Sunday, July 29, 2007

Let US Pray

Good news Muslim high-schoolers. You can now pray it up in school. Despite attempts on the part of a few vehement atheists to stifle your religiosity many states are holding up your right to get all churchy during school hours. Personally, I really can’t say I blame you for putting up a holy stink. If a few prayers meant I could get out of class 5 or 10 extra minutes every day, then give me a rug and call me Ishmael, because I’m in.

Mind you, I haven’t always been in favor of special consideration for minority groups. Let me illustrate with an example from my past. I am a member of a church that enjoys a relatively high Polynesian membership, for the lower 48 at least. And without fail, anytime one of them gets up to the pulpit they yell “Aloha!” Not only that, but everyone in the audience is expected to yell “aloha” back in response. (I guess it’s the islander’s version of the Southern Baptist’s, “Hallelujah!”) If the congregation doesn’t yell it loud enough, which they never do the first time, the screaming Polynesian repeats his greeting louder than before in an effort to prod the sleepy assembly in a kind of “come-on-crackers-you-can-do-better-than-that” sort of way. And the process repeats until the islander is satisfied, which can take some time. I’ve seen this go on for 20 minutes before. This practice has always seemed strange to me since I’m quite satisfied with just a single greeting from a friend or group of people, despite the decibel level.

When I first witnessed this I was still in my youth and believed that one should never shout in church. Pious indignation spurred me to my feet upon the pew and I attempted to subdue the seemingly hypnotized congregation. With hands raised like Moses to the Israelites I entreated all with a loud voice, “No my people! Do not blaspheme in the house of God! Be still. Peace be unto you. Be not easily swayed by the wicked enticement of one man. Be as a rock, a rock upon which we can build some homes, or maybe some condos for the lower income families! Yea verily - ”
My father jerked me from the pew mid soap box sermon by my tie, told me I’m not Moses, and later informed me that the man was Polynesian and is allowed to scream in church. Not only that but he was also expected to eat an inordinate amount of Spam.

“Can I yell in church?” I asked.
“No.” said my father.
“Why not.” I persisted.
“Because you’re white.” He explained.
“What does my color have to do with it?” I queried.
“You're so young.” he laughed.

Needless to say, I learned a profound lesson that day. Part of that lesson is that there are still some exceptions that cannot be made, especially if we are talking about mainstream America. At the same time high school Muslims were receiving legislative support for their right to pray to their God in their way, everyone else was further reminded that God has no place in our educational system. (Luckily He already knows everything and has no need of a preparatory education.) Several districts, in places like Texas and elsewhere in the United States had, up til recently, been allowed to practice what they called a “moment of silence” exercise where students could pray, reflect, think about the hot chick in class, or just pick their noses without other students witnessing it. Whether they were doing it in classes, at the beginning of sports games, or before the schools human sacrifice ritual I don’t know. The fact of the matter is, is that these “moments of silence” were being practiced in the presence of atheist students, whose parents found out and were immediately gripped by the fear that some of these religious thoughts might rub off on their child and influence them to buy a gun and vote another redneck into the Whitehouse. Justifiably they rallied, and by the authority of the Constitution of the United States of America, (which we all know was written by religion hating atheists), they, along with the ACLU, the harbingers of all that is good and right, put an end to this evil “moment of silence.”

Some of the ACLU’s social scientists have determined that the intellectual casualties were significant and they were lucky that they put an end to the “moment” when they did.
So pray on Muslims, because you too will soon be part of the mainstream and an eligible target of the protectors of Trooth, Rite, and the Amerikan Way.

God bless. (Just not at school.)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Salt of The Earth

I love small town folks. I recently met three in Missouri when I took my laptop into one of those 24-hour diners where the waitresses call you “Honey” and they only play pre 1965 music from an old fashioned jukebox. I thought I should write about the encounters since I’ve never before had three such conversations in such a short amount of time. The ages are approximations and the conversations are as close as I can remember.

I first met Warren (age 48)

Warren: “You gittin’ internet in here?”

Me: “No. I’m just working on some other things.”

Warren: “Really? You looked like you was gittin’ Wi-Fi.”

(This was the first time I’d heard “gittin’” and “Wi-Fi” in the same sentence.”

Me: “Nope. I wish.”

Warren: “You should go down ta Burger King. You can git Wi-Fi there.”

Me: “Is that right?”

Warren: “Ya, just go in and turn down that narrow hall there (he says, assuming I know the layout of the Burger King) and there’s a big table in the back. You can plug in and git Wi-Fi all day back there.”

Me: “Thank you. That’s good to know.”

Warren: “Yep.”

Later I met Jacob (age 14)

Jacob: “Is that your computer?” (He says while approaching me with a burger in one hand and a drink in the other)

Me: “Yes, it is.”

Jacob: “What are you doing with it?”

Me: (Remaining vague in case he’s computer savvy enough to speak at length on any computer related prompt.) “I’m just typing.”

Jacob: “What kind is it?”

Me: “It’s a Mac.”

Jacob: “How much did it cost?”

Me: “About a thousand dollars.” (It was more, but I’m still being vague.)

Jacob: “Wow, that’s a lot! (coughs a second) What if computers like that grew on trees? That would be cool.”

Me: “That would be pretty cool.”

Jacob: “Ya, you could go out and just pick as many as wanted.”
(Long pause as we both smile at the prospect of computer trees.)
“Well, I gotta go.”

(He sets his burger on my table so he can shake my hand which, despite my grease-a-phobia, I shake because Jacob seems like a nice kid.)

Me: “It was nice to meet you Jacob.”

Jacob: “See you later.”

Last I met Paul (age 65) who was sitting at the counter eavesdropping on mine and Jacob’s conversation.

Paul: “So what kind of program does that have?”

Me: “Whats that? Oh, it has all kinds of different programs.”

Paul: “You a computer guy or some kind of programmer?”

Me: “Me? No. I can barely use the basic programs.”

Paul: “You have one of them new iPod’s you can talk on?”

Me: “You mean the iPhone?”

Paul: “Ya. One of them you can talk on and play music.”

Me: “No, I don’t have one of those.”

Paul: “They cost a lot?”

Me: “I understand they cost quite a bit for a phone.”

Paul: “What the Hell people need all that s@#% for anyway?”

Me: (shrugging) “I think they’re just lonely. So they try to bury the memory of past failed relationships and lost loved ones by investing a gratuitous amount of money on the latest gadget, naively convinced that the burgeoning tech industry and the developments of the future will help take their minds off the pains of the past.”

Paul: “What?”

Me: “I don’t know why people need all that stuff.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Room 116

My curiosity got the best of me and now I’ll probably be dead before the sun rises. I’m writing this in a motel room in Missouri. I have been here on business the past few days and am without wife or child and get reasonably lonely in the evenings and so I thought I might take myself to dinner and a show. Why not, I said to me. I’m good company and have been meaning to get to know me a bit better.

Skipping forward in time; so there I was, appetite satiated, standing before the box office of one of Springfield’s picture-show houses.

“One for 1408.” I naively said to the box office employee.

As it turns out 1408 is Stephen King’s new movie about a haunted hotel room that no one makes it out of alive. Now, when I bought the ticket I forgot to consider two major factors. 1) I scare easier than a six-year-old girl. (The sequel to Wizard of Oz still has me terrified of monkeys AND roller-blades, and especially monkeys ON roller-blades.) AND 2) After the movie I would have to go back to my motel room… alone.

Right when I return to the room and walk in I know something is wrong. Evil is here. And because I’m crap-myself scared right now and can’t sleep, I decided to write all night just in case I wake up dead. That way my loved ones will know what happened to me.

11:35 pm
The air conditioner sounds like ghost howling. I try to shut it off but to know avail. It’s stuck on full fan.

The evil air conditioner won’t let me sleep so I turn on the TV to distract me but it clicks several times before coming on. Not mechanical clicks you might hear when turning on an old tube TV that needs to warm up before use, but a poltergeist or maybe a possessed-midget-who-is-stuck-inside-and-trying-to-get-out kind of click. M.A.S.H. is on but the sound isn’t coming from the TV like it’s supposed to. Instead it’s coming from my own brain. It’s like that dream I have where I’m on stage singing “Welcome to the Jungle” and I know all the words. I’m freaking out because I’ve never watched more than a few minutes of M.A.S.H. due to the fact that it’s not nearly as funny as people born before 1975 claim it is.

12:27 am
I started to drift off to sleep but was startled back to full consciousness by the sound of a baby crying. I can’t tell where it’s coming from, but it’s unnerving. I hate it when the Devil uses children against us.

I’ve put tissue in my ears in an attempt to drown out the baby and the AC unit. But now the TV has come back on and the only thing on is the same episode of M.A.S.H. that was on before. I turn the channel and realize it’s on every channel and now the TV won’t shut off.

All three noises climb to an unbearable climax so I try again to shut off the AC unit. No luck. I’m writhing from the auditory assault and in a fit of desperation I grab the desk lamp and smash the AC unit to pieces.

The AC unit is quieter now though it is still clinging to life with a pitch-fluctuating whirring sound. The crying of the baby is on the brink of making my ears bleed. I bang on the walls and scream “FEED THAT BABY!” The crying doesn’t stop but now there is someone behind every wall banging and screaming “FEED THAT BABY!”

I’m lying at the end of the bed, ear to the mattress with a pillow pressed firmly against my other ear. Something catches my eye. The handle on the bureau drawer moved ever so slightly. Hesitantly I move toward the drawer to investigate. I pull it out in one quick yank and without warning an angry piglet leaps from the drawer and hooves me to the ground with one powerful blow to the chest. He lands on me with all the fury of a Christmas ham, beating me mercilessly about the face and head with his fore hooves.

I must have blacked out because I just woke on the floor in a pool of blood I can only assume came from my nose and mouth. I crane my neck quickly in anticipation of another attack from Beelzepig. It is nowhere to be seen but I lay there a minute to be sure.

Just when I’m about to get up I hear a blood curdling squeal and look up to see the swine flying over the bed toward my face. This time I react by spinning to the side while reaching for the animal as it flies past. I snagged one of its rear legs. I keep spinning so to use the centrifugal force to keep his teeth away from my kill zones. When I don’t think I can spin any faster I release and watch the un-kosher terror fly headfirst into the T.V. thus ending his life and M.A.S.H. with one big electrical crash.

I’m really upset now because I’m usually pretty good with animals and only like to kill them for food… or sport… or as punishment to a neighbor who has wronged me.

I gather my wits and go to the bathroom to wash the bacon grease and blood from my hands. I scrub and scrub and never feel clean. When I dry my hands I realize that the cheap motel soap has made my eczema flare up. I’m in Hell!

I search high and low for some kind of ointment or lotion to sooth my dry itching hands but nothing.

I punch the bathroom mirror in frustration and shatter it. Now my hand is throbbing and bleeding heavily. I curse my stupidity but fail to learn from my mistakes and illustrate this by punching a pile of broken glass with my other hand. Crap.

My brain cracks and I loose it. I’ve never taken any martial arts classes but my rage doesn’t care. I kick and smash and do some major Jean-Claude Van Damage. I even pull the pig from the TV and use it as a club to beat the room to pieces.

Everything is destroyed, including the pig.

The guy I’m traveling with knocks on my door. Shaking from nerve wrecked hysteria and exhaustion I answer. He notices the blood on the walls, the smashed furniture and AC unit, the pig, and asks what happened.

I check out at the front desk and lodge a serious complaint with the manager.

Manager hands me certificate for “1 Free Nights Stay” at any Hampton Inn in the country.

I forgive the Hampton Inn and am looking forward to my next stay.