Order of the Good Write

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


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“Moving On” Again

nora ephron

“When you give up your apartment in New York and move to another city, New York becomes the worst version of itself. Someone I know once wisely said that the expression “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” is completely wrong where New York is concerned; the opposite is true. New York is a very livable city. But when you move away and become a visitor the city seems to turn against you. It’s much more expensive (because you have to eat all your meals out and pay for a place to sleep) and more unfriendly. Things change in New York; things change all the time. You don’t mind this when you live here; it’s part of the caffeinated romance of the city that never sleeps. But when you leave you experience change as a betrayal. You walk up Third Avenue planning to buy a brownie at a bakery you’ve always been loyal to, and the bakery’s gone. Your dry cleaner moves to Florida; your dentist retires; the lady who made the pies on West Fourth Street vanishes; the maitre d’ at P.J. Clarke’s quits , and you realize you’re going to have to start from scratch tipping your way into the heart of the cold, chic young woman now at the door. You’ve turned your back for only a moment, and suddenly everything’s different. You were an insider, a native, a subway traveler, a purveyor of tips into the good stuff, and now you’re just another frequent flyer, stuck in a taxi on the Grand Central Parkway as you wing in and out of LaGuardia. Meanwhile, you read that Manhattan rents are going up, they’re climbing higher, they’ve reached the stratosphere. It seems that the moment you left town they put up a wall around the place, and you will never manage to vault over it and get back into the city again.”

-Excerpt from ‘New Yorker’ article by Nora Ephron, “Moving On”, June 5, 2006.

Yes. Every word of it.


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‘New Yorker’ Photo Essay: New Orleans “City of Water”

Nolastillflooded

Photo by Alec Soth / Magnum for The New Yorker. Caption: Sophie Borazanian and her dog, Joni, at Algiers Point, in the Fifteenth Ward.

“New Orleanians have always resembled New Yorkers; they tend to share the sense that to live anywhere else would lead inevitably to a stultifying and pitiable existence beyond the bounds of understanding.”

David Remnick, “City of Water”, The New Yorker >Photo Essay on New Orleans ten years after Katrina.  August 19, 2015. Check out photos at  http://www.newyorker.com/project/portfolio/katrina-photo-essay


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The Beat Goes On

Screenshot 2015-07-10 22.49.33I once saw Allen Ginsberg leaning on wall in front of Lincoln Center watching legendary jazz xylophonist Lionel Hampton’s apartment go up in flames.

It was January of 1997. My office colleagues and I were evacuated from the 3rd floor of the ASCAP Building, the location of my then job at The Children’s Television Workshop. There was a fire above in one of the luxury apartments and we were told to get the hell out. It was freezing cold that day. Grey skies. Post Christmas dead zone weather. We were stranded on the street for hours.

Looking up at the apartment window, I could see the ceiling of his home, the glow of the flames licked at the last of the white panes. I looked away for a few moments and then looked back to see the ceiling taken over by thick black oily smoke. The smell was an acrid, electric smell – one I had never whiffed before  but would again four years later on September 12th, 2001 –  the day after that horrible day when the winds shifted and the aroma of death and destruction fogged over my apartment and neighborhood near Riverside Park.

Mr. Hampton lost his awards. He lost his instruments, including a piano I could only imagine was a sleek black shiny Steinway. All gone. Poor man lost everything in that place.

Lionel Hampton

Lionel Hampton

In the midst of this chaos, I strolled across the street, past the Empire Hotel over to the bottom steps of Lincoln Center, and I saw him. The Beat Poet. That familiar Jewish bearded face – those doleful eyes I had seen in so many beat photos in books about the counter culture. Little did I know at the time – he was an ill man, under the throes of heart failure. It’s been reported that during this time, he was saying his goodbyes to friends through farewell phone calls (Johnny Depp apparently wept) and gifts of money to friends in need. * (Source: Wikipedia)

On this cold day, Ginsberg was looking up at the last billow of smoke rising. What was he thinking? Was this a pyre for the living, or a symbol of the end? Was he looking at the past going up in flames? Was he worried about a legendary genius with whom he may have shared late night discussions in the glow of candle light in dark clubs downtown?  Did he remember the cool wooden succession of notes and scales playing off a turntable on days when he made love to his lover, or wrote “Howl”?  Was he infused with the muse while under the spell of a Hampton track the day or night  he wrote, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…”?

Hampton lost everything.  But dignity doesn’t go up in flames.

Ginsberg died about four months later.

Hampton followed in 2002. What he lost in that fire doesn’t matter now.

What he and Ginsberg left behind – does.


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This Wicked Little Town

Janestreetstation

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.


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New York Dreamin’

Hellow UWSOh, Los Angeles – I really love you. I do. But I think we’re nearing the end of this relationship. Maybe not yet, but soon.

Don’t be pissed off. You’re amazing.

When I wake up in the morning, I see your bright sunny face in the window. You never turn off that blue sky and sunshine. All year round, it’s sunny and pleasant on your side of the bed, and for that – I am forever grateful.

You  gave me warmth during the winter when I used to shutter from the bitter cold blowing off the Hudson River.

You smell like hickory chimney smoke almost every night when the temperatures dip into the 50’s, coming from the fireplaces of houses near by. It mixes with the aroma of Night Blooming Jasmine and the fragrance from those trees that sprout yellow blossoms smelling like heavenly perfume.

The skies are dark blue at night, with a moon rising and hanging above more vibrant and closer to Earth than it appears in New York.

It’s weird. Everyone has the moon in their eyes here – with stars on the brain. The sun bleached sidewalks and the sharp sun dried walls of California houses, cutting sharp against the angle of blue against a daylight sky.  Purple prose for a very yellow sunshiny life.

Your sunshine brings people outside. Dogs, cats and people.  We all converge on the sidewalks, chatting and befriending in ways one hardly does in New York. I’m grateful for that.

Your glamor brings out the dreamers with baggage – lots of baggage. Samsonite. Moving vans. Old cars packed with personal belongings, sometimes used as makeshift homes parked by the curb.  Litter, mostly comprised of take out remains, are left on the street in the gutter for our dogs to sniff through when we’re not looking.

Some bring brain baggage – a different type than the New York style (which is in your face, with a big side of fuck you).  Daddy issues, mother complexes, narcissism, defensiveness, aloofness, the need to transfer personal problems on to you when you’re just minding your business.

Traffic and vehicular etiquette is a culmination of this, where left hand turns are impossible. Where people don’t let you go because they need to go first. Where drivers don’t even put their directional blinkers on because they aren’t thinking about you, nor do they care to show you the consideration. Not everyone is like this. And I’m no angel. But the behavior behind the wheel pervades here – and that sparks the road rage we all hear about.

Pedestrians  don’t even know how to walk here. They enter crosswalks like they are entering the red carpet. Strutting purposefully slow, talking to their equally slow partner or reading a text on their phone. Oh, are is there a line of cars waiting to make a turn before the red light goes on? Who the fuck cares? I’m walking and you must wait and watch me.

You may laugh, but I’m beginning to believe the collective personality of a given society can be measured in how they drive and how they walk in traffic. Slow. Thoughtless. Only they exist. Not you.

Everyday, your sunshine, once warm and beautiful, now blinds me.  I can’t have a quiet Sunday indoors to decompress without the sun shining, taunting me to go outside and drive somewhere. Hike somewhere. Do this. Enjoy that. Bask in the glory of this gorgeous day. This introvert is exhausted. I just want a cozy, rainy day.

But everyday is gorgeous. Almost every. Single. Day.

No rain.

Well, hardly any – with a short sprinkling from the sky, or perhaps a day of soaking rain that does not make up for four years of dry weather.

California’s perfect weather hides a dirty secret – and it’s not a sex scandal in a Beverly Hills mansions somewhere. It’s drought.

The drought began a few months after moving here over four years ago.  Within the first month, I was soaked to the bone, everyday pour rain with an intensity I’ve only seen on the east coast in the form of late day summer thunder drenchings. For a while there, I thought I had moved to Seattle.  But then it all stopped.

Oh Los Angeles, you took my money and a little bit of my old New York rhythm and blues.

I want to quote Billy Joel here, and claim I’m in a New York state of mind. Because I am.

So, don’t be sad, L.A.  I’ll be back. I left New York four and a half years ago when I was low and on my knees. It’s time to get my NY residency back. But I’ll return every year when the winter starts to kill me.

In the words of Paul McCartney, I want to “get back to where I once belonged.”


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The New York Mets: The Meaning of Winning

mrmetThere are so many people in the world who really hate baseball because they think it’s a boring sport. Sitting around watching players throw around a ball without a timer or constant play, well it’s just damn unexciting for them. They’d rather watch paint dry or the grass grow.

I say the same thing about football, soccer, hockey and basketball.  Sports on the clock, despite having more action, bores the bajeebus out of me. Stops and starts, flags on the play, out of bounds. It’s a little difficult for me to keep up. I just don’t get football. I look at the New Orleans Saints to teach me to love the sport somehow. We’ll see.

Baseball isn’t boring to me. It’s suspenseful, methodical and life affirming. Time is not a factor. Every element of baseball depends on physics and statistics.  The way the ball carries, the velocity of a pitch, the timing of a sprint around the bases, the photo finish conundrum if a man is safe or out because his foot touched the bag the same time the ball fell into the baseman’s mitt. It’s science, something godly.

Even scoring a game is a thing of beauty. Each player has a position number, and each play has a symbol. If you keep a score card as a game unfolds, you could frame it as a cryptic story of nine innings of baseball. An entire game’s story can live forever in a score card.

Baseball is a metaphor for life. If you follow the game, you know this. It’s almost a cliche. A player will “sacrifice” himself in order to move up a runner or send him home. “Covering the bases”, “Touch Base”, “Dropping the Ball”, “Play hardball”, “Three strikes and you’re out!”…it mirrors a pattern for life’s road map. We’re all in a game we call life. Baseball just makes the elements of the human spirit into a fun way to spend an afternoon near a green field with a lot of screaming people and beer. If the screaming people are on your side, you’re good. If you like beer – even better.harvey

When a team, like the Mets, have had fruitless seasons, dashed hopes and long stretches of losing, you learn to take it in stride. You understand how you don’t always win in life, and you know that despite a serious loss, the world will continue to spin, and there will be another day (or game) tomorrow (or next year).

Losing creates character in human beings who don’t really win in life, but know how to appreciate what matters: Their family, their home, their friends, and their sanity.

Losing strengthens your resolve when real challenge and adversity hits.

Losing makes one feel lousy, yet empathetic to other losers in the world.

Losing makes the winning even sweeter.

As a person used to seeing her team lose again and again in a town where the Yankees win and win so much, the Mets’ current winning streak is …mind blowing. I don’t know how to take it in.

Maybe I should talk to a Yankee fan who knows how it feels. They always bring up their world series rings. (Rings they aren’t wearing, but their millionaire heroes are wearing for them.)

Yet, I don’t want to be told how to win by fans who’ve had it easy for so long. They don’t know how to win because most Yankee fans haven’t understood the pain of losing.   Even when they lost against the Red Sox in the ALCS in 2004, or did not come in first in the AL East, nor made it to a post season, they were and are…winners.

The Yanks are an older organization. They are a storied team. They have Babe Ruth, Yogi’s malpropisms, and Lou Gerhig’s speech (man, he’s even MY hero).  In a baseball market like New York, Mets fans have been growing mushrooms under the shade of this Bronx team.The Mets are 54 years young and still trying to fill the shoes the Dodgers and Giants left behind decades ago –  while the Yankees take on their white toothed prom kings who turn into stars when the pinstripes touch their skin.

The fact the Yankees are fading right now, means you’ll see who their true fans are, and who were just along for the winning ride. Will the hot, pretty girls who longed for Jeter still come to the ballpark now that #2 is retired? Will they be keeping track of trades and who plays shortstop? Will the Donald Trumps and Lorne Michaels still show up to the park or decide to go the Hamptons instead?

Local media loves the Yankees. The NY Post editorial placement will focus on the Yankees when they lose, and place the Mets second when they win. Average people anywhere in the world wear the interlocking NY baseball caps and jerseys. You don’t even have to be a fan. Wearing Yankee gear is a fashion statement. You’re just a guy wearing a Yankee hat that means nothing to you.

This isn’t belly aching. This is loyalty.

When someone wears a Mets cap, it usually means they are a true fan. That cap has suffered the agony and the pleasure of a hard luck team. It’s likely that cap has been turned  inside out and worn on that head during a rally.  Its fabric is dry soaked with sweat from that fan’s brow after a close shave win. That cap has been thrown into the air after a startling walk off home run, and cried into after a major loss. Nobody wears a Mets hat unless they are in the tribe. (Or, unless you really don’t care and you’re only wearing because your cousin from New York gave it to you, like the valet parking guy told me last Saturday in West Hollywood who said he was a Dodgers fan. Okay – I’ll give him that.)

When the losing streak ends, and you begin to see some wins, you take it in stride. Your sense of entitlement is earned, hard worn, and will quiet those who mocked you. Maybe in “1 A.D” (2015 is year one “After Derek”), the Bronx “aura & mystique” will stand aside and let the under dogs win for once.

metsfan dugout

Photo by Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

There’s feeling in my bones –  this team may make it. They are young, hungry, having fun. We have half the team out on injuries, but the bench is deep with great talent picking up the job. There’s our pitching phenom – Jacob de Grom – rookie of the year. And Matt Harvey’s back – the Dark Knight. People show up to the stadium with Batman masks. When Harvey debuted at home last week, the crowd was so electric and loud, it was as if their collective shouts swirled and rumbled to create another beast, growling, roaring.

I’m in tears thinking about it.

The Mets have won ten games in a row at Citifield.  As I write this, they are playing a day game. The score says they are ahead. But past losses have instilled that good old fan superstition to say absolutely nothing and pretend it’s not happening. Because if we claim it, if we shout it before the ninth, if we pronounce it – we could lose it all.

It’s only April. There is so much baseball ahead. So many opportunities to win and to fail.

So for this New Yorker, I have to live in the moment.  I say it loud, and I say it proud:

“LETS GO METS!”

UPDATE: The Mets swept the Braves today – making it 11 consecutive wins. A franchise record.


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“The Wind’s Blowing Warm from Africa…and We Are Happy…”

Happy Friday to you all. Fridays are slow on WordPress, but I’ll give this one a go – even if it falls under the radar.

The song above ear-wormed its way into my head this morning and won’t let go. I discovered the track, and the album from whence it came, in London back in 1995.

The album is “Dream of 100 Nations”, and moments after purchasing it (on cassette), I immediately immersed my ear holes in the multi-cultural musical flavors that melted with techno hypnotic rhythms.  In the evenings, I’d fast foward to the track above, “I Voyager”, and walk through Hyde Park at twilight. Do you know about sundown in Europe in the month of June? They last late into the evening – past 9pm. I remember listening to this song while watching Arab women in the distance, slowly walk behind their heavily cologned husbands, as their black flowing burkas floated dreamily in the breeze in the dimming light.

I thought of myself as a voyager. There I was in my late twenties, unattached, spending summers in the UK alone. The voyage was beginning.

A memory also wormed its way through my twilight sleep this morning.  My awakening mind thought of a home in Sag Harbor. It was the house my uncle, aunt and I stayed in almost five years ago, the weekend we spread my parents ashes in the water of Little Peconic Bay.

The house belonged (and still belongs) to artist Eleanor Kupencow, a renown artist whose colorful modern paintings are created in this very contemporary well lit house. Each room is open space with the bare basic furniture. Studio lights flash on each canvas. One room opened into another with no doors marking closed in territory. There was no television, no internet – only radio. This was her getaway home – her place of solitude to do her work. Her work house. She has other homes.

I slept on an IKEA futon below a giant mural of geometric shapes and crayon bright colors. I felt as if I were sleeping on the floors of MOMA. The serenity was profound. The peace well curated and handled with white gloves. I loved the energy of the place. Its white walls and high skylight ceiling gave me warmth and solace as my parents remains sat in paint can canisters, waiting to be released into the waterways down the street.

The street stretched and turned down until it ended with beach sand and a long bed of smooth stones that made walking barefoot uncomfortable. What continues from there will be left for another day.

Today – I think of Eleanor’s house. I didn’t meet her that weekend. She left town to tend to a family matter, and allowed us to stay for those few days. It was the house where I truly said goodbye to my parents. It was the house where I made my decision for the future. It was the also the weekend I decided to move to California.

Five years on and I’m dreaming of moving back to New York when the time is right. And the right time is coming soon. Although I may never stay in this house again, I will be back in Sag Harbor to honor the day of the ashes, the pretty house on Whalebone Landing Road, and the warm New York summer, usually thick with heat and humidity.

Here in California, the wind blows warm from the Santa Ana mountains; yet, the thought of the wind blowing warm off the coast of Long Island makes me happy.


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New York-Los Angeles Bicoastal Serenade

louisckthr

Right now, I’m sitting in the heart of Hollywood, in the middle of one of the most storied studios in Los Angeles, taking a break from a morning deluge of work. The latest edition of the Hollywood Reporter is on my desk – the New York Issue. Just seeing it makes my heart ache.  Louis CK is on the cover, the consummate poster boy of New York entertainment. Receding red hair, bundled in a black coat, the photo shows him crossing a Manhattan street, looking at the camera with a stoic CK smirk – as if he’s saying, “Yup. I’m home. I belong here.”

The entire issue is a portfolio of famous New York talent and creators who’ve chosen to stay in the Big Apple over moving to the drought stricken sunny land of Los Angeles. They’ll endure the constant barrage of horrendous winter weather and frigid cold temps to stay where the rubber meets the road, where the energy of NYC lives in their blood. Even though I left for warmer climes – I don’t blame them.

I was in love with New York City all my adult life. I grew up in what they call a “bedroom community or suburb” of New York City. Westchester County.  When I was a child, New York City was bankrupt, crime was everywhere, and you couldn’t go into town without some scary dude trying to squeegee your windshield while you were held prisoner at a stop light. It was bedraggled, dirty and mean. It scared the hell out of me. But it was thrilling. Especially when I reached high school and was old enought to train it down with my friends Gina and Laura so we could walk Greenwich Village and absorb the funk coolness of it all.

Still, New York City was the heartbeat of my town. You could feel its pull. It was palpable – that living, breathing organism of energy sizzled twenty minutes south. The gritty streets. The cool and scary people. The humming of Time Square. Broadway. Media. Food. Art. Knowledge. Many people feel this. Ricky Gervais has often mentioned that when he comes to New York (he’s made it his second home), he always feels a catch in his throat. It’s visceral. Perhaps the Native Americans who first inhabited the island placed a spiritual blessing on the place, ultimately making it the touchstone for many wayward people. The hearth where distant travelers come to find a new life of peace and freedom. “Give me your tired, your poor”. The place where artists long to create, or the weary find solace in its crumbling buildings.  It’s like a calm in the midst of a global storm. The vortex or force field to where everyone eventually gravitates, until it sucks them in, saps their energy, and spits them out.

Then you fall out of love with New York.

Being inside the energy field of New York City makes one realize that the awesome thrill is good in doses.

When you’re young, you come to New York City to have your New York City days. Not many people stay. They marry or grow up a little and move on to spacious homesteads. Only the very wealthy or well tuned New Yorker stays a lifetime. But when you’re the intrepid NY dweller, you tend to leave.  You’ve had enough of scraping by in a studio apartment – or slumming with roommates.

The high rent. The small apartments. You sacrificed space and civility to have your own spot on the island – where you “stuff” is – where you lay your head. You got into the groove – as you make your way through the masses, getting so good in catching the subway, you time the rumble of a distant train perfectly as you run down the stairs, add money to your Metrocard in time to jump on the train moments before the doors slide shut. But you get to a point when you want your own space when you travel. You’re tired of breathing a stranger’s breath.

I fell out of love with NYC several years ago when I couldn’t stand waiting for the 6 Train anymore. I fell out of love when CBGB’s closed and The Bottom Line shut down. The energy of NYC that once filled me up with positivity – got to me. It was in my face everyday – from the moment I walked out the door. I’d step on the sidewalk to join the parade of pedestrians walking from York to Lexington just to get the train. I was just another ant marching.

I used to leave NYC on weekends and head to my folks house up in Rockland County, and then again in Westchester when they moved back. They both passed away within the same year, and the virtual umbilical cord from NYC to the leafy homestead up north was now severed. No more breathers from the stifling New York existence.  No more home cooked meals and family connection. I was free to the wind, but left with no outlet out of the city.

I needed green patches of peace – where I could swing my arms around and not hit a wall or knock off a book from a shelf. Space.  I wanted space. I wanted sunshine. I wanted…no more winters. I wanted more than just one room to live in.

I fell in love with Los Angeles. The comedy scene, the media, the hullabaloo, the underground world of vintage bohemian beauty hidden away from the glitz of Kardashian type shallowness. There’s a ragged beauty to LA that you really fall in love with.

It’s been almost five years, and my life in Los Angeles has been a remarkable one. I’ve worked for an entertainment database company – then for an Oscar/Emmy nominated production company – temped at a major studio in Culver City – and now at this amazing studio in the heart of Hollywoodland. I have a gorgeous hound who makes my heart sing. I’ve made friends with more neighbors  than I ever did in New York. My mindset has shifted with positive action steps toward productivity and creativity. My life is changing for the better here.

Yet, I dream of NYC. I sense the spiritual changes being sculpted in LA are preparing me for returning to New York a better person. I don’t want to leave LA, but I want to live in New York too. There will soon come a time when I will be fully bi-coastal – where I will live my dream of having the best of both worlds.

So, I sit and read the New York issue of The Hollywood Reporter and I live my NY life vicariously through the talent featured: Diane Sawyer looking out her CBS office at the familiar view.  Gayle King and Robin Roberts with the Manhattan Bridge (or is it the Queensboro? I’m never sure) in the background, and Larry Wilmore striking a Statue of Liberty pose with an ice cream cone as his torch – it’s all bringing me back home. All that good stuff still humming back home. Yes. Home. I’ll always call New York home. In fact, I’m going back next month.

Hopefully one day soon – I’ll be like Louis CK – living back in NYC, bundled against the cold with a smirk on my face that says, “Yup. I’m here in New York City and I belong here.”


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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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Fall in Los Angeles

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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]