I came to this place looking for Jesus. No shit, lyrics for a song called, Plastic Jesus, usually credited to Ernie Marrs. The problem is that Ernie Marrs denies ever having written the song that is his greatest claim to fame and as a result, there really aren't any definitive lyrics.

Paul Newman taught me the only verses I knew, in the character of Cool Hand Luke from the movie of the same name. Newman's character, Luke, is stuck in a tough southern prison, forced to suffer back-breaking labor on a chain gang, enduring all of the indignity and pain and solitude that such a scene provides.

His original sentence, for slicing the heads off of parking meters with a pipe cutter, was a relatively short stretch but grew to indeterminate length, due to Luke's rebellious nature and efforts toward escape.

At just about the point where he realizes that what began as punishment for a drunken misdemeanor has morphed into something like life behind bars, Luke receives a letter notifying him of his mother's passing. He sits on his bunk with his banjo and the letter that severed his last tenuous bond with the world outside of the fence. You get the impression that he's sung the song a hundred times before, up-tempo, satirical and funny.

This time, the song is a funeral hymn, neither satirical nor funny and Paul Newman isn't acting any more. He's fighting back tears with Luke, strumming the tune slowly, deliberately. Luke the show-off, Luke the performer, is singing the song quietly, for his benefit alone.


I don't care if it rains or freezes
Long as I've got my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car
Comes in colors pink and pleasant
Glows in the dark cause it's iridescent
Take it with you ... when you travel far.

Get yourself a sweet Madonna
Dressed in rhinestones sitting on a
Pedestal of abalone shell
Going ninety I ain't scary
Cause I’ve got the Virgin Mary
Assuring me that I won't go to hell.


If somebody tells you that Cool Hand Luke is their favorite movie, I'll bet you a pair of mirrored sunglasses that you're talking to a certifiable melancholic. I don't mean to say that they are sad or depressed, because melancholy is a much bigger word than either of those two. Passive grief just isn't enough for these weirdoes; they dwell on dark matters. They study sorrow.

Jesus was a melancholic, as was Abraham Lincoln and Mohandas Gandhi and Lenny Bruce. If Cool Hand Luke is your favorite movie, you're in good company.

____________________


An Internet search yielded wildly conflicting accounts of the words to the song and still wilder apocryphal tales of its heredity. After Googling around for an hour or so, I didn't know anything more about the song than when I began my quest.

As a child, I sang the two verses that Luke taught me, over and over again, because they were the only ones I knew. When the melancholia hollered, I answered back with the goofy little song. As I grew older and less easily amused, the melancholia demanded more verses so I made up my own.


Got me a deal on a plastic Jesus
His forehead's smooth, no worry creases
Glued him to the dashboard of my car
He ain't pious, stern or scolding
Owes his smile to injection molding
My singin' hasn't made him wince so far.

Get yourself a thrift store savior
Reconcile your own behavior
As you traverse the byways of your town
Never gloomy or emphatic
His countenance is benign and static
He'll never greet your failings with a frown.


My additional verses eventually numbered in the dozens, a formidable arsenal against the blues; satirical comfort for the hopeless heathen. Everything was swell until the melancholy cycled up to a crescendo that drowned out the tune.

I closed the bar one Thursday night, as I had done for nearly a thousand Thursdays previous, but this one felt different. When I woke up on Friday morning, I couldn't move my head. I don't mean to say that it hurt to move my head. I couldn't pivot my coconut so much as a half a degree in any direction, for something like two weeks.

If at any point during that two week period, Ed McMahon came busting through the door with a sweepstakes check, a Nobel Prize and an elixir that would bestow immortality, I wouldn't have so much as curled my lip in a grin.

I wanted out.

____________________


So this guy walks into the doctor's office and says, "Hey doc, it hurts when I make Margaritas."

The doctor says, "So stop making Margaritas."

Easier said than done. Career bartenders don't mesh well with the demands of corporate America and digging ditches was no longer an option. Confined to my Lay-Z-Boy with my laptop, I started looking around for a better idea or at least the real lyrics for Plastic Jesus.

I stumbled on E2 from a link on Slashdot and found out that there aren't any authoritatively accurate lyrics for Plastic Jesus. Not only that, but the ones I had written when I was eleven were every bit as good as the standards on display at this bizarre web site. An author of one of the write-ups went so far as to claim that his own father, as yet unacknowledged, originally penned the song.

I started thinking about writers.

I typed in "Garrison Keillor" and came up with something called, "Garrison Keillor Must Die!" The second posting was droll and funny, a treatment of the title as a logical syllogism to the effect that, Garrison Keillor is human, humans must die, ergo Garrison Keillor must die.

The first posting bugged me. It seemed mean-spirited, that the author of the write-up genuinely hated Garrison Keillor, found him profoundly unfunny, and actively rooted for his demise. It occurred to me that tall, shy, internationally famous radio humorists had access to the Internet as well and I felt bad for my boy Garrison, a fellow melancholic.

I discovered the joys of Hatedome that day and softlinked a dozen or so of the author's write-ups to Funny -- she looks much smaller from outside her head. The hate felt good but it wasn't enough. I wanted that write-up to go away before Gary saw it, so I messaged the author and told her exactly that.

She messaged me back that she was actually fond of Garrison Keillor and that the piece was intended as satire.

I've been making fun of the satirically impaired since I was two.

I felt like a turd.

____________________


"What we've got here ... is a failure to communicate."

I hung around the web site and found out that the person I had harassed with mean softlinks was not only smarter and prettier than me, but that she was a better human being by just about any definition that a reasonable person could come up with.

In the two years or so that have passed since that realization, about 400 of you have messaged me with unwavering kindness, nary a hateful missive in the lot. Bloated with hubris over your praise, I committed my essays to print. On a lark I mailed a copy of my first book to one of my favorite authors on the planet and he phoned me at home to tell me that I was one of his favorite authors on the planet.

I don't know why you came here, but I'm here for self-improvement. I'm twice the human that I was when I found this place, twice as smart, twice as strong a writer, twice as kind. If I'm still sucking in oxygen and this site is still sucking up bandwidth in thirty years, you'll find me here someplace, better still.

Welcome to Hatedome.

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