Thursday, July 30, 2009

This Bud's for who?

We are a complex people.

When Dub-ya was President the most common affirmation of him among his supporters (back when his favorable numbers were high) was that he just seemed like a normal guy, someone you would like to sit down and have a beer with. Kind of odd since President Bush quit drinking alcoholic beverages in 1987. And he hasn't been a regular guy since the day he was born with that silver spoon in his mouth (and/or nose.)

As I type I have one eye on the television. The news channels are showing live video of President Obama drinking beer on the White House lawn with Sergeant Crowley and Professor Gates. There is no audio. Just four guys, including Joe Biden, sitting around a table, drinking beer attempting a bit of reconciliation. Not exactly the South African model of Mandela or Tutu. Sort of the American version.

There have been considerable column inches, video tape, and digits dedicated to this story today. President Obama cannot seem to stay away from controversy. When he declared Bud to be his beer of choice there was an audible gasp of disdain from beer snobs, especially in the northeast corridor. And the choice of beers by all of the participants has been analyzed and psychoanalyzed. I think there were last minute changes. Stay tuned.

But President Obama has rarely been described as a regular beer drinking guy. Remember the arugula eating elitist accusations leveled at him last October? Thank God that whole Reverend Wright thing came along or that story might have grown legs, adorned with riding britches.

President Obama is not a "regular guy" He is much smarter than most of us. That makes me so happy.

But there is a part of him that seems like a "regular guy" and I find it refreshing, even though it might make me cringe.

Anybody that knows anything knew that when the President said that Sergeant Crowley acted "stupidly" when he arrested Professor Gates in his own home, he made a mistake.

Not that he was necessarily wrong. It's just that the President is not supposed to say things like that.

But, I don't know if you noticed, President Obama is an African-American man. And the ugly truth is African-American men are not viewed as "regular guys" by a lot of us, especially when they are in the wrong neighborhood (mostly white) or struggling to get in a locked door. I can hear many of you mentally declaring your denial, but I'm pretty sure I'm right about this.

I was walking through downtown Birmingham late at night not long ago. All I could hear was my heels hitting the sidewalk. The only other person I could see was an African-American man walking toward me on the sidewalk. I felt the hair on my neck bristle. Maybe I'm the only prejudiced person in America, but I doubt it.

"Have a blessed day," he said quietly as we met and passed.

I don't think President Obama will ever achieve Joe Biden's talent for impulsively saying the wrong thing.

But I'm glad he did this time. He is human. He was authentic. He did not take measure of the consequences of this statement that more than likely represented a lifetime of frustrations, even for the President of the United States. He spoke one important sentence for African-American men that had never been spoken by one with power.

Maybe it wasn't good politics. But it was real. And that's the kind of guy I would like to buy a beer.



The Thurvey is back after a short summer hiatus. For the uninitiated the Thurvey is a survey taken on Thursdays. It is not intended to be a yes or no, true or false, or multiple choice survey. We are interested in your full opinion. If you wish to comment, click on "comment" below, type your answer in the comment window, click anonymous then click publish. If you wish to be know, put your name at the end of your comment.

If you had a chance to share a beverage with President Obama around a picnic table on the White House lawn, what topic would you discuss? What would be your opinion? What do you think his opinion would be?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

First things first . . .

Eventually we must get real.

The current national debate about health care is the latest issue that demands that we, as a people, get honest with ourselves.

There are conservatively around fifty million people in the United States not covered by medical insurance. Perhaps those people can get simple medical treatment at a clinic or emergency room. But for anything more serious, treatment is out of reach.

The beautiful thing about having this debate couched in complex terms and arguments of private vs. public, individual payor, universal care, government vs. private, socialist vs. capitalist, is that the necessary underlying assumptions can be avoided. There is always something in such complex debates that will give us safe cover from doing anything.

The question must be asked, are we who can afford medical insurance willing to accept change so that all can be covered? It is a simple first question, because it seems, at least in the beginning of such a plan, that most of us will have to accept some changes.

Yes I know it is not that simple. There may be some economic advantages to bringing the uninsured into the system where they can be treated in facilities other than emergency rooms and have access to earlier and preventative care. I hope that is true. But those economic advantages may not pan out in real terms and certainly not immediately. So the question still remains, are some of us willing to pay more so that all can obtain reasonable medical care?

It may be that the costs of medical care in America are artificially high due to the fairly recent conversion of medical care from a profession to a corporate profit cash cow. Maybe this issue can be addressed and the costs of medical care can be brought down. But the thing about cash cows, they are really hard to kill. More often they are milked dry until they are of no use.

But that's the way it is right now.

Which means, if we want everyone to have access to reasonable medical services, some of us will have to pay a little more and maybe accept changes in the medical care system.

Is that something we want to do? Or not?

That's where we should start.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Remember the Sabbath . . .


The word has come up more often than usual in the past week. Some friends are taking what they call a "Sabbath." A time away. A time of rest. A time dedicated to being with God. It is a discipline that they have followed for several years.

Then in a Sunday School lesson yesterday we talked about different "Sabbaths" in the Jewish tradition, and some of those described in Leviticus.

And then I went to the farm with my dad Sunday afternoon.

We climbed into the old jeep, my dad, Barney the aging black lab, and me, and headed north on Highway 75, through Friday's crossing, past the turn-off to Royal, Susan Moore, Snead's Cross Roads, and finally to the farm.

The old jeep made the trip fine. It has a few quirks, but who among us doesn't? It was a picture-book Alabama summer afternoon, hot and humid, but the canvas bikini top allowed plenty of airflow as we sped down the highway at the breathtaking speed of 45 mph, downhill. Cars rode our steel bumper until they could take it no more, passing on the hills and blind curves between Oneonta and Snead. No doubt about it, I was the classic Sabbath driver. I learned to drive in an old jeep, even older than this one, quite often on the same route. The feeling hasn't changed in all those years, a paradoxical feeling of freedom and purpose. The freedom to ride into summer adventure in the open air, the purpose of keeping the jeep running and/or stopping until a safe arrival at the farm. To this day I can't go by the Horton Mill Covered Bridge without thinking of driving the old jeep near there when the the hood lifted up and then flew over the heads of several of my friends and me before falling harmlessly on the empty highway behind us. Fortunately no mishaps befell us on this Sunday. Can't say as much for two or three unfortunate armadillos we spotted on the way.

So we arrived at the farm on this Sunday afternoon. Barney struggled to get out of the jeep. He is getting a bit old and it is painful to watch him. I am sure the trip stirred memories of younger years for him as much as it did for me, memories that have him leaping from the jeep while it is still in motion and running across the fields. He sort of fell awkwardly out of the jeep, but quickly regained his dignity, and darted, as much as he can dart these days, straight to the fish pond, immediately jumping in to cool off. He spends a great deal of his time these days trying to cool off.

I grabbed a fishing rod out of the gazebo and started to cast into the fish pond, away from Barney. The barb of the hook was buried in the plastic worm, so when a fish or two hit it, they tugged for a couple of seconds and spit the worm out. That was perfectly fine with me. I wasn't really in the mood to take a fish off the hook. But I am pretty sure they both went six or seven pounds.

And dad went to his tractor. The combination of events necessary to crank the tractor render it practically theft proof, unless you just want to load it on a trailer and haul it off. But dad knows the combination. Clutch in, key on, starter depressed, accelerant sprayed in the right hole at the right time. All of a sudden the engine is turning, smoke is billowing, and the old tractor once again comes to life, sputtering and spitting like a drowning victim resuscitated. He engaged the bush hog and begin to mow around the pond, occasionally using the front end loader to lift hedgerows and undergrowth. I turned back to my fishing-but-not-catching for awhile. When I turn back around my dad, who is 83 and one month out of the hospital for blood clots in both lungs, is no longer sitting on the tractor seat. He is standing as he drives, up and down the side of the pond, watching the path in front of him. I turn back to my fishing. Barney sits in the shade panting, and dad finishes his mowing.

We loaded into the jeep, checked on the catfish pond and some other spots, and headed home . . .without an operating clutch.

When I was very young I was confused about Sunday, about the Sabbath and keeping it holy. Some of my relatives thought it was sinful to fish on Sunday, or to do any work on Sunday. It was certainly a sin to cuss about a bad clutch.

Dad, Barney and I did not set out on a time of spiritual discipline like my friends, and we certainly did not observe rituals like those set out in Leviticus.

But I cannot imagine a better way, maybe even a more God-pleasing way, to experience Sabbath than to hop in the old jeep and head to the farm for a few hours of freedom from this world.

Because freedom looks different to different people. For some it's fishing without the hope of catching. For some it's skinny-dipping in cool water, and for some it's standing on a tractor pulling a bush hog.

You won't find that in Leviticus.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Philadelphia Freedom (couple of hours anyway)

Saturday, sofa, coffee. Resting up from a week of itching, steroids, and work.

I was in Philadelphia this week for a couple of hours.

I drove through the historical district in the late afternoon and parked my rented Sebring on the curb of a narrow street next to the City Tavern, a quaint brick eatery (and drinkery) established in the 1700's. The waiters standing under the huge old oak trees in the back yard made me think of the guy on the commercials. Sometimes I hate what good advertising campaigns are capable of.

As I strolled along the sidewalks of concrete, brick or cobblestone, scenes of history appeared like a powerpoint presentation, the slides changing with every few steps. I imagined Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Jay, Madison, Washington, and so many others walking the same paths, disappearing into the doorways, sitting at tables around mugs of ale, or tea, as the foundations of the incredible American experiment were taken from idealistic notions to ink on a parchment.

I was not alone in Philadelphia. Thousands of tourists roamed the district, the largest crowd lined up to view the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Post card photo opportunities were everywhere, and cameras were raised more often than glasses of beer at the pubs and taverns that line the streets. Families strolled along together. A good time was being had by all. It was a great American scene. I joined in the moment by stopping at a local vendor and consuming a Philly cheesesteak sandwich and a cream soda (the cream soda in honor of my compadre Mateo Smith.)

It is a beautiful place. The original buildings that still exist have been restored. Large areas of green grass and old trees provide places to rest. New pavilions and museums have been constructed.

It is idyllic.

Meanwhile, in our present day capitol, Washington D. C., other crowds were gathered. Congressman, doctors, businessmen, lobbyists, the President, reporters, spokespersons for the poor, the elderly, small businesses, protesters, mayors, governors, teachers, law enforcement, and countless others were in offices and hallways, on the streets, in restaurants and bars, and in front of cameras and microphones.

Conversations, arguments, and probably physical altercations were being had over health care reform, war and peace, education, the economy, and alleged police abuse of an African American Harvard Professor, a friend of the President, as well as a myriad of other issues important to the people.

It is not idyllic.

But neither was Philadelphia back in the late 1780's. There were arguments, altercations, and walk-outs. There were soaring orations, questionable assertions, personal attacks, physical altercations, and probably a challenge to a duel or two. Everyone had his point of view.

But that is what we have chosen. Everyone has his (and now her) point of view, and has a right to express it vigorously.

It may not be idyllic. But it is a beautiful thing.

Not the kind of thing you walk by and take pictures of.

It is the kind of thing in which we are all invited to be in the picture.

So smile and say "Cheese."

American that is.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Don't blame me, I'm medicated . . .

I never thought too much about it when the nurse reads off that list of things in a medical history. I've had a boring medical past, so it goes quickly and without a lot of thought. A few days ago I had to undergo a simple "procedure." They tell me it was simple, but I was asleep the whole time.

Anyway, before the "procedure" the nurse was going over the medical history checklist.

"Are you allergic to . . . " I'm not really sure what it was she said. I just know I never have really been allergic to anything, so I said no.

I have never had a "procedure" or a surgery or anything like that, so how was I supposed to know anyway? Turns out I was allergic to something that they must have slathered over a third of my body. Fortunately it is not the kind of allergic that causes cessation of respiration or heartbeat.

It was the kind that made me look like I was wearing a flaming red pair of hot pants when I was buck naked. From my waist to a few inches above the knee I was afire, and not in any way that could be viewed as good. It has created some embarrassing social and professional situations as the irrepressible urge to scratch this unbelievable itch overwhelmed me, controlling my judgments and my actions. I apologized to the judge and colleagues this morning for any inappropriate relief I might seek in court. That brought on the predictable "what you got in your briefs" comments. Dignity has been given the week off until the steroids kick in.

But it's just one of those things. The nurse and doctor did exactly what they were supposed to do. Apparently I am allergic to the antibiotic wash. I'm glad they washed away all those biotes. And I answered the questions truthfully.

But I just didn't know.

Other than that the procedure went smoothly. Next time (I hope there isn't a next time) I will be able to answer the question with knowledge born from experience, and things can go even more smoothly.

That's just the way things work. We do the best we can with the information we have.

You just never know what works and doesn't work until you try. You can't know what you can't know. You just do the best you can.

I could criticize my doctor and nurse, but that would be foolish at best and slanderous at worst. They performed perfectly.

The only other alternative would have been to do nothing, and that would have caused untold pain, far more than the present minor inflammation.

Sometimes you just have to do something, even if you honestly don't know everything you wish you knew.

Thank God for those souls willing to take action when it is needed, even at the risk of inflaming a few do-nothing asses.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Dick Cheney we trust?

The New York Times revealed this week-end a CIA covert operation designed to assassinate leaders of terrorist organizations. Apparently the operation was under the guidance of Dick Cheney. The Bush Administration made the determination that it would have been too big a security risk to share this information with eight leaders of the bi-partisan Congressional oversight committee designated by law to be briefed about such highly confidential security matters. Upon learning of the operation some four months after his appointment to head the CIA, Leon Panetta ended the program and informed the oversight committee.

I haven't seen the polling, but listening to the news outlets today, many Americans are on Cheney's side on this one.

Forget for the moment the discussion of whether this is a policy consistent with the moral and ethical foundations of America. (I'm not sure we have to forget something we don't remember.)

The outcry today has been directed toward the U. S. Congress for being insistent that it be informed of significant intelligence operations.

Cheney and his supporters proffer the charge that Congress cannot be trusted with such confidential information. There would be unavoidable leaks, and our security would be compromised if eight members of Congress were informed. Instead it would have been much safer to leave it in the hands of somebody like Dick Cheney.

Yes, the same Dick Cheney that advised Scooter Libby that President Bush said it was okay to leak the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to the press, one of the most despicable acts by government officials in recent history.

It is not an American notion that the Executive Branch operate without consultation or oversight by the legislative branch in such weighty matters. Sounds more like a Stalin or a Hitler idea. And no one has cited any instances of leaks of security information by the Congressional oversight committee. Certainly they haven't exposed any of our intelligence agents by outing them in the press.

If you have read this blog for any time, you know that I am an Obama supporter. But that does not affect my opinion. It is unhealthy and dangerous to allow the Executive Branch of government to have unlimited power without oversight, no matter who the President is. There is no rational reason to believe that the Executive Branch, most of the members of which are not elected by the people, is more reliable or reasonable than the U. S. Congress, all of whom are elected by the people.

The project was Dick Cheney's baby. Folks in the CIA knew that he was the man to go to with a question. No one else.

So it is more than a little alarming that Leon Panetta did not learn of the program until four months after he was sworn in. Why was he not informed earlier?

Dick didn't tell him. Guess Leon couldn't be trusted either.

Makes me wonder if anyone collected the former vice president's keys when he checked out.


Monday, July 13, 2009

A little help, please . . .

I love to water ski. One of the things I love best about water skiing is that moment when the ski planes out. No longer am I fighting the giant wall of water that keeps me from moving forward. In an instant I am on top of that wall, barely skimming the surface, sliding on glass.

It takes only a little bit of additional force to get from that point of fighting the water to that point of riding atop the water. There can be a struggle up to that point, with a lot of energy spent. But it only takes a little bit extra to push through that final moment of struggle to an easy smooth ride. Without that little bit extra, the struggle will continue, and ultimately there is failure. It took longer for me to learn than it should have. I think I drank most of a lake before I understood that the little extra had to come from the rope, from the boat that was towing me. I could fight as hard as I wanted, but that usually only made the fall more spectacular than it had to be.

There was an older gentlemen on the other side of the highway the other day. He was terribly thin, wearing a backpack, and holding a cane. He was on his hands and knees. He couldn't get up. He would get to one knee with his hands on the ground and slowly begin to rise, then he would wobble for a moment, and then he would fall. People in traffic watched horrified as the old gentlemen kept trying, failing and falling. Time after time the tortured ascent stopped short of standing, and he would have to begin again.

Eventually help did come. It wasn't much help, just a hand gripped firmly and an arm around his back. The man stood up, his back straight, his hips and knees locked. He cautiously took a few steps to assure he was balanced, and walked on.

I wonder how many times we allow failure by not offering that little bit of help that moves folks from struggle to an easier ride? How often we criticize or analyze a "failure" that, except for just the tiniest amount of help, would have been a great success? How often has someone done all they can do and are just waiting for a little more pull from the rope?

I wonder if I refuse to help a fellow human who is struggling, who has failed?


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Amusement parked . . .

Saturday morning. Sofa. Coffee.

I have lost my muse. Probably still stuck down in one of the side pockets of my carry-on, or maybe on the nightstand of the Multilux Hotel in Riga. But I don't really want to write.

It would be nice to have a couple of the traditional mythological muses, beautiful spirit creatures in flowing diaphanous robes, hovering around, coaxing me into creativity. I could be coaxed.

But if I have ever had those kinds of muses, they have done their work clandestinely.

My muses have taken two forms, neither having anything to do with diaphanous gowns. The first one is something that I wanted to say. The second is someone that I wanted to hear what I had to say.

I think those muses are still with me. They are just taking a little rest, a time to sort things out. So I shall take a little rest as well. Sort things out. I hope that soon I shall become amused or at least bemused, and something more meaningful will result.

A few years ago on a long road trip I happened upon a beautiful waterfall. What I expected to be just another creek turned out to be a rare find, a place of refreshment and beauty. I promised myself I would get back to that place. But I never did. Maybe that's what I should do today.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Wesley Camp trip wrap up

A few final observations from our trip to Latvia and Lithuania.

Camp Wesley is a holy place. It was an honor to be among those who have camped in the apple orchard, which I am sure will become part of the lore of the Camp even after other more modern camping facilities are completed. At this point I should apologize to our plentiful camping companions, the storks. I referred to them originally as nocturnal eye pluckers. To my knowledge they never plucked any eyes. But I'm telling you, they could if they wanted to, which makes them even more special. North Alabama United Methodists have contributed mightily to the beginnings of Camp Wesley, partially, I think, because of the tradition of spiritual growth thousands of us have experienced at our own Camp Sumatanga. The main assembly hall is in the Alabama Building. So the Spirit is familiar at Camp Wesley. If you have a chance to offer your support, financially or on a work team, do it.

I was laying on my back on the ramp that leads from the assembly hall to the ground. It was late Saturday afternoon, as far as I could tell. The day had been great. In the morning devotional and discussion session we talked about "performance or praise". Then we ate lunch. Then we had band practice. By the time we finished, everyone was a part of the band. It was a wonderful thing. Then we took a break. Mitchell gave a mini-concert on the keyboards and offered a rare vocal concert, bringing the soul to the Camp. Then he played keyboards for Kristine to sing. That is when I reclined outside the door on the ramp. A cool breeze was blowing, the sun was warming, and the Spirit was descending. At some point Mitchell quit playing. Kristine kept singing. For 30 or 40 minutes she sang, while the rest of us rested, lying on the floor, the pews, or as in my case, on the stone ramp outside. It was a transcendent moment that defies description.

The Baltic Sea is extremely cold. And it has stones that will brutalize your insteps if you choose to step hard and dive into the ice-cold water. But it is beautiful and only a ten to fifteen minute walk from the Alabama Building.

There is no peace like holding a new-born baby. Many thanks to Dan, Courtney and sweet Ceara for letting us be a part of her first few days. Dan and Courtney Randall are United Methodist missionaries to Latvia. Ceara was born three or four days before we arrived. Dan's blog is listed below.

There is nothing cooler than a big Renault Trafic van with a large green Europocar Rental sticker on the side. Just screams hipness to all who see. I can't believe we didn't make a photo.

Children are children. We visited an orphanage in Siualiai for a little while, playing some music and playing with the children. The laughter of children is universal. You don't have to go to Siauliai. Visit an orphanage near you soon. But if you are in Siauliai . . .

At the Hill of Crosses Mitchell placed a cross from The Bridge of First UMC Tuscaloosa alongside the millions of other crosses that are there. We prayed at that place. Just as the millions of others who have placed crosses there have done. The power of the place and of the moment sneaks up on you in the quiet countryside. If you are ever there, the Bridge Cross is on the back right side. It is a light purple ceramic cross hanging on a larger wooden cross. It is only a few yards from the Chrysalis cross.
God is good. The trip was far more than I anticipated. Mitchell, Anna, James, Rachel, and J. C. were perfect travelling companions. There is so much more to tell, but not enough space.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Here is the church, here is the steeple . . .

I love going to the Baltics because history envelopes you. Streets and buildings hundreds and a thousand years old are common. In the old town districts most of the streets become alleys, even sidewalks, as they wind without reason among brick, mortar and wood buildings, usually topped with terra cotta roofing. Each doorway and window, each staircase that descends to some mysterious place below street level, invites curiosity about the life that has gone on in those places for centuries, and what goes on even as we walk by.

"There is another beautiful church. Take a picture."

By the end of our trip we quit raising our cameras every time a magnificent old church or cathedral appeared. Every shot was a post card. They are beautiful. And they are everywhere. Except for the size, age, and architecture of the buildings, it is sort of like being back in the southern USA, a church building on every corner.

But is is not like the southern USA during worship times. Many of the church buildings are no longer churches at all. They are abandoned or are used for another purpose, maybe a museum.

Some are still active. Each morning and each evening you can watch and be inspired as the small crowd shuffles into the church for prayers, the attenders generally appearing to be about eighty years old. The crowd appears even smaller as it is swallowed by the huge sanctuary.

But the Church has a vital and exciting heartbeat in the Baltics. It is not centered in the huge old cathedrals and sanctuaries. Tourists are not compelled to take photos of its home.

It beats in the houses, abandoned store-fronts, and renovated back street commercial buildings where followers of Christ gather to worship and to serve. Where they are learning to be the Body of Christ.

One of the phrases that is a curse to leaders in churches everywhere in America is "but we've always done it that way."

In the Baltics, thanks to several generations of Communist oppression, that is one problem the new churches in the Baltics do not have. Many of the churches are so new that they have never done it any way before. All things are new. It is exciting and a beautiful thing to watch.

More beautiful than the grandest empty cathedral.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Baltic summer

I was not able to blog the Camp Wesley/Latvia/Lithuania trip in real time. Internet connections were rare and time for writing was even more rare. On a trip like this every moment holds wonder, the kind of wonder that you want to share. I have forgotten some of those moments now. But memories have a way of popping back up after awhile. The next few blogs will cover a few.

I love to go to the Baltics in the summer. The sun stays up almost all the time. Flower gardens are blooming. Fresh fruit stands are plentiful, with strawberries and cherries the most common fare. People seem to be celebrating the short period of sunshine and warmth that separates the cold, grey winters by getting outside, walking down the pedestrian streets or sitting with friends at open air cafes. Bouquets of fresh cut flowers are carried from friend to friend from vendors on almost every block. The colors and freshness of the flowers add to the natural beauty of those that carry them.

We in the west are reminded often by our doctors, magazine articles and news specials that walking is good for us. In the Baltics, walking is a necessary part of life. It is transportation, so they do it quickly. The southern U.S. mosey is not practical in a country in which most of the year features freezing temperatures. The people of the Baltics are a testament to the virtues of walking. In summer, when the bulky coats are left in the closets, the streets are full of beautiful lean, fit folks, wearing as little clothing as discretion allows, rejoicing in the freedom allowed by warmer temperatures.

So we were sitting at an open air cafe watching people and eating. It was a beautiful evening in Siauliai. The crowds strolled quickly up and down the street. Our waitress was a slender blonde woman with dimples. I could tell she liked me. But we kept it just between us.

There were pigeons in the brick paved street, oblivious to the traffic of the pedestrians around them. They began to waddle in their pigeon toed fashion towards our table. John Carl was sitting next to Anna. He apparently shifted in his chair as the pigeons approached, his foot scraping against Anna's leg.

That is when we learned something about Anna that we didn't know, the kind of thing you learn when you travel together. She is creeped out by pigeons.

A piercing shriek erupted from Anna, who panicked, thinking the pigeoens had come after her under the table. Her arms shot upward from her lap, catching the table on the way up. Having the advantage of adrenaline, her arm quickly raised the table off its legs, spilling drinks and food.

For a moment the street froze. The walkers stopped. The talkers went silent. Even the pigeons turned their little pigeon heads toward our tables.

It was as if we were E. F. Hutton, and we had just said something. Crazy Americans.

The moment passed quickly and the Baltic summer resumed. It is far too short to stop for long.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Obligatory Saturday report

It is already Saturday morning again. I have Starbuck's coffee, a latte actually, and I am sitting on the airport floor in Frankfurt, Germany.

I am on my way back from a trip to Latvia with several friends. We had many adventures which I hope to blog about in the week ahead. I took notes, but internet access was not common where we travelled.

A funny thing happens to me when I go far away from home, to a place where things are a little slower and the language is foreign. I tend to create a fantasy that the world has also become slower, that the problems aren't so big (when I can't see them on the news channel 24/7), and that when I come home things will somehow be better than when I left.

Here it is 6:00 a.m. in Frankfurt and I have already learned that none of my fantasies are true. But it was good to be able to pretend for awhile.

I promise to be more uplifting the next few days. Some pretty amazing and funny stuff happened on this trip. But for now I am exhausted, sad, and sitting on a cold floor in the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Cut me some slack.

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