Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1st-Brought To You By the Letter 'A'

Altared States

    Being an altar boy had its perks.
    For instance, as macabre as it sounds, we always jumped at the chance to serve at funerals.  Not only did they give us a chance to bug out of school, those dreadfully sad affairs were full of grieving families who felt it necessary to tip us once their dearly departed had dearly departed.  Right out the front door.
    Then, as soon as the funeral procession pulled solemnly away from the curb, we’d doff our robes and dash across the street to Martin’s Variety to spend our fifty cents.  It was only when we were finally tossed out for browsing through the comic books (“Hey, ain’tchoo kids s’posed ta be in school?”) did we reluctantly head back for another rousing lesson of St. Anthony and the Metric System from Sister Caligula.
    Weddings were another kettle of fish altogether.  We never liked getting tagged to serve them.  Not only were they on Saturday mornings-and no schoolkid ever likes giving up a Saturday to go to church-tips were about as scarce as laughs at Al Gore Night at the Improv.  Sheesh, in a church full of deliriously happy people, you'd think there’d be at least someone only too happy to toss us a couple of bucks for the effort.
    Then again, when you’re forking over thousands of dollars for cold chicken or unknown fishmeat entrees, Ezekiel the Amish DJ, and two hundred lace almond and peppermint baggies at the Moose Lodge, you try to cut corners somewhere.  So, in that respect, I guess it makes sense to stiff the clergy and friends.  Hey, we're only talking your immortal soul, after all.
    Holy Week, though, was another chance to blow off class.
    Divided into pairs, we were assigned two hour blocks to remain on the altar in front of a hushed church.  Never a non-stop gabfest, it was even less so in the middle of the week when it only contained a couple of ancient Slovak ladies, Fat Ann the Crazy Cat Lady who, gratefully, sat in the last pew, and Frank DeLuca (aka “Frank the Drunk”) who used Saint Stanislaus to take a nap before the Windmill Tavern opened at noon.    
    Alternating between sitting and kneeling, we were to maintain this vigil throughout the days leading to Easter, ostensibly to prevent desecration of the open tabernacle.  We weren’t permitted to speak with each other or anyone else.  The only things we could do were read the Bible and pray.
    It didn’t take us long, though, to figure out we could stick Mad magazines behind our Bibles.  As long as we didn’t laugh, nobody would ever know that we were actually reading the Gospel According to Alfred E. Newman rather than the Sermon on the Mount. 
    If we spotted Father Karl coming in, we’d quickly close the books and drop to our knees.  Then, when the unsuspecting prelate finished his own prayers and retreated to the sanctuary, we’d return to Spy vs. Spy.
    It was a pretty cool deal until Freddy Dubyk fell asleep one afternoon.  It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if the gap-toothed doofus had just sat there, peacefully zonked out, because most folks would have figured he was lost in prayer.
    But, then his head flopped back and he started snoring.  Just before his chair toppled over, dumping him and his Famous Monsters of Filmland onto the floor in front of Sister Joseph Ignatius and the sixth grade class.
    Like I said.  Doofus.
    Needless to say, that was our last unsupervised vigil.  From that day on, a third kneeler was set in place for Father Karl just so he could keep an eye on us.
    And keep us awake.
    But the best part of being an altar boy was our trip each summer to Playland Amusement Park in New York.

To be continued on April 16th...

REMINDER: Prince William is getting married in only FOUR SHORT WEEKS!! So, avoid the rush. Get out there to get the bonny prince and his blushing fiance (or is that fiancee?  I can never get that straight) a gift for their nuptials (NOTE: NOT a naughty word).  I just hope they're registered at Walmart.  I hear they like bamboo skewers and anything with Elvis' picture on it (of course, a "Dogs Playing Poker" tapestry will do in a pinch)


  1. Recently my husband brought home a copy of a Mad Magazine. Sadly it had changed or I have changed. Someone had changed by golly!

    Never been an alter boy but thanks for the royal wedding reminder.

  2. Great post. Almost makes me wish I was Catholic. Almost.

    And what do you get someone like that for their wedding? Oh here is some video of what a Walmart looks like inside because we all know your ass will never go inside of one.

  3. looks like you made something interesting out of serious work...Visiting from Robyn's blog.

  4. You are officially my favorite former alter boy. I'm Jewish, so - in a weird way - that says a lot. You never disappoint. Great start to the A-Z thing.

  5. I've seen A to Z done before, but never like this. Kudos!

  6. Never read Mad magazine, but I did watch Mad TV. Probably not the same thing though. Looking forward to "B".

  7. Thanks, all!
    @lifeshighway: I know what you mean. Mad isn't nearly as funny as it once was. Either that or I've become ultra-sophisticated. Yeah, it's that. Sure.
    @Oilfield: The best part of GUC (Growing Up Catholic) is that it has given me TONS of material!
    @Rekha: Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy the rest of the posts.
    @Robyn: Thanks! I was married for four years to a Jewish girl until she wised up and divorced me (by the way, you'll get to find out my pet name for her on April 4th). Then, I married a Presbyterian girl in 1986. I still marvel at her poor taste in men.
    @Eva: I hope the rest of the alphabet tickles your funny bone as well.

  8. @Leslie: No contest between the magazine and Mad TV. Look up the alternate ending for Mad TV's The Wizard of Oz on You Tube. It is hysterical!

  9. My big brother used to subscribe to Mad. My favourite artist was Don something or other. He had a really weird style. I can't remember his last name. This is going to bug me all night.

  10. Don Knotts. And he used to write "The Lighter Side of..." He was one of my favorite cartoonists of Mad.
    How sad am I that I even know that?

  11. Good start at A, but by M I'm tired. Dictionary wise I mean.
    Thought you should know that I accidentally ended up on someone else's blog and it was pink. Relieved that it wasn't yours.

  12. @Antares: well, thank goodness for that. Although, I'm okay with pink. I even had a pink shirt during my "Miami Vice" days.
    @Sherilin: thank you! 25 to go (I think).

  13. Mad magazine was one of my main literary go to's in the 60s. Great stuff.

    Contrary to my usual practice of subscribing to comments, to save time during challenge I will not be doing so during April. If you want to respond to my comment , please email me directly from your email notification for the comment.

    Tossing It Out
    Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge