Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, April 09, 2006

When I posted on Paul Young's cover of a Hall & Oates song a few weeks ago, a respected correspondent (in the days of pen & ink I might have called him a "pen pal") touted Hall as a great soul singer, so I checked out H&O's greatest hits from the library. I've always loved "Sara Smile"; still do; I remembered a bunch of the others and still didn't like them much, but one tripped me.

I've mentioned that a motorboat ran me over when I was 10. I have scars on my face and a partial denture, and a partially paralyzed face: the left side of my mouth doesn't work. It sounds so awful when I write it, but I'm really used to it and it's no big deal. When I was 10 and 11 and on into adolescence, it
did feel like a big deal. My parents, naturally, wanted me to be happy, and so they looked for solutions to what I felt was a problem. When I was 10, some months after the accident, a Kalamazoo surgeon tried to repair the severed nerve in my face, but it didn't work.

So we tried something else.
When I was 11 we drove to Duke University for experimental surgery. Spring of 1975. We stopped at Gettysburg and my parents bought me the tremendous novelistic account of the battle, "The Killer Angels." We stopped in D.C., which I don't much remember. We visited cousins of my mom's in West Virginia. We visited friends of my mom's in Richmond, Virginia; I remember that stop because they had four pretty daughters, one my age, named Nyla, and we stayed up late one night making cookies and running around the house. An older sister was home for spring break from college at Indiana University, which she called "Ippy Yoopie."

The trip was delightful, and hanging over it all was my experimental surgery, which held out such hope. When we finally got to Duke, the surgeon was a short, fat, old and energetic white guy. I remember feeling his balls rub against my arm as I sat in a chair and he leaned over me to show something on my face to my parents. His idea was to tie the upper to the lower mouth muscles. He cut me open and tried it; it didn't work. I don't regret the attempt -- it felt like the right thing to do at the time -- but I don't recommend plastic surgery, unless your face is more disfigured than mine.

We listened to the radio all the way there and back. The hits I remember liking: "Let 'Em In," by Wings; "Southern Nights," by Glen Campbell; and "Rich Girl," by Hall & Oates.
I didn't think I would still like "Rich Girl" all these years later, but hearing it again brought that trip back. And that trip was a trip.

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