M. SCOTT MORRIS: Jay Bell goes shirtless for a good reason

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

My good friend Jay Bell from “Bradenton-Fun-in-the-Sun-Baby-Florida” isn’t used to meeting people when he’s not wearing a shirt.
“It’s happened on the beach, I guess,” he said, “but this was weird.”
I don’t know if you’ve gotten word, but after a couple of years of un- and under-employment, Bell has a full-time job.
His parents are thrilled to death. He’s a bouncer at a strip club called The Jolly Roger, which pays better than you might think.
That’s a little joke.
Bell works for a company that oversees the rehabilitation and maintenance of foreclosed homes. He spends his days on the phone and Internet, dealing with inspectors and contractors.
It’s not as exciting as a strip club, but his parents are still proud.
As a special bonus in 21st century America, The Jaybird has health insurance for the first time in 40 forevers.
“I made the appointment the second my benefits kicked in,” he said.
Whether you believe in creationism, evolution or scientific penguinism, the effect is the same: Jay’s people weren’t built with the Sunshine State in mind.
“They said I should put sunscreen on as soon as I wake up,” he said.
“Before you shower?” I said.
“They said towel off, then re-apply.”
The doctor got straight to work. It was a quick, business-like appointment.
“I had a joke ready about this being the first time I’d ever met somebody with my shirt off,” he said, “but this was very professional, no comedy.”
The impersonal exam went counter to Jay Bell’s basic nature. He was born with a powerful, charismatic urge to befriend people. It’s freakish to watch in action.
“Friends are good,” he said. “You should get one.”
“Funny,” I said, thinking I had one too many.
Back to our story, he was patched up and out of the office in 20 minutes.
“It was faster than the checkout lane at Walmart,” he said.
“I’ll bet they cashed your check faster than Walmart, too,” I said.
“They scanned my insurance card, scanned my driver’s license, took my picture with a camera that was – get this – inside the computer,” he said, “then they took my $40.”
To sum up, now’s the time to buy stock in companies that sell sunscreen. Bell’s new goal is to maintain the fish-belly white that he once hid under heavy, insulated layers in his native Missouri.
“I might buy some long-sleeve shirts, too,” he added.
I suggested that he consider a job at a strip club. I’ve heard they’re dark places.
“You’d have to work late nights,” I said, “then sleep through the sun’s brightest hours.”
“Morris, you idiot, you’re not listening. I just got health insurance. I’m not messing that up,” he said. “I can’t waste any more time with you. I’ve got a case of sunscreen to buy.”

M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal entertainment writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.