Friday, August 7, 2015

Harry, Carrie & Garp


Son #1 and me at Radio City Music Hall, circa 2006
With Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show this week, I was reminded of the time I inadvertently saw him in New York City.

In August 2006—almost nine years to the day of the final Daily Show—I took Son #1 to NYC for a reading at Radio City Music Hall, titled “Harry, Carrie & Garp.” The authors appearing: Stephen King, John Irving, and JK Rowling.

If the author lineup wasn’t blow-you-away-worthy enough, the three writers were introduced onstage by a few surprise guests: Whoopi Goldberg, Kathy Bates, and Jon Stewart.

It was like a real-life version come true of that great party question, “If you could invite any three people to a dinner party…”

Here, thanks to a transcript I found online, were my favorite lines that evening.

Jon Stewart (the story about Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic rant had broken that same day): “I was running a little late and I was talking to my friend Mel Gibson on the phone. He hopes that tonight's mishigas puts a smile on your panim.”

John Irving: Irving’s short talk was terrific, but the highlight was when he read a passage from A Prayer for Owen Meany, one of my very favorite books of all time. *swoon*

JK Rowling (on the perpetual female attraction to bad boys): “Oh you girls and Draco Malfoy. (She shakes her head.) You've got to get past this.”

Kathy Bates: “It’s no wonder at all why I have been asked to introduce the first author (Stephen King). After all, I am his #1 fan. I used to be the #2 fan up until about 15 years ago when a woman named Annie Wilkes came off the list and the top spot opened up.”

Stephen King (on what scares him): “How about standing in front of 6,000 people? And checking to make sure that you've zipped your fly. Everything scares me so I just try to turn it around. That's the best I can do, I mean. Elevators— they talk about power blackouts in New York and I get in an elevator and I think, ‘Oh my god!’”

Whoopi Goldberg: “Harry, Carrie, and Garp. Somebody maybe should have put them all together a long time ago. Did you know, if one of those boys from the Hogwarts School had asked that poor girl—you know, the one at the prom—if somebody had just asked that poor child out for a date, a lot of people would have been saved a lot of grief.”

What an evening. And so, the question begs to be asked: If you could invite three (or in this case, six) people to a dinner party, who would they be?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Lalalalala--I Can't Hear You (Still)!

This is me. Far too often. But don't I look pleased?
I haven't touched base here on the old blog for a while. Most of the action has been happening on my Facebook page, The 52/52 Project. I hope you're following along there, but I promise to spend more time here, too. Here's what's up:

Over the past three weeks, I’ve needed a dryer repair, a central air repair, new tires, and new brakes. All said, it totaled just short of a gazillion dollars. And Mercury isn’t even in retrograde.

It brought to mind a similar cluster a few years back. I had told myself then that I had to tighten my purse strings with a triple knot. I would allow no superfluous spending for three months.

Yet later that same day, I found myself in the middle of this conversation with myself:

Wednesday, 1:45 P.M:
Sensible Sherry: "So, that's that. If this spring's financial fiasco wasn't a wake-up call, this week's emergencies surely were. Broken rider lawnmower (beyond repair), car air conditioning (quoted fix of $600-$1,200), and central air (replacement costing $2,500), You need to make some significant changes in your life."

Stupid Sherry: "Yes, yes, you're right. I will change my lifestyle right now. I will start by playing the lottery every day and by switching to Natty Light beer."

Sensible Sherry (glaring): "What I mean is truly tightening your purse strings. No more eating out, no more vacations, and no more spending a fourth of your grocery bill on adult beverages."

Stupid Sherry: "Wow. You are a tough taskmaster."

Sensible Sherry: "I am. And from now on, you shall be my bitch."

2:15 P.M.
Sensible Sherry: "Um, excuse me? Is that you, clicking around on Orbitz.com?"

Stupid Sherry (glancing around and whistling): "Who, me?"

Sensible Sherry: "Jesus. It's like I don't even know you."

Stupid Sherry: “But listen to this! Remember back in April, when I found that unbelievable deal for taking the Megabus to New York City? A round-trip ticket from Toledo for $4.50? Four dollars and fifty cents! I booked it right then, just in case I could make it work."

Sensible Sherry: "It WON'T work. Cancel it. And walk away from the computer."

Stupid Sherry: "But I just managed to change my bus reservation! Instead of spending three nights in Manhattan, I'll only spend one! Look at the money I've saved myself already!"

Sensible Sherry: "So, you will sit on a bus for 12 hours, stay in New York for a single day and night and then turn around and spend another 12 hours on a bus?"

Stupid Sherry: "Yes! What an adventure it will be!"

Sensible Sherry (sighing): "That's what the Donner Party said."

2:38 P.M.
Sensible Sherry: "No. Tell me you didn't."

Stupid Sherry: "Can you believe my good luck? A hotel room, on Manhattan's lower east side, for only $100!"

Sensible Sherry: "Did you notice the fine print, about the 'shared bathroom'?"

Stupid Sherry (shrugging): "I won't shower for 48 hours. And I'll cross my legs."

Sensible Sherry: "What about bed bugs?"

Stupid Sherry: "Bed bugs? The hotel amenities didn't list those."

Sensible Sherry: "Right. And what will you do in New York, with no money?"

Stupid Sherry: "Oh, there are tons of fun and free things! I'll visit the public library. I’ll walk through Central Park. I will pass by homeless people and learn to truly appreciate my life."

Sensible Sherry: "Mm-hmm. How will you eat?"

Stupid Sherry: "I plan to pack a bag of peanuts and six PB and J sandwiches in my duffle bag. And drink from public water fountains."

Sensible Sherry (closing eyes and shaking head): "You are so full of shit."

Stupid Sherry: "You’re right. Not realistic or practical. No, I’ll survive on $2 hot dogs from street vendors. And I will ask for extra mustard packets and make an entire meal out of them."

Sensible Sherry: "You need professional help. Although you can't afford that either."

Stupid Sherry: "Come on! How could anyone let a practically free trip to New York go unused? That's like telling Ed McMahon to go away when he shows up at your door with a giant check."

Sensible Sherry (checking dead-celeb dot com): "Ed McMahon died in 2009. If he happens to show up at your door, promise me you'll tell him to go away."

Stupid Sherry: "OK. But I am definitely going to New York."

Sensible Sherry (rolling her eyes): "Fine. Go ahead. Spend 24 hours squeezed into a bus seat and another eight hours sleeping in a frightfully cheap hotel."

Stupid Sherry: "Yes. Yes, I will. Sounds delightful. Jeez, you're such a worrier. I mean, with a great plan like this, what could possibly go wrong?"

Sadly, I found myself with a scheduling conflict, and I had to cancel that trip. I’ve made up for it with loads of amazing trips over the past few years. But this week I proclaimed another moratorium on traveling.

As I recalled that cancelled plan yesterday, however, I found myself curious about the going rate for Megabus tickets to NYC. I hopped online and randomly searched travel dates—purely for research purposes, of course. Round-trip fares were mostly in the $60 range. But then I spied it: a trip to NYC for $15 and a return trip for just $1.00. Round-trip from Toledo to New York for $16.

And, I then discovered if one was truly SERIOUS about a frugal roadtrip of this sort—which I wasn’t—one could still find a hotel near Soho with a tiny cabin room and a shared bathroom for $100 per night.

Within fifteen minutes, I had my room and travel booked. Two nights instead of one, because over the past few years I’ve grown far more practical. And I made certain my reservations were refundable, in the event my transmission dies in the next two months. Or in case I come to my senses.

I figured the long bus ride would allow hours of writing. An ultra-efficient use of my time, really. And the hotel/hostel commenters on the internet mentioned how interesting it was to meet other guests, while sitting out on the roof or the fire escape. Chalk up another fascinating life experience.

I planned a single year of strange new adventures, through The 52/52 Project, to be a mere one-off period in my life--before I returned to my regularly scheduled program. Yet, here I am.

I may need an intervention.

Are you a traveler or a homebody? What's the craziest thing you've done lately?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Just When I Never Expected They'd Find Brotherly Love

When I was a young mother, I grew skeptical of that so-called light at the end of the tunnel. Based on my life with two battling boys, I knew it would be just another freight train barreling through.

My newest story on Huffington Post offers hope for all you war-torn parents:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sherry-stanfastanley/when-i-never-expected-theyd-find-brotherly-love_b_6449926.html

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Stranger Things Happened in Milwaukee

Yowza, did we get happy last Saturday night on the Partridge Family Party Bus Stranger Party adventure in Milwaukee! What a wild and wonderful evening!

Our initial cozy group of ten met at a fireside table at the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery. ("Best Place" is the actual and very apt name.) After introductions and small talk, we hopped onboard the bus—with our traveler cups—to set sail that day for a six-hour tour. A six-hour tour… (Are you singing along? Because we sure did, all night.)

By our second venue, we were feeling so comfortable together and enjoying ourselves so much that our server at Bryant's Cocktail Lounge, Milwaukee’s “oldest cocktail lounge,” warned us twice to keep the noise down. It was a lovely place with terrific PERSONALLY TAILORED cocktails, but we moved on to where our loud enthusiasm might be better suited.

Over the next several hours, we cruised downtown Milwaukee, visiting a total of eight bars and pubs. They varied from Victor's on Van Buren, a hot local dance club that my 23-year-old son cringed about going to with his mother (oh, I danced, just to embarrass him further), to Who's On Third, Milwaukee's Pub (the BEST cheese curds in Milwaukee), to the Old German Beer Hall, where we sang the E.I.O Polka and took shots from a wooden shot-ski. (The last time I did a shot in a bar? Probably in the eighties. The next time? Don’t hold your breath.)

Midway through the night, our Partridge Bus morphed into the Pied Piper Bus. Our passengers more than doubled as we made adventurous new friends along the way, including a middle-aged couple, their power-lifting pro daughter, and their delightful companions. And, a special shout-out to Taylor, who was a hard-core trooper.

In between our stops, we sang, did classic TV trivia, laughed nonstop, and annoyed the hell out of our somewhat patient bus driver.

It proved to be one of the craziest and most entertaining nights I’ve ever had, accentuated by the company of a handful of close friends plus many new and random ones.

Ten other outings remain on the Stranger Party Tour over the next year, including our Jan. 24 events in Chicago, to cave-spelunking in Austin, to a scavenger hunt in Boston. The bar’s been set pretty high by the first two outings in Orlando and Milwaukee. Yet I have a feeling we’ll find a way to match that fun.

When’s the last time you did something for the first time? Those of us who joined in on the Partridge Family Bus escapade in Milwaukee can say: Just last weekend. 


Read about other upcoming events on The 52/52 Project's National Stranger Party Tour here: https://www.facebook.com/The52at52Project/posts/395041997326397


Friday, November 28, 2014

Take a Risk, Change Your Life, Meet New Friends, and Make Memories

Are you considering, but still on the fence, about joining in one of The 52/52 Project's Stranger Party National Tour outings? Here are a couple heartwarming responses I've gotten:

"I wanted to express to each of you how grateful I am for the time we spent together during the Stranger Parties! You guys have rocked my world and raised me out of a depression period that I could not shake! I am reignited and ready to take on the world (well, maybe not the whole world because that would be insane). So, thank you! Love you all and hope we can get together again!"

And this:

"Sherry has taught me a lot about risk-taking, I'm not very outgoing, little old shy me:). I didn't know what to expect. But it was a life changer. I had so much fun! I have to thank all of you for a trip I'll always remember!"

Wow. Can't wait to meet more new friends and for us to make new memories together! For details on joining one of our upcoming Stranger Party excursions, see the Events page: https://www.facebook.com/The52at52Project/events

Milwaukee is only a week away--sign up now!

Monday, November 24, 2014

From Strangers to Friends: Coming Your Way

I'm excited to provide an updated list of locations for the 52/52 Stranger Party Tour! Many dates are still pending--so check back often here and at The 52/52 Project's Facebook page. Hoping to meet up for fun, adventure, and the always amazing experience of meeting new friends:

December 6—7:30 p.m. in Milwaukee: Come on, Get Happy, as we rent the Partridge Family Party Bus for a pub crawl through downtown Milwacky, Wisconsin! Along the way we’ll test our worthless know-how of classic TV trivia and theme songs: http://partridgefamilypartybus.com/ Click on the Events tab to "join" and to see how to register through PayPal. Plenty of seats still available. Only $25 to reserve your seat for a fun night! REGISTER NOW!

January (date TBD)—Chicago: Because, seriously, who wouldn't want to ice-skate in the Windy City in January? The good news is we'll be skating indoors. The bad news is we'll be skating on the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building. Toughen up, ye who are afraid of heights! We'll cap it off with a fun dinner and drinks.

February 21—Toledo: We'll be TRAPPED in Toledo. We'll need to use our wits to get out, before time runs out. A great dinner with all our new friends will follow. http://www.trappedtoledo.com/

March 28—Austin: Now’s your chance to finally get over those pesky personal fears like acrophobia, claustrophobia, nyctophobia, and entomophobia, as we master the messy and somewhat frightening art of cave spelunking.
http://www.longhorncaverns.com/wildcave.html. Evening festivities still pending, per the know-how of our co-hosts, Insane-in-the-Mom-Brain, RachRiot, and The Kick Ass Social Club.

April (date TBD)—Boston: Nothing here but old-fashioned fun in a slightly crazy new way, while we take part in a group scavenger hunt. The only caveat: If you’re on my team, be prepared to meet a brutal taskmaster. We’ll win this thing, or else: http://www.watsonadventures.com/public/location/boston/

May 23-24—Denver area: Join me for a night of séances and ghost-hunting at the haunted Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King penned The Shining. The next day, any survivors (or those who choose to forgo the ghost-hunt) will grasp hands and grimace our way across the Royal Gorge Bridge, the highest freaking bridge in the U.S.: https://search.yahoo.com/search?p=royal+gorge+bridge+colorado+walking&ei=UTF-8&fr=chr-greentree_ff&ilc=12&type=903578

June (date TBD)—Cincinnati/Newport: If you’ve had a lifelong burning desire to roll around inside a human-sized hamster ball, here is your opportunity. Yes, apparently this is a thing. Barf bags not included. After, we'll fight off any lingering nausea with dinner at Newport on the Levee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BpHJckNZns

July (date TBD)—Toledo: Join us on the mighty Maumee River while we compete in the Partners in Education’s famously fun Dragon Boat Festival. Be prepared to show off your teamwork skills and your muscles. Word is, you’ll need to make up for a huge slacker in the boat. Celebratory dinner and drinks following, of course.

August 13-16—Southern Ohio: We’ll join the fabulous Brittany Gibbons and a cabinful of friends we haven’t yet met, at Camp Throwback. Relive your best childhood experiences with traditional camp activities like archery or arts and crafts—updated for adult fun by drinking margaritas around the fire pit: http://www.campthrowback.com/

September 19—Southern Indiana: No obstacle too great for those of us taking part in The Stranger Party Tour of 2015! Unless we’re competing in a Rugged Maniac Race. And then, all bets are off: http://www.ruggedmaniac.com/events/southern-indiana/ Those who aren't too exhausted can join us for some evening camaraderie.

October—Location, date, and activities still pending


Why are we holding a National Stranger Party Tour? Out of The 52/52 Project's personal new challenges last year, being part of a "Stranger Party" proved to be the most popular--and the experience readers said they would most enjoy. Trying something new and semi-crazy with a diverse group of people of all ages and backgrounds will lead to the most intriguing conversations you've ever had--and lots of laughs. Read more about our very first stranger party here: https://www.facebook.com/The52at52Project/posts/264552507042014, and see The 52/52 Project's Facebook page for photos from our inaugural Orlando stop in November. 

More details and registration information coming. Check back here and at the The 52/52 Project "Events" tab. And share with your friends!

Hoping to meet up with many of you on the 52/52 Stranger Party Tour!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Harvesting Your Talents at the Winter Wheat Festival

Just a reminder that I'll be presenting a session at the 14th annual Winter Wheat Festival, a celebration of writers and readers, to be held Nov. 13-15 at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Produced by the literary journal "Mid-American Review," the festival includes appearances by authors Sharona Muir, Anne Valente, Marcus Wicker, and Allison Joseph. In addition, participants can attend their choices of 56 diverse and interesting workshops.

On Saturday morning, Nov. 15, I will lead a session on "Enhancing Your Narrative Non-Fiction through an Anti-Bucket List." I'll be talking about The 52/52 Project and also discussing how attendees can change their lives through their own experiences outside their comfort zones.

Winter Wheat is a terrific (and very affordable) event for writers seeking to sharpen their skills, as well as aspiring writers looking for a great place to start. For more information about the festival's events and registration, click here:

http://casit.bgsu.edu/midamericanreview/winter-wheat/

Monday, October 27, 2014

Crashing with Class

It's not often I find myself the normal one in the crowd. Then again, this wasn't the kind of crowd I generally run with...

I knew, when "20/20" contacted me, that wedding-crashing was the topic of the segment. I can't say, however, that I was aware of the particular slant they had planned for most of the show. I bit off half my fingernails while watching the first 45 minutes.

I wish they had managed to capture the goal and the essence of The 52/52 Project, with a brief mention that wedding-crashing (with a conscience) was just one of 52 new challenges I checked off a list last year. Yet rather than proving to be a cautionary tale (it wouldn't have been my first time), I was relieved I appeared to be the moral of this story.

My national TV debut provided an unexpected and bizarre finish to my year of new adventures. I faced another huge challenge--talking in front of a camera for a national audience--with little time to plan or prepare. 


When you choose to put yourself out there, it's amazing what you can do.

Maybe that's the real moral to any story.

If you don't want to watch the whole segment, skip ahead to 4:55 in the video here.