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.

Oh Well, Fuck That

As a young comic, I periodically worked as the opening act for a very funny headliner who happened to be out of her mind.

It was 1992, and at the age of twenty-six, I’d been on the road for about four years. Just your typical painfully shy, nice girl from a small town, trying to find her comedy voice while hoping that no one was looking.

Wasn’t much of a drinker, had never done drugs, and really didn’t think other people did either. Because surely everyone had seen Scared Straight, the anti-drug movie, in junior high school like I did, right?

Yeah, I was that guy.

She was a few years older, had a Marlboro Red voice, and a shock of curly blonde hair that she’d cut with nail scissors when it made her mad. And, also, was one of the funniest comics that I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with.

Please don’t get me wrong, when I say displeasure I simply mean that it was not a pleasure.

We were friends but hated each other and she was addicted to pharmaceuticals. Which wasn’t the cause of her crazy, it was merely an added bonus.

Sometimes she would try to get me to pimp drugs for her from stage. Before the show, she’d say, “Ask if anyone has Percodan or Tylenol 3 with Codeine. Just tell them I hurt my back.”

I never would, so at some point during my set, I’d hear her scream from the rear of the showroom, “Ask them!”

Then I would say,” Oh yeah, that’s the headliner. I’m supposed to pretend she hurt her back so that someone will give her drugs.” The audience would laugh and then afterward somebody always would.

So, as it turns out, I pimped drugs for her.

Percodan and having a conversation with me during my show were two of her favorite things. If she didn’t think I was doing well I’d hear a gravelly, “Wrap it up. I’ll take it from here.” Or, if she just wanted me to tell a certain story, “Fuck that. Tell them about us staying in that haunted hotel in Santa Fe.”

A whole lot of time was spent fighting with each other while I was trying to work. But the crowds loved it as if it were some sort of a special Punch and Judy bonus show.

Punch and Judy are puppets that were on Saturday morning television in the 1970s. Mr. Punch would beat the crap out of his wife, Judy, and other random puppets, including a baby puppet.

Somehow that show does not seem nearly as light-hearted now that I’ve described it.

By the way, If you’ve never had the pleasure of spending any quality face time with addiction, let me tell you, it is the opposite of lovely. It’s sort of like hateful, self-loathing, and mean, all rolled up in a big old sweaty ball.

I said sweaty ball. Hehe.

To be fair, she wasn’t the only one dealing with demons back then, I had plenty myself. Most comics do, it’s just that mine were more genteel, preferring the sweet solitude of my cranium so as not to disturb anyone but me. Because that would be rude and my demons are nothing if not ladylike.

So, she was addicted to painkillers while I was addicted to men who didn’t find me funny or talented and just really seemed to enjoy saying so at the drop of a hat. (Who doesn’t love a good daddy issue, right?)

That said, allow me to tell you about the time we stayed at a haunted hotel in Santa Fe.

It was after a gig in Albuquerque and the man I was seeing at the time (we’ll call him, Mr. You’re not funny, Becky) had flown in for the week. The three of us decided that when the shows were finished we’d drive to Santa Fe and spend the night in a haunted hotel.

You know, as you do.

The hotel’s centerpiece was a Victorian mansion called The Staab House. It was built in 1882 by an old Santa Fe Trail merchant named Abraham Staab.

Now, I’m not sure how you amassed your fortune but Abraham amassed his as a major supply contractor for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. He then built the beautiful three-story brick mansion for his wife, Julia.

How do I know all of this? Because I researched it and then copied and pasted.

Mr. and Mrs. Staab were the parents of seven children and incredibly wealthy. The ballroom in their home (because they had a ballroom in their home) was one of the social entertainment centers of Santa Fe society.

You are correct, they do indeed sound like douche bags.

But, never fear, the fairy tale lifestyle eventually came to a screeching halt after their youngest child passed away. Julia then became very depressed, took to her room, eventually went mad, and now haunts the place.

My goodness, I do love the idea of taking to your room and going mad. Although it doesn’t really work in this day and age. Trust me, people just assume you’re hungover.

Touché, assholes.

Imagine how dreadful it must have been for Abraham trying to comfort his wife after the loss of a child. “We shall be fine, my dear. There’s still six left. Six is a lot. Believe me, I pay to feed them, it’s a lot.”

While checking in, we asked the man working at the front desk to tell us some of the ghost stories. They were typical; glasses flying off shelves in the bar, people seeing or hearing Julia in her suite, and sometimes, if guests left clothes lying around their room, they would come back to find them neatly folded, and at the foot of the bed.

The last one really didn’t sound too scary, especially not to my boyfriend, pretty sure he thought that’s how it worked anyway. Yep, every night a spirit would cross over and pick his shit up off the floor, or fold his laundry and put it in a mystical little thing called a dresser drawer.

Oh, and isn’t it interesting that broken glasses always seem to get blamed on ghosts and never the bartender who’s been shooting Jägermeister since noon? (Which, by the way, tastes like an old lady’s house smells.)

Before going to dinner that evening we decided to leave some shirts on the floor, just in case. When we returned, ta-da! They were folded and at the foot of the bed. Well, of course, we all freaked out and ran to ask the guy at the desk if the staff had done it. He assured us they had not.

Then my boyfriend made the two of us swear that we didn’t do it.

“We swear!”

Which made him super excited because of his love of ghosts and Bigfoot and all things ridiculous.

We stayed awake through night in hopes of witnessing something supernatural. Which did not happen because the next day my friend admitted that she’d paid to have it done after we’d gone out.

Our little excursion then ended, the way they usually did when the three of us traveled together, with him driving and screaming, her in the back seat crying and chain-smoking, and me on the passenger side, gently cradling my ulcer.

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.

Just Take it Easy

If I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s this; sometimes you just have to say to yourself, “Well, I guess this is what my neck looks like now.”

So It is Written

As a younger woman, to be famous was what I wanted. Now, it’s to grow vegetables.

In a cottage by the water, with a mop of graying mermaid hair, I shall write silly stories, tend my garden and talk to tomatoes.

A feral tabby will lounge on the porch, ignoring me, and never come inside because neither of us wants that, and then slip away at the darker stage of twilight to do whatever it is that wild cats do.

I’ll drink red wine from a mug and gaze at the moon and do it all again the next day.

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