I got home last night from the heat, back seat of a car.
Blackouts and whack routes got me home last night.
Brooklyn can feel so far.
I got home last night and with little might did something I’ve longed to do
Since I was a little light.
Top of the trees, feeling the breeze, under the stars and even Mars, I slept on my roof.
Here’s the proof.
Yesterday was one of those not-so-good writing days. I probably wrote three paragraphs in six hours. I snacked incessantly, took multiple breathers on my roof, and tried repeatedly to convince myself that committing a life to anything other than telling stories would be a hell of a lot…easier.
Most of the day was spent drowning in an ever swirling wormhole of unnecessarily over detailed plot mechanics. How could a man from Eastern Europe meet a woman from North Africa during World War II, and how could they have children who would eventually start a new life in America? This backstory would seem relatively simple to figure out, but an insatiable curiosity led to 54 open tabs, multiple lunches and an eventual state of high anxiety. At twilight, I closed my laptop, disappointed in my three paragraph progress, a frustration calcifying my bones into boulders.
Last night around Midnight, in a cab ride back home, the driver asked me what you call it when little droplets fall casually from the sky. “Sprinkling,” I said. He laughed at me. “Sprink-ling,” he echoed back in his thick accent, enjoying the way in which the syllables escaped his mouth. “People always say, oh God, it’s raining! It’s pouring! But sometimes it’s just sprinkling, and then it will pass.”
I asked him where he was from. He proceeded to tell me the story of how his father from North Africa studied abroad in Eastern Europe during World War II. That’s where his father met his mother. They fell in love, moved back to North Africa together, and had children who eventually moved to America in hopes of a better life. Imagine my mouth hitting the bottom of that cab. He smiled at me when I left. “Thanks for listening,” he said.
Martha Graham once said to Agnes DeMille that her only responsibility as an artist was to “keep the channel open.”
I take that to mean when you feel like you can no longer write, no longer speak, no longer sing or paint or play or dance, you can still listen. You can receive. That synchronicity is divine.
This life is indeed filled with a blessed unrest.
It is too easy to say, “It’s raining! It’s pouring!”
Some days it’s just sprinkling.
And then it will pass.
Photo By Shannen Norman
A small story of joy at the end of a dark week in our country.
As some of you know, I build experiences across unused, Class A commercial spaces for one of my clients. My job is to essentially engage, strengthen and connect disparate communities in any given building.
One of the ways we recently achieved this for a particular building in Midtown was by inviting all tenants who had side passions as creators, makers, and artists to exhibit their work in our common space. So an HR manager at a hedge fund brought in her homemade greeting cards, an executive assistant at a law firm brought in his 3D paintings, a front desk associate at a beverage distributor brought in her photographs, and so on. Once we collected and proudly displayed all their work on the walls of our common space, we threw everyone a big Art Party. They could invite their colleagues, friends and family to attend in celebration (and hopefully sell some of that side hustle work too.)
I was particularly struck by a series of prints that appeared to be images of microscopic specimens, so I tracked down the artist. She was unbelievably sweet. Her name is Stephanie, and she’s been a secretary at the same company for nearly 30 years.
I asked her about her work. It turns out they were prints of various recyclable objects found around her desk. For the last three decades, whenever she’d get bored at work, she’d collect discarded staples, trashed packaging straps, and wayward hole punches, and make beautiful pieces of art out of them.
I asked her if she had ever shown her art before. She laughed. These prints had been accumulating under her bed, collecting dust for thirty years. No one had ever seen them before. In fact, she had hundreds and hundreds more where these came from.
I then asked her why she hadn’t shown her art before. She said she didn’t think she was a “real artist.” She said she didn’t think people would like her art. She said she didn’t think she had permission.
So I told her I wanted to buy a piece. Her mouth dropped and stayed open. I changed my mind. I told her I wanted to buy three pieces. She fell to the floor and sobbed. What seemed like a small gesture on my part felt like a tidal wave to her. Later that day, she submitted a few of her pieces online to a contest. And this weekend, her work will be shown publicly for the first time in her life at an art show in Red Hook.
I share this story as a reminder, friends. Please don’t hide your art under your beds. I say that both literally and figuratively. Show your colors to the world. If you’re angry, share your anger. If you’re happy, share your happiness. Enjoy your process. Share your work. Share your passions. Share your story.
This world could afford a little more of your light.
And if you’re interested in purchasing a piece of Stephanie’s, I’ll gladly put you in touch.
Our short film, Montana, based on my Sundance finalist TV pilot of the same name, played film festivals across the country this year, including
The Brooklyn Film Festival in New York, SeriesFest in Denver, and
The Awareness Film Festival in Los Angeles.
Montana will continue to play the festival circuit in the new year, and be available to watch online late Spring 2019. In a surprising but worthwhile development, I’m now hard at work writing the novel adaptation,
the manuscript of which has a target finish of mid Summer 2019.
at The Rainbow Room, The Sofitel, and The Plaza Hotel in NYC
at a private estate in East Hampton
at The High Line Hotel in NYC
at The Marriot Marquis in Times Square
The Phantom Of The Opera 30th Anniversary Celebration,
events for Art Basel Miami and
U.S. News & World Report.
of Better Spaces, a leader in tenant engagement. We’re creating and operating experiential amenity spaces in top commercial real estate portfolios across the country. It’s been an exciting opportunity to bring programming, design and a bit of theatricality to commercial spaces nationwide.
I am most proud of the fact that we employed a record 75 different people on various film and event projects, and are on track to continue growing in 2019 with new experiences and TV projects in development.
On a personal note, this year included a number of new travels,
from Tulum, Mexico to the Cotswolds of England
to Calivigny Island off the coast of Grenada.
2018 will likely be remembered as the year
I officiated my first wedding, moved to Brooklyn, and became an uncle!
Last Summer, smack dab in the middle of my Tony Awards Week, I suddenly found myself in ten interviews, from the Yale Club to the top of 1 World Trade, as the sole candidate for the newly created role of Editor-In-Chief, Experiential across all of Condé Nast’s titles. It was to be the first non-magazine, Editor-In-Chief role in the company’s history. (A role that, for the time being, would two months later become obsolete. But just imagine for a moment my wide eyes and slacked jaw when they told me that the in-house stylist was going to redo my entire wardrobe!)
I’ve had too many major job almosts to count. This one was certainly one of the most fascinating. It was a bananas, super “who me?” experience, and everyone I met with during that period was beyond wonderful and encouraging.
But through this experience and a confluence of other well-timed events, it was the first time in my life, at age 32, when I realized I was worth something. I’m not speaking of monetary value. I’m speaking of human value. Over the course of this wild year, I recognized something so essential: I was a human that was worthy of respect and worthy of love, just like everybody else. Perhaps I always knew that on my skin. But now I knew it deep in my bones. My college mentor told me “You are enough” on graduation day. I guess it took me a decade or so to finally listen.
Maybe it was the years of working some of the most degrading gigs I could find to barely make ends meet. Maybe it was the hundred No’s after auditions and festival submissions and directing program applications that came with every once-in-a-blue-moon Yes. Maybe it all goes back to my at times fanciful, at times miserable childhood. Maybe it was all the other external factors I could name that would ultimately take the responsibility off of looking after myself. “You can’t blame nobody but you,” Janet sang. “I’m starting with the man in the mirror,” Michael sang. Whatever it was, I don’t think I had much self-respect. Not love. “R. E. S. P. E. C. T.” (Aretha SANG.)
After I started to respect myself a little more, that’s when I found love.
After I started to respect my opportunities a little more, that’s when I found strength.
After I started to respect my life a little more, that’s when I found joy.
I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and family lately about Pascal’s Wager. “You might as well believe in God.” I can’t vouch either way for that statement. But I do believe, “You might as well believe in Good.” In this life, you might as well try to be good. You might as well try to feel good. You might as well try to do good. You might as well believe that humanity as a whole has the capacity for good. Every person’s unique circumstances could certainly argue otherwise, and this current administration does nothing to support my claim. But I can choose only how I aim to live. And for me, I think this is a directive worth aiming for.
Social media has become a scientifically proven dust bowl of psychosis, misinformation, and ultra targeted marketing. It’s the ultimate “You are NEVER enough.” Whenever I log on, I see that congratulations are in order for a multitude of things – a big job or promotion, a marriage or a baby. Heck I’ve seen people sincerely congratulate others on finding their light in a grungy bathroom selfie on the Lower East Side.
If you’ve read this far into my meandering, 2 am thoughts, here’s what I want to say to you:
I AM PROUD OF YOU.
Yes, YOU. I am proud of the jobs and the babies, yes. I am also proud of you on just a regular Monday like today. I am proud of you for taking the time to apply to all those jobs. I am proud of you for soldiering on after heartbreak. I am proud of you for busting through barriers on a regular basis. I am proud of you for waking up every morning and charging ahead when the world wants to eat you alive.
I am proud of your optimism. I am proud of your kindness. I am proud of your resilience.
If you ever need a reminder, let me know. You have to remind yourself every day.
2017: Top 10 Highlights
1. MAKING MONTANA
This Fall, I directed a short film called MONTANA, based on a TV pilot script of mine that was a finalist in the 2016 Sundance Episodic Story Lab. With a top notch cast and crew, we completed the film this month. And with the backing of more than 170 incredible supporters, we ran a successful crowdfunding campaign on Seed & Spark, reaching 104% of our goal. Additionally, we partnered up with The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention to use the film as a catalyst for dialogue, support, and education around mental health and suicide prevention. We are currently submitting the film to festivals around the world. If there’s a film festival you love, let us know!
2. THE TONY AWARDS
For this year’s 71st Annual Tony Awards, I directed one of the video segments for the telecast, directed the Nominees Luncheon in the Rainbow Room and Cocktail Reception at the Sofitel Hotel, and co-ran the After Party Gala at the Plaza Hotel. I look forward to returning in 2018!
3. THE NEW YORK FASHION GALA
Celebrating 81 years of service, The 2017 Fashion Scholarship Fund Awards raised $3.5 million dollars at this years gala, which I directed at The Grand Hyatt NYC. The FSF grants the single largest sum of money and total number of scholarships in the entire US. I’ll be returning to direct the 2018 gala, held next month at the Marriot Marquis in the largest ballroom in New York City.
For more on the 2017 gala, visit HERE.
4. THE 4TH ANNUAL ASC SUMMER BENEFIT
In 2013, I helped launch the national tech education non-profit All Star Code. It was an honor to return this year as Creative Director for my 4th consecutive benefit, and ASC’s most successful one yet, raising nearly $850,000 for its incredible programming. All Star Code creates economic opportunity by developing a new generation of black and Latino entrepreneurs who have the tools they need to succeed in technology.
For more on ASC, visit HERE.
5. THE POWER OF PLAY
This year at Fiverr HQ, Boat Ashore Productions launched its first ever workshop series, THE POWER OF PLAY, a unique and engaging on-your-feet experience that helps people access and utilize their two greatest resources when combating fear, fatigue, or frustration: a sense of wonder and their capacity to play. If you’re interested in bringing a POWER OF PLAY workshop to your home or office in 2018, e-mail me at
6. SPICE IT UP!
2017 included a number of exciting, creative explorations, one of which was developing SPICE IT UP!, my TV project with Elspeth Keller Scott, into an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure style series with Warner Music Group and Eko. While we have chosen to continue developing the series in a more traditional format, exploring the interactive and VR landscape was a thrill, and Boat Ashore Productions continues to develop and produce various interactive, immersive, and experiential content.
7. MY FIRST WRITER’S RESIDENCY
This Summer, I spent 10 days on the outskirts of Bar Harbor, Maine participating in my first writer’s residency, The Hamilton Project, courtesy of the Barn Arts Collective. I wrote and workshopped a selection of my new play, THE EXPERIMENT.
8. WIZARD OF LIES/PEOPLE YOU MAY KNOW
Check out my appearances in two films released this year,
THE WIZARD OF LIES (Dir. Barry Levinson – Now streaming on HBO), and
PEOPLE YOU MAY KNOW (Dir. Sherwin Shilati – Now available on
iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and VOD).
9. NEW TRAVELS
From driving up the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia and jumping off waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina to dancing the night away in the catacombs of a 12th Century abbey outside Paris, 2017 certainly had some of my favorite adventures yet. Stay tuned here, at TheAdventureAddict.com, for more adventures soon.
10. MARCHING ON WASHINGTON
One of 2017’s greatest honors was hitching a ride down to Washington D.C. and participating in the Women’s March. Social engagement and activism have always played an essential role in both my professional and personal work. Going into the new year, may we all continue to march on, lifting up the voices of the few, the minority, the quiet, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised.
Boat Ashore Productions Offers Creative Direction,
Project Management, and Production Services
For Digital Media, Immersive Entertainment, and Large-Scale Events.
SEE YOU IN 2018!
Michael (aka The Adventure Addict) + Boat Ashore Productions
And now for something completely different.
I’m going to swear online for the first time today.
Racist Nazi fucks don’t scare me.
You wanna fuck with black people and Jewish people? Good luck with that.
Here’s what does scare me: Complacency. I was out at a bar last night for a birthday party. I was talking to friends about Charlottesville. I then struck up a conversation with a stranger – a finance bro. (Now I don’t mean to belittle “finance bros” at all. But I said it, and now I bet you can visualize him better. I mean he probably dressed up as Patrick Bateman once for Halloween because he thought he was being “ironic.” I digress.)
The guy said he didn’t know what happened yesterday because he doesn’t watch or read the news. When I began to tell him what happened – Yes, Michael, by all means initiate a conversation about politics and Nazism with a stranger in a bar – he said he didn’t want to know.
Now I don’t post much on Facebook these days other than random questions and photos with vague song lyrics from the 90’s as captions. It’s just not a productive place for me. I never post news links and rarely write political posts. People who know me know this is not for lack of political or social engagement in the slightest. I simply prefer to focus my time on taking action offline, every day, with intention, engaging with people face to face.
But this conversation followed last night, which I quickly wrote down after it ended because it scared me so much. I felt the need to share it on social media because I believe there’s an even greater terror on our hands than this small population of racist Nazi fucks (many of whom, fascinatingly, if you check their Twitter handles, claim to be anti-Nazi, but we’ll get into that another time).
The greater terror, to me, is the complacency and apathy of every day Americans.
Our conversation continued:
So you don’t read the news either?
Never catch it on a screen somewhere? Talk to friends about it?
Nope. I don’t want to know about it. I’ve never voted either. (He said PROUDLY.)
One vote doesn’t mean anything. My vote can’t do anything. Let me tell you something – most people are scum.
Do tell me. Tell me more.
Most people are scum! And I don’t want anything to do with scum.
These men and women were marching with swastikas yesterday. These are the people who make death threats to synagogues and raid Jewish cemeteries. These are the people killing our black brothers and sisters in the streets.
See, I told you! Scum! But I’m never going to cross paths with any of them. So. They’re not my problem.
What about other people’s problems? What about empathy?
There’s nothing I can do.
There’s so much you can do! Volunteer, donate, call, e-mail, tweet at your representatives, raise your voice, engage, dialogue, march, protest…
Protests don’t do anything. Protests have never accomplished a damn thing. You’re wasting your time. Like I told you, most people are scum. It’s the way of the world.
What kind of work do you do?
Do you enjoy your work?
Naw. I hate it, honestly.
What would you rather be doing?
I don’t know. So long as I never have to go above 14th Street, I’m good.
I smiled and walked away.
He’s wrong. Most people aren’t scum.
Yes, some people light the world up with their tiki torches from Home Depot while shouting “White Lives Matter,” completely devoid of the true irony that their weapon of choice is an American bastardization of a non-white symbol. (Let’s face it: Their hats were made in China too.)
No, most people aren’t scum. But some are. Some are willing to just standby and watch the world burn.
The amount of pain and wrongs done in the world every day is immeasurable and overwhelming. And yes, people have no legal or even human obligation to look after or take care of their fellow human beings. But that is not who I choose to be.
I choose to be someone who doesn’t turn the world off because it’s painful and overwhelming. I choose to be someone who strives every day to do what they can to learn, listen, and make a positive impact. And I’d say the people I tend to surround myself with have the same viewpoint. Of course, we can’t consume the 24 hour news media. We can’t desensitize ourselves to the point of no return. We have to take care of ourselves and our well-being first. But as someone who dedicates their life to storytelling, to building empathy in individuals and strength in communities, I won’t ever stop trying to get people to open up their hearts and minds and pay attention to the world around them. That’s not just how we’ll grow. It’s how we’ll survive.
Friends, instead of railing against Trump every day from your private Facebook accounts and posting another “But her e-mails” meme, please help me talk to these kinds of people face to face every day as respectfully as possible. Lord knows I’m trying. Listen to them. Challenge them. Engage them. I know it’s difficult. But try. You have to try. Our democracy, our world, our future is at stake.
She was the first artist I knew. She was a painter. She made her living oil painting over the portraits my grandfather, a photographer, took in his Brooklyn studio. Their business was called Vega Photography.
She was the first chef I knew. When I was a child, her visits were hotly anticipated. She arrived bearing the gooiest and most delectable rocky road fudge you could ever imagine. Frankly, you couldn’t imagine it. Human imagination could never grasp such godly, culinary ecstasy. The fact that she made rocky road seems apropos. She always found sweetness in and around hardships.
Janet was born in Harlem. Her birthday was my half birthday. My half birthday was her birthday.
She played basketball in high school. Baller.
She began dating Robert, my grandfather-to-be, when she was 18 years old. He was a photographer in the Army. They met at a dance. He drove her home. When he leaned in to kiss her, she slapped him.
Shortly thereafter, they started dating.
Shortly thereafter, Pearl Harbor was hit.
Robert was to be sent overseas, except a funny thing happened on the way to war. At the end of his final medical check-up, the doctor hesitantly asked, “Robert, I’m not supposed to ask things like this, but are you by any chance dating a girl named Janet Axelrad over in Bensonhurst?”
“I am,” Robert said. “I’m gonna marry her, and we’re gonna start a family too. As soon as I get back from the war.”
The doctor subsequently diagnosed Robert with flat feet. Accurately, I might add. Robert was never sent overseas. Instead, he remained stationed stateside, first in Colorado Springs, then in Oklahoma City, then in Kansas City. The doctor ensured that Robert could stay with Janet, which he did, marry her, which he did, and raise a family with her, which he did.
The doctor turned out to be Janet’s cousin.
As for the ship Robert was meant to deploy on?
It was torpedoed in the South Pacific and sank.
Janet married Robert at age 20, and had my father, Lee, at age 22. Four years later, she had my uncle, Cliff.
She was a first generation American, the daughter of Polish immigrants Harry and Gussie Axelrad. Harry opened and operated Cathedral Bar & Grill on Christopher Street. It is now an Italian restaurant called Gaetana’s. The floor tiles Harry laid down a century ago remain. I often wonder if he imagined his great-grandson would one day stand on those very tiles.
Harry spoke Polish, German, English, and Yiddish. The usage of Yiddish would decrease with each passing generation, though my parents never failed to tuck me in without a Schluff Gezunt. “Sleep well.”
Janet was a Modern-Orthodox Jew. She kept a Kosher kitchen. As a kid, I could never comprehend why she had so many plates.
Janet and Robert left Brooklyn for West Palm Beach in 1983, shortly before I was born.
A few years ago, I visited Robert’s sister Annette, who was still living in the Brooklyn home where Robert grew up. In the basement, I stumbled upon my grandfather’s dark room, still intact from the 1950’s. I took pieces of paper off the walls with handwritten quotes, as well as hundreds of paper scraps that I later spent a year piecing together, forming both a 19th century Dutch shipping calendar, which I kept for myself, and an early 20th century map of Brooklyn, which I had framed and gave to my father on his 70th birthday. Annette passed away and the house was demolished shortly after my visit.
My grandfather called Janet “Red.” Her big red mane was unmistakable and unavoidable. I was a perpetual disappointment to her strictly because my own red hair became increasingly brown with every passing year.
“Where’s your red?”
“I don’t know, Grandma.”
“Are you dyeing your hair?”
“Why is your hair getting so dark?”
“I don’t know, Grandma.”
“You know you really should stop dyeing it. It makes you special. Let your red come out to play.”
She never called me Michael. She called me, “My Michael.” I never knew exactly why. But I always liked the fact that she claimed some kind of ownership over me. I was in good hands.
I remember celebrating Janet and Robert’s 50th Wedding Anniversary at my older brother’s Bar Mitzvah. Robert died shortly before my Bar Mitzvah.
Unable to find a conservative temple in her area, Janet founded one herself. This is where she met her second husband, Harry Wolovitz. They were together for 5 years before he passed.
In 2010, due to declining health, Janet moved to California to be closer to my Dad. She lived in an assisted living home called Alma Via, a few doors down from the grandfathers of my friends Marissa and Jena. In her final days, she had dementia, one leg, and a tumor on her face. But she never complained. She continued to laugh. I loved her laugh. Her eyes would squint and her voice would crack and it was the cutest darn thing you ever did see.
The thing I’ll remember most about Janet is how we would look at each other from across a room. In the afternoons at Alma Via, Janet would park her wheel chair in the common area. Clusters of people in wheelchairs would surround her. While their eyes would glue to the TV screen, Janet’s eyes would gaze out the windows at the flowers and the sunshine.
Whenever I would visit her at Alma Via, I’d peek my head around the corner of the common area and stare at her until her eyes found mine. Sometimes it would take a few minutes, but it was always worth it. She would discover me, then stare at me blankly for a few moments. Then a smile would slowly creep across her face. Her eyes would twinkle. And we’d stay there for a few minutes, just smiling at each other from across a room.
The last time I saw her, we stared at each other for what felt like 50 years. Eventually I approached her.
“My Michael,” she said, slowly. “Where’s your red?”
I tapped my heart and smiled.
Then she tapped her heart and smiled.
Schluff Gezunt, Red.
Janet Axelrad Schwartz
Cheers To The Friends
Cheers To The Gatherings
Cheers To The Travel
Cheers To The Adventures
And Cheers To The Memories
2016 was certainly my most adventurous year yet, in every sense of the word. I am thankful for the opportunity to know so many incredible people and places around the globe. Let us all continue to combat insularity and hate and strive for a kinder, more generous, and more inclusive world.
Wishing excitement and prosperity, love and connection, strong hearts and open minds to all my fellow adventure addicts out there.