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The Politics of Dating

In Broascaating, you collect a lot of unemployment and you end up out of desperation doing odd jobs for very odd people who really, really liked you on the air.   They almost only ever agreed to an interview just to see if one  looked  as hot as one sounded.     I made it through a couple of interviews….I guess that was because I was actually worthy of being the subject of  their fantasy; Laurinella, Queen of SultryVox, Land of CarboHydratia.    Eeewwwww.   I can remember having some of the creepiest temporary bosses.

Anyway, I was thinking back on my long  career and one particular  period of unemployment appeared front and center on ye olde memory banks or in my mammary banks according to some of my creepier bosses.

I’d been doing a little freelance work for a Houston magazine (heavy on the “free”, by the way).   Days earlier, my editor asked me what I wanted to do next in terms of a subject.

I told her that I really didn’t care–anything would be fine–I wasn’t picky. Whatever. I suggested  she throw out a couple of potential topics.

Right off the bat, she suggested I do an in-depth piece on the Interior Department’s finalized proposal to open 48 jillion  acres of previously off-limits land for oil exploration and drilling.

“Nah, that’s a little heavy. Too many facts and numbers”, I said. “But anything else would be fine. Really. I’m amenable to anything,  seriously.  Just name it.  What other topics do you have in mind?”

She then suggested that I write an article on Venezuelan despot, Hugo Chavez (he was still and alive and killing back then) and his ardent criticism of neo-liberal globalization.

I shook my head and told her no; too many abstract political principles. Nor was I in the mood to do a lot of boring research. Plus my head started to spin. I told her I’d do anything , ANYTHING but that.

She then suggested an overview of Nancy Pelosi’s first two years as Speaker of the House.

I vomited a little in my mouth, then suggested an overview of anything else.

She then told me of her idea for a story about the dating world for older Houstonians. (And by older, I mean age 40 and up)

I thought about it for a second: it had possibilities; some creative potential. There would be no mention of Hugo Chavez or Nancy P.  that I could think of and besides, I was a Houstonian over 40.

I told her I’d do it.

But I quickly learned that I wouldn’t be talking to older Houstonians trying to date. I’d have to become one of the older Houstonians trying to date.

The story, as it was conveyed to me, would be far more interesting if I participated in it. First person perspective.

As in, I should actually go out on a date.

Yeah, uh-huh.

A date.

I’m not even sure what constitutes a date in 2017 much less in what it was in 2008 when I was given this assignment,   Certainly not for a woman whose birth  predates Eisenhower’s incessant rants about then military- industrial complex.   

See, at the time, I hasn’t had a real by God date per se since December 2004.    I was Tin Man rusty and way off my game, but a few years earliermImhad some success at what I called “guerrilla dating”. I attacked it with Gunga Din-like precision; I had the enthusiasm of a Sandinista with new boots during the rainy season.

This was my M.O.—I’d get all tarted up and go to the nearest Barnes and Noble Bookstore (ALWAYS date a literate man and do brick and mortar book stores still esxist?).   I’d find a pretentious stack of books to stand near. If I saw a nice looking man, I’d grab a book and open it. Remember, the book really doesn’t matter, but the title and cover made all the difference .  Just make sure whatever you grab as a prop, makes you look intellectual and even a bit mysterious.

I remember on one occasion, I actually trained my eyes to go Marty Feldman. Seriously! One eye scanned the room looking for a mark, while the other focused on the book allowing me to feign interest in the Runic alphabet. I didn’t get that many dates, but I learned that Runic/Futhark is Runic for “how’s it hanging”.

That should come in handy if I’m ever going out with a holdover who’s lineage is that of the ancient Goths.

Still, I remember being nervous about all of it.  The dynamics of dating had changed since I last went out one a date four years prior.  Should I be worried I hasnt changed enough to accommodate all the social changes? But surely, some of the basics were still in existence, right?

All the latest books and authors insisted that men and women have innate “hard wiring” that time can’t change.    The wrote that it all goes back to that feral thing; when we lived in caves, communicated through grunts and screeches and were the mono-browed forebearers to that clever caveman Geico ad campaign eight years ago.

We all saw the movie, “Quest for Fire”, right?    We learned from that flick that prehistoric men looked at women and sized them up as breeding stock. They’d ask themselves, “Is she physically able to bare my progeny and propagate my DNA for generations to come?….Ugh!” If so, he grabbed her by the hair and pulled her into the cave where he would proceed make a big carnal Mesozoic smack dab all over her Jurassic.

So, what’s changed?  Women still do as they did way back then; we look at every man and subconsciously wonder if “he’s the one?”  . We can’t help it. We want to know if these brave, hunter/gatherers can provide for our families.   And by that I don’t  mean bringing home a brontosaurus or fire, for that matter.

But we’re older now, so more than likely, we’ll still size each other up, but for entirely different reasons.

Older men look at older women and hope that we can prepare a meal that’s either low or no sodium and we women will be hoping that men will still be able to—–my God! Is that a crease in his pants or is that his prostate???

Oh yes, things have changed.

And what if sex enters the picture??? There are so many factors now in place that weren’t there years ago. I was 49 then…..(Jeez, really?????) and at the time inconvenienced with “free range” periods–they came and went as they pleased and usually at the worst times!    I had to deal with that, plus, there was the awkward issue of Cialis and Viagra; performance anxiety and feminine…. whatever.

There’s nothing scarier than a “first anything”. Especially a first date. You’ve got a 50-50 chance you won’t like each other physically and if that attraction isn’t there, you know it right off the bat. That’s not to say that perceived looks won’t change as you get to know each other, but rarely will a couple on their first date, ever feel that need and desire at the same time.

The truth is we’re older. Much older.

In fact, too damn old to be dating in the first place.   Writing about it would be fiction.    I’d be Steven Glass  Glass with a better rack.

This whole damn idea is nuts.  Completely insane.   I remember sweating, feeling nauseous and burping up something akin to sulfur.   I called my editor in a complete panic.

So, long story short,  my piece on Hugo Chavez’s disdain of neo-liberal globalization affected his dating rituals  was on her desk and ready to go to print.

Jeez……The things  we do for a paycheck.

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In Praise of Meaty Women 2017

If you,d cut me in half, you’d count 58 rings.   Yep, this old tee with boobs and graying hair with some blond in there somewhere, thank you, have seen  a lot of life.  The tales  my pudge twigs could tell.

The  post you’re  about to read with a repeat.   It wwas written as menopuase and all it’s hormonal MOABs Was wreaking havoc on my mind and ass.    Allow to me repeat, it did a number of my ass.     Someone women breeze menopause with a cough,    But  nor me, of course.  It devastated me.

How bad?     Rodney King and the LA riots bad.      The fairly recent nepal earthquake bad.  The University of Texas  Longhorns 2016 football season bad.

So, when I first wrote this seven years ago, Mother Nature was forcing me to retain later like a reservoir.  I had insomnia, heart palpitations, I was bitchy, moody, I had a hotflashes one moment and then I’d  be so cold the next minute, I was surprised tornadoes weren’t forming on the drynline  near my crotch.  (Somewhere, there’s a meteorologist or a weather nerd laughing his or her ass off at that one!)

At the time, I was also angry.    I had  grown very tired of the concept of being “ridiculously thin to be considered in”.

I had had my fill with the men who will only pursue this anatomical ideal that Hollywood and Glamor, Cosmo and Maxim and Playboy have forced fed us.  And save for the emotionally/mentally skewed, I’ve had my fill of women who are so shallow as to think being bone thin is the only way to be and are literally killing themselves in an attempt to stay skinny to keep their men and society happy.

Fuck that noise.

During the puffy  years, I felt  this way legitimately. It didn’t stem from an attempt to justify the fact that I wasn’t thin then nor am I now not a particularly thin woman. It is true, I have lost a considerable amount of weight in recent months and while I’d be considered a great piece of ass in at least 21 countries, I’m still not Cosmo worthy. I am a woman who could be described as “upholsterered”‘.  No sinewy musculature pokes out anywhere and no part of my skeletal system protrudes.  My elbow and scalp are about as this thin and boney as it gets.

But even with pounds lost, I’d still be considered chubby by many, but here’s your reality check, Society–I’M YOUR AVERAGE WOMAN!!!!!! I’m the norm. More North American women look just like me.

So, bellow there:  Meet the face, ass and gut of average America.

Parts of men arevrounded.   They’d protrudes. Stuff hangs over waistbands like an intertube.

It jiggles and often moves of it’s own accord.

It is the stuff of which many women are made and I would hope that someday soon, we can understand that a little extra adipose, doesn’t negate the efficacy of femininity, beauty and womanhood.

But none of that matters. Thin women are the ones who idealized. Men will look twice at a thin women–it doesn’t matter if her face looks like it was set ablaze, then extinguished with 30-rounds from an M-16. It’s about the damned body!

Yep–men will ogle and admire thin women; then, they’ll shake their heads while making that “eye squinting, lip pursing face” while inhaling loudly—as if they’ve just been served a perfect prime rib, yet invariably, they’ll go home to wives and girlfriends who are struggling to squeeze their ever expanding frames into their size 16 jersey knit stretch pants.

It used to be so different.

How did this happen? When did this happen?

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Back 300-400 years or so, heavier women were the preferred stock. Men loved women who were heavier. A little excess weight signified health and health meant the woman was of sturdy child bearing stock. And not only that, weight bore certain social ramifications, as well. Being zaftig was a sign of wealth; there was a correlation between adipose women and a family who was loaded. Obviously, it meant the woman’s family had enough money to buy enough food to eat.

It made sense–a large woman, a large dowry.

In fact, the famed counter-reformation artist, Peter Paul Ruben painted a number of portraits of women; all of them heavy. It was a combination of his style and the common girth of his subjects that became an adjective to describe larger women….Rubenesque.

We still use that term today.

His appreciation of the much fuller female form is evidenced in this lovely piece, “Venus At A Mirror”, painted sometime around the year 1615.

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Corporally, this is a woman of substance. Not thin by any means, but certainly not obese. There is a big difference between the women in this portrait…

And this woman:

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Some of you might laugh and guffaw at this woman. Sadly, that’s also part of a conditioned response. Our first impression of her would be reflective of societal norms. Initially, we’d probably think that she’s lazy and worthless and from a certain socio-economic level that deems Little Debbie Snack Cakes with green sprinkles to be a vegetable. We would be repulsed at first glance and God forbid we’d stop for a second to think about what physical maladies might be plaguing her; what serious psychological issues are at play here.   Sure there’s laziness, a lack of will power,,, a whole litantnof reasons why,     But no one gets large this ever…EVER… without deep seesded psychological reasons.

if nothing else, tremendous pain..

No, none of that matters–she’s just a big, fat, ugly, and obviously, a reprehensibly lazy slob and that’s that.

Yet, I ask you– is the photo above any more disturbing than one from the opposite end of the spectrum??

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The same warped psycho-social reasons exist here,  too.  Pain.   Both are horribly tragic.   And so very, very dangerous.

Eating disorders are surging these days. We overeat, binge eat; we’re bulimics–we have our cake and heave it, too and we’re anorexics.

A countless number of women are afflicted with body-dysmorphic disorder. In short, it effects perception. What a dysmorphic sees when she looks at her body and what her body really looks like are two completely different things. She sees what her illness makes her see and her reflection in the mirror becomes the enemy.

This photo exemplifies that perfectly.

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It says it all, in fact.

This is real, my friends and this isn’t a gross exaggeration. This is reality for a person suffering with body dysmorphic disorder. What you’re seeing is, in effect, what the dysmorphic sees. Distorted beyond belief.

Tragically, people are dying from the diseases associated with this…yes, men too, though the numbers are disproportionately female.

But statistics regarding increasing fatalities among binge eaters, anorexics and bulimics be damned—thin is the goal. Images like this are ubiquitous.

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And wanna know what’s so damn ridiculous about this photo?

If she were eight years younger, black and living in Biafra, the BBC would feature her in a documentary. A United Nations Humanitarian Aid box would soon arrive near her village via air drop and a day or two later, we’d see her fly-ridden face staring blankly at the camera while slowly teething this over-sized Pop Tart looking cracker thing.

Sir Bob Geldoff would eventually see the documentary and be moved to write a special Christmas song about it. He’d gather a few of his fellow British warblers together to sing it while being filmed–a video would be produced and long story short, a billion British pounds would be raised for famine relief.

More of them big ol’, Pop Tart looking crackers for everyone.

But nooooooooooooo!!!!!!

In this case, in a world of “acceptable starvation”, a photography crew snaps a few shots of Skeletina, the newest Supermodel from Latvia on some runway in Milan and a million magazines get sold.

What’s wrong with this picture, people? I ask this literally–WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?????

The insanity makes me crazy.

Personally, I like a beefier built guy, but if forced to decide between a hefty guy and John Goodman at his heaviest, I’ll go for the thinner of the two. So, does that me any less guilty?

No.

But I’m making a concerted effort to see beyond beauty being skin deep and fat being deep skin. Maybe it’s because there have been times in my life when I’ve been heavier. I know what it’s like to be looked over, then promptly overlooked. Socially, my weight issues meant the world was fixated on (as cliche as this sounds) what I was eating…not what was eating me.

Sadly, I saw it that way, too.

Before I die, there are several things I want to accomplish. Chief among them: I want to make a difference with regard to the early detection of breast cancer in socio-economically challenged women AND I want to do something about eating disorders and the psycho-social reasons why they exist.

There’s a mental and emotional bridge that needs to be gapped here. I intend to find it. Somehow, someway and the fact that I’m sick of this; sick of all of it compels me.

Women have to change the way we look at ourselves and we cannot do this through eyes that are focused by the airbrushed photos in glossy magazines and impossible ideals.

It’s not a matter of  brandishing a weapon  and holding it someone’s head and STRONGLY encouraging them to move away from the pie.      One can lose weight if the spirit moves you.    Sheer will power is key, but getting to that point isn’t easy.     There can be many things standing in the way of wanting to lose weight and actually losing the weight,

Whatwed the reasons, this has got to stop. If we don’t, it’ll will continue to be our most fatal flaw. We push ourselves, deny ourselves, starve ourselves and for what??? Will life in a size 4 body really be that different? How happy can our external world EVER be if our internal one thrives in chaos? Can we ever look that good if we feel that miserable?

Make no mistake: turmoil ALWAYS trickles from the inside out.

But for some for some ridiculously skewed reason, if the outside looks good, harmful internal conflicts be damned.

Lets get something straight…re-read this post if yiunhvar yoo,    I’m not bashing thin women and I’m not bashing heavy women.    This post is, at it’s very heart, targets the entities that that promulgate the negativity.  The Madison Avenue ad types; Hollywood, magazine editors ( The Devil Wears Prada is a movie…fictio.   Maybe but the film exemplifies this horrendous mindset) and there are the bitchy columnists outbthere and fat bashing You Tube posters who have a special place in hell waiting for them).   And there are countless  countless others (like sick perfectionist mothers and aashdole, husbands and boyfriends) who force feed us this ideal of what women are supposed to look like. But the reality is, women DON’T look like that. Air brushing and retouching are photographic techniques that disingenuously portray women unfairly.  too.

There’s a famous quote from Cindy Crawford made a few years back.  Some fans approached her and told her they wished they could wake up every morning and look like her.   To which she replied, she ALSO wished she could wake up everyday and look like Cindy Crawford!

I’m years post menopausal but better (swearing less)  but still  working  on my new issues. I envy those people with blast furnace  metabolisms or tall people who have places for milkshakes and cheeseburgers to go.

And Im also still very aware  of the concept that if we’re thin at all costs, that makes it all OK.

But that just makes it even more dangerous,   Thevlate  Karen Carpenter and many lesser known women (and men) who died, prove that true.

But sadly, as a weight obsessed society, we’re too fat-headed to grasp it.

 

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The Clothes Hamper: A True Story

It was June, 1967 and I was eight years old.

Earlier that year, my parents decided to break free of the shackles of abject middle classdom and create nothing short of a castle for themselves and their children.

So, on a hill in the little traveled part of the small South Central Texas berg we called home–on land owned by maternal grandfather (and given to us gratis) , Mother and Daddy built a five bedroom monstrosity–replete with gables, a multi-car garage, an intercom system…and all the other 60’s era trappings that would tell the slack-jawed yokels who’d come to gawk, that the Kendrick’s had in fact, “arrived”.

This home was my mother’s self described “dream home” and in the first half of ’67, she and my father made frequent trips to an architect in San Antonio to fine tune the blueprints. On this particular day, they’d be going back to the architect to resolve a kitchen issue and would be leaving the minute Daddy got back from a breakfast meeting.

School had only been out for summer break a few days and I had already gotten in trouble and being grounded was my punishment. I can’t even remember the infraction, but I was forbidden to leave the house, nor could anyone come over to play. This included a moratorium on playing with Fran who was a year younger and lived next door.

Anyway, I was being punished and my oldest sister, Kathy–in all her 14 year old authority– would serve as part warden/part baby-sitter that day.

My father finally drove up into the garage and started honking the car horn, which was code for “wife, get out here and let’s leave”.  Out the door went Mater with a final warning, reminding me that I was NOT to step foot out of the house, nor could anyone come over to play.

“Yes..yes. Have a safe trip. We’ll see you both when you get back from San Antonio this afternoon. Bring us back a surprise”.

And off they drove.

I went to the den and flipped on the TV. Three channels and nothing was on. I’d read every book. Every “Highlights Magazine” hidden picture had been found. There wasn’t anything to do.

The phone rang. It was Fran.

“Hey Laur, watcha doin’?”

“Nuthin’. I’m really bored. Watchu doin”?

“Nuthin’, I’m bored too. Wanna meet in the alley and play? Or climb trees in Dr. Buck’s yard?”

“Nah, I can’t. Mom and Dad left about an hour ago for San Antonio and I’m grounded and can’t play outside or anything”.

“Then can I come over? Then maybe we can make Brownies in your Kenner Easy-Bake oven!  Or maybe we could make some Incredible Edibles?”

“Sounds fun Fran, but Kathy is baby-sitting me and I’m not supposed to have anyone over”.

“Well, make a deal with her!”

“OK, hold on. Let me think of something”.

Just as I put my hand over the receiver and yelled “Kathy???” she walked in the room and firmly said “No!”

“But I haven’t asked you anything yet!”

“It doesn’t matter, the answer is still no”.

 She plopped down in a chair and started reading a magazine. She was thumbing through a story about the fab/gear countenance of the The Beatles.

“Fran, she said no. I guess we can’t play today”.

“Come on, Laurie, she’s teenager. Can’t you convince her? Do something. Try blackmail!”

I thought for a minute.

” Kathy, remember a few weeks ago when you had that mark on your neck?”

She put her magazine down and looked at me with an eyebrow slightly raised. “Yeah, it was from an accident in Science class…So?”

“Yeah uh-huh, that’s what you told Mom and Dad, but since when are Tommy Bronwin’s lips considered “science class”?

“What are you talking about?”

“It was a hickey and NOT a mark caused by getting too close to the Bunsen Burner at school, Kathy. I overheard you and Wanda on the phone. You were talking about making out with Tommy”.

Kathy looked angry. She slammed the magazine down right on Ringo.

“OK, what do you want in exchange for your silence?”

“I won’t tell Mom and Dad about the hickey, if you let Fran come over and play.”

“OK, but she has to leave before they get back which should be around four this afternoon. If she comes over now, that leaves you guys a few hours to play. So, we have a deal, right?”

“Right”. I picked up the receiver once again. “OK, come on over.”

We hung up and Fran rang the front doorbell in a matter of minutes.

We immediately went to my room to play with my Little Kiddles and their self contained dollhouse.  Fran and I marveled that my dolls had been out of their plastic perfumed bottles for weeks and still smelled like strawberry, lilacs and one scent we couldn’t identify.

When we tired of  Kiddling, we moved on to “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots”. Fran knocked my block off. Then, we switched to playing “Operation”.   Just as I was about to remove the appropriately shaped “wrenched ankle”, Fran said she was thirsty.

She followed me to the kitchen where in the fridge, there was an ice cold pitcher of “Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry”…

The newest flavor in the “Funny Face” cavalcade of powdered drinks. Just as I was pouring her a glass, I heard Kathy scream.

“They’re back! Oh no! Mom and Dad are back early. I just heard the car pull up in the drive way. Get rid of Fran! Get rid of Fran!!! If they find her here, we’ll both be grounded for life and I’ve got another Bunsen Burner session planned with Tommy Bronwin this weekend!”

Kathy was in a panic.

I wasn’t. I was calmly going to take Fran out the front….but wait!!!! Was this possible??? Mom was coming through that door. Damn! She’d gone around the front to get the mail. My father was entering through the back door. We were being tag teamed! All escape routes were blocked. There was only one thing to do:

I had to hide Fran and the only place I could think of was the the built-in clothes hamper in my parents’ bathroom.

Why there? I don’t know. It seemed like the perfect place; the ONLY place to hide her at the time.

I shoved Fran inside and closed the small, double doors just as my father was entering the bathroom. He told me in no uncertain terms to “get the hell out” and shut the door behind me. Something was obviously wrong. He didn’t look well.

I went into the kitchen just as mother was putting the mail on the table.

“What’s wrong with Daddy?”

“Oh, he had Mexican food at his breakfast meeting this morning and you know what does to his stomach. We had to make three emergency bathroom stops on the way to San Antonio before we decided to just turn around and come back home”.

Just then, I heard the bathroom fan power up. Uh-oh. Either he was firing up the hibachi or whatever business he had in there, was serious.

I sat at the table with my mom as she sorted through the mail. I tried to figure out what to do. Fran was trapped in that cramped clothes hamper in a hot, tiny bathroom with my father, apparently in full intestinal distress.

What should I do? Was Fran OK?

Five minutes went by and suddenly, the whole ridiculous reality of what was happening struck me as funny and I started giggling. Mother asked me why I was laughing and I couldn’t bring myself to tell her. I knew I’d be grounded until I was ten, but I had to do something because I started worrying about Fran’s mental and physical health.

Just then, the door of the bathroom opened and my father walked out and announced that he was feeling better and that he was going back to the office to get some work done. As he left the house, I told Mom to follow me into the bathroom.

She was muttering something about having a “death wish” going in there and she was right.  When we got to the bathroom door, “it” hit us.   The atmosphere was–for lack of a better adjective–“thick”.

It was horribly, HORRIBLY obvious that the Mexican food breakfast my father had eaten earlier, had retaliated in a most egregious way. It’s exit from tubular prison in my father’s lower G.I. must’ve been loud, explosive and extremely painful experience for my father….. and for Fran.

I opened the hamper doors and peered inside.

There she was; silent, motionless. She was huddled in a semi-fetal position, in the far corner of the hamper. Her face was pressed against the wall. She turned to look at me, her eyes squinting in the bathroom light. She looked dazed, she was sweating profusely and her face was pale with a greenish hue. She’d stuck two of my father’s black Gold Toe dress socks in each nostril, apparently in an attempt to thwart the stench.

She was clenching one of my mother’s bras.

I helped her out, pulling off soiled underwear and dirty shirts which had stuck to her sweat-soaked clothing. I gently removed the socks from her nose. Automatic reflex and I guess, survival mode took over–she fought me on it.

Mother lit matches and waived them around the room. Futile effort—they weren’t helping.

The odor was horrible.

Garbage scowl bad.

Bayonne in August bad.

“Laurel Anne Kendrick”, my mother said in between gagging fits. “Would you care to explain why Fran is semi-conscious and lying in a pile of dirty clothes in the hamper in my bathroom while your father was making stinkies?”

I replied, “Not now Mom. Help me with Fran”.

The petite seven-year-old was shaking. Her strawberry blond hair was matted and damp. Mother and I grabbed each arm and we walked her into the kitchen, away from the “hot zone”. She was wobbly.

Fran sat down at the table and was trying to speak. The only thing intelligible was the word “water”. Mother poured her a glass and I asked her if she was OK.

She gulped down two full glasses before finally being able to say, “I’m fine”. She then took a deep breath, let it out through her mouth, then looked at mother and me. “But I think the bigger question is how’s your father?  From the sound and smell of it, I’d say he’s pretty sick.”

We let Fran sit for a minute to compose, we then walked her to the front door and I apologized. She said that I should forget about it, but the experience had allowed her to rule out nursing as a possible career.

She then rubbed the back of her head and retrieved a sock that had been hiding there. She handed it to Mom.

I closed the door behind her and felt my mother’s glare on my back. I turned around slowly and saw her standing there, hands on hips and then she uttered the infamous one-word sentence that mother’s utter, “Explain!”

I told her what happened and instead of getting yelled at, she started laughing. She immediately went to the phone and called my father at his office and told him that he wasn’t alone in the bathroom.

Well, as expected, I was grounded for an additional month and lectured about the importance of privacy. My sister, Kathy was placed on house arrest for two weeks for her complicity in “the bathroom affair”.

As time went by, we never talked about “Potty Gate”  very often,  but for a while there, Daddy instantly checked every cabinet large enough to contain a small child in every bathroom he entered.

My parents eventually got new house blue prints made to their exact specs and within a year, we moved into Casa Kendrick.

The new house had four bathrooms and not one of them had a clothes hamper…..built in or otherwise.

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My Thoughts On…

   

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I’ve known my friend, Cheryl forever.  A while back, she  sent me this list of things universal to growing up in a small town.   I read it with a smile.  Seems that the ways and means of life in a small town are fairly universal.  

It didn’t get much smaller than my hometown, Karnes City, Texas. The population when I was a resident back in the early to mid 70’s was about 3000, give or take a few large Catholic families moving in or out.

Growing up in Karnes City has had such an impact on my life. It’s vast limitations forced me to think outside the box. It made me hungry to learn more and to definitely seek what was  beyond its five mile circumfrance.   I left at age 18, two days after graduating from High School and for the most part, never went back.  I’ve returned infrequently for funerals and the occasional family or class reunion, but other than that, I’ve stayed away.    But because of some family business,   I went back a few weekends ago.  I looked around me and realized that I was a stranger in a strange land.  Everything was familiar, but it wasn’t.  Still, I suppose because of memories, a chunk of me  will always remain   That’s why I’m still amazed when people tell me they’re surprised when I reveal that I’m a product of small town life, culture, education…everything.

Could I have identified with the list you’re about to read,  had I been born and raised in Dallas? Atlanta? L.A. or Chicago? I’m not sure, but growing up in Karnes City has allowed me to completely relate to its contents.  It would be just as recognizable to anyone else who had the same experiences. It’s universal. Here in the States…in Canada. Maybe even in the U.K., Australia.

Maybe even California, too.

I added a few nuances of my own, based on my experiences, but if you’ve ever lived or spent much time at all in a small town, you’ll know exactly what this list is talking about.

All 33 items on this list are sublimely recognizable.

1. You can name everyone you graduated with.Some of these kids you went to school with for 12 consecutive years…13 if that includes Mrs. Porter’s Kindergarten for Young White Children of Upwardly Mobile White Parents.

2. You know what 4-H means though I’m not sure I do, actually. It has something to do with horses…THAT, I know.     And you also know all about the FFA (Future Farmers of America or the Ag Boys).  Members were easy to spot in a crowd, especially if  they wore those dark blue and gold jackets.  

3. You went to beer parties in a pasture, barn, someone’s abandoned farm house, a gravel pit or under the power lines or in the middle of a dirt road. On Monday, you could always tell who was at the party because of the scratches on their legs from running through the woods when the party was busted. (See #6.)

4. You used to ride around incessantly in someone’s car and you’d drive by your friend’s houses and honk.If you were a guy and pissed or holding a grudge, you’d peal out or burn rubber in front of the person’s house.You’d get in trouble when you got home because invariably, the parents of the source of your anger called your parents and told on you. You got grounded.

5. You whispered the ‘F’ word six miles away from your home with the nearest person standing 10 feet away and somehow, your parents knew about it within the hour.  You got grounded.

6. Your class was usually so small…as was your high school–that you couldn’t help but date a friend’s ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. Skewed incestuousness.

7. You could never buy cigarettes because all the store clerks knew how old you were (and if you were old enough, they’d tell your parents anyhow. Besides, where would you get the money? If you were a Kendrick girl growing up in Karnes City, you just charged it and the clerks either didn’t care or just assumed they were for our smoke belching, lignite plant mother)

8. When you did find somebody old enough and brave enough to buy cigarettes, you still had to go out into the country and drive on back roads to smoke them. If an adult saw you, they’d call your parents and you’d get grounded

9. You knew which section of the ditch you would find the beer your buyer dropped off.    The same applies to a bag of pot which back then, we called “lids”.

10. It was cool to date somebody from the neighboring town. You had to. Hell, by Junior High and 7th grade, you’d already “gone with” every boy or girl in your class.

11. The whole school went to the same party after graduation.

12. You didn’t give directions by street names but rather by references. Turn by Nelson’s house, go two blocks to Anderson’s, and it’s four houses left of the lot where Old Man Wilson’s cow had that two headed calf.

13. The golf course at the country club, providing your community even had one, had only 9 holes. Serious golfers had to play them twice to get 18 holes in.

14. You scheduled parties around the schedules of different police officers, because you knew which ones would bust you and which ones wouldn’t. When someone’s parents went out of town, that automatically meant party.   When they got home andf found out about it, you guessed it—you got grounded.

15. Your car stayed filthy because of the dirt roads, and you will never own a dark vehicle for this reason.

 16 The town next to you was more than likely your chief sports rival and your school hated them and they hated your town; your school.You probably even considered the whole community ‘trashy’ or certainly beneath you, but in truth, it was a town no different than your own.

17.  You referred to anyone with a house newer then 1960 as  ‘rich’ people.

18. The people in the ‘big city’ dressed funny and were snooty.   Then ,you picked up the trend yourself  four years later when you moved to the big city after college and got all snooty and dressed funny.

19. Anyone you wanted could be found hanging out at the local gas station or the dairybar. And these “dairybars’ were all locally owned, usually Mom and Pop operations. Glorified hamburger shops with a juke box on premises or at the very least–if progressive enough, rock music piped in from the cool radio station based in the closest biggest town. These places had names like The Diary Whip, KenKreme, The Snack Shack, Bob’s Truck Stop and The Green Diamond.    And of course, for kids in Karnes County,  there was Tino’s.

20. Our parents hung out at private clubs because chances are your county was dry when it came to liquor by the drink.For Daddy to get his Scotch neat, he’d have to go to the K Club or the Karnes County Country Club.

21. You saw at least one friend a week driving a big tractor through town or one of your friends driving a grain truck to school occasionally.  You never thought a thing about it.

22. The gym teacher suggested that guys haul hay for the summer to get stronger. Plus, you know what Coastal Bermuda is and have one more than one occasion, simply called it “Coastal”.

23. Directions were given using THEE stop light as a reference.And that was only if your town was cosmopolitan enough to actually have a stop light.

24. No matter what the actual street was named, the one that went through the center of town was ALWAYS referred to as “Main Street”.   And when you heard your mom and grandmother reference “going to town”, that meant they were going shopping on Main Street.  Plus kids who grew up in small town back in the 60’s actually knew what a sundry shop was.

25. Your teachers called you by your older siblings’ names.

26. Your  teachers remembered when they taught your parents.

27.  You could charge at any local store by just saying “charge it”–no need for metal “charge a plate”. Additionally, one could write checks without any ID.  Half the time, you didn’t need a checkbook.Most stores allowed you to write generic checks and all you needed was a signature…no account number was even needed.   A book of generic checks lived by almost every cash register in town.   It made sense;  there was  just one bank in town and your parents were social with the owner/president.

Hi ya, Hugh Bennett!!!

28. There was no McDonald’s. In fact, up until the early 70’s, no national chains existed in small town America.    Diary Queen came to KC in late 1972.  

29. The closest mall was over an hour away.   The nearest airport was a little farther.

30.  It was normal to see an old man riding through town on a riding lawn mower. Or in Rat Jefferson’s case, a mule drawn gut wagon.

31 .You’ve lived in a small town if you’ve peed in a corn or cotton field…more than once.

All your needs were right there.  And what you couldn’t get, we got in San Anonio, sopme 50 miles away.   But we were self contained, for the most part.

There was one pharmacy.

One dry cleaner.

One sundries shop.

One grocery store.

One butcher shop.

Maybe a Ben Franklin’s Five and Dime store

One barber shop

A beauty salon or two for the ladies

Weller’s…a beer joint. 

Reggie’s,too for the more discrimminating beer drinker.

And only a hand full of cafes or restaurtants with limited menus and strict hours of opertation.  And  when you decided to walk somewhere for grins or exercise, at least five people would pull over and ask if you wanted a ride.

32. My father drove a regulation Texas pick-up. Almost all of his friends did too. In each one was the Easy Rider Rifle Rack with at least three fully loaded bolt action hunting rifles suspended by hooks. It was also nothing at all to hear gunshots go off at various part of town. That meant someone was shooting at birds, a woodpecker chomping on part of his house or a rattlesnake that had the misfortune of crossing the road in front of any one of about 1700 sanguine necks that lived in my hometown.

33. You left your keys in your car both at home and when shopping in town.  And not only that,  you never locked the doors of your house because crime was unheard of..there was the occasional bike theft…kids would toilet paper a house or when the football team played their rivals there was the mandatory YOUR TEAM SUCKS grafitti sprayed on overpasses but other than that, crime wasn’t an issue……unless of course,  two brilliant High School boys decided to place a homemade bomb in a locker.

Why?  

That’s what you do when you’re intelligent, well read, curious about the ramifications of felonious behavior as a juvenile, bored and stuck living in the limited confines of a small town and mad at some guy in your history class.

That sounds like reason enough to blow up his damn locker.

Wow.   I just realized that Karnes City had Jihadi, before Jihadi was a part of our daily lexicon.

How progressive.

 

Of Note….

Associated Press Reporter, Bob Thomas recently wrote an article in which he marvelled at the number of old Hollywood types who used to send handwritten notes to members of the press.   Usually, brief notes; sometimes telegrams, but whatever the form, these were efforts to say thank you for articles written that included their latest movies or some event in their lives.   Now, why these were written and sent is anyone’s guess.    They may have been at the urging of some protocol savvy studio publicist, part of the star’s own good breeding and upbringing… or they may have just figured that it was smart to get on the media’s good side;  always a good idea..

In his lengthy career as an  entertainment reporter, Thomas  amassed a ton of letters and telegrams from such Tinsel Town luminaries as Bing Crosby,  Gloria Swanson, Betty Dave, Richard Widmark and Shirley Temple, shortly after her first marriage to John Agar.

It got me thinking about my own fleeting minutes of fame exchange with today’s actors and how I, in my years as a reporter,  have been blessed to interview some of the biggest D-Listers on the planet:  Shari Lewis and Lambchop, Gavin MacLeod,  perpetual hippie and social activist,  Wavy Gravy,   John of the Severed Penis Bobbitt and actor, Timothy Bottoms, who was a very nice guy–and loved him in “The Paper Chase”, but hardly an A-Lister.

I never got a thank you note from any of those “celebs”, although I did get the chance to take a gander at Bobbitt’s retooled tool.

If you remember back in the early 90’s, his then wife Lorena,  took knife in hand and told him as he was passed out drunk after beating her one night, that in no uncertain terms, she was very tired of his abuse.   She cut “it” off.   He had “it” re-attached and then after their divorce, had it embellished in order to venture into what would become a very short-lived porn career.

He was a guest on the Stevens and Pruett Show on KLOL at the time and as the only female member of the show, the late, great Mark Stevens suggested that Bobbitt show me his goods.   We went into a back studio and well, he did and there it was.

I have seen penises before, people–but never one with its own elbow.

Trust me on this.  

But in my illustrious career in which I’ve had many one-on-one interviews, two stand out.

In 1993, I interviewed a very young, little known actress named Ashley Judd who was in Houston on a promotional tour of her well received debut in the indie flick, “Ruby In Paradise”.    We met early one morning in the lobby of  Houston’s famed art house, The River Oaks Theater.  She was dressed unremarkably…more like she was from Hollywood, Florida rather  than the shiny, plastic version of the California city with the same name.    She wore khaki pants, a sweatshirt, jogging shoes and not a stitch of make-up.   I remember thinking,  as I studied her face, desperately looking for flaws that simply weren’t there, “I like this girl”.   

She was smart and spunky, polite and very Southern.  We laughed and talked about life and being the youngest daughter in our respective families.  She seemed just as interested in my life as a lowly reporter and asked questions accordingly.  She overstayed her interview by 20 minutes which prompted a mad scramble to the airport.   But a week later, I received a very sweet hand-written note thanking me for my time. She even quoted things we discussed.

I kept that note for the longest time, but in my many moves to escape creditors and creepy ex boyfriends, it got lost.  I regret that that happened.  I wish I still had it.

Lovely woman, Ashley Judd once was.   Her vile antics at the anti-Trump rally ruined everything.    

I’ve mentioned here several times before that in early 1994,  I interviewed Bob Keeshan–Captain By God Kangaroo.

I was nervous about this interview.  I mean, this man was without a doubt, an icon, a legend in LaurieLand.  He had a hand in raising me and he did it all from the den where I sat crossed legged on its cold linoleum floor still in my jammies, fixated on a man with funny white hair dressed in a white trimmed coat with massive pockets.

I waited outside the station for him at his arrival time.  A black sedan pulled up and out popped a familiar face.  While much older, he still had a lovely countenance that put me at ease instantaneously.  His voice was the same, but he spoke slower.  He walked slower too, but he still seemed incredibly kind and genuine.   He radiated this aura of paternal safety.

The interview began and I kicked things off with my memories of Magic Drawing Board, Grandfather Clock, Mr. Moose, Bunny Rabbit, Mr. Greenjeans and his cadre of cartoon characters, Tom Terrific, Lariat Sam and Badlands Meany.    I remember wanting him to like me and I wanted to impress him; to prove one of his Little Girls had done good.  I swear, had there been a few orange balls lying around, I would have juggled them while doing a little soft shoe as I sang the Cataline Magdalena Lupensteiner Wallabeiner song.

In Esperanto.

There was a certain wistfulness to his voice when he spoke about his years as the Captain on CBS and how toward the end of the show,  the network kept tinkering with time slots and show length.  Keeshan got tired of the politics and  because of his own health concerns (he suffered a severe heart attack in July of 1981 moments after stepping off a plane at Toronto International Airport) Keeshan left Captain Kangaroo when his contract with CBS ended in December 1984, just nine months shy of the show’s 30th anniversary.

I then understood why he had the huge gin blossoms,  the burst blood vessels, visible around his nose.    I might have been wrong in my assumptions, then again, I would never judge.   Certainly not when it came to Captain Kangaroo.   I knew a little something about network strife,  so I figured he’d earned every one of them…whatever the reasons why they were there.

After our initial interview, I took him to our sister station, the legendary Houston rock station, KLOL, on the other side of the building we shared.   The staff there consisted of jaded rock jocks, who’d seen and done it all and  were no longer phased in the least by the rock world’s flavor of the month.  But Captain Kangaroo?  That was  very different.  He was part of everyone’s childhood; the one commonality that news geeks, nerds, freaks and hipsters we all shared.   These walking tattooes with long hair andvshated coke dealers clamored around him, star truck and praising him like he was the second coming of Jesus Jones.   Autographs, photos…questions about who was The Town Clown and who was reallynin the Dancing Bear costume.

His handler looked at her watch and gave that look,  meaning ‘that’s a rap’.  As our afternoon together concluded, he hugged me and told me his wife and daughter were also named Laurie…spelled the same way I spelled my name.   I remember how his blue eyes twinkled when he spoke of his family.

I escorted him downstairs to the front door and then outside to his awaiting car.   I thanked him for making such an important part of my childhood so memorable.   He merely said, as if he’d heard that a million times,  “You’re welcome” and with a smile, took his finger and gently pressed my nose, while making a little beep/honking sound.  I smiled.   How could I not?   He got in his car.

I stood there not moving, just staring at the dark sedan’s rear bumper and darkened windows as it made the corner and  disappeared onto the busy lanes of Westheimer.   I wanted to watch him leave.  I wanted to see this interview in particular, go full circle.  It felt important.   I wanted to remember its beginning; its middle and its end.

And I always have.

He never sent a thank you note for the interview, but really, that wouldn’t have been necessary.   What really mattered is that I  got the chance to thank him.  

Captain Kangaroo died ten years later, in January 2004.

bv

The Christmas O.D.

I’ve never seen it this bad, this early.

 Here in Houston, Christmas decorations in several strip centers went up a week and a half ago…almost a week before we were even hob-nobbin with the goblins of Halloween.   Hell, I can take it back even earlier.  I was in one of those  “Bath and Beyond Your Bed and Broken Hearth” stores and I saw a smallish Christmas display up and priced accordingly and that was in the second week of October.  

This  extremely premature commercial bombardment of Christmas is, in my opinion, counter productive.   Well, for me it is.  It makes me want to run in the opposite direction and convert to Shintoism or something.   The problem is I love Christmas.  It’s a great time of year.  The world seems prettier all adorned with even the tackiest of tinsel, but come on!!!!   Can’t we wait to encourage some over achieving Reynold’s Aluminum smelter to throw up on trees, displays and store facades at least until Advent????  This “too much, too soon” approach grates on my nerves and completely erodes the special nature of the season.

In fact, it completely removes all traces of what little “santamentality” I’m able to muster.

Tonight, I was flipping through my TV channels and stumbled upon some Christmas music, but not just any Christmas music….this music had genres, the likes I’ve never seen before.

Here they are; varied for your listening pleasure:

  • Latinio Navidad
  • Soulful Holidays
  • Ultra Hip Holidays
  • Classical Holidays
  • Country Holiday
  • Holiday Instrumental
  • The Christmas Message
  • Holiday Remix
  • Blues Holiday
  • And The Billy Holiday, which I can only imagine,  must be a Yuletide homage to syringes and hard living

one liners and party fun jokes for christmmas

Crass commercialism. 

Buy this, get that.  No home should be without (insert in demand item here).   No child can have a truly happy Christmas unless he/she receives…whatever THEE toy is this Christmas. 

What is the true meaning of Christmas?   I liked O. Henry’s distinct situational irony in “Gift of the Magi”.  A poor couple wants to give each other great Christmas gifts.  She wants to buy him a pretty chain for his watch, so she cuts her beautiful long hair and sells it in order to buy a silver watch fob.  He in turn, sells his watch in order to buy her nice combs for her beautiful long hair.   

In “A Christmas Carol”, Charles Dickens’ theme was also spot on with his unabashedly Unitarian approach  to morality and ethics.  The main character, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge  isn’t condemned for his stingy, cheap skate ways alone. If he were simply a stingy man, whose penny-pinching ways hurt no one but himself, he might be a pitiable character, but one about whom readers do not overly concern themselves. Scrooge’s miserliness, however, is symptomatic for Dickens of the way in which his society ignored, exploited, and abused its poorest and most vulnerable members.  

The sickly Tiny Tim comes to mind.   You know, I’ve often wondered what it was that made Tiny Tim so ill.  He was small, frail, pale and needed a crutch to walk, that is, when he could walk.  Otherwise, Daddy Bob would hoist him up on his shoulder and carry the tyke around that way.   But what was his actual ailment?   I read somehwere that a physician with a literary background once conducted an intense study into Tiny Tims’s illness, analyzing all the symptoms. His conclusion?  Tiny Tim had a severe case of “the pathetics”, which was a classic “go to” illness favored by many scribes in Victorian England.  Tim was a character written as ill simply for literary effect which in this book’s case, had to play upon our emotions and be curable…as long as Ebenezer threw some post spiritual redemption money at it.   Young Tim actually had no nameable disease. 

Now, you know.

But Dickens’ sappiness be damned, one of my best memories of this story actually comes in the form of a cartoon from of all characters, Mr. Magoo.   Mr.  Magoo’s A Christmas Carol was the first animated holiday special ever produced specifically for television.  It was commissioned and sponsored by Timex and first aired on NBC on December 18, 1962.   The cartoon is written as a Broadway theater play, divided into acts with an actual stage curtain.  A long shot includes hand drawn audience members who never move, much less emote or applaud.

Nothing can hurl me face first into the Christmas spirit faster than the holiday TV classics.    A Charlie Brown Christmas;  How The Grinch Stole Christmas  and of course,  Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer  (the Rankin/Bass ‘stop motion’ version, ONLY)  are shows I still try to catch each year, but my  sister, Karol and I used to love the Mr. Magoo effort the most.   In the mid and late 60’s and early 70’s, the special  used to come on random Sundays in December when nothing else was was worth airing.  We’ve never seen the hwoit begins; we always seem to tune in when the damn thing is already in progress, but we still love it.    I remember always being so moved by one particular scene that included the Ghost of Christmas Past,  the one with the little flame above his/her androgynous head.   The specter takes Ebenezer back to his tragic childhood–sad, lonely days spent as a sad, lonely orphan.

I was also struck by the fact that the finger belonging to the Ghost of Christmas Future was bony, black and rife with palsy as it pointed toward Ebenezer’s tombstone, indicating his ultimate fate.  That image has always stuck with me.     And a bit of M.r Magoo trivia, if I may:  the voice of Bob Cratchit belongs to Jack Cassidy,  father of David; ex-husband of Shirley Jones.   Decent set of pipes;  didn’t know the cat could sing. 

If you really want to get into the Christmas spirit and Clarice, Cindy Lou Who and Charlie Brown, et. al, just aren’t doing it for you, get the DVD of  Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol if you can.  It’s available through Amazon.     It’s good, evocative and wreaks of familiar Christmases past and those of us who are old enough will remember Mr. Magoo, but don’t expect much of the typical Magoo-esque, nearsighted bungling;  with few exceptions such as the fact that it’s a musical,  this version of “A Christmas Carol” is fairly straight forward and relatively true to its Dickensian script. 

But just remember, I submit the above holiday recommendation under protest.  The holiday is being shoved down our throats even before the last Three Muskateers bar from Halloween has been eaten.   But I guess I have no choice but to be a holiday lemming and do as everyone else and tolerate all the intensely early pre-season falderal, even though it’s early November.  I hope by December 25th, you can still handle, for the third month in a row, seeing Jesus in a cradle–with lighting attachment–on sale for $34.99,  or a spinning dreidel display (relegated to a back corner at your neighborhood, Anti-Semite Mart) and somehow, not lose your fruitcake or nog…..or kugel, if you’re shopping for the dreidel.  How utterly ridiculous!   It’s all being shoved down our throats and to that,  I say bah humbug, which I’m sure is decorated and on sale somewhere.   And I hope that when it comes to sensible spending this Christmas, you’ll follow Ebenezer’s lead.   If he were real and living in this economy, he’d be right to be frugal.

In fact, that’s precisely why Scrooge has always been so fond of Rudolph;  every buck is deer to him.

What?!?!   How dare you turn on me!   It’s Christmas for Pete’s sake.

   

.

;vvvvv