- More Bite-Size Joe-Pourri Morsels
- More Adventures in Space and Time in the Joe-ma-Tron
- More News thru a Misty Lens
You're traveling through a wondrous dimension of humor and shadow, of imagination and mist. Welcome to my website! Wander around a bit and see what’s up. If the mists get too thick, well, some things look better in the fog anyway. So come back often to The Joe Zone – and bring your friends. That way, if you get lost, or marooned here, at least you’re together. Not that people get marooned here. Very often. For very long. Signpost up ahead, your next stop – The Joe Zone!
The Joe Zone is pleased as all poppycock to present the inaugural Joe-Pourri of 2016, and the tenth or eleventh in the series, depending on whether you use Common Core math. And they said it couldn’t last. Actually, they said it shouldn’t last. They said, please, no, anything but that! But when the news-scape is a vast and nasty veracity-starved wasteland, then Joe-Pourri is poised to step in through the straits of straight-scoop and lay the poop on you. Figuratively speaking.
Once again the hands on the digital clock show it’s nap time in the Joe Zone, so join us next time when Joe-Pourri takes a look at the news in alternate universes, where we’re hoping things are going better.
Inside Scoop from Joe: An earlier version of this story appeared in December 2013, and a slightly modified version previously appeared in a magazine. But this is my favorite incarnation of one of my favorite reminiscences. Merry Christmas from the Joe Zone to your zone!
Christmas memories capture some of the most cherished moments of our childhood. We remember warm family gatherings, presents that delighted us, church services celebrating the Infant’s birth. Sometimes, however, our memories include grim tableaus seared into our brains by events gone horribly awry. These recollections are the exclamation points rising above the landscape of periods; they are cymbal clashes in the lush, hushed strings of the soundtrack of our youth. For me, one of the harshest, most discordant cacophonies of my childhood was the night the Christmas tree fell.
The evening began as a scene that Norman Rockwell might well have painted. My father had come home from work in a holiday mood, bolstered by a wonderful hot meal prepared by my mother. Middle-class meatloaf at a family table before Christmas can surpass filet mignon in satisfying hunger and strengthening spirit. Cups of steaming tea for my parents, bittersweet hot chocolate for us kids, helped us forget the December winds blustering outside.
Christmas was my mother’s favorite time of year, and I could see the joy of the season in her eyes. The magic day was right around the corner, and my two sisters and I were working ourselves into a frenzy of Yuletide anticipation. Ornaments! Lights! Presents! No school!
My father had set up the Christmas tree several days prior. The unmistakable aroma of needles and sap permeated the house, promising Christmas as surely as the falling temperatures. Most of the decorating was completed – big red, green, and blue bulbs, glass balls, crocheted trinkets, strings of icicles. Full and plump as a Christmas turkey, the tree stood majestically in the corner of the living room, the black Lionel locomotive chugging around its base. The towering pinnacle of the spruce almost touched the ceiling. Magnificent it was, but just as the newly-christened Titanic had an appointment with an iceberg, so our tree had booked a reservation with doom.
After dinner, all that remained was to place the angel on the treetop, a maneuver requiring some agility and delicacy. As Dad confidently placed the stepladder beside the tree, my sisters and I knew he was the man for the job. My mother, still wearing her jingle bell and reindeer Christmas apron, had us join hands, and we became my father’s personal cheering section.
Angel in hand, he embarked on his climb with the determination of Sir Edmund Hillary ascending Everest, except Dad didn’t need a Sherpa. One slow, careful step after another, the wooden ladder steps creaking with age, brought him to the peak.
With a bold stroke that would have made Sir Edmund proud, Dad rammed the angel onto the protruding branch at the tree’s summit. I looked at my sisters and gave them a knowing wink, as they nodded in approval – we knew that angel was there for the duration. My father’s face shone with the satisfaction of a manly task accomplished. He was once again the conquering provider for his family.
As Dad descended the ladder, fate intruded in a way none of us could have imagined: his foot became entangled in the string of tree lights. The wire had furtively wrapped around his leg, with the malevolent cruelty that can only be exhibited by inanimate objects. Reaching the lowest step, his leg stretched the wire taut, causing tension on the tree. My father then lost his balance, a victim to the evil wire’s plot, and began to fall backwards. We watched in horror as the tree tipped over, being pulled by my unsuspecting father. It followed him down as faithfully as Santa’s sleigh had ever followed Rudolph. As the tree made its long descent into family folklore, time slowed, as it often does when cataclysmic events visit the innocent. Four shocked faces were frozen in disbelief as the tree came down, silent at first, then culminating in a thundering CRASH tinkle tinkle tinkle tinkle… Moments before, a splendid spruce had stood in giddy holiday regalia. Now there lay a pile of green rubble with an occasional ornament and parental limb sticking out. The formerly festive living room looked as if someone had decorated a horrific holiday crash scene.
Our Norman Rockwell night was ending as Norman Bates. It was as if Frank Capra had turned over the director’s reins to Alfred Hitchcock. But the angel was still doggedly clinging to the top of the tree, bless her heavenly heart. Eerie silence ensued for what seemed like enough time for the Magi to cross the Sahara. I thought we were surely going to get an answer to the question: if a Christmas tree falls in the living room, and the family is stunned out of their skivvies, does anyone hear it?
Then my mother moved more quickly than I had ever seen her, rushing to the wreckage and shrieking, “Joe! Joe! Are you all right? Can you get up?” She tore at the limbs and icicles and ornaments, finally revealing my father’s face. He looked dazed, as if he was wondering why he was lying on the floor looking at the ceiling. But at least he appeared to be conscious. We waited for the epithet sure to come from his lips. Could any kid within earshot not suffer permanent hearing loss, seared eyebrows, and emotional trauma? My father then slowly stirred, groaning like the wind against the shutters outside, but less coherently. Suddenly, he sprang up, seemingly unfazed, and with a merry laugh and a twinkle in his eyes, exclaimed, “Ho, ho, ho! That certainly was a holly jolly trick on me!” Sort of. At least, that’s what he’ll say when the Disney movie is made. Memories, of course, often soften with time. I’m sure he was a bit more emphatic, and may have said something to convey “Christmas! Bah, humbug!” But with more salt and vinegar than Dickens ever placed in Scrooge’s mouth.
My father managed to resurrect the tree from its ashes, like a Phoenix from the fire, or, more accurately, a Yuletide zombie from its grave. Dad had suffered only a few scrapes and scratches, the tree a bent limb and some broken glass ornaments (which my mother greatly rued). But the Christmas spirit lived on, Santa still came, and we celebrated the holy miracle of December the twenty-fifth. Life went on.
Many Christmas memories were forged after that fateful season. My mother’s love for the holiday continued to grow with each passing year. My father brought home a fresh tree and erected it in our living room without fail. But never again, for the remainder of my childhood, did I see a stepladder in the same room with our Christmas tree.
SPECIAL EDITION: Joe-Pourri is investigating unsubstantiated reports of Pope sightings in the United States. The number of eyewitnesses claiming to have seen Pope Francis is growing by the hour. However, people make notoriously bad eyewitnesses. Joe-Pourri has determined that over the same period there were a similar number of Elvis sightings.
Joe-Pourri is also skeptical because studies have shown that the average person has difficulty distinguishing key facial features at distances over 50 feet. This explains why, for example, the Pope is often confused with Justin Bieber.
Nevertheless, unverified sightings are being reported of the Pope-Mobile, the Pope-o-Plane, and the Good Ship Lolli-Pope.
(This is a somewhat modified version of a post originally from 2013)
Regular Zoners will recall that we have been celebrating the arrival of each new season. We last partied for the summer solstice (“The Four Seasons, Part 2: Summer Hot, Summer Hotter,” June 21, 2013). So once again we drag out the Joe Zone nuclear-powered microscope, and examine the season of autumn, which fell with a thud on the northern hemisphere September 23 at 4:22 AM EDT. Did you hear it?
Ah, autumn! What is so fair as a midsummer night’s dream of autumn, when frost has dusted the pumpkin patch and blanketed the grass, which still needs to be mowed because it won’t stop growing in this cursed damp, dreary, chilly season that reminds us that aging and death – well, maybe I’m getting carried away. Autumn, actually, is often the fairest of times, with mild weather and pleasant temperatures. Of course, occasionally Mother Nature will throw the odd hurricane or blizzard at us, but on the whole this season is usually a mellow time. This year, it’s very dry, so maybe we’ll make up for it by being buried in winter snow.
Autumn is sometimes referred to as “fall.” This is because come September and October, so many things are falling – leaves, temperatures, raindrops, hems, footballs, meteors, the stock market. Even gasoline prices are falling, primarily to confuse us. Also falling is the number of daylight hours, which of course means that the number of nightlight hours is increasing.
Yes, it’s true, Joe-Pourri is back again with its ninth edition. Where’s DDT when you need it? Here’s a roundup of the hottest and freshest news morsels, some even fit for human consumption.
The Joe Zone is as surprised as you are by this new edition of Joe-Pourri. Despite intense efforts of containment, Joe-Pourri the Eighth has slipped its bonds, as apparently Joe has slipped the feathery bonds of lucidity.
And so as Joe-Pourri skulks back into the murky shadows, America hunkers down for a long, grueling, mind-numbing, interminable presidential campaign season. The only apparent cause for hope is the possibility of being bludgeoned by El Nino, which will seem like blessed relief by comparison.
The Joe Zone proudly presents Joe-Pourri VII. Yes, against all odds and reason, the seventh installment in the semi-popular series (ranking just behind impacted teeth and rabies in popularity) is taking flight, assisted by the hot air currents emanating from the burgeoning field of presidential candidates.
We’ve caught just enough time between naps to allow the Joe Zone’s newest and most unacquired taste, Joe-Pourri, to once again rise out of the mosquito-infested marsh and take to the runway for another attempt at takeoff. If you’re among the readers/hackers/spammers who have been with us for all five Joe-Pourri sojourns, then that might actually make some sense. So close your eyes and hold your breath and your stomach, here we go with the all new weekend edition:
Joe-Pourri gets you ready for the weekend, with all the up-to-the-minute news, so you can impress your friends with what a know-it-all you are.
• The New York Stock Exchange, the Wall Street Journal, and United Airlines all ground to a halt Wednesday, victims of computer outages. Frantic calls to IT help lines were answered with, “try shutting it down and restarting.” I’m just glad that, as a nation, we haven’t come to rely on unreliable devices for anything really important, like financial institutions, transportation, communications, electric power, defense…
Joe-Pourri is back, in spite of popular demand. Here’s the lowdown on the hijinks that are lighting up our iPhones and tablets, and causing them to run slower than before, if possible:
• Rockets hauling supplies to the International Space Station are blowing up pretty regularly lately. If I were an ISS astronaut, I’d be wishing I’d packed a few peanut butter sandwiches. (Luckily, there’s plenty of oxygen in space, so – never mind.) And if I were an astronaut waiting to be blasted to the station atop a rocket, I’d be wishing I worked at a peanut butter factory.
• The political scene took a bizarre turn over the weekend. Yes, I know that’s redundant. Campaign aides for Hillary “All You Need to Know is I’m a Woman, so Vote for Me” Clinton corralled journalists with a rope during an Independence Day parade attended by Ms. Clinton in New Hampshire. The reporters were described as being “somewhat dragged,” in order to keep them away from the candidate, who evidently wanted to be independent of the media. I find that somewhat of a drag. The former senator, secretary of state, and co-emperor describes herself as being the “most transparent” candidate. Perhaps she means “most pale.” In any event, no reporters were actually hogtied or branded, perhaps because apparently none were from Fox News.
• MLB All-Star voting is in full swing, and here in the Joe Zone, we hope it strikes out. Fan voting never made much sense to me. It’s popular with the fans, of course, but it can lead to weird results. Well-known 38 year old players batting .190 can be chosen over 25 year old phenoms batting .360. Voting is often a popularity contest rather than based on merit. Ballot box stuffing is common. Many fans know little or nothing about whom they’re voting for. It makes no more sense than having the general populace voting in a presidential election. Wait a minute…
• A bird flu virus this spring has resulted in an egg shortage, causing higher egg prices and reduced availability. Why this has not also resulted in a chicken shortage has experts baffled.
Join us next time, when we hear Joe say, “Is Joe-Pourri ahead of 60 Minutes in the ratings yet?”
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