Category Archives: Family

My long overdue tribute to ‘Downtown’ Clark Brown

Vacation, as a rule, especially in New England, involves going to some sort of shoreline and dipping your toes in some sort of water, be it fresh, salty, moving or still.

I did not do any of these things on my vacation this summer. Last summer’s trip to upstate New York to see my entire Hart family and Troll relatives was so much fun, it only makes sense that this year’s vacation would be a little bit of a letdown. We do the family reunion every other year – makes sense, really, for balance’s sake. Makes you miss it when you don’t have one.

Anyway, I spent this vacation in Bristol, Ct., doing lots of things I needed to do – shopping, cleaning, paying bills, going to the doctor/dentist… and trying to rid my house of the stench of a skunk who crossed my dog’s path on the first day of my vacation.

I kind of had a blah Friday. A doctor’s appointment wasn’t very enlightening, and I was just all-around feeling down. No real reason. When I got up, I realized I had Grateful Dead’s “Bertha” randomly stuck in my head. I didn’t really acknowledge it.

Then on my way to the doctor, I was flipping through the radio stations and lo and behold, one of the “high 80s” stations – you know the ones, the experimental and NPR-ish public stations – was playing a live version of “Bertha.” Weird, I thought, but was so wrapped up in getting to New Haven for my doc visit that I didn’t pay it much mind.

I go to the doctor, leave and head back for a dental appointment in Farmington. Teeth cleaned, I head back to Bristol for home. Again, this time on my mp3 device, Grateful Dead reared its head. It was “Cassidy,” which is my favorite Dead song. I started taking notice then.

clarkfishThe Dead makes me think of a lot of really great people in my life – my cousin John, my old roommate/gay husband Erin, and Clark Brown, may he rest in peace.

We lost Clark in early June to a freak health issue. I was supposed to go to a Yankees game with him later in June. He was there one day, the next gone.

So yesterday, when I heard all the Dead songs, I realized I hadn’t truly dealt with Clark’s sudden death. I like to think of myself as someone who deals with her problems and moves on. But my tendency is to compartmentalize these types of problems into “deal with this later” moments. Clark happened one day, and the next, ESPN laid people off. It was a double whammy and I just kind of pushed it aside.

But emotions have a propensity to need to be expelled. “Cassidy” made that happen. Clark made that happen.

A bit about Clark, who can’t be summed up by a lowly writer like me – Clark was a cool guy. That’s the easy way to put it. Clark was friends with literally everyone who met him. I never heard him disparage another person. He defended those who were being disparaged. If anyone embodied Good Guy ‘til the end, it was Clark.

Clark was both friendly and mysterious at the same time. Not a jaded kind of mystery, but one where you were always surprised by what he knew, the depth of his feelings and understanding, what he’d been through in his life.

He didn’t wear his problems on his sleeve. You had to roll up his sleeves – up to the bicep – to get him to talk about himself.

We had a rainy afternoon in Manhattan a few months back where we talked about his family. I learned things about him I’d never thought to ask. It made me ashamed for not asking him more about himself. I felt selfish.

It wasn’t the first time I’d felt selfish around Clark, like I was using him for something and not being a good friend in return. Clark could get you… things. Concert tickets, backstage passes and beyond. One Thanksgiving, when we were all still in our early 20s, I threw a Thanksgiving feast and invited Clark. Oddly enough, it was the first time he’d come to one of my real parties as a guest. He was always invited after that. He came to all our reunions – including one we had in 2011, which was the last time many of my friends saw Clark.

But he’d made so many plans to see us all – he was really close to a lot of us, and we all have this weird arc of Clark friendship. One minute he’d be in Oklahoma visiting Amy Lee at a wedding, the next in Colorado with Gretchen Crowe. He’d tried to convince me to come to a Leon Russell concert in New York, but I was too lazy to go. I regret that.

We all had our Clark experiences. Mine came, surprisingly, in New York City. When I first moved to Connecticut, I was stunned to learn Clark had moved to the area after he’d lived in North Carolina for years after leaving Oklahoma. He met me in NYC for my maiden voyage to the city. I was terrified, but Clark knew his way round and took me anywhere I’d ask to go. We had real Spanish Harlem tacos and real Malaysian food in Chinatown.

Me and Clark at a baseball promotion in Grand Central Station. He loved the Yankees, God love him! :)

Me and Clark at a baseball promotion in Grand Central Station. He loved the Yankees, God love him! 🙂

The next time I visited, we had Katz’s Deli pastrami. We walked in hot August drizzle all over downtown Manhattan, telling stories and stopping to look into store windows. There was nothing but a platonic friendship between us, and it was so comforting and wonderful to talk to someone who not only sounded like me, but had the same friends as me, had been to many of the same parties as me, etc.

We went to shows, texted and got to be really good friends again. It was just pleasant having him around and so close to me. We’d planned a few outings once the weather warmed up and I was to be in Manhattan for a week in June, so we had some plans in place. Unfortunately, those were not to be. And I felt like I’d lost not only a friend, but someone who was on the same journey as me in a new land.

I think he bridged the gap for me between Oklahoma and Connecticut. He – again – was there for me without asking for anything in return.

Clark was more into live music than almost anyone I know. He wasn’t just the guy at the show – he knew the bands. He did work for them. He and I went to see Jane’s Addiction in 2011 and he was passing out information, posters, stickers, etc., to fans because he was working with the record company. He was the king of the odd job – but they were cool odd jobs.

When Clark died, I didn’t believe it for a day or two. I even dreamed that the whole thing was a joke. I woke up hoping I was right. Sadly, I wasn’t.

When Clark died, everyone went to his Facebook page demanding to know what happened.

Clark made me try the pastrami at Katz's. He was absolutely right about that one.

Clark made me try the pastrami at Katz’s. He was absolutely right about that one.

Since Clark died, the messages on his Facebook page haven’t stopped. Bands that he’d worked for held memorial concerts, and still do. Tributes sprung up all over the place and I’ve been truly amazed again at his reach – how many people loved him.  It made me realize how many lives he’d touched and continues to touch.

Mine included.

I don’t know if Clark was controlling my radio yesterday or just trying to get me to pay attention. All I know is, after the Bertha and Cassidy incidents, I played the Dead all day and I felt better.

And when I went to bed, I guess I’d accidentally turned on my music player, because just when I was lying down, “Estimated Prophet” started playing through my Galaxy speakers. I couldn’t help but think he was behind that.

Clark, I get the message. Life is to be lived. You lived it, man. You were a wonderful, pure soul and you made your way through this life collecting friends, experiences and memories, not battle scars. You were beautiful. And I hope you are watching us down here telling tales of the great Downtown Clark Brown.

They won’t make another one like you. And not to get cheesy or switch bands midstream, but to borrow from Neil Young, if you were a miner for a heart of gold, Clark’s would’ve been a place where you’d have been rich.

I miss you, buddy. More than I ever expected to – then again, I thought we’d all die at 80. Thanks for showing up in my day yesterday. We will continue to honor you because you deserve it.

Here’s some of the lyrics that made me sure Clark was in my stratosphere yesterday:

Estimated Prophet:
My time coming, any day, don’t worry about me, no
Been so long I felt this way, I’m in no hurry, no
Rainbows and down that highway where ocean breezes blow
My time coming, voices saying they tell me where to go.
 
Cassidy
Lost now on the country miles in his Cadillac.
I can tell by the way you smile he’s rolling back.
Come wash the nighttime clean,
Come grow this scorched ground green,
Blow the horn, tap the tambourine
Close the gap of the dark years in between
You and me,
Cassidy…
Faring thee well now.
Let your life proceed by its own design.
Nothing to tell now.
Let the words be yours, I’m done with mine.
 
Jack Straw
We used to play for silver, now we play for life;
And ones for sport and ones for blood at the point of a knife.
And now the die is shaken, now the die must fall.
There aint a winner in the game, he don’t go home with all.
Not with all.
 
Attics of My Life
In the attics of my life, full of cloudy dreams unreal.
Full of tastes no tongue can know, and lights no eyes can see.
When there was no ear to hear, you sang to me.
I have spent my life seeking all thats still unsung.
Bent my ear to hear the tune, and closed my eyes to see.
When there was no strings to play, you played to me.
In the book of loves own dream, where all the print is blood.
Where all the pages are my days, and all the lights grow old.
When I had no wings to fly, you flew to me, you flew to me.
In the secret space of dreams, where I dreaming lay amazed.
When the secrets all are told, and the petals all unfold.
When there was no dream of mine, you dreamed of me.

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Filed under Baseball, Connecticut, Family, Food, Friends, Love, Oklahoma, Sports, Tahlequah, Tulsa

The Electric Christmas Card: It’s not lazy, I wrote like 2,800 words!

festivus

I rewatched Seinfeld this
year. It’s funnier if you live on the East Cosat.


Festivus is tomorrow, Hanukkah is behind us, Christmas is two days away and Kwanzaa
starts the day after Christmas, which coincides with Boxing Day.
Folks, we are in the thick of a holiday season that grows bigger
each year. And as usual, I’m as tardy as ever. Because I suck at
holiday correspondence, and frankly all correspondence, I have
turned to the Internet to let ya’ll know I’m not a cruel,
heartless, thankless wench this Christmas. Yes, I’m letting my blog
be my Christmas wingman. Consider it an effort to be green, but
know that really, I’m lazy and pressed for time, a noxious
combination that really cuts into my sitting around time (Trey,
that’s one of my favorite lines of yours.) So with those caveats
out of the way, I’ll turn this into a yearlong wrapup. But first,
happy holidays to all, and thanks for tolerating me this year. This
year, like the one before it, has been a complete blur. I started
out the new year working, and that trend continued at least five
Even the geese that live at ESPN have a job -- pooping on
sidewalks.

Even the geese that live
at ESPN have a job — pooping on sidewalks.

days a week
for 52 weeks. It’s like those people at ESPN expect me to come in
FIVE DAYS A WEEK and work! Actually, I love my job. I have
continued to become more and more entrenched in Connecticut life,
and it’s starting to feel like home. People still don’t understand
my accent all the time, but I don’t understand theirs either, so we
just usually laugh at each other and call it a day. One co-worker
of mine, Brian Tully, likes to point out when I really slip into
Okie. It’s funny because when I lived in Oklahoma, I often got
accused of not sounding country enough. One time someone said I
sounded like I’m from Boston. Well shit ya’ll, I just don’t know
where I stand! But back to work, which has been what I’ve done most
of this year, and with glee. I love my job, love the people I work
with and am challenged each day to immerse myself in the mode of
TV. My print journalism ways are falling away, and I find myself
straying from AP style more often. I don’t like it, but it’s
happening.
Can you believe ESPN promoted this person?

Can you believe ESPN
promoted this person?

I was promoted in September, from
associate news editor to news editor I, which bumps me into the
management pool. It’s nice, and a nice pay bump. With the
promotion, I adopted a fake British accent and started wearing
full-length gowns and white gloves to work, along with minks and
diamonds (that’s for you Ward, who said I sold out to the corporate
monster and was now part of the 1 percent.) Still, it was a sellout
that I was willing to do. And the day after my promotion went into
effect, my job got more complicated. I feel I’ve earned it, and
hope to keep earning it as I go. I thought it would be fun this
year to write a weekly football column to send to our anchors,
analysts, producers, etc. It was called “Under the Radar Love.” And in typical Sarah
style, I bit off more than I could chew. It was designed to
showcase some of the games that might slip through the cracks in a
society obsessed with SEC football. It worked, and it was fun to
write, but I became like a crack fiend with it, toiling over
numbers and stats and patterns to try to come up with new entries.
I call that success! I’ll probably be doing it again next year. And
for my Okies out there, Oklahoma schools were
mentioned in nearly every installment. They had kind of an
under-the-radar year, so it worked out well. I’ve become the
sort-of Twitter Girl on my news desk, and I’m trying to come up
with new ways to implement guidelines in the finding of and
fleshing out of tweets. I won’t bore you with gory details, but
know this – I follow the maximum amount of people (2,000-ish) and
am on Twitter for at least 10 hours a day. So if you thought I was
rampant on Facebook, wooh boy, lemme tell ya.
I'll miss the river flowing next to my house...

I’ll miss the river
flowing next to my house…

I moved from my quaint little
riverside town of Collinsville, Ct., to bustling Bristol, Ct.,
because I was really tired of the drive. I work until 3 a.m. at
least twice a week, and often have to be back at work by 2 p.m. the
following day. So it made sense to me to cut out the drive time.
Plus, my friend/colleague/supervisor Ken got engaged and decided to
move elsewhere, opening up a fantastic house for me to live in. I
moved right after Thanksgiving, and my stuff is kind of getting
settled. My cat Penny has taken over the second floor of the house.
I haven’t seen her in a month, but she’s eating and all that, so I
know she’s alive. Or I have really hungry mice up there. Leon is
basking in having a fenced backyard again. He’s back to his old
pre-move-to-Connecticut self, frisky and butt-waggling. He’s 8-ish
now, and a little gray around the eyes. But who among us isn’t? Not
to say this in the same breath, but my old family is doing pretty
well too. I’m still single, unless you count my spouse ESPN. I hope
this singlehood doesn’t last forever, but if it does, I’ve reached
that point in my life where I’m not waiting anymore. I’m doing all
the things I was meant to do – travel, explore, work, write, enjoy
my many blessings. It would be nice to not have to do it alone, but
I’m extremely picky and I’ll know it when I see it. I haven’t seen
it yet. And Ryan Braun is engaged, so really, why
bother? {Side note, I became a huge baseball fan this year. Not
strictly because of the aforementioned/sexy Braun, but also because
I think I finally understand it. I found myself this year applying
baseball knowledge to real-world situations, like algebra. I
finally get it. And baseball people are just cool people. It’s
something more Okies should embrace. }
My dad and Melissa at Keuka Lake.

My dad and Melissa at
Keuka Lake.

My dad and Melissa are still in Colleyville, Texas, and Melissa
announced earlier this year that she is retiring from American
Airlines after a really long career with them. Just like every
other corporation, money is somehow tight and she’s taking a
buyout. She’ so great and so boisterous and full of life, I know
she’ll be doing some other job in no time, living life to the
fullest. She continues to be an inspiration and I’m so lucky to
have her in my life. My dad had a minor health scare – well, he
played it minor, I of course had a meltdown – but he’s in great
health again and still kicking ass. He continues to be my best
friend as long as we don’t get into political talk. My sister
Natalie is expecting her first child in March, and I’m planning to
go to West Palm Beach to see her and Baby Boy Garrett shortly
afterward. I’m so proud of her, and she’s just beautiful in
pregnancy. She’s beautiful all the time, but she just positively
glows right now. She hears every single one of my problems and is
so good to me, as she always has been. She is the glue of our
family, and having her son will be yet another tether that keeps us
together. My sister Lila is raising two perfect boys – I got to see
my nephew Jesse, a senior, play basketball while I was briefly in
Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. He’s really good, and has gotten offers,
both academic and athletic, to go just about anywhere in the United States. I’m trying to
Me and Stacy at ESPN in the most-humid part of
the summer.

Me and Stacy at ESPN in
the most-humid part of the summer.

talk him into coming
to UConn. He says it’s
too cold up here – but it’s so close to so much great stuff. JT is
the cutest child ever born, and he’s precocious and charming and
doll-like. She’s got her hands full with him. I’m dragging my
brother Nick to Bristol at some point – he graduated a few days ago
with a master’s in kinesiology and now awaits a dream job. He wants
to be a strength coach. Anyone who’s seen him knows he’ll be good
at it. But I’m forcing him to come see me next year – he helped me
move with two cats and a dog in the car and a bitching sister
driving, so I can understand why he’s hesitant to come back. I’m so
proud of him – he just skated through his master’s degree without
an iota of effort it seems. He’s just too smart for his own good.
My sister Katy lives in Seattle because she wanted to be as far
away from me as possible, I guess. She’s loving life and doing
great, working as a bartender in a hip establishment. She’s hip and
cool, she’s got a super-nice, hilarious boyfriend (Robbie) and
she’s entertaining entrepreneurial possibilities. She’s a dreamer,
and that’s what I love about her. She’ll do what she wants when she
wants, thank you very much, and she’ll be damn good at it too.
She’s so much like me – sad for her! But she’s more self-aware and
confident than I was at her age. She’s just beautiful and
wonderful. Anna and Joel live on the Southside in Chicago – they
moved away from a ritzy area to be with the regular folk on the
Southside, very similar to my move to Bristol. Anna is closer to
graduating from nursing school, and Joel just completed his
theology program. They’re two of the most-fun people I’ve ever been
around, and I’m not saying that just because they’re family. I
honestly don’t know anyone like them, and I cherish every moment I
get with them. We spent several days together at Thanksgiving and
it was basically a laugh riot the whole time.
My cousin Ryan lives here -- and manages to go
to work every day. Wow.

My cousin Ryan lives here
— and manages to go to work every day. Wow.

I got to see
my California cousins (well, two of them) a lot this summer! As
well as their mom and dad. I finally got to go to our family
reunion on Keuka Lake this summer, a trip I’ve only made once
before. Keuka Lake is one of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York.
I spent a week with my dad and Melissa, Aunts Sandee and Maribeth,
and Uncles Jack, Rick and Steve. My cousins John and Ryan were
there, and again, laugh riothood ensued. Dear God I love those
boys. It was a week of fun, sun and frivolity. Our cottage was next
door to a bar. The water was about 10 degrees, so swimming wasn’t
the norm. In that time, I also got to meet/see a whole lot of
family I haven’t seen in YEARS or ever met, my Troll cousins, who
live in upstate New York and Alaska. It was so great getting to
spend time with this part of my family. They’re the artistic side
— so much I could learn from them. I look forward to many more
gatherings with them.
My first trip to NYC, this was the first thing I
saw when I left Grand Central. Okies. We're everywhere.

My first trip to NYC, this
was the first thing I saw when I left Grand Central. Okies. We’re
everywhere.

A few days after returning from Keuka, I went
to Los Angeles to work from the ESPN offices in downtown LA. While
there, I got to meet my cousin Richard’s daughter Maelle, who is
eight months old now. She’s gorgeous, and her mom, Kay, is doing
all the heavy lifting while Richard finishes up his Navy assignment
in Meridian, Miss. They live in Mar Vista, and my Auntie Maribeth
is often there to help. She, Kay and I had a luxurious dinner at
home with Maelle, and I was so glad to be able to have the
opportunity to travel for work AND see my family. My last day in
LA, I elected to take the redeye out of Cali so I could hang with
my cousin Ryan in Laguna Beach. He’s a pilot and showed me around
where he works, then we spent the day in beautiful Laguna Beach
where he lives across the street from the Pacific. Holy crap, I
could’ve gotten used to that. I LOVE the East Coast, but I can see
myself in California should the opportunity ever arise. Ryan and I
went to a great restaurant, offended and were offended by an
accusatory bartender, then wandered around Laguna Beach so I could
find souvenirs. I took two trips to Oklahoma-Texas this year, the
first time to go to a mini-college folks reunion and the second for
Thanksgiving. Both were great, and I got to eat Taco Bueno both
times. What the Connecticut folks refer to as Mexican food makes
Bueno look authentic. I got to hang with Renae, Trey, Oliver, Mark
and Margaret a couple of times, and shared a trip to Dallas with
Elena, which was an unexpected, wonderful event. Nothing like being
in a car with an old friend for more than four hours to make the
trip go by quickly. washmonI traveled by train to go
to Washington, D.C., to see Natalie and our nation’s capital. I had
never been, and went on no sleep, so the train ride there was kind
of a sleepy blur. I’d also never been on a train, so that was cool.
But we saw just about everything I’ve ever wanted to see, and of
course, I bawled like an infant at every national monument. My
sister the archaeologist knows everything, so she was an excellent
narrator/companion and didn’t shoot me in the face when I started
complaining about blisters. (Nat, I’ve since bought good walking
shoes, so please give me another chance.) jaI went to see Jane’s
Addiction in Waterbury, Ct., in March with my Tahlequah/Manhattan
friend Clark Brown. I saw Bruce Springsteen in New Jersey with my
real-life Jersey Girl friend Fran Rotella, who entertained me
greatly with fantastic Italian food and diner grub. I’ve had pork
roll – it’s not just something Ween made up and sang songs about.
It’s like sausage and bologna had a baby. And it’s heaven. The
Italian place we went to in Jersey was across the street from where
they filmed several Sopranos scenes, so yeah, pretty authentic. I
went to New York City twice, and I’ve got many more in me. I fell
in love the second I stepped into Grand Central Station. It’s
intimidating, but awe-inspiring too. My plan is to stay at the
Carlyle Hotel in January so I can see how the other half lives. As
my dear friend Stacy Pratt reminds me, we earned our money, and the
starving poet in each of us won’t hate that we’re making money now
and possibly spending it lavishly. I hope she gets to go with me on
my trip – she lives upstate. She and her husband Joe came to
Connecticut over the summer too, and we got to spend a few days
together.
See my Rosie O'Donnell face?

See my Rosie O’Donnell
face?

The funniest thing that happened this year was
meeting Snoop Dogg while I was under dentist’s anesthesia. I had
four shots of Novocain in my face and had to go to work for a few
hours – no makeup, messy hair, stretchy pants – and of course,
Snoop was there. I had my picture taken with him, but felt the need
to tell him about my harrowing dental visit. Snoop told me I was
beautiful and wrapped his 6-6 frame around my shoulders for a
picture. I look like Rosie O’Donnell in the shot, but he is
grinning like only Snoop can. So at least I can say, I made Snoop
Dogg and his posse laugh.
A typical NYC Saturday - random free concert in
Bryant Park.

A typical NYC Saturday –
random free concert in Bryant Park.

I also met Mike
Gundy, Donovan McNabb and Jerome Bettis. I saw lots of other famous
people but was either too intimidated or too busy to go talk to
them. I truly have a dream job. It’s an insane, brain-draining
dream job, but it’s great nonetheless. Jerry Rice being in the
newsroom still makes me giggle maniacally every now and then, but I
am getting used to it. I attended a summit of bureau reporters and
producers that was like meeting the Mount Rushmore of sports
journalism – it was so fun. I am so glad I found my calling, and am
thrilled to be working in such a fun medium as sports and in such a
large spotlight. I hope it doesn’t come off as braggadocios – I
still just feel extremely lucky. The Thunder made it to the Finals,
which was the sports highlight of my year. The second best sports
story of my year was the Brewers being 14 KDgames out of the playoff
picture and then getting to within 1.5 games before injuries and
the Nationals came to town. And the most important part of the year
was that we all made it through the Mayan Apocalypse without too
many scratches. Of course it’s only the 22nd. Seriously though,
thanks for reading my slop and for supporting me. Happy holidays,
and please keep in touch. You don’t have to write a novel like I
just did. And if you find yourself in the Northeast quadrant of the
United States, come on up to Bristol-town.

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Filed under Brain Disorders, Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Fun!, General Nonsense, Kevin Durant, Moving, New York, Oklahoma, Politics?, Sports, Tahlequah, Travel, TV

Vacation, how my family is the best, and my ESPN anniversary

You know those things in life that you don’t plan for, the ones you have no expectations for, that end up being some of the best times in your life?

I’ve had a few of them in the past year. I had a week of them last week. I sit here two days out of vacation still laughing at jokes and incidents from the vacay, the now-inside jokes my cousins and I shared and just the bizarre nature of my family.

I sit here looking back at my first year in Connecticut, still wondering how I got here, but pleased as hell that I’m here.

This is the kind of blog that’s going to take subheads. I’ve missed breaking those bad boys out – editors are so nerdy – so here I go.

Yes, I took this picture of myself. Yes, I’m wearing a hat. My Wicked Stepmother (haha) made me. The Waterfront is in the background — I’m standing on our awesome Big Dock outside the cottage.

On Keuka Lake

I spent six days in upstate New York with my family, on Keuka Lake, in the gorgeous Finger Lakes region. My family has been going there forEVER and I’d only been once, when I was like 10 or 11. Living in Oklahoma and being a workaholic didn’t afford many opportunities for visiting upstate New York. Now, I look forward to going every year, or at least way more often.

Keuka, between Penn Yan Village and Hammondsport, N.Y., is where the water flows as well as the wine. Vineyards dot the landscape, which is replete with rolling hills and bluffs, vistas and meadows. Roadside fruit and veggies stands pop out of nowhere this time of year, hawking the sweetest corn you’ll ever taste. Mennonite wagons are plentiful, and signs warn you of upcoming buggies containing bonneted lasses and their bearded brethren.

The topography isn’t too different from Connecticut, and it certainly wasn’t any cooler outside, but being in the waters my grandfather used to fish was – well, it was inspirational and uplifting.

Not that I spent a lot of time pondering that while I was there. I hashed those thoughts over on the drive up and back. Most of the time in the cottage was spent laughing, boating, sunning, drinking and talking. I don’t drink that much anymore, but on this trip I would’ve made Charles Bukowski blush and Jim Morrison cheer. Our cottage was next door to a bar and a short distance from another bar. Not to mention my aunts, uncles and parents kept buying more beer. It was kind of perfect.

It started like this – my dad and my cousin John flew into Hartford, then I gave them a tour of ESPN. They got to meet Herm Edwards, among others, and John is a huge sports fan, so it was A DELIGHT (James Lipton voice) to see him and my dad’s eyes as we walked through my place of employment.

We left the next day for Keuka. We arrived later than planned, which is the way I like to road trip. My Uncle Jack (The Patriarch) rented a boat, and thus began a weekend of controlled debauchery, moonlight boat rides, ridiculous giggling, a little foosball and relaxation.

I spent a lot of time with John and his brother Ryan, who got there a few days later, but also got to spend scads of time with my dad, who is having surgery next week and with whom I was excited to spend time. (Note: My fam and I also had an extensive conversation about ending sentences with prepositions, so I’m trying to avoid that. Yes, we’re definitely related.) But that’s the way it typically works out – I always hang with my sisters and cousins most. I have a great bond with all of ‘em. I might’ve forced both John and Ryan to promise we’d do this when our parents are old. I might’ve been a bit drunk. But I meant it.

The bar next to the cottage, The Waterfront, was where Sunday night started and ended. They have this thing called Clammin’ and Jammin’, and a band played the early part of the night – one dude got so into it, he undressed, much to the chagrin of every woman in the place. Probably the men, too.

After the band went home, John and I sat outside the tiki part of the bar until we were invited by the locals to sit up front with them. John proceeded to tell everyone I work at ESPN, and then the night took a ridiculous (and somewhat embarrassing for me) turn. I answered all the questions, they bought shots, and then it all got kinda hazy. I took pictures of a fish John caught – I don’t remember taking the pictures, and it’s more of John’s drunken face and less of the alleged fish. He swears it flopped back in the water.

Somewhere in the middle of all that – before extreme drunkenness, of course — we went on a midnight boat ride with my uncles. Gorgeous.

We also visited the Switzerland Inn, or the Switz as it’s called, a place of legend among my family and where Ryan nearly got into a fight with the biggest, dumbest dude I’ve ever seen. Ryan was just being a smartass, as usual, but apparently you don’t poke the local bear. I do not doubt Ryan’s toughness, but he’s far too pretty to get his face bashed in. I thought I was going to have to do some fast-talking.

I also met or was reintroduced to the Troll side of my family (yes, that’s a family name – you shan’t make fun). They live all over Alaska, in New York, in Texas, in Seattle – all over the place. I’d met a few of them, but certainly not all. Of course, we had a great time. They are a fabulous bunch of folks. They stayed across the lake, and we boated over a few nights for excellent dinners, beer and wine tastings and conversation. The first night was a tribute to one of the Troll sisters who died in December. It was touching and sweet, and even though I’d never met Mimi, I felt her presence and, me being me, I cried.

What surprised me about the whole trip was that I hadn’t really thought about it before I went. Work had been crazy, I’d had a lot going on there, and I didn’t let it build up in my head. I think that’s what made it so great – it was an unexpected six-day pleasure trip. And honestly, my family is just so fun and so goddamned goofy. We’re excellent conversationalists too. It was one of my better vacations.

My year anniversary at ESPN

Just a random picture of Ryan Braun. Le Sigh.

The day before I left Keuka, Aug. 1, was my one-year anniversary at the Worldwide Leader. I’m still in love with my job. Most days I leave with a smile on my face. I hope they like me too – I want to stay there as long as they’ll have me. I feel like I’ve found what I was looking for on the workfront (still waiting for Ryan Braun or one of his brethren to realize they need a short, pleasantly plump Shiksa woman to make their lives complete, but that’s another blog).

I think ESPN might be my lifeline. I had to do it. People say I’m brave for packing it up and moving away, but I think it was a foregone conclusion. I had to do it, and I’m not looking back, especially when it’s 111 in Oklahoma today!

Over the past year, I’ve been afforded so many opportunities to be amazed, pleased and to excel. It’s been a busy, crazy, intoxicating year (not in the aforementioned beer-y way, though). I like to say that on Oct. 9, 2011, Tim Tebow was named starting QB of the Denver Broncos, and Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State on Nov. 9, 2011, and it’s been nine kinds of crazy ever since. And that brings me to…

The bureau meeting
Without getting into a lot of organizational chart-job title-ESPN insider info stuff, suffice it to say there are a lot of mega-talented folks at ESPN, many of whom roam the countryside with microphones in hand, stopping at sporting events to report what’s going on. If you’re a sports fan, you’ve seen these people on TV. They are bureau reporters, and once a year, they and their requisite bureau producers converge in Bristol for a few days of workshops, etc. I got to take part in these workshops this year, as I work hand-in-hand with these guys every day. I had talked to them all on the phone, but only met a couple face-to-face. It was an exciting day for me – to be surrounded by so many talented, hard-working people who have the same ambitions in life as me, the same work ethic and the same drive. It was another one of those “is this real life?” moments.

We all met for dinner one night, and I sat at a table filled with pedigree and talent. At the table was Vince Doria, senior vice president and director of news, who is a down-to-earth, unassuming and brilliant man. Also at my table were reporters Jeremy Schaap, T.J. Quinn and Mark Schwarz. If you’re not a sports fan and don’t know those names, trust me, they’re good. And hilarious. I laughed all night and felt included in the club. I am honored to be a part of ESPN, thrilled to be a part of all that talent, and overjoyed that I’ve been given so many blessings in life. I don’t know if I deserve them all, but I’ll always be grateful.

Losing weight
I’ve turned a corner in my thinking, and even though I have a condition that doesn’t make weight loss easy, I’m going to work hard. I just want to be healthy. I got the happy part down, but I want to be healthy enough to enjoy this happiness for a long time. I lost three pounds on vacation – I’m proud of that. I think I’ve finally realized that it’s not a diet I’m on, but the rest of my life being healthy. I spent the first 36 years (give or take a year or two) eating whatever I wanted and not exercising religiously. I’m so proud of my cousin John, who never really had a huge weight problem but inherited some of the Hart genes. He’s worked his ass off and he looks fantastic. He and my fabulous father continue to be inspirations.

So to recap, things are going pretty good for me right now. Except for the whole no-Jewish man thing. I’m still working on that one. Wish me luck, even though I feel guilty asking for anything else! 🙂

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Comparisons: 1995 Sarah vs. 2011 Sarah (Introspection 101)

I’m a few months from my 37th birthday. That doesn’t look as bad on the computer screen as it feels in my head.

I realize that 37 isn’t technically old. It ain’t 22, which I’m pretty sure was my favorite year on earth. I say pretty sure because I don’t remember much of it. Ah, college. Ah, Tahlequah. The entire city has an above-the-legal-limit blood alcohol level, I’m convinced.

I’ve been a Tulsan since 2002, after spending 10 years in Tahlequah. This year, especially, has been pivotal, and I have a feeling the Wheel of Fortune hasn’t stopped turning, either for bad or for evil. (I’m not talking about the show, though in my advanced years, I like that a lot now too.)

Events in my life seem to be spiraling quickly. Once you set the ol’ wheel in motion in my life, you have to hold on. I’m slow to motivate, but once I’ve got my mind made up, it’s on. I blame my fiery Aries mama for this.

Some new developments, for those who care: Still waiting to hear from ESPN. Lost my job at the Food Bank. Putting my house on the market. Hopefully doing some freelance work. Minimizing, my stuff and my rotund self.

To kick off this effort (that sound SO MUCH like a press release) I’ve decided to pit 2011 Sarah against 1995 Sarah. It’s a startling contrast, and I’m proud to say that 2011 Sarah wins… not in the Charlie Sheen sense, but still.

1995 Sarah’s job: Manager, Del Rancho restaurant.
2011 Sarah’s job: Assistant editor, Tulsa World.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s bedtime:  5 a.m., or whenever we heard the birds and the streetsweeper, we knew it was time to retire.
2011 Sarah’s bedtime: A much more reasonable 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., but only because I now only have one job and it’s a later start. And I’m a natural night owl.
Advantage: 2011, though 1995 was way more fun.

Oh, Sarah. Where did you get these ridiculous outfits? The hair alone is bad enough. But I thought I was bad-ass. Hilarious. It was 1995. That's my excuse.

1995 Sarah’s clothes: Hippie not-so-chic, cut-off corduroys, flower-print Doc Martens, band T-shirts, no makeup, no hairdryer, no straightener, no jewelry. Sack-like dresses
2011 Sarah’s clothes: Black pants in various cuts, black dresses, solid-print tops with black cardigans, black and more black, a spot of jewelry, hair blown dry every day and straightened, or at least brushed, makeup every day.
Advantage: 2011, by a longshot.

1995 Sarah’s diet: Pasta-Roni, Taco Bell, sandwiches. Chinese food from Grand China.
2011 Sarah’s diet: Whatever I can find, Taco Bueno, homemade Chinese food, lots of soup.
Advantage: Tie. I still eat horrible food on occasion. I really wish my parents would’ve let me have more fast food growing up so I didn’t feel the compulsion to make up for lost time.

1995 Sarah’s fitness: 12-ounce curls, bong-lifting and other recreational “hobbies,”  couch-jumping.
2011 Sarah’s fitness: Lots of walking, active gym membership (just got a new one at the Y, going today for the first time!)… but more than that, an actual knowledge of the need for fitness instead of a general lack of caring.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s relationships: Blah.
2011 Sarah’s relationships: Blah, but don’t really give a shit.
Advantage: Blah.

1995 Sarah’s inner peace: Fabricated by copious amounts of weed and alcohol
2011 Sarah’s inner peace: Somewhat tattered, but at least it can pass a drug test. Lack of paranoia is refreshing.
Advantage: 2011.

1995 Sarah’s ambition: Throwing the Best Party Ever, seeing more shows than you.
2011 Sarah’s ambition: Sky-high. Maybe I can still become a singer (kidding). Entering poetry and short-story contests.  Trying for new job on the East Coast. The Novel isn’t just a dream anymore, it’s rising to the surface.
Advantage: Depends on the outcome. Some days, I really miss the carefree days of college, when I was just accruing debt instead of dreaming about paying it off. I miss going to two shows a week, drinking shots every night, etc. But now, I wake up with more hope instead of hangovers. If I accomplish everything I hope to, then definitely Advantage 2011.

1995 Sarah’s lodging: Cheap rent house. At one time, we paid $53/month to rent this cheap little house because so many people lived in it.
2011 Sarah’s lodging: My own house, which I’m about to put on the market. Homeownership is great, some of the time.
Advantage: I wouldn’t be saying this last year, but advantage 1995. I miss renting. I miss the freedom to just up and leave. I hope my house sells.

1995 Sarah’s friends: I saw them every day. I had a lot. I loved them like family.
2011 Sarah’s friends: I don’t see them enough. I have many left. I love them like family.
Advantage: Tie. Damn we had fun. I made the best friends I could’ve ever made in college, and fortunately, most of them are still just a phone call away. The slight tip of the scale would go to 1995, but 2011 is strong in the knowledge that they’re not going anywhere. Love you guys.

 1995 Sarah’s cash flow: I lived paycheck to paycheck, but didn’t hardly have any bills. Always had money for clothes and … well, everything.
2011 Sarah’s cash flow: I live paycheck to paycheck, but I’m doing what I love. Never have money.
Advantage: 2011, though it’s a close call. In 1995, I didn’t even have credit cards. I spent like there was no tomorrow and lived for financial aid’s change checks. At least in 2011 I have some accountability, and am paying off the debt I accrued in the early 2000s.

1995 Sarah’s music: Jane’s Addiction, Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, The Doors, Tripping Daisy, Ween, Hole, Pearl Jam, Flaming Lips, anything “stoner rock” or “trippy rock.”
2011 Sarah’s music: Boundless. Ween (for the win!), Bob Dylan, Professor Longhair, The Modern Lovers, Sex Pistols, Nat King Cole, The Libertines, U2, Jane’s Addiction, Balfa Brothers, Roxy Music, Duran Duran, Morrissey/Smiths, Black Sabbath, Pavement, Norah Jones… the list goes on.
Advantage: 2011. Technology has made my music library swell to unbelievable heights. I don’t get to go to as many shows as before, but I can immerse myself in music so much easier than before. It’s still my No. 1 hobby, which hasn’t changed since 1978, but now it’s all at my fingertips… HUGE advantage 2011.

There are more comparisons, but these are the ones I’ve undertaken. I challenge you to pit yourself against another time and see what era comes out the winner. It’s enlightening to see how far you’ve come, and it makes you realize that you’re got it pretty good.

Advantage: Sarah.

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Love your mother. Love, Your Mother

I don’t normally get all sucked into the drama of Mother’s Day, but I’ve had to read a lot about it at work the last few days, and on Facebook. It seems to be advertised everywhere this year too. More than usual. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to turn off the TV.

NEVER!

But seriously, it’s not Mother’s Day that gets me. It’s random Tuesdays, when I see something that reminds me of my dear sweet mama, and I feel this pull in my heart, a pang of sadness that’s never, ever going away. I lost my mom in 2003 as a result of a fire. It was an awful time, most of which my crafty brain has blurred for me. I blurred a lot of it myself with random brain-cell killing substances.

My mom was my best friend. Best friends fight, and hoo boy did we fight. But I loved her like no one else. We were 20 years apart, and she used to tell me, “You’re the only thing I have in this world that’s truly mine.” She knew I’d walk through fire for her. And I wish I could have that day — taken those flames instead of her.

I’m working at the Food Bank this Saturday morning, and it’s empty save a few souls who are in other sections of the building. So I was walking down the hall, whistling “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison. I love whistling; my Papa taught me how to do it when I was little. My mom used to tell me, “A whistlin’ girl never gets a husband.” Not sure where that bit of wisdom came from, but since I’m 36 and have never been married, maybe she was on to something. Mom was married five times; I never heard her whistle.

My mom was full of sage comments like that. Something she picked up along the way in rural Oklahoma, I’m assuming. She grew up in the sticks of Henryetta, made her own clothes, lived on a farm, was the youngest of five, went to Sunday school, Sunday night services, Missionettes on Tuesday and Wednesday church. If the doors were open, the Thomases were at church.

She was not like anyone else in the family, I’m convinced, though probably closest to my Aunt Mary. Mom was funny, weird, into music and comedy, and oh-so-smart. She knew everything. She taught me a lot of what she knew… but not enough. She could do plumbing, carpentry work, masonry, electric work, build entire rooms…  She was amazing. She didn’t know much about cars, but knew that nail glue fixed just about anything.

My mom always smelled good, but wore no perfume. She was always beautiful, but didn’t wear much makeup. Her food always tasted delicious, but I think she only used salt and pepper, never fresh herbs or olive oil. Mom believed that the only temperature worth using on the oven was 350 degrees. Mom LIVED on diet Coke, crackers, candy and Yarnell’s ice cream, but had a beautiful figure and the most amazing legs ever. (I didn’t inherit these genes…)

Mom died on July 11, 2003. My brother and I had to OK turning off life support. It was easy for me to do once I picked up her leg in the hospital room and I could wrap my thumb and index finger around her calf. Those amazing legs were wasting away. She didn’t know me anymore. A fever of 108 degrees robbed her brain of its usefulness. It was a hard decision. But I’m very glad I made it. She would’ve hated me to keep her alive.

Not a day — probably not an hour — goes by that I don’t miss my mom. She was such an integral part of my life, and I didn’t even know it then. I knew I liked her, and that she was incredibly important to me, but I didn’t realize just how much she changed my life, made me who I am. She was rock-solid and flexible. She was honest and knew when to stretch the truth. She was a friend and a mom… mostly a mom. She didn’t cave. She didn’t let me run wild. Because of her, I graduated from high school, college, and went on to do the job she would’ve done had she not gotten pregnant with me while she was in college.

She told me once that I’d lived out her dreams. She told me never to allow myself to be taken care of completely, but to do it for myself. She could never fully accomplish that in her own life. She didn’t become the journalist she wanted to become. I did. And now, I look over my life, and I’m pretty damn happy with it. I’ve done what my mother wanted, and what I, in turn, wanted too.

I get angry when people disparage their moms. I realize I won the Mom Lottery, that not all moms are as great as mine. But still, it’s your mother. Love your mother. Don’t talk down to her. She gave you part of her body for nine months, give or take. She kept you alive, or gave you to someone who could keep you alive. You don’t have to worship her, but for God’s sake, treat her right.

I’d give my whole life for five more coherent minutes with Mom. I have a memory of a soft white sweatshirt she often wore, and my head laying on her shoulder. The comfort, the smell, the complete abandonment of fear… that’s where my mind goes when I miss her.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all of you moms, mamas, mothers, mommies, nanas, meemaws and the like. You are loved.

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