Every year at Prescott United Methodist Church, we put out an Advent devotional, a little daybook of stories written by people in the church for everyone to read.   It’s the other kind of preparation for Christmas – not Black Friday, or Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday, or Giving Tuesday, not online shopping or trudging around the mall, not gifting and regifting and decorating and baking and either sending Christmas cards or thinking of sending Christmas cards and somehow not getting around to it (I fall into this category).  Preparation of the heart, you might say.

This year’s Advent theme was a weird one: “Tear Open the Heavens and Come Down” and it must have stumped the congregation because, toward the end of November, there was an urgent call for entries. I thought about it, and I kept picturing that fourth wall in the theater – the invisible barrier that keeps performers on the stage from talking directly to the audience.

It used to be that, although God was always with his people, there was that distance. Nobody, for instance, dared to go into one secret part in the temple – God’s special dwelling place, blocked by a thick curtain. Clearly, the Hebrews knew God was with them; they’d have to be pretty dense, as they wandered through the desert for 40 years, not to notice the “pillar of clouds that went before them by day to lead them on the way, and the pillar of fire by night to give them light.” (Exodus 13:21). But this innermost sanctum was off limits. Trespassers would be prosecuted: think of that gruesome “face melting” scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” when the Nazis opened the Ark of the Covenant.

Jesus changed all that.   Right after his birth, the sky filled with “a great company of the heavenly host” (Luke 2:13) – glorious angel songs of praise, with a message that didn’t get heard much in that brutal time: Peace on Earth.

The fourth wall was broken again right after Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:16): “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Some people thought it was thunder.

Later (Matthew 27:51), right after Jesus was crucified, there was another break in the clouds. A really big one: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”

Maybe there are signs from heaven all the time, and we just miss them; maybe we just think it’s thunder.

Once, on our farm in Virginia, the air grew very still and the sky turned bright green. I had never seen anything like it. I called the kids to come outside and see; we sat on the porch and marveled at it for about 20 minutes. We brought out some popcorn and juice boxes. It turns out that what we saw was a telltale sign of a nearby tornado: nature’s way of saying, “Stop gawking and take shelter, you morons!” The sky was bright green because of all the vegetation that had just been sucked up into the air. Oops! My bad! Who knew? Apparently, a lot of people, just not me.

A few years later, right after my mom died, my dad and I were driving back from the funeral home. We had just picked out a casket and made the kind of arrangements that nobody ever wants to make. My mom had been in a coma, and although her eyelids were partly open and we could glimpse her beautiful green eyes, and although we talked to her a lot, she wasn’t really awake and she never responded. It was a cloudy, cold December day, about as bleak-looking outside as we felt inside. But suddenly, this little patch of sky opened up, the sun shone through it, and – I’m not kidding – it looked like a beautiful green eye. We took comfort in it.

The green sky in Virginia was a sign that I didn’t recognize. The green eye in the sky was a sign that we didn’t expect.   We didn’t really need it to know that Mom was with God, because, with that fourth wall broken, Jesus was right there with us. We knew. But still, it was nice.

In the Bible, Isaiah cries out: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! … Come down …and cause the nations to quake before you!”

Isaiah wanted his nation’s enemies to receive a cosmic butt-kicking, from a distant and mighty God. I wonder if he would have recognized the baby in the humble stable. I wonder if I would have. Maybe the fourth wall that needs to be open is the one in my heart, so that I can see the signs that God wants me to see.

© Janet Farrar Worthington

 

 

When it comes to dogs, we are stuck on Labs.  It hasn’t always been this way. We have had many mixed breeds over the years, including Jake, a Lab-Shepherd mix; Lucy, a Lab-Dalmatian mix; Betsy, a Lab-Beagle mix; Jenna, mostly black Lab; and Henry, a Golden Retriever-Bassett Hound mix, who looked just like a Golden Retriever except he was short – the coffee-table version. There is our beloved Stanley, a buff-colored Cocker Spaniel who came to live with us at age seven; and years ago, we had Penny, a beautiful Springer Spaniel.

But mostly, and inadvertently, there has been a theme here: the Lab constant.

Then we got Molly, our Chocolate Lab, and our daughter, Blair, rescued Roxy, a Yellow Lab, and we just fell in the tank for Labrador Retrievers. We now have three Labs in our family (I’m getting to that).

Here’s a very brief guide to Labs: All they care about is one thing: being with you.

And food. So okay, two things: Being with you, and food.

And having a job to do, so well, that’s three things.

Also, they love to play.

Okay, basically there are four life goals for the Lab.

Molly loves to have a job, and she has several missions. One is, when we’re walking, and Stanley – who thinks he is a large, ferocious warrior and gets the Viking “red mist” when he sees other dogs – starts barking at the neighbor’s dogs in their fenced-in yards, Molly turns on the speed and pulls us away. I have trained her to do this, and she does it without fail. She knows her job: extraction. Get us out of there.

Molly, like all Labs, is enthusiastic. She threw herself into obedience school, just plunged into it, much as she would a wading pool, horse’s water trough, or any other exciting water scenario.

She was so excited to go to class, in fact, that it was a problem. For the first few weeks as we parked and walked to our lessons at the Whiskers Barkery in downtown Prescott, I would have to slow our progress by holding onto street lights and grabbing the edges of buildings, because she would be pulling so hard to get us there.

Molly also retains the distinction of being the only dog ever to break off one of the obedience studio’s built-in leashes that are anchored to the wall. We were doing “recall,” where you have your dog stay, walk to the far end of the room, and say, “Molly (or whatever your dog’s name is), come!”   This was her best subject. She would just flat-out run across the room to me. So one day, we did our turn, and it was wonderful. Then another dog, whose name sounded very similar, was supposed to go. His owner squatted down, flung out her arms, and yelled, “Wally, come!” Molly was leashed to the wall, and she just busted out of there. Our trainer, Kathy Morris, was so great. All she said was, “Hmm. That should have been anchored to a stud.”

When we started walking at the heel position at various paces, Molly would get so excited that, when I gave her a tiny treat as a reward, she would cough it up, drop her head down, scoop it up and eat it again, and never slow her pace.

This brings me to one of my favorite Lab stories, courtesy of Josh’s orthodontist, a Lab guy. Two families were travelling together, going on vacation. They had two black Labs, littermates, crated in the back of the SUV. The crates were the metal kind, with a little space between the bars.   Immediately beside the dogs was a 40-pound bag of food, which was supposed to last them the whole two weeks. Now, even I can see that this was a tactical error, but hindsight, as they say, is 20-20.

One of the dogs set to work on the bag and, by industrious use of front paw, was able to claw a hole in it. The food spilled right inside the crate. The dog ate, and ate, and ate. When they reached their cabin, three hours later, the dog looked “like he was massively pregnant.” As soon as he got out of the car, he started throwing up – pound after pound of food. The family looked on in horror. Not to worry: the second Lab started eating. And ate all of it. Then that Lab threw up – and, as you may have guessed, the first Lab started eating it.

I laughed so hard when I heard this story. Blair said, “That’s disgusting,” when she heard it later. I said, “Can’t you see Roxy doing it?” She closed her eyes and sighed. “Yes.” Of course she could. Roxy ate an entire bag of flour off a shelf once. Our beloved Jake once ate an entire bag of Oreos, double-stuffed, and also got into a can of Crisco. We know this because there was the unmistakable imprint of his snout in the otherwise untouched Crisco.

About a month ago, we were having dinner with Blair and her husband, Ted. Blair has been looking for a puppy, and she got a text from a breeder: A four-and-a-half-month old yellow Lab had just come back. Did she want her?

Blair is looking for a younger puppy, but she knew an older puppy would be just up my alley. She showed me the picture, and I was done for.

A lost-looking dog is just sitting there, so serious and sweet and uncertain.

I showed the picture to Mark and our sons, Andy and Josh. “We can’t just leave her there,” said Mark.  God bless that man.  This is not the first time he’s done that, either.  Years ago – heck, decades ago – we didn’t even see Jake, but we heard about him from a friend. He had been rescued from the mean streets of East Baltimore, where he had been hanging out at the local Popeye’s and a hot dog stand in front of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Two friends got him off the streets, took him to the vet and got him all fixed up – but he had nowhere to go. I was so moved by Jake’s plight, and I told Mark about it one night.  He was almost asleep, and with his eyes still closed, he said, “Bring him home.”

This time, we brought Sadie home. The breeder brought her over at 9:30 that night. Her van pulled up in the driveway and Sadie got out of the car. So serious, and so sweet and hopeful, too, as if to say: “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m going to do my best.”

Why would anyone let go of this awesome dog? Apparently, the person who had bought her had been overwhelmed with some health issues and was unable to take care of her; in fact, had never even gotten Sadie any of her shots, so she had no immunity to anything. We took her to the vet the next day, have gone back for the boosters, and I’m glad to say that now she’s protected against disease and varmints. She’s even had part one of her rattlesnake vaccine – something I had never heard of before we moved to Arizona.

Like Molly and Stanley, Roxy, Jake, and all the dogs who have been part of our family, Sadie is adored. That’s not to say she’s a perfect angel: despite my fervent wishes and efforts to change this, Sadie gets up at the crack of dawn. She’s a morning person, full of energy and raring to go. When she gets into a dispute with Molly (basically, when Molly has something she wants), she produces this sharp, ear-piercing puppy bark that drives me crazy until I distract her with something else. And yesterday, she ate two of my potted plants. So, like all of us, she can be a pain in the butt. But she’s our pain in the butt. Sadie is home.

©Janet Farrar Worthington

Why would anyone write a song that features these lyrics: “Crimson and clover, over and over.”  And then say them… over and over.  And then, why would someone feel the need to remake that song?  Who knew that was an unmet need?

Go ahead and click it. You know you want to hear it.

When you’re in an elevator or standing in line at the grocery store, and someone who’s standing right next to you starts coughing and sounds like a TB ward, and you step back to get as far away from it as you can, does it do any good at all? 

Why, when you can buy Jet Dry in big economy bottles, does the actual container for the “rinse agent” in the dishwasher door only hold about a tablespoon?  Why isn’t there just a giant reservoir in there so you don’t have to fill it up every few washes?  Instead, you pour it in and it instantly overflows and spills everywhere, and the dishwasher is happy and content for maybe four or five washes, then the annoying little light comes back on and you have to refill it again.  Who designed this system?  I know, this is a First World problem.  A lot of people in Third World countries don’t use a rinse agent.  Kidding! I know that a lot of people in Third World countries do not actually have a dishwasher.  But still…

toilet paperMy God in Heaven, how hard is it to change a roll of toilet paper?  Come on, people!

I saw some bikers riding their Harleys with matching jackets.  The name of their club is “Loners.”  By definition, doesn’t that mean they are clubs of one?  If they form a group, wouldn’t they be “Former Loners,” or maybe “Conflicted Loners?”

Why do men spit?  I just saw a guy happily walking down the sidewalk. He’s just pleasantly strolling, then he spontaneously hawks one on the grass.   It would never occur to me to spit in public.  And yet over the course of my lifetime, I’ve seen men of all ages, not just on the baseball field, minding their own business, and then all of a sudden just spit.  Why?

Why is it so hard to find anything in a Safeway store?  Maybe it’s just me, but the Safeway stores I’ve been in, in Maryland and Arizona, are wired differently from, say, Fry’s, Whole Foods, or Wal-Mart.  Produce is not where you expect, the deli is not where you expect, and the aisles are in some weird order that makes no sense to me.  Even if I’m there on a theoretically short, focused mission, I just wander around in there.  Also, a little background music would not come amiss.  It’s silent as a tomb in there, at least at the one near me. 

bakingWhy do we only have two working baking sheets in our kitchen?  This is a trick question because I already know the answer.   The other four baking pans are filled with LEGO works in progress, courtesy of my sons.

Why hasn’t the person who invented string cheese been given some major award, like one of those MacArthur genius fellowships or something?  This is the kind of innovation the world needs!

Why does the icemaker in my refrigerator make a sound that is identical to the one you hear in the movies, right after the previews and just before the movie starts, where they do the little ad for Dolby Digital Surround?  Every time I hear that noise from the freezer, I whisper, “All…around…you.” 

And finally, why do pinky toenails assume the shape of a ski jump if you don’t keep them trimmed?  What the heck?!

©Janet Farrar Worthington

There is a machine in the weight room at the YMCA in Prescott.  I’m not sure of its proper name, but it’s something like the Dip Machine.  You stand on this platform, and you can lower yourself down and then push yourself back up; you can also do pull-ups on it.  One day, feeling ambitious at the end of my regular workout, I did a few dips.  I couldn’t do very many.  It was really hard.

I got in the car.  About halfway home, I suddenly began to feel very uncomfortable.  I think I said something repeatedly, along the lines of, “Oh, God, ohGodohGodohGod.”  I had the most unwelcome simultaneous thoughts that, one, I really needed a bathroom and two, I wasn’t going to make it. Yes, apparently on the Dip Machine I had pushed hard enough to activate the entire contents of my colon.  The motto of the University of Arizona Wildcats football team is, “Bear Down.”  They should reconsider this.  Bearing down doesn’t always produce a harmonious outcome.

My life didn’t flash before my eyes, but I did acutely remember an unfortunate moment from fifth grade.  We had an “open concept” school building, with classes separated by portable dividers all facing a central open space.  Now, this open concept – so desirable on every single HGTV show – offers zero privacy. The restroom doors were on view from every classroom.  In this particular flashback, I was running for my life, trying hard not to throw up.  All I could see was the big, dark gray, metal wastebasket propping open the girls’ bathroom door.  I didn’t even think about making it inside the actual bathroom; all of my concentration, my focus, my life force – my chi, perhaps, maybe my chakras – zeroed in on that metal wastebasket.  I telescoped.  I was in a Hitchcock movie, maybe “Vertigo,” running down a long hall that kept getting longer; at the end, glowing like the Holy Grail, was this trashcan.  I achieved my goal, puked my guts out, and only afterward realized, to my horror, that everyone in our whole side of the school had seen me do it.  The shame!

Flash forward to that white-knuckle trip home from the YMCA: I’m simultaneously pressing the accelerator in my car and the brakes in my lower digestive system, doing every possible Kegel exercise I could remember from after childbirth.  I telescoped: this time, it wasn’t a glowing wastebasket, but a blindingly alabaster, porcelain toilet at the end of that long, dark hall; maybe angels were singing “Hallelujah” above its radiance.  Thank God, I made it, and thereby spared the possibly leather interior of my Honda Pilot from enduring a supreme violation.  All was well.

But here’s the thing:  actually, if the worst had happened, all would have been well, too, eventually. Crises like this are bumps in the road, and I’m of the opinion that obstacles and bumps are supposed to come along every now and then.  (Note: I’m not talking about serious illness here, or trying to trivialize human suffering in any way. Those are completely different subjects from the speed bumps mentioned above.)   

bad hair dayThe human body is the great leveler.  I’m writing about this now because as our country seems so polarized, maybe we should all take a minute to remember that we’re all in the same boat.  Well, the same basic frame. 

We’ve all stubbed our toe, dinged our knee, and had bad hair days (or years).  Who hasn’t desperately needed a Kleenex when there wasn’t one and just had to sniff mightily?  Who hasn’t checked the mirror and noticed a fragment of spinach or broccoli right there on a front tooth, and wondered two things: how long THAT has been there, and why didn’t anybody tell you?   

The human body keeps us humble.  Sure, some of us are better preserved than others, some of us have let ourselves go more than others, some of us have paid for some upgrades, and some of us can afford really high maintenance.  For example: Today’s news featured the hard-hitting story that Leonardo DiCaprio flew an Australian “eyebrow-artist to the stars” to Los Angeles right before the Oscars.  This artist’s services, according to her website, include: “… any tints, stains, or lightening required in conjunction with your full expert shaping.  Included is an eyelash tint as well as a glycolic infused collagen eye treatment plus a full heated paraffin hand treatment followed by a light eye makeup application.”

looking goodNo wonder these people look good!  And far be it from me to judge anyone for anything he or she does to enhance his or her appearance; you do you, I say.  At the same time, this shows how dumb it is to measure ourselves by how models or movie stars look.  It’s not real, people!   Even if it’s not airbrushed, it’s tinted and shaped!

Inside, they’re just as messed up as everybody else, maybe even more so.  Because, again:  deep down, we’re all the same.  I’m pretty sure we were designed to be that way, so that when we hear about someone experiencing a migraine, or indigestion, or hemorrhoids, or a broken hip, or something a lot worse – a heart attack, cancer, or pneumonia – we can empathize and maybe even reach out to that person.  Maybe we’ve been there, too.

Whatever our differences are, we’re all stuck in the same fragile, time-stamped, unpredictable, basic model of a human body.

Which brings us to Proverbs.  The same day I read the eyebrow artist story, I read Proverbs for the day; it was the 27th, so I read Chapter 27, and two verses caught my eye.  The first: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”  The second:  “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?”

Those spoke to me for some reason, and I think it’s just to remind me not to get caught up in the sound and fury of noise, politics, and drummed-up agitation because really, it doesn’t matter a bit in the long run.  We need more flock-tending and more compassion for each other.

Also, avoid the Dip Machine, I’m just saying.

©Janet Farrar Worthington

Thank God for funny people.  I’m blessed with them:  friends and family who make me laugh, and whom I love to make laugh.  Laughter is what keeps us sane, I think.  Furthermore, I think we were made that way:  God has a sense of humor.  Just look at the platypus!

Humor is the vitamin that gets me through the day.  For example:

My friend, Karen, posted on Facebook that her son was holding a glass up to the icemaker on the door of the freezer.  Cube, cube, cube – and then a lone chicken nugget!  It must have fallen out of the open bag and into the ice bin, and then… freedom!     

My younger son, Josh, has an iPad.  You know how you can scan your fingerprint for a security code?  He scanned his big toe!

Josh loves Siri.  He loves making nonsense statements, and then getting her to read them back.  I heard him saying a bunch of random syllables, and then when she assigned words to them, he loved one particular phrase she came up with.  He loved it so much that, a couple days later, I heard him say, “Siri, what’s my name?”  “Your name is Josh,” she said in her quasi-robotic voice, “but I can call you Chunk God.” 

My son, Chunk God.

My older son, Andy, was at the dentist’s, and I was sitting in the waiting room.  He texted me from the chair:  “There’s a woman in the chair next to me who really needs to undershare.”

“Oh, no!” I texted back. 

“Talking about her laser hair removal, and how she’s not used to her husband coming into the bathroom and dropping a bomb while she’s in there getting dressed.”

Well, that would put a damper on my day, as well, so I couldn’t really think of anything to say.  Apparently, she kept right on talking, because Andy he sent another text that sounded so resigned, I just cracked up.

“This is my life now.”

Sometimes, moments of grace happen when something might not be that great, but you can find a little bit of the absurd.Cloud

I try to take pictures, too:  Here’s one of a cloud.  Mark and I were driving, and I said, “That cloud looks like it’s flipping us off.”  Mark looked at it and said, “Yeah, it really does!”  We thought it was funny, and he slowed down so I could get the picture. 

Here’s another picture, of our dog, Molly, actively sulking.  My daughter, Blair, does hilarious impressions of the dogs, and she can do a great one of Molly being dramatic.  We have three dogs on three different foods with three sets of dietary issues.  Molly felt ripped off and basically said, “Oh hell, no!” when presented with her food.  I posted the picture on Facebook, and a friend said, “Are you Molly the dogsure she’s not sick?”  I said, “Completely, since right after I took that picture and left the room briefly, she ate Stanley’s entire bowl of food.”  So much attitude, so little time… we could get mad, or laugh, and I’d rather laugh because I think it’s pretty funny.

Last week was a long week.  I had a lot of work to do, and worked right up until suppertime.  My husband, Mark, came home, finally done after being on call for several days at the hospital.  I looked at him and said, “Where’s the wine?”

From across the kitchen, Josh piped up, “A memoir.”

© Janet Farrar Worthington

It makes perfect sense that May 4 is a big calendar day for Star Wars fans.  Except, “May the Fourth be with you” sounds like it should be from the movie, “Thtar Warth,” with Printheth Leia and Luke Thkywalker.

And of course, that makes me think of the priest performing the wedding in another favorite movie, “The Princess Bride,” who spoke the immortal line, “Mawwiage…” Tho Fantathtic!

But seriously, folks, I love Star Wars.   I’ve loved it since 1977, when my dad took my brother and me to see the first one (called Episode 4 – we didn’t understand) the way it should be seen, in the movie theater.  I had never experienced anything like it, and even my dad, not a huge Sci Fi fan, cheered when R2D2 was okay at the end after getting blasted.  I remember cranking up the AM radio in the car when either the main theme by John Williams, or the Mos Eisley Cantina song came on.  (Anybody remember a couple years earlier, when the “Jaws” theme was so big, they played that on the radio, too?)

300_200_storm_trooper_death_starIt took forever for “The Empire Strikes Back” to be released, and yes, I should have seen it coming, but as a teenager I was stunned when Darth Vader turned out to be Luke’s father.  And Leia his sister!  I loved Han and Chewie.  I instantly recognized that Yoda was played by Miss Piggy, but I didn’t care.   “Return of the Jedi,” like “Return of the King,” in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is probably my favorite, but that may well be because of the moon of Endor and the Ewoks.  And the mystical Muir Woods (in beauty, not unlike Tolkien’s Lothlórien) was the moon!

Later on, when our original videotapes got worn out and we got DVDs, we saw that George Lucas had added some scenes to flesh out the original movies.  That was mostly okay, although I didn’t like to see that one of the three Jedi ghosts at the end, Anakin – in his pasty, bald, scarred glory – had been replaced by the ghost of Hayden Christensen.   That’s probably because I didn’t like episodes 1, 2, and 3 nearly as well.  Although I liked Ewan McGregor and of course, anything with Christopher Lee playing a bad guy like the evil Count Dooku is delightful (another LOTR tie-in, of course, is that he was Saruman, so that just adds to the gloriousness of it all).   With my sons, I have watched the entire cartoon series, “The Clone Wars.”  (Those voice-over actors were better than almost all of the actual actors in the episodes 1-3, in my opinion.)

So we’ve combined Star Wars with the Princess Bride, Jaws, Lord of the Rings, and the Muppet Show. 

I have also found that, with a little determination, you can take just about any Dad joke – I call them Mom jokes, but no one else apparently does – and make it work for Star Wars.  For example:

Why is Yoda such a good gardener?  Because he’s got a green thumb.

Wow, Jabba the Hut is fat.  How fat is he?  Obi Wan looked at him and said, “That’s no moon.”  Rim shot!

How do you get down from a Tauntaun?  You don’t – you get down from a duck!

Why doesn’t Yoda pay his bills on time?  He’s always a little short.

An Ewok walks into a bar.  “I’ll have a gin and …. tonic.”  The bartender says, “Okay, but why the little pause?”  The Ewok says, “I don’t know.  I’ve always had them!”

The Star Wars opening credits walk into a bar.  The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve your type here.”

A Clone trooper walks into a bar.  “Hey, mate, have you seen my brother?”

The bartender says, “I don’t know, what’s he look like?”   darth vader clonesThis is funny, because they all look exactly alike…because they’re CLONES! Who can tell them apart?  Only their mother knows for … never mind. 

And finally:  Luke, Leia, and Han go to a Chinese restaurant.   Han and Leia are almost done, but Luke has eaten only a few grains of rice.  Finally, the ghost of Obi Wan appears and whispers, “Luke!  Use the fork!”

For one last bit of cultural fusion, I’d like to add the United Methodist Church to the celebration:

May the Fourth be with you. “And also with you.”

My son, Andy, just read this and had one more thing to add:  What thinks the unthinkable?  An itheburg!

I am on Day 4 of a virus that features a low-grade fever and horrible, wracking, prolonged cough.  My husband has it, too.  In fact, he’s had it for two days longer than I have, and he still feels awful. 

Maybe it’s the fever, but this morning I woke up and imagined I was in an old Warner Brothers movie.  Not a real stretch for me; I’ve watched so many of them over the years.  Black and white, of course.  Starring Warner Oland or Peter Lorre and some people with either real or fake British accents.  Aristocracy in the middle of the jungle, or on the Escarpment (I don’t actually know what that is, but I watched a lot of Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies as a kid, and the Escarpment was where the Great White Ape lived), or on the desert in Egypt. 

The group varies, but usually includes an archeologist; some aristocratic guys of prime marriageable age; a silly, foppish sort of guy with a name like Cedric who provides comic relief; a formidable, very rich older lady played by Margaret Dumont or someone of similar presence; a beloved patriarchal figure played by someone like C. Aubrey Smith; and a secretary or companion whose family has fallen upon hard times so she has to earn her keep, but it’s okay because one of the rich dudes is falling in love with her and will soon rescue her from drudgery.  There is usually some hidden treasure.   

Margaret Dumont

Margaret Dumont and the Marx brothers

The ladies have that short, crimped 1930s hair, and they manage to stay nicely coiffed even though they’re living out of a tent; they probably heat a curling iron over the fire or something.  Everyone dresses for dinner – black or white tie, long gowns, pearls – from the many steamer trunks they brought, carried by natives.   Cigarettes are carried around in silver, monogrammed cases.  There is always a full bar’s worth of alcohol available.

“The bearers ran off when the drumbeats started.  Two days ago, we sent Neville out to look for them, and he hasn’t returned.  Nigel’s fever is worse, and the hideous drumbeats grow louder and louder.  I fear I’m going mad!  Mad, I tell you!”   

jungle filmingA menacing shadow appears outside the tent, made huge in the light cast by the small lantern.  The lady backs up in fear, and bites her knuckle.  A knife flashes.  The lantern is extinguished.

Three weeks later:  “We have begun to eat our dead.” 

Okay, I made that part up.  But still, I’m hearing the drumbeats. 

A fever that drags on.  It’s not much of one – 99.6, 99.8, 99.9, 99.4, etc. – but I’ve written enough medical stuff over the years to know that it often starts with a virus, that somehow compromises the immune system, or over activates it, and then there you go.  That’s how the illness starts.   A horrible cough.  Seriously, my ribs hurt.  It’s so bad, I have to prop myself up on something during a coughing fit.   It’s gross.  I’m a pariah.  Run away from the leper.  Save yourself!

I admit it, I don’t handle being sick very well; you may have guessed this.  I’m a terrible patient.  I have realized, though, that most of the time I don’t feel this way.  Most of the time, in fact, I feel pretty good, so I’m really grateful for that. 

But for the last few days, all I have felt like doing was binge-watch “House Hunters,” on HGTV and Netflix.   I want to look away but I can’t.

On “Tiny House Hunters,” for instance, one lady said, “Is that the bathroom?  It’s tiny!”  And from my spot on the couch, I croaked, “Duh!” 

Other gems from the regular “House Hunters” show: 

“I wanted granite countertops with stainless steel appliances.”  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that on this show…

“This fits all our parameters!”  Who says that? 

“I’m disappointed that there’s no carpet, just the hardwood floors.”  For the record, I have never, ever felt that way in my entire life. 

“I’m more into aesthetics (a woman says condescendingly to her husband) than you.”  I hate it when people put down their spouses to make themselves sound superior.  Hint to these people: You sound like a jerk.  Also, your sense of style is really pedestrian.

house hunters

Or, on “International House Hunters:” 

“It’s a little small.” 

“Can we get a king-sized bed in here?” 

“This refrigerator is half-sized!” 

“There’s no storage.”  Come on, people, you’re in Europe, or Indonesia, or Africa.  If you really wanted the “en-suite master bath” on your student visa budget you should have stayed home.   Also, you wouldn’t need so much storage if you didn’t have so much crap.

The drumbeats are getting louder.  I’m surrounded by morons.  I’m going mad.  Mad, I tell you!