“Jesus, Lady!”

I am driving in Old Town near the university last night on rutted ice-packed streets in the dark.  It’s a busy area where pedestrians and bicyclists rule, where crosswalks zebra-stripe the roads and where police are apt to lie in wait for traffic transgressors.  To their credit, in this bike-obsessed town they pull over errant cyclists as well as motorists.

winter bike
Of course I’m in complete control.

I’m a cautious driver – too cautious, if anything.  I don’t nervously hit the brakes at the end of on-ramps, mind you, but I do routinely approach the road with a healthy fear of imminent death (both my own and that of others).

So suddenly, mid-block in the dark, a college student on a bike careens heedlessly out of nowhere and appears in the street right at my front fender.  I barely manage to stop.  The kid drops the books he was carrying in one arm and says, “Jesus, Lady!”  He stops and dismounts to collect his stuff.

My heart is pounding.  Adrenaline is pumping.  I lose it.  I roll down the window and yell, “Don’t you Jesus, Lady me!”  (I don’t actually say, “Young Whippersnapper” in a peevish and quavering sort of voice, but that hangs there in the air just the same).

The kid rolls his eyes at me and bends to his task.

Jesus, Lady
“Jesus, Lady!”

Now, few things irritate me more than rolled eyeballs.  Husband, Son #1, Son #2, and Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 all tend to roll their eyes at me.  I can discern even from the set of the backs of their heads that eye-rolling is happening.

I am tired.  I am hormonal.  I am irritable.  The family unit has been having transportation issues, so I have carted Son #1 to his night-shift job at 4:00 AM.   I’ve then had a rotten day at work.  I dash during rush hour straight to a Christmas caroling gig across town.  And then I nearly kill some reckless boy who in turn has the audacity to roll his eyes at me.

I realize that I’ve somehow leapt from the car and begun lecturing him in my most terrifying Mom voice:

“Look at you!  You’re dressed in black!  You don’t have lights on your bicycle!  I don’t even see a reflector!  You’re not wearing a helmet!  You’re on a bike, on the ice, in the dark, steering with one hand and carrying a load of crap in the other!  You’re not paying attention!  You could be dead, and it’d be my goddamned fault!”

I pause for breath and happen to look down at myself.  I’ve been caroling.  I am trussed up like a Victorian capon.  I’m standing there in the street, screaming, in my hoop skirt and fringes and petticoats and tassels and cape.  The kid notices this, too.  He flashes me a beatific smile and the peace sign and pedals off across the road, without checking for traffic.

I find that standards of personal dignity tend, with age, to become somewhat more relaxed.  Mine were very relaxed indeed there in the street in my Dickens upholstery.

“Jesus, Lady.”  It’s Jesus season, after all.  Perhaps the boy was just witnessing to me, offering me Christian hope.  Perhaps he wasn’t swearing at me at all.  “Jesus, Lady!” — it’s all in the inflection.

tips for jesusTIPS FOR JESUS is what I’m currently having trouble appreciating.  I can see church collection canisters on gas station counters, waiting for the chance change of goodwill after cigarettes and lottery tickets have been purchased.  I understand those Salvation Army bell-ringers who play upon my guilt outside the grocery store  — how dare I buy Brie and imported fig jam when that old homeless drunk peeing on the side of the building is malnourished and I myself ought to lose 15 pounds?

But TIPS FOR JESUS isn’t about donations to worthy causes.  TIPS FOR JESUS is the pet project of a multi-millionaire who, for a lark, has taken to leaving random waiters and waitresses tips worth thousands of dollars.  The TIPS FOR JESUS Instagram page publishes photos of the dining checks but doesn’t disclose who is responsible for paying them.   The JESUS tagline is, “Doing the Lord’s work, one tip at a time.”

“How very kind!” you say.  “How noble!  How admirable!  How selfless!”

What seems generosity is often disguised ambition, that despises small to run after greater interest.     François de la Rochefoucauld,  1613-1680
“What seems generosity is often disguised ambition, that despises small
to run after greater interest.”
François de la Rochefoucauld, 1613-1680

But it’s not, at all.  It’s nothing but carefully calculated self-promotion, since of course the tipper’s identity was bound to come out.  The man behind TIPS FOR JESUS is Jack Selby, one of the founders of PayPal who made millions when eBay bought the payment service for $1.5 billion in 2002.

Here’s the thing:

One such outrageous tip was left at the Nomad Hotel in Manhattan, NY, where chicken “whole-roasted for two, with black truffles and brioche” costs $79 (I looked it up).  Have a craving for white truffles instead of the more pedestrian black ones?  For just $64 you may add eight grams of those.  Want some buttered pasta or rice on the side?  That’ll be an additional $25.

I can buy a roasting chicken for less than five bucks and provide a generous dinner for my family of four.  If TIPS FOR JESUS is sincere about doing the Lord’s work, how can it possibly countenance pissing away obscene amounts of money at upscale trendy restaurants to indulge the passing appetites and whims of the spoiled rich?  Twenty-five dollars for a bowl of rice? – I’ll lay you odds that amounts to about a third of a cup, molded carefully into an artful pyramid and then served with two twisted radish slices and a wafer-thin shaving of parmesan.

Portland oysters
Slurping oysters in Portland, ME, but for $1.25 apiece rather than $12.50 apiece.

So, yeah, tipping $1,000 on a $115 appetizer is an ostensibly generous gesture (this was recently left by JESUS at The Smith, across from the Lincoln Center in Manhattan).  But $115 was frittered away on the selfish slurping of a dozen oysters at a fancy raw bar.  The Salvation Army could use that $115 for the greater good.  It could care for that old drunk homeless man peeing on the side of my neighborhood grocery store.  There might even be a few old drunk homeless men peeing inappropriately in New York City, if TIPS FOR JESUS prefers to keep good works closer to home.

I have a tip from Jesus for Mr. Selby:  Providing fishes and loaves to the multitudes doesn’t involve fattening yourself first.   Jesus as I like to imagine him did not eat until after the throngs had been fed.  And then he ate what they did, and was grateful for it.

Spare me this sham generosity, Jesus.  And, while I have your attention, spare this lady from running over clueless young men who might very well be her own cluelessly cycling sons — which is, of course, why I hurled myself furiously out of the car after him.

Thanks for reading through! Missy
Thanks for reading through!
(Just don’t make me
get out of the car.)


The Death of Fun and Pineapple

I’m trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey, bloomered and bonneted and petticoated and caped, singing Christmas carols at a nursing home. The assembled residents are far more grateful than we deserve – my quartet of Victorian-clad singers has hired itself out to raise money for the symphonic choir we belong to. It’s the end of a long week. We’re tired and distracted and secretly wishing that we hadn’t volunteered to do this depressing gig. It’s at least 89 degrees in the dining hall, and we are all very well-upholstered. The facility is clean and beautiful, but there’s an inexorable undertow of failing health and failing spirits. We plaster on fake smiles and resolve to get through the damned obligation as quickly as possible.

We belt out a bunch of holiday chestnuts (roasting on an open fire). The room fills with waves of nostalgic gratitude that whap us alongside the head and whip us into shape. We see tears sliding down wrinkled old cheeks and eyes shining with visions of Christmases past. The folks we’re singing to pat our hands and touch our costumes and tell us stories of long-dead friends and lovers and ask us to sing Jingle Bells again, especially that part about going it while you’re young. I have a tear on my cheek now, too.

I’ll bet you didn’t know that the Victorians invented crotchless panties. I made myself a pair of historically-accurate bloomers for this year’s caroling season, and was amazed to find that there’s no center seam of any sort. “You mean there’s no Crotch Protection?” asks my horrified mother (mothers everywhere are big on Crotch Protection). Alas, there is not. Almost three square yards of fabric in those underpants (as opposed to the three square inches in modern versions), and nary a scrap of modesty. You could give birth without having to remove those babies.

I do not share this interesting bit of trivia with the audience at Fading Sunset Acres. Nor do I display the garment in question.

Oh What Fun It Is to Sing A Sleighing Song Tonigt

We sing “Good Christian Men, Rejoice!” and I cringe at one of the verses: “Now ye need not fear the grave.” Who am I to say, “Don’t Fear the Reaper” to a room full of seasoned octogenarians?

I don’t fear him, exactly. I accept his inevitable victory and I am polite to him; I’m just not ready yet to spend a lot of quality time together. Yet I know he is waiting for me, and so I focus on enjoying myself in the interim.

To maintain that focus, I drink a lot of red wine.

I commiserate with the Grim Reaper, though.  I, too, know what it is to be the Death of Fun.  Sons #1 and #2 christened me the DOF years ago (Husband was most probably involved in this as well, but he denies it stoutly). I walk into a lively family-filled room and everyone shuts up, eyeing each other nervously. There’s a certain power there, of course. But it gets lonesome.

The shroud and scythe have followed me to work as well. And not just via the lovely European hand-blown insulated glass a friend gave me, etched aptly and beautifully with “dof” (for “double old-fashioned,” but I use it for coffee).

There's no escape.
There’s no escape.

I’ve written about my ongoing delight in the workplace at sitting three feet from the departmental refrigerator. It’s four feet away, now, since I moved my computer and turned my back to the big gleaming white Frigidaire. But there it is, constantly making noise and constantly attracting a steady stream of people who walk back and forth past my desk eight times a day, either pausing for an obligatory chat or skulking by hoping I won’t talk to them. And it’s just like home: they open the refrigerator door and stand there for seeming hours, vacant-eyed, door open, searching for a snack or for the meaning of life.

I am blessed with my mother’s wonderfully sensitive nose (she could tell if I’d had half a beer when I walked past her open bedroom door late at night). This heightened olfactory awareness adds a great deal of pleasure to life, but extracts as payment a great deal of pain. That work refrigerator is full of stinky neglected decaying crap. Every time the door opens, a green cloud of fragrant contagion wafts toward me and hangs heavily in the air.

Periodically, I send out food storage emails to our department and to the other folks on the floor who use our fridge. At the beginning of the school year, I tempered my complaints with humor and made the effort to be polite. Today’s letter was rather terse. Subject line: The Refrigerator Stinks. Body of message: “… and I am stuck here sitting next to it.”

No-one will claim what looks to be a club sandwich, cut artfully in triangles and stacked sitting upright in a clear plastic shell. I thought it might be a fancy sliced paté of some sort, studded with fat and peppercorns. It’s brownish, with accents of white and black. But those accents have been growing and getting fuzzier. I’ve never known peppercorns or larding to balloon in size.

photo 1
Age cannot wither her,
nor custom stale her infinite variety.

Work buddy Rita Johnson came to my rescue today with her trusty camera. Bravely, we opened the clamshell holding the sandwich/pate and discovered to our horror that it actually contains what was once sliced pineapple. That pineapple is pining for the fjords. That pineapple was grimly reaped long ago. That pineapple belongs in a forensics laboratory. Rita sent her picture to the high school science department, offering the specimen for study. They declined the gift. We’re going to the school newspaper, next. We’re keeping at this until someone ‘fesses up and, more importantly, cleans up after himself.

Something is rotten, and not just in the state of Denmark. That pineapple is a metaphor, the ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.

We carolers heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play:

“And in despair I bow’d my head:There is no peace on earth,” I said, “For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.”  Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth good will to men.”

Wouldn’t that be nice? And in the meantime, please God let someone clean out that goddamned refrigerator.

Thanks for reading through! Missy
Thanks for reading through!