Take My Body Home

February 19, 2014 at 10:21 PM | Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment
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Neela awoke with a start. She tried to gasp, but found she couldn’t. Neela rose up slightly and bumped her head. Looking around frantically for something familiar, she saw Hunter’s form next to her.
“Hunter! Hunter, wake up!” Her voice sounded odd and raspy. She found her throat with her hand, and felt something odd. A cut of some sort, maybe? It didn’t hurt, though. She shook Hunter again.
“What?”
“Wake up. Where are we?”
Hunter opened his eyes as realization crept in. Wherever he was, he couldn’t recall exactly how they got there. He tried to sit up and bumped his head. “Ow! Da fuck?”
“Watch yourself.”
Hunter grunted at that. They both looked and felt around, and saw that a dim line of light was coming in behind them. Gradually as their eyes adjusted, they saw that it was barely illuminating the dumpster they were in.
“Oh, gross!”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“Oh, for real.”
Hunter lifted the lid as Neela started to climb out. He pushed it all the way open and helped her, and she fell to the ground as Hunter started to climb out. “Careful,” he said.
On the ground, they were able to better survey their circumstances. It was night time in a parking lot behind a building. “Are you okay?” Neela asked.
“I guess so.” They looked each other over. “Doesn’t look like there’s any permanent damage.”
“But how did we–”
At the same time, they shouted, “Mexico!”
They were on a second honeymoon to a resort in Mexico. On the third day, they took a sightseeing tour. “Oh, shit!” Hunter said as he frantically searched his pockets. “Wallet’s gone. Where’s your purse?”
Neela looked down, saw that it wasn’t over her shoulder. “Gone, obviously.”
“Wanna look in the dumpster for it?”
“There’s probably a reason we woke up in a dumpster. My purse and your wallet are probably those reasons.”
“So, no?”
“No.” Neela looked around. “Now what?”
Hunter shrugged. “We walk.”
“Where?” Their surroundings gave no indication of where they were. A lone building, an empty parking lot. A road coming from the left and going to the right, both directions cloaked in darkness.
“Dealer’s choice, hon. Pick a direction.”
“Eenie, meenie…” Her voice trailed off as she started walking, and Hunter followed.
There were no streetlights on the road, but the moon was bright. Surprisingly, so were the stars. They trudged on in mostly silence.
“Nice night for a walk.”
“Yeah.”
Occasionally they would talk, or chat about random things. Sometimes they held hands. They did not notice that they were not tired.
Day broke, and they continued to walk with no sign of man nor beast nor car. By mid-morning, they saw a child riding a bike in the dusty road. This was a hopeful sign.
“Hi, there!”
“Hello.”
“Do you speak English? Can you tell us where we are?”
The little boy stopped. “No. But Gramma can help you.” He pointed to the little shack.
The two looked at each other, and proceeded in that direction.
Before they got to the porch, a voice from inside said, “Stay off the porch, please.” The two stopped and looked around. Neela was a bit miffed.
The old woman came out and looked at them. “My, aren’t you two a horrible sight. Been walking all night, have ya?”
They both nodded slowly.
“Mugged, were ya? Jumped and robbed? Is that how you came to be here?”
Neela cocked an eyebrow at Hunter, and Hunter said, “Wait a minute-how do you know all this?” He was thinking that in this desolate area, everyone knew everyone, and maybe robbing vacationers was a family business.
It was the old woman’s turn to cock an eyebrow. “Oh, Christ, I bet you don’t know. Hold on. Don’t come on the porch.” She had been holding a small rag doll, which Neela just now noticed when the old woman set it on the rocking chair, facing it toward them.
The old woman went inside her shack and quickly returned holding a hand mirror. “You look normal to each other, but not to yourselves. It’s vexing.
In the mirror, Neela could see that her throat was slashed, and Hunter had a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead. “What the fuck?”
“You kids are dead. Understand? This is El Camino de los Muertos, the road of the dead.”
“Bu–”
“Take your time. You got nothing but, now.”
Neela looked at Hunter, a pleading in her eyes. But she still the undamaged version of Hunter. And what he saw of her was physical perfection.
Their minds raced with questions, but everything seemed so obvious–what was the point in asking?
He said, “Babe, I got nothing.”
Neela sighed. “Eh, me too.” She turned to the old woman. “Now what do we do now? Continue on this road, or what?”
“Well, yes, you continue on this road, and eventuall–wait, don’t you want to know about where your bodies are, is there a heaven or hell, or some other existential crap?”
Hunter said,”Not really.”
“Meaning of life, or anything?”
Hunter answered, “Forty-two.” Neela nudged him.
She said, “No. The only question we might have had seems to have been answered.” The two looked at each other. “It seems like we’ll be able to be together, hang out together. Is that right?”
The old woman shrugged. “Sure. No rules against it.”
“That’s all we need to know.”
Hunter said, “I have a question. How come you want us to stay off the porch? Is it some mystical energy portal or something?”
“No, I just swept it. You’re all dusty.”
“Oh. So, stay on this road, then?”
“Yeah, that’s it. It’ll take you–eh, you’ll find out.”
Neela squared her shoulders. “Ready, hon?”
“Whither thou goest, my love.”.”

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To Infinity and Beyond…Then Back Again

April 5, 2012 at 5:55 PM | Posted in Political | Leave a comment
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Just a friendly warning to anyone who may have stumbled here via a tag about faith, religion, and God:  There is some bad language in this.  But it’s real and it’s true and it’s about my struggle, and if you can get past these indiscretions, I hope you will find it an enjoyable, thought-provoking read.

I’m not sure what this has to do with, and I’m fairly certain that this will require extensive editing before it gets to the viewing public.  The reader.  To you.

I am…I’m not religious, in the strict biblical sense.  And I’m not going to go that that tired old “but I am spiritual” route because I’m not a 20 year old college girl exploring her new found freedom by getting piss-drunk and letting a fraternity gang-bang her.
In fact, I might be the opposite:  I’m not very spiritual, but I am religious.  I believe in God.  I’m a Christian.  I believe that Christ is my savior, and everything else that goes with it that atheists and secularists love to make fun of.  But there is something else that goes with it, something that the atheists have been missing out on that I think they are just in recent years starting to catch up on.
My good friend is Catholic, and active in her church.  In fact, I’ve helped her with some functions and events, and some of the catering, and I see something wonderful.  It’s not–listen, you hardcore militant atheist assholes who just want to deride everything church-related and read subtext and subterfuge into everything, no matter how harmless and innocent it is:  It’s not all about fairy tales.
It has to do with the sense of community and society.  The common thread–church and belief–is what brings them together.  But the togetherness–friendship, comradery, fellowship, and sense of community–is an end unto itself.  These things are important.  People seek them out.  Most people, anyway, but I’ll get to that later.
In general, most people want to belong.  Are you with me so far?  I hate to generalize, and there are exceptions, but the misanthropic segments of the population rarely stand together to be counted, or have rallies.  *MOST* people don’t choose to be Tom Hanks in 85% of “Castaway.”

And so, here come the atheists, proudly boasting about their intellectual superiority, their inner strength that has no need of a fairy-tale support system, and the fact that they have never killed millions of people in a holy war.  (Well, to be fair, neither have I.)
But here they come, knocking what they don’t understand.
Don’t understand?  *Don’t understand?* Ha!  Why, most atheists are very well-versed and scholarly and learned in all aspects of all religions.  They have to be so they can intelligently refute and mock them against the ignorant masses of primitive, mouth-breathing believers…
Yeah, I hear you.  You’ve read.  You’ve bowed at Richard Dawkins’ feet.  You belong to several atheist websites.  There really isn’t a way for me to say “good for you” without it sounding sarcastic–but maybe it’s just me.
But you don’t understand faith.  Don’t tell me you do, because it’s obvious you don’t.  If you *UNDERSTOOD* faith, you’d have some.  I’m not wrong.  And this is my essay, so I get the last word.  Get your own fucking soapbox (or blog–same thing.)
My point being is that atheists are missing out on the larger sense of community and fellowship.  Compound that with the fact that, much like homosexuals or Scientologists, their numbers aren’t as great as they like to boast.  So that’s the crux of it:  Atheists, besides having a hole in their hearts where Christ should be, also have a hole in their heart where their connection to society should be.
(BTW–notwithstanding that I am a Christian, I do have a sense of humor.  A biting, harsh, and sarcastic sense.  I phrased that last paragraph exactly the way I did because I am a dick.  If I offended or pissed off any atheists–well, I guess it worked.)
I used to say this, “I know I’m not the best example of a Christian–”
And for that reason I wouldn’t usually divulge the denomination of my church because I am NOT the standard by which to measure.
However, like other things, I have given this up for Lent.  I won’t review all of my sins here because this not the place and they are numerous.  But I think that is the very same thing that makes me a g–
Ha!  I was going to say, “good.”  No, I’m not a “good” Christian.  I’m not a “good” example.  But I am an example.  A real-world example.  The kind that atheists can point to and sneer:  “See?  He’s not living his Christian values and tenets!  He should just give up and become an atheist!”
I’m also the kind of Christian that fundamentalist would point to and whisper about and judge behind my back, all the things that atheists think all Christians do.  The Fundies would say that I have not truly taken Christ into my heart.
But I say to all of them:  It’s not really for you to judge me now, is it?  It’s betwixt me and God.  God and I.  What a great road-trip, coming-of-age, buddy move that would be:  “Me and the Big G.”
I’m not perfect, and have never professed to be–other than to pick up chicks.  I live in the world.  I drink, I smoke, and I cuss.  I fornicate.  I fornicate like a mother-fucker, in fact.  I have, on occasion, lied.  I’ll lie to your stupid face if it’ll get you to leave me alone.
None of these things make me a Christian.  The fact that I believe in God, and the fact that I have taken Christ as my personal savior is what makes me a Christian.  I try to be a better person.  Most days, I don’t try very hard.
But I try.  And that’s the point.

I haven’t been to my Church in a dozen years or more.  I’m what they would term “inactive.”  And since then, I’ve gotten divorced, I live in sin with a woman, I occasionally drink and smoke–albeit lightly, and I’ve had occasion to view a provocative website or two.  Combined with my various other indiscretions, I’m certain that if/when I do go back, I would be excommunicated.  At the very least, I would be disfellowshipped.
I always thought there would come a day when I would go back.  A day when the doors wouldn’t necessarily swing wide for me, but at least they would unlock, and perhaps creak from disuse when I pried them open.
A day when my fiancé’s divorce would be final (I said don’t judge me), and she could make an honest man out of me.  A day when I might quit smoking and only drink in secret.  A day when my browser history might be proudly displayed.  A day when the light of Christ would shine through me and I would stand as a pillar to uphold all that is good and pure and decent.
A day when I wouldn’t have so many dirty thoughts going my mind.  All the time.  Constantly.  Really, it’s non-stop.

Many people that leave The Church or stop going have had some kind of falling out over some slight, real or imagined.  Often, it’s not the doctrine, but rather the misapplication of it by people, or the mishandling of some social situation–again, by people.  People, after all, are imperfect creatures.  Except atheists, of course.  Atheists, ironically, are the highest, most exalted and perfect of God’s creation, who have evolved to a point where they no longer need him.
My own experience was nothing like that, the leaving.  It was just a gradual waning of the light of my faith.  I don’t “blame” God, and I certainly don’t hate him.  Nor do I blame or hate anyone in the church.
I don’t mean to generalize, and of course I can create a lengthy disclaimer–in fact, I believe this entire essay is a disclaimer–if I really need to so that it will protect your delicate baby feelings, but *it has been my experience* that *in general* the *typical militant* atheist is *least likely* to get this:
This is about forgiveness and acceptance.  It was my fault and mine alone, and I accept responsibility for my actions.  I blame no one else for creating the circumstances unduly influencing me.  This is not an affidavit for the admission of guilt of any crimes.  I also acknowledge that despite the atheists’ view, I do answer to a higher power, and while I may have done nothing wrong in their eyes, I know that I face judgment from a higher power.  Even if they think it is my own conscious, there is harm and there are consequences from my actions.
As I am imperfect, I understand also that other people are imperfect as well.  I have forgiveness n my heart for people who are careless with my feelings and thoughtless with their actions towards me.  I forgive people that are too stupid to function in the world and I accept that no matter what I do, I can’t fix them and probably shouldn’t kill them.
Likewise, since I’m not perfect, I ask that Jesus–and you people–forgive me when I’m not as tolerant and patient with all the idiots, dumbasses, fuckballs, assholes, bitches and bastards as I should be.  The world is full of them, and chances are real good that you’re one.
I know I am.

When I was active in my church–
You know, it was a long time ago.  But I remember that it was pleasant.  It was fun.  It was a good experience.  It wasn’t like everyone was wretched and evil but put on a fake face to go to church.  It was more like we were living our lives, every day being dragged down a little bit.  But when we finally made it to church, it was like crossing a finish line.  Made it!  Safe, for another week.  The smiles were real.  Once you crossed the threshold, all the problems of the outside world slipped away, and only the important things remained.  The important things are family, and love, and God.  The rest didn’t matter.
We had activities all the time.  Before we got married, my wife and I gathered with the singles group.  Every week we went out together.  We would meet at church, have a prayer and a spiritual lesson, plan some activities, then play volleyball and go out for pizza.
There was always something going on.  Big Christmas and other holiday plans, excursions, activities for the kids that needed sponsors and volunteers, dinners and other things happening.  The thread that brought us together was our faith.  The Velcro that bound us was the fellowship.

And so now I have a question–a question that I didn’t know I had when I started this, but I think it was inside the whole time, the impetus and purpose of this whole exposition.
First, Given that there is some importance to the fellowship aspect, and I miss that and I want to be a part of something like that again;
Second, as painful as it is for me to acknowledge, if/when I choose to (or feel called to) return to my church, I know I would face some kind of disciplinary action.
And an atheist or just a regular non-church going bloke might wonder why, or how would they know about my misdeeds?  Well, I would have to tell them.  Why don’t I keep my ridiculous pie-hole shut?  Well, that’s dishonest.  I have to tell my [local church authority].  I *have* to.
So what are my possible courses of action?
Is excommunication permanent?  There is also disfellowship, which allows a member to return, after a period of…probation and censure.  Could I ever be re-instated?  If not, would I then be forced to join another church if I wanted to go to church?
Would it be better for me to remain inactive (but still a member, at least on paper) than to go back, only to be kicked out?
Could I join another church, with a different doctrine and different beliefs, knowing what I know and believing as I do?  Would I merely be paying lip service to this new church?  The gist of our beliefs are the same, although some Christian churches are vehement about the differences, no matter how nuanced.  One doctrine from my old church is that we believe in worshiping according to the dictates of our own conscious, and believe that people have that right–let them worship who or what they want, in whatever manner they want, or not at all.  This I firmly believe.
Another doctrine is more of a reminder:  even if we don’t agree on all things, we know we agree on many major things, and let us use those to join us, rather than allow the differences to separate us.  All beliefs possess some part of the truth.  (Of course, my caveat is, “all beliefs…within reason.  I’m sorry, but I swear to God, calling Scientology a religion is like calling date rape a sport.)
Would I be betraying my inner core of beliefs if I joined a different church?  And how firm am I, really, in those beliefs, when I’ve been inactive for so long and not living my life and conducting my affairs according to Church Doctrine anyway?
It’s almost but not quite like I had applied to MIT, and by some fluke I got in.  Then I flunked out, of course.  Of course I did.  Then I hung around the campus and wore an MIT sweatshirt for 20 years, proudly.  But they don’t like a scruffy-looking dropout hanging around, wearing their swag, bragging about the glory days.  If I go to re-apply, they will look at my transcript and say, “Not on your fucking life.”  I’ll end up going to the local community college, where the classes aren’t as tough and you don’t learn as much and it won’t help you get a good job.
As long as I don’t push it, I can still say I went to MIT.  But I’ll never finish–I’ll never get my degree.
So–
So, what do I do?  I think I have myself talked into at least going and talking to my church leader, informally.  And I guess–the thing that should have occurred to me first–I guess I need to pray about it.

Dead Space

December 20, 2010 at 10:48 PM | Posted in Computers and Internet | Leave a comment
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When you come across a website or a blog, or something on the internet–and you can just *tell*.  It has that look.  It could be an obvious sign, like a comment that says “Last updated April 17, 2006.”  Or it could be really old HTML.  Or references to President Bush in the present tense.
But whatever it is, it just makes me sad.  Sometimes it’s eerie and a little creepy.  What if…what if the blog you are looking at is no longer being updated because that person has died?  It’s happened, you know.  I have a few friends online–or had–and they disappeared.  One came back after over a year, just to say she wouldn’t be back…
And another, my favorite, this sweet, young, but sophisticated and artistic Lithuanian girl named Aurora has disappeared forever.  If I had a last name, or something–anything to go by, perhaps I could find her.  I just want to know that she’s okay.
When you stumble upon a website that the owner is obviously deceased…it’s strange.  Morbid.  It’s almost like sneaking into the funeral home at night, popping open their casket before the funeral, and rummaging through their pockets.  What are you going to do, leave a comment?  What can you do?  What are you supposed to do?
For some people–people that are afraid to die, or want to live forever or be remembered, or are just so egotistical that they want their memory to be enshrined (and, by the way, all of those statements do apply to me) forever–maybe the internet is a good thing.  In virtual space, everyone lives forever.  Of course, there are always the sites that are just abandoned because they are no longer hip and trendy.  One of my favorites was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer site.  Well, the show has been off the air for some years.  How often do you think the site gets updated?  2003 was the last time.

So the Internet is an immortality, in a way.  Unless the server crashes without a backup.

Shamans and Holy Men

April 27, 2010 at 12:08 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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  Detroit and I are friends with Joe and Sue.  It’s funny how a chain of people know each other.  Bunny got me the job here at the bank.  Carrie works here, and is friends with Bunny.  Carrie has a friend named Sue, and her husband Joe needed a job, so through networking she helped him out.  Me and Joe work together, and became friends.
  At some bank function Detroit met Joe’s wife Sue.  We had just moved and Detroit was needing a job.  Sue got her one–and Alex, too–at school working in the kitchen.  They became friends as well.
  We don’t get to hang out much, like kids get to do–sometimes you have to set a play date.  Like the other week, when I had a birthday party–it was one big play date, with alcohol.
  The more recent play date we had with them was Friday night, after learning that Sue’s mother had passed away.  Although I had been planning on going to the studio that night, when Sue called Kim, Kim knew that the right thing to do was go over to see her.  Be with her, sit with her, comfort her.  Drink with her.  Bring some wine.
  We brought rum for Detroit and beer for me.  That way she could drink, and I could have a few beers but still drive.  I just can’t drink beer fast enough to get drunk.  We were there for about 3 or 4 hours, and I barely finished three beers.
  I felt like we were doing a good deed–Kim and Carrie kept Sue company, and I kept Joe occupied.  In the midst of her mother’s passing, they were also having some kind of fight.  About what?  Don’t know, don’t care–not my business.  I kept Joe busy, let him bitch, and got him drunk enough to pass out after falling over some shit and crawling across the floor.  He finally ran down, spilled his wine a bit, and eventually passed out sitting up on the couch.
  Then I went outside and joined the others.
  I’m basically sober, with three drunk women.  Yay, me.  They were all happy and sensitive and expressing their feelings…and talking about their wildest sex stories.  Yikes.
  But they did all agree that I am a wonderful person, more or less–aside from the standard drunkenly honest caveats that come out–so that was nice.
  Towards the end of the evening, we were trying to wrap it up.  I had gathered the stuff, hugged everyone a couple of times, and tried to extract Detroit to the van.  Then a most unexpected thing happened.
  Joe and Sue’s neighbor came over.
  Ravenwolf.  The Ravenwolf.  The one, the only.  I had heard much about him, and yet, he was nothing like I had expected.  I had heard he was a musician.  I had heard he was a hippie, and had
his own way of doing things.  I got the impression that Joe liked him
even though he didn’t quite *get* him.  I heard he did some odd things in his house, in garden.  Mystical, pagan things.
  From this and other things I had heard, I thought he would be a 60-year old grizzled-looking half-Indian and half-Scottish Nick Nolte-looking dude with moccasins and bongos and a hookah, and a pet monkey on his shoulder.  I pictured a loud and brazen blues-singer type, taking up everyone’s space, speaking in poetry and snapping his fingers.  Why a monkey?  Why, indeed.  Why not? 
  Instead, the real Ravenwolf was something quite different.  A young black man?  No, not young–but definitely not old.  Even more so than many blacks, he had the annoying ability to look much younger than he was.  He could have been as young as 28; most likely he was close to fifty, if not older. 
  He was definitely his own man, like Brother Todd.  He dressed the way he wanted, and it was unusual enough to be unique without being odd and off-putting.  In my mind’s eye I imagine dressed like a pimp in a purple suit but I know he wasn’t.  Regular dress pants of some kind, a shirt that may have been white, with a vest, and I think there were ruffles somewhere, although that may have just been his aura.  He had on a big leather overcoat, and he wore a hat. 
  Honestly–he was dressed plainly, but his essence sparkled, so it had the tricky thing of making him appear at once both more and less than he was.  It was as though…
  Okay, this will make more sense in the context into which I put it soon.  But it was as if his physical appearance was a disguise.  Not to deceive anyone, but because he wanted to live among us and this was how he did it.
  All of the above thoughts came to me after the fact.

  Sue and Carrie greeted Ravenwolf first, hugging him.  Sue introduced us.  Ravenwolf held onto Sue, supporting her, while saying that he had had a few to drink as well.  He gave her his condolences.  Detroit said to him, "I’ve heard alot about you," as he hugged her, and he brushed it off, remarking something about not being that special–
  He continued to turn the attention to other people, but in a nice way.  He was genuine, and he cared to hear and learn and know about others.  I had started to walk towards the van to put the stuff away, and then come back and begin the extraction process again.  From about 20 feet away, Ravenwolf said something to me loud enough for me to hear, loud enough for everyone to hear, and yet no one heard but me.
  "Are you a Holy Man?"
  Not much can stop me in my tracks.
  I had been walking away, but I had to go back, because I had some explaining to do.  Inwardly cringing from my own embarrassment, I answered, "Yeah, I am–although I don’t really talk about it or flaunt it because I’m not a good example."
  He smiled large at me.  "Who is, brother–who is?"
  "Well, I guess I am, then.  You know, that may be why people come to me for counsel all the time.  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.  But I listen, and people need that."
  He didn’t ask, but stated, "You’re honest."  But more than the words he stated was the image or emotional projection behind it, something that reminded me that I’m honest but I use humor to hide it, or I write fiction and make things up but they hold a higher truth.  All of that came to me in energy from him as he said those two words.
  I laughed hesitantly, startled at the depth of our communication.  "I am that."
  All the while the three drunk women were around us, talking loudly to themselves, us, and each other, but their noise was gently blocked as Ravenwolf and I connected.  As we are preparing to go, we shook hands again, and this time–
  This time, he held on to my hand.  At first I tried to pull out of grip, and he held.  I saw his face.  I acquiesced, and held his hand for an uncomfortably long time…probably thirty seconds.  He was looking at me.
  I’ve said before my psychic ability is somewhat erratic, if I have it at all.  Despite my fiasco with the body work on the car, I really can read people.  In fact, subconsciously I believe that I knew he was going to rip me off and I let him do it anyway.
  And I while I got a read on Ravenwolf, it took me a few days to analyze it.  But at that moment of our connection, I could tell that’s what he was doing to me:  Reading me.  And going below the surface, and reading a little deeper.  Detroit later told me that we had only met for the space of a few minutes.  Perhaps.  But Shamans can bend time and space.  And while I can’t–or I can’t control it, in any event–I can certainly recognize it when it happens.  I had some doors of perception open for me briefly.  He let me see briefly the real him.  His veil was like a dark jacket thrown over him like a costume.  Under his veil, I saw his aura.  His aura was at once a dark and bright purple, with sparkles of energy coming from it.  And under his aura, I saw his Presence.  His presence was of an ancient tribal priest, dressed in loin cloth and body paint, wearing a headdress and holding a staff, performing an ancient dance to the gods of the land, and the wind, and the water, and the spirits.
  I don’t know what he got from me–truth?  The truth is over-rated, I suppose.  I am curious about what the real me looks like.
  Shamans and Holy Men–I believe he is both, because a Shaman is a special kind of Holy Man–we have to…we have a job to do.  We have to teach, and counsel, and nurture the people.  We have to guide and direct them, and give them new ways to think.  We point out new direction, and help remove blinders.
  And we all have different methods of doing it.  Mine is more direct; I grab the spotlight and say, "Come, follow me!"  Others, like Ravenwolf, do it indirectly, by example and suggestion and gentle persuasion.  But we are both–if anything else–spirit guides.

  And this is what Ravenwolf told me, what he communicated to me through our meeting and our clasped hands:  he was reminding me that I am a Holy Man, and I have a mission, and a function, and a purpose.  

I Believe. .. .

March 19, 2006 at 11:04 AM | Posted in Personal | 9 Comments
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Good Lord, I have to be more careful of what I say. My blog showed up as #2 on a beta Google Blog search for “flirt” because I mentioned the word in “Moving Right Along.”  It’s unfair, this powerful, majestic, huge weapon I wield.  I mean words.  Not what you all were thinking, pervs–Kim.
I received something the other day from an unusual source.  It made me think a bit.  Mostly it made me think of where it came from, and the timing of it, it must have been something I needed at that particular time.  Why do I believe that?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Let me explain exactly what I do believe.
I believe in God.  I used to be much more spiritual.  It’s not God, it’s me–he’s always been there.  He’s got patience out of this world.   My belief system–my religion some might find it odd on the outside.  I did at first, just the idea! But when I realized the why and where-fors of everything, it came together for me.
It’s odd that I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning, not in church, talking about religion.  I used to be an atheist.  That’s because I was young and stupid. Listen, putz, if you’re an atheist, do think, then, than the human mind is the highest development in creation?   I’m sorry, but I have met too many morons, idiots, retards, and solid-minded fucks to believe that.   There is definitely a higher power than this. Especially yours.
Or because you believe science to be the end all and be all? I actually am a man of science, trapped in a technical field.  These same people now who think science has all the answers are the same ones 300 years ago who didn’t know there was air in between us that we breathe.  No matter what science discovers, there will always be more.
So yeah, I believe. And I believe I’ve witnessed a few miracles in my time as well.   These are mostly personal things that would have no meaning for you, and hey would take way to long to explain.  Besides, you would either believe me–or not– before I tell them, so what is the point?
Part of my belief system even covers the whole age of the earth in billions of years versus the biblical time table.  First of all, the Bible is not a history book. It is a spiritual book.   Much of it was paraphrased, retold, rewritten.  It was originally told to savages, so that they could achieve understanding.  They were told what they needed to gain this understanding.  It is my personal opinion that people who think every word of the Bible is the literal word of God and the absolute truth need professional psychiatric help or a swift kick in the ass.  But that’s my own opinion, and my church backs that up (except the psych part and the ass-kicking part–they’re more magnanimous).
But my own thing is this–millions of years ago, the dinosaurs, and all of that jazz?  Yeah it happened.  But it is not a part of our history.  God didn’t use a blank slate to create this world.  Like this: God runs the whole universe, and therefore he runs all the planets.  He has people on many planets, spread all over, all at different times and so for forth.  He wanted to make another planet for people, and he saw this one with the dinosaurs on it.  He said, “Yeah, you know, this has pretty much run its course.  Kinda tired of it now.”  He tosses a meteor at it to “clean it up,” and a few million years later it’s  ready for people.
Then he gets it ready, which takes however long it takes. When you’re explaining it to savages, you might as well say “magic” and “it took me six days, bitches.”
But I have a little something to back that up. I’m a little rusty on my ancient Hebrew, and other dead languages, but what I read when I was a junior bible scholar was that the original word that was translated into “created” in the bible was not the word that meant “out-of-thin-air like magic, bitches”, but a word more closely associated with “construction.” As in, He took available material and made a world.
Of course, that still leaves the whole mystery of the big bang, origin of God thing, up in the air, doesn’t it?  Yeah, well, life is full of mysteries.   You can’t figure out your checkbook, and you want to be handed the answers to how the universe works?  In essence, you’re still a child.  We are all still children.
Someone once asked me, “Well, why are we here?” My first impression was, well, why are you asking me?  But another question occurred to me, that may sound flippant at the outset, but is meant to bring you to really try to grasp what it is you want to know:
“Where else would we be?”
Many different religions have a slightly different take on this, but the core is the same.   We were SOMEWHERE before we were HERE.  We earned, or chose, to come here.  We are here to learn, and grow, and make choices, and experience life and joy and pain, and then we MOVE ON–to the next place. This place we are in is a very special place, an important place.  People (and forces) try to downplay this existence, but it is very important.  Once I was dealing with the unruly teen of a mother I was dating many years ago.  She said, “I didn’t ask to be born!”
I answered gently, “Yes, you did. You just don’t remember.”  These decisions we have made affect our eternity.
Speaking of which, for all of the strictness of my church–and I’m still not going to tell you which one, only because I am embarrassed that I am not a good example–for all of our strictness, we are way more forgiving that other Christian churches. We believe that only the very truly evil will go to Hell. Most people will get some measure of heavenly accord.   Even the slums of Heaven ain’t too shabby.  Godly, spiritual people, true believers, the favorites–they get Beverly hills.  The average schmuck like me, who tries but fails most of the time, and succumbs to weakness, but knows God’s love-gets to live outside the city limits near the railroad tracks–but it’s still better than hell.  People will be judged by what is in their hearts.  Yes, yes, only through Jesus–Jesus is the power through which it works.  But no God I love and believe in is going to send babies to hell.  Quite the opposite:  those are souls who were so good, they only needed to make a pass through here, collect a mortal body, and shove off.
I also don’t believe God wants believers to kill all the non-believers. And If I am wrong, and that is what God wants, I don’t think it’s a God I want to follow. It is my own personal opinion that there is something very wrong at the heart of the Muslim religion. Religion of peace?  Walk the talk first.  I’m from Missouri, so you have to show me.  But I also believe that it is related to the coming apocalypse.  And it is coming, people. Ready your hearts and minds.
Christ in a sidecar– I sound like a zealot.  God is by and large pretty forgiving, but there are a couple of things God doesn’t like, and I’m not talking about the commandments–although that is some of it.  Don’t deny him, ever.  If you know Him, or ever knew Him, you can turn your back on Him, people do.  He will wait for you to return.  Just don’t deny him.
It will piss Him off.

Burger Pilgramage: A Long Day’s Journey Into Condiments

September 30, 2005 at 5:09 PM | Posted in Food and drink | Leave a comment
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All my life, you see, I have been a picky eater.  I don’t like onion in things, chunks of tomato in chili revile me, and I don’t like salad in my…salad.  My tastes can pretty easily be defined by the great American food staple:   the cheeseburger.
I like my cheeseburger plain.  The one concession I am willing to make is cheese.  Without it, it’s just a hamburger, and I really don’t understand the purpose of a hamburger, except that it is an unfinished cheeseburger.  But I like the cheeseburger plain:  Usually no ketchup, definitely no mustard.  Any vegetables are clearly out of the question.  Pickles—here’s the thing about pickles:  I like pickles, just not on things.  I feel the same way about pecans.
Mayonnaise is completely wrong on many levels. If you like mayonnaise on your burger, you are either a socialist or a sociopath.  Either way it’s bad. What can I say about mayonnaise that hasn’t already been said?  It’s the leading cause of social problems, above poverty and crime.  It causes poverty and crime.  It leads to harder drugs.  It carries STDs.  It is a member of Al Qaida.  Canadians love it, and they just legalized gay marriage between heroin addicts.  Coincidence?  Indeed, mayo is a gateway condiment.
I have done ketchup, and although I like it, most times I feel it is not worth the effort.  Is this too much, is it too little—Either way, it’s going to drip on you in an unpredictable fashion, and instead of adding zest, too often it only masks the flavor of the meat.
So, ordering a cheeseburger plain is not so much of a hassle now, but Lord, back in the day—

Our class was on a field trip, who knows where.  I’m not really even sure what grade it was, but it probably 7th or 8th grade, so this was the mid-1970’s.  On the way back we got a real treat, promised—conditionally–on our behavior.  The teachers knew how to control junior high freaks: The bus stopped at that American Mecca of Capitalism in a Styrofoam container, McDonald’s.  Yes, we used Styrofoam back then.  That’s why you have to wear more sun block now.
Imagine the thrill of the mid-afternoon skeleton crew upon seeing a bus full of hungry middle-schoolers.
We filed in, alternately shushed and prompted to figure out what we wanted.  We made a loose crowd of approximately three rows, and I was about three back in one row, not bad.  There were no value meals at that time.  You paid full price, and you liked it.  Of course, everything was only a nickel.  Or was that in my Dad’s time?  I get them confused.  Everyone was saying, “Big Mac, fry, Coke,” or “Filet o’ fish, fry, Coke.”  And we all know how those come.  There were a few on deck, and the cook spastically throwing on more, in anticipation of our orders.
Then it was my turn.  “Double cheeseburger,” I said.  And I paused, to make sure they heard me, because they really try to ignore this part to see if they can get away with it.  I spoke the magic word, the fast food death-blow:  “Plain.”
An audible grown came from the crowd of kids, and there was a choreographed simultaneous slumping of the shoulders of everyone behind the counter.  Traffic outside stopped.  The birds in the trees stopped singing.  An angel cried. Not only—not only did a busload of kids drop in on them unexpectedly, dissolving the mid-afternoon sleepy-time lull they were enjoying, but then, to add insult to injury, one of these punks wants a special order.  I could see it in their faces; I was used to it.  They didn’t try to hide it, either, because for one, I was just a kid and I didn’t matter, but mostly because this was the 70s, and the “customer service” fad hadn’t really caught on yet.  But I was undeterred.
The other kids stared daggers at me, and blamed me for why their food was taking so long.  They completely ignored the obvious fact that there were over 30 of us being served my two octogenarians, a recently paroled addict, and a 20-year-old high school dropout.
And so it went throughout my entire life. I’d like to think that I am singly responsible for the operational change fast food restaurants underwent to provide more flexibility and faster service for special orders.
It could have been me.

Some years later, I was a stranger in a new town, working at night, going to school during the day, and I didn’t know a lot of people.  But I knew the manager of the McDonald’s I went to everyday.  She was pretty, with long dark hair.  I remember.  This was mid-80’s, I suppose. There was no drive-thru, but I wanted to go in and sit down and read by myself and eat in quiet.
So when I came in, she would see me, and call back the grill order before I even got to the counter.  She knew what I wanted, because I’d been getting the same thing for years.  A Quarter-Pounder with cheese.  Plain.  I recall coming in on more than once occasion, and there would be a crowd of people, and she would see me (one of the advantages of being tall, like knowing when it’s raining before anyone else) and call back the grill, and by the time I ordered it, it was ready, just like anyone else.  I’m sure they realized, at that point, the feasibility of providing quicker grill order service.  Someone probably won an award.
But I still underwent the scrutiny and criticism (and sometimes ridicule) of family and extended family for not eating more different things, but especially for not putting anything on my burger. Not much is sacred to my dad, but apparently that is.  I was practically disowned.
I heard the explanations, the “logic,” the “at least try it,” but could not bring myself to let it pass my lips.  Eventually they gave up on their attempts at an intervention, and let me be for the most part, with only the occasional plea to join the church of condiments.   I can only imagine the talk that went on behind my back.  “Did you hear about Bryan?  He likes his burgers *plain*.” My refusal to accept the spiritual healing they offered made me a pariah.
At some point almost 20 years later, my ironic evolution began.  I started working at a restaurant that sells ground-fresh daily, hand-made burgers, and I was able to prepare it exactly the way I wanted it.  I found I did like ketchup, in the amount I decided, and a very small amount of mustard.
They were, in a word, perfect.  Not only were the burgers large (my choice of half pound or three-quarter pound), but I had a choice of cheeses, and could cook it however I wanted. Medium is a really good temperature for a burger. Be warned, you can’t do this at any fast food, and at most other restaurants I wouldn’t recommend it. At McDonalds, I have a suspicion they grind the whole cow, hooves and all. I would be concerned about the meat handling procedures in some other places as well.  But we took the chuck roll, added trim from cutting other steaks, and ground it ourselves, and then patted out the burgers by hand.  More like pounded them out, but still—they were very fresh, and excellent cuts of meat.
Adding ketchup and mustard to my burger took it to a whole new level of sandwich enjoyment. It was like eating a burger for the first time.  Exciting, and a little scary.  I was nervous about how exactly to proceed at first, but ultimately I created the perfect burger paradigm for myself.  I mused to myself on that day that later in life, when my doctor would recommend I get more roughage in my diet, maybe I’d try the lettuce and tomato.
But I didn’t mean it.
At least I thought I didn’t.  Lately I have been actively trying to expand my horizons and try new things.  One day at work, I thought, “Why not?”  Why not, indeed. Worst-case scenario, I’d have to spit out one bite, and remove the lettuce and tomato.  I could handle this, as long as I didn’t think about it too much.  I already ate lettuce, having picked up the salad thing shortly after I got married.  The way I got to that was this question:  What kind of salad dressing would I like?  Doritos had a ranch-flavored chip that I liked, so I tried that.  With enough ranch dressing, anything tastes good.
This new adventure came to mind because I had just recently tried–for the first time in my life–a tomato.
Just recently, a co-worker gave me a slice of tomato and cheese on a cracker, with pepper on it.  Was this some kind of gourmet avant garde snack thing?  Luckily, she left me alone.  In the privacy of my cubicle, I carefully analyzed the situation.  I needed to try this.  This was my opportunity, and it was dressed up in probably the most appealing manner possible. As long as no one was looking–Thank God for cubicles.  I like cheese and I like pepper.  And everything is good on a Ritz, right?
I gingerly took a bite. I chewed, I swallowed.  No apparent harmful effects, no bitterness—I took another bite.  Pepper helps everything.  This one little cracker, with cheese and a slice of tomato, I ate in about seven tiny bites.  I was surprised when it was gone.
Okay.  Not bad.

So now, thusly armed with this knowledge and experience, I reasoned I should be able to choke down this burger with lettuce and tomato on it.  At the very least, I could say that I have tried it.  So I approached the burger carefully, and removed the top bun. This is already different.  When you eat a burger plain, you never lift the lid. You may pick up a corner to peek, to make sure it’s plain because people are sneaky and they will lie to you and you will end up with mayonnaise on your burger even when they promised you it was going to be plain, but you can never trust the kind of person that would put mayo on a burger in the first place, because it is obviously part of their manifesto.
The exposed, naked flesh of the burger stared back at me through grill marks, taunting me.  Taking a deep breath, I picked up the leave of green lettuce and laid it awkwardly on the burger.  It slid off the side, so I tried again, trying fold it nice and neat. I image the objective is to keep it on the burger.  It kept flopping off defiantly, and refused to stay flat.  In a very determined, British manner, I firmly placed the tomato on top, and used it to hold the lettuce in place.
There.
Then, in a moment of insight, I recalled my previous excursion into the Land of the Tomato.  I threw down a layer of pepper for suppression fire.  I replaced the bun.  There.  Done.  It was ready.
After this little dance, I was prepared, so I picked it up and bit into it.
I wasn’t sure what to think, so I bit again, and again.  I was chewing and tasting, and wanting more.  It was good.  It was really good.  Eating has always been a contemplative experience for me, and now I wondered–had I been denying myself this whole time, this wondrous, fabulous feast?
Nah.  I don’t think I was really ready until then.  My whole life had been in preparation for this moment.  Now I was ready.  I had seized the moment, I had grabbed, and I had bitten into it.
Since that first time, and the subsequent week after when I had a burger like that every day, I knew it was not a fluke. That’s how I knew this really is something special, something to savor, and spread the word about.  I am a changed man. Without being sacrilegious, I feel as though I am born again.
I really do feel that way in a religious sense as well.  Lost in the glorious fog of eating the perfect burger, and contemplating the wonder of it all, I had a new appreciation for all that God has given us, and it has confirmed once again that God does exist.
Follow my logic if you can:
Evolution plays no part in how a hamburger is going to taste. Hamburger is a processed food, albeit at a very basic level.  Animals (and humans) eating the primitive cow had not the tools necessary to grind meat into burger, form a patty, build grill, hook up natural gas, or develop a ventilation system. Similarly, all of the wheats and grains that we create use to bread and burger buns from did not go through a natural selection process to become Wonder Bread.  These things did happen through the hand of man, however.  Plants and animals were domesticated by man, it’s true, but surely the hand of God was there to guide them.  How else can it be explained?  Thousands of years ago, none but a prophet would be able to know that the work they did then would result in the perfection we have achieved today.  And did the “missing link” know how to make slices of cheese and wrap them in cellophane? I don’t think so, Darwin.
The final proof is in the vegetables:  the green leaf lettuce and tomato–two very disparate plants– nevertheless come together along with these other ingredients to create nature’s most perfect food:  the cheeseburger.
Obviously this could not have happened without divine intervention. The Lord knew that one day–when my faith would wane and by bowels would need roughage–I would try this delicacy, and the miracle of belief and taste would coincide in one glorious compilation, and I would be called to spread the word throughout the land.
It truly is the miracle of Intelligent Design.

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