Category Archives: Friends

This one goes to 11: Songs that got me through an honest-to-God rough patch

Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I went through a breakup recently. It was the first one in many years, and it was an intense relationship, so I wasn’t prepared for the emotional folly that followed. Let’s just say that it didn’t end well, and, truth be told, I never actually HEARD from my ex – he just sort of disappeared, but left me with the blame. Yay! Nothing like wading into the waters and meeting a cowardly ghost-shark first thing.

No big deal, really – I should be thankful it’s over. And despite his sharkness, I’m not afraid of the water. But it took me a lot longer to get over than I expected. I think it’s mostly because A) I’m a  journalist, and if you leave me with a thousand questions, I almost can’t recover; and B) I’m an ENFP personality type, and leaving one of us in the lurch with no closure or comeuppance is almost life-threatening.

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On a recent hike I took… I’m fine now, I swear. Hiking was also huge in getting over a lot of shite.

Couple that breakup with several rounds of sickness, the death of my stepfather and lots of traveling, and you have kind of a delayed response to “just getting the hell over it.” But the breakup – that was the biggest bee in my bonnet. It hurt. Like hell. Still does. Just less sharp, more dull now. Much easier to tolerate.

And as usual, my friends and family came through for me. As usual, my team of sisters and one brother, my parental units, my BFFs, co-worker BFFs, my cats, my backyard birds and the voice of my mother got me through it. As usual, I chose the wrong person – but hopefully there’s an end to that someday. Lord knows I haven’t been in a big hurry to return to the dating world. Not that I haven’t had offers, but every time I think I want to accept, I just haven’t. Not because I want The Jerk back, but because I don’t want to pick The Jerk again, ya know? “We won’t get fooled again” or something.

Anyway— I am especially thankful for another group of friends who helped me through one of the more awful periods of my life – my musical BFFs. In these last few months, my tastes have been all over the place. I didn’t listen to any love songs at all for the first two months — just hardcore rap, smooth hip-hop and “why don’t you just go ahead and get eaten by a bear” songs. This is a departure for a hardcore optimist like me. I kind of hated it, but I also knew it was necessary.

Some true winners emerged from that dark time, and I want to address them here.

  1. Beast, “Mr. Hurricane.”

I heard this song one morning right after the breakup. I was walking into work, sunglasses on to hide my sleepless eyes, trying to look happy and optimistic. Faking it. Completely and totally faking it – because inside I was so confused, hurt and angry, and wanted to run away from it all. I wanted answers, but my pride (and the voice of my mom from beyond the grave, not to mention all my family/friends) stopped me from calling him to get the answers, which probably wouldn’t have helped my anyway.

I was so overcome by the lyrics, I went back to my car and listened to the song on full volume. I cried. I screamed. Security was NOT called (thankfully). But, just like everyone going through a breakup or new love situation, you think the lyrics are written FOR YOU. It spoke to me. It was a big first step to healing.

“I stopped bein’ the victim

But you weren’t there to see

I never felt bitter

Till you crippled me

I felt like a refugee from the pain

I had to wear that shroud with no shame

Deceit and lies

Were your crying game

I never fell in love so deeply in vain

So I stay a while

Knife in my side

While I slowly died

Defeat from the inside

Now I scream ’til the end of the day

Never again, Mr. Hurricane”

2. Personality Crisis, New York Dolls

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. There was something magical that happened the day this song came on. It was like a life raft. It was music to my hears. (Yes, that was on purpose). Punk music in all its iterations is usually very “fuck you”-centric, and this one is no exception. And since I’m convinced that a personality crisis led to some of homeboy’s issues, it was perfect. I have since listened to this about 3 billion times. One day it’s all I listened to – over and over and over again. Perfection. Yes, I kinda lost my mind there for a bit. I don’t think most people would blame me.

“And you’re a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon

Change on into the wolfman, howlin’ at the moon, hooowww

All about that personality crisis you got it while it was hot

But now frustration and heartache is what you got…”

3. Bad Blood, Taylor Swift

Points if you knew Tay-Tay would be on this list… she was made for breakups. I get that now. Immediately after it happened, I had to go to Oklahoma for my stepdad’s funeral. (Of course it all happened at the same time!) So I downloaded a bunch of Taylor that I could listen to on the plane and try to make sense of what the hell had just happened to me. It helped, this song especially. I wanted to have one of those scenes like from a movie – I wanted to get up and sing it to the rest of the passengers, and have them sing the chorus and chant “HE’S AN ASSHOLE (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)… I wanted an audience to feel what I’d been through — me and Taylor – and it was somehow very soothing. I love you, Ms. Swift. Forever. Thank you for writing what we all feel. (And of COURSE “Shake it Off” was listened to on repeat. The whole 1989 album, really – just this one, I feel like I finally GOT, ya know?)

“Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted

Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted

Did you have to hit me, where I’m weak? Baby, I couldn’t breathe

And rub it in so deep, salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me…”

4. No Chump Love Sucker, Red Hot Chili Peppers

A song of immense pride mixed with a healthy dose of hurt. Written from a male perspective, of course, but just perfect when you’re FURIOUS. I heard this one day and basically trashed my office jumping around, throwing things (like boxes of Kleenex, nothing damaging) and scaring my cats. Looking back, I wish I’d videotaped that. Good times.

“I’m through with your bluefish

I’m through with your gash

I’m through being screwed with

By you and your whack attack

5. Eazy-Duz-It, Eazy-E

This unfortunate time coincided with me watching “Straight Outta Compton,” which was also kind of a rebellion, as he didn’t see the need to watch the movie because “he lived it.” OK. I think you missed the point of biopics and are just attempting to sound like a tough guy, but whatevs.

So after watching the movie, I was like “THIS IS WHAT I NEED.” Angry music that has nothing to do with love. Angry political music. Real people music. It led to my mind being kind of steered back to more important things, and I immersed myself in old-school rap of all sorts afterward.

Who knew Slick Rick, NWA, Public Enemy and the like could be so soothing.

“Rolling through the hood, cold tearing shit up

Stick my head out the window and I say what’s up

To the (omitted) on the corner cold bumping the box

But you know that’s an alibi for slanging the rocks…”

  1. Beyonce, “Sorry.”

This is a more recent addition, and damn I wish I’d heard it sooner. It would have been No. 1 on this list. It could have been so good for me. But I got it a few weeks ago, and it still works. I don’t care if this whole Bey-Jay thing is fake beef or not. It’s powerful, and it’s meaningful, and most people can relate. Most women, for sure. When I listened to the lyrics to this song, I felt BETTER. And I do every time I hear it. Thank you, Beyonce, for being strong. Even if it’s not real. Also, I want to be Serena when I grow up and I so wish I was on this bus with these beautiful women. They look like they’re having fun and I NEED FUN! 🙂

“Middle fingers up, put them hands high

Wave it in his face, tell him, BOY, BYE

Tell him, boy, bye, middle fingers up

I ain’t thinking ’bout you…”

  1. Fuel My Fire, The Prodigy

This one has gotten me through a few breakups. This one was no different. Pure bitterness with a great beat. Also an awesome song to take with you on the elliptical machine, when you’re running on pure fury and pain. And yes, L7 wrote it—but this version is better, I think.

“I’ve got a word of thanks

that I’d like to say

for the way that I feel today.

Got stacks, got stacks

stacks of chips on my shoulder

in everything I do cuz I made, I made

I made the mistake … the mistake of trusting you

Yeah, people like you just fuel my fire

Yeah, people like you just do

You liar… You liaaaaar”

  1. For the Time Being, Edie Brickell

After a dressing-down I received at the hands of a friend of the ex – to which I never responded, because it was all lies and bullshit anyway, and why engage? – I heard this randomly. I’ve liked the song since I saw the movie “The Way Way Back.” But it fit the moment well. And still makes me laugh when I hear it. The impassioned response I got was, looking back, pretty hilarious. (But again, I never heard from him, just her.) There’s so much more to this story, but I learned my lesson about blogging unhinged.

“It must be nice to be full of good advice to say

It must be sweet, but I’ll call you if I need it

I’m doing alright for the time,

Fine for the time being

I’ll need professional help if it does get any worse than this

I’ll be out on a ledge if it does get any worse than this

I’m doing alright for the time,

Fine for the time being

You think you know me well

You think you know me well

But you don’t know me at all.”

9. Bulletproof Soul, Sade

Ms. Adu has been a part of my life since I was a wee tot. The album “Love Deluxe” is still in my top 10. This song developed new meaning for me, 25 years or so after I’d first heard it. I was still really hurting and listening to a lot of mopey stuff. This came on one day and it was like that beautiful woman was sitting next to me, patting my hair, singing soft words of encouragement. I love you, Sade, you brilliant badass beauty. And I DID leave like a lion, TYVM!

“You were trigger happy baby

You never warned me let me free

It’s not that complicated

But you’re going to need a bullet proof soul

Think you got it but you got all the trouble you need

I came in like a lamb

But I intend to leave like a lion.”

10. Electric Relaxation, A Tribe Called Quest

Coinciding with this terrible time in my life were the deaths of some of my favorite musicians – David Bowie, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, and of course, Prince. But Tribe was there for me during all this. Well before the breakup, I’d been on a huge Tribe kick. For the last year or so, it’s been on a regular rotation. The smooth, relaxing beats were medicine to me during the hard times. Dawg’s death just led me to listen to them more. It took my mind off the bitterness and gave it room to explore. It gave my brain a reprieve. And the joy – the pure, simple, melodic joy that is this song – was the best thing for me. I thank Tribe so much for this. Tribe made me chill the fuck out. Tribe led to peace. RIP, Phife.

“Relax yourself girl, please set-tle down

Stretch out your legs, let me make you bawl

Drive you insane, drive you up the wall

Staring at your dome-piece, very strong

Stronger than pride, stronger than Teflon…”

  1. 28,000 Days, Alicia Keys

I heard this in a commercial or something while I was working the SEC Tournament in Nashville. I fell in love instantaneously. It was like a lifeline. Like Alicia was shouting “HEY STUPID, GET YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER!”

I had a one-day hotel stay at the airport in Orlando after the tournament, then I would meet my Best Good Friend Renae and her son Oliver for our trip to Disney World. This was after a nine-day stretch of SEC tournament basketball and travel… a few weeks after all this mess.

That night, sick as a dog but somehow OK, I felt like myself again for the first time. I was excited about seeing my people, happy with how things had gone at the tournament, and not thinking about Mr. Hurricane. I danced around my hotel room, playing this song on my little iPad speakers, acting it out, flailing, being an idiot. I realized that life is, indeed, too short to just throw it away. I’ll leave that to him. He can be self-destructive as long as he wants. Thank God he didn’t pull me down with him. I swear to God this song fell into my lap at the exact right moment. God works in mysterious ways, huh?

“Back from hell with my angel wings

Ain’t no fear in my voice

Cause I’m making a choice

The devil ain’t no friend of me

And that clock on the wall is telling me

There’s only 28 thousand days

Who would you love? Where would you go?

What would you celebrate?

I’m telling you that life’s too short to just throw it away

So have the time of your life, so have the time of your life…”

And that’s what I intend to do from now on, Ms. Keys. Thank you.

 

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Filed under Family, Friends, Fun!, General Nonsense, Haters, Love, Mom, Movies, Music, Relationships, Travel, TV, Uncategorized, Women

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

My mom, me and Nick in Branson at

My mom, me and Nick in Branson at “Hound Dog Nellie’s,” another inside joke.

My little brother is one of my best friends. I heard “No Rain” by Blind Melon first thing this morning, and I’m reminded of our wonderful friendship.

I’ve known he was one of my best friends since 1990, when he stopped annoying the shit out of me and started being a cool little dude who I could drag with me anywhere I went. He became my sidekick.

He’s 30 now, and to this day, we still get along great. He’s lived with me on and off many times through the years, and moved to Connecticut a year after I did. It’s been the biggest blessing I could have – someone who looks and sounds like me, and knows my history, knows my pain, knows what makes me laugh, right here in my new home,1,500 miles away from our real home.

We’ve been through terrible things together, including the death of our mother. We have so many stupid inside jokes — a lot of them came from driving back and forth to Wichita when Mom was in the hospital.  I would not have made it through that without him. I felt like I had to be there for him, and I know he felt the same.

He’s one of the first people I called when I got the job at ESPN, and he knows everything about me. And he still likes me! Now that he’s up here, he’s finding a new part of himself – the outdoorsman who appreciates life, beauty and conservation (and good Vermont beer!) He and I recreate Oklahoma in the kitchen, making biscuits and gravy, Mexican food and other things we like that people up here don’t get. How could I get too homesick when I’ve got one of my favorite parts of Oklahoma living with me?

He’s gone this weekend, and I miss him. He’s free to do whatever he wants in his life, but when he decides to leave my nest, it’s going to be hard for me to adjust.

He’s grown into this great man who can do anything, just like his dad and my mom. I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have four wonderful sisters and one awesome brother, but I don’t take it for granted. Ever. (I hope.) He pushes me to do things. He saves me from myself. He believes that, yes, someday, I’ll get married, and that someone will like me enough to actually spend their life with me! 🙂 Of course I believe the same about him. But he’s much better at relationships than I am – he’s been in a steady relationship for two years now up here in New England, and the only thing I do is work. We have different priorities, but he makes me think about mine.

I remember the day Nick and I started being “friends” instead of “siblings.” He was 5, and I was “babysitting” him at our house in Muskogee, Oklahoma. I had just learned to drive and we were both sick and tired of sitting at home. He was a very picky eater then, which is hilarious now because he would eat anything you throw at him… but I dragged him to Hamlin’s East in Muskogee and forced him to try foods he wouldn’t normally. He loved it. And we laughed our heads off. I started picking him up from school. I loved that – I felt so grown-up when I would leave Muskogee High and stop by Creek Elementary to pick up the little dude. I’d force him to listen to tapes in the car, then he started actually liking the songs I played him. I made him mix tapes. I warped his precious little mind.

But I have this one moment in our childhoods that I cherish. I don’t really know why, but it’s one of my happiest memories of our time together, and my life.

We were in the gameroom of our house. He was maybe 8, and I had just completed my first year of college at Northeastern State in Tahlequah. I stayed with him over the summer, my last summer at home. We were, of course, watching MTV, and I think 120 Minutes or a show like that was on. I heard the beginnings of “No Rain” by Blind Melon, then saw the Bee Girl on stage. Now, I should mention that I deeply identify with the Bee Girl. I was a bit of a weirdo/unpopular girl, kind of a misfit, and I’d even had a bee costume I wore for Halloween as a kid. I had just started meeting my core group of friends, who were Bee People too. I’d just started feeling accepted, and just started realizing I wasn’t a complete freak. That video hit me square in the gut. It still makes me cry happy tears.

My mom never encouraged us to be like anyone else. And there was something about that song – at that time – me being 18 or so and “finding myself” and the friends and family I’d have for the rest of my life. Every day felt like a rose opening. Every day, it opened a bit more, and I felt something new and exciting, something awe-inspiring about growing up and just living. And my brother — little and cute and curly-headed – was always there with me, never judging me or trying to emulate me, but just being my brother and friend.

So on that day, in the gameroom, we watched the video. When it was over, I looked at Nick and said, “Hey, you wanna go get that CD?” Of course, these were the days before Internet radio, Spotify and the like – you actually had to haul off and buy the damn CD, with his two-foot long plastic case around it.

I was working at McDonald’s then and not making a lot of money. So in typical Sarah fashion, I blew what cash I had on music. I drove like a woman possessed to Hastings, with him in the car, and bought the first Blind Melon CD and drove home. At that time, Mom was working crazy hours as a nurse, and Nick’s dad, Pat, wasn’t home yet. So I’d started dinner when I got home. I brought my little jambox into the kitchen, put on the CD, and hit play. We danced in the kitchen to “No Rain” on repeat. It is, to this day, one of my very favorite songs.

I’m not sure why I love that memory. It felt like a moment of freedom, independence and just having fun with the people I love. Nick has never, and will never, judge me. Hopefully that works both ways. I was such a self-conscious kid, and Nick was the same way. We felt like we had to act a certain way, and couldn’t really goof off or anything, lest we get in trouble or make a “scene.” Not sure where that came from, but that day in the kitchen, we danced like idiots and sang and danced some more. We realized we had each other’s back – subconsciously of course, as I wasn’t as introspective then as I am now.

My brother is one of my best friends. I don’t want to ever think about living a day without him.

When Nick was little, our mom told me, “I wish I could be more like Nick.” She was right. He’s just a great little dude, and I’m lucky to have him. Thanks for being you, Buster Thurperson. And I miss you, Shannon Hoon. And Mom.

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Friends, General Nonsense, Music, Oklahoma

Happy Birthday, Erin McClanahan of the Clan McClanahan

Yesterday, for the first time in 20 years or so, I didn’t make a phone call. I didn’t call someone who’s birthday fell on Jan. 18 – though I usually got that wrong, as another one of my best friends, Trey, has a birthday on Jan. 16, so I always got them mixed up. I usually had to call Renae, my life organizer and Best Good Friend, to get it straightened out.

erinmeBut yesterday I remembered clearly.

I didn’t sit around and mourn, mostly because my life allows for so few opportunities for a social life, I took it up on one and spent the day with girlfriends watching football games at a sports bar. I honestly think Erin would have preferred that – not to discount those who mourned him yesterday. He would have expected that too!

But regardless of the fact, he was there, in my mind, his birthday kind of like that song you don’t want to hear that’s playing over and again in your head.

Erin would have been 42 yesterday. My Erin. One of the most special people that ever walked the earth, who didn’t walk it nearly long enough, was born on January 18. He had legendary parties for his birthday – or I think they were for his birthday. We had a lot of parties. Perhaps some were for special occasions. Most, it seemed, were for us to just be around each other. Looking back, I think Erin knew he had to jam as much fun as possible into his life, because maybe he kinda knew – like my mom did – that his days were numbered.

On Friday of last week, on two separate occasions, I made comments about “my last meal,” kind of offhand comments about food I like. I thought, “I wonder what Erin would have wanted his last meal to be.” Probably a “fish-o-filet, heavy on the tar-tar” from McDonald’s. Or really, anything from McD’s. He’d want his grandma’s chicken and dumplings. He’d want beans and cornbread, Indian tacos, chicken casserole – something like that.

Because try as you might, you could not change Erin. You couldn’t get him to stop eating McD’s. Ever. It was his favorite post-bar treat. It was his favorite breakfast. For someone who took pride in his appearance and worked to make sure he wasn’t gaining weight, he sure liked to wolf down the McDonald’s.

Again, I think it’s because he knew. Live it up, he told himself. He wasn’t a teetotaler. In fact, his partying ways had a direct hand in his untimely death.

But I’m not sure, looking back, if Erin would have wanted it otherwise. He certainly didn’t try to change, even when he knew he was sick.

That’s not why I started writing today – I’ve spent the last several months since Erin died in this weird place where I forget every now and then that he’s gone. I think that’s a product of working where I do, the place that occupies my mind most of the time. It’s when I’m alone at night, when the dog is sleeping and the cats are satisfied, when the email is tended to and the laundry is put away, when I’ve forced food down my throat (eating has become a chore lately, but that’s a blog for another time) and I’m in the twilight of my evening, when Erin comes to me in my memory. It’s usually something funny. I have adopted so many of Erin’s phrases that I don’t even think about them being his sometimes. I think of something funny that happened at work and how I’d like to tell Erin.

Now, grief is no new thing for me, which I think has made Erin’s death different for me. You see, losing a parent kind of sets you up for anything. You can’t imagine anything hurting like that – until it does. But it’s a different hurt. It’s familiar, so you can deal with it better, but it’s a hurt tied to memories of a different kind — not the same as a memory with a parent. Erin is in most of my fun memories — memories of driving back from Tulsa on New Year’s Eve and stopping by Denny’s in Muskogee on our way home – I went to the bathroom, and when I came out, Erin was sitting on the bench with a black family, hooting and hollering, the whole family laughing. He was trashed, but they just thought he was funny. Memories of long road trips and his helping me pick out a house to buy. (We drove all over Tulsa with a Bob Dylan mix of mine playing. Toward the end of the day, he looked at me and said, “I don’t think I can take anymore Bob. I’m sorry.”)

erinnaeme So, so many memories. And I’m grateful for them. I wish he was around to make more – God, I wish that more than anything. I hope he knows that. But I’m so honored to have the memories I do. Erin, this person I couldn’t do justice with an explanation if I tried – he loved me. I loved him. We were true friends – he and Renae, Kathalene and I – his Tahlequah sisters. He had a million jokes for each of us, had a million nicknames. We were his girls. NOT his HAGS, for God’s sake, because Erin wasn’t that kind of gay guy. He was just a guy who happened to be gay, and he was the first gay person I knew well EVER. Because I loved him, and because of my wild, different, perfect group of friends, I was fortunate enough to get to know gay people as PEOPLE first. That’s why I have a hard time understanding why anyone would have a problem with gay people, or any people for that matter. Erin got mad at comments that he “chose” being gay. It had driven a wedge between he and his father — “Why would I choose that? Why would anyone?” he’d say. Erin taught me that we’re all in this together. We just have different soundtracks.

And on that note, Erin’s actual music soundtrack was way different than any other gay guy (or straight guy) I knew. He loved the Grateful Dead, James Taylor, Loretta Lynn, String Cheese Incident… so many more. He knew all the old gospel songs and often imitated his beloved grandmother’s hand clapping when he sang them. Oh, and he sang beautifully – really – and shared it with anyone who asked.

I loved Erin. I will always love Erin. He and I had a few bumps along the way – common for roommates who lived together for so long – but I haven’t thought of any of those days since Erin died. Another thing I’ve learned about grief is that it allows you to see the absolute best in people – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I want to remember Erin for that laugh, the simplicity with which he lived his life, his style, his jokes, his homemade noodles…

Side story, Erin and my mom had this special relationship. I’m not sure why, but my mom adored him. When they met, they had a long conversation about the importance of cleaning the top of the Dawn dish liquid bottle. And from then on, Mom always asked about him and they sometimes just talked on the phone when she’d call me at the house. I hope they are telling jokes together with his grandma and my Nana in the Great Beyond. I hope he’s wearing an oversized flannel coat, a beautifully laundered and delicious-smelling T-shirt (the boy had some sort of magical powers with Downy) and comfy jeans. And Minnetonkas.

I hope he never, ever stops laughing.

I love you Erin. Happy birthday. You’re in my heart forever.

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Filed under Family, Friends, Love, Tahlequah, Tulsa

Why I Love Oklahoma (and a few things I don’t like about it)

I just got back from a week in Oklahoma, my native land, where my people are buried. And though I’m glad to be home, overjoyed to have the job I do and happy where I’m at, I still was a complete wreck on the plane, crying my eyes out watching Tulsa County slip away out of the tiny airplane window. I wore my sunglasses on the plane – I usually make fun of people who do that. But maybe they’re trying to hide their tears too.

It was cloudy, so my view was a bit obstructed. It cleared closer to Texas, and we began our descent into DFW in time for me to see the Red River snaking across the view. “We need rain,” I thought, my one-generation-removed-from-the-farm mind still kicking in.

In a few hours, I would be in New England again. I finally stopped crying once I left DFW on the second leg, but the tears came back on my road back to Bristol from Bradley. I was listening to Oklahoma music – I thought I’d better get all those emotions out now, before I go back to work. I certainly don’t want to cry in front of an NFL Hall of Famer or anything.

But I was thinking a lot on the drive home. About why I’m not in Oklahoma anymore. It’s not permanent, as I know I’ll be back there to retire whenever that is. Or whenever the Thunder want to make me head of communications… whichever comes first. But anyway, I thought of a co-worker of mine at ESPN who flat-out asked me once, “Why do people live in Oklahoma?” This was after a tornado, not just a general condemnation of the Sooner State. As I drove home, I thought of some of the reasons I love it, but also a few why I don’t. So without any further ado…

WHY I LOVE OKLAHOMA…

 It’s NOT:

  1. The heat. I was a few moments into a 90-degree Monday afternoon when I realized I just can’t hack the heat anymore. Fortunately, 99 percent of Oklahoma is cooled to the hilt with the best AC money can buy. But I’m quickly becoming an East Coaster who can’t tolerate anything over 80.
  2. The politics. Seriously, I’m sitting with my friends, many of whom have children, are teachers or just interested in education, and I’m realizing just how bad the schools and government are. Seriously, people, put politics aside – who cares who’s wrong and who’s right? You’re getting lapped by everyone else because you take tax breaks out on kids. This will have long-reaching effects. People won’t want to stay to raise their kids if the schools are the worst in the nation. And the job market isn’t as good as it should be. Oklahoma is an affordable state with natural resources out the ying-yang. If you wreck it now, it’s going to wreak havoc for years and years to come. What happened to the lottery saving education? Where is that money going? Quit trying to marry church and state again and let your kids get smart enough to make their own decisions.
  3. The roads. Yes, we pay high taxes in Connecticut. But our roads – even after 100-plus inches of ice and snow this winter – are in great shape. I got carsick on Oklahoma roads this time. Fix your infrastructure, or it’s all going to come crumbling down someday.

Now on to the good stuff.

 It IS:

  1. The people. Oh my God, it was great to be around people who genuinely seem to care about each other, even if they don’t know each other. I was in Reasor’s in Tahlequah on Saturday and saw so many people saying hi, thank you, excuse me, etc. – Hey, New England: It’s called human kindness. Try it. You’ll like it. Today, back in Bristol, I went to the grocery store and acted like an Oklahoman again. I will NEVER lose that part of myself, I hope. And besides – all my friends are there. I will never forget that. We had a full house in Tahlequah at Arrowhead, to celebrate the life of one of our great friends. I love them all, and realized that I couldn’t lose them if I tried. (And why would I do that? They like me in spite of me!)
  2. The weather (but not the heat). I had missed thunder and lightning so much – I got to hear and see it again. Also, thanks, weather gods, for the absolutely PERFECT Saturday afternoon on the Illinois River in Tahlequah! I also miss that winter lasts about 45 minutes, not six months like Connecticut.
  3. The food. Holy shit, ya’ll. Oklahoma food is just so much better than anything in Connecticut. Taco Bueno is so, so much better than anything they attempt to sell as “Mexican food” up here. It’s funny to see them try up here… but not funny to eat. Blargh. My first stop was Bueno, my last was Rib Crib. I somehow lost weight on vacation, but I think it’s because I was walking a lot.
  4. The accent. Because it makes everyone up here go, “Where  ARE you from?” It’s not Southern, really, and it’s not Texas. It’s Oklahoman, and it’s a thing of beauty.
  5. The music. Woody Guthrie started it. Let’s not let Crazy Wayne Coyne finish it…
  6. The heritage. A little bit of everything we are — mutts, half-Indian or 1/128th Choctaw, whatever you are. We look different than people do on the East Coast. And it’s beautiful. Oklahoma girls and boys are… well, HOT!
  7. The way it makes me feel. Oklahoma, for me, is a state of mind. When I first arrived last week, I walked off the plane and my Inner Oklahoman was fully engaged, like it had been on standby for three years, ready to spring back to life. It’s slower. It’s friendlier. It’s peaceful. And it’s home – always has been, always will be. The bones of my mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles and many friends take up residence in Oklahoma dirt. I ran my 1969 Cutlass into the weird wall in the parking lot of the Braum’s on 32nd in Muskogee. I got on stage with Tripping Daisy at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa (and had many, many more great times there, both pre- and post-air conditioning.) I drank to excess for the first time in Park Hill, Oklahoma, in a trailer full of people who would go on to become some of my best friends. I have fallen in and out of love, made and unmade friends, lost family, gained even more family, and found that I had to leave to get where I wanted – all that happened in Oklahoma – 36 of my 39 years were in Green Country. It’s who I am.

I could go on and on like this. And I guess crying every time I leave is going to keep happening, so I had better save some of it for the next trip. I’m going to leave part of myself in Oklahoma every time I go, I guess. But really, I’m already all the way there, and taking part of me to Connecticut every time I leave the Red Dirt State. It’s where I know I’ll end up someday, even if I talk real big about how I’m going to live out my days in San Francisco.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to do anything I want with my life, and moving to New England will help make that possible, thanks to my career and the wonderful company I work for – but I know that, for me, all roads lead to Oklahoma. Despite all that stuff I said above about what I don’t like about Oklahoma, I know I’ll be back. And when I do get back, meet me under that Oklahoma Sky.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKTUZ-ig57M&feature=kp

 

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The Electric Christmas Card: 2013 (Happy Holidays, ya’ll!)

First things first, let me wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope your holiday season is fantastic – and you get everything you want, physically or spiritually! Thanks for reading, for being my friend, and for supporting me and laughing at my lame jokes. Mucho amor, ya’ll.

Here it is, Christmas Day, and I haven’t sent out a single card. I had some written, but just like everything else I can’t get done at a computer, they wallow in the bottom of a tote bag somewhere, unstamped.

I did this last year, so yeah, we’ll call it tradition that I’m going to do an electronic Christmas card to all y’all. And I’m sure all y’all were just holding your collective breafs waiting for this.

So wait no more! Exhale! It’s time for the Electronic Christmas Card, 2013 Version.

 Part 1: Aunts Marching

elliottWhile I already had two perfectly acceptable nephews (Jesse and J.T., my sister Lila’s boys) my other sisters took it upon themselves to have more babies and increase the nephew population. Apparently my sisters are incapable of birthing girls, because Natalie, my oldest sister, WANTED a girl and got a boy anyway. I think she’s pretty happy with Elliott regardless. But he is sleeping in a Barbie princess bed.*

 (Key: * = UNTRUE.)

(But seriously, what gives? You can’t pick your baby’s sex nowadays? No flying cars AND only a 50 percent chance of getting what you want? Thanks, Obama!)

Elliott’s pretty great, even though I met him when he was a really-boring three weeks old. I Skyped with him (and Natalie – she just HAD to be there) recently and he appeared much more fun. Natalie didn’t want me to meet him when he was already fun for fear I’d steal him.* I would, too. Natalie says he’s a really good baby, so even I could probably keep him happy, or at the very least, fed.

Anna, my youngest sister, had a boy too, Henry. He’s OK, if you like ridiculously cute babies who love you right back.henry

I don’t know why, but for some reason, Henry really liked me right off the bat – except for the moment he did almost a complete backbend when I was holding him… But otherwise, I think he could tell then, at just under four months, that I’m that aunt who will give him everything he wants. I’ve already got a pony on back-order.

Meanwhile, Lila, the only sister still living in Oklahoma, is very kind and sends me pictures of Jesse and JT even though I never send her pictures of my cats or dog. J.T., her youngest, is having a hard time adjusting to Elliott being the baby. I bet he’ll end up loving his cousin… or maybe they’ll play on opposing professional basketball teams. Elliott will be with the Heat and J.T. with the Thunder… it’ll be epic! (Why yes I do work in sports, TYVM.) Her oldest son, Jesse, is in college (at the unheard of age of 7! Amazing!)* at Bacone in Muskogee. He’s kind of a big deal.

 Part 2: Katydid!

robkateMy middle sister Katy, who lives in Seattle, brought home news on Thanksgiving. Someone wants to marry her! I know! I can’t believe it either! Kidding, she’s fabulous, and her beau/betrothed Robbie is pretty great too. They are getting married in August in Seattle in a swamp or something hippie-dippie like that. And she’s not having a wedding party, which makes me ecstatically happy. I look terrible in every single bridesmaid’s dress ever made. I’m so proud of her, and so happy for both of them. But now I’m officially the old-maid sister.

 Part 3: My Brother the Roommate

My brother, Nick, has lived with me since early January. It’s made life in Connecticut better by a country mile (though I don’t think they say that or even have any nscountry miles here) and I don’t feel like the only weirdo in New England anymore. He graduated with his master’s, didn’t know what to do with his life, and moved to Connecticut. I might have promised him streets paved with gold and water made of wine – I really wanted him to move here. And I’m still glad to have him. He met a great girl who he took to Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. She’s still dating him, so I guess she liked our great state. If she didn’t, Nick might have ended it.

We are the biggest Okie-loving people in Connecticut, for sure. We have a full-size Oklahoma flag in the basement. We continually educate people about the Sooner State (no we don’t live in teepees, no we’re not all related to each other, yes there are hills in Oklahoma, yes I’ve met Carrie Underwood/Zach Swon, yes [insert name here] really is from Oklahoma…)  We also spend a great deal of time trying to replicate our home state’s delicious foods. I have become a damn fine biscuit and gravy chef, and I made chicken fried steak a few weeks ago. It wasn’t Hungry Traveler off Highway 40 near Henryetta good, but it cured what ailed me. It’s amazing to me still that you can’t find plum jelly here. And if you want something spicy at a restaurant, it better be Asian or you’d better be packing your own Sriracha.

We also have the NBA League Pass package, which takes me back to when we were kids, watching an NBA game every night. It’s good for my career… or something.

 Part 4: My Phone Autocorrects “Obama” to “Ibaka” and Other Sports Tales

ESPN campus in the fall -- it's really purty.

ESPN campus in the fall — it’s really purty.

Notice that all the love-life updates are about my family? It’s because I’m married to Mickey Mouse. So without further ado, let’s talk shop.

It’s my third Christmas in Connecticut, which is beyond bizarre because it honestly seems like I just got here. Work is all-encompassing, and I don’t mind at all. I love the job still, even though there are times I’m so far-removed from the “real world” that I forget to live in it. I no longer watch any news at all, it seems. I read headlines, AP wires and Bottom Line-style scrollers, but I don’t know what’s going on outside the sports world – at least not in-depth. My phone really does autocorrect our president’s name with the name of the 7-foot center-forward for the Thunder. I’m OK with this.

Regular holidays are work days to me. Having time off means I only check my email 10 times a day, as compared to 100. I’m not complaining, mind you. It’s a blessing to have this job, and this year was exciting. The highlights in news breaks and events:

NBA Draft: Nearly a full week in NEW YORK CITY and I get to go to the draft, serving as an editor? It was a lot – LOT – of work, but it was also an amazing experience. I got to see how live TV happens outside a studio setting. It ain’t easy, folks. The next time you see something weird happen on TV and think everyone’s just out getting stoned or whatever, keep in mind that making television is hard and what you just saw was a tiny crack in the porcelain. It could be so much worse!

mel

Melissa in Greenwich Village

Live TV aside, I got to meet all the top picks in the draft too. Most were gentlemen – Victor Oladipo, the Indiana stud who’s now with the Magic – was a gent in every sense of the word. Our reporter, Andy Katz, was interviewing him when Victor realized I was in the room. He stopped the interview to introduce himself to me and another woman who was there, apologizing for not doing so as soon as he walked in. Right then and there I wished for him to become an All-Star one day. I’m a sucker for a gentleman, especially a really tall one in fantastic clothes.

The trip was great – my wonderful stepmother, Melissa McConnell-Hart, stayed with me most of the week. We went to Little Italy, walked all over Greenwich Village and toured Ground Zero. She traipsed all over NYC while I worked, revisiting her stomping grounds from her early days with American Airlines, when she was based there. It was hotter than hell that week, but we had a great time. I ordered room service like three times. And learned to hail cabs. What a country!

Aaron Hernandez: During the NBA Draft, the Patriots tight end was arrested on homicide charges. Needless to say, that whole thing kinda took over the summer.

Boston Marathon Bombings: It was a dark day, one I felt compelled to work on. It was a very Boston-rich year, with Hernandez and the marathon bombings, then the World Series. I can’t say I’m a fan of Boston sports teams, but I do admire their grit. They take tough situations and use them as fuel. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots ended up winning it all this season too.

Biogenesis: So there was this little steroid sting this year that caused all sorts of chaos in the baseball world, especially with my favorite player, Ryan Braun. He was suspended 65 games for testosterone use. Alex Rodriguez was suspended too but hasn’t yet accepted that. Braun was suspended on the second day of the worst vacation I’ve ever taken (Leon was sprayed by a skunk on the first day, so the rest of it was spent cleaning and pouting) so I just think of it as the dark part of the summer. When A-Rod’s news broke (211 game suspension) I was NOT on vacation, and subsequently worked one of the longest, but more satisfying, days in my career. It’s something I can’t really explain—being a part of the news, watching it unfold, sitting in the control room while it’s happening… it’s just what I always wanted, and I had no idea. Small favors and all that… I’m thankful.

Interesting people I met this year: Besides the whole cast and crew at the NBA Draft, I met a lot of neat people this year.

kenjKen Jeong, from The Hangover and Community fame, was a guest host on SportsCenter this year. He was incredibly gracious, charming and did a really great job on SC.

Lovie Smith, a former University of Tulsa player and coach, was in Bristol shortly after being fired from the Bears. I nearly tackled him (like I did Mike Gundy when he was in Bristol) to talk Oklahoma. He obliged, very happy to talk about his former life in T-Town.

David Koechner, aka Champ Kind from Anchorman: We had to cancel Will Ferrell because of breaking news about Jameis Winston (the Florida State quarterback and Heisman winner). But we still had Champ in-house to make the rounds and shoot some promos for us. He was so nice – and he says he loves going to newsrooms because they all remember his lines from Anchorman!

Part 5: In Closing

A few more bullet points:

  • My group of friends suffered a huge loss this year, with my friend Clark dying unexpectedly right before my NBA Draft trip. Clark and I were planning to go to a Yankees game while I was in town. But he was taken from us so quickly. It nearly dropped me to my knees. I miss him—he was one of those souls who just made the air sweeter, one of those people who never treated anyone like a stranger. I’ve already blogged about him, so I won’t get into details on this Christmas day. It’s too sad. All of us are getting together in Florida in February to memorialize him. There have been a few Big Chill jokes already made… I’m looking forward to it, even if it’s a gathering for a sad event.
  • My parents finally came to Connecticut, and we had a great time. Dad, Melissa and I went to the Hill-Stead museum in Farmington, and it was a beautiful, crisp fall day. This autumn was exquisite, and I’m so glad they got to be here for that week. After they left, the temperatures dropped and it snowed.dadmel
  • My brother and I took a trip to Philly because my fabulous boss gave me her tickets to a Brewers-Phillies series. It was a fun drive, except for when we drove home and somehow ended up on the George Washington Bridge in New York City with my brother at the wheel. It was a complete panic situation for both of us, and I felt like Kevin Nealon in “Happy Gilmore,” giving Nick useless advice the whole time he navigated through NYC traffic… looking back, it was kind of hilarious.
  • When I met Elliott, I did so in his hometown of West Palm Beach, where Natalie moved a few years ago. It is the eppy-tome of gorgeous cities.
  • I went to opening day of the NFL season and tailgated to boot! My fantastic friend Fran, a proud Jets season ticket holder, took me to Bucs-Jets. It was glorious – I get why fans are the way they are about the NFL even though it’s not my favorite sport.jets
  • When I was in Dallas for Thanksgiving, I finally got to go to a real NHL game, and with my Canadian hockey-loving bro-in-law and Sharks season-ticket-holding cousin John. Now I’ve been to every type of pro game (except soccer and cricket… and those other non-‘Murican sports – kidding, kidding…)
  • I didn’t get to go to Oklahoma this year, which is a real travesty. But it only fueled my desire to get there next year!

So one more time, Merry Christmas, ya’ll! Let’s talk more next year, OK?

–Sarah

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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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