Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story
(on a postcard)

#153 The Coolness of Ben Tanzer

Ben Tanzer was born in 1968 in Washington, D.C., but raised in upstate New York. His father was a painter and his mother a psychotherapist; both were Jews from the Bronx, advocates for peace and the intellectual. As a kid, Ben read books at the dinner table even though everybody else talked. Ben hated little league, but played soccer for years. He wrestled until he broke his leg skiing. He ran track and cross-country throughout high school. Once, at the drive-in on a date, Ben was kissing with his eyes open when he saw a glowing, white cylindrical UFO hovering above the drive-in. In the local paper the next day, it was reported that other people saw it too, but it couldn’t be explained by anything military or weather-related. Ben didn’t study much until college, but he studied obsessively in college and was a double-major—English honors and psychology. The first time Ben saw his wife, she was doing aerobics in the basement of their freshman dorm. Ben vowed to meet her and did when it turned out their roommates were secretly dating and he found himself needing somewhere to sleep one night. They have now known each other longer than they have not, which is pretty cool. One thing Ben regrets about college is not going abroad and being too focused on grades, substance abuse, sports, being cool, and getting laid. One morning, toward the end of college, after another long night, Ben looked out at the dreary upstate morning and tried to think of the farthest place from there. He moved to San Francisco one month after graduation, and it was one of the best decisions he ever made. So was marrying his wife in 1996—and have their two kids (he hopes both of them soon begin to sleep through the night). And so was deciding to become a writer around his 30th birthday, something he had been thinking about for maybe 10 years. In 2007, he published his first novel, Lucky Man, which was great—not just getting published, but also meeting all sorts of wonderful writers and artists. In 2008, Ben published his second novel—Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine—as well as the story collection, Repetition Patterns. Right now, Ben is the director of strategic communications at the national office of Prevent Child Abuse America (he received his masters in social work in 1996). It helps that Ben has a great ability to listen to others and ask them questions about themselves. What else? Ben still runs and reads compulsively. Plus, would love to find more down time to be lo-fi and low-key with his wonderful wife. And, at some point, he will learn how to surf, how to play guitar, and how to break cement blocks with his forehead—all things that would make Ben even cooler than he already is.

[Update: Ben Tanzer's new essay collection, 99 Problems: Essays about Running and Writing is now available Radiohead-style pay-what-you-want from CCLaP Publishing. Also, his new novel, You Can Make Him Like You is coming out in mid-December from Artistically Declined.]
Comments (1)

#228 Nick Kane: Ninja for Hire

Nick Kane was born in 1983, the oldest of 6 kids. His mom struggled with eating and prescription meds. His dad was abusive. His mom often ran away from home (and so did Nick). To manage, Nick would often go break dancing. He was never home if he could help it. As a kid, Nick loved magic because you can create your own reality with magic. At 12, Nick’s parents divorced. All the kids got put in separate foster homes, which was terrible. Nick didn’t know his brothers and sisters for much of his childhood. In high school, Nick explored many religions and eventually found his faith as an open-minded Christian. He ran an underground dance club and made a public access TV show with dance, improv, and stunts. Nick was also politically active, held office in student government, and started a massage club. In college, Nick studied dance and film. Eventually, he became a dance addict—giving dance lessons during the day and going out dancing nearly every night. When Nick is in motion, everything fits and he connects with people on a spiritual level. In 2002, Nick was carjacked, kidnapped, robbed, and almost murdered. The kidnapper took him to a secret crack house where they thought he was a narc and tried to kill him. Eventually, Nick escaped. That same year, Nick started an arts-based church (ABC) that worshipped god with art. For years, he lived in and ran a coffee shop his friend owned (it had open mics, karaoke, and live bands). Nick was kicked out when he refused to fire an employee unjustly. Then he did fine art photography, had shows, did photos for local papers, and shot weddings. After that, Nick started a non-profit called SAFE (Starving Artist Food and Employment) that brought food to artists and found them work teaching or doing their art. Nick lost his virginity when he was date raped by a girl he knew. In 2004, Nick got his dream job—working the teleprompter and floor directing for NBC. Unfortunately, NBC fired him 2 days from being union. Nick was devastated. After that, Nick was recruited (for surveillance photography) and trained to be a tactical crowd control riot officer, but he ended up using his guard card to work security at Taco Bell. In 2006, Nick moved out to LA with only $300. He lived with a friend for 2 months and then lived in his car for a year. Nick took showers at Venice Beach and worked for free as a PA and grip to gain film set experience. Nick loved this life until he got sick and there was nobody to take care of him. He went back home to heal before coming back to LA, where he thought he had a paid post-production job set up. The job didn’t happen so Nick just kept showing up until they hired him. Nick found a place to live, organized his housemates into an intentional community, and taught free weekly dance lessons to the public. Nick has never loved money. In 2009, he got really poor, so he signed up to be a human test subject for NASA, but did not pass the tests. Nick still works as a grip in the movie business (he loves light). He’s really proud of the music video he directed. Besides film crew gigs, Nick does background acting, sells popsicles on the beach, teaches kids after school, does street performances, and makes appearances as a clown to earn money. Nick dresses up as a ninja to make youtube videos and he collaborates with other artists any way he can.

[Update: Craigslist has made a short documentary about Nick Kane, Ninja for Hire.]
Comments (1)

#228 Nick Kane Collaborates with Everybody

Nick Kane was born in 1983, the oldest of 6 kids. His mom struggled with eating and prescription meds. His dad was abusive. His mom often ran away from home (and so did Nick). To manage, Nick would often go break dancing. He was never home if he could help it. As a kid, Nick loved magic because you can create your own reality with magic. At 12, Nick’s parents divorced. All the kids got put in separate foster homes, which was terrible. Nick didn’t know his brothers and sisters for much of his childhood. In high school, Nick explored many religions and eventually found his faith as an open-minded Christian. He ran an underground dance club and made a public access TV show with dance, improv, and stunts. Nick was also politically active, held office in student government, and started a massage club. In college, Nick studied dance and film. Eventually, he became a dance addict—giving dance lessons during the day and going out dancing nearly every night. When Nick is in motion, everything fits and he connects with people on a spiritual level. In 2002, Nick was carjacked, kidnapped, robbed, and almost murdered. The kidnapper took him to a secret crack house where they thought he was a narc and tried to kill him. Eventually, Nick escaped. That same year, Nick started an arts-based church (ABC) that worshipped god with art. For years, he lived in and ran a coffee shop his friend owned (it had open mics, karaoke, and live bands). Nick was kicked out when he refused to fire an employee unjustly. Then he did fine art photography, had shows, did photos for local papers, and shot weddings. After that, Nick started a non-profit called SAFE (Starving Artist Food and Employment) that brought food to artists and found them work teaching or doing their art. Nick lost his virginity when he was date raped by a girl he knew. In 2004, Nick got his dream job—working the teleprompter and floor directing for NBC. Unfortunately, NBC fired him 2 days from being union. Nick was devastated. After that, Nick was recruited (for surveillance photography) and trained to be a tactical crowd control riot officer, but he ended up using his guard card to work security at Taco Bell. In 2006, Nick moved out to LA with only $300. He lived with a friend (#210 Erik Larson) for 2 months and then lived in his car for a year. Nick took showers at Venice Beach and worked for free as a PA and grip to gain film set experience. Nick loved this life until he got sick and there was nobody to take care of him. He went back home to heal before coming back to LA, where he thought he had a paid post-production job set up. The job didn’t happen so Nick just kept showing up until they hired him. Nick found a place to live, organized his housemates into an intentional community, and taught free weekly dance lessons to the public. Nick has never loved money. In 2009, he got really poor, so he signed up to be a human test subject for NASA, but did not pass the tests. Nick still works as a grip in the movie business (he loves light). He’s really proud of the music video he directed. Besides film crew gigs, Nick does background acting, sells popsicles on the beach, teaches kids after school, does street performances, and makes appearances as a clown to earn money. Nick dresses up as a ninja to make youtube videos and he collaborates with other artists any way he can.

Video of Nick dancing.
Behind the scenes of a music video Nick directed.
Nick doing his ninja thing.
Nick appears briefly in a green suit on Community, Season 1, Episode 4, toward the end, around 20 minutes.
Photo credits: Andre Andreev
Comments

#153 The Coolness of Ben Tanzer

Ben Tanzer was born in 1968 in Washington, D.C., but raised in upstate New York. His father was a painter and his mother a psychotherapist; both were Jews from the Bronx, advocates for peace and the intellectual. As a kid, Ben read books at the dinner table even though everybody else talked. Ben hated little league, but played soccer for years. He wrestled until he broke his leg skiing. He ran track and cross-country throughout high school. Once, at the drive-in on a date, Ben was kissing with his eyes open when he saw a glowing, white cylindrical UFO hovering above the drive-in. In the local paper the next day, it was reported that other people saw it too, but it couldn’t be explained by anything military or weather-related. Ben didn’t study much until college, but he studied obsessively in college and was a double-major—English honors and psychology. The first time Ben saw his wife, she was doing aerobics in the basement of their freshman dorm. Ben vowed to meet her and did when it turned out their roommates were secretly dating and he found himself needing somewhere to sleep one night. They have now known each other longer than they have not, which is pretty cool. One thing Ben regrets about college is not going abroad and being too focused on grades, substance abuse, sports, being cool, and getting laid. One morning, toward the end of college, after another long night, Ben looked out at the dreary upstate morning and tried to think of the farthest place from there. He moved to San Francisco one month after graduation, and it was one of the best decisions he ever made. So was marrying his wife in 1996—and have their two kids (he hopes both of them soon begin to sleep through the night). And so was deciding to become a writer around his 30th birthday, something he had been thinking about for maybe 10 years. In 2007, he published his first novel, Lucky Man, which was great—not just getting published, but also meeting all sorts of wonderful writers and artists. In 2008, Ben published his second novel—Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine—as well as the story collection, Repetition Patterns. Right now, Ben is the director of strategic communications at the national office of Prevent Child Abuse America (he received his masters in social work in 1996). It helps that Ben has a great ability to listen to others and ask them questions about themselves. What else? Ben still runs and reads compulsively. Plus, would love to find more down time to be lo-fi and low-key with his wonderful wife. And, at some point, he will learn how to surf, how to play guitar, and how to break cement blocks with his forehead—all things that would make Ben even cooler than he already is.

This Blog Will Change Your Life (starring Ben Tanzer)
Comments (2)
See Older Posts...


Share/Save/Bookmark

Subscribe



© 2008-2011 Michael Kimball