Lost in Cyberspace

Danger! Danger!

My guess is that the anti-Christ will be somehow computer related. There is nothing more frustrating than the hell that computers can deliver especially if there is any sense that you are in a hurry.

I spent several hours trying to post last night but found that part of the build page that allows me to do so had suddenly disappeared. I tried every trick that I knew including typing in bogus addresses that I thought might be the right address to the edit page all to no avail, meanwhile the file that I had typed and spell checked sat in some mythical clipboard space waiting to be pasted into the appropriate space on my web page.

Finally after two slow hours of near mental meltdown, I gave up. I could not close the computer down quick enough, losing the saved file in the process.

Somedays everything is so easy, other days the simplest tasks are too much.

I'm back on the road today, but back to the normal routine tomorrow.

Weekend Ramblings

I may take the weekend off, but if I do I will post again tonight...

Some thoughts that are on my mind, though not necessarily in this order:

Fearless football predictions:

#1 The Florida Gators will score over 70 points this weekend.

#2 Tampa Bay will surprise everyone and beat Green Bay on the non-frozen tundra--Brett Farve may be hurt in this game.

#3 Jacksonville will look a lot better against a better team beating Kansas City.

#4 Dallas will be declared resurrected from the dead with an impressive win over Denver.

Please do not bet on any of these games!

I thought about changing the name of this journal page to "The Starr Report" today, but I figured that people would be too angry when they came here to actually read anything, so I won't fall into that trap. I know that is what is on most people's minds today, and I'm no different. It bothers me when there is such buildup to an event, because my guess it no how salacious the report is, my guess is it won't live up to anyone's expectations. Unless the body count list is included in the report.

It's clear from a report that I heard yesterday that President Clinton is nothing more than a "John Kennedy wantabe", unfortunately he seems to think that Kennedy was popular because he was having sex in the broom closet in the White House.

Hopefully if Clinton resigns he will not do it during any of the football games this weekend.

It sure was cool here this morning, sweatshirt weather.

A Visit

I stood at the grave of Martin Luther King Jr. the other day. Several busloads of people were gathered in the area, so I was not alone. Water cascaded around the stone tomb rising majestically in the middle.

I had seen pictures of this grave many times, but now being here in the middle of an the inner city neighborhood it felt different than it looked in a photo. Something of the unfinished business that Dr. King stood for and died for was more evident here. I read the words etched in the stone of the tomb, “Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last.”

They of course were words from his famous speech delivered on the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Words that had one meaning when they were delivered but conveyed something quite different here. Here were on surrounding buildings were graffiti conveying the mark of some gang, here were other buildings lie in ruin.

The struggle that Dr. King stands for is something that has fascinated me more as an adult than it did as a young child when the events of his life were being acted out. I grew up in the northeast in a town that was very European and very white. The problems of racism seemed very far off then, even though I often heard the racist terms used in daily conversations.

In fact my first encounter at four with someone of another race was rather momentous. It would have taken place sometime during the summer of 1962 in the small city of Keene, NH. While my father was doing business in a store, I sat in the car waiting with my mother and baby sister. A black man (from the only black family that lived in Keene at the time) was walking down the street. I pointed him out to my mother and said rather loudly, “Look Mom a Nigger!”

The man who my mother knew came over and told my mother that she should teach her son a better way to refer to people. My mother apologized to him and said that she didn’t know where I had learned that since they did not talk that way, which was the truth. But even at a young age I had already learned to see the world as disparate place made up of them and us.

Later when I served in the US Army, I would have several black men as roommates. I learned as anyone else learns when he or she gets to know people that they consider different that my black roommates were the same as me. Not to say that the sin of racism still didn’t wield it’s nasty influence over me for years to come. Some years later when I was working as priest in a suburban parish, a rather young black man was waiting for me one day after mass. He said that he wanted to go to confession. I had never seen the man before, and I was convinced (because of racism—not anything factual) that he was there for a handout. But I played along.

It turned out that I was totally wrong, the young man who was actually in his 50’s, really wanted to go to confession and on top of everything else he was a Monsignor (a high ranking priest in the Catholic church).

Over the past four years I have taught a social concerns course to teenagers at a Catholic high school. My preconception at the beginning of the first year that I taught was that these young people had grown up in a different world that I had and therefore would not be racist. I was wrong, in fact it often struck me that they were worst than my friends and I were at a similar age.

They did not attend a segregated school; they counted black students as their friends. Yet they would claim that so and so the black student who was their friend was not like other blacks. In other words the black friend did live up to their stereotype, but rather than question the false stereotype they just figured out that the guy they knew was the exception to the rule.

After several years of trying to reason with them that prejudice was based on ignorance, I rediscovered why this had little effect on changing their minds. It’s an old theory; one that has been out of fashion of late, something called original sin.

There is something that distorts our vision, clouds our reason and makes us prefer darkness to light. I could reason with my students all day long but they would only dig deeper into their position as I would keep firing away.

Watching films about the civil rights movement did not lead them to compassion, in fact they often thought it was funny when people were being beaten and abused. I can only hope that they will be afforded the grace in the future to see all people as their brothers and sisters.

This past weekend, there was an organized event in Atlanta called the "Million Youth March." It was intended to be this massive gathering where today's black youth would study and learn how to be a positive influence in society. Only 500 showed up.

I worry that the civil rights movement ended too early. I worry when I see the mistreatment of women by the President is defended. I hope that we are not going backwards.

this is hell

"this is hell" was scrawled on the wooden wall of the stall next to the urinal where I was standing. The restroom was located in a small country Barbecue restaurant near Atlanta.

I thought about the message and wondered about it for a few seconds, first wondering who had written it.

An employee seemed to be the most likely candidate. He probably scratched in after a long night, when the tips had been few and his boss had just asked him to come in tomorrow on his day off. But it seemed rather bold to deface your place of employment, and what if the boss had been in here just a few minutes before and would be back in here in a few more due to his failing prostate?

Perhaps that was it, the message had been scrawled by someone now suffering from prostate problems who was condemned to visit this spot with great frequency. That would account for the lack of sentence structure I thought, he probably wrote it with one hand.

Another possibility and the most likely in my opinion was that the message was written by someone who hated barbecue. My mother would be a candidate if she were a man or lived anywhere near Atlanta. She thinks the pink meat is a sign that it isn't cooked. My father hates it too, but he would keep it to himself.

After I left the small bathroom, I continued to ponder the message.

I've had a number of experiences in places that previous visitors had termed as "hell"; most of them ended up seeming pretty heavenly to me. I've also had experiences where I thought I was in heaven and those around me thought they were in the darker regions.

There was the time that I was sitting under threatening skies at Daytona watching stock cars speed by at over 190mph. After drinking a few beers during the rain delay I was feeling like it was the closest to heaven one could experience here on earth. The person who drove thought it was damn near the bottom of the pit of hell. Then there was the time on the beach in Clearwater listening to Warren Zevon after a very long day; again my companions did not share my taste of paradise.

I once toyed with an idea that still holds some attraction to me, of writing a story where the protagonist finds that God is writing a new set of revelation scrawled on the walls of one particular stall in a bathroom. Ever since I had that idea I find myself scanning bathroom walls for anything unusual, today's message was unique.

Later after dropping Karen off at the airport, I went to a bookstore. There I found a book that I bought on the emotional lives of dogs. One of the first things I learned while holding the book in the bookstore was that dogs have a sense of smell over a 100 times greater than humans. Imagine the best smells magnified a 100 times; imagine the worst smells heightened the much. Talk about heaven and hell!

It strikes me that Heaven and Hell are probably pretty close by; it just depends on where we are, who we're with,and our mood; all of which colors what we are experiencing at that moment.

Riding home from the Atlanta airport with Warren Zevon blasting, I missed the Cartersville exit, necessitating a 10-mile detour. I went from heaven to hell pretty quick there.

The Caution Flag is Out

I am a big fan of stock car racing, however one of my favorite sayings which relates to it did not originate with me. Mike, who I would later work for, bummed a ride with a bunch of us one Saturday afternoon to a Florida-Miami football game in Miami's Orange Bowl back in the 1980's. He had a very nice car but he did not want to bring it to Miami because he was sure it would be vandalized there, so all crunched together in a small car that presumably no one would want to vandalize we set out.

After the game was over we were riding home with the windows down because it was hot and the car did not have air conditioning. Mike was riding by one of the windows in the back seat and his hair that was very long hair on one side and normally combed over his balding head, was blowing wildly in the wind. He looked like a character from a very bad cowboy and Indian movie. Speeding along on I-95, suddenly two fools raced by and nearly collided right in front of us at which point Mike the one sided longhaired guy screamed out, "The caution flag is out boys! There goes Bobby Allison and Darryl Waltrip!"

We never used the Bobby Allison or Daryl Waltrip part much after that, but the caution flag part became a regular quoted part of my circle of friend's vocabulary from that day on.

Sometimes it would be used when someone had clearly had too much to drink at the beach. It seemed more colorful than saying, "You're drunk!" It also warned potential victims to get out of the way of the oncoming staggering fool.

Well the caution flag is out boys! In this case not from drinking, but probably from that good farm life I've been living. There has been some bug that has been hanging over our heads here for a couple of weeks. It comes and goes like a bad wave; one moment you feel good the next horrible.

Could it be brucellosis?

I first heard brucellosis mentioned in a Warren Zevon song called, "Play it all night long". In the song there is a line, "The cattle all have brucellosis, we'll get by somehow." When I asked Karen what Brucellosis was, she speculated that it might be something that one gets after listening to too much Bruce (Springsteen of course!).

But it turns out that's not it, rather it's some infectious disease that humans can catch from infected cattle that causes fever, malaise and headache. All of which is an apt description of what we've been feeling over the past two weeks.

It's gotten so bad that when Hank Williams Jr. appears on the television screen to ask the rhetorical question, "Are you ready for some football?" Karen answers him. We even spent the day lying around yesterday watching the "Planet of the Apes" festival, and thinking in one scene that Charleton Heston was fighting himself.

The caution flag is out boys! Time to do some more research on brucellosis.

NIGHT SOUNDS

I wonder how many people live with the illusion of someday leaving the city and moving to a peaceful quiet place out in the country. I have news for you; it doesn't exist.

Early this morning I counted the distinct sounds that I have heard rather loudly entering the confines of my sound chamber many miles from the nearest city, and a good distance from any major highway everyday that I have lived in the proverbial peaceful country dwelling.

First are the crickets and frogs, as soon as the sun dips below the horizon the volume of these critters cranks up to fill the void of left by the departing sun. There seems to be some melody to their chirping, leg rubbing and croaking, in fact you can even buy machines to play their music to help you sleep. They evidently tire of their activity as dawn approaches since they are clearly quieter in the early hours of the day as opposed to the almost deafening pitch they reach shortly after nightfall.

Second are the countless birds, these lovely creatures of God start cranking up the volumes as soon as the crickets and frogs are taking their much-deserved rest. Most of the music they play is melodic (you can buy their sounds on machines too), unless the damn crows enter the picture cawing away at whatever the latest infraction into their territory is. The crows will make sure no one sleeps through their attack, in fact it seems like their noise would make a very good alarm clock.

Thirdly is the scratching noise of squirrels that seem intent on scaling everything that provides a challenge. If I have been listening to this noise unconsciously I awake feeling an uncontrollable urge to scratch my head that doesn't really itch.

Next we have the proverbial dog barking. This either happens up close or at a distance, with both being equally as irritating.

If you go out to confront the dog it arrives wagging it's tail obviously happy to see that you have decided to join it in its pursuit of endless night shadows that seem to disappear as soon as you are able to overtake them.

When the dog is barking at a distance you can only wonder about what the headlines in the newspaper will say tomorrow about the ax murder and how the neighbors slept through the attack.

Finally the most consistent noise in the night air is man made, and it's not me snoring (since thankfully I cannot hear that). It is the endless whistle of the obviously infinite number of trains that cut through the night air. The nearest railroad is several miles away, but in the crispness of the night air you would think that it was right outside the door.

The trains obviously are warning deer or other varmints to get out of the way, for I can think of no good reason why in the hell they are blowing their whistle as they travel through farm fields at two in the morning, but they do and with great regularity.

The train noises are especially noteworthy, because anyone who has ever seen the aftermath of a tornado knows that the eyewitnesses all say that it sounded like a freight train was approaching. So as soon as the heavy weight of the train makes it way over the fragile earth, it bears some level of vigilance.

I use to wonder why it seemed that so many country songs focused on train whistles. I don't have to contemplate this any longer; it would be hard to focus on anything else with the train noises.

As I turn over for the one hundredth time, the whistle at least comforts me in knowing that the rumble I hear is not the noise of an approaching tornado. As I go back to sleep I find myself imagining that I am a passenger on the train that is taking me back to the quiet of the city in some distant far away place.

Beware of the Demons

I sometimes refer to people who speak to me unbidden as demons. Yesterday I was hailed by a number of demons.

The first announced that he had been out of the country for some time, did I happen to know who won the Auburn game the other night. I told him that Virginia had won the so-called "Auburn" game, figuring that would satisfy the demon, but demons are never satisfied once they have you talking.

The second demon that appeared did so as an older gentleman. He asked me what the score of the Mississippi-Memphis game was. He also claimed to have been out of the country for some time. I told him the last score for the game that he inquired about and then he continued to talk until I excused myself to go to the bathroom. Demons will never stop talking to you, until you get out of their site, and then if you are a real tormented individual they will keep on talking to you in your head. Thankfully I left the demons sitting at the airport bar.

There has been a plethora of reports over the past years of people entertaining angels, or speculating that mysterious strangers who arrive and offer help are actually angelic beings. Since I have studied Theology all of my adult life and know a thing or two about angels, I pose the following question: How do you know if the angel is a good one or a bad one?

I have come to presume that most of them are bad and who knows what they'll do once you invite them in. My negative view of strangers began after viewing Brian Moore's "Black Robe." In "Black Robe" a medicine man refers to the Jesuit priest as "demon." The Jesuit's intended to bring salvation to the Indians (now known as Native Americans {but isn't American another European moniker?}), but brought their own brand of European viruses that ended up killing off large numbers of the Indigenous peoples. So they were right to call them demons, at least in that regard.

I know it's wrong to judge, and I do not really think of the strangers who inquire about the scores of football games as evil, but one can never be too careful. I was taught, as I'm sure most people have been not to talk to strangers and I usually don't. But what happens when they jump the gun and talk to you? I remember reading that a fellow named Ted Bundy use to fake injuries and then ask strangers for help. Most of them would be alive now if they had listened to their mothers or had seen this stranger as a demon.