Monday, January 27, 2014

whenever I call you friend

I like to read. I read on my short commute to and from work every day. In the age of cutting edge technology, I am one of the few people on the train that reads a book with an actual cover and pages made of paper. I mostly read biographies and memoirs of people whose fame comes from their work in the entertainment industry. I've enjoyed some. The memoirs of Harpo Marx, Phyllis Diller and local Philadelphia DJ Jerry Blavat are standouts. Conversely, I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden's life was a story that didn't really need to be told.

Recently, I completed the quirky Queen of the Oddballs by the equally quirky Hillary Carlip. Although, Hillary is a few years older than I, the time frame of her tales of growing up afforded instant familiarity. Our lives could not have been more different, but I felt an instant kinship in her love of pop culture. Her pursuits of celebrities were somewhat reminiscent of my own desired "brushes with greatness." The book was a joy to read — funny, poignant, sweet and engaging — and I didn't want it to end.

So, I decided to turn the tables on Miss Carlip. I decided to pursue her.

I sought Hillary out on the Internet and discovered a multifaceted website, offering numerous portals to sub-sites of several books, a collection of essays and even a web design business. I located a contact email address and composed the gushiest fan letter a 52-year-old man felt comfortable sending.

Nine days later, I received this reply from Hillary herself:

Thanks so much for the shout-out! 

Sorry for the belated response -- I was out of town and on two deadlines and my email piled up beyond control.

So sweet of you to write, and I LOVE your blog and your drawings!!!  (Not to mention the title of it all!  It's fabulous!!!!)

So glad to e-meet you, and so glad you enjoyed my book.

Stay odd and proud!

XO Hillary
It was awesome, if I do say so myself. Referencing a passage from an early chapter of her book, dealing with her determination to make pop songstress Carly Simon her friend, I wrote back asking if I we were now considered friends, at the Carly Simon level. She replied immediately, asking for her obligatory loaf of banana bread, as she had offered the "You're So Vain" singer that night in a cramped dressing room at the Troubadour on Sunset Boulevard. Then, she said "OF COURSE" in all caps, followed by a smiley-face emoticon.

I read that Hillary had published another book, the concept of which was based on shopping lists found at the supermarket — discarded at the checkout or left at the bottom of an empty shopping cart. Hillary compiled these lists into little dramas, creating an appropriate character and story to go with the contents of each one. Just last week, I discovered an abandoned shopping list that I shared with Hillary, via this email:
Hey there Hillary,

I went to the supermarket this evening and I found this list  in the bottom of the hand-basket I picked up at the entrance (before I went to Hell in said hand-basket).

I though you'd get a kick out of it. It's a six item shopping list on semi-personalized "G" notepaper, carefully torn at the bottom... perhaps hiding some secret or maybe just conserving paper for the next grocery list. How thoughtful and "green"-conscious! Each entry is preceded by an empty, hand-drawn check box. It looks like nothing was found and accounted for. Nothing accomplished. High hopes and broken dreams at the market. Clean up in Aisle Four.

The first item is Morton's Natural Seasonings... whatever that is.

Next is onions, followed by steak and a question mark. Are they unsure about purchasing steak or still wrestling with the possibility of a vegan lifestyle?

Well, so much for becoming a vegan, since the next entry is cheese. (No question mark, dammit!)

Once again, we are contemplating olives.

And, understanding the outcome of a meal with the above components, the final entry is Fabreeze. 'Cause... you know... phew!

Have a great holiday, whichever one you celebrate. (We're doing both Chanukah, 'cause we're Jews and Thanksgiving, 'cause we're Americans. Luckily, they both start the same day!)
Almost two weeks later, this showed up in my email inbox:

I was out of town and my email piled up beyond control and I'm just now catching up.

Not only is this list spectacular, but your blow by blow analysis ROCKS!!!!!!!!

Thanks for thinking of me, and thanks for sending. And speaking of thanks, hope you had a fabulous Thanksgivukkah!


That's right. "FRIEND" is in all caps.



  1. Can I be her friend too? She sounds fabulous :) Great post JP.

  2. Very sweet of you to share, my friend! But I'm a little scared how often my email piles up beyond my control every time I go out of town. Better stay in town from now on. =) XO Hillary