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Junior year in college, James Cameron and his Titanic movie took over the world. I went to see it, liked it ok, and bought the soundtrack. Now, hearing Celine Dion’s voice makes me almost have an aneurysm, but then, I really liked her*.

Of course, this was also the same time that every girl in the world was going psycho over Leo DiCaprio. Not me, though. He was a little too pale and skinny for me. (I’ve never been into emo boys, even pre-emo.) But my roommate that year, who I shall, henceforth, refer to as Best Roomie Ever** (BRE), decided that I should have a crush on Leo. Or at least that it would be HILARIOUS if I had a crush on Leo.

I would come home from class every day to a new Leo photo on the background of my computer or pictures taped to my door or desk or loft or even inside the closet. Once, she even downloaded a Leo screensaver. I didn’t discourage her because she seemed to be having fun with it, and it really was pretty hilarious.

One night, it was a weekend night and we’d been drinking, there were probably 4 or 5 of us crowded around my computer as BRE tried to find new Leo pictures. Then there was a pop-up ad that said, “Hottest Leo Pics! Click here!” So we did.

OH MY GOD, Y’ALL. That click took us to the nastiest porno site I have ever seen (not that I’ve seen a lot). We all screamed in horror and backed away from the screen. BRE was bright red and completely traumatized. (At the time, she was about the most innocent person I knew.) I made one of my more tech-savvy friends go in and delete that site from my history (I didn’t know how to yet. Come on, I’d only had the internet for 2.5 years at that point.) because I absolutely did not want to ever see that site again.

So the lesson, boys and girls, is that skinny, greasy white boys who become overnight idols are excellent bait to get innocent girls to look at horrible, awful porn.

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*Now, I highly prefer the New Found Glory and Barenaked Ladies versions of the Titanic song.

**Because she really was! We had similar habits and we were both ridiculously overly polite, which really helped us get along well. Also, she’s the only roomie I’ve ever had that I wasn’t friends with first. I think that made a huge difference.

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Did I mention that I grew up around people that mostly listened to country? Or that my first CD ever was Garth Brooks’ No Fences? Well, that kind of explains why I own this CD. It doesn’t, however, explain why it wasn’t sold off in previous purges. I guess it must have been the memories.

High school was really hard for me. I was smart, and in retrospect skinny and cute, but I had been chubby for most of elementary and middle school, so I still carried all those “fat girl” issues, even though I was no longer the “fat girl” in school. I didn’t have a lot of friends. But summer before junior year, I went to Band Camp* at the University of South Carolina. And guess what? It turned out that, at least among band campers, I was popular. I came home with tons of friends from all over the state, writing them letters (this was before most people allowed their teenagers to have email) and practically vibrating with excitement over the next time I got to see them (at the winter clinic, or football games, if they were on our schedule). The one I kept in touch with best was Freshman Roomie. Freshman Roomie was from a little town about an hour away from mine. And after seeing each other at regional band events all fall, we started hanging out independent of band functions.

Freshman Roomie was already a huge Duke fan when I met her, and her enthusiasm for Duke and its basketball program is definitely what got me interested in the school that would become my alma mater. So, when we both got accepted, it was a no brainer that we would room together, and also that we would hang out as much as possible during the summer. First on the order of summer’s business, just days after high school graduation, was a trip to Atlanta to see a Braves game. Alone.

I just knew my parents wouldn’t let me go. I mean, they never let me go to the beach (45 minutes away) for Spring Break in high school. There was no way they were letting me go to Hot-Lanta, the ATL, the biggest city around, by myself with, like, 4 other girls aged 17 to 19. No way. But, in a turn of events that remains shocking to me today, they said yes.

So, off we went, 5 teenage girls in a tiny, 2-door Beretta, on a 6-hour drive to our first adult adventure. It got boring real quick-like, let me tell you. We started confusing other drivers with the YMCA dance before 9AM. By 10:30AM, we were ready to pull over and eat the fried chicken and homemade biscuits that one girl’s mom had packed in the cooler for our lunch. Freshman Roomie liked country, and so she put in John Michael Montgomery’s CD. Now, if you didn’t listen to country around this time, you may not know this song, but “Sold: The Grundy County Auction” was quite the musical gem. And it didn’t hurt that the singer, JMM as we called him, was pretty hot, as white boys go.

So here we are, 5 girls in what has essentially become a clown car, shouting the lyrics to this song at the top of our lungs as we sped toward Georgia. I don’t know who started it, but one of us started improvising the lyrics. And suddenly, we had a whole song, sung to the tune of “Sold: The Grundy County Auction”, but it was all about Duke Basketball players. It’s really a shame that I don’t remember them, or that we didn’t preserve these lyrics for posterity, but I do remember that there was something in there about Chris Collins’ “ruby-red lips.” AWESOME. I also believe that it began, “Well I went down to Cameron Indoor Stadium and I saw something I just had to have.” Yes, we were lyrical geniuses.

The rest of the trip was more fun than I’d been allowed to have up to that point in my life. We explored the city (and got lost multiple times, because how many frickin’ Peachtree Streets are there in Atlanta). We went to the Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood (because we were young girls from rural towns, and we didn’t yet know the difference between tourist traps and cultural attractions). We took the MARTA everywhere (because in our eyes, Atlanta was the same as New York, and didn’t everyone take public transportation?). And, oh yes, there was the baseball.

Now, I am a Cubs fan, and have been all my life. At this point, I had been to 2 games at Wrigley Field, and also 1 at Fulton County Stadium (because this was also pre-Olympic Atlanta, but just barely). So I wasn’t all that interested in the baseball part of this trip, and didn’t think the actual game part would be that much fun. But all the other girls were rabid Braves fans, so we made HUGE posters with cheesy fangirl slogans and pictures on them. My favorite was one we made for Javier Lopez, which said “Javy is a Jot Jandsome Junk!” I remember that the game was incredibly fun, too, though at this point in my life I can’t imagine a baseball game without beer. And on the way out, I (literally) bumped into Halle Berry, who was still married to Dave Justice. It’s a little hard to believe that she was already fully an adult at that point, and we were so young, and now I feel so old and she looks exactly the same. Hmmm…

So much happened that summer; we were so full of innocence and hope and possibility. And those memories are inextricably tied to that JMM CD. I will never be able to hear “Sold: The Grundy County Auction” without seeing us girls packed in the car, or riding the MARTA, or making posters in the hotel room, trying to make up dance moves to go along with the new lyrics we’d made up.

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*And yes, I played the flute. And no, my band camp was nothing like the one in American Pie.

I’ve been trying to do some “spring” cleaning around my place—nevermind the fact that it’s November. So, tonight I was going through my CDs and DVDs and deciding which ones I want to sell. As I went through them, so many memories came rushing back. There are some good stories in there, and since it’s NaBloPoMo, I thought, hey, I should post about this! So welcome to the first in what will hopefully be a series of posts called “Selling Memories”, and tonight’s topic will be The Best of Tom Jones.

I am (just barely) a child of the Seventies. My parents still love to listen to the music of the Sixties and Seventies, and did so throughout my childhood. So I was aware of Tom Jones. I even pretty much knew all the words to “It’s Not Unusual” when I was in high school. (And that was really rare, considering that nearly everyone I went to school with was a fan of country.) But I didn’t really know what Tom Jones was all about until a few years later.

Every summer, my dad attends a conference for school administrators in Myrtle Beach, SC at the Kingston Plantation Resort. Kingston Plantation is super-nice, and so, even though it is only 45 minutes from my parents’ house, it was always a treat to be able to go stay with my parents in the hotel and hang out while my dad was at the conference. For many years, my brother and I had to stay at home with a babysitter for the first few days, and then a family friend would drive us down to the beach to be with our parents for the last few days. Once I got into high school and college, though, our parents would let us come down with them, and we would be left in the hotel room to order pizza and hang out with some of the other kids whose parents went off to drink wine and eat filet mignon with corporate sponsors who wanted to woo them.

Then, the summer after freshman year in college, I was working as a Charming Shark Jewelry Salesgirl (a whole other story in itself), which required me to travel around the Grand Strand area (Greater Myrtle Beach), so staying with my parents actually made my job a lot easier, and made it so that I had a lot more free time on my hands than I did most days that summer. Seeing I was bored, and sunburned, and almost an adult, my mom asked me to do something she’d never done before: go with her to the Spouses’ Brunch.* I reluctantly said yes, because I was convinced it was going to be so boring.

Oh, I was so wrong. First, I was introduced to the wonderful world of decoupage, which remains one of my favorite things to do. Second, I fell in love with Tom Jones. In Myrtle Beach, there are a lot of really hokey shows for the tourists to go and see at night. Things like the Dixie Stampede, the Carolina Opry, and Legends: In Concert. This last one features all kinds of different celebrity impersonators, from Elvis, to the Blues Brothers, to Marilyn Monroe, to—you guessed it—Tom Jones. So, the entertainment for the brunch that morning was the Tom Jones impersonator.

Oh My God. He was so dead-on Tom Jones. Skintight black pants, black shirt open halfway to his navel, that raspy-sexy voice. He burst into the room singing “What’s New, Pussycat” and flirted with every single woman in the room. Then, when he sang “Delilah”, I thought his bulging thighs were going to burst right through his pants like The Incredible Hulk—but so much hotter. He was like walking sex on a stick. I still get a little woozy when I think about it! And even better, they were giving away tickets to the Legends show for that night. To see more of this, I would have knocked over any of the 50ish ladies in the room. Alas, there was a raffle, and I didn’t win. My mom tried to make it up to me, by getting me invited to one of the corporate dinners with wine and filet, but it just wasn’t the same.

A few days later, I went right out and bought the Best of CD, and it was in my regular rotation for the rest of the summer, until I went back to college. I also forced my friends to go see Mars Attacks that fall because he was in it. And more than five years later, when I went to Vegas for the first time, I prayed I would run into Tom or at least a Tom impersonator. No such luck. But I am going back to Vegas this December, so here’s hopin’!

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*It had been called the Wives’ Brunch until a few years prior, when they got their sole male member. There weren’t many female school superintendents in South Carolina at the time, and even fewer of their spouses wanted to attend.