Superstar USA was a television show that ran 
for less than one month (May 17–June 14) 
the year that I graduated high school

It was a spoof of the show American Idol, still at the height 
of its popularity (its first year, the day after the penultimate episode 
when Kelly Clarkson sang the song that would give her victory
a girl on my bus explained to us with a kind of solemn shock, 
that she still had goosebumps that next early morning
from the night before)

Superstar USA ran on the television network the WB, at a low point
in that network’s history (which is saying something).
They were throwing all kinds of pasta on the wall hoping it would stick.
Particular low points: Joe Millionaire, and that bachelorette-style show 
called Beauty and the Beast (I think), one glamorous woman in a house of nerds

But of this I remember very little—in May and June of 2004 
I was regularly drinking until I puked, which somehow sounds
better than it ever was. One weekend a Scottish rugby team we billeted 
(repaying the favour they had done for us) was getting naked outside the strange 
and lonely backwoods mansions of some of the players on the team. 
I was sleeping it off on couch cushions placed on hardwood
or being scolded by my mother that one time she came to collect us
and I hadn’t sobered up

No one ever carded me before I turned nineteen
I don’t understand this, always attribute it to some mean tension
or anxiety I must have carried in my face, once even 
buying mickeys and a twenty-sixer wearing my graduation t-shirt
from that year. Now I know they simply didn’t ever care

But back to the show—Wikipedia says “Superstar USA told contestants 
they were looking for the best singer when they were 
actually looking for the worst.” Something in this inversion reminds 
me of the party the night after the one where I’d been picked up by my mom—
an older player hearing the story of what I had done the night before
saw me crack the gentle tongue of a tall boy I had been handed
(so I could save my mickey) and told me “Still drinking? Good man” 

Reading the Wikipedia article it strikes me that some inversions
and some cruelties are more honest than their counterparts, hearing how the winner,
Jamie Foss, was told on stage the truth in front of the audience she had just sung for—
for all its shocking violence it still reminds us 
some truths are longer and harder to learn 

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