Monday, November 1, 2010

Don, The Ungrateful Jesus

It was a Halloween party where everyone was dressed in all kinds of exotic costumes. There were scarecrows, ghosts, witches, political figures, men dressed as women, and one guy dressed as Jesus. His name was Don. Don had white sheets draped over his body to make it look like the flowing tattered rags Jesus might have worn during his heyday. The whole outfit was complimented by Don's already scraggly beard, a pair of leather sandals, and his hairy legs poking out from under the sheets. Don is no woodworker, but for dramatic effect, he carried a crudely made six-foot tall wooden cross in one hand.

My costume was simple: a tea bag. This had nothing to do with the bee-headed political fringe group; it was a home-made costume comprised of thin white interfacing material filled with dried leaves to simulate tea. It's worn like a sandwich board. And I attached a stop-sign-looking piece of cardboard with the word "LIPTOP" printed on it. I could have used the word "Lipton," but wanted to avoid any copyright infringement litigation from the corporate bigwigs at the Lipton Tea Company.

The party was held in one of those hipster lofts where the owner is knowledgeable of trends that few of us know are even trends. I was glad it was a costume party, as I'm sure whatever else I decided to wear would not be considered even remotely current. This was pointed out by a woman sporting wooden clothespins clipped to her hair. She casually remarked how her father had some jeans just like the ones I was wearing under my tea bag. Then she said the clothespins were not part of her costume, but rather her everyday hairstyle. I resisted telling her that my long-departed grandmother used the very same clothespins to hang out her underwear in the backyard. Instead, in a desperate attempt to appear contemporary, I inquired about the possibility of a Bananarama reunion tour.

The loft was decorated with black and orange crepe paper and candles. Candles like you wouldn't believe; candles all over the place. The shadows bounced off the walls and gave the place a genuine creepy feel, just right for Halloween. Those hipsters know how to decorate. There was a long buffet table with a variety of foods, some of which were unfamiliar, so I played it safe with potato chips and the recognizable dips. I stayed around the buffet table, casually moving in for an occasional swipe of dip. This was a technique I adopted years ago, to appear busy when, really, no one was finding me particularly fascinating.

Don was also hanging around the buffet table, trying to nonchalantly emulate my dipping technique. But instead of making a graceful pass at the table, he chose to hover, creating a general nuisance for anyone else attempting to access the food. At one point, he hovered a little too close to one of those squatty candles on the table, and his sheets caught on fire. A woman screamed, "Jesus is on fire!" And people began stumbling over each other in an attempt to get away from the table.

I'm probably the last one people would run to in case of an emergency, but I make an effort to live by the "What Would Andy Do" code (Andy Griffith from Mayberry. Whenever there's a decision or crisis, Andy is my moral compass). The hipsters scattered, and there was Don, stunned like a statue; flames creeping up the front of his costume. I threw a glass of red wine at Don's navel, but it didn't put the fire out, so I grabbed him, hugged him tightly and we both fell to the floor. His cross went flying across the room and there I was, a tea bag, flopping around on top of Jesus, smothering the flames. If a headline was written about it, it would have read "Tea Bag Saves Jesus."

The fire was extinguished, and someone helped Don to his feet. Aside from a singed beard, he was not hurt. The sheets covering his chest and the front of my tea bag had big holes burned in them. Soon, the party resumed its cadence and Don wore his burnt sheets like some sort of badge. He became the center of attention and, using dramatic gestures, went on to explain to anyone who asked, his version of the incident. There were jokes made about the red wine stain and the miracle of his rising from the ashes. He went from table-hoverer to party-butterfly in a matter of minutes.

Don was too busy with his new-found celebrity to notice, but I maintained my place in the shadows, making only an occasional graceful swipe at the dip. I couldn't help but think that the real Jesus would have taken a moment out from his grandstanding to say, "Thank you, Tea Bag, for saving me from a burning hell." I know Andy would have at least mentioned it.