The 2012 Runyon 5K

Why I’m Running

Some basic journalistic, who, what, where, when and why. The why is the most important part of this event so I’ll keep the others short.

Who: Me (And around 4,000 new friends.)

What: The Runyon 5K (May not be the NYC Marathon but the Where and the Why make it special.)

Where: Yankee freakin’ Stadium! NYC. (It’s really just Yankee Stadium. I added the “freakin'” part and the exclamation point. More on the where below.)

When: August 12th, 2012 (Ahhh… running in August.)

Why: For Sidney O Risener. There’s no way to do this man’s life justice in this space but bear with me for a second. The highlights that are important to this story are…

He lived through the Great Depression. Sidney O Risener was born in 1920 and as boy, like so many at that time, he lived through some really hard times. And also like many at that time, it taught him to be a hard-working, self sufficient man. The strength he would need to be a member of the Greatest Generation.

Sidney Risener – Bottom Row, 2nd from Left

He was a veteran of two wars. As a young man, he was sent to the Pacific during WWII.  He returned to the Pacific a few years later and fought in Korea. He never talked to his family about the things he saw and the hell he lived through. They only glimpsed shadows of it from the nightmares. But over time, the nightmares slowly faded and in spite of or maybe because of the pain of those memories, he remained a happy, outgoing and friendly man.

He worked hard. He supported his family by working in a factory for 35 years doing difficult and at times dangerous work. During his years there he survived two explosions. One of those explosions killed several of his friends and coworkers and gave him some pretty severe burns. But tired, sick, or injured, he had a family to support so he laced ’em up and went back to work.

Sidney O Risener and His Family

He was a family man. Sidney O Risener loved and took care of his wife Ruby and his two children. He spent time with them and took them on family vacations to the mountains and to the Gulf. Later on when grandchildren entered the picture, he did the same with them. And he played catch in the yard with a pair of old baseball mitts, took them fishing on the river and took them to football games in the Fall.

He retired and enjoyed a… This is the one that got cut way too damn short. The one he deserved. He had big plans for his retirement. More time for fishing on the river and spending time with his family and friends. More time with a brand new grandson and a well deserved rest after a sometimes challenging life. But those plans were immediately thrown off track.

The very week after he retired, he went to the doctor. He hadn’t been feeling well but the excitement of the retirement had overshadowed concerns about his health. The news was not good. He was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Treatments started and trips to the hospital were frequent. A strong, vital, self sufficient man began to wither away. The treatments didn’t stop the cancer and they wreaked havoc on his body and his mind. As they say, the cure is worse than the disease. Near the end, through the pain and the medication, he started reliving some of the hell he went through during the war. Family members sat by his bedside and did the best they could to comfort him. After a miserable two years, he lost the battle. He fought and lived through so much. But this one he couldn’t win.

Sidney O Risener and Family

And here’s the connection. The Runyon 5K is a fundraiser for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. I’m running this race to honor my grandfather, Sidney O Risener. (That’s me and my brother with my mom and grandparents on the left.) And in the process I’ll be helping  raise money for research that will one day end this disease. Last year’s run raised over $730,000. But this may involve you and someone you love, too. And I’m not just talking about a donation.

We’ve all been touched by cancer in some way. And for every name, there’s a story. I want to honor as many of those names as possible so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a list. Maybe a scroll. I’m still working that out. If you give me the name or names of people in your life who have been affected by cancer and make a donation to sponsor my run, I’ll put your name and the name of a loved one who has been affected on the scroll. I’m going to carry that list with me as I the run the race through Yankee Stadium. Whatever amount you want or can afford and as many names as you’d like.

You can donate directly to me or you can visit  My personal Runyon 5K page and donate there. Then just give me the names of the loved ones you would like to honor. There are more links and info below.

Okay, I’ve got to get back to training now. The course is a little crazy but cool. Winding through the concourse of the stadium, up and down stairs, out on the field for a couple of laps around the warning track, up ramps and down ramps and through the Hall of Champions. Can’t wait. Thanks for any support you give, be it moral, financial or both.

The Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium 

My Personal Runyon 5K Page

The History of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation

I can’t, not shoot. And when I travel, doubly not. And in a place where the sensory stimulation can be every bit as intoxicating as a Hurricane on Bourbon, not shooting in New Orleans would actually cause me physical pain. The photographic DTs. But this particular trip to the Big Easy was different.

Different and special because it was a weekend getaway with the one I love. The problem is, I’m not a social shooter. When I’m in “serious” shooting mode, interaction and conversation with other human beings is difficult. So I have to make a conscious decision about what exactly I’m going to focus on. My companion, or the viewfinder. This weekend was all about spending time with my beautiful wife so I decided I would put down the viewfinder and enjoy the view.

But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t shoot. I reached a small compromise with myself. No “serious” shooting but instead I would play with a new passion of mine. Shooting with my cell phone. So that’s what I did. If something caught my eye during those times I wasn’t making googly eyes at Julie, I’d do a quick composure and capture with my ever present and relatively unobtrusive ‘droid and quickly move on. I like some of what I came away with and these are a few of the those images. I love the vintage camera app “Vignette” for Android and I love diptychs so that’s what you see here.

It was really an amazing weekend. It rained on and off for most of the time we were there and it was beautiful. Ducking in and out of shops and restaurants with Julie. Umbrellas floating through the air. Shimmering streets. July temps knocked down by a good ten degrees. Loved it.

Evening one, we had an excellent dinner with friends followed by a night of debauchery on Bourbon. Later on, through the wonders of social media, we found out some other friends were in town for a concert so after the concert they met us out for more dancing, drinking and laughing on the city’s most famous strip of pavement. Bourbon Street is what it is so we did what we did and it was what it was. And that’s all I have to say about that. ;-)

The next night we had dinner and music and late night coffee on my favorite street in New Orleans. Frenchmen is fantastic. The music and the atmosphere energizes and relaxes me at the same time. That, plus I absolutely love being in a place where poetry busking exists. Kinda’ sums up what’s cool about Frenchmen.

I’ll finish with a triptych from another one of the highlights of the trip.  The Faulkner House in Pirate Alley. There’s a little story there but I’ll save that for another day. Magical place.

Lagniappe: Some of my “serious” shooting from previous trips to New Orleans can be found in my “Off the Handle” gallery on

The Loose Marbles at Fritzel's - (image by Brian L Butler)

The Jazz Singer: Discovering Meschiya Lake

The first time I experienced the Loose Marbles was a couple of years ago while walking around the Quarter with my good friend Eddie. An excellent experience it was.

The Loose Marbles are a loose band of throwback musicians who bring 20’s and 30’s style jazz roaring back in the streets of New Orleans (and New York) and occasionally play in local clubs. Members float in and out depending on the day and the place and they have a fashion sense that could be affectionately described as vintage-vagrant. But the music and the swing dancing that surrounds it is outstanding. We saw them busking during the day and then playing at Fritzel’s that night. The photo above is one I took that evening. Still love what they do but they are not the point of this post.

When I got home from that trip, I was craving some more so I Googled and YouTubed and found some videos of the group. Mostly just hand-held street shots but there was one video that changed the focus of my search. It was the band playing on Royal with a female singer. A singer that blew me away. This is that video. We’ll pick up the story after you watch.

So after I saw that, I had to find out who she was. More Googling turned up the name Meschiya Lake (pronounced ma-shee’-ya). I couldn’t find out much about her at the time but I was fascinated and decided I would try to see her sing in person the next time I was in NOLA. In the street. In a club. Wherever.

That was two years ago. I’ve been back to the city a couple of times but circumstances and schedules didn’t cooperate so we never crossed paths. In that time though, Meschiya’s career  started to take off. I found her Facebook fan page a while back and started following her. She released an album last year called Lucky Devil and sings with a band called The Little Big Horns, which I’m sure has connections to the Marbles. But they seem a little more polished as you can see in this video from a few months ago. Lovely, powerful and passionate music.

I’m not sure if she still plays the streets but she’s always playing local clubs when she’s in town. And she travels the country and the world playing but I’m not sure you’d say she’s “made it” yet. Which gets me closer to the point of this post. But first, something cool happened a few days ago.

Meschiya Lake at the Spotted Cat - (image by Brian L Butler)

I finally got to see her perform live. Julie and I spent a wonderful long weekend in the Big Easy and Saturday night spent the entire evening wandering in and out of clubs up and down Frenchmen Street topped off by Mescheiya Lake and the Little Big Horns at The Spotted Cat. The place was packed but fortune and Julie flirting with the bouncer got us right next to the stage. Loved the show, bought the album and thought that was that.

But once again, when I got home I was craving some more so I Googled and YouTubed and among other things, here’s what I found. There’s a documentary in the works about Meschiya. True Family: The voice of Meschiya Lake is in post production. Oh hell yes. The trailer looks so good I can’t wait. Check it out.

But it looks like I will have to wait for a little while. Which finally brings me to the point. The movie is being made by a Danish filmmaker for the love of the music and the subject. The money is coming from a very cool newish way to raise cash for projects like this; crowd-funding. Tens, hundreds or thousands of people giving whatever they can to projects they believe in to get them off the ground. Films, music, charity etc. $5, $20, $100 at a time. Adding up until it’s large enough to light the fuse and launch a dream.

The Meschiya fundraising is run by IndieGogo but there are several other companies doing it. My friend Brian Meece is a co-founder of RocketHub in NYC and they’re getting a lot of press and praise. (He’s also part of the über cool group Brian and Silbin) It’s just such a great way to kickstart a project (Kickstarter is another) and give it a chance to be seen and picked up by a larger audience.

The Meschiya movie is short of its goal but the project is still moving along. I’ll be putting some of my money in the pot because I think it will be a great story and I think the more people who are exposed to her music, the more people will fall for her and she will “make it”. That may make it harder for Julie and I to get a spot next to the stage in the future, but that’s a risk I’ll take.

For more on Meschiya:

For more about the movie: True Family: The Voice of Meschiya Lake

1213504646My day doesn’t usually start at a National Landmark fielding pointed questions from armed security. This was one of those rare mornings when it did.

We’re on a family trip to the N-Y-C. It’s the first time Julie and I have taken the girls along with us to our favorite city and we’re about to begin a big day with a trip to the Statue of Liberty.

I bought tickets online before the trip and made the reservations for the very first ferry of the day. Beat the crowds. Beat the heat. I’m a genius. But there’s a hitch. We’re staying in the beautiful Upper West Side and the ferry leaves from the extreme Southern tip of Manhattan. We’re gonna have to get an early start.

We crawl out of bed in the morning, get dressed and grab a quick breakfast. The kids aren’t really hungry so they don’t eat much. Julie and I know we don’t want hungry kids dragging through the morning so I stick some snacks in my bag, grab a couple more to put in my pockets and we’re out the door.

After a long, early morning subway ride we make it downtown and head to the pier. We already have tickets so we get to skip that line and go straight to the security line. You know those winding lines in amusement parks. It’s just like that. Only instead of a roller coaster, you’re waiting for a metal detector. Wooooo!

We wait and walk as the line inches forward until we eventually make it to the security checkpoint. After Julie and the girls get through, I put my bag on the conveyor belt and it begins its short trip to x-ray land. I keep everything in my bag. Camera, keys, phone. All my metal detector triggers. So when I walk through the metal detector and nothing goes beep-beep, I think I’m good to go. I gather my gear on the other side and prepare to meet Lady Liberty.

But as I start to walk away, a security guard motions me over to the side. She and her partner seem like nice enough ladies but at this moment, they’re looking very serious. The sidearms punctuate their seriousness.

“Is there something wrong officer?” (I actually said that. Like some bad movie line.) Anyway, apparently something is wrong. I’ve aroused suspicion. The officer points at me and asks the strangest question. “What’s that there? In your pants.” My eyes dart down and I’m confused for a second. Then it hits me. This is going to be awkward.

I ask the officers if I can show them and they nod, although, and I’m not making this up, they each put their hands on their holsters. I ease my hand into my pocket, pull out the offending object and show it to the ladies. They both crack up. Actual giggles from officers of the law. There’s a banana in my pocket. I, am a walking punch line.

Now I’m laughing too and I even say the “line” out loud. (I used a horrible Groucho Marx accent. Anyone who has heard me try knows, I can’t do accents. But they didn’t seem to mind.) The officers wave me on as the laughter continues and I leave to catch up to the family.

Julie was waiting up ahead and wondering what the heck was going on. When I told her what happened, she of course got a heavy case of the giggles too. Still makes her laugh today. We affectionately refer to my Statue of Liberty interrogation as, The Chiquita Inquisition.

A good while after the C.I. and after I’d told the story a few times, something dawns on me. I had that banana in my pocket all morning. During the walk from the hotel to the station. During the long subway ride. During the walk to the pier. During the long wait in line. And what I realize is this. Not once does Julie say anything about it. So we have two options. Either she saw the fruit in my looms and just didn’t say anything. That’s unlikely because she would not have let that go. Or option two, she just didn’t notice the entire morning. Not even a glance. Frankly, that bothers me a little bit.


The Apple of My Eye

My wife Julie is spending some time with my mistress this week. They get along great. Sure Julie’s a little jealous, what with my going on and on about how wonderful the mistress is. How I long to spend more time with her. How I would pull up stakes tomorrow to be closer to her. She’s mesmerizing. I’ve never felt more at home than when I’m with her.

Please don’t judge me too harshly. It’s not like I love my beautiful wife any less. I want her to come along too. I want us all to be together. I know we could make it work. Is that too much to ask?

It was love at first sight with the mistress. We’ve only seen each other a few times but I can’t stop thinking about her. The way she looks and smells and sounds. Julie thinks that if I had to spend every day with the mistress I’d grow tired of her. She thinks it’s all about the newness and excitement. She thinks the excitement would wear off. I know that’s not true. I mean, I’ve been with Julie for over 16 wonderful years and it gets better every day. I know it would be the same with the mistress given the chance. And if we were all three together it would be triply good.

And my kids love the mistress too. Even though they’ve only met her once. They may not feel as strongly about her as I do yet and I know they’re not sure about us all living together. But I know with time we could all be one happy family.

I also know Julie likes the mistress a lot. She’s told me so. She’s just not sure we can all live together either. So I’m hoping that the time they spend together this week without me will help. Just the two of them getting to know each other better. Gets me excited just thinking about it. A little jealous too. What are they doing there together without me? Anyway, that’s not important. Wish me luck.

Oh. I guess I should tell you her name. I’ve told you this much so why not. You may even know her. My mistress is the one and only New York City. Yes, I’m head over heels for The Big Apple. Julie is spending a week in NYC on what she claims is a business trip. Some “conference” or something. But I took a peek at the itinerary and it looks like there’s more play time than work time scheduled. Maybe I’m right to be jealous. Or maybe not. Surely there’s more than enough of the greatest city on earth to go around. Surely we can find a way to make this work.


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