742. Salvation

3 Bears Shrek      Joel’s mind raced the way it does when he gets sweetened caffeinated iced tea sometimes…jacked up and edgy…barely contained… aggressive even. He needed all his wits to get out of this frozen pickle caper. The helicopter roared northward toward Argentina. He knew arrest and a crippling rescue bill awaited him. Even worse, Bucky would be transported to Guantanamo, perhaps forever more. For this brief moment he held his fate in a loaded Montblanc fountain pen, aimed right at the airship pilot’s goggles. Once they landed, the jig would be up, his impotent ploy disarmed. “Think, think, think!!!” He pondered every book and movie of escapes he’d ever witnessed. Houdini, Svengali, Nixon. Songs, poems, folk tales, cartoons. He was desperate to save himself and Bucky. But how?

Across the fog of time came the way, the way out…D.  Then B.  What was this? A code from the great beyond? Then Cooper. D.B.Cooper. “That’s it!!” He nearly soiled himself. The story came to him in fits and starts…

Image result for db cooper"

Dan Cooper is the pseudonym of an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the northwest United States, in the airspace between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 24, 1971. The man purchased his airline ticket using the alias Dan Cooper but, because of a news miscommunication, became known in popular lore as D. B. Cooper. He extorted $200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1,260,000 in 2019) and parachuted to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and protracted FBI investigation, the perpetrator has never been located or identified. It remains the only unsolved case of air piracy in commercial aviation history.Image result for parachute pictures"

Joel licked his lips with satisfaction and then applied some cherry flavored Chapstick with his left hand. “We’re not going to Argentina, buddy.”

Piloto, “But Senor, we must. I cannot just land anywhere.”

Joel, “I’m not talking about landing, sonny boy. I want you to fly over the Falklands.”

Piloto, “Sir, that is British air space. I am forbidden. It could start another war.”

Joel, “Do it!”Image result for falkland islands map"

Piloto, “But sir, we do not have enough fuel to make the trip to Buenos Aries.”

Joel, “My good man, that is not my problem. I was forced onto this airship against my will. Now I suppose you, you must… do you know that old song, ‘It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to’?”Image result for lesley gore pictures"

Piloto, “Si, in Spanish. Uhhh, Lesley Gore, yes? How did it go?”

Joel, “Good memory, fly boy. Let’s see, I’m more a classical aficionado, but I’ll try…

It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you
Nobody knows where my Bucky has gone
But Joelly left the same time
Why was he holding his hand
When he’s supposed to be mine?Image result for lesley gore pictures"

Well, that was my theme song when you captured me. But Lesley Gore had a sequel hit. Perhaps you recall that one too, Pedro?”

Piloto, “No, senor. I am empty of trivia recall. Plus I am trying to fly this airship while you hold me hostage with a golden fountain pen.”

Joel, “Well, it was called ‘Judy’s Turn to Cry’. It’s a revenge song from my youth.

I’ll sing a few lines…

Aww when Judy left with Johnny at my party (my party)
And came back wearing his ring
I sat down and cried my eyes out
Now that was a foolish thing
‘Cause now it’s Judy’s turn to cry
Judy’s turn to cry
Judy’s turn to cry
‘Cause Johnny’s come back
To meImage result for my boyfriend is back images"
You see, there was an ironic reversal and Johnny came back to her. Poetic justice was served a bit late but was delicious. Hey, nah. Hey, nah, my boyfriend’s back.”
Piloto, “Senor, I don’t follow. What does Judy and Johnny have to do with us now?”
Joel, “I’m trying to paint you a picture and leave you with a pair of bubble gum songs to ruminate upon after Bucky and I have left you.”
Piloto, “But Senor, you cannot escape. Once we land, you will be arrested. There is no escape.”
Joel, “Aha, that’s where you are wrong, Pedro. I believe I see the Falklands on the starboard side there.”Image result for aerial photo of falkland islands"
Piloto, “That is port side, sir.  The islands are straight ahead.”
Joel, “Oh well, drop altitude, Pedro. I’d like to be around 12,000 feet.”
Piloto, “Senor, you are not thinking what I think you are thinking.”
Joel, “If you are thinking about parachuting to freedom, then you are in sync with my think. Call your men to bring Bucky forward.”
Piloto, “Sir, the cross winds, the ocean current, your advanced age. It is a suicide jump. Please, you can pay the fines and be home by summer.”
Joel, “Pedro, if you only knew the daredevil behind this fountain pen, you’d realize what a silly plea you just uttered. The altimeter says we’re at 12,000 feet. Bucky? Bring him next to me.”
Once Bucky was bundled in Joel’s free arm, something astonishing happened. The ink bladder of his fountain pen exploded, squirting squid black ink SQI1123 into Pedro the Pilot’s goggles. It dripped into his mouth as he screamed for naught. Joel kicked out the passenger side door and leaped to freedom, “Geronimo!”Image result for parachute leap gif"
He recalled his one parachute lesson from the mid sixties boot camp at Fort Rucker. “Count to 3 Mississippis and pull the rip cord”, his drill sergeant had screamed into his face. At this rate, his chute would deploy around 8-9,000 feet, ensuring him time to assess the situation and steer his parachute toward safety. Being a bit of a fraidy cat, he simply counted “1, 2, 3. Pull!!” The violent upward jerk as the chute deployed nearly caused him to lose Bucky, but he held on like Harrison Ford in any movie he was ever in.
As the chute glided into British territory, Joel smiled and felt the peace of knowing he and Bucky would be treated well and repatriated to Shippensburg as international heroes…with no out of p ocket expenses.Image result for parachute leap gif"

741. Regumption

Image result for Antarctic camps pictures"As the emir and Joel Cousteau passed the U.N. peacekeeper penguins and ducked into the triage tent, they came across twelve beds with red-eyed EMU zealots, rocking and squeaking out passages from their holy book, the Spheniscidae, as they violently flapped their chests in self flagellation. The emir explained that penguins can get carried away in religious zealotry just like human beings, especially if they are exposed to too much western cuteness and condescension. Being detained in black ops sites, poked and prodded, waterboarded even.

Image result for senior penguin pictures"

“Ezspecially ze horeeble snow globes. Zhey are enough to break a bird, sending heem into fits o’ screamio. You in de vest do not appreziate how pure ve penguins are. You see us only as cute chicks and docile vaddlers. You make stupeed assumptions ve very much deeeslike.”

Again Joel was seized with guilt and shame. In his ignorant arrogance and arrogant ignorance he had failed to appreciate Bucky for who he was. All those seemingly happy shakes of the snow globe had been objectified horror and humiliation for Bucky. Only now was he fully able to appreciate man’s inhumanity to his feathered friends. He fell to his knees in humble and earnest surrender.Image result for man praying for forgiveness picture"

“Dear God, forgive me. I have seen the error of my myopic ways in an awkward sort of way. And I vow to be a better man, a sacrificial man. If Bucky lives, I pledge all my earthly wealth and energy to raise him as my own son; to help his flock; and to end the arrogant ignorance that has darkened my mind. I promise to make good on my napkin will for Burrito to have my Spyder once and for all. Furthermore, I recant all the horrible thoughts and words I have unjustly hurled at him. (As an addendum, I want to make clear here that the horribly just comments are not up for negotiation.) Amen.”

The emir turned to him and said, “I see you are holy man, Joel Cousteau. You pray to your God for our Bucky. May He hear your verds and grant your vequests. I’m afraid it vill take a miracle to save heem in his fevered fury.”

Just then a throbbing noise grew louder and louder outside the tent. “Vhat is dat, meester Joel? Is your God now a helicopter?”Image result for south pole rescue helicopter pictures"

“No, but just maybe my prayers have been answered.” He ran out into the swirling snow to see an orange rescue chopper setting down fifty yards away. Six men in rescue suits, helmets and goggles jumped out.

Over the noise of the chopper, the lead man of the six shouted, “Are you Joel?”

“I am. Who are you fellows?”

“Your tour company sent us to follow your GPS signal and extract you from the mission. You’ve been off the grid too long.”

“Nonsense. I’m fine. I’ve found my best friend Bucky. Now if you want to be useful, you can carry his cot onto the chopper and get him back to civilization.”

“Negatory, second Lieutenant!”Image result for Arctic soldier pictures"

Joel was stunned that this stranger knew of his Army Reserve rank from his turbulent 1960’s college days.

“Yes, we reviewed your ROTC records from the Vietnam era. Stand down, Lieutenant. I am Major Domo of the 42nd Argentinian Airborne Division. You need to come with us one way or another.”

“I will not leave without Bucky, he’s a, uh, U.S. citizen and a Private First Class. Major Domo, we cannot leave one of our own on the battlefield.”Image result for saving private ryan pictures of hanks and damon face to face"

“Ahhhhh, you  have me there, Lieutenant! Very well. Men, seize Private Bucky and extract him as well. We will add it to the bill.”

Joel, “Bill? You aren’t going to charge me for this mission of mercy?”

Major Domo,” Joel, you have your words all wrong, mate. It’s a mercenary mission. Remember the contract?  $150,000 if you need to be extracted for any reason. I have a copy of your signed contract here on my I-pad.”Image result for check images for $150000"

“But, I, uh, this can’t be!! I won’t stand for it. I, I, uh, do you know who I am?”

Major Domo, “We covered that part already, Pops. Remember? It’s a done deal.”

Joel, “I am the cheapest skate on the cheapskate circuit, roller and ice divisions. I drive 50 miles past a Motel 6 to save ten bucks at a Motel 5. I negotiate with parking meters. I keep the tags on my formal clothes and return them after hoity  toity engagements because it avoids the rental fee. I can’t do this!! My ancestors will rise from Scottish and Swiss graves and revolt against my immoderate spending. I could be killed by pike and pitchfork, by my own people. Please, Major.”Image result for medieval tribes from Scotland with weapons pictures"

Major Domo, “It’s like this, Joel: get on the chopper under your own power or I’ll taze you, bro. Got it? Your VISA platinum card has already been charged.”

Joel, “Okaaaay!” With great resignation, Joel hopped onto the chopper as the other men carried Bucky’s cot.

One of the orderlies commented loudly, “This one has typhus red eyes. Looks radicalized, Major. He’ll have to go to Guantanamo for psychological scrubbing.”

Aghast, ashamed, achoo! Joel was caught in another moral quagmire. He had contributed to Bucky’s radicalization. He now had a terrible moral choice to make. He began to hatch a plan that was both devious and economical. He waved good bye to the emir and the entire EMU colony as the chopper lifted off. If only they knew the deal he had just made with his own devil, they would not be happy flappin’ him.Image result for aerial shot of penguin colony pictures"

“We need parachutes, Major. It’s in the Geneva Convention.”

“Very well. Wilson, get this man and this penguin parachutes.”

In a matter of minutes Wilson returned with an adult parachute and one for a doll. Joel waited, assessing the time to strike the unsuspecting crew.  In two hours Argentina came into view. The chopper pilot communicated in Spanish for a medic team to be on standby. As the pilot clicked off after “Over”, Joel sprang into action. He whipped out his gold plated Montblanc fountain pen and pointed it in the pilot’s face. “If you don’t want a total black out experience, Chopper Boy, keep on flying until I tell you what’s good for you.”Image result for Air Force One movie stills" Clearly Joel Cousteau had passed the point of no return. From here on he would be branded an international fugitive.






740. Mushing Onward

Image result for dog sled pictures"Eleven men were unaccounted for after the freak snowstorm. The dogs were in fair shape, however, and so the load out was about the same with extra food now that the numbers had shrunken down from 41 to 30. Harsh, true, to measure men by how much Hormel chili they consumed, but 0n the live edge of survival that’s all that matters.  Frivolity ceased to exist now. As Shackleton took his measurements for the South Pole, Joel continued to scan the endless white horizon for Bucky. Image result for penguin colony pictures"

After two more days of steady mushing, the group encountered a large city of emperor penguins, perhaps 200,000 strong. It looked like a formal Woodstock Festival. Hope and dread mixed in Joel’s mind. The odds were stacked against him he knew, but it was still possible that his best friend was in the swarming flock of tuxedoed upright birds. The noise was deafening as they approached the outer ring of the settlement. Such a cacophony he had not heard since warm ups by the Shippensburg Community Band stateside. With great exuberance Joel ran toward the big birds. He had read of the extinct colossus penguins that stood six feet eight inches tall, so he was a bit underwhelmed that the average height of the flock was around four feet, a good twenty inches shorter than he. The moment was upon him. He whipped out his empty snow globe to show penguins while miming “Have you seen Bucky?” in American sign language. Disappointed, stunned even at their ignorance, Joel let out a mournful cry from frost bitten lips. “Bucky!!!”Image result for exhausted figure in snow race pictures"

He stumbled onward, not caring for his life or whether he could find his way out of Penguin City. His brain seemed frozen and unable to process reality, like an eternal brain freeze from a Popsicle on a summer’s day. That’s when a bilingual penguin approached him, speaking a nasally, clipped English similar to a New Zealand dialect. “My good man, what is the matter? I’ve heard your mournful cry and I am at your service. The name is Albert.”Image result for talking penguin gif"

Joel could not tell if he were hallucinating, but at this juncture he did not care. “Albert, have you seen my best friend Bucky? He’s black and white and used to fit in this snow globe.”

“Short chap, I suppose. No, I haven’t seen one of our boys at that height, lad. We are all much taller. You must be looking for a Eudyptual Minor penguin. EM’s. Nice birds but quite small, you know.”Image result for eudyptula minor penguin pictures"

“But where, how? All these years I thought Bucky was a pure emperor penguin.”

“Ahem, political correctness is the law in Antarctica, mate. You mustn’t practice exclusionist or racist processing or labeling of birds here, yank. We are egalitarians.”

“Oh no! I’ve done it again. I am a closet racist in my ignorant arrogance. I’m so sorry, Albert, if I have offended you.”Image result for embarrassed eskimo face"

“Nonsense. I am a Unitarian myself. I see that you are mentally limited by a brain freeze, and I accept you as you are. Uh, what is your name?”

“Joel, Joel Cousteau, international adventurer.”

“Well, my pleasure, Joel. The first church of the United EM’s, or EMU’s is over this rise, about two kilometers Southwest. But they are a fiesty bunch, suffering as they do from PPS. Petite Penguin Syndrome.”Image result for church in antarctica pictures"

“Thank you, thank you, Albert. Here’s a dried, salted red herring in gratitude.”

“We call it fish jerky, Joel. Mmmmm, delicious. Now off you go.”

Joel practically sprinted over the rise ahead, nearly running into a sign and a metal pole archway that announced he was entering the Norwegian slice of Antarctica. The sign told him to declare all his possessions and pass through the metal detector. Being a law abiding attorney first and foremost, he emptied his pockets and announced to the great blue sky what he was carrying, and then trudged on. “How silly. Anyone could just walk around that archway. Duhhh.”Image result for doorway in snow landscape picture"

In the distance Joel saw thousands and thousands of tiny penguins milling about an inlet, diving in and hopping out of the aquamarine blue canyon, like fleas on a blue tick hound. He began to jog and canter toward them, which caused the little guys to turn in a defensive drill, marching to meet him in crack units of 100 fearless EM’s. These same mini-penguins had fought off leopard seals in similar phalanxes, pecking the larger predators to bits like icy pirahnas. Image result for piranha gif"

Coming to his senses, Joel realized he had no Albert to interpret for him. He stopped and waved the empty snow globe. “I come in peace for Bucky.” Still they charged hard at him. Joel had no choice but to bring out his secret weapon– a penguin headed Pez dispenser with cod flavored Pez pellets. The phalanxes broke ranks as mini-penguins scrambled for his sweet deceptions. Finally, the head mini EM came forward from the chaos. He had a fancy turban on his head made from a Norwegian flag. Image result for norwegian antarctica pictures"

This emir EMU spoke with a South African/Indian twang to his English, clearly his second language. “Whart is it that you be vanting, meester? Ve have no meet on our bones. Surely you do not vant to eat us.”

Once again Joel told his sad tale, only this time the emir penguin’s eyes registered an acute understanding as he nodded. “Yes, ve have Bucky.”

“Oh my goodness, where, how, when can I see him?” Joel was dizzy with delight at the news.

“Vell, ve have a small problem, meester sveet candy man. You see, Bucky has been radicalized, as you say in de vest.”

“You mean he’s gone rogue? Jihadist? Noooooooo.”Image result for crazed  penguin gif"

“Please, control yourself, meester. You see, it is a problem vith our youth. Vithout purpose and jobs, they can be heepnotized by internet memes and fooled by click bait.”

“I don’t care. When can I see him. His is a brother to me. I’m certain I can talk him down.”

“Ve vill see”, said the emir penguin as they waddled over to the UNESCO tent, surrounded by ten peacekeeping EMU penguins in white helmets and automatic rifles. Image result for UNESCO tent in Antarctica pictures"



739. Saving Private Bucky

Image result for airplane taking off pictures"We left off with Joel in search of a way to Antarctica. His plane took off from Dulles IA after Fast Eddie the Uber driver dropped him at the terminal just in time for the flight to Atlanta and then Buenos Aries. From Buenos Aries it is no small trip to the southern most tip of Argentina where Captain Shackleton of the HMS Endurance waited for him in the port of Ushuaia. All told it would amount to nearly 36 hours in motion, southward ever southward like General Sherman’s scorched earth march to Atlanta and beyond. Joel’s mission was to find and extract Bucky from the vast snowy desert of Antarctica. But how?  He knew on a figurative level it was like finding a needle in a haystack. No; worse!  Literally it was finding a penguin in a snowstorm.Image result for snow squall in antarctica pictures"


Before he left the coffee shop, we chatted a bit.

“You know I actually did have a penguin snow globe when I was a child.”

“I sensed that. Somehow our chakras crossed and the message shot into my unconscious chi.”

“Hmm. Amazing. You seem to know what you have no right to know, and then you write about what you have no right to write.”

“It is a sacred mystery, Joel, how images and lyrics bubble up in the creative springs of poets and soothsayers’ grottoes of inspiration.”

“Are you trying to confuse me? Or is it just a gift of  yours?”

“It’s a gift, Joel, and I relinquish all claims of ownership now and forever more as you should likewise yield your claims over the Spyder. Just sign this napkin will and fold it over your key.”

“Are you trying to hypnotize me through repetition and recall?”Image result for hypnotic pocket watch pictures"

“Perhaps… perhaps it’s all a disembodied dream.”

“I never dream.”

“I was thinking that it was one of my dreams not one of yours.”

“You are doing it again.”

“What? Confusing or gifting you?”

“Yes, that.”

“Trust me for once, bro. This is serious. Bucky is lost! Go!!”

****************************************************Image result for shackleton dog sled pictures"

Once he found the Endurance, Captain Shackleton impatiently tapped his pocket watch and addressed him. “You must be the photographer. If it weren’t for my need to document this expedition for history’s sake, we’d  have sailed two days ago, laddy.”

Joel fumbled with his camera and suitcase. “Do you have a valet service, sir? A concierge, perhaps?”

“Shut up and get on board. A valet! What sort of nonsensical land lubberism is that? Ensign, set sail. Shove off, me hearties.”Image result for pictures of the Endurance ship"

Into the icy water the Endurance turned, no one on board knew it was to be a one way trip. It took four days to conquer the cruelly snapping jaws of the sea and arrive at the edge of the Antarctic Peninsula near Palmer outpost.  The men were excited to exit onto solid ground. They posed for Joel to snap official pictures. Some even kicked a soccer ball around. You know how Brits are about football, right?

“I’m not really a photographer”, Joel explained. “I’ve come in search of my childhood friend Bucky; he’s an emperor penguin who was kidnapped from my snow globe back in Pennsylvania.”

Steward Bigsley reflected, “You’re a good friend, mate. I could only hope if I’d been kidnapped from inside a snow globe that a brother like you’d come and find me. Bucky, you say?”

“Yes, Bucky. A truer friend never there was.”

Bigsley, “With such a captain as Shackleton, we’ll find him, sure we will.”

Off they marched the next day like conquistadors down the peninsula toward pagan penguin cities teeming with penguins of all shapes and sizes. The crew’s morale was high as they trudged forward on snow shoes while dogs pulled their sleds. The days were 22 hours of sunlight and blue sky.Hauled onto a flow at night

Joel’s heart thumped in anticipation of finding Bucky. He realized the odds were not in his favor, but he’d lived under Fortune’s protection lo these seventy plus years. In the distance he spotted the first colony of penguins; but something was very wrong. These penguins were all wrong. They had disturbing hair or head feathers. Until this moment he did not know he was a closet penguin racist, exclusively preferring only emperor penguins like Bucky. At this moment though he felt the revulsion toward this subspecies. Shame shot through him. “I’ve been arrogant in my ignorance. Back home at the Second Presbyterian Church I am the chairman of the inclusion committee. And here I am excluding birds who do not look like my Bucky. Forgive me, God.”Image result for penguin types pictures"

Joel fumbled for his fountain pen to record this deeply personal epiphany. It was just then that a snow haboob began to rise up on the fat end of the peninsula, charging at the crew of the Endurance. Fate had apparently turned against our lucky intrepid traveler. When the first edge of the snow haboob hit them, the men were shocked. It was a snownado, whirling in nearly a plasma form. Not flakes so much as loose, white meat sausage-snow hit the men with such force that they could only go prone, head down against the merciless monster. The unfortunate men who stood up, were blown end over end into the freezing water nearby, never to be found.Image result for south pole snowstorm pictures"

The freak summer storm raged for two days. Men and dogs huddled together in one mammal pile, taking turns at the outer edge in imitation of penguin colony behavior to conserve heat. For two days Joel’s only thought was Bucky. Against all odds he continued to call out “Bucky, Bucky” from his frozen foxhole. A reasonable man would call this a tragedy if the story ended at this point. However, neither Joel Cousteau nor his constant chronicler, Mr. Burrito Special, ever considered defeat. To quote the great man himself, “The only tragedy from which one can never recover is a non billable hour.”

On the third day an eerie calm appeared along with cerulean blue skies. The Antarctic was truly an upside down world. No matter, onward the men trekked to their appointment with destiny. Ocean Camp, 15th December 1915


738. Waddling with Penguins

Image result for penguin colony pictures antarcticaIt’s summer in Antarctica, folks, and that can only mean one thing: Joel Cousteau is on his way to another continent. His bucket list includes waddling with penguins apparently. Some men dance with wolves; others swim with sharks. However, the most interesting man in the world, aka Joel, waddles with penguins. I know, it sounds like a children’s book title, but there it is– the unvarnished Antarctican Truth, bold as a toucan’s bill.Related image

Oddly enough I have blogged on penguins in the past. Let me do some crack research here…. yes, way back in post 158. Totalitarian Penguins, a prescient piece about the overthrow of the planet by a Hitleresque Penguin named Flappin. So I am not exactly a newcomer to this business of penguinistas. It should come as no surprise if you have followed the misadventures of Joel in other posts; by now you know his many eccentricities as well as Walter Mitty-like gifts. The Easy Rider complex, the sousaphilia, the mule gigolo, crime stopper, civil rights protester impostor, biker gang consiglieri, galley slave, crack trap shooter, international cheapskate, and so much more.Taking dogs off Endurance

Anyway, the trip is an arduous one that requires a doctor’s approval, passports, shots, a ship’s round trip passage from Argentina, and hours of training for any possibility, including a totalitarian penguin uprising. Waivers must be signed and warnings acknowledged. For instance, if you have a medical emergency that requires a helicopter evacuation, the cost is a cool $150,000 in U.S. money. If  your credit card does not have a limit that high, then it’s an impromptu burial at sea. Pretty harsh, I think, but it’s the risk some courageous men are willing to take in order to waddle with penguins down under.Image result for antarctic rescue helicopter pictures

But wait!  There’s more. Once on the ice-covered continent, there can be no touching of penguins just like at any reputable strip club; and there are no poles except for the South Pole. As one treks on foot, if you should encounter a penguin on a foot path, you must yield him/her the right of way. Failure to do so will result in fines and points on your license issued by one of the sovereign nations who claim Antarctica…

There are seven sovereign states who have territorial claims in AntarcticaArgentinaAustraliaChileFranceNew ZealandNorway and the United Kingdom.

So just imagine this– you get a ticket in Antarctica, but the presiding magistrate is in France! One more reason not to molest a penguin in case you needed another.Image result for courtroom in costume pictures

What compels brave men like Joel Cousteau and Ulysses, you ask?  Each intrepid traveler has his own unique story. I happen to know Joel’s since he confided in me before the perilous journey, just in case. I was to keep the secret until and unless he was lost in the Antarctic and never returned. He instructed me to write this down and share it with his eulogy, coincidentally another blog post, 336. Ululational EulogiesImage result for humphrey bogart photos

It all began on Christmas morning 65 years ago. Joel was 8 years old and fired up about the presents under the Douglas MacArthur fir Christmas tree in his living room. He opened the big spherical present first. Lo and behold it was a brand new globe of the known world. He spun it and then began to study each country, imagining himself a world traveler even then. Hawaii was still a U.S. territory then, but he knew one day a banker’s convention would pay for him to visit. Bermuda, Iceland, Morocco, Italy, and so many other nations called out to him, “Visit me one day, Joel Cousteau.” He made a solemn vow that he would do all in his power to set foot on all seven continents, except maybe Antarctica, and sail the many seas in between despite his fear of discomfort and immoderate expense.Image result for antique world globe images

His next present was a snow globe from dear Aunt Marie which housed an adorable emperor penguin that flapped his wings as the globe was shaken. The penguin seemed to beckon Joel, “Don’t forget me”. He gave it the name of Bucky, a friend whom he could never touch. After some brief research he learned that penguins like Bucky only live in Antarctica, so his exception became his renewal of his General MacArthur solemn vow–“I shall set foot upon all continents, especially the home of Bucky, my friend the penguin. Perhaps one day I can go there and meet Bucky, like I met the Lone Ranger at the Zembo Temple last year.”Image result for snow globe with penguin pictures

The globe turned on its axis thousands of rotations, through the turbulent 1960’s, the svelt seventies, the egregious eighties, the nattering nineties, the roller coaster 0 oughts, and the twenty teens. Joel became an elder statesman with a predilection for tweed and travel. He began checking off  his bucket list– feral goats, smoked shark meat, Moroccan lamb, Bermuda beach crow, Irish eel, and so many more delicacies that I dare not list for fear of inciting my readers to drool on their screens. Scotland, Iceland, Morocco, Bermuda, Ireland, Italy, France, and the list goes on. Some called him the Rick Steves of Chambersburg. Image result for rick steves pictures

Years dragged by like a snoring glacier in a fjord. Joel did not spin the globe with the same fervency he had as a young lad. Bucky was put away on a dusty shelf next to the silver bullet at his assisted living cottage. Joel had nearly quit his quest for a foot on all the continents. He was content to simply go to Italian restaurants, Irish pubs, Indian buffets, and Caribbean cafes that popped up around town. His world conqueror blood had cooled to room temperature and his feet were often cold. Image result for withered old man pictures

One day he was snipping his nose hairs into submission when he looked in the mirror above and behind his reflection to the shelf where Bucky had been lodged these many years. In a panic he realized his best and longest lasting friend was gone. Only the snow globe remained. It was a locked door mystery as to how Bucky escaped and the rest of the Christmas scene remained just as it had always been. Image result for empty snow globe images

On that day the blood boiled in our hero and he pulled himself up to the challenge. “I will go to the ends of the earth for Bucky.” It was now January 2020 and fortunately for Joel a ship was leaving Bueno Aires in a week for the Antarctic. If he could get there in time, he could sail with the crew of the Endurance, the three-masted barquentine under the captaincy of Sir Ernest Shackleton. “Damn the torpedos. Full steam ahead!” Joel yelled at his own reflection in the mirror. Image result for shackleton expedition ship name

Unfortunately, this tale must be continued….

737. And Away We Go

Image result for hot air balloon photosThinking about retirement as I enter the final year of official employment, the countdown to greater freedom and more choices seems a bit daunting. There’s a lot to do in order to do less. It still seems pretty vague despite all the definitive funding streams and anticipated expenses ahead. A figurative door opens on to the great wide world beyond employment. Travel, everyone wants to travel before it’s too late and their body or checkbook won’t permit them to leave town. Sure, I want to check off my bucket list items too. Maybe it’s a bit presumptuous to even hold a bucket list, as if the bucket (of life) will hold still for me to kick it on my own terms. Not sure if Cambodians or Nigerians have bucket lists in their daily struggles to survive. Must be a First World problem like which flavor mouthwash to use.Image result for blue highway maps

I do see a long blue off ramp that runs west and southeast toward loved ones, though. Even the poorest folks on earth want to be with their closest relatives at the end of their lives. I’m no different. I have a will and a funeral party playlist of songs that I put together twenty years ago. I might need to update that list, however. I don’t want some crazy 90’s song embarrassing everyone who has come to grieve my passing. My death should be like the passing of a kidney stone– the end of their suffering.  The will should be good or I will have to sue Joel.  As far as my property legacy, I think I’ll take a page from John Prine….Image result for john prine daddy’s little pumpkin

Woke up this morning
Put on my slippers
Walked in the kitchen
And died
And oh, what a feeling!
When my soul
Went through the ceiling
And on up into heaven, I did ride
When I got there, they did say
“John, it happened this way
You slipped upon the floor
And hit your head”
And all the angels say
“Just before you passed away
That these were the very last words
That you said”
“Please don’t bury me
Down in that cold, cold ground
No, I’d rather have ’em cut me up
And pass me all around”
“Throw my brain in a hurricane
And the blind can have my eyes
And the deaf can take both of my ears
If they don’t mind the size”
“Give my stomach to Milwaukee
If they run out of beer
Put my socks in a cedar box
Just to get ’em out of here”
Yep, just divide what’s left if there is anything. Try not to mix my cremains with your breakfast cereal, my grandkids. That would be disturbing…Image result for kid eating cereal pictures
“Gag, hack, gag.”
“What’s wrong, Max?”
“I-I-I think I ate Grandpa’s foot in my Fruit Loops.”
“Oh, no! Spit it out. Heave the Heimlich with me. There you go. Was it his right or left foot, honey?”
“How should I know, Mom? How would anyone know?”
“Now it’s simple, Honey:  Granpa’s left foot wouldn’t taste right.”
“Must have been the left cuz it definitely did not taste right.”Image result for cremains images
“Where did you get it… oh, no, Max! That’s the cremains jar not the cereal box.”
Some folks never retire; they keep on working till they die at the office or on the shop floor. That’s kind of hard on your coworkers, I think.
“Where’s Silverback Larry?”
“I dunno. He went to the bathroom, I think.”
“That was two hours ago, Mikey. Go check.”
“I’m not gonna check, Shirley. What if he’s like deceased, you know? I don’t want that job. What if rigor mortis has set in on the toilet?”
“Take the dolly with you. If rigor has set in, it’ll be a snap wheeling him out. He was mostly water.”
“No, Shirley, I won’t do your dirty work.”
“Well, I’m not going to check. It’s a men’s room.”
“Only when there’s a man in it, Shirley. Otherwise it’s nongenderized. Remember that training on sensitivity by H.R.? You can go in. Just make sure you knock.”
“He was your friend, Mikey. He was like a, a grandfather to you.”
“No, he just looked like a grandfather with the nose and ear hairs, and that clicking thing he did after lunch just before his nap.”
“Well, can’t you just listen to the door and see if he’s at least clicking?”
“Okay, Shirley, but if it’s dead silence, you’re going in not me…. Hey, Larry, Larry.”
Rude and inconsiderate, if you ask me. I want to simply let go on a parasail high above the Island of Capri and float airborne northwesterly over the boot of Italy, on past Tuscany, over Milan and scrape the tops of the Swiss Alps with my bare feet. Then glide on above the neat fields and towns of Germany, across Denmark, and then make a swirling clockwise tour of Scandinavia. Maybe I will get lucky and catch a strong westerly wind to finish out my good bye tour in Iceland. I know I’m not a rock star, but why can’t I retire and die like one? You know, like Elton John, maybe.
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So, that’s my story. I need to add “My Way” to the playlist while I’m thinking of it. Soaring across Europe in my untethered parasail, it would make a nice music video with Frank or Elvis singing… (Do not under any circumstances look at Sid Vicious’s version.)
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certainI’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all and I stood tall
And did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say – not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man, what has he got
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes, it was my way

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736. Canoodling

My favorite pasta is the canoodle.  It is a cross-hybrid of kiss and cuddle with a splash of amore sauce. The amazing fact about the canoodle is that this pasta is gluten fee and calorie free.  You can canoodle as long as you like and not gain so much as a gram. I should note that canoodling can lead to passionate outcomes that require mature audiences for me to share, and since I don’t know the age of my many readers, I cannot in good conscience go forward with further discussion of the passionate results of unharnessed canoodling.  Let me just say this: in some countries you must be at least 40 years old to obtain a canoodling license. Even then it’s seasonal like a hunting license; you must reapply each canoodling season and abide by all the laws in the 50 page booklet that comes with your canoodle tags..

Image result for a canoe filled with politicians imagesLately there has been another type of canoodling going on, the political type where hot to trot politicians wet kiss their audiences with steamy promissory slobber trails. They promise us everything– tax breaks, free insurance, tuition, economic resurgence, racial harmony, liberty and justice for all– and admonish against having other political suitors on the couch with us. “You can’t trust him/her. They are not me. I want you to canoodle in my canoe into a brighter, crisper future with one third of the calories. One that tastes great but is less filling.”Image result for elizabeth warren pictures

On the Dems side there are so many canoodlers that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Some have to submit to facial recognition technology since they have no name recognition.  Seriously, if you can match names and faces with the following list, you are a better citizen than I am. ( Okay, I know you are thinking you are already a better everything than I am, but just do the exercise anyway for your own edification.)

  • Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
  • Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro
  • Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
  • Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
  • Former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
  • Author Marianne Williamson
  • Tech entrepreneur Andrew YangImage result for fish catch pictures

Bennet, Delaney and Sestak sounds like a law firm in a New Jersey suburb. Not sure I could identify Deval Patrick either, though I’ve heard the name. That leaves 11 hamsters licking the voters’ sweaty palms to take him/her home for the next four years. “Oh, this one is so cute!” Mind you, this is after the pruning of the following 13 wannabes.Image result for fish catch pictures

  • Sen. Kamala Harris of California
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
  • Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam
  • Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas
  • Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
  • Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
  • Rep. Eric Swawell of California
  • Former Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska
  • Former state Sen. Richard Ojeda of West VirginiaImage result for richard ojeda images

Whaaaat? I thought the last guy was extremely shady since he had gotten out of West Virginia for military service but went back there after his tour ended. That should disqualify anyone for national office. Harsh? you may ask. You may Snopes check the following article from the Hagerstown paper, The Morning Herald, July 18, 1996.Related image

Washington County police responded to an incident on the shoreline between Maryland and West Virginia last night after complaints of loud booms were reported. Long time local residents claimed there has been a long time insult contest going on between folks on either side of the Potomac River where it narrows before the Al Roker Bridge span. 

Arthur Laird, 66, who has lived on the Maryland side all his life, stated, “Those West Virginia boys have an inferiority complex. Ever since Virginia divorced them back in the War.”

“Which war was that, sir?” this reporter inquired.Image result for civil war images crossing potomac river

“The Civil War, son. They come asking if they could be West Maryland. We said nope. Then they went to Ohio to see if they could be South Ohio. They got beat back like a red headed step child from outside of wedlock. So they went to Kentucky and asked if they could be Northeast Kentucky. I guess you know how that turned out. So, that left Pennsylvania, and them good ole boys was hopin’ that some of the old Quaker tolerance would drift  down to them, ya know? They was so beat down by rejection, they was ready to accept the title of GuamShoe County, PA. But when the Pennsylvanians asked for their shot records, they thoed in the towel, and just grew bitter and made moonshine.”

“That’s so sad. So, Arthur, bring us to last night on the river bed. How did it ever get so crazy here?”Related image

“Well, them Mountaineers was talking all crazy and yelling at us cuz we got running water and Coleman gas stoves over here, and RV’s and four wheelers and such. And, I guess it’s as old as Cain and Abel, ya know? Them boys was gonna destroy what they couldn’t have, so they got some dynamite sticks they stole from the highway department and thoed’ em across the narrows. It was terrible scary with shouting and children screaming and women cussing.”

“Is that when the Army National Guard helicopters arrived?”

“No, it was a fore that.”

“What did you do in the mean time, before the authorities quelled the violence?”Image result for helicopter spotlight at night

“Whelp, I aint namin’ names or nuthin’, but one of our boys who was a perty good pitcher at Williamsport back in the day, he grabbed up a few of them sticks of dynamite and lit them, and he thoe’d them back across the river. It was a turrible loud mess.”

“Thank you, Arthur Laird, for you heroic service in preserving peace in our time. Have you ever considered running for office?”

“Now son, this river may run on down to Washington, but you’ll never find me canoodling my canoe that way. No sir. I got standards.”Image result for canoeing down the potomac river pictures

Kyle Overton, Cub Reporter


735. The Last Word in Middle School Drama

Related imageBack in the day I taught exploratory drama to seventh graders, the majority of whom had little or no experience with plays or being on stage. Just reminiscing about some of those moments makes me laugh out loud at how goofily funny things became sometimes but also how magical they could be at other times. The goal was to put on a twenty minute micro play after five weeks of 45 minute classes. The results were always unique, often priceless.Related image

Let’s set the stage, so to speak, for the mind’s eye to take in the comic splendor. My students would build and decorate paper sets stapled to a folding wall frame made of 1’x3’s at the back of my classroom. The set wall stood about four feet from the real back wall, with a center entrance and open flaps at either end. The cast would wait behind the paper for their cues and I would direct from behind the paper wall. (Mind you, I had zero experience in theater.) We had lights and music to go with each play. Another class of 25 or so students would pile in to the desks that were flipped around backwards to watch these rare, never to be seen again theatrical exploits. We even had homemade programs as well, so everyone’s creative efforts could be chronicled and recognized. Image result for middle school plays photos

Let me begin with the mute narrator. Despite many repetitions without an audience. on the day of our one goofy play, the narrator, a big kid named Dion who was a bit of class clown without trying to be, froze in the spotlight before the first live audience. His fellow seventh graders in the audience giggled nervously as he stood there mutely. Behind the paper sets the other actors were whispering nervously, “What are we going to do, Mr. Burrito? He’s frozen in fear. We can’t start without his intro.” Image result for charlie chaplin images

“I’ll think of something”, I reassured them, knowing the mute narrator thing would grow old in another ten seconds. I had the script in hand and began in a loud, deep voice, “Dion, this is God. Can you hear me?”

Fortunately Dion came out of his paralysis and responded, “Yes, God.” The audience burst out laughing at the absurdity of it all, thinking it was part of the show. Image result for god speaks to adam pictures

“I want you to repeat after me.”

“Okay, God.”

I read his lines and he began to say them from that point on without any more divine interventions. It was like jump starting my old 1959 Volkswagen primer grey Bug, only it was a big 13 year old boy whose cognitive engine would not turn over. Looking back at both experiences, I prefer the spontaneous, unrehearsed moments. Otherwise it would not be memorable, you know? Who remembers the 1,000-th time he/she turned the key in the ignition and the car started?  However, we all remember those times when the key broke off or the battery died and the starter merely clicked. Yeah, it is the unique and bizarre that we easily retain and recall.Image result for man jump starting an old volkswagen pictures

Another drama favorite reduction had to be Excerpts from Monte Python’s Holy Grail. A rambunctious group of boys were the last cycle of the year, and they had all year to think about what glorious 20 minute theater explosion they would ignite. Beginning with the Black Knight scene where the Black Knight loses his arms and legs in a sword fight, the boys riffed about which scenes they had brainstormed in advance. The girls in the group had been excluded from planning, however, and made it known that they weren’t going to be ushers. So to accommodate the girls and to work out the storming of the castle scene, the boys made some adjustments. The castle was renamed Castle of the Babes and the girls came up with how they would defend the paper ramparts. Instead of tossing livestock at the invaders, they decided on marshmallows– soft, safe, edible. Image result for images from Monty python's holy grail

Finally they stole the final scene from Indiana Jones’ Holy Grail movie where the good knight or Indiana must pick the true Grail and worked it out as the fitting end to a crazy middle school charade of a medieval legend.Image result for last crusade images from end of movie

Fortunately the Black Knight, Paul, was an ice hockey player and had the full suit in all black with pads and helmet; a wooden shield and sword; and he was ready to be carved like a Christmas turkey. A play cannot begin with mere mayhem and murder, however. The knights of the Round Table had to begin their search on stick ponies, while providing their own click-clocking noises. Very soon they realized they were lost. What to do? One goofy knight borrowed the other goofy knight’s cell phone and placed a call to God, who stood on top of a ladder off stage with his head up in the dropped ceiling. After several rings, God’s answering service responded, “You have reached God. I’m either with another customer or away from my phone. Please leave a message at the beep.” The head knight left a disappointed message with the Creator and carried on toward the Castle of the Babes.Image result for images from Monty python's holy grail

On the way toward the castle, though, they ran into the spunky and over confident Black Knight, who challenged the knights to a fight to the death. As the fight developed, Paul would scurry behind the set with some severe blow. When he reappeared, he’d have one less limb. Until finally he came out on a skateboard with no arms or legs. It was cute in the stupid meaning of that word. Image result for images from Monty python's holy grail

When the wenches of the castle refused to surrender, the fight began. The girls pummeled the knights with marshmallows, causing one knight to exclaim, “I’ve been hit!” Followed by falling down to eat the marshmallow projectile. “Hmmm, these catapulted stones are tasty.” The scene ended mercifully after three bags of medium marshmallows had been fired at the audience.Image result for images from Monty python's holy grail

Finally the Round Table was set with several vessels and Lancelot, Galahad, and Gawain had to pick which was the Holy Grail. Each knight said something noble and took a swig. Each died in an overly dramatic death spiral, leaving only the Archbishop of Cranberry on the stage with an enormous red hat. When he took off the hat he revealed the true Grail which he began to sip while calling the Babes from the castle to party. They danced irreverently to some rock n roll song and that was the last word in middle school drama.Image result for bishop dancing with wenches pictures


734. Global Hatriotism

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Peace on earth and good will towards mankind…. does not seem to be in the cards once again this Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, New Year season. I mean, sure, it’s a banner on one in ten Christmas cards but not in reality. Getting in the way as usual is mankind being cruel to mankind. You don’t have to look very far to see the cruelty.A picture taken on February 19, 2019, shows swastikas painted on graves at a Jewish cemetery in the French town of Quatzenheim close to the German border (Frederick Florin/AFP)

Just the other day a bunch of Jewish graves were vandalized in Paris by someone who left swastikas with blue spray paint. So thoughtful. Attacking graves is the nadir of cowardice since they (the dead) are undefendable. Most people groups on this earth condemn disturbing the dead. The criminality of the act is self evident. Unlike other graffiti necro-graffiti must be carried out under cover of darkness. Anonymously. Therefore the cowards cannot be held responsible or accountable. It’s like  poisoning the victim, so passive-aggressive. Cowards will not confront their supposed adversaries in daylight on a level playing field evenly armed. But this indefensible cowardly attack was double edged: it disturbed the universal respect for the dead while also searing the hearts of survivors with the universal symbol of hatred.‘They were both very nice to me’ ... Goebbels and his wife Magda with Hitler

We are all witnesses and survivors as the family of mankind. Our humanity is not lived out in a silo that stops at the threshold of our homes, countries, cultures, political persuasion, or places of worship. Our humanity is a universally shared compassion for all men and women, knowing that pain and suffering are understood across all ages, languages, oceans, governments, religions, and cultures. Willful ignorance of this shared care does not make one man, tribe or nation immune from accountability. It makes them poisonous.Image result for universal humanity imagesWe cannot unsee or forget these insults to our human nature anymore than we can ignore ebola.

Happy Christmas then to the Rohingyas of Myanmar. About two and a half years ago they were purged from land they had lived on for generations. Their crime? Muslim faith in a Buddhist country. Framed as foreigners, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, they had no rights when majority Buddhist Myanmar decided on an ethnic cleansing/ genocide program in August 2017. Weird, isn’t it, how Buddhism is usually associated with peaceful contemplation. Buddha’s teachings are known as “dharma.” He taught that wisdom, kindness, patience, generosity and compassion were important virtues.A Rohingya refugee cries as he climbs on a truck distributing aid for a local NGO near the Balukali refugee camp

Not only were almost a million Rohingyas forced out of their villages, the villages were incinerated behind them; women and girls were raped; thousands were murdered. Their crime, once again, was being different. The same story plays out all over the globe.Image result for the globe on fire images

In China a million Muslim Uyghurs are being re-educated by the authoritarian state of Xi Xinping, Trump’s on again, off again buddy. Apparently these Chinese citizens do not know how to be Chinese, and so the state must reteach them how not to be Muslim or Uyghur. The Communist Party of China is so concerned about these folks that they have been giving DNA tests to catch Uyghurs in hiding, trying to avoid the internment camps. Now just consider that program in any other country, except North Korea– making citizens give their DNA for no legal or medical reason. Seems like a prelude to another Holocaust. It’s easy to ignore Chinese Muslims, though. I mean, what on earth do I have in common with them besides humanity?Related image

Save your tears, my readers, at least budget them judiciously. You’ll need to save some for the Muslims in India who are now being expatriated by the new right wing Hindu government. Despite comprising 14% of India’s population, Muslims are being declassified as citizens by Prime Minister Modi’s virulent government. Claiming the citizenship bill is meant to protect minorities, troops were deployed to majority Muslim states and internet service was cut off to those areas. Just a coincidence, I’m sure. “What you are seeing and hearing is not what you are seeing and hearing.” “Our lies are true; our truths are lies.”Image result for india's persecution of muslims images

Save some tears for non Muslims, folks. The Yazidi of northern Iraq were singled out by ISIS, the crazed Islamic terrorist group of Iraq and Syria. Yazidis worship one god but not like Jews or Christians or Muslims. They are different and therefore unholy apostates living next to the pure, fundamentally unstable, radicalized Islamists. Answer to this problem? If you guessed genocide, you win again. Your prize is a loss of more humanity.In this Dec. 5, 2015 file photo, Yazidi refugee Salma Bakir, 9, from Iraq, waits with her family to be permitted by Macedonian police to board a train heading to the Serbian border, near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija. (Muhammed Muheisen/AP)

Darfur in Sudan has witnessed the murder of 480,000 civilians in the past 15 or so years. And what drives this genocide, you might ask?

The ethnic conflict in Darfur has been persistent. Darfur is home to six million people and several dozen tribes. Darfur is split into two: “those who claim Black ‘African’ descent and primarily practice sedentary agriculture, and those who claim ‘Arab’ descent and are mostly semi nomadic livestock herders”. [wikipedia]  Image result for ranchers fighting farmers in sudan pictures

You might think that the farmers and the ranchers should be friends, but it’s no more true in Sudan than in Oklahoma.

Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends
One man likes to push a plough
The other likes to chase a cow
But that’s no reason why they cain’t be friends

But throughout history there has always been a reason why nomads and farmers can’t be friends. It’s not just religious differences. In Karen Armstrong’s historic survey of religion and violence we find…

Amid the kaleidoscope of examples, the argument solidifies: religious awakening is a symptom of too-quick transition from one kind of society to another. From the nomadic to the settled, from the agrarian to the mercantile, from the mercantile to the industrial. Violence often erupts at these moments. But the link with religion is one of correlation, not causation.Image result for medieval war pictures

Blood spills at pivot points in history, with or without religion. Not all countries or cultures pivot at the same moment in history, so we wind up with a bloody patchwork quilt brightened by a few stars and halos here and there. These small cracks where the light comes in defy the mindless massacre of humanity.

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

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733. Murray Christmas, Joel

Image result for tortured accountant cartoonOkay, I’ll admit that I torture Joel on a regular basis. It’s fun for both of us in this crazy world we live in, where strangers kill each other for no apparent reason. It’s comforting to know that when your friend stabs you in the chest, it is not a random or purposeless act of a deranged demoniac. No, it’s your friend– maybe wishing you a Murray Christmas or just being socially reciprocal in an inappropriate manner. Like yesterday.Related image

I was in a festive mood as I prepared for a busy day of what I call work. I dressed and shaved, slathered coconut oil into my wispy hair for control that does not look too moussey or controlly. (Now there’s a pair of words that spell check does not like.) I picked up the small chunk of bleached coral from my dresser that I use as a paperweight for my receipts and bank statements. “Ha! I’m going to give this to Joel as my Christmas gift. Now I just need a card and a facetious reason to go along with the gag.” Related image

I like to set myself personal creative challenges like this, no matter how trivial, mundane or silly. I went to the file drawer where my sane and sober wife keeps cards for all seasons and reasons. Some are art cards without any messaging. I like those best. But for this occasion I wanted a stock, Dollar Store card. That’s when I found it!  A cheesy get well card with a tedious message on the front cover and inside. “Yes!! Perfect!!” just like Trump’s Ukraine call. It just needed a bit of dressing up. Image result for pathetic greeting cards

“Get well soon” was crudely edited to “Get Christmas soon” with a black Sharpie, again like Trump’s map of Alabama and the hurricane watch. Other references to illness were crossed out and replaced with seasonal words. “At this trying time, remember…blah, blah, blah.” became “At this festive time, remember…blah, blah, blah.” That was the easy part, doctoring the card to resemble a prison tattoo or one on an old Navy vet’s arm, where you can’t tell if it’s the Baby Jesus or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. And it’s rude to say, “May I stretch your forearm skin out to read the original tat inside?” This is how random killings occur by strangers in public parks. Totally senseless, random, and impersonal. Image result for wrinkled old tattoo images

Joel lives for classical music, as I have recorded in previous posts about his sousaphilia and the Tubette Wilson trilogy. ‘Hmmm. Yes!!’ I thought. My sloppy marker message said, “For your love of coral music, fa la la la la la, la la la la.” With the same marker I drew a budget creche with faint blobs suggesting Joseph and Mary standing like baked potatoes over a jelly bean sized Baby Jesus. Knowing how much Joel likes camels, I drew a Moroccan camel on the outside of the stable next to a reindeer/ longhorn bull combination animal. Overcome with Yuletide joy, I signed it “Burrito” and slid it into a used-looking beige envelope that screamed “Thrift Store Sale Rack”. Ah, but the homely enveloped needed more than just “JOEL” on its water stained outside. I drew a sad looking star where the stamp would go. It’s mournfully weak ink beams reached toward his name like dribbles of decaf coffee. At the bottom left I added “Budget Cards.Com”. It was more perfecter than a homely card had a right to be. The homeliest mother of the homeliest child in Homely Land would call it homely.Related image

I was excited to greet Joel, buy his unsweetened iced tea, and give him the homely card. He laughed like a mad man holding on to a thin sliver of reality. I believe the card hit his absurd nerve that intersects with the vagus nerve. For a moment I thought he might over-guffaw and fall out right there, slain in the spirit of regurgitated revival. But he held on like the sea worthy maritime lawyer that he is. (See previous post about his pro bono intervening for a motorcycle gang on a ferry boat ride to Cape May, N.J.)Image result for sea captain images

He graciously accepted the chunk of coral, not once insinuating that it was an odd gift or asking if it were actually human bone, never mind saying, “What? Coral in my stocking, Scrooge? What about Tiny Tim? Have you eaten him?” Nope. Image result for tiny tim cratchit pictures

Yes, banal banter ensued. He promised to put this latest gift/card in his special box at home where he puts all my memorabilia. The British call such boxes, dustbins. As we parted ways, I recalled the lyrics to Harry Chapin’s song “Taxi”…

“Well another man might have been angry; and another man might have been hurt; but another man never would have picked it up; he stashed the card in his shirt.”

On my way out I sang softly to myself, “Murray Christmas to Joel, and to all a good night.”

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