In early December, Patty and I were fortunate to make our annual pilgrimage to Chicago’s venerable Goodman Theater to see A Christmas Carol. We were welcomed to Chicago by a plunge in temperature and gusty wind blowing through the jetway as we deplaned at O’Hare. However, that shock to our California-acclimated systems was easily offset by the joy of kicking off the holiday season with old and dear friends at our “pop-up” open house. We’re big on Christmas tradition, so it was hard to let go of serving Portillo’s beef, sausage and pasta. But last year’s delivery fiasco (the second in two years) forced our hand. Thankfully, Volare’s food was on time and so delicious that I’m guessing they picked up some new customers.
Charles Dickens’ tale of the transformation of the miserly and bitter Ebenezer Scrooge, beginning with the unexpected visit of the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, takes place over the course of one Christmas Eve night. One might say old Scrooge experiences a benevolent change of heart, getting a new lease on life and living out his remaining days doing good for others, much to the shock of those around him. For me, Dickens’ lesson hits its mark every time the curtain falls.
Now with Christmas 2022 in the record books and 2023 hours away, the change of heart story I want to share is about someone here in Los Angeles. I have to admit I was a bit starstruck, several years ago while I was still living in Chicago, when Jonathan, a Hollywood producer, reached out to me regarding a reality TV project of his that potentially involved private investigators. I didn’t end up working with him, but we stayed in touch and have become friends.
I admire people with perseverance, determination, and an iron will to succeed. Their lives inspire me and put me in my place when I need a kick in the ass if I’m feeling sorry for myself or when I hit a professional or personal roadblock.
Earlier this year, Jonathan faced dire health and physical challenges. Bottom line — he needed a new heart. I watched his condition progressively worsen over a few short months. After a drastic downturn, he was hospitalized and moved to the top of the transplant list.
It’s amazing how fast it all transpires when a donor match is made. After waiting and waiting and waiting — hoping to survive — in an instant, someone’s tragedy becomes your lifeline.
I’m humbled by Jonathan’s will to live and face seemingly insurmountable odds, overcome overwhelming obstacles, and then resume a productive life. In a few short months, the sparkle in his eye is back, his voice is strong, and he continues to regain his physical strength.
I believe Jonathan’s actual change of heart planted the seeds of a spiritual awakening in me.
With Christmas behind me and January 1, 2023, a stone’s throw away, I began thinking about setting New Year’s resolutions, the annual quest to change shortcomings and failures into personal victories through perseverance and determination.
But honestly, how do I flip the switch on habitual and ingrained behaviors, character and personality flaws, bad habits, biases, and poor choices the moment the ball drops in Times Square? Can I magically experience a change of heart in the wee hours of one single night like Scrooge? It seems unlikely. However, for me, thinking about New Year’s resolutions makes me reflect on the past and gain a better understanding of what I need to change in the future. Although I’m well aware thinking and doing are not the same.
Reflecting on 2022, my good fortune and dream come true is the February 23, 2023 publication of my debut novel, The Walk-On. Similar to Scrooge, life’s circumstances had hardened my heart the last few years as I struggled to get a literary agent interested in my manuscript. In the blink of an eye, similar to Jonathan, my life changed. I’d like to think it was perseverance, determination, and an iron will to succeed that finally resulted in becoming a published author. But timing and a little luck certainly helped.
Serendipitously, first up on Patty’s list of “birthday week” activities, in honor of my April Medicare eligibility, was a visit to the LA Times Book Festival, where we met Holly from Acorn Publishing. And that was the beginning of the end of a very long journey for me and my first protagonist, Mike “the Steelman” Stalowski.
Recently a ’60s Sonny and Cher song came up in conversation. The Beat Goes On. And so it does. Jonathan’s new heart. Turning the page on 2022 and trying to be a better person in 2023. Life moves on.
Happy New Year 2023! Live your life to the fullest!