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Classic Snarky: This Old Flame Burned Out

November 22, 2009

This classic entry from Snarky previously appeared on Livejournal circa ‘2002:

Before leaving work one rainy morning La Mommie asked if I wanted to come to a MLK Jr. Program. I said, “Ooh do you think it’ll be like the ones in Fayetteville?”

She shook her head mournfully and said, “I wish!”

Fayetteville had had its own brand of home grown talent: The Million Dollar Man and The Candle Man.

The Million Dollar Man (as we called him because my mother said he was always talking about get rich quick schemes and using hospital time to investigate them) worked in building services and described himself as “Country boy who had always loved both Kings.” (Presley and Martin Luther) he gave a heartfelt speech about what Dr. King had meant to him growing up in North Carolina as the son of a tobacco farmer, yet was a little vague on the particulars. “The civil rights movement was about change.” he said, tuning his acoustic guitar. “Change for the better. Change for the black man.” without seeing La Mommie’s or her boss’s expressions, I know they were having, “we will have a laugh of this as soon as we get back to the office.” not because they found his emotions suspect but because, well it was corny as shit!

The Million Dollar Man wrote and spoke of Dr. King as though they had been close personal friends. His songs all sounded the same, and posed pointed, if not clichéd questions as to why such greatness was snuffed out. He used the moments when “words” failed him to softly chant, “Martin, Martin, Martin.” He ended his set with a jubilant song about freedom, which kinda sounded like hound dog and we all clapped.

After The Million Dollar Man, The Candle Man who seemed to respect The Million Dollar Man as both an artist and as a building services engineer took the stage. He made comments about The Million Dollar Man’s moving old time country music and asked us to give it up for him. Which we did. It must’ve taken everything in my mother’s being not to burst out into laughter. I know my own face was contorted to the point of pain.

The Candle Man had no guitar. He had a tape recorder and a microphone. He informed us that his voice was failing him today but he would do the best he could. Which was all we could ask of him, I suppose. He pushed play on the tape deck and began to sing his hit If I had a candle, I’d let it shine LOUDLY into the microphone, making me wince as I wasn’t anticipating such volume from a man whose voice was “failing” him. His lyrics were deceptively simple, but I’m sure it was only meant to seem that way. “IF I HAD A CANDLE, I’D LET IT SHINE.” repeat three times. “IF YOU HAD A CANDLE, YOU’D LET IT SHINE” repeat three times. “IF HE HAD A CANDLE” pointing to my mom’s boss who nervously yelled back, “I’D LET IT SHINE.” I was hoping so bad that when he got to “IF SHE HAD A CANDLE” he’d point to me, but he didn’t. He pointed to his boss, who of course would be my mother, who said, “I’D LET IT SHINE?” as though it were a question.

The Candle Man did three rounds of the if I had a candle I’d let it shine before ending his set and turning things over to the world’s most boring gospel minister. Creflo Dollar, this man wasn’t. He too, spoke of Dr. King as though they’d played football and drank beers together in college. He was mercifully brief and admonished us to “Love our fellow brothers and sisters,” while we still had a chance. This seemed more appropriate for a funeral than a Dr. King Celebration.

After the program, I saw The Million Dollar Man pat his shirt pocket and head outside. He lit a cigarette then patted down his silver pompadour. “That was really amazing. I can’t believe you wrote all that yourself.” He seemed pleased yet unsurprised by my praise. “I’m working on a few things now.” he explained. “I really believe in giving back with my music.” he said. I nodded. “It’s a gift to others.” he added. Yes a gift that was non returnable. One size did not fit all. “That’s very unselfish of you.” I said. “So do you work here?” he asked. “Oh no. my mom does.” he nodded. He asked who my mother was and I told him. “A nice lady. Sharp dresser.” I nodded. “She gotta boyfriend? Married?” I shook my head. “I don’t think so.” he nodded slowly. “Yep,” he said as we both imagined him as my step dad #2, “She’s a real nice lady.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. redlami permalink*
    November 22, 2009 11:08 am

    The Candle Man’s song sounds like a brain-dead mashup of “This Little Light of Mine” and “If I Had a Hammer.”

    I think if he’d pointed to you while chanting “IF SHE HAD A CANDLE,” an appropriate response would have been “I’D BURN IT AT BOTH ENDS.”

  2. November 22, 2009 11:20 am

    I think if he’d pointed to you while chanting “IF SHE HAD A CANDLE,” an appropriate response would have been “I’D BURN IT AT BOTH ENDS.”

    So true!

  3. November 22, 2009 2:05 pm

    I love Classic Snarky. There is so much awesome in the LJ archives.

  4. November 24, 2009 1:08 pm

    Thank you, gudbuytjane! In some ways the old school Livejournal was very much a breeding ground for delicious drama, lulz and some very respectable writing. Of course now it’s like an aging prize fighter shuffling along telling everyone how great they used to be.

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