Saturday, June 24, 2006

Drive (Still Unfinished)

sometime 'tween the beginning and the driving
we were trying for the very first again
a shoving, easy pulley out and in
like a baby had lost her legs
i don't know which way
i should turn this grin

somewhere 'tween the end and the bends
between the engine 'n' the lead
found myself pulling for breakfast
made room at the top of the drag
ice don't bear enough friction
spun camaro pulled
close into the snow

how often i travel faster than friction
would allow, being
found in the relationship of the grooves
and the gravel, pavement. it is loose.
before fact pulls its queen of fiction
before traction pulls its king of moves
and anticipation its ace of blindside
before the devil's secretary takes diction
i'm trapped between the curb and the side
no race, no movement

Click it or ticket, baby!

I hadn't been playing necessarily a conservative driver, but a generally cautious driver. And over the course of so many hours driving so high over the speed limit, I was doing pretty well during car rental week. Jen and I were traveling back from Northeastern Oklahoma. We left early in the morning, but because I goofed on the alarm, not as early as I wanted. And then we had to stop for gas. And then we had to stop because the sun was beginning to rise but I had neglected to wipe the windshield from its plaque of once-flying bugs. And then there was breakfast.

So, I wanted to get the mess out of MO. I had forgotten, though, that the mini-town we were doing business in is considered a speed zone (one of the few on I-44, fortunately) and that I need to be even more careful. Further, the sun was directly in front, obscuring my front view to the left. I didn't see patrol man until we were about a hundred and fifty feet from him.


I did what we all do in that situation. Hit the brakes and pray that the Man in blue is slow. I remembered that the town is a speed zone and so I maintain at 60 in the right lane. I look as much through my rear-view as I do straight ahead. I nudge Jennie and try to reawaken her.

"Honey, I think you need to get up."

"Huh? What? Already?"

"Yeah," I say slowly, as if I was practicing being careful with my words. In Chicago, you learn one thing. Be very careful with your words and tone talking to cops. It's something that I try to teach my suburban friends. But they don't listen.

He's pulling out of the median. He jaunts down the road, then speeds up a bit behind me. Then flashes.

"Honey, it's time to get up."

She hesitates.

"No, seriously. I'm getting pulled over."

A slow, careful turn over. Stop the engine. Keys out. Reach for my wallet and ID. It's a rental, but I'm wary of reaching over at the glove compartment around police.

"Good morning sir."

"Good morning officer."

"I suppose you know why I pulled you over."

"Yes, sir. For speeding."

"Do you know how fast you were driving?"

"No sir."

"Take a guess."

"Umm... [Pause] Five over?"

"Hmm... Five over 83, probably."

This is one of those rare encounters where what the officer relates to me is - while hardly an earth-shattering one - is a little revelation. I really didn't know how fast I was driving. And since he most likely clocked me before I even saw him, I doubt I was traveling faster - well, during this min-leg of the trip. The Will Rogers Turnpike is a different story.

"Sir, I'll ask you to leave your car and come back to the patrol car. And be careful on your way out, so that you're not hit by any cars."


He asks me to enter in through the passenger front seat. That - as far as I could tell - is a good sign. The lieutenant checks over my information on his network.

"Your car is an '07 model. I didn't even think they came out with those yet. Must be really nice, huh?"

"Mmmm... [How do I answer this tactfully?] I don't really care too much for it." That wasn't the most tactful answer.

Behind me is a grate with a little opening in the middle. I'm careful not to be too curious, but the stench and low grunts coming from the back aren't in the least reassuring. I'm hoping it's a dog.

"Oh, by the way, this is a K-9 unit."

"Yeah, I was hoping you'd say that."

"You seem kind of nervous."


"You don't get pulled over much, do you?"

"No. It's been a while," and, I add, "I'm from Chicago." I pause. Should I have said that? I started wondering how far south the loyalty lines are drawn for cops. I would've turned up clean had he sic'ed the dog on my car of course. But it doesn't always work that way.

"Well, here's the deal. A ticket for speeding at your speed would amount to $250 [Crap!]. But, you know what, when you were coming down that hill, you were moving so fast and in that sunlight with the glare and all, I couldn't tell if you had your seat belt on."

Well, that's one thing I know I had. "No, I did." For once, I was sure of something. I didn't want to over-step my bounds in saying it, but I didn't need to get charged with something I didn't do. After all, although I do speed, I'm not reckless about it.

"No, wait, hear me out here. A seat belt ticket is ten dollars in the state of Missouri. Now, you can either accept the speeding ticket, or you can get the seat-belt infraction."

My conscience was chewing me up at this point. And if I took the bait, who knows what else would be sprung on me? Did he forget to mention the 'night-in-jail' clause?

"I can't lie..."

"Listen, let me make this perfectly clear here," he seems exasperated at my slow mental state. "It's either pay ten dollars for not wearing your seat belt or pay $250 for going over the speed limit. Now, I'm going to ask you one more time, were you wearing your seat belt, sir?"

I swallowed hard. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

"No sir. I'm afraid I was not wearing a seat belt," I phrased low and monotonously, old dog smell seemingly carrying my words to the lieutenant.

He made out the ticket, said the usual small-town cop-friendly stuff ("You're on your way home? Who were you visiting? It's not worth dying over..." something along those lines) and let me go, with another injunction to be careful entering my car. I legitimately thanked him - hey, it's a reduction of 240 dollars and keeps my driver's license fairly clear - and headed out.

Jen was all smiles when I returned.

"I saw you through the rear-view."

"Yeah, thank you. That's a comfort."

"You're so cute when you're in trouble, you know that? 'Ummm... Five over?'"

"Ha. Ha. Ha. You were just waking up!"

I re-organize the papers, ID, etc. As genuinely nice as he is, I'm in no hurry to be escorted down the interstate with the lieutenant behind me. Fortunately, a Mack hurries just to our left. The K-9 unit tracks him down. We carefully pull into the road and head out.

"'Ummm... Five over?'"

"Thanks, Jennie. Thanks."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Maybe Al Gore's starting to have an effect after all.

Interesting. I guess we (meaning American evangelicals) are not quite as backwards as everyone (and myself included there) assumes. Still, I'd feel better if our president (and leading denominations - I'm looking at you, SBC) would feel the pressure to actually do something about our melting, hurricane-prone planet.

Christianity Today Poll

Should evangelicals lobby on global warming?
No, there is no such thing.
No, our priority should be evangelism.
No, the science is still unclear.
Yes, it is our job to care for creation.
Yes, concern for the climate is neighbor love.
Yes, we need to address all social issues.
I don't know.

Total Votes: 8288
Poll can be taken or viewed here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I had considered being a little more in line with traditionalism...

So I was considering, among other options, the possibility of joining the Anglican church in the distant future.

But then there's those pesky Episcopalians. What's next for them? The first Christian denomination to allow a practicing Wiccan to become a licensed priest?

The Lord's Supper a la Peanut Butter Sandwiches?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ships passing in the night...

Daniel Smith (the fearless leader of the decade + old Danielson Famile, Danielson Family, Bro. Danielson, Danielson Starship, etc.) and Sufjan Stevens are related. They play and sing on each others records. They record each other. Steven's records were released on Smith's label, Sounds Familyre. And Sufjan's relative breakthrough Seven Swans was produced by Smith, with his band (that is, the band that makes up the Famile wherein the members - much like the Ramones - have the last name. Unlike the Ramones, these guys are actually blood relatives) backing Steven and solely released on the SF label (I couldn't even find it on Sufjan's Asthmatic Kitty Records). And they make beautiful music together, relatively speaking of course.

It makes sense though. The reigning king of indie orch-pop would hook up and perform (live as well as in the studio) with a fellow believer and boundary-pushing indie artist who's also interested in atypical arrangements for pop music.

The difference is, Danielson seems more interested in a swirling asthetic of percussive instruments. But it doesn't seem much less arranged. Whereas Steven is a bit more laid-back and meditative (and neither would be confused for a folk-singer from the 60's - not this side of Bob Dylan), everything around Danielson- at least in his solo debut, Ships - seems to urge on and further. Xylophones, piano keys, drum kits, snares, triangles, even the strumming of guitars and banjos, the whole surrounding is every bit propulsive and percussive, as if life itself is a seemingly random series of poundings that, sounded together, is positive, life-affirming and quite harmonic. Multi-layered virtual choirs don't drown out, but rather emphasize his weird screeching falsetto (for some reason, it works for me, where Brian Wilson's recent attempts don't). And as Pitchfork noted in their review (9.1 out of 10), it is probably the most rocking independent record released all year.

There's also a doc on the Danielson collective searching for distribution, called, appropriately enough, Danielson: A Family Movie. Check snippets and news here.

BTW, if you wanna listen to some of Sufjan's soon-to-be-released Avalanche album, click here.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" was sung where first?

Growing up, I was acutely aware of the dangers and evils of alcohol. My father, on top of being heavily epileptic, downsized and virtually unemployable as a result of the new economies of the late '80s and early'90s (that is, with nothing more than a GED) drove himself further and further away from reality under the influence. Without the histrionics and drama so prevalent in blogger-world (and sometimes within myself), his abuse of the spirits nearly destroyed our family and left scars on each of his five children. Although my father would quit drinking heavy alcohol before I finished high school and would move south with the rest of my family and eventually - with the help of 12-step programs and a believing and supporting community - be clean and sober, I swore off all alcohol.

I partly resisted out of fear, and partly out of common sense, and partly out of those emotional and visceral responses the very smell of alcohol imparted on me. The fear is that I tend to have what some might call an addictive personality, as well as a bit of a bull-headed way about me - much like my father, but without the intensity and the booze to bring it to fruition. The common sense is that alcohol just costs a lot. A lot of family needs were spent on my father's habits (of Old Style as well as comic books, btw). In addition, instead of seeking resolutions, many people I've noticed drink to escape their problems, not a healthy thing to do in the least. And then there was this annoying habit with a few of my better friends of talking about alcohol every time they consummed it. Probably the most boring thing I could ever imagine. I'd rather have my teeth filed down (which they need to be, by the by, since I wrestled with a preteen this afternoon and severely chipped my top and front two biters. Looks worse than it feels, but it sure is embarrassing). I stopped hanging out with them at bars, or really anytime they drank.

But all of that said, I am getting along in age. And I don't have a theological conflict with drinking itself (and neither did Jesus, St. Paul, David, or Martin Luther from what I can gather) but rather with the abuse of it. So, I've had some sips these last few months - with friends. Still most of the time I go to the bars I ask for orange juice. But I wonder if my first-ever bottle of la cerveza on Friday would get me expelled from the Southern Baptist Convention. That is, if I would ever became a member. Wasp Jerky has news that the SBC (the largest Protestant denomination in the US, with a stranglehold in my parents' current town and really, most of the rest of the South) has made a resolution condemning not just alcoholic abuse, but any and all use of alcohol.

It's nice to know that such movements are cyclical. Another ten years or so and they may be able to illegalize the selling, buying and consumption of alcoholic beverages - again.

All that's left to say is: Cheers to them.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What's going on in that pretty little head of mine?

Tomorrow's officially the last day of my first year of teaching, although I haven't taught a lick since last Thursday (gave out a short final on Romeo & Juliet Friday and showed the students movies while nerve-wrackingly trying to complete a year's worth of messy paper-work the rest of the time). Next week I'll be in the school for a credited and paying course in developing small school curriculum and what-not and trying to figure some organizational scheme for my class. So I won't be practicing the stereotypical teacher model of sitting in a beach in Brazil reading books for two months, certainly not yet. My roommate doesn't mind being a stereotype, though.

I wanna marry Jennie. Like, in a week. Seriously.

Last night: BBQ for co-teachers at one of the teachers' house. Nice. I got to introduce Jennie (who I had longingly bragged and bragged about for over half a year) a couple weeks ago at a dinner party we were more-than-fashionably-late to. This time, I got to introduce her to the rest of the skeptics. I don't think either of us are serious party-social people; we're both uncannily shy. But it's good to get out together. Yeah. I love her.

Books I am/will be reading:

Don Miller, To Own a Dragon: Reflections on Growing Up Without a Father. The title says it all, especially if you're already familiar with Miller's honest and witty self-reflections of being a Christian within a post-modern culture/society. I think it also says something that his name is just below center in the title, with about three times the font size as the title. The image is of a man's lips and soul patch in a sun-burnt pastiche. I anticipate reading some more of it tonight, because, as you can tell, I've only read four pages a couple weeks ago.

Actually, I've been pretty busy and fascinated reading Lauren Winner's Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity. Needless to say (unfortunately) I'm also very challenged by this book and its claims. How chastity - the most Victorian-era sounding term applied to sexuality - is largely a spiritual discipline that needs to be practiced by professing, non-married (and, honestly, married) Christians everywhere. I would love to do a deeper meditation on this book and Winner's meditations soon, and may have that chance to. But the survey form here forbids that now. That sounded rather author-esque of me, no?

John Calvin's The Institutes of Christian Religion, edited by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne. It would be an understatement to say that this is an abridged edition. The fact that it can fit in my already-stuffed apartment - much less my back pocket - would belie that. But since I don't have the time or patience to actually scrutinize my favorite theologian (at least I think he's my favorite theologian - in the same way Jesus is President Bush's favorite philosopher, I suppose), this is a good starting point. I don't care much for heavy editing of someone else's work, but if I'm gonna trust translators (and what choice have I there?), might as well trust the abridgers. (Besides, y'all know what happened when I publicly doubted the world-is-round camp, right? Judge and various pundits said I need to trust somebody. Might as well start here.)

Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book. It's another meditation (yeah, honestly, I've just been reading novel-length essays. Who wants to read a boring ol' plain novel anymore? Not me, I say.) on Christian spirituality done by the master himself. This whole idea of Christian spirituality has been on the rise within the last 15 years or so, especially in the posher suburban churches. But since it's a movement brought about in the good ol' commercializing U.S. of A., it's brought a lot of commercializing factors along with it (I think my favorite ploy is the Meditating Maze - or Labyrinth - used for a multitude of youth group functions). If there is a heart to this movement (and I believe Miller's been apt to shine a light in the general vincinity, if not fully selling me on it) - or better yet - if it's not so much a movement but a way of life and a way to live out life, Peterson's the one to be trusted to get to its underbelly. So, haven't started reading it yet, but looking forward to it.

There's other books, and one of my favorite reads as of late is the latest edition of Paste magazine, with its take on the 100 Most Important Living Songwriters (Dylan, of course, taking front row honors). I don't have that issue with me, but Wasp Jerky does a little take on it, complete with links and the list to satisfy you for the time being (assuming, of course, anyone's actually reading this, read this far, and actually cares). Love ya.