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.

The Dude vs. The NFL – A Look Back into the Archives

I’ve been in a writing funk recently, so I’m going back to my old (and original) blog from 2007 for some material.  I feel this entry is an apt one to repost, since my favorite football team played on Thursday and today I was left adrift with NFL games I truly didn’t want to watch.  But this Sunday, unlike my choices from 9 years ago, I decided to read a book instead of subjecting myself to the shitty games that were broadcast here in Honolulu.

But fun to look back at a Sunday almost a decade ago . . .

Thursday, December 13, 2007


This year The Patriots have played many games out of the normal Sunday afternoon schedule. And while it’s great to see your team compete on National TV, it presents challenges. If you’re married or in a serious relationship, there probably isn’t much of a problem. You clean your garage, you cut the hedges, you go to the multiplex to that romantic comedy with your special lady friend, or you spend a little more quality time with your children.

But if you’re single and live in a studio apartment. . . .

My God, it really forces you to take ugly looks at yourself.

The Patriots beat The Steelers last Sunday, and it was their first normally scheduled game in the last month. The previous three contests were all played at night, and it’s made Sunday afternoons extremely taxing. Take for example December 2nd. Living in San Francisco, the only game on my TV set was the 49ers and the Carolina Panthers. I didn’t want to watch even a second of it, but for some reason I switched the channel to Fox. I guess my brain waves have been wired to pant like a Pavlovian Dog for QB sneaks and shotgun formations and safety blitzes.

But I regreted my decision quickly. Only three minutes into the game the announcers (guys I’ve never even heard of . . . the Z team of Fox) have referred to Vinny Testerverde as “The Old Guy” at least 12 times. They even put it on their graphics as San Francisco’s key to the game: “Don’t Let The Old Guy Beat You”.

And here are the highlights of the first quarter:

*San Francisco calls a timeout before they punt.
*The timeout seems to be a genius move when Carolina muffs the punt and the 49ers look like they recover the ball. On the field the officials first signal SF ball and then give it back to the Panthers.
*It looks like the officials blew the call, but The 49ers coach, Mike Nolan, doesn’t challenge.
*Vinny, aka “The Old Guy”, has 1st and goal from the 3 but cannot score.
*It’s week 13 and the Panthers have yet to win a game at home.

I check ESPN hoping they’re showing The World Series of Poker. Instead it’s The Great Lakes Classic, a bowling event. Walter Ray Williams needs two strikes AND two pins to beat the immortal Mike Scroggins. This is tense. First strike wipes out all the pins quickly. His next strike is more dramatic, with the last pin wobbling before it falls. He only needs two more . . . and gets the win when he knocks down seven.

This is what happens when you live in a city with two bad NFL teams.

I shudder knowing the game after this will be the 3-8 Raiders. But I switch back to the “football” game. Here are some more stellar statistics:

*With 10:07 left in the half Carolina has used all their timeouts.
*Testerverde throws a TD, and it’s the Panthers first TD at home in something like 80 quarters.
*The 49ers somehow convert a 3rd down and keep a drive alive. Of course they end up punting four plays later, but damn they must have felt good about getting 10 yards in a series.

Back to bowling.

It’s now the women’s championship. It’s Carolyn Dorin-Ballard vs. Diandra Asbaty. Dorin-Ballard has a lunch lady vibe about her. She could easily be a tough aunt from your Dad’s side of the family that nobody fucks with. Asbady is actually cute, a red head with a nice smile who seems as if she enjoys drinking beer and, well . . . bowling. Both of these women have their names on the back of their shirts. Not printed, like a football player, but their signatures embodied into the material. When I notice this I flip back to the other game.

Trent Dilfer, who for some reason is the starting QB for San Francisco, gets sacked. It is only the 11th sack of the season for The Panthers. Dilfer then throws an INT which is returned for a touchdown. It’s 17-0 Carolina.

Could professional women’s bowling be better?

Yes. Yes it is.

Asbaty makes two strikes in a row. While I’m trying to figure out how old she is (my guess is 29), the announcers say she “has finally figured out the lane”. Figured out she was throwing a ball at ten pins from the same distance as every bowler does in the world? Is there a sand trap that creeped up without us noticing?

Then the announcer says that Asbaty wanted him to give a “shot out” to her grandmother.

Okay . . . switching to the football game Dilfer gets sacked again (The Panthers now have 12 on the season . . . my God- this is exciting). But I somehow pry my vision from the intense action and glance at the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen. The Dolphins lead the Jets 13-10. For a few seconds I ponder whether I’d rather be in Miami watching their winless club duel the hapless NY Jets. It’s a tough choice- their shit sandwich to the one that is now on Fox? There is no way to answer that question except to watch some bowling.

It’s too bad I’m not watching The Dude, Walter, and Donnie advance to next Round Robin.

Instead we’re now in the last frame of The Great Lakes Classic Championship. Asbaty needs a mark to win. They flash a graphic that says she was part of a NCAA Championship team from Nebraska in 1999 & 2001. That would put her at about 27 or 28 (I was close). I wonder how it would feel to date a professional bowler. Would she talk about 7-10 splits while in bed? Does she have a bumper sticker that says “I’d rather be bowling”? Could she drink me under the table?

And then Asbaty rolls . . . she gets a nine. I was hoping for somebody to yell “OVER THE LINE” and pull out their “piece” on the lanes. Mark it an 8! Am I the only one that cares about the rules?!!

No such luck. This is not The Big Lebowski come to life. One more pin and Asbaty is the winner. She gets it and is all tears. And then a guy rushes up and hugs her, who The announcers say is her husband. The dream is over.


With the “NFL Game” Dilfer has just thrown an interception with 1:24 left in the half. But Carolina doesn’t have any timeouts, and the “Old Guy” has to rush. The second quarter comes to an end after Vinny throws a ball that is astutely described by JC Pearson as being “way underthrown”.

It’s getting close to noon and I have yet to step outside. I would like to have the last hour and half back in my life, but I’ll simply have to use it as a good life lesson. I get outside for a walk and some lunch, and when I return I see the San Francisco 49ers were somehow worse than the Carolina Panthers today. Next time I will show more fortitude: when The Patriots are not playing on a Sunday morning/afternoon I will immediately leave the apartment.

15 Years


Ten or twenty or whatever-even-year-anniversaries are easy opportunities to reflect on an important moment, whether it’s completely personal or a shared experience of the world.  In a way it’s lazy, but I guess it’s human nature to repress things until we’re prodded by external forces (such as a calendar) to confront them.  So here it is . . . fifteen years since September 11, 2001.

Has it really been fifteen years?

We all remember where we were.  I was at 3270 Descanso Drive in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles   I was scheduled to work at 10 am that morning at California Pizza Kitchen and awoke at my usual nine am, just enough time to shower and scramble and get in my VW Pasaat Wagon that would zoom me through the surface streets to downtown LA.  I did the same thing every day.

But something was wrong.

That morning the phone kept ringing and ringing.  I’m almost positive my roommate Fozzie was gone that day.  I can’t remember why . . . the details are escaping me, but I think he had gone up to Ventura because I can’t remember speaking to him.  But for sure nobody answered the phone and there had to be at least 3 calls.

The night before I had gone to Taix, the French place in my neighborhood that was an old- school upscale restaurant with this great retro lounge.  I went there with a few of my CPK  compadres to drink after our shift and watch Monday Night Football.  I can’t recall who was playing, but I do remember flirting with the hostess and experiencing an overall feeling of fun.  Our group in that dark lounge on Sunset Boulevard was a good one, doing shots and laughing and it was the kind of night, although very simple, that at 31 you’re old enough to realize how lucky you are to experience it.

But back to the wretched morning, Tuesday, September 11, 2001.  I wasn’t hung-over, but the night before I certainly had too many drinks and not enough sleep.  The phone rang several times and I was too tired to answer it.  So when my alarm went off at 9:00 am, I hit snooze and tried to get a few more minutes of glorious slumber.  When the clock radio went off again, something told me to listen to the answering machine.  Nobody called us that early, and back then (when the land line was the only show in town) hearing the phone ring during the dead of night or early in the morning almost certainly meant bad news.   When I got out of bed and listened to the answering machine, I heard the shaky and sullen voice of one of the lead servers at CPK.  His name was Tirso and he said something to the effect:

“Hi, Mike.  We’re not going to open today.  I’m sure you probably know why.  I’m calling everybody and, um, I don’t know if we’re going to open tomorrow.”

I immediately went to the TV.  Just past nine am Pacific Time the Towers were already gone.  It was all so terrible, but I sat there and watched for hours.  I recall going online and getting the instant reaction to what was being called the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor.  At some point that morning I called my Mom, and I remember being scared and feeling so happy to hear her voice.  I know I also called a bunch of friends, but other than my Mom I can’t remember any of the conversations.

After digesting more news on TV and online, I had to get out of the apartment.  I had a basket of dirty clothes and took it to the laundromat.  There was one other person there, the attendant, and we nodded to each other when I entered.  I can’t remember if there was a TV there, but I certainly didn’t look at it.  After loading my items into the washer I sat outside in one of the plastic chairs and just zoned-out in the sunny and warm day.

I’ll never forget sitting there, questioning myself on whether or not I should be doing laundry.  I remember getting a flash in my head, imagining my future grandchildren asking me what I did on September 11th.  I would have to look the kids in the eyes and tell them I cleaned my dirty socks and underwear.

But what else could I do?  I was alone and I needed to get away, from the television, the internet and from the spot I learned the world had changed.  A cute girl in her 20s walked in to do laundry at some point, and when she went outside for a cigarette we chatted for a few minutes about the shock of the day and she went back inside.  I had brought my notebook with me that day and this is what I scribbled:


September 11, 2011

3:28 pm


     The World Trade Center is gone.

     Both towers.


     Six years ago I was on the top of one of those buildings in the outside observation deck, getting my photo taken and basking in the beautiful New York day.  You know there were people on top when it happened.  It sickens me to think of that.

     I really haven’t been able to digest all this craziness.  U.S. commercial planes smashing into the buildings.  Thousands of people dying.  Hijacked jets flying into the Twin Towers and Pentagon.

     How do you react?  How can one comprehend something that doesn’t seem real?  It’s as if you’re watching a movie or a computer simulation.  With such a horrendous act of terrorism on American soil how can life go on as normal?

     How can it not?

     Our best defense as an individual is to try and go on with our daily lives.  Because what’s the alternative?  Cowering in complete fear underneath our beds?  Crying and moaning over the fragility of our existence?   Yes, we need to understand the horror of today.  Yes, we can never forget this fucking cowardly and insane act.  But we can’t let these assholes ruin or even change our spirit of freedom.

     As I wrote earlier, I need more time to articulate all of my feelings.  Sitting here on the corner of Glendale and Fletcher in Los Angeles, I’m trying to keep it all together.  Laundry is something that needs to be done in everyday life and I’m here doing it.  Should I be with friends and loved ones now?  Perhaps, but my family is 3,000 miles away, I don’t have a girlfriend, and I guess there is a big part of me that just wants to be alone and think and contemplate my life.  Fuck . . . I don’t know what else to say now.

As much as I try I can’t remember what I did later that evening, but I definitely had a lot of booze.  All I can recall is sitting on the back stairs, staring out to the skyline of L.A. and being spooked that there were no airplanes in the sky.  At some point I picked up my journal and here is what I wrote later on that night.

Early Wed- 1:07 am

September 12


     It might not be over.

     Shit . . . I mean how can we be certain?  L.A. is a huge fucking target, and nobody can know if we’re not next.  I work on the bottom of a stupid skyscraper.  And while the Ernst & Young Building isn’t a symbol of America it’s a tall goddamned building in the heart of downtown Los Angeles.  Do I even want to go near the place, or even such a major metropolitan area that could be attacked in all kinds of nefarious ways?


     This is fucking ridiculous.  I’ve seen the TV clips of the towers collapsing over and over and over again.  It’s so insane.  The sound gets to me almost as much as the images.  Crunching metal and screams and the explosions.  And the people jumping off the 70th floor, tumbling through the air while the buildings burn and smoke billows out of them.  It can’t be real.  It has to be some hoax . . . some reality show stunt.

     But it isn’t.

     ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, and the local stations are giving us the video reality of this tragedy round the clock since it happened.  Although I might be 3,000 miles away from it, in the year 2001 that doesn’t matter.  Live and in stereo . . . the country in flames for everybody to see.  I hate to admit it but I’m scared.  

     What does it mean . . . what does anything mean??


Fifteen years later . . . I don’t think anybody has an answer.  Or else you can only have the personal answer that works just for you.  We mourn the people who lost their lives.  We never forgot the horror.

Sweet Sixteen


From San Diego to Honolulu

“Veronica and I are trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging, it might be a soft j. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time.”

-Ron Burgundy


In my 20s and early 30s, I was a runner (or, more appropriately, a yogger).  Never a fast one, but I put in my miles and did lots of races.  Mainly 10K’s, with some 5K’s sprinkled in, and even one with a 7 mile distance (The Falmouth Road Race).  In 2000 I decided to amp it up and run a marathon, a goal that I’d set for myself when I was a student at Boston University.

I accomplished what I set out to do.  The training and the struggle, and actually reaching the finish line, made it one of the most rewarding things I’d ever done.  But then, for no good reason at all, it took another sixteen years (that is, until today) before I ran another race with the word “marathon” in it.


In the 1990s my plan was to run the Boston Marathon, the ultimate race to aspire to for anyone who grew up in New England.  However, this 26.2-mile goal was always a vague “someday” one.  Someday when I’m a little older.  Someday when I have time to train.  Someday when I get the rest of my shit together that I can concentrate on such a long race.

Flash forward to the fall of 1999.  I was living in Los Angeles writing scripts during the day, bartending in the evening, and partying until dawn.   Somehow I had still managed to continue running and completing races, but it was mainly to keep myself in reasonable shape.  It was never out the spirit of competition.  There was one 10K in Griffith Park that I did so hung-over that after crossing the finish line I emptied all the contents of my stomach into a port-a-potty (should you ever find yourself in a similar circumstance, you should avoid this at all costs.  A bush, a tree, in front of a supermodel . . . all better locations).

Serious runners (or even yoggers) do not do that.

It was sometime after the Griffith Park race, eight or nine beers deep at the Cat & Fiddle, that I announced to nobody in particular that I was going to run the LA Marathon.  My friends were less than enthused.  Mark S shrugged, Mark W probably didn’t hear me, I think Dave smiled, Bradleigh laughed, and Kristi gave me the most encouragement with a pat on the back and “good luck with that, Mikey”.  Of course I didn’t blame them, as marathon running was as foreign from our world as joining the peace corps or moving to the Inland Empire.

For whatever reason, I was determined.  My daily workouts went from three miles to five, then seven to ten, and soon I was running up that crazy incline of Beachwood Canyon Road.  I was still partying with my friends in true Hollywood Style, but I would do my long runs before the festivities started.  Looking back on it, between the smog and booze, it is almost impossible to believe I actually committed to a training schedule.

But I did, and I was strict about it.  Although as the year wound down and Y2K became a reality, I realized I needed a little more time if I was ever to reach my new time goal.   Just finishing was no longer enough, I wanted to complete it in under five hours.

The LA Marathon in March became the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon in June.

It was a hot day in the city that Ron Burgundy once called the greatest on earth, but I tried to block it out and kept moving forward.  During my training I had never run more than 16 miles (when the program said you should max out at 18), so I wasn’t even sure if I would even get to the finish line.  I remember getting to mile 21, which was in some residential San Diego neighborhood, so exhausted and sweaty but completely sure I could do another five even if I had to crawl.

Luckily it didn’t come to getting on my hands and knees, and I reached the end upright and somehow with a smile on my face.  The extra training did me well, and I finished the race in four hours and fifty-two minutes.  While my time was better than some and super slow compared to others, I remember feeling so overwhelmingly happy.  Not only did I somehow pull off this crazy caper that I dreamed up in college, I completed the race eight minutes quicker than my goal.

The Friday after the marathon, I was riding such a high I said out loud to no one in particular at the Burgundy Room that I would run another one the following year.   My friends bought shots to toast my achievement and wished me well in my new venture.  I did seven miles the next day, and the Saturday after that I ran ten.  I wanted to shave ten to fifteen minutes off my next marathon.

I’m not sure what happened.

The years kept coming, and while I continued to do 5 and 10K races in the early 00s, the thought of running 26.2 miles again never fully materialized in my head.  By the end of the decade the weight I had gained made running a marathon an impossibility.   Whenever I would look at the pictures from June 2000, it almost seemed like it was a dream I’d had.

In 2015 I dropped a bunch of pounds, and by June last year I began to run (yog) again at least three times a week.  As the clock turned to 2016 I had increased my mileage significantly, and my girlfriend J’Nell convinced me to run the Hapalua Half Marathon here in Honolulu (she was doing it with her awesome gym and support group Kaia Fit).  So I dusted off my old training plan from 16 years ago and figured I would give it a go.  I had no interest in doing a full marathon, but 13.1 miles rated high on the Goldilocks Scale.

The week leading up to today’s Hapalua Half Marathon, I had a nasty sinus infection and wasn’t even sure I would be able to attempt it.  But just before sunrise J’Nell and I both walked to the start line at the Duke statue in Waikiki, and we headed west with the thousands of other runners.   I hadn’t exercised in any fashion in over a week, and the time off must have did me good.  My normal foot pain (on long runs) was kept to a minimum, and my stamina (helped along by GU Energy Gel) held up throughout the course.  I wanted to break three hours, and I was happy to reach the finish line at 2 hours and 46 minutes.

As I kept pumping my legs as fast as I could down Diamond Head Road towards the end at Kapiolani Park, I couldn’t help but smile at my sixteen-year journey from San Diego to Honolulu.  Absolutely no negative thoughts went through my head.   I surely could have lamented all the races I had missed, but I was truly just so grateful to finish the one I was doing.


Minimalism Game Days 16-17: Where’s Me Gold?

Ireland 2008 468

Enjoying a Pint of Guinness at its Souce (circa 2008)

Although it’s been years since I’ve actually gone out to a bar on St. Patrick’s Day, this could be the first one in my adult life I haven’t even had one pint of Guinness.  Erin Go Bragh, the Sober Edition.   If I listen hard enough, I can hear a leprechaun laughing at me.

Along with no beer, there aren’t any pots of gold to be found in my apartment either.  But what I do have is thirty-three things I’m getting rid of for the Minimalism Game.  Clutter comes in all shapes and sizes, and for Days 16 & 17 I’m going small.

I’ve chosen seventeen plastic cards and sixteen pens to expel from my home.  Not quite as exciting as giving up a TV or even an object twinged with nostalgia, but still as important.  Just because I can hold all of these items in one hand, doesn’t mean I should keep them.

I actually think something as simple as a collection of pens works as a good microcosm as to why I want to live a more minimalist lifestyle.  On my desk I have an orange Café Du Monde coffee tin stuffed with all sorts of writing utensils.  After I took sixteen pens, there was still twenty-one left.

Did I really need thirty-seven pens to be within my reach?   I bet if I hunted around the apartment I could probably find at least a dozen more.  Why keep so many pens, especially when I do most of my writing on a laptop?

Maybe I’m being a bit too philosophical (or possibly this is a side effect of not drinking for seventeen days), but if I want to free the clutter from my life how can I justify having so many pens?   Last I checked, I can only use one at a time.  I also don’t need thirty-six replacements if the one I’m using runs out of ink.  So this gluttonous excess of pens will be going with me to work tomorrow, where I know they will eventually be used by someone.

For Day Seventeen I went into my desk drawer and found a bunch of hotel key cards, along with some Casino Player’s Club ones.  I cannot give a logical reason why I’ve kept these, as for the most part there aren’t strong memories attached.  All I can say is that it goes to my souvenir mentality.

When I travel, I’ve always taken the Ryan Bingham approach to packing.  I go lightly and avoid checking a bag at all costs.  My carry-on (and small personal bag) holds the essentials, and is efficiently stuffed to every inch of space.  It makes traveling easier, but it does curtail your shopping habits.

Therefore, my souvenirs have tended to be smaller knickknacks that I pick along the trip.  Maybe it’s a coaster from a cool bar, or a small book that I could only find locally, possibly postcards, or quite often (as I described in a previous post) t-shirts.  Then there’s the hotel collateral, anything from pens and stationary to do not disturb hangers to the wrappers on the turndown mints after I’ve shoved the chocolate in my face.  If it’s got a logo on it or says the name of the place I’m visiting, it’s going in the bag.

In the case of the hotel keys, I would say most of the time it’s actually accidental.  The cards end up in my wallet or pants pocket, and it isn’t until I’m back home that I realize I still have them.  However, for some of the real special places I’ve been, I will intentionally keep them.

The seventeen hotel key/casino players club cards are from the last three or so years and come from Hawaii, San Francisco, Boston, and Las Vegas.  While all of the trips/stays have great memories attached, the St. Regis Princeville and the Royal Hawaiian are the only two I’m sure I’ve kept on purpose.  But when I look at those key cards again, they actually rate low on the keep-ability factor.  The St. Regis one just has the logo and doesn’t list the name of the property, and the key for the Royal Hawaiian simply just says Luxury Collection.  Too generic to be true keepsakes.

As I continue along in the month, I know there are plenty more of these pseudo souvenirs in my collection that I can set free.  Maybe the leprechaun will want them.

20160317_214023 (2)

Aloha and Welcome to Under Diamond Head!

Camera 360

Looking down from Diamond Head

Aloha All,

On a day that only exists once every four years, I’ve decided to use this “extra time” to start three different ventures.

The first is what you’re reading now, this blog.  My last foray into blogging was in 2007, which I enjoyed immensely but gave up after about a year of doing it.  This was due to perusing other creative projects and focusing on my career outside of writing.

The second thing is to quit drinking for one month.  My alcohol habits lie somewhere in the middle of a teetotaler and a stumbling boozehound, so this isn’t a necessity.  But I’m sure it will do my body and mind (and wallet) some good.

The third venture is to start the Minimalist Challenge.   If you’ve never heard of this or the good people at I recommend you check them out.  I’ve never met Joshua and Ryan and I’ve only learned about them through their website, but their philosophy and way of living has really intrigued me.  I’m certainly not a hoarder, but I have way too much stuff.  With this “game”, I have to give up one possession on March 1st, two things on March 2nd, three things on March 3rd, four on the 4th, and so on until the end of the month.


The first month of this blog will be about my efforts to adopt the minimalist mantra and to stay away from alcohol, but after that I plan on picking up where I left off in 2008. I want to write about the place where I live (under Diamond Head in Honolulu, Hawaii) and also about films, books, TV shows, and also dig into some nostalgia for good measure.

There’s so much out there on the Internet to read, and I sincerely appreciate anyone who takes the time to come along for the ride with me on this blog.

One last note before I end this first post …  If you have Instagram and want to check out some of my pictures of Hawaii (as well as San Francisco, New York City, Boston, and other places), please visit my page at