Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

December 7, 2009

Mourning for Monk...

Yes, it's over - Monk is over. We've spent the weekend in mourning, wearing black, a lot of sackcloth and ashes, crying and gnashing of teeth. We said goodbye to Adrian Monk Friday night with the last episode after seven years of waiting the whole week for that 10pm pizza slot on USA tv to be filled with our favorite obsessive-compulsive crime stopper. How could we get so attached to a fantasy guy, an actor, the whole ensemble and the sometimes silly, sometimes stupid plots? Tony Shaloub just played it so well, as did the other cast members.

Now to the final episode however, the final resolution, the denouement, the fin, how it all played out, after he spent all those years looking for his wife's killer while solving all of San Francisco's major crimes with a stroke of OCD genius! How could it all unravel so uniquely and simply, when on Christmas he finally decides to open a present his wife Trudy gave him that last Christmas before she died by car bomb! The video that revealed she had had an affair with a lawyer before she married Monk, had a child she thought had died. Wow, we with Monk never saw that coming, and with such emotion on his part. Oh yeah, he was also being poisoned by Trudy's killer while finding all this out, and everyone was looking for the cause to make an antidote before he kicked off. But how that fatal poison was introduced by a lackey who later gets killed before he can reveal what it is, that was a little out of left field.

So Monk is dying. And certain people were introduced in those last two episodes that should have given us a clue - but we were speculating all along. First, Natalie gets this new boyfriend we've never seen before, so we can't assume she and Monk are going to get together after years of her being his loyal assistant. Then they have to get a court order from a judge who turns out to be too big of a star to be just incidental to the whole plot. There's a murder at a birthing center of the head doctor - and the midwife who delivered Trudy goes missing.

But after seeing the video, Monk and Natalie learn that the cheating lawyer is actually this judge now getting ready to ascend to the California Supreme Court. They go to his confirmation hearing and accuse him right there. Monk is taken to the brig and then the hospital after attacking the judge. Natalie starts to come down with the same symptoms Monk has and realizes the poison is in his hand wipes she just used! Where did that come from? And who was the six-fingered man who supposedly set the bomb for Trudy? Never resolved or brought up again and a flaw we hadn't expected.

But Monk escapes the hospital before they can get him the antidote to chase down the judge himself, because he remembers the last time they went for the court order, he saw a sundial under a tree. No sun! So the midwife must be buried under it - of course! As Chief Leland Stottlemeyer and Det. Randy Discher arrive and Monk is about to shoot the judge, he is ordered to put the gun down. But the judge grabs it and before he shoots himself, says "Take care of her!" The daughter he and Trudy had is alive? He had killed the midwife and doctor to protect his rep and the daughter's identity before his big promotion!

So Monk finds Trudy's daughter, they wind up spending lots of time together, because the poison antidote is created from the wipes and he recovers. But he also recovers his own life again, stops being that big OCD we grew to love, and the episode ends with slices of past episodes. He and Natalie are back on the case with the newly married Captain while Discher takes a police chief job in NJ so he can marry Sharona, Monk's former assistant, and they live happily ever after - no Monk funeral to attend, no Natalie being his long lost daughter, no pristine past for Trudy, no more Monk on Friday nights! Now what? We're supposed to get a real life? Sorry, I like this mourning gig better. I might even obsess about it.

November 27, 2009

'Twas the night after turkey and this turkey's stuffed...

Another annual feast of the Curran pilgrims has come to pass, this time with two kids traveling to our East Coast Summerhays clan for hosting. We had our new Tucker son-in-law and his three kids to help make up the difference - and good belch was had by all! Colleen and I were counting the dishes we crowded all on one designer paper plate and eight was enough! Let's see...Sweet Potato surprise by Shannon and Ryan, Turkeys by Tucker/Currans(one smelled bad so that one was shot), String Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Stuffing by Colleen, Steamed Corn and Butternut Squash Cubes and Pecan/Maple Glazed Baby Carrots by Yours Truly and Frog-Eye Salad by Nos Dois! Chega, basta!

Then came the desserts! New Zealand Trifle by Darlene and Quinn, Baked Apple Pie by Shannon and Ryan - and Pumpkin, Pumpkin Cheesecake and Pecan ala Costco! Deeeeelish! But we forgot to invite the Indians! Dang! Hope no one goes on the warpath. But we are thankful, truly thankful for family, faith, friends and so many blessings - and now here's a little essay on my version of where we get some of "Thanks/Welcome" language traditions...

"Now that I’m older and 'wiser', I have a lot more questions than answers. Like why do we say 'Thank you' and 'Your welcome'? Or is it 'You’re Welcome'? And who or what is welcome anyway? These are two of the most commonly used phrases of appreciation and courtesy in the English language, but yet the way they are used almost defies reason. I know you’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, so let’s get into it.

"Yes, let’s talk about these phrases literally, what they might have been before they got into our language as abbreviations, and whether digging into their histories might take the mystery and even a little tiredness out them. And who cares anyway? Look, language is dynamic; but in being so, maybe some former meaning can get lost, and lost meaning is like a hot dog without a bun.

"Maybe when we say “Thank you” or just “Thanks” or even “Thank you very much” – (and there are other variations like “Thanks a bunch”, “Thanks ever so”, “Many thanks”, “Thanks a lot”, “Thanks Muchly” if you get my drivel) – there is a small linguistic incongruity. The way it is written, it literally could be an imperative, a command, by which we are telling someone to “Thank” themselves? “Oh go thank yourself!” “Thank You(rself!” Ludicrous, yes, because the other meaning has been with us for so long.

"So how did we get the phrase 'Thank you'? That may be pretty self-evident if you think about it. Somewhere along the progressive line of language development, something got left out. How about an 'I' or a 'We' on the front end, that after too much use just got dropped as being an understood pronoun. I know people who leave out pronouns all the time in my local church culture. 'Grateful to have you here today.' How hard would it be to put those pronouns back into the phrase and say 'I thank you'? Wouldn’t we feel like we were talking antiquated English, the language of cabbages and kings? So we have shortened it to 'Thank you'. At least it’s not as confusing as being in Hawaii, where the Hawaiian word for “Thanks” is written on the flap of every trash receptacle – 'Mahalo!' Tourists think it’s the local word for 'Garbage'!

"But it’s the reciprocal response to the thanks that really gets me. Is someone really 'Welcome' for saying 'Thanks'? How does the word 'Welcome' get into the response? 'You are so welcome' or 'You are very welcome' or 'You are most welcome'! Many people use these phrases unwittingly, yet so fervently gushy, thinking they are really emphasizing and underscoring their recognition of the thanks being given to them. It all tries to be so genuine – but is so gosh-awful gooey when you think about it. And it makes no sense either. But then is all language supposed to make sense? Can we say just about anything and have it be ok as long as we all agree on its shared meaning? I'd just as leave think so, say many a Canadian. See?

"What might have been lost or dropped from this phrase to make it what is today, a weird and wacky, though oh-so-typical response? How about 'Your thanks are welcome', with the 'thanks are' left out? This way there is no more confusion as to whether it’s “your” or “you’re”. Surprise!! It’s the possessive 'your', not the contraction of 'you' and 'are'. So nobody is really 'welcome', right? But somebody’s 'thanks' are.

"Remember Mr. Miyagi of 'Karate Kid' fame? When Daniel-san thanked him, he only muttered that subdued 'Welcome'. But it isn’t the same 'Welcome!' we use when inviting someone into our house. Does anybody say that very much anyway? Unless you’re a greeter at Walmart? Well, it is kind of warm and fuzzy. Or maybe we confuse the 'Welcome' response with 'You are welcome here!' How about 'Much obliged'? Now there’s an abbreviated form of 'I am much obliged or obligated to you.”' In Brazil, they say, 'Muito Obrigado' or just 'Obrigado', from which 'Obligated' comes. Wow, bet you're impressed now!

"And then there’s always the occasion when I thank someone, and they say 'You bet.' Now where did that come from? 'You bet your welcome?' What’s up with that? Or maybe it’s a shortened version of 'You bet your life!' from that crazy tv show of the ‘50s. I don’t know for sure, but when I moved to Utah from Hawaii, nobody said the “W” word. 'You bet!' has got to be the State idiom! One day after making the great voyage across the Pacific, I was in the local thrift store shopping for some cheap mainland duds for my transplanted waifs. I walked by a big old friendly clerk-type guy, who, after we made eye contact, just grinned and said 'You bet!' And I hadn’t even said anything yet! I’m still trying to figure that one out. And then there’s the Latinos with their 'De nada!’ 'It’s nothing.' Yeah, that still works.

"Now I know you had all this figured out long before I got here, instead of following my convoluted theory trail. And what’s my point anyway? Maybe just a greater recognition of the language we use everyday that we never think about and which has become more idiomatic and less literal. We shorten language in so many ways. Do we lose anything by doing so? Doesn’t language just represent thoughts and emotions anyway, a sequence of sounds and scratches that stands for things we all agree on, as I mentioned before? And maybe the most important thing we can get out of this silly little linguistic exercise is that we feel and express our 'Thanks' at all, and often, and from the heart. We can’t lose by thanking others for the many little things done for us – and to the Creator for the many big things, including life itself on this beautiful planet. It’s a gratitude attitude. Oh yeah, and Happy Thanksgiving! I thank you."

November 24, 2009

Real Salt Lake's MSL soccer champs and "hocker"!

I haven't watched a full professional soccer game ever in my life, either on tv or in real life. But I was constrained to watch it all Sunday night, even enjoyed it with two OTs and game-deciding penalty kicks, as my home state Utah's pro team Real Salt Lake beat the highly touted Beckham-Donovan tandem and LA Galaxy for the MLS championship. This victory was even more personal because three of my kids, Erin, Shannon and Conn, work for RSL's corporate sponsor Xango, and Conn even got to go on a Xango bus to Seattle to catch the victory at the stadium and even relive a few memories of a family trip there when he was a kid. Erin watched the final kick with me while we enjoyed a warm, crackling fireplace.

Conn was our only soccer player as a kid, the only one in the family who even wanted to do that running and kicking thing, so we supported him till he got too tall and lead-footed to look natural out there among the shorter set. Soccer has always been hard for me to watch. I was also reminded of my soccer daze in junior high and other related memories, and my epiphany one night listening to the radio - how could I make soccer more interesting for me? And hockey too, since I had a daughter Caitilin marry a Swedish-speaking hockey puck, Kurt Summerhays, who had grown up on the ice. So I combined the name and the actions to come up with what follows...

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like why is sports talk radio so lame sometimes? So I’m riding down the street one day after work listening to my favorite drive-time end-of-work-day ad nauseum local sports roundup/talk-show/trivia show. It’s open-phone Friday and anything goes. He suggests people call in about the local college Spring football scrimmages, will Tiger Woods win another (ho-hum) Master‘s tournament, anything related to hockey or soccer, and what is your favorite Campbell’s soup. Since I couldn’t decide on my favorite soup, or maybe just didn’t want to reveal something that personal to the listening audience, I had an idea for a call-in about hockey and soccer.

"Since I really hate hockey and was never very good at soccer, my mind shifted gears as I picked up freeway speed, and I wondered if there was room in the galaxy for a new sport, a hybrid of hockey and soccer. I pondered. I mused. I went back to those painful days in Junior High when as a budding soccer fullback, I couldn’t kick the ball 20 feet while guys much smaller and faster than I could make it sail a mile. And it was so embarrassing to come flying at that ball and miss it completely with one leg up in the air as I watched someone else kick it past me. And those grassy face burns! I never got the hang of a head butt on a flying ball either.

"I don’t mind watching a World Cup game or so every four years. But I get so exhausted watching those guys run that field, that I have to get up for a drink every five minutes – yet I’m afraid to leave the tv because someone might actually score a goal and I might miss the only point in the whole game and hear some sportscaster get his shot at fame by yelling GOOOOAALLLLLL!!!! A goal is almost anticlimactic and antithetical to all that running around, though. And this is the most popular sport in the world? If you count how many countries deem it their primary sports pastime, yes. But I don’t get it. I lived in Brazil for a few years and it was big. Pele big! World champs big! Kids started kicking things in the air before they could walk. My oldest son spent a few years in Ireland and it rivals beer drinking there. Pub ball they call it. He now flies to any big match in the world to be a part of it.

"But I think that the difference between Americans and the rest of the world with regard to soccer is this - we are not raised kicking a ball around with our feet, no matter how nimble or dainty it makes us. But rather we learn to play ball with our hands – baseball, football, basketball, where we make connections with people in a game of catch, or where we see points scored more quickly. And maybe there’s a message in there about the world’s greatest industrial power – we didn’t do it with our feet!

"We’re a hands-on society where we knuckle down, get a handle on things, don’t fumble the ball, throw a touchdown, pitch a strike, or shoot a basket with nothing but net. We are the supreme ball handlers – and dropping the ball or having to punt the ball is a metaphor for messing up. The only thing we do with our feet is dance – and yes, you guys that dance the samba and tango and rumba – well, I’m sure it helps your soccer game, but mostly shows off your hip swivel. And while swiveling is not our forte, we can do it in a pinch in the games of football, basketball and baseball – that IS our dance!

"And hockey? Canadian, eh? No comment. OK, I’ll comment. Once in a while I might accidently and unavoidably glimpse a game while careening though the tv channels – but I move on as quickly as possible. And my youngest daughter married a hockey player, to boot!!! I might give it five seconds – the game, not their marriage. But I really don’t get it at all. It’s just pummeling and clobbering to me, and that’s why they need all that gear. Just way too much uniform for the size of that little black thing.

"Where’d they get that game piece anyway? And why the name PUCK? Isn’t that the name of some Shakespearean character? I can’t even follow it. I never see it go into the net. And the rink is just too small. I think that’s why they fight so much, the way animals act when they get all caged up and live in too small of an area, right? And I think a goal in this game is really just incidental to the fighting, because it seems to me that that’s what the fans really want to see. I think the guys should just wear speedos and make it more graceful and gracious out there – just see how much fighting they’d do then!

"So my response to a topic on hockey and soccer, though I was too chicken to call in at the time, is to suggest that they create a new sport and call it HOCKER! My game of hocker would be played on a soccer-size ice rink so the skaters can really have room to move around and thus eliminate the claustrophobic need to battle each other. They wouldn’t get so tired running up and down the field either and I could watch it longer without getting so worn out too. I would retain the sticks, do away with the puck, which you’d never see anyway, and just keep the soccer ball, maybe make it red so you could actually follow it around the rink. A soccer ball being maneuvered with a hockey stick on ice could be fun and freaky too if it started bouncing around. It would be a lot faster than running, unencumbered with heavy gear. Just soccer uniforms with helmets and shin guards. Yes, maybe speedos with knee pads.

"And instead of pummeling to express their machismo, there’d be a lot of spitting. Thus the name Hocker – because I’m sure these guys could hock up some big ones! Maybe even use the biggest one as a tie-breaker! Maybe a distance spit for extra points. At least there’d be a lot more scoring. Hocker. Now there’s a game I could get into. I get all choked up just thinking about it. Excuse me while I hock up a big one - “Oh, sorry, Officer, didn’t see your car out the window there. You’re going to give me a ticket for hocking on your windshield? I think I've got some hocker cleaner in here somewhere...”

November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day ponderings and Vietnam...

Many sobering thoughts today as it marks not only a day of solemn Veteran remembrance, but also a week of military mayhem at Fort Hood(where I happen to have a nephew, Owen Fitzsimmons stationed by the way), all ala Allah Akbar fanatic Nidal Malik Hasan - and the execution last night of former soldier gone crazy, John Allen Muhammed, DC sniper, where I grew up and identified with all the deadly locations seven years ago. Senseless loss of life, perpetrated upon innocent citizens by deranged and to me Satanically evil people.

Forgive my lack of political correctness, but I do believe in the existence of Satan and his demon unembodied hordes, cast out upon this earth from a pre-mortal council where they refused to comply with God's plan of salvation and free agency, rejected the pre-mortal Savior Jehovah and his willingness to die for us, Lucifer wanting to save us all by force and have the glory for himself alone. And so they are here to try and tempt and test our allegiance to the right, instilled in us by the Light of Christ, which we were all given to lead us to truth. These men mentioned above gave in to other evil voices and drowned out that light - and justice will be meted out - but with too many good lives cut short and hearts broken.

It was also the 20th anniversary of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, a major victory over Satan and his attempt for so long to try to control and subjugate many people's freedom with the old Iron Curtain, no longer there, thanks to President Reagan and many others who put the pressure on Gorbechev. But Satan doesn't stop trying to kill people's spirits and agency as well as their bodies in retaliation for not being able to have a physical body himself. I was in Berlin in 1967, part of a BYU show group, visiting bases in Europe. It was something to wake up and look out the train to see armed Commie guards with their German Shepherd dogs, sniffing around my window outside while I was entering the only free zone in East Germany to do a performance for the troops.

But without trying to demean the solemnity of the aforesaid remarks, well meant and intended, let me turn now to a little lighter subject matter, still military-minded. I never served, though in college I did do two tours of duty, those singing tours, one to bases in the Far East and then that one I mentioned to bases in Europe, two different summers while I was finishing my education in English at BYU. What follows is my take on that unique kind of military experience I call "Almost Vietnam"...

"Now that I’m older and 'wiser', I have a lot more questions than answers. Like what happened with me and the military? They never wanted me. Well actually, during the Vietnam War, I was in school and my draft board was loaded with eager boot camp wannabees in Montgomery County, Maryland, so I never got the call. I just stayed in school and took my legal deferments, got a masters degree. But I did serve in another way. And I don’t want to recite yet one more Vietnam story; there have been so many. And mine won’t make the big screen nor be called anything heroic. No, I was never there – but almost. Hey, maybe I can start a new genre of narrative, the “Almost Vietnamers”.

"It was in the Summer of ’65 and a sweltering summer it was where I was going. I was part of a 12-person performing group from BYU in Provo, Utah, selected to entertain troops at US military installations throughout the Orient for three months , kind of a USO type show, but sponsored by the DOD. (But that’s on the QT, FYI, OK?) Vietnam was on our itinerary when we got our initial invitation and travel orders. I especially enjoyed the Bubonic Plague shot we had to have, among the other hypodermic invasions we were subjected to. I would rather have had the Plague frankly, instead of the recovery from that shot – the fever, the stiff and sore arm, the knowledge that I was now carrying a centuries old disease in my body, started by rats.

"But as our departure date got closer, the fighting escalated into the famous Tet Offensive, and Vietnam got cut from the schedule. It was a sad day for us all, of course, but we got over it in about three seconds, still remembering the sting of that one shot we would live to tell our grandkids about. We should have gotten a medal just for taking that shot. But maybe our beautiful girls would have been too distractive to those guys over there anyway. I mean, after all, they did have a war to fight and we didn’t want them to lose an ounce of concentration. And then we guys in the show might have gotten shot just for being too ugly. Glad Bob Hope was around to fill in for us.

"So while we didn’t get to put our faces in the line of fire, our pride in our troops and our gratitude for not being in their foxholes increased everywhere we went on our tour of other Pacific bases. We always encountered men who were either going to or coming from Vietnam, whether it was at a missile base where we were changing clothes in the cafeteria freezers or on a hillside makeshift stage where we swallowed flies and mosquitoes to the tune of “Lida Rose” from Music Man

"For example, we were doing a hospital show at Clark Air Base in the Phillippines about half way through our tour. The audience was a very appreciative group of GIs with cool casts on, dapper head bandages, and some were in very souped-up wheelchairs. Since our show was straight out of Disney, they were totally respectful. No skuzzy skin show here. No barroom cat-calls. One of our girls, Patti Peterson, went on to star in a “spic and span” tv sci-fi, “Land of the Giants”. Two other singers in the show, Sally Flynn and Sandi Jensen, became an integral part of the Lawrence Welk Show for the duration, with squeaky clean bubbles and all. And I joined up with The Lettermen a few years later, a conservative, middle-of-the-road singing group also known as America’s most romantic trio, thanks to a recommendation from Janie Thompson, our show producer, director and pianist - and a BYU legend. I even got to record a #1 hit, "Hurt So Bad" in 1969...which didn't hurt too bad.

"Anyway, after the show, we all visited with individual members of the audience, to shake hands and show them how humble, down to earth, and self-effacing we really were. Then we were invited to come up to the hospital itself and talk to some of the guys who were so wounded, they couldn’t attend. Now Vietnam was getting up close and personal. We were going to talk to the very guys who had just been there, who had almost made the ultimate sacrifice, who had taken the hits and put it all on the line – for me, a student with a draft deferment! But I told you about that already. College was a battle ground enough for me!

"So with this guilt trip firmly in hand, I took Patti with me, as we all split up to walk down the halls and peek in some rooms to see if we could lift any spirits - a daunting task when you don’t have piano accompaniment. One of the rooms we went into had four guys in it, all in beds, with varying degrees of bandages and arm slings and legs raised in those…leg-raiser things. They were pretty beat up. What could we possibly say to them? We felt so puny and inadequate in our efforts to comfort and cheer. “So how’s it going?” Great opener! We could see how it was going! Of course they only had eyes for Patti, so the pressure was off me and she did all the talking.

"After a little more small talk, we both gushed our meager patriotic thanks, knowing we didn’t have the words to cover this kind of encounter. We were speaking for all of America, and we were doing a pretty sorry job of it, stumbling and bumbling and mumbling along. They must have thought so too, because the more we searched for the right words, the more their polite smiles became tight-lipped winces, until they couldn’t stifle their laughter any longer. Patti and I looked at each other, feeling like fast-fizzling failures, wondering how to exit gracefully.

"Finally, one of them relieved our awkwardness with some of his own. 'We appreciate your visit very much,' he half-choked. 'But maybe we ought to clear something up. See the guy with the head bandage? He fell off a truck here on the base while delivering laundry. Those two guys with the arm and leg casts got banged up in a base football game. Me, I got in a fight with a parachute. None of us has been to ‘Nam’ yet.'

"We listened in mute humiliation, and then in slowly mounting frustrated realization. We should have laughed along with them, but we had just bared our souls and left our proverbial guts out on the floor. The best we could do was to back out of the door without another word, heads down with appropriate bowing and groveling, but still leave them with a memorable little ditty that goes kind of like this: A one and a two and a… “Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly…..” . Their shuffles and grunts and attempts to stand up for the National Anthem was worth it all. It's ok guys, we still love you!"

November 3, 2009

Fruity stories and Grampa's Grapple juice...

I spent an interesting day outside last week, anticipating below zero temps, and in that last minute panic seeing so much unharvested fruit in the yard, apples and grapes mostly. So in addition to unhooking the hose and sweeping some leaves up, I decided to pick whatever apples I could get off the trees and then pick all the green grapes that were hiding under those leafy vines. And there was a ton!

After an hour or two of gathering, I spent the rest of the evening in the kitchen, steaming and juicing grapes, and juicing red and yellow apples. Got about six pitchers of a mix I call Grampa's Grapple juice - and it really is good. Now it's been in the fridge for a week, with only Shane's taking a pitcher full, I hope it doesn't ferment and I get in trouble for illegal beverage distilling. We hadn't done much with the apples in the past, but did do more of the grape harvesting. But this year, the trees were so full, and still are, just had to try to make something out of them, inspired by Colleen's efforts with some of them on Conference weekend with apple sauce.

When we were in Hawaii, I loved harvesting and planting, usually in that order - because we always had coconuts and breadfruit in abundance. But had to plant papaya and bananas, even tried mangoes once, but were told they would take seven years to mature. Will never forget my efforts with bananas, fantasizing about my own big leafy plants and finding out we could buy them at the BYUH farm. So one Saturday, I headed over in my station wagon and came home with some big banana plants hanging out my back station wagon door. Forget those high-priced Chiquitas we got through many middle men from South America!

Our next door neighbor, Aaron Lim, was the farm manager, so he was the first one I went to to show off my fruity trophies, though of course there were no bunches on them yet. But I could dream, couldn't I? He came over to see how I had dug deep holes for these thick trunks and put enough water in them to start the growing process. And while I was admiring the new look in my garden, with those wondrous big leaves just greening up the place, Aaron asked for my machete. Ok, I thought - but why? The next thing I knew, he was whacking and hacking at my big leafy beauties like a mad man, chopping every last leaf off, till all that was left were ugly and non-picturesque stumps. I was all about plant aesthetics.

As I looked at him in disbelief, not knowing whether to get my own machete. assume the fencing position and shout "Engarde!" or just slump to the ground and blubber like a baby, he gave me some fast farm expertise, free of charge. He said that the plants would not root well if all the nutrients had to feed the leaves at the top, and that the leaves had to be chopped off so the stumps could take root, grow the leaves back, but also produce nice bunches. Which made a bunch of sense to me, after I got over my initial urge to kill. So eventually, the plants flowered and fruited nice bunches, and our papayas also did the same. And while we lived there in that Garden of Eden, we able to at least enjoy the "fruits" of our labors for a few years, once we got the hang of that Adam and Eve thing.

But back to our Orem yard for a big finale. We have had our fruit loops! We used to have apricots, three sprouting trees of them right out our front door - making such a mess in the front yard, we had to take them out. But I loved them. Then there were the cherry trees next to the carport - good for climbing on the roof and fixing the swamp cooler, but producing cherries so full of worms, we couldn't eat them. But we have burned many a cut-down branch in the fireplace in memory over the years. We had plums too, which stopped growing except for this year, when one small plum tree pretending to be a bush produced a gazillion. Our one good peach tree also gave us some gorgeous, tasty orbs this year, before the pesky birds could put their beaky marks on them.

Ah the harvest! What a great time of year. We did little to plant over the years, and didn't have much luck at that, spraying and praying now and then. But though we have been harvesting more than planting. I'm grateful for the chance to grow and harvest. "Whatever ye sow, that shall ye also reap." Well, we're still mostly learning how to sow when possible, hoping our harvest won't be rotten and sour - metaphorically speaking. Because if "we are sowing, daily sowing, countless deeds of good and ill", I don't have much hope for a great harvest - don't think I've sown much good but have certainly reaped from the efforts of others. Of course, my kids are my best products, a big joint effort with Colleen, who did all the work - and fortunately they got her good looks as a bonus. As for me, it's back to the briar patch to see if I can salvage anything to eat.

November 1, 2009

Tender mercies and family history...a letter.

Hey family!

Don Fenn gave a good lesson in Priesthood I wanted to pass along, with some related family history too, about how to heal the wounds of life we all have from time to time, some more serious than others, referring to the recent losses of John Montrose and Dorine Jesperson. And He first quoted a scripture in Helaman 5:12, to emphasize who the real Healer of our wounds is:

"And now my sons, remember, remember(interesting he says that twice), that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, Who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build, they cannot fall."

Don emphasized that it isn't just the devil that causes us wounds in life, but life has its own tests for all of us, allowed by God to challenge us and strengthen us, so we can be more refined to live with Him. But if Satan is in our lives in any way, we also get the message here how we can withstand him, because although he is a part of our existence, we don't have to live with him or his influence if we choose to follow the Savior and accept His atonement in our lives. Light and darkness can't exist together.

Then he asked us to share how the Lord has intervened in our lives in tender mercies, the little things or maybe bigger ones by which the Lord has blessed us in some way. He shared one about his recent thought that he should have a burial plot, since he's getting on in age(but doesn't look or act it yet). He was out driving around in Provo and had an impression that said "Stop at the cemetery." He ignored it, but after it came more times, he stopped at the Provo Cemetery, to find they had been trying to reach him because they had some plots under the name of Thomas Fenn and wanted to know if he was related, because the plots were going to be sold otherwise for $1400. Donn Fenn said Thomas was his great grandfather - and with verification, he got both plots for $25 instead of $1400. He listened to the still small voice. But we hope he won't need those plots anytime soon.

(I was talking to Celestia Montrose outside church today, asking her how things were going without John. She looked radiant and happy, but said it was so hard. She said, maybe they needed him over there for some work to do, but she thought he was doing a lot of good work here too. I told her that's why I don't work so hard on this side of the veil so they won't take me too soon or need me over there right away. Ha!)

Mom has often said how she had impressions to go home or act quickly about some of you kids at times, which eventually spared you physical harm or even death at times. One was when Conn was eating a bottle of Fluoride and she felt she had to go home from teaching at BYU-Hawaii to get there in time to make him choke them out and save him. She said she saved Conn and Sean from killing each other in a machete fight because of a prompting too. I told her to write down the other times for you to read someday soon.

Incidently, I was up late watching Channel 21 last night and the BYU-Hawaii women were playing Hilo in volleyball. It took me back to when I was there and used to write sports stories about our women, especially a national championship game with Hilo on the mainland, when I traveled with them. I often catch BYUH-related stories now and then, Jim Smith's chorus performances, a recent labor missionary story, special talks and ceremonies at PCC. Lots of nostalgia. And with what inspiration did we get to Hawaii?

While watching tha game, my mind went further back to when I was working in Falls Church, VA at ADS Audio as a writer and producer of radio and tv public service spots for government agencies and national associations. We were struggling financially as always, and I was praying for answers - and one night as I stayed late in the office working on something, I heard a voice in my head say, "You must struggle but I will sustain you." From then on, that helped me make more sense out of my struggles.

I had also been praying a lot about my future with that company and thinking I should really be working in an environment of ethnic groups and different cultures. I had been reading a lot about cultural anthropology at that time, was really interested in that area of study, but didn't know how to get into it. It was shortly after that that a call came from my old friend Taylor Macdonald, then at BYU-Hawaii, wondering if I knew anyone who would want to interview for a job in student activities at BYUH. I said" Yes, me!" I had just lost my job there too, because of a cutback in BiCentennial spending. I passed the interviews, among many other candidates, and got the job in short order, a real answer to prayer, to live and work among 30 different cultures and languages.

But we had only been in our townhouse for 10 months, our first house, and wondered how we could sell it that fast when there were others in our little complex in Centerville, VA that had been on sale for months. We fasted and prayed - and a week before we had to be gone to Hawaii, one of the Sterlings who had lived across the street from us in Pimmit Hills/Falls Church area had just gotten married and was looking for a house - and while driving around our townhouse complex, saw our "For Sale By Owner" sign in our window and caught me as I was crossing the street coming from a going-away party for us by a neighbor.

We showed them the house right then, they loved it, and bought it within the week - and though we only made a small profit on it, at least we didn't lose anything, sold it fast, in time, and to friends to boot - another answer to prayer. Mom was in a minor car accident at that time too, right when we were giving our neighbors little Church BiCentennial presentations about the Book of Mormon every week or so. She was not hurt seriously and we were able to get all packed and on our way to Hawaii in August 1976, and take a job in there that answered a prayer and helped us grow in ways we never would have otherwise. Yes, we had challenges too - and things weren't always easy there.

But it changed our lives, taught us so much about the world Church and I had the chance to serve as a bishop and help over 50 members get to the temple - and maybe that's why I was there, who knows. We all grew in some way, some in many ways. But we feel there were a lot of tender mercies and a lot of intervention from the Lord in our lives to bless us in time of need, because we trying to do the right thing, flawed and failed humans that we were, dealing with our own weaknesses and shortcomings - but still trying.

And finally, getting into this house in Orem where we've lived for 23+ years was another answer to prayer. Our belongings were coming from Hawaii, it was the end of the summer, and we had no place to live yet - and no one would rent to a family with eight kids. We prayed and fasted. I had seen a house available earlier in the summer in the paper while we were living in BYU housing, but they wanted too much down. Then one night, I walked the streets of Provo, praying out loud, crying, desperate for help. I took a paper out of the dispenser and saw the same house, now available for nothing down. I called the next day and the realtor's wife answered and verified it was nothing down, and showed us this house. It looked perfect, 5 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, especially compared to our little cinder block Moana Street house - and we said we'd take it,

Then Steve Black, the realtor, called back and said there had been a mistake and it wasn't nothing down, but $2500 down. We cried again, feeling lost - but mom called her dad, who said, bless his heart, that he'd give us the $2500. We did a lease option with Harvey Black the owner, and started moving in. Then Harvey's wife, Susan Easton Black, tried to throw us out, thinking we had duped her recently widowed husband(Anne died in this house of cancer and that were just going to be squatters of some sort. But son Steve Black intervened, told us not to worry because we had already given him the money and to move in, that things were ok.

A few years later when the lease option was up and we couldn't buy the house yet, our good friends Ivan and Judy Keller from McLean Ward days bought the house for us, let us stay until we could buy it, using some of Grampa Fitz's inheritance money when he died - and then buy it at the original market price rather than increasing the price. Ivan had been befriended by my mother when he lived in DC, an older bachelor who had found comfort in my parents' home until he found his wife. Once again we were blessed so much by good people - and here we are still, having struggled mightily to keep the house, and now blessed with mom's job and hard work mostly which allows us to keep it and furnish it and have it for you kids to gather in or live in at times. (And a big thanks to Shane and Sharon and boys today for raking up apples in the backyard - and to Conn for raking leaves recently too - still lots to do yet though)

Hope that gives you some food for thought, some inspiring family history maybe not written down yet for you, and to remember, as Brother Fenn mentioned Brother Bradfield, our wonderful patriarch, used to tell him - "I just do the little things - pray, read the scriptures, go the church, serve others, keep the commandments - and listen." Thanks Don for a good lesson - and thanks kids for your lives and your love, to our mom especially. Let's hold this team together and make any corrections and adjustments we need to - and remember, the Savior is the Rock upon which to continually build and rebuild our lives, with broken hearts and contrite spirits, with joy and gladness, with gratitude and service - and not let Satan win by distracting and deceiving us, or robbing us of time or virtue, or... "And others will he pacify and lull them into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well -- and thus the devil cheateth their souls and leadeth them away carefully down to hell" as Nephi warns us in 2 Nephi 28:21. No, let's really not let that happen.

Love, Dad

October 26, 2009

Tempus fugit...and time flies too!

I didn't used to think about time much, until I took a time management class. That was going to solve all my time problems and really get myself organized. It was required when I was a fledgling administrator at BYU-Hawaii. I think it was sponsored by Daytimer at the time and for me, it didn't take. Then along came the Franklin Planner a few years later, and we were all required to take that one seminar too - and actually use a planner, with goals and everything. I tried it - but when you're a daydreamer instead of a daytimer, it's hard. But I did start writing down goals - until I realized that I could never keep them very well and really got discouraged. I was supposed to prioritize them into A, B and C categories, in order of importance. Just couldn't do it, because everything seemed important at the time.

I'd write down a lot of stuff - but forget to look at it again and didn't use it half the time. Then I used it as a journal for awhile, getting maybe 10-15 years of journal writing for posterity and storing it in my closet in annuals, never to look at it again. Nor will my kids either, I'm sure. Now my desk is full of yellow sticky notes, stuck all over my computer, all over my printer and all over my desk, in piles, in my drawer - manageable in size but hard to keep from floating all over the place after the sticky wears out. But that was the purpose of the planner, wasn't it? To eliminate all the floating little pieces of paper?

I was really into Edward Hall's books for awhile, because they helped explain how differently certain cultures look at time. Americans are very time-based in their thinking, and being on time for whatever is a high cultural value. In other cultures, like in Hawaii when I lived there, time was not such a big deal, and you were supposed to float with the occasion, lay back and relax, not worry, take it easy...Hawaiians had their own Hawaiian time for starting things, which was usually 10-15 minutes after the appointed time. Even church started 10 minutes late in honor of Hawaiian time, which took precedence over God's time. But now, I can probably count the years I have left on my two hands...though it really is in God's hands.

October 25, 2009

Insomnia and BYU-Hawaii...

It's a little after 3:30am and I'm fighting my usual insomnia by sitting up in my big leather chair - and now that we have a little flat screen $99 tv we can watch upstairs on the dining room table, I can try to make myself fall asleep that way maybe. But as I channel surfed, I just caught the tail end on KBYU of a talk by Eric Shumway, an old friend and colleague from Hawaii days, giving a tribute to the labor missionaries who built the first buildings of that campus where I and my family spent 10 wonderful years, 1976-86, when I worked there in various capacities.

It was nostalgic to watch and listen to a video portion of Shumway's talk, that featured little clips of testimony and tribute from some of those early missionaries, all now retired...men like John Feinga, Tony Haiku, David Mohetau, Pupi Toelupe, and others I remember by name but never knew personally. But seeing these good men get emotional about their service, mentioning how their testimonies grew of the Gospel, how they saw the Priesthood in action so many times when workers would get hurt, how they never tired physically from the work because of their commitment and dedication - it stirred me and renewed my faith.

How I love these men, men I esteem so highly for their humble faith and lives well lived, all sitting therein their aloha shirts,, interviewed individually, reminiscing quietly upon a time when they could make a sacrifice to the Church they loved so much. They bore witness as to how their labors helped create an institution in the South Pacific of higher education and spiritual power that has touched so many students' lives and sent them out into the world, as prophesied by David O. McKay, to be an influence for good and instruments in building up the Church in so many parts of the world. It was such a privilege to be a small part of that in those days, as I also went back in time and reflected on the blessing I had to associate with so many of those men.

October 18, 2009

My mascot can beat up your mascot...

Now that football season is in full swing and basketball not far behind, here's one of my related columns I couldn't resist...

Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like where did they get those college mascots? And those sports announcers to spout them out like they are household names. The arrogance! Every time football or basketball season rolls around, I am always struck, my intelligence insulted, my cognitive faculties assaulted and barraged by sports announcers’ arcane references to teams and their mascots as if they are something we deal with everyday. Just what is a Nittany Lion for instance? I have lost sleep over this because I am expected to know. I thought about attending Penn State once, but I just couldn’t square my collegiate identity with being a Nittany anything? Is it indigenous to the rolling hills of PA? Not that I ever saw in my several forays up the river Susquehanna to my dad’s hometown Williamsport as a kid. Doesn’t sound Native American to me. Almost sounds like a ninny lion and therefore a little too pansy for me.

What does Nittany mean and why do those sports guys throw it around like they know, they expect us to know, and if we don’t, well tough, they’re not going to tell us on the air. Honestly, how can some announcer try to inflate his ego by expecting me to have done my research on each team’s mascot? All I want is a clarification before each game on tv, something in writing on the screen while the announcers are giving their pre-game hype, that gives a simple definition and history of the mascot and how it was chosen. Then I could really get into the identity of it, the culture and the history of it, and stand in front of the screen and yell “Go Nittany’s!” Like the Vermont Catamounts, for example. I have to do a whole library and Google search – and I still don’t know what it is! Do I therefore want to yell for their team? Or even be one? They couldn’t recruit me with a mascot I can’t tell is animal, vegetable or mineral – and I don’t have time to play 20 questions.

And how about those Fighting Illini? Is that the plural of Illinois? What does Illinois even mean anyway? I’m guessing Indians, but maybe it’s French trappers fighting over some skunk pelts. And that other team from Illinois – the Salukis? The what? And then there’s those Indiana Hoosiers. What the heck is a Hoosier? Or a Georgetown Hoya for that matter? No, I’m just supposed to accept hearing about them without question, like I’ve been dutifully doing most of my sports-watching life, and act like I get it and know who these guys are talking about and play along to impress my other sports watching comrades!

Odds are they themselves probably only know because of the script they’re reading for that game, but they act like it’s all common knowledge, like we’re supposed to buy into and connect with some state’s nebulous and deep-rooted traditions! Give me a break! I just can’t be at a computer looking it up so I can stay with these guys. They spout off this school stuff because it’s supposed to pump up our juices and tap into some lost nostalgia now recalled and repeated annually, to really get us into the game, produce some artificial sports euphoria, and sell product for the station, the real bottom line. Sorry, not buying!

And there are so many more mascots now. And where did the need for mascots come from anyway? I’ll bet those announcers don’t even know where the word mascot comes from – a French word meaning “talisman”, usually an animal that becomes a symbol for any group wishing to associate itself with that animal’s power or other qualities and derive some magical or mystical power from it. What was the first one in collegiate annals? The Harvard Hamsters? I don’t know - but I’m sure you’re not supposed to use someone else’s either, though it seems to be allowed by the mascot screeners. Like the Washington State and BYU cougars? Especially when they play each other? Now there’s an announcer’s nightmare. “And the cougars win the game!” Happy now?

And I bet they love to call the games for those non-count mascots, like the Stanford Cardinal, which is a tree, not a bird - one tree. How is a team one tree? And the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa – one hurricane, especially in Oklahoma where they don’t have hurricanes, and more so, golden ones. Miami is rightfully the Hurricanes, because they have so many of them – duh! But maybe the Golden Hurricane hasn’t happened yet and that’s why it’s golden and singular – it’s a myth waiting to happen! Works for me.

But they do have Sooners in Oklahoma? And sooner or later someone is going to tell me what that is. And don’t tell me it’s a tornado. Actually I think it derives from prairie schooners, in which people ran over each other trying to stake a land claim. So why not the Squatters then? But that still doesn’t explain what “schooner” means. I don’t know of any schools in the Midwest with a tornado mascot, though my Omaha-born wife used to hide from them all the time. To me, that’s a lot more intimidating than a Cornhusker. Aren’t you afraid of being husked to a pulp? Or a cob? And I love the mixed religious meaning of those Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Are they demons? Or deacons? Are they enticing you to pray and then prey upon you? Those hypocritical oxymorons!

There are of course those wimpy mascots trying to be scary, like the menacing Horned Frogs of SMU? Or those terrifying Terrapins of Maryland, snapping turtles to you and me, to tear your toes off in a pileup. And they are called the Terps for short, another crazy name-shortening just so they don’t have to say Terrapins – which has no referent in the real world. And I would not like to be hooted to death by those Temple Owls either, or put in a ring with those angry South Carolina Gamecocks and get pecked to pieces.

And I love those politically incorrect references to the original natives of our continent who, because they were fighting for the land we were taking away from them, we choose to try to make it up to them by giving some of our schools names - like Florida Seminoles and Utah Utes. They are still fighting us about it. But why not those really bloodthirsty ones that are always in the movies, killing our cowboy ancestors mercilessly, those cunning and clever ones that used to ambush and annihilate and scalp us and leave us tied to stakes up on anthills in the hot sun? Or legs tied to two different trees and let fly? I don’t see any schools revering them with mascots - like Pawnees, Apaches, Mohawks, Commanches, and Sioux. Shades of Little Big Horn! Or maybe we could get more ancient and mysterious with the Anasazi or Mayans or Incas, to spook teams into defeat.

Then there are mascots for those who work the land and sweat in the factories – like the Aggies if you’re an agricultural college, which I think is a real mascot cop-out. I mean, will you really cower before an “Aggie”? And we have other farmer types like the Beetdiggers, Cornhuskers, Lumberjacks and Boilermakers, who try to intimidate us with their big muscles from toiling and tilling. I know I’m shaking. I wish there were more high-tech mascots that reflected the information age we live in instead of the past industrial one – like the Programmers, or the Telemarketers, or the Stock Brokers. Why are there no everyday guys like the Coroners or the Grocers? What, not scary enough?

Of course, you could just try to creep your opponents out with crawlers like the Earthworms, the Scorpions, the Army Ants, the Centipedes, the Killer Bees or Mormon Crickets. And we could get down and dirty with the Las Vegas Strippers or One-Armed Bandits or Mustang Ranchers! How about the LA Scandals or the Hollywood Pimps? There could be some more picturesque mascots like the Niagara Falls or the Smokey Mountains or the Mount Rushmores - or the Mt St Helens Lava Flows!

But I think the way to really get more threatening and ominous and go beyond the zoo dwellers or house pests is to create mascots that strike real fear and would cause people to wear surgical masks to games, that represent the real terror-filled world around us - like the Ebola Virus for instance - or the Hepatitus A’s , the E Coli’s , the Anthrax? Or how about the Hanta Virus Flesh Eaters , the HIV’s, or the Bubonic Plagues? Some mascots could actually be some of the wonder drugs to do battle on the field with these incurable diseases, like the Penicillins or the Polio Vaccines or the Antibiotics! Now we’re getting somewhere! Forget all attempts at propriety and tradition – let’s go for what’s in the news, like the Freaking Al Qaedas, or the Iraqi Insurgents or the Taliban Terrorists !

We need to bring more of the outside into our little provincial games and show everyone that we know what’s going on around us rather than keep glorifying these antiquated little mascots nobody really knows anything about. I used to be a sports editor in high school. You need a good mascot that you can write descriptive language about. We were the Montgomery Blair Blazers, and though it looked like a red devil, how does that translate to Blazer? Hard to describe what we did in victory – fork them to death? Of course, like most teens, I was oblivious at the time. I also did some sports writing at BYU-Hawaii many years later - and though I helped develop the long canoe and paddle guy logo existing today, it was hard to translate that into a Seasider, the longtime benign, amorphous mascot name that just wouldn't go away. We tried other more indigenous names like Paddlers, Long Canoes, Oarsmen, Outriggers, and such - but no takersl.

I think we should have a national college mascot referendum and evaluation day so universities can finally change their names shamelessly and opt for something more real world, more pertinent, more conciliatory or pugilistic? A lottery perhaps! But get over those golden days of a century ago when mascots were gentlemanly and irrelevant. And I have to mention the time when I was singing with The Lettermen at the University of Arkansas in 1969, and we got a big, long “Sooooey Pig” that nearly “p”- popped us off the stage with that labial wind blast from 10,000 students. Wow! That’s how I found out what a Razorback is! I was impressed. But I still want to know what a Nittany Lion is. Nittany, Nittany boo boo!

October 14, 2009

Some thoughts on death and dying...

We've lost two good friends lately, within the last several weeks. John Montrose and Dorine Jesperson were neighbors and close church-going family with whom we have had many years of serving and socializing together in our Orem 1st Ward. John 79 died of a stroke, though appearing fit and active the night before. He had just been on a long car trip up and down the Alcan Highway with Celestia to visit a daughter in Alaska. He had served so long and well in so many capacities, the most endearing for us being as a missionary couple to Ireland with his wife, when our son Quinn was there from 1989-91. We'll miss his jovial manner and his wild ties, some of which Celestia put in a box and gave to our High Priest Group to be passed around and taken as a remembrance of him.

Dorine was even more of a shock at 70. Where did blood clots come from in her lungs, one going to the heart and shutting off blood supply to her kidneys, causing renal failure and loss of blood pressure? Just like that, though she had complained of being excessively tired the past few weeks, according to family. She was tall and thin and active, a half foot taller than her stout basso profundo husband Oscar, a fellow choir singer with Colleen and I over our years together. But he was the less healthy one - and if anyone was supposed to go, everyone thought it would be him first, when and if. They had visited with us many times as our home teachers, conversations that often centered more on family and current news than on just a Gospel lesson. We loved her and will miss her too.

The impact? Of course we feel these losses deeply. And we come closer in thought if not body to that brink they have now crossed and we have yet to. But these were immortals to us, standards of goodness we thought subconsciously would be here much longer. We never put a time limit on our friendship - and we know it will endure beyond this life, but the timing is bad for us too. It's just not supposed to happen - not so soon, not like this, just not. We've felt the same with losses in the past few years of Bud Herring, Paul Sabin, Russ Logan, Jane Mangum, Phoebe Thomas, Gary Anderson and more. But it's not our timetable and someone else is in loving charge. And these good folks had their lives in order when they left. Will we? We're so much works in progress!

But as I viewed Dorine, so lovely and serene in her coffin and tried to convey tender feelings to Oscar and family, I went back to when my mom died in 1990, the first time a close loved one had passed since my dad's mom died in 1960. I walked up to her casket, frankly numb and emotionless, having just flown in from Utah to DC and maybe in shock. My dad was very emotional - but I just touched her face, so beautifully cold and hard, pristine like alabaster. It was her mortal shell, the tabernacle of her eternal spirit which was now not there. I knew that, but somehow it was still profoundly mysterious to me.

I accept the resurrection of Christ and His gift of that to all of us. It's all on faith. And though that's not tested when I attend a funeral viewing, it is still a bit incomprehensible. I know it will happen for me, though I always thought I would be caught up to meet Jesus when he came - and I'm still holding out some possibly vain hope, though I'm not sure how I'd handle the heights. My wife definitely has that fear and if we go up together, she's going to be clutching me as if we were hang gliding, and hopefully not dragging me back down to earth so we miss the whole "rapture" thing.

But I'd rather deal with that than death itself, because we are so indecisive about coffins (can they make me a double wide?) and we have no plots yet and wonder if we should just go with cardboard to save money - or do the cremation option and start picking out some exotic Celtic urn, Irish to the end. But who would want to keep it around the house? We're still supposed to get a plot for that? I'm all for mixing our ashes together in some macabre romantic rite - but then how will we be resurrected, all tangled up and possibly getting the wrong limbs? Or should we both be scattered to the four winds - but where? Together or separate? Because I know she's going to choose downtown Omaha and I'm more partial to Mount Timpanogos. So many questions, so little time, literally. I guess that's why we try to avoid thinking about it until it is thrust upon us unexpectedly by a close friend's early demise. Then we realize it's still around the corner, down the hall, second door to the left.

And one more footnote. I got an email today from a girl I had sung with in high school choir, Carolyn Hill Couser, whose family I had taught the Gospel back in 1974. That happened because she and her husband Dyrk had seen a marquis with my name on it when Colleen and I were singing at a Holiday Inn in Beltsville MD where we lived at that time. We all got talking about religion when they came in one night. They weren't happy with their church, had known that I was LDS and had gone to BYU after hight school, and wondered if I would tell them more. I got permission to teach them, and they eventually all joined and I was able to baptize all but the youngest kids - or did I do it at all instead of the missionaries? Memory freeze!

In the past year or so, she had been emailing me about her life as I tried to keep track of how they were doing in Church. They had been very active in the College Park Ward after we left and moved to Virginia, she becoming the ward organist for some time. Then he retired from NSA and they moved back to his hometown, Punxsutawny, PA - and started going ecumenical and attending other churches. I was concerned for them and wrote to them off and on. He eventually left his wife for another woman, left the Church - and now she has stomach cancer and is under hospice care.

She called me today and we talked about it. She is resigned, but with a lot more faith, having returned to the LDS church in the past year, partly by being reactivated by a missionary couple, Bob and Connie Rose, whom Colleen and I knew well from DC and who have lived in Bountiful these many years we've been here too. Smallness of worlds! I am strengthened by Carolyn's faith in the plan of salvation and for being able to be calm and courageous in the face of death. I know it is a door and passage to the spirit world, where she will be free of pain, be reunited with loved ones and wait for her eternal assignment and continual resurrected progress in the mansions of the Savior she so believes in! I hope I have as much courage when my time comes. Right now, there's more work to be done and a messy house to still be put in order! It would be nice to have more time to work on that, hint hint.

October 12, 2009

Saints alive!

No really folks, I was watching Fox News this morning before church, and heard that Father Damien had been sainted by the Catholic Church! In other words, his life had been lived so well and he had at least two miracles attributed to him, he made the grade. Well, I have a little something more to add.

First, I lived in Hawaii for ten years and visited Molokai and the Leper Colony there, even took a performing group of kids from BYU-Hawaii down for a visit and a little show. Going down and then up that 1000 foot mule trail to get there and back, right after a rain and amid some fresh animal poop, was one of my great life's funny memories. Father Damien really did a great service there and helped these pariah's feel loved and cared for, and then contracted Hansen's disease himself(formerly called leprosy) and died there. I don't take anything away from him for that though my sister Carol Hansen might take exception to the disease's new name.

I just have an issue with how so many people reporting on this sainting process just take it for granted and never question the whole idea of sainthood. In the early church, all of the members were called saints. If you read about so many of Paul's journeys to the early branches of the fledgling church through his letters, he almost always hails the members of those churches as "saints", i.e. "...to the saints at Ephesus". This other idea of sainthood came much later and became specific to just a few good people. And I don't take away from some very rare deeds and lives well lived on their parts. But what about the everyday folk and their sacrifices and good deeds?

I belong to a church which calls all its members "saints" - or "Latter-day Saints", meaning members of Christ's church in these latter days. And I've seen many a miracle of healing and comfort and service given freely and by and through the holy priesthood which every worthy male can have, without fanfare or self promotion, but in quiet acknowledgment and acceptance. Jesus used to do this himself saying things like, "Go and tell no one...", keeping it as a quiet testament to his Father's power.

He gave that Priesthood and the Holy Ghost to his Apostles before He left, so they could run the Church without Him and pass it on. Unfortunately, it was lost with their untimely deaths and the disappearance of the Priesthood keys which the Apostles held last. The simple church ordinances and structure changed too. But that same power and keys have been restored and exist today, used by common people for uncommon purposes, quietly and without any worldly recognition, from the administration of the Church by new Apostles down to the least of the members. If you don't know about it, you ought to check it out. True "sainthood" is really for everyone!

(Oh, and by the way, there was a Google ad on my blog the other day for "True Church", the "Restored Church of God". Uh, Not my church. That is a new version of the Herbert Armstrong's old Worldwide Church of God, using some our Mormon terminology, but not the same thing, by a long shot - albeit they have some good things to say)

October 11, 2009

Saturday...one big sandwich that ended in sleaze.

We try to sandwich in so much on a Saturday that s supposed to be a respite from the workweek. Well, I'm not actually working yet, but I follow my wife around, and that's a workweek all in one day for me. Started with an 8:30 am football game, way cool and wayyyyyy cold - grandson Kai is 8 and pushing the NFL envelop. There were other games of our step-grandkids we were supposed to attend, but after our weekly breakfast out, it got too late, so we had to get in a little apple picking and juicing, a little napping - and it was time to eat out with our widowed Karen friend, who we try to go out with once a month or so.

By the time we finished that and did a little Halloween shopping, it was time for some real football ala alma mater BYU. But it was also a rock band reunion for son Shane and we said we'd go - but we thought we had it timed so we could watch most of the game and get in the last of his performance at Velour in Provo with Chump! We left in time, but they finished sooner than expected, and we wound up with egg on our face - we said we'd stick around and cry and feel bad for hour or so, but they had to get their two little boys home for bed. It was already 10:30pm! Shane's wife Sharon was visibly disappointed, rightfully so - if we had left a tad earlier from the game, we'd have at least seen him playing his bass and singing, talented guy that he is. He was gracious about us missing it, but we still hurt about it! REALLY sorry, son!

We had also planned to see our daughter Erin sing in her band, Five On The Fly, an amazing pop rock combo playing this weekend at Club 90 in Sandy, and stay till 1:00 am because we have late church. Though my former Catholic wife did her share of socializing in bars before we were married and we had our singing days together in bars right after we were married, times have changed and so have we. While Erin sang her heart out and was amazing to watch and listen to, we had to endure all the dancing going on in front of us - if you can call it dancing anymore. It was more a combo of leaning, slouching, off-beat gyrating and a really vulgar display of erotic and sleazy humping and bumping and groping ...the worst was a guy in a wheelchair with his moll all but having sex with him right on the floor. A lot of girls dancing with girls too, and it wasn't all dancing - and just sad people trying to have some kind of kinky relationship and validation right in front of everyone without any qualms, their quiet desperation flowing out in an assortment of moves and grooves that was anything but dancing.

I felt sad for so many of them, their alcohol getting the best of them, loosening their inhibitions, causing them to do things they'd never do sober - at least I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. Colleen and I had to almost laugh, it was so tragic - and I'm not trying to be condescending or judgmental. There but for God go the both of us, who come from alcoholic roots and genes, who could be there were it not for our commitment to a higher law, knowing there is more, glad we know about it and trying to live it, albeit imperfectly. But it's easy to see how the Adversary works on people, controls them like puppets, deceives them into thinking they are having fun and are doing something meaningful. I call it being suckers for Satan, dupes for the Devil, lackeys for Lucifer. And this is just one of his active arenas. We left feeling a little slimy ourselves, looking up at our active LDS daughter and her band of good Mormon guys, knowing they were doing it for the fun of playing together - and the money's not bad either. Lucky they didn't have to take in the visuals and take any of it home with them.

October 6, 2009

My karaoke kids and singalong family...

Was chatting with my youngest, Conn, 26, till 2am this morning, mostly listening to his evening's antics in a karaoke bar. He says he tried not to sing, but his buddies made him get up...says he gets self-conscious singing, because he's a serious singer and he doesn't want to intimidate those for whom karaoke is just good fun, forget the actual singing part of it. But of course he got up anyway and sang "New York, New York" ala "old blue eyes" and got the usual plaudits and swoons. It's fun for him too, of course, especially the applause!

But when he mentioned how he doesn't like to sing to show off or show up anyone, because he doesn't want people not to get up after he sings because they might not feel they are as good, he wasn't being boastful. But he did reveal what karaoke has always been for most people, a chance to sing with a recorded band, get a moment of stardom, feel the high of the stage and the audience, sing with friends, usually sing badly but not care that much - unless they have serious social or mental issues, and then everything comes wailing out for all the world to hear.

But we Currans have taken it pretty seriously ever since we discovered it way back in the late eighties here in Utah, when we had just moved here without work from Hawaii in 1986. Our mom Colleen valiantly set up a singing studio to try to bring in some money, teaching voice students with her music degree, while I papered our walls with rejection letters from not being able to find work with my two masters degrees. We found that a local music store had just gotten a Singing Machine line to sell and after Colleen talked to them, they were willing to let her use one in our family room studio for free and we would refer students to them for a possible purchase.

It didn't take long to realize, however, that maybe we should be selling these singalong machines ourselves, so Colleen got us in touch with the wholesaler of the machines in LA, a Phillippine group called Zenasia. Their president, Albert Nini, came and met us once he heard that I had sung with The Lettermen(famous in his country), and set us up as retailers at home, and singing demonstrators of his line, Denonet, at Consumer Electronic Shows in Chicago and Las Vegas. Soon after that, he hired me to wholesale to music stores all over the West, to set up new accounts, traveling at first in a Dodge van and then eventually in my own Karaoke van.

After many a long and weary road trip, setting up new dealers from Washington to New Mexico, I got to stay home more and do phone follow ups with my own 800 number, 225-SING, which happened to also be our same number for our local Utah market. We struggled trying to make it work though, all the while enjoying the personal uses ourselves and especially watching all of our kids singing and gaining so much poise and repertoire with the many different popular songs available on tapes and eventually cd-rs. They were musical anyway, but this just enhanced their learning so much, gave them so much confidence and increased their singing abilities, that we felt it had been a boon to try this as a business, a great investment in their musical futures. I too love to sing with a good band arrangement that sounds like the original hit - and Colleen and I did many a gig ourselves with just a portable system to back us up.

But alas, we weren't very good with the bookkeeping and we were driving Albert and Max Villarin(the VP) crazy with bad accounting and money management on the business end of things. And the market was changing all the time too, with the Chinese developing little $100 units that were constantly undercutting our higher end units from Denon and Panasonic that sold for $500-700. So were losing money and finding it harder and harder to market what we had retail as well as continue wholesaling to the music store accounts I had set up before.

So Colleen kept doing the vocal teaching for a little while, trying different names like Singing Unlimited and Vocalife. But she finally got a teaching job in Special Ed and Music when teaching at home became too hard to do for much longer. I found odd jobs over the years in sales and telemarketing, market research, ESL/English teaching and doing some editing for a phone directory company. But still nothing steady and stable to date.

We don't do karaoke much anymore either, unless we have a wedding or anniversary, and then we rent out a full blown system with the mikes, monitors and big speakers, that have thousands of songs available to sing. Of course, Sean put his own studio in his old bedroom downstairs, and has recorded some pretty nice stuff from there, including two cds of his own, and vocal demos for Conn and Erin. Those guys and Shane have done the most continual singing and music as an extension of the karaoke we started with 20 years ago.

So now Conn has his own website, www.conncurran.com to market himself as a jazz singer. And Erin sings with a band that has demos online at www.fiveonthefly.com. Sean sells his cds but I'm not sure where - maybe on Google or YouTube? Shane has his own website too at www.singingbirthdaycard.com, where he has demos of his various written and recorded musical versions of original birthday songs you can give to loved ones. Check them out! They are all awesome - and so is karaoke for what it did for us financially and musically, and still does whenever we get a chance to do our sing thing.

October 3, 2009

You wanna talk peeves? I'll give you peeves!

I can't watch a night of tv without finding some peeves - not even pet peeves either. I love the History Channel, but I watched with some skepticism an episode called The Mountain Meadows Massacre", supposedly documenting a true version of a terrible event in Mormon Church history, to this day still unclear in all its facts, about the massacre of about 100 settlers going through southern Utah in 1857. As they made their way across that barren land, allegedly some Mormon leaders down there along with some Paiute Indians they hired, decided to kill everyone execution-style, except all children under 12 for whatever unknown reason. The innuendo throughout was that they were commissioned by Brigham Young, LDS prophet at the time to do this, though John D Lee was the only one ever found guilty of this terrible deed.

It happened. How and why is still a mystery, but the speculation was rampant that it was a setup and ok with the Mormons, based on the words and records of a few, who could have had some ax to grind and wanted to blame this church. And there's no question, there could have been some maverick LDS, still full of hate toward outsiders who contributed to their early heinous persecutions in the East, who might have done this. I've heard mention that some from this wagon train might have either been associated with former persecutors or may have stirred up these Mormon settlers down there and incited them to revenge.

But what was missing was any reference to the terrible treatment of the Mormons by non-Mormons in Illinois and Missouri, including an extermination order against the LDS members by then Governor Boggs of Missouri. Thousands of new converts lost their lives in this land of supposed religious freedom because of blatant bias, prejudice, hatred and harassment, even the their prophet, Joseph Smith, who was martyred defenseless while he was imprisoned. This ultimately led to their exodus from their beautiful city of Nauvoo and their perilous trek across the wilderness to the Great Salt Lake, with Brigham Young as their leader and new prophet. Many lost their lives on that journey too. Not mentioning that more balanced perspective peeved me - a lot!

Another peeve? I watched an episode of Cold Case in which a young baby had been taken from its crackhead mother by some people who wanted to give it a good home. But when the mom sobers up, she goes out to find her son and ultimately prosecutes the people who saved her kid from herself. So those Cold Casers bring the kid back to her, now 5 or 6 and already bonded to his nurturing parents, and return him to his sobered up mom, and make it look like this is supposed to be one big happy reunion, like the kid is supposed to be happy to be reunited with a mother he doesn't even know??? Outrageous! And while current laws support that kind of action in favor of the rights of the original parent, I think they should be changed.

Whoever the child bonds to should be the parents, so the kid isn't wrenched away from them to be with someone he doesn't know, doesn't care about and now will probably have permanent trauma because of all his life. Kids need stability and love without any disruption in those early years, staying with the family that brought them up and protected them, rather than giving them back to parents who spawned them but didn't ever parent them. What a sad jolt to any kid who has to go through that. Rethink that law, please, for the child's sake!

And yet another peeve? I happened to turn the tv on to a roast of Joan Rivers the other night. I thought it might be funny. I didn't watch much of it, because what I saw was one of the most vile and filthy- mouthed rips on someone I've ever heard, with all these "stars" feeling they had total license to call her every name in the book, all in fun of course, while she just sat there with this weird smile affixed on her face, probably put there earlier by one of her plastic surgeons, so she couldn't react. Just to listen to these famous names indulge themselves in coarse vulgarities at her expense and think it was all so funny? It was pathetic and tasteless and ugly and sad - and she just sat there, emotionless. Maybe she was dead and we just didn't know it. If so, I don't think she died laughing.

Ok, one more - not tv related, but I listened to a radio interview with Heather Armstrong a while back on NPR's Radio West. Here's a woman who writes about motherhood in crass terms and foul language, a former Mormon who thinks she's so liberated because she decided in an English class at BYU once that she could have thoughts independent of her parents - so she throws away her religion and family connections. And because so many sad people with no life of their own just adore mavericks and rebels, no matter what they are against, but just because they are turncoats, she now makes thousands a month on her blog because some women think she's so cool for leaving her faith and snubbing her roots and even speaking out against it all. Not cool. I know I won't go there to get any child-raising tips. She really peeves me! So there!

October 1, 2009

Ok Dan Brown, let's talk!

I just finished "The Lost Symbol" and I want to read it again, because I did get a little lost myself. I liked it of course, as I did all your other ones, all nail-biting, wild rides until the end! But in all your hoopla about "Apotheosis", man becoming like god, divine, and reaching his full potential, are you just pushing humanism again, that when man reaches his highest self-actualization, he is like A god? Because Katherine's Noetics is so much about the possibilities of the mind of man, the power of thought, man the ultimate creator? Or do I deduce too much by thinking you are touching on something else, the doctrine Christ taught in Matthew 5:48, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect", becoming like THE God? You quote a lot of biblical scripture around this theme, but left that one out. Maybe I'm extrapolating from my Mormon cosmology again.

But you bring in the idea of "Elohim", not just the name of one God but a plurality of Gods, as in "And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness..."(Gen1:26). Who is "us" and "our"? Who were the creator Gods? If Jesus was with God in the Beginning and said he was foreordained BEFORE the foundations of the world, God's Firstborn in the spirit, could he have been there with his Father, God, making the world, or at least doing it under his Father's direction? Two gods? So Joseph Smith's vision of two gods, the Father and the Son, isn't so far- fetched after all, but actually a confirmation of what the New Testament's Apostle Paul says so many ties in his journeys? He's always talking about the Father and the Son, yet that simple concept got so screwed up after the Council of Nicea, as you so ably implied in "The DaVinci Code." Good on you!

But then, in Genesis 1:27, "So God made man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, MALE and FEMALE (my caps) created he them." So is God male and female then? Androgynous? Or does God have a female partner, an eternal creator companion, a wife, after whom all women are created, who is also part of that pantheon plurality of gods known as Elohim? And the other one you quoted, "Know ye not that ye are gods? (Isaiah?) Can't that mean we are all gods in embryo, like earthly children can become like their earthly parents, as eternal spirit children of God(Heb 12:9) can become like their eternal Father/Mother Gods who have perfect, exalted bodies? Could it not be that as their spirit children, we had to come to earth to obtain physical bodies to become like them eternally, made in their image on earth, perfected in their image forever? So, sorry Katherine, I'm not buying being made in just in God's mind image.

I go back to when I was working at a CES show, showing karaoke for a company I worked for. With our staff was a preacher with his own church, also a biker we called Biker Bob - and a beautiful Latino lady hired to market to the Hispanic market. They were both Protestant Christians and had issues with me because I was a Mormon Christian, which they thought was a mutual exclusion. I asked Bob, as we were there working on a Sunday, "Does Jesus have a body?" "Yes, he was resurrected." "Ok then, does God have a body?" "No, God is a spirit". "Ok then, is Jesus the same as God?" "Yes, Jesus and God are one." "So Jesus has a body but God doesn't?" Silence. Bob had no answer, nor did the other lady. They walked away mumbling. But my answer is - yes, there is a plurality of gods.

Jesus was in the beginning with his Father. They are both Gods who created the earth and intiated a great plan of salvation in the heavens before Jesus came, so he could do his appointed and foreordained work of salvation for us as our Savior. And Satan was there too as Lucifer, wanting to be like God and a savior too, but proposing to save us all by force rather than through our choice. His egotistic and self-serving plan was rejected and who with a numerous host of his spirit siblings, some of God's spirit children, was cast out of heaven upon the earth, and who all are allowed to tempt and try us today so that our eternal free agency can be in effect and valid, so that we can make choices that show our love for God and man - or reject him and take the consequences.(Rev.12:7-9, 20:1-10) Sounds a little like Solomon's wayward son you created, who gave himself over to evil in so many awful ways.

So Dan Brown, I am expanding upon your theme somewhat in hopes that you might see how far you could have taken it if you knew what I and other Mormons know - and to quote a man whom I accept as a latter-day prophet, Lorenzo Snow, "As man is, God once was - and as God is, man may become." That's how far I am taking your ideas, good ideas all, just stopping short of what is for me in my Mormon theology the logical extension of "Laus Deo" inscribed on top of the Washington monument. I was born in DC and grew up around there - your amazing book has made me want to return with more insight into its fascinating history.

Growing up in Silver Spring, MD, just seven miles from the White House, we had a framed copy on our dining room wall of a famous painting of Pierre L'Enfant looking over the land that was soon to be Washington, showing his vision of how he would lay it out and how it would look. I've been downtown many times in my young life, never realizing all that went into the creation of such a marvelous city, built with so many symbols and references to principles and ideas that remain so important to the free society we enjoy today. Thanks for a great read, DB, and I will continue to study and understand better the unique history you have brought out in the open, the powerful confluence of ideas and connections you have made - it's an exciting tapestry to unravel and to ferret out God's truths from man's - forgive the presumption.

September 28, 2009

Sean is 28...and still driving!

Hey, have to say a few words about my 7th child, Sean, 28 on the 24th, with whom we partayed last night with the family, eating his favorite meal, Chinese Sundaes, with an oreo cake for dessert! Always fun to gather with the kids and g-kids, reminisce, laugh, catch up - though we see each other every month or two, so don't lose track much. But Sean deserves some big kudos for changing his life in some big ways, staying clean and sober from pain pills for five years, for getting his act together, for expressing himself in music in creative ways, hip-hopping and recording his own "recovery" cds. He's an amazing guy, all 6'6" of him, a truly cool dude and pretty good basketball player- though he did give us some major angst as a klepto kid and OCD-er of everything! Here' a little reminiscence of him during his ap for a driver's license 12 years ago, which I shepherded as best I could, but later wondered how I survived it...

"Now that I’m “older and wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like, how did I get through my kids’ licensing rituals? It ‘s a rite of passage for fathers as much as it is for the kids. Yes, I accompanied 16-year old Sean, my seventh child, to the DMV to stand in line for an hour and get him to the right counter where I could finalize his new driver’s license and guiltily put yet another teenage menace out on the highways.

I thought back to when I got my first license – and second license. I think I repressed all that because no thought came back. Actually, I was 18 and a freshman in college before I got my license, borrowing a friend’s car. I’ll never forget the look on the examiner's face when he told me to try driving in reverse and I did – and backed up without ever looking in the rear-view mirror or over my shoulder. He recovered nicely and told me to come back another time.

The long line now awaiting us was just the first stage of the licensing ritual, the line that looked like we’re going to a soup kitchen, based on the gaunt looks of those waiting – or maybe it was a real line-up and we were all being sized up and picked out as the one who did it. 'I'm innocent, I tell ya, I didn't do it!' No, but rather I just waxed philosophic and thought about how my son must get used to the long lines of life which snake their way through our daily survival and from which he’ll get his first real test of the concept of being first and last in line, and how the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, whatever that means.

Here, parents were consoling their moping kids, telling them it’s ok if they don’t pass the test for the fourth time. Other parents with little kids were correcting them out loud and unembarrassed, one even yelling across the room to her kid to give back the toy she took from yet another toddler. The cries of the victim bounced off the walls - and the little toy thief bounced off the wall too. Ah the living, breathing, toy-stealing lines of humanity! “We are the world, we are the children!”

After an hour of Sean building up the anticipation that can only come from knowing that his life and identity hang in the balance, after he hits on every young thing that can help him pass the time, after saying hello to a neighbor who just turned 16 and is getting his license 6 months before Sean because Sean's grades suck - and before anyone else can get bounced off the walls, we hear the cry “Next!” This signals a very important part of the journey – getting out of the line because we are finally at the end of the line - the front end, or salvation!

This is what lines are all about once you are in them –figuring how to get out of them as fast as you can. No wonder we cherish our place in the line and bristle at the mere thought of anyone trying to butt in. It’s not just our sense of outrage and fair play at being cut in on, but we don’t let anyone in because it threatens the very idea of our getting out of the line as soon as possible.

Next comes the task of finding the right counter with the right service person. All through the line, while my Sean is talking and cavorting, I am wondering if all this waiting will be for naught, because no one will be there to direct us to the right place and someone will tell us we’ve been in the wrong line all along, and why didn’t we read the directions which I didn’t see, and then make us go back to the end of the line!

But we did find our way to the counter, after all, to the part of the ritual where my son is grilled about his social security number and birth certificate which are right in front of him, and why he has so many zits, and how many times he has bleached his hair, while I perspire profusely waiting for him to go into a brain freeze, possibly forgetting what he is there for and not having the proper documentation – and going back to the end of the line!

At this time I am asked to affix my signature next to his, to take upon me all the repercussions of any dorky driving he may ever do as a minor, to be the responsible guardian I am supposed to be till death do us part, which I can see happening if I ever let him drive my car with me on the passenger side.

I flash back to the time when my daughter Erin was driving in the new car of a friend, daughter of local millionaire Allen Ashton, founder of WordPerfect. When Alison asked Erin if she wanted to drive her new birthday ride, Erin, 16, took over the wheel, drove three blocks and promptly totaled the week-old red Firebird on a slow left turn where the oncoming car was trying to beat the yellow light. They survived with some bruised bodies and egos, gracas a deus. I have since cautioned her to never make a left turn again. You can read the full account in my column called “No Left Turns” which I might subject you to someday.

After wincing at the $20 I had to fork over to the State to end this torture, I prepared myself for the final stage of the rite – the shooting of the foto, the foto op, the candid camera, the affixed smile. He had been practicing his smile since we got there, turning often to look at me with a goofy spread of his uppers, “Is this ok, Dad?”. But the time of reckoning was at hand, where he had to answer to his own name, and walk John Wayne style to the front of the camera, place his feet behind the line and let his body follow, face the firing squad, find the camera lens, listen to the instructions and smile at the same time.

This was harder than he thought, because the first one didn’t take. The second time was a keeper however, and after looking at the beaming faces, his and the foto’s, I began to realize what this was really all about. It was about the foto! How did he look in the foto! It was yet another imprint of the image with which he might go out and conquer the world – and the chicks! Identity is everything! I wanted to warn the community – there should be a section of the local paper where parents can alert their neighbors and prepare people for a new teen stud driver!"

Well, fast forward and he's still trying to get the chicks...he's got leather seats in his hot Lexus, has a good sales job, still obsesses about shoes and has a ton of new ones to show off or sell on eBay, has the biggest room in a shared condo, goes to 12-step meetings almost every day, is trying to finish a degree in Phys Ed so he can teach and be a coach, and he's not bad looking either - come on girls, what's not to like about this guy?

September 22, 2009

Getting my kicks from football...

Ok, so my #7 BYU lost to unranked Florida State big time at home last Saturday, toppled and humbled - and so did arch-enemy and nationally ranked #17 Utah to unranked Oregon! And USC? Yes, and even 3rd ranked USC lost to unranked Washington and former BYU quarterback/now coach Steve Sarkisian! Lah-dee-freakin'-dah! Overranked and overrated, obviously. So let's go back to former times, when I was just an innocent football neophyte trying my wings and pads out on the high school fields of glory and see if we can douse this past week with a little personal nostalgia, part one of a column/essay on my measly attempt at being a three-sport athlete, the rest to come later...

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like, what is it like to be a three-sport athlete? Was I one or did I just dabble in three sports? I always admired those guys in high school who were so skilled they could earn letters in football in Fall, basketball in Winter, baseball in Spring,, just move from sport to sport with an automatic skill set for each – and wear those letters on their cool letterman jackets. I never got one of those, though I did earn at least one letter (And I did sing with The Lettermen. And I love David Letterman, even have a niece who works for him. And I was a letterman myself – some people call him the postal carrier. Does all that count?)

I played high school football with a guy, Tommy Brown, only about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds, who was a three-letter star. Later he became an all-American at Maryland in football and played for the Green Bay Packers under Vince Lombardi at defensive back. He got traded to Washington, where he got hurt and then it was over. But for me, did it ever really get started? Yes, I did try to play football because my dad was pushing on me to fulfill his lost childhood and football-playing fantasy – because he was a little guy at 5’10” and 150 pounds and I was a lumbering 195 pounds and 6’3” tall – at 14!

I have to admit, I did read a lot of books as a kid about the Knute Rockne days at Notre Dame and winning one for the Big Dipper …or the Big Griper…or the Big Dufus… and I loved the glory of Big Ten football and wanted to go to Michigan State and sing “On Wisconsin”. I had futile visions of becoming any woman’s dreamboat on the field of battle in helmet and pads. That’s what sports is all about, right? A combo of gladiator and jouster, playing for the crowd, while hoping there are some adoring women out there, watching their hero win some imaginary battle or trophy – though I would have a hard time wearing that hanky on my helmet? I was just lucky not to fall all over myself, turn my helmet 90 degrees while still looking forward, and become the court jester.

So I tried out for the junior varsity team at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland and by sheer size I made it – besides being one of the few who wasn’t puking his guts out all over everywhere when the 3-hour practices were over. If you could make it without the upchuck, you were in. But as a dumb kid who didn’t know his helmet from a soda can, I also didn’t know that you were supposed to have kneepads on both knees. I just thought because I got stuck with an old pair of pants without a pad in the right one, that I should tough it out. Football was for tough guys.

So after playing a few games without a pad, I didn’t need one, because my knee was the size of a cantelope, which gave me plenty of padding. It also gave me a trip to good old Dr Little (no, not Dolittle), who had seen our family through many a crisis and was very capable when sticking a giant needle into my knee and giving me a shot of cortisone. Oucheee! But it worked - and no problems since, knock on knee. ( I lied – my knees are killing me as of this writing – but I’m 67 and overweight, so bring on the cortisone shots!)

My junior year almost didn’t happen. I just didn’t want to play. I had gotten pretty banged up as a sophomore and wasn’t a glutton for pain if there wasn’t the glory I had read about in books. But “you know who” put the pressure on me and pretty much almost disowned me as a son if I didn’t play. He even told big Bob York, our massive fullback, who cornered me in the shower one day and said he heard I wanted to quit. “Who me?? Not me, no way, never, no how Bobbo... Bobby... Bobbykins ... Bubba”. I think I also avoided a good towel snapping that day. I was now 15, the same size as a year ago, not much more developed physically however and pretty intimidated by all those senior jocks.

And of course, my dad was watching from the sidelines all the time at practices, giving me pointers, telling me to keep focused. He would chide me for not getting right under the coach’s nose when he called everyone into a huddle to talk to us, while I would rather hang out in the periphery because I was big and didn’t want to block anyone’s view. I was also timid and didn’t really feel I had that killer instinct– but I hung in for the “glory” and the experience - and the pa-pressure.

It was fun sometimes to get in and block for Tommy on a touchdown run or for a phenomenal black kid named Charley “Reds” Pryor – yes, he was red-headed with freckles about 5’8” - maybe he was Irish - who could start and stop on a dime, one of the best backs in the state of Maryland that year. We won a lot of games with those guys – good for my ego, though I didn’t have much to do with it because smaller-but-tougher, senior Don Jensen got most of the reps at right offensive tackle and I was his bigger-but-wimpier backup.

In my senior year, I still had a few reservations about playing. But I was a senior! I had made it this far, though our team wasn’t as good. And maybe some chicks would notice me this year! But to keep me focused and lift my spirits one day, my dad slipped one of my mom’s Benzedrine into my tomato juice before practice to give me some extra pep. She took them for narcolepsy. He said I was throwing guys right and left and sideways in practice – and I wasn’t even playing defense. I could have been canned for using a banned substance – or banned for using a canned substance. But they didn’t do drug testing in those days – and I didn’t do drugs. Just that one shot deal.

And then my younger brother Dick, all 5’5” and 120 pounds of him, was now in 10th grade and a team manager and my dad wanted him to have someone to look up to – figuratively as well as literally. And of course, my dad, the photographer, volunteered to take movies of the games, so the obligations for me to play kept piling up. And as the sports editor of the high school paper, I could justify my position by saying that I could report on the game from under the piles of brawling, bouncing bodies every time we had a scrum – no wait, that’s rugby. Yep, every time there was a pileup, I had time to pull out my notebook and jot down some cogent notes and some fancy new cuss words.

So I played out the year with no cheerleaders who had a crush on me. I made it through one more year of those awful drills which ended with running up and down the stadium steps after practice, urged on by the intimidating yells of backfield coach Vince Pugliese - endured the ridicule of being called a bungle-dee-boob by head coach Joe Good when I’d miss a block - or being asked if I REALLY wanted to play football by my line coach, Paige Johnson, an OCD with a southern drawl and a little man complex.

He had to prove himself by punching us hard in the solar plexus when we had our heads and our feet on the ground and our stomachs arched upward in the air - to build up neck strength. Or there was that red-headed jock coach who looked like a WWF wrestler who made us do those crabbing exercises for better line stance and movement. And I was only 16 when I played my senior year, wouldn’t be 17 till the year was half over. I was still undeveloped muscle-wise, I had definitely lost my taste for the 'glory'."
(End Part One)