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No Knock, Knock: “Who’s there?”

12 Oct

F9FE48AD-838D-4120-AEE3-DCAF0DAA71A9This is pretty much one of the worst texts any mother can receive from her daughter, but it’s especially panic inducing when said daughter is living in a dorm… in another state… as a college freshman…with no pre-college friends… and is fighting a throat infection. “What could possibly go wrong? She’ll be fine,” I said to a worried Big Daddy months ago to quell  his Daddy-fears swirling around Snakebite leaving for college. When your precious daughter’s chronic shyness and inability to read subtle social cues has limited her exposure to most of the typical lifestyle experiences of average 13-18 year olds, you just worry that her naiveté on a college campus makes her the perfect mark for a certain kind of budding psychopath-narcissist. Apparently it does. Let me tell you about it…

Between 2am-3am last Monday morning, October 2, 2017, Snakebite was roused by someone rubbing her leg while growl-whispering her name with urgency. She propped up and made out a dude standing near the top of her loft ladder and hunching above her bed. He said he was there to check on her, to see if she was feeling better. She was stunned, but told him he should leave. He said that he was hoping to spend the night cuddling with her because it was cold outside. He had walked 45 minutes to get there and thought she was being rude and ungrateful by not inviting him to get cozy. She calmly said he had to go, citing that she and her roommate have an understanding about not having over-night guests without an advance agreement. It’s the time-honored “blame it on the dog” of trying to politely decline a hook-up when you’re a girl who feels uncomfortable, but who is nice enough to want to spare someone’s feelings. Snakebite’s roommate, who was also sick and a known light sleeper, immediately sensed when someone was entering their room. C’N (not roomie’s real name, but I haven’t nicknamed her yet) began to make some sheet rustling noises so that both the intruder and Snakebite would know there was a witness. That’s pretty crafty, really. When he realized they weren’t alone and got nothing but unwavering pushback, he angrily left, slamming the door.

Who was this ‘Whee-hours Creeping Cuddler? Just some guy that she’d only just met the prior Friday while hanging out on campus. (College is in the mountains, so people are constantly standing or lying around outside, just waiting to be interacted with.) That was just 2 1/2 sleeps from this early morning wake-up call. They had hung out, chatted and Snakebite also gave him a ride to the Walmarts to buy some cold medicine; he was coming down with the crud. Snakebite had Snap-Chatted (I hate that app so much), or whatever the kids call it, with him some over the weekend, but Saturday and Sunday was mostly spent inside trying to stave off a developing sore throat.

What do we know about him…now? Well, this boy isn’t a student, he’s on Tender looking for something, he’s on the verge of being homeless because his roommate is sick of his shit and kicking him out of the trailer. He’s unemployed since being fired from his job at the Mexican restaurant next to Walmart. At 20, The Cuddler doesn’t have a car. Word on the street is that he loves and owns pistols. In the three years as an adult in the eyes of the law, he has been charged with assaulting a woman, resisting arrest, manufacturing marijuana, selling or delivering weed to someone under the age of 13 and sundry misdemeanors. There’s no telling how stuffed his juvie record might be. On Twitter he once posted shirtless selfie-mirror pictures to broadcast a chiseled physique accompanied with an a.p.b. diatribe covering how he’d been bullied in high school for being a fat kid, but now he is jacked. It finished with a simple statement that he wants to be “known”. Are you getting the shudders yet? He proudly boasts that he would never date a girl weighing more than 135 lbs. (Good thing he’s on the short size.) One of his Facebook profiles says that he went to “modeling college” in California and was a Hollister “site model” (millennial-speak for Floor Sales Associate at the mall), but when I googled him, I only found a few editions of Fuzzbusted that he had featured in as a “print model”. Is Snakebite crazy for passing on this prize? I mean, who in the hell gets fired from a Mexican restaurant in the mountains? These are the broadest strokes of the whack-a-doodle who fixated on my baby, figured out where to find her and waited until someone either entered her dorm with their magnetic card swipe or exited the dorm and then he just slipped through a closing door. Within minutes of his dismissal from the dorm, a barrage of angry, threatening, pleading, belittling and scattilogical texts began filling Snakebite’s phone.

D1BE8E69-96D5-41C4-89E3-9184B8045D7EWe are grateful that the ‘Whee-hours Creeping Cuddler is no master-mind. This could be a different post, otherwise. Despite having a poor, not so good plan, he still managed to find his way to Snakebite’s top-floor and end of the hall dorm room to shimmy up her loft ladder without her waking up. She had never even told him what dorm she lives in. I can’t imagine that getting caught trespassing, entering, assaulting two girls and communicating threats will garner this parolee any brownie points with his P.O. (parole officer).  The Cuddler should soon be bunking in his own sort of dorm… I hope he provides “companionship” to a very lonely, cuddling cellmate on chilly nights. What’s worrisome is that if this mountain-top moron was able to get himself inside of Snakebite’s dorm room, it must not be too difficult for any determined uninvited guest to get in dorms.

Friends, please, please, please remind your daughters and her friends to never assume that because they are in their own dorm room they are out of harm’s way. Talk with your kids, but daughters, especially, about how:

  1. Not everybody that they meet hanging out in the Quad is a student. As a college freshman it’s difficult to tease apart the nuances between a student who grew up close-by and an up-to-no-good townie who hangs out on a college campus because in a teensy town, that’s the only place that provides groups of similarly aged playmates. Some townies may even seek buttoning down a relationship with a college kid as a ticket out of their shitty town.
  2. Take new paths…literally. Tell your kids to not broadcast their schedule on social media and to switch up their routines when possible. Walk different routes to classes and back to the dorm. Be unpredictable. Notice what people she regularly sees when she’s out moving around. Be with, and visible to, other people when walking any long distances.
  3. Call the University’s golf-cart-student-safety driver to get her to the dorm at night or to her car parked in a far way lot.  It’s also a great way to meet a bunch of nice guys.
  4. Any guy your daughter meets that comes on too strong and too fast with his deeply personal emotional background information, sprinkled with affirmations that she is the sort of girl that brings out his romantic glow, is bad news. Your daughter needs to trot in the other direction. A fella that stakes a claim on a girl at their first meeting usually has some messed-up impulse control disorder, which is commonly found among a sea of other issues.
  5. If a boy that she has recently met quickly develops jealous opinions and beef over her former boyfriends, wants to know her passwords so he can explore her phone for any evidence of potential rivals, evidence of another romantic relationship or disloyalty, tells her about the past girls and women who have taken advantage of and wronged him only to callously leave and/or he complains that the time she spends with friends or family makes him feel lonely and like he’s not a priority…he is a raging unfillable pit of narcissist neediness and your daughter needs to call an Uber.
  6. Screen capture technology is a threatened girl, or freaked out guy’s, best friend. Tell your kids to screen-shot any sketchy digital-age stuff being sent to them. Save it. It may later be just the evidence a judge needs to issue a warrant or a restraining order.
  7. The door should always be locked. Always, whether one is inside or leaving. Don’t ever hold the main door open for anyone who isn’t known to be another dorm resident.

Hot Body

26 Oct

imgresWhen I contemplate my mortality, I wring my hands over what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone. Who’s with me here? What are my regrets? Will I be leaving my family in a lurch? Have I said everything I needed to? Am I straight with Jesus and God? Will my children be provided for? Will my Girlfriends remember what they are supposed to get out of the house asap? These are pretty deep rabbit holes to fall down and have prompted much discussion among friends and family about “End of Life” decisions.

In an eerily timely fashion, this musing dovetails with the 15th anniversary of my own Mother’s death. Normally, talk of death and funerals would be dour at best, but like Hot Damn, my Mother wasn’t like other girls. After Mother’s first Cancer fact finding MRI in 1990, Carolyn had a realization. Amid all of the jittery nerves, white noise knocking, bad lighting and tight quartered reflections, something became clear to Mother. As is? She was not going to look that great in a casket. For one thing, her hair was a mess and she could see how the wrong shade next to the skin could really wash out a girl’s complexion…probably even more than not being alive. What to do? Carolyn began processing her “visitation look” pronto.


This is NOT my mother, but wasn’t this lady fab?

Initially, I thought this was a folly. Perhaps the influence of too many male decorator friends? But Carolyn won me over when I was forced to recline flat on the sofa, mirror in hand, so that she could prove her point. There was simply no denying how great my neck and décolleté looked with next to zero gravity. But it was also inarguable that something was lacking. Oh, oh, oh!  How much better would it be with falsies??? Mother had totally nailed it. You gotta come correct with your eye-lash game.

Years later, it was clear the direction Cancer was going, and Carolyn became super proactive in making sure that she was going to be the most fabulous looking “resident” at Patterson’s Spring Hill. Mother picked out the right Home-Going wig, found just the perfect warm shade of coral nail polish, bought long, bushy false eyelashes that would have made RuPaul proud, and even splurged on a new Oscar de la Renta gown, spending an obscene amount of money having it altered accordingly as she shrank. In fact, she gave kudos to Cancer for giving her the waif figure she had spent years eating cottage cheese and chain-smoking trying to achieve. Let’s take a moment to reflect: How great is it that Carolyn found that sort of optimism in her decline? I was even dispatched to get shoes dyed to match the dress, because she was old-school like that. This sort of attention detail is why I, myself, die a little bit every time my kid stands at the door wearing athletic shorts and a stained t-shirt ready to go out to dinner. Sigh.

Every media outlet is chock full of full of stories about violent riots, impending doom, stock market defeat, shootings and apartment fires from overnight. Most of us live in a constant state of bracing for the worst. According to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et. al., a slew of us Americans are now particularly fretful over the certain swift ass-kicking we’re all in for by Ebola. At the root is not just fear that we’re all going to die, but it is compounded with worry that it’s going to happen in the blink of an eye.

It’s all well and good for us to tie up loose ends while having our look pulled together and ready to go as the pearly gates are opening, but what if Ebola strikes and there just isn’t the time, because of the quarantine, to run around and make everything just so. How prepared are any of us for an untimely death, really? I’m not just talking about estate planning, insurance payouts, handing over the safe deposit box keys, or updating living wills. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the evening news covering a tragic death and my come-away was, “Is THAT the best picture they could find”?  “It’s grainy.” “He looks like a gangster.” “The decedent is clearly 30 years younger in that snapshot.” “Where are her teef?” This is just unacceptable. How does this happen that there are no recent or decent pictures available? It’s a final insult to a “loved” one.


Girlfriend Carol finds herself especially vexed, not by the emotional strain that her hypothetical sudden death will leave for her people, but by how ill prepared her family might be should she be in need of an impromptu funeral. In particular, will her husband be able to get his grief-striken shit together enough to provide the papers with a totally flattering picture for her, ahem, full page obituary spread? Most likely, that would be a NO. Without direction and pre-planning, none of us will ever get to be obituary chic. However, Girlfriend Carol has a solution: a mandate that once a year we all hire a professional photographer, or an artsy friend with a nice set of lenses, to snap us at our best. Be captured in an elegant setting with soft lighting on a day with low humidity. Be “caught” looking pensive in a field of blooming lavender. Act natural while holding an adorable puppy. If you aren’t pressed for time, get cozy with photoshop. Chisel that jawline, add symmetry to your eye brows, whittle away your batwings, or erase those crows’ feet in a way that Botox never can! The worst case scenario is that you don’t die soon enough and the picture goes on to make a memorable Christmas card, show up on a future senior yearbook page, or it simply makes a wonderful framed reminder on the piano of just how prepared you are. Either way.

A stitch in time

3 May

Because I am usually the last to get clued in on any internet-based trend, I’ve only been obsessed with Pinterest for just the last few months. I have got all sorts of boards going, where I am collecting recipes, planning garden projects, culling home décor ideas and getting motivated to craft my little heart out. I recently pinned this project:

Cute, right?

It’s a sewing project…that involves ordering a pattern…and figuring out how to plug in and thread the sewing machine that my mother bought me about 14 years ago. How cute would Snakebite be in these tops this summer? Then it hit me. Oh, crap! Maybe I should also order the needlepoint canvas for this pillow:

Was I seriously considering sewing clothes for my daughter? After the trauma of enduring my mother’s homespun get-ups that I was forced into wearing, did I really think that this would be a good idea?

The year was 1976 and a store called Stretch and Sew opened its doors about a mile and a half from our house. My mother welcomed them with open arms and really went for it. She took classes and learned to cut patterns with gusto. For everything.

Hot Damn trivia: Did you know that as a kid I used to figure skate? From about ages 5-11 I took weekly lessons at Ice Land and practiced about 2 to 3 days a week. I felt like I had mad skills with “toe-jumps”, “lutz jumps”, “axels”, “figure 8s” and “shooting the duck”. But skill can only get you so far. I needed style. Every time I went to the rink I would end up in the pro-shop ogling the sherbet colored polyester dresses bedazzled with twinkling plastic crystals. Did I ever get one? Hells no! My mother just knew that she could use her sewing prowess to make me one that was, “just as good, if not better” than the overpriced pro-shop offerings. Noooo! Instead of a glittery dress, I got matte polyester skirts, one in solid black and one in solid red. Even though they were a bit on the long side, Mom also crafted some matching panties that looked like custom diaper covers.

The sewing bug had bitten my mother hard by 1979. That summer her design and seamstress confidence grew and she made me a couture swimsuit. This was the year that Christy Brinkley was on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue for the first time. I swooned for the bathing suit that was basically a waterproof version of an Ice Capades dress.

Wouldn’t I have looked hot, at age 9, in this?

Mom made me her own version in non-lycra infused red polyester that harkened to my skating skirt. It did not have any beading, but it did have a v-cut. That worked out really well what with the non-stretch fabric and my blossoming buds. I wore a lot of t-shirts over my suit that year to allegedly “keep from getting sunburned”. We didn’t really have sun-block lotion yet.

But the real coup d’état came when I started 6th grade at our local public middle school where I stuck out like a huge, festering sore thumb already. To make matters worse, we had to dress out for P.E. class. After the first gym class, it was clear that I was way behind in not just physical ability and coordination, but also in dress-out attire coolness. I was not going to be comfortable in the tiny Dolphin shorts and OP t-shirts favored by the hot, popular 6th grade goddesses, but I could certainly rock the 2nd tier-cool Gap sweat pants, pushed up with maybe a Panama Jack t-shirt. But guess who could make me something more “stylish”. Gawd! Did she hate me and want to see me fail socially? That woman made me a tracksuit of maroon terry cloth…with bootleg pants…and a v-neck long sleeved top that featured elasticized cuffs, with some added flair. On the top, where perhaps an Izod logo would have rested, was an embroidered bouquet of wild flowers in high contrast white thread. While she was at it, she made a “track suit” for my 16 year-old brother. It was powder blue velour. Meow. Lucky for him, he could drive to the mall and buy whatever he wanted. I don’t think his get-up ever saw the outside of his car’s trunk. But me? What could I do? Wearing that maroon mess would have meant adolescent suicide.

I never allowed a capture of me in the sweat suit.

As luck would have it, there was one out: orchestra. As long as you played in the school orchestra you were not required to take P.E. I eventually became the first string violinist in 7th grade, not because I was so talented and dedicated. It was because I knew that if I didn’t excel with that fiddle, I’d be failing at the chin-up bar while wearing Mom’s sweat-suit. Today, my violin lives with me still. However, the only song that I can remember how to play is the one that goes, “There’s a place in France where the ladies wear no pants, there’s a hole in the wall and the men can see it all.” Classy, as always.

Old and Crotchety…Moi?

29 Mar

I know.  I know.  I’ve been absent a bit lately.  Okay, a lot.  Sorry, if by chance you have been counting on me.  Here’s the deal:  I left my full-time-part time job helping pageant queens, prom organizers and bridezillas get their whole-sale sparkle on a few months back.  This was a good thing.  Everybody wins and I had the opportunity to really pursue writing as a full-time gig.

What happened instead was holiday bullshit and an opportunity to get to know Kelly Ripa better….damn minx.  How much do we LOVE Kelly?   I wrapped packages, made merry and took care of stuff.   And then God never sent me winter.  I had to take advantage of nice days while thought I could….and here it is almost April and not a full-length fur made it out of this house in 2012.  Some mink car coats maybe made it out twice. But not any more than that?  Sads.

Imagine this over and over plus, 2+ acres. Sometimes I hate my yard.

So, I have thrown myself in to full-on Stepford.  For instance, today?  I gave my front loading clothes washing  robot a mechanical colonic with white vinegar, then bleach, then a hot rinse, finished by a diluted bleach wipe-down, coupled with a dry cloth buffing.   My hands now smell  like a tidy rest-stop.  Yesterday, I painted my kids’ bathroom ceiling sea-glass green.  ‘Cause why?  I dunno.  Seemed cool.  And the day before that?  I  divided and transplanted perennials, wrote sympathy cards  and re-heated left-overs.  Are you as satisfied as I am?  Doubtful.

It is entirely possible that I am either having a midlife crisis or an existential crisis.  Either way.

I’ve given up

23 Feb

Everyone is acting like they are all a bunch of crazy Cajuns with the Mardi Gras stuff.  The beads are flying, bars are having “parties” and my grocery store bakery is overflowing with those grody looking King cakes.  For my family, about as Mardi Gras as we get is eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.  The idea behind that isn’t just another one of my “breakfast for dinner” whims.  No.  Lent season has begun and in practice, a household uses up all of their decadent ingredients before beginning their penitential preparation during the forty days preceding Easter.  The pancake supper is sort of like a distant cousin to making what I call Snowstorm French Toast.  That is when all stores sell out of milk, eggs and bread at the announcement of “snow forecast” in Georgia. 

Lent is a time when people try to repent, give alms, pray and to do without by giving up something that is indulgent.  The eschewing of chocolate, gossip and alcohol seems to be popular with my people.  I myself have given up these things, and other vices or luxuries as well.  Sometimes I make it all forty days, and other years I have broken down and admitted that I am an imperfect child of God.   One year I gave up putting French Fries in my mouth.  It sounded daring at the outset, but was super easy.  It turns out that I really don’t eat them that often, so it kinda worked out for me.  The most difficult Lent season was the year I decided to deny myself from allowing something else that starts with an “F” from coming OUT of my mouth.  I vowed self-denial by eliminating using the word “fuck”.   It was the most difficult forty days.  Ever.

Hot Damn comes from a long and colorful line of serial potty-mouths on her mother’s side.  I have one cousin, we’ll call her Melissa, who is the most prolific and cunning cuss-wordsmith that I have ever met.  She works at her craft in the way a tennis champ might work at her serve.  It is dazzling how she can work a “bleep” word in to the most somber of occasions.  I sat next to her during my Grandfather’s funeral and about wet myself from her commentary.  Then there was the six-week  college Thanksgiving-thru-Christmas break when I worked part-time in her office.  One morning when I came in, I must not have been accompanied by my usual rays of sunshine, prancing fawns and chirping bluebirds, because  said cousin looked up from her desk at me and said, and I quote, “Well, God-damn-shit Charlotte Ann; who the fuck pissed all over your cornflakes this morning?”  That one question pretty much had everything!  So, you now know from whence I come and the struggle that I faced by denying myself the best profanity of all time.  Busting out the f-word is just part of my fabric.

Spending that forty days biting my tongue and rethinking my word choice not only prepared me for Easter that year (I know that Jesus was way appreciative of MY sacrifice), but it gave me the foundation to listen and sing-a-long with music in the car with my kids.  For instance, before Cee-Lo released his sanitized “Forget You”, I was blasting the original song, but loudly substituting the line as “Well, fudge for you-oooo-ooo0!”  I turned it into a song about baking for someone who’s done you wrong.  Isn’t there something in the Bible about loving your enemy?  Again, I was making Jesus proud by passing along His teaching.

Yesterday I conducted an informal Facebook poll to find out what my people were going to hit the pause button on for Lent this year or what they had disposed of in years past.  Some were true eliminations like Jackson quitting chocolate, John saying “no” to carbonated drinks, Tracy and Gabe not checking Facebook (won’t happen) or when Donald stopped making martinis (but not vodka tonics).  Others were more wishful, like Kim halting toilet scrubbing or Claire giving the finger to caring in any capacity.  Then my cousin Mary Sue replied that she would be giving up “cousins”.  Ouch.

Wanna go for a ride?

22 Feb

So, I know it’s been a long year that you fine people have been waiting, no doubt with bated breath, to find out about how my whole car hunt thing turned out. I dithered on about it here , here and even here. It was about this same time last year that I was told my trusty Toyota, Suki (I name all of my cars), was knocking on death’s door and that she had only weeks to live. By the way, it was the dealership’s mechanic who broke the news to me while graciously offering to escort me to the dealership showroom to look at the “fantastic group of 2012” offerings, or sit tight while he replaced my rear axel for a couple thousand dollars, with more repairs to follow. It was my choice, he assured me. I opted for an automotive band-aid instead. Suspiciously, with only new front brakes, tires and an oil change, that SUV of mine managed to eek out another 13,000 miles of carpools, trips out of town and commutes to work.

To recap, my list of parameters was that I wanted a new SUV/Crossover/Wagon that has great fuel economy using cheap gas, optional third row seating, a black exterior with a tan interior, all the techy bells and whistles, free maintenance, oh, and I wanted it to come in under 40k, including my trade-in. I was giving myself a month or two to indulge in due-diligence. I tested just about everything: Subaru, Toyota, Honda, Audi, Cadillac, Buick, Acura, BMW, Volvo, Lexus…I couldn’t get all that excited. At a few dealerships, I drove several models. Some cars I drove several times. All told, I drove over twenty different makes/models. I made spreadsheets and charts. Took the family to visit certain cars. It boiled down to this: for the amount of money I was willing to barf up, if I were going to get the all of the fun stuff I wanted, I’d have to get a 5-seater. Given seat belt laws and our lifestyle, that just wasn’t going to work for us. I suffered from a debilitating case of analysis paralysis. The family was getting frustrated with my inability to make a move. I just couldn’t get comfortable enough to pull the trigger, but I came close twice. All the while, Suki’s health was in a downward spiral. Things quit working, the driver side air bag was bulging, the antennae just stopped, the rear hatch gave up, and finally she started grinding and refusing to go any higher than third gear. Even Snakebite and Hot Tub started seeing the white light when we were out on the road. It was time to send this car over the rainbow… or to a hard-up landscaping crew.

My last ride before I jumped ship to Toyota was a huge, pimp-style Mercedes. We kept that car until it was fifteen years old. She was unreliable as hell and cost us thousands of dollars a year in maintenance plus untold hours of inconvenience and frustration. But I had inherited it from my mother and it looked great and was pretty dreamy when it was actually moving. Of course, by the end, it wouldn’t go in reverse. After we got rid of it, I brushed my hands together and said “never again”. I even chucked my goofy “Mercedes Only Parking” sign that someone had given me for our garage. I meant business.

On a lark, I found myself at RBM of Atlanta, just to see. Just to look. Just to assure myself that I would never go back there again. And there they were: glossy German SUVs with voice activated systems, burled wood inlays and sexy new car smell. A salesman quickly came over and started to give me the stats. I put on my best dour “I’m not impressed face” as he had me sitting in the third row and folding seats with the touch of a button. While my body language tried to remain stoic, I was falling in love with a $75k car. Shit. “My” salesman, Steve Szczupak, assured me the he was going to become my new best friend. Then my best friend asked the magic question that was going to lead to a speedy break-up: “So, how much are you looking to spend?” I came clean and he gently redirected me to a 5-seater. I drove it while Steve was imploring me to “drive it like ya stole it” and “stomp on it”. It did not suck; it was everything I had hoped it would be, with the exception of those much-needed extra seats. Damn.

And then we started talking about “previously enjoyed, certified” cars. Say whaaa? All of the warranty love with none of the depreciation? Okay. Free car washes anytime I want? Roadside assistance for life? Good coffee in the waiting room? I was open. And then there was a deal. And I was smitten. And you know how when you’re in love a lot of the ideas you had before suddenly seem a little silly and trite? Your heart takes over and your mind can’t help you. I felt like Pepe Le Pew when he first sees the French pussycat.

Here she is in all of her silver exterior, black interior, premium unleaded, never-again-a-Benz glory. I named her Augusta:

As an aside…I believe in signs. We made the deal on what was Big Daddy and my sixteenth wedding anniversary. Other than it being poetic to be getting a new ride on my sweet sixteen, I literally bumped into Joan, who was a bride’s maid in our wedding. And then when we got in the car, Kiss’ “Christine Sixteen” was on the radio. It was meant to be. The planets were in alignment. And then the next night? The couple that we went out with for Augusta’s inaugural night on the town bought their car from my new best friend, Steve, too. Go figure.

Finally feeling the love

14 Feb

Stores have been festooned in pink and red since December 26th.  Hearts, balloons and kissy prints have been everywhere.  Yes, it’s Valentime again.  A younger Hot Damn had no love for Valentine’s Day.  Every year it seemed like a mocking reminder that I hadn’t peaked yet.

When I was in elementary school, administrators and teachers had yet to adopt the culture of participation trophies and the belief that all children are special snowflakes.  Thus, birthday party invitations were still subjective and no one was forced into making a Valentine for anyone they didn’t want to.  Well, you can see where I am going with this.  My tissue paper and sticker emblazoned shoebox was never the one that was overflowing with love notes and chalky heart candy by the last bell.  I’m sure it mostly had to do with the gawd-awful Sandy Duncan style pixie haircut that my mother insisted was “just daaahling”, and nothing to do with my winning charms.

By my middle school years, the ritual of exchanging cards and candies halted.  Then, as a high school freshman I discovered a whole new level Valenshame.  

Over-confident and sexually ambitious teens annually organized some sort of school-sanctioned fund-raiser that involved j.v. cheerleaders sitting at a table and  selling carnations for $1 to other students.  They came in three colors: red for smokin’-hot ninth grade romance, pink for crushes and white for “I don’t like you in that way”.  The flower would be delivered to the object of one’s affection during classes throughout the day on February 14.  You could attach a personal note.  Sounds harmless, right?  Ugh.  This was just a new, more obvious posture in the contest for popularity.  And the celebrated teens would schlep their growing bundle of dyed flowers around school with them, to every class, even to lunch, all day long.  For those of us who received a white carnation or two, sent by a friend as a gesture of solidarity, it was a dilemma.  Did you proudly tote what amounted to your boutonnière with you, so that you didn’t look totally unloved, or did you gingerly put your carnations in your locker because they looked like a pittance?  Oh, and there was always that one poor sad sack who would be exposed for boosting her numbers by sending several to herself anonymously.  Bad move. 

By college, I made a habit of dating the sort of really cool guys who conveniently liked to break up right around the second week of December, who then later wanted to come sniffing around again after February 15th.

And in the work world?   The competition for the ultimate love trophy went off the chain.  There was no prouder receptionist than the one with the biggest delivered floral arrangement by clock punch time.  The secretary pool looked like a funeral parlor, but all the women were beaming from the outward display of love.  It was high school on steroids.  

Big Daddy and I had been dating about 2 months when faced with our first Valentine’s Day together.  A couple of days before the V-day, he told me to “wear something really nice” on the 14th  because we were going out for a fancy date.  He was very mysterious about the whole thing.  I was giddy about finally participating in the Valentine’s Day of my dreams.  I knocked off work a little early, got my nails did and put on my best LBD, stockings, heels…the whole thing.   Big Daddy picked me up and took me to dinner at…drum-roll…my favorite Indian restaurant.  I had averaged eating there about once a week from the time I was thirteen.  I loved that place, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind.  It wasn’t out of the box.  And it certainly wasn’t fancy.  It turns out that Big Daddy didn’t think he would need to call and get a dinner reservation more that two hours before our ETA at any upscale eatery on the most dined out night of the year.   Even the Waffle House near us takes reservations on Valentine’s Day.  Hand to God.  As it turns out, before he landed Hot Damn, Big Daddy was the kind of guy who didn’t do Valentine’s Day.  Oh, well.  The vindaloo was good.

So what sort of gifts were exchanged?  I had searched high and low and bought an antique set of poker chips.  Because I knew Big Daddy liked to play cards, I thought that it showed that 1.) I knew his interests 2.) I put thought into an atypical gift; I wasn’t just dialing it in and 3.) That there was a bit of work involved in expressing my luv.  Big Daddy, it seemed, was hoping to convey the same.  Instead of just picking up a heart-shaped Whitman sampler or a roadside dozen of long-stems, he picked up the phone and asked his sister for advice.  It was a smart move, except that she didn’t really know me.  Through her connections, she was able to hook Big Daddy up with really great seats to Grease: the musical.  Does anyone remember this post?  I put on my best excited face.  A musical?  Does he even know me?  But the truth is that it was the best Valentine’s Day despite the dinner not being over-the-top or that I got a gift that I was dreading having to cash in.  I was with someone who I knew loved me.  But then there was our second Valentine’s Day… 

Big Daddy and I were married on 17 February 1996.  I wanted to be married during the winter, but I am Episcopalian and no weddings are performed during Lent.  Big Daddy is a manly man and believed that no weddings should be performed during play-off season or March Madness.  Given the e.t.a of my dress, it was going to have to be shoehorned in with Valentine’s Day.  On the 14th, I arose with brightness and cheer.  Because so much was happening in the next few days, I kept it simple with a CD, card and yummy meal.  Big Daddy kept it simple too.  He coughed up simply nothing.  W? T? F?  I kinda went bat-shit.  Nothing.  Seriously?  He reasoned that he was giving me himself in three days.  Yes, in three days I was going to be turning myself over to a man who thought that he was gift enough.  Does he even know me? I went Diary of a Mad Black Woman on him.  But don’t think it didn’t cross my mind to go in another direction and go Silence of the Lambs instead.  Ultimately, I would have looked stupid in a man suit.  I considered postponing the wedding to a less clashy date.  I might have done it if people weren’t flying in from all corners of the world.  It never occurred to me that by getting married I would have to forfeit the showiest day of romantic goo known in a calendar year.  Forever.  Oh, the disappointment!  The tears!  And maybe a slammed door.  Or two.  

This week we will celebrate our sixteenth wedding anniversary, which means it will also be our eighteenth Valentine’s Day together.  I am pleased to report that not a bare Valentine’s Day has passed again.  Sometimes there’s a grand gesture, like a shiny bauble or a sterling trinket box.  Or maybe it’s more practical, like speakers for my iPod.   There have been no more tickets to musicals, but there have been tickets to see Ben Folds.  We don’t even pretend about fancy dinners on actual Valentine’s Day anymore.   Tonight we will celebrate our love by going to Hot Tub’s basketball game at 7:45 and listening to Snakebite protest about having to go.  Tomorrow night we will go out to a yummy dinner with friends.

I think he finally knows me.

I was lost in the woods, but now I am found or Go tell it on the mountain

11 Jan

I can easily go off on a tangent.  The legal term for it is a “frolicking detour”.  See, plans are not necessarily concrete for me.  They are more of a loose framework to fudge around with.  And that is how I managed to get myself into a pickle in the urban wilderness, yet again.

So here’s what happened this time.  I am a city mouse, who likes to pretend she’s all woodsy and good with outdoor stuff.  For Christmas, Big Daddy indulged me with new fanny pack that’s not a fanny pack to stuff all of my incidentals in for when I go walking off campus.  But yesterday I was in a big ol’ hurry to get out of the house to take the dog to have his ACL surgery (oy vey!) in Marietta, and I left my new non-fanny pack fanny pack in the mudroom.  So, after a morning of veterinary drama, and a trip through the Bo Jangles drive-thru, I finally parked at the base of Kennesaw Mountain for a little exercise al fresco.  I separated my key from the key ring and had no choice but to deposit it in what my mother taught me was nature’s pocket: my bra.

My storage compartment ain't what it used to be

My “plan” was to go for about 4 miles and be back to the car at 1 o’clock.  However, the weather was sooo nice and the trail was sooo easy that I thought I’d stretch it to 6 miles.  But I still felt good and thought that I was actually circling the base of the mountain and that I’d be back to my car at about the time I’d reach 8 miles.  Perfect.  At a bit over 8.75 miles I felt like I wasn’t really where I should be, because I wasn’t, and then I felt for my key and my bra was devoid of anything not God-made.  Uh-oh.  I was going to have to back track to find the key.  Panic.  I wasn’t nearly as worried about being stuck in the woods come nightfall as I was about having to make a certain phone call.  But time was on my side and I’d find the key and no one would be any the wiser.

So, if I worked backwards exactly (which I did not) I would be walking at least 18 miles.  That’s a lot of ground to cover both physically and mentally.  My mind kept drifting back to how over this past weekend we had “free” Showtime.  I caught about the last thirty minutes of 127 Hours.  That’s the movie with James Franco, where he plays a super laidback guy who goes rock climbing alone, without telling any one details of his specific plan.  Because he is so adaptive and has a good sense of direction and skills, he feels like he’s got the upper hand with being all loosey-goosey like that.  He eventually slips and gets stuck in a crevice because that upper hand of his gets wedged behind a rock.  That sucked for him.  After several days, his water bottle is running low, he starts becoming delusional and despite all of his efforts to wiggle free, use ropes and his body weight to shift the pinning stone and even attempting to use his pocketknife to cut his arm out, he remains stuck.  Finally he resorts to gnawing his own arm off to free himself.   Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  So, now here I am, sort of lost in the wilderness of Kennesaw Mountain, and thinking about this damn movie.  Even though I can occasionally hear the sound of cars, there’s swollen creeks-a-plenty and I am occasionally passing other hikers, I am getting a bit nerve wracked.  I don’t like to ask for help.  It’s a problem.  I am hoping that I don’t have to gnaw off anything in the process of getting back to my car with key in hand…I have TMJ; I doubt my jaw could handle any heavy chomping!

As carpool time was drawing closer, I ended up gnawing off my pride by calling Big Daddy to tell him I couldn’t pick up our treasures from school and then had to explain why.  It may have been as painful as chewing my own flesh.  While alarmed, he was perfectly calm and nice about the whole thing.  I, on the other hand, was full of self-inflicted loathing and humiliation because I ignored common sense and had to admit it out loud.  I was embarrassed that I was throwing a wrench into the family’s afternoon routine, angry that I needed saving, plus I was beginning to feel the effects of so much fast walking and running.

It might not be at all surprising to find out that I was one of those girls who was always reading into things and looking for “hidden meanings”.  As a grown up, I say that I am now watching out for “the signs”.  I love to dissect what I decide is double speak and pick out what I perceive as tension.  I cut my teeth on shows like Moon Lighting and Remington Steele in the 1980s to hone this particular skill set for looking between the lines.  For instance, on the last day of school in sixth grade, Robbie Brown said, “I really like your Trapper Keeper”, but then he looked away suddenly.  What did he mean by that???  What did he really want to tell me???  I knew what he truly was saying was, “I don’t have the nerve to ask you to ‘go with me’, but I think you are fascinating and I think about you all of the time.”  Naturally, at around mile 12, I began turning my inquisitive mind to wondering about why I was in the conundrum and what my lessons and take-aways were going to be.  After all, if I had to be humbled in this process, I had better find out why.  Maybe it was as simple as that God was telling me that if I was going to scarf down a Bo-Jangles chicken biscuit for breakfast, it was going to take a lot more than a lovely 4-mile jaunt to knock it off.

Once the kids were gotten, Big Daddy called my cell and said they would be waiting for me by my car.  Whew.  Just before I was spit out of the woods, I looked down and found a dollar bill.  I never found my key, but I found a dollar.  Then it started to rain.  Considering I was already soaked and nasty, it was not a chink in the program.  Rain was just another damn thing in this long day.  I had to cross the Kennesaw Battlefield to get to where the family was waiting in the parking lot.  I thought that it was a bit ironic that I had been wandering around an historic Civil War battle site for nearly 20 miles with spoiled good intentions.  All I wanted to was to be clean, with my people and going home.  I had gone to war with my stubborn independence; returning a sore soldier who was resolved to not be such a stickler for sole reliance and to accept accountability for that bad flaw of mine disrupting the day.

Where the battle was fought the first time


Everyone was sitting in the car, having snacks, reading and smiling.  I did not get the third degree tongue-lashing I so feared and deserved for not following Common Sense 101.  I had planned to return to the mountain the next day, if I could still stand, and find that key.  I didn’t have to.  It was sitting on the console of my car…right where I had put it, apparently.  Doh!

I wants it, I needs it, I must have my precious key

Snakebite rode home with me and pointed out that at least I had gotten some good exercise outside, found some money and had a new funny story that starred me as Gollum on the quest for my precious car key.  And as a bonus, I didn’t end up on the news as the subject of a helicopter search.  God, I love that kid.

I crossed my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye and all of that, that going forward I will always text Big Daddy if I am going off road.

Once home, I sat in my deep tub for about 1 ½ hour soaking in Lush bath bombs and Epsom Salts.  I took two Tylenol and went to bed around 8 o’clock.  Today, I literally have a pain in my butt, but it’s okay.

Here is what I learned for sure:  Make a plan, share the plan and adhere to the plan.  Be prepared by having everything you need when you start a project or an adventure.  That could include something a simple as a closing pocket or be as seemingly outlandish and unnecessary as taking a buddy when you go some place that is unfamiliar, or a partner to hold the ladder when you clean the gutters.  I also found out that single people get real freaked out when you try to ask them questions like, “Have you seen a key on the trail?” when no one else is around.  Did they think I was going to invite them to my Arbonne home show?  Also, condom wrappers don’t decompose rapidly in the woods.   Eew.  Oh, and nice people hang hoses over their really tall fences for thirsty hikers and dogs.  And nothing looks better after a rough day, than a loved one who’s just happy they could rescue you from yourself…again.

Today I divulged my dumb-assedness on the phone to a friend.  After admonishing me for going into the woods alone, she asked if she could come the next time I go.  So, next week there will be a hiking day with girlfriend Caroline.  I didn’t know I had city friends that would even be interested in weekday trail-blazing.  This is great news; I won’t have to become one of those 9am mall walkers!  If anyone would like to join us in a Mommy Urban Hiking club, just let me know!  Turns out that when you divulge your plans, it all comes together.

Happy endings ahead

University drops smoking

7 Jan

Atlanta’s own Emory University had an announcement to make this week:  No Smoking Allowed.  Anywhere.  Not in campus buildings, dorms, outside of the library, not in a box next to a fox, or even in your own car with all of the windows rolled up.  Huh.  All tobacco products are banned from any place on campus.  This means cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes, hookahs and bongs.  What is college without bongs???  I don’t know this world anymore.  Maybe this is why so many “online universities” are popping up.

I am presently not a smoker, but I used to be pretty hardcore.  I am seventeen years “clean”.  And that is a good thing now, but at the time I thought quitting was a power play and a hassle.  It’s like this: when Big Daddy and I started dating he would light my ciggies for me and was all gentlemanly about carrying a lighter in his pocket for my igniting needs.  Then things started getting serious and the hammer dropped: “I can’t marry a smoker.  You have to quit.”  Like a real woman, I recognized that if it’s a contest between always having a date who wants to give me jewelry and tagging a butt outside of a bar with a bunch of weirdoes, then I’ll take the former.  Done.

The saying isn't "Cigarettes are a girl's best friend" now, is it?

It was in the early 1990s that the tobacco Gestapo rose through the ranks and started messing with me.  It started with no longer allowing smoking on airplanes.  Before a 27-hour flight to Korea, I found my self in the glass enclosed smoke pit it the airport power smoking with the best of them.  Next came to eliminating a restaurant hostess’ most important question: “Smoking or non-smoking section?”, to no smoking in restaurants period.  And that extended to mall food courts, too.  Never again would I smell a group of pale, Goth teens sucking on clove cigarettes while enjoying an Orange Julius.  The lovably cool Joe Camel was crucified and Marlboro points were moot.  Really, Big Daddy’s decree was rather timely, because the other Man was taking away all the freedom of smoking anyway.  I imagine this is how motorcycle enthusiasts felt when states began enforcing helmet laws.  Sure, the Man was looking out for the people’s “health”, but it was also draping a wet wool blanket on the joy.

So hard?

“They” say the quitting smoking is harder than weaning off of heroine.  Having never snorted, shot, smoked or anything else one can do with that stuff, I couldn’t say if this is true or not.  But it was my fear.  Thus, I had never before tried to quit, never wanted to and frankly didn’t see a reason.  My only experience with someone quitting smoking was with my step-dad, Tom.  And that was a doozy.

Let’s back up a bit.  I come from a long and rich line of smokers.  My parents smoked.  Their friends all smoked.  My aunts, uncles and cousins smoked.  In every public room of my house, there was a silver box or beautiful little julep cup full of Vantage 100s waiting to be smoked.  Every room had at least two fancy Waterford ashtrays.  This, by the way, isn’t a sign of growing up in a trailer park…this was classy, abundant and gracious living.  At the grocery store, buggies had clip-on aluminum ashtrays for housewives that liked to puff a cigarillo as they trolled the cereal aisle and thumped the produce.  Large canister ashtrays were in every department store.  And the “better” stores, like Neiman Marcus, would bring you a glass of wine and a beanbag ashtray for your Mom to the dressing room.  We had a huge basket at home of all of the different embellished matchbooks that we would collect from restaurants, banks, hotels…anywhere.  And lots of places also had their own logoed ashtrays.  We took a lot of those too.  It was a golden era.

See that ciggie wand. It's high-style!

Now, back to Tom.  At some point, maybe around 1986, Tom had a sketchy lung x-ray that turned out to be fine, but he was all shook up and he cold turkey quit smoking.  Never in the history of ex-smokers has there been a more smug and self-congratulatory ex-smoker.  Tom took every opportunity to wax on and on about his will power and discipline.  We just all rolled our eyes and closed our ears.  Fast-forward to the spring of 1989ish, when he travelled to Texas to see his middle son graduate from college.  Upon his return home, Tom was fidgety, restless and seemed to have developed a case of adult onset ADD.  The man had chronic ants in his pants and was using a stream of flimsy excuses to get the hell out of the house all of the time.  He kept every car’s gas tank topped off, bought every single size drill bit, one at a time, from Home Depot.  He picked up dry cleaning, ran nonsensical errands and was continually shaking the change in his pockets.  There was no doubt in my mother’s suspicious mind that Tom had rekindled love with his ex-wife while at their son’s graduation.  We assumed that he was really going out to call his former wife and whisper sweet nothings from the Gulf station’s pay phone…hence all the coin jiggling.  Mom hired a P.I. to tail him.  Tom wasn’t romancing his former yellow rose of Texas.  He was smooching on the filter of a cigarette.

Pretty little cancer sticks

 Because Tom had been such a pain in the ass and gloated so much about his dynamic power to just quit, he was unable to admit that he had begun not just smoking again, but making up for lost time.  When confronted, he denied, denied, denied.  “Catch Tom In The Act” became a fun family game.  When I uncovered two cartons of Vantages in the pool pump house, he blamed it on the next-door neighbor’s 12 year-old son.  If I was at the house and he would declare he was going to buy some wood screws, I would insist on going to Home Depot for some mythical need too, just for fun and to watch his squirm.  Because we worked together at a chemical plant, I would run up to the warehouse overlook window to spy him huddled behind a 20 ft. tall pallet tower of bleach boxes…smoking.  One time, unbeknownst to Tom, I was behind him on Powers Ferry Rd.  when he tossed a spent butt out of his car window and it landed on the hood of my car.  Swear.  In Hawaii, my oldest stepbrother, also named Tom, busted him smoking an Eve 120, snaked from Mother’s pack.  It was a new low.  Eve 120 cigarettes are super long, ultra-thin cigarettes decorated with flowers along the filter.  My macho, manly, retired Air Force fighter pilot Dad was hiding out with pretty, pretty lady cigarettes.  It turns out that the graduating stepbrother…hadn’t.  He hadn’t even gone to most of college.  Poor, disappointed Tom was too embarrassed to tell my Mom, who most certainly would have had lots to say about it.  Instead, he turned to his old pal, tobacco.  We were just relieved he wasn’t having an affair with the ex.  We thought it was kind of a hoot, but he remained ashamed of his smoking habit until he died years later.  While it was openly known he was smoking, he never did smoke again in public.  His pride just couldn’t have handled it.

My own bout with smoking cessation?  Well, my motivation was…motivating.  It took me about three days. As this post has already grown into a novella, I’ll save that funny story for another time.  However, I will say that if stopping is harder than kicking heroine, then I think all of those scabby, shaky, puking black-tar junkies are a bunch of lightweights.  I have no respect for them.  Losers.

I’ll wrap it up with this little thought nugget.  I have one friend who still smokes, but she’s cut waaay back.  I have one aunt and two cousins who are still smokers.  You can no longer smoke at work, at the grocery store, while pumping gas, at your favorite restaurant, anywhere in the airport and now, with Emory’s decree, there is a precedent to prevent smoking while enclosed in your own private property.  And the cost of a pack of cigarettes is out of hand.  Do I think it’s “good” that people aren’t smoking anymore?  Yep.  I feel much better, though I didn’t realize I even felt bad.  My kids are totally freaked and obnoxious when they see or smell someone smoking.  But, I have to wonder if some of our country’s employment shift and woes can’t be tied to the vigilante lynching of our tobacco industry.  What are all of those former tobacco farmers growing now?  Corn for corn syrup?  All of the matchbook factories, ashtray fabricators and rolling plants…what has become of them and their employees?  How about the person whose job it was to remove dead smokes from the big, commercial ashtray canisters and then refills them with fresh sand to imprint the hotel’s logo into it?  I just have to wonder if while the end of smoking is good for us, has it been bad for our economic health.  Someone get me an impact study, stat!

Maybe they can get jobs at the smokeless cigarette kiosk at the mall?

My inner music snob was murdered today

11 Nov

Have you heard of Zumba? If you haven’t been sleepless at 2am and seen the infomercials about the latest “fitness craze” that is sweeping the nation, well, it’s a fitness craze that’s sweeping the nation. In fact, you don’t even have to buy a Zumba instruction system to do at home, you can assuredly find a class somewhere in your neighborhood. I did. The Zumba people tout it as “an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party™” A party? At 8:30 in the morning? I am so totally in.

There was no sangria nor ceviche and chips at this party. What there was in high supply was old white women in Lycra pants and reinforced sports bras that were all ready to shake it. And shake it they did. The class was taught by a young black fella, whom I am guessing is sassy as hell. That, btw, is code for gay. He’s a hoot, and he’s kind and patient, but he is still a fitness instructor and that means he is secretly trying to break me so he can talk about it later. I would absolutely love to hear his recap to his friends at Blake’s this weekend about all of the crazy white housewives with no choreography.

A little background is that I have no rhythm and no coordination. None. I tried to get in on the aerobics craze in the 1980s. It seemed so fun in movies like Perfect, starring a pre-Scientology John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis. Or what about Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” video? How great did she look with that headband and spandex get-up? I started by getting Jane Fonda’s Workout, which I did in the basement during a summer. My dad came home for lunch one day and came downstairs to let me know he was there. He took a quizzical look at me all sweaty and red, then glanced at what I was looking at on the TV. Then he completely popped a gasket, lost any couth he had and started yelling about “that GD-Hanoi Jane-Communist-bleep-bleep-NOT IN MY HOUSE-bleep-bleep-Damnit to Hell!” Tom had been in Vietnam. He wasn’t fonda Jane. And that was that. The next time I tried aerobics was five years later in a class at a health club. During the warm up, I fell and sprained my ankle. I quit. Why bother?

But this Zumba thing is a fitness p-a-r-t-y and I do like parties. In my head, I was picturing Jazzercise for the 21st Century, but while listening to Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto and Sergio Mendes. There would be confetti cannons and a lot of spontaneous trilling of tongues. Those Latin countries are known for bringing the fun! Um, no. This was NOT my mother’s Brazil. What happened in place of a little slice of Carnivale? My inner music snob was murdered today and replaced with an out of shape middle-aged mom who doesn’t have it goin’ on half as much as I thought I did. I was put to shame by “mature women”, some twice my age, who could hip flick, shimmy, bootie-shake, plus do arm movements all while jumping up and down to Gloria Estefan, Rihanna, and Maroon 5. The final blow to my self-esteem came when I was limply shaking my flacid groove thang to the Backstreet Boys. This was happening in public. Heck, I couldn’t have tongue trilled if I wanted to…I could hardly breathe! I drank all of my water bottle and smelled like the boy’s middle school locker room when it was all over.

But, I think that I’ll go back…at least I didn’t break anything! That, and I just can’t bear the thought of going to Curves yet.

My porn got diddled away

9 Nov

I fancy myself as something of an inventor, maybe even an innovator.  The trouble is that I am a lot of lofty ideas and talk, but not so much action.  The sort of marketable genius that I am capable of is documented here, in my first ever blog post.  As you know, I invented the Obama Chia Pet years ago, but never did anything but sit on the sofa and talk about how great a Chia head with an Afro would be.  I lost out on all of that sweet moolah.

Well, this past spring I “invented” something else that I was pretty sure would be a hit.  Allow me to first disclaim that just because you come up with something, or uncover a need does not necessarily mean that it is rooted in a long time obsession.  Sometimes you just get an idea from the corner of your eye.  Having been burned too many times from past ideas and products that have been scooped up by the early birds of the world, I had actually begun trying to figure out how to give this new worm some legs.  It was going to be a cable television show that would hybridize retro-porn movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Beavis and Butthead and an excuse to drink with friends.  I floated it to some entertainment people-in-the-know and got enthusiastic responses.  And then, I was listening to The Regular Guys morning show almost two weeks ago and the guest was Dave Attell, who was promoting his new show:  Dave’s Old Porn.  That.  Was.  Mine.  Damnit.  What he described was almost exactly my concept.  Curse you, Mr. Attell.

I think I was in my early twenties the first time that I ever saw a real porn movie.  “Showtime After Hours”, “Skinimax” or HBO’s late night showing of Lady Chatterley’s Lover do not count.  The first “adult film” I saw was tears-streaming-down-face-hilarious.  It was shot in someone’s groove-ass vaulted den and there was a pizza delivery guy, who looked nothing like my Domino’s dude.  I believe this particular art piece was called F*cking Brunettes.  Guess what the common thread was.  Yep, it was all raven-haired “actresses” getting frisky with everyone from boyfriends, plumbers to pool guys.  Except that some of the “ladies” were peroxide blondes, so they had to wear wigs.  That sometimes slipped.  Better still was that the “talent” really believed that they were there to act and so there was a script that was adhered to…no matter what.  Since this was edited in a time before Mac Book Pro and you actually had to purchase film, editing was more labor intensive and re-takes were costly.  Let’s just agree that the transitions were not smooth.  And because there is no record of this movie on imdb, I am unable to find out any information about the make-up and wardrobe professionals who worked on set.  My guess is that the “talent” was instructed to just wear something made from synthetic fibers and bring their fluffiest, most all-encompassing merkin to the set.

Then in the late 1990s, we had a malfunctioning cable box that for some crazy reason allowed us access to ultimate fighting and the Spice channel.  The Spice channel was not the precursor to the Food Network.  I know, you’d think so, right?  It showed nekid movies.  Even though they were just the soft-core variety, we should have demanded to have that devil’s box replaced, but getting an appointment with the cable company was just such a hassle, so we kept it.  During this time I would watch the Spice flicks, but only the credits…the names of the “actors” were the priceless work of thirteen-year-old boys.  Names like Peter North, Anna Malle, Ben Dover, Jack Hammer, Chesty Morgan, Seymour Butts were subtle, yet oh, so sexy and to the point.  For those of us living in the mainstream, there are several formulas to creating your own porn name, such as combining your middle name with the name of your first pet, or a street name where you spent your innocent childhood.  I could work under the monikers Ann Beechwood or Ann Ranger.  One makes use of the word “wood” and the other sounds like I’d be good at finding things in the wild.  Score!

Occasionally, I would have to actually see some of the movie to get to the credits.  These later 20th century movies showed significant advancements in breast augmentation, laser hair removal, handheld video recorders, and camera effects.  Someone was clearly investing in these movies, too.  The backdrops were often classy “mansions” with lots of white carpet and Levolor blinds, or fancy poolsides with scads of statuary and no shortage of chaise-lounges.  Also different were some pretty weird group scenarios that were never explained by way of any bulky dialog.  In fact, the talking was reduced to lip-lick sounds, grunts and a random, “Oh, yeah!”  Thanks to the elimination of the once important story line, I still have no idea why no woman ever removed her shoes during a scene.  Me?  I always wear flip-flops in the bathhouse at the pool, or in the gym locker room because I don’t want other people’s sweaty foot cooties crawling under my toes.  But these women, while guarding against toenail fungus and potential harmful liver related side effects from Lamisil, are letting all manner of other things penetrate through their exposed skin.  Does that make any kind of sense to you?

And now with the Internets, and sites like, there is no shortage of porn for the masses and their mass interests.  And it’s not funny, or culturally amusing.  It’s aggressive and psychologically damaging to watch.  Too many things are going in wrong places, it all looks manmade, and the pretense of even trying to parlay this into an acting career has been dismissed.  Kim Kardashian’s entertainment empire may have been the last successful springboard from nasty porn.  When I first went on line in 1997, I mistyped a search engine name and was directed to something so icky and depraved that I can only say “donkey”.  Shudder.  I couldn’t get out of its page and I finally broke down in tears and called Big Daddy at work.  I was hysterical.  No body needs to see that kind of stuff.  Ever.

And that’s why I had the idea for MY show.  It would be Big Daddy, me and our most funny friends drinking beers and critiquing movies from the Golden Age of porn.  You’d totally watch it, I know you would.  And now Dave Attell is already shooting season 2 of his show for Showtime.  He was on Chelsea this week talking about it.  He did an episode of it with Adam Carolla.  Why did I drag my feet on this?  Could it have something to do with no longer owning a VCR and having to hunt one down to even get started?  I’m pretty sure that Turner Classics has yet to go in and digitize The Rings Around Uranus or Taboo II yet.

Scenesters get old-school, or just get old

5 Jul

When Hot Damn was in high school, we didn’t have hipsters.  There were dweebs, jocks, nerds, hoods, mallrats, punks, new-wavers, skaters, pot-heads, juvies, rivet-heads, brown-nosers, homos, band-dorks, theater people, scenesters, campers, girls that took The Cure way too seriously and so on.  But, no hipsters.  They hadn’t been born yet.  I’m not exactly sure where I fit on the scale of labels and teenage coolness.  It’s not that I consider myself without definition; more likely it is that I kind of embraced bits and pieces of them all, floating in a social abyss.

One thing I was into was the “music scene” and so I knew a lot of scenesters.  I listened to low-dial college stations, hung out in record stores, made themed mixed tapes, read Maximum Rock n’ Roll and snuck into clubs to see bands.  A lot.  I don’t think I ever copped a beer; I just wanted to hear the music.  My parents thought that I saw Top Gun like every weekend; they were not so okay with me slinking around downtown at night.  Can’t imagine why.  Growing up in Atlanta, there was no shortage of music venues that looked the other way when it came to minor patronage.  The Metroplex, White Dot, 688, Royal Peacock, Dugout, Atlantan Hotel, Margaritaville, The Point, and Celebrity Club all had slack doormen and great music every weekend.  I saw a bunch of great shows at Georgia Tech, Emory and Piedmont Park, too.  Last Husker Du show?  Saw it.  Ditto for The Replacements.  Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ at a burrito shack?  REM at Piedmont Park?  The early version of The Black Crowes in a basement?  Sitting on stage with the Smithereens?  Check them all and then some.  It was good times.

A favorite band from that era, Guadalcanal Diary, had a pearl anniversary reunion show this past weekend.  (They played that cannibal song!)  Going to the show I expected to see a bunch of throwbacks and familiar faces from way back when.  Well, it turns out that aging scenesters…age.  They are virtually unrecognizable.  Their hair turns grey (if they still have it), their clothes get all practical and store-bought, and they have traded in pointy boots for a comfy pair of Merrells.  It’s also mainly old dudes, not old chicks, who turn out for reunion shows.  But if the music still rocks and the beer is cold, it’s all good.  And it was.  Except that it was hot, and we were sore from yard-work and had stuff to do the next morning.  As we were leaving a tad early, a guy looks at Big Daddy and says, “Hey, don’t I know you…from Cub Scouts?”  Cover blown.

You know, Big Daddy and I actually still go out and see our fair share of bands.  We are usually the older people toe-tapping in the middle, surrounded by young hipsters.  Aside from the skinny jeans, 1970s women’s sunglasses and ironic t-shirts, the hipsters aren’t all that different from the aging scenesters.  Well, except that the hipsters all have tattoos and piercings; the pearly scenesters have nicotine patches and wedding bands.

Like, gag me with a coke spoon

1 Jul

When I was in fifth grade, my school began to teach us about drugs.  They are bad.  Drugs; not school.  In 1980, drug education was boiled down to scare tactics via weird stories about what happens when you sniff glue or take angel dust.  I still don’t really know what angel dust is, but I know that if I ever got a hold of some, it would make me stand on a tall building and think I could fly.  If you are too young, or too old, to remember the glory days of educational anti-drug reel-to-reels, this is a great introduction:

I learned that “dropping” LSD made people think that they were oranges and then they would try to peel themselves.   LSD, or acid, was probably the scariest drug that we were warned about.  It would make you see things that weren’t there, like beautiful flowers in gas stove flames that you would want to touch.  Acid would make you hear voices and if you took it more than three times you would be declared legally insane and you could never give sworn testimony in court.  Hippies took acid.  I was terrified of it.  Filmstrips like this didn’t dissuade me that LSD was the worst thing that could ever happen to a person.

Of course heroine is really bad too, but it was also just plain trashy.  “Junkies” always had gross teeth and just nodded and drooled.  When you were done being a junkie, you’d have to get on methadone.  To get methadone you have to stand in a line every day with other people trying not to be junkies anymore.  The whole needle thing rattled me, too.  I saw an ABC After School Special one time about a cute high-school girl who started doing heroine.  It messed up her life and brought shame to her family.  I would never want to drool on myself or stand in a line every day.

It was during this time when we were finishing up our drug education that cocaine started being a thing.  There weren’t any outdated filmstrips or pamphlets available yet and from everything on TV, it seemed like you had to be a stockbroker, a starlet or South American to get any.  It looked too expensive for ten year-olds to ever get their hands on it.  We skipped learning about cocaine.

And marijuana?  Total gateway to ruining your life.  My parents and teachers would tell me horrible stories about people “on pot”.  Once you tried pot, it was only a matter of days before you were in a straight-jacket on the way to re-hab after being busted for trying to pawn stolen goods to support your habit. When I was in middle-school all of the thuggy kids with divorced parents wore Adidas, because the logo was suggestive of a marijuana leaf.
My main take-away from my elementary school anti-drug unit was that you should never mix uppers and downers together.

Drug education in the new millenium is a bit more sophisticated, reality based and graphic.  Who hasn’t been totally freaked watching one of those meth-morphing clips on Dateline?  Or hearing about the not too far fetched rumor that Alice In Chains front-man Layne Staley had to have his hand amputated due to gangrene from a heroine abcess.  He soon after died of an overdose at age 34.  Eeew.  And just suffering through any jam band is enough to keep kids away from pot.  Or how about this latest thing with flesh eating cocaine?  Apparently, the booger sugar is now cut with some veterinary de-worming drug for livestock that attacks your skin after you partake.  It turns all purple and black.  Gross.

There are a lot more drugs out there now.  Crack, meth, ice, crank, ketamine, oxyanything and bath salts are all new on the scene.  And then there’s astounding invented stuff that people will smoke, snort, huff and inject to figure out if it’s “good”.  I once read an interview with Marilyn Manson, who was talking about smoking sherm with Leif Garret.  Sherm?  It’s a joint dipped in formaldehyde.  How bored do you have to be to give that a try?

I think that my tactic for keeping my own kids off drugs will probably just be this:

Don't do drugs

Thank me later: travel tips

30 Jun

I have always had a personal rule against weaving anything into conversation that could be found printed on a mug in the Cracker Barrel “gift shop” or found stitched on a hat sold next to a five gallon jar of pig’s feet.  I’ve got standards.  Sue me.  But I know that every rule has an exception and I have recently discovered mine.  Recently, when asked about our family trip via cruise ship in the Mediterranean, what rushed out of my throat was, “I need a vacation from my vacation.”  Did I really say that?  Yep.  And I meant it too.  There was not trace of irony on my tongue.

Remember that movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and the late John Candy?  Things went screwy.  In the end, it was heart-warming and everyone learned something about patience, giving up control and finding forgiveness.  Well, if this movie were being remade today, which, thanks to Hollywood’s shortage of original ideas, is high on the probability-o-meter, and starred my family it would be called Planes, Trains, Automobiles, Boats, Donkeys, ATVs and Wheelchairs.

I am still absorbing it all and can’t possibly recap it in just one or two posts.  Instead of forcing you to sift through what would amount to a voluminous slide show, I am just going to begin by imparting some lessons learned during our inaugural trip of the summer.  It should be noted that the last time I left home for this long with suitcases and multiple stops, there were no babies on board.

The first stop of our 18-day “vacation” was Venice, Italy.  It’s beautiful and old.  It looks every bit like what you have imagined from movies and postcards.  Yes, there really are no cars there.  And yes, there really are canals everywhere with a jillion bridges that were all built hundreds of years before any sort of Disabilities Acts and inclusive building codes had been thought of and imposed.  And those bridges aren’t smooth ADA ramps.  There are cobbled steps.  Lot’s of them.  And the hotel where you might stay if you are visiting Venice…it doesn’t have an elevator or ramp of any kind either.  Don’t go if you are gimpy.

Rule 1  Pack as few bags as possible.  If at any point during your “vacation” you are going to be handling your own baggage, rethink what you are taking with you.  Pull a page from the Johnny Cash fashion chronicle and just pack a few black separates.  Consider exploring going commando, too.

We make a habit of traveling with another family.  It is great for us and for our kids to be with someone else.  Odds are favorable that because we travel together we will be doing all of our excursions together too.  That means that when it’s good it’s great and when it’s bad, you are ganged up on by double the kids.  There is a lot to see that kids may not think is too thrilling.  There is a lot of walking involved in getting from one boring Church to another boring Church.  Oh, and it’s hot.

Rule 2  At least a month before departure, cross-train your kids.  Go for long walks after dinner.  Break in new shoes.  Make them carry stuff up and down the stairs at home.  Turn off the AC on the weekends.  Give them a water allowance.  Trust me.  In fact, just go all Lou Gosset Jr. and boot camp the hell out of the kids.  It’s bad enough to hear them complain about regular stuff, don’t give aching muscles, side stitches and blistery feet a chance to enter into the mix.

If you are a regular reader of HDCA, you know that I am “aware” of potties.  This is by no means a fetish, but I do appreciate a nice bathroom.  Unfortunately, outside of the US and Japan, I am set up for disappointment.  It is ironic that a continent that values having bidets in any dwelling, puts up with what passes in public.  I will say that Europe has gotten a little more together as far as tissue is concerned, but that has been the only advance that I can speak of.  Thank God for small miracles, right?

Rule 3  Cross-train your bladder.  The only way that you are going to get through the day without the heaves is to limit the amount of time you spend in any restroom outside of your hotel room.  The solution is not to limit your fluid intake.  That would lead to dehydration.  That would be bad.  Simply put, you gotta learn how to hold it.  Don’t be fooled by the “pay-for” public restrooms.  They are worse than the others.  And on a side note for the ladies:  You will not find a purse hook in any WC.  Learn to do the hover with purse straps around your head.  It’s harder than you think and requires practice.  While the kids are doing stair drills in their cross training, you might do well to practice squats with a weight yoked around your neck.  Those strong quads will be your friend.

Because we were gone for so long and good advice, like what I am giving you, is gleaned from hindsight, we had a lot of luggage: five suitcases, four carry-on bags and two purses.  Too much luggage.  See Rule 1.  Do not let any part of your stash ride shot-gun with the cab driver.

Rule 4 Chain yourself to your bags.  At the very least, make a kid sit in the taxi until everything has been removed and counted from the car.  Believe me, no driver is going to inadvertently take off with a sweaty kid whose itouch has lost its charge.  My carry on continues to be staying out late and making friends in Barcelona, long after I have returned home.

My last tid-bit is the most important.  It is my new mantra and one that I just might have stitched on a trucker hat or screened onto a mug:

Rule 5  Buy Travel Insurance.  Things can go wrong.  Things can also go horribly wrong.  You could end up admitted in a Sicilian hospital for five nights, for example, where no one speaks English.  Worse still, it could happen to your child.  You could need to get somewhere afterwards.  One day it might be funny, but in the thick of it…not so hilarious. And it will probably never be funny if you are still figuring out how to come up with tens of thousands of dollars that just weren’t in the plan.  Regular health insurance will cover you at Wally World or the Grand Canyon, but it usually doesn’t cross international borders.  If you are taking a passport, take out a policy.  Trust me.  And for extra giggles, find out everyone’s weight in kilograms.

What’s my name again?

21 Jun

When she was in Destiny’s Child, Beyonce crooned “Say My Name”.  Michael Jackson’s little sister stormed out of the Jackson 5’s shadow when she boomed, “No, my first name ain’t baby.  It’s Janet…Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.” A person’s name says a lot about them.  You can read a name on a piece of paper and can immediately have some general knowledge about them.  Paco Sanchez, William Witherspoon, Sha’taviqua Moore, Patrick O’Flannigan, Brandy Smith, Ira Ruby…do you see where I’m going here?  But, unless you are Picabo Street, your parents, the state or a medical student with a twisted sense of humor gave the name you have to you.  It’s your name, but it wasn’t your choice.

I was named in honor of my mother’s identical twin sister, Charlotte.  Ours was a close-knit family and even though my Aunt Charlotte lived in another town, she was around a lot.  And if she wasn’t staying with us, she was on the phone with my mom several times a day.  When my mother would say “Charlotte”, she was usually talking to her sister.  This was confusing to me.  I’d hear my name then go trotting into the room where my mom was, only to be shooed away and told, “No, not you.”

Another problem with the name Charlotte, besides it being a hand-me-down, is that it is long.  In elementary school you had to write your name on the provided line on any ditto sheet you were given.  My name could never neatly fit on name:­­­­­­­­­­­____________    And finding a key chain or fridge magnet at a souvenir shop with “Charlotte” in puffy letters was never going to happen.  Girls named Kim, Lisa or Beth didn’t have these kind of problems.  Lucky.  Oh, what else?  Well, there was the crazy portrayal by Bette Davis as the title character in Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte.  Iron Maiden had a song called “Charlotte the Harlot”, which was part of a series known as the Charlotte saga.  Just what every girl longs to hear: songs about a dumb whore with her same name.

When I transferred schools in the sixth grade it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give my name a tune up.  No one knew me there, so on that first day when all of the teachers handed out index cards for you to write down your 411 stuff, I filled in the space of “name you are called” as Ann.  It was so liberating and short.  Ann Hall.  It would fit anywhere.  Only four different letters.  And I could be associated with Annie Hall…that was so much cooler than crazy Sweet Charlotte rocking and clutching a music box in a dark bedroom.  Changing schools was going to turn out to be the best thing ever.

After about six weeks into middle school, my homeroom teacher made a call to my mother that brought it all crashing down.  “Mrs. Randall (we had different last names…furthering the name confusion and complications), this is Mrs. Margenson from East Cobb…No, she’s doing very well in her classes…Making friends?  Yes…But the reason for my call…there has been a lot of absences.  Mrs. Randall, does Ann have a problem, is there something that we should know about?”  Stunned silence.  Then my mother asked, “Who?  Is?  Ann?”

Yeah, I hadn’t bothered telling my family about my name change.  I knew that my mom would be pissed and the rest of them would tease me mercilessly.  This switcheroo was mine and they didn’t need to be involved.  So, it turns out that because I had absolutely no experience with being called just Ann, and no association with it outside of school, I wasn’t perking up at the name.  Teachers had noticed, and discussed in the teacher’s lounge that Ann clearly had an issue.  Ann never responded when she was called on in class unless she was being looked at directly.   Ann never turned around in the hallway when classmates called after her.  Ann seemed kinda spacey.  Ann was counted absent a lot because she never responded with “present” during class roll calls.  Maybe Ann was deaf.  Turns out, Ann didn’t know her name.  This made Ann feel retarded.

I was right.  My mom was furious.  And my brothers and step-dad thought it was hilarious.  So, on mother’s orders I had to go back to school and tell everyone that my name was really Charlotte Ann, but they could just call me Charlotte.  Back to Sweet Charlotte crazy land.  Great.

After I graduated from college I did what most English majors do…I went to work at the family business.  I didn’t do the other English major venue, law school, for another couple of years.  Some of the younger or more recent hires that had not really met “the family” were greatly confused about who I was if I wasn’t “that Charlotte”, my aunt.  When I talked to people on the phone they would ask, “Now, which Charlotte are you?  You’re Frank’s daughter, right?”  Even though my Aunt Charlotte had never actually worked at any of the plants, her name was known to all.  So, I pulled Ann back out, dusted her off and and tacked her back on.  Problem solved.

As an adult, I’ve learned to sign my name in a series of swoops and swirls that can fit on a small line.  Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte hasn’t been seen by anyone in years.  The Cure wrote “Charlotte Sometimes”, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions have “Charlotte Street” and Julian Cope released “Charlotte Anne”.  They mitigate the Iron Maiden thing.  Nowadays I get called all sorts of names: Charlotte, Charlotte Ann, Mommy, Hey You, Miss Lady, Hall’s Mom…I’m an adult now and I don’t really care either way.  I know who I am.  That’s not true, entirely.  I’m over people calling me Charlene.

Annual emergency

21 Dec

What is the story with the health care crisis really?  Who says that uneducated, poor people don’t have access to care?  I am no stranger to a doctor’s waiting room, surgical center or a full-blown hospital setting.  Why do I never meet P.L.U. (people like us) in these places?  Before you judge, just consider the facts: Never have I come home from a hospital visit saying, “I met the most interesting family today at the coffee station.”  I never find play-dates for the children or exchange digits with anyone.  Usually I am clutching my purse and fearful of contracting tuberculosis from the guy sitting next to me.  Thank you Proctor and Gamble for the sanitizing hand foam.  The waiting room usually looks like what I imagine Britney Spears’ basement rumpus room being like the morning after a hard night.  There’s cheese puffs ground in the rug, coagulated coffee in disposable cups (that sit on tables, ironically, undisposed of) and people slumped over and passed out in every corner.  I get it, though.  To a point.  People are stressed, and pissed that they are going to have to pay $16 when they leave the parking garage.  They haven’t had good showers and they have spent the better part of the day planning to see a loved one who is wincing in pain and bitching at them about some inconsequential something.  That said, friends and loved-ones of patients are by and large bizarre and proud of it.  And chatty.  If you are ever in need of an over-share, head to the soda machine bank at your local emergency room.  You won’t be disappointed.  However, I must warn that if you are a stickler for proper grammar, you might want to sit that one out this time.

Posts are going to be a bit scanty this week.  In addition to all of the Christmas merry-making, our family is continuing a Christmas tradition, begun with Margaret in 1997, of lurking in hospitals and tending to the sick.  Make no mistake, this is no fuzzy volunteer effort…these are our own.  I guess we O’Neals just like to get scraped out, cleaned up and pieced back together for a new, shiny year.  We are optimists.  My father-in-law had open-heart surgery last Friday.  While his valves are working just fine now, some of the other wheels are getting a bit wobbly.  He’s a man who is usually very composed and together and it is a new experience for us to listen to him singing in Spanish.  He doesn’t speak Spanish, by the way.  Then Hot Tub is having his tonsils and adenoids removed, with a vein cauterization thrown in for good measure on Thursday.  And of course, I am still a bit hunched by late afternoon myself.  A lot of you gentle readers focus on preparation, celebration and thankfulness this time year through fine deeds, gifts and honest prayers.  If you could throw a word or two out to your Lord on Hot Damn’s behalf while you are at it, I’d be most grateful.

Oh, and if you happen upon any ranting, not-so-fresh smelling people while you are out in your last minute rush, hold your breath, fix a sympathetic eye and give them a smile.  They could be on a waiting room snack run.  Just hold your breath and smile, but don’t start a conversation.  You’ll never get home.

Shame on me

13 Dec

I have been to Family and Friends weekends at rehab places for people three separate times.  I like the introductions, trust exercises and the craft services at these kumbaya affairs.   Wherever there is a group of people trying to kick something you will find a bottomless coffee pot and sweet, sweet, sugary snacks.  Me:  “Oh, that is awful that your Crank addiction stems from Grandpa locking you in the closet and diddling the family dog while you listened.  Do y’all have anything salty?”  A feature of the therapy is the “shame talk”.  It yawns on about how our loved ones get into their predicament because of their fear of exposure and great shame over (insert issue here).  This is where I zone out.  The gist is to out yourself with your hang-ups.  You know, let your freak flag fly, so you can gain accountability in your life.  Remember Gordon Gekko’s “Greed is Good” speech from Wall Street, inspired by Adam Smith’s 18th Century bestseller, The Wealth of Nations?  The guiding notion is that seeking out self-interests spurs creativity and independence, which benefits everyone from the butcher, the baker to the candlestick maker.  I feel the same way about shame.  Shame is good!  Keeping some things concealed beneath cloak and dagger benefit mankind.  When is the last time you were cornered at a cocktail party by someone telling you about his “thing” for plush animals and huffing gold spray paint?  Where is the shame???  Or the client that wants to tell you about their “wrongful arrests”?  Don’t they see that I have fashioned earmuffs with my hands and am rocking?  Quit making my ears bleed!

Shame and fear have kept me from a lot of mischievous behavior.  I never tried cocaine in college or ever.  There was the fear that if I liked it, I’d blow all my money on the snorty stuff, my parents would have to get involved and be all disappointed.  I don’t wear bikini tops with hot pants to Wal-Mart because I would be horror stricken to end up on that Ugly People of Wal-Mart website.  I don’t berate the kids at the Grocery store because I don’t want people to see what kind of mother I really am.  See, my shame is good for everyone around me.  But I can’t help wondering that if I could ease up on my iron curtain, every day would be like a Summer’s Eve commercial.  Maybe it would be restorative for me to expose some of my secret shames.


1.  The Blue Lagoon – The acting is 100% awful, the story has holes all in it, but I just can’t quit this movie.  Christopher Atkins in that ridiculous muslin diaper is a-okay with me.  The rumor, at the time, was that Brooke Shields’ mother wouldn’t even let her see the movie because it was rated R.  I actually have several other secret shame movies.  Anyone seen Mandingo?

2. Carnival Food – Funnel cakes, mini-fried donuts, apple dumplings, roasted turkey legs; I could go on and on.  I should know better than to gnaw something that has been deep-fried in a cheap camper by a warty old man with green, blurry tattoos. It’s all wrong on every level.  But one whiff of a fried dough turd under a mound of powdered sugar makes me loose all reason.  Of course I am only good for about three bites before my secum begins to spasm.

3. Granny Panties or, as I often call then, “turtleneck underwear”.  They couple best with flannel pajamas, greasy hair and a Lifetime movie.  It’s like a cotton hug for your fanny and bloated stomach.

4. Ross Perot I can neither justify nor explain this.  I am on record as wanting to go on a bear hunt with Sarah Palin, so maybe I just have affection for tiny politicos who like to speak in odd metaphors.

5. Prop Comedy That’s right, I said it.  I could go highbrow and drone on about Harpo Marx and the genius of Vaudevillian comedy, but that’s not my truth.  Carrot Top and his big trunk, Gallagher with the Sledge-o-Matic, Joel Hodgson of Mystery Science Theater 3,000 or Steve Martin being a wild and crazy guy with an arrow through his head.  I can’t help it.  I’ll most likely be shunned by many over this.  I AM the lowest common denominator.

So, now that I’m out about a few things, to be honest…I’m not feeling all that liberated or integrated into a greater community.  Maybe a better list would be the things that I secretly hate, but keep hidden because I know that people will think I’m a monster.  Things like Christmas caroling (shoot me, please) and theme dressing.

Anyone have a shame they want to talk about?

Barbara Walters’ snooze fest

10 Dec

Barbara should get an award.

Did you wet your pants?  Did you drool on your shoulder from the snooze fest that was Barbara Walter’s 10 Most Fascinating People of 2010?  If you missed it and your DVR flaked out don’t fret.  Let the recap begin:

“The year Betty White felt the love.”  Even Betty admits that’s she’s been over-exposed.  She loves animals more than people.  Barbara asked her THAT sex question to a woman who is 88 ¾.  As in, wanting to know if Betty still drags out the Fredrick’s of Hollywood pasties and cat of nine tails.  It’s just so undignified…and who, exactly, is fascinated by the answer?

Mark Zuckerberg.  Damn, I called it.  Holla to me!  Described as “Just another college student who couldn’t get a date”, was about as much editorial as we got.  Um, what the hell happened?  She didn’t actually interview him.  Not in person, on the phone, the internets or Pony Express.  She gobbled on about his Facebook profile and strung together clips from the Social Network, Oprah’s show and stock photos.  I learned absolutely zip.

“Baby, baby, baby; you have Bieber Fever!”  Always hard-hitting, Barbara asked the Pubescent wunderkind, Justin Bieber, about when he was going to cut his hair, how his mom grounds him and then she really went for it by asking “If you were going to write an autobiographical song about your life right now, what would you call it?”  Digging deep, Babs.  Thank the Lord that bits of this interview leaked earlier in the week were edited out.  In particular, there had been a creepy interrogation about his budding sex life and probing questions about a snapshot of him making out with a girl.  It made me more uncomfortable that be over-hugged by an old man.

Snookie, from The Jersey Shore said, “When I see Barbara Walters, I’m like ‘Oh my God’, this is like Elvis.”  For a group of hooligans, their interview was b.o.r.i.n.g.  and devoid of fist pumps and wardrobe malfunctions.

Sandra Bullock garnered the fascination moniker “for humor and grace in the face of adversity”.  I think she’s a hoot and I’d love to do lunch with her (call me, Sandy!), but I must have nodded off and missed when Barbara delved into the sideshow that I wanted to hear about: THE DIVORCE.  I want to have that hot mess laid out and explained to me.

“Jennifer is the first A list, fashion icon, red-carpet-movie-star to ever be a judge on American Idol.”  That narrows the field.  She doesn’t want to be mean to people.  But, that’s why I watch American Idol.  I guess I can thank her for letting me know what I already suspected; it’s going to be dull.  Babs amputated two of her marriages and seemed to just talk about what she was contractually allowed to.  But then she socked her with the crazy, outlandish question “where do you see yourself in ten years?” and JLO was all pensive and surprised by it.  I guess she can act, after all.

LeBron James got the Zuckerberg treatment.  Just a bunch of Barbara’s white noise chatter over other people’s work.

Poor Kate Middleton basically got skewered for getting the Prince.  It was laid out as though she devised a crafty Princess formula that includes being fancy, sucking up, looking hot, not having a serious job, losing your individual identity and keeping her mouth shut for nine years.  Then Babs went on to describe bad marriage choices and unhappy endings that hint at forsaking true love for duty.  It was weird.  Mazel tov!

Why did Barbara keep calling Sarah Palin Governor?  I love how Barbara managed to throw Katie Couric, fellow journalist and public endoscopy recipient, under the bus for exposing Palin as an illiterate hick.  Meow.  Palin then called out some anonymous Republicans as being “impotent and limp and (they are) weak”, hiding behind skirts.  Woof woof.

And drum roll for the mostest fascinating person???  General David Petraeus.  When we discussed it ad nauseam one night, Big Daddy totally gave me the side eye when I suggested he would be THE super secret fascinator.  She made him warm and fuzzy: a People’s General.  Really?!

By far, the most fascinating thing about this “special” was Barbara herself.  I know that she’s old.  I know she had heart surgery over the summer.  But she looked like she had been spackled in Mortician’s Wax and glossed in silicone.  The only thing that moved on her was the mouth.

It’s called Yellow Belt Syndrome

8 Dec

The typical order of karate belt awards goes something like this: white, yellow, orange, green, blue, brown, and finally, black.  I know this because in 6th grade I took karate at night in my middle school cafeteria.  I’m practically an expert.  As a white belt, I was full-up with excitement and vigor.  It fizzled in time for the yellow belt test.  This coincided with realizing I would never really figure out how to tie the belt just right and then acknowledging that the “pajama outfit” turned out to be stiff, came only in white and was not at all cozy.  Besides, who wants to be barefoot in the same room where you saw some kid puke up chocolate milk and crinkle cut fries earlier that week?  I never got my yellow belt.  What was the point?

Hi, I’m Charlotte Ann and I’m a quitter.  I started early and I’ve had heaps of practice to get me to where I am today.  As the caboose of a sometimes-large family, my parents allowed and often encouraged this behavior; I suspect it got them off the hook when they were just tired, over it and didn’t want to drive.  I cut my quitting teeth on the likes of swim team, ballet, gymnastics, ice-skating, the aforementioned karate, track and volleyball (though I only did that one because one of my many, many schools made us participate on a school sport team).  There was the piano and a $400 violin in 1982 money, both of which look rather stately in my living room now.  I quit Brownies, Latin for French, the Quiz Bowl Team, Debate Club, 4-H.  Though I was technically kicked out of Pony Club (thanks Kiersten!), it was really just a forced quit.  Later on, I mastered dropping classes, switching majors, and not finishing law school.  Then there have been the abandoned creative efforts like box painting, gardening, stained glass, needlepoint, scrapbooking, cake decorating, jewelry making and a whole slew of crappy crafts…  If you need any supplies, come on over.  By the way, don’t confuse quitting with lack of commitment.  The former is a choice, the later is a personality disorder.  My personality is just fine, thank you.

Today marks the seventh day of being the master of my own blog.  Or as my niece Frances calls it, a “blawg”.  What does that mean?  Should I stay or should I go?  If I make it a month, I think I have found an award belt…

Yellow doesn't really work for me anyway. This is much better.

I so already came up with that!

2 Dec

You know how you sometimes have an idea that is so brilliant and so obvious that you can’t believe that no one else has already produced, manufactured or published it?  You tell your friends about it and how much moolah is going to pour into your coffers once it gets unleashed to the public.  Then you order another beer, snarf down a bag a Cheetos and don’t really revisit it too much until years later when you see it in an infomercial and exclaim with pride “I so already came up with that”.  Because I am an unsung inventor and arbiter of good taste, this has happened to me at least a dozen times.  Most recently with this:

When this idea first came to me I was in college.  It was the late 1980s and the cultural landscape wasn’t quite the snuggly Benetton ad that it is now.  I laughed myself silly over the untapped possibilities for the Chia brand.  Some of these gems are now dead in the water due to metrosexual manscaping practices that are currently en vogue.  But, the crown jewel of my theoretical collection was a Chia Brother.  Having formed the majority of my pop-culture identity in the 1970s, my muses were The Harlem Globe Trotters and Lamont Sandford.  Oh, the glory that could be of that sienna colored bust sprouting a beautiful, thick flora afro made my heart flutter.   I even envisioned a tiny Black Panther pick for keeping it tidy.

Ultimately, I kept this top-secret vision under wraps because I knew the world couldn’t handle it yet…and it was last call.  To express it openly would have suggested I was racist and subversive.  Kids, times were just different then.

But now, some (ahem) twenty years later , we have a sorta black President of the United States and there has been a sea change.  Joseph Enterprises, the company that makes the Chia line, has said, “Yes we can!”.  The irony is that the ‘fro is no longer in style.  The Obama Chia will have to be clipped twice a week to stay true to its namesake’s hairdo, or lack thereof.  Bummer.

What product have you created that some Johnny-Come-Lately is raking it in with?