Archive for July, 2009

‘Beauty will save the world’ — Doestevsky

For Anne Lamott

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Word by Word with Anne Lamott
Dave Weich, Powells.com

“I’ve heard someone say that our problems aren’t the problem; it’s our solutions that are the problem,” Anne Lamott reflects. “That tends to be one thing that goes wrong for me—my solutions.”
Lamott’s readers will attest that she writes cleaner than she’s lived. Her younger, occasionally reckless years are documented at length in Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (one of very few end-of-the-century works included on the Modern Library’s list of the 1900s best nonfiction) and Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith.
The San Francisco Chronicle points out, “Anne Lamott is walking proof that a person can be both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime. Sometimes even in the same breath.”

Dave: A few days ago I lent Operating Instructions to a friend at home with her seven-month-old son. As you can see, it fell into the bathwater. She was very embarrassed, returning it in this condition, but she loved the book.
Anne Lamott: I actually get a lot of those, the book returned after it’s been in the bathtub. They’re all about an inch taller by then.

Dave: She read the whole book in one night. What she most appreciated, she said, was having another woman express some of the less dignified thoughts in her head. For example, you write, “One of the worst things about being a parent, for me, is the self-discovery, the being face to face with one’s secret insanity and brokenness and rage.” I think it was that degree of honesty that drove her to read the book straight through, and I imagine that must be part of what drove you to write it.

Lamott: What drove me to write it was a desire to record my son’s life. It was the first year, and it was just so amazing to have this little unit around. A surprise at every turn.

Also, I couldn’t find books to help me because the ones I found weren’t about being honest or dishonest; they were helpful, but they just offered solutions to calm the baby or help the baby get to sleep. No one talked about the exhaustion and the boredom and the frustration, how defeating it is but also how funny —it struck me as being funny at the same time. I would have loved to find a book like that, so I wrote one.

Dave: In Traveling Mercies, you share your private—and often unconventional—ideas about faith. Was the motivation similar?

Lamott: I was writing pieces at Salon.com; that’s where I try out most of my material. The pieces tend to be about faith. They tend to be spiritual, but they’re about very, very ordinary life. I was gathering them together, and I realized pretty soon I had a book there.

It was a really inoffensive way to write about spiritual stuff, from the point of view of somebody who doesn’t have a clue but who knows that if I pray my prayers are answered and who knows there’s a lot of help out there in the world for me. There just is. There’s a huge amount of love and support: people making me laugh about my drama, people that will listen. I guess it’s the missionary thing inside me. I wanted to carry the message that there’s a solution.

I’ve heard someone say that our problems aren’t the problem; it’s our solutions that are the problem. That tends to be one thing that goes wrong for me: my solutions. That’s what I tend to write about spiritually in both of those books.

Dave: I wrote down a line from Operating Instructions that seemed to be entirely representative of your perspective. Upon considering how much you suddenly stood to lose, now that you had a son to lose, you wrote, “Now I’m f—– unto the Lord.”

Lamott: I think I’ve said that in all my books. My last few, anyway.

Dave: So many assumptions about what it means to be a Christian in America in 2003, you just turn them inside out. You don’t argue, exactly; that’s not your approach. But you mentioned “the missionary thing” a minute ago, and this recasting of traditional spirituality would seem to be part of your mission: to make room for a different kind of faith.

Lamott: My sense of mission has to do with having one or two things that I can offer a world that seems as needy and hungry as I sometimes feel. Sometimes it’s about writing, if it’s Bird by Bird, and sometimes it’s about just trying to help other parents know that we’re all in the same boat.

There’s that terrible feeling of isolation when things are going badly as a parent. Or in the case of Blue Shoe (which is about a woman who is a Christian in the same way I am; that is to say, she has a colorful way of expressing herself), Mattie has a mother with Alzheimer’s, but Mattie also has two little kids. I have information about being able to survive in that position: being a mother to some children and being the daughter of a parent who really didn’t effectively parent you at all, who you are still mad at; and at the same time trying to live on a spiritual path of loving kindness.

I feel a mission to write about the real stuff, the stuff that people and I talk about when we’re finally getting down to business, when we’re not just socializing.

Dave: Do you encounter much resistance from Christians with more conservative views?

Lamott: Mostly people that are strict, right-wing Christians know not to read me. Most of the people that are aware of my books know that I’m going to be approaching God from a different angle than, say, Pat Robertson is. If I’m on the radio, if I’m on a Christian station especially, but not even necessarily, sometimes just on any old station, fundamentalists will call in and just try to expose all the errors in my thinking and in my faith, which you really can’t do.

Some people are horrified that I have such an accepting sense of Jesus: that He would accept someone like me, who talks like me, that He would love and accept everybody bar no one. My politics tend to be those of a progressive with certain radical leanings. I come to my Christianity from that point of view. The character in Blue Shoe, her mother is an old-time left-wing activist, and is kind of horrified by her daughter’s Christianity—more actively so than my own mother was. My mother, I think she just rolled her eyes about it and thought of it as my little blind spot. Mattie’s family thinks her Christianity is just a phase and that it will pass. So I guess I get that to some extent.

I don’t try to convert anyone. I don’t think it’s my business, and I don’t think I would be able to do that anyway. I just want to tell people what it’s like for me and what a wreck I was and how much less of a wreck I am now that I’ve found a spiritual community. Sometimes I tell it in drama, in fiction, and sometimes I just tell stories from my own life.

Dave: There’s a scene in one of the books where you’re talking with your therapist, drawing meaning from various knickknacks on the shelves. Rereading that, I thought of the blue shoe in this new novel: an otherwise insignificant item that takes on a great deal of meaning. And there really was a blue shoe in your life, right?

Lamott: There was. Almost twenty years ago, I was living in Petaluma and I split up with this man I’d been living with. I told a friend in the town where I grew up that I needed to come stay with her for two weeks. I stayed forever, but we were walking into town one day, I was very depressed, and I just put a quarter in a gumball machine because I was bored. This stupid little turquoise rubber shoe came out. And I just loved it. I could wrap my fingers around it? It tethered me to the earth or something. It felt like I was holding hands with someone, or something like that. Pat, whom I was staying with, would make fun of me, but I couldn’t put it down.

When her situation changed in life and things got hard for her, one morning I left the blue shoe for her to have with a little note that said I would walk her through these challenges; she didn’t have to worry, but I thought she needed the blue shoe. And she couldn’t put it down. It was so nutty. She was very fancy and much older than I was, and yet the same thing happened for her: Once she held it, she couldn’t put it down. Six months later things changed in my life and she gave it back to me. We did this back-and-forth for years.

It struck me as being a really nice and unusual way to tell the story of best friends over time. Mattie is obviously in love with this man, and he’s just a wonderful guy, but he’s married. It’s about five years in their life with the blue shoe being exchanged back and forth.

Dave: Most fiction writers haven’t put their own story out there in such detail. Because people know so much about you, is it more difficult to write fiction?

Lamott: People think they know so much about me. The stuff that I choose to write about in my books is stuff I’m comfortable with. It’s not secret stuff anymore. I tell the people I’m closest to what’s really going on in my deepest parts. By the time I share stuff, whether it’s in fiction or nonfiction, I don’t have any worry about it at all.

There’s nothing in Traveling Mercies or Operating Instructions or Bird by Bird that I think is shocking. In Blue Shoe, Mattie is obviously very much based on me, not the facts of her life, but her emotional and spiritual and political life. Because it’s fiction, I could have her do stuff or think stuff I’d only have said to a couple people.

I’m exhilarated by the truth. If somebody writes a book that is incredibly honest, even what people would call confessional, I’m just exhilarated by it.

Dave: When you’re struggling to get words on the page, would you say that it’s because you’re not connecting to that truth?

Lamott: I think writing is just really hard. I don’t deconstruct it, and I don’t have any interesting theories about it. I really don’t. I just think it’s hard. Blue Shoe is my ninth book, and it was just as hard as any of the others. I don’t have that much more confidence than I ever had. It doesn’t matter how they do. It’s such a lonely, odd business.

Most writers I know have a combination of self-loathing and great narcissism. It’s very easy to think that everything you’ve thought or done or heard is really interesting, and it’s obviously not. Everything I write, I write many drafts of. Even a Salon piece probably takes five drafts to make it sound natural. Then people say, “Oh, you write just like you talk.” But it took me five drafts to get it to sound that way.

Anne Lamott visited Powell’s City of Books on September 26, 2003.

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I caught the glitch on the Betty Perry article below and have cleaned it up and no, I haven’t forgotten it’s Anne Lamott Appreciation Month at Jitterbuggingforjesus.com, the blog site that will humble Rush Limbaugh with God using jitterbugger as God’s agent and all that.
(Newcomers note: we at JFJ have a hard time mustering God’s love and grace for Rush but we pray and we know God is using us to lead him to God who by the way has no gender or race or ethnicity or anything but is just God and is still mightier–this may come as a shock to some–than Rush Limbaugh. Or mightier even than Sarah Palin who, like a bear, spits in the woods and that’s just not our kind of woman here at JFJ is it, jitterbuggers?)

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A personal message to Sir Paul

Enough already, Paul

Enough already, Paul

We know we know you eat your vegetables, Sir Paul.
Like World War II, your vegetarian obsession was in ALL THE PAPERS the past 30 years.
As much man love as I have for you, ol’ bud, I WON”T GO VEGETARIAN for you, OK?
Unless you want to have me backstage for the buffet and us take pictures as we pal around or something.
I could go with some carrot patties if you insist.
You and me, bud.
In fact, seeing as how I’ve had to sell the farm in order to be there in order for you to entertain me and someone else on the night of August 19 at the New Jerry Jones Palisades, I don’t think me back stage to pal a bit would be unreasonable, do you really think?
Who will still need me, who will still feed me, when I’m 64 and penniless as a result of buying two tickets to see you, a Beatle?
I know two people who don’t even know who you are anyway so you’re not all that special, really.
Of course, one was that woman in Madison, Wis. who emailed and said she’d be my friend because I seem friendly and she said, “Who’s Paul McCartney anyway?” but I think she’s like all the other con artists out there who just know I have two tickets to your show and they just want to befriend me and say they’re my friend because they think I’ll take them to see you but boy, they must think I’m stoopid.
that woman in Madison I bet knows who you are and she’s just more cleverer than most of them but I still stoopid not so much.
I’ll tell you who’s planning to feed ME when I”M 64, and that’s my three kids who already have a nursing home picked out for me in College Station, Texas, like I’m ready for a nursing home.
Would you like to have three extra kids?
You’re welcome to mine.

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Her, doing good

Her, doing good

Well, actually, I don’t know Ms. Perry but love her and her kind for the kind of work they just keep slugging away at for the betterment of the world and the advancement of the Kingdom of which Jesus has given us a foretaste and expects us to advance till the end amen.
With no further ado . . . .

By Jenna De Marco*
July 27, 2009 | CLEARWATER, Fla. (UMNS)

Ten years ago, Betty Perry was fixing breakfast for Sunday school workers when a hungry man approached her and asked if he could have something to eat.

The following Sunday, six people came to the kitchen at Mount Zion United Methodist Church looking for something to eat.

Betty Perry started the meals ministry 10 years ago to serve the area’s homeless population.

Now, she serves some 200 of the poor and homeless Sunday breakfast each week through the “Uncommon Touch Ministry” at her church.

Betty Perry does not turn away those in need. “Whatever we can do for these people, we do,” she said.

Her efforts generated local and national attention recently when Perry won a 2009 Jefferson Award for public service. Perry is one of 75 winners from local communities who traveled to Washington in June to be honored.

“Betty wins the Jefferson Award because of her program at the church,” said Sam Beard, one of the founders of the Jefferson Awards. “It’s just an example of what goes right back to the founding of the country, which is that volunteer spirit.”

For her part, Perry finds a number of rewards serving others.

“It’s an awesome ministry, and I love doing it,” she said.

More than a meal

The Sunday diners come to breakfast from surrounding communities, including Dunedin, Largo, St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Perry said.

“They are traveling far because what they say to us is, we’re the only people who treat them like human beings,” Perry said. “We know their names. Even if it is new people, we know their names before they leave.”

When the crowds arrive for breakfast, they find more than a meal. They can visit the “clothes closet,” a collection of donated clothing, personal hygiene and baby care items. Prior to dining, the group joins in a pre-meal devotion.

The prayer is done by them,” Perry said. “They can sign up, or they can just volunteer when they get in.”

The Rev. Lawrence Barriner, church pastor, often joins the participants at the table for conversation.

“We sit down and we talk to them and we need to deal with where they are and we need to let them know that there’s someone who cares and that God cares,” Perry said.

That includes providing a dining experience with tablecloths and flowers on each table to go along with the hot breakfast of eggs, sausage, grits, biscuits, corned beef hash, juice, milk and coffee.

The food is prepared from scratch each week, mostly by Perry, who begins her preparations on Tuesday. Sundays are reserved for heating and serving the food.

Each week, diners consume about a case of bananas, 15 dozen eggs, nine pounds of sausage, six or more gallons of milk, four gallons of orange juice, four gallons of apple juice, enough coffee for 150 people, two gallons of cranberry juice, 10 pounds of grits and 250 to 300 biscuits. She also stocks some non-perishable snacks and drinks at the church for families with hungry children.

The ministry costs an average of $1,400 per month. Perry sometimes has paid all the expenses, but food and monetary donations come in more often now.

“I do a lot of praying, and all I worry about now is, ‘Are my bills paid?’” she said. “And I still pay my tithes and offerings, and people just come to me with donations.”

Support from church members and outside volunteers makes the feeding ministries possible, Perry said.

Barriner said the impact of Perry’s ministry is impressive, especially in the context of a church with a “lean budget” and fewer than 200 members. He emphasized the ministry’s biblical underpinnings.

“I think it is important because Christ has called us to be in solidarity with the poor,” he said. “And that’s a biblical mandate to be in solidarity with them.”

Struggling families seek assistance

The national economic recession makes the ministry more relevant, Perry said. Some of those helped have children, while others may have run short on their public food assistance resources. Some are day laborers whose employment is inconsistent, and others have reached the end of the month with no money left for food.

“You would be amazed at the people we have now that used to have jobs that don’t have jobs now,” Perry said.

Perry tries to help the families with children by providing extra milk and juice. She also makes hot dogs, frozen dinners, canned goods and cereal available when possible.

“It is very heartbreaking to see sometimes,” Perry said. “I can be just about in tears, especially when I see the kids.”

The majority of the children at breakfast end up attending Sunday school, too, Perry said.

“We have grown because some of the kids stay for Sunday school and some of the people who come for breakfast stay for Sunday school and worship,” she said.

Individuals interested in making a contribution may write a check payable to Mount Zion United Methodist Church, with “Uncommon Touch” in the memo line. The church address is 825 Howard Street, Clearwater, FL 33756.

*De Marco is a staff writer for e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.

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Paul David Mckay | Create Your Badge
Paul David Mckay
So I’m driving home from hospital duty many ticks after midnight this morning while you were still in dreamland and I turn on the radio and it’s playing the Three Dog Night tribute to Jeremiah,  and it occurs to me that I should remind jitterbuggers first thing this morning (and remember, my first thing in the morning is not yours unless you work the night owl shift and are an avowed insomniac) that Jeremiah was waaaay more than just a bullfrog that the Three Dogs made famous (how many times did I see them live in the Cotton Bowl in my misspent youth? They always came to give it all they had and such great voices and harmonies and as tight live as they sounded on the wax.).

Jeremiah was also one of God’s greatest prophets and one of the prophets Jesus modeled his own prophetic mission and ministry after.  And if you think, like a lot of folk in this day and age, that the Old Hebrew Testament is irrelevant and useless to us Christians and that the prophets are all gloomy and doomy–and Jeremiah can go all gloomy and doomy better than most Old Testament types–well, please allow yours truly to get your Christian mind right, will you?

You have to know your Testament of Old in order to know your Testament of New. When Jesus gave us the New Deal, which he called the New Covenant, he was of course making something new out of something old that God had foretold through Jeremiah.  (Jesus was a librul Democrat, by the way, and voted for Roosevelt.  And Obama.)

Jesus said in Luke 22, when he had the boys huddled around for dinner that night:

“I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled to the kingdom of God comes.”

Then what happened: Luke tells us that: “he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God come.”

And then what happened: Luke tells us that: “he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’

And he did the same with the cup after supper, Dr. Luke the physician tells us, saying: “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

That’s a huge part about what this supper Jesus wanted to have was about, the New Covenant, which was the fulfillment of God’s promise foretold through Jeremiah the Great that . . . . . well, here’s what Jeremiah said that God said in Jer. 31 starting at verse 31:

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt–a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the New Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days . . . I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach each other, or say to each other ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,  says the Lord; for I will forgive them their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”

That’s how merciful and forgiving God is–unlike you and me. God just forgives whole God heartedly and doesn’t even remember our sin–and sin is separation from God.

Well, so much to say about Jeremiah but that’s it for now and here’s hoping you have a blessed day you who come here to jitterbug dance with God in God’s endless love, grace, mercy and above all joy.

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Jesus washes Peter's feet

Jesus washes Peter's feet

(For my deacon brothers & sisters)
Something your jitterbugger simply felt like posting from the New Testament for no rhyme or reason except that he likes this story and likes it a lot, from John 13:

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.
And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’
Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’
Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’
Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!’
Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.’
For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.’

About the painting & the artist:
“The washing of the feet ”
Ghislaine Howard (b.1953 )



Methodist Collection of Modern Christian Art, No.40
The painting shows Jesus kneeling to wash the feet of the disciple Peter. This act of service is recorded only in the Fourth Gospel, occurring in the narrative at the point where the Synoptic Gospels have an account of the Last Supper.

The Methodist Collection has many works on the Passion Narrative but has not previously included an interpretation of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. The Trustees of the Collection approached Ghislaine Howard, an artist well known for her strong, physical portrayals of the human figure and for her ability to express the Christian faith in an imaginative and arresting way.

Having given her complete artistic freedom, the Trustees were delighted that the picture suggests the Middle Eastern origins of the Christian faith as reflected in the shape of the bowl and the warmth of the skin tones.

The importance of the event is conveyed by the classical and monumental style which echoes earlier interpretations of the theme. The dress is simple and workman-like; these two figure figures could be from any age and any country.

The simple, everyday of washing a guest’s feet before offering hospitality becomes through the words and actions of Jesus a moment pregnant with significance.

‘So, if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet’.

The figures are set against a rich green/blue background and completely dominate the composition. Their gestures and the rhythms of their bodies focus attention on the most crucial moment of the narrative.

Howard has mixed sand with the paint to creates a sculptural surface texture which serves to at once unify and heighten the intensity and intimacy of the scene. Here are two real figures each in their different ways reacting to one of the most poignant and moving episodes in the Gospels.

Ghislaine Howard is best known for her ground-breaking work on pregnancy and birth. A painter of powerful and expressive means, she has shown her large cycle of paintings, The Stations of the Cross / The Captive Figure to great acclaim at the two Liverpool Cathedrals, Canterbury Cathedral and Gloucester Cathedral.

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So I come into work today, a mess–but a good mess–so immobilized from weeping with joy and relief over Cpl. Adam McKay being out of the brutal desert in Iraq and bound for the cool and calming safety of an Ireland pub tonight that my chaplain peers at work, whom I’d notified before coming in that I was a mess, in tears, but would be in, albeit a few ticks late, surprised me with two of the biggest pieces of creamy cake (Dangerously High Calorie Count Div.) and Diet Coke served up in my boss’s office on purple tablecloth.
First, though, they rallied around to lay hands on me and pray for me and Adam and our family, and they read this most appropriate scripture to me, from Psalm 126:

When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
the LORD has done great things for them.
The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!
Restore our fortunes, O LORD, like streams in the Negev***.
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy!
He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”

*** Negev–Following a visit to Palestine in 1867, Mark Twain described the Negev Desert in his book “The Innocents Abroad” as “a desolation that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action…”.

Rarely does one find a country so small with landscapes so varied as in Israel. In this tiny country of approximately 8,000 square miles (a little smaller than the state of New Jersey), it takes a few hours to drive from the snow-capped mountains in the north to arid desert expanses in the south.

“Negev” in Hebrew means south. Israel’s Negev Desert, where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob tended their flocks, comprises 66%, over 6,700 square miles, of Israel. Triangular in shape, with the resort town of Eilat at its southern apex and Beer Sheva as its northern base, the Negev has an arid and semi-arid climate, defined according to average rainfall (2 – 6 inches), type of soil and natural vegetation.
— From the Negev Foundation Website

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Blue Thousand and One from Blue Man Group HD on Vimeo.

(For Jorge Rodriguez Jr, who we know got the Blue Men Love thing going on, Georgie.)
The Blue Men are bizarre, sometimes almost to the point of too much to take, but so utterly inventive and creative and compelling! Sheer Magic, these guys.

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Letterman and his boy Harry

Letterman and his boy Harry

Dave Matthews is on Dave Letterman tonight, two guys who’d definitely do to walk the river with, and Harry Letterman too.

Here’s a Dave Letterman Top 10 List I like, I like it a lot (Top 10 Things Overheard at Sarah Palin’s Farewell Party):

“More tiny hot dog appetizers? You betcha”

“Don’t forget to schedule an appointment with Joe the Mover”

“Quiet down! We don’t want to wake the Russians”

“Todd, I’ve always wanted to know — what do you do exactly?”

“John McCain passed out in the dip”

“Where can I check my pelt?”

“Bad news — the new governor just quit”

“Please accept this gift from all of us at Lenscrafters”

“‘Dancing with the Stars’ called, they got your resume”

“I haven’t seen you since the ‘Fire Dave Letterman’ Rally”

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