Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Very Connie Christmas

I've written before about one of the most intriguing Mission characters, Connie, here and here, and today I'd like to reflect a bit on the near mystical, saintly, and finally baffling aura that surrounds this man-child, he of the rambling chapel testimonies that seem an edgy flight from Jesus;  the muddled, pantheistic love of nature and animals that informs most of his conversation; and the remarkable yellow-golden Dairy Queen whip of hair twirling above his puzzled eyes and brow, its height unaffected by washing or weather.

One cold January morning in breakfast line, Connie began singing a bizarre medley of songs--folk, hymns, TV themes, and Julie Andrews Sound of Music stuff.  Any time Connie does something odd, loud or intrusive, the reaction from the Disciples and the Guests is somewhat mixed--plenty of "Shut the fuck up, Connie," or "Damn that boy to hell"--but he has an overwhelming number of cheerleaders and supporters who revere him and, I'm sure, would pound anyone who touched him through the concrete and desecrate the death site in horrid ways.  He is, indeed, an untouchable.  How such characters attain this station without natural charisma or conscious effort defies easy analysis.

That morning Connie sang the songs in a slightly slurred tenor, hitting all the right notes, but he barely knew any of the lyrics, only identifying fragments.  He started with "Darling Clementine."  "Oh my darling, oh my darling, oh my darling, Clementine, rah, rah, rah, rah, ree, ree, ree, rah, rah, rah, roh, roh, roh, roh, reeeeeee ..."  Each missing syllable was filled by a menu choice from "rah's" "ree's" "roh's" and "reer's." 

"Rah, Rah, Skip to my Lou . . . Rah, Rah . . .Skip to my Lou . . ." 

Comments began: "Sing that song, Connie!"  "Belt that shit out, baby!"

"The hills are alive, with the sound of music. . .ree, ree, ree, rah, ree, ree, rho, ree, ree, roh,  raaaaaaah!!!"

He managed to get though "These are a Few of My Favorite Things" without ever  mentioning a concrete object like whiskers on kittens or brown paper packages tied up with string.

"Connie, man, you supposed to be talking about raindrops and bunnies and Hostess Cupcakes and shit."  "Shut that boy up!"  "Keep it going, Connie!  Sing those goddamned songs!"

We were also treated to "Yankee Doodle," "This Land is Your Land," and what I think was the theme to TV's "Family Ties."

Connie is one of those Mission characters who mysteriously disappear for a night or two--where he stays or sleeps is a mystery--then returns, usually with new behaviors or props like some rubber Sesame Street finger puppets.   One freezing night in January we were all sitting or standing in line waiting upon the capricious largess of the Disciples, who were taking an unusually long time setting up, getting ready for the tedious check in procedures--examination of T.B. cards, occasional breathalyzer tests for the suspiciously unsteady or trembling, and the usual arguments and execrations.

Then something very odd happened.  Actually, it was a Mission thing, which is like no other thing under the sun.   First a group of three well-known whores--Janie, Stella, and Delilah--walked by on the sidewalk, but tonight, instead of their usual uniforms of tossed-together thrift-punk-S&M-combat-Hello, Kitty-junk, they wore long school-marmish dresses right out of "Little House on the Prairie."  They looked exactly like obediant wives on their way to a polygamous Christian cult meeting.  Everyone goggled for a second.

"Hey, ladies!  What the? . . ."  "Where you ladies going?"  "What's the occasion?"  "What you got under those dresses?"   "How come you won't tell us where you going?"  "Lemme come!"  Lemme come inside you, baby!"

They glided away.  A few men made a half-hearted attempt to trail them, but petered out, as if sensing some weird force field or power surge building.

Then, rolling slowly and silently down the street from the North came a three-wheeled motorized handicapped vehicle piloted by an obese character with a black stocking cap. With a pair of ropes he towed another large fellow in a hospital wheel chair who was eating a sandwich.  Trotting on either side of this goofy transport were two small white dogs, leashes knotted to the tow ropes, tiny legs nibbling at the asphalt.  

Instantly some wag down the line from me shouted, "On Donnor! on Cupid! on Comet! and Blitzen!" 

Everyone roared and chimed in with things like "You late, Santa!"  "What did you bring me?"  "I needs a new beanie" "I need some pussy!"  

They rolled on, following the path of the three transfigured whores.

Across the street, in front of the Women and Family Shelter, a familiar figure appeared, dragging what looked like a large piece of shrubbery behind him.  It was Connie, of course, who had reappeared now after one of his absences.  He was singing "Oh Christmas Tree! Oh Christmas tree! Rah, Rah, Rah, Ree, Rah, Rah, Rah, Reeeeeeee!"   As he warbled out the familiar carol, he began jamming the trunk of the dead, dried out remains of a tiny Christmas tree into the soil of an empty sidewalk socket where a living tree had once stood.  The tree was exactly like Charlie Brown's pathetic thing that bent over double under the weight of a single ornament.   After a few moments of digging and patting and heaping, Connie managed to get the tree upright. 

"Connie, you late!  Christmas over!"   "Feliz Navidad! you fucking pendejo!"

Connie sang one final iteration of "Oh Christmas Tree!" After a brief silence, he conjured a lighter, snapped the flame into being, and jabbed the dry needles.  The tree blazed.  Sparks flew upward.  Connie walked off the sidewalk, perhaps a bit drunkenly, and tottered off toward the South. 

The guests bleated and bellowed.  The Disciples hurtled down the entrance way steps and unleashed the powerful hose they use each morning to blast the sidewalk clear of contraband and vomit.   Neither the police nor the fire department made an appearance.
Several Disciples took off after Connie.

There wasn't anything else to do but go to chapel for some loud Christian rock ("My best friend was born in a manger!  I said a manger, Yeah!!!")  Rumors of a 30 day suspension or expulsion for Connie made the rounds.   But a few days later, standing in line in the breezeway for breakfast,  I heard a familiar voice discoursing with demented and earnest fixity on the habits of the Venus Flytrap.  It was a good day.

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