Tuesday, February 21, 2012


"I weighed 340lbs and was one day away from living out of my car," my friend said, holding a glass of champagne. I paid little attention to the sixty other guests chatting and sipping drinks. We were standing at the bar of a beautiful Moroccan gazebo overlooking a stunning pool. I had just only met this person, but I already considered him a kindred spirit. I'm quite fond of people who leap over their shadow. People who, when pushed to the brink, rise above their weaknesses, conquer their demons and change their path for the better. This is his story.

My friend and his wife of eighteen years had been successful business partners before their lives began to unravel. In fact, they were doing so well, they decided to invest. Then, the real estate bubble burst. They found themselves pouring money into an upside down home, real estate investment mortgages and an unprofitable restaurant; in short, their fortune was being sucked into a proverbial black hole of unexpected debt. My friend became angry and frustrated because, not only were they loosing all their savings, but the writing jobs had dried up as well. Who better to take out your frustration on, than the person closest to you?

His wife wasn't going to put up with an ornery, grumpy and mean man who had lost all of their hard earned, seven-figure income, drained their savings account and lost their home. After eighteen years of marriage, she left him. So now, he had no wife, no money, no house, no car, no health insurance, no mood. First, he moved into the guesthouse of our party host. That was fine for a while, but my friend knew better than to abuse his benefactor's generosity.

My friend had one more asset to keep him afloat. He sold the liquor-license of his restaurant for a good amount of money. Half went to his ex-wife, half he kept. He rented a small one-bedroom apartment. He then lay down in bed, turned on the television, and didn't move...for one whole year. He wallowed in self-pity, protected his self-pity by adding 100lbs of fat to his strong build. There was nothing left for him to live for. He contemplated suicide. The 164 Lunesta pills he had accumulated before his health insurance ran out were still in his drawer. He could take them all at once...

His last penny spent, and suicide on his mind, he bumped into the contractor from his restaurant one day. My friend told him that he was desperate for work, any work. The contractor didn't have much himself these days, with real estate in the toilet and all, but he could use a man to do some "trash out" work. My friend would get paid $80 per house.

Trash out means going into foreclosed homes and removing all. This was anything but a pleasant job. Some homes were trashed beyond recognition, feces plastered on the walls; toilets and kitchen literally smashed to pieces. Other homes had been vacated just as the family was having breakfast. The table was set and food was still on the plates. Then there were the pristine homes; most likely the family knew that this day was coming and wanted their home to be at it's best.
During the year that he worked this job, my friend scraped enough money together to go visit his mother in the Bronx, New York. She was devastated, and this broke my friend's heart. His mother's tears said it all. He loved her more than anyone. Suicide wasn't the answer, but neither was his current condition. He had to change his life. He had to snap out of it and get a grip on things. He returned to Los Angeles with renewed determination. First things first: get rid of the weight. He began walking around one block...then two blocks...four...

They say, necessity is the mother of invention. The gym was six blocks away, but he couldn't afford the $30 monthly fee. He noticed, though, a back entrance to the gym, a way to get in without having to show a membership card. Every day, he snuck in the back way for a workout. The more weight he lost, the better he felt about himself; his confidence grew, and with it opportunity.

A producer friend of my friend referred him to a company out of Australia that was looking for someone to create content for their budding production company. It just so happened that the owner of the company loved a movie for which my friend had written the screenplay. My friend was immediately offered a year's contract.

My friend and I stood in the Moroccan gazebo sipping champagne (I'm faithful to my water). "I've lost 87lbs," he continued, "and I'm going for another 27lbs. The company has renewed my contract for another year because they're happy with my work, and I love working there. I've written more scripts than they've asks for!" He said enthusiastically. He stood upright in his suit, smiling. And so was I. At a time when so many suffer from similar scenarios, I was pleased to hear how one man fought his way back to health and success.

PS. And yes, he does pay for his gym membership now.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The little train that could, together with the smart man that knew, and the tough mother that dared brought tears to my eyes. When the tsunami hit Japan on March 11th of 2011 there were many remarkable survival stories.

Sixty people where on the train when the earth began to rumble and shake. The train immediately came to a halt. The conductor shouted for everybody to get off; a natural reaction in any earthquake. So, all sixty passengers left the train and stood on the tracks expecting more shaking any minute.
Instead of shaking, something much more ominous lurked in the distance. They were in the middle of nowhere; a massive tidal wave, powerful and deadly, was approaching swiftly. Then, a passenger shouted, "get back on the train! Get back on the train!" There was no time to ask the man why, or argue with him. The wave, full of debris and amassing more as it quickly came towards them, threatened to overrun and engulf the train just like it had overrun and engulfed everything else in its path.
The man who had told everyone to get back on the train realized something the others did not. It just so happened that the train had stopped at the highest point of the track, on a hill. Well, perhaps it wasn't quite a hill but it was an incline. The passengers gathered together in one compartment and held each other while the man explained how the water would seek out lower ground before tackling the elevation. Hopefully, if they were lucky, it would go around the train. They sat and waited, covering their ears to dampen the deafening roar of advancing waters.
Just as they had hoped, the wave embraced them, stopping short of reaching the train. Oh! The joy in the compartment...but now what? They were miles away from civilization, surrounded by dangerous sludge and debris. Not to mention the weather. Temperatures had dropped below zero outside and in the train. The electricity, and therefore the heat, was off. Night fell. They insulated the doors with whatever they could find to keep the freezing-cold blazing wind out. They shared what little food they had...and waited. As time went by, they began to worry.
One of the passengers, a ten-year-old boy, was traveling alone. He was on his way home when he and the others got stuck on the train. Now he lay on the floor sleeping peacefully in the pitch-black darkness of that eerie night. Most passengers were loosing hope considering the situation in which they found themselves: a surreal moment in time full of uncertainties, disconnected from the rest of the world and stranded in an endless apocalyptic landscape, in freezing, subzero weather and virtually nothing to survive on. One young girl began texting a farewell message to her parents. If anyone found her phone, they could give it to her parents and they would know her last thoughts were with them. She told them she loved them and thanked them for everything they had done for her. Others cried in silence.
Daybreak. Fifty-nine men and women were huddled together, utter stillness in the air. One little boy lay sleeping, still. No more rumbling, knocking, screeching, banging, crackling and cracking sounds outside. Mother Nature was resting. Or was she? More knocking? It can't be...someone was trying to pry the compartment door open. Suddenly, she stood there at the top of the isle; she ran towards her slumbering boy. The mother of the ten-year-old had come looking for him! She knew what train he was on and took it upon herself to trek through mud and an obstacle course of debris; she literally went through hell and high water to find her little boy.
Fear and anxiety turned into relief. If the mother could find her way to her son, then she and the other passengers could find their way back.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned from this story. 'Never give up' comes to mind, 'trust your instincts, keep a positive outlook, help each other' etc. but the one that never fails to amaze me is the power of the human spirit; a mother's love for her child is a bond more powerful than the deadliest of catastrophes. It will drive her to undertake the most extraordinary exploits. The tsunami tore apart and destroyed a record number of families, but I am convinced there isn’t one mother among the victims that didn't fight to the last in order to protect, save her child.