Expired: You Are Naturally and Spontaneously Affectionate

In the music business and the South, the preferred greeting is a hug.  I run hot and cold with it.  I like hugs but I also like to keep a little air around me, a force field for protection and room to breathe.  I used to accomplish that with cigarettes, blowing a steady stream of smoke from a Marlboro red at anyone who crossed the borderline without invitation.  But in the last twenty years I’ve had to use more—or less—subtle means, like stepping back, turning or keeping my arms meaningfully at my sides.Continue reading…

Expired: You Are More Then A Mascot

“Adolescence is a time of great turbulence so it seemed appropriate that mine should occur when the United States was at war.”  My mother is carefully putting her reflections on paper, recalling the shaky transition of puberty that coincided with events playing out in some of the world’s major theaters.  She and her sister Betsy were traveling to North Carolina for their first experience of summer camp when she was 12 and boarded a train in Knoxville that overflowed with servicemen.   Soldiers and sailors flooded the passenger cars, clogging the aisles with their olive drab duffel bags.  Presumably they were on their way to boot camp and then active combat in World War II.Continue reading…

Expired: You Are Grand And Grandiose     

Pomposity, bombast, claptrap, pretentiousness, arrogance, ostentation, magniloquence: all of these are synonyms for grandiosity.   In a therapists office, an exaggerated sense of self-importance might be noted as a symptom of mental illness but on the street, in the office and certainly littering all forms of social media, it is how we do business and make our way.  So it is no surprise when I ask my mother if she is particularly attached to any of her character defects and she says readily:

“Oh, that’s easy, grandiosity—although I prefer observing it in others whose lives do not overlap with mine rather than in mine.”Continue reading…

Expired: You Are Given To Hospitality

The year after I was born, my parents, Burney and Jim, took a trip to Brussels to see Expo ’58, the World’s Fair.  My step-grandmother, Dottie had worked her blue-blooded, Colonial Dame connections and they were thrilled to find an invitation to a reception at the American Embassy waiting at their hotel when they arrived.   My father evaluated everything around presentation, exclusivity and cocktail parties.  No matter what ill winds blew, if you were on an A-list somewhere in the world, life was worth living.   This particular reception was to honor American celebrities currently visiting Brussels and among them was Joan Crawford, a true screen icon to my adoring dad.Continue reading…

Short for Nothing (New Book Introduction)

Burney (short for nothing), Joan (considered dull and dropped), Parrott (beloved maiden name), Cleveland (ill-fated first marriage), Sheeks (at last, love) stood in front of a hall full of women.  Earlier that morning I heard her in her little galley kitchen tuning up her public speaking skills, modulating, enunciating, delivering as if to Congress.   She was ready and eager having just finished a ‘story core’ class that involved writing short (or, in her case, not short) biographical excerpts and reading them aloud.  Burney is my mother and I looked forward to her presentation because she is funny and interesting and occasionally shocking.   But I was not prepared for the schooling I got in my mother’s life and midway through her 30 minute talk as she held the room in her manicured, age spotted hand I thought,

‘This is a book.’Continue reading…