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Entries in community (23)

Saturday
Jun092012

Casa Kansas

Kansas street house just minutes before pulling away for the last time in May 2012

The previous post was a long way of saying I moved house. But it didn't do justice when it comes to saying what I left behind. The old house at 3967 Kansas Street was a place that deserves some words. It is the first place that Kelli and I lived in and actually liked and had no real reason to leave except that it was far from where our bread is buttered up in Escondido. It was the first place we did a ritual walkabout in the last days before leaving, honoring what the house meant to us for the two years and eight months we were there.

Here on the site, I just created a gallery that illustrates much of the really memorable stuff that made Casa Kansas special. Why not go see it. There are considerable notes to accompany the pictures, and you can view larger version in the lightbox mode. Just click.

Hiding in Public

For some years now, I've not reported on where I lived for some concern about my old man and his history of snooping us out and sometimes doing some unwelcome stuff. The last that happened was in the last days of our previous house on Nashville St. I had made the mistake of giving out the address there to someone in mutual contact, and I think that might have made it easy for him to pay us a visit, unbidden. 

But there is a lot of life that happens at one's house and it sucks to keep that from the official record. (I just happen to keep a publicly viewable record.) The fact is though, Casa Kansas was nearly more a community hangout than just "our house." Lots of people knew where it was because it was a hub of community life for us. In fact, I counted 70 people who graced us with their presence at our dinners, parties, or JEM related work including podcast recording sessions. And really, there's a feeling in me that begs to be honored with a public telling of the story of how life was so rich there.

Backstory

I found it in a different way than others of our houses. I was driving the neighborhood as a volunteer delivery driver for Special Delivery in September 2009. My eyes were open for places then because our old place on Nashville was in foreclosure and it seemed an unstable place, and I wasn't satisfied that our landlords could hold it together. One day while delivering to the apartment complex next door, I spotted the sign on this house and by late September had put the money down on it. It is in a richly varied part of town, with some of the most innovative and interesting restaurants, plenty of walkable streets with services and just as far from church as the previous house had been. About the only thing not to like was the commute home from work. I had just agreed to move to a place upon one of the great mesas in San Diego, from a place that was closer to sea level and at about the same elevation as where I worked. In 2009 though, that was a welcome challenge, seeing how that was my pinnacle of biking activity. After paying my deposit at Kansas, I went to the bike shop and got a new cog for my fixed gear bike, a lower gear for making the hill at Washington St. near work. I would do that hill at least five times a week for the coming year and more.

At $1500 rent, even as I signed up I felt queasy. Kelli was just freshly out of her hospital residency, so her stipend was no more. I was earning about $2400 take home then, sometimes less, to the tune of about $2200. I had no idea how we'd do it if she didn't get work in the coming months. It was kind of miraculous how we held it together. Casa Kansas left me feeling quite overextended. But it was a charming 3-bedroom in a charming, walkable neighborhood, and near work and church for me. Bikeable area that was also near Jubilee Economics Ministries office too. But this house was also the latest in a series of ever-rising rent rates that we faced. Rents at my old place on Quapaw were enviably low for me, at $150. The thought was not lost on me at Casa Kansas that our new rate was TEN TIMES that. Of course, Quapaw was an unusual deal even in the Kelli year (it went up to $450 then), but still...the margin it allowed to work or not work, to risk living a bit was nice. It just came at a steep emotional price. In between Quapaw and Kansas, there were more realistic rates that climbed each time we moved, for the most part: $775 at our first apartment; $600 up to $800 at the Calabrese Compound (the shift was when we lost one roommate and split the $1200 into thirds instead of quarters); $1200 for our share at Nashville, and now $1500 for the entire place at Kansas. It was dizzying. And worrying.

Thanksgiving dinner 2010 with the MHUCC young adults bunchThanksgiving 2010 with Young Adults group

Open House, Community Hub

Setting that aside for a bit, we opened our place up to friends from church and other circles. The young adults group at church was the first major bunch of new friends that came by for the Thanksgiving dinner about a month or so after we moved in. A few of them, Margie, Nichol, and Amanda, helped us move in a scramble when the Nashville house situation crumbled a bit faster than we planned. I got a box truck from work, and one buddy from there helped out too for a couple nights. The whole Kansas era was one defined by community life, and Kansas had the most open door so far.

The place had the charm that accompanies houses of its kind. A craftsman style place from 1922, it was pushing 90 years old when we got there. Stylish and useful built in cabinets and drawers, wood floors (mostly), a pretty big kitchen, and other features from days gone by were things that were functional and novel to tell people about. Being so centrally located was handy. Being in walking distance to a dozen quality restaurants was an easy hook to "come over to my place." It was in short distance to Balboa Park where the Critical Mass ride launches once a month (I rode it several times), and where three dog runs were available. The JEM office was just a mile away so it made it easy for Lee Van Ham to ride over and do podcasts and other media work. It wasn't far out of the way so I might have Kelli drop me off at church and then I'd just bum a ride back with someone going that way. We had Sunday dinners with spontaneous lists of folks. Kelli had a bible study series. Birthdays, New Years Day wine parties, and other events all happened there.

Backdrop for Life

Even aside from what actually happened onsite, the Kansas years were the backdrop for a great many developments for both of us and the communities we operate in: my male initiation and the trip to New Mexico a year later that was as important; we had time and will to do some regional travel to desert locations like Death Valley, Salton Sea, Joshua Tree, and other regional points; Kelli became a professional chaplain by getting not one but two hospice positions while there; she was ordained too; I was let go from my job but spent considerable time helping Jubilee Economics Ministries with all manner of digital tools; so too with the newly created Women Who Speak In Church, a way to help Kelli and Amanda network with other women in ministry, especially those getting into it; I briefly rehearsed some music with MHUCC players there and also made the most strides in a long time, trying to get back to making music with the help of the nearby store, New Expressions Music and a couple Meetup groups that introduced me to folk music and songwriter groups; Kelli's growing place in UCC at a national level, bringing her disability ministry concerns to a wider audience, and I suppose a lot more still.

Torelli fixed gear bike which has been my main ride since 2009My main ride as of July 2009

The Five Mile Radius

For those years, I found that I could live within about a five mile radius most of the time, and often just three or so. Church was at the far end of that three mile radius, but the Kansas era was largely shaped by the time at MHUCC. At times, it was like I rode grooves into the street along University Avenue. I liked riding to church but didn't really like the route I had to take. While there were a few alternatives, none was really any improvement upon just throwing in my lot with the rest of the madmen on the road and charging along the too-narrow stretch from Kansas to Park, and then into the vast sea of asphalt from Park to 10th, and then back into the smaller streets that get me to Washington, closer to church. When I worked at Specialty Produce, I rode nearly the same route, but without any detours off University or the part of Washington that drops off the mesa and down to Specialty. I sort of got tired from doing that commute since I'd ride the same path to church and work for about three miles, and on a busy week with five days of work and a few things happening at church, I suppose I could rack up nine trips along that road per week.

The Economics of Escondido Employment

The economic tide shifted toward Escondido though, particularly after a year and more of my being unemployed. Kelli got her job there as a per diem in early 2010 but it took until September 2011 before she got Amanda's vacated job as a full time chaplain at the same place. (This is in addition to her working back down in San Diego at another firm, also as per diem chaplain. She keeps busy.) The miles up to Escondido take their toll on the car and take time from both of us. Having seen Amanda move to north county for the same job just as we started off at Kansas, we knew it might just be a matter of time once she got the full time offer. The hospice down in San Diego though did make tentative offers at about the same time but never gave enough detail to really lock in to a position there, so then it became clear our fate was linked to Escondido. But how long would it last, commuting those 30-45 minutes each way? The math says that to do that for 48 weeks a year, it would be about 13,000 miles. That's a lot of gas, and mostly a lot of time on the road that isn't spent living together. And sometimes even after all that, Kelli might need to come home and chart the day's visits. Or she might need to work a few nights per month at the local hospice, or even two Saturdays. That was just too much. Buying the car in April forced us to evaluate where exactly that money would come from. Fortunately the car payment could be offset with a reduction in the gasoline bill from moving house, this time to a place that for the first time was actually less expensive than the one before.

Amanda, just a short while after getting the green light to become ordained. She was camping out at Kansas for the weekend before we moved.

The State of the State Street

Kansas was more than just a house. It had spirit. It was a venue for a lot of growth for both of us. It was a hub of activity that is not insignificant. It's impossible to know the trajectory of influence. Who knows what one of our JEM podcasts will become when the ideas therein are scattered about in the minds of people who saw the economics of life one way and then the JEM way? Who will hear those words and change the world? Same with the prospects yet to be evident from both Kelli and Amanda launching their professional careers with the help of this house. Who knows what they shall do in the realm of disability inclusion or therapy for those abused within church settings? Or for the young women who are yet to enter ministry? So many areas of promise met and mingled at this house for just shy of three years. It was vibrant there in a way that no other residence but for a short while at Quapaw was. I never learned this stuff from my home life, except maybe seeing it from a bit of a distance of age when my grandmother was more socially engaged when I was a boy.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Buber

Kelli and I did a walkabout during the one day we had to cooperatively work on cleaning the place out upon moving. I did much of the work myself, but on one evening we toured the rooms and paused to reflect on what the place meant to us. To be glad for all the friends and experiences that made the place special. It was quite moving. All told, I was there cleaning the place for six days and nights so I got a chance to let my mind wander and to be ready for that moment. 

I wonder what other stories that house has to tell, if just a couple years there was so rich for us?

Sunday
Mar072010

Take A Leek

ed and pepper sutton at MHUCC souper bowl sunday soup cookoff. they won the silver spoon award for the take a leek soupEd and Pepper Sutton, the chefsMy church had a soup cookoff today, the "Souper Bowl Sunday" event to raise money for one of the local charitable organizations we support. I submitted the following recipe after about a year of dabbling at home and it was adopted by the commission I am on, the Christian Education commission. A few of us in CE went to my jobsite and got some veggies and then headed back to church last night to make a few gallons of soup by hand. It was one of six entrants in the event. People voted by "cash in a basket" for whichever soup or presentation they liked, but really the winner was the group getting the donations. (We had a giant likeness of a rustic outhouse to play up the "take a leek" idea. Many groups sold their recipes for a buck each.) Nonetheless, our smoky Leek and Potato and Spinach soup came in second place and got the "Silver Spoon." The tortilla soup people won the golden spoon. It was a nice rainy day, perfect weather to drive a bunch of people to eat their share of gallons and gallons of soup! The tally I heard was $1,570—for soup! Whodathunkit?

Take A Leek soup

Vegetarian. Omnivore friendly if you use chicken broth or bacon. Home recipe yields about 3-4 quarts.

  • 2-3 Russet potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 leeks, cleaned, whites only
  • Your choice of 1 yellow onion, 1 bunch of green onions, or 2 shallots
  • 1 lb cleaned spinach
  • 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (or Half and Half, cream cheese, etc.)
  • 1 quart broth
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and minced
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme and parsley, minced or left whole in a cheesecloth for easy removal
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

Optional:

  • For thinner texture add another quart of broth or more half and half. Thicker consistency makes more of a dip.
  • Bacon bits or ham if desired.
  • Experiment with herbs—dill, sage, etc.

Select leeks with lots of white, about 3"-4". Cut lengthwise into the core so you can peel apart and clean between the layers. Over a low flame, saute thinly sliced leeks, minced garlic and onions in butter and olive oil. Some browning adds additional character. Prepare potatoes by thinly slicing them and browning in a single layer in a wide oiled skillet over high flame. Combine leek/onion/garlic mix and potatoes into a large pot with broth. Add spinach and seasonings. Bring close to a boil then lower heat and let everything mingle for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add the cream soup (or other cream) and blend well using immersion blender. If using a regular blender, use a slotted ladle to remove most chunks, leaving some behind for texture. Recombine blended and unblended parts. Season to taste with pepper(s) and salt.

Yields about 2-3 quarts depending on how many broths or creams are used. Can be frozen. Serve with hearty, nutty bread or in a bread bowl. Yummy!

Thursday
Feb182010

Unplugged Life

Most of you have no idea how many times I log in to write a new blog, then abandon the idea after a few distracted trips to other programs or other sites. I shut it down and try again maybe an hour later, maybe a day later, or a week later. I've been at this activity for nearly six years now. (I consider April of 2004 to be my official foray into actual blogging, otherwise my earlier web site entries functioned in about the same way for about two years before, albeit without server-side functionality.) I've processed a lot of thoughts and events here. I've spilled some beans here. I've toyed with a couple "voices" in my writing here. Sometimes writing has been a great relief to finally put something into words and therefore some clarity. Other times it seems like going through the motions.

My general trend for much of the last couple years in particular, but also since my Halcyon time in 2003, has been to push further back my computer related communications. I might need to clarify. Obviously the blog has almost entirely happened in that time, but as regards the various other sites and groups I might have once frequented or might hang out on if I was not even as steadfast as I am, I have limited myself a good deal. These days I have nothing to do with Facebook (started an account under a bogus name and found it impossible to locate friends with any efficiency so I dropped it and think I canceled my account), MySpace (have an account but my browser is old enough that I can't even log on or see other people's pages anymore), and I also don't Tweet (I find the idea of communicating in 140 characters to be preposterous.). I do a lot less of any digital anything now. Back when I was online and haunting music tech and artist newsgroups and forums, I was not really a great citizen and beside that, there is never any end to all that. One never wins any of the arguments before the Nazi word is thrown out, therefore ending whatever thread was going on. All that was a time-suck. In 2003 I knew I needed to drop all that. Blogging is at least for me my place to say whatever I like and not have to argue. And, believe it or not, I am writing far less on blog entries than I did for forums.

The fact is, I am vastly enjoying the various in person relationships I am having now. All my erstwhile use of forums and newsgroups and all that was just a stand-in for the relationships I wanted. I put a greater premium on doing in-person activities and just don't care that I am not on FaceBook, MySpace or Twitter. Kelli is a FaceBook user and that is more than enough for me, even to hear about it or to wait for her to put it away. I do quite like our in person time as it anchors us to something while many other parts of life whirl us around as if a tornado. I actually do dream of the day when I can separate from computers and phones, longing for an "Office Space Moment". I still rather like my music library and some things, but until all that fails me too, I can at least limit myself with that social media shit that just sucks time and isn't as vital for me as the real thing it would like me to think I am experiencing when I am not. There is just something refreshing about not mediating all one's relationships through electronics, in the same way as it is refreshing to have your daily personal exchanges not mediated through the world of commerce (tellers, customer service, etc. all playing like they're your friend when all there is is business to be done and the niceties are enough to make you not want to run out forever).

The thing is I have a lot going on. A lot of it is at church or through those relationships or similar ones. I work in a place where there isn't much of substantial talk but I've carved out a few small niches with a couple people. It is sufficiently unsatisfying (yes) that I still must try to relate to people on the outside. I keep meeting and developing relationships with more folks at church since the congregation is rather large. It is a perfect antidote to the commercial relationships that I don't like. I scarcely even call people, church or not. I hate phones. I carry my own (which barely seems to ring) and one for work (which gets email, calls and two way chatter). When done, I want out of all that. I am sick of little devices being my leashes, offering minor headaches of annoyance and the impossibility of actual communication. Bah!

I'm rather enjoying low-tech and old time methods to do things. Biking with a not-very-efficient-drivetrain has been an obvious one—riding a 100 year old piece of technology that is far more satisfying than the new shit, or cars, or whatever. I've found a bit of fellowship in the bike world, but found existing folks were were interested in biking but were waiting for someone to get them out finally. Cooking has been fun, having learned to make some soups and having developed my roasted tater technique in the last year or two, using all fresh ingredients that passed under my knife. Doing so is also a community building effort, whether for Kelli and me, or friends, or for potluck events. I've been dabbling with my music gear of late, and just feel funny when playing electric guitar since the sound emanates not from the box I have strapped on, but from a box across the room. (And when playing acoustic, I don't even have a great guitar, but the acoustic chamber does feel more vibrant and immediate than electric.) So, all this is of a whole. I am rather enjoying the limited approach.

Recently I had to reacquaint myself with my computer audio programs—ProTools LE, Peak. The idea of doing podcasting is exciting but I really have lost my patience for software, glitches, menus, settings, and all that. I like editing stuff and making things happen, but having been away from this stuff for a couple years since I pushed aside my musical life and also left the church where I recorded and edited each week's service, I have sort of forgotten a lot, at least regarding configuring things. It all seems foreign to me. We shall see how this podcasting stuff goes. There is stuff to learn, and part of my role is to help Lee understand his digital media options (he's almost 70 and too busy to learn all this stuff, see?). Odd, considering I barely know and don't care for the stuff myself. And, right now, even if I wanted to, my computer is sufficiently old that various media plugins are updated and leaving my machine behind. Now I am almost pressed into buying a new machine so I can do stuff I don't really want to do anyway.

The liturgical season of Lent is upon us. Traditionally it is a time to maybe give something up, but more so to consider one's spiritual path with honesty. And to me, the decision to play along with technology (or not) is a big part of my questioning. A book I read in 2006 has continued to be influential on me: Better Off by Eric Brende. He conducted a yearlong experiment on himself and his new wife. He lived in a community that was related to the Amish, and from that source and others like it, the litmus test question before me about technology is this: does a device encourage or inhibit community life? Does it feed individualism that takes people out of relationship? How much modern technology does one need to live a fulfilling life? What kind of technology helps one accomplish that? He came out understanding that one can do quite well with technology that would have been normal to 19th century folks, if not before, and that most of the stuff we distract ourselves with is way more than we need, and robbing us of a good deal of community life, self-reliance, exercise, connection with nature and so on. Another book, World Made By Hand by James Howard Kunstler, is a bit of fiction that in some oddly satisfying ways says about the same thing—the answer to no modern technology is in communal effort and cooperation. Any other way is death.

Where I come from, theologically, we might say hell is disconnection from God, from community. I've been there. Lots of people have been there. But with things the way they are now, relaxing the isolating grip that has been upon me thanks to endless technological options, I feel like I've been able to claw my way out of that pit. So many means of communication and mobility, still so much misery. So much alienation. Irony, much? The answer isn't in more technology. With realization like that, I sort of have to welcome my earlier notions of energy crisis because at this point, that is about the only thing that seems like it can break our addiction to this stuff. I realize hardly anyone is seriously on board with this idea, thus making my Lenten journey more or less a solitary one. Oh well, faith isn't knowing for certain. It is moving ahead into the cloud of unknowing and being confident things will come out okay.

Friday
Jan012010

Mileage for December/Final!

  • January 1, 2009: 209,855
  • February 7: 210,000
  • March 1: 210,120
  • April 1: 210,203
  • May 1: 210,309
  • June 1: 210,367
  • July 1: 210,532
  • August 1: 210,675
  • September 1: 210,873
  • October 1: 210,919
  • November 1: 211,038
  • December 1: 211,246
  • January 1, 2010: 211,401

Here is the first post of 2010, and the moment all the fine readers of TAPKAE dot com have been waiting for with bated breath. Finally, we get to see how many personal miles I was able to reduce my driving to for one year while adopting biking as my main mode of transportation, augmented by carpooling (planned and opportunistic), walking, and the occasional use of public transportation. It was a year ago when I started this thing, and back in July I called it as a 1,700 mile year. I'm quite pleased to announce that the final tally is 1,546 miles. By comparison, mileage for 2008 was over twice that much at 3,688. Year 2007 was more than that, so each year for a while now I have seen the record fall.

I don't expect I shall be able to repeat this in 2010. I have one planned trip to Arizona that, if I drive it, will pretty much make this kind of thing impossible. Still, I am committed to keeping off the road in my truck as much as I can. Still, I feel that this progressive reduction has been a good display of what I knew needed to happen back in 2004-2005 when peak oil was my concern. I've not bothered to keep up to date on peak oil issues in any depth, but I know enough to know that this effort is required still more than ever. Furthermore, I have been an advocate of biking enough lately, and maybe have done a part to provoke others into increasing their biking and decreasing their car use.

All this has made me rather resourceful. Combining trips is still a leading way to keep the mileage low. I opt to do errands when I can cruise with Kelli on her planned runs. (We're looking at bikes for her.) There are some days when I utilize a few options to get around. I bused to work one day, which was pleasant but took vastly longer than biking, which itself is about as fast as driving anyway. I often draft people from church or work into the occasional ride home or to the bike shop if maybe I had a flat or planned service and took it in before work. Some quick errands can be done while on the clock since most of my work is in highly urban areas. (But you didn't read that here. Actually a couple have been okayed by the powers that be.)

The point I like to emphasize is that even though most of my life is lived within a far smaller radius than ever, my quality of life is no worse, and I have to say that I think it is far better than ever, particularly if we're just comparing modes of transportation. A lot of pushback comes from people who are convinced their lives will be parochial and boring if they can't exercise their automotive "freedom." I beg to differ. My experience has been that I feel more freedom while biking or carpooling. Most of my day at work I am behind the wheel and in traffic with that suffocating feeling of being trapped. The last thing I want to do is spend another minute in at the wheel. By contrast, other modes offer freedom, and even real, fresh air. Some of them draw upon my own power and are for solo travel, but some upon another person's car, but even those trips offer a bit of community time that add a quality you don't get while sequestered in your own two ton mobile sardine can. I find that there is an interesting dimension to biking in particular in that two things happen at once. In one way the trip can be slower than with a car if car travel was not regulated by so many lights and signs and the presence of long lines of other cars. But cars are slaves to all that and—just watch—a bike can move from light to light faster with less interruption and so the biker's trip is more unbroken. What that feels like is that time passes faster on a bike because it flows more consistently than the stop and go of car travel, often a few feet at a time. Yet, despite the feeling that things move faster, it is at a pace where you can enjoy the surroundings and maybe even greet people. One of the guys from the bike shop commutes in the opposite direction from me, and from across the boulevard we greet each other as we pass each other at about the same spot most mornings. There are some other chance meetings like that too that sweeten the deal as I pass other bikers I may know from the social rides, or even some people from church or work. The quality of life does seem to be greater when you can travel and sort of feel not totally disconnected from your surroundings.

Church and related groups, work, grocery runs, ATM, bike shops, going to friends', riding for the sake of riding, eating out—the options seem greater now. All kinds of things that used to be fun to do when I was a kid or teen are available to me again in some form. I felt it was like being in exile from a lot of things while thinking that driving was the only viable option; that it took a ton or two of metal to move me around. Most of the time, you see, that just isn't the case. I've delighted myself in not only getting on the bike back in 2008, but moving to (freewheel) single speed riding and its inherent "limits" to one gear, to fixed gear riding, which paradoxically feels less limited despite one gear in constant rotation. My city isn't flat and I wasn't fit to begin with, but somehow this has all worked out. There are plenty of you fence-sitters out there. Park that car and bike it some!

Monday
Jun082009

Exile And Return

Exile and return is a major theme in the Bible, and therefore in the lives of Jews and Christians. There is of course the Exile ("big E") of being carried off to Babylon for a couple generations, watching Jerusalem being laid waste and the agony of not knowing how or even if it would be possible to worship Yahweh while displaced from his favored city on earth. But more broadly speaking, the Bible as a whole tells of exile and return, starting with Genesis and being sent from Eden—the primeval state of undivided wholeness—into the world where division is a central fact of life. It seems we thought we knew better than our creator. From wholeness to being fragmented, we are exiled and through the bible, God does all sorts of tricks to get us back into one piece. None of them work too well or has much promise until a genius moment of presenting Jesus to the world, a figure who subverts all our typical understandings of what is required to live a faithful life. By the end of the bible story, the early believers and writers concluded that Jesus was the cure for this division in our lives. He was, for them, the end of spiritual exile. If we haven't forgotten it, even today he is the end of our spiritual exiles, as individuals (ah, I hate to say it: your "personal lord and savior") and also as all of humanity (through his commandment to love one's neighbor like oneself), offering the example of what we need to function as the community God envisions for us—the Kingdom of God.

My recent experience of joining a church by conscious decision has raised some questions for me. It is the first time I joined a church by intent, and not just by being confirmed into my existing congregation—an experience which does not seem to register clearly with me as a definitive moment in my life. Part of the reason for joining my new congregation has been that unlike the old one, there is a structure in place for actually doing some spiritual discernment and development work in a group setting, among many other ways to live a satisfying community life. My experience initially was a bit timid, but I was interested in being open with people. I actually didn't have plans to join as a member; that sort of grew on me over the last nine months or so. Suffice to say, having a setting in which to explore themes of how I experience the divine moving in my life has been an agent that helped me feel that this congregation was right for me.

If I do get any revelations from God, then they surely come in the "still small voice" variety such as Elijah experienced in Kings. I have to admit to being sort of dense in that regard. But revelations aren't always presentations of things not yet known; often it just takes a new insight to put together the pieces of many things already well known. Some write this off as coincidence. I have to wonder how it all works. But I am gaining in trust that it does, and that it happens for reasons we learn only on reflection.

So what compelled me to dig out a box of my journals and letters from the summer and first year after graduating high school (1991-92)? Especially since all that sort of stuff (filed neatly in annual collections in a series of boxes) now is garage filler, and no longer within reach in my closet like it tended to be for years before I began to move house every few months. For a long time, I did too much of this digging and I forgot to live in the moment, by hanging onto a detailed memory of all sorts of stuff that perhaps expired in usefulness before it was even written down! Having not had that opportunity in most of the Kelli years (since 2002), now it seems safer to periodically have a look. I draw some interesting revelations from this material.

This week I revisited the 1991-92 box featuring absurd amounts of pining for Shelby Duncan, a certain girl who never reciprocated my feelings (and with whom I kept that that dance going for another eight years or so—don't ask); stories about my early outside drumming under bridges and at other places because my home neighbors hated the noise; the news of an ever-growing drumset, with a few drawings indicating the changes; a few other minor tales of girls who never ended up being more than a fantasy or peck on the cheek; a considerable cache of letters from my first girlfriend Melissa; subversive correspondence from my stepmom who exited the family in 1983 but who wrote to me on the sly for some years before our early 1992 reunion; my early experiences and embarrassing writings at Mesa college...

But even more ink was given to how ridiculously bored I was, and how busy I was at work at Subway, and how I was often desperately lonely—enough to make a social life by going to work on my off hours!

The time I am speaking of is now approximately smack dab in the middle of my life. I graduated at 17 and started Subway and classes at Mesa a few months later, and turned 18 shortly after that. Now I am twice that age, nearly 36. One thing that I have always been aware of is how I spent roughly the last two years of high school as a pretty regular and committed churchgoing guy. I did a lot of things there. In fact, I did everything I could do there. It was my community. I wasn't really so connected to my peers; I was always more into adult conversations and concerns. (I went to study Martin Buber at an evening meeting when I was 16.) It was a good time on the whole. That is, until years later when I began to see them too as a family riddled with their own dysfunctions. Anyhow, let me not spoil what was perhaps a lifesaver on a number of occasions. At that time, ignorance was bliss. I felt cared for there, and put a lot of time into it for a while.

When I got the job at Subway, I was put on the closing shift, a shift that got me out of work at nearly one in the morning. I worked alone past 10 pm. My school schedule could accommodate that; class started at noon. But church started for me at 9 am, so for at least the first two months or so while the newly opened store got its bearings, it was closing at midnight. Eventually it changed to 11 pm and provided a partner, and things went better. But by then I had already made the critical decision: something in my schedule had to give, and the choice I made was one of economic benefit over community. I basically sent myself into exile from my community, for want of the sort of independence that having a first job seems to offer.

The journals for those eight months of Subway—and several months that followed—reflect an honest attempt to play by the rules and do a good job. If ever I played the part of the company man, this was it. I was the more senior of the closers after just two months. I really didn't know how to handle the task of delegating responsibility, even though I knew all the jobs well enough. I really put myself into it. Eventually, I took a day shift and got a bit closer to my boss, a delightfully sarcastic and funny guy named Chuck. I was third place after him and the manager Steve. In some ways, Chuck began to like me more than Steve and his complacency. But Chuck had plans to offload the store only about eight months after he opened it. I was apprehensive whether my hard work would amount to anything since new owners meant that I'd probably be reduced in rank or let go. Long story short, it didn't do me any good at all. In fact, it was really just rejected by the new owners, and sent me into a whole mess of drama that terminated in a court restraining order against me! Anyhow, I had internalized the values of the marketplace, and was living that story.

Meanwhile, I was desperately disconnected when away from work. I had Matt Zuniga as a new "friend" but he was way too weird for me. But we shared my drums when we went and did our outside noisemaking and from that effort to kill time came all my interest in recording music and making tapes and later CD's. My best friend from high school, Stephan, was an exchange student who had since gone back to Germany. I had gone to Europe that summer of 1991, and toiled mightily at Subway solely to pay for another trip to Steve's house in 1992, to more properly close up our in-person friendship before who knows what would take over as "real life." Matt, by comparison, was no one. (Of course I feel differently now, but he was quite a character then, unlike any I had known.)

Oh, what misery it all consisted of.

In my journals I noticed scarcely a mention of church. That's because I essentially dropped out as much as I had been in for a couple years. I don't suppose it actually had to be that way. I just had no sense of balance. After Subway began closing earlier in the evening, I guess there was no actual reason for not being able to go to church on Sunday mornings, or to do other activities. But for whatever reason, I stayed away, somehow feeling that this new world of work and school was more important. But wow! All the journals were quite miserable. Maybe it would have been better to stick around at church, to retain that community life. What I didn't know then was that my time off would last for about ten years, until I was 28. This Subway experience was just the beginning of a long dark period.

Fast forward to 2005 when I was developing enough of a sense of self to take a stand when employers threw me shifts that would intrude upon my life. Essentially, my firing from AV Concepts was based on my sticking to my guns for my own good. (They didn't seem to mind the request for Sunday off, but they chafed at my retention of my weeknights off so I could go to therapy to get my life in order after that disastrous summer.) That was one step in redeeming my 1991 decision to wander from church. And, early last year when I got my current job, I was in a dreadful way when it looked like I'd have no control over the hours I work because it seemed that they could get me just about any time from 4 am till 8 pm, seven days a week except for three Sundays I negotiated to have off each month. I did the math of the total hours they could draw from in a month and just about went into shock at how much of my life could be tapped for commercial work. This was quite upsetting since in 2006 after AVC, I was quite into learning about sabbath economics, and one central idea is that work should have limitations put around it so it doesn't take a person over. And that is just what it seemed might happen. Over several months, I played company man enough to negotiate a fixed schedule that has at least fluctuated within reason, and not by shocking daily jumps of five hours forward or back. I've been able to have Sundays off since September, and it has been good.

Good because I have the feeling of returning now that there is a niche of time carved for this purpose. Strictly speaking it is not a return to my old church life because that is history to me now. The return to feeling part of a community is running strong in me now. Having the time to take part helps, but having the will to do so is more satisfying. I mean, at any point in the dark years of exile, I could have chosen to drop by at church at least sometimes. I didn't. Somehow, I am taking back the decision to let the Market inform my value system. In 1991, it was an innocent and curious youthful enough move to see what another world is like. I didn't realize my age would nearly double before I found it in me to take my place in the body of Christ, with the conviction that that was a better choice to make. Some people, I suppose, never come back. And I suppose some don't get as far away as I feel I did.

I don't suppose people think that having a "real" job is an experience of exile. Much of the time it is deemed the only socially responsible thing to do, and the wise person makes all the time for what work requires. But consider the compromises that often accompany commercial work. And consider how things are torn asunder now in the "job market." The facade of the Market-as-deity is crumbling now. Maybe the crumbling of that—expressed by increasing layoffs in most sectors—will call people out of exile. Maybe it will call them out or even force them out of the individualistic pursuits of material gain over whatever community or family life they had to leave behind to accomplish that. What, but for the collapse of an economic system that is constructed on division of labor and division of relations, could be better? It sort of strikes dead the notion of "what's good for the corporation is good for America." Little by little, news reports and other anecdotes are indicating a shift away from the predominant story of the Market-god (upheld as it were by our sacrifices to it, in the form of our working hours and consumption that follows—giving back in money what we did not give in labor), and toward the types of community solidarity and togetherness that has been brushed aside, but that is the only thing that will save us and bring us back home from exile.

The urban life is a disconnected life based on consumption more than generation, a proposition which is inherently unsustainable. Our dilemma is a new one mainly because of our flight from the land to the city. It is no surprise we find so much alienation if we are fundamentally detached from the basis for our lives. The urban existence is literally an uprooting from the soil, from the ground people have traditionally been tied to, and where—for generations at a stretch—networks of relations have been constructed out of necessity. Some might argue that we have to embrace the new reality of urbanization and get on with it. But that is the way of death. We don't have that luxury. Just because we have a brave new world doesn't mean it's not foolish new world. No less a figure than Jesus spoke about the deadly trends in this type of lifestyle: his good news, his gospel, was that there is a life of vibrancy for those who reject such things as the world has created. I don't say this to be a Luddite-traditionalist, but the path of higher technology and more urbanization is the way of death so far, and we don't have time to mess it up anymore. You might think of it as "old is the new new." The ancient wisdom had it as right as we need it to be today. There seems to be a reawakening to this, and manifestations of it are turning up in various community efforts—in small scale agriculture, church community, arts, even online where things like Wikipedia restore the notion of the commons, where the world is seen as a place to be shared because of our common lot. It is a rejection of much of the centralized power and top-down order imposed by political and corporate structures of our time. People may think our present world situation is better off religion-free, but as I think theologian John Cobb would say, this is a profoundly religious matter. What we need is to get rid of the bad religion and bad myths that will destroy us if we live by them. Maybe what we need is the "religionless Christianity" that Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of.

The story of exile from Eden is a story of being separated from that which gives eternal (wholeness of) life, and it seems that it tells a story that narrates the move from decentralized roaming peoples who had what they needed for the taking from the common pot, into the world of cities and their inherent structure based on hierarchy, classification and division, not to mention scarcity from the not-natural notion of private ownership. Sure, for a while we've dabbled in our human knowledge and our economic orgies that glorify individual pursuits, but all that has been exile for us. Notice if you will that that system isn't doing too well now! The story of Jesus, by contrast, is the story of reinstatement to our whole humanity; by again living the life undivided from God and the divine plenty. Jesus didn't speak in terms of the modern corporate world, or of Adam Smith's economic theories. He spoke to us in terms of nature and its indiscriminate providence. No wonder we can't find our way. We've declared war on nature, and by doing so, we've declared war on ourselves. So a return from exile is needed. Repentance. Metanoia.

I've seen my little part in it in my microcosmic version of that struggle, and have decided to turn toward what promises the life I left behind for a decade and more. I feel like I got part of myself back when I got happened into community again—even though it is really not the same bunch as before. We are, after all, relational beings who gain our identity from our relations to others. Little surprise then that for a decade there, I really didn't know who in the world I was because I was cut out of so many life-giving connections. The last few weeks have had a remarkable feeling that I am coming home.

Monday
Mar232009

1989

It is hard to believe that it was 20 years ago now when a most remarkable year of my life took place. In many ways it was the year when I began to think that my own story had a flow and meaning to it, and perhaps the first year when I took any steps to document it at all in anything resembling a journal or calendar notes. Sure, there are bits from before that year, but in large part, there was a shift in this period—10th and 11th grade, 15/16 years old—and somehow things seemed important enough to weigh and consider. Certain characters and experiences laid the groundwork for those in years to come. It was a time of paradigm shift for me, as you would sort of expect of a person of that age. Here are some bits of the picture. I suppose I shall revisit this theme some more before the year is out.

I first heard the name Jethro Tull the day after the infamous Hard Rock/Metal Grammy award show that gave Tull the dubious honor in a complete upset over the odds-on winners Metallica or Jane's Addiction. Even Tull were embarrassed by the attention. So, the next morning, the radio show I was listening to then (the B-100 B Morning Zoo with the Rich Brothers) were mocking the win. I had no idea what was so funny about it all; I knew none of the characters they were talking about. It wasn't until maybe a week later when I somehow decided to try the leading rock station, KGB (which for some reason always seemed like it was a metal station before I gave it a go), that I eventually heard Tull's song Bungle in the Jungle, and the irony slowly dawned on me. I didn't like metal. I really didn't even know any of the classic metal repertoire, but it was pretty clear that Bungle wasn't metal! So the joke was sinking in. But before long, I heard a couple more Tull songs—new ones from their most recent album, intriguingly named Steel Monkey and Farm on the Freeway. Steel Monkey rocked more but it too didn't seem like metal. Farm on the Freeway captured my interest right away and I never stopped liking that song. But yeah, metal they were not!

So, I stopped listening to the pop music radio programming I had long listened to since I was about nine years old, and went with KGB and its hard rock/classic rock programming. All of a sudden, it came alive and I found myself reconnecting with some riffs that I had heard and liked but never knew how to find. I would do the obligatory recording-off-the-radio onto old tapes so I could absorb some favorites, and you can be sure that my fragmentary collection of Tull songs were on there. I think for a while I had no idea Tull were already a 20 year old band with a few hundred songs. After a while of expressing interest in them at the Command Post (hobby shop detailed below), an employee named Sara hooked me up with a cassette copy of the 20 Year of Tull set, which was a totally weird experience. I followed that by launching headlong into a collection of Tull music, a couple of  albums at a time. I had no idea how deep the well was, but I plunged in. Even now, I am still listening to some things in a serious way for the first time.

The Command Post was a hobby shop I used to frequent every weekend for months and months during my heyday of model building. I'd bike over there twice a weekend and spend all my free time there. I wasn't old enough to work legally, but my expertise and product knowledge scored me some free swag sometimes. I would also help stock things and fetch rolled tacos for whoever was working for the day. There was a pair of dudes who operated the shop then, and to them I owe the shift to rock music and all that it opened up for me. Ross Shekleton and Jim Kerr—both about 20 years old, and sort of like big brothers to me at the time. Ross was an Anglo-American guy, a history major and a prog rock geek who is directly responsible for me getting into Rush and Yes and not going down the path of Guns N Roses. He played up other prog acts, but his most memorable influence on me was his piquing my interest in Rick Allen of Def Leppard. He used to do a one-arm-behind-the-back mocking of Rick and I didn't get the joke till he explained that Rick was THE guy who bounced back to drumming after losing his arm. (I recalled a friend telling me that back around the time of the accident in 1985, but that had long slipped my mind till Ross brought it back in 1989.) I got intrigued by Rick and still am amazed at his determination after his accident. That led me to ask myself that summer, after rediscovering some Def Leppard I had not heard in years, what exactly is my excuse for not playing drums? After all, I had a set in the corner of my room for the last few years. Anyhow, in this shift to more rock oriented stuff, I also happened into Def Leppard, which set the stage for the next thing that led me into a totally new direction for years. My recording collection officially commenced with my purchase of Pyromania on July 15th of that year.

Ross Shekleton was influential in two ways. Initially, he egged me on to be a model building junkie, and then later on he set the stage for a musical identity that arose out of his prodding to listen to something more than the pop stuff I had been listening to. His influence was such that he is the one figure to straddle two sides of this lifestyle fence of mine. While I was still consumed with building models, I was getting really good at the craft. That summer of 1989 I entered a few of my pieces in the contest at the national convention of the International Plastic Modeler's Society (IPMS—sort of an unfortunate initialism, eh?) It happens the convention was in San Diego so it was easy for me to get to. I guess there was a small hometown advantage. After a year or two of sweeping a few quarterly contests of the local chapter (big fish in a small pond), I entered the national contest and did quite well, taking a Junior Best of Show and some others (Best Jr. Sci Fi for a radical mod of an F-14 Tomcat, and Best Jr. Armor and Best Jr. "Out of the Box"). Even there among national juniors who showed up, I was sort of a big fish in a small pond, but it was a fairer competition. Anyhow, I got my models pictured in the post-convention newsletter, and that was sort of my model building swan song. That contest was in July, but by October I was so into drumming that I had dropped model building altogether. The materials and half-finished models and the reference materials just got pushed aside not unlike the drumset once was when it fell out of favor in 1985 or so.

ed on drums, his first kit, back in 1989Me and my first kit in late 1989But I guess I am getting ahead of myself. It used to be that for a few summers between 1987-89 I went to my grandparents' house for the day while my old man was at work. Much of the time I was working on models outside in the patio area. In the first two years I was regarded as too young to ride clear across the three mile span of Clairemont between their house and mine, so usually I stayed put. But by 1989, I was free to do so, and one day rode back home earlier than usual and uncovered my drums, set them up, and dug out my old instruction books and tried to make heads and tails of the stuff. Of course, you can't be too discreet about playing drums, particularly when you play them as badly as I did in that period. But for a couple weeks in August—starting on the 15th—I clandestinely did what I could to read musical chickenscratch and discern how to play what I heard on recordings, and dammit to blazes, but my lessons had prepared me more than I realized! The main difference between my newfound interest and the old days of lessons was that back in 1984-5 I was not exposed to records and told to go listen and enjoy the music. It was just exercises issued me by my teacher, an older man who played many instruments and taught out of his general service music store. But now I heard the music and wanted to be a part of it, and with Rick Allen as my first influence, I wanted to prove that I could "come back" to the drums. A couple weeks later, after my old man's birthday dinner at Anthony's Restaurant, I "treated" him and the grandfolks to some of my tennis shoes-in-the-dryer playing. And I guess they pretended they liked it. Or maybe my grandmother was happy to see me finally playing after those years off. It was she who bought the drums and paid for lessons after all, only for me to give it all up after a few months once I had a kit!

In a parallel universe, another part of me was trying something new, and by far the influence of this is deep and long lasting. It seems sort of twee to consider what church was to me back then, but one has to start somewhere. My association with the church of my birth/baptism/youth was never consistent. I didn't ever go too regularly unless that was sort of required or convenient for an adult in my family. Most of my history is at the one church in Pacific Beach where my grandmother was among the founders, with most other churches being very short lived dabblings of my parents. But, about the end of 1988, I darkened their door more frequently, frankly because of a girl (more later), but because there seemed to be some community of folks who cared for me. My pastor Jerry had been there since early 1986, and so I already had some rapport with him, and indeed he had been highly concerned for me. But I was still sort of at a distance from the church until one time when the youth group leader-cum-associate pastor Judy took us to see Dead Poets Society and hosted a pizza dinner and discussion afterward. The theme of carpe diem left an impression on me. (Later that summer after the IPMS contest sweep, I pointed to carpe diem and had a fun time telling people how I seized the day, just as I was told!) That movie and discussion helped lead me to some feeling of fondness for the people involved, and I was persuaded to take part in the summer vacation bible study with them and members of another church from down the road. That was my social world for the next few months, really. It's funny how I can't remember a damned thing about what happened there as a bible study, but I remember the feeling of being among some good people who were preferable to my school scene. (Years later as a 28 year old, I would return to the church after a ten year gap and try to find that chemistry again, but it never quite worked out.) From that point on, in early July of 1989, I spent about a year and a half doing literally everything that I could at church. All the social, study, worship, workshop, youth and mixed fellowship and other gatherings that I had time to do, I did. It was in that time when I was introduced to the ideas of Martin Buber in an evening study group. Now, I have a dog that is named after him, but back then it was sort of exceptional to be the only 16 year old in a study group reading I and Thou. Jerry and Judy used to be quite supportive of all this, even picking me up to take me to some of these events. A number of folks opened their homes to me as well.

In that same summer I was part of the brainstorming effort to launch a group that Jerry and Judy thought was needed to address alienation among people my age, of which there were close to ten at the time. The so-called Shalom Group was created to keep peers in touch not only with each other, but also with a few well-chosen adults. There was a lot of dialog that was held in confidence so it was made to feel safe for us who were dealing with various of the problems of that age. The kickoff gathering was in the mountains and held over a weekend immediately before the school year started. It was a really magical time for me, and coming down the mountain and rejoining the "real" world was misery-making in a way that I guess Moses understood. Not all the meetings were so transcendent, but enough of them were, and there was a good trust that resulted. A certain new girl showed up and joined Shalom about a year after its founding. Her name was Kelli Parrish. She liked classic rock and even some of the Jethro Tull stuff I copied for her. The rest is history.

Suffice it to say, church was a profound experience for me, but it had its disappointments. As much as one would like to think of it as a different world than the one outside, it has its shortcomings because church people are of course a cross section of the population at large. At the time, I was a really uptight guy, and was not prepared to see my peers (barely into high school, and with the Shalom group barely formed by then) sneaking some beer at the church camp. It was a lot for me then. It was the first of many such disappointments with the church that unfortunately revealed themselves over many years—up to the present even—and a chain of instances which led me to leave the place a couple years back, but one where Kelli still participates. Anyhow, for consolation at such scandalous behavior as a group of teens cracking a beer in the camp cabin bathroom, I retreated to my bunk and listened to Jethro Tull. It was all I had at the time. It spoke to me somehow, and that was just one experience that led me to absorb Tull's music on more and more levels over the years. Disappointments aside, the church was a place that did me a lot of good. It was from those experiences that I never really too closely identified with my peers or some who were younger, except Kelli who turned up later on. In this period of church life, I associated with people who were 40 something and older. Then later on, I found that many of them were alcoholics in their own right, and in some ways, even some of my most respected figures were among them. But let me not soil the image they had for the naive 16 year old me back then. They were some of my most trusted relationships then. Ignorance was bliss.

It is true that I met my wife at church, but over a year and a half before we met in the middle of 1990, there was one girl who came to church and was cause for a lot of hope and vexation for years to come. Shelby was a friend of Judy's daughter Jennifer. Shelby dropped in a few times in December of 1988 and totally lit up my world at the time. She was an odd bird for sure. She wasn't really interested in religion except as an anthropologist would be, or perhaps a comparative religions student. I had no understanding of the stuff myself back then so she was a total mystery to me except that on one evening a week before Christmas, we were at someone's party and we got to talking, and for the 15 year old me to talk to a girl-peer was heady stuff! I guess the feeling was one of acceptance as she listened to what I had to say. Considering I dressed like a dork (not of my own choosing, I assure you), and she came off looking like an angel to me then, it truly was something new to behold. Anyhow, for a few weeks in early '89 (months before the whole summer experiences with DPS and VBS) I was sure to get to church to have a chance to talk to her again. We talked on the phone too, but she was from a different school and therefore a different world. I don't even know how to sum up what we had in common because it seemed so little. But she was nice to me and that was a leap ahead like no other. You can imagine the hope.

That little fantasy lasted for about two months and seemed to come crashing down at around the time of Valentine's day, or maybe it was because of the idea to go to Balboa Park and see some museums, among which—the Aerospace Museum—had on display a model of mine. Whatever the reason, I didn't feel like going to church for several months and she totally dropped off the radar for a few months till later in the summer as the youth group was planning a youth service in September. From that time on, she was a total enigma to me, and an emotional rollercoaster for me as I tried in vain to figure her out—for the next 11 years! The few weeks before the youth service were spent with a couple planning meetings with Shelby and Jennifer and a couple others, had over pizza and soda at Round Table. It was different at least, and I don't think I mentioned models anymore because by then I had shifted my allegiance to the gods of percussive thunder anyway. (The shift to music didn't automatically increase my cool quotient, but if I was relying on Shelby for validation, I could die first. For years to come she routinely gave me shit for listening to Rush and having Neil Peart posters.) The day of the youth service was a fulcrum moment for she and I. I knew she was at church to sort of just give herself exposure to Christianity while not really liking any of it, or seemingly not liking any religion, having been raised with an atheist mom and agnostic grandmother. Judy had been beaming about the service to some folks after church and was heard to say that she was proud of her "investment" in the kids. Hearing this, Shelby flew off the handle, stormed off, and as far as I know, was not seen there again. Later on, she got all political on me (her consciousness for this sort of thing was astounding at even that age) and was angry at the term "investment" being applied to impressionable young people. I think she was a bit severe; I think anyone else understood Judy was making a compliment and expressing pride in her experiment. Shelby's semanticism didn't tarnish my fondness for Judy and her impact on me.

That division between wishing to understand Shelby and participate in church life was in the mean time met with the decision to remain connected to the church. Later on most of the decade to come was spent more in some pursuit of Shelby and away from church altogether, only to reverse itself in that amazing period of 2000-2001 when the whole Shelby thing crashed down in a single day. But, for a while during the remaining period of high school I held them in tension, often to face some ridicule from Shelby who was more and more aggressive in badmouthing the church life I led. Later on, most of what my life was like was badmouthed. I guess maybe I should have learned to let it go back then. I have said for years now that everything I needed to know about her was learned in the first two years. It was a far cry from the seeming acceptance that started it all off. Oh well.

By the second half of 1989 the components were in place: Jethro Tull, drumming, Shelby, church life, a shift away from models and the interest in military machinery. It was far from the multiinstrumental, Jesus-loving, peacenik-Democrat, naked-biking, domestic wife/dog family man I am now, but it was a first step. Or maybe it was a bunch of first steps, all taken at once with a bunch of left feet!

I found myself doing pretty horribly in the first semester of my junior year in high school. After all, the start of my drumming, the fateful youth service and complicated quasi-relationship with Shelby, the start of Shalom group, and my plunge into Tull collecting all happened within a few weeks of each other. I spent all my allowance on Tull cassettes (and got my first CD player for Christmas that year). I really had no idea what I was getting into with that music, but even still, I was pitching them to church peers nonetheless, and finding no one to share my deep and abiding love for the band (so you see it was amazing when Kelli came along the next year and sort of took the bait). I was so into playing drums that fall that for a few weeks I had my kit in the living room, and in order to stay close to them and play whenever possible, I actually did my homework on them—literally, upon the drum heads! The only class I distinctly remember hating was a chemistry class, but I soon got transfered to a biology class and got along a lot better. I guess I hated my math class too, and by 11th grade I must have already been repeating algebra. The school scene was all so shallow to me compared to my life outside. Social life in the school setting was something to be endured for five days while as much of my own time was spent trying to do something associated with church, if it's a social life we're considering. All of that did pave the way for the church to elect me as a deacon the following year, at the tender age of 16. The year of 1989 was an interesting time of finding new stuff to do, but by May of the following year, I felt overwhelmed and was about to have my first brush with depression, coincidentally about the same time as I began my first job—at the Command Post!

Yeah, this is skipping into the next year a bit, but it is interesting to behold. The Command Post used to be paradise on earth when I went there as a sycophantic kid on his bike. But I got the invitation to work there (albeit at a new location where I had helped them move to in the summer of '89) in April of 1990, basically on Easter weekend if I remember right. I had always been cautioned not to get drawn into working on Sundays. And here I was, getting called in to fill in at the counter one Sunday when no one else would work. The world got complicated all of a sudden. This was months after I had stopped building models, so already I was a bit ambivalent about the place and the personalities, particularly after Ross left. The new location didn't have the funky charm of the old one. But somehow, I ended up working there for a few months in 1990. These days, I am far more defensive about not working on Sundays, and feel cheated and sold out when I do get suckered into it. Back then, despite the church life I led, I didn't fancy myself religious per se, but I think that doing commercial work on Sunday, even sometimes, was a crack in the wall that pointed me away from my meaningful social life, particularly a year later still in 1991 when I worked at Subway and didn't get home till 1:30 am on Sunday morning—hardly making it easy to get to church life at 9 am. Subway pretty much was the wedge that kept me from church long enough to forget it for a decade. Among the circumstances that led me back years later were developing more of a relationship with Kelli and a massively empty work schedule in the post-9/11 period.

There was another mildly interesting subplot to the year of 1989, and that was the matter of all things German. I started taking German in tenth grade after a summer of dabbling but more so once I realized the connection between it and early forms of English. The school years included my first and second level German language classes. The second year level was in the fall of '89 and was actually an independent study. I was the only one who took the second year course that year. Jerry, pastor from church, had taken German a long time back to help with his theological studies so that he could get more from certain of his theological heroes. He sort of egged me on with the subject but always joked that I was much better at it. For years afterward, he consulted me on pronunciation. One of the extracurricular church events in 1989 included a local concert which featured this remarkable bass vocalist who sang in German. (It was a little surprising because he was a black man. But have you ever heard a black bass soloist fill an old church? The richness of tone! Ahhh.) I talked to the guy afterward and asked him if he spoke German, and he said he didn't really know any at all. Hah!

All this makes for a backdrop to be excited for the news of what was going on in the world at the time. This was of course the season when the old Eastern European Soviet bloc began to crumble and Germany was among the first to throw off the old regime. My old man seized upon the moment to go to Berlin and actually take some hammer swipes at the Berlin Wall in the midst of all the crowds that were there in the last week of 1989. I know he had a pen-friend/love interest at the time who lived there and set him up for this particular trip, so that was justification enough, but I think the historical import finalized the scheduling. He brought home a bit of the wall and it was quite a piece of show-and-tell that season. Upon reflection of all that has happened since, he seems to be better at putting walls up than taking them down, though I guess it is a feather in his cap that he helped bring the Berlin Wall down. He can tell that story. I will tell mine.

Good as that experience was for him, I remember that Christmas being one of the turning points of fractured family experiences for the holidays. I spent it with my grandparents and doing whatever was available through the church family. At Christmas Eve dinner with my grandparents, in a cheesy family diner that is now replaced by an Outback Steak House, I remember enthusiastically enumerating all the instruments I knew Ian Anderson of Tull to have played on Tull records. I barely knew what a sopronino sax or balalaika was! I may as well have been speaking Mandarin to them. Or maybe Mandolin. Whatever.

So that's what is on my mind about my experience that year. The rest is details. But I wouldn't want to bore you with details. Not at TAPKAE dot com!

Sunday
Aug032008

Going to Church

Here is how I got to and from church today. The church is about 15 miles away in La Mesa and I didn't want to drive, since that is all I do all week anyway. I was trying to improve upon a similar trip back in January, but planned to use my bike and trolley. The universe had other plans for me.

  1. At about 8:30 I went for my bike in the garage and pumped up the tires. One of the valve stems broke clean off, so that sort of put the kibbosh on the ridable portion of my journey to the trolley station and then from the station to the church.
  2. Then I saw that I would have time to catch the bus that is about a block from my house, and recalled that on this same trip several months ago, the bus would leave about 8:40. I hustled on down the street but waited just a few minutes for a bus that seemed to have come and gone already.
  3. The bus stop was at a gas station so I asked some middle aged fellow if he could give me a lift to the Morena trolley station, and he did. That was his good deed for the day. I guess he saw no fault with helping a guy get to church, while I was carrying a well-thumbed 45 year old copy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics. (The thumbing was from the previous owner, Lee Van Ham.)
  4. The trolley arrived shortly after this Steve fellow dropped me off. A few minutes more delay would have thrown this trip off, or pressed me to drive my truck. I was about to get on the trolley when I decided to get a bit resourceful at the end of the journey so I called Curtis, the pastor emeritus of the church and with whom I have played in a fellowship band. He agreed to pick me up at the station, though I wasn't certain how to describe the best meeting place. I sort of regretted waiting and not calling him back, particularly since he is rather older (70 something) and I didn't have a cell number of his and I didn't even remember what he was driving anyway!
  5. The ride was maybe a half hour or so, and I got a few pages of reading done.
  6. I walked to the intersection where we talked about and waited. Finally I saw Curtis and his wife but they turned and went to one end of the trolley complex and emerged a short while later after realizing that wasn't going to help. Then they drove down right past me, even stopping at the light in front of me, but with a car blocking our line of sight, they went with the green light all the way to the other end of the trolley complex, and then I started wondering if maybe they'd give up and drive to church, up the hill, about 3/4 mile away. It was now about 9:45. Fortunately, I decided to huff it on down the road—a rather long block—and was almost in front of them before they saw me, but I guess they knew to wait there. I was out of breath when I got in but told them the story thus far—already I was joking that it "took a village" to pull this one off.
  7. The service was great, and the theme was some of the best parables—the yeast, the pearl, the mustard seed. The people were great and even after several months of not attending that church, I was greeted as if it was only a week ago we had last seen each other. (My approach to churchgoing is quite in-the-moment now and the gas prices have influenced me of late, though really it depends more on how Sunday fits into my weekly work schedule and the energy left after all that effort.) Oftentimes, I do lunch with a group of folks who have been nice enough to include me in their crew, so today was no exception, and the ride to the restaurant and subsequently to the trolley station was forthcoming for the asking. They are a chatty bunch and know each other from a church they had to close up, and stuck together even as they migrated to this new church. There are many other friends they talk about—people whom I don't know—but everyone has a good time trading notes on how life is, and it adds a nice community dimension to my experience at the church. But the lunches go a bit long, particularly on a couple occasions when I was beholden to them for a ride. After lunch, one of the folks pulled out a big tray of brownies and we munched on that in the parking lot.
  8. I got to the trolley. It was not very far from the restaurant, but on a hot and humid day like today, it was far enough, and the ride was welcome. At about 2:40 I was on my way. I called Kelli and asked for a ride back home from the station, but by the end, decided I'd walk and maybe surprise Kelli.
  9. So I walked, and without even thinking of the huge brownie I had already, I stopped in at the donut shop and got a couple fat and sugar pills and munched on the way back. Ultimately, all this took long enough that Kelli called and begged to know where I was, and I told her I was just a few blocks away. So much for the surprise. It was hot out and I sort of wish I had just taken the ride home but was pleased with my seat-of-the-pants trip to church today, and thought better of it, and kept walking.

Finally I got home, took a shower and with the sugar crash on its way, I took a nice three hour nap on my newer couch, with the fan blowing across me. It was good. Then I was able to reflect on my meandering course to church and back. Sure, I could have driven, but today I got some exercise, met a stranger, used public transportation, carpooled with some friends, had some lunch, and got more exercise (while sabotaging it with donuts, d'oh!) and all in all had a good day. All this adventure was had for $5 in transportation which is slightly less than what it would take to drive my truck, and also for the cost of lunch and poison pills.

Sunday
Apr082007

Holy Week

My Easter sermon came from an unexpected place today. Some months ago, I talked my New Testament professor into crafting for me a must see/must read list, and I have tried to check a few things off the list from time to time. I gave him a range of interests of mine and cut him loose. One of the movies he suggested was On The Waterfront. I had never seen it so I could not come at it with prejudice. And a good thing. I took the day off from church today, even on Easter, because my weekend time is dear now that I work a straight 40 each week. So on this cool gray morning, I put in OTW and took it in, barely knowing what the plot was about. And, in the weird way that the universe times things, this movie gave me the total kick ass Holy Week sermon that I totally did not see coming. I had to watch the scene twice to be sure I didn't imagine it. It spoke to me in a truly deep way. It was visceral for me to watch. The sermon of course was when the priest came to give the last rights to Dugan after the industrial "accident" that would put the kibosh on his promised whistle blowing. The priest just cut loose in a passionate reminder to the other men what crucifixion really is in their own lives—the "accident," the conspiracy of silence whether out of fear or loyalty, and a host of other injustices that the men were faced with. He assured them that Jesus was among them, witnessing their suffering and their struggling against the mob bosses who keep them in economic limbo. Essentially, the crucifixion is any miscarriage of justice that kills the honest of the world while letting the guilty go off the hook. A righteous man, Jesus even, doesn't die for the sins of the world but because of them.

The other major part of my Holy Week experience was the memorial service for Caleb, written about in the previous blog. In addition, I went and watched a number of videos that his grandson had made in the last weeks or days or hours of his life, and some in the past week. And with all that, it was all the more impressive who he was and what he offered the world. Far from being a sobbing occasion, his memorial was to delight in because he was so rich an individual in all the best ways. I learned many more things about him from hearing folks speak about him. But the one thing that I think illustrates what a tremendous man he was was a story about how he had opened up the pulpit at his Colorado church to Martin Luther King Jr. in the late 50s so that King could address the white audience and bring his message before anyone who would listen and be inspired to act. All the more impressive is that when Caleb was asked years later how much of a difference he felt he made to the civil rights movement, Caleb told the story, and to add to the gravity of the story, he recalled for us that in his youth, his uncles went on lynching parties in his home state of Missouri. Did it make much of a difference, he asked rhetorically? Yes! If you consider that in one generation, that family went from lynching blacks to having Dr. King preach before a congregation of whites, being a part of such an historical shift in American history! Needless to say, Caleb defined my Easter 2007 weekend.

But it wasn't over.

Kelli and I watched a movie called In My Country, which is about the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and the painful process that the country had to go through in order to put apartheid behind them. This movie too, following on the footsteps of On the Waterfront, was gripping and wouldn't let me go. It too was a movie about crucifixion in the same way as the industrial injustice in OTW. But it was also about redemption and forgiveness when everything seems lost. The perpetrators of the war crimes would be exonerated if they would tell their sides of the stories in full honesty (and could prove they were under orders to commit such acts), and if they would hear the full stories of the victims or families of the victims. One of the most exceptional scenes was when an Afrikaner had to square with a little boy who stood by and saw his parents killed and who had remained mute since the incident years before. The Afrikaner was shattered at the testimony of the boy's guardians and he was desperate to get the monkey off his back, and he pleaded to do whatever would settle it. He got in front of the boy, and the boy rose, and after a long pause wherein he could have spat in the Afrikaner's face, or anything else one could expect when staring into the face of the man who killed your parents, the boy opened his arms and put them around the man in a hug that defied all logical thinking, but obviously would illustrate that love and forgiveness can transcend anything if we can just get out of the way.

And then, because two amazing movies on Easter isn't enough, Kelli and I went to dinner at Tara's. Tara and daughter Kalyn helped us do our dirt digging project last weekend (while Kalyn's brother Tyler was in Costa Rica on 8th grade trip), and they have been increasing presences in our lives. Tara had the whole Easter dinner, and it was a great time of connection, talk about cookies, gardening, their trip to Hawaii, pigs, and church. But since Tara and her kids get a kick out of feeding my "pig habit", we watched the movie Babe (a favorite of mine). I figured since eating ham for dinner was my transgression, cheering on the underdog pig (underhog?) to his exceptional victory would be my redeeming deed for the day. And so it was. This was the first year since Kelli and I got together that we didn't do Easter at Phil and Nancy's, and were it not for Tara being so exceedingly sweet, we might have had to fend for ourselves on only a day's notice.

Interesting that in this particular season when I have felt "churched out" and got away from my own church for a few months, I ended up going to Kelli's church at Mission Hills UCC for Maundy Thursday service, our church for Good Friday, and again for Caleb's memorial the day after. But on the day itself, the highest, holiest day of the Christian year, I skipped all of it in favor of something else that made me feel like a human who maybe is worth the water, oil, and air I consume. I guess this year I had to be honest enough with myself that I didn't want to just go through the motions anymore, or at least to not just leave it like that. It's too easy to decide to go to church on Easter and Christmas. But I felt Holy Week this week. It came from being alert to the human condition, whether it came in the form of movies, or interactions with my wife, or the little cat that visits the house as of late, or in having a good meal at a friend's home, and just sharing life. In fact, I could view my last several years as being an extended Holy Week, and the last one year or so being a resurrection for me, away from the time in the dark cave of the soul, reaching for the warmth of friends, or watching movies that grip me (even one with a pig as the star), or turning and irrigating my custom crafted organic soil a few times and feeling like life beckons and is good somehow, even in the messed up world filled with the injustices and crucifixions that surround us every day. As Elie Wiesel would say, the mystery of life is greater than the mystery of death. Move toward the light of life.

Tuesday
Jul042006

In(ter)dependence Day

In an urban society everything connects, each person's needs are fed by the skills of many others. Our lives are woven together in a fabric, but the connections that make society strong also make it vulnerable. —Threads, 1984

Last month I read Rabbi Michael Lerner's book, The Left Hand of God. His vision for America is that we should do better than we have been doing in the current milieu of greed, fear, and inequality. He has been adamant that the bottom line thinking we now share in is morally bankrupt and needs redress. Near the end of the book, he encourages us to examine our national mythology, and the holidays we celebrate. He offers that maybe Independence Day needs to be recast as Interdependence Day so that we begin to gather around the profound understanding that we are not islands, either apart from one another nor from other events in the world or in history itself.

Long before I started taking this stuff seriously, I posited that America's love affair with independence and individualism was going to get the better of us. About six years ago, when I wrote my song Suburban Silhouette, I noticed that our housing and land development "plan" was a manifestation of our love affair with independence and solitary living, but was also a major player in our social decay. Living outside of community is not a human way of life. We will realize this soon enough, as one of those painful lessons that history periodically teaches. Community living is not a hallmark of our current mode of living. Our lives today more resemble industrial artifacts, or maybe a live-by-numbers sort of existence. It's a lie that industry and advertising would like us to swallow that we are individuals if we buy this good or that, or patronize this service or that. We fabricate our "individuality" from an established and mostly widely available collection of pre-made artifacts that are for sale to those who can afford them. The self-made citizen is no more. However, that does not lead us to community, only undue dependence on a fuel-fed industrial process for delivering goods and services. Just because we are in a web of interdependence does not mean we live in community. Sorry, but a web of franchise fast food outlets and big box retailers and mortgage lenders and Amazon.com does not constitute an organic community of people who work to share in the profits of their own work and those of the people around them.

Living face-to-face communities are not founded by land speculators and developers. They are not founded by Wal Mart in Bentonville. They are not founded by Ray Kroc. They are not founded by Ford and GM. They are not created by transportation authorities. They are not the creation of oil companies. They are not created by abstract expressionist or postmodern artists. They are not founded by investors from overseas. They are not created by defense contractors or government agencies. They are not created by eBay. They are not created by philanthropic institutions. All these institutions may be able to create infrastructure and establish some sort of networking across hitherto unbreachable boundaries, but communities do not exist solely because of these institutions and their technologies or design cleverness.

I don't know what the prospects are for real human community in America. It has been killed in large part by greed. Greed has been a wolf in sheep's clothing. It has been smuggled into our land like a Trojan horse that was presented to us as a gift from industry and capitalist corporations. The old rhetoric of "what's good for corporations is good for America" is bankrupt. What is good for a corporation is good only for a corporation—to a point. It's bad for the nation, it's bad for the world, and ultimately, it's bad for the corporation in the long run. What will these hallowed corporations and industries have to provide us when the resource base is depleted? Or when we are all put out of work that would allow us to even buy things? Or when the population crashes due to overshoot/famine/disease/war?

A century of indulgence is a hard addiction to break. Addiction to leisure, individualism, and selfishness is not particularly a natural thing. Advertising-propaganda was designed to help deconstruct conventions of human life that leaned toward community welfare (not an entitlement program, you know). After all, a company with a good to sell can only sell so many of those widgets to a family if four or six people are using one widget. The way to sell a few more widgets is to condition people to own their own. What was once the "family TV" is now "one TV in each room and a DVD player in the Suburban." Same with cars themselves. By intentionally cultivating a culture that does not need to share, we not only lose the virtue of sharing, but we lose the benefits too. Sharing something like a TV, or a car, or other things that many people can use at once also kept people in proximity to each other which is conducive to talking and maintaining a life together. A TV show or movie, no matter how bad, is at least a shared experience to enter dialog that one hopes could lead to some understanding among the parties involved, and some exposures to other world views. With a shared car, people who need to cooperate to get places also need to cooperate more to be home together. More shared home time is the wellspring from which community comes in other areas of life. Relating to one's own kin is the cornerstone of society, and unfortunately, a lot of what passes for life now is geared toward diminishing or demolishing that web of relationships. We are at the third generation or so that is being raised in a world like this; those born today, the sons and daughters of people who themselves were born to the Baby Boomers who were the first generation born into a world of consumerism, are going to be that much more removed from the central familial relations that foster community. My dad's generation was the first to really grow up in a world of great material excess and unbridled consumptive habits and the distancing from community richness that seems to go hand in hand with that access to goods. I was born just as that way of life was coming of age, and it's all I have lived. People around my age who have children are giving another generation to this way of life. Who or what will keep a community ethic alive in their lives?

Nature just might be able to help, but it's the sort of help we wouldn't ask for. Eventually our energy-lavish consumption-based lifestyle will crumble a little at a time, and it will be helped along by irresponsible, self-interested politicians who believe that war and greater consumption (by those who still can do so) is the answer to our fading empire of consumption. Eventually, work and play will have to happen nearer to home. We might be confronted with the unthinkable of today: actually cooperating with people we've been told are our enemies—family, neighbors, people of color, poor people, and others. There will be holdouts of course. Some people in America just can't get out of their Antebellum mindset. But, I think for the majority of people, the trend will be clear. Either we inter-depend, or we die.

People aren't as scary up close as when they are wrapped in a ton-and-a-half of steel that goes 80 miles per hour. They're not as scary when they stand before you and aren't just objectified in the news or by other media. I keep saying it, but I don't have enemies in Iraq. Or in Afghanistan. The people I fear are not the poor people of the world outside of America who are lashing out against the injustice we bring. If anything, I am more scared of a nation of addicts in America who forgot how to share, who forgot how to be civil, who forgot how to be humble and generous, who forgot to appreciate beauty and natural complexity, who forgot how to live outside of technology. Maybe Roosevelt's statement about only having to fear is fear itself rings true. I fear Americans who fear loss. I'm more worried about people who will do anything to retain the last shards of entitlements long after they are clearly unsustainable. I fear Americans with what I call "cranial-rectal displacement disorder" (head-up-the-ass complex) in the face of global climate change, shifting alliances, fascism, and a host of other nightmares of our time. Instead of being on the same page with regards to key issues, the off-kilterness of society now will make it hard to get people to put down the pursuit of more material wealth and land and get on board with some real progress toward rebuilding shattered community life that has been replaced by computers and mass media which is essentially not able to connect with real people at the local level. There is no substitute for people in real contact.

Saturday
Apr292006

Some Days...

Some days it just pays to wake up in the morning.

Today started with only a job interview planned. I went to that a little early like I tend to do for most engagements if I have enough control over such things. It was an interview for Adventure 16, an outdoors and sporting goods store. I don't have any real connection to it; I just answered an ad for truck driver and warehouse hand. The pay didn't appear to be horrible, and the shift was full time. At least it's not as bad as at the AV shop which has not had me in but for fourhours in the last three weeks and more. The interview on this morning was rather short. I met with the warehouse boss, the manager and one other. The place was sort of homely. Far from being the cold gray setting that pervades all things at AV land. The woman who I met with at A16 was motherly, about 58 or so, and didn't come off as cold and gray, so I was able to relax. The atmosphere was generally more down-home than businesslike. In the interview, I was able to be candid that I was concerned for how scheduling would work. I told them enough about the AVC predicament I was in, trying to balance personal time with work, and clashes happening on time that was technically "mine." I didn't dwell, but I did make a question to help me discern whether that would be an issue again, and it seemed that it would not be—business hours are 7-3:30, therefore, it wouldn't be an issue if I did schedule things on weekends and evenings. Amen to that. I have to give them my DMV printout, so I will return on Monday with that, and then start to cross my fingers. The pay is roughly the same as at AVC. At least it would not be too great a loss. In fact, even working a regular part time shift would be a gain at this point! Also, I don't suspect that the business of moving product would be as brutal as the things I had to move at AVC. Some of that was starting to feel dangerous.

Anyhow, that's too much about my temporal pursuits for one post!

lee van ham looking sharp in 2010Lee Van Ham of Jubilee Economics MinistriesBy far the rest of the day came alive starting once I took that hat off and put on my spiritual sojourner hat. Actually, I changed shirts, not hats, and then I was off to see Lee Van Ham for the third time in about two weeks. Early on, when I originally met him, he had the probing questions that made me think, and it was clear, even about ten months ago or so that he was someone that would be good to be near. Subsequent meetings, still centered around "my" project of peak oil awareness had me deepen my mission based on things Lee said. And, maybe in another post, I will detail out some of my feelings about his birthday party this past December. These days, the recent meetings have come about because in my quasi-employed state, I was looking for ways to spend time growing in some way, and so I wrote and asked to meet with Lee, which we've done a few times now.

For today, the third meeting was at his office at the Methodist church. The original intention to chat in the first meeting is morphing into creating a guided spiritual formation effort that would probably bring benefits to both of us, but I have a feeling that with his 65 years and half a life in ministry, I would be able to learn a thing or two and be led to other levels of awareness about life in general, but particularly as a budding Christian in the age of much stress around the world. I guess I am finding it's time to finally understand the Bible as a force for change and development. With Lee's interfaith awareness and practices, I find that he's a great source of inspiration for meeting the challenge of the world today, with a spiritual underpinning that was lacking from my issues-only approach last year. With dear wife Kelli being immersed in her studies of theology, philosophy, and all the other great things in life, I have found myself drawn into her wake, and interestingly, her entry into the field has pulled me in too, but for me, there is no particular framework, even at my church, for diving in deeper. Over the months, encounters with Lee have been the ones that have challenged me or left me feeling like 'yeah, that's who's shadow I need to stand in!'

Today we discussed how this little forum might take shape and what it might seek to accomplish. Part of what I have been feeling compelled to do is to actually get out of the book so that some meaningful work might be done. I have ideas of doing things that would somehow accomplish this, but am too tentative to carry them out, or too willing to let my daily life make an excuse for not doing so. I also want to deepen my awareness of the Bible and really any other text that compels me to awe and wonder, but hopefully action. Really, I fancy myself a sponge now, but one that needs to be drawn away from material toys (computers, primarily) and into the "real world" of books, face-to-face engagements, and other real experiences. Meeting with Lee can achieve that first by ensuring that I meet and talk to a real human. And our little mission now is that we will study and reflect, and find a way to manifest this into existence. The basis of what he does is delightfully subversive. For such a soft spoken gentle man (sic), he preaches some great mind-bending sh*t! So, however it comes to me, I hope that these encounters will lead me to being more alive, more feeling, less programmed by the prevailing society. I think meetings of this sort will lead me to reckon better my relationships with my dad (or at least be less damaged by it), to deepen my marriage (which I feel is the cornerstone of one's relationship with society as a whole), or to just be a more sensitive person to the needs of others, and again, society. Having read Parker Palmer's book about vocation, Let Your Life Speak, I found that as much as anyone might like the great heroes like Gandhi, MLK, and others of their stature, none of us could be them. However, what one can strive for is the inner-groundedness that they had to have in order to meet the challenges before them. So the point is not striving to be the leader, but having the tools to lead when they are needed. And I think they will be needed. And I think meeting with Lee will be a significant step in working toward such a goal. Lee sent me away with a book that is the basis of much of the work he does now, teaching the ethical implications of the biblical sabbath-jubilee. Though I had known of his work for several months now, today was the first time I think I understood it enough to repeat it back to someone. After I left, I went and read a section of the book. On the first page, it came alive–something was said about "we read the gospel as if we are poor, but live as if there is no gospel at all." That pretty much stripped away any pretense. Reading that immediately got into me like an arrow and spoke to me in a way that underscored everything I think is important to getting out of our predicament today.

But, the day was not over. Lee reminded me of a movie showing on the subject of food, and announced it was at an "intentional community down on Hawthorn" street. Intentional community? On Hawthorn? Well, it turned out to be an old house that was shared by four parties. I got there just before 6 pm and met Jason and Brooke who lived in the front house. I spotted books or authors that I recognized: Buber, Bruggemann among the most readily visible ones; some stuff that lines the walls of Jerry's library, and more and more, Kelli's library. I felt at home rather soon. I could tell we had some progressive spiritual minds here. It was a cozy place that smacked of intelligence, compassion, and friendship. People filed in, more and more—a number of couples among them. By the time dinner was served, it was about 20-25 people, almost all between about 25-35, with Lee being the elder of the group, but absorbing it and mingling as if he was new to it all. He also proved to be the anchor of a small pack of us who were there because of him. Aside from the good group of people there was a delightful dog that seemed to like me, so I got a chance to pet her.

The movie itself was The Future of Food, which was quite in line with the stuff I would show at an EONSNOW showing, but on this evening, it was a delightful house party with fresh vegitarian food prepared on the spot by folks who obviously know about this stuff. The movie, as all these sorts of movies are, was pretty horrifying (I only watch this type of movie now, it seems) and there were times I swear I wanted to spit and curse at what I heard. Sometimes, there were collective gasps as it was revealed exactly how diabolical corporate practices can be.

But the real clincher for the whole evening was the discussion afterwards. Oh, I would have loved to have had this sort of discussion at one of my shows, but rarely did it ever reach as deep as this. Most of the people who started the evening stayed to the end, and a good thing. By the end, we had had some deep experience that was tangible and unifying. We did a round of introductions which took a while, but was always interesting. After seeing the movie and having a discussion, it was really fascinating to see how people arrived here, what they did, their sense of mission in life. It was diverse without being scattered. I think one that that was sparked was reverence. The night took on a spiritual dimension that I never could have imagined. People, crowded into a small 1920's living room, perched on chairs and sitting on the floor, all eating pure food that was carefully prepared. I had a vision of Jesus and the disciples in communion, but in this case, we were all Jesus, and all disciples just the same. It was magical in a way. The shared experience of eating together, even with total strangers as they all were to me (except for Lee, but he and I didn't end up in the same conversation for long at any time during the night) took on a holy dimension. And, to deepen the experience, we were gathered because we needed to learn about a common threat to this food supply, the most fundamental thing for each of us assembled.

People introduced themselves, each telling about some work they do in organic farming (even as new practicioners), counseling, volunteering, education, and even ministry. It was just a remarkable bunch of people who have their hands in so many interesting things, and the spirit was there it seemed that moved each to offer their knowledge and passion. I think the real victory of the evening was that everyone was saying that this group must reconvene. That was sort of the point anyway, to gather folks for a program led by the lady who presented the movie, but it went beyond that.