Thursday, March 29, 2007

Turn the Page

My longest standing homette got married just a little while ago and recently returned from her honeymoon. I decided to give her a call to chat. She wasn't there so the answering machine picked up. Her voice came on and announced her first and last name for the person leaving the message. That last name... possibly the last time I'll hear it.

Her myspace photo is now of her looking whipped in the wee hours, drinking from two fruity drinks at once in a dimly lit room wearing jogging clothes. She always was casual. Brought to mind years ago. All of our friends rolling out at 4am or so, heading over to IHOP so that we could crash on full stomachs. I suppose that can still happen, but not really. At some level I've never been willing to let go of that moment. We're all laughing. Everyone else is asleep. Benny's house has been eaten clean. Monster ball has been played. Movies have been watched. IHOP will let us see each other a little while longer. Tell a couple more jokes. Just enjoy all of my blood friends until the sun shines in, the world wakes up, and we go slumber to avoid them until out time, when the masquerade of the night creatures can begin again.

I was a little bit offended that she didn't invite me on her honeymoon! It'd be like old times. Her, her boy, and me. Naturally we'd need to call up Dooba. Doesn't this punk remember the drill?

Oh yeah, he doesn't remember. He never even knew it to forget it. It wasn't their drill. It was our drill. They have their own ways, and I don't know them. We've become so disattached that I can't even relate to the person who she's married to. I knew when I gave her a hug last time we chilled that our time was limited.

I can remember having to tell her, honestly, that she and her b/f of four years, one of my closest friends (and still close), should probably be apart. We were alone on the front steps of my house. It was a little after midnight. I had taken her side over and against him. Now he's still like family while she and I rarely speak. There was no other way for it to turn out. I knew them as a unit and it's still bloody weird to think of them otherwise, even after so much time has elapsed. Even after I blessed the division.

Besides, we both knew it wasn't just a breakup. She was leaving the tribe. I knew what I was saying to her. The tribe wasn't healthy for her. It was dissolving into parts anyway, more through circumstance than bad blood. We were close that night, and we would be once again, but she'd grown distant.

I went to IHOP last Saturday morning to try and live in the afterglow of my thoughts. They weren't there. I was there. New Yorkers were there. The line was long, the food was fast, I sat alone, I got the check in minutes. It was 10am, not 4. The yuppie colony was already scurrying about, whining, driving nice cars.

Don't know that it would matter if we were there anyway. A couple of us are professional religious folks now, some are doctors, a lawyer, professor or two, pair of teachers, building contractor, a cop. It's not that we don't still have a latent affection for one another, but you can't just recapture the scenario through force of will. We can't be sitting there, scholarship university careers in front of us, revving to go. That's gone, and it isn't just profession. We've become different sorts of people with radically divergent views on life, God, politics, family, and all of those things that define us deeply.

Oddly enough I think we've diverged more than most groups precisely because we were so similar in one sense - we were very open-minded. We each evaluated the entire spectrum of options before coming to our conclusions, and were then dedicated to the rightness of the conclusions we'd reached. Some of us eventually decided that only God held the answers to life and its mysteries. Others came to the conclusion that we must yell carpe diem! and ring what sap we could from the tree of life before we became its fertilizer. It was the same character that led both ways, and to a number of gradations in between.

But you know, perhaps the bottom line is that we'd wuss out way before 4 these days.

4am bedtime priorities are different than 11pm bedtime priorites.

Another chapter closes. Like Seger said, 'here I go, turn the page'. I guess I'm behind the times. So many pages have turned. I should have bought a new book by now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What a man

"I'm showing I'm in solid shape now. I had a really good swim earlier in the season where I broke the world record." - Michael Phelps (American Swimmer)

Yes Michael. It's generally a solid sort of day when you break a world record. Then again... he was speaking in the context of having broken that same record again yesterday in Melbourne.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

kid's books

I just got finished viewing the newest film rendition of Katherine Paterson's classic The Bridge to Terabithia. Although I'm perfectly aware of the story and the ending, it never ceases to catch me.

A lot of draw to the film comes from a corresponding tragedy in my own life at the same age of the story's characters. In 5th grade I lost a friend, Daniel Galooley, suddenly. I'm not sure if I ever got over the feelings of pity. He'd never grow up, never fall in love, he's not be there for high school with me, never make a print on the world, etc. Reflecting on such things also made me wonder about my own finitude. So many beautiful stories blow in the winds from place to place. Shared between people who are dead now, or grown up. Beautiful people we'll never have the chance to know. It's sad to know that most of our lives in the long run won't have much more corporate significance than Daniel's. We'll live 60-70 years longer, but the difference to the rest of the world will be a few entries on Google, and only until the links become defunct.

I have found, being an avid reader for many years, that children's stories still touch me the most deeply. The innocence of the characters makes them a perfect foil for sympathetic and touching treatment of issues that affect us all throughout our lives. We learn from them much more in the vein of how we once learned from myths than how we learn from the typical Hollywood content. We learn to value innocence, friendship, fairness, compassion, and individual discernment.

Yet I think of all the best parts of these stories the thing I always come back to is the nostalgia.

Despite so many years without, I am still smarting from my own innocence being removed. I envy the young. Of course it's an unworkable paradox. The same innocence and true belief in the fantastic that makes childhood such a beautiful thing to see is inextricable from its fleeting nature and our inability to return to it.

I've often wondered if it's not the story-left-untold that draws me to the characters, or is it that I see in them my own growth pains as they unfold. I always wonder what happens after the book. What do the characters grow up to be like?

With so much magic in their lives, I always hope again for the first time...please, please don't let them lose the magic. I yearn for the impossible. Lifelong youth I do not envy and find rather obnoxious, but lifelong childhood is different. To think that the characters may one day be unable to see Terabithia is more than I, as a reader/watcher can bear. So much magic once filled the very air we breathed, only to be replaced by raging hormones, dating rituals, and the accumulation of wealth.

In Bridge to Terabithia I find myself harkening back to the time when boys and girls could truly just be friends. When there were magic kingdoms we created to make life what we wanted it to be. How many worlds I lived in. so many lives that were possible. I wanted to be a jedi, then a Zulu warrior, to fight with Heman, then become a Transformer. Why not?

At times when the slightly cool wind blow on a greying November I can remember the bliss of the changing seasons. The leaves rustling. The gentle wind giving off the first hint of chill. I could drink in that smell. Cocoa time would be soon. My pants were a little too big on me. The wind could get under my sleaves. I was darker skinned back then. My hair was moppish and unkept, all the more by my ruffling it in the wind. Pepper waited for me inside. The breeze bathed me in crisp, crunchy leaves of all colors in the Ozarks. It was perfection.

But the Terabithians die off eventually. Even the most ardent of us eventually become policemen, professors, lawyers, husbands, wives. Our lightsabers are put into the attic and the plastic army men never seen to have miraculously changed stances when we weren't looking. They're just plastic. Just what they are and the spirit cannot touch move through them again.

And there's the beauty we read into childhood. Things that now seem so ordinary were greater. Mom and dad were the kings and queens of the world, and we were the young nobles who would one day take their place. The world awaited us. The death of a grandparent or even a dog was an earth shattering event. We prayed with the conviction that it worked. We were heroes in a very small story.

So much just passed by then, seeming so ordinary. Nothing registered for the significance it had. Nostalgia has immortalized what was daily.

I wonder how many vows were made when we were still heroes? How many girls did I tell that I would marry them before other factors complicated the situation? How many friends did I "shake" with that we'd never be apart.

I'm reminded of Christ's words that it's to such as children that the kingdom of God belongs. We're tempted to see this as a statement of faith-type, and to a degree it is. But more is going on here.

It's also about wonder and the mystery of living. It's about how children see the entire world as a vast vast mystery in need of unlocking. Every day is new information. Whole mental constructs are destroyed and rebuilt regularly. New friends are made and it's a big deal. We learn to enjoy things and we experience aspects of life as brand new and not just variations on a theme.

Perhaps heaven is nothing other than continual pedagogy. There's so much to this vast universe and we can forever learn. All worlds are opened to us. God allows us finally to see the full splendor of His creation. Worlds collide and life rises from a small pool. Relationships are renewed. We are no longer "given in marriage". We're like the angels. We're like the children. We can again love fully.

It's all about the children's books. If being a child is the one to whom the kingdom is given, then children's books are our myths. They're like our apocrypha after the Scriptures. After so much reading and watching, the stories that move me the most deeply are obvious, somewhat cliche, but eveunique kid's books.

Friday, March 23, 2007

blood and water

You know how some people say that blood is thicker than water? The Gospel says just the opposite. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Last Exit in New York

I woke up on the adventurous side of the bed this morning. Not burdened by classes or breakfast crew and having not having to hurry and get to work (I only have to put in 2 more hours this week) I took the morning to loung around, make some future planning phone calls, have an early lunch at a Chinese resteraunt, and gingerly drive into the city.

When you come off the 87 and onto the 95 headed towards Riverside/Hudson S., there's the exit to 187 (I think?). On a big yellow sign with black lettering drivers are warned "Last Exit in NY".

Now of course the reality is that this only means that if you bypass this chance it's $6 and New Jersey, but that's besides the point. The real gift of this sign on such a beautiful Wednesday sun thawing morning was that it got my imagination juices flowing. The sign sounded less like a toll road warning and more like a post-apocalyptic or fantastic adventure. It's like staring at an ancient map of the world. After all the charted lands they would draw a sea monster in the blank space and it would read hic sunt dracones, or in English "Here be Dragons".

I felt less like the Roland trapped in this lameness and more like my counterpart in Stephen King's Gunslinger series as he crossed into the badlands and prepared to face the green goblin hordes, or my namesake, Charlemagne's nephew who single-handedly help the Pyrenees pass against an entire army of Moorish invaders.

Of course there are some differences, not the least of which is that while the character Roland and the medeaval Frankish mythic hero Roland are both bad to the bone, I'm a poser. But I think it was close enough.

When I finally parked I could see the Hudson river to my right and Ulysses Grant's tomb atop the hill to my left flank. Fallen warriors and majestic rivers; the perfect setting for a heroic exploit.

Between Grant's tomb and my car lay a steep hill, tree-shielded from the sun, still frozen solid with ice that was once slush and snow. I tried to plant my heel in the ground to no avail, the ice was rock hard. With an Off-duty cabby looking onward I tried my first push up the hill. While I made some initial progress by utilizing two footholds formed by the shoeprints of walkers from a time when the ice hadn't totally hardened, I finally came to the end of my leverage. Now was a steep hill with a thin, branchy tree a few feet from the last shoe print. Leaning forward I tried to explode out of the shoeprints like a canon and use momentum to gain enough ground to grab the branches and pull myself up.

While the attempt itself was successful, the branches were too thin to hold me. Now, without a toe hold of significant I fell, cushioning my fall with my hands and skidding straight down the ice to the bottom of the hill. The grainy ice chaffed my hands pretty well, like sliding down concrete. The trip was not pleasant. The cabby laughed. Godless NY cabbies! They've got a special place in Hades next to people who talk in movie theaters. I vowed to redouble my efforts.

The next ascent went smoothly for a while, much like the first time, and again I was soon faced with the same challenge of no footholds, and now I knew that a mere branch would not do. I needed the branchy bushes' thin trunk. I braced myself, knowing that is was grab or bust on my first lunge. Failure would mean not only bringing shame to the name of Roland, but also hysterical laughter from the cab driver.

I leaned forward into the shoe prints, left leg in the higher imprint. Springing from the back leg I shifted my weight forward and then out- 'bioioioioioioing'! Now I'm not exactly a graceful jumper at the best of time, and especially not when I have awkward footing on sheer ice, going uphill, and having to break through protruding branches. I decided it wouldn't do to win style points, so I lowered my head and crashed through the branches with the top of my shaven skull and my bulky shoulders. I grabbed blindly with one arm for where I thought the thin trunk of the bush lay... I felt nothing until my hands came together and brushed against the bark, further roughing them up. BLAM! I plopped to the ground forcefully, stomach first. It would have knocked the breath out had I not prepared by using the boxing technique of breathing out quickly. I could still breath and wasn't cut anywhere.


From there it was a small matter to stand up, hop to a series of connected rocks, look at the cabby (who was still laughing) in triumph, and plant an air-flag on the top of the hill. I'd done my dity. Flag or no, Roland's once again stood victorious. Yeah that's right, Roland Pride!


Is there a question as to what my most anticipated movie of the year so far has been? Allow me to answer... in song

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Heroes in a half shell
turtle power!

They're the world's most fearsome fighting team (teenage mutant ninja turtles)
They're heroes in a half-shell, and they're green! (teenage mutant ninja turtles)
When the evil Shredder attacks,
these turtle boys,
don't cut him no slack

Monday, March 19, 2007

He's a cen-atari!

haha... okok, so check it

Tonight i'm at the gym. This young stud is doing his roid-special workout complete with 3 sets of this, 4 sets of looking at himself flex in the mirror, 2 more sets of weights, another couple sets of mirror flexing... you get the idea.

I see in the mirror that his shirt says "Half Man... Half Horse".

Finally I'd simply had too much. My inner nerd could no longer keep silent in the face of such overblown, self-important, Ayn Rand inspired, testosterone-pumping absurdity. So I did the only thing I could think of: I maneuvered close to him, and in between sets asked as nicely as I could "So, are you trying to say that you're a centaur?"

LOL. Oh man. The look was priceless. It was part shock that someone spoke to him, part awe that I described him as a mythic creature that he could not possibly know about, and part sheer terror at realizing that at any given time there is a person even in a low brow locale such as a gym who can mind blast him faster than Professor X.

Finally, recovering his stance and shaking of the dizzyness he responds "what's that?"

"It's a creature from mythology. It's a half-man, half-horse."



OH! Yeah dawg, that's right. I'm a cen-atari!*

heheh, werd

* This misspelling accurately reflects what he said. The author suspects that the words "sin" and "atari" might have independently registered.

Friday, March 16, 2007

All the difference...

You know, it makes all the difference in the world whether you serve a bishop because he's a bishop or if you serve him because he is truly your leader in humility and love for God.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Thoughts on turning 27

Most people would consider 27 a rather uneventful birthday. Nothing much happens. Insurance begins to laxen in some states, that's a plus. Otherwise no major milestones.

I suppose that my own perspective is heavily influenced by the fact that I'm also finishing my Master's degree soon. It makes me take a more conscious account of where I am, where I thought that I would be, and where I plan to be going.

The seminarians have really done everything and then a bit to make this feel like a real birthday. It's hard though. Once upon a time my birthday was a major event. Normally it was right before or at the beginning of Spring Break. Usually the festivities would kick off with a Barkley Invitational, named after Sir Charles, which was a no fouls basketball game. Quite entertaining, especially as my friends and I got old enough to really rough up dad and uncle Tim. We would always have a big fish fry followed by a game of RISK with the owner of the Middle East controlling to hookah. Dad and Tim, now sore beyond any fast or painless movement would drink copious amounts of Heineken and Busch as to chase their Jagermeister while doing up the fish fry. The coolers were also stocked with mountains of Dr. Pepper and IBC root beer out of the bottles and instead of cake I always requested King Sized candy bars by the dozens...

oh yeah.

Typically I wouldn't even pay much attention to the RISK game. It was fun playing with the RISK council (my homies), but it wasn't actually "the point". I can still see them all now, in the blossom of their youths. Dooba, Jereme "Cowboy" Cowan with his snake-hiss laugh, Oz entertained by our antics, big Jeff Norrid providing sthe antics as he and Dooba traded sounds when throwing each other's dead armies off the map (Dooba would say "bzzz" and wave his hands like Ruby Rod while big Jeff would say "gee" and toss the dead little soldier off the map and at you). Massey was laughing and blowing on the IBC bottle tops to make the deep whistling sound. Gathercole would be trying to slip in a sly move while emotions were tied up elsewhere. Benny carefully plotted in the corner while we waited on Berumen to get a move on and come over. Hedrick slacked in the papsan chair eating and drinking, intoxicated by the potential for sloth provided at the Fulmer estate. Paul and Charlies would call. My sisters were so young then. They'd watch us all with their beautiful big, brown 1st grade eyes like we were heroes out of the old myths. They couldn't wait for the day when there were college aged and finally old enough to join the RISK Council. And well, I guess too young to really think about the fact that we would all be long gone by then.

I sat there and took it all in. I felt euphoria back then, such that I haven't felt in so long. The overall sensation of peace. I had my place. I was among friends. We had our whole lives in front of us. We were all there... scholarships in tow, athletic, worn out from a hard day of Barkley, vibrant, not preoccupied. No broken hearts. We just played. The world was so much smaller and we were important to it. I washed down a bite of King Snickers with a swig of root beer. Sugar blended with sugar but no matter, I was cut from running and weight lifting. I looked at my friends. They were so beautiful. The world around me blended into a harmonious silence, and I belonged to it, drinking in and flowing with the quiet amidst all of the ruckus.

I went to bed that night. I was 19. I woke up the next morning and I was 27. I assume there were days in between, but I can't be sure now. It all blurs together like a movie viewed in fast foward. If I hit the button again I'll be 37. Wonder what that'll look like? I wonder if the RISK council still thinks of those times? I'm all wonder, and last of all I wonder what the 19-year old who went to bed that night thinks of the person typing this now. Eight years older and I wonder what I have to show. It's like a one-third life crisis. Why wait for midlife?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Say it ain't so!

I just couldn't believe that a sorority kicked out its less attractive members in order to get a membership boost. Oh wait... yes I can. :-p


Washing was then,
but cleansing is now.
Retrospectively the sacred
is manifestly real
and become what it is.

Another way here is an illusion.
Choices were never chosen,
the schemas were limited
and there is no blame.

The disease was not your own.

But water has another aspect.

It will deal with its own and return to its purpose.

Poison was in the blood,
Sickness in corrupted veins
from the first,
but born to it.

No syringe can swap the liquids
but take the antidote anyway.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Young Recruits take notes

Attention! All 17-year old athletes take notes - this is how you're supposed to committ to a school!

Some Reader's Digest highlights

Youngblood, 6-3 1 / 2, 216, 4. 69 seconds in the 40-yard dash, was at Arkansas last weekend for Junior Day and decided that was enough to convince him.
“I talked to Coach [David ] Lee and Coach [Houston ] Nutt last weekend,” Youngblood said. “They told me what they plan to do with the offense, and I was impressed. The main thing Coach Lee told me is they want to get the offense back like it was when Clint Stoerner was there.”

“ There is no chance I won’t go to Arkansas. I’m a Razorback, and professional sports will be there for me when I’m finished at Arkansas.”

While Arkansas is getting a talented quarterback in Youngblood, they’re also getting an in-state player who bleeds Razorbacks red. The same day Youngblood orally committed to Arkansas, he started working the cell phones trying to get others to join him at Arkansas.
“I called the two kids at Warren, I called [Texarkana running back ] Dennis Johnson and [Pulaski Academy wide receiver ] Cruz Williams that very day,” Youngblood said.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chalk one up for religious charity

Luckily for this Kenyan woman organized religion was there to help out. :)