PM Pick

Missing Walter

Valerie MacEwan

. . . I paid my stay-at-home-PTA-homeroom-chairperson-every-freakin-fieldtrip-chaperone-mother dues . . .

There are two "New Souths". The urban New South consists of an area abounding in technological advances, politically correct industries, indoor plumbing, interstate highways, and movie theaters with more than two screens. The other New South, agricultural, insular, a landscape filled with satellite dishes and double-wide trailers, dirt roads and outhouses, this is where I live.

Southern historian Clement Eaton writes, "The type of amusements that delight a people indicate the stage of their civilization." Around here folks enjoy Mud Runs, Turkey Shoots, Pig Pickin's, Collard Festivals, and parades. Christmas parades in rural North Carolina don't feature 100-foot helium balloons or pop stars standing before bleachers full of local dignitaries, belting out their favorite holiday tunes. I used to be on the Board of Directors for the local Historic Foundation and we sponsored the local Christmas parade. This is how it goes.

Usually there are over 130 entries, most of them being small children in sequined-covered leotards and white go-go boots haphazardly tossing batons in the air and hitting each other on the head while straggling behind a banner proclaiming "Grifton Shad Festival Queen and her Court", or "Terrapin Track Christian Academy Marching Crusaders". The rest of the parade is made up of antique tractors, high school bands, and the lone owner of the local newspaper in his 1954 Thunderbird convertible. It usually takes about an hour for the entire procession to wind its way down four blocks of Main Street, up two blocks on Market Street, and back toward the Railroad-Station-turned-Civic Center. It wouldn't take so long if it weren't for the antique tractors always stalling out.

For a couple years, my duty as member of the Board of Directors for the local Historic Foundation in charge of the Christmas parade, was to procure a Santa. Every Christmas parade, Santa rides in the back of a restored 1920s era fire truck. I lost that job, fell hard and flat from grace when I chose Harvey to play the part of Santa. Just nine months from his Santa experience, Harvey had already joined and resigned from the local police force. He resigned because he was indicted and convicted of molesting minors. Who'd a thunk it? He seemed nice enough. Now Harvey is currently serving a seven year prison term for his penchant for over-sexed teenage girls.

The local Kiwanis Club took over the parade this year, which freed me up for a camping trip. Good thing. I was growing bored with the same-old every year. My kids are grown and I paid my stay-at-home-PTA-homeroom-chairperson-every-freakin-fieldtrip-chaperone-mother dues, and I don't ever want to have to bake cupcakes and applaud for anyone else's child again. But I've gone to some other parades this year, out in the county. Sitting here now with a camera full of digital photos and a half-filled computer screen, as hard as I try to describe this year's Christmas parade in nearby Englehard, I just can't seem to get my mind off of Walter.

Walter's story started a long time ago, but the most recent chapter was written last weekend when my daughter's soon-to-be-ex-husband was supposed to bring her the Christmas ornaments they had stored in the grain bin down by Grandpa Charlie's house. My daughter, nervous concerning any encounters with the soon-to-be-ex, would be at work at the time of the delivery and she wanted me to be sure the ornaments were left in her carport. But a message on my answering machine relayed the information that the soon-to-be-ex wouldn't be delivering the goods, after all. Rather, his brother would be dropping them off because the rest of the family was at the hospital with Walter.

Walter, the soon-to-be-ex's cousin, was in a wreck the night before. The family doesn't talk nice about Walter, except to his face. But, come an injury, he's the cause célèbre, and everyone's got to rally to his bedside and praise Jesus. My soon-to-be-divorced daughter, a dispatcher for the hospital med-flight and ambulances, didn't realize it was an ambulance for Walter she'd dispatched the night before.

Seems Walter got himself a motorcycle and was riding down the highway minding his own business when a drunk driver pulled out in front of him. Rather than hit the car head on, Walter laid down the motorcycle. If he'd hit it head on, he'd have been killed. And he'd have escaped the accident with little more than "road rash" if he'd been riding the motorcycle wearing a little more than his bedroom slippers.

Messed up his foot real bad.

It was around the time of Walter's accident that I found myself making arrangements to help out the Shriner's for their Christmas parade in Englehard (I'd be riding along with my soon-to-be-divorced daughter, who'd be driving Bookman's pickup — the truck that pulls the lead trailer ahead of the Turtle Cars). All through the planning, I just couldn't help but think about how Walter wouldn't be at that Christmas parade. To my knowledge, he's never played Santa, but he'd a made a good one.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.