Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Flying back to Vegas today

My trip down to PA was a lot of fun. Beautiful Aunt Joyce looks fantastic--the best I've seen her since this cancer bullshit came her way--and my sister Lori and I had a blast at the Little Feat concert. Everyone there looked like people I might have gone to college with back in the 70's at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. I remembered how much I love "cold weather" people--they're so down to earth. All the guys in their flannel shirts and bushy beards made me a bit nostalgic.

The show itself wasn't that great though--surprisingly. It took forever for them to really kick in, and whenever they came close, they would retreat. For example, just when they finally got into "Dixie Chicken," what do they do but go into a bass solo. You lost us, guys! Lori and I concluded it was the concert equivalent of bad sex; they'd tease us a bit and then do whatever made them feel good. (And we paid for this!) I mean really, does anyone, other than the bass player, ever enjoy a bass solo? (That goes double for drum solos.) Too often during the show we thought, "This would be a good time to hit the bathroom." That's not the sign of a good concert! A good concert keeps you on your feet dancing front and center until you're ready to pee your pants or risk a bladder infection.

Penn's Peak, however, is one of the best venues I've ever been in. It kind of reminds me of a House of Blues, but double the size. If I lived around there (in the middle of freakin' nowhere), I'd be at that place all the time, even if the band held only minor appeal. The Pretenders and Loretta Lynn will be there soon--I wish I'd be in town to see them.

Lori and I hit the road around noon on Sunday because I had a set to do at the Lark Tavern Sunday night. It was a long ride back to Albany since we were both hungover as hell (after the show we checked out a biker bar and made a bunch of new friends). We stopped for lunch at this delicious greasy pizza place across from the Poconos Caesar's Palace. At one point, Lori made me laugh and I spit pizza sauce all over her, which made us both crack up to the point where everyone in the place was looking at us as Lori wiped up the table.

I have lots more to say; this has been a great visit. I fly back to Las Vegas late this afternoon, and since I have a layover in Chicago, I probably won't get home until after midnight. If I'm lucky. Not looking forward to my alarm assaulting me at 5:26 tomorrow morning, but tomorrow should be a "throwaway" day at work and I have fun plans for New Year's Eve with my friend Lisa, and the present moment is just perfect.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Survived the holidays!

Just a short post today. I'm still in Albany, NY, and will be here until next Tuesday afternoon. Christmas was fun. This may sound disgusting to some of you, but my idea of a perfect day off is one where I don't have to shower. It's true. Christmas was just one of those days where one thing led to another and before I knew it, I was on my third beer (thanks to my wonderful brother-in-law, Russ) and the day was more than half over and by then what would be the point of showering? (Of course, I did put on some lipstick; I'm not totally gross!)

It's great to see everyone, and the weather is very mild, thank God. I think my whole family prays for a heat wave when I come to town so they don't have to listen to me bitch the whole time about being so cold and how can you people stand to live in this godforsaken place? I'll post pictures when I get back. Not of me, though. No shower = not pretty.

Today my sister Lori and I are heading to Jim Thorpe, PA, (about a four-hour drive) to see our aunt Joyce, our father's sister. We have two aunts named Joyce; this one is Beautiful Aunt Joyce (BAJ) the pastor (!) and my mother's sister is the famous quirky lesbian Aunt Joyce, who is equally as beautiful. BAJ lives near this cool little restaurant/concert venue, Penn's Peak, and tonight Lori and I are going to see Little Feat there. How lucky we are!

This will be a fun road trip--Lori's always a blast. It will be a short trip--we're coming back tomorrow, since tomorrow night I'm doing a set at the Lark Tavern. I'll probably see a bunch of my old friends, some of whom have never seen me perform.

Busy, busy...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I’m posting a day early since I doubt I’ll have a chance to get near a computer tomorrow, Christmas Day. This afternoon I fly to Albany to spend the holiday with my kids, my precious grandson Connor, my Harley-riding sister Lori, and most of the rest of my family. Can’t wait to see everyone, but I’m definitely not looking forward to that weather.

Anyway, I thought I’d post this picture, taken the day after Christmas 2004. That’s my first husband, Chris, and me and our kids, Courtney and Christopher. Courtney had just cleaned up after a big shindig at her place for Connor’s birthday and by the time this picture was taken, I had about three beers too many. Yeah, just a typical granny in a Sonic Youth t-shirt tying one on at her grandson’s birthday party…

Note my hand on my ex’s thigh—ha! Also note the expression on his face. Too funny.

At this point, Chris and I had been split up for 10 years, and my second husband (the infamous “B.H.”) was already history as well.

I like this picture (even though I look terrible in it) because it depicts what I would wish for every couple post-divorce, especially during the holidays. No matter what you buy for them, and no matter how old they are, the most important gift you can give your kids is a sense of family cohesiveness, even when the structure of the family changes dramatically.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Countdown to 200,000: Why my Saturn is the best car ever

Hey, look—my Saturn hit 197,000 miles last Saturday!

I’m the first to admit I have a weird emotional attachment to my vehicle, but it’s only because I have the most awesome car on earth. It’s the first new car I ever purchased entirely on my own. I bought it in 1996 after my first divorce and since then, I’ve gone through a whole other husband and, of course, innumerable boyfriends.

My car is cute as hell—it’s a two-door coupe about the size of a kitchen table—and at last count I got 41 miles to the gallon. I’ve never had a problem with it (knock on wood), even though the “Service Engine Soon” light flashes on now and then and another red light on the dashboard has been blinking for like a year or so. I assume it’s nothing to worry about.

The guy at Big O Tires pitched a freakin’ fit like last time I pulled in without a drop of oil in my tank, so now I do have to put oil in the car, but because I don’t actually know how to check the oil, I use my psychic powers to determine just how many gallons to pour in at a time. I really have no idea what’s going on under the hood (maybe I’m not even putting the oil in the right place—who knows?) I just know my car runs perfectly (fingers crossed).

Men don’t seem to share my enthusiasm for my beloved Saturn, probably because it’s terribly uncomfortable for anyone larger than my 5’4” frame, but maybe also because the roof is a little dented from when a tree fell on it back in 2000 or maybe because I never wash it. (Men are into washing their vehicles.) (Whatever.) A guy I was dating once said to me, “Linda, I love everything about you except your car” and I thought, “Newsflash, dude: This car will sooooo outlast you.” Of course, I was right.

“Love me, love my car,” I say, though I definitely have a double standard. If a guy picked me up for a date in such a shitbox, I’d be like, are you out of your freakin’ mind? The only way I could get past it would be if he had a cool British accent. Yeah, I’m that shallow.

I probably shouldn’t brag about my Saturn; I probably should be mortified that at this age I’m driving a dusty 12-year-old vehicle with a dent in the roof--not exactly the picture of success. (My friend Joey D tells me his neighbors must think the maid is there when they see my car parked out front.) But I love my car and I’m not about to give it up, and in 3,000 miles, I’ll be having one hell of a celebration.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Well, how did I get here?"

Five thoughts about my current state of life:

1. I woke up this morning to the sound of a chainsaw cleaning up from this week's snowstorm. In Las Vegas.

2. I think my comedy set was only so-so last night; it went over fine, but I learn something every time I go on stage and there's definitely a lot of room for improvement. The crowd was great, though.

3. Two of my writer friends are having (separate) book signings today, so this afternoon I'm going out to support them. One will be at Borders; I should pick up that Chicken Soup for the Soul book that I have an essay in.

4. I'd like to finish my next Living-Las-Vegas column today, but I may not get to it until tomorrow.

5. Sometime soon I need to draw a line in the sand and decide whether to continue pursuing representation for my manuscript, Bastard Husband: A Love Story or go balls to the wall and self-publish. Hmmm... that title. I'm still not sure if it's right.

Not too long ago, back when I was in Albany, NY, (where I lived for the first 43 years of my life), I would have looked at those statements and thought, "Wha-what-WHAT?"

Who could I possibly be talking about? I live in Las Vegas? I have writer friends? I'm a writer? I do stand-up comedy?

As the kids say, WTF? As the Talking Heads song goes, "You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

The answer lies in one of my favorite movies of all time, What About Bob? It's right there in the title of Dr. Leo Marvin's book: Baby Steps.

For the most part, your life is a reflection of the baby steps you've taken and the choices you've made--more specifically, the actions you've chosen to take. None of this stuff happened magically for me; for example, let's examine my path to the stand-up stage.

I perform stand-up comedy these days because one Sunday night I chose not to be a pathetic, lonely freakin' two-time divorcee (I hate that word) and instead of staying home to watch The Simpsons, I chose to go out by myself and check out an open mic stage in the back room of a bar on the west side of town. A few months later, after choosing to go back week after week, I chose to sign up to do a set myself, even though it scared the crap out of me.

Then I chose to stick with it--on and off for a while--because in the meantime, I chose to take similar baby steps on my path to becoming a writer: I chose to structure my journal writings into a memoir, with the help of the Henderson Writers' Group, which I chose to join. Blah, blah, blah... you get the picture.

So, with the New Year approaching, this is a good time to think about the path you're on. Is it the right path for you? What types of baby steps are you going to choose to take during the coming year?

Oh, one more thing. I've had two interesting developments lately that I don't want to talk about too much because I don't want to curse myself. One of them was alluded to yesterday on my friend Lisa McGlaun's blog. It may turn out to be something cool, or it may turn out to be nothing. At any rate, check out Lisa's site--she's a beautiful person and a really neat chick.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still a work in progress

After my last post I thought, This is crazy. Dammit, I am going to stop being so hard on myself. Unlike some women who got the message growing up that they were never good enough, I was lucky to be raised by a mother who, from Day One and to this day, tells me I am soooo smart, and soooo beautiful... and both of my ex-husbands constantly validated my looks--"You were the prettiest girl at the party," each one has said--and the truth is, I'm a freakin' man magnet, even at this age and with all my perceived imperfections, but beyond that, I don't need to be validated by anyone else anyway, right?

So fuck the media, I decided. I blame them and I'm not going to buy into their bullshit that everyone has to be a size zero with perfect hair and perfect facial features. Yes, fuck them, I said! I decided my New Year's resolution will be to shed all those false beliefs and even be a role model to other women who struggle with a poor self-image inflicted at their own hands. Yeah, that's what I told myself.

Then I opened a DVD a friend sent me of my last stand-up performace, and three seconds into it, I gasped, "OH MY GOD, I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M SO GODDAMN FAT!"

Two steps forward, three steps back...

P.S. Yes, it really did snow in Las Vegas! This is how it looks this morning, taken from my apartment's balcony. I talked about the storm on my Internet radio show, Aging Nymphs, last night. Click the link to listen to the archive!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How we see ourselves vs. how they see us

I think about 95 percent of my readers are women, and though this post is directed to the gals, you guys out there are encouraged to comment as well.

Last time I talked about the importance of worshipping a love interest and being worshipped as well. Corny shit, maybe, but I think there's something to it, and part of that whole worshipping thing means being able to look at each other and see nothing but perfection.

This is something I know I'm capable of; I can look at a beloved and, I swear, see only perfection. But I think it's easier for women to view someone else that way than see ourselves in that light.

For example, here are just a few of the imperfections I see when I look at this picture taken last summer at a comedy gig:

But when someone worships the ground I walk on, this is what he sees:

So ladies, is it just me or are we all so critical of ourselves? And why? Is it because of the media? Are we trying to compare ourselves to images of airbrushed models half our age? (I'm 51, for Christsake!) And why do we allow ourselves to erode our own self-image like this?

And guys, is this just a girl thing or do you, too, get hard on yourself? (Sorry, I should know better than to phrase a question to men using the words "hard on.") (Left myself open for that one.) (Not literally.)

Anyway,what do you think?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Two conditions for a successful relationship

When I was a kid, I thought that before a judge grants a divorce, he or she should make the couple kiss one last time, for maybe that one last kiss would spark some sort of renewed appreciation for each other. Maybe the couple would then decide to call off the divorce proceedings and go back home and live happily ever after.

Wasn’t I cute?

I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot lately. My friend Deb once made a casual comment that may truly hold the secret to lasting romantic relationships. She said there are two conditions that must be met:

1) The person must "get" you.
2) The person must worship the ground you walk on.

As soon as the words left her mouth, I could determine precisely what went wrong in each of my marriages. I "got" what my first husband was all about—meaning I understood his values, what was important to him and why—but slacked off on the worshipping. He left me for another woman, but who could blame him for wanting to be with someone who could do both? I'd make no such mistake with my second husband, who understood me well enough, but was too absorbed in his own trip that he couldn’t possibly reciprocate in the worshipping department.

This whole worshipping concept may sound terribly antiquated, but I'm convinced it has to be in place. I think women who came of age in the 70’s, like me, got the impression that we shouldn’t have to worship any stinkin’ man, and some men still carry the belief that they’re above worshipping a woman. I bet those lines of thinking messed up a lot of marriages. Really, isn’t it the greatest feeling on earth to be so into someone that it’s an absolute JOY to worship them? And how many times in your life do you meet a person you totally, totally dig?

Think of the relationship you’re in right now. If you’re unhappy, I’ll bet you anything one of these conditions is out of whack. If you’re happy, no doubt they’re in place.

So now as an adult, I think that before granting a marriage license, a judge should ask the couple those two key questions:

1) Do you “get” this man/woman?
2) Do you worship the ground he/she walks on?

If the answers are “yes” all around, then the couple can kiss and get married and live happily ever after. Simple as that.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The holidays make me mental

I hate the holidays. I’ve often said I wish I could hibernate from the day before Thanksgiving to the day after Christmas. Call me a scrooge, grinch, killjoy, spoil sport, party pooper, wet blanket… call me anything (except fat or ugly), I don’t give a crap. When I was a kid, we had fabulous Christmases—I mean, incredible. We got everything we could have wanted, and yes, I loved it. But as an adult, I look at the holiday differently.

Call me crazy (yeah, that would fit), but I think Christmas should be for um… Christians, and, well, I’m not a Christian. I’m sure Jesus was lovely, but since I don’t go to church to worship him, I think I should be off the hook when it comes to Christmas stuff. Yes, when my children were little we showered them with presents and we decorated the house and had a Christmas tree, but quite honestly, I couldn’t wait to take the damn thing to the curb, vacuum up the pine needles, and put the living room back the way it was.

And yes, to this day I give people Christmas presents, but I can’t say I always feel good about it. It’s not that I don’t like giving presents; I’d much rather give unexpected, spontaneous gifts. For example, back in August my son, Christopher, was in a wedding in California and I sent him a couple of hundred dollars for his trip. It brought me joy to surprise him like that! Last week a friend of mine came over with some really nice Yankee candles. They weren’t a Christmas present; he just knows I like candles. Awesome! But at Christmas, I have to schlep all over creation to find presents for a holiday I have no business celebrating anyway. (I should say I also hate shopping.)

I know; I’m so bah humbug. Sometimes people will ask me, what about the whole “Christmas spirit” thing? You know… “Peace on earth, good will to men.” Can’t I get into that? I respond similarly to what I wrote in my Thanksgiving blog last month: shouldn’t those sentiments be expressed all year round? Yeah, why can’t people be kind-spirited all freakin’ year?

Now after all this bellyaching, you may be surprised to hear that I recently saw a Christmas decoration that I actually like. My sister Lori found this little gem in Rite-Aid among all the Santas and angels.

In case you can’t tell from the photo, it’s a little statue type of thing of a mother, father, baby, and dog. And look--the baby’s leg is in the dog’s mouth! Not only that, the father and mother are pulling the baby away from the dog. By the hair.

Lori and I were practically peeing our pants over this. And the best part is, it's not really a Christmas decoration. They're all standing in a mound of snow, but there's nothing Christmasy per se about it. It's a winter decoration. If I were Lori, I'd keep that baby out from Thanksgiving till St. Patrick's Day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From tragedy to a life's work

I met my new BFF Lisa Gioia-Acres at a writers’ gathering last summer and instantly we hit it off. I dig fun-loving chicks and we have a lot in common—we’re both from upstate New York, we’re almost exactly the same age (Lisa’s two weeks older—ha!), we got married around the same time, we each have two kids and a precious grandson, and we both fit the “aging nymph” free-spirit persona.

What we don’t have in common is our family background. As I wrote my blog last Saturday honoring the memory of my father, I thought of Lisa, who never got to know either of her parents. Lisa and her three older brothers were brought up by their maternal grandmother, who had already raised a dozen children of her own. Lisa's parents died soon after her first birthday in the worst possible scenario of domestic violence: her father killed her mother and then took his own life.

Lisa grew up not knowing much at all about her parents; she just knew they were dead. Questions were always evaded, and anecdotal stories and references to her similarities to her mother made her want to learn more. She began a serious search of her history and was able to uncover the real story of the lives of and circumstances surrounding the deaths of the parents she never knew. Being proactive in learning more has helped to fill the void of loss. Lisa now has court documents, police statements, letters, interviews, photographs, and film footage of the parents with whom she never felt any connection.

The brutal events that occurred 50 years ago have shaped her path in life. With a master’s degree in history, Lisa now documents the lives and stories of others. Through her business, Mourning Dove Preservation, Lisa offers services in genealogical research, photo preservation, and the recording of oral histories and biographical memories. Her goal is to help people find a tangible connection to their ancestors that they in turn will pass on to future generations, adding their own legacy to the story.

If you ever meet Lisa, you’ll be immediately struck by her gregarious personality. She’s a blast to hang out with, and as we put away a few beers together at the Mountain Springs Saloon last Saturday afternoon, I wondered how someone with such a traumatic beginning could end up being so vivacious.

Yesterday she sent me an email saying I'm such a great motivation for her writing. Well, Lisa, you give me great inspiration for living. I’m really happy to have made this wonderful new friend.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Reflections on my father's birthday

Today would have been my father's 75th birthday. He died in 1999 at the age of 65. He and his girlfriend, Pat, were on vacation--every year they went down to Florida to watch the Yankees in spring training--and Daddy had a massive heart attack one night in their hotel room. When Pat returned to Albany, everyone along the way commented that she sure had a lot of luggage for just one person. "My companion died on the trip," she explained. I bet they didn't expect that one.

Daddy was a colorful character, a bus driver who absolutely loved his job. “I don’t work,” he’d brag, “I drive other people to work.” Always the kidder, he’d sometimes ask the riders, “Have you ever thought of buying a car? Everyone has a car these days.” They’d laugh at his good-natured ribbing, but I’m sure he would have dropped them off at the auto showroom had one been on his route.

He had the most delightfully demented sense of humor. I remember when I was in labor for my first child, I called my parents to say I was heading to the hospital. My father offered a tender bit of advice, words that remain with me to this day: “Good luck,” he said, “and don’t go home empty-handed.”

And this is how the conversation went when he called to inform his sister about a death in the family:

"Joyce," he began to break the news, "how many uncles do we have?"

"Why, we have one uncle," she answered, to which he bellowed, "WRONG!"

My father would do anything to score a laugh--walk into walls, summon a waitress by calling, Nurse!--whatever it took. Daddy was always on, always looking for the perfect opportunity to quip, "Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how'd you like Dallas?"

His sudden death was both a shock and a blessing. Soon before he died, Daddy had been diagnosed with throat cancer. The heart attack spared him what have would undoubtedly been a much more painful and trying way to go.

We gave him an awesome wake and funeral; he was laid out next to a billboard of himself that had been part of the bus company's promotional campaign a few years earlier. (Daddy prided himself in being a "male model.") The funeral began with a bugle playing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and my aunt, who's a pastor (!), performed the service. Afterward the funeral director said he never heard so much laughter coming out of that room. Daddy would have loved it.

When I think of my father's sense of humor and how several years after his death I began to perform stand-up comedy, I'm reminded of a passage in Natalie Goldberg's book, Long Quiet Highway.

"Whether we know it or not, we transmit the presence of everyone we have ever known, as though by being in each other's presence we exchange our cells, pass on some of our life force, and then we go carrying that other person in our body, not unlike springtime when certain plants in fields we walk through attach their seeds in the form of small burrs to our socks, our pants, our caps, as it to say, 'Go on, take us with you, carry us to root in another place.' This is how we survive long after we are dead. This is why it's important who we become, because we pass it on."

Thanks, Dad, for everything you passed on to me. Except for the crappy hair gene--that's something you really could have kept.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

If I'm so queer, why aren't I a lesbian?

I fancy myself as being kind of hip. Okay, that in itself is a really unhip thing to say, but you know what I mean—I doubt anyone thinks of me as an old fart. But for such a cool chick, sometimes I can be queer as hell.

When I was a kid, I had a collection of imaginary friends--all cowboys--and I liked to pretend I was Hoss and Little Joe’s kid sister. I even wrote to the powers that be at Bonanza suggesting they write in such a part for me. “I’ve never been on a horse,” I told them, “but I’m willing to learn.” (Very industrious, even at such a young age.)

As an adult, I still catch myself pretending. For instance, I hate washing my kitchen floor, so to motivate myself, I pretend Princess Diana and JFK, Jr. came back to life and are coming over to my apartment for dinner. Um, how queer is that?

Sometimes my sister Lori and I do the Buns of Steel video together. During the hard parts, she gives the guy the finger, but I put on a pretty-face smile because I pretend I’m auditioning to be one of the exercisers in the background. When I told Lori my strategy, she literally fell over screaming, "Oh my GOD, you are so queer!"

Shall I keep going? Okay... If I’m in a situation where I have to deal with someone who I think is a real a-hole but I have to be nice anyway, I pretend one of my family members needs a kidney and that person is the only suitable donor. Queer. And whenever I go out to see some music by myself, I sit at the bar and pretend the cutest guy in the band is my boyfriend. Superqueer.

So if I'm so queer, why aren't I a lesbian? Because I'm just not that smart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Back to reality (almost)

I had a great visit in Albany. I spent a lot of time with my kids and my precious grandson, Connor, and my sister Lori and her family are the best hosts ever!

My connection in Chicago was delayed last night and I didn't get back to Vegas until well after midnight. By the time I got home, it was after 1 a.m. and there was no way in hell I was going to feel like hearing my alarm at 5:26, so I emailed work before I went to bed and said I'd be taking a personal day today--yay!

I have a ton of stuff to do. It's amazing how things pile up when you're away for even just a few days. I have lots more to say, but right now I'd better start unpacking.