Monday, April 30, 2007

The Girl at the Piano

I thought I'd get the story up before I head out to jury duty. I'm not sure how much I'll be around this week. If I'm not here, miss me, okay?
I’ve mentioned my interest in theology before. This story, which occurred back in the 70s, gives a brief glimpse of an event that influenced my life. Lately I’ve been looking for reflections in puddles to photograph and took this photograph of a steeple’s reflection last week.
My theological journey got a jump start when I was in the 11th grade. Mike, a friend of mine, told me about this girl who played the piano at his church. As she attended the other high school in the county, my only way to meet her was to go to his church and Mike suggested I drop in on a Wednesday evening service. Mike was a Pentecostal, which didn’t mean a lot to me at that time. After all, Presbyterian and Pentecostal both starts with a P so how much difference could there be? In other words, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to experience.

Mike’s church was a white-washed wooden building located in Sunset Park, an older neighborhood across town. There was no parking lot, so I had to park along the street down the road and as I had allowed for no such contingencies, the services had already started as I walked up the steps. I was greeted at the door by an older woman. You’d thought I’d said something bad about her mama when I asked her for a bulletin. She snapped, assuring me that their services were led by the Spirit, which I learned in time lead them the same way every week. I went into the sanctuary. Mike, my friend, was up front. The girl, I can’t remember her name, was at the piano. I took a seat in a pew near the back.

We sang a few hymns, which tended to be familiar and for the first few minutes everything felt pretty comfortable. Then everyone suddenly ran up front. There was no announcement to this movement, but soon they all sounded and appeared as if they were trying to outdo one another in their prayers as they raised their voices to God. Much of it was unintelligible. Some danced and others lay on the floor. I caught a glimpse of my friend Mike and of the girl at the piano, both caught up in this conflagration. This was a far cry from the decently and in order Presbyterian services that I was use to. It made even the looser Baptist services I’d attended with friends look down right stiff. Looking around, I was the only one left in the pews, sitting there like a knot on a log. Then I noticed a guy from school. He was leaning against the door frame at the back. He nodded for me to join him out on the front porch, so I followed.

The evening air outside was much cooler than the un-air conditioned church. We sat on the steps. I didn’t know this guy very well. He was a year ahead of me and as it turned out was the preacher’s son. He pulled out a joint and offered it. I quickly declined, figuring there was no place worse than the front steps of a church to bring down the wrath of God. He put it away and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one. Even that seemed sacrilegious to me. We talked. He wanted to know why I was there; assuring me that he was only there because it was easier than dealing with the wrath of his father. I could only imagine what his dad would do if he found him smoking on the steps. I hemmed and hawed about my reasons for attending, not wanting to tip my hand about the girl at the piano. After ten or fifteen minutes, he said we need to get back inside. He buried his cigarette butts under a shrub and we walked up the steps and back into the warm building.

The service continued for another hour and a half. Before the sermon there were several testimonies. I don’t remember much about what was said except for this one man who made a bold assertion about how he and his family had come to this church from Grace Baptist, a large church on the north side of town where no one was saved. Although I wasn’t up for defending Baptists, I found the statement pretty arrogant. I later learned they believed you were not saved unless you had “signs following,” which meant speaking in tongues, and had been baptized their way, which not only excluded Baptists but also Presbyterians.

I sat through that service, counting the minutes till I had a chance to meet the girl at the piano. Mike was right, she was beautiful. She had long flowing brown hair that seemed to go with her flowing dress that went to her mid-calves. Her dress seemed out of place as this was in the 70s and most dresses were way above the knees. Like all the women there, she wore no makeup and no jewelry, but she was a natural beauty and didn’t need any. When the service was over, I headed up front to catch Mike and to be introduced to the girl. But before I got there, the preacher grabbed me and started asking questions. He wanted to know where I went to church and what I believed. I told him I was a Presbyterian, which set him off on a tirade about the Trinity. It turned out this was a United Pentecostal Church. Not only do they believe you should have the experience of speaking in tongues, they do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, instead holding to some kind of oneness doctrine. For the next hour, long after my dream girl at the piano had left the premises, that preacher held me hostage as he bombarded me with his church’s doctrine and his ideas about what was wrong with the Trinity. I was woefully unprepared to defend or even state what it was that I believed.

It was after ten when I got home that night. I went into my father’s office and pulled out his copy of the Westminster Confession of Faith and I began to read up on the Trinity. There was a nice index in the back which directed me to the right sections and footnotes that gave passages in the Bible for support. I began my study. Later that week, I’d talked to the preacher at my church who gave me some other stuff to read. I began to make notes and to organize my thoughts. When the next Wednesday rolled around, I was back at Mike’s church, loaded for bear. I’m not sure the preacher knew what hit him as this cocky 17 year old member of the high school debate team came in with answers and challenges. After the service, we talked for another hour, neither of us giving ground. Again, I missed my chance to talk to the girl at the piano, but by this time I wasn’t just on a quest, I was on a crusade. My faith had taken on a new dimension as I had to articulate what it was that I believed. As for the girl at the piano, we talked a few times but never went out. She wasn’t allowed to go to the movies or go to the beach, the two options that I knew for a date.

When I ran into Mike a couple years after high school, I asked what had become of that girl at the piano. "She married the preacher’s son," he said. The look of shock on my face must have caused him to reassure me that the boy had cleaned up his act and had become a preacher himself, following in his dad’s footsteps.
Click here for more of Sage's Memories and Recollections.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday morning reflections

Thanks to all you who stopped by for the birthday party for Kevin and Diane. One of the good things about hosting a virtual birthday party is that I didn’t have to worry about cleaning anything up. There were no dirty dishes to wash, no spilled punch to clean up, no left-over’s to be stored away. Therefore, I was able to spend some time outside enjoying a glorious day. The photographs were taken late yesterday afternoon in the pasture behind my house.

On a sour note, I have to report to jury duty this Monday morning. As I'm to be in the downtown area of a city 30 miles away, and must park several blocks away and take a shuttle, and after all this be inside the Federal Courthouse by 8 AM, I’m going to have to get on the road early. This also means that I’m going to have a lot of work to do today, as I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to be in the office this week. The good side of this, maybe a story will come out of it all.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Virtual Birthday Party for Kevin and Diane (updated with gifts)

Welcome to a birthday party. As you all know, I’m Sage, your host. I’m going to stand in the corner and watch the party progress, holding my virtual fire extinguisher in case all those virtual candles on the virtual cake create a virtual conflagration. But before I retreat to my corner, let me introduce the guests of honor:

Some say Diane’s life has gone to the dogs. “What’s wrong with that,” asks Nanner and Noodles, her two loyal canine friends. Diane lives near the beach in Southern California, works in the legal field, reads and listens to great volumes of books, plays golf for charity, goes on safari’s to Yellowstone in the winter in order to observe wolves and is a faux-blonde.

Here's Diane in Yellowstone this past February. If I knew how to do audio in my blog, I’d have the Who playing in the background. Diane is 40-something today.

Kevin’s reading reflects the graduate studies he’s currently pursuing. A lover of books, he’s spent years working in bookstores, devouring books in search of misprints. In addition to reading, he loves watching movies with his kids. He’s a diehard Baptist, yet he married an exotic dancer from Texas. Although working in the academic realm, he considers himself a country preacher.

Here are his kids.

Kevin loves giving away books and currently has a contest going on to give away a whole library this coming Christmas. It’s rumored that his wife told him it’s her or the books. Kevin is 40-something minus one today. (I don’t think it’s polite to say how old they are, and I'm not exactly sure, but Kevin claims to be 12 months younger than Diane.).

Today's cake is provided by Tim, our professional baker. Someone better run out to the store and buy up all their spare candles. We need about eighty-five more to make up the difference for the two of them.

In the virtual world, this cake is without calories. If you want to experience it in the real world, Tim sends his recipe for “Happy Birthday Cake” which comes from his Mennonite Church’s cookbook:

Measure into bowl:
2 1/2 cup flour
1 t. salt
1 2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup Crisco shortening
3/4 cup milk

Mix 2 minutes. Then add:
3 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla

Beat 2 minutes. Bake 325 degrees for 30 minutes in 9 x 12 cake pan or until cake tester comes up clean. Ice with your favorite icing and enjoy with a scoop of Sage’s ice cream. :)

Sage has made a tub of ice cream. This is a real treat; the recipe for “Brent’s Down and Dirty Devilishly Delicious Vanilla Custard Ice Cream” comes from his friend who died last November. I remembered I had this recipe stuck away in a file and pulled it out. Like the cake, it’s rich and full of calories, but you can eat all the virtual stuff you want without having to worry about your waist line. Here's the recipe for those of you who'd like to try it at home.

6 Eggs, beaten
4 cups half and half
2 cups whole milk
2 ¼ cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vanilla extract (or ground vanilla beans)
6 cups whipping cream

Combine eggs, half and half, milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture coats a metal spoon. Cool. Add vanilla and cream. Pour into the ice cream freezer contain. Crank till hard, while keeping plenty of ice and salt around the container. The best ice cream is made with hand cranked freezers that sit inside wooden tubs.

Now everyone get a glass. It’s time for a toast. Out of respect for Kevin, the punch isn’t spiked, but if you want a little something in yours, slip into the kitchen and look into the cabinet above and to the right of the sink. (Be sure to take the bottles in front as I’ve hidden my good stock in the back.)

Having a lawyer and a preacher together at this party reminds me of something Mark Twain said in a letter from Virginia City, Nevada. “If we had a many preachers here as we have lawyers, it’d be hard to tell which group produced the most rascals." (my paraphrase)

The Toasts: Diane, may you have a wonderful year. And as you approach 50, may your ears never fail, so that you’ll always be able to enjoy the Who, but if your ears do fail, don’t worry about it, being hard of hearing is a great excuse. Happy birthday!

Kevin, may you have a wonderful year. As you grow old, may your eyes never fail as you consume more and more books. May your work always be fulfilling, as you’re going to have to work a long time to get all those kids through school! Happy birthday!

The Sharing of Gifts: (I hope each of you have a gift, in the form of a joke, for both Kevin and Diane). Post "gifts" and well wishes in the comments.

UPDATE: Sage's gift

As a birthday present to Kevin and Diane, I decided to write a couple vignettes from their lives as a preacher and lawyer.

Kevin is really a closest Calvinist who believes in predestination. Wanting to know which way their oldest son was going to go, he and his wife devised a plan to place several objects on the dining room table right before their oldest son returned home from school. “Let’s put a $100 bill down,” Kevin said. If it takes it, we’ll know he’ll go into finance. “And let’s put a Bible down,” his wife said. “If he picks it up, we’ll know he’ll follow in his father’s footsteps.” Knowing that they needed another temptation, Kevin suggested they place a bottle of whiskey on the table, sadly admitting that if he took the bottle, he’d end up a drunkard. They then hid in the kitchen.

When their son came home from school, he examined each article and looked around to see if anyone was watching. Seeing no one, he stuffed the bill in is pocket, put the Bible under his arm, and walked out taking a swig of whiskey. “How about that,” Kevin boasted, “He’s going to be a lawyer.”

One day, when he was on the sawdust trail, Kevin was preaching a revival meeting in Southern California. Diane was drawn to all the commotion at the oversized tent and decided to check things out. As she stepped into the tent, Kevin called her forth and asked her to give a prayer. Unprepared, she gave a prayer from her lawyer’s heart: “Stir up much strife amongst thy people, Lord, lest they servant perish.” (This is adapted from a story that was attributed to the late Senator Sam Ervin from the great state of North Carolina)

A client of Diane’s who was also a parishioner of Kevin’s was dying. As the grim reaper drew near, the man called his lawyer and pastor to this side. “I know, I’m dying,” he said. “I know I have only a few days left and I still have $200,000 that I haven’t been able to spend. I don’t want to give it to my kids, they never came to visit. I want to take it with me and you’re the only two people I can trust.” The dying man gave them each an envelope containing $100,000 cash. “I want you two to swear to me that just before the casket is closed, you’ll put in these envelopes, watching out to make sure the other follows suit.” Kevin and Diane both agreed they’d follow the man’s wishes.

After the funeral, Kevin was feeling really bad and he called Diane aside to confess. “You know, our church’s homeless shelter needed a new roof and we were a little short. I have to confess that I only put $90,000 into the casket.”

“I can’t believe it, a man of the cloth sticking it to a stiff,” Diane chastised. “I’m ashamed of you; I put in a personal check for the entire $100,000.”

Enjoy the party!

Friday, April 27, 2007

River Teeth: A Book Review

David James Duncan, River Teeth: Stories and Writings (Doubleday 1995).

In honor of trout season opening, this seemed a perfect book to review.

My introduction to David James Duncan came through The River Why, which provides a new twist on the coming of age novel. Many of the same themes are explored in this collection of writing. There are stories about fly-fishing and baseball and dreamy worlds where a young child thinks the garbage man is just as special and mysterious as Santa Claus. Duncan peppers his stories with insights drawn from a multitude of spiritual traditions, mostly Christian or Zen Buddhist (I love the line about baseball and Zen being the only two things the USA and Japan import without tariffs). Most of the stories left me feeling hopeful. The first story is about young boy going with his mother and siblings into the city. He’s in the back, holding onto her red coat. To his horror, he learns that it’s the wrong red coat he’s been clutching. My favorite stories are “Garbage Man Daughter,” (a young girl learns the truth about the garbage man), “Mickey Mantle Koan” (a brother with a heart problem dies the same day a signed baseball from Mickey Mantle arrives), “Not Rocking the Boat” (an encounter between “Edward Abbey-like” fly fisherman and a commercial sport fisherman), and “Just Wind and a Creek,” (a brother sent to a prison work camp while his father dies and his girlfriend gives birth to his child).

“River teeth” refers to knots in a fallen tree which are filled with pitch and remain long after the river has rotted away the rest of the log.

Some of my favorite quotes from the stories:
“only by obedience will I survive”

“If parents had any sense, I thought, they’d take full credit for Easter egg and North Pole products and let the imaginary lackeys take the rap for the truly embarrassing things they did.”

“You don’t experience wonder the way you experience facts.”

“I’ve always known, without hesitation, how to hate this enemy. It’s taken forty years and most of an autumn to show me how, without hesitation, to love it.”

“It is faith, not knowledge, that leads us into paradise, and at age nine I had perfect faith that my reject rod, reel and line were the most magnificent tools and the Deschutes the most magnificent river that any sort of Dad & God combo could possibility have bequeathed me.”

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An Invitation and an Interview

An Invitation to a Birthday Party

I learned this past February, through comments on my blog, two frequent bloggers who visit here share April 28th as their birthday. I haven’t met either blogger in person, which will make it even more fun to host a virtual birthday party for them this Saturday! Diane is the oldest, but Kevin isn’t far behind. Although neither have reached the big 5-0 mark yet, they’re both closing in fast! This is how it will work. On Saturday morning I’ll put up a happy birthday post (I’ll have to see what I can salvage and steal from their blogs to do it up nice). I’ll also have a toast that we can share as we raise our double-old fashion glasses (out of respect for Kevin, please fix yourself a Baptist Screwdrivers—OJ and Water). I’ll see if I can get Tim to furnish a cake and maybe I’ll turn out some ice cream. If anyone is good with party games, I’m open for suggestions. By the way, presents are requested! Please bring Diane your favorite blonde, faux-blonde, California and lawyer jokes. For Kevin, bring your favorite Baptist, theologian, clergy, redhead and Texan jokes. I know Kevin says he’s not really a Texan, but he married one and is guilty by association. Keep it clean or at least discreet and let’s have a good time!

An Interview by Sage
Being the infamous correspondent that I am, Murf and Trailady have requested that I interview them. After consulting with Nevada Jack, I’ve come up with some questions for each and posted them below. I should note that Murf’s blog suddenly disappeared this morning. She said she accidentally erased it while trying to change some of the settings or something. Personally, I think she erased it to keep me from coming up with better questions.

Questions for Murf
Sage: “Murf, why can’t you let just let things be? (This only partly refers to the “accidental” erasing of your blog.)”

Sage: “Living where you are, with the prevailing winds out of the Southwest, what will you do this fall if your SW neighbor decides no longer rake his or her leaves? And will you put your house up for sale is a family with Iowa license plates moves in to a home on the non-leeward side of your house?”

Sage: “In order to get to know your household, what comic strip or cartoon character best describes each member of the household (including pets).”

Sage: “By some weird accident of nature (heaven forbid), the 80s have returned. Describe your “big hair” style. What would you listen to while sitting in the salon? Would you vote for Reagan?”

Sage: “Both Trailady and you seem to have a thing for 80s music? What do you think Trailady’s favorite song from that era is? And since I spent most of the 80s catching up on the 70s, would I know it?”

Questions for Trailady
Sage: “In order to get to know your household, what comic strip or cartoon character best describes each member of the household (including pets).”

Sage: “Be honest, did you read all of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress? If so, which of Christian’s temptations and challenges have you struggled with the most. If you have not read it, describe beating yourself up with a wet noodle as an act of contrition.”

Sage: “Name a favorite food of yours that your kids won’t touch.”

Sage: “You say you’re Scot-Irish. Isn’t that like diluting Glenfiddich with Bushmills? How did your Scottish blood get so contaminated?”

Sage: “Both Murf and you seem to have a thing for 80s music? What do you think Murf’s favorite song from that era is? And since I spent most of the 80s catching up on the 70s, would I know it?”

Final instructions for Murf and Trailady: You need to update your weblog with your answers to the questions and include an explanation. You must be willing to interview someone else. When others ask to be interviewed, you get to ask them five questions and the pyramid will continue to be built.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kenju's Interview and "Me, a thinking blogger?"

Photo by Sage, taken near Bodie, CA, 1989.

I’ve been overwhelmed in the past 24 hours. First of all, Kenju took me seriously and “interviewed” me. I will fulfill that obligation. Then, Gautami nominated me as a “thinking blog.” I’ve been scratching my head ever since… Seriously, I was humbled.

Then I read the comments in Gautami's blog where I discovered that a certain “regular” to my blog (Murf) had already made her smart remarks on Gautami’s blog, tempering any pride that I might have enjoyed for a few moments. I’m suppose to nominate 5 other thinking blogs, but I’m going to have to think about that (besides, I only read blogs that make me think, so you’re all thinking blogs.)

Here’s my interview:

Kenju: What one thing would you do differently in your life, if you had the opportunity to do it over?

Sage: I would have studied more in high school and would have gone to my first choice among colleges rather than deciding at the last minute to attend a different school to be closer to a girlfriend.

Kenju: What type of music would you write, if you could compose?

Sage: I’d love to be able to write piano solos like Keith Jarrett or George Winston

Kenju: “If money were no object, what would be the first thing you would buy?”

Sage: “A ‘Sage’ fly rod, of course,”

Kenju: What experience in your life has enriched you the most?

Sage: "This is a hard one. Religious experiences aside, I'd say hiking the Appalachian Trail. On my first hike on the trail, I met some through-hikers and came up with a little ditty, “Georgia to Maine, you must be insane.” Four years later, I was completing the trail."

Kenju: "If you were able to have dinner with any two people in the world, who would you choose and what would you ask them?"

Sage: " George Bush (Sr, not W) and Bill Clinton—I’d first ask what books they are reading, then I’d ask how we can restore bi-partisan respect in Washington. Finally, after a few drinks, I'd ask if there is any truth that they're having an affair."

Please let me know if you’d like to be interviewed by me. If so, I’ll give you five questions (I get to pick the questions). You will then update your weblog with your answers to the questions and include this explanation. You must also be willing to interview someone else. When others ask (or joke about) being interviewed, you get to ask five questions and the pyramid will continue to be built.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday morning ramblings

Spring along the Thornapple, photo by Sage

Tropical weather has come to the upper mid-west. Since Friday, we’ve been getting up into the high 70s and low 80s. Trees are beginning to bud out. Dogwoods are beginning to unfurl their flowers and in a few days, the highways will be lined with white flowers. The populous, having suffered from a lack of sun for the past six months, are now noticeably more cheerful. Instead of reading by the fireplace, I now sit on the swing on the back porch, the cracking flame being replaced with the chirping of birds and the singing of insects. Thanks to nasal spray, life is okay. I won’t say it’s as great as all the giddy people around me think it is, for I miss winter and the snow, but it’s okay. After all, trout season opens this weekend. The negative side is that the great Michigan miniature air show is about to begin as zillions of mosquitoes take the sky with the sole purpose to make life miserable. Then, all these happy people will be longing for winter.

I started this weekend by taking my daughter on a date to her school’s “movie night,” which is sponsored by the PTA. (It was a cheap date!) I think I was the only one in the crowd who had not seen Disney’s “High School Musical.” The kids and many of the parents sang and recited lines as they whipped around glow-light sticks. Obviously, this event is a training exercise for the day they’re old enough to go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show and really cut loose. I came away with mixed feelings about the movie. On the right hand, it encourages kids not to bow to peer pressure and to reach for their dreams. On the left hand, it encourages kids to take things into their own hands as the students in the film hacked into the school’s computer system, causing a power failure, which allows the star athlete miss enough of the game and the school’s brain to miss enough of the academic Olympics so that together they auditioned for the school musical. I’m sure the film will help create among our children self-confident adults who are also budding anarchists.

Saturday morning, my daughter, the dog and I took the canoe out for the first time of the season. With no foliage, we had an interesting look into the woods and swamps. We also got a first hand look at a Canadian goose sitting on her nest out in a high marshy area surrounded by water. The bird sat still as we paddled within 10 feet of her and her nest. I’d thought this was early in the season for sitting on the nest, but I must be wrong.

Sunday night I watched the 1955 Humphrey Bogart film, “We’re No Angels.” It was a real treat. Three cons escape from prison and plan to rob a family who they discover are about to lose everything. With great comedy, instead of robbing the family, they help them out. It’s Christmas after all! There are some great lines in the film, such as when they decide to go back to prison, with Bogart quipping, “there’s a better class of people there.”

Yesterday was so busy I didn’t get time to do any “Monday Morning Ramblings.” It’s a good thing I’ve received a reprieve from jury duty this week—I still have to check in next week and see if they need me. So here’s my Monday ramblings—a day late and a dollar short…

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Austerlitz: A Book Review

W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz (New York: Random House/Modern Library, 2001), 298 pages

This might be the most honest novel ever written in that it describes stuff just as our brains (or maybe it’s just my brain) operates. The pages leaps from one topic to another, yet it’s all held together with a thin thread of commonality. Like a brain exploring topics, so does Sebald’s last novel (Sebald died in a car wreck in 2001). With paragraphs that vary from a dozen to several dozen pages in length (if a paragraph is defined as one indention to another), Sebald’s novel wanders through architecture, nature and history with special attention given to creating lists of stuff. However, Sebald’s prose is wonderfully descriptive; it’s just a chore to get through this book. And now that I’ve read it, it’ll hang in the recesses of my mind for a while as I try to understand what it all means.

Austerlitz is told from the point of view of an unnamed narrator who either has the patience of Job or is a glutton for punishment. The narrator befriends the rather unapproachable Austerlitz, a lover of architecture, in the 60s. Over the next twenty years, first by accident and later by design they continue meeting and the narrator gradually learns Austerlitz’s story. He was raised by a Welsh Calvinist-Methodist (isn’t that an oxymoron) pastor, who adopted him at the beginning of the Second World War. It turns out that Austerlitz, whose parents were Czech Jews, was saved from the horrors of the holocaust by being sent to Britain. He makes it his life’s goal to rediscover his past life, traveling all over Europe, commenting on the architecture of libraries and train stations along the way.

There are some interesting themes in the book. Darkness is one. The book starts out in the Antwerp Nocturama (a collection of night animals), but the narrator quickly moves from the eyes of owls to gazes of “certain painters and philosophers to a waiting room in the Antwerp train station, all this in just three pages of a 27 page paragraph. History is another. As Austerlitz discovers his history, the reader is given a history of Europe from Napoleonic Wars (Austerlitz was also the name of a battle in the war) to Nazi Germany. Architecture is another. Austerlitz is a student of architecture and the narrator is constantly telling us about the design of some building. By the way, I take great pleasure in writing three word sentences while describing this book. I’m not sure there is a sentence in the book that’s less than a dozen words, and a dozen words would be a short sentence for Sebald.

I’m not sure I recommend this book. I suppose I’ll recommend it with a warning. It took me a couple tries to get into it. The writer has a wonderful ability to paint scenes, but his writing is not at all conventional. However, breaking up the prose are interesting black and white photographs. These images are mostly stark, but haunting, as is much of the prose. If you have read this book, I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts. If you haven’t read it, does it sound like something you’d want to read?
Click here for a list of other book and movie reviews by Sage.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Delano: a memory of my work with the scouts

Photo of a friend eating an apple on a Waccamaw River Canoe Trip, 1982 (a copy from a slide). This is not Delano, somewhere I have a b&w picture of Delano splitting wood , but didn't have time to find it. Delano lived near the Waccamaw River.
“What are those government fools thinking, offering classes to teach us how to make alcohol? There ain’t a farmer in these parts that haven’t made liquor at one time or another,” Delano fumed.

It was in the early 80s and after years of prosecuting farmers for turning corn into liquids, a lively discussion was being held with how to do this legally, for internal combustion as opposed to internal consumption. If the farmers made their own, they could reduce their dependence on gasoline and diesel fuel. The local community college offered a course on alternative fuels, but Delano didn’t think much of the idea. The government was meddling where it shouldn’t be meddling. His views weren’t a surprise; everyone in Columbus County complained about the government meddling, except of course when they were first at the hog trough. However, his admission on the moonshining activities of area farmers surprised me. Did he include himself in the bunch? After all, he was a Mormon and the scoutmaster for a small Mormon troop in southern part of the county. Mormons weren’t supposed to be drinking. But then, neither were Baptist and those in that area who weren’t Mormon were members of one the several off-brand Baptist Churches. A part of me always wanted to know what went on in the “Primitive, Fire-baptized, Fundamentalist Baptist Church,” but I never got up the nerve to find out.

Even though he marched to his own drum, I loved Delano. There was never a dull moment when he was around. He was always smiling and joking. Living out on the edge of the Green Swamp, down near the Waccamaw River, Delano could be counted on to tell a story that included hunting and fishing how-to tips. Like his neighbors, Delano supplemented his livelihood from the bounty of the earth and would entertain us telling about the tricks of his neighbor. He never indicted himself, but one had to wonder. One favorite was dialing for fish (using an old crack phone to create an electrical charge that races through the water and stuns the fish so that when they come to the surface you can net ‘em). To hear him tell the story, nobody in his neighborhood purchased canned dog food to feed to canines. Dogs got scraps from the table. Canned dog food was used to chum the waters for fish. Holes were punched in a can that was tossed into the water at a spot where you wanted to fish in a day or two. The dog food attracted fish so that when you came back for business, you didn’t have to spend much time finding the fish. You just had to hope the fish, fat on dog food, were ready to bite into a juicy worm.

I met Delano at a chicken bog for scout leaders held in Fair Bluff. Having been told he was a Mormon, I made sure we had alternatives to the coffee and tea that everyone else would be drinking. I’d gotten a couple bottles of apple juice and offered him one. He refused and poured himself a cup of coffee. At this same event, I was troubled when I learned that a chicken bog contained not only fowl, but also sausage. Realizing that we had several Jewish leaders, I apologized. What little training I’d had from the scouts by this point had stressed sensitive to such issues. But sausage wasn’t a problem, these guys assured me, as long as their wives weren’t around. I’m sure the same applied to Delano’s coffee and soft drinks and most other leaders who indulged in one thing or another.

Delano was a disabled veteran of the Korean War. He once told me about his experiences there. I don’t recall much of what he said, but there was a story about a small group of them lost behind enemy lines and struggling to make it back to safety, surviving minefields, frostbite and starvation. Although he could walk and get around, he wasn’t particularly fast and was limited in the amount of work that he could do (although I do remember him splitting wood with a maul one Saturday when several troops got together to take firewood to people in need). We got along well; both of us believed that when camping, an afternoon nap was a necessity. He had a small but devoted group of scouts who looked up to him and knew that he looked out for their best interest. At camporees, where all the troops in the county gathered, Delano made a point to invite me to eat Saturday dinner with his boys. Sometimes the fare would be normal, venison or fried fish. Other times the menu was down right exotic. In the three years I worked that district, I was served bear, squirrel, turtle, raccoon, and even a greasy opossum.

I came across many characters during my three years working for the Scouts in Eastern North Carolina. I cherish these memories. It’s hard to accept the fact that the boys who were in scouts at the time are now in their 30s. “Oh my,” as they say down there, “how time flies.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Baseball fever--Three Word Wednesday

Bone’s three word Wednesday writing exercise this week calls for using the following three words: “pitch, exit, and low.” As Bone profile picture often has him wearing what appears to be a baseball jersey, I couldn’t help but to play a little fantasy el beisbol.

Pausing for a moment, Bone massages the ball in his right hand. He kicks the dirt on the mound, digging in his spikes. Then looking toward the plate, he winds up and throws hard. Sage steps forward with his left foot, checks his swing as the ball whistles by below his knees.

“Ball one,” the umpire yells as the ball snaps into the catcher’s mitt.

Squeezing the ball, Bone shakes off the catchers signals till he gets the call he wants. A fastball. Winding up, he fires the ball toward the plate. The pitch is right down the middle. Sage steps forward with his left foot, cocks the bat, and swings. A crack rings out as the ball reverse course and sails deep into center field, clearing the fence. Sage drops the bat and trots off toward first, shaking his stringing hands.

“That ball needs an exit visa,” the announcer shouts as the another run is added to the scoreboard.

Pray for ME!!!

If you want to know more about this, drop on over at the National Digestive Disease Clearinghouse. I stole the picture from them.

A week or so ago I told you about my stellar physical. I’m in good shape, or so I thought. At the time, Doc mentioned that he’d be referring me for a colonoscopy. I didn’t think twice about it, until Murf asked in a rather sardonic tone if I wasn’t going to have my colon checked. The Doc made it sound routine for a man of my age (now doesn’t that sound reassuring). He sat me up with an appointment in late May and I proceeded to forget all about it. Then yesterday, a thick envelop came in the mail. It was addressed to my first name, always a bad sign. Normally I only get bills and bank statements to that name. The return address identified the sender as “Gastroenterology Specialists, P.C.” With shaking hands, I tore open the envelope and began reading about all that I had to do to prepare for this exam. I’m not sure, but this sounds like something that might come under the Geneva Convention definition for torture. This is serious stuff. Several times, I was told in big bold letters not to come by myself to the appointment. Someone else needed to be there with me, to drive me home and to stay with me the rest of the day. WHAT? Doc didn’t say that I had to clear my calendar. He made it sound like I just had to take a little medicine and to fast for a day and the specialist would look around a bit and we’d all be happy. It turns out that the “little medicine” is about a gallon’s worth, that I have to fast for over 36 hours with only clear liquid (I suppose that means that instead of scotch, I’m going to have to get some gin or vodka, cause I may be needing it). Then, the last 12 hours I got to go without drinking anything except for the medicine (I’m having serious thoughts about becoming an IV drug user). Then I essentially get knocked out while they go on a fishing expedition up my colon (it’s been a long time since I had biology and I forgotten the thing was so long). I know some of you have endured worse things, but I've always been healthy. This is my first serious proceedure in a hospital since my birth.

I was with my primary Doc last night at a meeting and told him that I didn’t sign up for all this. With a chuckle, he admitted he downplayed what was required. That’s an understatement! I think I’ll sue for malpractice; either that, or just go back to being 49 again. The good news is that my Doc will be turning 50 in a couple years and will have this to look forward too.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

No time to write, so here are a few pictures

I have been incredibility busy the past couple of weeks and am having to write so much stuff that I haven’t been able to do much here—except for a poem on Thursday. The first part of this week also looks busy. Hopefully by the end of the week I can spend time working on some more stories and tales to share with you. Until then, I thought I’d share a few photographs. This past Tuesday morning, when I shot the photo of this tree, it was real foggy. With the sun behind it, it created a nice mysterious feeling.

I also saw the reflections of this church’s steeple in a puddle beside the road and stopped and shot these photographs. I don’t know anything about this church. I don’t even know anyone who attends here. The sign says it’s an “Apostolic Tabernacle,” which sounds like foreign territory for a Presbyterian, but I had to stop. The reflections brought a smile to my face and gave me a few moments of calm during a busy week.

In case you wondering, I did have to “flip” the reflection picture to get them “right side up” for presentation.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Day's End: A Poetry Thursday Poem (and a Friday addition)

I'm going to try this again. This week’s Poetry Thursday writing exercise is to “borrow” a line from another Poetry Thursday author and incorporate it into a poem. The line I borrowed, “just when the firefly reflections move further out over the water,” is from Dana Guthrie Martin’s poem, “Mother at the Lake (1971).” The photo to the left taken in Northern Ontario, August 1992.

Day’s End

The wind dies with the day.
I reel in my line,
storing the rod on top of the gunnels,
and pick up my paddle,
digging it deep into the water.
With a steady rhythm,
I propel the bow
toward a chorus of frogs.
Reaching the shore
I pull the boat up onto the bank
just when the firefly reflections
move further out over the water.

Friday Morning Addition: Below is a similar "prose piece"about fishing at dusk and fireflies. This was posted in my blog on July 18, 2005.
Fishing at Dusk
Granddad’s old Browning fly-rod, nine and a half feet, nicely lays the line out. Casting next to the lily pads, the fly drops just inches from the dark green leaves. In a second, the water swirls and I yank, as the line dives below. Pulling just enough on the line to keep the fish from getting it tangled in the lily pads, I work the fish. He comes to the surface, jumping completely out of the water before diving deep. “He’s a nice one,” I think. Keeping the line taut, I allow him to swim back in forth in the deep water, slowly luring him toward the canoe. He begins to tire and I pull him closer and into the net. He’s not as big as I’d thought, but still a nice fish. I remove the hook from his lips and gently place him back into the lake. Wasting no time, he dives deeply into the waters as I look around. The western sky is pink. The waxing moon hangs low in the southeast. Up in the meadows above the lake, fireflies light the night. It’s time to paddle back to the truck. Driving home, a firefly strikes the windshield. A final flameout, glowing green ooze slides down the glass slowly fading out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

3 Word Wednesday, Updates & a Photo

Bone’s 3-Word Wednesday writing exercise this week has the following words: “Lost, Wave, Lined.” Here is my assignment—it’s fiction even though I’ve traveled by canoe into the northern Canada. This photo was taken in August 1992 on a 200 mile/10 day canoe trip to the James Bay via the Missinabi River.

We lined the boats through the rapids. There was no safe way to run the rapids in an open boat and this far north we couldn’t risk capsizing, nor was there an easy trail to portage. Since we needed to make good time to meet the train on Wednesday, lining was the best option. Ropes were tied to the bow and stern painters on each canoe, extending their length. Gear was securely tied inside the boats. We agreed to take one boat through the rapids at a time, with the other crew members waiting downstream in case there was a need for a rescue. The person in front held the bow line, and helped set the canoe’s direction. The water was allowed to move the canoe, while the stern paddler held the back line, controlling speed while assisting with the canoe’s direction. Like puppets, the first two boats navigated the turns and the ledges through the rapids without taking on much water. As the last boat started down stream, Chuck slipped and fell into the river. As the water swept him downstream, he dropped the stern line and the canoe tracked sideways as a wave filled the boat with water. As Chuck crawled out of the river, the canoe was caught for a moment on a submerged rock. It flipped the boat momentarily, but the craft righted itself and drawing much more water, banged through the rapids. It came to a stop in the shallow waters of a on a rock garden at the base of the falls. The boat was damaged, but nothing so severe that couldn’t be patched with duct tape. Luckily, no gear was lost, but everything was wet. We immediately set up camp and built a fire, setting out to dry out the gear. There was no reason try to rush; we could catch the Friday train.

Today's Update: It's been depressing. It’s snowing like crazy, which I really don’t mind, but this inch an hour snowfall (that started at 8 AM and is to continue till evening), is more than we bargained for this time of the year. The roads have been slippery. Maybe, however, it's a good thing I haven't put away my skis. What's really making the day depressing is that I got word late last night of the death of a man who'd become a good friend. E had been part of the interview team that hired me. He apparently had a heart attack and died yesterday afternoon. Although he'd had some heart issues, this was a shock.

On the good news front, I had my yearly physical this morning (my first in three years). All seems to be good. I could lose 10 or 15 pounds, other than that my cholesterol and blood pressure and hemoglobin and platelet counts and PSA are all in the good range.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Helping out a friend in need...

Contrary to at least one blogger’s opinion, I do not run a pimp service. However, as a special service to friends and acquaintances, Sage will occasionally write reference letters and want-ads for those trying to improve their lives. As Murf is having problems making and keeping female blogger friends, I decided to once again offer my services. Last year, I wrote her a reference letter that got her blackballed from all universities and community colleges in the Midwest. We’ll see what will happen now.

Wanted: A Murfmate

A member of the fairer sex is needed as a Platonic virtual-friend for Murf. The ideal candidate will have thick skin that can withstand darts tossed over the internet; in other words, she must be one tough broad. The ideal candidate should be able to answer a ton of questions that often come in the predawn hours of morning (Murf goes to work with the roosters). Yet, she must be humble enough not to upstage her friend Murf. Murf always gets to take the best shot at her other blogging friends who, at the present, include Ed, S, Snake Eater, Tim, Kevin, the Wendy boy and of course Sage (whose blog you're reading). Flirting with Murf's blogger friends is a serious faux pas and may cause the friendship to be terminated immediately.

It helps if the candidate enjoys ravioli and spaghetti-o’s, fresh out of the can, followed by a course of Cheetos and a diet soda. She must tolerate 19th Century Chic-lit, sappy movies, and think it’s normal to treat a dog as a child. Knowing that Saturn is more than a planet and that a Maple Leaf isn’t just something to rake is also helpful. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you don’t rake your yard. Such unneighborliness will cause Murf to go into a lecturing mode and has the possibility of fueling a war between Murf (the raker) and Ed (the rakeless).

Murf is Michigan native. She bleeds blue and yellow (the other half of the native population here bleeds green and white). Like an apple, she’s not fallen far from the tree. She’s a fair-weather gal. She prefers to stay inside during inclement weather and to make fun of those who do otherwise. She goes to the gym (or at least was still going two months after making her New Years resolution). She is married to Big A and one of the advantages of being a friend of Murf is that she'll have her husband look out for your bag when you fly through Metro-Detroit (you can't get that kind of deal from Triple-A).

Those interested should submit their Curriculum Vitae to the selection committee (c/o this blog). After proper scrutiny, we’ll refer you to a mental health provider in your area to deal with your obvious masochism.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday morning ramblings

Shuffling cars on the Aberdeen & Rockfish, at the Dundarrach sidings. Photo taken in February 2007.

Easter was gray and cool. We didn’t get as much snow as they’d predicted, but there were on and off snow showers. After church and dinner, I spent most of the rest of the day napping and reading in front of the fireplace. There was no reason to go outside.

Among the many books I’m currently reading is Stanley Karnow’s, Vietnam: A History. I’ve been listening to it on my i-pod at the gym. The book is 36 hours long (I’m getting my money’s worth from this download) and there are parts I am listening to twice. I also picked up a copy from the library and have been reading sections of the book. I was stunned by this comment made by Lyndon Johnson in February 1953, when he was a Senator from Texas.

“I want to make absolutely sure that the Communist don’t play one branch of the government against the other, or one party against the other… The danger is they’ll think we’re fat and fifty and fighting among ourselves about free enterprise and socialism and all that. We might mislead them so they’ll think these Americans are just the country club crowd. That’s a mistake our enemies have made before. If you’re in an airplane, and you’re flying somewhere, you don’t run up to the cockpit and attack the pilot. Mr. Eisenhower is the only president we got.”
Eleven years later, Johnson would be the President and claiming such authority for himself. Partly because he didn’t want to look weak when compared to Goldwater, Johnson would be blinded into seeing no other course but to lead America into a war “in that damn little pissant country” (LBJ’s words, said I’m sure with a Texas drawl). The war became a disaster. And now we have another President from Texas who just want’s us to “trust him.” The founders of our nation were on to something when they created the three branches of government to check each other. We need to remember that the president isn’t a pilot, and whenever he’s given such power, America as a nation is in danger. Another lesson we should learn is to never underestimate our opponents.

Gautami has posted a poem from the perspective of a confused girl in an incestuous relationship. It’s haunting and powerful and a reminder that there’s nothing worse that someone with authority and in a position of trust abusing a child.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

An Easter Memory: A Moravian Sunrise

The photograph of Home Moravian Church in Winston Salem is not mine--I know I have photographs of Old Salem, but I didn't have the time to find them. I can assure you, the day I'm writing about, the skies were not clear!

One spring in the early 80s, I made a pilgrimage to Old Salem for the Moravian Sunrise service on Easter morning. Some say the Moravians invented the Sunrise service, but I think that honor goes to a handful of women back in Jerusalem during the first century. The Moravians only revived the tradition and have been doing Easter Sunrise Services in America since the 18th Century. If you ever get a chance to attend such a service at Winston Salem or Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, go!

Going to Sunrise Services wasn’t something my family did when I was a child. It was hard enough to make it to church on time later in the morning. Folks often joked we’d be late for our own funerals, something I still hope will happen. The only time any of us were ever up before sunrise was to fish, which is perhaps why as soon as I could drive, I began attending Easter Sunrise services. It seemed a natural thing to do. After all, there is that resurrection story about the disciples fishing at sunrise. For me, it didn’t matter what the preacher said or how the choir sounded, watching the sun come up was enough of a message and more glorious than any praise I might mutter. This is especially true when you live near a body of water. Some years I would watch the rays’ race across the ocean and up onto the sand, other years I’d go to a service on the sound and witness the marsh grass bask in the sun’s warm rays as ducks take to the air. From the time I was sixteen, I’ve attended many sunrise services, but the one I’ll always remember was at Old Salem in the early 80s.

It was bittersweet, as I look back on it. I was in a failing relationship, but for that weekend, it didn’t seem to matter. We were young, right out of college. We drove up to Winston Salem on Saturday and spent the day touring Old Salem. We checked into a hotel right across the freeway from the village, an 18th Century town now swallowed up within metro-Winston-Salem. I’m not sure Salem got the best end of the merger, but at least they got a cigarette named after them. Old Salem was one of the first settlements in the Piedmont of North Carolina, settled by Moravians who made their way to Wachovia (as the settlement was originally known). Today there’s a bank with that name Wachovia.

That Sunday morning, a wake-up call came at 4:30 AM. Washing the sleep out of our eyes, we dressed as warmly as possible. The weather had turned cold and we hadn’t planned on it. I didn’t even have gloves. We made our way out into the streets, as I shuffled along with my hands in my pockets. On the corner a brass quartet played. This was true all over Salem, as brass quartets played hymns in the predawn hours, waking people up to the celebration that was about to begin. We walked, with hoards of others, making our way across the freeway and into the old village where we gathered with thousands on the lawn in front of the old church.

Anticipation filled the crowed as we waited, not sure what might happen next. It seemed odd to wait, but that was what the instructions said to do. And we waited, our ears numbed from the cold, could make out the brass quartets playing in the distance. A light breeze blew and the dark sky began to spit sleet and snow. We continued waiting. Right before dawn, the doors of the church opened and the preacher stepped out and shouted, “Christ Is Risen.” We responded, “He Is Risen Indeed.” The preacher and his assistants then led the crowd out to “God’s Acre,” the cemetery. “God’s Acre” must be like God’s years (a day is as a thousand years), for its’ much larger than a standard acre. This is a good thing for there is no way that the crowd could have all gathered on a 200 foot by 200 foot parcel. We settled in, facing the sun which was hiding somewhere behind gray clouds. Then, from behind us, the band entered. All the quartets that had been playing on the street corners had come together. There appeared to be several hundred of them, trumpets and trombones and French horns and tubas. We joined our voices with them praising God and worshipping the Risen One. It didn’t matter that I was out of tune, others drowned me out.

I don’t remember the message and didn’t actually see the sun rise, but just being there on Easter morning with the sky spitting sleet and snow was enough. After the service, we made our way back to the hotel, stopping in the dining room for breakfast. A lone waitress tried to serve us all, complaining that management has once again forgotten to expect a crowd on Easter. No body complained too much. Instead, several of us took turns serving coffee, the least it seemed we could do, as she ran around getting orders and bring out plates. It was late-morning by the time we’d eaten and checked out the hotel. Driving back east, the clouds broke. Along the edges of the roads, dogwoods bloomed.

Addendum Easter 2007: As Murf indicated in the comments, this Easter won’t be much different. Actually, there wasn’t any snow accumulation back at my Old Salem Easter. We’re supposed to get a couple inches today and tonight so you can bet I’ll have gloves tomorrow, if for no other reason than to be able to toss a snowball.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Writing Exercises

I’ve combined Bone’s Three Word Wednesday with another writing exercise I found through Gautami (Poetry Thursday) to create the following poem. This week’s Poetry Thursday’s” challenge is to write a poem to a favorite poet. The following is written to Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). Bone’s three words are “Miles,” “Voice,” and “Holding”

For Sylvia

Your words linger on my lips,
a clear yet troubling voice,
declaring the horrors of Dachau
and unrequited love.

Your portrait loiters within my mind
-that graceful neck and haunting eyes-
subtle beauty with a mouth

seemingly uncommitted to a smile or frown.

Attractive yet troubled,
I can still hear your voice
over distances beyond miles
crying out for recognition and your lost father
-holding out hope that vanished-
one February morning by the oven.

I should say that I have never studied poetry, but I enjoy playing with words. As for Sylvia, maybe my infatuation is like Eldon John infatuation with Marilyn Monroe (who also died in the early 60s). Of course, Mr. John made a fortune with his words and music and then recycled it and made another fortune as he paid homage to a dead princess.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Walking Along the Coldwater

This evening, after an early dinner, I took off north of town to check out the Coldwater River. The stream is maintained by a local chapter of Trout Unlimited and with trout season just a few weeks away, I thought I’d check it out. It was also good to be out one more time this season with the wind biting my face and feeling snowflakes land on my nose. The temperature was a bit below freezing and a strong wind was blowing out of the west. As the evening approached, snow increased.

The Coldwater is a good wading stream, but it’s so high due to our rain that it would suicide to try to wade in it now. With all the rain turning the water muddy, it doesn’t look like the clean trout stream it supposedly is. Also, with the river up, most of the rocks were well underwater and invisible to the eye. The stream looks to be fairly clear of logs, even though the banks are lined with sycamore trees.

Spring is trying to make its appearance here, but the early risers got dusted with snow.

The poor spider who tried to set his invisible trap had it exposed by the snow.

Trisket (don’t ask, my daughter named him) loves to be out with me, but he is terribly afraid of cameras. It’s a long story. He equates cameras with flashes which he equates with lightning and when a storm approaches, he’s given a tranquilizer. That’s right; the dog is a dope-head and during thunderstorm season, he goes through a few prescriptions of pills. All that to say that he wasn’t happy when he saw my camera coming, but I did trick him into getting a head shot. He is a pretty dog and very loyal and smart.

I kept hiking until my camera was requiring a flash (which really freaked the dog out). Figuring I was running out of light (hard to tell with the gray skies), we turned around and headed back to the truck. By the time I got home, it was dark. I placed a fire in the hearth and am sitting by it as I write this post and nurse a glass of aged rum on the rocks.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Just Playing

Yesterday, I hinted at books being one of my favorite idols. I define them as idols as they are a material object that I cling to and hate to give up (although I do enjoy being an evangelist and lending them out). Also, I’ve often found solace in books, which is a second idolatry characteristic I’ve given to them. I took photo snippets of some of my books and blended them together to create this collage/altar. Should I make this my new profile picture? What do you think?

Monday, April 02, 2007

Monday morning ramblings

I took the photo to the right back in the late 80's from the Larkspur/San Francisco ferry. It's a copy from a slide.

I watched the Lady Heels lose to Tennessee last night. After Carolina's loss, I’d given up on the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament and had gone over to the women’s. The first half was dismal, with neither team playing their potential. Carolina was down by one at the half. The second half looked a lot more like championship basketball and for the first fifteen minutes, Carolina dominated and played like champions. Then due to fouls and injuries, Carolina lost their lead and slipped behind, unable to catch up. I’m done with basketball for the season. I’ll let Karen keep me up to date on what the Pistons are doing (in addition to taking shots at the Bushies, she's a rabid Detroit fan). As a general rule, I don’t watch pro-basketball.

Baseball begins today. In honor of the game, check out the poem Pat posted on Friday. his poetry is wonderful, but back to baseball. Will the Tiger’s go to the World Series again? If so, will they win it all? Will the Pirates finally break 500? Will this be the year I’ll finally get to see a game at Wrigley’s Field? We’ll see. On Wednesday, the Whitecaps (a nearby single-A team) have a preseason home “expedition game.” It’s free and they’re only playing seven innings, which is probably good since the weather gurus are now calling for snow.

If anyone is looking to significantly increase their library, check out Kevin’s blog. He’s creating a jackpot of books that he’ll give away later this year to the winner of his contest. It's a great way to increase his blog traffic. (I wonder if he'll pay for shipping if one of my readers from somewhere like India or Turkey or Iraq wins?) Each week he adds to the stash. Some of the books are from his collection (the thought of giving away my books brings chills, probably identifying one of my idolatries). Kevin also plans to lean on his connections in the publishing business for other books to sweeten his pot. So far, most of the books are theological in nature, but there are others too as well as some classical recordings. Besides, for most people, there’s probably no better sleep aide than reading a thesis written by a 17th Century Puritan. It should be noted that Kevin has given away books before. Murf was one of his winners—I’m not sure it helped but Tim and I did what we could to stuff the ballot box for her.