Sit Down Comedy … February 14th, 2020

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sit Down Comedy

 

Donald John Trump is our President.

It is a position we are compelled to honor due to the tenacity of our struggle as a nation and the grace extended to us as a people.

In the fury of opinions and the peril of hurling insults, it is good every once in a while, to stop and acknowledge what is true and what is honest.

This gentleman won the election to be our leader in 2016.

With this in mind, and my heart full of compassion and dutiful propriety, let me offer the following observations:

Mr. President:

1. Dictators have no redeeming values.

To focus on their might pilfers our great arsenal of what is right.

2. They that live by the military shall die by the military.

Every nation, kingdom and territory over the centuries that tried to maintain its integrity through the use of force has eventually been cruelly overtaken.

3. The measure you measure out to others will be measured back to you.

There are some souls who have learned the value of being gracious, and other human beings who are barely out of the jungle—with blood in their teeth. It is good for each of us to remember that we increase our possibilities for survival and mercy by offering them first.

4. And speaking of mercy, the grace that we all often need to survive the tribulation and chaos of Planet Earth is only granted to the humble.

The whole system of Mother Nature is geared to resist the proud.

5. Not everyone who cries “Lord, Lord” shall enter the Kingdom.

With the profession of being a Christian comes the responsibility of following the lifestyle of the Master—Jesus himself.

6. Pussies don’t like to be grabbed.

If an invitation is not extended, it is an assault.

7. “Suffer the children to come unto me.”

This does not mean to make the children suffer, as they are separated.

 8. Alienating nations, races and people of the Earth is rejecting their Creator’s craftsmanship.

Building walls creates nothing more than anger—and saying that there are “no good Samaritans” may leave you by the side of the road, without aid.

9. It is truth that makes us free.

Therefore it stands to reason that lying steals our freedom.

10. It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

And when the mouth speaks, the hearts that receive the words begin to accumulate an abundance.

Thank you, President Trump. Thank you for listening to these observations.

You are our President. We offer you place.

Not Long Tales … December 24th, 2019

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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.

Sit Down Comedy … December 20th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sit Down Comedy

Culture Wars

They’re fought among people who know they are pretty much the same as one another but are still kind of pissed off about it.

They arise in this time of Yuletide because nobody can decide if Christmas has earned its wings as being universal, or whether it’s offensive to Jews, Muslims and atheists.

I suppose it makes for good conversation on talk shows, or among the more argumentative.

But for me, it’s never been simpler.

It is so much like God, to have a reverent event promoted through tinsel, red costumes and talking Christmas trees.

How do I know this? Because if you’re God and you made people, you know that folks are much better when they’re given relevant things instead of reverent things.

So I will break it down in my homespun manner:

 

The story of Jesus gives you a manger.

Yet

Santa is the great manager.

 

Jesus provides angels.

But

Santa brings the angles.

 

Jesus embodies the love of God.

Then again

With Santa, you feel the love of God.

 

Oh, come all ye faithful

Yet

Santa reaches the faithless.

 

There were shepherds tending their flocks in the field

But

Elves tending the toys by night.

 

Jesus: “Peace on Earth”

Then again

Santa: “Good will toward men.”

 

Unto us a child was born.

Then

We can be reborn a child.

 

Wise men came bearing gifts.

So

Santa continues the wise tradition.

 

Jesus is our great CEO.

But don’t forget

Santa heads a wham-bang sales force.

 

Joy to the world, the Lord has come,

Let Earth receive her King.

 Jesus and Santa come join the fun

And pray the world can be one.

 

Jesus is the reason for the season

But

Santa brings the dough for the show.

 

 

Not Long Tales … December 17th, 2019

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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.

1 Thing Santa Has More of Than You and Me

He’s jolly.

I looked up the definition of “jolly,” and quickly found several dictionaries which claimed that the word is so little used that it has become “archaic.”

In other words, “Move over, Grandpa. No one under the age of seventy knows what you mean.”

Jolly is not complicated.

Jolly simply means “to purpose to be exceedingly glad.”

We don’t favor that anymore. We have this idea that we demonstrate our true worth by appearing strained, overworked, busy—and just a little bit cranky.

We assume someone who’s jolly has no worries whatsoever and therefore can presume to be frivolous.

But here’s a clue: that would not refer to Santa Claus.

You’d have to agree that he has a pretty big job. He’s supposed to provide toys and gifts for all the children of the world. And even though the calendar says he has three hundred and sixty-four days to do it, that would still require manufacturing and packaging millions of toys every single day.

What further complicates the Toymaker’s pursuit is that his employees have very tiny hands. I don’t know why he chose to labor with elves, but I certainly hope there won’t be a scandal over how much he pays them.

Also, I don’t know why he’s jolly since he’s so fat.

It certainly doesn’t make anyone else happy, with its threat of heart disease and diabetes. Being jolly would almost appear to be insanely in denial.

Yet for some reason, he giggles his way through several million chocolate chip cookies on one passage across the globe. (I wonder what that does to his blood sugar…?)

Meanwhile, how do you keep up with the inventory? The budget must be frightening. And on top of that, he’s supposed to be involved with animal husbandry—caretaking a whole team of reindeer.

Did I mention the fact that he runs a mailroom? And supposedly the billion or so letters which come his way every year—well, it’s claimed that his eyes fall on every list.

Then, after all of this concerted effort, he also has to deal with a wide range of disbelief. Each one of us probably would groan and moan at the first suggestion that we aren’t real, or we’re “against Jesus,” or that it’s time to hang up the red suit and “put the old boy on a diet.”

Yet, throughout history, including literature, one of the first words used to describe Old Saint Nick is “jolly.”

It kind of makes you wonder what we achieve by trying to appear so adult and contemplative.

It certainly doesn’t draw children.

And it doesn’t make us the point of focus for one full month a year, while those on their way to Bethlehem to worship the Christ child stop off to see Saint Nicholas, requesting their hopes and dreams.

Joy to the world should never be stated or sung by a grumpy believer.

Go ahead–try jolly.

At the very least, it’ll give you a word that you have to explain to all the millennials.

 

 

Not Long Tales … October 22nd, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4205)

11.

Tuesday’s Toodle

After thirty-five years of “workin’ on the railroad all the livelong day,” Gerald McCallister retired to a tiny, two-bedroom home with purple shutters, a mile-and-a-half outside the little village of Coreyville, Georgia. He was a single man with no children and no relatives who seemed to recall the “tie that binds.”

After months of going through the desperation of trying to find a purpose for his life, he was nearly on his last breath of despair. It was especially difficult late at night, when he found himself tumbling into the deep-dark caverns of depression, dwelling with deep consideration on his demise, even the taking of his own life. In those agonizing junctures of dismay, it seemed logical to leave instead of continuing the absurdity of repetition.

But each morning the sunlight offered such a cheery outlook that he sat down at a small wooden table he had made for himself years before and relished his cup of coffee and a plateful of sliced corn-meal mush he had fried to a crisp and drizzled with maple syrup.

But it was a to-and-fro that certainly could not continue. The agony of the nighttime was consuming the hope of the new day.

Finally one night his heart was overthrown by anguish, and he made a promise to all the blackened room around him. He believed it to be a prayer, though he was not sure it had the power to ascend. “If anyone is listening,” he said, “please hear. I cannot pretend anymore. I will not fake my life. I will continue to faithfully chase the weeks and months if you will do three things. Yes — just three things. Every day I will make a simple list of people, happenings or events that I wish to see, and during my walk to town, my journey through the village, my lunch at the diner, and my return to my home, if I see those three things, I promise to you — or to anyone who’s listening — that I will not grab my hunting rifle and climb into the bathtub, tuck it under my chin, pull the trigger and blow my brains into the face of God.”

Strangely enough, this petition gave strength to Gerald’s heart, for the next morning he had a true purpose — to pick his three things. He decided to call it his “Toodle List” — short for “To Do Today.”

Gerald McCallister was not insane nor was he in search of miracles. Just connection. He was never going to place anything miraculous or outlandish on his list — nothing beyond the spectrum of what was available in his community. Just three insignificant little jobs. He figured it was one task for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Ghost.

The list he made on the first morning was a request for a squirrel running by his feet, a bird singing in a tree and hearing the sound of an automobile’s honking horn. Sure enough — during the four-and-a-half hours of walking to Coreyville and back, all three were provided. This went on for weeks.

Gerald decided to do his Toodle list every day except Sunday. On Sunday he made the walk into town to attend the Glory Land Church of God in Christ. It was a black church, and Gerald was white — what you might call “china white.” He didn’t care. He loved the music, he loved the spirit, and even liked it a little bit that they stared at him, wondering why he didn’t go to the Baptist Church down the street, that was of a lighter hue.

But more than anything else, Gerald loved it when the black folks got to prayin’ and would suddenly slip out of their native tongue, into a language he didn’t understand, which he was told by the pastor was “heaven speak.”

Reverend Kepling, the minister of the congregation, told Gerald, “It’s when you get so close to God that your tongue goes heavenly and your talkin’ to just Him and nobody else.”

Gerald thought about how marvelous that sounded. He, himself, had no such dialect. But he sure loved to listen to them chat away.

There was one other white man who came to the church occasionally, but he usually showed up for the choir concerts, to tap his foot awhile to the Gospel tunes. He didn’t know about the supernal speaking that went on, from the Earthly angels.

Yet even though Gerald attended the church, he never got close to anyone, only having lunch at the Coreyville diner once a month with the pastor — more or less because they would always eventually run into each other. During one of those luncheons, Gerald worked up the courage to tell the young cleric about the deal he had made in the dark room. He was about halfway through his explanation — in the middle of describing the requests he made daily of God — when the young minister interrupted, horrified. “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!” he objected.

Gerald sat and stared at him, not certain of the meaning, but figured it was time to cease being transparent.

More time passed.

There was also an older woman at the church who expressed some fondness for Gerald, but when he finally worked up the courage to approach her about continuing their friendship outside the churchyard, she shook her head. She explained to him, “I likes you an’ all, but we lives in Coreyville, Georgia. And here I’m not a woman and you a man. Here, I’m black — and you white.”

Gerald looked at her, perplexed, but deep in his heart he knew what she was talking about, and unfortunately, he had to agree that she was probably right.

But this disappointment further fed the demon that kept trying to drag Gerald McCallister to the gates of hell. But once again, every morning came with light.

Most of the time, the Toodle list he made was so simple that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost seemed to have no problem completing their tasks. Every once in a while, the third one would be slow coming. Gerald figured that was just the Holy Ghost being new to the job.

For instance, one day Gerald asked, on his Toodle list, to see a rainbow. He thought it was plenty fair, because rain was in the forecast, but lo and behold, the weatherman was wrong. The day was brilliant and beautiful. So Gerald was on his way to leave town, a bit forlorn, wondering if he would have to follow through on his promise. All at once, he passed by the town fountain, spraying water into the air. The sun — the mighty sun in the sky — hit it just right, and suddenly there was a rainbow all around him.

Gerald felt like shouting hallelujah. He thought if he got started with it, he might even find his heavenly tongue, like the folks at the church. But looking around, he saw some children walking by. So he contained himself and instead sprouted the largest smile his face had ever known.

Today, for Tuesday’s Toodle, he had requested to see someone helping out another who was having car trouble. Secondly, he wanted the town grocer to say hello to him (which had only happened a half a dozen times over the months.) And finally, he wanted to catch a glimpse of a soul giving a donation to the homeless veteran who sat outside the hardware store. Everyone called him Sergeant Jack.

Well, the first two came quickly — so quickly that Gerald was nearly as excited as he’d been on Rainbow Thursday weeks before. But the third one — well, the third one became problematic.

Unbeknownst to Sergeant Jack, Gerald sat twenty paces away, watching for nearly two hours, as people stepped over and around the veteran, but no one gave the old soldier a single dime.

Gerald was astonished. Normally, Sergeant Jack was beloved and appreciated. Why were people ignoring him today? Was it a sign from God? Was God punching Gerald’s ticket, ready to take him home?

After three long hours, with tears in his eyes, Gerald stood to his feet and trudged his way home.

Upon arriving, he took off his shirt, removed his walking boots, grabbed his rifle and climbed into the bathtub, sinking himself deep into the tub, ensuring that most of the blood and brain matter would land inside instead of destroying the walls. He tucked his gun underneath his chin and he gently reached down to finger the trigger. He was careful not to pull it too soon — not until he was certain that the time was right.

He had one thought in his mind: A deal is a deal. He had never welched on a bet and he’d always tried to honor his promises. He could not understand why after all these months, the Father and Son delivered but the Holy Ghost was ignoring him.

Do I really want to live, he thought to himself, in a world where Sergeant Jack is ignored?

His confidence to pull the trigger was building with each moment as he realized that the only thing he had left was his integrity. After all, without it, his Toodle was just a game he played with himself, which made him not only a fool but a liar.

It was time to put up and forever shut up. He fingered the trigger, testing to see how much pressure it would take to pull it.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. The knock was so surprising that Gerald nearly pulled the trigger accidentally. He remained quiet, waiting for the stranger to go away, but the knock came again, getting louder. It was followed by a voice — a familiar one. Reverend Kepling. He shouted, “Gerald! Gerald! Mr. McCallister! Gerald McCallister!”

He kept shouting, over and over again. Gerald was stymied. He didn’t know what to do. But he knew for a fact that he didn’t want this young man to discover him, headless. It could ruin his life and scare him away from the ministry.

So holding his finger on the trigger, letting up on some of the tension to so as not to complete the deed, he called out, as loudly as he could speak with a gun held under his chin, “In here!”

In the flash of a moment, the Reverend entered the bathroom and saw Gerald sitting there with a gun to his head. Trying desperately to maintain his calm through gulping gobs of dry throat, he said slowly, “What are you doing, Gerald?”

Gerald suddenly remembered that he had told the minister about his Toodle list, so earnestly — as rationally as he could — he explained that today’s list had gone unfulfilled. Unfortunately, Reverend Kepling did not remember quite as well. “What do you mean, unfulfilled?” he asked.

Frustrated, Gerald shifted his hands on the gun and replied, “It’s neither here nor there. I asked God to do something simple and told Him if He couldn’t, I would know that it was my Judgment Day.”

Suddenly, as if struck by the memory of an angel, the minister spoke up. “Oh, I know what you’re talking about! Wait, wait. What is it God didn’t do?”

“It wasn’t God,” answered Gerald. “It was Slow Joe, the Holy Ghost.”

Kepling nodded his head as if comprehending.

Gerald continued. “I had three things on my Toodle list today — you know that. The first two came quickly and easily. But the third one never showed.”

Kepling, grasping for inspiration, inquired, “Well, what was it, Gerald? What did the Holy Spirit fail to do?”

Exasperated, Gerald responded, “The Holy Ghost — well, the Holy Ghost was supposed to show me the sight of Sergeant Jack being blessed by a donation from one of the townsfolk.”

The pastor shook his head. Gerald, frustrated, replied, “Well, goddamn it, it didn’t happen.”

With this, Gerald motioned toward the trigger again. The minister rose to the occasion. “Listen. Listen, Gerald,” he said. “My brother, my brother — you got it all wrong. This was your fault.”

This surprised Gerald so much that he removed his hand from the trigger, taking his finger and pointing at himself. “Me?” he asked. “How was it my fault?”

Reverend Kepling burst into laughter. “Don’t you see? God can’t take your job and make it somebody else’s business. You were the one that came up with the idea to give a donation to Sergeant Jack. Not even the Holy Ghost can give your job to someone else.”

“What are you saying?” Gerald asked, confused.

Kepling inched his way over to sit on the edge of the bathtub. “I’m saying, Brother McCallister, that when you bring up being kindly to one of the lost souls of God, He is expecting you to have the good sense to know that you’re the one to do it, not someone else.”

Suddenly Gerald had a burst of understanding. His faith had been tested. The problem was, he was asking somebody else to do his business for him.

No wonder.

God was sittin’ there, right next to him, watching to see if Sergeant Jack would get a donation. But not from a stranger. No. From Mr. Gerald McCallister.

Suddenly in tears, Gerald slowly disengaged himself from his rifle, set it on the floor outside the bathtub, and climbed out. Crying like a baby, he pleaded, “I’ve gotta go to town, Preacher. I didn’t do my part. And I’m so tired. I’m so tired.”

Reverend Kepling supported Gerald as they walked out of the bathroom, clear from the present danger. “Brother McCallister,” he said, “it would be my honor to drive you into town in my car, so you can fulfill your third Toodle.”

Gerald stopped and gave the young fellow a hug. “Thank you, Preacher Man.”

They made their way into the car, drove into town, and found Sergeant Jack, who was about to head to the woods outside town to settle in for the night. They took him to dinner at the local diner and talked about things that none of the three men ever knew about each other.

 

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Sit Down Comedy … October 18th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4201)

Sit Down Comedy

“Love your enemies.” A peculiar idea.

First, how does that happen? If you’re really a lover, how do you make enemies? Do some people just hate to be loved—therefore they have to hate you because you’re the one who loved them?

Or is it that you fail to love your neighbors, and in the meantime, they turn into enemies, so now you’ve got a real problem.

How can you love your enemies? Doesn’t the word “enemy” connote some sort of conflict?

Does Jesus love Satan? They’re enemies.

Does Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi love Donald Trump? They’re enemies.

There seems to be a prerequisite of a certain amount of disfavor, if not hate, in levying the word “enemy” onto someone else.

So what’s the purpose of the love? Are we speaking figuratively, as in, “compared to the amount of dislike we could muster, we sure seem loving in our discretion?”

Or is it that condescending “love your enemy,” like they do with gay people?

“I love the sinner, but I hate the sin.” How does one do that?

For this to work, the sinner would have to believe he or she is sinning, rather than following a sexual orientation. Any way you look at it, it’s hatred.

So how do you love your enemies? Doesn’t it express a weakness that leaves you vulnerable? Someone gets ready to punch you in the face, and you say, “Listen—I love you.”

Do we think it’s a deterrent?

Does “turn the other cheek” spare a cheek from being hit? Or just make you defenseless?

God knows, pessimism is a destructive virus. But likewise, optimism leaves us all gooey and doughy—half-baked.

I don’t know about you—I don’t want platitudes.

I don’t want someone to say, “Love your enemies,” and then if I try it, they chuckle and say, “No—not that way.”

Or, “Come on, kid. You’ve gotta stand up for yourself.” But we’ve been standing up for ourselves for a long time.

Israel stands up for itself in the Middle East. So do the Arabs.

Standing up for oneself is really the formula for a stand-off, isn’t it?

Yet what good does it do to introduce love into a volatile situation?

It seems so ridiculous to people, even those who claim to believe in the Gospel, that they try to ignore it and think of all sorts of ways to hurt one another.

How did I ever get goddamn enemies? Did I think I was loving, but ended up being an asshole? Or did I insist I imitate a loving person while being an asshole? Come on.

Words are useless unless you know what they mean.

When the words “love” and “enemy” occur in the same sentence, I, for one, need more information.

I’d rather not have enemies. Will being a loving person help with that? Now, there’s an idea.

I don’t want to pick a fight. Picking a fight is such a futile process. There’s a chance you’ll win. There’s a chance you’ll lose. But if you win, you still must have some sort of concern toward the person you beat the crap out of. Otherwise, people will think you’re wicked. I guess it’s alright to be hateful as long as you aren’t wicked.

When people say they’ll pray for you, do they? Or is the statement the prayer?

I think maybe the human race could do much better if high-sounding ideas like “love your enemy” were better explained, and really shitty attitudes, like, “every man for himself,” were exposed.

My thought is, if somebody is your enemy and you aren’t able to whoop him, you’d better find a way to get along with him.

And if you think you can whoop everybody, it’s safe to say that you’ll eventually get whooped.

I’m not in the mood for a good whooping—either to give one or to take one.

So I guess the thought is:

Once you find out that someone is pissed at you, control the vibe.

Nurture the energy that flows his or her way, and make sure they have no reason to turn the feud into a vendetta and the vendetta into a war.

 

 

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