Thursday, January 19, 2006

The splendor of January 19th

You know how sometimes you tease something because it is so so stupid or cheesy? This was one of my favorite past times in high school (hmm...and now, too). By senior year, my friend Jenny and I were veterans at cracking ourselves up at the existence of some totally lame things like that Kenny Rogers song "Planet Texas," the dance routine to "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" by Whitney Houston that we made up way back in 8th grade and, of course, that mousy girl who walked around school with an "Ask Me about Home Economics" balloon.

We would spend physics class writing stories in the following manner: one of us would write a few sentences, fold over the paper so only one line of what we'd written was visible--giving the other one of us very little to go on in order to write more sentences to fold over all but a line or so of before passing back to the other. We do this for about a page and half or so, giving it a proper ending, then open up the whole story, and read it aloud, cracking up as we go. These stories would inevitably have at least two or more of the following components:

1. One or the other of us being judged the "Most Beautiful Princess in All the Land" (I should mention here that about 98 percent of our stories took place in the Land of Sweetness, a "magical kingdom far far away" that, aside from a castle--naturally--had no characteristics that would actually discern it from our hometown, Burke, VA)

2. One or the other of us going on Studs (the 1991 dating show hosted by Mark DeCarlo, who has also guest starred in brilliant Boy Meets World) and being pursued by super hot hotties like "Chet" with gold chains, leather pants, no shirt and a totally hot bod!

3. One or the other of us running into Mr A--our goofy, singing (yes, singing) physics teacher (who, in real life, is my older sister's best friend's sister's husband's dad. No lie.) Anyway, we'd run into him when he was in danger of his own doing or he'd be an unlikely (read: comic and singing) hero for the lame "Ask Me about Home Economics" girl who was in trouble BIG TIME.

4. Something wildly unrealistic would happen, requiring that one of us "snapped into action immediately!"

In the end, though--every end of every story--there would be happiness and calm in all the Land of Sweetness.

After we'd made fun of our favorite things to make fun of in the story, we'd seek out more material for mocking at one of our houses after school. As mentioned, "Planet Texas" was prime. We'd taken up watching CMT (Country Music Television), largely because it was like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean, between "Planet Texas" and "Here's a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares" what was there NOT to make fun of? You just couldn't lose.

Imagine our delight, when CMT starting playing a Dolly Parton video for her latest hit single "Why'd You Come in Here Lookin [sic] Like That?" A sample:

why'd you come in here lookin like that/with your high-heeled boots and your painted on jeans/all dressed up like a cowgirl's dream...why'd you come in here lookin like that/when you could stop traffic in a gunny sack/why you're almost giving me a heart attack/when you waltz right in here lookin like that

The song was AWESOME--in the best, most ironic way possible. We loved it. I found myself tuning in after Jenny'd gone home--you know, just to see if the Dolly song was on. And if it wasn't, I check at night, confident that I'd catch it on CMT's Top 20 Countdown. And usually, the Dolly video was on (along with Lionel Cartwright's "Leap of Faith" and Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever, Amen" and that really good Sawyer Brown song and wait, what?!--since when did my love of mocking country music turn into my, ugh, enjoyment of country music?) That's when I learned a cruel lesson: ironic enjoyment has a shelf life. It doesn't die, it mutates. In short: that which you mock becomes that which you love.

It's a lesson I had begun to learn: first with The Bangles (entrypoint? "Eternal Flame"), followed by Boy Meets World (entrypoint? Nickelodeon), and who could forget Def Leppard? (Wait, that one was always sincere). Anyway, CMT was the experience that drove the lesson home. And no one drove it home better than Dolly.

Being a sappy teenager, I was already a fan of Steel Magnolias and, come to think of it, thought Dolly was great in it. Then she was on Oprah and sang a new song called "Eagle When She Flies." It was okay, I guess. Pretty cheesy, though, with her whisper-singing and all. A couple of years later, on a trip to or from college, I bought a Dolly's Greatest Hits cassette from the $4 music rack at a gas station. I thought, Ha! A Dolly Parton tape! Jenny would laugh so hard! Listening to this tape, though, is how I found out that Dolly wrote and sang "I Will Always Love You" long before that Whitney "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" Houston came along.

On another trip, I bought another cheap Best of Dolly Parton CD and, though several songs were different than the other one, "I Will Always Love You" was included. And this version of it made me cry. Not even pre-menstrual or post-break up tears. Nope, just the sheer beauty of Dolly's singing, nay, whisper-singing, got me RIGHT THERE. And that was it. I loved her.

I remembered back to that Oprah episode and Dolly told the audience in her sweet mountain accent, "Well I may be the fakest lookin person you'll ever meet but I'm also the realest person you'll ever meet." Recalling that and hearing the heartbreak in this version of the song, I got it. And then I went out and bought the CD with "Eagle When She Flies" on it. Then more of her music. Then her autobiography.

I once had a dream in which I met her. It was at Dollywood and I got into an elevator and she was in it already. We went up. It was just the two of us; her smiling graciously and me panicking silently. It was awesome.

So I guess the moral of this here tale is two-fold:

1. Today (January 19) is Dolly's 60th birthday. Think kind thoughts and, if you get a minute, download "My Tennessee Mountain Home" for sweetness and "Travelin' Man" for awesomeness

2. Lest we forget: Sometimes lifelong love takes years to grow. And sometimes that love begins as mocking.

4 Comments:

Blogger Lo said...

Dolly rocks (oh yes she does)! I still have my Dolly fan club membership package from when I was 8. It took me 20 years to finally see her in all her real live "it costs a lot of money to look this cheap" splendor. *sigh*

5:17 AM  
Blogger Madelyn said...

i would pay big bucks to get a copy of some of those physics stories!

6:58 AM  
Blogger newyorquina said...

I heard Dolly Parton sing Why'd You Come in Here Looking Like That on Johnny Carson once, must have during high school. I have never forgotten that song.

11:04 AM  
Blogger haricarey said...

Holy shit, my friend Lisa and I did the same kind of story writing! Except that we always managed to incorporate some kind of comic strip-like drawing for visual enhancement. It usually included detailed renditions of what, at the time, I believed a penis might look like--often the resemblence to Moe from the Three Stooges was seriously disturbing. (I was a late bloomer, what can I say?). I wonder if there are teenage girls all over the world at this very minute mocking their peers and emboldening their pubescent egos by taking turns writing stories to pass the time in class. How great would that be?

Okay, stargirl, I left you a completely convoluted message this afternoon. I also sent a reasonably convoluted email to your yahoo account. Please reply to confirm so I know those messages aren't lost out in the middle of cyberspace or whereever, in whichever manner most convenient to you. Gracias.
xo.me

12:32 PM  

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