Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Dreading

My brother has a flair for the dramatic. Sometimes it's loud and flashy, and sometimes it's more subtle. When he has something serious to communicate, he lowers his voice and speaks with a soft, perfectly-controlled intensity. He drops his chin in broody Robert Pattinson form, his dark brown eyes staring out through pale lashes. He radiates tension. What he has to say is important.

Really important.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Review

Hey, folks, Easter isn't over until Pentecost. Don't forget to get that dusty Book down off of your shelf and review the Greatest Story Ever Told. In case you haven't read it in a while, it goes like this:

The people were living in darkness, under the rule of fear and death. There were prophesies of a savior, but the people had grown accustomed to their way of living and weren't keeping watch. Even so, the promised child was sent to them, born to gentle and loving human parents. As he grew, he formed a core group of followers and gathered unto himself the outcasts, the have-nots, and the rejects of his proud and elitist culture. Because of the good he did, he was called before the leaders of his people, the ones entrusted with power and supported by the faith of his people, and was tried unfairly, accused of breaking the rules. He willingly went to his death, but when he died the power of evil and death was broken, and he was raised to life as the savior of all. After that, he married his best friend's sister and settled down to raise a brood of kids named after his dead friends and relatives.

Rerun: Wal-Mart

So I was just going through my e-mail trying to clear up some space, and found a link to my old blog. Instead of sitting and thinking and coming up with something meaningful, tonight I'm going to copy and paste! Much easier, and it means more laundry will get done. I haven't worn socks in three days.

Rerun: December, 2005
A couple of years ago, one of those hideous Super Wal-Mart monstrosities opened up in my hometown (population: 6300 and some chickens). The old, regular Wal-Mart was always the hot spot in town; Friday nights all of the good ol’ boys would get in their blue Ford pickups and go cruising around the parking lot. And around and around and around. This brand-spankin’-new Wal-Mart is the biggest thing to happen in those parts for a couple of generations. Right after it opened my brother went in to buy some paintballs, and the cashier called the manager over, and the manager got up in my brother’s face and screamed at him. Apparently the new rule is that minors can’t buy anything that could be used to harm themselves or others, so no paintballs, no over-the-counter medications, and nothing chemical that thuggish menaces to society such as my brother could huff.

Yesterday was my brother’s 18th birthday. I called him up, congratulated him, and told him that now he can legally smoke, get married, and join the military. He said, “Yeah, but I’m not going to do any of those things. I’m going to Wal-Mart to buy Wite-Out. JUST BECAUSE I CAN.”

Update: Now my brother is twenty-three. He just quit his job at the Super Wal-Mart and joined the Border Patrol. Yesterday they doused him with pepper spray and hit him with clubs. He says it's part of the training. I'm suspicious.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rhea County Hijinks

One of the saddest things about living in Northern Virginia is the local news. Aside from the fact that our local news is also the national political news (the local paper is the Washington Post), our proximity to some high-crime areas means that murder is an everyday occurance.

One of the most entertaining things about Rhea County is the local news. Because it's a sleepy region, the top news articles tend to read like the following lineup from this February:


Saturday, April 23, 2011

What is Good Friday?

One of my coworkers is from India. A few weeks ago, we were discussing our plans for the year. He said that there was a certain date he would be taking off from work.

"It's my god's birthday," he said. "It's important to celebrate it."

I have another coworker who is from Hong Kong. She and her boyfriend gave me a ride home one evening, and she asked me what Good Friday is. I think I gave her a quick answer that wasn't what I'd say now that I've been thinking about it. Now I realize that Christ's Passion deserves enough respect and contemplation for me to rise to the challenge when I have an opportunity to describe it to someone else.

So now it's your challenge. Imagine that you've just been asked the following questions. The person you are speaking to is unfamiliar with Christianity and is a non-westerner. You're a block from home and this isn't the venue for an hour-long theological discussion. How do you answer?

"What is Good Friday?"

"What is Easter?"

"What do you do at church this week?"

And for extra credit: What important questions do you think that Christians should be able to answer on the spot?

Ode to Okra

There are some things you have to grow up with to really appreciate. A lot of Appalachian food is like that. Catfish, for instance. A catfish is a bottom-feeder, swimming lazily through the silt in the Tennessee River for year after year after year, growing enormous and taking on a flavor like pond water. And I love it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Heresy for Pastry

"I'm not sure I should be swinging with the Baptists," he said.

"I think you'll like our pastor," I said. "His sermons aren't dumbed down like the homilies at Marymount. And the Bible study is great. You'll really get into it."

"But it's heresy!" he said.

"We have pastry before the service," I said.

"I can do heresy for pastry. . ." he said thoughtfully.

Now he's dating one of the Baptists from the Bible study. It just goes to show that the power of carbohydrates can do more for Church unity than the best efforts of ecumenical theology.


Friday, April 15, 2011

The Morning Commute, Part I

This is a sculpture called "The Flame," perpetrated by Ray King. Patrick and I call it The Wretched Spike. It looks like iridescent cellophane wrapped around a bent coat hanger.
I don't get the "flame" part of it. The outline is similar to a thin candle flame, but inorganic, and the materials are icy, sharp and geometric. It could be the White Witch's wand. It's an aggressive and lifeless mechanism.

That's the start of my commute to work. I walk past the Wretched Spike, then a few blocks to the Metro. The office buildings along my route are glass and concrete, with a few square feet of greenery in front. Since Arlington is a densely developed city, there's not a lot of flora here. The trees are usually ornamental, delicate by nature and stunted by nurture, standing isolated in grates at regular intervals along the sidewalks. Many of the trees have been trying to bloom this month, but a long cold winter followed by a cold and rainy spring have shortened the blooming period. The cherry blossom festival, always a big deal in DC, is centered around the blooming of the cherry trees that line the tidal basin; this year, the trees were at peak bloom for less than a week due to the weather. The city trees along my route are frail and don't last long, but they keep getting replanted. I think of them as the vegetative form of the tiny, shivering apartment dogs that people in my neighborhood keep.

Back in Rhea County, there's not much old growth forest, but the trees are large and hardy. They grow together in a jumble up the ridges and hills, a mix of oaks and maples and yellow pines, with smaller plants like dogwood trees filling in the gaps. The pines grow tall and spindly and sway back and forth in the breeze. One standout is the tulip poplar, which grows tall and broad and dwarfs the surrounding broadleafs. It has large fleshy green and orange petals surrounding a central dense and heavy spike, not unlike the "Flame" sculpture in shape, and after the petals fall, these spikes drop on unsuspecting locals.
That's one of the ways that things are upside-down in Arlington. I'm not supposed to be stronger and longer-lived than the trees around me. Out in front of our wonderful local library, there are tiny ornamental Japanese red maple trees, limbs dipping and bending near the ground in wonderful arabesques. They are a lovely decoration. But trees should also be structural. I miss living in a world that's framed with tree trunks, not I-beams.

The Marriage Bed is Covered with Cat Hair

My husband is a dog guy, from a dog family. Luckily for him, the cat I got off of Craigslist a couple of years ago is pretty doggy.

Frank is a tall, lanky cat with a genetic mutation-- polydactylism-- that gives him extra toes. He has six in the front and five in the back, for a total of four extra toes, and it makes his front paws look like mittens. Frankenstein, the family I got him from called him.