I was watching the end of A Mighty Wind and noting with approval how perfectly Parker Posey and Jane Lynch smiled in that pleased-with-myself-but-not-really-conceited-although-maybe-I-am way of the New Christy Minstrels. Whom I adored as a kid. There was a time that I knew all the words to Three Wheels on My Wagon, and Lily Langtry, and several other songs on the album whose cover features the Minstrels in cowboy-and-Indian garb. Then again, one of my earliest memories is pushing a green car (a free gift from the top of the peanut butter jar) along the baseboard while singing along with Ethel Merman on “Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better).”
I loved everything when I was a kid — bad movies (The Poseidon Adventure), bad music (see above) bad clothes (square-necked green paisley dress, worn for school picture in third grade, with disastrous consequences). The only place I seemed to have any innate taste was with books — I had no use for Nancy Drew and while I enjoyed the Happy Hollisters, I remember mocking its famous set-ups at a relatively early age. (“What’s up Pete?” said dark-haired Pam, 10. Red-headed Ricky and Holly, who wore her hair in braids, were not far behind.”) And when I tried to keep my mom company as she read her way through the Newberry winners in children’s lit, I sniffed out the dogs on that award-winning roster. (“Roller Skates” and “Gay-Neck.”)
Then, sometime around 13 or so, I seemed to stumble on the concept of camp. “Billy Jack” was so funny that my sister and I headed out to the Pikes Theater (now a family-friendly kosher restaurant, I’m told) to see “Born Losers,” the prequel. We snickered through “The Way We Were,” which seemed interminable to us. Next thing I knew, I was dating a guy who made a distinction between movies and films and told me my life wouldn’t be complete until I saw “Aguirre, The Wrath of God.”
Do we lose something when we lose that part of ourselves that connects — unironically, unashamedly — to everything, to anything? Is there a part of you that upon eating, say, grilled havarti on homemade sunflower bread remembers the pleasure of a slice of American cheese between two-butter slathered pieces of white bread?
P.S. I actually once had a date with someone who has appeared in “A Mighty Wind,” “Guffman” and “Best in Show.” But I only figured this out a few months ago.