Category Archives: Old friends


I had occasion to call a former employer today and chat with one of my favorite editors ever. Long story, but a homicide investigation involving a victim from my area resulted in a couple of arrests in my old paper’s coverage area. I was having trouble sorting out some conflicting reports and putting my hands on a document I needed, so I called my old newsroom to see what I could rustle up.

Some things never change — like the fact that you absolutely cannot trust a St. Louis television station to get even the most basic information correct in a story about anything that happens on the east side of the Mississippi River. The fact that the public information officers in Illinois State Police District 11 are more helpful than the PIOs pretty much anywhere else in the state. And most of all, the fact that the editor who taught me to cover crime stories back in 1999 is still my favorite person to hear on the other end of the line when I’m chasing down details and trying to wrangle information out of reluctant sources.

I don’t miss that town’s ridiculous city ordinances. I don’t miss the corruption of its local government. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the incredibly talented people who populate the newsroom of its daily paper. That newsroom isn’t big, but the amount of talent it harbors is truly spectacular, and I’m awfully glad I got to spend my first few years as a full-time journalist there.


Story time

I have, like, a thousand things I need to be doing right now that do not involve dinking around on the Internet, so obviously this is the optimal time to tell a story.

My best friend in high school was a quiet, unassuming Muslim girl who made good grades; said “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” at appropriate times; and basically did whatever she wanted, because adults always assumed that whatever Saadia was doing at any given moment was precisely what Saadia was supposed to be doing at that moment.

Saadia and I were pretty good kids, but by November of our senior year, we figured we had some comp time coming for all the extra hours we’d put in writing papers for honors classes and doing extracurricular activities while the cool kids were out getting drunk and pregnant and stuff, so we started cutting class and going out for coffee whenever we could think up an excuse. We always took the backroads to the coffeehouse, and if we hit a pothole too hard on the way, the glovebox in my 1985 Nissan Pulsar would pop open, and a box of Dramamine would fly out and land in Saadia’s lap. Which in no way should be construed as a reflection on my driving skills. But I digress.

This story isn’t about Dramamine or our senior year or the many ways one can traverse Southern Illinois on county roads to avoid being busted for truancy. It’s about our sophomore year, when we hadn’t yet figured out we could get away with cutting class, so we settled for blasting the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack on my parents’ stereo and making outrageously inappropriate sexual innuendoes about Michael Crawford while we did our homework. As one does.

We had biology together that year, and let me tell you: We were amazing at dissecting things. And by “amazing,” I mean we sucked. Which may or may not have been* my fault, because the day we dissected a shark, I inadvertently disconnected every vein and artery in its body with one ill-advised swipe of the scalpel.


We obviously performed very well on the practical exam for that unit.

We squeaked through the next unit by the skin of our teeth, and by the time we got to the final project in the cutting-up-dead-animals series — a fetal pig — I was starting to worry. I was on a field trip the day our irascible but hilarious biology teacher handed out the pigs, but when I returned, Saadia knew everything there was to know about porcine anatomy.

I later learned the following exchange had occurred in my absence:

COLLINS: (Puts pig in front of Saadia)
SAADIA: (Stares at pig)
COLLINS: What’s the matter with you?
SAADIA: That’s a pig.
SAADIA: I’m Muslim.
SAADIA: That’s a pig. I can’t touch it.
COLLINS: Your brother touched one. He didn’t have any problem with it.
SAADIA: (Shrugs) Yeah, well, he’s probably going to hell.**

So Collins ended up dissecting the pig for Saadia and showing her what all the parts were, which she then showed me.

And that, kids, is the story of how Saadia and Emily passed sophomore biology.


**Last I knew, Saadia’s brother was a neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai. In retrospect, I probably should have been more careful with that shark.

I saw her again last night


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.

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, 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

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

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.