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Dear John in a Squeeky Voice, or Bent on Self-Immolation

In the Peanuts comic strip, one of the kids (Lucy or Linus?) used to make a habit of telling the Beethoven-playing Schoeder that what people really want to hear is ‘waltzes, schottisches, and polkas’. And they were quite right, in more ways than we know.

But I want to add one more kind to the list. People like to hear ‘Dear John’ in a squeeky voice. So, going on that radical assumption, I did it. But let me back up a little.

The previous Friday, no the previous to that, three of my co-workers entertained with voice and guitar. I was so proud of them for their courage and humility and I decided just then I would end my seven year bitter ol’, wornout, jaded, don’t-do-that-anymore songwriter phase. So I went to our entertainment director and said, ‘put me down for next Friday. I promise to tune my guitar’. And she did and I did tune my guitar. And welded the pegs in place (only kidding).

I went home and wrote my parody, based on one of my old humorous songs (to the melody of ‘Bill Grogan’s Goat’), included all the inside work-place jokes and prepared myself mentally. I kept saying to myself, ‘what I really need is to stand up and humiliate myself.’ and I insured that by telling everyone, ‘watch me humiliate myself this Friday in Room 5′.

I said, ‘It’s not gonna be pretty but you will laugh’. And they did. But I didn’t have time for an encore. So I re-upped.

Angela asked me for another and it was then that my mean, little self-hating brain hatched the scheme. I would do something so radical, so shocking, so stupid, that they would have to laugh even more; they would have to laugh a rolling, rollicking, wave of a laughter and applause, and I would feel loved.

Now a word of warning for anyone planning on singing ‘Dear John’ in a squeeky voice. You will have to find a fortress of solitude in which to practice. ‘Dear John’ in a squeeky voice has to be done loud to work. Maybe I should clarify what I mean by squeeky. Remember Mr. Haney from Green Acres and remember that sort of feigned involuntary yodeling voice he talked with? The voice that kept breaking and changing octaves as he spoke? Well that’s the technique and you have to over-sing to pull it off. And you don’t need your guitar, that just gets in the way; you’ll need total concentration on your voice. My fortress of solitude is the inside of my car while I am driving on the interstate highway, making sure no one is parallel to me in the next lane, or even the next next lane. Then, and then only do I feel safe enough to caterwaul that loud and that stupid.

So, the day before the performance I got a plug from the director. She said, ‘Joe’s gonna sing a song tomorrow at entertainment time’.

And, of course I piped up, ‘I wouldn’t really call it a song, it’s gonna be more like … self-immolation’. And the reason I had to say that was to prove it by starting it right then—with that self-depracating joke. We self-depracators have a saying, ‘Always stay one step ahead.’ That way if your self-immolation is not up to snuff, at least you’ve got the self-depracating prelude joke to notch on your belt. Confused?

The next day, I kept thinking, ‘why am I doing this?’ But I did it anyway. I stood up on cue, opening with “Life Gets Teejus”, a humorous poem about the laziness of the urbanity-deprived country boy. Then I was ready for my pièce de resistance. I read a prepared introduction setting a serious mood for an exquisitely saaa-aad song and started in.

Now I gotta tell ya, I use expert timing on this; I don’t start the squeekiness on the first line, then I let just a little bit slip in on the second. Then more and more often and and more and more extreme on each line till it’s totally out of control on the last line. I gave it my all … no, sorry … not my best performance. My memory found little faults. Like I should have stuttered three times on this line, ‘… tonight I wed your br br brother …’ But I only did twice. I didn’t ‘stick it’. Sorrrryyy
But they did laugh. And they did clap.

But not enough to make me feel truly loved. Will I ever?

[Edit: (2 hours later) Just now as I was driving to the park to walk some laps I stuck it. Oh well .... ]