birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


Lots of people have nicknames and aliases. So do I. I also have a fully functioning fake name. More precisely, it’s a stage name and now legit p/k/a linked to my social security number. I learned the term “p/k/a,” professionally known as, along with other important terminology, when I really took on this identity transformation. Umm..transformation from what to what, you may ask?

I was teaching fourth grade in idyllic Santa Cruz, CA when I co-created an idea for a puerile television series, often described as the female “Jackass.” My surfer girlfriends and I thought it would be funny to shoot a series of videos of ourselves doing things: dangerous, disgusting, dumb, obnoxious and dubiously legal things. We did it to entertain ourselves and our other dumbass acquaintances/accomplices. In my mind, it championed a kind of off base feminism, radical because it celebrated young women who just didn’t give a f*ck. I had never seen girls like that on t.v. before. We felt it was high time to DIY. And DIY we did: we gave ourselves fake names to develop our alter egos, to become the kinds of girls capable of crazier, transgressive things. These versions of ourselves were darker, ruder, and far more reckless. They weren’t approval seeking; they were disapproval seeking. For me, taking on this name was an essential part of getting into character. I was a schoolteacher, for God’s sake. I couldn’t skate halfpipes in a Burqua or sashay around downtown Palo Alto with a fake period stain on my ass as myself! But I could as Ramona Cash.

Ramona Cash, along with production partner Jason “JMar” Martinez, sold the show to fuse tv for one million dollars in late 2006. In early 2007, Rachel Insel resigned from teaching elementary school in Santa Cruz and relocated site unseen to West 3rd Street, Los Angeles. Preserving Ms. Insel’s good given name in case things didn’t work out down south (and so students’ parents couldn’t track by surname), Rachel Insel was still Rachel Insel on the inside but out in L.A. evolved into Ms. Ramona Cash, co-executive producer and mouthy star of fuse’s hit show “Rad Girls.”

As Ramona, I waxed my pubic hair to the rear bumper of a car so Clementine could drive off with it—Brazilian bikini wax, Rad Girls style. I impersonated a stripper to audition for the GMs at Silver Reign, where I performed the Chicken Dance for them, and then the Worm. I convinced unsuspecting shoppers on Melrose to let me fart in their mouths and encouraged tourists on Hollywood Blvd. to belch in my face for an interactive game called "Guess My Lunch?" I rode a surfboard down a flight of stairs in a Hollywood office building...and almost made it unharmed. I did end up in the E.R. over the course of shooting and I did read some eviscerating commentary on our project, but mostly being rad Ramona Cash felt wildly, even unprecedentedly, freeing. The name protected me like armor, or a mask. The character was mine but wasn’t ME. I hear this sounds like a serial killer’s capacity to compartmentalize or disassociate. But I was positive that getting to be Ramona Cash, a larger than life person whom I conjured into reality, was an opportunity I had never had before and would never have again. I felt like Alexander Hamilton in “Hamilton:” “…Yo I’m just like my country, I’m young scrappy and hungry and I am not throwing away my shot.” Living as Ramona Cash I felt liberated to act like someone else, because under that name I was someone else.

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