Thursday, November 20, 2008

and once again, with feeling...

It's bad... I didn't even know my password anymore.


still breathin.'

been in school, actually (pre-requisite classes for nursing, mostly science and math stuff (because that's all I needed...) ---maybe 3 to 4 more semesters (summer doing math... not a math guy,) and then applying to various local nursing schools.

In all honesty?
It's going to be tough...
Not the homework, (I'm nailing stuff, totally LOVE this.)
---but there's only 200 seats per year to the RN program here at City, ---and (ready for this) 800 qualified applicants -per year... (that's 600 left over per year) ---so I get to go into the lottery... (yep, a lottery.)

There's other ways of scheming one's way in, --but will talk of that later.

Work -busy busy, ---especially with holidays coming on... (still have other stuff ta do too.)

School -again, busy busy (loving it today? dissected a fetal pig (we named her betty, --she were already done dead (thanks to the Carolina Biological Supply, ---rockin shop, --used to read one of their old catalogues in the 7th grade, ---you can get anything from them... (vital arteries dyed blue... etc.)

Home life. --see 'work and school.'

Fam back east all doing okay, (see them (I hope) over Christmas week...

Fresno... (again see: wk-sch..)
I love Fresno City College. --FINALLY a truly diverse place in Fresno... (folks just being themselves, very very cool environment, (yeah, lotsa cops on campus, ---but some 60year old shot his Calculus book up at another campus (the new 'nice' one) ---Gimme ol' crime-ridden 'city-main' anyday.

The neighborhood?
Hmmmmm, well the kids in my area are horrendous, (you know how they say that there are no 'bad kids,' ---yah... sorry, found them.. (two of the lil bastards took out my one outdoor cat last spring with two pitbulls, ---they like to run around dent up people's cars, terrify old people, and turn off power switches in the back of the apartments, (and they're like 9 thru 14.)

Ummmm, Writing:
-Mostly on MindHub (when I do write,) and BeeHive (when I do write,) --which, honestly? has not been that much (comparitavely speaking) ---with (you guessed it wk&school...)

---Well, ta be honest?
My own denom went through a real real rough experience.. (most of the Episcopal churches split and left, --taking people and property with them,) -leaving my own church as the only one in Fresno...
---And then it had it's own issues...
So's I chilled on that for a while...
---Got invited by a friend (Andy) to be a part of a smaller service for a local United Methodist Church (turns out the Methodist Movement was founded by a Episcopal Priest... (Wesley)
---and, well, I guess I'm sort of an elder or something now in it... (though I'm still Episcopalian..)
Bottom line?
Great bunch of people, great (female) Pastor, open and accepting of anyone (a big thing with me,) and a nice simple service that has some songs, some scripture, a lot of prayers of the people, communion, and then folks just grabbing some chow...
I've gotten involved in some of the tech. stuff, ---but have taught the sunday School here and there... Very very very great fellowship and a bit of a different feeling, (like I have a church home now in a lot of ways...) ---so I'm digging that.

The 'arts' community...
Seriously, I really don't see much of anyone outside of work and school, (and figured that would be the case...) -miss 'em, but I'm going after stuff that's really sort of life-changing (hello-nurse) and everything else is sort of coming in second (as it must.)
Didn't even make it to one of Liesl's shows the other week, and that's not like me.

Local issues:

Um.... well, my town just revealed itself to be horrendously bigoted against the basic (municipal) rights of folks who are 'same-sex' getting married.
---(Worse) --a lot of folks who were the 'radicals,' -honestly?
Just really didn't do squat regarding speaking out against this...
-Most of the area churches were either (strangely) silent, --or very very vocal about 'removing the marriage rights.' ---I have friends who got married this summer... they're sort of sweating it out...

But it kind of comes down to a very
'...yeah, well, you have your feelings about civil rights and how this place ain' like Selma Ala... --(yet) for fear of reprisals and such, ya'ain' doing a whole lot to really support folks who just want ta get married and have same visitation rights in hospitals (etc. etc.) ---as heteros...'

--We'll see what happens.
--For the church thing on this (we went through this a good year and change ago,) there was already a lot going on that folks had to be like:
'...yeah, well, I love you as a friend, but my church won't endorse your sexual identity,' (but it is my church, and it does define my faith,)
(so geeeeee, there's a bit of a gap there, huh....)'

I kind of simplified it:
I really can't live with this double standard in my own life and faith, and really don't want to be associated with any church that wants to be like
'..yeah, we'll preach love, but act in (denial) or outright hate.'
I got tired of that game years ago.

Either you love people and you have a spine, or you do not... (period.)

Needless to say...

That's about all for now... need to go build some bikes...
Selling a few of my own, (hopefully,)
Papers to write, Tests to take, stuff ta do... (maybe cleaning my house for the first time in months... (needs it.)

Music I've been listening to?
-hmmmm, lotsa
-Counting Crows (August and Everything After / Recovering the Satellites)
-Some Ben Folds (early stuff.)
-(believe it or not... -ancient Beastie Boys (I know, I know, it's the rhyming structures that get me, --and the mixing... very crude but beautifully done...)
-And a Bruce Hornesby album 'Halcyon Days,' ---amazing tracks on that... (not one of his better known, (it's more recent, I'd say, like the past 5years I think...)
-Dido (anything by Dido) --she has a new one coming out soon too....

And I have this huge Tabby Siamese Mix (tomcat) who's made friends (cause I feed 'em) who's got really bad vision (Siamese almost always do,) ---he's great... sort of like Lenny from Of Mice and Men... loves to walk up and pounce on the screens just to say hello (scares the daylights out of my two indoor females,) ---Turns out his name (he was named by the 13 year old daughter of a nurse who lives across the courtyard), cause he's so big, and (obviously) not neutered?
(don't ask.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No, I didn't die.

I so have not remembered how to post on this site...

(I know, I know, 'soon as this thing pops up, poor Lime and K are gonna have a stroke... (ladies I'm sorry... I have gotten your notes here and there, know that you've been in my prayers, as have your families, --I've not been on Blogger in a dogs age... (no disresepct to 'Dog.')

I guess an update is in order.

We're, what... five months into the year?
It doesn't feel that long, but we're getting into the heat over here in Fresno, (up over a hundred during the weekend... funny, learn to work with the stuff, and you just sort of walk out, and it picks you up and floats you along.. (until you actually swoon from it, and almost fall over (that AC to Heat transfer thing... gotta love it...)

I keep my townhouse at about 72 degrees... (I like cooler weather,,, I know, I moved to the wrong place...)

The car that I bought last fall actually has airconditioning (not that there's anything wrong with a pickup that is 35 years old that doesn't... ---that said pickup has a big-block Ford motor in it, ---that 'had things done,' by a stockcar racer so he could tow his car on a trailer AND have a camper on the back... means that the ol' girl gets something like six or seven miles to the gallon (empty.)
Needless to say, my Jetta gets tons more use... (over thirty miles on the highway, 'high twenties around town...)

Where to start:

Romance front:
Long and short of it?
There isn't any.
(yeah, I know, moans and gasps with that... (and not the sort of moans and gasps one would hope to have associated with 'romance,' either.)

There is a woman who came in to buy a bicycle for her daughter just prior to Christmas.
We struck up a conversation, proceeded to blow each other away, and fell madly in love... Pretty much lock, stock, and barrell.

That was an all intensive thing, with a total reorienting of life for yours truly, as the holidays came and went, she was prepped to move (from an apartment to a house that she had just bought two blocks away from me,,,)
The actual move.
The working on the thing and tons of unpacking and such...
Which brought us to Easter.

(I've always maintained my own place, not the 'shacking up,' sort, actually, (neither is she,) but it was sort of a every-day talking to, being with as much as possible including church sort of thing, and we were both convinced that this was something God had really brought on, headed towards being together forever, etc. etc.

A week after Easter, things just felt funny, and not ha-hah funny.
Aftetr a long letter, explaining my concerns, and asking if she wanted to talk about it, I got an Email saying that it was over... (coupla days she called to apologize for the Email aspect of it, but basically she was done.)
Still don't know what happened.
I have my feelings on it.
But, for whatever the reasons: I've not heard from her since then... (have written a couple of letters, and DO live like, two blocks away...)

It's been pretty intense.
I really loved her kids, really loved her, --and truth be told, still do love her.
But it is what it is.

On THAT cheery note...

Well, a lot has been happening in life.

Devoting yourself to somebody and their two kids since Christmas...
getting dumped.

(It's funny, it's kind of like saying '...yeah, I took nearly four months to build this amazing replica of the great wall of China in sugarcubes, and it was all done, and boy was it a beauty... and then, well, there was this flood, see, and all the cubes melted, and then there were all these bees attracted to sugar-water, so I got stung up a lot, and then the sun came out, dried up the sugar-water, the wind came up, blew away the bees, and I'm just sitting here kinda sorta in front of the cameras with a bunch of welts and stuff, smiling and waving...

There's no real evidence, I suppose.

I guess a lot of things in life are like that.

There have been changes, though.

-Me 'n groups...
There were a bunch of groups I was a part of when I first moved here...
In all honesty, they've been interesting to know, have had good people in them, ---but have had some pretty unusual aspects to them that kind of 'ruled me out,' by way of really thinking of stuff after a while.
-One was all about peace, -but had issues with Christians in general (though they were a Christian Group... that was a bit odd,) So I really havn't been a part of them since the writing was on the wall, so to speak.
-Another was all about riding bicycles and making the public 'aware,' of bicycles to traffic, and was supposed to do some sort of 'co-existance,' thing with cars on the road... (I already have ridden bikes on the road since I was a small boy... I know how to deal with cars... (PS) cars are bigger and heavier and usually aren't to be screwed with...)
Same-Said group (here,) was not just about 'presence,' but about picking fights with traffic... (I don't know if some of these people really had a death wish or what... but there was clearly more of a desire to irritate car and truck drivers, (which jeopardized the whole lot,) ---resulting in a lot of hairy experiences...
I guess it was somewhere in the Fall of '06 or so... maybe later, that I decided that I just didn't want to be a part of such things...

(Not as a result of the bike group... but as a result of the accident where I was tail-ended by two vehicles in the fall of '05, shortly after moving here...)
-The surgery was actually a year ago this past January...
Same said surgery (quite successful, actually,) worked out just dandy... (My Right Shoulder works like a champ, I have strength, no pain... gotta love it, (there was a torn muscle that was mis-diagnosed... as well as some probs with the shoulder socket...)

-But same said surgery really put me behind in work a good five to six months...
I got to building bicycles and equipment for (now two) different companies here in Fresno about a year ago,,,-and that's kept food on the table and such,(thankfully.)
--But a lot of the woodworking stuff and other work has been sort of edged out due to the bike and equipment building...
---Actually, am looking to wrap up a LOT of those projects by the end of the month before it gets too awful hot...

That magic time where I really couldn't work, and was sorta just in a 'green stage,' for the post-surgery actually was better defined as Rogue 2007.
(Yep... THAT was why I could devote so many hours and such to just 'being there.' I really couldn't do much else... It was fun, it was Rogue, it was great...

That whole situaiton, however really changed.
(Not the 'it was fun,' part..
It remains one of the nicer times here in Fresno, and I met some excellent people, saw some great stuff done live, -got to be a part of the action... yippeee.

But over the year, as work increased, the shoulder came back, more and more stuff began to happen, ---and it was clear, a ways off, that I'd have (prolly,) one last shot at a decent edumacation, (with the accident came attorneys, and with attorneys came a bit of ' client deserves to be compensated for (both of y'alls) stupidity...'
And sure enough... as of last fall... Things finally wound down, a lot of bills got paid and yours truly had a lot of decisions to make about life...

Needless to say, the Rogue 2008 (and many many rogues afterwards) went and shall go on without me ('natch) though there were lovely offers of '...uh, you got time, there bub? we need ya?)

To which, I usually had to say ', really sorry, but.... no.'
---Which REALLY got punted out of the park (as) said (former) girlfriend was literally moving from place to place, and doing a lot of work RIGHT during Rogue...

I was able to put up a few posters, hand out flyers to Starbucks and such, and catch a few shows...
(APJ's being one, Mia's, and Lord knows who elses... I think that may have been it...)
Even wrote about some of them... (short-tight-blurbs, each... as we know I'm not one much for talkin... (hee).')

But the whole thing was lost in a blizzard of really enjoying domestic life and being dedicated to a woman and her two kids...
(I know, I know, if it wasn't sad, it'd be heartwarming...)

But the whole thing, actually...

Has been a lot of contemplation and asking God what He'd have me do with my time.
(Hey now, there's a hard right turn, dontcha know... and a religious one at that...)

I need to back up a bit...
Not as far back as the surgery, but actually to about six weeks ago...

I was standing and talking with a neighbor who is a good friend of mine who has been involved with a group that cares for the poor and needy.
Turns out they also were from 40 minutes up the (only) road from back where I lived before I moved here in the hills of lower NY state...
Amazing person, very level headed, and a great friend, (I'll miss her.)

She had this friend standing with her.
He was a fellow I've met a few times, great guy, a fellow person of faith (the three of us are believers,) and we had this very very candid conversation about Fresno and the state of the place...
Among other things, including his feeling that there is one seriously messed up spirit that hovers over the town (I'm not into the whole 'territorial spirits' thing, but I definitely see his point...)
He, upon finding that I write, that people read, that I speak and folks sort of react (good and bad,) was like:
'...Then Eric, you need to speak up, you need to exercise that gift, you need to tell the truth, because that is what God gave you to say, and if you don't that'd be wrong... you can't let things just shut you up, you need to be yourself, you need to say it like it is... I can really see that the Lord has given you something, and I feel strongly that I need to convey this to you...'
...Now, He and I are both Charasmatic.
...Now, He and I don't both know this.
...and He and I have had plenty of 'weird times o the spirit,' where God is supposed to be talking (according to brother so and so,) but in reality? It was just the chili...
But this wasn't weird.
Bolt from the blue? Yeah...
But not weird.

He had no idea what I was going through, He barely knows me from a box of rocks...
(The next day he moved to Kansas, by the way...)
My friend moved (back home) a week later...

That was said to me right at the time when I had given my girlfriend the letter, asking her about some things that were worrying me, --of which I was also trying to 'be sensitive,' in writing it out... ----because it was something that we just weren't able to talk about...
-So what this guy was saying really was hitting home.

There have been a few friendships, and situations where very clearly people were getting all pissed off at what I was saying.
-Everything from length of comments, to content at hand.
(It was nearly a couple of years ago, now, but I actually got death threats for some of the stuff I was talking about... It all settled down... but...)

That sort of had an impact on me...

I was like '...gee, if I say what I am seeing here, and speak openly about it, I'm gonna loose friends, and I don't want to loose friends....'

(...ya ever notice 'friends,' like that aren't really friends anyway?)

Despite the 'outspoken,' nature of so many people and situations in Fresno... there still are things that people 'just don't say.'
There is a lot of 'status quo.'
There is a lot of 'going along to get along.'
And there is not a lot of questioning or really dealing with a lot of issues, (socially and such,) ---and I've never really been good with that.

I see it in churches, social groups... all over.
I don't know if it's a Midwestern thing or not...
But, despite all best efforts, I tend to cross the grain, and usually it's simply an issue of people talking, me listening, and me asking questions about what I've been hearing... (it tends to snowball from there..)

I don't worry about it so much anymore...

Okay, that's a lie.

With the girlfriend?
I was starting to worry about it a lot.

She went to this church (a big one,) and it had some strange views..
She also works for it.

has her 'tithe,' taken out by direct deposit.
She has a lot of friends there...
It's sorta her life.
It's very her life...

I was sitting there, objectively looking at the good and the bad of what was being preached, and wanting to talk about it?
And found that there was 'no bad to be discussed.'

It's a local thing, actually.
This area is unreal with it's loyalties...

and one doth not raise a paw in question or woe, ---even when the question goes out 'so whattya think? I want real feedback...'
--What that usually means is: '...Tell me how great you think this idea and my insights are...'

I've never been good with that either...
I mean, despite the sardonic angle of a lot of my thoughts... I do believe in encouraging things to grow and do better, and see the good where it is.. (and overlook the bad if it's senseless to point it out...)
But this was getting more and more 'just don't say anything...'

The letter said something... It asked more about something, anything, ---but it 'went there.'
-Hence the Email 'gubbye..'

Back to the conversation with the fella on the parking garage apron (my friends friend who moved to Kansas...)

I was sitting there, yet again, being told very clearly
'...You need to be yourself, you need to talk, you need to be direct, you need to deal with the truth, you need to quite playing to the room, you need to just be honest, and if people don't like it or get it, too bad...'

And he was right.

It wasn't ', this is a license to go be a schmuck and arrogant.'
It was: '...tell the truth, or be just another liar...'

Next day came the Email...

So, yeah, church and stuff...

My (own) church (denom) has completely blown apart.
I mean, out here in this area it was going that way anyhow, (no signs of this happening back east, btw...)

It's been a while now, actually.
But the (former) Bishop, who ran the Diocese like an arcane Mysogenistic Homophobic (and that was on a good day,) personal platoon...
Up and left with most of the churches (leaving, I think, 5? (where there used to be over 50?) to comprise the Diocese of the SanJoaquin Valley...

I think it's a couple of hundred miles (give or take) all around that nearly every other Episcopal Church CEASED being Episcopal because of two things:
-They didn't like gay folks (particularly if they were in leadership and 'out.'
-They didn't like women as leaders.
(Both of these things are considered 'normal,' in most of the rest of the country adn Canada, ---especially the 'women in leadership' thing... THAT's been a done deal for decades...)

It's been the aftermath of something pretty awful..

I mean, on the one hand, you have the relief of people standing around shaking their heads and clucking their tongues saying how 'liberal, misguided, and into an 'alien gospel that denies Christ,' --all the time... (really gravelled my mustard, lemme tell ya.)

-But I'm sort of used to Church Splits and stuff like that. (The denoms I was in growing up, had splits every once in a while... it hurts, but you learn to go on...)

Here, there were people, beautiful old folks, young folks, folks who'd never dream of crossing anyone out of fellowship (Episcopalians just don't do that... we include anyone... we want anyone to be in fellowship with Christ, and welcome everybody, EVERYBODY...)
---well, a lot of these folks, who in some cases had their churches shut down and sold off (by the former Bishop,) were and are really busted up by the whole deal...
What's left of the Diocese is actually starting to settle down.
People are finally starting to feel like: '...okay, there has been an amputation, but the shelling has stopped...'
-And some of these churches are finally just beginning to sort out, come out of the whole surgery-w/o-anesthesia sort of thing,,, and are beginning to warm up and hold each other once again...
I think I may have found one of them that would be a nice fit about an hour south of here...
Small group.
Very community oriented (they feed 3 to 400 poor folks lunch each day...) and they like anybody, read the Bible, and are trying to be there for each other and grow in Christ... (what not to love...)

I was part of a local congregation, but this was during the time of the splitting off, (they remained too,) but there was (again,) a real awkwardness, as their communication style was quite a bit more reserved in a sense, and some really unfortunate discussions happened between the priest and myself (unrelated to the church, actually,) which sort of closed the door there...

So... for the first time in like, months.. I've been hitting some local churches on a semi-regular basis, and it's been good.
I don't know if I'll ever really feel 'at home,' in any one particular church for some time... but things are defnitely welcoming on some pretty good levels...

Which brings me to Hosea and Joel...
(Bible Books.)

There is this sense of some beliefs that what is taken from you in life, you don't need and will make you stronger.

(Folks go quoting Ghandi and all... some go quoting James Bond
'...that which does not kill you, makes you breakfast....')

I'll let those who espouse and believe other religions have their own thoughts on it..

But over the past few Sundays, I've been sitting in on a little local church that is notorious for exogetical and verse by verse studies through the Bible (unheard of, actually... usually, most pastors are 'topical,' and you get to have reprocessed 'their thoughts,' on stuff, ---rather than just reading it and thinking of it...

Hosea and Joel are (rather short) books in the Bible where there is a clear emphasis upon the relationship of people (with) and (without) God.
More exactly, it gets into the whole dynamic of when somebody is 'one of God's, --and then sort of strays off and follows after other things...

Pretty eye openning stuff, actually.

Hosea speaks clearly of the results of Israel (at a time of her life when she had made some really bad govt. business deals with rival nations that meant her no good,) --was about to suffer tremendously, -as a result of those decisions...
God was spelling out clearly what the consequences were, as well as His displeasure at her (the nations) behavior... ----yet in the end it's really clear that, should the nation turn and change from the direction they were headed in, --there would be blessing by the ton...

Now Joel sort of starts out with a very very interesting passage about (at least) 4 different types of locusts that are about to do a real number on the people of God...
(Sorta like the lines in 'Raising Arizona,' '...and after we ate the last of the chickens, we ate the goat, and after the last of the goat, we ate the horse, and after the last of the horse, we ate crawdads, and after the last of the crawdads, we ate sand....'
' ate SAND??'

The passage in Joel talks of these locusts who swarm in and eat the big stuff, and then when they're done, there are the ones who eat the little stuff, and then when they are done, there are those who eat the stuff underground and everything else, ---even those who are apparently 'licking,' things... -but in actuality stripping things away...
---But it's a very very very thorough picture of how very very thorough the destruction is...
The Locusts are sorta like Leprosy... they are a plague.
They are metaphors for sin.

Sin... (for those of you who are unitiated with the word,) is an old English archery term for 'falling short,' or 'missing the mark.'

It's interesting, but in Hosea (the previous book,) there was a situaiton explained where people, who did not want a literal breathing relationship with God on God's terms, ---had made little idols (actually in the shape of calfs) and called them 'God.'
---they did the same thing in a way with the Brass Serpent that was lifted up on a stake when the Hebrews were off in the desert (there were these serpents running around biting folks, ---all they had to do was look to the brass serpent lifted up on the staff, -and they were healed. (This is where we get the medical symbol from btw..)
---Well, somebody took the brass serpent and made a separate 'god,' of it, and was worshipping 'it,' instead... (a prophet/reformer later on took it, broke it in pieces, and said 'ne houshtan,' ('...just a thing of brass...') ---to which they found the pieces and made another idol...

-But God was saying in Hosea
'...if you turn from these stupid little idols (which cannot save you,) and look to me, you'll be blessed, you'll be cared for by a God who cares, you'll not be pouring yourself out and trashing yourself on some stupid thing that you made... come to Me instead, I've got a way better deal...'

In Joel?,
A similar situation just shows how thorough the destruction and devestation that looking to other things (instead of God,) can be...

I remember before I moved here to Fresno, in the spring of '05 there were horrible floods right at my house...
the water was up, about 4 ft. in my neighbors place.. and we had just had floods the year before too...
But the floods this year were unreal... the water stretched as far out as (approx) half a mile, were easily twenty to thirty feet deep, blocked off the road (I had to hike back in the woods to get home,)
No power, no phone... water to the base of the stairs at the bottom of the deck...
One of my cars was down lower on the road (the 64 comet), and the water was up over it's nose, (water down into the cockpit, etc...) basically half the car was underwater...
Water up in the engine, the glovebox... everywhere.. water up through everything...

When it all dried out, it was amazing how everyplace possible, the water went.
Not to mention, mud, grass, leaves, critters, (not many snakes, it was a massive snow-melt.)

Just like those locusts...
The whole idea was: the things that you focus on, the things that hold you, the things that you hold onto... if they're idols and if they're not seen and held as God wants you to see and hold them?
It goes bad... It gets into everything,,, you feel it everywhere,,, and if you build your world around it, it will tear everything out, when it's pulled out...

The 'locusts,' as well had another aspect.
There were obvious destructive ones that would chew and bite and grind... (okay, bad, no fun, stay away from them...)
But there were other ones that seemingly were doing nothing wrong, and even had an effect that was sort of 'pleasurable,' ---yet were killing stuff...

That whole 'locusts,' thing sort of got me...

I mean, when you start talking about the effects of 'sin,' in a life, you're talking about the effects of doing something, or allowing things that really are not what God wants for you, to exist...
('Sin,' as it is usually understood is like, um, I dunno,
robbing banks,
saying nasty things to your gramma,
looking at girlie mags,
-you know 'Sin.'
The sort of stuff you expect a Nun to swat you for, -even if you're a protestant.

----but 'sin,' in reality is simply 'all that falls short of God's gift and desire for us...'
It can be us trying to even lead a 'good,' or 'pure,' or 'holy,' or 'godly,' life...
If it's something 'we're' trying to drum up and make happen?
If it's something we're seeing incorrectly?
still Sin...

And the real truth about 'Sin,' and how God feels about it?
He's not upset at us for 'sinning,'
He's upset that the 'sin,' is ripping us off, and damaging us.
He's upset that it's not what we need, nor what's good for us...
THAT's what has Him upset..
Not that we goof up or get stuff wrong,
--but the effects of this on us, and the damage it does...

If the relationship of God to man is (purely) something that originates and comes from God as a gift,
--and is alive and something direct and based upon our trusting, being open, and following God's lead...
----pretty easily, when we take things into our own hands, we wind up doing something called 'sin.'
It could even be sort of 'well-meaninged,' in a way, ---as it can be a distraction, it could be something not timed properly... it could even be a past experience with God, ---but not where He wants us at now... (the serpent on the stick thing, for example...)

I do know this, God is very into 'personal,' relationships with us...
I don't sense a whole lot of 'surrogate,' and 'greatest hits,' sort of mindset...
You need something today? God gives you what you need today, (not what you needed yesterday, --and often not what you're going to need two weeks from now... ---but today...

The 'understanding,' of things (now?)
Interestingly enough, the crux of the relationship with God is 'Trust in the Lord with all your Heart, lean NOT on your own understanding,,, in ALL your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight, don't worry...'

Doing the math...
Considering it all..

The Pastor this evening said something that sort of struck me...
'...If God gives you something, and it's really of God,
and you're really handling it as God wants you to handle it,
then when He takes it from you, you should be okay with it...'

That sort of blew me away...

I mean, personally... since the relationship ended (rather untimely for my tastes,) I've been sort of dumbfounded...
But the truth of the matter is, aside from feelings and all, ---I'm supposed to trust God, and see it as something where, '...okay, God gave me this relationship, He have me this woman and her kids, and I love them with my whole heart... -and now, for whatever reason, He's taken them away...'

I need to keep this in perspective.

Where the relationship and marriage to Christien (the woman who I moved here to marry,) ran out,

He gave me Fresno (I still don't know quite how to thank Him for that...)
Where (various other) situations here have run out,

(or run their course, or revealed as things I really don't want to be a part of,)
He gave me insight and (healthier) situations...

Where this most recent relationship has run out...
He's given me Himself,
---and is telling me not to make this situation an idol...
He's showing me how thoroughly this has had an effect, and just how thorougly swamped this situation has me...
(Which, I guess if you love somebody completely, yeah... it's all through you...)

But just like the books of Hosea and Joel talk about (not) looking to idols and (not) seeing things as I want to see them, ---but as God does...
-There will be blessing,

there will be healing,

and even what the locusts have ravaged, ---God can heal that too...

This ties in beautifully with Job (a book which my former girlfriends church was just starting to go into... (not well, but they were at least poking around,) just before she, uh, kicked me to the curb...

And let me tell you...

when you live in a town as small as Fresno, and you do everything that there is to do here, with a woman and her two kids...

Everything EVERYTHING reminds you of them, and goes all through you, and feels like the locusts eating all that there is, ---with nothing more

---and even STILL there is more being chewed...

It's a strange thing...
All the good and all the bad sort of is on fire at once...

All the more reason to just give it to God, and be like... '...okay, okay, I get it, create in me a heart that sees this, and holds this like you want me to, ---because, as I'm seeing it now, it's far too devestating,,, I need to trust you, God.'

And that... in a nutshell
Has been Fresno.

Kind of a hot wilderness one minute.
Cold, foggy and isolating the next,
Things shapeshifting and being revealed in all sorts of unexpeceted ways the next...
And me, somebody who is not just supposed to be wandering around all muffled and 'gollly-gee,' about it... ---but clearly speaking about what I know to be true, as well as what is helping me, (and who is helping me,)
-as the more and more folks I talk to, the more I hear that what I'm going through is not unique.

Good people.
Not so good people.
But lots of people that God has put in my life for His reasons.
Sometimes for reasons only he knows...

Oh yeah...
And I'm trying to get into Nursing School... (but that's for another entry...)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Christmas Weirdness: Sweatsocks the Christmas Roach

The following true story, is a Holiday letter that I thought I'd share with my fellow MindHub members here in Fresburg...

As many of you may not be members of MindHub, I figgered, well, why not share with the rest of the class, besides it's been a while...

It is true that after 44 years of Christmastime, (one would think that was 44 Christmas'
-wrong, actually for many years there, we had two separate one (folks split,) -then all the grandparents to see, (which meant two sets more once the folks remarried,) followed by a myriad of visits to people who I really didn't know, but who were 'aunt and uncle so and so,'
-who my Mom worked with, or knew from the neighborhood, who knew me from the age of a zygote, (who also pinched my cheeks... yes, it's true.)

Lotsa Ho-Ho-Ho for this cowboy.
(I have to watch how I use that word 'cowboy,' ---I'm close to Clovis, and there are actual cowboys with a chips throw from here...)

Needless to say, with all of these holidays racked up, -and a lot of the folks who were a big part of the earlier ones gone on to glory, (we all get older,) --and my family back on the East Coast, ---(not to mention the fact that the weather around here is basically more suited for 'summer camp,' -year round, (no single digit days, no snow, no ice...)

It's a little difficult sometimes to be reminded.
'Yep, That blessed time of year is gonna hit any day now.'

What tells me?
-Getting projects done for clients (so at least they are done 'this year,' (in some cases that's a good thing,)
-Taxes of the small businessman that require special attention before boarding my flight to three hours ago,
and decorations.

(I am enthralled that there are college students in their dorm (over on Barstow, near the highway,) that have put up those 'icicle,' lights all over their little balcony. Those things are so darn cool, (I remember as a kid, just going for rides with my folks to see the lights on the houses...)

Stuff like that brings me back...
And, along with the holiday music that is now piping into the stores that I'm working in, (yep, folks do buy bikes for Christmas, lots of 'em,) The odd tune comes up that really warms my heart,
(Springsteen's 'Santa Clause is coming to town,'
The Waitress' classic,
-Even two very excellent Pretenders hits (Two Thousand Miles, and Have your Self a Merry Little Christmas.)
-The real kickers? Anything by Elvis, the Peanuts 'Christmas Album' tunes, -and anything by Der Bingle, (White Christmas and Silent Night almost always reduce me to tears...)
In fact, not too long ago, there was a post on a list somewhere that referred to one's fav. Christmas songs.

-The list'r (Susan? Suzanne? not sure, it may be 'thee Suzanne,' it could have been another,) had some real beauts on her list, including Tom Wait's 'Merry Christmas From a Hooker in Minneapolis,' or something.
--I read this and decided that perhaps 'Randy Stonehills: Christmas at Denny's was perhaps not too far off the map, (thanks Susan, Suzanne, who ever you are...)

Finally: The weirdness o Christmas factor Tied in beautifully with the nice blonde lady tonight over at FoodMaxx a couple of minutes ago, who was shopping with (antlers?) still on, (tinsel and little balls and stuff hanging, ) all flopping all over her head, as she calmly worked her way down the dairy cases, -maybe she forgot that she had them on... I, for one hope to think not.

My friends of the Hebrew persuasion, don't pull these stunts (happy second night of Chanukkah, btw...)
I've always seen their festivites as so much more elegant, so much more refined. (I happen also to like blue, silver and white, anyway, and dig candles and dreidels.) I digress... (surprise.)

-All this, being Fresno, allowed the weird side of Christmas to take flight in my memory. (And there have been some classics.)

For example: Twenty Five years ago, In the later part of 1982, yours truly divested himself of regular homelife, and cast out to the great unknowns of center city Philly, to attend the Philadelphia College of Art.

This was a new experience for a lot of us, and we, the artistic lived new and exciting ways that we could have never dreamed possible out on the prarie, -or in my case, -while living in my small suburban house in a sprawling town on the coast of NJ. On the corner of Fifteenth and Spruce (S.East Corner, -the SouthWest Corner being the Acme Market (that was burned out twice, -but reopened in time for us earlier that fall,) was a drugstore.

On top of that drugstore, in a major way, sat an ancient Seventeen story apartment building (called the hotel 'Belrich,' at one point,) that was used as dormitories for the Philadelphia college of Art, -and it's Sister School -the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts.

(They later blended and are now known as the University of the Arts, in Philly.) Same said hotel/slash/Apartment complex was where we lived, the first nine or ten floors being the dancers, musicians, (etc.) of PCPA, the last four floors being the artists, the final floor being a penthouse endwelled by this strange mysterious man who nobody ever saw.

We, the residents of this astounding 'last tall,' building headed into South Philly,
-actually made the papers one day by sunbathing in January, (we had a sudden weird warm spell, and we, the brave and daring, decided that it was worth it,
-so we hunkered down to our skivvies and bathing suits (or birthday suits on the uppper floors,) and lay about the fireescapes like oh-so-many stranded sea critters on rocks, most of us a little under the weather, all of us quite pale,
-and somehow attracting the photogs for the Philadelphia Inquirer...

(They didn't know that some of us were in our chonies (and worse,) and we were not inclined to tell them,
-but it was a magnificent afternoon, and made for quite a study, snow on the ground, trees bare, temps in the sixties, and a whole sixteen stories of starving artists and musicians, sunning ourselvs while playing Peter Gabriel.

In same said abode, I lived on a couple of different floors, and for a while had a particular roomie named Bill.

Now, Bill was a quiet young man from Indianna who loved punk (Toxic Reasons specifically,) -who chainsmoked like a fiend, was amazingly talented, and looked sort of like a lost Ramone in a certain light.
-I opted for that 'Fifties look,' and personally, had my hair cut by the founder of the D.A., and smoked nearly as much as Bill, (but I preferred Djarums, (in the little tins,) that could be bought down at the drugstore for under a buck... (!)

With us (all,) lived an amazing little beast, that will probably outlast us all of humanity.
I am speaking, of course of Cockroaches.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with urban life, -let me explain.
Cockroaches are everwhere. If you don't have cockroaches (and rats and pidgeons,) -you don't have a city.

Philadelphia in general, and this hotel in particular (the apartments were all these really little cool single bedroom or two bedroom units which had two to three people living in them (usually two,) -had more than it's share of cockroaches.
I for one am not fond of the things.

I was not raised in a house that had them, and distinctly remember being dragged out of an IHOP in New Brunswick one evening as an eight year old when my mom saw cockroaches walking up the wall behind me, (this was back in Jersey,)
--and had her mind made up in terms of 'go or no go,' when a large rat walked across the back aisle...
-Didn't know mom was that strong and athletic,
-but both me and my little sister were out of the booth and headed towards the car in nothing flat,
I thought we flew, in fact, (Mom sort of did this Quarterback toss of both of us into the Studebaker, -to which we landed
(both,) in the back seat,)
(Yes, the woman can put a mean spiral on two small children if need be.)
-she also had many words unfit for family televison, reserved for the manager.

This time, as grownups (hah,) As we were in college, and as were in Art School?
We were broke.
(Remember, starving artists do just that, starve, (and party,) -but we were too broke really to party,
(though we would sometimes go to U. Penn frat parties just to make off with their wealthy co-eds, (yes 'do you want to see my etchings,' -still works as a pickup line.)

Being broke meant that we couldn't afford proper anti-roach stuff, like sprays, powders, and roach motels.
(Keep in mind, this was the early eighties, and 'roach motels' were sort of new on the scene...)

But one day, having gotten birthday money or something, Bill and I chipped in and decided to eradicate our little apartment (hah!) of roaches once and for all.
(They were everywhere.)

-If I recall, it was about this time of year, the weather had turned cold, and we both had pulled evening duty working in security, and/or running the elevator in the dorms -yes, we had a hand-operated elevator,
-yes it was a big crank thing with a mesh grate and all,
-yes, one night in a fit of boredom I recreated the illustration of 'The Secret Policemans Other Ball,' (guy in a dress with a guitar,) on the inside of the shaft of the passenger elevator,
-No... I doubt it's still there...)
-No, I have no idea how many hours and miles I chalked up, going up and down, up and down...
-Yes, the elevator DID break loose and drop like, a whole bunch of stories one afternoon, and came crashing down with a fellow student operating it,
-but to be honest?
She was mean, (and besides, she didn't get hurt or anything,)
---but it looked pretty impressive sitting there, with the bottom post from the base of the building sticking up through the floor, the whole thing crunched like a box that had been sat on a by an elephant.

I was running 'that' elevator, (you know, before it crashed,) Bill was up working, and we both decided it was going to be a major masacree of all roaches at 13-C.

It was right out of Apocalypse Now.

Bill was in there with Black Flag playing, (or was it spraying?) or Both...
Our neighbors had 'the Chipmonks: 'Please Christmas Don't be Late - mixed with Bauhaus 'Bella Lugosi's Dead,' or something.)
We had pulled all the stuff out of the cupboards,
We had laid down acid powder.

-I am sure that in 'Roach ScoutCamp,' the counsellors still tell the camper roaches stories that grow more lurid and disturbing with each passing year of what happened that night.
All I can tell you is, all that you've heard is true.
(Except the part about Morgan Fairchild, that I made that up.)

I walked in and found dead bugs litterring the floor, they were headed out into the hall, taking last steps and gasps, and bill was standing there with a frying pan, a lit marlboro hanging from his lip, (perpetually,) muttering
' this is really cool, we got 'em barrelling out here sideways, freakin' A...' (he didn't say freakin...
I didn't say freakin'
---and I'm sure the roaches weren't either...)
So for over two hours the carnage ensued, (meantime, the rest of the dorm was busy getting their projects done for final crits an stuff...)

But it was clearly 'Bill and Eric 1 - Roaches 0.'

We cleaned up, I came off duty at Two in the morning, and the following morning, there were still one or two stragglers wandering out, uttering little roach epithets, and dying on our english muffins...
We didn't care, -we won.

It was near Christmas time, and we had just celebrated by putting an end to a lot of bugs.

Except one.

Now, you have to understand.

We were simple souls who were experiencing the big city for the first time. We had lived with roaches for months.
Even though we had a perpetual 'exterminator,' guy (who some said was part roach,) -who would come in and spray every few weeks, (and he sprayed everything, counters, baseboards, walls, bathrooms, -he'd spray near your sandwich you were making at lunch, -he'd sprayed some of the girls bras and stuff that were hanging up drying on the shower rack... (He even ate donuts while spraying the insecticide.'....naaaahhh, this stuff won't hurt ya, after all look at me...')
Despite this man's most guerilla-Nato-metaphysical efforts, -we still saw the bugs, and had grown quite accustomed to them.

Call it 'coping humor,' but,We even had a 'cockroach dance,' (Those who are wondering what that looks like...? -ever see the antler dance?
Very similar, only you put your arms out further from the front of your head, and wave them around like big antennas,
---very popular with the ladies might I add.)
-Okay, maybe not,
---but everybody understood what the cockroach dance was when they saw it, (---but the real chick magnet was that great walk-dance to to Madness 'One Step Beyond.' (Google it.)
-Well, that and the fact that it was done by seniors who had cars, jobs, real apartments and beer.

It wasn't that we hated roaches,
We just didn't want these things in our apartment anymore.

But one remained.

One night, we were just sitting there, doing something commenting on how great it was to have the only 'roach free apartment for sixteen blocks,' and then we looked over,
and there on the counter he was,
just standing there,
staring at us with far from holiday cheer on his mind,
(we could tell...)
...he was actually mouthing along to the Joe Jackson we had on the stereo...

We both flew to swat him, (or her, we never really got that close to discern, -despite both of us being figure painters, and both of us knowing (in some detail,) what makes a him or a her... (Figure painters, naked people, lotsa a drawing, -do the math...)

But this guy was quick.

It would come back, taunting us, showing up at the strangest of times.
He was like one lone little samauri-Clint Eastwood-Charles Bronson sort of roach... with really long legs.

'Ah screw it, it's Christmas time, might as well adopt him,' we told each other.. We decided to name him. 'Sweatsocks.' (because we figured, if he had legs that long, he probably was good at Basketball, too...)

Sweatsocks pretty much was a fixture in the ensuing weeks.
You'd never know when he'd show up, but you always knew it was him.

Off in the distance of the kitchen counter he could be seen,
standing against the glow of the bathroom light (neither Bill nor me liked the dark, especially, so we left the bathroom light on,
(just, you know, incase we needed to find it in the middle of the night,)
-and there he'd stand,
just looking out over what once was a happy roach-opolis,
--now the one sole, long legged survivor...
We didn't want to know what he was thinking, we were just glad that we were a lot bigger, -and had frying pans.

(Some of our neighbors would say that they could hear Sweatsocks howling in the moonlight, and were uncomfortable with how we disturbed the natural balance of things, (kind of like those creepy folks in the tavern during the open scenes of 'American Werewolf in London,')
-but some of our neighbors were really stoned a lot of the time too...
(this was art-school, after all...)

The holidays fast approached, and we prepared for a visit home.
The bunch of us gave little christmas things, attending a lot of (ahem,) office christmas parties,
-had our last christmas flings before returning home to our regularly scheduled girlfriends and boyfriends (or in some cases fiance's,)
---what happens in Philly, stays in Phillly, you unnastand?

And we left, one afternoon, ging off in Mom's car in the bitter cold.(having unplugged everything per the rules,) and took our winter break.

(Bill came home to my place.)
The holidays went by sort of in a blur.
First, because we were both so tired and overworked, we slept for many days. I also proceeded to come down with some sort of flu thing that had me in bed for like a week or so, with a fever in the hundreds.
Bill's chainsmoking did not go over well with my mom.
Bill's fondness for the 'F'word did not go over too well with my mom, either.
-Bills interest in my younger sister, (and, later on, discovered 'moves,' on her,) didn't go so well with mom, my sister, ---and totally not me...
(Bill and I would not do so hot as roomies in the spring semester as a result,
-but that was a later episode.)

All we knew was, the Spring Semester was to start,
-Winter Break was over, My mom was really glad to get us both out of there,
-we were anxious to return to our abnormal lives as art students,
---and our apartment and friends awaited us.

We were also wondering how Sweatsocks was holding up.

We came back, chisled our way through the snow and ice, reunited with our friends, told our lies about how great the home visit was, went out and bought some chow at the acme (I think I ate Rigatoni and Acme Sauce for two years straight.)
-But no Sweatsocks.

A week or two went by, there were a couple of new roaches wandring around here or there, (Bill eyed the cans of raid suspiciously
---'maybe we should use gasoline and matches next time?' he'd ask...)
But still, no Sweatsocks.

Weeks and weeks.
Our boy never showed.

Winter bore down like the cold hard rump of a Caterpillar tractor on the frozen tundra, (not unlike the frigid black and white tiles of our rarely ever cleaned bathroom floor...)
Newer 'stupid-sissy,' roaches, were beginning to become more commonplace.

We opted for these new things called 'Roach Motels.'
Now, For those of you not in the know?.
A roach motel is basically a small cardboard box that has a series of gluey bands on the inside, and in the center, lies some sort of bait or lure.
-What is the lure, you ask?
Well, one lure is for food,
the other is for sex.

Now, I'll let any without sin cast the first stone,
--but seriously,
It does stand to reason.
In fact, I think this method is so effective, that, if they decide to get rid of all of us Democrats around here all at once?
I'm suspecting this may be how they do the dreaded deed.
(If they ever put a large brown box out on East Sierra Madre that has White Castle Cheeseburgers and photos of Anne Margaret in the middle?
Pray for me, and tell my folks I love 'em,
-cause my plane probably ain't coming home from that mission.

Who among us, at one time of life of another, has NOT checked into a motel looking for room service and um, well, you know.

-all I'm saying is,
Roaches put their pants on three legs at a time like the rest of us...
And somebody did their homework,
-as these things work,
sometimes a little too well.

The snow was falling, The 'ghetto heat,' was blasting, the windows were open at least a quarter way,
and roach motels were decorating every corner and toe-kick of our studio flat.
Bill and I got busy with our work,
ate a lot of rigatoni,
-tried having real relationships with actual human girls, (moderate success,)
and single-handedly kept the Phillp-Morris compay in business, (I had switched from Djarums (which you can get a pretty strong buzz off of, by the way,) to NewPorts. (don't ask me why.)
hmmm, wait a minute, Newps are made by Lorillard... somebody get me better fact checker...

Then one night it happened.

'HEY Eric!...'
Bill yelled to me from the apartment door, to the elevator, (I was on duty again, bouncing a tennis ball around the inside of the elevator ala 'great escape: solitary confinement scene.')

'We FINALLY caught Sweatsocks!'


'Yep... guess this here little cardboard saloon with it's promise of wine women and song was too much for the little guy...'(Bill said it a different way, but the end results were the same.)

Peeking in confirmed his lurid glee, (Bill was making many cruel remarks, having had far less of a romantic life than our boy glued to the box was currently finding.)

I had great mixed emotions.

By now, Sweatsocks wasn't just some 'bug,'
He wasn't just a nuissance,
-He had character.
-He had fans.
-He was more than a pet
I, mean, sure, he was probably out to get us... but, I had left a christmas cookie out for him with his name made in icing...
-He was one of us, now...

But Sure enough,
as the snowplows were busy ripping one side or another off of sedans and looking to then offload the mounds of frigid white into the river?,
Sweatsocks indeed chose to foolishy follow his folly to such phantasmagoric ends of fortuitedness, ... (or something.)
-And he had managed,
on that cold cruel late January day
-to make it all the way in the box, clear to the 'lure,'
('which' lure?, we were not quite certain,
-but those little antenna were waving like crazy for the better part of a week...)

Sweatsocks the Yuletide Roach.
He was a mans man, er, roach.
And he went out, winter boots on, in style.

(And for those of you who think this is morbid?,
---hey, have you ever really considered what happened to Frosty the Snowman in those early animated depictions?
When the traffic cop hollered 'stop.'
Yeah, see...
-Don't get me started on Grimms tales either...)

Nope, this Holiday season, as some of us are faced with the bizarrities of winter where you could just as easily be swimming in weather this warm back home...

I personally believe,
Somewhere in Center City Philly,
there's a teeny-tiny choir of little brown voices,
antennas waving,
little scarves around their necks,
practicing 'Silent Night.'
(-Listen close, you can just barely hear them.)

I propose you take a moment, look around, enjoy those you're blessed with who genuninely love you for who you are, (weirdness and all,)
and lift a glass of Christmas EggNog,
not to Rudolph,
not to Frosty,
Not even to the Grinch...
-but to Sweatsocks, the Christmas Roach of 13c.

-and tell yourself,
whenever the need arises,
such as when you're wolfing down your hot oatmeal, headed off to class,
', dude, that was a raisin, -right?'
-cause, believe me, somehow, someway,

Sweatsocks will be there.

Merry Christmas,
Happy Chanukkah,
Blessed Kwanzaa,
and if you're an athiest?... well, have a nice day.

(Remind me to tell you about the Mummers sometime.)


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

for those of you with those automatic 'oh they wrote something new,' thingies..

sorry, just doing some housecleaning around here...

may just start writing after the first of the year, (currently too busy to do such, though lurking about for like, fifteen to twenty minutes was fun...)

here's lookin at ya.