Friday, December 30, 2011

The Showstopper!!!

The McBrothas Christmas 2011

We had an amazing Christmas, thanks to lots of people we know, and more that we've never even met. We are thankful for the generosity. We got the Greatest ShowStopper on Earth! My husband got a real job offer in his old field with full health benefits. This is a really wonderful blessing because our youngest son has Type 1 (Insulin dependent, no fault of his own, no pill will fix it, shots for the rest of his life... Juvenile) Diabetes.

Thank you to all who sent me kind words, told me your stories, shared your prayers, and sent gifts. It was more than we could have ever done, and our boys are grateful. My husband and I are, too.

As we move into a new year, I continue to pray and hope and work hard to turn things around for our family.

Happy New Year,


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Domesticated Mermaid

I’ve always been secretly jealous of mermaids. Their grace, beauty and agility became a constant source of envy and fantasy when I was a girl. Mermaids glide under the weight of the ocean and transport themselves effortlessly from shore to shore, ocean to ocean, and continent to continent the way I go from room to room cutting off lights in my house.

I’m jealous of mermaids because they can swim. I can’t swim. Neither could my mother or my grandmother. Like them, I am also afraid of big bodies of water.  As a girl, I deduced our inability to swim and fear of water  was some sort of evolutionary hold-over from our ancestors' first encounter with the ocean.

I am jealous of mermaids because they have freedom. Mermaids only emerge from the ocean if they want to sun themselves or enjoy the smell of testosterone when their “mer-dar” signals the approach of a naval ship filled with ab-rocking sailors. Mermaids are badass enough to swim with sharks and humble enough to blow kisses at starfish. Mermaids can do whatever the hell they want—except walk.

As a girl, I would write fantastic (not good fantastic, just “out there” fantastic) stories about myself as a mermaid. I had long, bouncy, onyx Donna Summer hair that would sweep my lower back in aquatic slow motion. As a 13-year-old writer, my  Donna Summer “mer-mane” would hide the injustice that was the set of DD boobs that were a constant source of unkind words by the girls in my class, and a constant source of inappropriate words by teenage boys and predatory old men in my neighborhood, as well. It would take nursing three children and turning forty to realize how glorious those boobs were. In my mermaid stories, I was confident and sure of my place in the world. I still haven’t quite figured this out, but turning forty sure helped me to figure out where I didn’t belong. In my stories, I belonged to the ocean and the ocean belonged to me. In my stories, I was the woman I wanted to be with a fin instead of feet.

These days, I only feel like a mermaid when I write. Words are my ocean. I have the same relationship with writing that I have with big bodies of water. I fear the water, but I love the beach. There is no sand, if there is no violent crashing of water against the sediment.  I fear the loneliness and rejection that comes with writing, but I love when I finish. I hate the process, the nakedness of baring your innermost thoughts (even if under the thinly veiled guise of fiction or as part of a series of jokes for a comedy performance), and I hate wondering if I’m doing it right. I do love if someone, anyone reads something I wrote or laughs at a joke. The validation is priceless. I find myself blowing mermaid kisses in my head as a sign of gratitude.
Sometimes, I will write one good sentence that makes me feel proud and satisfied; and I long to keep pushing against the current of words to come up with just one more. 

Then, my “mer-dar” goes off, and I have to come up from the ocean. I don’t come up to ogle a ship filled with shirtless, tanned merchant marines. I come up because I am a domesticated mermaid. I bob to the surface when I hear, “Mama, I need some juice” or “Baby, what’s for dinner.” My perfectly sausage-curled, wet, Donna Summer hair disappears, and the graying, wind-blown crinkles re-appear. I grudgingly throw my faded, fuzzy lavender robe over my PERFECT 13-year-old boobs covered by my mother-of-pearl bikini top, and the mama boobs flop back down to my ankles. I retract my eel-slapping fin (as a mermaid, I am a straight-up badass) and my glimmery, shimmery, pastel scales give way to skin that thirsts for a good moisturizer against the Oklahoma wind.

I am a domesticated mermaid. I am landlocked by geography and circumstance. At night I swim from shore to shore, ocean to ocean, continent to continent, while my family sleeps. The agony and the ecstasy of writing the perfect sentence, or one just good enough keeps me alive. The words in my head echo and call out to me as waves crashing against the beach call to a real mermaid. The words wear me down into fine, soft sand. I search for a more perfect union of writing and family life. I long for the day when I can swim freely, gracefully from shore to shore, ocean to ocean, continent to continent as the sun shines over my head like a real mermaid. Until then, I will remain a nocturnal, domesticated mermaid.

I realize mermaids are not real, neither was Donna Summer’s hair, but that doesn’t stop me from being jealous.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Poverty, Inc.

I read an article about a woman in Texas who shot herself and her children in a food stamp office, after being denied benefits. It moved me to tears. I have been in that woman’s shoes—without a gun, and without the desire to shoot my children. I have languished in a big stock pot of humiliation and grief caused by our poverty.

Poverty is painful. Poverty causes anxiety in ways most people can’t imagine. A simple knock at the door can cause you to go into psychotic state of paranoia. Are they coming to cut the power off, because it’s 100 degrees outside? Are they cutting off the gas, because it’s 20 degrees outside? Are they coming to evict me? It’s an endless game of mental endurance to be poor in this country.

By the time a person gets to the food stamp office to apply for food benefits or temporary financial assistance, you, the poor person, are worn to an absolute nub.  By the time you get to the food stamp office, you have sold off every possession of value for a fraction of its worth just to survive. Sentimentality and abject poverty cannot co-exist.  You name it; I sold it, before I went to get food stamps.  By the time you get to the food stamp office, you have begged and borrowed from everyone in your orbit, because going to the food stamp office is the one thing you never, ever want to do. Going to the food stamp office is the entry into the Matrix of the American Poverty System, Inc., and once you get in it is nearly impossible to get out. When they enter your name into the computer, you are officially POOR.

The process of getting assistance in this country is a series of hoop jumping, hurdle hopping, and marathon running. You have got to be strong, if you’re going to be poor.

Yes, there are scammers who don’t give a good damn about bilking the system. What surprises me the most about the way our country has devolved in our discourse about poverty and politics and race is that reasonable people get irate over a woman getting food stamps to feed her kids. Yet, they admire and defend the millionaires who rape and pillage the federal government’s coffers for billions of dollars in bailouts. 

 Being from Alabama, race and class and poverty are so interwoven, that the poor can’t see the inherent racism of the system and the folks who want to drug test/castrate/screw the poor do not (or maybe they do) realize how racist they are for suggesting such Slave Era justice.  I have now been poor in Alabama and Oklahoma, and let me just say, there were 20 poor white faces for every 1 black face I saw. I counted. I couldn’t help it. I’d never seen so many white people at Poverty, Inc. Being from Alabama, the story I’ve been force fed on a hot buttered biscuit my whole life says only blacks are poor, and WE deserve it!

If we want to talk personal responsibility, then I suggest we look at the middle class. Stop spending more than you have. Period. The poor already do this. When we don’t have money, we don’t go buy a new pair of Prada shoes. We go to Goodwill, and we pray that there are no lice and foot funk left in that pair of one size too big sneakers that we are going to plunk down three bucks for.

As a nation, how can we sit back and punish OUR children by denying them food and shelter from the heat and cold? Who are we? What have we become? It is not the poor black children of America who are taking your jobs. It is not the poor children of Hispanics who are closing your factory and moving it to China. It’s not some poor white kid who has meth addicted parents that sold you a mortgage that is worth more than your McMansion.

I don’t condone what that woman in Texas did, but I understand. The process of getting benefits is humiliating. By the time you put on your big girl panties and walk in the food stamp office, you are already emotionally destroyed by the failure you are. You are already reduced to an empty shell. You already feel like you are nothing. You already feel lost, alone, pathetic, worthless, hopeless, meaningless, and ready to die. As a parent, you are charged with providing for your children. By the time you get to Poverty, Inc., you have already conceded that you can’t provide for your babies. You look into their eyes, and you wonder why they picked you, a failure, as a parent.

Poverty is painful, especially for those who had the luck or blessings of being so close to the American Dream. Poverty is harrowing. Poverty is like taking a dull meat cleaver to your soul. Poverty hacks away at your hopes and dreams, one rough chunk at a time. Poverty, abject poverty, going to the food stamp office poverty makes you want to end it all. Poverty damages you.

The system of poverty in the country destroys families. Poverty, Inc. denies the country the fullness of citizens who, if they just got a break, an opportunity, a job could and would be contributing taxpayers. The scamming Baby Mama is no different than the Wall Street banker. They are both cheating the American taxpayer. One just does it on their private jet.  

But the family that just lost all of its income, the little old lady living off of Social Security, the solider back from Iraq, the single mom who can’t collect a dime in child support, the dad who works 3 minimum wage jobs, the guy who just got laid off, the woman who can’t get a job because she is in default on her student loans, these are the poor in country.

The new poor is comprised of people who once wrote checks out to the United Way, and now find themselves sitting at a United Way agency, 50 deep in a waiting room built for 20 people to get a little help with utility bills. These are the ones who need help. Poverty, Inc. isn’t helping. Poverty, Inc. is damning Americans into a revolving hamster wheel of dependence.

My husband and I are doing everything we can to extract our family from the death grip of poverty. We will take any job that comes along. He was a man who once handled multi-million dollar projects in Israel, Spain, and Mexico. He now makes pizza, fixes doors, and rakes leaves to keep our family going. I use my worthless degrees to scrub other people’s toilets. I save aluminum cans. I bake pies.  I do whatever I can without breaking the law to keep my kids warm.

I hate being poor. I hate the pity. I hate how people think it’s going to rub off on them. I hate failing my kids. I hate the pain in my husband’s eyes. I hate the pain.

I understand why that woman in Texas wanted to die. I understand. The only difference between her and me is I haven’t given up hope, yet. Poverty, Inc. hasn’t cut the last chunk of hope I have left. I have faith that it will work out for me and my children. The lady in Texas used a gun to end the pain of poverty. Words are my weapon of choice. As long as I can tell the story of what it’s like to be poor, I will.

My greatest hope is that one day my words will provide me with the money that will help me avoid having to walk the walk of shame into a food stamp office, again.

 I haven’t lost my will to hope, dream, pray and plan my way out of poverty. I want off the hamster wheel.  I don’t plan on ever going back.

I pray for those children, whose Mama saw no way out. I understand.

 I pray for my own children. When I gaze into their eyes and see the flecks of ocean, amber, and army green, I pray my children don’t see us as failures. I pray they don’t see me as the ultimate Southern Archetype: the poor, black, maid who bowed down and stayed in her place, never courageous enough to get the hell out of the William Faulkner novel. Similarly, I pray they don’t see their Daddy as the ultimate anomaly: A handsome, blue eyed, strong, intelligent WHITE man, who through no fault of his own isn’t rich or powerful.

Being from Alabama, the gravity of race always weighs on my heart. I was programmed this way. Being a black woman married to a white man, it matters to me that we don’t end up being a cautionary tale for interracial love. Being the Mama to two biracial boys, it matters to me that my boys will grow up happy and comfortable. The stares and pointing and whispers will come because of their almond skin, beautiful curls, and kaleidoscope eyes. I don’t want the points and stares to come while we are in line at a soup kitchen, or in the waiting room of Poverty, Inc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Place Called Alabama

     Knox McLaney on his farm cooking to feed the 1048 Irregulars.

In a place called Alabama, I have friends that are both white and male. As the lone African-American woman in a group of white friends, I know we are special.  You won’t read about us in novels by bestselling Southern scribes. You won’t see us on TV or in movies. In a place called Alabama, where live oak trees shade the land my ancestors tilled with their hands as slaves, where history declares my friends racist because of their grandfathers’ sins; we call ourselves a family.  

Over the span of 20 years, Tom, Wayne, Knox, John, Bart, Warren, Jon, and I converged on the 1048 Jazz and Blues Club in Montgomery to share cold beer, talk SEC football, tell lies about conquests, and raise absolute hell about politics. Adriane, Fran, and Donna always brought grace and class and laughs and extra beer, in case we needed to hit the dog track.  From what I've heard, Wayne, Tom, and Knox met each other when they stood on the right side of history during the Segregation Era at the University of Alabama. I could completely be wrong, but it wouldn't be the first time a 1048 Irregular took a myth and spun it into absolute fact.

Tom Cork at the one and only 1048 Jazz and Blues photo by Irregular Donna Davis of the Sunshine State Irregulars

  We’ve coached each other through life’s biggest defeats, and cheered each other through the smallest victories.  We discuss race and gender openly and honestly. We solve the world’s problems, and then we gossip.  We take up collections for friends in need. We visit each other’s kin in the hospital.  We are not like family. We are family.

Portrait of Wayne Greenhaw by Artist and Irregular, Adriane Butterfield Duvall

Tom was the first of our group to pull up a barstool at The Big Happy Hour in the Sky. In May, Knox passed away, and sadly, our beloved Wayne died an hour before Knox’s funeral.  My heart is overgrown with the kudzu of unspeakable grief from losing my brothers.  I now live 730.3 miles away, but I know in a place called Alabama there is always a barstool, a cold beer, and a friend waiting for me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Blame Dave P: How The McBrothas Got Their Name

I apologize in advance for the racial undertones, overtones, highlights, and lowlights, but this is the story that must be told.

                                          Exhibit A: Baby Daniel

A few weeks after Daniel was born, I walked into 1048 to show everyone pictures of my sweet little boy. He had hair the color of a new penny and eyes the color of a back-to-school pair of Levi’s. He was beautiful. 

When the pictures got to Dave P( bling, blong, blaow), the lead singer and harmonica player of my favorite band, Blues Old Stand, he said, “Damn, Tange, that’s one white ass baby. You should call him Blackie McWhiteBoy.” 

I laughed. Hard.  P.Moe was absolutely right. Daniel was the whitest black baby I had ever seen. He was the perfect mix of DaddyFixIt and me. He was as white as his dad, and had blue eyes. If it hadn’t been for his perfectly pouty little mouth, I would go to my grave believing some white woman down the hall and I had been victims of a soap opera caliber baby swap.

When I got home from my adventure in Cloverdale (It wasn’t a full Happy Hour. I couldn’t drink, because I was pregnant, yet again.) I told the husband what Dave P said. I fully expected him to hit the roof. We had had a couple of full on brushes with some pretty snarky comments about our race mixing.  While I thought Blackie McWhiteBoy was the funniest thing I ever heard, I wasn’t so sure about Old Daddy. To my amazement he laughed. Hard. He picked up his son and said, “Well, I guess you are Blackie McWhiteBoy.”

                                          Exhibit B: Baby Adam

Nine months later Adam was born. His eyes were even bluer. His hair was even lighter. Rene and I started calling him Whitey McBrotha. Adam looked nothing like me. At. ALL. I still think he may have been switched.

The boys are just getting to the age where they recognize that we all look a little different.  Daniel is noticing it more. The other day, he pronounces Old Daddy to be “Pink, Strawberry Ice Cream.”  Daniel said he and Adam were “Kinda Yellow Ice Cream,” and “Mama, you’re my favorite. You’re Chocolate!” Rene and I had a good old laugh off of that. I’m just glad I’m still my little boy’s favorite!

 As the McBrothas grow up and move out into a world that can be very harsh to people of all flavors, I hope that they always remember that the love Daddy and I feel for each other and feel for them will never have a color. We are a Neapolitan McFamily.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sunshine Day!!!!! It Could Be Worse...

I woke up this morning feeling bad. The gloomy, post-Earthquake, pre-apocalyptic, damn, winter is coming, again, depression had set in all over the little house in the hood on the prairie. After last winter in Snoklahoma, I just want to pack up and go home. Le sigghhhhhh.  Then, the sun came out, and gosh darnit, I feel great! Life has a way of taking you on twists and turns. No matter how bad things get,  they could always be worse.  I decided to take stock of my totally awesome life! Le sigh, part dos. Ok, things are not perfect, but I am very happy. Really, I am. Seriously. For reals, dog.

Today, I'm thankful for the following:

1. I am not a Kardashian. (Damn Armenian KEEPERS! Give back the ring, Miss Thing...)

2. I am not one of Ann Coulter's Blacks. ( I suspect She will be trading Herman Cain for, like, Lil' Wayne in her Fox News Fantasy Black People League... sorry, the wind makes me snarky.)

3. I am tall enough to ride the rides. ( I'm  mathy like that.)

4. I know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. (None. I hate them thangs.)

5. I have a hole in my favorite socks, but I have all ten of my big, ashy, windblown toes. (Thanks, Oklahoma.)

Enjoy the video. Be thankful Sherwood Schwartz didn't make like a billion dollars off of your awkward puberty, and cut you out of all merchandising and syndication profits in perpetuity. Be thankful you didn't have to go on Celebrity Fit club to re-launch your acting career. Lookin' at you, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
As I sit here and #OccupyMySnuggie, I constantly remind myself: I could be Oliver from the Brady Bunch. Y'all, things could always be worse.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Oklahoma Earthquake!!!!

This is my take on the Oklahoma Earthquake. Yes, It was scary! Since I've been here I've lived through a BLIZZARD, 117 degree heat, and straight line winds that knocked me into the Dollar General!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Little Lessons on the Prairie: Birthday Letter to My Children

Dear Ashlee, Daniel, and Adam:

I love each of you. You each bring me immeasurable joy. You each have traits that shock and amaze me. Ashlee, your ability to “cut through the crap” will serve you well as you grow into womanhood. Daniel, you are kind, loving, and sensitive. These traits will make you an incredible father. Adam, your fearlessness scares me and makes me jealous that I’m not as fearless as you. As your birthdays roll around this year, I wanted to let you all know I am glad that I am your Mom.

I got to spend my birthday with MeMaw. I knew on that day it would be the last time I would ever see her on my birthday. I was filled with pain and sorrow and joy. Grandma Ella was special to each of you, as she was to me. If you put her life in perspective, she was an extraordinary woman. She was the three worst things a person could be in Alabama when she was born in 1941: poor, black, and female.

She taught me some very valuable lessons about life and love. I want to share some of them with you:

Never say no to love. Love comes in so many different forms. Grandma never flaunted her romantic relationships for the world to see, but she never hid the fact that she loved her children and her grandchildren with great abandon. She never rejected people for being gay or white or rich or poor or crazy. She always had a plate to feed hungry people. She always found a dollar to give, even when she didn’t have enough for herself. She loved everybody. She treated every single person like they were a child of God. Approach every aspect of your life with love. Sometimes people may hurt you, but often times they won’t. I’m not saying put yourself in a situation where you can physically or emotionally be hurt. There are times, too, when you must love someone enough to walk away.

Never think you are alone. I am here for you. If I can give it to you, I will. If I can’t, I will do everything in my power to help. Mama opened her doors to me, and let me come home when things got really awful for me. She never made me feel bad. She never made me feel like I had to beg or be ashamed. As your Mama, please know, you can always come home to me. You are not alone.

Never underestimate the power of prayer. Mama walked a groove in the floor in our apartment on Edgemont. She would walk and pray. We came to Montgomery with literally the clothes on our back. She prayed that God would bless her with nice dresses to wear to church. She had one dress when we came to Montgomery. She wore it every Sunday for 4 months. When she died, she had three closets filled with beautiful dresses, hats, shoes, and purses. She always believed in looking good to go see Jesus. She prayed to see each of her children graduate; we did. She prayed that we always had a roof over our heads and food in our bellies; we did. She prayed that we would have happy marriages and happy children… sometimes things don’t work out, but Miss Ella wanted the best for us all.

Never pass on a chance to laugh. Mama loved to laugh. She loved to make people laugh. She never let anything stop her from finding the humor in everything. Her favorite comedy bit of all time was that crazy parody video “We Miss Robert” by Ricky Smiley. She told me to see if I could find a spinning rim to put in her casket like they did in that video. She was dying, but able to find something funny. We must have laughed at 100 things over those 4 days. We laughed about 3 year old Ashlee going to my college graduation in a fancy dress and no underwear. We laughed about Daniel singing and dancing to his favorite song “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. We laughed about both the boys trying to put a stop to me and their Daddy getting married. We laughed that Adam told her on the phone, “Look, MeMaw, I’m busy. I can’t talk to you.” She thought that was hysterical. When I look back on the time I spent with her right before she died, I will always remember the laughter. Her favorite old school saying was, “Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.” She was right. So laugh, kids.

Your Grandmother was an amazing woman. She raised 4 kids of her own and 6 that were not hers. She loved music. She baked the best sweet potato pie and pound cake you ever put in your mouth. She’d whip your butt if you needed it. She’d hug you and wipe away your tears, if you needed it. She made us all feel like we were special. She was proud of each of us for different reasons.

When I close my eyes, I can see each of your little faces looking up at me the first time I held you. Each time, I thought my heart would burst from the love. Your Grandma Ella was there for each of your births. Ashlee, the way you took care of Mama during her cancer and while she was dying was a very heroic act. You were there the day she died. One day, I will die. I hope on that day, you will each be able to say what I say about my Mama: “She did the best she could with what she had, and I know more than anything; that lady loved me.”

Happy Birthday, Babies!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Intention: The Key to Comedy Success

Every stand-up comic wants a chance to perform on Leno or Letterman, just like every writer wants to be number one on the New York Times Bestseller List. The key to being successful as a comic is to decide very early on what you really want from your comedy career.

In the beginning, I wanted to cover myself in caramel and jump all over Jay Leno. This had nothing to do with being successful. In the beginning, I just wanted to be famous. Now, not so much. These days, I want to book 100 performances or speeches at churches, colleges, conferences, and nursing homes. I want to use my voice to uplift people.

Since moving to Oklahoma, I’ve had a chance to do comedy in a variety of places. I’ve won the semi-final round of Funniest Comic in Tulsa. I’ve produced my own shows at alternative comedy venues. I’ve been writing this blog. I’ve spoken and performed at conferences big and small. I have been featured in a national magazine and in the Tulsa World newspaper. I am, according to my own definition, successful.

Years ago, when I trained under Judy Carter, the legendary expert on building a successful comedy career, she said something in my class that has stuck with me to this day, “Decide if you want to be successful or famous. There are hundreds of successful comedians who work every day, and there are thousands who will struggle forever because they want to be famous.” It took almost ten years for this sage advice to really hit home with me. I will be eternally grateful to Judy for her wisdom and guidance.

The key to being successful at comedy, at work, in our relationship is simple: Decide what your intentions are, and work diligently towards fulfilling your goals. I intend to make people laugh and think. I intend to build a successful business that uses my strengths to make my little corner of the world a better place. I don’t intend to get on a stage and belittle myself, my race, or others in general. I intend to make a living without having to drive 500 miles just to make $100 a night. Hell, I can go back to scrubbing toilets and make more money! I intend to be happy doing what I love, and maintaining my integrity.

It took me a long time to be honest about what I wanted. It has taken almost ten years to see glimmers of success. I feel blessed to have the support of my husband and my friends who cheer for me, when I have a little thing go right. I am happy. I am walking on my path. I am living my dreams.

In case you’re wondering, I still keep a jar of caramel in my car, in case I decide to run off to LA and meet up with “The Chin!”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

HOMEGIRL ON THE RANGE: Little Lessons on the Prairie

HOMEGIRL ON THE RANGE: Little Lessons on the Prairie: The move to Owasso has been tough. Back home in Alabama I was in the middle of everything. It’s kinda hard for a social butterfly to be wit...

Little Lessons on the Prairie

The move to Owasso has been tough. Back home in Alabama I was in the middle of everything. It’s kinda hard for a social butterfly to be without places to land, light, and spread a little pollen. Here, I am pretty much unknown. I say that like I’m Angelina Jolie, huh? Well, I wasn’t famous enough to hire some nanny to take care of the McBrothas, but I was famous enough to have my own seat at the bar.

While the changes over the last 12 months have been hard, I can definitively say that they haven’t been all bad. I’ve grown in ways I never imagined. I am free of most distractions… them young ‘uns and that husband of mine still keep me away from the navel gazing and lint picking I miss.

I’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons while being frozen stiff, whipped around like a chubby tumbleweed, and dry roasted:

I will not die, if I cannot plant my big butt on a bar stool in Old Cloverdale. (I did pout about not having any fun people to hang out with for 9 months. I have abandoned the entire idea of going to nursing homes to meet new friends and calling them the names of old friends, just to make myself feel better. I get a sense that that is frowned upon…)

Hot glue is all that. How did I live without it?

Walking to the library is really more fun than listening to some lying ass politician/ lobbyist/ legislative aide tell you about his glory days as second-string quarterback at the University of Alabama.

A guy who bought 2,000 copies of his own book is not really a writer. Oh, and another thing, just because some dude works for a bookstore doesn’t mean he’s a writer, either. Oh, yeah, one more thing, I have just as much right to publish my crappy books as you do. I can’t believe it took me 10 years and 750 miles to finally get my drawers pressed enough to accept this fact!

Drama free living is as refreshing as lemonade spiked with a little vodka at a church potluck. I’ve done both, now.

The same guy that irked the cow crap out of me in Alabama irks the cow crap me on Facebook and Twitter. Some things never change.

MCBrotha Navel Gazing Expo:

Life as a comedian isn’t any easier here. There are just more comedy venues. That just means there are more people who are funnier than me. Not that I care. I’ve learned how to hot glue stuff. I can always make a living working for NASA.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Where There Are Two Or More Gathered...I'll put on a show

I love to speak and perform! As things evolve and I grow more comfortable with the new, improved me, I'm finding that I get far more satisfaction out of giving funny and inspiring speeches. It blends everything I do well: comedy, happiness, teaching, PR, and horrible keyboarding skills into one TANGE-TASTIC experience. I'll never give up doing stand-up...heck, I just walked into this bookstore to browse and buy a coffee, next thing you know I pull a PA system out of my fanny pack, lock the doors, and customers are trapped at my show. I love to ambush the gun-toting people of Oklahoma with my jokes. Back in Montgomery I was a nobody, but here in Owasso they say my name with all due awe, y'all... They call me, "Did you see her hair?!?"

Monday, October 24, 2011

They say you have to post on your blog twice a week. I don't know who they are. Why do they get to make the rules? They are really getting on my nerves. I posted this picture to remind me that winter is coming, and one day I will spend my winters where the sand is white as snow.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Toddler or Swiffer: Dusting Blinds

Dusting.Blinds.Sucks. But you have to do it. The best way is start at the top and work your way down. Use a dry microfiber cloth. I do not, repeat, DO NOT suggest you wet the blind unless they are all nasty. I'm talking GAGAZOLA. Spraying them with some wet cleaning solution will just make extra work if your blinds are just plain if you have been frying more chicken than the Colonel, then you may have to whip out an all purpose cleaner or degreaser...I PITY THA FOOL! You can also use the following to dry dust your blinds: Your Toddler ----because they will think it's fun!!! to inhale 3 year old dust mites...think of it as family game time, and as a bonus you may get a nap after you chug a little antihistamine to stop the sneezing, just be sure to lock all doors to keep the kid from wandering off while you snooze. Feather Duster---because you're old school. Swiffer Duster-- because you are new school. Used Fabric Softer Sheet---because you're broke/cheap/frugal/broke...or if you are a rich show off, use a new off! The holidays are coming up, and you don't want you brother's nosy wife to be rubbing all up on your blinds calling you a Flilthy Fool. Ok, that wouldn't bother me one iota, but if it bothers you that much, just go buy new blinds. Happy Scrubbing!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Who's That Lady

Back in Montgomery, the hubby and I cleaned out houses after people died, moved, or were evicted. One of the many cool treasures I found was this charcoal image of a beautiful black woman. The owner of the house was almost 100 when he died. He wasn't a real artist, but he did dabble in drawings. I always wonder who this lady was to him. What was her story?

I asked the family if they wanted this portrait, and the daughters...each one of them fine, Southern ladies (who were pushing if not smushing 70) said an emphatic "NO!"

Makes me wonder even more... was she a lover, a friend, an enemy, or all of the above?

The Obvious

My Mom passed away on September 10, 2011. I miss her so much. August and September were a blur, and as temps cool down out here on the prairie, I am reminded that this will be the first time I won't talk to my Mom on a holiday. It sucks.

Thank you for reading. I am doing all I can to get back to happy posts. I think the blog may take on a new direction and life starting this fall! Looking forward to climbing new do realize I have never climbed a real mountain...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tange on a Plane

I recently flew home to visit my very, very ill mother. I won't hurl all my sadness at you. I save that for Facebook. I boarded the plane from Dallas to Birmingham, and sat down in the biggest, widest, most fat girl friendly seat on the plane. I had just gotten off the phone with my daughter who revealed that my Mama was in the hospital, and things were not looking real good. I put my sunglasses on and commenced to have a soap opera level break down. You know snot, slobber, and that seal barking grief cry that is reserved for break-ups, bad dye jobs, and being too fat to fit in the size you think you are....

Suddenly the male flight attendant came on the intercom, "Those of you seated by the wings must be able to open the cabin door..." That was all I heard. I looked over and realized I was sitting by the door. I got my black ass up. I got my bag from the overhead compartment.I tried to do it all sneaky-snake, but I was totally busted.

I heard a mixture of gasps and a couple of chuckles. I wasn't going for laughs or shocks. I just knew in my heart of hearts that I was soooooo not committed to saving any one of these strangers. I couldn't be responsible for putting my seat tray up when the captain said so. I am not a hero. I'm a self-absorbed comic. I leave the humanitarianism to people in Hollywood who can afford to care about orphaned monkeys, one-eyed Himalayan goats, and children in famine who really need iPhones. I am a walking United Way Drive, and I can't get past self-preservation or protecting my kids enough to become Wesley Snipes or Samuel L. Jackson.

The flight attendant came over to me, after I moved (voluntarily) to the back of the plane.
"In my 26 years of doing this, no one has ever gotten up and moved, " he smiled. He was tickled.

"Look, my Mama is dying. I can't be responsible or deal with anybody else and their death. I don't love any of these people. I can use one of them as a flotation device, but I can't open that damned door."

He and the other attendant laughed out loud. I wasn't trying to make them laugh. I was really just speaking my truth. I really didn't give one good damn if too much perfume lady, old man with the cane, or screaming ass baby died. In all honesty, I wish I could have arranged to push lady with the cat in the cat bag that was making me sneeze out of the plane somewhere over Wal-Mart World Headquarters in Arkansas...just to register my disapproval of muthaflipin cats on PLANES and Wal-Mart. Once again, unchristian, but true.

The flight attendant,so taken with my honesty said, "Can I get you a cocktail?"

I said, "I'm going to see my dying mama."

He said, " Let me get you some vodka."

I thanked him. As I sipped my Bloody Mary somewhere over Mississippi, I regretted my selfishness.

Ok, that regret part is a total lie.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tang Don't Care

How did I go my whole life without knowing about the deliciously funny Randall and the Honey Badger? YouTube sensation, you ask? Hell yeah. It's not like the Honey Badger gives a sh*t what you think. So over 14 million people have seen this video and no one decided to show it to me. What is this a conspiracy? I get invited to Google+ and Spotify, but no one bothers to send me a linky dink to the funniest sh*t I've ever seen in my life. It is genius. I'm jealous I didn't think of it first.

I tweeted about the Honey Badger, and you know what? The HONEY BADGER retweeted me. He acts like he "don't care." You care enough to retweet me Honey Badger.

Honey Badger, I love you. Now go on back to dragging snakes down from trees and eating them for your snacky snack. Owasso Woman makes the September issue of Woman's ... Owasso Woman makes the September issue of Woman's ...: "The subject line read 'Guess WHAT????'  I didn't know you could feel someone jumping for joy in an email, but when I received ..."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ahhhh, Romance!

I love me a good romance novel. I've loved them since I checked my first stack of Silhouette Desires out from the library when I was twelve-ish. I took a stack of the fire-engine red paperbacks to the counter, and that shaggy-haired, super strange dude that used to work at the Normandale Library just gave me a look that woulda made my Mama proud. Back in the day I wasn't so quick to tell people off. I just gave him a one eye squint and a slight neck roll to let him know he better mind his own business.

Nowadays, romance books cover everything from doing it with vampires, werewolves, and half monkey/half Greek Gods (all at the same time) to hog-tying the Mayor and spanking him with a Twizzler for not ordering enough firecrackers for the 4th of July. Every kink is covered. Romances set in 18th Century Ireland, Amish Romances (for real, yall, they exist), and my personal favorite, gay erotic romance. I have to tell you, there are some freaky people out there reading and writing romances. But people are reading, and that is a good thing...even if they are getting all hot and bothered over a sweet young woman losing her virginity to a rock star who is really a shape shifter who can only turn into a cute poodle puppy. Ewww.

I have found myself writing romance stories. Some good. Some really bad. But for me,they have been fun and exciting to write. It's a great way to tell lies about my weight and height, and sneak in some little known facts about how bad I was (allegedly) before the marital incident. I find myself injecting a little comedy in each one. I think I may be on to something. Comedy + Sex+ Creepy = Publishing Gold!

They say write what you know. I know a whole lot about the business end of the romance novel. (It ain't bragging if it's true.) I know very little about romance itself. That requires some real imagination. Romance for my sweet sexy fine zombie prince of a husband consists of him being kind enough to bring me home a large order of bread sticks from work with a tub of marinara. Garlic butter smothered foreplay! He loves him some me.

I find that most romance novels do a disservice by not keeping it real for the impressionable young women who read the books looking for clues to the perfect man/relationship/ happily ever after. Well, ladies here is your keep it real advice for the day...

1. All heroes in romance novels look like Bradley Cooper and are hung like Ron Jeremy.

Brace yourselves ladies, there are men among us who are packing Viennas, but they need love, too. Yes you will be utterly disappointed with his mini-meat stick, but if he's been properly trained; he can make your toes curl and sweat your hair into Buckwheat fro. You can always train him. Little man syndrome is a treatable disease.

MY advice: Buy yourself a nice toy to supplement his miniature throbbing orb of pleasure. Close your eyes and pretend he is Bradley Cooper if he really looks like Ron Jeremy.

2. All heroes in romance novels will overcome anything to be with the woman they love.

HA! There are guys who will love you deeper, longer, better than anyone else, but when it gets to nut cuttin' time they are throwing up "deuces" and all you see are elbows and ass walking out the door.

MY advice: If you have a man who has disappointed you in a big, life-altering way at least three times, WALK AWAY. He ain't changing. You can't make him.

3. All heroes in romance novels are Bad Boys with a heart of gold.

Ohhhhhh, baby, do I love bad boys! I won’t go into detail, because my Mama may read this. Bad Boys are fun and exciting and dangerous and yes, yes, yes getting your swerve on with a Bad Boy makes you want to tap into your inner Bad Girl and go rob a nursing home. Most Bad Boys are just bad. PERIOD. Girlfriend, you do not want to be with a Bad Boy when he is in a full blown herpes flare up of Bad Assity, because you could actually get “the herp” from this guy. You could get your car repo’d from being with this guy. You could end up being the hottest thing strolling the red carpet of Cellblock D from being with this guy. I’m sure you’ve seen those prison shows on MSNBC: jumpsuits are NEVER flattering and the tough boy-looking lesbian, who will decide to make you her prison wife, is usually not cute. I mean, if you’re gonna be a situational lesbian, wouldn’t you rather do it with a girl that looks like Angelina Jolie or Janet Jackson? It’s just too much for me. The prison stud never looks like Ellen or Rachel Maddow. The prison stud always looks like Don Knotts, and has a blackcent like Jay-Z. If I want a wigger, I'll stalk Eminem...or wigger-in- training, Justin Bieber, who would make an excellent prison stud IN 3-D!!!!!!. Just sayin’.

MY Advice: Bad Boys are gifts from Dr. Phil to remind us that Oprah loves us and wants us to be happy. Have a fling with a Bad Boy, repent, get tested for HIV, run a credit report on yourself, and find yourself a nice boy. Or find an older,reformed Bad Boy. A man who has been through some hard times, is over 40, ready to settle down…but still capable of breaking bad at a moment’s notice, if expert whup assery is needed.

I said all that to say I’ve hit terrible writers block. I’ve been working on an interracial romance between a time-traveling ghetto girl and a Leprechaun, and while I think the premise is totally believable; I just don’t know how to make the bondage scene with the third leg of the love triangle,the vampire drag queen, Fang-O-Licious, work. I’ll take suggestions…

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Long Time Coming

Finally, it is all falling into place. Can we just take a moment and sing along with the late, great Sam Cooke. It's been a loooooooonnnnnnnnngggggg time comin', but finally a change has come! I am so excited about my new venture!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Question Lady

If you came here thinking I had answers for you, you came to the wrong place. My head has been filled with random questions. Sure, I could Google the answers, but that would just lead to more questions. Some of these questions keep me up late at night long after the McBrothas have gone off to dream about the destruction they can cause tomorrow.

1. Where the hell is Kristy MacNichol?

2. Why can’t Jennifer Anniston/Rene’ Zellweger/ Halle Berry find true love?

3. What was so wrong with shoulder pads?

4. Why do all the men of pre-school shows look like creepy child molesting arsonists? Have you ever seen The Upside Down Show? It comes on Nick Jr at 10pm…long after bedtime for the demographic. I think it’s some sort of Morse code show for freaks. It “cweeps” me out, as my son says.

5. If I deleted my Twitter account, would Kanye West care?

6. If I actually used my Myspace, would Justin Timberlake notice?

7. How can I turn a sex tape into a money making machine without having to get my smack madam anywhere near nasty ass Ray J or brain dead Tommy Lee?

8. Can you die from eating salsa that’s old enough to have green fridge fuzz all on it?

9. How come no one told me after I turned 40 the hair on my legs would stop growing, but the hair on my face would get all militant? Seriously, if I didn’t keep the chin hairs in check, I’d look like an old, black Amish man, for real. Just call me Jebidiah Tyrone Ekhoff.

10. Is there really a market for plus-sized strippers, and would I be the skinniest one on the pole? Think about it, nobody wants to be the fat girl even at a fat girl freak fest.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Broke Ass Whisperer: Practical Tips to Dealing with Debt Collectors

Bill collectors, hard-working Americans, and people from foreign counties who have settled into jobs formerly held by hard-working Americans, are the absolute bane of the poor person’s existence. Back in the day, the worst thing they would do is call you “up on your job,” as my Homegirl on the Beach, Alvita, says. Now they will let you know in 140 characters or less all up on your Twitter feed that they want their damn money. I even saw a friend being called out on her Facebook wall about a past due bill. If that doesn’t make you want to tighten up your online force field, grits ain’t groceries.
In these hard economic times, most of us will stumble into a temporary state of broke-assity. Chances are, some dude from a phone bank in the heart of downtown Can You Please Repeat That in English, India is gonna call you. If you are new to poverty, or you just need a little help shutting down all those begging ass agencies that help begging ass broke people, like me; I’ve got a few tips for you. I am an expert on poverty. I’ve been broke ass in two states. I practically deserve a leather chair next to Suze Orman’s black ass. I think I’ll call my show: The Broke Ass Whisperer. (Please say this with reverence and pretend you have on sparkly Michael Jackson gloves when you do that starburst “tah, dah” thingy!)
1. If you do slip up and answer the phone (you do know they make this thing called caller id?) use it as an opportunity to endear yourself with the collector. Start by playing Barry White’s Never, Never Gonna Give You Up, and in a whispery sing-songy voice, ask if you can kiss the collector all over his/her sweet, sexy body. Right on. (Bonus points if you’re willing to gay for the sake of bad debt. I can just see you now on a podium at the next Gay Pride event in your town. Drag queens will kiss you… You go, girl! ) You have to shift the focus away from your broke ass being stupid enough to actually answer the phone. If it means having phone sex with some dude in India, so be it. It’s only cheating if you take pictures of your Johnson or your Smack Madam and post it on Twitter.

2. Never, ever admit, affirm or even hint to the fact that you are on the phone. If you do, the credit clock starts all over again, and that crazy spending spree you went on buying all those Africa Medallions/ Mr. Hammer Pants/ Hair crimping appliances in 1991 will be straight up dope and freky, freky, fresh, AGAIN. This is the only time hanging up on someone without first giving them a good- old- fashioned -Trenholm Court Housing Project- caliber cussing out is ever acceptable. On second thought, just get ETHNIC on the collector, but stop short of threatening to cut them. That will just get the Po-Po dispatched to the hizzie; and you don’t want a piece of the badge. Remember, we are in a recession, and I have it on good authority that cops get paid a “put her black ass in jail” commission…ok, I’m totally making that up.

3. If you are broke ass and bone-headed enough to say your name, throw in a “residence” afterward. Like, “This is Mary. Mary’s RESIDENCE.” (and scream that part, just for fun!) That will make the collector pause. Then you can slide in, this is THE MAID, or even better, THE NANNY. Bill collectors hate to think that the debtor is using charged-off debt dollars to live the good life. This is also the perfect time to invent the life Oprah says you really want. Think of it as your big break in acting. I used this one recently, “I’m sorry, I’m Tamela’s (always screw your name up the second time) NANNY. She and her husband, Mr. Rafeal, (see, see, see, works for you and your baby daddy, too!) are on holiday in the South of France with Jay-Z and Beyonce. May I take a message?” The Collectress got all pissy with me, and asked me to repeat myself. So, I did, but this time I did it with my signature Afro-Cuban accent. I’ve got some country kinfolk in Cuba, Alabama and I know all the words to “Conga” by Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine!That's close enough to #WINNING! Of course I sounded like a cross between Bono, Ellie Mae Clampett and Miss Cleo, but that is not the point. The point is the bill collector was so pissed that she thought Tamela was off having a Rump Shaker Rematch with Beyonce’ that she put me on hold while she conferenced in her MANAGER. I used that as the perfect opportunity to pretend the phone company had just cut off my phone. Well, that wasn’t much of a lie…the next day the telecommunications repo man got me! I totally saved myself from having to lie to the Collectress and her boss about when I could send them a check (eye roll, tooth suck, double cobra neck), by lying about my identity with an accent. Hell, I should submit it as part of my reel to casting directors. IT was NAACP Image Award worthy. I would like to thank all the broke ass people who taught me being broke isn’t just a way of life; it’s a state of mind…sniff,sniff.

Being broke ass is painful and embarrassing, but with a little creativity; you can make it fun! Just ask all those bastards that took TARP money…

Next Post: Teaching Your Toddlers to Shoplift Hair Weave and How to Resale Weave for PROFIT!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Casey Anthony, the Debt Ceiling and Michele Bachman

I have an opinion on all three: WHY? Also, these were the top three topics on Google, and I figure other people have opinions, too.

Why is Casey Anthony still wasting tax payer’s money? Why would you let your child go missing a month before you got out the tattoo chair and off the pole at the club and decided to search for her? Because you killed your baby, that’s why. If I don’t hear my kids for five minutes, I know something is wrong. If there is silence in the Ekhoff house, I know somebody is getting into something- or somebody is bad sick. No mama worth even a half-bucket of a damn is going to let her baby go missing that long, unless said mama did something wrong. Sure, we all have that point in Wal-Mart when we want a tractor beam to swoop down and suck our precious, screaming sweethearts up to the planet “Will You Shut the Hell Up So Mommy Can Shop in Peace.” Alas, the tractor beam doesn’t come and long-suffering Mamas in Wal-Marts all over the world have to live through shopping trips of doom, and they don’t go looking in the sporting goods section for some fresh chloroform. This heifer doesn’t need to be thrown in jail; she needs to be covered in Alaga syrup, and placed ever-so-gently in the biggest red-ant bed in Alabama. I’m guessing the best ant beds are somewhere between Clio and Smut Eye. If I were George Foreman of that jury, it would have taken us about an hour- wouldn’t want people to think we were biased- to end this trial.

I know you’re thinking, “Tang, clearly, you know nothing of politics or money, why do you feel the need to speak out on the debt ceiling?” My answer to this one is simple, because I can. We’ve raised the debt ceiling before. This ain’t America’s first time at the debtor’s rodeo. Do it or don’t do it, but for the love of Oprah, stop talking about it. It’s been raised over 100 times since 1917, it ain’t like The President and Mrs. Obama just invented it for funzies while lighting sparklers with the girls last night. Hell, it’s been done ten times in the last decade. I hate to be the one to remind you, but old W. was President when we raised it without stuttering eight years in a row. Can’t we just get back to picking on Mrs. Obama for trying to get future rap star, ‘Lil Fat Ass to step away from the fried Kool-Aid?

Michele Bachman, I hate to be the one to break this down like a simple fraction for you, but your husband may be a little gay. Where I come from, people who like to de-program gay people are usually gay. See, straight people don’t get all up in gay people’s business like that. Usually, it’s sexually frustrated uber-christians who want to pray the gay away. I’m gonna let you in on a little secret Michele, most husbands, the straight ones, are too busy working their asses off to take care of their families to be concerned with how to make gay go away. Most American husbands don’t give a damn what two grown people do with their own bodies in their own homes.
I did a quick survey at my house.
Me: Honey, how do you feel about gays?
Him: Why is the thermostat set at 72 in here? We aren’t trying to hang meat in here. Do you know how much the power bill is?
Me: No, because I was watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and….
Him: You had the TV on today? I told you that TV uses too much electricity. Do I hear water dripping in the bathroom? Are you using the oven???
Notice a trend here, Michele, my hot-blooded, American husband cares about one thing: paying the bills, bills, bills.
The only people who seem to make a living at professional gay-hunting are just looking for an excuse to take advantage of young, confused people, and all the while they use religion as the rack to hang their Bob Mackie ball gowns on. Michele, when your husband calls gay men barbarians, what he means is, “ I wish that Native would get restless all up in this…” Girlfriend, you better get your wife in check, before you decide to run for President, because Ru Paul is in hair and make-up just itching to call Mr. Bachman out.
Before you go hurling the Liberal word at me, I’m ok with my gay-loving, idiot-loathing, bad-ass self. I believe God, and Oprah, loves us all. I believe Jesus died for me. Thank the Lord for that, because I'd be bustin hell wide open for my past sins, and my current state of "fry baby-killing Casey Anthony." Now, let’s raise that debt ceiling, buy some tacky crap from Oriental Trading Company, and throw a Casey Anthony Burn in Hell Party! I bet we all know who’ll be the first one on the Karaoke stage when “It’s Raining Men” starts to play. God Bless the USA!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where Were You?

There are tragic moments in history that are seared into the American consciousness. These moments can galvanize a generation into action or apathy. These moments can spring forth spontaneous memorials and public mourning. These moments make us true citizens of the United States. In playgroups and daycares and parents’ day out groups all over America, tragedy has struck a new generation: Nick Jr. has REPLACED the actress that played Marina in the tour-de-force pre-school program, The Fresh Beat Band.

Where were you the day the music died? I was in the kitchen sneaking me an ice cream sandwich. (When you have pre-school aged kids, you never get to ENJOY treats near them, because they are like crayon-wielding sharks. They can smell a snack from a mile off, and they have no problem with “sharing” your snack.) I remember this moment like it was yesterday. Because it was yesterday when Adam let loose the scream heard round the world, “That’s not my MaWeena! Gimme my MaWeena back!” He then dissolved into a screaming, snotting meltdown that ranked up there with “The Great Wal-Mart Hissy Fit of 2011.” I actually had to put my ice cream sandwich back in the freezer, because I knew this wasn’t gonna be one of those temporary freak outs. ( Sidebar: Dontcha just hate it when the first ice cream sandwich you eat out of the box is the perfect temp then you leave the box in the freezer and you grab another one a couple of days later to find those yucky ice crystals?) Damn you to hell, Marina! I wonder if I can sue somebody, and get the child some college money because of this trauma ?!?!

Who the hell is the Fresh Beat Band? For enlightened parents, who actually care about real issues in the world, they are an annoying pre-school version of a pre-fab TV show band-- an updated, multicultural, “Monkees” without the dreamy Davey Jones for four-year-olds. They even have a Latina as the lead singer. Old Marina is not the lead singer. Old Marina has fiery red hair, and she plays (insert laugh track here) drums. Old Marina manages to look like the grown- up version of that little girl from the Partidge Family who could give less than a damn about “acting” or staying on beat. But my son loves Old Marina. For four-year olds, the Fresh Beat Band ROCKS!!!! Their songs speak to my son’s soul: Let’s Go Bananas, Great Day, Quack Shoes, are like Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On to little Adam.

According to “sources,” Old Marina has left the show to get married and start a family. But, I did some cyber stalking, and it appears Old Marina may have been moonlighting as a singer- songwriter. Damn you to hell, Old Marina. Parents have taken to the interweb to loudly reveal their displeasure. And here I was thinking my kid was the only stalker-in-training. Twitter is atwitter with calls for the beheading of the Director of Programming at Nick Jr. Facebook posts on the official Fresh Beat Band page are scathing and down-right ugly. As my friend Tara said, “Those parents are ready to riot.” I wish these people would find a life.

After much thought, I have decided not to “take it to the streets” over this new, Miss Clairol- assisted Marina. In the stay at home mom community, I bet that makes me a bad mother. As if I care. I’m old-school. I believe this is a teachable moment for my distraught toddler: change happens. You may hate it, but it does happen. I wonder if losing “his MaWeena “will be to my sons’ childhood what the Challenger Explosion was to mine. That was the day I learned to never watch another space ship launch live. I wonder if in 20 years, a group of young people affected by this Old Marina/ New Marina thing will get together and pen a moving, hip-hop anthem to commemorate the day the music died?

Ever the subversive, I am part of that shadow group that prays that the New Marina adds a Ted McGingley cancel curse to the damn show, BECAUSE I HATE IT. I hate every vapid song. I hate every jerky dance move. I hate every scratch of the turntables by “The Real MC Twist,” or is he Shout? Hell if I know.

I do feel bad that my child has lost his first character on a TV show, but if he would stop beau-guarding the damn TV, I could introduce him to the world of soap operas, where character replacement is high art: one day you are seven years old, and poof the next day you’re 32, and head of Jabot Cosmetics, like Victoria Newman on The Young and The Restless.

I will have to endure another old black lady all up on the casket moment with Adam, because I just cut the TV on, and wouldn’t you know it, the channel is set to Nick Jr. I feel a meltdown in 5,4,3,2,…

Friday, June 10, 2011

Almost Famous

So, I'm almost famous. I won "Funniest Person in Tulsa" Wednesday night at the Loony Bin Comedy Club. I went in expecting to get my butt kicked. But, I won. I am happy and proud for having the courage to try. I just keep being patient and trying to make things happen. It's been 10 years off and on of trying to figure out how to make comedy my profession instead of my hobby. I've been giving it my all for the last three years. I hoping this gamble pays off!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Homegirl on the Range: The Greenhaw Effect

Homegirl on the Range: The Greenhaw Effect: "When my fractured family moved to Montgomery, Alabama from Fort Benning , Georgia, my world was shattered. The short time I got to experienc..."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Greenhaw Effect

When my fractured family moved to Montgomery, Alabama from Fort Benning , Georgia, my world was shattered. The short time I got to experience the life of a military brat was idyllic. I got to be a kid. I wasn’t defined my color or my gender. I was just a smart, funny, and very shy little girl.
The economic realities of my parents’ divorce dictated a new script for our lives. No longer did we live in the safe walls of a military base, with beautiful yards and children of every flesh tone; we were now project dwellers. My Mama would hold my face in her hands and say, “You live here, you are not of here.” It would take decades for her words to fully sink into my soul. It would take until I was 40 years old to wash away all the emotional scars that growing up in poverty had left smudged on my psyche. I never felt good enough. I never felt I was enough. I felt doomed to failure, because kids like me never make it.

Growing up in the hood the only places I ever felt safe were at school and at the library. I read everything I could get my hands on: history books, romance novels, plays, poetry. I was obsessed with Judy Blume, and every chance I could I would retreat to a world of high rise apartments in Manhattan. I became obsessed with moving to New York City. I’d look around at our apartment, and later our run-down Section 8 rental house, and just pretend that I was in a fancy building looking out at Central Park.

Bookworm. Nerd. White girl. These were the nicknames hurled at me by the kids at school. The harder they hit me with the verbal attacks, the more I retreated into books. I remember like it was yesterday, the day in seventh grade when I checked out Gone with the Wind and To Kill A Mockingbird at the same time. Our librarian at Bellingrath Jr. High, a notoriously violent school at the time, allowed me to check out more than one book, and she always gave me books from the 9th grade reading list. IT was as if it had been announced on the intercom: Tangela Alyce Parker is not only a nerd, but she is a no-good- white-folk-loving discredit to her race.

The girls, who probably never read either book, started calling me Prissy and MAMMY, they would punch me in the back when I opened my locker. My arch nemesis, Pat, once tore the pages out of a brand new copy of Pride and Prejudice my Mama bought for me at a yard sale. (I still hate that girl. I’m not surprised that she is in Tutwiler Women’s Prison, bless her heart.) I was skinny and awkward looking. I wore big shirts to hide the mysterious growths on chest that made boys who used to make me cry now try to make me laugh. I finished Gone with the Wind in four days. It only took me an entire day to finish Mockingbird. Honey, my world was rocked. I found a new obsession: Harper Lee. I went rushing into the library, and I said, “I need all the books by Harper Lee. “
“There aren’t any more books by Harper Lee. She never wrote another one.”
“Well it says she lives in New York AND Alabama. Do you know how to find her? I need to talk to her.”
“ No, I don’t. But I guess you could write a letter to her at the place that published the book.”
I walked away dejected, but I decided one day I would become a writer, and move to New York City and become FRIENDS with Harper Lee. Unbeknownst to her, Harper Lee had a 13 year old stalker. I would sit in a roach infested project apartment in Montgomery, Alabama and plan the ultimate luncheon in Ms. Lee’s honor at THE PLAZA. I was so well connected in my head, I would even get LIZA! to perform.

Twenty years later, Wayne Greenhaw, my friend, my mentor, my drinking buddy, and my one time employer, introduced me to my idol Harper Lee. He said, Nelle, I want you to meet my dear friend, Tangela.”
Ms. Lee said, “It’s so nice to meet you. Wayne talks about you all the time. His stories about you tickle me.”
I started crying. The collective history of both my grandmothers, and every elderly black woman in my family that had taken care of a white family by force or by choice rushed on me and overwhelmed me. I can remember the stories of how they would “raise up” white children, clean houses, and get paid three dollars a day. I heard the tale of how my Granny loved a child and how that child loved her back, but the mother, in a jealous rage, accused my Granny of stealing her jewelry, and made the husband fire my grandmother.

All the indignities of the “Domestic Service” that built the American South had been chronicled by the women in my family, and to this day those stories are etched on my heart. Calpurnia, the housekeeper and surrogate mother, in To Kill a Mockingbird , was the first black female character written by a white person that I read as a child who wasn’t embarrassing to me. Both Prissy and Mammy made me feel a sense of unrelenting shame as a child. I felt shame for my grandmothers because they were Mammies for wealthy white families in Montgomery. I felt ashamed because I believed the whole world saw me as growing up to be either a Prissy or Mammy, but along comes Calpurnia, and suddenly there was a third option: a woman can be trapped in the reality of a place like Maycomb, Alabama, but she has a right to be her own person. Calpurina was grace and class and dignity.

Finally my chance had come to talk to Harper Lee, and here I was crying like a damn fool. I hugged her through my tears I said, “Ms. Lee, thank you for writing Calpurnia. Thank you for not making her a Mammy. MY Grandma was a Calpurnia.”
Nelle Harper Lee said, “Wayne said you were special.”
She looked at Greehaw and said, “I have never had anyone say that to me, Wayne. I like her. Smart as a whip.”
Wayne rubbed my back, winked at me, and handed me his handkerchief, and said “ I told you you were special.” As Ms. Lee was whisked through the crowd, and Wayne looked back at me and gave me a thumbs up!

In one moment, my friend Wayne Greenhaw had facilitated the absolute moment that changed my life. That was the moment I started to believe I was smart. That was the moment I started to believe I was from the ghetto but not of the ghetto. That was the moment I started to believe my words had power. That was the moment the smudges of poverty and racism and fatherlessness began to disappear from my spirit. I started to believe I was worthy of being and doing whatever I wanted, because my IDOL, Harper Lee said it was ok.
In the years since I worked as Wayne’s personal assistant, and as his publicist at River City Publishing, I have endured some extreme hardships: poverty (again), homelessness, emotional ruin, and a few personal catastrophes that I’ll save for a tell-most autobiography. I found myself cleaning houses to keep our family alive. With each stroke of the broom, each scrub of the toilet brush, each squirt of Windex, I found myself thinking of all the women in my family who cleaned. I’d think of Calpurnia’s quiet strength, and remember I was a maid by choice, not by force. I would often vacillate between being thrilled to have work that paid my bills and being humiliated that I had to do maid work to pay my bills. The famous quote of Hattie McDaniel, the Academy Award winning actress who played Mammy in the film adaptation of Gone with the Wind, “I’d rather play a maid, than be a maid,” would pop into my head while dusting or washing windows. Those words would sustain me while I cobbled together my one woman comedy show.

I remember sitting on the porch of El Rey having a drink with Wayne when I was in the middle of trying to figure out how to make a comedy show out of my experiences as a maid. I asked him if he had any advice for me. Wayne just laughed and said, “I don’t do comedy for a reason, but you are funny, and you ain’t scared of shit. Don’t start getting scared now. Hell, you been making folks laugh for free for years. You need to find a way to get paid. Remember what Hattie McDaniel said?”

I laughed as we said the quote out loud together. “Hell, girl, getting paid to make people laugh at you being a maid, beats the hell outta actually being one. I’ll guaren-damn-tee it!” I decided to lean into my inner Calpurnia, and make the most out of the chickenshit life had been doling out!

As I try to recover from the double barreled shotgun blast of grief of losing Wayne and Knox, I take great comfort in the fact that it is solely because of Wayne’s friendship that I have the courage to pursue my dream of being a comic and a humor writer. Wayne’s friendship was responsible for my very first trip to New York. I didn’t get to see Miss Lee, but I got to have drinks with Wayne at the Algonquin. Wayne’s generosity afforded me the opportunity to meet authors I would NEVER have been able to otherwise: Stephen King, Amy Tan, Walter Mosely…and those are just the kinda famous ones. Most importantly, Wayne’s friendship allowed me to meet my childhood shero, and receive the validation that I had longed for as a child. I am grateful beyond measure.
I may never be a famous comic. I may never be a famous writer. My sincere hope is that when the trumpets sound, and I’m called up to the Big Happy Hour in The Sky, that I have been as good a friend to someone as Wayne Greenhaw has been to me. I love you, Squirrel. I am missing you something fierce.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


There is nothing like a death of a loved one that slaps you back into the land of the living. My dear friend, Knox McLaney, died last week, and I ain’t been right since. I’m heartbroken, crushed, devastated.

Knox was a master story teller. He and I would sit around the bars in Old Cloverdale in Montgomery, and do everything we could to one-up each other in telling the dirtiest, most salacious, and damn-near unbelievable stories about raising hell or, uh, chasing tail. He’d always win, but I would have a fine time trying to top him!

If I came close to beating him weaving one of my true confessions that would have made Oprah-lying-to- James-Frey look like Ghandi ; Knox would say, “Tang, you are making that shit up!”
I’d look him square in the eye and say, “Maybe, but until the records are unsealed, that is my testimony!”

Knox and I were the odd couple. He was from old Montgomery, and I was this girl who grew up in the projects. I respected the fact that despite his being 20 years older; Knox wasn’t a bigot. I think he respected the fact that I am nobody’s victim. We both spoke the same language: Southern. We both understood that there wasn’t a damn thing better than crumbling up a piece of hoe-cake into some left over collard potlikker. We both understood that you don’t call somebody in the middle of an SEC football game. We both understood that friends, the people you choose to be your family, are sometimes closer to you than your own blood.

For me, Cephas Knox McLaney was the daddy I never had, my wise big brother, my hilarious, bourbon-drinking uncle, and my gossip-loving best friend. I loved Knox hard. I’m taking his death pretty hard. I know when I go back to Montgomery and go into Bud’s his hat won’t be sitting in the chair across the bar. I know I’ll never get to ask him how many damn sticks of butter he used in his world famous barbeque sauce. I know I’ll never be able to hear that crazy laugh of his when I tell him how one of my young sons dropped their britches and took a whiz in the church parking lot. I’ll never hear that slow as Alaga syrup drawl of his again.

I read his obituary online today, and just when I thought I couldn’t shed another tear: a river the size of the Black Warrior came from my heart and sprung out of my eyes. Then I read the first line again “ Knox was a prominent local attorney…” and I started to laugh, inappropriately, out loud. You see, Knox and I used to love when someone from the “Country Club/ Big Money/ Jesus loves me and mine, but not your black/gay/poor ass” clique in Montgomery would keel over dead, and the local paper would describe them as a “ Prominent local doctor/lawyer/businessman. “ Because Knox would have the dirt on the deceased, and he would always say, “If the paper says Prominent local ANY-THING, you know that lying- ass sum bitch paid somebody off!” I know Knox must be laughing his ass off, because he and I both know he could give less than a damn about being prominent in Montgomery. He only cared about being prominent to his children.

Knox McLaney was an amazing father, a generous friend, and an adventurous spirit. Montgomery, Alabama is a better place because Knox McLaney lived a rich and full life there until the day he died. Somewhere out there in the spirit world Knox is drinking a Maker’s Mark, smoking a Winston, and looking Thomas Jefferson square in the eye saying, “Mr. President, you are making that shit up!”

I’m missing him already.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Husband, The Sleepeater

I had never in my life heard of a sleepeater. Sleepwalker,yes. I'm not into research, so I have no idea if there is a scientific name for this illness of his. I would like to know if there is any way I can make money off of it. My husband is a sleepeater. No, he's not on Chantix...I would have already retained Mr. Beasley's firm if he was.

Whenever DaddyFixIt is stressed, he starts eating his way through the pantry. Nothing. Is. Safe. He's stone cold asleep. His eyes are open and he's in a whacked-out, crackheadian sort of trance. It is snack cake munching bizarreness.

This sleepeating has become the beginning of the end of this marriage. I have toughed it out through poverty and his German stubbornness and his pain in the ass Republicanism, but this madness is worthy of a visit to Judge Mablean. I am certain if the divorce ever happens, I will check the "other" box under reason for divorce, and write in my best school teacher printing, " his crackhead sleepeating episodes."

Zebra Cakes are my favorite. Not because they taste so damn good, but because each purchase is a "swirl power" fist pump for all the interracial families out there. Zebra Cakes are not just a funky good time for me, they are a political statement. I had been finding empty snack cake wrappers for 3 days. I assumed the McBrothas had performed some death defying leaning tower of toddler move on the step ladder to get to the top shelf of the pantry. I stood on the dining room chair, and prayed it wouldn't collapse as it creaked from the extra blizzard lbs. I looked on the top shelf. I was ready to scream when I found the box ripped open with the passion of a kid on Christmas morning. No, it wasn't my doing. I follow the rules. I open where Little Debbie tells me. There is but one twin pack left. I put the box back on the shelf, and went to bed. I was saving the last Zebra cakes for my morning snack. I had one Dr. Pepper left, and I was saving it to wash down my white, creamy, chocolate drizzled, salty, sweet, snack cake of social justice while I watched the first ten minutes of The View...and talked shit under my breath about how unfair it is that Sherri Sheppard has like 16 shows on tv, even though she says ax instead of ask...I hate affirmative axtion!!!!

As I pulled the covers over me I hear a feverish rustling out front. My dear, sweet, handsome husband had apparently gotten up from the couch where he had fallen alseep during the Family Guy episode that he'd already seen a hundred times. It's his way of cock blocking the TV. He gets a death grip on the remote and passes out like a Yeti all full and ready for winter. I walk down the hall to see him standing there, "oooohhhing and ahhhhhing" as if Halle Berry's letting him feel her up, but he ain't nibbling on a Hollywood Zebra; he's slobbering all over my gotdamn ZEBRA CAKE.

I had heard the stories about his sleep eating from his family, so I can't lie and say I wasn't warned. He's eaten an entire large pizza, plus-sized bag of M&M's, and anything left in a styro to-go box. Even when awake the man could eat a baby dingo. As if I don't have enough problems feeding him in daylight, now I gotta figure out how to fund his twilight appetite, too!

But this sleepeating incident was different. It was personal. He wasn't eating with love or dignity or grace. He wasn't toasting Mr. and Mrs. Loving, who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to strike down Jim-Crow era miscegenation laws. He wasn't savoring the interracial goodness of the Zebra Cake.I doubt his black ass even tasted it! I tried to wake him up, but he just looked past me and then proceeded to go to OUR BED.
"Oh, hell to the no! Wake up. You just ate my last Little Debbie." I said, indignantly.

He just turned over, and picked up his snoring where he left off on the couch.

I left the room in a huff. I plunked down on the sofa, and for the first time in the history of our Oklahoma house, I got to watch TV alone: no talking animated critters, no World War Whatever, no screaming, no crying, and no snoring. I now had a death grip on the remote. How come no one ever told me there are two Lifetime channels? The more I flipped, the less angry I became.

Now I buy Zebra Cakes two boxes at a time : one box for Civil Rights and another to tame the savage beast. I never know which box is which until I ask, "How was work, baby?"

Monday, March 28, 2011

Little House on the Prairie Homeschoolin'

I've been working feverishly with the McBrothas to get them ready for pre-school and kindergarten. I have a degree in elementary education, so I should be able to teach my kids, right? Wrong...Homeschooling is great for people who can somehow convince their children that they are going to hell or the rapture will just pop off if they don't sit their asses down and learn. My sons fear no deity...except Daddy, and when home school starts, he retires to another area of the city. I'm trying to pull this feel-good, granola-ass, parents-are-the-first-educators (thanks, Dora)crap outta my ass, and let me just say; it's highly overrated. God invented schools so parents wouldn't end up in Bellview. See, right around age four is when your kid is moving out of that sweet stage and into the I wish I could drop your ass off somewhere until 5 pm every damn day. Those sick, happy stay at home mamas with their flow charts and schedules and effective discipline are supermamas, and most likely were not raised in the hood.
I came from the ghetto, where education is better left to the oldest gang banger in the projects. This clearly, has been the most effective way to educate a certain segment of society. The Gangbanger Griots impart important knowledge like:
1. how to rob people (job skills)
2. how to cuss people out (effective communication)
3 how to shoot people ( hunting skills)
4. how to live off the man and your baby mama ( money management)

I have been successful at teaching them to write each other's name. I suspect a toddler identity theft ring is gonna break out at preschool, if they simmer down long enough to get in. They are spelling words and reading words and writing all over any surface in the house. Now if I could get them to sit down, play quietly, and not bite the pig snot out of each other, I'll say this home-school experiment was worth it. Frankly, I hate all those smug bitches at story time with their sloped-headed, inbred, well-behaved, spawns. I know that when it gets to nut cuttin time, the McBrothas will kick their it-tiny asses and steal their juice boxes; it's just how they roll.

Until the day we get the yea or nay on the youngest McBrotha going to school, I'll just keep trotting out the crayons, duct taping them to their chairs, and threating to beat til their white meat shows as I try to teach them to write their own name.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Delete Watch 2011

I have spent all day today watching the Facebook status of a “friend.” Not a real friend. A Facebook Friend. For me, Facebook friends run the gamut from people I met once at a party (not friends) to people who know about my irrational fear of glitter (real, old school friends).
Well one of my not real friends has been posting all day about deleting people. She’s left our old town and is refreshing her life. She has been posting updates about purging 700 or so of her not real friends. This brings me great pain. We are not friends, but her posts are so deliciously self-absorbed, unintentionally comical, and oft times very, very poorly worded. I’m the first to say that I am a hot grammatical mess on a good day, but this chick actually owned a magazine. Besides, I’m a standup comic, no one expects me to be correct at anything. Her posts are like sonatas for the comic in me: ”Why everbod be hating on me because I got stuff. Don’t let haters be hold you be. Let Get It.” Translation from grammatebonics: “I have nice things and people are jealous of me because I’m fabulous.” She constantly posts professional pictures of her son, the model. Look, I know everyone is a child of God, but the modeling business has rules. This kid is not cute.
So, all day she’s been updating how many folks she’s put behind her little iron curtain. So far I’m still part of her close circle of 1,000. But, I suspect the time is coming when I’m out. I’m bracing myself. I’ll miss you. I’ll miss pictures of your ugly kids. I’ll miss pictures of your big house that’s in foreclosure. I’ll miss pictures of the Benz your Mama has to lease for you because your credit is as bad as mine, and you have a job.
I realize this is not Christian or nice of me. I know. I am human. I don’t want to be cut because I get a sick thrill of seeing what’s going on in her world “errday” as my dear Facebook friend says. Without her, I’m nothing. Without her, I am left with real friends to care about, pray for, and encourage. Being Oprah for free is exhausting! But being a kinder, gentler version of Lewis Black when I read her posts from 1,000 miles away, finger pointing, screaming, and all, makes me a better friend to my real friends. Since I don’t have a real job, and I don’t have day to day contact with people other than those who expect me to be in charge of procuring them a juice box or a beer; it is the closest thing I get to having a co-worker to hate.
I need you Facebook Friend. Please don’t delete me! Of course, I could shut down this whole sick mess by unfriending her. Nah, I’ll just wait and see…

Holy Snowballs!

The locals warned me about the unpredictable weather in Tulsa. I totally ignored them, because I was bound and determined to get the hell out of Montgomery and make the best of my new life. Seriously, how bad could it be? I am a soul survivor of Huricaines Opal and Ivan ( full disclosure: I rode this one out with a little help from the adult beverage of choice)! I ain't no weather weakling!

Today is the day the frozen chickens come home to roost. I'm cold. There's still leftover snow. Did I mention I am cold?

The McBrothas have been playing super-snowball fight with me, and I am trying to remain in good humor about it, but I'm cold. I hate the cold. I love my new life. I just have to find a way to fund staying inside for 3 months, running the heater on high, while watching tv all day...I need a get rich quick plan. Perhaps I could sell the slushy mix in my driveway to War Lords in Africa. Or I could make delicate ice sculptures off of the icicles dangling from the 'lil tears of joy...

The up side is only 8 more weeks until spring...then I get to dodge TORNADOS!