Tuesday, December 30, 2008

jedi padawan #004


(before and after shots of the front exterior)






Every step of our current house flipping project has gone well with no indication otherwise.

We are approximately two weeks from completion, assuming no more major US holidays or personal ordeals distract us.

My wife is about to give birth to our third. So, maybe some more personal ordeals await us.

I have enjoyed every minute of this and hope to continue with more partnership projects. As goofily sentimental as this may sound, I might actually miss my little corner of White Utopia. The property is totally bad-ass with plenty of outdoor-type nooks-n-crannies to take my ever coveted cigar break (like the tornado shelter we used on super cold days). Even the Jedi Master has helped resurrect my twelve year hibernation of pipe smoking. It’s hard to envision smoking any other place or time.

I gather that White Utopia has a weird bent to it. People WANT to live there. I mean, it’s weird. But who’s complaining? This is the first house I’ve worked on with the Jedi Master where different people literally stop by daily to ask us about the house. All are inquiring for themselves or “some friends”.

I’m not holding my breath over any of those inquiries. I'm sure it's small town nosiness - as in, locals just wanting to see the old “Richardson house” or whatever and see what those boys are doing to it, etc.

But in recent months I’ve leaned there are two kinds of people in the greater metropolitan fair mother city region: those who will die in White Utopia and those who are DYING to die in White Utopia.

This town has a strange attraction to it. And with the way the whole project has gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up selling it word of mouth, sans realtor.

Friday, December 26, 2008

agent gathering 2008

If the CEO can pay some guy’s tax burden via a fishes mouth, then surely he can provide G13 and myself $50 for beer, burgers, more beer, and coffee.

The CEO of the universe is a good god. And to all you naysayers: don’t ask me why he didn’t provide for our gas to meet in Lubbock via the fair mother city and Amarillo. Who knows these answers to the deep questions of the universe. Sheesh.

But none the less, I met up with fellow Bostonian agent cohort G13 (aka the disability resourcer) in the windiest city on earth, where money literally falls in parking lots.

As mentioned three years ago, I am willing to drive across subdued terrain for 3 hours to drink from the wells of encouragement and friendship. The fair mother city has been a lonely outpost during much of my tenure. I can use outsider views and words into my life right now.

Special agent G13 is a genuine friend with a gifted cut-throat pastoral calling. His low tolerance for drama and bullshit make him the kind of pastor that’s all-too needed in faith gatherings. Kind of like that jackass judge from American idol mixed with Henri Nouwen. Firm caress.

I tip my lousy Texas Amber Ziegenbach to you G13. A rare breed and honest friend.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

castles made of sand

(one of those sappy reflective posts)

As the CEO of the universe gives my family requested fruit for our past endeavors, and as the poverty culture I’ve grown to know and love slowly slips through my fingers, I ponder my calling and future.

I’m sure I’ll be an undercover agent to some degree for the rest of my life. But it’s clear that any remnants in my life of the old izzy group ministry are long gone. Hanging with the homeless and working-poor from within a social ministry apparatus was invaluable training none the less. But fumbling around in disguise as a manual laborer is my deal these days.

Surprise attack. Killed me in my sleep.

I’m loving it. But there’s little time to be with the disability check receiving folks of society. So it goes.

My new work schedule is killer. And my daily cohorts are enjoyable. Chuckie even gave me an unexpected Christmas present: a best-of Jimi Hendrix CD. That is the most incredible thing ever. I am listening to the Star Spangled Banner as I write this. We take cigar breaks twice a day, which I often enjoy my ever favorite Nat Sherman cigarillos.

As a child I promised myself that I would never become a tobacco fiend. But something about manually busting your ass and being part of a step by step metamorphosis makes you enjoy if not expect good reflective cigar smoking.

And as mentioned earlier, Agent Wife and I have begun the process of putting in our request for assignment change. It could be a long wait, assuming it ever happens.

But I assume it will.

So long 2008. You melted into the sea. Eventually.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

testimony #041

Agent Wife & I celebrated 10 years together on Friday.

With two toddlers, limited resources, and an overall consciousness for avoiding ridiculous amounts of money spent for our mere pleasure, we are thankful for friends.

The chef and his wife the nurse offered to spoil us with one of their cool hoity toity meals at their kitchen. In addition to the unique food, it included good beer, great coffee, and a cigar. Four of my favorite things.

And Agent Wife's friends kept our kids for the night. That's something that we never get.

So, I'm thankful to the CEO for all of that...as well as 10 great years of marriage.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

the amputation files

Obi-Wan is still in the hospital. And he is scheduled to have his lower leg removed this Tuesday or Wednesday.

He is in very good spirits about the whole ordeal. It probably helps that he has gone through this exact thing almost two years ago.

I cannot comment on or predict what his future holds. Two years ago after his first leg amputation I was convinced that he would have to move to a nursing home. But back then, his estranged son Lamont had moved in to care for him...until Obi-Wan ran him off.

So this time around, I don’t know. Hopefully Obi-Wan will fly below the radar of Adult Protective Services during his rehab period.

Monday, December 08, 2008

the acid queen

Being an undercover agent is not all hams and plaques. Sometimes there’s real human nonsense (ie: drama) that must be waded through like work boots through a shit tank.

I will spare all of the ridiculous details involving Obi-Wan’s long time aid Nurse Gollum. If interested, the bore-fest can be found here, here, here, here...AND here.

Nurse Gollum retired and fell ill some time ago. Her oldest daughter The Acid Queen has pretty much taken Nurse Gollum’s place in the manipulative and snooping role within Obi-Wan’s life.

Both Agent Wife and myself had run-ins with The Acid Queen today, basically involving my handling Obi-Wan’s checkbook while he’s in the hospital. I am the keeper of the purse at Obi-Wan’s request.

But unfortunately, The Acid Queen has signature power on his account – a fact Obi-Wan would like to change whenever he gets released from the hospital.

It all boils down to The Acid Queen being jealous that Obi-Wan has shifted his trust to me and my family over the last several years.

Oh joy!

Monday, December 01, 2008

jedi padawan #003

Have I mentioned that I love house flipping? I think I’ve finally figured out why.

Transformation.

And that’s it. I mean hey, something flips my switch when I get to watch and be a part of something becoming something else.

Changing a house from a piece of shit into something dignified and valuable happens relatively fast, usually about eight weeks. When I was in full-time ministry with poor people, the transformation in people (and myself) was sometimes so slow or small that you rarely saw the change.

Or you certainly saw nothing significant in eight weeks.

Usually it is against jedi code to show a house to any outside individual or party during the eight week operation. And I agree with that code because so few people have any vision or imagination when they’re standing inside an out-dated dilapidated rat-hole.

But I kind of get a kick when people (even my wife) have that “I’m so unimpressed” look when they come inside and see the “before” stage.

Suckers.

The “after” will arrive soon enough.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

hospital, again

Sorry for the delay in this report. My family and I were on Thanksgiving holiday in Houston this past week.

Late Monday afternoon (11/24) Obi-Wan admitted to the local hospital due to the pain in his one remaining leg and foot. This was not an emergency as his doctor had admitted him during a routine visit.

And since my family and I left Tuesday morning, I didn’t get a chance to share until now.

Obi-Wan says the outlook doesn’t look too good. His doctor announced this morning that he would run tests tomorrow to see if amputation is the only solution for his pain.

He’s in good spirits regardless.

Monday, November 24, 2008

the roofers

Today completed day 6 of the house flipping project in White Utopia. And while Chucky and I finished prepping the exterior for painting, the roofers completed their job in less than two days.

Roofing is one of maybe two areas of house flipping that the jedi master has subbed out to other tradesmen and strongly recommends it. Most roofing companies can do the work better and faster than we could and at a pretty cheap price.

Roofers have always amazed me and I have great respect for them. They blow in and out of a job site like dignified mad men, work in ridiculous temperatures and crazy heights, all while making pretty low wages.

If Texas was a Hindu society, roofers would be considered one of the lowest caste groups. Yet they band together like brothers, cracking jokes and insults at each other like only siblings can – all while busting their ass in dangerous and uncomfortable surroundings.

As an agent, I’ve been to their backyard BBQs and in their homes. Today, I got to see them in action as we worked on the same job site.

Within the roofing caste came its own social order. There is a boss, as expected. But also there was the lowly cleanup guy on the ground. He seemed a little mentally slow. Or maybe his brain was fried from something by choice. Either way, some fat-ass on the roof was like the team bully, verbally slamming around the clean up guy. So it goes.

Social order within the lowest order, yet, a brotherhood.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

open letter: disregard.

For those of you following my expose on dying and aging church properties...

The local newspaper reported that UBC's sale is off.

I think that's unfortunate. Walgreens could have done some good for the impoverished neighborhood in that location.

It'll only cost a quarter of a million dollars to fix the air condition though...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

open letter to university baptist

Hello. My heartfelt congrats on your decision to sell off your property. This is a huge step forward for all in the fair mother city.

I know change must be difficult. But I also know the impoverished neighborhood that your property resides in would welcome the change.

Razing your 1200 seat stained glass auditorium and four-storey “education” building to make way for a Walgreens would be an enormous plus to that community. I mean, instead of your once-a-year Fall Festival (from 6p-8p) the neighbors can now walk over to pick up their Medicaid funded prescriptions. Walgreens could actually become a community center by default. God knows one is needed.

Sorry to come across like a jackass here. But really, rumor has it that your membership has dwindled to like 50-75 plus some 150 college students who come for lunch. (That’s great, by the way. Your calling as a college outreach is obvious. Go for it. I’d bet Hardin-Simmons would gladly loan you space to function as a church for their students.)

But really...a 1200 seat monstrosity that is rumored to need over $200,000 to rebuild the air condition structure alone?!? Why did you hang on to it for so long? Were you hoping that money would show up so you could maintain the social club facilities for a mere 75 people?

I know, I know. The low membership is not your fault. I’m sure it’s a mixture of Barna’s predictions as well as bad seeds sown by the pastor who ran off with his secretary back in the 1950s just before that building was finished. Or so, that’s what The Son told me when I worked for Son and Dad.

And that four-storey building...a guy I used to minister with, The Bossman, once told me that it contained not one, but TWO commercial kitchens. Yes. Commercial. As in, restaurant or cafeteria efficient equipment. That building could have fed and housed every homeless person in town one way or another. But that was just a weird idea I had years ago when you and the Happy Days Community Church (where I was once employed) talked about trading facilities years ago.

Over all, I applaud you for moving on. Normally I’m not a fan of mega-chain corporate consumerism. But Walgreens would be a practical outreach to your low-income northside neighborhood.

All the best,

Agent B


*photo by the Reporter-News staff

Monday, November 17, 2008

White Utopia project: day one

So far, so good. Everything appears to be going well and has the potential to stay that way. I feel like I am getting closer to taking on the jedi trials and thus advancing past that of a padawan. At record speed.

But today, the local social scene bloomed. In one day I: 1) met the local gossip who shared some dirt on recent residents of our house. 2) was whistled or whooped at by some local redneck chicks in a pickup (or maybe that was meant for Chuckie) and 3) been given more than enough Texas-style approving head-nods by locals driving by.

Welcome to White Utopia. Not bad for one day. And we weren't even trying to meet anyone.

And oh yea...gossip neighbor mentioned she has church friends who are wanting to move to White Utopia from the fair mother city. Not a bad thing to hear in our position.

UPDATE: No one made mention of my misspelling of "project" in the earlier version of this report. See...small town brilliance is influencing me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

things are going to start happening to me now

As of Friday, I am officially an owner of property in White Utopia: a small and slightly uppity bedroom community of the fair mother city where it’s legal to marry your sister.

Yeah. I need to quit it with the small-town jokes. I mean hey, I could make money here.

After thorough inspection with the jedi master, the property seems to be better than we expected. Central heat & air work fine. No apparent or major plumbing problems. And the two car garage/shop is an actual shop: a mechanics dream complete with engine hoist and two storage rooms with shelves.

Cha-CHING.

There is no indication that our budget would be off. It is now a matter of doing it and hoping it sells within a reasonable amount of time. I credit the CEO’s guidance in every step thus far. Thank you CEO.

The absolute weirdness in all of this is my agent calling and assignment in the fair mother city...

Agent Wife and I are convinced we are in the beginnings of a major change. We are putting in a request to the CEO for an assignment change to a different location. The location is yet to be made public and probably won’t be for some time. So endure my vagueness please.

It is difficult to explain our feelings and assumptions at this time. As of this date I have spent over half my life in the fair mother city. I have fallen in love with a side of this city few know. It’s poverty culture saddens me greatly, especially due to it’s close proximity to it’s religious culture.

And Agent Wife and I are huge believers in being missionaries in a single location for the long haul. So why would we up and leave someday?

Possibly because our time is due. And/or this was a mere training season. All of this makes sense to us as we step back and view the big picture of our lives and desires as well as reviews of our dream notebooks, etc.

About a year ago Agent Wife and I contemplated why we still lived here as we had no job or family ties to Abilene. We narrowed our answer down to relationships. And we narrowed those relationships down to two: Obi-Wan and AW’s little sister Princess.

The relationship with Princess ended earlier this year. So that leaves the aging Obi-Wan. As of now, I have no plans to move as long as he is alive and living across the street or here in town. But I have long felt that I’d be released into something should he ever pass on while I’m around.

This move is not a pipe dream. There appears to be an actual opportunity opening up for us elsewhere.

And my heart is slipping away from this city daily. I no longer want to invest here anymore, time-wise, spiritually, and even financially in some areas.

But for some reason, the jedi padawan gig of house-flipping seems to be moving great. So I’ll ride that wave and give it all I got.

I just don’t have it for the fair mother city. Anymore.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

non report

This report about nothing is just a simple ‘checking in’.

Life is still going well for the agent household. The jedi padawan gig is still at large, yet dragging. A bathroom remodel job for some desperate housewife has drug out beyond ridiculousness. We are now in the fine toothed detail comb stage and it will hopefully end in a day or two. Meanwhile, the house that I myself am financing for our next flip job is taking forever to close on, thanks to the bank that owns it and other human incompetencies somewhere. But all should fumble together this week somehow.

Some days, I wonder if I’m still an undercover agent at all. I mean, I work full days and rarely hang with the poverty culture as much as I used to. And also...this “agent b” veil is getting thinner. So it goes.

But in the local neighborhood (the undisclosed location we call home), things are moving I suppose.

Obi-Wan and I see each other throughout the week, but Sundays are usually certain. We drink instant coffee, he preaches, I run and pick up his groceries, etc. Health-wise, he seems to be going strong.

Meanwhile, the Sanfords next door seem to be harboring terrorists. Their house has become more of a gangster hangout.

The Tiger and The Bulldog (who really need to move the hell out and grow up) have been running with rougher and rougher crowds. Some days they work jobs. But most days they just hang around and take drives in The Bulldog’s new ride: and early 90’s suburban.

I’ve always wondered why the CEO of the universe put my family and theirs in such close proximity and friendship. We really come from different planets I think.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

mission accomplished (I think)

Today I took the day off to attend to business involving the house we’re flipping in White Utopia. We close on it next week.

So in between running errands, I took the two bags of tracts and went to the office of the mega church that the tract-passing crew (TPC) operates from. I didn’t know what to expect, but my plan was to meet someone from their operation face-to-face and make a polite plea for them to begin their own Evang-e-droppings cleanup operation.

Instead, I learned that the TPC does not have an office at this church (which happens to be the same mega church mentioned two posts earlier). But the secretary regularly contacts them and so forth. So I quickly scribbled out a note making my friendly plea, explaining that I was a mere background helper to their ministry, and left it with the two bags of tracts, showing that I did indeed collect these over the past year and I’m not making this up. In the end I signed it agent b, as opposed to my real name.

I don’t know if signing my alias was improper. Had I met them face-to-face I would have used my real name...out of necessity. The TPC’s leader and I have a brief history together. And I wanted to come clean and not hide behind veils, so it seems.

I have no idea if anything will come of this. But I feel that there’s closure. And I needed that.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

evang-e-droppings: coda

It’s official. Today I decided to quit the Evang-e-dropping eradication operation due to lack of time.

As mentioned earlier, my actual human relationships are suffering due to my increased work schedule. So, in the place of tract collecting I will be hanging out with Obi-Wan or whoever drops into my life on Sunday mornings.

I don’t really have anything poetic to wax about this one year plus of tract collecting and trash clean up that hasn’t already been written in previous reports. I think the CEO of the universe has shown me much during this season. And now it’s over. So it goes.

I do wish someone would continue it. And I believe that someone should be a member of the actual crew that passes these tracts out in the first place. Every Saturday night this crew preys on patrons at the door of a local nightclub. Maybe they could come back in the daylight and collect them from the parking lots.

For over a year, I have saved the tracts I’ve collected. Two bags full. I am thinking the time is now to meet my opponents in the faith face-to-face.

Opponents in the faith. That sounds terrible. Anyway, I’m not one to chicken out and mail a load of tracts to their office with some cute note or something. I should meet them face to face and tell them what I was doing: picking up their trash.

I’ll be pleasant about it. And I won’t go into my feelings of tracts in general. I suck at debates. I’ll just say hey, I think it would be a good testimony to not leave behind any trash. Could you please pick up where I’m leaving off?

But then I’d have to find time during the week to actually try to meet up with them. We’ll see.

The operation: it was fun while it lasted. Maybe the kids and I will go out again once in a while.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

under the sun

There is nothing new in the fair mother city. The same 'ole same 'ole.

What has been will be again.

Reports of the largest megachurch in town doubling the size of their facility with a $9 million bank loan isn't surprising. So it goes.

If George Barna's predictions of 70% of all believers living a faith outside the sunday morning social club by 2025 is true, I wonder what buildings like these will be used for by mid century?

All is meaningless.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

tales from the zen #001

This is a new series of possible reports that come to you from The Zen.

The Zen is a place I fall into when I am doing some repetitive task, usually involving loud tools or power equipment while wearing goggles and ear muffs. And it’s like I forget where I’m at because being behind goggles and having loud noise near you yet muffled launches you to another planet. Or The Zen. The CEO sometimes communicates to me in The Zen.

But most of the time I just think up weird stuff.

Recently while working for the jedi master cutting tile, thus under the influence of the wet saw and angle grinder, I thought about the possibility of a future assignment change.

Yes. Me. The guy who has spent half his life in the fair mother city ponders a potential assignment change from headquarters. I’m leaving it that vague. This move may never happen. Or if it does, I’m guessing it will be a few years or so.

A few years back, when we peacefully parted ways with the izzy group ministry, Agent Wife and I pondered why we were still in the fair mother city. We had no jobs or family here. Despite a myriad of friendships, our reason for being here seem to revolve around two vital relationships: Princess and Obi-Wan.

Princess was Agent Wife’s little sister with the big sisters program. They have been friends since 1999. But that relationship recently closed one way or another.

So we strongly feel that we are still here for our friendship with Obi-Wan.

I find it odd that I’d even consider leaving the fair mother city since I admire missionaries who stay within their outreach culture for the long haul. ie: forever.

But recently I’ve been looking at our time in the FMC as a possible training period as opposed to a life-time call. Maybe I’m right about this. Maybe not.

Either way, my plea to the CEO is that I don’t want to die here. God, help me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

twenty four minutes in the fringes

Being wrapped up in my current life of a house-flipping jedi padawan has blurred my past. Or at least I’ve begun to forget how the deep trenches of the poverty culture is where I had once camped daily.

I’ve recently been reminded twice of my past with the izzy group ministry* some five to eight years ago.

1) Recently in the obituaries I learned of Jim Diddy’s passing. Jim was one of the hanger-ons in the Willy & Patches crowd. He was a notorious drunk and engager of escapism and the mole lifestyle like his buddies. I last saw Jim at either Willy’s or Patches’ funeral. I can’t remember which.

Amazingly enough, the obit mentioned his years of alcohol abuse. It also mentioned that in recent years Jim gave his life to Christ and battled his demons one by one until they were no more. He went on mission trips to mexico with his church as recently as last summer.

Thank you CEO for Jim’s change in life. And thanks for showing me the rest of the story.

2) After work today I drove by a slum house where I often have seen Georgia Rusty sitting in the yard with a 40 ouncer. Rusty was there along with Double O. I did a u-turn and pulled over to sit with these old friends and their watered-down brews.

Man. I was in another world. I almost forgot what life was like on the extreme fringes. While I was catching up with Rusty & Double O and Maria (Rusty’s longtime girlfriend and legendary local schizo), some legless guy in a wheelchair kept yelling to Rusty to buy some of his weed. The wheelchair guy had a leg missing below the knee. And I swear I saw a partial bone sticking out, like maybe the doctors didn’t fold the skin over all the way.

And some other elderly lady walked by then sat down in the grass with a beer and stared off away from the street. I assume she had mental problems (or demons, take your pick).

I watched a cop drive by slowly and gaze at us, like maybe this was a house that was always patrolled.

Double O, a notorious drunk himself, filled me in on the details of his grandkids who have been born since we last hung out. Rusty openly shared of his addictions. Just alcohol and pot. But he quit all that “other stuff”. Needle doing and so forth. Both guys kept fantasizing about some government check that might pop into their lives soon.

I just told them about my children they have never met and how I’m remodeling houses now.

The culture didn’t shock me and I adjusted pretty quick. But I’m very rusty within the far fringes. And it was weird that I was looked upon as the "church guy" with their apologetic behavior and so forth. I've always hated getting the church guy treatment.

I may need to go hang out there more. They invited me to.


*izzy group – nickname for the ministry I was once director and associate pastor of. It was a hands-on ministry to the local poverty culture with various apparatuses.

photo - Gary Kazanjian / AP file

Monday, October 06, 2008

jedi padawan #002

As stated recently, my master plan is advancing forward at light speed.

Currently, I am an official full-time employee of the jedi master. And that is a very good thing because I am learning much and enjoying the work tremendously.

I am getting less awkward with tools and at least looking like I know what I’m doing more and more daily.

Just a year ago, I pondered my existence through the desert wastelands of the bible-belt. Now, I drive a truck and wear a tool belt. I am a bad-ass. And that is my existence.

And my big announcement:

As of today I am now under contract with a realtor to buy our next house flip. Yes – I, the young padawan in home remodeling and trades work is now an equal partner on the next project as financier...or something.

And the CEO of the universe employs his ironic humor as this property is located in White Utopia.

Yes. White Utopia: the fair mother city’s eastward bedroom community that I love to loathe and make fun of - a mere microcosm of the fair mother city with heavy magnification on wealth, religion, Caucasian seclusion, and haves vs. have-nots. Or maybe I’m too critical.

Good one CEO. I’m still shocked that my first would be there.

Oh well. Viva la Whitey it is!

Thank you CEO.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

obi-wan sermon files

Due to my busy and quasi-excrutiating work weeks of late, the evang-e-dropping eradication operation has been put on the backburner. I have not planned to quit collecting christian tracts from nightclub parking lots just yet.

But since I have so little time and energy to maintain actual human relationships during the week, I have shifted my Sunday morning time to being with either my family, Obi-Wan, or whoever else shows up.

This morning it was time with Obi-Wan. And I forgot how he can preach, albeit unintentional. I believe accidental preaching is the best kind of preaching.

The sermon topic this morning was almost straight from the Uncle George handbook: the CEO provides.

My friend, elderly neighbor, and Redd Fox stunt double Obi-Wan went on for almost an hour about how in recent years he asks the CEO for everything. And one way or another it shows up, be it some piddly little odd job needing attention performed by me or Mr. Mackey, or not having the energy to cook and suddenly someone is bringing a plate of food through his door, or whatever.

It’s easy and overly tempting to rely on ourselves when we’re young and able-bodied. But my elderly mentor Obi-Wan has taught me a faith level I have only imagined.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

make history: join poverty

My local cohort Jack recently posted an excellent point of view on the “making poverty history” trend (found here).

His basic gist: Jesus never commissioned us to rid the world of poverty. Instead, he encouraged us to join poverty.

I assume this is because not having readily available resources can be an excellent witness to those who do not know jesus. Not relying on our own means will demonstrate faith as well as loyalties.

My question is: what does joining poverty look like to those of us: in wealthy Western societies? With families with children? In the social club/church culture?

Are we to quit our jobs, sell our houses, and raise our babies in the dirt on the street corner?

Just questions.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

pruning boy: the final chapter

This has been a long time coming in the life of agent b: the finale of my employment with Son & Dad Tree Service, Inc. It’s like the end of a TV sitcom. Except not as hyped but equally as shallow.

Basically, it ended like this – last month during a routine tree spray season (ie: pruning boy: orkin man edition) I saw how the future of my jedi padawan gig was growing rapidly with an indefinite amount of work in sight. Since The Son has a knack for having me waste an entire 4 hour morning doing only 2 and a half hours of work, and since at that moment I was being held captive aboard the tree spray rig for 8 straight hours and missing all kinds of experience with the jedi master...I told him to begin finding my replacement.

Normally I am a huge advocate of giving an official “two weeks notice”. But working for Son & Dad wasn’t a normal job. And The Son found a replacement for me who I’m sure he’ll love – a Baptist ministry major college student. I mean hey, this kid knows the secret handshakes and so forth. They’ll get along great.

I was slowly weeded out of the “worker” position, which is exactly what I wanted. And I’m glad The Son found a suitable replacement for me as I didn’t want to leave him high and dry. The new blood and I did some mowing jobs a few days ago together for The Son who was out of town. That was my official last day, in my eyes.

Welcome to the migrant worker seat, new blood.

So, I tip my bottle of Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout to The Son, a halfway decent employer...who never offered a raise after a year and a half. And changed the subject when I mentioned a raise on my year anniversary with him.

And to The Dad, the 90 year old company founder who inspired me to write the book “Mowing With Dementia” after job upon job of following you with a mower to fix all of your landscaping mishaps...and watching you mow the same strip of grass five times with no end in sight.

And to the CEO of the universe: who, via a dream, showed me to take this job. It humbled me beyond belief, which I'm sure I needed during this vast desert period of my life. My adventures with Son & Dad were both priceless life-lessons and a wealth of comedy rolled into one.

Goodbye brown uniform shirt. Goodbye Three-Stooges antics. I’ll never forget you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

the pastor b files

I made a brief cameo within traditional pastoral duties recently during a hospital visit.

My next door neighbor Frieda Sanford’s sister & brother-in-law were in a bad wreck a few nights ago. They live out in the country. Upon returning from Friday night bingo, some drunk driver gal rammed into the back of a trailer and swerved into their lane. They hit her head-on at 65 mph.

The drunk driver died instantly. Frieda’s sister Susie walked away with a bunch of bruises. Her husband Uncle Jerry is in the hospital with 4 or 5 broken ribs.

They both humbly give thanks to the CEO for their lives and figure there’s some reason they are still on this earth. I pray that the CEO will show them what that is.

There is still a lot of pain for both of them: much physical pain for Uncle Jerry and much emotional pain for Susie because of that woman’s death.

Your communications on their behalf are appreciated.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

jesus doesn't give a sh** who you vote for

Every four years here in the US it’s the same ole nonsense: the political game. Everybody rallies up behind their team and hopes for a win.

The religion of politics rears its head and reminds those of us in undercover operations that faith in jesus usually takes a back seat to faith in a candidate, political ideal, or nation.

Unfortunately, from my christian friends I often receive these poorly written FWD emails on how one of the two major candidates is the anti-christ or something.

And their email digresses into this pathetic plea to vote a certain way. Like maybe if we believers don’t all go out as a mob and vote one way or another, then god will punish us by letting our country (thus, the entire universe) go to hell.

In a handbasket.

Come on. Give god some kind of credit. I’m sure he’s not that stupid or powerless. Like he’d give a bunch of voters the responsibility to alter the fate of mankind.

This is not an endorsement of any candidate nor is it a pro or anti vote message. If you feel called to vote one way or so, then do it. But with the mission jesus had on this earth, I am convinced he would not have spent much (if any) time on politics.

Maybe we should do likewise.

So quit circulating the FWD’d christian magazine editor endorsements and rumor-like “did you hear” emails while you enjoy your wealth and freedom to buy your slave labored goods from the mega marts.

Stay true to the walk, not the political race.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

the update files

Checking in:

Some days I wonder if the “agent b” era of my life is coming to a close. Not that I would quit living subversively within the poverty culture. But writing about it on the computer is waning fast.

My new found life in the avoid-the-computer arena has obviously added to this wane. And so has house flipping.

But I'm hanging on for now. I think.

Padawan status:

My jedi training is moving ahead at light speed. Being matched up with my jedi master house flipper is truly an answered prayer and a crafting from the CEO. My training transcends simple carpentry and trades skills, but also real estate and business skills.

My current maneuver and thus communications requests to the CEO is possibly my becoming the financier of the next house flip.

Correct: I could be visiting a banker or two soon about a future house project with the jedi master, making he and I equal partners in that particular endeavor.

I ask you to join me in praying that this timing is correct and thus, the banker gives the A-OK and therefore, the loan.

Hop aboard the fellow-ship:
...complete with fool-ass luggage.

No, seriously. I’ve always thought the word fellowship to be a complete cover-blower. I mean really. Yes, it’s a real word with multiple uses according to the dictionary. But how often is it used in everyday conversation outside of church talk?

I recently ran into an acquaintance from the Happy Daze Community Church I was once employed at. He cuts to the chase and asks, “where are you fellowshipping these days?”

Imagine if you were me.

How should agent b honestly answer that question?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

employer spotlight #002

In this edition of the seldom received, highly coveted employer spotlight award, we acknowledge the jedi master, for whom I train under in the house flipping arena.

Note: this award is to bring out positive news from local employers in the fair mother city - a city who is chock full of tight fisted (ie: "cheap") business owners who mostly happen to be christian too.

The jedi master recently closed on a house that I was a small part of a couple of months ago. It was the one I mostly volunteered at after he notified me that he could no longer afford extra help that I was filling in for.

This house was a fair sized profit maker. The day of closing, both Chucky and I received sizable and very unexpected bonuses.

A business owner profits and thus chooses to share the wealth with those who helped him get there. What a concept. Thank you CEO.

And here's to you, jedi master house flipper, receiver of the second ever agent b employer spotlight award. Enjoy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

jesus doesn't give a sh** about your prosperity

One of the biggest crocks in the history of the church is this teaching that the god who was born in a feed trough, became a homeless wanderer, then was tortured, humiliated, and murdered, somehow wants you to be materialistic, thus happy.

Or, you know, prosperous.

This is a false message from false preachers, false teachers, and bogus prophets. Have nothing to do with them or their sugar coated words.

There is no die to self in this kind of message because prosperity is a SELF-based message.

Opposing a prosperity message is very unpopular. One assumes that by opposing the feel good prosperity message, the opposite is being embraced and emphasized: poverty. Nonsense.

Jesus does not want you to be rich.

Jesus does not want you to be poor.

Jesus does not want you to be comfortable.

Jesus does not want you to be tortured.

Jesus wants you. Period.

So please christians, do away with your whiney, fat-ass, soda-guzzling, gadget-wanting, compensation-demanding, comfort-driven bullshit.

Thank you for your time.


* I know this doesn’t help when my reading material of late is any and every story I can find on martyrs. I’m fascinated with anyone who is willing to die for a cause. Especially faith. If interested, I recommend Foxes Book of Martyrs for starters.

** I know this doesn’t help when my new pal and work-mate Chucky
(who is not an overtly spiritual minded person nor heavy church goer, but he does join his in-laws at a local church that’s subtly prosperity-laced) mentions in a recent conversation “well I know that jesus wants us to be prosperous”. ?!? Says who? Those North Korean christians who were forced to watch their relatives have their heads run over by a steam roller? I guess they missed that message when signing on to jesus

Thursday, August 14, 2008

mr. mackey

My across the street neighbor Mr. Mackey and his wife Faye are sort of the anomaly of our street.

They do not embrace anything of the poverty culture or mentality. Their house is in better condition compared to the rest of the street. Yet they are not “rich” by American standards and live quite modestly.

Their mannerisms and so forth are very middle class. Mannerisms like...occasionally making a snarky comment about a neighbor or two who parks in the front yard and leaves trash everywhere.

Yard parking and trashy yards: those are two major offenses against the middle class mindset. I think. Or maybe it’s just their generation.

I love the Mackeys a lot. In many ways, they remind me of my parents. Or maybe my wife’s parents. I mean, they are all the same age, go to the same type of church (church of christ), and make the same kinds of snarky comments about yard appearances.

Maybe this is just the culture of 60-somethings who worship at the coc. I don’t know.

Recently, I’ve noticed how I am a lot like Mr. Mackey. Or, I am becoming like him.

First, Mackey is a cabinet maker by trade. Although he’s been known to do other various trades jobs like general contracting for home renovations which he uses me on occasion. Recently, he and his wife quit their paper route after nearly 20 years. They grew tired of the early morning hours yet they feared losing the steady income. So they confided in me that they were taking a leap of faith and quitting the paper route.

Now he’s got so much work that he can barely keep up. Thank you CEO.

Anyway, Mr. Mackey’s history is that he was once a young preacher in the coc. His first (and last) preaching gig out of college was in some small town in Louisiana in the late 1960’s.

He said that preaching was fine, but the church was tough – a bunch of old rednecks and so forth.

Mackey preached there for two years and the church wanted to get rid of him. The final death knell: Mackey’s sermon on how they should accept black people into their church.

They kicked him out for that one.

So, the Mackey’s made their way for a new life in the fair mother city enrolling in school. They bought the house they still live in, started a family, and he fell into trades work.

So I’m thinking: beat up by religion, making your own living with your hands. Yeah, I can relate to that.

I’m finding more and more former professional clergy in the trades-world within the fair mother city.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

evang-e-droppings #017: anniversary

We here at the agent b files acknowledge the celebration of the mediocre by making mere mention of the one year anniversary of the Evang-e-dropping Eradication Operation this week.

Woo-hoo.

This operation is still such a dichotomy in my life. I find it silly or absurd. Yet I take this operation seriously and go way out of my way to maintain this act. I miss it when I’m out of town or ill and thus can’t pick up tracts, etc.

The following are some brief recollections of the evang-e-dropping gig over the past year. It is still a coin toss as to whether it has benefited anyone’s life but mine:

Cleaner – There’s at least ONE city block and its surrounding area that is free of guilt induced evangelical outreach tracts. I suppose that’s a good thing. You be the judge. The weekly average pickup is about 30. I have found as much as 60 and as little as 17. I have yet to find any scientific rhyme or reason to these numbers other than windy days equate to fewer tracts. To date I have almost two plastic shopping bags full of tracts in my house. I have yet to know what to do with them. No, I’m not going to put them on people’s cars during their church service.

Gimme some lovin' – In the tract collecting process, I have gathered all trash found on the night club premises and disposed of it. I have no idea if club owners or employees have taken notice, nor do I care. I am concerned if I have been caught on their security cameras though.

Canada would be proud – Beginning on new years 2008, my family and I have begun recycling. The fair mother city has several easy access locations to collect glass, plastic, tin, aluminum, newspapers, and cardboard. So, I also carried this over to the Evang-e-dropping gig. It makes it a little confusing, collecting tracts, recyclables, trash and keeping them separate. I think this operation sort of inspired me to take up recycling both on the operation and at home as I have hands-on experience with how much crap we produce and dispose of.

New friends – To date, two complete total strangers who stumbled across this blog have joined me on the operation. I am honored that someone would join in with this, so thank you.

Least of these – Being out on the streets again has briefly put me in touch with our local homeless society, whom I once had deep in-roads with five years ago. My wife and I miss having a meeting place where we can meet on common ground. Maybe someday.

Ground control to major tom – About 90% of the time, I am solo on the operation. And that’s fine with me as I look forward to the communication with the CEO. And tract collecting provides ample time for that

Thank you CEO, for giving me the grace to maintain and celebrate the absurd. Just say the word and I'll drop this like Oprah on a baked ham. Otherwise, I look forward to our chat over tracts next week.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

padawan #001: demo

I am having a blast on the jedi padawan gig. It’s only part time, so I’m allowed up to 25 or 30 hours a week. I wish I could be there a full 40 hours. I really REALLY wish I could drop the pruning boy gig with Son & Dad Tree Service like a rock. Maybe in due time.

I joined this current project with the jedi master from day one. We started with a cruddy house and are transforming it into something livable and sell-able.

The first step in the process is demo (as in demolition). Destroying the old. Violently removing everything that is not staying. Taking it away by force.

Typical demo tools are: hammer, various pry-bars, and a sawzall. Sledge hammers and circular saws make cameos on occasion.

Demo can take several days, depending how much transformation will take place.

This week I found myself in “the zen” several times.

The zen: wearing safety goggles, ear muffs, and operating something loud and repetitive.

The CEO of the universe communicates to me during the zen quite often, even when the zen involved swinging a sledge hammer at a cast iron tub. That was a virgin experience for me.

I find it no coincidence that the CEO shows me the importance of the demo process during the zen so shortly after my hell and back experience.

I think he’s on to something.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

to hell and back

Excuse my brief internet absence. It was an accidental yet necessary hiatus which may continue throughout the future as I ponder and reluctantly observe my own carnality.

This secret agent is going through a deep cleansing from headquarters.

I have begun permanent maneuvers to remove a single root of life-long sins. I believe this to be a very necessary move to bring my family and I into the calling of our life. We have been in deep training for it these past five years of desert wandering.

Meanwhile, I have done some very un-agent b-like things such as: join a men’s group at a local church. Yes. You heard me right. The time is now. Also, I’ve subjected myself to another’s cleansing prayer ministry of sorts and discovered a handful of deep seated issues that are freeing me as of this writing.

Hell is a very lonely place. I don’t ever want to go back there.

During my 24 hour hell get-a-way I contemplated killing off “agent b” and thus disposing of this blog. I now believe that to be a knee-jerk reaction. But future reports might be more sparse as I purposely avoid family-ignoring devices in my life such as the computer. Hey...I’ve discovered things like: my daughter loves to sing and my kids are good with play-doh. I’m not too shabby with the play-doh either.

In the past, I have avoided the practice of soliciting blog comments. So I do not seek your pat on the back. But if the agent b files hasn’t helped anyone’s faith journey one iota, then maybe it’s time to wind it down. We’ll see.

Thanks for your time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

return of the jedi padawan

My master plan is back on track with my starting a part-time job with my jedi master (the house flipper) this week.

I was fairly sure it might come back around again. And if it didn't, I would have kept volunteering for him in the afternoons as I found time. This flipper is valuable to work with, as he specifically teaches me many areas of the over-all flipping business as well as various trade skills I lacked experience in. I am convinced it was no coincidence that we hooked up.

This is the step in the direction I've been waiting for. Thank you CEO.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

evang-e-droppings #016

The offsprings joined me on the evang-e-dropping eradication operation this weekend. We netted an above average collection of tracts: 45. Last week I netted 50, and that was after being absent for the previous two weeks.

In some ways, I still hear no exact rhyme or reason from the CEO to carry forth in this operation. But something within me yearns for it. So I carry on, my wayward son.

In a weird roundabout way, I feel this is a form of worship to the CEO. I only know to explain this as follows:

One of the most influential teachers of my life was my high school photography teacher Mr. Byrne (and I've dubbed him this moniker because he looked just like David Byrne from The Talking Heads...and my teacher was a fan of his).

I was in Mr Byrne's photo classes for three years. And by the way, these were art classes with photography as the medium, as opposed to some sort of photo journalism based class.

Once we were studying some modern twentieth century artists. I remember Mr. Byrne teaching that the "art" behind Jackson Pollack's work was not the final product. His art was the actual making of his product.

The physical action of standing on a giant canvass slinging paint WAS the art as opposed to the canvass hanging in a gallery, which many might find ugly.

Call me nuts, but somehow I can relate. I feel that physically collecting evang-e-trash and recyclables and other trash IS my worship.

Or so I assume.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

no hype please

To add to my fledgling resume of writings amidst the world wide waste-o-time, I recently submitted a slightly re-worded (and retitled, by editors) report from a few months ago to Jesus Manifesto.

Join in or create a discussion there, if need be. Thank you for your support.

Monday, July 14, 2008

neighborhood updates 7.14.08

OBI-WAN: My dear friend, mentor, and favorite grease cook Obi-Wan is going deaf. Fast.

We don’t know the cause, outside of the obvious (old age). I took him to a hearing doctor appointment over a month ago. They did a full hearing test and evaluation and concluded that he needs hearing aids.

Unfortunately, this venture is being funded by the Veterans Administration (VA). The doctor’s office should have duct-tape their results to a turtle’s back and send him towards the VA headquarters in Big Spring, two hours west of the fair mother city. That would have resulted faster results.

Instead, we wait by the mail box in hopes of correspondence from Big Spring, approving a voucher for a free special phone and possible hearing aid(s). And thus, I have vowed to call Big Spring (a special number given to me by the doctor’s office) every day until I have made a complete ass of myself, hoping to make it clear that Obi-Wan’s hearing is getting worse daily.

No wonder most Americans don’t want government funded, full coverage health care. The VA is our only home-grown example.

JENNY: Our 10-year old friend was eating lunch with us the other day and announced that she wants to get baptized. Out of the blue.

I think she occasionally attends a church with some cousins or a friend. And so I assume she has made this decision from her soft heart.

I confess, my repressed church of christ upbringing got all giddy over her announcement. Every christian troupe and denomination has their own identifying trademarks or over-emphasis on specific biblical passages. The coc’s is baptism.

I think I kept control of my pushy, inner child baptizer. Although I did mention to Jenny that she didn’t have to wait for any big special ordeal to fulfill this decision. Jesus was baptized in some dingy old river.

And the Sanfords next door have an above ground pool filled with algae.

THE SANFORDS: Day in and day out, the Sanfords are somewhat predictable. I haven’t seen too many surprises pop out from them in our five-plus years of living twenty feet away from each other.

Unfortunately we missed their big fourth of July bash which also serves as Frieda’s birthday party, as we were on vacation.

As I understand it, The Tiger and The Bulldog are STILL waiting for a court date due to their crime involvement from a year ago.

This is amazing. The judicial and justice system are ridiculous. I’m not hammering for these young friends of mine to get justice as much as I want to see them grow up and face the music. I know from experience that these things really work on The Tiger for the better.

But to date, they’re barely getting a slap on the wrist.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

chucky

There’s a new character in the agent b world. Chucky is the coolest guy I’ve ever met. Ever.

Chucky and I work together when I’m on the jedi padawan volunteer gig. He’s related to the jedi master and has worked for him the longest of any worker. Something like six years. And Chucky is only 21.

He reminds me of Hank on Corner Gas (Americans wouldn’t know, unless you recently found it on cable). Except Chucky isn’t dumb like Hank. For a 21-year old, Chucky is brilliant. He’s incredibly talented and knowledgable in all avenues of trade work. Yet he’s very mild mannered and friendly and not an arrogant jackass by any means. He's always available to teach me some trivial task that I'm too inexperienced (or stupid) to figure out.

And his subtle, confident, timely one-liners keep me on edge. I love it.

Chucky confided to me that house flipping and trade work is not his passion or forte. Instead, he’s real into automotives. He drives this cool old beater pickup truck with some loud spiffed-up racecar engine. He hopes to go to some school in Houston where he can become a certified mechanic as he pursues his dream to have his own shop and build race cars on the side for fun. But all of that pivots on his wife finishing her trade school studies. Plus they’re raising a few toddlers mixed in there somewhere.

Those of us in the westernized, middle-class culture idolize academicians who make book knowledge their identity. But over the years I’ve witnessed how most high school and college graduates are very shallow in both the common sense and street-smarts departments.

I tink my bottle of abby ale to the Chuckys of our world. You are often my greatest teachers and role models.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

testimony #040

It has been ridiculously too long since a testimony report. That's not due to a lack of them. More like my taking the CEO's handi-work for granted. Here's a random potpourri of things I thank the CEO for:

1)Being in Houston last week reminded me how pathetically little money Agent Wife and I make and live on. Yet we always have what we need when it's needed. Even unnecessary events like vacations. Agent Wife was flown to Canada on a cousin's air miles. How cool.

2)I love beer. Especially good beer. Like micro brews and such. And I've somehow had ample opportunity to try several as of late. Life is too short for one kind of beer.

3)Since age 16 I have wanted to drive a truck. I borrowed money for various house flipping tools (such as a truck) several months ago. After 3 months of looking, I finally found what I've dreamed of. And it's even my favorite absence of color (like this blog). I've never felt like a badass behind a wheel before.

4)Our garden is excellent this year. Killer crops of green pepper, tomatoes, spinach (now dead), okra, jalepenos, yellow squash, and sunflower seeds. Even our peach tree finally gave a good crop, first time in five years. Also, our pecan tree is looking good which is funny, as this year should be its off year.

5)I'm going to be a dad again in maybe six months. I still haven't wrapped my head around the thought of having three kids. They will outnumber us...

And I'm sure there's a bunch more that I can't remember now. Thank you CEO.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

road trip return

Agent Wife was retrieved from George Bush Intercontinental Airport Saturday so we returned to the fair mother city today.

The Millenium Falcon faired well. Although her weather-cracked tires need replacing badly, and the AC now only works on full blast (in conjunction with the power windows that don't work - it's freeze or melt, baby), she'll still kick your car's ass. She may look like a hunk of junk, but she'll outrun the empire.

And today she passed the 250,000 mile mark. There ain't nothing like her. But I admit...secretly I fantasize about owning a new(er) mini-van or gas efficient SUV (if there is such a thing) for our growing family. Until then, the Millenium Falcon remains.

*************************

As much as I despise Houston (the birth place of consumerism* and title holder of "America's Fattest City" for three years running), I actually had some good getaway and reflection as well as time with the kids (hell...I was full time Mr. Mom).

I met up with some old friends from the fair mother city ten years back. They were there at the very very beginnings of my faith journey, back when I battled depression thirteen years ago. Now he's a project manager for a high-end home builder and she's a children's pastor at a vineyard church. He offered me a job anytime I wanted to move to Houston. Which proves that Houston has so much economic opportunity that a jackass like me with no five-year resume to speak of can get a job by word of mouth.

Too bad we don't want to live there.

**************************

In case you haven't read the most recent Agent Wife Files report, I direct you there now to save myself more typing. Basically...like usual, we have hit the ground running upon our return. Her friend's one year old child is back in the hospital. And there's yet another tragic death amongst the vast poverty culture we have inroads with. Her little friend Princess's cousin was murdered recently. Not to sound heartless, but I'm not surprised. We've known this kid since he was 9. He was either going to kill or be killed, or so it seemed.

CEO - help us all.


* - just my own musings and conspiracy theories, mind you.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

toll road church

More reflections from the Houston mega-empire landscape...

Being in Houston for the last week and few days, I've had to drive around on Beltway 8 a few times: once to take Agent Wife to the airport, then again last night to visit old fair mother city friends in the Sugar Land area.

Beltway 8 is a toll road. It was being built around the time I graduated high school here and moved for good, so I'm not overly familiar with it.

More than once I saw a few nice looking church buildings facing the toll road. I'm sure there are some back roads entry to these churches, but the toll road seems like the most likely route to get to them.

I assume these churches only further insulate themselves from the poverty in this city by their location. As if being located deep in the suburbs isn't enough. They are also located on a road that you must pay to use.

Just thought that was really weird, if not slightly disturbing. Any thoughts?

Monday, June 30, 2008

road reflections

I took Agent Wife to the Houston airport early Wednesday morning. She has been with her family in Saskatchewan and is currently living it up with her cousins in Edmonton, AB. I miss her all right, but glad she's having a blast.

**************************

Odd jobs seem to follow me. Which is all right. I don't mind it. I've done some painting and so forth for my mother while in Houston. Might as well make myself useful.

**************************

In search of a birthday present for my step-dad I finally discovered Spec's: Houston's super mega-mart of micro brews. I was like a kid in a candy store. Too many to choose from.

**************************

In recent days I was wondering if music would ever grab hold of me and inspire me ever again. It's not that it doesn't, but it's like the older I get, the more music has to really be something to really get me. Whatever that means.

My parents recently got some super mega cable TV package, proving that if you have 489 channels, that there really isn't anything to watch on TV. I did stumble across one channel that's worthy about 60% of the time: VH1 classic. Usually it's hair metal band videos from the 80's.

But late the other night I stumbled upon a campy movie from 1975: The Who's Tommy. I didn't get to see much, and I vaguely know of the story line to follow along anyway. Besides, I'm a huge fan of the seldom used rock opera format. I plan to write my own someday. But Agent Wife didn't think most people would be able to identify with an aborted fetus singing "who am I, what was I, meant to be, hell...I'm free" from the after life.

But something snapped within as I randomly found this cheesy movie with people throwing off their religious shackles singing "we're not gonna take it".

Monday, June 23, 2008

on the road...

The agent household is on vacation for the next twelve days or so. A cousin of Agent Wife is flying her up to Canada for a cousin reunion while the kids and I stay put in Houston with my mother.

Houston: not exactly my vacation dreamland. But a change of scenery none-the-less. It's only fair, as I got a rare opportunity to visit Boston a year ago whereas Agent Wife was stuck in the birthplace of materialism and westernized whineyness that is my hometown of Houston.

She deserves a break. Watching our two kids is a juggling act. But add the other two she watches for pay and it's daycare nightmare around here. Go have fun up north, babe.

I on the other hand will be doing a few odd jobs for mom, such as painting, etc. I also hope to reconnect with a few friends, some of which I haven't seen in near 20 years.

All that to say: reports on these here files will be few and far between for the next two weeks. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

celebration of the inanimate

In accordance with my master plan, I recently purchased a pickup truck. This is kind of a big deal to me. Not only am I seriously making commitments to this plan by gathering the necessary resources, experience and tools, but...I’m 37 years old and this is the first vehicle I’ve ever purchased. Ever.

I’ve always acquired cars via other means: given to me by my dad in high school, married into ownership, quasi-inherited (which I sold within four months), and two cars were given to me as totally random blessings within a ten-month period. But I’ve never purchased one until now.

It was weird. Like, in some ways I didn’t know what to do. I shopped around casually for about three months. And I finally found exactly what I wanted in my price range after my mechanic gave it two thumbs up. I know how to purchase things where the price can be in question. I’m not a great haggler, but I know the gist of it, like refusing to get your heart set on anything, etc.

But little things, like I didn’t know the dealer took care of the license stuff at the courthouse. Duh. I guess that’s what “tax, title, and license” means. I’ve sold several cars to individuals and always assumed it was the buyer’s responsibility to do the title transfer, etc.

Also, the first afternoon it sat in my driveway I experienced a really weird american (or westernized) rite-of-passage, or possible celebration of materialism or something.

One by one, various neighbors came over to gawk, congratulate, or possibly celebrate that which is an individual obtaining a new vehicle. The Tiger and much of the Sanford clan, Mr. & Mrs. Mackey from across the street, even Obi-Wan appeared out of nowhere on his electric wheelchair to join in the hub-bub.

Many of my neighbors don’t get the option of buying nice things. So I really try not to flaunt anything that comes my way (not that I’d want to anyway). But since we live in an automobile-based society (US) and a truck-based state (Texas), it’s kind of hard to hide a vehicle on a driveway that only held one car for three years. Now there’s two.

It’s still weird, but I’m kind of thankful for my close neighbors to come out and congratulate me, as if I had accomplished something or whatever. I mean hey, they were the ones initiating this absurd celebration of the inanimate. So, thanks.

CEO – may this truck serve us and others well for years to come.


* - photo credit here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

life speak

Christianity and its surrounding culture is funny. Who would have thought I’d ever say that?

For starters, we believers feel it necessary to prove to the world around us that we are believers.

I’m not suggesting we hide our faith necessarily.

I am indeed asking why must we announce our faith with our mere words? And clothing? And fish symbol thingys on our cars?

Are our actions and overall lives not representative enough?

Fletch once stated that the more bumper stickers and/or t-shirts a person wears claiming a certain point, that they are really just trying to convince THEMSELVES of this point in addition to trying to convince others that this is who they are (how's that for a run-on sentence?). I believe him.

How about...showing christ just by the WAY we live. The things we do. What we spend time doing and who with. Where we spend and place our resources. The business deals we make. The things we have and don't have and give. The words that come out of our mouth...and from our computers.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

scenes

This was another Sanford backyard BBQ bash, which come often in the summer months.

The occasion this weekend was a birthday party for The Tiger, Jessie's boyfriend, and some little kid.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

the ironies of christian education III

Part III: Embracing the world's success culture.

To be a successful college, it must produce successful students. And that success is always defined by what the world around that college defines as “success”.

Both “success” and “failure” can be defined a number of different ways. And probably none of the definitions are wrong. Who knows.

But I’ve always wanted to know how Jesus’ words “the first shall be last, the last shall be first” fits into our success-driven christian education system and its parent host, the christian subculture.

In the alumni magazine for my former university, which I reluctantly receive in the mail every so often, it spotlights those former students who are leaders in their arenas of life and so-forth. And it would be a dichotomy to spotlight former students who had a moral blemish, personal failure, or even chose to hide their good acts from men. Thus, the unrealistic expectation of the christian culture upon its people generates the inevitable hypocrisy label on christians who “stumble and fall”. The culture holds unrealistic expectations on its people, thus they must save face and play along.

I have no answers or solutions to this, except maybe to have my contact information deleted from my alumni university and hope to fade away into relative obscurity. I would never want to be their poster child for successful alumni anyway.

So like usual, the only practical outlet I have is sarcasm. I wrote this comedy piece of things you would never find in the alumni magazine:

Top 10 listings you won't find in the Alumni University's 'Exxperiences' section:

10) Education Graduate [student name here] currently works as the principal of Jackson Elementary in downtown Denver, CO and was recently placed on administrative leave after her creation of the 'Beat and Don't Tell' program.

9) Successful dance choreographer [student name here] has choreographed several well-known Broadway musicals. In addition to staging a few MTV award ceremonies she has recently choreographed a Super Bowl Halftime show featuring the sister of M. Jackson.

8) Piano performance major [student name here] has recently taken a job playing Scott Joplin's 'The Entertainer' ad nausium through a nasally sounding bull horn while driving an ice cream truck as he tries to pay off "these damn student loans".

7) [student name here] is the founder of 'The Rainbow Alliance Court of His and Her Most Highness' in Portland, OR. If you have to ask you don't want to know.

6) [student name here] of Ogden, UT was recently married. His first, second and third wives approve of their new family member.

5) [student name here] has recently been nominated 'Inmate of the month' by Leavenworth, KS prison authorities.

4) [student name here], class of 1991, lives in his parent's basement and is the manager of 'Intergalactic Trading Cards, Comics and Collectables' which recently hosted an autograph session with Jeremy Bulloch (you know, Boba Fett from 'Star Wars' fame??). He has yet to kiss a girl.

3) [student name here] is the president of Wells Fargo Bank's Ft. Worth division, serves on the board for Habitat for Humanity and a local homeless mission, has a beautiful wife, 4 excellent kids, lives in a big house, drives a late model SUV, involved in several high yield investments that you probably wouldn't know anything about, and is an all around bad ass.

2) Bible graduate [student name here] has created his own church, The Ascension of the Blessed Holy Moly Cosmos of Greater Awakenings, located in the isolated foothills near Ft. Davis, TX. All are welcome, especially if you are young, female and directionless.

1) [AGENT B] is trying to fade away into relative obscurity. Please leave him the hell alone.

Friday, June 13, 2008

the social club (rant #645)


Thanks to my favorite humor blog for sharing this one.

"This is OUR social club parking lot...NOT a street! And please...join us this Sunday. All are welcome."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the social club (rant #472)

The kids and Agent Wife were on the computer this evening web-camming with their aunt. So I took the rare opportunity to walk the dog alone.

In our neighborhood, there are about 13 churches within walking distance. Most of them are located on two major east/west thoroughfares. Those two streets are about one block apart from each other. So, I think there’s like 13 churches on a 24 block area.

I call it “church alley”.

We walked down as far as this one Baptist church. I’ve always noticed that they own a property that was once some sort of fast food restaurant. On top of it there’s a big sign that says “coffee house”. But I rarely see any cars there. I figured it was their special youth group hang-out place.

This coffee house faces the main north/south thoroughfare in my part of the fair mother city. It’s a pretty run-down main drag that was once a major commerce area back in the 1970’s and beyond. There are mostly dollar stores, bingo halls, a bar, and convenience stores now.

For the first time ever, I was up close to the coffee house and I got to peek through the windows. Damn. It was real nice in there. Tiled floor. Recessed ceiling. Track lighting. Cool furniture. Dark, but homey atmosphere. Like a real quaint little cafĂ© hang-out place that wasn’t open for any real business. I don’t get it.

The only hours of operation I could find was a flyer on an inside wall advertising a men’s class on “Wild at Heart: Find man’s true life adventure” every Wednesday night at 7p in the coffee house.

But I looked at the parking lot. The entrances from the main north/south drag were chained off. The only way to this coffee house via car was to drive through the church’s parking lot, which bordered the coffee house.

My rant: why the hell have a big sign facing Main Street saying “Coffee House” if your parking lot is roped off? Like maybe this church was inviting the public to come...but not really?

Why the hell would you have the nicest looking quasi-business place in the entire neighborhood if it was just for your social club to use once a week? What kind of self-centered resources is that?

I don’t know anything anymore.