Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spelling and Catechism

A friend was telling me the other day that his young daughter's catechism teacher was teaching her Sunday school class about Hell. I guess the teacher was a real old-time Catholic. My friend's wife was upset that their daughter was being taught about Hell and while talking about this to my buddy, she spelled out the word so their daughter's younger brothers wouldn't know what they were saying. Except the youngest, who's about six, caught it.

"You're talking about Hell?" he said from the other room. His mother was aghast. Did he also know about Hell?

She called her son into the room and asked him what he knew about Hell. He said he knew nothing about Hell; that he just repeated it because he understood the spelling. Then he said, "Oh yeah, and it's in that prayer."

My buddy and his wife looked at each other -- what the hell prayer has Hell in it?

Their son provided the answer: "The Hell Mary."

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Teachers with Tongs

Thousands of teachers cited for sex misconduct

There's a terrible old joke that goes: A boy -- 10 or 11 years of age -- comes home from school and when his mother asks him about his day, he says, "I had sex with my teacher today." To which the mother is offended and outraged and says, "Go to your room until your father comes home!" Father comes home and is sent up to his son's room to confront the boy about lying. "No, really, Dad, I had sex with my teacher today." The father looks at the boy, looks out in the hallway to make sure the mother is nowhere near, then high-fives his son. "Good job!" Afterward, whenever the mom leaves the room while watching TV or getting something for the dinner table, the dad leans over to his son and asks, "Did you have sex with your teacher today?" The boy says yes and the father grins with pride. One day when the mom leaves the dinner table to answer the telephone, the dad leans over and asks his son if he'd had sex with his teacher that day. "No," the son sighs. "He wanted to, but my bum was too sore."

Of course, if I had a daughter and she was molested by some overheated under-matured monster, I'd want his head in a bucket under my desk. No question about it. If I had a son who suffered at the hands and flaming member of same, I'd want the molester caned until he looked like a man-shaped blueberry -- and then I'd want his head in a bucket underneath my desk. Kids are gonna grow up and have to deal with nagging, hen-pecking women-in-training and monster-truck-perpetual-infant-men -- and dodge them like malaria, let's hope -- so, clearly, they don't need the added trauma of pedophiles in their lives.

Pedophilia is real-world vampirism. Once a person is the victim of a pedophile, the odds of them becoming pedophiles skyrockets -- like the bite of the vampire turning victims into vampires. Pedophiles are incurable -- as are vampires of lore. Hence, pedophiles should either be subject to capital punishment for their crimes or at the very least, child molestation charges should carry actual life-sentences -- meaning, you molest even a single child one time, you're done in society. You're locked up. That's it.

So, it's vilely disconcerting to read in USAToday -- and elsewhere -- that there is a veritable epidemic of teachers having sex with students.

Although I write this particular blog post to state my ideas about what should be done to male child molesters and unattractive female predators, I will take a moment to let my freak flag fly and indulge in some inappropriate hypocrisy. To wit, look at these hotties at the right and tell me, guys, that when you were 11, 12, 13, etc., that you wouldn't have relished -- absolutely fucking relished -- one of these women simply running a finger along the back of your neck. Much less getting naked with them and carrying on depraved and bestial sex acts.

Certainly, there is the saying, "For every beautiful woman there is a guy somewhere who is sick of her shit." True. And it may well be the case that these lovelies and others not yet caught, are evil, manipulative and just plain fucking crazy. Yes, all of that may well be true. But for the love of all things holy, isn't being a young guy living in an absolute frenzy of hormones, titillating media, tantalizing female classmates, and then being one of the scant few who actually gets to make it with a steaming twenty-something vixen, it's own reward? Yet we call these women criminals.

It's easy to say such things from the comfort of my lifeguard chair in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I'm not subject to the dastardly pillow talk that follows one of these hot teachers ravishing some stunned and quivering 13 year old boy. But at a glance -- a superficial scan in their direction -- these woman look more like minxes than menaces.

All other wrongdoers abusing their power over children should be shackled and shamed in the public square. Every Catholic bishop who has enabled pedophile priests to continue banqueting on the innocents in their charge, should be placed in stocks and stoned. The bishop who confirmed me into the Catholic church was one such bishop, who transferred known pedophiles all over the place, providing them an endless supply of fresh meat

I merely blog, at this moment, about that one weird ray of light amid all of this squalor. I guess I'm saying, insensitively, naively, wrongly, that if I was going to have damage done to my life, I'd prefer it at the manicured hands of one of these four. And I speak only of me -- not you, your children or my neighbors or their children, or even my own children. I speak only for myself in this instance. O, to have encountered one of these Mrs. Robinsons when I was a teen.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

The Way We Were -- 6th Anniversary

It's my sixth wedding anniversary.

At my suggestion, my wife and I watched the Sidney Pollack's 1973 film starring Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand, The Way We Were. It's one of my all-time favorite films from back in the days when Detroit's Channel 50 Eight O'Clock Movie played each weeknight. The film has one of the most poignant openings I've ever seen, with Streisand singing that gorgeous theme. Hearing "Memories" puts me in mind of my parents getting drunk on Friday nights when I was a kid -- both teachers; no headbands or bongos or quirky little pipes -- listening to their Simon and Garfunkel records, the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof, and a Streisand greatest hits album; back in the days of our small living room hearth where real fire fed on real logs from actual trees. My dad smoking his pipe, my mom with her Cameos, the living room lit with those wonderfully dim and moody 1970s lamps. The weddings of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were not so hopelessly long in the past, or Jackie Kennedy reborn as Jackie O.; a young man named Julius Erving was exploding the American Basketball Association with 40-plus-point games; the tragedies of Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or even John F. Kennedy, not yet completely like amber worn down by water.

Seeing The Way We Were -- particularly some of the New York scenes -- really put me in mind of the 1970s, and not in a superficial 70s-chique sort of way, but thinking of the audiences who saw that film at the cinema, back in the days when the world seemed to close like a coffin lid each night, with networks signing off for the night, leaving insomniacs to panic over nonsensical test patterns on TV screens. There was no Internet, no video games -- and Pong doesn't count; a few minutes of that after midnight would be nearly enough to give even the pillar of the community the screaming meemies -- not even any readily available VCRs. Back when news of the world came from Walter Cronkite or actual newspapers. Saturday Night Live was still two years in the future; not yet fending off the night chills until a nearly-unheard-of one a.m.. Back when there were about five or six channels on the television. No need for a remote control because one channel was as good as another -- no one was missing anything. That was back when Henry Winkler was apt to come on TV during a commercial break to tell everyone that graffiti was definitely not cool, or Ella Fitzgerald might show up in a public service announcement asking you to be sure to use the new ZIP code number system on your letters -- because, with the price of long distance telephone calls in those days, people wrote letters to one another. Back in the days when CBS would announce on Friday nights, in between programs, "It's eight o'clock. Do you know where your children are?"

Back around 1973 and environs.

And the bane of television programs at that time, for anyone sorry enough to be up early on a Sunday morning: psychedelic religious shows like Insight, in which religion collided with The Twilight Zone.

When I was a teenager, my grandmother told me that she had seen The Way We Were with my uncle and aunt, and how mortified she had been during the scene when Streisand's character takes a drunken Robert Redford home and he passes out in her bed, and she slips naked between the sheets next to him. Poor Grandma St. Amand, who smoked cigars on occasion and carried wash baskets the size of Volkswagens, with her wavering, wounded, martyred, "O-o-o-o-h," whenever she saw me with long hair or trying to grow a beard. By 1973, her two sons were married and all of her grandchildren had been born. Picturing her sitting there in the Royal Theatre with my aunt and uncle, all of them squirming in their seats suffering the basest discomfort at the sight of that nice little Jewish girl getting into bed with Robert Redford, fills me with a laughter that only surfaces when I'm confronted by a Monty Python skit.

I was two years old in 1973, but I have fleeting memories of that time. I recall my mother having a colleague from Children's Aid over to the house. He was a priest who looked like Gene Shallot; huge head of frizzy black hair, large black mustachio and black-framed glasses. I remember the wild plaid patterns of my dad's suit pants. I remember a woman on public television -- after Sesame Street and the Electric Company (on which a young Morgan Freeman was a regular) -- who had a ponytail down to her waist, leading yoga sessions. I remember one evening in our basement, looking at my dad sitting in his battered, leather reclining chair -- he wore brown pajama bottoms and a wife-beater shirt -- and thinking quite clearly to myself, "Dad is 34." But that was April 1974.

Somewhere in his novel V, Thomas Pynchon says that all people have a deep ingrained longing for the decade in which they were born. I'm 36, and every once in a while I'm reminded that there are people who think that's old. Maybe it is. Next week I'm going to Warren, Michigan to see Don Rickles perform live. A colleague at work said that she had never heard of Don Rickles. My colleague is under 30, so I'm not terribly surprised. I still recall when I first experienced Rickles -- when he hosted Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s.

"I was born in 1980," my colleague told me, "So, I was about three or four when you saw that SNL."

Maybe I was a strange kid, but early on I knew that being born into this world was like surfacing in a moving river -- I inherently understood that there were events of great import that predated my existence and I was curious to find out about them. One of the first bits of history that enthralled me was the Woodstock art and musical festival of 1969. There was a Detroit program on Friday evenings when I was a kid hosted by a local personality named John Kelly. I forget the name of the show, but it's opening song was Barbara Streisand's "Memories," and the word "yesteryear" was used quite a bit. As a kid of seven or eight years I was aware of rock 'n' roll -- hell, I watched reruns of The Monkee's on TV -- and understood the concept of rock concerts, but I couldn't get my head around the idea of a concert lasting three whole days -- actually, I've read that it ran Friday, Saturday, Sunday and well into Monday (that's when Jimi Hendrix played: Monday morning to about 20,000 people), so that's virtually four days. For some reason, my parents didn't like me asking about Woodstock. Neither had attended the event, or even knew people who had, but they responded to my questions regarding it as though I was asking about a Witches Sabbath or something. But I was enthralled when John Kelly's half-hour program focused on it one Friday night.

The next bit of history I hit upon was the Charles Manson killings -- I found a copy of Vincent Bugliosi's book, Helter Skelter, on our bookshelf among the James Michener novels and World Book encyclopedias from 1964. My folks well and truly freaked when they saw me thumbing through Helter Skelter and the book quickly disappeared from the house.

So, with the ghost of Grandma St. Amand cringing in the background, my wife and I watched The Way We Were. My wife liked the film, but proclaimed it very sad when it was finished. I guess it was, but it was still a wonderful journey.