Saturday, February 06, 2016

Spooky's Super Short Movie Review

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes itself very seriously, which makes it pretty...delicious.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Bishop's Bitch Slap

Last Sunday I was confirmed and I have been goofy happy about it all week.  Joining the Episcopal Church is the first religious decision I have made completely and entirely on my own, with no consideration for any one else. 

That may run counter to the principles of playing well with others, but seeing that the others have taken their football and left the playground, it seems legit.

Sunday morning I was awake by 4:00 a.m. - excited and a little anxious, I guess.  I tried all manner of things to go back to sleep, but gave up and decided to do something productive.  Like getting dressed.  On Saturday I attended confirmation class with a couple of college students who were going through the ceremony at another church.  Mother Jay, who I am pretty sure was even more excited and anxious than me, suggested that we wear "Sunday Clothes".

I took the hint and dressed up.  A bit.

Episcopalian Confirmation Services have joined funerals, football games, and a host of other events on the list of things I'm not willing to wear a dress for.  Or pantyhose, for that matter.  But I did wear something more appropriate than jeans and a t-shirt.  And I wore heels.

Her second request was that I arrive at the church early to meet with the Bishop.  She promised there wouldn't be a test, but that we'd do a walk-through of the service.

I can be early.  I was up at 4:00 a.m.  I can be damned early.

When I arrived I found about half the congregation already there.  The three of them were frantically searching for confirmation certificates, oil for the Bishop to consecrate, and the parish register so they could affix me to the 'permanent record'.

When Jay registered my presence, she smiled like I was the guest of honor - something she's good at - and stepped closer for a hug.

Then she hesitated, uncharacteristically, arms out-stretched.  It took half a moment for me to process.  She'd never seen me in heels before and the extra inches put her face right at boob height.  It was gonna be an awkward hug.

I bent down so she could reach.

The paperwork procured, I was given the task of completing my own certificate, having been declared to have the best handwriting.  Things were coming along rather nicely and when finished I stood in the hallway outside the church office, talking to a friend.  Jay joined us.

"I think we've got everything ready."  She relaxed a bit and we chatted for a few minutes before she turned to go into the sanctuary.  She threw this comment back over her shoulder,  "I suppose I should warn you.  Sometimes bishops slap the candidates on the face during the service."

"Wait -- WHAT?!"

Jay turned and walked back, grinning like a cat full of canary.  "I've seen it done.  The Bishop gives the candidate a little slap on the face."  She reached up to demonstrate and I flinched. "But don't worry.  I've never seen our Bishop do it."  And with that she walked away.

"Oh...Oh yeah?!" I stammered towards her retreating back. "Well--thanks for the warning!"

(I told this story to my friend Cyn in a San Antonio Starbucks while waiting for a flight back home.  At this point she exclaimed, "Thank God she warned you!  If not I know what your exact reaction would have been during the service!"

I nodded and in unison we shouted, "WHAT THE HELL, DUDE?!")  

The bishop arrived and true to Jay's word he was an complaisant man with a talent for putting everyone at ease - making the way smooth.

He asked if I wanted to stand or kneel for my part.  Being born a Baptist who inherited a pair of gimpy knees, I opted for standing.  All was well until he realized that even when standing on the altar, his recent shoulder surgery prevented him from laying hands on the top of my head.

I bent down so he could reach.

He didn't slap me.

My parents were there for the service.   It was nice to have someone standing in my corner, or my pew, as it were.  Also they raised the weekly attendance by 22%.  (Yeah.  I did the math.)  Everyone was very welcoming and especially accommodating of my mother, whose cerebral palsy has confined her to a wheelchair for the past decade.  When the service was over, I gave her a hug.

I bent down so I could reach.

There's probably a lesson in all of that.  I'm leaving you to work it out for yourself.  But, since I've sat through a lifetime of evangelical sermons, I just can't leave the Three Points without a Poem.  And in honor of that same conversation with Cyn, in which we discussed many important and useless things I have managed to find a snippet of Helen Steiner Rice that has no doubt graced some complicated frippery of drug store stationery in years past:  

God has a much bigger vision
and He tells us it’s only a bend
For the road goes on and is smoother
and the pause in the song is a rest
And the part that’s unsung and unfinished
is the sweetest and richest and best.

Who knows whether or not HSR is right about the road being smoother, but I know that you do have to be willing to bend. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I'd Settle for Seattle. Or Even Galveston.

Have I mentioned I'm getting confirmed?  Sunday?  With a real-live bishop and everything?

I am.

I'm not going to wear my big bishop-esque vampire-repelling cross.  And I'm not going to dress like Anton LaVey.  Still not going to wear a dress, though.  Check off another box on the List of Things I'm Not Willing to Wear Panty-Hose For.  Anything else I should do or not do?

Oh, and I gotta remember to go to confirmation class on Saturday.  That's really why I am writing this.  It's a big ol' sticky note in the blogosphere to help me not to wander off on Saturday morning and forget all about my immortal soul and such.

This past Sunday, the Priest told me, all casual and off-hand, that she'd done some research and someone my age doesn't have to have a godmother for confirmation.  She would just act as my sponsor.  I smiled and nodded, but in reality I was all "waaaaaiiiiiit!  Fairy Godmother?! I might want one of those! Do they come with their own wand?  Do I get three wishes?  Should I bring a bottle?  An apple?  Some cooperative house mice?!"

So many questions.  But I don't know them well enough at this point, so I just kept my mouth shut.  And that right there was a miracle. Kept my mouth shut.  Y'all remember this and eventually, when I'm up for canonization, this bit of thaumaturgy will help get me my own feast day.

Does Transylvania already have a patron saint?  What are my chances?  I don't wanna get stuck being the Benefactor of Akron, or something lame like that. 

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Mike the Bike

One of the patterns of my life for the past three years has been a fairly pleasant commute.  My department covers four counties running along and below the Caprock Escarpment.

From Wikipedia: The Caprock Escarpment is a term used in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico to describe the geographical transition point between the level high plains of the Llano Estacado and the surrounding rolling terrain. In Texas, the escarpment stretches around 200 mi (320 km) south-southwest from the northeast corner of the Texas Panhandle near the Oklahoma border. The escarpment is especially notable, from north to south, in Briscoe, Floyd, Motley, Crosby, Dickens, Garza, and Borden counties. 

Four of those counties are mine and getting to my various offices is almost always a refreshing drive.  The problem has been the wear and tear on my car.  Mileage payments cover the cost of fuel, but don't really provide for buying a new set of tires each year, the depreciation of high mileage on a new vehicle, etc.  A couple of months ago I convinced myself that the best solution for this was to buy a motorcycle.  Obviously.  

Mike the Bike is my new best friend.   

It's summer in Texas and that means most of the time I'm riding in shirt sleeves.  Some mornings I throw on a windbreaker, but not often in the last couple of weeks.  I need to buy a new leather jacket for the cooler months.  Inexplicably, the one I wore ten years ago is too small.  Who knew leather would shrink up like that, just from hanging in the closet?  

I bought a new 'big shirt' this weekend and wore it for the first time today.  The shirt doesn't go too well with my full-face black helmet, but that's ok.  I wasn't going to wear the windbreaker just for fashion's sake.  Comfort out-ranks fashion these days.  

I likes me a full-face helmet because I am not at all impressed with the sensation of bugs in my teeth.  There are some drawbacks, though.  Vision is slightly curtailed with this helmet.  Peripheral vision is not bad, but I can't glance down without lowering my head.  If I need to see me feet for some reason, I have to actually look down by dropping my head, rather than just glancing down. And the full helmet is hotter.  Way, way hotter.  

It wasn't terribly hot this morning when I first got on the bike and rode through town.  Riding from one side of town to the other took all of three minutes.  And that's because I had to stop and wait on a car to pass before I turned on to the highway.  Once I got up to highway speed the wind felt a little chilly.  The thin cotton shirt wasn't blocking any air at 70 miles an hour and I was a bit shivery.  

Regardless, it was a gorgeous morning.  The clouds were plentiful enough to be interesting.  The cotton fields are just starting to bloom.  The air smelled fresh and clean.  Traffic was fairly light, as usual.  A few of us headed in to town for work.  A few farmers headed out of town for the same reason.  A few truckers headed through the town on their way to somewhere else.  

The road curves as you enter the north side of the county seat.  The speed limit drops to a sedate 35 miles per hour.  About a half a mile through town is the county's only stop light.  Today I got lucky and it was green - I didn't have to stop, just slowed down a bit.  The convenience store on the corner was doing a brisk beverage and gasoline business.  

A block further on I turned left and rode past the funeral home, two banks, a beauty shop, a CPA, the radio station and the drug store.  I stopped at the intersection between the pharmacy and bank before riding the last half block to the courthouse.  The County Judge lets me park my bike under the covered pavilion so my seat is not so scorchingly hot when I leave at five o'clock.  

I coasted up the short sidewalk, past the 'No Vehicles Allowed Beyond This Point" sign and around the interior of the pavilion before parking.  The pavilion sits at the south end of the courthouse, next to the sheriff's office.  I dismounted then worked to wrangle the helmet's chin strap free. It's always kind of a chore, and once I get the helmet off, my hair blows all around. 

It was then that I looked down.  

And saw my shirt.  Unbuttoned all the way to the waist.  Blown back off of my chest, leaving my bra and torso, in all it's pale, rolly-poly glory, fully exposed. 

I was more than a little surprised.  

And then offended.  

I rode half naked for 15 miles and right through the busiest intersection in the county and - evidently - not one person noticed.  No one honked.  No one leered.  No one even freaking waved.

I don't know quite how to take that.  Either our rural society is much more open-minded that I'd previously imagined or my naked torso is completely and pathetically uninteresting.  

All I know for sure is if I ever get a titty tattoo it's gonna say "Honk If You Can Read This".  

And now I have to ride home...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hear Us Roar

I am the president of the Lion's Club.

Yeah.  Let me give you just a minute to let that sink in.

It's not like I wanted to be president of or even wanted to join the club.  But the third time Jo, the county treasurer, hit me up about it, she caught me in a weak moment and I said yes.

Joining a small town civic club is much the same as joining a small church and my warm body was quickly foisted into a leadership/grunt-work position.  I started at the bottom of the hierarchical totem pole last year and this year made a miniscule upward movement before Tommy, the club treasurer and the only person who did any of the administrative work, decided to retire.   Once the dust settled - boom! - I'm president.

Every Thursday we gather at the Cassey Event Center for lunch.  The center is a fellowship hall without a church attached.  We share Juanita the Cook with the Rotary Club.  The Rotarians rotarianate on Wednesdays.

There are a couple of people who belong to both clubs.  One out of an abundance of civic pride and one for business contacts as well as fiscal responsibility since dues for both clubs are cheaper than eating out for those two meals each week.

Club meetings are basically of just me and a bunch of old guys having lunch and listening to someone talk about something.  Sometimes I learn stuff.  Sometimes I don't. There are actually three female members including me.  One is the local CPA.  She's too busy to make more than a handfull of meetings a year.  The other owns an important retail business in the community.

The business owner usually makes only the last half of the meeting.  She works long hours and is very busy and she normally has to eat on the run. When I first joined the club I was appalled with how the men treated her.  They acted as if they could barely tolerate her - ignoring her suggestions or blatantly dismissing them.

Their attitude really bothered me.  I found it to be disrespectful and rude.  I tried to cultivate a relationship with her myself, letting her know I valued her input.  Now a couple of years later I find that I...barely tolerate her - ignoring her suggestions or blatantly dismissing them.

A more regular attendee is the insurance agent who likes to eat cheap and belongs to both clubs.  He  is also a big wig in the Llano Estacado Honor Flight.  It's a veteran's program that flies aging vets to Washington DC to see monuments to their dead compatriots and absolutely nothing else, evidently.  It's sort of a big deal.  He is very, very proud of this.  He mentions it rather a lot.

Since most Thursdays it's just me and the old guys, I have to entertain myself at these meetings.  In the interests of same, I've started a drinking game.  Any time Mr. Insurance can deviate a conversation into discussion of the Honor Flight, I chug whatever is remaining in my glass of tea.

I've drunk a lot of tea.

Jimmy is the multi-club member who is simply awash with civic pride.  His father actually started the Lion's Club in 1928. 

Yeah.  1928. 

Jimmy is 94 years old. He kind of bullies us all into being better people, but he's disgusted by the lack of participation of the younger generations.  Jimmy is used to doing business in the Mad Men era and before.  Back when everyone had a secretary and a wife at home, there was a lot more inclination to civic involvement.

Jimmy still has a powerful personality but at age 94 he is deaf as a post and nowadays his only job is to pray at our meetings.  There are a couple of reasons for this, one being that when called on he can deliver a flowing and flowery invocation.

The main reason for his status as chief benedictor is that he knows the spot int he program where the prayer always happens.   He can't hear much of anything, especially not female voices.  Apparently my voice is stereotypically female and even though he can't hear a word I'm saying, he knows when I look at him, following the pledge of allegiance, he's on.

At that point, Jimmy totters to his feet, grasps the handles of his walker and yells.

I kid you not.  He yells.


It reverberates.  Dogs begin to howl outside.  Dishes quake in the kitchen and Juanita grabs the tea pitcher that someone set too close to the edge of the counter.


Richter scales record a momentary blip from two states over.  The steeple on the Baptist church teeters just a bit and windshield cracks widen and spread all over town.


We damn well pray. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Deleted The Department's Financial Records on Friday

This week’s events include the following snippet of conversation:

The Judge:  “Thanks for the candy.”
Me:  “Thanks for not sending me to jail.”

You know those bits of paper that the sheriff brings you now and then?  The one’s with the funny little Latin name?  Subpeonas?  Subpeonae?  Muchos Subpeonos?   

A deputy visited my office a couple of weeks ago with one of those little mandates clutched in his meaty little mitt.  My presence was ordered for a upcoming proceeding in the northernmost county of the jurisdiction.  

After a week and a day spent out of the office for training and a holiday that I had forgotten the county observed, (Who’s off for Columbus Day, anyway?  Hell, the banks barely even take that holiday.) I decided to go straight on to my office in the southernmost county on Tuesday morning, rather than stopping to check in with my main office, in the middle-most county.  The middle county office is the one that had the subpoena sitting right in the middle of my desk so I would be sure and see it first thing when I got to work.  

The only thing that saved me for stern judicial rebuke was that the defense attorney also forgot about the hearing.  And instead of using my tactic of confessing to one’s own special brand of dumbassery and apologizing profusely, he chose to try blaming the Judge’s secretary for not notifying him of the hearing.  That didn’t work out so well for him.  

I owe that lawyer some flowers.  

That’s how my Tuesday morning went.  Tuesday afternoon started with me driving back to work following lunch with the court reporter, who’d made it home from all the way across the district after the aborted hearing.  We stuffed our faces and when I got back to the office afterwards, there was a pickup and a stock trailer parked across the street, next to city hall.  That’s normally where I park when I return from lunch, so this time I parked next to my office.

Half an hour later, I got a call from the Chief of Police.  

The Chief shares a first name with Supergirl.  But that, coupled with a penchant for law and order, is where the resemblance ends.  She is short and solid - compact.  Her close-cropped, mousy, brown hair is turning grey at a pretty quick clip.   She wears a heavy gun belt, a shapeless uniform the color of her hair and large plastic-framed glasses.  

And she’s got a hell of a voice.  

When this woman opens her mouth, Lee Marvin comes pouring out.  Lee Marvin with a horribly draggy Texas drawl.  I kid you not.  Lee-effing-Marvin.

I’d seen her earlier that morning.  She came by to give me some papers to deliver to the District Attorney.  I’m sort of like the pony express for offense reports and such.  This morning the Chief had a cold and sounded like Lee Marvin with corks stuffed in her nostrils.  She was taking a sick day and heading home.  

When I answered the phone, she drawled my name and said, “I realize we have much more important stuff to worry about in this town.  I really do.  But I’ve had a complaint that your car is parked illegally.”  

“Well,” I said.  I thought about it for a moment.  “I suppose my car is parked illegally.”  The ‘as if it really matters’ remained unspoken but not unheard.

She paused for a beat.  “Yeah.”  

“Ok,” I sighed.  “I’ll go out and move it.”

“Thank you, so much.”  She sniffled.  “You’re a doll.”  

Lispy Lee Marvin just called me a doll and hung up the phone.  I had to smile.  

I stood, stretched the kinks out of my shoulders and went outside, car keys dangling from my fingers.  Stepping to the curb, I looked left.  Then I looked right.  Then, since my office is on the corner at a four-way stop sign, I looked in front of and behind me.  

Then I looked in all four directions again, just to make sure.  

Mine was the only vehicle for at least two blocks in any direction.  

I sighed, grasped the keys more securely and stepped off the curb.  Once opened the door of my criminally positioned vehicle, I firmly planted my posterior in the driver’s seat.  I buckled the shoulder belt, adjusted my mirrors and looked both ways.  Just in case.  

Then I executed a Shriner-worthy U-turn and whipped the thing across the street and into a legally parked position at the curb right across the street from my office.  I got out of the car, and stepped back up on the curb, listening to the silence of the empty streets.  

And then I went back to work.