Short Story: Can’t Fight This Feeling

This is a short story I wrote. It is not at all based on true events.

Can’t Fight This Feeling

“I ran the whole way here to tell you,” said Sasha, breathless from running. Her eyes, made up with precise black lines, made her look like Boy George.  Her lips were covered in a shiny Wet n’ Wild shade.

“It was a lot of saliva,” she sounded surprised.  She had kissed Peter. Made out with him.  In public.  On the corner near the bus stop where he waited to take the 51 down San Pablo.

Renee giggled. A bubble of delight enveloped the two girls.  It was always there between them. Renee’s mother remarked on how Life seemed to present endless opportunities for the girls to laugh. It made them popular at school. It followed them through sadness and competition, even when they crept towards the dangerous darker corners of life, like the day they went to Bill’s drugs to shoplift hair gel, or the night they snuck out to go to the park with the Jordan brothers: Harvey and Paul,  two brothers who came from a bad home. Harvey got in fights at school and sold weed. Paul was the nice one. They were mixed-race, which made them both look like Prince.

REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” played on FM radio.  Renee and Sasha had both tried to understand the lyrics.  “What started out as friendship has grown stronger…” At 12-years-old, nearly 13, the lyrics promised an adulthood where men gushed.

Renee eyed Sasha jealously. It had been three weeks since she had “made out” with Harvey.  Also more saliva and lips than tender romance, but still…she had done it, finally. And first.

A few days later she saw Harvey at school, wearing his Nike jacket. He said “hello,” with excessive nonchalance and then walked away. A week later she saw him making out with Heather, a tall 8th grader with braces and bleached hair. Renee’s hair would meet that shade in no less than a year.

“I remember that feeling,” Renee espoused. Renee felt herself an older wizened woman. She had more experience, she had tasted both love and heartbreak. And now she felt the sudden emergence of a huge chasm in her heart. On the other side stood Harvey with something…salvation? But the chasm was far, deep and wide and it seemed to envelope her emotions in a way that was unfamiliar, but not without pleasure.

“I’m sorry,” said Sasha with genuine concern. The hope for Renee’s great love was over. They both knew it. What they didn’t know is that there would be other boys, and then men. And the chasm they both would come to know would be there as well.

Renee wished her mom would come home.  Her mom worked and came home late. And while Renee and Sasha had the whole afternoon to giggle, eat Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, talk about boys, the time felt too long.  It was a lot of work to fill up all these moments.

The phone rang. It was Barry. He was skinny and short, but he called the girls every day. One or the other, it didn’t really matter.  They were really one person to him. They told him what happened. He didn’t like Harvey or Paul.

Years later, Renee would read on the Internet about Harvey’s armed robbery and his life sentence without parole. He would blame his brother, Paul, for the crime, but Paul remained out of prison.  Renee and Sasha would laugh in amazement at the quality of boys they attracted in those tender first years of adolescence.  But it was a sad laugh. Why did they fall in love with thugs?

Sasha would eventually marry Barry, years after college, when they reunited and Barry was no longer skinny or short. Renee would have a series of long relationships, most of which ended with the same chasm in her heart. But the delight between them never ended.  That lasted forever.

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“A California For Everyone” – Documentary

I directed this short documentary about how the misuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has affected the current housing crisis.  Hope you enjoy, or at least  become a little outraged.

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Sexual Assault, Louis CK And Are We Winning?

I can’t bear to have a picture of LCK on my blog, so here’s a cute kitten.

I’ve shared so many “think pieces” on sexual assault/harassment/misogyny in comedy that my fingers hurt.  I’ve needed a few days to process the possible reality that just maybe male actions could begin to have *gasp* consequences.  But mostly I’ve had to come to terms with my own enabling behavior when it comes to  misogyny in comedy.  For a woman who has written a blog dissertation about being a woman in comedy it’s appalling to me how much I have tolerated.

Comedy is where I learned that the rage and hatred of women is real.  That we are in danger, spiritually, if not physically (though, apparently that, too).  The abuse I’ve withstood has been relegated to what I’ve sat and listened to.  I’ve sat in mics where men told jokes about beating up prostitutes, abusing their girlfriends with a curling iron,  yeast infections, how women talk too much in movies (not in theaters, AS ACTORS IN THE ACTUAL MOVIE), and my favorite, how women can’t be friends with each other. (If that were true, all women would be dead).  I have ended up outside of shows in tears or in a rage.  I wanted to be tough.  A “real comic” (whatever that is).  But I gave that charade up after my mom died. No woman can or should tolerate the open season hate and misogyny that comedy delivers to women. And, in my opinion, no woman who toughs it out is “winning.”

But I do have a shared responsibility in this dynamic, and not because I choose to be in comedy.  Strangely, I have not always severed connection with guys who tell misogynist jokes.  I think some sick part of me felt sorry for them.  The same part of me that would like to “forgive” Louis CK’s thinly veiled last-stand-at-masturbation-disguised-as-an-apology. (I have never been assaulted by an apology before). I sometimes joke that misogynist comics don’t support my “heroine’s journey”…unless they gives me stage which case: “Under his eye…under his eyes” *eyes cast down*(It’s a “Handmaid’s Tale” reference, which I think it’s funny, but it doesn’t do great on stage…).

I don’t have any good reason for not calling out or confronting misogynist comics more.  Sometimes they were “nice” off stage, even supportive. I told myself that their jokes were like a stream of bad blood that needs to be exorcised.  I have the same relationship with male friends whose frustration with their last girlfriend goes a little too far, and I have to tell myself, this is the same guy who supports me and listens to me. It’s not always so clear who the enemy is, if there is one. We all absorb the poison of misogyny, to some degree.

One night I sat at an intimate mic when a “comedy friend” on stage made a joke about how women aren’t friends with each other. I sat there, amongst my  female comedy friends, all gorgeous and hilarious and said aloud, “That’s simply not true.” It just came out of my mouth.  I couldn’t help it.  This did not go over well, as it is assumed that other comics, especially women, should sit silently because somehow a constitutional law that protects individuals from being sued or imprisoned by the government applies to an audience member at a comedy show. After that, I started speaking my mind more at mics.   I became rude, a bad comedy person, “not a real comic.”  Who cares? I will always be a woman first. And having a voice helps me.  Why tolerate all the horror of comedy if you’re going to stay silent when your sex and gender is openly insulted and demeaned IN FRONT OF YOU.  Speak out, ladies.  Self-respect lasts longer than laughs. Plus, most male comics, are not rooting for you anyway.

“Women can’t be friends” is such a dated, obviously patriarchal myth propagated by a system to control women, it didn’t register as relevant in 2014 Santa Monica and it doesn’t now.  Sure, women still compete, but if you regularly ingest feminism you start to understand that women don’t win. Hilary Clinton did not win. Angelina Jolie did not win.  And thousands of beautiful, talented, smart rich women in Hollywood are not winning. So long as you are a woman in 2017, you are in a world that preys and abuses and assaults and rapes women all over the world .  There are millions of Harvey Weinsteins’ and Louis CK’s, they are everywhere…in all pockets of the work force; in corporate offices, classrooms, libraries, dentist offices.  And no matter if you’re white or rich, you can always find the local Harvey Weinstein to remind you, that a woman is a lower caste.

I do expect the pendulum to swing back.  I do believe that Louis CK will have a career comeback, filled with part-real part-fake humility and “aw shucks” I’m-such-a-perv hang dog mannerisms, and stories about his 12-step sexual addiction recovery program, and whatever he encounters as he tries to embark on a journey somewhere resembling health.   He might help some guys, but he has and will always creep me out

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Kaiser Permanente Profits From Breast Cancer Screenings

Chose to use the Kaiser logo for maximum shaming purposes.

I understand that basic reasonable-ness among health insurance providers is a lofty  expectation in 2017 America.  And I understand that mine is far from the worst health insurance nightmare story.  It is, however, my goal with this blog post to shame Kaiser Permanente into addressing the fundamentally sexist practice of charging women whose breast cancer screenings fall outside of mammograms. SO LET THE SHAMING BEGIN.

Thanks to the miracle of poorly researched female health sciences, I have taken five trips to the radiology lab to determine if my mystery cysts/ducts have developed any scary cancerous properties. Thanks to God, Godess, HP, the universe, that I have not been diagnosed or even biopsied.  However, the cost of these visits have netted out well over a $1,000 for me.  Not only have I lost some some of my life to extreme anxiety and worry, but I also had to pay money in premiums in order to pay more money so that I AND KAISER, don’t have to pay more money in the event that I get sick. Meanwhile, I am perfectly healthy.

Over half of all women will experience a cystic lump at one point in their lives.  If she chooses to have it looked at, and has a deductible, chances are high that she will have to pay for that service.  Thanks to Obamacare, mammograms, cost $10.  However, studies show that they are mostly ineffective.  Also, completely painful and mortifying.  Shaped like a panini-maker, these machines have not been updated in 40 years. I have had 8 versions of the iPhone since 2010.  But unlike iPhones, mammogram machines are exclusively for women — for whom it’s assumed that a tolerance for pain and discomfort are built into our chromosomes.  If men had to take a test that turned their testicles into pancakes you would have NASA scientists working on these machines.

So, forget about mammogram machines. You found a lump. You can always ignore it, but you can’t ignore your aunt, mother, sister, friend who went through a difficult diagnosis, treatment, illness or death. And you can’t ignore the statistics on breast cancer, which are:

  • About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.
  • About 40,610 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2017 from breast cancer

Do you think this was invented by a man? YOU THOUGHT RIGHT.

Interestingly, 3,000 to 49,000 people will also die of the flu.  So, at the high end, the number of people who will die from breast cancer is around the same number that will die from the flu.  Every year that I go to an appointment, Kaiser gives me a flu shot. I don’t want the flu, but the chances of me dying from it are pretty slim. So, sure, I’ll take a needle if it will save me a week of misery. However, the people who will die of breast cancer will be overwhelmingly female.  Breast Cancer screenings, however, are not $10 at CVS or Rite Aid, but a financial burden.  (For me it averaged to about $300 a visit).  Unlike the flu, a lump or an abnormal screening, is considered “diagnostic” — another word for “you pay for it.” Diagnostic is another way of saying, “We really don’t give a shit” about this epidemic or the subtleties of women’s bodies, or how HALF OF ALL WOMEN (roughly 2 billion) have dense fibrous breasts and need this kind of screening.

What makes me sick about the whole endeavor is a) the lonely horror of it b) the reality that Kaiser profits off of an epidemic that affects millions, if not billions, of women.  It reeks of white men sitting on boards thinking of women’s problems as trivial and irrelevant, the kind of sleek  brand of misogyny that devalues women in every day ways; that puts a tax on tampons and blames women for having an attractive body.

Thanks to of the Internet, I have found that I am not alone. A freaking CANCER SURVIVOR was charged for her sonograms because she no longer had BREASTS TO MAMMOGRAM.

As Cosby, Weinstein, Trump and others have so accurately illustrated, western civilization’s gains in acknowledging the human rights of women remain vastly overrated.  The leap from believing that women “asked for it” in sexual assault and harassment, to the unspoken assumption that the care of our reproductive organs (and the people who are made because of them) should be our burden to bear.  The condescending patronizing letter from the claims department giving me a onetime courtesy reimbursement for the service of screening my body, did not ameliorate my anger and fury.

In other words, I should not be punished because I have boobs.

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Episode #5 – Teaching Comics to Dance Salsa

In this episode I teach long-time friend Jim Coughlin salsa and merengue (because sometimes you just need to march in place a simple beat).  Songs include “Plastico” by Ruben Blades & Willi Colon, “Agua Que Va Caer” by Ismael Rivera and “El Vicio de Tus Labios” by Eddie Herrera.

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What I’ve Noticed About Young Dudes

Smith Jerrod respected Samantha even when she didn’t respect herself.

I cancelled Tinder. If you see me on there, it’s a mistake.  Nothing personal. I wish I had swiped right on every man’s (or couple’s) profile before I bailed.  One gesture of love on a device made to reject.

Tinder is broken.  I may have matched with wonderful men, but I would never know it because of one word: “Hi.”  It’s no one’s fault.  I’m guilty of “Hi’s” as much as anyone — and I’m a writer. “Hi” is just what happens when you meet through a piece of technology intended to perpetuate our single state.

I am now taking my chances in the Real World: smiling, eye contact, maybe I’ll even make a joke about stevia at the coffee condiments bar. What I’ve found: lots of young dudes.  A few months ago a millennial asked me out, texted me for two weeks and then stood me up when his band got in a fight and broke up.  No hard feelings. You can’t ask a 27-year-old drummer to not be a 27-year-old drummer. Then, the other day I was sitting in a granite coffee shop, surrounded by wire framed and neutral-toned adorned people, while sipping a $5 latte, when a wire framed young man walked up to me.  As it turns out, he had sat through two of my sets when the show I co-produce assaulted him at a coffee shop. Then I saw him salsa dancing a few months later. And now we meet again… I would think it was the most fabulous meet cute in the romantic comedy of my life if he weren’t, alas, also late 20 something…

I don’t have any inherent interest in younger men. I’m not fixated on abs or hairlines.  I actually like seasoned, wizened people.  However, I do notice that younger men (i.e., under 35) are a) more prevalent and, more importantly, b) offer something not commonly found in our society: they respect older women.  I don’t recall the same cross examination questioning of my chosen life occupations from young dudes: “So are you funny?” “Tell me a joke,” “What have you done?”  They treat my weird projects and pursuit with a sincere reverence that I have not always found in dating.

These interactions have caused me to wonder if Harvey Weinstein and Cosby are really part of a generation (one that spans from the beginning of time) that denigrated women to sustain itself. Of course, we are hardly in any place of victory to celebrate. Sure,  there are young fraternity brothers and high school football players assaulting young women in small towns, my anecdotes of West LA are hardly proof of anything.  “The Handmaid’s Tale” persists in Africa and the mideast.  But maybe in urban post-Sex and the City America, young white men can look at an older woman and value her.  I mean, it’s something.

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Too exhausted by sexism to take a decent selfie.

Sometimes I forget how tiring it is to be a woman. Not tired from work or kids, although, from what I have witnessed, that is the first and primary source of exhaustion for women around the world. I’m talking about a different kind of tired, the spiritual exhaustion that comes from living in this Man’s World: the condescension, the mansplaining, the patronizing, and THE WRITING BLOGS ABOUT IT.

The owner of the establishment where I perform comedy told me last week that it’s good that I *smile* because my jokes “need work” (they do need work, because they always need work, but that is not why he said that…which isn’t to say that feedback isn’t important, in which case GUYS, YOUR DICK, PORN, AND MASTURBATION JOKES COULD ALSO USE A LITTLE WORK.)

My father was born in 1944, so  just barely missed the hippy era, which, while hardly a socially progressive time, did beat out the 1950’s.  He recently told me without the slightest bit of irony that women aren’t as interested in “science.” However, he was never more proud of me than when I performed at The Punchline in San Francisco. After many debates and battles, all of which I lost, I just accept that he prefers to see women as soft, maternal creatures who shy away from loud noises and dirt.  He was a divorced Don Draper. He was amazed that I could be a “girl” AND do sports.    What I’m trying to say is that — like all women — I’ve lived with in-my-face sexism in  for a long time.

I have a better chance of reversing the aging process or time traveling than I do in changing the mind of a white male born in the 40s. I once asked my mom how she dealt with the endless onslaught of misogyny in the world and she said, “You can’t live your life being angry all the time.” I miss my mom terribly, and yet, I disagree with her on a lot.  But I wonder if she was right.  Yes, you can be angry all the time. But do you want to?  Or maybe the question is, do I have the bandwidth?

I recently read this New Yorker article which discusses the effectiveness of protests and seems to conclude the importance of restrained strategy. Rosa Parks’ refusal to sit in the back of the bus was not a spur of the moment expression of indignation, but the next step in a long, patient and calculated step in a united effort to change this country’s unjust laws.

I’m not saying that I’m unwilling to fight.  But the injustice will be here for al long time. For right now, I am more interested in the right actions, choosing the right battles, preserving and building my strength and staying sane.

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Episode #4 – “Teaching Benny & Serafina to Dance Salsa”

We did it! We made another made salsa dance video! In this episode we worked on counting, a strong lead and keeping your eyelashes on.

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Not A Samantha Jones Type

Sorry, but I wasn’t written by a gay man.

I am single. I tell you this because as a woman in her 40s (…what?! She’s in her 40s?! She looks GREAT…) I am legally required to per The Relationship Status Transparency Act of 1988 (inspired by the Nora Ephron film “Sleepless in Seattle).

I normally don’t date younger men because I can’t sleep on just a mattress on the floor. Also, I am not fond of a characterization of myself as a Samantha Jones-like woman from “Sex and the City.” I don’t want to have to explain to anyone that I wasn’t written by a gay man.

However, when a Millennial asked me out, two friends suggested I stay “open.”  I explained to them that I could have birthed him.  (I would have been a teen mother, but a mother nonetheless.)  But my friend Maria told me that you never know who will show up to love you and love doesn’t always look like the “package” you imagine.  I could see that I am rife with prejudice and so decided do my best to be “open” (aka, ridiculous) to the Millennial.  I realize that “Millennial” is practically a slur, so let’s call him Larry (because no one born after 1980 has been named Larry).

So I gave Larry my number and he texted me really nice things, like emoji hearts and “ur vry atrctive.”  No harm done. In fact, it was very nice to receive this. I tried to explain to Larry that I didn’t want to be a Samantha Jones type from “Sex and the City.” His response: “What’s ‘Sex and the City’?”

I saw pictures of Larry’s mom on Facebook and wondered if she would have been a senior when I was a freshman. She seemed like someone I could go to Prince Tribute concerts with or like she might be into “Dirty Dancing,” the musical.  Maybe Larry’s mom and I could be palz.

The problem was Larry was never available. Each time we made plans his band would get a gig. One night we made plans and he cancelled. He later told me that his band had a disagreement and were officially no longer a band. And that’s when I realized another reason why I can’t date men in their twenties: when their bands break-up they are incapacitated and can’t show up to dates.

Larry is not my guy, but I am still remaining “open.”

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Episode #3 – Teaching Maria to Dance Salsa

In Episode #3 of “Teaching Comics to Dance Salsa” I give a lesson to dear long-time friend, genius comic Maria Bamford!  Maria and I touch on “LA Style Salsa” vs. “New York Style Salsa,” the intimate nature of partner dance, body rolls, salsa sweat, and we practice our arm “ladies styling.”

Maria’s talent is so amazing that even after twenty-years of friendship, I am in awe of her when working with her on a project.  I love this lady!

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Reading of “Cantina Confidential”

I will be reading and selling my mother’s historical fiction, “Cantina Confidential” on August 5th at the Pop-Hop in Highland Park.

This historical non-fiction depicts a vivid portrait of migrant life and bracero culture. Any student of California history and Chicano studies will find her work an invaluable and well-researched resource, as well as a story filled with intrigue and mystery.

Description: In this historical chronicle by Rafaela G. Castro, one family becomes entangled in the scandals and secrets of a small migrant town.

In the 1940s, a young couple, Jose Luis and Blanca, start their married lives in the fictional California village of Suntown in the San Joaquin Valley. However, external forces and a personal mistake lead to a tragic incident.

Decades later, Blanca’s daughter, Luz, stumbles across a photograph and a mysterious letter to her mother that hints at a closely guarded secret and signed by a person known only as “D. S.” Determined to learn the truth about her mother’s relationship to this man, Luz journeys to the San Joaquin Valley to find him. In the process she discovers the rich, untold history of the struggle of migrant laborers to survive, live, and love in 1940s Central California.

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