Things I Learned from R. B. (July 5th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 22

And then we got rich.

My wife’s mother passed away, leaving behind a sizeable inheritance that mingled with Grandma’s money—protected through years of a widow’s frugal living.

The number hung high in the six figures.

Now, before this bonanza, we didn’t feel poor. We were solvent, with plenty left over for charitable adventures. But after all the assets were counted, the sudden influx of finance was dazzling.

I quickly learned that money will not hang around unless it’s treated well. It doesn’t want you to continue to rent a small house in Old Hickory but thinks that you—and it—should have a house of your own, suitable to your status.

I spent too much time sitting around with my family and friends, thinking about items we might want to purchase. But first, we made donations to a whole cavalcade of travelers we knew.

One of them was R. B.

I was inclined to give him a thousand dollars. Since he was jobless, living off unemployment insurance, a thousand dollars was a lot of money. Hell—a thousand dollars is a lot of money.

R. B. was probably my most enthused onlooker. He patted me on the back a lot, smiled whenever he was in my presence and desperately wanted to ask me questions about the extent of my good fortune, but was prohibited by his New England upbringing.

Everything went along pretty well until we moved into our five-bedroom house on top of the hill near the lake. We built a pool, placed a gazebo in the front yard, and made all sorts of nifty little additions that landowners often do when they are convinced their money will last forever.

Then R. B. stopped coming around. His visits hadn’t been frequent to begin with, but now he “planned” to attend dinners and events and called at the last moment to cancel.

I thought I knew what the problem was. Matter of fact, I called my entire family together and told them that I believed R. B. needed a wife. Since he seemed unwilling to pursue such a relationship, I told my family that I was considering buying him one.

A wife, that is.

I had no basis whatsoever for knowing anything about such an endeavor—or whether it was even legal—but I had read a pamphlet about women in Eastern Europe and Russia who wanted to come to the United States, and were willing, on a temporary visa, to meet up with a man to see if they could make an “international connection.”

I went deep into the process, but gradually I began to feel like I was in an episode of “Law and Order”—and I was the one breaking the law and creating disorder.

A bit terrified, I backed out of the idea and instead came up with the possibility of sending R. B. on a cruise. (This was back when cruises were cool and didn’t kill people.)

I was trying to figure out how to approach him on the matter when my daughter-in-law piped up during an evening meal when he was in attendance and spurted out the possibility right in front of him. To my surprise, he lit up, smiling, and started asking questions.

The next day I bought him a seven-day cruise in the Bahamas, complete with air fare and extra money to buy clothes that weren’t made out of wool.

I kept waiting for him to back out.

But he didn’t.

On the day he was supposed to leave, he went to the airport, boarded the plane, landed in Miami, Florida and got on the ship.

He stayed for the entire cruise and when he returned, he was different.

He did not consummate a romance on the excursion, but there were two women on the boat with whom he enjoyed talking, sharing supper, and even listening to music.

He came back with both of their telephone numbers.

He was so transformed from the reticent fellow we put on the plane that I was moved to tears. To this day I will tell you—it was some of the best money I ever spent.

But it didn’t last long.

He tried to call the women a couple of times, but of course, they lived far away, and soon it was impossible to recapture the memories.

Painfully and slowly, he dismantled the happier soul he had temporarily become.

It made me realize three things:

1. Men do a lot of boasting, but deep in their hearts don’t believe themselves.

2. Men need a companion to confirm the boasts that are valid and boost the areas where they’re not.

3. Without this, men just feel like undiscovered liars.

Things I Learned from R. B.


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 2

There is definitely a reason that patrons of literature over the centuries have sincerely warned those who put pen to paper (or in our time, fingers to keys) that it is never wise to write something in the first person. Just too many I’s for the “eyes” which will read it.

Yes, it’s safer to let your tale be told by a he, a she, a they or even an it.

Then, if your character ends up being a scoundrel—even temporarily—you don’t have to personally wear the orange D on your chest—for Dumbass.

But when I talk to you about R. B., I must speak in the first person. These are lessons I had to learn which you perhaps already knew, or will decide to ignore.

I will simply have to own the good with the bad, the silly with the serious and the righteous with the sinister.

Let me begin by saying that I wrote a musical. Fifteen songs plus little interludes sprinkled among them which I referred to as “widgets.”

I was very proud.

Actually, most of the musical was written in less than three months—with a song or two trailing off to coincide with the calendar year.

I got my band together and we recorded the music on a reel-to-reel tape system, overdubbed through a cassette machine, until we had something that sounded like an entire cast performing the tunes.

I had no idea what I was going to do with this collection of lyrics, notes and melodies.

I played it for an old buddy of mine in Columbus, Ohio, who immediately fell in love with the whole idea surrounding the project—so much so that he decided to make it his pet purpose. Before I knew it, he went out and secured fifteen people to invest in this endeavor, giving us a whopping ten thousand dollars to do something with what we had.

I was young. I probably should have taken it slow. But honestly, those two words—“young and slow”—rarely appear together in Earth’s environment.

Therefore I went into a professional studio and hired musicians to record the soundtrack and decided to put together a cast of nine characters for a twenty-five-city tour of the United States of America. This would be a daunting task for someone who knew what he was doing, let alone for a sheep in the woods, unfamiliar with the ravenous wolves.

My first step was to hold auditions.

I thought people would flock to have an opportunity to travel for two months across the great American plain—to sing, dance and act in front of audiences in hometown theaters from Pennsylvania to Texas.

I was wrong.

About twenty-five people signed up for the audition, and they all came with three questions:

  1. What am I going to make?
  2. How much does it pay?
  3. What will be my remuneration?

On the night of the audition, they all came in having much less talent than ego. Also, they were more greedy than giving and critical than appreciative.

Chief among them was a fellow named R. B. He was a sweet enough guy, but his New England upbringing had led him to believe that he was one of the Sons of the American Revolution.

He had exacting demands:

He didn’t want to audition the way everyone else did. He wanted to set up his guitar amp and sing his own songs instead take a crack at mine.

Also, he was so nervous to audition in front of the rest of the contestants that he demanded a private room. He sang a hair off-key, breathless from nervous energy. Yet, he still had just enough of a voice to be considered.

I was young, too eager, and uncertain whether I would be able to fill all the positions from the handful of souls who came out for the trials.

I gave in too much to R. B.’s requests.

I just didn’t know if I would ever find other people to staff our show, so I was careful not to close a door to anyone. Through that experience, I learned that sometimes if you don’t close the door, all the flies come in.

Four days after the auditions, still having three spaces to fill, I hired R. B. to be in my musical and travel with the cast. I made the decision after about three hours of a back-and-forth conversation with myself that went like this:

“Sure, he doesn’t have…”

“But then again, maybe…”

I learned, from this first encounter with R. B., that when you base your future on maybe, you always end up with what will be—wishing for what could be.

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