Catchy (Sitting Two)This Young Man … June 18th, 2017

Matthew Ransley was an advertising agent but fancied himself an executive. He was a founding partner in a company called S.E.E.D.S.–an annoying, elongated acronym: “Selling Everything Everywhere, Delivering Success.”

Matthew was very good at what he did. He worked at being congenial but if sufficiently aggravated, could launch into a rampage to defend one of his well-guarded opinions.

It was Tuesday when the phone rang and Mariel, his secretary (though she preferred “executive assistant”) was not yet at work to answer, so Matthew found himself taking the call. It was from Marcus Tomlinson, an attorney—an attorney for the estate of Arthur Harts.

Matthew knew who Arthur Harts was, and had even heard that the old man had died. He listened carefully as Mr. Tomlinson explained about the recent reading of the will and the revelation of the “Make Jesus Popular” addition.

It did cross Matthew’s mind that it might be a crank call. But the attorney established credibility because he seemed to know what he was talking about, including an abundance of information about Matthew and his agency.

“The reason we called you is that we thought that your agency’s name, S.E.E.D.S., sounded a little religious, and in doing a background check on you, we also discovered that you had some interest in matters of faith and such when you were a student back in college.”

Matthew smiled. He remembered. College–a chance to plan your future while simultaneously ruining your life. After graduation he had included every piece of resume-worthy material possible on his application to gain employment.

He had begun a club during his college years, launching a fledgling organization initially called the “Son of One” (he being the only member at the time.) His vision was to create a para-religious/party-motivated/pseudo-intellectual club, which would attract both thinkers and drinkers.

Before too long he achieved a member and they became the “Crew of Two.” Then came another and they became the “Tree of Three.” When a fourth joined, they dubbed themselves the “Core of Four.” A fifth inductee created the “Hive of Five,” and a sixth, the “Mix of Six.” When a seventh young lady cast her lot with the organization, they became the “Leaven of Seven,” where they remained throughout their university years, garnering no new converts.

Matthew assumed this was what the attorney was referring to when he mentioned “some interest in matters of faith.” Honestly, the seven young folk liked to talk about God and politics until the wee hours of the morning while indulging in “the beer and bong.” It was hardly a consecrated conclave, but rather, dedicated to the proposition that all men–and women–are created equally arrogant.

“What is it you want?” Matthew asked. It was too early to chat–or reminisce.

Mr. Tomlinson proceeded to explain that one of Arthur Harts’ dying wishes was to give two hundred fifty million dollars towards increasing the popularity of Jesus.

“How popular does he need to be?” asked Matthew. “I mean, they named a religion after him, and, if I’m not mistaken, doesn’t our entire calendar run by the date of his birth?”

There was a moment of silence. Then Lawyer Tomlinson spoke in metered tones. “Let me just say that I don’t know much about religion, or God for that matter. I am merely performing the literal last request of a very wealthy man.”

“So what do you want me to do?” inquired Matthew.

“What do I want you to do? I guess I want you to tell me that your agency will take two hundred and fifty million dollars and at least try to make Jesus more popular.”

“We could start a rumor that he and Elvis are going to get together and cut an album.”

A pause. “Sounds fine with me,” replied Tomlinson.

Matthew chuckled. It was becoming quite evident that this lawyer was merely going through the motions of fulfilling a contractual oddity. On the other hand, as unusual as the request sounded, the two hundred and fifty million dollars did offer a bit of sparkle. As a founding partner in his business, did he have the right to reject such a lucrative offer simply because it was weird?

The lawyer piped up, uncomfortable with the delay. “Perhaps you could suggest someone else.”

Matthew laughed nervously. “No, I don’t really think I could suggest anyone else. I’m not familiar with any All Saints Agency or God Almighty, Inc.”

“It is two hundred and fifty million dollars. I mean, can’t you do something?”

“Yes,” said Matthew. (He figured it was always better to say yes to two hundred and fifty million dollars. You can revise your answer later, but in the meantime, well, it’s two hundred and fifty million dollars.)

Matthew punctuated his acceptance by adding, “Maybe we could get Jesus to date a supermodel.”

“I think he’s dead,” said Tomlinson, without inflection.

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Good News and Better News … August 22nd, 2016

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sue and Bill

“Things are bad.”

I’m told this continually.

And if I’m tempted to forget, then the powers that be re-tweet, broadcast, discuss and reiterate it in my direction 24 hours a day.

Sometimes I grow weary of nagging doubt and negative notions and want to refresh my brain with a baptism of hope.

I am quickly scolded and told to “grow up and be realistic.” They define realistic to be a declining world filled with oblivious people.

Then I end up spending the weekend in Orefield, Pennsylvania at Jordan Lutheran.

Many months ago while performing in Hilton Head, South Carolina, I met a couple at my concert who were wintering in the vicinity. They handed me their business card and said, “If you’re ever in Pennsylvania, please contact us because we would love to have you into our church.”

This happens to me frequently. I always tuck these cards away in my wallet and never give them another thought. Suffice it to say, I don’t usually pursue such invitations.

But for some reason when I realized we were heading to Pennsylvania, I broke my pattern, pulled out the card, gave it to our agent and said, “You might want to check these folks out.”

Sue and Bill were not only delighted that we called, but made all the arrangements for us to appear at Jordan Lutheran and became the “busy bees of benevolence,” advertising the event to all their friends.

So when we arrived on Saturday, even though we had never met the people who were sent to greet us and help us with our equipment, in the one hour that we were together, the common work joined with common sense and common humor to make us common friends.

Then, on Saturday night we went out to dinner with Bill and Sue. Can I tell you that the spiritual concept of breaking bread is even better when you get to eat it? Stuffing one’s face does seem to expand the brain.

When we arrived Sunday morning to do our shows, there was an energy in the church–a sense of expectation that together we were going to try to hatch a magnificent day.

My dear friends, we are just healthier when we try. Despair not only leaves us sad, but annoyingly boring.

The day finished with a flourish of warmth, tenderness, hugs, awe and wonder.

As I drove down the road I felt good. That’s the good news. It feels good to feel good because you did something good in a good way.

But here’s the better news: I now find myself searching for the next card dealt to me.

 

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Party Planners… November 7, 2012

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Ellie and Don wanted to plan a party.

They decided to work together on the idea. It was exciting. But within a few days they ran into some problems. Don wanted to try some new concepts and experiment, and even though Ellie was intrigued by the possibility, she wanted to make sure she didn’t disinclude old friends. What at first was a casual conversation changed into a disagreement, became a conflict and ended up in a rift.

So Ellie decided to have her own party, and Don likewise pursued his. Ellie got all of her old friends acquaintances and they defined exactly what they thought a party should be. Even though they wanted the occasion to be rich with expansion and open to new encounters, they also were intent on maintaining the integrity of their lifestyles and positions. It was an intense discussion.

Meanwhile, Don got together with a few of his chums and began to assemble a format–or actually, more a direction–for their particular party. Don’s idea was different. He candidly told his gathered helpers that he really liked them a lot, but that he was also interested in trying to enlarge his surrounding host of friends to include new faces. To his amazement, his committee agreed.

So Don went out and bought a book on party planning, shared it with his little council of helpers, and they followed the guidelines meticulously. The first step in planning a party, according to this book, was to invite more people. So instead of relying on a Rolodex of names and telephone numbers, they spread their net out to welcome people from everywhere, most of whom they did not know personally. As Don read the book, he realized that it was impossible to make new, lasting relationships if you didn’t go out and meet new people.

Meanwhile, Ellie and her cohorts decided to limit the guest list of their party to people they knew or people who understood the style and approach of what this particular extravaganza needed to be. So it was agreed in Ellie’s meeting that each member would be given a couple of tickets to pass out to their immediate family or individuals they deemed would be comfortable with the scheme.

As Don read further into his book, he discovered that the second step to having a great party was to serve good food–lots of it and different types. So as they sat down to plan a menu with the caterers of the event, the party planners for Don’s little foray actually picked delicacies that many of them had never even tasted. They were a little bit nervous, but also excited at the prospect of spicing up their lives through variety.

Ellie also planned a menu. It was decided to go with foods that were tried and true–possessing the quality of the taste of time. A couple of suggestions were made to Ellie that they include a few unusual recipes, so cautiously, they inserted one or two of these unknown quantities, but in very limited amounts.

Meanwhile, back at Don’s party, the book suggested that the party have easy directions to a known location. The point the book made was that it’s ridiculous to have a festive occasion if people have difficulty finding it or they are completely unfamiliar with their surroundings. So Don and his little group found a lovely facility right off the freeway, well-lit, with lots of parking.

At Ellie’s session, one of the members mentioned that there was a beautiful mansion available up on top of a hill, about twenty-five miles outside of town. It was practically abandoned and they could probably get it for a song, and people would enjoy the adventure of finding this remote location and strolling around the old halls, viewing the ancient architecture. Everyone was thrilled.

So Don’s party was held–right off the freeway in a simple building–and Ellie’s was out of town, but in an elegant, traditional setting.

Finally, as Don read the last chapter of his book, he concluded that the overall message he received from the volume was that the party should be a place where people could have fun. Of course, everyone had a different definition for fun, but it was generally agreed by one and all that having fun had something to do with pursuing your own happiness without being restricted by others.

Ellie brought up the same subject to her friends. They agreed that fun was a wonderful idea, but in the process of trying to achieve this levity, they should be careful not to lose control of the situation and to make sure to put enough guidelines in place so as to avoid the danger of activities that might be beyond acceptability. Matter of fact, a huge discussion ensued, which raged into the night, about what actually WAS permissible. They decided to make a list of forbidden practices and include it in the invitation sent out to the chosen few.

All was prepared. Both Ellie and Don finished their preliminaries, dates were set and advertising was put in motion.

Don trusted his book and invited all the people he could find, served good food and lots of it to stimulate any taste bud, printed out easy directions for their common location and advertised clearly that all those who came could have fun as long as they didn’t infringe on the rights of others.

It was uncanny that Ellie actually ended up reading the same book that Don pursued–but her conclusions were quite different. The guest list at Ellie’s party was more trimmed and tailored to the specifications of her existing friends. The menu was limited, but tasty. The directions were quite complex, but there was the promise that upon arrival it would be well worth the journey. And fun was so well-defined that confusion and rabble-rousing were absolutely eliminated.

Don’s party was packed. It was disorganized, rowdy and at times bordered on a bit of confusion. Ellie’s party was less well attended, but much more specific to taste, and proper in its proportions.

Over half the people at Don’s party were strangers–unknown to the committee which had originally initiated the idea.

Ellie knew everyone at her party and actually was related to most of them.

Ellie and Don caught up with each other a week later and shared their findings. Of course, each of them put a bit of “spin to the positive” on the affair. Don shook his head as he explained that his results were a little rowdy, but certainly filled with inclusion and excitement. Ellie smiled and said she was glad that her party was much more orderly and contained, even though not nearly as unpredictable and crowded.

But the biggest shock was when they realized that both of them had consulted the same book to plan their parties. It was a volume that had been around for thousands of years and was available to anyone who was willing to learn and receive.

It was the Bible of the party, and from this Bible, Don had learned to invite more people, serve great food, make things easy and have fun. Ellie gleaned from the message to limit invitations, go with tried and tested formulas, make it a little more difficult to get to the destination, but reward those who made it, and to carefully define what was acceptable pleasure so as not to end up with undesirable results.

Two parties. One book. Different ideas.

The amazing part of the whole endeavor was that the book that Don and Ellie consulted did contain information to support both of their assertions, so it was no longer an issue of who was right and wrong–but rather, which idea bore the most fruit to benefit humankind.

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Motelin Just What … May 29, 2012

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Somewhere between $35.95 cents and $169.99 is the average cost of a motel room in this country for one night. Of course, there are places where you can pay much more for a room based upon locale, special events or some little extra accommodation advertised. But generally speaking, most motels will blush with embarrassment once they go above that top dollar.

It is probably one of the most diversely priced items in this country. For instance, if I told you that a gallon of milk ranged between $1.23 and $18.55, you would be up in arms and ready to lynch some dairy farmer in Wisconsin. Yet the motel industry seems to get by with it by maintaining some dubious rationale in its advertising.

I will tell you right now, after having traveled nearly forty years staying in these establishments, which the top fifty dollars of every price is paying for the name, the location, or the privilege of eyeballing staff wearing coats and ties rather than t-shirts and jeans. If that is relatively important to you, then you should pull out that money and spend it heartily.

Thirty dollars of the price of a motel room in the higher range is for the privilege of being with clientele of your particular social ilk. Yes, I am saying it out loud—cheaper motels tend to draw people who don’t have as much money and unfortunately, in this country we contend that those souls are the source of our crime and violence. (Obviously, not so.)

Motels that charge you a lot of money for the rooms refer to these cheaper establishments as “flea bags–infested with bugs, or dens of drugs and prostitution. Of course, once again, very little truth in the matter (although I would not recommend taking out a motel room adjacent to an adult bookstore.)

If you will allow me to put it into perspective for you, a motel room is a simulation of a master bedroom.  Bed, dresser, closet, television set and adjoining bathroom. And nowadays, most of them have microwaves and refrigerators for convenience, which is a consideration we all might have in the future for our own home unit.

There are really three questions you must ask yourself about your motel room for the night that are essential for a good stay:

1. How much room in the room? Unless you have become very familiar with your traveling companion or don’t mind cramped quarters, being able to walk around your room without running into walls or furniture is a plus.

2. Can I park in front of the door or near to my room? One of the biggest misconceptions is that motel rooms that are enclosed, with a parking lost adjoining are safer than those where you can pull up to your door with your car. Honestly, if I were a criminal, I would not want to rob from cars that are right next to the windows of the owner. I would find a nice, large parking lot far from the front desk–and take my pick.

3. Now, this may surprise you. Staying in a motel room is all about the bathroom. You should be careful of those establishments that miniaturize everything in the toilet area so as to condense space so the room can look larger—because all of the plumbing may look Snow White, but it is best suited for the seven dwarves. Especially beware of toilet seats that are round instead of oblong. They tend to be very uncomfortable and are usually encased by a wall on either side, giving you the feeling that you are being wedged into your experience. The bathroom is the key to a motel room. Good lighting, double sinks a plus–or even a sink in the bathroom and one outside the bathroom is really handy. The shower should be easy to get in and out of and have good pressure.

Once you discover these pieces of information, you understand that the most you should probably pay for a motel room is about $75 a night. Everything above that is advertising name, location, staff or a hot breakfast which is offered to you, including eggs, bacon and sausage (which, by the way, is completely unnecessary unless you’re a lumberjack felling trees in the Yukon.)

As you find with everything else in life, there are ways to save money without losing quality. That seems to stymie a lot of folks, including the U.S. government and Congress–because at least half of what people refer to as quality is name-brand assurance that you will be taken care of if something goes wrong.

So the Holiday Inn wants you to pay extra money for their good name over “Bob and Mary’s Motel” down the street–because in the case of some unforeseen difficulty, they want you to believe they would handle it better than Bob and Mary. But since we don’t know what that unforeseen difficulty would be, and no one knows what anyone would do, you end up spending a lot of money for absolutely nothing–similar to buying extra insurance coverage on a car rental.

So I pulled into Denver yesterday and went to my motel, and as always, it ends up being a mixed bag. The room is small but has a lovely bathroom with an accessible shower AND throne. The air conditioning unit needs some work, but we’ve already met the maintenance man and he seems congenial and willing to try. The television set is too big for the room, but that hardly seems like something one should complain about after simply noting it. And the furniture is not made of oak or covered with leather, but instead, looks like your Uncle Charlie made it out in the garage because he’s hoping to someday leave his job at the factory and start a business.

I feel very good every week upon discovering a diamond in the rough and saving money that people have given me so that I can travel—to use it wisely to buy quality instead of merely a name or false assurance. If we could teach the financiers of our nation the same concept and we would begin to barter once again for better pricing on items instead of signing lifelong contracts with companies based on their previous reputations, we could begin to emerge from this dark cloud of indebtedness and arrogant spending with some dignity–and even have a little fun in the process.

Fortunately for me, I have a traveling companion who enjoys cutting a corner here and there as long as she doesn’t lose and arm or a leg. If we could just find people to elect to be our representatives who had similar mindsets, we would be all set.

So those are my discoveries about moteling. To sum it up, if you need a name, or if you are afraid of being next door to someone who makes less than 50K a year, then you will probably end up paying for the higher priced institutions, for the powdered eggs in the morning, convincing yourself it was worth it. But if you realize that buying a name doesn’t mean guaranteeing quality, or sharing the neighborhood with people who don’t have late-model cars but do have contemporary standards and morals–then you can shop around and save yourself upwards to fifty or sixty dollars a night.

Last week I met some of the most interesting people at the swimming pool where we were staying in Grand Junction, Colorado. They were young enough to be my children or grandchildren, and I befriended them, loved them and enjoyed them, discovering many twists and turns in their ever-evolving lives. It was fascinating.

So “motelin’ just what you’re looking for,” as you stay overnight somewhere, realize that money can be easily spent pursuing a security–that is never pre-ordained.

 

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