Die Cheap, Right Now

Marginal images from Frankfort Avenue Reservoir, Color Pencil & Ink, I don\'t recall the year

The girls in the back of the classroom had been whispering about something – “It was a funeral home ad – I said, ‘Die Cheap!,’ and she said, ‘Right Now!'” So the teacher minding the end-of-day study session held the class over 10 minutes, and another girl had to run for the school bus to get home. The girl who ran teased the girl who got the class held after at the first girl’s retirement lunch in a rural Middle Tennessee county this afternoon, about 30 years later. Die Cheap – made me laugh, sounded like a cross between an Ian Fleming and a Raymond Chandler title.

I worked away from the office today in that rural county. The women there were holding a retirement party party, and needed the room I’d reserved for testing. I was happy to oblige them by using a cubicle and small conference room to work with my charges. One of the ladies invited me share their lunch, which I did. Ate two huge helpings of spiced greens, some sliced tomatoes, two potato wedges, two small handfuls of popcorn fried chicken I at first mistook for fried okra, and three chocolate-chip cookies. Yep, Loggie, thought I’d try the okra, but lucked out and got chicken instead 🙂

I could’ve used the funeral ad exchange on the Chattanooga Chu Chu thread. I miss the nonsense.

Memorial Day 2008, Woods Reservoir

In a previous post, I think I mentioned having chosen to avoid the drunks on Tims Ford and Normandy Lakes this past Memorial Day Weekend. Monday morning, early, I headed out to Woods, putting in at the same spot I used Saturday. All I wanted to accomplish Memorial Day was to earn some Weight Watchers points, and to practice sculling, braces, maybe some wet-exits and self-rescue. The wind was blowing strong from the south, and I paddled against it to the lee of Elder Island, then east along the island and over to the Franklin County shore, thence under the causeway and over to Morris Ferry Dock.

Apparently the USAF has decided not to renew the facility’s lease, which means powerboaters on Woods will have no place on the lake to buy gasoline, the campsites and semi-permanent residents of the RV/Trailer Park will have to relocate to, probably, less pleasant environs, and a funky piece of Americana that’s been in place since the 1950s will be gone. Replaced by? Dunno, maybe officer housing, something concrete and soulless?

By the time I paddled back to the put in, which is where I’d planned to practice my embryonic kayaker skills, around 10:00 a.m. I’d been out maybe two and a half hours. Two older couples had set up their chairs and fishing poles near my car, and I thought it would be rude to splash around in the water and totally ruin their fishing experience. I got the kayak out of the water as quickly and quietly as possible, chatting with them a little; it was time to get home and ready for the day’s family activities.

Note the festive bunting along the hand-rail.

Long may it wave

Looking toward the Elk River with my back to Morris Ferry Dock

Six Toes

Last night I was holding our son, rocking him until his fussiness subsided and he slept. My wife, Caution-Lady, was scrapbooking at a table behind me, leaning over her work, facing me as I turned with the chair to face her. I looked at our baby’s feet and said, “Honey, did you know he’s got six toes on his left foot?”

Her head jerked up and she had a panicked, stricken look on her face. “He does not!,” she gasped. I laughed and told her I was kidding. She said it wasn’t funny, that she had already counted his fingers and toes (this really struck me as funny), and had momentarily been afraid she’d miscounted, or maybe counted the right foot twice.

A Farrago of Bad Ecclesiology

Is God ever absent, ever truly far from his people?

The Whitehorse Inn guys botch another discussion (listen here), confusing societal contempt for religious professionals with rebellion against God’s authority. Didn’t Ezekiel, Jesus, Martin Luther, the people in Foxe’s book, and countless unnamed others have something better to say about this?

They did manage to make some sense talking about the uniform of one’s vocation. In my work, the uniform is button up shirt, khaki trousers, matching belt and shoes. It reassures those with whom my job brings me into contact that I am serious about my work and take them seriously as I go about that work. I have a pair of khaki trousers I bought in 2002 at Chattanooga. Last weekend they began their new life of freedom as a garment worn camping. Their life as a slave-vestment is over, finally broken-in and matured by years working for the state, they have entered in to the casual, leisure time of their wearer.

I wore a pair of Kuhl Eiger shorts and a color-coordinated $10.00 Wal-Mart camp shirt to Barnchurch today, with stout hiking boots, because you never know when you may find yourself walking. Guerrilla Christianity never looked so good. This was our last Sunday in the loft. I await a nominative inspiration for the relocated ecclesia.

Lazy Day on Woods Reservoir

E-68 tied up at a Woods Ski Club dock

I had originally planned to put in at Devil’s Step boat ramp just outside of Winchester and paddle north and west to have the wind at my back for the voyage back to the ramp. When I realized it was Memorial Day Weekend, I changed my plans and paddled Woods Reservoir figuring there’d be fewer drunks on the water there than at Tims Ford Lake. Not that I have anything much against drunks, having been one, myself, in my late teens and early twenties. But they do tend to be nuisances, and hazards to navigation when operating water craft.

Woods Reservoir, as I expected, had about a score of bassboaters, maybe five family groups on pontoon boats, several nondescript small boats with outboard engines, one sailboat sailing, two jetskiis, and one couple in an inboard day-cruiser pulling five or six kids on four inflatable lake toys. Also saw the police boat out patrolling. Probably the same guys who stopped me around the end of last year just to assure themselves that they really had seen somebody sailing a kayak with an umbrella.

I put in near officer housing, trying not to disturb a family fishing on the bank about 15 yards away, and paddled out around Elder Island thinking I would go around it once before heading toward Morris Ferry and then toward the mouth of the Elk River. What I did instead was to paddle close to the island’s south shore, then cross over near the Franklin County boat ramp and paddle along the lake’s shore toward the dam, making a clockwise circuit.

Wasting time, I dawdled along the shore looking at turtles, fish, birds. I saw an otter splashing in the shallows and thought it was boat-wake making little waves crash. When the little waves sprang up the bank in the form of a shiny, long, four-footed creature with a tail and round ears that shook itself dry and sat by a log eating something and grooming itself, I recognized an otter. Dry, its fur was dark brown, and the creature appeared not to notice me as I drifted toward it along the shore. My second-hand factory re-furb Pentax WR’s shutter speed is creaking-slow, so I repeatedly snapped pictures hoping one would turn out well.

Woods Reservoir Otter

Seeing me, the little carnivore ran back up the hill, along the ridge, and, because I saw it swimming across in front of me as I paddled back out into the lake, apparently sought refuge in the water. Some other photos from yesterday can be found here.

The other thing I did yesterday was to practice sculling on either side of the boat – putting it on its side and using paddle strokes while leaning on the paddle to keep the kayak from capsizing. Then, in very shallow water, I tried to at least simulate those braces where the paddler lays on the water with the boat on its side using the paddle on the water as a sort of outrigger/float. I didn’t reach the point where I felt comfortable enough to commit to laying on the water with paddle in my outstretched arm.

I think I will head out again early Monday morning to paddle a couple of hours and practice sculling, bracing, maybe some wet-exits and self-rescue.

These Guys Sound Like They Feel Threatened

I’m listening as I write to the guys at www.whitehorseinn.org. More and more they’re sounding to me like they define true biblical Christianity as something given by God to the sheep in the pews through religious professionals who stand before the sheep in the place of God between the sheep and God. Sort of a Protestant Catholicism.

They sound like they feel threatened by those followers of Christ who refuse to be followers of religious professionals. They’re kind of freaked out by the fact that the church, as scripture defines church, cannot be contained by organizational hierarchies derived, evidently, from the pagan culture of the ancient world. Too bad, guys.

The thing is, these Whitehorse Inn cats have a lot of right things to say about scripture, but very little that matters about ecclesiology.

Troubled By Dreams

Over the past maybe four or five weeks I have been troubled by dreams. Not all of them. Three, particularly.

The first of the dreams was one wherein the Clinton woman and I sat down to discuss her candidacy, and what she needed to do to remain a viable candidate. It was pretty simple, really, all she had to do was to clearly and truthfully answer the one question most important to someone like me – Why should a social and fiscal conservative vote for you? In my dream she had a good answer, and I awoke with a sense the woman is genuine, intelligent, and that she is, at some core level conservative, that we hold to similar values. So yeah, I woke up troubled. The dream seemed more real than the run of the mill dreamland adventure. I didn’t want to write about it, because I didn’t want my thoughts to escape into the real world where they might effectively aid a Clinton candidacy. That’s pretty absurd, of course, but also a measure of the dream’s strangeness, clarity, and felt realness.

The second dream followed a couple of weeks later. In the dream I met and interviewed, I think, all three of the candidates. Obama impressed me as just another power-hungry grab-ass crooked pol, and reminded me (just as he does in the waking world) of a lizard-like cat who’s the overpaid pastor at the non-SBC First Un-Baptist Church of Stepford. McCain, during a time where I observed him doing campaign stuff, and interviewed him briefly, struck me as a man devoid of spirit or integrated self – spiritually hollow, but full of stuffing or attic insulation material. Again, HIllary Clinton impressed me during our dreamland interview as the one genuinely Christian (with a big “C”) candidate running for presidential office. And, at least in the dream, I liked her and thought, “This woman can be trusted.” Effing crazy, and for the second time disturbing, eh? Again, I didn’t want to write about this, my second bizarre dreamland political encounter.

Last night, however, I had a dream as vivid, and more disturbing than the previous two. I don’t know whether it has anything to do with those dreams briefly described above.

I awoke to find myself speaking with a woman who said as she got into it, “There is a hiding place beneath the mantle in this house I bought.” She pulled the trapdoor down over her head, and I saw her standing in a nice little room under the hearth. I saw a man in a straw fedora, blue shirt, necktie, and light colored-suit who appeared to be of her social-class and age (upper middle) walking into the livingroom above her head, looking for her. Quietly menacing, he paused over the hearth, looking at the fireplace and mantle, and I reached in and held the trapdoor down, and the man left.

A little later, I was walking in the dreamland seaside neighborhood and was to its residents a visible part of that world. I struck up friendships with the people I met, most of whom were Jewish. They knew I wasn’t a Jew, but seemed to like me anyway. What they didn’t know was that I was a traveler from another world, that is, my own waking world. And I knew that something horrible was going to happen in the neighborhood and to my new friends – I tried to encourage them to prepare for the coming of a persecution that would grind away every pleasant summer afternoon. Of course, how can you tell the people of Dreamland that you see their future?

During a coastal cruise on someone’s yacht, a storm blew in with waves that pushed the boat to shore. We got out and struggled soaked and splashing up the beach.

Returning to the neighborhood, we found most residences occupied by both their owners and government monitors. A surprisingly large number of people had managed to hide from the officials in their own homes in hiding places built for the purpose. Usually just one or two from each family group had been chosen for hiding, as it did not seem practical to most for the entire community to appear to the government to have vanished. But one or two from each family might go unnoticed, might escape whatever unknown evil was about to befall them all.

For some reason, I was able to come and go as I wished, was able to converse with those in hiding, and those living in apparent compliance with new government strictures.

Later, I drifted away and upward from the dreamland, and as I did so, I saw a slick television commercial advertising seaside houses in France at bargain prices with clever animations showing floor-plans with novelty hidden rooms – all great fun to own. And I knew that my friends had not escaped. I was left with a sense of dread because I thought at first what I was witnessing had happened already during the 1930s and 1940s, but the commercial seemed to indicate a horrible future.

Why France? Dunno, I guess maybe because I’ve watched and written recently about Jaques Tati’s Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot. Seaside village. Innocence. No reference in that film to the then recent horrors of homeland overrun once more by warring forces of other nations.

So, those are the dreams that have troubled me. Maybe writing about them will purge them from my psyche. We’ll see. Certainly the first two will have me branded a heretic and a liberal; but really, I am neither. The third dream perhaps will bring accusations of anti-semitism, but if anything, the dream revealed me a strong desire I harbor to oppose any pogrom.

Christian Rogues Camping Trip

Caution-Lady, 76, and I returned yesterday afternoon from a weekend at Lake Jocassee with the Fattony and the Math Doc families from the Christian Rogues bulletin board. We left Saturday afternoon because the Cautious One didn’t like the idea of another night in the tent with our almost 11-weeks old son. The boy, however, really liked the tent. His first reaction upon being placed therein was to look around at the lamplight reflected greens and shadows of the tent fabric, and to pronounce for the first time ever the happy baby word, “Ah-goo,” that is, “It is good.”

ah-goo - it is good

Turns out the tent-site I’d reserved back in January had no drive-up access, although that information was not available on the Reserve-America website. Caution-Lady trekking a hundred yards with camping gear, kayak gear, and baby gear? No way. At the Devil’s Fork State Park check-in and information center, the lady behind the desk rented me campsite #45 for $11.00 more. Located across the lane from the remarkably clean bath-house, #45 was situated at a considerable distance from the lake’s shore, but just up the hill from our friends’ campsites closer to the water.

I think it was shortly after we’d set up the tent, or while we were working on it, that two little sandy haired girls walked by our campsite. One of them asked, “How old’s your baby?” Told he was about 10-weeks of age, the older of the two girls asked, “Are you Christov?” I answered, “Yes,” and asked how she knew. “We’re Fattony’s kids,” she said. “See that red tent right down there,” she pointed, “that’s ours.”

Mosquito Netting for Babies

Once we completed setting up camp, we put the Small One in his stroller, covered it with bug netting, and made our way down the hill, past the campsite I’d originally reserved, and into the Fattony domain. What a gentleman – more soft-spoken than I expected, Tony resembles the gun-toting, cigar smoking avatar cadged from the sketchbook of Matt Groenig, only he didn’t seem as portly in person as his cartoon fiction twin appears on the pixilated screen. Tony, his wife “Special-K,” son, “The Boy,” and daughters characterized by freckled nose and continual smile, respectively, invited us to visit with them for awhile. As we were getting acquainted, Math-Doc, Vic-Chic, and their three sons Nacho, Burrito, and Fajita arrived. They didn’t have any trouble toting their own gear, but we walked with them to their car, helped them carry some stuff back to their campsite, and helped pitch their tent.

Tony invited us all to share the hamburgers and hot-dogs they grilled, I walked back up the hill and returned with a couple of camp-chairs. Had to go back and get a can of powdered formula for ’76. Weekend travel and camp-food were totally off the Weight Watchers charts. The Vzzztbot clan was pretty tired, so we said our goodnights and returned to the green tent beside our rented van.

A word about that vehicle, a Dodge Grand Caravan with Stow & Go seats – I’d be willing to own one. Decent mileage obtained, I think, with an engine management system and transmission that keep RPMs generally in the low 2000s. Handled well enough I never worried about skidding out of control into some ravine on that narrow, winding road between Highlands and Cashiers (pronounced “Cashers”). Carried with room to spare 18′ Pouch RZ-96 in bags, bag of kayaking gear, baby gear, camping gear. I think the one we rented was an ’06 or ’07 with maybe 26,000 miles on the odometer.

Because we arrived late Friday afternoon, because our campsite was far from the water’s edge, because our RZ-96 weighs well over a hundred pounds, and because we had to leave by mid-afternoon Saturday because my cautious wife didn’t want to spend another night in the green tent with our infant son I never did assemble the RZ. Too much of a headache to assemble for two or three hours paddling, then disassemble, towel dry, and repack before a long drive. Tony had arranged with a local outfitters to drop off a couple of rented tandem kayaks. He paddled with his smiling, fearless youngest daughter while I paddled with MD & VC’s youngest son, Fajita to a jumping off rock and some caves, normally submerged.

The ranger I spoke with said the water level at Lake Jocassee is about 27 feet below what is usual for this time of year, so although Fajita climbed the rock, he didn’t jump in. The sandy beach at the bottom of the photo should be lake bottom. Fajita, standing upon the rock, did spontaneously pose like Il Duce – someday he may make the kayaks run on time and the water reach its appointed level by fiat and dam.

Of course there’s more to say – Fattony’s cigar box, the aggressive squirrels infesting Fattony’s campsite, exchanging speech with friends as opposed to internet correspondence, the retired couple at the campsite adjacent to ours, the Microtel with microroom at Franklin, North Carolina, discussing chemical toilets with Caution-Lady after having used one at a Lake Ocoee boat ramp.

Looks like the Christian Rogues website is offline just now (10:30 pm Central Time 5/20/08). Informe.com seems to have frequent problems keeping its hosted sites online.

I Ate A Fishstick

I’m allergic to fish. Gives me anaphylactic shock, like bee stings affect some people.

So, last night I went to a business meeting at Barnchurch after supper at home with Caution-Lady and Little Squall. The group normally eats an evening meal together every Wednesday night before the bible-study or before the business meeting. Because I still had some Weight Watchers points left (around eight of them) after my supper, I asked if I could help myself to some of the leftover food on the kitchen counter.

I got a sweet-roll that tasted like it had been made with pop or Kool-Aid, which was a surprise given the fact it looked like a cinnamon swirl with a hint of color rolled up in it. I got a cold, bready piece of pepperoni pizza that came from a supermarket. I took two of three remaining index-finger sized fried cheese-sticks. Common courtesy dictates that one should never take all that remains of an item. I ate the sweet roll first, because I wanted something sweet, while on my way to the table.

Sitting by Doros, the Barnchurch pastor, I took a bite of the first cheese-stick. It didn’t taste right. “Is this a fishstick?” I asked, “I’m allergic to fishsticks.” Doros responded by taking and eating the other one of what my half-witted palate had tentatively, belatedly identified as something with trace amounts of fish meat in it (the fishstick was exceedingly bland). I thought I might as well eat the rest of the fishstick I was holding. “I’ve got an epi-pen in the glove compartment of my car, if I start choking or fall over, just stab me with it.” Then we joked about my not having “one of those James Bond vzzzt-things” in the glove box. I made a fork with my right fore and middle fingers, jabbed at my chest, and said, “Vzzzt.” As the meeting got underway, after scripture reading and a prayer, I tore off and ate pieces of the pizza slice in an attempt to feed inconspicuously because I was the only one at the table eating.

Vzzzt-Bot

I did notice an allergic reaction, slight swelling in my throat, slight pain in my chest, and what became by the time I got home a sharp headache and a feeling in my body like the smell of mercury from a smashed thermometer.

Although I’m not a member, I spoke up at the meeting. Honestly, I should have been born without a tongue in my head. The church voted (finally) to move into a building at Stepford that seems to be the most reasonable means of obtaining a breathing space as Barnchurch tries to figure out where it goes from here. Also, the group made another good decision.

Only on the drive home later did I recall the word defibrillator.

Listening

My wife got from somewhere, maybe as a shower gift, a music CD entitled Nature’s Lullabies. She plays it a low volume at night when she puts our son to bed in his bassinet. A woman sings a capella songs in the public domain. I can only hear odd phrases.

At first I felt an unexpected, unwelcome sorrow or grief upon hearing the line, “God hears all the little voices.” I suppose it is because I have heard the little voices of animals, birds, insects, and children – the song is about and for children – and have mostly ignored them. Sometimes I hear the sounds my infant son makes – his cries and growls, and am annoyed by them.

The song reminded me that my religion teaches God does attend to the minutest squalls, sounds, and doings of his smallest image bearers. It reminded me that God likewise heard my protests, squalls, “infant songs.” Perhaps he is still listening. I’m trying to listen more attentively to my little one.

I googled the line to see if I could find the song’s complete lyrics. The search returned three Google books scanned with three similar versions of the song, the oldest of which appears to be dated 1864. According to the Google bookscan of, I think the 1907 version, The American Normal Reader, the following was translated from the German:

Can you count the stars?

Can you count the stars that brightly
Twinkle in the midnight sky?
Can you count the clouds so lightly
O’er the meadows floating by?
God the Lord doth mark their number
With His eyes that never slumber;
He hath made them, every one.

Do you know how many children
Rise each morning blithe and gay?
Can you count the little voices
Singing sweetly day by day?
God hears all the little voices-
In their infant songs rejoices;
He doth love them, ev’ry one.