Joyride for Sale
I hope you are in a mood to buy, because today I am selling. I do not have brushes, a time-share, or a bridge, just the notion that joy is the shiny vehicle that carries us through life.
Now, before I make my pitch, let me begin with a disclaimer. I have had failures and disappointments, small and large, including the loss of parents, a brother, and a marriage, and I have outlived a son. I am ultimately shaped not only by what I have gained but by what and whom I have lost. If I am not the better for it, at least I have a stronger appreciation for life and the importance of finding joy in the journey. I know you, too, have had your ups and downs, and I’m probably preaching to the choir.
This week, I was clicking through the channels and paused to watch a five-second news teaser of a young boy, maybe three, with a brand-new cochlear implant, hearing his father’s voice for the first time. He rose from his seat, his eyes searched for the source of the vibration, and, making the connection, joy and amazement filled him. I didn’t need to wait for the story because his beaming face already told it. It was a moment his family and doctors will not forget, and it gave me a smile and a drop in the ocean of joy that floats my boat.
“Field and forest, vale and mountain, blooming meadow, flashing sea, chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in Thee.” This stanza is from a hymn set to the music of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” and it says in a few words everything I am trying to sell you today.
There is joy in the sunrise of a new day, and even if it turns into one of sorrow and loss, it always ends with the promise of a new tomorrow. A soldier on the battlefield or a child in a bomb shelter, isolated from all we find wonderful, will find joy in these things, if nothing else.
Joy is a Viennese waltz, Glenn Miller’s “A String of Pearls,” a Beatles composition, or Johnny Cash on the “Orange Blossom Special.” Today, I heard the tight harmony of the Manhattan Transfer grooving on a Sunday afternoon, and it made my day.
There is joy in that harbinger of spring, the first dandelion, joy in knowing it’s not mine to battle, and a reminder to me of the joy of living where I do. There is joy in good news. My friend and neighbor, who is my Saturday shopping companion, called to tell me she went swimming this morning. Her excitement was contagious and another drop in my own ocean of joy. She is going again tomorrow.
I remember the joys of childhood and the sizzling aroma of bacon wafting from the kitchen to charm my brothers and me from our bunks like snakes from a basket. I remember summer afternoons perched on a cottonwood branch, quite satisfied with my modest climbing achievement, while my little brother scrambled higher and higher above me, hooting like a monkey. I admit to joy in knowing the stupid kid would never get down, but he always did, and I found some joy in that, too.
If you are buying, I will make you a deal you can’t pass up. If you just take this beauty out for a joyride, you never need to bring her back. A little smile is all I am asking.
My Career as a Male Belly Dancer
Judy and I had been classmates since the third grade. We were seniors at Laramie High, and our class of ’61 was putting on an all-school assembly. There would be solos and small ensembles of brave kids in band and choir, tap dancers, a silly skit or two, and a few rock-and-roll songs by the Imperials, our local garage band. It was nothing special, just a nice way to enjoy being seniors and have some fun.
Judy was doing the “Honey Bun” piece from the popular Broadway musical and motion picture South Pacific. I had seen the movie, laughing at the production number with Mitzi Gaynor in a sailor suit and Ray Walston as Honey Bun in a flowered skirt and bikini top. I asked Judy the day before the show to let me join her act. She didn’t turn me down, but she probably wished she had.
It was a grand opportunity to display my unique and only performance talent. I could roll my stomach in a contraction and expansion of belly muscle that began at the sternum and proceeded in rolling waves to and from my waist. Nobody outside my family had ever seen me do this, and I was excited and not even a bit embarrassed to bring it to the public. Ray Walston could do it, too, but I was better.
I visited Woolworths and a grocery store to buy some colorful cotton yardage to pin around my waist, some cotton cord, and a nice, round coconut. With materials in hand, limited knowledge of coconuts, and absolutely no experience with brassieres, I proceeded.
Using some of Dad’s tools, I cut the coconut in half, drilled the necessary holes, and assembled my new top. Trying it on, I discovered one weighty engineering problem. While I am sure the Maidenform people deal with all types of gravitational issues, I solved mine by eating the coconut, or enough of it that I had a light and balanced load hanging around my neck.
Felt-tip markers were a new product in the early sixties, and I found some colorful ones to tattoo my belly with a fine, steaming tugboat to ride the waves. I borrowed some of Mom’s rouge to do my cheeks (the ones on my face).
All this I accomplished the night before the big show, leaving no opportunity for Judy and me to rehearse the number together. I had not even told her about my costume, and she had no inkling until I came in from the wing to meet her at the introduction of our act. I could see her taken aback, but let me tell you, Judy was a trouper. She danced and sang every note and word of “Honey Bun,” and my belly kept the rhythm. I turned my butt to the audience when Judy arrived at the line, “I call her hips ‘Twirly’ and Whirly,’” and each cheek performed on cue. We were magnificent, and so was Judy.
At our class reunion fifty years later, I briefly reminded Judy of our triumph. I am sure she had not thought about it for the six hundred months that had intervened, but she remembered and laughed, and that was the extent of our reminiscence. Looking back, I think we were each satisfied with our own performances that day and content to go our separate ways.
That was also the end of my career as a male belly dancer. I tried once for a revival, but the tattoo had faded and spread over too much poundage. Chippendales would not even talk to me. I have no regrets, but if I were to do it over again, next time I would buy a bigger coconut.