your pal, erin

Writer & Psychic Medium

On apathy and privilege

When working as a docent at the Old Sorrel-Weed house, there came a point in my tenure when I couldn’t speak to guests about the home’s history of slavery without sobbing.

Every time the subject came up, a heavy, tangible energy entered the room. It was a foreign but familiar feeling that I’d first become accustomed to while living in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

It was the feeling of Apathy.

I’d tolerated Apathy in the form of sidewalk refuse: dirty needles, loose crack rocks…even an abandoned dead pitbull puppy.

I’d witnessed its hybrid form: a man with the glass lip of a brown beer bottle embedded deep in his eyeball—the result of a bar fight. He’d just been released from prison for murder and was so adamant about not going back to jail that he’d rather have gone blind or died from infection than go to the ER and get arrested for a parole violation.

How do I know this? I have an honest face and a sign on my forehead that says, “spill your secrets here.”

Apathy caused my apartment broker not to mention that the one bedroom, first floor apartment he had just leased me (for a fee totaling 25% of the annual rent) was located on the number one crack dealing block in Manhattan; that little factoid was revealed by the police one night when I was out walking my dog after dark and they approached me, assuming I was lost.

Apathy was ultimately my moving man, when the crack addict squatting in the basement fell asleep on his mattress with a lit pipe in his hand and accidentally set the building on fire.

For all of its contagion, I was impervious to Apathy. But I was never aware of it, either. I was too busy waving my magic wand of white privilege, on a mission of spreading hope. Because of my lightworker mindset, I was blissfully unaware of the irony that a) white privilege granted me noblesse obliges to teach theater and filmmaking to “underserved,” inner city school kids for $25 an hour and that b) despite my kindest, most loving intentions, I am naturally suspect because I am white.

I should have known that something was up the first time a student shyly asked, “Ms. Erin, are you European?”

White privilege caused me to laugh at such an innocent notion. How could I ever be anything other than a U.S. citizen? Growing up a typically bullheaded, “American” woman, I’ve never viewed myself as anything else.

“No, sweetie. Why do you ask?” I replied.

“Because…you’re…white,” he said, embarrassed.

At the time I didn’t realize that his third grade social studies class was learning about European colonization and imperialism; the history of how people like me had implemented the systemic racism that he lives with daily.

Even though it’s my innate nature to see everyone for their purest, most positive potential, I was clueless to the reality of their daily lives.

“Ms. Erin, what’s it like to be white and pretty?” Astrid sadly asked one afternoon.

Shocked that the question had even occurred to her, I was crushed by the resignation in her voice as she asked. In my mind, she was an eleven year-old Dominican supermodel; tall and gorgeous with flawless skin, a radiant smile and shiny black hair to the center of her back; a future Nobel Prize winning physicist; the smartest, most stunningly beautiful girl I’ve ever met.

But the kids at school were teasing her for being ugly and stupid.

Gathering the group in hopes of getting to the bottom things, they honestly, innocently explained that the lighter your skin, the smarter and more attractive you are. Because Astrid was the darkest girl in the class, she was obviously the ugliest. I did my best to explain all the reasons that their hierarchy was wrong, but given my own position of white privilege, I wasn’t exactly disproving their argument.

“Miss Erin, what’s it like to be white and pretty?”

“Miss Erin, are you European?”

These words haunt me every time I set foot in the old Sorrel-Weed House. They haunt me every time I think about the current state of America.

Realizing that weepy tour guides are a death knell for business, I asked Calvin the house manager to limit my guide work to haunted tours.

As Calvin is also one of the wisest, most compassionate men I know, I found myself asking his insights about why the racial divide in our country is still so deep, despite our sincerest attempts to reconcile. He keenly observed that America is the only nation in the world to end slavery because of a war fought by white men, rather than because of an organized slave uprising.

Expanding on this observation, might it be possible that part of the reason for the recent surge in mass shootings is because our country is subtly divided into people who are oppressed and people who are in a position of privilege who could possibly “rescue” them, but do nothing?

Perhaps what’s happening is an ugly, albeit necessary uprising; one that’s as much about confronting the current atmosphere of Apathy as it is about ending our country’s history of oppression.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah

Home Sweet Home

For the past two weeks I’ve been struggling to put in writing the overwhelming emotion invoked by the story I am about to tell. Every time I speak it aloud, I’m reduced to ugly tears, embarrassing everyone around me, but I don’t care.

It’s an inspirational sermon, delivered by one of rock history’s most dubious disciples: Mötley Crüe bassist, Nikki Sixx. His altar, the Bluffton Cinemark; a state of the art theater housed in a luxury mall seeming to belong more so on the Malibu Pacific Coast Highway than in Low Country. The screening, “Mötley Crüe: The End” —a rockumentary chronicling the final show of the band’s 35 year run.

Seated next to me is Fish, the greatest Mötley Crüe fan who ever lived. Actually, he’s The World’s Greatest Fan, period. That alarming guy in a Miami Dolphin’s rubber facemask, gesticulating wildly for the Jumbotron; the charismatic audience member who jumps onstage, banging on the drum kit until his favorite drummer relinquishes the sticks.

Fish is exactly the guy you want beside you at a show like this. From the moment we pile into the car until the last frame of the film, he rattles off a litany of facts; the Cliff Clavin of Heavy Metal Mania.

Pausing momentarily, Fish calls out some uptight patrons for two-fisting i-Phones and 64 oz. diet cokes at a rock concert. They are the antithesis of a motley crew. Fish, by contrast, is the embodiment of it. With a lit Zippo in one hand and a bottle of MD 20/20 Peaches and Cream in the other, I suspect he just might pull out a can of Aquanet and torch a 1980’s style fireball.

It’s fans like Fish that Nikki Sixx speaks to halfway through the film, as he sits on the edge of the stage and delivers the following (edited for space) monologue:

“When I was 10 years-old, I lived in Jerome Idaho, population 4,000, with my grandmother and grandfather. My grandfather would drive 35 miles to work at a gas station everyday in a white Ford pickup truck. When he would come home, he would put the keys, some change and a pocketknife on a table.

I would look at that knife and think, ‘I’m gonna have it.’ One day I took it and the obvious thing happened, I got in trouble. If you know anything about me, you know that I took it the next day as well, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day. One day my grandfather came home, put those keys on the table, looked at me and he handed me my very first knife.

[Shows his knife to audience] I’ve had a knife ever since. I’m gonna tell you what it represents. If you want something bad enough you just keep doing it. If someone out there is telling you that your dream isn’t big enough… your idea’s not big enough…you’re not smart enough… you’re too fat… you’re too skinny…what the fuck ever these fucking gate keepers want to tell you, look at this knife. You want it bad enough, you do it over and over again until your dreams come true.”

It’s not just the story that gets me, but how he brings it full circle during the show’s finale, “Kick Start My Heart” —a song inspired by the time Sixx was brought back to life after overdosing on heroin. At the end of the number, he throws his bass on the ground, lunges his knife into it…and walks away.

He walks away from his dream.

After 35 years, he leaves it center stage in Los Angeles, CA, the city where it all began. As someone who walked away from my own Los Angeles dream 19 years ago, his knife strikes a little too deep. I am envious of this wild man who fought fiercely for his dream and now has the luxury of leaving it behind him.

The band’s encore, “Home Sweet Home,” is a the gateway between group’s past and their future; a return to the lives they knew before wandering the yellow brick road; a hint of where their wanderlust might next lead them.

I watch them play it for the final time, longing to reconnect with my own abandoned dream, not as the person I was at the time of my departure, but as the person I’ve become because of it.

Pondering the possibility, I remember the final words of his monologue:

“Am I right? I know I’m right and I know that somebody out there is gonna do something fucking amazing, too.”

Challenge accepted.

Anyone out there who’s lost a dream care to join me?

 

Biff The Stiff

Biff is taunting me.

“Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.”

We are in my car, waiting at the intersection of Derenne and Bull streets.

“Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.”

He’s chanting like an annoying older brother.

“Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.”

I refuse to comply.

STOP HITTING YOURSELF!”

His words pelt my face, like a handful of cat liter thrown at100 miles per hour. I rap my knuckles maniacally about my noggin just to shut him up.

The driver in the next car makes concerned eye contact as I give myself a noogie. He can’t see my dead friend Biff…just the crazy woman who appears to be in the throes of a nervous breakdown.

My only recourse is to wave a friendly hello.

Biff is ecstatic. He loves playing “Humiliate the Psychic” and is thrilled to have found such a rube participant.  

In high school we hated each other. He considered me his best friend’s slutty girl crush and I dismissed him as the jerk who laughed at everyone else’s expense. Since his passing, Biff has shown me that laughter was the way he expressed his affection for others; that he was always the biggest butt of his own joke.

Biff passed from cancer just weeks before our 20th high school reunion, marking the occasion bittersweet. Nevertheless, he insisted that he would be there, wearing hot pink finger nail polish and matching lipstick—conveying an image of Bugs Bunny dressed as Carmen Miranda in drag to illustrate his point.

Back in Savannah, I was unable to attend, but relayed Biff’s message to a mutual friend, who later confirmed that Biff’s pal Velma had shown up wearing fucshia lipstick and matching nail polish for no particular reason, other than that fact that she was “tired of feeling like such a mom.”

This past week, while I was visiting Minnesota, a group of Biff’s friends booked me to do psychic readings at their party. It was an honor and a pleasure to share Biff’s messages of love and laughter, but I was surprised when people didn’t seem as excited to receive his messages as I’d expected. 

It’s not that they weren’t appreciative; they just weren’t emotionally up to speed with his humor. Even when they agreed that the message sounded like something he would say, their responses felt as if we were watching the same sitcom on two different television sets, with theirs being on a seven second broadcast delay. 

I couldn’t understand the disconnect: If two people who hated each other in life could forge a friendship in death, then how could those who knew and loved him not feel the steady stream of love and pure positive energy that he was sending back?

The answer came became clearer when someone mentioned that Biff had tried to make people laugh, even in those final days in hospice when he was unable to speak. 

That’s when I realized that those who were closest to him are not only suffering his absence; they’re grieving his physical transition from the person they knew and loved into what appeared to be the shadow of his former self.

But appearances can be deceiving. As such, I’ll do my best to explain what Biff has communicated to me about his death transition experience.

Even as Biff’s body became immobilized, his spirit was feeling elevated. He wasn’t suffering, but rather in awe, wishing he could communicate the joy of being enveloped in love and light. That very sensation captured in Steve Jobs’ legendary last words, “Oh wow. Oh wow. oh wow.”

As his the essence of his physical being diminished, his conscious expanded. Biff reveled in seeing, hearing and feeling the thoughts of not just his loved ones, but everyone around him. As they watched him slip away, he was feeling closer to them than he ever could have when he was in his physical body.

Biff’s conscious didn’t end when he left this world. It expanded beyond the walls, out into the Ether where he merged with All That Is.

To know this intellectually is one thing. To be present with it in the midst of your grief is something else entirely. And so, we share these insights in hopes that they will resonate as true, even though they might not entirely make sense.

As someone who loves to end even the most serious note with a laugh, Biff would like to take credit for having chosen the awesomely bad title of this week’s column, embracing yet another opportunity to embarrass me.

 “High five,” he adds in his best Borat voice, hoping that his loved ones will get the joke.

 

 

 

Look No Further

The surest way to save your life when you’re headed straight for a brick wall is to look away. It’s a known fact, as told by of the most hardened cynics I know; an invaluable lesson that he procured in racing school.

 As it turns out, a vehicle’s trajectory follows the driver’s sightline, not the direction of its steering wheel. Most professional racecar drivers are at a loss to explain the quantum physics behind this phenomenon. They just know that it works.

Looking away from a proverbial wreck is easier said than done, especially in these cataclysmic times. As a firsthand witness to the events of 9/11, I assure you, it’s impossible to avert one’s eyes from a tragedy.

While most of America had their heads wrapped around their TV sets, trying to make sense of everything, I had both the blessing and the curse being able to walk down the street to see it for myself.

The closest I ever got was the corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue, but at least it was reachable by subway and outside the 24 hour news cycle zone.

Stepping above ground and into a nearby park, there were no talking heads, no angry polemics…not even the sound of sirens.

Just the stillest, most silent vacuum I have ever felt.

In the distance stood the pile of detritus that once was The World Trade Center, now just seven stories tall; a number I calculated by measuring its height against a nearby apartment building.

Shell shocked and mesmerized, I was consumed by a single thought:  “There are people in there.”

Seven stories of rubble, with a base as wide as the horizon, spilt into every nook and cranny of the skyline. It was impossible to look away.

“There are people in there.”

The air reeked of melted computer keyboards with bitter undertones often described as acrid —a word that’s both generic and cliché. To this day, I am too traumatized to recall a more accurate adjective. Scent, after all, is the most potent memory trigger.

“There are people in there.”

Even though the flames had been contained, the wreckage continued to smolder. Every so often a fireball would erupt from the belly of the pyre, accompanied by a sound similar to the echoing roar of the dreaded dragon on the 1980’s game show Tic Tac Dough.

“There are people in there.”

It was a thought too painful to bear. I had to look away.

In the distance I could see a group of fuzzy bumblebees hovering above a patch of honeysuckle. They didn’t stop pollinating the flowers to join me in my outrage. They continued contributing to the circle of life.

Looking away for just that split-second, listening to the bees’ faint, soothing buzz, helped me bring peace to a street fight that broke out later that day. My neighbors, two teenage girls who had been best friends, had come to blows after one accused the other of stealing her cigarettes; a fight so intense, it took two enormous guys to pull them apart.

Looking away from the seven stories of rubble gave me the perspective to see their situation for what it was — two people who suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome who loved each other.

“There are people in there.”

Had I not looked away from the rubble, I might have dismissed the group as hopeless street thugs, unworthy of my contempt. Instead, I hugged them and told them they were having a human reaction to a fucked up situation.

I’d like to think by looking away, I helped to make the world a better place, if only in microscopic increments.

Reading the social media reactions to the shooting in Orlando, I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite spiritual teachers:

“ONE who is in the Vortex is more powerful than millions who are not.”      

Abraham-Hicks

If you’re a regular reader Ghost Dog Diaries reader and something I’ve written has ever spoken to you —changed your heart, your mind, or helped you to consider another point of view — then ask yourself how things would be different if I had chosen to remain angry with millions of others, rather than to embrace my power of one by looking away.

I say that not from a place of arrogance, but from my sincerest wish to be of service to others. Looking away might not be the easiest or most intuitive reaction to recent tragic events, but in light of my own experience with tragedy, it’s is most compelling answer I’ve got.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah

Goonies Never Say "Diarrhea"

Ripped from my Facebook status updates this past week: Goonies Never Say “Diarrhea.”

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned case of food poisoning to elicit a series of “grosser than gross” stories on Facebook; even better when they invoke the memory of awkward family funeral.

Growing up, my kin regularly bonded over bathroom humor, most of which originated with my dad’s side of the family. As one of seven kids in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Pop was routinely ratted out by his tattletale siblings: “Ma! Bob fahted and it’s wicked bad!”

Fart shaming is a longstanding family tradition, so much so that when my brother Mike chauffeured my high school boyfriend and me to the movies on our first date, he announced that my favorite practical joke as a toddler was to sit on people’s laps, rip some serious cheddar and run away cackling with glee.

Even though Mom prided herself on being impervious to Dad’s dreaded “Portuguese Curse,” (which, truth be told, was actually more of a love potion, concocted of kale and chorizo) she once confessed that my stoic nordic grandparents had bonded over fart jokes in the early years of their marriage.

It was a shocking revelation, especially considering that for most of her life my grandmother suffered from a personality disorder that standup comedians would diagnose as “a tough room.”

She told this story in the days following my grandmother’s passing; a crumb of her mother’s happier times that she could hand down to us kids. And we needed it. The days prior to Grandma’s death were spent watching her aggressive decline from Parkinson’s Disease related dementia. It was unkind transition that was hard to witness, even for those who had been routinely subjected to Grandma’s cruelest tirades.

As the “oopsie” baby who was born when my siblings were teenagers, I was sheltered from Grandma’s mean streak for most of my life. By that point, my parents had moved hundreds of miles away from her iron clutches. This put me in the objective position of tending to Grandma in her final days sans emotional baggage.

Two days before Grandma died, I awoke at 5 a.m., sensing that it was her time to go. Instinctively, I drove to her bedside to comfort her and listen to her thoughts about her imminent passing. Later that day, she told my mom that a nice preacher lady had stopped by to let my grandmother out of the cage where the demons were keeping her as their pet.

A few hours after her death, my family gathered at Grandma’s bedside to pay our last respects. One by one, everyone kissed her goodbye and retreated to the family grieving area.

My brother Mike and I were the last ones remaining in the room. As he stroked her silky white hair and kissed her cheek, I stood warily at the foot of the bed, freaking out just a little. Even thought I was comfortable with the metaphysics of death, I had never seen a dead body outside of a casket.

Between her green grey skin tone and lax mouth muscles that opened in a straight line, Peanuts cartoon character-type grin, Grandma resembled a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle without its eye mask and armor. There was no way I could bring myself to kiss her. The best I could possibly do on short notice was to lovingly give her a pat on the cheek.

Fearing I would chicken out, I scrambled to Grandma’s bedside, stirring the stench of her death in my wake. From the horrified look on his face, Mike had clearly smelled it too.

As per our genetic coding, we immediately busted into tearful fits of inappropriate laughter.

Mike wrapped his arm around me in a headlock that muffled my chortles, making them sound more like sobs as he dragged me past the nurses’ station, into the family grieving area.

Upon our entrance, everyone was dying to know what was so damn funny. Before I could open my mouth, Mike pointed at me incredulously and accused, “Erin FARTED on Grandma’s deathbed!” 

To which I shrieked, “That wasn’t me! That was Grandma!!”

Even though my brother was a veteran first responder, he seriously thought that I was the one responsible for stinking up the joint. I'm inclined to dismiss his mistake as olfactory damage from his years as a firefighter. He'd likely tell you it was a testament to the caustic nature of my bowels. We're probably both right.

Days later, the entire family gathered for The World’s Most Somber Funeral, in which dysfunctional members in various states of denial tersely negotiated their way around the white elephant in the room: how to tactfully remember a woman who spent most of her life acting like an asshole.

Inevitably, the poor padre tasked with delivering a pitch-perfect eulogy crumbled under pressure, referring to Grandma as the “Dearly defarted…DEPARTED.”

I’m probably gonna burn in hell for saying it, but thank goodness for the wailing sobs of my little cousin Barry, whose grievous noise masked the snickering by those of us hardwired to uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Thanks for taking one for the team, kiddo. We love you.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah

Sing Like No One's Listening

SO…that happened.           

Last week’s column started out as a dedication to Prince, but wound up exploring a pretty dark corner of my psyche. Definitely not what I intended, but grief makes us do funny things. Plus, writing about the Minneapolis shit show turned out to be a lot less painful than writing about The Little Man’s passing.

It’s not like we thought this day would never come. The minute that Michael Jackson left the planet, we were reminded of Prince’s inevitable mortality. But imagining a world without him and actually living in it are two very different things. I doubt any of us could have imagined the epic magnitude of love, tears and celebration that have ensued since his passing.

At the same, time someone dear to me has spent their entire life preparing for that very day; not because they were his ultimate fan, but because they were a member of his inner circle.

Can you imagine a life spent preserving your anonymity in preparation for the moment when the media hunts you down and exposes whatever measly details they can find about your life, while you’re in the midst of your most intimate grief?

Neither can I.

The idea of it makes me fiercely protective— not just of my friend with the story that an insatiable media would love to steal away, but of those private, cherished moments belonging to everyone I love. It turns out that life’s not just an electric word— it’s a limited engagement; I want to honor my tribe and hold them as close as possible while they’re still here.

Prince’s passing has also made me a more avid fan of music; not just his, but every song that’s ever been a part of my life’s soundtrack. Because of him, I am no longer a passive listener but a loud, proud singer of every song, every moment that I hear it. Who knows when it will play again?

Anyone who heard me singing “Centerfold” at the top of my lungs last Sunday afternoon as I biked past the band that was playing it outside of Wild Wings can attest to my newfound passion—especially when I shamelessly screeched those off-key high notes, just because I could.

Those of you who saw “Purple Rain” at the Lucas and were embarrassed for my awkward, MST3000-style silhouette screaming from the front row, “I love you, Minneapolis!!!” and “You GO, Kid. You TAKE THAT ENCORE!!!” are fully aware of how Prince’s passing has disintegrated my inner filter. You also know how hard I sang and danced my ass off during the final scenes of the film.

What you don’t know is that I wasn’t just paying my last respects; I was expressing everything I want to tell the world about everyone I’ve ever loved, but will hold selfishly close to my heart instead.

Recently, I’ve received a ton of questions from those who are curious about His Purpleness. What’s he up to? Have I have channeled any messages from him? I can neither confirm nor deny this information, but I promise you…

…if you go to a screening of “Purple Rain”…

… and see him on the big screen one last time for yourself…

…you will witness firsthand…

…the one time that he was ever taller than the rest of us.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah

            

Interview With The Vampire

Growing up in Minneapolis, my life was influenced by all things Prince. My first paid acting job was the role of Roller Skating Girl in a Carmen Electra music video; my first law suit, against the agent who booked the job for a set hourly rate, plus time and a half, only to appear at the end of the thirteen hour shoot, revised contract in hand, hell bent on paying a $99 flat fee for the day.

Minnesota was bloated with shysters and wannabes; bottom feeders feasting on the murky purple poo of an epic fish in our tiny pond. One enterprising frat boy known as Truck would fly famous teenage TV stars to Minneapolis and charge Los Angeles club prices for the 18-21 crowd to come party with them—a business model that never would have never held up in Sheboygan.

Truck had recruited one of my best friends, Run DMC — a guy with an enormous heart and a commanding presence —to bromance celebrities and serve as a bodyguard in their Minneapolis entourage.

I was freshman in film school at the time and just a tiny bit jealous that Run— an international law student— was spending time with people who actually worked in Hollywood. Lucky duck.

“Hook me up!” I pleaded.

“It’s not like that,” Run warned. “You’re a girl.”

Being half black, half Hispanic, he had spent his entire life as an outsider in a very Nordic Minnesota suburb. Despite being unfairly branded by the local mall cops as a gangsta and a criminal, Run was an incredibly popular academic leader. Not only did he wind up going to one of the most exclusive liberal arts colleges in the country, he eventually worked there as an academic recruiter, promoting multi-cultural diversity.

By the time we were in our twenties, Run was pretty famous in his own right. Everywhere we went, people knew him — most notably, The Purple One.

Nevertheless, Run had to work ten times harder just to prove himself; so when he said I didn’t belong, he knew exactly what he was talking about.

Dismissing his warning as unfair and sexist, I approached Truck directly. He said he couldn’t promise anything, but invited me to stop by a party he was throwing that night at a downtown hotel. What started out as a group of a few guys and thirty girls was quickly whittled down to me and a cute, benzoyl peroxide faced actor I’ll call Noxema Boy.

In high school I was voted “Girl Most Likely to Ask a Question,” a little piece of trivia Noxema Boy was about to discover firsthand. Although he had no interest in answering my interrogation about working in Hollywood, he was incredibly enthusiastic about kissing me… and bragging that he was a vampire.

“Whoa…whoa…whoa…whoa…wait.” I said, as he feasted on my neck. “A what?”

“A vampire.” He mumbled nonchalantly, his words muffled by my flesh.

There was no way I could let this little factoid slide: Did he really drink blood? What kind of blood? Human blood? Reptile blood? Did he keep it in his fridge? Perhaps a 98.6 degree temperature controlled blood cellar? No? Had anyone ever thought to invent one?

Hey! We could be sitting on a million dollar idea…

Realizing that he wanted to turn an innocent make out session into some serious bloodshed, I began to cry. Thank goodness he was a fetishist, not a rapist. Noxema Boy immediately stopped what he was doing and offered me cab fare home.

It’s such a stupid story in retrospect, but at the time I was devastated.

It hurt my feelings that someone would capitalize on an obscene amount of fame by flying 1300 miles for a $10,000 promotional fee and the promise of getting laid by a different girl every night. It was like Peter Parker getting bitten by a radioactive spider and using his superpowers exclusively for the sake of performing aerial sex acts.

At least, that’s what I said at the time. If I’d really been honest, I would have admitted that what hurt most was the realization that there was a Boys Club that I wanted to join but could never be part of. I hated that Run was granted automatic membership while I was hazed in the absolute grossest way.

For the next two weeks, I had bruises (not hickeys, bruises) on my neck as a parting gift from my little encounter with Noxema Boy.

The next time I saw Run, he took one look at me and shook his head but never said, “I told you so.” Instead he gave me a gigantic teddy bear hug, knowing I’d be working ten times harder just to prove myself in the film industry soon enough.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah         

The Life Aquatic

Even though electricity is beyond my understanding, I respect it for what it is. I don’t insist that it be a more “natural” force, like the magnetic field, or shame it into believing that its existence is against God’s will.

I also have a healthy respect for fish—plural. Not a singular fish that lives up to my expectations of what a fish should and shouldn’t be. Fish are resilient creatures deserving of my reverence and awe. They thrive in waters I could never survive.

My life isn’t disrupted one iota by the existence of the Angler Fish, a sea creature residing in the murky depths of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans that can grow up to 3 feet long, weighing 70 lbs.

Although I am fascinated by the fact that the female Angler is characterized by a luminescent light bulb dangling above her head, I’m also keenly aware that what she does with it is none of my damn business. You’ll never find me ranting about how light bulbs belong in lamps, not fish and electricity has no place in the ocean.

As such, I’m having a terrible time understanding why society holds human nature to a different standard than Mother Nature.

V was an old, insightful soul with a wickedly sarcastic sense of humor that made him tons of fun to be around. He also suffered from a chronic depression that ebbed and flowed way over my head.

Back in high school we were especially close. Even though he was dating one of my girlfriends, we confided in each other things that we could never share with anyone else.

Whenever we were together, there invariably came a point in the conversation —usually as we said our goodbyes—when V would become remote and pensive, floundering to express something on his mind. There was always a stuttering question on the tip of his tongue; one that he could never bring himself to ask, but somehow hoped that I would intuit and answer.

The most notable aspect of these awkward non-exchanges was the pained expression on his face, as if he were drowning in the very air he was breathing. His body was dead stiff, but if you could see the panic in his eyes, you’d expect his arms to be flailing for dear life.

We remained friends into adulthood, but lost touch when our lives took different turns. Two decades later, when we reconnected on Facebook, I was sad to learn that he had suffered significant memory loss after a suicide attempt involving painkillers that left him unconscious for several days.

After communicating briefly online, he asked me to call him in hopes of regaining some of his childhood memories. The few times we spoke, I felt that old, familiar frustration of guestimating the answers to his unarticulated questions.

About a year later, V called to tell me that he was starting an LGBT spiritual community after his own fellowship gave him the boot. After some brief small talk, I asked him outright if he was gay.

“Not gay…trans.” she replied.

Suddenly, every unresolved question made perfect sense; those desperate attempts to explain with her eyes her unspeakable pain.

It clicked in me the same way it clicked the first time I heard Chaz Bono speak and realized he sounded exactly like his father; his voice revealing the genetic birthright Chastity Bono had been denied.

After years of watching V suffer, it felt so good to finally help. I put her in touch with a transgender woman who lived nearby and told her of another trans friend who had researched gender reassignment benefits offered by their county.  (Coincidentally they happen to live in one of the few places in America to declare the high suicide rate amongst transgender people who don’t receive medical support a public health epidemic.)

Even though this isn’t my coming out story, it’s imperative that I tell it. Those of us whose gender identities align with the bodies to which we were born (aka “cisgender”) are afforded a personal safety and emotional wellbeing that we take for granted every day. In order for these privileges to become everyone’s fundamental rights, our respect, empathy and compassion for the transgender and gender queer experiences are essential.

Since coming out, V and I have had many frank conversations that have helped me recognize and acknowledge those of us who are in a similar boat. Recently, I ran into a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in forever who was sporting an androgynous look. Being reminded of V, I took the opportunity to ask if she’s transgender. They appreciated my asking and clarified that they identify as nonbinary, which aligns with no particular gender and prefers the pronoun “they.”

The biggest relief about V’s coming out is that I’ll never have that dreaded helpless feeling as she begs me to save her from her own unspeakable depths. That’s not to say that she won’t falter, but at least I am beginning to understand her struggle.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah

 

 

 

Let Rational Minds and Sleeping Dogs Lie

As I sit on the sofa, curled up next to my sleeping dog Pup, I realize that our rational minds have a way of tricking us into believing things that are simply untrue. Just yesterday, mine convinced me I’d gone round the bend.

It was “porch time” — the daily ritual where everyone congregates with our pets on our 80 year-old neighbors’ front stoop for dog treats and cocktails, in exactly that order. Whenever Mama Ruth calls, “Come get some cheesy weezy!” the animals accompany her into the house for a round of goodies and dogua stored in an old Sunny D bottle, giving it the faintest splash of citrus flavor.

Yesterday when “cheesy weezy” was announced, Pup refused to move. I panicked just a little, realizing that forsaken snacks are the inciting incident of almost every event in the course of human history that’s ever culminated in a mad dash to the vet. My logical mind overcompensated by analyzing all the possible outcomes and concluding my fears were a result of being batshit crazy.

But my anxiety had already taken hold. By now, Pup was not only limping, she was yelping in pain and snapping at anyone who tried to examine her dog knuckles. Nothing could assuage my fraying nerves, not even when Trudy laughed at me for using the term “dog knuckles.” 

Pup has an inordinately high threshold for pain. I’ve watched her take a tumble from a dog park picnic table and land head first CRACK on the concrete below, only to bounce away like Plastic Man. For her to be this vocal, the pain must have been pretty phenomenal.

My neighbors did their best to talk me down from ledge, but the more I obsessed, the more irrational I felt.

Thank goodness for my mom —a Healing Touch minister and self-taught Master Worrier— who walked me through the intake process she uses with her clients. No, the leg wasn’t swollen. Yes, it was radiating heat. Mom sent some healing energy to Pup, calculated that the pain was most likely superficial and instructed me to call the vet if the limb was swollen in the morning.

When Pup awoke today, her leg had ballooned into a furry little tree stump.

So here I sit, in these wee morning hours, doing my best to stay calm until the vet’s office opens. In the course of the last twenty minutes or so, I’ve realized that I haven’t lost my mind and my panic didn’t percolate in a vacuum.

I’ve been through this before... only not with Pup, but with PJ.

One September morning back in 2012, my little dog PJ woke up in agonizing, inexplicable pain that dominated her entire body. Whenever I touched her, she shrieked such loud, high pitched squeals that her screams pinched my skin, as if I were a glass about to shatter.

I brought PJ to the vet, fully expecting to put her down, but the doctor sent us home with a dozen or so syringes of anti-inflamatories and opiates instead. She was unable determine the source of PJ’s suffering, but had hoped to contain her pain. Twenty-four excruciating hours and several unsuccessful injections later, we returned to the vet and said our final goodbyes.

As much as her loss devastates me, I really have no cause to complain. This column, my psychic practice and all the blessings they’ve bestowed are a direct result of PJ making her presence known in the hours and days following her death.

PJ’s miracle notwithstanding, the grief of losing both my baby and my best friend in one cruel swoop instilled in me a subliminal panic button that I didn’t realize was there until Pup tripped it yesterday. Even when it was pushed, my rational mind continued denying its existence, dismissing my reaction as overly emotional and quite possibly insane.

After all, who wants to be reminded that we live in an unpredictable world where those we love could be taken away from us at any moment without any notice or explanation? The pain of such an acknowledgement is too much to bear. It’s much safer to declare myself crazy.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah

 

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You Down With OCD?

True story: I once walked around Manhattan with nine crisp, one hundred dollar bills, folded in the sign of the cross and stuffed in my bra, on the advice of a so-called psychic.

She insisted that my six-year relationship with Fred had ended because I was cursed. The only way to regain favor with the angry gods was to empty my bank account of next month’s rent and hold it close to my heart for 10 consecutive days before reporting back to her for further instructions.

At the time I knew she was full of shit, but it was such a ridiculous request I just had to stick around to see how things would pan out.

Also, I was desperate for someone to talk to. $40 and some cock & bull was a small price to pay for a pseudo-sympathetic ear.

That’s what happens when you’re afflicted with OCD—a condition I lovingly refer to Obsessive Compulsive Divination. Characterized by a chronic “need to know,” OCD’s primary symptom is self-medication in the form of excessive fortune telling.

After Fred and I broke up, I wound up in Los Angeles on a ten-day bender, hitting up every known psychic from the Valley to Venice Beach. (I also inadvertently ran into Bruce Willis at the Galleria Mall and was able to bring closure to an email dalliance we were on the verge of exploring…but that’s another story. Let’s just say it was an odd, occasionally intoxicated time in my life.)

The most common impetus for OCD is a major life crisis, one that feels like the end of the world. Rather than living through my grief one day at a time, I tried to flip to the last page, like the end of a book.

But to quote the gospel of Adventures In Babysitting, “Nobody gets out of this place without singin' the blues.”

The only way to process my pain was to work through it. Not to build a menorah made of oranges and burn the candles to their stumps at sundown, as prescribed by the NYC psychic in phase two of our curse clearing; not to cut a piece of fabric from my favorite black shirt and write upon it my darkest secrets with a black sharpie marker so she could dip it in a bowl of water and wash my sins away.

I just had to live with it.

At some point during my L.A. bender, a friend suggested I book an appointment with his acting teacher, Dee Wallace. In addition to having an acting career of her own, Dee also works as an energy healer. When I asked her to tell me my future, she said firmly but lovingly, “I’m not a psychic who answers to your questions. I teach you the tools to heal yourself.”

That day she shared her personal healing formulas, along with Abraham-Hicks’ Law of Attraction techniques and the I AM Chronicles of Saint Germaine. Meanwhile, I resisted the urge to ask about the teachings of Saint Michael, Saint Tito and Saint Marlon and Saint Jackie.

All joking aside, these doctrines started me on a spiritual journey that has become the foundation of my psychic mediumship practice today.

Thanks to Dee, the main purpose of my work is to help clients reconnect with their own inner knowing. Whenever I meet someone who’s down with OCD, I give them the tools to release the things that are no longer working in their lives and help them create all the amazing things that they’re hoping I’ll tell them are already there.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah

 

 

AMFYOYO Old Year!

Now is the time when the real New Year’s Resolutions begin. I’m not talking about those Patty LaBelle “New Attitude” declarations we make each January 1st but the internal work that we’re finally ready to do.

The whole idea reinventing yourself mere seconds after the ball drops is pretty unrealistic to begin with. There isn’t enough time to regain our momentum after a night of celebration, let alone an entire month of retail fueled mania and personal angst. We need at least thirty days to decompress from the holiday bends.

Then comes the February blues. Most years, Punxsatawney Phil takes one look at Old Man Winter and hollers “AMFYOYO!” before hightailing it back to his hovel.

Springtime is when our real resolutions take hold. Not only have we had enough perspective to identify pesky patterns that have followed us from previous years, we’re finally warm enough to clean out the mental attic and make way for new solutions.

This year, spring’s onset coincides with February 29th —Father Time’s equivalent of Platform 9 ¾ on the Hogwarts Express. I’ll be using this magic day to create lots of amazing new things in my life, but until then I’ll be doing some major clearing. Wanna join me? Here are two things you can do:

Be honest with yourself about things that are no longer working for you. Instead of setting a general goal like, “I want to exercise every day,” or “I am ready to quit smoking,” take a look at the situations in your life that cause you to feel this way.

In my case, this past calendar year has been riddled with business transactions where people have become verbally abusive the moment that negotiations head south. I’m not talking about a momentary loss of temper or a few unkind words, but severe verbal diarrhea with several return trips to the toilet, just in case I didn’t get the message first time around.

In the past, I’ve healed the wound by telling myself there’s never a justifiable reason for anyone to speak to me this way, ever. In doing so, I’ve denied the deeper, more painful truth that these people are merely reiterating the terrible things I say to myself about own unworthiness, especially when it comes to the subject of money.

Instead of resolving to stop taking other people’s crap or to make more money, I intend to be kinder and more loving of myself in the areas of my life where people mirror my own feelings of inadequacy.

Be on the lookout for mind games, namely yours. Whether you’re just now discovering the power of positive thinking or have practiced for years, our crafty monkey minds can trick us into old thought patters when we least expect it.

Although I’m pretty mindful about nipping negativity in the bud, those L’il Demon Bastards (mom’s pet name for them) come a callin’ whenever I play Sudoku. That’s right, Sudoku.

For some reason, whenever I convert the puzzle’s blank spaces into numeric sequences, my subconscious plunges into a dark space, reliving old arguments and awkward situations. Even silly memories —like that time the Editor-In-Chief I worked for sat down in the ladies room stall next to me and made small talk whist peeing — cause me to agonize over things I might have said and done to offend others.

Recently, I’ve taken a two-front approach to the Sudoku battle. First, I’ve vowed to say only positive mantras whenever I play. Thinking, “six goes here. I love you, Erin!” might be silly, but it feels so much better than remembering the girl who stole my class ring from my dorm room Freshman year after telling me to my face that I was stupid for trusting the people I live with.

Second, I’ve made a pact to either speak my mind or move on. If it’s not worth it to hunt down that little dorm harpy on social media and tell her off good and proper, then there’s definitely no room for her in my headspace. After all, she was just repeating her own variation of things I was secretly telling myself.

So there you have it, my go to guide for keeping this year’s resolutions. If you haven’t already, be sure to ask Mister Google the meaning of AMFYOYO. It’s about to become your new mantra.

 

Originally published in Connect Savannah

 

 

Psychic Funk

TYPICALLY I’m not a winter funk kind of girl, but this past January, nearly every moment that wasn’t occupied by work obligations was spent in bed.

The impetus for my depression was a column I tried to write about forgiving Randall Miller, the film producer prosecuted for manslaughter after camera assistant Sarah Jones was hit by a train.

Despite my best intentions, I wound up crying for two straight days and forfeiting my column for the week. That depression lingered, eventually resulting in a case of the flu and a second delinquent column.

Even my Airbnb business came to a halt. Every dirty dish I left in the sink, every pile of laundry left unfolded sent a signal to the Universe, “Go on ahead without me. I’m just gonna sit this one out.”

But the human spirit is a stubborn beast— it plods forward even when the ego says, “I quit!”

Last month, as I was showing up for only the most minimal of my obligations, (namely working as an artist’s model for SCAD and other local studios around town) my Spidey senses went into overdrive. Whenever I’d sit for a twenty-minute pose, visions would appear around the artists’ heads.

What began as streaks of color emanating from the auras of those most excited to do their work soon became light forms assuming human shape, sharing verifiable messages from loved ones who had passed.

Then last week, three soldiers in pith helmets appeared around a painter who had recently served our country. I could feel they had died in some sort of combat or military exercise. Their presence was so intense that I found myself chanting aloud, “Not now, not now, not now!”

During a break, I approached him and told him of their emergence, along with a specific message from one spirit who had deliberately set himself apart from the group. The painter confirmed that more than a dozen soldiers in his unit had been killed in a training exercise.

Being a psychic medium isn’t a parlor trick. I’m not some kind of carnival midway worker trying to guess your weight and age. I am a vessel used by spirit to answer our prayers and confirm that even in our darkest hours, we’re never alone.

It’s an honor, a privilege and a tremendous responsibility. As a psychic medium, I’m just your loved ones’ messenger. Ultimately, you’re the ones who live with the pain of their loss every day. That’s why I do my job with the utmost reverence and integrity.

You’re the reason I keep showing up, even when I’m ready to quit.

Looking back on that uncompleted Randall Miller column, I realize that the psychic pain surrounding Sarah Jones’ death was simply more than I could bear. I’ve tabled the subject for now, but it’s one I’ll definitely revisit. In my heart, I know that forgiving him is an allegory for healing a deeper wound in our humanity.

An interesting side note: each of the previous times I’ve referenced Randall Miller in this article, a silver spark has flashed in front of my computer screen, encouraging me to keep moving forward with his story.

Also, my unexpected detour through winter blahsville has taken my psychic medium work in a new direction that I wouldn’t have otherwise considered: group psychic readings similar to those offered by John Edward and Teresa Caputo. Right now it’s still in the planning stage, but stay tuned!

If anything about my recent funk resonates, then this week’s Faerie Fortune Cookie reading is especially for you:

Bodach, the faerie of self-sabotage (reversed).

“When things don’t work out as we had hoped, they’re actually turning out in our favor. Be sure to tip your hat to Bodach for these happy accidents. He’s standing right there in the corner, eager to accept our praise.”


Originally published in Connect Savannah

This Week's Assignment from School House Rock!

YOUR MISSION, should you choose to accept it, is to be the magic you wish to see in the world. So said David Bowie, in our last column. This week Professor Stardust has a special follow-up assignment—to claim your free Faerie Fortune Cookie.

The Fortune Cookie is a tradition created by my spiritual mentor and friend, the late Jason Thorpe. When I was in high school, my girlfriend Rachel raved about a reading she and her mom received from Jason, deeming him the “absolute must” of psychic readers.

Ten years later, I was walking down a Minneapolis street, meditating on a spiritual quandary. That’s when I noticed a sign that said “Readings by Jason” on the sidewalk in front of a New Age bookstore. I stepped inside to find out if this was the same reader Rachel had recommended. Indeed he was. In honor of her referral, Jason offered some free psychic insights— a little “Fortune Cookie” just for me.

And so, the faeries and I will create a Fortune Cookie just for you. But first, some questions to help you prepare. No need to share your answers with the rest of the class. Just look to your heart for the answers:

  1. What is your secret (or not so secret) superpower that you were born to share with the world?
  2. Have you used this power in the past? If so, how? If not, why?
  3. How do you envision yourself using this superpower in the future?

 
Ready to claim your free, personalized reading? Just fill out the form below.

Thanks again for being part of The Ghost Dog Diaries family. I can’t wait to share the Faerie Fortune Cookie love with y’all.

Until next time, class adjourned!


Originally published in Connect Savannah

 

Yes! Send me my Faerie Fortune cookie...in bed.

Name *
Name



Your Post Apocalyptic Guide to Ziggy Stardust

CONTRARY to the recent Internet meme, Alan Rickman isn’t the only one who’s going to a very exclusive Bowie concert. It just so happens we’re all invited. In fact, David Bowie just sang me a verse of “Rubber Duckie” A Cappella and it was freakin’ epic.

“Great artists know where to steal,” he added, with a wink and a grin.
           
Living in a world in which David Bowie no longer exists might seem like the Eighth Sign of the Apocalypse, but he’s here to assure us that his passing is not the end of times. It’s the beginning of our own innate magic.

Easy for me to say; I’m a professional psychic medium. As such, I pinky swear that you can connect with him, too. All it takes is a little understanding of the process.

The most common fear among my clients is that they’re unable to connect with their late loved ones because they can’t see or hear them anymore. The good news is that sight and sound are irrelevant.

You can think them into being.

Newton’s Third Law states that for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, when you think about your loved ones, your loved ones think about you. The same is true for Bowie.

But how is this possible if you didn’t even know him?

Science has taught us that energy is neither created nor destroyed. It also proves that light and sound are infinite energies that continue on, even when we can no longer see or hear them.

he same is true of us.

Just like light and sound, we each have our own unique frequency—the eternal radio station that is our soul. Bowie’s is one of the most inspirational and vibrant in modern history. In life he connected with us directly, via the frequency of his art and music. Why would that change just because he’s left the planet?

To paraphrase an online tweet that epitomizes our collective grief, we don’t cry because we knew him. We cry because he helped us know ourselves.

Now it’s up to us to know ourselves even better.

“We’re all here on loan from the Narnia collection,” I just heard him say. “How do you intend to bide your time?”

Bowie’s passing is a reminder that there are people who make this world a better place simply because we know they’re in it. I, for one, am doing my best to share that kind of love and comfort with everyone I meet.

“Great Artists know where to steal,” he reiterates, before bidding a temporary adieu. “Always remember, you must be the magic you wish to see in the world.”


Originally published in Connect Savannah (p.45)
 

Introducing Mr. Earl Barnes

MR. EARL BARNES is a homeless veteran and a spiritual writer who spends his days in Forsyth Park and the downtown squares gifting visitors with his poetry and essays. The first time we met, he told me of his aspirations to write a “Homeless Voices” column for the Connect and shared excerpt of the book that he intends to someday publish.

As a psychic medium, one of my gifts is to see beyond appearances and into people’s hearts. Mr. Earl’s calling to heal the world with his words radiated beyond his hypnotizing voice and dazzling smile, enveloping his being in beautiful white light. So when, over the next several months, I saw him pandering to tourists for their dollars by telling them it was his birthday, I felt incredibly sad; not so much because he was lying, but because he was underestimating the value of speaking his truth.

In a none-of-my-business moment, I tearfully asked him why he felt that he needed to lie about it being his birthday instead of asking for donations to help support his writing. This led to a series of conversations, a couple of writing assignments from me to him, and ultimately today’s column.

I am proud to kick of the New Year by introducing Mr. Earl, in his own words, in this open letter to Savannah.
 

GOD’S DAY ROOM

I am writing this letter because I believe that God has called me to do something about homelessness in Savannah. My solution is for our community to come together and build a place called God’s Day Room.

The Day Room would serve as middle ground that bridges the gaps between the existing program at Emmaus House, where homeless people get their daily breakfast, shower and wash their clothes; the lunch program at Social Apostolate and the 4 p.m. check-in at Old Savannah City Mission, where we spend the night.

The Day Room would provide shelter from the winter cold and midday summer heat. It would be a place to feed people’s spiritual, creative and intellectual hunger with classes in bible study, art and skills that can help us to earn an in income and get back on our feet.

Last August, when Emmaus House closed for cleaning and maintenance, we were left without its basic meals and services for three weeks, causing a rise in crime an illness among the homeless population. With the help of God’s Day room, we can close that gap and use the space to care for people at times like this when the existing programs cannot.

Back in Toledo, Ohio I found a similar day room that helped me to get back on my feet and instilled in me the faith that has become my foundation as a spiritual writer and an advocate for homeless veterans.

I believe that God’s Day Room will strengthen our community because God will bless us for doing His will to end homelessness. He is calling on all of us to do something.
With this faith I ask for your help.
 
Sincerely,
Earl Barnes


Inspired by Mr. Earl's words? You can learn more about his life and poetry, buy his book "Ghetto Child" or leave him a note in the comments below. He'd love to hear from you!

Originally published in Connect Savannah (p. 45) 

Bon Voyage Old Year!

¡ADIOS y vaya con dios, 2015! It’s time to make room for our best, most positive New Year ever.

Easier said than done, right?

We’ve had quite the chaotic momentum this year and it seems to be everywhere. But don’t lose hope! Quantum physics proves that the outcome to any given situation can change based on where we focus our attention. Professional racecar drivers even use this technique to avoid crashing into concrete walls. By averting their gaze, the car’s steering system inexplicably follows the driver’s eyes instead of the vehicle’s trajectory.
So where will you focus your attention in 2016?

I’ll be using mine to create more light, love, joy, and peace in the world. I hope you’ll join me. But before we get started, let’s neutralize the fo’shizzle out of that ishy old energy. Here’s your step-by-step guide:
 
1. Go through your house with Master Gardner's eyes and weed the place of all that no longer serves a purpose. Donate, recycle and release lovingly into the world. Happy trails!

2. Burn candles, sage or ring bells to clear the old energy. Thanks to El Niño, we can even open the windows and doors this winter, so be sure to enjoy nature's Lysol. Things smell amazing when they're left in the sun!

3. Vacuum, sweep and wash floors, if you have energy. If not, task the fairies, gnomes and elves with blessing the dust balls and neutralizing their ionic fields.

4. Go T-Swift on your frenemies. Hop on over to Youtube, crank some“Shake It Off” and serenade them at the top of your lungs. Trust me, they’ll feel it. The Force is strong with this one.

5. Wash your bod and bed sheets. The Sandman will reward you with a good night's rest...unless your Sandman listens to Metalica. In which case, if you can't beat him, join him.

6. Make a list of everything you want to bring in to your life in 2016. Bless it and be sure to add Miracle Gro...then release it lovingly to The Universe, but not before listening to 38 Special's "Hold On Loosely."

7. Create a list of all the positive aspects in your life and thank your angels kindly.
 
When making my appreciation list, all of you will be on it. Thank you, dear readers, for being a shining light in my life this past year. Sending y’all my best, most positive thoughts for an amazing 2016.


Originally published in Connect Savannah (p. 45) 

Spoiler Alert!

THERE’S a reason that people don’t share movie spoilers. It has as much to do with not ruining the film for others as it does with prolonging our innocence.
           
A few months back I wrote a column about Samantha Smith, the eleven year-old American whose 1982 letter to Soviet President Yuri Andropov played a key role in the Cold War detente. What I didn’t tell you is that she was just thirteen when she died in a plane crash in 1985. I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want her tragic death to overshadow her incredible life.

Another reason that people don’t share spoilers is because grief can cause us to lose sight of our personal power.

Fourteen years ago, I had a psychic vision that Paul Wellstone, the Minnesota senator whose life’s mission was to “stand up for the little fellers, not the Rockefellers,” was going to die in a plane crash. When my prediction came true it was the worst day of my life, not just because I felt in my heart that it was a deliberate assassination, but because seven other people died along with him —including my best friend’s mentor, a woman who had spent many nights in our home— and I was unable to stop it.

It took more than ten years for me to speak a single sentence about that day without bawling my eyes out. Now I can resoundingly say that Paul’s death was a defining moment in my origin story; the crossroads where I could embrace my psychic ability as a burden or a gift.

The reason that people don’t share spoilers is because there’s always another chapter, another trilogy, another beginning.

This might seem like the bleakest, most random Christmas column ever, but I write it because this year—above all others—it just doesn’t feel like Christmas. No need for a spoiler alert warning. The reasons are well documented in the 2015 Year In Review.

This is my Christmas column is because in every tragedy there is a gift.

Always a new hope there is.

In 2016 that hope is you.


Originally published in Savannah Connect (p. 45)

Loving My First Bully

I’LL ALWAYS remember where I was the moment I officially became an adult: on the sofa of Mark’s 10th Avenue Manhattan apartment, in the middle of an argument over something so irrelevant that I can't even remember it now.

I felt like I was talking to a brick wall and was frustrated beyond belief. That’s when I heard the telltale whistle of an F-bomb a comin’. Instead of dropping it, I calmly said, “I want to call you a name right now that I really don’t like. It’s time for me to go.”

And so I left.

On the cab ride home, all I could think about was the fact that I had almost sworn at him. And no sir, I did not like it.

Before you go thinking, “Aw…how very Pollyanna of you, Erin!” there’s something I need to explain.

I grew up in a house with a father who blew his top first and apologized later. And not in a funny, “To the moon, Alice!” Honeymooner’s-type way. Because his mom had died when he was young, my dad was prone to childlike temper tantrums.

Sometimes he would pick me up by my neck with both hands and force me to look him in the eye while he screamed and shook me midair to illustrate his rage.

By the time I was a teenager, I learned to survive by out crazying the crazy. If he screamed, I screamed louder. If he put his hands on me, I pushed back. And when I did, he would tell my mom that I needed to be put in a foster home because he was afraid of me.
           
Come to think of it, my dad was my very first bully.

So when I was able to recognize my impending outburst and stop it in its tracks, it wasn’t just my first “grown up” moment; it the first time I ever stood up to my own inner bully.

In the past month the world has gotten exponentially crazy and I have struggled to find words that emphasize the importance of loving others in the face of their hate.

With all the despair over mass shootings, the impending threat of ISIS and whatever else might have happened by the time this column makes it to print, saying “just love each other” might seem ridiculous, if not pointless.

But it’s necessary.

So I will do my best to speak honestly and from the heart.

The reason I love those who commit unlovable acts is because I have done them myself. Violence and hatred are learned behaviors taught by those of us who are doing our best and haven’t yet learned how to do better.

I love because I have lived with the guilt and despair of doing unlovable things that are untrue to my heart; especially when I hurt those I love most.

I love because I have been as scared of myself as everyone else was, even more so.

I love because I have been too ashamed to say, “I’m sorry.”

I love because there’s nothing more healing than the compassion of others when I feel unworthy of forgiveness.

I love because we learn by example.


Originally published in Connect Savannah (p. 45)

Inner Larry David: -10, Dignity: 0

MY BETTER JUDGEMENT said, “Don’t confront the perpetrator with a scathing letter,” but once the fury was unleashed, my inner Larry David couldn’t not send it.

My golden kazoo had gone missing and was nowhere to be found. Because I keep my home orderly, it could only be in two possible places: 1) atop the wardrobe where I mindlessly leave things in my bedroom or 2) that remote shelf in my office, along with Les Nessman’s coveted Silver Sow Award and a cache of other sparkle treasures currently for sale on my Regretsy store.

This wasn’t your typical golden kazoo. It was Paul Bunyon-sized —one of only three known in existence. As such, it was highly desirable and wasn’t easy to lose; especially in a house as streamlined as mine.

A bilious tummy ache started to rumble as I realized that one of my Couch Schleppers must have stolen it.

Inconceivable.

With the exception of Mister Nightcap, a recent divorcee who earned his unfortunate name by inviting me back to the Rumpus Room for a drink just forty minutes after unpacking his bags, all my guests this past month had been just peachy. 

It’s not like my kazoo suddenly grew legs and ran away to seek its fortune. I had dumped the place ass-over-teakettle and it was officially AWOL. 

Stranger Danger was the only possible explanation.

And so, I hit “send.”

***THEFT ALERT *** POLICE TO BE NOTIFIED***

My apologies in advance to the 99% of you receiving this letter who had nothing to do with the theft that occurred in my home at some point over the last three weeks. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching Scooby Doo, it’s that it only takes one meddling kid to ruin things for everyone. That little meddler expected that I either wouldn't notice or wouldn't speak up. 

That little meddler is hells to the wrong.

This afternoon I discovered that a rare, Paul Bunyon Issue Golden Kazoo for sale via my online store has disappeared from the Tippy-Top shelf of my private office. Unfortunately, the person who stole it failed to note that it was being guarded by a motion activated Unicorn Of Justice, located in plain sight less than a foot from where the kazoo was taken.

Please be advised that I am currently reviewing the unicorn’s testimony and will be submitting it as evidence to corroborate reports I will be filing with both the CouchSchlepping.com Circle of Trust and Safety™ and the Savannah Metro Police Department.

To the kid in question, I am giving you seven days to return my kazoo, via mail or Amazon drone, no questions asked. In the event that it is not returned, I intend to prosecute this case to the fullest extent of the law.

On a personal note, trust is a fragile thing. Karma is a doozie.  When it comes back to bite you, don't be surprised if you are betrayed by someone whom you care about waaaay more than some hapless stranger you stayed with that one time you went to Savannah.

Your pal, 
Erin

Not an hour later, Mister Nightcap wrote back to commiserate over my loss, adding —I quote, verbatim— “I’m guessing that part of you has to feel kind of violated. Home stuff is so…intimate in ways, no?”

    My first reaction: “EEEW!” 
    My second: “Sonovabeeech, he did it!!”

It was there in black and white. Since Mister Nightcap hadn’t been able to violate me with a lead pipe in the Rumpus Room, he’d compensated by stealing an “intimate” souvenir from my home: the golden kazoo that might have pressed against the luscious lips I’d denied him. As only Paul Bunyon would have any real use for the kazoo, I would never suspect that Mister Nightcap was the actual thief.

It was the perfect crime. And he would have gotten away with it, if not for this meddling kid!

I immediately wrote the others to apologize again and inform them that the responsible party had come forward. One guest wrote back to wish me luck. None of the others dignified my emails with a response. 

Yesterday I found the kazoo.

It was burrowed in the depths of the super-slouchy Gordon Gartrell tote bag I had checked at least three times in my quest. 

So why do I confess this damning tale, with certain details so obviously exaggerated to protect the innocent? 

Because when I am wrong I admit it.

Because publically shaming my inner Larry David might give him cause to pause next time…and there will be a next time.

Because when I was little, one of my favorite stories was a Sesame Street picture book in which Grover prevents his readers from turning its pages, for fear of facing the monster at the end of the book, only to discover that the monster is he.

Because more often than not, I am the monster at the end of this book.

riginally posted in Connect Savannah (p.45) 

Today's Faerie Fortune Cookie: Relax and Carry On

The weeks following 9/11 were a hard time to be a comedian. The clubs were nearly empty and the crowds were tough. We weren’t in a laughing mood. Nobody dared criticize President Bush or his policies, other than Marc Maron (who did so vociferously and was not appreciated). Even so, we were united in our grief over the loved ones we lost in the buildings that fell.

The days following the Paris attack have been an even harder time to be an optimist. The Internet is overflowing with strife. Everyone is pointing fingers and picking sides. Who knew an act that claimed a fraction of the lives that were lost at the World Trade Center could be exponentially divisive?

Seeing the forest for the trees, I want nothing more than to pick up where we left off last week and write about the importance of loving our enemies in the face of their hatred. But no one seems to be in the mood.

So this week I’ll let the Faeries’ Oracle Cards do the talking. Here is a 15-card reading to inspire those of us who are feeling at the mercy of these troubling times:

Jack was very excited to check out this week's reading.

  1. The first card in our reading tells of mental irritation and petty quarrels for argument’s sake.
  2. This card represents the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re not quite there yet, but don’t lose hope. The light is not lost and no storm, no matter how tumultuous, can last forever.
  3. Our innate instincts of love, nurturing and generosity are blocked. This card asks us to ask ourselves what we can do to free these blocked energies.
  4. We are currently operating from a faulty viewpoint based in defensiveness, denial and difficulty. It is time for us to back off from our current emotional entanglements and look at things anew.
  5. The Unity Card is calling on us to remember that we are all one. It encourages us to focus on resolving our inner conflicts rather than trying to change the opinions of others. It reminds us to find common ground and focus on our common goals.
  6. The time has come to release old ideas based in hatred and fear that no longer serve us.
  7. Balance is essential to our wellbeing and well within our control. When feeling at the mercy of outside influences, we are called to balance the situation by focusing on our inner calm.
  8. This card reminds us to check in with ourselves when we are feeling angry or upset. Expressing these emotions honestly and respectfully will also help us to regain our balance.
  9. When we feel ourselves getting sick, it is our bodies’ way of reminding us to be more gentle and loving with ourselves and others. Physical illness is a direct result of the blocked love and nurturing that was previously mentioned in the third card.
  10. Blocked creativity is another side effect of all this warring energy. This makes sense, as war is the opposite of creation. When we are feeling angry and overwhelmed, we can help ourselves feel better by creating more art and beauty. Taking time out to play is another way to heal illness in our bodies.
  11. When it comes to being patient with ourselves others, remember that everyone is doing the best we can at any given moment. Be sure to ask ourselves gently, honestly how we can do better.
  12. When feeling afraid, remember that love is the opposite of fear. Make peace with our fears by asking ourselves what we are really afraid of and being lovingly honest when we answer.
  13. Jackpot! Joy and success are ours after a period of struggle. The struggle is worth it. Peace and calm are growing.
  14. Currently, there is an imbalance of energy, tending towards aggression and violence towards others. We are being called to give careful and prayerful consideration as to how this energy can be rechanneled into its naturally creative and protective mode.
  15. Holy auspicious beginnings, Batman! You couldn’t ask for a better omen. Trust the process and tend to the details. Bless the growth as it happens.


Originally published in Connect Savannah (p. 48)