Monday, December 04, 2006

all others pay cash

Last night driving home from the store and listening to NPR, the radio played a snippet of Jean Sheperd's radio show "Duel in the Snow or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid."

Jean Sheperd is the guy who wrote "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash", the novel that inspired the film "A Christmas Story". It is Sheperd's voice that narrates the movie.

It was cold out, in my opinion it was the first real snow, covering the streets and making them glisten where tires had tread their way through them. The decorations hanging on the lampposts in town blew in the bristly air and twinkle lights always look better in snow.

And the brief clip from the radio show made me smile. Sheperd's voice is nostalgic and warm, like a big wool pea coat. If I could choose anyone to narrate my life, it would be him. Then it wouldn't seem so thick and dramatic but more ironic. Entertaining. Brimming with authenticity.

It's my Christmas Day ritual actually. To watch 24 hours of that movie. Jews have nothing better to do on Christmas anyway. Nothing's open, friends are all busy. So I usually laze about. Baking something so my house smells good, putting on massive amounts of coffee and leaving the TV on even if I'm reading or napping or pretending to read or nap.

If Jean Sheperd narrated my life, I'd insist he talk about how my grandmother's cooking was so good the scent would stick to your clothes...forcing me to change outfits before I'd go out to the bar...causing drunk men to tell me I smelled good. They should really bottle up pot roast and sell it as a perfume. I'd make him talk about waking at 5 a.m. to the smell of onions and garlic and cumin and the sounds of a vacuum, signs that company was coming later that day. My grandmother would make us speak in whispers in the morning when relatives would come to visit - afraid that the sound of us chewing might wake them as they slept snuggled beneath the covers in their beds at the back end of the house.

The best types of memories are always exaggerated. My brothers know about this. Every time the three of us get together the infamous "knee" story, of how I slammed my knee on a block of ice while we were sledding - and later cried about it - is always brought up complete with imitations and whiny voices. I like to exaggerate about the obvious anti-wholesome memories. Like how my father, still hanging on to divorce, wouldn't drop us off at the door of my grandparent's house, but the far end of the driveway. How he took me to breakfast on my birthday at a 24 hour diner and (though it's below the belt because our dog just died a few months ago) how he constantly reminded me that the dog was his best friend in the world and the only one who understood him.

Where was I going with this?

Oh yeah, families, nostalgia, narration... There's not much to narrate now. "Jessica woke up with the least bit of excitement to trudge her way through the snow to school, where she learned absolutely nothing about some pretty influential works of literature and then trudged her way back to work, where her co-worker tortured her with phrases like "hence is the problem".... Sometimes I think I should run my tongue along a metal pole.

You know, just for a little drama.

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