Category Archives: Tulsa

Happy Birthday, Erin McClanahan of the Clan McClanahan

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

erinmeBut yesterday I remembered clearly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope he never, ever stops laughing.

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

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Filed under Family, Friends, Love, Tahlequah, Tulsa

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

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

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

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

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

WHY I LOVE OKLAHOMA…

 It’s NOT:

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

Now on to the good stuff.

 It IS:

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

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

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

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

 

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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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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

Cheap humor: Typos

Note: Most typos in this blog are intentional. MOST. 

Since words are my business, and business is food, then I present food for thought: Typos are the best. Instead of rapping your own knuckles with a ruler every time you make one, laugh at it, especially if it’s one that can be made into a dirty joke or longstanding bit of humor.

Case in point, the pointy case that inspired this blog: This very evening, I was texting with my Best Good Friend Renae, and I told her she needed to watch “The Walking Dead” on AMC. I’m sure all you zombie fans out there agree with that – but what made it hilarious was that I accidentally typed “The Walking Deaf.” Not to pick on the deaf, but the good deaf people I know are a skosh less scary than zombies. “They’re doing sign language! AAAAGGHHH!!” was my next text. It got Renae laughing, and lessened some of my unnatural fear of zombies. See? Cheap humor with long-lasting benefits. 

A google search of  "The Walking Deaf" brought up this very cute image. I hope that dog is not a zombie.

A google search of "The Walking Deaf" brought up this very cute image. I hope that dog is not a zombie.

Now every time “Walking Dead” comes on I’m going to imagine hearing aid-equipped folks walking around not doing much of anything. Just walking.

I worked for a long time on a sports copy desk for the Tulsa World. It was some of the best, and most educational, times of my career. And during that time, we had a lot of stressful shit go down. But through it all, the typos kept us laughing. My old deskmates and I still converse in a language that not many will understand, the language of overstressed copy editors laughing hysterically at each other’s mistakes. I’ll do my damndest to explain it.

I present, K-Tel’s Tulsa World Sports Desk Greatest Hits of Typos!

  • Sprots. This was the most common of our typos. It’s an easy mistake to make when you look at the proximity of the letters, and with the commonality of which we used the word. But it became so funny that every time one of us effed that word up, we had to tell everyone. The sports desk was made up of a circle of desk around the slot desk. The slot is the person in charge of getting the section out every night. Anyway, if there was a sprots incident, it usually got yelled loudly in our department. Which I’m sure agitated the news desk to no end. (Note, now they’re all one big universal desk. I’m sure the sprots folks have had to tone down their rambunctiousness, which is sad to me.)
  • Cowbots. Since both the Dallas Cowboys and Oklahoma State Cowboys are near Tulsa, we used the mascot Cowboys a lot in headlines and other display type (that’s everything besides the story itself.) Cowbots is a mistake I still make at ESPN, since we do a lot of reporting on that team in Dallas that I’m writing off. But that’s another story. Cowbots became such a popular typo that my dear friend Stacey named her fantasy football team The Cowbots. Pretty sure she wins the name challenge hands-down.
  • Toronot: We made-believe that Toronot was the Anti-Canada. This was a common typo during baseball season.
  • Jerf Gerden: I’m pretty sure this was only my mistake, but went down in history. For some reason, every time I typed Jeff Gordon’s name I fucked it up. It came out “Jerf Gerden” once. We had a guy on the desk named Jeff Huston who bore the brunt of this typo, since he was henceforth known as Jerf.
  • Stroms. No, not Thurmond. But since weather often affected sporting events, and Oklahoma has its own weather pattern that only meteoroligcal masterminds like Travis Meyer and Gary England can predict. Thus the need for sprots (ha!) people to write about stroms/storms. We had one whole high school baseball season that had to be played well into June to finish because of stroms.

There’s another incident that I can’t really explain — and it wasn’t so much a typo as a complete shut off of all my brain functioning while trying to get University of Oklahoma pages done in about a 10-minute window. I was trying to write a cutline (caption for you non-newspaper folks) about Bob Stoops having something stuck in his craw… and I basically wrote that Bob Stoops was stuck in his own craw. What the hell is a craw, you ask? I don’t know. Something to do with a chicken gizzard.

And on the subject of Bob Stoops, we all agreed that “Boob Stops” was a typo we were sure to make at any moment. Some nights, we  could only make fixes to pages if it something crucial, we called those “Boob Stops” nights.

I know there are a lot more. And I know I’ll make a lot more in the future. There’s one I’ve made at ESPN that fortunately I caught – we send out this thing called the Hot List every few hours. In the subject line of the email, I type, in all caps, making it even more privy to typos, “HOT LIST.” I cannot tell you how many times I’ve accidentally typed HOT KIST. That just makes me sound trampy. And that is NOT the image I want to convey as a proper, prim news editor for the Worldwide Leader of Sprots.

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Filed under Brain Disorders, ESPN, General Nonsense, Newspapers, Tulsa, TV, Uncategorized, weather

The Great Northeast’s Super Bowl, or How I Fell Back in Love with the NBA

It’s not like I fell out of love with the National Basketball Association, really, I just would’ve been really ticked had they not played this year. For all the good that was done last year with the Mavericks winning, Kevin Durant and Co. bringing fun back to the game and the Heat and Lakers losing (HA! Still funny) it would’ve all been undone had the fools in suits tossed aside the year. I understand it’s a business, but for selfish reasons, I’m really glad they came to an –albeit tenuous — compromise.

Kevin Durant

Oh, Kevin Durant... you're the reason God make the Oklahoma City Thunder. Besides that whole Longhorn thing. We forgive you.

And if it wasn’t for the NBA and its glorious offspring, NCAA men’s basketball, I’m not sure I could tolerate the end of the football season. You see, I live in Connecticut, a state divided among Red Sox and Yankees fans, Jets and Giants and Patriots fans and Rangers and Bruins fans. A state that probably likes the Celtics a lot more than the Knicks, but I understand that.

What I don’t understand is how the 49ers and Ravens let this happen. For the love of Pete — it’s a rematch game. Didn’t we get enough of those during the BCS title game? I certainly did. And though I’m not a huge fan of any NFL team, I would’ve liked to have seen the 49ers back in this — and as a somewhat Cowboys fan, it’s not easy to  say that. My Canadian brother-in-law, whom I adore, is a big-time 49ers fan, even if their stadium looks like a glorified summer league baseball diamond. He loves the 49ers for who they had — namely Jerry Rice. And he’s Canadian, so he really doesn’t understand anyway. He doesn’t like being in the dark, either (points if you get that reference.)

Side note: The first time I saw Jerry Rice lurking about the ESPN newsroom I swear I felt a little faint. I haven’t spoken to him yet, but he seems like a nice guy, one who should be my friend. I’m afraid if I start talking to him I’ll go all Chris Farley and start asking, “You remember that time you were in the  Super Bowl? That was awesome.”

And I assume the rest of the world isn’t too thrilled about seeing Tom Brady trot his funky bunch out there again to face Eli “Elite” Manning and his stable of giant-handed receivers.

It’s safe to say that the good folks at ESPN who are from around these parts are thrilled with the participants of the Super Bowl, except for the large contingent of Jets fans, who’ve thrown their support to the Giants. I’ve moved on, to bigger and better — and rounder — balls. (Teehee! You know what I mean.) I have found myself watching the NBA ad nauseum lately, even insignificant games. But at the Worldwide Leader, with access to every game every night, I watch whatever I want. Yesterday I watched the team I hate the most, the Los Angeles Lakers, get defeated by the Milwaukee (Algonquin for “The Good Land,” thank you Alice Cooper) Bucks. It was glorious. And needless to say, if Kevin Durant and the Thunder are playing, they’re on my TV. Same with the Clippers, unless their times conflict.

The NBA was my first pro-sports love, the sport that harvested my very soul during the late 80s and 90s. So it seems natural that once again, I’m able to name starters for  most teams, as well as sixth- and seventh-man alternatives for a lot of them.

But going back to the Super Bowl: As a semi-Cowboys fan, I shouldn’t say this. But I will. I am cheering for the Giants. Have been in every game except the NFC Championship, when my love for my bro-in-law Joel and my yet-to-know-it-yet BFF Jerry Rice flourished. I am not a good Cowboys fan. I realize this. I loved Clinton Portis, have cheered for the Steelers, and didn’t hate Donovan McNabb as much as I should have. I did, however, laugh when The Real Roy Williams broke Terrell Owens’ leg. But let’s not go off-topic.

I will watch the Super Bowl. I will probably enjoy the Super Bowl. But I think the Patriots are going to win, even if I really, really, really don’t want them to. My vehemence against a team doesn’t usually help it, case in point Every Lakers Championship Ever. The day the Spurs beat them for the 2003 Western Conference semifinals, I went outside to make sure the sky wasn’t falling. I’m not making this up.

But know this: not everyone in the ESPN newsroom is basking in the glory of an all-East Coast Super Bowl. There are a lot of Cowboys fans in the newsroom, though few of them come by geographically like me. There are also a lot of Eagles and Steelers fans. Even a few Bengals and Browns fans, and a fair share of Packer Backers. It’s a motley crew of fandom.

But if you don’t want to watch the Super Bowl, that’s cool, it’s on a competing network so I’m not going to try to force it on you. I will, however, politely suggest that you tune into the NBA this season. It’s fast-paced and fun, and strike-shortened, which gives it a gladiator quality: Only the strong will survive. So many more injuries than a typical year.

And there’s talk that Gilbert Arenas may be a Laker soon. Talk about taking a gun to a knife fight! Arenas AND Artest aka Metta World Peace. Wow.

Another blog for another time…

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, Fun!, Kevin Durant, Oklahoma, Sports, Tulsa, Uncategorized

Accidental anarchy, a breakup, and how I refuse to stop being a 14-year-old

Because I’m an accidental anarchist, and a wanter of things that I can’t have, I feel compelled to write today.

Anarchy socks, for when you really, really want to show the world how tough you are!

I’ve had a perfectly good computer sitting in front of me all these weeks since I last posted, but have I blogged? Heavens no. I’ve been too busy completely immersing myself in all things Penn State, Tim Tebow, NBA, being a crazy person, college football and Gossip Girl. More on Gossip Girl later…

But my computer has quit me like a bad habit. We had a good run; we’ve been together since 2005, that’s longer than any other relationship I’ve ever had, so you can understand why I’m beside myself with grief. Fortunately, I backed all my scads of music up the week before. I had preminisced – no return of the salad days (Points if you get that reference.)

So of course, without a computer, my writing need emerges, and I take to the keyboard in my cube at ESPN, where I’m sort of working today. We have these things called prep days, and I got all the prep stuff out of the way so I could use the computer for more important things like the Garish Chicken.

On to my anarchy, which wasn’t as much accidental as just plain dumb. My Oklahoma car registration expired a while back, and I didn’t realize that Connecticut took having a registered car so seriously. I worked through the holidays, and on the night after Christmas I got pulled over for having a headlight out. The officer warned me that the next guy who stopped me would tow my car for being unregistered. I got the headlight fixed and vowed to get my registration with my next paycheck, and to be a good citizen until then, keeping out of reach of the long arm of the law.

So on the next payday, I couldn’t go to the DMV because of work, but I was going to go the next day. I set off to work, going a way I never usually go because I needed gas, and I got pulled over again a mile from my home. The previous cop was right – they towed my ass home. A MILE. And charged me $100 for the mile tow. Cash. They wrecker driver took me to an ATM.

WANT.

Thus began the process of trying to get my car legal. I had to call every branch of the DMV between here and Oklahoma City it seemed. I need a certified letter from God that I exist and did not steal my 2003 Toyota (if I was going to steal, wouldn’t I aim higher?) This all happened last Thursday, a week ago. I am still waiting for all the paperwork to come together.

In the meantime, anarchy urge quelled, I am in a rental car that is going to end up costing me a kidney. Or I’ll have to wash cars – I assume that’s the rental car place alternative to washing dishes, right? It’s my own fault for not taking care of this when I had the money and the time.

It just doesn’t seem like I’ve had the time. Because:

* On Oct. 9, Tim Tebow was named starting QB of the Denver Broncos.

* On Nov. 9, Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State.

* From Dec. 9-Jan.-9, we haven’t stopped talking-reading-investigating either topic.

* I decided on a funny whim based on a funny moment on a serious Sunday to take on a self-improvement plan. I’ll reveal that funny moment someday, but not now, and NOT HERE.

My days at ESPN are long. But they are interesting, and I usually leave happy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t go into a sort of coma when I’m off work, but I leave Bristol, Ct., smiling and head back to my idyllic little ‘burg, where I’m also happy.

It’s just been hard to wrap my head around reality – all those car registrations and bills and real-life things that I had down in Oklahoma seem to have vanished somewhere along the way, possibly in Pennsylvania. Side note, the entirety of Pennsylvania, sans Philly, is like Adair and Cherokee counties – you get one free killin’, because no one would know that you even murdered anyone. As someone told me a few weeks ago, Pennsylvania is 5 percent Philly and 95 percent Alabama. I subbed in Oklahoma in my mind because that’s what I do.

I’m beginning to feel at home. I like it here. I know that I’ll return to Oklahoma someday and that I’ll be buried there with my people, but I like it here. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop getting excited when I see a Tulsa reference in a story on our air, or that I’m going to cheer any less for any team with even the slightest Oklahoma influence.

As I typed that last sentence, I got an email from the Tulsa 66ers of D-League fame. I miss you too, Oklahoma.

I’ll be glad when this car registration thing is over. I am so near the end of a lot of milestones in my life – paying off my car and debt, being free of my home in Oklahoma, losing weight and becoming healthier – the last part of the waiting is cruel, and this latest chapter of not being able to drive my car because I’m an idiot just magnifies the wait.

But someday, I’ll be a real adult. With a real goal in life. And someday, I won’t have to reach so deeply into my bank accounts to recover from stupidity.

I am lucky. And though I may sound a trifle whiny today, not a day goes by that I don’t realize my blessings, and that makes the wait worthwhile. That makes life seem a little bit easier.

Double-hotness... so close together... Oh, and they're not bad at football either.

Now if Tim Tebow and the Broncos win the Super Bowl, I might be physically chained to my desk. I’ll be forced to watch highlights over and over. But that’s OK – Tim’s hot. He may be the Antichrist, but that’s another (slightly serious) blog.

Chuck Bass, AKA Ed Westwick... He brings sexy back and then back some more.

Oh, and Gossip Girl? So far out of the realm of normalcy it’s captured my fancy. That and Chuck Bass. I watched five seasons of GG over a three-week period. And it was good. My inner 14-year-old blossomed and bloomed. I may someday be a real adult, but I’ll never give her up!

And me and the computer have decided to take a break. I’ll probably replace Dell. He’s been good to me, but I can do better.

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Filed under Connecticut, ESPN, General Nonsense, Tulsa