Friday, July 15, 2016

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  From the Department of Good Friends. From the Dept. of Hilarious Writers. From the Dept of That's Why It's Always Good to Come To Jungle Red on Friday. 

From the Dept. of You Can’t Make This Stuff Up”
                               by Alice Loweecey 

For this to be the Most Bizarre Story Ever Destined To Go Into A Book, I first have to establish that this used to be me:

Yes, I really was that innocent and ethereal once. Go ahead and laugh.

A few years ago, I sang in an a cappella Early Music Chorale. We traveled to various churches and other venues singing works by Monteverdi, Bach, and various anonymous composers long since turned to dust. One of our favorite performances was nicknamed The Sex and Shepherds” concert. The program consisted of all madrigals, and yepper, that’s what those darling pastoral lyrics were REALLY about.

They even made my nun doll clutch her pearls.

One February night, we were scheduled to rehearse at a church I’d never been to. One of the baritones gave us directions. This was long before the days of cell phones with GPS. I live in Buffalo. It snows. A lot. You may have heard about it. I wrap myself up and hit the road. When I reach the exit in the directions, a little voice in my head whispered, “Don’t take the first exit; take the second one.”

Never ignore the little voice, people.

I did that night, and took the exit listed in the directions. I should have reached the church in five minutes. Fifteen minutes later, as the snow starts coming down harder and I leave civilization for the industrial area, I realize I’m quite lost. Streetlights are few and far between. It’s pitch black out.  I’m wishing several unpleasant curses on the baritone who wrote the directions.

But, lo! In the distance I see a small building with a parking lot and a few lights. Oh frabjous day! It has to be a 7-11 or other convenience store. I can get directions!

I drive into the parking lot.

It’s a strip club.

I hesitate only a moment. I’m over 21. I only want directions. I’m sure the bouncer will be able to help.

To help you visualize the impact I was about to make on the unsuspecting employees of the strip club, this is what I was wearing:

I walk to the door. No bouncer. I walk inside. The bar stage is empty. (Yes, I looked. Wouldn’t you have looked?) To my left is a cubbyhole with a window, and a middle-aged man is playing the CDs I hear broadcasting in the bar.

I knocked on the wall. He looked up at this Vision in snow, raincoat, and Doctor Who scarf. Nonplussed” would describe his expression until I delivered this bombshell:

Excuse me. I’m looking for Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.”

Then stunned” would describe it better. It took him a second to reply: Lady, you are in the wrong place.”

He then gave me directions to the nearest convenience store and I booked it out of there. The counter clerk at the convenience store said I was the second person that night asking for the same directions. I finally got to rehearsal half an hour late and told the story at break. The baritone who caused all the trouble laughed the loudest.  

My favorite scene to imagine is the deejay at the strip club going home in the wee hours and waking up his significant other: Honey, you’ll never believe what happened at work tonight.” I kinds of wish I had told the poor man I was a former nun. It would have made his story so much better.

This story must and will go into a Giulia Driscoll mystery. I only have to make her forget a car charger and have her cell phone die.

So, writers and readers, try and top this! What is your most surreal You can’t make this stuff up” adventure?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  ((Speechless.))

Baker of brownies and tormenter of characters, Alice Loweecey recently celebrated her thirtieth year outside the convent. She grew up watching Hammer horror films and Scooby-Doo mysteries, which explains a whole lot. When she's not creating trouble for her sleuth Giulia Driscoll or inspiring nightmares as her alter-ego Kate Morgan, she can be found growing her own vegetables (in summer) and cooking with them (the rest of the year).


  1. I am laughing so hard I can hardly manage to wish that I actually had some amazing surreal adventure to recount, but I don’t . . . and nothing is ever going to top that!
    Now, Alice, I definitely need to hunt up your Guilia Driscoll mysteries . . . .

  2. Oh my gosh, Alice. Too much! I can't possibly top that. But I'm glad you made it out of the snowstorm to the church. ;^)

  3. I'm so glad you're putting that in a book! And Alice, I love the way you tell it.

    I once came up with a story line that involved an "exotic dancer"... until I realized I'd have to research the setting by GOING to a strip club and changed her to a post-doc psychologist. If I have to wander in the weeds, I prefer them to be familiar weeds.

  4. I was once riding in a garbage truck full of props for "Yankee Doodle Dandy." It was the only truck anyone would willingly let us borrow, and it broke down at the top of the span of the Edison Bay Bridge. While waiting for help, we broke out some of the props and entertained ourselves (not sure about the passersby) until help arrived. But I wish it'd been outside a stripper club! All that wholesome entertainment meets, well....

    Will be rushing off later to look for Guilia!!

  5. I can't decide whether it's good or bad that I can not come up with something that can even comes close to competing with that…maybe after I have another cup of coffee… Welcome dear Alice!

  6. Hysterical! I can't think of a topper either, but I do want to hear more about the book after reading this...

  7. Alice, I think you and I must have been separated at birth. I, too have had adventures in driving around lost in the snow (in Syracuse, Buffalo's cousin-in-lake-effect-precipitation); have sung in acappella and church choirs; and I knit my own Dr. Who scarf (4th Doctor Forever!) when I was in school in Ithaca.

    I can't top that story, but my sister could - she once, through a series of unexplainable events, wound up pole dancing outside Washington DC's most famous strip club WHILE wearing a full-body Gingerbread Man suit. Barb is the kind of person things happen to.

    1. Julia, I grew up in Syracuse! We were obviiusly separated at birth. :D

  8. Ahahahahahahah! I love all these stories! Hank, thank you so much for letting me make people laugh here today. <3

  9. I'm glad I'm reading this at home. Being from Buffalo, I can completely imagine this.

    Julia, I think I need to meet your sister.

    The closed I can come is my first writing retreat with my Sisters in Crime. We locked ourselves out of the house we were staying at. The story is too long to type, but we got some field research on how to enter a house without keys. Alas, no strippers and nuns. =)

  10. Alice, I love your story, but even more so, your writing! You've got rhythm in your writing, Sister. : ) You have me howling all the way to the bookstore to buy your book!

  11. I love Giulia and her adventures! Such a fun story, Alice.

    My aunt and godmother went to the convent, came home to recuperate from an illness before taking her final vows, and ran into a high school beau. He took her out, they got married, and he whisked her off to deepest Africa, where he was a CIA station chief. They were together the rest of his life.

    The funniest thing about Aunt Bobbie is still that she is by far the saltiest of the six sisters in the family, never hesitating to pull out a shockingly blue phrase or two. One of my cousins was also in the convent, and she also left just before final vows, because she realized she was a lesbian.

    So Giulia feels like part of the family to me! I look forward to this next installment, Alice!

    1. You have to watch out for thise nuns--and ex-nuns!

  12. Welcome, Alice! I adore that you have a nun doll, complete with pearls! I was educated in a school run by the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, btw...

  13. Welcome Alice! It was great meeting you at my first Malice. I mentioned that I love your hat! And you gave me a bookmark :-)

    Cannot top your story. Though I have to say that sometimes I feel that I am like that character from the Emma Thompson / Will Ferrell movie "Stranger Than Fiction".

    Susan, I was educated at a school run by nuns too - St. Joseph's though my teacher was NOT a nun. I learned to read and write at the age of 4 there.


  14. Alice, so funny! Maybe you could have someone murder the baritone in your story...

    I don't think I can top your story, but am going to look for your book!

  15. There's nothing to top your story Alice, and I look forward to seeing what you do with it in your book.

    Looks as if all the western New York contingent are here today. Not a native but my partner is. We moved to Rochester from San Francisco fifteen years ago. Yes I know. Who would do that? I love it up here on the tundra tho.

  16. I loved Scooby-Doo, too. But not Scooby Dumb. Scooby Dumb was the anti-Scooby. It's like when Nancy Drew suddenly started solving mysteries on alien spaceships. Or Barnes & Noble getting a beer and wine license.

    I'm kind of a purist and don't like all these fancy extras.

    Anyway, you're going to LOVE this one. I know I recently showed up in the comments, and no one here knows who I am. So how can you trust that what I'm about to share is true? Welp, I'm including a link as proof.

    This happened right here where I live:

    There is a Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine lookalike in town. Like, a really, really good lookalike. The woman who owns it was in a high-speed chase with the police a few months ago. Not long after this happened, the Mystery Machine cut me off in traffic, so I guess she somehow paid all the fines from the chase and was released from jail, because once again the Scooby van is on the streets of Redding.

    Carla DeLauder

  17. Yay for the WNY contingent! Represent!

    And now I want to drive a Mystery Machine...

  18. Alice, you have given me a wonderful chuckle today! Thanks. I do wish that you'd told the guy that you were a former nun to complete his astonishment. Hahaha!

    I may have told this story here before, but my best lost story is when a friend and I went to see Diana Gabaldon at Joseph Beth's Books in Lexington, Ky. I thought it would lovely for us to stay at nearby Shakertown and have a lovely breakfast there the next morning. Well, we learned just how powerful the phrase "dark and stormy night" was on this trip. After the Diana Gabaldon event was over, around 9 that evening, we faced driving back to Shakertown in the dark and the rain. Did I mention that Shakertown is located in the country somewhere between Lexington and Danville, Ky (Centre College)? So we were on the backroads, and the backroads are not kind to those who are unfamiliar with them in a storm, especially when after getting lost with absolutely no where to stop and ask directions (picture middle of nowhere), my friend and I got a case of the giggles because the rain was coming down on my front windshield like someone was pouring it through a large spout. We assumed that God had gotten directly involved and was pouring a special large portion on us, which got us to laughing, which led to a dead end, which made us realize we were really on our own. It's been long enough that cars didn't have the navigation tools and my phone didn't either. I'm still not sure how we found Shakertown, but we did. Happy to be back somewhere safe and dry, we went to bed dreaming of the amazing breakfast we would eat in the morning. So, of course, we woke up to no electricity. There is a silver lining. We were the last people who were served breakfast that had already been fixed, and most importantly, coffee.

    Julia, I have got to hear more of the story about your sister. And, Alice I am looking forward to starting your series very soon.

  19. Oh so funny KAthy, and weird, because I kept reading it as Shakedown, and I thought--that is a weird name for a town. But TANGENT: How was Diana??? xoxoo

  20. Speaking of stripper--and I'm not referring to the very perky business--I helped out in a convent after school while waiting for a pickup. Don't go there! I was assigned to clean the beautiful Blessed Mother statue--and clean it, I did! Her lovely blue gown slowly stripped down to white plaster! Heavens! I was enterprising for a ten year old, so I acquired crayons and fixed Mary up! Sister Superior came into the room and nearly popped her bonnet! Knowing that I tried to remedy the stripped statue, Sr. let me out of any future cleaning duties...Amen!

  21. Great story!!! I can't think of a thing that happened to me. Getting lost wouldn't count. I always get lost. Now that I have the phone maps, I manage to wander into familiar territory more quickly. Before, I'd been known to wait for the sun to set or rise so I could figure out the general direction I SHOULD have been going. ;)

  22. Nancy! SO hilarious. I can truly picture that… xoxo

  23. So many great stories!

    Kathy, I COMPLETELY sympathize with getting lost in the middle of nowhere. Been there, done that, with evil ninja cows staring at my little compact car like they're telepathically communicating: We can tip this one. Everyone ready? On three."

    Nancy, What a great story! I'm sure the BVM looked adorable in her crayoned gown. If only someone had snapped a photo of the Superior General flipping her veil. Hahahaha!

    1. The nuns put a Dry dustcloth in my hands--kept me away from water and detergent!

  24. oMG - Oh, can I say that? I am rolling on the floor laughing Alice. Buffalo, really! You better tell me you are not a Sasso or a Perone. You might be able to tell, I got family in the area. Nothing like that has ever happened to me. I need to get out more! Tell me you weren't tempted to say, "Good evening, sir, I'm Sr. Mary whatever and I'm looking for"...and start swinging that scarf!

  25. Nancy, what a funny story! Hank, the mayhem actualy started at the Diana Gabaldon event. My friend and I were seated on a first row that went in an arc, so I thought we would be in a good position to hear. Well, Diana has a rather low voice, or I think she does, and as others around us laughed at something Diana had said, my friend and I laughed, too. She would lean into me and ask me what Diana had said, and I told her I had no idea. The next round of laughter, I would ask my friend what Diana had said, and she hadn't a clue either. We did manage to hear some of what was said, and it was great seeing her. Then we got our books signed, and to this day we haven't been able to figure out what she wrote in them. I've thought that I might sometime take a picture of the inscription and send to Diana to decipher, but I haven't yet. Oh, I did get a picture made with Diana, too, so that was cool. As much mishap as there was, my friend agree it was one of our best trips.

  26. Alice, you are hilarious. The end.