Category Archives: Travel

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

Moments of grace at the Orlando airport: The long, beautiful goodbye

She asked to hold the baby one last time.

It wasn’t in English, but I put together that the older woman was saying goodbye to a grandchild.

The infant, who had no idea what was going on, was passed into the older hands for likely the 100th time that morning, cooing, eyes wildly darting to and fro. The older woman clasped the baby in her arms, held her aloft and stared into her deep brown eyes. She kissed her cheeks, cradled her, bounced her. The next time she saw the baby, she’d be walking – talking – who knows. It could be years.

The older woman’s hands were weathered, heavily veined, working hands. One of those hands gave the baby back to the younger woman, her daughter. The other hand snaked up her daughter’s back, finding her long, black braided ponytail. She worked the ponytail holder up and down, moving her fingers along the plaiting. It was as if touching her daughter — feeling her hair, running her hands up and down her back, grasping at her arms — would slow the Security line down, make the time crawl backward. They had to be the only people in line who wanted that. But my time observing the family made me hope it would last, too.

I was trying to figure out, in this crowded Orlando security line, who was leaving whom. The entire family was Indian, and after some studying of their body language, I put it together that the older couple was heading back somewhere far away. Tattered bags rested on the older man’s shoulders as he and – I’m assuming his son-in-law – made small talk while the women clutched each other and the baby.

The older woman’s eyes were filling with tears. How far was she flying away from her daughter and the baby? Likely to countries far away, where Americans don’t often go. I pictured the younger woman’s decision to leave her family in India. I picture her husband, who was standing ahead of her in line, getting a great job that would get them out of India. I pictured the younger woman’s deliberations, her pain at the decision she knew she had to make. She had to get a better life for herself, her husband and the baby that would surely come. She saw no way to that but to leave. She tortured herself at the notion. Meanwhile, her parents practically pushed her out, hoping for the American dream to take hold of her daughter and son-in-law.

The younger woman and her husband left home. And she knew these moments in the airport would be inevitable. It would never be easy.

This wasn’t the first time they’d said goodbye, but maybe it was the first time they’d said goodbye to a baby, too.  Maybe her parents had come to America for the fifth or sixth time. Maybe they went to Disney World. Maybe they ate terrible fried food, laughed and held each other’s hands, drinking in every moment. Maybe the older woman had held her grandchild for an entire week, and also done her daughter’s laundry, folded every piece, cooked her child’s favorite meal.

I dared not look at the younger woman’s eyes yet for fear of being completely emotionally overcome. How did they do this? How were they not wailing? Their silent goodbyes were a marvel to me – as American as they come, a loud, brash, obnoxious girl who cries about everything and is not shy about sharing emotions. This quiet, touching moment was something I’d give anything to have with my own mother.

The older woman wore the mark on her forehead and another in her hairline. Her Sari was wrapped perfectly, indicative of culture and practice. Her eyes were so deeply sad, yet so happy to have these moments. She tried to hide her emotions with a big smile. It didn’t work.

The daughter was almost identical to her mother in looks, hairstyle and clothing, but maybe with a touch more modernity. But not much. She clutched her mother’s fingers, tracing the bones of each digit.  When I finally braved looking at her, her eyes were looking down, trying not to look at her mother, it seemed. I imagined her train of thought. Her mom was fiddling with her braid again, and it felt so good, so normal… how she missed those hands playing with her hair, styling it, her words of praise for her appearance. How she wished those hands were constant, helping to raise the baby in her mother’s arms. How she wished this security line would go on forever. How she wished she could return home with her mother. But her husband, who turned to look at her at that moment, knew her pain. Seeing him, she was reminded of her new life, what they had to look forward to now.

The younger woman said something to her husband at that moment. Something to the effect of: “We need to go. We have to go before I completely lose it.” The younger man and older man shook hands. The women embraced for long, long minutes, clinging to each other, the baby between them. The line was moving more quickly now. They were ushering us into another line, one that would take us to another part of security. It was time to say goodbye.

I never saw long rivulets of tears. I’m not sure if they were wiped away before anyone saw them or if they actually fell. Maybe these women were capable of hiding their tears better than me.

When it was over, the young couple turned around and left. The older woman’s eyes followed for seconds. Seconds only, then averted back to the front of the line.

“Never watch out of sight,” my mom used to say. For watching someone leave until you can’t see them is bad luck. To this day, I do exactly what this older Indian woman did. I say goodbye, then avert my eyes as quickly as possible as not to invite bad luck into an already awful goodbye.

I watched as the older man presented his passport to the TSA agent. The agent was frustrated with the man’s lack of speaking much English – it was obvious – but the man patiently handed the agent his passport and ticket once barked at. His eyes trained on his wife, who had her back to me at this time. The wife moved up in line and presented her own passport. Then the two headed in a different direction from me. I passed them again later in the line, and the woman’s mind was a thousand miles away. A bemused smile sat on her face. I could almost read her mind. She was replaying the week she’d just had, the moments with her daughter and granddaughter, the fun they had, the moments she took with her… the sadness sat on standby, just under the surface, waiting to emerge.

I bet, when she was alone on the plane, the tears started falling. I bet she rested her head on her husband’s shoulder on the flight home. And though no words may have been spoken, he re-assured her everything would be OK and they would be back before they knew it.

I hope they see each other again soon. I later heard a young woman at my gate talking about the pair and the goodbye – it had to be the same scenario. It seemed that, while it was quiet and not obvious, those not bereft of emotion picked up on it. “It was just so meaningful,” I heard the young girl say to her flying partners. “It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.” Yes it was, my friend. Yes it was.

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My ‘Seven Bridges Road’ weekend

‘Sometimes, there’s a part of me…
has to turn from here and go’ 

It was a dark time in my life on all fronts – love, friends, money, comfort – all of it seemingly gone. It was 2008-2010. Those years blend together for me as the worst of my life.

I lost friends, had no money, hadn’t found my strength yet – my job was tiring and thankless, my future dark and agonizing. I was a few years removed from my mother’s death, and still not OK with it (probably never will be). Friends I’d had for more than 20 years were falling by the wayside. Everyone I knew was getting married or in committed relationships, including my roommate, who moved out amid all this. He owed me tons of money, money I desperately needed to keep my house from being foreclosed on and my car from getting repossessed. I often wrote one check on payday to Reasor’s, the big grocery store chain in Oklahoma, writing the check as much over for cash as they’d allow. That way, I had food and a little bit of cash for whatever. I’d pay my bills after that, and usually, my money for those next two weeks would be gone.

I didn’t have money for going out much. Fortunately, I had a cool job that let me go to concerts for free sometimes. Or I’d get tickets to something through the newspaper or friends. Looking back, I got by on the kindness of strangers many times.

Near the beginning of my dark period, a messy relationship had ended, much to my angst and chagrin, and I just kind of gave up on everything. It’s like I went into hibernation for three years, only emerging to go to work or a Drillers baseball game (tickets were around $6 – good, cheap entertainment and usually cheap beer too… there was healing at those games too, but that’s another blog.)

But one weekend, after feeling like all I wanted to do was run away and join a band of itinerant welders, I had a bit of free cash and some credit left on plastic. So I rented a small travel-trailer in Tahlequah, my exodus spot for the last 25 years. I went alone and told no one I was going except my brother, who still lived in Tahlequah, should I need reinforcements or a bear-trapper. I made a CD, packed a notebook and books, and drove to Tahlequah for a secluded weekend – it was pre-summer, so no one was at the lodge where I stayed. I was hopeless, which was a new feeling for me.

But then I drove to Tahlequah.

I’m not going to say it was like some elixir that magically cured what ailed me. That took time. But that day – that trip down Highway 10, a sacred place in my heart – will stay with me forever. Now I know it was a trip filled with magic, one I reflect back on often.

That CD I’d burned was full of wistful, melodic masterpieces to make me think. I didn’t even know at that time what those songs would become in my heart – a lot of Jimmy Buffett, Beck, Jackie Wilson and one surprise song that I still believe has healing powers: “Seven Bridges Road” by the Eagles.

As I topped a big hill along Highway 10, the CD player in my Corolla ticked to that song. (I’m not a huge Eagles fan, but had realized I liked that song and included it on that mix for some reason.) It starts slowly: “There are stars in the southern sky…southward as you go.” Then that speedy acoustic guitar kicks in, and then Don Henley starts singing.

The money line for me is “Sometimes there’s a part of me… has to turn from here and go… Running like a child from these warm stars, down the Seven Bridges Road.”

That line played as I crested a final hill before Arrowhead Resort in Cherokee County. And it felt like God was patting me on the back. It felt like all the forces in the world were saying, “Welcome to the country. We’ve been waiting for you. Leave your sorrows on the shore and don’t bother to pick them up when you leave.”

That weekend, I listened to that song about 300 times. I stayed in my little travel-trailer and wrote hot garbage that I wouldn’t try to publish even if it meant $1 million guaranteed. (I hate my emo-laden writing. I feel like a wuss after I read it.) I cried, ate a lot, wallowed, rectified, rationalized, drank a lot, slept a lot – and listened to a ton of music, all looking for meaning.

I got over my pain and suffering on that Sunday. I left my BS on the shore, where it belonged. I returned to work on Monday, not completely healed, but wrung out. I felt stripped down, but ready to start building again.

It was the hardest three years of my life. And 2011 wasn’t that great either, but it was the year I finally got angry enough at my situation to look for something else. It was the year ESPN hired me and I loaded up the truck and moved to Bristol-eeeee…

But every time I hear that song now, like I did first thing this morning, I’m back in my Toyota, cresting that hill, listening to “Seven Bridges Road” like it was going to save my life.

I think, in a way, it did.

It will always be a favorite song. And that weekend, though I spent it alone and sad, was a time of great independence and healing – condensed to one weekend, of course. I don’t know why I need to go to the hills when my heart is lonely, but that Julie Andrews was on to something.

I’ve got other places here in Connecticut that fill the void of my nirvana in Cherokee County. The Farmington Trails are glorious, and even paved so I can ride my bike. But nothing can top that weekend in the boggy banks of the pre-summer Illinois River. I think my weekend alone was the beginning of my fearlessness period, one I hope I never exit.

Oh, and one more thing – I still hate “Hotel California.”

 

 

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Filed under Love, Music, Oklahoma, Relationships, Tahlequah, Travel

My terrible day of flying: A complaint letter

So I rambled on an on about this yesterday on Facebook. I’m not First World enough to think this is the worst thing that can happen to someone — but I am alarmed at how quickly customer service has fallen off, especially in the airline industry. I sent this letter to US Airways, the Philadelphia Airport and the mayor of Philly. Any suggestions as to where else I should send?

Yes, I was mad — but more than that, I was exhausted. Imagine if I was in bad health or elderly… how are they treated?

So here goes… what you are about to read is 100 percent factual, as I am terrible at lying.

Aug. 19, 2014

Dear US Airways and American Airlines:

I will preface this note with this – I am an agreeable, hopefully easy-to-get-along with person. I am not a travel newbie, and I don’t expect to be treated like a princess. I am usually quick to come to the defense of airline employees because my family is full of them and I understand that travel customers can be difficult.

That being said – I am absolutely floored with how I was treated on my trip home from Seattle on Sunday, Aug. 17 into Monday, Aug. 18. It was, by far, my most awful day of travel EVER. And I’ve flown a lot, since I was 5.

I was in the mountains with no cell phone service, but occasional WiFi. I checked my American phone app to see that my original flight home, an 11:25 p.m. flight out of SeaTak, had been canceled and replaced with a 12:45 a.m. US Airways flight with a stop in Philly. I had booked this trip in First Class to get some rest – I work at ESPN and work weird hours, so I was hoping to sleep in comfort. My First Class ticket was not to be a bigshot, but to sleep — I paid for a First Class ticket round-trip. I saw that I was booked in coach now – I wasn’t happy, but figured someone would help me out when I got to the airport.

Once I arrived at SeaTak, I checked in at the US Airways desk. A girl named Ana D. checked me in. I tried to explain to her that I was in First and ask her what I should do about that, but she just kept referring me to American Airlines, telling me I was in Coach now and that was that, and not offering any help other than that. Actually, she just kept pointing to the AA desk – not even offering any words of help or encouragement for how I would be repaid for the First Class portion of the trip I purchased. She replied by making me pay for my bags – YES, she made me pay for my bags, which were part of the First Class package I’d already bought. In fact, that had a lot to do with why I finally bought the First Class tickets. I was traveling for my sister’s wedding and had a lot of stuff with me. Ana D. didn’t offer any help, just told me I had to pay if I expected the bags to get back to Hartford. What was I to do? Again, she just pointed to the AA desk. I tried to stop there and ask for help, but the line was so bad, I guess due to problems in the DFW area.

So yeah, I was angry, but I tried to let it go – I knew I’d take care of that once I got home. I boarded my flight and tried to relax in my now exit-row seat in Coach with no reclining seats or neck rests.

The plane sat on the runway for 45 minutes. Something about a baggage handler crashing into a plane and there being a shortage of people to load the plane. OK, fine. But I better make my connection that you guys laid out for me – with nary a spare second.

Of course I didn’t. When I got to the end of the tarmac in Philly, an agent handed me two standby tickets and told me to go try to make the plane. I did not. I ran across three terminals to get there, and when I got to the gate, I asked if I could board. “That plane left five minutes ago,” the agent sneered at me. Almost like she was laughing at me.

I seethed, but went to the gate for my next option, an 11:30 flight to Hartford. This was the only semi-pleasant experience I had that day. The girl working at C 23 was a bit short at first, but I could tell she honestly wanted me to get on the plane. The flight was, of course, oversold. (This has got to stop, by the way – it’s not fair in the least.) Still, this woman, whose name I didn’t get but I wish I could praise, was nice enough to at least push for me to get on. I didn’t get on, but this agent told me about the other options and at least seemed concerned. She was the ONLY person in Philly (besides the Chick-Fil-A guy, who was so nice), who helped me. She small-talked with me, which goes a long way in stressful situations. She rolled me onto the top of the Standby list, which was much appreciated.

So feeling better and a bit hopeful, I had some lunch and proceeded to C17 in Philly, where the 1:30 flight was coming out of. Mind you, by this point, I’ve been up for 28 hours straight, thinking I’d get a nice comfy ride In First. I wait for the agent to come up, and it’s a helpful woman I see in line, but she vanishes, replaced by the coldest agent in the lot, a girl with long braids and an attitude the size of Dallas. She called my name and I came to the desk. She didn’t like where I was standing, and rolled her eyes at me, shouting, “COME AROUND.” I moved a few feet over and she raised her voice again, “COME AROUND.” I mean, we’re talking a few feet here. But since she was in charge, she got to yell at me. I asked her what she wanted me to do, and she said, “You know what? Forget it.” And ripped up my ticket. Yes. You read that right.

I begged and pleaded, telling her I was sorry for saying whatever I’d said to offend her. Her braids obscured her nametag, sorry. She ignored me and gave the seats to someone behind me. Another agent standing near her — I could tell she felt badly but couldn’t do anything about it. She said, “There’s a spot open on the 4:10 flight, I’ll try to get you that one.” The other agent heard her say that and gave that spot to the next person in spite. She was awful.

So, defeated, near tears (I had a sick dog at home who needed me) and exhausted, I went to Customer Service in Gate C25 for help. WHAT A JOKE. A woman named Valerie N. looked pleasant enough, so I opened with my sob story and asked if there was anything I could do to at least have some hope of getting on – maybe through American, elsewhere, something – since I didn’t miss my flight due to my mistake, I expected a little bit of a sympathetic ear.

Valerie talked to me like I was inconveniencing her, and like I was possibly the dumbest human being in the world. She asked me, “So you’re coming here asking how I can help? How do you expect me to help?” and I said, “I was just looking for a little hope, I’ve been up 30 hours.” And she said, “Here’s some hope. You might get on a plane.” I was furious, and tried to put it in words she would understand. I asked again if there were any options and she just rolled her eyes at me again. I asked if she had kids and knew what I was going through – she said to me – “My kids are adults.” And went back to work. I walked away, nearly in tears again, completely blown away by what was going on.

So I went to the gate for the 4:10 flight. By this time, I was completely drained. I waited for the flight, didn’t check in or say anything. The flight was in C31. I witnessed a male agent tell a woman that she was on a flight, but he could take that away from her easily – which he did, and it created quite a stir in the gate. I got on that flight because I smiled and kissed the agents’ behinds.  That’s what troubled me most about the whole day – the feeling that these agents relished holding all the power, enjoyed saying no to customers, and willfully worked against getting anybody home. They got off on making us cry. THAT’s bullying. I’m a tough person – but imagine if someone not used to that had gone through this. They’d be mortified.

It felt a bit like they were the Ticket Agent Soup Nazis – “I don’t like the look on your face. NO FLIGHT FOR YOU.” It’s shameful.

I got on, got home to Connecticut, and was greeted by friendly gate agents – no problems there at all. The flight staff, on the entire day’s flight, was great too. But Philly is a dark, dark place and I’ll never go there again. I’ll also never willingly fly US Airways again, but I know the merger will take care of some of that. Shout-out to the baggage crew too, who got my bags to Hartford, where they were safely waiting for me. A friendly baggage agent smiled and helped me get my bags. I thought New Englanders were supposed to be “The mean ones.” Philly is the city of brotherly love, right?

I have a stack of boarding passes going nowhere that the agents issued, I guess just to get me to shut up.

And I also realize they can’t do anything about the corporate policy of overselling flights – but they could do something about how they treat CUSTOMERS who spent THOUSANDS of dollars to fly on that plane. We are not inconveniences. We pay your salary. We should be treated as such.

***I expect a refund or travel voucher for my time and for my lost First Class ticket, and a refund of the $60 I had to spend checking bags that Ana D. charged me. *** But more than that, I expect you to do something about this. I expect BETTER of an airline with the American flag on it. I expect you to fix the problems in Philly by talking to whoever’s hiring these people and telling them to be as rude as possible or not disciplining those who are. It was a disgrace.

And again, I realize you’re going through a merger. That’s a tough situation. But the customers shouldn’t have to bear the brunt. It’s not fair, and obviously, it’s not working.

Please (never heard that yesterday either) let me know if I can help in any way. My email is sarah.hart@espn.com, and my number is 918-630-5376.

Thank you.

Sarah Hart

 

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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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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Family, Friends, Fun!, General Nonsense, Oklahoma, Tahlequah, Travel, Tulsa, Uncategorized, weather

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

festivus

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


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

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

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

Can you believe ESPN
promoted this person?

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

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

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

My dad and Melissa at
Keuka Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See my Rosie O’Donnell
face?

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

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

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

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