August 25, 2011

Are you worth it?

Recently a friend met someone who is turning out to be quite the keeper. This conversation about her date with some dude confirmed it:

“He’s in Austin this weekend and invited me.”


“Yeah, the ticket was expensive.”

“Did you pay for it?”

“What? Of course not.”

Self worth is knowing you’re worth it. You’re worth the expensive ticket. A solid friendship. An equal partner. Compliments. A night on the town. Quality time together. Ruby red slippers. You deserve that new car smell. A vacation. Triple layer chocolate fudge pie. 300-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.

Self worth is knowing you're better than Milwaukee's Best.

Most of my life I’ve neglected myself in order to please or impress others. I want you to like me, so I will jump through hoops of fire to ensure this happens. It’s pretty exhausting. And dangerous. Especially when doused in booze.

The tipping point for this self-deprecating behavior was many years ago when I paid for my own engagement ring with my credit card. My fear of not getting what I wanted caused me to get exactly what I deserved. He paid me back, but by the time the payments were finished, he was already gone.

When we settle for nonsense, we block ourselves from reaching our full potential. We don’t get back those wasted hours, days, months, years or decades. Loving ourselves enough to stand up for what we believe is the greatest gift we can experience.

Sure, it’s painful and sometimes lonely, but what is the alternative? Paying for your own engagement ring? Waking up in a dead-end job? Coming to in the backseat of your car, wondering what the fuck that joint was laced with?

Below are key principles I’ve learned to follow, and see in my most admirable friends and colleagues:

• Don’t settle for less
• The people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you
• If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything
• Put down your fucking phone
• Spend quality time with others… without your fucking phone
• Wear clean underwear – always
• Smile from the inside
• Laugh at yourself – always
• Leave work at work
• You get what you pay for (hookers included)
• Go where the love is (hookers included)
• Always do a courtesy flush in a public restroom (especially at work!!!)

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

June 28, 2011

Dazed and amused

My heart was heavy in my chest as I walked through LAX, tears streaming down my cheeks. I was returning from a fabulous visit back east, so why was I crying? Home again, shouldn’t I be happy? Or at least relieved that the plane didn’t crash. What about Peter and Winnie? Shouldn’t I be thrilled to see their loving faces after 10 days away? I felt as torn as a crack in the desert floor. And I couldn’t have felt more alone among the hundreds of people whizzing by...

I begged myself to be a sweetheart in front of Peter. I prayed for some acting skills so he wouldn’t take my forlorn weirdness personally. How was I supposed to explain that my soul feels stretched across thousands of miles, and pieces of my heart scattered all over the place. Deep inside a tiny part of me wanted to run up to Peter and Winnie with a bright smile on my face, but concealing my vulnerability has never been a strong suit. I became an emotional wreck of a 13-year old, living in a 40-year old body. Naturally, I completely shut down.

What I wanted to say was, “I had the most miraculous, awe-inspiring trip of my life. I got to visit with people I haven’t seen in decades. Visit where I used to live, play, hangout, eat, drink, dance, write, wander, wonder, dream and gallivant – it was an incredible journey. What I said was, “I don’t want to be here. How the fuck am I going to go back to work tomorrow and make commercials… for hamburgers?”.

Back east, I sifted through boxes of old photos, yearbooks and read some of my ridiculously dramatic and intensely dark journals. The result was a ton of old memories and emotions hitting me like a hundred anvils. The most shocking realization is that I haven’t changed much – emotionally speaking…

All remarkable journeys, physical, emotional or spiritual, usually have a lesson at the end, chock full of fresh perspective. After Peter and I got home and I saw the pretty daisies waiting for me inside our sparkling clean home, I made some promises to myself:

• Start counting my blessings (life is tooooo short)
• Continue following my heart, even when it goes down painful roads
• Refuse to allow anyone who doesn’t deserve my time to take it up
• Write – regardless who is reading or not reading
• Remember there are no mistakes, only experiences

Yesterday I had lunch with my favorite co-workers, outside in the 78-degree Los Angeles sun with a perfect breeze coming off of the ocean. And I was grateful. I told myself it’s okay to have many homes and loved ones spread out all over. Real bonds never wither or fade with the passing of time. The trip home confirmed that 150%.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

June 23, 2011

“Don't you know a rumble ain't a rumble without me?”

Trying to start this post feels like jumping into a game of double-dutch with four ropes going all at once. Where do I start? Do I tell you about the first time I met Stefanie? No, because I don’t remember when we met. How about the time she was in the elementary school chorus and would drive us nuts when she repeatedly sang out her lines, “said a lion, a poor neurotic lion”. Or the time she and my sister got into a fist fight at our lemonade stand and she chased her for blocks.

I could go on to tell you about the first time we drank together, after sneaking out of her parents’ house at 3am, and how she took care of my 11-year old sister who puked red wine into a plastic trash bin all night. I’ll never forget the time she brought back a wooden plaque from Ocean City with the inscription, “Best Buddies Forever”.

I could attempt to count the number of times we watched “The Outsiders” and how she cried every single time Dallas died. Or how “Rumble Fish” became the benchmark for how we would live our teenage years. She will forever be Rusty James in my eyes.

I remember how she'd sneak her mom’s car for joyrides well before she had a driver’s license. And how she’d break into the secret candy cabinet and dole out European chocolate to her friends. We’d blast Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” from the stereo, playing air guitar and dancing on the furniture in the “good” living room. The first time we smoked pot she didn’t blink her eyes for 23 minutes and I had to throw water in her face.

One time she almost killed me for not sticking up for her, and she came after me with lightening shooting from her eyes – but hugged me instead of strangling me. Another time she called the boy I had a crush on, pretending to be me because I was a chicken. There was the summer I didn’t talk to her except to make harassing phone calls (I was cruel and will forever be sorry). Another time monsters chased us at Parkwood Elementary as we were peaking on acid. One night I had to rush her boyfriend to the hospital to get stitches in the side of his head after she threw a beer bottle at him. Then I didn’t hear from her for years, except in other people’s tales…

The stories are endless and legendary, some hilarious and others terrifying. The thing is, through the ups and downs, I’ve always adored Stefanie like a blonde-haired, green-eyed sister. We played together, partied together, wrote music together and dreamed like no other girls in Kensington dreamed – together. We’ll always be dreamers. Together.

It had been ten years since our last hug goodbye, but tonight felt as though no time or distance had passed between us. As we bid farewell I realized it’s a phenomenon we’re still alive. It’s a blessing the bitterness between us has sweetened. I’m grateful to know such a strikingly beautiful, deeply complicated and insanely compassionate woman.

The two ladies featured in Exhibit 1A and 1B are walking miracles.

Exhibit 1A

Exhibit 1B

Keep writing. It saves lives.

June 21, 2011

K-town Waters

While traveling back east, I went on a tour of the historical town where I grew up. Kensington, Maryland is just six miles north of our nation’s capital. Besides being known for its gorgeous Victorian homes, Kensington is a dry town, and no alcohol can be purchased within the 3-mile radius. Oddly, Kensington possesses more alcoholics and drug addicts than you’d find in some prisons. Anyone who lives outside of Kensington is convinced there’s something in the water…

I grew up on the less historical side of town, on the quaint Ambler Dr. with my crazy loud Italian family.

Throughout my life my parent’s house was THE place for every holiday soiree, celebration and get together. I cannot begin to count the number of parties or people who passed through. In the 80s it was under surveillance, but that’s an entirely different story I’ll include in my memoir (pending my dad’s approval).

One street over was my best friend’s house where my sister and I spent most days after school, eating her father’s junk food and later in life, drinking her mother’s vodka.

A mile up the road was a convenience store called “Highs” (the quirk of fate was not wasted on us). We were never carded for cigarettes nor caught for stealing candy. One time my sister shoved a bottle of grape Slushie syrup down her pants and escaped from the store with the syrup and a box of Capt’n Crunch. Another time she left a trail of candy bars as she ran from the store. That move got us banned. Although it became a lameass 7-11, it will always be Highs.

Across the street from the corner store was our original hangout we coined as “the bank building”. We’d sit in the small alcove near the exit door for hours, smoking cigarettes and talking about boys. The employees never kicked us off their property. Maybe they felt sorry for us derelicts.

We outgrew the bank building and made our way over to the abandoned elementary school. The larger and more private alcove made smoking dope a lot more convenient.

I hadn’t been back to the old neighborhood for over six years because my asshole parents sold our family home and retired in the mountains of West Virginia. After 36 years, the revered meeting place was extricated from all of our lives, and friendships have since suffered. I have never fully recovered from this tragedy.

Keep writing. It saves lives.

June 19, 2011

We are sexy, we are great, we’re the class of 88

This weekend I was given the gift of time travel by being reunited with my girlfriends from the days of yore. For the record, we’re even sexier and greater than we were 23 years ago…

I’m incredibly grateful that 1) they wanted to see me because I was a total asshole to most of them a lot of the time, and 2) they were able to get to Baltimore for a fabulous dinner hosted by the incredible Mr. Rawls. As I admired these gorgeous creatures an overwhelming sense of comfort warmed my heart. I was like Odysseus returning from a long-ass odyssey. Since graduation day a lot of shit has gone down, yet everything felt familiar. I surprised we didn't have a sleep over and stay up late, making prank phone calls to random people on the high school phone list.

That's a lot of hair, and I'm stoned out of my mind:

Decades ago we promised we’d always live close to each other, our kids would be best friends and we’d grow old together. Figures I’d ruin it by moving 3,000 miles away. Now they have kids, live near each other and get together for BBQs. While I’m in Los Angeles, living in an isolation tank and wondering what the fuck I'm going to do when I grow up.

To me the marking of true friendship is being able to pick up where you left off. We talked for hours, catching up and laughing our asses off. My throat hurts from laughing so hard. Words cannot fully describe the surreal amazingness of the night. The formative years we spent together were so intense and authentic that bonds were made that cannot be broken.

We look a lot better now, but that's still a lot of hair:

Being back east I'm flooded with memories of the good old days. I'm feeling a bit maudlin, pondering the bittersweet journey of life. I don’t know why things get so difficult, or why we waste so much time in worry and unrest. Who knows why work has become the focal point of our lives, forcing us to put everything else on hold.

I do know this:

1) Time goes by exponentially faster with every passing year.

2) The problems (and idiots ruining our lives) today won’t matter in a year, or even six months.

3) What matters the most are the bonds we make and the beautifully everlasting soul-igniting moments.

(can i get an amen?)

Thank you, Mr. Rawls for a magical night. Lola and her tongue are fabulous:

Also, your Baltimore mansion should be featured in Architectural Digest:

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

January 20, 2011

On leadership

During my last week back in the office, I’ve had many musings. I wrote an excruciating long article that morphed into a “Dear Fucking Diary”. I trashed it because absolutely nobody, including me, should be subjected to that nonsense.

Yesterday I came across a chart concocted by Coach John Wooden titled, “Pyramid of Success”. I was awestruck as I pondered the Coach’s advice on ensuring success in the world:

Here’s what he states about success:
[click to actually read]

And here is where I think I might possibly be going about it wrong:
[click to actually read]

He also had a list of 12 rules for leadership. I was curious to see how vastly our opinions differed… [click to actually read]

In my not-so humble opinion, success means happiness with yourself wherever you are in the world; the rest of the crap is just hearsay.

Keep writing. It saves lives. 

January 13, 2011

The key to enlightenment

Here are some of the important things I’ve learned:

Shut up and write

Let people off the hook


Do what you want to do and not what you don't want to do




Life presides in each present moment, not the future or the past… the whisking wind, pattering rain and waves crashing repeatedly on the shore – as well as – the annoying co-worker, bumper-to-bumper traffic and long lines at the check out.

Life happens outside of our heads, not all up in the folds of our craniums like a deeply rooted wedgie.

We are nothing but this moment, and then a few more fleeting moments and a few more after that. 

Keep writing. It saves lives.