Friday, December 23, 2011

EscalatorYule: Stave 5 - "X" Games, Flavored Nuts, and The Fabbest Christmas Yet

I gotta admit folks, I simply don't get how "Xmas" is taking the Christ out of Christmas. Sure, sure - there's an obvious grammatical difference - but if you actually believe that it's going to change the meaning of the holiday, then you might have other things to worry about.

Look, I'm not the most devout of the folks I know, I've always been of a more spiritual mindset than one felt bound by religious tactility. However, I love Christmas. Keep loving Christmas. Will always love Christmas. I know where it comes from, I know the story behind it, and always acknowledge from whence Christmas got its name. You can't not acknowledge that - no matter how commercial the holiday gets, even when it seems overrun by overnight sales and keeping up with the Joneses - all this flurry and fuss began because we remember the birthday of a man whom did great things and brought joy to many people worldwide. I'm not talking about Santa Claus here.

No matter what your belief in the Jesus story happens to be (and, as we've read "judge not, lest ye be...") - I don't think anyone can ignore where the traditions of the modern holiday originate. Over 2000 years, of course, every story gets mangled, manipulated, expanded, redacted and re-circulated - it becomes an evolving tale.

The use of the letter X in place of the name Christ has it's origins over ten centuries ago. In Greece, X is the symbol for "Chi" - the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. According to Wikipedia (because Encyclopedias, even online ones - are pretty good about knowing stuff):

"Around 1100 the term was written as "Xp̄es mæsse" in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle"

Also, a slightly different version, one of my favorites - "X'temmas" - is popularized around 1551.

All I'm saying is that faith, history, and guidance are not something that can be altered by an advertising sign or cardboard decoration. Everyone knows, even Santa, that of all the traditional celebrations that occur throughout so many different religions and cultures at this time of year - Christmas is the headline grabbing show-stopper. Do we really think that it's origins will be forgotten through an alternate spelling?

Many folks even tend to see the X itself as a symbol of the cross on which the story of Jesus life ends. Doesn't that seem like the perfect way to close a circle?

(And it should give you pause to think about that other group of rebels with supernatural powers - the X-Men...Merry Christmas, comic geek.)

I'm a fan of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker". I think a lot of people are; unless you are one of the unfortunate children whom had to be in the chorus of a play or ballet version of the show - in which case you spent a lot of time backstage being hot in your costume that would almost always get wrinkled by the time to got to have your 30 seconds in the light while dancing across stage during a costume change for Drosselmeyer or something, in which case I feel sympathy for your very soul.

Where was I? Oh yes. The Nutcracker. Man, did that Pyotr know how to write or what? For me, the strength of a song is not only how good the original sounds, but also how malleable the music tends to be. A great song can lend itself to all genres of music. The Nutcracker Suite is proof of this. Even though it was written at a time when there were very few genres to actually lend to.

Thank goodness, technology allows us to examine some of the differences and similarities that make music so cool. This piece has always been a holiday favorite of mine - and I always enjoy finding new versions of bits from Tchakovskys amazing musical. Here are a few:

I want to start with Duke Ellington, not only one of the coolest cats ever to record, but with a great "behind the scenes" promo clip for his record company -

But, you say you're more of a traditionalist? Well, how about a classical version, with visual accompaniment by Walt and Company-

Of course, I'm a fan of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's Christmas pieces (they have a few). I really dig their take on B. Bumble and The Stinger's "Nut Rocker" -

I also enjoy the Brian Setzer Orchestras take on the Les Brown arrangement. All the greatest hits of The Nutcracker rolled into one:

These sweet Nutcracker clips could go on and on, but I know you've got things to do - so here's just one more from the Duke-

That should fill your eyes and ears for the day. Ahhh, but this is the holidays - why not have a little extra? Herewith: we end this installment of EscalatorYule with a hefty dessert of Beatle Christmas Pudding - Bon Appetit!

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - North Pole A/V Squad
Professor Hinkle - Bad Magician
Burgermeister - Meisterburger

Thursday, December 22, 2011

EscalatorYule: Stave 4 - It Dickens Me To Say It...

"I will honour Christmas in my heart - and try to keep it all the year."

So said Ebeneezer Scrooge, in his posh and Britishly-spelled way. I like to think that I do as well, some years with more "honour" than others - most folks I know are the same way. I, however, also honor Christmas all the year on my clothing.

It gets hot in Florida - a man needs t-shirts. So what if one of mine has a bright carnivorous Santa Claus face chomping on a rack of ribs (And I'm wearing it in July)? If that image offends, I could change into my t-shirt with the picture of a sheep in a yuletide bow, exclaiming "Fleece Navidad!"

Christmas Neckties? Got 'em. Santa Hats? At least 3. Holiday Themed Shoes? Candy Cane Red Velvet-Striped Converse All-Stars Circa 2005.

You'll notice - no socks. I don't need any Christmassy socks with holiday greetings and pictures of presents on 'em. Although I do enjoy socks as a fashion accessory, mainly they are there just to keep my shoes from being too offended by my feet.

Christmas morning, I will be wearing socks (as well as my robe, a pair of flannel holiday boxer shorts, and most likely, one of the aforementioned Santa Hats) as I pop one of my favorite holiday movies into the player.

Most likely, it will be 'It's A Wonderful Life'. I love that movie. It's one of the only films that consistently makes me tear up in certain scenes. It's probably my favorite film of all time: despite the fact that - as one of the world's most famous "Christmas" movies - it's not really about the holiday itself - that's just when the film takes place. The storyline could just have easily been set, with few script changes, in the heat of Summer or in the week after Easter. The point of the film is given point blank, however - "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends"

These Holiday Seasons give us all a reason to find and spend more time with those friends that we love, time is allowed to stop for a while, to let us all re-group - and remind each other that we do, each and every one of us, truly have a wonderful life of our own.

As I said, it's hot in Florida - for all but a few days a year. Thus, we hardly ever get any snow. Yet, around the neighborhood. I've seen a few "snowpeople" mixed in with the holiday decorations. All with the same iconic face. If yer kids ever wonder how those came to be - maybe tell 'em this story:

Noel, The Snowman's Santa Claus (Copyright Fruitless Lust Songs 2005/Escalatorville Tunes 2011)

'Twas getting late on Christmas Eve, when we heard from the great North Pole-
"All the kids were Nice," said St. Nicholas - "Now, I've got too much coal."

"The Elves had worked so very hard, so I've sent 'em on vacation.
There's no need to stoke a fireplace, at their Tropic celebration."

"Now, Wait one minute, old Saint Nick," squeaked a voice with Yuletide style
"I've got pals the whole world through, this could bring them quite a smile!"

He's Noel, the Snowman's Santa Claus - with a very special job to do.
He keeps the Snowfolk smiling bright, so they'll enjoy the holiday too.

Now, every Christmas Eve - Noel drifts across the Milky Way
Giving Snowfolk brighter eyes and grins, to show to you on Christmas Day!

St. Nick's barn is stocked up on carrots for Rudolph to eat,
but the nose that glows knows that Snows need noses, to make a happy face complete.

So, if you check each Wintertime, on each Snowy face you'll find-
The happy miles found in the smiles that Noel left behind.

He's Noel, the Snowman's Santa Claus - with a very special job to do.
He keeps the Snowfolk smiling bright, so they'll enjoy the holiday too.


Next time in EscalatorYule, Sweet Nutcrackers and Keeping the X in Christmas

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - Jingler/Jangler
George Bailey - Advisor/Unofficial Mayor, Bedford Falls
Hermey Elf - Staff Dentist

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

EscalatorYule 2011: Stave Three - Tidbits and Morsels for Christmas Ears

Once, in the mid-1980's - I had the opportunity to meet and talk briefly with Albert Hague. Mr. Hague was a composer and lyricist who had won a Tony for the Gwen Verdon show Redhead in 1959. At the time of our meeting, he was experiencing a bit of renewed notoriety for having played "Professor Shorofsky" in the film and telelvision series Fame. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Hague after a concert he had given for some local schools in my hometown.

Why bring this up in EscalatorYule, you ask? Well - my love of Holiday music goes way back in my memories, to my earliest days. Part of that love is due to the work of Mr. Hague. In 1966, he was responsible for many of the tunes featured in the original animated film How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Dr. Seuss himself came up with most of the lyrics, Mr. Hague - the music.

So, now - even though our conversation was extremely short, just enough to recognize our mutual appreciation of music - every time I hear someone whistling/humming along to 'Fahoo Foraze' or 'You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,' I think - "hey , I met that guy!"

It may not be the coolest holiday memory, but it was significant for me - and I've been keeping a whimsical eye on holiday entertainment since.

I've been collecting Christmas Music - via LP, cassette, CD, or (as it happens in this day and age) Internet download - since about the same time in my personal history. In 1987, I compiled a mixed tape of some favorite Holiday songs and made copies to give to friends and family. In the intervening years, I've made nearly two dozen different mixes, each featuring some of the neatest, most interesting, and original versions of both classic tracks and whatever intriguing pieces I can find that many folk may not have already heard. I start putting them together every year about July. My wife has the tolerance of a Saint.

There are tunes that we hear ad nauseum every Yuletide Season on radio, satellite, and on various and sundry "in-store play" compilations that litter the retail market from Thanksgiving through New Years, and for the most part - I try to avoid those. Recently, however, I've heard and re-heard a few songs that I've convinced myself I shouldn't enjoy - and started to actually fancy them, either through interesting re-interpretations or just their likable novelty. A few to reconsider for your Xmas mix:

'Santa Baby' - Eartha Kitt nailed it the first time out in 1953, and it was played into the ground for 30 years thereafter. Then, on the first 'Very Special Christmas' LP, Madonna up and ruined it for the ages. Or at least for me. For a time, it was hard to even listen to the original without being reminded of the sub par material girl rehash. Then, earlier this holiday season, I was surprised to find a newer arrangement that I really kind of like. I was even more surprised when I realized that this new, improved version was done by Taylor Swift.

'Don't Be A Jerk, It's Christmas' - I'm not a Spongebob Squarepants fan, never really have been. However, this original song should definitely be the mantra of the holidays. Good advice all around for surviving the Yule.

All I Want For Christmas Is You" - Yeah, I know - Mariah Carey. Well, while she may have the most famous version of the song - there are plenty of covers around. I'm not a Mariah fan, but the song itself is well written; and a well written song can be decently performed by just about anyone with a modicum of talent. One of the newest versions I've heard (because, believe it or not, Ms. Carey's version is nearly 20 years old) is by a band named This Providence. I haven't heard anything else by that particular group, but I dig their version of what has become a modern addition to the canon of "Classic" holiday tunes.

There's many good ole Christmas songs that get a new treatment every year. Many by bands who either couldn't care about the song and are trying to make a quick holiday buck, or maybe just haven't heard the originals. It's easy enough to ignore the dreck - but some songs just shouldn't be touched.

Case in point: I've yet to hear a version of 'This Christmas' which even comes close to Donny Hathaway's riveting original ("shake a hand, shake a hand, now..."). The same can be said for The Waitresses 'Christmas Wrapping' which both laments some of the trials and tribulations of the season while becoming a traditional classic all it's own. It's had a few covers as well, but nothing beats the original. Plus, it does have a happy ending - with horns!

I continue to seek out new and original songs every year for the holidays, but like to settle in with some time-honored audio as well. I know I have my favorites, I'm sure you do as well. I hope that you'll get to hear them all this season.

More EscalatorYule coming soon!

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, List Checker/Bell Ringer
Yukon Cornelius, Chief Pick-Licker

Monday, December 19, 2011

EscalatorYule 2011: Stave Two.

Santa Claus should never arrive via Fire Truck.

There, I've said it. Someone had to. So often in these modern times, holiday parades and shopping mall arrivals of children's red suited redeemer fail miserably in their presentation of The Man With The Bag. Think on it - every year, this is kid's first real exposure to the figure whom most of the hype of the season is about - at least if you're between the ages of two and twelve.

How cruel is it then, to have a child's memory of the great mans appearance be associated with a vehicle affiliated with screeching sirens, burning destruction, and smoky death? It's especially cruel when, for a kid "going to see Santa" means waiting in a line at the middle of a grotesquely decorated mall, awaiting the opportunity to head up onto a ramshackle platform cobbled together amidst the "Sale Now!"signs and fluorescent "come hither" glow of kitschy/trendy stores and fast food lunch buckets.

He arrives on an emergency vehicle - and sits on a garish throne amid the plastic greenery and over sized glitter balls, all in order to sell eager parents a snapshot of their crying child on a strangers lap.

I get it, I do. Retail establishments host "Santa" in order to bring folks to the stores. It's a decent plot, but is completely lacking in class.

I hate to be one of those "When I was a kid..." guys - but...

When I was a kid - the excursion to visit St. Nick was not just a quick jaunt to the local shopping super center - it was an hours-long Santa Claus Experience.

Yes, of course the retail aspect was still there. It has been since Thomas Nast created the modern image of Father Christmas for Harper's Weekly in 1862. The mythos is grounded in money - but there used to be more to it.

I recall my sister and I heading into downtown Richmond, Virginia to see the store windows, gaily decorated and thematically arranged - usually telling a Holiday story throughout. Sometimes there were animatronic figures, occasinally a massive train set, or a simple yet classy retelling of an age old Christmas fable.

Then, we would enter those heavy doors - and the marvel would begin. As we rode the escalators between the floors of a massive department store (in my childhood, it would have been Thalheimer's - your town may have had a Macy's, Nordstrom's, Goldblatt's, Higbee's, or something equally ethno-pecuniary) - the decorations would slowly come into view. Massive toy replicas dotting each floor, rustic or vintage looking signs pointing "This Way To Santa's Wonderland - - - ->"

Santa was never on the first or second floor, making the search for his territory all the more exciting. The ride on each subsequent, seemingly thinner, older, escalator, another thrilling move in the search. Then, at the top of one of those creaky old moving staircases - we could turn a corner and "Voila!" - you had entered the realm of St. Nick!

He'd be just around a few more corners - and - after a snaking line, which caravan-ed past ornate decor; be it a snowy land of winter fairies, a path through the living plot lines of The Nutcracker, or even a forest filled with life size versions of those creepishly cute Anna Lee dolls - we entered the chamber of the almighty, reindeer wrangling gift giver.

Oh, there was a line - there was always a line - no matter how early our folks brought us to the store (I think those first kids in the queue were probably paid actors, who clocked in every day just to stand at the front of the crowd for a few hours to add to the illusion of anticipation). But, in that line - we'd hear Christmas Carols all around, maybe even be greeted by an Elf with a Candy Cane. If we hit the room at the right time, we might even catch Santa himself arriving via a giant chimney on the stage astride his chair.

All of the sudden, we were in Santa's living room!

There he was - motioning to the Ice Princess who greeted us as the kids directly ahead in line were scrambling to tell Him what they wanted. Then, it was our turn - gliding across the stage, Santa greeted us by name (methinks the tiny microphone worn by the Ice Princess had a part in this) - and gladly welcomed us into his world for a brief moment. He sat there, listening intently to our material wishes, and then - as soon as we'd arrived, a quick smile, twinkle of flashbulbs, and hearty "HO HO HO" would escort us off the stage and into the decorated egress which led us back into the department store, down the garland and holly lined escalators to the ground floor - our flight of fancy taking a halt until the big night when we'd stay up late, but still fall asleep before seeing Santa in our living room.

This was Christmas perfection. We'd met with Santa's minions, held Santa's hand - just days after watching him arrive atop his caribou enhanced sleigh (albeit one powered by hidden motors underneath) during the annual Christmas Parade!

He was real! He was here!

And he never arrived on the back of a Fire Truck.

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - Admiral of Tinsel
King Moonracer - Ruler, Island Of Misfit Toys

EscalatorYule; Stave the Third, coming soon!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

EscalatorYule 2011: Stave One...

...Escalatorville was dead to begin with.

This part is actually slightly true. I had written a piece to kick off this years EscalatorYule Extravaganza, put down a good 3/4 of it over the weekend and figured, "Hey, I get home from work early on Sunday, I'll just finish it up and put it right on out."

Trust and the Holidays don't always mix well. I'm not used to "backing up" my work to a "disk" or a "file" on the "hard drive" (these are terms I'm not really familiar with. Who am I, Bill Gates?). Instead, I relied on the "Auto-Save" feature on this very website: only to be betrayed like the child whom wishes only for an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle - and ends up with pink rabbit footie pajamas.

That said, I'll attempt to re-write and successfully post, at a later time, what I had initially wanted you to read here today.

In the meanwhile, however, a little seasonal poetic distraction to enthrall and arouse your Jubilation:

First, I must include that I am quite thankful to be a member of a band known as The Wobbly Toms. On our album 'Everybody Happy' - we have a song I wrote entitled 'Where The Hell's My Coffee?". We like to play it a lot, and folks seem to like hearing it when we do. That's pretty cool.

If you'd like, your ears can peruse the original version here.

About a year ago, I decided to re-craft the song for the holiday crowd. Herewith, the lyrics to my "Safe To Sing In Front Of Kids" version:

Where The Heck Is Santa? (copyright 2010/11 - Escalatorville Tunes/Wobbly Songs)

I haven't seen that fat man yet,
To tell him things I'd like to get,
Like black socks and a new drum set!
Where The Heck Is Santa?

I thought I'd find him at the mall
(He'd been there since the First of Fall)
The food court echoes back my call:
"Where The Heck Is Santa!?"

You must be quick, to catch St. Nick
On his supersonic flight
I hope that it's my house he'll pick
As he travels through the night.

I rode up to the cold North Pole,
I found an Elf stuck in the snow,
"That sleigh took off some time ago..."
Where The Heck Is Santa?

You must be quick to catch St. Nick,
On his supersonic flight
I hope that it's my house he'll pick
As he travels through the night.
Who's that superhero
Bending nature's laws?
Who's a pal to everyone?
That's Good Ole Santa Claus!

Now, somewhere out there in the world,
He gives his thick mustache a twirl,
And drops gifts for good Boys and Girls!
Where The Heck Is Santa?

This next one is in a more adult in vein, but I picture it's eventual recording being as heartwarming and beautifully arranged as something by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. If only someone could wake up Fred and get this to him...

The Reindeer's Christmas Party (copyright 2011, Escalatorville Tunes)

Christmas evening at the North Pole.
All the Elves are getting dressed
For the biggest gala of the year,
Where everyone's a special guest!
It's the Reindeer Christmas Party...

Yes, the Reindeer Christmas Party!
The whole workshop's gettin' down!
That pole will be a 'rockin'
When the gang gets back to town!

It's been a long long Christmas, hauling tons of toys.
Time for furry skinned sleigh pullers to act like girls and boys.
At this special Christmas party, they play grown-up Reindeer games.
Dancer, Prancer, Vixen - all start to live up to their names.

Yes, the Reindeer Christmas Party!
The whole workshop's gettin' down!
That pole will be a 'rockin'
When the gang gets back to town!

With tinsel on their antlers, and holly round their hooves,
They'll down a few Oat Sodas after carousing on your roofs!
It's easy to spot Rudolph, his nose rosy and bright -
But after "hay" and eggnog, we're all the same later that night!

Yes, the Reindeer Christmas Party!
The whole workshop's gettin' down!
That pole will be a 'rockin'
When the gang gets back to town!

Oh a Reindeer Christmas Party
Where we all can rest our paws,
And raise a glass of Christmas Spirit
to the best boss, Santa Claus!
At the Reindeer Christmas Party!
-Should be a chart topper sometime in the next quarter-century. Hell, if those damn barking dogs can do it, I think anyone probably can.

Tomorrow evening - Santa and Fire Trucks don't mix...

The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively - Head Ornamentalist.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Dispatch From Escalatorville: Amped up for the wind down.

I got a notice in the mail the other day, a brochure on pre-paid cremation services. Normally, I'd just throw junk ads into the recycle bin, but I wonder if if it's more apropos to burn this one.

Retail Rehash
The old joke about the town in which we live is that it's a tourist trap for "Newlyweds and Nearly Deads."

Tourists of the geriatric and/or bridal ilk still flock to town, but we find ourselves catering more to those "Romantic Getaway" couples - two night visitors who blow their wads on accommodations, and nothing on merchandise. We have now become a haven for "Weekend Boffing and Window Shopping."

Such was the case with a young couple recently overheard while entering the shop in which I am employed. As the man pointed to a carved wooden dragon statue displayed near the cash register, his gal pal hooted;

"Ugh - that's not real!"

She continued, " It reminds me of dinosaurs - they're not real either!"

The look on his face, and the roll of his eyes, alerted me to the realization that he hadn't entered this relationship for the intellectual stimulation.

Nature > Nurture
Some behaviors never change. Not long ago, an older woman came into the store looking to replace a missing necklace.

"My Grandson's coming to visit, and I don't want him to think I lost it."

Also, a newer mom recently sauntered through the store - consistently shushing the infant child in her arms. Then, upon seeing friends on the street outside, cleared her throat to attract their attention.

"WE'RE IN HERE, Y'ALL!" She bellowed at top volume.

"Is that a dagger..." or are you just happy to see me?
I don't think I'm much a fan of the "Emo" genre of popular arts. Hell, I'm not sure I even know what it is. From what I gather, it's a semi-Gothic, angst ridden, "I wear my heart of darkness on my sleeve" type thing.

I bring it up , however, because I saw a gent in a t-shirt which offered the snarky phrase - "Shakespeare doesn't like your Emo poems."

"Really?" I thought.

After all, ole Billy Shakes came up with these lines:

"O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt, thaw, and resolve itself into a weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world!"

I think he'd be perfectly fine with the plaintive wail of the downtrodden hipster.

"Not your average fish wrapper" is still a fish wrapper...
Given equal importance on the same dates front page, our local "newspaper" featured the following headlines a while back:

"Hernandez Gets 12 Years"
coupled with
"Gazebo Gets Steel Legs"

You can guess which was the more detailed article.

Eurotits and the Ingénue: a story in all parts.
In southern Georgia, there lies an Oasis in the middle of a forest. Not a traditional "Oasis" as portrayed in fantasy novels or the desert based hallucinations from cartoon characters of yore; it's simply a spot of land ensconced among trees where the lovely Bess and I have been know to "vacate" for a day or so every once in a while. There are tiny rooms nestled among the arbors, frequently barefoot staff members, walking paths through the flora, and a serene, open air, freshwater lake.

At the center of the lake is a small floating dock of sorts. It's a nice spot for sunbathing, reading, or just chilling out with fellow visitors. On one of our excursions to this oasis, Bess an I opted to swim out to the dock for a bit of conversation, to soak in a few of the suns rays, and to generally enjoy each others company.

After a brief swim - in the midst of which your author had a slight panic attack, momentarily forgot how to tread water, and feared he might drown - we scrambled up onto the wooden structure, taking proud comfort in the fact that, for a t least a little while, we had the little lakepad to ourselves.

We sat side by side, feet dangling in the water, When not looking at each other, we glimpsed the occasional fish (whom I imagine eyed our heel/toe combination as either weapon or feast). Following a bit of talking and a few kisses, we each staked out our own corner of the dock. Bess doffed her swimsuit to take full advantage of that days solar generosity. Keeping my own swim trunks on, being afflicted with a case of modesty and still a bit unnerved by my assumed near-death experience, I laid back to rest.

A short time later, a blond woman in a canoe paddled up and, with a notably Germanic/Austrian accent, asked to join us on the dock. Through brief conversation we learned that she had indeed come from Europe, was taking a tour through America, and would soon be concluding her extended stay in the forest. Kind and pleasant company is most always welcome in any communal area, so we had no qualms about a new acquaintance sharing our sun, or catching up on the book which she unloaded from the canoe.

Having been on my back, I decided to re-position myself in such a way so that I could converse with Bess and our visitor, while evening out the tan across my dorsal region. as I slowly rolled onto my stomach, I glanced across the planks in time to see our new dock sitter completely remove her top.

Although personally shy in regards to my own epidermis, I'm no stranger to public nudity (aah, those whimsical college parties of yesteryear...). Yet, my psyche was quick to jump to its built in anti-gawking instruction manual [ "A)When speaking, always look a naked woman in the eyes. B)Remember that her eyes are located on her face"].

After a few moments of polite, concentrated, conversation with our fellow guest - whom, forgive my brain, will forever be referred to in my noggin by the nickname 'Eurotits' - she picked up her book, and I resumed roasting my spinal column.

Three mostly bare individuals mid-lake on a floating dock is apparently, the first sign of an outdoor social gathering. That, or the opening scene of a bad horror flick. Within five, perhaps ten, minutes we heard the splish-splash of another couple headed our way.

Accents floating with them across the water gave me the foreknowledge that they might be French. A fact confirmed with a friendly "Bonjour" and some light conversation as they climbed aboard the dock.

Both had long, dark hair. He - a rather average build and average looks, age broaching that late 20's/early 30's timeline. She was about a decade younger - and absolutely gorgeous. An Ingenue with the face of a starlet and the body of a model, yet perfectly proportionate. A faint scent in the air indicated that their swim was post-coital.

These new additions to our now global Radiation Intake Squadron sat on the boards for a few moments and, while I couldn't comprehend the words, I understood their Tete-a-Tete. He wanted to cavort in the water ("L'Eau"), she wished to rest on the dock ("Le Dock"). Each of them proceeded to do just as they indicated - after removing every stitch of fabric from their beings.

Leaving me as the only "clothed" one on our tiny island, they stood completely nude - talking for a few seconds before he took a tall arcing dive into the lake. Perhaps he simply jumped? Or possibly just walked off the dock? I don't rightly know, at this point, he was not the focus of my concentration.

The Ingenue exhaled a sigh and positioned herself in a relaxed recline so that she too could soak up the rays of the late afternoon sun. The three of us remaining on the platform watched as she got comfortable - while my stomach fluttered in the manner it had when, as a juvenile, I'd stumbled upon late night television soft core erotica while attending a sleepover at someone else's house.

Any potential conversation dried up, as Bess began a light snooze and Eurotits became engrossed in her reading. Having never learned any French phrases one could use to talk to a naked Ingenue basking in the glow and glisten of a south Georgia lake - I followed Bess' lead and took a quick nap.

I awoke upon the boyfriend's return, over hearing the robust chatter betwixt the Frenchies. Rolling my head slightly, eyes squinting to assess the situation, I found two reasons to remain with my back to the sky:

1) In that prone position, sitting up directly would have placed my eyes in the immediate vicinity of the Frenchman's, uh, little Frenchman. Now, don't get me wrong - there are plenty of folk who would pay no mind to this scenario (and yes, some who would indeed embrace the idea), and more power to 'em - however, it is personally not in my nature to find enjoyment in arising with the prospect of a penis inn my peripheral.

2) The lovely Bess on her own is far more than sexy enough to stir my libido; though I can be fairly good at harnessing the occasional autonomous physical reaction to such stirring - an issue to which any male called to a chalkboard in from of his 8th grade classroom can attest - the addition of supplemental, attractive, unshy, naked overseas gifts to the eyes of the world, coupled with the sight of my own gorgeous and unclothed spouse - convinced me that uncontrollable embarrassment might be nigh.

Thus, I chose to remain face down on the dock.

Within a few minutes, both the Frenchman and his Ingenue departed, swimming back towards the forest. Soon after, Eurotits also took her leave, paddling back to the Rhine - or wherever. A short bit later, Bess and I headed back to our treehouse, dinner was in the near future.

Back in the cabin, Bess and I dressed for the remainder of the evening, both refreshed from our swim, rested from our naps, and slightly tan all around.

Except for my back, which now boasted the least regrettable sunburn I ever had.


Thanks for reading!
The Dispatch From Escalatorville
Z.F. Lively, Proprietor/Gadfly

EscalatorYule coming soon - watch this space.