Clogging for Jesus and Little Elvis...

This is me and Marti indulging in our passion...Clogging.

For the unenlightened, clogging is kind of like southern tap-dancing and it's usually done to bluegrass music, although it can be done to just about anything as long as it's got a lively beat. Clogging's kissing kin to Irish Step Dancing.

I got started on this peculiar hobby when my marriage was taking a turn for the worse and I needed a life. Sad but true, this is the only life I could find that both piqued my interest and didn't cost an arm and a leg to learn.

I was thrilled with the idea but also terrified when I started. I mean, I can't dance. I can't even walk and chew gum unassisted...Still I showed up that first night and that's how I met Kenny.

Kenny could teach a brick to dance. And he did...much to my total amazement. Big Kenny's the guy in the picture below standing on the back right, hands on hips, watching the team dance at my house. I'm there on the front row left. I know it's not a pretty picture...but if I don't share my little life traumas how will I ever let them go?

Sometimes, under the influence of Margaritas, we just bust loose in Marti's kitchen. That's how we can tell if we're still sober or not...If we do a routine without messing up or falling down, we're not drunk yet.

Sometimes we all ride out to Brown's Barn on Saturday night. We love to go out there because the local farmers who host the entertainment are all in their 90s and refer to us as the "pretty clogger girls." Do you know how long it's been since I was called a girl?

Marti and I dance to whatever the band's playing...that is, assuming they're not top-heavy with ballad singers like Little Elvis:

Little Elvis wears a black, combed yarn wig, a white denim jumpsuit studded with huge fake jewels, a faux-leather, rhinestone-encrusted wrestling championship belt he found at Goodwill and a white cape lined in red satin.

He believes he is Elvis. "I ain't never worked a day in my life," he tells me proudly. "If I need more money than music's bringin' in, I just go pick up cans along Highway 29."

He arrives with his wife, Baby. Baby goes 5'7" and 250lbs, all packed into size 10 red polyester stretch pants. One day she'll have enough in cans to buy teeth, but for now she's gummin' it. Still, Baby always has a smile for a stranger, along with a Little Elvis trading card.

One night, when Pretty Amy the Clogger came out to the Barn with us, Elvis gave the three of us big rhinestone rings. Then, perhaps feeling a tad guilty, he walked up on stage and dedicated "Love Me Tender" to "The love of my life...Baby..." He pointed her out as if there was anyone who didn't know her by this time and she smiled back at him with a delighted, cockeyed grin.

It's sweet to find true love still alive and flourishing.

Of course, I've had my own magic moments out at the Barn.

One night a guy I hardly ever get to see, Harvey from England, came with us. Harvey is a small, wiry fellow with huge, soulful eyes. On this particular evening he'd been up two days straight studying for finals at the School of the Arts. He was ready for a good time, remembered my tales of the barn in the middle of nowhere and decided this was the night to take me up on my promise to show it to him.

He was itching for a party.

And can you believe Harvey had never even heard of Wild Turkey?

He took the bottle, stared at it curiously, then poured himself about 3 inches worth. Before we could warn him, prepare him, caution him or at least slow him down, Harvey drank it-without pause or hesitation.

Of course, he about choked to death.

"What the hell was that?" he asked.

We told him and then found out he hadn't eaten in two days either. Harvey is younger than us. He lacks survival seasoning.

Marti and I have had a few shots, but not on empty stomachs. So when our designated driver, Marti's husband, drove us out to the barn, we felt no pain. Harvey seemed none the worse for his half-glass of straight bourbon and in fact, seemed almost sober. He was talking about doing a documentary on the barn. He was definitely excited about soaking up southern culture.

This seemed like a harmless, worthwhile thing to do...take Harvey to see The Barn.

I forget sometimes that Harvey's an actor. He's just blends in with his surroundings and I don't realize he's up to anything until it's too late.

After I'd danced with Marti awhile, I thought maybe I'd better go check on him. I didn't want him to think we'd just brought him and dumped him.

I shouldn't have worried. I find him standing in the center of a circle of old men, jabbering away. When he spots me, he pulls me close and begins introducing me as his sister. He says we used to sing together and would just love the opportunity to sing with the band. He says all of this without one trace of his British accent. In fact, he sounds every bit as southern and country as any of the folks standing around him.

I give Harvey the eye, the same eye I give the kids when I want them to know I'm going to kill them if they don't knock off whatever it is they're doing. "Now, Harvey," I say. "You know we cain't do nuthin' like that!" I say this in my very best southern accent. "I ain't sung a lick since Daddy died. I just cain't bring myself to...After all, he died in the pulpit. Singing the old songs just makes me relive that awful day."

Harvey gives me an admiring glance. I'm in too deep to turn back now.

Harvey is one with his redneck entourage. They hang together like long lost brothers. Harvey and his fan club insist and before I realize what we're doing, he's pushed me into a shed and we're rehearsing, well, I'm rehearing...Harvey's faking it.

Ten minutes later I find myself marching out onto the stage with my "brother," past the bass player who is a dead ringer for Einstein. The stage lights half-blind me but not enough to blot out the shocked, delighted expression on the faces of my friends, Marti, Mertis and Gary.

I find that I am now 100% sober. I do not think this is necessarily a good thing to have happen when I am about to pretend I'm one half of a hymn singing brother and sister act.

But the band begins the intro and there's no turning back. I open my mouth and begin to sing "Where Would I Go But To The Lord."

Harvey tries to sidle away from the mike but I grab him, clutching him to my side in an absolute death grip. "You're gonna sing, you little bastard," I hiss between verses. "And you're gonna like it!"

Harvey lip-syncs.

This does not work well if you're singing a two-part harmony, but whatever. I'm stuck. Harvey looks at me with huge, puppy-dog eyes and I find myself forgiving him instantly. It doesn't matter that I am totally humiliating myself...not that I was that bad...I'm just not a duo.

The song ends and Harvey soaks up the applause. I escape off stage, behind the barn and collapse laughing against its rough brown wall. I would never have done something like this if it hadn't been for Harvey. I would never have stepped that far outside my conventional and insecure self without Harvey nudging me on.

Harvey has somehow taken our everyday fun and cranked it up a few notches. And I am not the only one who feels this way...

The old guys still ask for him every time I show up. I tell them he's in California and won't be back for a long, long time. I let a wistful expression cross my face as I slowly walk down the line, shaking their hands and kissing their grizzled cheeks on my way up onto the dance floor.

I smile to myself..."Yeah, I still miss my brother but my aim is getting better!"

Paybacks are a bitch. I'll run into him on his turf sometime and when I do, there's no telling who I'll be...

No comments: