SWEETER THAN BITTERSWEET: Friday Night Dining With Some Of The UASE's Best

Ever hear the one joke about the New Yorker and the Canadian? ...Nah, me neither!
It's not easy as I'm writing this on a crisp, chilly Saturday morning while at work again. Granted, it's neither the cold nor is it the usual next-day recovery period from loss of sleep. Rather, it's more perfunctory in that I'm lucky if I get to be in a room at least once or twice a year with as many like-minded people as I got to last night at the Times Square Diner And Grill in wake of all happening at this year's fifth annual Urban Action Showcase & Expo. Indeed, it took a little help whilst planning a gathering of what I expected initially to be a handful of maybe ten people plus a few local friends, and with the help of D.L. MacDonald, a stuntman freshly in from Canada wearing, of all things, a few layered shirts and a pair of shorts, smack-dab in our below-zero windchill of the evening temperature. Some were impressed by way of his acclimation to the cold while a few others like myself were a little more surprised. I was even late in realizing it too.

As promised to those in the know, I got to the diner around ten in the evening and met up with D.L. before briefly chatting it up and ordering our meals. He had a whole breakfast entree in mind while I kept my intake restrained at a sweet little dessert that was very filling. I didn't take pics of my food so, which I know is blasphemous in today's age of sharing and showoffiness but...whatever. I can only be but so narcissistic. 😛 My memory fails me in recalling the time between my arrival and that of the first wave of people from the UASE but the evening's reunions and new meets-and-greets all happened in the space of about what would be the next eventful three-and-a-half hours. The diner staff allowed us a longer table section prior to the entry of Rising Tiger Films' Leroy Nguyen, Kye Park, Edmond Shum and Cullen Joseph-Cook and their party of about six people, marking our second time together since 2015. Filmmaker Ronny Vega came a little while after, walking with his first UASE award for his new supernatural vigilante short, Santos, a while before more people walked in with filmmaker and action actor, Team Red's own Joseph Le and his party of five and shared their own table.

As you might imagine, it was getting a little crowded. It was either Ronny or Leroy who even joked that I should have rented out the diner for the night. I might have! Well...I probably could have...I really don't know, needless to say, the next few hours got a little more hectic. I had partly expected to meet up with actress Ishida Sachiko who was in town with actors, James Moten-Black and filmmaker Choice Skinner to present their Black Lighting fan film project to the UASE. Little did I know that she would be joined by her fellow cohorts along with a few others in their entourage; Their stay would be only for a brief moment before they all sought to their own plans for the night, however, but not before Choice, who I friended only earlier this year, promulgated an emphatic show of support for me that pretty much silenced our entire crowd. It's not every day someone catches you off guard like that, and in a way that makes you feel like you're celebrating the coolest birthday you've ever had on the wrong date. It's also weird because in my shoes, you still feel like you're trying to earn your way upward and the last thing you want to do is take the spotlight away from the very people you're lending lip service to. Nonetheless, it was a pretty warm moment and as far as first impressions go, I'm happy to have had such a positive affect to be seen as deserving of the kind of praise that everyone listening to Choice felt receptive to.

Ronny was especially thankful as well prior to settling in for the night with his cousin, Danny, a fellow local, escorting him. He actually wanted to do an impromptu fighting skit on the sidewalk before leaving but as we set it up, his battery died and so that was the story of that. It was a fun meet and greet with him though, as I'd been following his work for several years now with fellow Florida film cohort, Khalil Barnett, to date, and privy to Ronny's own story of struggle amid the tragic loss of a dear friend, Santos co-star Steve Villalobos. The conversation we shared with everyone at our long table between us Rising Tiger was frankly stimulating with respect to independent film production and the consensus of assembling a team that puts unmitigated support first and foremost before material benefits in the process of growing and working to succeed. It was a remarkable and insightful chat, and all in between passing homoerotic jokes about...burgers.

I'll let you figure that one out. 🤣

The remaining hour or so left me with Rising Tiger and Team Red, with Art School Dropouts arriving well into what would have been my own exit home on any other day. I essentially stuck around for as long as I could and also had the pleasure of meeting Stephanie Pham and Angela Jordan, the two foremost members of ASDO along with Patrick Banzali, frequent collaborator and Sifu Brian Kuttel with girlfriend, Devy, prior to Joey Min and I sharing one of the biggest hugs among the bunch. There were a lot of faces last night and too many names to remember, which sucks because I used to be fantastic with names and I don't know what the heck happened in my life other than the wheel turning. 🙄 Oh well...

Eventually the folks from Rising Tiger left and it was great seeing them again. Leroy and I didn't talk much directly except in between passing group conversation, and he was adamant about his hopes of seeing me share space someday soon at the Urban Action Showcase and Expo with everyone in the not too distant future. He makes a point too; Given that it's a New York City event which would otherwise be totally feasible for me to attend were it not for my work hours with family, it only makes sense, and in which case, I'm pleased to see such an event like this exist so tangibly, save for last year's Sky Lounge blunder wherein I was left outside in the chilly evening rain due to there being a dress code...

Fair play.

Eventually D.L. left us for the night and our group dwindled down to ASDO and select folks from Team Red whose Joseph Le was curious know more about my thoughts on Jackie Chan's recent thriller, The Foreigner, which I haven't seen yet and will get to, eventually. I spent the wee hours of our evening with Joey, and even getting to know Angela a bit regarding her 16-ish/17 year journey as a martial artist and recently as a principle actress with ASDO in recent shortfilm hits like The Legend Of Korra: A New Beginning, and season one of their original webseries My Asian Auntie. I didn't have an ample chance for a one-on-one with Stephanie but I did get to listen to her chat about working with Vincent Lyn, as well as ASDO's latest online project, The Forgotten Kingdom: A Kung Fu LARP Story, in which D.L. stars as the antagonistic King opposite Joey, and other shared, interpersonal hilarities among ASDO; theirs is more of a family unit than a mere film group, and one definitely with its own share of interesting identities, proclivities and conventions, and so aside from their regular vlogs and my hopes for a Korra sequel, I certainly hope we'll see the likes a riotous new ASDO project - people fighting in one's sleep and such.

I ended up having to leave the group around a quarter to 2 a.m. on Saturday and while the mood was still as bright as the sun, it still felt eerily early to walk away from knowing in all likelihood I probably won't see these people for another year. What I am thankful for, at the end of the day though, is that with all that permeates around the UASE, I have an avenue to help coordinate myself with in terms of meeting people and making some memories. It's also one of the few times of the year I get to have fun with friends and acquaintances through what I do and it never ceases to be a thrill each time, and I'm looking forward to a Christmas party next month as well provided things work out.

Moreover, I am even more glad to have had the help I needed from D.L. to make Friday night happen for all of us. I had been following him since January in 2013 through his affiliation as a stuntman with Eclipse Stunts and the remnants of other stunt groups throughout Canada and I'm glad it didn't take any longer than four years (by comparison, it took ten to finally meet Sunny Smith from Jabronie Pictures and close to within twelve before I would share a table or two with visiting members of the group formerly known as Zero Gravity). Unfortunately, there were people who couldn't come that I would have loved to see join us apart from the ones I didn't contact lest our group get any bigger than the staff at the diner could handle. Even D.L. was a little bit worried in the days prior about numbers and logistics overall and well, there were we more than twenty of us for the evening with few rotating here and there. That said, that Times Square Diner & Grill was a 24/7 eatery and more than accommodating for us something of a miracle, especially considering how challenging it was to find a spot worth convening together in the first place. This, on top of the fact that it was cold as balls outside and the atmosphere was perfect and warm enough to keep us steady.

Wistfulness aside, everything else just fell into place. I had a terrific dessert, shared laughs and hugs with as many people as possible, and even earned myself some impromptu commendation in the process. And on that note, I especially made sure that this included some photo opportunities (and in no certain order since Imgur's uploader is such a constant drunk).

Not bad for a guy dressed in flannel and cargos with $40 bucks in his pocket and no tux.😊


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