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Bar Jester Chronicles 16: An FPR Christmas Exposé

Posted By Jason Peters On December 28, 2011 @ 12:05 am In Culture, High & Low | No Comments

(Illustration: Goy To The World. Artist Unknown)

Rock Island, IL

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright. So goes the wisdom of the formulectus receptus, anyway. But I dig to beffer. I say, never misunderestimate the usefulness of a little playground irreverence.

Which is why I queried several contributors to FPR on their favorite Christmas traditions and carols, hoping that I could catch them in some sort of Freudian (or at the least gin-induced) slip.

(I actually did catch Darryl Hart in a real slip once, but that was at a “Dress-As-Your-Favorite-Reformer” party, where he was attempting to approximate the preferred attire of Jean Cauvin’s successor, Theodore “Teddy” Beza, whose bizarre and little-known fetishes Hart has attributed to an insane preoccupation with the maddening logic of double predestination and its highly elaborate symmetry.)

What, I asked, is your favorite aspect of the Christmas season? Do you have a favorite Christmas song? Food? Of course in some cases I had to time my queries to accord with certain behavioral patterns.

The replies came fast and spurious. I could scarcely keep up with them.

The elusive Counselor Stegall, thinking wistfully, no doubt, of his beloved Kansas homeland, immediately pronounced “O Little Town of Methlehem” his favorite carol. (Note on the methodology: It is well known that Caleb falls into frothing paroxysms of rabidity every Sunday afternoon shortly after finishing the NYT Op-Ed page, and it was at about 3:00 p.m. that I shot off, in a southwesterly direction, my email.)

I didn’t expect to hear from Arlington Globetrotter Deneen, who, I figured, was jetting off to some far away place to tell people about the benefits of staying home. But he replied with dispatch: “‘The First Oh, Hell!’ is a favorite with the wife,” he told me. “She breaks into it right about the time I interrupt our gift-giving session with a lecture on how all of this is a good example of the productive forces of modernity being employed in the constant conversion of wants into necessities. She usually follows it up with a well-directed glare and ‘Have Yourself a Lonely Little Christmas’ as the children sob silently.”

Front Porcher Polet (whose wife, legend tells, dipped too deeply into the egg nog at a faculty party one year and, dancing with the host, began belting out “Jeff’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire”) has been known to line up one Old Fashioned after another on Tuesday nights. (Why Tuesday nights? Writer’s Envy is one theory.)

So I called him up at about midnight last Tuesday. Without missing a beat he recounted his concupiscent undergraduate days at Calvin College, racing through the women’s dorms on the last day of school before Christmas break, singing “Winter Wonderbra,” “Penis Angelicus,” and “Felicia Nobby Job.”

James Wilson, known to readers of these pages for a slight preference for heterosexual unions over the other available options, likes to tell how he went to work on a poem titled “We Three Queens” but wasn’t able to find a suitable dactylic substitution for “Orient.”

“Manhattan” met the syllabic count—not to mention the profile—but not the meter, so, being a strict formalist, he abandoned the project for “Christmas Time is Queer Again,” of which, upon completion, he filmed a dramatic reading with the help of his wife, on whom he relies for such difficult tasks as turning on the camera, dressing the children, and unwrapping bars of soap. The result was an overnight Youtube flop.

I didn’t expect much cooperation from Russell Arben Fox, who claims to know only one joke, but apparently I got to him at exactly the right moment: after one too many ice waters. “I grew up,” he writes, “among people especially fond of gathering around the piano and singing, “All I want for Christmas is You and You and You.”

John Medaille: “Once in Monarch David’s City.”

D.W. Sabin: “Concept, It’s Cold Outside.”

Darryl Hart: “I’m Dreaming of a Papist Christmas.”

Mark Mitchell: “Potential donors to FPR have been told that the site shuts down every Wednesday. Please do not attempt to disabuse them of this.”

Jeremy Beer, who likes to draw attention to his shoe size (15 EEE), is, like most braggarts, not to be trusted. For example, last year he sent out a musical Christmas card that played “The Fourth Lay of Christmas My True Love Gave to Me,” and everyone knows he can’t even product four written words a day. But he’s a good Midwesterner all the same and does like to throw back a six-pack of Indiana ale when appropriate. So I called him at breakfast.

“H’l-lo?

“Beer. Peters here.”

“Pe’ers? Whoah! Whu’ time izzit?”

“Nine a.m. where you are. Listen. What are your favorite Christmas songs?”

“Oh, thass eezie. ‘Bingle Jells,’ ‘I’m Dreaming of a Tight Christmas,’ and ‘Babes in Boyland.’

“I’ve never heard of those.”

“Rilly. They’re vurry pop’lar around here. Right ’long with ‘Blew Christmas.’

“Thanks, old man.”

“Hey. Ness time do me a favor, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Right. Doan call so early. Or late. Or whatever it is.”

“Promise.” Click.

“H’l-lo? Santa? Are you still there?”

Then came Kauffman, whom none but Beer could prepare me for. Round about 2:00 a.m. EST I shot off my query.

Dear Mr. Kauffman,

I am a big fan of your autobiography, Every Man a Queen, and I was wondering if you could tell me what you most like about Christmastime.

Yours truly,

The Bar Jester.

Forthwith I got this reply:

Deer Bare Jester,

I am a grate admirer of you’re work two. (I am also envious of your good looks, your hare line, and your baseline jumper. I’m told you shoot a meen bank shot as well.) But you must no that I have juss finished off my third bottle of Elba elderberry whine, so everything I right will be true to the minutest detale. In weeno wareetas, as the anxients used to say.

We have a conjugal arrangement in my howse that we like to call “Twas the Rite Before Christmas,” but this yeer after a family gathering on Christmas Eve—I remember that (Aunt) Carol of the Smells had just left—my daughter sed she saw Mommy Frisking Santa Claus, and I was feeling expecially auld, thinking that by this time next year I’ll Be Loam For Christmas and maybe I ought to just carve myself up like a goose so everyone can have a Soylent Night. But then I remembered: Wensdays coming! So what if my wife keeps humming “Away with a Stranger”? I got Wensday and FRP to look fore word two. Thank-you, Bare Jisster, thank-you for … must get to the bathroom … find the dore … uh-oh …

Well it ended a bit ambiguously, as you can see, but I was able to glean from this bit of correspondence that Kauffman, though he’s going the way of Luther Martin, still has a reason to go on, even though, like a certain displaced Hoosier, he probably blew Christmas.

And I could go on to tell of the Carlson bathtub full of glogg, of the Salyer Bourbonic Dialogues, of the strained civility of Duelin’ Dalton. But there are people begging me to end this, and I’m one of them.


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