The Funeral

I went to the funeral of my cousin George this weekend.  I took a few days to spend with my aunt, doing my turn so the other cousins could get some rest.

It had been an arduous week for them, having only found out about George’s death the week before after not knowing where or how he was for a few years.  I know personally that every time I spoke with my aunt she would tell me how much she missed him and wondered where he was.

You might wonder what happened and I’d asked her all the usual questions, “Was there a disagreement between them or anyone else in the family?” “No,” she said, “nothing he just one day packed up and left.”

Let me explain. This is from the Hispanic side of my family and Hispanics in general are very close, but they can also be very proud. The men in general suffer from machismo more so than other cultures and George was ill.

He was a diabetic, but prior to that he had also been a very heavy drinker and who knows if there was even more than that in his past, I don’t know. But, he was a great guy! Loved his family and especially his mom. So what happened?

Well, he bought 10 acres east of LA county and held himself up for the last three years.

A neighbor of his was able to shed some light on the situation, the sum total being that he didn’t want his family see him suffer. George just didn’t want to see them see him going through his last days.

So, he died alone and among strangers.

My aunt, of course cried her heart out. In Spanish she kept asking “Porque mi hijo” “Porque queriste murir solo?” “Why my son? Why did you want to die alone?”

I was heartbroken. Yet there go I or any of my other relatives.

When I (we)don’t feel well, just leave me(us) alone and yet…

We all told my aunt how much good there was that came of this.  God had a plan and there was a lesson in it for us all. George may have thought he was doing us a favor but he didn’t and yet he did.

Family is there to help and they want to be there for us. To shut them out causes more pain.


George had a Catholic funeral and I believe it is the only one I’ve ever been to other than my great uncles when I was about 5 and I can’t remember much of that.

When I was very young my family (my great aunts as well) was instrumental in helping my grandparents, aunt and uncle come to the states. Prior to that my great aunt had sponsored my mother at the age of 16.

My mom’s cousin or my great aunt’s son was an archbishop in the Catholic Church, though at the time he was just moving up the ranks.

My mom eventually met dad a “Gavacho” (white guy) and were married. She was 17 or 18, he was around 22. He was an old Alabama boy, who when he saw his first Hispanic woman, fell head over heels for her. She was beautiful and exotic looking.


I mention this because, as my aunt tells me, mother was never “Mexican” she was an American and thought of herself as only American. Mom spoke English in our home and so limited our contact with the Mexican side. She came to America to be an American and that was it. We spoke some Spanish but that was because Dad spoke it (he was fluent in both languages) and insisted we become bi-lingual though we were never fluent.

It wasn’t that I never saw my Mexican family, but I saw them less frequent after mom and dad were divorced. Probably more because they liked my dad so much and would bring him up in conversation all the time and she hated that. The fact that Dad embraced his new Mexican family endeared him to them and time spent after that diminished from what we did early on with them…

So, what I’m saying is, at this funeral I got reconnected. My other siblings weren’t there but I think they would have enjoyed it as well.

Having been the oldest of all the cousins and actually quite a bit older, I was the babysitter. I was not their peer, so they really never got to know me or me them as they did this time around.

I have to admit, I was never afraid of them despite my gavacho ex-husband saying once, when I took him up to introduce them, “they look like Mexican mafia,” followed by,  “even though they are very nice”.  It’s true.

Yes, they were a rough, carousing bunch, and no doubt belonged to a gang at one time, but I was exempt from that time period so exempt from details of what they may have been like, into or appeared to be like.  They are now older, settled and wiser.  All in various stages of life, they welcomed me and made me feel loved.

As many funerals have, they had a board up with family pictures. The kids in my family were not in any of them. It made me sad, because I could see that despite the rough edges, they were an awesome bunch and I could see they too wished we had been closer.

They are the first to admit with a mischievous grin that some had been of dubious character but that was then. Their sum total occupations (counting their children) range from an artist for Disney studios (now retired); teachers; electrical engineers, communications, masons, plumbers, hospital staff, other artists (one, who didn’t make it was working on a mural for an LA county freeway wall – Legally I might add.) Hey! What can I say? It’s in the blood! And, because it is a big family I did lose track of all their occupations.

The best thing is they thought I was amazing and I must admit I felt such affection for them as well. One cousin made sure he detailed my car for me and I don’t think it has looked that nice since I bought it.

My aunt’s house was like a revolving door of visitors and her kitchen open to anyone.  On the day of the funeral, we had not only the food my cousins had prepared, but food brought in.  There may have been 200 friends and family in this tiny house and ample yard. The only down side could have been the rain, but it didn’t dampen the event. The elderly were brought in and the young weathered the damp even though it didn’t last long.

Memories of George and our childhood were reminisced everywhere including the time my sister fell down this outhouse hole in Mexico. It was one in the process of being built, so there was nothing in it but none the less it was worth the retelling.

They asked me about my life in Alabama and the usual questions came up about racism. My answer being it’s really not that different than here. The only stereotypes are what we hear about.  They admitted that in certain areas of LA, various races don’t cross over. So we agreed that if stereotypes were not constantly perpetuated, we might actually be able to get along. We have to take people individually and go from there.

(It made me think about my writing. I know we are told that it’s the conflict that makes the story, but does it have to be racial?  Something to think about.)

In all, the event, though sad was of benefit in so many ways. Because of George we were brought together and those of us who hadn’t seen each other in years and/or didn’t recognize one another (especially me) went away vowing we would keep in touch.

Funny thing is they mean it.  I’ve been home one day and I’ve already heard from several.


Thank you George. Salut!

Bougainvillea Blues – Book Review

Bougainvilla Blues

I just completed reading a book written by a friend of mine.  This is my content analysis.

“Bougainvillea Blues” is about an innocent’s journey of pain and renewal.

It is the story of a young boy crossing the threshold of puberty with a confused vision of what sexual normalcy is.  Torn between the examples and perceptions of those around him, add his Baptist upbringing and peer savvy, his mores get jumbled.

Yes, kids masturbate. To say they do so to this extent and at every turn, whether opportune or inopportune and with such reckless abandonment?  It’s hard to imagine. I don’t know.

My first impression was to believe it excessive but, as the story unfolds, it is necessary to the telling; there is a reason.

Having experienced sexual abuse, I do understand and know the uncontrolled triggers and feelings 12 year old Joey experiences. Sadly, that this happens to males was extraordinary. Or is it? Did it or does it happen more often than we realize? Statistics vary. **Some indicate that 10% of sexual assaults are male victims. 1 in 6 or 16% are reported but this may be an underestimation since men are less likely to report the crime compared to women which is 64%.

The story touches on the why’s and wherefore’s of Joey’s transformation with unabashed candor.

When I was done reading, I cried with such force as though I’d been on this voyage with him. The pain and confusion so eloquently expressed touches you so that you feel torn between compassion and fear. A part of you wants to hold and comfort this child while the other part of you is afraid of getting too close for fear of what it might trigger.

Written from the heart, I highly recommend this poignant telling.


Bougainvilla Blues

There’s Always the Phone.

Walk on the beach

I had this great idea yesterday that I would go to the beach for inspiration.  I hadn’t written anything of any consequence in several days, so I thought maybe the sound of the pounding surf might beat it out of me.  It didn’t.

Generally, I come up with ideas easily. But… I have a project (several) I want to totally rework based on, well they need it.

I went to a writer’s (artist’s) retreat, put on by the Greenhouse group, a non profit organization that helps newbies get started and become familiar with the Hollywood scene. It was absolutely phenomenal and so worth it. It’s focus was on incorporating our own personal story in our work, this is what gives our work it’s own unique flavor, unique to us. I liked that.

I left there completely inspired, ideas and juices were flowing like a fountain but I was driving on the San Diego freeway and couldn’t jot them down!!!!

Then instead of making a beeline for home, taking advantage of all this inspiration, I thought since Russ wouldn’t be home for awhile I’d go see a movie I’d been wanting to see before it went out of the theater’s.

Big mistake! I left there totally dried up, like what was I thinking?!!

I may have mentioned this before but there is a movie that got made that was similar in nature to one I’ve had “in the works” now for a few years.

I got positive feedback from the Austin Film Festival with suggestions on how to improve on it.  Well, that’s what I’ve been doing. Why this particular film seems to be stagnating, I just don’t know but it has.

Maybe I should just let it go and move on.

My original script was 40 pages long and everyone that read it loved it. But, here’s the but that bogged me down. Everyone that read it thought it should be a feature film, which meant extending it by an additional 50 pages…at least.

Okay, so how do I do that and not lose the momentum I had?

My first effort was 120 pages long. Oh boy was it heavy.  So much shit in it that the story got lost.  So, I went at it again, and again, and again and so on.

One reader (script doc) said,  I had a comedic moment that he thought was inappropriate since it was a drama (ala Taken). That made sense, so I took it out.  (He did however complement me on my natural sense of timing for comedy)

Another source says I have the possibility of some strong women parts which are sought after but they were underdeveloped. I needed to give them more. Okay, that made sense too since that’s the reason I created them in the first place.

Then there is the angst between my protagonist and her father which needs strengthening as well, I had it originally but dropped some of that in the rewrite because it didn’t read like I wanted it to.

So, here I am at the beach looking for inspiration.

I sat and sat. I wrote a few things in my book, but nothing that wowed me. All these stories that were flowing from me on the way home sputtered.

I had at least 4 stories bouncing around in my head and the passion with which they were coming? Gone.

At least I remembered the idea, so I settle for writing the basic idea for each down in hopes that someday the story will come. Sigh.

Note to self:  Say “NO!” No detours and in the future, pull over and just jot it down. So what if you’re a few minutes late? There’s always the phone.

The Hole – Lost in L.A.

photo (45)

Have you ever wanted to beat yourself up over something you did that is so unlike you but that comes out at an inopportune time?

It’s not that it’s never happened before, but that it happens from time to time in stupid ways really bugs me, especially when it’s in front of someone I want to impress.

I remember the time I met Bill Murray. Bill was filming the movie that would later be called “Larger Than Life” (which he is or was), the working title being “Nickle and Dime(s).

I was working for a talent agency in Colorado at the time and we were in charge of filling the request for extra’s of Native American descent and because of the shortage of NA’s, some Hispanics were used. I was not there for the entire filming. I had studied acting for years so my job had been to coach the young actors that were later selected and not actually be in the film. Besides I was told they didn’t need anyone my age.  However for the last day, my boss asked me to dye my hair black, so I could pass for NA since they needed more for a particular scene, so I did.

Needless to say, I was terribly excited at going on my first movie set. As usual, there’s a lot of waiting and because it was out in the desert, I could wander around.  I met the cinematographer, who was from Italy. Very nice. then I met the guy in charge of all the technical stuff. It was amazing. He took me around the set and showed me how everything worked. (If you know film, you know that things are not as simple as they appear.) He had evidently been in the business a very long time and he described different aspects and jobs of movie making. I was enthralled by it all. I guess I must have appeared to him like a wide eyed child because when we parted, he smiled and said “You’ll be back!” He was right. I was in love. I didn’t know how or what my niche would be, but I had it bad.

In case you’re wondering, at the time this transpired, I was over the hill for the usual acting jobs that came around.  I was considered old when I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts briefly for their summer program at the age of 50, yet they accepted me for the program.  So even though I was no spring chicken, I’ve never looked my age.  Good genes make me look way younger than my years.  When I was a kid I’d had my chance briefly to be in show business, but life got in the way and I had pretty much laid my dreams to rest, now they were sparking again but I digress. I’ll save that story for another time, since I’ve strayed from my subject. Still, I wanted to be a part of the business, I knew that.

So here I was, way out in the desert of Moab, Utah. All the extra’s had talked madly about what a wonderful and pleasant guy Bill was. They said, he was friendly, would sit and banter amicably with them and all this stuff.  So when I got in line for an autographed picture of him, on a rail car with an elephant behind him, I was expecting “Mr. Congeniality”.

Well, he isn’t a smiling type, at least not with me. He only took my picture and asked my name. I gave it to him and by this time I was terrified. Yes, a grown woman, terrified and I started babbling trying to make conversation. I have no idea what I said, but he winced and that made it worse. I kept wanting to put a zipper on my mouth but it just kept spewing. I don’t know who was more uneasy, me or him. Finally, I walked away, chagrined that it hadn’t gone better.  I wanted to be his friend. Well, at least I wanted to see this convivial person everyone had been talking about.  So, I asked myself, “Did I come off like I was hitting on him?”  Oh my God! That’s it!

Nothing could have been further from the truth of course.  Either way.  At first I felt bad, then I got angry, because if that was it, then that was an arrogant assumption.  But how would he know otherwise? I’m his age and attractive. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure family men in his line of work and stature must stay guarded. But, I never forgave myself for the misstep.

Well, I did it again and again.  Not with movie people necessarily but people with titles. Stupidity looms up from time to time. I have a friend, well even my daughter who’s an actress says, “they’re just people mom!”

But I say, it’s not my fault.  Really.  I grew up being told that “Children Should Be Seen and Not Heard!”  Sadly, we were never allowed to interact with adults or engage in any type of adult conversation. In fact, any one of authority was addressed with deference.  Here I am of age and I still regress from time to time. If someone had power to help or slay me, I fall apart.

It happened this past weekend. I got snubbed.  I think it may have been in part because the speaker said from the onset that everything counts for something.  That we all make judgement calls the minute we see someone. So, how we dress and how we look IS important.  First impressions count. He said that even he made a judgement about individuals the minute they walked in the room.  (He was looking straight at me when he said it).  Like Bill, he was not a smiler. So, it was hard to “know” him.

He talked about doing your due diligence before meeting someone you knew you would meet and I thought DAMN!  I forgot to look him up, his background.  Could he see that on my face? At break, I pulled up his stats, but it wasn’t enough for me.

As it was I had not slept much the night before, nervous about meeting people in the business and what do I say? Did I have any screenplays ready should I meet someone who would ask or want to see my work?  So, I didn’t have hard copies, but I had them on a zip drive and since so many carry laptops with them anymore, I could download a PDF copy if they wanted one.  Also, the ones I have on there were already registered, so that was good too! It was a last minute decision to go anyway so it was all good. Nothing to worry about, I told myself.

Still I worried. This is not like me. I had pins and needles all up my legs and I kept jiggling them to still the sensation, so I could get some sleep. I had just started working out with a personal trainer this past week. She asked me how I sleep. I told her I sleep hard generally. Was that it?  All that stimulation has got my circulation going. It was no wonder I couldn’t sleep. I had a two hour drive to get there, but being LA, I would give myself an extra hour to offset accident delays on the road etc. So the alarm is set for 5 am, but I didn’t get to bed until 2:30 or was it 3?  Do I even bother trying to sleep, sometimes that makes me tireder?  No excuses!  In this business, there are no acceptable excuses. The show must go on!

So when I went up for him to sign his book, I jabbered. I sunk into “the hole” I dug once before. It seemed like a hole because I noticed that with everyone else he asked, what do you do? He didn’t ask me. Me, I had to make conversation and it was horrid, he responded tersely, not amicably nor did he ask questions back like he did the others before me.  It was like, “Next!”.  I knew I was dressed well. I bathed before going. What was it?

For two days I stewed about whether this was for me.  Can I survive? I know there will be more people like that, but it obviously would not be them I’d be working with. The self talk was incessant. I didn’t have this problem at the pitch fest and everyone I spoke with loved my pitch. So why this time? Then I remembered that one of my dearest friends in Hollywood was someone I had had a rough start with. We eventually became fast friends and when I moved back to California, she demanded she be the first person I would call and visit and she was.

What I do know is I need to get back in there and not give up. I’ve got a lot going against me and age is the biggie and everyone tells you that. What has stood out and is certainly relevant to me is, if something gives you trouble, keep putting yourself out there until it’s no longer a problem. What I have going for me is the texture and color I can bring into my work that comes from life’s experiences.  So, here I go again.  I’m going to another workshop with people in the business and let’s hope I do better this time.

As they say in Italian, salute! Cheers!