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.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Legend Of...Super Dave

*Thanksgiving 2000 - Super Dave seen here, acting suspicious with a bunch of turkey injector needles...

Something made me think of this guy the other day. I don't remember exactly what. So kids, without further nonsense, we dig deep, DEEP into the izzy vault to tell the story of...Super Dave.

I really can't remember how we came across Super Dave. The izzy group was running a once-a-week, improvised homeless shelter in a church building every Thursday night. We'd eat a meal, hang out, play card games, open the shower rooms, set up air mattresses - men in one sunday school room, women in another, etc, etc. I think Dave unpretentiously showed up one night and just started hanging around from then on.

As we all got to know SD and he got to know us, trust and a vague friendship developed. SD was a Viet Nam vet, but not a psycho. He had this great little schtick that made him memorable: whenever he'd start telling a story of little exaggerated importance, he'd get all worked up. And right before the disgruntled climax of his tale or his main point, he'd slowly stand and position himself to leave. Then...BAM. He'd forcefully say the climatic last word then walk off in the other direction. It was hilarious. And he wasn't trying to be funny. That's why it's so funny. It got to where every time we heard him in one of these "moving tales", we'd stick around to watch him position himself to tell the last words. And we'd say, "Watch out. He's on the move".

You had to be there.

He was a honest, trustworthy guy who decided he wanted a chance to get "off" the streets. This is actually pretty rare with homeless guys since they generally choose this lifestyle, or various circumstances keep them there. I guess he had enough of the streets. One of the guys in the izzy group, The Italian, gave Super Dave a shot at a job in the recycling plant he managed. It was great pay for day labor, plus nice benefits (a rarity around here).

Not only did he take the job, but he stuck with it for a good while. I was most impressed with his first few weeks. Like starting most jobs, he didn't get his first pay until the 2nd or 3rd week. And during that time, he lived outside, in the cold, scrounging for food like all homeless. He woke up every morning and rode his bike halfway across town to the job...and got there early. After his first pay he got himself a cheap apartment and set up house. We found him some furniture donated by a family. He was eventually given a 1980 Oldsmobile that ran fine.

After several months Super Dave was awarded employee of the month - an achievement that's not just handed out easily.

Eventually something happened to Super Dave. No one knows exactly what. He stopped showing up for work, etc. I think alcohol might have been involved. Also, many poor & homeless folks can't "receive" success, even when they earned it. There's just some kind of mental block that makes them think, "I don't deserve all this".

Super Dave either quit the job or got fired. He packed up his apartment shortly after and all we heard was that he headed for Fort Walton Beach, FL. He called us once to say he made it, and that's the last we heard of him.

I don't understand everything and I gave up trying. Jesus may heal some people and some may not get healed. Some may rise from the dead and some may not. Some homeless guys may change their lives "for the better" (and that definition can be left wide open) and some may stay in their misery. But I hope Super Dave saw enough of Jesus to know who the CEO is, regardless of SD's residence.

I know Super Dave really enjoyed his time here in the fair mother city. I've always suspected he'd wander back in, just to say hi. Since he's got no way of finding the izzy group (we have no facility anymore), please let me know if you see this guy around - especially you Abilene agents.

He'll be the guy telling the moving tales.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wednesday drama

The family & I were at Obi-Wan's house on Wednesday night two weeks ago. We were saying bye and on our way out when I caught the beginning of some crime-type drama show on the TV. I was hooked. I tell Agent Wife to take the baby on home. "I'll be home in 10 minutes", I said. Yea, right. I was there for like, another hour.

Me...the anti-TV hoodwinked into the wasteland vortex I mock and criticize often. The opening of this show, "Criminal Minds" on CBS, had all of the typical trappings for a drama's opening segment. Yet, very modern with completely new writing angles, as well as quality digital production work that shows I watched 10 years ago didn't have. I was fascinated.

OK, I admit the truth: TV for me is like giving an alcoholic a drink. I could watch it all day and never do anything with my life. Which is roughly why I choose not to own a TV. I'd never leave the house.

And I'm a huge sucker for any type of murder mystery. Which is why I love Criminal Minds and have now (as of 9pm) seen 3 episodes. It appeals to my fascination of agents. The show is about an FBI profiler unit. They track down highly intelligent serial killers by examining evidence and creating an accurate profile of the murderer. It has all the stereotypical characters: the lead guy (who reminds me of The Bossman), the 2nd banana, the token hot chick, the token black guy, and the feisty quick witted computer chick at home base. Then there's the unique character: an 18-20 soft-spoken homely boy prodigy with a 187 IQ. He's cool. So far these have been great shows.

So anyway...for the last three Wednesdays I've been a fixture at Obi-Wan's from 8-9p. He doesn't mind the company. I can't say that it's quality time together, but we get that the rest of the time.

I can't believe I just wrote a post about a TV show. What have I degenerated to? I don't have a problem. I'm not in denial.

The Fair Mother City (or Sodom and Gomorrah)

Ezekiel 16:49-50 - Sodom & Gomorrah "...were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned: they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen"

Sodom and Gomorrah are infamous for their sexual perversions and heavenly destruction. It is assumed that they were destroyed because of their sexual sins. But I guess the above obscure passage says otherwise...

The fair mother city can be a real cheap-ass town at times.

I suppose I have yet to give proper introduction to the homeland. A quick historical reference:

Abilene was founded in 1881. After 1875 many settlements in west Texas were created when the local Comanches were sentenced to hell (Oklahoma) due to their food & clothing source (buffalo) being slaughtered to extinction for white man's profit. The (then) Taylor County seat of Buffalo Gap, TX heard news that the Texas & Pacific Railroad was being built through the area connecting Ft. Worth with El Paso. So they rejoiced and sat on their asses assuming the train would come through town. Meanwhile, cattle ranchers who owned a field 12 miles north secretly met with and successfully bribed a rail road executive, persuading him to build through their vacant field. A town quickly sprang up in this field when the tracks were built...bringing commerce and good times. The unoriginal name Abilene was granted in honor of Abilene, Kansas (and mentioned somewhere in the CEO's handbook). She grew fast and won the coveted county seat title. Thus...the mother city was founded on trickery, bribes and deceit.

Like a lot of people in those days, the founders of Abilene were into secret societies (masons, etc). That kind of ritualistic, religious spirit ushered in the church people and their church culture, which could permeate most areas of citizenry like commerce, social outings, government, etc.

Then the pillars of higher education was established. Not a state-run school either. The mother city has not one, not two, but THREE private, christian-run universities. The Baptists have Hardin-Simmons. The Methodists have McMurry. And the church of Christ (coc) has Abilene Christian University, making the mother city the Mecca of the coc world. You should see the town's population bulge during ACU's Lectureship week every February. I've nicknamed that week Ramadan.

The cost of living is much lower here than larger cities, but so is the average income. I have never done a study on this, but I truly suspect religious church culture somehow goes hand in hand with low, suck-ass wages. Keepin' the man down. Just a conspiracy theory of mine, of course.

The average pay around here for most anyone is between $7 and $8 an hour with no benefits. Trust me...I KNOW. We're talking like...$16k a year before taxes. I've worked many of these jobs since 1994. As a college grad, I could go to Dallas and make $32k/year without even trying. Maybe $40k/year.

The mother city is divided by the east/west railroad tracks it was founded on. Traditionally, the north side of the city is the older section (and thus the "poor" side) while the southern half is the newer section (rich side). I'd argue that the poor section begins at S 14th and heads north to I-20 and up into Impact. And of course there's exceptions to there are several nice neighborhoods sprinkled throughout.

Because of lackluster city counsel decisions of past generations, there has never been a strict building code/appearance restrictions. Thus the north side is chock full of dilapidated buildings, homes, and sluggish economy. The far south end by the Winters freeway and Buffalo Gap Rd is where the new economy grows. It has all the mega commerce, shopping malls, nice neighborhoods, etc. I call it "Little Dallas".

I'm sure the mother city has the same or similar wealth/poverty statistics as any other US city. But being hunkered down within the poverty culture like I have for about 8 years, I'd have to assume Abilene has more folks in poverty than average.

I love the mother city. And I love the poor people that dwell within it. I love the north side neighborhoods, old cruddy houses with asbestos siding, and kids playing in the dry creek beds that flood these neighborhoods once every few years.

I don't see the fair mother city receiving the same doom as her sisters Sodom and Gomorrah. She can be fairly "arrogant" in an educationally religious sense. And the fair mother city is DEFINITELY "overfed" (she's a fat-ass town too - everybody goes out to eat...a LOT). But I don't know about "unconcerned". A fair amount of people do something for the poor. This can be noticed with a local ministry's "Mission Thanksgiving" yearly drive, as well as the numerous outlets for the needy

And's hard to be unconcerned about a large segment of a city's population. There are a LOT of poor folks around here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Dream report #003

The izzy group got so destitute that we asked Pastor Bill if we could come back and set up our ministry at the motherchurch (our former host church). He must have let us as we were in their new building. Pastor Bill wouldn't allow me to store the izzy photos and memorabilia in the building, but I hid them anyway...under the stage where he preaches on Sundays.

Monday, November 07, 2005


Going through the monthly whinings again. It's no big deal. I'm used to it by now. Just give me one day a month to get it all out and I'll be good to go tomorrow.

Whining about...income (lack of), does the izzy group really exist anymore and do I care, do I need to go start a career with my limited skills, etc.

I've read about the Israelites wandering through the desert over and over. I've read about how they whined and kept forgetting what the CEO did for them down the road. I don't want to be like them.

This time of my life is a golden opportunity for serious education in faith. And I want to pass with an A+.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

hunger, thirst

Tonight the family & I engaged in something that use to be a significant part of my life...almost an every day occurance...worship.

I dusted off the old 10 caliber and went at it...almost rusty and all. Have to force myself to play. Two very new songs came from nowhere.

Agent Offspring, who has heard me play probably all of 5 times in AO's total exsitence on this earth, picked up toy drumsticks and started playing along. Then opened some music book that plays songs. Then started singing non-stop.

Thank you Lord. We need you...bad.

Dream report #002

[2 back to back dreams from the same morning]

#1 - Obi-Wan & I were driving in an old car around a big city (like Houston or Dallas). Obi-Wan was behind the wheel and we almost wrecked by turning off an exit ramp too fast. This was due to his diminishing driving skills because of his age. He pulled over and insisted that I drive from then on.

#2 - Someone gave Momo a big Peterbuilt 18-wheeler truck rig (no trailer). I asked him if he needed help selling it so he could buy more practical things for his life. He said, "Hell no. This thing will last me 10 years. I can sleep, travel, and earn a living in it". I guess Momo knows what's best for him better than I would.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Leaf

If secret agents in the fair mother city had a unofficial public meeting place it would be The Leaf.

The mother city's premier and only cigar bar, The Leaf is a gathering of college-aged cynics, crotchety old retired business men, and everyone in between. It carries a wide variety of cigars ranging from $1-$36 a piece (I think). And as of a year ago, The Leaf is now a full service coffee bar (woo-hoo!).

An old college buddy of mine (who I'll refer to as the mother city's most eligible bachelor) owns the joint and started it back around '98 or '99. The Leaf is just his 'toy' business, as his real bread-n-butter involves a business that builds auto AC compressors. The Bachelor was once part of a coc mega-church...and don't think they didn't give him hell for creating a cigar shop. Before the coffee idea, he had plans to turn it into a high-end beer-on-tap joint (something the mother city STILL lacks). I think he nixed those plans out of respect for his mother's wishes.

They once hosted live music where I've played many a gig with the 10 caliber. I loved it. Five minutes before the gig I'd walk in...10 shooter on my back...and these cigar chomping patrons would slowly gaze in my direction with a glaze of imperfection. The look from their stogey-dangling faces muttered, "...what the hell's THIS guy gonna do?" Then I'd start playing and as the old adage goes, music DOES sooth the savage jack-ass. They welcomed me with open arms ever since. This is a far cry from the disneyland-esque receptivity from the family-friendly coffee shops that rule local night life. Unfortunately, the ASCAP goons have been harassing the Leaf's management so the music is on pause.

The Bachelor use to support the izzy group via proceeds from a certain product in his store. I love it. The only corporate sponsor we ever had was a tobacco shop. This came through after some big name non-prof in town "refused to take my dirty cigar money" to which I reply, "WE'LL take your dirty cigar money".

This morning, Pastor Hawking & I gathered with around the main table with two hanger-ons to discuss a dream/venture I have that I've yet to discuss here. Maybe later. We also just tried to get to know each other better. Pastor Hawking smokes a real cigar. But if I'm gonna smoke anything, I prefer Nat Sherman's "Black and Gold" cigarettes. They're comparable to a quality cigar but with the commitment equivalence of a one night stand. Not that I approve or partake of half-assed commitments or anything. I just enjoy being finished with a tobacco product in less than 5 minutes if I so choose. My body can't handle some of the serious cigars offered there.

The Bossman recently spent an evening at The Leaf. I believe his new found observation was something like, "The Leaf is a place Christians can go and not get judged".

May that realness spill into the rest of the mother city.

Thursday, November 03, 2005


The Handy Boy gig is nil for the time being. I finished a job yesterday and there is currently no work lined up. So I had the day off.

The family & I went walking with Obi-Wan and his wheels. It was a nice sunny day with a slight breeze. We invited him to the back yard, a place he's never been.

He finally saw that my garden and pecan tree was not fiction. Agent Wife made us tea and we sat under the shade of the pecan tree.

"This is just a great day. A really good day", Obi-Wan kept saying. I think he was really enjoying himself.

I've always thought of wheelchairs as some kind of ball-n-chain. Who would have known they could be that liberating.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Ministerial contraband distribution (Pt. II)


So basically, the izzy group once gave some food away from a pantry and now we had the potential to be the supply line for the whole freaking mother city and some surrounding areas. Gotta love the CEO.

We started off small, and extremely covert and anonymous for various reasons. Not the least of which is my Matt 6:1-4 moniker. And, therefore, I saw how something like this could go to our heads (Wow. We're feeding the whole city. Yay us!). I tracked down all operations to the poor that used food as a resource. I made contact usually by entering an operation during their open hours and standing in line with all the other poor folks waiting for food. This almost blew my cover as I usually knew half the crowd by first name.

Once I made a "contact" within the proposed organization, I set up a delivery date & time. I brought the amout of food I thought they could handle based on their size of operation and storage space...taken from my mental notes from inside each organization.

To remain anonymous, I took notes from the drug sellers we use to minister to. Each organization/contact only knew me by my first name and cell phone number. I'd contact them once a month after a truck shipment came in. This was a blast. We later "exposed ourselves" as the izzy group as a means of legal protection (I had to get a signature from each organization saying they wouldn't sell the food we gave, etc). And with that we changed our distribution methods by faxing an order form and letting each group send in their wish-list order on a first-come/first-serve basis. But for the most part, izzy operated anonymously as a mass food distributor throughout the fair mother city and beyond.

This whole mission allowed me to meet a couple dozen different groups, and not all were ministries or churches. One was a government group. Another was a pregnancy counseling group that also helped young moms with baby food & supplies.

This is how I (indirectly) met Agent S, as well as Pastor Hawking, and many, MANY other wonderful folks. I plan to intoduce a few of these humble "unsung heroes" in future posts.

For two years the funding for these food trucks came and went sporadically. It started very consistant than flaked out every few months. It finally bit the dust last July. Lord willing, the contraband distribution will happen again someday. But I not only gained many new "agent" friends throughout the mother city, the CEO showed me so much insight as well (see 9/3/05 post titled 'mosaic').

I've literally been in every (or most every) ministry to the poor in the mother city. At least the ones that use food as a means of service. I've seen all levels of dignity to the poor. I know those who work within big organizations (like the Salvation Army) and I know people who are well hidden.

This was a fun mission that the CEO lined up and I'm honored I had a part in it. Thank you Lord.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Covert ministerial contraband distribution 2003-05 (Pt. I)

In attempt to explain some of my wacky lingo as well as my acquired knowledge of the inner workings of ministries to the poor in the fair mother city, it is necessary to report on one of my more covert missions of the recent past. This is in no way an attempt to glorify me or the izzy group. Just info to fill in the gaps for past and future posts.

First off...the izzy group was removed (in a rather ill fashion) from its host church and birth mother of 16 years. When we left the building, we had virtually nothing but an apartment we rented on the north side of town that a homeless guy lived in as well as a community that developed around that area. That lasted about 5 months and ended when the homeless guy hit the streets with a married woman or something like that. So it goes.

So then we really had nothing. Less than a month later, izzy somehow gets hooked up with a ministerial alliance based in Dallas that wants to send us food every month. An 18 wheeler truck full of food. Every month. I need like warehouses and forklifts and things I've never dealt with in order to receive this shipment. So we run out and borrowed some warehouse space, lined up a forklift & operator, rented a pallet jack, etc.

We open the doors of this truck and boom...there it is. Real quality, name brand, healthy, and FREE non-perishable food. Nothing like the crap we BOUGHT at the local food bank. This was like...stuff I'd buy for my family. And therefore, this was the kind of food I'd want to give to the poor because they deserve our best, not our garbage.

This first shipment came in about a week before we all went on July vacations. So I stored it and during the 4 weeks off I brainstormed about "what" to do with this food. We had no pantry to give it away from. I could not invite the poor to come get it since the food was stored at some guy's business. I thought maybe we could round up the troops and bag up groceries on a weeknight and go delivering to poor neighborhoods on Saturdays. We almost had a meeting based on these plans but it was abruptly ended as soon as it began due to some *bizarre freakazoid incident* tied to izzy's political past (maybe more on that someday).

Then it hit me. When my inlaws were visiting, we went to a church of their flavor one Sunday where someone was making a plea for food donations to the church's pantry. "Well", I thought, "I've got me a warehouse full of food. Maybe I'll load up the Brown-n-Tan (or BnT, the official secret agent van of the izzy group at the time) and anonymously drop off a few van loads to them."

So I did. And these folks were appreciative since it *was* free, excellent food. I made a few undercover inquiries about their food situation...if they were short this month or if this was a regular occurrence. I learned that the local food bank (the main supplier of cheap food to ministries in the fair mother city) had dried up most of the summer AND their prices had risen (gotta keep than non profit ship afloat).

I begin to see what the CEO's "bigger" plan was: we were to supply all of the other ministries in town. They already have food pantries in operation. We'll just give to them.

(to be cont'd)