Thursday, December 28, 2017

What Am I Reading?

As an MFA student I am constantly being encouraged to read. One of the books on my list is The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley.

It's amazing how perverted Malcolm's message was by the white media who wanted to slander him. It was "by any means necessary." He didn't "hate whitey" but rather the institution that kept black Americans down.

And by any means necessary he meant protecting his community from the white government who wanted to shut them down, and the white police who routinely brutalized young black males.

What's revealing and tragic about this read is how little things have really changed. Young black men are still at the whim of the white patriarchy, and cops brutalize these same young black men for sport. The system is also more likely to push young black men into foster care which is a pipeline to prison.

This is why The Black Lives Matter movement is so important. As an activist I have had the honor of marching with these young people many times. While they include whites which he was initially against, during the end of his life he began to change his rhetoric when he saw Muslims of all colors praying together at Mecca.

Malcolm X is fascinating, fanatical, militant and entertaining all at the same time. He goes from class president in  Lansing to street hustler to prisoner and to Muslim minister. What's amazing is how the US government is still trying to shut down Muslims but the KKK was state sponsored terrorism.

Like myself, Malcolm X was a second generation activist as his father championed Marcus Garvey. Would be have gotten along? I dunno. He seemed to hate the white man but before prison liked white women and they helped put him there. (Long story, read the book). Not to mention he has some interesting ideas about how his breaking a woman's heart turned her into a lesbian. (Your might be a great public speaker but your penis doesn't have the magical powers to make a woman queer).

Either way, this is an interesting read for any activist and student of history

While Malcolm X would disapprove of my merch, I am peddling it anyway

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Residency is over and I am feeling a mix of emotions. The first is sad. I miss my friends and my fellow cohorts. I miss my teachers. I miss my classes. I miss being around a community of people who like to write as much as I do.

I feel inspired. I am working on a piece about my family and my political activities. A Sienna (graduating cohort) told me I was to focus on a special project. When he tells you to do something, you do it.

I also feel inspired by the talent of my classmates. I also feel inspired by those who have families and children that are doing the program. I am lucky if I remember my puppet babies somedays.

I am feeling relieved to get some sleep.

I am feeling excited to dive into graduate school.

I am feeling curious to see how my new found zeal and knowledge informs my activism, ventriloquism, comedy and acting.

I am feeling discomfort as family members are asking me what I plan to do with this. I want to remind them that they aren't paying for it and to butt the hell out of my life.

Most of all, I am feeling proud of myself for taking a huge step. For adulting. For disagreeing with someone and then guiding her towards renewing her health insurance.

I am also feeling exhausted because I have been in school for 10 days straight. I love LA and I love the new direction my life is taking. For the first time I dont feel driven by the Type A bullshit that has made me a hard to take basketcase for so long.

I can't wait until my next residency in June. Until then, Happy Trails!

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Walking in LA (Missing Persons)

The New Wave hit echoes in the chambers of my memory as my day starts. I see the lead singer of Missing Persons. She looks like Central Casting issued a call for Gem and the Holograms. The lead singer freely informs, “Nobody walks in LA!”
These words resonate in my memory as I start my day. I am in LA and I am a walker in this city where no one walks. It’s because I am transplanted from a city where everyone and their mother take a subway or they walk. In Los Angeles, the transit system is adorable. It tries, but it goes everywhere and no where at once. And no, no one is walking.
Nobody walks in LA.
I begin my morning by heading to class at Antioch University in Culver City. I am 20 minutes down the street. Apparently LA has some neighborhoods you can walk in. This is one, kind of.
The sky is colored like Bob Ross took his water paints and went to town. It’s happy and optimistic unlike the often dreary New York skyline I left behind. As I hit the pavement I see Spanish Style houses. Even the apartment buildings are Spanish style. There are no hulking, gray high rises that remind you that no, you will never be able to afford to live here. LA is expensive, it did that to me on it’s own. That’s why I don’t have a car, duh.
As I wander the suburban sprawl to class, I see flowers in December. There are no flowers in New York at all let alone in December. I breathe in the fresh scent that is totally alien to me. All of a sudden I hear the bark of an angry dog. It’s behind a fence so hell if I know the breed. Either way it senses I am here and is mad as hell, probably because aside from the mailman who is probably a drunk who barely does his job-my childhood mailman was and from what I understand that’s more the rule than the exception-this dog never has a walker let alone senses one.
Maybe this dog wants a friend.
Or maybe this dog is saying, “Bitch, didn’t you get the memo. Nobody walks in LA.”
Yes, I ascribed the dog an identity and am even giving it words. Maybe it’s because I am a ventriloquist and make objects talk. Maybe it’s because I have spent too long in New York. We had son of Sam who had a dog tell him to kill people. Maybe he was a ventriloquist gone bad. Cali has Richard Ramirez who got a girlfriend on Death Row. Every city has their psychos. As someone who makes puppets talk and now is giving a dog way too much agency, I should just focus on getting to class on time. You know, school, the whole reason I am in LA.
This entire time I am drinking coffee as I walk down the street out of my pink mug that says Antioch MFA. It’s pink because I’m a girl and I like pink things. As I sip my pink mug I see no one on the street. It’s still just me. However, I see swarms of cars on the street. They are like bees going to a hive. Angry bees on a mission. They are driving like they are either late for the high paying job that pays the rent, the audition that will change their life, or yoga. In LA it’s yoga.
New York has the same swarm except it’s foot traffic. Both are equally as scary.
I cross the street and the drivers look at me as both a herpes sore on their day and as an alien. A walker is a foreign being. I cross the street with lightning speed like I am Errol Flynn and Captain America, swashbuckling in a foreign land to live my dream on the written page. As I cross I spill my coffee. Yes I applied for graduate school on my own and am financing it on my own too. But I am drinking coffee irresponsibly and walking in a no walk city. I am adulting well and badly all at the same time.
I hit the sidewalk. The hot texture of the pavement has hit my white flip flop and boy are my toes hot. My sun dress is hardly proper walking gear according to most but in New York I have walked from Wall Street to Times Square in similar gear. Heck, as a singing telegrammer, I have worked the tri-state and even walked along Jersey Highways in the dark. I can handle people who drive like assholes. Jersey drivers are notorious. Yet the possible brushes with death never cease to raise my pulse.
I catch my breath.
On to cross under an underpass. It looks like trolls should live there but they don’t. Trolls in LA have cars and wouldn’t be caught dead walking under their bridge. As I cross I see a black homeless guy, tattered and pushing a shopping cart. There are people who would tell me I should be scared. I am a New Yorker. I have dealt with all sorts of homeless. Many are addicts or mentally ill who fell through the system. I try not to make eye contact. While those in Jersey drive like assholes New York has made me act like an asshole.
I am looking both ways to cross the street. Suddenly I catch the eye of the homeless guy. He has a shocked look as he sees me. His jaw drops open. I can tell he is shocked to see someone that looks like me walking. I want to say, “Buddy, I don’t own a car and your credit score might be better than mine……just when I didn’t think I should shock you anymore.”
Seconds later, a school kid enters. By the look on his adolescent face I can tell he’s cutting. He’s walking because he is too young to drive and wants to escape his idiot teachers or bullies. Either way, it’s me, the homeless dude, and the kid. All at the Outcast Table. It’s like high school again. Now I am wondering if there is a LARPer amongst us and who brought the dice.
That is when the light changes and I cross. As I continue my walk, I see the cars and car dealership. I see VIP nails. Should I skip school and get my nails done? I love my program and my teachers. But my nails need refilled. They say I am a graduate student and they trust me. Perhaps they overestimated the fact I was transforming into a character from Beverly Hills 90210.
That is when the white middle class narrative of my youth comes in. I want Dylan McKay to ride up on his motorcycle to rescue me. So what he’s 16 with a receding hairline and looks closer to 30. Damn it he would be my age. Screw Brenda and Kelly, he’s mine! Yeah, that’s not happening.
Seconds later I see Sprouts. My mom was afraid of me getting mugged in LA. I told her I did 10 years in New York. When I told her I was going to school in LA she said, “You don’t own a car let alone drive.”
The way she carried on you would have thought I was getting ass fucked in a video in Van Nuys. So I told her that. To which she bellowed, “I am your mother! I worry about you all the time. Someday you will remember this conversation and I will be dead!” Mic drop.
I continue up the hill. There is a bus depot where a large Spanish population is. I don’t know what they are per se, and I am saying what they are like I crawled out of a Eula Biss narrative on race and class. But they are looking at me like I am crazy for walking. The LA stereotype is poor people and immigrants take the bus apparently. Stereotypes are demeaning.
I want to tell them I am walking because my people have fucked the world up so royally for everyone. I want to tell them I am walking to apologize for our asshole president and the pressure it has put on their families. But alas, that would make me look crazier than I already do.
I cross a second street. I see a motorist looking pissed as hell and yelling. It appears he is talking on the phone. I hear my mom again from my memory. “Does anyone know anything else about this hippie school you applied to?” She asked.
“Mom, it’s a real school. Starboard is doing a low residency PhD.” I tell her, informing her my cousin who’s a dance professor and soon to be mother is juggling life and academia all at once.
“Sounds like a Trump University to me.” My mother snaps. Yes, with this Tiger Mom it’s Ivy or bust. I did NYU undergrad and my brother and sister did Brown. Her heart broke when I didn’t apply to Columbia. After she pestered me to go to grad school I finally did it and it still wasn’t good enough.
I see the car pass again. It’s white and it’s driving like it’s buttons have been pushed. Yup, he was talking to mom.
The postmodern building Antioch is in looms closer in the industrial park which it is situated. I am excited to be in class today, and more excited to see my new classmates which include but are not limited to a former flight instructor, a former Obama blogger, a poetry writing mom of three, a former engineer from Korea who’s pen name is that of a Disney character, a woman who had an arranged marriage that worked out and many more.
I am excited as a piece I shared in workshop marinates. It’s the one about bringing my puppet pal Donald J. Tramp to the RNC as the spokespuppet of an anti-Trump organization. He’s 3 feet tall and 15 pounds and his resemblance to a US President is purely happenstance. I got some amazing feedback.
Should I bring my puppet to school? Hmmm……Are they sure they trust these grad students?
Across I see Holy Cross Cemetery. It’s beautiful and majestic as I see LA sprawled and the massive city over the hill teaming with cars and life. My classes are teaming with life and ideas. It’s a paradox.
Seconds later my phone buzzes. It’s my mom sending me a text. She is telling me she has googled some of the faculty in the program and is impressed they got such accomplished instructors and Ivy League educated faculty. She is also impressed by it’s ranking. I told her this months ago but it doesn’t matter. And then she wishes me a good day at school. Glad Tiger Mom is happy. I will have one masters as opposed to the 30 PhDs I should have by now in her world.
I see Holy Cross and the text from my mom. She is right. Someday she will be dead. And until that time and thereafter, she will be a star in my work because she just gives me endless streams of material. If that’s not love I don’t know what is.

Either way, school is about to start and I see my friends. I am headed to my first learning activity. Sure, I am doing the City of Angels on foot, but I am walking towards my dreams and goals. That’s the way I see it. And while Jesus wore sandals, perhaps tomorrow I will wear sneakers. As long as I am going to walk in LA I might as well be practical.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


This morning I got a friend request from an the best friend of an ex who was abusive. The whole experience was jarring to say the least. I know I am safe in the studio I am subletting for the residency in Culver City. Still, this piece of my past is one that is like the Indiana Jones Holy Grail. I look and there is a part of my spirit that gets sucked out.

I never disliked my ex's friend. He was actually a nice dude. But the memories are like open wounds with lots of poison being poured in.

It's always like that with DV. There are never enough laws to protect you. And when there finally are it's because enough women are dead. There are people who don't believe you because they don't see your partner at his or her most evil.Or they think you should get over it. Everyone has all the answers for world's most unwelcome party guest.

There are well meaning people telling me it is a part of the past and it is. But when your ex was part of the reason you invested in a PO Box it's kind of hard.

My ex threatened me physically, emotionally, and sexually. We need to keep the dialogue going. That way men like OJ can be convicted, showing the world women like Nicole matter regardless of their color.

My life is different and better now. I am not afraid. I am also not afraid to press the block button because clearly my ex's friend is just like him. Yes I do need to get on with my life. But again we need to keep talking because without a conversation there can be no change. Now to change my underwear. Because yeah, my mom always said to go to school with fresh panties.......

Had to end this blog on a light note.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

New Adventures

Tomorrow I begin a new chapter in my life. I have been accepted into Antioch University's Low Residency MFA Creative Writing Program in Los Angeles. Yes, LA. She who has no car let alone license is going to the very city where you need one. It will be a firm and shocking change of pace from the subways that I have grown so used to.

I have always wanted to do more with my writing and now is my chance. Plus I am entering a program where I can work, have a life, and am committed for 10 days a semester. That way I can continue my comedy and tour. I am also networking in a city where one gets eaten up easily. And I am getting to know the place without being tied into a lease before I really know where I want to live and if I even want to live there at all. And it is creating a chance to be bicoastal. Additionally, I am paving the way for a career in academia if I so choose to go that way.

And yes, I will have a masters.

I applied on a whim because I felt I needed a change and got in. There are some family members who aren't supportive and that's okay. I am an adult and don't need their approval. Sure, it stings in it's own way. But at the same time, I am paying for this myself and as an adult, I don't need to justify my decision let alone myself.

I will be in LV/LA for basically all of December. I will be filming a TV show in Las Vegas, going to school in LA, and then spending Christmas in town because of all I have to do.

I look forward to this new adventure. I say I was raised in Pittsburgh and grew up in NYC. Now it looks like I will become an adult in LA

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (Elmo & Patsy)

It was the summer of 1998. On Saturdays, we typically did yard work and then had a late lunch/early dinner. My mother thought it would be a special treat to eat on the back porch as we had been working all day. The house was cluttered as it always was in those days. After all, three kids ages 16, 13, and 10 lived there, respectively.
A week previous, our neighbors across the street had gotten robbed. There was a lot of talk as a mysterious jogger had suddenly been seen in the neighborhood. One neighbor asserted that this family, nicknamed the Clampets, had faked the robbery in order to get insurance. No one knew for sure.
We were a gun owning family, but not a vocal one. My Dad wanted us to know there were guns in the house and to respect firearms. He felt it was important. We also knew how to fire a gun if we had to. For a time my parents even belonged to what was known as a local “gun club.”
However, gun culture proved just to be too overwhelmingly stupid for my parents for lack of a better word. My dad wasn’t a hunter. Because of his career and work hours he didn’t have time, and my mom felt it was disgusting. Plus a lot of those folks were toying with starting their own militias and spouted Second Amendment rhetoric frequently. My dad studied it and knew while the Second Amendment was important, there was no truth to this hillbilly paranoia. When he explained no one was going to lose their guns anytime soon he was met with resistance.
My dad would explain as a lawyer this couldn’t happen, there would have to be many, many, many lawsuits before the Second Amendment was overturned. But they would interrupt him explaining one could never trust the government for very long. My dad would say they were giving the government too much credit. They couldn’t even deliver a piece of mail on time. But this fell on deaf ears, and some were really and truly losing their hearing because they were around guns so damn much.
Out of our family, the best shot was actually Skipper. I was a terrible shot. My skills behind a gun were tragic. Skipper could shoot a bullseye without effort. Later, she would go on to become a champion markswoman.
My dad’s whole thing was that yes, we owned guns but we were never to tell anyone. It was because he didn’t want them stolen or used in a felony. He also knew that if one of our moron friends accidentally shot themselves, it would be a shit show for lack of a better term. But yes, we had them and that was all we had to know.
After dinner, we were cleaning off the table. Dishes were about to be washed and the TV was about to be turned on. Auspiciously placed were my brother’s cleats from summer football practice. Not so far away was my notebook from writing camp. Pick up after ourselves…..ehhh……you know how it goes with kids.
Just then, there was a loud banging from downstairs.
“What was that?” My dad asked curiously.
“Nothing.” I said. “Probably some crap from Wendell’s football.” I said glancing over at my brother. While the season had yet to start, my brother had weights and other things he was using to buff up. Cumbersome and annoying, I had stubbed my toe on several.
There was a second bang, now it was more like a slam.
 “I think it’s the boxes we stacked.” Skipper said, referring to boxes of books we were getting rid of. These books were old, outdated encyclopedias in our basement that still referenced the former Soviet Union. My father felt they were obselete and we needed space for other things, so my mother, sister and I had stacked them one night while our dad was working late.
The noise grew louder. Now it was as if someone was walking. We all froze in panic.
“No one’s home.” A male voice was heard saying.
We all gasped in horror. Oh shit.
 “Guys, stay out here. Dad is going to get his gun.” My mom assured us.
Then she instructed, “If there is a group of intruders, run out the back deck. Run to the nearest neighbor and get help.”
Note this was before the age of cellphones so this all made sense.
My dad went and retrieved a firearm from a place in the house where it was hidden. Meanwhile, we were in the Florida room closes to the deck in case my father couldn’t shoot the intruders in time. These burglars might have been bad but they had never seen my dad when his was pissed. He was just a Western Pennsylvania man defending his home and he knew that at the end as a lawyer, he knew his rights and would get off.
Skipper began to cry. I held my sisters hand, and Wendell covered us both. “Keep it together. They can’t know we are here.” She said.  
“Beware mutherfuckers.” My dad said under his breath. “I will kill any sonvabitch that comes in my home.”
My dad’s dark eyes flashed. There was no way these intruders were making it out alive.
Sure, these guys might have been bad, but they never saw my dad when he was pissed let alone defending his home. My dad was a nice guy, but when you crossed him he could cut a bitch for lack of a better term. One former associate at his law firm referred to my dad as “Satan” because of the way he spoke to opposing counsel. Yet when someone who heard this story saw our Dad with us at a local restaurant, he could hardly believe it was the man he had heard so many horror stories about. Bottom line, you didn’t fuck with my dad and come out unscathed.
“If any of you see their faces before you run for it, remember them. They are going to ask you in court.” My mother instructed.
Wow Mom, way to make a bad situation even worse. My stomach lurched at the thought of the potential tragedy that was about to happen. My heart beat and I felt everything freeze. I got ready to run, bad ankle and all. Skipper could go the fastest and Wendell wasn’t notorious for his speed. My mom always tripped and fell when she got nervous. It was a tick she had. Gosh this was going to be a shit show.
And shit show it was.
The door opened and I was expecting a scene from what would be a 20/20 crime special in seconds. I expected tragedy. Instead I heard,  “Wendelin, that is no way to greet your mother in law!”
Fear disappeared and now we were just startled and amazed. My mom sprinted inside as my father dropped his gun to his side. The look on my dad’s face was priceless. Standing there was my Nuni, barely five feet tall with snow white hair and a light purple summer pants suit. On her head was a summer bonnet. Her lips had frosty pink lipstick. With her was a man who looked like the disenfranchised son of Charles Manson.
“MOM!” My mother said, shocked and pleasantly surprised. “You didn’t tell me you would be stopping over!”
“I tried to call but you didn’t pick up and your message machine was full. Here’s the book I promised you. You know the one about raising a teenage daughter with an interest in the arts.” My grandmother handed my mom the book.
Nuni continued, “It was from Barb.” Barb was my cousin’s wife. Their son had gone to film school and wanted my mom to have the book because I liked to write and work with puppets. He was currently living in LA with some girl from Brazil. The book was to give my parents hope and to assuage their fears about my dreams.
 “Get in here and give your grandmother a hug.” My mom instructed, trying to make the most of an awkward situation. Meanwhile, my embarrassed father disappeared to put his firearm back in the undisclosed location.
When he reappeared she said,  “Wendelin can’t kill me! He has to do my will first.”
“Who’s this?” My sister Skipper asked pointing to her friend. Her strawberry blonde hair had recently been cut and she was wearing her summer shorts and top.
“Oh this is Bob.” Nuni explained. “He’s a friend of Rachel’s from the Ren Faire. I saw him at the Walmart and he needed a ride.” At the time, Nuni worked as a greeter at Walmart. She was literally the mayor of the superstore. Nuni was so incredibly popular that she was even featured in several of their local television commercials.
Aunt Rachel worked at the Ren Faire. It had become her yearly gig and the only thing in her life that was constant. After breaking up with Rick and then running out on her wedding to Josh (subject of another blog) Rachel had sough solace in the Ren Faire. While my grandparents had blown their life savings on a wedding that was never to happen, they were glad their wayward creation was finding an outlet.
As for Aunt Rachel’s friends, they were notoriously nondrivers or had their license’s suspended for whatever reason, so Aunt Rachel was the chauffeur of the group. On this day, Bob needed a ride to wherever he was staying, probably a halfway house. Who knew…..
Either way, Nuni, who’s conduct never ceased to shock, awe, and amuse thought it was nothing short of hysterical that my father had almost shot her. Meanwhile, my father’s face was twisted in that state that was a mix between embarrassed, confused, and somewhat pissed. Nuni explained she would have knocked but when she parked her car, she saw the garage door was open.
Yes, Nuni was notorious for never using a front door let alone knocking. She had let herself in my Uncle Seth’s townhouse once because he left the back screen ajar. Needless to say he caught her youngest son and his wife Taylor sharing a moment of passion. Talk about killing the mood. Of course, Nuni freely and fearlessly relayed this story as my dad continued to stand there, mouth gaped open at this happenings of the day.
Minutes later, Nuni and Bob departed. My dad was pissed, but not for the reason we figured. Nevermind he had almost blown his mother in law’s head off. As he explained, , “A STRANGER CAME INTO MY HOUSE AND IT WAS MESSY! I WAS SO EMBARRASSED!”
“Honey…..” My mom said trying to calm him down.
My dad had not come from much and having strangers see his house messy always got under his skin. However, we didn’t know we were going to have company. My dad continued, “GRACIE, HOW COULD SHE! I ALMOST SHOT HER! I WASN’T PREPARED FOR COMPANY. THERE IS THIS FUCKING THING CALLED  A PHONE. YOUR MOTHER COULD USE A FUCKING PHONE! OR BETTER YET, A FRONT DOOR!”
My mother said nothing expect, “Sorry, you know how she is.”
“Dad the stranger was probably homeless, it’s better than he normally lives.” Wendell reasoned. We all nodded in agreement.
“Nuni is hardly a housekeeper.” I said. It was true. And if Bob had been to Nuni and Pop Pop’s house, our place would have been the Palace of Mr. Clean in comparison.
“It doesn’t matter what you think or feel at this point.” My mom said trying to smooth things over.
“You almost shot grandma!” I informed him. “How we feel completely matters.”
Skipper ran over and gave our dad a hug. He probably needed one after that. “How about this, lets red off the table and forget this ever happened.” My mom suggested. I thought she was in good spirits seeing her mother almost got shot. (Red in Pittsburghese means clean off).
My dad shook his head. “Okay, but April has to vacuum the basement and Wendell has to pick up first.”
“Why do I have to vacuum?” I protested.
“Because I said so.” My dad snapped.
Wendell and I marched down to the basement to clean. After that, my dad calmed down and the gun was returned to the undisclosed location. We watched some stupid Adam Sandler movie and the incident became a piece of the family’s woven fabric.

And from that point forward, we all remembered to close the garage when we were done for the day. That way, if someone got shot it was a burglar and not grandma.