Hey, y’all! (Which is Tennessee for “you guys” for my NYC friends!) OUR NEXT STORYTALKS is JULY 30th at GOTHAM COMEDY CLUB, in the lovely Vintage Lounge, which is a more intimate space that the big room, and has this lovely old-timey wooden bar with a ginormous mirror and sich. Love.
In an effort to distract you from the fact that I didn’t post a cartoon yesterday, and to give you an idea of what the hay-ell STORYTALKS is, I’m posting one here. Well, not the actual recording, or video, because that would mean I have to step away from my Diet Coke a few extra seconds. Nope this is the script. I usually edit these all afternoon at my favorite pub in NYC (where everybody knows my name), and I need you to know, that due to my standup comic instincts, when I read them they are SO. MUCH. FUNNIER. Anyway, I’m going to go work on your cartoon for today, and meanwhile you have to entertain yourself with this true story from my past growing up on the Mississippi River! It could be that I’m all enthralled with my history, because I saw some delicious models of Riverboats at the Smithsonian yesterday (I live in DC, which is technically a SOUTHERN town, but they don’t seem to realize it). I LOVE living here, and take full advantage of all the free stuff. (My only complaint about NYC, well, except for that occasional urine smell in the summer, is that you have to ACTUALLY PAY FOR STUFF.)
ANYWAYZ (and I hate when I use that to open a paragraph), I’ve decided to start putting more of my writing on this here blog – what a concept! – when I’m not posting a cartoon, which is almost daily, and sometimes more. It is what it is, which is a phrase i also completely hate, but use often. What a complex creature I am!!
So, this story was originally published by Howard Publishing, in a humor anthology called “Humor for a Sister’s Heart,” but since I never had a sister, I talk about my Baptist sistren.
Enough intro. Picture me reading this aloud. While you’re at it, picture me 5’10” and svelte.
By Teresa Roberts Logan
I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, on the Mississippi River, smelling the barbecue and watching the cotton bales get piled up on the downtown sidewalks ready to be loaded and sent downriver. My Southern Baptist church would always do these riverboat dinners. And my sisters in Christ (and potlucks) and me were always there.
It sounds MUCH more romantic than it is. I pictured Mark Twain lookalikes and handsome gambler types, and red velvet Victorian settees. Something like the Cunard Line would’ve provided circa 1912, with a grand staircase where I could enter to impress the crowd.
The sistren and I dressed up – we actually thought up what outfits we were going to wear and excitedly discussed them at Youth Group on Wednesday night.
The sistren were very free with their advice: “Teresa, you cannot wear that purple dress. You wore that to the Donny Osmond concert and everyone remembers it.”
“Well, I can’t wear the thing I wore to choir or the whatchamacallit I wore to the banquet!” (Do Baptists EVER tire of our food gatherings? I say NO.)
“If you wear that purple thing with that red sweater, that would change it.”
“Purple and red clash and you know it. I am NOT wearing that.”
Truth was, I really didn’t care that much – I just liked talking about it.
Truth was, we needn’t have concerned ourselves in dressing up for THIS riverboat.
This was more like a floating Baptist Fellowship Hall/red metal parade float. There were weathered benches, exposed rusty pipes, and red linoleum to complete the picture.
The sisters and I were a bit disappointed in the digs, but glad as usual to be hanging out with each other.
We had pictured a seafood buffet brought up from N’awlins, where we could dine on crab legs, shrimp cocktail, and hush puppies to our hearts’ delight, after which would follow a sumptuous presentation of Bananas Foster. What we received was watery spaghetti, a Baptist potluck staple*, and brownies for dessert, while a bossy “captain” yelled at us to not be “lollygaggin’ ‘round the rails, ‘cause if you fall over the side and drown, we are NOT stoppin’!”
There was no Department of Homeland Security in THOSE days. Nope, you were ON YOUR OWN.
I had dressed nicely, in the purple dress, and carried a nice little handbag. I am an accessories-aholic after all. (I just bought a little scarf from a friend who imports things from China. It’s lime-green, and although the word mink was mentioned when the transaction was made, my husband swears it’s rat.)
I salivated on the shore in the darkness, waiting for the glorious evening on the River, and watched for the boat to pick us up on shore, and wandered away from the group. (The particular phrase “wandered away from the group” usually is a precursor to graphic scenes in horror movies, but calm down, there is no maniac in this story.)
I stood on the sloping cobblestones, looking at the huge chains anchored into them for mooring all sorts of river vehicles, and pictured in my head (as opposed to, say, in my elbow) how I would draw them. I observed how the river mud and water covered and shined the cobblestones so there were great and interesting patterns all over the ground. I went along, looking at the various shapes and thinking of the erasers, pencils, and paper I would bring in daylight to execute a proper drawing, when I saw one of the cutest sights ever – several little squirrels, standing, at night of all things, near the edge of the water!
I wonder if squirrels ever swim, I thought, and I was excited to witness something that heretofore, modern science may have completely overlooked! I got as close as I could. These river squirrels were not skittish like the ones I encountered on campus, they were downright confident!
Then they turned to look at me with their beady little cute little eyes. Only they weren’t squirrels. I was standing, way too close, to big beady-eyed river rats. And they were looking at me. And there weren’t 3 of them, there were hundreds, standing on their haunches in deceptive squirrel-like fashion, and when the light from the approaching riverboat became brighter behind me, I stood staring as thousands of little rat eyes turned toward me in the light. Thousands of little vermin eyes shining towards me in some sort of Spielberg scene, only I didn’t have a spaceship, I had a little handbag and Donny Osmond’s favorite dress.
All I could think was I must look like Frankenstein’s monster to them. Or Gulliver. And I wasn’t going to wait around for them to figure out they waaaaay outnumbered me, or how creative they could be with rope, rocks, and teeth.
Yep, come to think of it, I’ve never ever seen squirrels at night.
I turned heel and ran as fast as I could to the waiting riverboat and my fellow less adventurous hungry teenagers. “I wandered away from the group, I wandered away from the group!” I was picturing them on my heels, thousands of them, and rats did chase me for a bit, but by the time I got to the group, heaving, “RATS! RATS! RUUUUUN!”, and ready to tell my tale of horror, woe, and impending doom, (not to mention a movie deal or two if we weren’t COMPLETELY devoured), there was nary a rat in sight. No one moved, except slowly towards the watery spaghetti meal. My friends shrugged at me, looking at the empty cobblestones behind me. My non-friends smirked and proceeded to ignore me. I think I heard one say with disdain, “She’s a WRITER. And didn’t she wear that dress to the Donny Osmond concert?”
I had just had a major brush with death! With being eaten alive! Hadn’t they seen “Willard”?! Looking back toward the anchor chains and shuddering. I pictured the hungry river rats (Olympic swimmers, no doubt) following the riverboat cruises every Friday, waiting for that lone clumsy hapless teenager, full of ennui, who went to the rail to ponder his lonely existence, or just his math homework, and stare at the Mississippi River Bridge outline in the darkness.
Slip, splash, dinner is served, and that Bubba guy “ain’t stoppin’, no way, no how!” I guess I’m glad to have a rat scarf.
It’s payback time.
*No resemblance or disrespect to Baptist meals, living or dead, is implied or should be inferred.