I saw her again last night

October 13, 2013


The only thing better than watching Judy Collins from the front row is watching an old friend watch Judy Collins from the front row. Especially if the friend in question loves her as much as you do, and doubly especially if you’ve owed said friend a favor since 1998.


Of course, the mark of true friendship is the ability to one-up each other’s personal favors, so naturally, after I rustled up a pair of front-row tickets for us, Jeff had to use his longtime entertainment writing gig to score a phone interview with Ms. Collins, which led to a couple of passes to meet her in person during intermission.


This meant I got to see not only the look on Jeff’s face when she smiled at him from the stage during “Open the Door,” but also the look on his face when she gave him a hug and autographed his copy of Colors of the Day.

Pure joy.

Now, you know this would not be an Emily Priddy moment if it did not involve some sort of circular plotline.

I said I owed Jeff a favor from 1998. That was the year the principal at my first teaching gig called me into her office and told me she couldn’t renew my contract because I was a lousy teacher. Dear, sweet, unfailingly loyal Jeff handled this situation by taking me out, buying me all the whiskey sours I could suck down, and telling me I was beautiful and brilliant until I was just schnockered enough to believe him.

Every girl ought to have a Jeff in her life.

Earlier that same school year, the district’s PR flack had given me an occasional writing fix by letting me put together press releases for him. I think he knew how miserable I was, and he went out of his way to make me feel better.

I hadn’t seen him in 15 years, but he was one of the four people invited backstage during intermission last night.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Heart of Gold. We are now cruising at at a level of two to the power of twenty-five thousand to one against and falling, and we will be restoring normality just as soon as we are sure of what is normal anyway….


P.S.: Please ignore the craptastic photo quality. My iPhone was having serious depth-of-field issues last night. Apparently iOS 7 needs bifocals.

Folk Thursday: I was there.

April 12, 2013

Folk Thursday didn’t happen here, because I wasn’t home. I was busy having The Greatest Folk Thursday Ever at the gorgeous Stiefel Theatre in Salina, Kansas:


Recognize her? Here’s another clue:


Fine — I’ll just spill it:




My awesome friend Greg — pop culture connoisseur, photographer extraordinaire, and proprietor of TheLope.com, which you should bookmark if you haven’t — has some well-connected friends who arranged a little meet-and-greet with Ms. Collins after the show. Greg is often known as “Ace Jackalope’s Driver,” as he is the owner of Ace Jackalope, a flocked toy jackalope from Wall Drug, who dresses up in appropriate costumes and poses for photos with various celebrities. As you can see, Ms. Collins was willing to play along, which I thought spoke well of her. (I don’t trust people who refuse to be seen with Ace.)

In that top picture, which Greg shot, I was laughing because I had just informed Sweet Judy Blue Eyes that I was a couple of days away from moving to Rush Limbaugh’s hometown — whereupon she turned into Sweet Judy Side-Eye. Like Chantal Biya caliber. It was, as the kids say, epic. We also talked about her recent anti-Monsanto activism on behalf of honeybees, which of course I as a beekeeper appreciate more than she will ever know.

Even if I hadn’t gotten to meet her, it would have been worth the trip, because my seat was awesome (second row, but nobody was in front of me), the theater was gorgeous (more on that in a future post), I had a wonderful time with Greg and his friends, I got to hear part of the sound check from the lobby, and for her encore, she sang “In My Life,” which particularly resonated in light of the timing.

This isn’t from last night, but it’s fairly recent:

We’re moving tomorrow, so I’ll probably be out of pocket for the next few days. I hope to have Internet service set up at the new house by mid-week. I’ll try to post pictures of the new house, the new office, and various other things then.


How to reduce your stress levels

January 26, 2013

The other day, I found myself entangled in yet another Facebook conversation with a low-information voter who gets all his ideas from talk radio and direct-mail propaganda and thinks that changing the subject is a valid debate strategy.

You know the type: He starts a debate over something like whether ordinary civilians should have military-style assault rifles with high-capacity clips, and as soon as you start asking questions he can’t answer, he starts citing statistics about handgun bans. Nobody was talking about banning handguns, but he thinks he’s the second coming of Stephen Douglas because he’s managed to prove a point, and never mind that the point has absolutely nothing to do with the subject actually being debated.

Talking to one of these people is like trying to have an intelligent conversation with the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It gets tiresome after a while, and if you unfriend him, you only reinforce his bad behavior by making him think he scared you away with his Mad Debate Skillz.™ (“Come back here, you pansy! I’ll bite your legs off!”)

I solved the problem by announcing that from here on in, every time I saw a conservative blathering about guns, gays, abortion, President Obama, or Hillary Clinton on Facebook, I was going to donate a dollar to Hillary’s presidential campaign. (If she doesn’t run, the money goes to the Democrat of my choosing.)

My Facebook acquaintances now have three options:

1. Shut up.
2. Help pour money into the enemy’s war chest.
3. Unfriend me.

I don’t particularly care which option they choose. If they choose 1 or 3, I don’t have to listen to them. If they choose 2 … well, after watching her destroy a mansplainer the other day, I’m willing to make some sacrifices for mah-girl. I put two bucks in her jar this afternoon, and I’ve never been happier to see obnoxious political spam crawling across my feed.


Munchkin Tuesday: Tiffany

January 15, 2013

So today I’m running an errand for work, minding my own business, when I walk into a store and hear a spectacularly wretched cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” come over the speakers.

I don’t know who was responsible for this monstrosity, but as a child of the ’80s, I cringed.

I know it was originally recorded by Tommy James and the Shondells, but if you ain’t Tiffany, I don’t wanna hear you sing “I Think We’re Alone Now,” because I spent most of seventh grade belting that into a hairbrush and trying to decide whether to be awestruck, inspired, or just wildly jealous that she had a record contract when she wasn’t even out of high school. (I think I mostly opted for awestruck. I harbored no delusions about how my own pipes compared to hers, and even at age 12, I recognized how frickin’ brilliant that mall tour really was. Talk about marketing to your target audience — a teen pop act playing shopping malls in 1987? Holy crap. That’s genius.)

There wasn’t much I liked about junior high, but dammit, Tiffany makes the short list. If you’re anywhere close to my age, I bet you can’t even listen to her voice without remembering the scent of Salon Selectives hairspray, the taste of raspberry New York Seltzer, and the sound of an Apple IIe powering up. (You just heard it, didn’t you?)

Here she is a couple of years ago. Stay with her through “Could’ve Been.”

Girlfriend’s still got it … and how great is it to hear her sing it like she knows what she’s talking about this time? ‘Course, y’all know I’m a sucker for that sort of thing anyway.


I left my heart in Tucumcari

December 31, 2012


I’ve waited 11 years for this shot. I got it this morning. The snow was probably gone by the time I got to Amarillo, but it was perfect while it lasted — wet, fluffy, and just deep enough to be photogenic without impeding travel.

Here are some of the visual highlights from my weekend trip to New Mexico:


This is the Tucumcari Motel. It’s on old U.S. 54, a few blocks north of the Mother Road. It’s a pretty cool old building.


Here are the motel cabins. I’m a sucker for little adobe buildings….




More shots of the Swallow in the snow this morning. I can think of only once in my entire life when I have been more excited to have a camera in my hand. If every day started like this, I could get the hang of mornings.


Love the fog over Tucumcari Mountain.




A few scenes along Route 66 between Tucumcari and San Jon.



I’ve always loved this old property on the outskirts of San Jon.


tumble2 tumble1

You know I can’t resist any excuse to shoot the Western Motel in San Jon.


While I was getting this shot of the Bent Door in Adrian, a very good-looking firefighter saw my hazard lights on and pulled up to make sure I was OK. Cute Texas firefighter, if you’re reading this, thank you for watching over the travelers when they get to your stretch of 66. You’re one of the reasons Route 66 remains the greatest road trip in America.

I intend to ring in 2013 with a cup of Red Zinger, some ’60s folk on vinyl, and a few hours of work on the novel.

Hope your New Year’s Eve is good, wherever you are.


Tarantino and Boublil and Schonberg (oh, my!)

December 25, 2012

Thanks to an outrageously inaccurate weather forecast, Ron and I cut our holiday visit to Illinois about 18 hours short and drove back from his parents’ house last night instead of this morning.

When the snow and ice didn’t materialize, we took advantage of the day off to go see both of the Christmas film releases we’d been anticipating.

We caught the Circle Cinema’s 10:30 a.m. showing of Django Unchained. It’s pretty typical Quentin Tarantino fare: great dialogue; lots of violence; plenty of f-bombs; dark humor; exceptional badassery; Samuel L. Jackson; and my favorite addition to the Tarantino universe, Christoph Waltz, who is probably going to get another Oscar nomination. Great movie. If you’re fond of Tarantino, Westerns, revenge fantasies, or all of the above, go see it.

We headed down to Riverwalk this afternoon to catch the matinee of Les Miserables. It was magnificent. Anne Hathaway deserves an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Hugh Jackman made a terrific Valjean; Samantha Barks is probably the best Eponine since Lea Salonga; and Amanda Seyfried does a nice job with a relatively thankless role. (Grownup Cosette requires some technical skill and a decent soprano range, but she doesn’t get a real showstopper song like Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” or Eponine’s “On My Own.” Which is too bad, because Seyfried is pretty good. Makes you wonder what she could do with a meatier role.) The little actor playing Gavroche about tore my heart out, too, and the sets and costumes were spectacular.

The weakest link was Russell Crowe’s Javert. Crowe obviously has the acting chops, but vocally, he just sounds like a rock singer who’s strayed way too far from his comfort zone with way too little training to help him over the bumps. That said, I’ve heard far worse vocal performances in movie musicals, and it’s definitely not a dealbreaker; just a little disappointing for a girl who loves both the actor and the role and really wanted them to be right for each other.

Longtime fans: Watch for the Easter egg the casting director left for you early in the film — and if you go with someone who hasn’t been along for the whole 25-year ride, be prepared to explain why you’re suddenly grinning like the Cheshire Cat.


Breathing for a minute

December 12, 2012

I am celebrating this evening. After nearly two years, I have finally finished the second draft of the novel I’ve been working on since 2010. I wrapped up the first draft in February 2011, but before I could get much done in the way of revisions, the story took a wild left turn that struck me as such an improvement over its first incarnation that I just couldn’t turn it down. I’ve spent the past eight months ruminating on the changes, and the story was flowing smoothly until a couple of weeks ago, when a plot element created a lot of logistical issues that bogged down the whole thing, and I just wasn’t sure how to proceed.

The problem finally worked itself out tonight, and I finished the revision a lot faster than I expected. It’s still far from being a finished product — especially in light of the fact that large chunks of it are brand-new and haven’t been through any sort of revision yet — but at least I have a draft in hand, printed out and double-spaced and ready to mark up and sort out in a (hopefully) cohesive manner. It’s not bad, I think, although “good” would probably be a generous description for some of it. A lot of the new passages feel clumsy or a little hackneyed or just don’t flow into each other as smoothly as I’d like. That can all be addressed in the revision process, I think.

I wish I could take off tomorrow and spend the whole day curled up in a coffeehouse with the manuscript and a red pen. It’s hard for me to focus my attention on real people when I’ve got fictional characters waiting for me at home. :/


A tribute

November 4, 2012

We got word last night that a former colleague had passed away unexpectedly.

There are two kinds of people in my life: Those who have worked the copy desk on Election Night with me, and those who haven’t.

Roger was in the former category. If you aren’t, you’ll never understand why that’s important.

I met Roger near the end of my first year in the classroom. For nine months, I’d been struggling to do some good in a completely corrupt school district, to no avail, and I was exhausted. Burned out and living miles from anyone I knew, I felt alone and adrift.

Then I walked into the newsroom one May evening, and Roger — in typical Roger fashion — went out of his way to make me feel welcome. He showed me around, asked me questions, joked with me, and just generally included me. It was the first time in ages that I’d felt as if I fit in somewhere. I don’t think Roger ever knew how much I needed that.

Journalists are a different breed, and the ones who stay up past midnight, putting the paper to bed are — to paraphrase Orwell — “more different than others.” We are the grammar geeks, the designers, the adrenaline junkies. We work the hours no one else wants, and we love it. We get on each other’s nerves. We yell at each other. But between headlines and frustrations, we learn each other’s quirks, concern ourselves with each other’s lives, and entertain each other with outrageous humor that keeps us sane in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment.

It’s that last bit I’ll remember most when I think of Roger.

Some of the laughs we shared aren’t fit for public consumption. (That Monica Lewinsky emoticon we invented, for instance.) Others wouldn’t be funny to anybody outside the newsroom. But then there’s this. And this.

And most of all, this.

For better or worse, I will never, ever be able to hear “Mr. Roboto” without thinking of Roger, and I will never be able to think of Roger without hearing “Mr. Roboto” somewhere in the back of my mind.

Somewhere, Roger is enjoying that last fact way more than he’s got any right to.


I already miss him.


Munchkin Tuesday: Strawberry Shortcake

October 9, 2012

So I was in Tucumcari this weekend, on my way to lunch at Watson’s BBQ with the owners of the Blue Swallow, when I found myself at a barn sale on the edge of town.

I didn’t find anything I wanted to buy at the barn sale, but somewhere in an alternate universe where it is still 1981, my 6-year-old self threw a tantrum when I passed a complete set of Strawberry Shortcake dolls without even bothering to ask how much they were.

I wanted a Strawberry Shortcake doll when I was little, but she was expensive, and Dad objected to the fake strawberry scent of the two-inch-high plastic figurine I got in my Christmas stocking, so I had to settle for a Huckleberry Pie pillow doll instead.

Poop. :(

American Greetings came up with the original Strawberry Shortcake dolls, which Kenner then manufactured. Apparently the greeting-card-to-toy-to-cartoon trajectory was a thing back then, because I seem to remember the Care Bears and Rainbow Brite following similar paths to fame. These days, Hasbro is making new Strawberry Shortcake dolls, but they look more like what you’d get if that big-headed kid from Deliverance knocked up the Little Mermaid, and apparently Simon Bond invaded Strawberryland at some point, because Custard is nowhere to be seen.

(On a related note, I could probably do a whole Munchkin Tuesday entry on the work of Simon Bond, because I spent a LOT of time giggling over 101 Uses for a Dead Cat when I was a kid. I’m not sure what that says about me.)


P.S.: I’d almost forgotten about this, but in 1983, General Mills made a cereal based on the Strawberry Shortcake franchise. Because I was in second grade and didn’t have any better sense, I set up an inconsolable howl for it until Mom bought me a box. As usual, I was required to eat the entire box. If I remember right, it tasted like Frankenberry mixed with runoff from a Monsanto factory. Ghastly stuff. Here’s the commercial that suckered me into asking for it:

What connects us

September 28, 2012

Last winter, I was putting together a lesson plan in my office when a familiar melody suddenly floated in from the living room, where Ron was watching football on TV.

For the next 60 seconds, Ron and I saw the same series of Victorian drawings flash through our thoughts, in the same order, and while the music was playing in the middle of a 2012 afternoon, for us — and probably for every other American between the ages of 35 and 65 — it was 8 p.m. on a Thursday sometime in 1982.


State Farm was using the Cheers theme song in what may be the most arresting television commercial I have ever seen.

Ron sent me the link to a GQ article about Cheers tonight, and while I was reading it, he got on YouTube and pulled up that commercial.

Here is the power of pop culture: It connects us. It creates commonalities that tie members of a generation together, and in some cases, those commonalities tie one generation to the next.

You and I may think we have nothing in common, but if you were old enough to watch television between 1982 and 1993, you see the same series of images and remember (probably fondly) the same characters I do when you hear that first distinctive chord from the Cheers theme song. And if you remember Cheers, you and I probably have some other things in common, too. When we see a St. Louis Cardinals logo, the first thing we think of is probably a young shortstop doing an exuberant backflip onto the field at Busch Stadium, and when we sing the seventh-inning stretch at a baseball game, we probably hear Harry Caray’s voice. For us, Christopher Reeve will always be Superman, Soleil Moon-Frye will always be a precocious 7-year-old, and we will always remember where we were when the Challenger blew up.

For whatever reason, you and I were chosen to walk through this period in history together. Our paths may diverge wildly, but no matter where we go or what we do, we will be forever connected by our Pavlovian responses to little things like the Cheers theme song or the sound of a Speak ‘n’ Spell being turned on. (You heard it as soon as I said it, didn’t you?)

I find that fascinating … and oddly comforting.



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