Tag Archives: Brothers

Back to the Mall

My parents were over the other night for dinner. After we chomped on tacos with black beans, chunky salsa, and jalapeños we began reminiscing. I’m not sure how the conversation started but we cruised back in time to 1980-something. To Antioch Tennessee where I grew up. We went back to The Mall.

The crappy thing is the mall where I spent so much time from ages 6-26 is no longer there. I mean the building itself is still there but the stores, the people, the smell of corn dogs and waffle cones is just a lingering memory. I think they are turning it into a college annex now. I’d like to go back and see what it looks like. Or perhaps I should just stay away and remember it as it was.

In the beginning the mall included a 3 screen movie theatre. Me and my brother tried to sneak into our first movie theatre rated R movie. But the ticket boy caught us crawling on our hands and knees right before we could enter The Serpent and the Rainbow. That was also the theatre were we spent several summers prior marking off our “Summer Movie Camp” cards. Every day of the week they showed a discounted movie for kids. It was the first time we got dropped off at the mall by ourselves. Our neighbor Jason would usually accompany us and his mom was so cheap she would have him stash cans of Big K sodas and Dollar Store-bought boxes of Jujubes and Chocolate Stars in his trench coat pockets. He shared.

The food court back then was not a myriad of ethnic culinary delights as mall food courts are now. I think the most exotic place was Picnic Pizza, owned and operated by a real Italian family. Why they chose to relocate to Antioch I do not know. My brother’s favorite place was Hot Dog on a Stick. He would get not one but two “Cheese Bars” which were huge logs of cheese on a stick, dipped and fried in batter. I did not partake in the infamous cheese bar but rather stared longingly at the various flavors tempting me from behind the glass at the Swenson’s counter. “That ice-cream is high” my mom said so many times. I think she only let me get their outrageously expensive ice cream twice before they turned it into a Sunglass Hut.

But she did occasionally let us buy candy from the Sears candy stand. Yes, Sears had a candy stand between Women’s Sleepwear and Automotives. You could smell the hot caramel and roasted nuts five sections away. There’s something mildly rebellious about eating confectionaries while shopping at a department store.

JCPenney’s had a hair salon and that’s where I got my first real ‘do and met Carson, my hairdresser for the next twenty years. I went from blunt bangs and long mane to the female mullet. My brother was so jealous. “Why can’t I get a cool haircut?” he demanded. Now he laughs at old photos of me.

Later a shoe store called Journeys opened and provided me and my brother with our first trendy skateboarding shoes and me with hours and hours of stalking staring at their top salesman. His long black hair and skate punk style left me completely star-struck and unable to utter more than a quivering “No, I’m just looking” anytime I actually went into the store when he was working.

I watched the mall change during those three decades. The flowing fountains and draping greenery changed to ceramic brick to accompany room for kiosks. The sunken dining area of the food court leveled to make room for more ever-changing food stands. The movie theatre demolished and turned into a Dollar Tree. The arcade made it through with several name changes.

This is the mall I remember. One of the only photos I could find of it on the internet.

This is the mall I remember. One of the only photos I could find of it on the internet.

And I have so many memories from those decades. Begging for throwing stars from Oriental Way. Sitting in swinging basket chairs at World Bazaar. Watching puppies through the plexi glass cages at Pass Pets. Getting my ears pierced at Claire’s. Buying my first pair of parachute pants at Chess King. Buying my first school dance outfit at Deb’s. Hanging out on a Friday night and seeing that popular metal-head/punk guy named Wolf and wondering what the hell his story was. Visiting my first openly gay friend who worked at Wilson’s Leather. My own retail career at Wolf Camera and Video for 3 years.

I’m glad with the help of my parents and my brother I can relive those memories. I wish I could go back to the mall and see it just as it was back in 1984. What a trip that would be. But it will just have to exist in my mind.

So I make new memories at another mall where I have taken my son here and there for the last 11 years. We spent the day there the other day sipping lemonade and smelling candles we couldn’t afford and racing each other on the Fast and Furious arcade game. I hope he will remember in the years to come. God willing I hope I do too.


Filed under Observations


Something happened when I was ten that I will never forget. This image has stuck with me for thirty years.

I had a brief encounter with fame if you want to call it that. I was one of three singers who recorded a local Nashville television show’s opening.

Auditions were conducted at my friend Karen’s house after a big wig heard her singing in the living room at dinner there one evening. He thought she would be perfect to accompany the intro to “Thursday’s Child,” a magazine type show highlighting the very organization helping endangered children. They asked if she had any friends who could sing.

My brother and I went to her 70’s style split-level house with the creepy animated clown head in the kitchen and sang for a couple old guys in suits and ties.

We made the cut.

Two weeks later we were excused from school and recording into a real microphone on the highest floor of a prestigious downtown Nashville building. For a one minute song we were there all day. They changed the lead adult guy twice. I liked the first one best but for whatever reason he got the shaft and they brought in a guy whose voice was more boring than 4th grade math class.

But by day’s end they had what they wanted and three weeks after that I got a real check in the mail FOR SINGING A TELEVISION THEME SONG.

Funny how I don’t tell a lot of people about this. It is one of my favorite and best accomplishments of all time. But let me tell you what happened after we finished recording and were starving.

Our parents took us to McDonald’s. That was our nutritional reward. Now if you catch me at McDonald’s I am either severely low on cash, time, or oxygen. But to us in the early 80’s it was a major reward.

While eating my skinny, salty fries I noticed a man sitting alone across from us. He looked homeless and was drinking coffee out of the quintessential McD’s coffee cup. He wasn’t so much as staring at me, my brother, my parents, Karen, and her dad, but rather glancing from time to time just enough to make me uncomfortable. At some point in our  recording after-glow conversation and fast food binge-fest I noticed the homeless guy crying. Crying. There was this look on his face of regret. And even though I was only ten I knew exactly why he was crying.

Thirty years later I can still see the remorse on his tear-stained, weathered face. He had a family somewhere. And somewhere along the way he screwed up. He saw all of us laughing together and we reminded him of what he could have had. Or perhaps did have for a time and for whatever reason did not anymore. He was regretful. I know in that moment he was sorry for whatever it was he did.

I have never forgotten that man. I have never forgotten that overflow of emotion he felt just being a bystander at a fast food restaurant.

I think I understand him now even more than I did when he was right in front of me.

We have all done things which have made us hang in the web of regret. But somewhere along the way we have to find out how to break free and ultimately forgive ourselves. I hope that man eventually found his closure, his peace.

I know through his tears he was truly sorry. I didn’t know what to do back then but now I would at least give him a nod to let him know he is not alone.






Filed under Picking Up Strays

Brothers and Sisters

We parted days ago
but it seems like years 

I ride the bumpy white gravel trail
near my home
that reminds me of our solitary
bike ride last week on the Panhandle

You wanted to cross the no entry point
I said no
I wanted to take a photo of the 
military threat level sign
you said don't be stupid

We listened to Pink Floyd
when we were teenagers
saw them in concert 
after a truck bed ride
down the streets of downtown Nashville
high on rock n roll 

Now I listen to them and my heart 
sings cries

We had one huge fight 
our entire sibling hood 
A letter sent to my house 
ended the feud and I made the call

Now it seems unbelievable
after all the laughs you gave me
at the Cape
Laughter I needed at the most
crucial time of my life

It was like we were ten
fifteen twenty again

Momma's brother is gone
from this earth
I cried with her in the bathroom
of a seafood restaurant
days after he passed
We embraced by the sink
and our hands smelled like
that coconut soap there

You don't love the beach like I do
but it will always remind me of you

Brothers and sisters
always a time and place

Take care of yourself
so we can cry with laughter

IMG_3714  Scan0001


Filed under Sunday Night Sonnet

Fire Good


My grandfather liked to burn things.  Many an afternoon or early evening you’d find him in the backyard, standing over a black barrel watching the smoke rise.  He found things– various objects around the neatly cluttered yard to put in his kettle of contentment.  There were branches that had fallen from the tall oaks in the wintertime.  Brown leaves which had lost their vivid color and moisture in the fall.  Rubber from an old tire.  Perhaps a worn shoe void of its mate.  These were the items that made the smoke black.  But Papa stood there anyway, inhaling the plumes and diligently placing things in his cauldron and stirring and poking them with a metal rod.

He spent hours out there.  When he came back inside for biscuits and gravy or to play solitaire on his cushioned coffee table he’d be all white-faced.  He was a retired Nashville firefighter.  He smoked Winston Reds.

I never really understood his fascination with fire.  My brother and I burned the faces off our Star Wars figurines with some August sunshine and a magnifying glass.  But that was just kids being scientifically experimental and stupid.  My first bonfire at Girl Scout camp when we roasted apples wrapped in biscuit dough gave me a bit of an inkling into the fascination.  A fire can turn raw dough into one of the best breakfasts I ever had?


Fast forward to high school when I joined my brother and his friends for camping trips at Cedars of Lebanon State Park.  There was a lot of smoking going on there, some of which was the bonfire.  We sat around it staring at the flames, telling stories and relishing in the quiet nature surrounding us.

A scattering of warm moments around bonfires happened since then.  And even though I adore living in Florida there are rarely occasions to enjoy a flaming fire.  But this past week or so it’s been unusually cold.  Now I have a new fire pit sitting on the lanai.  We’ve made great use of it– hotdog and marshmallow roasting with kids, a great New Year’s Eve house party, and delighting in it with a visiting friend from across the pond.  Each time mesmerized by the dancing blaze and comforted by its warmth.


One time I tried to build the fire on my own, but to no avail.  My son came over, poked and turned it with a stick, and got it going again.  Both hubby and our male Brit friend had no trouble either.  Apparently you must have balls to get a proper fire started.  I joked about this on Facebook and several female friends commented it was no problem for them.  They were my lesbian friends.

I guess the Girl Scouts didn’t quite teach me to build a fire.  But I can damn sure make a kick-ass breakfast!

Isn’t it amazing how a fire can be so deadly, yet so hypnotizing at the same time?  A contained fire brings people together, away from the television, from crap small talk, and into a primitive state where words are spoken that might have otherwise just hung on the tongue.  It warms your toes.  It makes food charred and toasty and yummy.  And if you have a wood-burning stove you can heat your entire house.  My brother has one.  I can see him now, chopping wood and placing it in the black metal heater, stoking it with the poker.



Filed under Observations

Ode to Brother

Green grasses of summer
forever kept in memory
Days of old
when you and me 
pretended to be on a 
ship in the sea
When did we move
from that place of tranquility
Here's to childhood
Here's to simplicity
Here's to the home
where you and I ran and sang
Here's to the yard
where we swung from the tree
and where kitty was buried
I wish I could look out of my 
window now
and see that yard from
that house
but instead I see asphalt
and you are nowhere around.

Me & Art –Written back in the late ’90’s when I was single and living in an apartment which overlooked a parking lot.

I hadn’t seen my brother a lot then.

Now we live 700 miles apart. He just came for a surprise visit for my 40th birthday.

Best present I ever received.


Filed under Sunday Night Sonnet