Sunday, October 29, 2017

An Abundant Life - A Heart For Humanity

I've known Richard Hughes since I first moved to New York City. An actor in what was known at that time as the Circle Rep LAB, I've seen him in plays and asked him to read mine, and talked about theater and art with him for as long as I've had a New York theater life. For a few years we were neighbors, and he introduced me to people he knew in the building where he lived to help me feel at home. I've always known him to be one of those people in New York who I was always happy to run into, and in the years after Circle Rep closed its doors and the LAB was in transition, I'd often see him going to auditions or appointments or catch a glimpse of him on screen. When I saw him a few weeks ago on Third Avenue, we were crossing the street in opposite directions and the light was just changing as I got over to his side of the block. I asked him where he was off to and he said his office was near there, and because I know that he's always doing great things but didn't know he had an office in that area, I asked him what project he was working on. He handed me a copy of an Op Ed piece from the New York Times, and briefly started to tell me a little bit of his story. I could tell in those minutes we spent together that it was a story I'd like to hear more and write about, and I gave him my email address so he could send me some links. When I got home and had some time to start reading, I was amazed at the fact that I'd known him for so long and had never known about this life's work he has been doing. The magnitude of his heart for humanity is astounding, and it's even more amazing that he doesn't talk about it but just goes quietly about his business, humbly doing some of the greatest work that anyone I know has ever done.

His story begins in 1968 when he went to the Draft Board as a conscientious objector, and subsequently decided to buy his own plane ticket to Vietnam to see what he could do to help the people there. As I've shared his story with friends since that day of our meeting, my rhetorical question is always "Who would do that?' Richard Hughes would and did, without knowing the language, the topography, the culture or anything else about what he would encounter, and managed to start safe houses for the street youth through a program he called "The Shoeshine Boys", building a network of relationships that have lasted to this day. In recent years, through the not-for-profit organization Loose Cannons, the work has moved into the area of helping the Vietnamese people receive recognition, aid and support for the physical damages and trauma caused by Agent Orange. Although it is now recognized that Agent Orange caused physical ailments to Americans who were exposed to it at that time, there has been no acknowledgement of the damage that was caused to the Vietnamese people or their country. What he is trying to do through the organization Loose Cannons is to move the topic out of the political arena and into the humanitarian one, once again addressing an issue head on in a very measured, professional and compassionate way.

There is another part of the story that has to do with how he came to be in the office near where I ran into him that day, and I'll share that here because it's all part of our shared community life. For many years, Douglas Durst and his daughter Anita have been supporters of the Circle Repertory Company and the LAB through the Durst Corporation and through Anita Durst's not-for-profit organization ChaShaMa, among other things giving space for shows and fundraisers when Circle Rep lost its long time theatre in the West Village and helping the Artistic Director of the LAB to stay in his apartment, which was also the LAB office, in the last years of his life when his health was failing. Douglas Durst is currently making it possible for the LAB to continue to meet in that space, effectively making it possible for this long term company to continue to connect with each other and keep the extensive theatre history alive. Richard Hughes and his partners in Loose Cannons had an office space that was lost due to a fire and subsequent water damage, and he thought to send an email to Douglas Durst to see if any space might be available. He heard back from him the next day, and Douglas Durst told him that he had responded because he and his wife had just come back from a trip to Vietnam. The office where Loose Cannons is located, and where I visited Richard Hughes about a week after our meeting as we crossed the street, is now under the umbrella of ChaShaMa, in a building where other artists ChaShaMa supports also have space.

There is a saying that some people come into your life for a reason or a season, and some are there for the long term. Richard Hughes went to Vietnam at a time in his life when everything was ahead of him - he had just received his MFA from Boston University and had attended Carnegie Tech, which is now Carnegie Mellon University, one of the most highly respected acting schools in the country, for his undergraduate studies, and he was on his way to his first Actors Equity Association job with the Theatre Company of Boston, another excellent step on the ladder for an actor's success. But he made the choice instead at that crucial time to walk away from the life he had planned to pursue, something that anyone who is an actor can tell you would be a nearly impossible choice to make. But make it he did, and he continues to make those choices every day, to do the things that he feels he must to make life better for others and give a voice to those who have none. As I was writing this, I looked back in my emails to copy and paste some of the links he had sent me, and I found an email I'd sent him a number of years ago. I'd been talking to a mutual friend of ours, an actress and singer who I have the highest respect for, and she said this, "You know how everyone has a price? He is the only person I know who doesn't." I'd sent him that quote in an email at the time, and true to his inimitable form, he'd replied with a joke, "I have a price. I have a price! Just a minute; let me find it!!!!!!!" He does have a price, and it's pure gold.

New York Times Op/Ed [9/16/17]

PBS News Hour [9/27/17]
WNYCThe Brian Lehrer Show: [9/29/17]

Richard Hughes In His Office
Loose Cannons
New York City

The Shoeshine Boys

Photograph - Philip Jones Griffiths, Magnum Inc.

Photograph - Philip Jones Griffiths, Magnum Inc.

Photograph - Philip Jones Griffiths, Magnum, Inc.

Photograph - Philip Jones Griffiths, Magnum, Inc.

Photograph - Philip Jones Griffiths, Magnum, Inc.

Photograph - Philip Jones Griffiths, Magnum, Inc.


Jannie Susan

Sunday, October 22, 2017

An An Abundant Life - A Celebration Of Sharing and Pairing

The first time I walked into Bin 14 I was meeting the Founders of Misunderstood Whiskey who I've written about in these pages before. They chose Bin 14 as our meeting place for the blog post I was writing about them because the Sommelier and Mixologist Joel Liscio had created a specialty drink with their whiskey that they wanted me to try, but on first walking in I knew that they'd also chosen it because it was a great place to meet and enjoy a delicious afternoon. I had heard about Bin 14 before through a variety of people, and I knew about the amazing Chef Anthony Pino because of his history of delighting people's palates, but though I'd heard of the exraordinary Joel Liscio through the grapevine I hadn't had the opportunity to meet him. After enjoying the perfect cocktail he made that afternoon, I offered to write a post about Bin 14 and his work there with Chef Pino, which led to a culinary adventure I could repeat every day and never tire of. Joel not only makes wonderful cocktails, but he has such an exquisite palate when it comes to wines and spirits that whenever you visit with him for one of his tastings you find something new to excite. Put that in combination with the perfection of Chef Anthony Pino and the lovely surroundings of the space and you find yourself in a place of the highest of mouthwatering satisfaction. Chef Anthony Pino is so highly respected because of the quality of his culinary art and his dedication to his craft that the finest of vintners, distillers, and wine and spirits merchants are all part of wonderful world you can find that surrounds him. Bin 14's wine list was voted the 2017 Jersey Choice Best in New Jersey Monthly, and on a regular basis you can find out why. The marvelous wines and spirits are shared at Friday Happy Hour tastings and at special pairing events with Chef Pino's delicious creations, and are hosted by Chef Pino, Joel Liscio and other illustrious guests. Just yesterday at a tasting and pairing event with the spectacular Ramey Wine Cellars, the legendary owner David Ramey and his son Alan were special guests along with the impeccable host George Staikos. With wine tastings and pairing events, specialty cocktails, specialty foods and specialty spirits, Bin 14 will delight you on any day of the week. Stop by for an afternoon, an evening, a weekend brunch or a special event and you'll give yourself a treat that is the finest there is.

Bin 14
1314 Washington Street
Hoboken, New Jersey

Sommelier and Mixologist Joel Liscio
Prepares A Perfect Bacon Infused Misunderstood Whiskey Old Fashioned

And Shares A Preview Of A New Misunderstood Whiskey Fall Cocktail
The Godfather XIV

Preparing To Saber A Bottle Of Szigeti Brut

And Sharing The Fine Art Of The Saber And The Wine

Fun, Informative And Delicious
Friday Wine Tastings

Always A Great Evening

The Best In Wines And Spirits
Paired With The Impeccable Flavors Of Chef Anthony Pino's Delicious Creations
For A Dinner In The Backyard Patio

 Or At A Special Saturday Afternoon Lunch
Hosted By The Wonderful George Staikos
With The Very Special And Brilliant Guests David And Alan Ramey

The Brilliant David Ramey Shares His Wine, His Knowledge And History

David And Alan Ramey
With Joel Liscio And Damon O'Gara

David And Alan Ramey With George Staikos

The Marvelous Chef Anthony Pino Sharing A Rare Moment


Jannie Susan