Biopocryphal

27 02 2010

For our writer’s group this morning, I put together the following brief “get to know me” bit.  It’s not meant to be totally historical, but hey, I took some liberties with the facts.

* * *

My childhood memories are a great source of strength to me.  Our family’s weekly routine often revolved around dictated means of labor and education, which only made it sort of like Soviet Russia.  I’m still grateful to my father for teaching me the value of sleep the way the USSR taught its citizens the value of currency – slow, methodical deprivation and devaluation.  My parents would force me to go to sleep while it was still light outside, thereby teaching me to resent sleep at its outset; then they would invariably wake we up mercilessly and abruptly each morning with implements ranging from nothing but their strident voices and latent disappointment in my sloth to ice cubes in my bed and drumming pots & pans (not bedpans).  Gorbachev himself couldn’t have decimated my ability to relax more effectively.

Actually, I’ve often thought most people had cause to be jealous of me.  I’ve got full British heritage on both sides of my family, I was born in Texas, and I was raised in the only part of California you don’t need to feel guilty or embarrassed about living in:  the Central Coast.  This means that I am fated to be a sardonic cowboy who takes a disproportionate amount of pride in his upbringing.  I’d compare myself to John Wayne, but he was tall, and good friends with one of our local magnates who would never let me get away with that.  Yeah, I know people.

I’ve had a general fascination with nicknames and shoes that hasn’t faded over the years.  While my dad chose to go the endearing route with nicknames like “Berto,” I had a soccer coach when I was 10 or so who nicknamed me the Tiny Terror.  I wasn’t particularly small at that age, but I was apparently terrifying to an above-average degree.  Whether the terror was implied to have stemmed from my stature or some other diminutive aspect of my person, I still can’t say.  I’d ask the coach, but he got arrested a couple of years later for inappropriate conduct with some young karate students he was training at his dojo.  I don’t use that nickname anymore.

I’ve been writing since I was around 15, but with mixed results.  While my metaphorical pen was enough to get me a degree in journalism (my actual pen broke during the application process), it wasn’t enough to resuscitate the news industry, which is apparently not as lucrative as I was led to believe by the articles I read in the paper right before I came to college.  Thankfully, I supplemented my ill-fated choice of a major with social and romantic exploits that wouldn’t fit on this page, only partially because they don’t exist.  I have mostly read, worked and played sports for the past five years – In other words, I’m a combination of Mary Bennett, Martin Eden, and A-Rod – without the steroids, luscious neck, or zombie-hunting skills.  I also enjoy studying our country’s presidents, for completely separate reasons that I am not required by law to enumerate.

For the past few months, I’ve worked at Makita USA, which provides people with power tools that we hope will need repairs or supplemental parts that we can sell, since we don’t really make any money by selling the tools themselves.  While my initial instincts suggested that hoping for the customer to be unsatisfied with what you sell them was an unsustainable business practice, first-hand experience with purchasing minutiae and a 40-hour work week have crushed any free will or desire to think more effectively than all the ice cubs and karate teachers in the world.  These days, I have learned to live by one motto: “The fanatic is one who can’t change his mind but won’t change the subject.”

So, let’s keep talking about me.

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Hugs

14 09 2009

Jon at SCL recently put up an amusing post about hugs. and I am going to voice some of my own, less amusing thoughts here.

When I was growing up, hugs among my peers were not that common.  I would hug my friends at the end of camp, my family on significant days, and other people I had not seen for a while or would not be seeing for a while.  I suppose I could just assume that my childhood was based on some Baby Boomer tradition of a man keeping his distance, but I prefer to think that I was raised fairly normally in this regard.  Hugs are something very special.  Really, I prefer the term “embrace” as it carries a bit more weighty of a connotation.  Because that is what you are doing.  You are embracing someone with your body, and they are (or should be) returning it.

Hugs today rarely carry this weight.

In college, I saw (and reluctantly engaged in, on a few occasions) hugs occurring all over the place.  People would greet others with hugs when they happened to walk by between classes, when they met to study, when they saw each other in chapel, and so forth.  I got so sick of being coerced into returning hugs that I tried to develop an anti-hug demeanor:  Arms crossed, one foot in front of the other, body slightly askew from the person whom I was facing.  It communicates a sense of haste and business that tends to ward off the guy huggers, but I have yet to come up with a foolproof defense against the overzealous females.  (Please make jokes now)

Ok, yes, I can hear you.  “You are a cold, heartless !#!@$@# who has no affection for his friends.  I think hugs are great!  We should hug more people all the time! It’s a great way to get closer to each other, and I think it’s something we should make more of an effort to do!  Aren’t we supposed to great each other ‘with a holy kiss’ anyway?  What’s your problem with any sort of intimacy with your friends?”  -Hugger in Houston

Hugger,

You are the type of person I am trying to avoid touching.  Can I be blunt?  No?  Too bad.

I believe that a lot of people (Especially peopl in the 14-25 age range) use hugs to gain a false sense of intimacy with their friends.  While I’ve heard some people say that this is mostly true only in women, who naturally seek intimacy with their friends, and that men are merely following their lust for physical companionship,  I don’t believe so.  I think men and women like hugging everything in sight because it, their eyes, represents a level of intimacy that humans naturally desire.  As the stigma about physical contact in our culture are quickly wearing away, hugs have rushed in to fill the gap as a sort of innocent way of forming this bond.  Embracing someone is  something that should be reserved for people you love.  Pressing your body to theirs should signify that you see them as part of yourself.  Family, very close friends (and even these, only on select occasions) and lovers are the only ones who should be making this bold statement.  I don’t want to avoid hugging everyone because I don’t like everyone; rather, I want to avoid hugging everyone I like because of the few people that I love. I realize that this definition of love can make us uncomfortable, and that guys often cannot say this to each other in today’s hyper-sexual climate without incurring derision.  I want my embraces to communicate the love of Christ to those I care for.  Why do we need to dilute something as wonderful as a “hug” (you know I’m serious because I’m putting quotes around real words) just to pretend that we’re close to everyone in our lives?  I realize that some people may feel awkward not hugging someone they consider a friend, but here is the crux of my argument:  Friendship should be reinforced by actions for the other person instead of actions to each other.  Thisis not to say that one should never hug a friend or “buddy” who is in real need of consolation or love at the time, but simply that if one cannot feel close to a friend without hugging them, then you are probably nowhere near close enough to them to warrant a hug in the first place.  My philosophy of affection between casual friends is that if we can demonstrate care and love for each other before we begin to show our love in actions to each other, then such affection will carry with it the weight of true care and love rather than manufactured and hollow intimacy.

And hey, that holy kiss thing?  I’d much rather peck someone on the cheek than I would squish my body up against theirs.  I can gargle some mouthwash any time of day, but doing laundry costs $1.75 at this apartment.





Capitulation

9 02 2009

As narcissism already reigns in this, my sacred realm of self, I will now waste time when I should be working by gettin’ the old writing juices flowing in a vaguely-familiar fashion.  I’ll do this every now and then  (I do so loathe the phrase “now and again” when used by those who read it in a British book.)

1.  I enjoy candy to a bad extreme.  I thought I had begun to slake my need for it until my junior year of college, when I started bringing some sort of candy to my Monday class each week.  This lasted the next three semesters, and has since tapered off slightly.  I will freely share it (my old coworker Veronica called my earlier tendency to hide my candy the “fat kid” syndrome.) with anyone who asks, but I will almost never offer it.  This is because I want to see the same desire in others that I know lies within my own fat-kid heart.  It’s really pretty sick, but I feel better about shoveling candy down my gullet when I know other people are doing the same.  Lately, I’ve been able to supplant my desire for candy while reading a good book with coffee or raw carrots.

2.  I am very competitive, but I take pride in not letting it show most of the time.  This tends to madden people on my team, as my efforts to mask my dangerously competitive spirit are often mistaken for ennui/treachery.

3.  I allow myself to use “real” as an adverb in certain company.   This frightens me, but I rationalize this usage by arguing (to myself) that I mean “real” to express a different thought than “really” on those occasions.  Sometimes I even convince myself of this.

4.  I am pained whenenver I notice that I have begun three sentences in a row with the same part of speech.  This is all Andrew Pudewa’s fault.

5.  I suspect that my greatest strength may be observation and deduction.  Incongruously, I would make a terrible detective/investigate reporter.  I can, however, often discern who likes whom in most summer camp-type situations!

This feels so, so prideful to me.  I can’t imagine doing this 25 times…is that my false humility talking?





Gracie

25 01 2009

Let’s unload the boxes of mountainous problems

Don’t strain your back on the carton of photographs,

Keep your spine in line though you’re burdened with luggage

It’s imperative that you keep your spine

In line.

Let’s open our eyes and walk out the door

The bars are all closed but the night is wide open,

Don’t stare too long at the powdery sky

It’ll be gone before long, but we won’t,

Both of our spines are aligned.

The eyes are the same but the screens are all gone

I’m staring the sun in the face by the moonlight

Powder or no, I insist that you move

Sunlight is savage on Saturday nights

But it’s fine.

Whether or not we’re still here after always

My retinas will always remember their scars

Two heavenly bodies entombed in the asphalt

Whoever knew us knew fire severe,

Not this time.

I gave Jamie her notice and she noticed me

I calmly retreated into ecstasy

Until frigid fingers ripped hot on my spine

Ten times I was told of that sinful rejoicing,

But I rejoice for mine.





Everything, insanity

14 09 2008

Vida fue muy sabrosa en la fin de la semana pasada.

My dad has spent the last six weeks or so without a voice. After another one of many procedures on his throat in an effort to slow the progress of his Amyloidosis, he found himself with but a whisper with which to communicate. As a pastor, this also began to raise fears that had remained relatively far from the realm of likelihood since the onset of his disease nearly five years ago.

Seeing my father struggle to be heard because of a vacuum or a passing car was hard. Knowing that his condition was the result of a procedure to restore his voice was one of the most bitter ironies I had witnessed in some time. After going through the fairly difficult process of accepting his hoarse-ish voice as a replacement for that of my father’s over the last few years, I began to sadden every time I thought about how much I had resented his affliction before it became severe.

My mom has been working hard in the midst of a flagging economy to limited success; her hours have seen reductions to the point where she was looking for a new job despite really enjoying what she has now. Her and our prayers were finally answered and fulfilled when she was given enough seniority a few months ago so that she would be able to maintain a worthwhile schedule.

I remember also resenting my mom’s employer over the last year on a number of occasions; her pay was substantially lower than he skill set should have garnered, and her work environment was often maddening. My love for my mother often made it difficult for me to be thankful for a troubling job that my mom needed directly because of my dad’s medical troubles (college is also expensive, apparently).

Now, of course, I can see how weak my faith was in those times. My mom is currently blessed to be working with friends on a regular schedule that puts bread on the table.

Today, my father preached for the first time since that last procedure, having “discovered a voice” that at first sounded much higher than his original “croak” but has since come down to practically normal (for an amyloidosis patient) levels.

As I was sharing a hymnal with my grandma this morning, I wondered how my dad must have been feeling. Surely, he was nervous, wondering if people would really think of his “new” voice as much of an answered prayer at all. Surely, he was apprehensive, wondering if it would hold up to the rigors of a long sermon. Of course, he was faithful and strong, and it seemed to me that his voice rang with a note that echoed what I have heard over the past four years to a nearly exact degree.

My dad preached about Ecclesiastes this morning to a congregation that has supported him in innumerable ways while some of us chose doubt over faithfulness. To be sure, I cannot say that God’s will has finally seen its fulfillment in the matter of my father and his voice. I still pray earnestly for his complete healing and the restoration of his health. In the meantime, however, I could not have received a more blatant reminder to be grateful for what God gives, and to be grateful for everything under the sun that God has given to us. The rather languid tones of Ecclesiastes 8 resonated this morning in an audibly iridescent manner:

14-There is futility which is done on the earth, that is, there are righteous men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked; On the other hand, there are evil men to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I say that this too is futility.

15So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun except to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.

16When I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task which has been done on the earth (even though one should never sleep day or night),

17and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot discover.

Matt is going to have KIDS someday. What? What? No. What?