Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Poetry: Found Poem General Bongo Has an Opinion

Alright, today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was to do a “found” poem. I got my source from the New York Times article “A Grizzlies Fan Finds Fame asthe Bongo Lady” by Scott Cacciola. I cut the first part of the article off to save some space. At the end of the poem, I showed the whole article blacked out.

General Bongo Has an Opinion
By Brittany M.
About 25 miles south,
General Bongo said
hands drift away,
playing authenticity.
Bongo was mortified
By his God.
“He catches us
In that moment
As soon as you
Can’t control yourself.”
Bongo worked varying
Degrees of glory.
He throws inventive
On Sunday to
Experience clearly
Minutes stretched to
Savor insanity.
Some people enjoy it.

While other sports teams across the country run their own versions of Bongo Cam during games — it tends to be a crowd pleaser — it is uniquely popular in Memphis, and that is largely because of Meacham, who lives in Hernando, Miss., about 25 miles south.

“She’s been terrific,” General Manager Chris Wallace said.

People are generally surprised to learn that Meacham practices domestic law and works as a part-time judge. Yes, Bongo Lady is a judge. In the process, she has forfeited some of her anonymity. On Beale Street, fellow fans stop her and ask for photographs. Then again, she does wear a Grizzlies jersey that reads “Bongo Lady” across the back.

It should be noted that Meacham has no formal musical training. Her bongo wizardry is self-taught. The key, she said, is to stay on the bongos. Too many fans let their hands drift away, which makes their playing look inexact. Meacham strives for authenticity.

“And I don’t even know when Bongo Cam is coming on,” she said, “so I can’t warm up for it.”

As is the case in most great showbiz acts, Meacham has a sidekick: her 18-year-old son, Hayden, who often accompanies her to home games. He did not choose the role. He said he was genuinely mortified by his mother’s behavior.

“I guess I’ve gotten used to it,” he said. “She lets out this shriek when she does it. It actually scares me sometimes.”

Continue reading the main story Bongo Lady Memphis Grizzlies Video by Grizz BongoLady

Hayden was with her the first time the Grizzlies broke out Bongo Cam, during the 2012-13 season. Malenda Meacham heard the music and felt the rhythm, and something compelled her to rise from her seat and start thrashing away. It was unscripted theater.

“Hayden starts going, ‘Dear God, please don’t let them see her,’ ” Meacham said. “He’s next to me, shrinking over, and then the camera catches us.”

In that moment, Bongo Lady was born. By his mother’s third appearance on Bongo Cam that season, Hayden had decided to come prepared. As soon as he heard those familiar lyrics pump through the arena’s speaker system — “Come on, shake your body, baby, do the conga / I know you can’t control yourself any longer” — he put a paper bag over his head.

“Oh,” his mother said, “it’s just awful for him.”

Meacham, whose team jersey reads, “Bongo Lady,” is often accompanied to games by her son, Hayden. Credit Brad J. Vest for The New York Times

By then, Meacham was the clear star of Bongo Cam. The Grizzlies have even worked Allen, the team’s defense-minded wing, into the production. As the camera trains on other fans who try their hands at the (pseudo) bongos, with varying degrees of success, Allen appears on the video board in a recorded bit.

“Where you at, Bongo Lady?” Allen says as he shades his eyes with his hand and swivels his head from side to side, scanning the crowd.

Then, boom: Bongo Lady appears, in all her hyperactive glory. It can be a distraction for players, who are supposed to be paying attention to their coaches during timeouts.

“I’ll take a peek up there,” Jon Leuer said.

“People go nuts for it,” Jeff Green said.

Meacham has a particularly special bond with Allen, who presented her with an autographed bongo at an event for season-ticket holders. Allen, who recently signed on as a spokesman for Memphis International Airport, said it was unusual for one fan to become something of a symbol for the team. But Bongo Lady has managed to pull it off.

“Shout-out to the Bongo Lady,” said Allen, who likes to give his closest friends a hand gesture that he calls the deuces. “Even when she’s not dancing, I always wave at her, give her the deuces and say hello. She throws the deuces right back. It’s all love.”

The Grizzlies are known for being inventive with their in-game productions. On Sunday, during the Grizzlies’ Game 1 victory, Super Grizz — the alter ego of the team’s highly popular mascot, Grizz — jumped off a ladder near midcourt to body-slam a bear wearing a Trail Blazers uniform through a table.

Jason Potter, the team’s director of promotions and event marketing, said Bongo Cam was only one element of a larger experience for fans, but clearly a valued one.

“You never know what can’t-miss moment you could see at a Grizzlies game,” Potter said.

Meacham acknowledged that her 15 minutes of fame had stretched to 45. But she plans to savor it while it lasts.

“It’s insanity,” she said. “I’m sure it annoys some people, but most seem to enjoy it.

Hayden will be off to college in the fall. His mother suggested that it would make her incredibly happy if he would join her on the bongos — just once — before he goes.

“Whatever,” he said.

If nothing else, Meacham said her time as Bongo Lady had taught her an important lesson.

“If you play air instruments,” she said, “you can go places.”


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