Order of the Good Write

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


Fall in Los Angeles

Screenshot 2014-10-17 10.13.49

You can find Autumn in Los Angeles. You just have to look for it. Amid the green trees and freshly layered sod, you can turn a corner and find an entire street lined with deciduous trees, turning brown and yellow, shedding leaves until winter hits and the entire avenue looks like something out of your east coast/mid-west suburban winter memory.  Then you can turn another corner to find palm trees and ficus trees growing like it’s summer time where barbeques are smoking and canon balls are splashing down in a pool.

Fall is my favorite time of year. The chill in the air, the early nights of deep, long shadows that create a lovely feeling in the brain. Nesting, holidays, baking – suddenly we’re seeing jack-o-lanterns and fake web on bushes, and Halloween candy in stores, and the excitement of the onset on Pumpkin Spice season – as touted in the latest Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer”.

This is the time of year when I miss New York the most. I envy my east coast friends who are relishing in the “mist and mellow fruitfulness” of the season back home. Yes, they are looking ahead to a tough, cold, snowy winter – but after two years of scarce rain, lack of clouds and no snow in SoCal – I would kill for one flake of snow. (Okay, maybe a light snowfall.)

I left the east coast for the west four years ago because of those horrible NY winters, and yes – my home state got socked with exceptionally bad storm fronts since I left town. But as one LA sunny day folds into another, as one week turns to month after month of no substantial rain, I find the constant state of nothingness in the climate almost deadening. The sun is blinding. The air dry.  The sky always blue – providing a surreal world of perfection to the point where another gorgeous sunny day is mockery. It’s  becoming scary. The ground and trees on the hiking trails at Griffith Park are bone-dry parched.  The smell of dry cedar and dust particles clog your nose and get down your throat. The heat index can rise up into the hundreds, burning the dry soil, baking what were once moist, water filled streams that used to bubble up from the mountains. Screenshot 2014-10-17 10.14.07The sweet, dry smell of heated wood makes you feel that one strike of a match could cause the whole forest to ignite.

Weather. How I miss you. I need the turmoil of a late day summer thunder drench. The soul needs to be fed with the mixture of season, the drudgery, and the welcoming beauty of all that waiting and freezing and dry sky – to find that warm spring ozone air breaking through on a March afternoon. The happiness caused when noticing a crocus poking out of the dark, barren earth. Turning around and seeing a forsythia bush flourishing yellow blooms within the dead brown branches and bark of winter – which is slowly, slowly turning into spring as the promise of green leaves, warm weather, shedding socks and boots for barefeet and flip flops becomes real. Then it’s wonderful, wondrous summer!  The season you’ve earned after shoveling snow and suffering frostbite from waiting at the train station.  Summer – when Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime” makes you weep for joy at the memory of summers past you can relieve in the splash of the pool and the incredible coconut smell of Coppertone.

You don’t get that in LA. It’s always nice – always pleasant. It gets chilly, and you can imagine for just a moment, being back home under the red leaves of an autumn maple tree. You can feel safe in the warm pocket of southern California sunshine when you hear the rest of the nation is buried under ten feet of snow. But one season folds into another – and you wonder if going back into the thick of winter blues may be worth it.

[written in a morning funk kind of stream of conscious kind of way so grammar be damned]

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“Mork Calling Orson…Come In Orson…” End Of Week Lesson

mork calling orson

What have I learned this week?  Here is the bottom of the barrel. Mutterings and moanings.

To harness frustration. I, for one, am frustrated. I still haven’t finished my book. Edits are coming together slowly. Office work is crazy with low communication and even lower rewards – taking me away from the process. Why can’t the MIPCOM conference in Cannes just be over already!  It’s taking my focus away from what matters to me.

I thought I had a cover to my book – but my artist friend, who offered to design my book cover, can’t get the colors to work, and I don’t understand why – since I’ve seen this kind of color processing in books I’ve purchased before.

It’s sad that Jan Hooks died. When I look back on the last year, we lost so many funny people – Elaine Stritch, Joan Rivers, Rik Mayall, Robin Williams, David Brenner.

I’ve decided to try and find a literary agent in the next year – try to become a legit author as I self publish what I can – so my voice doesn’t die with me.

Perhaps I’ll be a writing coach? (Word to self – look up what writing coaches actually do and how realistic it is to find clients).

But all will come together. The lessons of annoying weeks like this,  where one can feel stuck, suspended in nothingness will dissipate and my book will be accomplished without me going broke. Right? I mean…right?

And to those who’ve left us this week – famous or not – the world will still revolve, and their memory will live on.

Friday round ups reveal much.


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Hitting the Water….Hard

"Hitting the Water: A Book of Stories" hitting Amazon, November 2014.

“Hitting the Water: A Book of Stories” hitting Amazon, November 2014.

This has been a very strange week. A rash of lay offs at work has made the energy a bit strange. I’m standing secure, on dry land, while a few of my colleagues set sail for new adventures – thanks to a pink slip. I’ve only worked at my current day job a year and a half; yet, saying goodbye to people whom I’ve only known a short time has affected me more than I thought. I’m used to changes and moving on. I’ve said goodbye to so many people in my life that I’ve grown detached at the thought of goodbyes. Besides, the entertainment industry is a small one. We’ll all meet again.

This week has also been slightly stressful (in a good way) on a personal level. My book of short stories entitled Hitting the Water is finally developing as an actual, tangible book!  As I pull together the final editorial touches before sending it off to my editor, I’m feeling drawn and quartered by all the work that goes into the self publishing empire I plan to create in order to rule the world!

Kidding. I plan on publishing my work so I can express the human condition, perhaps inspire others to lend a voice to the human race by encouraging them to self publish their work as well – or to even make them pursue their own destiny. So many of us have families and lives to support, that we tend to get lost in the day to day work grind. Some people are lucky – their forty hour a week job is a daily pleasure. For most of us, we end up losing sight of our dreams in the name of the dollar.  We tend to banish our talents and aspirations as a fruitless journey, impractical, something to do when we retire. So, we end up going through life in a hamster wheel routine until one day we look at ourselves and do a David Byrne:

“Well? How did I get here?”

Four years ago, I saw my parents  live out the rest of their days in a nursing home. During my lifetime – the chapter in their lives when I came into picture –  they seemed to live unconsciously, waking up from time to time to live out their passions in music and travel, but only to fall back asleep into the day to day comfort zone. They were wrapped up in survival, keeping a roof over our heads, food on the table, and giving me a better life than they had as children. For that, I’m forever grateful.  It’s in their death, that I see a life I need to honor. They gave me the world, yet throughout my adulthood, I took life for granted – living unconsciously in the name of a pay check and health insurance. I never found a husband, and never had children  — so I am free to live, to honor life, to understand death, and in some way — to live fearlessly. In doing that – I’m thanking my parents for everything.

After so many years of dreaming of writing a book –  I finally doing it.  I’m writing. Seriously. Everyday – like it’s a job – because it is – or at least – will be officially soon. At the start of 2014, I challenged myself to write at least 1000 words everyday. As each successful (and not so successful) day turned into one story after another – ideas flowed forth like a river. It was awesome. Not only did I have a deep long list of short stories and essays  – I also laid a ground work of projects to come. It’s profoundly gratifying. Something I never feel when I answer a phone or take a message for the boss. I’m still writing everyday, planning ideas, laying down outlines for books – and – touching up Hitting the Water. The writing is ongoing.

Hitting the Water is a nice, short read.  The stories touch upon mental confusion, absence and loss. Perhaps there’s a bit of life affirmation within the sentences. I’m hoping people will find it touching.  As I select my cover photo (which you partially see in the featured image to this post), have the interior formatted, have the marketing elements in place, get the copyright and all the legalities done  – I’m lost in words, ideas, thoughts and generally just –  freaking out.

I’m freaking out that I’m actually creating something. It’s the first step toward a new journey.

And on this Friday of a week where the axe has fallen at work – I could use a nice, stiff martini.

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Missing Cancer By an Inch: Lessons I Learned One Year After

My personal Oophorectomy ordeal that spawned my long post last night entitled I Left My Ovary…In West Hollywood  was a doozy. I wanted to thank anyone who got through that extensive account about my medical drama. It was a long one, and I know better than to post a blow by blow account of my situation. However, as the last few hours of September 25th were winding down, there was a burning need to commemorate this episode from last September by reliving it in the relief of hindsight. That way, I could tell the tale with some humor,  major gratitude and make sense of it all. I understand if readers looked at the word count and went, “Ugh…what the hell?” and clicked on by. This was something I needed to get out. If one person going though the same thing reads it and feels consolation, then I’ve done my job.

One year ago today, I was still at Cedars Sinai recuperating from giving birth to a cyst the size of a giant gourd. I remember taking pictures like the one posted with the long article last night. I also had a photo of the macaroni and cheese dinner I requested, and could not finish because my appetite was gone. I can’t post it. It still makes me queasy.

I was discharged from the hospital a year ago tomorrow to recuperate at home, where my stomach felt like someone had sliced it open, punched all my insides with a boxing glove, and closed me up again.

The past year has been one of healing – physically and mentally. First of all, I haven’t been able to wear fitting clothes or blue jeans since I’m still rather tender. But most importantly, what did I get out of this experience? How could a cyst so big grow inside me?

I have noticed that when I get stressed, I feel it right in the lady parts, where cramps get defined and feelings of being faint occur. Five years of change have passed through me, and with that came the death of two parents, estate closure, a cross country move and a series of jobs in order to find myself. The cyst went unnoticed because I was a bundle of nerves and anguish, emotions that probably fed into this monster.

Also, it may have defined the fact that I’ve been holding in my passions. All my adult life, I’ve been working in jobs that I can barely handle. I’ve fooled myself by thinking I’m just an Executive Assistant. I’ve been told by recruiters to tell perspective employees on interviews that I love to assist, I don’t do anything else. My creative passions were nothing – do not mention them. Although I can understand that – if you’re going for a job as an assistant – the potential boss doesn’t care about your extra stuff. They don’t want a Hemingway on their hands, they want a secretary. But I was placing myself in a position to lie. I’m okay with assisting, but my true love is writing. And having to bundle that up for all these years while smiling and doing work I didn’t want to do, has festered like a big ball of anger and frustration. Perhaps the cyst was a symbol of this, how it’s time to be authentic with myself and shoot for a freelance career in writing.

Self publishing my book “Hitting the Water” is my first step. And now I have to get it out there. This is tough for me. I’ve lived in my own head for so long with my writing, and having it read on a bigger forum is daunting. But I’ll do it. If there’s anything last year’s ordeal has taught me is this: Life happens. And life can happen fast and furious. Life will then hold a mirror to your face and force you to scrape your self pitying unconscious ass off the floor and do something – before you end up in a hospital at the end of your life sorry you did nothing.

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Friday Dream Journal

Perhaps it was the late night viewing of the 1998 film “What Dreams May Come” that put my mind in the motion of turning back time. After the last of the end credits rolled, I fell asleep fast, landing head first into a dream that lead me back to my childhood house. It’s been a recurring theme my entire life since we moved out if our little Cape Cod Colonial grey aluminum sided home in Ardsley, New York. My sleeping ghost has wandered the memory of this home in recurring dreams. This is the home I was brought back to after my birth. This is the house I grew up in, gazing out the window toward the Sprain Brook Parkway, getting up early for school to watch the sun come up over the line of trees on the hill in the distance from our backyard. This is were my budding feelings of life grew. This is where moments of pain and happiness were first felt.

Although I have an older half brother, I was raised as an only child. Our house was a four bedroom home, and with the exception of my parent’s master, I lived in each room throughout my childhood. The first one was my nursery, next door to my parents’ bedroom. Outside my window was a Japanese Cherry Tree that would blossom beautiful pink florals in the spring. It would fill the room up with glowing pink. It became known as my tree.

Then, as I grew to older childhood, I moved upstairs to the room used as a guest room. I fell in love with the Beatles there, who had long since broken up by the time I slapped eyes on George Harrison’s cheek bones in the photo from the inner sleeve of the blue Beatles Greatest Hits 1967 – 1970 album. The room had air space inside the walls used for storage, with little doors in the wall would lead you in there. I used to pretend that Narnia existed in the dim air space.  You could climb inside,  smelling the dust of the wood, feeling your way in the dark and dirty floor until you made your way to the other end of the wall where the other door lead you out – near the window.

I dream of that room often.  I envisioned it the other night during sleep, when I floated about the old place with a phantom current owner who showed how they built out the walls to make the room bigger, giving it a modern boxy feel with clean lines and ceiling to floor windows, eliminating the old wood of this 1947 house. The light airy glass  revealed a view I had never seen before. But in the prism surreal dream land, the vista resembled a Los Angeles mountain – the vision I often seen here in Southern California – with a rocky high altitude mountain range you don’t see in New York – and certainly don’t see from any part of my old house in reality.

The third bedroom used to belong to that older half brother before he high tailed his way out of Ardsley with a ticket to college and immediate marriage after graduation. I moved in while in high school, another fully formed teenager with mood swings and self righteous indignation. Yet, his presence was felt in the storage behind the wall that contained his old muscle ointment, his athletic cup, and a few packets of old, expired condoms. Moving into his old space meant that he handed down to me his old varsity letters in football, baseball and wrestling, that were still pinned to the wall. I inherited his weird wall paper patterned with the United States Presidential seal, the smell of his left his over male teenage musk, and a hole in the wall, strategically place by his hurling fist during a moment of anger.

Last night, with the memory of “What Dreams May Come” swimming in my mind, I dreamt of this room. Once again, I floated about it with a woman who apparently owned the place. The entire house was re-constructed. The bedrooms were no longer where they used to be. The little kitchen in the middle of the house, was opened up to make a giant staircase that stood in the middle of a vast living area. Going upstairs to the level that used to be the bedrooms I inhabited at some point in my life, revealed an entirely different layout. It was discombobulating. My head felt light, my stomach in knots. The entire top floor was punched out to make a big gymnastic-like space. I noticed people coming in an out of this giant room that turned out to be a recording studio. Trumpets and French horns were sitting in their stands. Guitars were on the floor. Amps were buzzing with life. The grey pot marked foamy isolation material used to muffle extraneous noises was on the walls. My old teenage bedrooms were converted into a recording studio at Abbey Road. There was a sky light. A baby grand piano, the little Steinway we used to own that took up the entire living room, was in the corner – looking small and beautiful.

There’s nothing to glean from such a dream. There is always a sad feeling in the pit of my stomach that this place, so integral to my rearing and memory, is in my past. I’ve always said that when I die, I’ll likely haunt this place.



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Miramar, Havana and Hancock Park, Los Angeles

The Friday writing fairy is being stingy once again, and finding words for my book is like swatting a fly: I aim, but they buzz away. However, the day is still young here on the west coast of the United States. So, to fill the absence of words, I turn to YouTube and Wikipedia to gain more inspiration on the Havana, Cuba of my mother’s young life.

I want to understand the geography of this Caribbean island. Through travelog videos of Havana, I find interesting realizations about my mother’s Cuba, and the sadness of her having to leave. It picks up on my theme from yesterday, on how home is everywhere. Vast distances between locations still conjure feelings of sameness — a sense of having been there before. A small square in Leningrad feels like that small park down the road from your house in Cleveland. The pier at Carbon Beach in Malibu could make you feel like you’re back home on the Jersey Shore.

My mother lived in the The Miramar district. It is an upscale area of Havana marked with big mansions and homes, mostly occupied by the upper class before the revolution. There are government offices and embassies throughout this region, which explains why my mother was fascinated by dignitaries and ambassadors. She loved her life in Miramar from childhood until her late twenties, when a member of Castro’s guard, an acquaintance, told her personally to get the hell out.

I live in the The Hancock Park district. It is an upscale area of Los Angeles marked with big mansions and homes, and mostly occupied by wealthy entertainment lawyers, producers and film mavens. The Mayor of Los Angeles lives within a two minute walk from my home. There are some embassies and official offices scattered around this lush green region. I live among this wealth, but on a street less ostentatious. I am not rolling in the dough. I can see the Hollywood sign from my street; yet, I’m far away from the madness of Hollywood. As the years have passed, I’ve made friends with my neighbors, and enjoy the camaraderie I never had with my neighbors in New York City. My rent is a bit high for what I can afford, and I’m nervous about my cash flow, so the idea of moving to a less expensive place has been weighing on me. But to even look for another place, somewhere more affordable, makes me sick. It makes me sad, depressed — lost.

I weigh this against my mother’s history. She longed for the Cuban beaches, byways, streets and the Malecon. Whenever we discussed summer vacations, Washington DC would be her main choice. The Capitol building always reminded her of the Capitolio Nacional. Everything from the Mall to the Treasury reminded her of Havana.  Washington held the pomp and circumstance, the familiar visuals she craved. Although the closest thing to a beach was The Potomac River, it was almost like  home.

It occurred to me while wading through videos and articles about my mother’s country, that her leaving Miramar Havana was in some small modicum of a way, like me having to leave Hancock Park — times one hundred. To have the world that sustained your emotional well being,  that provided your security,  that held your common ground be ripped from under you, to be forced to leave the only home you’ve ever known,  must feel like death.

As I struggle to find the next step in my mother’s story, I tap into her pain.  America is my home, yet she never seemed to feel it was hers. The United States. How could anyone not see it as the final destination, the triumph, the land of opportunity? How arrogant of me to judge my mother’s unhappiness. Her vision of home was shattered fragments of Havana, like glass on the floor, reflecting moments long gone. She settled into a life with me and my father, stuck in a suburban landscape, so far away from home.

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Whalebone Landing Road, Sag Harbor, NY, August, 2010

“It was a chilly April afternoon when my brother Jacques threw the last handful of my ashes in the Portuguese Jewish Cemetery on 11th Street, east of Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village. Just a handful. Most of me went floating out to sea a few weeks earlier, off an inlet bay at the end of Whalebone Landing Road in Sag Harbor. My wife’s ashes were also placed near mine. Our daughter took the plastic bag containing her mother, and spread the chalky leftovers on top of the waves, where they dispersed in a milky form, flowing slowly with the swells, hovering for a while like an aquatic ghost as the water carried her out in laps, back to the shores of Havana where she was born.”

“I’ll Be Around”, excerpt from the upcoming book “Entrances & Exits: A Book of Short Stories”, to be published October 2014.