Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Becoming Fine in 2009, Part One

Thanks to our good friends at U.S. News & World Report and their "special year-end issue," I now have fodder for fueling my brand of curmudgeonastics as I look through the feature, "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009." I know, I know, I know that these folks have my best interests at heart and that they're only making friendly suggestions, but seriously...

1. Bike to work. All I need to do to let you know how -- ahem -- silly this Minnesota resident thinks this idea is, is to quote the first paragraph of the article: "On a freezing November morning in Chicago, Megan Mason puts on leggings, several polyester tops and a fleece, a windbreaker, four pairs of gloves, and silk sock liners. She ties a bandanna over her head, dons earmuffs, snaps on a helmet, safety-pins a scarf into a cocoon around her head, and gets on her bright green Schwinn for a 6-mile ride to work." What the article fails to mention is that Megan can no longer bend her legs, grasp anything with her hands, nor see anything that isn't directly in front of her.

2. Get a new toothbrush. I've got this one covered. The dentist gives me a new one at every 6-month checkup. I also get a miniature box of floss and a shiny sticker that says, "Look, ma, no cavities!"

3. Move to Vermont. Amy Golad wrote the two paragraphs containing this suggestion/order. I kind of wonder if she's a real estate agent in the Green Mountain State.

4. Use glass to store food. I'll admit that this is a much better suggestion than using food to store glass, which is what Bubba's Diner must have been trying. I still haven't received my settlement check from that piece of litigation.

5. Walk the craves away. The idea here is that physical exercise reduces the cravings that some people have for particular foods...in this case, chocolate. That's all fine and dandy, but what amuses me is the description of the scientific study that was conducted...probably using our tax dollars, but that's just a hunch on my part: "25 regular chocolate eaters [Does this refer to people who regularly eat chocolate, or people who eat regular chocolate? Or people who are regular? And does that mean that they are somewhat normal or that their bathroom habits are predictable?] abstained from the treat for three days before participating in the study, for which they walked on a treadmill for 15 minutes. After completion, they waited 10 minutes before engaging in two activities that generally stimulate chocolate cravings: a simulation of a stressful situation and the unwrapping of a chocolate bar." I know that I always crave chocolate after simulating a stressful situation...and who's the genius that figured out that unwrapping a chocolate bar is usually followed by eating chocolate?

6. Get paid for good health. The point here is that some companies -- PepsiCo is featured in the article -- provide financial benefits to their employees who participate in wellness programs. It's such a good deal, I'm thinking of taking up smoking so I can pocket the $600 I'd get for quitting...if I worked at PepsiCo...which I don't...so I won't. Besides, shouldn't this directive be directed to employers instead of employees? As in, "Pay Dewey for cutting down on carbs." That would certainly improve my life in 2009.

7. Have your eyes checked. I prefer my natural polka-dot coloring scheme, thank you very much.

8. Continue to compete. To quote: "Just because you're getting older doesn't mean you have to give up on the sports and fitness activities that you enjoy." This is good news, because I would hate to think that I could no longer participate in the middle-of-the-night dash to the bathroom, the hand-to-mouth popcorn toss, and my personal favorite, the full-house-search-for-something-I-had-just-a-minute-ago.

9. Take an afternoon nap. Finally, these guys are talking my language! Now let's talk to my boss about it.

10. Jump into freerunning. If you've seen the opening chase sequence of 2006's James Bond movie, Casino Royale, you've seen an excellent demonstration of freerunning: bounding over, around, and through obstacles and walls like a skateboarder doing tricks...only without a skateboard. I love watching this stuff, but I have a tiny issue with it that keeps me from joining in full-heartedly: In addition to the fact that its origins are in Fraaaance, there is also a problem with terminology. It's known as freerunning, but its real name is parkour. And to put the cherry on top of this language mishmash, those that participate are called traceurs.

And don't even get me started on how I would -- you know -- break my neck and all that.

Stay tuned...there's more to come!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Chi-Wow-Wow

He wasn't really a Christmas gift, but the timing makes it seem like that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008, Beloved and I became the recipients of a second miniature chihuahua to take up space, breath up air, eat up food, and pee up furniture in our house. His name was Karma, but (and don't tell the previous owners this) we think that's a dorkasaurus of a name for a dog, so we have renamed him Connor. (Yeah, I know, that's not a real doggy-sounding name either, but it starts with the same consonant sound...we're hoping to keep his burp-sized brain from imploding.)

I'm writing about Connor because he has already brought a seismic shift to my farm-boy-transplanted-to-the-suburbs sensibilities.

Here's the story: Connor was given to us by a family that realized they just weren't a good fit for the little feces factory. Their kids were too young to play with him like anything other than a ragdoll. He ended up being kept in the basement most of the time, partly out of protection for him, methinks. I also think that he was never taken outside to take care of the final steps of the digestive process.

So, when I physically carried him outside to show him where he should be relieving himself--instead of on every available piece of carpet, furniture, or family member in the house--he was a bit confused and took quite some time...enough time that his uninitiated, puny pink paws perhaps got the tiniest bit bit by frost.

Which leads to the aforementioned shift in sensibilities.

I, Dewey Roth, who grew up on a farm in Northeastern Indiana with fairly feral cats; played with dogs that were never allowed in the house and ate nothing but table scraps; who always thought that animals were capable of taking care of themselves......I am sitting Connor on my lap and swaddling his paws in cloth before every trip outside.

So help me, though, I refuse to lay him in a manger.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'Tis the Season

Being an official Old Fogey does not preclude me from also having a large measure of sentimentality when it comes to Things to Watch During the Christmas Season. Herewith is a short list of what I consider to be holiday essentials...

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol - I very rarely run into anyone who remembers this TV classic. Actually, I very rarely run into ANYone. I'm fairly careful about that. One can't say the same about the majorly-myopic Mister Magoo, voiced by Thurston Howell the Third himself, Jim Backus. I'm especially fond of the duet that Magoo's Scrooge sings with his younger self when visiting Christmas Past: "So many grains of sand in the world. Why such a lonely beeeeeach?" Other highlights: The singing foursome of those who filched Scrooge's things after he died ("We're just, yada-da-daaa-da, all bad!"); "Razzleberry dressing;" the cast clapping with the closing song but putting more energy into pulling their hands apart than slapping them together.

Irving Berlin's White Christmas - A rousing romp of a showbiz movie having very little to do with Christmas, but featuring the practically non-existent waist of Vera Ellen. Seriously...the woman is a living Barbie doll. And she's got the massive poodle skirt to prove it. I particularly like the scene between Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in their dressing room arguing over when Bing is going to stop pretending to look nonchalant about pulling his overly-long t-shirt down to cover his whitey-tighties. Other highlights: "Not so much as haaave an apple;" the disappearing pants legs in "Gee, I Wish I Were Back in the Army;" Bing Crosby actually cracking up at the end of their dressed-in-drag number, "Sisters."

Little House on the Prairie's Christmas Episode - We've got a VHS tape of the one where the Ingalls family is sitting in the little house remembering Christmases past. It is imperative that all of today's ankle-biters who can't imagine Christmas being worthwhile if they don't get the newest, hippest, shiniest, most Internet-compatible gizmo watch Half-Pint and siblings wet their bloomers when they get an orange. Match that with the youngest gal's look of utter joy when she stares at the star on their tree, and you've got yourself some Christmas magic.



A Charlie Brown Christmas - It had been several years since I watched this, so I tuned in the other night. I had never noticed before that there's a set of twins in the cast. You'll notice them dancing as mirrors of each other from across the stage when Charlie Brown is trying to get everyone to concentrate on the Christmas play. All almosting of truth aside, Linus' recitation of the Luke 2 Christmas account is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Rankin & Bass' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - The clunky stop-motion animation, the mysterious shifting of the Bumble's fur, an elf that looks like Dennis the Menace's dad...this show has it all! Best of all is Burl Ives' singing snowman that is somehow bothered by cold weather...hmmmm.





Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life - Scene after scene, this is one of the most quotable, iconic motion pictures of all time. When Donna Reed welcomes Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey to their wedding night in an architectural sieve, her glowing face makes me forget I'm married. Other highlights: "This is an interesting situation;" "He's making violent love to me, Mother;" "You're nothing more than a measly little spider...and that goes for YOU, too!" "I was savin' this for my divorce...if'n I ever got me a husband." And yes, I still tear up every time the war-hero brother calls George the richest man in town.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What a Wild, Wacky, Wonderful Weekend!

I've been around the track enough times to have heard it ad nauseum: "December is just too busy of a time to schedule anything." While I've heard it over and over, my actual experience has been the antithesis of it. It seems that people are so fearful of December being busy that nothing really happens. At least that's been my experience.

At least that's been my experience until this past weekend.

The perfect storm of December activities started Friday evening with our church's annual Ladies' Christmas Tea. A few weeks ago, The Lady In Charge contacted me and asked if I could pull together a few men to sing a couple songs for the ladies before the main attraction, which was a local high school's acapella group. As has been my downfall in the past, I couldn't think of a reasonable excuse not to do it, so I agreed to the task.

The ummmmm interesting challenge about it all was that the request was for the group to consist of guys that don't normally sing on a worship team...so that the ladies could fawn over some fresh faces. What made that a challenge was that these fellas not only didn't sing on a worship team (for the most part), they pretty much didn't sing any kind of harmony except by accident. Don't get me wrong, they were all great guys...marvelous, helpful attitudes...but we sang our songs in three different keys...at the same time.

The biggest hit of the evening was when we cleaned snow off car windshields.

Contribution number two to living up to the Christmas season busyness stereotype was Saturday's trip to Decorah, Iowa, for Christmas at Luther. It was a beautiful extravaganza with five choirs, four soloists, three instrumental groups, two handbell choirs, and a pipe organist in a pear tree. Driving two-and-a-half hours...each way...for an hour-and-a-half concert featuring carols that had all masculine pronouns surgically removed was a bit crazy, but our youngest, KayJay, was in one of the choirs. Whatcha gonna do, eh?

Sunday morning had its normal brand of hustle and bustle, but the cherry on the top of our Christmas-o-rama sundae was a 2 P.M. performance of Rosemount High School's production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It was done in the performing arts center in which Beloved and I have been supportive parents for the past 14 years...except that this was the first time we didn't have a child actually in the production we were watching. It was a great performance...but...well...strange.

In addition to the strangeness of being childless, the high schooler who played Pharoah (which is written to be an Elvis impersonation) would have been a better choice if the Pharoah's name was Elton John.

I'm just sayin'...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Things for Which I'm Thankful

  • It is not against the law to stay home the day after Thanksgiving and completely ignore the feeding frenzy known as Black Friday.
  • Three lovely and loving daughters; one witty and wonderful son
  • Skyline chili (http://www.skylinechili.com/)
  • Both my family and my in-laws live too far away for us to be able to (have to) drive to each of their houses for major holidays. (Okay...true truth: I kind of miss having a hundred and twelve people gathered around card tables for Thanksgiving.)
  • Classic 70's albums on CDs
  • Facebook
  • Squirrels playing in our back yard
  • Being able to watch squirrels playing in our back yard without having to actually be outside in the cold
  • It doesn't cost a penny to post a blog and thereby pretend that people give a hoot about what you're writing.
  • Looney Tunes
  • My Beloved
  • Digital cameras
  • Action fleece jackets
  • Free movies On Demand
  • Popcorn
  • Having started the tradition of buying a new Christmas tree ornament every year of our marriage...one that has something to say about the year. That has turned our tree into a memory aid.
  • I no longer work during the night and sleep during the day.
  • Silly Putty
  • Automatic dishwashers
  • I finally discovered that sweet potato casserole is actually a dessert.
  • Free podcasts of Full Circle, a radio show looking back at early Jesus Music like Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Love Song, Honeytree...(http://www.fullcirclejesusmusic.com/)
  • Toothpicks
  • DVD special features
  • Fried egg sandwiches
  • Giggles
  • It's a Wonderful Life, the movie
  • It's a wonderful life, the reality.

...not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Maybe it's just me...

I know I'm...ummmm...unique...but I'm wondering if anyone else thinks any of the following things I've noticed are odd, interesting, and/or funny:


The headline of an ad for AmbienCR: "Bring this FREE 7-Night Trial Offer certificate to your prescriber today." Prescriber? Is that what our highly-trained health professionals have been reduced to now? It's bad enough that the drug company ads have all been commanding us to talk to our doctors and ask if [insert drug brand name here] is right for us...like the doctors need our advice on how to treat our ailments. Now they aren't even recognized as physicians. They're just drug dispensers: prescribers of chemicals developed by corporations and shilled by Madison Avenue.

Recently, the traffic report on a local radio station...being listened to by thousands of people sitting in rush-hour traffic...was sponsored by Preparation H.

East coast urbanites, like the cartoon editor for New Yorker magazine, try to appear oh-so-sophisticated and superior, and yet pronounce the word humor like a 1930's gangster: yuma.

Speaking of enunciation...I've heard Chris Tomlin singing on the radio: "How gray izzar Gah."

Those signs in the rest rooms at McDonald's always give me pause: "Employees must wash hands." How long am I expected to wait for an employee to show up before it's okay to just go ahead and wash my own hands?

I checked the newspaper for a description of tonight's episode of Law & Order. It said, "A body is found in a park." Man...I think I've seen that one.


One of the most recent additions to the Strong National Museum of Play was The Stick. What's next? Adding Boiling Water to the Culinary Arts Hall of Fame?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Leading Worship, Vol. II

Besides proper song selection (see Vol. I), there are other obstacles to successfully leading worship:


Brick Wall, Thy Name Is Technology
Whether it's a PowerPoint presentation of the lyric, a wireless connection for the guitar, or something as simple as having all the right switches turned on, the dependency we have on technological wizardry in order to sing God's praise in our no less days than when we'd first begun has reached a staggering level. I'm sure that the harp-playing shepherd, David, is (rocking and) rolling in his grave as he sees us fret over monitor levels and proper equalization to avoid feedback.


Where, Oh Where, Has My Little Team Gone?
I mentioned before that I have a team of other singers and instrumentalists that work with me on an every-three-weeks basis to lead worship at my church of choice (www.valleycc.org), but what I didn't tell you is that the availability of those team members is not always...how shall I say it...rock solid. Not that I'm complaining! There's not a single person on the team who has ever missed a rehearsal or "performance" for anything other than a sterlingly-acceptable reason. I'm just saying that, human beings being human, there are very few times when everyone has been where they're supposed to be at the time they're supposed to be there. And that sometimes means needing to improvise...like the time I had to take the drummer's place by tapping my foot on a tambourine while singing, playing the guitar, and turning the sheet music for the pianist.

T Minus Three Minutes For Worship And Counting
Just as in comedy, in worship, timing is everything. I'm not talking, "that song needs to go faster," or whether a tune is in 3/4 or 6/8 time. I'm referring to the reality of modern worship services that lead people to say things like "Can we cut the third verse and chorus of the second song and drop the third song entirely? The early service went long." Never mind that the sermon was 27 minutes of introduction and 10 minutes of Bible teaching. Never mind that there were 12 minutes of announcements that were ignored by 97% of the congregation. Never mind that the suggested edits will only delete three minutes from a service that was 15 minutes too long. Do I sound bitter? I don't mean to. I apologize. Never mind.

But Seriously, Folks...
It is a privilege and a responsibility to use what little talent God has given in order to facilitate the worship of God by His people. My prayer is always that we can be saved from being a distraction from that. I know that that sentence isn't funny, but I felt like I needed to redeem this from being a total sarcasm-palooza. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled whine-fest.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Herding Cats (a.k.a., Leading Worship, Vol. I)

Every three weeks, I stand in front of a group of people and play my guitar just badly enough to make them want to sing loudly and drown it out. It's called leading worship, and I'm glad that I have a team of instrumentalists and singers with whom to share the blame for anything and everything that goes wrong. (Notice that I did not say if anything goes wrong.)

The first obstacle to overcome is choosing which songs to include in the worship service. Between centuries-old hymns, decades-old folk tunes, and what's-happenin'-now entertainment-as-praise pop songs, there's a huge number of choices...and you're bound to get it wrong.

Not wrong as in "that song didn't really fit the thematic thrust of the service," but wrong as in "that song was too <fill in the blank from the following list: boring, fast, slow, old, unfamiliar, loud, soft, charismatic, fundamentalist, new-age, Calvinist, Armenian, post-trib, pre-trib, amillenial, fattening>." You see, there are a lot of opinions out there in the pews, and as with any classic compromise, you will always have those who are dissatisfied. As a matter of fact, as compromise involves nobody getting exactly what they want, everybody will be miffed at something or other.

Ahhh...ministry for the Master...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Broadway Bound Disney

When Beloved and I saw the stage production of Lion King, we found it to be visually and aurally exciting. The theatrics and puppetry and singing and costuming were all overwhelmingly impressive. However, unlike in the animated feature the show's based on, there was no emotional attachment to any of the characters whatsoever.

With that insight in my back pocket, a friend of mine told me that she's planning to travel to NYC to see The Little Mermaid on stage. It was then that it struck me:

Is there any length to which The Disney Corporation will not go in its parasitic conquest of its own successes?

"Oooh...Beauty & the Beast was a big money-maker as a stage production. What else can we cannibalize for profit?" Lion King. Mary Poppins. Little Mermaid...

What's next? Old Yeller: The Musical!

"Gimme the gun, Ma, gimme the gun. Gotta shoot that dog, no matter what he done. He's growlin' at my brother! He's foamin' at the mouth! Gimme that gun, gotta send 'im down south!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Now cut that out!

I've had plenty of experience being the patient's patient husband: Quietly sitting beside the star attraction as she is repeatedly asked her name and birth date (to confirm the information on her wristband) and credit card info (to confirm that everybody's going to get paid).

Beloved has had --- ummmm --- several surgeries: three C-section deliveries (BuckEye, ActorBoy, and KayJay), a double mastectomy with subsequent breast reconstruction and clean-up, hernia repairs, and the absolute removal of all personal privacy issues. [I'm reminded of a hospital visit I made several years ago to the grandmother of a youth group member. She looked me in the eye and solemnly declared, "In 57 years of marriage, I never got undressed in front of my husband; but around here, people come in and take a look at anything they want to see."]

As I was saying, Beloved has had more than her share of surgeries and I've spent several hours of my life sitting nearby while she was being prepped for those surgeries. But even with all this experience under my belt, there are still new things to learn. For example, in conjunction with Beloved's knee surgery today, during the requisite 87 attempts to start an I.V., we were told that Beloved has "valvey veins." In fact, her veins are positively valvelicious in a valvtastic array of valvosity.

Immediately after the surgery, Dr. Golfpro took me into a broom closet to show me some pictures of the inside of Beloved's knee --- suitable for framing --- and explained what all he did. He jotted down the names of the unrecognizable shapes in the pictures, but I'll have to take them to a pharmacist for translation. I'm pretty sure he didn't work on Beloved's bimaternal armistice.

Here we see the arthroscopic picture of Beloved's autumnal manacle prior to scandalosis.

All in all, and in all true truth, being a patient's patient partner is a piece of pound cake compared to being the actual ---you know --- patient. So I will dutifully and gratefully and lovingly provide transportation, change bandages, cook dinner, and sign insurance forms while I pray that this is the last time we will need to have front-row seats at a valv-o-rama.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I ain't got time to feed

Saturday evening, I was the emcee at a silent auction and fundraising banquet for the benefit of Amnion Crisis Pregnancy Center. It's a great organization that focuses not on protesting abortion, but on providing help for the young men and women who find themselves in the unenviable situation of an unplanned pregnancy.

None of which is the point of this post.

What I am led to inform you about is the crackerjack staff at the Bloomington Sheraton banquet facility. There seems to have been a competition among the staff regarding who could be most influential in getting everybody home as soon as possible.

Let's begin with the Napkin Nazi. This blond-haired, blue-eyed wonder of efficiency waited all of 5.78 seconds after I sat down before taking the napkin that had been decoratively stuffed in my coffee cup and placing it in my lap. You heard me. Placing it. In. My lap.

Next was the Salad Dressing Drill Sargent. Forget that this was a banquet for a Christian organization that wanted to give a corporate prayer of thanks before eating. Forget that not everyone had been seated yet. As soon as my napkin had found its rightful lodging place, the SDDS decided I was the most pliable person of the ten folks populating my table and offered me the distinct privilege of being the first guest to use the salad dressing boat and then send it careening around our small circle of friends. This offer came in the form of said Drill Sargent grabbing the dressing boat and shoving it into my hands: "Here...use this!"

The Table-Clearing Track Star made several appearances throughout the meal, and made the phrase "Are you done with that?" second-in-popularity only to "Can you hear me now?" I made the mistake of dabbing my mouth with my napkin and could only whimper as I watched my half-eaten dinner roll speed away toward the kitchen.

I am still bruised from when my dessert was rammed into my mouth by a high-ranking officer of the Gitterdone Gestapo.

All in all, the fundraising efforts of the evening were fairly successful. As a bonus, I heard that a few people were even allowed to chew their food before swallowing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"I, ActorBoy, take thee, SWAWOSH..."

The recent nuptials of our son (ActorBoy) and She Who Absconded With Our Son’s Heart (SWAWOSH), were so beautiful and fun and cold (they were in Canada, eh?) that I’ve been finding it hard to come up with a comic slant with which to report on it all. (I’ve also been finding it hard to come up with any spare time in which to report on it all, but that’s a function of being immersed in the current Giant Step Theatre production from the moment we arrived back in the U. S. of A.)

The funniest part of the whole soiree doesn’t have to be augmented by my almosting of the truth. It was laugh-inducing all on its own:

Knowing that both members of the newly-married couple are actors by trade and clowns by genetics, we shouldn’t have been surprised when the traditional clinking-of-the-glasses-to-induce-the-touching-of-lips-as-an-expression-of-affection-greeting-or-amorousness led to increasingly interesting displays of creativity:
1. A run-of-the-mill kiss.
2. A longer-than-normal kiss.
3. The bride and groom kissed the best man and maid of honor.
4. The entire bridal party kissed each other.
5. The bride and groom started kissing with sincerity and gradually sank to the floor behind the head table. When they came up for air, they were both fixing their hair and adjusting clothing.
6. ActorBoy took a sip of water and kissed SWAWOSH, who promptly spit a mouthful of water into her glass.

I’ve never been more proud.



Sunday, October 5, 2008

Geronimo!

To celebrate Beloved's 50th birthday in September and 10th anniversary of giving breast cancer a smack-down in December, several friends and I got together and gave her a gift certificate for a tandem skydive. So there's no misunderstanding, let me explain that a tandem skydive does not...and I repeat...does NOT involve a bicycle-built-for-two.

What it does involve is a second mortgage on your house and the signing away of all rights and privileges in case of accidental death or dismemberment. This total lack of legal recourse in the event of a disaster was explained to us in a video by the owner of the skydiving establishment, Chutes and Bladders: Fill One or Empty the Other, who looks like he has either been locked in someone's attic for 30 years, or has been playing bass with ZZ Top for that long. Seriously, the man wouldn't need a parachute...he could just hold his beard over his head and float gently to the ground.

After taking care of the legalities, Beloved was shoe-horned into a nylon jumpsuit formerly worn by a resident of the county jail and given a full five minutes of thorough training before she was whisked away to The Spirit of St. Louis. Okay...the plane wasn't quite that old, but let's just say that as I sat in the co-pilot's seat, looking at the grass landing strip through the hole in the floor and getting dizzy from inhaling fumes, I wasn't exactly overflowing with confidence. It also didn't help that there was a piece of duct tape holding the instrument panel in place and displaying the hand-written message, "THIS END UP."

Once airborne, Beloved sat in the lap of her jump master/partner, Byron, as he engaged the series of buckles, straps, snaps, and voodoo enchantments that would hold the two of them together as they plummeted toward Earth from 8,000 feet up. The next thing I knew, it was the pilot yelling, "Go! Go! Go!" and Beloved and Byron doing a strange ritualistic penguin waddle to the open side hatch of The Flying Deathtrap, and ... she was gone.
At exactly that moment, the pilot must have thought that holding the broken latch of my door closed was getting boring for me, because he put the plane into a dive that would make Greg Louganus die of jealousy. I, on the other hand, almost died of asphyxiation as my lower intestine suddenly blocked my air passage. We actually beat Beloved to the ground; sliding into our spot at the end of the landing strip like Pete Rose diving into home plate.

I crawled out of the plane, changed my pants, and walked back to the landing spot, being grateful that Beloved had lived through the jump and now could go back to behaving like a 50-year-old woman. Ha-ha, silly boy...the first words out of her mouth after catching her breath were, "Now I know what my kids felt like when they said, 'Again, Mommy! Again!'"

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Holy #$@%! Bible

Two weeks ago, I began a Bible-reading schedule that will take me through the Old Testament history books and every word of the New Testament in a year. (Feel free to join me. Check it out at http://www.usefulbreath.com/.) Now, I'm no stranger to reading the Bible, but I'm finding it very...um...interesting...to revisit the stories in Genesis about Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Abbot & Costello...

Don't get me wrong, I sincerely believe every word of the Bible is true...but why God chose to make permanent the stories of some of these guys is beyond me.

Take Lot.

Please.

Lot was Abraham's nephew. They wandered around Palestine together until their families, flocks, and fortunes got too big for one area of land to support them. So, Abraham, being the kind, generous, naive guy he was, gave Lot first dibs on where he wanted to live: Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left. (Genesis 13:9)

And what does Lot do? He looks around, sees that the plain of Jordan is green and healthy, and says, "Yeah...I'll be takin' me some o' DAT!"

That's character flaw number one.

Number two: Lot is living in Sodom and is visited by two men--who are really angels--and who Lot apparently recognizes as being more than normal men. When he welcomes them into his house all the men of the city surround the house and say...you're never going to believe this, and you'll think I'm being needlessly crude, so let me just quote: Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them. (Genesis 19:5)

To Lot's credit, he refuses to honor the request for the gang rape of his visitors, but guess what he suggests to the mob instead? Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like to them. (Genesis 19:8) Meanwhile, Lottina and Lotette are standing behind the door thinking, "Thanks a lot, Dad! Why not tie raw meat to our faces and throw us to a pack of wolves while you're at it?"

Even though Lot's great plan didn't pan out, damage seems to have been done anyway. Sometime later, after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed and the whole thing about the establishment of Mrs. Lot's Supernatural Salt Emporium (Genesis 19:26), Lot and his daughters were living by themselves in a cave. The daughters gave up on the idea of ever finding men to marry them and take them away from their cozy little cavern, so they decided to get their father drunk and have sex with him so they could raise families of their own. The plan worked, and the sons born as a result started two nations that were thorns in Israel's side for hundreds of years.

You couldn't make this stuff up. You also couldn't make a movie about it without it being R-rated. Which is not the biggest reason I think it's true, but it points in that direction.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The hills are alive...

Since May, 2008, when I first wrote about the phenomenon of earworms...those wicked, heartless, snippets of music that go swimming through your brain univited...I've been keeping track of what song with which my brain is occupied upon a morning's return to consciousness. Translation: I've kept a list of the earworms I've woken up to over the last four months. If you can make any sense out of it, you're a better man than I am, Jim Lange.

5/16 - Father & Son (Cat Stevens)
5/19 - Driving Along (Nilsson)
5/20 - Up in the Morning (Lost Dogs)
5/21 - Candida (Tony Orlando & Dawn)
5/23 - We've Only Just Begun (Carpenters)
5/27 - Mandy (Barry Manilow)
5/30 - We're All in This Together (Disney's High School Musical)
6/2 - Never My Love (specifically, the 5th Dimension version, not the original, and highly superior, Association recording)
6/3 - You Can Have Anything (Giant Step Theatre's Aladdin's Lamp)
6/6 - Stiff and Bitter Wind (Eric Peltoniemi)
6/8 - Fill My Cup Lord (worship song)
6/10 - John Brown's Body Lies A-moulderin' in the Grave
6/11 - Up On the Roof (James Taylor's rendition)
6/13 - Fool's Wisdom (Malcolm & Alwyn)
6/14 - Anything Goes
6/15 - Since I Opened Up the Door (Love Song, one of the 1st "Jesus music" bands of the early 70's)
6/18 - I Feel Pretty (West Side Story)
6/19 - Na-Na-Na-Na, Hey-Hey, Goodbye
6/24 - A Whole New World (Disney's Aladdin)
6/26 - Oh Very Young (Cat Stevens)
7/24 - Fool's Wisdom (Malcolm & Alwyn)
7/27 - Get Me to the Church on Time (My Fair Lady)
8/1 - I Can Feel Your Presence (Casting Crowns...or Mercy Me...can anyone tell them apart?)
8/4 - Savior, He Can Move a Mountain (worship song)
8/5 - I Can't Tell You Why (Eagles)
8/8 - New Kid in Town (Eagles)
8/10 - Shiloh (Neil Diamond)
8/11 -
Savior, He Can Move a Mountain (worship song...Two Mondays in a row...hmmmm)
8/12 - God Bless the Broken Road
8/15 - Gotta Get a Message to You (Bee Gees)
8/21 - He is Lord (worship song)
8/26 - Prairie Sun (Sons of the Pioneers)
9/3 - The Beauty of the Lord (worship song)
9/5 - Wonderful, Merciful Savior (worship song)
9/12 - How Can I Keep from Singing? (Chris Tomlin)
9/16 - Come, Thou Fount (worship song)
9/17 - Your Name (worship song)
9/19 - Fly Me to the Moon (Frank Sinatra)
9/20 - I Just Wanna Stop (Gino Vanelli)

The hills are alive...and it's quite annoying...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Broadband Services

The headline from The Wall Street Journal reads: FOR U.S. CONSUMERS, BROADBAND SERVICE IS SLOW AND EXPENSIVE

Apparently, there are certain churches out there in the vast crazy-quilt we like to call Today's Progressive American Religious Scene that are using all-girl music groups to lead their worship services. Some traditional congregations are still doing the whole "organ" thing. Others have gone to a piano. Still others utilize a kind of rock-pop combo of drums, bass, guitar -- maybe a keyboard or a saxophone, with someone on the side playing harmonica or flute or cowbell.

Well, now the big thing, it seems … the novelty attraction … is to have your worship services led by bands whose members are all female. It's called a broad-band service. You know, the Catholic Church used to have what they called a folk mass, or a youth homily? Well this is called a Broad-band Service.


I've got no problem with this, but it seems that some of the church-going public has been complaining. According to this Wall Street Journal piece, these girl-led services aren't very energetic. In fact, they lean a bit toward the lethargic end of the scale. They just aren't peppy enough for a lot of folks' tastes. Here, read it again: FOR U.S. CONSUMERS, BROADBAND SERVICE IS SLOW AND EXPENSIVE.

Slow -- and expensive. Apparently, they expect you to put more in the offering at these things, too. Or maybe there's now a cover charge for attending the female-led celebrations, I don't know. That seems a bit over-the-top, if you ask me.

You want a broad band to lead your worship? You want only females up front during your song service? Fine. Fine-fine-fine. But pay for it through the regular offerings! Church services have become too much of a spectator sport the way it is. Don't start charging admission! It's not a concert; it's a congregation, for cryin' out loud!

Monday, September 8, 2008

I confess...

I just exited the porcelain throne room. Not that the room is porcelain, but the throne in it is. It's an ideal place for reading and reflection. Reading, because the lighting is fairly decent. Reflection, because there's a big mirror in there.

My current reading material while resting in the room of that name is the September issue of Reader's Digest. This in itself is a notable event: I am reading a magazine in the same month of its release! (I'll wait while you catch your breath.)

"Dum-dee-dum-dee-dah..."

Okay, now that your heart rate is back in a safe range, let me tell you what jumped off the page at me, grabbed me by the ear, shook me around, and threw me onto this soapbox. While being interviewed by Reader's Digest, Barack Obama made the following statement: "I passed a bill last year that sets up a searchable website where you can find every dollar of federal spending."

Question: Did the Democratic nominee for the Presidency of these United States of America (long may they wave) just confess to being a counterfeiter?

That must be it. That must be what he meant by using the phrase "I passed a bill." Either that, or he had inadvertently swallowed a duck's mouth and subsequently deposited it in the namesake of the porcelain throne room. It had to be one of those things, because as an individual Senator, Mr. O could no more pass a piece of legislation to the extent of saying "I passed a bill," than I could say "I cooked dinner last night" because I stopped at McDonald's on the way home.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Snakes (and more) on planes...

Did you see the report in the Wall Street Journal about the problems airlines are having with varmints?

It's a piece written by Daniel Michaels with this headline: "The Cute, the Hairy and the Scaly: Pests that Ground 747s."

Apparently, in spite of all the combined efforts of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, the ACLU, UAW, AFL-CIO, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Sacco, and Vanzetti…despite ALL their efforts, there is a squadron of mice, rats, spiders, snakes, gerbils, and ferrets that is effectively bringing modern air travel to a screeching halt.

Paul Hayes, director of flight safety at a British aviation consulting firm, says, "If rats gnaw on a cable, who knows what they're going to do?" You see…that's the concern. You've got this 100-ton, $200 million aircraft, and if a mouse gets loose in there, most-assuredly havoc will be wreaked. "In July 2002, a pit bull terrier escaped from its cage in the cargo hold of an American Airlines flight from San Diego to New York, chewed up parts of the plane and gnawed on electrical cables as thick as a garden hose. The Boeing 757 was out of service for NINE DAYS of repairs." (Of course the really sad news there is that the dog apparently didn't make it THROUGH the electric cable he was chewing on. THAT would have brought a stop to his rampage, right there. ZZZZzzzzttt!)

"On February 22nd, a spider fell from an overhead luggage bin as passengers exited an Air France flight to Manchester, England, delaying the Airbus' return to Paris by five hours. [And here's my favorite line] The spider wasn't found, but witnesses said it was big and hairy."

The first option, whenever a varmint gets loose in a plane, is to try to trap the critter. But if all attempts at a live capture fail, then they bring out the big guns and go for…suffocation. Airbus publishes an 8-page document on how to do this. First, it takes three hours to plug all the vents. There are diagrams on how to build covers for an air valve and a sliding cockpit window. Then, they take tanks of liquid carbon dioxide, vaporize it, and pump it into the plane…and we're talking more than 2 tons of the gas. It takes over 5 hours to get enough CO2 in the joint to kill anything. It costs up to $11,500 for the whole procedure, and then, AND THEN, if they can't FIND the CARCASS, it stinks up the whole plane as it slowly rots away, maybe causing localized corrosion, not to mention the attraction of flies and the resulting maggots. (Have you had dinner yet?)

You don't believe me, do you? You think I'm making this stuff up. Here, let me quote the article: "Every year, planes around the globe are held up by mice, rats, snakes, spiders and other unwanted stowaways." Wait a minute…what did that say? "Every year, planes around the globe are HELD UP by mice, rats, snakes, spiders and other unwanted stowaways." Held up? Now, this story has just taken a turn toward the sinister. Up till now, I thought we were talking about normal, understandable animal behavior. You know, the happy-go-lucky, merry mix-ups that occur when humans and animals share the same space. But this…this holding up of planes? This is something entirely different.

Somewhere, somehow, these supposedly LOWER life-forms are getting organized. Organized as in "organized crime" organized! Planes around the globe are being held up by mice and rats and whatnot.

[Squeaky voice:] "Alright, all you passengers. Listen to me. Do what I say, and nobody gets hurt. I've got razor-sharp teeth here and disease-infested claws, and I know how to use them! Now very slowly, and very carefully—no fast moves now—I want everybody to give me their cheese. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon…this isn't up for discussion. Don't make me angry; you wouldn't like me when I'm angry. I want the cheese and I want it now! Just put it in the bag here."

Oh, friends, run for the hills. We are outnumbered, and the critters are on the offensive. Life as we know it on Planet Earth will never be the same again! Planet of the Apes, here we come!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Death of a Word

How long has it been since you read the 10th commandment? Put simply, it's YOU SHALL NOT COVET. In the traditional King James Version: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

This gets me to thinking...how sad is it that a guy can't use the word ass in a sermon anymore?

Here in the year Twenty-Oh-Eight, that word is used 99-and-44-100ths percent of the time in reference to a particular part of the human anatomy...the part split vertically in the middle...and would be considered far too vulgar for use within the walls of a church building.

50 or 60 years ago, and certainly in 1611 when King James was having the Bible translated, it was the proper word to use when designating a particular animal which was stereotypically characterized as being stubborn and/or stupid. (See donkey.) And it was also quite proper to refer to a stupid and/or stubborn person as an ass or a jackass.

Pop culture references to prove my point:

1) In Disney's 1940 cartoon feature, Pinnochio, Jimminy Cricket warns the puppet-boy to not make a jackass of himself (which he promptly--and literally--does).




2) In the musical play, Peter Pan, Peter quotes Tinkerbell as saying, "You silly ass."


As far as I know, these uses of the word stirred no controversy, even though they were within the confines of entertainment particularly aimed at children. Try doing that today! (On second thought, don't try doing that...you just might succeed, and that would be a crying shame in itself.)


How did the usage--and thereby, the meaning--of ass change from animal husbandry to the anatomy of your husband--or any other convenient human being? (Though still mostly used as an insult.) When did the name of a pack animal become the name of a person's patootie? How did that happen?

Hmmm...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Well I wonder, wonder, who-ba-doooo-who...

What determines whether we think something stinks? I mean, do we scrunch our noses at dog poop because of the way it smells, or because of what it is?

Why put fertilizer on our lawns and then complain about having to mow it?

Am I the only one who thinks that all baseball announcers sound the same?

Who decides that Jennifer Aniston deserves 27 million dollars for being in a movie and Reese Witherspoon is only worth 25 million? And what makes the 2 million dollar difference?

And speaking of Jennifer Aniston, does anybody else find it strange that she's got endorsement deals for both Heineken and Smartwater?

Are those special Vietnam Vet license plates an honor to the veteran or a warning to nearby motorists? "Don't mess with me, man! I'm on the edge! If you cut me off, I'm breakin' out my napalm!"

Did anyone else see the following Pearls Before Swine comic and immediately think of people who write blogs?


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pope Less Visible

(reprinted from the 2006 edition of the MySpace version of "Almost the Truth")

Did you hear about what's happening with the Pope? You know...the Pope. Pope Benedict the 16th?

I--uh--I don't know what to make of this. On one hand, I'm intrigued, but on the other...well, frankly, I'm disgusted. Here, let me tell you what I'm talking about.

The big headline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press said "Benedict surprises in first year." Okay...great...fine. During his first year as pope, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger did some things that were unexpected. That's wonderful. Kind of a break-out-of-the-mold kind of thing. Glad to hear it.

But listen to what those surprises were. The sub-title of the article, "Benedict surprises in first year," says this: "New pope less visible, more hands-on."

I read that and I thought, "Whoa--the new pope is less visible? Less visible? How does that work? Is he slowly fading away, like Marty McFly in Back to the Future? Is he gradually becoming transparent? How freaky is that?"

Or is it that he just every once in a while disappears? He's sitting there blessing people or making pronouncements or getting his hat polished--you know, going about his normal pope-stuff--and then suddenly, poof, he's not there anymore? Or rather, he's there, but you can't see him. He's not visible.

And apparently, this is happening more and more, because the paper says, "New pope less visible." (Sounds like a commercial: Friends, are you tired of the old pope? Same old face. Same funny hat. Everywhere you turn, there he is! Well, have we got something for you! It's a brand new pope! But wait, there's more! Yes, he's a new pope, BUT--he's less visible. More carbs. Less trans fat. New pope. Less visible. Get yours today.)

Now, you see, by itself, this whole invisibility thing would be pretty impressive. I mean, if he weren't already pope, that would be reason enough to vote him in right there! It's not everybody that has that claim to fame: "Hi there! Wanna see me disappear? Now you see me, now you don't!"

But the problem is...what he's using this special ability for. Look, it says it right in the headline: "New pope less visible, more hands-on." Great! He's got this special ability to be invisible, and what does he do? Puts his hands on people. For cryin' out loud, hasn't the Catholic church been scourged enough for this kind of thing? You'd think the pope would have learned something from all those scandals, but NOOoooo...the minute he can do it without getting caught, (because you can't see him) he gets, quote/unquote, hands on. That's disgusting.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Long Arm of the Law

"Minnesota's new laws take effect August 1"
By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger rstassen-berger@pioneerpress.com
Commentary by Dewey Roth dewey@almostthetruth.com

If you send or read text messages or e-mails while you are driving, stop! Such multi-tasking will now be a petty misdemeanor. This is in addition to the general assault upon the English language that is constituted by most texting. "Your" does NOT equal "you're," and don't even get me started on whatever "ur" is. Also, please note: the words are "there," "their," and "they're." It doesn't take a college degree! (Not that a college degree guarantees anything...)

If you are a teen with a new driver's license, for the first six months of driving you can have only one passenger — unless a parent or guardian is along. You can't drive between midnight and 5 a.m. unless you have a licensed passenger age 25 or older or are driving to or from a school event or work. You can't have more than three passengers younger than 20 unless you have a parent or guardian along. In months with an "R" in it, you are allowed to drink non-carbonated energy drinks while driving, unless you happen to be wearing any synthetic fabrics, in which case you must have a person with no body piercings, including earlobes, sign a form stating that cotton causes you to hallucinate a purple polar bear on roller skates with a mango.

You now can pay your landlord's delinquent utility bill in order to make sure your service isn't disconnected. Wow...what a privilege! I think we should pass a law that says the utility company can buy me dinner at the dining establishment of my choice, followed by a movie and maybe a quick kiss at the door.

If you own a single-family home, you must have a carbon monoxide detector within 10 feet of every bedroom. This makes me wonder about double-family homes and triple-family homes. Apparently, Big Brother doesn't care if LOTS of families die in their sleep, only families that have the place all to themselves.

If you go to a concert, the band must include at least one member of the original group or someone who has the rights to use its name. That means if you bought a ticket to see Sha Na Na, whose singer Bowzer lobbied for the music law, you actually will see someone who was in the original Sha Na Na or is allowed to use the name Sha Na Na. And aren't you glad that our state legislators turned aside from balancing the budget in order to take care of this plague upon society? W00t! W00t!

If you buy a concert ticket, a computer can't butt ahead of you in line. Using software to buy up tickets will be illegal. This, of course, only applies until someone devises a computer program that can do it without being detected as being a computer program. This will happen in approximately...oops, too late.

If you smoke in a hotel room designated nonsmoking, be prepared to pay big. Newly increased fines could include the cost of restoring the room to its smoke-free status, plus $600 if you don't pay within 30 days. Not to mention your hospital bills from when I personally beat you to a bloody pulp.

If you are in a car accident, doctors or other health professionals can't contact you to solicit your business unless they know you already, work in an emergency room, or operate an ambulance. Which would be the only people trying to solicit your business at such a time anyway, right?

If you call police or fire emergency lines and you know there's no emergency, you are guilty of a misdemeanor. You're also ugly, and your momma dresses you funny.

If you attend a dogfight, cockfight or animal fight of any kind, you can be charged with a gross misdemeanor. But if you get injured while watching, feel free to sue the host of the fight to within an inch of his life.

If your dog has repeatedly hurt or bitten people without provocation, it may be sterilized or killed. Or, it just may be depressed; in which case, the PETA folks can recommend a fine pet psychologist.

If you are in the military, your employer can't punish you, your spouse or your children for taking time off to attend military deployment and reintegration events. They CAN, however, call your parents names and shave your cat.

If you run for state office, you must make your radio and TV ads accessible to the hard-of-hearing. Augh! Abuse of the handicapped! What have the hard-of-hearing ever done to deserve this kind of foul treatment?

Ahhh...Minnesota...the Land Where 10,000 Things Are Not Allowed

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

1,700 Teens and Me

I recently had the honor of accompanying 30 high school students on a week-long conference at a college campus in Southern Illinois. Translation: the church needed another Relatively Adult Type Person (RAT-P) to ride a rented school bus 27 hours in the hottest part of summer so the kids in the youth group could join seventeen hundred other hormone-infested creatures in a 5-night slumber party with cafeteria food.

I know that sounds horrible, but there's a reason why -- it WAS horrible.

No...I'm kidding.

Having 87 years experience in Professional Youth Ministry, I knew exactly what to expect while serving as RAT-P:
  • Feeling like Forrest Gump when trying to find a place to sit on the bus. ("This seat's taken.")
  • Feeling like a marionette with broken strings when trying to stand up and get off the bus.
  • Becoming increasingly sleep-deprived throughout the week as the Darling Youth under my charge grew more interested in late-night fellowship than in restorative rest.
  • Going slightly deaf after five straight evenings of double-digit decibel, rock-n-roll worship.
  • Experiencing record levels of constipation from the new routine of high-starch dining.
  • Loving every single minute of it, because there is no where else on the planet where teenagers become so totally focused on their relationship with God and where they can hear more clearly, if they listen, His call on their lives. That's why it was truly an honor to participate, and that's a factual fact.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Not-So-Great White Way

As part of our recent invasion of NYC, KayJay and I were able to see The Smash Broadway Hit Musical, Wicked. And when I say "were able," I mean that we were part of the Fortunate Few allowed a spot in the pew at the Church of Stagecraft and Vocal Excellence.

Two-and-a-half hours before the show, our entourage of five was part of a crowd of well over 100 people waiting in a relatively ruly manner outside the theatre. We were waiting for the thrill of putting our names on index cards (notice...NOT flimsy pieces of scrap paper, but honest-to-goodness index cards!) and entering a lottery. The 13 winners of said lottery were to be given the honor of purchasing two of the worst seats in the house for only $26.25 each. Two hours before the show, cards were drawn and SWAWOSH's name was called, so I shoved cash into her hands as she rushed to the box office to buy two tickets on the front row.

For the uninitiated, let me explain why the front row is not the ideal place to view the best of Broadway: One, your knees are compressed against the orchestra pit wall. Two, when the special effects gurus use fake smoke to create That Special Atmosphere so desired for dream sequences, it spills off the stage and into your lungs. Three, some of those actors can really spit. (I felt like I was in the blue seats of a Shamu performance at Sea World.)

To be mostly honest, it was pretty interesting being close enough to see the microphones that were taped to the foreheads and off to one side enough to see the stagehand pick up a book that had been tossed into the wings and positioned just right so that when the mutant monkey-like beings made a surprise entrance through the stage floor Right In Front Of My Nose I think I peed a little.

But the whole experience taught me that there isn't really anything "magic" about Broadway (other than the way it can make money disappear from your bank account). Those people up on the stage had to work at memorizing their lines and learning their dance steps and keeping from injuring themselves when walking in those tight body suits. Each person on that stage had at one time been standing in line, hoping to be noticed...wanting to be given a chance to impress...just like ActorBoy and SWAWOSH are doing now.

There is hope. Keep trying. Never give up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NYC in the rearview mirror

When last we met, I was blathering on about a recent trip to NYC and I promised that the story would continue. Herewith then, are a few recollections:

Christine, hereafter referred to as She Who Absconded With Our Son's Heart (SWAWOSH, center, in red blouse) is a vibrant, cute-as-all-get-out singer with a voice that could power Newark. While ActorBoy was working, she served as our shepherd on our trek into The City Itself. She attended the same theatre school as ActorBoy (that's where they met and Fell In Love) and has an intimate and greatly-appreciated knowledge of every public rest room on the island.

We took a subway train from Queens to the heart of Manhattan. To start things off with the right amount of confusion, we had to go UPstairs to get on the subway. In Astoria-Queens, the subway isn't a subway at all, but an elevated train weaving through the buildings at the 2.5 floor level. I expected King Kong to appear and start playing with us at any moment. As you can see by the photo, ActorBoy and KayJay were overjoyed to be seeing each other for the first time in 13 months. This picture is also documentation of the cleanest and loneliest train we saw during the whole adventure.

When we met up with ActorBoy at his Russian Tea House doorman job, we were treated to a private excursion into the by-appointment-only second floor dining hall. Beautiful doesn't begin to describe it. Gawdy...yeah, I think gawdy might be a good start. What you are seeing to the left is a heeyooj glass bear juggling large golden balls. The flashes of orange in its midsection are fish. That's right, folks, this thing is an aquarium of the strangest order.


Our walk into Central Park brought my heart into my throat. We visited Bethesda Fountain, where parts of the movie version of Godspell were filmed. We walked on the same steps where the cast first sang "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord." We stood under the outstretched wings of the statue where John the Baptist called them all to repentance. And this is all special to me, of course, because being part of a stage production of that show, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is how Beloved and I met. None of this, however, is why my heart was in my throat. That happened when a rather large man with a rather large knife asked to see my wallet and all of its contents became his private property, according to nine-tenths of the law.

Yes, we did see some sights and behave like tourists: >We saw the Empire State Building from the sidewalk. (Do you know how much they want to charge for an elevator ride?!!?) >The Museum of Natural History's "suggested donation" for 5 of us to enter was over $70. (I suggested they be happy with 1/3 of that.) >Having won the nightly lottery, KayJay and I were allowed the privilege of spending $26.25 each for seats on the front row for Wicked, helping the orchestra turn the pages of their scores. >Perhaps the most unexpected guilty pleasure was Urban S'mores at Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man. I can understand chocolate by the pound or chocolate by the barrel, even...but "by the bald man?" What's that about?

With all of the walking that a vacation in NYC entails, we also needed to spend some time resting. Sometimes that was sitting by a fountain across from the Plaza Hotel (see picture), but we also spent most of Saturday just hanging out at the apartment playing Monkeyball Banana Blitz on Wii, and laughing our heads off (that's gotta hurt) with a round of Catchphrase...

Me: This is England; otherwise known as --
KayJay: France

Me: Oh, I'm gonna sing me a song among the hay bales and have me a good old time.
-Silence-
Me: Okay, this isn't a whore up, but a --
SWAWOSH: Ho-down!

And the moral of the story, boys and girls, is that you can travel and tourist it out the wazoo, but being with family beats it all--hands down.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Upon arrival...

The Roth Family Outing to NYC continues . . .

Our taxi dropped us off a block-and-a-half away from where our son, ActorBoy, was expecting to find us. Not to worry, though, we (Beloved, KayJay, and I) were joyfully reunited with him after a minimal amount of "Where are you?" on the cell phones -- no need for an Amber Alert.

ActorBoy's apartment in Queens is a nice, two-room affair with a tightly-spiraling staircase between the first-floor bedroom and the second floor kitchen/living closet. Now, when I say "spiraling staircase," don't let your mind drift off to scenes of opulent grandeur, a la some movie.
That ain't it.

Think more along the lines of an industrial, utilitarian saving-of-space in the back corner of an abandoned theatre...yeah...that's more like it. The 8-inch wide steps were only 8 inches wide at the outside edge. Close to the center pole, they came to a point that could pierce Kevlar. If you planned it just right, you could take one step near the center and slip directly to the ground floor without all that bothersome walking and standing upright of which we all grow so weary.
The apartment itself is quaintly decorated in the now-classic, neo-modern storage-box style. After a quick (47.3 seconds) tour of the facility, ActorBoy had to rush off to his paying gig as the doorman at The Russian Tea Room.
To Be Continued...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

If you can make it there...

JUST got back from a week in New York City visiting our son, ActorBoy. Let me quickly relate the exhilarating experience of getting there...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008
This was the fastest trip through airport security I've ever experienced. This is attributable partly to the fact that we were there at 5:45 in the A.M. and partly that the carry-on screener had not had his second cup of caffeine. Evidence of this claim: KayJay absent-mindedly had left a tube of hand cream in her purse (NOT in a separate, quart-size ZipLocked bag -- GASP!) but still was whisked through security as fast as Las Vegas goes through marriage certificates.

This is the first time Beloved has flown since losing over 50 pounds. On the puddle-jumper flight to St. Louis, I feel like an oversized sardine in an undersized sardine tin, but Beloved is practically giddy at her ability to cross her legs or to put the seat-back tray down without it even coming close to her tummy.

Take-off was slightly interesting. After speeding down the runway at 90 mph for about a half-hour, I swear I heard the captain yell, "Faster, Barn! Peddle faster!"

My memories of the St. Louis airport from a Jamaican mission trip (Spring Break, 2007) revolve around a huge food court with barbecue beef and the best cheeseburger ever. The reality of our almost-three-hour layover today was a cold-molasses passage of time through an abandoned concourse and a Burger King where we shouted our order over the exhaust fan and paid for it by walking over to Cinnabon. The whole experience reminded me of a scene from a Western movie when the hero is waiting for Black Bart to show up. He slams down a shot of Red Eye, walks into the street, and all you can see is a stray dog and a tuft of tumbleweed.

I'm talkin' Deserted Airport...freaky.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ahhh, look at all the lovely people

The youngest Fruit Of My Loins, KayJay, works at the local swimmin' hole (officially known as the Apple Valley Parks and Recreation Department Aquatic Center...bleck) and had a celebrity encounter at the refreshment counter. She served hot dogs and nachos to her favorite Christian music artist, Sara Groves. Because of this, Beloved went to Mrs. Groves' website, http://www.saragroves.com/, to check on her concert schedule...found out that the next day she was going to be in New York City.

It was just kind of...interesting...to think that one day she's shoving carbs into her kids' faces at the pool and the next day she's singing her songs in front of thousands of people.

Yes...of course...I've always known that "famous" people aren't always sitting at a piano writing songs or standing in front of a camera emoting. They've got real lives that have to be lived: Dinners to cook and faces to shave and teeth to brush. But it got me to thinking...what kind of normal hobbies and activities do some of the more-well-known people of the universe engage in when they're not earning their truckloads of cash? We all know that Jay Leno likes to collect and work on cars and motorcycles, but what about some of the other famous faces?

Sparing no expense (translation: spending no money), I've done some research and herewith offer a short list of some of the more interesting free time activities of the Beautiful People:
  • Jack Nicholson crochets sweaters for chihuahuas.
  • Barry Manilow plays paintball.
  • Mariah Carey coaches high school wrestling.
  • Alan Alda sneaks into emergency rooms and sutures lacerations with silk.
  • Paris Hilton butchers her own cattle.
  • Stevie Wonder drives in demolition derbies.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

But seriously, folks...

I just finished the first of two weekends full of performances with Giant Step Theatre. (Current production: Aladdin's Lamp, in which I appear as the Genie. Head off to www.myspace.com/giantsteptheatre for performance dates and times.) It's always an interesting experience taking the stage surrounded by 70-90 3rd-10th graders, especially when your head is shaved and you've painted yourself blue, but I've actually been led into a slightly deeper mode of thought than normal because of something that happens fairly frequently with Giant Step. . .

It's not unusual (Tom Jones, anyone?) to enter the auditorium and be instantly confronted by a 2 foot, 10 inch, cherub-faced pixie sadly proclaiming, "Dewey? I can't find my prop. I'm supposed to have a rubber chicken for the market scene, and I can't find it." Translation: Dewey? I just remembered that I need to have a rubber chicken for the market scene, but when I stood still and looked around at my feet, I couldn't see it.

The solution is normally to encourage the treasure hunter to actually go to the backstage tables that hold all of the props (physical PROPerties that actors use as part of their onstage roles: a purse, a cane, a golden lamp full of genies, etc.) and look at the spot that has been outlined and labeled "rubber chicken" or "Persian gold" or "Shabeeb's whip." 99.44% of the time, the hopelessly lost prop is found right where it belongs.

This is what got me thinking about Real Truth and not just almost.

It strikes me as odd when people go off in search of themselves. Um...aren't you right there? Isn't it true that, "Wherever you go in life...that's where you are?"

Okay...settle down...I get it. Searching for oneself is actually searching for meaning and trying to find one's place in this gobbledy-gook mess we call life. And the serious point here is that to stare at your own navel and attempt to find purpose and meaning is like looking for a rubber chicken in the dressing room instead of the prop table.

There is a Creator, and it only makes sense that the Creator would have a better handle on what we've been created for than we do.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Papa was a rollin' stone...

For your consideration, my schedule for Father's Day, 2008:

6:15 AM - The alarm rings, my hand rushes to turn it off and I jam my finger on the bedside table.
7:30 AM - Beloved and I head to church for worship rehearsal. My team is leading today, and I need to tune my guitar to the piano...which is a quarter-step flat.
9:30 AM - During the first song, I drop my pick into the guitar, because of my jammed finger.
10:15 AM - A blister is cultivated on my thumb due to playing without a pick; due to dropping my pick into the guitar; due to jamming my finger; due to the alarm ringing at 6:15 AM.
12:20 PM - The steaks hit the grill, and I accidentally break open the blister on my thumb while closing the grill's lid.
12:45 PM - Our college-freshman daughter, KayJay, makes me tear-up with her mealtime prayer of thanks for her daddy.
2:30 PM - At a graduation open house, salt from a potato chip gets in my raw blister, which causes me to drop my can of Pepsi, which causes the graduate's grandmother to slip, which brings the celebration to a grinding halt as Gramma is rushed to the emergency room to see if her hip is broken. Somehow, the graduate doesn't sound sincere when she says, "Thanks for coming."
4:30 PM - While mowing the back yard into windrows so I could bale it (yes, the grass was that long), a rock flies out from the mower and gashes my shin.
6:00 PM - I cry in the shower when soap gets in the open wounds on my shin and my thumb.
6:47 PM - Having popped my traditional batch of Sunday evening popcorn, I sit down to watch a VHS of The Pink Panther I borrowed from work...right up to the point where the tape gets eaten by our player.

I had a great Father's Day, because the 7:30 and 12:45 entries are the only ones that are actually -- how do you say it? -- true.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Time 100

I haven't been paying close enough attention to really know, but I think Time magazine does it every year: publishes a list of "The 100 Most Influential People in The World." This year, it came out in the May 12 issue, which means I'm within a month of being current...a newsworthy event in itself.

The gimmick with the issue is that Time makes this, in their words, "thoughtful and sprightly" list -- Sprightly? What in the farnsworth is that supposed to even mean? -- of who they consider to be highly influential people, and then have all sorts of different mostly-well-known people write a few paragraphs about a person on the list with which they have some kind of connection. For example, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu waxes eloquent about Peter Gabriel...supposedly because they both have experience in being way past their prime in terms of contributing to their chosen field of endeavor.

Putting that bit of snark aside, I did manage to learn a few things by reading the short essays. For instance, I bet you didn't know that the Dalai Lama (profile paragraphs written by popular spirituality author, Sixpak Chopra) got his name from a Little Richard doo-wop song. (Tutti-Frutti: "A whop dalai lama, a bom bam boom.") I'm also willing to wager that you were not aware of how Vladimir Putin (as told by former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine "It's" Alright) single-handedly popularized the hokey-pokey in Russia.

Other almost facts I find interesting:
  • Barack O'Bama is Irish.
  • African National Congress Chairman, Jacob Zuma, has a vengeful brother named Monty.
  • Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shi'ite power broker in Iraq, was on Wheel of Fortune and wasn't allowed to buy a vowel.
  • The last name of Chile's president, Michelle Bachelet, can be translated as breakfast dish of scrambled eggs and unmarried men.
  • Ashfaq Kayani is Pakistan's top general, but he is also a botanist who developed the kayani pepper.
  • According to George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are really nice people who just happen to be stinking rich.
  • A clue to Oprah Winfrey's secret religion that worships a hellish jumbo shrimp is found by rearranging the letters in her name: Oh Fiery Prawn.
  • Lance Armstrong's name was chosen by a computer program set to search for the manliest syllables in the known universe.
  • Former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, was supposed to write a tribute to Britain's former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, but still managed to use the words I and my nine times in four paragraphs. I'm just sayin'....