Driving Miss Tina: My Journey With Tina Sloan

Driving Miss Tina

When soap opera legend, Tina Sloan, emailed me to let me know she was coming into town, I was ecstatic.  You see, I interviewed the very charming and witty Ms. Sloan about a year ago during the release of her book, Changing Shoes, and she promised to let me know when she would be in town on a promotional tour or with her one-woman show of the same title.  It turned out, Tina said, she would be in town to speak as one of the guest lecturers at the Town Hall Series and just happened to snag a book signing at an indie book store near my house.  I replied, “Great, just tell me when and where to buy my ticket and queue up in the signature line.  Tina replied back with the specifics and a request, “Can you give me a ride to the book signing?”  Huh?  What?  Of course, I replied, “Sure.”

Ok, first I thought, what shoes will I wear?!  I mean, come on…the book is called Changing Shoes, right?  As long as you can change your shoes, you can change your life.  My catalogue of pumps, platforms, and peep-toes began to race through my mind.  And then I thought, what car will I drive?  I can’t show up in that little red thing of mine and ask her to fold herself up and get in, it’s Tina Sloan.  And what if she has “people”?  Ok, I’ll take the SUV…not great for maneuvering downtown streets, but greater seating capacity and more comfort.

As luck would have it, Tina arrives to the first snow storm of the year, a twelve inch blanket of nature’s frozen beauty.  Yeah, it’s beautiful, but it sure puts a crimp in the shoe choice.  Out are the black, suede peep-toe, 4-in heels…in are the motorcycle styled Uggs.  Ugh!  Luckily, I have read Tina’s book and I followed her advice.  Being confronted with some act of an inconvenient god, I just changed my shoes.  Sure the ugly Australian brogans are the appropriate pick for an unplowed parking lot, but knee high, new-copper-penny-colored, crocodile-embossed, boots are more applicable to Driving Miss Tina.  I simply made the modification in the car.

I arrive early to the hotel, as any daughter of a Junior Leaguer and graduate of the Miss Pittypat Southern school of manners would.  Yes, you can take the girl out of the South, but you never quite take the Southern out of the girl.  I circled the block a couple of times, and giving further credence to the idiom, third times a charm, standing on the sidewalk outside the historic hotel is a strikingly beautiful blond woman dressed in winter white, a pale, lime green jacket, a cream-colored scarf with just the hint of sparkle, and off-white ballet flats…yes, Tina, I noticed.  With a wave of acknowledgement, and a graceful climb into the steroidal kin of the family station wagon, our journey begins.  Cue the Hans Zimmer soundtrack, I’m driving Miss Tina.

It’s rush hour, so I avoid the freeways and cut a determined transversal through the heart of the city by way of the financial district and Capital Hill, honking in solidarity to the #OccupyDenver sidewalk encampment and the 99%ers.  Most assuredly, I am an excellent driver, and display my tour guide skills Liberally.

Let me just say at this point in the conversation, Tina Sloan is an absolute pleasure, and it gets better from here.  She is kind, funny, gracious, giving…and patient.  Southerners should come with a warning label, “CAUTION: If you ask a storyteller a question, you will get an answer…a long one.”  As a result the forty-five minutes of drive time into the suburbs were filled with personal stories of parents, family, significant others, home towns, education, Twitter, and politics…just like new old friends.

Arriving early at the book store, we have plenty of time to grab a bite to eat after checking in.  Now, it must be coupon night in suburbia, because all the places nearby where we could grab a nice bite and a good glass of red (for me) are packed.  When I offered a few more places, or as I nodded to the bright yellow sign above our heads, the unlikelihood of a burger, be still my heart when Tina said she loves burgers.  Fatburger it is!  Inside we walked, ordered two Fatspecials and noshed like girlfriends over greasy protein and Game 6 of the World Series over our heads.  Now, for all you Venice fans out there, I got a bit of scoop on Season 3, but what happens in Fatburger stays in Fatburger.  Plus, though I may relish the fantasy of it, I’m not willing to risk the reality that Crystal Chappell might cut me.

After introducing Tina to my better three-quarters, we dashed through the snow over to the bookstore across the way.  Indie bookstores are usually quite small and intimate, but these are the suburbs, so the combined square feet is comparable in size to that of a WalMart.  Never fear, Tina’s personality fills every square inch as she recites for the crowd, raucous re-tellings of the live soap days of yesterday.

Looking around the room, I am observing who is sitting around me.  The ages range from near 20 to near 70.  They are Tina’s Twitter friends, actual friends, and all friends in between.  They are breast cancer fighters, domestic abuse survivors, and yes, even lesbian survivors.  One young man in a wheelchair announced to Tina that he was very jealous when “Lillian” kissed “Buzz”.  These are the people who were touched every day by the social significance of Guiding Light and the other daytime dramas that have been snuffed out to game shows, weight loss shows, and cooking shows.  These are the people Tina speaks to in her book signings using the example of “Lillian’s” yearly regression to behind the scenes, culminating in a Christmas episode where the character is relegated to a position behind the tree.  After the obligatory wallowing in a bag of M&Ms, Tina announces, “Hey, I’m in the room!  I’m tired of being invisible.”

She changed her shoes that day, letting us all know that we don’t have to walk around in the orthopedic, white nurse shoes life gives us.  We can don pink hiking boots and conquer Mount Kilimanjaro.   We can put down the bag of M&Ms, and put on those Chanel pumps, the ones reserved for relationships and romance.  We can put on our comfortable shoes, #Occupy(anywhere), and stand up for our Constitutional rights.  Or, we can put on those running shoes, and race for the cure.  Don’t like where you are standing?  Change your shoes.

Thank you, Ms Sloan.  Though I may have been the one driving Miss Tina, it was I who was taken on a journey…what a ride.