Chatting With Caecilia

My 68th dinner is now online!

This is my meal with Caecilia Kay. She’s a single mother living in Maryland with a dream of one day being a communications and public relations professional. She’s on medical disability at the moment, so trying to find the right balance between coping with disability, motherhood, and her dreams on a part-time basis.

During dinner at the Carolina Kitchen in Washington, DC, she shared with me the highs and lows of her life. And she explained how the Catholic faith she’s had since she was a child is helping her focus on her future ambitions.

Click on Caecilia’s picture above or this link to read the interview.

National Lager Day

A little late in the evening for this, but today is apparently National Lager Day in the United States. If only it could be a public holiday, then I might be able to get fully behind it.

I discovered this fact while browsing the multiple daily updates that New Orleans food critic Tom Fitzmorris writes on his website, the New Orleans Menu. One of the features is a long list of random trivia about food and drink, including today’s lager celebration.

On a sidenote, read my interview with Tom by clicking here.

The fact it’s National Lager Day also allows me to shoehorn in a reference to another former dining stranger. Brenden Kelleher runs Behind The Craft, a great website where he interviews craft brewery owners about their libations. Brendan was great company when we had dinner in Washington, DC, and he gave me an introductory lesson in how to appreciate different styles of beer. His site is well worth repeat visits.

All Are Welcome

Michael Wilkinson is one of the founders of Washington, DC-based pizza restaurant company Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza.  Back in 2009, he let me into Pete’s Columbia Heights restaurant to learn all about how he got involved in the business — and I even got to try my hand a making one of their excellent pizzas.

Michael is also a keen photographer, and from time to time displays his work in the city.

His latest exhibit is called “All Are Welcome: Rowhouse & Storefront Churches,” and runs from December 11 through January 24, with an opening reception December 13.

Here’s a description of the upcoming exhibit from its Facebook page: “Architectural photographer Michael K. Wilkinson has been wandering the streets of Washington DC with a camera since he moved to the city from Brooklyn in 1993. From the late 1990s and into the early 2000s, using black & white film, he sought to document an oft-overlooked element of the streetscape: row house and storefront churches. Located mostly in underdeveloped neighborhoods, many of these small houses of worship have vanished since these photographs were taken, as real estate and commercial development have swept across the city in ever-expanding waves.”

Michael’s exhibit is located at the Anacostia Arts Center at 1231 Good Hope Road SE. The opening reception on December 13 will run from 11am to 6pm.

Brobson’s Big Easy

Brobson Lutz moved to New Orleans decades ago to study medicine at Tulane University, and has stayed ever since.

For years he’s lived in the French Quarter, enjoying the sights, sounds, and tastes of everything that the Big Easy has to offer. With a Southern drawl and an easygoing charm, he makes for great company over dinner.

We ate at Galatoire’s, one of the city’s old-school restaurants. It’s impossible to reserve a table in the raucous downstairs dining room — unless you’ve lived in the city as long as Dr. Lutz and been going to the restaurant as often as he has.

Click here or on the picture above to read about my highly enjoyable dinner with Brobson.

Black & Gold: Encore

New Orleans-based t-shirt company Storyville is taking entries through Nov. 23 for its latest monthly contest to design a tee. November’s theme is “Black & Gold: Encore” — a second chance to craft a t-shirt dedicated to the primary colors of the city’s football team the Saints.

I interviewed Storyville’s owners Josh and Natalie Harvey last year during a pleasant lunch at Coquette, just a few blocks from their flagship store on Magazine Street in New Orleans.

They’re an incredibly friendly couple, and had plenty to share about how they got into the t-shirt business. I like many of Storyville’s products, and enjoy their monthly contests in which anyone can submit a design to be chosen for production.

Check out the designs for Black & Gold, or submit your own!

Storytelling With Stephen Toblowsky

Click here or on the picture below for part two of my two-part interview with character actor and storytelling writer Stephen Tobolowsky, which took place at a diner in Los Angeles.

In the first part, Stephen shared anecdotes about his extensive acting career. In the second part, he describes how he got into writing, and why that’s his big passion now.

Stephen Tobolowsky’s Adventures

Stephen Tobolowsky knows how to tell a story.

And he’s got many of them to share. The character actor — perhaps best known for his role as overbearing insurance salesman Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day – was happy to talk during a lengthy breakfast last month in Los Angeles.

In fact, he’s got so much to say about his long career in film and television that I had to split the interview up into two parts. Click here or on the picture of Stephen above to read part one, in which we focus on his ongoing work as an actor.

Next Friday, November 14, I’ll upload part two of my meal with Stephen, where he shares his thoughts about his new career as a writer, and why he now prefers writing to acting.

Meeting Michael Hitchcock

If you’ve seen the television show Glee, or any of Christopher Guest’s fake documentary comedies, or pretty much any big TV show or movie in the last few decades, then you’ve seen Michael Hitchcock’s work as an actor and writer.

Michael, who lives in Los Angeles, is currently hard at work as a staff writer and co-executive producer on Glee, the TV show about singing students in a fictional Ohio high school that’s entering its final season.

But he’s also a well-known character actor, stemming from his history in improvisational comedy. Some of his best-known characters are those in Guest’s movies including Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show.

On a recent trip to LA, I was able to get lunch with Michael in West Hollywood during a rare break from his Glee duties. Click on his picture above or on this link to learn all about his past, present, and plans for the future.

Gaining Their Religion

The elaborate question mark tattoos below belong to Jesse Smith, who struggled for a long time with doubts about his Christian upbringing. The uncertainties were so great that they almost drove him to suicide — until he discovered the hallucinogen DMT.

Although a widely banned substance, one church in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has the legal right to use substances containing DMT. They take it in tea at services, saying the visions that the drug triggers enhance understanding of their religion.

It’s a claim that it’s easy to knock as an excuse for going on drug-induced trips, but Jesse and his partner Sarah told me over dinner about their sincere belief that DMT not only saved Jesse’s life, but also opened their minds to omnism: the belief in all religions.

Click on the picture above or on this link to read about my meal with the Smiths, in which they told me about how they met; their experiences with DMT; the pros and cons; and how their religious beliefs have evolved as a result.

Rest In Peace Richard Kiel

“Well, here’s to us.” — Jaws in Moonraker

Sad to read tonight that Richard Kiel, perhaps best known as the villainous Jaws in two Roger Moore 007 movies, died this afternoon.

He was my 51st dinner interviewee. We met in Washington, DC, last November while he was taking part in a James Bond party at the Spy Museum. He didn’t mind being known as the mostly silent assassin Jaws. Rather, he embraced it, and told me he was often at fan conventions and other events, playing up his character by willingly posing with people in all manner of menacing poses (after our dinner, he pretended to crush my head in one shot).

Richard — I use the personal attribution not because he was a friend (we only met once), but because that’s my writing style — was a charming man, patient with my questions, possessing a good sense of humor and ready with a host of wonderful anecdotes about becoming an actor and his time in television and the movies.

But he was also something of a history buff, having researched and written a novel/biography of the 19th century anti-slavery crusader Cassius Clay — the man that boxer Muhammad Ali was named after before he switched to Islam. It’s a fascinating read, and Richard’s love for the subject was obvious. He was perhaps at his most animated when he got to switch the conversation from his Hollywood stories and on to the topic of Clay and his life story, and I’m happy to have learned about it from Richard.

Click here or on the picture above to read about my dinner with Richard.

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