I Ain’t Gonna Push. Except that I Totally Am.

Lyrics.  They come in all shapes and sizes. Beautiful and poetic, unintentionally hilarious, and poorly written. Yes, those are the only three categories they come in. You want to add fluffy and fun? Okay, I might give you that fourth category. But no more.  And for our purposes today, we shall only concern ourselves with bad lyrics. Specifically, the sort of bad lyric which somehow turns into a little nugget of memorable badness my brain insists on carting around at all times, such that when a song comes on containing one of those nuggets I’m obligated to listen to it.

Marvin Gaye

One order of Special Sincere Seventies Lovin', comin' right up

You wouldn’t think there’d be a bad lyric nugget in a Marvin Gaye song. I love Marvin Gaye. He gave us “What’s Going On’ and “Mercy, Mercy Me” and seemingly hundreds of other timeless classics. He also gave us “Let’s Get it On.” Now, don’t get me wrong. I think “Let’s Get it On” is pretty fanglorious. It’s just this little nugget right here:

I ain’t gonna worry, I ain’t gonna push
Won’t push you, baby

Followed immediately by:

So come on, come on, come on, come on, come on, baby
Stop beatin’ ’round the bush, hey

Here’s the thing. Maybe I’m missing something in the delivery, but to my ears Marvin Gaye delivers these back-to-back couplets without the nariest hint of irony. Is he trying to be funny? Maybe the joke’s on me. I don’t know. To me, the song is nothing so much as a paean to the special sort of sincere seventies lovin’ that went extinct in the early 80’s. There is no room for irony in special sincere seventies lovin’. It is too sincere.

On the other end of the pop music spectrum from Marvin Gaye one finds Britney Spears. Now, I’m sure her songs are chock-full of unintentionally hilarious lyrics, but there’s only one my brain has put into its special collection. It’s from the song “Circus.” By the way, am I the only person who liked “Circus?” It’s probably my favorite Britney song, and based on an informal poll amongst friends it appears I stand alone in this. In any case, halfway through “Circus” Britney treats us to this gem:

So baby, I hope that you came prepared
I run a tight ship, so beware

Britney Spears

Britney, gearing up to deliver some world class crazy eye.

Oh, Brit-Brit. Usually people who run a tight ship don’t have the courts take their estate away from them and put their father in charge of it. Making this line even better/worse is the corresponding moment in the video. Check out her eyes at the 1:54 mark. To quote my dear friend Hilary Ellis, she looks as crazy as a sh*thouse rat right there. If you will remember, Circus was Britney’s first big moment back from being bald and beating up cars with umbrellas. Why include such a mockable line complete with crazy eyes? Another one I collected from the same song:

I’m like a performer,
The dance floor is my stage

 You’re “like” a performer? Well, considering how lackluster your dancing is in the video and the fact you don’t actually sing, perhaps the line is perfectly apt.

Alligator Babies!

Look at how cute this is! It's a She-Gator protectin' her young! And look how proud she is! ADORABLE!

Now for something completely different. While Marvin’s lyrics puzzle me and Britney’s make me laugh, this next song has a special magic for unleashing waves of wrath. “Free Bird,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lynyrd Skynyrd. I know every word to “All I Can Do is Write About It.” It was on the radio yesterday, a rare occurrence even here in the Deep South. I was filled with glee as I sang along to, “did you ever see a she-gator protect her young?” and “do you like to see a youngin’ with his dog?” I mean, are those not the BEST LINES EVER? I challenge anyone to find a better lyric than, “did you ever see a she-gator protect her young?” It’s an impossible challenge, because there IS NO better lyric than, “did you ever see a she-gator protect her young?” If you are unfamiliar with this song, enlighten yourself to the awesome. Don’t say I never did nuthin’ fer ya.

Anyway, awesomeness of Lynyrd Skynyrd aside, there is the unawesomeness of Lynyrd Skynyrd to consider. This unawesomeness is wholly contained within the karaoke classic known as Free Bird. Or Freebird. However you spell it, it still contains this:

But please don’t take it badly,
‘Cause Lord knows I’m to blame.
But, if I stayed here with you girl,
Things just couldn’t be the same.
Cause I’m as free as a bird now,
And this bird you’ll never change.
 

In case you’ve been living under a rock, and don’t know the beginning of Free Bird, he’s just told her he must be traveling on now, because there are too many places he needs to see. If he stayed there with her, it just wouldn’t be the same, because, essentially, he is over her and is ready to score some new, fresh chick that he will then similarly leave, once it is again time for him to be traveling on now, so that he might yet again see new places and score yet another new chick. He then offers the ameliorating statement that it has been a sweet love, but he can’t change his feelings about wanting to be traveling on now, seeing new places and scorning new chicks. (Ha! That was supposed to be “scoring” but some typos are too perfect to fix.)

As you can see, he is basically making an announcement of his douchebaggeryness, an announcement I hope would be greeted by the girl in question with the following: Although I am sorry I have wasted X amount of my life on you, thanks for the heads up. I will waste no further time, but I’ll be happy to pack your things into a cardboard box I found in the garage that reeks of something unidentifiable. Perhaps the neighborhood tomcat has been marking his territory. In any case, you will find all of your things in said cardboard box located on my front porch. Good luck with your traveling on now. I hope you don’t die in a fiery plane crash or anything.

But before the girl gets a chance to say any of these things, he says this:

But please don’t take it badly,
‘Cause Lord knows I’m to blame.

At which point the girl must abandon her planned, tactful response and go with a more forceful retort, stating that she is not, in fact, taking it badly, rather, the look on her face he has confused for taking it badly is the face she makes when she is trying to be nice to a guy who has just made an announcement of his douchebaggeryness, and while she was going to wish him good luck with his traveling on now, she has changed her mind and hopes he will die in a fiery plane crash.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Lynyrd Skynyrd accumulated the negative karma that resulted in their deaths in a fiery plane crash.

Shaping Young Minds

The seventh grade was a good year for me. Or so I thought. It had a notorious reputation, as you left the safe haven of the elementary and entered the dangerous world of lockers and sevy hating eighth graders. As I received my yearbook my feeling was I had escaped the curse of the seventh grade. I was heading into summer with friends and a staff of teachers who liked me. This assessment was not correct.

Mrs. Ladwig, my math teacher, wrote the following in my yearbook:

Carrie – Should I write what is true or should I make you feel good? No, really, you are more capable but you are very charming. Remember, mediocrity is for gas station attendants. See you next year, E. Ladwig

Somehow, the “you are very charming” part doesn’t feel like an actual compliment in this context, but maybe that’s just me. Mrs. Polley wrote this:

Carrie – Have a good summer + do the best you can do next year…for a change! Mrs. P.

 In my defense, I have no memory of slacking off in that class. There was very little in the way of opportunity for class clownery or the various other forms of performance art I favored. It was first period and I do remember being sleepy a lot. Mr. Johnson, known universally as KJ, wrote this:

Carrie – Somedays, grrrr! Best wishes, KJ

Now, I do fondly remember an occasion wherein KJ began bragging about cheating on his taxes. As soon as he lit into this lecture I raised my hand high and kept it there while he boasted about how smart he was and how dumb the IRS was. Finally, annoyed, he called on me. “Do you have something to add to the conversation, Carrie?” I responded simply: “My dad is a special agent with the IRS.” Which was true, btw. Somedays, grrr, indeed, KJ. Somedays, grrr, indeed.

Mrs. Giles

The incomparable Mrs. Giles.

After this, I got wise and stopped asking teachers to sign my annual. With one exception. Caroline Giles had been my science teacher. I knew at the time it was a special learning experience. What I didn’t know was that it would never be surpassed. Mrs. Giles was a profoundly gifted teacher and when we ate up the curriculum she kept going. At no point in my science education did I come to a class that was anything more than a review of what Mrs. Giles had taught us–in the 7th grade. One day she came to class dressed as Mrs. Mitochondria. She also appreciated performance art. Under Mrs. Giles tutelage we instituted a recycling program at our school, despite the school’s odd reluctance. We formed a Science Club and went to elementary schools and performed experiments (more performance art!). We memorized the Periodic Table of Elements. I named a stuffed dog I got for my birthday Dmitri Mendeleev. To this day I remember, “Na, I don’t want any salt,” and “A! U! You took my gold!” We had a stupid little phrase for every element. And they worked. (Obviously.) Mrs. Giles gave me my favorite assignment of all time. We were to create a fictional animal that made evolutionary sense. My creation was an amalgmation of hippo and whale characteristics that lived in the Amazon 30,000 years ago. Hippo-shaped, it had the whale-like trait of sifting out smaller animals through its peculiar jaws and eating them en masse. Years later, I was gratified by the discovery that hippos and whales are in fact close cousins . Mrs. Giles and I were way ahead of them.

Mrs. Giles did not stay long at Cascade Junior High. Only one year. She went back to where she came from – teaching teachers as a college professor. Although she was very professional about it, I could tell she was ostracized by the rest of the staff. They didn’t like her recycling campaign, they didn’t like her Mrs. Mitochondria costume, or the fact our classroom was always so loud. She had to start keeping the door shut. I knew she was glad to leave when she did. This is what she wrote in my yearbook:

Carrie – You’re a great thinker and you have fabulous ideas! I’ll really miss you, but if you become a teacher I might see you again. Mrs. Giles

A simple message, but one that meant a lot.

The Battle of France

The Great Flu of 1918 2010 struck Sunday morning, not long after I’d eaten a bowl of Fiber One. I fear I will never enjoy you again, Fiber One. No, you were not the primary culprit in my suffering, but you were an accessory to the crime. The surprise attack came, as most surprise attacks do, without warning. After the initial volley I was able to fire off a few emergency e-mails. “TO KOURTNEY. STOP. WE ARE UNDER ATTACK. STOP. WILL NOT BE ABLE TO TAKE KIDS TO SCHOOL. STOP.” I wrote a blog post about Lindsey Vonn under a bizarre nausea haze, but before I could proofread and hit publish, I was under siege. I knew that this was no measely 24 hour bug thanks to the person who had given me this gift. (Looking at you, DEB.) She had already given me the lowdown on the progression of hostilities. I knew I was to be France, and Germany (ha! Get it? GERMany?)  was about to have its way with me.

The liberation of Paris

The Liberation of Paris

After the blitzkrieg was launched in earnest Evan found me on the bathroom floor, unseeing eyes staring at the ceiling, gurgling. If I had been 27 and a revolutionary rock god that surely would have been the end of me, but luckily I am a small town 33 year old, so I was safe from death by choking on my own vomit.  For my part, I came to like so: “Why is my bed so hard? My back already hurts. The bed shouldn’t be so hard. Why is the ceiling different?” And then Evan saying, “are you seeing me now?” I was, and I remembered I was at war.

I passed out again, and again, and made another suicide attempt via taking a nosedive into the pedestal sink. (I still have a nice goose egg on my skull on account of that little manuever.) I had no defenses worth mentioning. Sure, I had looked healthy, but that apparent health was nothing but a Maginot Line, something the enemy forces simply went around, with their Panzer tanks of destruction and doom. Soon enough they were in Paris, and I was left an incoherent muttering mess, unable to say words, let alone complete sentences.

The occupation was long and sad and dreary. And actually, it’s not even really over. But I know the Allies are coming. Rumors have been spreading. I can hear them even now. They will bring with them the ability to eat hamburgers and chocolate and all will be good again. Godspeed, boys, Godspeed.

Some Notes on the Olympics

Johnny Weir

The understated elegance that is Johnny Weir.

Until Johnny Weir shows up (hopefully with feathers!) this Olympics does not have much to offer me. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching. I have. But with a certain emotional detachment. A certain ennui, if you will. This doesn’t mean I don’t have comments to make. I do.

If I may begin with the adorable figure skating pair from China. Zhao and Shen’s epic tale of hard work, loyalty, and passion for their sport reminds us that these traits are universally lauded, that no one country can claim jurisdiction over integrity and love. These beautiful qualities belong to us all. Which sucks. Remember when Katarina Witt chilled us to our very bones with her dark East German beauty? When she went toe to toe with our little Americans, scrappy, tough, running on instinct and heart alone. Not privy to the Communist war machine of an athletics program that East Germany boasted, they were instant underdogs. And sure, maybe the word on the street was that Rosalynn Sumners was a brat (that piece of 1984 gossip delivered hot and fresh from the Auburn, WA rumor mill) and yeah, that Debi Thomas was a punk, and, yes, in later interviews Katarina Witt did come off as a delightful human being, BUT – the point is – SHE WAS THE BAD GUY AND YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO ROOT AGAINST HER!*

Katarina Witt

Watch out Poland. She's coming for you.

My further point is this – the Olympics were more fun carved into Cold War blocs. Our Americans weren’t just trying to complete a triple toe loop, they were completing a triple toe loop FOR FREEDOM. These days, it feels like they’re doing a triple toe loop for the sake of a triple toe loop. Which is fine, I guess. But I’m not going to get all cappy about it. Meanwhile, NBC programming is forcing me to get all mushy over a couple of Red Chinese exemplifying all that is best in both humanity and sport. At least they beat the Russians.

In other American Olympics news, what in the H. E. double hockey sticks (See what I did there? Hockey sticks? Winter Olympics?) are our snowboard cross riders wearing? JEANS? REALLY? FREAKING BLUE JEANS? Each with identical patterns of faux holes and faux wear and tear? Now THIS makes me get all CAPPY. Note that every other nation has the decency to put their snowboarders in that, you know, snow time material. (Whatever. I live in the South. I don’t know what it’s called.) Snow time material  (which our mogul snowboarders wear) has the decency of offering color saturation and professional sheen. Is that so much to ask for at the Olympics? We Americans might like to think of ourselves as scrappy, but must we be so literal about it? Oh America, it is moments like this that make me think you’ve jumped the shark.

Snowboarder

Keep it classy, America.

At least there’s still Weir to come.

*Just because you were supposed to root against Katarina Witt did not mean that I did. In one of my many clashes with Mrs. Stanley, First Grade Teacher, she shared with the class a newspaper clipping of Rosalynn Sumners. I had heard that Rosalynn had been mean to a friend of my sister’s, and so I did not like her. Not at all. Mrs. Stanley informed us we should root for her because she was the hometown girl. This, to me, felt like propaganda. Not only was I being told how to think, I didn’t agree with the message. I raised my hand and told Mrs. Stanley I would not be rooting for Rosalynn Sumners in her epic showdown on ice with the East German juggernaut. Judging by Mrs. Stanley’s reaction to this news it’s possible she reported me to the CIA as a likely participant in UnAmerican Activities.

Gypsy Woman

swords

This is what I stole from Ana-Lisa. Sorry, Ana.

Telling fortunes is a tricky business.

I grew up in a fortune telling sort of house. My mom read palms and my Granny had a thing for prophecy. I was born on Halloween. I was into ghosts and all things paranormal. Still am. And so when my friend Ana opened her bridal shower gift from Christy, a deck of tarot cards, I, Gollum-like, wanted them. When Ana was mildly spooked by the cards, I offered to take them home for safekeeping. Ring-like, they stayed with me.

Hundreds of readings later that tarot deck is now soft and worn. It represents many things to me. It has meant money. I used to pick up gigs in L.A., reading fortunes at parties. It has meant special treatment. I would sometimes hide in the break room at work, reading the manager’s fortunes instead of doing my job.  It has meant tedium. If you are at a party and you’re reading tarot, you can sit there until the cows come home.

But more than anything else, those cards represent an instant connection to people, often strangers. Your psychiatrist, doctor, or accountant may hear about your troubles, health, or finances, but your tarot reader hears all three. The cards are a vehicle of knowing, offering an unbettered short cut to intimacy. You would think that I learn a lot about people, reading their cards, but I do not. I do not remember 99% of readings. Even those I do remember are fairly meaningless to me.  It’s the person on other side of the table who finds it memorable. That said, I have learned a lot about people reading their cards. I have learned most people have a deeply held desire to be known, and that most people feel unknown. And so when they pick their cards, and I tell them the unique story their cards write, they feel I know them. And in a way, I do. I have a long held disdain for the sentiment that we should celebrate diversity. It is our commonalities that bring us together, they are the ties that bind, not our differences. Heartache is heartache is heartache, regardless of cause or color.

I have had many incarnations as a fortune teller. Including one in which I dressed up like a gypsy complete with Cher wig, blue eye shadow, dangling coin belt and wench bustier with peasant blouse. It was even hotter than you’re imagining. I did this two times, for our equestrian center’s Halloween party. What better way to spend your birthday than hanging out in a horse stall reading tarot in the freezing cold for hours on end, after having spent the previous 12 hours scrubbing said stalls until they were clean enough for surgery? There is no better way, my friends.

And so it was during the second such Halloween party, in my third hour of tarot reading, that my most memorable reading occurred. A girl came in, a member of the kitchen staff. She was young, blonde, pretty. Nervous. Her accent was deep South Carolina Blue Ridge. She was the sort of person who trusts. I could tell she was scared of the tarot cards, and I assured her no black magic was involved. I told her my theory, that tarot offered an interesting way of meditating on a problem. A card may spark you to look at an old situation in a new way.

She then selected her fifteen cards.

Whenever a reading is not just bad, but painfully, horribly bad, the kind of bad that is unsalvageable, I find myself going, “ha ha! Yeah… you know this is just a stupid parlor trick, right?” before launching into the reading. In this girl’s case, the cards screamed: YOU ARE IN A BAD RELATIONSHIP WITH A BAD MAN AND HE WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE.

thumbs up

Yes, creating traumatic memories gets a thumbs up, gypsy lady.

But she looks so young, surely this is some newly acquired boyfriend. No, she tells me she just got engaged. She’s about to move out of state with him. “Ha ha!” says I, “you know this is just a stupid parlor trick, right?”

For the rest of the night, as we all cleaned up after the party, I kept finding her off in a corner, despondent. “Ha ha!” I said repeatedly, “stupid parlor trick! Stupid parlor trick! It means nothing!” She looked unconvinced, but two weeks later she left South Carolina for parts unknown. Time went on and I left that job, staying in touch with some who still worked there. More than a year later I was speaking to one of the gals who worked in the kitchen. She asked me if I remembered the young girl. It took a few promptings, but I did. “She called to see if she could have her job back,” the woman told me, adding the girl had choked up several times during the conversation. Her husband had turned out to be a very bad man who tried to ruin her life. Apparently, the first thing the girl said was, “that gypsy woman was right!”

And so this girl will be a believer. She will forever associate the tarot with a marriage gone horribly wrong. And I shall live on in infamy in that poor woman’s memory as the gypsy woman who was right. Awesome.