Archive | April 2015

This Is Not a Tribute


This is not a tribute post.

This is not a post about the string of glowy, happy memories we had together.  I have memories, sure, but do you really want to hear about the time I met her at Starbucks after her “bad” oncology visit? We sat outside. She drank one of those Naked fresh fruit juices and nibbled on melon slices. She told me how she rescued her dog and how she survived her childhood. I listened, hoping my presence helped her bear the outrage and indignity of the disease’s intrusion into her body and medical establishment’s constant misspelling of her last name.  “Those motherfuckers.”

Before I could claim her as my own, half my friends had already tagged her.  The stories I heard.  She strong-armed D. into on-line dating by getting her professional portraits and writing her profile.  Naturally, D met her husband in less than two weeks, whereupon she was assisted in planning a Hawaiian destination wedding with the help of none other.  You know who.  She of the Channel bags and the Four Seasons suites.  She played mother-of-the-bride, wedding coordinator, travel agent and matron of honor.

I didn’t know her then.

Not all the stories I heard were Mother Hen cum hero tales.  Some of them–  most?– included phantasmagorical viciousness.  She uninvited D. to her own wedding day-of because she didn’t want any “drama.”  She cut people out of her life, was known to accuse friend’s boyfriends of defrauding investors, and became famous in my circle for a steadfast refusal to take care of anyone’s feelings.

By the time I was face-to-face with her, she’d already been sick for two years.  She liked to joke that the cancer made her a shadow of her former “raging bitch self.”  Honestly, I wanted to see her slicing and dicing (so long as it wasn’t my flesh or vital organs).  I saw glimpses, mostly when she’d rail against the incompetence of the doctors involved in her early diagnosis or her mother’s shitty habit of hanging her every disappointment on her.

I guess when you’re fighting for your life and engaged in such tasks as “managing pain with morphine” there’s not much energy left over to get your bitch on.

This morning the texts were ominous.  We’re going to say our goodbyes.  By this afternoon, they were worse.  Putting her in twilight.  I comforted myself by assuring myself we were hardly more than acquaintances.  I was a blip on the radar of her life.  “She was really more of a friend of a friend,” I told a co-worker this morning as I tried to sort myself out for a day of productivity in the shadow of those texts.

I didn’t think about the time she came with me and Sadie to get a manicure, though I almost blurted out at dinner with my children, “Mommy’s friend– the one from the manicure, remember?– is dying tonight.”  I berated myself for borrowing someone else’s sorrows and claiming them as my own.

I decided it would be my job to console my friends who were closer to her.  Sending supportive texts like “Are you okay?” to shaken friends returning from hospital visits.   I sent one to B. who saw her this afternoon. His response betrayed his panic– run-on sentences, frantic fragments about her skeletal appearance, her joy that he’d come.

“Her cousin asked me if I was the writer,” B. reported.  “It appears she told her family about you.”

Me? B’s wrong. That can’t be right. She must know other writers, right?  I rack my brain.  I have no fucking idea what other writers she knows.  B. thought she was talking about me.

Maybe she was.

Maybe this is a tribute post.


The Do’s and Don’ts of Crying in Public

Sometimes I cry, and sometimes I’m in public when the urge strikes.  I’ve learned a lot from crying out in the big wide world, and because I’m a giver, I made a primer.


These are my tips for the fine art of losing your shit in front of strangers.  Pass them along.

1. Do walk a few blocks away from your office. The only thing worse than avoiding strangers who might try to console you on the sidewalk is running into your co-workers who will be full of questions. It will be awkward if you have to lie and say, “Gram’s in hospice” or “I’m pregnant” because you don’t want them to know that the boss who just offered them the corner office by the good copier just offered you a free subscription to

2. Do bring your phone. You don’t have to call anyone. You don’t even need a charged battery. You really just need a phone case. When the urge to keen strikes, hold the phone case up to your ear and wail like it’s the day the music died. Strangers who see you weeping into a cell phone (case) will give you wide berth on the sidewalk. This prop is especially useful for people who like to scream when they cry. It’s much better to scream into your phone (case), “But what’s it all for? I gave them the best years of my life!” than to risk having shop owners trying to eject you from the premises.

3. Do get your brows waxed. This is good for when you’re on the verge of a big cry, but can’t get it out. Head over to a local nail salon. As a non-English-speaking Vietnamese woman named Tammi plucks your brows, the pain will trigger a flood of tears. Tammi will feel terrible, but explain, “It’s not your fault. It’s just that I gave them the best years of my life, and also? You’re tweezing the skin off my forehead.” Later if you have to explain why you are sobbing on the corner of LaSalle and Lake Street, you can point to your eyebrows. “Just got plucked. Hurts like a mother fucker.”

4. Do lean. The best public crying posture is to face a brick building, raise your arms above your head as if you are being frisked by an officer of the law, and let your salty tears drench the dirty city sidewalk. This stance allows you to avoid eye contact and also stretch your deltoids.

5. Do bring Kleenex. Humanity is generally a caring lot. People are going to offer you crumb-dusted tissues pulled from the bottom of their NPR tote bags. Unless you want to blow your nose into a tissue of unknown provenance, you should have your own. If you see someone reaching into her in her bag, or God forbid, into his trouser pocket to hand you a hanky, then wave your travel-size package of tissues and assure them, “I’m good. Thanks.”

6. Don’t compete with panhandlers. If you are public crying in a large urban city, be respectful of the people who are working and living on the streets. Don’t encroach on a homeless person’s turf or the turf of those who are advocating for the poor. This gets tricky during the holidays, a prime season for taking emotions to the streets, because you can’t ever cry in front of Target because SALVATION ARMY.

7. Don’t cry in an Ann Taylor Loft dressing room. You don’t want a twenty-something shop girl stopping by every three seconds to check on you, asking if you want to open an Ann Taylor Loft credit card in order to save extra 10% today. A better retail option for losing your shit is H&M because the music is so loud no one would hear you even if you were bludgeoned to death with a spiked bat.

8. Don’t duck into the foyer of a capital assessment management office building. The security guards tend to be skittish about full-grown women convulsing in spasms of grief. They tend to want to keep the business of mentally falling into shambles far away from the business of making billions of dollars for capital asset managers.

9. Don’t wander over by your therapist’s building, hoping you’ll catch him coming or going. If you “happen” to bump into him, he may charge you for his time, or, if he’s the nervous sort, he may file charges against you. Better to wander anonymously. Perhaps stroll by the local movie house so if you spot someone (say, Tom from accounting who was recently promoted to VP, Business Development), you can tell him you just saw a double feature, Terms of Endearment and Steele Magnolias.

Rosco P. Coltrane and Lessons From The Dukes of Hazzard

Childhood idol: Roscoe P. Coltrane

Childhood idol: Rosco P. Coltrane


In the late 70s and early 80s, I watched a lot of TV. Back then, parents were mere mortals (most of them smoking, drinking Tab and generally oblivious to things like seat belts and sun screen), not hovercrafts. It wasn’t easy to find overlapping television interests with my older-by-only-14-months brother. Where I favored Little House on the Prairie and Guiding Light, he liked the Six Million Dollar Man and Sanford & Son.


There was but one tiny patch of harmony from 1979-1985, a single show that we both embraced along with our Tang and Chips Ahoy. In The Dukes of Hazzard, we found characters we could both love– those rascally Duke boys and the zany cast of characters who chased, reviled, protected, guided and admired them.


Oh the Dukes of Hazzard.


There weren’t a lot of women on the show, except of course Daisy Duke, whose shorts eventually inspired a song by 69 Boyz (also of Tootsee Roll fame and indisputable national treasures, I think we can all agree). Dear old Daisy—she had long hair, tan legs, sparkly teeth, and men were always fawning all over her.


She wasn’t my favorite, though. She never got to do anything fun, except teeter around on those high heels trying to keep her vagina from falling out of her denim fig leaf. (This reminds me of another Dukes character, Cooter Davenport, who was the local mechanic.) I was nothing if not a budding feminist.


My favorite was Rosco P. Coltrane.  Now there was a character. Sure, he was the inept and crooked county sheriff who was buddies with the evil Boss Hogg, but I couldn’t get enough of him. He was better than the Duke boys because his car doors worked.  His dog was cute.  I liked his uniform.  But most of all, I distinctly remember thinking he had the greatest name of any television character I’d ever heard of. (At the time, I thought his name was actually “Rosco Peako Train,” but whatever.) When my brother and I played cops and robbers games down at my grandmother’s farm, I insisted on playing Rosco.


Here’s how it broke down: I wanted to marry Bo Duke, played by the fluffy-haired John Schneider; I wanted to be Rosco P. Coltrane; and I wanted Uncle Jesse to be my sage, next-door neighbor. (In a phenomenal twist of fate, the actor who played Uncle Jesse, Denver Pyle, ended up marrying a woman (Tippie Johnston) from a small town in Texas (Forreston) and lived a half mile from my grandmother’s farm.  I have an autographed picture.)


Having just seen that the actor who played in the indomitable Rosco P. Coltrane left this earth last week, I’m gripped with an urgent need to memorialize the lessons from Dukes of Hazzard. On the off chance that my children (1) learn to read, (2) find this blog, and (3) do not expire from mortification, I’d like them to know the following:


  1. Minor characters are often more interesting than the so-called main protagonists. See Rosco P. Coltrane, Enos Strate, Cooter Davenport, Cletus Hogg. (This is also true of Sanford & Son, whose minor characters include Grady Wilson, Rollo Lawson, Bubba Bexley, et al.)
  2. Always use your middle initial, so you can replicate the greatness of “ROSCO P. COLTRANE.”
  3. Never watch a show that glamorizes the Confederacy, which includes shows that slap the stars and bars on an old beater car that has doors that won’t open.
  4. If you become enamored with a bumble-fuck minor character who has no moral center, I will shuttle you straight to therapy, no matter how cute his hound is.
  5. When you get to therapy, show the good doctor this post as Ex. A, potential white trash roots.
  6. Do not make your name wearing scandalously short shorts because that’s all anyone will remember about you.
  7. Do not launch a country music career after you have made a “chase” show set in a fictional rural town in Kentucky. (Looking at you, John Schneider.)
  8. Don’t bother going back to watch any of the shows from the late 70s or early 80s.
  9. Exception: Go back and watch Sanford & Son.
  10. DO NOT tell Uncle Doug that I ever admitted that Sanford & Son was a seminal show or that Redd Foxx is a fucking genius.
  11. Don’t say “fucking.”
  12. You kids should find something better to do than watch TV.
  13. Don’t call a vagina a “cooter,” even though I was really tempted to do just that above.