03 December 2008

Odetta

I was a '50's nouveau-riche private-schooled Connecticut white boy. I was born in late 1950 so I lived my childhood years, unbeknownst to me, during a decade of social fermentation leading into the civil rights movement of the early '60's.

To me, as a child, negroes were women. Negroes lived and worked in our home doing laundry, ironing, mopping, cleaning, serving guests at my parent's cocktail or dinner parties. Negroes dressed in starched pink, grey, or blue uniforms with starched white collars, wrist cuffs, linen aprons, and white buttons down the center length of their uniform dress. Negroes had Sundays off, who left my house to attend church and returned at day's end to go into their separate bedroom, with lavatory and shower, to reemerge for work the next day. A series of these women, who were overseen by my Mother, moved into and out of our home. Somewhere in the '60's, after my family had moved to Ohio, these women faded away.

I was to be seen and not to be heard in my family, and so it was for me with these women, who served as extensions of my Mother. I was allowed to sit with them in our kitchen or laundry room watching them work. Our "help," as my Mother called these workers, never cooked for me or my family. Cooking was my Mother's sole province.

I did not become aware of verbalizing my de facto cultural and socio-economic segregationist upbringing until I summoned a child vendor at a professional baseball game by calling out, "Oh Boy!" I was immediately hushed and scolded, physically pounced upon, by my older sister and brother. Well what I said seemed normal to me, besides he literally was a boy selling Coca~Cola. The social nuance in the taboo was lost upon me. The scorn of my siblings was not. I had shattered the unspoken family taboo and embarrassed them.

In the late '60's, probably in the winter of '68, maybe '69, I saw Odetta in performance in a basement coffee house in Cleveland, OH. It was an intimate venue. She burst upon me. Odetta was power personified in dress and appearance, close-cropped natural hair feeling revolutionary at the time, an alto voice welling up and out from some ancient beautiful place deep inside her. Odetta was an "I" not a "them." She was black. She was folk. She was woman; an individual, a presence so powerful so unlike any person I'd ever witnessed or heard, being music from a culture I'd never heard or seen. She was not the safe Nat King Cole my Mother might have condescended to, nor the effeminate Little Richard or the pomaded rocker Chuck Berry my sister danced to. Odetta was power and, forever more for me, black power. 

01 December 2008

It's Just the Season of Year

I can't really remember what I was doing, but I was struck with the impulse to phone my brother. I surge with anticipation. And on the heel of excitement I'm called up short. I'd forgotten. I'm alive in a moment just as one who's lost a limb but feels the presence of it. A presence so seamless, so-unconsciously-taken-for-granted, separation doesn't exist. I was alive; no separation. Alas.

A wind blows through the limbs. Am I the wind? Am I the emptiness in the sound? Am I the trees? Am I grey?
I look in the mirror.
I look away, bow my head into my hands.
I forget what I see.
I'm called back.
It's just the season of the year.

26 November 2008

Mother

Mother in Irwin's Chapel, primitive church,
Musuem of Appalachia, Norris, TN., Nov. 1984.

Mary Savage Collins (click on her name to read her obit) is 94 years old today (day of original post) but she died early July, `08. I confess ambivalence about her. She’s a bundle of contradictions. She saw herself as constant. And in her way she was persistent, steadfast, and unyielding. In her final years she'd run you over with her zippiddy-doo-da walker and thoroughly enjoy gossiping with you while doing it.

Self-reflection was contrary to her natural confidence and authority. She wept over the blessing of a meal yet attended any church because the minister was handsome. She was a letter writer and diarist in a time when letter writers and diarists were declining. She was a natural organizer and keeper of papers, business documents, my formal wording giving a sense of the formality of her persona. At the same time she was a party girl and if there was ever a woman of her time to whom the saying, “Girls just want to have fun,” it described my Mother. This girl liked to play, party, and imbibe.

She was a keen observer and retainer of names and faces and of those names and faces who aspired into public places. She was a farm girl who attended Connecticut College for women during the Great Depression. She wanted to get off and away from her father's fruit and chicken farm and her family's ancestral grounds. She succeeded but just by an hour's drive. During the Depression the Hartford Courant did a feature article on her because she looked so like The Duchess of Windsor and maybe because she was one of the smart ones who left the family farm and used a typewriter and worked in the department of education and lived in the big city. She kept a copy of it and naturally showed it off and she was so proud of the comparison and the likeness was uncanny. Her ashes rest in the Wilcox Cemetery of Berlin, CT. besides 375 years of Savage family members.

25 November 2008

Economics & Beekeeping

Henry Paulson seems genuine. I'm rattled by the melting economy but Paulson's persona and economic crisis analysis reassures me. He seems pragmatic not ideologue-ish.
I like his dusky circled eyes set back in his head. I like his eyeglasses. And I like his stutter; he stumbles words composing while he speaks; he might seem unprepared but he's not. He's speaking from his professional and public mind, which he knows. He answers complex technical economic questions in sentences laymen may grasp. I like his bachelor of the arts is in English. I like that his permanently bent fifth metacarpal phalanges joint left hand little finger; maybe from wrestling or football. I like wrestling; it takes preparation, grit, and a will to persevere.
I understand Paulson's a beekeeper. I find this reassuring. I have a friend who's a beekeeper. I say beekeeping's more complicated than its' serene white cloaked humming sound. It's a vocation needing care and awareness for the bees by the keeper, and the need to adapt to changing circumstances.

13 November 2008

Office Man

If you hire an office man for your staff use him to your best advantage. Here are twelve man tips for getting more productivity out of your office man.
  1. Select a young married man.  He usually has more of a sense of responsibility than his unmarried brothers, he's less likely to flirt, he needs the work, and he still has lots and lots of energy to work hard.
  2. When you must use an older man try to get a man who's worked indoors before.  An older man who's not worked with women in an office before, or who has not worked with the public before, has a hard time adapting himself, and is inclined to be irritable or cantankerous. It's always important to impress upon a man the value of being courteous and friendly to customers.
  3. General experience demonstrates that "husky" guys - those who're just a little bigger and plumper - are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight brothers.
  4. Retain a clinician to give each hired man a special examination - one covering male mental conditions like impulse control or physical conditions like excessive muscle buildup. This step may help protect the company against future sexual harassment lawsuits.  It may also reveal whether the employee-to-be has any man weaknesses that would make him unfit for the job.
  5. Stress at the outset the importance of organization and time management.  A man is easily distracted and a minute lost here or there makes serious inroads on work productivity.  Until this point is gotten across customer service is likely to be impaired.
  6. Give the man employee a definite day-long schedule of duties so that he'll keep busy without bothering management or woman coworkers for instructions every few minutes. Numerous professional studies say man workers make excellent staffers when they have their job responsibilities detailed for them but that they take to much initiative when they must assume responsibility themselves.
  7. Whenever possible don't change a man's responsibilities during the day. A man is inclined to be happier and calmer with no changes.
  8. Give the office man adequate reminders throughout the day to keep working at his job. You must make some allowance for male psychology.  A man is less confident in the office environment and is more efficient if he's reminded how important his work is to the overall success of the business.  At the same time remind him to be neat and presentable so to present the same appearance to customers.  A man can be sloppy about his appearance.
  9. Be tactful when issuing instructions to a man or making work criticisms.  A man identifies with his work.  He can be sensitive.  He cannot shrug off harsh words the way woman can. Never ridicule a man in front of woman coworkers.  It breaks his desire to perform and cuts off efficiency.
  10. Be reasonable and considerate about using prissy or feminine language around a man. Even though a man's wife, mother, or sister may be delicate, a man will grow to dislike this in the work environment where he hears too much of it.  After investing so much in him you don't want him to leave.
  11. Have some initially flexibility in your dress codes for your office man.  A man just naturally doesn't think about what he wears or how he appears.  When you get to know his wife a little suggest options or ideas to her about how her man might dress.  She will be really glad you did.  By then he will have worked enough to have brought home some of what he has earned and it'll be more likely she can afford to buy her man new clothes.
  12. Start a weekly office betting pool. Any sporting event will do.  A man really likes sports and betting action and office women will begin to learn about a sport their office man likes.  It's a great way to build camaraderie.

10 November 2008

Class Consciousness

I have been thinking about poverty.  It started some time ago, in June '07, when I read an article entitled "The Class Consciousness Raiser." Class consciousness is taboo in American culture. Anyway I immediately made the connection with the idea of abundance. Poverty, abundance. Ah, but I digress.

Poverty is simply the lack of means for providing material needs or comforts. The operative phrase is "the lack of means."

Anyway for lots of reasons I've been thinking about poverty and abundance.  The least of which is the fact I've not had gainful employment for 11 months.  At one point, during the '08 summer months, my family was hemorrhaging cash at a terrifying rate. I'm talkin' night-terror bullet-sweatin' panic attacks. This was due to unemployment and submitting to COBRA health insurance. Rather than be dumped with none, we chose to submit to this misnomered benefit paying $1,300 a month! It adds up quick. I might as well've burned the cash; as an investment there was no return. Insurance company is not my friend just now; feels more like predation.

This is not evidence of a "lack of means." If poverty is the lack of means then what are "the means?"  "The Class Consciousness Raiser" article details them.  Well for the record, right off, people are the greatest and highest resource. Any other resource is meaningless without people. There are eight resources: 
  • Financial
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Support Systems
  • Relationships/Role Models
  • Knowledge of Hidden Rules
These are material resources. They're also resources that are taught; they're learned behaviors, literally embodied in goods, services, and people's behavior.  For example financial resource is having the money to purchase goods and services.  Physical resource is having physical health and mobility. So if we lack financial resource we lack the means to purchase goods and services. If we lack physical resource we are immobile or in poor health.

08 November 2008

Prayer


Today I saw a man I hadn't seen in months. Our orbits changed so I don't have, nor do I create, the opportunity to visit with him. This changing is a piece of life I've never understood. It is beyond me.  After our visit I felt saddened and I prayed.

Heavenly Father, I love you, I praise you, and I give thanks to you for all that I live and move and have my being in.  Thank you for all the blessings in my life.  I am especially thankful for the friends in my life.  I am sorry I have not kept up with my friendships. I am sorry I have not kept up with friends whom you have given unto me. Please forgive me. Keep them in safety, health, and in the fullness of your Spirit.  Hear my prayer O Lord.  Not my will but your will be done.

I often pray. I prayed from an early age. I don't recall when I learned to pray. I know someone taught me. I am uncertain who it was. I was reared Roman. I learned passively to pray in church. Prayer is a part of what we do in church. But at some point I started praying on my own, without being in a church, without being with other people, without being prompted to by others. Sometimes I can't keep from praying, it's overflowing. This prayer is me but it is way beyond me. How can I keep from praying? I cannot. I must.

06 November 2008

Exercise - Starting Over

I stopped 'bout 15 or 16 months ago. I was tired. I needed a rest after more than three years of regular 2 to 4 time a week exercise activity. My left hip ball & socket felt pained, like I had a little arthritis. I'd been overwhelmed with family deaths, drained. I was empty.

I went to the Central High track; nice surface, empty but for one other. Beautiful sunny afternoon day, not too warm, not hardly cool, just right. I started up with a little running, really a mixed motion combo of progressive intervals of walking, running, short distance karaoke and a backwards trot up to a peak of a full 400 meter circuit then backing down to a final cool-down lap. On that full lap my heart rate peaked out at about 172. That's 'bout tops for me. I did three miles. Not bad after the layoff. It was terrific. I felt great. Listening to i-pod music was the new twist. Nice. I could keep pace time with some of the music. Nicer.

Then I did some girlie-man push-ups and pull-ups using lay around football practice equipment. Doing the pull-ups I flipped it over onto me as I fell backwards on my ass and back. It was red painted aluminum tubing in a 3-D rectangular trapezoid, with one long side lower than it's opposite long side. I figured the lightweight contraption is used to teach lineman to stay down, way down low, when they come out of their set position and as they move forward. The paint on the underneath of the upper aluminum tubes was worn completely off. This must be where football helmets crash into it. I got a chuckle out of that. Taught me a lesson too, it didn't look lightweight, and I got bonked as the whole contraption fell on me.

Running is my all time favorite exercise edging out spinning and cycling; swimming comes in a distant third. Run, bike, swim, run, bike, swim, mow the lawn or do yard work.

Years ago in college, while I was in NYC, I read a book called something like "Sports for Life." The idea was to do varied activities one could sustain for a lifetime. It seemed so natural and intuitive. I picked up running and cycling. Swimming would not come until I could afford a gym. Of course those weren't the only activities just the ones I gravitated to. I think the book is long gone now. The key was doing activity for enjoyment and variety over a life time.

28 October 2008

Ogre


I wake in the night my eyes open wide, yelling echoes, to end, into my room. Mary . . . Mary, . . Oh Mary, each inevitable insistent pressing in . . . Where are ya Mary! The scary merry taunts through ducts, a vapor seeping it’s sounds… slithering… snaking… throughing… silent.
Mary . . . Mary. . . Oh Mary!
I want ogre’s voice out.
Mary’s sound’s, ringing’s alive. Ogre’s alive. He’s comin’ in.
Terror grips and panic coils
tight I clutch my totem club... under pillow.
Possum up relax eyelids down door open switch on I see
bright light from the dark above… watching… through my eyelids masking.
He’s in the doorway, watching… crossing… slithering silently slowly snaking throughing over me watching... shadow dims my red.
An icy wind gusts through open window billows out drapes and pulls fall back thunk on wall
mouthy liquor smell for an instant’s gone, now back
watching over me.

Mary… is in the closet.

27 October 2008

Reform, Refine, ectetera, redux . . .

I claim a part of me that thinks what I wrote earlier is hooey.  It's a con.  The notion that reformation, enlightenment, and refinement, especially for boys, can improve us is,  well . . . it's a cultural con.  I believe it's the centerpiece of a marketing effort by great-thinker  type schools shilling features and benefits to a culturally ascendant nouveaux riche.  It's a product.  I should know because I'm a product of it.  Here is an article by Lee Siegel "Unsafe at Any Read," that humorously reflects a facet of my thinking: www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/books/review/Siegel-t.html?scp=3&sq=Lee%20Siegel&st=cse.  Gee, I wish I could write like that.

Just what "it" am I speaking of?  Besides just what does "improve us" mean anyway.  Who is the "them" saying that "us".  And who is the "us" in contrast to the "them".  And just what is that content that is going to transform into an "improving"?  I believe that culture is shifting so substantially that there is no agreement on what "it" is.  When I was a child, in the context of my birth family and the culture they grew out of and I was reared into, then, yes, consensus had been achieved and goals were set and decisive action were taken by my parents.  But somewhere along the way all those assumptions changed.

The other day I read a synopsis of an article entitled We Send Too Many Students to College by Marty Nemko.  Mr. Nemko is a career counselor.  Here's the link to the entire article on Mr. Nemko's website:
http://www.martynemko.com/articles/we-send-too-many-students-college_id1543.  Here is the line in the synopsis that jumped out at me. "When high school students show no aptitude for or interest in academics, their parents do them no favors by insisting on college."  Culturally ascendant nouveaux riche parents take heed.

I had the aptitude but I did not have the interest.  And I now know what I had an interest in was culturally and socially unpalatable to my parents, who were footing the bill, and what I had been reared into in my birth family.  I ran into a lot of resistance.  Of  course this was obvious to no one but me.  And if we had sought an observer, say a career counsellor like Mr. Nemko, what would have been quite clear to him and his experience from counselling might well have not been clear to any in my birth family.  Nor would it have been clear to me.  And if it had been clear I would not have know what steps to take to implement the insight.  This does not change or negate the insight.  It just reflects seeing through a glass darkly.

And therein lies our cultural and educational dilemma as a people.  

Pimiento . . . that's pronounced ~ pih-MYEHN-toh

I went to the local grocery, Food City, to buy pimientos. I got there, searched, and searched some more. I walked the store. I could not see them, find them, nothing, nada, zip. Well I figure I'm gettin' older, I don't see as well as I used to, maybe I overlooked 'em. They do come in small jars. Whatever, I'm responsible, my screw-up. I look for a grocer, nay, I say clerk, or customer service representative, to ask. Surely, I reason, Food City staff will know.

Excuse me, do you have pimientos?, I ask a young female staffer. What?
Pimientos?, I say again. What?
Pimientos. I didn't give the phoenetic pronunciation.
I can't understand you. Ah.
Oh, oh, . . that's fine, ok, I'll ask someone else.
She rushs off through a back-of-the-house open door between milk and cheese. There was a whiff of urgency from her. I think she wanted some relief.

So I look and walk around searching for pimientos. I look near the pickles and pepperincini again. I look in the international section again. I look. I walk. I seek. I hope I'll find. Maybe near the olives, that's the ticket. Ah there's another customer service representative who stands out.

Hey bud. Do you carry pimientos?
What? Uh oh.
Pimientos. Yeah, they,re red, in a small round jar, the lid's yellow. I stop.
Once I repeat the word pimiento, it's kinda tricky to say, I see he's processing, visualizing, "Where've I seen that?", or thinking, "What did he say?". He's young. He's long of arm and leg, unkept black hair over forehead and ears, dressed in black jeans and tee and shoes, distinguished as a Food City droogie by the red apron draping about his torso's ncek with an insouciance only a maturing teen boy displays. I watch. I wait. He continues his work.
Dairy . . . in the cheese section.

OK, progress. We have target and location; but in the dairy section, hmmmm, with the cheese, as I walk to the opposite ends and sides of the store. Maybe they're fresh pimientos, have to be kept cold. What do I know. I go. I look. I got bupkus now. I just want pimientos so Angela can put 'em in her corn salad.

There's a lot of domestic cheeses. There's pimiento cheese in quarter pound tubs.
Folks like pimiento cheese.
No pimientos though.

I can't make this stuff up.

22 October 2008

Reform, Refine, Enlighten, Educate

That string of words from the previous post, well, I can't really believe I wrote it.  Oh well there it is. I believe it . . . but I do not particularly care for the way I sound in saying it. 

I don't have a grasp on how I might speak of the value of an education. We, as a nation of people, do not yet know how to have a common conversation on the value of an education.  We are in a transition about what constitutes education.  Ooook.  Even here I assume that what constitutes education is reformation, refinement, and enlightenment.  I do assume it.  And it is what my parents aspired to though this is another conversation.  But the words are on the fringe of a common conversation.

Yes we speak of political reformation all the time.  But please, pray tell, when do we speak of reformation, refinement, and enlightenment about the education one receives in the public education system. They are very old-fashioned words.
(We certainly do not speak of it about boys yet arguably boys need it most. The k-12 education of boys is failing at every social and economic strata. Girls and boys are different. What works for girls does not work for boys. We shunt boys into athletics and into the worst kind of social and cultural stereotypes.)

If one were to openly speak of reformation, refinement, and enlightenment as a cultural value students would look at their teachers as if they were from another planet.  Not that children and teenagers don't do that anyway. And many parents might look at their teachers in the same manner, or even worse, openly attack teachers.  Ooook.

Instead K-12 administrators and many parents discuss whether teachers successfully educate their students at all. Performance bonuses are all the rage; just look at experiments in Washington DC.  Teachers are vital yes but so are ideas and principles.

21 October 2008

Reading Newspaper

In my birth family, especially in my mother's birth family, reading the newspaper was traditional. The two papers of choice were the Hartford Courant and the New York Times. It was an activity so woven into the fabric of my mother's family farm-culture life, almost ritualistic, that I can't recall a time when newspaper reading wasn't done in my birth family.

In the Civil War letters of my maternal great grandfather Henry Elliot Savage, of Berlin, CT., who volunteered for and served in the 16th Connecticut Volunteer Regiment, he often pleads for newspapers to be sent him. We know he read one newspaper called the Emancipator. He journeyed to Washington DC in August 1863, marched to and survived Antietam, then Fredricksburg, then down to coastal North Carolina, where he was captured and moved to Andersonville Prison in south Georgia. There his letters and newspaper requests end.

In my birth family my parents reading the Sunday New York Times and sipping whiskey-sours is central in my memory to their day of rest. My father was more a charismatic teller of tales and not so much a newspaper reader. He loved to hear himself talk. In his final years he taught me to seek out, read, and digest The Wall Street Journal. It was a gift of love and utility he gave me near the end of his days.

My mother was a diarist and reader. It was she who read newspaper. In her later years she was a secretary in the business office for the weaver's magazine Shuttle Spindle, and Dyepot. She was a superior editor. I am certain she assisted in the magazine's layout. Old newspapers collected in her home. One of my tasks to settle the 93 years of her affairs was to close her subscription to the Hartford Courant.

My sister is a talker but she's also written scholarly papers on poster-art and, of all things, clay pots fashioned in Mata Ortiz, Mexico. She imports the clay pots driving from San Diego and to Mata Ortiz.

My brother was a highly trained newsman. He began his career as a stringer for The New Haven Register in Guilford, CT.  He graduated Columbia Journalism School. He served a 7-year apprenticeship at The New York Daily News. He went forth to become a national and international public relations executive for Mobil Oil Corporation ending his career there as the Mobil go-to guy in Indonesia. He was a man from whom words poured forth, spoken or written, into any medium he could use. He needed pen and paper, (later typewriter, keyboard, mouse, CRT, later creating an ahead of its time on-line on-demand publishing house Ravensyard Publishing, Ltd.) and his words and voice as much as any of us needs air to breath and live.

As a youth in school I won prize for words I wrote, but turned to photography, on old-school medium now, yet still a medium for all successful stories.  Now we call them "images".

In my fantasy I sit in a european city in a cafe on a buoyant sunny spring or fall day, sipping coffee eating pastry and reading cover to cover the International Herald Tribune. I enjoy, take pleasure in, reading the newspaper. To me it's time spent that informs, refines, enlightens, and educates. (Oh God, I sound like a geezer.) I'm not lonely in reading and seeing the journalism and photographs in the newspaper. I'm talking old-school printed ink on paper I hold, and I sit, stand, walk, do the subway-fold if necessary, turn page by page and read. It's not a searched information source at a click-on site on a liquid crystal display screen. The newspaper is not a site. The newspaper is my companion. It's my window into about and for an unseen and unknown world.

To the old question of "Is there an unseen world?" There's no question. One only has to sit, hold, read, and turn the page of a newspaper, any one will do, to read, see, and learn from it.

But uh oh . . . is what I'm saying more about medium or about the style of the medium.  One might just as well spend time being informed, refined, enlightened, and educated on-line at a site as with print on paper.  More on this later.

20 October 2008

Pimientos, Chorizo, and Wine

I got started thinking about pimientos when my friend Liz reminded me they were nothing more than ripened green peppers turning red. Well pimiento is nothing more than the Spanish word for pepper but in English it has come to mean red peppers that are prepared by cooking, skinning, and seeding. Well here is a recipe for making your own pimientos.

Just place the red peppers in a roasting pan and
  • bake @ 375 degree F
  • for 35 minutes,
  • turning occasionally
  • then, peel off the skin
  • remove the seeds.
It seems deceptively simple but I have done it. The result is yummy.

And if you prepare a pound of iron-skillet-fried chorizo, until lightly browned, remove, deglaze the pan with 2 or 3 tablespoons of dry red wine, then add 2, 3, 4, whatever, garlic cloves, and some fresh chopped parsley, and 2 medium sized pimientos, then combine all in a foil pack with a large air pocket above, tightly closed, then placed in a baking dish, into a heated 350 degree F oven, left for 35 minutes, well, the result is really a doubling to an unpretentious pleasurable feast. Add a little more red wine . . . some music . . . well, sounds like good time to me.

19 October 2008

Monte Walsh


Some weeks ago I caught up with 1970 western Monte Walsh.  It's the tale of aging cowboys Monte Walsh and Chet Rollins, and their women, facing their fading culture and the rising future culture not theirs.  The story plays out in western of good guys who do honest work, their gals, and the bad guys who impede them in their efforts to adjust.  Lee Marvin and Jack Palance play Monte and Chet, and Jeanne (my heart goes . . . buh-boom . . . buh-boom . . . buh-boom . . . Moreau plays Monte's saloon hall gal.  These are good people.

Marvin and Palance play against their types with both displaying interior lives of emotional flexibility, range, and depth.  Playing against their types is a reason I like this western.  I can understand why both male actors might have enjoyed playing these roles. Marvin was 5 years beyond his Academy Award winning role of Kid Shaleen in Cat Ballou.  Marvin and Palance were in an era of transition in their careers, cultural mores and attitudes were shifting, and maybe both felt unsure how to respond and how to extend their careers. These roles in Monte Walsh mirror a late 19th century cultural shift and challenge.  In so acting Marvin and Palance act out and work out how Monte and Chet chose to live into the story in their time.  Both, all the good characters really, do this humanely, humorously, honestly, and without and self-conscious irony.   Not many on screen men today would display such interior elasticity; witness the advertisements for the contemporary Appaloosa, I have not actually seen the film though I would like too, with Ed Harris and Vigo Mortenson.  Anyway Monte Walsh is a nice movie and worth a Netflix rental.

So why do I care?  Well besides getting to recommend grown-up entertainment, with a humane story line,  I identify with Monte.  To mix in a '60's metaphor I feel like Bob Dylan's voice singin' in It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, "the carpet too, is moving under you." Oh the sense of uncertainty and change.  I too am in transition in my era and in my career.  I too am part of a fading cultural era. I too am part of a dawning cultural era.  This new time is one in which we are all in the midst of, but it is one in which both of my grown children already take for granted are shaping and creating. I'm playing catch up. 

So I pray I may do it humanely, honestly, and humorously, just as Monte did in his mid-career reflection to me from 1970.

18 October 2008

Servant of Christ


A group of Stephen Ministers gathered. To settle ourselves we prayed,
Almighty God, grant that those who worship you this day may present themselves to you as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to you. By the power of your Holy Spirit make us strong to fulfill our ministry this day. In the name of Christ.
We read Psalm 71 and 2 Corinthians 11:7 - 12:10. And then a reading from "The Spiritual Life" by Evelyn Underhill. She writes,
Our spiritual life is his affair; because, whatever we may think to the contrary, it is really produced by his steady attraction, and our humble and self-forgetful response to it. It consists in being drawn, at his pace and in his way, to the place where he wants us to be; not the place we fancied for ourselves.

Well at the time I just heard lots of words. I just wasn't hearing content jump out at me and grab my focus. And we went on with our meeting and departed. Later on, in the night, or maybe in the morning, when I awoke I seemed to realize what I had heard. What I was hearing was that God is a stronghold in the face of resistance or a strength in the face of obstacles.

In Psalm 71 what I heard is how the speaker feels beset upon by those around him, besieged, and that God is his source of strength, a comfort, and his companion, and thus, take heart do not feel alone.

In Paul's letter speaking to the Christians at Corinth, he is telling how he has been beset upon, and endured, and persevered, in the face of so much. Really, Paul's litany of what he's endured, when you read it aloud, seems to go on and on. I imagine the reality of his experience would've felt comfortless and unendurable. Yet, he says, with God's help, he has persevered and endured to continue to witness to the church. So, this common thread of perseverance, in the face of daunting obstacles, is what I heard.

But I did not tie them into Underhill's reading. I do it here. The place we fancy for ourselves is often times not the place God leads us to . . . if we're going to live a spiritual life, if we're going to be ambassadors, and if we're going to be servants.

If we'd live the spiritual life we'd drawn into the servant life.

15 October 2008

Green Peppers to Come

I went to the Farmers Market last Saturday week and I bought some homegrown green peppers. I thought they were beautiful, really just ugly, misshaped, and contorted in a manner one would just never see, one would just not be presented with, in the superchain market. And they are so tasty, full of a flavor, one would not taste from a superchain pepper.

Well, alas, I couldn't eat some of them, they turned soft as their color turned from the dark green to a red. Well what would I do with them? I didn't want to throw 'em out. So I went out in my weed bed cleared a small plot and composted the peppers into the freshly turned weeded soil. Here's hoping next spring I'll have green peppers next to my tomatoes next to my basil.

14 October 2008

Lumbar

I’ve been in pain for 12 days; gut wrenching, motion freezing, mind-boggling pain. It's ebbed and flowed off me and over me.
While moving some furniture from the upstairs to the downstairs I managed to twist and extend so I strained muscle in my lumbar region. It was as a charge of paralyzing electricity focused and spreading in my lumbar muscles. The result was the mere eke-ability to move at all. I was stranded mid-stairs. I sunk to sit and the voltage throbbed up; overwhelming motion-freezing pain. I was frozen, crying out. Alone, somehow I moved to bed only to recall I had to get up to ice my spasmodic muscles. 
I've been to two physicians, doing what physicians do, diagnosing and prescribing. The specialist prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent, motrix. I'm skeptical. He said, “Call me if you have diarrhea.” Oh. Last I took a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent, naproxen, my stomach was on fire. And, I might as well’ve ingested fast-set concrete. Was naproxen old-school? I'm skeptical, unconvinced about motrix’s insinuated features and benefits.
Anyway, I am moving again. I’ve not exercised in a long time. I used to exercise all the time. I think my body is giving me a signal: “A body at rest tends to stay at rest. A body in motion tends to stay in motion”. I'm going to move.

30 September 2008

Religulous

I’m snagged on Religulous. The HBO presentation will get lots of American bi-coastal attention. Bill Maher is your agnostic master of ceremonies. In between America's two cultural oceanic coasts Religulous may get college and university campus attention. I suspect the title word is to insinuate a religious belief is ridiculous.
Money and choosing and proselytizing agnosticism may be the motivations. Mr. Maher says, “I believe in ‘I don't know’ ”. That's obvious, especially at the expense of people unlike you. I bet HBO’s pandering cultural choir ponies up for your mutual hilarity and financial benefit.
Mr. Maher says, “Anyone who’s religious is extremist.” Really. “Anyone?” Pray tell Mr. Maher (Oops! You don't know what prayer is!) what’s HBO’s cut to you for serving agnostic cheap shots at folk who claim religious faith. I say it takes an extremist to know an extremist.
Religulous is extremist. Mr. Maher you’re an extreme agnostic. It’s self-promotion masquerading as pandering agnosticism. You’re an agnostic southern Appalachian street preacher condemning lunch hour folk as ignorant sinners. In Religulous you’re the pharisaic putz. You cheapen agnosticism.
Mr. Maher you choose to pick on all who profess a faith and religious tradition so to highlight yours. I’d imagine you’d defend your religious belief. And in your defense you’d declare your superior belief. OK. I say you’re an extreme agnostic putz.

25 September 2008

'entire economy is in danger'

Oh dear . . . when the President of the United States says this on national television, well, I pay attention. The words demand a bit more than my viewing the everydayness of death, disease, and destruction I'm bombarded with every news day.
What's the snappy "D" word for the economic meltdown of an entire economy. A "deaccessioning" of the private banking sector into the federal governments' hands. This "D" word is associated with fine-art so the metaphor quickly breaks down. We're in uncharted water.
On a visceral level I have complete sympathy with the forgotten man or woman, the forgotten family. There are ordinary prudent people, families, who do the right thing. These are the folks, some 50% of Americans that either own their home or are renting, the 95% of homeowners who make their house payments on time, the 99% of folks who did not and do not behave irresponsibly with their hard earned financial resources, who will ultimately pay off any loss that occurs.
What is a fearful financial soul to do? Well blabbering at the end of the bar in an crowded saloon doesn't help. I'm not even sure writing this will help. But in case one person stumbles on this I suggest,
  • Look and Reappraise. Is it just a paper loss or must you liquidate.
  • Put Yourself in a Different Pair of Shoes. Think of questions you might ask yourself ~ as if you were in that other pair of reasonable and responsible shoes.
  • Track and Write Down Your Feelings. You may not want your stewardship of your financial resources to be driven by your emotions. So put some distance between them and your left brain. Write your feelings down on paper. Do you want to be held hostage by your feelings?
  • Try Planning. When events cool down make intentional choices to make a plan. Once you make a plan try executing it. After you've done that for awhile, and you've stopped, for whatever reason, start again. That's right, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. I call it personal forgiveness.
Ah . . . . here is where each of us begins again. I know it's difficult and it takes time. But each of us souls, especially the souls who want to do, who try to do, who may not do as much as they would like to, need a second chance. Everyone of us, even the schmucks who got us into this mess and the ones who think they can get us out of it, need forgiveness.

And despite my fear, maybe because of my fear, that in the end, is why I will probably just shrug my shoulders and pray this one trillion dollar bailout is about all that I can do and expect.

24 September 2008

Big Bad Bill . . .

Big Bad Bill is Sweet William Now, was written in 1924 by Jack Yellen and Milton Ager. Yellen was the lyricist. He emigrated to America in 1897. Yellen became part of the tin-pan alley. Ager, the composer, was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1893 about a year after YellenAger was a self taught pianist. He and Ager wrote Happy Days Are Here Again.


Lyrics get short-shrift in culture. We hear the music, the beat, see the instruments and players, see the atmospherics, hear the voices. Lyrics are heard but overwhelmed unless intentionally focused on. I like the lyrics. I was intrigued. Here is a tale of transformation.

Big bad Bill is sweet William now; what's up with that? It's the story of a struttin' tough guy, who people are afraid of, who meets a gal, gets married, gets his hair bobbed, and is transformed into a husband, doin' dishes and mopping flo', whose got to see his mama every night. Van Halen, Peggy Lee, Rye Cooder, Merle Haggard have all covered the fund; all are searchable.

Transformation intrigues me. How is it one is transformed? Perhaps it's by an encounter with a particular person in a particular time and place; the power of one, as it were, to transform one's life and move one onto, into, another path, that would never have been known, considered, undertaken. It is often grasped with the passage of time and the grace to perceive it.

I believe transformation is the power of all that we live and move and have our being in.

23 September 2008

Breath of Life

The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

I leap off the dock hands and arms extended out. A bracing cold sheaths me. The lake water is sweet. I love the splash sound and cold in my mind on my body. I divide the water engulfs me. Under I listen to silence slipping behind. I run silent, long, stretch, and hold back my scream to breath. I come up; air pushes in. I take it and hear my breath and my heart shivers.

The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.