Fluff and Fold
An unspoken code of conduct is crucial when living in an apartment complex. Most folks abide by it, but a few seem entirely unaware of its existence or that they’re living in a shared space, which tends to throw off the rhythm of life for all others. For example, the washer and dryer in the laundry room of the building are for everyone’s use. Sadly, you don’t own those appliances. They weren’t a housewarming gift from the landlord and will need to be shared with the rest of the payers of rent.
To be fair, this can be confusing and perhaps should be clarified in the lease so that everyone understands it upfront, and then, no one is tempted to pour a bottle of bleach into your load of colors or drop a red sock in with your whites. That said, putting clothes in either one of these machines and then leaving the property for an extended period isn’t part of the code.
My next-door neighbor, Jane, does this weekly. We share the same day off, and I have learned to get up as early as a night owl writer possibly can so that I can do my two loads before she can take her twenty- four loads down and then leave on vacation for the day. But, sometimes, I’m not fast enough and then have to spend my afternoon watching and waiting for her to come home, like I’m a woman from the 18th century on a widow’s walk, wringing my hands while anxiously awaiting my husband’s return from the sea.
She always says the same thing when she finally gets back and sees me, “Oh, sorry. I ran to the store and thought it would only take 40 minutes.” We live in Los Angeles, California, where nothing takes only 40 minutes. Ever. Even when carrying the trash out to the dumpster, you need to plan for delays in case of traffic on the 405. If you haven’t figured this out by now, perhaps consider moving to a town with one blinking stoplight so that the rest of us can get our underpants laundered in a timely manner.
Jane is a lovely person and a good mother. She once bought her six-year-old daughter, whose bedroom is next to mine, a karaoke machine for Christmas. Her daughter loves to scream, and screaming into a microphone amplifying screaming fills her heart with joy. Jane may have also gotten her 4-year-old son a drum set that year, or maybe he was kicking the wall to keep the beat with his sisters screaming. I’m not sure, but he, too, seemed quite joyful. And a happy holiday was had by almost everyone.
On the other hand, my neighbor Cathy absolutely understands how apartment life works. She’s lived here for 35 years, which I know because she leads with that every time we speak. She’s clean and quiet, has a lovely garden, and has the ability to know everything that goes on in the building while appearing to mind her own business.
I once watched the LA county coroner remove an elderly neighbor from his apartment in a body bag. They rolled him all the way around the top level and then carried him down the stairs next to where Cathy just happened to be sitting on her stoop, repotting daisies, and she never looked up. Not even a side-eye. And I watched her the entire time. I don’t know how long it took, but I guarantee it wasn’t only 40 minutes.
Yes, I’m sure
The other night a guy I used to work with called. When I saw his name on my phone, I let it go to voicemail. He’s a friendly kid, maybe 30, and a massive fan of comedy. We worked together at a bar and restaurant a few years back, and he’d always tell me jokes and bits that he’d heard on a comedy channel radio station that they played non-stop in the kitchen.
Professional comedians hate that, but I’d give the fake “that’s funny” response and walk away. Once, he started repeating a famous comic’s joke, and when he was done, I named the comic and said, “We made out in a van in Austin.” From that point on, I was this kid’s hero.
I stopped doing stand-up seriously years ago, so people telling me jokes and trying to talk comedy these days is like telling me about seeing my old boyfriend with some hot young chick. Good for him, but I don’t care anymore. Let him break her heart now.
When I listened to his message, he sounded down and said he just wanted to talk and could use a good laugh right now. Fuck. It was late, and I was tired and didn’t feel like talking, but I also didn’t want to be responsible if he did something to hurt himself and I could’ve helped but was too lazy to call back, so I did. He was fine. He was binge-watching comedy specials on Netflix. After telling me a few of his favorite jokes, he said he was feeling depressed because he wanted to do stand-up.
Well, being depressed is a good first step.
He lamented for a few minutes, so I said, “Then write five minutes and find an open mic.”
More lamenting. “Five minutes seems like a lot. I don’t know how. Blah, blah.”
I said, “Five minutes is a lot, and nobody knows how to do it at first. Write down some ideas that you think are funny. Then figure out how you want to say them. It’s like telling someone a story.”
“That’s it?” He asked
“That’s it.” I said
“Any writing advice?”
“Yes. Ass in a chair.”
Sit down and write badly. Keep writing badly until you don’t anymore. And then repeat.
That’s the secret of writing and comedy- keep doing it until you don’t suck at it as much.
And Never Brought to Mind?
Heading into the new year, I’ve decided to focus on two things: drinking more water and eating real food. Since I already know how to eat and drink and am pretty efficient at both, it feels like cheating choosing those as my resolutions. But since those were the first things that popped into my head, I figured I should go with it so that I don’t jinx myself or have regrets later. Because in the past, whenever I’ve had to make a choice, say, for example, a question on a driver’s test or an entrée on a menu and I don’t go with the first thing that comes to mind and switch it up at the last minute, it never ends well.
Besides, being hydrated and not eating processed junk can only help me feel better and achieve the other goals I may have thought about after drinking more water and eating real food.
And, you know what? I genuinely believe that most of life’s problems could be solved if everyone would just eat real food instead of the sad American diet, even though once or twice a year, I sneak through a Taco Bell drive thru and order three crunchy tacos with extra cheese and sour cream and then hide in my car and try to eat them before the shame kicks in.
Okay, after considering it, I’d like to add “always go with my first choice” to drinking more water and eating real food.
We Heard You the First Time
I find the side effects of social media becoming increasingly more disturbing. The bad has by far surpassed the good. We all now magically know everything about everything. We are doctors that didn’t go to medical school. Political analysts because we read an article on the internet written by someone who stormed The Capital. Professional comedians because we post other people’s jokes and quotes and pass them off as our own by adding a cartoon meme of what we might look like if we were ten years younger, twenty pounds lighter, and had Jaundice.
We all star in our own weekly shows because we can jump on Facebook Live every Friday at 5 PM, and, while simultaneously operating a 4000-pound motor vehicle, looking at our phone instead of the road, we update planet earth about our every fucking move and how we’re living our best fucking lives. Yay, us.
Each thought and opinion that pops into our heads must be broadcast immediately.
Trying too hard-
to be funny
to be heard
to be somebody
Look at me! Look at me!
Maybe it’s time we take a breath and recalibrate. Not try so hard. Not talk so much. Let us instead –
be a good human
Head in the Clouds. Nose in a Book
Whenever I hear anyone say that they were poor as a child but didn’t realize it because they were always surrounded by so much love, I don’t believe it. It’s a beautiful sentiment, but how could you not know? I was also raised in a poor but loving household and was well aware of it every day. And, on the off chance I might happen to forget for a moment, there was always a rich kid, usually a cheerleader with a cute button nose and the bosom of a 20-year-old Playboy bunny, who was more than happy to jog my memory.
Love is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t make you not hungry or forget that you’re wearing hand-me-downs and that your mom, who isn’t a beauty operator, cuts your hair. I’m not saying I wasn’t happy; I’m just saying that I knew. But perhaps it isn’t fair to judge since, unlike myself, not everyone has been fifty years old since they were seven.
As a single parent and sole provider, my mother made sure her children never went without basic necessities, but there wasn’t much “extra” anything at our house. I suppose I could say there was “extra love,” but that would sound just as ridiculous as someone saying they didn’t realize they were poor despite having worn milk cartons as snowshoes.
The one thing that my mom rarely said no to when it came to spending money was books. She’s an avid reader, and it is from her that I inherited my passion for reading. I adore books: the way they look and feel and especially how old ones smell when you fan their yellowing pages under your nose.
When I get a new book, my ritual is the same today as when I was a little girl. First, it’s gets set somewhere in plain sight, usually on the coffee table. I want to be able to see it but won’t read it right away. It’s fun knowing that it’s there, waiting.
When the anticipation becomes too much, the front and the back cover get read. Then, if there’s a dust cover, I read the inside flaps with the information about the author. Most times, it’s boring stuff like how they reside in West Virginia with their spouse and a parrot, both of which are named Hank. But sometimes it’s about their work process and cool facts like how they hated crying babies and mainly survived on hamburger meat, green peas, and coffee – that was Will Cuppy. He wrote a weekly column for the New York Herald in the 1930s and one of my all-time favorite books, The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. A hilariously wry book of stories where he humbles historical figures like William The Conqueror and Lucrezia Borgia. Who doesn’t enjoy a funny Lucrezia Borgia story, for crying out loud?
I then read the page that lists any other books the author has written and think, “If I like this one, maybe I’ll read one of those. But what if I do and it’s not as good? That would be sad. So, maybe I won’t. Relax, Pedigo, you don’t have to decide right now.”
Then next is the one with all of the publishing information on it. Not sure why I read that page. Maybe it’s because sometimes I get to say, “Hmm, I wasn’t even born when this was copywritten. Interesting.”
Even though it isn’t at all interesting.
Then onward to the dedication page, where I’ll ponder if these people truly appreciated the gesture and what they did to deserve it, other than having to live with a moody writer who ate a shitload of green peas.
Then I read the forward unless, of course, it gives too much away, and then I’ll stop and go back and read that after I’m finished to see if I agree with the pompous opinion of the writer of the forward. I usually do.
And, finally, when there has been enough word foreplay and my brain is sufficiently aroused, I will begin chapter one.
Yes, that seems like a lot, I know. But it’s not if you’re a reader because readers are hardcore. We like to read. In the 90s, I continued to work for a comedy club that wouldn’t move me up as a performer or pay me more money, and I did it simply because in the condo, where the comics stayed, there was, for some reason, a collection of The Alphabet Murders by Sue Grafton and I wanted to read them all. Which I eventually did, and then told the club booker that “F is for fuck off.”
It’s hard for me to comprehend when a person says they aren’t a reader. A man once told me that while we were at dinner. He used those exact words, “I am not a reader.” I, was suddenly tired and remembered that I needed to get up early the next morning. Because that’s a deal-breaker for me, I could be attracted to someone who can’t read but not to someone who chooses not to.
Books and being able to escape into their stories are how I survived adolescence. They let me know there was a big colorful world out there, not just the grey one where this misfit kid hung her second-hand hat. It’s why I became a storyteller. I enjoy the thought that maybe one of mine might make someone as happy as the ones I like have made me.
No Cream No Sugar
There’s a quality that certain people possess to which I find myself inevitably drawn. A mysterious “something” that’s hard to define, and so I call it the “I’m going to grab a coffee. Can I get you something?” mystique.
It encompasses many things and doesn’t necessarily have anything at all to do with coffee. However, if you’re courting me, showing up with a cup so strong that my eyes water works just as well as flowers for no reason.
My theory is that a person who thinks, “Since I’m getting coffee, I should see if anyone else would like some.” is also a person who asks about your day because they’re genuinely interested. These folks hold the door at the bank, so it doesn’t slam in your face when you try to enter behind them. They make sure you get to your car safely, notice your haircut, ask specifics, and let it be about you sometimes. They’re the people who make eye contact when having a conversation instead of looking around to see if anyone more important is in the room because they think you’re the most important person in the room.
These are the people I want to be like and around more often.
“Narcissist” is a word that I try not to use because of its overuse. But since it is a word and does apply here, I feel justified in using it now, and so I will. I once worked with a narcissist. After 30 years in show business, there’s actually been tons of them, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest in my mind. The Big Bad John of the self-obsessed, if you will. So bewitched was this man, by the sound of his own voice that while droning on about his wonderfulness, he would gaze longingly at his reflection in the mirror with a flirtatious smile. As if thinking, “Who is this dreamboat?” So, I would say, “Would you two care to be alone?”
This man never tired of talking but had no interest in listening to anyone else do so. He turned and walked away in the middle of something I was saying on more than one occasion. When called on his rudeness, the unconcerned response would be, “I thought you were finished.”
Here’s an excellent way to tell when someone has finished speaking – they will no longer be talking.
With age comes wisdom and less tolerance for nonsense; therefore, the behavior I’m willing to accept and to whom I give my time has changed greatly. My tribe is smaller these days but filled with souls who “talk to and not at,” show an interest in what’s going on in a world other than their own, and of course, always think about me before making a coffee run.
The Other Shoe Dropped
At around 11:37 p.m. last night, I stopped at the Rite Aid near my apartment to pick up a few essentials. Despite the fact Los Angeles County is larger than North Carolina and 9.8 million people live here, the sidewalks roll up at about 10:30 p.m. Hence, if you’re a creature of the night, like myself, there are limited options when you need laundry detergent or a double scoop of Thrifty Ice Cream after that. Therefore, the drug store is your destination.
I was there buying a frozen cheese pizza and bottle of red wine, and since I’m a grown woman, there will be no explanation or apologies for my sophisticated palate and penchant for eating dinner at midnight.
The store’s security guard was behind the counter flirting with one of the cashiers as I waited in line to pay. He was a handsome kid in his late twenties and appeared to be in fairly good shape. He asked the girl why she thought he was a “leg man,” and she giggled. I wasn’t trying to be nosy; I notice stuff. My grandma Mourer used to say, “You are the most observant child.” Occasionally, she even meant it as a compliment.
After the guard finally grew tired of the flirtation and decided to come out onto the floor to do his job, I could see that he was wearing black socks and Nike shower shoes with his uniform.
To clarify, shower shoes are similar to flip flops but without the straps that go between your big toe and the weird long one next to it to help keep them on your feet. Instead, there’s a fat strap that goes across the top of your foot that really doesn’t do much of anything that I can tell because I’ve never seen anyone wearing shower shoes where at least three inches of their foot wasn’t hanging off the front, scraping pavement, while the back half of the sole was riding up on their heel like spurs on a cowboy boot.
It’s kind of like wearing only half of a shoe. Not only are they uncomfortable, but incredibly impractical. It’s hard keeping them on your feet in the best of times, like when taking a shower at the gym, so you don’t get other people’s foot goo on yours, which is what they’re made for, let alone trying to stop someone from running out of the store with a six-pack of Coors Light stuffed down their pant leg. Yet, it is the footwear that this gentleman had chosen for fighting crime.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that the plan is to kick them off at the first sign of trouble and go after the perp wearing only socks. Have you ever tried walking on a linoleum floor in stocking feet? Even if you can remain upright, you’re not going anywhere fast.
Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I just happened to notice.
One Non Prom
1984 was my senior year at Tascosa High School, which is located in Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo is where I was born and raised, and by the way, has been mentioned in many a country song because it just sounds like the name of a town that you would hear in a country song. I’ve said that before but felt like repeating it because it’s a good line, and what if someone didn’t get to read it the first time I wrote it.
I wasn’t a typical seventeen-year-old girl all aflutter about boys or going to football games or dances. Well, maybe the boy part, but attending school or any of its related functions did not hold my interest, which was a big factor in my being grounded my entire freshman year. There were many reasons for house arrest, including my hard head and sharp tongue, but basically, it was because neither my teachers nor my mother seemed to care that I already knew everything.
That isn’t an exaggeration either it was actually the entire school year. My sentence wasn’t handed down all at once. I was just never able to make parole. Which, unfortunately, helped prove my mom correct – she could indeed play the game longer.
My next three years of academia, if a public school can be considered academia, went a little more smoothly thanks to the lessons learned during my incarceration, which were “think before speaking because some people obviously don’t appreciate dry humor.” and “the importance of sitting quietly and pretending to give a shit even when you do not.”
Senior prom rolled around one month shy of my 18th birthday and seemed juvenile. It was only 26 days before I would be a grown woman, and so it seemed silly to go. Besides, I was bashful and awkward and pretty sure that no one would ask, which they didn’t, but it’s fine because that’s what helped me develop my theory that not going to the prom is a way more interesting rite of passage than going.
Imagine how many great love songs or works of art we’d have been denied if everyone fit in as a kid or went to their prom. Thank heaven Vincent Van Gogh was a redhead, which is never appealing to girls in their teens, so you know that guy didn’t go, and if he had, there might not be The Starry Night.
There had been talk about perhaps going as a group with my best friends Jo and Jonathon.
Jo and I had been friends since the 6th-grade. She was a tiny little cowgirl and was funny and sweet, with some rough-and-tumble thrown into the mix. Her older brother was a bull rider, so she spent a lot of time at rodeos and around cowboys. My mom always compared her to a Banty rooster, roosters used in cockfights because they’re scrappy and will fight to the death. That may not sound very flattering, but actually, it is and was a pretty accurate comparison. “Give in” or “Back down” were not phrases in Jo’s vocabulary.
We met Jonathon during sophomore year. He was our gay friend that we didn’t believe was gay despite having met him in drama club or the fact that he was designing his own clothing line at fifteen years old and wanted to be known only by his first name, like Cher.
We ended up not going as a group because Jonathon was asked to the dance by some random girl who also had no gaydar. I don’t know her name or anything about her, really, except that she didn’t lose her virginity on prom night.
Jo went with a guy that we knew from church. Hers, not mine. Jo’s family belonged to the Church of Christ, and mine were Methodist, but I’d tag along with them most Sundays because her parents would take us to eat at The Sizzler afterward.
Church of Christ is hardcore. They are rivaled only by the Pentecostals and those religions where you have to marry your grandpa’s best friend when you turn twelve years old or get your period, whichever happens first. So, I’d sit in Sunday school every week and listen to them tell me I was going to hell because I wasn’t baptized in their church, but then I’d get chopped sirloin and fries when it was over. So, it was totally worth it.
Initially, it was a shock because Methodists are a very mellow people who like to think we mind our own business. After all, it doesn’t count if you say it under your breath or out of the corner of your mouth. We enjoy a nice brisket and macaroni salad. And we love God, but come on, let’s not lose our minds about it. We sit quietly with hands folded, paying attention during the sermon so that we can be out of there by noon, and we just pray that nobody goes up to the front to accept Jesus during the benediction because that’ll tack on at least an extra 20 minutes.
May God be with you. And also, with you. Gotta run, see y’all next week.
On Prom night, I volunteered to work my boring part-time job at a clothing store in the mall and learned a valuable lesson that I wouldn’t really understand until years later. A dance is just a dance; it only lasts one night. But a job, no matter how boring, is something that, for the rest of your life, can be used to get you out of going to all kinds of undesirable functions like brunch and Christmas at your boyfriend’s parent’s house.
Hey, I Know You
Here’s a sentence that I’ve said many times in my life, “I don’t know because I don’t work here.” Perhaps it’s my stern resting face with severe glasses combined with good posture and a confident carriage. I’m not sure, but whatever it is and wherever I am, people usually assume that I’m in charge and are forever asking me questions and where things are located.
I don’t really mind and try to help when at all possible, “Let me think, if I was paint thinner, where would I be?” Because even at the hardware store, I look like I’m steering the ship, and not many things make a girl feel sexier than looking like she knows her way around a claw hammer.
And so, I’m always having these sorts of conversations with strangers as I try and navigate my way in this world-
“No, I’m not the owner. Just here having dinner.”
“I don’t know if they’re hiring. You should ask the chick with the name tag.”
“Tell you what, if they let me make my own cocktail, it would be my pleasure to get you another one too.”
In my twenties, I was having dinner at a Bennigan’s in the same strip mall as a comedy club where I was working. Bennigan’s was a popular chain restaurant in the 1980s and 90s. They were decorated by someone who decided it would be better to paint everything kelly green and glue random crap on the walls, like old rugby cleats and rusty trombones, instead of having a design plan or choosing an accent color. It was America’s original casual dining concept and was fun. It felt kind of like eating in a storage unit with dirty shoes hanging next to your plate.
On my way to the restroom, I saw a group of people staring, and then a woman waved and motioned for me to come to their table. We made pleasantries for a minute as I waited for them to ask, “Aren’t you a comedian?” the woman instead asked if they could have their iced teas refilled. And I said, “sure, I’ll tell your server.”
Because again, it’s no big deal, but moving forward, please let the record show-
“I can’t validate parking.”
“I’m not your kid’s principal. And yes, I’m sure.”
“No clue where that book is located. Check the card catalog or Dewey Decimal System.”
And, “I’m probably not allowed in the kitchen, but I’m sure someone would be glad to bring you more bread.”
Once at a brunch buffet, a man got extremely annoyed and marched off in a huff when I couldn’t tell him if the gravy was gluten-free. He didn’t seem to believe that I wasn’t managing the line, but it worked out for the best because it looked like he’d had enough gravy in his lifetime. You’re very welcome, chubby guy’s arteries.
I also get accused quite often of being an undercover cop. And it’s a good thing I’m not because apparently, I would be terrible at it. More than once, I’ve been sitting in my car, minding my own business, when suddenly tap, tap, tap on the window. “You a cop?” Nope just listening to NPR.
One time before a show, I was taking a picture of my name on a comedy club marque when a man suddenly began walking towards me very aggressively and asked if I was a police officer and had just taken his picture.
“No, I’m a comic and took a picture of my name.” I said, pointing at the sign.
He then barked, “If you’re a cop, you have to tell me. If I ask, you have to tell. Those are the rules.”
Really? Those are the rules? “Look, mister, I was only educated in the Texas public school system, but I’m fairly certain there’s more involved in undercover work than just the honor system. And in fact, in Texas, pretty sure they just make it up as they go. So, walk away before I haul your dumb ass downtown.”
The job that I have that no one seems to believe that I have is stand-up comedy. I’ve heard this a million times. “Seriously? You don’t look like you’d be funny.”
So, guess I don’t look like I’m funny but do look like I’m in charge of gravy.