It was like my childhood hero turned up on my front porch.
I stared at his name in my in-box while my brain did spastic flip-flops between 1978, when I listened to Barry constantly on a small black cassette player in my tiny yellow bedroom, and now, when I play Naughty Songs For Boys and Girls on the Ipod in my kitchen for my girls while I make breakfast.
But Barry turns out to be a real person living in Maryland who actually takes the time to email me because I posted the lyrics to his song?
I was grinning like a fool.
I ran outside to tell my husband, who was raised Catholic in the 60s in a small rural town by a mother and father who were well into adulthood when he was born. He grew up watching Lawrence Welk and listening to big band and had never heard of Barry until we had kids. But even he thought this was extremely cool.
I emailed Barry back and said, “Is that really you?”
Those of you who had a deprived childhood may not know Barry’s songs and stories. But there’s a good chance you heard him sing “All I Want is You” in the opening credits of the hit film Juno. You know, when she’s walking around with a big jug of Sunny D? That song was actually recorded on his second album in 1977.
Polisar has been making smart, witty, deep, funny, silly music for kids for over three decades. Kids like me, who grew up listening to “Never Cook Your Sister in a Frying Pan” and “My Brother Threw Up on My Stuffed Toy Bunny.”
And only ended up only the most deliciously sort of warped because of it.
After he was censored, Barry started putting stickers on his albums that read “Warning: the songs on this recording may be offensive to some people. Children are advised to use discretion in exposing adults to this material. Exposure may result in a sense of humor.”
My pal Barry wants everyone to know that some of the rebellious children he used to entertain recently banded together and released a 2-CD, 60-song tribute album of his songs called We’re Not Kidding! A Tribute to Barry Louis Polisar. Hear free samples at http://www.barrylou.com/.
Barry Louis Polisar emailed me! Made my whole stinkin’ day.
She walked right out the door,
Packed her tooth brush and pajamas
Said, “I can’t take any more.”
She said that she was tired,
She said she had her fill
Of cooking our meals, washing our clothes
And cleaning up all our spills.
She said she’d write us letters
With no return address,
She said she’d come back someday
But now she has to rest.
She took the plants, she took the cats,
Took our pictures from the wall,
And though it’s just been two hours ago,
I wish that she would call.
Isn’t that the way?
You don’t know how much Mom means to you,
Until she runs away.
A couple of weeks ago while I was tutoring at the college, my blood sugar crashed. I emptied my wallet of quarters and headed for the vending machine, wondering if I would find any sugar-free, protein-laden options.
Yay—Smokehouse almonds. $1.25. I plunked my five quarters in and watched the little metal corkscrew arm make its slow rotation…and then stop. My almonds dangled there, caught on their own packaging. Then, strangely, a nickel dropped into the coin return.
I gazed at it in my palm for a moment, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do with it. Was five cents the returnable deposit on my risk? And how was it that I hadn’t realized that I was taking a risk in the first place?
Stubbornly, I went back to my bag and got more coins. I didn’t really want to pay $2.50 for almonds, but if I don’t eat, it’s possible that I’ll suddenly begin to stab my students with their own writing utensils. In went another $1.25 in quarters. This time, the twisty arm rotated, making its low whir, and two bags of almonds dropped to the bin.
Out of curiosity, I pressed the “coin return” button, and received two dimes and a nickel.
I scooped up my loot and headed back to my post, unable to shake the feeling that the whole experience was metaphorical somehow. Sometimes the world withholds your almonds. You do what you’ve been asked to do and get jack in return. Sometimes you get unexplained gifts that you’re not sure even you understand. Other times you get everything you’ve asked for and much more. And sometimes, you just get caught on your own packaging.
Vending machine as karma.
This week, the almonds are good and stuck. But I am waiting for the coins. I know they’re coming, sooner or later.
This quarter’s True North Magazine features an essay of mine: Roots and Flowers: Loss, Grief, and Growth
B) Your Monday-morning brain isn’t working yet, and a new but totally manageable task is just what you need to kick it into gear.
C) You hate your job and/or boss and want to spend as much time as humanly possible not actually working.
D) You are drunk-Facebooking (some Mondays are like that).
E) You like helping strangers.
F) Your cat or three-year-old accidentally click on all the right places in sequence.
G) The voices in your head tell you to.
H) You really think my entry is the best (hmm, concept).
log in with your facebook login (so easy!)
click the big green box that says SAVE
Takes 30 seconds. Budda bing badda ding! I win fabulous prizes and/or a writing contract. It could happen.