Friday, August 31, 2007


So after a long and relatively boring day at work I’ve a number of things I’d like to write about. It’s a shame that these thoughts always seem to come in torrents, and never at regularly spaced intervals- like twice weekly. This would make things much more consistent and maybe I would appear more organized. Ok, I’m trying to think of an appropriate quote- it seems there is a proverb that mentions something about an organized mind, but apparently my mind is too cluttered to remember it. My Bartlett’s is staring at me from across the room, but I refuse to be further sidetracked.

Virginia Woolf wrote that in order to write fiction, one needs have an allowance of at least 500 pounds a month. I’m not up to date on my inflation rates, monetary conversions, or which alt+keypad code results in the pound sign, but I think 500 pounds translates to something in the neighborhood of $5,000.00 a month in the world of today. It’s a very novel idea. Now, besides the NEA, where do I find someone willing to give me $5,000.00 a month so I can write?

When I was six months out of high school and a neophyte in the working world, I realized that I was ready to retire. Working for a living is very overrated. It’s really a shame that we have to devote the majority of our lives to working, just so we can afford to spend more of our time doing little, unimportant things, like eating. Don’t get me wrong, I love to eat, but I’d much rather be without the need to eat than have to spend the rest of my life working, at least at a regular job. Why can’t people just run on solar energy instead of food? Wouldn’t that be better for the environment? Yeah, I’m sure scientists might have developed a way for us to synthesize ATP using only sunlight years ago, but McDonalds would have bought and destroyed the research.

Back on track now- so this idea of retirement had really taken my fancy… That is, until I met Eddie. Eddie is the retired brother of our accountant at work. He’s in his late 50s, and is so bored that he wanders into our building at least twice a week for his complaining session with his sister. I’ve noticed this tendency in retired people to spend the vast majority of their spare time complaining. (Actually, I’ve heard that it’s a tendency exhibited by most people who don’t have enough to occupy their time. Which may be why you find so many critics on youtube) You know, “idle hands…” and all that. Don’t get the wrong idea here, I really like Eddie, we’ve had some really great conversations, but he has to be the most eccentric bored person I’ve ever met. He’s always taking up the most bazaar new hobbies. Some of you may remember the movie Twister, which was about these people who chased tornadoes, well Eddie chases cell phone dead-zones. No joke. He even has a red pick-up truck that’s outfitted and insured to the max, just so he can get as close to any cell phone dead zone as he can. He has a polychrome map that displays the different dead-zones for different service providers, which he made via his own research. Last year he made a snow machine for his grandkids. We don’t get very much snow around here, maybe one storm a year is actually worthy of being dubbed a snowstorm. I don’t know where he got the idea, maybe from Popular Science, but he built the thing out of a pressure washer, and it actually makes enough snow to cover your average front lawn in about an hour. About six months ago my boss decided to relieve him of some of his boredom, and recruited Eddie to be our mail carrier. Now, twice a week he goes to the post office and picks up our mail from the PO Box, and then brings it by with him when he comes to visit his sister. Today he announced his newest hobby. Apparently he spends enough time complaining at the post office that he’s on a first name basis with the workers there. He informed us that he’s put dibs on post office box #1. According to the workers, it belongs to some 90-year-old woman who is due to croak at anytime. Supposedly she hasn’t checked her mail in over a week, so it may be he won’t have to wait much longer. How morbid. I really need to introduce the guy to Youtube, or maybe

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sunday at the Mission

I spent this last weekend in Tubac with my Mom, helping her take care of my Aunt. My Aunt has been very sick this last month, and my Mom has had to stay with her constantly. It was a very interesting experience. Tubac is a very small town, filled with artist shops and expensive houses. Friday and Saturday my Mom and I explored some of the shops, and Sunday morning I got up relatively early and went exploring alone. About two miles South of Tubac is the Tumacacori Spanish Mission. The mission was started in the 1750s, and abandoned around 1848. It’s since been partially restored, and is now under the care of the National Park Service. I’ve been to many of the California missions, but this mission is very different. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, and doesn’t receive nearly the amount of traffic as San Gabriel, or San Juan Capistrano. In fact, the entire time I was there I only encountered one small family.

I wandered around the grounds for awhile taking pictures, and then decided to spend some time inside the sanctuary. The NPS interpreter had loaned me a frayed and crumpled pamphlet, which told about the history of the place, and about the Franciscans who built it. If walls could only speak…

I’m not Catholic, but I do have a great deal of respect for the traditions which have been observed for millennia, by many men and women who were more devoted to God than I could ever hope to be. Even if my views and understandings of Christianity are completely incompatible with theirs, I respect and admire their devotion to what they believe to be the Truth.

I sat on an old bench in the nave and read the journal entries of the monks who had carved the mission out of the wilderness. According to the pamphlet, two of them had been interred beneath the chancel. The mission had literally been built with their sweat and blood. It was convicting on many levels. Unlike modern missionaries, these people never hoped to retire. They lived and died at their posts. To think of devoting one’s entire life so completely to the spreading of the gospel; it’s an amazing thought.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Broken Clock

While reading Faulkner, one image really stood out to me- Quinton’s pocket-watch, which he ripped the hands off of, yet continues to carry around with him. All throughout his chapter he carries the broken watch with him. It sits in his pocket continuing to do what it was made to do, namely, to tell time- although without its hands it’s virtually worthless. The watch is still an intricate, functioning piece of equipment; it’s just unable to display the results of its futility.

A good friend of mine turned me on to Lifehouse’s new song “Storm” a couple of weeks ago. It’s a wonderful song, and it’s something I really could have related well to six months or even a year ago; but right now I feel like their song “Broken” is a much better theme for the place I’m at in life. Have you ever read Ecclesiastes? These song lyrics really stand out to me:

The broken clock is a comfort,
It helps me sleep tonight
Maybe it can stop tomorrow
From stealing all my time

This past year has been one of the toughest of my life. My Dad passed away, and some other things happened that were really hard. The Lord was there for me, and really helped me through it all. Now the sun has come out again, and there are some very promising things on the horizon, yet I feel like I’m missing something. These are the times when it seems to me it’s most important to remain broken. Life is full of meaninglessness- especially here in this post-postmodern world. It’s so easy to lose focus, to fall into meaningless monotony, and “wish time away.” (As another friend so eloquently put it) The Lifehouse song goes on:

In the pain there is healing
In your name I find meaning
So I'm holding on,
I'm barely holding on to you

Lord, help me to find meaning in your name, though everything else may pass away. While life keeps ticking on, invisible, our time goes by, wasted. Give me purpose in you.

The Antelope Valley is a very diverse place. To the East is high desert, to the South are the San Gabriel mountains, usually covered in snow, to the West are rolling grasslands, and to the North are dry lakes. I took my new camera and my guitar and headed west this afternoon hoping to catch the sunset, and maybe a bit of worship. There is just something about rolling grassland that evokes a sense of timelessness. I found a nice secluded spot up on a little hill and parked my truck there and watched the sun go down. I managed to get a few decent pictures, and revel in the knowledge that those moments were created just for me.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Potato Wave

A while ago I was stumbling around the Mental Floss website, when I came across this blog on mondegreens.

What is a mondegreen? Well, according to Wikipedia, "A mondegreen is the mishearing (usually accidental) of a phrase as a homophone or near-homophone in such a way that it acquires a new meaning." I don't know if you're familiar with the story of the minister's son who was overheard by his father while conducting a funeral service for his dead bird. The son concluded the service with "These things I pray unto the Father, unto the Son, and into the hole he goes!" This is a mondegreen.

According to the wikipedia article, the term was first coined by author Sylvia Wright. It is derived from a misheard line of The Bonnie Earl of Murray. Write's mother had read the ballad aloud to her as a child, and she misheard the last line of the second stanza.

Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl Amurray, [sic]
And Lady Mondegreen.

The correct last line is: And laid him on the green.
I'd like to sign out with the same youtube video used on the mental floss blog, which is a rewrite of Pearl Jam's "Yellow Ledbetter." I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Something Noteworthy

Something more that must be mentioned. Upon arriving home from the beach today, I was pleasantly surprised to find a large box bearing the logo. I usually get one such package every week or two, only this one was much larger and didn’t contain books. Instead it’s contents yielded my very own edition(?) of the Settlers of Catan board game! I’m very excited, I love board games, and Settlers is definitely one of the best.

Oceans Apart

I went to the beach today. It’s funny, I’ve lived nearly my entire life a mere hour from the beach, and until this year I’ve very rarely bothered to visit it. Both of my parents are from Florida. My Mom was an airforce brat, and spent most of her life in various countries and states, and my Dad was just a good ol’ boy with roots in Georgia and Alabama, and a heritage as rich as the South itself. He spent his summers on the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, and the rest of the year at Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic. His Florida upbringing had completely spoiled him, and he despised the beaches of California. It’s no real wonder. The Pacific is freezing, it’s always overcast, and it’s so crowded that there are times and places where you can’t find enough room to sit down.

Every summer we’d pack the family van and Mom and my brothers and I would make the trek back to Florida to visit the grandparents. It was no small venture, and my Mom’s style of traveling didn’t expedite the journey. It wasn’t uncommon for our route from Southern California to Florida to include stops in places like Salt Lake City Utah, Oklahoma City, or even St Louis Missouri. (I should point out here that when you’re ten, and have to spend eight hours a day in a cramped van with your siblings, you want to reach your destination as soon as possible, and while her inefficiency used to drive me nuts, it has instilled in me a real love of traveling for the sake of traveling) Around two weeks after our departure we’d reach our destination, which was, more often than not, the family beach cottage near Panama City. My Dad could only get a maximum of three weeks off work, and therefore couldn’t really afford to gallivant around the country with us. He’s usually fly out after we’d arrived, spend his three weeks at the cottage with us, and then fly back home. I spent many a summer on the beaches of Florida, and had grown to share my Dad’s disdain for the beaches of California.

Today was beautiful. All of the trips this year have been beautiful in fact. We got there around noon, and the mist had almost burned away. The water was freezing as always, but if you are to keep moving, and take an occasional break to play ultimate frisbee or football, one can manage quite well. At one point a few of us had swum out past the breakers, and were waiting for a nice set to bodysurf on. We looked up and saw a pod of dolphins heading our way. Now I’ve swum with dolphins before on a few occasions- a couple of times in the Gulf, and a few times while sailing around Catalina Island. It’s not as exciting as you might think. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. Dolphins are much bigger in real life than they look on TV, and when you’re in murky water, and an animal that’s almost twice your size, approaches you rapidly, it can be very unnerving. These dolphins came right at us, and swam around us and under us. It was fun, but none of us had the nerve to reach out and actually touch any of them.

In the pacific it’s not uncommon for the waves to reach over six feet in height, and that can make it difficult to actually get out away from the beach. If you don’t know what you’re doing you’ll get pushed back in close to shore, and if there’s a rip tide you can get stuck at shoulder depth with six foot waves breaking over your head and pushing you in, while the rip tide pulls you back out. Dealing with situations like this is a constant battle. You have to pay attention, and be strong swimmer. When a wave comes, to keep from being bowled over you must dive down to the bottom and press your body to the ground. If you do this correctly the wave’s energy will pass over you and keep you down. After it’s passed you’ll be pulled back up towards the surface. At this point you can surface and take a few breaths, and swim in whatever direction you’re heading until the next wave comes. If you want to head in against a rip tide, you have to ride the waves. There’s a great analogy in this somewhere, but I can’t find it right now. I think it pertains to the waves that life sends at us. Maybe I’ll figure it out in a day or two.

After we were pretty well frozen, we came in and decided to go for a walk. We were at Zuma beach, and about two miles north of Point Doom. This massive cliff rises sheer out of the water, and has an ominous look about it. I’ve never understood why “ominous” is never listed as being synonymous with “exciting” in the Thesaurus, because anything that’s ominous is bound to be exciting, and Point Doom is no exception, so of course we had to check it out. We got down there and watched a few people rock climbing, suspended 100 feet over the open ocean. When we climbed around the point, we found a beautiful little cove with a beach about a hundred yards across which ended in another cliff. After climbing around that cliff and out onto the rocks we found a series of tide pools. The rocks were covered with anemone, barnacles and muscles, turning them dark shades of purple and green. There was a strong breeze that blew in our faces, and blew foam and spray around us. It reflected the mood of the ocean below it. The waves would rush in amongst the rocks a few feet below us and shoot spray up and around us. The cliffs rose high to our backs, and in front of us the open ocean stretched off over the edge of the world. It brought on the feeling that this was not the ocean we’d been playing in before. This was the ocean that sank ships and birthed storms. It was turbulent and terrible, and if it so desired, it could swallow up all the land that it had yielded millennia ago. Standing there on that rock, with the waves and the wind whipping around me, and looking that ocean in the eye…it was incredible.