Not at ALL What You Thought

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Closed-Captioned for the Hearing Impaired

I don’t reckon I’m any more hearing impaired than the normal 45-year-old, but, then, I’ve listened to music At The Appropriate Level for at least thirty years. Yeah, it was gospel music, but it was loud, just the same. As soon as I understood what an equalizer was, I was fiddling with every one under my authority, and, of course, before that, fiddling with the volume, lookin for a particular, personally satisfactory sound.

I remember drivin a new friend around in Virginia, tryin to find MacArthur Mall, and shoving one of my home-made homages to Fred Hammond in the tape deck. Friend was half asleep, having planned to sleep on the way to the mall, but he quarter awoke long enough to say, “See? This is why I don’t like the new gospel: too much emphasis on preaching, and not enough on the music. I don’t hear anything but drums and bass.”

(Passing lightly over the fact that “gospel music” without the Gospel is not gospel music, but something else entirely) I have to point out (though I didn’t then) that the reason Friend heard only “drums and bass” wasn’t necessarily because Fred Hammond loves drums and bass (and, actually, I think he does), but because Friend was riding in Gine’s car, and Gine, though a vocalist by lineage and inclination, likes drumbeats and bass licks (and, we might as well admit, is attracted to drummers and bassists). So, to make a long story even longer by one clause, when it’s just the girls and me in the car or the house, the music’s LOUD.

Which may offer, in a roundabout way, one reason why, when I watch TV or a DVD, I prefer captions.

So I was watching Bishop T. D. Jakes this morning, who, if you’ve never heard of the man, is a really entertaining preacher of the Gospel to listen to, even featured once on the cover of Time, and while reading (and marveling at) his charismatic, seemingly off-the-cuff delivery of a message about the unborn babies Jesus and John the Baptist “meeting” for the first time, I noticed this: “[glossolalia]”.

And, honey, I got tickled.

See, glossolalia is a term (mostly) used by atheists/agnostics/other Protestants to describe “yet more bizarre behavior of Pentecostals.” So I got to giggling at the idea that some captioner, no doubt in the employ of The Potter’s House, working hard to be conscientious (or “manifest excellence,” as we put it) in every aspect of her job, tryin to find a nice, professional, non-churchy term for the occasion when, during the sermon, her pastor would get excited in a particular way*, going to, and, God bless her, finding glossolalia, thinking, “What a professional-sounding word!” and plugging it in the captioning every chance she got.

Okay. It is just funny to me. Never mind. Ignore this post entirely.

Lord, Jesus, my brother, a blessing, please, upon the folk who work those captions.

*No, honey. Not that way.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Nepphie's Holiday Jazz

My sister is very good at alerting (and reminding) me about important family functions. This time it was Favorite Nepphie’s Christmas concert, at a local elementary school.

“He’s singing a solo,” she said.
“Oh! Wonderful!”
“Did you hear me? He’s singing, and he can’t sing.” Some parents get stars in their eyes and ears where their children are concerned. But my sister and I, right good singers ourselves, from a short line of right good singers (Mama and her sister would’ve gotten a recording contract if Grandmama hadn’t been xenophobic), are yet not very idealistic about our own children. We see well. We hear well. We hope, but we won’t hope for longer than is reasonable. I held out some more hope for my sister.

“Maybe he’s growin into his voice,” I said.
“Nuh uh. [Auntie’s First Nepphie] could sing at that age,” she said firmly. [Favorite Nepphie] reminds me of Alfalfa when he sings.”
“Alfalfa was characterized as a crooner,” I pointed out.
“Mmmhmmm,” my sister said. She wasn’t goin for it. But I pulled out my calendar (
a really cute purple dealie I bought at Barnes and Noble, which I decided, during the last month of the year, to start carryin around) and made a note of the date.
“We’ll be right there,” I said.

And we were. Despite my jacked-up directional skills (and ignoring the fact that my sister had begged us to leave in good time because the auditorium is as small as the elementary school auditoriums everywhere), we got to the school in good time. My sister had saved seats for everybody, including my mother, whom we all knew wasn’t coming.
“You know she doesn’t drive at night,” my brother-in-law said. (Grandmama had Xenophobia by Proxy, and it manifests itself in surprising ways.) It was a small auditorium, the cafeteria, actually, and it looked like every parent, grandparent, auntie, uncle and sibling, each wielding disposable cameras, digitals, and video cams, was in attendance that night. A babble of conversation ended when the chorus filed in and stood on risers; each child was dressed in a white blouse or shirt, of various and sundry fanciness, and black pants or skirt, depending upon the gender. All kinds of fancy do’s and fresh cuts were the order of the day, as well as many versions of the Glassy-Eyed Expression.

Auntie’s Favorite Nepphie caught the eyes of his family members, grinned, and then tried to stop grinning. His chorus teacher signaled to the first child. Every song had a reading, an introduction, and at least one soloist. The first song was “Jingle Jive,” and the children sang a version of the “Christmas” song I hate most. Between “Jingle Jive” and “A Time for Peace” --AFN’s solo-- were six other songs, most written by someone named Jennings. At
$40 a “kit,” Jennings makes me consider writing children’s music instead of children’s stories. Doesn’t seem that difficult: the lyrics to “Hannukah, Hannukah” were mostly “Hannukah, Hannukah, Hannukah, Hannukah. . . .” The lyrics to “Oh, Kwanzaa” were “Oh, Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa. . . .”

Y’all think I’m kidding.

My sister began to get nervous.

“Is he nervous?” I asked.
“He said he wasn’t,” my sister said. “I hope he’s not hoarse by the time his solo comes up. Look at him. He looks like singing hurts. Pray for him.”
“Already did. He’ll be fine.”

The reading ran the gamut from quite lovely to utilitarian, as did the solos. But the Hannukah song had a dance (with four embarrassed dancers)! “Whacky Old St. Nick” (yes, arr. also by Jennings) had ten boomwhackers! Throughout the program, I wondered (at least once aloud) how the chorus teacher had gotten this kind of more or less enthusiastic participation. Bribes? Threats? This was becoming quite an exhilarating evening. (The video upon which my brother-in-law was immortalizing this milestone would be filled with the sound of his chuckles.) Finally, it was time for “A Time for Peace.” Three children had solos, and Nepphie’s was first. His voice sounded a little strained, but he was right on key and sounded. . . .sweet. It was a sweet song. My sister and I looked at each other when it was over, smiling.
“He did good,” I said.
“Yes!” We turned away and wiped tears.
“Are you crying?” Goobs, on the other side of me, asked incredulously.
“I always do, at these things.” Goobs turned to her cousin and her sister to spread the incredulity. During the last song, "We Wish You a Swinging Holiday," a song in which the entire chorus had to scat, Nepphie, relieved of his burden, away up on the top row and in the middle, danced a little bit. All by himself.

I dare you to go to a fifth-grade Christmas program and come away without the holiday spirit. I dare you.

Jesus, my brother, a blessing, please, upon elementary school teachers.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

With Apologies to Those Who Thought I was "the SANE One"

As I told one of my girlfriends, I don’t know if I’m awakened and/or frightened by the sound of my snoring, which is pretty phenomenal, really, or it’s a twilight-sleep thang, in which I’m dreaming, but actually believe that somebody is speaking to me from the shallow depths of my mattress, but I’ve decided that I have night terrors.

I guess I have to explain the mattress comment. Yes, the voice comes out of it. (And that’s all the explanation you’re gettin, honey, because that’s all I’ve got.) I’ve heard “Now, this is what we’re gonna do” and “Take a look at this” and folk knockin on the bedroom window, which is nothing to what I’ve seen. I’ve seen a man standing idly by the bed (I can describe him in detail even now because, that night, he showed up twice but did absolutely nothing interesting besides that), and various and sundry critters, including a tiny black and white cow (which turned out to be a non-mammalian, plastic gift bag), lyin around on the floor near the bed; even I think it’s hilarious when I’m awake and remembering it, but in the middle of the night, when I’m half(?)-asleep and half(?)-dreaming, it’s unutterably horrifying.

You know, back in the day, folk blamed these kinds of terrors on witches, whose pastime, inexplicably, was ridin half-asleep people in the wee hours of the morning. This I don’t understand, because unless an absolutely amazing capsheaf is forthcoming, I’d reckon ridin different and unwilling people in the wee hours of the morning (instead of sleepin, which is what I’druther) would be just. . . you know. . . awkward. Grown woman pretending a total stranger’s as good as a mechanical bull (or some other mechanism)? Awkward.

And wouldn’t no witch ride me long, either, I might’ve told you before, but sayin it again this time because of my normal reaction to night terrors: I LEAP out of bed. All the way. OUT, and then leap again, this time to my bedroom door, the better to hit the light switch. Only two leaps to the light switch, considering my girth and the distance, is pretty good, you know, and that tells you just how terrified I am at the time. My light switch is a remote, usually perched in its holder on the wall, but on nights when my imagination frightens me, I pull it down and take it to bed with me. Often with the TV remote.

One night, the night I had the really icky nightmare, I just kept the TV on all night long after I woke up. All night long. Nick at Nite, if you have to know, because, in addition to the fluffiness of the fare, the commercials are safe, too. (I’d like to, but cannot describe the near-heart attack I experienced one night when after wakin from a fitful doze, I opened my eyes upon a “Scariest Movies Ever” trailer. All because I thought Cartoon Network'd be safe. And right after, because I’d programmed it to, the TV turned itself off, and the room went black. Fortunately, my trusty light saber was on the floor by the bed at the time. Shudderworthy.)

Which brings me to the fact that my friends tell me my problem is my nightly Vinnie D. fix. (Christine's even gotten into the habit of askin, "What was the last thing you watched last night?") But I’m not givin him up, Trin, till the bios I read about him become a great deal less ambiguous, if you know what I mean. (And, Elayne, darling, this is not a challenge. Leave a sista her dr --fantasies.) I think, however, I need more exercise. Or, to be totally honest, some exercise. What with Thanksgiving break and the After-Thanksgiving Mystery Illness (you do not want to know), I’ve been missing my ellipticals (which took the place of my spinning class when pickin up Juice from band practice cut into that).

All this not sleepin and/or weird dreamin has me wonderin (yet again) about the meaning of dreams. But I still can’t say that the jury’s out on mysticality; I’m only mystical-minded when we talk about religion, thank you very much.

Gotta draw the line somewhere.

Jesus, my brother, You who neither slumber nor sleep, speak peace to the hearts of those of us who cannot rest.