Things I Learned from R. B. (July 19th, 2020)

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Episode 24

Long explanations are often an apology in disguise or unashamed huge chunks of bragging.

So suffice it to say, we founded a seventeen-piece pop symphony orchestra in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and made Janet the conductor.

Sumner County, our location, was not well-suited to such an endeavor. We didn’t care.

The God of grace extended mercy to us and the community showed up to our first several concerts, mostly out of curiosity, leaving surprised that they didn’t despise it.

All the music was original. Not a Bach piece or a Beethoven sonata anywhere to be found.

So naturally (at least in my thinking) for the fifth concert, I thought it would be fun to have two local composers offer their own interpretation of a symphonic piece that they could put together, and showcase them in an evening’s repertoire.

The two chaps I had in mind were both old friends. One was named J. T., a handsome darker-skinned brother who had worked with me in Shreveport during the days when we were trying to figure out if we were running an outreach or a vaudeville show.

And of course, the other one was R. B., who by this time had ceased to seek a job and was living off unemployment, love gifts and the cushion of credit cards.

When I presented the idea to J. T., he was thrilled and immediately launched into creating his twenty-two minutes of music.

R. B. was a different case.

Trying desperately to mask his enthusiasm, he decided to become “negotiator in chief.” He wanted to know how it would be promoted.

He wanted to know if there was a chance it would be recorded.

And mostly he wanted to know if there would be any money given to him for the composition.

I had already prepared for this eventuality, and out of my personal finance, had set aside four hundred dollars to offer him. I thought it was a good investment to awaken his soul from a slumber of sloth.

Lo and behold, he bartered for five hundred.

When I refused, he reluctantly agreed on the lesser amount, signed on the dotted line and we were off in the pursuit of the R. B. Symphony.

Rehearsals were set up, along with sessions with Janet, who was helping them organize their music into a structured form so the musicians could have parts printed out.

J. T. was a little confused, but cooperative, and stayed pretty well on the calendar we set out to achieve.

R. B. quickly discovered where the gears were—so he would know where to throw his wrench.

He was always late for the rehearsals.

He constantly complained that there wasn’t enough time to put together the music.

And he was convinced that Janet was despaired by his ability.

The material he brought was derivative and often sounded like old hymns given a gentle face-lift.

I reached the point where it was more or less a decision on my part to find the bitter end and envision myself arriving there.

We suggested that R. B. make a video, which could be played on screens during the performance of his piece. So we went out and shot great footage of him playing, laughing and cavorting around town with my granddaughter, Isabella. She was only five years old—in that glorious stage when anything still seemed fun.

The video turned out beautifully. It was touching.

Janet did a little magic on the music, inserting additional parts, and we finally reached the finish line of passable.

R. B. invited his whole family from Rhode Island to travel down and attend the production. They arrived, looking like the Pilgrims (if the rock had landed on them.) They were cold, religious, traditional and leery that R. B. had joined forces with some “hippies” who were in a non-Republican cult.

None of that mattered.

The concert was fairly well attended, the music was played and appreciated.

And for one moment, I saw R. B. in the position as a possessor—a possessor of time, a possessor of creative energy, but mostly self-possessed with worth. It was a transformative thing.

That is, until the concert was over. Finding myself alone, backstage with R. B., he told me he thought he deserved more money—because the turn-out sure looked good. I restrained my generosity.

I don’t know if I ever had another moment with R. B. quite like that night.

You will notice that I’m not critiquing his music, nor comparing it to J. T.’s, and certainly not giving anecdotes about audience reaction.

All of that is irrelevant. For the first time in a very long time, a grown man who had somewhere lost his way, got a chance to act like a little kid in a video with a five-year-old girl, and write some music that people actually got to hear.

It was heavenly.

It was the kind of thing that makes you glad you have four hundred dollars to fuckin’ throw away.

Things I Learned from R. B. (April 19th, 2020)


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Episode 11

The dust never settled.

Although our family spent three inspirational and life-changing years in Shreveport, Louisiana, we were never able to make it the home of our hearts.

It is no disrespect to the town itself. The problem was a combination of inadequacies. The community had pretty well determined by mutual decree to remain the same, and I was out to change the world.

So we bought an old, green van and took off to see America. (That particular journey I will relate at another time, when I am not placing my soul’s attention on R. B.)

The initial stop was Dallas, Texas. Actually, it was the first large city west of Shreveport. While Dollie and the kids worked on our plans for the week, I set out to find the telephone number of an old friend—or at least, I believed he was still an old friend.

This was well before the days of the Internet, so procuring the personal information or location of another human being was not so easy. But after four or five calls, I finally reached Maddie, who had been in the cast of our musical which had traveled across the country.

She told me she had run into R. B. in Dallas and had even shared a dinner with him. She generously gave me his number. When I asked her what he was like now, she offered a one-word pronouncement: “Different.”

So I dialed up the number and immediately the phone was answered by a voice I still recognized.

I told R. B. who I was. He acted as if he was trying to recall and place my name. I was offended—but said nothing.

After a few moments he warmed up and asked to take me out to dinner at a supper club the following evening. Just me—not the entire family, since the establishment served liquor and had scantily clothed female dancers.

I agreed. I showed up the next night in my green van, dressed casually but passable for a Sunday morning church service.

R. B. was late, and when he came in, seemed flustered. He was wearing a navy-blue polyester suit and a checked shirt, with his huge hairdo trimmed about two inches into the fairway.

We procured a table and sat down.

(At this point I wish to change over to a theatrical format so as to make it easier for the reader to follow the story without too many cumbersome clauses. I will add author’s clarifications when necessary.)

R. B.: Have any trouble finding the place?

Me: No. The directions were good.

R. B.: Do you want a cocktail?

Me: No, thanks.

R. B.: Oh, that’s right—you’re against drinking.

Me: No, I’m not against it. I’m just basically a kid and don’t like the taste.

R. B.: Not me. I love a screwdriver. You should try a screwdriver.

Me: What’s it have in it?

R. B.: (looking up to the ceiling as if searching for the answer, then back down) Hell if I know. I never asked. My boss always orders them. I thought it would look good to order what he ordered. Eventually I decided I liked them.

(I nodded my head with little desire to continue this particular conversation.)

R. B.: I know you don’t smoke, either, do you? We just might not have anything to do or talk about. (laughs)

Me: Oh, I think we can come up with something.

R. B.: Let me order for us—I know the menu.

Me: Cool.

(R. B. ordered off the menu, making specific requests which the waiter did not understand, leaving them both confused and in disarray. I eventually determined it was going to be some sort of red meat with potatoes and vegetables.)

R. B.: It’s been a long time.

Me: Well, you know—not really. You’ve been gone from Shreveport about eight months.

R. B.: Well, what brings you to Dallas?

(I proceeded to explain that I had decided to take the family on the road, going from town-to-town, holding meetings and concerts at churches as we journeyed. I also shared that we did not have anything already scheduled but were planning to do it spontaneously when we arrived in each town. The more I talked the more he rolled his eyes, even giggling a couple of times. At length, he interrupted to share his opinion.)

R. B.: Well, if you ask me, it sounds irresponsible. Of course, you’ve never had a problem with that, have you?r

(R. B. looked me squarely in the eyes, and when I stared back, he averted his gaze. At that point, I understood the nature of our evening and the purpose of his invitation. He was determined to establish his success, and my ongoing neediness.)

R. B.: Well, if you’re looking for donations, I’m sorry. I don’t have any money for that. Honestly, I don’t consider it a good investment. Sounds foolhardy.

(I remained silent. If there was going to be an argument, he would have to handle both sides of the conflict. His screwdriver arrived and he drank it down in less than a minute and ordered another. He watched me carefully to see if I would comment on his alcohol consumption. I didn’t. I think he might have been disappointed. Feeling the need to change the subject, I brought up Maddie.)

Me: I got hold of you by talking to Maddie. She said she had dinner with you several months back.

R. B.: I did. And it was pleasant. It’s always nice to see an old-time acquaintance. She’s just so…you know. So small-town. I think she might have been interested in seeing me again while she was in Dallas, but I was all tied up in business.

(I knew he wanted me to ask him about his business, but I also knew that if I did, he would act annoyed over me interfering in his affairs. So I waited.)

R. B.: Business is good. I have finally put my mind to the power of making a dollar. You know, we always sit around and talk about our dreams, but we sometimes fail to understand that wishing for them only makes them run away. All they need is funding. Do the work, make the money and then, address the dreams.

Me: I suppose that’s true.

R. B.: Don’t suppose. It is true. I used to sit around and pray for success. Can I tell you something? Success is not religious. Matter of fact, it makes fun of religious people. I don’t mean any insult to you…

Me: I don’t feel insulted. I don’t feel religious.

R. B.: But you are. You hang around with those people who count how many screwdrivers someone drinks, and probably would not approve of my lifestyle in any way.

Me: Are you making friends?

R. B.: I have a woman. Well, had.

Me: Tell me more.

R. B.: You wouldn’t approve.

Me: Listen, I’m not going to disapprove of anything you say for two reasons. Number one, I have no room to judge, and secondly, when I leave this restaurant, I may never see you again.

(R. B. was a little surprised, and thought about being insulted, but realized there was no intent of being harmful on my part. He lowered his voice to a whisper.)

R. B.: I hired an escort.

Me: An escort?

R. B.: Well, that’s one name for them. A call girl. A prostitute. Do you get the picture?

(I nodded my head, careful not to allow any part of my facial features to flinch with reaction. He continued.)

R. B.: Let me tell you, I just got tired of being a virgin. I had never been with a woman. I kissed for kind of a long period of time when I was in high school—one night on a hayride. But that was it. I don’t like masturbating. It feels nasty to me. I suppose that’s the last part of my Bible training. I got tired of waiting. I got tired of wondering. So I hired an escort.

Me: Do you want to tell me about it?

R. B.: (laughing) It was fucking great! And speaking of that, she—by the way, her name was Krystall. Isn’t that beautiful? She’s from Florence, in Italy. Anyway, she said I was good. I took that as a compliment, since she’s been with a few other men.

(I sat very still. This was R. B.’s story. This was R. B.’s night. He had paid for it. He had probably planned it out in his mind. It was my job to sit, watch and listen, like a ten-year-old the first time he sees an R-rated film. R. B. wanted me shocked—but he did not want me to offer advice.)

R. B.: I was surprised at how quick it was. Krystall told me that was normal. When I watched in movies, it seemed to go on for a while, but…well, anyway. It was so good that I paid to see her again. It’s pretty expensive. After the second time we were together, she explained that she was short on cash and needed some financial assistance. I felt, what the hell? So I gave her an extra five hundred dollars.

Me: That was generous of you.

R. B.: (shaking his head) It felt so good. Not just the sex, but she allowed me to kiss her. She said she doesn’t normally do that. And she lay next to me in the bed for an extra fifteen minutes, even though she was late for an appointment. Dammit, if I didn’t feel like a husband. Or maybe that’s not the word. I’ll tell you one thing—I felt like a man. More like a man than I had ever felt before.

(R. B. paused to order his third screwdriver. I wasn’t counting, but the waiter was reminding him, since the supper club had a policy of limiting the alcohol and prompting the patrons. After a long pause, R. B. spoke again.)

R. B.: I don’t hate God. But I sure the hell hate what He represents. When I was with Krystall, I felt more spiritual than I ever did sitting in church. I know that probably shocks you…

(I decided to change the subject.)

Me: Do you ever think about us?

R. B.: (surprised) Us? What do you mean?

Me: What we’ve been through together. The nights we prayed so we wouldn’t feel like we were the only person screwed up. The songs. The music. The sense of wonder whenever something worked out that shouldn’t have. The silences that left a chill down the spine. Just knowing that something you said or something you gave made someone’s life a little more sensible.

R. B.: Nope. I don’t think about that. Because I don’t know how it happened, and I don’t know why. I’ve just reached a point in my life where I want to earn, and I want to possess. I’m not selfish. I’m just tired of being ignorant in the name of God.

(The meal arrived. It gave us the chance to chew on something other than our feelings. There were passing thoughts—brief memories of times on the road. Then R. B. finally continued.)

R. B.: I almost decided not to come tonight. I thought you might try to talk me out of my choices or criticize my relationships. I don’t want to go without having a woman. I can’t find one who wants to be my wife. Hell, I haven’t met any who wanted to go further than “how do you do?” I don’t want to screw every night, but when I want it, I want it. Just for a while, I’d like to make the decisions instead of trying to find them in a big, black book. Do you condemn me for that?

Me: I wouldn’t even if I could.

(Things went slower after that. Both of us knew we had exhausted what each of us came to do. It was concise, eventually became awkward, and soon was over. After dinner, we went to the lobby, through the door and out into the parking lot. There was a moment when we both knew we should have hugged, but instead, exchanged a clumsy handshake.)

R. B.: Listen, good luck. Don’t bother with my joking about what you’re doing. I hope you’ll be safe.

Me: And to you, too. I wish you well with Krystall.

R. B.: (interrupting) She’s moved away. But it’s a big world.

(I nodded my head. Something we could agree on.)

It is a big world.

Cracked 5 … January 25th, 2020

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Cracked 5

Some Favorite Excuses for Being an Asshole

 

A. “I’m researching for a role in a movie.”

 

B.“I’m avidly religious.”

 

C. “I am married to one.”

 

D. “I have a brain tumor.”

 

E. “I am in politics.”

 

Sit Down Comedy … January 3rd, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

“Come on in, Big Jon. We got pizza.”

Big Jon gave immediate heed to the call. He shimmied his way over to the box, lifted the lid, pulled out a piece and started to eat it, crust first.

Then came Scary Gary. When he arrived, the host also welcomed him with the generous offering of pizza. Scary Gary inched his way over and started lifting box lids, asking, “What kind did you get?”

The host, just a wee bit perturbed, replied, “Cheese, pepperoni, sausage and vegematic.”

Scary Gary grabbed a piece of cheese and waltzed into the room.

Then came Fussy Freddie. The host, still cheery, but a bit wary, said, “Come on in! We got pizza for everyone.”

Fussy Freddie paused, then walked very slowly over to the pizza boxes, and without lifting a single lid, demanded, “What flavors?”

The host cautiously replied, “Cheese, pepperoni, sausage and vegematic.”

First, Fussy Freddie did not find ‘vegematic’ humorous. He cited, “May I give you a suggestion? When you hold a party like this you might want to ask your guests what pizza toppings they prefer, so as to honor more tastes than simply your own.”

Fussy Freddie decided to pass on the pizza. He didn’t stay very long—mainly because everybody was afraid to talk to him, knowing that his subject matter was bitching about the party.

Now, let me explain. Over the years I have written about every subject under the sun and now seem to be heading into a new galaxy. But one thing I have stopped doing with my scribblings is presenting too many opinions, or for that matter, trying to be overly informative.

Human beings are simple to understand.

They line up everything they like and then give a name to it.

Whether this is political, religious or secular, their preferences become their faith.

So all I can do is help myself—and everyone I come in contact with—by stating what seems to be permissible for Earth interaction.

You can feel free to pick—in other words, there’s pizza there. Take a piece.

At a certain amount of risk, you can be picky. You can make it obvious that you have a preference of one thing over another.

But my God—don’t be prickly.

Even though we extol the power of our demands as a way of expressing our uniqueness, the human race as a whole considers it bratty to be prickly.

Pick? Yes.

Picky? Be careful.

Prickly? Goodnight, my love, goodnight.

It doesn’t matter what it’s about.

When you hear music, do you pick it up and enjoy it, no matter what style it is? Or do you criticize one style and tell people what you prefer? Or, worst of all, do you insist there’s only one kind of music—the tunes you revere.

Politics.

Pick a candidate. I guess you can be picky. But don’t be prickly. Don’t insist the person you want to vote for is the Second Coming of Charisma.

Religion.

Pick a god. If you’re going to be picky about it, nobody is going to listen to you anyway. And if you get prickly and demand that EVERYONE bow to your God, be prepared to have a large defense budget and find the initiative and end up killing people.

And the greatest notion I can give you on love is, pick someone you know who will probably continue to be thrilled to be with you. Don’t get so picky that you end up hunting out of your jungle and your appeal level. And please, don’t be prickly—unless you want to write a book on the joys of being alone.

  • Pick.
  • Picky.
  • Prickly.

One keeps the door open to humanity, one makes humanity suspicious and the final one just pisses the hell out of everybody.

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.

1 Thing You Can Do to Start Having the Best Christmas Ever

Stop Being So Religious

It is really annoying.

You don’t have to purify the occasion by talking so much about it being Jesus’ birthday, or saying “Happy birthday, Jesus.”

You won’t win over a generation of cynics by imagining a huge cake with 2019 candles on it.

I caution my friends in the faith to do something very helpful in learning how to truly be a Christian.

Sit down every once in a while and just read the Good News.

There is an incident mentioned, in which the disciples of Jesus came upon a fellow who was having a real good time—celebrating off of the Nazarene’s success. Yet he was not giving any real credit to Jesus himself.

They confronted him, scolding him and saying he needed to come over and follow Jesus and do things the right way. Lo and behold, this independent spirit refused.

Well, the disciples ran back to Jesus in a full-blown-church-lady tizzy. “How dare he snub us and not give honor to you?”

They thought Jesus would rebuke the fellow, or perhaps even kill him for his insolence. Instead, Jesus said, “Leave the dude alone. For those who are not against us are for us.”

Yes, that person at the mall who only loves Christmas because he gets 80% off on electronic devices—he’s one of us.

And the family down the street who look on the December celebration as a commemoration of the Winter Solstice—they are with us.

And all the elves, Santa Clauses, mistletoe, fir trees, choirs, fundraisers and decorated plazas—they are with us, too.

It doesn’t matter what they call it.

It doesn’t matter if you think they don’t offer enough respect to the Bethlehem baby.

For one month out of the year, we stop teaching, breaching, preaching and impeaching and allow ourselves to consider “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.”

Whatever wisdom people come up with themselves for December 25th, it will lead them to the Star in Bethlehem.

 

Sit Down Comedy … September 20th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4173)

Sit Down Comedy

If the premise is wrong

Then the promise is gone

It is hysterical how historical this is.

Although many claims have been made over the years, once it was established that the premise—the thought behind the claim—was either ridiculous or evil, then those who were waiting for the promise ended up looking like they just bought a used car at “Lucky Billy’s Auto Emporium.”

I realize that as a reader you may have sympathies toward political parties, regional axioms, religious affiliations, and racial or cultural differences. But the shocking fact is:

Truth doesn’t care if our feelings get hurt on the way to marching toward justice.

Matter of fact, no matter how adorable, meaningful, helpful or God-given we insist our premise may be, once it is revealed to be wrong, there will be no promise forthcoming.

For instance, immigration.

The premise is made that if we build a wall, we can protect our country from all the murderers and rapists who are trying to come in.

Another premise is that if we open our country to those who wish to come, we will acquire great thinkers and build up the nation’s foundation.

Here’s the problem—we already have plenty of murderers and rapists right here and now, whose families have been around for many generations. We must also realize that people escaping to come to America may actually prefer to live in their own countries.

So both premises are found to be wrong, and therefore the promise doesn’t bloom. The truth? People shouldn’t have to come to America because they’re fugitives from crime, or they’re being tortured and starved.

America wants people to come because they want to.

These visitors are therefore willing to answer the needful questions and go through the procedures available. Then the promise is real—a country of immigrants who have found their home.

Based on that, our goal should be to go to the source, where the immigrants live, and assist them to make their country as pleasant as humanly possible—so they don’t have to relocate unless they truly wish to come.

Why don’t we try another one?

Let’s talk about poverty.

One premise is that if you give extra money to the rich and industrious, they can provide more jobs for people who don’t have the funds to begin their own businesses but will gladly step forward and receiving the work.

The other premise is that industrious and wealthy corporations, which should help, won’t. So we will tax them and force them to pour out their finances to people who live in poverty—whether these unfortunates are willing to work or not.

As you can see, neither premise will deliver the promise of assisting our fellow-human beings to be fruitful.

So what do we need to do? Obviously, we need to unveil a plan which taxes every American according to his or her prosperity—a sliding scale with the finance from such a collection being divided to fund those who want to work, assist the few that are disabled, and stimulate those who are impoverished due to their own lack of motivation.

Abortion.

The premise is that if we stop aborting babies, children can be born and grow into happy human beings.

Or the premise is that women who are already born and alive should have the only controlling decision on whether a baby will be born or aborted.

In both cases, the premise does not deliver a promise.

The real goal is to eliminate unwanted pregnancies.

We must do this by honoring the free will of the women and the babies. In order to achieve this, we must abandon archaic positions against birth control, sex education and allowing those who wish to adopt to include lifestyles that we may not favor.

As you can see, I could go on and on, but I will leave that to you.

Just remember, as you listen to these individuals running for President, who bought fifteen different suits of clothes, outfitted a bus and purchased buttons and flyers from the Cheapskate Publishing Company—yes, as you listen to them offer their premise, follow through to the promise.

Question whether the premise is faithful to what the Earth has already discovered to be true.

And always remember this:

If the premise is wrong, the promise is gone.

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