Category Archives: Podcast

“I just want to be a kid. Please let me be a kid.”

It’s like … 1980, probably. Maybe late 1979. It’s the summer in Los Angeles, and it is as hot as I can remember. The smog is so thick, you can taste an oily sheen in air that looks overcast, all the time.

I’m in the back seat of my godmother’s car. My little sister and little brother are on either side of me. We didn’t wear seatbelts in those days, which is nuts but it’s how it was.

My mother has enlisted my godmother (who is my aunt, my father’s sister) to drive me on a commercial audition that I don’t want to go to. I presume my father was at work and my mother had some audition of her own, so my godmother ended up with three kids, plus my cousin, in her VW.

I can see this like it just happened. I’m sitting up on my heels, on that sort of plastic seat that 1970s Volkswagens had, with the waffle pattern. I look into her eyes in the rearview mirror, and I decide that it’s time to ask for help.

“Aunt Dorothy, will you tell my mom that I don’t want to do this anymore? Will you tell my mom that I just want to be a kid?”

What 8 year-old has to beg their mother to “let” them be a kid? What kind of mother doesn’t hear that? What kind of father doesn’t care?

You know the answers  — well, my answers — to those questions.

She looks back at me, and she says, as kindly and gently as ever, “You have to tell your mom that, but I’ll go with you if you want.”

And that’s when I knew that I was never going to just be a kid, because my mother refused to listen to me, refused to hear me, refused to see me as a person. I was her property, a tool to be used that would get her closer to her dreams, dreams she was focused on so singularly, she stole my childhood from me (before she and my dad stole all my money from me) and then lied to me about it.

I can’t count the number of times I begged her, “please let me just be a kid. I just want to be a kid.” I said those words through tears so many times, I can still feel how my throat burned with grief and fear and desperation. I can feel how much I was suffering, how unhappy I was, how I just wanted to be a kid, and how awful it was to be dismissed and gaslighted about it.

“You made a commitment,” was something she would say to me all the time, as if a seven year-old can understand what that means. “I gave up my career so you can have yours,” she told me, throughout my entire childhood, every time I wanted to quit, which was pretty much all the time.

It hurt, so much, to feel unheard, unseen, unsupported, and unloved. It was shameful to lie about it, to protect my abusers, for 46 years of my life. I know that it is the root cause of my CPTSD, my Depression, and my Anxiety.

Which brings me to the whole reason I told this story today.

My friend, Mayim, has a mental health podcast, and she asked me if I’d come on to talk about living with Depression. I said yes, and in the course of our conversation, we ended up talking quite a lot about my experience with selfish, narcissist, emotionally abusive, parents.

It’s intense. In fact, it’s so intense, this is the second podcast we did. With Mayim’s blessing, I spiked the first time we talked, because I felt like it was just way too raw and made me uncomfortable. So we had a second conversation, and it’s going to come out tomorrow.

Here’s a preview. What you don’t hear, just before this clip starts, is that my mother made me go to her commercial agency when I was just seven years-old, and coached me to tell the kid’s agent, “I want to do what mommy does.”

Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown is at Spotify, Apple, and all the usual places.

By request, an HP Lovecraft short story.

Since I started Radio Free Burrito Presents several weeks ago, lots of you have asked me if I would narrate something by HP Lovecraft.

I love the Cthulhu mythos, but I’m not crazy about Lovecraft’s storytelling. I feel like he spends a lot of time in the high concept and the world building, without ever really going more than skin deep on his protagonists and narrative characters. NB: I haven’t read a ton of Lovecraft, probably six or so short stories, so maybe he has a novel or novella with rich characters and narratives, but I haven’t found it.

None of this is to suggest that he wasn’t brilliantly creative and imaginative, just that his stories aren’t the most satisfying use of my time.

However, hundreds of you have reached out in comments and emails, asking me to narrate something from the Cthulhu Mythos, so today’s RFB Presents is a short, weird, lurid story called Dagon.

This wasn’t published until 1919, and was published again in 1923, so I take that as a reminder not to get discouraged when things take time in publishing.

The text I read is here:


Radio Free Burrito Presents: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift

A Modest Proposal is brilliant, biting, hilarious satire, that is as horrifyingly relevant in 2020 as it was in 1729. This reads like one of those brilliant editorials from The Onion, or a Hannity monologue.

I am embarrassed to admit that, until last week, I had never read this essay. I knew it existed, but I never made the effort, and I am so glad that I finally did.

My education wasn’t particularly diverse, broad, or focused on art and literature. I went to a parochial school for elementary education, and they were more interested in indoctrination and spreading religious propaganda than they were at actually educating us. We learned the sort of facts that can’t be denied, like math and stuff, but history, art, music, and literature were all presented from a clear and deliberate point of view that encouraged blind devotion and adherence, working backwards from a conclusion. I was never encouraged to ask questions, learn independently, or encouraged to challenge myself outside of the classroom.

By the time I was in middle school, I was struggling to deal with my abusive father, and I just did what I had to in school to keep my grades up and not fail. My teachers were fantastic, but the curriculum was very narrow, and there was little appreciation for art and literature in it. When I got into high school, I was working full time on Star Trek. I had a magnificent on-set tutor who took me all the way from grade 9 to grade 12, who encouraged me to do all the things my previous educators had not, but by that time it was just too late for me. I have regretted all of this, from the moment I became aware of it in my 30s, and I’ve been working hard to educate myself in the middle of my life, since I was not educated fully at the beginning of my life.

I am so embarrassed and disappointed that my education is a mile wide and half an inch deep. I realized this years ago, and I’ve been doing what I can to educate myself, using college lectures that are online, and by reading as much as I can, to expose myself to the great works of art and literature that my parents didn’t care about, and my educators didn’t teach me about.

There’s a ton of study available to you, if you want to go that way. Here’s the Wikipedia link to get you started:

This is about 26 minutes long, including my introduction. I hope you’ll listen, and I’d love your feedback, if you do.

Radio Free Burrito Presents: Satellite of Fear by Fred A Kummer Jr.

Last night, during dinner, my son did the math and figured out we’ve been staying home together for seven weeks.

That’s a long time, but it also feels like we just started. Every day feels like it’s Monday and Friday, and no days ever feel like the weekend (until today, because I’d made this decision when I started this not to do it on weekends, but I love reading and if weekends aren’t for relaxing with a good read, what are they even for?).

So maybe you are learning, like I was a couple hours ago, that today is Saturday, and it’s a perfect day for goofing off.

Anne’s watching something in the great room, Nolan’s playing WoW in the game room, and I’m just sitting here with my tea. Since I was going to read, anyway, I decided to grab something at random off the RFB Presents list, and record it.

I chose Satellite of Fear, by Fred A Kummer, Jr.

Inside the crippled Comet, a hard-bitten crew watched the life-giving oxygen run low. Outside, on Ceres’ fabled Darkside, stalked death in awful, spectral form.

I’m really glad I did. This story is so much fun. It’s a space adventure mystery, and if you can get your kids to listen, I think there’s enough suspense in the narrative to hold the attention of maybe a 10 year-old? I have no idea. It’s been 18 years since I had a ten year-old, and it’s been 37 years since I was a ten year-old (ten year-old me would have LOVED this story).

Okay, enough preamble. I still can’t get radio free burrito dot com to accept my uploads, so I’m still using SoundCloud as my primary host.

I hope you’ll choose to spend some time with my recording, and I hope you get to share it with your kids.


Radio Free Burrito Presents: The Tree of Life by CL Moore

Today, I recorded a story from Weird Tales, first published in 1936.

I loved it. It’s supernatural in a way that reminded me of Hyperion, with just enough science fiction elements to ground it in some kid of a reality.

It’s longer than what I usually record, coming in at about 75 minutes, but I hope you’ll find the time to listen to it. It’s a really neat story.

And while I have your attention, can we just look at this from a different perspective that I can’t define? Like, let’s pull back a little bit on the timeline, and take a longer view than we normally would right now.

This story was written by a woman, in 1936. CL Moore is one of the first women to be published as a science fiction and fantasy writer. I can’t even imagine what a challenge it was to get her work, which is brilliant, past the editors in those days. I know she used initials and wrote under male pseudonyms, and while I hate that she had to do that, I’m so grateful that she did.

That this work exists at all is a wonderful testament to her talent and the editors who refused to be as sexist as the world generally was then (and still is, in modern ways, today).

I’m sure, in her incredible, gifted, magnificent imagination, she never even considered for a second that, almost 100 years into her future, someone whose parents weren’t yet born would take her work, bring it to life in a unique way, and then distribute that new work to anyone who wants it, in the world, without even getting out of my desk chair.

What amazing thing is sitting just over our horizon? What amazing thing is waiting for our grandchildren that we can’t even imagine right now? Why aren’t we doing more to protect our planet and each other, so our grandchildren don’t have to live in some apocalyptic nightmare?

The world is so dark right now. Fascism is on the rise all over the world, and has been taking root in America for some time. People are getting sick and dying for no good reason, while selfish people refuse to make sacrifices to prevent those deaths from happening. People are scared and struggling, and selfish, venal men refuse to lift a finger to help them, because offering that help now, when our lives and homes and careers are at risk, would prove that it really is possible in America to support our population in a way that is similar to the social democracies across Europe.

It’s such a terrible time, and I need to remember to keep looking for the helpers, or I’ll despair so much I may never come back from it.

So one way to maintain perspective, a different perspective, is to look at this recording and recognize what its existence says about the human spirit, what we’ve gotten through in the past as a collective and as individuals, and that there is hope for our future. Maybe there is someone whose parents aren’t yet born who will take my interpretation of CL Moore’s Tree of Life and do something with it 100 years from now.

It is unlikely that my work will outlive me, or even endure as long as I manage to stay alive. It would take something truly remarkable for this thing I recorded today to find a new life in 2120, but the possibility is so enticing, so inspiring, so much like the ideas that powered the fantastic, weird fiction I love so much from the 20th Century, I’m going to go ahead and allow it.