Sunday, May 31, 2009

Father's Day 1972 Revisited, Part 1: The Beginning; a Summer, a Sunrise, a Seduction Begun

My very first memory is of being lost and alone in a thunderstorm at the age of four, but I will not start there. I will begin at age twenty-one, in 1971. I'd just been released from Banning Road Camp after serving 66 days of a 90-day sentence for violating the terms of my probation. The specific term I'd violated stipulated that I not be arrested while on probation. The court took note that I had gotten myself arrested in Seal Beach for possession of marijuana. This was not my first scrape with the law and my father was concerned about the trajectory my life had been taking of late.

That is why, upon my release from the Road Camp at Banning, I was met by my dad and my brother, Skip. From Banning the three of us drove to the nearby San Jacinto Mountains for a few days of camping. At the conclusion of our Father-sons camp-out, the plan was that I go live with my dad, his new wife and her three kids on their little half-acre horse ranch situated in Mira Loma, only about 7 miles from Riverside where I'd been raised.

I had not been on good terms with my dad for the previous ten years, and for the past few had been living on my own in several different So-Cal locations, most recently Seal Beach. So this new situation felt a bit strange, but at this stage in my life a change of this sort was a real ( but unrealized by me) godsend.

Enter the beautiful neighbor girl. I first saw her on a misty morning in May as she walked past our house on her way to school. I was intrigued and enchanted from the first. Her long, straight chestnut-brown hair and slim figure were the easily identifiable outer allurements which got my initial attention, but of course there was, in addition, that deep and difficult-to-pinpoint intangible something--was it something in her bearing?--which captivated me. In the next week or two I made a point of being where I could watch for her in the morning and evening hours when I knew she would be walking to or from school.

Although I'd seen her walk down our street, I had never seen which house she had come from. A week or so later, on a warm Saturday afternoon as I walked down the street I saw her sitting on her front lawn, playing a guitar (these were semi-rural properties with deep yards and no curbs or sidewalks). As painfully shy as I was, my feet seemed to instantly overrule me and walked right up to where she was sitting. I sat down and listened as she finished strumming and then somehow I found a voice and introduced myself. Unwittingly I had just set a tentative foot into one of God's cleaver and loving traps. To be continued...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Calvary Chapel(s) Then and Now

Lonnie Frisbee was preaching at Calvary Chapel Riverside when I first began going there in the summer of 1971. In the days ahead, I will be blogging about my experience there in the early 70s and also about Calvary Chapel Chino in the late 70s and early 80s. I am interested in contacting a few people from those days so, if you happen to know anyone who was involved in either church back then please send them to this site or have them contact Allen "Denny" Randall at First Presbyterian Church of San Diego.

Here in the Lap of Luxury

As I pulled my socks on this morning it hit me once again--I live like a king and am surrounded by luxuries galore! Here I sit, my feet luxuriating in clean soft white cotton socks casually tossing words out into a peaceful little cyber-pond like some monarch reclining on pillows and absentmindedly casting cherry pits into a lake. I have it all! A mere few steps from where I sit, a pair of servants patiently await my wishes. One with a bucket of clean, fresh cold water, and a companion who stands at the ready with steaming hot water for my every need. On the other side of this very wall is a room which half the world would likely walk a hundred miles to find, for it is filled with the finest food from around the world: grains of all kinds, exotic fruits, nuts and spices. Fresh crisp vegetables of all sorts, different kinds of oils, sauces and dressings, each with a different and delightful flavor. Oh my--I see the time has arrived for me to take my royal carriage to town and attend to some court affairs. This will therefore have to be continued another time, for I have but begun to innumerate the many luxuries which fill our dear castle here. Until then, adieu...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This Day

Thank you Lord for granting me yet another day of life. Let me have and express gratitude for everyone and everything I experience today. Save me from the hurry and distractions which would blind me to who and what you would want me to see today. Father, may I be a blessing in some way to each person I encounter, even those I pass on my way from here to there. In the midst of the city help me to be mindful of your creation all around--the sun, sky, trees, birds and every living thing. Please help me to order my thoughts such that my mind will not be filled with clutter and clamor, but instead will follow the threads of thought which lead to true wisdom and understanding. Let my words today be measured, thoughtful and loving so that I may encourage those who are weary and discouraged. May I use the gift of this day to draw closer to you and to bring you glory. May it be so.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Comment Goose Eggs and a Mother Hen Blogger

You'd think I was watching for eggs to hatch. In the hours and days after I've laid a--I mean written a post, I'm checking, checking, checking to see if anyone has read or had any response to it. Perhaps I need to get up, rustle my feath--I mean edit it a bit to coax it to life. Now whole days have gone by and the goose egg sits there with not even the slightest little crack appearing. Oh you poor little post, no one has anything to say about you. You have apparently delighted no one nor roused any-one's ire. I suppose it is the same principle in action as the watched pot. The funny thing is, people have given me feedback in person to some of my posts, indicating which ones they've read or enjoyed. This is gratifying but still... I just can't stop fretting over those goose eggs. Perhaps I should simply chalk all this fretting up to New Blogger Syndrome. I need more patience and to be content to let some of these little posts fend for themselves and garner comments--or not--as they deserve and as time goes by. What do you think? Want to hatch an--I mean, leave a comment?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Confession

I am a reformed/repentant pacifist. During the Viet-Nam war I was a passionate and proud follower of Gandhian pacifism. I not only dodged the draft, but made a personal cause-celeb of fighting the draft in a dramatic and public fashion. My hometown (Riverside) paper featured an article about my plans to refuse induction into the armed services. A Los Angeles based draft attorney and I had dreams of taking an appeal of my case as far up the judicial chain as possible, perhaps to the supreme court. He was a real ACLU-style attorney, motivated more by ideology than money (For his services I payed him one Fender Jazz Bass guitar).

From 1968 to 1970 I worked at organizing anti-war activities at my high school, attended meetings of the Students for a Democratic Society, joined the Peace and Freedom Party and marched in massive anti-war demonstrations. I can still hear the chants of "Ho, Ho, Ho-Che-Min--the Viet Cong are going to win!" David Harris came to our city and his speech convinced me to return my draft card to the draft board and to refuse induction if drafted. I was duly drafted and, after moving to the revolution's mecca, Berkley, I refused induction at the Oakland Induction Center. After doing so I was shunted to a little side room where a kindly FBI agent, in his 60s with graying grandfatherly hair and very calm demeanor, asked me, "Son, do you realize the seriousness of what you're doing, and the 5-year prison term you will serve if you are convicted?" I told him I did and politely declined his invitation to change my mind. The indictment and trial I so eagerly looked forward to never did materialize. It seems the courts were so clogged with similar cases they were only taking a few high-profile ones in order to make an example of them. I felt cheated, ignored and disrespected. That calm conversation with the nice FBI man was the last dealing I was ever to have with the U.S. government regarding my draft case.

As a pacifist I of course had a great and profound love for all humanity (in the abstract) but also great (righteous) hatred of whole swaths of it in reality: the evil U.S. government--and all who loved or supported it; the military; capitalism; the police, the wealthy; all Republicans, right-wingers and Christians, along with most main-line Democrats. These all were summed up as The Establishment. For those who have not indulged in this sort of spiritually delicious hatred, it's pleasure is difficult to describe. Its main intoxicant for us revolutionaries was the way it made one feel so pure and morally superior to one's enemies. And not them only, but also all the common folks who could not see with our enlightened clarity the evil of the whole American enterprise.

The reformation of my thinking as it regards pacifism has taken some time and has a number of causes--which I will leave for some future post. Here I will only note that I can now, thirty-nine years later, observe Memorial Day with deep appreciation and gratitude for all the warriors who fell in battle. Whose lives were given for a country which treated me so gently when I was railing against it. It was difficult for me to let go of my pacifist/Gandhian identity--for it was a very important aspect of how I understood myself and how I wanted others to see me. It was also a sacrifice to say goodbye to my cherished hatreds and ideological righteousness. They were heady but adolescent pleasures, and so had to be left behind. This Memorial day I am at peace with my anti-war past. Although I judge my actions from back then quite differently now, I am neither proud nor ashamed of them. They have been given a decent and properly respectful burial under a shady tree which watches over a little green field in my soul. That revolutionary young man may not have died in battle, but he did die. He had to lose his life--in order to find it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Vanity Press, Blogging & Poetry

I hate to admit it, but I suppose blogging is the ultimate vanity press. Nonetheless, some legitimate authors, such as my friend John Shore, are prolific bloggers. I myself am anything but legitimate as an author, having authored nothing, save this little blog--which about 6 people have set eyes upon. This is where the vanity aspect comes in.

I began blogging simply because it was so simple to set up. I had been sent to a blog [] by its author and, wanting to leave a comment (Note to my readers: You need to leave a comment on blogs you read--don't just be a troll!) Anyway, I'd read her blog and wanted to leave a comment. To do so, I had to register. In the process of registering, I was invited to "build a Blog." So I selected one of the templates offered and began. I filled in some heading and, before I knew it, Bodda-bing, bodda-boom, blogspot informed me, "your blog is now published." At that point, I saw I needed to add a post, which I did--post haste! (See my first post, DON'T Do Random Acts of Kindness). That was what got the whole blogalicious thing started.

Once I saw my, wow--actual bi-line in print, online, I was, of course, instantly hooked and thinking I was, kind-of-like, well, "published." Of course I was no such thing. Being published means that some legitimate real publisher believes he can sell what you've written to enough people to make you and the publishing company a decent profit. Obviously, blogging is a million miles from being "a published author." Yet--yet--it has the illusion of being "published." That's why, after my email marketing campaign (sending an announcement to my family and Friends in my contacts list) I was anxious to see if anyone had left a comment or had became a "follower." How thrilled I was when I got the first comment on my very first post! Wow--success--someone, it didn't matter who, actually read something I wrote and left a comment!

Much to my (spiritual) chagrin, I still have a very active ego that needs/seeks stroking--in the form of affirmation of my creative effort(s). That, I suppose, is at the heart of all vanity publishing and, now that I think of it, a good deal of legitimate publishing. as well. Vanity publishing is a sad enterprise if ever there was one. My dad used a vanity publisher to print a book about his career as a Physician's Assistant. He actually had an interesting story and, with a ghost writer, may have eventually interested a real publisher. As it was, he wrote a book and paid a vanity publisher to print x number of copies. I'm glad he did. It motivated him, and let him share important aspects of his life with family and friends.

It is late Saturday evening. I have much more to say and can/will say it better in a day or two.... stayed tuned for our We'll Publish Your Poem Contest!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Miracle of 1950

You haven't heard of it? Well, I suppose I really can't blame you for not knowing about the miracle of 1950. How could you have known? You would have had to have been in Minneapolis Minnesota that year, in a particular delivery room, on the 23rd of May, to have seen it with your own eyes. I happened to have been there, but my recollection of that day seems for some reason quite fuzzy. My mom has a much more vivid memory of the event. Most parents, even non-religious, will attest to experiencing some sense of the miraculous at the birth of their children. It's as if for one moment the cursed veil of having-gotten-used-to-everyday-life-and-taking-it-all-for-granted falls away and we see with Eden wide eyes the marvel of a being coming into being. We see one small suddenly Someone appearing as if by divine decree and taking our breath away by the mere fact of his or her existence. A bloody, slippery, bawling, wrinkly miracle. That was me. That's the miracle of 1950 I ponder, at least for a while, every year as the month of May approaches.

You too, dear reader, are an improbable miracle. For God brought you and me into being with an eternal purpose aglow in his Fatherly heart. As George MacDonald puts it, that purpose can be summed up in a name--your name. But it is not that name you were given at birth, but your true name. The name alluded to in Revelation: "And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it." [ Rev. 2:17] MacDonald comments: "The true name is one which expresses the character, the nature, the being, the meaning of the person who bears it. It is the man's own symbol,--his soul's picture, in a word,--the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own name? God alone. For no one but God sees what the man is, or even, seeing what he is, could express in a name-word the sum and harmony of what he sees. To whom is this name given? To him that overcomes. When is it given? When he has overcome. Does God then not know what a man is going to become? As surely as he sees the oak which he put there lying in the heart of the acorn. Why then does he wait till the man has become by overcoming ere he settles what his name shall be? He does not wait; he knows his name from the first. ...It is only when the man has become his name that God gives him the stone with the name upon it, for then first can he understand what his name signifies. It is the blossom, the perfection, the completion, that determines the name; and God foresees that from the first, because he made it so; but the tree of the soul, before its blossom comes, cannot understand what blossom it is to bear... Such a name cannot be given until the man is the name." --George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons,

Lord, help me to more fully reflect that name I will one day receive from you. Help me to overcome all the influences which would have me own some other, perhaps more accepted or respectable name. Thank you for granting to me the miracle of existence, of being, of life. May I be filled daily with gratitude and wonder as I grow into my new name during this, my 59th year. Amen

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Being (Upsidedown) and Nothingness (from B of A)

Yes, I am a real estate genius. I can make this claim because of the amazing and exquisite precision with which I can sense market conditions. Back in 2005 everyone else was guessing, wrongly, that the market would be going up forever, or, if not forever then at least for the rest of all our lifetimes. They figured that in a very few years they'd be taking 100k in equity out every other week for things like adding an atrium to the 2,000 sq.ft. spare bathroom which was way overdue for its third makeover. Wrong. I had them all beat by a suburban mile! And its all because my super market-sensitive gut gurgled up to my brain the message, "buy!" at the exact moment the market topped out. That happened on Midnight of the day we inked the escrow papers. In fact, if you were to look at a graph of real estate values in San Diego for the past ten years, you'd see an asterisk atop the almost-off-the-chart peak in 2005. The corresponding asterisk at the bottom of the page informs, "Randalls buy."

So here we are four years later and our little (576 sq. ft.) condo has lost so much value I'm thinking of offering it to the guy who collects cans in our alley. Several good trips to the recycler and he'd have enough for the down payment. Heck, I'd even help him. Perhaps he'd be interested in becoming a "flipper." In fact, he could buy it at its current market value--the equivalent of about 95,000 aluminium cans--and then sell it back to us, say for 105,000 aluminum cans, and turn a tidy little profit. We then would have neatly readjusted our mortgage to reflect reality. Hey--looks like I'm a re-fi genius too!

More updates in the months ahead as we seek to charm the "people" at B of A into the idea of a short sale. Currently their lips are sealed because we've somehow offended them by not missing any payments.

Coming soon, The Miracle of 1950!

59 years ago It happened-stop- More to follow this weekend-stop- I'll keep you posted-stop-You heard the man, STOP already!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Meet My Beloved GKC

G.K. Chesterton—Manalive!

"If there were no God, there would be no atheists."
“You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion."
“The decay of society is praised by artists as the decay of a corpse is praised by worms."

Quotes like these gave me an intellectual itch to read more from the wit who penned them. Let me tell you the story of how I so happily came to scratch that itch and, in the process, added another character to the pantheon of dead folks I’ve come to think of as friends and acquaintances.

Brian, the owner of Adams Avenue Books, seemed as excited as a kid hearing the ice cream truck when I told him I had yet to read any G.K. Chesterton and asked, “could you recommend which book I should try first?” As he took me upstairs he began to go on and on about what a wonderful and witty writer Chesterton was and even telling me stories from Chesterton’s life as if he were some beloved but eccentric relative. Beaming at me like a grandma offering her grandson freshly baked cookies, Brian held up two rather thick books and suggested, “Give Heretics a try—it’s a real hoot!” Now I’m beginning to wonder if the book business has perhaps pushed Brian over the edge and whether I really want to tackle Chesterton after all. Yet my curiosity got the better of me and I left the bookshop with both Heresy and Orthodoxy—along with some of Chesterton’s Father Brown stories. As I crossed the store’s threshold and emerged onto a sun-splashed Adams Avenue, I felt as if I had, in some fashion, just made Brian’s day. I also had a vague suspicion that I’d just taken my first steps into some quirky Chestertonian brotherhood. I had.

Chesterton has changed the way I look at life, God and myself. He’s taught—no, he’s re-taught me—to view life and creation with proper childlike wonder. He did this by introducing me to the wonderful Mr. Innocent Smith. You can meet him too. He resides between the covers of the delightful little novel, Manalive. In Heresy and Orthodoxy Chesterton showed me the connection theology has to philosophy and, indeed everything in life. This too has changed the way I see the world. Regarding the way I look at myself, Chesterton has taught me to take myself—and life--less seriously. He has also taught me to take them both more seriously. If you think what I’ve just said is some sort of strange paradox which doesn’t seem to make much sense, you’d be half right. It is a strange paradox; and paradox was Chesterton’s favorite tool for opening his reader’s mind to those truths which timid conventional thinking has kept them from seeing. As Chesterton himself said so well, “He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative."

Speaking of eternal rebels, perhaps it was my ever-active inner rebel who inspired me to begin the Chesterton Cigar Club a few years back. This was right when the anti-smoking puritans were hiking tobacco taxes and driving smokers from the very last nooks and crannies of the workplace. I only mention the the illustrious CCC with the happy intention of spreading its fame and perhaps, like a good fisher-of-men, enticing some fellow smoker to join us for our monthly meetings.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Reflections on my First Day of Blogging

1) I delight in dialogue and crave communication, so blogging seems a tailor-made venue for expressing and logging my thoughts as well as connecting with readers in meaningful ways.

2) I suppose I've always been a blogger of sorts, but only in the biosphere that is my mind instead of the blogosphere of the web. One is private and temporal, the other public and a bit more lasting: i.e. this blog might remain for a while after I have shuffled off this yet-to-be-tamed 186 lb coil.

3) This little exercise in self expression might serve as a mini workshop in which I can develop some skill in writing. It seems far less daunting than beginning a book or anything of that sort.

4) Lord, please use this little blog to somehow, and in some way, touch the lives of those who come here and read these thoughts. I pray you will speak from between these lines to any lonely, hungry and hurting souls who might pass this way. Help me Lord Jesus to write in such a way as to ultimately bring you glory, support your deep Truth and reflect your great love. Please help me avoid being needlessly divisive, cynical or flippant. Keep me from being contentious, proud or pompous as I express my opinions. Help me O Lord to be content to sit at your feet and learn the lowly path my soul so often would avoid. May you my Father bless all who pass this way.

Begging, Addiction and Humiliation

My homeless friends have taught me so very much. I thank God for leading me to meet them in the classroom of life called Ladle Fellowship. One of the things I have learned about is the power and perniciousness of drug and alcohol addiction. A man I know, and consider a friend, has told me about what it takes to feed the habit which drives his life like some seemingly imposed and inescapable script. He told me that he hates nothing more that begging. He despises it for it humiliates him and drives his self esteem to the depths. Yet he is driven to beg in order to feed his habit. And he must get high just to force himself to beg. After begging he uses the drugs to bury his humiliation. What a vicious cycle. Thank God there is hope through the power of Christ!

Twilight Enchantment

It is evening time on May 18th 2009--about 7:45p.m. This is my very favorite time of day. I find something strangely enchanting and soulfully delightful about the transition from evening to night. I'm not really sure just what it is that puts me in such a mellow musing mood. I know that George MacDonald could--probably somewhere has--expressed it much better than I ever could. This day will seem completely different an hour from now. It seemed very different just a couple of hours ago. The dark of night is not bad, just different. Twilight, when it is neither day nor night and is seems as if time stops, or hesitates for a bit. It is a magical (I balk at using the word) time of in-between--of transition. Perhaps the Jews had something in counting the days from sunset to sunset.

The Protestant Rest Ethic

I have tried for some years now to build a day of real rest into my life. Doing so, I am finding, is not nearly as simple as I once imagined. How can a fundamentally lazy person (such as I seem to myself to be) find Not Doing Stuff so daw-gone difficult? It's not that I can't take a day off or go on vacation, it's just that, through the mortar of my walled-off day, there seems to seep the nagging notion that I haven't yet accomplished anything to speak of and I'd better quit putzing around (I love to putz!) and get at least something done. As my Sabbath progresses, I'm watching the clock and calculating the few hours left before sunset, the time by which I should have put to bed some worthy daytime project. How can I deserve a relaxing evening tonight if I haven't done diddly all day? Wait, lemmie think for a moment... I did write two posts today. Hmmm perhaps they'd qualify as at least some kind of diddly? Perhaps I can neutralize that pesky accomplishment nag by blogging it away. That's it--I'll pop that sucker right in the kisser with a big ol' fat blog! That'll show him! It's late in the day; I'd better pour myself a glass of wine and give this some serious thought. A cigar might be summoned to the battle as well. Tell you what: I'll send you some dispatches from the front lines as I'm able. If I get around to it. Someday.

The Miracle Diet No One is Talking about

When you loose 50 pounds--at least when you loose it quickly--everyone with your "before" image still fresh in their mind wants to know, "What diet are you on?" I guess it's time I reveal The Secret--the diet that's brought me such miraculous results. I only wish it could bring me the kind of royalties The Secret brought its author! But, sadly, I'm afraid no one is going to fork over $26.95 for the hardback copy of the E.L.E.M. Diet: The Two Secrets to Amazing Weight Loss. The vast diet-buying public will not be breaking down Boarders doors, or Amazon's e-doors to get their copy because it has but one chapter and it's titled, Eat Less, Exercise More. In fact, that chapter consists of but one lonely sentence on one nearly blank page--and that sentence is identical to the chapter title. That's why E.L.E.M. is the miracle diet no one is talking about.

Perhaps I'll write s'more about how I've come to ELEM, but really, I don't think it would be all that interesting. No ancient Chinese formulas or herbal teas, no real tricks of any kind to speak of. The only "trick"--if you can call it that--is that I ELEM only 6 days a week. On my "free" day I EAEN. If I think of something helpful or interesting beyond that, I'll let you know.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

DON'T Do Random Acts of Kindness!

OK, alright, yes, they're better than random acts of malice or stupidity. They beat random acts of vulgarity, destruction, or violence any day of the week. So what's my beef? It's that random acts have unintended consequences! Think about it: you're driving down Bleak Street in Poorsville and you spontaneously decide to randomly toss five-dollar bills out the window of your Prius. Ghetto kids and crack addicts come flying out of the alleys and mom-n-pop stores and into the street after those bills faster than five Baptist deacons after a new visitor. Bam! Next thing you know, the car with 10k spinners is plowing into kids quicker'n you can say, "turn that blankety-blank stereo down, I'm in the middle of a random act of kindness and trying to savor the freakin' moment!" All I am trying to say is that I much prefer purposeful acts of kindness; something with real intention and aimed at making a targeted improvement where it is really needed--and will be most effective. Like the motto I read on the Acton Institute site: "Don't just care--think!"