December 24, 2009
For years my grandfather, Irwin Alton Simpson, recited this poem every Christmas Eve, usually after a few shots of whisky. I’m not sure of its origin or when and where he first heard it, but he was an advertising man in Manhattan and, later, the Ad Director for the St. Petersburg (FL) Times, so he knew a ton of bawdy jokes and dirty limericks. (This poem is pretty tame compared to some he knew.)
After he died, the torch was passed to my father, Richard Irwin Simpson, who did an equally fine job, as he was also an ad man. He still recites the poem, even if it’s sometimes over the phone. James Irwin Simpson, that’s me, will be the next torch bearer.
With much love on this Christmas Eve, I share with you all this poem.
‘Twas Christmas Eve in the prison and the warden was walking the halls
Shouting ‘Merry Christmas, prisoners!’ and the prisoners replied, ‘Balls!’
This made the warden quite angry and he swore by all the gods,
‘You shall have no Christmas pudding, you dirty lowdown dogs!’
Then up spoke one old prisoner with face as hard as brass,
‘Warden, you can take your Christmas pudding and shove it up your ass!’
December 23, 2009
JE: We talk about friend of the blog James P. Othmer around here quite a bit, as well we should, because for starters, if I’m not mistaken, it was Jimbo who introduced me and the Three Guys in the first place! If you haven’t read The Futurist, JPO’s 2006 debut, or Adland, this years hilarious and penetrating adman memoir, you’re missing out bigtime–Mr. Othmer is a truly funny man, with a wicked sense of the absurd. This spring marks the release of JPO’s eagerly awaited second novel, Holy Water, which we will doubtless be covering here. We asked our friend JPO to participate in our WWFiL series, and here he is:
JPO: After sixth grade, the principal of St. John’s the Evangelist School let my parents know that a transfer to public school might be good for all parties involved. Unruly in Catholic school, I became downright incorrigible in seventh grade in public school. One day while I was goofing off with a friend in the library, a librarian named Mrs. Dunn pulled me aside and handed me a copy of John Knowles’ novel A Separate Peace. “Sit down, shut your mouth, and read,” weren’t the words one would expect from a nurturing mentor, but they got my attention. At the time, my reading consisted of sports books (“Screwball” by Tug McGraw), war books (“The Longest Day“) and books read on the sly because they might contain sex or adult content (“Fanny Hill”, Lenny Bruce’s “How to Talk Dirty and Influence People” — both of which also profoundly changed me, albeit in non-literary ways). I started Knowles’ book in the library that afternoon and finished it in my bedroom that night (twice, my mother, convinced that an eleven year-old boy that silent had to be up to no good, knocked on my door to check on me). I was transfixed. The two protagonists, the bookish, self-conscious narrator Gene, and the confident, non-conformist athlete Phineas spoke to both sides of my conflicted adolescent soul. Finny’s contention that war was a fabrication of fat old men intent on stopping young people from enjoying themselves had particular resonance in the war year of 1971, and may have been the first political thought I’d consciously considered in a work of fiction. Then the shenanigans on the oak tree limb. Two boys in daredevil competition hanging over the briny river. My God. Finny saves Gene when he stumbles. Then Gene. What the hell were you thinking, Gene, shaking the tree when Finny wasn’t ready? And why, Mrs. Dunn, are you making me cry? “A Separate Peace” may not have made me a better or more well-behaved student, but it did make me a better, more discerning and fanatical reader.” –James P. Othmer, author of the novels The Futurist and Holy Water (Doubleday, June, 2010).
This year, as we careen towards Christmas like an out of control 18-wheeler, I’ve decided to take my hand off the wheel, lean back with a smile and enjoy the rush of impending doom with a gleam in my eye and a trigger finger on the RECORD button. My foot is off the brakes, kiddies. This puppy is gonna hit and there ain’t nothin’ I can do to stop it.
It’s a perfect afternoon in June, about 2 p.m., and we are up on the seventh floor. I stand looking past everyone in the room out through the parted curtains at the clouds, and I can’t take my eyes off them. Jesus, these clouds are breathtaking. My youngest daughter and her cousins sit on the empty bed, my wife and her sister lean against the counter under the t.v. which is bolted to the wall near the ceiling. Beneath the window my in-laws are parked on a hard teal leatherette couch.
I simply must see those clouds.
Dear Real Bigfoot,
I super love you. I want to hug you. You might not like that. I wonder what you smell like. Like a wild animal, I guess, but you’re not a wild animal. You’re different. You’re a freak of nature, and I mean that in the most outstanding way. You are electric and organic and everything the rest of us wish we were. You are what e.e. cummings wanted us to be. You are everything we’ve lost touch with: Nature, body hair, animal instincts, and the sheer size of life. You’re a hunter-gatherer, baby, and that is hot.
When I saw the photo of you last week, I was skeptical, of course. All photos of Bigfoot or other legendary creatures are subject to skepticism because, as reasonable, mature, working adults, we can’t be always buying into fantastical stories then finding out we were duped. The whole Santa Claus thing was embarrassing enough. Do you know about Santa Claus? Do you even concern yourself with this stuff?
Anyway, I was skeptical, but the thought of you stirred such strong feelings in me that I felt compelled to write to you. I hope you can read, or I hope someone reads this to you, maybe some very lucky liaison of the hairless world who brings you snacks and cookies in the woods and shows you how to read and stuff. But you are such a savvy woodsman you probably don’t need that kind of help, and in fact, the cookies would be an interference with your natural, healthy diet. Look how strong you are, how tall, how stealthy and smart, how luxurious your hair! You don’t need anything from us soft, bald, squishy, oil-addicted, technology-dependent folks, and that is what I love about you. I dare say that’s what all of us love about you — you are so not us in all the right ways, even if you are exactly like us in some other ways.
My first instinct was to say that photo was a hoax because people are always claiming to have seen, found, caught or even killed you. I know, it’s awful. Last year, some guys even produced a frozen corpse, which I was so grateful to discover was only an ape suit, and not even a very good one. I was completely offended by that hoax and didn’t want to be fooled again, but I can’t help it. I want to believe in you more than I want to believe in God.
Honestly, I shouldn’t be calling you “Bigfoot.” It’s like if you called me “Squishythighs.” I wouldn’t appreciate that very much. I’d like to give you a name. I’d like to call you Francis. It’s a good name, gender neutral, and has a bit of a rock-n-roll twist while being quite classic. If you don’t like it, I can call you something else, OK? But for now, I’m going to call you Francis.
So, Francis, sometimes I day dream about the life you must live. So many of us supposedly civilized people have drifted so far away from what matters most — and I’m not just talking about family and love — we’ve lost touch with our real survival needs, our health, our basic nature. I’m talking about eating, breeding and staying warm. You’ve got that down.
Is your life hard? Do you like it? Is it worth living? The rest of us tend to think we couldn’t cope with life if we didn’t have our houses, our jobs, and our cars, and yet those are the very things that make our lives so complicated. I don’t want to lose my job, and yet, in any given day, the hardest thing I have to deal with is most likely related to my job. Most of us are in codependent relationships with our jobs, wanting to be free of the responsibilities of work, yet feeling that without the money we earn from work, we couldn’t be happy. What kind of sense does that make?
I wish you could tell me about your days, Francis. Do you spend a lot of time looking for food? Do you cook your food over a fire, admiring the warm glow on the faces of your family? Or do you eat it alone, satisfied by your natural ability to provide for yourself? Are you tired at the end of the day? Do you wonder if there is more to life than eating, breeding and staying warm? I wonder, too.
I love you, Francis Bigfoot.