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A Quick Critique of Chris Mann’s Concert Last Night…

24 Nov

First off, I’ve never watched “The Voice.” While I’ve listened to Adam Levine and Maroon 5 and some Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton is a little too grits and creamed corn country for my taste.  And I have no idea who the shady (his sunglasses, not his character) Cee Lo is or what he’s contributed to the music industry.  So the many references Chris Mann made throughout the night about his finalist status on the show with the revolving red chairs, well, it fell on my deaf ears.  I could’ve cared less.

Here’s hoping Chris Mann one day stops caring, too.  The moment he came out on stage in a pressed suit and tie, belting out not only the classics like “Ave Maria” and his own creations, an emotionally driven song titled “Roads,” he was his own singer.  A rather small guy in stature, his great big voice literally took up the entire theater.  Trained at a music school for the opera, he performed songs by Andrea Bocelli and Nelson, yes Willie Nelson, in multiple languages.

Mann also had a self-effacing sense of humor.  At one point he looked down at the audience members seated in the pit of the first row and made a crack about the odd angle they had of his body.  The joke about saying the name Rancho Cucamonga where the theater is located fell a little flat as did the good-natured heckler in the audience who made fun of him being from Wichita, Kansas, “Is that in the U.S.?”  But the back and forth Mann shared with his talented pianist was a lot of staged fun.  When the pianist played too frenetically, obviously showing off, Mann quipped, “He’s only twenty-four.”

As for the aftermath, who knew a singer of the classics (who rightly so ridiculed himself for insisting on singing a Dan Fogelberg song) had groupies with full on signage and squealing included?  A long twisted line trailing around one side of the theater awaited Mann where he was to come out and meet the audience.  And while I didn’t brave an uncharacteristically cold, windy So Cal night to meet the singer, I came to hear his rendition of the classics.  I did leave with his new Christmas CD.  His “muscle,” by the way, a big Mack truck of a guy who was shadowing Mann while he signed autographs, who most bouncers probably would allow to remain unruly inside any bar, was all too helpful in exchanging the CD the girl handed me that had a cracked case with a new unblemished one.

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Reviews for The Shyster’s Daughter

03 Oct

This look back at a family divided by divorce, geography, and grief crackles with tension, but also locates humor in their excesses and drama.  The narrative is flecked with several gathered quotes from family, clients, and others under the heading, “What They Told Me After He Died,” and the quotes are as dark and funny as the story itself…meeting the author’s family is an illuminating and sometimes disturbing journey the reader won’t forget.

- Foreword Magazine (Fall Issue)

The Shyster’s Daughter is a fascinating, quick and wonderful read.  Similar to Jeanette Walls’s The Glass Castle, Paula provides her readers with a very well-written take of her coming-of-age and adulthood occurring in the shadow of all her father’s and family’s immoral acts.

- Literary Hoarders book blog

In The Shyster’s Daughter Priamos has plied the best attributes of his trade to reveal the mysterious and intriguing personality that was her dad.”

- Women’s Memoir

Priamos’s ambitious and successful effort to meld two stories happens in a book called The Shyster’s Daughter, where she performs the big leap over timidity and skepticism to make her own life story a bigger one indeed…a self-described noir detective memoir, something evoking Nathaneal West or Joan Didion.

- O.C. Weekly

In The Shyster’s Daughter Priamos peers into the motivations of her family members with a rare and enticing frankness that distinguishes her work from that of other memoirists.

- ZYZZYVA literary journal

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Strange Encounters of a Religious Kind…

03 Sep

It happened at the Book Expo in Los Angeles.  The woman, eager to spread the word of L. Ron Hubbard, stood before me with a smile, blocking my way.  In her hand was the Scientologist’s version of the Bible, weighty and protected in plastic wrap. “You’re a professor I see,” said the woman, glancing down at my ID badge.  This was before my memoir was published.

“Yes,” I answered with hesitation.  Her eyes popped with so much energy I instantly wanted to bolt.

“You need to stay with me,” she went on.  “Hear me out.”  Her mouth shaped every syllable like she was saying the vowel sounds to a kindergartener.  “You’re an important person in society because you communicate using the English language.”

Part of me wanted to sarcastically point out that everybody mingling about in that Southern California convention center no doubt was communicating like she and I were right then in English, but I was a little leery of how she might react.  Instead I thanked her for pushing a copy of Dianetics on me and went on my way, ignoring her open invitation to attend a closed meeting “at the Celebrity Centre.”

Another time I was driving down a busy street and witnessed a young guy in a button down shirt and tie, riding a bicycle, get hit by a car that was speeding into a mobile home park.  The cyclist’s helmet was knocked off by the impact.  As for the car, it slowed but did not stop.  Quickly, I parked at the curb, grabbed my cell phone and ran to help the cyclist.  A young guy around his age, also dressed up and on a bike, was helping him up off the ground.

“Are you sure you should move him,” I said.  “I’ll call 911.”

“No,” the uninjured guy said.  “There’s no need for that.  He’s fine.”

“But he should be checked out,” I argued.  “He could have internal injuries.”

The young guy who’d been hit could hardly stand.  He looked at me, afraid.  Clearly I put a scare into him.

“No,” the uninjured one said again.  He had the same amazed look I’d seen on the Scientology woman’s face when she stopped me. “God will take care of it.”  And with that unbelievable line he retrieved the helmet, and insisted the boy who was struck by an old Camaro struggle to get back on his bike and pedal as fast as he could away from his own hit and run accident.

It’s hard not to pass judgment on a religion that denies medical treatment for one of its followers, denies justice for that matter.  The police should’ve been called and the callous driver in that beat up car should’ve been arrested.  In this country there is freedom of religion.  There is the freedom to not file a police report and let a guilty person go free.  There is the freedom to aggressively peddle a religion whether it’s on a bicycle or standing in the way of an unsuspecting professor’s path while she’s out browsing for books.  But is it any wonder to these extremists why some of us push back?

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Memorable Comments I’ve Heard So Far On My Book Tour…

22 Jul

“Your memoir has the pull of John Grisham and the meatiness of Hemingway.”

“I seriously haven’t read anything like this.  You pretty much created your own genre!”

“Before you make any assumptions about her (me) you need to first read the book and then read her blog.”

“Your legs (I’m in a miniskirt) they look…airbrushed!”

“I love your story, but I feel so insulted on so many levels, I’m not sure I’ll buy your book.”

“How does it feel to have a father who is a sociopath?”

“Are you sure you’re old enough to be writing memoir?”

“I can relate to your story because I’m a daughter who lost her father way too soon too.”

“I read your book in two nights straight.  I kept trying to figure it all out along with you.  You’ve written something real special here.”

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Saturday, July 21st at 3 pm – Reading at Cafe’ Aroma, Idyllwild

13 Jul

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Friday, July 20th 7:30 pm – Reading at Skylight Bookstore

13 Jul

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My Mid-Calf Love Affair with Michael Kors’ Shoes…

14 May

It could be a lot worse, I tell my financially conscious husband.  A fifty thousand dollar fully loaded BMW (which he owns) or an even pricier Porsche Carrerra.  Maybe thousands of dollars worth of face and chest work.  In the LA friendly mountain town where I live I have run into an unfortunate Hollywood actress whose brow appears as hard and indestructible as military armor and let’s get real, some women just don’t know which consonant to stop at when it comes to forever faking their breast size.  C or D, ladies.  C or D.

But what I have on is something that’s aesthetically pleasing, temporary too.  They strap on lightly at the ankle and have much finer measurements.  1 1/2 stacked from the toe and four inches at the heel.  Smooth vachetta leather.  They even come in the color cognac.  I also own a black pair too that I bought at Mr. Kors’ well-lit signature store in Manhattan.  The sales woman was diligent enough to call downstairs and double check just in case they actually had my size, the most popular size that everyone else on the floor reassured her they were sold out of.  She must’ve recognized that look on my face for this Southern California native will never be a tourist, at least not when it comes to a MK store.

My husband thinks I wear Michael Kors heels because they elongate my legs or enhance the shape of my bare calf and, I don’t know, maybe I do.  But I also wear them with jeans.  I wear them to the grocery store and to the post office.  Sometimes to the movies or out to yogurt with him.  At a recent book event another female writer whispered to me during a reading,  ”Sorry I keep staring, but your shoes are fantastic!”  I nod with all seriousness, with the faintest of smiles as if she’s referring to the deeply moving prose of the author reading his work at the podium.

And on that trip to New York, I return to my hotel room with my recent pair of platform sandals and I put them on for my friend, my girlfriend who doesn’t wear heels.  But she asks me to take a turn in them because she’s surprised I move so easily and sturdily, and we laugh as girlfriends do who get ready together to go out at night or stay in with take-out pizza, watch a bad movie on Netflix or talk for hours over glasses of Merlot.  We are at an age where confidence becomes us, it defines us.  Whether or not we dare to stand tall in platforms or down with the rest of them in flats, it is our business and we do not dress up for no man, no woman, nobody other than ourselves.

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A Father, His Underage Daughter and Eddie Rabbitt

08 Apr

I see the ad in the newspaper – Eddie Rabbitt is playing live at the Crazy Horse Steakhouse and Saloon in Santa Ana. In the past I’ve thumbed by announcements for bigger, iconic country stars like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and even the cool man in black, Johnny Cash with hardly a thought. But this singer is different. From clunky eight tracks, to cassette tapes I had to reel in with my fingernail to razor thin CD’s and now iPod’s, I’ve grown up listening to Eddie Rabbitt’s mostly upbeat music in the car with my entire family and then later with just my father.

Without asking if he wants to go hear Rabbitt play, I suffer through rush hour traffic on the 55 freeway to get to the ticket office at the Crazy Horse. My father and I haven’t seen much of each other even though we still live under the same roof. He is a defense lawyer and spends most of his time in court or at a prison visiting a murderer or rapist. I’m in my second year of college. This is a year or so after my parents’ drawn out divorce is finalized and she moved with my younger brother and older sister literally to the country, to Tennessee where we own a second home.

My father is genuinely surprised in a good way when I show him the tickets even looking up from the family slides he pours over and over again, getting drunk with emotion and alcohol. My father is a Greek so instead of a tall beer it’s a short glass of ouzo. He doesn’t expect his daughter to want to spend time with him not heartbroken like this. It seems my father is caught up in his own bad country song, in love with a woman who no longer loves him, reliving a life that is no longer his.

But for a couple hours at the Crazy Horse my father will have no other choice but to sing a different tune. The sign is what I see first on our approach the night of the concert. Built in 1977 the Crazy Horse must’ve once stood alone in the dark with its trademark sign visible from the freeway, a bucking horse lit yellow through a loop of red lasso. My father’s old diesel Mercedes doesn’t fit in a parking lot full of Ford and Chevy pick-ups, some even attached to empty horse trailers.

The line getting into the venue is long and my father, usually impatient, tonight waits without complaint. He’s in a suit having just come from court. Once we get closer to the doors, I begin to panic at the warning in bold lettering, barring anybody under 21.

“Dad,” I say as if my father needs reminding. “I’m only twenty.”

I had assumed that because the Crazy Horse had a restaurant section that served everyone the concert wouldn’t be restricted.

Now my father looks impatient. “Don’t worry, Paula Girl. They won’t even notice.”

And they don’t. Not after he says our last name is no longer Priamos, it’s Franklin and he distracts the ticket taker with a c-note.

We are led to our table in the concert room that resembles a real life saloon with swinging doors and hardwood floors. There are wooden tables and sawed-off chairs, too. Thanks to my father’s tip we are seated smack center in the front mere feet from the slightly elevated stage and bar stool where Eddie Rabbitt will sit and play. Next to us at the table is a middle aged man with a diamond studded horse shoe pinky ring. He’s wearing a Stetson and a suit with western style stitching with his date, a busty blonde who is about to bust out of her fringe suede vest. My father must truly be beyond the pale for my mother because he doesn’t give this woman or her tanned breasts a second glance.

Shortly after my father’s beer and my virgin strawberry daiquiri are served, Eddie Rabbitt comes out on stage with his band Hare Trigger. He’s in jeans, cowboy boots and a simple button down shirt. No ten gallon hat that swallows half his head and his beard is neatly trimmed. He’s not your typical country singer. Eddie Rabbitt is from New Jersey.

When Rabbitt performs I see the change in my father’s face that he’s for once not thinking of losing my mother. He’s simply listening to the music. My father’s favorite song is “Driving my Life Away” and while he’s never been coordinated enough to dance, not even at his own wedding, he manages to drum his fingers to the beat. At one point when there is canned thunder, horses whinnying and lightning with strobe lights for Rabbitt’s song “I Love a Rainy Night,” my father catches my eye. We both think it’s tacky. It is in this intimate setting with complete strangers that at least for the duration of a three and a half minute song I get my father back.

At the end of the decade, not long after my father passes, the Crazy Horse will shut its doors in Santa Ana and reopen at the Irvine Spectrum. The owners wanted a place that could hold more fans, adding a balcony, flanking the sides of the stage with video screens. For a while the new Crazy Horse is wildly popular. Yet the lease is not renewed. It is, after all, not so far away from Fashion Island. Eventually an Old Navy clothing store will take its place.

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On Unnamed Mannerless Males and a John

22 Feb

A man-boy with a plaid paunch slides into his car in the faculty parking lot and purposely drops a pile of fast food wrappers outside his open door. Why, I wonder, does he not get out and take those two easy steps to the nearby garbage can? Is it gas? Given the trashy leftovers he’s left behind, I imagine there must be something that doesn’t smell right coming out of him about now.

It is not just his lazy littering that causes me to pause. This is a university lot where I must first look out, not for oncoming cars, but for fresh splatters of saliva where the male population have hocked a mouthful onto the asphalt. The sound of a young man calling up a new wad of slimy phlegm in his throat makes me click my open toed wedges faster to my destination than the cover of darkness or any threat of a would be mugger jumping out of the bushes.

The lack of proper everyday etiquette amongst the opposite gender transcends social lines. It transcends race and even monetary ones too. No matter how many times I ask my husband and stepsons to refrain from doing so, they continue to loudly blow their noses in their napkins at the dinner table. During the summer they wear “wife beater” t-shirts making them not so unlike those exotic European women who suddenly lift their slight arms and shock the rest of us, at least those of us in the U.S., with heavy clusters of matted hair. My meal ruined, the sounds and sights of it all makes me almost dry heave.

As for my late father, a successful lawyer and businessman in his day, he never once spent a buck or two on a box of sticks with a dab of cotton at the tip. An absolutely pointless expenditure, he might’ve said. His house key dug far deeper and produced far more from his inner ear canal than something so dainty and decorative it’s collected in a glass jar on the woman’s side of the bathroom countertop. Not to mention his sturdy house key was environmentally friendly in the sense that it could be reused countless times over.

And when it comes to the bathroom, if a guy resides under this same roof, there is always to be found a well-stocked magazine rack. One time in class I asked a young male student where his textbook was and he replied reflexively, even unabashedly, “I left it on top of the toilet tank.” For upon the john is arguably where many a man experiences his biggest mental and otherwise bodily breakthroughs.

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The Mrs. has MS…the Difference Between Vows and Verbiage

22 Jan

Mitt Romney Newt GingrichMake no mistake, I am the annoying and unpredictable political Independent.  I have friends who lean right, many who lean left.  When my stepson had me take a test he’d heard about in his Government class he was stunned that my beliefs really do fall smack in the center of the populus circle – a target for some, alienated by all.  I don’t even tell my husband who I’ve voted for until after I step out of the voter’s box.

Watching the rapid succession of Republican primary debates, I’ve paid close attention.  When most recently the white haired former Speaker’s  face colored with indignation at a certain CNN reporter’s question, I stayed seated on my couch.  I did not rise to my feet with the South Carolinians.  Maybe as a shyster’s daughter I am accustomed to listening to raucous self-righteousness in defense of the one under attack, the underdog who looks as if he is unjustly accused.  Boldly my father would speak inside a court of law and successfully, artfully even, get quite a few clients off who were dead to rights.

But the truth is, like I suspect Newt Gingrich’s performance the other night, it was all an act.  There is no honor in leaving your wife who has a debilitating disease.

Granted it was Newt’s second wife, so he did have some practice in learning how to leave a marriage.  Okay, I get that.  He met and fell in love with another woman.  But if a man is to be judged by his word then shouldn’t Mitt Romney deserve a little credit for keeping his vows as a husband?   His wife was diagnosed over a decade ago with coincidentally the very same disease.  He did not cut and run.  Instead he and his wife live with her disease like so many other couples do with various hardships whether it’s health or financially related.

So what is the fear in finding this part of Mitt Romney’s character admirable?  Is it because he might be wearing ill fitting Mormon underwear beneath that well tailored suit?  To be fair, Romney and his wife are not the only longstanding political couple who look as if they are still in love. There are unscripted moments when President Obama looks at the First Lady like he still cares deeply for her.  If I am going to vote for a candidate for president who will keep his word, I am going to vote for either of these two men who have proven to at least one woman that he can do just that.

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