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St. Artie's Day

Mar. 10, 2011
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I'm Art Kumbalek and man oh manischewitz what a world, ain'a? So here we go again, that I tell you's I seriously considered that the enjoyment of our weekly intercourse would be interrupted until after Easter on account of me giving up writing my usual essay for the Lenten season, boo-hoo.

But as you can see, the Lenten season climaxed prematurely for me—not realizing that giving up filling this page on account of religious practice also meant giving up getting paid my peon pittance for doing so on account of an old-school philosophy some employers have dragged into this newish millennium, something about "nothing for nothing." So I've fallen off the Lenten wagon already—big focking deal; it's not the first time, so please spare the pity. Thanks for nothing.

Jeez louise, I'm thinking my first fall coincided with my first tour of sixth-grade duty over at Our Lady in Pain that You Kids Are Going Straight to Hell But Not Soon Enough, when I was overcome with the inspirational idea to give up doing my goddamn homework for 40 days and 40 focking nights during Lent. Sure, I could've picked to put-on-hold something less meaningful, something trivial—TV, candy, fake farting at Mass—but the sisters were always telling us that the only one you truly hurt is yourself when you don't do your homework. Perfect! I was ready to renounce all the comforts that neat and completed classwork would grant a pupil. I was ready to suffer, but good.

Ready to suffer and embrace hardship, just like the saints we had to memorize who went around kissing lepers, conversed with birds and slept in the rain back in the olden days when living the life of a homeless guy did not advertise the full menu of stigmata you see on display today.

But my spiritual progress was swiftly halted by Sister Margaret Mary the Mauler, whose own Lenten vow—to curb her impulse toward the administration of hellzapoppin' corporal punishment—she broke on the third day of my abstinence from schoolwork. She made me see the light—except it was more like I saw the stars from the whack to the back of the noggin, for it was on that day I rose from my desk to give my assigned oral five-minute report (with note cards and visual aid) on what Christ's fasting in the wilderness meant to us, as if I had a focking clue.

In hindsight, I should've upfront told Sister I'd deep-sixed doing outside-class assignments for Lent and let the chips fall where they may. But I'm telling you, when you're under the thumb of an instructor who'd summer in the East Orient so's to pick up on the latest innovations in torture holds, you're not about to rock the boat with any surprise sudden move 'cause there's no telling when, where or if the carnage would stop.

So for the safety of myself and my classmates, I chose to off-the-top-of-my-head B.S. my way through the speechifying and cut my losses. I remember thinking it a good idea to start off with a little joke, if only to eat some clock. And since St. Patrick's Day was around the corner, I went with the old chestnut: How come the Irish have all the potatoes, and the Arabs all the oil? 'Cause the Irish had first pick. Ba-ding!

Either the riddle flew right over Sister's head or she was wondering in which drawer she'd stashed her shillelagh 'cause she let me continue. I recall that the gist of my impromptu thesis was that Christ's fast was no big feat given the context of the times: What was there for the common man to eat back then, anyways. Dates, figs, stale bread, a piece of fish once in a while? Bon appétit. And besides, from the pictures and movies I'd seen, Jesus didn't look like a big eater in the first place. But you take a big, fat guy like Mr. Magliaccio the school janitor. Now if he quit eating for 40 days, then you got something to write home about.

But to this day I'm grateful to Sister for whacking me a good one so that my self-sacrificial tendencies were nipped in the bud 'cause I think I would've made a lousy saint. Take a look at your St. Francis or your St. Augustine and you betcha, I could handle the early spread of their lives that covered the boozing and the bimbo mongering. But it's when they turned south and swung strictly from the poverty side of the plate that I would've been tossed out of their league, pronto.

Based on mine own bouts with poverty, I say it sucks the big one and sure as hell is not the kind of incentive I'd need to go out and put up the kind of numbers that would get my mug on a Holy Card, I kid you not.

And yet, if I were named a saint and got a day named after me, I'm sure it'd be quite the honor for my descendants to once a year drink beer all day long, act like a focking moron, and crack wise with focking A-material, such as: "How many Irish guys does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two, but how they got in there, I'll never know." In fact, some would probably ask why not make every day St. Artie's Day, ain'a? Well sir, you tell me 'cause I'm Art Kumbalek and I told you so.


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