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It's Jolebration Day! Celebrating My Late, Great BFF Johannah!

Today I Commemorate

The Second Annual (but Not-Yet-National)

Jolebration Day!

When the Entire World

(or at a minimum her two BFFs, Sheila and I,)

Celebrates the Late, Great . . .

Johannah Cantrell!

(Also known as "Maria" in our high school Spanish Class,

because there was no good Spanish alternative for the name Johannah.)

Jo was born an "only child" on April 23, 1959.

She grew up in the wee shire of Matoaka, West Virginia,

where she achieved local fame as one of the Minnelli GirlZ

(NOTE: I may be using that word "fame" wrong . . .)

She was one of my two best friends.

She was one of the funniest people I have ever known.

Today would have been Johannah'z 59th birthday.

(And she surely would have hosted an all-you-can eat pizza'd pajama party to celebrate.)

Jo possessed many talents.

She was a wonderful photographer.

She was an excellent basketball player.

She could sing;

She could dance;

She could play guitar.

And most importantly . . .

Jo could imitate Keith Richards like nobody's business!

Even better than Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow-homage to Keith in the

Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise . . .

Jo portraying Keith (to my Mick) in a little impromptu concert. I mean pajama party.

Photo by our other BFF: Sheila Allen Ninowski

Though most of the people who knew Jo were frequently exposed to her singing, dancing, dribbling, Minnelli-ing, Keef-ing gifts (probably more than they would have liked), many folks remained unaware of one of her most memorable talents:

Jo could recite her ABCs . . . While burping!

Indeed, one of the first discoveries I ever made about Jo was that she had the ability to consistently emit belches lasting long enough for her to *eructate the alphabet all the way to the letter "F". It was, perhaps, her greatest parlor trick.

Allow me to describe Jo's process for what I like to call "Alphabelching" which, to my mind, seemed to work a lot like deep-sea drilling but—sadly—was not as lucrative. Demonstrating a dazzling display of what can only be described as mathematical genius, Jo was smart enough to calculate the physics equation for drilling for oil and then convert the formula into a bonafide form of crowd-pleasing, pajama party entertainment. (This was accomplished by combining and ingesting a couple of key ingredients and then applying pressure.)

To begin, Jo would consume a substantial amount of Chef Boyardee pizza and Coca-Cola. Next she would top off the combination off by chugging half of an additional can of Coke and suppress the fizzy pressure by clenching her mouth shut. Once she was certain that the gaseous combination was safely contained, she would take several deep gulps of air—as though preparing to free-dive. (This had the added entertainment factor of making Jo look like she was going into convulsions. Or trying to cough up a fur ball).

Once Jo's body could no longer contain the buildup of gases, she initiated their release by forcing a burp from somewhere deep within her diaphragm. Venting the accumulated, pent-up vapors always took approximately three seconds; thereby allowing her to astonish us with her ABC recitation (while sounding like she needed an exorcism). Ever the consummate performer, Jo accompanied her alphabetized, carbonated, pizza-fumed eruptions with dramatic hand gestures—like a conductor bringing a great symphony to it's triumphant conclusion.

Over the years, Johannah honed her gift until she became capable of regularly maintaining alphabet-burpage all the way through the letter "H". One couldn't help be but impressed. Once, on a particularly effusive occasion, I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing her conclude a belch with the letter "I"! (I can't even force a burp, so I was bowled over!) Clearly, if Alphabelching were an Olympic event, Jo would have been a contender.

Oh how I miss being entertained by Jo's rare gift. I still find myself laughing out loud when I think of Johannah eliciting our cheers and applause with her ABC-laced burps (along with the occasional, unintentional 'vurps' which made us all gag and scream, "Eeeeeeewwwwww! Gross!" )

Meanwhile, my husband is horrified that I am sharing this particular Johannah story (as a birthday tribute, no less) but I suspect that is because he came from a family and social strata where loud burping was deemed socially unacceptable. I keep explaining to him that Alphabelching was kept within the confines of Jo's birthday parties, where we honored the long-held Chinese mindset that regards burping to be a respectable means of complimenting the chef who, in our case, was Chef Boyardee. Clearly, it was a pajama-party thing, but I thought it was time the world knew about Jo's world-class gift.

Unfortunately, on this Second Annual (Not-Yet-National) Jolebration Day, I don't have a Chef Boyardee pizza on hand to toast my Zany BFF. But in its place, I will share a song that we sometimes serenaded Johannah with in Days Long Past.

Feel free to sing along . . . You surely know this tune.

Johannah Banana,




Happy Birthday to

The One



Johannah Cantrell!

With Love and Fond Memories,


(And also Sheila— her other BFF—who remains too lazy to blog)




verb (used with or without object)

1. to belch forth, as gas from the stomach.

2. to emit or issue violently, as matter from a volcano.

Photo: Jo emulating Keith Richard: wearing the infamous Rolling Stones'

Sticky Fingers album cover featuring Andy Warhol's iconic design.

JOLEBRATION DAY NOTE: After writing a post about Jo last year on her birthday, I decided to make it an annual affair. Every year I will share some of the traits and stories that made Johannah so unique and so special . . . Because people are never really gone if you regularly remember them.


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