
For I honestly don’t know how you can always not worry.
As I wrote at the start I was away from home for just over six months.
During that length of time I could not return to see my loved ones (human and pup alike). That stretch of time away is a normal one for me but has never become easy. For you see when I am away from home my heart tends to shatter more often than not when someone close to me passes away and I am not able to be there to say goodbye.
But saying goodbye was never something I could do.
Thru counseling I’ve come to realize that I carry all the deaths I have encountered since my start as a young boy in New Jersey.
From my first cat Boogie, to my father, and close friends and family.
When I walk I can sense them all walking with me and although there was much joy we shared when we were all breathing, now the air around me has turned to a sadness the color of the winter’s sun fading light and it is thru this sadness that I walk.
For a long time I felt I needed to and would eventually shed that sadness but I never have. I realize now that remembering and feeling those moments so deeply have helped me maintain empathy for all life that I come across each day.
That sadness has value and is not something to run from.
To carry it knowing that the sadness is in some way equal to the love I have been given.
Still though I worry when I leave home and have to say goodbye to the faces of my girls.
Even my Australian friends who aren’t from the Gold Coast had never heard “No Dramas” before.
It was simply a saying someone would tell you when you asked them for help.
But over those six months it came to mean much more to me.
Drama in life will come just as surely as it will go.
But for me “No Dramas” means that I do not need to create any of my own.
It keeps me centered in the moment and helps me realize there is nothing I should escalate to becoming a drama.
When I needed to find a location to do FTX Gold?
“No dramas, try Broadwater Parklands” said my friend Sabrina.
Turns out that is the only park that specifically says you can’t bring your own propane stove to the park.
“No dramas, just bring them anyway and if for some reason they tell you to stop you can use the free electric bbqs in the park” said my friend Scotty. “But I can’t imagine them not letting you use them.” (And he was right.)
When I needed to reserve all my strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and oranges?
“No dramas, Tugun Fruit Market is the local place I shop” said my friend Cal.
(The market wouldn’t even let me reserve them until closer to the event as it wasn’t a big deal for them and I had to use my “No Dramas” philosophy right there and then and trust they were right. Turns out they were.)
And so it went.
FTX Gold, like the land it took place in, was completely “No Dramas”.
Honestly it couldn’t have gone any better than it did.
After our two FTX events in 2016 – Paris and Standing Rock – I wanted to do one filled with sunlight, laughter, children playing, water glistening, music inspiring, and most importantly “No Dramas”.
And so it was. Children bounced on the park’s “bouncy pillow” all day as our line never got too long and never got too short. We fed a few hundred in an easy breezy way on a perfectly sunny day.
The police showed up and I tensed until I realized they were only waiting in line for some French Toast and Hugs. (I threw them a soundtrack to top it off.)
Up to that day I had worried my music mix would bother some of the families at this quiet public park but at the end of the day an older mom approached me, kissed me on the cheek, and thanked me for the music.
We had an abundance of people waiting to help and by my left side was a young girl, Charli, who I only met that day and learned that French Toast is her favorite food.
Charli would shrewdly eye each and every piece I put from my grill to her plate to check that they were quality. She would then turn and serve them to strangers. This little one did this for over four hours straight. You can see her with hands clasped standing in front of me in our crew photo.
In my six months away I was lucky enough to make new beautiful friendships.
And during that time I shared some of the pain of those new friends who lost loved ones or were mending those who had been seriously hurt.
Dramas come to us all but we can do our part to not create them and to carry those who are in them.
Learning the meaning of those two words has decreased my worries.
They are still there but the power is in my hands.
When you get inducted into the French Toast and Hugs Gang you are given a number. They are printed on the back of your FTX shirt in bright gold.
Some of my gang members carry their number with such respect that they often only call themselves by it.
Your number is yours forever.
I will never repeat it again because each of us cannot be repeated.
I met Regina at the Burning Man festival in 2003.
It was the first time I stepped forward as FTX 1 and handed out free French Toast and Hugs.
In fact I had never made French Toast before and had to learn quick during that weeklong art festival in the desert.
Leave it to me to give myself a job at Burning Man.
I set my alarm clock for 7 or 8 every morning and set out with a little red wagon that carried a stove, propane, a cooler of batter and butter, bred, syrup, plates, and napkins.
I was asked by FTX 12 when the festival was over why I hadn’t done it later each day rather than set an alarm clock for the early morning when most people would still be asleep. I had no answer. I guess I just tend to make things difficult.
In 2003 Regina was with John and they had just been married.
While others were out partying each night and then sleeping it off the next morning I remember Regina and John coming out with me each day as we wandered into someone’s camp and asked if they wanted some French Toast and Hugs.
It was a transformative moment in my life as I was and am terribly shy.
To have these two always by my side was like having two extra tanks of oxygen while deep sea diving.
When I returned home after that summer week I was a changed person.
And in no small part to them.
It was only after that week did I realize I had formed an unbreakable bond with a handful of people. A bond that would become a Gang.
I printed up t-shirts with numbers and had a celebration for the first recruits.
As with most everything, I was very specific on who got which number.
And while I would always love John who I gave the number 9 I knew that to the end of my days Regina would be my one and only 10.
Regina. FULL of energy, love, laughter, joy, and wonder. It was the wonder that always spoke to me most. Her ability to find fascination in life each day. It is how I felt during that week in 2003 and how I’ve felt every day since.
Regina and John moved to Washington and while I didn’t get to see them often I always felt their love. On the Fourth of July 2009 I did an FTX in my home city of Philadelphia and Regina (10) and John (9) did their own in Washington state. Coast to Coast FTX.
This photo of her standing by the side of the road with a plate of French Toast sums up Regina for me: standing strong, offering her heart.
Time passed and she and John went different ways.
In 2016 she flew to stay with me in Paris and I scheduled FTX Paris to coincide with her arrival. In fact she went straight from the airport to FTX!
FTX Paris was mostly attended by the homeless and refugees.
Regina found a friend in an older man who took joy that day in showering her with attention. They laughed as he spoke in French and she in English.
This past September Regina found love again and married Sean in Oregon.
On November 11th Sean wrote me that Regina had a massive stroke the evening of November 10th and was on life support.
Sean, who has never met me, kept me close as I watched Regina’s progress from afar. His strength of character speaks to me of hers.
On November 22nd, he put his phone to her ear and I read a note to her saying that I loved her and that she was and will always be my one and only 10.
On the evening of November 25th my dear friend passed away.
Today is her 47th birthday.
Dramas will come my friends.
Hold the ones who are in them, don’t make any of your own.
It’s simple really.