Thursday, July 28, 2011

Twenty Years In the Dark

A long time agoI fell in love, but I lost her. Each day, I relive the memories we made together. She was my love. My eyesight." When my autobiographical theater piece was first produced in 2006, those were my opening words. Instead of scene numbers, I broke up the play into segments where each had it's own title. For example, the opening scene was called Last Night In Light. In fact, my last night in light took place twenty years ago yesterday. Yes, it was twenty years ago today in which I woke up on a Sunday morning anticipating another wonderful day kicked off by spending time in church praising God and Jesus for all the wonderful blessings in my life. Instead, I spent my time in church begging for the restoration of my sight. I prayed, bargined, and asked, but my words were not heard. If they were heard, then they were ignored. Each year, this is a difficult time for me. Just as I get through celebrating my birth, I must focus on what I believe to be my death. Yet, that is not quite true either. On one hand, it was my death as I stopped being the person I was prior to that Sunday morning, but on the other hand, I also feel that the day I lost my sight is the day I stopped being blind. I grew up being told that certain things were true and unwavering. I was told certain things were bad and dirty. I believed in my abilities and my worth because parents and friends told me to believe. I did not believe in other abilities and worth because parents and friends told me not to believe. In all honesty, I lived my life to make others happy. I lived my life making specific choices because they were the correct choices to please God, parents, and friends. After losing my sight, my family treated me differently. When I began to attend school, classmates and teachers treated me a certain way. They treated me like a blind person. I just wanted to be viewed as Israel. If anything, I was a sighted person who misplaced his sight. I would never be a blind person. I never wanted to be categorized as a disability. I wanted to be me and judged on who I was. I did not want to be a champion for a blind cause nor did I want to speak for blind people because I did not want anyone to speak for me. Above all, I did my best to make decisions for myself and not let others bully me into a decision.

As the years went by, I struggled to fit into both the blind and sighted worlds. In the blind world, I found individuals angry at the sighted and those who embraced blindness as their identification. In the sighted world, I found myself having a hard time proving I was worthy to hang. Academically, socially, and technologically were tough roads for me to travel. I did my best to succeed. When it came to athletics, I did not like any of the sports adapted for blind and visually impaired. They were not with what I grew up and were not for me.

Ever since I was sighted, I had always been insecure. After losing my sight, I became even more so especially when it came to women. I always felt a tough battle became more of an uphill climb when I was given a cane. I now had to prove to women that I was "a complete man." It did not help that I have never been "manly." I am not a beer drinking, hanging with the guys, watching violent gun movies, making fart jokes, objectifying women kind of a guy. I would rather drink wine, share my feelings with women, watch a romantic comedy, make sarcastic remarks, and cuddle. Having these interests may be why I do not have too many close male friends while I have been able to become close to countless women. I feel more comfortable around women. Many of them insist it is because I take the time to get to know and understand them. I often wonder had I remained sighted if I would have developed this way. Would I have become someone who wishes to connect with women on an emotional level or someone who is only interested in women on a sexual level? Would my interests as a whole have been different.

Maybe my willingness to share myself is why I have fallen into writing. To communicate and evoke a response is what I enjoy doing. I wonder if I would have found that same enjoyment had I remained sighted. I always reflect on my life whether with my writing, recent triathlon and road race participation, or my befriending so many wonderful people and think, would all this be the same if I still had my sight. I have always said that I would give anything to regain my sight. I always look at what I have achieved and believe I would have done much more if I had my sight. Yet, it was losing my sight which caused me to get motivated and inspired in ways I never knew I could during my sighted days. Each year on this date, I wonder what could have been. Each day I am grateful for what is. I still hope for the day I can see once more and still have plenty of anger and bitterness that I have not had the luxury to have had sight these last twenty years. Even if I get my sight one day, I will always feel cheated that there will always be a dark cloud over the years I did not see. I will also have a warm spot in my heart for the years I did not have sight because I learned so much about who I am. The friends and especially, the women who came into my life and remain a driving force for me to this day are individuals who would have never come into my life had I remained in light. Those women have taught me about being the best brother, friend, writer, lover, boyfriend, and husband I could ever imagine and for all that I would never trade these last two decades of my life. As I state at the end of my play, which I have now turned into a screenplay, what keeps me going on a daily basis is the hope that I will get to see once more. Until that day arrives, I am a sighted person who misplaced his sight, but who is doing his damndest to seize life in the dark!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Denver Triathlon: My Mile High Adventure

Flying high from all the birthday wishes last Thursday, I prepared for my early morning trip to Denver. I took time throughout Thursday to respond to every single phone call, email, and posting to my Facebook wall to express my gratitude to every single individual who took the time to send me their thoughts on my birthday. Finally, at 1:00a.m. I went to bed. My wake up call was set for 5a.m. I woke up, made sure I was set and rolled out to the Chicago streets on route to the airport. There, I cut through the line, eased through security, and sat quietly waiting for my plane to board. Just as the plane was ready to take off, we were informed there would be a delay due to in coming storms. After a one hour delay, the plane sped down the runway and took flight into the Chicago morning sky towards Denver. I reached Denver in the early afternoon where I was met by David Adame and his son, Brandon, who picked me up at the airport. They also were in charge of picking up, 2011 ESPY nominee, the great, Aaron Scheidies. The four of us headed to the headquarters of Acumen Contracting, one of the sponsors of the Denver Triathlon. After a few minutes of hanging out in one of the conference rooms, CEO, Matt Miller, greeted us. Shortly there after, we were joined by the Sugar Land goddesses, Patty and her daughter, Catherine. Also joining the festivities was matt's wife, Christin. Together, we headed to the Denver Triathlon VIP Kickoff Party were I ran into Cole Pauley, an Ironman triathlete I first met almost two years ago and one of my favorite people. Clark Bishop, the man who would guide me in the race on Sunday introduced himself and we began the process of bonding which would hopefully come in handy come race day. Stephanie, the daughter of another of my favorite athletes, Randall, introduced herself and before long, Clark was guiding me over to meet co-creator and co-race director, Chris Laskey who I first met in 2008 when he was the race director of the AIA Marathon in Fort Lauderdale. I thanked him for the opportunity to have spent the last few months promoting the event as a Brand Ambassador. I met some other folks too before heading off to the home where I would stay for the weekend.

On Saturday morning, Clark and I met up with other athletes who were part of Team C Different Foundation. CDF was the official charity partner of the Denver Triathlon and nineteen athletes were set to represent the non profit come Sunday. At this early morning gathering held at Wash Park, all were able to test out the tandem bikes we would ride during the race. Clark and I had the pleasure of being given a Matrix bike belonging to the great, Aaron Scheidies. It was so light weight and ran so smoothly that Clark and I were confident we would have a fantastic ride on race day. Of course we would. After all, the bike oozed of the Aaron mystique. In the afternoon, we picked up our race packet at the expo held at Invesco Field At Mile High Stadium. We heard from co-race directors, Matt and Chris. We also had a chance to walk around and try some samples from various sponsors which had booths set up all around the complex. Afterwards, it was time for the pre race dinner for Team CDF. The highlight for me at the party was when I was trying on a t-shirt and Clark mentioned that I had guns. I did not quite believe him, but was happy to hear him praise my arms.

My race day wake up call was set for 4a.m. I fell asleep around 10p.m., but woke up shortly before 3a.m. and was unable to fall back asleep. Unlike previous triathlons though, I was not nervous about the swim. My confidence stemmed from my performance at the NYC Tri in 2010. I had struggled in the Hudson River swim in 2008, but in 2010, I managed to work my way through the one mile swim with ease. If I followed the same game plan then I would be fine for the swim portion of the Denver triathlon. After all, it was only an 800 meters swim. After having our race day breakfast of waffles and orange juice, a different breakfast than my usual, we made our way to the race just after 5a.m. Clark put the tandem in transition one and we headed to Invesco Field for the second transition. He arranged our items which we would use on the run portion and we made our way back to the lake for the start of the event. Clark and I had our body marked with my number 1451 by the lovely, Michelle, who upon lifting my sleeves to mark my arms said, "Wow, you're muscular." I said that is why they call me Sexy Isra and I mentioned this blog to her to which she responded she would have to log on and check it out. I put on a wet suit, swim cap, and goggles. I took in the smell of the lake and prepared to jump in when our wave was sent out. Clark suggested we get in a practice swim. I tried a couple front crawl strokes and knew I would use the back stroke. At least, I would use my modified back stroke which I had called upon to get me through the Hudson River a year ago. After that practice session, anxiety and doubt began to creep in for the first time. Would I handle this? I started to shiver in fear. Our wave was next. Then it was time to go. I laid on my back and prepared to make my way through the 800 meters. Within a few seconds, I could not breathe. I was scared. I stood up and attempted to gather myself. I laid back in the water. Clark encouraged me. I moved a bit, but once more, I was fearful. I hyperventilated. I could not do this. there was no way I would make it half a mile. I stood up and told Clark I wanted out. He calmly reassured me that I should remain relaxed and he would get me through it. He insisted he was a strong swimmer and would do everything possible to get me through, but I needed to trust him and above all else, I needed to relax. He had me lay on the water and simply float. He told me to not swim. Just float. Slowly, he instructed me to add my arms and legs. My breathing returned to normal. I was relaxed. We started to move down the lake. As we progressed, I found confidence. We moved ever slowly, but we were moving. He kept encouraging me and praising me. I kept moving. Before long, we were at the halfway point. Soon I heard Clark saying, "We're turning for home, buddy. You're doing great!" I started to cramp. My legs were tired. I was losing control of my kick. I was sinking. We were only about halfway done. I started to be filled with more anxiety. Clark may have noticed because he assured me that we were making progress and we would complete the first part of this race soon. It was a long drawn out experience, but I knew we were going to make it. Then I heard music, cheers, and the public address announcer say, "You're forty meters away from the end. Maybe thirty." I wondered if he was talking to me. sure enough, his next words were, "Israel Antonio, you can do it! We're all waiting for you." We were within range of the finish. Then I heard a race volunteer inform me that I could stand up and walk it in. I stood up. Clark was laughing as he said, "You did it! We finished." A thunderous roar came from the crowd on the shore. Screams filled my ears. the announcer praised me for finishing and said that I was the final one to finish the swim portion thus ensuring 100% finishers of those who started. A man yelled out, "Israel, you're an inspiration! Way to go buddy." As some of my friends know, normally, this sort of thing makes me uncomfortable and a bit upset. Am I an inspiration because I finished the swim or because I am a blind person who finished the swim? Were I sighted, would I still be considered an inspiration or is it only because I can not see? For me, the ultimate sign of respect and display of equality is if I am treated like any other sighted or able bodied person. Yet on this day, none of that mattered. I did not care if I was being cheered and praised for being a blind athlete who finished the swim because on this day, I was not a blind person who made it through the swim. I was Israel Antonio, a man who had faced his fear and anxiety to gut out a swim. I wanted to stand there and embrace the compliments. I wanted to take the time to be proud of myself, but Clark and I still had work to do. We made our way to the transition area where we grabbed our bike equipment. The highlight of those few minutes was running into volunteer, Michelle, who shouted, "Hey sexy Isra, you made it. Way to go. I'm going to be checking out your blog." That more than anything made me smile. Michelle, if you are reading this, thanks for making my day and welcome to the Sexy Isra Experience.

Clark and I jumped on the tandem and began the thirteen mile ride towards Invesco Field At Mile High stadium where we would trade in the bike for our running gear. Within the first few minutes, Clark informed me that we had passed twenty to thirty people. We were flying. At one point, Matt Miller drove up and shouted words of encouragement. He drove off or so I thought. I searched inside for some extra juice as we kicked it into high gear. Then I heard Matt yell out that he had been driving along side to figure out how fast we were riding and he had noticed we were moving at 32 miles per hour. Talk about inspiring news. That served to push me even more. We rolled on through the streets of Denver eventually making our way to the stadium. I grabbed my tether and hat and began the 3.1 mile run to the finish line. I was riding high from such a spectacular bike portion, but quickly I noticed that while my legs were strong, I was breathing hard. My steps were light, but I was struggling to take measured breaths. I mentioned it to Clark who responded, "Welcome to altitude." It had finally caught up to me. I did my best to fight through it. I pushed and pulled as Clark lead me towards our final miles. Soon we reached our final aid station and it was time to lay the hammer for the final mile. Would I have enough left in the tank to close the show as I do at almost every race? I would soon find out. We neared the finish. Volunteers yelled out that we were only a few hundred meters from the finish. Clark told me we were nearing the final turn for home. The final straight-away. It was time. I pulled out my final kick. It was not there. I was able to push it to another level, but not the typical frantic finish which always takes my sighted guides by surprise. Not the same kick that my friend Brian once called the greatest final kick he had ever seen. Still, I managed to push one final time and gallop across the finish line. I had survived my early race meltdown to cross the end. Clark had been the reason I made it through the swim and was now the reason I had completed my third triathlon. We celebrated at the party post race. Matt had decided to set up kiddie pools of water and piles of ice. I tried to jump in per Matt's suggestion, but it was too cold for me. I lasted only a few seconds. Later on, I celebrated along with the rest of the crew at Lodos. It was a fun time and a perfect way to end the weekend. I took a flight out of the mile high city on Monday afternoon knowing that it had been a wonderful weekend and I would return again very soon for another try at this amazing event.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Birthday Blast

There have been some tremendous events which changed my life forever or at the very least, changed my outlook on myself, family, friends, women, and life. Many of those events took place on my birthday. There are certain events which when one experiences them, they stay with one forever. Again, such moments have taken place on my birthday. Today was another day in which I had the opportunity to examine my life. There are days even now that I say that had I remained sighted, I would have lived an even greater more enriched life. Then I realize that much of who I am is a result of losing my sight. Would I still trade everything and anything in the world to get my sight back? YES! Unlike some others, blindness does not define who I am. I happen to not see, but I am not blind. I am a person who just happens not to have sight. Yet, losing my sight brought so many wonderful people into my life who have shaped and molded me into the person, artist, lover, friend, brother I am. On this, another birthday in which friends from all years of my life and from all walks of life reached out to express their best wishes for a wonderful birthday, I say thank you!! To all my loved ones, family, and friends who inspire, motivate, and support me. You are my driving force. You are the reason I succeed. when I fail, you are the ones who pick me up and ensure I not stop until the ultimate prize has been achieved. Thank you. Simply, thank you.

On Friday, I head to Denver to race in the Denver Triathlon. I look forward to this new race and the opportunity to make new friends and have fresh experiences. I still do not have my desired six pack abs, but I feel I am in the best condition I have been leading up to a triathlon. I hope the results show it. I know my heart will. May you have a tremendous weekend. I will inform you of my weekend upon my return.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Keri's Ironman Madison Adventure

In November of 2009, I was informed that Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association would have a 2010 Chicago Marathon team. I instantly decided to make my debut at the marathon distance in my hometown race by being a part of the GLASA team to run 26.2 miles. In 2010 on October 10, I ran the Chicago marathon. It was a great opportunity to run for a worthy cause and organization. One of the individuals who works for GLASA is the wonderful, Keri Schindler. She is so passionate about her job and her active lifestyle that it is almost impossible to be around her and not be motivated as well. Whenever I get a chance to race on a team with which Keri is involved or race in an event with which Keri is associated, I always do it. She is simply one of the rock star individuals I know. Towards the end of last year and the start of this year, Keri joined forces with one of her friends, the amazing and heroic Melissa Stockwell as well as a couple other people to form the Dare2Tri Chicago Paratriathlon Club which is USA Triathlon's first nationally recognized and certified paratriathlon club.

I made my debut with the Dare2Tri club in June when I raced in the Pleasant Prairie Triathlon where I was guided by Todd Smith in completing my first duathlon. GLASA and Dare2Tri are spectacular organizations which offer opportunities to so many youth and adults who may otherwise not have been given such chances to pursue athletic ventures. It is so wonderful that someone like Keri is involved with both groups. It will be even better if these organizations continue to expand. As Dare2Tri is still in its infancy, it needs more recognition and support from everyone. That is why I am writing this to highlight what keri Schindler is preparing to attempt on September 11, 2011. Keri is getting ready to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles in under seventeen hours for the first time in her life when she toes the starting line at Ironman Madison. She is raising money and awareness for Dare2Tri. If you wish to learn more about the organization, please make sure to visit the web site at the bottom of this entry. Upon reading more, please feel free to donate to Keri's Ironman Madison venture.

To donate to Keri's mission:

To read about Dare2Tri Chicago:

Sunday, July 17, 2011

World Premiere A Second Look

In my last entry, I wrote about the experience six years ago when my autobiographical piece, In the Dark, was named a New Play Fest winner by Prop THTR and premiered with a staged reading at the Cultural Center in downtown Chicago. I hope you take the time to read that entry as well since this is a continuation of that experience. After hearing what audience members, my sister and her husband, and my dear friend, Rani, had to say, I took some time to discuss the latest version with Gary Mills. He gave me some feedback and I returned home after a successful premiere overly thrilled at the road down on which I had begun to walk. On Saturday, I spent several more hours typing away editing the play in preparation for the second reading on Sunday afternoon. I made many changes. On Sunday, I went down to my local office supply store and printed out several copies for the cast before heading to the Cultural Center once more. As I mentioned in my previous post, upon walking into the lobby, I was greeted by Rani served to open my eyes that this was not a dream. It was really happening. Similarly, upon walking through the lobby doors on Sunday, I was greeted by a room full of chatter. The doors into the room of the reading had not yet been opened for the general public so a long line formed. Some friends came up to me. Many individuals I had met and befriended within the theater world were present. I was introduced to Scott Vehill. He is the co-founder and artistic director of Prop. He was anticipating this piece and was already raving about it. When the crowd finally filed in, it was a standing room only performance. During some heart wrenching moments, there was a sadness in the room. During funny moments, a thunderous roar of laughter filled the room. People were captivated. they were moved. I sat next to director, Emily Lotspeich. Based on her reaction, I knew I had written something special. When it ended, the talk-back began. Audience members raved! I had connected with them. People mentioned how powerful and meaningful this piece was and they excitedly awaited a production run. After the back and forth of comments, Scott Vehill stood up and said, "Bottom line is, as a producer, I'm interested in shows which make money. If I were to invest in this and produce it, would you come watch? Is this a show you'd spend your money on?" Audience members said yes and of course. To this, Scott responded with, "that's all I need to hear. I'm interested in doing this." Music to my ears. One of the most respected individuals in Chicago theater had just expressed an interest in producing this piece. I walked around thanking people for attending and receiving feedback from friends and artists. My friend Rob said, "I knew it was good, I didn't realize it was a masterpiece. Shakespeare, Iz. That's how good this is." Originally, I had imagined this play to be a one-man show in the spirit of John Leguizamo's many award winning Broadway smash hits so one of my acting instructors, Ted Horel, suggested I reach out to talented writer, director, actor, Robyn Okrant. I did and I was able to attend a performance of one of her successful one-woman pieces where I learned so much. Robyn attended this sunday reading and approached me to say that from the opening lines, I drew her in to the point she was already imagining ways she would stage the piece were she given the chance to direct. I was so thrilled at this because robyn was one of those I would want to direct my pieces. Another wonderful moment was when Matt Swan and his wife Judy came up to congratulate me on the piece. I took three of Matt's classes in the communications studies department when I was in college. He was my faculty advisor when I worked at WKDI-FM. He was a frequent guest on my radio program. Matt spent time at a TV station in Rockford, Il playing the character of Uncle Don on the uncle Don Terror theater. He was and remains a media expert and playwright. Matt was a supporter of my radio career and was the one who took me aside when radio was not quite working out for me to suggest I give strong consideration to taking a thirty minute film script which I had written as my final project in his media writing class and turn it into a full length feature which I could one day option to a Hollywood production company. I resisted at first, but with plenty of time on my hands, I decided to listen. It was writing the feature where I truly fell in love with writing stories. It was then that I realized I wanted to put more effort into this and would be best served to also take acting classes. While taking acting classes, I learned about the writing class offered at the school and jumped at the chance to write plays. This class was taught by Gary Mills which eventually lead me to writing In the Dark. It is fascinating to me how all these events are connected in the end.

The joy of having my first play receive this early success carried me through the next few months until I heard Prop was interested in producing performances. Eventually, I met with Scott Vehill who directed the piece as part of the Rhino Fest in September of 2006. I was so excited when Scott informed me that he wanted to produce the play, but only if I starred in it. Of course, that was my dream all along too. A year after the success of the weekend described in this and my previous post, I went into rehearsal for this play. My dear friend, Madelon, was cast as was long time family friend, Ivan. Together with Scott, we began a wonderful journey in July 2006 which saw us perform this play for audiences in September and October of that year. Each time I hit a milestone, I smile and celebrate. Just as I do this weekend. At times, taking a step back enables me to remember the excitement of that wide eye person I was when my play was first being submitted. It helps motivate me even as I work on the screenplay of this play. Trusted artists wait in anticipation of the screenplay and I am working hard to get them copies as I have promised, but writing and rewriting my life story is one of the most difficult tasks I have ever done. In my writing, I follow the same idea as in my acting. I try to be truthful in the moment. I try to have my audience connect with the piece and along the way evoke a response which makes them feel it was worth giving me their time and attention.

Friday, July 15, 2011

World Premiere Six Years Ago

It was six years ago tonight that I walked into the Cultural Center in downtown Chicago anticipating what at that point was a crowning achievement for my writing. On Friday, July 15, 2005, the Cultural Center was home to Prop THTR's New Play Fest. My autobiographical theater piece, In the Dark, was receiving its world premiere staged reading for a paying public. In August of 2004, Gary Mills had suggested I write this play, but I was not too sure about it. Sure, I had a fun story of high school highlights and college successes, but beyond sharing my thoughts on what it was like to lose my eyesight over night when I was fourteen years old, what could I share with an audience which would keep them intrigued in my writing, story, and acting? I resisted the idea, but after about an hour, I agreed to give it a shot. By the spring of 2005, I had written a first draft. then Gary sent me an email that Prop THTR was in search of new unproduced pieces and he had mentioned my play to people at the theater group who were expecting a copy from me. I did not feel it was ready for submission. Gary agreed, but insisted that the only way I could grow was to send it out and get a response from a company. I did. In june, I received a letter from Emily Lotspeich congratulating me on having a story which needed to be shared. Not only had my piece been selected to be a part of the festival, but Emily would direct it. She put together a cast and I met with them. We read over the script and I went home to work on some rewrites. It was Tuesday night July 12. Only a few days from the first of two readings my play would receive. Upon returning home, I noticed I had a voicemail from my friend, Rani. I called her back and left a message. It was about 10:15p.m. I was tired, but figured I would at least read through my play once more and possibly make some minor changes until Rani would call me back. I started to read. Before long, I was making major changes. I was finding ways to improve the piece. I looked up and saw it was midnight. I was feeling a bit more energized so I kept reading and rewriting. Before I knew it, the clock said it was 3:00a.m. I was flying now. I kept editing until 7a.m. I went to bed and woke up at 10a.m. Immediately, I started up on the script. I implemented changes suggested by Emily and the cast. I also found other areas which I wanted to improve. I spent all day writing until about 5p.m. when I went to rehearsal again. On Thursday morning, I tweaked some more and was finally ready for the world premiere presentation.

I was feeling confident when I arrived two hours before show time. I walked through the lobby and the person into whom I first ran was Rani. She was there and extremely excited to check out this piece. Hearing her excitement only served to energize me even more. It also served as a eye opening moment. Wow! She is hear. This is real! Pretty soon other family and friends would be here too. To write my life story, I had to write about my family and friends so how would they react? When the show began, I was a little disappointed that the place was only half filled. After the show, Gary came up and said it was a successful night as in this one evening the theater had made more money than the entire festival run of the previous year. I was thrilled that my words were being spoken by professional actors and that people had paid to witness my work on display. I was happiest that my parents, one of my sisters and her husband, my lawyer buddy, my best friend's mother, and rani were present. There were other folks there too, but I did not know them. I was proud that whenever I would reflect on the very first time any of my pieces were presented to a paying public, I would always list those deared loved ones which are meaningful in my life. Having those individuals there is why the experience was so special! Then Sunday came along which was the day of the second reading and it was so special to have artists, familys, and friends from all aspects of my life present as the place was packed wall-to-wall and people had to stand along the walls due to an overabundance of people. How thrilling that was to hear such thunderous reactions to various moments of my show. That too was a moving experience for many reasons. As always though, that first one is the most memorable. Six years ago tonight. How fascinating my life is as a result of that moment.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

An Update From Monstrochika

Last Friday, I posted about a talented artist who I met in high school and who is someone whose work is on display as part of Fresh Paint in chicago. Said talented amazing artist and person has now posted a new entry on her blog discussing some of her latest art, reflections on what she is doing, and a link to an hour long interview conducted where she was one of those interviewed about some of the recent events and forms of expression taking place all around us.

Here is Monstrochika's latest entry, please check it out and make sure to check out any of her pieces on displayed:

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Will Run 26.2 Miles For Imerman Angels

I am very confident that everyone knows someone who has had cancer or has cancer. Many people unfortunately can make the claim that a friend, loved one, or significant other has died as a result of this disgusting disease. I have family who survived it. I have friends and friends of friends who have been on death's door only to pull through and live. I also know friends who have died. One of my dear friends passed away just three months ago. To honor her memory and to further show my family members and loved ones that I am with you through it all, I have decided to run the Chicago Marathon this October 9, 2011 as a member of Imerman Angels Team. IA provides one-on-one cancer support to those suffering from cancer so that no one goes through it alone! This world has lost too many wonderful individuals to this horrible disease and often, those who must fight through this feel alone and that no one understands their suffering. Maybe those of us who have never had cancer do not truly understand the situation, but those who have stared death in the face and lived to tell about it can offer a helping hand or a calming voice to tell others what it felt like to endure cancer or the treatment. Above all, those who survived can share what it feels like to triumph. Maybe he or she dealing with cancer is scared and feels all is lost. He or she who is about the same age, gender, or ethnic background can give hope and offer a face behind the story of survival to give the next person the motivation and inspiration to one day be another success story!

Running 26.2 miles is like climbing a mountain. The training, miles, and effort which must go into it are demanding. I have seen the mountain those with cancer must climb and it is an even greater challenge than I am about to endure in preparation for the Chicago Marathon, but I am willing to do my part to honor those closest to me as well as paying tribute to your dear ones with cancer. I ask for your support as I prepare to write my name in the 26.2 record books once more. I will do my part to run as fast as I can. Faster than i have ever run in a race of this distance. I ask that you support me by donating to my cause for Imerman Angels so that no one does face cancer alone.

Throughout the next three months, I will keep you informed here about my progress with fundraising and training. I welcome all who wish to share their experience of how cancer has changed or touched their lives. Together we can be there for each other and can do our part to make this a better world. Please log on and donate at the following site and please pass the link to others:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fresh Paint At Cobalt Studios

Because of my four older sisters, I developed a love for musicals at a young age. By the time I was seven years old, I had seen some of the best productions and enjoyed Annie, Music Man, and West Side Story so it was not a surprise to anyone that when my high school's spring musical one year was West Side Story that I jumped at the chance to audition. I joined the production and was excited at the opportunity to have my moment on the stage as all four of my sisters did throughout every year of their high school careers. In the end, the best part of being in that show was the chance of a lifetime to meet and befriend an amazing talented beautiful young woman named Naomi! For all the wonderful memories of living in the world of the Jets and Sharks or Tony and Maria, the fondest memories are of being around Naomi. She has gone on to become an even greater talent whose comic books, illustrations, and paintings are often on display for those who appreciate the work of amazing artists.

Those living in Chicago will get an opportunity to see this talented artist's latest work on display starting on Saturday, July 9 at Cobalt Studios. Please make sure you check out Fresh Paint. For more information on dates and time as well as an opening five hour reception, please visit the following site:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Code

It may be easy to ask, where have all the writers gone? It is just as easy to answer, they are all still here. People just need to open themselves to the talented writers who are publishing wonderful work for our pleasure and entertainment. One such talented woman is Jen Knox! Her piece, The Code is the Global Short Story Competition winner for May. Congratulations to Jen on the award.

To read the story, visit the following link:

I hope the above link gets you to the story. If not, visit Jen's site for a link to it:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2 Friends Nominated For ESPY AWARD

Each year, you might look back at that year which is coming to a conclusion and wonder what was your favorite, moment, song, book, film, experience? >You might even make your own personal list for your enjoyment or to share with friends via email, Facebook, or Twitter. Like you or many organizations and outlets in the world, ESPN does this look back to the previous year with the ESPY Awards. Fans get to vote on their favorites in different categories. This year, two of my friends have been nominated for ESPY Awards and I am hoping you will vote for them to win this popularity contest.

I met Aaron Scheidies when I raced in my very first triathlon at the New York City Triathlon in 2008. Even prior to meeting him, we spoke on the phone. I read plenty about him online and was tickled at how accomplished and down to earth he was. On the phone, he treated me as though we had been long time friends. When we met, it was more of the same. His story is so moving. It ripped my heart out to read how he had problems with his eye when he was five years old, but doctors insisted he was fine and was simply crying out for attention. He gradually lost his sight to a rare eye condition, but had discovered his athletic skills. He hoped to continued his athletic career post eyesight lost and he was able to do so by racing triathlons. In October of 2007, Scheidies, with Ben Collins as his sighted guide, broke the two hour barrier for an olympic distance triathlon by completing the race which consists of a .9 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike ride, and 6.2 mile run in one hour and fifty-seven minutes. He has also competed at the world championships for olympic distances, Half Ironman, and full Ironman triathlons. He is a world champion triathlete and even greater individual. He is nominated for Male Athlete With A Disability.

I first read about Melissa Stockwell in an online article. She had served this country as a member of the army. Melissa proudly went to Iraq to take part in the war. Three weeks after arriving, she lost her leg in a roadside bomb. She was twenty-four years old at the time. She was crushed that in losing her leg, she would no longer be able to participate in sports which she loved doing as much as she loved representing her country in battle. Eventually, Stockwell found herself in a swimming pool and discovered that while in the pool she was herself again. She began competing in swim events and discovered she had a talent for triathlons too. She raced in Chicago and soon found herself in New York City in the summer of 2010 competing in the National Championship for Physically Challenged athletes. She performed so well, she qualified for the world championship which she simply went out and won! Shortly after learning of her inspirational story, I was told about a new group, Dare2Tri Chicago Paratriathlon Club of which, Melissa was one of the founding members. I was asked if I had interest in joining the team. To meet Melissa and race along side? Of course, yes! When I finally did meet her, I was in awe of the magnificent woman. She is nominated for Female Athlete With A Disability.

Please vote for Aaron and Melissa at the following site:!/voting/

For more information on Aaron, please visit:

For more information on Melissa, please visit:

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Fourth Of July Thank You

I just wanted to take this time to say thank you very much to all of my readers and followers. I appreciate that I have an audience who takes an interest in my theater, film, and athletics. I hope you visit often and I am able to keep you informed and entertained. I hope that you tell your family, friends, and enemies to visit my site and read my anticipation, reflections, or promotions. I especially want to express my gratitude to those individuals who have become my friends over the years who often provide me with advice and assistance whether with my theater pieces, screenplays, or racing ventures. I often arrive to a conclusion, but ever the artist, I often question myself and the conclusion to which I have arrived so it is wonderful when others whom I trust tell me what I have felt all along. One example is how my friend, Matt Miller, actor, model, triathlete, film producer, roofing contracter, told me that I would eventually notice that my racing triathlons and road races would collide and become one with my artistic ventures. This is something I knew for a while, but having someone whom I respect tremendously say that meant plenty as he was speaking from the experience of living it. I am finding that people who help me with artistic projects are the same ones who can help with my athletic ones. Just as I find that someone who comes into my life to be a sighted guide for me to race a triathlon or marathon end up becoming friends who work in the entertainment field for their day job. It is so fascinating how these worlds are constantly colliding and becoming one.

Over the couple of years since I have been maintaining this blog, I have been contacted by so many individuals who also discover me on Facebook or Twitter and I thank all of you for becoming my friend, followers, and inspiration. Some of those talented individuals provide me with a look into what they do and I find myself motivated to keep pushing to achieve greatness. I do my best to highlight them and their work here as they too are part of Team Antonio. As always, anyone who plays a role in helping me even in situations they may not realize it, I will always shine a light on him or her!

Happy Day of declaring independence from England. I hope you are safe and have enjoyed the day and weekend with loved ones. Please continue to read my blog, tell others, and always feel free to reach out to me. Thank you!