Updated: Apr 17
A Corinth, Mississippi Morning
"Be careful what you pray for-you just might get it,"
I learned this from my mother and continue to learn it repeatedly.
I reached a point where I hated working at the weekly drag show that I hosted. I kept working there out of survival and to pay my rent; the truth of the matter is I had become a shell of the entertainer/person I had worked so hard to become and once was. I love touching people emotionally and making a difference, in their spirit even if it's for only one hour. I bet people who came to see me at this time were reminded of the Oprah Winfrey character, Ms. Sophia stomping across the fields to confront Miss Celie in "The Color Purple." I found myself stuck being miserable in a big ole' pile of smelly horse shit that was just as warm and comforting. I recognized this place; I had been in one similar many times.
I am not unique because I don't like horse shit. Some of us don't even know we're stuck or what it means to be stuck, and I was stuck. We're just living to exist in our daily routines, surrounded by the same people who treat us the same way we're used to being treated. Fortunately, I'm one of those people who, when the awareness comes, and I am ready to hear it, have no problem making my moves. I use my gut as a decision-maker. I know from experience what I don't want—not knowing what is waiting for me on the other side and doing something new to get it has always been my driver. The results are always refreshing, even though they are uncomfortable and scary initially.
I lived in New York City for three years after Katrina because it was on my bucket list. People back In New Orleans were too intense for me after suffering Katrina's round of PTSD, talking about how everything was back to normal.
So here I was, living in survival mode. It had been a long while since I felt any kind of spark in my creative spirit. My friends tried to empathize and help with my situation, but I wasn't ready for change because I was in the middle of it, the feeling part of it.
I returned to therapy to find a solution(s) to my situation. In the past, therapy helped me deal with the loss of both of my parents and the breaking up of an eleven-year relationship and helped me reach many of the goals I set for myself. I'm not scared of a good challenge of looking at myself for a new truth. That timeI had arrived.
I told the therapist I needed to make changes for my first session. I didn't know what I had just asked the universe to set in motion.
“Don't you just love those long rainy afternoons in New Orleans when an hour isn't just an hour - but a little piece of eternity dropped into your hands - and who knows what to do with it?”
I lived in a one-bedroom Creole cottage with a lush courtyard in front and a lovely back porch. His words make the French Quarter come alive.
My courtyard had those gigantic elephant ears next to those fifty feet tall palm trees that provided shade, making it cool in one part of the day, or if the rains came when the sun shifted, making it hot as hell from the steam from the summer rains. My apartment was on Esplanade Avenue, off Bourbon Street on the Marigny side. With the public courtyard, it was the perfect place to live during the Covid quarantine. My neighbors and I visited each other in that beautiful courtyard.
The landlord started repairing each of the six apartments when he purchased it and started having the building stucco repaired. For about a year,r there was colossal scaffolding making it almost impossible to enter and leave, and a muddy mess at my front door. l could only use the backdoor to my apartment, which still got tracked up. I didn't mind the inconvenience nor complain about it because I had a fat French Quarter apartment with lots of space, cabinets, and closets. The plan was to have the masonry workers continue to workaround around the outside of my walls which would block both entrances. Lord, what kind of denial could I have been in thinking I could have lived through that? So I did what I should have done; II hired a painter for the interior and began decorating. I had a newly discovered mid-century modern furniture obsession. It was my first adult decorating experience. I know my strengths, so I hired my cute haircut client Daniel to do the painting.
My friend Lisa and I played husband and wife at Lowe's, deciding the colors I wanted for my apartment. Poor Daniel worked hard to understand my color choices and helped me edit their placement of them. I valued his input. Our collaboration was fun and therapeutic. I knew what was coming because I had already said it out loud. Daniel finished painting on a Sunday evening, and on Wednesday, I began hanging my art when I got a text from my landlord asking if I had time to talk. I knew the phone call, so I called him immediately. He wanted his apartment back to convert back to the house's original floor plan. I hemmed and hawed about temporary solutions for about half an hour, but my pleading was all in vain. He wasn’t backing down from his decision. Bless his heart for taking the hard way and being honest and straightforward with me. When he offered me hush money to move, I accepted it, wished him well, and packed my Jadeite, Rambos, and Loretta records. We wished each other well.
Here comes the exciting part, I didn't know what part of town I wanted to live in. I called Kip, a real estate agent, and blessed his heart; he was so patient, showing me about ten apartments all over town, all in my price range. The question is, where would I spend the next chapter of my life?
I kept doing my drag and trivia gig, purging costumes and wigs from my dressing room. Confiding with a friend how I felt about doing drag at the bar helped expedite my exit, but I didn't have to tell the owner that bar-someone else did that for me. The owner texted me that Reba Douglas' services were no longer needed.
Another chapter of my life was now closed.
What was I going to do now?
The Mid-City Yacht Club
Getting new friends and changing my social circle was the first on the agenda in my new life. I loved my friends in the French Quarter and the drag queen world, but it was time for me to shake the sugar tree.
Writing has long been one of my hobbies. I'd begun journaling way back as a teenager. Taking a class on creative writing was the next item checked off of my dream board.
"Be careful what you pray for..."
A friend's husband, Stephen Rea, teaches writing classes upstairs at a sports bar called the New Orleans Mid-City Yacht Club and has a new one starting soon. I Venmo'd him my $300 to reserve my spot and went to Walgreens to buy myself a notebook and a pack of pens.
I was now a writer.
This writing class introduced me to new friends. Some were professional; some had never written anything. Stephen”s teachings covered a lot of ground in those weeks of this class, teaching us the material yet letting us experience each other's writings. He challenged us to use fewer words and to make each word count. He told us to write about what we knew.
I loved this class and what it did for me.
There are pictures of me dancing to Loretta Lynn's records as a young kid in front of my aunt's Wi-Fi while my uncle has the " we know what this kid will grow up to be" face. He was right. My mama said I even danced to Loretta in my baby crib.
When Loretta Lynn died, leaving a big hole in my life. I play her music at least once a week and quote lines from "Coal Miner's Daughter" randomly. Memories about her or around her constantly pop up. She is ingrained into my family's DNA. Throughout my childhood, her music, her television and concert appearances, and Conway Twitty are all in my memory store. She is one of the longest-living female relationships I have had.
The day she passed was a sad one. I couldn't believe the woman who had been there for me, giving me the same energy every time I went to her, would not be there. I went deep into a Loretta hole, watching videos on YouTube that I'd already seen but was left feeling like it was the first time seeing them again.
A couple of weeks after her passing, I opened my Instagram to find that Loretta Lynn Official had an RSVP for an event at the Grand Ole Opry. It was a celebration of life and music. It was free. Loretta planned it herself before that she wanted. It was a strange experience. Loretta welcomed us to her funeral via a video message she made before she died. The video message thanked us, her fans, or, as she referred to us, her "friends" for coming and how grateful she was for us helping her build a better life for her kids than she had and they wouldn’t have to go to bed hungry like she did. Loretta's spirit was there that night in every performer's performance. I felt her energy all in that Grand Ole Opry building. I was about ready for an excellent old gut-cleansing cry when Jack White came on to sing "Van Lear Rose." They played a video of them singing "Whispering Sea" and her telling a fishing story. Jack and I had a lot in common-we both had little boy crushes on Loretta.
I knew that to be given this opportunity to celebrate my favorite singer's life in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wasn't about to miss it. I already had my plan in place.
I rented a car and made my first stop in Biloxi for the Judd's farewell tour Thursday evening.
BORROUM'S DRUG STORE AND SODA FOUNTAIN
Before Wynonna's final encore, I left beating the concert traffic, and began my creative cavalcade. It was a long drive from Billoxi to Corinth, Mississippi, and post-concert traffic would have slowed me down. I had to reach my next destination at my friends' Matt and Chad's house. Matt was waiting for me when I got there at 4 AM.
The next morning, Matt woke me up around 9:30 with a giant iced Starbucks. We drove around Corinth and looked at all of the stores in the city's downtown. It was like stepping back in time to the fifties or sixties-what you've seen in the movies. There was a shoe store, an art store, and many boutiques and galleries. It hadn't yet been destroyed by modernists or abandoned because of nowhere to park or crime activity like most downtowns.
Matt and Chad took me on an antique thrift shopping tour, and I had my first sludge burger from a drug store with a soda fountain that still works. While having our sludge burger, we got a kick looking at their town square in front of the courthouse. It looks like the one in the scene from the film, "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." The only thing that was missing was Dulcie May and her mule.
Friday night, we attended an old-timey auction with all the locals. I felt like I had stepped into a Shelby Lee Adams photograph.
The following Saturday, the cavalcade left Corinth for our next destination, Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. The folks we encountered along the way there in gas stations and McDonald's reminded me of the people I grew up around.
We made our main destination of the day, Loretta's Coal Miner's Daughter Museum in the early afternoon. After spending about four hours there, we decided to head on to Nashville. I was spiritually complete from my people-watching and seeing so many items of Loretta's life. There were many of her signature Loretta dresses and things I'd seen her wear in person or on her television appearances. I recognized the costumes and record covers with Sissy Spacek's picture on them from the movie "Coal Miner's Daughter," There were her Grammy awards next to her presidential medals.
As we were walking to the parking lot, I spotted Tim Cobb, the museum's curator. Tim was Loretta's clothing designer, makeup artist, and personal assistant, as well. He had done a fantastic job with the museum. I introduced myself and reminded him that I was the crazy fan who asked him for a pair of Loretta's used eyelashes. He laughed but could tell he didn't find it too funny. I still gave him the eye that I would take whatever if he wanted to give me something. . I complimented and thanked him for giving Loretta and us new life in her later years. He really glammed her up. I told him that with the museum, the world would come to see it for many years to come. We hugged and our cavalcade was off to Nashville for dinner.
Tim looked lost-he had just lost his best friend.
Tim Cobb would also be gone in a few months.
Let all good things begin with Loretta Lynn!
To be continued