Grecian burger deluxe

Teak, who is 5, was beginning to feel the press of a long prayer (The “Prayers of the People”) at church, and it didn’t help that I, at the other end of the row, could hear him shout in a whisper, “But this is taking too LOOOONG!” which meant that people in front and behind could hear quite easily.  Ah.  How spiritually motivating.  And then, as I took him out to class during Announcements, before the Scripture was to be read, he starts to freak, so I pick him up, he freaks some 033008clivec.jpgmore, and while I try to put him down he claws my face like a cat with attitude and with as much animal kingdom loyalty to elders as a feline might have, and so we walk out the back of the sanctuary, which holds 800 people, and I smile as if to say, “Yes, this is my son and, yes, I am in a senior management position at this church…everything is under control.  The 5-year-old Will Pay.”  The fault lied, actually, with our rushing the kids to get ready for church and Carter zipping up a part of his body that still hurt hours later.  Guys, all together now:  OUCH.  But we ended the evening throwing the wild animals a bone – a dinner at Big Nick’s on 77th and Broadway.  Teak was happy, even though his food came last.  Teak was happy, and so, therefore, was I.

photo:  clivec

Pat Metheny riffs

The preacher said on Easter during his sermon that I had been “mega-possessed.”  He didn’t say so exactly, but he reminded us that Jesus had cast out “seven demons” from Mary Magdalene, and the number seven when used like that in ancient Semitic times meant “mega” or “super.”  She was big-time possessed, and the Lovely K and I figured that my four or five major demons meant that I had been pretty darn messed up.  Giving my testimony that night at church in front of 800 of my closest friends, my story played well into that of Mary’s.032908umberto.jpg

Truth be told, that morning – Easter – I woke up and felt little to no spiritual depth.

Easter – mind you, Dear Reader – is my favorite holiday.  I like it much more than Christmas, because it is so free of the freneticism and almost addictive spending of money.  (Sure, it’s big on saturated fat, but those confectionery Peeps are just so tasty…)  I like it more than Thanksgiving, which I like more than Christmas because of its emphasis on family togetherness.  And I like it more than Flag Day, which to date has eluded Christendom as a significant time of celebration.

When I was a boy, we used to spend many Easters down in Williamston, North Carolina.  My aunt Jane and aunt Sally lived together on Church Street, so named I assumed because it ran alongside the Baptist church.  This is where we’d stay.  I used to play with a neighborhood boy, Arvin, a name I have yet to encounter north of the Mason-Dixon Line or belonging to anyone born after 1970.  We never went to church during those Easter times there, but rather we drank Coca-Colas from 8 oz. bottles on my aunts’ porch, the rhododendron trees on either side of their front walk forming perfect cover for kids’ hideouts during game time.

After I started to follow Jesus, Easter took on a new meaning.  It is the defining moment of Christianity:  the proposition that Jesus rose bodily from the dead and, because of his being alive, the promise that we, too, will one day rise from the dead to be with him.  It is kind of the whole enchilada of the faith, and without it, everything else crumbles.  It is therefore, I would argue, more important than Flag Day and all the other holidays.

Last year, Carter and I went to the Saturday night Easter Vigil at church where, in the Anglican tradition, at a certain point in the service, everyone gets to ring bells celebrating the resurrection and shout Alleluia! as loudly and often as they can for about two minutes or so.  It is a cacophony of joy.  We brought the 4-inch dinner bell that my parents used to have in their apartment.  The entire service lasts about 2-1/2 hours, and Carter did quite well, except for the incense.

But this Easter was somehow different.

My heart was darkened.  Maybe it was the dread of having to get up in front of people and tell them all my dirt.  Maybe it was my having been climbing all-too-slowly out of a depression that started two weeks prior and my desire to “not be found out” as weak, as vulnerable, as…depressed.  How, after all, can a Christian be depressed on Easter?  Of all times?!  Surely this must signal that my faith is not that strong.  That I am a sham of a believer.  That my charade is over.  That this Christianity stuff really doesn’t work.  My mind tortured me to consider that my depression on Easter morning would weaken my sons’ faith in Jesus and cast doubts in the Lovely K’s mind as to my mental and emotional stability.  Excuse me, I reminded myself, but you have two pill bottles for Depakote and Zyprexa in the medicine cabinet that already answer that last part, sir.  In short, I felt like crap.  And it was Easter.  Of all times.  My favorite holiday.

To help, I took the boys out to the playground before lunch, so that K could hide the eggs in our apartment for our family Easter egg hunt.  (Yes, I believe Christians can hunt for eggs on Easter and still hold that Jesus rose from the dead.  I can’t find any Scriptural conflict for these two things.)  This gave me fresh air but still left me the same:  depressed with a little spring wind burn.  I came home and after the hunt I tried to nap in my chair in front of a Mets-Cardinals pre-season baseball game.  That part was somewhat easy.

032908klsa12.jpgIt wasn’t until we sat in church together, the five of us, up close on the right side of the sanctuary.  The service we go to – our church holds five on normal Sundays; it did six on Easter – is a jazz service, with a snappy prologue and spiffed up hymns.  Yesterday, they were doing a Pat Metheny piece in the beginning, which I allowed my mind and heart to drift along into.  The pianist, who was the leader, motioned with his head back to the bass guitar player and the brass players, and the lead guitarist up front did a riff that I’d gladly have paid a cover charge to hear, as the pianist’s wife did a scat on the mic along with the guitarist.  I felt my mind easing and lilting along with the melody.  By the time the assistant pastor opened us with a meditation on how a man who was buried with an acorn in his hand led to an oak tree growing from beneath a tomb and breaking through concrete slabs, and how this was symbolic of Jesus’ life breaking through the stranglehold of death, I was starting to remember why I love Easter so much.  I was still a bit apprehensive of getting up to the mic for my testimony, but I let myself be carried with the beauty of the song, of the prayers, of the congregation there to either celebrate Jesus’ miraculous rising or – as was the case with many there – investigate the claims of this faith.

In other words, at some point, I stopped thinking about myself and started to worship.

When I had successfully forgotten about myself and my stage fright, I was happy.

photos:  umberto, klsa12

Denver’s got the real deal

To be fair, Sierra Trading Company is quite excellent at customer service.  I mean, they provide all the tools to return the product they send to you – (and is this a good sign??) return label, complaint form, etc. – and they let you post your review of their product to your blog, which I decided to do for the novelty of it.

But I must say here, that a pearl snap shirt should ALWAYS be all cotton.  Truly, if indicative of everything wholesome and American, like riding a bull for eight seconds, it should be made of natural fibers.  Sierra’s product was not, and for all I know, they ride llamas.

I’m kicking myself a bit over this transaction and, therefore, Sierra is taking the brunt.  The buy was a bit impulsive, because the shirt was under $18.  That seemed to good to be true, and it was.

Here’s the real deal for ordering pearl snap shirts online, Rockmount Ranch Wear, in Denver.  I’m sure they have good product, and I’m sure you can’t post your complaint, let alone return the shirt.

My Review of Panhandle Slim Snap Shirt – Long Sleeve (For Men)

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

[Shameless verbage from Sierra Trading’s website]

Closeouts . Snap shirt from Panhandle Slim features a great pattern and vintage western feel to keep you at your cowboy best. Long sleeves Western cut yoke Double-point pockets Smoky pearlized snaps 65% polyester, 35% cotton Machine wash, dry Closeouts . Indonesia. Size: S(34-36) M(38-…

Panhandle Slim Snap Shirt – Long Sleeve (For Men)

My review:  “not a real snap shirt”

By hfreeman17 from New York, NY on 3/29/2008
1out of 5

Pros: Lightweight; the fact that I can blog my review from their site…that is pretty cool.

Describe Yourself: Casual/ Recreational

Fabric is blend, not all cotton. Collar button is not a snap. This is not a real pearl snap shirt.  Am returning for a refund.

Reading Anne Lamott

When I can’t think of what to write, I sometimes write about writing.

Math teacher Mr. Mirobito – named “Bito Bug” by my fellow sixth graders at Trinity School in Manhattan in 1975 – would punish his student transgressors (Loud Talkers, The Disobedient, Homework Shirkers) by requiring them to write a 500-word essay about the inside of a ping pong ball.  This was supposed to be excruciating, but there were some, of course, who found it quite fanciful.

032431craigpj.jpgNow, looking back, I think it could potentially be an interesting exercise, not that I would want to go against Bito Bug and incur his wrath with this assignment.  Bito Bug, by the way, was also the name we gave to the creations we made of plastic drink cups at lunch, tearing up their lips and bending the slats frontwards and backwards, making fascinating looking insects that crawled across the 8-foot folding tables of the lunchroom.  As a further aside, when you Google “Bito Bug,” you’ll find only the pedigree for a thoroughbred with this moniker in his name.

But, back to the subject, which you perhaps so innocently happened upon when you came to this blog, surfing tags on pearl snap shirts, Phoebe Cates, All Souls Unitarian Church, Point O’ Woods, or Puglia Restaurant’s very own – and quite awesome – Jorge Buccio.  I am quite intrigued by the inside of the ping pong ball proposition.  Only as a momentary mental exercise, mind you.  Lest you think that I will launch into an expose on same, I will remind you that I went to Trinity with soon-to-become professional wordsmiths who went on to write jokes for Arsenio Hall and movies for Pixar.  For these luminaries, the punishment became Golden Globe-winning screenplays.  I’ll leave the task to them.

OK.

Here’s a writing topic:  J.K. Rowling.  The first billionaire author, and one of five self-made female billionaires.  That’s a lot more interesting than the inside of a ping pong ball.  Carter wants me to start reading the Harry Potter series so we can discuss them, and I will of course acquiesce, because anything to encourage his literary interests, I will do.  But I can’t say that this series is top of my list.

I am finishing Anne Lamott’s “Grace (Eventually),” which I am enjoying very much, though I do not agree at turns with her politics or stances on social issues, and though I find her snipes occasionally to be gratuitous.  But I saw her at Barnes & Noble a couple weeks ago as part of her tour for the book’s release in paperback.  It was pouring rain, the kind of rain that takes out the crease from your newly pressed grey slacks in the course of one street crossing and makes you pi#*ed off that you don’t travel door to door by car anymore as the more civilized if less-well-read suburbanites do.  And I barely got a seat with three hundred of my closest friends on the fourth floor of B&N’s Union Square store.  But there mounted the stage Anne Lamott, my hero (“heroine”?) – my writing hero, anyway – who proceeded to be as candid and funny and winsome and inviting as I have heard a speaker before.  As I stood in the line waiting for a quick hello and signature, I watched the couple in front of me gripe at Ann Coulter‘s book to their right, stacked five wide in the Current Events section.  The woman fingered the title, “If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d be Republicans,” and tsk‘ed at her lover.  Can you believe this crap? she practically screamed at her boyfriend, whose eyes lingered at the book’s cover.  And yet, she had no rejoinder to the blonde in the slinky black dress, silently taunting them from eye level.

Of course, I didn’t buy Lamott’s new book that night.  I am too cheap, and I had brought with me the copy that Karen gave me for Valentine’s Day.  But I wished I had brought also my copy of “Bird by Bird,” which the Lovely K had bought for me two summers ago.  I wanted to thank her more.  I wanted to encourage her more, which I hope I did, by saying, “I hope you keep on writing and writing.”  What I really wanted to say was, “Keep on telling the truth.”

For even when her politics tick me off, even when Ann Coulter has the hair thing going on and Anne Lamott does not, I am grateful that Lamott is telling the truth:  about her perspective, about her struggles, about her joy, about her faith.

photo:  CraigPJ

“The Carpenter’s Son”

-by A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

“Here the hangman stops his cart:
Now the best of friends must part.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.

“Oh, at home had I but stayed
‘Prenticed to my father’s trade,
Had I stuck to plane and adze,
I had not been lost, my lads.

“Then I might have built perhaps
Gallows-trees for other chaps,
Never dangled on my own,
Had I left but ill alone.

“Now, you see, they hang me high,
And the people passing by
Stop to shake their fists and curse;
So ’tis come from ill to worse.

“Here hang I, and right and left
Two poor fellows hang for theft:
All the same’s the luck we prove,
Though the midmost hangs for love.

“Comrades all, that stand and gaze,
Walk henceforth in other ways;
See my neck and save your own:
Comrades all, leave ill alone.

“Make some day a decent end,
Shrewder fellows than your friend.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live lads, and I will die.”

posted on TitusOneNine