Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Now Yer Messin With A …

Amazing how music finds memories in the very back recesses of your brain.

It happened to me just today.

I left the office today and marched across the parking lot to my little Sebring. It was a beautiful afternoon of full sun, so I rolled down all the windows and opened the moon roof all the way for that convertible effect.

Detroit has a great radio station, 94.7 that plays classic rock just like the play list that my favorite station in Atlanta, 96 Rock, used to play when I was a teenager in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

It was one of the best things about moving to Windsor from London. A 94.7 made me feel like a kid back in Atlanta again. To me, it's a great radio station.

As I pulled on to the expressway, an old song came on that brought back memories like only music can do.

Even songs you don't like, but still remember, will bring back great memories.

This was an old song by a band called Nazareth. In all it's crudity. The song is called "Sum ub ah Bich" (or something that might sound like that anyway…).

So at the now graying age of forty six, I turned it up real loud, put on my sunglasses and reclined the seat of the car back a bit.

"Now yer messin' with a … son of a …"

And my mind went back to when my family first moved to Georgia in 1975.

At that time we were living in Apple Valley Minnesota. South of Saint Paul – Minneapolis – just outside another small town called Rosemount.

Minnesota was – at least to me as a boy of twelve or thirteen – a very sterile and clean environment. Everyplace was well groomed. Gardens and the greenest of grass. And the people in Minnesota were very … well .. I guess "proper" is the best term that comes to mind. Boring – but sterile and proper.

My Dad received notice in the summer of 1974 that he could choose the transfer of his choice to become a regional manager for 3M company's business products division. The choices were San Diego California, and Atlanta Georgia.

Dad chose Atlanta.

Mom and Dad took a trip together to go look for our new house. And they found one in a little town I have written here about before, Lawrenceville. It was a nice subdivision, with a community co-op style club around the corner called Plantation Swim and Racket Club – or PSRC for short.

When we arrived, the culture shock was immense.

We were Canadians living in the United States as green-card-carrying landed immigrants. And in Michigan, where we lived when I was a little boy in elementary school, and then Minnesota, where we lived when I was in middle school (grades seven and eight), we fit right in. Minnesotans could easily be confused for Canadians – at least I think so.

But Georgia – well that's a whole different bowl of peach cobbler. A completely new slice of pecan pie.

The food was different. The attitudes were different. The rules were a lot more relaxed. And well, the pattern of speech was different.

I remember sitting in my very first class in the eighth grade – a trailer – a busted down trailer – with graffiti on the desks and walls – dirty and smelly – waiting amongst this strange trailer full of southern kids – all talking like a completely different language. It was English – but damned if I knew what they were saying.

"That thar's the new kid, I dun wonder where he come from?" said a pretty little girl a couple of seats ahead of me.

"Don't know, but he's kind-a funny lookin."

I guess I was pretty funny looking to them. I had a short haircut my Mom would approve of, I was short, and pudgy. I was also very pale in comparison to southerners. I was just new from Minnesota – and Minnesota wasn't really a sun tanning paradise.

"Hey kid, where y'all from?"

"I'm sorry, what did you say?" I replied.

I thought I had landed in Mayberry. I thought "all these kids couldn't really talk this way, could they?"

In came the teacher. Mrs Blylock.

"Thank God", I thought. "She'll tell these kids to stop faking their Gomer Pyle accents."

"Mornin' y'all", said Mrs. Blylock. "How was y'alls summer?"

"Oh my God", I thought, "This is real. Holy cow these people really are serious".

Every single syllable word was spread out to become two or three syllables. The pitch of their voices went up and down in a sing song manner as they practically sang their words. I wish I could write music to express it to you more effectively.

But as time went on, I adapted.

I learned that y'all meant you. And all y'all meant everyone present. I learned that yonder meant someplace over there – or thar . And dun (done) didn't mean something you completed, but just simply added action to the sentence. You didn't just do something. You dun did it.

Then I was assimilated.

And that year of eighth grade at Lilburn Middle School went along quite nice. There were big kids in my class that I looked up to, like Kirk Ewing and Damon Huston. On our street it was Bill Huseby and Mike Lefevbre. The cool guys. The big guys. The guys who weren't scared to fight. Not bully's. They were all pretty damned good guys.

After eighth grade was over, and summer was kicking in, I started playing baseball in Lawrenceville's little league and swimming for the local club PSRC. I was pretty good at both. And I also hit a growth spurt. I grew somewhere between six inches and a foot in a single month.

And now I was as big as the guys I looked up to.

And I learned what confidence felt like.

But now to get back to the point about a song bringing back memories … It was the first day of high school at Berkmar High. Waiting for the bus with my now neighborhood buddies. And the bus pulled up to let us on.

As I got on the bus, an old dilapidated version of a bus with those big green seats with the springs shot out and rips bandaged up with silver duct tape, there was something weird. The driver was a hippy looking girl probably in her early twenties. And she had … an eight track tape player … in the bus? And it was playing Rock music. Pretty heavy music.

And as I sat down in my seat, the music blared …

"Now yer messin with a … son of a …."

"So this is high school.." I thought as I sat with my buddies. "This is pretty cool".

And when I got to school, my new found height, my athletic build, and the muscles in my arms – not to mention my deep tan, was noticed. The guys I used to look up to came up to me to say "hey" – southern for hi.

And I said "hey, how y'all doin?"

And I was converted.

And on the way home from school, the hippy chick bus driver was playing her eight track tape again. And I remember thinking to myself as I sat next to a pretty neighborhood girl …

"Now yer messin with a son of a …"

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