“If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
by the light, by the light, by the light of the moon.
If you want to be a Badger, just come along with me,
by the bright shining light of the moon.”
~ The Badger Ballad, Professor Julian Olson, 1919
Isaac Moses Tonowitz was a typical New York kinda guy. Born, raised and weaned on challah, kugel and chutzpah. The kind who’d wail that Carnegie is pronounced “Car Nay Gee.” And, nobody goes to 21, but tourists. And, sporting a patch on your eye gets better service.
His landsmen called him “Little Witz” or “L-Witz” for short. And, they tagged a mutual friend, R.J. Horowitz, “BIG Witz.” But, truth be told, like 95% of the stuff in the universe is dark matter and energy, L-Witz was a ton witzier than BIG Witz. The kinda guy who could pronounce “Goethe” correctly. And, sing old Jewish folk songs to shikshas until they wept to bed him. And, A/ce Advanced Calculus without attending a single class.
And, rumor has it that L-Witz came from a long list of Hassidic rabbis. Or Venetian merchants. Or standup comics like Woody Allen’s Alvy Singer in the movie Annie Hall. But, rumors are rumors. And, “You never know,” as his Epistemology Prof. would argue, after scratching his scalp and sucking his fingers.
But, pass the muzzle. Convention preaches that VOICE shouldn’t OVERwhelm readers and undermine story. When it does, it becomes more an expression of the writer’s ego than its readers’ emotional experience. Like young Jerome David Salinger was accused of doing. So, on with this ballad-story. Just come along with me. By the BRIGHT shining light of the moon.
Spot on, L-Witz was a BRIGHT shining light. Sometimes. Like, during his first semester at UW-Madison, a summer p-lay date to get the l-a-y of the land – or, as he would say, “l-a-y of the land. Get it? l-a-y of the land. Get my drift?” – he A/ced Pre-Socratic Philosophy and Music History.
His Pre-Soc. Prof. was a standUP dude. Who stood ERECT behind a lectern in a short sleeve, white, wash-and-wear shirt, thin blue tie, blue dress pants and cobalt shoes…sans socks. Now, L-Witz discovered that PSP was best known in philosophical circles for unpacking Meno’s Paradox. So, he couldn’t resist dropping Meno references without revealing he really didn’t know squat about it. Except that it was Plato’s Socratic dialogue that attempted to determine the meaning of virtue, in general. Whatever that was. And, he sat in the first row in a BIG chair, oxymoronically, which campus maintenance drunkenly left after a bash for this-or-that and slurping several left-over brewskis.
And, he could see that PSP read from 12.7 cm x 17.8 cm note cards. And that a philosopher’s own words and PSP’s analysis were typed on each card. And, sometimes, just sometimes L-Witz couldn’t tell when the philosopher’s words ended, and PSP’s analysis began. So, when the bell rrrang to end class, he JUMPed from his chair like he was suddenly awakened from a wet dream in a deep sleep.
And, he always took neat notes in a blue Duke jotter to impress PSP, whom he read was a Blue Devil graduate. And, he never nodded, like many of his classless classmates at 8 a.m., but smiled and nodded knowingly like he was totally in sync with every word PSP read. And, he eagerly raised his hand to answer questions like “What’s philosophy’s etymology?” and “Why is Thales considered the first philosopher?” So, when he needed a recommendation to grad. school, he philosophically asked PSP, who agreed. So, L-Witz shined BRIGHTLY.
L-Witz’s Music History Prof. was a rare bird from an endangered species like the Snail Kite. Like, he bore a Hershey-colored snow suit from 1:00 p.m. to 1:50 p.m. every day during the swelter-sizzling summer semester with a ring-around-the-collar shirt, bow tie like Pee Wee Herman’s and shoes like Bozo the Clown’s. And, he stinky-smelled like boiling tripe and talked with a l-o-n-g Southern drawl, as if Louisiana’s late Governor Huey P. L-o-n-g. And, played classical tunes on the piano for his students like he was a wild beast, attacking a Charlie Chaplin silent movie in the Roman Coliseum. A piano that sounded like it hadn’t been tuned since 1954. When UW’s legendary football player, Alan “The Horse” Ameche, supposedly scored his final grade from “F” to “A” in Jocks Only 001. And, handed it off to his Prof. with a note, “Nobody shits on The Horse.” But, despite those, ah, dis-tractions, L-Witz took neat notes in an orange and black, LSU jotter to impress his MHP, whom he read was a Tiger graduate. And, he never nodded, like many of his classless classmates during their post-noon dip, but smiled and nodded knowingly like he was totally in sync with every note MHP played. And, he eagerly raised his hand to answer questions like “What’s the text of an opera or dramatic work called?” and “What composer is best known as the inventor of opera?” So, when he needed a recommendation to grad. school, he musically asked MHP, who agreed. So, again, L-Witz shined BRIGHTLY.
Now, L-Witz wasn’t into mooning sororities during the wee-hours like some ya-whos from Oconomowoc after too-too many of Madison’s discount suds. But, he did shine his moon in private, proudly, with more than a few co-eds in his apartment building. Misnamed “The Bach.” Cuz mOans and grOans echOed thrOugh its halls as sOrOrity girls and independents sO Often rOde their rOdeO cOwbOys. With repeated CAPITAL “Os.”
Again, it’s rumored that L-Witz’s musical magic and philosophical pitch finally faded. But, a few of his capers have survived and thrived over time like his sorority dining room study break. And, his nurse nightcap. And, his you-remind-me-of-my-ex XXXperience.
His you-remind-me-XXXperience was supposedly a windfall lemOn-tO-lemOnade frOlic. As its story goes, L-Witz was fascinated with a girl, who believed he was too mature for her. Her too-mature notion was probably grounded in his misguided passion to o/verwhelm g/irls with his knowledge of 11 languages, Medieval Bantu Metaphysis and the Metric System.
Hey, how could anyone survive a critical analysis of the ontological relationship between a quart and a litre…in Hebrew? So, the OG brought her o/lder s/ister to a session with Languages. Then, shrieked she was dizzy and felt like puking and was worried she might be coming down with the plague or whatever. So, she left her OS to learn how to deconstruct the Hebrew to Italian translation of “There are 2.5 centimetres in an inch.” And, after her first lesson, OS kinda dug Bantu’s bullshit. And, made it patently clear in un-metaphysical Plain Speak that she was in the mood to p-lay. Cuz Metric’s nose, she thought, was l-o-n-g like her ex’s, and her ex had a metre long shwanz. So, she was ready, willing and wet to ride L-Witz’s brains out. Like she was competing in the PrOfessiOnal Bull Riding ROdeo at MadisOn Square Garden. The rest of the rumor is bOiler plate mumbO jumbO about Shwanz leaving her with a freshly-fucked smirk on his face. Shining BRIGHTLY.
The nurse nightcap is more short-distanced like a straight line between East and West Jesus. It seems that one night L-Witz cruised to a party that splashed into his apartment building’s hall. There, a tallish-thin woman like Popeye’s O/live O/yl dressed as a nurse, waved him to boogie with her to the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Sixth-sensing “Please, please Me” was next UP, he smiled, stared at her parted wet lips, said he loved her HIGH heeled sneakers and wrapped his arms around her waiting waist. Within beats, while bumping and grinding to Sam and Dave’s “Hold on, I’m Coming,” OO slipped her quavering hand down his draw string camp shorts and whispered, “Your place or mine for a nightcap?” Bunking in a men’s dorm, whose house mother was a retired guard at a maximum security correctional institute in Marshfield, Wisconsin, he replied, “Yours works for me.” Once inside her grove in Madison’s Hellenic Hospital, which barely allowed a Murphy bed, dresser, coat rack and frig. – the restroom was down the hall – she handed him a Cerveceria Modelo Especial and Quervo chaser.
But, before he could take a single swig, she pulled down his pants and SAVAGE-ravaged, as if she were frantically pumping a flat tire on her Parlee Z-Zero at the Recorrido por España. Until he felt he could shwanz a moose.
The rest of the rumor is bOiler plate mumbO jumbO abOut Shwanz leaving her with a freshly-jerked smirk on his face. Shining BRIGHTLY.
The sorority dining room study break rumor is totally incredible, but deserves a short SHOUT. As the rumor goes, he met a girl, a Wasp’s wasp, he thought, at an orientation for new students. Wasp was buzzing on the stairs at the Union Terrace. Immaculately dressed in madras shorts, freshly ironed monogramed “W” t-shirt and chaste Capezios – all from Brooks Brothers – she looked stunning, as if the Virgin Mary in Murillo’s painting of the Immaculate Conception in Spain’s Prado. And, he looked at her, and she at him and the rest was lOve and rOses. So, VM was staying in a sorority on Langdon Street for the summer, and one night invited L-Witz to, ah, study with her in its dining room. Within seconds, they were slurping Alhambra Premium Lager, which L-Witz smuggled in his back pack. Stunningly, VM pulled down his shorts, dipped her head to his crotch and lolly-POPPED until he felt he could shwanz a moose. The rest of the rumor is bOiler plate mumbO jumbO about Shwanz leaving her with a soulfully-sucked grin on his puss. Shining BRIGHTLY.
After his first glOriOus summer in Mad-tOwn, it’s rumored that L-Witz stayed ON to earn an undergraduate degree with a double major in Philosophy&MusicHistory. And, graduated with comprehensive honors, Phi Beta Kappa, a free ride to grad. school and loads of other bling.
Now, rumors are just rumors, and as Yogi Berry supposedly said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” So, it’s rumor-rumored there was another side to L-Witz’s life, an eclipse of the moon that darkens his legend. So, for the sake of ebb and flow, tidal gravity and psycho-social balance, it’s essential to shine a black light on it, too.
As his ballad goes, L-Witz graduated with lots of bling. But, did deceitfully leverage his wits to A/ce at least one Philosophy course, taught by a Prof. whose petite 10-page dissertation disproved one of Aristotle’s syllogisms. Now, L-Witz needed to A/ce his course to retain his free-ride, but logically didn’t deserve it. So, he invited Aristotle to join him in the Union’s Rathskeller. After a dish of fish and chips and too-too many Budweisers, L-Witz baited him to brag about his dissertation. Syllogism slurpingly confessed he spooned a critical chunk of his argument from a sizzling article in Greece’s Journal of Heterodoxical Logic. That’s all L-Witz needed to threaten to o-u-t his Prof., destroy his reputation and send him directly to academic jail…without passing goal. Unless, that is, unless, he received an A/ce in his course. Logically, Aristotle agreed, and L-Witz shined BRIGHTLY.
Then, there’s the rumor about the girl with funny shoes. Funny, L-Witz thought, cuz he had a women’s shoe fetish, and never saw a pair he didn’t covet. But, Funny’s shoes were too funny-looking for L-Witz, who mocked them until her boyfriend grabbed him by the neck and pulled him into a closet. Where, he told him his girlfriend was handicapped and wore correctives. L-Witz was stunned. And, wept. And, pounded at his witless eyes, until he looked like Rocky Raccoon. And, he never forgot about it. And, regretted it, until he was six feet under, or wherever witless wits go to burrow UP for their sins. Shining BRIGHTLY.
And, the one about the g/irl-q/ua-w/oman he met, again, on the Union’s Terrace. A stylish, serene, statuesque GQW as sexy as a pair of Manola Blahnik stilettos.
And, Bing! They immediately complemented each other like PB&J. And, red&green. And, Bonnie&Clyde. But, she apologized for having to leave with her girlfriend for their ballet class. So, she printed her phone number on his forehead in wet lipstick with a J. And, whispered in his ear, “Please call me.” L-Witz couldn’t wait. But, when he did, Bonnie-Ballet acted like she didn’t know him, like he was some kinda sex-fiend-phone-prowler. Limp, he hung up, wondering if he had OVERwhelmed her with his charm and wit and appreciation for women’s HIGH fashion. Curiously, the next day, Bonnie-Ballet’s friend saw L-Witz wandering on the Terrace. There, she told him BB made an unforgivable mistake and wanted to see him sOlely. Next time L-Witz called her, she was all lOve and rOses. So, he invited her for strawberries and champagne the next night at Promontory Point. When they arrived, they walked through the dense woods to a clearing, where L-Witz said they’d be alOne. As quickly as David Copperfield can make the Empire State Building disappear, they were mOaning and grOaning, till she passed out. So, L-Witz qua DC crept away, thinking, I’ll teach that ballerina a Bolshoi lesson. Fortunately, Ballerina wasn’t attacked by a sexual predator, but did suffer irreparable emotional distress. And, spent the rest of the summer in the University Hospital’s Psychiatric Ward. L-Witz never forgot what he had done. And, regretted it, until he was six feet under or wherever witless wits go to pay for their sins. Shining BRIGHTLY.
And, there were more rumors. Like the time L-Witz supposedly threatened to slice a guy from Warsaw to coleslaw with a broken beer bottle for shouting, “You’re a Sophist.” And, one about slapping the shit outta another for hugging one of rejects. And, another, about hurling a rock at a girl’s head, cuz he liked her, il/logically. And, conversely, like L-Witz always going to Temple on HIGH Holidays. And, consoling-holding a friend’s hand, when his Muter died. And, volunteering to teach English to Israeli immigrants at Hillel. And, donating sperm to the Jewish Relief Fund. And, always sending his Bubbe a monogrammed “O” white-laced hankie for her birthday. “O” for Odessa, her birthplace. Cuz, hey, L-Witz was human. And, humans are h-U-man. Not simply on or off, Celsius or Fahrenheit, suck or fuck. But, rather, an amorphous amalgam of random atoms.
Now, as Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer sang in No More Tears, “Enough is enough.” So, as it’s written, so it’ll be.
Cuz, tearfully, rumors about L-Witz are becoming extinct like the Snail Kite.
Years past, and he was mostly forgotten. Still, some believed he preconditioned the Second Coming. A few cursed him as Neo-Beelzebub, the new Ruler of Demons. Others, in the spirit of Bolshoi, Manolo and Aristotle, simply mumbled, “He was some kinda BuCkY-crazy motherfucker. Whatever, who gives a shit?”
Oh, if this story’s voice OVERwhelmed its readers and undermined its narrative; and it’s more an expression of this writer’s ego than their emotional experience; and it’s so OVERexplained that they don’t dig it and mindlessly think it’s too clever, witty and writer conscious; and are too f-in’ lazy to look up the meaning of words like “heterodoxical”; and swear that every sentence must be structured subject-verb-object; and are too dense to comprehend that GQW stands for g/irl-q/ua-w/oman…PISS Off! Cuz, it was written exactly as Isaac Moses Tonowitz would tell-sell it. EXperiMENTALLY. With all its sudden stops. And starts. And GLORIOUS gutsy gusto!
On the other boot, if, and only if, readers unequivocally fancy this story’s kick-ass style, BINGO! GIN! GOOOOAL!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. Ray Paradiso is a recovering academic in the process of refreshing himself as an EXperiMENTAL writer and street photographer. His work has appeared in dozens of publications including Hair Trigger 2.0, Storgy and Big Pond Rumors. He labors to fill temporal-spatial, psycho-social holes and, on good days, to enjoy the flow. All of his work is dedicated to his true love, sweet muse and body guard: Suzi Skoski Wosker Doski.
[ Photograph at the top of this page has been created from a public domain image of a building at University of Wisconsin-Madison. ]