Memoir

One Night with Blanche

 

On May 18, 2007 I finally met Rue McClanahan who played my idol, Blanche Devereaux, on “The Golden Girls.”

On the show, Blanche is a man-crazy sexagenarian looking for love in all the wrong places. Anyone who knows me will understand the disconnect/similarity there.

However, the person who portrayed Blanche was, in my experience, a nice, occasionally witty, woman who was patient with the hordes of autograph seekers that had gathered in a bookstore that evening at a tour in Chicago promoting My First Five Husbands and the Ones Who Got Away.

Comparing the woman to her character, Blanche Devereaux is pretty unfair. By the time it was my turn, Rue McClanahan seemed tired.  Bored, maybe.  Definitely ready to be done.  I mean she was seventy-three years old.

I read her book cover to cover and I hope I do half as many things as she has done.

We can all be dynamic at some points, and it would be nice if we were remembered for those moments, rather than brushing our teeth, drinking our coffee, and our feeble attempts at being amusing.

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At the time that I met her, McClanahan acted as a timeless classic.  Even today, if I’m in a bad mood, I can just put in any one of the seven seasons of “The Golden Girls” and within ten minutes, my mood has lifted and I am lost in the brilliant writing and acting of a great team of showbiz veterans.

When I met her, I told her this. Not as eloquently as I have stated above, but in my own rushed and socially awkward way.

“Ah, the power of laughter,” she said, politely.

Those were Blanche’s five words to me.

I will live by this.

Forever.

 

 

 

 

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Tequila Tuesdays: TSA Stands for What?

It was the shortest airport security line I had ever seen. That should have been my clue that something was amiss.

There have been a few airline incidents lately where passengers, or in some case, potential passengers, have been treated less-than-stellar. With that in mind, I will share a fun anecdote from a recent flight of mine.

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I was going through security, minding my own business when something truly unexpected happened. After setting off the nuclear-radiation, full-body molecular scan sensor, I was herded over to a giant man who growled something indistinguishable.

Suddenly a lady appeared and groped my crotchal area noting that my pants were “saggy.”

“Well, you took my belt,” I offered helpfully.

She asked if I wanted to go someplace private. I figured the genital exam would go much faster, with fewer liberties taken, if I allowed them to perform it in the middle of the concourse. It reminded me of my last trip to Vegas – minus the cocktails.

By the time my clothing and personal effects were returned to me in plastic bins, I wandered unsatisfied to a bar for two shots of Patron (not enough). I also ate nachos and my wife and I posed with matching sweatshirts in front of a Minnesota Twins sign for an impromptu selfie. A girl striding by this red carpet experience took pity on our contortionist routine as we struggled for the perfect shot and offered to snap our picture.

Some time after that we boarded a plane.

Oh, and TSA stands for Tequila Somewhere Ahead. Just remember that.

Tequila Tuesdays: I’ll tell you a story, often involving tequila. You can drink.

 

P.P.S – I usually post stuff European time because they get up earlier. Go figure! LOL 🙂

Devil Music

I have a terrible song stuck in my head.

Something about a devil inside. This guy moans really breathy and he’s talking about this “devil inside, devil inside,” over and over again and it’s freaking me out because I really believe in the devil. And if there is a devil and it has to be inside someone, there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to choose me.

I’m the perfect devil host even though I have been trying my whole entire life to not be the devil. I even used to read the Bible every night before I went to bed and said this really long prayer where I blessed every single person I had ever known because if I didn’t, they would probably meet some horrible carnival-ride decapitation death.

I wonder when I stopped doing that.

When do little kids stop saying their prayers? I can’t picture an adult saying ‘Now I lay me down to sleep,’ but there isn’t any kind of alternative adultish prayer that is widely publicized. Maybe more people would pray if they didn’t feel silly saying a nursery rhyme about it.

Devil inside.

It’s back. Like hiccups. I try holding my breath.

My mom had this article one time about rock music being the work of Satan. Or maybe it was at church, I forget. It seemed true, though, when they were talking about all these different lyrics and old vinyl record albums that could be spun backwards on a turntable to play hidden messages to teens that would make them want to worship evil or do other bad things. Skin cats. I don’t know.

Devil inside.

I assess my music collection. There’s probably some devil stuff in there. I can’t have that kind of bad juju in my life.

I decide to take the obvious next step and destroy every CD, every album, and every cassette tape that I own beginning with the genre of Metal, since it is the most egregious offender.

boombox

I slip on my high-heeled boots and place a handful of media into a paper grocery bag.

My mom washes the supper dishes. My sister plays quietly with her My Little Ponies. I disappear out the side door with a bag of classic satanic loot; Guns ‘N Roses, Mötley Crüe, Cradle of Filth.

I lug the sack over to the side of the house, out of the glare of prying eyes, and set it down. A gust of wind blows through the tree branches above my head sending a flurry of wet maple leaves toward me. Some of them stick to my face.

I lift my foot and step onto the bag. It lets out a little crunch underneath my heel, which infuses me with a new burst of confidence.

I do it again, harder.

The snapping of plastic jewel cases echoes through the naked trees. I am doing God’s work. I can feel it. So I stomp those suckers into a mosaic of plastic bits.

I jump up and down, panting, and wheezing with great physical effort and little restraint.

When there is nothing but dust and shards, I gather up the torn bag and its contents and hurl it off the side of the hill where the septic system drains.

I climb the porch steps, back to the house where a bowl of corn flakes and a Saved by the Bell re-run waits for me. These are good things. Wholesome things.

Tiffany Amber Thiessen has noticeably larger breasts in season three than she had in season two.

Devil inside.

How Writing About Boring Stuff Made Me a Better Writer – and Rich

When I graduated from college with a Master’s Degree in Writing I was ready to write the Great American Novel, a few cover stories for Rolling Stone Magazine, and probably an Oscar-Winning independent film.

Looking back at my hubris, I can only shake my head. There isn’t anything wrong with wanting those things. In fact, it’s important to have long-term goals.

In my case however, I thought I should have all of these things immediately. When immediately turned into a year, two years, a couple babies, and a divorce later, I became panicky. My empty bank account let me in on the sad truth that in order to make a living I was going to have to write about *gasp* boring things.

Omigosh, boring things. healthcare, computers, vitamins, exercise, insurance, you know, boring things. Things my parents did.

I did not get to write about rockers with hot tattoos, or moody declarative statements about the world, or the Cannes Film Festival, or the tiny house movement, or if I did, it cost me more to research the article than I ever made from it.

What was I supposed to say about boring things? Yay, insurance. You pay too much and it’s boring. Vitamins: Healthy people take them. Boring. Fish oil and male enhancement supplements, eww (and boring).

I was a writer, a real writerly writer. I had deep stuff to say, epic stories to tell. But noooooooo, I had to sit at a desk and write about boring things.

I kept this attitude up for a year. Okay, three.

Then something happened. I dug in and started understanding and researching. Not the products themselves, but the stories. What the products did and how they made people feel. I stopped phoning it in and imagined life being better. Conflict. Resolution. Concrete words. Stories.

Suddenly the stuff I was writing wasn’t boring anymore. Not because insurance, vitamins, exercise, or missile technology is any more inherently interesting, but because I can make them interesting.

missile

I didn’t ramble on and on, stating the same idea three times. Sentences were leaner due to the strict editors and creative directors with whom I worked, even though in the beginning I hated these boring people just like the boring things. But with their patience and insight they got me to the point where I could make toothpaste sound like a chapter in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. For that I will always be grateful.

Then the money came. Well, the numbers came first, as in people were responding to the copy in a way that made the analytics guy smile, so I got a raise. You know, that whole corporate, measurable results thing. That’s real if you actually have results to show.

MORAL: There’s no such thing as boring stuff, just bad writers.

HOMEWORK: If you want to be a better writer, pay your dues and, if you can, spend a few years writing about “boring stuff.”

In the process you will:

  • Make more money
  • Learn to employ more effective storytelling techniques
  • Become a better editor
  • Become a better researcher
  • Write tighter copy
  • Learn humility**
  • Act less entitled**

*What I am would not be considered rich to some people. But I’m a writer and I pay my bills, so there’s that.

** I think the last two were more of a gift for the people around me, as these qualities made me more likable as a teammate, friend, mother, wife, adult, person, human being.

Fast Feet

School clothes shopping is a yearly tradition for many American children. Every August, exhausted parents hit the mall with about a quarter of their paychecks while kids choose apparel that won’t get them kicked, punched, spit at, or given wedgies. Optimal gear elicits pangs of envy from the kids who frequently do get kicked, punched, spit at, or given wedgies. The third grade is particularly rough, as I recall.

It was the year Grandma bought my gym shoes.

“I have a picture of the shoes I want,” I announced, flipping through the catalog to locate the same black Converse All-Stars worn by my cousin Debbie.

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Debbie was three years older than me. She had a cassette tape collection. The summer before, she and my other cousin Jenny told me the meanings of all the bad words they knew. I told my sister one of them and got my mouth washed out with soap.

“Mmmhmm,” Grandma nodded, barely glancing in my direction. She crushed out her Winston and picked up a bright pink tube of lipstick.

Grandma lived in a house with powder-blue asbestos siding that featured its own special smoking room. It was in that room that I cornered her, insistent upon getting the shoes that would assist in my leap to third grade stardom and mega-popularity. I held up the catalog once again, pointing to the black Converse footwear with the Chuck Taylor signature that I had circled three times with a pen.

She scanned the page.

“Okay. Go play,” she said.

I grinned and ran off, encouraged by the fact that my request was approved quickly.

Two weeks later my shoes arrived.

I was just getting off the bus when I saw the enormous blue Ford parked in the driveway. It was all I could do not to turn around and sneer at Jason Carlson who had been poking me in the head with a permanent marker. I had black dots on my scalp. They would wash off but my cool teenager shoes would last forever.

“I hope they’re the right size,” said Grandma as she handed them over. “You kids’ feet grow so fast.”

The box looked funny.

I flipped open the top and peered inside.

The brightness of hot pink and teal canvas stung my eyes. “Fast Feet,” it said on the outside of each shoe. There was no white circle and no blue star.

Grandma poured herself a glass of brandy.

“They had them at Kmart,” she said. “Now you’re all set.”

I was all set – to die of embarrassment.

I was all set to run across the gym floor and not be able to stop because the soles of my shoes were hard white plastic. They also made terrible skidding, shrieking sounds. I don’t know how many times I ran into the wall doing relays. I was picked last for every game, and I can’t even talk about dodge ball.

I still have the scar. On my soul.

“Thank you,” I whispered, clutching the box to my chest, as if there was an animal inside trying to escape.

I slipped silently back to my bedroom and closed the door.