Sensitize … July 21st, 2020

SENSITIZE 53

Every morning, Mr. Cring takes a personal moment with his friends.

Today: The church calls me a sinner and the world says I’m a winner. Neither one is true, says Cring.

Click the picture below to see the video

Sensitize … July 19th, 2020

SENSITIZE 51

Every morning, Mr. Cring takes a personal moment with his friends.

Today: Right person, wrong message. Cring explains how to get the message right.

Click the picture below to see the video

Sensitize … June 11th, 2020

SENSITIZE 13

Every morning, Mr. Cring takes a personal moment with his audience.

Today: The words we are using today that continue to mask racism.

Click the picture below to see the video

Not Long Tales … December 24th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4468)

20.

The Wysies

On July 19th, the project received the green light for filming—seven days commencing on the 2nd of December—to be aired for five straight nights, beginning December 19th through December 24th, Christmas Eve.

Expectations were high.

The network was always thrilled when any new angle on the holiday season could be unearthed in an attempt to capture a large market share during the December festivities.

This year was particularly exciting, because along with the entertaining new concept was the introduction of Zandy Carlisle to direct. She was an Asian gay woman with a disability—carpel tunnel syndrome. A promotional trifecta.

The premise of the show was simple. A twist and turn on the phrase “Wise Men” had become “Wysies.”

This was not the original title. At first it was spelled W-I-S-S-I-E-S. But after conducting a survey of potential audience, it was determined that the name was too close to “Wussies,” which made everybody laugh—but for the wrong reason.

So it was quickly changed to W-I-Z-Z-I-E-S. But this tested worse, since the inclusion of the prefix “wiz” brought forth images of urination as far as the eye could see. It was Zandy who suggested that using a Y took care of the pronunciation, and striking the extra S eliminated the “Wussie” or the “Wizzie.”

Actually, choosing the name was much more difficult than coming up with the blueprint of the show.

Basically it was a broadcast about five couples, all in their twenties, sent on a mission. Each couple would begin in Temecula, California, dressed in shorts and a shirt, barefoot and with fifty dollars. They would be instructed to walk all the way to the Burbank, California studios as their final destination.

The ninety-four miles between Temecula and Burbank were almost identical to the ninety-seven point six miles that the first Christmas couple, M & J, trekked from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

The rules were easy to understand. There were four things that needed to be accomplished:

  1. Each couple was to stay on foot with no motorized transportation, be it public or private.
  2. They must garner all food and drink from the kindness of strangers.
  3. They would also have to perform one huge, provable good deed.
  4. And finally, to keep everything lively, they should arrive at the finish line in Burbank with a donkey.

Each journey would be filmed, and on the final night, there would be a vote cast by the audience to proclaim the winner.

A rather extensive search took place for the right participants. Of course, in respect to the times, one needed to be gay, one was interracial—black and Asian. An additional couple was a prison romance which blossomed into freedom, with a great backstory. One selected pair was a very religious married team. And finally, there was one couple that was white bread enough to make peanut butter sandwiches for all of summer camp. Their names were Curtis and Morena—a pair of actors who had come to Southern California seeking fame and fortune, but willing to settle for either.

Curtis had been in the hunt for notoriety for about a year-and-a-half, and so far, had only procured a job as a stand-in for a talking jalapeno in a Mr. Mexico taco commercial. Morena had a bit more success—playing the notorious “Queen of Dirt” in a kitchen cleanser TV ad.

Long before the time for filming arrived, sessions were planned to discuss what was expected, beneficial, preferred and helpful for each couple. It was made clear that it was absolutely fine to mention God—but no more than once per episode, so as not to scare away the “uncertain” crowd or the “God is dead” demographic. At no time was Jesus to be included. There were just too many Jews, Muslims and Buddhists for the show to present itself as a billboard for Christianity.

Every couple needed to have a story, so questions were asked, and the search began for what approach would draw the public into the private lives of the contestants.

But first, it was made clear that the name “Wysies” was chosen because it gave a quaint, holiday sniff to what was actually a reality game show (“Wysies” being the Wise Men). That was coupled with the length of the journey being tied into the story of Mary and Joseph. It seemed to be just enough to provide a flavor of inspiration.

The back-stories were chosen.

The gay couple was to play out the persecution they had suffered in pursuit of gaining the right to be married in an America which was “the home of the free and the land of the brave.” Or maybe the other way around.

The black man and Asian woman had lived in Mississippi after he had completed a military tour of duty in Iraq. Their feelings had been greatly injured by the citizens of Dixie, who found their joining to be unnatural under God’s Law.

The two prisoners who had found love after jail had a natural set-up. He was in for trafficking drugs, and she had killed her former husband in a fit of rage when she found him sleeping with her younger sister.

The difficulty came when it was time to derive an appealing presentation for Curtis and Morena. After much questioning, it was decided to emphasize that Curtis was an orphan—since his father had died when he was ten, though his mother was still alive and dwelling in Columbia, Missouri. And Morena had been plagued by disease because she had terrible allergies to both hay and ragweed. (It was agreed that as long as they didn’t get too specific, a general mentioning of their circumstances could still stir the sympathies of the viewership.)

Director Zandy made it abundantly clear that a show of this intensity—this rich with human conflict—would have to emphasize forced feeling, forced fighting, forced exposure, and when necessary, forced story lines.

After the first four planning sessions, Curtis and Morena became disillusioned. It was especially disheartening when the religious couple stomped off the set after being informed that any testimony of their salvation or personal relationship with God had to be abandoned in favor of punctuating their own love story—with a strong dose highlighting their sex life.

That left four couples.

Director Zandy said she was thrilled when it came down to four because five stories were more difficult to squeeze into the time constraints. Even though Curtis and Morena became upset about the job, the first-place prize money of fifty thousand dollars would keep them working and striving toward their goal of becoming full-fledged actors—and was certainly worth putting up with some bleeding of the conscience.

After the planning sessions, and with a general understanding of the expectations, the cast members were sent back to their lives to fend for themselves until the filming began. Each week, Zandy sent off an email with little hints and encouragements on how to better access their greatest potential for winning the show.

Especially significant were the ideas on how to do a good deed. Matter of fact, Zandy referred to this as a “sloppy, sappy service.” In other words, something so obviously kind, generous and merciful that the audience at home would be brought to tears, convinced of the overwhelming goodness of the contestant.

Each week, Curtis and Morena read the directive from Zandy, feeling more and more unsure of their footing. Also, Curtis received alarming news about his mother, Catherine McDermott, who was showing the first stages of dementia—or perhaps warning signs of cardiovascular disease and the danger of a stroke. In other words, she was “ailing.” That’s how family and friends in Missouri expressed their fears for the worst.

Curtis didn’t know what to do. The main problems were his financial situation, fear of failure and his lack of passion about his aspiration for acting. He was frightened that if he went home to Missouri, he would never make it back to Hollywood. He was reluctant to share his feelings with Morena, who found his silence about his mother to be disconcerting, and soon was considering leaving him. She probably would have done so if it had not been for the commitment to “Wysies,” plus a nagging, heartfelt affection for the boy.

The next directive arrived the following week. Both Curtis and Morena were shocked.

Now, neither one of them were religious. But when they read Zandy’s message, the little, tiny piece of faith that still abided in them was stunned. The directive read:

“Good morning to you outstanding human beings and contestants for “Wysies!” I wanted to give you a heads up. During one of our planning sessions, it was discovered that some initial press reports have leaked—portraying the show as a religious broadcast about the journey of Mary and Joseph to the manger. The critics are already attacking it as being just another righteous ruse’ to punctuate the differences among the populace, aggravating the debate about the separation of church and normal life.”

“Of course, nothing could be more untrue. But once a rumor like this gets started, it must be stomped out quickly, or pretty soon a forest fire of misunderstanding will be set ablaze. So I am asking each of you to do a couple of interviews on a press junket in order to (a) advertise yourself; (b) be cute and humorous, bringing intrigue about the show; and (c) strongly establish that ‘Wysies’ is not a God thing.”

“I will contact you soon with times, dates and some possible lines you can use to sever this contest from Sunday School lingo.”

The email was signed:

“Your fearless friend and leader, Zandy”

This stimulated a discussion between Curtis and Morena. Neither one of them felt comfortable defending the faith. They were not like the religious couple, who yearned to preach the Gospel, but they also found no contentment in being included among unbelievers and those who were apathetic about a possible Creator in Heaven.

What began as a discussion about the show ended as an argument about their relationship. Morena was just as discouraged about their progress in the cattle calls of the entertainment industry thus far. Playing the “Queen of Dirt” had not garnered much business, and unfortunately, had not become a repetitive character for future commercials. (Matter of fact, those reviewed about the commercial were thrilled when she was sucked down the drain in the last scene.)

But Morena did not want to be the one to give up. If Curtis were going to leave, he needed to make it clear that he was the quitter—and if he wanted her around, he needed to offer a greater commitment than a tender pat on her bare butt after sex.

On the other hand, Curtis did not want to be the villain in the great tale of their lives. So ensued two or three days of continual fighting with perpetual finger-pointing.

“You’re the reason we’re failing!”

“If you just cared more, we might do better!”

In the midst of this, more calls came in from Missouri, expressing, in a quiet way, desperation over Mother Catherine’s well-being.

Curtis began to wonder if he could just abandon his dream and blame it on his mother’s condition. His problem with that plan was that Morena would always know about the little piece of chicken-shit mixed in with his nobility.

He could leave her, but then he would be arriving back in Missouri alone, into an atmosphere of dreary demise.

One night as they sat, heads spinning from the latest bewildering exchange of ideas, Curtis posed a very interesting question.

“Morena, do you think we can win ‘Wysies?’”

Morena was offended, and then surprised that she felt so insulted by a legitimate question. After all, there were three other couples. The gay lovers were certainly cute and flamboyant. The two prisoners had enough tattoos for three people. And the black and Asian couple—well, on top of military service, they had the applause of everyone who hated Mississippi.

Curtis asked again. “Do you think we can win this thing?”

Morena surprised herself. “No.” That was all she said.

Curtis turned to her, alarmed. “Then why are we doing it?”

Morena replied emphatically. “You know why we’re doing it! Exposure! Showing enough of ourselves that this time, you get to play the jalapeno instead of getting coffee for him!”

Even though the comment stung Curtis’ ego, it was still rather funny. He laughed. “And,” he retorted, “you might get the part of Princess of Clean in the next commercial—who gets to survive to sell yet another day.”

“So,” she said, “we’re hanging around here to participate in a contest where we have no chance of winning, and we’re hoping that our failure will draw enough attention to us that someone will want us in some sort of part because we were such dynamic also-rans.”

Curtis smiled. “You left out something,” he said. “All this is true—plus we have to find a donkey and get it to Burbank, California.”

Then something strange happened—odd indeed. Morena did something she had not done since she was a young girl. Matter of fact, she had been nine years old, and her dog was hit by a car and was lying in the middle of the street, twitching.

On that day, she had bowed her head and prayed. “God, heal my dog.”

Her puppy died. And so did her faith.

But now, in this moment of craziness mingled with humor and pathos, she prayed again. “God, would you get us out of here to someplace where we can breathe without being afraid?”

Curtis was shocked. The two of them had never even mentioned the word “God,” or thought about an Everlasting Presence, but without even thinking, when Morena finished her prayer, he said, “Amen.”

There were no phone calls. The sky did not open. There was no chill going down the spine.

They simply looked at each other and they both knew their next trek would not be to Burbank, but instead, across the country as best they could—to the bedside of a hurting woman in Missouri.

When Curtis called Director Zandy and quit, she was infuriated. She briefly tried to get him to change his mind, but when he wouldn’t, she explained that due to the nature of their contract, they would be required to sign a termination agreement, guaranteeing that they would never sue the show or the network. After this, Zandy curtly stated that the show would be “better with three couples anyway.”

When Curtis and Morena showed up in Burbank to sign their termination agreement, to their surprise they were both issued checks for five hundred dollars. They promised to never say a bad word about the show or do any negative promotion.

Shocked, bewildered, and dare we say, blessed, the two climbed into Morena’s old car—held together with rust and hopes—and headed toward Missouri.

They were in no hurry. It was a five-day journey, and they arrived on the exact day they originally had planned to begin filming “Wysies.”

Mother Catherine was still living in the old homestead. When they got there, she was sitting in the living room, staring out the front window. At first Curtis thought she was anticipating their homecoming—because he had called ahead to let the family know of their intentions. But when they came in, she continued to stare out the window to the undetermined outside.

He made his way to his mother’s side and touched her hand. Barely acknowledging his presence, she reached over and clasped his arm. Unexpectedly, Morena made her way up the stairs to the attic, where, as Curtis had explained, they kept all the Christmas decorations.

She emerged carrying a big box, shut the attic, came downstairs and opened it, beginning to remove the seasonal family treasures. This gained Catherine’s attention. She got up, walked across the room, and began to help Morena.

About five minutes into the experience, Catherine took Morena’s hands, and though she had never met her, she said, “We have done this before, haven’t we?”

Morena saw no reason to argue, so she nodded her head. Immediately, Catherine stood up, walked into the kitchen and took a stance next to the stove, as if considering warming water for tea or beginning a pot of coffee. She stared at the oven intently, as if seeking inspiration.

Concerned, Curtis followed her in. Seeing her stymied at the stove, he came up behind her, placed his hands on her shoulders, and then his arms around her neck, embracing her. Suddenly, from behind, he felt Morena’s tender arms squeezing his waist. The three stood there, connected, tightly holding one another, trying to draw strength from within.

That year, when “Wysies” aired, the ratings were so bad that they never actually finished the five days of production, pronouncing a winner.

Curtis and Morena spent the holiday season with Mother Catherine. Although they feared for her health, each day she actually grew stronger, more present and cognizant of the world around her.

By the time Christmas Eve rolled around, she was reciting memories, singing carols, and fixing the delicious chocolate chip cookies for which she was acclaimed.

Curtis and Morena fell in love—first, with Mother Catherine. Then, with the sweetness and nostalgia of the home. Next, with each other, as they sealed the covenant between them. And finally—and more slowly—they fell in love with God. Even though He had not done much to help Morena’s puppy, this time, on this occasion, and in this Christmas season, He had shown up…and answered their prayers.

Not Long Tales … December 17th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4461)

19.

The Glimpse

Teaching American history at the Daniel Boone High School in Lancerville, Kentucky, required a delicate balance between honoring the actual story of events mingled with comprehension of what every citizen of Lancerville believed to be true—or at least insisted was.

Marco Craswell had arrived in the town four years before as a teacher, and in the past schoolyear had taken on the added responsibility of assistant football coach.

Because his name was Marco, many people thought he was ethnic and looked deeply into his complexion for confirming signs. But actually, his father named him Marco out of a deep admiration for the great explorer, Marco Polo.

Depending on who you talked to, Marco was either the most eligible bachelor in the community or a closet gay. It would be delightful to report that Marco was a dedicated teacher, spending hours developing study plans, and giving extra sessions after school to encourage troubled students. But actually, Marco was the last one in the door when school began and the first one out when it ended. That was why he was a little upset about accepting the job of assistant football coach—it forced him to linger around the campus.

Marco did not like Lancerville.

The town had a credo: “Leave well enough alone.” The theme ran from City Hall, through the streets, into the stores and front doors of the homes, and even to the pulpits and pews of the seven churches sanctifying the surroundings.

As soon as he had arrived, Marco was informed by the school principal that he should find a church he liked—or at least could tolerate—because such things were very important to the citizens, and word would spread very quickly of any non-participation with the Jesus faithful. He had discovered that there was a Community Church in town which had a young minister from California, who by some circuitous journey, had ended up in Kentucky. His name was Jack Murphy, but required everybody to call him Pastor J.

He was a clumsy fellow with a great mind which was never able to manifest its authority through his tongue. So the sermons were a bit confusing, but blessedly brief. Marco made his church home there, struggling to attend each and every week.

Back at school, however, he never went to the teacher’s lounge, nor did he sit with the educators in the cafeteria at lunchtime but perched himself with the computer geeks, which seemed to greatly raise their self-esteem. One day after lunch, one of the leaders among the staff whispered in his ear, “They’re gonna ask you to chaperone for the upcoming class trip to Mammoth Cave.”

Marco flinched. The teacher continued, “This is a good time to say yes. Trust me.”

Sure enough, Marco didn’t even get halfway down the hall before the principal stopped him and said, “We’re having a school trip to Mammoth Cave in three weeks, and we wanted to ask you—because the students love you—to be one of the five chaperones. The school will pay for all your expenses, including entrance to the park. And the mothers are packing sack lunches for everyone.”

Marco wanted to decline—like he had done so many times before—but something told him that this was a line in the sand, a silent demand for him to participate or possibly face the danger of being eliminated.

With the cheeriest voice he could muster, he replied, “Of course! Where else would I be?” The principal really liked this answer. Matter of fact, he patted Marco on the back and tottered down the hall, whistling.

Marco did his best not to think about the upcoming trip. He tried to get sick. He looked for any reason possible to skip out on the duty.

He was just not happy in Lancerville. He was sick and tired of making Daniel Boone one of the predominant characters in his American history class. He was angry that several of the parents had suggested that he refer to the Civil War as the “War Between the States.” He was a disgruntled mentor to young men and women who desperately needed a fresh idea.

Yet Marco was ashamed of himself—so unhappy with his attitude that he decided to make an all-out effort to turn the Mammoth Cave trip into a roaring success.

The day arrived. Everything started out pretty normal. As he rode down the freeway on the bus, he read the pamphlets about the destination. He felt a little thrill. After all, Mammoth Cave was—and is—the largest underground cavern system in the world. Four hundred miles of it.

And even though he was a bit claustrophobic, he thought being with others, conversing, would prevent the walls from closing in on him. He would be fine.

The first part of the tour went well. Then one of the parents wanted to go down a different trail than the tour guide was pursuing. She needed an ally. She asked Marco if he would join her and four of the students. They had all heard flowing water off to the right, and the little group was curious to see what they might discover.

Marco was hesitant, but since he had vowed to become a willing participant in the class escapade, he nodded and joined the mother along with the four kids. They headed down the Eastern path.

After a couple of minutes, there was a sudden, violent shaking beneath their feet—a movement that threw all parties to the ground. Marco believed it was an earthquake. They were not common in Kentucky but did come from time to time—and unfortunately, today one arrived when he found himself beneath the earth inside a cave.

Terrified, everyone tumbled onto the ground, amid a cacophony of screams from all directions. Marco had fallen hard against the stones, bruising his side. He was still trying to recover from the impact when he looked up and realized that the entire entourage, which he had been leading, had run away.

He called out, uncertain what the appropriate beckoning should be. “I’m here!” he said once—then twice and a third time. No answer. A deep silence.

It didn’t seem like the earthquake had done any damage. A few rocks fell. Some sand and dirt.

Where was everyone?

Strangely, Marco felt at peace. Everything was so quiet. The surroundings were primeval. He felt that Nature had engulfed him within her soul.

He realized he should get up and try to find his way back out, but he was content. Maybe they would search for him.

It was so quiet he could hear his own heart.

Then, right in front of him, on the rock wall, a tiny pinpoint of light appeared. It was odd because the cave was so dark that even this small illumination hurt his eyes. It came and then it went. And then it came again.

It happened four times before Marco decided to get up and investigate. He walked over to the rock face and there, etched into the surface, was a small slit about seven inches long—like a rip along the seam of a pair of pants. And every few seconds a brief spritz of light emerged, then disappeared.

Marco giggled to himself. It was so unusual and peculiar that it seemed silly. But it was also a bit frightening. What was trying to shine through the rock?

Slowly, deliberately, he inched his way forward and placed his eye right in the center of the slit in the stone. He stepped back suddenly, unable to breathe. Then he scooted forward again to look. Once again, he retreated, breathless—for inside the miniscule crevice, surrounded by blinding light, he saw himself.

Not the person he was—an American history teacher from Daniel Boone High School. No—he was suddenly, almost cosmically alerted to the fact that he was staring into his own face from another place. Although he had seen the vision for less than two seconds, the realization swelled in his mind.

He slowly inched forward. But this time, as he put hie eye up to the crack in the rock, the stone suddenly began to seal together, as if being mended. The light that had been emitting flickered. Then the wall closed its rupture and the seam was gone.

Marco moved forward, staring at the place where the severing had been. It had vanished. The rock was sealed.

So spooked was he by the event that when two of the students came running up behind him, he jumped, pulling back from them in terror.

“What’s wrong?” said one of the students. Marco shook his head and bound out of the cave, with them trailing.

On the ride back to Lancerville, he could not think about anything else. He did not share his experience because he didn’t understand what he had seen. He didn’t offer details. It was the kind of report that would be considered weird—certainly unacceptable in the provincial village.

He kept it to himself, closing his eyes occasionally, to try to remember and regain the vision he’d beheld.

Arriving back at the school, he was the first one off the bus, ran to his car and drove home. Escaping to his bedroom, he turned off all the lights and lay on his bed, trying to simulate the quietness of the cave. What had he seen? Why did he believe he was staring into his own face—yet not the face that resembled him. It just was him.

Laying there quietly, exhausted from the trip, he fell into a deep sleep. Deeply slumbering, he had his first of two visions.

The first one was like his encounter in the cave, except in this dream, he could see himself more clearly. It was so bewildering. It was him, except formed by a different atmosphere—a unique climate. Or was it a coloration?

He awoke from the first vision, too tired to rise, too weary to think. He fell back asleep.

In the second vision, he was standing in front of the rock in Mammoth Cave. He saw five creatures, so different in appearance. Yet deep in his heart, he knew they were all him—all molded in his image. All constant with his spirit. As he watched, the crack healed and blended into the rock face, returning the wall to normalcy.

Needless to say, he awoke troubled. He carried the burden all the way to school—but decided to share some of his insights with his students during class. They listened, sympathetic, but also deeply worried that the experience had done some physical damage to the teacher’s brain, leaving him in need of medical attention. Less than half-an-hour after his class, three students, one faculty member, one parent from the town and the principal were standing in his classroom, demanding to know how he was feeling, and strongly suggesting that he immediately check himself into the city infirmary.

Marco realized his mistake—he needed to be much more careful about what he said about what he thought he had seen. So he laughed it off and told them it was just an experiment, to see what the students would do. He explained that he wanted to give them an example about how people throughout history had to make major adjustments to see progress achieved in our nation.

His sincerity rang true and they believed him.

He couldn’t wait to return home—to dream again, to see more, to learn more. But there were no more dreams. As startled as he was with the visions themselves, the absence of them left him sad, vacant.

The following morning he decided to take a day off from school and headed back to Mammoth Cave. He tried to find the place he’d been before but had no idea where it was.

Disappointed, he drove back toward town. Hungry, he pulled over at a diner, stepped inside, sat down at a booth and ordered a hot roast beef sandwich.

The young waitress was so kind to him that a sweet relaxation settled in. He realized that he just needed to talk. So he called ahead and asked Pastor J if he would be available for a visitor.

Pastor J was surprised but agreed. They met at the parlor of the church. Marco didn’t waste any time. He shared exactly what had happened, beginning at Mammoth Cave.

He told the whole story—the earthquake. The split in the stone. The flickering light, and the visions.

Pastor J listened carefully, trying his best to muster all his training. After the story was all done, Marco asked, “Is it possible, Pastor J—and I’m only asking you if it’s possible—that I’ve had a visit into another world?”

Pastor J sat for a moment, thinking. “Well,” he began, “let me tell you what I know from what you’ve shared. Or maybe what I think from your thoughts. I, for one, have never believed in a heaven where we humans, who have lived for less than a century, go and celebrate our little adventures eternally.”

Marco thought the way Pastor J put it was so adorable that he had to laugh. Pastor J continued. “Let’s not forget, the Bible itself says that ‘eye has not seen, nor ear heard’ what God has prepared for us. And speaking of that prepared thing, Jesus told his disciples that he was going to prepare a place just for them.”

He paused, considering. “And if you remember, the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus when he rose from the dead—and they had just seen him a couple of days before. Maybe that’s the way it is with us. Maybe we don’t die and go to heaven, but we raise up kind of like ourselves, and arrive in a new dimension.”

Marco was enthralled with the concept. “Let me ask you something, Pastor. Have you ever thought about the fact that Mars, Venus and all these planets that we think are unlivable—well, that maybe in our dimension they are, but in their spectrum, we look like just a rock hanging in the heavens.”

“No, Marco,” said the pastor. “I’ve never thought of it just that way. But maybe we just rise and live again. Or maybe it’s just a continuation without us being totally aware that we’re ever absent. I don’t know. But it’s gonna be cooler than hell.”

Marco gave Pastor J a hug. From that day forward, the two men became great friends. Marco decided to put any further speculation to the back of his mind, to toy with his own entertainment. But he did decide that if living was about keeping on living, and maybe even living in another aura, he’d better get started doing it.

Suddenly, he wasn’t afraid anymore.

He talked to Miss Sanchez at school—one of the new teachers, who was beginning a course in musical appreciation. He was attracted to her. He just walked right up to her at lunch and asked if he could sit down. The two entangled intensely in each other’s lives. He took her to the dance. He took her to Nashville for a concert. He took her to his family. He took her into his heart. She was thrilled with each experience.

They took one another to the altar, where they were married. Marco was no longer in a hurry to leave. He wasn’t sure what was waiting far beyond the stars, but down deep in his soul, he realized that he’d had a glimpse.

Not Long Tales … December 3rd, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4441)

17.

The Man Who Would Be…

Santa Claus.

A complicated simplification.

For he is a homebody with a flair for adventure and a generous soul with a mission to “nice up the naughty.”

A lowly toymaker with a vision for all the children of the world.

Reginald Carlson was a fan of Santa Claus. He was obsessed with the good saint from the North. It was usually the second thing he shared with any person he met, right after saying, “Fine. How are you?”

For twenty years, Reggie (as they called him at work) found his station in life in the backroom of the local post office, sorting letters that he hoped found correct destinations. But all day long, he would share, with whomever would listen, whatever he had recently learned about Father Christmas.

He studied books.

He read all the legends.

He had over two thousand pictures of Old Saint Nick in his personal possession.

For Reggie, rather than reaching an age when he ceased to believe in Santa Claus, not only continued to keep his faith in the icon but developed a hero worship—an everlasting sensation of sympathetic connection.

He wanted to be Santa Claus. There were three problems:

First, Reggie couldn’t get any skinnier if he were to fast for ten days. No, not an ounce of fat on Mr. Carlson’s frame.

He was also not bestowed with hundreds and hundreds of elfin assistants to aid him in his quest to bring a toy and joy to every girl and boy.

And finally, the traditional marshmallow-white skin envisioned for the toy-giver—well, Reggie’s was a bit more toasted.

But in the midst of one of his musings about trying to do something to become more “Clausian,” he came up with his idea:

North Poling.

It was a rather plain concept. Reggie envisioned selecting twenty small towns in his home state and finding a group of grown-ups in each locale who would become Santa Claus to their community by taking all the families in their little village who were unable to provide a solid Christmas for their children—and not only provide the toys and extras, but deliver them, wearing costumes, on Christmas Eve.

Reggie was so excited he could barely contain himself.

He shared the dream with everyone he knew, and though it seemed a bit farfetched to them, it had a bit of sparkle and nobility, which made each one promise to support and even participate.

Counting his hometown of Baskerville, Missouri, Reggie lined up twelve other communities within a hundred-mile radius and started writing letters. City councils, mayors, preachers, store owners…

He contacted charities and pursued government grants to procure the money for the yuletide venture.

Word of his efforts spread quickly, and some pictures of the first fruits of his gathering in Baskerville even went viral on the Internet.

He received an invitation from the television show, “Invest or Bust.” The program featured entrepreneurs with reasonable ideas, who presented their plans, trying to get money for their causes from the star of the show, who dubbed himself “Snarky.”

Snarky was hard to convince. He was prideful, cynical and had left many people in tears, walking away feeling foolish for having uttered their visions.

Things were going so well with North Poling and there was such a great level of intrigue that when Reggie received the invitation from “Invest or Bust,” he was reluctant to appear. But everybody circled around him, hounding him, for a whole week, until he nodded his head, called back on the phone and set a date for taping.

Meanwhile, Reggie had no illusions of grandeur. He didn’t need some billionaire from New York City to feed his hopes with cash. He kept promoting. He kept sharing. He kept believing and even started his initial planning.

By the time he headed off to tape “Invest or Bust,” there were ten communities which had agreed to be part of North Poling, with over a hundred volunteers. He was ecstatic. His faith in becoming Santa Claus was materializing right before his eyes.

So he took the trip to New York more or less as a lark. He imagined himself being the bearer of great news and receiving—well, overall, a vote of confidence.

But when the show was taped, Snarky, being particularly surly that night, attacked Reggie for his presumption, explaining that it was not only foolish and a waste of time and money, but that in a sense he was discouraging poor people from improving their situation. Reggie tried to defend himself, but Snarky kept up his attack, viciously snarling rebukes and repudiation.

At length, Reggie explained that he wasn’t looking for any money and really didn’t need Snarky’s approval. In doing so, he feared that he had come off angry and defensive.

Reggie was so disappointed with his appearance on “Invest or Bust” that he took an early flight home, only to discover that apparently the whole world had been watching.

The phone started ringing.

One after another, the small towns that had signed up for the project pulled out, stating that they lacked the money or some other lame excuse.

Snarky’s prophesy about the adventure being doomed was being fulfilled.

There seemed to be no encouragement coming in from the appearance in New York except one tailor from Los Angeles, who donated a red and white pinstripe Santa suit for Reggie to wear. When the garment arrived three days later, Reggie looked at the beautiful costume with a deep sense of futility. All that was left was Baskerville, which had shrunk to a staff of only five—to deliver toys to thirty-two households.

Then a sneaky, sinister statement began to circle through the community.

Reggie was trying to make money off the idea.

One of the volunteers asked him why he had so much money in his checking account. Reggie was shocked. How did this fellow know how much money he had bank? It was outlined to Reggie that “someone knew someone” who worked at the bank.

Reggie explained that he had no place to put the donation money that was coming in, or the few grants that had been afforded his way.

But it didn’t really matter what story he offered. The five Baskerville volunteers were really just looking for a reason to escape. They all deserted.

It was three days before Christmas, and all through the town, all the creatures were stirring, but no support was around.

Reggie was depressed. His wife and oldest son had cautiously stepped away. Oh, they still spoke their support, but whenever he brought up new ideas or asked if they would help him find more volunteers, they gently changed the subject.

The question hanging in the air all over Baskerville was:

What is Reggie going to do on Christmas Eve with what he’s begun if he has no one to help him. What will become of the money? What will happen with the toys? What will he do with the huge truck he rented for the evening?

The answer was simple: Reggie had no idea.

By five o’clock Christmas Eve afternoon, he sat alone in a rented warehouse, staring at presents which were already wrapped—with no place to go.

He was alone. Darkness was falling. The warehouse was chilly, with shadows were lingering across the walls. Reggie sat on a big box containing five bicycles—and started to cry.

After about a half an hour, weary of his own tears, he spoke aloud.

“I am not a religious man. I have nothing against God (if You’re listening). I just don’t like church—sitting for so long and ending up doing nothing. I don’t get it. I mean, if there is anything supernatural—if there is a spirit that causes Santa Claus to be real, why in the hell didn’t it show up? Is it because of me? Am I so stinky and dumb and meaningless that the idea has to wait for a better person to carry it? What did I do wrong?”

He continued. “Was it prideful for me to go to New York? Why couldn’t North Poling work? Even if it is a dumb idea, other dumb ideas work. Putting cinnamon on cereal kind of worked. I think it’s stupid, but it’s still out there. They messed up Coca Cola for a while, but people are still drinking Coke. And even when we have really bad politicians, no one gives up on the government. What happened?”

All at once Reggie raised his voice with a mighty thunder. “What in the hell happened?”

He heard a sound behind him and whirled around.

Standing there was Kathy Gillespie. She was one of the teenagers from the high school—a cheerleader. Reggie knew her because the school often sent her down to the post office to pick up specific packages that the principal wanted as soon as possible.

There she was, standing in the darkened room, frightened and shivering. Reggie foolishly stepped toward her. She jerked back, terrified. “I’m sorry,” she said sheepishly. “I didn’t know you were crazy.”

She burst into tears, turned on her heel and ran out of the warehouse. Reggie thought about chasing her but the image of a grown man tracking down a teenage girl in the night didn’t seem very promising. So instead, the middle-aged post office laborer loaded a few things into the truck, not certain what he would do once everything was in place. All he knew was that he needed to make a go of it.

And if he couldn’t finish it, he still needed to begin.

The truck was nearly loaded. He stepped out and walked down the ramp, and there before him was Kathy again—but this time, she had brought seven teenage boys and five teenage girls with her. Standing alongside them were what appeared to be six younger brothers and three little sisters.

Reggie didn’t know whether to defend his angry speech to Kathy or to simply allow her to share why she had returned. Was she going to try to get him in trouble? Had she brought friends to make fun of him?

Kathy, sensing his nervousness, spoke up. “I’m sorry I bothered you the first time,” she said sweetly. “I ran away because—well, because you seemed kinda nuts.”

One of the boys laughed but then covered his mouth. Reggie was about ready to speak when the girl continued. “The reason we came was that all of us here—felt that you got treated, well…you got treated…”

The biggest boy of the group jumped in. “Like shit,” he said in a basal tone. This caused everybody to laugh. Reggie even chuckled through his depression.

“Well, anyway,” said Kathy, “we thought it was terrible. I mean, all you wanted was to be Santa Claus to a bunch of kids who need one. If we’re gonna wait for answers to fly out of the sky, then a lot of people are going to go without.”

Reggie’s eyes filled with tears. He was sensing that something beautiful was about to happen. He needed to just be still.

Kathy, who apparently had been assigned as a spokesperson, went on. “Well, anyway, there’s only…”

She looked around at the gathered friends. “…about a dozen of us. Maybe more. But we’ve come out—by the way, with our parents’ permission…”

More laughter.

Kathy cleared her throat. “We’ve come out to help you deliver all the stuff in your truck.”

Reggie was beside himself with joy.

It wasn’t the army of toy givers he had envisioned.

It wasn’t the march of twelve communities in unison, providing for the needs of the less fortunate.

It was not the triumph of his childhood dream to become Santa Claus.

But it was something. It was something good.

Maybe the towns should have done better. Maybe Snarky could have been kinder. Maybe…

But this Christmas, it would be the children doing the leading.

It would be those who were young caring for their young friends who didn’t have enough.

There was something heavenly about it.

It took the better part of the night. Some households were happy to see the truck arrive. Others felt put out because of the lateness of the hour.

It didn’t matter.

At exactly 4:02 A. M., they delivered the final wrapped present—this one was for the McCaultry children.

They were done.

Reggie put all his helpers, his elfin assistants, into the back of the truck and drove to a restaurant about ten miles away and treated the whole entourage to breakfast.

Stories, laughter, tears, jubilance.

The owner of the restaurant was so impressed by what this quickly-put-together committee had accomplished that he gave them their morning eats for free. Reggie was speechless.

In its simplicity, North Poling worked.

Maybe trying to do something big was the opposite of Santa Claus.

Maybe trying to get the whole world involved and failing was why we needed a Santa Claus in the first place.

When Reggie arrived back at the warehouse and parked the truck, the kids all got out, hugged, and then turned to head home.

Reggie watched them walk away. They probably always had been good kids—but now they were good kids who had done something good.

Reggie learned a lot that Christmas.

Mainly, Reggie learned that being Santa is a hard row to ho-ho-ho.

 

 

The Q Word … May 28th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4059)


THE

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WORD


The Q Word that should never be written or spoken again is:

Quiet

To ask for it carries the arrogance of the librarian who insists that knowledge is better acquired in silence.

To expect it is the foolishness of the parent who has birthed a noise maker.

And to pout because it doesn’t come makes you appear prematurely ancient and dusty.

And just for the record, peace does not travel with quiet.

There is no such thing as “peace and quiet.”

Peace must be made—forged, crafted and bent into position. Therefore, it is a construction zone, complete with traffic jams, hammering out matters and pouring concrete solutions.

Quiet is what tells the younger generation that the older generation has no right to be heard.

Quiet is what turns a church into a funeral home, even when it insists to be a cathedral of worship.

Quiet is what makes school so annoying for the students that refusing to learn appears to be the best rebellion.

There are three definite things that make quiet an unfriendly, unnatural and unworthy word:

1. Life is noisy

We did not get here with the “big whisper” theory. We got here with a “big bang,” and it continues through today.

2. People are clunky

Even though you can put all the pieces into the right place, when they start to move, function, breathe and execute their missions, they stumble over one another, and even when alone, find a way to trip themselves up.

3. All change creates squeaks, hisses and some sound you must use your falsetto to describe.

It is time for us to stop acting like our mother, attending her first hip-hop concert.

Earplugs are not available.

Frowns of disapproval over volume can never be turned into smiles of ecstasy.

There is no quiet—just softer gasps for air.


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