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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Jam Incident

The worst thing about people stealing your jam is that you'll never get to feed it to your cats and see the look in their eyes when they gobble down the delicious nectar of the Smucker’s Gods. That is why 'jams and jellies' theft must be punishable by a surgical procedure that would replace one's arms with their legs, and vice versa. From first person experience, the sixth saddest day of my life (June 12, 2000), was the day thieves broke into my sky blue Vanagon and stole three gallons of my favorite boysenberry & banana jam.

Despite popular opinion, boysenberry & banana jam is rather difficult to find. There are only two places on the North American continent where it is made, and to make matters worse, both men who make the earth-shattering jam are insane for various reasons.

One of the guys who makes it, Baron von Jellymaker, lives in a tiny paper mache shack in South Pass, Louisiana near the point that the mighty Mississippi River empties itself into the even mightier Gulf of Mexico. When he was just a little boy, Baron von Jellymaker witnessed both of his parents drown in a vat of peach jelly in his homeland of Fresno, California. After mourning for a reasonable period of time, the Baron vowed to rid the world of accidental jelly drownings. He began, in mid-1975, to concoct a formula for a jam that would suit such purposes. After seven years of back breaking labor, Baron von Jellymaker unveiled his creation at the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair.

Unfortunately, the critics of the day were ill prepared for such a magnanimous creation and derided the Baron’s jam as a disgusting joke that, as one New York Times critic put it, “has the flavor of boiled blood and the consistency of mucus.” Needless to say, Baron von Jellymaker was devastated and vowed never to make his jam again. He hitchhiked south into Louisiana and built the shack he lives in today. I was able to visit him once back in 1988, to try to get a sample of the jam. He rejected my request by throwing a paper mache spear in my direction and calling me a “New York Pinko.” He threatened to have me castrated if I ever visited him again.

The other person that creates the jam is Sid Harrison. In 1980, Sid developed a nasty addiction to horse tranquilizers. While under the influence of said horse tranquilizers, Sid decided to mix the random fruit he had laying around the house. Sid blacked out for a few days and woke up to find that he had filled the gas tanks of his many cars with the mysterious mixture. When he finally figured out how to get the mixture out, he discovered that he had created boysenberry & banana jam. To his delight, the jam was one of the greatest tasting things he’d ever ingested.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years, Sid Harrison is the inventor of the left-handed pencil. By mid-1987, his invention had sold over a billion units. Sid’s estimated worth on New Year’s Day, 1988 was around $75,000,000. This is important because Sid, aside from having a costly addiction to horse tranquilizers, also purchased a lot of cars, 646 to be exact.

Unfortunately for Sid, 1988 turned out to be an apocalyptic year. By New Years Day, 1989, Sid Harrison had been the subject of two class-action lawsuits related to his left-handed pencil. The first, by over 240,000 Carpal Tunnel Syndrome sufferers was quickly settled out of court for a very high, but also very undisclosed amount. The second lawsuit was filed on behalf of the NAARHP (National Association for the Advancement of Right-Handed People) charging discrimination. The second lawsuit sucked the remainder of Sid’s estate and left him with only his 646 jelly-filled cars and his heavily fortified compound in the Badlands of South Dakota.

Sid has spent the past 14 years in a drug-induced jelly stupor occasionally selling excess jam for money to buy protein tablets. He currently makes a variety of jams in the gas tanks of his cars, but has never duplicated his boysenberry-banana masterpiece. Because Sid’s diet consists solely of jelly, jam and protein tablets, his weight has ballooned to nearly 800 pounds. He has since hired a midget assistant to push him around in a large red wagon. In his spare time, Sid created a new religion revolving around jams, jellies, and other fruit preservatives. As part of his religion, Sid has stated:

“For all that wish, all may sample the sacred jam? Once! But beware. Once you have tasted the sweet nectar – Sid forbids. Never shall you taste it again.”
***excerpt from “The Holy Bible of Jam” Book of Huckleberry 7:10-14

The batch of jam that was stolen from my sky blue Vanagon that fateful June day was a batch I had purchased from Sid. Despite reading “The Holy Bible of Jam” cover to cover, I traveled back to South Dakota on November 18, 2000, and requested more jam. I genuflected as the Book of Strawberry instructs, and made my request to the Almighty Sid. Sid patiently heard me out. When I was finished speaking Sid said nothing. He pulled out of his breast pocket a shiny, silver whistle and called for his midget assistant, Tujo.

He pulled Tujo close and in a very quiet tone, he gave the following instructions to his longtime midget assistant:

"Remove this one from the premises. I will not stand for blasphemy.”

November 18, 2000 had just become the fifth saddest day of my life. Tujo walked up to me, grabbed my hand and escorted me out of the compound. I was so distraught that I abandoned my sky blue Vanagon and decided instead to walk home to San Francisco.

I guess at one point I’ll have to face my fear and visit the Baron again. He really is my only hope. In January, I will be playing a gig at the Bayou Shrimp Bar and Gun Club in Port Sulphur, Louisiana, which is just up the trail from the Baron’s shack, so maybe I’ll drop by again. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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