And the Homecoming of the Brave
A dreamcatcher and a dreamy-catcher: Native American folklore, Mike Piazza, respecitively.
I've come across what might possible be the perfect song: Freiheit's "Keeping the Dream Alive." Have you heard it? Well, most people probably haven't. It made a brief appearance on the Say Anything soundtrack, and has since been toiling away on approx. 14 people's hard drives (according to Limewire.) Make that 15 hard drives, as my computer's motherboard has been smoking from overuse (as I repeat the song every 3 minutes on the hour, NY1 style), the smoke creating an appropriate fog-like atmosphere while I bounce around my room, punching my fist in the air, keeping MY dream alive of one day lip-synching in front of dozens, nay, baker's dozens of people across the Carpathian Basin. I'll be the first to admit its aural resemblance to Cyndi Lauper's All Through the Night, but Freiheit got something Frei-right, and hit on the perfect song.
The song, as inspirational as it is, doesn't hold a lighter to my high school's alma mater, which to this day I believe was penned by Schonberg and Bublil. Coming from North Miami Beach, my high school was an interesting mix of students: 70 percent minority, 30 percent white, and about 95 percent completely intolerable. And if there's one thing my high school was completely lacking, it was "spirit." The only one with "spirit" was our class president, a sweet gay guy with an uppity streak who would show up dressed like Lady Liberty during our school's once a year pep rally.
Senior year, I was having my fun. Having hammed it up now for a couple of years, I no doubt had my reputation (however, I will always stand by the fact that I was never a drama geek, which consisted mainly of Marilyn Manson followers and cripples.) Word started spreading that the Homecoming Nominations were coming up soon. My friend Deedee and I were talking about it, laughing really, that a school such as ours, with one of the worst football teams around (Quarterback Stephen Hawking, no kidding) would be so cliche as to have a Homecoming. And Deedee's all "You should run for Homecoming Queen". And I'm all (laughing, mind you) "That's hilarious! I should!" So I did.
Things started off normal enough. I would jokingly mention to people "Hey, vote for me for Homecoming Queen - ha! Get it! ME! Zing!" And sure enough, about a week later, nominations were announced: And you guessed it. Ms. Michelle Collins was in the top four, and was nominated.
And this is where things changed from being "hilARious!" to being, as a number of psychiatric doctors would agree, "blood-thirsty." Homecoming Queen. ME! I could taste the cheap metallic coating of the rhinestoned crown, and feel the low-budget sash between my fingers. My prancing feet started to twitch. I wanted it.
My competition was pretty lame, frankly. About a week later, we were to be interviewed on camera for a secret panel of teachers who would pick the winner (no, the students did not get to decide who was tops.) Ms. Michelle (that's me for the purposes of this story) was ready... that is until I learned that one of our many questions proving who had the most "spirit" would be to sing our school alma mater. Our school has an alma mater? Then someone handed me the words, which I will write for you here (although without the melody it may lose some of its appeal). If you know the tune to "Do You Hear The People Sing?", it will suffice:
Far beyond our dreams and our wishes
Far beyond our hopes and our fears
Rise the challenges of tomorrow
That we face throughout the coming years
We strive towards the light
To fix our eyes on the stars of truth
This is our hope, our challenge,
Light and truth, in search for tomorrow... (pause, dramatically)
I get weepy just typing it. Is Francis Scott Key in the hizzy our WHAT! I couldn't get over that this brilliant anthem was just wasting away at a school whose class song (voted by the students and no, I am not kidding about this) was "All My Life" by K-Ci & Jojo. So there we were, all of the candidates, standing in the corners of a dimly lit room, coiffed and spritzed, singing this genius under our breath. I figured, if it comes down to song, I'm it. I'm the winner. I adjusted the strap on my tap shoe and waited.
We get to the room, me and the three other girls, and sit like partially aborted newscasters at a long desk. The questioning begins. In the end, we didn't have to sing our alma mater, which was a shame. But don't worry, as I've gotten full good use out of learning the words, singing it at the top of my lungs whenever my blood alcohol level tops 1.9 percent (read: right now and always.)
They did, however, ask what our school motto was. We have a motto? I knew we had a mascot: The Chargers, which was a knight sitting on a horse, and not a stolen cell phone, which would have been worlds more appropriate. I went first. My answer: "I may not know what the real motto is, but I'll tell you what my motto is for this school: Charger's number 1!! Whoo!! Go Chargers!" Seriously, right now in Miami somewhere, that answer exists on film, and lord knows I wish I had it (it would be the perfect apertif to my tape of me calling up Dick Cavett on his CNBC talk show when I was 7). Next to answer is the captain of our school's cheerleading team, named Sharon Walker, but pronounced Shay-ron Walker, I kid you not. (Which is like me asking people to call me "Mish-edg-ay", all Spanish and such.) Smugly, Capt. Shay-ron looks into the camera and goes "I believe what our school's motto actually is "Charge it up." The other two girls following her had no reason to disagree, and concurred: "Charge it up." Turns out the actual motto was something like "Keeping the Dream Alive" (download it!), and we were all wrong. I, however, was sure my answer had the most heart, like Rudy Rutteger, small, troll-like, but loveable.
Little did I know when I began this post how long it would go, so forgive me in advance, but nothing like reliving the past while sitting in a foam-walled meat locker and answering phones, eh? Where was I? Ah yes! Homecoming.
The pep rally. The top two out of four from the boys and girls would be announced. We were instructed to wear our school colors (red white and blue), and from my very limited wardrobe I plucked out the only outfit not worse than a sailor suit: White jeans (gag), a red polo (breathe), and brown, high-heeled sandals (gag again.) The four of us seated, our class in the stands, the top two girls were announced: Ms. Shayron and Ms. Michelle. Holy crap. My practical joke has just turned into a story that I would be blogging about to my future children 7 years later.
Now being in the top two guaranteed me at least something. If I wasn't going to be Queen, I would end up as Homecoming Senior Princess, i.e. second place. Which was fine by me. I mean, Clay Aiken came in second, and look at what a great Queen he turned out to be! Clay Aiken: Me in a nutsack.
Night of the "big game", I show up in, again, a fairly dorky dress (I didn't refine my black turtlenecked wardrobe until the end of college), hair all done up, simply spangling. I was placed in a convertible car next to Chris, the school mascot (a hysterically characturized horse named Charlie Charger) who was up against our class president for the King spot, and all of 5 feet tall. I looked up at the car in front of us, and noticed that they had placed our class prez and Shay-ron together. At that moment (as I had predicted) I knew there was no way I had won. I mean, really Michelle, get serious, it's a miracle you're even there. Meanwhile, Chris is praying to every patron saint ever worshipped that he wins, and I'm thinking "You're a fucking mascot! Get over it!" but I'm also thinking "Dear God, I'm going to have to dance with this midget under a spotlight tomorrow" at the Homecoming Ball. The cars circle around the field, we hopped out, and the winners are announced.
A photo of me on that fateful night, dressed to the nines, and praying for the best.
As I had predicted, Chris and I were the Senior Prince and Princesses, while our class prez (hilarious gay guy) and Shay-ron (rude, obnoxious) were King and Queen (although the joke goes that we had two Homecoming Queens that year). No matter, though. I got a beautiful tiara (much more understated than the Queen's, I liked it better... wry smile), roses, and a sash (which was promptly placed on the Pierce Brosnan/James Bond lifesize cardboard cutout in my room. (Why are you making that face? It's news to you that I have problems?). When I went to congratulate Shay-ron, all I got was an arm slammed into my face as she went to hug someone else. Needless to say, my dance the next night was humiliating. Remember the tango seen in True Lies? Picture me as Ahnold and Chris as Jamie Lee C., and you've got kind of an idea as to what it was like.
So what was the purpose of this nine hour recollection? Ah yes, keeping your DREAMS ALIVE! See, children, to quote from another much loved song from my mp3 collection:
Dreams can come true
Look at me babe I'm with you
You know you gotta have hope
You know you gotta be strong
Oh, and what would a post be without a picture of a knock-need, middle-aged, pirate-hermaphrodite: