It was a sign.


Me telling this story, about 10 years after it happened – State Theater (Oct. 2016)

I was naked from the waist up with a man I didn’t even know. He was putting little wires and pads on my chest. I figured he normally did this to old guys with similarly saggy boobs.  All I could think to say was “Can you tell they’re fake?” He laughed.Sorta. Inappropriate things fly out of my mouth all the time, especially when my chesticles are hanging out.  After the devastating four months I’d had I thought I might as well keep things light.  My heart had been obliterated. And I was at the hospital to see if I was having a heart attack. At age 42. It was a sign: God hates me.

I knew getting divorced was not supposed to be fun. But I thought finding Mr. Right would be, like, totally fun. And easy.  I had a sign, on my head, “Hot to trot divorcee looking for true love after a shitball of a marriage.   

Well, I met him innocently enough through one of my kids’ activities. It was such an exciting time. Our kids got along, he was smart, good looking, and seemed to be damaged just enough by his evil ex-wives.  And he talked.  He revealed.  He told me things that made me feel special; you know, it was a sign – he liked me. I was special.

I liked that things were going slowly. We spent a few months hanging out. At the start I thought we were taking things slowly because of his history; two divorces. But months of soul bearing and fancy glances led to nothing but lingering hugs. He still hadn’t stuck his tongue down my throat. Was it a sign? Bad breath? Didn’t he like my butt? 

After months of wondering, one night I gathered my courage and said “I’ve decided I can’t ever kiss you.” He replied, “Oh yeah?” So I said – “Yeah, cause if I do I’ll want to strip you, lick you, and ride you like a mechanical bull.”

His reply: He kissed me…. on the cheek. Looking back, it WAS a sign. I never heard from him again.

I can only explain the four months after he quit coming around as annihilating. I felt sick to my stomach which meant I couldn’t eat. I lost weight. I looked nasty. I also cried constantly. I cried. And I cried.  And I cried. It was a sign – something was coming. The loss I felt was the first thing that hit me when I woke up and it sat on me all day. Why did he leave?

I managed to hold it together when I had to, which is, most of the time – but I used to sit through doctor’s appointments and just cry to the nurses. I also cried through sessions with a counselor once a week. I didn’t care about anything.  Nothing made me happy. I went on with life, but only because I had to. I had three kids and I had to keep going to grad school classes.

So, four months of crying later, it was the end of the semester – early December.  I was going out to jog.  Well, jog is a strong word.  Flounder around with legs in motion like Olive Oyl is more like it. I started my jog and noticed my left arm and hand hurt. I thought it was weird, so I just quit jogging and walked.  The pain stopped. I jogged again. The pain came back. It was a sign!

I walked for a few miles then went home and stretched.  My son got off the school bus and I got on my computer to finish writing a big paper that was due the next day.  One of my girlfriends called and I noticed the pain was back. So, I told my friend, Heidi, I was probably having a heart attack. Great.  Fucking great. Next thing you know it’s two housefraus in a minivan headed to Mt. Nittany medical center.

So fast forward to the pads and wires on my chest. Not long after that, a nice, female ER doc came in very casually so I could give her the blow-by-blow. Fast forward to the lifeflight helicopter that was already on its way to haul me out of there. Before she came in she’d read the EKG – it was a sign! This chick is screwed! 

One lifeflight, an angioplasty, and two stents later, I was in a hospital about an hour from home.  I stayed for two nights, had the worst migraine of my life, and managed to scare the living shit out of my ex.  Even though we weren’t together, we are still family.  The best part of being a 42-year-old cardiac patient was the odd looks from doctors.  I was in shape, had low cholesterol, a low resting pulse, and normal blood pressure.  It always seemed to make them feel better when I told them my dad died at 57 from heart disease and that I used to smoke. “Good good good! Makes sense…thanks.”

But wait.  I didn’t have a heart attack because of family history or prior smoking.  No.  I had a heart attack because some fucktard broke it.  Crying every day for four months is not normal.  Neither is not sleeping and not eating.  Stupid fuck bag.  But I couldn’t tell the doctors any of that.  I already felt like an idiot.  And they were all men.  They would roll their eyes.  Poor girl with a broken heart.  Boo frickin’ hoo. They would’ve put me on anti-depressants; I already knew they didn’t help. They would’ve told me to see a different counselor for my delusions. How do you fall for someone after two months of no kissing? Idiot! It was a sign – I was a nincompoop! 

Six days after the heart attack I was back in class.  What else was there to do?  Plus, I had a semester to finish.

About two months after the heart attack I got a call from the cardiologist’s office. They asked if I would talk about my ordeal for something called “Go Red for Women” day.  Apparently, it’s a heart health awareness thing that comes around once a year.  I said I would, so I went to a couple of radio stations and talked about my heart attack. A few days later one of the stations offered me a job on a morning show.  I even ended up on a country music morning show. Words cannot tell you how much I hated country music. It was a sign – God still hates me!

But – it was a sign! I ended up writing my Master’s thesis about country music and advertising. And now – 10 years later, I still happily and joyfully work in country music radio. I even taught at Penn State for a few years and I used to brutalize my students by teaching with country music lyrics.

And as far as the “sign” I got – the heart attack – the sign that God hates me? Well, that actually saved me. I found out months later that Mr. Wonderful was actually Mr. Massive Piece of Shit – he did this and this and this and I was saved from him. And the heart attack got me off the track of thinking about him. I had to re-focus and worry about recovery. God Bless my cardiologists and country music.


My three kids  🙂


Florida Georgia Line in the early days (as if they’ve been around forever)

The Rock Star Who Stole My Innocence

I couldn’t believe a guy just wanted to have sex with me. A rock star just wanted to be invited to my indoor picnic? I was in shock. Truly. Before that day, there were plenty of guys who spent time with me cause I was so cool. Right? I mean heck, I was damn interesting: All 20 years of me. Call me silly. Call me naïve. Call me straight off the boat from Missouri. Thirty-one years later, I’m still Pollyanna.FullSizeRender

1984; Hamburg, Germany: My friend Jeanne and I were newbie models. There were usually foam headphones attached to me cause I was attached to my Sony Walkman. An ungodly amount of time was spent on subways, buses and walking because I had to go on “go-sees” to see photographers and potential clients. I was always low on cash so this meant I had about three cassettes in rotation. One of them was David Bowie, one was the Police, and the other shall remain unnamed as he’s the subject of this essay. It’s not like I’m trying to protect the innocent. He ain’t innocent. But he has offspring, and at the time, he had a wife.FullSizeRender (1)

This band was BIG in 1984 and the album was huge. Before meeting him, I remember thinking “this guy seems so laid back and fun, it would be great to hang out with him some day.” Yeah, I know – be careful what you wish for.

The concert was announced and I was giddy. I realize now that being away from home made things from home seem even better: American music in the land of weiss bier. Two general admission tickets later; Jeanne and I were set. We were front and center. In my striped skinny jeans, beret, funky- ass fake braids, tuxedo coat, and ankle boots I looked just like a model was supposed to look.

The concert was thrilling. I knew every word. I sang along and HE was right there. Arm distance. The guy from the videos and all the guys in the band. The guy from my foam headphones. Right there. All the songs. How wonderful! How uplifting. What a night. How joyful. It’s music for God’s sake! What could be better?

I was 20 – he was in his early 30s. So it wasn’t a crush thing. Ew. Gross. That’s like almost dad age. Plus, I had a boyfriend back home. I do know concert-love-pain. Like the love pain I felt at the Shaun Cassidy concert back in middle school. This wasn’t it.

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Jeanne, Me, Julie, Silke (we lived together in 1984, Germany)

Right after the show a guy came up to me and said, “I know a guy who really likes tall women.” I knew it was a corny line – but, whatever – it was a chance to meet Singer Man! So Jeanne and I went with him. Backstage. This was before “meet and greets” were invented. You actually went backstage after the show into the area where the musicians hang out – where the food and booze live. Singer Man was there and said “Hi.” I must not have impressed him too much because he disappeared. So Jeanne and I chatted with the band and other backstagers. Very nice. Next thing we knew, we were on the tour bus. And it was moving. Okay. Be Cool. Fun. Wow! We’re on the tour bus with Singer Man and the Band. I assumed the next stop would be a fun party to celebrate this exciting night of music. (Pollyanna)

Well, the next stop was the hotel where they were staying in Hamburg. Duh. Now that I’m 51 this makes sense; experience in radio and promotions has taught me that for them, it was just another day on the road. I’m guessing all the backstagers who also got on the tour bus were supposed to be going back to the hotel. Maybe they wondered what we were doing on the bus. Maybe they didn’t notice. Or, maybe this wasn’t the first time in rock history young chicks ended up on a tour bus.

Everyone got off the bus and went into the hotel lobby. Next thing I knew, I was without Jeanne and in the elevator with Singer Man. This was, of course, because I followed him onto the elevator. There were other people in the elevator – and one by one, they exited at various floors. So there I was, alone in an elevator with the guy who’d been singing into my head for months. Duh. What do I do now? How exactly did I get here? What dumb-ass question was about to escape my mouth? Stay tuned.

The elevator stopped. He got out. I got out. He walked. I followed. He was probably wondering what my intent was. I was wondering what my intent was. I said “Where are all the fans to mob you?” (I warned you.) He replied “I don’t know. You can mob me if you want.” Ug. Shitballs. In these situations I always say the wrong thing. My response was some sort of nervous Barbie doll giggle – assuming Barbie dolls get nervous and giggle.

He opened the door to his room. He went in. I went in. He was probably wondering what my intent was. I was wondering what my intent was.

He grabbed a beer and took a swig. I asked for a sip. Then I started spewing about how much I loved the concert – blah blah blah verbal vomit. Alas, he knew I was sincere. And I knew he was sincere when he said it was great to have someone to perform for. And since we’d had a whole minute of good, solid conversation – I was convinced we were gonna leave the room and go to where the party was (Pollyanna).

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Jeanne, Me, Silke, Julie (1984, Germany)

But no. Singer Man made his own dumb-ass statement. Looking back, perhaps he was just being efficient. As I was mentally prepping for an hours-long conversation in the hotel bar, he said, “All I ask for is a kiss – I’ve never been kissed.” Next thing I knew his tongue was down my throat and his hands were getting friendly with my ass. Whoa Nelly! Hello. Hell no.

Needless to say I was surprised. But, I acted cool and simply asked “Where is everyone else?” He gave me a room number – so I left – assuming the party would be in the other room. (Pollyanna) Wrong. That road crew guy who took us backstage was there with a prostitute. Another story. It’s legal there. The phone in the room rang. Singer Man was calling for me. He said he had to meet with concert promoters until 2 AM and wondered if he could meet up with me afterwards. I lied and said I had a photo shoot early the next morning and said goodbye.

Yes, I am Pollyanna as I assume the best of people. But I’m not a complete dumbass. By that point I knew he wanted to touch my ass again. And my boobs. And probably my elbows. At that time in my life, I wasn’t an innocent virgin, and I was getting the impression he wanted to put his pee-pee into me too. Men.

I took a taxi home and found Jeanne safe and sound.

So where’s the taking of the innocence?

It was the first time I’d been treated like a piece of ass. Somebody who I really admired had no desire to get to know me as a person. Luckily, it’s only happened a few times since then – twice more with famous people (and I was nowhere near their hotel rooms). Perhaps they are used to women throwing themselves at them or simply getting what they want.

I’ve met many respectful men and many respectful famous people. They certainly outweigh the assholes. I guess I’m still Pollyanna.

Things I Don’t See At Home: Dumbest Question I Ever Asked

One could say I’ve asked many dumb questions in my life. Former professors could attest to this. One of my famous (but serious) questions occurred in biology class during community college. I asked, “How do birds drink?” I remember beaks, puddles, and tilting of the head.  Well, at least now I know what they’re really doing in those birdbaths; drinking bathwater.

I and water

One day at dinner in Munich, I saw this: a small metal tray with a cup of what looked to be coffee and a very small glass of clear liquid.   I didn’t know if it was coffee with a shot of booze to be added at your own taste – coffee with a chaser – or hot chocolate with some sort of liqeuor. Or what. It just seemed odd.

A few days later, Pat and I went to a café after dinner in Salzburg. He ordered beer and I ordered a camomile tea. And it happened; I got the little metal tray with hot tea and the little glass of clear liquid. I was baffled. “What is this mysterious liquid?” I thought to myself. “How fascinating!”   I looked at Pat and said “Oh wow. This is what I saw the other day. I wonder what it is?” So I felt the outside of the glass. Cold-ish. I smelled it. Nothing. So I took a big leap and dipped my tongue into the glass. Water. Tap water. Huh? What am I supposed to do with this glass of water? Is the tea too hot to drink? Am I supposed to drink the tea, then get all refreshed by drinking the tap water as a chaser?

SO – here comes a waitress to see if things are okay. And, this is when I ask the big question. Waitress: “Is everything going fine?” (or some other sweet version of “Is everything okay?”) Me: (indicating my mini-water) “What’s this for?” Waitress: (looking at me with confused eyes) “It’s water.” Me: “Yes, I know. What should I do with it?” Waitress: (looking at me as if I’ve lost my marbles) “You drink it.” Me: “Oh. Okay. Thanks.”

This poor waitress probably found her fellow servers and told them about the idiot American woman who just asked what she was supposed to do with a glass of water. Then she probably went into the bathroom and banged her head against the wall. As for me, I sat dumbfounded. This, after I was done laughing at myself. And feeling sorry for the waitress. This dumbfoundedness turned into outrage. I thought “Seriously? Are these Austrians mad? They wasted a tray to bring out this pansy-ass glass of water? Why not bring complimentary toothpaste and a toothbrush to go with it? That would be the perfect after dinner spritz-up and spit it out in the bushes type deal.

afro coffee closeThe next morning we went to a restaurant for breakfast – and it happened again. This time it was my coffee that came with a glass of water. But alas, this glass of water was a bit bigger. And ha ha – this time I knew what to do with said water. And – this coffee mug was SO cool. I looked around and noticed four different patterns. It was called Afro coffee. afro coffeeMy mug said “You call it coffee, I call it a lifestyle.” I thought, “Wow, my girls would really like these. When the waiter comes by I will ask him how much they cost.” I thought that was better than “Wow, these are really cool…. Will they fit in my purse?”

So, the idiot that I am (apparently when it comes to items involving drinking liquids) asked said waiter the obvious question: “How much would it cost to buy the coffee mugs?” Long story short: it would take an act of God to acquire these mugs as the maker of the coffee supplies them and it would probably cause the restaurant to shut down if they sold me two of them and then all tourism in Salzburg would come to an end and then the world would stop spinning.

No cool coffee mugs for Dawn. Idiot.

Last night we ended up at the “dumb question” cafe. Pat had more beers and I had more tea. Again came the tray. Again came my Dixie-cup of water. This time I told the waiter about my waitress faux pas from the previous night. He explained that if I wanted a bigger cup of tap water, they’d charge money for it. Baffling. It’s cheaper to buy beer.

coffee pic

Things I Don’t See At Home: Where Do I Stick This Ticket Shania?

ubahn ticket

My U-Bahn ticket from today. I did time stamp it, though nobody ever checked it.

One thing I told my students last year was they’d be really confused sometimes while travelling. This was one of my “mommy lectures” –  inspired by one of my students’ memoirs about getting off a bus at the wrong time. He was on a MegaBus to Penn State and didn’t know the Grand Old State stop consisted of a pit stop at the local Wal-Mart. He was expecting the columns of Old Main and the roar of the fight song. Instead he got a drop-off on the side of the road and a long walk back to campus.

I’ve been on subways in many cities. The common denominator among them: you buy a ticket or card of some sort, then stick the ticket or slide the card at a turnstile. Not in Germany. You just buy a ticket and get on the train. No turnstile. It’s just you and the honor system. It’s just you and the honor system until the uniform brigade shows up in your subway car and asks to see your ticket. Pat and I saw one lady get busted. I think they wrote her a ticket. Sounds like a reality show in the making: U-Bahn-ers Gone Rogue…. in dirndls.

peugeotSpeaking of the U-Bahn (subway), there was one station we couldn’t get out of. Sure, I’ve been confused inside many subway stations. Sometimes the underground mazes go on forever. But Pat and I just wanted to get out. We found the Ausgang (exit) sign and started walking. We ended up near a bunch of S-Bahn (above ground) train tracks. No exit in sight. We finally found an exit at the very back of the station. Of course this was near the parking lot of a grocery store we’d been looking for all day. A store called Kauf-something. And – that grocery store was still nowhere to be found (sign but no store). At that point we just had to figure out how to get back to the hotel and Pat just had to pee in the bushes.chevy

porscheWas Ist Das Auto?

We’ve seen lots of cars on the autobahn that you don’t see at home: the Frenchie cars like Citroen, Renault, and Peugeot. For some reason, the pink carPeugeot logo looks like an awkward lion walking like Frankenstein. Of course there are loads of Mercedes, Audis, Porsches, and BMWs. If I were someone who really cared about cars I’d be in a constant state of drool. Me? I see an American car with some odd name and say “A Chevy Matiz?! A Ford Mondeo? Where in hell did they come from? Where are all the Honda Accords?” Well, I can tell you. They ain’t on the autobahn.

green bmwAs we are driving we are listening to lots of German radio. I do remember this from when I lived here: lots of American music cool bmwmixed with German stuff. And for some unknown reason, they love them some Shania Twain. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some Shania Twain too, but it’s just odd. Perhaps it’s because she owns a chunk of Switzerland and it’s just next door?

ugly mercedes

Ever seen an ugly Mercedes? Here ya go.

Well, at least today I didn’t use the men’s bathroom. Man, I feel like a woman.

Things I Don’t See At Home: Unisex Bathroom that’s Really Just the Men’s Room.


Oh! The Men’s Room!

Yeah.  Well shit.  I just used the men’s bathroom.  My clue was the “Herren” sign on the door I saw on the way out.  Perhaps my first clue should have been the long-haired guy combing his hair at the sink upon first arrival.

Pat and I had met a woman for lunch yesterday at a lovely placed called the Literature Haus in Berlin.  After a lovely sea bass entree, I went downstairs for a lovely afternoon pee. I saw a door with the international bathroom signs:  the stick man and stick lady with a skirt.  “Aha – a unisex bathroom!” said my feeble mind – I’d experienced this before.  “This is Europe,” I thought to myself – “anything goes – coed naked saunas, Coke without ice, beans for breakfast,” so I went through another open door and saw the guy combing his hair at the sink.  I didn’t make eye contact.  My general impression was that it was a guy with a mullet or a very homely woman.  My other impression was “Dang, this place really smells like pee!”  So, I peed – and as I washed my hands I noticed a bunch of urinals in this unisex bathroom.  I thought “Seriously? It’s a real free for all around here – women have to be subjected to men at the urinals and vice versa; men have to pee in front of women?”  I turned to leave, and as I did I saw the open door I’d gone through.  It said “Herren.”  “Men.”  As I kept walking into the hallway, I saw the poor guy who had been combing his mullet.  He was probably waiting for his woman.  His woman:  the one who can read.

I went upstairs and sat back down with Pat (hubby) and Nathalie (his business associate – she’s German).  I told them about my escapade into the world of men.  Poor mullet guy.  Nathalie explained that there aren’t any unisex bathrooms in Germany.  Good to know. I must have been in France.  And I am sure I was in one in NYC in 1984.  Damn clubbing days.  During my giggling fit, Pat told us about his visit to Amsterdam bathrooms (airport) where the women clean the urinals right next to where you are urinal-ing.  But that’s Amsterdam.  That’s a whole other story:  the women at airport security always get to second base with me but always skip first.


Our dirty plates and empty glasses

Another thing I’ve noticed, no matter where I’ve been eating in Germany, is the really different table service.  I don’t want to say it’s slow as if that’s a negative thing – but it’s certainly slower.  For example, in the U.S., one barely finishes the last morsel of food before the server removes the dirty plate from the table.  Not here.  You can finish your entree and the plate will sit.  Indefinitely.  A few nights ago my leftover trout grew an exotic fish fungus right before my eyes.  Meantime, empty beer glasses are another familiar scene.  Again, in the U.S., one has only sucked the head off a beer before the server is pushing another.

My guess is the prompt service provided to U.S. diners leads to better tips.  Fast beer and quick coffee = better tip.  And the constant clearing of dirty plates is an implicit way of saying “C’mon, you’re done eating – chop chop! Don’t want dessert?  Don’t let the door hit ya in the ass on the way out.”  And then the server deposits the bill at the table and says “Whenever you’re ready” which really means “I’ll be back before you’ve had time to check  your teeth for spinach.”

I had a long chat with a German man tonight (another business associate of Pat’s).  He said a 12% tip is automatically included in your bill here in Germany.  He said they will never bring your check until you ask for it.  When you sit down at the table to eat, the server assumes it is your table for the night.  They don’t expect the table to turn over. I am guessing they make less money overall – even though they make $8.50 Euros per hour.  Adding another 5% tip is fine if you’d like.

I admit I did enjoy the slower dining pace.  It’s not that it was a new experience, but for some reason I noticed it this time- probably because I was ready for dessert – and that fungus-growing trout was giving me the evil eye.


Things I Don’t See At Home: Pope Selling Shoes

pope shoe Today we left Hamburg and drove to a city called Luneburg.  It’s quaint and old looking.  And cool.  But before we left, we went to a mall.  I took some pics and made some observations.

The first observation at the mall was that if you just sat there and watched folks go by, you may think you were in the U.S.  Things looked pretty similar:  McDonald’s, a food court, lots of stores, many levels.  They even had a Build-A-Bear Workshop.  The differences:  first off – the female gestapo stationed outside the WC.  I got the feeling that I damned well better drop  a Euro onto her dish before or after my visit to the tankless toilet.tankless terlet

Another diff – no obese people.  I noticed many people jogging and riding bicycles yesterday as we walked through Hamburg.

Another really cool thing about the department stores that I remember from the old days (1984) was that department stores have really cool grocery stores in them.  So we picked up a plug adapter for our computers…. and groceries.  How great is that?  You can buy a dress, heels to match, a six-pack of Beck’s, and a hunk of cheddar.  We need to work that deal at Macy’s.

I noticed a bunch of teen-ish guys outside smoking.  Nearby, at their table sat bottles of beer, Coke bottles, and Hollister bags.  Another thing you won’t see at a U.S. mall:  teen-ish guys drinking beer.teen beer

dog in mallDogs.  Dogs at the mall.  No need to leave Gunther at home. No need to leave Gunther in the car.  Just bring him in.  He’ll tell you exactly how your rump looks in those jeans.

After dinner in Luneburg we went window shopping.  Shoes.  The Pope and shoes.  I’ll have to go back there tomorrow when they’re open.


Luneburg – across from our hotel.



Things I Don’t See at Home: The Weiner X-ing

red penis lightPat and I got to Hamburg earlier today.  We found a good place to eat dinner on TripAdvisor – the Liman Fisch Restaurant. Since we were both exhausted, we were glad it was only a 1.5 mile walk from the hotel.  On our walk I was taking stock of many things:  One thing I love about traveling is the little things that are just a bit off.  Just a bit different.

I lived in Hamburg in 1984 when I was a youngster model.  It was nice to be back; walking around Lake Alster – remembering the beautiful city scape. One thing I don’t remember are the penis crossings. green walk man

One thing I do remember from my travels is that the crosswalk signs are often different.  For example, here in Germany and other parts of Europe, the “walk” guy is green instead of white.  That seems to make good sense as green does mean “go.” Anyway, these red penis crossing signs are all over town, just as the green walk man is all over town.  And, the red penis crossing sign does turn green!

Am I to understand that men are not allowed to cross at certain times but are allowed to cross at other times?  Red = stop and Green = go?  Men stay where you are and women come on and cross the street?  Men, you can cross when the red penis turns green?  OR – men, if you have a particularly inflamed penis, come on across?

Anyway – you can see how this created sheer bedlam for us on the way to Liman’s Fisch Restaurant.  Pat  kept getting stuck at the crosswalks! We finally made it to dinner and it was fabulous and fresh.  Afterwards, we took a stroll downtown and went window shopping.  Both Pat and I found perfect outfits for this Fall’s Oktoberfest party.  The only problem; six windows-full of dirndls for me to chose from – but only one window for Pat to choose from.  Hamburg was pretty lean on the lederhosen.  It was a rough day for Pat.lederhosendirndl