Morning! Welcome Hollis Gillespie’s writing engine! I am the conductor of this clackity fuck bucket and it might look like I’m steering this thing all over the goddam place but I have a destination and I’ll take you there if you want to jump on board, just don’t ask me to make special stops or leave the wheel to come chase the chickens and goats out of your cabin. Today I’m in Miami because the pax counts to NYC were impossible and some FB friends said Miami had some good thrift stores. Miami flights, it turned out, had tons of seats on them. (Thanks, Zika!) For those of you who don’t know, I fly standby, a perk left over from my many years as a scullery plebe for the airlines.
In Miami, we scored an awesome room at a fancy-ass art-deco hotel but once we got here I realized it was because the whole place had been taken over by a wedding – we actually had to go outside, down an alley, then back inside in order to get to one of the two elevators that took us to our room. This pissed the shit off out of me until I just relaxed and figured what the hell. It was a beautiful wedding, and as I caught parts of it here and there, I got all choked up and couldn’t help thinking, “These poor love-struck idiots. 55% of marriages end in divorce, but that’s not even counting the marriages that end in murder each year.”
Speaking of love-struck idiots, I’d like to pull this train (wreck) back to 2005 when I was embroiled in a custody issue with a guardian ad litem who had been appointed by the court to represent my daughter’s welfare. Note that I didn’t say I was in a custody battle with my ex, because all he did was sit there (it seemed to me) with his figurative dick in this girl’s mouth while she made him her personal campaign.
For those of you who don’t know him, my ex is an intense person (understatement); he’s 6’4,” dark hair, dark eyes, awesome healthy athletic body, good teeth (I’m saying all this because my daughter, thank God, inherited these physical traits, so the man can make a good baby, that’s for fucking sure).
(She inherited my personality, though. Case in point: Years ago she reprogrammed my Siri to address me as “Donkey Balls.” That is brilliant. She knows I have no idea how to fix it.)
Okay, couple all those positive physical attributes of my ex with and evil, intense glare that can be turned all sad and weepy at the drop of your dignity, and you’ve got a perfect bait-and-hook for a doe-eyed, inexperienced social worker to defend in family court when it comes to a custody issue, I guess. I’m not going to say the name of this particular freshly hatched social worker, except to say it starts with a “C” and ends in “ati Diamond Stone,” and today, 11 years later, she is some big fucking deal at the Komen Foundation and I have to see her face on TV, in puff-piece print articles, and even, I swear, on giant billboards at the goddam airport. (I must have passed by it 20 times just yesterday during my fire drill of oversold flights.) So this makes her a public figure now and I can say what I want, especially if it’s true. (And Cati, If you’re worried people will think you’re a shitty person, you should have thought about that before you did all those shitty things to people.) (And readers, do not believe a single word I say about what a shitty person Cati Diamond Stone is unless you know it personally to be true. I, for one, know it personally to be true, so I’ll continue.)
Okay, 2005 is the year after my first book came out, the year after my Tonight Show appearance, after my book debuted at #1 on Amazon back when that was hard to do and was still a big thing, the year I landed my first film deal and the year the shit hit the fucking fan, folks. Now most of you can relate: When the shit hits the fan you don’t have time to examine the blades of the fan, or how many blades of the fan there are, or the setting of the fan (“turbo”), or even who turned the fucking fan on (probably you). All you have time to do is clean up the shit.
Regarding this custody issue – my ex and I had already divorced in 2003 and the custody schedule had already been established. I had already cut him a huge check, let him keep the car and 40% equity in a house I had already owned before we ever got married, because here’s the thing; the person who wants out of the marriage is the person who will pay to get out of it. Period. I don’t regret a damn cent of any of that. It was the best investment I ever made. My ex, though, probably stewed terribly after my book came out, especially after I was on the Tonight Show, because of all of the income avenues of mine for him to frack (flight-attendant salary, pension, 401K, whopping $100/week fee for my column for Creative Loafing, equity in my house), he must not have thought the book income would turn out to be a fruitful, because he didn’t tap it very hard when it was time to finally sign the divorce papers.
Yes, I got divorced and paid out all that money before my book was even published, when I was still a blue-collar plebe. If you watch my Tonight Show appearance take particular note of when Leno asks me, “Why aren’t you dating anyone?” and I answer, “Because I’m waiting for my standards to improve.” That got a laugh, but was not a fucking joke. Since my divorce of 13 fucking years ago, I’ve seriously dated only one person, that person and I broke up 10 years ago and I’ve been living in blissful solitude ever since. I love my solitude. I treasure it. Sometimes a friend will worry that I’m lonely, but for chrissakes the answer is hell no. I fought and paid harder for my solitude than anything in my life. And if any of you think my daughter doesn’t count as a part of my solitude you are wrong. She is a part of me, literally. The heart of my solitude is intact with her in it. She is part of my heart. (She’s 16 now, and lately she has been begging me to take her back to EATS on Ponce, where we used to go when we were poor. Finally I did the other week, and once there she recalled how we used to order free water with our meals and then make lemonade using the sweetener and lemons in the tub next to the iced-tea dispenser. And this was in 2005, mid shit-meet-fan days, when Grant Henry was charging me out the ass to bring my readers in droves to his art gallery so I could teach my writing classes there. (That’s right, Grant Henry, I haven’t forgotten about you, motherfucker.) Okay, what I’m saying is that my girl recalls the shit-meet-fan days FONDLY, like when we used to split a veggie plate at EATS for dinner.
Okay, regarding the shit fan again, later when the fan finally turns off and you’ve cleaned up all the shit, THAT’s when you can go back and examine the blades to see what the holy hell happened. When you do, be prepared to be surprised to find out who and what constituted the blades in your shit fan. The blades are made up of all kinds of things on the “super obvious” to “downright subversive” to the hindsight of “Oh my God, Really?” scale of crap. Sometimes I’m as surprised as you are. Some of you are sending me links to things I never knew existed, and asking, “Why did you stay friends with Grant after this?” Part of the reason is because I’m reading this just now like you are, the other part is the shit fan, remember? I was in the cleaning-up part and not the examination part. A commenter asked recently, “You sure liked Grant’s ice cream back when he was selling it.” And I concede he makes a really good point. In response I submit that it creates a conundrum for a humorist when she finally closely examines the content of her best friend’s ice cream only to discover the main ingredient is crap. Should she tell her readers the truth, especially after she’s been eating it herself for years and years? If so, that would not be easy. Me, I took a year to lay quiet, then decided to fuck what’s easy and do what’s right.
I’m going to end this segment with a memory of Grant Henry at the LAX airport, rushing onto the jetway of a plane home to Atlanta without looking back. Remember I told you I was an airline scullery plebe. I worked this job until 2012, people. I used to encounter passengers on the plane, as I was serving them, who would ask, “Didn’t I see you on the Tonight Show?” and I’d be like, “Yep. Would you like cream with your coffee?” Because here is the fucking truth, you’re an idiot if you give up your day job just because something else you did hit big. You have no idea how that will translate into your future. Hang onto what you’ve got and how you got there. Me, I loved this stupid blue-collar job. Sometimes other flight attendants would see me in the lounge before I worked a flight and yell affectionately, “What the hell are YOU still doing here?” I always answered, “I never leave this job until they pry the peanuts from my cold, dead fingers!”
So back to that day in Los Angeles when we – me, Daniel and Lary – watched Grant rush onto the jetway to catch a flight home without looking back. Because if he had looked back he would have seen us sitting there. Because the rest of us didn’t make the flight, see? Recall how I started this post describing how I fly standby? Well, my friends get to fly standby, too, thanks to a limited number of annual “buddy passes” the airlines provide their employees as part of the perks of the job. On that day the four of us had flown to Los Angeles on my passes because my agent at CAA had scheduled a meeting with Laura Dern, her agent, my agent, my manager, a television studio executive, etc., to discuss the direction of our project. Lary, Daniel and Grant had come with me to hang out and lend support. This is the trip I mentioned earlier when the night before the meeting Grant took my rental car, drove it to Tijuana, ditched Daniel in Balboa Park on the way down, dragged Lary into a gay bar on the Avenida Revolucion, where Grant spent the night shooting Tequila and shoving his left hand down the pants of every Latin love monkey who would let him (and there were a lot), then refusing to wash that hand so he could sniff it loudly throughout the night and into the next morning.
This was that trip.
After the meeting we four were waiting standby at the airport hoping to grab an empty seat to make it home. Me especially, since I had to pick up my daughter from school the next day, and to say things were contentious between me and her Dad is understating it. I could not be late picking her up or dropping her off anywhere at any time for any reason. For example, once I was late bringing her back to him by our agreed-upon time because I had taken her to the emergency room to treat a dog bite on her face. I kept him closely apprised of the whole ordeal, which should not have surprised him because it was his dog who bit her and he himself who didn’t take her to get treated but left that to me to do when I picked her up from school that day to discover her beautiful dog-bit face, but nevertheless, because I was late bringing her back to him, he called the police and I had to deal with that. That was not fun. So this is the kind of shit waiting for me if I didn’t get back to Atlanta in time.
So there the four of us were in Los Angeles, hoping for any open seat on the flight back to Atlanta. I’d like to take a moment here to distinguish between an airline “buddy pass” and an airline employee’s “pass rider.” A buddy pass is a one-off thing we can give to friends, and provides an airline ticket at a super heavily discounted fee. A pass rider, on the other hand, is someone we designate as a recipient of our actual flight benefits. These people fly free like we do (except in some circumstances they may pay the taxes on the ticket, but nothing for the ticket itself.) Me? I designated Grant fucking Henry as my pass rider, and for six entire years he had access to free, first-class air travel anywhere in the world. (And this bastard still charged me to use his place to teach my classes.) So that day in Los Angeles, when the agent called out that there was one seat left, I was busy trying to make sure my group would be situated for the night when Daniel piped up, “Where’s Grant? Is that him getting on the fucking plane and leaving us behind?”
Yes, Grant was getting on the fucking plane and leaving us behind.
As a reminder: Sister Louisa is not a person or an artist, but a product, character, business, brand and a bucket of bastards that passes as a hipster bar in the Old Fourth Ward. Grant Henry is a person, but also a public figure who, if he doesn’t want to answer to any of this shit, can always brick himself up behind a wall of $1000 bills. And please bear in mind that in 2010 when Grant told me his plans to build a bar based on a character we had developed together, consider the above when I told you I like to work. I like to labor. It’s part of my creative process. When Grant told me about his plans to open CHURCH, all I asked for was single bartending shift once a week. That is all I asked of him. I think by now you know how he answered me.
That’s it for now, but stay tuned for the next episode. In the meantime, YES I AM GOING THERE, below is a button for you to tip me if you enjoyed this installment.