Amish Show Tunes – Conclusion

CALEB:  Jacob, wait.  Our brothers have hit upon something delightful for the harvest social.  And the song mentions “the land” – which is always beautiful to the Amish …

JACOB:  Well, you’re the church elder, so okay; I’ll trust your judgment.

CALEB:  Wonderful!  Brothers Abner and Levi will sing this lovely song about the land at the social.

LEVI:  Um, Brother Caleb, we were hoping to please God and the community with two or three show tunes.

(the words “show tunes” make CALEB a little uneasy)

CALEB:  Oh?  Pray, tell us of another of these “show tunes.”

(long pause, then JACOB begins to sing softly)

“The sun’ll come out, tomorrow / So ya gotta hang on ’til tomorrow …”

(ABNER smiles at JACOB, and both sing):  “Come what may! / Tomorrow! Tomorrow! … ”

(LEVI joins in, all three sing):  “I love ya tomorrow! / You’re always a day a way!”

(CALEB raises his hand to stop them)

CALEB:  Wait – this song is Christian because … ??

LEVI:  … because it’s a song about hope …

ABNER:  … and about joy …

JACOB:  … and about love …

(LEVI, ABNER and JACOB sigh together)

CALEB:  All right, two songs then.  I just hope the community likes these “show tunes” as much as you all do. … Hmm …

JACOB:  Brother Caleb?  Does something still trouble thee?

ABNER:  Caleb, thou art good and kind.  Tell us, what is it?

CALEB:  Well, there is one song from my youth … I’m wondering if we might sing it at our social as well …

LEVI:  Brother Caleb, of course we can!  Sing out, brother; show us your soul’s joy …

(CALEB pauses, clears his throat, and sings)

“It’s just a jump to the left …”

(JACOB recognizes the tune, sings)

JACOB:  “And then a step to the ri-i-ight …”

(ABNER, hands on hips, sings)

ABNER:  “With your hands on your hips …”

(LEVI, knees in tight, sings)

LEVI:  “You bring your knees in ti-i-iight …”

(all four, “Rocky Horror” style)

CALEB, JACOB, ABNER and LEVI:  “But it’s the pelvic thru-ust / that really drives you insa-a-a-ane / Let’s do the Time Warp again!”

(As all four sing the refrain again, lights fade to black)

Amish Show Tunes – Part One

CAST:  CALEB (in his 50’s), JACOB (40’s), ABNER (30’s), and LEVI (20’s).

(Lights up.  A country general store.  JACOB sits at a pickle barrel down-stage right, CALEB stands at the store counter downstage left, while LEVI and ABNER are playing checkers up centerstage)

CALEB:  Brother, does thee have all thou needs for thy harvest?

LEVI:  Two new sickles, horse collar, sorghum, molasses, and hardtack – I reckon that’s enough for now.

ABNER:  Jacob, thou art truly a barn-raising wonder!

JACOB:  Shucks, Abner, ‘tweren’t nothing special for a good God-fearing Christian.

CALEB (pauses a moment, then says):  Brothers, may I ask thee a difficult question?

LEVI:  Speak freely, Brother Caleb, we are all friends here.

CALEB:  Well, I’m troubled – I’m afraid one of us has strayed from our baptismal vows …

ABNER:  Who among us has done this?  Speak, so that we may shun him and begin the healing process …

CALEB:  … Abner, it’s you.  (the other three gasp)

JACOB:  Commence the shunning!

(CALEB, LEVI and JACOB turn away from ABNER)

ABNER:  See here, Caleb!  How have I strayed from the path?

CALEB:  I heard you listening to a radio.

ABNER:  Untrue!  Just what do you think you heard?

CALEB:  A strong male tenor.  A beautiful singing voice.  Clearly evil – it must have been a radio program.

LEVI:  Tenor?  Singing?  Yea verily Brother Caleb, you don’t understand …

JACOB:  Young Levi, what do you know of this?

LEVI:  Brother Abner came up with the most wonderful idea for the fall social.  Abner, tell them!

ABNER:  We wanted to surprise you, but … you know the English have these plays … they call them “musicals” …

JACOB:  If it’s English, it can only be trouble.

LEVI:  No, no, not at all!  Listen …

(LEVI clears his throat and sings):

“We know we belong to the land / And the land we belong to is grand!”

(ABNER joins in)

LEVI and ABNER:  “And when we saaay / Yeeow! Ayipioeeaaay! /
We’re only sayin’ / You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma! / Oklahoma OK!”

JACOB:  Blasphemy!  Shun them!

(JACOB turns away, but CALEB doesn’t)

To be continued …

Pigeon Trouble – Conclusion

Bob:  “Ray, what do you mean, the pigeons betrayed you?”

Ray:  “Oh Bob, I used to be so much more like you – enjoying the time I spent with my wife Sophia just sitting, relaxing, tossing bread crumbs … I started to take them into my confidence.”

“You trusted the pigeons.”

“Very much!  They were like family to me.”

“But then the car, and the money …”

“… but my Sophie!  My beautiful wife Sophie!!”

“What happened to Sophie?”

“They committed the most terrible, awful, unspeakable things against her!”

“You mean … ?”

Now sobbing uncontrollably, Ray exclaims, “They raped her!  Again and again and again!!”

“Pigeons.  A flock of pigeons raped your wife.”

“They played us both for fools!  Why did I trust them?  Why would they hurt her so?”

Just then a woman in her mid-forties came up to Ray and said, “Dad, are you all right?  What’s wrong??”

“I’m sorry, Judy, sweetheart, I’m sorry I couldn’t protect her.”

“I’m afraid this is my fault,” Bob says, “ – we just got to chatting about the pigeons …”

Judy rolls her eyes and laughs a bit, “Oh Dad, not again with the pigeons!”  She then turned to Bob and said, “Don’t worry, it’s okay.  It seems lately that my mother has become a little more withdrawn, a little less responsive.  We don’t really know why – and my dad seems to think the pigeons had something to do with it.”

“The pigeons DID do it, Judy!  It was the goddamn pigeons!”

“Yes Dad, it was the pigeons … Don’t worry, Bob, he’ll be fine …”

“Bob, don’t trust them!  Kill them while you still can!”

Judy helps Ray get up slowly from the park bench; then they leave together.  Bob shrugged his shoulders and went back to feeding the pigeons.

“Huh,” Bob thought to himself, “Money stealing rapist pigeons!  I guess that is pretty ridiculous …”

One of the pigeons, though, caught Bob’s eye.  “That’s strange,” Bob thought.  He squinted back at the bird, frowned, and said, “hey, what are you lookin’ at??”

Toys R Us

The recent demise of the beloved toy store chain reminded me of a story I read back in the 80’s about the company’s research and development department.  At least I think I read this somewhere …

“It started out like any other day in the Toys R Us experimental labs.  The toy makers had a rigorous yet startlingly simply approach to finding new toy ideas:  put one child in a plain, open white room and give them an ordinary, everyday household item subject to the child’s whims of fancy.

“There was an occasional problem, of course.  For example:  have you ever wondered why those large plastic dry cleaning bags and other similar items now carry the warning ‘this is not a toy’?  Let’s just say that one awful morning in the lab has gone on to save tens of thousands of children from parents who sincerely believed the shiny, smooth clear things would calm and entertain their loved ones for hours.

“Anyway … the Toys R Us labs had become so hugely successful that the marketing department struck on the handsome notion of coupling the lab work with public tours, a kind of research-themed amusement park.  Those curious enough to want to peek in on the imagination process could observe the lab by standing outside and looking through a one-way mirror.

“‘Won’t the monsoon conditions deter people from coming?’ asked one naïve toy scientist.  A few marketers admitted they hadn’t really thought about that, but no worries – some complimentary corn dogs and chips could be included and increase the park admission ticket price.

“Now you think you’d have a difficult time attracting curious looky-loos to pay good money to covertly observe children playing with mundane objects while they stood eating in the pouring rain.  And in most corners of the world, you’d be right.  But Toys R Us had the good fortune to partner with mega-retailer *******, which was always on the lookout for new ways of attracting more customers to its stores in tens of thousands of rural locations across the country.

“No amount of rain-soaked corn dogs would ever get in the way of the possibility of horrific child accidents and the consolation to be found within the huge white spaces that encompass every discount item imaginable.  Toys included.”

What All Human Beings Want

Some years ago I enrolled in a comedy sketch writing program.  I had long suspected (and, of course, everyone else already knew) that comedy was intimately, intrinsically connected with some sort of “higher” way of living.  Like court jesters and Zen masters, comedians saw things the rest of us didn’t – and they wanted to let us in on the joke.  The writing program confirmed that suspicion.

The program instructors reminded me of those Zen masters.  One of them told us that, at bottom, there are four things all human beings want:  to be seen (acknowledged, recognized); to be heard (making one’s “voice” or point of view known); to be touched (that emotional connection); and to be loved (what children look for from their parents, why we have friends, spouses, that sort of thing).

I’m not sure anyone saw me or heard me until seminary high school.  In my sophomore year I got my first indication that I might be good at writing.  I wrote some essay for an English class, maybe five hundred words about how alone I felt, how angry and frustrated I would get, how I never felt like I mattered anything to anyone.  My teacher was a teacher in the best sense – he taught me how to write, but he also cared enough about the person writing it.  He made me feel like I was worth a damn.

About six years ago, a few months shy of his 70th birthday, this wonderful teacher passed away.  I cried when I got the news; I hadn’t spoken with him for at least twenty plus years.  But I’ll never forget the kindness and generosity he gave to a kid who, back then, didn’t think he had a friend in the world.

I’ve wanted to do for curious minds what Fr. Hawk did for me so many years ago:  bringing what I love to the classroom and helping people learn how to think (NOT “what” to think).  With any luck, my students might come to see in themselves a passion they can’t live without, something that shows them they matter, as well as know that they are more than good enough to enjoy everything this world has to offer.