Rochester Life

28, or, How Keva Got His Groove Back

Today is my 28th birthday. I’ll spare you the whiny existential, ontological, and anthropocentric rants that have haunted my previous birthday blog posts. Like yearbook haircuts, they are hard to look back on. Speaking of yearbooks…

I saw The Ataris the other night, here in Rochester. They are this pop-punk band from the late 90’s and early 2000s that I once obsessed over. I was in and out of a lot of relationships in high school, and it’s safe to say that The Ataris were unofficial therapists for me.

They had some MTV success back around 2005 with “In This Diary” and their cover of “Boys of Summer,” but of course, their best stuff came before that on Kung Fu Records.

Anyway, I talked to The Ataris singer, Kris, at the show. I was struck by how identical he remains, at least, to the fifteen year ago version of himself that I saw many times, singing on stage in California. He looks like a 40 year old trapped in a 20 year old body. He was very nice, I don’t mean to slight him or offend him. I just mean, when he sings, “Being grown up, isn’t half as fun as growing up, these are the best days of our lives,” I get sad because I worry he believes that, that he is holding on to something that no longer exists, and that I am helping fund this sort of delusion, by paying money at the door of some sketchy club so that he can go on pretending.

WOW. Whiny existential. Sorry. Let me get back on track.

How Keva Got His Groove Back

I have this joke with my wife that I am still in my early 20s. The joke goes, 20-27 is “early twenties” and 28 and beyond is “normal twenties.” This means, as of today, that I am officially in my twenties. (more…)

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Police Brutality and the Black Community: the (White and Nerdy) Public Health Perspective

Earlier this year I began organizing a non-profit mentoring group which reaches out to urban youth in the Rochester community. We shuttle them to colleges and universities to discuss high school graduation, college enrollment and various other topics. While recruiting for an event on the phone, a parent asked me about transportation. We provide public bus passes, I said.

“No,” she responded.” I don’t want my child shot dead by any cop,” and she hung up.

I remember sitting by my office phone for what felt like an eternity, trying to grasp the magnitude of what I had just heard. To put it stupidly, I was shocked. I had never heard anyone speak with such transparency on such a grave matter. In an ugly moment I began to blame her. Why distrust a system designed to protect her? Doesn’t she get it? In my experience, police had always protected and served me! It made sense that the system would work for everyone else too.

But as the cold unsettling silence of the dial tone began to choke me, I realized that my limited, pampered perspective did not grant me a right to judge a fear I did not understand.

No shocker here

I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. Coastal California. Where nearly everyone graduates on time from suburban high schools, and the kids are not shot by cops or dealers, and the one girl who did disappear (over twenty years ago) has a large wooden reward sign still posted, reminding the town of its rarity of misfortune. We don’t fear the police. The only time you fear the police is when do something wrong: you are a criminal, you are on the highway speeding, you are drinking underage (or are indulging in some rebellious combination of the three).

I inherently trust the police. I was taught to. I now have a cousin who is a cop and he is a wonderful human being; once, I was even let off of a speeding ticket just for knowing him.

So there I am hovering over the phone in my delirious state. I think of the kids I have met and have worked with: smart, wonderful teenagers trapped in an environment that undervalues them. I realize for the first time in my life—a year removed from moving to Rochester, and after months of mentoring urban youth—that their fear was horribly real. A pervasive fear, unending. I think of all the statistics I’ve heard about and have seen, and I realize racism isn’t just an idea or an inconvenience, but that it is actively working against them, inhibiting their lives.

White culture shock. How embarrassing. It shouldn’t even be a thing, I know. But it is! The world I grew up in was an insular luxury. Truman’s Seahaven. “Fight the Power” was on MTV, and I consumed the entertainment.  Now I find my wonderful world has a bitter aftertaste of ignorance. (more…)

Kevin on the Radio: WXXI’s “Connections: The Writers Panel”

Radio debut? No problem.

Today, I was asked to join “Connections with Evan Dawson” on Rochester’s WXXI. The panel consisted of Eric Grode, NY Times writer and Newhouse School adjunct professor, and Andrea Levendusky, a local freelance writer and soon to be published author.

We bulldozed through many topics (e.g., how to improve as a writer, the arguments for and against teaching cursive, what are our favorite “eggcorns“), we answered phone calls, and even shared a few laughs. Before I knew it the hour was gone. Over. Boom. Just like that. And there I was, pouting, like a child given chocolate for the first time: YOU CAN’T JUST TAKE THIS AWAY.

Anywho, I had an amazing time. Thanks to Evan Dawson for the incredible opportunity. Now… who wants to start a podcast with me? Anyone? Hello?

You can stream the broadcast here: Connections: The Writers Panel

Connections_News_Highlight (more…)

Thursday Night FRINGE: “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Local Band, The Lonely Ones

Thursday night’s local music and live theatre double header at Writers & Books was among my favorite evenings at the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. Local folk-indie-awesome band, The Lonely Ones, performed a diverse and wonderful set of original compositions, followed by the excellent, MUST SEE University of Rochester TOOP production of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, “The Importance of Being Earnest” which, literally, brought the lattice down.

Let’s start with Earnest.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” @ Writers and Books

Photography by Todd Kelmar

Photography by Todd Kelmar

To be clear, I will pledge my support to student productions until the day my proverbial curtains close. That said, they are usually a mixed bag of quality, plagued with director inexperience, bland overstatement, and poor (pick of the crop) acting.

I’m happy to announce that University of Rochester TOOP’s (The Opposite of People) production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” rivals some of the best theatre I’ve seen at the Fringe this year. Ian Van Fange, only a sophomore at UR, directs Oscar Wilde’s extravagantly clever script into a tight, well performed play that had the nearly sold-out audience invested from start to finish, crying with laughter. When I spoke with Van Fange, congratulating him on the wonderful production, he gave all the credit to his actors. And I can see why. His cast was certainly amazing.

Daniel Mensel (as Algernon Moncrieff) and Michael Tamburrino (as John Worthing, J.P.) are impeccable together, eliciting a contagious chemistry that never quits. These two young actors jump into Wilde’s shoes brilliantly. Were they born to play these roles? Maybe. All we know is what we can assume: Mensel and Tamburrino were born to play many more roles after this.

Photography by Todd Kelmar

Photography by Todd Kelmar

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FRINGE Tuesday Night: “UR Diversity of Dance” and “Coffee with God”

Tuesday can be a wild card weekday. In business, it is generally known as the slowest day of sales; in art and performance, it can be the perfect night to capture an audience overwhelmed by weekend hysteria. The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival didn’t lose a beat last night. Both events had BIG turn outs, one of which sold out. FRINGE: even midweek isn’t safe anymore.

UR Diversity of Dance @ RAPA

The University of Rochester Diversity of Dance kicked off its one and only show last night at RAPA, featuring over eight diverse performances by UR groups and clubs. I saw a little bit of everything: music-less compositions, breakdancing, bellydancing, improv—even UR a cappella group After Hours came by and threw in a few heart pumping songs.

These ladies (pictured below) set the bar high for all who followed. Listed as Dance Performance Workshop (which I think is a class at UR), the ensemble merged and adapted styles, dancing to a sound score that was super interesting: a speech by motivational speaker Eric Thomas.

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UR Stylez is freestyle breakdancing club, and last night they brought the proverbial house down. A blend of “freestyle, freezes, power moves, rocks, and footwork into one unique thing,” the UR Stylez guys (and gal) hit the ground and didn’t look to stop.

I caught up with UR Stylez b-boys Noah Woolfolk, Minsoo Kim, and TinChan Lao after the show. “We could’ve gone all night if they let us.” Be on the lookout for UR Stylez around the University of Rochester for some October performances. (more…)

FRINGE Days 3 & 4: Jay Pharaoh, “Intrepid,” and a Laptop Orchestra

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival continues its Tricycle tromping path throughout the city of Rochester. I’ve come to terms: as a Fringe audience member, I’m never quite sure what I’m going to see. This weekend my limits were stretched. I was witness to SNL stand up, a laptop orchestra, an hour long, prop-free, one-man show and more.

A Little Business at the Big Top

guide_photoA Little Business at the Big Top is a one man show, currently playing at the Geva Theatre and features accomplished performance actor David Gaines. He is a Fringe veteran who travels the world performing solo shows. Sans stage props, David Gaines prompts imagination. The man is pure electricity, the mime child of Steve Martin and Charlie Chaplin.

While at first, for me, the lack of dialogue and set design was a hard pill to swallow, but a few minutes into the show my brain filled in the details (like the food fight scene on Hook!), and all of a sudden the scene flooded in. I saw the circus tent, the animals, the tight rope. My imagination hasn’t seen this much action in ages. Thanks, David. It was truly magical!

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Rochester Laptop Orchestra

On the total opposite end of the technology performance spectrum was the Rochester Laptop Orchestra, hosted by Eastman and University of Rochester students. What is a laptop orchestra exactly? I’m still trying to figure that out. To the show’s detriment, composition explanations were riddled with enigmatic jargon that left me scratching my head. All this to say, I still had a really great time (even if I wasn’t always aware of what was going on).

The hosts incorporated ballerina dancing, drum circles, facial mapping, and more. Here’s a video of the orchestra creating music through genetic mapping. What were they mapping? A disease. Pretty cool stuff.

My favorite part of the performance was the facial mapping sequence: depending how the users would move their faces, piano notes would play. (more…)