In the late 1970's, in Northern Mississippi.... in a public high school? You sorta had to go along to get along. It wasn't as bad as in movies like Dazed and Confused, but we had our circles, and somewhere in there you probably found yourself fitting in. But into our midst came Lisa Appling, a brand new girl from San Jose, California. Her dad was the new manager at a local plant, and I guess she came with him. But she didn't like our little town, and as I told ya before she drove her black volkswagon a little too fast around a town that she considered way too slow compared to Californ-- EYE--AYE.
The circles? For starters? We had the highway 79 crowd. These were folks who jes might be considered a little too 'rural' for the local Missip' metro; they came in from the sticks, if ya will. Back in them days? The jocks, smarts, party crowd, and other assorted bands fit together a little better. There was not such clear markings on the trail. The folks who were popular also could be party folks. And let's be clear that party folks were the 'cool cats' that some of ya'll in Knoxrockinville already know about; they could be found smokin' on more that jest a cigarette on a given Friday night, if'n you follow me.
And Lead Foot Lisa didn't fit in very much at all. She arrived just before school started, and at the age of 16 she made it pretty damn clear that we were just some hicks, and that she was going 'right back to California' just as soon as the ducks were in a row.
Now, you might ask just where did ole Dreamer 'fit in' to this scenario. Well, back in them days, we had whut was known as 'tracking' and this simply meant that once a year you took an achievement test, and if'n you scored right proper you got into the A track. Each subject from math to English and all the rest wuz tracked. You got into the better classes if you scrored well. I aced English and more, not suh good on the math... pardon me all to hell. So I got to hang with whut was then the 'poplar crowd' and indeed I fit in there; but jes fer the record I also fit in well with the party crowd, too. Yes, I was known to smoke a red haired rolled up cigarette, and along with all of them we drove off road motorcycles up in them hills.
Like I was sayin' Lisa kinda rolled up on us, and none of us was prepped to deal with her. If I had to say she looked like somebody, I'd say she 'partially' looked like Madchen Amick in the movie Dreamlover. She was about 5 foot 7 and 118 pounds, fair in complexion with brown hair, and green eyes. She was not beautiful, but she had a 'look' that she carried with her. Wealthy people sometimes have that for them; so let us just say that being the daughter of a man who bought the old Landham mansion half a mile from the country club didn't hurt her esteem.... OK? But we can also say that Lisa was UNHAPPY girl.... right from the start of her new life in Mississippi. She missed her old friends and her old school and her old LIFE in San Jose.
Folks ask me today... what was different about the time I grew up in compared to the times we live in now? Well, for one thing, living your life didn't mean fearing for your safety. Life in Mississippi was far different from living in Miami now; we left doors unlocked! We left front doors unlocked, and keys in the floorboards of cars. As kids we rode our bikes all over town, just like you see them do in the movie "My Girl" and I can say that is just not the case today. You go out to Collierville? People sit in lawn chairs on their front LAWNS to watch the kids, Jack! Also, the whole concept of the 'phone' was different. You missed somebody. Somebody took a message. A lot less channels on TV. A lot less INTERRUPTIONS. A lot less DISTRACTIONS. And a lot more SIMPLICITY.
The point I am gettin' at... is that relationships with a very small number of people mattered MORE... than 'connecting' and 'networking' seems to matter today; we knew a few people WELL... today people seem to know a hundred people slightly. The word 'acquaintance' is a word that needed a new definition in today's dictionary. So Lisa made a 'splash' if you will; folks took an interest in her, and she had zero interest in us. She talked with us? But she had in her mind that she was going back to Cali. I once asked her if she liked anything about Mississippi at all. She said she liked how the Autumn trees turned all kinds of colours, and she liked how people were patriotic...because no one she knew back in San Jose was.
We southerners didn't care for folks who told us WHY and WHERE we fell short in the scheme of things? We already knew. As young people, we discussed it amongst ourSELVES. But to have an outsider tell us... in no uncertain terms? That dog just wud'n gonna hunt. Perhaps some of ya'll in Mechanicsville unnerstand. A few girls tried to bring Lisa into the fold, and at one point one shy girl from the highway 79 crowd seemed to make an inroad, but in late October Lead Foot Lisa went to work for her dad after school at the plant. From that point on, she was going to use that money to get OUT. She told folks that she was going to fly back to California during the Thanksgiving holidays. We all got out of school that one incredbly beautiful day in November, headed toward a long holiday weekend.
As I left school that afternoon, I saw that she was having words with Cassie Howland in the parking lot. Lead Foot Lisa was great at fending off her critics, but Cassie got up under her skin in a new kinda way. Girls back in the late 1970s in Northern Mississippi didn't physically fight each other. That was rare beyond your ability to know it. Nowadays, a click on You Tube will show you that they DO fight. No, back then girls fought wars with their minds, and words, and the ONE GIRL... that Lisa... didn't care to deal with... was Cassie, and that was because Cassie had something Lisa couldn't buy or try, or adapt to... or deny. Cassie was a blonde and beautiful cheerleader, and popular and smart; she had it all. She was THAT GIRL; she went on to be a cheerleader at an SEC college as well. She looked a little bit like actress Leelee Sobieski.
I yelled to a friend named Dan about Jim's country store where I knew I could get a beer at, and suggested he stop on by.... then fired up the car and headed out onto highway 79. I had not gone down it 3 miles before I saw Lisa's black volskwagon in my rearview mirror, and she came around me at 75 plus. I pulled over at Jim's country store, and Dan came into the parking lot about the time I came out with the beer. Back in them days, it was not all that uncommon for a local storekeeper to sell a few beers to a minor--- as long as the minor was known and had a rep for keeping his mind. I had told ole Jim that what he needed was a 'four speaker set up' in his store, with whatEVER music he liked the most playing all the time. I told him if he paid for it then I'd install it for him, and I did; he repaid my electronic endeavors in kind.... and in TIME.... by selling me a few beers here and there.
I met Dan in the parking lot as he drove in. We were splitting a sixpack, and both of us were happy... as we knew we were headed into a holiday weekend. He mentioned Cassie and Lisa having 'words' and how Lisa spun out of the parking lot afterwards, and I said, "yeah, she came around me doing about 75 back there." He asked if I was going out to Big Dan's camphouse Saturday night, and I told him I already knew the business; Dan had a big ole pile of sweet synthesized tobacco waiting on the cool kids. Just as we began to laugh about how much fun this weekend was gonna be? A 454 V-8 in passing gear could be heard down the highway-- an ambulance flashed by going about a hundred miles an hour.... with a Mississippi Highway Patrol car hot on his heels. Thirty seconds later? Another cop car, also in passing gear flew by us. I'll never forget that sound. A 351 Cleveland four barrel... pegged to the freakin' wall.