Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A dream - hanging day

Leah and I were above a vast map of the Earth, and we were flying over it, but she was having trouble navigating it. I told Leah to grab onto the horizon, and pull it towards her, as opposed to trying to move towards it. She did that, and we flew across the landscape together. We passed over houses, lakes, trees, and mountains. We flew over a field that had words cut into it like a crop circle, advertising a band called 'The Pigs', dressed in heavy metal biker jackets. We both thought it was funny. Then I realized that we were right over Michigan. We started to descend rapidly, and I found myself in the college library where she had taken me when we were there together. I looked for her, but she was gone and I was there alone. I called out Leah's name loudly, but she was nowhere to be found. A guy who was working there, a bartender of all things, got very angry at me for making noise. He approached me and threatened me. He pushed me against the wall, and I pushed him back. He tried to hit me, and we fought. I finally pushed him against a wall which butted up against a part of the ceiling that was lower than the rest of the ceiling. His head hit this part and lacerated his scalp badly, and he just stood there crying.

Then I found myself lying down on a couch at Fr. Justin's house. But the house was old and rustic, almost like the inside of a barn... but I think more like an old log cabin. I felt very fatigued, and it was an effort just to keep my eyes open and to sit up straight. Fr. Just was showing me a piece of wax that had been formed from a rectangular wooden box, with the bottom of the mold having some kind of design engraved in it. The piece of wax was shaped like the box, with the design on top. I wanted to get a closer look and asked Fr. Justin if I could see it, but he handed me the box, not the wax. I started to sink deeper into the couch, feeling very very tired. Then he showed me an icon, but it wasn't painted, it was engraved. I sat up higher, and had a little more energy. He showed me another icon, but this one had been cut through the wood, with the parts of the wood that were missing forming the shape of the icon figure. I became greatly interested.

Then it was Leah showing me icons, but I lost interest and turned my head to the right and watched TV. I forgot that she was there trying to show me icons, and just watched a silly sitcom on TV. After it was over, I laughed and turned to you to see if Leah had thought it was funny too. She was still holding the icon, waiting patiently for me to finish watching TV. I realized that I had forgotten all about her.

After all that happened, I was homeless and wandering through the streets of Mt. Pleasant. I saw a litter of kittens, barely a week or two old, thin and starving, playing with each other and rolling around in muddy puddles. I felt sorry for the kitties, and I had some food in my pocket... part of a muffin, I think... and I put it down for them to eat. I kept walking, and my old friend Clint was with me. He tried to get me to take a shortcut through the yards of people we didn't know. I didn't want to do this, but I did anyway. In one yard, the people who lived there saw us, and I panicked and ran. I came to a fence that was electrified, but I was able to crawl under it. There was a larger wooden fence beyond it, and I climbed over it, but my clothes got hung on it and ripped.

Then I was in a desert, still homeless and wandering. I saw a little boy in the distance, and army Bradley vehicles were moving towards the boy. They were going to shoot at a terrorist who was driving a jeep towards the boy, and I was afraid the boy would be hurt, but I couldn't do anything. The gunner in the Bradley fired, and the jeep turned over and the terrorist was killed. However, the little boy wasn't hurt, and he approached the wreckage and stole an AK-47 which had fallen out of the jeep.

The boy went home and the village elders questioned him on where he got the gun, but he wouldn't talk. Finally he said that his dad had given it to him, and this infuriated the elders. They said that they would have to hang his dad. However, the boy didn't have a father, and he snickered under his breath at this. When the elders found out the boy didn't have a dad, they said that they would hang him instead. Some villagers protested that he was just a little boy and shouldn't be hung like an adult, so the elders decided to just show the boy how they hang criminals.

It was 'Hanging Day', a holiday that happened every week for this tribe. They took the boy to a gallows, where about five men were lined up. Ropes were put around the necks of these men, and they were slowly hoisted off of the ground. Their hands were tied, and they could only struggle vainly as they slowly choked to death. The boy watched all of this, moving from one man to the other, observing each one closely as each one of them choked. It took a long, long time for them to die.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Today I sold a knitted rex rabbit scarf, a pair of shearling gloves, and a shearling hat! Yee haw. And right before that, there was a group of people sitting on the bench across the hall snickering because I didn't have any business. Everybody usually goes right into the Harley store, because... hey, it's a Harley store, and the guy who runs it is a Harley guy. He wears a Harley Davidson t-shirt under a leather vest, blue jeans with a Harley belt buckle, cool harness biker boots, and a Harley bandanna, with black highway patrol shades completing the ensemble. I have to admit, he looks almost as cool as me decked out in my fur selling duds. Anyway, I digress...

So, this group of people were sitting across the hall, talking about my merchandise. I have several fur hats for sale, all of them in the Russian Trooper style. The shearling hats cost 79 dollars, and the rex rabbit hats cost 149 dollars. One of the guys walked up and picked up a hat and tried it on. His friend hollered from the bench:

"How much is it? 20 dollars?"
"Sheee-it naw. This is 150 bucks."
"150 bucks? Sheee-IT! No wonder they ain't got no business!"
(The one guy puts the hat back)
"Yeah, they're all going into the Harley store, and I don't blame em! 150 bucks for a hat? Sheee-IT!"
"Har har har har! Is all that stuff a hunert sumpin bucks? Them scarfs ain't worth a hunert sumpin bucks!"
"Sheee-it naw, it's just a knit scarf! Sheee-IT!"

And on and on and on, making fun of my little corner of merchandise. Well, I wanted to say to those guys, "You're all full of SHEEE-IT!" but I didn't. I just stood there and read my book.

Well, about 10 minutes later, a guy and his wife walked up and started looking at the hats. They picked out a shearling hat and the guy tried it on.

"Well honey, is that what you're looking for?"
"Well I dunno hun, I think so." (he looks in the mirror) "What do you think?"
"Well it's your birthday, so get whatever you want."

So the lady bought the hat for her husband, who turns 60 tomorrow. I love it when a customer is really happy with their purchase. Another case in point:

An old lady was browsing the rex rabbit knitted scarves. She asked her granddaughter for her opinion... the blue one or the grey one? I personally thought that the grey one would go better with more, since it's a neutral color.

"I like the grey one gramma, it will match more of your clothes. The blue one is just for fun."
"Thanks sweetie. I'll take the grey one!" She moved over to the shearling gloves and tried on the first pair she saw. They fit beautifully. "And the gloves too!"

As I was writing up her purchase, she told me about how she had saved and saved for this cruise, and had just enough mad money left over to buy a totem pole. Well, the totem pole next door in the ivory store cost 3000 dollars, and all she had was 200. So, she bought the scarf and the gloves instead, for 150 bucks. She was so happy, her grin split her face from ear to ear. That's what I really like, see? When a person is so happy with their purchase, it makes me happy too.

So take that, you bunch of hicks who were ragging on my little fur corner!


This morning I got to the store early. Lydia said "Hi!" as I started to set up. Lydia... Carol is her name, but she's changing it to Lydia. I've been wanting to ask her why she's changing her name, and thought that now would be a good time to ask her. I walked into the jewelry store:

"Hi Elias!"
"Hi, Lydia. Hey, if you don't mind my asking, and if it's not too personal, why are you changing your name to Lydia? I'm sorry if I'm butting into something that isn't any of my business."

As it turns out, it was a very personal question, but she didn't even flinch. She smiled and said:

"Oh no, it's ok. I just got out of a horrible 20 year relationship, and I can't stand to have my name associated with his, so I'm changing it from Carol to Lydia." By that, I guess she meant that her first name and his last name had been associated together for so long, that she didn't want any trace of her name to be his anymore.

Then she proceeded to describe a horror movie she saw once, about how a lady had just experienced something terrible and was frantically trying to scrub herself clean in the shower. She scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed, trying to get clean... not from any kind of physical dirt, but from the traumatic experience she had gone through.

"That's how I feel after this 20 year marriage," she said. "My dirvorce is final next month."

I didn't know what to say. When I qualified her possible denial of my request to know why she was changing her name as maybe being too personal, I had no idea it would be THAT personal. I stammered out something like "I'm sorry..."

She took pity on me and changed the subject by asking me why I was changing my name to Elias. I described my baptism to her... yet ANOTHER conversation that came back to that story... and the smile which erupted threatened to split her face from ear to ear.

"We need to share some fellowship then!" And she proceeded to come out from behind the counter to give me a big, heartfelt hug which lasted for about ten seconds. I was completely taken aback and overwhelmed by this completely selfless expression of camaraderie and love.

That was yesterday. This morning when I showed up at the store, Lydia came over and said this:

"What's your name again? I mean, how do I pronounce it?"
"Elias." I spoke it clearly and kind of slowly... it's a simple name, I think.
"Here, write it down for me." She produced a paper and pen. "I'm so heartbroken right now that I stammer and stutter every time I try to say your new name."

Again, I didn't really know what to say to that. I wrote it down and she smiled and waved and walked away.

Later today, I was standing here counting ceiling tiles again, and painting my nails black, when Lydia walks up:

"Bored yet?"
"Yeah, I need a recharge."
"Maybe this will help!"

She proceeds to give me a great big, long hug. Smiles all around.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Another day in Alaska

Today I walked to work again and got all sweaty on the way. I want to get my exercise, but showing up to work all sweaty sucks. Plus, we have these roll down doors that use a machine with gears and chains to open and close them, and of course, one of my doors isn't working. So, we have to leave it open, which means that when we close, we have to move all of the merchandise into another store which isn't being used right now so it will be secure. Of course, this is great fun, showing up to work and having to set up everything, and having to tear it all down at the end of the day. We used to do that on the road... hey, I'm not on the road, I'm in Alaska! Why do I still have to set up and tear down every day?! The owner of the building, Lynn, had to go fishing yesterday when the door broke, so he just told me to 'figure it out'. Ok, I tried to 'figure it out', but I'm not a mechanical engineer. Thus, my solution is to tear down and set up every day until Lynn hires somebody to fix it. That might be a long wait. I'm not trying to imply anything by mentioning that he's Jewish, by the way... but he's Jewish. He's actually a very nice guy. He knows that I'm a recent convert to Orthodoxy, and before he went fishing and left me there with the broken door, we had a really nice conversation in which he told me that he had just discovered Jesus. This is just another example of what I was talking about yesterday, in that my conversations with people tend to flow towards my baptism and the Glory of Jesus Christ. I feel blessed to be here, truly I do. I just miss St. Maximus. I can't wait until I get to visit the church at Juneau and receive communion again.

Today there was a lot of slow time again, so I used some of it to sketch a portrait of this girl who was sitting on a bench across the hall.

As you can see from the picture, she looks like she might be a little sad or somewhat depressed. So, it was slow and I was bored, so I sketched a picture of her as she sat there on the bench. There was a coat rack which was blocking my view of her, so I frequently had to stand up get get a good look, then sit back down and sketch what I remembered. Once she looked up as I was standing up, and it was completely obvious that I was standing up to look at her. I sat back down as if my butt was made of steel and the stool was a superconducting electromagnet, and I just sat still for a minute or two. I don't know why it's always so embarrassing when somebody catches you looking at them, but such is life.

Once I had finally finished the sketch, I looked up again and saw that she was gone. Damn! I was wanting to give her the picture to cheer her up. I hurried downstairs to look for her, but didn't see her. I went outside and looked up and down the streets, but no dice. She had disappeared. All I wanted was to maybe cheer her up a little, because she looked like she was having a bad day.

This morning I was really missing St. Maximus. I tried to imagine what was going on during the liturgy at certain times as I was going about my business. I imagined Fr. Justin giving the homily, the choir singing the Litany of the Catechumens, and everybody taking communion. As it turns out, I was an hour late with these imaginings, which made me miss home even more. I've thought several times since I've been here that I might have made a huge mistake, that I've landed in a den of inequity, but then something will happen that reminds me of God and how He is in my life, even way up here on Mars, and I'll take heart again. Not having my prayer book was discouraging at first, but then I just started saying the Lords Prayer and reading the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem. I have Leah to thank for that, because she wrote it down for me a year ago and I've had it in my wallet since then.

I miss you:

The Birthisels
The Lydas
Fr. Justin

And all of the parishioners at St. Maximus.

Pray for me please, I'm praying for you guys.