Forgive Me, Father, For I Am Only Here for The Meatballs, Drinking, and Gambling

One of the things I love most about Winter is the return of an event I call “The Catholic Festival”.  I’m not Catholic, as demonstrated by the facts that:  (a) I don’t need to be tied up and beaten in order to have a good time on a date, and (b) there is a lack of existential guilt present in my general daily demeanor.

I was raised with a light smattering of Protestantism from time to time, and what it lacks in guilt it more than makes up for in the worst potluck dishes you’ve ever eaten in your entire life.  You would think Campbells Cheddar Cheese condensed soup was these people’s personal savior.  I’m surprised they didn’t serve little cups of it with the communion which, by the way, is simultaneously the least showy and most pathogen-containing communion in the world.  At least Catholics use a real wafer and an actual cup – and everybody gets their own!

In some Protestant churches I visited as a kid, they would bust out a loaf of stale bread from Costco and then pass it around and you’d have to tear off a piece with your filthy hands and pass it to the next person’s filthy hands so they could tear off a piece, and so on and so on, and by the end of all that tearing and passing, the loaf looks like a flock of rats had a field day with it.  Unruly children are forced to use the remainder as a sad punishment football after Sunday school.

And instead of a little cup of wine or grape juice, they make you dip your germalicious bread-shred into a big shared glass of grape juice and THEN eat the soggy, purple bread!

Now, I’m not religious, nor do I have any sort of religious education*, and I don’t mean to offend anyone here because people should be entitled to believe what they want to believe, but I’m pretty sure that the Eucharist, the sacred Eucharist, that which is supposed to represent the body and blood of Christ, were meant to be ingested separately and not made into some kind of unholy combo meal that you swallow in one soggy bite.

Sacrilegious?!  I’m not being sacrilegious!  The people who’ve turned communion into a Smuckers Uncrustable are the ones who are being sacrilegious!  Take some of that money you collect in the coffers and buy some wafers and cups for crying out loud.  They’re not expensive and you don’t even pay sales tax!

Where was I?  Oh yeah, The Catholic Festival!

Of course, it’s not actually called “The Catholic Festival”.  It’s called the “St. Something of Somewhere Parish Something or Other Festival”.  Since I didn’t have to grow up in the Catholic church, I find the pageantry of their religion absolutely fascinating.

I mean, how many worldwide religions can declare someone to be a saint after they die and then carve up their dead body and send the pieces on world tours, where worshipers clamor and gather to pray over a severed finger?  Who does that?!  That’s like something out of a movie!  Here’s an actual line from an actual story about it I found on Pulpit and Pen:

The severed hand of Saint Francis Xavier will be making a 14-city tour of Canada from January 3 to February 2. It will be traveling with Angèle Regnier, who says the adventure “will be like having a road trip with a friend.” On flights, the hand will have its own seat next to Regnier.

THE HAND GETS ITS OWN SEAT ON THE PLANE.

Then there’s the kneeling, the rosaries, the confessional, the holy water, the candles, that dangly incense thing they throw around, Jon Bon Jovi’s chest hair – all fascinating.  Traditional Mass is delivered in a language that nobody even speaks or understands!  And the clergy outfits!  The clergy outfits alone are worth the price of admission.  That’s quality craftsmanship there!

Imagine how boring The Da Vinci Code would have been if it were centered around something lame and boring, like Presbyterians.  The entire cast would consist of Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball and – spoiler – they already made that movie and it’s called Castaway.  Conspiracy alert!  Don’t send me weird emails about this.

Aside from the general pageantry, I love The Catholic Festival so much because it features three of my favorite things in the whole world all under one roof:

A rummage sale;

A roulette wheel where not only can you gamble but the prizes are bottles of hard liquor; and

Food tents where they serve seemingly endless meatball subs made by Italian nonnas named Isotta and Allegra.

If I didn’t know any better I’d say that with perks like that, these people are actively recruiting, but as most Catholics will tell you, they don’t really want your sorry ass.  If you weren’t born into it, they’re not interested.  Sure, there are ways to convert, but even if you did, you know every time you walked out of the room, the born-in Catholics would say, “So, now that it’s just us real Catholics in the room…”

That’s why there’s no hard sell when you walk around the festival. No pamphlets, no sign-up sheets. Try walking into an unfamiliar Methodist church and see if you even make it through the front door without being tackled by three women named Kitty who want to sign you up to run the pancake breakfast, teach Sunday school, and join the choir.

You’ll never be woken up by a Catholic knocking on your door on a Saturday morning asking if you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior.  They just wait until you show up at the festival and then yell, “Meatball sub tent is in the parking lot, heathen!  Good luck in Hell!”

It’s like they don’t want me to join their religion at all, which as George Costanza would tell you, makes them that much more desirable to me.

Sometimes I think about sneaking into a regular service on a Sunday just for the food and the show but I’m pretty sure someone would spot me standing when I should be kneeling and they would drag me out there like a sack of potatoes while I screamed, “Chill, Catholics!  I’m only here for the pageantry!”

So I do the next best thing.  I go to The Catholic Festival once a year and take it all in.  I buy vintage knick-knacks at the rummage sale with a stiff cocktail in one hand and a soft meatball sub in the other.  I bring gambling money – to a church!  I eye the rosaries that are for sale by the door as the old nuns eye me back, knowing that they know damn well I’m an imposter and if I tried to buy a rosary they would very sarcastically say, “You know this isn’t a necklace that you wear, right sweetie?” before snatching it back from me and laughing.

Then I would skulk away, wondering if any of their severed fingers will ever end up on a world tour BECAUSE IF THEY PLAYED THEIR CARDS RIGHT THAT COULD LITERALLY HAPPEN.

*Every single thing I know about Catholics I learned from the two hundred times I’ve watched Saturday Night Fever.  Shout out to John Travolta’s hair.

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The man is a national treasure.

 

The Feelings Booth

I’m not a huge fan of being wrong.  You’re blown away at what a unique person I am, I know.  Most people just positively adore being wrong.  I’m a real one-of-a-kind hero.  Put my face on a coin someday, but make sure it’s front-facing because I’ve never been a fan of my profile.

In the meantime, since minting coins has a rather spendy start-up cost, just go ahead and put coins on my face.  Sacajawea dollar coins or GTFO.  Don’t cheap out – it’s the holidays!

You know what, though?  My skin is super sensitive, and coins are just about the dirtiest thing on Earth besides your weird uncle who likes to hug me way too long and says stuff like, “Wow, you really grew up if you know what I mean,” so you can just go ahead and put the coins directly into my bank account, along with all of the rest of your money, electronics, and jewelry.  This is a stick-up!

I honestly can’t believe you didn’t see that coming from a mile away.  Situational awareness, people!  You should have taken the advice of the, frankly, passive-aggressive victim-blaming posters at the mall parking lot that say, “Don’t make yourself a victim!”

Certainly, nobody likes being wrong, but I feel like I aggressively don’t like being wrong, if that’s a thing?  I’m sure that’s a thing.  It’s probably the “thing” that puts a lot of people in prison.  Or law school.

My typical response to being told that I’m wrong is blind rage.  You would never know it because I keep it tucked safely inside, but just know that when someone points out that I’m wrong about something, mentally this is what I want to happen to everyone in the world right at that second:

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I never act on my blind rage because, obviously, I can’t go to prison.  They make you go to the bathroom in front of other people in prison, which means that I would never be able to go to the bathroom again.  As it is, I can’t go if I suspect another human (or one of those sensitive dogs who looks like he’s really thinking) is within a ten mile radius.  If I were to act on my blind rage, I would go to prison, never go to the bathroom, swell up like a tick, explode, and die.

Nobody wants to die that way in prison.  Everybody wants to die valiantly and poetically in prison, after being shanked in the yard over a stolen pudding cup.  At least that’s how I’d want to go.

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“She died as she lived, fighting over pudding that didn’t belong to her.”

I’ve had to find creative ways to stuff down the blind rage for as long as I can remember, so when someone tells me I’m wrong, I will often turn to a solution like quietly leaving the office and walking to my car, screaming at the top of my lungs and punching the steering wheel, and then quietly walking back into the office.  How else is a person supposed to deal with making a typo and then having someone point it out?

“Hey, Maggie, I think these letters are transposed.”

“Oh, are they?”

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Walk outside, scream, punch, walk back inside, fix the typo.  This is life.

I assume a lot of people do this in the car, at least from time to time, or else more people would be using public transportation.  The entire reason that I own a car is so I have a private place to freak out when needed.  I call it my “Feelings Booth”.  What do you have a car for?  Getting around?

Feelings Booth aside, I think the most creative (and on-brand) way I’ve ever dealt with the whole “being wrong” thing was when I was 8 years old, arguing with my sister Bonnie about what all kids argue about:  Hall and Oates song lyrics.

It seems Bonnie believed the title to the song “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” was “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid”.

That would make her correct, in case you think you’re just seeing things.  No need to re-read that sentence.

I believed the title was a different line in the song and that it was “Some Things Are Better Left Undone”.

This was pre-internet and none of us owned the album, so the only way to settle the matter was through a third party.  That would be my sister Julie.

I went to discuss the matter with her alone and she said, “Actually, I’m pretty sure Bonnie is right.  It’s “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid”.

I felt the rage swell inside me, took a deep breath and said, “Okay.  If I give you a dollar will you go out there and tell Bonnie that it’s actually “Some Things Are Better Left Undone” and that she’s wrong?”

Julie said, “But she’s actually right.  You’re the one who’s wrong.  You’re willing to pay me to tell her that you’re right, even though we both know you’re wrong?”

I pulled out the dollar bill and said, “One.  Dollar.”

She took it and said, “You’re an idiot,” and then marched into the other room to tell Bonnie she was wrong.

Of course, I just looked up the lyrics now (yay internet) and saw that the line I was wrongly trying to argue “Some Things Are Better Left Undone” is actually “Some Strings Are Better Left Undone”, so I wasn’t even right about the line to begin with, let alone that it was the title of the song.

I’ll excuse myself to my Feelings Booth now.

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The Princess of Principles

I decided somewhere in the vicinity of the third grade that I wasn’t going to do homework anymore.  Not because I was lazy – of course not!  Because I was principled.

I felt that the school day took up more than enough of my time, and once I stepped outside of the actual building, my time should belong to me, most certainly not homework.  My time was to be spent doing more important things, like watching television, catching minnows down at the pond, and smoking sticks of bamboo like cigarettes in the woods.

So I didn’t do it.  I went on strike against homework.

I take that back.  I only did homework, projects, and papers that could be done during school hours.  If I had extra time in one class, I would use that time to work on a paper for another class, or do work during lunch time.  Once the school bell rang at the end of the day, though?  It was pencils down.  Sorry, teacher-type folks!  3:30 PM is the beginning of MAGGIE TIME.

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The face of principles.

While going on strike against homework was, in itself, specifically problematic, you know, good grades being important and all, the more sinister problem was that I had successfully developed a way to trick myself at a very young age into believing I had very, very firm principles about things.

It was funny, because I only had the aforementioned firm principles about stuff I didn’t want to do.  I don’t think I ever had principles that revolved around things I enjoyed doing.  Can’t think of one time.

I don’t recall ever having had principles that governed my behavior around listening to Poison cassettes, eating Fudge Stripe cookies, or spending my birthday money on trick gum and a gigantic 6” x 6” pin for my acid-washed jean jacket that read, “Is that your face or did your neck throw up?”

If you were to spring something like a weeks-long science project on me?  Oh man, I would become the most principled kid you’d ever met.  I would lay out a case like a lawyer at trial, listing a myriad of principles that would prevent me from turning that project in.

Thank god the term “self-care” didn’t start floating around until recent years or I would have dropped out of school in the fifth grade because school didn’t “nourish my soul”.  On the up side, at least I’ll never die from workaholism.

This principle lasted all the way through school, culminating my senior year of high school with my refusal to submit a portfolio for judgment in my AP art class, the class that I nearly killed myself working for three years to get into, because as I explained to my art teacher, “I think it’s wrong for people to judge art.”

It certainly wasn’t because putting together the portfolio would have been months and months of work.

He smiled at me, leaned back in his chair and put his arms behind his head and said, “Well, if you’ve got a bullshit excuse for not turning in work that would get you college credit, I guess that’s a pretty good one.  I mean, I don’t buy it, but I can see where you do.  I’m impressed with your ability to blow it.”

I can only imagine how much worse it would have been if I’d gone to one of those Montessori schools where kids have the freedom to choose what they want to work on during the school day.  I would have plunked myself down on a rug the first day and said, “I feel like watching Fraggle Rock all day, so thanks!”

It cracks me up to no end when people get all excited that their babies are into books, thinking that it makes Junior seem inquisitive and intelligent, and I’m standing in the shadows like a villain in a black hooded robe, cackling and hissing, “Sure, they love books now, but just wait until those little suckers see television.”

I mean, I’m sure your kid is inquisitive and intelligent.  As much as I’m sure regular milk seems like a great thing – until someone gives you chocolate milk for the first time and you decide that regular milk is the most disgusting thing on Earth.

I’m just saying don’t buy books for Junior too many years in advance until you have a full understanding of what television will do to their wide little eyes.  By the time I was five years old, I would have pitched every book I owned into a bonfire if it meant I could watch another episode of The Facts of Life, and aside from being a total asshole, I turned out just fine.

I mean, I did get a failing grade on a book report for “White Fang” in the sixth grade because I wrote a ten page paper on it having only read the back cover and first two pages of the book and my teacher figured it out, but I think on some level he must have admired my moxie.  Especially after I had my mother go meet with him in my defense, still thinking I could finesse my way out of it.  That book was SO BORING.

If there are any eleven year olds out there today pulling that sort of thing, I would love to sit down for a chocolate milk with them sometime.  I *adore* foul-mouthed little criminals.  Kenard was one of my favorite characters on The Wire.

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When Kenard stole that package of heroin and said, “Package up my ass, gump!”, I cried several tears of joy.  Who wouldn’t love this kid??

Plus, even with forty to sixty hours of television a week as a kid (not even remotely an exaggeration), I still turned out to be a writer, so meh?  Maybe reading books as a kid isn’t THAT important.  Who knows, though?  Maybe if I’d chopped it back to thirty hours of television a week I’d be writing about something like the Higgs Boson Particle instead of writing dissertations on the pros and cons of being Charlie Sheen versus Emilio Estevez.

Happy Friday – thanks for hanging around!  I’ll be out next week, so smell ya later!