A Tale of Many Days Before
by J.D. Finch
A friend of mine said that his family has deep and sinuous roots in Baltimore: "Pre-Cal Ripkin, pre-John Waters, practically pre-history, dude." He's a very young friend.
"So one day my great-great-great grandfather is tossing a few back in a bar at Fell's Point. This dude walks in with this ugly black bird on his shoulder, like he was just on a cruise on the frikkin' Jolly Roger or something. And my grandfather is like, 'So dude, what's the deal with the feathered friend?'
"So the guy says, 'I'm holding it for this Audubon dude, who says he wants to draw a picture of us.'
"And my grandfather says, 'No way.'
"And the dude with the vulture thing says like, 'Way.'
"And my grandfather, who'd seen this Audubon guy burn dudes before says, 'Dude, he doesn't want to draw you. He draws birds, not people.'
"And the bird guy is like, 'As if!'
"And all of a sudden the bartender is up in his face and says, 'More?' like does he want more to drink.
"And the bird dude just looks at him sort of disgusted, you know. Then he turns and walks out, and on his way they think they hear him mutter 'nevermore'.
"And the bartender is like clueless and my grandfather says to him, 'I think that dude just invented the 'a man walks into a bar' joke.'
"You know, 'cause this was like a million years ago, before there were a lot of jokes going around.
"And the bartender says, 'Well, if he did, he needs a new punch line, cause that 'nevermore' thing sucks.'
"And then my grandfather drops a bomb on the bartender and says, 'Dude that was old man Poe and his bird.' And he's thinking, 'Why am I even telling this guy this - what do bartenders know about literature?'
"But then the bartender bombs him right back.
"'That was old man Poe? No frikkin' wonder! There ain't nothin' funny about that dude, man.'
"But then my grandfather really goes nuclear on him with, 'And by the way, dude, it wasn't old man Poe who said 'nevermore', it was his frikkin' bird.'
"And the bartender is like, 'No way,' and my grandfather is like, 'Way.'
About the author:
J.D. Finch currently calls Philadelphia home, where he was once involved with the late Theater Center Philadelphia in ways both artistic and businesslike. He's worked for several northern New Jersey newspapers as a columnist, reporter and photographer. He's written on film for publications like Cinefantastique and on collectibles for Scott's Monthly, among others. Though Finch has written mostly nonfiction, he has also produced fiction that has appeared in national magazines. He says his most unusual work involved paying down legal fees by writing jokes for a lawyer to tell at a local celebrity roast. Currently he has a tenuous yet labor-intensive connection to the "greatest living American author", as President of the Neal Pollack Fan Club. Really.