Thursday, September 29, 2011

God is everywhere of course but come in here anyway

On occasion, I encounter relatives or friends who tell me that they worship God in their own way and don't need to go to church. There is a certain logic to what they have to say when they explain that God is everywhere and they don't need the four walls of a building and the rituals of organized religion to find their path to heaven.


I suppose that's okay for them but I've got to tell you that throughout my life the inside of God's house has always been spellbinding and gripping for me.


Growing up at St. Ann's  in Cleveland Heights, I can remember the booming voice of the choirmaster Frank  Parisi emanating from the rear of the church. The nuns told us to keep our eyes looking straight ahead at the altar and to never turn around because it was disrespectful to God. I was in the fourth grade when I finally realized that the voice  belonged to Frank and not to God himself.



One of the most memorable scenes in film history comes at the end of the movie War Of The Worlds starring Gene Barry in the original Tom Cruise-free version of the HG Wells classic. The aliens  are about to destroy the last vestiges of humanity when the alien ships confront a beautiful Cathedral with terrified families on their knees praying to God for survival from the onslaught. The Cathedral,  its occupants, and the world move on to survive as the alien ships crumple to the ground, destroyed by a simple cold virus.

 The message conveyed is that going on your knees in the shadow of the cross is the best way to deal with a crisis.

I agree.


Who can forget the moving scenes in Victor Hugo's Hunchback Of Notre Dame where the authorities are prohibited from pursuing desperate fugitives who cry "Sanctuary!"  in the house of prayer.


In 1946,  only eight blocks from Ground Zero in Hiroshima, Japan, you will find  Our Lady of the Assumption Church. Everything within miles of the nuclear  blast was of course utterly obliterated. Except, that is, for that beautiful Catholic Church which remained standing with its priest inhabitants miraculously spared from radiation poisoning or any ill effects whatsoever. It's one of the great miracles of the 20th century.

They were safe in that special place of worship.



Do you  member the Y2K scare as we ushered in the new millennium?  I  know a fellow who moved to a cabin in Wyoming, a survivalist who felt silly when the world didn't end. To me, the smart ones were those that attended church services because I can't  think of a better  place to be at a time of crisis.


There's a section in the New Testament where Jesus flashes with anger and even violence because the merchants and moneychangers used the ancient Temple as a place to conduct business. Christ decries the abomination of turning his father's house into a den of thieves.


Look folks, if our churches didn't have something special, Jesus would not have flown into such a rage. There really is something there.

 It's invisible but it's palpable. You  feel that there is something supernatural and spiritual at church.


The other night I stopped by a local church just to say a few prayers and the only other person in the dimly lit pews was a little old lady in the back. All was quiet and I could tell that she joined me  in silently sending petitions to our Creator. Suddenly  she began singing hymns in a cracking, unsure, soprano voice that revealed a certain weakness, vulnerability,  and hope.


At first I was irritated by the interruption of my reverie. But inexplicably I began to join in with her plaintiff song. Then we talked.  Her name is Virginia and she has had a very hard life. Despite that, she has found peace and solace.

 In church.  A really special place.

You just have to be willing to set aside your ego and your pride and open yourself to the experience.

                Yes, God is everywhere.

Think of it this way.  If someone was your friend, would you really deny your friend's invitation to come over and have a cup of coffee?

So come on in.  There's a pot of Jo on the stove.

You might find a Virginia who needs to talk with you.

                Apart from that, you'll be in the right place when the alien ships arrive.
                Or... when a crisis lands on your doorstep.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hugeness Hardly a Handicap

I don't know what it is about me and parking spots.


I mean, I've always seen myself as trying to be compassionate toward others but there's something about that first moment when I pull into the parking lot at Giant Eagle that depresses me because the closest parking spot is at least two football fields from the entrance.


That's when my mind starts focusing on those precious few roomy handicapped spots. I know I'm not entitled to use them but for some reason I covet them.

 That  sky blue paint with white and yellow trim on pavement. Beautiful.   So spacious.  It beckons. Park on me, baby.


I think it's because they represent  what all men crave. The chance to get in, get what I need, and get out.


For women,   shopping is more about the  experience. For  men it's  about obtaining the objective quickly and efficiently and moving on to the next strategic challenge.

 Which brings me to the real reason for this column.


I  find myself occasionally pausing to see if the person with a handicapped sticker is actually handicapped.

 It's not right for able-bodied relatives to park in those awesome extended van accommodating  spots just because they're driving grandma's car or perhaps even worse driving their own car borrowing grandma's blue-and-white placard.


Here's the one that really bugs me. I occasionally observe that the placard user is morbidly obese.


Perhaps they've obtained the blue-and-white placard because they have a hard time breathing or they're diabetic.  But aren't those just symptoms caused by their obesity?


Let me be more blunt.

 I harbor an irrational resentment against people who seem to feel that they're entitled to privileged close up parking because they're fat.


Aren't these the very people who need the exercise gained from a longer walk to the Twinkie shelves?


I've been trying to trim down lately so my wife has me purposely choosing long-distance parking.


But as I'm passing by those gorgeously emblazoned golden trimmed  blue rectangles marked with the international symbol of a wheelchair, something snaps when the rotund roll out of their seats and jiggle their way into the store.


Let me put this a different way. Wouldn't the blimps be less blimpie if they weren't entitled to special parking extra close to  Blimpie's?

 I wish God's blessings and good health to all people, especially those whose infirmity cries out for the compassion of special parking to shorten that difficult walk into the store of their choice.


However, there is something inherently wrong with the idea that people can eat their way into this special privilege.


I suppose these thoughts are unreasonable but for those of us who suffer from parking spot envy, it eats away at us.


So listen up,  fatties. If your blubber is the result of your own appetites, discard the blue card and join my new long-distance parking fitness program.


You can save me from having to give you a dirty look. And you'll feel better about yourself as well.

Have a nice day.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A sad frightened man has a big story to tell

            Somewhere in a dark room, perhaps nursing a stiff drink, sits a man grappling with fear and flashbacks.


            He is one of two or three men still living who sent people to their deaths on 911 in an unexpected fashion.


            Lots of people.  Maybe hundreds or even over a thousand.


            You see, after the first plane hit the North Tower, folks began evacuating the South Tower sixteen and  a half minutes before United Airlines Flight 175 hit the second building.


            Security personnel, during this crucial sixteen and a half minutes, told office workers  to relax and return to their desks. Everything was under control. Relax.


            Those who followed this advice, for the most part, are dead.


            "Don't worry" P.A. Announcements were made throughout the  South Tower during that interval between jets crashing. 


            Survivors tell stories of guards on various floors giving instructions that created widows and orphans.


            Statistically, given the vast array of protective service employees who worked at the  World Trade Center that day, one of these guards or announcement-makers must have survived.


            So where is he?


            In a world in which media finds every name attached to a dramatic story, no one's talking. You won't find the name on the internet.


            Even after ten years.


            He's probably hoping he can take his story to his grave.


            But he should talk about it.


            He committed no crime. He probably was following orders or protocol.


            But there is a story there.


            What's it been like, all this time?  Is he in therapy?  Counseling?


            How's he dealing?  Is he driven to addiction?  Has he found peace?  Has he talked to God about it?


            I'm fascinated by  the drama and the psychological angle.


            How does one carry this burden?


            It would probably feel good just to let it all out and talk about it.


            It's a great story.


            Listen, friend, you and one of the most significant events in American history are  forever linked in a most tragic way.


            Not your fault.


            But let's at least hear your story.


            I'm sure you could use a hug.


            And I could use a big story before it disappears forever.


            Somebody knows who you are.  It's bound to materialize eventually.


            I'll find you and then maybe we'll talk.


            In any case,  I'm  headed to the  Big Apple now.


            I'm looking for a desperate man in a dark room, nursing a stiff drink.


            With the world on his shoulders.


David M. Lynch

Friday, September 9, 2011

Me and The Mick the Best of Buds

The garbage man is my secret buddy.


You see, like most people, I can not  invest the time required to put the trash out in front of my home according to the proper rules and requirements of our municipality.


Let's take those plastic trash liner bags.


Every few weeks, my mother-in-law engages in a purification ritual. It's her way of reminding us that we are slobs. It is known as The Great Periodic Cleaning Of Our Refrigerator.


She puts everything that needs to be thrown out into a single polyethylene  garbage bag designed to hold about three pounds of garbage. By the time she's done that bag is filled with lots of glass jars holding only remnants of various products that used to stare out at us from inside the refrigerator screaming moldy and disgusting. Each item tossed into that sack seems to have some kind of liquefied  property that adds to its weight exponentially.


That  groaning glad bag is the last thing the trash man wants to see when he pulls up in front of my house.


The modern refuse corporation sends a lone man out into the neighborhoods to drive the truck all by himself, getting in and out  house after house to load the trash. The days of the two or three man operation have gone the way of the Edsel and the Corvair.


Overcome with guilt upon setting out  two trash containers so heavy  that my son named them Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah, I got the idea of placing a $10 bill taped to each one.


Without complaint these items made their way into that metal monster that creeps into our cul-de-sac once a week.


                I extended my theory to yard waste. Sticks and shrubbery are required to be only 4 feet in length and wrapped in bundles not to exceed 18 inches in diameter.


                The problem is that I  am  way too clumsy  and to be honest with you too lazy to construct bundles so neatly. Who has time to create compact tubular masterpieces from yard waste?


                The bundles that I place on the tree lawn are more like giant grotesque scary-dream tumbleweeds you'd find in a Tim Burton movie.


                A strategically placed $10 bill taped to a branch ensures that my leavings will have disappeared by the time I return home from work.


                Am I abusing the overworked and underpaid waste management employee who visits my driveway apron once every seven days?


                No I am not. Quite the contrary, I have established a solid if subtly expressed friendship with my buddy Mickey the garbage man.


                Every now and then my morning departure and his morning arrival coincide and  he smiles a grateful knowing smile.


                His smile tells me that just about everybody on his route has a heavy bagging mother-in-law just like me. His smile tells me that everybody else in the neighborhood is as incapable of complying with the city's gift wrapping requirements for collected sticks and vegetation.


                Mickey is  grateful that someone is thoughtful enough to slip him something extra for his trouble. Somebody cares about his aching back.


                Please don't swing by my home looking for a free 10 spot in the morning. My habits are mostly unpredictable and you'll probably find nothing.


                But just  in case it is one of those days that I want to let Mickey know that I appreciate his extra hard work, let Alexander Hamilton smile on this laborer  in overalls.


                Mickey and I are friends and I want to keep it that way.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Marby and Me trumps Marley and Me

Years ago a singer named Bobby Vinton had a huge hit with a song called Beautiful Brown Eyes. Vinton sang the praises of a wonderful girl who lacked the blue eyes typical of classic beauties of that era.


I must confess that there is a Beautiful Brown  Eyes in my life as well. Her name is Marby.


Five years ago on the day that my mother passed away I was feeling pretty low. My son and daughter drove 75 miles west to find a golden retriever puppy. Marby was the runt of the litter and had been struggling to nurse. It seems that there were  a lot more pups in the  litter than pumps at mother nature's nursing station.

                They dubbed her  "Marby" as a tribute to my unusual middle name "Marlborough".

My kids fell in love with her as she struggled without success while constantly maintaining a positive attitude. She may have been striking out, but according to the kids, she had a smile on her face.

Ever since that day  she came into our house, Marby has given us a message of unconditional love.


Wherever I am, Marby wants to be there. Whatever I'm doing, Marby wants to do what I am doing.


Marby cannot say a word but she communicates in forms of pure poetry. She expresses her love frequently through subtle contact. Whenever I am at rest, she doesn't just  sit near me. She expresses love by sitting on my foot, or resting her chin on my knee, or just standing next to me with her shoulder pushing against me.


Marby is such a gentle soul that she rarely shows  aggression.


Marby wants to be friends with every single living creature, from the smallest bug to the most hulking delivery man.

 A few of the other dogs in the neighborhood are not interested in this retriever who always bears the olive branch, but Marby never gives up with her message of peace and play.


But that's her personality. Just like the puppy who couldn't  fight her way past her bigger and stronger brothers and sisters, she continues the quest with a smile.


Occasionally her Gandhi-like ovations toward potential friends gets her into trouble.


She's a smart dog and she realizes that skunks carry a devastating weapon. Despite this, she believes that she just needs to find the right approach and soon she'll be having afternoon tea with Mr. black and white.


I've explained the bitter truth to her. There are people with whom you can not negotiate. Yet she still looks at me with those brown  eyes so idealistic that I know she will continue to try to convert the neighborhood terrorists.


It's okay, Marbs. As we share a tomato juice bath at 2:30 in the morning, your beautiful brown eyes tell the whole story.


I'll never love blue eyes again.