Talked to a couple of old friends in the past few days. One recently had a hysterectomy, and it went well. She described the moment when the doctor came in to her hospital room and announced she could be released, just as soon as the surgical packing was removed from her vagina — gauze, mostly.
“You know that trick where the magician pulls out a long string of scarves, and it just goes on and on and on?” she said. “It was like that, only grosser.”
The other one told a few stories about her work life, which are the best stories ever. I’d pay money to see her one-woman show someday, and maybe I will. If you want to collect good stories about people, don’t bother becoming a bartender. Become a house cleaner instead. Better stories. One of my editors used to say a mailman knew more about your life than any other stranger who touched it. I say it’s your house cleaner, who knows the state of your marriage from the remains of your romantic dinners for two, and certainly by the number of votive candles arrayed around your bathtub. This friend used to clean empty houses for Realtors, and could tell the ethnicity of the former owners with astonishing accuracy:
“Asians lived there,” she said. “Long black hairs in the bathroom, lots of spilled rice in the pantry.” Indians left behind cooking smells, and favored certain paint colors. (White folks like neutrals.)
The best story she told me was about a lovely house in an upscale suburban area that one of her clients picked up very very cheap. It had been trashed, she said, by the previous owner’s children. It seemed that one day mom ran off with her boyfriend and moved to a faraway state. Then, a few months later, dad accepted a job in another distant city. When the teenage children, who were entering their junior and senior year of high school, objected to the relocation, he said, “OK, you kids can live here until you finish school. You’re old enough to take care of yourselves. I’ll send you some money. Bye.” You can imagine what happened: It became party central, a cushy crash pad for every local kid who needed a place to drink, get high or get laid. And over time, no doubt egged on by the effectively orphaned tenants, the place was very nearly destroyed — they threw cans of house paint out the window onto the driveway to see what it would look like, let the pool go back to nature, wrecked the furniture and carpets, punched holes in the walls and so on. Rehabbing it was a six-figure job, and it was practically a new house to begin with.
That should be a movie, don’t you think? The most interesting stories are be-careful-what-you-wish-for stories.
I have the bestest friends.
My new rock-star husband, Don Was — yes, Rodney Crowell, while I will always love you, it’s all over between us — was in the Metro Times last week. I missed the show he was promoting, The Don Was Detroit Super Session, and yes I am kicking myself. But he’s so generous in his interviews, which is one reason I love him. They just go on and on and on, and he says so many interesting things. I bring this up because we were talking about the Jill Sobule album-financing deal a while back, and lo, guess what happened:
MT: Other than the Todd Snider project, do you have anything else major coming up?
WAS: Well, just before that, I finished an album with Jill Sobule. She did the original “I Kissed A Girl,” but she shouldn’t be judged on that. She’s a really deep songwriter — both funny and profound. She has a devoted fan base, and she had a “telethon” on her website where fans could contribute as little as $18, for which they got a T-shirt and an early download of the album. For $10,000 — which some people actually bought — you got the hyper-platinum package which allowed you to come and sing background vocals on the album. And she raised $85,000 in about three weeks. Then we made that album — recorded and mixed it — in less than two weeks. Same basic principle. And, you know, there’s just, something about it – that immediacy.
And also in the Metro Times, one of the Starbucks that’s closing is the one on Jefferson in Detroit. Alas, it was beloved by someone other than the usual nobodies:
Long before Renee Zellweger’s brief marriage to country “singer” Kenny Chesney, long before Jack White married model Karen Elson while floating down a Brazilian river, the movie star and the rock star were, as your grandparents might have called ’em, an item. Zellweger spent much time in Detroit, in fact, which was a shocker to us regular folk who spotted her wandering about in supermarkets and dining in restaurants like someone who is, as she calls herself, “just kind of normal”… “Oh, yeah,” she says, drawing the “yeah” out with a few extra vowels. “I’d like to say hi to my friends at the Starbucks on Jefferson. Nice guys.”
A little housekeeping: I’m now on Twitter, as NNall. Like Facebook, I don’t quite get it, but maybe I can figure it out.