Friday, April 4, 2014

Day 31: Sleeping With a Smile ("SEND IN MOSES!")

I have written one fan letter in my entire life.  I’ll get to that in a second.  First, a confession.  During my senior year of seminary in the fall of 1996, the Yankees were playing in the World Series.  Because I had to be in my dorm room at 11:00pm, I could not see the games, so I went to the K-Mart down the street and with $99 that I got out of who knows where because I was penniless, I brought a 1.5 inch Sony Watchman to watch the late games in my room which as you’ve probably figured out by now was against the rules.  I watched in horror as my Yankees lost the first two games at home, then screamed with delight when Jim Leyritz tied up Game 4, and eventually saw them beat the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 on regular TV in the kitchen of my home parish during a party.  (I forget names easily, but I remember some really inane details sometimes.)   That next Monday night, I started watching The Late Show with David Letterman.  The priest in charge of discipline had a “nod nod, wink wink” understanding with me because we used to trade jokes from Letterman from the night before, and as I went on to Major Seminary where things got harder and we were allowed to have TV’s in our room, going to bed laughing with delight after prayer was that was like a soothing balm to soul that was being put through the rigors of seminary.  All my classmates watched Dave every night.  I would rehash the jokes or the gags, and even at the end of the year roast of the soon-to-be priests, I once hosted the entire evening impersonating, you guessed it, David Letterman.

Which brings me to the only fan letter I have every written.  In the year 2000, Dave had quintuple bypass surgery.  This prompted me to click on a link on AOL (remember that?) that allowed me to send him a get-well card.  I wrote a heartfelt message wishing him a speedy recovery, God’s blessings and that I was praying for him.  After long seminary days of study and formation, I could always count on him sending me off to sleep with a smile.  At that time there was genuine concern that he would not return, but he did with great fanfare so he could continue to read top ten lists, dump watermelons and other items off buildings, and continue to make people laugh. Over the last several years, Dave started to get a bit too political and I started praying a bit more at night and watching ESPN as I went off to sleep, but his announcement yesterday of his retirement still jolted me.  I watched last night for the first time in a while and how he relayed the story of how he came to this decision was both hilarious and poignant.  Despite his marital indiscretions, political leanings, and contempt for authority, what came through the screen was an imperfect human being just like me trying to connect with his audience (His return to TV after 9/11 is still one of the most moving, raw, and honest moments of television that I have ever seen). 

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, on this Lenten Blog, I post a clip of the Muppets singing a hilarious rendition of “O Danny Boy” and I caption it with “Jesus wants you to laugh.” Prayer and a lot of laughter got me through seminary, and most of that laughter came from David Letterman.  As I was writing this last night, I pondered that part of living a good Christian life is making time for laughter.   Not only is it the best medicine but it moves us to a genuine joy that God wants us to experience.  Imperfect as he was, Dave brought me such joy every seminary night.  So thank you David, and thank you for answering a question that has always baffled me: How many guys in Spiderman suits can you get into a New York City Jamba Juice?
To this day, this is still one of my favorite bits.  I saw it this morning for the first time in years and still laughed as hard as I did back then.  Enjoy!