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


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.

Monday, June 09, 2008

observe: exhibit "c"

In case you, dear reader, thought that I have exaggerated about the christian dogmatic personality of the fair mother city over the last three years on these reports...

Here is a fair example from the local newspaper column section.

Granted, it was written by an elderly man wishing for the good 'ole days of 1962 in West Texas. And since life was grand for white christian men back then, I guess his perspective is legit. I guess.

So far, none of the articles ten comments stand with the writer's view. I'm particularly a fan of the comment after mine, that basically says: "yeah...1962...our local christian colleges didn't even allow black students back then. What did your Japanese visitors think of THAT?"

Sunday, June 08, 2008

evang-e-droppings #015

There was a new junior agent who assisted on the Evang-e-droppings eradication operation this weekend. He seems uninterested in social-club faith and very interested in realty dealings with affordable housing as the primary objective. Sound right up my ally.

In addition to the above average number of tracts collected (51), we also found: half a sheet of first-class “forever” stamps, and a $20 bill, which we split.

As stated before: who says agent work doesn’t pay?

We ran into Jones and got to talk to him briefly. I’ve only met him one other time way back in October.

The new junior agent asked me a good question: why do I pick up tracts? Or what makes me want to pick them up?

It’s a fair question and one I ask myself often. But I never know how to answer it. I guess I collect them because, no one else does. Or, the messy litter of evangelical aftermath is a lousy testimony. Or better yet, I’m embarrassed of the printed messages that people read on these, so the fewer that read them, the better.

Or all of the above.

I don’t know exactly why I continue with this operation. I do enjoy the outing. And when I’m out collecting alone, it’s decent communication levels are clearer to the CEO had I stayed home with two toddlers. So it goes.

I guess I’ll keep at it until something freezes over.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

state of the union

To those of you who have read these agent b files reports from a year ago and beyond, I believe I am a different person compared to back then. I think my faith is growing due to experience and choosing to not dwell on the world’s values that surround me.

There has not been any trials-of-fire as of late. Even our concern over funding the delivery of Offspring #3 is diminishing as we have high hopes of qualifying for a state health program. I no longer feel like a whiner in this desert ear of my family’s life.

I work for part-time hourly pay in a manual labor role with a local tree service run by a micro-managing version of Homer Simpson and his dad. And I’m fine with that.

I mow yards in my neighborhood like I did back in Houston when I was 14. Now I’m nearing 40. And I’m OK with that.

Occasionally I land a paying music gig for my niche act. Sometimes I wonder how my life would have evolved had I followed my heart twelve years ago and moved to Austin to follow these pursuits. But I’m OK where I’m at.

I have a semi-goofy sounding plan to flip houses in hopes of earning a better living while not being tied to a company’s schedule and possible alleviating some ounce of injustice in the process. I have financial backing, but little experience in general trades and carpentry. I scramble over to do volunteer experience-gaining labor in between other odd jobs and various agent and family duties. It seems ridiculous, but I have faith it will pay off. And I’m OK with this.

Occasionally I serve food with a local catering company to some of the region’s wealthier people. The patrons give me an aloof glare if they don’t recognize the food immediately or if I interrupt their conversation with a plate placement. I’m fine with this.

Agent Wife watches two small boys in addition to our own two toddlers three days a week. She teaches a class at a local gym twice a week and has worked the grounds for some wedding photographer friends of ours.

Agent Wife has a masters degree and I have an undergrad degree in an art related field. We’re OK with this.

We are OK with our lives because we have embraced our role and our calling in this life and have stopped comparing ourselves with the success-driven culture.

And I’m convinced there is more to this secret agent story to come...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

the ironies of christian education II

The hierarchy of sins

Maybe this is not so much an irony as it is a weird fact.

In all vast christian subcultures there is an understood hierarchy of sins. Christian schools and campuses are certainly no exception.

All christians state something to the effect of all sins being equal. But our actions and christian subcultures say otherwise. Fine. So it goes.

For example: being a homosexual is a worse “sin” than being an obese gluttonous pastor milking widows out of their meager earnings. That list can go on and on.

Christian institutions, such as universities and schools, almost write in the hierarchy of sins within their student handbooks. Random, undocumented examples that I’m pulling out of my butt are as follows: students are not allowed to have sexual relations with each other outside of marriage, students are not allowed to drink alcohol on OR OFF campus, etc.

Back in the late eighties, my alumni university had an underground joke that went something like...our school is the only place that a guy will get kicked out of school for sleeping with a girl. But if a guy sleeps with a guy he’ll get counseling. That joke is tacky and probably inaccurate, but it embodied the gist of this university’s culture.

Maybe the student handbooks of these universities should go all the way: ban gossiping, gluttony, idolatry and so forth.