.

Frank Zappa at a celebration of Czech Republic’s liberation from Russia in the Velvet Revolution, in Prague, 1991. This was one of Zappa’s final public performances, as he was fighting prostate cancer at the time. It was a battle he eventually lost (not that he was all that broken up about it).

Zappa’s Black Page and Poem

(For a Good Friday in a Bad Year, 4/2/21, by Mark Nielsen)

.

What happens when you illuminate the black page?

It’s still black.

True, but is it reflecting?

Yes, dimly. 

I wouldn’t be able to see it otherwise.

Right. 

You can see the difference by looking at the edges.

The true black 

is mostly beyond it, behind it, unlit, in shadow–

and certainly further away toward the horizon,

the still unseen but truest edge.

.

Let the Light illuminate you.

Even if you must only walk forward 

into the dark,

the Light is still behind,

still doing its work

upon the page.

Upon you, unseen or not.

The memory and awareness

of even that black page

is enough to give you strength

to head toward the true edge

and step outside of it.

.

Once you are there,

the light is within you

and there is no darkness to be found anywhere

anymore.

   *       *       *   ** **     *****             *        *********

A performance of the actual piece, by Zappa Plays Zappa (Frank’s son Dweezil and band), with special guests guitarist Steve Vai and drummer Terry Bozzio, who both worked a lot with FZ:

Lastly, see the new documentary “Zappa”, by Alex Winter (yes, of “Bill and Ted” fame), if any of the above strikes a chord with you. It is a very unique and moving film about the great experimenter, with lots of never-before-seen footage from Frank’s private vault. Plus a piano and drums only performance of The Black Page that is also terrific, but quite different from the above video. Now streaming on Hulu.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 30, 2021

fRAGILE fAKE sANTA

Photo of Mark as Santa Claus, Dec. 2001; painting in background,
“The Golden Rule” by Norman Rockwell, 1961.

Fragile Fake Santaat enfleshed today, from the prompt “fragile”, a poem by Mark Nielsen

.

A beautiful but difficult memory of hearing 

Sting’s song “Fragile” in the car, 2001, driving to work as a mall Santa Claus, 

tears on my face, violence and injustice on my mind, …and here I sit, complicit.

I don’t want to be Santa, or even Sting: I want to be the Song.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 7, 2021

Kirk Douglas Rape of Natalie Wood: Another Take

Natalie Wood… Older and wiser here, but she had her “demons” from a very young age, and never entirely got free of them.

Now that the 2021 Golden Globes have been given out–and upon seeing a pal’s tweet of a glammy photo of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones here— I decided to revisit a story that emerged in the wake of the 2018 awards show.

Three years ago at the Golden Globe Awards where 101-year-old Kirk Douglas received a great honor, an old “Hollywood gossip” story got some fresh life breathed into it. I was then, and still am, working on a historical showbiz novel in which Kirk plays a small role, and Natalie Wood plays a more pivotal role. So in 2018, I already knew the story about Kirk’s hushed-up rape of a teenaged Natalie Wood. But when Robert Downey Jr. quietly commented about it on the so-called gossip blog Gawker in 2018, a lot more people noticed. At that point, I wrote about it, HERE, in what has become by far the most widely-read blog post in ten years of Marking Time.

Fast-forward two years from 2018:

Below is a link to a now one-year-old story (from the week that Kirk diedin 2020) about his life in light of the #MeToo movement, by Hadley Freeman at The Guardian. Here she explains why she didn’t ask him that tough question when she had a chance:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/commentisfree/2020/feb/15/i-didnt-ask-kirk-douglas-if-he-raped-natalie-wood-when-we-met

Basically, I couldn’t swallow her justification. It was very convenient– maybe wise, though definitely gutless–for Hadley Freeman not to have asked Jirk directly about Wood, then for her to explain it away two years later as “unconfirmed”.

Why did she REALLY dodge the issue? Here’s my not-so-hot take:

1) It would be denied immediately, as he always had done in the past;

2) she’d likely have been shown the door immediately, by whomever was likely there at the interview WITH Douglas (either assisting him medically or protecting his P.R. interests);

3) Freeman’s own career from then on could possibly have been negatively affected, if she asked that toughest of tough questions, and she wasn’t willing to risk it.

It was a “lose-lose” moment, so I get why she didn’t ask, I just disagree with her justifying it after the fact.

In the moment, if she had asked, Freeman and The Guardian come off looking good only if he suddenly says “Yes, I did it”. But even then, in some people’s eyes, she’d be unnecessarily and unfairly picking on a feeble, 100-year-old man. Lose-lose.

In other words, she didn’t want to muckrake, nor try to “break” that particular 60+ year-old story which powerful people keep burying, over and over. Freeman played it safe.

But more recently, in her 2020 post-mortem of Kirk Douglas, she’s whitewashing *herself*, while explaining gently that Kirk MAYBE had some gray area in him. Meanwhile she’s discounting the pre-internet biographers & journalists, and eyewitnesses including Wood’s own sister, Lana. Meanwhile, Freeman’s also downplaying how white male power/aggression has always worked, in Hollywood and around the globe. Freeman doesn’t even commit to saying “maybe he did it” in the above story.

Perhaps most importantly, she’s staying safely out of legal trouble, for herself and for The Guardian, a generally decent and fair journalistic outlet overall (imho). On the other hand, I myself have nothing to lose by saying it bluntly:

Kirk raped Natalie and got away with it.

Freeman was scared to be the failed “gotcha” girl, and more puzzlingly still scared to lose her job or reputation, three years later. This was not brave, independent journalism. It’s just lazy, status quo, pro-misogynist B.S.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 5, 2021

#Markis – The Santa, The Rabbi, The Artist, The Fool

A visual statement of my ever-emerging identity in God, in community, and as an artist and teacher.

The Chinese-American fortune cookie slip framed with the photo of myself as Santa Claus reads as follows:

“You are the center of every group’s attention.”

Yeah… I WISH!

The print in the background is “Golden Rule” by Norman Rockwell, a fairly famous painting from circa 1961. I purchased the print in-person at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 24, 2021

Schrödinger’s Cat’s Litter Box (two poems by Mark Nielsen)

The above poem, along with Eliot’s poem “Ash Wednesday”, inspired the poem below.

.

Schrödinger’s Cat’s Litter Box

Schrödinger’s cat’s litter box

–which exists both in and beyond Time, 

Both inside and beyond 

Existence–

isn’t going to change itself.

We live in the midst

of shit

of our own making.

Dust and dander, skin and bones,

are ground up and ground down,

then mixed with holy spit,

and placed upon our eyelids

so that we may see again;

thus dust becomes the stuff

of our remaking.

.

The first things I saw

when my eyes were opened

were dust motes and dander–

dancing, they were–

illuminated

by a ray of light.

I fell to my knees and praised them

(not Dr. Schrödinger,

but his Father, 

and his blessed/cursed cat).

=== ===

Redeem/ The time. Redeem /The unread vision in the higher dream…” -Ash-Wednesday, T.S. Eliot, 1930

Erwin Schrödinger, 1887-1961
Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 19, 2021

Hindsight Is Hell (Song for Neil Young & Marc Maron)

My first attempt (in awhile at least) at a Dylanesque or Neil Young-ish modern protest song. (Chords to follow… maybe).

This lyric is inspired in part by some Marc Maron wtfpod.com podcast interviews (in mid-2016? So why the reference to 2020 in the song below? Weird? “You can’t trust memory”, like that key line from the recent and excellent French movie La Verite (The Truth), featuring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, and Ethan Hawke). The interviews on the WtF podcast that inspired this song were especially these two: 1) with the black comedian Godfrey, an old pal of Marc’s ; and 2) with musician Neil Young, who told the story of his first partnering up with Stephen Stills, by spotting the hearse he knew Stephen drove around L.A. at the time… Side note: the two lines about Roger Stone and Trump were added 2-19-2021. This was the last piece of the puzzle I had apparently been waiting on…

_Hindsight Is Hell_ (Song for Neil & Marc)

(v1 ) The hippy honcho now takes his orders

from the red-faced dwarf who closed the borders.

Seawater’s warm and the bees are dying,

But the (G)green (P)party fairies just waste time crying…

While Sambo and Rambo both tapdance a tango

To the ratatat tunes of Mr. Bojangles.

I ain’t seen you, girl, since that night in the hills

When we worked it all out (except who’d pay the bills).

Chorus:

And it’s 2020 and hindsight is hell.

The past few decades ain’t gone so well.

I still sing for my supper, and business is good.

But I can’t go back to my old neighborhood.

(v2) I kept up the fight, though my sword is dull.

Seems I just can’t get nothin’ through Jonesy’s thick skull.

But Smith and Wesson, they’re doing just fine,

Though it’s ’cause of them Jonesy’s back doing time

For being wheelman to some bank-Robbing Nazis.

Now they’re all in a prison that feeds inmates matzoh.

Roger Stone, he was pardoned just last week,

Just before Cheeto Man’s losing streak. 

Repeat Chorus

(v3) Time travel’s a bitch. We can never get home.

It’s all gone now, like the fall of Rome.

I saw you last week on your way to church,

On Sunset and Vine, in that tangerine hearse

With Ontario plates –there’s a sight for sore eyes!

Then followed you in, which was far from wise,

‘Cause you made my ears bleed with your Caterwaul Choir.

You used to get high, now you try to get higher,

But you crashed on the rocks, then rolled out that joint.

I was still in the pew, but I’d lost the point.

Chorus 2/Outro

Home is where the heart is,

But home is where it’s hardest.

[Repeat 2-line Chorus 2, x3, to end]

============================================================

by Mark Nielsen, Bloomington, IL

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 19, 2021

Glitch – orig. poem by Mark Nielsen

Orig. poem 11-16-20, by Mark Nielsen

Glitch

This computer,

these eyes, 

this mind,

these lives.

We all have glitches,

everyone strives.

Hiccups of heart.

Reboot hardware,

brand new start,

of my software:

“Teach us to care

and not to care…

Teach us to sit still.

Our peace

in (His) will.”

Eliot said it,

Now execute.

Time for one more

last reboot.

(Morpheus offered us

no purple pill.)

Say it again:

“Our peace in His will.”

Clear the cache.

Ash Wednesday’s gone.

Inhabit this body

all the way down.

(Breath shallow, shoddy.)

Smile, don’t frown.

Smile for endorphins.

Grant permission.

Surrender sadness.

No omissions.

Real, not virtual.

Beatle my life.

Memory full.

No more strife.

“Just like starting over.”

(Miss you, John.)

“Please Please Me”.

Turntable on.

“All you need is love”

which generates power,

light, heat, radiance.

Take a shower.

Do a dance.

Pray the mantra.

Occupy France.

Stop interrupting.

Once more, dance.

Sometimes I interrupt myself while already interrupting myself.

So? 

Then simply stop.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | December 31, 2020

“and/or” – Original Poem by Mark Nielsen

The following poem is dedicated to my son Graham, to my current girlfriend Susan, to American poet e.e. cummings  (October 14, 1894 – September 3, 1962), and to singer-songwriter #JoePug [check out his “Sunday Songs” livestream show, on Youtube or wherever you get your social on]. It is also inspired by people everywhere who know how to love well, or at least are making their best effort.

Make “family” in 2021, and beyond, wherever you can find it. Find family wherever you can beg, borrow, or steal it. (Okay, maybe not steal, because that would be KIDNAPPING, but you get my gist.) You may “fall out of love”, but you’re never beyond the reach of the Big Love.

= = =

That’s me. I’ve always been a Soft Boy. Welcome to my Poem Corner.

and/or (written 12-29-20 through 12-31-20)

I’m sprinkling my poems among

my papers and/or letters,

and/or wondering how it is

that we are not still together.

How is it that we got so lost

in nearly perfect weather?

See, your storms were on the inside,

so I didn’t know no better.

You asked me if I loved you

the first week that we were married.

I assured you that I did,

but your question still was scary.

And if I’d truly understood

the weight your question carried,

and/or the hurt it came from,

then I would have been more wary.

Now we’re a hundred miles apart.

Your failure, it was fateful.

That wedding’s thirty years ago.

Your leaving, it was hateful.

Yet there’s friendship and a kid now,

And for him I am grateful…

and/or wary of the road ahead,

but at least our sins are paid for.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | December 14, 2020

Uncertain Shepherds – a 10-minute Kooky Christmas Pageant

*

The following 10-15 minute slapstick Christmas play, “Uncertain Shepherds”, is based upon a longer musical comedy theater piece still in development. The version below may be produced and performed, as is, with written permission of the author, Mark Nielsen (the owner of this site), most likely for a nominal honorarium fee to be negotiated upon request.

This shortened “Uncertain Shepherds” was originally created for entry in the Heartland Community Theater 10-Minute Play Festival in Normal, IL. The festival itself was never produced, due to the COVID-19 outbreak beginning in the spring of 2020. However it is my hope that this material itself will nevertheless bring smiles –and a new perspective on the bible and the Holy Family– as we move toward creating fresh rituals and expressions of hope in the years to come.

* * * * * <^> * * o * *

“From God our Heavenly Father
A blessed Angel came
And unto certain Shepherds
Brought tidings of the same
How that in Bethlehem was born
The Son of God by Name”

“God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen” (traditional)

=================================================================================

UNCERTAIN SHEPHERDS , BY MARK NIELSEN

A PLAY WITH FOUR CHARACTERS, THREE FOOLS, TWO SAINTS, ONE ACT, AND A BABY JESUS

— — —

CHARACTERS: 

Jeremiah, a shepherd in his mid-30s

Thomas, a shepherd in his mid-30s 

Benjamin, a shepherd in his late 20s 

Joseph, a 26 y.o.carpenter, father of Jesus of Nazareth

Lights up. JERRY runs in upstage right and wakes TOM, sleeping under a blanket at campsite, upstage left.

JERRY

(from offstage) Tom! tomTomTomTOMTOMMMM! (enters) Wake up! We gotta go to town! I just saw the most amazing thing!  

TOM

Jerry, it’s the middle of the night!  Unless a lion is killing our sheep, I don’t want to hear any of your fool ideas. 

JERRY

No, no! It’s even better than that! It’s a miracle!

TOM

(sarcastic) A miracle? Wait, don’t tell me. The sheep killed the lion! Wow! Now that’s something to talk about. We could hire out our killer sheep to other shepherds. Yeah! We’ll call him something tough. Like Ram-bo, the Avenging Ram.

JERRY

Will you shut up, please?… Even a killer sheep isn’t as crazy as THIS. Wait, it didn’t wake you?! Then listen. I was keeping watch in that other field–and suddenly I was visited by singing angels! The whole sky, lit up! Then the head angel told me about a baby who was born over in town tonight. 

TOM

Angels? For this you wake me? You were dreaming! Like always. Last week it was a boat, and a sea monster who told you a joke about a rabbi, a shaman and a cockroach who walk into a bar–

JERRY

No! This was no dream, Thomas. Even the sheep freaked out. But it gets better. He also said this kid’s the savior, God’s moshiach. Like, a king someday! The angel said to go see the baby king! It’s big! Don’t you want in on the ground floor?

TOM

What do you mean, ground floor? I’m in on the ground floor every day. Every building around here has only one story.

JERRY 

It’s just an expression, Tom. You know what I mean. 

TOM 

Yes. But why would this so-called messiah be born here

JERRY 

I don’t know. Maybe the dad is a hipster merchant. Looking for cheap prices on fine Judaean wool for an emerging market of hand-woven, overpriced artisanal Persian rugs. They’re trying to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s just a theory.

BENJI has stumbled on groggily at some 

point late during JERRY’s last line.

BENJI

Prolly they jus’ in town to be counted. Fer th’ Roman census. 

TOM

Oh. Right. Finally, one of you makes sense. Who’da thunk it would be the idiot Samaritan you hired without consulting me?! But okay, Jerry, let’s say the baby’s ancestors were from here. So what? Lots of strangers in town lately.

JERRY 

Yes, but only one messiah! We have to find him. Hello?! Angels! Up and down, tooting trumpets, shining brightly. Plus, look at this sunburn. I didn’t have this when you went to bed. Besides, when a glimmering fifteen foot being speaks in a voice like thunder, one does not get the message wrong. He said, “Unto you a savior is born; he is Christ the Lord.”

TOM 

A savior? The Christ? Benji, can you verify any of this?

BENJI

Well, unfortunun-n-nately I slep’ through mos’ of it. See, I had a wee bit o’ wine before, so I been a lil fuzzy. Maybe I seen some bright lights over yonder. Jus’ not up close. An’ my sheep–I mean yer uncle’s sheep–they was spooked over by me, too. So, I dunno. Maybe. 

JERRY 

Great. Thanks for nothing, Benji. Now listen guys, the angel also said how to find the baby: he’s going to be in a barn, lying in the animals’ manger. Which is kind of strange… but at least it is VERY specific! 

BENJI 

Yup. Ain’t no mistakin’ a king baby in a dirty feedin’ trough for some other baby, like a reg’lar one in a cradle. That manger’s some real outside-the-box thinkin’ on God’s part.

TOM 

Outside the box? What box? 

BENJI

Umm… well… This box. (BENJI reaches down, takes out a small wooden box.) See, my bubbe give me this here fancy box when I’s a kid. An’ she’s the one taught me to read an’ write. So all my good ideas, I puts ‘em in here. So’s I won’t forget. Plus it keeps Bubbe’s memory alive. Works pretty good. ‘Cept I don’ get many good ideas… so it’s a small box. God’s big ideas won’t fit in here. Gotta be outside the box. Ya folla?

TOM 

Yes. Which scares me. I’m starting to think like you two. Besides, who said anything about YOUR God, Benji? I hear Samaritans don’t believe in a messiah in the first place.

BENJI

Ain’t no need to be insultin’, Tom. I did seen somethin’. Jerry says it’s a angel. So I’m gonna go. I also don’t care fer whut you say about Samaria. I comes from good people. Plus the boss angel says this here’s the next big king. Hey, that sounds good! Next. Big. King. Thass an idea for the box! (BENJI grabs material to write a note.)

JERRY 

Besides, Tom, you think too small. God thought this podunk town was good enough for King David to be born here, didn’t He? Also, we need you to come for another reason. You have the biggest ass.

TOM 

(feels his padded, large butt self-consciously) Excuse me?

JERRY 

Your donkey. Dorcas. To carry supplies. My ass Sparkelehoof is too old. Oh?! You thought I was saying–Never mind! Bethlehem is only three parasangs away. That takes two hours, but we need food, for there and back. Then there’s gifts. Can’t show up for the birth of a king without a few gifts. So… donkey.

TOM 

No. I’m not going. Look, even if this is moshiach, why would a new father let three hillbilly shepherds see his baby? This hipster merchant of yours, if he’s got any sense, he’s probably got a healthy fear of strangers and thieves. So besides my other doubts, I also don’t want a knife in my gut. Even if it’s true–which it ain’t–it’s still too risky. 

JERRY 

This is ridiculous. We’re wasting valuable time. Tom, when the biggest thing ever happens, right here on our doorstep, you choose now to go chicken on me? You’ve killed an actual lion! Plus you of all people should welcome a messiah. You do nothing but complain, year after year. You’re miserable. So this is your chance! What if moshiach IS here to save you from the Romans? Not to mention from our half-breed, sellout Jewish king, Herod. You complain about him just as much.

BENJI

Ssshhhh! You did not jus’ say that! What if they hear you?

JERRY 

Who? The sheep? Is there a spy hiding out in our flocks? We’re nobodies, in the middle of nowhere! Which makes it all the more amazing these angels came to us. But poor Tom doesn’t even think he’s worth saving, or he wouldn’t be so obstinate.

TOM 

Hey, I’m the only one being level-headed here. As usual. Even if I did need saving –and yeah, no thanks, I don’t–how does a baby do that? By the time he’s grown, I’ll probably be dead. Not to mention: any Jewish rebel or pretender king dumb enough to take on Caesar, I wouldn’t follow him anywhere.

BENJI

He got a point there, Jer’. How’s one little itty-bitty baby gonna beat the strongest army ever? 

JERRY 

I don’t know! Ask the prophets! I’m no rabbi. I just know what I saw. And how I feel. Until tonight, I felt abandoned. But now I know I was waiting for THIS. But you, Tom, you’re just waiting to die. Lonely, scared and depressed. If you had a family, cousin, you’d care about their future. But you’re still upset Gilda’s family didn’t want you to marry her. 

TOM

Stop it. That was eight years ago. I hate it when you do that.

BENJI

Yeah, stick to the point, Jer’. I ain’t married either.

JERRY

Fine. Both of you. Go, don’t go, I don’t care! But just because you’re cynical and disappointed, you don’t get to call me crazy for doing what an angel–an ANGEL!–said to do. So I’m going to Bethlehem. Right now. I’ll get old Nehemiah to watch my sheep. I have to see this kid for myself, or die trying. Crazy or not. (chokes up) Even if it’s a hoax–if I miss this chance, I will regret it for the rest of my life. Because it could be real. So are you coming, or not?! 

BLACKOUT. 

EXIT TOM. In dark, Jerry and Benji pick up Tom’s blanket, plus their pre-set prop canvas traveling bags hidden under it. 

LIGHTS UP.

JERRY and BENJI are back upstage, on the road outside Bethlehem, just after dawn. They trudge rough terrain, upstage to down zigzag pattern. Oranges fall out of a hole in BENJI’S 2nd bag often. BENJI retrieves them, grumbling.

JERRY

I can’t believe TOM didn’t come! What’s he got to lose? Five hours, tops. And five pounds, which he needs to lose anyway!

BENJI

Let it go, Jer’. Pers’nally, I think you bringin’ up Gilda wuz how you lost him in the first place. He could be scared ta accidentally run inta her.

JERRY

Yeah, I know. Old TOM talks tough, but he bruises easily. Eh, I’ll apologize later. Hey, give me those figs we picked up at the other camp when I grabbed my gift, after my brother Jubal gave us those oranges for the kid.

BENJI

(sets down his bags, realizes food bag is missing) Hmm. I think I lef’ our food at Jubal’s on accident. Sorry. Plus I’m on, what, three hours sleep? And still hung over. But I tell ya, Jubal din’t do us no favor givin’ us heavy o-ranges fer the king baby. An’ then puttin’ ‘em in this crappy ol’ bag?! Also, I forgot how flat-out irritatin’ Jubal is in gen’ral. He don’t exactly aks for a beatin’, but he do grate on a man, don’t he? An’ y’all have the gall to call me stupid?! 

JERRY

I can’t believe this! No food? A fine start to our amazing new era. Maybe Tom was right, and this whole enterprise is doomed. I am NOT turning back now, though. At least I carried my own gift and didn’t lose it. (He points at an orange on the ground.) You missed one. 

BENJI

Heck with that!(Picking up the fallen orange, he chooses an audience member, tosses it gently to them.) They’s other po’ people ‘round here might need food more ‘n some king. Besides, nob’dy gonna miss one dang o-range.

JERRY

(Looks downstage midway, off right.) We’re coming up on Caleb’s inn on the edge of town. If the baby’s family isn’t in Caleb’s stable, he’ll probably know where to look. He’s a big man around here.

BENJI

(peering further, down left) Jerry, looky there. Izzat Tom, further down the street there, talkin’ to that short ugly guy an’ the real pretty girl?

JERRY

What?! Oh Great Gabriel, blow your horn! It is! He came after all, that rascal! Must’ve passed us when we stopped at Jubal’s. Catch up to him.

JERRY rushes downstage left. Falling oranges or a stumble slow BENJI.

JERRY

Tom! You came. I can’t believe it. What happened?

TOM

I was worried you’d muck it up. Besides, couldn’t very well let you two starve, could I? I knew your brother Jubal wouldn’t give you any decent food.(Hands JERRY a canvas bag.)

JERRY

Ha! Jerry forgot all our food at Jube’s, as it turns out. What a coupla schmucks, right?!  So you saved the day with this. Thanks. Hey, who was that you were talking to?

TOM

Oh, them? He’s my second cousin Eli on my mother’s side. And his step-daughter Shoshona. I just happened to spot him, I stopped him, and he remembers me. He just came back. His new wife has family west of here. Must have married him for money, right? Plus her folks all know my great uncle, Jebahobadiah Mesach… of the Valley. So I’m sure they all vouched for Eli. I haven’t seen him in twenty years. But, when a guy’s that funny-looking, it’s hard to forget a face, right? 

JERRY

Well the girl sure isn’t funny-looking.

TOM

Don’t start. I ain’t looking for none of that. But I’m having them all at my house next month for sabbath. So we’ll see.

JERRY

You old dog. Your eyes were practically glowing watching Shoshona. You had an angel sighting of your own today, didn’t you? Good luck with that.

TOM

Thank you. Don’t make too much of it, though. Please.

JERRY

Of course not.

BENJI, having wrangled the orange cart, 

approaches TOM and gives him a bear hug.

BENJI

Ha ha! I had a feelin’ you couldn’t skip the big birthday party, my friend. Glad you came!

TOM

Yeah. Me too. But get this straight: I’m here for you two, not the baby–if he’s even here. Jerry, that accusing look on your face scared me. I’ve seen it before, but not from you. Maybe you’re right and I have given up on things. So I hired old Nehemiah for the day. He can sure use the money, unless of course he strokes out and dies chasing down a stray sheep. 

BENJI

Wow! That’s kinda dark, even fer you, Tom.

TOM

I know. But I’m a recovering asshole. And it’s been a helluva long night. Give me some time, okay? (BENJI nods.) But guess what? I asked around, and I found our baby. He’s right down there. (Points toward front right vomitorium/aisle, offstage.) I was just waiting for you two. Figured you’d want to be the one to knock, Jer. 

JERRY

Are you kidding? You found the kid already? Let’s go, then! 

They cross downstage right & walk several steps into aisle. BENJI lags again. They approach an unseen stable door.

JERRY

Well, here goes everything! (He mimes a knock. JOSEPH steps out to greet them.) Uh. Good morning sir… Oy. Where to start? (To his friends.) Maybe I should have rehearsed this moment. The dad looks nice, though. (To JOSEPH, who is nodding and smiling.) Okay! Here it is. Sir, my name is Jeremiah. This is Thomas, and Benjamin. And we saw–well, *I* saw these angels by our shepherds’ camp last night, and they told us there was a baby here, and we should come see him. And you might already know this, but they also said your son is the… well, the Christ. So of course we had to come. We got a little turned around at first. But we’re here!  (line continued on next pg.

JERRY (continued)

I even brought Him my absolute best piece of fabric, dyed with finest rare indigo. Woven from my softest lambswool. Personally, I think it’s a gift fit for a king. Oh! And we also brought oranges. From my jerky brother Jubal… who wasn’t sure about any of this, but he was hedging his bets.

BENJI

(blurts excitedly) And–an’ *I* brung the boy a beautiful box I got from my bubbe, ‘cause the angel said your son’s the Next Big King. So I figger he needs a place to put his big ideas. 

JOSEPH

My friends, thank you for coming to meet my son. And for the gifts. They look wonderful. As for the angels, I believe you, Jeremiah. I was even kind of expecting something like this.

TOM

Wait, what?! The kid’s here?! And you believe him? But you weren’t even there! Plus you don’t know us. We could be a bunch of nutjobs.

JOSEPH

Yes, you could. But I wouldn’t be here myself if it wasn’t for an angel. Today you’ve confirmed I’m doing the right thing. And that I’m not a nutjob myself, for following a dream. You see, unlike you, my angel only came to me in a dream. Shaky, right? It said to stay with Mary, when I was having serious doubts. But it’s been hard these past few months to hold onto that dream, and not let the doubts creep back in. So you being here today, honestly–it’s a huge relief! And now my son’s here! And yes, we believe he’s the savior, too. Now more than ever. We’re just not sure yet what he’ll save us from, or how. 

JERRY

Whew! I’m just glad he’s actually here. That alone saves me from being the crazy one. What’s your name, proud papa?

JOSEPH

I am Joseph bar Jacob. My wife’s name is Mary. We come from Nazareth in Galilee. 

BENJI

It’s great to meet you, Joseph. My friends call me Benji. So where’s this boy of yours? And what’s his name?

JOSEPH

He’s right in here, and his name is Jesus. It means “God saves”. My angel told me to give him that name. Come on in and meet Jesus, gentlemen! He’s beautiful.

Joseph puts an arm around BENJI and leads him inside. TOM grabs JERRY’s arm. They stay behind, stepping back onstage.

TOM

Hold up, Jerry. Come back over here a sec. Listen, I’m so sorry I doubted you. And for saying those nasty things about you. The truth is, you’re smart, and kind, and most importantly faithful. You and your family have always been there for me. Meanwhile everyone else has either passed on, given up, or abandoned me. And then like an idiot, I turned around and abandoned you, last night. But you’re still here. Sometimes like a pimple that won’t go away, but at least you’re here.

JERRY

I forgive you, Tom. We’re here for each other. Plus the whole night was pretty unbelievable, right? So I don’t blame you. If I didn’t see it all with my own eyes, I’d think it was nuts, too. But look where we are! And look who’s right inside!

TOM

I think you’re right. I guess that’s why I’m really here.

JERRY

So let’s go see this, … what’s his name? Jesus?

TOM

Yeah. It means “God saves”. Go figure! (Yells, up aisle and through door as the two start to walk in.) Hey Joseph! Sorry I didn’t have time to get Jesus a gift. But do you and Mary need a donkey? It’s a good one. Nice and fat. 

TOM and JERRY exit up aisle/vomitorium, as lights go down. 

CURTAIN. 

5

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3

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Posted by: Mark Nielsen | December 2, 2020

Blogging, Social Media, and Swiping Candy at the Bodega

Note the Black Jack gum, a wonderful candy throwback to the distant past (and a great recent gift from my sister). Did I mention I am a compulsive “collector”? Some would call it hoarding, but I mostly grab small stuff and make art with it, so …maybe I get a pass?

It’s time for me to come clean about two things:

1) I’ve been blogging since before Twitter or Instagram even existed, because I like the sound of my own voice.

There. I said it. I self-identify as a writer. I started out blogging on myspace, but moved to WordPress on advice from my friend Will (one of my few actual readers at the time.) In fact, I was journaling on paper long before the internet or home computing even existed (yes, I’m officially old). I have spiral notebooks and hardbound books dating back to about age 12. I’ve always been a “writer”. Yet mostly I fail to publish anything of note (in the traditional sense–with money being exchanged). So I blog mostly to “whistle in the dark”, to relieve my existential alienation, in the hope that maybe a few random people a day will acknowledge I exist. “Hello in there…” (Apologies & credit to the late #JohnPrine.) I know that I bore many people with my strange fascinations, but that’s okay. It’s just what nerds like me have always done: talked amongst ourselves (all three of us, in a crowd of 300).

Sheena Was a Punk Blogger

2) Now, time to confess something more difficult: I was a teenage candy klepto.

Not just candy, either. But yeah, mostly candy. I’m a compulsive personality, with a big appetite for risk in addition to liking a sweet, sexy sugar rush, a few times a day if I can get it.

I take fewer risks now, but I still “swipe” the occasional item that I don’t really need, but that I do get a hankering for, for reasons of either compulsion or convenience. Last week, it was a pen, at work. From here:

“Free pen? Don’t mind if I do!” (And doesn’t this shot tell the story of 2020…)

I already had a pen in my pocket, supplied by my employer. But I tend to lose things, and I have ADHD, … or take your pick of whatever excuse I gave my own conscience, to rationalize taking a pen from the above cup.

Back when I was a kid, as I said, trips to the “dime store” were occasionally to buy and/or steal some candy, but honestly it was more about being lonely, bored and killing time. Most addictive actions, according to people I’ve met in the recovery movement, are sparked by feelings that correspond to the acronym HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). I personally have added Sad… So we can call that HALTS, or SHALT — as in “thou shalt steal thy peanut M&M’s because thou deserveth them, it harmeth no one, and thou art royally bored”.

Which brings me to what sparked this blog post, about social media and candy. I was reading the following tweet, which fairly crackled on the interwebs this morning:

See also below, her clarification about the M&M’s being hidden away like liquor or cigs… And under it, my response to the tweet.

For those who don’t speak Latin– in other words everyone– “caveat latrones” means “let the thieves beware”. Which is what sent me down this current rabbit hole of recalling and confessing my own childhood thievery (though not from bodegas, I lived in the suburbs). Not to mention my adolescent “danger junkie” moments (adrenaline…. Yummm!), and my adult regressions into those old patterns at times.

AA would call these patterns stinkin’ thinkin’, among other of the program’s teachable, wise, and grace-infused principles. That stinkin’ thinkin’ channel is always on, in the back of my brain, turned down low–like the #HowardStern radio show would need to be, if your mom’s around, and you don’t want any ruffled feathers.

But now I’ve gone and done the unthinkable. I turned up the “bad boy” radio, turned on a bullhorn, and shouted it out to my dozens of not very devoted followers: “I’m a thief, and I’m not proud!”

I broke the shame cycle, as my good therapist helped me to learn in the past, by breaking the “don’t tell” unwritten rule which the Shame Monster enforces with a slimy iron fist. (Shout out to the terrific Netflix show #BigMouth, created by the brilliant Nick Kroll and John Mulaney. Their Shame Monster is not unlike the pet I keep under my own mattress… Oh don’t worry, he likes it there. Dark & smelly, lotta nooks & crannies to hide in. He thrives in those conditions.)

In the past, I would now have compulsively gone into all the spirtuality, shame, confession, guilt, redemption and community-building shit related to this topic of shame… but by now, I’m sure I’ve droned on and bored you enough already.

Carry on…

Son, drop that Snickers, step away with your hands up, and no one will get hurt.”

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