Friday, September 25, 2009

I Love This Place!

We've spend almost a week at Ocean City, Maryland. We are using a time-share week. Time-shares are a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. Since we are also in the travel business with our bed and breakfast, it is not always easy to get away on our own. (And this time, we lost money from bookings we couldn't take while spending money on a vacation we could.)

We've been to Ocean City before. Since close friends live in southern Delaware, this is a convenient way to visit loved ones, use a time-share week, and get away from it all.

Last night, my wife remarked, "I could live here." We realize we have missed peak seasons and dense crowds in this resort community, but it still seems more laid back, cleaner, and developed with more thought and care than similar beachfront strips we've visited.

This is the second time we've managed to be here during Sunfest. We enjoyed the day with a bus ride from the convention center, the many beautiful and imaginative arts and crafts booths, the over-priced-but-good food, and the family-friendly and classy entertainment.

The layout of the Boardwalk featuring acres of flat beach with its volleyball areas, playhouses, amusement park, and pier--and shops,shops,shops--reminds me of a fantasy sequence in some Italian movie. Where there is expectancy and magic in the air.

Ocean City evinces civic pride and responsibility. The broad streets are clean and well-designed. There are monuments to soldiers, firemen, and the rich ocean legacy. I feel safe here and at peace with the people and nature.

The same goes with all of the Chesapeake Bay area I've experienced. It's real. Unpretentious perhaps, but solid.

We enjoyed an Elvis impersonator with his backup band and vocal duo. He did a good job of conjuring up the iconic wonderment of the gifted performer too soon gone. While Jesse Garron offered his rendition of "American Trilogy," I glimpsed the colorful ferris wheel behind the stage and the American flag which backdropped the performers. I couldn't help but feel this is Americana, this is what we strive and fight to preserve.

Almost There or Not

My wife has become quite involved with a game on Facebook, called Farm Town. This game apparently simulates running a farm--choosing the virtual crops that will grow there, planting, and harvesting said crops. And you have to time the growing season so your crops won't wither before you get back online to take care of them.

There is great promise in this game and the ramifications thereof. Let's say that I eat virtual foods. With such foods, there must be the possibilty of a virtual diet. So, I can eat these virtual foods and even undertake virtual exercise. If real food does not enter my body, then, in virtually no time, would't I be able to lose all manner of weight?


Trip, Stumble, and Fall ... and ...

In her book, High on Arrival, Mackenzie Phillips of the '80's sit-com, "One Day at a Time" revealed the shocker that she'd had a long-term incestuous relationshipe with her father, Mamas and Papas' rock legend John Phillips.

I saw her on bits from "Oprah" and "Today." One could make a rhyme of her remarks and appearance: diver, survivor, thriver. She had explored life's dark side with drugs, arrests, sex and apparent incest, unemployment, and divorce. Somehow, as much by the grace of God as by her own efforts, she had survived.

She seemed composed and even self-actualized. She acknowledged that she eventually became a consenter in the sex with her father. She appeared transparent in discussing her own flaws with drugs and boundless behavior. The interviews elicited her full awareness of the lack of parental support and guidance. Yet, she professed continued love for her family, especially her deceased father.

Mackenzie Phillips declared that she wants to help victims of incest to tell their stories and to grow past the pain, bitterness, and stunted self-image. I felt I saw a fully-functioning human being as she articulated her position. I saw one who thrives, full of love and devoid of naivete about the challenges confronting her.

I don't know if she ever received Emmy consideration for her performance in the TV series, but if she is anything less than the emergent person she appeared to me on these recent telecasts, she is long overdue an Academy award.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Peaking at Ruby's

We should eat at home more, but it seems we're often out at mealtime. This time, we decided to use a Ruby Tuesday coupon we'd received in the mail.

We hadn't eaten at this chain in a while, so the menu seemed fresh and brand new. (It may have been.) The room where we were seated was pretty quiet, with a few people speaking in friendly conversational tones. A feeling of well-being surronded me.

Music played nice, easy-listening standards. The food was good. Then, one of my favorite singers, Sarah MacLachlen, began to sing "I will remember you .... Will you remember me?" I felt tears well up inside me. If she'd sung "Angel," I think I would have lost it completely, become a blubbering wreck, and prompted patrons to call 911.

I don't know where all this emotion and rapture came from. I liken it to Maslow's peak experience. There have been periods during which I could almost conjure up these oceanic episodes of spritual oneness and fulfillment. I hadn't had such an experience for a while. I wondered what this meant--both the moments of supreme inner peace and their previous scarcity.

Perhaps, I'd been too preoccupied with the trivial or life's busy-ness. Perhaps, I'd forgotten spirit and had dwelled upon lack and defeat. It was as if this lesson was sent from spirit: Will you remember me?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Inside Job

There is no true atheist. And, I'm not saying this because I'm trying to press religion on the unsuspecting masses.

I've had several atheist and agnostic friends whose moral conduct equals the best of my religious friends. But, religion is about more than morality, isn't it? It involves worship of and devotion to something greater than self. My friends also display altruism in abundance. They devote themselves to family, friends, jobs, community, country, and even to the planet.

Perhaps I'm speaking of spirituality as much as religion--a sense of the sacred.

Time magazine (October 25, 2004)devoted considerable space to "The God Gene." Various research studies point toward the conclusion that we are "hard-wired" for searching and recognizing the divine. Who has not been awed by the first cry of a newborn, or a spectacular sunrise or the smile on the face of a loved one (or desired one)? There are those inexplicable moments in everyone's life, of wonder and connectedness to something vast beyond comprehension.

Godness is within--as well as outside--us. We may call this immanence "God" or something else or nothing at all. But there are those glimpses, however fleeting, when despite our busyness, confusion, or seeming disbelief, we are stilled and we know.

30-30 Vision

With April being National Poetry Month, my big literary push was in that direction. The Writer's Digest poetry blog challenged us to write a poem daily for thirty days. Their blog offered a prompt each day to get us started.

In my case, the effort generated more quantity than quality. Although, I think a few gems peaked through. "Revelation" compares heaven with hell, with the latter not faring all that badly. "Sacrifice" gets close and personal to the debt we owe our service personnel, to the tremendous grief and loss of war. "Femme Fatale in Diapers" may sound like a Depends commercial for the Geritol generation, but it is not.

Other titles include "Never Lust and Call It Love" and "Tripping through the New Millennium." In "Ah, Sigmund," we find the immortal phrase: "Yet, there are...moments...when a cigar is more, much more than a good smoke." And I did manage to come up with one instant classic, "The Trouble with Nosehairs."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Punchin' That Ticket

On occasion when my wife, LaVonna, and I commit a good deed, we'll remark that we're punching another hole in the ticket, meaning the ticket to heaven. We usually refer to this metaphorical step toward eternal salvation when the task is one that isn't convenient. Our thinking goes like this: the more we go out of our way to do the favor, the larger the hole (the greater the number of "brownie points.") We say this jokingly, but our traditional upbringing is still imprinted somewhere within.

Easter Sunday, we heard a sermon that was probably similar to many Protestant preachments on that day. Our pastor spoke of Jesus' resurrection and the promise of eternal salvation for his followers. As an adult, this approach has bothered me.

It seems like the hook that seals the deal, the big "What's in It for Me?". Take the steps to become a Christian (and hopefully a practicing one) and you cheat death. You die, but are raised and achieve eternal immortality in paradise. No car dealer can offer incentives like that.

As a parent and former teacher, I see this as similar to paying a child to make good grades on a report card. If the student learns the three R's and other stuff, that's nice, too. But such a plan of reward may do little to inculcate a love of learning or to grant insight into application of the facts the child can recite or write at crunch time in school.

When I taught, I used to ask my students--especially the more flamboyant Bible thumpers: "If you somehow became convinced that there was no afterlife, would you still try to live a good (Christian) life?" I posed this as a rhetorical question, but still I got no affirmative answers.

And living a good life does not seem to be enough for many Christian theologians' satisfaction. An atheist or Muslim or Hindu who otherwise follows the Golden Rule and obeys the laws is still doomed to hellfire and damnation because he or she does not subscribe to a particular creed.

What happened to virtue as rewarding in and of itself? What becomes of loving the unlovable or feeding the hungry because it is the right thing to do? I'm going to presume to think like God, here. D-a-n-g-e-r-o-u-s I know. But wouldn't God be more pleased if we'd just learned to get along with one another and to protect the planet because we wanted to?