Saturday, December 31, 2005

home town highlights

This trip to Houston was good. It was a vacation. I mentally put myself in vacation mode.

Besides the fires mentioned earlier (drove back through Cross Plains today - it's a charred waste land) and the greatest christmas gift ever known to man, I have only two things to mention here:

1) While making a pilgrimage to the spot where I proposed to Agent Wife (the water wall at the former Transco Tower, now the Williams Tower), we followed the ever popular "what the hell" thought process and visited The Galleria. We weren't on a money spending mission...just a casual observation. Well, for me that's what it was. The Galleria in Houston is The quintessential shopping experience within this country's 4th largest city. They have every big name New York merchant within one building. Some stores don't look like stores. More like avant garde art galleries titled with french words I can't pronounce and displaying a handful of ridiculously priced items on display. My favorite was the [A]bercrombie & [F]itch store with a window display for "casual jeans" that were all faded and ripped like most of my 7 year old pants. Price: $198. Guess I don't have the brilliance to be a merchant. This was a good observation assignment for me. Over time I have discovered that to better learn the culture I am immersered in, sometimes I need to spend a little time within a different culture. Mission accomplished.

2) We decided to enjoy some mindless fun and test drive mom's new DVD player all at the same time. At the advice of a friend we rented Napoleon Dynamite. Words cannot describe my feelings for this. I watched it twice. The best-ever movie made...ever.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

texas fires FYI

Tuesday en route to Houston we left the fair mother city about noon (way later than expected, but what's the rush) and reached the first city on highway 36, Cross Plains about 12:30-12:45p.

About half a mile before we reached the town (west side) all drivers including me couldn't help but notice the small, out-of-control grass fire on the side of the highway (driver's side left). As we slowly drove past it the heat was intense, which surprised me because the flames were only 2 feet off the ground. I called 911 and gave the best directions to its location. We could see the black towering smoke in the rear view mirror for another 10 miles or so.

I'm not saying that I "saved the day" by calling 911, because I'm sure many of the other dozen or so motorists did the same. But had we left the mother city any later, who knows what dangers may have fell on us...or at least delays in travel. Than you lord.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Monday, December 26, 2005

post christmas thoughts and logoff

Looking through hindsight view, our christmas season truly came from the CEO. 30 days ago we had no way of paying this month's bills much less hosting a christmas dinner or giving gifts to each other. My faith is maturing rapidly through this season. I am looking forward to 2006 like no other year. I will speak of things that "aren't" as though they "are" and I will take action towards the realization of my dreams and ultimate mission laid before me by the CEO. No longer will I mope and complain, hunker down in the storm and brace for impact.

I will brace myself like a man - Job forty/seven.


Things are holiday-quiet on Undercover Lane. Obi-Wan is still feeling weak, but happy as always. The Valdezes have been back and forth to Ft. Worth to see their niece with leukemia at the children's hospital. The Mackey's have their 2 kids, 2 kid's spouses, and 2 grandchildren visiting. Sebastian and Jenny are out of school, but I haven't seen them as they're probably visiting their grandparents. And I haven't talked to Mr. Buckley (my racist neighbor) in along while. Though he and his wife brought by a very nice christmas present for Agent Offspring. And the Sanford's are quiet. Tiger's working for Juan Valdez and the Bulldog just hangs around with friends.


As of now, I am officially considering myself "on vacation". We're heading for keeping-up-with-the-Jonesville (aka Houston) tomorrow and will be back in time for new years. I plan to have a better attitude about my birthplace, but probably calling it Jonesville is not a good start. I plan to hold all thoughts and thus not post again until 01-01. But if something agent-like happens to me in Houston, maybe I will.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas dinner - our house

It was a fun day. Tiring, but not ridiculous. The entire Franco family (the West African's that Agent Wife befriended, explained here) as well as Frieda & Manuel from next door joined us for turkey dinner. It was good. We're not stellar party hosts like the Valdezes, but the food was good. Plus...conversation for the most part was in French, which means I become the quiet host.

Unfortunately, Obi-Wan was unable to attend for the first time in three years. He's been feeling really weak and lousy for a few days, thus hasn't felt up to leaving his house.

Oh, the three gifts from Momo were these toy cars. Mine is the police car.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Party #2 - the Valdezes

In many ways...a repeat of last night. But very different and equally fun.

We actually started the evening gift exchanging with Obi-Wan. Then we slipped next door to the Juan & Miranda Valdez (who always host great parties). Like last night, this was their big family jamboree/gift exchange (with my family being the only "non-related" attendees). It was supposed to coincide with some Mexican tradition of having the kids reenact Mary & Joseph looking for room at the inn. But in Juan's words, "we skip the religious part and just go straight to the party".

It was pretty cool. Everyone was dressed up since they just came back from Catholic mass. Everyone except for the proverbial "drunk" uncle who wore a Dallas Cowboys jersey and a Santa hat and came in yelling, "where's the beer". I love that guy. I end up hanging with him through most of the kid birthdays we're invited to.

After we ate (excellent food including bacon wrapped mushrooms...ooowww) Juan, the drunk uncle, me and all the kids went to the back yard to light sparklers and shoot roman candles...which is highly illegal in the city limits not to mention the burn-ban enforced Taylor County. But I won't tell.

Again, like last night the gift-giving frenzy somehow included us. As the youngest, Agent Offspring got a gift first. AO was placed in the special chair up front while the gift was given, then all kids were called up in ascending age. Gotta love the Valdezes. They even know how to throw a dress-up Christmas party.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Party #1 - the Sanford's

Man, this wasn't just a food & fun get-together. This was the Sanford's actual "Christmas", as in, their gift exchange festival. And we were invited. They even had wrapped gifts for us. The poverty culture always amazes me. They may not have much money and they may take every free assistance made available to them. But when it comes to gift giving parties, EVERYBODY gets a gift, even if it's a dollar store trinket wrapped in holiday paper. I could stand to learn from that level of generosity. Truly, the "thought" really DOES count.

The food was plentiful. The gifts were stacked to the ceiling. I couldn't get a good photo of the gift giving frenzy because their living room & kitchen is like 450 square feet and there were about 18 or 20 people crammed in there with furniture. My photos aren't all that great as it's hard for me to capture the mood when I'm suppose to be a participant in this party. Plus, flash photography stinks and no one will sit still for non-flash photos. So, after my defense for the unartistic, lousy's a few photos:

[L to R] The Tiger, his friend Pudge (that's his real nickname...I didn't make it up), and The Bulldog.

Uncle Jerry & Gramma.

Aunt Susie in the kitchen.

Frieda Sanford with Manuel.

Cousin Stone-Cold (Susie's son).

Party hardy.

Classic...The Tiger wearing his new workmen's coveralls (from the waste down) and Southpark bath slippers. His manly side and his soft side all at once.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

testimony #004

We received an anonymous card without a return address in the mail. It was post marked from here in the fair mother city. Inside was an encouraging note and a rather sizable gift card to a local store. In attempts to protect myself from "receiving my reward" before its time, I must refrain from mentioning the details that make this bizarre, if not ironic, or better yet...strait from the CEO himself. Chalk this up under "reap what you sow"...

And tonight, in a flash moment of realization that the CEO has provided all we need for this month (and then some), and in the thought process known as "what the hell?", the family & I decided at the last minute to go out to eat. This is a very rare treat. I haven't had a meal out since Jeff & Kellie's lunch treat in Lubbock last month, and before that probably since Dad visited us in September. So we go to our all time favorite local Chinese dig...owned, cooked, and operated by a REAL Chinese guy who studied in 5 culinary regions of China. All I can say is...mmm mmm duck. Oh...and thank you Lord.

Massive party weekend

The scoop: three Christmas parties/gatherings in three days on one block.

Friday (Dec 23) at the Sanfords (next door).
Saturday (Dec 24) at the Valdezes (across the street).
Sunday (Dec 25) at our house.

Expect photo reports from all three each night.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Agent Wife brought to my attention the negativity that surrounded my December 17th post about kingdom financiers.

I explained to her that I am not at all hurt, wounded, or offended at our past dealings with those called to finance kingdom via missionaries. But I truly believe that if one is called to give in such a capacity, then please give...with no strings attached. And also, if you are a funder of some sizable ministerial organization, do not accept an advisory role to that organization because your money/giving will influence your leadership and generate personal agendas for said organization. God called ministers to be ministers. So let the ministers decide how to minister.

My apologies for coming across like a drunken, enraged sailor. My real life personality is much more docile.


To: the CEO - I thank you for the life you have tossed my way. I really like it and I don't tell you that enough. Thanks.

Thanks for giving me a life that I don't have to wake up to an alarm and join a hurried rat race every morning.

Thanks for giving me a life where I don't have to wear slacks. I hate slacks. I really don't even like button-down shirts much. Or dress shoes...ever. I was born a t-shirt and levis guy and I'll die a t-shirt and levis guy.

Thanks for this quirky, faith pushing life. It's weird to explain it to people, so I usually don't. And family is the worst when it comes to talking about it. But I never hung out with family much anyway. So, thanks.

Thanks for coffee...every kind (mostly). Thanks for Starbucks, even though I couldn't justify buying $3 coffee this year. Well, maybe once. Lord, I REALLY, REALLY miss El Pico. Please give the HEB managers 3 visions and a dream about stocking this coffee again. Not a fast moving ass. I bought a can from them EVERY WEEK and SOMETIMES they were OUT.

Thanks for Agent Offspring. You know...I never saw myself as much of a "kid" guy. But I guess that changes after having kids. AO rocks. Especially our little crawl on the floor, chase games.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Have yourself a Momo Christmas

In the midst of a mission doomed to failure, I ran into Momo (see here and here).

I was tracking down the fair mother city's most infamous homeless couple, the Reverend Jack and Annie. Jack is a drunken street preacher. Annie has followed him for at least 7 years. I was ordered to deliver wrapped gifts to them from another entity. After some phone calls I learn Rev Jack is in jail. Who knows where Annie is.

And to my delight, Momo gave ME three small gifts each wrapped in newspaper, one for each member of my family. I look forward to christmas morning to see what they are.

Who said Christmas has to be about consumerism, malls, credit debt and family disfunction?

Monday, December 19, 2005

and on this day 7 years ago...

Agent Wife & I were married.

On that artic day in Saskatchewan in 1998, we had no idea what the CEO would do with our lives. That plan was slowly revealed four months later...and still unfolding.

It's been a great 7 years.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

file this under R (for "random")

*a gentle nod towards Gentry and his "Captain Random" posts*

1) I met with Agent S (aka the librarian) for breakfast last Friday. We joined together to toss ideas back and forth about possibly setting up some kind of shelter-type ministry. The fair mother city could physically use another shelter. The Salvation Army has been the only one available for years. We discussed the model used in Nashville called "A Room at the Inn", which is run by various churches across that city. I'm OK with most any model, as long as it's "relational based" versus "just meeting the need" or "yay us...look what we do for the poor". And, therefore, I am very cynical when it comes to churches in the mother city coming together for the common purpose of serving the poor...especially for a concerning relations with the poor. A relational-based model in ministry to the poor has no room for a sterile, "physical needs only" mentality nor is there room for media induced ego. Maybe the CEO put S in my life to cure my cynicism in the church. Which reminds me of a quote a heard today: "I love Jesus, but I can't stand his wife". HA.

2) I love December because of the quality of mail that arrives. Christmas cards rock. Instead of junk mail and credit card applications (which always earn a date with the shredder), we get personal notes and photographs. Which reminds me...sorry to you friends who usually receive cards from us every year. You won't get one this time. We're too broke and poor to justify the postage all for an ego stroking photo of us for your fridge. No christmas for anyone this year. But please, keep your cards coming to us. HA.

But in the midst of holiday cards (I meant that...don't fight me on the use of the word "holiday") we have also received some missionary support propaganda. I can't necessarily criticize this method of financial security because I use to indulge in it myself. You know, send letters, advertise what you "do for the Lord", diplomatically ask for money, etc. Now days, fund seekers send:
-cool trendy marketing brochures, thanks to new home computer programs
-fancy portraits for your fridge! (that's what christmas cards are for)
-hip newsletters to let you know the wacky day to day antics of said missionary family, complete with kids corner, web address, etc.
I cannot criticize this. How do I know what the CEO told them about funding themselves. But this flies in the face of the George Muller biography I'm slowly devouring.

3) Everywhere I turn, someone is talking about U2 and Bono. So now I want to get this new CD. Really bad. I haven't listened to U2 since Rattle-n-Hum (1989?). I never disliked them. I think you have to be a lyric kind of music lover to really appreciate them, and historically, as an instrumentalist, I always listened to the instrumental part of music.

4) We are traveling to Houston again. We will be there for a few days between Christmas & New Years. I originally thought I'd escape having to take another trip home. But now that I'm a parent, I realize this kind of thing means a big deal to mom. I need to get out of my selfish, isolated universe. I'm planning on enjoying Houston this time around.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Open letter: To all "financiers of the kingdom"

There are many followers of Jesus in this day and age who are convinced that the CEO has called them to "finance the kingdom". They can be anyone from joe-blow book store employee who supports a mission work monthly, to those with a "Joseph/Daniel" calling , as in - someone of supreme influence within the financial or political realm.

Financing the kingdom is very much a different calling from a guy like me, who is called to be a street-level, get-yer-hands-dirty, undercover agent. Although, if I had access to serious financial jack, I suppose I could do both. But spending my time chasing after finances takes away from my time on the ground level "doing the stuff". So I guess doing both wouldn't be feasible.

As an agent, I've been on the receiving end of these "kingdom funders" several times. And this is not necessarily a 'good thing'. Thus, my open letter:

To all who are called to (or contemplating) "financing the kingdom":

First of all, thank you for being willing to use your gifts of money-making to finance "the kingdom". That is very generous of you. Everyone has a gift and/or talent, plus sometimes it just takes physical resources (ie: greenbacks) to make some things happen. So without you, who knows what wouldn't get done. If making money is your true, God-given talent (and God knows it ain't MY talent), then by all means, go do what you do...and do it well.

Which brings me to my primary point. If your talent and calling is making money to fund kingdom initiatives, supporting missionaries, or relieving poverty, etc, then why the hell do you get in my way by trying to call all the shots?!?

Money is a powerful tool and it gives people (ie: YOU) the ability, if not, desire to control others. Example: you sit on the advisory boards of the ministries you fund. That's a conflict of interests in my book. We agents and ground troops DO NOT need financial carrots dangled in front of us. We agents and ground troops DO NOT need to be told WHAT to do or HOW to do it. The CEO of the universe gives us instructions. Your money and influence will NO LONGER control us. The CEO can provide for us with different means, I'm sure.

Do not create any more obstacle courses for us or hoops to jump through. If you are called to raise money to give, than RAISE MONEY TO GIVE. Otherwise, get the hell out of our way and shut your arrogant asses.


Agent B
(on behalf of all the CEO's agents world wide)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Legend of...Betty Cherry

This afternoon I tagged along with Agent Wife and Agent Offspring for one of their regular assignments. We drove 21 miles north to the city of Anson to visit Betty Cherry, who lives in a care home. Grandma Nelly is usually AW's partner in this weekly outing, but she is on vacation for the holidaze.

Betty Cherry is one of the last, if not THE last, remaining relationships with "the family" from the old izzy days. She is an 80 year old, mentally slow woman that talks with a slurred mumble that's difficult to interpret. She showed up at the izzy food pantry one Sunday night when we were cleaning. We couldn't make out a word she said, but figured she wanted food. Betty lived in the near-by drug infested, gang riddled apartment complex. But thankfully, the thug culture had an unwritten rule that Betty was off limits, so she lived there as peacefully as possible.

To the best of our knowledge, Betty has no family. She has never been married and has no offspring. We know of no siblings, relatives, or where she was born . We probably wouldn't have known her name if it weren't for her TX ID card. We once took her to our friends, the Carrs, who have farm animals out in Jones County. Every time a rooster crowed, Betty cried. But not in a scared way. I think the animals brought back repressed memories. She must have been raised on a farm somewhere.

Betty is funny. She has the mentality of a little kid. She likes coloring books and crossword puzzles (she can't spell - she just fills in random letters). Like a child, Betty has no social graces. If she sees something she wants, like the gum you're chewing, she'll yell out a mumbled, "Gimme one of those".

Betty is a diabetic and therefore must watch sugar intake...but she's worse than a crack addict looking for a hit when it comes to sweets. Like Oprah on a baked ham, Betty will devour anything sweet that crosses her path. At various food outreach functions, someone had to monitor her...usually after she downed three pieces of pie.

My favorite memory of Betty was about 5 years ago. The Bossman and I were in his office with the door closed. Betty peeked her head in and tried to say something with a mouth full of cookies and chocolate on her lips. The Bossman said, "Huh?" Betty kept repeating her garbled phrase, "awwwffffme meeenaaaa FFWWW?!?" over and over with cookies in the mouth. Fifteen minutes later I got off the floor from crying and laughing.

Since Betty is mentally handicapped and has no family, she is officially a "ward of the state", as in, Texas is her legal guardian. Her health got to where she needed assisted living and she can no longer walk. Betty's health care worker invited her to move in and be roommates. That worked out for about a year until that lady got married. With the new husband and all, Betty ended up in the care home in Anson. She hates it there. The workers are actually really good to her, but she can't stand being cooped up when she had freedom all these years.

I've been hearing reports of Agent Wife and Grandma Nelly's visitations in Anson. I was really honored to be a part of it today. I enjoyed our game of dominoes and the stroll around the greater Anson metro area.

Someone told me that in The Book it says something about "entertaining angels" as if heavenly beings come to earth disguised as people. I don't know if that's true and I don't care. But it wouldn't surprise me if Betty Cherry was one of them.

Betty with Agent Offspring - Nov '04

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

profiler quiz: Criminal Minds

OK, Criminal Minds probably isn't the greatest show in the world, but I still like it. And I think I'm finally figuring out why.

I missed my life's calling. I was meant to be a profiler.

I now know what I was meant to be because of my perfect score on the profiler quiz. It told me this:


I wonder if I could put this on my resume. Maybe the FBI will hire me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

the Muller files...

I'm getting more & more into the George Muller biography. Which is funny as I'm a slow reader. And this book is horribly written. But as an agent, I appreciate the "just the facts, ma'am" writing style. I think Roger Steer simply pasted together a 320 page timeline of Muller's journal writings. And this is a very good thing because I don't think miracles from the CEO need any dramatization. Just the facts, ma'am.

I was very encouraged by today's reading. Basically, Muller got these ophanages up and running on little money. The years between 1838 and 1846 were the greatest trials of faith. Money came at just the right moment each and every time. Sometimes it seemed delayed. Yet every orphan had no clue of the financial issues as each were clothed well and ate very well.

From page 88: " Muller's journal often hints at, but rarely attempts to analyze, why it was that God allowed this period of trial".

Muller says "...but only for the trial of our faith, our gracious Lord delays as yet, to send larger sums.' Muller saw a purpose in the trial similar to that in the Old testament story where God tested Abraham by telling him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering on the mountain in Moriah. In one sense, the period was a test of Muller's obedience, and a time when his character was molded-prepared, in fact, for his life's work." (italics mine).

Being prepared for his life's work. That's exactly where I feel I'm at now.

My favorite passage on page 89, as quoted by the manager of one of Muller's orphan homes: "...the years of trial were 'designed by the Lord to deepen Mr. Muller's faith and to show him that prayer is no vain thing. Many years afterwards he faced his financial trials with scarcely a tremor".

Scarcely a tremor. That's where I want to be. Or at least start a cool band with that name.

Monday, December 12, 2005

testimony #003

Mental note to self: don't forget this moment. Ever. Especially when things look bleak.

I'm beginning to love the mail man. Today I open the mail. It was a chunk of christmas cards. And two of them had rather large, unexpected financial gifts. It's more than what I asked the CEO for, which will get us through December and allow us to help some others that we recently heard about.

And it came today...of all days, when I so desperately tried to cash this Canadian check, which is damn near impossible in the fair mother city. It has to be sent to a collections agency in Dallas to be cashed. It could take 4-6 weeks. Which will be in time for January, I suppose.

I've been the one who panics. Agent Wife, as always, has been calm & cool the whole time. She always is. She's low maintenance and never worries about money. She's the best wife ever.

Thank you for your provision, Lord. May I never whine about needs again...

did I mention that job hunting sucks?

Maybe it's my sick humor, but I find it funny when I log into the Texas Workforce Commision site and get this encouraging message:

Welcome Agent B!!

You have _0_ call ins.
You have _0_ new job matches.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The agent family christmas tree

Agent Wife & I started a holiday tradition several years ago. Some of the ornaments that we decorate our tree with are various trinkets that members of the family (folks from the old izzy days) and dear friends gave us. And these trinkets are not always christmas-ey things

One ornament is a long, dangly, native feather-looking earring that some homeless guy gave Agent Wife. I don't remember who it was. Then, we have about 100 glow-in-the-dark angels (the naked baby-butt kind) from a widow lady who use to come get groceries as well as help volunteer. Then there's a red plastic coin purse from Sissy (one of Jed Clampett's sisters). Oh yeah...from recent years there's the santa shot glass from Obi-Wan.

But my favorite is the GM ignition key on a shoe string. It was given to me by a homeless guy named Gentle Ben, who was in our lives for a whopping two weeks. He had a van that he talked about every day when he showed up for lunch. I never saw the van. It was giving him problems and he was tired of trying to keep it fixed. He decided to head back towards Odessa, TX and leave the van where ever it was...broken down on the side of some street here in the fair mother city. It was like a burden to him, I guess. He handed me the key, worn around his neck and made some profound statement...something like, "Here...I'm now free from this". I've never seen him since.

Lord...where ever Gentle Ben is...may he now be free.

Gentle Ben at "The Table" in izzy February 27, 2002

Friday, December 09, 2005

testimony #002

In George Muller-esque fashion, I opened the mail today and received a moderately large check out of the blue from an unlikely old family friend of Agent Wife who use to support us as missionaries through the izzy group.

Of course, the check is in Canadian funds. And banks in the fair mother city hate non-US dollars. It took us 6-8 weeks to cash the last one. And the wife & I have a Canadian account, but the check is in izzy's name, not ours. And Canada banks don't let you cash other's endorsed checks.

...but really...I'm not complaining one bit! I can make this work. Thank you God.

Agent Offspring #2 update

After almost a month of knowing Agent Wife was pregnant, we finally had our first visit with the doctor today. So it's official. She's pregnant (I don't have much faith in those dollar store pregnancy tests).

Our doctor is a new doctor, both to us and here in the fair mother city. The doctor is a "she"...and so far we really like her. She actually spent quite a bit of time with us (over an hour) rather than a 30 second "Good to see you. Sign here". She's also recently out of med school and is probably a few years younger than me. But I'm more than willing to give a rookie a chance, especially if she's willing to treat us like humans, and thus, not people who are funding a yacht payment this month.

We actually got to see a sonogram, which is pretty early for normal since AO2 is about 6-8 weeks right now. Nothing makes a pregnancy less fictional than the great invention of sonogram. The first time I saw AO1 in sonogram form, I cried. Wow...I help create that. I actually have a friend who was a full fledge abortion rights guru until he saw his baby's first sonogram. Amazing how an entire philosophy can be changed by viewing a grey & black blob on an old Atari video game screen.

At best estimate, Agent Offspring #2 is due to join us July 3rd. Which may pit my Canadian in-laws to hope for an early birth on Canada Day (July 1) against my family for a late birth on July 4.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Faith or reality (another faith rant)

To date, no bill is due or looming down our backs. To date, I thank God for the small, daily miracles, such as always having food on our table. Or never having to pay a late fee on a utility bill. Or my baby's amazing health and daily advancement.

In search of encouragement, I decided to reread a biography of the late, great secret agent George Muller by Roger Steer. This was given to me by a friend about 9 or 10 years ago. I read it with great interest back then as my life was just beginning a faith journey after my radical healing of mental depression.

The Prussian born Muller became a follower of Christ in his early 20's after living a playboy lifestyle. He eventually took the words of Jesus seriously...words like "sell all you have and give to the poor". You know, the parts of the gospel that make westernized Christians twitch nervously and invent contexts.

Throughout his life, Muller did great things to advance the kingdom of god, like start and operate orphanages with no business plan or serious financial backing. Just a heart for the people Jesus mentioned in Matt 25, and prayer. Muller preached all over the English countryside, refusing salary from any church. Eventually he refused to tell people of his needs, only asking God for his supplies.

...and also, I love this book because of my fascination with England. I hope to visit there someday, and not necessarily the trendy parts. My ancestors come from there, you know.

Right now, I'm almost at the place of keeping my needs from being known by people (except the obvious act of writing about it on this here blog...but I swear, I have no intention of soliciting anyone. You don't know who I am or how to physically reach me, etc.). I'm trying to shut my yap to people and only consult the father. I don't always do this, but old habits are hard to break.

Then there's my confusion about how, "he already knows our need before we ask". Well...if you KNOW my needs God, then why do I have them? And why must I pray about them? Are you bringing me to some kind of uncharted faith territory in my life??

...and then there's my American surroundings and workaholic motherly upbringing that punches my faith in the groin. I justify this by calling it "reality". So today, I go to the Texas Workforce Commission to register for work in Texas (since "reality" tells me I have no money). I figure, maybe they can find me a job since I'm obviously inept to do so my damn self. This place is a joke. It's nothing more than a room full of computers with free on-line access to register on their website. I could have done that from home. But I feel like I accomplished something by burning my own gasoline to get there to apply online.

Plus, every employee I engaged there asked me for my SS# before they'd answer my question. Revelation 13 has come true. I am nothing but a number on a forehead. However, the elderly lady who helped me get started praised my abilities: "seems like you're good with computers". Hey - right now I'll take any encouragement I can get.

And btw, I'm not very gung-ho about typing my personal info & numbers onto web sites. But if I suddenly have massive credit problems, why should I care. I don't use credit anyway.

God - is "reality" a lack-of-faith thing? Even Paul made tents. Well, I never liked Paul anyway. Yea, sure...everyone quotes his writings. But so what. That jack-ass promoted celibacy. Like I'm gonna follow THAT "advice". As if..

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

gimme shelter

It's very cold in the fair mother city today. It's been cool for a while, but today the high was 27F and the low will be around 10F.

On average, it only gets below freezing (for a whole day or more) about 3-5 times a year. That's laughable to my Canadian inlaws. And I've been in Saskatchewan during one of their winters. We Texans have no idea what cold is. But days like this always makes me feel like I'm supposed to be working...overtime. I guess it's kind of nice to be able to relax when it's cold.

50 year old houses like mine have no insulation in the walls. And my house is mostly updated (except the wall insulation) in comparison to my neighbors. Obi-Wan heats his whole house with this gas furnace that he sits by. It scares me. So...most poor people's houses around here aren't designed for extended, sub-freezing temps.

A homeless person can survive the elements in these parts quite easily. It's warm or hot 8 months a year. Then cool the other 4 months with about 5 days of freezing. But who am I kidding...those freezing days are miserable. So are the hot ones (ever go camping in a Texas summer? Not good).

Back in the old izzy days, freezing temps meant work. We usually had a once a week shelter on Thursday nights. But if the forecast called for real inclement weather, we'd call in the reinforcements and open up whenever possible. There was no way to advertise this. Just word of mouth on the street.

I remember camping out in the building during a 2-day snowfall back in '01. The whole city shut down so we might as well play card games with our homeless friends and hot coffee all day. A big black guy named Chris decided to trust in Jesus during that campout. I haven't seen Chris much since. Hope he is well.

Also, I don't know if there are any other make-shift shelters in the mother city at this time. I hope there is. For years, the only place in town has been the Salvation Army. They started charging $8 a night a while back. But if temps are below freezing they waive the admission fee. I don't have very many positive comments about that. I understand budget crises (my life is a budget crisis). But I'm not too impressed with our local Salvation Army. They also charge for dinner now (breakfast & lunch are still free). Which is why I'm anxious to get a dinner thing going...someday (my dream gig...more on that some other post). I have a few contacts in the Sally and I'm fond of their founders (William & Catherine Boothe - they were radicals) and I'm most impressed with their nearly 150 history...but our local Sally is your basic institutional operation. I wish that would change.

I wonder where the local homeless go for shelter these days. I use to know, but I don't anymore

update: tool shed

Last night I told Obi-Wan of my delay to his request of me picking things out in his shed. I finally decided on 3 things only:

1) 35 year old motorized roto tiller: I borrow it at least twice a year. The best one in town, imo.
2) Pitch fork: Again, I borrow it for garden related purposed. Shovels don't work at the city's wood chip mulch recycle pile
3) 3 gallon gas can: It's metal and has a cool closing top. They don't make them like that anymore.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

PMS - poverty's monthly system

Monday December 5th I went to HEB (a local, TX chain grocery store) for an errand. I had time to kill and walked around. I enjoy doing that at HEB. There's a well rounded slice of life that shops there: rich & poor, black, white, Hispanic, young & old, etc.

This particular day I noticed the large amount of poor people shopping. Boom. It hit me...the date. Social security and disability checks come through on the 3rd of every month. Since the 3rd fell on a Saturday, they probably got paid Monday the 5th...

Two women caught my attention. Both had "single mom" written all over them. They were together with their carts filled with 5 kids. Probably only had one working car between them, so they car pooled to get groceries. One woman barely looked 18. The other, probably 25. She had a black eye, I swear. Probably boyfriend or husband's doing.

The poverty class generally follow a monthly cycle (I wanted to title this "poverty's monthly cycle", but PMS sounded better). The cycle goes like this:
- 1st-3rd..get paid, buy groceries, pay bills
- next week or two...all is well, maybe
- last week...out of money. Visit church assistance and social services

In the old izzy days, the volume of people tripled during the last week of the month.

I love going to HEB around the first of the month. You get to see poor people feeling dignified, buying groceries like everyone else.

Monday, December 05, 2005

transcript - 6:16p

OBI-WAN: Agent B, I want you to go out to the shed and make a list of things you want.

AGENT B: Make a list?!? Things I want? Why?

OBI-WAN: The people that handle my affairs will need to know what to give you after I pass on. I want you to pick out all the tools you want.


I can't fathom doing this. Very vulture-ish. I mean, I'm honored Obi-Wan would give me anything, much less a list of things I choose.

I wouldn't mind if some lawyer contacted me in the future and said, "here, Obi-Wan wanted you to have this". But picking things out ahead of time...(shudder)...I don't know...I don't think I can do it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Tiger Tales

As written here before, Tiger Sanford (aka The Tiger) is my 16 year old next door neighbor who lives in generational poverty (a term from Payne's "A Framework for Understanding Poverty"). Before we moved next door, Agent Wife & I knew The Tiger and his extended family from the old izzy food pantry days. The Bossman has known him since he was 6.

The Tiger loves to work, especially if the work involves some sort of loud, manly, motorized power tool. Especially if that tool is a chainsaw.

I miss hanging out with The Tiger. He and his brother and sister used to play board games at our house every night after dinner. They're too cool for that now, so I don't get to see him much, unless I'm in the back yard running motorized equipment.

My dear friend Grandma Nelly, who has kept me somewhat employed doing odd jobs during this desperate time in my financial life, needed a limb cut up that fell from a 2 story cedar tree. Sounds like quality time with The Tiger, I figure. Especially since I don't own a chainsaw and he has five...and begs for opportunities to use them.

I learn so much about the poverty culture by hanging out with a teenager who knows nothing outside of the poverty world in the fair mother city.

Grandma Nelly lives two blocks from ACU, which is within (what I call) the ACU Biosphere. The houses are older than my neighborhood, but it's kept up fairly well since it's a college neighborhood (lots of money-making rental properties, etc). We turn onto the main drag, Washington Blvd, and The Tiger says, "This is a rich neighborhood". So I say, "Well, actually it's about 80% college kids which makes it a rental neighborhood. And I guess those kids go to an expensive private school and their parents might be rich, so you're right. It's a rich neighborhood".

Then we drive by a car full of people all dressed up. So he says, "Look. They all wear nice suits around here". I reply, "They're probably going to church or a social club function or something. We're wearing flannels because we're about to chop up a tree".

In The Tiger's world view, you're either "rich" or "poor". Rich means your things look nice. Poor means things look crappy. It's all based on looks and there's no middle ground. No "how much or little" you own. No "how many friends you have". Just "does it look nice".

But yesterday his mom Frieda gave us two nice dress outfits for Agent Offspring #1 that she bought in a garage sale. They were brand new (still had tags). And they find nice stuff like that all the time for themselves too.

I'm a little confused on The Tiger's definition of rich and poor. I suspect being "poor" is kind of a tough-guy identity he's embraced.

Friday, December 02, 2005

of death and agents...

My assignment in life has me deal with death more often than I'd prefer.

Before I was placed in a deep cover role, I was assigned to a public benevolent operation for the working poor and homeless (the izzy group). During this assignment I discovered that the best way to "get in tight" with those we served was to become friends with them (see John 15 in The Book) as opposed to some sort of sterile director/client relationship.

I grew close to a number of people. And unfortunately, the people I grew close to typically have short life spans due to various habits and circumstances that the poor fall victim to: substance addictions, lack of health care resources, outdoor elements, mental disorders, etc.

I'm not a preacher but I've conducted two funerals, both for close friends of mine. It sucks. I can think of at least a dozen or so funerals I went to during the years of the izzy operation and about 3 in recent years.

All death sucks. No one enjoys it. Death snuck up on most all of my friends. They were happy and normal one day. Then the next day they were dead by some bad batch of drugs or they unknowingly had a disease or God knows what. Boom. They're here one day, gone the next. They weren't dying in a hospice for days where you have time to say 'good bye' or anything like that.

One really close friend of mine was mysteriously missing from our big food outreach one night. He was suppose to run the thing. I get a call that he's in the emergency room and things don't look good. I get there and the doc was just about to let me in to his room. As I touched the door knob those flashing lights on the wall go off. They push me out of the way and a chaplain ushers me into a "counseling" room. He dies.

I missed seeing him by 5 seconds.

Another guy I met was once homeless and living in the mesquite scrub brush camps by the tracks. He had come in for various help for months. Then he disappeared for months. Then he shows months later to tell me he's got a house and a job and just wanted to "thank" me for all the "help" and to invite me and Agent Wife over for dinner that week. We came and ate and had a good time. Five days later I read his name in the obituaries. He had unknowingly developed pneumonia while living out in the camps.

Now, as a secret agent, I'm dealing with death in an entirely different way: the slow, day to day, natural digression of an 88 year old diabetic. And this sucks just as bad as the others if not worse.

I watch Obi-Wan struggle with his body more and more daily. His blood sugar gets dangerously low because he forgets to eat or take his insulin. His breathing is sounding harsher than normal. He moves much slower and stumbles more than ever.

But I wanna tell you something, bastard...I'm not scared of you. Anymore.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


At Obi-Wan's the other day, he received a phone call from his 20-something year old granddaughter who he's only seen when she was a new born. She's never called before.

Obi-Wan went into a polite-attack mode. "Why haven't you come to see me?". I thought he could have been a little nicer and more inviting, not just "dammit, where have you been all my life...I'm an dying old man" kind of talk. The granddaughter kept saying she plans to come see him, etc. She lives in Temple, TX - only 3 hours away.

I've only met one of Obi-Wan's relatives (he has none in the fair mother city). A niece of his came from Waco one afternoon to visit for a few hours and invited him to live with her. He declined the offer. He also griped about nobody coming to see him and the niece said, "well...if you'd quit being so MEAN to everybody". Her comment bordered on sarcastic, but I think she was serious. This took me by surprise, but it made sense. Obi-Wan is a great friend and the nicest guy I know. But I've been baffled at how his children and grandchildren never come, therefore they must not know him the way I do.

I've long suspected the CEO put Obi-Wan in my life for several reasons. One of which I now understand...Obi-Wan is a parallel to my own grandfather, who I hardly know. I am almost like the granddaughter who called.

Grandaddy B... father's dad and my last remaining grandparent, Grandaddy B lives off lake LBJ in the Texas hill country (NW of Austin). He is a two time widower: my grandmother died in 1988 and his 2nd wife passed a few months ago.

I can count on one hand the times I've seen him since I was in 6th grade (1982). I couldn't remember why I wasn't close to him. The first time I saw him was in 1997 on a vacation from my job at a TV station. I was taking some kind of crazy, hippie, God-lead-me-somewhere kind of journey and my only agenda was to spend a certain night of that week in Austin to visit some friends. I packed up my old honda with tent, food, map, and a mission of solitude. There was no planned route. Just wander between Abilene and Austin and see what I find. I took photos of all the people I met, including some elderly couple that broke down on the side of the road. That guy trusted me to take his wife & her wheel chair to the nearest town while he waited with the car...

Anyway, I decided to go and find Grandaddy B. All I knew was the little town he lived in, his street had the word "Castle" in it, and that he was remarried. Well dammit, all 25 of the streets in that little berg had the word "Castle". No joke. I didn't have a phone number. The guy at the corner store never heard of my grandfather. So I go driving in hopes to recognize the cabin he lived in from my youth. After three or four streets, I see the cabin. That's it. But it's obviously vacant. Frustrated, I pull up into the driveway of the neighbor across the street to ask the man sitting in the front lawn if he heard of my grandad, Grandaddy B.

"Yes. That's me"

He had gotten married to the widow across the street and thus moved in with her, leaving the old cabin vacant. "I'm your grandson, Agent B". I can't remember much after that. I think he was in initial shock and said few words the rest of the visit. His wife did most of the talking over the noise of the Nashville Network.

I saw Grandaddy B again earlier this year, after Agent Offspring was born. My dad was in from NY so we went down and spent the night, he met my wife, got photos of the four generations, etc. Still...I don't know him.

Two months later his wife died. I drove down for the funeral, where after 25 years I see my Uncle Lenny, the black sheep of the B family. Grandaddy B wasn't in the mood to talk and I understood.

So back in August, about two weeks before I began this here blog, I decide to go visit Grandaddy B alone and spend the night there. I've never in my life done that before - spend time with him...alone. I've always had my parents with me.

I had a lot of questions I wanted answered. Who was I. Where did I (we B's) come from. What was your life like? Where did you serve in WWII?? I had plenty of them. Unfortunately, like me, he's not much of a talker...even though I was the only other person in the house all night.

I must have broke through to him when I offered to pay for the dinner I was going to pick up. After dinner, he finally told me where all his old photos were kept. I've been begging to see them since 1997. There were photos of everything, his war years in the South Pacific, pictures of my dad as a kid, ones of me that I've never seen, etc.

I finally heard about his WWII years: how he was a simple farm boy near Teague, TX, married his high school sweetheart, got drafted, had a daughter, about to have a son (my dad) then went over seas for three years, turned into a killing machine, received the purple heart award, etc. I found newspaper clippings of his heroic deeds. He helped liberate a concentration camp in Manilla run by the Japanese. To this day, he hates "japs" and anything made in Japan. No wonder he never liked my Dad's cars.

I finally remembered why I had no relational bond with him. He can be a mean jack-ass. He rarely has anything positive to say. Upon my trip home he did say, "thanks for coming to see me".

There's still a huge chasm between us in terms of relationship. I'd like to think that I did my part.

I need to go see Grandaddy B again. Soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Belated thanksgivings

I am thankful for my neighborhood and neighbors. It's a quirky place but I love it. Undercover Lane is not a fancy gated community but it's not a drug infested crime zone either. It's somewhere in the middle. It could be grandma's neighborhood or dumpsville depending on which house you're looking at.

I came home late this afternoon from my handy-boy gig. I'm working the most frustrating job yet...building a roof onto a 10' X 6' stone-walled storage building. It's probably an easy job except I don't know what the hell I'm doing. But that's the challenge and I'm learning to love challenges. Every time I get going on it I discover there's some new tool I need that I didn't know existed. Like I have to drill into cement and stone. I didn't know they made special drill bits for that. Fletch is probably laughing at me.

But I come home and the hood is hopping. The Sanford's are outside. Frieda is contemplating getting a new(er) car because her van needs $1200 of work. But they're not moping around and miserable. They're hanging out like there was a party or something.

Then I saw Agent Wife across the street with the Valdezes. The kids were racing Agent Offspring and another baby in strollers. The Valdezes niece (kid's cousin) developed leukemia in June and has spent much of her time in Ft. Worth at the hospital. Meanwhile, that kid's dad has been out of work and the mom is pregnant. Everything crashed in their world at once. But again...a party atmosphere. Nobody's long-faced.

Then there's Obi-Wan, the eternal joyous one regardless of the misery his legs and feet give him. We got to spend good time with him tonight.

Everybody is in great need but nobody is acting pathetic.

Thank you for these people we live by, Lord. Their faith in things getting better encourages me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Reflection on recent rants

It's fun being a new parent. Any of you folks out there contemplating parenthood, go for it. It's a good gig.

I hardly think of myself as a scholarly person. And I'm not experienced at this kid-thing. Yet, I find myself interjecting nuggets of truth and wisdom to my 13 month old (Agent Offspring #1) as if I were somehow influencing my baby's intelligence and wisdom.

Like...we'll be playing chase...crawling on the pretending to try and catch AO1. Then AO1 crawls away in a fit of laughter and screams. And after about 12 feet AO1 will stop and sit to look back at me with a smile, so I'll say, "Remember. Don't look back. Don't ever stop and look back. Always look forward. Looking back keeps you from moving ahead". Then I grab AO1's butt and tickle it. More laughter and screams.

At times like this - just before a new month - I get jittery. Well...for the last 4-5 months I have. I think I was walking on water the previous months. But lately I started looking down at my feet, I guess.

I have no freaking idea how bills will be paid this time. I've always had some semblance of a plan, but not this time. I've never wanted to write about this on my blog. I don't want sympathy nor do I want to be manipulative. But these thoughts plague me...and to ignore writing about this subject in a blog of my "reports, discoveries, observations, and confessions" would be dishonest to my true, secret agent self.

I'm currently working one small odd job that will be finished by Thursday. I started applying for "real" jobs yesterday. Get this: I've applied for #1 - a clerical position with an oil & gas company [OK], #2 - a secretary position at a law firm [yea, right. lawyer types and me don't mix], and #3 - an Associate Executive/Office Manager for a non-prof [that's all the ad said with PO Box address for my resume. It's the one I'm most qualified for on paper, but I hate non-profs].

I've seriously contemplated selling my beloved music instruments. I've hardly gigged in 3 years and they have great market value. But I cry even thinking about selling them. I'm ashamed of that. Me, the anti-packrat, never wanted to be attached to inanimate objects. But these instruments are part of an identity...I once had...and could have again.

We've heard the CEO tell us (through several different mediums) that he will provide for us abundantly. Well dammit...WHERE is it?!?

...all this to say...

If I had it to do over again...If I could go back to the old church system. Just play the political game, don't make waves, do all the right moves, make the masses like me, etc. Maybe even continue being employed there and play "team" better in hopes for better pay, better prestige, etc regardless of the poor in the fair mother city...would I go back to it if it would erase what I'm going through now?

Hell no.

I'm closer to the CEO now than I've ever been.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Institutional rant (pt. II)

Obi-Wan invited me for breakfast Sunday morning. You haven't lived until you've eaten an Obi-Wan breakfast. And if you've eaten one, you won't live for long.

Reheated rice and toast. Then eggs, ham and bacon are fried in a dirty skillet with brown, recycled cooking oil. I felt my heart stop for a couple of seconds. But it was worth it. I figure...Obi-Wan is 88 and he's eaten like this most every day of his life. He must be doing something right.

We had the TV on. It featured a couple of local sunday club preacher's rants.

I can't keep quiet any longer. The diplomatic Agent B is no more...

How can guys in priestly garb or nice suits talk about patience and suffering when their club pays them like $70k/year (and in some cases, well over 6 figures). Yeah, I could suffer with six figure jack in the bank. Ooow, the pain. Truthfully, I couldn't do what it takes to get that pay though...tickle the ears of the club members 1-3 hours a week, keep up with the status quo, etc.

And talking about the "pilgrimage" that this "community" is taking during their club house's high dollar (hundreds of thousands??) renovation. Good golly miss molly, how much justice could be served locally with that kind of jack being spent within a missional capacity rather than a status quo weekly meeting?

I'm not a man with any answers on this post. I just don't get it anymore.

Why do so many of these sunday clubs have access to serious finances (sometimes well into the millions) and the most they can do is build better meeting houses to be used 1-3 times a week? My Tourettes is acting up again.

Lord - I don't want to get into the judging game. Just thinking out loud...on a blog...while I try to feed my family with your provision and manna.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Institutional rant (pt. I)

Recently, I read a blog post by a local coc minister ( the coc universe, they despise titles like "Reverend", "Father", and "Pastor". They still use titles. Just less arrogant sounding ones. But titles none the less, like "Preaching Minister", "Pulpit Minister", or simply "Preacher" or "Minister"). I read this guy's blog fairly regularly. It's a good way to stay on top of the coc world, therefore mindset of the fair mother city. And the mother city IS the Mecca for the coc. Therefore, the city is largely influenced by the coc. Our Mayor is an elder at a coc mega church and 3 of the 6 city counsel people are coc (2 of those 3 are elders at the same mega church as the mayor).

I know the coc world real well as I was raised in it and was a graduate at ACU. This background helps me infiltrate their ranks almost without notice. I have no mission or desire to bring them down. That would be impossible if not suicide (religion killed Jesus). Besides, a lot of those folks are great people. But I love pushing their buttons anyway ("hey pastor").

So anyway, this "Preaching Minister's" blog recently noted how his church serves the impoverished neighborhood they're located in via some apartment outreach and now a weekly meal on Wednesday night for the locals.

Overlooking the "yay us, look what we do for the poor" social club attitude that plagues the mother city, I figure this is all good stuff anyway. And my first thoughts upon reading were positive (good for them).

Then upon second thought, I remembered how I use to live one block away from that church...for 5 whole years. And I don't remember them doing jack shit for the neighborhood except building a new multi million dollar add-on facility that was actually built ON the 300-400 block of that street, joining two existing buildings across from each other (hey...when 4 out of 7 of the city's most powerful government figures go to your church, altering the city's streets is a piece of cake). So, I guess building new facilities in a depressed area is serving the neighborhood. Yea, right.

Then after my cynical, jack-ass thoughts, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. OK...a church of like...2000 people...maybe 1200 in the throws of summer when local college students are gone...chock full of educated, brilliant, talented members...NOT to mention VAST financial resources beyond my imagination...


Then again, they DO operate a food outreach in the downtown area. It's a very mechanical outreach, but serving the poor none the less.

Well, who the hell am I to judge. Forgive me, Lord. At least this neighborhood thing of theirs is a start, because I KNOW none of that was going on when I lived in that very neighborhood a few years ago. They're doing something now. So that's progress.

This is one small example in my reasoning and calling for not being part of the institutional church. I couldn't fathom donating my money to it. The Bachelor (owner of "The Leaf") once stated, "my offering wouldn't even pay for the toner in their copy machine that week".

The mission of Jesus involved the poor. It WAS the poor. Why throw money to keep a social club/ship afloat when the poor deserve our best. They deserve our lives.

Thank you Lord for this church's neighborhood outreach...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Houston (personal demons)

We were on a brief respite in Houston for the holiday, visiting my mother and step-dad.

I don't like all. I really try to figure out my negative feelings for my hometown. I mean, I was born there and spent the majority of my first 18 years there. Six years ago mom bought a brand new house built only three blocks away from the house I grew up in. It's really weird because 10 years after the divorce and visiting mom in an apartment all that's like I'm now 'going home'. And I don't have great memories of home.

I grew up around a LOT of falseness and fakery. Like mom and dad only pretending to get along at church while home life was frigid and stale. Like the blatant "keeping up with the Joneses" culture that plagues the suburbs I dwelled in. Like how career & job equals identity. Like how consumerism is the battle cry of big city suburbs.

I assume Houston is where my character was built. So how come I did not embrace this big city arrogance growing up? I don't know, because I had opportunity. I rebelled against a lot of things. Maybe this is one of them. Maybe my current surroundings is a backlash from my childhood surroundings.

I find little peace at mom's. If I go outside to escape the noise of TV and chitchat, I get the subtle roar of traffic from three nearby thoroughfares.

The suburbs has no natural nature. Everything is artificial and fake. Sodded grass is the only escape from concrete (and I made damn good money mowing that sod as a teen back in the mid '80s. I forget that I had an entrepreneurial background). I guess my current neighborhood in the mother city is no different...except nobody can afford or cares to keep up their lawn and property.

I should honor my parents and all that jazz. But I would have had more of a holiday at home eating thanksgiving dinner with Obi-Wan and the Sanfords.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hollywood crock

I am visiting family in Houston for the holiday. More on that when I get time.

But I wanted to set the record strait. Hollywood is a crock. Last night, the one and only TV show I watch - Criminal Minds - has failed me.

The setting was on board a passenger train in West Texas between El Paso and Dallas.
Fact #1: Texas is far behind the times with mass transit systems. There are no passenger trains that run through West Texas into Dallas. Not even AmTrak. If so, they would blow through the mother city and I'd know about it.
Fact #2: One character was supposedly from Terlingua - a well known ghost town and tourist trap in Big Bend National Park. No one actually lives there in real life, so I'm told.

Get your facts strait, Hollywood. Still can't believe I'm writing about a TV show. I'm not in denial. I don't have a do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Agent Network

Drove to the hometown of my favorite 50's crooner today to meet up with folks from the Agent Network, Jeff & Kellie.

This is my first time to meet up with someone from the internet. Nothing kinky happened. Stories, dreams, and struggles were shared.

The Bossman once told me the struggles of deep cover roles from his days as a fed. He said that some agents go so deep undercover that they literally won't see other agents or headquarters (or family) for months. Sometimes headquarters will destroy all records of knowing the agent and purposely not make contact in order to protect a deep cover agent. This is necessary but makes the agent feel alienated.

I trust that this period of my life is a well thought out plan by the CEO. But one must come up for air sometimes...even if it means freakin' driving a 6 hour round trip for a fresh breathe.

Thanks Jeff & ministered to me far more than you know.

...and at the very proved that the internet is not a waste of time.

Monday, November 21, 2005

transcript - 1:22p

AGENT B: I really admire you Obi-Wan. You're inspiring.

OBI-WAN: Why's that?

AGENT B: No matter how your day is going, no matter what new pain your body throws your way, no matter how little rest you received last night because of your feet [they cause him constant pain at night] are ALWAYS happy. There's always joy coming from you. I need to take note of that right now.

OBI-WAN: Well...I've got nothing but the Lord to thank for that...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Testimony #001

I need to start writing down the CEO's daily acts in my life. So here's the first in a continuing installment...


We wanted to go visit my mom in Houston for Thanksgiving. On November 1st we just barely had enough money to get us through the whole month. No extras. That means no traveling. And besides...both of our cars needed mechanical work before a long road trip. So mom asked if we were coming and I says, "Can't commit to that...yet".

Well, mom offers to fill our tank up for the trip back (I never ask for charity from her, but she freely offered). And we have the gas money budgeted to get us there. So gas is covered.

Then I remember an envelope of $180 cash belonging to the izzy group. It was leftover from some ministry-related trip I took last summer and I found it in my desk last month. I ask The Bossman if I could have it to get my car repaired. He said sure.

The car repair estimate is $220 (and that's AFTER a stellar, generous offer of giving me the parts at cost...this auto tech is a good friend of mine). I figure I can come up with the remaining $40 somewhere. I can go sell plasma or something...anything.

The night before I pick up the car, I go visit a good friend (who shall remain unidentified). This friend says, "hey, I know you're traveling next week. I want to give you something". The friend hands me...$40.

CEO: thank you. Why do I often forget the timeliness of your supply-line?

Saturday, November 19, 2005


*inspired by a local church sign

(Here I go again)

I enjoy observing the local Sunday club's motto of "All Welcome". I often consider how literal they mean that.

A nearby club recently put on their marquee "all families welcome" - to which I reflect on our recent voting day proposition for the Texas constitution which asked us, the voters, should marriage be defined as one man and one woman - yes or no. Texas voted for the man/woman definition by at least 70% (a blow out - no contest). So...are gay couples welcome? And is it only if they quit being gay??

Club members would honestly scoff at the notion that "they" are exclusive. "Of course ALL are welcome" they say. "Even gay couples. But, of course, they will change to become like us, etc" and that change is expected through an act (or persuasion) of man.

I once heard Walter Heidenreich speak (after I read a book about his radical change in life). He's a quiet, mild mannered German guy who grew up in the hippie culture of the late '60's/early 70's. He use to follow around local club bands, ones that are currently known as "classic rock" (Yes, Pink Floyd, etc - wish I were a fly on the wall at those gigs). He and his then girlfriend Irene were smoking dope and living in a hippie commune when they stumbled upon Jesus during a bad acid trip. They started reading the CEO's book on their own to know more of this Jesus. Several times they tried to learn about him by visiting local churches, from which they weren't too welcome as they were expected to groom different, quit living together, and change their lifestyle immediately. The key here is "immediately" coupled with human interaction. Today, Walter & Irene have lead thousands of youth to the Lord throughout Europe and now Mongolia

The thing that hits me most about their story is how they accepted Christ. They just accepted him. Trust. Faith. Period. They were still smoking dope and living together in the commune as if nothing had changed - but they had become followers of Christ.

It wasn't until at least SIX MONTHS later when the CEO showed them that dope was a hindrance to their relationship with him, so they quit on their own. Then another six months later they decided to commit to the CEO and each other in marriage.

No human had to "force" Walter & Irene to fit the church club's mold. The CEO worked it out his way, in due time. our clubs and gatherings...are all truly welcome? No strings attached?

Thursday, November 17, 2005


And now on the personal front...

Agent Wife is pregnant. Yes, I had something to do with it. We're very excited as we've always dreamed of having a large family (large as in...more than one kid - I was an only child and we ain't doing that to ours). Although we have not visited a doctor yet, by our best calculations Agent Offspring #2 should join the network around June or July 2006.

And when I heard the news I was scared. I have no "job". I have no "secure income".

Then I remembered we didn't have those things a year ago when Agent Offspring #1 joined us, and we've been just fine.

Thank you God for my kids. And thank you for the healthy pregnancy we're looking forward to.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

and btw...

Criminal Minds was rather disturbing tonight. A deep cover agent is kidnapped and tortured. Why must it be the deep cover guy?

I think I'll keep watching.

Folks in the hood (pt. II)


Mr. Buckley (my racist neighbor) - He's 82 years old and his wife's quite a bit younger than him (64?). He served on a B-24 in WWII out of England and claims witness to seeing the rumored German jet fighters (the first jets ever made, predecessor to US F-16's). He sits in a lawn chair out on his driveway with his little wiener dog when the weather is nice. He can be very negative. Everything is "gawdam this and that", etc. He really has nothing positive to say about black people. When Pastor Rod drives by and waves, Mr. Buckley refers to him as "n****r preacher". He once told me how some black kids beat him up and humiliated him way back in high school. He's hated the whole race ever since. Somehow, I managed to politely inform him that Agent Wife is half black. People often let an incident in their past effect the whole course of their life. I know I almost did.

Sebastian and Jenny - These kids are brother and sister, aged 9 & 7. They live way down at the other end of the street with their mom, Carole, who works at one of the Dollar stores near our block, and Carole's boyfriend Pedro, who works as a trucker. I've only met Pedro once - at Agent Offspring's B-Day party. S & J are really sweet kids who desire a lot of attention, so Agent Wife generously gives it to them. Sebastian and Jenny love to come over and play board games, play with Agent Offspring, and ask questions about our marriage and family life. I think that deep down, every kid has a desire for both a mom and a dad and some semblance of a "normal" family...whatever that means.

Amy & Joe - They are the newest members of the block. They arrived in the fair mother city two months ago thanks to hurricane Rita. They lived and worked in the Beaumont/Port Arthur area until they fled the storm and lost everything. They have a 9 year old daughter and two smaller kids. Amy's still looking for work while Joe found a teaching job at the elementary school 4 blocks away (nice - and getting a job in the shrinking AISD can't be easy, especially mid-year). Agent Wife met them a while back and told me about this couple...who actually want to have a neighborhood BBQ (that's right up our alley). SO last week I met them and I recognized Amy from somewhere in my past. She and I were in ACU marching band together her freshman year (my 1st senior year, I was a 5 year student). She was in my 'section'. God, I hope I wasn't a jack-ass to her back then. I barely remember her.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Folks in the hood (pt. I)

There are several families here on Undercover Ln. that have varying levels of relations with us. To date, the only people I have introduced formally on The Agent B Files are Obi-Wan, The Sanfords (The Tiger, The Bulldog, etc), and the Valdezes (the folks with cool parties). In this two part series, I'll introduce a partial list of characters that have yet to be mentioned:

Lloyd & Fay Mackey - They live across the street from us. They've been in the neighborhood for over 30 years, raised their two kids (now grown), and have the most nicely kept house on the block. Both do various odd jobs for a living but Lloyd is also a carpenter. He has the coolest shop in his backyard complete with every type of table saw & power tool imaginable. He mostly builds & installs cabinets. He has helped me with a number of minor fix-it jobs around my house and Obi-Wan's. He's been an overall lifesaver many times. Like my parents and in-laws, they are members of a large coc club. My parents and, especially, my in-laws get along with them great which makes sense now that I think of it. I was in ACU marching band with the Mackey's son. I'm sure he's now told them story's of my wacky, long haired days.

Pastor Rod - He is a minister at a COGIC club here in the mother city. I have yet to meet his wife and elderly mother, who all live together. Pastor Rod is very friendly and talkative (he's a preacher, for crying out loud), always yelling across the street to me about the weather or something. Both his elderly mother and his wife have health problems, thus he spends much time as the care giver for both women. His wife gets out of the house often and goes to dialysis 2-3 times a week. She always has a pissed-off look on her face. I probably would too if I were on dialysis.

Melissa & Carrie - These are our next door neighbors that we have very little relationship with but therefore, know the least about. Melissa is 27 year old single mom of 8 year old Carrie. When we moved in almost three years ago, Melissa was married to JT (or, I guess they were married). I assume they've been together as long as Carrie's been alive since JT was her dad. One evening I heard yelling in their driveway. They were arguing about money or something. A short time later I noticed JT was moving out. Melissa works on the 7th floor of a big bank building downtown in the student loan office. Until a year ago, she also worked in her parent's tejano night club about 6 nights a week. JT use to work there too when they were together. I can imagine that working in a night club would strain any relationship. We rarely see Melissa as she is super busy: work, nightlife, and her daughter's little league games. Melissa's sister and her little boy, as well as their parents live there part time (I guess) as they come in and out often. I never know who really lives there anymore.

Monday, November 14, 2005


I'm loving this blogger thing. It's freakishly therapeutic for me. Even if there's nothing happening in my life on a certain day, there's plenty of stories in my past to write about. And I've met several folks through this medium that I'd consider friends. At least, if we ever end up sitting in a room face to face, I know conversations would not be dry.

I enjoy clicking on the blogger profiles. I've met several other blogfolks I'd consider agents and I've got to know several church ministers and pastors too. I get a huge kick when their profile says:

Industry: Religion

That says it all for me. Religion IS an industry. Like a product or a widget we followers must churn out from an assembly line. Somehow...I'm convinced Jesus did not intend to create a religion during his three year stint of turning the world upside down. But that's an argument for someone else. I'm a horrible debater so forgive me for those of you who'd love to arm wrestle over this subject.

A few years back I looked up an old college friend on the internet. Al Ginsberg was a student across town at McMurry but we worked together as DJ's at the local NPR affiliate. He was pretty much the anti-christ of our religious infested city. He was one of those rare mixes of 'drug user', 'womanizer', and 'intellectual' all rolled up into one. He told me about growing up around the intellectual drug culture. Like coming home from school as a kid and seeing mom & dad having some new experiment with some friends, etc. I couldn't imagine that. But that was his life. I never did drugs. I was too scared of them. I don't even like taking sinus medication for my allergies. I'd rather not breath than be doped up. But sometimes I give in.

Al was a genius of a doper and I looked like a doper so I guess we were friends. He was a fan of the avant-garde art-rock band I played in and pioneered. When I found him on the internet he emailed me and said he created some sort of internet radio station in Boulder, CO. Sounds like a place he'd end up. He asked what I was doing. I had just started with the izzy group so I told him about it in as non-churchy of a way as possible. It didn't work. His reply: "Well, if religion is your career field then I guess the mother city is the best place to do it".

A sad, sad, but true testimony of the fair mother city...

Sunday, November 13, 2005

To: CEO Re: ?!?

Look sir, here's my deal. I don't know what's going on anymore.

How much longer is this assignment? We're running out of supplies and ammo. I request reinforcements. Don't leave us in deep cover just to fade away and die. I'll stay where you've planted me, just please send a signal. Anything...

Like I have a right to request anything from headquarters...

Did the ship sink? Maybe years ago? Did we forget the life rafts? Are we in denial like those violin guys on the Titanic?

Awaiting your next reply...B


For a while I've been wanting to give a little background info on the way Agent Wife & I live. I never wanted to give anyone the impression that we were destitute and living in some shack waiting for handouts to come our way.

We are not destitute. Far from it. At the risk of sounding like that health/wealth BS preached in most charismania clubs...I don't think the CEO would have us believers live in a miserable situation. Maybe I'm wrong. But then again I'm the guy that's always thought monks really missed the boat in life.

After four years of praying and living in a 450 square foot efficiency apartment located in the "real hood", we bought a 1300 square foot house. And we've been loving it ever since. Compared to most middle class America, it's not a massive dream home. But compared to the poverty class, it's a palace. It's a 50 year old house in a neighborhood that has a few run down homes and a few well kept ones.

Most everything we have now is something the CEO put before us in one way or another. Most of our furniture was given to us by my mother when she was re-married three years ago. We had two cars given to us within a 10 month time period. They are over 10 years old and have an average of 200,000 mi each. But they're very reliable...for now. We have TWO new computers - both were GIVEN to us this year. I mostly use a windows-based laptop while Agent Wife uses the eMac my dad gave us (I refuse to join the mac cult).

The kid next door, The Tiger, use to spend a lot of time over at our house. He was baffled with our way of life. He thought we were freaks. He couldn't understand why two of us lived in a big house all to ourselves (this was before Agent Offspring). The Tiger lives in a 900 square foot house with his two siblings, mom, her boyfriend, and a hell of a lot of chihuahuas - which I love to terrorize. The Tiger sleeps in the living room on a couch.

For months he wrote off every aspect of our lifestyle as "rich". He'd see something we'd have and say, "That's rich" or "Rich people stuff". We're talking about me here. "Rich". And dammit, I can't even justify buying beer for the last year or more. The only time I drink now is when I'm invited to someone else's party. And it's usually cheap beer. I've forgotten what good beer tastes like.

Anyway, I ask The Tiger, "What makes us so rich". Our conversation went as follows:


The Tiger: "You have a computer"

Me: "OK - that was given to us. And besides, your mom has a computer. So now what makes us rich?"

The Tiger: " have a nice car"

Me: "That was given to us too. And it's about the same year as your mom's van. Next."

The Tiger: "Your house looks nice."

Me: "Well, we maintain it as best we can. I mow the grass every couple of weeks. You have like 2 or 3 lawn mowers. You can do the same. Next."

[here comes my favorite]

The Tiger: " have"

Me: "Yes Tiger. We have a dog. And YOU have FIVE dogs. And the dog we have was GIVEN to us...BY YOU"


The Tiger still thinks we're freaks.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Food bank (the twisted world of non-prof Pt. II)

I recently received a flyer on my front door from a local boy scout troop. They are collecting non-perishable food for the local food bank.

I've always wanted to explain to others just what the food bank is. This report is NOT a slanderous expose' nor is it written with an ill heart. The local food bank was VERY good to the izzy group. Once upon a time (several years back) the izzy group was their largest customer.

Food banks across the nation are, by and large, a middle man, much like the United Way (see 10/9/05 blog entry). They do not per se give food to needy people (despite what some advertising and propaganda allude to). They DO however receive food donations from various grocers, restaurants, and wholesalers in exchange for a tax write-off. Then this donated product is SOLD by the pound to registered non-profs like church food pantries, orphanages, etc. The price is fair in comparisson to retail grocers. But often their product sucks since it's often expired, out of season (like easter candy), junk food (like easter candy), or food nobody bought for obvious reasons (it sucked).

If you are some sort of food outreach ministry or non-profit shenanigan...the price IS a good deal. If you take $100 to a local grocery store you might walk out with 4-5 bags full. But $100 would fill up a pickup bed and then some at the food bank. 5 bags of good food or a pickup full of potential crap. It's your gamble.

There are, of course, rules to abide by with food bank food:

1) You must have a 501(c)3 - [IRS non-prof number]. 99.9% of churches in the US have this number, even though there is nothing in US law that states a church MUST have one. Don't even get me started...
2) The food purchased cannot be bartered, sold, or exchanged. Understood, except they're selling it. So I guess they can exempt themselves.

Besides local vendors, the food bank also receives product from the US government called USDA food. And to purchase USDA food from the food bank...all types of hoops must be jumped through.

Rumor has it that there is now a thick manual of rules and regulations from the government for USDA food. I have not read nor seen this manual. So, based on what was told to me by several individuals, here are my very liberal quotes and smart-ass responses:
-if handicapped people want your food, you MUST provide ramps and adequate facility for them...well...OK
-if a person who speaks another language wants your food, you MUST provide an interpretor for them...MUST?? or WHAT? You gonna send Jesse Jackson?!?
-if a person of another religion is offended at the religion of the food-giving establishment, then that establishment MUST provide a place for their religion to feel at home. Like build a mosque in your church sanctuary or something like that...What the...that's it...I'm outta here.

I have yet to hear of the government hammering down on a church for not building a mosque. But appearantly the wording is in the manuel. USDA food - yet another reason why the church should stay away from the government. I met a woman who runs the food pantry for one of the hoity-toity church clubs in town. She gave the proverbial "up yours" to the food bank due to these USDA guidelines. She now stocks their pantry strictly with donations and purchases from wholesale clubs.

The food bank can be a neccessary entity in the community. BUT KNOW that when you donate to are NOT giving directly to hungry people. You ARE giving to an organization who in turn, sells to other organizations, who in turn may give to someone considered hungry or needy.

As always, I encourage people to develope lasting friendships and relationships with individuals who are poor. However, this may not be an option for everyone in our society. So donate food to the local food bank if:
1) you don't know any poor people to help with food
2) you don't know of any local organization that gives away food for free

When izzy had an operational food pantry to the poor, I tried numerous times to skip the middle man (the local food bank) and go directly to the grocers, restaurants, and wholesalers. I figured we could give them the same tax right-off they sought after. I was shocked as every single place I approached stopped me in mid sentence with "we give to the food bank". It's real political. Someone's getting some backs scratched somewhere.

Then again, the food bank adds the convenience of being a single place to shop for food as opposed to running all over the city trying to collect a variety of donations. That would be a full time job in itself. The local food bank is a HUGE convenience.

Institutions...guess we gotta live with them.