Category Archives: Dueling Vocal Chords

Dueling Vocal Chords

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Callie was slotted to sing first, and when the MC delayed the kickoff with several commercials, a list of thank you recipients, a couple of announcements about the food (Speaking of which, my BLT was MIA, and I was about ready to KSA if she didn’t bring me some grub sometime soon), I thought I was going to have to show those folks what a real, wild country woman can do when she’s feeling slain in the spirit. Or just really miffed. But then my Callie took the stage.

She began with “Crazy” by Patsy Cline and then knocked it out of the park with “Gunpowder and Lead.” She was brilliant and beautiful to boot, and I’ve never been more proud. Now all we had to do was wait and see what the other contestants had to offer.

I’ll freely admit that the participants who followed my girl were talented. Some in varying degrees, of course, and then there was the stage presence factor to consider, but all in all, the men and women on stage were all worthy opponents. The only aspect that caused me to roll my eyes was the attire chosen by two of the female artists. From the looks of things, they were focusing not only on the musical component, but the anatomical category as well, since they were spilling out of both ends. One brought a real level of sophistication to the ranks with a giant cross nestled between two chest boulders barely strapped to the cliff by thin strips of fabric. This new spin on Christianity gave me pause as a modified Psalm 23 sprang to mind: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of breasts, I will fear no cleavage, for thou art singing . . . A couple of twists and turns by the Daisy Duke Duo made me wince as skirts deprived of calcium during their formative years rode high, and I pitied the mothers of the boys standing beneath the stage, staring wide-eyed into their first Cinemax experience, as these moms would undoubtedly have to explain the term thong to their innocent offspring. But otherwise, the contestants were top notch, and I knew a win would be hard-earned.

The Psalms were the original songbook, after all . . .

The Psalms were the original songbook, after all . . .

 

Important for bones and fabric

Important for bones and fabric

After the last competitor left the stage, a band took over during the deliberation period of the judges, and my sandwich arrived a mere two and a half hours after I had placed the order. I split the plate with my sister, whose order never did materialize, and we watched a throng of people who had passed sober a few miles back take the dance floor. As I surveyed a man leave a table with enough empty beer bottles to give me an insider trading tip on Michelob stock, I noted his blue and orange jersey shirt along with his khaki knee length shorts, and I had to ask the age old question: how many beers does it take to get a Gator fan to do the grapevine in front of hundreds of people? I sat back, let the music flow over me, and reminded myself, “These are your people.” Then I spotted a couple in their fifties on the dance floor doing pelvic grinds, and I was once again a woman without a country.

The finale came as the winner was declared and, unfortunately, it wasn’t my Callie. But she held her head high, smiled her gorgeous smile, and let the world see a real class act.

We exited with the masses and stared out into a downpour that matched the depressing outcome. I hugged Lauren goodbye and then prepared to flee from the heartland. As I tucked my purse into the crook of my arm, I heard a voice from an older gentleman to my left.

“You run out into that mess, and you’re going to get your pretty self wet.”

Nothing like a good old boy for stating the obvious. I took a deep breath and darted into the night.

© 2013 – Traci Carver

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Fiddling Around

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Taken by my friend Lauren who is clearly the superior photographer

Taken by my friend Lauren, who is clearly the superior photographer

The location of the singing contest set the standard for redneck community. If you ever wanted to join Garth Brooks in one of his low places, just walk on in and sit yourself down at one of the red-checked tablecloths, and a waitress will be with you shortly to take your order for a plastic tub of beer. Need to know the varieties of the adult beverages we serve? Just glance at the neon signs along the plyboard walls advertising every brewery known to man. The only part of the scene that didn’t ring true for a honky-tonk tableau was the congregation of young children darting around the dance floor in support of their favorite vocalist. I mean, the clock said 7PM on a Saturday night, but just what if a Southern Baptist church had arrived twelve hours too early? Next thing you’d know, an irate group of WMU ladies would be flipping over beer tables in honor of Jesus’ famous synagogue scene right before they sanctified those yellow buckets with fried chicken.

We found a few remaining tables in front of the stage with enough seats to accommodate Callie’s fan club. We still had an hour to kill before the shindig started, and when a waitress brought a paper menu the size of a bookmark to the table, I jumped at the chance to undo my earlier sin of missing supper. Before Mom showed up on my doorstep, I had managed to cram in three fried shrimp and half a hush puppy from take out, but three crustaceans does not a hearty supper make, so I ordered a BLT with alacrity and then played musical chairs with friends and family until we got situated. My chair afforded me a great view of the stage from one side and a clear shot of the front door from the other. I needed to keep a sharp eye out for my friend Lauren who was joining me for solidarity.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to stand the anticipation for another hour,” my sister said, dragging a chair next to mine. “I’m a nervous wreck as it is.”

“She’s going to be amazing,” I replied, ignoring the fact that I felt like heaving up my toenail polish just to obtain some relief. Who said you had to birth a child in order to delve into the fields of fret and worry? My niece said she was feeling nervous, but her composed exterior and beautiful smile made a mockery of her statement.

I checked my phone in case Lauren needed last-minute directions and saw the ominous words No Signal at the top of the screen. Well, it was official. We’d crossed the line into Deliverance territory. If any of the contestants brought a banjo up on the stage, I was out of there. With my iPhone now relegated to coaster status, I knew Lauren would have to rely on the kindness of strangers if she got lost on her journey into the wilds of the South. But at 7:45 I saw her clear the door, and I went to extract her from the couple hundred people milling around.

As we made our way to the chairs, she took in the mass of humanity around her. Jeans were the attire of choice, but the rest of the patrons could be summarized with four words: tattoos and tank tops, neither gender specific. My sister and I shoved our two chairs together so Lauren could sit with our group. The neighboring table actually had a seat available, but when the 350 pound man with the greying mullet and wife beater shirt told me it was taken, I decided to take him at his word and just slide my rump over to make room for Lauren. We’re small people, but I did find myself straddling the fault line with a party in each camp. I thought it was a small sacrifice to make for my Callie.

Lauren, a professional violist and member of our local orchestra, watched a small herd of women in matching fluorescent green t-shirts and cowboy boots saunter by with bottles of Bud Lite in their hands. “You know, this is a different clientele than we normally bring in for symphony.”

“Really? You don’t say.” We laughed and she spotted a musician headed backstage carrying a blue case.

“Oh, that’s a violin! I wonder what he’s playing?”

“No telling, but down here we call that thing a fiddle.”

She turned and said, “I’m really happy you invited me to this. I grew up in South Carolina, but this is far more Deep South than I’ve ever seen.”

“Yep. You’re in the heartland now.”

Our conversation was interrupted by the MC who took the stage. It was time for the showdown.

© 2013 – Traci Carver

Amen – Ah, Women!

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As I entered the foyer on my way out of the nursing home, I encountered another resident in mid-flight. He had his wheelchair parked five feet from the door, and four nurses surrounded him. The little man in the mush pot didn’t look intimidating, but reinforcements don’t lie. I neared the circle to hear him cussing them three ways from Sunday while he jabbed a fist in the air for emphasis.

“Every damn one of you wears pants. Pants! What kind of woman wears pants? I’ve seen one woman in a dress as she should be, but the rest of you wear pants, and that’s a damn disgrace. God didn’t make women so they could put on a pair of damn pants and try to be men. You,” he said, leaning forward and pointing a gnarled finger at the closest person in scrubs, “should be ashamed of yourself.”

I skirted the edge of this good time assembly and tried to make it to the door. One of the nurses stood in front of my exit and shook her head.

“It’s no use. He’s wearing a lockdown anklet, and until we can get him more than ten feet from the door, the lock won’t release.”

Fantastic. More good news. I looked at the little guy in the red cap spewing forth sermons with a healthy seasoning of salty language. He seemed to have enough righteous indignation to carry him for at least another half hour, and he had just turned his gaze on another feminine miscreant in his circle.

“You know what the problem is with all you damn women? You think you’re men! You want to wear pants so you can be in charge and play the man. I’ve heard about what’s going on in the world. Women are going with both men and women these days. They can’t make up their minds. And I tell you one thing, as long as they’re wearing pants and turning their damn backs on their role as a woman, they’re going to stay confused!”

The nurse closest to him stood with hands on her hips, but her voice was as calm as bath water as she replied, “Ok. Think you can roll away from the door so this lady can leave?”

He swung his gaze my way, and I braced myself for the verbal bashing that was bound to ensue over her misuse of the term lady. After all, I was wearing a pair of damn blue jeans and obviously in defiance of every law God had decreed for my gender. I have always considered myself a heterosexual and never thought to revisit this issue, but given the evils this bipedal denim was wreaking on my soul, perhaps I was sending the wrong signals to my target audience. After all, men in their 90’s sure didn’t seem to appreciate my choice of attire. I should probably go home and reevaluate both my life goals and wardrobe.

A small sample of the many evils in my dresser; it's a wonder my life isn't a real wreck

A small sample of the many evils in my dresser; it’s a wonder my life isn’t a real wreck

Thankfully, one of the staff members was able to scoot him far enough away from the exit to allow my escape, and I darted back through Noah’s forecast to make time for home. Next stop, country music hall.

© 2013 – Traci Carver