THE BALLAD OF JOHNNY AND JIM
by Ken Babbs
with help from Ryan Forester, Maggie Maguire, Gabe Nehl and John Babbs
photos by Pat Mackey
BABBS: Johnny and Jim live in a small town in Oregon. Johnny is the tall, wavy haired stud. Jim is his bud, fair and slight but with a brain outta sight. An odd pair to be sure but in grade school some kids picked on Jim in the school bus.
KID: Get up out of that seat, freak, and let us normal people sit there.
(Everybody joins in, ragging on Jim: Oddball, gleef, etc.)
JIM: There's room for one more, sit down if you want.
KID: I don't want. I want you outta here and up front with the rest of the retards.
(More shouting and ragging.)
JOHNNY: Hey, we're all freaks and retards on this bus. Here, kid, I'll sit with you, these other guys can have my seat.
BABBS: Friends ever since. Forget Jim's gimp leg, a birth defect, his right leg twisted and shriveled. Or the crutch he needed when his leg hurt bad.
ZEUS; Aspects of the American psyche
that need each other,
the jock and the intellectual,
the Boy Scout and the renegade,
the guardian and the wild card.
BABBS: High school summers Johnny played baseball. Jim inherited his grandfather's fly angling gear and when he caught his first trout, he was hooked. At first he fished from the bank, but, using an oak wading staff he began wading into the pools. In the icy water he was physically the equal of anybody.
PAT MACKEY: Fourth and 1 with 40 seconds left on our own 40
and the coach looks at me and says what do we run?
I said a reverse and he and draws it up in the dirt
and fifty yards later we are on our way.
BABBS: Johnny and Jim hung together all the way to graduation, Jim the team manager, Johnny the four sport player, Jim the science ace, Johnny not as swift on the books but he got by. Graduation was outside, in the ball field. They threw their hats in the air and met on the infield.
JOHNNY: Way to go, dude. Four point, full ride to college, long ways from grade school.
JIM: Not so bad yourself. Full ride for you, too. And a good thing it's baseball, wouldn't want you mashing your leg playing football.
BABBS: Johnny's aunt is an old hippie, beer-guzzlin,
xanax poppin, non-stop, pot-puffin,
strong-minded woman in backwoods Oregon.
The homeland needs protected
because the terror people
purchased old barges
to bring nineteen hundred and seventy antelopes
with guns strapped on their backs up the river.
JOHNNY: She is an upstanding member of the Daughters of American Revolution and they would be proud.
BABBS: Johnny and Jim went to Oregon State and roomed together, Jim helping Johnny with the books, Johnny dragging Jim to the frat rushes, and sorority parties. When they graduated Jim started a computer business. Johnny didn't get a pro tryout so he started his own insurance company. They struggled but were succeeding and they joined a bowling team.
JIM: No way I'm making a fool out of myself,
these stupid shirts, I'll just drag the team down.
JOHNNY: No way that's happening.
You and I are going on a training program.
I'll have you throwing nothing but strikes.
JIM: All the killer cats now belong to bowling leagues
and wear rayon shirts with
raised velveteen embroidered images
of ferocious felines hitting
a nine ball with a nine pin, nein?
JOHNNY: I won't bother him any further.
I won't worry him any longer.
I will let matters rest.
I am calm.
PAT MACKEY: First league game Jim gimped up to the line
and let the ball go in what became known as the classic slow roll:
rumbling straight down the middle of the alley,
pin languidly toppling, ball indomitable, plowing,
pins pushed, leaning,
everyone hanging on the result,
the pins go down, kerplunk, a perfect strike.
ZEUS: They both got married and had kids.
BABBS: Johnny joined the national guard. He could use the extra money and he liked the camaraderie.
ZEUS: Then Johnny's unit got called up.
SONG: (Sax lead in, Lynda sings the verse once then everyone sings it, then we end a with full musical hoopla)
Your flag decal won't get you into heaven any more.
It's already overcrowded from your dirty little war.
And Jesus don't like killing no matter what it's for.
Your flag decal won't get you into heaven any more.
JOHNNY: Jesus, this is the national guard not the regular army.
I figured we'd get used for flood relief or fire fighting
or some kind of national disaster, but going to war? Come on.
JIM: Bummer, dude. Hopefully everything will be all right.
The president says we've won the war
so you'll probably just be helping rebuild the country.
BABBS: Johnny thought they'd be rebuilding but instead they were patrolling the streets. Shaking hands and making friends. Until the ambush. The last thing Johnny saw was his new friend pointing a AK-47 at him. A suicide bomber blew his new friend up and got Johnny, too.
JOHNNY: Pretty much sums things up over here.
You can't tell the good guys from the bad guys.
No one's trying to make friends any more.
I'm a gimp now, too. Guess I'm lucky it wasn't worse.
JIM: Hey, old buddy. We're looking forward to your return home.
It's been rough on your Margie but she's managed
to keep the business going and the kids busy.
My Annie has been helping all she can
and believe me we're glad you're out of that mess.
SONG: (Sax plays it once with us marching in place and going da da da da, then we sing the song and end with the full musical hoopla)
When Johnny comes gimping home again, hurrah hurrah.
We'll all be out to greet him then, hurrah, hurrah.
The band will play and the boys will shout
And we'll all be glad when everyone's out
And war is abandoned
When Johnny comes gimping home.
ZEUS; Johnny didn't march in the Veteran's Day parade.
He stayed home and never went out.
JOHNNY'S WIFE: I've been making jam with labels that read "jammin' for peace" and some woman said I shouldn't be spreading crap like this
because it is not productive for the men and women who are fighting.
I told her peace is a Zen thing and if we all had it in our hearts,
there would be no war. We about duked it out --
can't you see it now? A witch and a butterfly going to jail?
JIM'S WIFE: We're living close to the bone,
not having any great ambitions or big money drives,
but learning how to live on a little and being happy
takes creativity and an upbeat spirit.
JIM: Flags all around. let flags abound.
Do not flag in your efforts to fly the flag
or flog the flyers of the flags
that know no bounds or boundaries,
although I do prefer the laundromat flag
for shoving down the washers' throats.
ZEUS: Fascists. The word comes from the Italian, fasci,
which is the stalks of wheat tied together in a bundle.
Four stalks. One for big business, one for big military,
one for big government and one for big church.
When they are joined, then you have true fascism.
BABBS: big media joins the fascia:
buys the warfield
broadcasts the battles
no timeouts for commercials
war IS the commercial
JOHNNY: I'm worse off now than you, pal--no leg at all.
JIM: No way--you'll have a brand new leg, better than mine.
JOHNNY: Well, I won't be doing any running on it.
JIM: No, but you'll be able to fish--and I'm going to show you how."
BABBS: A week later they were on Osprey Creek. Jim showed Johnny how to ease into the tail of a pool and use a wading staff for support.
JOHNNY: Oh, man, this is crazy. I haven't fished since we used string and a safety pin with a worm on it. Didn't catch anything then, either.
JIM: A jock like you? Can't master the flick of the wrist? Too subtle, I presume.
JOHNNY: What's your secret?
JIM: You're not holding your mouth right. There's a trout rising behind the rock in front of you.
BABBS: Johnny saw a faint swirl as the trout sucked a bug off the surface. He cast his fly and the trout struck. Johnny felt its strength as it raced into deep water. He gingerly worked the fish close, and netted it. In the icy water he was physically the equal of anybody.
PAT MACKEY: Bowling was another story.
Jim had to coach Johnny in secret before he'd join the team.
The guys didn't push it but Johnny knew what was on their minds.
What was it like over there?
JOHNNY: Let's face it. The whole thing was a big mistake.
We had no business being there in the first place.
Thank God the protests are working.
It's the mothers. You can't argue with a mom.
JIM: I heard a talk by Ken Kesey one time.
He said it would be better to bomb em with acid.
Sounds unthinkable, doesn't it? Crazy.
JOHNNY: Crazy, sure. But it couldn't be any crazier than it already is.
EVERYBODY: (Raising arms and doing cheerleading moves)
Dose em, dose em, all you gotta do is hose em, hose em.
Turn on the spigots and let the magic flow
Stand back and watch the anger go. Go. Go. Go.
Dose em Dose em.
It's wholesome, wholesome.
JIM: Maybe we'll wise up and use the military to defend our country, not for invading other countries.
JOHNNY: Yeah, and pigs will fly and gimps will win the Boston Marathon.
JIM: Stranger things than we can imagine.
PAT MACKEY: Like in the bowling leauge.
Jim tried to teach Johhny the slow roll
but Johhny wouldn't have anything to do with it.
JOHNNY: I was a pitcher not an outfielder. It's not my arm that's hurt.
PAT MACKEY: Johnny gimped up to the line
and released the ball. It shot down the alley,
skipped once and fired into the pins
like a cannonball, sending the pins flying
into the alley next door.
ZEUS: Life goes on
in its mysterious ways
its wonders to perfom
and we, the bit players
raise such a clamor the
audience is aghast.
(We go around in a circle each person taking one line of the following):
A righteous work fills us with the strength and courage not to be afraid of the ghosts
And shadows what lurk in the dark corners of our minds.
Pull out the stops.
Cry it to the hills the trees the weeds the rose bushes.
Some people are angry about something
Is the godawful truth and now it's time
To put that anger to work.
Accentuate the positive.
Eliminate the negative.
Just like the wizards of yore.
What do you do when you want nothing more than to share your spaghetti,
But every time you hand your friend the fork, he eats the whole plate?
BABBS: keep cooking
It's a dog eat dog world
and frozen dog at that.
Can't hardly get fresh dog any more.
So seething, he
vents his spleen
and ends up with
EVERYONE: (Multi slogans and chants and dose ems and hose ems and make love not spaghetti pull out the stops march the antelopes the gravy train stops here etc. along with full bore musical chaos leading the a horrific clamorous climax and then):
In the sudden silence, Lynda sings:
Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...
Imagine there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...
Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
You may say Im a dreamer,
but Im not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.
Writen by: John Lennon
© Bag productions inc.
LOST A BIRD, GAINED A BIRD
by Ken Babbs
Vietnam. Its meaning lies hidden like an artichoke heart. Layer under layer. Brown swarthies topped by French polyglot Legionnaires hidden beneath Japanese Yallerbellee flanked left with redpagan Kali. On the right is orange Buddha bellyrubber and, intertwined 'mongst all, the Catholic crucifixation.
The priest wears a surplice and carries a prayer book. He waves his free hand in blessing: Qui sedes ad desteram Patris, miserere nobis: Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us, we who are under the bullet.
In Saigon a III Corps American advisor smokes his pipe like a thoughtful prof. Jabs a red stickpin into a wallsized map. Red circles pinpoint VC strongholds. Ho Chi Minh's picture is a punctured bullseye.
"Tide's turning, men. Best defense is a good offense. Strategic Hamlets make the difference." He rotates his pipe. Fires a stickpin into the map. "Send a team in where she hit, boys. Chieu hoi."
His staff joins in chorus, "Chieu hoi, chieu hoi, defect defect."
The first eager beaver glow is long gone. We struggle out of our cots, fighting the mosquito netting, slop through the dark and the muck to the heads, grab a quick bite at the mess hall and slog to the ready room tent for the morning briefing.
A whale of a scene, too huge to describe unless one is a mammalian of verbosity. Great venue, great audience and great performance. Huzzahs and thanks to everyone. Vee done dood ourselves proud and fired a magnificent shot over the bow of the bad ship fascii.
All the participants stepped up to the plate and delivered magnificently, but what else would we expect from a tried troupe of unrankend amateurs, er, I mean accomplished professionals?
We wait word on the videographers and sound recorders on tape results.
I'm all wore out and gotta split some firewood and the sun is shining oh happy day.
-- Capn Skyp
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