Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


Hi Dad. Where Are you?

meadowI’ve been thinking about my father’s spirit lately. He died almost five years ago – on Father’s Day 2010.  Within those five years I’ve wondered if he is around me. Is his spirit watching over me? Does he support me? Protect me? Send me doses of spiritual comfort when I’m down? Does he still send love?  I’ve even tried a medium or two to see if he wanted to talk to me – possibly solidifying if he’s really there, just beyond reach, on the other side of the veil.

Nothing. Mediums have the ability to hear the spirits of loved ones, but they never hear my father. Other people always come through.

My father and I had a very clear, spiritual connection. I was a daddy’s girl – a chip off the old block. His birthday was December 18th – mine is December 19th.  We were buddies in birthdays, kindred spirits. When I was small, he was my hero. I remember one time I was holding his hand. He let go for a moment to light a cigarette (it was the late 60’s). After a moment, I reached up for his hand again and grabbed what I thought was his. I looked up to find it was my step-grandfather’s – a stranger to me. I screamed. I wanted my dad.

There’s a memory I have of my father that always gets me right in the chest. It’s a memory I have of him when I was very small. I was at the doctor’s office for a routine exam and I was terrified. My father, knowing my stress, stood before me and held my hand, calming me down. Even as a healthy, small child I knew this moment would stay with me forever. I was so grateful for my dad.  The memory is almost an out of body experience. I remember it as if I am watching it on film.

As I grew up, he was always my best friend. He gave me the best advice. He gave me a good home, a great education and a solid sounding board when I was down. We had the same temper. The same stubbornness, and the same ability to dream.  We were independent. We also were laid back and easy going – the kind of people other people wanted to bounce off ideas and speak to confidentially. We are both non-judgmental when it counts – opinionated when is doesn’t.  (We’re Sagittarius. We put our foot in our mouths).

I dream about my dad. Sometimes he just appears silently, standing by – not saying a word. Other times he’ll be with me, and he’ll be his old self – not in a hospital bed unable to get up – but as his old vital self, driving his car, going places, looking as healthy as he did twenty years ago. It feels so real that I’m elated by his normalcy- the way it used to be. No more illness. No more frailty. See? Dad’s back! Isn’t it amazing he’s recovered and no longer ill? Just my strong dad taking the Buick down to our town’s little village to buy some milk. It feels so real.

Then I wake up, and the reality hits me.

Our connection is so deep that I feel my dad doesn’t want to filter it through a stranger. He always spoke face to face, evading nothing – never needing a mediator to communicate with me. We always had an open line to each other – even when we’d have a big fight and I would give him the silent treatment for weeks until I saw how much it hurt him – we had a connection.

Some people sense a psychic turn when a loved one dies. There was never a day so electric with psychic power than the day I picked up his (and my mother’s) ashes from the funeral home. I trained it from New York City to White Plains and took a taxi to the establishment. The driver was talking to his dispatcher on his cell phone, and the radio was turn down very low. He finished his call, and the low white noise from the station continued for about a minute before the driver suddenly decided to turn up the dial on the radio. At first, I hardly listened. A delayed reaction to a Rod Stewart song that was dentist office wallpaper to me – a re-written version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”. (I prefer Dylan’s version.)  At one point, something took hold of me, like I was in a meditative state singling out words I’d never heard before:

“And when you finally fly away
I’ll be hoping that I served you well
For all the wisdom of a lifetime
No one can ever tell

But whatever road you choose
I’m right behind you, win or lose
Forever Young, Forever Young..”

It was one of the first times I can remember crying without realizing I was crying.  It felt like he was sending me this message. I knew I was on the brink of moving to Los Angeles. He knew it before he died that I wanted to make this change. “You will,” he said in his hospital gown under blankets, “You will.”

I asked the taxi driver to wait while I went inside this stately place to pick up the remains. When I returned to the taxi several minutes later with two canisters filled with my parents, the radio station was playing The Spinners:

“Whenever you call me, I’ll be there
Whenever you want me, I’ll be there
Whenever you need me, I’ll be there
I’ll be around…”

It was a sensitive day. Perhaps my mind wanted to believe it was my dad (and mom) sending me a reassuring sign. Or maybe it was a coincidence. But I felt it in my bones. This was meaningful.

I’ll keep listening. Maybe my dad will whisper something to me, or show me another sign.

But wait. While finishing up this blog post, something made me leave this page to check something on my Gmail account.   Right on top of all my email, sent within a few minutes before my eyes landed on it, I saw this:


Hi Dad.


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Last Night I Saw A Shooting Star

photo-1421986527537-888d998adb74Last night while heading outside for a jog, I saw a shooting star. It streamed downward within the sky like the last flickering embers of a firecracker. But this definitely wasn’t a firecracker. It was indeed a shooting star. I didn’t make a wish. My head was empty of thought, other than the words, “A shooting staaaarrr!”

Should I have made wish?  Should we all wish for something? Do wishes let us continue to live another day, hoping something better will happen, or something specific will arise?  Wishes are for dreamers. Dreamers are for sleeping. Stars are for twinkling, until they create a show in the sky, burning in the atmosphere like the last ember of a dying firecracker.

I have recurring dreams about meteor showers. I’ll be suspended somewhere in a surreal world and see a dazzle of twinkling stars rain down into nothing.  It’s the quintessential dream for me – creating a visual, stunning in its beauty, arresting in its silence. Millions of stars falling out of the sky is the stuff that dreams are made of – to borrow from the Bard.

But in waking reality, seeing one shooting star in the early evening is special. Even if it almost gets lost among the airline jets hovering in the distance, waiting for their final approach into LAX.  The shooting star competes with the man made blinking lights of planes on the final descent. All these flying objects touching down.  Burning fuel.

Its been a very busy and fruitful week. Time to touch down.

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The Freeway Ain’t Free

QAdTsSj8TOOWzlyLn3Rg_14248396556_aefcd9a926_oI have a fear of the freeway. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost five years now, and I will not drive on the 101 or the 5 or the 10. I fear them. They are hissing snakes of crazy cars – a whirlpool of drivers who go fast – who hate you – who will ride up your ass when you’re going 70 miles an hour. I can drive the New York State Thruway and every Parkway across the New York Trii-State area – but I will not drive the Freeways of California. It’s like taking one’s life in your hand and then smashing it alongside a guard rail.

Oh – I’ll let someone else drive me. But I cannot handle the speed as I take the wheel, the wayward highway to nowhere – the fear of not knowing an exit. A lack of direction. I still can’t find north. My compass has changed since my move from the east coast. It’s direction now spinning, confused. The ocean is on the other side of my brain.

I hate the Freeway. If I have to go to the Valley, I will take the surface streets. I’ll take Cahuenga to Barham. I’ll wait in traffic. I’ll take Laurel Canyon, where the twisting turns of backed up cars leave you unable to see what’s ahead. You are the snake that’s hissing, the long bending road lined with rocks and houses, buildings on stilts and memories of Charles Manson, Mickey Dolenz, Jim Morrison, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Mitchell. If I go up this rock and roll mountain to the flats of the other side, I’ll start off seeing the old Country Store, and think of crystal beads and mobiles, incense and Indica, naked groupies and lone stoners looking for home. Where are those burned out babes and washed out music god wanna be’s today? Pushing a cart down a street? Running a bank? Bouncing a grandchild on their knee? Dead?

I always thought living in Manhattan was a grind. The subway, the dirt, the crush of the morning commute. When I moved to Los Angeles, I wasn’t seeking any fortune or fame. I was looking for Spring, Summer and Fall – no winter. I was looking for a a new way of life, where I could take my car and go anywhere – despite never wanting to drive on the freeway. Now – even the pretty weather is tiring. The heat – relentless. The people – deep, thoughtful- all out of towners like me who just wanted a new life in the sun.

Now, I envy the folks back home, shedding the dreary winter for that wonderful feeling of spring as it stirs. The feeling of warmth breaking through the cold. I’ll take spring after a bad winter any day over a spring after a season of drought and summer-like heat.

mtNrf7oxS4uSxTzMBWfQ_DSC_0043Tomorrow, I go to the other side – Sherman Oaks. I’m not used to the valley and the mysterious oasis of the other side – over the mountain. I only know Burbank and Toluca Lake, yet my car is set for whichever way is best along the Google Map warnings and the way I feel. I leave myself a lot of time.

The Freeway isn’t so free. It’s backed up for miles. So maybe the hissing snake will be quiet with the bumper to bumper traffic – but I won’t give in. I’m a New Yorker in Los Angeles and frankly – I want to go home. I love the beautiful weather in the dead of winter, and I want to go home. I love the friends who greet me like nobody does in New York, yet I want to go home. I love the incredible Southern California skies that turn baby blue and pink at twilight, and I want to go home. The stars aren’t as plentiful as in other less dense places, but the ones you can see – they hang like diamonds. The crescent moon is sharp, like the charm on those bracelets I used to wear as a child, the northern star perches nearby – almost like that second earring in your second piercing on your lobe. The Pacific Ocean is blue like heaven, whereas the Atlantic is green like life. I want to go home.

All this lamenting doesn’t mean much. I miss New York, and plan on moving back in a few years. I miss living in a place where I’m from. But I’ll never leave Los Angeles. I’m working on a life where I can live – somehow- in both places. New York – Los Angeles. A little of the milk and honey, dipping into the best of both worlds.

Dreams are like those hissing cars on the 101 – they’re scary. But in pursuing them, I’m not going to take the surface roads. I’ll forge ahead until I’m up the ass of someone going 70, and go around, much like the BMW’s and Mercedes driven by those who don’t know what a left or right hand signal is.

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Paul Williams and The Music Connection


When I was a child in the 1970’s, you couldn’t watch a television show without seeing Paul Williams. Whether he was guest starring on an episode of ‘The Brady Bunch’ or ‘The Love Boat’, or showing up on The Mike Douglas Show – he was one of the most multi-talented and ubiquitous performers alive. He was even a heart throb. He made Marsha Brady woozy.

He was also a songwriter who crafted some of the most successful songs of the decade: “Rainy Days and Mondays”, “We’ve Only Just Begun”, “Evergreen” and “The Rainbow Connection” from the classic “Muppet Movie” of the early 1980’s.

Mr. Williams faded from view for years, likely resting from the drink and the cocaine binges so prevalent at the time. When the documentary “Still Alive”, written and directed by Stephen Kessler,  came onto the scene a few years ago, I was basically giving him up for dead. The film corrected me.

I’ve been watching and re-watching this documentary on Netflix.(As you can see, I’m going though another bought of documentary obsession lately, having mentioned “Good Ol Freda” last week.) “Still Alive” shows Paul Williams in his recovery glory. He’s a man who lives in the moment, living with grace and gratitude for all his good fortune and clarity.

stillalivePWHe makes Kessler, his side kick documentarian, look like a nervous Woody Allen. As a Paul Williams fan back in the day, Kessler is constantly self conscious about how Paul perceives him. Things get weird and tense when the camera is pointed at Williams during quiet moments. They initially bond over their love of squid dishes, like Calamari and…well…Calamari. However, their bro-hood is sealed when a stressful trip to the Philippines – fraught with Kessler’s concerns of Al Quada living the jungle – turns into a nice experience. Paul Williams took all warnings in stride, never letting travel advisories get in the way – always thinking positive and never assuming the worst in people.

Paul Williams could care less about adversity. It shows in this documentary. He’s been through the ringer of his inner demons, and he approaches possible challenges like they’re nothing compared to the problems he left behind. Williams always seemed fearless, even in his drug addled days. The fact he has skydived on television, and loved it so much he did it again on his own – speaks volumes. When you view the film, you realize it wasn’t drugs that gave him strength. He has enough of it on his own.

To me, he looks better than ever. At 74 years old, he’s trim, affable, and maintains the sparkle that started to fade in the 80’s when the drink and the drugs began to show on his face and his behavior.

He disappeared. He found sobriety. He helped raise his kids and he kept the musical home fires burning.  Behind the scenes, he’s emerged as celebrated businessman, having been a member of the ASCAP Board of Directors, and then officially voted in as President in 2007. He even went on to win a Grammy for his work on Daft Punk’s album “Random Access”.  Not too shabby for the shaggy haired jack of all trades.

Paul Williams is a legend, although he may not want to hear it anymore. His big time Hollywood days of appearing on Johnny Carson’s show, or the Hollywood Squares may be over.  He may play small venues in Vegas and lay low compared to his days on the big stage. But he’s found an even bigger form of success. Happiness.

I highly recommend “Still Alive”. If you remember Paul Williams, you will find a deep admiration for him. If you are too young to have known him, you’ll know him now.

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Freda’s Words and the Power of One’s Own History


Freda Kelly. Beatles Secretary

“Freda, you were there at the beginning. You were there in the end.” George Harrison to Freda Kelly when the Beatles Fan Club closed down.

It all started back in Liverpool in 1962 when a seventeen year old secretary was invited to see a band at the Cavern Club during her lunch hour.  What happened next changed her life. It was that day when Freda Kelly became hooked on a band called The Beatles. While most of us are piling salad onto a platter or munching a sandwich during lunch, Freda was witnessing first hand, the beginning of a musical revolution. If you haven’t seen the 2013 documentary “Good Ol Freda” – you should get on this. Freda’s story is remarkable. A young girl who became the secretary to the most famous band in the world, who didn’t really want to talk about her past – until she felt it was time.

Freda was a devotee right from the start. As a constant attendee during lunchtime Beatles concerts at the Cavern, she developed a friendship with the band, with their manager Brian Epstein (whom all within the inner Beatles sanctum called “Eppy”), and as they great famous – with Beatles fans across the world. She not only answered phones and typed letters, she was the head of The Beatles Fan Club, giving out word of the latest Beatles news, answers to Beatles fan questions, and treated fans worldwide as her own. After all, she was a fan herself.


Freda Kelly today.

Freda’s Beatle work was a remarkable testimony to pure passion and belief in the job at hand. Loyal, devoted, trustworthy, unwavering, Freda wasn’t out for fame or wealth. She was the liaison between the band and the world. The boys loved her. Their families loved her. She was a constant. Yet, as the Beatles began to go their separate ways, she was happy to leave on her own terms. She was married and expecting her first child. Freda wanted to get on with her life.

As the years and decades rolled by, Freda became a housewife and mother, and in time, became a granny. No one knew of her illustrious past except her own kids, but she never went on about it. She wasn’t impressed with it. It was in the past. Her attic held boxes of old fan letters, tickets to events and pieces of George Harrison’s hair – but it was no different than our own boxes of old report cards, diplomas, high school yearbooks and varsity letters.  Her years with the Beatles were buried in cardboard. Except her memorabilia could garner her big bucks. Something she has never been interested in claiming.

Her son always asked her about the Beatles and her days supporting the lads. Yet, she always pushed his questions away claiming that it was behind her. It wasn’t anything to discuss.

Then, her son sadly passed away. One has to imagine her years of skirting her son’s questions lead her to participate in the documentary about her past. She mentions the film is for her grandson. She did it as a part of her legacy. In doing so, she touched the hearts of many secretaries and administrative assistants who not only marvel her front in center view of the biggest band in the world, but they empathize with the tedium, the tasks, the admiration you gain from bosses who need your help. The only difference was her bosses were Epstein and The Beatles. Just you try telling the moody John Lennon to apologize for pretend-firing you just because you hung out in the Moody Blues dressing room too long.

We are all a microcosm of Freda. We hold stories we think mean nothing to others, but they mean everything to a stranger across the world. Look at the blog and book “Humans of New York” – a pictorial of regular everyday people walking the streets of New York or anywhere in the world. We walk past human histories, tragic memories, damaged minds, heartbroken and fragile, romantic and sad without realizing it. We are human history.  It’s powerful to know this.

Words – when chosen with purpose and light, with history, depth and/or levity – are powerful. We should chose them wisely. Like Freda, we should tell our story – before it’s too late.

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Landing on a Landing Page

launchpageI’m in the process of creating a website!  But first things first. I’m gearing up with one of those Landing Pages that say “Oh, hello! I’m not ready yet. I must powder my nose. Keep the car running while I get this site all dressed up!”

I’ve been involved in a program known as “B-School”. It’s an online business school for entrepreneurs. It’s exceptionally challenging, fun, exciting and amazing. There’s consistent  step by step information on how to build a business online, and how to create a business from a place of “Why”. B-School opens the mind to create a purpose driven business – coming from a good place of passion with the intent on helping. This isn’t an ad for B-School. Enrollment is closed and won’t be open for another year. But if you’ve stumbled onto this site with the hope of gaining some know-how in the world of online business – check it out.

So, I’m working hard in the background, gaining market focus and envisioning my customer and what he and she wants – in particular – with writing. What frustrates them. What are they looking to do when it comes to being creative and writing words that no only help them find accomplishment, but allows others to learn from them.

It’s been fun looking at templates for my website on WordPress – and all the cool landing page options I can go with. If anyone out there has any helpful advice on website design or development, let me know!

Anyone out there in B-School?  Any Marie Forleo disciples? We are surely a very enthusiastic bunch!  You have to be. When you get tired of the norm in life – it’s time to take it up a notch. A big giant old high rise notch.

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For Lovers of Dylan and Hounds

It’s Monday and I need a diversion.

This is a lyric set to the tune of Bob Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.”  Because I need a hound fix and I’m becoming a ridiculous dog person.


“Well, I howl in the living room, babe…
Can’t buy a thrill.
I’ve been nudging that red rubber Kong,
..around for treats but I get nil.
Oh, if I howl like a bluesy hound shill….
Maybe she’ll come home, and hug me ‘til I’m chill.

These ears are dragging low, babe,
My belly needs a scrub.
The television’s on, but I do not give a blub.
I wanna be your buddy, babe – I don’t wanna be your schlub…
Awww, come home now, momma, come home and give me a tummy rub.

Well, I give up waiting on you,
Think I’ll jump on the couch.
I wanted to tell everybody that,
alone watching “The View” ain’t much.
If I die while viewing “The Chew”….
Then tell my buddies playing at day care – aww… FU…”

Here’s the original tune if you’ve read this far and need the tune in your head:

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Sunday Puddles Pity Party

It’s a beautiful early spring Sunday, and my ears want to hear a good song. What better way to treat my tender lobes (and yours) than post a video from my favorite troubadour Puddles the Clown…?

He’s the traveling Pagliacci, the dour, sweet, torch toting, bedraggled clown with 40 miles of hard road in his eyes and a voice like silk. Puddles is a character created by the incomparable singer Big Mike Geier.   He brings performance art to a higher standard of awe.

This is a truly a profound rendition of the song “You Don’t Know Me”, and it’s sure to stir a chill in your spine and a tear in your eye. Please watch it straight through. His silence at the start is very much part of the performance. It weighs the moment with depth.


The Tension is Thick in Rye, NY

Screenshot 2015-03-14 10.14.54

Photo courtesy of AMC

The final season of “Mad Men” is around the corner, with a premiere date of April 5th. I’m a big fan. Super big. As a babe of the 60’s and child of the 70’s raised in the leafy suburbs of Westchester County, NY – this show slips into my mind like a glove.

Of course the heated, alcoholic haze and adulterous Don Draper world wasn’t in my purview – the style, the emotions and the nostalgic fashion brings me back to a time when I was safe, secure – and with the exception of being brutally teased by the big bully at our bus stop during my elementary school days – had no care in the world.

So, when I see the latest sneak peak photos from AMC on the next fashion phase of the Mad Men crew, I get a little warm and fuzzy inside. Not just because I can’t wait to see Don’s world as it closes in around him (still sporting the “wet” look – he is a man of out time), but to see the fashion – which is now closing in on the 70’s – the decade I really remember.

Yesterday was my mom’s birthday (in heaven, as the classified ads would say), and the latest publicity stills unveiling Don’s world really struck me hard. It’s all in the fashion. From Harry Crane to Henry Francis from Joan Holloway to Peggy Olsen – I’m seeing dresses worn by teachers and substitutes and fathers and businessmen of my childhood.

The one thing that struck me was Betty’s dress. The flowery chiffon – screaming ladies -who- lunch ease.  Her demeanor and regal beauty – the cold stare of a women who has been screwed around long enough. A dame whose intelligence has been pushed aside. A proper lass who loves propriety and manners. Yes. Betty is a stoic one, lost in her dark mansion in Rye.

This reminds me of my mom.  She lost herself in the leafy world of suburbia. She was much like Betty, She longed for glamor on a political scale, the grandeur, the promise of good etiquette and the high life of Manhattan, whose gravitational pull was a constant in the metropolitan area of NYC.

All that promise, all that fun and excitement – just a car ride away. Bright lights in exchange for PTA meetings. Charlotte Russe at Delmonico in exchange for Girl Scout cookies and Hawaiian Punch. Thinking about what might have been while watching a spring rain dampen the newly grown leaves on the cherry tree outside the window, longing for a view of lower Manhattan and “a matinee, a Pinter play”* on Broadway.

Betty’s dress in the photo above looks like a gown my mother bought for my cousin Burt’s bar mitzvah in 1973. The only exception was that mom’s dress had long flowing sleeves. She painstakingly picked that frock after browsing various racks at Wannamakers, Gimbels and Alexanders – departments stores that were in their last gasp of life back then.  Trying on one after the other until she found the perfect one – a floral mass of chiffon.

In choosing this perfect dress, she could live out the persona of the perfect aunt – the fancy relative who’d step up to light the candles on behalf of her nephew, stylish and affluent.  In her mind, she’d step out of the day to day life she led to live a brief moment of glamor within the excess and gaudy display of this over the top bar mitzvah. It’s a moment where I remember trying to fit in but feeling left out.

After the last hora was danced, and the final floral centerpiece was taken home by a lucky friend who had the winning ticket under her plate – after the kisses and the gifts and my mother’s quest for the perfect dress, hairdo and girdle – I wonder if she went home feeling as left out of the family hoopla as I did.

Betty Draper Francis would just light a cigarette, drink a scotch and look out the window at her Rye, New York acreage.  Standing within the white bred opulence of dark mahogany and velvet wallpaper surrounding her pretty teased up head, swirling that drink – thinking of what might have been.

*”The Ladies Who Lunch” from the musical “Company”.  Words and music by Stephen Sondheim