Order of the Good Write

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

Leave a comment

This Wicked Little Town


Photo by Matthew Wiebe – https://unsplash.com/matthewwiebe

Oh, New York – I miss your heat and your humidity, your snowstorms and sub-degree temps. I miss rainfall and clouds, grass that really grows from the ground, not installed like living carpet on the dry and barren patch of front lawn, sucking up water from sprinklers that shouldn’t be on because of the drought, creating a modern day dust bowl.

I miss Riverside Park and Union Square. University Place and Bleecker. The City Bakery. ABC Home. Chelsea Market. UCBNY on 26th and 8th. Broadway.

I miss your weird smells and pungent odors. You pace, your energy.

I miss my trigger fast pace of filling my Metrocard with money as I hear the train roar into the station, and swipe it at the turnstile, just crossing over to make it through the closing door before the “ding dong”.

LA – nice try on public transport, but your buses need bus lanes. Your drivers need to know the right of way and that the stick attached to their steering wheel is a directional, telling the drivers yonder if they’re making a left of a right. Oh, and how they love to speed up alongside you to pass you. Ah, the competition, the lack of consideration, getting ahead and not letting others know where you’re going. Driving here is like a casting call. Bless the kind drivers who do exist. And they do.

Five years ago, when NYC burned me out and I set my radar for LA,  I used to constantly quote James Murphy, who sang, “New York I love you, but you’re bringing me Down”.

It’s now the other way around.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to be in LA. I love my pretty apartment and my nice car, my peace and quiet, my lovely red headed hound dog.

LA’s skies are always deep blue, turning into dark dreamy skies at night. Skies where Venus shines so bright next to Jupiter I thought it was a man-made satellite until I Googled, “What is the brightest star on the western horizon?”

I open my blinds at night to gaze at that sky where “stars hang like grapes”, as the great Woody Guthrie once wrote in “California Skies”.  Woody – he wasn’t fooling.

My LA life is blessed with wonderful friends I’ve made for life. Neighbors who’ve brought me joy, and taught me lessons about adversity and happiness.

Five years of no winter provided a perfect respite from 46 years of frozen fingers,  icy slush, shoveling, sweating, bad hair and deeply depressing late winter low light.

Yet, I miss the gorgeous feeling of winter turning to spring and then summer and then fall. When you handle such contrasts – you’re more grateful and more in the moment when a crocus comes fighting through the thawing earth.

While I’ve been gone, the new World Trade Center was built. As a very young child, I saw the old one go up and in adulthood, saw them come crashing down on a Diamondvision board in Times Square, as I was running home that horrible day.

While I’ve been gone, Hurricane Sandy roared through, destroying my home town and bringing folks together in ways not seen by outsiders of this city.

I think of California in song. Jackson Browne, Joni MitchelI singing about California and their lives defined by the landscape, the mythology of this western plane. I may have driven through Laurel Canyon many times, and rolled down the Sunset Strip – but I never really drove up the 101 without someone else at the wheel.

I never really called the road my own.

California,  I’ll never “kiss a Sunset pig” and it’s okay if you don’t “take me as I am”.

I am grateful for everything in my life.  I live in the moment, never running from the present, always keeping the faith that I’ll be back in New York permanently at the right time in the right way with grace and purpose.

I love you LA, and will one day be a visitor again, but at least I’ll be able to go back home to New York – where I can watch my beloved NY Mets lose on east coast time.

New York, you are a wicked little town. I’ve used two wishes like a fool, and I’m going to be very careful how I use the third.



Before The Deluge: New Orleans on My Mind

Photo by Mick Bradley,

Photo by Mick Bradley, “New Orleans Before the Flood, Decatur Street”

As the ten year anniversary of Katrina approaches, New Orleans has been on my mind.

I was in New Orleans in 1999. That was the first, and so far, only time I stepped foot in the Crescent City. I worked at Sesame Street, and was in town for a television conference. It was January, and the weather was mild, sticky. I remember the smell of truffle oil and Cajun spice sitting in the still air of the French Quarter. I went for early morning runs in vacant streets that reeked of the previous night’s revelry.

Nola was a blur. Being there on business, I was stressed out, preoccupied, nerves shaking at the weight of responsibility. I look back now and find that stupid. It was just a television market. I thought I had so much to prove in this job, but really never proved anything at all.

And I wasted it. I wasted my time in New Orleans, running to restaurants, greeting clients, having meals with staff, only seeing the beauty, the spirit, the air thick with ghosts in my peripheral vision.

In Nola,  I saw folk impoverished in ways I never knew existed in this country. Not urban poor. Dirt poor. We were marching through in our smart cosmopolitan clothes while locals looked at us like we were mad. And they were right. We were stark raving bonkers because we were blind. Blind to the world past our upper west side apartments and offices overlooking the glorious Metropolitan Opera and Philharmonic fountains.

There was one night in town when Kerry, my boss at the time, and I some down time. We hit Bourbon street looking for New Orleans’ musical home cooking. R&B. Zydeco, plain old bayou blues – anything on this spectrum. We wanted to hear it badly.

A doorman from one of clubs saw us wandering the street on our musical quest. Without even a thought, came over to me, grabbed me by the hand and lead me into his cool, dark and loud club.  Kerry followed. Within moments,  jello shots in test tubes were handed out in laboratory trays, which we happily accepted and downed. We noticed a band on a stage in the back getting ready to perform.

It was thrilling. What would they play?  Would it be a Cajun frolic, or a country twangy tune? I was ready to shed the blinders of my urban life and start feeling the voodoo and blues of Nola. I wanted to go past the tourist parties and absorb R&B pulsating through floor boards. I wanted songs sung in French patois – the kind of French my Alsatian born dad wouldn’t even understand.  Voodoo and ghouls. I wanted the backwater blues, the darkness and the pain. I wanted to feel the flames of the devil nipping at my heels. Let’s hear it band.  I’d repent tomorrow. Hail Mary’s for all, and holy water on the sink. Amen. I swear.

But in New Orleans, I didn’t want to hear The Eagles’ “Hotel California”. I just didn’t.  And that’s what the cover band played.

“On a dark desert highway….cool wind in my hair…”

She was a young chick with a cut off t-shirt with a mic in her hand. I bet she was amazing, and her band rocked the house when they made the music they loved. But on this night, they did a top forty song from my childhood that bored the living hell out of me.

“I didn’t come all this way to Nola to hear a cover band sing “Hotel California”, I said to Kerry.

She agreed. This ain’t no party. This ain’t no Nola. This ain’t no fooling around.

We stepped back out to the ruckus of Bourbon Street, and within moments found our destination. It was a dark club – it’s name totally unknown to me to this day – where the blues flowed like bourbon – easy, powerful, sweaty. The sound styles of Muddy Waters, Big Momma Thornton, and the sweet, heavy delicious longing music of the mouth organ – like Butterfield at the microphone – wailed in our ears like a soulful locomotive train in the night.

I can’t remember what they played. I don’t remember the name of the band – hard working sons of bitches they were. I only recall the feeling, the vibe and the emotion, the thrust and the pull, the pain and the god damn ever loving fun we had, downing shots of scotch while swinging our bodies to the New Orleans dance.

It may not have been Cajun or zydeco. There may not have been local french patois coming from the lips of these bluesy singers, but this club at this moment –  it was a mighty find. It gave us a taste of a little voodoo. We harnessed the demon flames, and shed the corporate life that brought us to this amazing city to begin with.

I long to go back. I haven’t been there since, and during that absence Katrina hurled through. Watching the wreckage on television, I remember seeing the places Katrina  devoured – places we walked through several years before. The convention center where I ran around in my smartass New York high octane goals, were now filled with displaced people, lost, longing for answers – grieving.

And I was on dry land, by now working within the brand new Time Warner Center with Central Park beyond my window,  remembering how this wrecked, soulful city, now submerged in death, flood and unimaginable devastation, gave me such life and profound happiness that night.

Yet, through the rubble and death – I saw so much strength and resilience. The power of the human spirit was and is still – alive and fearless.

Yes. I want to go back and feel the voodoo, the beauty and the flavors. I also want to bask in the strength, the morning light, the resolve of human determination. I also want to hear a hardcore, mouth organ wail soulfully in the night – like the moaning horn of a lone train.

Leave a comment

Looking for Mr. Weiss

Thinking about this story and planning on making this into an awesome project.

Order of the Good Write

Mystery piano under the Brooklyn Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Richard Corman: http://www.richardcorman.com/ Mystery piano under the Brooklyn Bridge, June 2014. Photo by Richard Corman: http://www.richardcorman.com/

When I was a child, our backyard neighbor was a flutist for the New York Philharmonic. His name was Mr. Morris. It’s possible my father called him Sam, but my memory is fuzzy. I was so incredibly young at the time. His backyard was large and unruly. An old collapsed greenhouse was buried beneath overgrown brush and small trees that had given up years before I was born.

Mr. Morris and the state of his backyard is a faint, early memory. Yet,I remember in summertime, when his windows were open, you could hear him practicing his flute. His instrument was part of the atmosphere. The sound of his practice floated through the air, mixing with the hiss of passing cars, birds chirping and children playing. Years later, when I moved into Manhattan, where you could throw a…

View original post 1,663 more words