Order of the Good Write

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

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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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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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A Song to Move You From the Grind: The Alternate Routes

This song changed my life.

I heard it on KCRW one Saturday afternoon. It was beautiful. The guitar strings and floating chord lifted my mood, subconsciously worming its way through my mind and taking hold of my heart.

Maybe I did hear the words that day, but I didn’t listen.  Yet, the distressed subject and her Shakespearean name came through loud and clear. Desdemona – of “Othello”.  A symbol.  In the play, Desdemona was an innocent woman found in treacherous conditions by the confident of her husband – Iago – whose desire for revenge moved him to plant the seed of doubt within the ear of her husband the Moor, the false idea that his wife was a cheating whore. She wasn’t. Desdemona was forever true. Yet, she was a pawn in a game of power, innocently standing by as two forces beyond her control held her down with false beliefs, painted a picture that wasn’t here, ultimately leading to Othello strangling her.

One Monday morning, I was walking around the neighborhood near the studio where I work. It was lunch time and I wanted to get in some steps to keep my fitness going. But most of all, I just wanted to get out of the office, away from the grind of routine, the giant thumb I chose to hold me to a desk. I was in emotional pain. I relished the fresh air and the birds and the green trees and nature. It was horrible to think I had to return to the useless world I was living in behind that office gate.  The pay is below average. I worry about money. I was stuck, trying desperately to see the good in all this as I listened to my iPhone’s playlist on shuffle.

Then, this song came up. The intro transcended me like it did the first time I heard it on that Saturday, when I was free – when I was home with my dog drawing or writing. It put me back in the place in the middle of a Monday afternoon.

For the first time – I didn’t just hear the words – I listened to them.

Desdemona, help yourself
I hear you mourning at the dawn
Desdemona, ask which side
Of all this lying are you on

Did you build yourself a runway?
Did you tell yourself tomorrow?
Did you cry?
And are you dressed in hesitation
when you tell yourself that everything’s alright?

Cause I see a distance in your smile
And what your Mondays have become
could be the rest of your life
Desdemona, you’re not dead yet
No it’s not wrong
If you want everything in life under the sun
Under the sun*

It hit me like a brick to the head. I had to sit down and listen. These words weren’t just to a friend who was in despair over her choices, this was a plea for her to break free. Desdemona was me.
‘Cause everybody’s out there killing time
And I will be damned to let you stand here killing mine.
Don’t you know we’re gonna change a whole world today
We stop waiting on the world to change*
We always think that something is going to shift for us next year, in five years, in ten. One day, something will change. We sit back and wait until that happens. But we have to step into the moment and change the world instead of waiting for it to change for us.
Desdemona, we are not so very different
Do you see?
And at the moment braver still
Than what our minds let us believe*
The mind is a strong force. We have the power to break through and build the road to a happier world in our lives – to get up every morning and love what we do. You can apply the mind toward positive open possibilities, or you can allow the fat lard of doubt stifle us.   Even George Harrison wrote:
Watch out now,
Take care, beware of the thoughts that linger,
Winding up inside your head,
The hopeless surrounds you in the dead of night,
Beware of Darkness.**
Our minds should be refocused to harness the things you want to bring into your life. Freedom. Creating. Giving back. Helping others find their way.
Back to “Desdemona”:
Even the walls that will surround you
Somehow steady by your very own hands
I don’t know just how to change you
All I know is how to tell you that you can*
We do it to ourselves. We create the barriers, believing in struggle and work we hate to get by. Letting fear give us the false sense of purpose and survival.  There are people who wake up every day and don’t go to a job. Their minds are programmed to create, allowing their survival to be dependent on music or words or helping others in a particular field. You can change. I can change.
Cause I’ll never tell you how to live
But you keep on telling me
That’s just the way it is
Desdemona more then anything I know
Never tell yourself that’s just the way it goes
I know it goes
But what do I know*
We don’t want to preach this mindset to those who aren’t used to it.  But it’s worth telling a human in pain that there is a way out. It’s like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Our happiness (or “home”) is one thought away.  We can change. We shouldn’t settle for the path fear leads us through.  It’s not the way it goes.
Tim Warren, one of the writers of this song, speaks of how he wrote it for his older sister, whom he saw as his hero. He found her crying late one Sunday over having to go back to the reality of her job on Monday. Meanwhile, he was free doing what he loves – creating, playing music, recording, traveling and performing. It broke him to see his sister devise a hard worn path to the same routine, when in contrast, he could wake up every day and live his passion.
I can only offer this to people like me – who are writers and artists in their own right – to change you mind about life. I’m working on it everyday, shedding my “Desdemona”.
But what do I know?  I’m learning it these days.
“Desdemona”, words and music by Tim Warren & Eric Donnelly*
“Beware of Darkness”, words and music by George Harrison.**


For Those Who Didn’t Think They Could But Did It Anyway


My Uncle, Charles Rotmil. Big Sur. Somewhere in the 1950’s.

My father wrote stories. During his retirement years, he wrote and relished the process of creating novels, poems and plays. He sent his manuscripts to publishers and agents time and again. He would receive rejection upon rejection. Sometimes, a publisher would ask him to re-write various elements so they could ponder the probability of accepting it. That’s when my dad’s hopes grew and visions of being the next wealthy Stephen King filled his head. He’d revise and send in his work, only to be met with vague decisions and ultimate rejection.

He finally self published one of his books, “Faustus in Pasquack” on Amazon, long before the self publishing craze began. The cover was home made. From a marketing perspective, it was simple and pedestrian. The writing between the covers was good. The story was captivating, and it garnered nice, polite responses. He wanted fame, but in the end, I think he was satisfied that he did it. He didn’t have to win the lottery of the literary world. He finally wrote his visions and created stories people read and enjoyed. He had a small following of readers. Al least he wrote something tangible. He did it. That’s what counts.

I know this isn’t the usual success story one finds after hearing about the travails of rejection while on the road to fame. We should all be acknowledged handsomely for our work, and with the persistence and luck, we can get there.

However, success doesn’t have to be fame. Success can be the act of doing something we find impossible – and just do it – despite the fear or self doubt. We each have a different road. My dad’s may have been different. I have all his work, all his words, and I hope to bring them back to the world one day. He left behind a body of work. That is success.

My Uncle Charles, my dad’s brother, wrote me an interesting reply after an email exchange regarding the day we laid my parents ashes in the bay in Sag Harbor back in the summer of 2010. He came up with the idea of spreading their ashes in this quiet, lovely coast, and I expressed how forever grateful we did this. Instead of visiting my parents in a dark cemetery, I can go to the banks of the inlet bay in East Hampton and visit the spot where their remains drifted off – my mom heading for her hometown of Havana, Cuba, my dad somewhere beyond the blue horizon.

He wrote:

“We all come from the sea and there we return. Life is a mystery. I cherish every Sunrise. Charles.”

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The Glue: Phil Hartman

Screenshot 2015-01-02 17.30.53 Picture it. SNL’s 1987-1988 season. I was fresh out of college, had a perm and Madonna’s music on the brain as I carried myself in big shoulder pads and big dangly earrings.  After a few NBC internships, I found work within the network’s Program Standards department. Within a year and a half after getting that BA, I was the assistant to the censor of the show. His name was Bill Clotworthy. The entire staff called him “Dr. No” because, well – he was the guy who had to say “no” to stuff.

I was also lucky to be there because back then, I was slightly obsessed with SNL. I loved the cast at the time: Kevin Nealon, Nora Dunn, Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks, A. Whitney Brown, Jon Lovitz, Phil, Dennis Miller and Victoria Jackson.  Characters like the Sweeney Sisters, Hanz and Franz, The Church Lady were extremely popular with catch phrases that were on the lips of comedy fans everywhere. Among all these fun characters was Phil Hartman. I had a very big crush on the man. I don’t know when it happened, but I do know why. He was the most sophisticated, the most mature of the entire ensemble. Plus, he had the ability to melt into  roles seamlessly. They used to call him The Glue – because he was a utility player that held a sketch together with his chameleon-like talent. The job was really fun – at least for someone like me who claimed herself a writer, and a fan of this legendary show.

Bill would always attend the Wednesday script read-through that usually lasted late into the evening. Thursday morning, I’d find a pile of scripts on my desk, split into two categories – the scripts that were dumped, and the scripts they were going to use. I’d type up Bill’s notes and file away the discarded scripts – but still read through them with curiosity.

Back then, writers like Conan O’Brien, Robert Smigel and Bob Odenkirk graced the top page of various scripts, credited with sketches that were either accepted or rejected. I didn’t realize what a force they would become in the entertainment industry. Who knew that tall, lanky, weird looking red headed guy I’d see on his way to the Commissary would replace David Letterman on “Late Night”.  “That guy?!” I remembering saying when the network named Conan the new host of the post “Tonight Show” slot. “The guy I’d see in the hallways and elevators at 30 Rock who I would also see in my neighborhood?”  Yup. That guy. It was like hearing about that guy in Accounting you always run into whose name you never knew – suddenly get a big television show.  Who knew Odenkirk would be the dad of all alternative comedy with “Mr. Show”, “The Birthday Boys” and “Breaking Bad” (not to mention, “Better Call Saul”) ? And Smigel, the man who created Insult the Comic Dog and host of “TV Funhouse” cartoons for SNL?  He’s a legend.

Back to Phil. I’d see him from time to time walking around the building, or on the close circuit televisions where you could watch tech rehearsals Thursdays and Fridays while you were at work. During this time, I tried to keep a level of professionalism, curtailing from any kind of girlie fandom, or chatting on about how dreamy he was compared to the others. No. I kept it to myself, this lust for Phil. Yes, I knew he was married. In fact, he married his wife Brynn just as I started my job with Bill. In fact, it was Bill himself who mentioned that Hartman was on his honeymoon with his bride, and said so with an air of resignation, and a slight eye roll. Apparently, his wife was known to be difficult.

Perhaps my little secret was driving me crazy, but I spilled the beans to someone about my crush on Phil. Perhaps it was to another secretary I worked with – or maybe to Bill himself. Bill was (and is) a splendid, fair minded, personable man who, in addition to being a family man himself, was like a dad to us at work. So, I may have admitted it to him.

One day, Bill’s boss Rick called me into his office. I never really dealt with Rick, so this was out of the ordinary, but not particularly odd.

Rick said, “See that bag over there?”

I looked over and a Macy’s shopping bag was sitting there on the floor. There was a tennis racquet poking over the edge.  Rick was an avid tennis player.

“Can you please take this bag to Phil Hartman’s office?”

My heart skipped. What? I looked at Rick. He had a little twinkle in his eye. Oh, Bill told him. Definitely. Rick has his own assistant who could have done this. She sat right next to me. Yes. This task was deliberately assigned…to me.

Oh, hell yeah, I’ll take this down to Phil’s office.

The story goes – Rick was chatting with Phil at that previous Saturday’s SNL after party. Phil was an major hobbiest – always finding something new to do during his off time. Boating. Surfing…now it was tennis. Rick was there to supply him with some of his old equipment. So…off to the 17th Floor I went!

My stomach was churning. “It’s not a big deal, you idiot. Calm down!” I heard my inner voice say. “You’ve seen him so often in the elevators. He doesn’t give a damn about you. It’s not a big deal. You are just an assistant going into the office of your idol and handing him some tennis stuff. Don’t sweat it.”

I got off the elevators on 17, and walked through the dark, dingy lobby to the offices that were almost as dark and dingy – but more like a college dorm kind of dingy. Lots of weird posters all around.  Toys, boxes of goodies, food was layed out on tables in the main room where there was a big communal table where I guess all the writers and cast would work, riff, eat, bullshit until they could compile a decent show by Saturday night dress rehearsal.  I was familiar with the SNL offices. Many errands were run there – but not to Phil Hartman’s office.

There was the hallway – the one where all the offices were.  How would I address him? Phil? “Oh, Hi, Phil. I work with Bill, Phil. This is from Rick. Bye Phil. Thank you Phil. I love you Phil.”

And then – suddenly – there he was. I didn’t even had much time to think of more greetings. There he was, hanging at the doorway of someone else’s office I approached him.

“Phil?” He turned around and smiled. “This is from Rick Gitter.”

“Oh! Thank you!”

“Sure!” And that was it.

He walked into his office, and I turned around to head to the elevators with my ears burning from the aftermath of composed freak out simmering below the skin. It was one of the coolest moments of my life. That – and meeting Michael Palin of Monty Python in Hair and Makeup at Studio 6A before he went on to guest on Letterman.  But that’s another story. This is my story about Phil and that brief moment. Here’s hoping he’s acting like the glue in that great sketch with Jan Hooks in that great comedy show in the sky.


The Upright Citizens Brigade Saved My Life

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, New York. Photo by Debi Rotmil

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, New York. Photo by Debi Rotmil

I was listening to The Nerdist podcast, hosted by Chris Hardwicke this morning. The guest was John Cleese, whose account of life seems full of spiritual vision now that he’s 75 years old. The concept of why we need comedy came up. After all, as Mr. Cleese professed, “I didn’t cure cancer”. So why the bowing down to this Python great? The accolades? Why should he feel so accomplished? The conversation quickly steered (thanks to Chris) to the fact that comedy makes human beings, struggling through the horrors of this world, happy. Laughter makes life tolerable. It puts a smile on your face, and allows you to push through the terror without always needing to medicate, drink or smoke weed to get you through. (Although, those things do tend to help – in moderation.)

It’s true. Comedy does help the human spirit march on, especially when one is faced with tremendous, harrowing challenges. That is when, at the age of 46, I became a member of the Upright Citizen Brigade training center as an improv student. 46 years old. The one person in a sea of late teens, 20’s and 30-somethings, all welcoming me with open arms as I left my temporary home filled with despair and illness to spend Sunday afternoons of “zip, zop, zap”, trust games, listening training, eye contact and just having a blast while finding “The Game”. All in the name of “Yes, And…”

It seems the founders, as much as I love them, have their heads up their asses when it comes to understanding HOW MUCH THEY AFFECT THE LIVES OF PEOPLE. I say this in caps because in the accolades and the network deals and the sitcom successes and failures Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts and Amy Poehler have see their graduates pursue – there are regular people who immerse themselves in the UCB culture – not so they’d be discovered by Tina Fey or Lorne Michaels. They did it because their lives sucked at the time, and they needed to participate in the welcoming, comforting hand of comedy in order to get through their despair.

The phrase “comedy nerd” has become incredibly cliche, but I can’t avoid the fact that I have been a comedy nerd since the day I discovered “SCTV” and “Saturday Night Live” (the original) in the mid-70’s. I was about 10 years old. I wanted to be Gilda. I crushed hard for Bill Murray. In New York, “SCTV” used to air at 11pm on Saturday nights on Channel 9 – which gave me a comedy appetizer before SNL started on the other side of the dial on NBC. (Yes…the dial). Catherine O’Hara and Andrea Martin were my goddesses. I wanted to invite Gilda to my pretend tea party and laugh over bits with my two new make believe Canadian comedian friends.

As SNL continued, I fell in love with Monty Python, taping every episode that aired on MTV, memorizing bits, worshipping these men like The Beatles, with Michael Palin my fave.

Then, the floodgates opened. The HA! Channel started up on cable, and I could see Python and stand up and various funny people until my eyes watered. “Whose Line Is It Anyway” came directly from Britain, and it wasn’t long before I knew the names of Stephen Fry, Tony Slattery, Josie Lawrence, John Sessions or Colin Maukery. “French And Saunders” was another revelation, straight from England, these two hilarious ladies cut a swath through all boys comedy with goofiness and deep hilarity.

I even went to London on various trips and saw a taping of “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”, plus I went to see The Comedy Store Players on Leistershire Square. Back home, I was a fanatic of “Late Night With David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”. When I was in college, I used to get tickets every month to see Letterman at NBC. Alan Havey had a terrific talkshow on HA! (the channel would become Comedy Central) called “Night after Night” that became an addiction.

So, in the world of alternative comedy, my age has allowed me a long, earned history of loving comedy since I was a babe.

I used to walk past the old UCB theatre on West 22nd street while going to my job on west 18th. I always meant to go in, but never did – not until 2009 after they moved to West 26th. I saw “Let’s Have a Ball”, a Saturday night show featuring Kay Cannon and Scott Adsit – two members of “30 Rock’s” crew. After that show, I was hooked. The warm, cosy, intimate space reminded me of the furnished basement in my childhood home. The interaction, the beauty of the improv, the structure and pace. I was done for – watching the bare bones of comedy. This is the kitchen of funny. This is how Del Close- who trained the minds of John Belushi, Mike Myers, Bill Murray and Gilda created the kind of comedy I’ve devoured all my life. It was all cooking down there, in the basement of a Gristedes supermarket with pipes that dripped and a mildew odor that smelled like my dad’s old bar downstairs near the washroom. Home. I was home.

I am the only child of two parents, who by 2009 were both in failing health. My dad had a stroke two days after Christmas in 2006. The next few years were spent in sheer terror of losing my father, fighting insurance companies that refused to pay for his sub-accute nursing, all while trying to maintain my job at the New York Times. It devastated my mother and me. After a few stints in nursing homes, my dad came back to his condo, where my mother cared for him. However, in time, she became quite ill herself. She refused medical treatment, and refused my help. During this time, I moved in with them temporarily to assist when I could. But it was a depressing home.

Screenshot 2014-11-28 15.07.06

On line at the Del Close Marathon, August 2009. Photo by Debi Rotmil.

In August of 2009, I spent a weekend in Manhattan to attend the Del Close Marathon. It was there that I had a life changing experience. Non-stop comedy. Gonzo crazy bozo ass comedy all in the name of Mr. Close and his spirit. I spent the weekend watching – in close quarters and in front rows – Jack McBrayer, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, Scott Adsit, Nick Kroll, Bobby Moynihan, Shasheer Zamatta, Horatio Sanz, Sarah Silverman, Brett Gelman and so many rising new comedians, who went crazy for about 54 hours straight of insane mondo improv comedy. If you don’t know these names – look them up. You will recognize them in shows like “Transparent”, “The Office”, “30 Rock”, “The League”, “Marry Me”, “Community”, “Happy Endings”, “The Mindy Project”, “New Girl”and in films like “The Descendants”, “Piranha”, “The Dictator”.

During that weekend, I waited on lines and met young people who were students of the UCB training center. The discussion often turned to why they were there, and why they were taking improv classes. One girl told me it was because she left her family home due to abuse, and was never allowed to come back. She found a home in improv theater, with supportive friends who were better than her own family. Another girl told me she was taking puppet improv, and found solace creating characters in this medium after her little sister was killed in an accident. I was in my mid-40’s. I wasn’t married. (Still not.) I didn’t have kids. (Still don’t.) But I had two parents dealing with the end of their lives, and I had to come home to that everyday. These young people saw me – this older lady – and THEY encouraged me to join improv, get into a class – lose myself.

And so I did. I started level 101 Improv with Rebecca Drysdale (“Key and Peele”, “Orange is the New Black”), where I became friends with a group of supportive, funny people who were all learning how to step up and create stories on their feet. We did monologues. We played tag outs. We played classic improv games. We performed on the stage at UCBNYC. We became members of this society. I continued to level 201 where I kept learning process – this time with edits, beats, analogous take overs. It was a relief to leave the sadness of my parents dark home – the fading embers of their life where I feared their impending deaths, where I couldn’t face their weaknesses, and where I always felt I failed them during this time. UCB was my haven. I was able to take the train from White Plains, and as the train cars moved closer to Grand Central, the worries faded until I got to the training center and started becoming someone else, thinking on my feet, writing in the now. We, as student, were required to go to shows. No problem! Then we’d connect the next weekend in class about what we saw, the techniques of an Asssscat, or how he structure of Kay Cannon’s scene at “Let’s Have A Ball” was similar to what we learned a few weeks before.

After years of SCTV, SNL, Monty Python, Letterman, Carson, Whose Line, The Comedy Store Players and UCB shows, I was finally inside comedy, cooking with the ingredients I had often seen. It was a revelation.

I was going to continue on to level 301 (I did receive approval to move on to the next phase), but sometime after I completed level 101, my mother died. I continued on to 201 to try and find the laughter in life and immerse myself with new classmates and scene partners. Then, my dad died after I completed level 201. Suddenly, my energy and desire to go into classes had waned. By now, I was back living in NYC, but I never did continue. Yet, I kept going to shows – until I moved to LA, where I grew tired of the disconnected irony and the easy dick jokes, and the boys club, and the spotty somewhat cute boy comedians talk about their crappy relationships with woman who were clearly out of their league. I got tired of waiting in crowded lines for shows, getting bumped off the street curb by young UCBLA improv students were were doing casual bits and trying to out-funny each other. I caught myself thinking – doesn’t anyone want to be a doctor around here? We could sure use a few of those in the world. There are enough improvisers to go around. Suddenly, I felt a little too old for this gig.

But in the end, UCB saved my life. It allowed me to smile when things were dismal. I only wish Amy Poehler and the founders I admire so well could understand how their venture isn’t only for young people who are trying to be the next John Mulaney or Kate McKinnon. It’s also for someone nearing AARP age who really needed a good soulful laugh to make it through.

Some of my writing from TVBlogster, my old comedy blog about the Upright Citizens Brigade. Plus coverage of the Del Close Marathons I’ve attended:


http://tvblogster.blogspot.com/search/label/Night%20of%20140%20TweetsScreenshot 2014-11-28 15.07.32

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End of Week Friday Musing

lucyandaroseI don’t know what it is about Lucille Ball that reminds me of my mother. Maybe it’s her chin and lips, her short hair or  the way she exuded  glamor, even if she was in the supermarket. One time, I told my mother she reminded me of Lucy, and she looked at me like my head exploded. And the fact my  mother was Cuban – her accent was so much like Desi Arnaz’ and the rest of my family – I thought he was a distant relative.

When my mother was nineteen, she married an older man, had a son, and was quickly divorced. This was back in Havana, Cuba. Every photo of her ex-husband was banished, except one family group gathering that included my mother, her brother, his wife, my abuela and my half brother when he was a little boy. Right at the edge of the picture is a be-headed man, whose face was ripped off in the shape of someone’s mouth – like someone took one big bite of him, chewed him up, and allowed him to disappear by act of mastication and digestion. Only his surname remained through legal documents, since my brother still held his last name – until my mom moved to New York, met my dad – and had me. Then it was changed.

I always used to fantasize that my half brother’s real dad was Desi Arnaz.  In his old photos, he looked like little Ricky and the real little Desi. As a teenager and man in his twenties, he so reminded me of Desi Arnaz, Jr. that I felt, deep down in my soul, that he was love child of my mom and the king of Babbaloo. One time, I asked my mother if she ever met Arnaz, trying to get a hint about the first husband she never, ever wanted to talk about. She said Arnaz left for Hollywood when she was a little girl, so she never did.  There went my theory.

But I still live the fantasy. It just feels like the whole Lucy universe swirled around my mom and her image. From looks, spirit and son…the Ball/Arnaz vibe moves on.

Just for context – this is my stunning, gorgeous mother below. Real ‘Mad Men’ days.

My Mother - Ana from Havana - at her wedding reception - 1962.

My Mother – Ana from Havana – at her wedding reception – 1962.

Happy Friday!


Friday “Hitting Water” Milestone

hittingwaterprintedIt’s the end of the week, and another opportunity to look back on some accomplishments regarding my forthcoming book of stories, “Hitting Water”. Above this blog post, you will find a print out of the mock cover, all bent in the shape of what will be an actual 3-D book (in addition to the Kindle version). The computer-to-print conversion is not exactly what it should be here – but it’s quite close – and will look much better when officially printed.

I love it!   It’s my hope that many people read it and find some beauty wrapped within the words. The memory of the late, great Jane Dornacker was the driving force behind these stories, weaving the concept of life’s brevity and how various spirits who enter our world lend out lessons about life and death.   Jane’s story is the only autobiographical one in the collection. The rest are fiction, yet inspired by people I’ve known and re-imagined in fantasy pieces about life, the chaos of mental illness, death and a little of the afterlife. It’s a short read, and I hope it inspires people to think about life a little differently.

As someone who has lived a conventional path in the name of security – writing this book is a big step for me. It’s the first in many I plan to write, as I fulfill my love for writing and getting it out for all to see. In that regard – I hope I inspire those who are stuck in a rut and feel they are destined for something else – whether it’s writing, painting, singing or building a house.

The book is currently in that limbo phase – where the edits, re-writes and proofs are done and the manuscript is being formatted for book and digital. So, I wait it out until the final version is done for uploading.  Although there is no publication date yet, the book should drop on Amazon by mid December, followed by Kindle sometime thereafter.  Once I know the date – it will be announced.

So, while I wait – it’s on to the next book!  I’m currently outlining a book about my life as an Administrative Assistant and brainstorming a SciFi book along the lines of “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. Fingers are cross that creative flow will happen and thy work will be done!

Happy Weekend Everybody!





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California Dreamers


A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a Kickstarter fundraising page for a documentary on the iconic writer Joan Didion, titled “We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live”. Griffin Dunne, the nephew of Joan’s late husband and therefore her nephew as well, is working with a team to bring this film to light.  The day it started, they had an $80,000 goal within a 29 day period. By the end of day one, the collected funds reached over $100,000. Today, with fourteen days to go, they’ve exceeded their magic number in spades, as the total is now over $204,000. It’s obvious to Dunne, I’m sure, and to admirers of Didion –  this film will undoubtedly get made. This is good news. Didion is one of the most thought provoking writers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Her writing has inspired many. Most writers, owe her a deep degree of gratitude.

The magic of Joan Didion’s work came to me later in life.  Many readings and random selections from “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” had been on my brain, but never resonated with me as it did for others. Perhaps it’s because I’m not of the same generation, nor am I from California. Nevertheless, her prose and intelligent overview of social mores within the turn of a cultural revolution was fascinating to me. Despite not being “in love” with Didion’s work – I thought of her as special – heady – hip, in a retro way.

It wasn’t until a reading of Didion’s staggeringly emotional “The Year of Magical Thinking” when my mind set changed instantly. Although my own personal crisis wasn’t to come for a few years yet, I empathized with the sudden death of her husband, and shuttered over the horrendous illness that befell her daughter Quintana – who sadly passed away after the book was published. The indelible message of how life changes in an instant was stark: Not too long after reading this remarkable work, my father had a stroke. Suddenly, Didion’s words had meaning beyond measure. It’s true. One moment, and life as you know it – is never the same. I’ve read the book again after both my parents passed away. Instead of the simple empathy from my first reading, this time I lived each sentence and moment with her – this time I was standing in her shoes, as someone in mourning, someone who had been through the ringer with the medical world, someone – unlike Ms. Didion – was NOT a “cool cucumber” when the avalanche came down,  and an ER doctor took me aside to say both parents would not be coming home. It’s hard going back to your house – alone – with this news, with things to do, lawyers to retain, and memories to disperse.

When I decided to move to California a few years ago, I began reading Joan on a weekly basis, hoping to slip into her shoes to understand the geography and social outlook on this new state I was to call home for a while. In fact, her famous essay, “Goodbye to All That”, a story about her leaving New York, was a comforting piece, allowing the guilt I felt over leaving my home town for the warmth of the west coast to abate. One story here and there, including the work in “Slouching” fulfilled my Didion-esque view of my surroundings. A new landscape of valleys and mountain, earthquakes and dry spells laid before me as I mined the social aspect of this town. It isn’t all Kardashian and plastic actor wanna-be’s. There’s history and a tired chic to Los Angeles’ underground world of artists, comedians, musicians, neighbors, shop owners, and various historical landmarks.  Reading Didion’s written work is like holding onto a bible of California’s cultural revolution that still resonates today.  It’s lovely to turn to her while navigating this land. Through the bright sun that glares every day in Southern California, I read Joan’s essays through her famous sunglasses, seeking out the soul of this state – not only of its past and present – but of its future.

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Paying Respect to the Week That’s Just Past


Friends of WordPress and “Order of the Good Write”, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to the week that’s just past.  Monday through Thursday has bit the big one, kicked the bucket – forever gone into the netherworld where it will remain a memory. Friday is upon us, her head bowed down low. Her vodka chilling in the fridge. On yonder, martini. Full of grace, dear olives.

Think about the week that leaves us. Did you enjoy it? Did you pay your bills and kiss the wife or husband? Did you love? Did you hate? Did you get stuck in traffic and come into work late?  Nevermind, my friends. Our great reward – the weekend – is here, and you will shed the ties that hold you down to your cubicle. You can now shut off your alarm clock … until Sunday night.

But first…

Saturday will come and you will sleep in later than usual. Or maybe you’ll wake up early because that’s what you like to do. The kids may have a soccer game, or the mother in law is coming to town. Sunday will see you at the great Farmer’s Market where heavenly seasonal pumpkins can be bought, brought home, and stabbed with the very knife you purchased at Bed Bath and Beyond with that 20% coupon, to carve out faces of jack-o-lanterns and scary cats with arched backs. Then there’s the World Series and football to be watched. Some will be glued to the beauty of the sport. Others will curse their spouses and claim they are being ignored. But nevermind.

We put off our thoughts to the great beyond…what lies ahead of Sunday in the big unknown  we call “next week”. But the inevitable thoughts will creep in on what Monday will bring. Some will have meetings that will test their blood pressure.  Maybe others will be backed up in traffic because three truck drivers who can’t operate a can opener much less a frigging vehicle – just caused an accident on Melrose and LaBrea. Will you enter a Ralphs (A&P, StopNShop)  parking lot and find an open space? Will your car fit? Or will someone have parked all wonky over the parking lines, cramping the one and only fucking parking space that will fit a Prius C?

Ah friends…when a week ends, we must wave it goodbye, throw holy water on its grave and move on into the great big weekend in the sky. We live in hope  that when Monday comes, we won’t find ourselves in hell.  Especially if you have jury duty – like I do.