Remembering 9/11

I remember it well, from the balcony on the 39th floor of my Midtown Manhattan office building located just 3 miles north of The World Trade Towers. Chapter 43 of my memoir, Simply Between Millions: From Wall Street to Hollywood, recants that fateful day 20 years ago today:

CHAPTER 43 – 9/11

“As I write these words, it is exactly one week prior to the 10th Anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. This is how I remember it:

It was the most beautiful of NYC days. Crystal clear blue skies and a coolness that made everything in the city feel alive. I was excited to go to work that day because I was giving my printer the thumbs up for my first mailing, The Tola Report. It was this fancy, four-page color flyer that was going out to more than 1,000 owners. I had spent the past six weeks getting it ready. Now it would be finalized and sent out directly from the printer. I also purchased two new suits and was excited to get them to my tailor on John Street. My tailor was less than 500 yards from the World Trade Center. I had planned to go there before I went to the office – he opened at 8 AM. But I was running late and the subways were crowded, so I decided to go straight to work and then go see him during lunch. I arrived at my Midtown office just before 8 AM.

If I had stayed on the Lexington Avenue subway line, I can only guess that I would have been at my tailor’s at exactly the time the first plane hit.

View from Midtown Manhattan on 9/11 – RIP

Our office had a balcony with an unobstructed view of Tower I and a partial view of Tower II (about half). As I was proof-reading my report for the last time, a senior broker, Zev, came running past me with a huge pair of binoculars. I would soon learn that he was a paratrooper in the Israeli Army and loved his military binoculars. He screamed, “Smoke’s coming out of the Tower”, as he ran by. I turned to look out my window and then at my clock radio that was playing the news. It was 8:44 AM, and there was still no mention of it. About three minutes later the reporter sounded confused when he said something about a small plane had hit the World Trade Center. I went to the balcony to check it out. A few other brokers and assistants had joined me, and others were in my office listening to the radio. We passed the binoculars back and forth, each taking a few minutes to look. Soon we were all staring at each other because we knew it wasn’t a small plane. There was way too much smoke pouring out of a huge swath of floors high up on Tower I. As real estate people, we strangely knew it would fall. Then a plane hit Tower II and it was chaos. Everyone in the office seemed to be running all over the place, onto the balcony, into my office, over to each other’s desks, until I found myself alone on the balcony.

Time stood still for the next two minutes as I secured myself so the binoculars wouldn’t move a millimeter. Then I focused my sights on Tower I. The stainless steel skin of the building, right below where the smoke was pouring out, was peeled away like a banana skin, arching away from the building, frozen in the air.

I then saw two men climb onto the steel skin, one behind the other, clinging for dear life, crawling away from the inferno. When the first man couldn’t go any further, he let go. As he plunged to his death, he did what appeared to be a backward swan dive. The other man soon followed, and when he let go, he grabbed his knees and slowly tumbled forward. I put down the binoculars and went inside. I’m not sure what happened next, other than I was on the balcony with a few others when Tower I fell. I didn’t have the binoculars, but I watched in shock as Tower I slowly crumbled to the ground. The same for Tower II – I was on the balcony and stayed until I could no longer see the horizon.

The next thing I remember, I was standing in the middle of Madison Avenue looking downtown at the smoke-filled sky. Cars were stopped dead in their tracks, doors open, people just standing there, screaming and pointing to downtown. If felt like a scene from a movie, as New Yorkers fled the streets not sure what to do. It soon felt like everyone was moving north. Me and two other brokers who lived in New Jersey walked north to my place. The entire time I looked back over my shoulder, trying to figure out what happened. All cell phones were dead, so it was word of mouth from the people in the streets. Once we got to my place, we put the TV on and set up camp. My apartment was busy with friends coming and going. By 6 PM, my broker friends had left, and fortunately, they both got off the island and made it home safely.

The next day, Jimmy V and I took the subway south to Canal Street. For some reason, we both needed to go there. The subways weren’t running past Canal, so we got out and walked east toward the Manhattan Bridge. Every street running south to downtown was barricaded with NYC policemen. We finally found a side street in Chinatown where we snuck by and made our way toward the rubble. It was at least a mile away. By the time we got to Foley Square, Jimmy V had an asthma attack. The air quality was bad, and of course, we shouldn’t have been there. Since he could barely breathe, we went down into the subway, just to get away from the polluted air. Twenty minutes later, we headed back.

What I remember most about our trip wasn’t the sounds and smells of the city that day. It was the two-inch layer of soot and ash delicately resting on the wrought iron fence surrounding Foley Square. It looked like really dirty, dry snow had fallen – it was eerie and yet strangely peaceful at the same time. I truly did feel my skin crawl that day. Something I won’t forget for the rest of my life.”

RIP to those who perished, and continued strength, happiness and unity for the rest of us.

Have an awesome weekend everyone…and get your workout in!

Peace – R

Tola Yoga thanks you back!

Over the past 11 years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching some really inspiring students from NYC to LA to Chicago to Seattle – and several places in between – who make it all worth while.

Thanks for the memories everyone, and especially these kind words. Peace – R

“When I walk into Rich’s class feeling emotionally weak, without a doubt, every week, at the end of the hour, I feel stronger and more confident.” – Adriana R.

“Thank you so much for filling our little Seattle yoga class with such wonderful joy & skills. You are AMAZING and I have learned a ton!” – Sallie B.

“Rich is a master at sequencing poses. My body always feels great for hours after class.” – Lauren A.

“It’s very well-structured, plus I get a great full-body workout every time I take Rich’s class. He’s the best!” – Vika L.

“After 10 years, I took my practice to a new level when I started taking Tola Yoga classes.” – Rhonda C.

“Tola Yoga is effective in strengthening and stretching every part of your body, plus it’ll make you sweat!” – Ron W.

“Rich’s classes are transformative.”  – Jeremy S.

“Thank you for your classes and training this past year. I spent six weeks after knee surgery without putting any weight on my left leg, and because of your super long standing sequences, my right leg was strong enough to carry me throughout. For that I am grateful.” – Ananya D.

“We’ll be very sad to see you go… I get RAVE reviews about your class.” – Manager, TRIBE Fitness in Seattle

Explore the world…including Vancouver

If there’s one piece of advice I can give – other than workout everyday and live by Yoga principles to build a strong body clear mind – it’s these three words:

Explore the world.

I just spent the past three days in Vancouver, Canada exploring a plethora of neighborhoods like Gastown, Downtown, Coal Harbor, West End, Davie Village, Yaletown, Kitsilano and Mt. Pleasant.  An amazing 25 miles worth of walking around one of the most beautiful, clean, vibrant and fashionable cities I’ve ever lived or visited. There’s been quite a few.

In Vancouver you’ll find tons of great shops and eateries and cool street fashion that had me people watching as much as checking out the sleek modern architecture that’s everywhere.

There’s also tons of little parks and beaches and public art that seem to pop-up out of nowhere. Like the A-maze-ing Laughter in Morton Park consisting of 14 enormous bronze statues – in all different poses – of a shirtless guy laughing hysterically. And what a great way to get your daily workout in. By kicking-the-bricks, as we used to say back in my NYC real estate days.

Speaking of which, Vancouver also has that international cosmopolitan feel, much like Manhattan and Chicago. Plus, the hi-rise apartment building where I stayed had one of those old-school Universal weight machines and some dumbbells, which came in handy every morning.  Add to that a yoga class, or better yet, a free 30-minute Tola Yoga class, and voila, you’re set!

So pack your bags, pick your destination, and do a little exploring on your own.

Peace – R

Go With All Your Heart

Many years ago, my sister gave me this polished piece of black stone inscribed with this:

Wherever You Go, Go With All Your Heart

I’ve keep it by my bed ever since, to remind me of what should be. For everyone on the planet.

Because it’s all about shining your light – coming from your heart, that is – out into the Universe in the most positive, truthful and heartfelt way.

Hey, what do you expect coming from a Yoga dude who’s been practicing and teaching this mind-body-spirit, self-love and self-respect, “it’s a lifestyle” practice for over twelve years.

Think about it. Wouldn’t life be grand If you shared the very best of you…all the time. You know the one: upbeat, positive, smiling, confident, respectful and considerate. To name a few.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Peace – R

Stand-up in the East Village NYC & next show in LA

eastvillecomedy clubHappy Cinco de Mayo everyone…hope you’re having an awesome day!

I’m looking forward to returning to NYC next week and will be performing at the EastVille Comedy Club on 85 E. 4th Street next Tuesday, May 12th starting at 6p.  My next LA show will be at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank on Saturday, May 23rd from 7:30-9p in the YooHoo Room.

Good stuff all around as I continue to write new Stand-up material and learn that just because you have a great Topic and a Premise, doesn’t mean you’ll have a great joke. Thus the need to keep re-working your material again and again, once you’ve tried it in public.

Like I did at my recent Flappers show on April 24th. It’s always a rush when you get when you get up on stage, plus you learn a lot about what jokes are working as well as get accustomed to both hot and cold audiences. Quite a journey, and one that gets better with each performance.

Keep believing you can & sit tall in the saddle. And don’t forget your daily workout! Peace – R