Monday, September 17, 2012
...because everybody loves a good train wreck...
I really should hate it. The world doesn't need one more reason to stereotype southerners. The world doesn't need one more reality show in which the only thing real is the sheer stupidity of the subject matter. We're (collectively) dumb enough. We don't need one more thing to suck I.Q.'s right out of our skulls. Besides, there's something quite freakish about 6 and 7 year-old "beauty queens." Seriously, they make my skin crawl. I really, REALLY should hate it...and I do. The problem is, I can't quit watching it....I just can't.
As a child, I used to go with my uncle to visit an old man that lived way off in the woods somewhere in Dawson County, Georgia. I mean you drove down some dirt road for a LONG time before you came to this house that he had built with his wife back when God was a little boy. The man couldn't read a word or write his name down on a piece of paper. But we used to sit there for hours listening to him rant about everything from politics to religion to snakes to possums to women to blueberries. Yep, blueberries. The man loved blueberries almost as much as he loved his wife and he had blueberry bushes all over the place. Some of the blueberry bushes had names (I'm not making this up.) The only name I remember was the one that was planted near his well - he named it "Tina" (he pronounced it "Teener.") Before we left his house he always gave us a basket of blueberries and would tell us to "keep our nose clean." I was pretty much afraid of the old guy. One time, on the way home from one of these visits, I asked my uncle why we always went to visit this very strange person. He said "Because he's a mess, that's why." I still didn't understand. "We visit him because he's a mess?" "Yep," Uncle Ralph said, "he's a mess and it does you good to listen to a mess sometimes." I asked him why my aunt never came with us when we went to visit him. He said "She thinks he's crazy as hell and she's afraid of him." (ok, so I wasn't the only one...)
My dear Uncle Ralph spent a great deal of time broadening the horizons of this kid that lived in suburban Atlanta where most of the houses and most of the people looked just alike. I now realize how much I learned from being to exposed to people and places with which I had NOTHING in common...even when they were a mess. And now as I stare down half a century of life in this world, I'm completely and totally addicted to watching anything that's a "mess." And Lord HELP, this Honey Boo-Boo thing is a mess in every sense of the word. And it's not so much the child that's at the center of this spectacle that fascinates me..it's the backdrop against which her story is told. That extended family, that little house by the railroad tracks, the coupons, the pet pig and the suppers made up of melted butter, ketchup and "sketti." (threw up in my mouth just a little during the spaghetti episode I must admit.) It's horrific and fascinating. It's disgraceful and hilarious. It's demeaning and intriguing. And it's all on The LEARNING Channel. Wow...Uncle Ralph was right - there is something to be LEARNED from a MESS.
And when the old man with the named blueberry bushes died, he had his body cremated and his ashes sprinkled around those blueberry bushes. His widow sent a basket of the next crop of blueberries over to my aunt and uncle's house. For the first time in her life, Aunt Nell wasted food. "I threw them blueberries away! I ain't eating NOTHING that might have part of that old fool in it..."