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.

Happily Ever After

One morning, around the age of forty, I woke up, and my boyfriend of fourteen years said, “Honey, I have some bad news. I’m breaking up with you.” So, I said, “Well, then here’s some more not-so-great news, you’re fifty, and bigfoot isn’t real. Enjoy living with your parents.”

I met Scott in my twenties at a show we were both doing at a comedy club in Los Angeles. It was 1995, in the midst of the OJ trial madness, which doesn’t really matter except that we saw Marsha Clark, the lead prosecutor, at a bar later that night which was kind of weird. She has super curly hair, by the way. After that, we made out in my car until the wee hours of the morning, which led to us spending the next decade and a half of our lives together.

For the record, I don’t normally make out with men I’ve just met. Okay, sure, a couple or three times, but a lady can’t allow such behavior to become a habit. However, it could not be helped because he was charming and funny and handsome with big blue eyes. So, it would have been rude not to.

It was at the bar that evening when he revealed his interest in Sasquatch. And, it wasn’t the “Oh isn’t that intriguing but we can talk about something else now if you’d like” type of interest either; it was the “this is going to monopolize your entire life, so his baby blues better be worth it, sister” kind of interest.

At least he told me about it upfront, so I knew what I was getting into. One time I went out with a guy for about a month before he casually mentioned an assault charge for hitting his ex-girlfriend, but it wasn’t his fault because he was coked-up. That is some information that would have been useful earlier.

Scott wasn’t some wing-nut bigfoot hunter that lived in a mud hut off the grid. He was from a good family in The Valley, had two degrees, was incredibly intelligent, and never lost at Trivial Pursuit so, people always accused him of cheating. Well, if you consider education “cheating,” then yes, he was indeed a cheater.

At times, he and his intelligence could be quite insulting. He once asked if I’d ever heard of carbon dioxide and if I knew what a pine needle was. “Yeah, it’s a needle from a pine tree, jackass. Got it.” “And as for carbon dioxide, that, of course, is the last thing you will inhale if I decide to hold a pillow over your face in the night.”

There is way more involved than one might assume when dating someone who believes in mythical creatures or aliens. The big thing is knowing how to tell your family and friends in such a way that doesn’t make him sound insane and keeps your parents from thinking you’re in a cult and then hiring someone to kidnap and deprogram you.

Also, there’s lots of sleeping out of doors with the fear of being ripped to shreds by a bear while you pee in the woods. Because that’s where you have to pee. There are cameras that need to be hung in trees in hopes of capturing an image of the elusive beast crossing a stream or molesting a hiker. Grainy videotapes to watch repeatedly until you pretend to see what he sees. Stories to feign interest in. Random hair analyses. Animal scat to identify. Scat means poop if you didn’t know. Plus, all kinds of books, keychains, posters, statues of hairy beasts, and giant plaster cast footprints in your house that have to be discreetly placed so that normal people don’t notice, but where your partner can still gaze at them longingly and feel safe.

Our first romantic getaway together was at the hill. “The Hill,” as it was sacredly referred to, is located somewhere in Northern California, and it’s where Scott believes that he had an encounter with Bigfoot. It’s strange, but I’ve never been able to remember exactly where it is despite our numerous visits. My mother once told me that women forget the pain of childbirth, otherwise, they’d never do it again. Perhaps that applies to this.

“The Hill” was called a hill because it wasn’t as big as a mountain, but it was pretty freaking close, and we didn’t just drive by and look at it. Nope, we climbed it in the rain. Sometimes on all fours through the dirt and the mud and the muck. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a scrappy Texas chick who can roll around in filth with the best of them, but after a certain age, you’d kind of just rather not.

But I was a kid then and madly in love which is a tragic combo. Because you make allowances and do things when you’re young and head over heels to please the other person and be supportive. This is lovely, but it sets a tone in a relationship that’s hard to change once you’ve grown weary of always being a good sport and would prefer not to sleep on the ground when you have a California King and only one week a month at home. But you do it because you feel guilty that you’ve been on the road telling jokes trying to make a living.

Even though that wouldn’t be an issue if you were a man, it would just be your career and perfectly okay. But it’s not, because you’re a woman, who he doesn’t think is that funny anyway (not in his top 10 favorites. That’s a quote), despite the fact you have a Comedy Central special, and he does not. And, society says you have to be a nice girl, please everybody so, once again you sleep on the ground.

Then one day, you’re thirty-seven and say to yourself, “Fuck the ground and double fuck society.” And to him, you say, “Go have fun, and I’ll be here when you get home.” Which doesn’t really sit well once the tone has been set.

So at some point, you’ll wake up, and your boyfriend will say that he has bad news. And, it’ll be sad until it isn’t. Just trust that the sun will continue to shine and the stars to twinkle, and you shall more than survive.

I heard that Scott has a new girlfriend, and they moved up north. Perhaps close to the hill, but I don’t know because I can’t remember where it is, but where ever they are, it is my sincerest hope that the three of them live happily ever after.

Piggly Wiggly Moment

In the year 1970, or it may have been 69 because my mom still had a beehive, either way, the Pedigos lived in the town of Perryton, Texas which is located in the gas and oil fields of the Northeast Texas Panhandle.

Ralph Pedigo, my mother’s husband at the time and also the father of my brother and myself, had relocated our family to this tiny place in the middle of nowhere, on the high plains surrounded by a forest of massive oil rigs and pumpjacks after being hired as an officer for the Highway Patrol.

Ralph proudly wore a Stetson Silverbelly felt cowboy hat and a gun and would cruise the desolate highways and farm to market roads enforcing the speed limit and asking people if they knew why he had stopped them. With tickets usually being issued regardless of the answer.

Sometimes in the evenings, after a trip to the Dairy Queen, we’d drive those roads in his patrol car and watch the sunset. Because that’s what you do for fun in a small town, eat ice cream and watch as day becomes night. There’s a wonderfully achy loneliness that washes over you when the sun descends on a stark landscape. It’s always been a good match for the melancholy part of my personality that enjoys feeling sad and like it’s me against everyone.

During that magical moment at dusk when the sun, moon, and stars are simultaneously visible in an orange and purple-y sky, I’d stare out the car window at the 40 foot-high pumpjacks watching as their giant heads slowly moved up and down, extracting crude oil from the wells, like a toy drinking bird in his little top hat, waiting for the red fluid to move up into his head making him top-heavy so he could finally dip forward. It felt like I was the only person in the world, and I’d dream about how when I was big, I would sit on top of one and ride it no matter what anyone said.

Although only four years old at the time, there are a lot of memories of that place. The little white house with green trim we lived in on Colgate Street, and the smell of Dippity Doo hair gel on Saturday evening as we’d sit in front of the television watching Laugh-In while my mom would torture me by trying to make curlers stay in my baby fine hair, so I’d look pretty for church the next morning.

I remember once being at the grocery store with my mother and realizing I had to get out of there. The town, not the store, which was a Piggly Wiggly.

It started as just a normal outing. Me in the shopping cart with my legs dangling, occasionally kicking my mother in her crotch while she tried to shop and prevent my seven-year-old brother, with his bright red hair shaved in a flattop, from putting anything he could get his paws on into his mouth or the basket.

Everything was fine as we began our checkout. My perch in the cart was the perfect vantage point to watch the cashier, wearing a red and mustard yellow polyester uniform and a button with a picture of a cartoon pig wearing a butcher’s hat, and also, I could keep an eye on the Chips Ahoy.

The cashier made small talk with a cheerfulness that didn’t quite reach her eyes as item after item was robotically rung up and then slid towards the kid whose job was to put things in paper bags and then into the trunk of our Cutlass.

Somewhere, between shampoo and cans of dog food for our Chihuahua named Rodrigues, I was overcome with a feeling of dread. The kind of dread that makes you mad and your gut hurt, and you try to casually spot the closest exit without anyone noticing, in case you need to make a run for it. And I remember thinking to myself, “This will never be my life.”

I may not have been old enough to know what her life was, but I somehow knew what it wasn’t.

Maybe she was married to a roughneck that worked in the oil fields, and they had kids and roots in the town and were happy as pigs in shit, or maybe not. Sometimes people are satisfied because they just are, and other times it’s because they think they have to be. But whatever, that was not going to be me.

I haven’t told many people about that memory because it seemed kind of arrogant, but recently it dawned on me that everyone has their “Piggly Wiggly Moment.” That moment when God or the Universe, your gut, whoever tells you that you can do anything you want and if it feels like there has to be more to life than “this” then there is, and it’s okay to go find it.

It’s been over fifty years but to this day, whenever I’m scared to do something or hearing too many voices, including my own, tell me I can’t, I always go back there and try to channel that little girl with the wild heart who wanted to ride an oil pump like a bronco and didn’t care what anyone thought about it. And then I just go for it. Because no matter how scary something is, there is no way I’m letting a four year old be a bigger badass than I am.

Mama Bear

On a recent afternoon, while preparing to leave the house to run errands, I noticed that my shirt was on inside out. So, after pulling it off and flipping it right side out, I then put it on backward. This is one of the few times in life that I have questioned my decision to not have children.

It seems probable that these sorts of things will be happening more frequently as I head towards the light, and it might’ve been nice to have someone around to keep an eye out for it.

I have enjoyed my unencumbered life of telling jokes in smelly bars, and dating men who were rarely a good idea, however oftentimes, I feel melancholy knowing I’ll never get to experience that superhuman mom strength that happens when a 57 Chevy slips off the blocks and traps your toddler under the axel. And then, for some reason, you’re able to lift a 3,000-pound truck with your left hand and use the other to yank your kid to safety by his hair.

The first time my mom performed such a feat still fascinates me. I was in the second grade, and we lived in the small town of Hereford Texas. It’s known as the beef capital of the world and is the kind of place where men open doors, say ma’am, and take their hats off when they enter a room.

The town got its name from The Hereford, which is a breed of cattle. And cows are like flowers; when there’s a bunch of them, they’re very fragrant. The residents refer to this fragrance as money, which sounds better than saying that your town smells like cow shit.

Sandra was my best friend in those days. We went to school together, were in the same Blue Bird troop, and spent hours playing at each other’s houses. Her mom was nice and would give us snacks like crushed ice cubes, which we’d eat with a spoon from a coffee cup and felt very fancy doing so.

One Saturday morning, while walking to my house to play, we got to witness my mother turn into a superhero. About half a block from home, which was on the opposite side of the street, I could see her standing on the front porch watching to make sure we crossed safely.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a dog about the size of a Shetland pony started galloping towards us. And not in a friendly, tail wagging, “Hey, how ya doin?” sort of way.

Don’t know exactly what breed of dog it was but it looked like the kind that patrols the grounds of a junkyard and finds joy in killing little girls. As we began to scream and scatter like baby chicks, he sunk his fangs into Sandra’s back and began to shake his gigantic freak head, flinging her tiny body to and fro.

Somehow, amid all the terror and mayhem, I saw my mother spring into action in slow motion. She leaped from the porch and sprinted shoeless, down the block and across the street, grabbing this beast by the scruff of the neck and lifting him off the ground.

Apparently startled (as one would be by being interrupted in the middle of a kill) he yelped, which caused his jaws to release their death grip on my friend’s spine and she tumbled to freedom.

With one hand, my mom raised him above her head, twirling the enormous hound like Wonder Woman’s lasso, and then hurled him into a yard several houses down where he hit the ground running and never looked back.

That memory is the reason my sweet little mama is still on my ‘top 5’ list of people that I want with me in a bar fight.

Don’t say Don’t

Every couple of weeks I seem to stumble upon yet another list of “Don’ts” for women over the age of 40. Hair, makeup, fashion, and basic life in general. Not sure who keeps writing these, but allow me to tell you who isn’t – a woman over 40.

Around age 45 something mystical happens to females; the universe gifts us with the wisdom of no longer giving a fuck. Whether or not we choose to accept is up to the individual.

In my late 20’s or early 30’s, don’t really remember exactly, but it was that time in life when your body is magnificent and you can rock the hell out of a bikini but don’t realize it until years later when you see pictures, and then you’re pissed for having ever listened to anyone or anything other than your mom and your gut.

It was back then.

Anyway, I was in the gym locker room and noticed a woman blow-drying her shoulder-length blond hair. Probably mid-60s, wearing jeans, red pumps, and a smoking hot black lace bra. Her body looked soft and a tad fleshy, as will happen after a life long-lived, but I’d never encountered anyone so gloriously self-assured and could not look away.

Relax, we didn’t make out.

But I did purchase new bras afterward.

This woman knew something that a kid my age wouldn’t for quite a while; her self-worth. There were no shits given about ridiculous lists or care of what anyone else thought should be retired with age. My girl felt sexy and so she was freaking sexy.

Whenever I read which hairstyles and clothing are now off-limits because my Logan’s Run crystal has flashed its final message (which means my time is up and I should dress like a hausfrau) it brings to mind the woman in red pumps and black bra, who first showed me what it looks like to not give a fuck.

To her, I will be forever grateful.

And The Livin is Easy

Remember when we were kids and thought that pistachio nuts were red? Then we found out it was because they were being doused in the cancerously delicious dye Red 40.

That was sure fun.

On lazy summer evenings, during that magical time when moon and sun simultaneously rise and set and your soul whispers that anything is possible, we’d hop on our bikes, with little red-stained fingers, and happily cruise along in the mist coming from the truck spraying for mosquitos.

So many fond memories and upper respiratory infections.

Twas a simpler time when it was safe to be outside from dawn to dusk. Just hanging out on the curb, waiting for your dad because he promised you could spend the weekend with him. And you could just wait and wait and wait until the night was as black as pitch and your mom would finally make you come inside because he didn’t show.

Ah, the carefree days of childhood.

Up from San Antone

From the time I was old enough to sneak into bars, all I’ve ever wanted to do was be a stand-up comic.

Life changed during the summer of my nineteenth year on this planet when the comedy boom of the 1980s hit and Jolly’s Comedy Club opened in my hometown of Amarillo, Texas.

That’s right, the Amarillo.

The one from Route 66 and Amarillo By Morning. It’s actually mentioned in a lot of country songs because it just sounds like the name of a town that you’d hear in a country song. A dusty, little cow town on the plains of Texas. I-40 runs right through the middle of it, leading anywhere but there…which is exactly where I wanted to be.

I hated small-town life. Dreaded the thought of getting stuck there, marrying a feedlot cowboy, and then dying. And not necessarily in that order.

My first time on stage during that open mic, Tuesday, June 22, 1987, 8:15 p.m. central time, (every comic can tell you their comedy anniversary) I knew things would be okay. It didn’t matter that there weren’t a whole lot of laughs, cause I was saved. No cowboy husband or a job slinging hash for me.

Onward and upward!

I performed secretly for months before telling my ridiculously overprotective, single mother and older brother that I wanted to drop out of Jr college and go on the road telling jokes. They took it surprisingly well. Probably because I prefaced it by saying, “I have something to tell you. I’m a lesbian.”
After a really long and incredibly awkward pause when it seemed like they both might burst into tears, I said, “I’m kidding, I’m going to be a professional comedian.”

“Thank you, Jesus,” was their heartfelt response.

That was when my brother revealed he’d been worried that I might not be straight because my roommate and best friend at the time was a hefty girl who played catcher on our church softball team.

If he’d ever paid attention to the way I played right field, his worries would have been laid to rest much earlier in the season.

As it turns out, my friend wasn’t gay either. She was just chubby.

And, by the way, my family doesn’t think that there’s anything wrong with being homosexual. It’s fine. Just as long as it’s not one of us for cryin’ out loud.

Anyhoo, after religiously doing open mics and not getting laughs for another year or so, it seemed like the perfect time to hit the road. So, I then quit my high-powered waitress job at the Red Lobster, even though I’d just gotten my year pin with the diamond chip in it. (See how serious I was?)

By the way, when I say there weren’t any laughs when I first started I’m being only slightly self-deprecating. There were some but just not very many. As is the case with most new comics. Usually the audience members were people I knew. Some of them I’d grown up with, gone to school with, and worked with. Most of them just sat and stared.

Thanks, guys.

It isn’t easy trying to chase a dream when it feels like nobody’s rooting for you. It hurt my feelings at the time, but I’ve come to understand this; it isn’t that people don’t want you to reach for the stars because they don’t like you. Nope, that’s not it at all. Sometimes they don’t want you to do it because it means that they too will have to try.

And who wants to do that? I don’t blame them. Trying is hard.

Don’t let anyone kid you. It’s nothing like not trying.

And, so began the journey. July 3, 1988, I quit my day job and hit the road in my 1974 canary-yellow Ford Pinto. I was twenty-two years old, had zero money in my pocket, and even less of a clue about how the world worked. I know: awesome game plan.

It’s always felt like I was raised twice in my life. First, in a small town by a nice family who didn’t drink or smoke and a grandfather who was a Methodist minister. Then again in green rooms, showrooms, and comedy condos across the country by comics who drank, swore, did drugs, and fornicated with cocktail waitresses in the bedroom next to mine.

I must tell you, it’s made for an interestingly boring life.

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