08 March 2010

12 1992

(fyi: this may be my gangs of new york...
something on which i have lavished entirely too much time
in the attempt to say something important
without really ever saying anything important
but minus the oppressive blaring music
that says THIS IS IMPORTANT
[thus making it glaringly obvious that it really isn't.].)

let's take a wander about the past and embark upon a magical journey in the way back to the legendary year of 1992, shall we? the year- if any one can assume such an onus- responsible for the oline you all know.

lest i undermine my pre-'92 cool, let it be established that i was a pretty awesome kid. i wore scrunchies and leggings and matching skirt/shirt sets. on the playground, i hawked contraband copies of "papa don't preach" and was reprimanded for telling missy dean to "shut up." i was also seriously dabbling in tom tierney presidential paper dolls.

then came 1992. aside from a briefly traumatic episode in which lewis abercrombie made fun of the romper my mother had made me the first time i wore it, calling me "caroline clown pants" for the remainder of the school term though i never wore it again, 1992 rocked. it was the camelot of my '90s. it was DEFINITIVE. and its definitivity can be boiled down to three specific, equally impactful, events: the albertville winter olympic games, the georgia public television muscular dystrophy telethon airing of the making of a legend: gone with the wind, and the bill bixby-hosted television events- the elvis files and the elvis conspiracy.

so what we learn here is that when people say tv doesn't affect children, those people don't know shit.

let's begin with albertville. aside from the rather extraordinary profiling NBC did to establish evgeni plushenko as the once and future communist, these just past winter olympics offered us nowhere near the drama of 1992, when we not only had kristy yamaguchi's club feet but also nancy kerrigan's blind mother. i won't even attempt to describe the impact of the coca-cola commercial that so touched me that, using my father's dictaphone, i recorded it from the tv so i could play it on the boombox beside my bed each night before falling asleep.

i did not have clubbed feet and my mother was not blind, but by God, i would skate.

(sidenote: the figure skating costumes of 1992 did, to a degree, ease the clown pants problem in that they shifted my fashion sensibilities to the opposite end of the sartorial spectrum- establishing a concept of beauty that prized short skirts, a consumptive pallor and the abundant deployment of nude mesh.)

this bloated faith in my own abilities- never mind the lack of skates, ice, and talent- would make 1992 the year i sustained more physical injury than any other year of my life. it was also, consequently, the year i told my first big lie to my parents and, because in the haste of having to dress onesself and create a plausible situation in which one might have broken one's arm all while attempting to keep one's bones inside one's arm one seldom has the wherewithal to think through a lie, it would also be the year i was repeatedly forced to answer the question: "but caroline, how did you fall going UP the stairs???" thus, driving home the great truth that when you are a young girl who embarrasses easily, it is best to avoid mimed figure skating in socked feet.

you can imagine my parents' relief when my attentions turned to acting- a switch betrayed only through the cessation of leaps and bangs and broken bones behind the closed guest bedroom door. i flatter myself they did not know what i was doing, only that i was doing something slightly less embarrassing and blessedly more quiet than whatever it was i had been doing before.

my star turn as vivien leigh as scarlett o'hara during the many-months-long run of that dramatic masterpiece- the making of a legend: gone with the wind: the reenactment- certainly required far less medical attention, being as it was largely comprised of swooning on settees and downing tang- the only acceptable substitute i could find for what i did not yet know was brandy.

i should clarify that i was not merely reenacting scenes from the movie gone with the wind, but reenacting scenes from the documentary about the making of the movie gone with the wind. so screen tests, still photos, home movies and such all performed in an antebellum ensemble crafted from one of my mother's polyester nightgowns with a hula hoop sewn into the hem. this was no easy task. it was an intricate homage that required great dexterity and exceptional facial control lest my audience (usually comprised of a cat and the dead relative portraits that lined the bedroom walls) forget they were watching a staging of a staging of various elements that ultimately led to the real thing.

i would like to pause a moment here so that we might all marvel at how hard it is to be a little girl. because it is hard to be a little girl. especially one who felt one's childhood was squandered because it did not allow for stardom in gone with the wind on ice.

that is not an excuse, i swear. and i'm not going to go so far as to make the incendiary assertion that the denial of my inevitable antebellum icecapade glory directly contributed to what happened next. i'm just saying that it is hard to be a little girl. and that maybe that makes little girls especially susceptible to exceedingly stupid things. and that makes it therefore kind of sort of plausible that had i gone on to live the life i was meant to lead as oline on ice, i might never have had to ask, all judy blume style, "elvis, where are you?" and i might not have subsequently arrived at the fervent belief that he was alive and kicking in kalamazoo.

which brings us to the bill bixby PBS Television Events. the elvis files and the elvis conspiracy. the thing that it is really hard to wrap your head around, the thing you really have to appreciate about the bill bixby PBS Television Events, is how authentic all of this seemed at the time.

say you're eleven. you've never seen a movie by oliver stone and you've heard about elvis all your life. in truth, you've never heard of bill bixby but there's bill bixby right on your tv screen telling you about his friend elvis. and there's all these other people who knew elvis and they say elvis- their friend- is alive. and they would know, right? all these people who knew him (HIM!!!) who are now asking you (YOU!!!) to help them. because he's alive! and holymotherofgod, there he is calling bill bixby to say that he needs you (YOU!!!) to find him. because he's alive!

see. you're converted, right?

eleven-year-old little girl oline was. and so, while the other children frolicked on the playground, she huddled in the corner of the children's world after-school daycare center searching for answers amidst the pages of the gail brewer-giorgio classic, is elvis alive?

why yes. yes he was.

you may wonder, at this point, that i had any friends in 1992. fortunately all my daycare relationships had been solidified at the Audible Energy activity station on a snow day earlier in the year when- thanks to the skills acquired in the wake of mrs. christian's comment that it would be better for everyone in the competitive church children's choir if i simply mouthed the words- i gave a rousing lip synching performance of bruce springsteen's "born to run." but for the boss it is quite possible, given the potent combo of elvis conspiracies and clown pants, i might have already, even then at the age of eleven, been well on my way to dying alone. as it were, i not only had friends but a veritible mission field from which to win converts to the elvian cause.

HE was alive! how could we play marco polo when HE was alive?!

my father used to always say you can't be on fire all the time. he was speaking about fervancy for God, but the thought holds true here just the same. i'm not entirely sure when the elvis conspiracies stopped making sense, but as all fervencies do even this died down and life rolled along.

the olympics ended. i got breasts. and my family moved to a place where no one cared that i could recite the soliloquy from "are you lonesome tonight" and reenact select scenes from the making of a legend: gone with the wind.

everything changed. and yet, really i don't know that anything did. because these are still the things that matter. old movies and good music and silly dreams.

and in my heart, i am still caroline clown pants. i probably always will be.

12 comments:

Meggie said...

You'll always be Caroline Tapered Jeans to me!

oline said...

aw, dude. those were awful. how unfortunate that we grew up in an era when youths wore mom jeans.

Meggie said...

LOL. And don't forget the velour short sleeved shirts.

oline said...

or the long-sleeved silk shirts.

Meggie said...

Oh, my bright red silk long-sleeved shirt from Limited Too. I loved that thing and then it got shredded in the wash. Scott L. used to make fun of it. He called it my pirate shirt.

oline said...

i think you were wearing that thing when i met you. why did we wear everything so big back then? seriously, my dad wears now some of the t-shirts i wore in 8th grade. why? why?!

Meggie said...

I think we wanted to be adults so we wore adult-sized clothes. I still have a pair of Gap shorts from 9th grade that I still wear. I have my PMS Tennis Team shirt in a drawer right now-I wear it to sleep in. I don't even wear an adult Medium now so what on earth was I thinking back then?

Was I wearing the red silk shirt with my red and green striped tee? That was what I normally paired it with. I loved that shirt and then it got ruined in that scooter accident.

oline said...

(1) i think i wore big clothes for the exact opposite reason. i didn't want to be an adult and i didn't want to have breasts.

(2) i'm pretty sure you were.

(3) what scooter accident???

Linda said...

I would like to know about the coca cola commercial that you played before bed each night.

oline said...

i've actually been looking for it since i started writing this and cannot find it anywhere. i absolutely swear to you though that it is nothing like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZMYY-R8w6k

Linda said...

wow. that one just made me thirsty.

Meggie said...

Caro: You remember that 50cc scooter that I had? I was driving it around the subdivision with Tracy Cornett and I wrecked it. It happened like 3 days into the summer and I was fine by the time school started so most people didn't know about it.