Old Habits, New Movies

A column appears to be up:

I was surprised, then, and eventually horrified to find the mall filled with people, most of them appearing to be female, around 13 years old, none of them much more than 5 feet tall.

There were swarms of them, in groups of four or five, darting in and out, between our legs and around kiosks offering makeup tips.  It was like a scene from “The Lord of the Rings” in which all the Hobbits had been infested with a plague of lip gloss.


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12 Monkeys

On this day in 1988, I traveled in time for the better part of an afternoon.

I’m sort of time traveling now, actually.  Anybody can do it.  It helps if you’re older.

I was beginning the transition to working completely from home, handing over the afternoon management of the small company that employed me while I headed back to our new house and 3-year-old daughter.  By January I’d be here fulltime and never leave.  I was 30 years old and I could have planned this out a little better, I think now, but no paradoxes please.  I did it, I’ve always done it, it has been done.  I’m just reliving a little at the moment.

So I came home and turned on the TV.  One of the cable channels was doing a little time traveling too, maybe AMC.  At some point in the Dark Ages of November 22, 1963 at an NBC studio in New York, as the world was suddenly going crazy, it occurred to some staff member to turn on that new-fangled videotape machine.  So as Chet Huntley and company tried to make sense of what had just happened in Dallas to the President, reading wire copy, passing on rumors, and smoking like crazy, the country got to watch and, eventually, so did I.

I might have watched it originally, for all I know (or remember), which brings up an image now of the airport scene in “12 Monkeys,” the young Bruce Willis watching his future self.  I was also a halftime person those days, in morning kindergarten, so I got home from school just as the TV started to get hot.  I only remember a little.

But I turned on the old taped news, synchronized to align with the contemporary clock (i.e., it began at, say, 11:53 a.m. Pacific time, when the video recording began that day), and over the course of November 22, 1988, I left it on in the background as I did whatever it was I did.

I was used to the experience, having had CNN for a few years.  News didn’t just break anymore, it stuck around and replayed and got finessed in real time (“real time” would have been an odd expression in 1963), but back then it was brand new.  Back then news was polite, it waited for the late afternoon or the morning paper, most times.  People didn’t need to know everything, all the time; it could wait.

Not on that day, of course, and not with a new medium.  So they stayed on the air, these men with their radio skills and their shaky hands, and the tape machine whirred and captured and a quarter-century later I watched while I vacuumed, something.

It remains surreal.  As the hours went by, particularly the first, I turned into Billy Pilgrim, unstuck in time.  I began to hope for the best and fear the worst.  Maybe the President hadn’t been killed, just wounded.  It felt like a lucid dream; I was aware that I was reliving something from 25 years before, and still I attempted to manipulate history by hoping.

You could probably recreate this experience from your keyboard today.  Somewhere online surely exists the entire eight hours or so of videotaped chronology, as the news went from bad to worse.  Be warned; it might mess with you.

I think John Kennedy drove into a shooting gallery, a crossfire of professional shooters, hired by criminals who left clues pointing toward Cuba, inviting an orchestrated institutional rush to judgment to prevent World War III.  I think I think that.  I’ve changed my mind a few times, but Occam’s Razor plays a part here and the simplest explanation doesn’t involve a Marine who got lucky.  Of all the lone gunmen in our history, the Chapmans and the Hinkleys and the Squeakys and the rest, only Oswald changed history and didn’t want credit?  “I am a patsy,” echoes down 48 years, to me.

But I’m not all that interested.  It’s a historical mystery, mostly.  And mostly I’m just reminded today that I once spent an afternoon watching the news from 25 years in the past, and that has been nearly 25 years ago now.  I live in the same house.  I wait for news, still.


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This Tuesday In Ordination Time

For those of you following our story, which at times feels like a path, occasionally a maze, and sometimes very much like Alice, who had to get very, very small in order to continue going where she was going…

…we are back in a holding pattern as far as the ordination process.  Wait ‘til next year.

Next year actually being pretty close, though.  So January will mean something other than diets.

I could go on about the emotional toll in this house and many other houses that this has taken, and I could certainly talk a bit about frustration with people who refuse to see the world as I see it, but really?  It’s just a mix of policy and polity and some politics, tempered with a little kindness and worry and fear, all of it manageable.  If we haven’t learned to wait by our age, we’re not ready for the big leagues anyway.

So.  We’ll know more in January.  In the meantime, we had a relaxed weekend instead of a stressed one, and this is just an ordinary Tuesday instead of a tense one.  The new cancer drug Julie is on seems to have produced no side effects, John is happy playing SkyRim, we might have some snow toward the end of the week, and all shall be well because my wife says so, and I believe her.  And getting small is not such a bad thing, when you can see where you’re going.



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I vote, ergo sum

Washington State is now out of the liquor business.  By a pretty sizeable margin, the citizenry has spoken.  Give us our booze in convenient places.

I voted against this, but it was a curious vote.  First, I have no personal stake in this; I don’t drink, and my wife prefers a glass of wine or a bottle of beer occasionally, all of which are around the corner.  I’ve been in a state liquor store exactly once in the past five years, and that was to buy a bottle of champagne (which, being clueless, I was unaware is sold at grocery stores).  It was an interesting experience; the store had its own smell.

Secondly, if pressed I’d say that I approve of this, in general, the state getting out of the retail liquor business.  It struck me as odd 28 years ago when I moved here and it still does.

The reason I voted no was an uncomfortable feeling about the impact of corporate money, Costco in particular.  Which is also odd because I like Costco, and from everything I’ve read this seems to be an ideal corporation, with generally happy employees, a CEO who doesn’t make 5,000 times the salary of the average staff member, and big boxes of cereal.

It was sort of a protest vote, then, a personal vote, a way of saying that this is not a no-brainer, there are other sides, and totally meaningless, of course.  I was aware that this proposal was going to win, and given total vote-by-mail here in this state had probably already won.  Just a whim vote.

Which is also odd, because I’m a practical voter, not a philosophical one.  I believe in the concept of the wasted vote, although I have no passion there.  If you want to vote for Ron Paul, vote for Ron Paul, but maybe you could spare me the lengthy explanation about your glittering ethical stance, since I’m not interested.  Someone is going to be running the country or the county, and I can usually find a preference.  My peace of mind has nothing to do with voting.

I also have no use for the “I’m a registered independent” puffing up.  Fine, glad to hear it, but it’s also meaningless.  Since we know independents overwhelmingly vote for one party or the other, it’s just a slogan on a T-shirt.  And the arrogance (and ignorance) involved in the implicit assumption that someone registered with a party affiliation is somehow walking in lockstep with organized politics leaves me cold.

I voted for Barack Obama in 2008; I’ll surely vote for him again and hope passionately that he wins.  I was happy when he won last time, mostly because he wasn’t George W. Bush.  I was sort of thrilled at the historic nature of his victory, at the sight of a black man raising his hand and taking his oath in this country with an ugly past.

But I believe I saw him as he was, a corporate Democrat, an essentially conservative and cautious person who was comfortable with power brokers, with Wall Street, with finance.  I haven’t been particularly disappointed because he hasn’t particularly surprised me.  He’s obviously made mistakes; it’s not a job for sissies.  But in a practical sense, the choice between having Pres. Obama for these past three years versus Pres. McCain (or Pres. Palin) is an easy one.  Would do it again.  Will do it again.

My practical side, which rarely shows its face, is all over the voting thing.  So, as I say, it was an unusual vote yesterday (and it was yesterday; we all procrastinated, so I ran our ballots over to the Mukilteo Library at 7:30 last night.  I wasn’t the only one.  It was sort of fun), unusual for me and one I’m not likely to repeat.

What I will likely repeat is asking my wife how I should vote on stuff I don’t know much about.  This drives her ethically-supported soul crazy, I’m sure, but it’s also practical.  And hey: I’m the one who usually buys her beer, so it works out.


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Venn and Video

It was only last year that I truly discovered how complicated my relationships were.  You would think by now I’d understand this sort of complexity, but you obviously would be wrong.

I am hoist by my own petard here in a way, given how public my life has become.  I could use a Venn diagram to explain this, but I don’t want to.  Also I probably can’t.

But I can maybe explain, starting with the newspaper.

I have readers, of course, casual, random, and loyal.  Some of them, though, are old friends, mostly around my community, who use my column in a practical way to stay updated for whatever reason.

Then there are Twitter followers.  I rarely use Twitter and a lot of my followers are strangers or worse, but there are a few people who have decided to use that forum for most of their communication, as odd as that seems to me.

Facebook is what we know it is, a huge information clearinghouse that makes it easy.  Still, as total users head for a billion there are some who don’t do Facebook.

There are those, too, who are reachable by email but no other electronic means.

These all overlap, too, in different ways. Hence Venn.

Then there are Texans.

These are my wife’s Texans, that is (there are plenty of others).  And even though some of them use this new computer technology stuff, they’re not particularly jacked into my family.  Julie’s parents, as the most extreme example, do none of this.  They are phone call only.

I’m leaving out the oldest network, word of mouth, person to person.  There’s some of that, too.

So here we are, and also here we are: A Big Event is probably coming up, and once again my imaginary Venn diagram needs to be tweaked.

Next week my wife goes in front of a Presbytery meeting, called to an associate pastorship at the church she currently serves.  There are some oddities about this, procedural and polity things, and of course this is a particular denomination of the Protestant faith with their own oddities.  I won’t go into detail because I’m not sure I know enough, although I know plenty lately.

At any rate, assuming there are no obstacles at this meeting, five days later there will be a big ordination service, on Sunday, Nov. 20.  First Sunday in Advent.

(Those of you with little, no, or even hostile interest in this sort of thing: You just need to know this is a big moment for our family, including our church family.  Be nice.)

And now we have a problem to solve.  Julie’s parents are in their late 80s and not really comfortable traveling all the way out here, not to mention the up-in-the-air nature of this.  But it’s important to them, too, and wouldn’t it be nice if they could join us, somehow?

And they can.  We think.  We hope.  Might be some praying also.

You could, too.  Join, I mean.

Yesterday I did a dry run, streaming our Sunday service out on the internets, watched by a couple of interested observers who gave me feedback.  In the meantime, I ran around the church building, watching the feed on my iPhone and giving myself feedback.

The consensus was that it worked OK.  Sound was not great, and we’re never going to get broadcast quality, of course, but it worked.  There are some things to tweak, mostly camera position but also camera.

As I just found out that I can actually stream via my iPhone.  Why would I do this?  Because the iPhone has a superior camera, even though my webcam is pretty good.  How to mount the iPhone would be another thing, something to try next week, and it might be too much trouble, but I’ll give it a shot.

So there ya go.  There might be obstacles, there might be more delays, I’m not counting on anything, but I’m grateful for technology.  It seems old and new at the same time, ordained by the past and zooming into the future.  Look at us: We’re on TV.  Here’s hoping.


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Facial Hair and the Secret Lives of Fruit Flies

New column is online:

I’m no stranger to facial hair, although it’s been a few years since I’ve had a beard.  I mused about it aloud, just a whim, and got a surprising amount of enthusiasm, all of it from women I know.  Including my daughter, although she might just be writing a paper on me.  “You’ll look distinguished!” was the most common remark, which is an odd thing to say to me.  I don’t believe I’ve ever expressed a desire to appear distinguished.  Mostly I just want to look not sweaty.



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It’s Me, Chuck

Wednesday, November 2, 2011, 11:12am PDT.
Dear God:

I never ask for ANYTHING.

You know this.  Everybody who truly knows me KNOWS this.  I don’t believe in the giant vending machine in the sky.  I don’t believe in an intercessory deity who sticks his omnipotent hand into human trivia and fiddles.  I personally am sort of offended by this theology, actually.  You have better things to do than consider all those Lotto prayers and pleas for a good parking space.  The universe is big and the picture is bigger.  I’m completely on board with this.

And frankly, if there’s smiting to be done, smite me.  God knows (heh) I’ve been given blessings and thrown them away.  I deserve some cosmic whacking if such whacking is your idea of a good time (use your own judgment).

So I’m just saying.  It’s been quite a year, and yet none of us have made the slightest whimper about unfairness or abandonment.  We’re just not that into You, as far as the rescuer thing.  We’re more about being sustained.

And we’re OK with the playing favorites; completely your call.  If you like King David or Donald Trump, who are we to question this?  No complaints from here.

But I’m just asking for this day to be OK.  Just this once.  Then I’ll stop.


Your friend,


PS: Also, MLB could be year-round.  OK.  Shutting up now.


UPDATE: 12:03pm PDT. “Reply hazy, try again.”

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11 of 12

It’s 32 degrees, so I’m calling it.  Summer is gone.

I knew that, but there was something about this year that forced afterimages on everything and messed with my calendar.  And now we’re in November, which I could tell you stories about.  Stories of tremendous hardship and suffering, all of it happening inside my head.  November will make or break you if you’re new to the Northwest.  You either find life and beauty in varying shades of gray or you go back where you came from, tail between your legs.

Although it’s sunny here this morning, explaining the chill and sort of a Get Well Soon card for what’s coming.  Won’t make that much of a difference, but it’s the thought that counts.

November is when I should listen to my own advice.  Get up early; light is important when it’s measured in such small quantities.  Keep moving, eat light, say nice things to everyone, make jokes, drink lots of water.  I have a history of gaining weight in November, so maybe I’ll try the opposite this year, just to change things up.  Finish things, start things, keep things going…this is how I survive November, and with a little bit of grace this is how I will survive this one, too.


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