I Love My Mary

This is from the day before the party, but I've always liked this picture. Imagine lots of people and more decor and you'll get a sense of the Halloween Party at its apex.

I moved to South Carolina full time in 2003. That first year was rough in a lot of ways. After eight years in Los Angeles, Clemson was major culture shock. (Movie theaters were not cutting it, my friends.) Initially, all my friends were my husband’s friends, meaning all my friends were guy friends. There were a couple of notable exceptions, but generally speaking, I lived within a sort of gender isolation.

In 2005, I started working at the Cliffs. A few months after I started, Mary Tannery came to work as an event planner. I was like, “You seem like a very shiny object and I’d like to put you in my nest.” On the surface, Mary and I couldn’t be more different. I worked with horses and wore jeans and boots and filth and frequently no make-up. Mary wore heels and A-line skirts and her hair pulled back in a sleek bun. But if you scratched the surface, you’d quickly see that Mary and Carrie were two peas in a pod.

Mary and I have a lot in a common. We are fierce and fiercely loyal, intensely independent, tough, love to laugh, and live by the motto that if a little is good, a lot has got to be great. (See: hearts, Valentine’s Day 80’s Prom Party.)  Neither of us are keen to suffer fools and we like to get things done, always believing we can will our vision into existence. (See: forest inside a room, Halloween Party.)

When I first met Mary, I carried with me the scars of a lot of female friendships gone awry. I could make friends quickly and easily with men, but with women, I always had my guard up, waiting for the backstabbing to begin. It took time, but slowly I realized that not only was Mary dynamic and awesome and charismatic and fun, but she was also supremely reliable. Mary has always been there for me, whenever I needed her. Often driving to my place in

I mean, what. How much of a superstar is this girl?

Pendleton, even though she had more going on than I did. But it was as if she sensed when I needed a visit from a friend, and would take the time to materialize at my doorstep, just when I needed her to say, “How’re you doing?”. It’s not often that someone so sparkly is also so rock solid. She is a rare and wonderful creature.

The Cliffs was a rough place for me to work. Very rough. Every step of the way, Mary was there for me. I came to see it as my Vietnam, and Mary was my blood brother. Not that we didn’t have a lot of fun on the job, too. We put together AMAZING parties. Once, for Halloween, we constructed a mad scientist haunted house and Mary had ordered a lab coat. She’d thought it was a plain white lab coat, and happened to open the package at a meeting. It was one of those boring, stiff, corporate sort of meetings, and Mary was talking about the haunted house, opening the package, saying she was going to get a name tag for the coat, then said, “Oh! Look! It already has a name tag stitched in! It says Dr. Seymour Bush, OB/GYN.”

It hit everybody in the room a split second before it hit Mary. It was a magic moment, you guys.

Also magic, the Halloween prior, when Mary and I first bonded, cutting out hundreds of vinyl bats with my good ol’ boy boss. This was well into the night – we were working extra hours for party prep. Mary and I were chattering away like two 13 year old girls at a slumber party. I asked her what her birthday was, she told me, and I said, “Oooo! You’re an Aquarius! Like my horse!” My good ol’ boss briefly contemplated suicide in that moment. He didn’t say anything. I just saw it flicker across his eyes, like, “I could jump out that window right now and end all of this.”

Dramatic lighting is important. Also, fog machines.

Eventually, we both left the Cliffs, but we continued throwing parties together. Before I met Mary, I loved to throw a good party, but Mary gave me a new sense of scale. For Halloween slash my birthday, an entire forest was brought inside her empty retail space. It was glorious. For Valentine’s Day slash Mary’s birthday, we decided to do a Valentine’s Day 80’s Prom theme, which isn’t actually a thing, except we decided it was. We cut out paper hearts and attached them to the walls, we had 3D hearts we hung from the ceiling. I can’t remember the number of hearts we hung up, but it was, no joke, like thousands. It was midnight and we just kept saying, “I think it needs some more over here.”

Although our friendship has been marked by a whole heck of a lot fun, there’s been darkness, too. Mary, more than perhaps anybody, was my confidante as my marriage was falling apart. One day, I stood in her store, feeling absolutely bereft of hope, and Mary said to me, with steel in her eyes, “It is going to be okay.” And I explained to her no, I thought perhaps it wouldn’t be okay, perhaps it would end in divorce. The steel didn’t go away. Instead, she replied, “I know exactly what you’re saying. And I am telling you it’s going to be okay. You will be okay.” There was no compromise in her. I would be okay. She wasn’t giving me any other options. It took another several months before the thing actually broke apart, but during that time I thought back to Mary’s words. It took awhile, but they became a foundation upon which I built a new sort of strength.

Do you understand how many hearts happened here? Also, personalized birthday balloons.

Not too long after our last party, Mary became pregnant with her twin boys, Calhoun and Lachlan. It was time for us to hang up our party spurs for awhile, but even with twins (and later, pregnant with her third, Owen) Mary never stopped caring about my nonsense. When we’d hang out, she’d ask about comedy and my family and writing. I’d say, “Let’s talk about your boys!” And she’d say, “That’s all I ever do. I want to hear about you.”

As I anticipated, Mary is an awesome mom, the kind of mom I’d want to be if I ever was one. Her boys are a little wild, but they’re good as gold. They’re free to be kids and find their limits. They get both soft love and a little tough love if it’s needed. She strikes a balance between all of these things, which is so hard to do – especially with three boys under two!

Along the way, however, not everything went as planned. Mary, her husband Jason, and her family learned that Lachlan has JMML, a rare  form of leukemia. Although there had been questions and concerns for some time, the diagnosis only came in two weeks ago. Since then, it has been appointments and drives to Charleston and friends rallying and Team Tannery coming together to do everything we can to help Lachlan and those who love him.

During those two weeks, Mary hasn’t stopped asking me, “How’re you doing?”

One of the very first things I learned about Mary when we met was that she was in love with Matthew McConaughey. Like, for real, you guys. It’s a love affair. As with everything, Mary has been steadfast in her devotion. I don’t know how far back the thing goes, but I know it goes way, way back. She stuck with him through thick and thin, during the lean years when the roles weren’t so great, and into the new glory years of Oscar gold.

You can't tell here, but we're wearing matching outfits. Like, identical outfits. We had a costume change halfway through the party. We ALWAYS have a costume change halfway through a party.

Today, I sat with Mary and her baby Owen and little Lachlan, and learned that Lachlan’s limited toddler vocabulary includes the classic McConaughey fight song, “Alright, alright, alright.”

It was glorious.

The next few months are going to be hard. Lachlan is going to be at MUSC in Charleston, undergoing first chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant.  Team Tannery will be in effect throughout, doing whatever we can to support and help Mary and Jason as they support and help Lachlan. Early on in my friendship with Mary, I took to saying, “I love my Mary!” (Usually expressed at something close to a yell.) Mary would call back, “And I love my Carrie!” (Our names rhyme, you guys, it’s pretty cool.) And it’s true. I do love my Mary, and just as she once told me everything was going to be okay, to her I say, it’s gonna be alright, alright, alright.

P.S. I think it’s important to note Mary was in roller skates in the photo of her in the white tiger t-shirt. Unfortunately, the skates wound up outside the frame.

Why I’m Friends with My Ex

Spooky waits patiently for her daddy to return from his humanitarian trip to Africa. Pumpkin has given up hope.

Because he tolerates my love of comedy. To wit:

Evan: Hello?

Me: Hey.

Evan: What’s up?

Me: I was just hanging out with Pumpkin.

Evan: And how’s Pumpkin?

Me: Well, he asked me to call daddy.

Evan: Ah.

Me: I told him, he’s still on that long business trip we talked about.

Evan: Coming up on two years now.

Me: I told him you’re in Thailand.

Even more fun is when Evan comes over to the house for some reason, and I rally Pumpkin and Spooky by yelling, “Look, you guys! Daddy’s home, daddy’s home!” And then, in the voice of Spooky, “Are you going to stay this time, Daddy, or are you leaving again?”

I don’t know about you guys, but pretending cats are children in a non-existent psychodrama with your ex-husband is just about the funniest thing going, imo. I understand this is probably just a me thing, and less likely a you thing, but luckily for me, Evan thinks it’s a funny thing. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Today was a Good Day

Myq and Zach about to battle. Nick Shaheen took the pic from stage.

It’s been tough few weeks for a lot people I know and love. For me, too, by the transitive property. But yesterday was a great day. So I’m going to tell all y’all about it. Why? Because I want to.

Started the day with huevo rancheros (sans tortilla). It’s taken awhile, but I’ve finally perfected the taste of Los Angeles in my South Carolina kitchen. Every morning, it takes me back to one of my other homes. It’s a bittersweet sort of happiness, but worth experiencing. On the sweet side of it, it makes me think of breakfasts with my writing buddy Karen Barna. Who is awesome. On the bitter side, makes me miss all my LA peeps.

I wrote. Right now I am carving out rough drafts, which is my favorite thing, as well as working on an adaptation, which is fun, too.

Learned a great piece of news about a friend. Their business, not mine, so I won’t go into it here, but after so much sorrowful news, it was wonderful to get a beam of sunshine. It brightened my entire day. It makes me so happy when my friends are happy.

I did the Cross Fit with BOTASTIC at Jason Tsai’s direction and felt like I was going to die. Nothing like almost dying to let you know you’re alive.

Then I had lunch with Kate Sullivan, who is a DELIGHT, and super smart and charming and she studies fascinating things, and it’s no wonder my boy Brenden fell in love with her and made her his bride. Again, nothing makes me so happy as when my loved ones are happy.

Wrote some more and did the business emails. Working on putting a comedy tour together, writing stuff, etc. I love getting stuff done. Feels good.

Getting ready for comedy, I listened to Michele Scheve interview Tom Emmons and Art Sturtevant on Asheville FM. Art and Tom are a part of my comedy family and this year they got into Laugh Your Asheville Off, hence the interview. It was so great listening to them! Michele is an excellent interviewer, and Tom and Art played off each other very well. It also reminded me I need to be recording my sets. As they talked about the importance of recording yourself, I made a solemn vow to start doing just that.

I then went to comedy at Independent Public Alehouse. Not just a regular old show, but an amazing awesome show put on by Nick Shaheen. Myq Kaplan, Zach Sherwin, and Micah Sherman had once again rolled into town, and once again I got the honor of opening for them, along with my buddy Andy Cummins. (My third time!) It was great seeing them again, and Myq and Zach celebrated the success of selling Ruthless with me. You gotta love it when biggest, best and most talented comics are also the nicest. I heart those guys!

I got to hang with my girl Courtney Steadman, who I love and adore, and I participated in the following conversation.

Fray Forde, my comedy son, arrived with Lil’ Scovel, aka, Chaz Scovel. Courtney and I were talking with Myq Kaplan. I introduced Fray and Chaz to Myq, complimenting their comedy as I did so. Fray immediately downplayed it, while Chaz said that he needed more praise than I’d delivered. Myq commented about how they went opposite directions on that, and I put my hand on Fray’s shoulder and said, “And that’s why I love Fray. He’s a better person.” And Chaz rejoined, “And that’s why I’m a better comic.” Myq mimed dropping a mic. End scene. (I love stand-ups.)

I heard word from Art he was about to perform in front of 500+ people – his show at the festival hit maximum occupancy. I was so happy for my boy Art!

My set went pretty well.

I forgot to record it.

(I did, like an idiot, forget I wasn’t hosting, and got all hosty at the end. Totally screwed up my dismount. In my defense, I host a lot. Still though – sorry rightful host and MC Nick Shaheen!)

After I got off stage I had several people give me compliments, which is the best.

Asheville comic Jason Webb was feeling very slappy last night. He said once I've been doing comedy for one more year, I'll get to be included in the slapping. Pretty exciting stuff. (Please note, all people in this photo are adults at a show in progress.)

I then got word from Cary Goff I could perform in Asheville. Cary is not just one of my favorite comics but one of my favorite people and it’s always great to share the stage with him. It was sad to leave the show at IPA, but performing twice in one night is super great, and I am all about super great, so I drove on up to Asheville. I paralleled parked like a boss (as I usually do), but on this occasion, a large group of women were coming up the street. I saw them watching me and I heard one say, “Look at her parallel park!” So I made eye contact with her and bowed. They all applauded. It was amazing.

Once at the Disclaimer Lounge, I discovered Josiah Duckett, who can’t do a Manchester accent even though his parents are from Manchester, was hosting. (Manchester is my best UK accent, so I like to torment him with it.) I watched the audience for awhile before I got on stage, trying to figure out what the people wanted. It was a pretty quiet group. I decided on my Ambulance Men 5K set, which went really well. It felt good to have solved the question of what it was they were in the mood for.

I forgot to record it.

Later on, I wound up having an impromptu dance party with two random women at the bar. There was no music, so we chanted, “No music, no music, we don’t need no music,” and danced to that. After we were done dancing, they told me they really liked my set AND mentioned sets I’ve done in the past, which kind of blew me away.

I then got to see Cody Hughes perform. Cody is a genius. A year ago he hid himself away in Chicago, so it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him perform. Last time was in Madison, WI, actually. Last October. It had been too long since I’d seen the man in action. <3 me some Cody.

En route to the after party, I discovered book blogger Tez Miller had found the Ruthless book trailer. I didn’t even know Simon & Schuster had uploaded it already. So that made me feel kinda famous and stuff. And I’ll be honest, I’m never adverse to feeling a little famous and stuff.

Following that, I got to hang out with the Toms (Emmons and Scheve) as well as Art. It had been a minute since I’d caught up with Scheve, who is always fun, and we all got to read a giant article written about Art in Asheville’s paper. So good to see one of your own celebrated.  As a side note, a Greenville stand-up would have to set themselves on fire to make our paper. The Greenville News is the worst.

Got home a little after three.

You’d think you couldn’t improve upon that day, but upon waking I learned from Courtney that after I left the IPA show there was a rap battle. As much fun as I had in Asheville, I found myself awash in regret. Not only was there a rap battle, but Andy and Nick got to join Myq and Zach onstage for it. I could have been up there!

And then Courtney said, “They dedicated it to you.”

I was like, “WHAT???” And then, remembering these are comedians, I said, “Was it mean or nice?” Courtney said, “It was nice. Myq rapped about how sweet you are.”

Which just goes to show, Myq Kaplan doesn’t know me very well, and in the middle of a very bad few weeks, you can have a good day.

Dead Celebrities

Bacall & Bogart: Both of them so stone cold. <3

Once upon a time, in 2002, Lauren Bacall entered a Restoration Hardware in Beverly Hills. She was wearing a cape, and swept about the store in dramatic fashion, at one point pausing to point at a blue gingham table cloth to say, “That is precisely the color of Gary Cooper’s eyes.”

She then collected a wide variety of items she wanted, asked for them to be sent to her hotel, and disappeared, leaving a cloud of befuddled retail workers in her wake. They figured it out, though, even though it was a request and a behavior from a bygone era.

I was not one of those who waited on Lauren Bacall, but I treasured the story. (Lest treasured in my memory is the occasion wherein I stared at a very angry Priscilla Presley, while thinking, “YOU HAD SEX WITH ELVIS. WHAT’S WRONG YOUR MOUTH?!? YOU HAD SEX WITH ELVIS. WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOUR MOUTH?!?” in an endless loop. Priscilla, meanwhile, was not currently invested in either her mouth or Elvis, but rather getting throw pillows delivered to her mountain cabin, a mundane situation I struggled to focus upon, given the far more pressing mouth and Elvis issues.)

Yesterday, Robin Williams died. Like the rest of America, and especially like the rest of America who happens to be in their 30’s and also a stand-up comedian, I was deeply impacted by Robin Williams. As a little girl I was obsessed with Mork & Mindy. I remember being so excited that he was in a movie, Good Morning, Vietnam, I couldn’t wait to see it. I was eleven when that came out. Awakenings, Dead Poet’s Society, eventually Good Will Hunting, anything good with Robin Williams in it was a huge deal to me.

But when he died I felt nothing but grim recognition.

Death wears a variety of costumes and that one is an outfit I know well. Milling around an open mic hours after the news was released of his suicide, I was surprised to hear a lot of comics were surprised. How can you be a stand-up and not know?

To me, that sort of Death walks into a room and you give him a curt nod of recognition. He is a man you loathe, but you respect his power. And, if you’re me, or, I’d submit, just about any other stand-up comedian, he is someone you know well. Not that I’ve personally known so many who have taken their own life. But I’ve fought for far too many would-be suicide victims. Certainly, enough to know the score.

I think that for anybody who hasn’t personally met a celebrity, their death is a totem. For me, despite all Robin Williams meant to me, especially growing up, his death was an emblem of a bigger issue. On Facebook, I’ve read many of my comic friends recounting their experiences meeting him. I was surprised and not surprised to learn how incredibly kind and grounded, real and humble he was with every comic in every green room across this country. His generosity meant so much to every comic he touched, and I feel for those who lost something much more personal than a totem.

Lauren Bacall was the same thing to me, a totem. But her death hit me far harder than Robin Williams’. Lauren Bacall was mean and fierce and a little bit crazy. She was talented and smart and profoundly unapologetic. She was confident and sexy and a legend in her own time. A legend  before she was 21. How tough do you have to be to wear all of that your entire life and wear it well? Lauren Bacall tough. After all, she was the one who gave the Rat Pack its name, and when it formally organized she told a reporter its purpose was to “to drink a lot of bourbon and stay up late.”

Nothing beat Bacall.

When Humphrey Bogart died, he was interred with a charm bracelet he’d given Bacall before their marriage. It said, “If you want anything, just whistle.”

It took a long time, but he finally whistled for her.

RUTHLESS Book Cover Reveal

So, here’s the deal. Ruth came into the world today, all official-like. She has a book cover now. That means she’s a real girl.

Ruthless will be on book shelves June 2, 2015. It’s crazy exciting, you guys.

The following Saturday, I am throwing a party in the Pendleton town square and everyone is invited. You do have to buy a book to get in, though. Not kidding.

It’s going to be a lot like a wedding, except I am going to be marrying my book. DJ Master A, aka the famous Alrinthea Carter, will be spinning the tunes, there will be dancing, there will be snacks, somebody will give a drunken toast. I will be too busy to really notice anything that’s happening, but you guys will have an amazing time. It’s going to be great, you guys. Super great.

So please mark that down on your calendars! June 6, 2015. Pendleton Town Square. Be there.