From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (43)—Don't Cheat in Our Hometown

Click here to read the introduction to the Round and Square series "Hurtin', Leavin', and Longin'..."
[a] If you lived in'd be home now RF
Ricky Skaggs isn't asking for much. He is not asking his spouse to cease her wanderings, and not even trying very hard to hold the relationship together. All he's asking is not to have his nose rubbed in it. This is a pathetic (the key word is pathos here) song about a pretty miserable situation. It's as though he is saying "I am not asking for much; just don't humiliate me...much."
[b] Other side of town RF
Take a listen. This song is no lower in the ol' pathos department than Reba McEntire's Whoever's in New England. I have two versions for you. One is by the enormously talented songwriter and performer, Ricky Skaggs. The other is a duet with Ricky Skaggs and another enormously talented songwriter and performer, the late Keith Whitley. In this case, though, neither of them actually wrote the song. There is so much songwriting talent in Nashville that astute performers learn to find great songs written from the barstools and coffee shop chairs on Music Row. Ricky and Keith turned to Ray and Roy for this one.

Don't Cheat in Our Hometown
Artists: Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley.
Songwriters: Ray Pennington, Roy Marcum

Tonight my heart is beating low, and my head is bowed
You've been seen with my best friend on the other side of town
I don't mind this waiting, don't mind this running 'round
But if you're gonna cheat on me, don't cheat in our home town

How can I stand up to my friends and look 'em in the eye?
Admit to questions that I know would be nothing but lies?
You spend all your pastime, making me a clown
But if you're gonna cheat on me, don't cheat in our home town

Now there are no secrets in this little country town
Everyone knows everyone for miles and miles around
Your bright eyes and your sweet smile are driving me insane
You think it's smart to break my heart and run down my name

How can I stand up to my friends and look 'em in the eye?
Admit to questions that I know would be nothing but lies?
You spend all your pastime, making me a clown
But if you're gonna cheat on me, don't cheat in our home town

So if you're gonna cheat on me, don't cheat in our home town

[c] Everyone knows everyone RF
It's always the best friend, isn't it? And it's always on the other side of town, right?. If you have been reading these Sunday Hurtin' posts regularly, you will have picked up on some of the narrative threads that weave their ways through the mythology of country music. In fact, in the next few weeks we will look at those narrative matters quite closely. It's always in a bar across town, with the best friend...except when it isn't

Myth is like that. And so is bluegrass.
 ***  ***
Well, how are we going to juxtapose "Don't Cheat in Our Hometown" with themes from East Asian literature? I have chosen a passage from the Confessions of Lady Nijō, a classic work of memoir from the early fourteenth century. Lady Nijō didn't plan to "cheat" (this is a distinct cultural concept that is much too complex to transfer across cultures and through time; imagine it as a "placeholder" concept for our purposes here)...on His Majesty, the emperor. It just sort of happened. It is not as though these particular gendered negotiations of structure are new, although I am not sure if I could come up with a country song that expresses fear of being seen in a partner's dream. That's culture. And personality. Let's investigate.

Confessions of Lady Nijō
(c. 1310)
Later, while the moon was shining (I think it must have been during the Hour of the Rat [11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m.), there came a soft tapping on the outer door. I heard a young girl called Chūjō open the door. "What's that noise? Is it a clapper rail?" she said. A moment later, she reported back in consternation, "A gentleman outside wants to know if you will go and speak to him." I was too surprised to frame a reply. The caller came in before I could collect my wits—guided, I suppose, by the sound of the girl's voice. As I remember, he wore a hunting robe with an embossed maple-leaf design and a pair of bloused trousers in the aster combination, both garments showing their lack of starch that the visit was a secret one...

[d] Intimate RF
Weak-willed as always, I could not bring myself to utter a flat refusal, and he came all of the way in to the place where I slept. He rambled on during the long night in a manner pitiful enough to draw tears from the eyes of the proverbial Chinese tiger. Even though I had no desire to risk everything for his sake, I was not made of rock or wood, and I ended by sharing a pillow against my will. It was terrifying to think that His Majesty might be watching in a dream.

We were awakened by a cock's crow. His departure before dawn left me with a forlorn feeling. I did not reach the point of hoping to doze off into dreams of him, but I did linger in bed. His letter arrived before daybreak:

               kaerusa wa                                       As I returned home,
          namida ni kurete                               my eyes were blinded by the tears.
               ariake no                                           It was painful
          tsuki sae tsuraki                                even to see the late moon
          shinonome no sora                           in the brightening heavens.

"How could my love have had time to swell to such enormous proportions? I don't see how I can survive until tonight. You must imagine how upset I am by the need for all this secrecy."

My reply:
               kaerusa no                                        I can know nothing
          sode wa shirazu                                of your sleeves as you returned,
               omokage wa                                     but your face wavered
          sode no namida ni                             in the tears on my sleeves
          ariake no sore                                   when the late moon shone in the sky.

[e] Mix, match RF
Now that matters had reached this stage, my previous strong resistance had become meaningless. I knew it was my own fault, but it was easy to imagine the difficulties the future held in store. Around noon, a letter from His Majesty arrived as I sobbed in private, its tone more intimate than usual. "What is the attraction that makes you stay away so long? Don't you know how boring it is in the palace nowadays with almost nobody here?" I felt terribly guilty.

That night, to my alarm, the gentleman did not even wait until the hour grew late...[1]

Helen Craig McCullough, Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990), 316-317.

McCullough, Helen Craig. Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990.

Sunday, March 18th
Tell Me My Lyin' Eyes Are Wrong
George Jones can't believe his lyin' eyes after he finishes the night shift early and stops by for a drink at the local bar.
[f] After hours RF

No comments:

Post a Comment