Monday, March 31, 2008

king of odd jobs

In the last three or four years, I have worked so many odd jobs to support our secret agent existence that I have lost track of them. I have no idea how big the number is.

Recently a huge ordeal happened in my life: I purchased some pro-line lawn equipment. This excites me. I like lawn gear. No, I'm not a nerd.

After borrowing equipment for two years (my 17-year old Honda bit the dust) I finally had the money to justify buying my own as I maintain both mine and Obi-Wan's yard.

And before I know it, people are driving by me while I'm mowing asking what I charge. So far I have two regular clients.

I use to mow yards when I was a teenager (14?). We all come full circle I guess.

So in addition to Pruning Boy and Handy Boy, I'm now also Lawn Boy. I don't mind being Lawn Boy as I'm getting close to 40. It keeps me young.

Let me see if I can think of my odd job resume...painter, shed builder, easy construction, dry waller, caterer, lawn boy, pruning boy, handy boy, cabinet maker's assistant, unique instrumental musician...

Oh yeah. I did a seasonal stint as a UPS man. That was funny.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

evang-e-droppings #013

It was a nice spring day on the elimination of evangelical aftermath path. Agent Offspring #2 joined me in her wagon. The scene went as usual.

There was a young man helping a young woman break into a car that I assume was hers. It looked like she may have locked the keys in it the night before at the club. We also ran into Little Wing. He didn't seem his normal self. Either he just woke up, was high, sick, doped up on mental meds, or something. But he was on his way to the Sally Ann for a meal, so not much circus mind chat.

We collected 29 tracts. A fairly below average number. This time around I employed a new maneuver: recycle the beer bottles collected.

I usually collect at least one or two small bags full. Instead of tossing them into one of the nearby trash bins, I now take them to the city's recycle bin.

This reflects me and my wife's new practice of recycling glass & cardboard at our house. I've never been overly sensitive to recycling, but I've never been against it either. That's probably a typical Texan's attitude.

I've always wished there was more incentive to recycle around here, like bottle deposits and so forth. Man, I accompanied my father-in-law once to a recycle center in Saskatchewan. He brought in like two or three bags of trash and left with $40! And most of that trash was not from his household.

Instead, I throw a few bottles in a bin that's a little out of my way and get jack. Oh well. No wonder my region looks like a dumpster.

*Photo credit here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

...of the earth

What is Jesus' declaration to mean: we are salt?

I like salt. If I'm going to eat junk food, I'd prefer a bag of chips over cookies or candy.

But we...are salt? What a peculiar analogy.

It's very prevalent. Almost has a bite. Yet you can barely see it dashed onto food with the naked eye. It's consistent, taste-wise throughout a plate.

Yet a lot of salt all at once tastes like crap. Like when someone plays a joke by unscrewing the salt shaker top without your knowing.

Are christ followers to be like small, consistent, bite-y hidden doses throughout the earth?

Monday, March 24, 2008

easter randoms

Agent Wife had a cool idea of having a grand lunch at our house easter Sunday and invite the neighbors and locals. The Sanfords and a few of their hanger-ons came, minus The Tiger and The Bulldog (I don’t see much of them anymore). Also, Obi-Wan came, which is the first time he’s been at our house since he went legless a year ago.

It was a pretty holiday-type meal: turkey (fixed by Agent Wife but provided by Obi-Wan), several thanksgiving-ish sides, green salad, watermelon, and peach cobbler with ice cream. I thought that meal was a good indicator of spring. Like leaving the cold holiday months (turkey) and entering the warmer months (watermelon).

Later that night we were invited to the nurse’s and chef’s house for dinner with some folks. I finally met the church admin in person.

Nurse and chef came back from vacation in Colorado and brought me back the coolest gifts: a both a poster and t-shirt of my favorite beer. They toured the New Belgium Brewery. I couldn’t believe it. This is like the best unexpected, undeserving, random gift I’ve ever received. Thanks!

Thank you CEO for a great weekend.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

the corporate man

One of the more interesting characters in the world of the agent b files is The Corporate Man.

Nobody would have ever matched the two of us up. We don’t look like the kind of guys that would hang around each other. He’s a fairly known businessman in town. His name and face are on billboards and such. This is odd because he’s the most quiet and extremely humble man I know. But the face recognition goes with his job. He has no choice.

The other day I saw his face on the side of a bus. I gave him hell for that one.

I’ve known of him loosely for several years. He use to be a heavy supporter of the izzy group ministry (that Agent Wife and I were once part of) and later served on its advisory board in what I’d consider a traditional deacon role (a resource finder).

In recent years, CM and I have slowly become friends in a coffee drinking sort of way. We gather once or twice a month for coffee. He chooses to keep active tabs on my family and our undercover role in the fair mother city. Much like a confidant or fellow agent in a different role, he knows much of my daily activities, asks hard questions, and so forth.

The Corporate Man is not a sugar daddy. I have never sought missionary support from him. However, he’s been overly generous by offering things like the use of his vehicle for out-of-town road trips to see our family. He also was one of the many donors in the Obi-Wan eyeglasses ordeal last summer.

So recently we met for coffee. I have been working on my master plan that earns cash and fights injustice simultaneously that has yet to be announced. CM is well aware of these plans and possibly wants to join in as a partner of sorts. So I found what I thought could be our first step in making this plan a reality.

CM could not join me in this first step. His excuse: he just paid for himself to go to bomb detonating school.

He wants to be a level one ammunitions expert and spend 30-60 days a year flying himself to war torn nations and help teams clear land mine fields. He doesn’t want poor kids losing limbs anymore.

My response: “Well...I guess that’s a good enough excuse to not join my master plan.”

Most people in CM’s line of work would spend 30-60 days a year out on a golf course. He hopes to be fully trained and sacrificing office time to eliminate the by-products of war. And he’d kill me if he knew I was writing about this on the internet. I think I’m one of five who know about this.

All the best to you Corporate Man. Glad you’re my confidant.

Monday, March 17, 2008

pruning boy #014


I think I almost died today. Or more likely, wound myself pretty bad.

The Son, The Dad, and I were doing some shrub trimming at someone’s house. The customers, an aging husband and wife, were there instructing our every move and bodily function.

At the last minute they decided for us to cut off a five-foot long stub of a limb on an oak tree. It was pretty thick (10-12 inches in diameter) and was left over from someone else’s hack job. It could be reached from a six-foot step-ladder, so The Son sent me up with our big saw, since he hired me over a year ago due to his inability to no longer climb ladders.

I made the routine pre-cuts on limbs that thick: one under cut to prevent peeling, then the first sweep before the final clean sweep.

I cut too far out on the first sweep (which I didn’t know not to), causing a long peel up to my undercut. That caused the heavy limb to swing way back and slap one of the ladder legs. The ladder flew out from under me.

There was nothing to grab on to. Plus, I had a running saw in my hand. I landed flat on my back. Somehow, my head missed the decorative bricks around the tree. And everyone said I quickly rolled out of the way of the saw and falling limb after I hit the ground. I don’t remember that.

But I do remember the four letter word that shot out of my mouth as I hit the ground. Maybe the saw was still running and nobody heard it.

I jumped up and walked away with a minor scratch on my forearm. I was shaken up a bit, but got back up in the tree and finished the final sweep.

Every morning before going to work at Son & Dad Tree Service, Inc. I pray for the CEO to protect me from harm. I chalk this up to an answered prayer if not a small miracle.

Thank you CEO.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

this old tiller

Shaggy did a good job. The tiller runs well with the replaced motor. Of course it was leaking oil like crazy when I brought it home, but I found the two bolts he forgot to tighten.

I finally went and tilled up Obi-Wan’s garden spot. I’ll probably do it again before we plant next month.

Obi-Wan was excited. He was glued to the glass door watching (and critiquing) me tilling his garden, which is hands-down the best soil on the block.

I couldn’t prove this, but I swear I saw tears in his eyes as I worked.

I don’t know if that was because he was seeing his 35 year-old tiller being used after rising from the dead. Or maybe he’s happy to live to see another spring garden planting. Or, maybe the reality of having only one leg has finally hit and there’s no more fantasizing about getting out in the dirt again.

Or maybe all three. Or something totally different.

Monday, March 10, 2008

black (or white) like jazz

I never cared much for liturgical rituals and so forth.

Years ago Agent Wife and I rented an apartment from a woman who was Jesus-oriented and deeply into her Episcopal church and all of their routines. During easter week she would invite us to all the special services and explain the significance of each ordeal. Agent Wife was very fascinated by it all. I would rather stick my crotch in a waffle iron for four hours than to ever do that again.

I don’t know why I have a mild aversion to rehearsed rituals and/or orthodoxies, whether extreme or mild.

Thankfully in the last few years of my existence, I’ve seen that faith in Jesus amongst many believers is kind of mosaic-like (for lack of a less-trendy analogy). Every person, church, denomination, theological branch, movement, or whatever has something to bring to that proverbial table.

During a brief meeting almost a year ago, I became a fan of Mother Beverly and her cohorts. They live in some kind of monk-like lifestyle amongst their neighbors in a poorer area of Beverly, MA. Thank you Mo Bev and crew for upholding your liturgical outreach of sorts.

I’m also a fan of all kinds of jazz and various improvisational music outlets. There’s something about the unknown that is attractive. Although jazz is quite structured, its music charts are often short if not vague. Twelve written bars of music can equate to 45 minutes of performance. The start is often clear, but listening to and being dependent on the other players is how you reach the end. The song can last two minutes or two hours. It can be a honeymoon experience or pure hell. Or both.

Some are on a path to Jesus via Handel. Some, Sun Ra.

I guess the CEO made us all different and allowed us different avenues. Thank god.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Finally, I had opportunity to interact with a legend of the fair mother city.

Shaggy is the kind of guy a novel should be written about. I don’t know too much about him and he seems kind of private, but I’m sure he’s got a good story. When you see him driving around town, you can’t miss him.

He’s a short, small, red-headed bearded guy who looks like a cross between a homeless leprechaun who just woke up and a gas station mechanic. Many people hire him for lawn maintenance or small engine repair. Even Obi-Wan had dealings with him years ago.

Shaggy use to drive around town in this huge, gigantic brown van that seemed to be held together with duct tape, bailing wire, and chewing gum. The van was basically a tool shed on wheels. It hauled multiple lawn mowers and various landscaping equipment as well as every grease-covered tool known to man. This is fact because he maintains a couple of lawns in my neighborhood and I’ve watched him fix mowers from the back bumper of the van. But now he drives around some small Pontiac car. The mowers hang out of the trunk.

Word on the street is that Shaggy is the best small engine mechanic in the fair mother city. Or at least, he gives you the best price.

A year ago Obi-Wan gave me a 30-something year-old tiller with a 5 HP engine. He hasn’t been able to operate it for a few years plus I used it to till his garden and mine. So he gave it to me, like an inheritance or something. And unfortunately, after it officially sat in my shed for two weeks, I went to till Obi-Wan’s garden and it shot a rod. That means: buy a new engine or get a new tiller.

So last summer I saw Shaggy mowing a yard near my house and I asked him if he could find a good used Briggs & Stratten 5HP tiller with a side-shaft. “I’ve got three of ‘em in the house”.

I discovered he was being literal. As in: he had three used engines “in” his house as opposed to “in” a garage or “in” a shed. I got a glimpse through his back door. His house looked like jawa heaven with weed-eaters, motors, and parts decorating the walls and ceiling. I'm sure he had engines in the bath tub too. Most every square inch of his back yard was covered in motor parts like a wrecking yard. It was awesome.

Last summer he quoted me a $50 price to buy the engine with installation. Sold.

Unfortunately, last summer he lost my number and I didn’t track him down because soon after I couldn’t spare the cash until recently.

Wow. I actually got to interact with the legendary Shaggy and see where he lives. For years I assumed he lived out of his van. He in fact lives in a real run-down, forgotten neighborhood tucked away on the wrong side of the creek from my alumni university. I always found it interesting, if not somehow prophetic, how wealth and poverty are always separated by some simple physical boundary like a creek, railroad, prominent street, etc. I never know why that is.

Shaggy is a tradesman and entrepreneur in the poverty culture. He hustles for a buck and does it well. All the best to you, pal.

Monday, March 03, 2008

slowly getting experienced

I’ve had some opportunities to spend time with Little Wing recently. Getting to know him is tough.

He’s obviously got mental issues and so forth. Some Christ followers might call those issues “demons”. I don’t know which they are. I think mental illness and demons are one in the same. But if he’s got demons, then they’re pretty friendly demons. I’ve never heard of Little Wing lashing out or hurting anyone. He’s a very nice, quiet, polite, effeminate guy in cool Hendrix-style clothing.

I frequented the Jedi Counsel Room three times in the last week (that’s way more than usual). Little Wing was there twice so we hung together, shared Nat Shermans, and I pretended to understand his random conversational nonsense from his circus mind that’s running round.

I still like his answer to my “what kind of music do you like” question: bio-rhythms. That’s got to be some cool sounding music.

Through some sort of freak accident, but more likely an orchestration of the CEO himself, Little Wing joined my family and I for dinner one night. We just finished some smokes, err, Jedi business. He was headed to the Salvation Army for dinner. I offered him a ride. Then halfway there I realized hey, I’m headed home for dinner. Why not join us. And bingo: a dinner guest.

It’s no big deal. We’re not super mother teresas or anything. We’ve had homeless friends over before. Normally I wouldn’t write about this action blatantly, but I think his acceptance of my momentary invitation is pointing to some major signs of trust Little Wing has towards me, thus possibly a friendship.

What’s even more trustful-looking is that he let me see where he lives (since I had to drop him off somewhere after dinner). A dwelling place for a homeless person is the upmost private information. Even a simple camp in the mesquite scrub brush near the tracks may be the only privacy they have. Plus they fear danger or theft (like anyone else) should their camp become known.

Little Wing took me to the driveway of an abandoned-looking house in a legendary low-income neighborhood. It’s possible that he receives a monthly government check, being a mental case and all. Therefore, he could be paying rent. But it didn’t sound like any utilities were on. I’m pretty sure he’s squatting. I think he’s done it before elsewhere. And if he’s squatting, then he must really trust me to know he’s living there illegally.

CEO – thanks for these inroads with Little Wing. Take care of him on the streets and in the cold, dark house.

*Graphic credit here.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

warmed-over nonsense*

*a quote that recently slipped out of my mouth...and it WASN’T premeditated. I swear I made it up on the spot. Also a good title for a random potpourri of reports...

All is well in the agent household. Despite a random rash on Agent Offspring #1’s body (that we can’t find the cause of yet), all of us are long over our illness and back to normal energy levels.

For the last five months our finances have been stronger than ever. There has always been money in the bank one way or another. We can’t go out and buy a new mini-van or anything, but we’ve always got money to pay whatever bill is due and buy groceries and etc.

Agent Wife began watching two little boys in January for 3 days a week. We actually have a small consistent monthly pay.

This is a far cry from a year ago when we got down to our last $17 bucks and no hope in sight. All we had was our communications to the CEO. He always provided at precise moments back then.

But these days, every time I turn around someone is offering me a handy-man job, temp job, or music gig. Or better yet, in true Uncle George form, some random anonymous envelope of cash gets mailed to me. So I pray “where is this money to go?”, because for once we have our needs met abundantly. Sometimes I hear small instructions, but nothing grand that I know of. Thank you CEO.


In the temp job vein, I recently began working for the nurse’s husband the chef, who really needs his own agent-blog if you ask me. He has much more to say in the mission of Jesus vs. Sunday social club arena than I do. If you can believe that.

It’s a good gig. And the chef is deserving of the coveted agent b Employer Spotlight award solely based on my being supplied with good beer while I work. That may put him at first place indefinately.

It’s a high-end catering gig that puts me within the bowels of wealth within this West Texas region. The upper-class environment is not foreign to me as I’ve teetered on its edge due to many music gigs I play dating back to gigging in the brass section of the local philharmonic years ago. And I've had a few social acquaintances in that realm.

But from a food-service angle within the wealthy class’s private lairs, I’m receiving viewpoints that I haven’t been able to process yet. Maybe some other day.


There is a new “worker” sharing the migrant worker seat with me at Son & Dad Tree Service, Inc. Young Buck is just that: a 20-something college grad student who was recently married and has much energy. Finally, big pruning jobs that would take me and the two old men all morning now only take a couple of hours. And I don’t mind losing an hour or so of pay since it saves my energy level and sanity.

Nothing is for sure, but I see the end of my days with Son & Dad in sight. I just observed my one-year anniversary with this employment and who knows, maybe I’ll be there another 12 months (PLEASE CEO...NOOOO!). Something tells me my days as Pruning Boy are numbered. I don’t know how big or small that number is. Nor am I ready to explain my vagueness on the subject.

But it’s comforting to know that a replacement for me is already in place, should the need be.