SIMPLY, SALLY.

Jan. 20, 2022

 The thought of working in New York City sounds glamorous but--- speaking from experience---I found New York City---- inconvenient, crowded, and, dangerous.

WARNING: I am sharing the exact street language used by those I encountered during this extremely-frightening experience.

In 1981, as spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, I traveled from my home in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, to the heart of New York City, most every day.  Whether I took the train, the bus, or drove my car-- nothing about the commute was easy. In the afternoon I tried leaving my office no later than four o’clock.  The commute from New York’s Penn Station to the Little Silver Train Station—one mile from my house--- took almost two hours.

One evening, after missing the bus to Penn station, I decided to take the NY Subway to Penn Station. I should have known better.   It was six o’clock and, by now, most commuters were off the streets—in fact-- some were already home.  I knew I was over-dressed for the subway. I was wearing a silk blouse and matching straight/slit skirt, high heels, gold earrings, gold bracelets and---a gold medallion around my neck.    Although I almost- never rode the subway, it was the fastest way to connect with the train to New Jersey.

It didn’t take long to sense trouble.  Within minutes of finding a seat, I watched two guys race from the back of the subway car to sit directly across from me.  Instead of looking at my face, they were staring at my neck.  Feeling very uneasy, I glanced around the train, hoping to locate another seat.

 Suddenly, out of nowhere, two very hippie-looking guys crammed their bodies into the small bench seat beside me---one on either side.   I felt my pulse accelerate; I held my breath. This was it. The enemy had me surrounded; the bad guys were across from me and their buddies next to me and-- I knew I was about to be grabbed, raped, and killed!

The man on my left, the one with the biggest earrings and longest ponytail--- made the first move.   Roughly hooking his right arm through my left arm, he whispered “Lady, get ready to stand up and move toward the doors—one—two---three---NOW!!!!!!  Before I realized it, the other man had grabbed my right arm and, when the subway doors opened, both men propelled me through the open doors and onto the subway platform.

Everything happened quickly as the men held tightly to my arms and directed me forward. The subway door closed, the train pulled away, and the head man--the spokesperson--turned and shouted in my face: “Lady, do you realize you were only seconds-away from being murdered?!?!?”   First of all, you shouldn’t be riding the fuckin subway this time of day and second of all, why the hell are you wearing expensive clothes and gold jewelry on the Damn Subway?!?! Lady, do you have some crazy-ass Death Wish?!?!?!?  Those guys sitting across from you were professionals!  They were ready to kill you to get that fuckin gold out of your ears, off your arm, and--- from around your neck!”

For the first time-- I noticed the guns.  Seeing me eyeing their weapons, both guys dropped my arms at the same time and flashed police badges in my face.  “Lady tonight was your fuckin lucky night!  You must have brought your damn guardian angel along for this ride.  My name is Lennie and this is my partner, Steno.  We’re undercover cops and it’s our job to ride the subway looking for criminals, murderers, drug dealers, and thieves. Officially, we were off-duty and headed back to the station to sign out when we saw what was about to go-down with you. The minute those bastards swapped seats we knew YOU were their target.  Those shitheads were only seconds from grabbing you so-- we had to get you off the train.

Lady, those assholes make their livin by robbing and killing women like you!   You know how long it’d take those goons to get that gold necklace off your neck?!?!?   In just three to five seconds ---one of them would have held you down while the other one hack-sawed your fuckin head off!”

What a strange sight the three of us must have been—standing on the deserted subway platform.  Evening commuters saw two long-haired, bearded men in dirty tennis shoes, ragged jeans-- wearing grateful dead sweatshirts-- each holding a gun, and standing on either side of a tall, well-dressed female in high heels. Together, we climbed the crowded subway stairs to the busy streets above.

 Before stepping on the bus bound for New Jersey--- I listened again to Lennie’s stern warning: “Never take the fuckin Subway Train when you’re all dressed up and---fit to kill!”  Steno stood close by, silent and unsmiling.  They helped me on the bus and, as it pulled away from the curb, I looked out the window, hoping to wave goodbye to my unexpected heroes….but…

Both had already disappeared into the crowd.

 

Jan. 19, 2022

"If you need to heave during the Postlude, please do so quietly."

"The Senior Choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir."

"Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Nelson's sermons."

"Applications are now being accepted for 2 year-old nursery workers."

"The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon."

"Maundy Thursday service: The ladies of the altar guild will be stripping on the altar."

"The associate minister unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: 'I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours.'"

"This evening at 7:00 p.m. there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin."

"Next Thursday, there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get."

"The choir will meet at the Larsen house for fun and sinning."

"The 'Over 60s Choir' will be disbanded for the summer with the thanks of the entire church."

"Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our Church and community."

"A song fest was hell at the Methodist church Wednesday."

 

"Mr. Bradford was elected and has accepted the office of head deacon. We could not get a better man."

"Announcement to the Moms Who Care ladies group: There will be no Moms Who Care this week."

"Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles, and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children."

"After the sermon: A moment of silence for prayer and medication."

"Visitors are asked to sing their names at the church entrance."

"The class on prophecy has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances."

AMEN.

 

 

Jan. 18, 2022

Charley, a new retiree-greeter at Wal-Mart, just couldn't seem to get to work on time. Every day he was 5, 10, 15 minutes late. But he was a good worker, really tidy, clean-shaven, sharp-minded and a real credit to the company and obviously demonstrating their "Older Person Friendly" policies.

One day the boss called him into the office for a talk. "Charley, I have to tell you, I like your work ethic, you do a bang-up job when you finally get here, but your being late so often is quite bothersome."

"Yes sir, I know, and I am working on it."
"Well good, you are a team player. That's what I like to hear.”
“Yes sir, I understand your concern and I’ll try harder.”

Seeming puzzled, the manager went on to comment, “It's odd though you're coming in late. I know you're retired from the Armed Forces. What did they say to you there if you showed up in the morning so late and so often?"

The old man looked down at the floor-- then smiled. He chuckled quietly, then said with a grin,

"They usually saluted and said: "Good morning General-- Can I get your coffee sir?"



Jan. 17, 2022

I shared this story in my book and--something inside keeps urging me to share it again—on “Simply, Sally.”

I grew up controlled by a mother who, unlike my father, was not a nice person. She treated me as her most-hated enemy. I can’t recall a time when she didn’t scrutinize, criticize, judge, question, and punish my every action. Deathly afraid of my mother, I had no choice but live my life—her way. Every door had to stay open and my mother had to be briefed on everything I said, thought, or did so—basically-- my life was an “open book.”

Growing up, my mother ignored my personal boundaries; I never enjoyed a private phone call, an unopened letter, a closed door, or an intimate conversation. My very public life was an on-going/on-stage performance—with one exception. There was a secret, a hush-hush part I hid from everyone.  There was a secret that, before writing my book, I only shared with the little girl in me and now---I’m sharing with you:

As long as I can remember, I experienced detailed flashbacks from my early childhood, disturbing visuals inside a familiar house. I see the outline of steep stairs, a landing, and—a room at the top the stairs. I see myself in that room, lying on a low table, with a woman sitting on a couch, facing me, removing my panties. She touches me, hurts me, her fingers roughly rubbing between my legs and inside my body. A window occupies the wall behind her. I hear loud bangs as doors open and close. The flashbacks visit me at odd times but mostly in the dark of night.

Early in my teens, seeking answers, I described a few flashbacks to my mother and asked about the baby sitter. My mother appeared aggravated, saying “You were less than two years old when we lived in that house. Nobody remembers that far back”.

Another time, sitting across the breakfast table from my mother, I referenced the troubling memories--again. This time my mother clenched her teeth in anger, pointed a threatening finger in my face and said “Shut up or I’ll shut you up!” I never mentioned memories or flashbacks again but I continued to search for the truth.

Summer after summer, my family visited my birthplace--Fornfelt-- a small town in Southeast Missouri-- later-renamed-- Scott City. The summer I was seventeen years old, I arranged to visit the house in my memories.

Once inside, the flashbacks became reality. To the left of the front door I saw tall, sliding doors that could be pulled together. Standing in front of them, I recalled the sound the doors made as they banged together, again and again, perhaps to muffle the cries of the child upstairs.

Opposite the doors, I recognized the stairs as they climbed to a landing with a hall-tree then stopped, turned, and continued upward. I began to climb, slowly, as if my legs were short and the stairs, almost too tall....and, it felt familiar. At the top of the staircase, on the left, the door to the upstairs room was closed. Hesitantly, I touched the door knob; I had to know. 

Pushing the strangely-heavy door open, I stared into the room. The furniture was different and the wallpaper, unfamiliar, but the window was positioned exactly where I’d left it. My flashbacks had--accurately--memorized every detail. Lying on a table in front of a sofa, somehow knowing everything was wrong and-- that window stared back at me. It knew the truth.

For some unexplained reason, I'd always believed the woman in my flashbacks was a babysitter. Standing in the room, facing the window, I closed my eyes. I felt the hurt of the little girl on the table; her pain caused me to cry out and---I opened my eyes.  I stared directly into the face of the woman sitting across from me. I recognized her face; she wasn’t a babysitter. The woman on the sofa, in the room at the top of the stairs, was my mother.

Jan. 16, 2022

I NEVER EXPECTED TO TRAVEL THE GOBI DESERT OR TO ENCOUNTER MILLIONS OF "TRAVELERS."

"Ten days ago, I began my Great Wall Adventure in Jiayuquan-- at the western end of the Great Wall.  For many reasons, today was an extremely hot and difficult day. With the shadows of darkness overpowering my last glimpse of daylight, I knew it was time to shut-down.  My body was tired; I felt overheated; my body was trembling- shaking.

Back in Houston, with little time, I’d briefly studied the aerial maps of the Great Wall provided by NASA but--- somehow-- I’d overlooked the section of Wall that crossed the Gobi Desert. For the past five days I’ve been overwhelmed with a relentlessly-glaring sun-- impossible ankle-deep sand---while being ruthlessly ‘whiplashed” with dry, gritty winds. From the map it appears that (barring any unforeseen accidents), I’ll be out-of-the-desert by late tomorrow afternoon.

 I simply didn’t have enough energy to open my tent tonight.  Besides, with nothing but sand and high winds, I was afraid I couldn’t anchor the tent sufficiently. I couldn't take the chance the tent might “take flight” with me in it! 

“Unpacking” my body took almost thirty minutes: I wore a classic runner’s backpack—plus 15 different canvas packs of supplies-- tied around my waist.  And—I wore multiple pairs of extra shoes--all looped together by shoelaces—hanging around my neck, both front and back!  Finally-- I carried a large, rolled-up tent in one hand and a full-sized, rolled-up sleeping bag in the other hand.  Both were bound-securely in customized nylon bags with straps--for handles.   

Taking out a large polyurethane bag from my backpack, I carefully placed my paraphernalia—like camera, sunglasses, and various medications--inside-- then folded it several times before tying it securely with an extra shoelace.  It was important to keep the outside elements away from my equipment, necessities, and limited food supply.  My compass, whistle, Swiss Army knife, and small flashlight hung on chains around my neck. Those items never left me, for any reason!

 I had eaten an energy bar almost one hour earlier and now I eagerly drank one of my thermos of water.  Tomorrow, it was essential I find extra water.  Only two 16 oz. Thermos fit in my backpack with very-limited room for any extra bottles of water.

 I hurriedly unrolled my sleeping bag and sat down, too exhausted to care that I was alone in the middle of a huge desert but, what did it matter?!?!? There weren’t any trees, or grassy areas, even sand dunes to use for shelter.  Besides, why would any wild animals or mean people choose such a wasteland for late-night exploring?!?!?!

I had barely removed my tennis shoes, tucked them beside me--snuggled lengthwise in my sleeping bag before--I was asleep. Then, suddenly--- I was awake---but why?!?!?

Everywhere I looked was blackness. I’d never experienced such complete darkness and-- for a minute or two-- I feared I might have a panic attack but—there was strange activity--all around me— and---I had to know “what!” Cocooned in my sleeping bag-- I felt  small “things” running up, down, and across, my wrapped body! Oh, no!  Something caught in my hair-- I must find my flashlight! This is so scary!

Struggling to unzip enough material to release one arm, I grabbed my flashlight from under my chin, pointed it down the front of my sleeping bag and clicked.  It’s difficult to describe the horror of that moment.  I thought my heart would stop because everywhere I looked, there were millions of white mice-- jumping and running-- across my sleeping bag!!!

Only after I finished the Wall and returned to Beijing --would I learn about these rare albino mice-- documented as nightly travelers on the Gobi Desert. Daylight blinded them so they could only move-freely under cover of Darkness.  Now, Aiming my flashlight in every direction revealed the alarming facts: The Gobi Desert was alive with massive numbers of stampeding white mice and--for thousands of miles in all directions---I was the only human.

 Believing this frightening nightmare would end with the morning light, I grabbing a scarf from my down vest, wrapped my head with my one free arm, and quickly tucked/zipped/ myself deep-down in the sleeping bag. I prayed for daylight to come quickly.  I vowed, regardless of what happened tomorrow--this would be my last night in the desert.

In the many days to come, I would always remember this night as the most frightening and most challenging night of my Great Wall Journey until----the night I encountered The Black Leopard."

But--- I’ll save that breathtaking experience to share with you-- next time.

SIMPLY, SALLY