Category Archives: Love

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

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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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Food, Friends, Fun!, General Nonsense, Kevin Durant, Love, New York, Oklahoma, Sports, Travel, Tulsa, TV, Uncategorized

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

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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Why I didn’t watch the Royal Wedding

I didn’t watch  it, OK? That does not make me a love-hater, hater of love. My neglecting to watch the nuptials had nothing to do with any sort of anti-British mentality. I actually aspire to go to London first in my conquering (read: extensive tourism) of Europe. I plan to have a Joey-esque time the entire trip, shouting, “London, BABY!” as often and loudly as possible.

No, the reason I didn’t watch is was because it was broadcast too damn early and I work 12- to 14-hour days. I need sleep. Another reason? It was a wedding… a WEDDING. The wedding part would’ve been fine, I guess — one of my good friends says I should’ve watched because it cast my denomination, Episcopalian nee Anglican, in a good light. I can get behind that logic. But it had the feeling of an awards show, something else I seldom watch. I really just can’t stand all that fluff in a broadcast. I fast-forward the Oscars, or wait until the winners list is out. I just can’t do it.

Perhaps this has something to do with being an editor who’s had to cut plenty of stories to fit into tiny spaces. I can no longer tolerate deadwood. And the only opinions I care about are those of people I actually know. For instance, I will read a column by Tulsa World columnist Dave Sittler after an important game, among other local columnists. I will read post-game analysis by college football beat writers. I will read a Q&A with Carrie Underwood or Blake Shelton written by an Oklahoma writer. But to hear some ditsy entertainment reporter on any host of networks go on and on and on about hats, dresses, etc.? No thanks.

Have I gone hyper-local? Perhaps. About some things.

In the case of Osama bin Laden, I went international, even watching coverage from al-Jazeera.

But that was the death of the biggest fucking plague to walk the erf in the last few decades. Killed by US — that’s U.S., U-S, One Nation Under God. At that moment, I felt united.

Friends who watched the wedding told me they felt united with the world  during the ceremony — the millions of badly-dentistried Britains in the street, while 400 million or so had their  eyes turned mistily to the tube, watching as the lovely Kate was adored by her now-husband Prince William.

The beauty is not lost on me, but  watching 14 straight hours of coverage is. I recall watching Lady Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding. I was also 6, so my Princess Phase was in full swing. I grew out of that when my Barbies became sexually active, around the time I was 8 or 9.

And truth be told, I really loved Di. I thought she was immaculate. I think her sons are too, but maybe the wound of her death would’ve been too much for me. I cry a lot. I didn’t need my whole Friday wrecked because of the spectacle.

Friends in the newsroom told me that this was “their Super Bowl,” and if I didn’t watch, I wasn’t to make fun of those who did. And I’m not. Really. It just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t my Super Bowl, or college football national championship, or Final Four, or even Frozen Four.

Game 6 of just about any NBA playoff game? A random May Rockies game that magically appears on TV (it happens rarely; I never see Colorado on TV unless I’m at the World, where they have every channel known to man, or if the Rockies are in the playoffs and Big Sports is forced to air them) I’d watch any day of the week.

I’m still not getting up a 4 a.m. to watch, however. And my DVR space is important to me. Recording 137 straight hours of wedding coverage sounds like that time I accidentally recorded “Ghost Hunters” seven-hour Halloween special: Annoying and DVR-clogging.

I’m glad so many people witnessed the beauty and splendor of the wedding. But please, do not think of me as The Elephant Man because I didn’t. I am not an animal.

Perhaps I am a love hater, hater of love. Andre Benjamin? You might have to help me out with this one.

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Garish Confessions, embarrassing or otherwise: The Spanx Chronicles (and beyond)

These are my confessions, brought to you today by Usher.

I haven’t blogged in two weeks. That’s not a confession, just a fact I thought I’d bring up as to clear the elephants out of the room. Damn things are always getting caught under my couch.

So yes, on to the confessions.  Some are Girl Style confessions, and thus, the harder ones to admit. But in case any of you didn’t know this yet, I don’t really care about embarrassing myself. It’s freeing, really.

So here goes.

Spanx

Like youd wear them if you looked like this anyway.

1.   Spanx make me look fatter. I’m convinced. Last week, I bought this cute little shift dress at Ross’s dress sale. I loved the way it looked in the store dressing room, when I was Spanx-less. I thought, Spanx could only make it better! Monday morning, I got all dolled up, put on the ol’ Spanx and high heels and headed to work. During Job 1, I ran to the bathroom, and while toddling in on the high heels I’m going to finally remove from my closet, got a side view of myself. I’m not a thin girl. I know this. Right now, juggling two stressful jobs, I’m probably not losing any weight, either. But still, the side view of me was very unpleasant. I went to the stall, then came back out with my Spanx down around my legs. I liked the look much better. The Spanx basically pushed all my flawed areas (read: fat) to the front, instead of keeping them in their natural place. Alas, there is no miracle. I took my Spanx off, tucked them under my arm, walked past a tour group, and then put them in my purse. No more Spanx for me. I also took the high heels off and replaced them with the flip-flops I had in my purse. Unless important people walked by. I kept the heels at the ready all day in case I need to walk by a big boss’s office. Fashion sucks

I'm just waiting for this moment to happen. Is that Kate Moss in the picture?

Im just waiting for this moment to happen. Is that Kate Moss in the picture?

2.   I cut my own bangs. I’ve had really long hair since eighth grade, after the picture fiasco. I have naturally curly hair, and in my seventh grade school picture, a piece of my then-short hair decided to stand up and say hi to the photographer. My mother loved the picture and wouldn’t let me get retakes. (Love you and miss you mom, but REALLY?) So I had long hair forever afterward, and I have good hair, I don’t mind saying, so length was always important to me. Until last year. I had a Delilah moment and cut off all my own power. ALL my hair was gone. It was cute, but I regretted it as soon as I did it. In fact, everyone who said, “Your hair is so cute!” got this in return: “Thanks, I’m growing it out.” And I have been. Now, it’s at least below my ears. Nearly ponytail length. And I haven’t been to see Brooke the Magnificent (my hairdresser) since November. It’s nearly May. So my bangs have been trimmed a few times by me, sometimes well, sometimes shakily, as I normally trim them in the morning before being fully awake. Fortunately I have thick hair that can cover a variety of sins. But Lord help me if I accidentally take off a whole chunk. That’ll be seventh grade all over again.

3. I have some of the same clothes I had in junior high. I am not a hoarder, but clothes are different for me. If it still fits, has its original color, and might come back into fashion, I don’t see why I can’t save it. I have this black turtleneck my sister Natalie bought me for Christmas in 1987 that I still wear. I realize now that the shirt is older than most of our summer interns who’ll be coming to the paper this year. But it’s warm and still very dark black, so it passes the test. And it’s a turtleneck. You only wear those when you’re extremely cold anyway, right? And under something, right? Oklahoma was privy to its share of extreme cold this year, thus came out the turtleneck. And the flower-print Doc Martens from my hippie days. If I was Renae, one of main homegirls, I’d have thrown that shit out years ago. She throws away everything. It’s who she is, and I’ve come to accept it. Once she threw out my spare housekey I gave her in case I died and needed her to feed Leon. She threw it out because “she didn’t know whose it was.” Thanks. Now I know Leon will starve. But yes, I keep clothes longer than I should. And since I’ve basically been the same size/shape since 1987, it’s OK.

I still love him.

4. I still cheer for Tiger Woods. He’s this generation’s Bill Clinton, for whom I still cheer. Sorry, they’re both beyond great. I realize Tiger is a lousy husband. I realize Tiger is kind of weird and awkward. But he’s still Tiger Effing Woods, and he’s still amazing in nearly every way except his personal life. Remember when we didn’t care what athletes did in their spare time? Or actors, or anyone else? Remember when we focused on our own lives or maybe those in our community? I say we take that approach again. Joe Namath is an alcoholic, and he’s still a living legend. We forgive the older generations their faux pas because TMZ wasn’t following them around exacerbating them. So yes, I still love Tiger. Good luck this year, mate. Fuck ‘em if they can’t let your private life be private.

This idiot, Rick Sanchez, is one of the main reasons I quit watching 24-hour news.

This idiot, Rick Sanchez, is one of the main reasons I quit watching 24-hour news.

5. I quit watching 24-hour news in 2004. I realize I’m a newsperson and I should probably keep up. But working for a newspaper makes you realize a lot of truths about the industry: TV people are actors, who have a very small staff that trolls for news. Usually good-looking staffers. Newspapers are large-staffed, moderate-looking people who don’t worry about camera time. We’re the ones actually pounding the pavement and breaking stories. And with websites and an actual understanding of how they work, we’re proving it over and over again. I don’t watch the nightly news, or have the ticker on. Ever. And it’s freeing. If I want to read something, I seek it out myself. And since I work for a newspaper, it’s pretty easy to find! I suggest everyone give up the 24-hour news cycle, even ESPN. See if you really miss it.

I hope you enjoyed the Garish Chicken’s confessions. I guarantee you there will be more, since I am clearly the most ridiculous person alive.

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