Thursday, March 31, 2005

Thursday BBP (3/31)

1.

when it happened
(finally)
there was no fanfare
there was no victory march.
the winners and the losers,
such as they were,
left together
in a line of quiet,
crying people.

there was still anger there,
of course,
there was still outrage,
but all the fire, the heat and
light, was dampened by
the wool-blanket heaviness of grief
and the guilty relief that now
(they were ashamed to think it)
things could return to normal.
there was no need to fall on
their swords. one tragedy
did not deserve another.

the vigilant packed up their
tents, their broken signs,
their melted candles, and
left. as they made their way
to cars of myriad origin,
the ones who paid
closest attention could
almost swear they heard
the gentle patter of
feathered wings, fluttering.

2.

i wrote a poem (several,
actually, but one comes
to mind in particular) in my
undergraduate years about the
plastic-bag-over-the-head
suffocation of dissent
in my alma mater.
in recent days, it has come to
my attention that, just as i
remember it, Baptists seem to
love their traditions.

a man's opinion offends
the Family, and they give
him the Luka Brazi
treatment. poor schmuck.
("it's a message. it means that
personal conviction
sleeps with the fishes.")

3.

i realized last night that I am
this
close to deciding never to see
the film "Sin City."
not because i fear the film will be
inferior (quite the opposite--I'm
sure it will be fantastic), but
because I don't think seeing it
will do me any good.

this kind of self-restraint is a recent
and puzzling phenomenon--
choosing to refrain from things, not
on the basis of their inherent moral value
(can art have moral value instilled at birth--
mixed in among the paints, staining the
celluloid, seeping out of printer's ink?),
but refraining in order to avoid things
that won't contribute to my life, that
won't make be a better person.

i have made similar decisions about fast food and
holiday candy, although, in those cases, my
convictions aren't quite as robust.

Gone.

Rest now.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Poetic Interlude

Not to replace Thursday's scheduled BBP, here are a few pieces I wrote at dinner last night.

+++++

motive

this is what i'm reduced to:
passing half-smiles from
disappearing strangers
have become the instant highlight
of my week.
this is why i came here,
to this culinary crossroads
heavily traversed by the tired and
isolated--so that i can achieve
the illusion of community,
the unspoken wisp of attraction,
the counterfeit of affection,
in the momentary glance of
a girl with dark hair.

+++++

keep working

i don't want to keep
working so hard at
becoming 'the type
they want.' i'd rather
be 'the type they don't.'
not because i'd be
happier so much,
but because i'd
feel less like a
fraud. as it stands,
i fear being driven
by the ideal, that
i lose the ability
to find peace with
my unsophisticated,
unkempt, ungraceful,
unattractive self.

+++++

the big question

"how am i not myself?"
i keep hearing him ask
and though i have never
committed the cardinal sin
of telling the tuna story
ad nauseum, i know in
my deconstructed core that
i am guilty of self-betrayals
just as heartless.
when i pretend to agree
while my heart screams in
protest, when i present
disinterest to hide my
adoration, when i recant
and fold my convictions
to cash in on the evils around me,
i take the thirty silver coins,
and kiss myself on the cheek,
betraying my mother's only son
to a fate worse than mere death.

What the crap is happening in Shawnee?

It seems lately, that i'm hearing nothing but bad news about the alma mater. Today is no exception.

From what I can gather, here's what happened:

PR director ZK wrote a letter to the local newspaper, in which he stated in no uncertain terms his concerns for the motives behind the new building project of one of the town's oldest churchs. ZK asserted that they were moving from a economically lower-class area to a higher-class one, possibly based on racial or social reasons. ZK pulled no punches in his editorial, and while a little heavy-handed, I don't think it's necessarily unfair.

As it turns out, the president of the university attends that church.

It's not too hard to imagine what happened next.

As has been their practice in the past (necessarily, I assume), the school is deafeningly silent on the matter.

(Chalk this up with the "drunk Laura" debacle as yet another thing the Powers That Be won't discuss.)

Now the question online is, did Oklahoma Baptist University do wrong by "asking him to resign"? And in the view of several, yes, absolutely.

I must interject here that I don't know all the facts of the story. While an OBU alum, I never really knew much about ZK or his job performance. There have been hints floating that this incident is one in a long string of offenses. I don't know if that's true, but I don't know if it's not, either.

At any rate, as the facts seem to be presented (granted, again, from arguably biased sources), this looks very, very bad for the university. If the implications of this are in any way accurate, I'm incredibly disappointed in the President B, the administration, and all other parties involved.

This isn't the first time that a former school of mine has undergone some difficult times regarding the alleged muzzling of dissention. And I'm familiar with the "asked to resign" situation, too, so I may be biased against institutions that do this.

As it stands, this is another reason for me to be saddened by the OBU I used to know, that doesn't exist anymore. Maybe it never did.

Either way, I'm disappointed.



(Wow. I just found out that Mr. Todd got fired, also. Can someone fill me in on what happened there? The story I heard was that he was fired for "offending students." I can only imagine.)


(Many thanks to alert [and, hopefully, returning] reader Sarah for the head's-up.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"there was a canoe in the road.."

Somebody email me. Seriously. I'm dying over here.

+++++

I watched "I Heart Huckabees" twice last night. Consecutively. Once normally, and once with the director/stars commentary. I'm beginning to be convinced that it's a genius movie. Real Live Preacher put it perfectly--so perfectly that I wish I'd thought of it first: "I grok Huckabees."

So, a bonus Cool Ten--Huckabees quotes.

10. "You can't deal with my infinite nature, can you?" "That is so not true--wait, what does that even mean?"

9. "Jesus is never mad at us if we live with Him in our hearts!" "I hate to break it to you, but He is--He most definitely is!"

8. "We smashed locusts and made bread." "Honestly, I have no idea what you were saying..."

7. "This is you, you're what, 21? You have dark hair... This is me, I'm 60 years old, I'm wearing a grey suit... Over here is Vivian, my wife and colleague, right? ...And over here is the Eiffel Tower! It's Paris!"

6. "So can we do the pure being ball thing every day?"

5. "So, the interconnection thing--it's totally real!" "I knew it!"

4. "You're just smashing your own face, Brad! Now I'm smashing my face!"

3. "I've imagined chopping your head off with a machete many times." "Yeah, and I've imagined chopping you up with an axe and smashing your face with a baseball bat."

2. "Here comes Albert... who turned his back on his Other like a cold-blooded gangsta!"

1. "Again." *thwap* "Again." *thwap* "Did you feel it?" "I think so."


If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just wait. Full review on the MUCH IGNORED (ahem) "Better than Critics" site, later in the week.

+++++

A final word. If you don't understand the subject line--which is not from the brilliant movie--then you clearly aren't plugged in to the hippest blog around. And I feel sorry for you.

Happy Tuesday, all.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Parable Redux: "The Other Brother"

So this is how it went down.

I'm an older brother. It's a tough gig sometimes. You're the responsible one. You're the guilty one. If the kid cries, you're blamed. If the kid messes up, you should have been there to help. You feel like you have to be a third parent sometimes, to fill in the gaps. The folks can't see everything, you know.

Not that it's all bad. I mean, the times when the kid looks up to you, tries to be like you--those are nice. You feel important. Admired.

That feeling didn't last long for me.

The kid and I had a good relationship when we were small. There was the normal squabbling and fighting, but nothing serious. Nothing that changed how we treated each other. He was a whiny little punk, but he was my brother, you know? And if anyone wanted to mess with him, they'd have to get through me.

But when our mom died, something in him changed. I didn't understand it at the time, but I guess he didn't want to be too attached to anyone after that. He really loved our mom, and her death really messed him up for a while. He didn't talk for a week. Barely ate. Dad was worried, but he couldn't really talk to the kid about it. Had his own grief to deal with.

Meanwhile, I kept everything going. That's what happens when you're the older brother. You have to step up.

Finally, both Dad and the kid were able to get back to something approaching normal. Dad worked through his grief, and it softened him a little. He became more forgiving, more generous. The kid, whose grief made him distant, took advantage of this. He got away with more and more. I tried to put an end to it, but he'd have none of it. Dad didn't do anything either. I tried to talk to him about it, but he just said, "I am his father, not you. Let me deal with him."

Except he wouldn't deal with him. And the older the kid got, the more rebellious he got. Finally it came to a head one day. The kid asked Dad for his share of the estate. A total slap in Dad's face. I mean, that's not how it works, you know? You wait until your parents die before you start claiming their stuff. But here was the kid, pretty much saying, "You're dead to me, Pop. Now I want my share."

All I can say is, the kid was lucky I was in the back field planting that day. If I had been in the house, I would have beaten the living hell out of him. The nerve of that guy.

And just like that, he was gone. Didn't say goodbye or leave a note. I got back around dusk, and Dad was just sitting there at the table, crying his eyes out. I freaked out. I mean, he hadn't cried like that since Mom died. I asked if he was okay, or if something happened to the kid. He said, "He's gone. I gave him his share of the estate, and he left." It was all I could do to keep cool until I went outside.

Pure rage was all I felt. I grabbed an axe from the shed and went out and started chopping down the trees along the edge of the wheat field. Just something to let the anger out. The very thought of the kid's actions were almost incomprehensible to me. It wasn't even in the realm of reason. It was like, in his mind, he killed us all off. Just like that. Cold-blooded.

We didn't hear from him for months. I kept the farm going, doing his share of the work on top of mine. It wasn't easy, since our savings were sliced almost in half. Money was tight, and for a few months, I wasn't sure we'd survive. We had to hire a few more guys for the harvest than normal, which wasn't cheap, either. But I wasn't expecting the kid to come back and take his place in the field. As far as I was concerned, he was gone. He was as dead to us as we were to him.

Of course, Dad felt differently. Almost as soon as the kid left, Dad started spending his evenings on the front porch, just staring down the road. I had to bring his supper out to him, because he wouldn't move. I tried to talk him out of it at first, telling him that he shouldn't keep his hopes up. The harder I pressed the angrier I got. Finally, about three weeks after the kid left, I just had enough. "Dad, this is ridiculous. You're tearing yourself up over some ingrate who treats us like strangers. He doesn't deserve this, Dad, and you don't deserve to suffer for his stupidity. Just let him be gone. He's dead. Forget about him."

My father stood, walked over to me, and punched me square in the face. Knocked me clear off the porch. I got up, cupping the blood seeping from my nose, and just stared at him. I couldn't believe it. Apparently, neither could he. "I...I'm sorry, son. I really am. It's just--he's my son! And no matter what he does to me, he will always be my son! I have to believe he'll come back. I can't live any other way. And when he does, he will again be my son. He's not dead, boy. He's just running."

"I'm sorry, pop. I was out of line."

"That's okay, son. Go get cleaned up."

From that day on, I never said a word about it. But the old man's reasoning didn't sit well with me. I mean, I understand, blood is blood. When someone like the kid makes an honest mistake, you forgive them, sure. But this wasn't an honest mistake. This was betrayal. And betrayal costs more to fix than simply saying you're sorry. Dad may not have believed that, but it was true.

We're almost finished with the harvest. There were reports of famines in some neighboring countries, so we have been turning a pretty good profit on the wheat and barley sales to the out-of-town customers. Last week, I told Dad that we're doing so well, we've more than made up what we've lost in the last year. I didn't add "thanks to the kid" to that statement, but I sure was thinking it.

Last night, I was coming back in from the far 40, where we had just finished up the last of the harvesting. I wasn't too far from the house when I heard it. Music. Laughter. Sounds that have been almost foreign to our house since Mom died. I walked closer, and spotted one of the servants drawning water for the barrels. I asked, "What's going on? Some sort of party?"

The servant grinned. "Yes, sir. A 'welcome home' party. Your brother has returned. Your father has ordered the best calf to be slaughtered and cooked for the banquet."

I dropped my tools and stared at him. His smile vanished, and he quickly bowed and rushed back to the house. I sat there by the well for a while, long enough for the sun to go down and the first stars to appear. The party grew louder and more lively. It looked like the house was packed. A while later, another servant came out and asked me to come in and join the celebration. I shook my head, and he left.

There was no way I was going in there. If I did, I was afraid I'd attack the kid. The rage that exploded in me on the day he left was boiling in my gut again, on this day of his return.

My father came out to talk to me. "Son, come inside, Your brother wants to see you."

"I'm not going in."

"But, son--"

I had reached the end of my patience. "Don't you get it, pop? It's the same as always. He does whatever he wants, and still gets treated like royalty. I'll bet he's out of money."

"Yes, he is, but--"

I couldn't help laughing. "See?!? It's the same thing all the time. The kid gets himself in trouble, and then comes crying home for you to bail him out. Well, I'm not buying it. I mean, what's to prevent him from leaving again in a month, with more of the money that we've worked so hard to make back? And besides, where's my party, huh? I have worked and slaved on this land for years. I have been loyal to you, obedient and faithful. Yet you've never thrown a party for me, never given me so much as a goat to roast and share with my friends. Yet this ungrateful, whoremongering wretch has slimed his way up the road, and you pull out all the stops. It's just not fair, Dad!"

"That's enough, son!" my father yelled. He took a deep breath and said, "Look, my boy, I love you dearly. I'm proud of what you've done, and I'm happy that you have proven yourself true to me. Everything I have is yours, and you are always with me. But now is the time to celebrate. Your brother, who was dead to us, is alive again. He was lost, and now he's found. He has come back from the grave. Let's be happy for him. Let's welcome him back. He has asked for forgiveness, which I have granted. He's your brother, son. Show him the mercy of a brother."

I stared out over the field without saying a word. The old man sighed and went back inside.

Here I am, now. Sitting on this stone well as the sun is just starting to rise over the eastern trees. The party is still going on strong, but there's no way I will set foot inside.

It isn't enough that the kid came home. It isn't enough that he said he was sorry. He's gonna have to prove that he's sorry to me. Just because he's my brother doesn't mean I have to forgive him for anything. He turned his back on us. On me. I have every right to hold that against him.

He's a sinner. He's sinned against me, and I have every right to remind him of that for the rest of his life. I have every right to make him feel bad for what he's done. I have every right to refuse to forgive him.

Don't I?



(source: here)

PBB Cool Ten (3/27-4/2)

(Update: New "retold parable" in next entry, below.)

10. This FoxNews headline just struck me as funny. I didn't even read the article--I just laughed at the headline.
9. Michigan State beat the #1 and #2 seeded teams in their bracket. Impressive.
8. Neuromancer is getting interesting. A tough book to get into, but entertaining.
7. It only took four days, but someone finally commented on Chapter 6. That's cool.
6. I got a new ball cap. Me likey.
5. If my church ever gives up on the whole "God" thing, they apparently could pull off a heckuva Laser Floyd show.
4. The best holiday candy EVER.
3. My pastor. Cool guy. I'll be sorry to see him retire next month.
2. Michael Card's "The Life" is a gorgeous and skillfully written album about the life of Christ. Very much a product of its time (late 80's CCM), it's still quite lovely. Heavily orchestral and choral. Good stuff. Highly recommended.

1. "He is not here; he has risen!"

Friday, March 25, 2005

Friday Fiction: Taylor House, Chapter 6: "Interview"

Having moved in, Louis realized that his next move was to find gainful employment—and fast. He only had a few hundred dollars left in his savings, and that wouldn’t last him too long in his new locale. Even if he got a job right away, he wouldn’t be paid for at least a few weeks. The sooner he found a job, the better.

Back home—in Chicago, rather—he had several part-time jobs in high school and college, but nothing very glamorous. The best he usually came up with were various permutations of the food service industry. It was certainly nothing he wanted to revisit.

The next morning, he ate a bowl of cereal and scanned the want ads of the community newspaper, circling a few prospects. After an afternoon of phone calls, he came up dry. No one wanted to hire him. He didn’t have the qualifications. He didn’t have any experience. Experience was the really tough thing—no one hires a person with no experience, yet because of this, no one can actually get any experience. Scholars call this a “vicious circle”; old Linus would have just called it “life.” Louis figured the old man wouldn’t have been too sympathetic. He was, after all, the poster-child for the “pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps” generation—“ten miles uphill in the snow,” and all that.

Another day or two went by. Louis would scan the newspaper, check some employment websites online, and make some inquiries. He had made up a resume, such as it was, but he couldn’t avoid that noticeable gap in the “employment” section. There was also the matter of the six-month time gap after commencement. Graduates from Northwestern don’t usually spend their first six degreed months working part-time at a drive-thru window. Not unless they have theatre studies degrees. Louis didn’t have that excuse to fall back on.

Another week with no luck. Louis’ frustration grew with every passing day. It wasn’t like he was trying to find a career. All he wanted was twenty hours a week. Grocery money, maybe something extra for a movie. He didn’t think that was too much to ask for. The local economy seemed to disagree.

After almost two weeks without so much as an interview, Louis decided that his pride, however precious, wouldn’t make much of a diet. He resolved to begin applying to local restaurants. If nothing else, a restaurant job could score him free food once in a while. That would definitely help his budget.

That Friday morning, he set out in his truck, driving up and down the alphabetical streets of the island. He’d watch each restaurant pass, and would try to justify not stopping each time. This one looks dingy. That one looks dead. I could never work there. Oh, not there, either--I hate the smell of curry.

He rationalized his way past lunchtime, without so much as a single stop. He finally decided on a seafood restaurant with the prerequisite sailboat motif. He parked and walked inside. The greeter’s polo shirt was covered in a screaming neon fish pattern. She poured on the personality. “Hello! Welcome to the Shrimp Shack! Home of the All-You-Can-Eat Shrimp Bucket! My name is Wendy! Just one today!” Even her question was an exclamation.

“Actually, I wanted to talk to the manager about”

“Just a second!” Wendy spun around, ponytail whipping behind her. She seemed to bound back into the kitchen/staging area.

Louis took a seat on the padded wooden benches in the waiting area, trying not to wrinkle the copy of his resume that he brought. He looked around at the d├ęcor. Oversized plastic fish, miles of netting, toy boats, parrots, and palm fronds covered the walls. Behind the greeters’ station was a chalkboard with what appeared to be a psychotic pirate, grinning madly, squinting with his unpatched eye, and shouting, “Arrrrrr you ready for some red snapper?” Louis decided “Long John Silver” must be the greeter for the dinner crowd.

After a few minutes, a man in a sailboat shirt and khaki pants came through the steel double-doors to the kitchen, with Wendy in tow. He smiled broadly at Louis and stuck out his hand. “I’m Steve Johns, the manager here at the Shrimp Shack.”

Wendy piped up, “This is the man who wanted to see you, Mr. Johns!”

Mr. Johns turned back to her, a forced smile revealing gritted teeth. “Thank you, Wendy. I”ll take it from here.” Wendy shrugged and returned to her station.

Johns took at deep breath and turned back to Louis, broad smile back in place. “Well, what can I do for you, sir? Any problems with your meal?”

“Oh, no, Mr. Johns—“

“Steve, please.”

“No, Steve, I haven’t eaten yet.”

“Haven’t eaten? Wendy, why haven’t you seated this young man—what’s your name?”

“Um, Louis.”

“Wendy, Louis here needs a table!”

Louis held up his hands. “Wait, no, Steve! I didn’t come here to eat. I’m looking for a job. I wanted to know if you have anything available. Preferably wait staff.”

Steve thought for a moment, and then snapped his fingers. “Actually, we did have to let a few waiters go last week. I’m sure we could use another hand on deck.”

Louis nodded. “Great. Well, here’s my resume.”

“Hold on there, shipmate. I’ll need you to fill out a standard application.” Louis pulled back the resume, trying to play off his blunder. “Oh. Of course. No problem.”

“Great!” said Steve. He fished around in the shelves behind the greeter station and came up with a six-page application. “Just fill in as many blanks as you can now, and if you need to go back home and get information to finish the rest, that’s fine, but the application has to stay here.”

Louis sat down and began filling out the application. Steve stood for a moment, and then asked, “So, how long were you a waiter before?”

“Excuse me?” Louis asked, surprised.

“Oh, I’m sorry. How long were you a server, at your previous job?”

Louis shrugged. “Actually, I’ve never worked in a restaurant before. At least not one without a drive-thru.” He had hoped Steve would laugh at his weak attempt at humor. No dice.

Steve said, “Oh. Sorry then. We’re only hiring experienced servers right now.”

Louis made no attempt to hide his disappointment. “Oh. That’s too bad.”

“Sorry, Louis. But hey, if you want to fill out the application anyway, we can give you a call if a busser position opens up!”

Louis shook his head. “No thanks, Steve. But thank you for your time.” He trudged out of the restaurant, more disappointed than he probably should have been, this being only his first in-person rejection.

Louis drove around a little more, even less willing to ask for applications. After a while, he ended up on the Strand, part of the island’s famous shopping district. He parked in a small lot, and began walking down the bustling street. Both sides of the street were lined with shops, ranging from island knick-knacks to posh clothing outlets.

Louis walked down the half-full sidewalk, peeking in the windows of the shops. He stopped in at a coffee shop called the Magic Bean, and ordered a mocha. The barista was cute, but refused to make eye contact with him. Louis took his coffee and went back outside. That’s when he saw it.

At the corner of ______ and Strand was a two-story bookstore lined with windows and striped awnings. The marquee sign above the blue storefront said, “The Last Word.” Louis had always wanted to work in a bookstore. He checked to make sure no traffic was coming, and darted across the street, almost getting sideswiped by an absentminded cyclist in the process. He turned the worn handle on the front door, and stepped inside, chiming the bells hung over the frame.

The store was cramped. The aisles were narrow and circuitous, having no apparent organization or pattern. But every wall was covered with floor-to-ceiling shelves, and every shelf was full to capacity with paperbacks of varying size and type. Near the back of the store was the checkout area, a U-shaped island in the midst of structural chaos. Louis made his way to it, sidestepping browsers peering at book spines and teenagers sitting cross-legged in the floor, pouring over old Heinlein novels.

At the desk were three clerks. One sat in an office chair facing a computer screen; he couldn’t have been more than eighteen. Louis took the young man’s multiple ear piercings and Clash tee-shirt as a sign that the dress code here was lenient. A second man sat on the far side of the counter, paging through a Popular Science magazine. The third, the oldest and likely most senior employee, hung up the phone and took a sip of water from a bottle. He was the only one wearing a nametag (which bore the name, “Dan”). This one turned to the one seated on the countertop.

“Hey Trent, what’s the blast radius of a hydrogen bomb? 30 miles or so, right?”

Trent looked up from the magazine. “I don’t know--that sounds about right. Why?”

“Todd said he thought it was something like 120.”

“Oh, no, man, not that much.”

“That’s what I thought. The real problem is the wind, I’ll bet. ‘The nuclear wind.’”

Trent nodded. “I think I read in the paper somewhere that if a bomb were set off anywhere near here, it would be in Houston, and the Gulf wind would carry the fallout off…northwest somewhere.”

“Well, that’s good news.”

The silent teenager at the computer pumped his fist in the air without looking away from the screen, and declared, “Survivors!”

The younger clerk shook his head. “No, it just means we’d be left to clean up the mess.”

Louis listened to this exchange with morbid curiosity. The conversation, however interesting, was a bit too odd for his taste. His first impulse was to walk away without being noticed, but the older employee spotted him before he could make his escape. He asked, “Can I help you find something?”

Louis cleared his throat. “Actually, I was wondering if I could speak to a manager for a moment.”

The older man said, “Right. Trent, this customer needs a word.” The younger employee seated on the counter looked up, set his magazine down, and hopped down to his feet.

“Well? What can I do for you?” Trent asked.

“You’re the manager?” Louis found himself asking. This person couldn’t be any older than he was.

“Assistant, yeah. Is there something you need to find?”

“What? Oh, no,” Louis replied. “I was just wondering—are you accepting applications? For part-time help, I mean.”

Trent smirked. “Sure, fella, we’ll take them.”

Louis countered, “Let me rephrase that—are you currently hiring part-time help?”

“Oh. No.”

“Okay. Well, thanks, anyway.” Louis turned to make his way out of the store.

Over his shoulder, he heard Trent call out, “Well if you give up that easily, you definitely can’t work here.”

Louis turned back, baffled. “What?”

“You just gave up. You can’t want to work here that badly…”

Louis took a step forward. “But I do, really.”

Trent rubbed his goatee. “Really. Well then, leave, and then come back, like you really want a job.” He leaned on the counter and looked down at the newspaper headlines before him.

Louis asked, “So you…” Trent waved his hand, gesturing for Louis to leave. Still confused but willing to give it a try, Louis walked out, turned around, and walked back in. He took a few steps toward the counter and said, “Excuse me, sir.”

Without looking up, Trent said, “Get the hell out.”

The teenager at the computer started laughing, his voice cracking. Even the older employee couldn’t hold in a chuckle. Trent never looked up from his paper.

Louis realized he was being played for the fool. He tapped his fingers to his forehead, tipping an invisible hat, and said, “Thank you, gentlemen, for your time.” He then turned and walked out of the store, hoping his face wasn’t flushing noticeably.

He only made it a few steps away, when Trent came barreling out of the bookstore. He followed Louis down the sidewalk and said, “Hey, man, come on. We were just messing with you. I’m Trent.” He held out his hand, which Louis took after a moment’s hesitation.

“Louis Fielder.”

“Well, Louie, now for the interview portion. What’s the greatest literary work of the last century? In English, preferably.”

“What?”

“Answer the question, Louie.”

Louis considered for a moment. “I don’t know. Some say it’s ‘Ulysses,’ by Joyce.”

Trent rolled his eyes. “Ugh, nevermi—“

Louis held up a hand. “But…I think anyone who says that is as pretentious as they are ignorant. My personal favorite? ‘On the Road.’” Louis saw that Trent was clearly impressed. That was just the response he was looking for.

“No shit.”

Louis shrugged. “Or Delillo's 'Underworld,' but that sounds almost as pretentious as Joyce. Anyway, I guess I’ll see you around.” Louis turned to walk away, trying to hide a smile.

Trent called out, “Hey, wait, man! Louie! Come back tomorrow, the boss’ll be in. We're looking for a day-shift guy.”

Over his shoulder, Louis answered, “Thanks. I’ll see what I can do.”

Trent smiled. “You’ll see what you can do? Smartass.”

Louis walked back to his car with an extra spring in his step. This morning’s events were disappointing, sure, but this afternoon he pulled through. Tomorrow’s interview may be just what he was looking for. He whistled as he weaved through the shoppers on the Strand.

Typical Louis. King of the last-second comeback.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Brown-bag Poetry (3/24)

1.

new habits
(like new callouses)
hurt like hell
at first. they resist
being pressed, and
complain in nervy voices,
pleading to be left alone.
(of course, this isn't really
the new thing speaking--
it's the old flesh, playing
puppeteer, trying to
recover from being
challenged, to keep from
being changed.)

2.

i listened to the radio as i made dinner.
("tell me what it takes to let you go.")
and though i was exhausted from the day
and from the self-punishment administered
under the auspices of "health",
i still found myself bobbing and weaving,
swaying with burning muscles and tired bones
to the seduction of rhythm and melody.
("you make me wanna shoop, shoop eh doop.")
these are the things a single man can
get away with, in the privacy of his castle:
silliness without self-consciousness, enjoyment
without restraint, and blessed freedom
from the tyranny of being "cool."
("you might as well be walking on the sun.")
I suppose married men may have such liberties,
though i doubt it. I'd wager a husband must work
twice as hard to keep his adoring bride's respect,
unless she's the rare and special kind of woman
who looks on such things without ridicule.
("it's been one week since you looked at me.")
i stood in my kitchen, stirring, swaying, singing,
and, for that single moment, enjoying bachelorhood.

3.

is chocolate ice cream healthy?
the answer seems to be
counter-intuitive. after all, we are often
lectured on the value of calcium,
and the vast benefits of dairy products;
cocoa is of course a natural substance,
taken from plants, and should count as one
of the required five vegetables;
sugar is used for energy, necessary for life;
salt is important in small amounts;
and ice, being water, is vital to proper
nutrition. is chocolate ice cream healthy?
indeed so--i don't understand why
it would be otherwise.

4.

(an unfocused response to "The Final Cut")

a)
if i knew that other eyes
would view my life,
see my lies, and record my
shameful deeds, it
would change the way
i conduct myself, the way
i interact with others.
(at least, i would assume so,
though up to this point,
it hasn't made a difference.)

b)
of course, one could argue that
when this obsvervation happens,
Heisenburg leans forward, and
the surface of the water stirs,
as it did when the world was
without form and void.

c)
the Cutter sits in His booth,
deleting my transgressions,
splicing scenes and creating
meaning from my chaos.
the work of the editor is one of redemption.
but redemption always comes
at a price, for the Cutter must
bear witness to every foul deed,
in order to expunge it.

"Loving you has got to be..."

"...like the devil and the deep blue sea..."

Happy Thursday, friends.

Yes, I'm still doing Brown-Bag Poetry. Later, later.

I'm sitting here listening to some fun, cheesy rock music, totally not engaged in my work, and feeling incredibly sore (now two days into my new "fitness" kick) but rather good.

And I wanted to say hi. So hi.

Have a good day. Don't sweat the big stuff. You've got a big God to take care of that. Just take each day's worries as they come. Deal with them, and move on. No, Atlas, there's no need to carry the world on your shoulders.

Peace and grace.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Wednesday Links (UPDATED. AGAIN.)

  • I found this this morning, thanks to MSN/Slate. Very interesting historical background on the actual quiz show scandals that inspired the very entertaining (and highly recommended) film.
  • Have you seen the full trailer for Star Wars Episode III? If not, check to make sure the boss is not around (where applicable), turn the volume up, and watch in on fullscreen mode. Holy. freaking. crap.
  • Speaking of new movie trailers, the new one for H2G2 is up. Don't panic.
  • My new favorite mil-blog: 365 and a Wake-up. Fight on, Thunder6. Godspeed and safe return.
  • You know those incredibly un-funny serial comic strips in the paper? Josh reads 'em for you. And provides biting and funny commentary. It's like a Saturday morning newspaper version of MST3K.
  • I liked this Relevant article, especially in light of our recent discussion about mudslinging within the Body.
  • Moment of beauty, provided by Jeremy

UPDATE: But this has to be the funniest thing I've seen in weeks. Enjoy.

SECOND UPDATE: Although this Strongbad email comes in at a close second.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

New reading material, TH update, and a reluctant resolution

New reading material: There's a new review up at Better Than Critics. I still can't figure out how Trev does the picture, so it's sans poster image. But hopefully an interesting review of a film I didn't even expect to see, let alone discuss in public.

TH Update: I've been doing some re-evaluation, looking at character motivation and whatnot. I now have a pretty good idea of where the story's going, and I'll have the next chapter up on Friday, as promised. I'm excited. Be excited with me.

My reluctant resolution: Tomorrow, the plug is pulled (so to speak) on the TV. No TV for three weeks. Perhaps no videos, either. I need to clear my head, not to mention focus on taking care of business at home. Does this mean missing the end of March Madness? Yes. (ouch.) But it needs to be done. I'm shutting off my Blockbuster rental pass, too. No movies rented for a month, at least. Hopefully more. (And yes, it's a total coincidence that the end of my 3-week pseudo-fast from TV coincides with the resumption of new Smallville episodes, and the beginning of baseball season. total. coincidence.)

Monday, March 21, 2005

PBB "Cool Ten" for 3/20-3/26

10. Trev is about the start Book Seven of the greatest fiction series ever (that's not related to hobbits)!
9. Fifty? Fifty-plus comments? Yowsa. (granted, I was about a fifth of that.)
8. Have you been reading "Dialogues"? Intriguing stuff.
7. Watching The Incredibles with the family yesterday.
6. The end of the Rodeo means a return to sanity in my neighborhood.
5. New visitors in the past few weeks. Thanks for stopping by, y'all.
4. Finding out that yet another friend is getting married this year.
3. Seeing a great production of "Shadowlands." For free.
2. Hanging out with the Cains at House of Pies for over an hour afterwards.
1. I finally have an idea of where "Taylor House" is heading. Thank God for inspiration.

Friday, March 18, 2005

"...And in your place, an empty space..."

(starting music: "The World Has Turned and Left Me Here" by Weezer)

Happy Friday, my friends. A few quick things.

1) Thanks for your continued (hint, hint) comments on the PME post below. PLEASE keep it up. This is a good discussion. (Of course, now that I've jinxed it, people will stop commenting.)

2) Quick "Cool Two" List: There are two people who have recently sent me fun things in the mail, so they're receiving special "Cool Two" status.
--My dentist: I recently referred my mom to this dentist for some emergency dental work, and he gave me a $20 gift card to the local movie theater chain, as a way of saying thank you. How wicked cool is that??
--And I have I mentioned how insanely cool Jeremy is? Because I just got his "writing mix" CD in the mail, and it may well be one of the best mix CDs I've ever gotten. Rock on, dude.

3) I mentioned that there will be some format changes here at PBB. I've been thinking about this, and I'd like to have some regular items (like Monday's "Cool Ten"). To keep me posting, if nothing else.

So here it is. Every Friday, beginning next week, will be "Fiction Friday." This means that every Friday, there will either be another chapter of "Taylor House" or maybe an unrelated short piece. But I'll crank out something at home every week, which I will post on Fridays (probably in the morning).

Also new to PBB, starting next week, will be "Brown-Bag Poetry Thursdays." Every Thursday, I'll whip up something poetic (and hopefully not crappy) during my lunch break. Nothing from home--it will be completely original as of that afternoon.

SO there you go. Two new features here at "Perfect Blue Buildings," beginning next week. Something to look forward to.

+++

That's it, kids. Have a good weekend.

(ending music: "The Sweater Song" by Weezer)

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Grappling with the Emergent (Pomo) Church [part 1]

"The Emergent Church." Post-modernism in the pews. It's been happening (or at least, I've just been noticing it) over the last several years, though only in the last few months have I really started taking a hard look at it, trying to understand it.

I'm not doing too well.

This idea of emergence has become chic among younger Christians. They gobble up books by McClaren and Miller, they subscribe to Relevant and Sojourners, and, boy, do they love their Derek Webb. (Don't presume by my use of the word "chic" that I'm down on any of these. Just keep reading.)

Lately, I've been trying to look at what's fueling this reformation of thought among these (post-)Gen-X Christians. Where is this coming from? What's it based on? Where will it lead?

I'm still looking. But I'm encountering some problems. More on this later. First, a primer of sorts.

(Disclaimer: I don't hold the answers. I don't claim omniscience, though I may act like it sometimes. Anything written here is written with the understanding that I may well be wrong or misguided; and the expectation that if I am, you gentle readers will surely tell me so. The logic or structure may not always be perfect, either. I'm free-writing here, almost. The bulk of this piece deals with my understandings, perspectives, and reactions. I don't claim any of this to be generalization on the whole. So, please don't take offense (try not to, anyway). Thanks. Continue.)

Defining A Movement: A Tricky Proposition

The first step to understanding this movement in the church is to look at the terms used. Break it down. Language is everything, after all.

Postmodern: This term provides some difficulty. In the mainstream sense, postmodernism is a belief set, the essence of which is that there is no empirical Truth outside oneself. This is the diametric opposite of Fundamentalism, which is grounded on the idea that Truth is independent of human thought or practice. Postmodernism emphasizes perspective over objective concepts, experience over knowledge. Truth is what's real to you. This philosophical concept has produced a generation of "seekers," people looking for answers, for something to anchor them spiritually, mentally, and psychologically. This is without question an incredible opportunity for the cause of Christ to break through some ideological barriers and give hope and peace to lost and confused people.

But where does this leave Christianity? Certainly Christians can't subscribe to a worldview devoid of objective Truth, can they? In a word, no. So some Christians put their own spin on the word or, in some cases, created a new one without all the baggage: emergent.

Emergent: What does emergent mean? Frankly, I'm not sure. I've looked it up in several places, and I've gotten several different answers. What seem to be the common elements? Seeker-oriented. New. Non-traditional. Community-based. Forgoing the "bible-thumping" of other forms of church for something more media-savvy, pursuing authenticity.

Authentic seems to be a really important word among proponents of the "emergent" movement.

There are some other key terms I may discuss later, but these will do for now.

It Almost Sounds Too Good to Be True

I mean, who wouldn't like to be a part of this? A growing community who cares about each other and welcomes outsiders. A group of people who want to engage their culture and have dialogue about the Big Questions. Sincerity. Honesty.

Over the years, I've complained a lot about problems I've seen in the church. I even stopped going to church for a while in college. My beef was with the hypocrisy, especially among people my age. The same kids partying on the weekends would go to church (or BCM) and play their penitence, only to do the same things the next weekend. Church was a game. It was mechanical, a habit or tradition, almost a necessary evil.

The church I was going to at the time didn't feed me. I wasn't growing. I wasn't connected. I was tired of the peaches-and-cream Christians, who acted like they were happy all the time and their lives were perfect. I was tired of feeling like I had to put on my "joyful face" to interact with other believers, even though I was miserable or going through a hard time. I hated the hypocrisy, but I played along with it too. I thought I had no other choice.

I've had other beefs with church practice in the past. The music issue. How crappy and unprofessional the drama ministry was. They were cheap shots, yes. But they were how I felt. I couldn't take church seriously.

"Phony, phony, all is phony!" saith the Caulfield.

So the more I heard about this new kind of church community, I was intrigued. Could there be a way to get past all the artifice and find something real? People who really care? A Christianity that wasn't simply about doing or saying the right things? I hoped so.

This PoMo Thing, It's a Smash Hit

All over the World, all over the Web, I'm seeing more and more younger people get onboard with this movement. And God has used it to bring hundreds, even thousands and tens of thousands to Himself. And He will continue to do so, because at the heart of this movement is a pursuit of Him, of worshipping Him "in spirit and in truth." There are websites, books, magazines. There are bloggers all over that promote this mini-reformation. A few of you are reading this (skeptically, at least) right now. This movement is growing.

I've been to one of these communities before. There is an emergent church here in Houston that I visited for a concert/art show on a Friday night. And I have to tell you, I've never felt more welcome. More people came up and talked to me that single night, than people had at church for the previous six months or more. I was impressed.

I can see the appeal. It's a beautiful thing to find acceptance and friendship, and it's sadly rare to find it in American churches. The emergent movement seeks to tear down the walls that separate the faithful from the searching, so that all may find family. I'm definitely down with this.

(I would like to talk about more cool elements of this movement, but time is short. On to the next point.)

And Then The Unthinkable Happened...

But as I've looked at this movement, I'm troubled by a few things.

First off, I'm troubled that PoMo/Em Christians sometimes take a "for us or against us" stand against other believers. Allow me to explain. No, there is too much. Let me link up. I'm having trouble meshing the emergent ideal of acceptance and community with things like this. (Note: I understand that no one person speaks for the whole. But I'm using this as an example of something I'm seeing more and more often.) In this article, John O'Keefe (who appears to be the driving force behind this PoMo/Em website) gives his new 95 pomo theses. I like his style--very upfront, fearless, and blunt. But it's hard for me to shore up #6, 11, 13, and 19 (which call for openness and "networking") with items like #23, 28, 46, 47, 48, 50, and so on, which seem to reinforce the "us" vs. "you" mentality. Indeed, as the list progresses, O'Keefe becomes more condemnational and insulting to the "modern" church. Though not all PoMo/Em Christians and "communities of faith" are this aggressive, this attitude is closer to the rule than to the exception.

Second, I'm troubled by what seems to be a spirit of intellectual snobbery and spiritual arrogance among PoMo/Ems. (Take a moment to stifle your knee-jerk shock and taking of offense; hear me out.) One hallmark of some PMEs that I've come in contact with is a condescension for traditional American Christians (make sure to include that "American" in there, since it's this country with the biggest problem, right?). The comments, the off-hand remarks. If you are a Christian and a *gasp* conservative, that means that you have bought the lie. That you haven't thought your beliefs through. That you blindly follow what the Fundies/Southern Baptists/parents tell you to do. Apparently, this is because no one in their right mind could possibly decide, after careful consideration and soul-searching, that any form of (" you modernist!") traditional belief structure or practice is acceptable.

This attitude offends me deeply. It's no better than the insulting Bible-beaters who patronize non-believers because they obviously don't understand how stupid non-belief is. PME's have exchanged the warcry of "Turn or Burn!" with "Be Emergent or be History!" I have a problem with this.

Third, I'm troubled that I've noticed an understated but clearly present political undertone with PME. "Oh, of course not," cry the adherents. "We're not about politics, man; we're about justice." Cool, then. Be about justice. But that's not what I'm seeing. That's not what I'm reading between the lines, Mr. Miller. I'm reading, "God's not a Republican. Or a Democrat. (But really, if He did choose a side, it surely wouldn't be Republican, heck no, because they're rich, selfish, capitalist pigs, man, and they don't care about anyone or anything other than themselves and their fatcat friends.)" You are so concerned about being authentic? Be authentic. Own it. Or don't. But don't try to snow me with this "non-political" thing. I'm not buying.

Fourth, I'm troubled by the chance that doctrine will get lost in the search for authentic experience. Look at question number two in this interview with Thomas Hohstadt. He says that he sees the emergent church as "personal and less doctrinal... validated by experience and less by knowledge..." This bothers me. It scares me. Because if you're not preaching the Gospel (a very concrete, knowable thing), what are you preaching? The Osteen doctrine of good vibes and positive thinking? Christianity is built upon truths. Truths about God. Man. Sin. Redemption. Justification. Sanctification. All those "churchy code words" that still mean a great deal to understanding who God is and what He did for us through Christ. If you bypass all that, if you talk about nothing but personal experience and interpretation, you may find some truth. But you will miss the uncomfortable parts, the tricky parts, the hard things like taking up your cross and dying to yourself. The things that are vital to following Jesus.

Like jazz, no resolution

I don't know. Maybe I'm "pomophobic," as O'Keefe would say. Maybe so. But I can't blithely throw off one flawed form of worship for another. I can't just embrace this new thing, and thumb my nose at the old. It's not fair, and it's not justified. From what I've seen, the PME movement is not much better than any other movement in the church. Sure, it improves some things, but it seems to lose others.

I'm still looking. I'm still digging. I don't want to walk lock-step behind traditional church, if they're not following Christ. But I refuse to trade in one pied piper for another.

And what I've seen, fair or unfair, typical or no, is just that. Christians who have decided to deride "the Church," bemoan its "westernization," ridicule its American elements, beat their chests for being middle-class or white or American. Derek Webb is repenting of his wife, his kids, his house? Of keeping his family safe? Why? Are these bad things? Should I shun them? Or is it yet another part of the "emergent" formula, the deconstruction and rejection of the old, whether good or bad, in favor of the new, the promised better, the yet-unrebuilt truth?

They/you may be right. I may be wrong. But I'm not convinced yet.

I'm a big tease, I know...

Coming up in the early afternoon: My thoughts/reflections on the phenomenon of post-modernism and the "emergent" church. May be the first in a series of posts about this subject. Brace for impact.

(In honor of the day, all posts will be green. And I'm listening to my entire collection of U2. I mean, I'd do that anyway, but it's on purpose today.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Quick like a bunny...

A few short news items.

--No real posting today or tomorrow. Some of us have to work, you know.

--Look for an essay around Thursday-ish about issues of divine intervention.

--Friday, expect a policy statement on some (re)structuring in the content of this blog (including the introduction of a few more regular features, like the "Cool Ten").

--In the meantime, I offer this exciting news story. I was just telling someone the other day how I wished this would happen. Hopefully, you're as excited about it as I am.

--Oh, and if you haven't seen it, the full trailer for SWep3 is most righteous. I am putting my doubts aside and looking forward to it, without reservation and in full "geek-out" mode.

Monday, March 14, 2005

PBB Cool Ten for 3/13-3/19

10. IBC Root Beer, frosty, in a cooler of half-melted ice. That's cool.
9. "You see that? That's my 'booty' face." Heh.
8. Patrick Dempsey's in a new TV show. He's cool. I like his work.
7. Going to the rodeo. It wasn't bad. Pretty cool, actually.
7b. Do you realize how many attractive women go to the rodeo? I was shocked.
6. Motherless Brooklyn was really, really good. I highly recommend it.
5. Opening Day is in less than three weeks.
4. I'm going to see "Shadowlands" at Grace Theater, thanks to the Cains.
3. My mom's birthday is tomorrow. She's pretty cool.
2. The U2 concert sold out immediately...but I was first in line at my location so I got two (okay) tickets. That's right, kids--I'll be in the same building as (and less than 200 feet away from) Bono and the boys, this October. So that's really cool.
1. I taught the SunSco lesson yesterday on the Covenant Name of God, and how as Christians, we are part of the New Covenant, through the sacrifice of Jesus. And that is really really cool.

Friday, March 11, 2005

"Taylor House" Chapter 5: "Historical"

Moving in wasn't that difficult. Louis only could fit so many belongings in his ten-by-twelve-foot bedroom at home. Or rather, at his parents' house. He had to force himself to make the distinction mentally. It felt strange to try to think of anything else as home. Especially the empty, dusty antebellum mansion on Galveston Island that had seemed to fall into his lap.

Louis made the long drive south in two days, arriving at Taylor House with little incident on a Saturday afternoon. Mr. Cross met him at the door, and silently began unloading the rented trailer and the truckbed. He carried Louis's boxes and bags of laundry up the winding stair to the upper floor. Louis followed, lugging the duffel bag and his laptop bag. Cross walked slowly into the master bedroom, pausing to look around. Louis could hear the slightest sigh from the imposing figure.

Cross didn't make any small talk while he moved the various items inside. Louis didn't press him, thinking that this was probably as uncomfortable and difficult for Cross as it was for him. By the time the last few items were unloaded, Mr. Salvador's black Cadillac pulled up, and he stepped out. He wore a vanilla-colored suit with a matching panama hat, reminding Louis of the Bradbury story about a similar ice-cream-colored ensemble. He carried his briefcase in his left hand and extended his right, as he walked across the brown lawn. "Mr. Fielder, it is once again a pleasure to see you. I am quite pleased you have decided to accept your grandfather's proposal."

Louis smiled in response, more in response to the melodic sound of Salvador's heavily accented words, than to their meaning. Louis had liked Salvador from the moment they met. Everything about the lawyer exuded sincerity.

With the moving completed, Louis and Mr. Salvador went into the same study where the will had been read, and over the course of the next hour, Louis signed myriad documents, forms, and releases. Finally, Salvador closed the large manilla folder, and stood. "Congratulations, Louis. And welcome home."

Louis stood and shook the lawyer's hand again. "Thanks, Mr. Salvador. I appreciate all your help."

"It's what I do, Louis," replied Salvador, with a smile. "Very well. Thank you again. I'll show myself out." Salvador stuffed all the paperwork into his briefcase and hurried out the door without another word.

Louis followed the lawyer out into the hall, and watched him pass through and shut the large front door. He looked around the large hall. The sunlight was cutting through some high windows, painting bars of light on the high wall above the stairs. Louis turned and went up the stairs into his new room. Cross was putting away his clothes in an ornate wooden wardrobe next to the bed.

"Oh, please, Mr. Cross, I can do that."

Cross set down the tee-shirt he was folding. "As you wish, Mr. Fielder."

"Please, call me Louis."

"Very well, Mr. Louis."

"Mr. Cross, I have a question. It may be a bit...indelicate, so I apologize in advance."

"Yes, sir?"

"This was my grandfather's room?"

"Yes, sir."

"And that, I'm guessing, was his bed, yes?"

"Yes, sir."

"Mr. Cross...um... Did my grandfather...you know... there?"

"Oh, no, Mr. Louis, he spent the last several months of his life in the hospital. He passed away there."

"Oh. Good. I mean... I'm sorry to bring it up, Mr. Cross."

"No bother, sir. I understand completely."

"Thank you. Well, I'm going to go get cleaned up."

"Very good, sir."

Louis took a shower in the palacial upstairs master bath, one of the first additions Linus Taylor made when he began renovating and updating the house in the 1950s. Louis showered, and put on some fresh clothes. When he walked back into his bedroom through the connecting corridor, on the sitting table in the center of the room lay a metal serving tray with a few sandwiches and a glass of iced tea. Louis hungrily gobbled up the sandwiches, swallowed the tea in three gulps, and carried the tray and dishes downstairs. Through a series of trial and error, he found the kitchen, and set the dishes in the gleaming sink. He walked around a bit through the rest of the downstairs. There were a guest room on the ground floor, in addition to the study, kitchen, formal dining room, and enormous library. He had noticed two other doors upstairs, which he assumed were more guest rooms. The very size of the house was hard for Louis to comprehend. It didn't seem so big from the street.

He walked through the back door from the kitchen to the back lawn, where he spotted Mr. Cross trimming the hedges. He walked over.

"Mr. Cross, I wanted to thank you for lunch."

Cross looked up from his clippers. " 'Twas no bother, Mr. Louis."

"Did you cook for my grandfather?"

"Aye, sometimes. He had hired a regular cook for weekdays and special occasions, after Mrs. Taylor passed. Toward the end, when he was in and out of the hospital, he let the cook go. When he needed something, I took care of it."

"You were a good friend to him, Mr. Cross."

Cross turned back to snipping at the hedges. "Friend? Oh no, sir. Wouldn't presume that. Just a bit of a butler, when he needed one."

"Well, I'm glad you're here, Mr. Cross. And I appreciate what you did for him."

Cross smiled, in spite of himself. " 'Twas no bother at all, Mr. Louis." He paused, and looked over his shoulder. "I'm glad you're here, too."

Louis tapped Cross on the back and nodded, then went back inside.

There was a knock at the front door, and Louis, now the man of the house, hurried to answer it.

A short man with a sad comb-over and tweed jacket stood before Louis, brown hat in hand. His wire spectacles and squinting eyes reminded Louis of pictures he had seen in a childhood book: Mr. Mole, from "The Wind in the Willows."

"Can I help you?" Louis asked.

"Yes. I believe, ah, you might. My name is Harper. Canton Harper, chairman of the Coastal Texas Historical Society, ah, Galveston chapter. Are you a relative of Mr. Taylor's?" Harper spoke in short, soft bursts, taking in only enough air to speak a phrase at a time. This gave his words a sort of natural eagerness, an out-of-breath quality sometimes heard in museum curators.

"Mr. Taylor was my grandfather," Louis replied.

"Ah, yes, well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Mister--"

Louis took the mole-man's hand. "Louis. Louis Fielder."

"Yes, Mr. Fielder. Louis. A pleasure." Harper grinned a bit too eagerly, and continued wringing the brim of his hat absent-mindedly. "So, are you taking care of the house, in Mr. Taylor's, ah, absence?"

"Yes, that's right."

Harper shook his head, wearing his best "sorrowful" face. "Such a shame, ah, what happened to that man. Just a tragedy, just a tragedy."

Louis nodded, "Well, thank you."

"Yes indeed."

After a few seconds of silence, Louis said, "Right. So, what can I do for you, Mr. Harper?"

"There are a few matters, ah, I'd like to discuss with you, if I may, Mr. Fielder."

Louis opened the door wider and stepped back. "By all means. Please come in, Mr. Harper."

"Thank you, ah, Louis." Harper stepped in, and stood for a moment in the hall, looking at the doors, the stairs, the table in the center with the vase of flowers. He seemed to catalogue everything around him, appraising each item.

Louis opened the door to the study. "This way, sir."

"Ah, right. Thank you."

Harper waddled his way into the study and sat immediately in one of the leather armchairs before the great desk. Louis shut the door and walked around the desk, easing into his grandfather's chair. "Go ahead, Mr. Harper."

"Thank you, Louis. Yes. Ah. The, ah, Coastal Texas Historical Society is an organization of local, loyal Texans who are dedicated to the preservation of our regional heritage. You may not be aware of this as an, ah, outsider, so to speak, but this state, and particularly this island, have a rich and storied history, of which Asher--excuse me, Taylor--House, ah, plays no small part."

Louis nodded. "No doubt. I've read a little about the island's past."

Harper grinned again, larger than before. "Right. Then you are aware, ah, of how important it is to preserve such local landmarks as this lovely, ah, residence."

"Absolutely. And I'm determined to do so."

"Excuse me?"

"Preserve Taylor House. I've very commited to it."

Harper squinted, looking a little pained, and readjusted his spectacles on the bridge of his nose. "I don't think you understand what I'm, ah, getting at. Allow me to speak plainly. The Coastal Texas Historical Society, ah, would like to...sponsor, ah, the preservation of Taylor House. Just a historical marker outside, ah, and perhaps the occasional tourist exhibition. None of it will be any, ah, inconvenience to you, of course. We at the Historical Society like to promote, ah, a symbiotic relationship with our, ah, patrons."

Louis smiled and stood. "Right. Well then, good day, Mr. Harper."

"But wait--will you consider the proposal we're offering?"

"No."

Harper stood, grinding his hatbrim in his hands. "But Louis, ah, Mr. Fielder, I don't think you realize what an opportunity--"

Louis stepped around the desk and took Harper by the elbow, leading him into the hall. "Oh, no, Mr. Harper, I hear what you're saying. And I appreciate it, don't get me wrong. But my grandfather wished for sole ownership of the house to stay in the family line. So I must say no, and thank you."

Harper sputtered, "But Mr. Taylor, rest his soul, ah, is no longer with us, and while his wishes should be respected, one must be, ah, reasonable about such things. It would be a terrible shame to miss--"

Louis reached the door and turned the handle. "Thank you for stopping by, Mr. Harper."

Harper jerked his elbow away from Louis' guiding hand, and pulled his abused hat down on his head. He stepped onto the porch, then turned back, raising a warning finger to Louis. He scolded, "Mr. Fielder, I must warn you, once an offer from the Historical Society is refused, you will not be considered a member of this community in good standing! This could have serious repercussions on your, ah--" Harper looked over Louis' shoulder, and the color left his face. "Good day, sir!" The historical society chairman turned and stormed down the steps to his ancient Chevrolet.

Louis turned and saw Cross standing behind him, a bit muddy from the yardwork, leather-gloved and holding the hedge-clippers. Cross watched Harper get in his car, and then said to Louis, "I wouldn't let Harper or any of his kind in here anymore, Mr. Louis. Mr. Taylor learned early on that when those Historical Society members visit, things tend to go missing. Nice things, too."

"Oh, I think he's harmless, Mr. Cross. Besides, what can they do to me now, since I've refused?"

Cross shrugged. "Not much, I'd imagine. Still, best not to give them any chances."

"Got it. Thank you," said Louis, shutting the front door. "Looked a bit like a mole, didn't he?"

Cross laughed, "Aye, that he did. You know, that's exactly how your grandfather described him, too." Cross turned and headed back through the kitchen toward the back yard, chuckling to himself.

Louis turned back and peeked through the glass window next to the door, pulling back the curtain. Harper was still in his car, in front of the house. Though he couldn't make out what Harper was yelling into his cell phone, Louis guessed that he was the topic of conversation. Harper looked up at the house again, realized he had been spotted, and sped off down the street.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"Somtimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!"

I try to be clever here. I try to entertain.

I obsess about page stats. Hit averages. Visit lengths. Comments.

I obsess about comments the worst.

I feel almost an obligation to post. Like it's owed. Like it's required.

I enjoy doing it...most of the time.

But there are days like today, when I'm in a crappy mood, I feel horrible, and I'm tremendously stressed out, and the LAST thing I want to do is post.

Though, when I don't post, I feel a little disappointed later. Like I missed out on something.

I can't figure out which of us is more addicted to this page, you or me. I'm thinking it's me.

As I've said before, I tend to use this page as a surrogate for real honest-to-God communication. The one-way stuff is easier. I can be pissed off or selfish or whatever, and I don't have to hide it as much.

When you interact with people, you have to be nice.

I don't know what I'm getting at.

I guess the point is, I just don't have anything deep or meaningful to say right now. I'm really burnt out on pretty much most areas of my life. I don't enjoy work. I don't really enjoy being home either. Church is okay, family is okay. But nothing is really exciting to me these days. I've lost touch with my passions.

I want to write more, but I have nothing to say. What happens to Louis next? I have no idea. The scary thing is, I really don't care as much, at this moment.

I need to detach for a little while.

So, i'm going to go home tonight, jump on the stationary bike for a while, and maybe watch the film referenced in the title again.

I may come back Friday, maybe Monday.

Depends on if I have anything to say.

Love always.

--d.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Required Reading: Sheila

File under, "damn, gina..."

When I finished it, I felt like the wind was knocked out of my chest.

(Once again, if you haven't started reading her, then you're a fool, and there's nothing I can do for you.)

Filler Post: Music Recommendation

In case I haven't mentioned it enough, you should really really check out the Graham Colton Band. This is an album I got recently that I keep putting back into the player. I can't tell you exactly what it is I like so much. But I like it. A lot.

I first saw this band a few years ago when they opened for the Crows. They made enough of an impression that when I saw the album at the new&used store, I picked it up sound-unheard (the aural version of 'sight unseen', if you will). And I don't regret it one bit.

So, seriously, check it out. Nothing incredibly groundbreaking, but a solidly satisfying album from a newish band. Me likey.

(**snip** I was going to talk about the upcoming tour, until I found out they're opening for Kelly Clarkson. So, if you're brave enough, go check 'em out [tour info on the site]. I, sadly, am not that brave.)

Monday, March 07, 2005

new fable

pry these bloodbent thorns
out of my screaming hands,
though i am the mouse
and you are the lion.

(i remember this story going differently.)

your care is great--
cradling me in terrifying paws,
washing me in still waters,
restoring my soul.

i possess nothing to merit such mercies--
and if i did, i wouldn't offer it to you,
despite your kindnesses.
you see, i'm a selfish bastard.

(this revelation doesn't surprise you.)

but now i'm confused,
o great lion,
king of beasts and men.
why are you
piercing your own brow with
my thorns?


(hat-tip manders for first-line inspiration)

I think "best" may be a bit generous...

So yeah, after watching "Be Cool" last night with T (to avoid confusion, he shall be henceforth referred to as "The Italian"), he asks me to be his best man.

Me?

Are you sure?

I was totally caught off guard. I never expected it. I was honored. Flattered. Confused.

So yes, I will be best man at the wedding of recently-engaged Miss A and the Italian.

If you don't remember, my relationship with this couple has an interesting history. The Italian was, in fact, the intrusive friend involved in "the scam that wasn't."

The irony is not lost on me.

I might just tell some version of that "scam" story during the toasts.

for all the 'JfB' fans out there...

righteous. i love "junkmail."


mixtape
You are the perfect mix tape (not CD, not Ipod
shuffle, but tape, with personalized cover).

JunkmailforIdolatry
brought to you by Quizilla

PBB Cool Ten for 3/6-3/12 (Movie Quote and Cool Event Edition)

10. "Now. [thwap] Now. [thwap] Now. [thwap]"
9. "I'll only use as many words as necessary. If that."
9b. "Twinkle twinkle, baby, twinkle twinkle!"
8. "Think of it like a Bradley Assault Vehicle."
7. "I don't think he's after your money."
6. "I am a widow's son outlawed, and my orders must be obeyed."
5. "It's just, I've been going to a lot of these lately."
4. "Chewing gum is really gross, chewing gum i hate the most."

(And now, some real events.)

3. NewGirl complimented me on my new haircut. Twice.
2. I'm teaching next Sunday.
1. I'm part of another wedding. (More later.)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Friday, March 04, 2005

"I've been sitting, waiting, wishing..."

Hey kids.

I've been exhorted by my superiors to improve my "workload management." As such, this means that until I get caught up, my posting may not be as often as I would like.

I'm about to the point where I have to bite the bullet and get internet at home, if I'm going to maintain my daily post volume. Which i want to, because maintaining this silly little page is the highlight of my day, as I've said before.

Anyways, I've gotta get some stuff done, so here's something to pass the time.

"Song of the Day," dedicated to the ever elusive "NewGirl":

=====

I was sitting waiting wishing
you believed in superstitions
then maybe you would see the signs
But Lord knows that this world is cruel
and I ain't the Lord, no I'm just a fool
learning loving somebody don't make them love you

Must I always be waiting, waiting on you?
Must I always be playing, playing the fool?

I sang your songs, I danced your dance
I gave your friends all a chance
but putting up with them
wasn't worth never having you
maybe you've been through this before
but it's my first time so please ignore
the next few lines because they're directed at you

I can't always be waiting, waiting on you
I can't always be playing, playing your fool

I keep playing your part
but its not my scene
want this plot to twist
I've had enough mystery
you keep building it up
but then you're shooting me down
but i'm already down

Just wait a minute
Just sitting waiting
Just wait a minute
Just sitting waiting

Well if I was in your position
Id' put down all my ammunition
I'd wonder why it had taken me so long
But Lord knows that I'm not you
and If I was I wouldn't be so cruel
because waiting on love ain't so easy to do

Must I always be waiting, waiting on you?
Must I always be playing, playing the fool?
No I can't always be waiting, waiting on you
I can't always be playing, playing your fool, fool

("Sitting, Waiting, Wishing" by Jack Johnson. Video here.)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

I feel like I should post something...

...but it's after six and I just got done with work stuff. I'm tired. I'm hungry.

So I'm gone, man, solid gone.

Think of this as an open thread: Any topic of discussion you want. Keep it civil, keep it clean(-ish).

The highest number of comments I've ever had on a single post is around 42. Come on, team, we can beat that, right?

I'm gone tomorrow, by the by. See you Friday.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

"In the locust wind, comes a rattle and hum..."

I have to confess something. As much of an avowed U2 fan as I am, I had never seen the documentary film "Rattle and Hum." Until yesterday.

Holy crap. So cool.

A few thoughts:

--They're so young! I mean, yeah, the film was made almost 17 years ago. But they look like babies. Makes me happy. And it's fun to remember that ultimately, Bono's a rock star. His onstage presence may have refined itself over the years, aging and improving like wine, but back in his heyday, he was juking and jiving and swinging his hair around with the best of them.

--The interview portions were great. Adam's thoughts about going to Graceland were really touching. "I just wish [Elvis] was buried somewhere I couldn't visit...instead of in the back yard."

--Favorite moment: In the middle of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," Bono starts ranting about Irish-Americans who praise "the revolution" conducted by the IRA in Northern Ireland. He rips apart this idea by asking, "Where's the honor in a father being dragged out of bed and shot in the head in front of his wife and children? Where's the honor in a bomb blowing up old folks who had come out for Remembrance Day, who'd dressed up and shined up their medals for the occasion? Everyone talks about the honor of dying for the Revolution. No one talks about killing for the Revolution." Damn right.

--Bono and B.B. King working on the lyrics for "When Love Comes to Town." Bono asks sheepishly if B.B. likes the song, and B.B. says, "I love this song. The lyrics are heavy, man. You're too young to be writing lyrics this heavy."


If you are a fan of the band, this is definitely worth your time and money. (Especially if you got a VHS copy for a buck at Half-Price, like I did!)

"Devil's Dictionary" Word of the Day

Ambrose Bierce, an American fiction writer of the Civil War era, is famous for compiling a dictionary of common terms and giving them bitterly cynical or satirical definitions. He named this work, "The Devil's Dictionary."

I have a page-a-day calendar on my desk, based on this work, which I enjoy greatly. His definitions are pretty much spot-on all the time.

This was yesterday's:

"Christian" (n.)

1. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. 2. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

Has us pretty much pegged, doesn't he?

"Why don't you go play with your computer...Urkel!"

I am nerdier than 28% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Only goes to show the difference between "geeky" and "nerdy." I may not be nerdy, but you bet I'm a geek.

A friggin' slacker lit-geek. Heck yes!

(Hat-Tip: Lightly Nerdy Steph)