Author Archives: Morgain McGovern

About Morgain McGovern

The Traveling Roadshow Of The Countess Maritsa is a book about growing up on the road with my International gypsy con-artist mother and three sisters. We had a van, 2 dogs, some cats, a house chicken.

Open Letter To Memoir Writers And Their Families.

Open Letter To
Memoir Writers And Their Families
Morgain McGovern


Kid station wagon bear copy

Sometimes the shitty people of the world are in your family. Sometimes it’s you. Most of the time, it’s just scared people hurting each other.
When you start writing your story or have a blog, people will react in a way that you never expected them to. Your friends start to get suspicious. They don’t want to smoke weed with you anymore. They don’t want you telling the world their secrets. Even if you do hide them as a fictional character, they’ll know it’s them. And that scares people. You thought you’d be the cool friend who had a blog and write artistic stories and they’d be supportive and encouraging. Maybe they’d help with edits and ideas and dates.
After writing for the last four years, I’ve found that when you tell someone you write or have a blog or are writing a book about your mom going to prison and being an international con artist, most people say, (even if I’ve just met them) say, “Don’t write about me! Are you going to write about me??? What are you going to say?? Did your family freak out? Is your mom still alive? What do they think??” I get lots of weird looks.
Nobody will ever fully trust you again if you write publicly and honestly.
My sister said, “Don’t write about me, I’ll sue you. I promise.” The thought of losing my ten year old Toyota Echo made both of us laugh.
So, you’re going to have mixed reactions and reactions you weren’t expecting.

Relatives will tell you you’re remembering it wrong and it wasn’t that bad. They’ll call you too sensitive, too moody, too paranoid and want to know if you’ve been taking your meds. It’s called “Gaslighting” and families do it to each other all the time. Sometimes they do it as a protective measure, to make sure we don’t look back, lest we turn to salt like Lot’s wife.
Family will tell you over and over again that the trauma and damage either never happened or if it did, they’ll tell you to get over it and move on. Don’t.Look. Back. Writing and looking back helps you learn from bad behavior and mistakes.  You will fucking grow.
Maybe Mom and Dad and their entire families looked away when you we getting abused or tried to help but weren’t able to or didn’t know it even happened. Whatever the reasons for trauma, neglect and child abuse are; we have every right to tell our story.
You own your story and people will try to take that from you too. You might self-destruct while writing it. Maybe you’ll get a literary agent and they’ll drop you a year later because they’ve read your book proposal and think you’re a liar or crazy because James Frey fucked it up for real Memoirists and sign your other writer friend up and she sells her book and it’s great and everyone loves all your friends who are successful, and maybe you’ll sell out a frenemy. You will make a bunch of mistakes.
If someone wrote a book about every person who ever lived, everyone would be terrified of reading how they behaved in the face of danger. Most people don’t want to be written about or only if they can edit it. Especially the ones who could’ve been the hero, but they turned out to be the goat. Sometimes a character is a hero and a goat at the same time. That’s the beauty of humanity and what makes stories run, our flaws and how our flaws become our strengths. We all are flawed and broken in certain places and strong in places where we thought we’d die.
But, at first, your family will not want you to write your true story. Exposing dysfunction and bad behavior is embarrassing and humbling. You’re holding up a mirror (or a blog) and they’re seeing it on paper for the first time. And it looks horrible.
Most memoir & fiction writers that I love were born onto an uneven playing field, got dealt a shitty hand in life or had some sort of nervous breakdown and had to rebuild their life.
Lots of people have been born into an easy life and have had terrible problems, so my story isn’t about rich vs. poor, it’s about how we can all recognize ourselves in other people.
An immigrant from a war-torn country would think I was a whiner for having a mom in prison and living in chaos. I was born an American woman and that itself has set my rights and available opportunities much higher than most countries.
I used to get irritated at the people who worn born into upper middle class or middle class families that had parents and houses and stability and jobs, but then they turned into adults who could never really get their shit together and their parents were helping them with college, weddings and then houses and jobs all of the things parents do to help their kids succeed and be happy. I would be jealous and outraged that I was denied that dream. Of having an actual parent take care of me. Even one. A lot of adult children from dysfunctional families don’t have children because even into adulthood, they’re still taking care of the mom or dad (emotionally, financially or both) and don’t need any more children. For me, I’m learning how to be selfish and just take care of me.
This is a conversation I had with my mom (as I’m driving her to a motel, she had $20 and was essentially homeless).
I said, “These rich kids who have everything handed to them piss me off. They’re still total fuckup’s and had a home and a mom and dad that took care of them.

Like that movie “Into The Wild” or “A Million Little Pieces”-That whiny, lying fuck head who ruined it for real writers. Or a rich kids goes out into the woods of Alaska and starves to death in an abandoned bus. He had every opportunity in the world and blew it. What the fuck is wrong with you people? Their families helped them and paid for college and bought them houses. Your parents did that for you too. I had to work my ass off and started waitressing when I was fourteen when you were in and out of jail and we lived in motels. Fuck those people.”
And she said to me, “Maybe you learned something they didn’t.”
The best stories in the world are about about human connections and people looking to see if there’s anyone else out there that felt the way they did when the worst things in their life happened to them.
When you do finally write the story thats been churning inside you for twenty years and throw it up on paper- you can look back and learn from it. Watch out though, writing your life story will show patterns of behavior that can’t be ignored anymore and can trigger a nervous breakdown. Going through pieces of your past is cleansing but brings up a rage that is all consuming. It’s like throwing all of your old family roles, insecurities and fear in a heap on top of a burning funeral pyre of your old life.
A weekly trip to a good psych doctor might be around the corner and can help you set boundaries with assholes. Get on meds if you need them. They will only work if you need them. You’ll see repeated patterns of behavior that may be able to be fixed and help you break out of chains of depression, fear and poverty.
Don’t worry about bullies in your family who will try make you crumble. Going to many public schools taught me that you only have to punch a bully once. When you do finally stand up for yourself, you’ll emerge like Kahleesi from the flames, holding her dragons.
Once it’s on paper, writing your story will show you pieces of yourself and your family for who they are; flawed and sometimes broken, beautiful human beings.

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Quotes and endorsements from good people.

Endorsement Page

“A fascinating and unapologetic insider account of a family run wild by a Borderline Mom and a philandering Hollywood Dad, that makes your typical dysfunctional family look like a day at Disneyland.” -Jim Clemente, FBI Profiler (Retired), Writer/Producer.

“Funny and heart breaking. The Travelling Roadshow Of The Countess Maritsa is a strangely relatable story for those of us who grew up in weird families. I loved it.”- Kirsten Vangsness ( “Garcia” on Criminal Minds) Actress. 

“Morgain has traveled the world, lived the craziest life and made it out alive and sane… Not many can say the same. It was truly my pleasure to welcome you into my home in Paris. We were young and we had fun, except for the theft :). I always wondered what happened to you and your Mother. I am so happy to know that you grew into such a great woman and a brilliant writer. Thanks for the memories.” - Liskula Cohen

“Morgain is a driven and passionate actress and person. She has a keen awareness of entertainment industry and is working hard at her craft”-Scott David, CSA
 Casting Director

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The Travelling Roadshow Of The Countess Maritsa

Erin, Sue (family friend), Katie, Morgain

On The Road- Mt.Shasta 1983

The Travelling Roadshow Of The Countess Maritsa is a memoir written by Morgain McGovern, who grew up in a gypsy-like family of four rebellious sisters headed by their mother, Maureen, a brilliant con-woman on the run.

The book starts when I was seventeen, hiding out in a Parisian hotel room with my fugitive mother, who was wanted by the French authorities, British authorities, Interpol and the FBI.

As I lay in bed watching old “Kojack” reruns in a pill induced haze in our hotel room, I saw my Father’s episode dubbed over in French. The story then melts into our family’s history in  “The Bionic Woman” and against the backdrop of his acting career in 1970’s Los Angeles.

Some of my earliest memories were stories of trashed movie trailers and tales of adventure with his wild actor friends: John Quade (Clint Eastwood films), Roscoe Lee Brown, Julius Harris, Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Warren Beatty.

But after one too many affairs on movie sets and theatre tours, Mom left her womanizing husband & took her four little girls (and a furry menagerie of our animals) on the road in a Winnebago.

Mom might have had a Samsonite case full of pills and borderline personality disorder, but she had a sharp knack for crime.

     In the “Mad Men” era of the mid sixties, New York Herald Tribune journalist Maureen Smith met Don McGovern, a Broadway actor and stage manager (1963-66) of Lincoln Center in the East Village-who also moonlighted as a Mafia henchman.

He taught her everything he learned about crime, and while running a nightclub for a famous mob family in the meat market district, Dad got knifed in an argument with a “made” man- his boss- and the couple knew it was time to hit the road and drive to a new life in California.

At first, it was an ideal family life, having four little girls and living on our ranch in trendy Agoura. Mom’s sisters lived nearby in Los Angeles and provided some stability and guidance. We visited our father’s movie sets and went to studio parties with the glitterati, but the sepia toned memories and happiness were soon fleeting.

My father’s roles (Easy Rider, The Bionic Woman, Killer Bees, the Last Detail, Sleeper, Kojack and others) gave him the acclaim he needed, but alcoholism and the lure of other women soon engulfed him. One of his favorite stories was when he and his best friend Mike Whitney (Twiggy’s ex-husband) got drunk at our house in Laurel Canyon and then decided to cement over Ali McGraw’s footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, as they didn’t think she deserved the honor.

Dad, Mom, Lana Saunders, Mike Whitney

About the time Dad & Mike Whitney

cemented over Ali MacGraw‘s footprints at

Graumanns’ Chinese Theatre

                    Caravanning across America, we lived in gorgeous houses in affluent areas then when luck ran out, we crashed in run-down motels across the country & abroad. Rarely staying in one town for more than six months, Mom raised us with artistic ideals, to seek truth and beauty, kindness and compassion.

Mom’s regular form of income was fraud, of all kinds, but she really came alive when she got on the phone- wheeling and dealing, putting deals together with rich people. Some of them were spectacular. She was gifted at real estate and quit claims-because she had the knack of knowing what land was about to be valuable, get the rights to buy it somehow and sell it to whoever really wanted it at a much higher price. She did this with no actual money of her own and it was dazzling. When it was working in her favor, her mind was her greatest asset.

Mom loved big, rambling farmhouses out in the country and my sisters and I would pick wildflowers and plant gardens at whatever new house we lived in, putting down roots in the ground, as if it were some sort of magic spell to make us stay in one place. As I planted, I knew we wouldn’t be there the next spring to see hollyhocks come up-but I left my mark on the earth, I had been there.

Wherever we moved, Mom would invite strange people to live with us.

She’d find them at the DMV or pick up people spare-changing for food outside of the local grocery store. We were a family like Robin Hood, doing the right thing and helping these strange drifters that Mom had found. She told us that it was the kind thing to do, people should help each other. But as I got older, I realized they were her henchmen.

They would live in our guesthouse, attic or basement and fixed things around the property. As time went by, Mom’s choice of house guests would get scruffier and lower on the moral ladder. Drug addicts, dealers, low-lifes, crackers, swamp trash, anti-socials, squatters, whores, trailer trash, junkies, whatever she could find-the dumber, the better. The more affluent ones had their van or trailer they’d been living in towed to our newest property.

They would lights cars on fire, burn things down, return stolen items back to a pricey store (for cash or store credit), stage a robbery or whatever else she could think of to collect the insurance money.

Sometimes, they would get high, drunk or just completely misunderstand Mom’s directions and fuck things up so badly that we’d have to move sooner than anticipated. Most of her vagabond victims would only be around for a few months and the smart ones moved on to roam after they collected their share.

She’d order one of them to roll a dying car with a shot transmission off of a cliff or flood the basement of whatever house we were renting. We would gather up all of our clothes we were sick of, broken electronics (and anything else we didn’t want or feel like packing) and throw it into the dark, smelly lake that used to be our playroom. She told us that the basement had flooded overnight and while it was an unfortunate accident, we could get new stuff this way.

When my oldest sister Meagan was about ten, she got electrocuted when she flipped on the basement light before Mom could warn her. She looked down and realized she was standing in deep, electrified water on the top step but her puffy rubber-soled moon boots saved her from death.

Before we’d leave town and move on to our next new life, our basements morphed into something that looked like the end scene of the movie Titanic, with a shaved head Barbie doll floating face down in the black water, dismembered and abandoned to a watery death.

But when Mom was really upset or nervous, she would set things on fire. Torching rental houses was her signature way of letting the world know that she was angry, horrifying hysterical landlords who wanted their three-month’s of back rent.

My sisters and  I would wave goodbye from the back of the station wagon with our cats and dogs to the bad town that wasn’t right for us. We knew other people led normal lives but Mom told us the new town was going to be better. This town was bad luck.

In some classrooms we’d be popular and never want to leave, in others, we’d be pariahs and didn’t bother with doing our homework. We knew it was only a matter of time before we were on the road again.

After our eighth or ninth school, my sisters and I began to create cover stories to tell our newfound friends. Growing up in chaos created a defiant kind of camaraderie for us. The secrets of our sisterhood banded us together to kept us sane.We began to realize what our Mom was, but we didn’t have the word for it. I told friends that my mom was freelance writer with a gypsy streak. We knew that soon she’d find a real job as a writer, eventually.

Some dogs we stole.

The magic box of pills that also doubled as a seat for me in the front of the van.

Halloween 1982. Kingwood, Texas.

With warrants and detectives trailing us, the bills were paid with insurance fraud, clever scams and bad checks.We wanted to believe our mother- that the next move was permanent and we would settle down, but we all knew better.

Our father called occasionally, and told us he never wanted to be a parent, just an artist in a garret.

Morgain and Mom 1984

Cousin Judy, Morgain, Katie. Moved to Oregon, 1985

Mom’s brilliant mind would come through and save us every once in awhile.

When I was in the 3rd grade, she auditioned and became a contestant on a trivia game show called “Sale Of The Century”. She gave the other contestants a beating, and after a long week of tapings, she  won $75,000 in cash, plus a bunch of prizes and a trip up to Monterrey, California.

Her winnings on the show changed our nomadic lives. For the first time, we went to a school for two years in a row and even though we still took road trips in our custom van up to Oregon, Washington and Idaho; we had a home to go back to in Los Angeles. We had food in the refrigerator and the cops didn’t come by to arrest Mom every few months. It was peaceful.

Things got bad again once the money ran out.  We ended up living in a motel on Sepulveda Boulevard for three months until Mom could think of something. I’ve driven by that motel recently and families are still living there.

Three years later, we were living in a motel in Upstate New York when Mom found out that the game show was hosting a “Return Of The Champions” and wanted her to be a contestant on the show to defend her game show queen title-in Australia.

The show was a huge hit in Australia and the producers were willing to fly her and one other person to Melbourne and put her up in a hotel for at least a week or so. She convinced them to pay for Me and Erin to go, since we were both under fifteen. Mom had warrants out and detectives looking for her in New York-so a trip to Australia to escape certain jail time in New York was an opportunity that Mom couldn’t refuse.

Crocodile Mumdee

When we got to Melbourne, There were about thirty other “champions” from various “Sale Of The Century” shows around the world, mostly Britons, Americans and Australians. I’ve never seen people who loved to drink so much (and for free) in a hotel bar.

All the contestants were shuttled to the studio every day, and the producers would randomly pick the contestants who would be on the show for the day. Everyone would come back by five or six for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the lounge. Mom finally had a 9 to 5 job.

Erin and I would take the trolley all around Melbourne and explore. It was brilliant.

It was in the lounge where Mom picked off her prey. Mom liked pills more than the drink, so she would wait it out while the other contestants got drunk and mingled. In 1989, there was no Internet. It was hard to tell if a credit card was stolen and they were run by hand machines and carbon copies. The stores would only phone in a suspiciously large purchase, so it would be weeks before English banks would know anything was up.

Mom’s day to finally be a contestant on the show came-and she didn’t do well at all. She was very sick on the day of the taping and only made about $1700. It was time to go back home to the states.

We tried to look on the bright side, even though she didn’t bring in the kind of money we needed, at least we had gotten a free trip to Australia. We tried to reassure her, the cops from New York were probably looking for somebody else by now.

For a last hurrah, Mom rented a car and drove us to see the fairy penguins march up the beach at dusk, back to burrow in their sand cave homes, all nestled in and warm with their furry families in the cliffs overlooking the Tasmanian sea.

We started to drive the car north, through the Snowy River Forest and then up to ninety mile beach where massive waves  and a blue wall of water could come up slowly or quickly, and if you weren’t paying attention, you’d get soaked sitting 100 feet from the faded water lines.  We were on our way to Sydney-we were going to fly back to the States from there.

After we got back to New York, we crashed at Katie and Meagan’s apartment. My sisters and I couldn’t joke about this anymore, we all started to unravel. We needed a Mom and she was wanted by the police all over New York for various thefts and fraud.

Mom checked herself into fancy mental hospital because she said that the cops can’t arrest you if you’re a patient. The four of us were on our own until she could figure something out. She was there for a few weeks when the cops found her and it was a matter of time before they figured out a loophole in the mental patient protection law. Mom checked herself out and announced that we were moving to Hilton Head Island, in South Carolina. Tomorrow.

Rich people from Ohio, New York and Connecticut usually go to the Carolinas for a vacation and expect to find golf, warm weather and Margaritaville. They’d have someone safe watch their kids at the hotel so they could go out and party.

Mom was waiting for them like a grandma spider nanny in a beautiful  hotel. After the kids came back from swimming, tennis or golf lessons, Mom would put them to bed and help herself to whatever cash or jewelry she didn’t think the parents would miss. Most of the time, they hadn’t realized they’d been robbed until they got back to their northern homeland and sobered up.

Mom had a way of making sure she only robbed super rich people who on their last day of vacation and were leaving early for the next flight back home.

“I was a boutique thief, I never robbed anyone who’d be left with nothing”, she told me recently. “Morgain, there is no honor among thieves, I’ve never seen it. But I never stole from someone who’d be left with nothing. I stole from the rich.”

Detectives were searching the house on a regular basis and Mom got arrested for grand theft, robbery and insurance fraud. Meanwhile, New York State had several warrants out for her and was trying to extradite her back.

My sisters were done. They decided to move back to upstate New York and break free from Mom, but I couldn’t. For years, we had been raised on a roller coaster ride of torched houses, cross country road trips, international hotel rooms, run down motels, a gunfight, foreign authorities, Australian game shows, addiction and madness.

After Mom posted bail on Hilton Head, my sisters had already left and I was alone with her. Mom presented me with a new plan. We were going to start a new life in England. I knew how sick she was, but to this day, I still don’t know why I couldn’t leave her.In England, I started going to a posh school in Kensington and started hanging out with my friends. I tried to stay away from home as much as possible. While I was at school, Mom had started doing some very bad things and ended up in Holloway Women’s Prison, in London. The detectives confiscated my passport and I was trapped in London, homeless for the rest of the winter.

London in Winter

After Mom escaped from her bail hostel in Oxford, we left England in the night. From there, our journey took us to Spain, France and back to the United States-which escalated into a FBI manhunt and America’s Most Wanted.

On The Run In Provence

As the Internet age came upon her, Mom was caught just before her segment on “America’s Most Wanted” aired, and she was sent to Federal prison for several years. One detective in Fort Bend, Texas thought she was affiliated with the notorious “Irish Travelers” band of gypsies, but nothing has ever been proven.

For years, we were raised on a roller coaster ride of torched houses, cross country road trips, international hotel rooms, run down motels, a gunfight, foreign authorities, Australian game shows, drug and alcohol abuse, a Parisian dungeon, French nuns, a house chicken and madness.

From Melbourne, Australia, (while our mother was on a popular game show there and robbing the other contestants) to the streets of London, clubbing in Paris with the famous and then on to the South of France, this story reflects the facets of a rare American life. It has its own kind of glamour and bittersweet triumph that will fascinate pop culture fans.

I settled in Los Angeles and started living my life.  With funny stories of friends (Chelsea Handler) who became famous and people I’ve met along the way, this story has twists that could rival a Tarantino film.

Morgain McGovern & Chelsea Handler Santa Monica 1998

Halloween and way too many stimulants

Chelsea Handler & Morgain McGovern. Santa Monica, California

Here’s a link to the debauchery…Chelsea gets booted from the Frying Pan bathroom-

New York Post Page Six

The Travelling Roadshow of the Countess Maritsa a story about the American dream unraveling.

It’s a tale of a brilliant but mentally ill mother, who resorts to criminal activity to support her four children. But along the way, she tried to provide them with invaluable tools of truth and beauty.

It’s about the transformation of four young women who grew up on the road, got sucked into the abyss of madness with their mother and then found their way out to freedom.

The Countess

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Forbes Magazine Is A Fan Of The Countess…

Forbes Magazine Article About “The Travelling Roadshow Of The Countess Martisa”.

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London To Paris-On The Run

March 1991

London to Paris
On the Run

March 1991-London

Most people seldom realized my mother was insane when talking to her, but I knew.

When I was young, standing around my mother’s knees, I loved listening to her voice and watching people fall under her spell. At the time, I thought everyone loved her as much as I did. She had a smooth throaty voice that was rich yet feminine and it could turn into velvet when she wanted something.  It wrapped around you like the warm blanket of an opiate high.

With all the adventures and carpetbaggery in her life; I’m still amazed at how she could keep all the lies together in that racing, manic mind and spin tales so casually when dealing with her newest victim.

Mom told tales of woe that were simple for others to understand- but her specialty was finding people with money and getting it out of them.

My mother was a master illusionist. Most people who got swindled by her would agree later on; she had a way about her.

She was witty, educated and articulate-with a genuine protectiveness for the uneducated and downtrodden.

Her face would captivate you; she had bright blue eyes of a true Irishwoman and the smooth white alabaster skin of her Mother’s Polish roots that had bewitched many a lover during her days in Greenwich Village on Jane Street. Despite being heavy later on in life, she was always considered beautiful because she carried it well.

On the day she jumped bail after several months at Holloway Women’s Prison, she called me from a pay phone at her bail hostel in Oxford. If she stayed for her court date, she said, she’d be locked up for more than a year. She told me to start packing, because she’d be by to pick me up in an hour.

Looking back now, I realize I would have done serious time had I been caught helping her escape, but, I was seventeen and thought I could save her from herself.

Anyway, I knew it was time to get the fuck out of dodge; it was just a matter of time before I caught for performing the traveler’s check scam she taught me. The con had kept me fed while I was on the streets, but it was still considered theft in the eyes of her majesty’s courts and I didn’t want to end up sharing a cell with my mother.

It was around mid-afternoon when I heard her pull up to Amanda’s apartment in a black shiny London taxi. I was rushing around, packing up the last of my shit, when I looked out of the open window, down to the wet street and saw her getting out of the cab. I dropped my cigarette with a shaking hand and stared at her.

The few short months in prison had changed and hardened her, she’d lost weight and her face was ashen. For the first time, she’d been in prison for months, not just the few days that she was used to. I had told her over and over again that the computer age was upon us, but she kept running her old scams and ended up in all the systems. I began to believe her when she told me England was trying to kill us.

“We have to go,” Mom said as she walked in Amanda’s East end apartment in Stoke Newington. She looked around at the bare living room and her eyes settled on me, she was edgy and restless. “Now.” she looked at her watch. She didn’t bother to chat with Amanda; who was by the window, smoking a silk cut.

I looked at Amanda and she understood. She and I were the same age and became friends in a strange way. Our mothers were cellmates together at Holloway.

Mom had begged Amanda’s mother to let me live with her daughter, because it was winter in London and I was sleeping on the streets or at friend’s houses. Her mom showed great compassion and Amanda and I bonded immediately.

We had a lot in common-we liked to get as drunk as we could on Thunderbird, smoke hash and laugh at the absurdity of life.

Amanda had a thick Cockney accent and was of mixed race. She wore matching Addias hoodie tracksuits and always had her hair up in a ponytail. She was Sporty Spice.  She had creamy cafe latte skin, with a spattering of freckles across the bride of her nose and her eyes were hazelnut colored with flecks of copper. She should have been a Bennetton model, but she was stuck in the ghetto and didn’t know how to get out.

Amanda had talents and one of them was being a professional when it came to rolling spliffs. She taught me how to roll quick, small ones you could puff on and toss in the bushes if a cop was nearby. Pipes were too much evidence to carry and get busted with.  Joints, as we Americans call them. Spliffs in England.

The Brits also have a different way of smoking out. When you smoke weed in a circle of friends in the U.S, you take a hit and pass it. In England, one holds on the joint for a few puffs and smokes 3 or 4 hits while everyone chats. If you pulled that shit in California, you would get your ass kicked for Bogarting the joint. Puff, puff pass, bitch. Everyone needs to get high. Now.

Oh, and they don’t have weed, grass, chronic or any of the green stuff over there. They smoke hash. And if you smoke too much or try to smoke it like grass, you will puke in a few hours.

Reality was something we didn’t like to deal with while our mothers were in prison together, so we got high. And drunk. But high during the day. We knew that if you drank during the day, you were an alcoholic. So we smoked hash.

Amanda would pull out a brown sticky square of hash and flick her lighter over the end corner of it. She would carefully sprinkle the crumbly brown hash over tobacco, which had been ripped out of a Silk Cut cigarette. She rolled it up in a Zig Zag paper and  light it. She squinted as the cloud of smoke wafted in her face.

She took a long drag of a joint and held it in as she spoke,  “Morgain, I’m just a half caste girl living in the ghetto. ” She blew it out and her eyes watered. “What kind of job can I get? I ain’t got nuffink, mate. No fucking education, no fucking money, not even me Mum.” She shook her head ruefully. She looked up at me, like maybe I had the answer.

I replied,  “At least your mum left you a house to live in when she went down in flames, my Mom left me holding a bag of shit. Pass that spliff.”

We’d dissolve into the giggles and insulate ourselves against the harsh world with laughter. The highs from the hash would take us to an innocent place where we could be like children again. She was the only girlfriend I’ve ever had that also had a mom in prison and we could tell each other the truth.

I’d smoke and smoke, taking deep long hits into my lungs, so it would fill up the aching in my chest. The fuzzy, creeping feeling that spread through my body made me feel safe.

I felt bad that Amanda didn’t have any sisters to share the misery of having a parent in Prison. At least I had my three sisters when Mom got arrested in the States. I thought about them and knew they were worried about me, but there wasn’t anything they could do. They didn’t have money to send me and were trying to stay alive themselves. And, I was too ashamed to tell them that she’d tricked me, again.

Now, Mom was back. I wasn’t sure why I felt so uneasy around her, but I could tell that she was in the dark places of her mind where not even I could reach her. My mother was gone, replaced by a strange, sinister woman with a wild, leaping look in her eyes.

Usually when it was time to run, Mom would laugh and say to us, “Let’s get this show on the road, kid!” or “You go where I go amigo!” but not this time.

I was packing my stuff in the bathroom and I caught my reflection in the mirror as I looked up from the sink. I was very pale and my eyes had a strange glimmer to them as well. They weren’t my eyes, they were like a street cat’s, skittish and not sure who to trust. Mom’s long stay in prison must have changed me too.

I said goodbye to my friend, thanking her for saving my life and from the bitterly cold London streets where I had been wandering, humiliated after I had to leave my posh school and friends in Kensington. I lugged my suitcase down the stairs and we got into the waiting taxi.

As the taxi puttered along to train station, I took a long last look out the window. When we fled from the detectives in the States, Mom told me she was going to turn her life into something good here and get a job as a writer. I had loved this city and all the hope it held for us in the beginning. Then everything had turned dark, like it always did before we had to leave in a hurry.

Waterloo station was coming up and I thought of the long trip before us. Getting out of England was going to be hard. Mom was supposed to be back at the bail hostel by now and it was getting dark. They would start looking for her soon.

Mom and I got out of the cab and headed towards the train station. She was slow and creaky from age and I turned around to wait for her. The wind whipped her grey hair up in tufts, in a comical way, like a picture of fun times from the rollercoaster rides at an amusement park. She smiled at me and I knew I couldn’t leave her. Another round in prison would kill her.

We could start over. Mom would never be able to get a job with all the police and detectives looking for her, but somehow, starting over sounded right.

Going to France would buy us some time to come up with a solution. Maybe the detectives would realize she was mentally ill and needed help, not prison.

She was supposed to be back at the bail hostel in Oxford by dusk, and it was definitely dark now. We still needed another hour on the train south to the ocean.  Then we had to get on the ferry in Portsmouth.  Somehow, we had to get on the boat without Mom getting caught through their checkpoint and sent back to Holloway Women’s Prison.

When we got to the Waterloo train station, I realized sporting events were finally good for something. The British were invading France for the weekend so see their soccer team.  A massive crowd of  rose-cheeked men from Liverpool in soccer jerseys were flooding the station, trying to get on the last trains to the ferry. The were jumpy and excited, looking for a fight and a fuck.

These Celtic men were on fire and they were determined to stay as functionally drunk as possible. They carried cases of beer under their arms and most had backpacks filled with more supplies in case they ran out on the nighttime ferry ride over.

For once, the ancient rivalry between these two countries helped women. Well, they helped two Irish American gypsy women evade the law. Thanks, soccer.

As we went into Waterloo Station, I hugged her. Then we went over to the ticket window to buy our tickets to Portsmouth, where the ferry would be waiting.

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Filed under Family Stories and Essays, The Bionic Woman, The Traveling Roadshow Of The Countess Maritsa-Book Proposal

Family, Money & Education

The number one thing I learned growing up was to never trust anyone but family.

Family are the people who shape you and help shape the decisions you make for your future. But as the years have progressed, I’ve found that these are the ones who have the most power to cut you to the bone.

“There’s so much abundance in nature. ” My millionaire Uncle Julian said looking around at the orange trees in the orchard garden.

 I was standing with them on the property he had just bought with my Aunt Cora.  Their third home.  All of them worth over a million dollars and custom designed with inlaid tiles, pretty carpet and marble counter tops. They were the most beautiful houses I had ever seen.  Like the kind you see in Architectural Digest or some other magazine you could drool over, and filled with books and cool art. Aunt Cora’s home had everything I had ever wanted to buy in a gallery, on Etsy or Anthropologie.  Fridges were stocked with yummy organic food and nobody ever went without fresh milk.

Uncle Julian was happy in nature, I could tell. He was breathing in the fresh California air and looking around as if he couldn’t believe how fortunate he was either. I never saw my uncle smiling and easy going like this when I had worked at their company. He was only like this when he was on a farm picking something or digging in the earth. Nature helped him, like he understood something about it.

In 1984, my Aunt Cora and Uncle Julian started a business out of their home, worked hard and made their fortune in the technology industry. People came to him with ideas for business plans and deals. My uncle had gone to college at  MIT and made a kick ass life for himself with what he had. He didn’t come from a family with money, but his mom had made sure that all of her kids went to good schools.

When people tell you not to get an education or go to college, what they’re really telling you is that you don’t deserve to be successful or a business owner. They’re telling you that you should be happy with the caste you were born into and suck it up like everyone else.

People who tell you to get a job and not an education are the same people who can’t use their or there in a sentence properly and don’t care. They don’t care about words on paper. They care about numbers on paper.

I was with Aunt Cora when she was out here looking at houses. When I saw this house, I knew was for them. It was a big rambling house that would fit everyone in our huge family and felt warm and comfortable. But, it had been decorated in the late seventies when burgundy and Quaaludes were popular. They were about to renovate and gut the thing and lay down some serious cash with architects, designers, tiles and cool ideas.

As we walked around the grounds of the newest property,  I thought about the $20 left to my name and the $40 on gas that I spent driving up here from Los Angeles to see them.  I had these questions that nobody in my family would answer;  How come some people are rich and others are poor? People from the same family tribe? How come rich people get richer and richer and I am always struggling and just barely getting by? What am I doing wrong?  Why can’t I even afford to buy food and they have three houses? Maybe it was envy, but for me it was an inherent sense of failure on my part. I had dropped the ball somewhere. My family told me that I needed to work harder and get up earlier. The harder you work, the more money you make.

My mom had been in and out of jail for most of my life, but when I was seventeen, my mom went to Federal prison while me and my three sisters were left to fend for ourselves. As their parents encouraged them, I watched all of my cousins go on to college at big private Catholic Universities; Loyola, USD & Trinity.  Names that you go you a good job when you graduated. My aunts and uncles had made sure their kids were educated and taken care of.

Since Mom was going to be in Federal prison for the next six years ,  I got a job waitressing at Red Lobster and studied acting at Stella Adler. Performing and writing was the only thing that I knew how to do; not math, it terrified me. My sisters and I had gone to a lot of schools growing up, about three a year, so performing and learning how to adapt was a survival skill, not a hobby. Sometimes we’d move in the middle of the night, one step ahead of the cops or whoever else was after my mom. Performing on stage made me feel real and writing made my ideas real because they were now on paper. They now existed because I created it, which meant I had existed too.

All I remembered about the many different schools was how miserable the people who worked for the State were and how the smell of the hallways in every school across America was the same. So were the cliques. I didn’t want to go to school anymore, it was another prison for me. They kept telling me to conform and asking me where I grew up.

As I walked around the expensive real estate, I thought about the Salvadorian men who worked washing dishes at the restaurants where I had worked since I was fourteen and how their hands would bloat up on Sunday nights, white and grey puffs of mush that weren’t really hands anymore. Hands were not to be spent soaked in water for twelve hours- nozzle spraying off the nasty food that the fat people at Red Lobster would eat.

I thought about how many years it would take washing dishes or waitressing at Red Lobster to buy a house like this.

   People like to snuff and snort and say they worked hard, that’s why they’re rich. They harder you work, the richer you get, right?  I’ve worked doubles since I was fourteen and have seen eight month pregnant women work doubles. They are not rich. They never got rich. And they worked really hard.

I thought about abundance and the nature of abundance in our society, and why it fell on some and not on others.

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July 5, 2013 · 10:40 pm

Plenty Of Fools

Plenty of Fools French Cafe Photo

Plenty Of Fools

“In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.” Tony Montana

Online dating is somewhat like walking into a new school when you’re in the 7th grade, and it’s lunchtime. Find a place to sit in the Cafeteria, by yourself. Wait for a bit while everyone stares at you. Try not to cry or run. Show no fear, they smell fear.

If you’ve never had to go online and date, consider yourself sheltered and very blessed to have someone you love romantically in your life. Don’t ever break up. Because I promise, meeting new men from a computer profile picture and then in person (to potentially date and have sex with) is totally awkward and new to humans, socially.

This is the first time in history when men and women had a catalog at their fingertips to scroll for potential mates and see what kind of arrangement on this electronic pick-a-mate automat can get you. It’s worse than arranged marriage, because you’re in charge and if you screw up, there’s nobody else to blame.

My sister met her husband in the 90’s. These were the good old days of dating services, where you actually went into a center and went through books of pictures and people. You were there because you were serious enough about dating that you were willing to drive to an office and look at profiles of guys. The center took pictures of you, so you looked like your picture. Photoshop wasn’t available to the public yet. These men were serious about finding a girlfriend.

  My sister’s future husband was a chemical engineer and she was a writer for a newspaper and worked the midnight shift. They crossed paths because of a dating service and they make each other very happy. They are both cute, smart, funny and of the same attractiveness. They suit each other. They never would have met, they were in totally different fields and have been married for sixteen years and have beautiful little hippie children.  True love is possible, if you are ready to date your own kind. Water seeks its own level.

I’ve been on a lot of dates in the last few months. I can get in and out in under 45 minutes now. After about a year and a half of online dating sites and seeing what’s out there, I’ve realized that most people are delusional. I think people should date in their attractiveness, education & class range.  Some disagree, but people seek what they know. If you are wealthy in Los Angeles, the rules change a little in your favor, but caveat emptor. You get what you pay for.

Internet dating is now a beat-up low cost party bus at 3am. It’s a hybrid of Craigslist, Facebook and a bad meat market dance club circa 1996. The fat/unattractive guys want hot chicks. The hot guys want the other hot guys. The really hot straight guys are already gone and making out with three girls. The hot girls want a sponsor. The normal girls want a normal guy, but normal guys have been raised on the beer myth and don’t want normal women. They say they do, but they don’t. They want a hot chick who’s not going to use them as an ATM machine. Good luck, homie. This is L.A.

What is the beer myth? The beer myth is the mantra that Carl’s Jr., Maxim Magazine, Budweiser and most advertising companies have been promoting since advertising began.

 “Average men deserve a beautiful woman. If you drink our beer, buy our clothes, car or eat our five dollar burgers, you will get one. If you buy it, they will come.”

Somewhere, deep down, men feel defrauded. Where is this hot chick they were promised? She was supposed to show up at the drive through after he bought the burger, she wasn’t in the beer aisle or at the car dealership when he bought the Audi.

He sees her everywhere, on bill boards, organic food ads, surf shops, swimsuit covers, at the mall and in magazines. The cute, quirky, approachable one? She’s a model, dude. Then he sees are normal women who haven’t been photoshopped. That’s not normal to him. They are too ugly for beer myth man.

Then, beer myth man looks in the mirror and realizes that he’s not rich enough for a model. So, the struggle to make money is on. There is a reason why the movie Scarface is so popular with men. Women quote a lot of movies, but mostly men quote Scarface. They understand him.

Los Angeles is full of couples who don’t suit each other. At all. If you are dating a beautiful woman here and you are not cute or about the same attractiveness, chances are that you are offering her something in exchange for her beauty. Same goes for you too, Cougars.

I saw an elderly woman with a Jennifer Anniston tan and a big hunk of a diamond ring hanging all over a gorgeous young guy at Trader Joe’s. She was buying them groceries and lot of booze. Morals and decency aren’t big in this town. Grandma had highlights and her hand on this young boy’s ass.

Look around you. I was a waitress from the time I was fourteen until I was thirty four. I’ve seen a lot of couples come and go in the restaurants & bars all over the United States. Humans date to their own attractiveness. It’s biology. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying to you or to themselves.

If you see an old, short, hard-eyed, vicious looking man in a nice suit with a really pretty girl, it’s normal in this town, but I never could get used to it. It’s weird to see a young girl with an older guy. Pretty girls in small towns don’t go out with old men, they go out with their cute boyfriends from college.

Why would a 23 year old go out with a crusty lawyer whose ex-wife hates him? It’s not because he’s fantastic in the sack or suave or whatever else he wants to tell himself. She is dating him because she thinks his money will provide safety. Pretty women aren’t gold diggers because they’re heartless bitches, pretty women date rich guys because they provide safety and a nice life.  Money equals safety. The dickhead lawyer isn’t a bad guy for wanting a beautiful woman, he’s dating her because he bought the beer myth. He got tricked too. He thinks beauty will bring him happiness and the approval of other men.

Internet dating makes you ask yourself questions you hadn’t thought of before. Do you want to date a guy with kids? Do you even want kids? Do you really? If you’re in your mid to late thirties, guys assume you will want to have them soon.  How old are you willing to go? Are you willing to blow a 55 year old man?  Are you into interracial dating? What about guys from different parts of the world who now live in L.A? Do you want to date guys from Eastern Europe?

You know that women always end up moving to where the dude is from. Do you really want to move in with his whole family in Croatia? Can you find Croatia on a map? It makes you realize how many people are in the world. There are a lot of people in the world. A lot.

Today I got an email from a guy who really likes my profile & wants to meet me. I think he forgot we already went out on a date a year ago. On our date at a trendy restaurant on Abbot Kinney, over Paella, he told me he used to make out “and more!” with his cousin. He didn’t see anything wrong with fucking his first cousin, occasionally. He was from Florida.

I think it’s a good policy to not make out or fuck anybody you’d consider family.  For me, family is off limits, you have to see these people at weddings and funerals. My uncle gave me and my sisters a solid piece of advice when he told us, “Don’t date anybody at work and anybody who lives in your apartment complex.” Solid. Advice.

 After posting on Facebook about this, a guy friend of mine said it wouldn’t really matter if it was a second or third cousin. Our society has forced men to consider their 2nd or 3rd cousins instead of having to face the world of Internet dating.

The problem is that on online dating sites are free, except for and a lot of guys sign up on the sly, even when they have a girlfriend, or wife. They have nothing to lose. Some guys have no picture up, but tell you that they’ll email you a picture privately. This means they are married or have a serious girlfriend and don’t want their girlfriend’s friends to see them online. Do not date any guy that doesn’t have a picture up already. It means he is a cheater or is hiding his face from public for a reason. It won’t end well, I promise.

I have been invited to three ways, four ways, and been asked out on dates with with wife’s blessing. Apparently some wives let their husbands “play”. Right.

After reading a profile from a somewhat cute assistant director ramble on about he only wants to date thin women and only thin women (he was very serious about this, no fatties, nobody size 10 or over) I realized what the problem is. The reason why dating is so hard in L.A is because nobody wants to settle. People want to trade up. Nobody wants to date someone who’s struggling with the normality of life too. When is the prince/princess coming?  The guys are afraid of missing out on the hot chick that is going to show up. Because she’s coming soon, the commercials said so.


Filed under Family Stories and Essays

Claudia Miele

Morgain McGovern

An excerpt from “The Travelling Roadshow Of The Countess Maritsa”

Copyright 2011, Morgain McGovern 

Claudia Miele

Claudia Miele was the kind of person who would buy six packs for homeless people hanging out in front of the 7-11 on Santa Monica Boulevard and throw in a pack of smokes for good measure.

I would wait for her in the car and watch her as she came out of the store, irritated that she was spending her hard earned money on shiftless, able-bodied men who should be working during the day  instead of drinking themselves to death. She would joke with the rotten-toothed hoboes as she handed them the precious packages, like some kind of alcohol faerie who came back to them from a long forgotten dream.

They would stare at her when she laughed with them, hypnotized by her. The scruffy guys would glance at each other, not really believing their incredible luck and beauty of this woman who’d been so kind to them. When she tossed a few packs of Marlboro lights into the bag and handed it over, they were overcome with silent awe, as if they’d been visited by the holy spirit.

She was tall, with cascading chestnut hair that tumbled past her shoulders and fell midway between her shoulder blades down her back. She wasn’t what you would consider a typical California girl, she was first generation Tuscan-American and her European looks were suited more to the streets of Florence than of Santa Monica. Her light green eyes were flecked with specks of gold, almost iridescent-like a piece of tiger’s eye stone on a woman’s bracelet.  Both of her parents had immigrated to the United States from Tuscany in the mid-1960’s, and raised Claudia in Orange County. They taught her how to be a fantastic cook and the importance of healthy food.

I met Claudia when I was waitressing at Rosti, on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. She was a waitress and assistant manager there, but she never lorded it over me, like the other servers did when they got a promotion. We came to be friends one Saturday morning when we were both scheduled to open the restaurant.

That was the morning I was was late for work and trying to outrun the fumes from my hangover. The stale wine smell was still on my tongue and I needed to slam some coffee.  It was just another day really, when I rushed in and saw that Claudia was already there, setting up the restaurant.

I don’t even think she realized I was ten minutes late. She was over by the side cabinets in the hallway, checking the levels of the salt and peppers and had lined them up like little soldiers with silver tops, getting ready for the day’s battle.  She kept fidgeting with them, polishing the shakers over and over again, and counting all the sugars and splenda’s to make sure they were all equally alike and aligned.

I threw my bag under the cupboard, tied on my apron and made myself some coffee. Another wave of nausea hit me and I thought about the one hitter in my car. I needed to make stealth mission and go to my car and take a hit of weed. I didn’t know Claudia very well, but I didn’t think she’d tell on me to upper management if she smelled it. She seemed cool.

The creamy tendrils in my coffee cup shook a little  as I walked over to help her fill up the rest of the sugar caddies. In the morning, it was hard for me to grab anything and it took a while for my hands to get strength back. The waves of nausea I could take care of with a bongload, but I didn’t know any tricks to keep my hands from trembling. I was twenty-three but felt like an old woman who’d spent the night at the Elks Lodge, drinking well Manhattans.

Over at the side bar, she had made an assembly line with big plastic buckets of blue, yellow and pink artificial sweeteners. The powdery dust of the Splenda mist wafted up into my nose and burned a sweet napalm path into my lungs as I walked over. I hated the smell and knew that once it got into the back of my throat, it would stay there all day. Sugar caddie sidework sucked and the chemical smells made my head pound harder.

We worked quietly, with only the clank and clatter of the cooks gearing up their station to break the quiet. We had to hurry, the lunch rush that would slam us in about an hour and we still had a shitload to do before we opened the restaurant. Plus, there was always an old person who’d shuffle in at 10:30 and try to get served early. Most Merkels get up at the crack of dawn and think 10:30 am is lunchtime.

After we filled a few caddies, Claudia turned to me and said, “I just found out that I have stage 3 breast cancer, they’re going to cut off my breast on Monday.”

I said the first thing that popped into my head, which usually isn’t practical or helpful, “You can’t have cancer, that’s for old people.” I said. “You’re only twenty-eight.”

She cracked a faint smile. “That’s what I thought.” She said, and let out a deep breath like she’d been holding it in all morning.

We talked for a little while about her treatment and who was going to cover her shifts and what she was going to do. It had already spread to her rib bone over her heart; literally eating its way through her body.

She said, “ I only came into work because I couldn’t stand staring at the four walls at home, they were closing in on me.”

I looked at her and said, “Yeah, I guess it’s better to stay busy dealing with these entitled bastards, then you won’t think about it so much. ”

We went back to work and I tried to shake off the feeling of fear and sadness that shook me, but I couldn’t.

Most of our lunch rush consisted of ridiculous Santa Monica bitches that came in with their Yoga pants on and massive SUV baby strollers, after fanatically working out all morning. For some reason, they were terrified of getting fat and losing their asshole husbands who’d come in later and try to hit on the pretty waitresses.

Our restaurant was tiny and without fail; at the height of the rush, one of them would park a massive stroller the aisle, blocking the way for anyone trying to get through, completely oblivious to their idiocy. Then they’d put their baby in a highchair on the end of a table, in the blocked aisle, right in the line of fire of a server carrying a scalding bowl of soup or plate of gnocchi with steaming sauce. Most of them came from wealthy entertainment families and seemed bewildered by life. I was surprised that any of them actually made it through the day without getting shot.

Before this fateful day, I used to invite Claudia to go out with us for a beer after work, but she never did. Chelsea, Michelle, Alison, Chicken and my roommate Stephanie were all good friends and liked to drink like I did. But Claudia never took up the invitation.

She told me that she sometimes had her son on the weekends-a cute little grinning seven-year-old boy with bright green eyes. I’d seen him when he came in with his grandparents, visiting the restaurant. Most of the time she just said she was beat and going home.

But, she did smoke cigarettes and she and I would go outside on our breaks and talked about life and how things always are never what you expect them to be. “It’s like, everyone is walking around with these huge gaping holes in their chests, and we’re all pretending we’re okay.” I would tell her my theories on life and she’d listen. She got it.

“But it’s nothing a six-pack can’t fix.” I said, half-kidding.

She looked down and shook her head as she laughed and smoked her cigarette.

After she told me she had cancer, we became closer and I started going over to her beachfront home. It was a beautiful, million-dollar glass and creamy toned high-rise apartment over looking the entire coast and pier. She told me her parents were in real estate and did well in the 1970’s Las Vegas boom.

“Holy shit!” I said when I walked in, “Do you need a roommate? This place is like something out of Architectural Digest.” It was breathtaking.

Claudia had come of age in the Mission Viejo mid-80’s surf culture, partying with shaggy haired boys, smoking weed, skateboarding, listening to rock n roll, and making out with pouty rebel boys who would later grow into Orange County Republicans.

“It’s Cleaverland down there,” she’d tell me, “ It’s not like LA at all. Little kids play soccer and moms are moms.”

She had been a young mom and owned her house when she lived there, before her divorce. I was fascinated by this culture. She said families would hang out with their neighbors, took camping trips together, and on Sundays, worshipped at a big super church.

I grew up moving around a lot and didn’t have this kind of childhood experience. I didn’t learn how to cook until I started watching the chefs at the restaurants where I worked and then Claudia came along. She taught me the tricks and delicacies of garlic and how not to over season things, the importance of bringing out the full flavor of ripe tomatoes and pasta textures, and don’t ever, ever overcook vegetables. My mother had borderline personality disorder, so her cooking sprees were sporadic. Mom would take us through the drive through at McDonald’s almost every day, because it was easier and cheaper than cooking for four kids.

Claudia was horrified and amused when I showed her how I cooked. I threw in some spaghetti in a pot of lukewarm tap water and waited for it to heat up and get soggy.

“It cooks faster this way.” I explained to her.

“Morgain, the Tuscans have been cooking for a long time and that’s not how it’s done.” She tried to be patient with me. “Here, I’ll show you the directions on the box.” She tried to hide a smile as she helped me learn.

After she got too sick to work, we’d just sit in front of the huge floor to ceiling window that overlooked the beach and smoke bong loads, watching the huge waves crash against the shoreline.

One night at her place, I asked her why she never wanted to get high with me before she got cancer and she said, “Because I’m an alcoholic and I was sober for 3 years. When I found out I had cancer, I started drinking and smoking pot again.”

I had never met anyone that didn’t drink before, or had willingly stopped.

I said, “You’re not an alcoholic. You’re just young and like to party! But I hear what you’re saying. I have to stop hanging out with all of those girls. I’ve done pharmaceutical grade Ecstasy twice in my life, and both times Chelsea was involved.

“The last time I went out I thought ‘I”m going to die if I keep hanging out with them.”

She laughed and looked me in the eye and said, “ Morgain, I’m an alcoholic. And so are you.”

I said, “How did you know?”

She said, “Because you came into the restaurant hung-over every shift, smelling like booze, you smoke pot everyday and you drink like I do. We can spot each other. ” She took another rip off the bong.

I looked at her. “Yeah, I’m 23. That’s what people do.”

She laughed at me. “Morgain, I know your story. Normal people don’t drink like we do.  You know the people that have one drink? Or maybe half a beer and then go home? They’re not alcoholics. You and I are the ones that like to do shots and close the bars down. Normal people don’t smoke pot everyday to cope with life. We’re alcoholics. ”

I bent forward and took another hit off the bong. I knew for a fact that there was such a thing as one drink.

I tried to talk some sense into her, “ You were just in some weird cult and now you’re free!” I hugged her, “It was just a phase. Maybe you grew out of it. I will too.” I was glad she didn’t push it.

She looked at me and said, “Someday, not now, but someday, you’ll want to stop. Then you’ll get sober. I’m going to go back to meetings soon, just not right now.” She took another bong load and blew out a hit. “This is the only thing that takes the nausea away. Everything I eat or drink tastes like dirty pool water.”

I tried to make her laugh “They should patent the chemo side affects for dieters. Cheer up! Think of how skinny you’ll get!” I poured her some more wine.

She said, “For the last five years, I’ve wanted a boob job and a tummy tuck. Now I’m getting one.” She lit another cigarette and looked out over the ocean. I knew she was thinking about her little boy.

Then we told each other stories until deep into the early hours of the morning.

As the night wore one, we stared at the sparkling lights of the Santa Monica pier and started talking about our mistakes and what we’d do over if we could. We talked about her getting better and all of the fun things she was going to do with her little boy when she beat this thing.

As the weeks went by, I watched her long glossy hair fall out in big clumps. One night, she asked me shave the rest of the patches off, with a little pink plastic razor. She didn’t want to ask her Mom or sister to do it, because it would break all of their hearts.

After this, we’d sit on chaise loungers on her balcony, talking to each other about beauty. “It’s almost worse when you’re used to being pretty and you lose your hair.” She said, “Especially in California, when the standards are so high. I cry every time I see a Victoria’s Secret commercial, because I used to have hair like that.” She would catch a look at herself in the mirror and give me a rueful smile.

I thought about how all the stupid little problems in my life had melted away and now I just had one big problem. My friend’s cancer kept spreading.


Filed under Family Stories and Essays

The Day The Animals Came To Save Her…

Nature hikes can heal you.

Nature hikes can heal you.

My animals

My animals

This is the beginning of the story about how I started my company, “Moon Dogs Pet Sitting & Urban Farm” and how several animals came into my life, unannounced, unexpected and completely overwhelmed my life with love when I needed it desperately.  This is the story about how they saved me spiritually and financially.

I’ve been playing around with different titles and ideas, but so far, this is the best one I could think of that shows what happened.

It was a very unhappy time in my life. I was fighting with my family, no money and hated my stand-in job. Being a stand in is like being starving and having someone cook a bacon wrapped filet in front of you for three years while you watch. It’s frustrating being on set and so close to the job you dedicated everything in your life to; but everyone treats you like a ghost. They don’t see you. You are a prop for lighting.

Late one night, driving through the ghetto at two o’clock in the morning, a little scruffy white dog ran in front of my car from under broken down car where she was living…..

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Filed under Family Stories and Essays

The Bionic Woman

The Bionic Woman


The Bionic Woman-Canyon of Death-1976

California, 1976

One of my earliest memories of my parents was when my Dad got a big part on “The Bionic Woman.” My sisters and I loved that show – it was much better than “The Six Million Dollar Man,” because the Bionic woman was tall, blonde and kicked ass. The 70’s era futuristic “Boing!” sound she made when she flew into the air sent chills up my spine, and even though I was only three years old, I knew she was the good guy. I planned on being her sidekick when I got older.

When Mom gave us the news that my dad had landed a gig on the show, we were speechless with joy. Our father. He had made good. Not only was he going to be on a show we could watch, he was acting with the woman (besides our mother) that we worshipped. My three sisters and I beamed with pride.

The episode was going to be filmed at Vasquez Rocks, near our mountaintop ranch by the Angeles Crest Highway.

“We can even visit the set and meet the Bionic Woman,” Mom added, laughing when she saw our faces.

When the day finally arrived, my sisters and I piled into Pegasus, our old red Volkswagen station wagon.

Our father had named Pegasus with Meagan, who was the oldest of the four girls and usually got first pick of everything- but she was also the smartest. We all agreed that it was the most beautiful possible name for our family car.

The day came when we could visit the set, and Mom shepherded us into the car. As we bounced around in the backseat; she turned on the AM radio and Willie Nelson came on,  crackling through the airwaves. We drove down the dusty mountain driveway towards Agua Dulce, the searing sun beating down on that little red wagon, a bright ladybug in a sea of beige.

Pegasus hurtled down the winding mountain road, overlooking the vast expanse of the Mojave Desert. The Three Sisters Mountains were in the distance, shimmering under the heat, blending into tones of caramel and rose under a faded denim sky.

We loved to stand up in the back – it was easier to see everything – and as Mom drove towards the set, we tumbled between the flat back of the wagon, where we would nap on soft blankets, and landed on the hot black vinyl backseat with reckless abandon, burning our asses beneath the calico prairie dresses she bought for us at Gunne Sax.

When we got to Vasquez Rocks, the ochre colored monoliths jutted into the sky- casting a shamanistic spell as they loomed over the set. I stared out the window at the purple Mexican sage bushes rippling in the dry breeze. My father had told me this was a sacred place where cowboys and Indians had lived. But today, the area was covered in trailers, lights, and action; and we started jumping up and down in the back seat as we drove over to set parking.

“We’re here! We’re here!”  Erin shouted as we jumped up to the windows and started to brush our hair. Mom turned around after she pulled over and stopped the car.

“Okay, I want you guys to be on your best behavior,” she said, serious as shit. “I know you’re excited, but remember your manners.” She smiled as she spoke to us.

“We will, Mama! We will!” We crossed our hearts and meant it. Nobody wanted to get sent back to sulk in the car, not on Bionic Woman Day.

We scampered out of the car and over to the set, looking around for my Dad.  A bellbottomed PA with long hair came up to us and led my mother to some of the other actors and director. She started chatting and laughing with them. We knew to be good, keep quiet, and stay by her until we got the okay to start wandering around and exploring. But I didn’t mind, the truth is; I loved hearing my mother have conversations. When she started speaking, she would tuck her hair behind one ear and come alive. People would start to gather around her, leaning in to hear her stories.

I looked around, and peeked out from behind her dress. People were wearing open necked shirts with huge seventies collars.

Oscar – the Bionic Woman’s boss – came up to us and scooped me up. He carried me around, and introduced me to everyone. He had on huge aviator sunglasses and smelled like spicy man’s cologne, comforting smells, because they reminded me of my Dad.

I wanted to stay and live with the Superheroes, in this world, surrounded by the magic Vasquez rocks forever.

Then, SHE arrived: The Bionic Woman. She came out of nowhere and moved in slow motion, with a serene smile, coming toward us. Before me was the woman who could fly. She and my father stood together and were smiling at the four little girls looking up at them in awe.

Golden sunlight dappled on their blonde hair, making them gleam in the sun. My father smiled at me, his bright blue eyes twinkling, in his Astronaut suit, and I knew he was a God as well.

He was so handsome. He looked like a cross between Robert Redford and Harry Hamlin, and had been Paul Newman’s stand-in on the “Hustler”.  He was hired to do all the pool shots for that movie. He was the Stage manager at Lincoln Center in the early sixties, working with the greats of the stage: Elia Kazan, Jason Robards and Harold Clurman. He loved pool halls, women, nice suits and drinking. He taught me about truth and beauty in the Arts and to always strive for it.

When I got older, he told me how he supported his acting career in New York by working part time and doing odd jobs for a crime family in New York, and that he and my mother ran a nightclub in the meat market district for a big mob guy.

One night, he got stabbed 12 times for getting into a boozy argument with his friend, a “made” man, but survived after a bum walked into the bathroom during the stabbing, saving his life. Later on, the big bosses had a sit down to discuss the incident, and decided that Dad was wrong for being disrespectful to a superior, but his murderous friend was equally wrong for stabbing an employee without any upper management approval, so both were admonished they moved on.

He also couldn’t live without an audience of adoring women, or, at least one adoring woman. So when my mom started having children, it took attention away from him, and things started to change between them.

He had famous actor friends; one of them was Dennis Hopper, who gave him role in Easy Rider, before I was born. Mom said Dad sang and performed with Warren Beatty playing the piano back east, hustling women, but I think most actors are born to hustle, one way or another.

If you ever see a Jack Nicholson movie in the 70’s, like the “Last Detail”, the bartender is usually my dad. It was a big deal when he came home from a Theatre tour. We would get dressed up and go out to an elegant restaurant, ordering elaborate meals and later dance with our feet on his shoes.

I think he finally realized he had four children and a wife to support, so he broke down got a good job using his Theatre building skills to supervise set construction at Fox Television-and brought home a regular paycheck.

He told me, when he was in his seventies, “Morgain, I was working up in the rafters on Oscar night, when I saw myself up on the screen with Jack Nicholson. He was up for an Academy Award in ‘74 for “The Last Detail”, and they used my scene as the best clip. But, we needed the money, and I had to work that night. I didn’t go to the show and I’ll never forget it.”

I tried to imagine how he felt, high up there, overlooking the luminous crowd of famous actors, directors and writers-watching his scene- then going back to work rigging or fixing something up there, back to the drudgery of his job.

After Bionic Woman Day, life slowly returned to normal, but my sisters and I couldn’t wait for the episode to air.  We bugged our mother constantly.

“Is Daddy’s show going to be on tonight?” we asked her every morning.

“No, not for a few more weeks. It takes awhile for a show to air,” she said.

At night, I stalked the magic box in the living room. I turned the heavy knob on the TV, thunking through the channels, trying to find my father. The static electricity from the screen made the blonde fuzz on my arms rise up, but I never found him flickering through the screen.

My mother came into our room one morning and finally announced:

“Tonight’s the night!”

We jumped with joy. History was about to be made; our dad was going to fight crime with the Bionic Woman.

We had a huge dinner in our dining room, which had the best view in the house, overlooking the vastness of the Mojave Desert. Our house was perched high above the basin, and everything far down in the town lights below looked so tiny. The fading evening looked like melted rainbow sherbet to my three-year old mind.

Nightfall was coming and soon the stars would be thick in the sky, almost as if we lived in space.

We all camped out on blankets in the living room, while my father and mother snuggled on the sofa. The clinking of the ice in his glass of scotch was the sound of a party and happiness.

The Bionic Woman episode was called “The Canyon of Death”; and as we sprawled around the TV on a blanket. Meagan (eight) and Katie (six) would tell me what was going on when things got confusing. My little sister Erin was only one, but she knew something was happening; jumping excitedly and shrieking whenever we shouted, “There’s Daddy!” when he showed up in a scene.

We sat there,  hypnotized by the flickering television. But wait, something wasn’t right. My father looked angry and mean, throughout the show. We quieted down and stopped cheering. He was doing something bad and the Bionic Woman was looking for him. Then we began to get it; he wasn’t her crime-fighting friend, he was trying to hurt her.

He had stolen a NASA space suit from the government, and then violently fought off the Bionic Woman before flying into the air with the help of the rocket propellers strapped to his back.

We watched in horror as the Bionic Woman flew up to meet him, tackling him and wrestling him to the ground. We looked at each other, stunned.

Our father was the bad guy.

I was torn. I was angry. How could turn on us and hurt our beloved heroine? Was he really that evil and wicked? We started shouting at the television.

“Kill him.” I heard Katie say beneath her breath.

“Kill him! ” Meagan said, a little louder.

“Yeah! Kill him,” I shouted. “Don’t let him get away!”

We were furious. Our parents thought our reaction was hysterical, but we were really upset; our father was Judas. Right now all our friends had their televisions tuned into the episode and everyone was watching our Dad trying to kill the Bionic Woman

We eyed our parents on the sofa, laughing. That was the night that I realized my parents thought it was funny to trick us.


Filed under Family Stories and Essays, The Bionic Woman