King David: strong and simple, or dark and complex? Wednesday, Nov 26 2008 

I feel like venturing out among the shoals of controversy tonight, so why not? The topic is biblical, specifically that most famous Jewish King and my own namesake, David.

The denominational bible study material we’re using at church comes straight down the chute of Christian orthodoxy. I don’t believe that orthodoxy serves David very well, though. If the idealized, sanitized, legendary characterization my orthodox friends hang on David is accurate, and if their version of David could be reincarnated in the present age in the American Deep South, King David would join the Crepe Myrtle Grove Baptist Church and lead praise and worship with his lyre, lofting the melody in twangy, baritone dipthongs to fit in the denominational “club,” punctuating his dialogue with frequent injections of “Praise the Lord” and “Long live inerrancy!” I just think there’s something naive and simplistic in the traditional characterizations of this “man after God’s heart.”

To wit, let’s not forget this is the same David, by the way, who pronounced “Happy is he who bashes the heads of Babylonian babies against the rocks.” That doesn’t sound very Christian. And of course, there’s the ugly, downright criminal Bathsheba and Uriah thing. (Hmmm, how would the deacons at Crepe Myrtle Grove handle that affair?) And he sanctioned so much other bloodthirsty violence and terrorism, all of which was pervasive in that ancient culture.

To me, the problem in our making David into a “folk hero after our own heart” ignores first of all the historical and cultural context, which must strike us as bizarre in comparison to our own; and second, the gravity of the troubles and problems this great man brought upon himself through moral failure. Sure, he was a man after God’s heart, and he was a strong leader who teaches us volumes about repentance. (The irony is that the Crepe Myrtle Grove folks wouldn’t tolerate an ordinary member in their midst who messed up as big as David!)

In the end, I think David is just a lot deeper, even darker, and certainly more complex, than orthodoxy has framed him.

250px-david_von_michelangeloFor this reason, Michelangelo’s startling statue truly hits the mark for me: The King’s stark nudity, frozen in stone in broad daylight, represents our own stark vulnerability–the vulnerability to mess up really bad, to get it wrong, to miss the mark beyond the point of being embarrassed–but at the same time bearing a nobility of stature and carriage that results from the access to grace following contrite repentance, that truly amazing grace which enables all of us to stand forth amid our woeful circumstances.

No, the truth is, we wouldn’t feel any more comfortable around this man in his time than he would feel comfortable around us in ours. So let’s strip the character of the orthodox veneer and let him be David, the King of the Ancient Jews, whose life, like all of ours, was a mixed bag of virtue and ugliness. Leaving him in that context, he makes more sense for us as an example of manhood accountable to God.

The wayfaring stranger: In search of cheap gas Sunday, Nov 23 2008 

talogoI paid myself back today with some good luck to make up for some bad luck earlier in the week.  I filled up in hometown Eunice last Tuesday afternoon on the eve of taking off for San Antonio and paid $2.12 a gallon.  I knew gas was cheaper in other places, but I didn’t realize just how much.  The next day as I set out on my trip, I got no farther than 25 miles down the road where I found gas over 20 cents cheaper than what I paid in Eunice.  I kicked myself for not waiting, of course, noting how continually cheap the gas was all the way along I-10 toward Houston, where I started noticing prices in the $1.70 range.  Assuming those prices were “Texas prices,” I held off my next refill until I got closer to “Empty” on the fuel gauge and closer to San Antonio.  But alas, the fill-up 60 miles east of San Antonio cost me $1.95 a gallon.  Sure, cheaper than back home, but I regretted passing all those stations from Beaumont to the other side of Houston.  I resolved to do better on the return trip home.

So today, I waited until I got past Houston and pulled off at a familiar Baytown stop-over that has convenient off and on access.  I had been seeing $1.60’s on lots of stations all the way through Houston, so I figured that’s what I’d find at the Baytown Travel Plaza.

Lo and behold, it was $1.57!  I tanked with joy.

Gosh, I remember a time when I thought $1.57 was outrageous.  And now, it ‘s a find?  Hmmph, but with the economists starting to warn us that we should be alarmed about deflation’s dubious indication about the stability of the economy, maybe I should wish gas still cost over $3.00 per gallon?

I’ll worry about that another day, because today I am happy.  Wondering how my Baytown find compared up and down the road, I checked to compare prices all the way  home, and sure enough,  $1.57 was the best deal in 400+ miles.   Ah, yes, today’s little blessing!

A Country Boy Can Survive in a Pick-up: The San Antonio Saga Wednesday, Nov 19 2008 

texas-truckIt’s that conference travel season of the year for me.  Faithful followers of this blog recall the Hollywood, the Nashville, and the Manhattan  sagas from the past three years where Louisiana country boy instincts preserved dignity, ennabled a successful maneuver from a difficult circumstance, or otherwise triumphed over some woeful condition brought about by life in the urban jungles.

As a hedge against urban victimization, I drove the 400 miles over here in my 2001 Dodge Ram pickup.  The photo here is from a gas stop an hour east of San Antonio.  There’s something natural, even cultural, about cruising Interstate 10 across South Louisiana and Texas in a pickup.  It’s quite the county-boy thing to do, in fact, especially if the bed of the truck (like mine) is coated with a crusty layer of decaying tree bark and twigs and empty quart barchain oil containers from the last firewood run.  A respectable country boy will wash the body of his truck, but never the bed! 

Furthermore, consider the prudence and pragmatism of traveling by pick-up.

  • If I run into flooding rains along the way, my truck will pass in places sedans dare not go.
  • If I run across a pile of tree limbs from Hurricanes Gustav or Ike stacked along the road side, I can throw them in the back of the truck and haul home a load of firewood.  Can’t imagine Sarah letting me load the trunk of her Camry thus!
  • An urban car thief or car burglar is more likely to pass by an older model, plain cab truck like mine, preferring more alluring and expensive targets.

Sure, I give a little on fuel economy and smoothness of ride, but those are small exchanges for the overall benefit.   The miles are simply merrier in a pick-up. For country boys, anyway.

Southern talk: “Like to a’ . . . ?” Monday, Nov 17 2008 

It’s been a while since this blog has tackled a linguistics topic.  One usage from childhood I recall among the American Deep South Scotch Irish “southern” talking folks of the Louisiana Florida Parishes was “like to a‘” with the approximate translation of almost.  Here are some examples:

“I like to a’ puked my guts out last night with that stomach bug.”

“Uncle Joe like to a’ died after he seen Aint Bea pickin’ her nose in church.”

“Bruther Jones like to a’ preached the hell out a’ his congergation.”

“Ol’ Joe Blow like to a’ keeled over dead after he learnt that dawg that bit him had rabies.”

Yep, I’ve known people that talked just like that.  But not Cajuns.  Just Deep South Scotch-Irish, mostly years ago.

Now, where does “like to a‘” come from?  Obviously, it’s translated as “like to have.”  So the most intriguing meaning in that construction is the signification of like.

I wish I knew.  I don’t have a clue!

Bon voyage, ol’ girl! We’ll be lonesome for you . . . Thursday, Nov 13 2008 

lilly-belle

Lilly Belle

January 24, 1994-November 13, 2008

We did today what we had to do to relieve the most faithful member of the family of her suffering. She was declining when we took the photo above in spring 05, but she’s gone down so much since then: totally deaf, growing blind, suffering chronic coughing seizures, her aged joints misshapen and her hide breaking out with tumors, the tumors on her underside occasionally erupting like blood blisters. So we know she’s better off now.

Now we have to do what we have to do: spend a day or two remembering and mourning the loss of a marvelously fine dog, probably the best dog we’ll ever have if we measure best by behavior, affection, and obedience. She never was a digger, she never was a chewer, she never was destructive, she never was a run-away, she never was an all-night barker (except for one pre-dawn episode when she was no more than a year old when she cornered a crawfish in the backyard with its pincers waving defiantly at her nose as she barked so hysterically that we figured she had cornered a burglar). And bless her little heart, she was playful, kind, and obedient. We never had to worry about her with kids or strangers, either. (Although she was bloodthirsty for garter snakes, rodents, and unwary birds!)

Her prime occurred during those years before we got digital cameras and camera phones, so we don’t have nearly as many photos of her as the knuckle-heads (Sadie and Marely) who keep showing up in this blog from time to time. Thinking back on all the press those two have gotten, I realize just how secluded and withdrawn Lilly Belle has grown for the past couple of years. She has wanted no fellowship with the other dogs, hiding in a corner of the yard, living in her own little silent world.

Sarah’s convinced we’ll meet Lilly Belle in heaven. I can’t argue with that. If heaven’s as great as God promises, I have to imagine that puppy dogs will be there, too. So Lilly Belle, here’s a verse I wrote many years ago, and tonight, it’s for you:

Till We Meet Again
(February 1995)

So you must go, and I must stay.
Tis true that life must be that way.
But as you part, please grant me this–
Leave to linger a playful “ruff,”
just for me,
To dance within my lonesome memory
Till morrow’s meeting all pain erase,
When I behold you face to face.

Sadie’s Toy-thing Wednesday, Nov 12 2008 

sadie-and-her-fishSince Marley the Dog and Payton the granddaughter came along, poor old Sadie the dog has been hard-pressed to get  posted. I was rummaging through some recent pictures and came across this one, from a few days ago, showing Sadie resting from playful endeavor with her favorite be-belle, a black and white whale-fish looking squeeze toy. When the toy was new, it squeaked when the Sadie squeezed it, but with her roughhouse play, that mechanism wore out a long time ago. It’s just a flimsy piece of plastic, now. Marley enjoys the toy as much as Sadie, as they occasionally use it for a game of keep-away.

What really struck me in this picture is the similarity between Sadie’s and the fish’s markings. The toy looks like Sadie! I never noticed that before.

Monkey see, monkey do: Payton and pals Saturday, Nov 8 2008 

payton-monkeysPayton (my granddaughter, in case anyone wonders) is a good-natured child. She always enjoys her visits with Honey and Papa, as she did spending all of today while her mom and dad went to Baton Rouge for the football game (that our Tigers lost).

Honey and Papa (Sarah and me) marveled all the while how perpetually happy Payton is, and how well she gets along with every creature, including the dogs.

She has a special thing with Marley the Dog, who placidly tolerates Payton pulling his hair, grabbing his tail, or roughly patting his side while he snuggles right up close to her, fast asleep. Poor little guy is unusually tolerant. My theory is that Marley, the master of life on the lam before adopting our household as his permanent house of refuge last June, actually has a moral conscience that compels him to be patient and kind to Payton, just as we were patient and kind when he planted himself in homeless desperation on our patio last June.

The picture here shows Payton with Marley and the orange hand puppet, Melvin Macaque. Melvin Macaque was Zach’s and Ann’s playmate when they were little dudes. Melvin’s been around for longer than Payton or Marley.

They’re all some little monkeys, though, each in his or her own respect, so the monkey beat goes on for another generation at least.

Fall Ball: Geaux, LSUE Bengals! Friday, Nov 7 2008 

The fall practice season ended tonight with the seventh game of the best-of-seven “World Series” intrasquad games between the purple and black teams.  The “Black Magic” team won (and that’s fine, b/c Bengal Trainer Ann was the trainer assigned to that team).

The fall “World Series” has meant long evenings at Bengal Field for over a week, to the point that I’m concerned I might be bored next week.  I suppose I should be relieved, because now I’ll have a little after-work time for myself.

Anyway, we’ll take a break from baseball now until next spring when the rtrophyeal season begins.  This year’s young, freshman-dominant group seems a far cry from the brash and scrappy bunch that won the NJCAA World Series last May, but we’ll just have to wait until spring now to see what happens.

So much for the “high” life? Saturday, Nov 1 2008 

I have to credit my niece for this photo, which I borrowed from her Louisinaview blog. What an astonishing picture! What can we say of this poor Louisiana possum?

Did he not read the ancient Jewish proverb?: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; he who partakes thereof is deceived.”

But alas, his fate is perhaps merrier than those of his lot who meet more violent ends as roadkill.

Best possibility of all is that he is just “playing possum” and after the cameraman disappears, he bounces to his feet and wobbles off into the woods, a little hung over and hopefully wiser for the next evening’s scavenging raid.