Shock Treatment

I’ve been having one of my manic spells this week…not sleeping much, thoughts whirring through my head, cleaning more than I have in the last nine months. I suppose I should give myself credit for recognizing all the signs and being proactive to cycle it down, but it’s almost like a trainwreck in that it’s hard to stop once it starts. I counted money at church on Monday after work and couldn’t get to sleep after that, which carried over to my phone crashing due to an AT&T software upgrade on Tuesday, which then in turn carried over to my truck nearly dying on Wednesday…at which point I had already taken several deep breaths and also thankfully have an intuitive father who had been looking at “new” trucks online for me (how’s that for a run-on sentence?). So once I got my phone fixed got a new phone at AT&T because the Mega I bought off eBay was faulty to begin with, I called my friend who was kind enough to take me to look at this truck my father had found online. Being in such a predicament and short on sleep, I was pretty much sold when I saw it and test drove it. Thus I put the whole truck on my AmEx and thought I was done with the whole deal. Hah, but I still needed to deal with my “dead” truck–not actually dead, but it needs an awful lot of work–so I spent about an hour sitting in another friend’s garage on Wed. before I had to come into work while he worked on *his* car, which was also having issues. He finally conceded that he was probably too busy to look at my truck, so I got a couple of hours of sleep before work and then cleaned out my old truck in the fast food parking lot where it had stalled out. There’s not many things more humbling than doing that at 7:30AM, esp. when dozens of people see you and don’t offer any help…clearly I was cleaning out an abandoned vehicle in my mind only. I did get home that morning and finally got some sleep, just out of desperation. I prayed about whether or not I should keep the truck or sell it…I kept thinking if I had a farm it would make a good “farm truck.” Taylor–that was my truck’s name (Taylor 2.0 is the new Tacoma)–was my baby these last 9 years. I babied it, I petted the dashboard all the time, I talked to it…I did everything but wash him regularly. Good Southern guys don’t ever wash their trucks regularly, do they? (TBH, I hadn’t washed him in 17 months…perhaps that was taking the theory a bit far.)

Fast forward to Fri. morning when I “sold” Taylor to my co-worker and then couldn’t find the title to save my life. Long story short, I was honestly just glad he (my old truck) wasn’t still sitting in the fast food parking lot abandoned, and that I knew he was going to someone who would give him a little TLC. Also fast forward to Sat. afternoon when I finally found my title in a copy paper box under a plethora of greeting cards, casino memorabilia, and these:

I believe I bought these for 25-cents each at a thrift store/drift store which was relocating right after I moved to Vegas, but I’m honestly not even sure. Have I watched any of them? Of course not…and I also have a Jane Fonda one and a Debbie Reynolds one (I actually have watched the Debbie one and it’s amazing). Speaking of which, I’m seeing Debbie tonight (Sun.) here in Las Vegas. It’s her last show before she “retires,” which I don’t believe for a millisecond, but my friend insisted we go after obsessively attending her casino auction for a month and me re-reading her autobiography, so I’m looking forward to it. (Her daughter Carrie Fisher, her son Todd, and her granddaughter Billie are performing with her…it should be sweet. Debbie is 82 going on 83.) Here’s a pic of them from their first show of the 3-night run on Fri. night, at the South Point Casino here in town. And yes, I’m wearing my vintage Debbie Reynolds Casino shirt I won off eBay…

deb carrie billie todd

I wanted to end with how much I’ve noticed this week that I’ve purely said/written/texted/e-mailed things with the intention of getting a reaction outta people. Like, several/too many times to count. It definitely goes with the mania, but I’ve also realized I enjoy doing that in general…shock treatment, if you will. I never mean to be hurtful, but it’s fun not taking things too seriously. And sometimes just saying whatever’s on one’s mind–when bottling it in would drive one to the brink of insanity–is good therapy in a way. Small world: Carrie Fisher has been doing shock treatments for years and raves about them. On that note, I’ll close with a wonderfully campy, quite shockingly ridiculous, 60s Scopitone performance from her mum Debbie Reynolds…here’s the *YouTube link* since WordPress won’t let me embed on here. Hope everyone’s enjoying their fall and getting more rest than I am. I intend to take some extra melatonin on my nights off and catch up on my sleep.

brt

Dirt

So apparently I’m pretty/very terrible at staying away from my blog, even when I’m not blogging. The FL-GA Line song “Dirt” *video link here* got me to thinking about the poem I wrote in my Poetry class five years ago about the dirt road I grew up on. The digital link to that poem is *here*, but I also have it printed out in a binder from the original Microsoft Word file we were required to distribute and copy (X 25) for critique purposes for my Poetry class…thank goodness I worked somewhere with a Xerox machine. I’ll try to scan it (i.e., take a pic of it) some time and add it into the blog, but this song and this poem have been on my heart lately, so here goes…

I’ve never considered myself a poet and even as an English major I steered away from poetry because I never fully understood (appreciated?) it. I only took the above Poetry class in 2009 because it fit in my schedule and I’d heard good things about the professor. Truth be told–and I believe I’ve mentioned this before in my blog–this is the class that changed my writing style and my outlook on writing the most of all the classes I signed up for in college. Because this was an upper level course, by this point in 2009–due in large part to the economy–we all knew (“we”=English majors) that the job market wasn’t in our favour, but we were still majoring in something we loved studying. This same Poetry professor also taught a Master’s course in Poetry and he finally told us towards the end of the semester not to waste our time or money on a Master’s in English, unless we wanted to teach. (I was in the traditional English track and most of my colleagues and myself didn’t plan on teaching.)

I can remember like yesterday, no joke, sitting in this Poetry class and having my poems critiqued week after week. Sometimes we’d go around the tables (we all sat in a rectangle of tables), or sometimes we’d pick randomly whom we’d want to read next. I had some of the most brutal criticism thrown at me that I’ve ever heard to my face…my poem re: Joan Kennedy at the funeral of her ex-husband Ted drew the most criticism, culminating with the professor jokingly calling me, “the voice of a crazed Palm Beach society stalker.” (I defended the poem to the hilt and ended up winning over the class and the professor once I explained watching Ted’s entire funeral and detailing the ways in which he treated Joan during their marriage.) As the semester went on, cliques developed and we became more outspoken with one another. I remember the “kid” in the class–he was probably six or seven years younger than me–who was clearly the darling of the professor and most of the class. As I’m prone to do, I spoke to a couple of my equally-disgruntled colleagues one afternoon following class and we conspired to trip him up on his next reading (the kid was actually a very good poet and very charismatic…also very handsome, which didn’t hurt his case). The next week he read a pretty decent poem, and I was the first to offer “constructive criticism.” He resented it, but barely before he could finish retaliating–which we were allowed to do–the guy sitting next to me offered some more “criticism.” Then our female friend across the room chimed in…we could all tell by his facial expressions that he got the point (and, oh, how we laughed about it on Facebook, OMG!). Poetry is very subjective, just like any sort of art. I’ve never considered myself an artist, but rather merely an appreciator of art. It’s not to be insulted as much as critiqued and appreciated, whether or not you yourself understand/know how to appreciate it fully. I wonder sometimes what that “kid” is doing now.

“You know you came from it…and someday you’ll return to it.”

–FL/GA Line, “Dirt”

Thanks for reading, thanks for the e-mails, and thanks for the comments. I can honestly say I’ve missed blogging, and realizing my Granny would’ve turned 100 years old in eight days has renewed my will to–for lack of a better expression–”keep on keepin’ on.” I must note that I cropped out my Daddy and my middle sister in the photo at the top of the blog…my trust is lost as far as people stealing photos on public forums goes, but I did want to include that one because to my knowledge it’s the only one I’ve got of me on my parents’ dirt road. Perhaps I should take an updated one when I’m home for Thanksgiving? I cannot wait to step foot on that familiar dirt road again soon.

Happy November,

brt

Chinese Checkers

granny frame

There’s no way it’s been a year since my Granny died. I don’t know for sure except that my cousin reminded me on the day her sister’s baby was born a few weeks ago; I had blocked out the date and most of the weeks following entirely and only knew it was some time in October. Sure enough, once I pulled the funeral programme from the folder of materials I used to give the eulogy, the date was right there printed on the front: 10.21.14. It flabbergasts me that it’s been a year, but I’m also glad I’m to the point where I’m having happy dreams about her as opposed to sad dreams I wake up crying from. I still selfishly wish–and would give many things–for the chance to say goodbye. But I remind myself that many people aren’t given that chance, and that bedside goodbyes usually only happen in movies and/or when someone is very ill and in a lot of pain. Granny died peacefully and I need to be happy for that.

I said I wasn’t going to blog for awhile, and I still have no intentions of doing so regularly. I also have no intentions of sharing any personal photos, except the one above is a snapshot of a photo of me and Granny from probably 2002. If anyone steals *that* one, then they’re just desperate and despicable…it’s a snapshot in poor lighting of a framed photo laying on my bedspread. Anyway, I was thinking back to many of the special one-on-one times I spent with my Granny. I went up to her house once when I was enrolled in a Women’s Studies class–appropriately entitled “The Myth of Southern Womanhood”–and she told me all about patchwork quilting and how she had done it for so many years. It still brings tears to my eyes, mainly because I would’ve never had that conversation with her were it not for that silly class. She even gave me a scrap of quilt bordered in rick rack ribbon (she called it a potholder) which I did a sort of raffle for during the presentation in my class, and I made whomever won it promise to take care of the “scrap” because my Granny made it with tender loving care (she was losing her eyesight by that point and couldn’t sew full-sized quilts any longer). Again, the myth of Southern womanhood at work…that scrap of quilt represented more than the material it was made of, and I was glad to share it with some random member of my class.

When my father and my aunt and I were cleaning up my Granny’s house after she moved into the retirement home, we found another old quilt she’d made and I took it to the retirement home to show her. It wasn’t patchwork, but made with pieces of store-bought, printed fabric which apparently she herself didn’t value as much. She took a look at it and responded, “Oh, that’ll be good for throwing over some plants in the winter out on the porch.” I was appalled and asked her if I could just keep it instead. She said of course, and then she kept it temporarily herself and had one of the ladies down the hall from her wash it and sew a new grosgrain ribbon border around it. I have it here with me in Las Vegas now and pull it out during the winter and put it over my bed, as opposed to plants out on the porch.

There’s a lot of things I wish I could change about my relationship with my Granny. But it’s just that…wishful thinking, and all the therapy I’ve undergone has taught me not to entertain those ideas. And apparently she’s gone, though I still do find that hard to believe. There’s a lot she didn’t know about me, and perhaps it’s all for the better. I still miss her an awful lot and it’s hard to go home knowing I won’t be visiting her. She taught me how to play Chinese Checkers on the oval braided rug covering her beautiful hardwood living room floor. I’d also give anything to have that old, cardboard Chinese Checkers board; I see similar ones all the time in antique stores for $50+. Not that I’d buy another one and not that I’d sell hers if I had it, mind you. Life is a lot like that vintage, cardboard Chinese Checkers board in that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone, as the song goes. I knew my Granny was special and I knew I’d miss her, but I also foolishly always thought I’d get to say goodbye to her. That’s something I need to get over and I realize it. I’m 34 going on 35 and was blessed to have her for a very long time–twice as long as my Nana, 10 years longer than my Pop-Pop, and I never did know my Granddaddy (my Granny’s husband). With that, I’ll end here. I miss you, Granny. And you are still here, in my heart and many others. You’re very much still here.

brt

The Sleeve Has Run Out

camille ciao

When I started this blog on the recommendation of a college professor, it was to be a platform for my professional writing skills and one which I could hyperlink on my electronic resume, etc. Over the course of five or however many years later, it became something much more personal than that…a child which I babied, coddled, promoted, pushed into the spotlight, and bragged about when I felt it had come into its own. A week ago today, I realized someone on Facebook had stolen a photo from a blog I wrote two years ago. A photo of my beloved Granny which I myself took at her request, and this person used it as the illustration for a joke that now has over 725K “Likes” and 370K “Shares.” I’ve asked the gentleman to remove the photo, I’ve reported him, and thus far nothing has been done about it (others have reported him as well). Clearly if I had it all to do over again, I would never have shared that treasured photo on this blog. Even though it perfectly illustrated my point about how much I loved my Granny–and how glad she was to see me the first time I visited home from Las Vegas–I regret that it will now be online forever and linked to that joke which I have no say in or control over. As I said on Facebook when I found out about the pic being stolen, this truly is why we can’t have nice things.

cobra bitch slap

So this is where I leave you for now, my fair readers, subscribers, and–yes–you picture-stealers and GIF Googlers. (Besides the Lee Radziwill blog, the GIFs and memes have routed the most traffic to the site…and I myself pilfered all those off of Tumblr!) We all need a break from time to time, even from the things we love. My faith in humanity has not been ruined by one thoughtless person, but I do not intend on being taken advantage of again. Nor do I want to put my loved ones, friends, or anyone else in that position. It’s time to step back and take a break for awhile and put everything in perspective. I’ve not been blogging very regularly anyway, and I actually get many more hits when I don’t blog than when I post a new one (Murphy’s Law?). With that, I’m out for now. I have run outta sleeve to wear my heart on, as my patented saying goes. And yes, I give anyone who wants to permission to steal that from me. Until I return, thanks as always for the support. I’ll be back sooner than later, I’m sure.

brt

the hills lauren conrad goodbye

A Piece of Work

joan a piece of work

I bought Joan Rivers’s 1986 book Enter Talking for $1 in the thrift shoppe of the Stroke Recovering Centre in Palm Springs the day before she nearly died having minor throat surgery. That was over a week ago and she died yesterday. I’ve yet to crack open the book. I’ve always had an affinity for Joan and that affinity multiplied by 10,000 after I watched her 2010 documentary entitled–very fittingly–Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work a few years back on Netflix. As I wrote on Facebook yesterday after waking up in the afternoon and learning of her death, “Joan Rivers truly was a piece of work. This is a still of her from her documentary from a few years back, fittingly entitled ‘Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work’. Behind the outspoken facade was a soft-spoken woman with many emotional scars, who loved her family very much. RIP, Joan.” I also found this series of GIFs on Tumblr which I screen capped and shared.

joan one big movieIt’s a character study of sorts how the death of a celebrity whom you never met strikes a chord with you. When Robin Williams died, I didn’t feel much of anything except a sense of mourning for his family. When Liz Taylor died, she’d been in such pain for so many years that I knew she was relieved to be in a better place. But Joan–oh, lively, vivacious, kicking-and-screaming Joan Rivers–even at 81 she seemed to be taken away entirely too soon. The fact is that if her prognosis had been life in a wheelchair or life without a clear voice, she would not have wanted that. It pains me to type that, but it’s the truth. She died as she lived; keeping everyone on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what would happen next. Rest in peace, Joan Alexandra Molinsky Rosenberg.

“Life is so much fun. It’s one big movie.”–Joan Rivers

I hate to tack this on, and I probably shouldn’t. But it was actually going to be my blog this week before Joan died (I really thought she was going to pull through). Clearly the title wouldn’t have been A Piece of Work; even yesterday morning I had been thinking of something along the lines of, These Are a Few of My Eccentricities. But I, too, am a piece of work. I’m never on time for work, as hard as I try. I refuse to text; I can’t be bothered typing on my phone so much. I don’t own a hair dryer (apparently that’s how my hair stays so malleable and soft, per my hair stylist). I keep a plethora of snacks on my bedside table–Kroger-brand Cheez-Its are a staple. I drink straight out of 2-litre Diet Cokes (also Kroger-brand). I don’t use my rear-view mirror whilst driving b/c I don’t trust it (I’d rather crane my neck and look back, even in gridlocked traffic). I don’t ever use sunscreen even though I know I should. I could go on and on, but I’d seem admittedly (more) self-absorbed, especially since this blog isn’t really supposed to be about me, given the circumstances.

I’ll end with this: I have a propensity for saying things that perhaps I shouldn’t say out loud. Joan Rivers was very astute at that. It doesn’t make it right, but it makes us both a piece of work. Here’s to you, Joan. And thanks for all the laughs. Here’s a link to her *comeback interview* on the The Tonight Show several months ago, after being banned for 28 years by Johnny Carson and Leno. There’s many other Joan Rivers jokes and quotables which I could share, but I really like the one above which she shared with her daughter about life being a fun movie. (Perhaps I’ll do another blog once I read her book.) So I’ll end here…hope everyone has a great weekend, and thanks as always for reading this piece of work.

brt

Catty, Corny Challenge

I made a pledge on my Facebook to post these GIFs of a cat eating corn if I got 10 “Likes” on the screen shot I took of the GIFs (GIFs aren’t allowed on FB, hence I put so many of them here on my blog). In the “challenge,” I stated that I’d either post the GIFs as a stand-alone blog or donate $10 to my own bank account (cue the sarcasm, if you couldn’t tell). I only got 3 “Likes,” but I’m still posting the GIFs (mainly for my own amusement) and I’m also donating $50 to Imagine No Malaria, which is an initiative by the United Methodist Church to end malaria. To be quite frank, there’s plenty of people dumping gallons of clean, perfectly good ice water on their heads when plenty of children in Africa don’t know what cold, clean drinking water is. We flush our toilets full of sanitized water multiple times a day. It’s no laughing matter to me when people are wasting all this perfectly good water to raise $$$ for a cause, no matter what it is. So yeah, I invented my own challenge and donated accordingly.

I think it’s a shame we’ve resorted to such gimmicks to fund medical research in this day and age. That being said, plenty of things being sold rely on gimmicks, whether it be pop music or candy bars. Kudos to the ALS for all the $$$ they’ve raised. I think it’s one thing for teams to dump leftover ice from the sidelines on a coach or player, but all the clean drinking water and ice that’s been wasted on this fundraiser quite frankly disgusts me. But that’s just my opinion and we’re all entitled to our own thoughts on such issues. On that note, enjoy the cat eating the corn…no clean drinking water or ice was wasted frivolously posting these to my blog.

Stay cool, everyone!

brt

[Off my catty soapbox now]

Mix Tapes

tape recorder gif

“The question that dances like a firefly in my mind is: Are we following a pre-written chronicle of our lives that’s unfolding as a surprise to us but that is as planned as a Disneyland ride? Or do we have free will, and a set of lessons to learn, which, if we don’t get them the first time, will come back in a different form until we do?”–Stephanie Beacham, ‘Many Lives’, pages 3-4.

I’m currently reading La Beacham’s–AKA Sable Colby’s–autobiography in which she goes into much detail about her past lives. I can’t say this is something I believe in, so I continue muddling through it in hopes of her dishing a bit of old fashioned showbiz gossip. But she does share some thought-provoking quotes, such as the one above. Her spiritual connection to God is very evident, and I can appreciate that for sure.

The current #1 album in America is the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy, subtitled Awesome Mix Vol. 1. I’ve not seen the movie, so I’ve no clue if a second volume is in the works/exists/is being planned for the already greenlit sequel. The noteworthy thing about this soundtrack reaching #1 is that all the songs are from the 70s, which makes them all 35+ years old. Apparently this sort of phenomenon has never happened (a whole album of vintage tunes reaching the top spot). Pretty cool in 2014, right? I saw the GIF above on Tumblr and it reminded me of the tape recorder I had growing up. I still have it, actually, and use it to play my old mix tapes from high school on every once in awhile. Okay, I won’t lie, I was still making a few mix tapes when I lived in Nashville, and that was 2003-06. But the memories I have of laying in bed at night with my boombox on my nightstand, waiting for the next hit to play on the radio so I could hit “Record” and capture it on the tape loaded in the double deck. (That boombox long ago bit the dust.) And the travesty of when the tape ran out during the middle of a great song I was capturing…it still makes me cringe! I was usually insightful enough to pop out the tape beforehand and tell if I only had a bit left on it, but if I was on a roll of recording, it would inevitably happen that the tape would run out and I’d have to pop it out lightning-fast to let the song continue recording on the other side. I didn’t really ever make mix tapes for anyone else; just for me to listen to in my car and in my room. Some were heavy on the hits and some were admittedly lackluster. I went through all of them before I moved out to Las Vegas and brought only the cream of the crop with me. It’s funny once I pop one in that I can usually predict what the next song is going to be on the tape. That’s how many times I’ve listened to most of them over the years.

La Beacham’s quote got me to thinking about how our lives are a bit like a collection of old mix tapes…many times we feel as though we can predict what’s coming up next around the bend. Sometimes our lives are a series of hits; other times our existence might seem a bit lackluster. Life–like the songs–can be upbeat and pulsing or seemingly sad and slow. We certainly have a degree of power over what route this takes, but it’s often times out of our control. I think of my friend Chris recovering from his stroke; that’s absolutely nothing he would’ve ever chosen to deal with, nor would any of us who are close to him. One gets through such events, pops the tape out, and turns the tape over in hopes of hearing/living “a better song.”

tape GIF

So are our lives pre-written? I don’t believe so, but I don’t know that for sure. I do think God gives us the free will to make good and poor decisions, and the chances to learn from those decisions. And heaven help us if the mix tape gets eaten up by the tape player…hah! We’re never alone, though…never. That I do know. Life is indeed a mixed bag–a mix tape of hits and misses–but we are indeed never alone, by the grace of God.

brt

Diction

The older (and hopefully, wiser) I get, I have learned the hard way that it’s better to hold my tongue about many things. I read a quote awhile back to the effect of, “Maturity is realizing how many things don’t require your comment.” One knows when a valuable lesson is being/has been learned because it sticks with you each and every day, as that quote has with me. There are several things I could/would like to comment on right now; I’m restraining my fingers from typing about them as examples, because maturity is also realizing that’s a very passive-aggressive tactic of *still* commenting on them (i.e., “how _______ is in trouble with the law” or “how _______ won’t return my calls”). Funny thing is, I’ve been both of those “i.e.s” at one/many points in my life, so I also shouldn’t be judging those people. Not to mention I could be one of those “i.e.s” in the future, especially the latter as I’m notorious for not returning calls promptly.

Sabella Colby, as played by Stephanie Beacham

I’ve been rewatching one of my favourite guilty pleasures online: the ill-fated ‘Dynasty’ spin-off ‘The Colbys’. It aired from 1985-87 on ABC–sometimes right after ‘Dynasty’, sometimes in its time slot (to trick viewers), and at the time it got cancelled it was airing opposite ‘Cheers’ (enough said). It was a stellar cast made up of Oscar winners Charlton Heston and Barbara Stanwyck–accompanied by the brilliantly British Stephanie Beacham–as well as some players brought over from ‘Dynasty’ and some eye candy in the form of Maxwell Caulfield. The main thing which has struck me about the show is the diction: Barbie Stanwyck was a pro at enunciating, for starters. And no one of a certain age can mistake Charlton Heston’s booming voice. Then we have the lovely Stephanie Beacham. I’ve always been a sucker for a posh British accent…Joan Collins, Hayley Mills, you name it. I’d forgotten how much I loved Beacham’s accent until I’ve been re-watching the series. In fact, I’ve been mimicking her myself at all hours of the day; my roommate caught me just the other day doing one of her, “Dahhhhhhhlings” to myself as I came down the stairs with my laundry. It’s the enunciation of the “T” at the end of words which particularly stands out to me. As a Southerner, this is something I dropped the moment I came out of the womb, I believe. Diahann Carroll is also a pro at enunciating; she guest starred on several episodes of ‘The Colbys’ as a crossover from ‘Dynasty’. Her ex’s name was Garrett and she literally pronounced it, “GarretT.” So yes, I’ve been practicing my enunciation as of late. I’m still very clumsy with it, but I just had to re-record my outgoing voicemail message for the first time in roughly 1o years and one of my friends told me I sounded so, “Harsh and serious.” Well, I was enunciating…using proper diction. It can come off harsh and serious, but it’s also fun to do after a lifetime of dropping the consonants off the ends of words. “Hello, darlin’,” anyone?!?

Maxwell Caulfield, AKA MIles Colby

Maxwell Caulfield, AKA MIles Colby

Here’s a *fun clip* from ‘The Colbys’ if anyone is bored and so inclined to take one of my informal, 80s-tastic elocution lessons. In the meantime, hope everyone’s enjoying their summer. And take it from me: It pays to think before you speak. Especially when commenting on someone else’s decisions. Use that energy in a more positive way; say, to improve how you yourself say things. Just a thought, dahhhhhlings.

brt

Back to Black(berry)

Baking in the heat, along with my mobile

Baking in the heat, along with my mobile, out of sight to the R

A couple of days ago I was doing some long overdue laying out. I’d laid out a tiny bit in Palm Springs whilst visiting my friend Chris, but no more than a few minutes at a time. This was the first time I’d purposely decided to lay out without any cares, at least for 30 minutes or so. Well–and I must laugh now–such was not the case. Even just having my phone out in the heat that long fried it…it spazzed out and I ended up taking it during a freak desert thunderstorm to my local AT&T store, where my options were to purchase a new one for $______ ($500+), or wait until I’m due for a renewal in 90 days and go from there. So I went home to fetch my old phone, which was coincidentally a Blackberry which my sister had given me after my previous phone died in the rain in Kennesaw, nearly three years ago. The staff at the store were more than gracious enough to switch out the SIM cards (kudos to the testament of AT&T customer service right there), and I got home and charged the four year-old phone. Once it was up and running, I hated it. Like, LOATHED it. I’ve never been one to covet a cell phone, but this one seemed so old and out of date! I had my little hissy fit and calmed myself down; “I can tolerate this for 90 days,” I told myself. It’s just a dumb phone, and all I use it for is to take calls, take a few pics, and check my Facebook when I don’t have my laptop handy. I took a pic…it must’ve been 2 megapixels, max. FML, I thought. All of a sudden, I no-holds-barred was coveting a new phone, though I was ashamed to admit it. (Not really, though…the pic I took was horrendous…I won’t even share it here. I’ve decided to just start toting my digital camera around to take pics until I get a new phone…which is what I used to do before I had this Samsung Note which just melted down.)

Then I thought back to a video I’d also–coincidentally, no joke–watched on YouTube earlier in the day. I’d actually been watching videos on a channel I subscribe to re: abandoned places. Most of them are abandoned amusement parks, abandoned rides inside amusement parks…you get the picture…kind of silly fun. Well, YouTube suggested one to me entitled, China’s Empty Cities House 64 Million Empty Apartments.” I couldn’t resist watching, even though I’d seen another YouTube video on China’s ridiculous, non-sensical overbuilding phenomenon awhile back. WordPress won’t let me insert the link properly, but here it is…watching this put all my  #whitewhine cell phone debacleness in perspective. I have a roof over my head, I have my own bathroom, I live in a very nice, cookie cutter subdivision in a country where our government doesn’t–how shall I put this delicately–do many things with our $$$ which aren’t helpful to the high majority of the population. Anyway: here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm7rOKT151Y The whole video is astounding, but if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, start at 8:20 to see the story of the Beijing couple living in their 1-BR slum down a long alley. That’s essentially what I thought back to when I had my little meltdown over reverting to a four year-old phone. This couple has a daughter they only get to see once a year; they share a sink/bathroom/common outdoor kitchen area with what I gathered was about 10 other 1-BR apartments. Right then and there, where are the validity of my complaints? Cutting to the chase, do I think it’s any coincidence I viewed this video on the same day I experienced such a–and i use HUGE quotes–“such a material loss?” The answer, very clearly, is not at all. I still have a phone…I still have my own room, my own bathroom, an indoor kitchen I only share with three other people, and I can fly home to see my family any time I dang well please. Forget frying a cell phone whilst laying out in a clean, open-air backyard…those are small (fried) potatoes.

The "ancient" Blackberry I'm using...doesn't it look all new and shiny polished up?

The “ancient” Blackberry I’m using…doesn’t it look all new and shiny polished up?

There’s not much more I need to say except that I’m impossibly humbled. Please take the time to watch the video link I shared above…you’ll concur with me. Hope everyone’s having a safe and happy summer. My friend Chris is making great strides in his recovery from his stroke…thanks for all the prayers and concerns sent his way. He’s now able to stand and make small sounds out of his vocal cords. I’m thankful every single day that he’s made such progress in such a relatively small amount of time.

Be thankful for what you’re given, and when it’s given to you when you need it most.

BRT

Like an Old Pair of Tennis Shoes

We had a garage sale as a fundraiser for Class Cabinet during my 9th grade year and for some reason this anecdote has stuck in my head all these years later. One of the popular cheerleaders–I won’t name names because of Google searches–was getting mercilessly teased by another one for not putting her dirty, sweaty Asics tennis shoes in the sale which she’d had since she was like 12 years old. First of all–and bless her heart–the girl was wearing them on her feet right then. Secondly, and in her own words, “They’re my favourite pair of shoes. They’re worn in and I don’t know what I’d do without them.” She didn’t put them in the sale and for all I know she still has them to this day, 19 years later. (I doubt that, but she was a sweet girl and it makes me laugh that this is my main memory about her, because there are so many, much classier memories that should outrank this silly one.)

When I went to visit my friend Chris again a couple of weeks ago, I was so very nervous because it was the first time I was going to see him since he was conscious after his stroke. I knew he still wasn’t able to talk, so when I finally tracked him down after figuring out he’d been transferred between rehab facilities, I just held his hand. I stroked his hair and held his hand for awhile, excused myself and cried in the bathroom, and came back and held his hand some more. He’d just been moved about 70 miles that day and I didn’t feel like BS-ing with him about what a nice place he’d been moved to…it’s nice, but it’s a nice nursing home. I don’t know anyone my age who’d be happy somewhere like that. Anyway I went back the next day and he seemed to be in better spirits, as I was, too, after plenty of rest and laying out a bit at my hotel in Palm Springs. I’d brought a card and a small potted plant and read the card to him; he teared up and tried to talk, which is impossible with the trach in his throat. I told him he’d be able to talk soon and he shook his head, “No.” I told him that wasn’t true; that he’d be back to normal soon, but it would just take some time. He shook his head, “No” again. My heart was broken, so I just sat there with him not knowing what else to say, holding his hand and stroking his hair from time to time. He finally motioned towards his lips and I thought he wanted to tell me something. Knowing he couldn’t talk, I held my ear up to his mouth anyway. He kissed my ear. Touched, I kissed his forehead and told him I loved him…that we all loved him and that he’d be better very soon if he just did everything they told him to do in rehab. He cried and shook his head to the negative again and pressed his buzzer for the nurses. I excused myself and went into the bathroom and just sat on the toilet and sobbed. I came back in and kissed Chris and told him I’d see him again soon.

This past week my ex messaged me on Facebook and wanted to meet for coffee that morning (well, I don’t drink coffee, but to meet at at coffee shoppe). We chatted a bit online and then I called him once I got off work. The call lasted less than 25 seconds…he was rushing me off the phone so fast I hardly had time to think. Then it all came rushing back to me…all the lectures, all the one-sided conversations, all the instances last summer when I depended on him for my validation. My therapist hit the nail on the head last year: I’d put him up on a pedestal, and it had all come crashing down when he didn’t meet those expectations (and I didn’t meet his). I told him thanks, but no thanks to coffee. Why, then–even for a moment–did it feel right to meet up with him? Perhaps because–and I apologize for the comparison and the repetitive sentence structures right off the bat–he’s like an old pair of tennis shoes. In all honesty, I thank the Lord for the flash of insight. That being said, it got me to thinking about Chris back in the nursing home. I was at a total loss for how to comfort him. When I used to stay with him in Palm Springs, he had a(n extremely uncomfortable) double bed that we’d share and sometimes we’d cuddle during my stay with him. We’d go for long periods without saying a word to one another, even when we were both awake. It was never anything serious or intense, but I realize now that’s what I reverted back to when I was visiting him this last time. Embarrassing? Perhaps. Did it comfort him? Yes. Was it like a slipping on a comfortable, old shoe? Sure. But not a sweaty, dirty one I’d give up at a 9th grade garage sale. He’s a person, and one whom I care about very much. And no, I don’t know what I’d do without him.

So I’m not sure exactly where I was going with this confessional. And the horse tripping backasswards over the fence in the GIF at the top of the blog? That’s about how I feel right now…stumbling around and making lots of mistakes as I go along. I know this much: God gives us as much as we can handle when we can handle it, with His help. We can’t do it without Him, nor should we try. Notice the pause right before the horse darts off to its undoing…this Bible verse has been in my head this past week (paraphrasing here): “Be still and know that I am God.” I’ve been taking a lot more time to stop all the whirring thoughts, all the over-thinking, and to just be still. There’s nothing I can do to change the current circumstances, but I can pause and be still to change how I react to them. Sometimes that’s all I need to do…just do nothing and be still.

brt

You Are Loved

In the past week I’ve sent a get well card, a graduation card, an anniversary card, and am getting my nephew’s third birthday card ready to send to him. The get well card was for my friend Chris, whom I wrote about in my previous blog. His condition has greatly improved–he’s conscious, for starters–and I plan on visiting him again next week in the private hospital he’s been moved to for rehab after the stroke he suffered. I picked out a sort of silly card to make him laugh, but I found myself writing very heartfelt sentiments in it: “You are loved. You have so very many people praying for you.” That sort of thing. I dropped the card in the mail and my thoughts turned to last summer when we reconnected. He’d moved from Palm Springs to LA and then back again, and the first time I saw him again in Palm Springs last July we had some very–well–heartfelt conversations while we laid out and soaked in the Jacuzzi at his condo. He confided to me that he was lonely and afraid he’d be single forever. I was in a fragile place emotionally and was at a complete loss for words; I think I finally mustered up something half-assed like, “Quit looking and he’ll come along outta nowhere.” Which is true, but looking back now…why couldn’t I have said out loud what I wrote in the card the other day? Why did it take him nearly dying for me to remind him he’s loved by so many people? (Romantic love is overrated, but that’s an entirely different blog.) It’s somber occasions like that and giddy accomplishments like graduations, birthdays, and anniversaries that we save those deep sentiments for. Very few of us throw them around at will except with our families and significant others. Maybe that should change; it’s easier said than done. Actually, it’s not easy to say, which is the whole challenge.

For whatever reason, WordPress won’t let me insert this video directly into the blog like I thought it would, so here’s the link to Josh Groban’s 2006 song “You Are Loved,” which I pawned this blog title from. It’s a great song and I intended to quote some of the lyrics, but instead I want to end with these words from Maya Angelou. She passed away yesterday at the age of 86 after living a wonderfully fulfilling life in which she blessed us with so many quotes chock-full of wisdom, humility, and self-awareness. So listen to Josh’s song if you’d like, and enjoy these words from the gifted wordsmith Dr. Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’ I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

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Neon-Shirted Trail Guide

I woke up yesterday afternoon after three hours of sound sleep. There was no way I could sleep any longer. Without hesitation, I hopped in my truck, leaving my cell phone and my wallet behind. I’d found an elusive, lesser known trail branching off of Red Rock proper several days previous and I wanted to go back there to clear my head. After the 15-minute drive, I parked in the rest area-like parking lot and began walking the opposite way I had the first and previous time I’d been there. The further I got down the trail, the more the tears came into my eyes and began falling down my face. My friend Chris is in ICU out in Palm Springs; I’d just messaged him a few days ago to tell him I’d be out again on Monday, but that I’d booked a hotel room, since I felt like I was always imposing by staying with him. We agreed to hang out while I was out there, even though he was going to pick up overtime at work and wouldn’t have his normal Mon/Tues nights off. (He works overnight at a hotel front desk like I do.) His cell phone never has a signal in the condo he rents, so I hardly ever talk to him on the phone. Seeing on my Facebook feed that he was admitted to the hospital on Saturday night, I was stunned. I still don’t know what’s happened to him or how he’s doing, except that he’s supposedly in stable condition. I’m driving out later today as scheduled and plan to visit him during visiting hours.

As I walked down the trail, my eyes were blurred from the tears. I’d foolishly worn my trusty Reebok slide sandals, which necessitated stopping every now and then to fetch out a stray rock caught under my open-toed feet. One of the times I stopped, I looked back and saw someone approaching from a distance behind me in a neon yellow shirt. The person appeared to be a runner, so I started measuring my pace against how fast I assumed he/she was running so I’d be prepared to let them pass. The person didn’t catch up and didn’t catch up and there was a fork in the trail, so I continued straight ahead and hoped maybe they’d fork off. Frustrated by the thoughts whirring in my mind and wondering why this mysterious runner hadn’t caught up to me, I finally stopped in my tracks and turned around. Less than 20 feet behind me was the neon-shirted person, who–now that I could clearly see her–was hiking just like me, not running at all. She greeted me and commented that we seemed to be the only ones out on that part of the trail. I could tell my face was still tear-stained and I felt like a mess, but she didn’t seem to notice as she smiled and commented on the gorgeous spring weather. I asked her how far the trail went and she told me it wound around the mountains ahead of us, under the highway running slightly parallel, and/or deep into the Red Rock park, depending on which fork you took. And then she said this:

“You might’ve noticed all the pink plastic tags every 50 feet or so. I’m part of a 100-mile run that’s been going on this weekend. In fact, everyone’s finished except for one runner. We think she has about three miles left and that’s why I’m out here in my neon shirt, hoping I spot her and she spots me. It’s been a great weekend and we’d hate to lose anyone.”

I was barely able to wish her luck as she headed briskly on her way, and then I lost it. All the tears I thought I’d cried out poured freely again. I realized how even though my friend being in intensive care has nothing to do with me, it absolutely scares the hell outta me. How do I drive four hours and visit someone in a hospital room who may not even know I’m there? I don’t know how to do that because I’ve never had to do it before. And then I thought, I don’t have to do this; I’m really good when it comes to avoiding responsibility. But as I dried my tears and looked forward down the trail, I saw the race guide in the bright neon shirt and I realized she didn’t have to go in search of the missing runner, either…she wanted to be doing it. That’s what people who care about others do; they suck it up, block out their own fears, and blaze down the trail as efficiently as they can to help those in need. Besides which, we’re never on the trail alone, even when we feel like we are. Just like that neon-shirted guide who knew that many-miled trail like the back of her hand, God knows exactly where we’re going and where we are long before we get there. And He meets us there, just as she was willing to do for that last, lone, weary runner. My heart was broken upon realizing the simple metaphor of all this. I’d been doubting myself and fearing the trip to Palm Springs so much that I’d forgotten I wasn’t going it alone. The hot pink plastic ribbon tags blowing in the breeze every 50 feet on the way back to my truck reminded me I wasn’t alone on the trail, either.

The point of sharing all this is that the last 30 or so hours have been a hefty lesson in maturity to me. I’ve been incredibly sheltered during my life; the few times I’ve visited someone in the hospital it’s usually been a grandparent. And feeling how I feel right now, I also realize I have no clue what my parents were feeling when their parents were in the hospital. I still don’t know how that feels, and I hope to heaven I don’t know any time soon. But none of us are guaranteed an easy road…or an easy trail. I wish I could sit here and recount some heartwarming conversation that Chris and I had the last time we “really talked.” Truth be told, the convo was about how we both wish we had better jobs and how we can’t believe we’re doing what we’re doing at age 34 (he’s the same age as me). It’s all so bizarre…whatever life-threatening has happened to him was not supposed to happen. But it has happened, it has nothing to do with me, and I need to be man enough to drive out and visit him. That’s the point where I find myself, scared and ill-prepared.

Sometimes there’s no heartwarming way to end a blog, either. Except that I know I’m not alone on this journey, and I’m grateful for that. Eternally grateful.

brt

Gruntled

I ran across this post on Tumblr and have pretty much had a field day trying to make gruntled  happen (it’s the new “fetch,” y’all). Not really, but I’ve said it a few times. It just sounds so…negative. But I thought I’d share it on here since I’ve gotten such a kick out of it. And yes, I’m indeed feeling gruntled these days.

It’s been awhile since I last blogged a “real” blog; a month, in fact. Ironically, I’ve had more hits in the last month than in any one month since I’ve written the blog. All those hits definitely forced a huge hit to my sometimes self-aggrandizing nature, and so I chose to step back and take some time off while the blog continued to propel itself. The truth is I wrote two blogs that are still sitting in my drafts unpublished. I had someone near and dear to me tell me I have a bad habit of involving everyone around me in my trials and tribulations, and it hurt to hear that. But then I read a quote–on Tumblr as well–to the effect of, “If you tell two or three people about your problem, you’re seeking advice. If you tell more people than that, you’re just seeking attention.” And I think for all practical purposes that’s probably true. Not to sound coarse, but I have a bit of the attention whore streak in me. That feeds into the addiction to drama, and I’ve certainly been doing my darndest to distance myself from that. I have a good life which I’m trying to uncomplicate on a daily basis; there’s no reason to bitch and complain. We all have our challenges and one can either go to therapy and deal with them or it’s probably best to keep your trap shut and let the bad times pass. Because they always do.

On the sobriety front, I am doing well. I’ve had a couple of relapses, the last of which was one of the one-day, ending-in-bad-results kind (vomiting in bed all day). I share this matter-of-factly because I’m in a good place where I know I don’t need to drink. There’s really nothing else to be said about it, except that I’m proud of all the progress I’ve made in the last year. While I may have stumbled, I’ve gotten up, kept going, and am determined to be happy and seek out unfettered peace of mind in appropriate avenues away from alcohol. I no longer feel the need to have my sobriety validated by anyone, or to dramatize the issue or drag anyone else into it. It’s something I’m doing for me because I want to feel my best each day, and I honestly feel so much better when I don’t drink.

On the relationship front, I’m trying to dial down the speed dating concept I had going on because that became exhausting and the stories quit being funny, quite frankly. I had brunch with a guy on Sunday whom I literally have absolutely. nothing. in. common. with. Super nice, handsome guy whom I’ve chatted with online pretty much since I lived in Vegas, but just no connection. I enjoy my own company too much, perhaps…but then again I say I’m lonely and don’t want to end up alone. I’m simultaneously reading Jennie ’90210′ Garth’s autobiography and a bio on Tennessee Williams (because that’s how I roll when I check out books from the library), and it’s fascinating in a way to me that they both dealt with a great deal of loneliness in their lives. Jennie still does, obviously, being as how she’s very much alive. A reminder again that we all have issues, and it’s all in how we deal with them. Jennie turns to her ranch for peace of mind and contentment, since she grew up on a farm. Tennessee turned to his alcohol and sex addictions. A telling reminder that we all make choices; some good, some bad, some which fulfill us, some which destroy us.

I hope everyone is having a great Holy Week and is gruntled enough to experience a very Happy Easter. I’ll be sharing mine with my family back home in Georgia, and for that I truly do feel extremely and unabashedly gruntled.

Until next time,

brt

Best Ever

Untitled

This isn’t so much a full-fledged blog entry, but a thank-you to whomever linked my blog to QVC.com yesterday. Out of my personal best 228 views yesterday, 39 were referred from the QVC message boards, and 145 of the total views were of my Lee Radziwill blog. Not to toot my own horn–well, actually that’s exactly what I’m doing!–I knew when I wrote that one and assembled all the accompanying photos that it was one of my best. Mainly because a lot of my heart at the time was invested in that piece, and it by far took the longest to compose of any blog I’ve written thus far. Ms. Radziwill is a fascinating, polarizing personality; if I might say, I’m reading a 2013 bio on Ava Gardner right now that pales in comparison to the one I read on Lee. Coincidentally, the defining difference between the two is that Lee confronted her alcoholism and Ava chose to wallow in hers. (This coming from a stolid Ava fan who’s read her 1990 autobiography. The one I’m currently reading is Ava Gardner: The Personal Conversations written by her chosen ghostwriter Peter Evans, who was sued by her ex-husband Sinatra and fired by Gardner herself for planning a more factual autobiography. The one he finally published last year is harrowingly factual. Based on their recorded conversations, Ava was inebriated most of her last few years.)

So thanks for the views, thanks for the links, thanks for the comments, thanks for the clicks and referrals…it’s all much appreciated and (yes, I must admit) makes me feel validated in the work I’ve done on here. I just renewed the SouthernAristocracy.org domain name for another year, so here’s to a great year ahead, chock-full of many more inspired posts.

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ReLentless Pursuit of Optimism

“Part of the fun of working on ['Son of Ali Baba'] was getting to spend a lot of time with Davy Sharpe, the stuntman who was my stand-in. Over his career, Davy appeared in more than forty-five hundred films–no one knows the exact number–which means he may have appeared in more films than anyone else in US film history. [...] Davy was twenty years older than I was, in his forties, but he was a superb athlete. He could take off his hat and fling it up in the air without looking at it, and it would always land on his head. When Davy was rehearsing, he always had a cigar in his mouth, and he could throw the cigar up in the air and catch that between his teeth. One time early in his career, a director filmed a rehearsal scene without telling him, and Davy vowed never to let that happen again. That was why he always kept a cigar in his mouth during rehearsal. He knew the director would ask him to take the cigar out when it was time to roll film. Davy was always upbeat, and a joy to be around. His signature line was, ‘I greet you with cordiality and good cheer.’” (page 135)

–From ‘American Prince: A Memoir’ by Tony Curtis

I purposely postponed writing this blog, hoping the funk I was in would pass and I’d feel more upbeat. One of the things I wanted to give up for Lent was entertaining negative thoughts. I read somewhere that it’s not so much what happens to us as how we *think* about what happens to us which determines our reactions. And I think–quite literally–that’s true. All that said, I feel as though I’ve done a decent job of exercising the optimistic outlook lately, especially with the infection I’ve had in my foot and feeling drained from the antibiotics. In fact, being grateful daily for good insurance and healthcare has been a source of great joy for me. I’ve been exhausted at work, however, and since the busy tourist season has started I’ve been tested more than I’d like under these circumstances.

Reading Tony Curtis’s anecdote about the stuntman Davy Sharpe inspired me: “I greet you with cordiality and good cheer.” Wouldn’t the world be a wondrously different place if we could all say that to one another! Instead, most of us are lost in a boggle of thoughts about who-said-what to us, what bills are coming due, romantic entanglements, who cut us off in traffic, etc. I wish I could sit here and type how easy it is to do a few meditative breaths and let all that go and greet everyone with a smile and such an affirmative greeting as Mr. Sharpe was known for, but it’s not easy for me. In fact, I feel like the sore thumb in this GIF much of the time:

camel meme

I’ll be 34 in a few weeks and I’d like to be a bit more clear-headed and happy with my station in life by then. The guy who works overnight at the hotel next door just told me tonight that he put in his two weeks notice, as did his supervisor AND my old supervisor who’s a manager over at that property. It got me to thinking, what am I still doing here? Am I happy, or am I just biding my time? A job’s a job and all that jazz, but life’s too short not to be happy. Meh, so that’s where my thoughts are at right this minute. I *am* grateful and I *do* feel blessed; I just want that to come across in my reactions and interactions with others.

Best wishes for a safe and fun St. Pat’s Day to everyone,

brt

Salad Days

Athens, 10.2002

University of Georgia, 10.2002

In her 2009 self-titled autobiography, Cloris Leachman tells about her complicated friendship with fellow actor Marlon Brando. From everything I’ve ever read about Marlon, he himself was an extremely complicated person. Alas, Cloris writes the following:

“I remember our salad days at the Actors Studio, the shining young things we were then, so brimming with anticipation, so unaware of the startling events that lay ahead.” (page 110)

Both their sons got involved in drugs and died due to the effects, for starters re: “startling events.” And then Marlon held a grudge against Cloris when she didn’t send condolences after his son died, but that’s their story to tell. It had been a long time since I’d heard the expression “salad days,” and I’ve coincidentally been feeling downright elderly this week hobbling around due to a fungus infection on my left foot. Totally gross, I realize, but a PSA for anyone who steps on anything to immediately disinfect it with an antibiotic. (I stepped on a tiny piece of glass a couple of weeks ago and that’s all I can think of that might’ve caused this nightmare. Three doctor’s visits later, it’s being slowly but surely treated.) But back on track: I looked up the expression after enjoying Cloris’s eloquent use of it, and I began wondering when my own salad days had been. “Before or after 9/11?” immediately rang through my mind as a deciding factor. I looked through some vintage photos on Facebook and found the one above. So I’ll share about my own approximation of my salad days at the ripe ol’ age of 22.

It took me a few–and I do mean three or four or five–stops and starts to decide I really wanted to be in college. By 2002, I was holding down a part-time job at the Ramada Inn in my hometown and also taking three or four classes. I found after trying school full-time and working full-time that this hybrid of both worked well for my psyche and work ethic. Anyway, I’d just won Employee of the Month at the Ramada and had just had a letter to the editor published in InStyle magazine, which for whatever naive reason I considered to be the creme de la creme of magazines at the time. Armed with that issue of the magazine and my sarcastic excitement about “being published,” I accompanied my mother up to the University of Georgia for a conference she was attending on campus. I set up meetings with an advisor at the journalism school to discuss transferring and majoring in Magazines. (A dozen years later, I wonder if that slightly antiquated major still exists.) The advisor seemed happy with the writing samples I’d e-mailed her and my transcript that I’d brought along. She showed me a huge bulletin board where jobs were posted, specifically seeking out graduates of the UGA journalism program. I was so giddy I remember asking her back in her office if writing professionally was anything like how Sarah Jessica Parker made it look on Sex & the City. The advisor laughed and told me I’d find out soon enough.

Everything was going according to plan until there was a hold-up with one of my transcripts getting to UGA. My tech school transcript covering a whole quarter of non-transferrable credits, at that. Having missed the deadline for transferring the semester I had my heart set on, I gave up the dream of being a UGA student. I could still write, I told myself. I could still get one of the jobs on that bulletin board without the UGA degree. Or any degree at all? The salad days were surely over. I wondered from time to time how things might’ve been different if I’d not given up so easily on transferring. One of the jobs I’d seen on that big bulletin board was for one of Martha Stewart’s niche magazines, so in my mind I would’ve moved up to Yankee country and snagged that job. Wishful thinking at best, and I laugh now to think if that magazine is even still around after Martha’s fall from grace.

The funny thing is, now that I’ve revisited that time in my life, there wasn’t much salad-y about it. Maybe for a few weeks it seemed I was on top of the world, but then plans fell through and it was back to the grind at the Ramada. Well then, were my salad days in Nashville after I left my hometown behind? I’m not so sure about that either. They certainly weren’t when I drank myself through finally finishing my English degree a few years ago in the suburbs of Atlanta. Being on the verge of turning 34, I think I’ll stop here and politely ask for the fat-free Caesar dressing to be passed my way. Turns out my salad days aren’t behind me yet.

brt

Tammy and Judy: A Pair of Pills

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“The sad part about happy endings is there’s nothing to write about.”–Tammy Wynette (page 322)

“I was always lonesome. The only time I felt accepted or wanted was when I was onstage performing. I guess the stage was my only friend, the only place where I could feel comfortable. It was the one place where I felt equal and safe.”–Judy Garland (page 22)

Unintentionally, I began simultaneously reading biographies of Tammy Wynette and Judy Garland: Garland’s while at work and Wynette’s back at home. The one Jimmy McDonough wrote on Wynette in 2010 is a weighty hardcover which I picked it up at the library on a whim, having never been a fan of Wynette. The one on Garland is another meticulous, 70s bio by Anne Edwards, who also wrote the one on Vivien Leigh which I profiled in my previous blog. She published this one on Judy in 1974 before she wrote the one on Vivien in ’77, and I felt like I could tell a vast difference in how much she delved into the subjects’ lives. Or perhaps it was just because Judy isolated herself much more than Vivien and therefore there weren’t as many interviews to be had and insight to be gleaned. I read Lorna Luft’s biography ‘Me and My Shadows’ a couple of months ago, and it offers much more of a picture of what Judy was really like, as opposed to spouting off Judy’s chronic woes and tribulations as Edwards does in her book. Still, Edwards is able to do it unbiasedly, so I learned things from her book that Ms. Luft left out when writing about her mother. It might also be mentioned that McDonough writes about Wynette as a hardcore fan, though he’s written other biographies (such as one on Neil Young) and he interviewed so many people for his book on Wynette that a clear picture is painted of her.

I’ll say this upfront and be clear about it: I was intrigued while reading about both of these talented ladies that–though they each brought so much joy to their millions of fans–they were both so unhappy and lonely. Neither one of them was very sure of themselves and therefore turned to men and pills to bolster their self image. Both of them were married five times, and Tammy–whose signature song was ‘Stand By Your Man’–was also quoted as saying, “How can anybody really believe what I sing about, knowin’ what a mess I’ve made of my life?” (page 181) For most of her life, Judy blamed MGM for getting her hooked on uppers and downers as a child star, not only to perform non-stop but to lose her baby weight. That doesn’t explain why she never quit taking the pills, even after several stays in psych wards and having her children choose not to live with her towards the end of her life. At one point when Judy’s house had been foreclosed on, she delusionally told an interviewer, “Well, if worse comes to worse, I can always pitch a tent in front of the Beverly Hilton and Lorna can sing gospel hymns! That should see us through…Lorna is already showing signs of becoming a fabulous singer.” (page 234) Tammy got hooked on diet pills first and then began taking pain pills after her hysterectomy. She developed such a reputation for faking pain in Nashville that local doctors and hospitals would no longer dole out the painkillers to her, and so she began cancelling shows on the road to con whatever ER she might wander into to supply her with her drugs of choice. Said Tammy’s ex-husband George “Possum” Jones:

“I don’t think [Tammy] was ever content. It seemed like one moment she was happy, another she wasn’t. She was a lonely person, that I’m sure of. She lacked satisfaction or somethin’, and she couldn’t get it all her life.” (page 211)

It’s hard to say anything else about these two great legends which hasn’t already been said countless times before. The one funny parallel I wanted to point out is that Judy had her legion of gay fans and Tammy had her troop of lesbian fans. I would say I wish each of them would’ve gotten the help they needed with their addictions, but Tammy went to Betty Ford and was released after a couple of weeks for emergency surgery. While recovering, she was given a “medal of completion” for addiction treatment by Betty Ford herself and never returned to the center. I can’t help but wonder how much this medal had to do with Tammy being a die-hard Republican all her life, though I hope that’s not the case. I wanted to end by sharing this unfinished song lyric Judy wrote right before she died, in June 1969:

“When you’ve learned and you’ve grown
Through years of just living
Then you’ve earned every right to be
Proud of your years
Not too old, not so young
The quietness of age
Well, then the young man comes along
To smile, to take you up with him
And hold you strong along a way to love…”

Frances Ethel Gumm/Judy Garland was only 47 when she died in 1969 and Virginia Wynette Pugh/Tammy Wynette was only 55 when she passed away in 1998. They were a pair, alright. A pair of pills who unfortunately succumbed to the pills they relied on so heavily. At least now they are both singing sweet songs with the angels.

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Fiddle-dee-dee

Scarlett takes a smoke break

Scarlett takes a smoke break

Tuberculosis. Nymphomaniac. Manic depressive. Alcoholic. Chain-smoker. None of these are words one associates with beloved movie heroine Scarlett O’Hara, but they were the reality of the woman who won the Oscar for playing the role, Miss Vivien Leigh. This isn’t intended as a “shock blog;” Miss Leigh lived her privileged yet troubled life with great dignity and was happiest when working on the stage or in a film. Anne Edwards, author of 1977′s simply titled ‘Vivien Leigh: A Biography’, writes:

“Tennessee Williams says of Vivien, ‘Having known madness, she knew how it was to be drawing close to death.’ Having often been close to death, I might add, gave her fearlessness, a daring, sort of insolence toward life, and a kind and tender and incredibly affectionate regard for the living. She was a good deal more than a film star who received two Oscars for two of the most celebrated roles in film history (Scarlett O’Hara and Blanche DuBois), or a stage actress who won acclaim for her Juliet, Antigone, and Cleopatra. Vivien Leigh was a woman of great extremes and greater excesses. A woman whose candle surely did burn at both ends, and yet refuses, through the incandescence of her friendships and film portrayals, even now to be extinguished.” (page 287)

Best known for playing Scarlett in 1939′s ‘Gone With the Wind’, Leigh was also an esteemed stage actress, which is how she secured her second Oscar-winning role as Blanche in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ (by playing the part on the London stage first). She and Laurence Olivier both left their spouses and small children–she had a daughter and he had a son–to live together and finally marry in 1940. Leigh was mentored by Olivier to find film vastly inferior to being on the stage, and for that reason never appreciated her success in Hollywood as much as she should have. Her relatively slight voice did not project in playhouses nearly as well as his, but her stunning beauty radiated from her performances on the silver screen. Realizing this and playing up to her strengths, she took roles in Hollywood which coincided with Olivier’s, or if they needed money to put on productions back in England one or the other would take on film roles at separate times.

A poster for the 1940 Geary Theater production of 'Romeo and Juliet'

A poster for the 1940 Geary Theater production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

As her manic depressive spells became more apparent and more frequent, Hollywood friends such as George Cukor and Kate Hepburn would look after her if Vivien was left alone in Los Angeles, while friends such as Noel Coward and her mother would watch over her back in London while Olivier was working. (This was well before the days of suitable medications and Vivien received infrequent shock treatments and self-medicated with alcohol and pills.) No matter how manic or depressed she got, Vivien was the consummate performer and was able to put everything aside when she was working on the stage or set. The one exception was while she was filming ‘Elephant Walk’ in 1953 in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka); she suffered an acute breakdown and was rushed back to Los Angeles in hopes of salvaging the film. It was not to be; a 21 year-old Elizabeth Taylor was brought in to replace 39 year-old Vivien. (Miss Leigh can still be seen in long shots filmed on location in Ceylon and salvaged for the production–here’s an interesting compilation of a few of them, as well as photos of Vivien during the production and when returning to London with Olivier a few days after her breakdown: *Elephant Walk with Vivien Leigh*)

Vivien enjoys a play with good friend Noel Coward

Vivien enjoys a play with good friend Noel Coward

Owing to the age of the biography by Anne Edwards, salacious details about Miss Leigh’s nymphomaniacal tendencies are left out, with only a brief mention of her fantasies divulged to close friends. Which is just as well, as any of her manic actions were part and parcel of her illness which went virtually untreated–at least by today’s standards–for most of her life. Vivien told those closest to her that she related strongly to Blanche in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ because she knew what it was like to be on the verge of madness. She also feared growing older and losing her looks; her weight and facial features fluctuated greatly depending on how much she’d been drinking and the symptoms of her tuberculosis. When she won the Tony for 1963′s ‘Tovarich’, she was in the best shape of her life and delighted the Broadway crowds by dancing the Charleston nightly as part of her character’s performance.

As Blanche DuBois in 1951

As Blanche DuBois in 1951

In 1967 at the age of 53, Vivien Leigh died at her beloved Tickerage Mill home due to complications of tuberculosis. She looked much older than her years in her last few years of life, but continued to entertain friends such as Winston Churchill at her home while acting as much as possible. I think this quote from the original Tennessee Williams version of one of her last films–1961′s ‘The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone’–sums her up best:

“‘I am not going to lose my dignity, no matter what happens I am not going to lose it,’ but just as continually she caught herself doing things that were not at all consistent with that resolve.”

Vivien Leigh chats with Ringo Starr during a chance meeting at the airport during the Swingin' 60s

Vivien Leigh chats with Ringo Starr during a chance meeting at the airport during the Swingin’ 60s

By the way, the title of the blog obviously comes from Scarlett’s signature catch phrase, but it’s also one that Vivien gladly repeated to fans upon request for the rest of her life while touring with plays, at movie openings, and even at the re-release of ‘Gone With the Wind’. She had a great sense of humour in that respect. Rest in peace, sweet Vivien.

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This Is What It Looks Like

In yet another entry in the anthology of “I wasn’t going to post this, but it’s what was on my heart…”

‘Looking’ premiered on HBO a week and a half ago. Great pilot–one of the best I’ve seen in years, actually–and Jonathan Groff hit it outta the park with his character Patrick. I could relate to him, definitely a bit too much: meeting guys online who look really good on “paper” (computer screen?), and then something goes amiss. And I include myself in that translation to real life from the Internet; inevitably, I’ll open my mouth and something will spew out that offends/makes me look like a jackass. This is why, though I utilize it to the hilt, I still consider online dating to be cheating the natural system. One knows entirely too much about the other person before one even meets them, and therefore expectations are heightened. Thus, there’s the opportunity to fall much, much farther down from said expectations. Been there, done that, many times over.

At this rate, I’ve been on dates with everyone except the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker in the last several months. Rack ‘em up: a dentist, a lawyer, an architect, and even a priest (actually a rector–long story on that one). Had a lunch date with a pilot last Tuesday that went nowhere fast, even though he was late (flight delay). The main reason Patrick in the show reminds me of myself is that he’s over the moon to go on a date with a doctor (pictured above). The doctor guy looks good on “paper,” but he’s not the nicest in real life. Patrick learns his lesson and after meeting a Latino barber/nightclub doorman on the subway immediately after the date, he gives the nice guy from real life a chance. (Things don’t work out between the two of them either, but that’s saved for the second episode.)

The same night ‘Looking’ premiered and I watched it online, Bob messaged me from Puerto Vallarta. He’s supposedly returning in a few weeks. My immediate, aspirational thought was, “This is what it looks like when he returns…” And I optimistically envisioned myself being well put-together, moving on with my life, not trying to get back together with him. It’s tough and it sucks and in a fleeting moment, I felt like I’d sleptwalked through all these silly dates to prove a point that wasn’t worth proving. That I was over him and, “Oh, look at me moving on…” Have I been moving on or has it all been for show? If I have to ask the question, clearly I don’t know the answer myself. Actually, I know the answer and just don’t want to admit it.

So this is what it *really* looks like…I’m glad my friend–supposedly my best friend–is coming home soon. God grant me the clearness of mind to look passed the past and look towards the future. In the meantime, I still have plenty of ridiculous dating horror stories to laugh about and learn from. At least they’re not televised on HBO.

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Bette-isms

For most of my life Bette Davis has scared me; she always seemed gruff and in a huff about something, not to mention always puffing on her ever-present cigarette. Have I conjured up the Big Bad Wolf yet? Sure, she was a phenomenal actress–Jezebel, All About Eve, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? all come to mind–but the person herself intimidated me. Something about her gave me the impression if I’d met her that she’d be a bit of a bully. And that’s what her daughter wrote about her in her book My Mother’s Keeper, which I read a couple of years ago. Bette, who worshipped the ground her daughter walked on, bullied her own grandchildren (or so her daughter claimed in her book). But the truth usually lies somewhere between she said-she said, and the fact is that most people who use bullying tactics are hiding great insecurities.

Such was the case with Bette, who finally let down her guard late in life to her friend Charlotte Chandler over the course of several interviews which Ms. Chandler used as the basis of her 2006 book about Ms. Davis entitled The Girl Who Walked Home Alone. Bette comes across in the interviews much less as a bully than as a lonely old woman with a few regrets about how she lived her life. Here are a few quotes I found noteworthy:

“One must live in the present tense, but I have always lived in the present tensely.” (page 5)

“My daughter B.D. once told me she thought I was permanently 14. Actually, I like that.” (pg 19)

“”The reason most people look back on their youth as the best time of life is because a blank page looks better than one that is filled out and not according to youthful dreams. Personally, I’m proud of the way I’ve filled out the pages of my life; I’m enjoying my life as Bette Davis now, since I won’t be around to read about it when it appears in the obituaries. When I am honoured with a tribute, I think of it as part of my living obituary. More fun that way.” (page 22)

“Personally, I’ve never been able to figure out really what I am like or what I’m not really like. I could always understand my character on the screen better than I could understand myself. And when I had to play myself in ‘Hollywood Canteen’ and ‘Thank You Lucky Stars’ I was utterly lost, utterly. You cannot imagine.” (pg 123)

“The trouble with playing hard-to-get is that the other person may choose not to play. Just this once, I acted this way because I cared so much. I was never able to profit from the lesson. There was never another Willie [William Wyler]. So all these years I’ve had my precious pride, and now–I have IT to keep me company.” (page 133)

“Wit, especially sarcasm, is a dangerous weapon. Bright people are often too sarcastic. [...] I’m still direct, but one can carry directness too far, where one goes around being so bright and so honest that you hurt people.” (page 281)

“I see my life now as a voyage of discovery. My problem was that I didn’t know myself. I used to think it was because I didn’t understand others, but now I know it’s because I didn’t understand me.” (page 293)

Dick Cavett lightin' up Bette on his talk show in the 70s

Dick Cavett lightin’ up Bette on his talk show in the 70s

That’s really all for this week. In the last couple of months I’ve also read some great autobiographies by Tab Hunter, Marie Osmond, Marnie Nixon, Oscar Goodman, Ryan O’Neal, Alison Arngrim (Nellie from Little House on the Prairie), Patty Duke, and Debbie Reynolds. And biographies on Natalie Wood, Joan Crawford, Judy Garland (by her daughter, Lorna Luft), and I’m just starting one on Vivien Leigh. So those have been keeping me (and the inter-library loan clerks) busy. Perhaps too busy…I’ve been thinking I need to take my nose out of the books and start living a little bit more. But the good news is that I’m staying outta trouble. So we’ll see. Hope everyone’s enjoying a safe, Happy MLK Weekend.

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