Howler Monkey

It was like a scene from the movies. We were on our cell phones, trying to find each other, and then BAM! I must have sounded like a howler monkey, because my voice went up into the stratosphere (or, as a trumpet player, the Faddisphere) as I looked at Prianka for the first time in years. She’d lost over 100 pounds, due to diet and becoming one of those freak runners that’s training for a 50k. But she was still the same old Pri that I know. We picked up like five minutes had passed between us. I hugged her so hard I didn’t want to let go, and then we walked from the Columbia Heights Metro station to a great vegan restaurant. Seriously the best facon I have ever had in my entire life. I don’t know what they put in it, but I am almost sure it is crack. It was the first vegan bacon I’d ever had where I was like, “could you make me six pans….. thanks.” I got what was called a Texas burger- bacon and cheese on a whole wheat bun and a patty held together with sunflower seeds and awesome.

After lunch, we hiked through the zoo because it was close and I wanted to see the pandas for the first time since I was eight, but the Panda House was closed. The reason I haven’t seen the pandas since I was eight is that I’m pretty sure the Panda House was closed the entire time I lived here before….. The only other thing that interested me was the Reptile House, but even I chickened out at the last minute. Some of the snakes and lizards are the most beautiful in the world, but others are from the country of “Nope.” So instead, we just stayed on the main trails. I was telling Pri that when I lived in Portland, I’d become somewhat of a hiker for real, that I was comfortable with switchbacks and incline, and she freaked out, because she has never been able to convince any of her other friends to go with her. This is because hiking for the uninitiated is ALSO from the country of “Nope.” So we’re planning hiking trips and going to see Armin Van Buren and Childish Gambino this summer.

She and Elena, her fiancee, are getting married on May 16th, so we only got to spend about four hours together before it was time for her to go home and get back to the planning, because of course now it’s crunch time/freakout mode. I know four hours seems like a long time, but we’d not seen each other for, honestly, I don’t know how many years. Maybe 2008? I forget. But sufficed to say, it’s been a long time and the epic first convo could have gone on for four more. We talked about the places we are in our lives, and Pri Diddy and I are walking the same path, but we’re at different points. She’s a lot further along than I am, especially since she’s discovered the incredible endorphins that come with exercise. I told her that I was finding the same thing- that I walk at least four miles a day to ensure that not only do I get endorphins, I get a fair amount of sunshine as well. The only problem is that at four miles a day, the tread is already starting to wear off on my shoes…. not necessarily something to be proud of, per se, but it does show A for effort.

Unfortunately for me and my weird eyesight, today I tripped over a raised manhole and scraped the hell out of my knee, ripping a hole in the nicest pants I own (I dressed up for company). Prianka was so great. She’s all like, “do you need to get some new pants?” I was touched that she’d take time out of her day to help me shop, but at the same time, the object of the game was to walk and talk with her. I could deal with a hole in the knee of my pants if it meant more time on the trails with her. A little road rash never hurt anybody, and when I checked my knee when I got home, it was not nearly as severe as it felt in the moment.

And now I am on the front porch of my house, as per my usual, relaxing at the patio table and looking out over the neighborhood. It’s peaceful and quiet because Mike, Hayat, and I are the only ones home. Mike is washing his car as I type this, and the soap smells like cherries and apples. The sun is shining brightly…… outside, too.

Sermon for Easter 4B: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The courtroom was packed, the full Sanhedrin in attendance. To picture the scene, imagine any case that’s gotten a lot of press. OJ. Bernie Madoff. Andrea Yates. Rodney King. I am sure that with those examples, you are seeing a three-ring circus of activity in your mind, and you would not be wrong. When the people saw a man disabled from birth get up and walk, they couldn’t help but talk about it. I mean, wouldn’t you? It was a laying on of hands that actually worked, a miracle in the midst of poverty. As Peter says, and I am paraphrasing, “I don’t have any money to give you, but through the power of Christ, I CAN make it where you don’t have to beg anymore.” However, the people’s reactions scared the hell out of the establishment, because “they were in charge.” Who were these nutbags trying to take their power? If Peter and John could heal people and the Jewish elected officials could not, this wasn’t a case based on the disciples’ wrongness in healing, but the fear instilled in the Sanhedrin that they weren’t the best game in town. Supposedly, Peter and John were just arrested for “investigation.” In light of our current court system, does this make any sense to you? If the Sanhedrin just wanted intel, why would they have to hold them in the first place?

Because this case was not about investigation. It was about containment. You don’t arrest people for doing good things if you aren’t threatened by them. The threat was real to the Sanhedrin, because how long would it be before there was utter chaos? What if this Jesus fellow got more followers than they did? Rulers need people to lead. What would happen if all the Jews they governed decided to follow Jesus of Nazareth instead? It would render them irrelevant, and it was not an idea they were willing to…………. entertain. By the time John and Peter were taken in, the message that the beggar had been healed had already reached, according to Acts 4:3, five thousand people. The Sanhedrin didn’t want to get intel. They wanted to get even.

Yet Peter and John stand strong. When asked about the authority under which they healed the beggar, they were bold to say, “Jesus of Nazareth, the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, it has now become the cornerstone.” They have, in a word, chutzpah. They told the establishment right to their faces that they were so over. To put this pericope in perspective, it would be like telling the Supreme Court that their services were no longer required. It is interesting to note that the extract ends with Peter’s declaration:

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

It does not, however, include the verdict.

Therefore, this week we are only asked to examine John and Peter’s faithfulness, and not what the Sanhedrin decides.

This particular scripture has been used for years as a “clobber passage,” and by that, I mean that there are LOTS of Christians that pull it out just to prove that Jesus is the only way to God, and that members of any other religion are condemned, because their God is the ONLY God. It gives that type of Christian license to discriminate, and they do.

But does that sound like the Jesus you know? In all of the wandering into the scriptures that we have done on this web site, is there any evidence that Jesus would have turned away anyone? What would possess Peter to say something like that about the Christ he knows?

Paraphrasing Inigo Montoyo, “you keep using that scripture. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Peter is begging to be heard, and it is stretching to say that he is being exclusive. He is speaking to the SANHEDRIN, not the entire world. He’s not saying that if you belong to another religion, you are condemned. Rather, he is saying to the Jews, “we found the Messiah and you killed him. The one person that could have saved us all and you threw him under the bus.” Again, I am paraphrasing here, but I am choosing to put the pericope in modern language. To hear the whole story, we have to look past the Lectionary and keep reading. Hear the words of Peter:

Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.

Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you- even Jesus.

Peter is so strong in his belief that Jesus is the Messiah that the Jews have been waiting for that he gets up in front of the crowd that has gathered around the beggar and boldly proclaims that the Jews have it all wrong, and need to ask for forgiveness.

In some ways, he chose………………………. poorly.

That sermon put him at the top of the watch list, because he was arrested shortly afterward. You know, just for “investigation.” It is therefore wrong for any Christian to separate others from their love and concern, because when we do, we are taking the audience out of context. Peter isn’t talking to us. He’s addressing the Jewish establishment and pointing his finger at them. It is unimaginable boldness.

Unimaginable boldness.

What, to you, does that phrase entail? How are you standing up and preaching the Gospel with a boldness of your own? How has the Christ become your cornerstone? Are you willing to talk about it? I am getting better about it, but for me, it’s difficult. As an introvert, the last thing I want to do is stand out. The last thing I want to do is preach the gospel in my daily life, because I do not want to sound like all I do is speak Christianese. You know the type. You’re on Facebook.

I choose to make my boldness the way I move in the world. If someone notices how I say something about Jesus and comments on it, I will respond. But I would rather feed the homeless and visit seniors and march in peace rallies than ever end a conversation with “have a blessed day.”

I also wonder out loud that if I was put on trial for being a Christian if there would ever be enough evidence to convict me. I talk a good game, but I am just as much of a miserable sinner as everyone else, because in the moments where I am called to be bold, I have a history of running away…. ironically, just like Peter. While Jesus was in jail awaiting trial, Peter hid and denied he knew Jesus at all because he was afraid of what would happen to him if he didn’t.

It is almost as if we are talking about two different people, but we’re not. We are talking about one flawed person who waffles his way through life, just like we do. We all have those moments where we know we can handle anything, and those moments where becoming an adult is the worst decision we’ve ever made. Two disparate thoughts in one brain, at different times in our lives. Boldness is in realizing those “I can handle anything” moments are a choice. We have the option to be bold. We get those moments when we can get up and preach like Peter, who proclaims the Messiah even though he knows that being in front of the entire Sanhedrin on trial for healing someone will likely not end well for him. He has unimaginable boldness.

If boldness is a choice, where do we turn when we feel the most weak?

Today’s gospel is the parable of The Good Shepherd, in the book of John. Jesus points out the difference between boldness and weakness by using the example of a hired hand. A hired hand will not take time to know his flock. When push comes to shove, if things get dirty or dangerous, a hired hand will just run away and leave the sheep to fend for themselves. It’s one of the most famous passages in the whole Bible, and most people take it to mean that Jesus will take care of them.

How ’bout NO?

The parable is not a statement, but a question. What type of Christian are you? Are you someone that knows the flock and takes care of it even if there’s trouble… or are you the hired hand who runs away when you don’t know what to do? The comfort is not in Jesus taking care of all of us, but that we obtain the skills to shepherd each other.

I will tell you a secret that’s not really a secret. All my life, I’ve been a hired hand, because I did not have enough self-worth to believe that I was capable of what Jesus was asking. Now, my journey is to accept who I am and how I can better myself so that my growth and development causes a ripple effect and touches the lives of the people who read me. I do not do this of my own accord. I do this because I reflect the words of First John:

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us– and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts.

We are allowed to be bold, because God accepts us whether we’re right or not. Whether we’re bold or not. Whether or not we can believe in God, God can believe in us. This scripture begins and ends not with the actions of Jesus or Peter or John or anyone else. This scripture says that God will forgive us when our own hearts condemn us. God has forgiveness for us when we can’t forgive ourselves.

It is almost as if God can love us through anything, so why not be bold?

Unimaginably bold.

Amen.

Better Nate Than Lever

I am writing this again after having had a miserable experience with writing in my browser. For some reason, linux has an option to turn off the touchpad while I’m typing, but it doesn’t work with every application. So, I’m working hard on telling you all about my dinner with Nathan, and BAM. Gone. All because the palm of my hand made my browser hit “back.” So I will still tell you all about dinner with Nathan, but if you hate this entry, the other one was better….. or at least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Nate is my mother’s sister’s kid, but he has become so much more than that to me. Of everyone in my extended family, he’s probably the person I know/get along with the best, simply because I see him more. I am thrilled to be able to be his friend on a day-to-day basis now, because we’ve never had that before as adults, and as kids, there were only five years in which we lived close to my grandmother and therefore were able to share holidays. As we were talking about earlier, it’s been kind of sad how disconnected we’ve become since our grandmother died, and we’re trying to fix it. He’s been great about telling me how to get help for mental health in this area, because he’s a forensic psychiatrist himself. It’s interesting, basically he works with insurance companies as the third-party who can tell the insurance company objectively whether a patient’s mental health can be directly correlated to an accident. He’s also trying to get back into patient care, which I support wholeheartedly, because if he is this wonderful to me, I can’t imagine how much the people would love him who get to call him their doctor.

We started at a Mexican restaurant called Lauriol Plaza in Dupont. I had Chuletas de Cochinilo, grilled pork chops (they had me at chuleta….) served over mashed potatoes, greens, apples, and pineapple. It is the first truly outstanding meal I have had in DC, and I can’t wait to go back, possibly even for work.

I don’t know that I could be a line cook there, though. Fine dining is not my area. In terms of my role as line cook, I am somewhere between organ grinder and monkey. I think I would be a much better server, because I can be quite charming when I want to be. I just need to practice my wine service. To me, that’s the only hard part of waiting tables in fine dining, because I am not smooth enough without constant repetition and it’s been years. However, I cannot impress upon you how cool this restaurant is. You’ll just have to visit it yourself.

After we finished at Lauriol Plaza, we walked to Afterwords, because as it turns out, Afterwords and Teaism are two of Nathan’s favorites as well. We had coffee and dessert, and I got to remember why it’s my favorite place in the city all over again. I had bread pudding with apples and bananas. Nathan had a lemon tort. Both desserts were equally outrageous, and before we left, I bought a book I’d been thumbing through while we were waiting for our table.

It’s called “The New Codependency,” written by the same author of the watershed book “Codependent No More.” In it, Melody Beattie posits that codependence has changed, and now it looks more like a taker’s entitlement rather than an inability to stop giving. I don’t know that I believe her, but I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, because I cannot imagine she hasn’t done her research. :)

I personally think it’s a combination of both… a spectrum in which we all fall somewhere in every relationship but not necessarily the same role in each one. Perhaps that’s what Beattie says as well, but I am not finished with anything except the synopsis on the back. I will keep you posted. I know you’re riveted. I’ll try to read fast.

After books, it was time to go home. Nathan and I hugged and said our goodbyes at the Metro, and then I got on the train. When I arrived in Silver Spring, there was something big going down at the Mickey D’s, but I didn’t stay around to see what. I am sure I will find out in tomorrow’s edition of the Post. No need to go looking for trouble, even though I’d planned to get a Diet Coke and settle in for an hour of writing or so. Instead, I just walked home.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude at all the love that has poured out for me here. All the “oh my God I can’t believe it-s” and the “I’m so glad you’re here-s” make my days brighter than they’ve been in months. Divorcing my precious Dana just whipped the shit out of me, and I am just now recovering from it, especially since being so far away makes my relationship with Dana naturally fall back to best friends without any danger of crossing lines so that we are confused about the nature of our relationship….. or at least, now I’m not confused. That’s probably the take-home message I meant to write in the first place.

I made a friend-connection on Tinder a few days ago with a roller derby chick named Sarah. We’re going to have coffee in the next week or so. She’s seeing someone, so no danger of anything but fun. It’s nice to get connected with a lesbian in this town, because even though it’s one of the gayest places on earth, it’s hard to get established when you don’t know anyone…. although I do know one person.

Pri-Diddy.

I named her myself. Can’t you tell? Her actual name is Prianka, but come on. If I am not calling her Pri-Diddy, I do not know what I am doing with my life. She’s in a relationship as well, but we’ve never done the whole crush thing. I started chatting with her years ago, and when she had the opportunity to come to Portland, she stayed with me and it cemented us for life. She is absolutely going apeshit that we are practically neighbors in terms of the Red Line (I’m Silver Spring, she’s Van Ness). So am I. I have always wanted a daily relationship with Pri-Diddy, and now I have it.

On Wednesday, I am going to see my friend and former voice teacher, Giles. The way he became my voice teacher is that he was taking a pedagogy class for his master’s in voice and needed a guinea pig. He is the best voice teacher I have ever had in my life, which is surprising because he’s also the youngest. If he’s amenable to it, I’d love to start voice lessons again. It’s been since college, when he first took me under his wing and laughed at my German diction. We became fast friends, what with his whole “I’m a Canadian” schtick. He’s also handsome as a model, and I am not even kidding about that. His husband is one very lucky guy… but then again, so is Giles. I just can’t say for sure because I haven’t met him yet. I am so glad that now Giles is married with a son that I get to be a part of his life now.

I am beginning to see that I could have made a life in DC without Kathleen just fine…………..

Better nate than lever.

The Walking Red

Wait, if I’m going to have a title like that, I need to redye my hair, because the red has faded over time. Guess I’m going to have to go to Walgreen’s……… because as I always say, “you cannot find the color of my hair in nature, but you can find it at Walgreen’s.” It’s part of my personality now, and people have called me “Red” or “Spike” since college. Because that is my style- bright auburn and cut my hair until it stands up on its own. My former boss at University of Houston, Scott, is the one that originally named me. I had his number, though, because his last name is Reval. I called him DrReval for the entire time I worked there. :)

Speaking of University of Houston, when I worked there I did a host of jobs. I was hired originally as a computer lab monitor, and then they saw that I was really good at helping students go from “this is a mouse” to competent quickly and promoted me to the Graduate School of Social Work lab, where I taught grad students how to hit Save for a living. Just FYI, I had one student who lost an entire thesis because his floppy crapped out on him and he’d saved his work to it and deleted the copies on his hard drive. The floppy issue is no longer, but removable media in and of itself is going to be more likely to fail than your computer. Make sure you backup to the cloud with documents, because then they’re accessible from any computer with Internet access and you won’t run the risk of saying “oh, fuck” and all of the blood running out of your face when you realize that your entire graduate education is now smashed into oblivion. Think about it. All those keychain drives are going to be roughed up way more than a stationery hard drive. Use the Internet, people. Saving you from dumbass attacks one document at a time. Both Google and Microsoft provide excellent web apps for documents- so much so that you probably won’t miss LibreOffice. If you do, you can use Dropbox or Boxee or whatever to sync your documents folder. The only drawback is that if you upload .odt files, they won’t be viewable or editable. You’ll just have a repository of documents that you can’t do anything with while mobile.

I use Google Docs because at Marylhurst, we had Google Apps for Education and used it all day, every day, so now I’m married to it. I don’t think that it has as many features in the word processor as the Microsoft Web Apps, but I don’t need them. This is what I do. I type. I don’t really use formatting tools so much as collaboration. It’s kind of cool when the whole group signs into one document. Everybody has a different color cursor so you can tell who is changing what instantaneously. The first time I saw it, I nearly fell out of my chair with awe.

And, as usual, I have drifted off into ADD territory and told a story that is informational, but has nothing to do with the topic at hand. I’m just that way all the time. As the bumper sticker says, “I like non-sequiturs and peanut butter.” Yup, that about covers it.

Yesterday all I did was walk. For ADD people, movement encourages brain activity and it helps keep me thinking about what I need to do and how to do it. My mental health is also a hell of a lot better, because I am high on endorphins all day every day. I don’t know exactly how FAR I walked, but I know it was at least seven or eight miles, because the trek from my house to the Metro and back is four miles all by itself. It makes me feel good to walk, so every time I pull out my card for the bus, so far I’ve thought about it and said, “nah. I’ll just walk” And then I put my card back in my pocket and move on.

You are probably asking what I did on said walk. I ate at Panera Bread and asked if they had any jobs available, because I got a broth bowl with couscous, greens, and eggs that was literally the comfort food I have been looking for my entire life (get in my face OM NOM NOM). I bought pseudophed at the pharmacy and asked if they had any jobs available (especially after being a medical assistant, pharmacy notation is easy). I went to Lillie’s in the evening for a house Malbec that made me cry, it was so good. Then I went to the server’s station and asked if they had any jobs available. This is the one that may work out, because they’re looking for people and I left them with my contact information and said I was looking for work as a line cook or a server because I have experience in both. Later on, I went for a redeye at Starbucks and asked if they were hiring, too. Starbucks is key here, because their employees get health insurance from day one. Out of pocket, my plan now is over $300 a month, which is just unsustainable for me.

I absolutely do not care where I end up, only that I need a job and all of these places said they had spots open. I have said many times that the goal is not to get a high-octane job because all I really want to do is write. It is not fair of me to give my time to someone else when I am building my own dreams instead of theirs. Being the chip and pickle guy at a deli is fine. Just don’t put me on call.

There is no shortage of low wage jobs in DC because most people can’t afford to live like that, but I can. As I have mentioned, my house only charges $800 all bills paid. It’s insane, but Hayat’s daughter explained to me that her mother was an immigrant in this country and feels a duty to help other people acclimate as well. She is the mother hen, and I couldn’t be happier about it because I have someone who worries for me that I don’t have enough towels. Her generosity in rent allows me freedom, and for that, I am so grateful. It’s funny how I found exactly the right place for myself by clicking on an ad on Craig’s List randomly.

God is in the details. I learn that every day by slowing down. People with cars and road rage are moving so fast that they cannot see those moments where they break down under all the pressure of running so hard and inflict emotional damage on the people around them. I am trying to understand me, so that I have appropriate reactions and boundaries because I inflict emotional damage when I feel threatened. I just pop off and say things without thinking about it and people cry and I don’t know how to handle it, because I was just angry in the moment and not trying to fuck up relationships but I do. We get to the point where I can’t apologize enough, and I just let go.

In fact, I just walk away.

Sitting Shivah

Killing Argo (the character) is the hardest thing as a writer I’ve ever had to do. As I told her directly, “sometimes I have to take off my glasses and wipe my eyes, because I can’t write to anyone the way I write to you. I can’t write ABOUT anyone the way I write about you.” She changed me for the better- I’ve been changed for good. YES, WE ARE DOING SHOW TUNES NOW.

I hope that in killing her character, I can somehow, some way get out of the loop where I react on paper. I wanted a life in which she could SEE ME, because my words on a page do some of that, but the disconnect between the Internet me and the regular me is STARK, let’s just say that. I would rather go to her and tell her my thoughts in person than ever have a moment where she worries that I do not take her words on a page as seriously as I do my own. If that does not happen, I know for sure that the message will get passed along just because of the medium. I love Marshall McLuhan, because I needed him today. The medium is the message, but what am I going to DO WITH IT?

I want to start with the axiom that I did not come here *for* Argo, but to do the great things in her name that I have been saying I was GOING to do for ages, but haven’t actually done jack shit. I am turning inward by moving to a location where I know no one, because you don’t get to see Jesus. Have some wine. I am not saying that I AM Jesus, only that because of our personality type, we both need the same isolation in order to prepare. In a way, I have already started. In fact, the people I talked to knew a lot about how to get started, and I wish I had recorded the conversation so I can go back and listen to it again. One of the young girls at the table had a lime green cast on her arm because she’d been hit by a car. It made me think deeply about indigence and how to change it, because a broken arm is not a cheap fix, and every time I see someone like Stephanie who has just been roughed up by life one day after another, it is hard for me to deal.

I don’t give money, but thoughts run through my head like, “she doesn’t have a coat. She sleeps outside, and SHE DOESN’T HAVE A COAT.” Do you know how hard it was not to take off my own even though if I had, I wouldn’t have a coat, either? I am crying as I write this because the experience was so jarring. There is just this inane perception that homeless people want to be homeless so they don’t have to get a job, etc. From what I saw, that is LITERALLY crack-smoking foolishness. Why would anyone want to sleep outside from April to November? As I said in my Facebook status update, it’s only 55 degrees, and it is almost noon. Can you imagine how the temperature drops when the sun goes down?

It pains me so much that I almost gave up the one coat I brought to Silver Spring because I knew that it would save someone I came to adore in a very short time from lying down on the ground without anything rated for 32 degrees.

Because you know what? At the end of the day, I can buy another one. What does she do?

I am going to find out.

BBQ, Stefon, and Rez

in the middle of Silver Spring there is a large seating area outside the Discovery Center. 
I finish my shopping, and went to sit down for a few minutes. There was a table full of black people next to me-unimportant because of their color, just trying to give you an accurate picture.

It didn’t take me very long to figure out that they were homeless, and my brain lit up. Ask them what they need.

Apparently, Silver Spring only has a homeless shelter in the winter. From April until November, everyone sleeps outside. They also said that there are no beds, there are just mats on the floor. Also, space is so limited that many people die of exposure. It is amazing what you can learn with some real intel. 35 minutes at a table full of homeless people, and already my brain is working like a machine. There is no all season homeless shelter in Silver Spring, and if I were to build one, people I know would use it.

you’ll have to wait a little longer for a full entry….. my laptop is dead and I left the charger at home.

#dumbassattack