Catchy (Sitting 61) M, Leo and the First Meeting…August 11th, 2018

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Grateful he was.

Matthew sat quietly in his overstuffed and overpriced first-class seat on the midnight flight from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas.

The plane was dark. It was quiet. Most of the passengers had taken their tiny element of a sleeping pill and disappeared into slumber.

That was also true of Leonora, who quickly explained that she was exhausted from the audition and needed to get some solid airplane z’s on the trip because she had a meeting the next morning with the symphony coalition, to discuss health benefits.

Her excuse, like every performance in her life, was well-rehearsed and inadequately presented.

As Matthew had gotten to know her, he liked her less and less, and so found himself burying his interest and passions into their sexual adventure.

She was opinionated. Matthew had always viewed himself as open-minded–easy to get along with–but in her presence felt defensive. He hated it when she insisted he start calling her “Leo,” because she viewed herself, in the realm of business, intellect and art, as a lioness.

“You are what you claim to be,” she mouthed.

Matthew nodded, quite certain that many claims were being made every day by mortals which made the heavens laugh.

What really troubled him was when she started calling him “M.”

Just the letter “M.”

When he asked her why she was doing that, she said, “I’m encouraging you to grow. You need to realize that you’re on a journey to fill out your name.”

Matthew didn’t know what the hell that meant, but was in no mood to have it explained further and end up with more dents in his body work. He was also afraid that if she started in trying to become his psychoanalyst, he would have to be more forthcoming and tell her that she was much less than she presumed.

Her oboe playing had never been great, but had become even less proficient as she started to complain about the fellow-members of her quintet and the unwillingness of the symphony conductor to listen to her suggestions on seating and tone.

She viewed Matthew as an ignoramus, even though he had spent many years enjoying classical music, and had a very good friend at the university who was an oboist. Matthew kept his mouth closed except when they were kissing.

It was especially difficult that day, when she met him at the airport, explaining that the audition was long, she had to wait, and then it turned out that she had some sort of microscopic, tiny split in her reed, which prohibited her from gaining the full height and depth of her range. She requested another time to audition but the committee refused. So she failed because they were inconsiderate.

Matthew listened to her rail for a solid hour–against the walls, the furniture, the paint and the chairs that surrounded her, blaming everything she possibly could for her setback–except for the fact that she was insufficient for the moment.

It was the strangest relationship of Matthew’s life. There was a deep-rooted part of him that loved her madly; an exotic jungle passion that nearly left him breathless. But as a human being, she had selected the portions of intelligence that she revered, while ignoring the virtues that make such knowledge applicable.

Matthew remained silent.

Sitting in the darkness of the airplane, glancing over at his sleeping lover, he began to cry. It actually turned into a tiny sob, which he hoped nobody else heard.

He was so embarrassed. He was ashamed–but also enraged, because here he was, with a defunct liver in his body, battling for his life, simultaneously apologizing for breathing.

How in the hell had it gotten so complicated? What was he going to do?

He reached into his pocket and pulled out his own remedy for insomnia–a tiny flask of a brandy which included a shot or two fo sherry. He downed the remainder of the contents and put his head back. Sleep still refused to come–so he cried.

Matthew finally dozed off, with tears streaming down his face.

*****

The following morning, in Washington, D.C., Soos decided to get started on her project.

She thought she had the easiest assignment of all. Michael Hinston, who had been a Congressman, wining and dining lobbyists who were salivating for his vote, now had a humble one-room efficiency at the YMCA. His marriage to the Lutheran minister had been annulled when she discovered all the trials and tribulations chasing him, threatening to destroy his life. She loved him, but she still wanted out.

So he was alone with his twin bed.

Soos called Michael and he agreed to meet with her at ten o’clock A.M., at a little diner he claimed had the best waffles and scrapple on the East Coast. Soos explained she had never eaten scrapple–avoiding it because the ingredients seemed to be the rear-end of every barnyard creature. But Michael said she would probably enjoy this batch.

Arriving at the diner, they found a booth in the back. They embraced–the kind of embrace that merged “old college friends” with some tenderness of man and woman, and a huge immersion in fellow-travelers of faith.

As Michael pulled away he had tears in his eyes.

“Why are you crying?” asked Soos.

Michael chuckled. “Because I can–and I am the luckiest man in the world to be able to cry this morning.”

Soos took the next ten minutes to explain to Michael what had transpired with the abduction and the request made to her–to contact him, the goal being some secret discovery about his involvement, which was beyond her comprehension.

“Well, since neither one of us know what it means, or have any idea of the significance, I think it’s good that we came to eat waffles,” said Michael.

And eat they did. Soos ended up actually enjoying the scrapple, though she thought it was a little salty.

They just talked. It was a conversation that would be difficult to explain to a stranger, so filled with tenderness that it would always be remembered as priceless.

“There was a time in my life,” Michael said, “when if you had told me that some organization or guy had chosen me for special attention, I would have assumed it was just great foresight on their part. I wasn’t just arrogant–I was religious about my arrogance. I actually believed that God wanted me to be the best father in the world. The best husband. The best extra-marital lover. The best Congressman. And of course, the best cheater in Washington, D.C. Sometimes when you’re going for the best you forget that it has to begin with good. You know–good, better, best?”

Soos smiled. She had always loved Michael because he was clever. Unfortunately, cleverness could have dangerous blow-back.

Michael continued. “I almost lost everything. Let me edit my own statement. I did lose everything–but I never actually had it. I just pretended. I pretended so hard that, honest to God, I could not imagine what was happening when my first wife left me for a Lesbian and my second wife left me because I was a criminal. Everybody leaves me.”

He grinned. “And I really can’t argue with them. They’ve got really good reasons.”

“So I don’t know why anybody would want me to do anything. I did fix the radiator in my room, so when winter comes I’ll be warm. That was pretty nifty.”

Michael paused.

“Will you talk to me about Matthew?” he asked. “I don’t think I ever loved a man as much as I love Matthew. I don’t think I ever told him that. I was afraid he would make fun of me.”

Soos giggled and spit out a little bit of her coffee. “He would have.”

Michael chuckled. They sat for a moment. Soos reached over and took his hand.

“He’s dying,” she said.

Michael lifted his head, shocked.

“Not quickly,” she explained. “But his liver is shot to hell, and gradually, he’s just poisoning himself. “And he has a new girlfriend that has the personality of a prickly pear.”

Michael laughed. “What you’re saying is that she is difficult to sit down on and talk to.”

For some reason, Soos found that statement hilarious. She laughed and snorted, gaining the attention of half the diner. A dirty look from the proprietor finally made her sober up.

“I don’t want to get you kicked out of your favorite diner,” she said.

Michael waved her off. “Forget about it. I waffle on my favorite diner.”

He smiled with the innocence of a ten-year-old boy. “What can I do for Matthew?”

Soos considered and then injected, “Got a black market liver in your pocket?”

Michael crinkled his brow. “No,” he said, “but I have a liver in my body.”

“Don’t you need that?” mocked Soos.

“Yeah, but not all of it. I could give him a piece of mine.”

Soos shook her head. “That’s ridiculous, Michael. Anyway, you probably wouldn’t be a match.”

“But what if I was?” queried Michael. “What if I held the key to Matthew’s life the way Jesus held the key for mine?”

Soos groaned, a little disgusted. “So now you think you’re a savior?”

“No,” said Michael. “That job is filled. It just seems like if you could save someone, why not go ahead and do it?”

A lightbulb went off in Soos’s head.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “Is it possible that your part in this, whatever…mission…is to help Matthew and bring him to Jesus?”

Michael teared up again. He took the final bite of waffle laying on his plate, seemingly deserted. He chewed, swallowed, and looked Soos in the eye.

“My dear sister,” he said slowly, “I can’t imagine a greater calling.”

 

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Catchy (Sitting 60) Debriefing…August 5th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Unable to get his head around Jo-Jay’s tales of abduction, Matthew made the decision to fly into Washington, D.C. and meet with five very confused but elated friends.

Each of them had purportedly encountered similar imprisonments, leaving them suffering from amnesia except for a very specific name, which each was intended to retain.

Matthew did not want to fly to Washington, D.C. by himself. Shortly before he received the phone call from Jo-Jay, the latest blood count numbers had come back from the doctor. They were not good. His liver was not repairing–actually getting worse.

This was probably due to the fact that Matthew was continuing to drink. When the doctor discovered that Matthew was not pursuing a tee-totaling lifestyle, he explained that it would soon be necessary to pursue a transplant–or Matthew would no longer be able to remain cynical, but rather, would be quite dead.

With that rattling around his brain, he did not want to be alone, so he asked Leonora to accompany him to Washington, D.C. She was completely unwilling–until he set up an audition for her as second oboist with the National Symphony. Even though Leonora hated not playing first–feeling that the classical masters chose the second oboe part to lose their inspiration, she still felt it was a good career move, and a good step for her in advancing her dreams. She agreed to travel along.

Yet she adamantly refused to attend the meeting with Matthew, Carlin, Jubal, Jasper, Soos and Jo-Jay, feeling she would be out of place, and that after the fiasco in the Las Vegas hotel suite, they might hold a grudge against her atheism.

Matthew assured her that they weren’t that type of people, and said she wouldn’t need to stay if she felt uncomfortable. To ensure she had autonomy, Leonora rented her own car upon arriving at the airport in Washington, D.C.

It was clear to Matthew that there were many roads of communication that needed to be opened in the days ahead if he was ever going to have this lovely woman as his partner.

The two Vegas souls arrived in time for brunch, which was beautifully set up at Jo-Jay’s house. It was light but delicious, tasty but small, and consumed in no time at all.

After a few moments of conversation, wherein all five Washingtonians exhausted all of their knowledge about oboes and double-reed instruments, Carlin spoke up.

“Matthew, we’ve asked you to come here because of a very strange set of events. Considering how this whole project has been tinged with the bizarre, isolating one thing as ‘strange’ might seem a little redundant…”

Soos broke in. “But honest to God, this one is strange. This is Twilight Zone freaky.”

Leonora furrowed her brow. Soos turned to her and said, “Do you know The Twilight Zone? You know–Rod Serling?”

Leonora neither acknowledged nor denied awareness. There was an uncomfortable moment while six people waited for one person to emote.

Jubal jumped in to fill the spot. “Well, it was. It was creepy. Let me summarize so I don’t bore anyone. All five of us…” He motioned his hand around the room.

“Yes, all five of us…Well, I guess I’ll use the word ‘abducted,’ though it wasn’t by aliens…'”

Jasper cut in, laughing. “Well, they were alien to me.”

Everybody nodded except Leonora, who was staring into her cup of tea.

Jo-Jay spoke up. “I’m not good at explaining things, but I have listened to everybody’s story, so let me summarize the details we have in common. Each of the five of us were taken against our will and flown by airplane to another location. We were given drugs which didn’t do any harm to us, but for some unusual reason, refreshed us. We were interrogated…”

Soos interrupted. “And this is where it gets different. For instance, I was interrogated by a woman in a clown suit.”

Carlin noted, “My guy was a fat Alfred Hitchcock-looking fellow wearing a ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ mask.”

“I was interviewed by a football player,” said Jubal, “with an unknown uniform–at least unknown to me–with a mask over his eyes.”

“Mine was a little kid,” injected Jasper.

“And that leaves me,” said Jo-Jay. “My interrogator was dressed as an angel. A very dark one, wearing a black hood. It was scary shit.”

A silence fell over the room which Leonora filled with a heavy sigh, shaking her head. Matthew realized he was losing the attention of the woman he loved–or at least lusted after. He thought about trying to include her, but decided it might be better to just hurry the meeting along so they could get out of there.

But before he could speed the conversation toward a conclusion, Leonora stood to her feet and said, “The food was delicious. I shall not stay for the stories. I have an audition in two hours, and I am going to go practice and prepare. I’m sure you understand.”

She turned on her heel, and without saying another word, walked out the door. Matthew wanted to follow her, afraid of the separation.

At that moment, Matthew hated all five people in the room, and counting the Father, Son and Holy Ghost–make it eight. He was extremely tired of the whole project. He was sick of being sick.

Carlin sensed his desperation. “We won’t hold you long, Matthew.”

He continued. “I was given a name. Terrence Eldridge. I have Googled him, studied and tried to get as much information as I could. Turns out he’s a fellow who has started a new movement in the black community, to escape what he considers to be the racist term, ‘African American.’ He wants to give his brothers and sisters their rightful place in this country. He wants to call them ‘Amerikin.’ From what I read, he is powerful, dynamic and completely unknown.”

Soos jumped in. “Believe it or not, the name given to me was Michael Hinston. You may not know it, but he was recently exonerated of all charges. He’s been given a clean bill of health by the Congressional investigating committee. His testimony before them was speckled with spirit and humility. He’s in a good place. For some reason, he is my mission.”

“Mine,” said Jubal, “is a guy named Milton Crenshaw, who lives in South Florida. That’s not the name I was given. I was given a word. ‘Jesonian.’ When I typed that word into Google, this fellow’s name came up–with a self-published book that seemed to have gone nowhere. So I assume I’m supposed to go talk to him and find out what he’s trying to communicate with his new word.”

Jasper laughed. “Well, of course, I was given the name of a comedian. Mickey Kohlberg. He’s a Jewish fellow who has taken it upon himself to take all the material of Jesus of Nazareth and rework it into a standup comedy routine, which he has entitled ‘Dying Laughing.’ So I’m off to see what he’s all about.”

Jo-Jay looked around the room. “Well, I guess that leaves me. I was given the word careless.’ Of course, dumb girl that I am, I thought it was the normal word, “careless,” but then I discovered there’s this consultant to the rich–a young man in his early thirties named Careless. His goal is to teach these very wealthy people how to redeem their sense of worth through giving–intelligently. I’m set up to meet with him next week.”

Matthew sat for a moment. Carlin started to speak, but Matthew interrupted.

“No, I don’t need to hear any more from you guys. You do understand, this just sounds like a crock of shit. The smartest thing I could do is run out the front door of Jo-Jay’s home and throw a hand grenade behind me and save the world a lot of trouble.”

“Now, I’m not much of a church boy, but I do remember that when the Apostle Paul was talking to a king one day, the monarch got done hearing him and said to the Apostle, ‘Too much learning has made you crazy.’ Do you see my point? You guys have gotten so involved–so convinced that you’re going to change the world–that you’ve just let your minds go nuts.”

Jo-Jay stood up indignantly. “You know me better than that, Matthew. You once called me the most level-headed person you had ever met. Not woman. Person. Sometimes, though, all the answers don’t fit into a bottle of booze.”

Carlin also stood to his feet and pulled Jo-Jay toward him. “That’s enough. We’re not here to hurt our friend…”

Matthew shook his head. “You’re not my friends. I could use some friends. Did you all even know that I have liver disease? Did you know that I need a transplant? That’s what they told me right before I came here. And if you did know, how much would you let that interrupt your lives as you try to save the world for Jesus?”

“Did you see that woman who left? I love that woman. At least I think so. If she weren’t so goddamn obnoxious, I’d tell her. But the way she is right now, she’d just use it against me. You guys don’t have an answer. She hates your guts.”

He shook his head. “I know what she’s going to do. She’s gonna ask me to make a choice. Am I going to be with her, or continue to be in this ridiculous adventure?”

“And what would you say?” Soos asked meekly.

Jubal countered. “Hush, Soos. That’s none of our business.”

Matthew stood and walked toward the door. He stopped short. “Jubal, you said a mouthful. It’s not your business. Not because I don’t care. Not because I don’t love you guys. But right now I need someone to love me more than they love Jesus. Do you fucking get that?”

Carlin nodded and said, “We do.”

“We do what?” asked Matthew.

Carlin smiled. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Matthew craned his neck from side to side, relieving tension. “Listen,” he concluded. “I’m sorry. I’m not myself. It sounds like a great punch-line, but keep in mind–my liver is dying. And I’ve got a conversation waiting for me with a very angry, talented, intelligent, sexy woman. And I’m outgunned. I would ask you to pray for me if I believed those words would go any higher than the ceiling. So let me leave it like this–I’m gonna live through the next twenty-four hours. I’ll let you know how much damage was done.”

He turned, opened the door and was gone.

Five startled, loving, confused, bewildered, exasperated, terrified and worried people peered at one another, anxiously.

 

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Is It Still There? … May 6, 2013

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flagHave you ever listened closely to the lyrics? (Actually, since it was originally a poem, maybe I should say “the stanzas.”)

I’m talking about The Star Spangled Banner, penned by Francis Scott Key. After all, the emotion of the song is a yearning curiosity about whether the defenders of Ft. McHenry had survived the all-night battle–if the flag was still waving, proclaiming victory.

We’ve grown so accustomed to hearing the song sung by young, spoiled, famous pop artists, who are more concerned about the pitch range than they are about the emotional range, that we somehow have lost the significance of the message.

That night in Baltimore Harbor, Mr. Key was frantic about whether the United States would be able to continue its mission, initiated 36 years earlier with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

He was nervous. He was anxious for a little light to be shone on the day so he could determine the future of our nation.

For this I know–after all the scandals, ill-advised wars, foolish clinging to bigotry, financial disasters and even the broaching of civil rights which have peppered our history, we still remain a country which insists on pursuing the simple concept of personal freedom.

But like Francis Scott Key, I sometimes wonder whether The Star Spangled Banner is still there in the midst of all the partisanship and vendettas put out by less-than-scrupulous leaders in this country, who have more of a vested interest in their own personal wealth and position than they do in the deeper treasures of liberty.

But I am not cynical. I still believe I live in a magnificent country.

It all came to bear on me the other day when I received an email from my daughter-in-law, who was born and raised in China. She sent an attachment of a file, with her singing a song she will be auditioning tomorrow, to possibly perform for the UCLA graduation. It was The Star Spangled Banner.

First, I was astonished that she was a singer. She had never shared that talent with me in all of our varied conversations. She had listened to me croon away many times without piping a note herself. But when I listened to her gentle, sweet voice intone our national anthem, I was brought to tears–especially when I heard her share the phrase, “Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave–o’er the land of the free …?”

When she hit that high note, a chill went down my spine. Not because it was loud or intense. No–because I realized that here was a Chinese girl raised in among an intelligent and intuitive people, who had used her abilities to arrive on the shores of America to expand her education, and was now singing the praises of the “land of the free.”

You see–that’s America.

America isn’t about listening to a bunch of old codgers, sitting around in over-stuffed leather chairs discussing the subtleties of politics. America is a beautiful young girl from China, who still honors her country of origin, but comes to harvest the benefits from the freedom and opportunities provided by this republic.

It was beautiful. It struck a patriotic chord in me that still resounds this morning.

So you can feel free to continue to be part of the pervasive attitude that is trying to  preserve an America long gone or initiate an America yet unrevealed.

As for me, I will celebrate the power of the immigrant–that soul who has traveled to our shores to find the missing pieces of his or her life.

So here’s to my daughter-in-law and her beautiful spirit. I don’t know if she’ll win the audition or not–but she’s already proven that The Star Spangled Banner is still there.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

*****

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

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