Seventeen Years Ago in the City of New Orleans


When I think back to 2002, I’m fully aware that year is a good distance in the past.  I’ve certainly put a lot of calendars up on the wall since then.  But it sends a jolt down my spine it was seventeen years ago.

How can it be?

Ferris Bueller said it best, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

I’ve made it my mission to always stop and look around, and I’ve done a pretty good job at it.  But regardless of my efforts, time hasn’t given a shit.  The years keep on coming and coming, and I just cannot believe it’s been seventeen of them to the day since the New England Patriots beat the St. Louis Rams for their first ever franchise Super Bowl victory.

Most everyone roots for an underdog, and the “loveable loser makes good” is an enjoyable narrative that is imprinted in our DNA.  Hard to believe for a lot of people, but the Patriots were just that back then.

They had been in existence since 1960 and had been beaten badly in the two Super Bowls they played (1986 & 1997).  Outside of some mini-successes, they’d mostly suffered through dreadful seasons.  The nadir occurred in 1990 when they won one game and lost fifteen.  You couldn’t even watch them on TV when they played at home because the stadium never sold out.

That’s why it was such a joy to see them make that Super Bowl run in 2001-2002.  And outside of Raiders fans (who were still salty over the Snow Bowl loss), it seemed the majority of the country were hoping the Patriots could pull off the upset.  When the team I’ve rooted for since I was a kid went to New Orleans to face the “The Greatest Show on Turf”, they were the sentimental favorite.

What in the hell has happened since then?

While underdogs get major props, conversely, people seem hard-wired to have an aversion to “the consistent winner”.  In today’s insane social media culture of selective information tailored to fit the narrative we want to hear, this has been magnified and fueled into deep hate.  The us vs. them polarization has proliferated like a disease over the years.  Win once, awesome and good for you.  Win twice, meh.  Win three times (or more) and fuck you…you had to have cheated and I want my money back.

The Patriots have won five championships since February 3, 2002.   I was extremely fortunate I got to witness one of them in person four years ago in Arizona.  Malcom Butler’s interception is the greatest moment in sports I ever witnessed.


In 2019, outside of Pats fans, just about everyone who knows anything about football hates the team.  In a sense I understand the animosity because of the whole consistent winner thing, but mostly I don’t.  Hate is very strong, and it is the opposite of what the world needs now (just ask Burt Bacharach).  I can hate racism, and injustice, and war, and climate change, and all the truly destructive things in the world, but I could never hate a sports team.

Not even the Yankees.

I stand by that, but I think I’ve digressed a little bit here.

Let’s time travel back to that magical date of February 3, 2002.  I was thirty-one-years-old, living in Los Angeles, and desperately trying to break into the film business.  I had moved out there from Boston in 1998, and success had eluded me.  Pretty much nothing had gone the way I planned after I got my Master’s Degree at Emerson College and relocated to Hollywood.

But the Patriots gave me hope.

Rationally and logically I’ve always known the sports teams I love have no bearing on my actual life.  I can in no way influence whether they win or lose, and the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, and Celtics cannot dictate my success or failure.  But when it comes to fandom, rationality will take a back seat to emotions.  Back in early 2002, I thought if the Patriots could win the Super Bowl, I could sell a screenplay and be a successful writer.

I clearly remember the night before the big game.  I was at my apartment alone, drinking two buck chuck from Trader Joe’s and making Gumbo.  Since the Super Bowl was in New Orleans and I wasn’t going to be there, I wanted to somehow connect with the place.  I also bought Dixie Voodoo Beer and Abita (both from Louisiana) to help with the ambiance.

I watched the game at my friends Paul and Andrea’s place in Redondo Beach.  Despite being 14 point underdogs, I really believed they had a chance to win.  As the game progressed and they took a 14-3 lead at halftime, I knew I was witnessing something historic.

But the fourth quarter became a nightmare, and the Rams scored two touchdowns to tie it.  Visions of Bucky Dent, Bill Buckner, and Desmond Howard flashed in my head.  Momentum had shifted and things were looking bleak.  There was only one minute and twenty-one seconds left in the game, and the Patriots had zero timeouts when they got the ball on their own 17 yard line.

John Madden infamously declared the Pats should take a knee and play for overtime.

What happened next was magical.  The young Tom Brady drove the team down the field with huge assists by J.R. Redmond, Troy Brown, Jermaine Wiggins, and the offensive line.  The drive ended with Adam Vinatieri kicking a 48 yard Super Bowl winning field goal as time expired.

In Los Angeles, nearly three thousand miles from both Boston and New Orleans, I jumped up with joy and then hugged my buddy Paul.  I remember kneeling in front of the TV, watching as the red, white, and blue confetti rained down on the Super Dome, and just being awestruck that the Patriots had actually won a Super Bowl.  The same team who lost fifteen games in a season a decade earlier were now champions.

It was the first Boston/New England title since the Celtics beat the Rockets in 1986.

I cried tears of joy for the first time in my life. On the TV they kept replaying Vinatieri’s kick, and it was a true “pinch-me, did that actually happen?” situation. I didn’t want the feeling to end.  While I didn’t sell a screenplay that year or the rest of my time in Los Angeles, just remembering what happened on February 3, 2002 would always make me think it was possible.

It still gives me hope.

And today the Patriots will play the same Rams franchise (now located in Los Angeles) exactly seventeen years to the date of their last Super Bowl match.   It will be two great teams facing each other, and I’ll be rooting for the Pats to prevail.  I’ll also take a deep breath before the game starts, and be extremely grateful for this amazing run the Patriots have been on since the 2001-02 season.

I’ll tip my cap to all the years that have gone by since then, and stop and look around.

Aloha 2019

“We may be through with the past, but the past is never through with us.”

-Narrator (Magnolia, Screenwriter: Paul Thomas Anderson)

“Another year you made a promise
Another chance to turn it all around
And do not save this for tomorrow
Embrace the past and you can live for now”

-Great Big World (Songwriters: Ian Axel / Chad Vaccarino)


I’m a big proponent of setting goals and living deliberately to achieve the life you want.  I’ve been devoted to that (sometimes faithfully, sometimes half-assed) ever since high school.  That being said, when I look back on my life thus far, I’m so grateful things didn’t work out exactly how I envisioned.

The detours, the asides, the meanderings, the deviations, and the circuitous routes have made me who I am.

I love the line “embrace the past and you can live for now” in the song I quoted above. In our rush to start anew, many of us want to forget about the previous year(s) and just charge forward. That might work for some, but I think it’s a bad practice.  Certainly don’t dwell on the past (whether it was good or bad) so you’re living in blind nostalgia, but I highly recommend shaking its hand, honoring it, and remembering its joys and lessons.

Once you embrace the past, go ahead and make those New Year’s Resolutions, set those intentions and goals, and bust your ass to make them a reality.  I wish everyone the success they search.  But please keep a big picture view on your life as you embark on this journey.  Enjoy all the steps along the way and pay attention to every second of it.  Fall in love with the moment and the process.

I present to you my life as a public service announcement.

I’ve been trying to be a professional, full-time writer for more than 20 years.  I’ve had some successes, lots of disappointments, and on January 9, 2019 I’ve yet to achieve this huge life goal.  However, when I look in the mirror, I see someone with a big smile on his face.

Many years ago I lucked into a wonderful full-time job that I continue to enjoy.  If I could get into a DeLorean with a flux capacitor and go back to 1998 when I moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter, I truly wouldn’t want to change anything.  Because if I found the success I desperately sought back then, I would have missed out on getting to know the hundreds (maybe thousands) of amazing people I’ve been lucky to meet in the last two decades.

In a sense, I feel like Moonlight Graham in Field of Dreams.

In 2002 one of my scripts almost got me to my ultimate goal … “it was like coming this close to your dreams, and then watching them brush by you like a stranger in a crowd”, as Burt Lancaster said in the film. When it didn’t happen I was devastated.  It took a long time and many dark, gloomy days to get over the disappointment.  But I eventually made peace with it, moved on, and let my life take a divergence.

I’m glad that happened.  I’m also proud of myself for not giving up on my dream, for continuing to write scripts, short stories, plays, articles, blog posts, and novels.  I love the process, and I’ll never stop writing and submitting my work.

I’m hoping my new novel Lost in the Fog will be my big break.  But if not, I’ll keep trying.

On that I’ll share with you a picture of my journal from December 31, 1998 written from 1200 North June Street in Los Angeles.  1999 didn’t bring the success I sought, but it sure was a hellva lot of fun.  Let’s all party like it’s 1999 2019.


If Only In My Dreams


All those songs are right … it is nice to be home for the holidays.  In 2018, according to AAA, nearly seven million people in the United States will travel via air during the next couple weeks to see family and friends.  Over the last twenty years I’ve boarded many planes during the holiday season, and my journeys have gone smoothly.

Except once.

In December of the year 2000 the Travel Gods had a good laugh at my expense.  What follows is the journal I kept back then on planes, in various airports, my parents’ house in Lynn, and my apartment in Los Angeles.  I always thought what I wrote was pretty funny, and I had visions of publishing a David Sedaris type article about my misadventures (I had recently read his SantaLand Diaries).  Unfortunately that never happened.

Eighteen years later, I present these journal excerpts to you as my last blog post of 2018.  Happy Holidays and I hope you enjoy!


December 24, 2000

FL 2677 to Phoenix (America West Airlines)

1:44 pm PST

In my seat and waiting to take off for the first leg of my journey.  I should be thankful I made it on this plane.  The morning started off quite poorly.

The fire trucks were a bad omen.

I somehow wake up just after eight am after drinking with Bradleigh and the crew all night, throw a bunch a clothes into a bag, and survive the fifteen minute walk to the subway station with my suitcase.  Tired and weary, I am still on schedule.

But when I arrive at the Hollywood & Highland Metro station, there were flashing lights and fireman clomping down the stairs and police sirens in the distance.  I didn’t smell smoke and nobody stopped me, so I descend towards the tracks on the escalator.  I used the automated kiosk to pay my $1.60 fare and wait for the 9:20 train.

The night before I sat in a booth at The Formosa Café and got laughed at after divulging my plans to take the LA Metro to the airport.  My friends looked at me as if I claimed I would get there via a pogo stick.  I sipped my Manhattan and said confidently:

“The Super Shuttle is twenty-five bucks.  A cab is about forty.  And none of you drunks are going to get up that early and drive me.  I’m broke and the subway is less than two dollars.”

Nobody believed it was possible.  And when I explained the logistics, the red line to the blue to the green and then a quick shuttle, they thought it was all a joke.  There was general disbelief a subway line even ran under Hollywood.  I assured them it did, and that I had mapped it all out online the day before.

After the bar we all ended up at my place.  I had planned on packing for my trip home to see my family, but then the tequila was taken out of the freezer.  Not too many hours later, the buzzing of my alarm clock was terrifying.

But bag in hand, I had made it to the Metro tracks.  LAX was about an hour away.  It was the morning of Christmas Eve, and I stood on the Hollywood & Highland platform waiting for a train that would not come.


Had I not been so hungover, I likely would have realized my plight.  But the night before I gave into my roommate Bradleigh and went out for a Christmas Eve-Eve Party.  It started at our apartment on June Street, went to the Formosa, then to Cat & Fiddle, and finally back to where we started.  It ended sometime around five am with a group of us watching American Beauty.

The 9:20 train didn’t show, and then it became 9:40, 9:45, and 9:53.  I heard yelling down the other end of the tracks, and it sounded like someone was saying the station was closed. My adrenaline had spiked, and I walked back upstairs to investigate.  The voice was coming from an MTA employee.  He was informing people not to go down to the tracks, but neglected to share this information with the poor slobs on the platform.

I raced up the stairs to Hollywood Boulevard and hailed a cab.

I cursed myself for not arranging a Super Shuttle.  This trip home to Boston was already going to tax my meager bank account, and my $1.60 mass transit ride had turned into a forty dollar cab.  I’ll need to cross someone off my Christmas list.

Getting out of the cab I was horrified at the scores of people on the curb and inside the terminal.  My plane would be leaving in about forty minutes.  I scanned the area for an airport employee who did not look like he would stab me if I asked a question.

“I have an e-ticket and no bags to check,” I said.  “Do I have to get my ticket here?”

“No, you can go right up to the gate.”

Nine of the greatest words ever spoken.


(Author’s 2018 note: It’s hard to remember that in the days before September 11th, anybody, regardless of whether they had a ticket, could go to an airline gate.  While it was nice to be greeted by family and friends right off the plane while traveling, it also meant every nut imaginable could prowl the terminals asking for “donations”.  While there certainly were legit charities at LAX, you were normally solicited by dozens of weirdos. Every time I would think of Leslie Nielsen in Airplane!  And on that day my confusion was heightened by something very new to me back then, the e-ticket.)

I purchased my tickets online, first time ever for me, and I didn’t even print a receipt.  There was nothing to prove I was supposed to be flying to Boston for Christmas.  If I wasn’t so hungover, I probably would have been very nervous.

Checking the monitors my flight seemed to be the only one not delayed.  I figured it was karmic payback for the cab.  But when I got to the gate the earlier Boston flight wasn’t even boarding.  I was delayed, despite what the computers said.  But I still needed my ticket.

In the mass of people there seemed to be an amorphous line.  I squeezed into it.  There was a good chance I would be shunned at the gate.  I hadn’t even called to confirm the ticket I bought online from William Shatner’s over a month ago.  Maybe this wasn’t even in the right place.  Was it Northwest or America West or Southwest?

And what if my name had been deleted by some computer in, say, Backwater, Utah?   I could hear some smarmy guy explaining, “Sorry, sir, no Ostrowski’s on our list.  In fact, we don’t even have any Michael’s”.

Panic would set in and I’d be too weary to do anything.  Muttering to myself and heavy drinking would soon follow.  I would curse Captain Kirk to the day he died.

But I showed my ID to the woman at the counter and she gave me a boarding pass.  I wait an hour or so (I’m still on track to make my connection to Boston in Phoenix), and eventually got to my aisle seat on flight 2677 to Phoenix on America West Airlines.  Writing in this journal has already eaten up a lot of time.  I’ll eat my snack mix and then continue as we’re about to land.

Wheels down now for the approach to Phoenix….

It’s close to two o’clock Pacific time, and we’re thirty minutes before my plane to Boston.  Lunch would be nice, but not enough time.  Thankfully the gate I’m landing at will be right we’re I’m taking off.

…..Later On

4:06 pm

Still in Phoenix

“Flight 2824 to Boston- obviously we’re experiencing a delay.  The plane has been clean and catered and the pilots are ready for departure.  We just need a crew.  There will be a slight delay while we locate them.”

-America West Announcement

The delay in Los Angeles wasn’t much of a problem.  Whether waiting in LAX or Sky Harbor…it’s still waiting.  But we’re nearing 4:15 pm and they haven’t begun boarding.  Another announcement just informed us the crew would be here shortly “from the break room”.  The person using the PA is obviously pissed at his fellow employees.  For such raw honestly in an airport must be done out of spite.  Passengers are a cranky lot by nature, and this just gives them live bodies to vent their frustration.

At the gate across from me a shouting match is going on.  Well, not really a match.  It’s more of a one-sided verbal tirade from a female customer.  I wonder if the crew on her flight got adequate rest in the employee break room.  They’re surely going to need it.

“Once again we apologize for the delay”.

Airports just bring out the worst in people.  Like freeways and World Wars.  Mostly I find them a creepy necessity.  Thousands of strangers each desperately wanting to get somewhere/anywhere and most willing to step over babies and shove the elderly to do it.  And then there’s the airplane food.

“Your choices for dinner tonight are Salisbury Steak or Walnut Chicken Salad.”

I hate walnuts and Salisbury Steak reminds me of Elementary School.  But all I’ve eaten today is snack mix.  I get the beef and a beer.  1,854 miles to go.

….Later on

11:00 pm EST

It’s been a family tradition to gather at my great aunts’ house on the night before Christmas.    Afterwards I would go to Ditch’s and drink Irish whiskey and see friends from high school.  I’d never missed either of those events despite living on the other side of the country for the last three years.  Tonight the streak ends.

Fuck you, America West.



December 30, 2000

2:30 pm

Logan Airport, Gate 43B

A great trip home, but I now must get back to Los Angeles.

With a king hell bastard of a snow storm closing in on Boston, I’m here at the near empty America West terminal.  On the news I hear of delays and cancellations and all sorts of airport trouble, but somehow, someway, FL 2188 is on time.  The madness of LAX a week earlier has been transplanted to the tranquility of Logan.

But it’s a little too quiet.

There has to a problem.  My good ole friend shitty luck tells me that.  He’s an asshole so I want to ignore him, but unfortunately Mr. S. Luck is usually right.

Although this could be a karmic bone thrown to me for leaving (and losing) $300 worth of CDs on the plane from Phoenix.  I really don’t want to relive that situation…thinking about it makes me want to scream.  I called the airline and spoke to several people, but nobody could locate my CD carrying case (Author’s 2018 note: we were still around a year away from the iPod being released…it was devastating to lose all that music.) 

What is certain is that I’m missing both wild card games.  There’s no damn TV in this mini terminal.  No food, no stores, no magazine racks either.  I’m not even sure there’s a bathroom.  I could walk over to the American one and see how the Colts are doing, but that’s just inviting disaster.

Well…the trip home?

Great seeing my mom, dad, sis, bro, nephew, brother-in-law, grandparents, and friends.  I got to spend a lot of time with everybody and I’m truly lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life.  But of course that makes me not want to go back to LA.

The play (SantaLand Diaries) and the museum with my Mom were great days.  My nephew Nicholas is almost two-and-a-half, and was much more receptive to me than my last visit and he actually said my name.  Ditch and I had a good time drinking at Uno’s and The Border Café.  And I got to toss back some pints with Mark and Scott at The Beantown Pub, then later at Nua Tua (a new Irish Pub that was cool).

I also watched the Pats game with my Dad (a close loss to the Dolphins, finishing the season at a very disappointing 5-11) and talked sports with Jeff.  I met Mark last night to see the new Coen Brothers’ film “O Brother, Where Art Thou” (which was great) at the new Fenway Cinemas.  And like always, Boston looked amazing despite the cold weather, and made me realize how shitty LA really is.

Back to Hollywood.

David Sedaris Christmas

… 2:36 pm PST

FL 2188

At the back of the plane all by myself.  Haven’t been on a plane this empty in along time.  It’s quiet and I have space…not too much else you can ask for on a cross-country journey.  Well, if a really cool and pretty girl was sitting back here … and we had a great conversation and then ended up becoming boyfriend-girlfriend.

Let’s be reasonable.

I think it would be wise to declare my life a disaster area and try a different approach.  Because what I’m doing now just ain’t working.  But is that the absolute truth?   Is this is all “destiny”…part of some bizzaro plan that’s never been shared with me?   I moved to LA two and a half years ago, and I’ve got nothing to show for it.  I can’t believe it that’s my plan. I need to make things happen.

Shit, I’m tired but I can’t sleep.  Even with nobody in any of the rows surrounding me I can’t get some Z’s.  But I’m going to try again.

 . . . 7:38 pm

Sky Harbor Airport

Fucking Eh.

I get out of a damn blizzard in Boston and now I might not get to LA because of fog.  We were 30 minutes early to Phoenix, but now have to wait least an hour delay with a high chance of cancellation.

The Travel Gods are straight up giggling at me.

Although it’s a dump, I just want to get back to Hollywood.  I’ve been up since 5 am Pacific Time and I’m getting a headache.  They’re announcing our fate in a few minutes.  If I didn’t have to work tomorrow it’s no big deal.  But I do.  And this whole situation, for lack of a better cliché, sucks ass.

 . . . 8:30 pm

Gate B6

They say my flight, most likely, is going to take off.  But they changed gates.

From gate B26 (where I was) to B6 (where I needed to go) is a long ass walk.  My flight is delayed to at least 10 pm, and they make you trek all the way through the damn terminal to wait for a plane that still might not leave tonight.

My other option is Burbank.  That leaves at 10:30 pm and “supposedly” there is no fog there.  For all I know there’s hail and locusts.  Burbank would be a cheaper Super Shuttle to Hollywood.

I’ll wait until 9 to make my decision.

Shit, it’s not 8:30 it’s 9:30.  Lousy Phoenix and their disregard for Daylight Savings!  I thought we were on LA time.  I’m going to try for the Burbank flight.

…..On the Flight Back to LA

I’d like to think I looked like OJ running through the airport in those old commercials.  But most likely I resembled Culkin’s family in “Home Alone”.

After going all the way to Gate A9 for the Burbank flight I was told I had to go to Customer Assistance if I wanted on that flight.

“Can’t you just put me on?” I asked.


“But, the computer—”

“I can’t do it.”


I’ve seen Jamie, my good buddy and an AA employee, do it many times.  But she wouldn’t take the 5 seconds to help me.


The line is deep.  I’ve been waiting in it now for 15 minutes and I’ve moved nowhere.  At this rate I should be at the front in . . .well, never.

Somehow I make it to the front of Customer Assistance only to find out the flight is full.

The woman there offers some hope when she says, “But they’ve lifted the fog ban in LA and I think they’re boarding now.”

I am nowhere near B6.  So it’s come to this.  I’ve been up for 17 hours, my nose is running, my eyes watery, the last meal I consumed was reheated Salisbury Steak, and now I have to RUN halfway through Phoenix if I don’t want to spend the night here.

I make it one minute before they close the doors.

We’re in the air I hear for about twenty minutes and we get this gem of an announcement:

“We don’t want to get your hopes up.  We might have to turn around and go back to Phoenix.”

Luckily that doesn’t happen.  We somehow are able to land in the fog and the whole plane is clapping.  But I can’t see a thing out the window and I’m not at all convinced we’re at LAX.  We taxi on the runway forever.

….Later on

1200 North June Street

Los Angeles, CA

Beer in hand, time to finish this crazy story.  If I wasn’t so broke I would have taken a cab.  Instead I had to take the Super Shuttle, and just before we’re about to leave it’s just me and a woman going to the Westside.  The Super Shuttle is great for those of us on a budget, unless it’s full and you’re one of the last people to get dropped off.  But here it is, after midnight, and hopefully I can escape with just one other passenger.


Four more people squeeze in just before we’re about to take off.  Guess who’s the last stop?  My laugh scares several of the passengers.

I take the elevator up to my floor, and I truly expect to come home to a robbed apartment.  But when I open the door I find everything exactly as I left it.  Bradleigh’s working and won’t be home for a couple of hours.  There’s three Guinness in the fridge and I plan to drink them all before going to sleep.


Back Where I Come From

“Who are you?  Who, who, who, who?  ‘Cause I really wanna know – who are you?  Who, who, who, who?”

-Lyrics by Peter Townshend, recorded by The Who (1978)

“Back where I come from, where I’ll be when it’s said and done. And I’m proud as anyone, that’s where I come from.”

-Lyrics by Mac McAnally, recorded by the artist in 1990.  Covered and popularized by Kenny Chesney in 1996.


Culture, heritage, knowing where you come from, and who you are.  These are subjects that fascinate most people, and I am no exception.

A few years ago for Christmas, my Mom gave me the DNA kit.  She had already done it, and had been conducting a lot of research on her family’s side (Howard) as well as my father’s (Ostrowski).  I gladly spit in the little tube and mailed it back, with the anticipation of finding out if the oral narrative about my heritage matched with the hard science.

Insert Jeopardy Theme ….

I had grown up thinking on my mother’s side I was about 35% English and 15% Irish, and on my Dad’s I was 25% Polish and 25% Italian. I always liked that, and identified with my mutt background.  I felt I could easily morph into different personalities, and I attributed that to my mixed heritage.

When Ancestry sent me the results, I discovered my DNA was even more jumbled.

But here’s the caveat … we tend to think of our heritage in terms of countries.  But in doing so often forget that World History is super complex, and geographical lines have been drawn, erased, and redrawn countless times over thousands of years.  Maps of even just 30 years ago (can anyone say Berlin Wall) are completely obsolete. New countries are born while others vanish.

Okay, enough of the history lesson … here were my DNA results:

ancestry pic

My biggest takeaway from this … I’m European A.F.

It’s clear when you’re talking about your DNA, it’s tough to pinpoint your genome to a specific country.  But you can look to regions of the world.  When I analyze my results, they’re not wholly different than what I had thought (English, Irish, Polish, and Italian), but there’s a lot more going on.  Having ancestors from Scandinavia was the biggest surprise (no relative had ever talked about a Nordic background), and then there was France, Spain, and lots of the former Soviet Union countries.

But of course DNA is only one piece of the puzzle.  If you want to get more specific about your family’s background you need to search available records, whether they be birth, death, census, voting, immigration, or anything else recorded by the government.  Sometimes these are available, but the further you go back in time the more difficult they become.

With my family, my Mom’s side has been in the United States for around two hundred years, and therefore she has yet to discover (and she’s tried really hard) specifically where in Great Britain & Ireland the family came from.  Disappointing, as that would be great to know.

My Dad’s family has been easier to trace since the roots in America “only” go back to the early part of the 20th Century.  I can say with certainty the Polish side comes from Sońsk & Grabowiec, where the Italian side (LaMonica) emigrated from Torrevecchia.  Knowing this, I’d love to visit those places and reconnect with my roots.

(Both photos courtesy of my Great Uncle Daniel Ostrowski, who has done outstanding research on the family and has graciously shared it with us)

While all of this historical detective work is extremely cool and interesting, there’s another side that says, is any of this truly essential to my life?  Does knowing where my family came from hundreds of years ago tell me something critical about who I am now, in 2018?  Does it affect me as I go about my day?  Those are tough questions to ask, and I’m certain we could all create arguments for either side.

After thinking this through as many angles as possible, I find myself in the camp that heritage does matter … however with the disclaimer, “up to a point”.  This realization was actually surprising.  When I started this blog post, I originally figured I would say that DNA searches and delving into your ancestry were entertaining and had some value, but essentially it was all just parlor games.

But that didn’t happen and it wasn’t my conclusion.

I love the quote by Carl Jung: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”

I think Jung is correct and that we all need to take responsibility for our present and future.  We also shouldn’t let the past solely define us.  If you have character flaws to improve, take them seriously and work on them.  Throwing your hands up without making any effort to fix yourself because “you and your family have always acted that way”, is a lame excuse.

That being said, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice if we forget and ignore our past.  I look no further than my own backyard as proof.  In Hawaii, the culture has a deep respect for not only their living elders, but for all their ancestors who have passed generations long ago.  And this manifests itself in an immensely strong sense of community, which is one of my favorite things about living here.  People care about not only their own backyard, but for all the islands.

That doesn’t happen without knowing who your family was, and where you came from.

So I’ll end this post with circling back on the name change for the relaunch of my blog.  It went from “Under Diamond Head”, which is very specific to Hawaii, to “Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys”, which references an old Polish Proverb.  I live in Hawaii and I’ve never been to Poland, but I’d like this blog to find a middle ground.

I intend to explore all the cultural and family influences from the towns my ancestors grew up in to the one I live in now.  Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll join me in the ride as I publish more blog posts.

Something Just Like This

This is something like a Superhero Origin Story.  But without Spiderman or Batman or insert any of your DC or Marvel favorites.  Like Chris Martin said, you won’t see Camden Swanson (the main character of my novel  Lost in the Fog) on that list.

The story I’m about to tell might be inspiring to some, or a cautionary tale of procrastination to others.  I guess it all depends on perspective, and I’ll let you be the judge. This is the long, strange journey of how I came to write my new novel Lost in the Fog.

Back in 2003, after six years of trying to sell my screenplays in Los Angeles, failure had gotten the best of me.  I was frayed, discouraged, and I needed a sabbatical from my life.  I had just published A Model Community, my first novel, which was both exciting (it was pure joy to hold my book in my hands) and disappointing (I wanted it to be my big break, but that never happened).

It wasn’t a fiscally responsible decision, but for my overall health I knew it had to be done.  I quit my job, took a crazy and circuitous 5,000 mile solo trip across the country (that’s a story for another time), and spent five months back in my hometown of Lynn with my family and friends.

I eventually returned to LA in November of 2003, but with a bank account several notches below barren.  I needed a job, and I was open to anything short of pornography or fast food.  But despite having a B.S. in Journalism and a Master’s in Film & Television, nobody would hire me., headhunters, temp agencies, and sending applications all-around town yielded nothing.

Six weeks into the search I finally got a call back.

It was for the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.  The Gallery Attendant position paid just slightly over minimum wage, and I would be required to wear a tacky blazer and a striped tie and stand for hours and hours at a time.  I happily accepted.



At the Norton Simon Museum the workforce consisted mainly of retirees and art students, and I was neither.  We weren’t the official security of the place (there was an actual team of trained officers), and instead were called gallery attendants.  Our essential job function was to stand innocuously in a corner and make sure nobody touched the art or leaned on a wall.

After my first shift of standing in several corners throughout the building without talking to one person, I was ready to quit.  My back and shoulders ached, my mind was numb.  I’d been a bartender for years and had no problem being on my feet or enduring the physical requirements of the job, but it was the lack of movement and interaction with people that was daunting.

But I needed the paycheck, so I stayed.

After a few weeks I got used to being a gallery attendant, and it soon became my new normal.  I even began to enjoy my job.  After years of frantically running around behind a bar at warp speed, I saw great value in this meditative calm.

I also began my informal education of art history, and every day I made a point of learning about the various pieces in the museum.  At the end of our shifts they even let us take the audio guides when it was slow, and this was better than any class I took in college.  My stint at the Norton Simon put me on a path of dedicated fine art education that continues today.

Then there was my little black marble notebook.

Back then I used to carry around this 4 ½ by 3 ¼ inch journal, which I used to scribble down whatever crazy thought cascaded into my mind.  In 2004 there were lots of them.  At the bar or on the train or even at home when I couldn’t sleep, I would take it out and write.   I also kept the notebook in my pocket while I stood inert in the galleries at the Norton Simon, and used it whenever I found myself alone.


On the first day when I wrote in the journal while on the clock, I figured (since there were cameras everywhere) I would be told to stop.  I’d only been working there a few weeks, and if confronted, I was planning to feign ignorance.  I had never been shown a rule that said you could not record your bizarre musings in a 4 ½ by 3 ¼ inch journal.  But none of the managers at the museum said anything, and with this tacit approval I wrote every shift in that small black book in empty galleries.

Sometimes it was about the Norton Simon paintings and sculptures, but often there were strange forces working inside my head that told me to scribble down nonsense poetry.  While I always believed in my ability to write journalism, fiction, and screenplays, I had never aspired to be the next Dylan Thomas, Langston Hughes, or Emily Dickinson.  But while standing there in my Buddha-like trance in an empty gallery surrounded by Botticelli’s, Reuben’s, Van Gough’s, and Matisse’s, I was compelled to write these insane poems.

Here is one from April 2004 that I wrote during a shift:

It’s all in the medulla oblongata, she claims

If you wanted radioactive jelly you should have asked/

Don’t cost nothing

These searing head plays/

Keep licking the toads

Cause she plays checkers for breakfast

No, I was not drinking or smoking anything funny or had suffered a head trauma that day.  These were the kind of bizarre thoughts that would pinball around my brain in an empty room full of priceless art treasures.  And yes, since I’m sure you’re asking, I did wonder if I was beginning to crack-up.

And then one day a thought arrived that wasn’t a kooky poem.  It was a fragment of a premise for a mystery novel, one involving an art heist. I quickly took out my tiny little black marble notebook.

The idea for Lost in the Fog came to me while standing post in the Renaissance Room while looking at a Botticelli.  It was a painting called “Madonna and Child with Adoring Angel”, and while I’d studied the picture many times before, something that day ignited a creative spark.   The museum was about to close and it was so quiet and calm.  The opposite of that would be yelling and violence, and my mind conjured up a group of thieves busting in and trying to steal this Botticelli.

I immediately knew this could make a good story.



I still find it hard to believe it all began back in 2004.

That year and the next (when I left LA and moved to San Francisco) I wrote about 150 pages of Lost in the Fog.  But I soon got very busy with my new career (human resources for a large hotel in Union Square), and abandoned the novel.  It was four years later in 2008 I picked it up again, and I set a goal of writing five hours every Saturday and Sunday.  I stuck to this and had a first draft completed by Labor Day.

After reading through the manuscript upon completion, I knew, like Hemingway said of first drafts, it was shit.   But I loved Camden and Veronica (the main characters), and I believed had something special with the story.  The plan, back in 2008, was to let it sit for a few months and then come back with fresh eyes and rewrite it.

In January of 2009 I started working for a new company, and next thing I knew it was September (a whole year after I finished the first draft).   I had done absolutely nothing with Lost in the Fog.  And then it was 2010, and I got a promotion and then another in a short amount of time.

Lost in the Fog never left my mind, and being a professional writer was still my dream, but with my new successful career at the hotel I abandoned it.  I just could not muster the energy after work or even on the weekends to begin the massive rewrite the novel needed.  As much as I loved my job and the people I worked with, my creativity began to fade in proportion to my success in the hospitality industry.

Flash forward to 2012 and I ask my company for a quasi-sabbatical to rewrite Lost in the Fog.  They gratefully grant this request.  I begin doing contract work for them at various hotels around the country, but in-between my assignments I’m allowed weeks of free time to work on my novel.  This makes me very happy.  That year I revised Lost in the Fog half a dozen times, and in October I had a draft to send off to agents and publishers.

Then in November 2012, my company sent me to Honolulu, Hawaii.

My temporary assignment was to spend a month to help transition our new 839 room hotel in Waikiki.  I figured I would go and do my job, enjoy the island in my free time, and return to San Francisco to devote myself to getting Lost in the Fog published.  It seemed like a great idea.


Woody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans”.

The temp gig at the hotel became permanent, and while it was not part of my plans, I am extremely grateful I stayed here.  Hawaii could be the best place I’ve ever lived, and the people I work with are all amazing.  I feel so lucky to have a job that I enjoy doing, and to be at a place where I feel like I can make a positive impact on people’s lives.

But I was never been able to forgive myself for abandoning Lost in the Fog.

Whenever I thought of my novel, which was often, it caused deep feelings of regret.  While I had certainly been consumed with work, there was no excuse I had done nothing with Lost in the Fog after settling in Honolulu.  No excuse at all.

The calendar flipped to 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016, and I still had done zilch to sell the book I had started in 2003.   Through the years I had probably sent out a total of 10 query letters to agents, where the advice is to do hundreds if you want a chance to garner any interest from agents or publishers.  Out of the only 10 I sent, not surprisingly, I received a perfect percentage of thanks, but no thanks.

Rejection stings, whether it’s in your career ambitions, someone you want to be your significant other, or your art.   It was all I ever got with my screenplays in Los Angeles.  Any psychiatrist will tell you I didn’t put Lost in the Fog out into the world because I feared it would receive the same fate.  I self-diagnosed this phobia many years ago, but I could still do nothing to fix it.


And then three months ago my great friend Todd told me about the publishing house called Inkshares.

A middle ground between self and traditional publishing, they seemed a perfect place for me to publish Lost in the Fog.  And the fact that Inkshares has a collaboration with United Talent Agency (UTA), one of the top agencies in LA, made it even more intriguing.  All I needed was to get 250 pre-orders of my novel.


Thanks to all of you, I have accomplished that goal.  But as amazing as that is, I still have a bigger goal to attain.  250 pre-orders will get you published and your book is available to purchase online, but with no marketing/promotion and just basic editing by Inkshares.  But if I can get 750 pre-orders or be one of the winners of their annual Launch Pad Contest, I will receive full publishing/marketing/promotion and Lost in the Fog would be sold in bookstores.

The Top 3 in unique pre-sales are automatic winners, and I’m currently in second place in the annual Inkshares Launchpad Contest.

Contest Leaderboard 7.16.17

The contest goes until November, so there’s still a long way to go.  I would be so thrilled to be one of the winners, and for Lost in the Fog to be sold in bookstores around the country.  It has been my ultimate dream for as long as I can remember.

For those who have already pre-ordered Lost in the Fog, I have immense gratitude for you.  For those who are thinking about getting a copy, I would be so grateful if you did.  It’s only $10 for a Kindle/Nook/Apple copy, and only $20 for a printed one. You can pre-order Lost in the Fog here:

While the road to publish Lost in the Fog has been a meandering thirteen year trip, it’s one I’m glad I was able to take.  You can view my story as something that compels you to accomplish your goals as soon as possible, or else a comforting one that rewards patience and perseverance.

It’s all up to you.

Lost in the Fog Book Trailer

Hi All,

I’m very excited to share with you the trailer for my new novel “Lost in the Fog”.  Thus far I’ve received 226 pre-orders of my book, and I only need 24 more to fulfill my obligation with Inkshares to receive publication.

It’s impossible to describe how grateful I am for all the support I’ve received, but I will say thank you, merci, and mahalo!

I would be so appreciative if you can help push me over the top to the goal of 250 pre-orders.  “Lost in the Fog” is set in San Francisco and is funny, dramatic, and will keep you turning pages to figure out the mystery of who stole the rare Matisse sculptures and why!  The link is here and I hope you enjoy the trailer.  Thanks!