Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Countdown to THE BIG DAY

It's almost here and I can hardly wait.

No, not solstice.

No, not Christmas.

No, not 2007.

We are less than three weeks away to the move to TWO SERVICES on Sunday Morning. Yeehaw!

No, I'm not kidding. This is great news. We have wonderful reasons for expanding our services and great goals. The primary reason we have for the expansion is, well, expansion. We have one hundred more people in attendance on Sundays in our services than last year at this time. I can't imagine a more fortunate reason.

Our goals include being more welcoming to new people by having more available seating and easier parking. We also hope to be safer for people of all ages by having more room to maneuver and meet people in the lobby and at coffee hour. We also want to make sure that we are always aware of safety issues for emergency exit, and less people in the Great Hall at one time will definitely help with that concern.

For the past three weeks we have had listening posts after the service where people could come with their concerns about this change. We have posted this feedback and our responses in the lobby and on handouts. Thank you to all the people who shared their concerns, ideas, and excitement in these meetings. I believe your comments and suggestions will help to make the transition smooth and successful.

On January 7, 2007 we will begin having two services at 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM. The services will have the same content. There will be religious education for children and youth during both services. There will be two coffee hours. Please help to make this a success by trying out the 9:00 AM service at least once a month for the first six months.

This is a change and religious communities are not known for their relaxed comfort with change, but we have such a wonderful reason! Personally, I am delighted that we will be able to offer more to our community. I am also delighted by the involvement of our members and friends and all the newcomers who are in regular attendance. This is an exciting time in the life of our church.

See you on Sunday!

Veteran Cabbie

I was in NYC last week checking on a friend who was briefly back in the US from Cairo. I had several NYC adventures. I seem to be incapable of traveling there without adventures. The friend I went to see would say that I am incapable of traveling ANYWHERE without adventures. You see why I’ve kept her around for over 15 years.

Anyway, as I was leaving town I splurged and took a cab to the airport. I had a loquacious cabbie as my escort. In the first five minutes I thought a few uncharitable thoughts, I am ashamed to admit. I wanted to ride in silence. I was very tired, homesick for my family, sad to be leaving my friends, and a little carsick. My cabbie wanted to talk politics and religion. In depth.

“Just my luck,” I thought, “a well-read, extrovert cabbie with a yen for heady gab.” And a very difficult accent to decipher to boot. He was raised in Pakistan and, although American for 20 years, he still had a very thick accent. There would be no partial attention for this man. It was all or nothing. Then he said something that really grabbed me.

Think in a very thick Pakistani accent. Got it? Now read on.

He said, “As I tell my friends at the VFW, our country must be careful in these areas.”

Now that's something I don't hear every day. Turns out my talkative taximan served in Desert Storm in the US Navy. He reminded me of the incredibly diverse men and women with whom my husband served. When he was in, there were Samoans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans in greater concentrations than represented in the general population. At the time this upset me, because I felt it was illustrative of how some cultures are pigeon-holed into the most dangerous professions. After meeting my cabbie, I do not completely abandon that earlier presumption, but I've realized that the draw to military service is a more complex combination of factors.

My husband went into the military for the education benefits. I was interested in the military because I had so many relatives who were veterans. (Ultimately, my service was only as a military spouse. ) My cabbie said that he was so proud to be an American, he considered serving in his country's military an imperative.

I am now a pacifist. The cabbie, although a proud and active VFW member, is completely against this Iraq war. I do not know what became of the mixing bowl of people with whom my husband served. I can only hope the best, but in that speeding, swerving car what stood out to me was that we all had a shared American experence: the military. The cabbie and I came out of it with many of the same conclusions, in spite of our differences in age, religion, gender, and culture. The wake of war leaves strange patterns, but meeting him reminded me that not all of them are awful.

I am grateful to that talkative lead-footed man for pointing this out to me. I only wish I had pointed out that thing called a turn signal to him.

Hooray for Rhonda

Anyone know who Rhonda is? There are signs in various spots right off the highway near church that say “Rhonda” and have an arrow pointing toward Carytown. These signs have piqued my curiosity, my imagination, and my hope for love and romance in this rough world.

I have imagined countless scenarios. Rhonda is the internet sweetheart who has driven cross country to be with her yet-to-be-met beloved. The signs are so she can’t possibly get lost back into the Ethernet.

Rhonda is the long lost sister who is coming home reluctantly, so the family puts out signs, not to show her the way because she knows the way, but to let her know they really want her back. The signs are to give the prodigal encouragement to complete the journey back.

Rhonda is the friend with memory loss who has trouble finding her way. Rhonda is the woman met in a bar whose number you never gave or received, so you put out signs to bring her back to you. Rhonda is the birth mother, the surrogate, the midwife, the vixen. When Rhonda comes, all will be well again. Rhonda is loved.

I don’t know who Rhonda is but I hope she knows how lucky she is. People don’t hand-paint wooden signs for just anyone. Whoever she is, I hope she is appreciative. Then again, maybe she isn't and the signs are pointing her to the place where she will be made a better person. If only we all could be so lucky to have the way spelled out for us on street signs.




See? I just can't stop.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Parenting Insanity

I have been in conversation with many of our parents of young children lately. Usually this occurs when we have been thrown together in some toddler or pre-schooler whirlwind like the Halloween party, a spontaneous celebration of the Chicken Dance, or outside the polls. Or else it is via email at strange hours between feedings. (Ours or the children's - take your pick.)

A consistent theme of conversation is: insanity. In trying to be good parents, kind neighbors, responsible workers, loving family members, and civic minded people... we have completely lost our minds. We do things we swore we would never do (Krispy kreme drive-thru). We think things that are too shameful to share ("What would life have been like if I had become a dancer for Prince's world tours?") And we all share the same dream (Maybe one day I will be less tired.)

The day your first child is born is also the day an exponentially larger birth occurs - the birth of guilt. First time baby falls and bleeds - 10 lbs guilt. Baby's First French Fry - 10 lbs guilt, and some trans fat to boot. First missed family gathering due to baby's sleep schedule... third cancelled out of town trip due to family illness and exhaustion... umpteenth article recommended by good friend that goes unread... the un-vacuumed rooms, the delayed professional plans, the loss of cool, the gain of weight... GUILTY. And I think, it is the guilt that drives us over the edge of the sane world and into gonzo parenthood.

We are looking for balance, particularly those of us who became parents after 30 and had known some balance in our previous lives. Our pre-parenthood standards are often based on mature and in depth interaction with other adults. Now we no longer meet the standards of pre-parenthood because the bulk of our psychic and physical energy is channeled toward keeping these hungry, precious, delicate, beautiful, and maddening little bundles of future safe and, when possible, happy. Instead of heady conversation, raucous celebration, or feats of strength on the athletic field, we're amazed if we get together on any occasion other than wee one birthday fetes. It's hard to be intellectual, raucous, or athletic when eating off Barney the purple dinosaur plates. Insanity is the only viable response.

To all the other parents of small children, I say - you are not alone. Yes, you have lost your mind, but you are not alone. Maybe one day we will know sanity again. I doubt it. There is another universe, though, and while we are here let's boldly go where women really do say, "Take that diaper off your sister's head this minute." This is a place where men given the choice between sexual interaction and intellectual betterment, choose neither and take a nap. In this universe success is a day without a trip to the ER. Joy means someone only had three crying meltdowns in public. And nutritional guidelines are relative.

To the rest of you I say: My entire family has been felled by an intestinal flu and my house has only one bathroom. You're darn skippy I haven't had time to blog.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

One Man, One Woman

It's Election Day and here in Virginia we are again celebrating 400 years of bigotry and intolerance. And because we can't seem to come up with new ways, we're resorting to our old tricks of bad law.

On the ballot today is the misguided and misnamed marriage amendment. Then again, maybe I am being too harsh. After all, calling it the "We hate all gays and lesbians, unmarried couples, people who live together, anyone who tries to make a contract with someone else, elderly couples who do not get married by law because of the financial hardships it would cause, people of different religions, and all you cretins we don't really know - but KNOW we don't really like, oh yeah and your kids, too. We hate your kids." amendment wouldn't fit so nicely on a sticker at the State Fair.

One man, one woman? Fine with me, that's your business. My religion believes otherwise, but I respect your freedom to hate in the name of the Prince of Peace. But it has almost nothing to do with this amendment.

And a brief PS - turns out that presiding over the lovely wedding of Amber and Sarah last month is a misdemeanor. And here I had thought that the only law I had broken was wearing the wrong shoes after 5PM.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Another Word or Two on American Dumpster

For those of you who come to this site for local music news, I did have the pleasure of seeing Charlottesville-legends-in-the-making American Dumpster again tonight.

As predicted in the 9/25 posting here, some implosion has occurred. There have been some changes in the band's lineup since last month. Tonight's show offered a new bassist and new keyboardist. The bassist has played with Corey Harris and TR3 and is a force of nature. He does that cool bassist thing of hardly moving at all while changing the pattern of your heartbeat. Kind of Zen if you ask me.

The keyboardist had the musical gifts, but was missing that Dumpster moxie. Much of the Dumpster voodoo is centered on their unique and intense interaction with each other and the audience. If you're gonna' play with this band, you need to be down with that volatile and beautiful mojo. That said, I look forward to seeing what happens with the lineup in coming months.

You should, too. Turn off your television. Put down that issue of the New Yorker. Stop listening to that same old tired Paul Simon CD from the '80s and get your fanny out to hear some live music. American Dumpster is never the same twice. You never know what you'll get, and that is half the fun.

Tonight they were laid back on a rainy night in Richmond. I've seen them blowing the ceiling ot of Bogart's Back Room with their energy. Some of my buds have seen them verge on levitation at times, and at others almost splatter into an unrecognizable pile of random instrument fragments.

Moody, infectious, unpredictable, addictive. Now that's music.

Outed at American Dumpster show... and everywhere else

The day started off really mellow. I packed my very first lunch for my son. (He stood at my elbow piping up with encouraging comments like, "You're doing good work, mama.") My daughter and I spent three hours with my hair performance artist, Melissa. I had good soup for lunch... a mellow day all in all.

And then I was outed.

Over and over I was outed by different people on different things - the cumulative effect being a complete and total creepout on my part. I felt like everywhere I went I was recognized today. It was disconcerting.

Part of this is due to last night's airing of "Irreconcilable Differences" a PBS documentary on the proposed amendment to the VA Constitution. I had a small part in it, but managed not to look the fool. My congregation and others gave me all kinds of positive reinforcement, which was the highlight of the day.

I also saw people at various establishments and venues who recognized me from any number of events or connections. But that is just typical Richmond. Live here as long as I have, and that will happen to you on a daily basis, too.

But the killer was meeting the frontman for American Dumpster. We've met in passing several times, but tonight was the first time we have had a conversation. When he sat down beside me I thought, "Cool. I can't wait to ask him how Floyd Fandango was. Or we can talk about the contrast between the C-ville and Richmond music scenes. Or maybe I'll ask that burning question about the lyrics in..."

None of that happened. Within 90 seconds he said, "You're the reviewer."

"Um, no... I..."

"Five Bands in Two Nights?" (See my 9/25 posting)

"Yeah. How did you... uh...?"

"Hunh. I thought you were a dude. Weird. Check your comments. I sent you one a day or two ago."

"Oh! I... Er..." And with that the conversation was over. He went up to do his Dumpster voodoo and I sat there pondering the power of words and technology. It's some freaky stuff.

Just in case this is the beginning of a trend in my life now that I have put my Luddite ways behind me, let me just get a few things out there in the ether and see what happens...

1) I am counting the days until the Lucero concert at Alley Katz on Nov.15 and would be happy to shine the band's shoes or make them cookies.

2) A trip to Venice would not spoil me.

3) My congregation would REALLY like a $60,000 music program and just 5 philanthropists could make it happen.

So there you go. A few wishes out there. Feel free to send me yours.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Adventure Circle - Guest Blogger

I invited a guest blogger to chronicle the latest outing of the Adventure Circle. Doug is a grown man with the spirit of a four year old imp, at least so his wife and my four year old imp say. Doug showed unbelievable enthusiasm and creativity in our "fun and games" activity and here's what he has to say about it all...

So, the Adventure Circle had a laid back, close-to-the-Church-in-the-park outing last weekend. Small but jovial group, taking advantage of the minutes before the outing to take a second (or first!) look at Gallery (our church's mammoth annual juried art show). Some enjoying the beauty of the art, others jealous because they don't have a creative bone in their bodies, and still others exhibiting a little of both...

Off to the park on a BEAUTIFUL fall day. The tone for the day was set by Seymour (a stuffed animal, but oozing inherent worth and dignity) who proved that he could jump and run just like the human giants. Seymour came to our world from that famous toy store called Moopsie...gotta check that place out.

Well if Seymour can be a real adult, we adults can be real kids! When it come to games, The Rev. and her Little Man (age 4) come up with endless variations on old themes, just to keep things fresh. Harder to do with old bones than with young ones! Some really lame singing that we won't go into here. Hide and seek brings out everyone's true colors . Some are just doing their best to hide (OK, Rev., the crouching down in the middle of the field wasn't really trying...).
Others are transported into the world of camouflaged Army Rangers hiding from the enemy troops...doing anything to disguise their whereabouts, looking under the bark for bugs for nutrition if they are stranded in their hiding place for days on end before they can be rescued...Oh... Seymour found me.

Oh well, back to reality. It was a nice escape...

Members of the group greet each other on Sunday, not to say what a wonderful time they had, but to admit quietly to each other that their muscles really hurt after all of that! Betcha Seymour was doing fine...

Another Better Way To Remember

Notes from the Exhibit Hall of the Annual National Funeral Directors' Convention, part 5

It was inevitable. You had to know that technology was going to eventually insert itself into American death rituals. It should be a surprise to no one. Right? Well, guess what? The techno-revolution is being vehemently resisted by many funeral directors, particularly those in ole' Virginny. I have no fear in writing that because this is a BLOG. Those in question don't even know what a BLOG is.

"Hey, Buford. Isn't a blog one of those arterial things that messes with the embalming process?"
"Naw, Winslow. A blog is that smell when there's too much water underground at the cemetery."

To all the techno-savvy funeral directors, Bufords, and Winslows out there, please accept my apologies. I don't mean you, but YOU know who I'm talking about. These guys just got a fax machine to send their handwritten obits to the newspaper. These are the guys who still only let women answer the phones or do the hair at the funeral home. Cutting edge to them is piping in some music on a... GASP!... CD during the visitation hours. And there are DOZENS of them in Virginia and thousands elsewhere. You know if a Luddite like yours truly is rolling her eyes at them, they gotta' be pathetic.

So Little Miss Luddite galavanted off to the National Funeral Directors' Convention looking for some twenty-first century innovations to bring back to the hinterlands. It would appear that the horizon line of innovation in the funeral industry is web remembrance companies. And, as with the other installments in this series, I think I found the most UU friendly of the bunch. There were 15 web-related exhibitors in the program. I found two favorites, but they are very different.

From the creator of monster.com is www.eons.com. This website caters to all things for the over 50 crowd. It's a hip site and has hip marketing. Not a hint of fogey as far as I could tell. One aspect of the site is the obit/memorial section. This appeared relatively easy to use and appealed to the low-tech in me. The obit/memorial area of the site has many purposes and is worth a browse to see if your high school nemesis is still alive, to check out the archives for your grandma's obit from 1983, or to find how obits are written if you have neither a paper nor a funeral director handy. (Personally, I strive never to be without one or the other.)

The company that really lit me up, though, was www.TimelessMemories.com. Now, you may go to the site and be wondering what on earth I'm talking about, so let me give you a little tutorial about the possibilities first. This company offers two options - a web memory repository and a tangible book (available in different styles and formats. ) The web part can include stories, memories, music, and photos. The books put the photos and some of the writings together. It sounds really simple, but the possibilities are very powerful.

First, this is very helpful for out-of-towners, those who missed the service, or people who find out much later about the death. The order of service, the eulogy, stories from friends, the obituary, and photos can all be posted.

Secondly, many sites do not offer the possibilities for input and creativity that Timeless Memories does. Be sure to check out the sample memorial they have, but bring your hankies. It was designed by the mother and sister of a young man who died this year, presumably by suicide. I teared up looking at it in the exhibit hall. It is very personal, much more so than other sites are willing to be. But, fear not, your entry is also password protected.

Finally, and most importantly, this company is relatively new and they are creative thinkers. When I approached their chief technology officer, Aaron Kelley, and asked him what kind of non-traditional elements could be added for Unitarian Universalists, he was not only open but enthusiastic. This company appears to be willing to investigate what we would be interested in, and designing things accordingly. In other words, less gulls and crosses at sunset, more Emerson quotes and multicultural influences.

As for the books TimelessMemories offer, they are lovely in person. Think Hollywood biography in their look. Very professional. See my previous post "A Better Way to Remember" for why on earth you would want a book.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Better Way to Remember

Notes from the floor of the Annual National Funeral Directors' Convention part 4

She was really thrilled to meet me. In a relieved gasp she cried, “You get IT!” I think maybe some of the funeral directors were not getting IT. She had spent two days in a giant exhibit hall trying to explain IT to hundreds of people who don't get IT. She was right: I get IT. In fact I get it so much I incorporate IT into some of my presentations to funeral directors and... they still don't get IT.

The IT in question is scrapbooking for funerals. Lots of people don't get it. Funeral directors, families, other church members don't understand why anyone would want a scrapbook instead of a register book, or a scrapbook at all. They haven't seen her scrapbooks for one thing. Jacqueline Bokor and her company TheirLifeStory design, manufacture, and sell stunningly beautiful scrapbooks for funerals and memorial services. Here's a little crash course in why anyone would want one of these books.

Generally the family has three sources of contact with those offering their condolences.
1) There are cards and flowers which arrive for the service or at the home.
2) There are face-to-face visits which are supplemented by signing one's name in a register book at a visitation or at the service.
3) Then there are calls and emails.

In reverse order I'll give you the reasons I believe bereaved loved ones are better served by a scrapbook than by all of these.

Calls and emails are the easiest way for the comforter to offer their comfort and condolences, but they can be a real hassle to the bereaved. The phone rings off the hook. Who has time to check email with all the other necessary tasks after a death? Then, when they do get on the phone or on the email, the bereaved has two choices:
1) be authentic at the risk of not finishing sentences, suddenly crying, or not making sense; or 2) comfort the comforter by making the call as easy for the caller as possible. "We're OK. No, we don't need anything. Yes, we love you, too."

I don't know anyone who wants to inflict this choice intentionally on a grieving person. Calls and emails are good if brief and well-timed, but they are not enough.

Face-to-face visits are optimal for many reasons, but they have the drawback of impaired human memory in a time of crisis. If you have ever been through the death of someone close, you may know how nice it is to see people and hear their thoughtful words. It is also nearly impossible to remember at a later date what they said, or sometimes if they were even there. So one goes to a register which offers nothing but names, half of which you can't read or don't recall how they knew Mama in the first place.

Which brings us to cards and flowers. These are good because they last for awhile, are tangible, and can be referred to as many times as needed. As UUs, however, we often have trouble finding cards appropriate to our beliefs and many UUs feel flower tributes are wasteful. Enter the scrapbook.

The way Jacqueline's company does it is - people who would like to leave a special message for the family are given an envelope addressed to the family. Inside the envelope is an elegant piece of paper on which to write a memory of the deceased. There is also some cardboard to protect the paper from the voracious postal machines that eat mail. People are encouraged to take these home and think awhile before writing and sending back to the family.

In the following days and weeks, the envelopes start coming back at the same time as some of the more unpleasant mailings one gets after a death. Each day, memories and well wishes of friends and family start showing up at the door. These are then compiled and easily create a beautiful book. The result is more than a scrapbook. It becomes an archive of who someone was to those who loved them.

The grieving family can look at the words of their friends and loved ones when they are ready to. They will be able to absorb what others have to say more fully. They will also be able to feel whatever feelings come up from the sharing of these words in the privacy of their own home while looking through the book. And the book can be shared with those who couldn't come to the funeral, or in years to come with those who were too young to remember.

These scrapbooks are much nicer than any I've seen in catalogues, scrapbook stores, or craft shops. They were designed by professional artists and it shows. They are very classy and dignified with a nineteenth century beauty about them. You want to touch and to open these books. I have been doing scrapbooks with some of my families for years now, and Jacqueline's books are infinitely better.

Although you won't get the full effect, check them out at www.TheirLifeStory.com. And if you like them, send Jacqueline an email. She'll be glad to know someone else gets IT.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Urns: There IS something better than Tupperware!

Notes from the Floor of the Annual National Funeral Directors' Convention, Part 3

As a UU minister, I took particular interest in the urn displays of the annual convention of the National Funeral Directors’ Association. With the majority of UUs choosing cremation, and the paucity of appropriate and UU friendly container choices in my region, I was on a mission to find some good urns. Mission accomplished.

There were many absolutely beautiful urn displays on the floor of the exhibit hall. Glass is big this year with Italian and Czech styles being the most beautiful and least likely to scream from your mantle: “Granny’s in HERE!” Metal continues to look cold and sterile, and even sometimes like a bloated martini shaker. Wooden boxes are still wooden boxes. But I am pleased to say, there is more out there. Much more. Below are the best urns I found and the artisans who create them. I have included contact information and web addresses.

In the Pottery urn category, I was incredibly impressed by the beauty of the burnished urns of Pennsylvania’s own David Greenbaum. David has been a potter for decades, but has only recently turned to making urns. Instead of glazes, he uses a burnishing technique best known in Native American pottery and created by rubbing a stone across the surface of the pottery to bring varying degrees of polish out.

Some of his urns have carving that has a Southwest Native American feel to it. But his vessels are not copies nor are they derivative. In the firing process Greenbaum burns leaves and other natural products to give the clay effects that look like grass as seen through water, or curly maple patterns, or even markings that look like Japanese calligraphy. What I liked about these vessels was their unique beauty (no two are the same), but also how they are evocative of living things. See David's work on his website www.GreenbaumStudios.com or at his store in Milford, PA.

In the wood category, there was a Georgia wood artist who made stunning urns from recovered wood. His card has disappeared but I'm checking for him via NFDA. There was an Italian company making urns out of inlaid wood that were unlike anything I have seen on these shores. They can be found at www.emsrl.com Most of the big urn companies have a lot of wood selections, but none were very striking this year. 2006 is not a smashing year for wooden urns.

The most amazing find and the one I want everyone on the East and West Coasts to order TODAY are the salt urns from Marcs Urnas Bach. These look like marble urns. They are geometric and stern looking. I wouldn’t have fallen for them on appearance alone. But I saw the words “Eco Sal” and stopped. These urns are made from salt and are made solely for the purpose of interment at sea.

I am an ash scattering expert. It is a tricky business, and it should not be done at sea unless there is NO WIND. Trust me on this point. This is why in Barcelona, Spain (the home of Marcs Urnas Bach) they drop ashes still in the urn over the side of the boat. But as Ruben Tamarit, the Marcs Urnas Bach representative pointed out: urns often float. In Barcelona there are so many urns, floating or sunken, that they have to be gathered as sea debris. Garbage.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything less meaningful and closure shattering than the idea of my beloved’s remains floating back to shore, or being caught up in fishing nets to be returned to land in a trash heap.

So the good people of Barcelona’s own MUB invented the sea salt urn. It sinks with a satisfying plop and then it dissolves. Everything is dissolveable: the sides, the lid, the glue, and the bag in which the cremains are stored. It all dissolves in forty minutes. No garbage, no flying ash, no contamination.

Upon hearing these details, I was ecstatic. I tried to communicate my excitement to Ruben who then tried to translate it in Spanish to his business partner. My Spanish is not what it used to be but I caught the basic gist of Ruben’s translation, “In her religion, most of them cremate. She likes… A LOT.” You can say that again, Ruben. Check out the salt urns of Marcs Urnas Bach yourself at www.mub.es

In the spirit of sharing my secrets, I’ll add something I already knew about before I went to the convention. My buddy Brockwell (a former undertaker himself) met a man here in VA who offers a unique means of cremain disposition. He's all about skipping this container concern. This man can turn you into a pyrotechnic. Yes, a firecracker. And we’re not talking some little whistling sparkler. We are talking great big, full starburst, when it explodes everyone feels it in their chests, whammy of a KAPOW. Blow Daddy away on Independence Day.

Brockwell has fallen in love with this idea, and I must admit, it is starting to grow on me, too. It combines celebration, spectacle, and a great big boom. What could be a cooler ‘YAHOO' to life than that? I don’t know if this guy heads out of VA, but contact me if you want to learn more.

Raul and Dave: Cleaning Up

Notes from the floor of the Annual National Funeral Directors Convention, Part 2

File this in your alternate universe folder. Two of the most animated and engaging people I met at the convention were cleaners. Come on, you saw “La Femme Nikita”. You know: Cleaner? The cleaners in the movies have a violent streak and know the many uses of lye and acid. Real cleaners are more peaceful and law-abiding sorts, which in a way makes what they do all the creepier.

Dave operates Radical Restorations, Inc. and Raul is a manager at Assured Decontamination Services. They are both big strong men with shaved heads, attractive smiles, and palpable confidence. They both can climb into an OSHA approved plastic suit faster than I can put on a pair of panty hose. And they both have an intimate knowledge of what it takes to clean up the human brain when it violently leaves its safe nest of skull. They are cleaners.

Got it now?

When the worst things imaginable happen in your home, office, or building, these are the men you call. This is a part of death that funeral directors, cops, fire fighters, and some ministers know too much about. It’s the part of death which makes most people avoid the aforementioned professionals at cocktail parties for fear of overhearing details. It’s the mess the human body can make when it dies. And it is what Dave and Raul call a job.

I am a different kind of cleaner. I clean up what happens to those who survive the worst thing imaginable. Dave and Raul think my job is just as hard. That's a point to debate, but we had immediate rapport as the people who clean what others think is uncleanable. Raul is even a double cleaner, if there can be such a thing. His other job is as firefighter.

As you hopefully can imagine, I found it comforting to talk with people who had similar experiences to mine. Dave, Raul, and I shared stories of…

OK, maybe I shouldn’t go into detail here. Let me just say, we talked. We shared stories. We laughed. We said, “Yuk.” We got serious and kind of sad. We exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. All in all, we had normal interactions that people have at a convention. When it comes to work, we just have a different idea of normal.

So here's to Dave and Raul. And here’s to hoping that their normal NEVER becomes yours.

National Funeral Convention 2006

Funeral Convention - Part 1

When thinking about Philly, most people imagine cheese steak, Ben Franklin, or the Italian Market. Having spent a few days there, Philly calls to my mind caskets, hearses, and eco-friendly cremation urns. That’s right, friends: Mama has just returned from the annual National Funeral Directors’ Convention and has she got some stories to tell!

I have an abundance of alternate universe moments I can share, because it is true – funeral directors are a different bunch of people from the rest of America. I personally find a lot of them to be cool or, at the very least, wickedly funny - but that may just be my thing. So I’ll give you a little of the strange funeral world stuff, but more importantly, I will let you in on the latest in funeral, cremation, memorial, and burial innovations. The next six installments of Auspicious Jots will be on UU friendly trends I discovered on the floor of the convention exhibit hall. Auspicious Jots does the leg work and you reap the rewards.

Speaking of funeral directors, I’d like to send out special congratulations to my dear friend Tommy Peters. Tommy was my first love in the funeral biz. He’s one of the best in the profession and is in possession of lengthy instructions should I meet my maker. As of Monday, he is also the proud daddy of Nicholas Gian Peters. Nicholas came in at a little over 7lbs, a little under 20”, and looking all the world like Daddy, they say. This could mean any number of things including: blonde haired and blue eyed, devilish, or drinking a beer. Nicholas brings the Peters family census to four. May they enjoy getting to know each other and, some day, may they sleep again.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Vespers 10/10 Home and Community

Our Vespers Readings were all on the subject of home and community. I was inspired to this topic by last week's Vespers in which several people talked about what they had seen on their way to the service which had given them pause.

One reading was by Kaaren Solveig Anderson called "Zaine's Fairy Wings." it touched on those who have moved away. The next meditative reading was on those who stay: the poem Still Life in Milford by Thomas Lynch.

Thomas Lynch is a funeral director, poet, writer, teacher, and kind person who answers his fan mail from ministers in Richmond, Virginia. He has a book of short stories to be published in '07.

Next week's Vespers will meet in the Great Hall due to the beginning of our annual juried art show, Gallery.

Ministers' Ball Rocked the House

Aw, you missed it! Mo' Debree kicked the tunes out like nobody's business. (Lead singer Kelli Moss has THE voice and her boys were sounding great.) Dance floor was full most of the night. The raffles had great prizes. And we all looked stunning.

I wore my new favorite t-shirt as mentioned in last Sunday's sermon. Because all clergy can tell you that the minute they tell someone their profession they have to be ready to open their ears, it is the perfect minister shirt. It reads: You know you wanna' tell me.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ministers' Ball with Mo' Debree

It's this weekend. It's rockin' with the band Mo' Debree. It's laid back, come as you are, dance until your toenails turn blue, or sit and talk with friends.

It's the Ministers' Ball in honor of the Installation of the Rev. Jean Pupke (my partner in ministry, colleague, and bud).

It's Saturday night at 8PM for only 10 bucks.

We'll be looking for you! See you on the dance floor.

State Fair disgusts with more than Fried Twinkies

I know way too much about the Virginia State Fair. We live close to the current fairgrounds and have been going regularly since the news that the Fair would be moving. That was 4 years ago. It's still there. We're still going.

The Fair was a bit of a bummer this year in comparison with the last three. The kiddie size midway rides are in horrible disrepair. Lots of duct tape, missing lights, and broken planes, lady bugs, and train cars on every ride.

It seemed like there was less landscaping throughout the fairgrounds. In previous years there have been beautiful little islands of horticulture sprinkled amongst the pig poop, pork rinds, and BBQ stands. (For those of you reading in other states - Virginia= pork products.) This year it was all pig, all the time.

But the worst of all would be the apparent motto of this year's State Fair: Celebrating Virginia's Past, Current, and Future Legacy of Bigotry. I saw men, women, and children between the ages of 4 and 64 wearing I Support Confederate History Month stickers and Marriage = One man, One woman stickers. I know the "I carry a gun so I can not only disagree with you... I can shoot you" stickers must have been somewhere not far behind.

Would you like a little intolerance with your deep fried dough?

That said, Baby Girl loved the rabbits. Little Man would have spent the night there if we had let him. We saw, of all things, jazz delights Chez Roue perform. And yours truly did go down the big slide.

Three times.

As for the fried oreos, not what I'd expected. We are saving Fried Twinkies and Spaghetti on a Stick for next year when I am lobbying for the theme: Virginia - 400 years of Intolerance was more than enough. It's a NEW DAY.

I am also lobbying for a bigger slide.

When Activist Artists wed

Must be the year for cool weddings. I have had some really amazing ones this year. In a previous post you were told of Jim and Dottie's nuptials IN the James River. Next up for unique and memorable were Karen and Jason.

The highlight for many was the cotton candy machine. Even my buddies, the caterers from A Sharper Palate, were impressed. I believe the friend who did cotton candy service was named Charlie. To him I say, "Charlie, all the kids under 12 and I love you."

The lovely and talented bride Karen is the designer of my conversation starting and stopping business cards. (Designed to look like a 19th century death announcement, they are square with a black border, an hourglass on one side, and on the other side my info and the words, "Specialist in concerns of death, dying, and mourning. Available for consultation." Normal folk get the heebie jeebies. Artists, lovers of goth, and undertakers think they are the BOMB.) Karen threw all the little herb vases that were gifts to guests. By THREW I mean created not tossed. They are lovely and mine was the prettiest of all because I got to pick it out while the rest of the guests were making toasts. And they say there aren't any perks left in the ministry...

There were many things that were great about this wedding, but what made it the most blog-o-rific was: best use of mod music in a wedding. They had a DJ doing the wedding music, which can be an iffy proposition. Not in this case! I felt like I was in a movie. A Sundance award winning movie. Here's the playlist.

Bridesmaid processional - "The Winner Is" by DeVotchka
Bridal March- "What the Snowman Learned About Love" by Stars
Recessional - " Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)" by The Arcade Fire

I am hoping that the Recessional will become "the usual" at kool kid nuptials.

And to learn more about Jason the groom, check him out at the blog: Caramelized Opinions.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Apologies to the Cycling Group

Our Adventure Cyclist went out almost two weeks ago on a lovely warm weather foray and I missed it in the blog. My apologies to the intrepid Uni-cyclers (two wheels, one church).

Like to bike? This group is headed out again in two weeks to The Pony Pasture for a picnic (say it five times fast) after services October 22. This is our largest circle with 24 people signed up.

Come on, sugar. Make it 25.

Monday, September 25, 2006

5 bands in 2 nights this week

That's right I heard FIVE bands this week. It was kind of by accident, and I only heard one set of each, but here's my super speed listener review...

The Taters were doing their rockabilly, Roy Orbison, toe-tapping, big grinning music thing at Shenanigans mid-week. Honestly, no one else should be allowed to do Roy but these guys. They sounded good, were having a fun time with the crowd, and kept drawing gals to the dance floor. Jimmy Wark and his pink paisley guitar were in attendance, as was the ever chipper Harry Gore who sat in on a couple of tunes.

Chez Roue was swingin' the night away at Cafe Diem with the ever-morphing boogie boys and a few of the regulars. Sitting in for Johnny Hott who is on tour with Sparklehorse were not one, but two drummers. They looked like negative images of each other but both sounded good. My gal Becky and I were particularly impressed by the one who looked 16 but played like... well, Johnny Hott. There were also not one, but TWO keyboardists. Both play regularly with the band, but what a treat to have them together! Roger, Jonathan, and Sulser were all in great form but a special kudos to Sulser who absolutely NAILED the two songs we heard him sing on. And many thanks to all three for joining us, even if only briefly, on the dance floor. You are gentlemen musicians, indeed.

Billy Ray Hatley and the Showdogs played an opener for Dale Watson over the weekend. It was a joy for this groupie to see how a crowd of the uninitiated warmed to my dogs. The boys went very pro with their set: leaning to the country side of their expansive collection, keeping the banter brief and the music rockin', all in all producing a tight, clean set. Unfortunately, Drew the fiddle man is on tour (no, not with Sparklehorse), because he would have loved it and the crowd would have digged him. Also, I was sorry that Jimmy Wark was under the weather with a bug. Must have been the Taters the night before. He played through it, but looked a little puckish toward the end of the set. Get well soon, buddy man.

Dale Watson is a wiry man of enormous talent. He has a huge voice, clever writing, great musicianship, a face remarkably similar to Billy Bob Thornton, a tight and talented band, and one of the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen on a stranger. Unfortunately, the man will not shut up. It's a simple request, really. Sing, Mr. Watson. Shut the talking up, and sing.

I guess it's a good thing he didn't shut up, though, because I got disgusted, walked out, and went to see...

American Dumpster! This band is either going to get very very big or they are going to go nuclear and disappear. They had one of the rockiest beginnings to a set I've seen in YEARS. They were late, missing one member, poorly introduced, heckled, malfunctioning in the sound department, and then part of the equipment hit the floor in the middle of a song. That was 10 minutes into the set. An hour later the dance floor was full, the band was complete, and I was contemplating a move back to Charlottesville so I could see them more often. When they are good, American Dumpster is truly THAT GOOD. As for frontman Breeden - let us all say a quiet prayer of thanksgiving that he did not choose to start a cult, become a despot, or get his own talk show. He is one of the most magnetic performers I've seen from seven feet away. And he doesn't talk too much. (Someone call Dale Watson.)

I am My Own Wife at Firehouse Theatre

The Performing Arts Circle went to see the Firehouse Theatre Production of I Am My Own Wife. Some of you may recall that we intended to see the Richmond Triangle Players' Production of Sordid Lives. They were sold out, so I just said, "Hey, you can go two blocks down and see ANOTHER play with a man in drag!" The Performing Arts Circle is full of flexible people just looking for a good play with somebody in a dress, so they said, "No prob."

After 4 book groups, an Adventure Circle foray into the Heart of Darkness, and hearing 5 bands in a week(see next post), I went home to rest while the group checked out the play. Sunday AM rolled around and they all agreed that:
a) it was a great play, b) Scott Wichmann is a genius of an actor, and (c) you and I have to go see it.

Oddly enough, I have the autobiography of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf which inspired the playwright. In German it is Ich bin meine eigene Frau, which I always translated as "I am my own woman." Personally, the idea of being my own woman is far more appealing than being my own wife, but I guess I'm not a post Nazi, height of Stasi, German transvestite, so what do I know?

Adventure Circle Attacked!

The Adventure Circle set out on our first activity of the new church year: a scavenger hike along the Mighty James River! It was a beautiful day and we were all looking forward to sniffing some air, enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors, and hoofing it a bit. My boy, Little Man, joined us and wore his firefighter's uniform, complete with plastic axe. Unfortunately, we were attacked by several plagues of Pentateuchal proportions that not even an axe could handle.

First Plague: The plague of the consensus. The group was given four choices of spots on the James. They chose the Wetlands. Seemed like no big deal, but it led to...

Second Plague: The plague of the lost guide. No, really. I knew where the other three choices were. After consulting with a beautiful gutter cleaner whom I mistook for a man (Sorry, Beverly!), an octogenarian named Boopsie, a former undertaker, and...a MAP, we found the Wetlands 30 minutes and about 8 blocks later. But then we wished we hadn't due to...

Third Plague: The mosquito swarms. I'm a lifelong Richmonder and I can honestly say that I have never seen mosquitoes in swarms like this, which takes us back to the first plague. They call 'em wetlands for a reason, folks! Did we learn nothing from those Jamestown settlers?I've got some photos to download on the blog (when I remember where my hardware is) of Doug's neck that had 6 bites in a two inch strip.

Fourth Plague: The laid back hikers. Every hiking group should have one type A personality. Ours had three but we were all on vacation for the morning. After 40 minutes of relaxing meandering about the Wetlands, and spastic skeeter swatting, we simultaneously realized that we'd wandered into...

Fifth Plague: Lost again and running out of extra blood for mosquitos.

I'll skip the rest because it all ended well. It was definitely an ADVENTURE. We finished the day with a great meal at Ellwood Thompson's Natural Grocery. Little Man's fire helmet came in handy to keep the swarms off. And there was no risk of any of us sleeping in the service the next AM.

We were too busy scratching.

The Wake of War by Anne Nivat

The Davies book group met last week to discuss Anne Nivat's The Wake of War which has been translated from the French and published by Beacon Press, a publishing house of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Unfortunately, only one in the group had finished the book due to shipping and library issues. (Dear Amazon, you stink. Hugs and kisses. The Rev.) However, we were all stopped in our tracks by this work, so the discussion was lively and deep.

Nivat travelled around the Fertile Crescent and Afghanistan doing first person interviews for months. She wore veils and modest attire. She ate and co-habitated with families, and she just talked. Every day talking. She talked to radicals and conservatives, men and women, young and old, rural and urban, formally and self-educated. She then tried to give as much of their first person accounts as possible. The result is dissatisfying only if you are looking to be told what to believe. For the rest of us, it is stunning, eye-opening, and, naturally, very sad at times.

We all agreed that this book is a must read for all Americans. The book is overflowing with what we don't see this on network news or in most local papers. We are all unlikely to tavel there, much less immerse ourselves into the many sub-cultures of the region. As long as our sons and daughters, sisters and brothers are being sent to these countries, the very least we can do is learn a bit about the people who inhabit the land and their feelings and beliefs about war.

This was an amazing and emotionally complex book with which to begin this group's discussions. Next month we move from global politics to the human body and medicine when we discuss Atul Gawande's Complications. There are still some spaces in this book group if you are interested.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman

The Channing book group met this week to discuss Misquoting Jesus. The group felt that this was a great read and essential to anyone wanting to talk about Biblical authenticity. It has pictures, too!

Ehrman, a UNC professor and protege of preeminent scholar Bruce Metzger, makes biblical criticism accessible to an audience beyond the seminary. (Not that I fully grasped it in seminary.) He gives a concise and engaging history of the early "back to the sources" guys who pioneered the efforts to translate accurately and carefully. He also describes how texts were altered in the first place: the why, who, and why of the ancient typo.

Needless to say, there are significant religious implications to Ehrman's work. Our group didn't have any issues with that at all. In fact, several were wondering how to get this book on the nightstands of some of their co-workers and family members.

Fans of this work, Rev. Jeanne is scheming up a Spring class on this topic, so keep your eyes and ears open for more.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Christopher’s Runaway Gourmet

THE CART has been reviewed in Style Weekly’s latest issue, and favorably to boot. For those of you who spend too much time outside the city limits, THE CART is how in-the-know urbanites refer to the four street lunch-carts of Christopher’s Runaway Gourmet. I know all about the cart. I am cart cool. OK, well, I'm directly related to a cart cool person.

My husband is working his way through his new career which limits cart intake. A year ago he was eating at THE CART twice a week. I feared that he might not want to make the job switch last year because it would interfere with his cart life. You think I'm kidding? Only barely.

You can learn a lot about a person from their cart choices. Most of my favorite people are tuna, fruit, and cheese orderers. (Hubby included.) Buddy and coworker Angie insists on segregation of the fruit and tuna but the rest of them risk it and let 'em mingle.

I am a variety gal. Like the shrimp salad, and the tuna, and the chicken. Willing to arm wrestle for the cuke salad. I never turn down the noodles, and the fruit helped me through two pregnancies. I always splurge on the butter for the baguette and so should you. By the way, our cart is the one between 8th and 9th on Main ruled by the lovely, talented, and neighborly Liz and Patricia. I've known Patricia since I was 6 and she was 8. She wouldn't even give me a graham cracker then, but she's warmed up to me in the past couple decades. Both gals are fellow Bellevue-ers.

I have recently become acquainted with Christopher himself. Hardworking Daddy of 3 of the most lovely girls imaginable and he has very good taste in music of the hip and rockin’ variety. In other words, likable even if he didn’t create manna, but he does.

Back to the Bible Grindstone

I'm teaching my Bible class again. I love this class. I have to have the most rad combination of Bible students ever gathered. There's about a 60 year age range, lots of personality, sceptics, agnostics, faith repairers and rebuilders, Hebrew scholars, (OK - just one, but he's tall so he seems like more), and some Bible newbies. I spend way too much time with my nose in commentaries, textbooks, and study Bibles to prepare each week, but I really love the class.

Come and join us. Rumor has it that you've never been taught Bible like this, but I don't know what they mean by that. (It appears to be meant as a compliment.)

WHEN: Sundays 9:30 AM in the Library of First UU Richmond

WHAT: 5 weeks of Genesis study

HOW: We go over multiple schools of bib-crit including: source, text, literary, and Alane-o-pastiche (that would be my school.)

MORE INFO: Check out my other blog Biblical Intrigues or come on out. We are doing this leg of study until 2nd week in October.

Check Out Donald O'Bloggin

A comment from another UU blogger on my September 16 Luddite post led me to his blogsite. This guy makes his own HAGGIS. Whoaaaa! I can't even eat the stuff. Making it should be a graduate level culinary school credit for the gross out factor alone.

In other words: Cool new friend! Check him out!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Told you I was a Recovering Luddite

Today is techno-idiot hell. My Norton Security is yelling at me for not knowing the product key. I couldn't get my DSL installed. Three simple steps, my sweet patootie. The Amazon order that was to arrive in 2-4 days is AWOL. I know, I said I wouldn't shop with them. Lesson learned.
But the worst of all...

I just found the comments moderation page on my blog. Just now. Today. After 9 months of blogging. My biggest disappointment of blogging has been that no one comments. I felt like I had no connections to other people and it was pretty uninspiring. Turns out, I have lots of connections to other people. Really cool people. Interesting, thoughtful people who think I'm a schmuck because I didn't acknowledge their thoughtful comments.

I really want to cry.

"More music reviews!" shouted one. You got it, baby. Late, but you got it.

Another gave feedback on Vespers thank you, and another on a Wilco show sorry I missed it. Sisyphus has been rocking to "Deuce" and put in his two cents worth. There were comments on Kurt Vonnegut, God, and the moon. And they were all beautifully written and really great.

Maybe I will just cry.

The one that puts me over the edge is from someone named Enrique who let me know that the Mars thing was an Internet hoax. I could have really used that information when he sent it at the beginning of August. Instead I went outside night after night. I drove around looking for vantage points. I asked my friends if they had seen it. I blamed my hairdresser's marital quibbling on the proximity of Mars. I don't really mind being duped by an Internet hoax not involving money or my hard drive crashing, but the thought that the valiant Enrique had tried in vain to save me...

Time to cry now.

As my screen saver says, "Stoopid Computer."

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sisyphus gets published

Be sure to check out the September 13 post by Sisyphus called Dividing Line. It is a Style Weekly Back Page article. You can link to Sisyphus through my links under "Fellow UU blogger".

Sisyphus is a member of my congregation and an active political blogger.

Lamb by Christopher Moore

The Alcott Book Group met this week to discuss the outrageous and irreverent Lamb by Christopher Moore. Personally, I believe we should achieve some kind of church book group icon status for kicking off the year with this wild romp.

Lamb is the life story of Jesus that the other Gospels left out. It is satire, adventure tale, world religion primer, homage to the Apocrypha, and salute to adolescence all rolled up in one. Imagine that Carl Hiasen meets Marcus Borg and they write a novel which Dave Barry and Ram Dass edit.

The group liked it. The group surprised itself by how much they liked it. All agreed that Christopher Moore is a very smart man who was born to write this book. The language, violence, language, strong sexual content, adolescent humor, and language couldn't dissuade us from our unanimous approval. Then again, maybe that's why...

Alcott Book Group is currently full. We are meeting again on October 12 to discuss The Lighthouse by P.D. James. Please email me if you would like to be on the waiting list to join.

The Known World discussed by Fuller Book Group

The Fuller Book Group met this week to discuss The Known World by Edward Jones. This Pulitzer Prize winner and Go Read! selection is a novel about Virginia slavery, specifically African American slave owners. Talk about upsetting.

If you like Southern storytelling style, he manages to capture in written form all kinds of quirky examples of that style in an original way that makes this literature, perhaps requiring a capital L. If you are annoyed by that style, the liberal dollops of foreshadowing as narrative device are most likely going to irk you.

Members of the book group liked how the author portrayed the women characters and his use of supernatural elements. Those of us from the South felt that he captured an authentic sense of place. All agreed that we were glad we read it and would recommend it to others, even in light of the many tragic elements.

There are still some spaces left in the Fuller Book Group. Our next meeting is on Monday, October 9 at 7PM when we will discuss Wonderful, Wonderful Times by Nobel prize winner, Elfriede Jelinek.

Vespers September 12

Vespers continues to grow in popularity. (See previous posts on this short, contemplative service held every Tuesday at 5:30 PM.) Each week has a different theme, format, and eclectic sources. Rev. Pupke and I take turns leading Vespers.

I led Vespers this week on the theme: when words aren’t enough. We read poetry by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Henry Taylor, listened to Cajun jazz, and closed with meditation accompanied by the sounds of waves crashing on a shore.

We are returning to attendance numbers that may call us to move from the library back into the Great Hall. We will let you know when it is time for that move. Hope you can join us next Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Water Ceremony Last Sunday

As publicized, we did our water ceremony a little differently this year. In the past, people have verbally shared stories about their water: where it came from, what they did or did not do this summer, etc. This year I was so upset by the violence across the world, but particularly the eruption in Lebanon and Israel, that I felt we needed a more somber event.

The themes of the service were: water, peace, and a sense of home. My partner in ministry, Jeanne, told stories that were meaningful to all ages about water, hope, and peace. I talked about water and the sense of home. (Home is where the water doesn't taste funny to you.) Everyone brought their water up and then placed pins in maps showing where they came from. It was a well-received service, and I am glad we made the change. (You just never know until you do it if these changes will work.)

A few words from the service: We bring water from our travels to represent the journey within. We bring water to contribute to the community. To share. This year we do this silently. In honor of those who did not have the luxury of respite this summer. In honor of those who knew no peace. In honor of those looking for home.

The Ninth Step

This week I visited the AA meeting we rent space to in our church basement. I try to stop by yearly to personally welcome them into our space. It is an honor to be a place that provides sanctuary to people. I also admire people who are in recovery, and support groups, so I really enjoy welcoming this particular group. This year I stayed for the meeting. They were discussing in depth the ninth step.

If you do not know about the 12 steps to recovery, the ninth step is about making amends to those you have harmed. This means different things to different people. For some it involves paying off debt, to others an apology (or many) is required, and for many this is just the first part of the process of rebuilding trust with their loved ones. Sometimes this is the step where they realize that there are some bridges that will never be rebuilt.

The testimonies were powerful and personal. I will be inspired by them for a long time. They made me think of the upcoming High Holy Days. Making amends is a significant part of the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. In preparation for the Yom Kippur, a rigorous self-inventory is expected as spiritual discipline. One cannot atone in secret is the basic message of both Yom Kippur and AA.

For that reason, my October 1 sermon will be called "Growing Up and OwningUp."

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Stops at Fielden's

After the hundredth exhortation to see the play The Stops, I finally made it. WOW!

Richmond Triangle Players, who did a very nice job with Southern Baptist Sissies, have really scored a hit with this production. The general idea is that three members of a Lady Organists' Guild have gone on a concert tour in support of their favorite composer and organist, Dale Meadows. But the general idea could have been most anything and I would have paid money to see this cast do it.

First of all, the lady organists are all men in drag. It seems disrespectful to say that, however, because the actors are so talented and engage so fully with the audience. My guess is some therapy might be in order to unravel the characters from the actors at the end of the run.

Then there's the attraction that one of the characters is a Unitarian. She was so great that I almost slipped her my card so she would join our church.

But the best part of all is the often light-hearted, always on the mark skewering of modern American organized religion. I laughed until my face hurt and I will never look at a church potluck the same way again.

Our Performing Arts Circles will be going to see two Richmond Triangle Players productions this year. We can only hope that they will bring Stops level entertainment out again.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Vespers August 22

Our Vespers this past week was on hospitality. We combined prayers, silence, and hymns to meditate on the idea of opening ourselves up to others.

Next week's Vespers will be one of our mostly silent Vespers. We will have a few words and one piece of music, but will spend the rest of the time in silent meditation. We observe silent Vespers a few times during the year.

Rites of Passage

In two weeks my son starts pre-K at the elementary school. Yesterday was Little Man's last day of daycare and he repeatedly announced to all within hearing distance, "Today is Celebration Day!" The way he sees it, this is the last vestige of childhood before he moves into adult living. He's 4.

Minister Mama almost forgot that a day such as this needs a rite of some sort, an acknowledgement that our Little Man is growing up. I didn't have time to get him a tattoo. (Stop your fussin'. TEMPORARY tattoo.) Taking photographs wasn't enough. Luckily, we drove past the answer on the way home.

The Shankerosa.

The Shankerosa is the dwelling place of handyman, bartender, part-time guru, full-time cool guy, and my good buddy Shank. Yep, that's really his name. And yep, his house really is called the Shankerosa. It's got a sign and everything. Shank has been known to come to my rescue on many an occasion. He's also a reliable friend to the under 5 set. Once Shank heard of Little Man's big news, they made a date for soda in 30 minutes. At our local watering hole. Well, I believe bar is the term, but people are so stuck on terms these days, don't you think?

So at 5:00 yesterday I delivered my 4 year old to a bar wearing a clean shirt and his hat that is shaped like a giant hot dog for a drink with a guy named Shank.

That's the kind of sentence for which blogs were invented.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Circle Schedule is Out

The schedule of Community Circle activities and events is ready for pickup at the church. We've tripled the number of offerings this year and they are already filling up. Check them out and sign up soon!

This year we have 2 performing arts groups who go out for dinner and a show once a month. One is a Friday group and the other is a Saturday group.

The Adventure group is back, meeting on Saturdays and engaging in a variety of sporty challenges. (Sport-like? Sport-esque?) In addition there is a cycling group which meets usually on Sundays, with some Saturdays and will be doing rides of various levels of difficulty. (Although I prefer to think of them as various levels of ease.)

We have 4 book discussion groups with different themes. They are filling lightning fast.

We also have 3 UU Seekers groups which are ideal for those who are new to UU, looking to deepen their commitment, or hoping to learn more about the tradition.

We have had sign-up for one week and already have almost one third of the slots filled. Don't miss out.

Hope this makes sense. I'm violating a cardinal blogging rule - don't blog with a fever. Is it just me or is it hot in here?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Go, Pupke, Go!!!

As I am writing this and preparing to invent tonight's bedtime story for my pre-schooler, my buddy and colleague, The Reverend Jeanne Pupke, is perched on the eve of her preaching life at our shared congregation, First Unitarian Universalist, Richmond. Unlike yours truly, Jeanne actually enjoys preaching, so she's probably pretty mellow tonight.

Not me. I'm so excited. Not only is she bright, talented, fun, and kind... she is going to be amazing at this church. She is going to help lead us to our best selves. She is going to ride whatever waves may come, and help us ride them. And we will be better for having known her.

Best of all, she preaches three times a month and I only have to do once. God, I love this woman!

Come on out tomorrow. There's a new sheriff in town. Go, Pupke, GO!!!

Yes, We're Open

This past week we have been open every night for people who need to go somewhere after the day's events at the trial of R. Gray, one of the men accused of the Harvey murders and many others. I'm glad that we have offered this. Not only have people had a place to go, call, and email (yes, email - "can't make it tonight, but my heart is there"), but it has been a lesson to us and to the volunteers on the nature of pastoral care.

When I first began in ministry and held office hours, I expected a line of people looking for pastoral care. Instead, I spent alot of time listening to CDs and reading. I would go weeks ithout a formal appointment. But I was doing plenty of pastoral care. I just didn't know it at first.

People would stop me after a meeting to "ask a question." Others slipped me notes after services. Some would come 15 minutes AFTER office hours. It was actually a few years before I understood that this is the norm, not the exception. So many people are uncomfortable asking for help or sharing their pain. For many, they don't intend to come to me for help, it just slips out. I'm used to it now, but our volunteers are not.

I explain it in light of 12 step programs. A friend of mine says that he has been responsible for opening the room before a meeting for years. Sometimes no one comes. Other times people come and it seems fruitless. But every now and again, someone's life is saved. One life makes all the empty rooms, low attendance, and immeasurable results worth it.

Pastoral Care isn't about numbers, and measuring. Care of any sort starts with an open heart, leads to an open building, and never really ends.

Way Too Richmond; Way Too Virginian

Years ago our beloved weekly magazine Style Weekly hosted an annual contest called "You Are Very Richmond." The magazine invited submissions on what defined our community - good, bad, and otherwise. I almost won twenty years ago. Actually, I did win but when they discovered I had submitted it, I was disqualified. (My mom worked there at the time.) I'm still healing.

I had two You Are Very Richmond moments this week.

ONE: A woman said to me, "So, you are from Richmond. Where'd you go to school?"

And I proudly replied, "Fox."


TWO: I was reading the editorial page responses to the George Allen "Macaca Debaca". As people attacked him for his comments, his sorry excuses for apology via "explanation", and his cowboy boots (the only part of him I've ever liked), several closed their withering comments with derision over his birthplace.


Proving yet again that round these parts you can live here for decades, serve as governor, represent us on Capitol Hill, but if you weren't born here... you ain't one of us.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Foo Fun

After many weeks of anticipation, we drove up to DC last night and caught the fab Foo Fighters at Constitution Hall. They were doing their acoustic thing which was fun. There were some bumpy mixing issues with the bass player who didn't get the acoustic memo and whose electric bass was RRRMMMMHHHRRRR-ing for several songs. Unfortunately it rumbled right over "Virginia Moon" and pretty much ruined it.

There were plenty of high points, though: Dave's humor, Taylor's goofiness, the new acoustic songs sounding much better live, and the inability to resist rocking it out. Our fifth row seats didn't hurt either. We got lucky on that one. They were "possible obstructed view" seats. Only thing obstructing our view was the inexplicable haze from a fog machine. I guess it was supposed to give us that smoky club feel. Just made me want to rub the sleep out of my eyes.

I'm telling you... you've gotta' stop sitting at your computer browsing blogs and go out to hear some live music. Rumor has it that even you are not getting any younger.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Something in the Water

The Water Ceremony, an end of summer tradition at our church will be held on Sunday, Sptember 3. It will be our last 10 AM service. The pianist, Richard Becker will be performing some of his own compositions.

This year's service will be a little different. We do ask all who come to bring water from their homes or their travels. We will be comingling this water, and there is an opportunity for all to place a marker on a world map that represents their travels.

Instead of sharing our summer stories, however, the focus of this service will be peace. With summer violence in Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the recent terror scare in the UK, this service will center on hopes for peace and creating peace in our own lives. I hope you will join us.


My father was born the third of four adorable sons. His family moved all over the country throughout his childhood, causing him to go to a number of schools in the double digits before high school graduation. He joined the Marines, bench pressed crazy weight, married my mama, and was kind enough to participate in my creation.

As a child, I was Daddy's girl. He taught me how to balance a checkbook, appreciate opera, laugh til I cry, pick a crab crazy fast, and ride a bicycle. I've found these to be useful life lessons and I appreciate them all, as well as the one who taught them. He also loved the Kingston Trio. Well, we all have our flaws.

As an adult, Daddy (also known as Dingwa - a name I coined for him at age 8) and I have shared some passions that others don't. If I want to talk about church dynamics, theology, biblical history, or string theory - I seek out Dingwa. If the dog or the baby has done something really disgusting and I want someone to laugh it off with, I call Dingwa. When the NY Deli closed and it was time to have my last sailor sandwich there, Dingwa had one too.

I'm lucky to have him. He's given me a health scare or two over the years which has helped me to appreciate him in the moment. He's a kind, smart, sweet and funny man, and I'm glad my children can know him, too.

Happy Birthday, Dingwa. You are so loved.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Susan Greenbaum - This Sunday!

I am so excited, I could just spit! (And I'm a Southern gal - we just don't do that.)

A gentle spirit sent me to my rolodex to call emergency special music for Sunday. In that rolodex I found the talented, energetic, and dear dear Susan Greenbaum's number that had been MISFILED for almost eight months. I called. She was there. She was her usually lovely self AND


I could spit!

Tell your friends, call your mama, hang up a banner from your front porch and we will see you on Sunday at 10:00 AM.

All hail the spirits of the Rolodex.

(Who's Susan? Tsk. Crawl out from under your rock and go to www.susangreenbaum.com)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Vespers August 8 Growing Up

I have had many reminders of childhood recently. Seeing old friends and passing places where I played as a child has called to mind the strange process of growing up. In this spirit, today's Vespers service is a combination of readings on growing up.

Readings include: Rainer Maria Rilke's "I find, you, Lord, in all Things" and "The Grownup", passages from Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality", and "Seasons of the Self" by Max Coots.

Music is from trumpeter Rex Richardson's CD Masks.

If you missed today's Vespers service I will be examining the topic more in depth in a sermon the first Sunday in October. Rex Richardson will be playing at the church on the Sunday following Thanksgiving.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Shine on August Moon

I am still newbie enough at this techno thing that I can be found wandering around my front yard on a balmy summer night trying to pick up the wireless signal from the coffee shop behind my house. Tonight as I ventured out half pj clad, I felt like someone was watching. The big old glowing face of the man in the moon is making a spectacle of himself in the night sky.

There was a time known as BC (before children) when I would spend hours on my front porch. In those days a moon like this would have never caught me unawares. I would have seen this guy coming a week away. But these days I only come out on my way somewhere else. I'm lucky to have caught this one at all. Two points for techno-aversion.

Looks like some thin cloudcover is moving in. Just now Mr. Moon was leaning back in a hammock of cirrus. Or stratocumulus. Or something. For once, I'll skip the Google on cloud terms, swat the mosquitoids, and enjoy the show. You might want to venture out this week. I hear Mars is supposed to make an appearance, too.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

19th Century Wins in Sunday AM Cage Match

In a battle of wills, 19th century technolgy won out over 21st century gizmos in this morning's sermon. After 5 days of preparation (and three successful test runs) we just couldn't get the DVD/computer/projector set-up to work when it counted. If I were the only one involved in this endeavor, the only surprise would be that nothing exploded. But no, I had plenty of help, and in the end we all failed.

Instead of the morning's highlight being the carefully chosen clips of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village, the bright spot of the hour was my rendition of a gypsy creation myth in which I was God, narrator, and devil (who by necessity all became female and Southern.) Next time I think I'll skip the schmancy gizmos and make a few sock puppets.

Next week is the last installment in my summer series drawn from the lessons of The Sunday Philosophy Club. The topic is: Justice and Mercy. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Vigil August 13 Before Gray Trial

We will be hosting a vigil here at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond on the eve of the trial of R. Gray. Gray is being tried in the deaths of Bryan, Kathy, Stella and Ruby Harvey.

The vigil is from 7-8PM on Sunday August 13, 2006. Our church is located at 1000 Blanton Avenue in front of the Carillon and across from Byrd Park.

The church will also be open every night of the trial from 6-7 PM for people to gather in hope for solace and peace.

For more information comment on this post or call (804) 355-0777

On Digital Mastery, Kitty Retrieval, and Wonderful Weddings

The projector is in and we WILL be watching clips from The Village on Sunday morning as part of the sermon. I'm kind of torn on this because I was looking forward to playing the Adrien Brody part. However, I do think the film itself will be a better illustration of issues in truth telling. Thanks to our new church treasurer, George, who came over in blazing heat to teach me how to work the gizmo.

Sophia the Cat, beloved companion of our new minister Jeanne, came out from the chimney last night. She waited until the pest control man arrived and he still had to be paid, but YAY for Sophia. My guess is that her freakout was her way of saying, "Richmond?!? I thought you meant Richmond, Maine! Virginia?Are you out of your mind? Have you seen what they've got on the ballot for November?!?"

In other news, we've come to the end of the first half of wedding season. This was a great year for weddings for me. No bridezillas, no clueless grooms, no angry parents, no invasions of uninvited varmints or critters... a good season. So it means alot when I share that one of the high points of an already great season was the wedding of Dottie and Jim.

Here is a photo from the ceremony. That's Jim in the sandals, Dottie in white, and I'm the tall shoeless gal. We did the ceremony right there on that rock in the mighty James River. Jim arrived via canoe, their dog Jake was in attendance, and it was a beautiful day. Thanks to Dottie and Jim for letting me be a part of their special day. It was one of the greatest weddings I've ever attended. I'm grateful to have been a part of it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sunday Sermon on Truth, Lies, & Doubt; Other News

I storm the pulpit this Sunday for the third installment of my summer series on Alexander McCall Smith's The Sunday Philosophy Club. This week we look at Truth from practical, philosophical, and religious perspectives. We start at 10 AM in the interest of the heat index. Feel free to check out the website for directions or other church info at www.richmonduu.org
(Added Bonus: If a new piece of equipment arrives, part of the sermon will be a brief movie clip from "The Village". Otherwise, I'll just act out all the parts.)

Things are starting to hop again at First UU after a brief summer lull. Our new minister, Rev. Jeanne Pupke has arrived to Richmond. Poor woman. Her first days here and it is smoking hot, Richmond miserable, and last we talked her cat was hiding up a chimney. Welcome to River City!

We have a New UU class starting August22 at 7PM for those of you who've been waiting for the past two months to try it out. Vespers continues in cool comfort on Tuesdays at 5:30 with yours truly leading through August. (See previous posts on What is Vespers? and some of the themes.)

My biggest project is our Community Circles program. We have 11 groups to join that are fun, exciting, and introduce you to other members of First UU. The program includes four book groups, an Adventure circle, a cycling group, two performing arts groups who go see plays and music together, and three UU interest groups. More to come on that front.

Hope to see you Sunday!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Vespers August 1 - God

The topic for today's Vespers service is God. I chose this service topic in response to the latest Middle East violence. A frequent reaction to wars is to despise all efforts to describe God. The argument goes that every time we humans set out to determine who or what God is, we feel an overwhelming urge to kill people who don't agree with us. So, the logic goes, eschew all God-talk and peace will have a chance.

Part of our religious heritage is the belief that pride, greed and violence are human characteristics; not our only or best characteristics, but definitely ours. Any concept of transcendence, permanence, or love must work to remove itself from our worst pitfalls. To illustrate a peaceful variety of perspectives on the divine, we will be reading three poems by Virginia Hamilton Adair: Whodunit, Long Beginnings, and Enormous Day.

Musical selections are "God Don't Ever Change" and "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" as recorded by Corey Harris.

Vespers July 25 - The River

The Vespers topic for July 25 is the James River.

After numerous reports and studies on the foam in the James River, I decided to make the river a theme for our contemplative Vespers service. I recently performed a wedding ceremony on a large rock jutting into the river. The groom arrived by canoe. The wedding party was mostly barefoot. The music of the ceremony was the splashing and rushing of the river past us. It was a beautiful day that renewed my affection, admiration, and wonder concerning the river.

For the Vespers service readings are from T.S. Eliot, Henry David Thoreau, and our own church member Ann Woodlief. We will contemplate the themes of the river's solitude, power, history, ecosystem, and beauty.

Musical interludes are from the solo recordings of Thelonious Monk.

Minute 16 Entered After Decades of Expectation

If WNYU radio does its work, my fabulous super-stardom will be officially over. I was interviewed in Central Park on Sunday on the subject of "The Ballad of John Henry" and responded with some nonsensical groupie rant about the Drive-By Truckers. If aired, this will mark the final minute of my Warholian 15. How apt that it be in NYC.

Unlike many, I chose to do my fifteen one minute at a time over a 20 year period. Some highlights include: Minute 1 when I was a dancer in a troupe who opened for LL Cool J, Minute 6 when I was immortalized in a true crime novel, and Minute 12 when my children and I were on the local paper's front page as pro-choice supporters.

It's been a good run, but I'm ready to step out of the dim 10 watt bulb of the minute-at-a-time limelight. In my upcoming anonymity I plan to clean out my kitchen, write more often to my grandmother in Florida, and work on my Spanish. In years to come, you will not see me on a "Where are they now?" special relishing Minute 2 as a performance artist or my 10th minute cameo in a PBS news blurb on schools and volunteers.

No, fame like mine comes at a price, and I will spend the next few decades recovering from the frantic biannual pace of blink-and-you'll-miss-her stardom.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Argentinian Insomnia

This is why I stopped following sports. I am awake and anxious when I need to be sleeping to prepare for the all-day toddler onslaught tomorrow holds for me. Here I sit having already web-browsed team stats for 45 minutes, discussed Germany's ongoing keeper saga, downloaded photos from the Sweden game... and now wondering what theological bargain I have to get into for Germany to get past Argentina tomorrow. Unluckily for me, my theology doesn't allow for a divine creator pulling strings for a soccer team. Maybe I could convert just for tomorrow? (Now I'm kidding.)

This is insanity. And this is me on sports. I dropped the sports habit in '93 or '94 after screaming raging obscenities at the television set when "my" Knicks lost the NBA title. I think I actually cried that night. It was absurd and would have been laughable had I not been so ridiculously sincere. I've tried to watch no more than two games of any team in any sport since then. Until this World Cup. And I am up to my ears in the Cup.

There's a story here. Not a good one, but a story. I was in Germany during the '90 Cup. I knew nothing about soccer and walked around my host family's neighborhood during the games because the screaming was too loud in their house. I remember hearing hollers of "Klinsi! Klinsi!" coming out of every home in the neighborhood. (Jurgen Klinsmann was a striker then. He's the coach now, and bless you if you didn't know that.) Upon my return to the states, my mother met me at the airport waving the German flag (it was upside down, but the thought was sweet) and took me straight home so my brother and I could watch the Final. I screamed at the television in jetlagged German echoing the mishmash of hoots I'd heard in Germany. "We" won.

After my Knicks incident I didn't allow any further sports mania, but I peeked in the sports section of the paper, "accidentally" turned on ESPN sometimes, and even took my infant daughter and toddler son to a live minor league baseball game. When I heard that Klinsi was coach this year... well, I thought I could handle it. Thought I could control it. I should have known better.

Now I will go to bed. I will mumble the serenity prayer. I will think about all the happy things that come from a sports-free life. I will wish a bad sushi event on the Argentinians. I will feel guilty and un-wish it. Eventually, I will call myself one of the few slang words of German I still remember and go to sleep.

After this, I mean it.
No more sports.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

German Soccer Fan. Talk Among Yourselves.

I have one sport and I only watch it once every four years.
Soccer's the game.
Germany's the team.
World Cup's the event.

Talk to you later.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Prepared Parents

My neighborhood has been rocked by the sudden death of Margie Robinson-Jeter age 41, married and mother of two beautiful children under the age of 10. She was a talented, beautiful, compassionate woman. I had only met her in a few large social occasions and did not know her personally, but I know some of her friends. And I know many parents of small children.

As a minister, I often remind my older congregants to have their affairs in order: wills, medical directives, funeral wishes. I make files with members' names on them that have favorite hymns scribbled on the backs of envelopes, people they'd like to speak, the type of flower they've always despised. And never once have I told the scores of parents of our nursey age children. Never once have I held a workshop for young parents on how to leave a legacy for their children in case something unthinkable happens. That changes now.

As adults, to be responsible in our love for our families, children, and/or friends we need to prepare for our death at any age. Margie's friends say that she had done some of this and it helped her family. Those of us who have been touched by her death, even if only peripherally have been talking about what we want and need to have in place. Please do the same for the sake of your family, for the sake of your children, and in honor of all parents like Margie.

Grumble away if you've earned it

I just finished Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country. What a guy! He's funny. He's well-read and reads well. And he's really pretty grumpy. As a rule I don't encourage grumpitude, but for anyone over 80 I think it's an earned right. After all, Vonnegut is kind enough not to grumble about physical ailments and how you can't get a decent oyster any more. He macro-kvetches about war-mongering, ecological armageddon, and how literature without technology is like sex without... actually I don't remember what the comparison was, but I was amused. Buy the book.

There are way too many angry books out there by over-plucked, fake tanned, squishy celebrity talking heads. I generally eschew grumble-ature no matter what the point of view. Why is Vonnegut the exception? I'm an ageist. And a coolist. In other words, he's an old cool smart guy with wild hair, who smokes too much and has a crush on his postal clerk. I'm willing to bet that he's never had anything plucked, at least not on purpose. I don't agree with all of his points, but I yield the floor to the honorable representative of late-life. When I'm over eighty I hope to have some of his wisdom, most of his passion, all of his clarity, and even more panache. (I am a woman after all. Panache is our gig.)

Publishing houses, take note! No more serial killer mysteries, legal thrillers, how-I-lost-the-weight-I'll-have-back-on-by-the-time-you-buy-this memoirs. No more Bridget Jones Moved My Cheese to the Da Vinci Code. It's all about cool clever people over eighty who are willing to chat you up on paper like they would at the grocery store. Let's keep the writers who've been around long enough to know a thing or two and actually remember it. That's inspirational for someone like me from Generation "I'm too young for hot flashes but too old to remember where I left the keys."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

CD Review - Deuce

It may seem a bit odd for some that the minister would blog a review for a CD. If this seems odd to you, that's a sure sign we have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. Stop by the church some Sunday and we'll remedy that. Until then... here's my first toe-dip into the icy pool of music reviews.

DEUCE - Billy Ray Hatley and the Showdogs
Sophomore effort? Hardly. The second CD by this seasoned foursome is more like a post-doc in Americana from lauded scholars of blues, rock, roots, and country. If you make it through the opening offerings of "Heroes" and "Mama's Cookin" without toe tapping, head bopping, or full out dancing - consult your neurologist post haste. And if you listen to all the lyrics without thinking at least one song could be about you, have a beer to jog your memory. You've lived it, and it's OK. Dr. Hatley is kind enough not to name names.

This collection offers tempo variety, clever lyrics and melody without pop over-simplification, solos many would give essential dental work to play, and smart arrangements. All the Showdogs and their guest players are top notch musicians who give this collection a polish rare in local recordings. Whatever Drew Perkins, Velpo Robertson, and Charles Arthur were paid for their guest efforts, if it was less than a house in Windsor Farms, the Showdogs should be spanked. (Considering Robertson's production work, throw in a "rivah" cottage for him.)

And then there's the lead guitarist. Call it experience, blessings, mojo, or kharma. Whatever it is, Jim Wark and his trademark pink paisley Fender have more than their share of it. Deftly alternating between the rockin' of "Who's Gonna' Love Me", the down home twangin' of "Voice of Reason", and the psychedelic wah wahin' of "Colors", Wark has a distinctive sound that asserts itself without undermining the gifts of his collaborators.

"Lessons", which is hiding down in the number eleven spot on the playlist showcases the best of what this band has to offer: addictive rhythm work of Rico Antonelli and Mike Moore, the haunting stringed sub-plots of Wark and Perkins, and Hatley's voice at its deep drawling lamenting sexiest. While the lyrics are compelling, it is the interweaving siren "voices" of strings, rhythm, and Hatley's vocals that call our ships to join them in the crags of love lost. This is music for people who've chipped a few teeth sucking the marrow out of life and love, and I can't help but offer a prayer of thanks for the vixens and cads who broke our hearts. The chorus claims, "I got lessons I ain't learned, it's true." Perhaps this is true in love, but when it comes to music, these gentlemen are the professors.

Fans of the live show will be disappointed by the absence of crowd pleasers "Why's Everybody Always Calling Me Jesus" and "Hoot Owl". Two very good reasons for the professors to take us back to school on another CD. For now, there is plenty to study on Deuce.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Groupie Church, Evangelist Level

This is a follow-up to my post of April 12, 2006 called Groupie Church, Back Pew Level. Groupie Church is an internship which prepares people to become members of churches by having them follow a local band for a year. (Groupie Church is entirely farcical, but the idea is growing on me.)

When interns have followed THE BAND for 3-6 months and receive permission from said band, Back Pew level interns are allowed to proceed to Evangelist Level. At this level interns begin to bring their friends along to gigs, talk about THE BAND while at work, and share their band affection and experiences with loved ones. Interns also come to be identified as Groupies. This level of Groupie Church teaches interns the values of recognition, articulation, and financial commitment.

Recognition: By coming out as a Groupie for a band, interns identify themselves with something larger than themselves. Talking about THE BAND is a good way to share one's enthusiasm as well as introduce others to THE BAND's message.

Sample conversation starters include:
"Tony, when you were talking about US immigration policy it reminded me of a song that this band I follow called Garbage Punk does. The song is all about pygmy hippos launching an attack on the suburbs and the chorus goes..."
OR "Mom, trust me. I do understand your bunion pain. Anjellika, the lead singer/rapper in Jet Fuel wears 5 inch heels at all their shows, even the ones in open fields and on cobblestones."
OR EVEN "Yeah, baby, I love you, too. As Mao Say Tune sing in one of their ballads, 'Your love is the curdle, the wimple, the lump on the turtle, and the dimple.'"
(Church equivalent: coming out as a member of a congregation, discussing religious questions using "I" talk instead of "those people", and risking negative reaction by identifying with a religious tradition.)

Articulation: Groupies are expected to be able to articulate the essence of THE BAND to novices. At Evangelist Level, interns are expected to be able to converse freely on wide-ranging topics such as lyrics, guitar solos, the never-ending roster of percussionists, who drinks Rolling Rock and who drinks Bud, how many wives the lead singer has had, and - most importantly - who played when in what other bands. Articulation also is an entry into community building which interns cover more fully in the final level.

An example of Groupie articulation is:
Groupie A: "Dude, when Charlie was playing gut bucket for Mama's Mustache he had a certain melancholy that you just don't see in him now that he's doing washboard with The Strumpets."
Groupie B: "True that. But you know, you could say the exact same thing about Lurch when she played congas for Winslow-Homer-Simpson, and then started in as a back-up and human beat box for The Strumpets. It's like she was resurrected. Then again, that could have been the rehab."
Groupie C: "What's wrong with you two? Have you been drinking PBR again? Lurch and Charlie are chock full o' gravitas. Just listen to the lyrics of "A needle in wine". It's Sampson who brings jolly to this party. Everyone always underrates the power of the ukelele player."
All Groupies: "Good God, I love this band.Ooooh, hush hush! This is my favorite song!"
(Church equivalent: talking about your personal beliefs, understanding and sharing why you have sought a religious community, and - in my tradition - learning how to say "Unitarian Universalist" without stammering.)

Financial Commitment - When bringing friends you pay for cover charges (yours and theirs), and drinks (yours, theirs, and a round for THE BAND as an apology for bringing your scowling friend who keeps requesting Skynard or Nelly). You may also pay for a CD or two for those loved ones who claim that allergies to smoke, mold, and tacky decorating keep them out of the normal venues in which THE BAND appears. And if THE BAND you follow has T-shirts, hats, or - the holy grail of band paraphernalia - boxer shorts for sale, consider your December holiday shopping complete.
(Church equivalent: a monthly pledge of $50-$100, $5 in the offering plate every week, and more raffle tickets, brownies and other church fundraising items than you can shake a stick at. )

After 9 months of following THE BAND interns are eligible for the final step called: Groupie Church, Deacon Level. To achieve this level interns must be recognized city-wide by bouncers, bartenders, THE BAND's spouses, and other fans as Groupies of THE BAND. Significant time, money, and energy on the dance floor have been expended and, needless to say, you've gotta' be able to lip synch ALL the songs.