Over the several middle years of my life, during which I still sometimes identified as Catholic, it was fairly common for me to be interrogated on the streets, in bars, at work, etc., by people who’d pull me aside to say, behind a cupped hand, “Dude, you got something on your forehead.”
It was like my fly was down and I was about to meet the Queen of England. In reality, it was just Ash Wednesday and a priest had smeared the burnt remnants of palm fronds on my forehead.
I grew up in East Syracuse, NY, and if you didn’t have a gray-black cross of ash on your forehead you weren’t anybody. Everyone was Catholic, unless you had inadvertently stumbled into the neighborhood. There were no such things as Muslims back then. Instead, we had “Moslems.” Or, more likely, Arabs who were Christian, like the Gabriels across the street, and their cousins the Kamaars, not to mention my half-Irish, half-Lebanese cousins a few miles away – among the best people I’ve ever known.
Now I see people with ash on their foreheads and I wonder how many of them are secretively advised to go look at themselves in mirrors so that they don’t walk around looking like Cinderella, or Bert in Mary Poppins. Most of the people who take the brunt of such ignorant man-on-the-street counsel are the early morning mass-attenders; evening supplicants get less attention, as non-Catholic friends have figured it all out by six or seven at night.
But they will forget again next year, and will once again quietly make little “wipe your forehead” gestures to their office colleagues from across the conference room during 9 a.m. admin meetings.
Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return. Rare, true words spoken by the Catholic Church.
You may not believe this, but I’m currently riding a huge emotional high. As I’m well-known for having a gloomy demeanor, to find me walking with a spring in my step must be jarring for the American public. If I’ve taken my fellow citizens out of their comfort level, I apologize. It’s just what happens to me when I see a great rock show.
The obvious question is, what show could possibly have changed my normally dour disposition, even in these trying days of political assininity? The answer is Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears. (But you knew that!)
First of all, how am I able to see this band for just $17? Does Black Joe have a benefactor or something, allowing people like me to see the show at a steep discount? If not, the ticket price makes no economic sense. I can do almost nothing else in the world for $17, but somehow I’m able to see this great soul/funk band tear it up in the small Middle East club in Cambridge, MA, on the corner of Mass Ave and Brookline Street, where so much great music comes and goes. Since I may be the last person on earth who actually buys physical copies of albums, I don’t think they are making much money from CD or record sales. So what gives?
My friend Tim says bands like this are licensing their work. I suppose. But can they possibly earn enough to make ends meet in this extra large band that Black Joe totes around? I believe there were six Honeybears on stage with him on Friday night, blowing into horns, banging and strumming and so forth. That’s a lot of sweaty guys to put into hotels, feed, and drive around, all because of licensing deals and $17 a ticket in a venue that holds about 350 people.
I’m sure you’re expecting me to review the show in detail, but that would be a waste of your time. All you need to know is that I give it such a huge thumbs up that I’m going to demand that Howard go to Blackjoelewis.com, select the “shows” page, and then buy a low-priced ticket to see the band in Minneapolis. That way, he can finally see them do “I’m Broke” live and in person.
I know you think I’m on the ropes, but the fact is that I’ve never been better. Not only am I completely on top of my game, I intend to get even more on top of it in the coming weeks, once I deal with the absolute mess I was handed. Reports of turmoil in my administration are so ludicrous that all I can do is sit back and laugh.
And when I laugh, I do so with a great deal of gusto, first tittering, then snickering and giggling, then chortling merrily, until my chortle morphs into an outright guffaw, at which point I double over and fall to the floor, struggling to breathe until I snort, which makes me laugh harder such that even some of the fake news media cackle, until my stomach muscles tense up and I find myself cramping big-league. Not that I don’t want to cramp up, because if I didn’t want to I simply wouldn’t. I’m one of the best people in the world at not cramping up unless I really want to. It’s a technique I have. Proprietary. My father passed it down to me and I’m passing it along to my kids and my Russian mistress. Finally, I laugh it all out, wipe away my tears, and then address fake news reports that I’ve come unhinged.
Having said that, I want to assure you that I’m up for any solution to whichever crisis has risen to the top on any given Sunday, be it North Korea, or Australia, or the Middle East, as along as all parties are in agreement. It can be one-state, two-state, five-state, whatever. Basically, I don’t care how many states are involved, except screw New York and California, as their illegal aliens came out in droves to vote for that crooked woman.
In the middle of a snowstorm in the Northeast, it’s hard to imagine how it ever made sense for Sister Verna, Sister Lena, and Sister Elizabeth to move from Hawaii to East Syracuse, NY in the 1960s to teach me and my scores of Catholic schoolmates reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic, and 'religion. I know they didn’t have access to all the great data we 21st century humans have at our fingertips about world climate stats or how to lose 50 pounds with this one simple trick, but surely someone explained that a perpetually wet and more often than not cold village in central New York State wasn’t going to be Hawaii.
First of all, if you move anywhere from Hawaii, you’re probably taking a step down. That said, there’s no reason to move to Siberia.
On the other hand, some people really believe in suffering. The Franciscan nuns of my childhood are kindred spirits with triathletes and wrestlers trying to make weight. Denying their basic human desires by taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience is evidence enough of their willingness to inflict suffering on themselves, so why add being perpetually cold and damp?
You note that when I moved from Syracuse I ended up in Boston, where the weather isn’t much better. True. But if one must live in the cold and rain, it might as well be in a city that has major league baseball. This might explain Richard’s decision to move to New England from Olde Englande (probably not), but even he couldn’t take it any longer and now finds himself in San Diego. On a windswept day in February, that’s a move that seems perfectly sensible.