Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Thank God I'm a Middle Class Suburbanite

I was clearing my inbox of unwanted e-mail, and I discovered some buried treasure. I wrote this piece a couple of years ago. Here it is, a window into my soul:

I popped a Creedence CD into the player in the blue Chevy Cavalier, my bruised and banged up half-a-car, rusted out on the bottom like any other self-respecting redneck jalopy. Because it was cool and foggy out, I was wearing my rough flannel shirt with half the buttons missing. The shirt, the music and the car allowed me to revel in my hick soul, even though I was returning from a meeting with very respectable people in a neighborhood full of $750K homes.

Sometimes I wonder if I really am a hick at heart, or if I just like the idea of it. Just because I pull on my boots to slog around in the garden a few times a year doesn’t make me a country boy, even if, in my childhood, I did clear the chickens’ water of ice during the winter and walk up the creek in my shoes in the summers. Now I sit all day in an office surrounded by books with a secretary who sometimes brings me coffee.

As I drove home, Fogerty began “Lodi,” and by the time he got to the words “things got bad, and things got worse” I realized I had heard someone else cover the song recently. Where was that? And who? Ah yes, the fog of memory began to lift...

My brother sat at the table, guitar in his lap, longnecks lined up, some strewn on the floor, soaking the rug with alcohol--a smell that would linger even longer than the stench of roadkill. Moon pie chocolate stained the corners of his mouth as he sang: “things got bad, and things got worse...oh Lord, stuck in Green Creek again.” Between verses he would wipe his greasy hands on his tee shirt, which was too short to cover his belly, or on his blue jeans, torn at the knees. His wife, my sister-in-law, held a child (or “chillin,” as she calls them) in each arm as she swayed in a drunken stupor to the music. Pa, an old man of 76, whistled through the gap in his front teeth, and Ma, celebrating her 50th birthday (her eldest son is 36: you do the math), picked her teeth up off the table so she could sing along, too.

Though the music belongs to CCR, the lyrics are my brother’s rural Homeric attempt to describe the saga of the Wilson clan’s (his in-laws) trips to the campground at Green Creek for family reunions. Most families would choose a plush beachfront resort or an oak-shaded glen in the Midwest for this annual event, but this group caravans their 4x4s and Frankenstein’s monster domestic sedans to a muddy and mosquito-infested stretch of backcountry to drink beer, eat franks and beans, and reminisce about the time Pa Wilson’s shotgun accidentally went off at my brother’s wedding.

When the Wilsons gather their nine children (along with spouses and chillins) to meet up with the other family members, strange things happen. Bodies fall into creeks; bears carry off a week’s supply of Ho-Hos; fishing rods get stuck up in places that ought not be mentioned in polite company, and the like. My brother’s mutilation of “Lodi” describes each year’s journey to Green Creek and forever immortalizes the deeds of the Wilsons and their kin. It was this song he sung as we sat around the table in a swampside shack late into the evening.

Nothing much out of the way happened that night. It was a typical Lefty family gathering, including Ma snorting Jack Daniels out her nose when she got the giggles. Thinking about that night, I realize I am not really a hick, but merely a part of a regular, middle class family. I am only a redneck wannabe. Oh well, maybe in my next life.

“Things got bad, and things got worse, but I guess you know the tune. Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again.”

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Blogger Bre said...

Somehow, it all sounds charming... it even made me miss the South a tiiiiiny bit... not enough to go back , mind you... but a bit.

6:48 PM  

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