Monthly Archives: February 2012

White Girl (Jail, Part 4)


A different officer was standing in the open doorway.   I lifted my head from my hands and looked up at him through bleary eyes.  A couple of hours had passed, and my body and soul felt every minute of them.

I helped myself off the bench, and silently followed the officer.  I guessed that the more jovial night shift had left.  The morning crew was less friendly.

He led me back to my original cell.  I wanted to grab his neck and wring it.  Surely I had served my time.  I finally spoke up.

“I’ve been in here a while, do you know when I’ll be able to leave?”

“You’ll be out of here soon,” he answered, flatly.

“That’s what they all say,” I murmured, under my breath.

And there I was, back where I had started.  My original cellmate was long gone. Over the next hour or so, I would have a few more.  Enter a pretty, young gang member dressed in 5” heels and club attire.  She paced the room and threatened to kill her cousin for landing her in jail – again.

“What happened?” I asked her, calmly.  I definitely needed the energy level in the room to feel less threatening.

“THAT FUCKING BITCH GOT DRUNK AND DROVE MY CAR INTO A TREE!”  she screamed at the door, presuming that she could be heard.

Her cousin was being held across the way, and was, indeed, drunk.  She was laughing, cursing, and wailing in the solitary cell.

“I SWEAR I’m going to kill her.  I am going to MURDER that bitch!  She is GOING TO GET IT!”

Ohh, boy.

“But why are you here, if she was the one driving?”  I asked, genuinely curious.

The girl sat down and adjusted her tight, tiny skirt.

“Because I beat her ass up, and the neighbors called the cops.  I have a prior, so I’m fucked.”

“Oh.”  I didn’t want to know what her “prior” was.

“So, what the fuck is some white girl like you in here for?”

I chuckled, albeit nervously.

“Um, I got arrested for driving under the influence.”

“Psssshhh.”  She dismissed me.  “That ain’t nothin’.  Sucks for you, though.”

“Yeah,” I nodded.  Never a truer word spoken.  “It sucks.”

The pretty young gangster was held for about 30 minutes, then taken straight to arraignment.  I was almost jealous of her quick turn-around.

My next cellmates were rounded up and deposited into the concrete room.  We huddled together on the bench, awkwardly.  One woman was arrested for a DUI because she was smoking pot on her way to work.  She lit up at a stoplight, right in front of a police car.

“Why’d you do that?!”  I inquired, incredulously.

“I dunno, gurrrrl, I jus’ felt like it,” she responded.  “It was stupid.  Annnn now I’s here, instead of at work, and that’s some fucked up shit.”

I twisted my lips in sympathy.  Fucked up shit, indeed.  I couldn’t judge the woman.  After all, we were all equal.

I turned to the frightened Hispanic woman on my left.

“What happened with you?”

She stared at me with terror in her eyes, pursed her lips, and vehemently shook her head.

I tried again, in elementary Spanish:

”Uhhhh, ¿Por qué estás aquí?”

Fear turned to sadness.  “Yo vendía tamales, “ she replied.

“Tamales?  You sold tamales?”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  “That’s why you are here?  You’re in JAIL for selling TAMALES?”

“Hooooooo!  That’s some fucked up shit, lady,”  the pot smoker cackled.

Tamale Lady giggled nervously.  Then we all laughed, and the room relaxed.

The two women stared at me, expectantly.

“Oh, I was drinking and driving,” I offered, apologetically.  “El borracho,” I pointed to myself.

Sigh.  Wish I had a tamale right about now.

Footsteps.  Keys.  Door opened.


I got up, and wished goodbye and good luck to Pot and Tamale Lady.

“Bye, gurrrrl!” Pot Lady yelled, as the door closed and locked shut.

The officer led me down the hall, past the holding cells.  We continued up the stairs.

Oh, my goodness!  I’m finally going home!  HOORAY! 

“Grab a blanket and a sheet, Spencer.  You’re going to the beds.”


“I’m sorry, what…what are ‘the beds’?”  I asked, trying not to panic.

The officer was clearly annoyed.

“You could be here for the weekend.   It’s Friday, and the courts close.  So, grab your bedding and let’s go.”

“But, but…” I sputtered.  “I’m supposed to be getting out of here now.  I’ve been here all night.”  I waved my Prisoner’s Receipt in his face.

The officer took it from me but barely glanced over it.

My breathing became labored.  I couldn’t be there all weekend.  I had a life to live!  I couldn’t bear the thought of one more minute in that jail, regardless of how many friends I would try to make to help pass the time.

“Please, sir.  I need to get out of here.”

“Well, Spencer, you have to sober up,” he retorted.  “And it takes a while for you to be processed.”

I will never live this down, will I. 

“I blew a point 1-0, probably about eight hours ago,” I said, as the panic rose in my voice.  “I really need to get out of here.  I need to go home.”

“Well, Spencer, you shouldn’t have been drinking and driving, then.”  He motioned towards a large laundry vat.

“No kidding,” I muttered.  I angrily grabbed a blanket and a sheet, and bit my lip hard to hold back my tears.

The officer led me into a much larger cell.  In it were fresh, new faces.  As soon as I walked in the door, I realized I was very much the minority of the group.  For the first time all morning, I felt afraid.

“Heeey, look at the pretty white girl!”  A pock-faced young woman called to me.  “Ooooohie, look at that great ass!  Wow.  If I were a lesbian I’d eat you up!”

Oh, God.  Please don’t kill me.

I smiled at the group.  I could feel their eyes boring holes into every inch of my body.

Next to the pock-faced girl sat a beautiful African-American girl with smooth skin and perfectly formed lips.  Her thin frame was covered in a short, glittery dress.  She chewed a piece of bright pink gum and casually played with her hair.  I walked towards the pair and sat down, right between them.

Pock-faced girl was missing a few teeth.

“Mmmm, girl, you are in the wrong place,” she glared at me.

“Not really,” I said.  I didn’t look at her.

The pretty girl to my right laughed, and snapped her gum.

“She damn straight – she in jail.  She did somethin’.”

Another woman spoke up.  She was pacing the room, tugging at her midriff.

“She probably druuuuuunkkkkk!  Look at her!  She in here because she fucked up, jus’ like the rest of us.  You – (she pointed at Pock Face) be in here for possessin’ some kinda whacked out drugs, and you (Pretty Gum Chewer) be whorin’ youself on the street.”

The girls bristled. I tightened my grip on my blanket.

Oh, no, please don’t get in a fight.

The pacer continued, and her voice got louder.

“I be in here because I be sellin’ CRACK.  You know, I don’t need to be sellin’ no drugs, but I did it, and I’s got caught.  And now what am I gonna tell my two-year old baby guurrl?  Who gonna take care of her?  Crack ain’t gonna help nothin’.   So I’m ownin’ my shit – just like all y’all should be.  When I get outta here, I’s goin’ ta make some CHANGES to my life.  Dayyyum.”

I felt inspired.  I was proud of her.

“Amen!” I cried.

Everyone stared at me.


Pock Face started laughing.  “Damn.  I like this white girl.  She funny.”

I turned towards her and smiled.

“Thanks.  I like to think so, too.”

She flashed me her near-toothless smile.

“You gonna get outta here soon, white girl.  They always let the DUI’s go first.”

The door opened, and a female officer called to all of us to gather our bedding and wait for our name to be called.  We formed a line in the hallway.

The female officer separated the women into groups of eight, then marched us a few feet down the hall.  Pock Face and Pretty Gum Chewer were in my group.  When the officer opened the door to our “bedroom”, the women rushed to the bunk beds, grabbed the mattresses and immediately pulled them to the floor.  A couple of women used the toilet, which was concealed by a low, brick partition.

At least there’s some privacy in here.

I walked to the bed closest to the door, carefully placed my sheet atop the plastic mattress, and lay down.  I was too tired to think about what germs or diseases were crawling along the bed or mattress.  If I were to be there for the weekend, I’d have to get some sleep or I would lose my mind.

I pulled the blanket up to my face and shut my eyes.  I listened to the girls chatter on about their lives.  Pock Face and Pretty Gum Chewer both had young children.  They were young, themselves.  Barely 20 years old.

“When I get out, the first thing I’m gonna do is find me some good tweek, and then sleep for days!” Pock Face announced.

Oh, Lord.  Help me.  Help these girls.  I know You’re here.  You are here with me, in this jail cell. 

A few minutes passed, and then the female officer’s voice came over the loudspeaker.

“Spencer?  Spencer!”

Pock Face mimicked the voice.  “SPENCER!”

Pretty Gum Chewer giggled.

I sat up.

“Spencer, you’re going home,” the voice over the loudspeaker said.

The room burst into applause.  Pock Face shouted.  “SPENCER’S GOING HOME! YEAH, SPENCER!”

Women laughed.  I grinned, and tears of pure relief flooded my eyes.

Pock Face continued.  “Hurry up, Spencer!  Get your white ass on outta here!”

I couldn’t get up fast enough.  The key turned in the door and the female officer motioned for me to follow her.

I paused, and turned around.  I looked at Pock Face, and Pretty Gum Chewer.  I looked at the five other women’s faces. I wanted to remember this moment.

I wanted to say something poignant – memorable.  Something inspirational, perhaps?  I was so overcome with joy to be leaving that jail.  I took in a deep breath.

“Well, goodbye girls,” I squealed. “Be good!”

“Get outta here, Spencer,” Pock Face waved her hand at me.  “And don’t ever come back, or I’ll beat yo ass.”

I smiled.  I was going home.  I had made it through a night in jail.

But the greatest surprise was yet to come.

Rescue (Jail, Part Three)

I was startled awake by the sound of keys opening the heavy door.

My cellmate shot straight up.

“Breakfast!” she cried, and scrambled towards the female officer delivering our food.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes.  I was astonished that I had actually fallen asleep, and immediately wished I knew for how long.  It had to have been at least 6:00 a.m.

My cellmate eagerly handed me a box of orange juice and a tray of something that looked like eggs and hash browns.  She waited at the door for her share.

“Thank you so much.”
I was immediately overcome with tenderness towards my new friend, who had served me first before serving herself.

I was extremely thirsty, so I lapped up the orange juice.  I marveled at how much it did not taste like orange juice.  I pushed the plastic spoon at the “eggs” and tried a bite, but was immediately repulsed.

I looked over at my cellmate, who was already finishing her last bite.  She grunted and snorted as she chewed.

“Would you like mine? “ I asked, gently. “I’m not going to eat it.”

She pawed at and grabbed my tray.  “Yes, thank you.”

More grunting and snorting ensued, and my roommate was asleep again.

I sat and stared at the wall, and listened to the footsteps.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Keys rattled.

Back and forth.

Another hour passed, and, finally, the footsteps stopped at my cell.  I heard the keys turn in the lock.  My heart leapt.

Finally, I’m getting out!

“Spencer.  Follow me.”

Oh, PTL. 

I stood up, and unfolded my Prisoner’s Receipt.  I didn’t know how I’d get home, but, worst case scenario, I’d call a cab.  I just wanted to take a shower and get into bed.

I’m never taking my bed — or my freedom —  for granted, ever again.

The officer guided me a few short steps down the hall.  We stopped at a different cell.  My heart sank as he unlocked the door.

“We’re going to hold you in here for now, “ he said.  “We have to clean that other cell. Plus, you’ll be alone in here.”

I immediately missed my snoring cellmate.

But I don’t want to be alone!  My heart screamed.  Don’t leave me here!  

“You’ll be out of here soon,” he said, and he shut the door and locked it behind him.

AUGHHHHHH!!!  NOOOOO!!!  Everyone keeps saying that, but no one is following through!  I want out, I want out, I WANT OUT!

Dejected, I collapsed onto the bench.  It felt even colder and harder than the last one.

My eyes scanned the room.

The floor plan of this cell was slightly different from the last, except that the camera was aimed straight at the toilet.  I suddenly realized I had to go to the bathroom – badly — but I didn’t want to be on display for all to see.

Damn orange juice.

I debated for a while until I finally made the choice to make my bladder gladder.  When you gotta go, you gotta go.  I did so as quickly as possible, turning my face away from the camera.

It was definitely not my most shining, camera-ready moment.

And then, I sat on the bench.  I waited.  I sat.  I held my head in my hands.  I thought. I listened.


Back and forth.  Back and forth.

Voices.  Keys.  Footsteps.

I sat.

And, finally, I thought about what I had done.  It’s true: jail is a great place for self-reflection; for rehabilitation.

I thought about the day that was ahead of me.  I was supposed to be at work at 11:00 a.m. I had no idea what time it was, but I figured that tax preparation was probably not going to be on the agenda anymore.  In fact, I’d probably get fired.  I was supposed to babysit Joseph and Katie’s young daughters – girls that looked up to me – that evening.

I was also scheduled to lead worship at church on Sunday morning.

How would I babysit my pastor’s kids?  How would I lead worship at church?  ME?   I was now a common criminal.  I was a Christian Girl whose marriage had failed.  I was alone.  What’s more, I was alone in a jail cell.  I was hurting.  I was angry.  I was desperately in need, and in pain.  I was a girl who, admittedly, had been drinking too much lately.  I made a choice – a mistake – and got caught.

How was I even worthy of anything anymore?

My mind drifted to the lyrics of one particular song I had selected to lead.

I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue,
where else can I go?


I paused and held my breath, but they passed me by.

I closed my eyes as the tears began to fall.  I collapsed my head in my hands and sobbed.

I had hit rock bottom, and bottom had given way.

There’s no other name by which I am saved…
capture me with grace.

Grace.  Grace.  Grace.  Oh, that word.  It started to take on a whole new meaning.  I thought about my husband.  I had expended so much energy being angry with him for his choices and mistakes.  In that moment, I humbly realized that I was no different than he.  I was no different than my crackhead cellmate, either.  My hard, holier-than-thou heart softened.  I needed grace and forgiveness just as much as anyone else.

Through my tears, I forced myself to hum the melody of the song.  And then, humming turned into singing.  The acoustics in my cramped jail cell were quite astounding.

I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue!

It felt good to sing.

Where else can I go?  There’s no other name by which I am saved –

My voice got a little louder, a little stronger.

Capture me with grace.
Won’t you capture me with GRACE?!


They stopped at my door.


Jail, Part Two

My immediate reaction was to make friends with my cellmate.  After all, we’d be hanging out together for at least eight hours, so I might as well make the most of the situation.

“Hi,” I said, still clutching my Prisoner’s Receipt.  I carefully sat down on the bench next to her.

The woman flashed her wild eyes at me, stood up, pulled her pants down and peed in the toilet.

All right, then.

She finished her business, sniffed loudly and curled herself up into a little ball on the bench.  Within two minutes, she was snoring.

Okayyyyy.  Maybe we can be friends when she wakes up.

I shifted my sit bones on the hard bench.  Then, I realized I should probably call someone to let them know I was in jail.  I would eventually be needing a ride home.  I picked up the receiver to the payphone and dialed my dad’s home number.  It was well past 2:00 a.m., so the phone rang and rang.  Finally, the answering machine picked up my call.

I took in a deep breath, about to leave a message, but an automated recording from my end of the line interrupted me.

“Hello.  You are receiving a collect call from A PRISONER in the Los Angeles County Jail.  Please say ‘yes’ or press 1 to accept charges. This call WILL BE RECORDED.”

Wow, way to rub it in, people.  I’m a prisoner with zero rights, who can only make COLLECT calls. 

I couldn’t leave a message, because no one was available to accept the charges, so I called back.  Someone finally answered, but immediately hung up.

Come on!  Somebody answer the damn phone! 

I called again and again, but the phone kept ringing.

My cellmate kept snoring.

I sighed, and tried my mother.  I hadn’t spoken to her in a while, so it was humiliating to have to have a conversation with her like this.

She answered on the fourth ring.

“Hello?” I obviously had woken her from her sleep.  I started to speak, but that damn automated recording stopped me.

“Hello.  You are receiving a collect call from A PRISONER in the Los Angeles County Jail…”

I heard my mother say “yes” about a thousand times, and then, finally: “Leslie?”

I swallowed whatever pride was left in me.

“Hi, Mom.  Um…obviously I’m in jail.”

“Oh, Leslie…what happened?”

I burst into tears.


I started to laugh through my tears.

My mother’s voice sounded tired, worried and empathetic.  I regaled the details of the story to her.  She tried to encourage me, and expressed that she was glad I wasn’t hurt, or had hurt anyone else.  I hadn’t even thought that far ahead.  She offered to come pick me up, but she lived almost three hours away.  I asked her to call my dad at a decent time to let him know where I was.

Then, an officer opened up the door.  My cellmate stirred in her drug-induced sleep.

“Spencer.  Time for your mugshot and prints.”


“I gotta go, Mom.”  I hung up the phone and wiped my tears away.

The officer flirted with me.

“So, how’d you get here?”  He asked, as he rolled my right pointer finger from the ink pad onto my rap sheet.

I have a rap sheet.

“I mean, I know you were drunk, but…”

I sighed.

“I made a mistake, man.”

“What’d you blow?”

Why is this guy so curious? 

“Point 1-0.”

He smiled at me.  “It happens to the best of us.  Next time you should really get one of those mini breathalyzers.  It’ll save you a lot of money and hassle in the long run.  Or just wait a little longer before getting in the car.”

NEXT TIME?  There will be no “next time”, thank you very much.  Furthermore, why is everyone being so nice to me?  I’m a fucking criminal.  I’m a piece of shit.  I must be some sort of alcoholic, too, because I’m a drunk driver.  I deserve what I got.

He then snapped my mug shot.  I smiled for the camera.

Might as well make the best of it.

The officer showed me the picture.

“You take a pretty good mug shot, Spencer!”

I studied it.  My hair fell perfectly to one side, and my smile was golden.   A small smudge of mascara had streaked across my right cheek.  My eyes were red and swollen from crying, yet they were present; bright.  I peered closer.  I could almost see the deep pain in my green eyes.  Oddly enough, there was also a sense of total surrender.

“Yeah, I guess it’s not so bad,” I shrugged.  “Wish it were under different circumstances.”

He smiled at me again.

“You’ll be all right.  You’ll be outta here soon.”

Again, what’s with the nice? 

“Thanks.  Oh, by the way, what is the address of this place?”

The officer looked at me.  “How are you going to remember an address?”

“Because I’m good with numbers?” I raised my eyebrows and shot him a sly smile.

“7600 South Broadway.”  He flashed a smile back.

“Oh!  So I’m downtown,” I said, thinking aloud.

He laughed, looked at me almost incredulously, and shook his head.  “Something like that, yes.”

The kind officer deposited me back into the concrete room and locked the door.  I quickly called my mom back and gave her the address.

My cellmate was awake.

“Hi, again,” I offered.  I smiled, feebly, and kicked a tuft of hair away from the toe of my boot.

“Hi,” she replied, nervously.

“Soooo, what are you in here for?” I asked.

Did you REALLY just ask the crackhead what she was “in here for?”

“Domestic violence,” she replied, and scratched her head.

“Oh.  I’m sorry.”

I started to ask her more about herself.  To this day I wish I could remember her name.  She was 41 years old, and had twin boys.  They were 20 years old.  She had gotten in a fight with her boyfriend, she explained, and mumbled some other inaudible details about how she landed in jail, AGAIN.

“We should be getting food soon,” she sniffed.

I listened as she continued to talk, and marveled at how life behind bars (or concrete walls, rather) was so commonplace to some people.  At the same time, I started to realize that I was no different from this woman who had pain in her life.  She didn’t mean to hurt anyone.  I could tell that much just by carrying on a five-minute conversation with her.

She finished answering my questions, and then said, “If you don’t mind, I’m really tired.”

“Oh, of course.  I hope you feel better.”

“Thank you.”

She lay back down and fell asleep, almost instantly.  I decided that sleep might not be such a bad idea.  I lay down opposite her, and curled my legs up as close to my body as possible.  I covered my head with the hood of my fancy sweater, and hugged myself tight.  I shut my eyes.

The halls echoed with the sounds of the system.  Keys rattled, doors opened and shut.  The television down the hall blared and faded.  Officers talked and laughed loudly; prisoners occasionally yelled and pounded on the door.  Perhaps the sound that was most deafening was that of footsteps: back and forth, back and forth. Each time, the footsteps passed me by.  It was agonizing.

I just wanted out, but no one was coming for me.

The Dance Call

I figured we all needed a little break from the heaviness of the last few chapters, no?

Inspired by my ridiculous behavior at an audition today, I have decided to re-post my very first blog entry, ever.

For about two years, I kept a fluffy little blog that was read mostly by a few friends and family members.  It’s amazing to look back at my struggles as a young, 20-something, married Christian girl.  I was searching for identity and security, and longing for devoted, faithful love.  Five years later, I am still searching for those things, except that through my brokenness, I have discovered a deeper, more satisfying life.  Through times of abundance and times of struggle; tears and laughter; joy and pain; longing, heartache, determination — and — simply clinging to hope, I’m becoming more of who I am.  I’m being molded into more of the person whom God created me to be.

Of course, I’m still funny as hell.  Even funnier, maybe.

So, please — sit back, relax, and enjoy a little break from the drama of divorce, sister wives and jail.  I leave you with the original post that inspired me to start a blog in the first place.

Every girl should be front and center, wearing a tiara.

April 19, 2007 

I strongly dislike dance calls.

Let me explain. I am not quite sure that the non-actor/singer/dancer/performer quite fully understands the type of pressure that we (actors/singers/dancers/performers) put upon ourselves. There’s the pre-pressure: warming up the vocals, going over the sides (script) and “stretching” for the dance call.

My idea of stretching consists of doing the butterfly pose that I learned as a 3-year old in ballet at the Montessori Preschool, then reaching over my right and then left leg. I’ve always been able to get by with high kicks because I’m a fitness instructor. There’s no need, in my mind, for this demonstration of pre-dance ability in front of all your competitors. There’s pressure enough when you get into the room and have two seconds to learn an entire combination, and then perform it as if you learned it in the womb.

This particular audition was very specific. From the phone call I received from the casting office, it was clear they were looking for “triple threat” performers. It’s no wonder why the actor hates to sing; the singer hates to dance; and the dancer hates to sing. Your average performer is usually better at one of the three skills. In musical theatre, you usually get singer/actors, or dancers, and, if you’re extremely lucky, you’ll find a triple threat.

I used to refer to myself as a triple threat. Ha. Somewhere between playing Rizzo in a highly energetic, technically choreographed version of “Grease” in 1999 and today, I’ve lost my dancer’s edge. Mainly, though, I haven’t focused much on taking dance classes – I’ve always been able to slide by, either faking it, or getting in because of my charm, good looks and golden pipes. I decided that, sure, I still had it. I mean, dancing is like riding a bike, right? Double pirouettes? No problem.

The casting assistant was specific.

“Can you do battements and fouettés?”

“Of course,” I replied, scurrying online and looking up the ballet terms to refresh my memory.

“This is, after all, a triple-threat performer’s show,” he warned. “If you think you can do it, start stretching now. We’ll see you on Wednesday!”

I looked at the calendar. It was Friday. I had five days to regain my triple threat status.

“Oh, and one more thing,” he added, sounding something between mocking and sadistic, “You’ll need to wear a leotard, tights, and character heels to the audition. Break a leg!”

I hung up the phone.

Leotard and tights?? AUGHHHHH!!!

First of all, who really wears leotards and tights anymore? I thought about my days in ballet class, oh, so long ago, when it was commonplace to wear your underoos (mine were Wonder Woman, thank you very much) underneath your ballet outfit (tights, leotard and tutu.) The problem was that your leotard was jacked up so high on the leg (thanks to ‘80’s fashion, that all anyone saw was your big, white Hanes. And please, don’t talk to me about wearing bikini or thong underpants, or no underpants, either: we did not wear small little pieces of fabric in those days. Wearing nothing was unheard of – our mothers simply didn’t allow it. Girls who didn’t wear underpants were dirty sluts.

Thankfully, times have changed, so I immediately signed up for the first ballet class I could find, thinking at least one or two would help my brain get back into “dancer mode”. I decided against the classic ballet getup. Instead, I settled for the most comfortable pair of pants I could find, with some granny panties underneath, and a tank top. Nondescript. We’d have to work up to the leo and tights.

The class went well enough, and I, as always, was the clown. The teacher lost me at “undooo dooah youyr legg like-a zat, ahhhh!” – whilst taking her knee to her ear, and the “chaîné, chaîné, chaîné, chaîné, chaîné” turns across the floor left me dizzy and feeling half-drunk. Instead of following through with technique, I started krumping across the floor, much to the chagrin of my tiny, graceful teacher.

Yet, I was satisfied and happily paid for two more classes for the future, just to keep up the “ballet buzz”.

I am no dummy, though – I knew that just one beginning ballet class wasn’t going to prepare me for a full-on dance audition with a Broadway choreographer. But, I had to follow through. I just had to make the dance cut somehow. Surely, after hearing me sing, those behind the casting table would scrap their lead and go with ME, all the while congratulating themselves for finding such an amazing performer who aces all three categories. Yeah. A triple threat.

Day of the Audition

I had stretched as much as my poor legs would allow…I practiced kicking as high as I could without tearing my hamstring right out of the back of my leg. Begrudgingly, I had dressed myself in my 17-year old sister’s flashy black leotard, my own black fishnet tights (yes, fishnets), and her flirty mini-skirt. As I surveyed myself in the mirror, I realized that I looked like an overweight 6th grade girl in a too-tight bathing suit at a pool party. All I really needed were those underoos to complete the ridiculous look. I sighed, pulled on some yoga pants and a sweatshirt, and headed out the door.

When I arrived, there were already several girls in the room. I felt their eyes boring through my skull as I signed in. Sizing me up. “Vibing” me.

Side note: What is with the dancer attitude? Can someone please explain it to me? Do singers “vibe” other singers? No. It must be entirely a physical appearance. If you “look” like you can dance, then you’re competition.

Surely, I wasn’t competition for some of these girls dressed to the nines in their leotard and tights, looking very much like elegant supermodels. Here I was, the dorky rotund girl in her sister’s leotard, but at least I was there. And, once it came to the singing round, I would blow everyone out of the water. So, I sat down and started studying my music. There was no way I was going to warm up with these girls in the room – half of them were doing full-on ballet routines and sit-ups. I tell you, it’s an intimidation technique. Sadly, for the out-of-practice triple threat, it works.

We were introduced to the perky choreographer, who has done a lot of great work in New York and L.A. Upon first impression, I thought that she would be someone I’d love to have as my friend; I also thought that she might half-enjoy my cop-out krumping routine. I decided that, if ever in doubt, I would do a bunch of cartwheels and act crazy. I mean, half of performing is committing to it, right?

Her first words were, “All right girls, I don’t want to see anybody faking it. I’m looking at your legs and your arms and I want everything to be perfect.”

Uh, oh.

We took our places in the small, hot room. I was already beginning to sweat, and we hadn’t even started to move yet. I stood way at the back, thinking I might just be able to hide. The décor on my leotard sparkled in the harsh, rehearsal room light.

“Okay, here we go! Walk forward, A-one, two, three, four and turn, turn, turn, turn, and leap, and kick, and kick, and kick! And fan kick, fan kick, fan kick, fan kick! Jet-te, Fou-etté, double pirouette-ay! Spot turn, spot turn, spot turn, prep, and COOTER SLAM!”

I raised my hand. “Excuse me, did you say, “Cooter Slam?”

Several girls whirled around, glaring at me, hands on their hips. There were a few nervous cackles.

The choreographer laughed. “Yes! It’s common in this type of show, and you knew it was coming. Just jump up, and land in the splits. That’s the cooter slam!”

Oh, God, help me.

Here’s the thing: I can belt the crap out of any song you give me; I can read music, play the piano, direct and choreograph children’s musicals; I CAN act my way out of a paper bag; I can run 3 miles in less than 30 minutes and then teach an indoor cycling class; I can even do a double pirouette. One thing I cannot do is the COOTER SLAM.

The funniest thing was that I was the only one in that hot, cramped, poorly lit room that couldn’t do the cooter slam. Where have I been all these years? Am I that out of touch with musical theatre – no, dancing, really – that I don’t know these are actual terms? Why didn’t anyone else bat an eyelash at the obviously disgusting and degrading reference? What is more, the actual act of “slamming” the “cooter” is not attractive. It looks painful.

I knew I had to bring it, though. I mean, I had gotten this far. I couldn’t walk out the door.

We were broken up into six groups and given – honestly – five minutes to practice. While I was stuck on how the heck I was going to fake the last move, everyone else was dancing full-out, complete with swift, high kicks, perfect pirouettes, lovely graceful arm movements and smiles on their faces. What’s worse: they all were slamming their cooters with ease. Almost as if every other movement in the choreography was leading up to that shocking moment – the moment I knew would send me to the hospital.

We “rehearsed” in our groups of six about two times, and both times I screwed up the choreography here, the legwork there. When it came for the final “pose”, both times I chickened out and ended up doing a cartwheel, or “falling down” with my leg cocked behind me making it look like the splits. Some dancers looked at me with disgust, some with knowing sympathy. Others smirked. I was clearly out of my element.

The good thing, though, I kept telling myself, is that you’re like Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. You may not be a graceful ballerina, but you sure are damn funny and you can sing like no one has ever heard.

No pair of roller skates truly could get me through this one, though.

We were finally dismissed into the waiting area and then called back in groups of three to perform for the panel. Knowing full well that I hadn’t “brought it” in rehearsal, I kept going over the movements, occasionally talking aloud through the routine before my name was called.

“One, two, three, kick…okay, wait, no…one, two, kick three, or is it…??”

Other dancers sat down and relaxed, some texted on their cell phones, others complimented each other on their ability.

“Oh, my Gawwwwd, we really enjoyed watching you,” a tiny girl chirped to the smooth, elegant other who towered over her.

“Oh, thank you,” came the feigned modesty.

My name was finally called. I smoothed my hair, hoisted my boobs up and pranced into the room. If anything, I was going to have fun. The music started. I grinned from ear to ear. I made it through the first four counts of eight with ease. However, when I stopped to think about what came next, I was immediately behind. I tried to pick it up again, hoping no one would notice that I was the only one facing the wrong direction, and hadn’t done any of the ballet moves that were required. I also bombed the spot turns. I must’ve been spotting the big EXIT sign instead.

And then, the final moment – the jump splits (aka “You-know-what slam”). I hoisted up my flirty skirt, jumped as high into the air as I could, split my legs and landed. I looked down at my position in shock. Obviously, I was supposed to look up in a “ta da” moment, but I was honestly baffled at how I was physically – no, medically — able to be in this position. Of course, I wasn’t entirely in the splits, and my knee started to throb a bit, but I was as close to the ground as I had been since taking gymnastics in my pre-pubescent years. I was so excited to have accomplished the cooter slam that I stayed in that position while the choreographer spoke.

“Um, OK, do any of you do any tricks?”

I raised my hand, almost falling over. “I can do cartwheels and walk on my hands!” I cried, my voice overly eager and excited.

“Mmmmkay, great…” She was clearly not impressed. “Welllll, thanks, girls!”

I maneuvered myself out of my precarious position and dusted myself off. “No, thank you!” I responded, still a bit too eager.

As you probably guessed, I ended up being cut from the audition after the dance call. But here’s the real glory and moral of the story: I faced my fear.

Did I humiliate myself? Yes. Was I most likely the worst dancer in the room? Yes.

But I did it. I went to the audition, I performed the routine to the best of my ability, and, above all, I limped away with a smile on my face.

I have always respected dancers for their ability, grace, energy and discipline. I will never be a true dancer, but I can start back at that beginning ballet class and take it more seriously. So, until further notice, I’m circling “MOVER” instead of “DANCER” on an audition sheet. But, you know what? That’s not going to stop me from trying again, and having a whole lot of fun in the process.

Jail, Part One


My tax job was, well, taxing.  It was a good distraction, however.  I was on a regular schedule.  Six days a week, I woke up, ate breakfast, went to the gym, went to work, came home, and checked the LA Superior Court’s website, hoping for my divorce to be finalized.

Every day, the status read: PENDING.

Pending.  The next chapter of my life was pending.

I tried to forget about my sister wife, and my husband’s failure to follow through with the divorce settlement.  I was tired.  I needed rest.  Yet, even rest seemed to be pending.

One Thursday evening after work, I drove to my girlfriend’s house in Hollywood.  Several of us were getting together to enjoy some wine, hors d’oeuvres and girl talk. I was so stressed out with work and my “pending” marital status that I didn’t really realize how desperately I needed to relax and socialize.  It was a lovely evening.  We laughed, talked, drank wine and enjoyed each other’s company.  Around midnight, the “party” wound down and we all headed home.

As I drove back to Pasadena, I was overcome with thankfulness for my friends.  I impulsively reached for my phone to send a quick text of thanks and love to one of the girls.

That was mistake number two.

I had just made the transition from the 101 to the 110 freeway when I saw the red and blue lights in my rear view mirror.  My immediate reaction was one of indignance, and then the slow, sinking realization hit me.

Oh, shit, I’ve been drinking.

“Lord?”  I spoke aloud, as I carefully pulled off the freeway.

I’m not drunk.  I’ll be fine.  I should NOT have been texting!  Stupid!!  Still, I racked my brain, trying to remember how much wine I had drunk – also, how much I had had to eat that day.

I rolled down my window to greet the fresh-faced CHP officer.  He was cute.

“Have you been drinking tonight?” he asked, after the formal introduction was made.  He shined his small flashlight directly into my eyes.  The combination of the red, white and blue lights hurt.  I blinked, and tried to adjust to the brightness all around me.

I smiled, and decided to be honest. I can’t be anything other than honest.

“I had some wine, yes,” I admitted.  Mistake number three.

The 20-something CHP officer immediately asked me for my license and registration.  I nervously fumbled around and presented them both, but the officer wasn’t satisfied.  He asked me to step out of the car.

Oh, come on.  

I went through the motions of the field sobriety test.  I was happy to cooperate, because I had never been in trouble.  In fact, I had only received a few tickets in my driving career, fought every one of them, and won. I wanted to get through the damn thing as fast as I could.  I was tired.  All I wanted to do was go home and get into bed.

I was asked to hold my head back and balance on one leg.  I did it in 3” heels.  I was also asked to close my eyes, count aloud and estimate 30 seconds.  I did it in exactly 30 seconds.

Still, the officer motioned to his younger, blonder partner, who approached me with a Breathalyzer.  Was this really happening?  Surely I wasn’t drunk.  I felt fine.  I would never get behind the wheel if I had had too much to drink.  Furthermore, I was doing so well on my tests!  I was actually quite proud of myself.  Those tests can be hard to pass even without alcohol involved.

I smiled and blew into the machine, confident that I would pass this one last test.  I longed for my comfy bed.

The officer looked at the result.

“Okay, Spencer, I’m going to ask you to turn around and place your hands behind your back,” he commanded.

What is THIS test?

I shrugged and obeyed, and immediately felt the cold metal snap around my wrists.  My heart sank.

Great job, Les.  You’re going to jail.  Way to go.  Way to fuck your life up.  Awesome.

My thoughts ran wild as I stood, handcuffed, on that sidewalk in Chinatown.  It was almost 1:00 a.m.  I watched as the officers searched my car.  They rifled through sheets of music, empty water bottles and dirty gym clothing.  My body remained calm but my thoughts ran wild as they escorted me to the back of their black and white vehicle.  As we pulled away from the curb, I immediately passed harsh judgment against myself.

Oh, my god, I’m that person.  I’m a drunk driver. Oh, my god, oh, my god, oh, my…I AM SUCH A BADASS.

No!  Wait!  You’re not a badass!  This is stupid!  You’re drunk!  You’re NOT drunk!  This isn’t happening!  But of course it’s happening. Why are you at all surprised? Your life is such a fucking disaster, and now look what you’ve gotten yourself into.  Stupid choice.

You got what you deserved, you idiot. 

Never in my life would I have imagined that I’d be arrested for anything.  Yet, there I was, sitting handcuffed, in the back of a cop car, heading to jail, for driving under the influence.

I remained silent as the two officers handled me — a criminal.  They explained that my car would be towed, and that I could get it the next day.  They also explained to me that I’d be held in jail for at least eight hours, until I sobered up.

I’M NOT DRUNK!  I wanted to scream.

But I WAS.  I was legally drunk, and so ashamed.

According to the law, you’re a drunk driver if your blood alcohol level is .08.  I would later find out that mine was at .10.

My wrists started to chafe and bruise from the pressure of the metal handcuffs, but I silently endured the pain.  I exchanged somber yet witty banter with the CHP officers as they drove me to their field office to administer a second test on the bigger, more efficient breathalyzer.

All this time, I hadn’t shed a tear. I was strong.  I was a big girl.  I was responsible.  I wasn’t going to cry.

I sat on a plastic chair in the CHP field office, shifting my hands uncomfortably behind me, trying to alleviate some of the agonizing pain.  My wrists would remain deeply bruised for days.

“Ma’am, do you have someone who you can call?  Your spouse? “ My arresting officer asked monotonously, as he filled out some paperwork.

I fiercely fixed my eyes upon his.

“Not anymore,” I answered, and then averted my gaze.

Suddenly, to my surprise, I burst into massive, yet silent tears.  Shame, fear and embarrassment overcame me.

I am a criminal.

“I’m sorry,” I managed, as snot and tears streamed down my face. I wasn’t able to use my hands, so I raised my shoulder to my nose to sop up the fluid.

“This…is just…hard for me.  I made such a stupid choice.”

The officer — clearly ten years younger than me – looked at me knowingly.  “You’ll be all right,” he offered.  “This kind of thing happens to good people, too.”

But I’m not good.  I’m broken.  So broken.

And then they took me to jail.

Upon arrival, I was released out of the handcuffs, booked, and stripped of my personal belongings.  The last item taken was the string used to tighten the hood of my cozy, fur-lined sweater.

“What, do you really think I’m going to hang myself?!” I joked with the booking officer.  She glared at me, clearly not amused.

For a moment, I forgot that I was a prisoner, and not her equal.  I wasn’t ordering a hamburger or buying stamps at the post office – I was checking into JAIL.  My sense of humor was not appreciated.

The TV behind her blared loudly and her co-worker sipped black coffee out of a small, stained, Styrofoam cup.

“Oh.  I guess so.  Well, here you go!”  I gave it to her, cheerfully.

“Don’t worry.  You’ll get it back,” she retorted, dryly.  She then twisted her full lips and shook her head.

My arresting officer gently touched my elbow.  He had been standing there the whole time.  I realized I had started to become attached to the man.

“We’re almost done here, Spencer. I need to ask you a few questions first, though, okay? They might seem a little weird, but just go with it…”  He was almost apologetic.

“Okayyyyy,” I responded, and tried to exercise my cheerfulness once again.  I mean, if you’re going to spend the night in jail, you might as well have a good attitude about it, right?

The officer cleared his throat, and poised his pen above a sheet of paper.

“Do you have Hepatitis, VD or Chlamydia?”

I burst out laughing.

“Uhhmmm, NO.  Should I be worried about contracting that here, though?”

Wait — where am I, anyway?  I had no idea where I was, or how I was going to get home.  I hadn’t thought that far ahead.

He shot me a sly smile.  I was secretly glad he appreciated my sarcasm.

“Have you ever had TB?”


“Do you have any special medical problems that we should know about?”

I snorted.

“I really hope not.”  Wakka, wakka!

“Are you pregnant?”


“Hell to the no, and I don’t have any baby daddy prospects, either.  Thanks so much for reminding me of my plight.”

He half-laughed, signed his name to a pink slip of paper, which he then handed to me.

So not cool.

“Okay, Spencer, follow me.”

I obeyed.

He led me to a small, concrete room with a large, heavy door at the end of the corridor.  It held a cold, hard bench, a gleaming steel toilet and an observation camera in the corner of the ceiling.  An obsolete payphone barely hung onto the wall, and chunks of black hair littered the floor.  One other woman occupied the cell.  She jumped up, eyes blazing, as the guard opened up the door to deposit me inside.

I clutched the pink paper – my Prisoner’s Receipt — as they shut and locked the door behind me.

Over the next several hours, I would hit rock bottom, and that bottom would continue to give way.

Christians Aren’t Supposed to Take Each Other to Court

The second week in January, I moved into an apartment in Old Town Pasadena.  I had found a place on that advertised a “take over” of the remaining four months of a year lease.  I didn’t necessarily want to continue living in Pasadena, but I gave it a shot.  I met the girl who lived in the apartment.  She was a singer, moving to New York.  I tried to contain my jealousy. I fell in love with the wood floors, the price of the place, and view of the majestic San Gabriel Mountains from the window.

It all happened so quickly.  I knew I couldn’t live with Curt and Kathy forever, and I was antsy to have a place of my own.

The tiny studio was perfect for me.

At the same time, I felt terrible leaving Curt and Kathy.  Curt had lost both of his parents in a matter of three months, and a week after I moved out, their beloved dog, Max, died.  It was a difficult season for the Gibsons, and I felt as if I had abandoned them during their heightened time of need.

What kind of friend was I?!

I started to panic and wonder if I had made the right decision.

Jesus, I cried out, I need You.  I need You, need You, need You.  I need Your help, Your Peace.  I am so scared; scared (that) I am doing the wrong thing, or that I am out of Your plan.  But how could that possibly be?  You will take care of me. I just don’t want to be wasteful…I do not want to make mistakes.  I am…weak!  I need work.  I am settling in – I am so thankful, so grateful and blessed.  Will it go away? I’m re-building my life. Starting over.  Building again; beginning anew.

Almost immediately, I got a job.  I found work in a tax office, for the season.  I would work six days a week until April 18th.  It was daunting at first, but I knew I needed the money to pay for my newfound bills and rent.  I also needed the distraction.

I found myself praying a lot.  This time, I prayed for other people other than myself.  It felt good and necessary.  My neighbor, Boo, unexpectedly lost her beautiful, sweet two-year daughter, Emileigh.  Eme was born with a tendency towards seizures, but had been getting better.  And then, like that, she was gone.  The autopsy provided no explanation, and we were all left feeling robbed; empty.

I know how to put into words my feelings of pain and loss regarding my marriage.  It is like a death, but I cannot imagine the unspeakable pain of losing a child.  I attended the open-casket funeral and it was almost too much to bear.  I gazed upon Eme’s tiny, lifeless frame, and wondered why God allows such things to happen.  I think we all do.  I wanted to scream and shout to the entire congregation that there was, indeed, hope amidst the sorrow; the unexplained shredding of one’s soul.  Yet, I felt helpless.  All I could do was pray.

Oh, Lord, little Emileigh is with You now.  Such tragedy.  God, I lift up Deana (grandmother) and Boo, Cathy (aunt) and Barbara (neighbor) – the whole family.  Oh, that baby.  And High (father).  He loved his little girl so much.  Oh, Lord, would they cling to You; You, the EVER-PRESENT HELP in time of trouble. 

I don’t know much, but I do know this: God is good, all the time.

In the midst of everything, I started battling once again with my bigamist husband.

He wrote to me and told me that the retirement company had sent the wrong paperwork to the wrong address.  He would be out of town, and would get to it as soon as he could.  He added that I would get every penny of my share of the accounts.

I was over it.  Sick of his shit.

Wrong paper to the wrong address, I thought.  LYING PIECE OF SHIT MOTHERFUCKING LAZY ASS SON OF A SUGARMOMMA BITCH!!!!

I calmly emailed back.

I stand firm to my word.  You have had ample time to get it together.  I will file contempt of court, I typed, bitterly.

We exchanged emails back and forth, arguing about the time frame of the money that was due. Amongst my few menial requests in our do-it-yourself divorce, he had agreed to cash out his retirement funds, and send me a check by December.   I trusted that he would follow through with the agreement.

I was wrong, once again, to trust my husband.

He asked for more time, and I refused.  I wanted the money, yes, but more than that, I wanted the entire saga – ordeal – marriage – pain – everything that was associated with him – to be OVER.

I suddenly realized that I did, indeed, have a huge battle on my hands.  I also realized that I had the upper hand.  As much as I didn’t want to believe it, my husband was already married.  He was a BIGAMIST.  They make TV shows about people like him.  For crying out loud, we used to watch them together.

I didn’t want to have to go back to court, but if so, I was ready to go in, guns blazing.

I needed evidence of his stupidity.  My good college friend, Michelle, was a journalist who had worked as a reporter, anchor and professor.  She was able to easily obtain my husband and sister wife’s marriage license from the state of Nevada, and mailed it to me.

I threw it in my husband’s face.

You’ve had enough time. I’m quite sure you can figure something out.  I have in my possession a certain document from Nevada that will not help your “story” in court.

He obviously didn’t understand that I was talking about his new marriage.  He suggested that perhaps he add me to the account and I could cash out when I was of retirement age.

Unfortunately, I angrily responded, you agreed to cashing out the retirement in the divorce settlement. So, unfortunately for you, you have to follow through with your agreement, which is a legal court document. Might I also remind you that you are not yet divorced from me, which makes you a bigamist and a felon, but, then again, you probably already knew that.  I’m tired of this conversation. Send the check.

He said he would send it as soon as he had it.  He trusted that I would find it in my heart to give him time.

February 3rd. I trust that you will get it done.

He told me he wouldn’t have it by February 3rd, and was asking for a break.  He added that he wasn’t asking for any of my retirement, and then got upset that he had to beg me for understanding.  The conversation was killing him.

Not buying it.  Send the check.  If I do not receive a check in the mail by February 3, I will file contempt of court.  It is that simple.

He was tired of appealing to me, and, again, told me that I would have every bit of cash that was due me.  He then reminded me that he took all the credit card debt (a majority of which I had accused him of accumulating with his lover).  He reminded me that I had taken the car.  (Yes, I had taken the car. It was mine.  The paperwork was in my name, and mine alone.  I financed it, I was paying for it, and I drove it.)  He hadn’t asked for any of my retirement, and just wanted time to receive the checks.  He even offered to drive up and meet me to give me the cash.

I was having none of it.

You’re in for more than contempt, remember?  Bigamy is a felony.

He pleaded with me.

It’s all about choices.  You had an opportunity to make good ones.  Oopie.  I’m not interested in excuses. See you in court.

He said he was telling the truth, had no excuses, and pleaded with me to do it right.

We have differing opinions of what is right.

The truth is that you have violated the law. Willingly, even after knowing you weren’t divorced on 12/22/10.


You can plead with the judge. I’m tired of your stories.  SEE YOU IN COURT.

And then, he tried to appeal to me as someone who “used” to love him.  He pleaded with to me as a fellow Christian.

I couldn’t BELIEVE that he was appealing to me “as a fellow Christian”.  It was abhorrent.  It made me sick.  I wanted to scream and throw things and rip his eyes out all over again.  He made me so angry.  His lame attempts at trying to appeal to my emotions didn’t work anymore.  He didn’t even respect me enough to capitalize my first name.  How dare he try to appeal to my love for him?

No, I do not love him, I wrote, later that evening.  He got that right.  It hurts too much to  love someone like that.  All the while, I feel like I’m NOT being a Christian if I deal with him.  At the same time, I AM NOT TAKING ANY MORE FROM HIM.  His abuse is over.  It’s not about the stupid money, which I know he has.  I’ve already wasted energy being upset.

I need help forgiving him.  It’s all still very real, raw and painful.  I worked so hard to try to save the marriage because I thought it was right.  He just doesn’t care.  He doesn’t do anything with integrity or concern for others. Lord, I know it is not my place to judge him.  Please help me release my anger.  I give it to You.  I pray he will come through with the funds from the retirement.

I’m still so hurt by him.  The very thought of a life with him makes me so angry, like it was all a lie.

The war continued two days later.  I shot the first cannon.

You skipped a court-ordered hearing on August 23, 2010, I wrote.

In the divorce settlement filed October 8, 2010, you agreed to cash out your retirement, and said that you’d have a check to me in December, 2010.  It is now February, 2011.

On October 28, 2010, you received a check for… half of your share in the sale of (our house).

You got re-married in November of 2010, without actually having been legally divorced, which makes you in violation of California Penal Code section 281.

I do not believe your stories about not having any money, especially considering the very recent transaction of the sale of our home, and also considering the person to whom you are, at present, illegally married.

You have been given more than ample time and grace to follow through with your divorce agreement.  Clearly, your (in)actions – as always – have spoken louder than your words.

He told me he had put his share of our house’s profit towards another.

See you in court.

He pleaded, once more.  He offered that had no right to quote the Bible at me, but I knew, in my heart, that this whole thing was wrong.  I should know that Christians aren’t supposed to take each other to court.  He promised to pay me and he would.  He needed more time.  It had shattered his heart to have to beg me for more time.  He would have extended me grace, if I were the one begging him for more time.  He offered that he was trying to do good in the sight of the Lord, and would never turn a deaf ear to someone who was asking for more time.  I should know these things.

I couldn’t take any more.  I wanted him to be locked up. I wanted him to be put away, forever.

Little did I know that I’d be the one to end up in jail.