Jingle Bells Refinanced

 

 

Juggle Bills

Dashing through the dough

In a one-shot spending spree

 O’er the aisles we go

 Buying all we see

 Bills our mailman brings

 Making faces white

My Christmas bonus couldn’t ding

Our family’s debt tonight!

 

 (chorus)

 

Oh, Juggle bills, juggle bills,

Juggle every day.

Oh! What pain it is to know

We’ll someday have to pay.

 Juggle bills, juggle bills,

Juggle every day.

Oh! What pain it is to know

 We’ll someday have to pay.

 

 

A month or two ago

I thought I’d skip a bill

But soon collections called

My spirits they did grill

The debt was overdue

Misfortune seemed my lot

They said they had to sue

But nothing’s all they got.

 

 (chorus)

 

Oh, Juggle bills, juggle bills,

Juggle every day.

Oh! What pain it is to know

We’ll someday have to pay.

 Juggle bills, juggle bills,

Juggle every day.

Oh! What pain it is to know

We’ll someday have to pay.

 

 

Jingle Bells adapted by Sally Paradise

Hinterland of Youth

Hinterland of Youth

 On that rapidly growing dark afternoon of November 23rd, 1972, two friends called on me. They came to take me to Mauston, Wisconsin, a nether-land up north.  The trip would be a get-away weekend of exposed anima with just the guys. We were headed to a hunter’s cabin on loan to us from a local town alderman. The three of us, Jack Kerouac, Bill Caulfield and me, Tom Merton said goodbye to my parents.  We then hit the road and headed north on I-90, leaning forward into the “next crazy venture beneath the skies.” So Jack began the scroll of our trip.

Just across the Illinois-Wisconsin border and somewhere on an isolated back road Bill had Jack stop the car. Bill got out and went around to the trunk.  I watched him not knowing what he was doing. He pulled out a small insulated lunch bag.  Apparently Bill hid the bag in the spare tire cove of the trunk.  He returned to the front seat, opened the bag and handed me my first cold beer – a Pabst Blue Ribbon. I figured then that Bill had made off with a six pack from his father’s beer refrigerator in his family’s basement.

I tasted my first beer in the backseat of Jack’s ’69 Ford Galaxie.  I slurped it slowly thinking it smelled strangely familiar, something in the order of wet wheat-germ or chilled sweat. I dug its mystic cold smarminess.

As we drove north drinking beer we listened to Bill’s eight track tapes.  The eclectic collection included Woodstock, Jethro Tull’s Hard as a Brick, The Beatles’ Rubber Soul, the Beach Boys, Jimmy Hendrix and many others.  I had to beg Bill and Jack to get them to listen to my Chicago CTA album and to my Simon and Garfunkel Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme album. When I did get to play them, I do so with the Marantz turntable sitting next to me on the back seat. The road yielded to the beat.

After three hours and thirty-one minutes of driving and several “Nature’s calling” stops we arrived at the cabin, about ten miles outside of Mauston. It was around 10:30 pm. The cabin was dank and cold. We found the thermostat and switched on the furnace.  There was a small hutch filled with firewood and so we started a fire going in the brick fireplace. Not long after that we hit the bunk beds strained from the day’s massive carb-loading and the red-eyed myopia of night driving.

The weekend at the cabin gave me new insights into what the body can and cannot handle. Drinking alcohol for the first time in my life and without reservation had me revisiting the first seventeen years of my life from the inside out. My stomach doesn’t suffer fools well. In the morning my brain pummeled me with its version of smashing clay pots filled with forget-me-nots on my head.

It was during this next morning that I came up with a throbbing new insight:  I told Bill and Jack that we should buy milk shakes to coat our stomachs before drinking again that night.  They mumbled an agreement and we drove to Dairy Queen that afternoon. We drank large vanilla milk shakes in hopes of staving off the stomach sucking creatures of the night. The ultimate effect, though, was thorough expurgation. I was to find out later that a more prudent trade-off was to not drink so much that one would up running around in twenty degree weather in their underwear howling at the moon.

One of the more sober highlights of our weekend was using a .38 special to shoot at beer cans and bottles lined up on a fence behind the cabin.  The gun belonged to Bill’s father. His father was a Brink’s truck guard. As I learned Bill had secretly taken the gun and some ammo from his father’s bedroom. We used the gun to shoot at bull’s eye targets nailed to unsuspecting trees. The exhilarating effect of shooting a handgun though quickly wore off. I wanted more and more fire power. I eagerly wanted to shoot a shotgun or a bazooka or a cannon or an ICBM – anything that provided a flesh-shaking ear-deafening “KER-POW!!!!”

This was the first time I had ever shot a gun. In my hand the cold hard steel loaded with more cold hard steel sent a hot rush of testosterone through my extremities. I had to pull the trigger to release the pressure or I felt that I would have exploded.

The cabin, being a hunter’s paradise, was filled with Playboys – Playboys which included Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield. This was not the first time I had been exposed to these magazines. Men seemed to keep them in places where boys would find them. All I needed besides the Playboys was a smoking jacket and a pipe. Instead of those Hugh Hefner type accoutrements Jack supplied me with Tiparillos. A blanket would be my smoking jacket.

At night Bill and I looked at the collection of Playboys by the light of the glowing fireplace. Reading the ‘articles’ warmed our sensibilities and the centerfold’s siren call would make drooling cave men of us all. Well not all of us.  I found out a year later that Jack was gay. I realized then why he would want two guys alone with him up at the cabin. I do remember being especially thankful at the time for Marilyn’s company and being curious about Jack’s ambivalence toward the women who were stapled down for our viewing pleasure.

The weekend in Wisconsin with the guys worked out all of my unexercised stupidity. And it all happened under the gauzy star-filled night pointed at by thousands of towering conifers just outside of Mauston, Wisconsin.  Fire-in-the-belly embers would burn through the fabric of my being leaving my satin youth singed.  The weekend was a rite of passage of sorts which thankfully didn’t regress into a Lord of the Flies sequel.

If I had a time machine I would not go back to Mauston and the cabin. I might, though, go back to that Thanksgiving dinner, say “Thank you” to my parents, push away from the table and go take a long nap, not waking up until November 24th, 2011. I wouldn’t miss the self-obsessed oblivion of those in-between detached days.

The Boy in the Tent

Last night I found myself in a van, my ex driving us to a familiar campground in the next state.  We wanted to get there as fast as we could.  We urgently wanted to get to our seven year-old son.

 We drove through the darkness panting and leaning forward in our seats. Just before sunrise we entered the campground.  We drove over to the campsite where we had camped many times before. There in the middle of a grassy opening surrounded by oak trees was a lone pup tent.

 I jumped out of the van and ran over to the tent. Down on my knees I lifted the tent flap and looked into the dimly lit tent.  My son was sitting in the middle of the otherwise empty tent.  He was facing the other way.

 There was nothing in front of him. He sat dead still.

 I crawled over to him.  As I did so he turned his head to look at me. He then got up, jumped into my arms and hugged me tightly.

 After a while we released our hug and I put him down.  He returned to sit in the same place in the tent. He sat down facing away from me.

 I went out of the tent.  My ex had been yelling from the car that we had to leave.

 I called back to my son and told him that we were going, that he must come along. There was no reply.

 ****

 I opened my eyes and winced them shut again.  The pit of my stomach felt as if it had been carved out of me while I slept.  When the silent sobbing began I tried to cover the wound.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

The Catch of The Day

I have often returned to the eyewitness account of Jesus walking on the water and of Peter’s eager attempt to do the same. I do so especially when I am not sure about my next step.

 It is an unusual account not only because the rules of physics were usurped but also because Jesus is meeting the men in the midst of their daily work. 

 Peter and the others made their living as fisherman.  Everything they needed depended on the day’s catch. The families of these men and the markets were waiting at home.  So come hell or high water they would go out on the Sea of Galilee trawling for fish.

 One night hell and high water came –a fierce storm suddenly arose.  Their small fishing boat was buffeted by the wind and the waves. The sail was useless and rowing had become impossible.  Their whole effort was used to keep an even keel so as not to capsize and lose their nets in the process.

 In the rain-swept darkness there suddenly walked a figure – a man walking on the water towards them.  Perhaps, they thought, it is a ghost.  No one in their right mind would be out in this weather and certainly not for a stroll on the sea. This did not bode well for superstitious fishermen.

 During a streak of lightning, perhaps, Peter thinks he recognizes the profile of Jesus. At this point Peter might have said to himself, “Jesus!  Jesus is not safe. He’s way out on the deep end. Walking on water just might be another one of those “Jesus things’ that keep you guessing. But, my gut tells me to go with it for now.”

 Out of the gale comes a voice, “Take courage! It is I.Don’t be afraid.”

 So Peter yells, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  And Jesus said “Come!”

 Peter stood up in the small boat almost tipping it over. Unsteady, heart racing, he grabbed the hull with one hand and lifted his right leg out of the boat. He put his right foot down on the water.  His foot made no hole in the water. He slowly shifted his balance and brought his left leg out of the boat. Peter stood on the substance of things not seen. He straightened up and looked over at Jesus. The storm was still raging behind the apparition-turned-Apotheosis.

 Yet, in an instant the full weight of Peter’s reason, creating a confluence of fear, opened the sea below him like a watery trap door. He sank down into water over his head.

Treading in the choppy waters as best he could, Peter cried for help, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus caught hold of Peter’s hand and pulled him up.  While holding Peter’s hand and looking Peter square in the eye (I can only imagine.) Jesus said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Hoisting the sail, Peter and the crew got back to the business at hand – making a living from being gut sure of what they hoped for and being more certain of what they did not see – fishing.

The eyewitness account that relates Peter’s story is recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (14:22-33)

Convergence

Apartment life. Life ala compressed multiculturalism and noise.  People upstairs. People downstairs. People next door. Surround sound, surround smell, surround people 24/7. No man is an apartment unto himself.

Latin oompah music pumps my eardrums at all hours.  Asian Techno music throbs somewhere in the water pipes.  An unbalanced washing machine in the basement bangs against the wall or is it the churning dance music beat of the sixteen year old listening to Pit Bull in the next apartment? Fights, arguments, door slamming and door knocking. Sounds of silence  – No Vacancy here.

 The Filipino couple across the hall is fighting again.  The guy’s stuff is scattered all over the second floor hallway and in front of my door. He knocking, calling and crying. No one answers – for about four hours.

 The black girl in apartment C has just came home from work. She’s carrying her one year old son up the stairs. The boy’s father will be over on the weekend. He wishes she lived on the first floor. In a recently and easily overheard argument I heard him say to her “You never see the things I don’t do.” I knew at that point that things would not get better. I turn up Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem.

 On the weekends, the Brit school teacher in apartment B gets in his car to pick up his two-year old son. Otherwise, he has satellite TV and the nearby sports bar.

 The drunk in apartment C routinely stumbles through the hallway to get his social security check out of the mailbox. He will soon walk over to the same sports bar.

 A young Asian couple moved upstairs last weekend. For some reason they roam their bedroom all night long.  Their footsteps run across my ceiling putting out my dreams.

 Again tonight the hippie couple who live downstairs and two doors over sit outside by their clay chiminea. The smell of pot is becoming heavy in the air. No way to Teach Your Children.

I close my patio door to that dreamland wafting up and to the choking smoke coming from grilling Tecate chicken below me. I had wanted to sit outside on my small porch and enjoy the summer night but there is also a guy fixing his SUV in the parking lot.  The SUV rear-end is jacked up and so is Lil Wayne’s She Will. Stille nacht not.

 Tik Tok. In case you are wondering, I get up at 3:30 am in the morning and get ready for work. I catch the 5:04 train to the city. So, I go to bed at 8:15 pm. But tonight, like every other night, the Hispanic family downstairs decides to use their bathroom.  This is a problem because for the past year the fan, which toggles “On” with the light, makes a “grrrr” sound like its being forced to run against its electrical will. The “grrrr” sound continues through my neighbor’s shower and then some into my angst. Why don’t they get it fixed? No entiendo.  Maybe, there is so much other noise they can’t tell there is a problem.

 And, oh yeah, I had to stop using the building’s washer and dryer. I think someone uses Sackrete to wash their clothes. I now use a local laundry mat and that is a whole other reality series experience. I tell myself I get to meet new and interesting people.

 It’s Friday night and this is all I know:   Estoy muy cansado and I am rocking myself to sleep in the free world.

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

It’s A Nuclear Family Affair

The Big Bang or the time of the Great Annihilation, when Matter and Antimatter clashed and cosmic sparks went flying, the progeny of majorons provided the universe with an asymmetric mix of neutrinos and anti-neutrinos, more quarks than anti-quarks. And, that’s what Mattered the most.

It was in That Beginning that Time and his twin-brother Space were born. Since that day, they sprawl the universe with their feet up and their hands behind their head.  Under a contractual agreement, though, they will have to return – from whence they came.

 Time, the patient caregiver, the healer of all wounds, or, as has been seen, the brutal tormentor of the long-sufferer, always takes his time. He’s been known to say, “A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

 Space, a distance runner, hopes to place in the next inter-galactic marathon.

 Space and Time or Space-Time as they are often called spend most of their time-space wrestling in gelatin with friends and neighbors. They tell me that this adds dimension to their lives. They listen to string-theory music while wrestling.

 Miss Universe, a stellar beauty, is curvy. The brothers also spend their time following her around.

 Speed-of-Light, the brothers’ close friend, always beats them to the remote whenever something special is broadcast.

 My family, the Atoms family, spends its time playing king-of-the-hill and marbles. We do like knock-knock jokes. Little Hydrogen gets pushed around a lot, though.

 The Nebulae Family members, known for their starry eyes, are nomadic. They spend their time gazing at Space-Time from a point of departure somewhere in the galaxy.

 The favorite saying of the Planet households is “What goes around comes around.” Their favorite hangout is the Milky Way.  They own several tanning salons.

 I guess that if Time were to be no more and if Space was pigeonholed and if Speed-of-light was somehow surpassed and if Family Nebulae no longer roamed and if the Planet households split up then, God knows, you and I are no longer relative.

© Jennifer A. Johnson, 2011, All Rights Reserved

H/T to italo calvino

 

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
   Tell me, if you understand.
 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
   Who stretched a measuring line across it?
 On what were its footings set,
   or who laid its cornerstone—
 while the morning stars sang together
   and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7

 

*****

“We don’t allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here,” says the bartender.

A neutrino walks into a bar.

–Joke circulating on the internet

Outsourcing

 The radio message came at 22:01:44.9 Martian time:  “The Community-Organizer-in-Chief has left the Washington DC Bureau of Breadlines and has fled to his Martha’s Vineyard compound.”

 It was to be expected. The People’s Economy had turned on him. Unfed jobless (and tattooed) masses were walking the streets looting, robbing and killing for food. Washington, the center for The People’s Economy was no longer safe.  But, we felt safe in our star-ship Gorforit. That is, Friedrich and I felt safe.  My name is Milton.

 You should know that there were many Capitalists in The People’s America when the Hope and Change Desolation began ten years ago. But, since that time, there is now only a small remnant left.

 Back then we were called the “Free-Market-eers.”  As such, we were constantly booed and jeered by The People’s Media.  Flash mobs of union workers, guided by The People’s Media, attacked us. And though we were peace-keeping people, many of us were battered and some lost their lives.  At one point it became so bad that corporate jet owners were being hung openly on the Mall, right in front of Lincoln Memorial.

 How did this all begin? A Progressive candidate (The Candidate) won the presidential election in 2008. This newly elected president began to stir up class warfare among the people.  He incited people to turn against each other, neighbor against neighbor, because of money. The People’s Media joined in.

 In 2011 a “Lean Forward” campaign was launched by the People’s Media.  Soon, the slothful, the dimwitted and the envious began to call themselves “The Forward Thinkers” or the “Lean-Forward Thinkers” – commonly known as the “LFT”. Their numbers, mostly union workers and unemployed college graduates with useless degrees, grew rapidly.

 The People’s Media which had once campaigned for The Candidate in 2008, now campaigned for the Lean-Forward group.  The campaign encouraged these marauders to take from the rich (those who had a job and some income) and to give to the “under-privileged” – those who saw what others had and wanted the same things.

From the Oval office the president, via regular People’s Media broadcasts, told the citizens that government was the best mechanism to handle society’s problems.  So, with the help ‘elected’ representatives he began to take away the people’s money through taxation. People were no longer able to donate to charities or to directly help their neighbor.  Every dollar was excised from the people for the people in The People’s Economy.

 The People’s Media, rousing the animal passions of the LFT members, encouraged demonstrations to take place against Free-Marketeer businesses.  Soon, though, the demonstrations were replaced with random looting and pillaging of stores.  Strife increased between merchant and customer, neighbors and friends.

 Our nations’ economy, once strong and vibrant because of free-market exchange, was now subject to the whims of recalcitrant, angry mobs and inept tyrannical leadership.  It quickly deteriorated until our present time.

 So, a plan was decided at our last Capitalist conclave held in a secret hiding place near Mount Rushmore.  Two of us would go to Mars and begin a free market economy on a new planet. Both Friedrich and I volunteered to go.  We were the oldest in the group.  If something happened we were both prepared to die.

 We had the star-ship Goforit but not the fuel.  The People’s Economy rationed both fuel and food. So, we had to put our heads together to find a solution. Now, we had done similar things like this before so we were not overly concerned but time was running out.

There was no IPO for this venture, no influx of cash.  The US dollar had folded.  Instead, we had to learn to create fuel out of gold bullion.  And, as it turned out, a small amount of this fuel would take us all the way to Mars. Once there we could also use it to barter with the Martians.  They have no gold on Mars but they do have good underground living quarters for the two of us. We could set up shop very quickly. In fact, it was the Martians who had offered to help us.  They would benefit from us. It would be a mutually beneficial relationship, something no longer found in The People’s America.

 We all believed, the Free-Market-eers, that is, that there would be defectors from the People’s Economy but we didn’t know when. Things were getting nasty in The People’s America.  So we decided to plan ahead and get ready for the influx of homeless and hungry. We had to start somewhere new.  Somewhere that wouldn’t be affected by The People’s Media. 

It seemed to us that Mars was the best option since there was a significant time delay for any radio signal to reach that planet. And better yet, The People’s Media Broadcasts would easily get lost within the noise of space radiation and our own Sun’s solar flares. “Bingo,” I said when I heard this.

*****

 “Milton”, Friedrich spoke glancing out Goforit’s small window at the silent Martian orb, “soon you and I will be able to start our booming life again, but this time, on the Red Planet!”

Milton replied, “A laissez-faire world at last. To Mars or bust, my friend, to Mars or bust.”

© Sally Paradise, 2011, All Rights Reserved

Father’s Day Under Wraps

Sunday morning: My lunch plans with my two youngest, R18 and R14, changed to breakfast plans. My daughter’s new place of employment asked her to work from noon to five.

I am happy for my daughter. She has just graduated from high school and has now landed a job in a matter of days – a job which pays $10.00 an hour in a workplace surrounded by cool knickknacks and fun art objects. It is one of her favorite stores.  R18 is a graphic artist (designed her senior year high school yearbook cover) and she may soon get an internship with a local graphics arts company. She wants to learn the business side of things, she told me. She’s just like her dad.

I made breakfast for my two youngest: pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon. R14, my youngest son, doesn’t do well in the morning. He’s slow to come around but he did find the orange pop hiding in the fridge. I wanted him to drink the orange juice that I bought for our breakfast but then I conceded, as fathers do when confronted by the magnanimity of Father’s day.

At breakfast, R18 & R14 gave me a $50.00 gift card to Barnes & Noble. This was totally unexpected: my kids get money from me. R18‘s first paycheck must have covered the cost. I was completely wowed by such generosity. I didn’t cry till later, another father’s day concession.

I told my kids that I had been coveting a book at B & N: David McCullough’s The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris. The book was priced at $37.98 less 30%. The reduced price was still too much for me to pay during this Obamic depression so I kept saying No, hoping the price would descend to a pauper’s price. The gift card covered the reduced cost of McCullough’s book plus Mario Livio’s The Golden Ratio and Mario Vargas Llosa’s Death in the Andes. The unexpected gift told me that I was loved.

On Sunday afternoon I purchased these books. The day before, Saturday, I had been at B & N browsing as I always do after a weekend breakfast. I ended up purchasing an inexpensive CD: Joe Cocker: Icon. I brought the CD to the counter to pay for it and the short grey-haired woman behind the counter said that she had just purchased Mad Dogs and Englishmen. I said, Lot of memories there. She said, Yeah that’s why I bought it. Our smiles said the rest.

After B & N I went to a local Mexican restaurant, a new place founded by a chef who had worked with Rick Bayless. The restaurant is only three blocks from my place so I figured margaritas could have their way with me (while I stimulated the economy). I ordered a Mora-rita and Blue Marlin Ceviche. Authentic Mexican food is great. I am not crazy about Tex-Mex.

After finishing another Mora-rita I felt pleasantly pacified so I took my order of De Panza tacos home and situated myself in front of the TV. I had hoped there would be something of value on the tube. As it turned out Life With Father was on TCM and Steven King’s (Rita Hayworth and the) Shawshank Redemption was on another channel.

Feet went up, food went down. I settled into the end of Father’s Day 2011 believing that love and redemption go a long way, from one year to the next.