Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Party's Over

Satch "Old Man River" Gillespie

Our beloved Satch has left the building. He had a good run. He loved and he was loved-- very, very loved. He died in my arms, and in the arms of Big Red. I honestly don't think he felt a thing. Our vet totally kicked it. (Well, okay, the preliminary bit when the vet tech showed us the brochure with "all the lovely memorial tributes" we could buy was a little... distracting. But really, other than that, totally kicked it.)

We will miss him. Forever.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Death Watch 2009 Part II: Final Day

For the past week or so it's been nearly impossible to look at Satch without bursting out crying. I woke up today, his final full day on the planet-- he leaves us tomorrow afternoon when the vet comes to put him down-- and I came up with a plan. Since he seems oblivious to his imminent death, I figured the least I could do was feign cheerfulness around him. That's it! I would have nothing but a happy attitude all day.


I went out back to feed him this morning and after he ate for a bit he went and tracked down his old disgusting chew toy, covered in years' worth of dirt, and brought it over to me. And, once again, I started to cry. The thing about Satch is, like me, he has some pretty intense OCD issues. I figured out years ago that his obsession with whatever toy he was fixated on at the moment-- there was the series of rubber carrots (until I could no longer find more in the store), any number of Frisbees that got chewed up or bent into hard shell taco shapes, and now this dirty old stuffed squirrel-- would inspire an unstoppable urge to play fetch with that toy for hours at a time, if only someone would have the patience to throw it that long. And I knew that, if we could get a team of people over here to throw his toy for him around the clock, he would literally play fetch until he dropped over dead.

The gallows humor surfaces and I think that I could throw the squirrel for him all day today until he drops dead, and saves $400+ in vet fees tomorrow.

In fact, in recent months, I've hardly thrown the squirrel at all. Satch's arthritis is so bad that just getting up off his bed (yes, he has a full sized bed) causes him tremendous pain. I can't bear that five minutes worth of fetch will leave him limping even more than usual for the rest of the day. But this morning was different.

There he was, crummy squirrel in his mouth and there I was, crying. I've been thinking about how-- save for my son-- my 12+ year relationship with Satch is, by far, the longest sustained daily relationship I've had in my adult life. For many years we slept together, until the pack got too big and not only wasn't there enough room in my bed anymore, but the dogs would sometimes fight each other in the night, jockeying for who got to sleep closest to me. But the years we slept together were excellent, his big body bringing me the steady comfort and sense of safety that no man has ever been able to sustain.

I decided to throw the squirrel today-- what's it going to do? Kill him? And upon his first retrieval, when he ran back to me, eagerness in his clouded over eyes, I said, "You have to let it go," and then I cried harder.

Because I flashed back to two years ago. My then-husband had left me less than a year into our marriage, unable or unwilling to work on the issues that plagued us from the start. I still had many months of therapy in front of me before I could truly understand this parting was beyond for-the-best. In the immediate aftermath, as Satch was with his toy, I was with my predominant thought: I have been left.

I don't think I have a single bigger button in my life than being walked out on, that sense of abandonment. Ancient stuff, yes. But very much in sharp relief in the spring of 2007. I would, each morning, get up and go out back and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and think, "He left me he left me he left me how could he leave me why did he leave me he left me." It was an awful loop, a horrid rat wheel and I could not, it did not seem, get off of it.

Satch kept me company then, bringing me the toy over and over. He was loathe to release it and so over and over I would say, "You have to let it go, you have to let it go." He never let it go.

In Texas, you have to wait something like sixty days between filing for divorce and actually getting divorced. I do believe that it was right around sixty days into the legal separation, as I waited for the court date, that once again, I was in the yard, begging the universe to just grant me five minutes of feeling and being in the present, rather than wallowing in all the shit of that marriage, when a funny thing happened. I threw a toy for Satch-- what was it? Taco Frisbee? And he ran after it. And then he came back and, who can say why, he let it go.

And then I got it. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.

I didn't have a miracle moment then where I let go of my estranged husband and all his baggage and all my unhappiness in one fell swoop. To be honest, there are still triggers that set me off, and I know some of the shit I still need to let go of. But in that moment, with Satch as role model, I began, at least, to begin to put it down.

The past several weeks have been pretty rough for me, even by my incredibly-high-threshold-for-pain standards. There's been a lot of loss and a huge internal battle between clinging and trying to let go. So this morning, when I said without thinking, "You have to let it go," a visceral something ripped through me. How will I now remember to let it go without my old man to remind me?

It's early in the morning and usually I'd be out walking the dogs right now. But it is thundering and Satch hates thunder. Back when he was more limber a thunder crack would inspire him to flatten his body and wriggle beneath the futon frame, a bizarre and seemingly impossible trick-- he's a very big dog. So I can't walk him now, take him on his penultimate stroll through the hood which, anymore, takes far longer than it used to as he hobbles along, tentative steps.

The other night, I let him sit on "the good couch" and watch Milk with me. I know, I know, so upbeat-- weepy me watching a movie about an assassination with my dying dog. I don't know if he had the capacity to wonder suspiciously why he was suddenly allowed the privilege of the "good couch"-- I doubt it. He fell asleep beside me snoring, the other dogs banished to a different room, just Mommy and her big boy, spending a little quality time together.

For the past couple of days, I've reinstated other long-gone privileges. Because he pees everywhere now, mostly I keep him in the living room or outside. But what the hell-- he's back in my office, under the desk, his furry belly a nice foot warmer. Tatum, as she so often has since she came into our lives a decade ago, is lying inches away from him. They have been such close companions all these years and, for as much as I feel sorry for myself and this pending loss, I am far more worried about Tatum, whose self-assigned job has been to forever console the grumpy old man, cater to him, lick his head even when he is snapping at her. I imagine her, in the aftermath, confused, searching for her best friend, not knowing what to do with herself.

When Satch was little and forever too-wound-up, I used to joke with him, "When are you going to be one of those dogs that just lies prone on the rag rug in the kitchen?" It never really dawned on me I'd live to see that day.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Me & Jesus: We're EVERYWHERE!

So I went to the Austin Public Library's website to search for a couple of books I want to use for my upcoming writing workshop. They have this marketing campaign -- when you go to the site at the top there's a picture of some library lover with a quote relating to said love. And yes, I'm featured in one of these. I don't always pop up-- it's a rotating cast. But this morning, there I was, the bigger, fatter, longer haired me of 2005, publicly longing for a small room of my own, a little dog, a laptop, and a library card. I've actually got all those things-- more than one little dog even-- so I guess I'm in good shape.

In other news of my astonishing popularity-- I strolled into the Y yesterday and the young woman behind the counter said, "Hello Miss Gillespie," which sort of surprised me. I didn't recognize her. She said she recognized me, that she'd gone to school with Henry, and that recently she saw me quoted in Cosmo. That made me cringe. Months ago a publicist I've worked with said Cosmo had come up with a quote they wanted to attribute to me and would I approve it since this would be good publicity for my book, Pissed Off, which came out years ago and which, while it has generated some really nice mail from folks, will doubtful ever earn royalties. So despite the fact that I had reservations about the quote, which I can't even remember at this point and no way am I buying a Cosmo, I okayed it in a moment of pure idiocy. And already it has come back to haunt me.

On the brighter side, when the same publicist again contacted me and said Cosmo had invented yet another quote they wanted to attribute to me, I told her only for money. A true whore must get paid, no? Not surprisingly, Cosmo balked. I said forget it. I'm going to write about this whole no-more-money-for-writers phenomenon in my column on Thursday. Fuckers.

But let us not get bogged down in bitterness here. On a much more joyful note, I was at Central Market yesterday and this really cheerful young lady ran up to me and said, "I took a class with you!" I always tell my writing students that if I ever run into them at the grocery store please do not be offended if I don't recognize them. My absurd memory, which can recall the names of coworkers from twenty-five years ago and phone numbers for fleeting boyfriends from my twenties, has a serious problem with out-of-context encounters. I feel awful that I can't remember everyone's name, but I seriously meet maybe 500 - 1000 new people every year and I just cannot, cannot retain that sort of mental rolodex. So the young lady told me her name and I asked about her writing-- she's still at it and recently placed in a competition. It was so lovely chatting with her.

But BEST of all... this is just great...I performed a wedding over the weekend. After the ceremony a twentysomething came up to me and said, "I just have to tell you, YOU LOOK EXACTLY LIKE MY MOM!!" Okay, that's weird, right? I mean, her mom? But I had actually had a similar experience at another wedding where the mother of the groom looked so much like my mom (who, in fact, I also look a lot like) that I wanted to hug her. Anyway, so this woman at the more recent wedding looks at me and, hoping to make an even bigger connection between her mother and me-- I should say she showed me a picture and we DO look alike-- asked me a question. Now, of all the questions in the world she could ask me, this is the one she chose: Do you knit?

DO I KNIT?!! Bwahahahaha! Do I ever not knit? I knit at weddings (though I hadn't yet gotten my knitting out at this particular wedding so there was no way this woman could've known) and funerals and in traffic and in the dark at movies. Apparently her mom also knits constantly and offers to teach anyone she meets to knit. Which is also something I do. Just yesterday I was at Mandola's and the young lass working the register noted a sock-in-progress poking out of my bag and asked me about it and said she so wanted to learn. So I gave her my contact info on the spot.


So there you go, me and Jesus, we're everywhere.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Intuition Classes with Lois!

I met Lois a couple of years ago when I signed up for one of her intuition classes. I had a great time, met great folks, and just felt much better overall about my (then horribly miserable) life by the time I was done. I've gone to Lois for readings since then and it' s always the same-- I show up stressed out and confused, I chill with Lois for an hour or two, things get clearer.

Several times a year, Lois offers a series of six 3-hour classes for $180.00. Her classes are fun and extremely informative. Lois' classes focus heavily on how to ask the right question to ensure the right intuitive response. Each class includes a review of prior material and a question period during which time students and Lois intuitively answer personal questions that other students bring to class.

Well, she's starting up a new round of classes so If you're interested please contact Lois at or 512/4450627.

And tell her I sent you. (She'll already know-- haha-- but tell her anyway, eh?)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Letting Go of Dick -- the Last Show Approaches

In July 2007, in an attempt to help heal from the fallout of a horrible divorce and also to publicly address a hideous rebound with one of the Biggest Dicks of All Time, I held what was supposed to be a one-night show at the Hyde Park Theatre. We called it The Dick Monologues and, to my delight and surprise, it was sold out, wildly well received, and the audience asked for more. We went on to do shows all over town-- but most often in our beloved HPT-- and we did a festival in Dallas and also Frontera Fest here in town. We had lots of great guest monologists. We trotted out new material and delivered some favorites month after month, playing to well over 2,000 people I'm guessing. This coming July marks our two year anniversary and... bittersweetly... the end of our run.

While I'm sad to see the show go, I do think it's time. We're all scattered across a million projects and I, personally, am in the midst of writing a history book that is consuming me and, on the side, cranking out a novel. (Now, actually, I have to re-do a lot of that, thanks to a recent hard drive crash, so I'm even more slammed.)

Anyway, I want to thank all y'all who came out, supported us, sponsored our programs, chipped in for our rent. I want to heap endless thanks on Ken Webster and Lindsey at Hyde Park Theater for all their hard work. And Ann Woodall, our house manager really held it together for us in so many ways. And, of course, I thank the cast-- wow, how lucky I've been to work with so many over the top performers.

We are holding two last shows-- May 13th (a Wednesday) and July 2nd (a Thursday) both at 7pm at the Hyde Park Theatre. Tix are $12 and you can email me at to make reservations. Please note that the May show is the last show for Rudy who, sadly, can't make it in July. Rudy's been our director ever since I tried to figure out "delegate" and he has done a smashing job.

If you already made May reservations, please note-- as I said above, my hard drive crashed. And with it went the reservations list. So please email me again and I'll make a new list. And please do help us spread the word.

Thanks so so so so SO much,