Saturday, August 27, 2005

U. S. Mail

Last Tuesday evening my neighbor knocked on my door about 9:30 and told me the postman would not deliver his mail because a car was parked in front of his mailbox. My neighbor, Bill, is a very jolly guy and not the least bit upset; he was simply letting me know. That car was a 1991 Acura Legend that belongs to my oldest son who had just returned from hiking the Appalachian Trail. While he was gone he loaned the car to my younger son. The younger boy, who is 16, had gone off to church camp the previous Sunday afternoon and, of course, he had taken the keys to the Acura with him. So, I sat on my back deck that night and started fuming about the fact that this postman refused to get out of his truck and the fact that Luke had gone off to camp with the keys. On Wednesday morning I stormed over to the Post Office prepared to let them have it about all this only to find that the guy who wouldn't get off his ass was a fill-in for our regular delivery man who had taken 2 days vacation. I told the woman in a very polite way that I was about to drive 60 miles each way to get a set of keys to move a car because some SOB would not walk 6 feet. She said, "That sucks." Yes, it does.

Water and Cigarettes

Luke, Roy and I were a few hundred miles into our return trip to Nashville from northern Ontario. It has been our custom for many years to make a fishing trip with a few other dads and sons every other summer to the beautiful Trophy Waters north of Kenora. Although a very long trip by car, my boys and I always enjoyed the drive. We had just crossed back into the states at International Falls and stopped at one of those places that sell moccasins and maple syrup to exchange some loonies, grab some road food and pee. Luke and I had somehow separated from Roy during our brief respite but as we arrived back at the car we saw him sitting in a doorway talking to a fellow who appeared to be of Native American descent. The fellow also appeared to be down on his luck. Roy and his temporary pal were smoking and smiling. When Roy saw Luke and me getting into the car he got up, came over to our vehicle, reached inside the window for the pack of cigarettes and large bottle of cold water he had just purchased and said he’d be right back. Luke and I watched him walk back to the doorway and hand his new friend a pack of Camel Lights and a bottle of spring water. They shook hands, Roy hopped in the car and we headed south to Nashville.

Deep into the morning I was back behind the wheel taking my 2nd shift. The boys were asleep and, as I usually do, I scanned the AM radio dial to find some lathered up preacher spewing fire and brimstone at a stunned congregation. I found one. The guy was screaming about sin and hell and deprivation and evil and drugs and Hollywood and booze and abortion and Satan and gambling and tobacco and AIDS and homosexuals and dancing and female ministers and Democrats and liberals. If he ever got to the part about mercy and grace and ‘the least of these’ I didn’t hear it. I turned off the radio before this lunatic finished his message.

In the blue and moody expanse of the lonely Interstate my mind locked on these two events and it was apparent to me that somebody had experienced the gospel today - on a doorstep in International Falls. I paused and listened to the sounds of my two boys sleeping in the back of the car. My hand reached out for the radio but I pulled it back. I took a big gulp of cold water and lit a smoke.

Orvis vs. Walmart

An uncanny ability has been mysteriously granted to a new generation of young men in my family: finding and catching fish. Two of my nephews and both of my sons possess the gifts. It is likely that my oldest brother was the transitional carrier of the gene that held this happy talent since the love of the sport was certainly not handed down from our dear old dad. Dennis ventured out at some point in his life and made fishing a lifelong pursuit. From the first cast he made (very likely in the cold and local waters at Illick’s Mill) he was hooked. His son Richie inherited the passion, then his nephew Jamie got it and now my boys, Roy and Luke have it. Although I love the pursuit and the time spent in boats and on banks, I was clearly bypassed when these gifts were handed out. I am, however, quite adept at the ancillary activities of drinking and smoking.

When Roy began showing signs of his remarkable prowess with a rod and reel I did what I could to offer him that which he needed to fish and improve. Since his introduction to casting and landing was focused primarily on small mouth bass, walleye and northern pike we acquired the equipment necessary to attract and catch those species: decent rods of various lengths and rigidity, a variety of spinning and bait casting reels and an assortment of jigs, lures, weights and other tackle. As Roy became fluent with the bait caster I was at the motor-end of the boat untangling another bird’s nest I had created inside my Shimano reel and, of course, drinking and smoking.

Living in middle Tennessee we are blessed with many bass waters. However, we also have access to a significant number of trout streams and Roy soon became intrigued with the urge to learn this different type of angling. He received a starter fly rod and reel for Christmas and I got a few location tips from my pal Wayland in preparation for the spring season. In April we made our way up to the Caney Fork - east out of Nashville on Interstate 40. As I recall, we crossed the Caney about 6 times before we exited, following Wayland’s directions to a ‘prime’ section of the river.

Roy and I pulled into a parking area that was already half-full with expensive SUV’s: Range Rovers, Expeditions and open-air Jeeps that appeared to have little or no off-road experience. We made our way down into the beautiful valley where the Caney Fork was particularly wide. Dotted all over the landscape were 40-something white guys clad in pricey waders, complicated vests and felt hats. They were all working elegant rods and high-tech reels. The other notable bit of data was this: none of them had any fish.

Roy and I worked some spots keeping our eyes on the competition. No fins, no bites, no trout. Changed flies - nothing. Changed water depth - nothing. Changed hats - nothing.

After a couple hours we tired of the game and thought we’d drive around and find another location. We got back on the highway heading toward Nashville and Roy suddenly asked, “Hey Dad, can we turn into this Rest Area?” “Sure,” I said, assuming this was a pit stop. He asked me to go to the far side of the parking area. I parked and realized that Roy had a hunch about this part of the Caney. It curved deeply behind this Rest Area. We grabbed our gear and trudged down the steep bank to the river. When we arrived at the bottom two locals were sitting in lawn chairs at water’s edge each with 2 poles in the water, a cooler full of Busch beer, a pack of Marlboro Reds, an open can of corn and empty Hardee’ sausage and biscuit wrappers strewn about them. The other notable bit of data was this: they both had a stringer full of good-size trout.

Roy and I made a quick trip into Smithville and returned with 8 bobbers and two cans of corn. Leaving the fly rods in the car we grabbed our light spinning rigs and arrived back at Redneck Haven. We ate trout that night and the next.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The College Mascot Game

In a moment of authoritative arrogance and insanity, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has published new rules regulating the names of mascots adopted by colleges and universities within their sphere of influence. Although I have been unable to attain the exact wording put forth in this decree, I have surmised that the language is very much targeted at those offending institutions whose mascot names are especially “hostile and abusive” toward Native Americans. Florida State University (‘The Seminoles’) seems to have been cited as a particularly harsh offender and has, as I understand, filed suit against the NCAA protesting this edict. Go Noles!

For those familiar with the current wasteland that is college sport I need not articulate a few other tasks for which the NCAA should be expending their significant resources. To those uninterested in college athletics I would mention these topics: shamefully-low graduation percentages, zero grade point averages, rape, point shaving, gambling, theft, drugs, cash, perks and free sneakers. These are just a few. However, the “abusive and hostile” nature of references to Braves, Red Men and Chiefs are causing a rotten decay at the very foundations of our culture and this will no longer be tolerated.

These people have their heads so far up their ass they can probably see what they had for breakfast. If you disagree, listen to this: These rules were published immediately following their little powwow - in Indianapolis, Indiana!

Anyway, since it is very likely that this insanity will prevail in our upside-down culture, I have prepared a game for your consideration: Match the Mascots. School names appear first numbered 1 - 11; new Mascot names follow identified A - H. When you are satisfied with your answers please send them back via the CONTACT mechanism on this web site. Winners will be announced at a later date. Here we go:

1. Baylor
2. University of Washington
3. St. Bonaventure
4. University of Minnesota
5. University of Kentucky
6. University of Missouri
7. University of Colorado
8. University of Tennessee
9. University of Memphis
10. Fresno State
11. University of Las Vegas (Nevada)

A. The Chicks & Booze
B. The Meal Tickets
C. The Backsliders
D. The Failure
E. The Bookies
F. The Welders
G. The Easy Readers
H. The Stranglers
I. The Tutors
J. The Second Offenders
K. Rupp’s Racists

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cheap Red Wine

Whether you buy wine in a box or you have built a chilled cellar in your basement to store cases of 200 year old port, we all have one thing in common: one time or another we bought some cheap wine: MD 2020, Boone’s Farm, Mateus - come on, you know you have; maybe in college, maybe last week, perhaps tonight. Recently my eldest son and I were talking about the phenomenon of red wine, cigars and single malt scotch and we ended up having a real good time making up names for cheap red wines. We’d love for you to join us. If you’d care to add to the list please respond with a brand name and we’ll be most happy to add it and credit you. Perhaps we’ll even plant some grapes. Here’s a few names to help you get the picture:

Exit Ramp Hobo
Sleep Till Tuesday
Permanent Scar
Wake Up Dead
The Final Solution
Constant Pounding
What Did You Expect?
Hurts When I Pee
Uncle Jemima
Formaldehyde Lite
Will Work For Will Work For
Butts From the Gutter
Dirty Black Socks

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Last night I was driving back to Nashville after having spent the afternoon and evening with 4 church youth choirs at a small event in Tullahoma, TN. Before I turned onto I-24 I stopped at a gas station and got some beef jerky, a large bag of peanuts and an Arizona Ice Tea. The cashier entered my purchases into the register and the total came to $ 6.66. He looked at me with absolute fear in his eyes and said, “I hate that number.” He paused, clearly petrified and continued, “Could you buy something else so this number will change?” I said, “Well, I could...or you could just add a penny to the total.” He fumbled around a bit looking for some way out of this devilish dilemma and I was feeling really bad for him. I said, “What do you think this number means, anyway?” He said, “I don’t know - I just don’t like it. It’s amazing how many times this total comes up and it always freaks me out.” I told him I had just read an article in which some Biblical researcher had recently determined that this infamous number had likely been miscalculated and was actually 616. He seemed really glad to hear that but he was still agitated. Having determined no acceptable solution to our plight I paid him the money, told him not to think too much about it and headed back to Nashville wondering the whole while if someone was going to wander into that little gas station tonight and hold him up or if Satan himself might jump off an overpass through the moonroof of my Passat and rip my heart out.

I thought about that kid a few times today. This end-of-the-world stuff was a familiar topic to me. I began hearing all about it as a kid in church: studies of John’s Revelation, Christ’s Mount Olivet discourse, passages from Daniel and Joel and then the apex - Hal Lindsey’s “The Late, Great Planet Earth.” Years have passed since Lindsey’s very popular volume was published and the event of that publication kicked many into troubled frenzy. Much of it focused on Israel, Christ’s self-predicted Second Coming, severe weather changes, the anti-Christ, Daniel’s 70 weeks, the Rapture, the Whore of Babylon, the Mark of the Beast (666 ?), etc. The topic has become a significant part of pop culture showing up as cover articles on national magazines, in films and proven by the recent, uncanny success of the “Left Behind” series of “novels.” Very bizarre, complicated, mysterious and yes...scary stuff.

Although I continue to be intrigued by it I have long since turned from this prophetic speculation as necessary nutrition for my soul. Without discounting its relevance I choose to reflect more closely on Christ’s more actionable teachings regarding the Kingdom: “Blessed are the poor in spirit...What you have done for the least of these...A cup of water in My Name.” “Fear not” is the most repeated phrase in the New Testament. I wish I could have done more to chase the fear out of that kid’s eyes. Next time I stop in there I’m going to get a small bag of peanuts - that should get the price down to $ 6.16.