Author:Paul Gilmartin

Teresa Strasser (Voted #1 Ep of 2011)

Adam Carolla’s former sidekick comes guns blazing to the fear-off.  Holy shit she brings it.  This one gets dark.  From her being vanquished by a stepmother at age 3 to seriously considering suicide earlier in the year. Touching and funny.  She is also the author of the critically-acclaimed pregnancy memoir Exploiting My Baby.   Paul made a mistake when he uploaded the first version of this interview.  Though an editing error, a reference to another female guest (with a book), sounded like Paul was talking about Teresa.   Hopefully this version clears that up!   Apologies to T for the mixup.

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Hank Adams

Prostitution, alcoholism, fetishes, swinging, abandonment and being stabbed by a bayonet.  Handyman Hank Adams has experienced them all.  Paul’s friend has to literally pause to count how many stepdads he has had.

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Paula Newman

Part-time actor, friend and meditation teacher talks with Paul about her life being profoundly affected by her painful English upbringing, Hitler and Back to the Future.   They also discuss the importance of Vedic meditation and the Body Ecology Diet.

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Shame of Thrones by Hank Thompson

Let’s talk about shame. Like all stories about shame this one is about a penis. As a small child I had a condition called meatal stenosis. Either I was born with it or it developed as a result of circumcision. It’s a partial closing of the hole on the end. Or, if you’re an optimist, it’s a partial opening.

What this meant was I couldn’t fully urinate. I would go, and I’d dribble for some time, and then I’d move on in search of my next sugar high or bout of confusion. I never experienced full relief, but being new at existence I didn’t know you were supposed to. The problem went unnoticed until the age of six when an irritated 2nd grade teacher informed the school that I was asking to go to the bathroom fifteen to twenty times a day.
A week later we were at the hospital in a room made of curtains, where I was being prepped to be put under. I was deeply afraid of needles and I asked if there would be any. When my mom told me the truth she saw the sudden fear in my eyes and then she lost it, crying like a worried mom, which in turn made me cry.
I woke up right where we’d started, in that curtained prep room, a little groggy and completely oblivious to the time that had passed.

For the first time in my life I experienced a fully emptied bladder. One might think the result would be a feeling of tremendous relief, joy even, but it was the opposite. What for most is a gentle pleasure of the day was for me a tear-inducing bout of pain and dread. Penises are packed with nerve endings, and the delicate damaged tissue of mine awoke as if on fire when the stream of ammonia and urea coursed over it. It was torture. Rather than give me drugs, the doctors told my mom about a simpler technique. For three weeks every time I had to pee she would fill up a cup of warm water near to the brim, and would hold it right next to me while I hurried and suffered and then I’d dip my penis into the soothing water and feel the pain wash away. That image, right there, is the definition of love.

It got better, of course. Other than the occasional whiskey affliction my penis has performed as expected throughout my life. But the physical pain of it was nothing next to the wider bruise the experience left on my brain.

In the following years and decades I felt tremendous shame. That my penis had a defect, that it was somehow flawed, which meant that at my core I was flawed. I don’t know where it came from. No single event stands out as the moment the well got tapped.
It wasn’t all-consuming, the shame, but it was there. It was as if I had a terrible secret and that I didn’t trust anyone enough to tell them, for fear of judgment or scorn. Or that I’d lose one of the few friends I had. Who would want to hang out with a mutant like me? When I imagined myself having competency with girls I recoiled at the idea of having to tell one about my defective penis, knowing full well the role genitalia can play in a relationship.
The deck was stacked against normalcy as it was. Divorce was an ankle’s wade compared to the havoc my mother’s bipolar disorder wrought on her life and mine and my two brothers, not to mention the whirring ghosts of deep untreated childhood abuse that followed her around and still do. I credit a stern and loving father for any sanity I have.
Through high school and college, as time and DNA foisted adulthood on me, I still carried the shame. But its imprint was fading. I’d managed to convince a few girls to hold still long enough to let me hold their hands and I had made substantive friendships. Finally, in my mid twenties I was able to tell a buddy about it, and he was just confused as to why I thought he might care. I was confused, too. There wasn’t any reason at all, I realized. The cloud lifted.

Unshackle yourself from the ancient burdens of your past, whatever they may be. Forgive yourself for your simple human flaws. Let your shame go. Trust me; your bladder will thank you.

Hank Thompson      You can contact Hank at his website.

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Stephen Mancuso

Make-up artist, former Broadway dancer, as well as Paul’s friend and co-worker, Stephen talks about surviving an abusive upbringing, the pain of being gay in a homophobic household, the impact of AIDS on NYC in the 80’s, and finding his voice.

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