Category Archives: Funny

James Bond, an Elderly Woman and a Pug

December 22nd, 11:00 am(ish): Walking my friend’s Tibetan Terrier around the Historic Highlands Neighborhood of Pasadena, California. Behind me, I hear a loud engine purring before it rolls to a stop.

“Excuse me,” says a voice. I instantly recognize the man’s Mancunian accent due to binge-watching all of Ted Lasso for a second time. I turn towards the voice. Behind the wheel of a squeaky clean, sapphire blue Porsche Cayman sits an extremely attractive, dark-haired fellow. He is dressed impeccably: baby blue button up shirt, freshly pressed trousers and a well-paired cashmere sweater tied around his shoulders. He keeps his left foot pressed into the clutch and his right foot on the brake pedal, adjusts his designer sunglasses and leans towards me.

I suck some air in through my teeth. Oh, my god. He’s a real-life James Bond.

I make a mental note of my appearance: I’m wearing no makeup, my bedhead is not-so-carefully shoved into a Dodgers cap, I’ve hidden my breasts underneath an oversized Cazadores T-shirt I got for free at a tequila tasting over two years ago, and my mauve workout tights are covered in dog hair and lint. I’m also gripping a bag of still-warm dog shit.

I smile brightly. “Yes?”

“Have you seen an elderly woman walking around with a pug?” He asks.

I stifle back a chortle. I shouldn’t be chortling, giggling or laughing at any of this. Still, my mind wanders. This is the stuff that movies are made of, right? Haggard single gal looking for love meets hot, rich British man who is looking for an elderly woman with a pug. In the end, they all find each other.

I get an idea.

“No!” I respond, a bit too eagerly. “But is there a number where I can contact you if I do see her?”

He futzes with his gear shift and shakes his head.

“It’s me Mum,” he says. “She’s in from London and she took the dog out, but that was 45 minutes ago. She’s probably lost.”

“Well, I hope you find her!” I say, as I nervously brush myself off. I realize how stupid I look, trying to freshen my appearance with a bag of dog shit in my hand.

“Thanks,” he replies, and tears off down the street. I wait for him to turn the corner before allowing myself to laugh, jovially. Aaaand, end of the real-life Hallmark Christmas movie fantasy.

I do hope James Bond finds his mum and the pug. I have a good feeling he will. And I’m glad I found a trash can to responsibly dump the dog shit.

Merry Christmas, all!


A couple of years ago, O Magazine was looking for exciting, funny stories about online dating. I submitted this piece. I shopped it around to a couple of other magazines, as well. And, after a year of “Covid College” (as Anne Lamott calls it), I felt now was a good time as any to put it out there.
I’m 42, been divorced for eight years and have had my heart significantly broken in the meantime. After two brief post-divorce relationships, I was hotly pursued by my best friend’s brother. I fell hard for him. I started to believe in marriage again.

Two and a half years in, he dumped me over email. I was blindsided.

It took a long time to heal, but I eventually did. And I unexpectedly fell in love again. Harder. We were a great match, but our issues weren’t. This time, we mutually ended it.

I settled in for another long winter, so to speak, of healing after a broken relationship.

Several months and too many spilled tears later, my friends were on me.

“You’ve got to get out there again!” they said. “Move on! Have some fun.”

So, I downloaded Bumble, a swipe-right-or-left dating app that “challenges outdated heterosexual norms”, empowering women to make the first move.

Looking for a stable, grounded, emotionally available and healthy partner who knows the difference between “your” and “you’re”. Ideally, you’re wittier than me, I wrote, proudly. I uploaded my most-liked photos from Facebook, sans duck face or bathroom selfies.

And the games began.

Initially, I looked through every single picture and read every single word on every single profile.

After a while, however, it grew tiresome. And to my disappointment, most men didn’t write anything, at all. The ones who did I found insipid, in open relationships, couldn’t spell or ended every sentence with “LOL”.

So I decided to change the rules. I stopped looking for the right one, and swiped right on everyone.

When I matched with a man, I wrote him a message right away.

I think the best part about being single is the freedom to unabashedly consume copious amounts of garlic. You?

1:27 p.m. 7th and Hope. A homeless woman called me “ghetto ass.” I’m quite certain it made my day.

Do you think people who are passionate about CrossFit had terrible childhoods?

If he responded with something witty or engaging, I would continue the conversation. Two days in, I matched with a man six years my junior who was smart, attractive and seemed to have it together. He asked me to “tacos and boozy lunch”. I told him I had to work that day, but I could meet him for happy hour. At 4:30 p.m., he sent me a message:

Come to The Greyhound!

I asked if he were there at that moment. Indeed, he was. I told him I was finishing up at work, but could be there in an hour.

I’ll prolly be home by then, he replied.

I sighed. The guy couldn’t wait one hour? “Prolly” not.


I did end up on an actual date with an intelligent, down-to-earth guy who was a chef. His passion was pizza ovens.

We conversed easily over dinner and a bottle of wine. As I sat across from him, I tried to force myself to be attracted to him. He was nice enough, seemed normal enough and was attractive enough. I just didn’t feel a sense of urgency in my loins.

When the last of the wine had been drunk and I had passed the quiz on the history of masonry, he walked me outside. Almost without warning, he pawed at, then kissed me. In a last-ditch effort to decipher chemistry, I allowed it to continue for a minute or so. When it was over, the lower half of my face remained wet and raw. The smell of his saliva lingered on his beard and, worse, up my nostrils.

I tried not to dry heave in his face. Instead, I cleared my throat.

“Thank you for dinner,” I managed, weakly.

We parted ways. Later, he messaged me.

I really liked kissing you, he wrote. We should do it again sometime. Naked.

This time, I allowed myself to heave all the way.


I met a man in the elevator that same week. I was on my way to the basement in pajamas and flip flops, toting a rather large bag of cat poo in one hand, and recycling in the other.

He was a beautiful specimen: tall, dark and upsettingly handsome, with creamy, smooth skin and bulging biceps.

“Hi,” he said. His piercing eyes locked with mine.

“Hi,” I giggled. Suddenly, I was 12 again.

“I like that color on you,” He pointed at my blue shirt.

“Thank you!” I smiled.

He looked me over. “Oh, and you have really cute toes, too. Wow! I’m just handing out all the compliments today!”

I laughed and shifted the bag of cat poo further behind me.

He continued.

“I love beautiful feet. I’m quite good at massaging them, too.”


The elevator stopped at the ground floor.

“So,” he lowered his voice. “Are you lonely? Want some company?”

“I appreciate the offer,” I responded, matter-of-factly. “But I’ve got two cats upstairs that are keeping me company. So, no thank you. But, may I ask — does that line actually work for you?”

He flashed a brilliant smile.

“Almost every time.”
I made it four days on Bumble. In the end, I came to the conclusion I always do after re-installing dating apps: online dating just isn’t for me. That is not to say it isn’t for everyone. People can be creepy online and in person; you don’t need an app for that.

Maybe I’m old-school. Maybe I think “heterosexual norms” aren’t so outdated. I have nothing against women initiating the first move, but I like it when a man pursues. I enjoy having doors opened for me. I want to be wooed, wined and dined, and, at the same time, respected.

Am I crazy? Perhaps. But I believe it still exists. I also believe online dating has robbed us of patience, authenticity and an overall sense of decency.

Our culture is addicted to immediacy. One can order up just about anything with a tap (swipe!) of a finger on a smart phone. Food, entertainment, transportation, sex — all at once, even! And if you aren’t impressed, just keep swiping until something better comes along.

If you’re like me, you’re tired of the sifting through the never-ending cesspool of vapid choices presented through today’s dating apps. If you’re like me, you’re looking for a long-term, committed relationship. And relationship takes time to cultivate. It takes effort. It takes chemistry and compatibility. It takes two people willing to come together, bravely reveal their deepest self and personal brand of crazy, then commit to choosing one another, daily.

Is it possible to find that on a dating app? I’m not going to say no. In fact, my sister met her boyfriend of five years on OK Cupid. They were both looking for a relationship when they matched, and they’re a great couple. Even my sister’s cat approves. Not forgetting my own experience: my first post-divorce relationship was with a good man I met online.

Something happened when I put an end to mindless swiping and permanently deleted Bumble off my phone: I felt empowered.

Instead of searching for someone to fill the void when I get lonely, I reach out to a friend. Sometimes that turns into a spontaneous hike, wine tasting or evening enjoying and supporting a fellow musician or actor at one of their gigs.

Instead of staring at my phone for hours every day, I’m reading a lot more. Books! Actual, physical books. I turn the page and smell the paper and write notes in the margin and everything.

Instead of deciding in a split second if a guy is HOT (right) or NOT (left), I’m investing my time and energy in the people I already know. And the more you get to know someone, the more (or less) attractive they become.

Instead of back-and-forth messaging with some stranger who may or may not ask me on – or show up to – a date, I’m getting out of the house and chatting with strangers at the grocery store, gym, or those seated next to me at happy hour. I’ve actually made a couple of new friends.

And by choosing to trust the right partner will come along in due time, I am choosing me.

“How?” You ask.

By saying no to swipe culture and immediacy, I am choosing to slow down. I want to grow, learn and ultimately change for the better. I’m not looking for my “other half”, because that other half is me. I am a whole person, and striving towards being an authentic, wholehearted one, at that. It’s not easy, and sometimes the road is terribly lonely, but loneliness is only temporary. Investing in myself is a priceless gift, away from the distraction and noise.

So, if you end up sitting next to me at happy hour one of these days, please say hi. I’ll be the one doing my very best to engage authentically and with an open heart; my phone buried deep at the bottom of my bag.

Ma’am Versus Miss

After two days of writing in my pajamas under frozen, grey skies, I decided to shower, apply red lipstick and patronize the new restaurant that just opened downstairs.

“Ahhhh! It’s great to be here!” I declared to Shane, the bartender, as I removed my puffy jacket and slid my tight-legging-clad-ass onto the barstool. “I’m taking a break!”

“From what? Kids?” He smiled.

My mouth fell agape and my eyes widened.

“Kids?!?!?! What?!? No! Do I look *that* haggard?!!”

I shrugged and sucked at my teeth.

“I’m too old for kids, anyway,” I said.

He turned pale.

“So…what would you like to order, Ma’am?”

I wiggled my freshly pedicured toes inside their studded, heeled boots.

“UHHHMMMMM, you can call me ‘MISS’, not ‘MA’AM’! Dear God!”

Shane looked me square in the eye.

“You just told me you’re too old to have kids and now you want me to call you ‘Miss’? I’m failing here. Help me out!”

Clichés and the City

Last night I rode the train home after seeing my old college friend perform in a sketch comedy show at the Magnet Theater.  When I rounded the corner on 28th Street, I heard the train approaching.  I scurried down the stairs, through the turnstile and heeded the familiar musical warning that the doors would soon be closing.

There, I saw him: a beautiful specimen of a man, holding the subway doors open for me.

We rode the train in silence. I avoided eye contact but inched as close to him on the crowded train as possible, hoping for the screeching brakes or sudden jerk of movement to propel me into his arms.

Eventually, he sat down, and I sat next to him, only to have him give up his seat for an elderly woman.

The fire in my heart grew.

At 110th Street, he disappeared. I was left disappointed, but relished in the blissful memory of twelve subway stops of unrequited love at first sight.

I shared this story via social media, half-laughing at it all.  Yes, the man was gorgeous, and yes, my heart skipped a beat when his pant leg brushed against my black leggings. Yet, for all I know, he’s got a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend. Or both. Maybe he’s a narcissist, or serial killer. He might have sleep apnea or an abhorrence to brushing his teeth. There are a million ways why this fantasy love story will never work, and I know it.  Still, it’s fun to imagine. I’m somewhat of a hopeless romantic.

The commentary that immediately followed on Facebook, Twitter, in person and over text was astoundingly full of clichés. It was almost as if I had shared my story, desperate for an answer. Quite the contrary!

I know everyone is trying to be helpful, but if one more person delivers a cliché in response to my tales of singlehood, I’m either going to scream, or vomit.  Perhaps both.

The following are a list of phrases I will pay to never hear again.

1.  The right one will come along, or God will bring the right one to you.

First of all, I’m not one to just sit around, waiting for things to happen.  Secondly, how can I argue with a cliché, starring God? He is in charge of everything, but He’s never promised me a second husband.  At this point, I’m just trying to get a decent date.  Furthermore, I do not believe in “The Right One” or “The One”. I believe you pick someone, and make it work. In all my years of therapy, I have learned chemistry and compatibility are the two most important factors that make up a relationship.

Chemistry: You’ve got to want to make out with the person all the time, because eventually, they will annoy the crap out of you.

Compatibility: You’ve got to get along with them initially, and have similar goals, because eventually, they will annoy the crap out of you.

But, you make it work, because love is always worth the risk. 

2.  When you stop looking, you’ll find him. 

Thank you for insinuating I am so desperate for a man in my life, I am constantly looking for one. There are days I rejoice in my freedom, and there are others when I am trying so hard not to look, all I see is dog poo on the sidewalk.

The truth is, anyone who is single and desires to be in relationship WILL NEVER STOP looking, hoping, wondering and dreaming, no matter how much we try to deny it.

3.  Do what you love, and the rest will follow.

This statement is actually less an annoying cliché and more frustrating truth. I moved to New York to pursue my career goals, not to find a man. At the same time, refer to cliché #1. If a man happens to cross my path (perhaps on the subway), I will not reject him. But if he’s not interested, I’m not going to stalk him. (Okay, maybe a little…)

At this point, I am doing what I love, and what I hope to immediately follow is a hard-earned paycheck.

4. Timing is everything. Be patient. Maybe he’s not ready yet.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to wait around for someone to figure out what to do with me. I want to be in a relationship with a man, not a boy who doesn’t know what – or who — he wants.

5.  He’s out there, somewhere.

Whenever someone says this to me, I immediately think of the love of my life, floating silently through the galaxy in one of those heavy-yet-gravity-free, badass space suits. I giggle at the mental picture, and then start to feel sorry for him, being all alone “out there, somewhere” (most likely, lost in the time-space continuum).

Maybe he’s in Indiana.

You know what else is “out there, somewhere”? Giant water buffalo. Babies being groomed to become sumo wrestlers. Dogs who wear sweaters. A cure for cancer. The next teary-eyed winner of a reality television talent competition. The eighth wonder of the world. My Tony, Oscar, Grammy and Pulitzer Prize Awards. Buttermilk.

6.  I don’t understand how someone as smart, talented, articulate and beautiful as you can still be single.

The right one hasn’t come along yet. God hasn’t brought him to me. Maybe I’m looking too hard. Perhaps I’m too focused on doing what I love to do. Maybe it’s just not the right time.

Or maybe you should just ask me out.

Five-Minute Conversations With My 12-Year Old Piano Student

In addition to being a professional singer, actor, musician, designer and writer, I am a teacher.

I have taught special education, reading and theatre in the Los Angeles County public school system, and, in 2003, found myself administering private piano and voice lessons.  The majority of my students hail from a small, quiet community nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains. I spent the first eight years of my life there.

One of my piano students is twelve years old.  I have taught her since she was in first grade. Both her brothers — now in college — were under my direction in their respective 6th grade musical theatre endeavors: Treasure Island and The Music Man.  The entire family is smart, funny, talented, witty, kind and generous.  They are good and very real people — the kind you want to be around all the time.

12-year old piano student and I were quite compatible from the beginning of our student-teacher relationship.  Early on, I noticed she was quick-witted, honest and blunt.

When she was six, she learned a simple (albeit stupid) song called “The Hot Dog Stand”.

I stood close to her and explained the eighth notes in the piece.

“May I ask you a question?” she politely inquired, as she innocently focused her intense blue eyes upon mine.

“Of course,” I replied.

“Could you please not talk so loud? I’m right here and you’re talking very loudly.”

I have written down snippets of our conversation since that day.

When she was seven, she told me she was going to the Dodger game, right after our lesson.

“Hey, me, too!” I exclaimed.

“Last time I went to a Dodger game, I got hit on the head with a baseball. The guy who hit the ball got traded to the Cardinals!”


Recently, I asked 12-year old piano student for some dating advice.

“Don’t flirt with someone who’s out of your league,” she declared, matter-of-factly.

“Okay,” I agreed. “But what makes a guy out of my league?”

She thought for a moment.

“Someone who doesn’t like you back,” she answered. “He’s only out of your league because he doesn’t want to be in it.”

With that kind of perspective from the heart and brain of a 12-year old, I knew I needed to hear more.  Before we settled into our lesson yesterday, I interviewed her for five minutes (and twenty-seven seconds).

So, what advice can you give me on how to find a date?  I quit online dating a while ago.  It’s tough to meet decent people.

Online dating is a place [where] you’ll never meet your match.  The commercials lie!  All the people are arrogant hussies trying to be awesome, but they’re not awesome.  They do not possess the quality.

(Laughing)  Could I then be construed as an “arrogant hussy”?

You are not an arrogant hussy because you don’t dress like one. The hussies have…makeup all over their face, and they wear all the weird clothes, and, well, they remind me of the 8th graders at my school.

(Laughter.)  So, would you say that men in their 30’s and 40’s –

(She cut me off.)

Men who are in their 30’s and 40’s and aren’t married are not really the good type.

How so?

For one thing, they can’t hold down a girlfriend.

Why can’t they hold down a girlfriend?

Perhaps they’re drunk.  Perhaps they’re abusive or stupid or just disgusting, or, you know, stuff like that.  One thing – I don’t say this actually happens – but one thing that always seems to happen in books: the good guy is married, and then he gets divorced to be with someone else, and ends up having an unhappy relationship.  It doesn’t work.

What would you say to me?  I’m divorced.  But I didn’t get divorced to be with someone else. 

If I were you, I just wouldn’t worry about it.  You can’t control fate.

This is true.

Fate does as she pleases.  What fate normally does is…not very fun stuff.  I think you just got to show you can make it on your own. If you meet a nice guy — great! I’m happy for you! — but you don’t need one.

I know.

You’re doing GREAT without one.

Thank you!

So, I wouldn’t worry too much. The only people who are not doing well without guys are those who wallow on their couches all day, doing nothing but crying and eating ice cream.

That’s true.

So by the time they actually feel like, “I’m going to brace up and do something about it,” they’re 55,000 pounds!  They ate too much ice cream and sat on the couch!  And then they don’t do anything about it, and they’re back on the couch…


Don’t wallow in self-pity.


It never works.

It never works?

NEVER works.  I have already experienced self-pity and I hate it.  Don’t even let it…just ignore that emotion.  Stay positive.

What do I say to my girlfriends who are dating guys but the guys aren’t really –

— Into it?

Exactly.  They aren’t committal.

Guys who aren’t really committal…I have a feeling guys around this time [at your age] have probably had a relationship, and something terrible happened.  Their wife, or whoever they were dating, probably cheated on them and they felt like she was THE ONE, so they don’t want to get hurt again.


They don’t want to feel that pain. I have a feeling they’re not getting committal – not because they don’t like her, or think she’s not perfect — they just think, “I don’t want that pain again.  I thought this about someone else and I just experienced pain out of it; I don’t want that to happen to me [again].”

Guys just aren’t willing to take that many risks on stuff like this.

Do you think women are willing to take more risks than men?

Well, when you’re young; when you’re a girl growing up, you hear all these fairy tales about true love and all that, and you think, “Oh, I can’t wait for all of that for me!”   — But guys don’t get that.  They hear different stuff.  So when girls are ready for their true love, but guys have experienced pain, they don’t want it.


Listen: no matter how good you are, they are not going to move that fast.  They’re not just going to come rescue you from the tower.

That’s true.

So to those girls who are growing their hair long to be like Rapunzel — just cut your hair!!

(Laughs) Okay.

I had to add that!

So, is there hope for a 35-year old single woman like me, to find a good man?

Oh, yeah!  They’re still out there.  There’s always a good man.

Where are they?

(Pauses):  I don’t know.  I’m not a geography person.  I failed that. (Laughs.)  But they’re out there!


So, picture this: You are out walking one day.  It’s afternoon, and the sun is setting, blah, blah, blah, and you pass this guy.  And it’s great. You talk to him; you go jogging together.  And then you learn he is in this relationship with a girl you once knew in high school.  And she’s terrible. I mean, really terrible. He is having a little trouble with her, but he refuses to let her go because of her amazing looks.

But you — you open his heart to real things!  And that is a 30’s-to-40’s romance.

(Wheezing with laughter): How did you get to be so wise?

(Smiles and shrugs): I’m an old soul.

“Where Can I Find Happiness?”

As I waited for the divorce lawyer to return my call regarding Bigamy and Contempt, I had another court case to tackle: my DUI.

When I first got out of jail, I immediately called a friend who just so happens to be a judge.  He was extremely kind, sympathetic and nonjudgmental upon hearing my plight.  He pointed me towards a good (expensive) criminal attorney.  I hired the firm right away.

It was suggested that I take a proactive stance in my case.  I did have a good chance of getting the DUI dismissed, but I had to show some earnestness in my “desire to be rehabilitated.”

I was definitely earnest.  I would do just about anything to lessen my punishment.

“You should probably attend some AA meetings,” my lawyer advised over the phone one afternoon. She went on to explain that some judges require defendants to attend meetings, or work in the morgue.  It was a fairly standard punishment.

“I’ll send you a court card and you can get started.  You just have to get the secretary to sign off on your attendance and you’ll get credit for the meeting.  Try to get five or six meetings in before your court appearance next month.  I can’t guarantee anything, but it certainly won’t hurt your case.”

I hated the thought of having to attend an AA meeting.  I couldn’t believe that I had found myself in a situation where Alcoholics Anonymous was involved.  It was humiliating.  Furthermore, I was way more interested in going to the morgue to see dead bodies.

Nevertheless, I obliged.  I wanted to get it done – out of the way – and show the judge assigned to my case that I was a GOOD girl who had made a mistake, and would never do it again.

I’ll never forget that first AA meeting.  I rose early to attend the 6:15 a.m. gathering.  It was held in a Fellowship Hall at a Presbyterian church.  I pulled up a chair and sat in the back, and listened to people mumble for an hour.  The room echoed and it was difficult to hear.  Occasionally the attendees shouted in unison, and a few pounded their fists on the folding tables.  They laughed, listened, hugged one another and repeatedly sipped coffee from little styrofoam cups.

I brought my own coffee.  I sat with my arms folded tightly against my chest for the hour and didn’t say a word.  I dropped my court card and a crumpled dollar bill into the basket as it passed.

After the meeting adjourned, I raced to the front to find my signed card.  Several people sought me out to welcome me, congratulate me for being brave, and offer me literature.

I just smiled, nodded and reached nervously for that damn card.  One down.

I didn’t need salvation from alcohol or drug addiction.  I didn’t need to make any new friends.  I didn’t need any more suggestions on how to live my life, even if it had been excessively hard lately due to circumstance and/or poor choices.  I just needed to endure the punishment and get the hell out.

I found a noon meeting to attend.  After about four gatherings, I realized I was learning something.

I had to write.


The familiar smell of “thrift shop” wafts through my nostrils as I enter the darkened room.  Cushioned folding chairs are aligned with care, and icicle-like Christmas lights hang over the main table.  The wall is adorned with wooden placards, and old felt banners read, “ONE DAY AT A TIME!”  I am positive the room was decorated in 1974. I find a seat along the western wall and clutch my phone, as if it will save me from…what?

I’m five minutes early, which can be a good and bad thing.  The smell of cigarette smoke drifts in and out of the room, as the men gathered at the front of the building inhale their last bit of carbon monoxide before the meeting begins.

I glance around the room.  Directly in front of me sits Justin Bieber.  He is hunched over his phone, furiously texting with one hand and biting his nails on the other.  I do about seventeen takes and cannot actually figure out if it is Justin Bieber or not. Regardless, it makes me chuckle, and I relax a bit.

A small Chinese man storms through the center aisle, hugging everyone in his path.  He is fierce in his intentions, and laughs extremely loudly as sarcasm drips from his lips.  I didn’t realize that such a loud voice could come from such a small body.

At the main table sits a doughy woman whose arms are adorned with tattoos.  She cracks open her first of two sodas (that she will drink in the span of one hour) and looks at the clock.

The meeting is called to order, and people straggle in at 10, 15, even 30 minutes past the hour.  One latecomer plants himself right next to me.  He’s a soccer player in his early 20s. I notice his freshly shaved head and manicured toenails.  He sniffles throughout the entire meeting, keeps his back turned away from the main table and barely listens to what anyone has to say.  At times I think he might be crying, but I soon realize that he is just wiping his nose and snorting the mucous back up into his brain.  Later, I remind myself to wash my hands, since I end up holding his, reciting the Serenity Prayer.

It is time to reward achievement, so the little Chinese man jumps up and jubilantly passes out little chips, screaming, “Chips from the Chino!”  I laugh at his unabashed racism, and relax a little more.  I decide that if they make “Hangover 3”, this guy could give Ken Jeong a real run for his money.

Later, the little Chinese man shares his story.  He is an alcoholic and a drug addict.  He begins speaking in anger towards a few other relapsed alcoholics whom he had helped find jobs.  Subsequently, he lost his, and needs prayer to deal with both.

The room nods.

Little Chinese Man opens up about his days as a “skilled outdoorsman” (homeless man).  He would stand outside the local 7-11 and beg for money.  Once he made $5.00 he knew he’d be able to get a “fix”.  He finally checked himself into rehab.  A few days into his sobriety, Little Chinese Man offered to wash his counselor’s car.  He detailed it with precision and care, and, in the end, his counselor handed him a crisp, five-dollar bill.  His eyes fill with tears as he describes the realization that he had earned every penny of that $5.00.

He goes on to explain an old Chinese parable of a puppy that asks his mother where he can find happiness.  The mother tells the puppy that his happiness is in his tail.  So, the puppy spends years chasing his tail.

Frustrated, the puppy goes to his mother again and asks, “Where can I find my happiness?”

“I told you,” his mother replies, gently.  “Your happiness is in your tail, and it will follow you wherever you go.”

The room sighs.

Little Chinese Man thanks “the rest of you low life’s” for allowing him to share.

A big, fat biker guy in the back demands his time to share.  He curses and speaks with authority, and talks about “these rooms”.   He wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for “these walls”, so we’d all “fuckin’ better fuckin’ keep coming back, because it fuckin’ works if you fuckin’ work it!”

Later, he falls asleep.

A former dentist speaks up.  His drug of choice was crack cocaine.  Little Chinese Man gasps.

A slender, tan and weathered woman speaks up.  She is dressed in a striped mini-dress with matching espadrilles.  Her nails are painted lime green, and look like they are straight out of a travel advertisement for Thailand.  Her nails keep clacking her soda can.  She sheds tears over the years she lost, drowning her sorrows in her wine glass.  She doesn’t want to feel bad anymore.

Justin Bieber has switched from texting to playing “Words with Friends”.

As the hour passes, more and more people share their stories.  Some share the same story they did the day before.  Some shed tears.  Others sit in stoic silence.  But, all in all, they come together as humans with a purpose:  humans who are wanting to end their addictions; humans who are seeking God.  Humans who are broken, ashamed, torn up, spit out, rejected, abandoned and hurting.

Human beings who are beautiful, precious children of God.

I will return to “these rooms” for a few more hours, out of an act of service.  Preventative action.  Punishment. Hope.  Perhaps I will share my story, perhaps not.  One thing I have learned so far is to face my fears.  I may not identify completely with the people who attend the meetings, but I am just as broken and hurting as the rest.  And, for that, I say, bring on the styrofoam coffee cups and the stale sugar packets; bring on the strip mall parking lot adorned with the stunning view of the San Gabriel mountains.  Bring on Justin Bieber and his Honda.

I will laugh and cry with my fellow human beings, and I will even hold their snot-ridden hands.  It feels good to be alive.


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.

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.


Last night I had a gig at a Halloween party.

Costumes were required, so I assembled the sluttiest outfit possible with pieces from my closet.  I affixed tarantula-like eyelashes to my lids, and slipped into a plunging, black, satin V-neck jumper that shockingly revealed more leg than chest.  I pulled on a pair of fishnet stockings, and strapped my ankles into my favorite pair of C.F.M. shoes.  (If you’re confused, look it up.  I’m not helping you on this one.)  I dubbed my costume, “The Chick Singer”.

Halloween is such a great excuse for a woman to dress like a slut.

The party was a snoozer, but the band was good (Hello!).  I made friends with two 10-year olds who were dressed up as “Before and After”.  One wore a crisp, white gown adorned with pearls and ribbons; the other wore the torn and bloody version, along with ghastly, ghostly makeup.  The girls were best friends and great dancers.  “After” even had a choreographed routine that involved astoundingly good break-dancing.

I sang my face off for three hours, danced with the ten-year olds (and other females dressed as sluts), collected my wages, and happily bid farewell to Simi Valley.

As I drove back home on the dark, empty 118 freeway, my ears were still ringing from the drummer’s last, lengthy solo.  I shut my radio off and glanced down at my phone.  The time read 1:07 a.m., on Sunday, October 30th.

I gasped.

It’s my wedding anniversary.  No, wait.  It’s my UNiversary.

I waited for a flood of emotion to hit me.  I almost felt guilty for not realizing what day it was.  Sure, I have been aware that the day was drawing near, but once it actually dawned, it didn’t make much of an impact.

I casually steered my vehicle and furrowed my brows.  I tried to force myself to tears.  Surely there’d be something in me that felt sad, or a sense of loss – or even nostalgia.


And – dare I say – it feels so good.  Because it’s so right.  I am not supposed to be married to that person.  I am healed, and I continue to heal, and it’s all an amazing testament of God’s grace.

2 Corinthians 4:7-9 …this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

As I sit in my cozy Pasadena apartment on this gorgeous and joyful morning, I do recall a funny memory from that day, twelve years ago:

My husband and I had not registered for wedding gifts, so our guests gave us money.  As we drove away from the church, bound for our bridal suite at the Hilton, we realized we needed to deposit the cash and checks into my bank account so we’d have an extra cushion for our two-week honeymoon in Cancun and Belize.  It was early in the evening on that Saturday, and no banks were open.  We managed to find a grocery store near our hotel with an ATM that would accept deposits.

There we were: a fresh, young married couple, just an hour away from consummating our marriage. We giddily traipsed through Ralphs in our wedding attire.  It must have been quite the sight.  I took charge of depositing the checks as my husband stood in line to buy a Coke and a Butterfinger.   As I waited at the machine for the deposit envelope to be accepted, a woman stopped right next to me. Her shopping cart’s dirty wheels came dangerously close to marking over the satin trim on my bridal gown.

I felt her studying me for a moment.

“Oh, I get it!” she chirped, loudly.  “You’re a bride for Halloween!  That’s sooooo cuuuute!  And funny!”

I stared at her, and adjusted my veil.
“No, actually, I got married today.”

She laughed.

“So what kind of Halloween party are you going to?  Your costume is really sweet.”

I stared harder.
“No, I actually got married today.”

A look of realization, then confusion, spread across her face.

“Oh!?  Congratulations!!  Where…where’s your husband?”  She asked, craning her neck over the bustling crowd of shoppers.

I glanced up at the line where my other half had previously stood.  He was not there.  My eyes darted around the store, but he was nowhere to be found.

I shrugged.  “Oh, he’s around…somewhere.”

She smiled, politely.  “Well, congratulations, and…Happy Halloween!”    — and slowly pushed her cartful of groceries out the sliding door.

From now on, I think I’ll stick with the slut costume for Halloween.


Trouble Train

Before I knew it, I was on the road.

Our first performance was a taping of a The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.  We performed a new song off Setzer’s latest album, entitled “Trouble Train”.  It felt so good to be performing again.  I cannot even begin to describe the blessing that my job was – and still is! – especially counting the fact that I needed a creative outlet; something to take my mind off my shattered, hopeless marriage.

In addition, it was refreshing to be genuinely treated well and appreciated by a bunch of good men.  I felt safe, and my self-esteem started to build again.  Furthermore, I simply love being on the road.

After the taping, I headed home to finish packing for my early flight the next morning.  I noticed that I had several new voicemails.

The first was a woman with a hesitant valley-girl accent.  My musician’s ear did not attune to her high-pitched, squeaky voice.
“Hiyyeeeeeeeeeeee, uhhh, I theeeennnk I feeyoounnund your daawwwwg???…”

Oh, no.

The next was a very authoritative man with a deep voice.
“Hello, ma’am.  I am one of the conductors of Amtrak.   I ran into your…dog here at Union Station; please give me a call…”

What the…?

The next was, undoubtedly, a hipster teenager.  I pictured his fedora, oversized black-rimmed glasses and skinny jeans as he mumbled,
“Um, your dog is licking my hand right now.”

Finally – a very kind woman:
“Hello, Leslie, this is [so and so] from the Lacey Street Shelter.  We are holding your dog overnight – apparently he rode the train…?  (Laughs)  Anyway, we open at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, so you can come get him anytime.”

I hung up the phone and sighed.

My adventurous, friendly and hard-to-tie-down dog, Wimbley, had trotted a few miles south to the Metro in Highland Park, gotten on the train and traveled all the way to Union Station, making several friends along the way.  This would mark the second “trouble train” trip for Wimbley, who, two years earlier, had followed a friend of ours (with the name, “Train”, no joke) along the same route.  When the friend Train/real train left him behind at the station, Wimbley ran after both on the tracks and ended up going home with a woman who lived in Mount Washington.  Thankfully, we found him two days later, via an ad she posted on Craigslist.

Trouble was, I had no way of rescuing Wimbley before my Detroit-bound flight left at 8:00 a.m. the next morning.  I would be gone for six weeks.  I was desperate.  I had already lost two dogs that year, and couldn’t bear the thought of my sweet, only remaining dog being abandoned at the cold kill-shelter.

I immediately called my father-in-law and asked him to bail Wimbley out, but he refused.  He basically told me it was better for my dog to find a new home.

I picked up on the double entendre, and couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Then again, I wasn’t a stranger to my in-laws’ cruel and thoughtless judgment.

So, I called upon my neighbors, yet again – my amazing, wonderful, loyal and generous neighbors.  I was embarrassed and ashamed that I could not keep my house in order.  I couldn’t tie my husband down, and now I couldn’t even get my own dog to stay at home.

I didn’t sleep much that night.  I flew to Detroit in the morning.

My neighbors rescued Wimbley from the shelter the very next day, first thing in the morning.  His “bail” wasn’t too expensive.  He had received a bath, complimentary flea medicine, a complete veterinary check-up, a microchip, and a gold star for being the friendliest dog in the shelter.  He also got a new name tag, complete with five phone numbers – all neighbors who live on my block.  We all later joked that Wimbley just needed to get to his appointment at the “Day Spa.”

With Wimbley safe and sound, I relaxed, and was able to really start enjoying myself on tour.  I couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony and timing of my dog’s wild adventure.

I also pondered the depth of the message of my boss’ song.  I hoped and prayed that my husband — back in Portugal —  would stay far away from his own “trouble train”.

The trouble train is comin’
It’s been rollin’ through this town
Since I don’t know when —
The trouble train, they call it
And once you’re on it
You just can’t get off it, my friend

Don’t get on that train again
It’s rollin’ and thunderin’
‘Round the bend
If you hear the devil call your name
Don’t get on that trouble train!

The trouble train is comin’
It’s full of troubled souls
Who have gone astray,
The trouble train is burnin’
It’s puffing smoke and fire
And it’s headed your way

Now don’t get on that train again
It’s a long way down
Please listen, my friend!
If you hear the devil call your name
Don’t get on that trouble train.

If the devil’s calling out your name

He’s riding on that trouble train!

The trouble train’s left the station
It’s claimed another soul
It’ll come back again
The trouble train’s damnation
Is a one-way ticket to the fiery end

Don’t get on that train again
It’s a long way down
Please listen, my friend!
If you hear the devil call your name
Don’t get on the trouble train!