---Bernadette just finished filming some kind of golf thing for television, a sort of Big Break kind of thing only I forget the title of it. Maybe it's called the million dollar shootout. I'll let you know. She and a few other pros were made available to amateur teams for shotmaking purposes. She got to meet Fred Funk and found him "funny" and "very friendly," unlike some others she's met. I think Fred kind of took a shine to her, but then who doesn't? Besides, he's too old and too married. The show's scheduled for January on Pax TV, so be on the lookout.
---Text message from Elizabeth, on adjusting to her new life in Chicago:
Some guy is playing the saxophone for spare change outside my apartment building. I live in a city...
---Text message from Elizabeth, from the produce aisle of a big city supermarket:
Omigod. I just sneezed and farted at the same time...
---Last Thursday I was hurriedly hauling some yard trash to the curb when an old black guy pulled up on a bicycle and asked if there was any work he could do for me. The nature of his need was that his wife had been maimed in an accident, paralyzed for life, and he needed money to help pay the medical bills. He pulled out a plastic notebook and opened it to what appeared to be a xerox copy of a newspaper article with a picture of a black lady above the byline. I gave it a mere glance, saying I didn't have time to think about it right then, (I wasn't lying - I had to get to work and time was tight) but that he could come back on the weekend and we'd see about it. I figured if he really needed the work he'd come back. I wanted to read the article, scrutinize it for veracity, check the date, check his ID, ask a few questions to see if his story matched up with the article's. By the time I finished asking questions, he'd probably think he deserved to get paid for answering them.
A few years ago I was coming out of Wednesday night choir practice and some longhaired young fellow asked for spare change. He gave me a sob story about his young wife and their infant son, the latter in desperate need of infant formula. Anything I could contribute would be appreciated. 50 cents, whatever. I told him I was deeply sorry, but that we'd been instructed by the pastor to refer all supplicants to the Coalition for the Homeless, where they'd be happy to meet his needs. (I wasn't lying here, either; the pastor had indeed issued such instructions.) Beggars see churchgoers as easy marks, but, frankly, we Christians don't want them hanging around, which they will do if you give them money. Every time I go into the restroom after a Sunday morning Mass, there's one of them using the sink by way of a weekly shower. And you can smell the guy from ten feet away. But no one ever bothers them about it, including me. The next Wednesday I come out of choir practice and there's that same guy soliciting money for infant formula from another choir member (a former bass for Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians - magnificent voice). "Still working on that infant formula?" I asked. He gave me a startled look of recognition. "Oh, hey man," and went on to offer some excuse but I interrupted him. "Have you advised her to try breastfeeding? Save you a lot of work." I took the bass singer's arm and helped him exit to the street, while the guy's voice followed us, still making his excuse.
On another Sunday after church, the wife and kids and I crossed the street to the parking lot and before we got into the car I noticed an enstupored black man asleep against an adjacent building. He sat on a narrow curb with his back against the building, one hand clutching the neck of a green bottle peeking out from a brown paper bag. His head was slumped down, his legs akimbo, and it was this latter posture that drew one's eyes inexorably to his crotch where his fly was open and his genitals hanging out. Must have passed out before he could get the buttons refastened, or the zipper up. If he had buttons, or a zipper. "Don't look now, girls," I said, but all three had already seen where I was looking. "Oh my God," said one. And I thought: There but for the Grace of God go a lot of people I have known at one time or another, but not me. And we got in the car and went home where I cooked a big ole pancake and sausage breakfast.
I don't like being asked for spare change. There's a history to it I don't have time to go into right now. If I know you, you can bum a cigarette. I am quite liberal with beer and frequently give away free sixpacks of really good stuff, unless I've seen you passed out against a wall somewhere, or you act like a fool after imbibing. It's all right to drink too much as long as your loss of composure doesn't go beyond compulsive garrulousness or finding the silliest things extremely funny. If you come to the door selling a religion that will save my soul, I'll argue with you until you realize that I am beyond salvation. I don't really care whether you convert to my way of thinking or not. If you come to the door selling magazines as part of your enrollment in a drug rehab program that will establish your bona fides as an employable entity - an attempt, in other words, to turn your life around - I will not buy any. An appeal to my sense of charity and self-interest in the same breath sickens me for no immediately discernible reason. One fellow to whom I lied (I told him I had no cash and the wife had the checkbook but she wasn't home, sorry about that) was walking down the sidewalk toward the next house (I had thought him long gone) when my wife emerged from the workshop with laundry basket in hand as I headed out the backdoor. "Oh, sir, is that your wife," he grinned, "the one with the checkbook?" That got me seeing red. I went up to him, stuck my face in his, and snarled, "Do I owe you money?" Yeah, turning your life around. As long as a con works, keep using it. Infant formula, whatever. So I don't lie anymore. Now, if you come to the door, in habit, claiming to be a member of a Pope-loving religious order, and can prove it, I might just write you a check for more than I can afford. Might.
I just wish St. Paul (I think it was him) had never written that passage about "ministering to angels unaware." Or something like that. Everytime I dismiss (which is almost everytime) one of these pathetic, unfortunate, and desperate victims of either circumstance or self-destruction, I always cast one last look over my shoulder.
Well, this turned out to be not so brief after all. Sorry.