Freudian Slips: Jews for Jesus

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Location: Irony, New Jersey, United States

Life takes us many places. It's a box of chocolates and a Hansel and Gretal trail of candy wrappers. I have filmed as an actor in The Happening, Invincible, The Lovely Bones, The Bounty Hunter, The Greek American, Bazookas, Limitless, TV's Its Always Sunny in Philly, Outlaw, New York, The Warrior, The Nail, Game Change, Cold Case, & commercial work includes The Philadelphia Eagles, Septa, Coors, Turbo Tax & Carnival Cruises. Freudian Slips spotlights irony in short story format.

July 06, 2006

Jews for Jesus

-At the ball park are Joe Tornatore with Danny Ozark, the former manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Whenever I explain the bizarre weekend in May 1997, I can still hear my laughter bellowing out from the failed business venture like light in the heart of darkness.
Now dissolved, I used to operate a side business called The Plaque Doctor. I hawked the autographs of professional athletes then assembled and fashioned the signed photos onto wood veneer plaques. What started out for me as a merchandise vender at a weekend long charity event in 1997 ended with the suspect promoter being indicted on fraud.
The itinerary for the weekend events advertised a celebrity golf tournament, a gala sports banquet, a sports card show with autograph sessions, and a softball game against former major league baseball players,. The promoter promised me that I would be the only vendor for the first two days so I ordered $1000.00 in licensed photographs for quick resale. Since I ended up practically the only person in attendance for the entire weekend, it was not difficult hollowing out elbow room as the only vender. Each event had the aura of a ghost town due to the lack of organization, promotion and advertising. The lack of a public presence was embarrassing for the famous ball players, who were expecting crowds of adoring fans.
As early as the first event, I knew I was operating at a financial loss. The rest of the weekend’s events were personally gratifying but equally disappointing from a business perspective. Slots for the celebrity golf tournament and the sports banquet went largely unsold. Each event had empty seats and no press coverage. Even the sports card show wound up cancelled due to a lack of interest and growing angst with the promoter.
The softball game had the most potential. It featured individuals playing against major league baseball alumni for a donation. My friend Joe and I headed out early to the park ahead of game time to set up folding tables for merchandise sale. I double swallowed when I saw no roadside signs directing the public or banners inside the park. There were no visible donors chomping at the bit to take the field. Except for a few little league kids, the park rang deserted. Refusing to believe there was no opposing team organized to play the former major leaguers, I took a beguiling stroll around the park. When I spotted a gathering of people across the baseball diamonds, I started to feel relieved. After I heard someone using a public address system, I figured this could only be the right location for the event. I walked directly towards the group. My eyes opened wide with dollar signs because it was the first crowd I had seen all weekend.
A well-wisher greeted. “Good morning sir.”
“Hello.” I asked innocently. “Are you all here for the charity softball game?”
They looked at one another rather confusingly. “No, we are missionaries and this is the staging area for the Jews for Jesus rally.”
Their purpose in the park came from left field. “What? Jews for Jesus?” I mouthed incredulously. “I have never heard of such a faith.”
“We are Jews who serve Jesus Christ.”
I almost invected the same name back. “You’re kidding me, right?”
“We wouldn’t joke about Jesus.”
“Good luck with that. I guess you haven’t seen any hungry baseball players with leather mitts strolling through the park?”
Another parishioner replied, “Just Jews for Jesus and…you!”
With those three words ‘Jews for Jesus’ paired together, I knew I had heard of everything. Former major league baseball players were due to arrive for a pick-up game and the only park goers were rooting for Jesus Christ. Walking alone again in the woods, I wondered if we were all misguided. My commerce consisting of hero worship could be misunderstood as idolatry and they were Jews worshipping Jesus. I began to laugh aloud at my fiscal nightmare and the absurdity of the moment.
I still had yet to regain my gentile composure when I caught back up with my friend Joe. I told him there was no organized baseball team staging a rally today but there certainly were plenty of Jews religiously rallying for Jesus in the park. We packed up the belongings and retreated from the park straight back to the hotel that lodged the ballplayers. I looked all around the hotel for the promoter but the soon-to-be indicted man of unfulfilled promises was nowhere to be found. As luck would have it, I eyeballed former Philadelphia Phillies manager Danny Ozark eating flapjacks and eggs at the counter of the hotel restaurant. A first baseman’s mitt begging for a ball rested on the swivel stool next to him. Danny looked dapper in his pinstriped Philadelphia Phillies uniform that all but shouted, “Play Ball!” Frown on my face, I reported my findings about the deserted park. Dapper Danny took the news hard like I just cancelled Christmas, a metaphor that I imagined would confuse even Jews for Jesus around the holiday.
“What? What no team? No kids?” uttered Danny Ozark with the lowering of his fork full of pancakes. There was no batter up, just batter down pancakes tied to his fork.
“No kids, no players, no fans, no nothing.” I elucidated. “Only religious zealots staging a rally, Skipper.”
“What kind of a rally?” he uttered.
“Jews for Jesus.” I answered.
Growing up, I never imagined initiating such an unusual conversation with someone as famous as Danny Ozark over flapjacks. Life kind of always grabs me this way. I tip my cap to the sportsmanship of the major leaguers, who showed up at the baseball field anyway. They invited little league players and a few of their parents to field a Washington Generals team to play against. A great time was had by all except me. I could have made more money opening up a lemonade stand in the park then trying to sell photographs to children who did not even earn an allowance.
Driving home from the softball game, my friend Joe and I laughed so hard about the Jews for Jesus subplot that it was difficult to keep the car on the road. We learned that we were not the only ones to have trouble keeping the car on the road. After returning home, Channel Six Action News summed up the day with its lead story. Allow me to paraphrase the testimony from a dispatched reporter:
“We are live from the on span of the Walt Whitman Bridge, the scene of a terrible truck accident which has closed down the bridge. A truck driver apparently ignored the height clearance sign and drove his tractor trailor right into the underpass. The multi-car accident was a nightmare for commuters. We are here with motorists involved in the crash.”
The camera turned to focus on a frightened family still huddled together. Someone spoke candidly into the microphone. “We were driving and all of a sudden the top of a tractor trailor had its roof sheared off. We crashed but escaped without a scratch. Praise Jesus. We just got back from a Jews for Jesus concert. Yes, praise Jesus!”
God as my witness, irony just does not get any better than this. Even while amassing debt, it was priceless salvation.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

great blog today joe. it brought back good memories. the vault.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

I tend to think of the vault as a safe bet.

12:44 AM  
Blogger meekon5 said...

As usual wonderfully written. Full of images that as an Englishman I have absolutely no cultural equivalents to gain purchase on. But despite that (or because of that) a good read and a few moments away from the mundaity that is my every day life. Thank you.

4:30 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

if you want more than a few minutes away from mundaity, I can let you know when we are hiring. lol. thanks for stopping by Freudian Slips.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I've often said; you're like Dick Tracy, always in the midst of things.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

Sounds like an indictment. lol

1:48 PM  

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