Say, fellows, that Jordan River, well, it’s chilly and, er…cold.

The kids were watching something really shrill on the ol’ DVR. I asked them what it was and they responded “Fred – The Movie”. I encourage them to give everything a chance at least once, as long as it doesn’t hurt ’em. But this movie was as devoid of whimsy, space, irony, humor, pathos, everything. It was awful. Horrible.

I searched for some info regarding this abomination. And found a review from Mark Kermode, a critic for the BBC, who compared the experience to sitting through another painful cinematic experience, apparently, “A Serbian Film”. So of course I needed to read more about THAT film, and I’m sorry I did. Here’s the Wikipedia article about it. I warn you, it’s fucking vile.

But if you must….

So as I understand it, after having read further, it may be that the film is an allegorical commentary on the Serbian tragedy of the past few years. It doesn’t matter. But whenever I hear of anything having to do with Serbia or Macedonia, my thoughts turn to Debbie. It doesn’t matter. Serbian folk music. Debbie. Macedonian Squirrel Cookies. Debbie. Yugo (the car). Debbie. When someone says “You Go Girl” at the doctor’s office. Bosnian Monkey Chunkers. Debbie.

See, Debbie and I met during my senior year in high school. We were at an All-County Chorus festival (ahem, only the best of the best). And some of the fellas were auditioning for solo parts in one of the songs we were singing, “Every Time I Feel The Spirit”, that negro spiritual that we West Seneca kids were so familiar with. “Dat Jordan River, it chilly and cold, it chill de body, but not de soul…” Hey, I could relate. Anyhow, I gave it my best shot, and they picked a couple other guys, and that was that.

Then, during break, the prettiest girl I had ever seen got my attention and sweetly, earnestly, somewhat sardonically opined, and I quote, “Don’t let this go to your head, but I thought you were the best one…” and her name was Debbie. And it still is.

It was nice talking to Debbie, but while we talked, coincidentally, one of the majordomos in the hierarchy of choral fame tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that I would, in fact, be one of the soloists! What a moment! I mean, the other soloist would be a genuine descendent of a former slave, but maybe they were making their own ironic statement by forcing the audience to process the sight of a black fellow and me, the Caucasian-iest of the Caucasians, in a battle for the choral ages, perhaps an ersatz re-enactment of the civil rights struggles of the 60’s. Or we were just the two best singers. It didn’t matter. It mattered that Debbie was there to witness all of it.”Don’t let this go to your head..”? How could it not??

I remember getting her phone number in the parking lot as the buses pulled away for the final time, and looking forward to breaking the “wait-a-day” rule. And we made a date to meet at Sambo’s on Union Road. According to my scorecard, it was, in fact, a date. I remember being really nervous, and I remember being crushed when she told me she would only consider marrying a guy of Macedonian origin. I guess I knew it was too good to be true, but still, it was nice to think, for a moment, that trapped beneath the boozy haze of my white-trash upbringing, someone as sweet as she could see my talent. That meant everything. And it still does. And we sorta lost touch after that.

So years later, our paths crossed again in college. She and I were both pursuing degrees in Broadcasting. Seeing her every other day was so nice, even though I believe she was dating someone else. A great thing about Debbie you should know: She liked my poetry. All those strange, intentionally off-putting poems and stories that all my old friends back in Buffalo know me for were written with Debbie in mind. Not about her, but to show to her and make her laugh. Once I knew she was a captive audience (we were in a classroom, where could she go?) I couldn’t be stopped. The night before seeing her, I worked for $3.10/hr. in the gym locker room, making sure nothing got stolen. I was terrible at my job, but I learned to pick locks.

I won’t post them all here, but I do have some pieces of paper still floating around with my deviant scribbles. Things like:

Roses are red, violets are blue, hot feathered smell-hole, I’ve got a Jew. 

I saw that she was working at a local college and I sought her out unsuccessfully for a few years, but when I found her on the Facebook, it was good to see her smile again. She had changed but she was still doing what she loved, out there singing, dancing, and still, through it all, I could still see the sunshine in her soul. I won’t say more about my friend Debbie except to say that I think about her at unexpected times, and she might not think about me, and that’s ok, because she probably never knew what she gave to me. A beautiful, wonderful stranger came to me and said something nice when I needed to hear it. For that, no matter how far we drift, I will never forget Debbie.

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