Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Really Have No Business Blogging Right Now

I really have no business trying to whip up another post right now. I really have no business drinking another beer either, but oh well with that. It’s a reward! I went the whole day without caffeine! Crack open a BEE-YA!

But no, I have no business blogging right now. There’s a couple of emails that need to be sent, dear friends who’ve asked for advice, and because they’re dear friends, I don’t have the heart to tell them they’re dumb as rocks for asking me for advice on anything, because I never know what I’m doing. Not really. I’m a huge proponent of Faking It Til Ya Make It, and I think I’ve got about 80 % of my immediate friends and family fooled.

But I’m getting a bunch of new visitors these days, thanks to the lovely Appalachian Mermaid, whose prose is stunning in its visual imagery and poetic undercurrents, and meanwhile I limp, trip, and kick rocks and talk/dance/wrestle with/about God.

If you’re new, welcome! I haven’t a clue what I’m doing! I’m a Christian! I’m drinking beer! I’m avoiding reality! Welcome to my blog! I drop the F Bomb on occasion! OOOPS!

(Everyone goes by an assumed name here, except for me.)

(I usually post on Sundays, except for the days that I don’t.)

It’s up down, up down these days. I was having an argument with myself on Sunday, and I said to me, “All I want is my emotional needs MET! What’s WRONG with that?” And myself answered, “Who can meet them!? THEY CHANGE EVERY FIVE MINUTES!”

That particular conversation took place at LACMA where I seem to find myself these days when I’m desperately in search of inspiration. I was checking out the relatively new exhibit at LACMA labs, “Consider This”

Nothing like tooling around an art museum to make your own sense of creativity feel very small and stupid, or it’s probably the mood I’m in these days. I did my best to observe the stuff, and think deep thoughts, and check out the occasional hottie, and to note his girlfriend two steps behind. (Note to self, single hot guys do not hang out at art museums. Please banish those There Must Be At Least One Beautiful Tortured Young Genius With Adorably Floppy Hair Who’s A Painter And A Perfect Match For My Seesawing Emotional Needs out of your head right now.)

And after I had observed the stuff, and tried to think deep thoughts, and came to the conclusion that there was simply too much to take in here, and it’s running until NEXT JANUARY, so let’s come back, I check in with myself, ”Should we go home yet?” Not yet said something inside of me. So I continue walking to the main museum, said hi to my boyfriend the statue , checked out a photography exhibit, still nothing doing. I check in with myself, “Should we go home yet?” Not yet.

So I attempt to people watch in the LACMA courtyard, which isn’t very interesting, because it’s an senior citizen crowd today, and half of them are tourists clutching their Gustav Klimt brochures like it’s art manna from heaven, and my feet are starting to hurt, and I check in with myself, “Can we go home YET?” Keep going said self.

I decide I’m going to trick myself, and start HEADING for home, taking the long way past the tar pits. Just keeping my eyes open for anything. Any little spark of something that’ll make me think of something new. The Wooly Mammoths don’t count, I did a diary entry about them for another project YEARS ago. But maybe there’ll be something else, maybe there’ll be…

And then I saw it. The George C Page Museum at the tar pits is built in such a way that the sides of it are rolling green hills of grass. Gently rolling hills. The kind that little kids want to roll-like-a-log down. And a mob of them are doing just that, right in front of me.

Oh, I get it, self. I get it now.

So I sit on a bench, pull out the digital camera, and start taking pictures. All it takes really is one or two kids to start it and every other kid in a five mile radius will sense that Fun Is Happening: Fun? FUN!? FUN is happening NEARBY! IT CAN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT ME! And they twitch their little Fun Antennas and they drag their parents, siblings, babysitters, whoever, over to the hill, to seek out the source.

Seriously, they’re just like THROWING their bodies down a hill like a sacrifice to the Fun God. “I regret nothing! TAKE ME FUN GOD! TAKE ME!” Their parents, siblings, babysitters, may be worried about grass stains, bumping into other rolling kids, or the possibility of broken necks (I know I did, and I was just watching them, not related to a single one) but the kids don’t give a rat’s ass, they just wanna ROLL!

And then I realize that this is the true meaning of Abandon. When I yowl and groan about how particular pastors in churches will say vague statements like “Abandon Yourself To God” and conveniently avoid an explanation of what that vague statement means, they were probably trying to talk about this. These kids literally are abandoning themselves to the hill, to the laws of gravity, trusting that they’re not gonna kill themselves (actually, since they’re kids, they think death can’t touch ‘em), all in the pursuit of fun. I think that’s what Abandoning Yourself To God is supposed to be, with the trust of a child rolling-like-a-log down Mount Abandon. Can we all have church here on the side of the George C. Page Museum one Sunday? And instead of communion, can we have people line up and throw themselves down the hill? I’m not against communion, but I think this would be a bonding experience a whole congregation should do.

I think this is why the voice in my head told me to keep going. So I could discover this scene, and think these thoughts. Now I can go home. Now I can post, and go write the email to people who think I know things. Silly people.

Friday, May 26, 2006


This is not a happy post. If you’re looking for the posts where I’m amused, bewitched and bewildered at things religious, scroll on down to some of the other entries. It’s also a really long post, with lame pictures, I just need to get this one out there now.

There’s some unwritten rule that says if there’s bad news to share about someone via email, the subject line simply reads that person’s name. My Mom can’t even do that much, she writes “Today is (that date)” and then you have to open the email to find out that they had to put the dogs down because they were too old, in too much pain, and simply too inbred to be cocker spaniels anymore.

When this morning’s email subject line was my friend’s name, I knew what was coming. It wasn’t completely unexpected, he’d been in ICU for the past week. We’d even done an all church day of fasting and prayer on Wednesday, which was what I was originally going to blog about, since I had never tried to fast before, and found the experience interesting.

But he’s gone. In Christian terms, He’s “joined the Lord.”

I’m way too old to go through the usual questions of “Why did this have to happen.” We all know why. It was an eight-month battle with esophageal cancer. “He was a good person! Why do bad things happen to good people?!” Go read C.S. Lewis’s The Problem Of Pain. He’s way smarter than me.

So as I’m silently trying to muffle the tears, and I’m running through the questions I already know the answers to, all I can think of is “What now? What do I do? What do I do?”

And the phrase Honor him comes up. I can’t rightly say if it was outside of myself. It could very well be half outside, and half my conscious brain searching for the appropriate Christian answer. Who cares where it came from. It’s what I got, so it’s what I’ll do. I’ll attempt to honor him with the best tools any writer has, which are words.

First thing I’ll do is say his real name. No Assumed Name Rule this time. His name is Dalton Harding, he and his wife Tricia have been huge influences on me, though they never knew the extent of it. Tricia has been keeping her own blog at , you can read about their struggle there.

I first met Dalton and Tricia when I took an Alpha course at the Other Church we all used to attend (big long boring story, no need to go into detail here.) I attended the class because, honestly, I was tired of feeling guilty for not going. Alpha is a series of classes designed for Christians to bring their Non-Christian-But-Wondering-What-Christianity-Is-All-About Friends. I suspected that the non-Christians would quickly run away rather than commit to a six to eight week course, but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I should go, I should go, yes I’m a Christian, but the drawback of being born and raised in the church is that you can never accurately explain why you believe what you do, and so I should go, I should go.

Dalton ran the Alpha program, which means he gave the talks after the dinner. (rule #1 of a church meeting outside of church: Thou Shalt Have A Meal.) And as he romped through the weeks on subjects like “Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?” or “How Can I Be Sure Of My Faith” I quickly realized that this man was blessedly blessedly normal. Which, in Amyland means you’re sarcastic as hell. Completely genuine in talking about Christianity, but also sarcastic, not at the non-Christians, but just in general.

It was the first time, I think, that I realized sarcastic people not only went to church, but that they were actually ALLOWED TO RUN THINGS at church. I think my perception of church-goers, up until that time, was that there were the Goody Two Shoes people, and then me, who had to stuff my inner quirk away so that the Goody Two Shoes wouldn’t be offended should I say something off.

The end of the Alpha course was a weekend retreat, which I really didn’t wanna go to, because church retreats are a special kind of claustrophobic hell for me. Even though you drive there of your own free will, you feel like YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE UNLESS YOU JOIN IN THE GROUP PRAYER AND FEEL THE PRESENCE OF GOD FALL AFRESH ON YOOOOOOOOU!!!!! But I felt like I had to try.

It was at the retreat that I got to know Tricia, Dalton’s wife. I deliberately tried to get to the retreat as late as possible, so I could score some S’mores (rule #2 of a meeting outside of church: It’s Awesome If You Can Have A Campfire And S’mores), yawn, and trip off to bed without having to talk to people. My plans were foiled by the rest of my small group, who left L.A. even later than I did, so that when I arrived at the retreat, I didn’t know anyone except for Dalton and Tricia. So I sat next to Tricia and joined in the next round of Scrabble. (rule #3 of a church meeting outside of church: Thou Shalt Play Games, If It’s A Retreat, Thou Shalt Play Board Games.)

While we quickly determined that I may be a writer, but I SUCK at Scrabble, Tricia told me her story of how she became a Christian, how she and Dalton met, fell in love, split up, got back together, got married, and how they found this church. It’s not my place to tell that story here, although I will say that there was plate throwing involved. But from my journal entry. 6/11/04 – “it’s the kind of dramatic story that you want the leaders of a group like this to have – it makes them flawed, real, and blessedly human.”

I took an instant liking to Tricia. She reminds me very much of my sister Agatha, the same sunny disposition with a tinge of “you’re gonna do WHAT!? Okay, I’ll sit over here and laugh WITH you, not AT you.” I felt like I could be myself with her, and with Dalton, sitting on the other side of the table, mocking my attempts to form a word with R-X-C-and K.

The rest of the weekend was a bit of a watershed moment, as it was the first time I acknowledged to myself that I had never felt the presence of God (the whole reason I started this blog.) I cried big huge honking cries about it, people prayed for me and with me about it, nothing happened through the prayers, I returned back to Los Angeles and found Counselor Gladys. Whether that’s what Dalton anticipated would happen when he did the talk that Sunday about Letting The Holy Spirit Come Into Our Lives, who knows. It’s how it happened for me.

It was this Alpha course, and my interactions with Dalton, Tricia, Petunia, (she of the Happy Chipper Christian But You Can’t Hate Her Even Though She Passes Out Oswald Chambers Devotional Books Sect), her husband Percy, another couple, Corrine and Crawford, and some other truly nice folk, that led me to become more involved with a church than I ever had before. But it was Dalton that spearheaded everything.

Fast forward to September of 2004. September was Stewardship Month, otherwise known as the Thankless Task Where You Have To Persuade People To Give To The Church. Dalton was head of the Stewardship Committee at the Other Church, and I made the mistake of trying to buck up his stewardship spirits one day after church by saying I was a 10 percenter (that would be tithing, as in giving 10 percent of your income to the church. Yes I do it. No, I don’t suffer. No, I don’t think I’m dumb for doing it. No, I’m not judging you if you don’t do it.)

Dalton, sneaky, sly, and desperate for help, immediately pounced, sending me an email “Would you do us[me] the honor of Calling For the Offering on Sunday? As a result of our conversations I believe that you would be an excellent choice to spread the message of stewardship in this manner.” Aw hell, how can I turn him down? It’d be like, turning GOD down. I’d be smited or something.

I got sixty seconds on a service that fell on Labor Day Weekend, and I had to follow a guest pastor who worked as a missionary in Africa, and was using his sermon as a potential recruiting tool. The last thing folks wanted to hear after his sermon of Give Up Your Yearly Vacation And Come To Africa was my speech of Tithing Doesn’t Hurt! No, Really! It Doesn’t Hurt!

I talked about how God Is My Agent, So He Gets Ten Percent. I talked about how giving is a physical action I can point to and say that I trust God to take care of me. I talked about how God doesn’t want anything if it’s given grudgingly. I talked about how if you’re scared the hottie sitting next to you is gonna think you're a bad person because you let the bucket go by without putting anything in it, you're giving for the wrong reasons.

And I never would’ve told anybody any of that if Dalton hadn’t asked me to.

Fast forward through last year. The split with the Other Church, the formation of the current 11:00 Church. My following the leadership team because Dalton, Tricia, Petunia, Percy, Bernice, and Bernard (who wound up being the new pastor) were on the ship that was setting sail for new waters, and I wanted to be on that ship with them, because they were all normal like me, they were all sarcastic like me (well, except Petunia, but she tries REALLY hard), and where ever that ship was sailing, I wanted to be on it.

It’s important to note, if I haven’t already banged it into your head with a 200 pound anvil, that it all started with Dalton. If I hadn’t met him, if I hadn’t met Tricia, I don’t think I would’ve drawn closer to this church, and thus, I probably wouldn’t have ever thought about trying to draw closer to God.

Dalton got sick. What else can you say from then to now? He prayed, Tricia prayed, we all prayed. It did or didn’t work, depending on your definition of success. He’s not in pain now, and that by itself is cause for jubilation, because he was really hurting towards the end. This post is already going on far too long, and I’m sure Mom checked out right after the mention of C.S. Lewis, so I’ll try to boil it down to three last things.

Tricia threw Dalton a birthday party months ago, and I specifically remember a moment during the evening where I looked over, and she was behind him, hugging him around his waist, resting her cheek on his shoulder. He was laughing, she was smiling. It’s an affection pose that people do when they’re so familiar with each other that they know each other’s every move. In that moment, where the camera in my brain went off, crystallizing this one moment that I may be ascribing far too much meaning to (but I’m a writer and them’s the breaks) it seems like that was the very nature of love itself. In one second, I saw them fully aware that the future may not bring good tidings of gladness and joy, but damn it, they’re here, they’ve got each other, and they are going to see each other through. Because they love each other. They love each other SO FUCKING MUCH. The kind of fierce love that transcends anything. You don’t see it often. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it before. But I knew it when I saw it displayed in them.

I cried today for Tricia. Because she’s been through hell in the past year and yes, she will wake up tomorrow, and life will go on. But she has to go on without Dalton, and…I can’t add to that.

Tricia and Dalton have baby Iain, who just turned one year old. At a congregational meeting last fall, she asked me to watch baby Iain while she moderated the meeting. My feelings about babies is They’re Great Until They Get Annoying. But I wanted to help Tricia, so I take Iain, who wants to be a Wiggleworm for an hour and a half, please please take me to the lobby so I can watch the cars go by, and don’t you think about putting me down or I’m gonna CRY. Finally, Iain decides to bonk his noggin twice on my shoulder and he’s finally asleep. I’ve never held a sleeping baby before, certainly not one that’s sleeping with fistfuls of my sweater in his little chubby hands. Leon, another member of the leadership council, walks by the back row where I’m holding sleeping Iain, and says, “Now that’s love.” In all my Writerchick years, and the various men that have traveled through them, I’ve never been in love. But now I know what it feels like.

I cried today for baby Iain. Yes, there is his very own village ready to raise him, he will never be short of family, friends, or surrogate father figures. But his father will never hold him again and…I can’t add to that.

The last time I saw Dalton, I didn’t recognize him. It was baby Iain’s birthday party. I walked into the backyard, and waved hello to everyone already there, including a gaunt figure with a baseball cap who later on turned out to be Dalton. He had lost a good forty pounds. I hugged him hello, gently, he looked very frail. But he was still Dalton. It’s because of him that I’m officially addicted to Grey’s Anatomy, because of a blog post he did on it. I figured if it was good enough for Dalton to watch, I should watch it too. And now I’m hooked on McDreamy, dammit, and I told Dalton it was all his fault. He grinned, and it led to a rousing conversation where I laid out in complete detail why Meredith Is A Whiny Duckface. It was good to see him smile.

I cried today for Dalton. I never told him the impact he had on me. I didn’t want to, it felt too much like an acknowledgement that he wouldn’t be here soon. I have to believe that he knows now. Tricia knows now the impact she had. Hell, everyone knows now the impact they both had.

Isn’t it strange, the impact people can have and never know it. Isn’t it strange, the impact people can have on people who never realize it.

For Dalton and Tricia and Iain. As Joseph Arthur says, “May God’s love be with you. Always.”

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The God/Church/Whatever Window

Okay, so here’s something that will be either be fun fun fun, or a disastrous failure, and really, isn’t that the only way to live your life? Ha ha ha.

We’ve all gotten those questionnaires via email like Getting To Know Your Friends! “Ever been toilet papering?”, or people tagging you on “Last Person You Texted?”

So I’m going to attempt, in my own tiny way, to start a new one. And because this is supposed to be a blog about Amy’s Adventures With Religion (or as I like to call it, Wrestling With The Questions And God’s The Ref Who’s Letting the Round Go On A Bit Too Long), they’re gonna be religious questions. Man, that’s already sounding like a bit of a downer, huh. Spiritual Questions? Now it sounds too namby pamby. God/Church/Whatever questions? Hmmmm.

The object of this questionairre is NOT TO JUDGE. Repeat, I’m not setting this one out there BECAUSE I’M ALL HYPED UP ON ENERGY DRINKS THAT ARE KILLING MY LIVER AS WE SPEAK AND I AM JUMPING UP AND DOWN TO JUDGE YOU! This is not one of those questionnaires that you answer, and then I email you to try and gently set you straight on the path to righteousness. I’m not even sure where that path is. I think I keep tripping off course most every day that ends in a “y”

This questionnaire, if it does sprout wings and circle the outer realms of cyberspace, is simply to get a sense of where people are on the whole God/Church/Whatever thing. If it starts a dialogue, great. If it doesn’t, no big deal. If you view this as your window to vent your spleen out about why you hate God, then go for it. If you view this as your window to praise God to the heavens for what He’s done for you, yippee too. I’m happy to have been your window. Is that the name of this one? The God/Church/Whatever Window?

Anyhow, here we go, and my answers are included.

1. Last time I went to church – this morning, to 8:45am and 11:00am services.

2. This many of my friends that I went to college with go to church – 1. She’s Catholic. Most everybody else that I went to school with are Catholic, and most of them are lapsed.

3. When I hear the phrase “Jesus”, I think this – Son O’ God, Fully human and fully divine, a phrase that slips out of my mouth occasionally as a swear word and I’m trying to do better…

4. When I hear the phrase “organized religion”, I think this – Nobody has anything good to say about organized religion, but technically, I participate in it, and it helps me with stuff.

5. Three things I think organized religion (for lack of a better word) gets right.
Being a community that supports each other.
Being a community that supports other people in crisis (the poor, Hurricane Katrina people when the government was still dithering over where to send those ice trucks.)
Being a place to learn more about who God is.

6. Three things I think organized religion (for lack of a better word) gets wrong.
The hate. Ooooooooh the hate. The burning self righteousness of some religious groups that think if you’re not exactly like them, you’re going to hell.
The whole Let’s Kill You Because I Think You’re Evil thing that has justified war for centuries.
TV Personalities. Seriously. The only Christian leaders on TV are whacked out folk who want you to put your hands on the TV set and Pat Robertson? Are you freakin’ serious?

7. If I were God, I’d change these three things about the world, because I don’t understand why these things happen.
No more poverty or starvation
No more ethnic cleansing
A neutral platform and open minds to discuss religious differences that don’t involve killing people.

8. If I were God, I’d change these three things about this one person (who shall remain nameless.)
Taking away their anger when they drive, because they’re really going to hit someone soon.
Taking away their unconscious pattern of behavior of Bitching About Life As A Coping Mechanism.
Taking away the heaviness (whatever it is) on their heart that causes them to view life as a chore instead of a joy.

9. If I were God I’d change these three things about me
Getting rid of whatever the obstacles are in my way that prevents me from connecting to God.
Flatter stomach, please!
Taking away the heaviness (whatever it is) on my heart that causes me to view life as a chore instead of a joy.

10. Best thing I ever heard in church or from a religious person?
The idea that my writing is God’s gift to me and He wants me to use it, not to compartmentalize it.

11. Worst thing I ever heard in church or from a religious person?
Anything Pastoral Twit or his wife Twitacious says these days is right up there. I really need to stop knocking them as much as I do. If only they would say something smart.

So now copy it if you dare, answer it, send it to other people, oh, and let me know if you do, mmmkay?

I’m tagging these people, who don’t know me at all, and who most likely WON’T respond, but people whose blogs I read all the time because I like their writing, and I think their answers would be interesting.

I’m also tagging these people who I do know, and who also most likely WON’T respond because they will sigh in exasperation and say “Would you just get OFF the Jesus kick already?” And we will still be friends. Hopefully.

Yummyteece (okay, I don’t know him personally, he’s a friend of a friend, and I think he’s funny as hell.)



When all is said and done, though, I suspect it won’t get very far. I hope I’m wrong.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Great Equalizer

It was Homeless Karaoke Night last Wednesday again. I should stop calling it that, I think the official name for it is Karaoke Coffee Club. I wonder if the homeless people consider the word “homeless” a slur of some sort. “Locationally challenged”? “in life transition”? Who knows.

11:00 church has decided to make our partnership with Karaoke Coffee Club down at the Central City Community Outreach a regular monthly thing, which is good, because again, I’m sure there’s something I’m supposed to be learning here. And as soon as I walked in to the place on Wednesday (to the booming sounds of the MC exhorting the crowd that “God wants you to retain your sexual PURITY!”) I was amazed at how many of the faces I remembered from last time. I hadn’t talked to these people, and who knows if they remember me, but I remember them.

And it kinda became clear, the whole relationship approach, and why it’s important to continue coming back. Because it’s based on recognition. I can smile in recognition at these people, and they may or may not smile back, but there’s no way you can be of use to anybody if you DON’T keep coming back. You get used to them, they get used to you. And maybe then they’ll open up. I’m not the type of person that’s gonna plop down next to them and say, “SO! What’s on your mind! Tell me everything! I’m here to listen!” I wouldn’t do that even if they weren’t homeless. I am as non-talking as they come. But I can sit. I can smile. I can clap for you, even if your rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” is nowhere in the neighborhood of on-tempo. I can be your Karaoke Cheerleader (I was about to say Karaoke Klapper, but that just sounds wrong, wrong, wrong.)

I’m happy to report that there were no marriage proposals this time around. I tried to smile and be gracious and scrub the pizza pans, maintaining as little eye contact as possible, and yet being friendly about it. Look at them, smile for two seconds, move on. Yes, I acknowledge you as a person of dignity. Please don’t propose to me, and please don’t hate me for not wanting you to propose to me.

I did have a goal for tonight, and that goal involved the Electric Slide. There are two mainstays to Karaoke Coffee Club. The first one is the James Brown impersonator, who sings “I Feel Good” every week. The pants leg of his costume came undone tonight, but he paid it no mind and kept going, holding up his pants leg the entire time. The man is committed to his art, that’s for sure.

The second mainstay is the Electric Slide, which is done around 9:30 every Wednesday. It’s done to Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West” and one of the guys gets up and does every single word while a mob in the middle does the Electric Slide.

And I love to dance, actually. I never get to go out dancing as much as I like to these days, which is a real shame seeing as how it is Los Angeles. Roomie Jekyll used to get a group to go clubbing at one of the gay bars in West Hollywood, and that was always fun (until guys starting hitting on me THERE. Honestly, people, if a gal can’t get away from being hit on in a GAY BAR, is there no hope? No hope at all? It’s the ass, I know it. My ass is one of God’s more unusual gifts to me, because I always get comments on it. How wonderful, that something that brings me such attention is something I can’t even flippin’ SEE.)

I’m a decent dancer, (just ask my Latin Cardio dance class from last year), can pick steps up pretty quickly, and for God’s sake it’s the Electric SLIDE. Who DOESN’T know how to do that one!?

So when they did the call for it, I grabbed one of the other 11:00am church attenders, Dexter, and forced him to go up there with me. Dexter had no idea what was going to happen, because this was his first time down there, but he’s one of those, “We’re doing what? Huh. Okay, cool. No, I can’t dance. But cool.”

And it’s FUN! I would never do the electric slide anywhere else, kinda like my long standing rule of No Chicken Dances At Weddings, but here it’s fine. Dexter is really giving it his best shot, he’s not dancing so much as he is stepping it out, but he’s not the least bit embarrassed about it. I’m deftly avoiding the TV monitor AND the microphone stand, and no matter which way you’re facing (and in this dance, you’re facing all four directions some of the time), you’re in the middle of this most unusual crowd.

And it’s here that it hits me that the Electric Slide is the great equalizer. You’re surrounded on all sides by the most motley of mishmashes. Normal people, not normal people. People who can dance, people who can’t dance. It doesn’t matter if you’re sleeping in a bed tonight. It doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing. What matters is that we’re all dancing TOGETHER, we’re all doing the steps TOGETHER. There is no me. There is no you. There’s just us. All of us.

And we’re all going STRAIGHT. TO. THE WILD WILD WEST! WE GOING STRAIGHT! TO! THE WILD WILD WEST! (wild wild west. When I’m walkin’ thro’ the wild wild west.)

As the song winds up, and Dexter and I are making our way back to our seats, one of the Homeless Guy yells at me “She got rhythm! She got rhythm!” Yes, the White Chick can dance, dammit. I now have a bunch of witnesses.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Okay, now I’m scared.

This post was supposed to go up last night. I think it’ll be self evident why it didn’t make it until this morning…

It started innocently enough. After I posted today’s blog, the thought kept bugging me that it was, perhaps the worst blog entry I’ve done. It’s boring, it’s not insightful, it’s just lying there like a dead armadillo in the road, bloating and boring, flies buzzing overhead.

I was catching up on my periodical reading, and I read this article in Newsweek, about how Megan McCafferty (she whose writings were allegedly lifted by Kaavya Viswanathan, or Kaavya’s handlers, or whatever) keeps a retro blog . She’s kept a diary since 1987, and her blog are the posting from BACK THEN, as opposed to now. It’s brilliant and weird all at the same time. You’re vulnerable, but you’re also over it.

I’ve kept a journal since I was 16. The collection is split up, half of it is here in Los Angeles with me, the other half is back home in Alabama, so whatever natural disaster happens, be it earthquakes or tornados, I can be assured that some part of me will survive. It will most likely be the boring part.

In my living will (which my parents nagged me to get done years ago, and that’s a whole other morbid discussion by itself), I had it specifically written that should I go down in a plane crash, car wreck, bank robbery, toxic shock syndrome, what have you, the journals all go to my sister Agatha, and she is the gatekeeper should anyone from my past come sniffing around to find out what I wrote about them. Agatha is hoping more than anyone else on the planet that I live to be 102, because this is not a role she looks forward to. In fact, last year when I got on a plane, I called her, as is my habit and said, “Okay, if the plane crashes, the journals go to you and you know what you do with them, right?” “Yes, I sell them to finance my daughter’s college education.” NOT FUNNY. Not to mention the fact that they’re worthless right now, because I haven’t done anything of note. YET.

Take a look at this. Those are 14 Mead Spiral bound notebooks, plus one black file of extra journal entries that I printed out from the computer for some important reason. I had no idea there were that many in the file cabinet. When I finish a notebook, I shove it in the drawer and promptly forget about it. Until tonight, when I decided to pull them all out. It was like a literary clown car, I kept pulling more and more out.

Yes, I write longhand. It’s a bad habit. If it’s been a particularly eventful day, I write on the computer. But writing longhand is most of it, because you can take the notebook anywhere with you, while you’re waiting in line at McDonald’s, or getting a drink at Tom Bergins, until a pesky barfly leans over and breathes “Whatchoooooo writinnnnnn” in a cloud of bourbon. (always happens. Every single time. Only the alcohol fumes change.)

Can I just take this one moment to publicly chastise the MEAD corporation for discontinuing the 200 page 9 ½ inch by 6 inch notebook? That thing ROCKED. I could cover at least three fourths of a year most of the time. But no, now they only make the 150 pager, and it’s just not the same. You SUCK, Mead. You really really do.

14 notebooks. The oldest is from 9/12/94. Holy shit. My brilliant idea was that to make up for the boring post from earlier today, I would go back through the journals to see what was going on with me on this date in such and such a year, and maybe we could make some sort of parallel that the spiritual questions I’m wrestling with now are the same as the ones I was wrestling with five years or so.

And now I’m staring at them at all, and suddenly, I’m very very glad I had mixed a margarita for no good reason. I’ve got a reason now. Shit.

Okay, well, here goes nothing….

(half an hour and another margarita goes by…)


I mean, MY GOD! THAT BLEW! I’m paralyzed with a billion awful memories swirling around my brain. Like a Pandora’s box opened and ghosts from my past are doing laps around my ceiling going “Nyah nyah nyah nyah NYAH NYAH!”

Um, um, um, well, folks, it was a brilliant idea, and maybe it will work in the future. On a different day. Just not today.

Whoo boy.

(Okay fine. The memory of an ex boyfriend wanting me to use a particular sex toy on an particular orifice of his, and my particular declining said request and the particular ensuing hoopla that followed had been successfully blocked out of my memory. Until now. I’m going to get another drink. Sheesh.)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Big Sunday

Last Sunday was Big Sunday , and though neither church mentioned it, I decided to pitch in and help out, partly because I’m always looking for ways to contribute, and partly because the Movie Studio I Work For And Will Never Blog About was a major sponsor, and if I logged in x amount of hours, I get an extra day of vacation. Hey, honesty is good.

Big Sunday is a city-wide volunteering thing, and though I couldn’t do any of the Movie Studio sponsored events (because the only one not in the morning was a gazillion miles away) I did find one working out of a Jewish Temple above Hollywood Boulevard. I was part of an Assembly Line making up different kinds of bags for different organizations. There were Health bags, Writer Bags (for juvies in lock down to express themselves), backpacks with school supplies for senior high and junior high kids, New Mom bags, Housewares bags, all going to different underprivileged people.

I deliberately picked an assembly line, since I figured that would have the least amount of talking to people involved. You basically started at one end of a very long line of tables. You have a bag donated from someplace, you walk down the line, and fill your bag with all sorts of stuff. When it works, it’s supposed to be a very fluid and very easy process. When it works, that is.

Because there were also little kids running around, half of them were escapees from a Brownie troop. The organizers weren’t exactly pleased that they were there, since kids tend to clog up the assembly line because they want to look at each object, or beg Mom for the candy that they’re supposed to put in the bag. But you can’t tell this Brownie troop that their help isn’t wanted, because that would go against their Brownie Principles or something. So you wait behind them as they go ESPECIALLY slowly. I swear, I wasn’t this slow when I was six. I was a little demon on wheels when I was six. I would’ve had seven bags filled by the time one of these little Brownies had one done.

A little six year old kept coming up to me, begging for a pack of Juicy Fruit gum. I don’t know what was funnier – the fact that she wanted it SO BADLY, and the concept of underprivileged kids was not important to her, or the fact that she thought I was in charge. She even brought me back an empty wrapper that she found in the garage as proof that other people MUST be getting the gum instead of her. Too too funny. But I denied her, oh yes I did. She looked like the type of brat that needs to learn the concept of the word “NO” now, as she would most likely grow up to be a major brat. That’s me, trying to make the world safer from Potential Brats like her.

So here are some pictures of the event. Yes, I have a new digital camera, finally. If you haven’t been comparison shopping on digital cameras lately, it is a BEAR, second only to car shopping and apartment hunting in Los Angeles. Seriously, just try to look up the model you’re thinking about on Amazon and scroll down to the reader opinions. Every “yes, buy this camera or you’re an idiot” is followed by “Buy this camera AND you’re an idiot.”

I got a Canon, it’s smaller than a pack of cigarettes (I have no idea why that makes me happy. It’s not like I can fit them in my back pocket, I can barely get my cell phone back there), and it’s got all sorts of funky do-dads that I will never use but I like feeling that I could do a panoramic shot of the dirty dishes in my sink if I wanted to, because I have a photo-stitch feature. Yay!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Emailing Twitacious

So ever since the whirligig sermon at 8:45am church that took two pinches of Forrest Gump, a dash of an Urban Legend, and stirred with a Whole Lotta Silliness , I had been toying with the idea of emailing Temporary Name Twitty (now known as Twitacious) to alert her to her error in thinking “Welcome To The Wonderful World Of Aids” was a true story.

I've emailed her before, I have to go through her Secretary/Handler/Gate-keeper/Chickie Who Opens Her Email. Last time, I was emailing for some clarification regarding her sermon about God, Faith, and Healing. A main point of that one was if you embody your faith, you too can cast out sickness. That’s a really clunky paraphrase, but if you’re thinking Twitacious is a bit of a nutjob, you wouldn’t be too far off from my perception of her.

Anyhow, Twitacious had responded to that email, and so I thought, well, as long as the lines of communication had been opened previously, why not kick ‘em open again.

Add to the fact that I was a coward in not emailing Pastor Open Mind , and, and, and, I’ve got one big honking dilemma on my hands.

Write an email. Wouldn’t writing an email just be congratulating myself for telling her she’s wrong? What’s the point of telling her she’s wrong? Because she is. Yes, but what GOOD does it do? Tells her to research her stories more carefully. If you don’t, the next sermon might feature the dastardly Wal-Mart Perfume Mugger , or the hideous Parking Lot Ankle Slasher .

It’s not as though she doesn’t get emails about her sermons. Most every pastor has to, right? I have a right to speak my opinion, she has the right to read it or not, respond or not. If my opinion includes the statement that she was mistaken in passing off an Urban Legend as real in her sermon, again, she can read it or not, respond or not. There’s nothing preventing me from emailing her, nobody is saying I don’t have a right to.

Besides, it’ll be an exercise in lovingkindness, and that’s ALWAYS something I need to work on, since I think most people are stupid (except, you, Gentle Reader, always, always except you) so let’s give it a shot.

(identifying names has been lovingkindingly removed.)

From: Amy The Writer
Sent: Monday, May 08, 2006 1:35 PM
To: Chick Who Opens Twitacious’ email
Subject: Comment to Twitacious on her sermon yesterday...

Hi Chick Who Opens Twitacious’ email!

I'm hoping you can forward the below email to Twitacious, as I still don't have a direct email for her. If there is one, please feel free to let me know, as I don't wanna keep bugging you every time I write, ha ha ha.


Dear Twitacious,

I enjoyed your sermon yesterday morning about Lessons We Can Learn From Forrest Gump. I think the congregation really learned a lot and you were, as always, an enthusiastic and compelling speaker.

I was a little taken aback, though, at your choice to include the story about the sorority girl who slept with the guy and opened the box on the plane to read the message “Welcome to the wonderful world of AIDS.” You may have already heard about this from other people, but that story is a well documented urban legend. There have been many variations on it (the most common one has the message scribbled on a bathroom mirror in lipstick), but ultimately, the story is not real.

I understand your point in urging us to put our lives in the hands of God, and to be an Overcomer in areas of past abuse, and not to make bad decisions. But I think that point is best served by real examples, not shock tactics based on urban legends.

Of course, if you were just reading Pastoral Twit’s sermon for him because he has laryngitis and he’s the one that put the story in there, then no worries! Just smack him on the arm or something, ha ha ha.

Very best regards,

Amy The Writer

See? Not so bad. Start with a compliment. I DID enjoy the sermon, probably not in the way she had intended, but technically not a lie. The congregation probably DID learn a lot, and she IS an enthusiastic and compelling speaker, just in the Coo Coo For Cocoa Puffs way.

I allowed room for her to say “Thank you for being person #456 for setting me straight.” Because who knows, maybe she’s been besieged by a bunch of people going, “um, um, um, THAT WAS AN URBAN LEGEND!” as soon as she stepped off the stage.

I even left the door open for her to blame her hubby, because he really DID have laryngitis (that’s what she said at the beginning of the sermon), and she had to be a pitch hitter and do the sermon for him. That would actually make all the sense in the world. Pastoral Twit probably believes all those stories on that new fangled thing called the internet.

Chick who Opens Twitacious’ Email cheerily replied later that afternoon and said it absolutely wasn’t a problem for her to forward the email. I wonder if they deliberately barricade them behind handlers because people storm the gates based on these crackpot sermons. It’s possible. It could happen. I swear, I can’t be the only person (in a church that has easily 500 people at each of their FOUR SERVICES they hold EVERY SUNDAY) that has a problem with them. I can’t. I just can’t.

On Tuesday, I get an email back:

Subject: FW: Comment to Twitacious on her sermon yesterday...
Date: Tue, 9 May 2006 11:51:22 -0700
From: Chick Who Opens Twitacious’ Email
To: Amy The Writer

Hey Amy!

Twitacious wanted me to thank you for the info!!

Have a great week!

Chick Who Opens Twitacious’ Email

Well. That’s a little underwhelming, huh. Here’s the options:

1. I WAS the only person who pointed it out to her, and she’s highly embarrassed.

2. I WASN’T the only person who pointed it out to her, and she’s highly annoyed.

3. She’s super busy.

4. She’s super annoyed.

5. Any combination of the above.

Hmmmm. Well. Basically I have to admit to myself that I was hoping for some kind of reaction, and she took the high road and denied me everything. Which means she’s GUILTY!

Or perhaps I’m a brat.

But at least I'm not a coward today.

Ha ha ha.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Random Entry In Two Parts

Part One: I Appear To Be Memorable.

In the past week, not one but two lovely ladies have namechecked me in their blogs. Susan’s Diary Of A Mid-Life Crisis likes my definition of “Functionally Depressed” and Tracy’s Finding My Voice gives me kudos on posting pictures to your blog and kick in the pants motivation to write on your blog. If any of you out there need kick in the pants motivation to write, I’m your Writerchick. Seriously. I’ll call you up at strange hours in the night and scream, “Why aren’t you writing! Call yourself a writer!? Then WRITE, DAMMIT! You know what you’re watching on TV sucks anyway. Nobody ever sold anything by NOT WRITING!” I show no mercy. I am the Disciplinarian, which what I told my best friend from home Winifred would be my boxing name, if ever I went the Million Dollar Baby route (minus the amputated leg and death part.)

It’s flattering to be namechecked in someone else’s blog, but also a little startling. I keep thinking I’m sailing through life and nobody’s noticing. I often suspect I have the power of invisibility, because if I don’t want you to see me, you won’t, even if I’m in the room with you. Few of my friends ever talk to me about what I’m writing here, (Roomates Heckle and Jekyll never read it. I could talk SO much shit about them, and they’d never know.) So writing this blog is like shouting into the void: it’s great for me to work all this stuff out, and but sometimes an echo sounds back at me, freaks me out, and I remember, “Oh, that’s right. I have observers.” And then the second thought, "And I WANT observers."

Anyhow, thank you, lovely Tracy and Susan for the props. Right back at ya!

Part Two: Pastoral Twit’s Wife Is Also Twitty

Does that make her Mrs. Pastoral Twit? Or just Twitty? Pastoral Twit and his wife Twitty. Twittier. I feel like I can come up with a better name for her.

Anyhow, Temporary Name Twitty also preaches at 8:45am service, and we’re finishing up a series of sermons based on Things You Can Learn From The Movies, which is not things like Get Your Feet Off My Seat Or I’m Gonna Rip ‘Em Off Your Legs, but more like You Can Be A Christian Leader Like Braveheart, or You Can Build Great Friendships That Will Make Your Life More Meaningful Like Shrek Did. The main points are secular, then they hopscotch around the Bible and throw darts at verses to back them up.

These sermons are COMPLETELY cracked, and I love every single minute of it. I was wondering the other day why I bother going to 8:45am church anymore and it hit me today that what in the world would I have to blog about if I didn’t?

Anyhow, so today’s sermon is built around Forrest Gump. BWAH HA HA HA HA And it’s cruising along with simple points like “Life is more important than accomplishments alone” and “Abuses we experience can cause us to live a destructive life.” Honestly, it’s like church for dummies. No, REALLY? Abuses I experience can cause me to live a destructive life? I thought they would deliver me to Lake Salvation, gently born on the back of a giant swan with little Cupids throwing petals in front of me. Well, THAT does it. I’m putting the needle and tourniquet down RIGHT NOW.

So if that WAS it, it’d be fabulously inane as is, but no, no. Temporary Name Twitty goes on to say “I heard this story the other day about this Christian girl, who went on a trip with her sorority. And she wanted to be a good Christian, so for the first four nights she stayed in her room and didn’t go out. Then, finally, on the fifth night, she gave in and went out, got drunk, and spent the night on a beach with a guy. The next morning, he takes her to the airport, kisses her good-bye, gives her a box and tells her not to open it until she’s on the plane. So she gets on the plane, and they’re flying away, and she opens the box and it says, Welcome to the wonderful world of AIDS.

And more than a few people in the congregation go “ooohhhh” in the way of I Can’t Believe That Happened To That Poor Christian Girl. What A Shame. Isn’t It Awful How Abuses She Experienced Caused Her To Live A Destructive Life.

And I’m seriously jamming both hands in my mouth, because I cannot believe that Temporary Name Twitty just inserted a well-known Urban Legend into a sermon and passed it off AS REAL. I mean, honestly, does she not read Is she not friends with Google? Google the phrase Welcome To The Wonderful World Of AIDS“ and see what comes up. It’s being studied as American Folklore! It’s made its way into bad misspelled poetry like here! IT AINT REAL, TWITTY! Seriously, you couldn’t have made your point any other way, except by using a hyperbolic urban legend? Are you serious? Are you seriously Twitty? I haven’t had such a blatant example of ministry gone wrong in a LONG time. I am SO going to this church for the rest of my life, ha ha ha.