Monday, December 29, 2008

Feelin' It

I'm into Week 2 down here on the bayou and my snowy life in Colorado seems far away. I'm digging it, getting to know my nephew, Robbie, a bit more. They are so funny at this age:

Me: "I don't know, Robbie. I guess your Aunt Heather is just screwed up."
Robbie: "Well, what are you gonna do about it?"

With my Dad here too and staying in my brother's house, it means all my favorite men are in one place. It also reminds me that I am still without a man of my own and this has to change.

After every holiday, I (always) resolve to get my life together once and for all. Every year, I make small progress but it is taking forever. Hence, some random resolutions for 2009:
Don't be an asshole.
Cease all illegal activities.
Avoid travel, unless by truck, train, canoe or horse.
Date a person I like - preferably not one wearing a suit made entirely of red flags - and make time for him.
Find my destiny.

That last one is a doozy and I haven't even come near it. The topic has been weighing heavily on my mind lately and I feel I'm at the beginning of The Next Thing. Expect this to be a reoccurring theme for 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas-Festivus-Hannukah-Kwanza!

Here's Dad - always a willing model for my "blob" as he calls it - pondering a roll of toliet paper with his name on it, a gift from my brother, Rob. The inner paper roll turned out to be filled with poker chips from his favorite local casino, The Palace. Dad was delighted - two of his favorite things together at once.

I hope everyone has a joyous day filled with laughter and food. We'll be on the bayou eating deep-fried turkey, shrimp gumbo and drinking whatever exotic booze drinks we make up. Or whatever we can afford to buy from the local grocer, who charges OUTRAGEOUS prices ....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Welsh Rarebit

For as long as I can remember, my mother has made a bizarre dish called Welsh Rarebit. For our American purposes, it involves melted cheese over crumbled saltines and, yeah. That's pretty much it. It's one of my Dad's favorite meals and my brothers too.

So, for the second year in a row, my mother whipped a batch of this odd little dish and the men in my family went nuts. My Dad got so excited, we had to make an additional trip to retrieve extra crackers.

It involves crumbling an innocent stack of Premium saltines into a bowl. Next step, gently ladle a giant gob of melted cheese (flour, butter, Velveeta, dry mustard, tobasco, dried onion, worcester, milk) atop. If feeling racy, one could add a few pickle chips. It's like White Trash Stew.

>Sure, I always ate it but was never a fan. Mom is a great cook and I have many favorites but this wasn't one of them. She was merely giving in to one of my father's boyhood requests. I'd always assumed that it only strange enough to be found in our house but I was wrong.

Apparently, Welsh Rarebit can be traced back to 1725 - who knew? (God bless Wikipedia.) It was an ironic name coined in the days when the Welsh were notoriously poor. Only rich people could afford butcher's meat and while in England rabbit was the poor man's meat - in Wales, the poor man's meat was cheese. Welsh peasants were not allowed to eat rabbits caught in hunts on the estates of the nobility, so they used melted cheese as a substitute. Somehow, they also mangled the word itself and "rarebit" came into usage

Grandma Beth brought back the recipe from a Chicago restaurant, where she'd had as an appetizer. Believe it or not, it had evolved into a dainty delicacy. Thankfully, the Clisbys came along and restored it its original blue collar status.

And now, I give you a man in a full state of JOY:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Maybe I should hire a sleigh?

Yeah, you know what's fun? Heading to DIA the day after the airport's "worst accident ever." In any case, I'll be the hungover one carrying a guitar with her fingers crossed.

See you on the bayou!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Me at 43

Okay, so I'm a tad younger in this photo but I love that my cleavage is already evident. Looking forward to lots of gutter balls and the occasional alcohol-fueled strikes at Elitch Lanes this evening.

Here's to getting older because really, what's the alternative?

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Family Hunters

My brother, Robert, and his son, Robbie, went on a deer hunt over the weekend in Mississippi (where they live) and Robert bagged his first doe. Pretty dang exciting.

Also, and since our society is moving back to basics what with the giant financial implosion, I think it's a great time to sharpen up those survival skills. Me? I'm happy to be the Family Gardener.

Christmas Came Early

Yes, the weekend's shoe-throwing incident was just the kind of hijinks that the Monday headlines need. I say 'hijinks' because W is damn lucky it wasn't a bomb ... or even a cream pie.

I'd bet $50 that Bush has scant knowledge of the fact that the shoe is the lowest insult in the Arab world - it essentially says that you are lower than the dirt beneath one's shoes. For example, when the giant statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled, hundreds of Iraqis swarmed around it and beat it with their shoes. Calling him a "dog" - well, that just sealed the deal.

Other than W's impressive quick duck (gotta admit, that f**ker has cat-like reflexes), I noticed how he immediately tried to play it cool. "It doesn't bother me," he over-insisted, referring perhaps not just to the projectile footwear but to the world's distaste for him in general. "If anyone wants to know the facts, it's a Size 10."

Sir, you are no Ronald Reagan, so don't even try.

Lots of coverage on this but for some real insight, check out this recorded eyewitness account from Atheer Kakan, an Iraqi reporter for The New York Times. (I love his observation, "Bush looked like he had dealt with this sort of thing before.") Atheer's recount of the dangerously high tension in the room post-incident is flat out scary.

Meanwhile, Muntader al-Zaidi, the incensed journalist - now shoeless - is being held by Iraqi authorities. While he has not been formally charged, he faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of committing an act of aggression against a visiting head of state. (He's also become an instant folk hero and won an award for courage in Libya.)

Bush should expect more of the same - and not just abroad.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Party

In my nearly-43 years on this Earth, I've earned money in strange ways (drove limos, posed nude, parked celebrity cars, shot pool, go-go danced, reviewed restaurants, attended concerts, watched animation, counted F-bombs, etc.) but tonight, I may have topped myself.

I've just returned home $150 richer after indulging a wonderful woman named Esther in a devilish party trick. She'd hired my improv troupe, The Rodents of Unusual Size, for her annual holiday party for her family, friends and Denver Housing Authority co-workers. Only three Rodents were available so we borrowed our funny friend, Will, and off we went with our game list and bag of props.

When we arrived, it became immediately clear that Esther had no idea what our group did. Our first clue came when we asked Esther where we should perform and she said, "All over the house."

After some clarifying conversation, it was determined that Esther expected us to make up outlandish stories about ourselves - essentially, be crazy characters - and mingle. That's right, Esther paid us all to mill around her wonderful party, eat and drink to our heart's content (and I am kinda big-hearted), and just flat out make shit up.

I was all for it but Will had some doubts. "But I HATE parties! I HATE mingling," he said, a twinge of fear and annoyance in his voice. Christa just stood there silently with a deeply furrowed brow and Steve was a tad flummoxed. But there we were, with no other option. (The excessively decorated house - Santa toilet seat covers, Virgin Mary flags - was packed tightly with guests, no real 'space' to perform anyway.) So, we all agreed to give it a go and then, we separated.

As logic insisted, my first stop was the bar, where I tripped up by using my real name. When somebody asked how I knew Esther, I stated flatly that I did not but was simply driving by and spotted a party. Crashing holiday parties was just a way to pass the time, y'see. As I filled my cup with Jack Daniels, they just stared at me, aghast. So far, so good!

Soon, I settled into the character of "Blaze", a magician's assistant with a troupe of 20 called The Majestic Minstrels. We travel the country (300 days a year) in a large purple bus with a decapitated clown head on the hood. Esther had seen our show the night prior and invited me to her party. I am working to pay for my nephew's medical school and yes, I expect free medical care in return when the time comes. (Also, my nephew is actually my son though he does not know that.)

There were many "girl-in-the-box-getting-sawed-in-half-jokes" and I professed to have terrible scars across my abdomen. Also, I was homeless so the job was a perfect cover. Our Minstrels show could be anything from PG to XX - whatever we were booked for. And my boss, the magician, was mean. He was very old school and didn't believe women should have opinions. What he didn't realize was that I've been studying the Dark Arts and have elaborate plans to turn him into a fat turkey someday - hopefully, around next Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, Will brilliantly played the role of "Rupert", an academic specializing in the field of Paleography (the study of ancient handwriting) with a special interest in a peculiar bold font used by Nazis. Rupert was 1/2 Welsh, 1/2 Brit with a loud accent that stood out among the cowboy hats and Bronco fans. For all Will's hesitation, he really pulled it off.

Steve remained "Steve" but was an ordained minister in Wyoming. He'd been adopted by lesbians and raised in Kentucky - named after his Aunt Steve. He left his first church (a strange cult) due to an intense dislike of "love seizures" - padded pews were not his style. He eventually started a catering company specializing in food for senior citizens. He basically served a lot of soft food and in many cases, just used a blender.

Christa remained "Christa" but took on the outward behaviors of someone very sad, very scared and very troubled. Everyone was trying to comfort her but I decided Christa needed a reason to be scared. We made a few scenes together when I determined that she was the ex-wife of my ex-husband and I hated her guts and WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE DOING THERE ANYWAY? Did she think that restraining order was just a joke????

We kept fighting throughout the evening and I made some physical threats - always fun. Some people, especially some poor girl named Sarah, was pretty freaked out by our confrontations. At certain points of the evening, it felt like being in an episode of "The Office" with lots of workplace stories, definitive awkwardness and raised eyebrows.

The whole evening was like one long sociological experiment. After we all piled in the car at the end of the gig, we exchanged stories and agreed it was time well spent.

We also came to a few conclusions:

The party guests were pretty interesting in their own right. One old guy talked about having to eat a dog during the Depression and another guy told me about inadvertently blowing up his high school as a teen. Another fellow had escaped political upheaval in his home country of Eritrea and another was a statistician/activist - using science to change the world. I loved these stories and don't care if they were making it all up ...

Also, that while people were interested in our crazy tales, they were unfailingly polite and accepting. Mind you, we each scared away our fair share of party guests (Sorry, Dottie!) but most were like, "Hmmm, lesbians? You say? Cults, you say? Sounds delightful. More cake?"

Most importantly, we found that people like talking about themselves, no matter what. "You've been shot out of a cannon? Wow! That reminds me of the time my brother and I strapped a bazooka to my truck and went to town .." This circles back to the first point, which is everyone has bizarro stories and are happy to share.

Being a big, fat phony has never been so fun. Want to liven up your party? Give us a call: 1-800-BUL-SHIT. (Or, better yet, go through the Rodent website.)

Man-o-man, if I could find a way to do this full-time - I am set.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page RIP (1923-2008)

Iconic pin-up Betti Page passed away at the age of 85 yesterday. Page was placed on life support last week after suffering a heart attack in Los Angeles and never regained consciousness.

After winning the hearts and loins of so many with her skimpy poses - many of which were S&M-focused - Page mysteriously disappeared from the public eye for decades, during which time she battled mental illness and became a born-again Christian.

Page resurfaced in the 1990s and occasionally granted interviews but refused to allow her picture to be taken. She told an interviewer in 1998:

"I don't want to be photographed in my old age. I feel the same way with old movie stars. ... It makes me sad. We want to remember them when they were young."

Mission accomplished, Bettie. We'll never forget you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Help Save Shoestring Radio!

When I moved to San Francisco in February 1997, I knew one person in town, Michelle, my roommate and childhood friend. For several months, I hung out with her and her friends became mine. Eventually, I branched out on my own, socially speaking, and the first friends I made on my own were Monica Sullivan and Steve Rubenstein.

Monica and Steve are not only husband and wife but partners in two wonderful creative ventures, Shoestring Radio Theatre and Movie Magazine - both on KUSF. (In addition to airing locally in SF, both shows air on 111 stations in 34 states plus Montreal, Canada.)

As the description goes: "Shoestring Radio Theatre is a nationally-syndicated radio drama program featuring original radio plays by contemporary writers as well as adaptations of traditional favorites — everything from classic murder mysteries, 'radio noir,' and historical dramas to contemporary comedies, thrillers, and science fiction."

Thanks to them, I screened gobs of films, interviewed noted actors and directors and also gave the performance of a lifetime portraying an angry French whore in one of the Shoestring productions. I hosted, co-hosted, directed, acted and made a hallway sound like an island cave. Steve & Monica also gave me the opportunity to adapt and direct my favorite graphic novel/comic book. Bringing Terry Moore's "Strangers in Paradise" to life was an experience I'll never forget. All of it - every second - was a blast. I love my life now but I miss Steve and Monica and I miss Shoestring/MM terribly.

Public radio, as you know, is supported by listeners and underwriters and a financial boost is needed. So, Shoestring Radio Theatre is hosting a fundraiser for its home station, KUSF (90.3 FM in San Francisco) tomorrow, December 12. If you can, stop by the Paul Mahder Gallery, 3378 Sacramento St., and watch Shoestring players perform a live, simulated, radio play. Admission is free and donations to KUSF will be welcome and encouraged. The event will run from 7-10 pm. For more info, you can contact Shoestring by email ( or phone, 415/999-2894.

Please tell everyone you think might be interested. The more people who show up the better. If you can't make it physically, like me, consider sending a donation:

Monica Sullivan, Producer
Shoestring Radio Theatre
P.O. Box 590163
San Francisco, CA 94159-0163

As always, thanks for tuning in.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Elected Officials With Beating Hearts Look Like

'Cause you don't see 'em much. They often work silently, without much press. They are like that rare woodpecker - hard to spot.

So, behold Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones from Hamilton, Ohio. Sheriff Jones has ordered deputies to ignore eviction orders when people have nowhere else to live. The sheriff states that such evictions in winter weather - especially during an economic recession - are heartless and those cases should be sent back to the courts and resolved some other way. Said the sheriff:

“It doesn’t cost much for me to be compassionate, and I’m not going to cause somebody to die because I wasn’t compassionate. There has to be some attention drawn to somebody that’s going to be thrown out of their houses that doesn’t have anywhere else to go."

Jones also sent a letter to Gov. Ted Strickland asking him to issue a state order to stop forced evictions for at least the winter months.

The sheriff could face court action if a bank or landlord challenges his refusal to honor a court-ordered eviction and Sheriff said no problemo - that he'd face any consequences of his order.

So there. Some good news in the news for a change. Ohio is lucky to have him.

Call in Gay Day

Since today is 'Call in Gay Day' in California - which means half of my friends are not working today. I considered it but since I'm not gay, live in Colorado and work from home (meaning nobody would notice anyway), I've opted against it. However, I sure hope it has an impact because this whole gay marriage thing should be way over by now.

By now, we've all seen the much-shared "Prop. 8 Musical" starring the man of my dreams, Jack Black. (Note to dudes: Make me laugh and I'M YOURS.) I was thrilled to see that he points out the irony of the "because the Bible says so" mentality, especially the shellfish example. I love that one.

In celebration of calm discourse and sanctioned intercourse, you should celebrate today by viewing this delightful conversation between Jon Stewart and Mike Huckabee. My favorite question from Jon:

"At what point in your life did you decide not to be gay?"

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thank You For Smoking

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to some friends that Obama is a smoker and they were aghast - didn't fit their profile of him. Though much discussed, O has (wisely) not smoked in public. Though it would make an interesting photo, let's face it.

I do appreciate that this nasty habit (which I infrequently dabble in when drunk or upset) gives him a more human quality and takes him down a notch or two on the deity scale.

I/We would make a huge mistake in making this guy into some perfect god and quite frankly, the cigarettes help with this. He's going to do his best at this President thing and sometimes, he's going to fuck up and when that happens, dude is going to need a cigarette - big time.

My favorite TV newsman, Tom Brokaw, succeeded where Barbara Walter failed and got O to fess up during last weekend's 'Meet the Press' interview. When asked if he'd quit, O stammered:

“You know, I have, but what I said was that, you know, there are times where I’ve fallen off the wagon. Well…”

“Well, wait a minute,” Brokaw said. “Then that means you haven’t stopped.”

Totally BUSTED!

“Well, fair enough,” O said. “What I would say is, is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier, and I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House.”

Who set these no-smoking rules anyway? None other than Hillary Clinton who will be around to enforce, no doubt.

Still, O can always take a tip from Willie Nelson and head up to the roof:
"I inhaled frequently. That was the point."

--Barack Obama, when asked if he had inhaled on a marijuana cigarette

Happy December!

I'm rediscovering the joys of singing lately - doing it and hearing it. These fellows are pure fun. They call themselves "Straight, no Chaser" - Indiana University’s men’s A Capella troupe. Enjoy!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Mickey Rourke - Here to Stay, I Hope

I certainly missed him and well, he was never an asshole to me personally.

Big 3: Trampled by the Elephant in the Room

Found this today and it blew my mind:

"Over the past year, the domestic auto industry has experienced sharply reduced sales and profitability, large indefinite layoffs, and increased market penetration by imports The shift in consumer preferences towards smaller, more fuel-efficient passenger cars and light trucks appears to be permanent, and the industry will spend massive amounts of money to retool to produce the motor vehicles that the public now wants.

To improve the overall future prospects for the domestic motor vehicle manufacturers, a quality and price competitive motor vehicle must be produced If this is not accomplished, the long term outlook for the industry is bleak."


Nearly 30 years go, those in the know could see what was coming down the road. So, why couldn't Detroit?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Josh & The Beav

This is the story of two friends of mine that happen to be plants.

On my last visit to the desert branch of the Clisby Empire, I realized that my mother and cousins Linda and Carol had done quite a bit to fix up the old place while I had contributed nothing. So, off we went to the "Dig your own!" cactus store, where I purchased a very young Joshua Tree and a Beavertail Cactus.

We picked special spots, gathered colorful rocks, found a shovel and set about making new homes for the two plants. "The Beav" (pictured above right) went in the front yard, surrounded by gorgeous hunks of jasper, gympsum and sandstone. Meanwhile, young "Josh" was placed in the back, near the old fountain and not far from the shuffleboard court that keeps getting cracked from the earthquakes.

We made the best possible beds for them that we could and I even said a few words of blessing, which inspired some eye-rolling among my family members. Still, I hoped for the best. Y'see, when my Grandpa Wilbur - a North Dakota farmer - first laid eyes on the California desert, he went bonkers for it. The bizarre cactii, the funky birds and the lunar landscape really touched him. This is also how I feel and while many of his beloved cactii have died (swear to god, he'd take pictures of them and frame them), I like the idea of adding new stuff to keep his garden going.

Cousin Linda (picture with Josh, above) was kind enough to water them when she stopped in on her monthly drive from Mesa, AZ to Long Beach, CA. She was doing a great job but had to inform me over Thanksgiving that Josh didn't make it.

After some research, she discovered that Joshua Trees are very finicky about facing the same direction in which they were originally planted. One woman told her, "When you bought it, the pot should've had an 'N' on it to tell you which way to face it North." Hmmm, um, no - nobody told us that.

I guess I'll give it another try on my next desert visit. Let's hope The Beav continues to thrive.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

This Season, Don't Have a Cow - Give One

(This is a cross-post from my other gig at BlogHer.)

The family received a challenge this year from my stepmother, 'Squirrelly Shirley': Spend just $10 per Christmas gift and donate the rest. "I believe our money could help others and that is the real spirit of Christmas," she wrote in her email. She had other ideas, such as sending gifts to soldiers abroad, but her simple plea was this: "Let’s get creative with Christmas this year and give our hearts." And so, Shirley and a few lucky others will be getting baby chicks and bees for Xmas.

At Thanksgiving last week, my family and I discussed the implosion of
capitalism and agreed that Americans have become a nation of acquirers
... and look where it's gotten us. We all have too much stuff and don't
need more. (Okay, so I still want that guitar upgrade and a new Mac but other than that, I'm done. I SWEAR.)

I spent many years giving bits and pieces of my income to various charities and getting my name on every bleeding heart list on the planet. Ultimately, I decided to focus on something personal to me, choosing Smile Train as my favorite monthly cause. However, this year, I'm starting a new annual tradition and zeroing in on Heifer International as my official holiday cause.

Heifer International
is a nonprofit charitable organization built on the long-view philosophy: "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; you have fed him for a lifetime." Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, their mission is to relieve global hunger and poverty by providing gifts of livestock and plants, as well as education in sustainable agriculture, to the world's poor.

It is certainly better to provide a goat that will give milk for years rather than just hand over a bag of food that will only last days. Not to mention the feeling of empowerment that a family or individual can retain with the responsibilities of caring for that animal. And let's face it, who doesn't love a goat?

A friend told me recently:

"I have to give business gifts -- as a consultant -- to my clients. These folks have enough desk sets. I started giving Heifer gifts as a business gift. They LOVED them, and I stood out -- after all, how many people get a sheep, a goat, a flock of geese or a llama for Christmas? I had one corporate client say that he was dead tired of getting useless expensive office items that he could never use. He was thankful that good had been done in his name and was going to try to suggest giving to charity as gifts in his own company."

As with most world-changing ideas, it began with one person. The founder of Heifer International, an American farmer named Dan West, was a Church of the Brethren relief worker in Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). With too little rations for distribution, West realized that a long-term solution was needed. Once home, he founded Heifers for Relief, an organization focused on providing families livestock and training so that they "could be spared the indignity of depending on others to feed their children." With this strategy in mind, West also conceived the brilliant slogan "Give not a cup, but a cow."

And so, it began in 1944 with a shipment of seventeen heifers (young cows that have not given birth) from York, Pennsylvania, to Puerto Rico. Each heifer would be a continual source of milk, offspring and fertilizer to each participating family. In exchange for these animal gifts, West required each participating family to take classes in animal husbandry. Also, they had to agree to donate any female offspring to a neighbor who has undergone Heifer's training. In the truest sense of that oft-repeated phrase, West wanted these animals to be the gifts that keep on giving.

Heifer International, as it is known today, gifts cattle, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, honeybees, pigs, llamas, water buffalo, camels, alpacas, yaks, horses, chicks, ducks, goats, geese, fish, other regionally appropriate livestock. (Tree seedlings too!) Instead of shipping animals overseas, HI now purchases them in the designated country which puts money into the local economy, reduces transport costs and promotes better health for the animals since they are already accustomed to the local climate, food and diseases. As of 2006, HI-gifted animals and plants have been distributed in more than 125 countries around the globe.

So, when you're shopping for presents this year, think about it: Does your brother really need that Chia Pet? Wouldn't he like a Water Buffalo instead? Okay, so maybe it won't fit under the tree but ultimately, it will take up less room, require less maintenance and he'll be helping out an entire family and ultimately, an entire community.

And, like a wise stepmother once said, this looks and smells an awful lot like the true meaning of the holiday season.