Saturday, October 6, 2007

His Name was Slim Jim and He Looked and Smelled Like Beef Jerky

The following is an old email that I sent to friends after I moved back to the South in 2006. I was suffering from culture shock and missed my pals badly. This was sent out on 13 August.

I realize that this past weekend in G-town was an oddity in that there was more than one thing to choose from for entertainment. We had our first tax-free weekend to encourage shoppers to get out and spend some major dough (you remember my first experience with a tax-free weekend was when I lived in New York and worked at Lerner—all I can remember from that weekend was the night-sweats and the distant sound of a cash register opening and closing). Second, there was the World’s Longest Yard Sale, which, you know as well as I, should be called the World’s Crappiest Crapsale. Third, we had the opening of Will Farrell’s The Legend of Ricky Bobby, which has caused more fuss than a Southern Baptist accidentally walking into Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ. I think the movie looks hilariously close to the way things really are at Talladega. But, since I’ve never been there, I have to rely on what everyone else claims. Last,we had the Annual Boy’s and Girl’s Club Rodeo, which is where I was found, see’n as I had so much fun at Colorado’s Annual Stockshow and Rodeo in January. I was looking forward to the smell of hay and poop. That evening…Ed "Dry Wall" Jackson, my friend’s father, is leading us in our rodeo recon. He is called Dry Wall because he poses as Stonewall Jackson in the Civil War Reenactments he takes part in.

As my friends and I enter the rodeo gate, we hear some program hawkers saying that if you purchase a program, you have a chance of winning a Dodge Ram pickup truck. The thought, “I’ve been gambling throughout my life, so why not.” I purchase a program, look at the stamped number on the front and immediately joke with my friends, “I wouldn’t drive the gas-guzzling thing if I won it,” and walk on to look at the tiny, toddler-sized spurs and no-fail plastic lariats for sale.Once we move to the top of the grandstand, the announcer begins rattling off sponsor names and banal jokes, and the more he speaks, the more he sounds familiar. Who can this old guy with a slurringly loud voice remind me of? Just then, another friend leans over and asks me, “Have you ever seen Will Farrell do Harry Caray?” It clicks. Of course. I can’t stop giggling to myself (I have so many private moments in public now). It’s true, he does sound like Harry Caray. He sounds like Harry Caray all the way until he calls out the numbers of the 13 lucky contestants in the “Roll the Dice, Win a Dodge” contest. And guess whose number he calls? And you know how excited I get when it comes to game playing. And throw in a crowd of several hundred people and at least 40 or so odd barnyard animals to watch, and I’m really excited. As I sign my name, give a blood sample and promise not to sue anyone should I not win, I notice a guy beside me who’s also one of the“lucky 13.” He’s sweatin’ and shiftin’ his feet and I think I see a little bit of foamy drool out of the corner of one side of his mouth. I ask him if he’s okay. He can’t answer. He just licks his lips, swallows and keeps shiftin’ his feet. He continues this way for the next half hour, while we wait for intermission. The rules of the game are to roll five foam dice to spell the word DODGE. Contestants have two chances on the first go to roll a D, and possibly an O. Then, you get to the back of the line and have one more shot after everyone else. I’m standing alone, digesting the rules of the game, still thinking that I wouldn’t drive the truck if I had it. I’m cool. Then my friend Hilary comes down out of the stands to check on me and give me some encouragement. She’s like, “Would you ever have thought six months ago you’d be standing here in this spot?” No. And then she’s telling me how great it would be for me to win, cause I could sell the truck and make a down payment on a house, and how I have as much of a chance of anyone else does of winning (the odds are 1/8000, which were stated in the fine-print of the rules packet Dodge gave us contestants to read—I may not be good with math, but I know when the odds aren’t in my favor)...I’m calm up until that moment. Then I begin balling my fists and kicking out at my imaginary fellow contestants (who had, thanks to Hilary, become my enemies), saying things like, “You bet I could win! I got just as much a chance as…those other mother f@%#ers are gonna win my foot up their a$$, is what they’re gonna win!!!” Hilary eyes me with one eyebrow up. She looks around at all the families with little children, local business owners, church ladies and livestock and decides to not try to encourage me anymore. She wishes me luck as she’s backing away.

When we are called to que up for the game, I notice the drool-guy again. This time he looks as if he’s experiencing shortness of breath. Again, I ask, “Are you okay, do you think you’re gonna make it?” He finally answers with a bobbing nod of his head and stutters out, with pauses in between words, “I…think…I….got….two…..chances, okay.” I just nod back as if I understand, and say, “You’re a bit nervous, aren’t you?” He nods “yes” and stops shiftin’ his feet all of a sudden, standing so still. I begin worrying about whether or not he’s gonna lock his knees and go over like a bride’s maid at a wedding, but then I am starting to worry about what my friends are going to do when it’s my turn to throw the dice. Are they gonna yell, “You throw like a girl!” or “Bed wetter!” They shouldn’t yell the latter, as I haven’t told them much about my childhood yet, and certainly not that little fact, and some things should remain private. And of course, I’m already thinking about how I should throw the dice. Granny shot it, and live with the consequences? Or, should I throw like a girl, because I am a girl? I do neither. When my glorious moment comes, with friends shoutin’ what may be obscenities at me from the grandstand, I blow on the small, bowling-ball-sized die as if I were in a glittering Las Vegas casino and throw with a technique akin to pitching/bowling/skeet-shooting? and actually roll a D. Since I’m the first contestant to do so, and possibly because of my patently impressive and effective throwing style, the crowd roars (only in my head; although my friends are now defensively and deeply yelling “YOUGOTIT” Jersey-style). I feel magnificent and invincible. I’m going to win a cute red Dodgetruck. A redhead in a red truck. And even though I don’t plan on keeping it, I may drive it around for a week or so just to be seen in it, before I sell it to make a down payment on a house in this very neighborhood, so I can be close to the fairgrounds where I won my new, red Dodge truck. I’ll tell the story of how I won the truck that I sold to make the down payment on this very house with the beautiful cool porch upon which we are now sitting…And then it’s over. No one wins. Imagine that. With such craptacular odds, too. But, I have a hellofa good time that night. And three days later, the master cylinder goes out on my clutch and I have a choice of Mom’s white van or Dad’s red Dodge truck.

So I’m driving to the CCA in Dad's red truck, thinking about how great it would have been to have won that truck…

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