Friday, September 14, 2018

Happy 56th Birthday to Me.

      According to my birth certificate, at this very moment, 11:45am on Sept 13, I officially turn 56 years old. 
      What an interesting life thus far. A lot of blessings, missed opportunities, lucky breaks and more than a few f**k ups, but God has been good.
       I'm more or less in good health. Some body parts don't work as well as others and I wish I could have a few redos, but I can't complain. It could be a helluva lot worse.
       I have a home albeit one being held up by duct tape and chicken wire, friends and people who give a damn about me. I had to work today, so I can't say it's been an enjoyable day, but I'll go to Waterworks after work and have a birthday beer. 
       Depends on what's on tap, but I could use a real big strong nasty Imperial Russian Stout. The kind that puts hair on your chest. The ones that get you buzzed after half a glass.
        I'll have to wait until next week to really celebrate because the birthday falls between paydays and my broke ass gotta watch the wallet. But I have enough to splurge on a decent beer. Because life's too short to drink crap beer. Especially on one's birthday. 😀😋😉

Another Year Older, Another Year Wiser...Maybe

     Ok, kids. Thanks for the birthday wishes. They were greatly appreciated. Another year older, another year presumably wiser.
      If only I could take all this supposed wisdom of my 50's and apply it to my 20's, a lot of things would have turned out differently. Maybe better, maybe worse.
      Every decision we make creates a new fork for our lives to follow. Think of all the decisions you've had to make in your life, either major, like whether to have children, or minor, like buying Wheaties rather than Corn Flakes.
      Each of those decisions creates a fork. Look at those forks as branches of a tree, and by the time it comes to cashing out, you'd have a tree with as many branches as there are stars in the sky.
      So many choices, so many branches, so many roads to follow. Some work out better than others.
       I've had my share of branches that worked out, I've had my share that ended up in a dead end. I've had branches I thought were dead ends that ended being the right choice, I've had others I thought were the real deal that ended up being crap. 
       But once you go down one of those branches, it can be hard to backtrack and reconsider your path. Sometimes you catch a break and get a do-over. Most of the time you don't.
        In those cases all you can't do is to try and make the best of the situation. Life can be a bitch sometimes, but it can also be great, but one way or another, it's never boring. 
        Have a good day, kids. Hug your spouses, significant others, kids, critters. Tell them you love them. Be nice to each other. Be civil if you must, be decent if you can, strive to be excellent.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

God Bless The Helm

     Listening to some old school Petra reminds me of the fun times I had in Alameda from 1984-86.
      I was on the USS California, which was homeported at NAS Alameda at the time along with the carriers Carl Vinson (Navy didn't have to spend any money transferring my ass from the Vinson to the Cal, I literally walked across the pier.), and Enterprise, and sister cruiser, the Mississippi, and the tender Samuel Gompers.
     NAS Alameda wasn't like the big behemoth Navy bases at Norfolk and San Diego, where you couldn't swing a baseball bat without hitting a squid. It was a small base on a small island across the Bay from San Francisco. Oakland and SF were only a bus and BART ride away.
      But Alameda was a quiet little town of about 100k or so.  The West end of the island was taken up by the base and the businesses that catered to the Navy, and the East end of the island was mostly for the civs.
      I liked it there. The people were nice, Town/Navy relations were civil, as far as I could tell.  I wasn't really much of a carouser or drinker during my time in service, although there were a few things that I'm sure I can't talk about--the statute of limitations hasn't run out on them yet. A couple of them are related to the eagle ink I have on my right arm.
      But while I was in Alameda, I decided to get back into the church. I was raised in the church in my youth and when I joined the Navy, I left it behind.  My days on the California were stressful. Didn't really get along with a lot of my shipmates, and the ship wasn't a lot of fun, either.  So I needed a place to unwind, decompress and chill. I found a little out of the way house on Central Ave off the main drag of West Alameda. It was a Christian servicemen's center called the Compass and Helm.
     It was the kind of place, where if you didn't know about it, you'd walk right past it. It catered to the base and its tenant ships. They barely advertised, no sign in front of the house. In theory, all of the churches in Alameda supported it, but most of the support came from an equally small, unobtrusive church around the corner named Westside Baptist Church. A member of the Conservative Baptist Association, Westside also depended on the base for a lot of traffic.
       A rather small and plain looking building, Westside topped out at about a couple hundred on the rolls, but depending on which ships were in port, regular attendance ran about 30 to 60. The congregation was a multi-racial mix of townies and Navy and it was my kind of church. Small, friendly, not a lot of frills, preached a simple message.
      The Helm, as it was known was run by a middle aged quirky, but very friendly couple named Chris and Cathy. They lived at the Helm with their daughters, Bethany and Holly. A couple of sweeties. The Helm existed to give sailors a place to hang out and chill.
       They held a Bible study on Thursday nights and allowed sailors to crash for the weekend as long as they found a church to go to on Sunday.  They had books, games, a ping-pong table, a small kitchen with the requisite coffee pot. All in all, a place where we could leave the Navy behind for a while.
       I made a number of good friends at the Helm, the most prominent being a de-nuked ET named Stewart. He and I hit it off as a couple of weirded out geeks. We loved computers and techy stuff.
       Most of the Helm rats were from the Enterprise, a few off the Vinson and the odd Gompers or Mississippi sailor. I was the lone California squid.
       We occasionally went to the Oakland Coliseum to watch an A's game or to whatever venue a Christian band was playing. Especially Great America down in San Jose. Saw Petra there a few times.   
        But most of the time, we hung out at a local diner called Tillie's that was open 24 hours a day. (Think of Ritter's for Pittsburghers.)  They served great breakfasts and we'd go there after church or Bible study and just hang out and talk. 
         I ended up becoming a member at Westside, and won the trust of Cathy where she allowed me  to open the Helm up and make the coffee. Cathy had a strict rules of not opening up unless either Chris or a male that she trusted was there. She was very protective of her daughters.
       But while I made the occasional trip to San Francisco, most of my time in Alameda was spent at Westside or the Helm. That was between 1984 and 86.   
        The Helm's not there anymore. Probably pulled up stakes when the Navy closed NAS Alameda in the late 90's. Have no idea what happened to Chris, Cathy, Bethany, Holly, Stewie, or any other Helm Rats. I pray they are all well, those that are still alive anyway.  They were good friends who helped me get through a pretty tough part of my life. God Bless the Helm.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

More Than Your Ordinary Garden Variety Negro

     Well boys and girls. 23AndMe came back with my ancestry results based on my submitted DNA.
      And while they only give a very general idea of where I come from, it was interesting to say the least.
      Basically, the dominant locations are: 62.6% Sub-Saharan African (well, duh) 25.6% of that major group is Nigerian, 12.7% Broadly West African. 7.1% Coastal West African 6.3% Coastal West African and the rest, a smattering from various regions of Africa.
      I have a sizable amount of European in me. Over a third, 35.3% of which British and Irish make up 20.5% 8.1% Broadly NW European, and about 2% French and German.  Which doesn't surprise me because it's a fact that slave masters were well-known for impregnating their slave women.
       And the rest of the major groups 1.3% Native American and . 5% South Asian.
       As all my parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters as well as nieces, nephews, cousins, etc are either dead or basically estranged, I can't discuss any of this with them. I share the same mother but different fathers with the rest of my siblings. I  know the family lineage on my mother's side, know little of my father's side and was told a little about the family on my other sibling's side, but I'm pretty sure that most of them are dead by now.  
     In some ways, 23AndMe didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I'm black and I have a sizable amount of British and Irish in me.  A lot of Black folks are.
     I remember my father telling me a very long time ago that I had some Irish in me. But he never went into details.
      But 23AndMe crunched the numbers and broke it down into general categories. And it was only $69 bucks. All that info from just spitting into a test tube, a rather gross exercise, by the way.
      So I'm more than just your ordinary garden variety Negro. My Brit and Irish side betray my love for soccer, my bad teeth and my taste for Irish Whiskey.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

An American Catholic Church...Why Not?

    I wonder whether a way forward for the Catholic Church in the US re: the everpresent  scandals, would be if the Catholic Church in America were to separate from the Vatican?
     It'll never happen, but it seems to me that one of the problems is that American Catholicism is stuck having to adhere to rules, policies, and standards set by a bunch of old men in the Vatican who know little about America and Americans and persists in this one-size-fits-all, centralized, top down, shit-rolls-downhill way of thinking. 
     The Vatican is a hide-bound, conservative institution that resists change, innovation, and functions very much like it did back in the Middle Ages. I think that the Catholic Church in this country needs to tell the Vatican to shove it and completely create an entirely new hierarchy and structure designed to deal with the unique issues of Catholicism in the US.
      Have an American Pope who has the power to act quickly and decisively in matters of clerical discipline, instead of waiting for matters to wend their way through the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the Vatican.
      A pope that can make clerical celibacy optional and allow women to take holy orders as a matter of practicality and to alleviate the major problem of the dearth of clergy coming out of the seminaries, instead of coming up with weak excuses that "God doesn't want female and married clergy, and it is impossible to enact these changes."
      I call Bullshit.
      The Church can make these changes in a heartbeat if they really wanted to.  They just want to maintain the old boys network that has some really old boys indeed.
       Old boys who need to be put out to pasture.  Or if necessary, put down.
       Now, I know that an American Catholic church will still have pedophiles to deal with, as well as other challenges that plague divinely inspired, but humanly administered religious organizations, but at least an American Catholic church won't have to say "Mother May I" to a bunch of clueless old dudes that  haven't changed their socks since the 12th century, if they want to make serious changes that can help restore the reputation of the church to an increasingly frustrated and doubting faithful, who are no longer interested in listening to the tired old "Fast and Pray" platitudes.
      What do I know?  Those of you who are Catholic, chime in. Tell me I'm all wet and that I should not talk about things I know little about. But something has to change.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Root out the Pedophiles

    I'm not Catholic. Not even an expert. I'm just an ordinary schlub with an opinion. And opinions are like rectums. Everyone has one, and everyone thinks that theirs is the only one that don't stink.
     But looking at the latest chapter in this never ending saga of scumbag priests and the equally scumbag bishops who protect them. 
      First of all, pedophiles are not unique to religions in general and Catholicism in particular. Every walk of life has pedophiles. Pedophilia is a HUMAN condition.  Doctors, lawyers, priests, security guards, you name the occupation, there are pedophiles infesting it.  No profession is immune. And yes, there are atheist and agnostic and non-religuous pedophiles.
       Second, the Catholic Church has had scandal in it from the moment it was created. The Church claims that it was created by Jesus Christ. However, who does Jesus work through? Humans. Flawed, f****d up humans. Even at the top. The Church has had corrupt f****d up Popes. It has had flawed f****d cardinals, bishops, priests, and deacons. It has flawed, f****d up laity.
     But the Church is supposed to have a charge laid down by Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel, make disciples, take care of the least among us, and be the Light of the World. And the overwhelming majority of cardinals, bishops, priests, deacons and laity are good hard-working people who felt called by God to serve his church.
     But a few scumbags, shit birds, corrupt lowlifes, and predators have infested the church and used the least and the weakest among us to play out their twisted, evil, Satanic perversions.  These loathsome creatures are the cockroaches that plague the church and spread their filth. You know how to get rid of cockroaches? Shine a light on them to expose them, find out where their nest is and eliminate them with extreme prejudice. 
      No more bishops passing on their problems to other dioceses. No more cover ups and hush money payoffs. No more secrets, no more lies, no more bullshit. The Church needs to stop playing games and stop the  platitudes from the old men in the Vatican beseeching the faithful to fast and pray for  God to intervene and miraculously take the problem away.
     God works thru human beings. And human beings have to take charge and do the heavy lifting and the hard dirty work to clean up this mess. The pedophiles need to be rooted out and put behind bars or into mental facilities to receive treatment. The bishops, cardinals and even Popes who cover up for them must be defrocked, arrested and put into jail.
     For they have violated the sacred trust bestown on them when they were ordained.  And even if they claim to be healed, they should never be allowed to work with children again. And while I support a married and female clergy, I do not believe  that those changes are the great panacea. There are plenty of pedophiles who are married with children.
     Whitney Houstonn sang that our children are our future, we should teach them well and let them lead the way. Jesus came down hard on those who mistreated children. He said that a giant millstone should be hung around their necks and they should be drowned in the sea.
     The Church needs to offer compassion and forgiveness to those who truly confess their sin and earnestly repent, but that doesn't mean that they go scot free. Nothing is more  important than the protection of our children. And that means that no expense nor effort should be spared in order to protect them. And this goes for all God's Church. Catholic, Protestant, and otherwise.
     We, the people of God will be judged by how we care for the least of us. And those predators who prey on our children and refuse to confess their sin and seek true repentance need to suffer the ultimate consequence... eternal separation from God.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A change in my Christian thinking.

     While I claim to be a Christian overall in my faith journey, I've never been comfortable with how Christianity deals with people who are not Christian but who have led good and virtuous lives. 
      Basically, the Bible says that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior are going to hell. Period. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Doesn't matter whether they've lived good virtuous lives even better than most Christians, when they die, they take the down escalator and get to spend eternity with Old Scratch. I'm not really cool with that anymore.
       I tend to look at things from others' points of view, and I just find that whole line of thinking manifestly unfair.  So I've adjusted my thinking. It's not orthodox Christianity, far be from me to think that I, a single person can change over 2,000 years of teaching in a faith that numbers billions, but it's my way of thinking, and God will probably give me a ecclesiastical wedgie and an ass chewing worthy of a 25 year Navy master chief when I finally get to meet Him.
      But basically, I'm adopting the belief that when a virtuous non-Christian dies, they'll be subject to whatever their faith's teaching dictates in regard to an afterlife. If they are either atheist or agnostic, they'll be worm food.
      But if their faith dictates that they'll go to whatever their faith calls a Heaven, that's where I believe they'll end up. The truly evil people of the world, the Hitlers, the Bin Ladens, the unrepentant mass murderers, rapists, child molesters, that bunch are still going to hell. No dispute there. 
      Those in the middle, those who's lives are not totally virtuous nor totally evil, whether Christian or non-Christian, I believe, they'll be deal with according to their faith, if they have one.  I guess this is all part of my no longer being of an Evangelical bent. It sounds kind of semi-Universalist.
      Definitely not what the Bible teaches. But I can't stomach seeing people who have lived lives worthy of merit being consigned to damnation because they chose not to accept Jesus. Because they cling to and derive meaning and strength from a faith that is different from mine. I love Jesus, but some of his disciples deserve a smack upside the head. Probably includes me as well.
      I guess the best way to describe me these days is as a Unitarian-Universalist of Christian persuasion  with Episcopal leanings.  I guess that I no longer fear hell  or damnation. Which may come back to haunt me down the road. As the old spiritual goes, "We'll understand it better, by and by."

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Evangelicalism and Uncle P.

      Currently reading a book called Believers. The author of this book explores the world of Evangelical Christianity.  Just starting it.
      The reviews state that the author is giving the subject an even handed analysis. We'll see.
       I went thru a brief phase of Evangelicalism while I was in the service. With an emphasis on End-time theology. I read Revelation and Daniel a few times, read a lot of Hal Lindsay and the entire Left Behind series ( It was meh. Not gory enough for me.)
        And I thought about concepts of whether the Rapture was going to happen Pre, Mid or Post-Tribulation. I was a Pre-Tribber for those who are curious.
        I listened to a lot of Christian music, mostly Petra, some Stryper, Steve Taylor and DeGarmo and Key. I even chucked my entire ELO collection because some TV preacher convinced me that their music was inspired by Satan.  Won't make that mistake again. 
         I grew out of that phase when I joined an Episcopal Church. Now my Christianity is a lot more fluid, in some ways, more confusing. It's more liberal, more questioning, less dogmatic. I take the Bible seriously, not literally. I no longer believe that it is inerrant. I'm not interested in winning the world to Christ, nor am I interested in living in, or working toward a Christian theocracy in  America.  
      I have a bad habit of looking at things from the POV of a minority, and I can see a Christian theocracy as not being in the best interests of non-Christians.
      I call BS on those preachers that insist that Christians are being persecuted in America. And I don't 'witness' to people because evangelism is too much like selling stuff. And I hate selling things. I believe I need to get my spiritual house in order before hanging condemnation notices on others.
       Finally, I can't accept how Evangelicals  embraced the Republican Party values in the 80's starting with the Moral Majority and ended up being foursquare behind a person like Trump, who's values and behavior are 180 degrees opposite of Jesus. They can say the ends justify the means, but if Obama had done one-tenth the stuff Trump has done or had done prior to being elected, they'd be screaming bloody murder.
       I'm a live and let live kinda guy. Everybody has to figure out what helps them get thru the long night. Christianity, as I see it, works for me. Might not work for you. That's up to you to figure out. I'll respect the path you travel as long as you respect my path. Too bad we all can't embrace that philosophy.