Tag Archives: Los Angeles

DISASTER STRIKES!! What Would You Take With You?

“If we fear loss enough, in the end the things we possess will come to possess us.” –Rachel Naomi Remen

Hello friend,

True confession: I am a bit of a hoarder. My mother teasingly calls me “Pack Rat” over my unwillingness to throw things away. She ought to know: her basement is still full of my old t-shirts, trophies, and football cards. I wish I could say I have become better about that with age. No, I still find reasons to keep just about everything that comes my way, no matter how useless or out of style it is or becomes.

I am not sure where this comes from.

Some of it is pure nostalgia. I like the Air Jordan shirt I used to wear in college—when Jordan gear still had the Nike swoosh on it—because it makes me smile whenever I go through my stuff. Do I ever wear it? No. I like that smile, though. The same goes for old books I will never read again, expired driver’s licenses, even eyeglasses I used to wear.

Some of it is in anticipation of hard times. I save for a rainy day (and I am cheap). I know that the gurus tell us to anticipate abundance and live accordingly, but I am really bad at that. When I worked in Tennis, I got some free gear every year. Like a squirrel preparing for Winter, I saved everything I could in anticipation of the day, some years away, when I would return to playing, or when my kids would get serious about it. Same for when I worked in Running: I stocked up on free or cheap shoes so that I won’t need to shell out any money for several more years of exercising. It’s all here in my home, stuffed in every nook and cranny.

When we were planning to buy a house several years ago, one of my requirements was that it be large enough to accommodate two of my defining idiosyncratic needs: 1) my boatloads of nostalgia/junk (depending upon who you ask J), and 2) my own space to be alone. I got my wish: we have a house that has lots of space, all of which is filled. My clothes are in the guest room, and my everything else fills the large basement. I have multiple work spaces, where I am surrounded (suffocated?) by things at all times. So many things….

While tooling around Facebook this week, I came across a post by an old friend that upset my psychological apple cart. It said, “Worst thing I lost in the fire: 3 ½ years of journaling. With every entry I wrote a 6 line poem, that rhymed. Kurt Vonnegut wrote in an essay that journaling can be a daily cathartic moment, or some amount of time. But more important was a six line poem that didn’t need much thought, just do it; keeps the mind sharp. I lost somewhere around 1800 six line poems (not one was worth reading twice). So it goes.  

I suddenly felt so sad and empty. I just wanted to give him a hug.

It rattled me, too, though. Shook me up.

Twenty years ago, when I was just getting in the swing of writing often and long in my journal, I left it at a laundromat in Los Angeles. Later that night (after closing time), when I realized it, I had a little panic attack. In my short time with it, my journal had become priceless to me. I simply could not bring myself to imagine the loss. My heart pounded in my chest until the next morning, when I showed up at the door right before the place opened. The old janitor went back into his closet to look for my book as I sweated and prayed, sweated and prayed. When he walked out with it in his hands, I wanted to kiss him. I have been hyper-vigilant with each volume ever since, afraid to relive that trauma for fear it would not turn out so happily the next time.

And now my old journals are a part of my work as one my book projects, which only increases their worth. Though I am aware they hold absolutely zero value to anyone else, they truly are priceless to me.

In the aftermath of my friend’s tragic post—the fire had been several months ago, and he survived, but the news about the lost journals was new—and my bout of minor post-traumatic stress, I got to thinking about just what I would choose to salvage if I knew a natural disaster was coming and I could only choose a few possessions. In my head, I gave myself more leeway than someone running out of a fire, just enough time to get the few things I really wanted, even if they were in the very back of the closet.

Of course, my journals were the very first thing that came to mind. I have a few plastic totes full of them, but every page would have to come. I was so relieved at the very thought of saving them, at first I wondered if there was anything else that would sadden me much to lose (to be clear: in my imaginary scenario, no people or pets are in danger). Was it just the journals?

No, but I didn’t stray very far from that vein. As further evidence that the material possessions that I value most in this world are just my memories and impressions of my time here, the very next thing that I would take is the small box that holds my camera’s filled memory cards. These little coin-sized gems hold thousands and thousands of priceless moments from my life as a parent. They are also another version of the way I capture my world. When I am old and can no longer do much for myself, I will put on some good music and a continuously looping slide show of all of these beautiful images that remind me of my true treasures.

If I get to be greedy and take more than my journals and photo cards, the last things I will grab are my computers that have all of my other writing in them. Again, the representations of my soul and my journey win out.

I guess my theme is consistent. It reminds me of my Mom’s answers when my siblings and I would ask her what we could get her for Mother’s Day. She always just wanted us to make something for her, something from the heart, like homemade cards or art projects. The “things” I really want to hold onto from my house full of stuff are just things that I have made, stuff from my heart. The other stuff is just, well, stuff. I’m okay without it.

How about you? What are your most valued possessions? Open up your journal and think about everything you own. If a natural disaster were on its way to destroy your home and you could choose but a few items, what would you take with you? Do your answers come quickly to mind and strike you as obvious, or do you have to dig around and make some tough decisions? What is it about the obvious ones that make them so easy? Are they things that you have no way of replacing? Are they memory items, like family photos, souvenirs, or heirlooms? Are they very expensive to buy? Are they super-personal or more general? Which of your items are things that probably wouldn’t make it on other people’s lists? Why do those unique things make it onto yours? Do your choices have a consistent theme, like the way mine are all about how I chronicle my life? What do your choices say about what you value? If you lost absolutely everything you own—but weren’t out anything financially—how do you think you would handle it psychologically? I picture myself going catatonic for a while, a lá Cameron in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, unable to face the loss of my writing and photos. To what degree do your possessions, as the opening quote suggested, possess you? On a scale of one to ten, how materialistic do you think you are? Leave me a reply and let me know: If you had only one load to run out the door with, what would you take? 

Be your best today,


If today’s letter had you questioning, pass it on. And remember: The best things in life aren’t things at all. Cheers!

Waiting For My Rocketship

DSC_0141“Too many people are waiting for Jesus to come along and cut your grass. And Jesus isn’t going to come along and cut your grass.” —Bill Cosby

Hello friend,

When I was a starving actor living in Los Angeles in my early 20s, I clung to the hope of that rare story of the star who is discovered while waiting tables or walking down the street. It is such a romantic tale, and it sucked me in completely. I was sure that would happen to me, too. That possibility served as an opiate, making me too passive when it came to pursuing my dream and really banging down people’s doors to make it happen.

It is true that dumb luck sometimes plays a major role in breaking in or “making it” in Hollywood—there are countless beautiful people out there, many of whom are talented—but I think falling for that idea of the random discovery is a bad idea. Not only does it placate you in the moment, but also, if you are like me and learning it in early adulthood, you can end up carrying that model with you for the rest of your life, even well after you re-enter “civilian life”. You can come to believe that if you are talented enough and just hanging around, success is bound to fall into your lap sooner or later. Your rocketship will come to pick you up, zooming you directly to stardom.

But then there is a lot of hanging around with an empty lap and a “Where the heck is that rocketship, anyway?” look on your face.

I think that I have spent a good portion of my life wearing that expression. I was probably not much different than most kids, dreaming about becoming a professional athlete, Nobel Prize winner, movie star, or the like. When I actually decided to become a movie star, I think that I probably believed that moving out to Hollywood and taking acting classes was all that it was going to take from my end. The rest would take care of itself when that producer or casting director walked into the restaurant where I was waiting tables and signed me to a deal on the spot, whisking me away from the drudgery of restaurant servitude and paycheck-to-paycheck living, to a life of creative freedom, affluence, and influence. At the very least, I hoped some wealthy patron of the arts would notice me in a play and agree to fund me while I work on my craft, freeing me from the “joe job” that was not at all my passion. “Every artist needs a patron,” I always said, and I assumed the Universe would see the wisdom in that idea and promptly reveal my deep-pocketed patron. I should have packed a lunch, because I waited a long time for a rescue that never came.

In the many years that have passed since those hopeful days in L.A., I have waited for other rocketships as well. One of my most frequent targets has been the lottery. That’s right, I have always suspected that it is my destiny to win the Powerball or MegaMillions or whatever other giant prize is out there. Not that I ever actually play the lottery! Well, I did play once. I had just finished reading The Secret, so I figured that I finally knew the trick (or rather, the secret). I focused my mind, divined the numbers, and bought the ticket. I was genuinely shocked when I didn’t win. I haven’t played since, but that does not diminish my expectations that I will one day win the lottery. (I didn’t say any of this was logical, did I?)

My latest rocketship is in the form of the powerful person who is going to read one of these blog posts—SOON, please—and realize that mine is a voice that needs to be heard the world over. This person will see to it that I have enough time and money to spend on my passion and will ensure that my work gets published and marketed globally. (I LOVE this rocketship!)

But still, it’s a rocketship. I feel better about this one than the others, though, because I am at least putting myself out there regularly, sharing these posts with you every week. You see, it is not lost on me that I haven’t won the lottery yet with my current method. I can also see now that I shouldn’t have waited until near the end of my time in Hollywood to start auditioning for things and start doing real acting, because that end period became the most rewarding of all (and the most likely of all to generate that producer or casting director meeting I had wished for). And I shouldn’t have hesitated when I was in my mid-20s and passionate about writing a book that I thought would save the world, thinking I was “too young” and “need to learn just a little bit more” before I could start writing such an ambitious project. When I look back at those journal entries from that time, I really was ready. My mind was ready to burst. But I didn’t write it. I waited for a rocketship instead.

So, after all of these years of writing in my journal and coming to see the tremendous impact it had on my mind and spirit, I decided to start “The Journal Project” to create the story of my life—or rather, the story of my mind’s evolution, one day at a time—in order that the people of the world might see the value in journaling and thus make it a habit for themselves and enjoy all of the countless benefits I have received from it. It seemed like I finally had returned to a project of real value and something I was passionate about, something that spoke to the ways I wanted to serve the world. I found my purpose.

When the first phase of the project—reading and taking notes on twenty years’ worth of entries—took me what felt like forever to complete, I realized that it could be many years before I could get this important message out to anyone. I was anxious to connect with you and couldn’t wait that long. But more than that, I knew that I needed to show the Universe that I meant it this time.   I was tired of feeling like a guy who has a lot of good intentions and good ideas but never actually does anything.

Yoga classes, meditation, studying philosophy and political theory, even journaling—all of these things are wonderful and can make you feel really good: clear and smart and energetic. But in the end, if they don’t lead to some really good doing, they become merely intellectual and spiritual masturbation. I don’t want to be that guy.

So, I wanted to announce my intention to the Universe by putting something out there, by doing something for people that could make a difference in the short term while I still kept my eyes on the long-range prizes that would be the outcome of The Journal Project and its offspring. Thus was born Journal of You and these very words you are reading now. Each of these posts is my current version of buying a lottery ticket every week, not just because I am hoping to find that one powerful reader who becomes my rocketship—I definitely am still guilty of that—but because, as my wife always reminds me whenever I joke about winning the lottery, “You have to play to win.”

I am playing every week now–buying the ticket–throwing my hat in the ring in the form of this writing and hoping to help you change your life for the better by seeing more clearly who you are and thus owning your life and your dreams. And if it helps you enough to want to share it with your friends, maybe one of your friends—or your friends’ friends, or your friends’ friends’ friends—is the one who can help me be as big as I dream to be. They will know where to find me this time. I’ll be right here, waiting for my rocketship–surrounded by journals and pens and notebooks–pecking away at my keyboard, sending love notes to the world.

How about you? What are you waiting to have dropped into your lap so that you can live your dreams? Open up your journal and ask yourself who you want to be. What is your Bliss? What is your dream life? How do you FEEL when you imagine yourself living that dream life? What kinds of things would your best self need to DO to create that feeling? How far away does that seem from your current world? Is there something in your life today that you can do to create that feeling, to get you moving in the right direction? Have you quietly known this for a long time and just not had the courage or energy to do it? How well do you listen to your intuition when it comes to understanding your purpose, and what small steps you can take to begin living it? Are you like me and often know what it is but still wait for someone to come along and make it easier and less scary for you to do it? Do you fantasize more about the lottery and the patron than you do about living your purpose? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you waiting for your rocketship?

Be your own captain today,


My Life of TV Shows

DSC_0607Hello friend,

Last night I finally watched the season finale of “Parenthood” on DVR. Afterwards, I said to myself, “Alright, now I don’t have to watch television for at least four more months, even longer if this gets canceled.” You see, other than a basketball game or tennis match here and there, “Parenthood” is the only show I have watched the last couple of years. The television has almost completely lost its place in my life. That seems crazy given that my memories are dominated by this magical device.

The realization that I have only one show left—one that is likely to be canceled soon, no less–shocked me so much that my mind went into a tailspin back through my lifetime, an existence chock-full of television series. What I find looking back is that, with the exception of a few outstanding comedies and dramas that transcend time, the TV shows that were important to me seem to fit in with who I was and what I was doing during those periods.

When I was a little kid, the television was always on in my house. ALWAYS! It is funny how our memories work: even though I would tell you I had an active childhood, I would also tell you that I watched a ton of TV. I watched everything. The shows that I loved the most, though, seemed to fall into two categories: 1) shows about kids in their families learning how to grow up, and 2) shows about different versions of action heroes.

Kids and their learning of “growing-up” lessons was an obvious draw, but especially kids in bigger family situations. I have four siblings, so family dynamics were right up my alley. “The Brady Bunch” was an early classic for me in that regard. I held down the Bobby Brady spot as the youngest boy in the brood. I was also Nicholas in “Eight is Enough”, Arnold in “Diff’rent Strokes”, and Tootie in “The Facts of Life”. I couldn’t necessarily claim one of the characters in “The Cosby Show”, but that is certainly an all-time favorite for many reasons. I loved that show! Throw “Family Ties” in this group, and the genre is full for my youth.

The action hero aspect of my favorite childhood shows—of course, stemming from my fantasies of being one—was probably initiated by Saturday morning cartoons, my favorite of which was “Super Friends”. I loved them all, but I was definitely an Aquaman guy. These cartoons soon transitioned to live action, and my first superhero show that totally captivated me was “The Incredible Hulk”. The other two big ones in this category for me, though without actual superheroes, were “The A-Team” (but come on, Mr. T was basically a superhero, right?) and, of course, “The Dukes of Hazzard”. The best moments of the week were those few times per episode when the General Lee jumped off the surprise dirt pile over the water–time standing totally still until the car landed safely on the other side–and away “them Duke boys” would go. That is little boy magic!

Other than the comedy classic “Cheers”, there aren’t many shows that jump out of my memory from my teen years. The next phase of my life that seemed to have TV series attached to it was my 20s, when I was figuring out life as a young adult, with stuff like independence, jobs, and relationships. My shows of choice fit the time. This period started with the Fox shows “Beverly Hills 90210” and “Melrose Place”. It didn’t hurt that these characters lived in Los Angeles, where I was either dreaming about living, actually living, or had just moved away from, depending on which point in the series you are talking about. My first apartment in LA looked just like the “Melrose” building (minus all of the super-attractive neighbors—darn!). The shows I really remember from that time, though, are “Friends” and “Party of Five”. I might have liked “Friends” so much because it made me think I could make it as an actor, as here were these six young actors who burst onto the scene, spawning multiple copy-cat shows with even more unknown actors. I remember being an extra on one called “Buddies” and thinking, “I could do this!” “Friends” was wonderful on its own, but I loved that it gave me hope. “Party of Five”, on the other hand, just totally hit me in the right spot. It was sad, but it was also siblings. Siblings who needed each other while simultaneously needing to figure out this thing called Life without parents. I was not yet in the habit of journaling every day when this show started, but when I look back at my very first journal, many of the entries come right after I had watched episodes of “Party of Five” and my soul was completely stirred up. It really resonated with me. The later portion of this “single & figuring myself out” period in my life was marked by more interesting versions of others doing just that: “Ally McBeal” and “Will & Grace”.

Finally, when I was out of that phase of life, I came full circle back to family again, this time from the perspective of someone in the middle generation. I am a parent, but I am also still a sibling and someone’s child. It is an amazingly tangled and beautiful web, this thing called family. I see that in my own life, and that is what has drawn me, in this age when I have mostly cut TV out of my life, to “Parenthood”. It just gets me feeling the things I want to feel, and I appreciate that.

I mentioned earlier that, amidst all of these periods of my life and the shows that correspond to the periods, there were a few television series that transcended time and would have been appreciated in any era. In the drama category, the one that sticks out for me is the brilliantly written “The West Wing”. Honorable mentions from my youth are “St. Elsewhere” and “Hill Street Blues”, and “ER” from young adulthood. In the comedy realm, I did mention “Cheers” as an honorable mention, but really there are two that stand out for me as all-timers: “Seinfeld” and “The Office”. I could watch either one at any time, but “Seinfeld” is the favorite. It doesn’t necessarily connect to a time in my life like the others I have mentioned, but it is simply great television. It moves me. That is what a good show is supposed to do. That is why these shows come, much like music, to tell the story of my life.

How about you? What shows tell the story of your life? Open up your journal and take a stroll down memory lane. Write about the ones that moved you to laughter and to tears. Do your favorites follow the themes of your life, too? Are you more into comedy or drama? Are there any family shows that remind you of your own family? How have your tastes changed as you have aged? Which shows that you loved as a kid do you think would still seem good if you watched them today (my faith in “90210” and “The Incredible Hulk” is shaky)? How many of the shows that you currently watch will make your list 20 years from now? And finally, as a guy who has a completely empty DVR and whose only show is about to be canceled, do you have any recommendations for me? Leave me a reply and let me know: What are the TV shows of your life?

Be triumphantly you today,