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.

Come Again?

People frequently mistake me not talking as me listening. It’s why I’m a good bartender. That, and I can mix a martini so delightful you’ll be tempted to ask for my hand in marriage but please don’t.

My first “real job” after getting off the road was at a neighborhood Italian place in Los Angeles County. It was a tiny white building with giant red awnings that shaded the front windows. A billion twinkling Christmas lights covered everything like English Ivy while empty Chianti bottles, from their perch on the window sill, peeked out from beneath as if to say, “What the fuck you lookin’ at?”

When I called to inquire about the position, a woman with a thick, unrecognizable accent answered the phone. My guess was Russian. For some reason whenever I can’t place an accent I immediately assume the person is from Russia. They rarely are. I also sometimes think people sound like Count Dracula, which isn’t a country or an accent, and usually not correct either.

The dining room felt warm and lived in, like a grandma’s house, the air heavy with smells of garlic, freshly baked bread, and an occasional whiff of mildew.

It was decorated by the owner, Tony, who enjoyed gluing stuff to the wood-paneled walls. My favorites were an old Army shovel and the right half of a broken beer mug. Inside the mug was imprisoned a tiny clown wearing a top hat and playing the accordion. He stared straight ahead with a big smile on his face that didn’t quite reach his cold, dead eyes.

I totally feel you, buddy.

The ceiling, was painted light blue like the heavens, with cotton candy clouds and half-naked cherubs flying around playing the harp. Directly above the bar was Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam, exactly like in the Sistine chapel, except for God’s disproportionately long index finger and Adam’s downtown area which looked disturbingly lobsterish, or lobster-y, or however you’d say his junk resembled a lobster.

A large antique mirror covered the back wall, and with the soft red and amber glow of Tiffany lamps, the ambiance was a combo of an old west saloon and a house of ill repute.

I learned a lot working that bar. Most notably, I look amazing in brothel lighting.

It’s true what they say about folks treating their bartender like a shrink. And, I guess if you think about it, it makes total sense even though it doesn’t.

Six days a week at 4 p.m. I’d open the doors to find my regulars impatiently waiting to get started drinking and bending my ear. Sometimes they’d knock on the front window in hopes of being let in early. You could hear them all the way in the kitchen where I’d sit and pretend I couldn’t hear them.

By the way, no judgment if you need a cocktail in the afternoon. It’s a little too early for me but I get it. Besides, pretty sure that 4 o’clock counts as 5 o’clock and if it doesn’t then it should.

Once a customer asked Tony if we had a restroom, to which he replied, “No. We shit in the street.” That job was a good fit for me. Although, I stayed way too long – as one will do when hiding from whatever it is that one is hiding from.

Most of the pressing issues my crowd wanted advice about were just common sense things. Stuff adults should know and it really annoyed me that they didn’t. A fact that was never hidden and also, unfortunately, didn’t seem to be a deterrent.

My sage advice was usually along the lines of “Grow up and pull your head out of your ass.”

Perhaps not the guidance hoped for but I suppose is what’s to be expected when a disenchanted comic is your bartender, and your bartender is who you’ve chosen as a mental health provider.

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