A sense of humor, properly developed,
is superior to any religion so far devised.
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A work-in-progress to be published in the Summer of 2018.
Chapters 1-12 of the FIRST Draft.
As in shitty first draft, see Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:
I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do — the actual act of writing — turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway.
. . .
My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.
But I also tell [my students] that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out. Writing this way is a little like milking a cow: the milk is so rich and delicious, and the cow is so glad you did it.
. . .
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.
At least for 12 chapters: Mission accomplished, Anne. The laughable delusion of perfection was abandoned decades ago, so the only remaining obstacle between a shitty first draft and me is another 200 pages. I can do this.
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I love Anne Lamott’s hilarious, acerbic take on writing. For a more upbeat take, consider reading William Kenower’s Fearless Writing. I’ve got a couple of blog posts on this: Fearless Writing and More Fearless Writing. I owe my ability to be 30,000 words into this novel, as of this writing, entirely to Bill’s book.
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Here’s the first chapter from What Would Jeebus Do:
I’m no missionary, I don’t even believe in Jeebus! … Save me, Jeebus!
– HOMER SIMPSON
(The Simpsons – Episode 15, Season 11, “Missionary:Impossible”)
Jeebus – Variation of “Jesus” first invented by Duke Ellington so as not to be beaten by nuns. Borrowed by Frank Zappa and, from there, by Matt Groening.
(UrbanDictionary.com – Comment by “mavi”, August 30, 2007)
I met Anthony “Jeebus” Morelli when we both showed up in Mrs. Allenby’s Junior High Sunday School class the first Sunday after my old man moved my mother and me to Seattle from Boise, Idaho, when he landed a gig as manager of Svensson and Svensson Insurance, in Ballard, Seattle’s lutefisk swilling Scandahoovian neighborhood.
My father, Melvin Blumann, Jr., (myself being Melvin “Blue” Blumann, III) is Jewish, and about as religious as Groucho Marx, or maybe I’m thinking of Karl Marx, but Pops knew a big church like Green Lake Lutheran would be a fountainhead of business from parishioners wanting to backstop their heavenly afterlife insurance with more prosaic, cash value life insurance. In Boise we’d been Episcopalians, because that’s where the money was, he said, plus Episcopalians aligned more with his politics than did the Baptists or the Catholics.
I had barely introduced myself to Anthony (as Blue, of course, not Melvin, for obvious reasons) when he instructed me to call him Jeebus (Yes!!) and suggested that we do an improvised re-enactment of the week’s Bible study, which featured the time Jesus Rambo’d into the temple and blew up the scam the temple moneychangers were using to rob the poor schmucks who needed exact change to buy a pigeon to sacrifice to Yahweh.
We hashed out the details over apple juice and soda crackers, served up by Mrs. Allenby to keep us occupied while she lined up her cast of cloth cut-out characters who would be moved around her flannel-covered board to depict the temple rumpus.
Mrs. Allenby always passed around a ceramic “piggy bank”, though I use that term provisionally. It was not porcine in any way, rather it was in the form of a backwoods country church, its glazed walls smeared by decades of sticky fingers. It did have a pig, a horse, and a cow, hand painted on one side by a precocious pre-schooler, which is what made it a “country church” and also gives the lie to my earlier statement. There was a porcine element. I hope I am not turning into one of those “unreliable narrators.”
The plan was that I would volunteer to pass the bank around, doing my best to impersonate a moneychanger. We talked about some alternative line readings and finally settled on:
“Hey, hey, hey, two dimes for a quarter, three quarters for a dollar.”
Which was half ridiculous. Only Hadley Hanover’s parents gave their kids more than a quarter for the little bank. Still, it was better than:
“Get your sins forgiven! Give the priest the bird! Get your exact change right here.”
We liked this one, but we weren’t looking to have our parents summoned so we could have our ears twisted. Plus, Lutherans don’t have priests. Martin Luther had pretty much had a gutful of priests when he gave the Pope the bird and went solo.
Then, Jeebus was to come flying out of his seat and tackle me, yelling, “It is written, my house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
It would have worked, except I blew the joke and went right to “Give the priest the bird … etc.” Then Jeebus went rogue and improvised “. . . but ye have made it a den of whoremongers and thieves.”
I was more shocked than Mrs. Allenby. I didn’t know what a whoremonger was, and I wondered how Jeebus knew. We were banished to the empty Sunday School room that served as solitary confinement, where Jeebus explained what a whore was and I pondered how long it would take me to save up enough to become a whoremonger.
There are a million Jeebus stories, like the time he forced me to climb onto the roof of the parsonage where he used a powertool to remove the skylight. Then he rigged this rope and gunny sack thing so that I could lower him into the middle of a prayer meeting, just like when the crippled dude was lowered into the middle of a crowd in a house where Jesus was. I practically dropped him and I think a couple of old ladies shit their diapers.
The pastor said we had to pay to have Sig Hansen bring his contractor tools and reinstall the skylight. I heard it leaked after that whole affair and Sig had to come back two or three times to fix it. I also heard Sig thought it was the funniest damn thing he’d ever seen. He wouldn’t take our money, but we did have to come to one of his jobsites and do some cleanup. I didn’t mind, as Sig’s daughter, Kirsten, was there that day. It was the middle of July and she was wearing a two-piece swimsuit, working on her tan. This, alone, made it worth having to help with the cleanup. She did that thing where girls lie on their stomachs and undo the backs of their swimsuit tops. I watched all day, but she never raised up without tying her top back on.
Or, the time Jeebus made me come along to help re-enact that scene from American Graffiti, where the Pharaohs car club delinquents make Richard Dreyfuss crawl around and tie a cable to the axle of a cop car, then hook the other end to something solid. Then he and a Pharaoh go speeding past the cop car and Dreyfuss leans out the car window and flips off the cops while yelling, “Here’s five for justice.” Of course, when the cops take off after him, the cable yanks off their entire fucking back axle. Hilarious.
Except when Jeebus and I did it the cable snapped and the recoil caught some schmuck who wandered into the scenario right in his man parts. His dingus survived, but he lost one of his marbles, if you know what I mean. Still, he had three more kids even with only one marble. We didn’t get caught, but I still have nightmares.
Those nightmares are a kiddy cartoon compared to the nightmares I have about finding Jeebus hanging from his garage ceiling. By his neck.
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