Chris Rodell [00:00:00]:
We're going to start today with 5 Christmas jokes. They're clean, easy to remember, and they'll make you laugh. That's important because after that, I'm going to make you cry. Don't be embarrassed. I plan on crying too. I'm going to read aloud to you one of my favorite stories of all time. Yes. It's a Christmas story.
Chris Rodell [00:00:16]:
One that is constructed above a foundation of lies, deception, and mistaken identity. It happened word for word exactly as I convey. It was Christmas in Latrobe 2009. It's a long story, so please get a cup of cocoa, throw another log on the fire, put your feet up, and relax. Unless you're driving, in which case, please, just pay attention to your duties as a motorist. Hi. I'm Chris Rodell. I've written stories and features for just about Every major magazine or publication in America.
Chris Rodell [00:00:44]:
This is the use all the crayons podcast, where I'll share those colorful stories with you. We'll begin after these brief Christmas jokes. Put together a troop of tiny sideburn toy makers To head to Las Vegas and sing jailhouse rock, burn in love, and hound dog. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Elvis Presley. What does it mean when you hear hoot hoot coming from a nearby tree this time of year? I'll be home for Christmas. This from 2010 is the lies we all long to hear. This happened exactly just the way I conveyed. It only took me 30 minutes to write back in 2009.
Chris Rodell [00:01:32]:
I was so pleased with it, I chose to include it as one of my 33 essays in the crayons book. I had my standoffish Sunday morning face on. I hadn't showered and didn't want any human interaction other than the Six or so words I'd exchange with the clerk where I buy gas. I finished pumping, crossed the parking lot, and pulled open the door to the local Sheetz convenient mart. It was like I walked into a 1 man surprise party, and I was the guest of honor. Bill. Hey, Bill. Man, is it good to see you? I looked around.
Chris Rodell [00:02:01]:
I was all alone. I was Bill. Now careful readers of this blog know that I am not Bill and have never pretended to be Bill. The elderly stranger who thought I was Bill was thrilled to see someone he was convinced was Bill. The gentleman was probably in his late sixties. He had a very kind face that was enlivened by seeing what he thought was an old friend. He had his fist salute extended and was waiting for me to bump knuckles. I realized I was in a common social predicament.
Chris Rodell [00:02:25]:
He confused me with a good friend. He looked coherent, but who knows? Maybe he was one of our numerous village idiots in Latrobe. I'm friends with most of them, but they're accumulating like snow these days and it's difficult to keep track of What was I to do? I raised my fist, gave him my warmest buddy buddy greeting, and said, hey. How the hell you been? You look great. And he did. He looked like I look when I'm driving down the road near John Fogarty and Creedence singing, do do do, looking out my back door. He was delighted. My still slumbering mind was racing through dozens of calculations.
Chris Rodell [00:02:58]:
What was the risk here? Should I let him down gently or play along? What if the real Bill walked in? You can converse with a stranger for about 90 seconds of generic conversation involving some form of the question, how are you? Then the gentleman upped the ante. He wanted to know how Bonnie was doing. We'd reached a turning point. I was left with a choice of either backing down and perhaps ruining the splendid start to his day or pushing another stack of lies to the center of the table. She's great, I said. Just finished all her Christmas shopping. Her mom slipped on the snow last week, but she'll be alright. He was sorry to hear that.
Chris Rodell [00:03:31]:
The guy at the counter was buying lottery tickets, and the other clerk was fetching change. My high wire act couldn't endure forever. Come on. Let's get those registers ringing. How about Mark? How's Mark doing? He was a family guy, so I figured Mark was my son. I know kids today have their problems, but it was the holidays. I was gonna ruin his day by telling Mark's in rehab. He's great.
Chris Rodell [00:03:50]:
He's up at Clarion University. He wants to be a veterinarian. This pleased him. He had fond memories of Mark. The guy at the counter was putting his change in his wallet, and I was hoping Bonnie and I didn't have any more kids. Finally, it was his turn to pay just as the other clerk stepped up. At just about the same time, we both realized our little holiday was over. We looked each other in the eye, put our right arms around the other's left shoulders for brief man hugs.
Chris Rodell [00:04:14]:
It was a beautiful moment. We wished each other a Merry Christmas, and I told him I'd be sure I'd tell Bonnie he'd said hello. It reminded me of the final scene in the great 1995 movie Smoke, in which the Harvey Keitel character tells the William Hurt character about an encounter he had with an elderly blind woman who thought he was her nephew. He wound up staying for dinner. Hurd thinks he made it all up, but as the credits roll, they show the scene he recalled as the Tom Waits song Innocent When You Dream plays. It's magnificent. I thought about the right and wrong of what I'd done as I drove home. I told a slew of lies to a kindhearted gentleman who may one day wind up Very confused next time he sees Bill or Bonnie out getting gas.
Chris Rodell [00:04:53]:
But I think my bigger sin was not in the lies. It was in the size of them. They were all too puny. I should have told him our bowling team won the league championship, that Bonnie had a book of poems published. Her mom had won the state lottery and that Mark was studying to be an astronaut. I should have told him they discovered a cure for cancer. The wars were all over, and they'd invented a way to fax leftovers to the hungry. I should have told him that this Christmas everything was gonna be alright because really that's all he wanted Bill to tell him.
Chris Rodell [00:05:22]:
It's what we all wanna hear. I hope even a fraction of that happens. And I hope Bill, Bonnie, and Mark have a wonderful Christmas, and Mark doesn't ruin the holiday by drinking too much. Knock knock. Who's there? Javier. Javier who? Javier yourself a merry little Christmas. In u two's 1988 album, Brattle and singer Bono introduces Helter Skelter by saying, This is a song Charles Manson stole from The Beatles. We're stealing it back.
Chris Rodell [00:05:56]:
Well, in 18/43, Charles Dickens stole the word humbug from proper usage. I'm stealing it back. Contrary to seasonal custom, humbug has nothing to do with a disdain for Christmas. True American humbug reigns all year long. Let's start with the American heritage dictionary, which defines humbug as a hoax, fake, an imposter, a Charlene. Nonsense, rubbish. Bah humbug is the pejorative phrase most associated with our powerful story of Christmas redemption. It first appears on the 3rd page of A Christmas Carol.
Chris Rodell [00:06:26]:
A Merry Christmas, uncle. God save you, cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge's nephew who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he'd had of his approach. Bah, said Scrooge. Humbug. Christmas a humbug uncle? Said Scrooge's nephew. You don't mean that, I am sure. I do, said Scrooge.
Chris Rodell [00:06:43]:
Merry Christmas. What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough. Come then, returned that nephew gayly. What right do you have to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You're rich enough. Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment said bah again and followed it up with humbug. Clearly, he's referring to 2 distinct declarations That the idea of a happy holiday is an excessive hoax or fraud. As the book progresses, each subsequent reference to humbuggery refers not to seasonal Christmas elements, but to something that might be cooked up by the likes of Penn and Teller. When apparitions of old Marley's head replaced those of biblical figures depicted on the artistic fireplace tiles, Scrooge exclaims humbug.
Chris Rodell [00:07:20]:
As Marley's ghost begins to diminish into the ether, Dickens writes, he tried to say humbug, but stopped at the first syllable. Need more proof? When the wizard is revealed to be a phony in the 1939 classic Wizard of Oz, the enraged scarecrow sputters to come up with the most devastating insult a Straw noggin can conceive. You you humbug, he says, to which the fraudulent wizard confesses, yes. I am a humbug. In fact, the misappropriation of the term must be infuriating to an egotistical Dickens contemporary who so reveled in the joy of artful humbug That he in his 18/55 autobiography called himself the prince of the humbugs. That would be PT Barnum. Barnum enjoyed his 1st commercial success in 18/35 by purchasing for $1,000 an elderly slave woman named Joyce Heth, who he claimed to be the 161 year old nurse To George Washington, paying audience sat and rapt attention as the blind, toothless, and withered ancient spun religious and patriotic tales about being the de facto mother to the father of the country. Days after her February 18 36 demise, Barnum allowed newspaper skeptics to autopsy her brittle remains.
Chris Rodell [00:08:24]:
Hired medical examiners cried fraud and said, humbug, She wasn't a day over 80. Barnum then fueled the uproar by releasing a story to the publisher James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald that said the autopsy was a fake And that the real heath, now pushing 162 years old, was alive and well and still drawing huge crowds in Connecticut. He then offered a third real story, That he'd found heath in Kentucky, yanked all her teeth out, taught her baby George Washington anecdotes, and that he'd capriciously increase her age by 10 years along the tour Until she finally hit 161. Barnum's scholar Terence Whalen writes, every true story is rendered false by a succeeding explanation, And ultimately, the various explanation links seem to merge into 1 great chain of humbug. Today, we are besieged by humbug the moralist to cry that the decay is eating away at the soul of America's character. To that, I say bah. Hogwash. Roll with the punches, America.
Chris Rodell [00:09:19]:
Hyperbole is a uniquely American phenomenon. Sit back and savor all the silliness, and may each of you enjoy a warm and happy humbug this Christmas and all year long. One last Christmas joke. What should they call those of us who prefer real live Christmas trees to artificials? Saps. If you enjoy the podcast, we urge you to complete the podcast road to success triathlon of share rate review. Tell friends about use all the crayons. Thanks to my friends at Headspace Media in the heart of downtown, they drove for technical support and for cerebral critiques on how we can make this Program better for you and for doing so in a tactful way that never bruises my tender feelings.