There is no escaping American culture. My friends like Family Guy-- reruns nightly on the BBC. The charm of it alludes me, so I stretch across the rug with a newspaper or my journal. Last night I heard one of their familiar, grating voices say, "And now here's Conway Twitty." I looked up and the usual cartoon cut to a video of Conway singing that terrible, sappy song earnestly into the camera. This one:
Bryan had an extensive repertoire of tacky songs, and "Hello Darlin" was one of his standards. In the old house at Augusta, during his teenage years, his neighbor's daughter Brittany had a phase in her pre-adolescent summers of spending long afternoons in the bath with Conway Twitty on her portable cassette player. Bryan used to sing those god-awful songs to me, teasingly. He never remembered many of the words so he made them up as he went along, coaxing them into that low talk, talk, siiiIIINNG crescendoing rhythm of "Hello Darlin" (hey there Kelsey.... I sure am hungry....I'd like a saNDWICH....). We had the song played at his funeral, rippling laughs across the parlor. I don't think I've heard it since, and then last night, thousands of miles from home, Conway Twitty crooning into the TV while I skimmed through an article on Vivienne Westwood in the Times.
The immediacy of janky pop culture is a crushing defeat when you're a snob like me. I would prefer to only be moved to tears by, say, the elegant melancholy of Tennyson (ghastly through the drizzling rain/ on the bald street breaks the blank day)-- not swallowing hard lumps of Conway Twitty twang on a crass American cartoon. It's hard to laugh at country music when you hear lines like, I'm doing all right, 'cept I can't sleep, and I cry all night till dawn and wince with empathy.
It's been 10 months, and still, at times this is so impossibly painful.