Posts Tagged With: Elvis

The Green Grass of Home

“Green,” “lush,” and “western South Dakota prairies” are not words you’ll often find in the same sentence, unless there’s a “not” in there somewhere. This year is an exception.

We’ve had thunderstorm after thunderstorm this spring and early summer. Every little stock dam is full to the brim, every little creek and gully has flowing water, and the pastures are thick with rich green grass that ripples temptingly in the wind. It’s enough to make even someone who works at a desk and hasn’t been on a horse in decades indulge in brief wistful thoughts about going into the cow business.

Driving west a few days ago, with the long shadows of early evening showing the prairie at its loveliest, I was simultaneously enjoying the beauty of the present and indulging in thoughts about the past. My nostalgic mood came from the family reunion I had just attended, and it was further fueled by the “classic country” oldies radio station I was listening to.

Somewhere between Kadoka and Wall, a familiar song with an especially apt title came on: “Green, Green Grass of Home.”

The song is a tearjerker that starts with a man going back to his old home to see his parents and his sweetheart Mary, with her “hair of gold and lips like cherries.” Then he wakes up, in his cell on death row, and we realize the only time he’ll “touch the green, green grass of home” is when he’s buried under it. It’s the kind of song you are irresistibly drawn to sing along to, even while you hope no one catches you doing it.

Written by Claude “Curly” Putman, Jr., the song was recorded in the 1960’s by performers as diverse as Porter Wagoner, Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Joan Baez. Tom Jones’s version became an international hit.

Hearing it this week, I was instantly transported in both time and place. It sent me to 1972 and a location far removed from both green grass and anything that meant home to me: an underground railway car in London.

My then-husband and I were part of a trip to Great Britain organized by the English and drama departments at our small college. The idea was to allow students to experience the culture of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Oscar Wilde, and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Late one night, heading home from an evening at the theatre, our group got onto the tube (the subway to us) and found ourselves in a car crowded with fans heading home from a football match (a soccer game to us).

These fans were a group of Welsh guys whose team had won. They had obviously been celebrating earlier with alcohol, and now they were celebrating with song: “Green, Green Grass of Home.” Just the rousing ditty anyone would choose for an occasion that called for jollity and rejoicing.

One of the singers, spotting me standing with the rest of our group in the crowded car, staggered to his feet. He waved me to his seat with an expansive gesture that almost sent him sprawling.

It was the first time a gentleman had ever made a point of giving me his seat. So I sat. It seemed only polite, even though it felt awkward to take a seat in the middle of someone else’s drunken party. I was much too uncomfortable to join in the singing, even though I did know all the words.

After a few minutes, my husband, who had somewhat more experience with drunken young men than I did, suggested quietly but with a certain urgency that I get up. I stood, with relief, and we sidled a few feet away through the crowd.

Just in time, too. The gallant who had so graciously given up his seat threw up right in front of it. Fortunately, on his own shoes and those of his friends instead of on mine.

To this day, it only takes a few bars of “Green, Green Grass of Home” to take me right back to that London tube car. I realize the melodic voices of drunken football fans and the aroma of regurgitated ale may not be exactly the atmosphere that Curley Putman intended to evoke when he wrote the song. But I can’t help myself. Sometimes you just have to take your nostalgia where you find it.

Categories: Remembering When, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spring Cleaning, the King, and Killer Art

"Fill a wall with a really, really big piece of killer art."

This, according to a decorating article by Mary Carol Garrity that appeared in our newspaper this week, is a way to add "lots of drama and personality to a room."

I skimmed the article over breakfast, mostly because lingering over the newspaper and my second cup of tea was a good way to avoid getting to work. I wasn't looking for decorating tips, since we already did the spring cleaning for this year. It consisted of clearing several cubic feet of stuff out of the hallway closet. I also rearranged the formal living/dining room by moving the sewing machine from one side of the big front window to the other to make room for the treadmill parallel to the wall instead of facing it.

As I read further, I realized I had inadvertently followed another tip in Ms. Garrity's article: to "add a piece of eye-catching furniture." It's possible that she wouldn't think a treadmill qualifies as "furniture," but since it's the biggest thing in the room except for the piano, it certainly catches the eye.

Just as I was about to fold up the paper and head to my office, serendipity struck. I noticed an ad in the antiques and collectibles section of the classifieds for a wall hanging made in Turkey. Since my partner has spent a lot of time in Turkey and we have Turkish carpets on several of our floors and walls, I read further.

This item wasn't a carpet, but a "close up portrait of Elvis," size two feet by three. It was only $35, surely a bargain figured by the square inch.

Suddenly, the ad and the decorating article came together in a stunning moment of decorating inspiration. What would more effectively add "drama and personality" to a room than an oversized portrait of Elvis? True, it wasn't on velvet. Even with that drawback, however, it would certainly qualify as "killer art."

It would be the perfect focal point to complement the treadmill. One could commune with The King while huffing and puffing along at 4.2 miles an hour. Listening, of course, to "You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog" or "Blue Suede Shoes."

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Jessikimbrittifer Who?

It has come to my attention that I just might be a bit out of touch with popular culture. Or, as I prefer to think of it, that popular culture is out of touch with me.

The first clue was being with a group of young adults who didn't recognize the William Tell Overture by name. That part wasn't really so surprising—but what made me realize there just might be a culture gap was the fact that they didn't recognize it as the theme for The Lone Ranger.

My cultural frame of reference is narrow, out of the mainstream, and out of date—perhaps because so much of it is out of books. I grew up without television. Once, at a gathering where for some reason a group of people started singing the theme from "The Howdy Doody Show," I was the only one in the room who didn't know the words. As an adult, I've spent most of my life in a voluntary state of TV deprivation. I have never seen an episode of "Seinfeld," "The Simpsons," or "The Biggest Loser." Or "Dallas," for that matter.

Maybe that's why I don't recognize all the celebrities who feature, by first names only, in the headlines of tabloids and People magazines at the supermarket checkout stand. Who are all these people? Okay, even I have heard of Angelina and Brad and a few of the others. But the various interchangeable Jessicas, Jennifers, Brittanys, and Kims seem to have escaped my cable TV-less notice. The magazines who refer to them so casually seem to assume I ought to know. Even worse, they seem to assume I ought to care.

Once upon a time, in order to be known by only one name someone had to be really famous. Not to mention, quite often, dead. Like Plato, or Socrates, or Aristotle. Frequently they had a title or at least a clarifying description attached. Like Alexander, Peter, Catherine and all those other "the Greats." Or Attila the Hun. Jack the Ripper. Smokey the Bear.

Even Elvis, by the time he needed only one name, was "the King." Lassie, on the other hand, needed no descriptor.

Then came Cher, who dropped her last name about the same time she dropped Sonny. And Madonna. Oprah, of course. Elton John uses two names, but that doesn't count because they both sound like first names anyway.

But now it seems to take less and less fame to become a one-name celebrity. One quick scandal, a tell-all book, or a season or two on a cable channel, and there people are in the tabloids, first names only, as if we run into them every week at the grocery store. Which, come to think of it, I guess we do.

Maybe it's because fame comes and goes so quickly that we don't have time to learn their last names. Or maybe it just saves room in the tabloid headlines and takes fewer characters on Twitter.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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