Friday, May 25, 2012


Sometime back in the late 1960s or early 70s pioneering prankster musician Frank Zappa was interviewed on the Joe Pyne talk show.  Pyne had a reputation as a sour, caustic interviewer whose scorched earth attitude was attributed by some to his bitterness over having a wooden leg.  When Zappa sat down on stage, Pyne launched his assault:

Pyne:  I guess your long hair makes you a girl, huh?

Zappa: I guess your wooden leg makes you a table.

Stunners like that can't be planned; they go beyond ad libbing to another sphere.   Teaching kids and sleeping/eating with felons is often a one-two that knocks me into a deeply weird head space.

One morning, oh my brothers, your friend and humble narrator sat down to break his fast with his famished brethren and was greeted by the following menu:

--Biscuits and Gravy with No Meat, I said NO MEAT!
--Malto Meal  Sweetened with Extra Sweet Sugar
--Peaches in Homer Simpson Heavy, So Very, Very Heavy, Syrup
--Unlimited Pina Colada Yogurt as long as that Punk Ass Bitch Geraldo Don't Sneak in the Back     Door Load up his Overcoat
--Unlimited Discard Grocery Pastry Table Privileges
--Unlimited Water.


"This shit all carbs."
"Carbohydrates.  Sugar.  Diabetes.  Obesity. Hog-osity."
"Biscuits and Gravy is good, down-home-stick-to-your-ribs food."
"It's trash.  All trash."
"They don't care about us, here."
"They giving you free food."
"Then why you shoveling it down?"
"Man gotta eat."
"Not by bread alone."
"It ain't bread."
"Same chemical composition."
"Put hot sauce over all this stuff." 
"Hot sauce ain't protein.  In that Jim Jones Jonestown cult they got them to drink the Kool-Aid by wearing down their judgement and free will and shit with low-protein gruel."
"This Malto Meal is just like Gruel."
"Seconds line gonna start."
[Someone in a mock, haughty, falsetto English Accent]  "Please, sir?  May I have some more?"

A brisk 30 minute walk takes me to an elementary school where I lead a group of 6th graders into the classroom.  I've been with them all week, and this is my last day.  They're an unusually well-behaved and well-nourished group of kids for this rotten, blasted part of town.  All week I've been amusing them with silly voices, imitations, accents, and a different goofy walk for each day of the week.  I begin by demonstrating Pomp and Circumstance Graduation Walk because today is Friday and we are parting.  

All week I've been using an Irish accent to call Ryann O' Cyrus's name, a lovely child with silky waist-length brown hair and a face like angel.  I hesitate over picking a student for some task involving a trip to another room.   Finally, I say, "I like girls for jobs like this better.  More responsible.  Ryann, take this note to Ms. Gill."

You've got to understand that Ryann with two N's is a popular name for girls in the upscale north Fresno schools.  Plus all that hair.   Plus the Cyrus part of the name made me think of  Miley and Hannah Montana.  But all week I've been directing the phony Actors' Equity Irish accent with its overtones of wistful longing at  a boy.   After the giggles and snickers and explanations, I apologize:

"I'm so sorry, Ryann.  I don't see well, I'm supposed to be wearing glasses but they make me look like a total nerd and I was only looking out the corner of my eye."

"It's okay," says male Ryann.

"Really," I babble, "I just thought your long hair made you a girl."

"And I thought your big fat head meant you lived on Mount Rushmore."

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