THIS IS NOT THE YEAR: A 2020 Advent song for people with good taste

As I walked out one evening
In the dark December air,
I saw my neighbors hanging lights
On trees and everywhere.
My first thought was to chide them
Because Advent’s barely here
But a passing angel thwapped my head
And whispered in my ear…

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly

‘Tain’t very sanitary: Some songs I know by heart for no reason at all

People have been passing around an article about how some people don’t have a constant interior monologue going in their heads. You can count me as part of that group. That don’t, I mean. There are definitely words sprinkled in here and there, but unless I’m writing in my head, or praying, or thinking about a conversation, it’s mostly it’s sensations, patterns, images, and image-blobs, and I have to deliberately turn them into words. 

ANYWAY, there is one exception, and that’s miles and miles and miles of stupid song lyrics I have memorized and can call to mind at a moment’s notice. I may not know how many children I have, what their names are, or where I was supposed to pick them up half an hour agao, but if you ask, I can instantly tell you:

Then all Palyatchee finds the guy he’s seekin’
Cheek-to-cheekin’ with his wife,
He grabs a knife
And stabs the louse
Who stole his spouse
And then he stabs the lady and himself.
‘Tain’t very

Useful! Steve Greydanus asked about this on social media the other day: You are in a random group of 10 people taken prisoner by gunmen. At gunpoint, you must pick a song NO ONE IN THE GROUP BUT YOU can sing with no mistakes. Succeed and you go free. What do you sing?

Well, let’s start with “Pal-yat-chee” by Spike Jones

Full lyrics:

When we wuz in the city, we wuz a-wond’rin’ where to go.
A sign spelled out PAL-YAT-CHEE up in lights above a show.
We thought ‘twould be a Western till the stage lit up with lights,
An’ ninety seven people sung without a horse in sight.
We couldn’t understand ’em ’cause they spoke a furrin tongue,
But we can give you some i-dee of what we thank they sung:

Ridi, Pagliaccio, Sul tuo amore’in fronto!

All at once there’s a fat guy in a clown suit.
Ain’t Haller-ween, that’s for shore.
Then this here feller, this Punchy Neller,
Begins to beller — Like we all was deef.
“Ha ha ha ha ha!”
That was PAL-YAT-CHEE an’ he sung:

Invest in a tuba an’ somthin’ or other ’bout Cuba,
He sung about a lady who weighed two hundred and eighty.
When she takes a powder, he just starts chirpin’ louder
And he don’t do a gol-durn thing ‘cept to stand up there an’ sing.

When we listen to PAL-YAT-CHEE, we get itchy an’ scratchy.
This shore is top corn, so we go and buy some popcorn.
We hate to go back, but we can’t git our dough back.
There ain’t no use complainin’, ’cause outside it’s a-rainin’. [ooga! ooga!]

Seven hours later, we’re still in the dern the-a-ter,
Takin’ turns at nappin’, a-waitin’ for sumpin’ to happen.
PAL-YAT-CHEE he ain’t hurryin’, but the folks on stage are flurryin’
And it sounds like Kat-chee-tur-ry-in’s Saber Dance.

Then ol’ PAL-YAT-CHEE finds the guy he’s seekin’
Cheek-to-cheekin’ with his wife, he grabs a knife
And stabs the louse who stole his spouse,
An’ then he stabs the lady and himself – tain’t very sanitary.
They all collapse, but ol’ PAL-YAT-CHEE sets up,
Then he gets up, sings “I’m dyin’,
I am dyin’, I am dyin’.” We start cryin’
‘Cause to tell the truth, we’re dyin’ too.

As the footlights fade out
we see PAL-YAT-CHEE laid out.
But the dagger never caused it.
was plumb

I could probably also come up with long sections from “Carmen,” including the very important passage that goes:

“Carmen, darling, please marry me.
Oh, be my little bumble bee.
You’re the honey that’ll sweeten our lives.”
“Instead of children we’ll both have hives.”
They’ll both have hives!
“I can not marry you, my Don,
‘Cause I’m in love with another one.
He fights the bull in the arena.”
“I could do that if I ate Farina”

“Oh, no, you couldn’t”
“Oh, yes, I could”
“Oh, no, you couldn’t”
“Oh, yes, I could”
“Oh, no, you couldn’t”
“Oh, yes, I could”
“Oh, no, you couldn’t”
“Oh, yes, I could.”

How about a change of pace? I have here right in my hippocampus the full lyrics for the anti-World War I song “Stay Down Here Where You Belong” by Irving Berlin

I chose the clip below because this song is so stupid, Irving Berlin was apparently horribly embarrassed at having written it, and Groucho used to follow him around at parties, singing it just to annoy him. AND IT IS A VERY STUPID SONG. Thank goodness I know it instead of my bank password. 

Down below, down below
Caught the devil talking to his son
Who wanted to go
Up above, up above.
He cried, “It’s getting too warm for me down here and so
I’m going way up where I can have a little fun,”
The Devil slowly smiled and then he answered his son:
“Stay down here where you belong
The folks above us don’t know right from wrong.
To please their kings, they’ve all gone off to war
And not one of them knows what they’re fighting for.
Way up above they say that I’m a devil and I’m bad.
Kings up there are bigger devils than your dad.
They’re breaking the hearts of mothers, making butchers out of brothers.
You’ll find more hell up there than there is down below.”

Apparently I was on an Irving Berlin kick at some especially malleable stage in my development, because I also have firmly memorized:

“I’m Down In Honolulu Looking Them Over.” This is one of those songs that always gets a grave warning from historical archivists about how it may include references now considered culturally insensitive. 

You know my Uncle Jeremiah,
Who disappeared a month ago;
We got a letter from Hawaii,
And I declare my uncle’s there.
The atmosphere set him on fire,
It simply went right to his head;
What do you think he wrote
In his little note?
This is what he said.

I’m down in Honolulu looking them over,
i’m down in Honolulu living in clover,
Try and guess the way they dress.
No matter what you think it is, it’s even less.
Their language
Is hard to understand because it’s so tricky,
I’ve got them teaching me to say “wicky wicky.”
I don’t know what it means
But it’s the best that ever was,
And if it means just what I think it does,
I’ll be in Honolulu looking over them for a long, long time.

Well, “In the Bath” by Flanders and Swann has the special charm of including cultural and historical references that I can’t be offended by because I don’t understand them all. But I still have them memorized. 

Oh, I find much simple pleasure when I’ve had a tiring day,
In the bath,
In the bath

Where the noise of gently sponging seems to blend with my top A,
In the bath,
In the bath

To the skirl of pipes vibrating in the boiler room below,
I sing a pot pourri of all the songs I used to know,
And the water thunders in and gurgles down the overflow,
In the bath,
In the bath

Then the loathing for my fellows rises steaming from my brain,
In the bath,
In the bath

And condenses to the milk of human kindness once again,
In the bath,
In the bath

Oh, the tingling of the scrubbing brush, the flannel’s soft caress,
To wield a lordly loofah is a joy I can’t express,
How truly it is spoken one is next to godliness,
In the bath,
In the bath

Then there comes that dreadful moment when the water’s running cold,
In the bath,
In the bath

When the soap is lost forever and you’re feeling tired and old,
In the bath,
In the bath

It’s time to pull the plug out,
Time to mop the bathroom floor.
The towel is in the cupboard,
And the cupboard is next door.
It’s started running hot, let’s have another hour or more,
In the bath,
In the bath

I can see the one salvation of the poor old human race,
In the bath,
In the bath

Let the nations of the world all meet together, face to face,
In the bath,
In the bath

With Verwoerd, and Kenyatta, and all those other chaps,
Nkrumah, Nabbaro, we’ll get some peace perhaps,
Provided Swann and Flanders get the end without the taps,
In the bath,
In the bath

My final entry is one I can’t explain at all. Here it is:

“Meine Mutter Schmiert die Butter”

Now your turn! What do you know perfectly by heart, that would probably baffle a random group of 25 people? There is absolutely nothing at stake here. I just want to talk about something that doesn’t matter for a while. 

Image via Wikimedia commons (Creative Commons)