Friday, July 9, 2010


I realized today that I've been trying to deal with a lot of my problems alone, by myself, in private. I'm afraid to let people help me though, but that's part of what the church is for... so that we can have the support of other people. I'm a very private person though, and the idea of revealing my problems to other people fills me with anxiety and shame. That might be wrong though, to keep my problems hidden inside because I continually fail at dealing with them by myself.

I have realized one thing though which will help. I haven't tried to share my problems with God. I learned yesterday that I can only deal with the aspects of my problems that are actually under my control, and that it's ok to hand the rest over to God for Him to deal with. Through God anything is possible, and through myself nothing is possible. I think the way to do that is with prayer. That might seem obvious, but sometimes we can't see what is directly in front of us and staring us in the face.

I haven't really prayed sincerely for help with my problems... I'm always praying for somebody else. I think it's time I started praying for myself a little bit.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Today at the post office

I was at the post office today and I had a book with me that Ann Miruski had given me called 'The Christian Atheist'. After I was finished with my business there, I left to go find a mailbox (yeah I know, I was just at the post office...) in which to drop the letter. I found the box, mailed the letter, and headed back to the store. It took me about 20 minutes to realize I'd left my book at the post office, and I busted out of the store at top speed, which in these boots kind of hurts.

When I got to the post office, a lady was thumbing through the book. I approached, out of breath, and said, "Hey... that's my... book... I left it... here... about 20... minutes ago." The lady continued to thumb through the book without looking up. I didn't want to be rude, but I really wanted that book back. I was almost finished with it. Maybe she just hadn't heard me.

"Yeah... that's my book," I said, my breath returning to me. "I left it here."

"Oh, yes, I was just looking at it. Very interesting. Where did you get it?"

I explained how Ann had given it to me. She thumbed through it some more, nodded her head in approval, then handed the book to me with a big smile. At this point I felt a little guilty at immediately just wanting the book back. A lot of the time I misjudge people's motives because of my inherent selfishness and tendency to jump to conclusions. At this point we began to talk a little bit about the title of the book and what it meant, and then she opened it to a couple of specific parts which she thought were interesting. She must have found that book immediately after I left, because she had apparently read a good bit of it. She was genuinely interested in it, and I'm almost finished with it, so I offered to give it to her.

"Oh no, don't do that. No, you keep it. This way, you can go back and re-read the important parts. Here, do this..." she opened the book to a page we had just been talking about. "Like this part here. Take a pencil and underline it and put the date next to it. But do that to the parts that you find important. Go back in the book and find the parts that made an impact on you and underline them and put the date next to the passage. Then later you can reflect on those parts when they become relevant to you. You'll have the date and it will help you to remember why you thought it was important then, and it will help you figure out why it's important to you at that particular time in the future."

I thanked her and we talked a little more. I told her how I was a recent convert to Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and she described how she had turned to God 14 years ago when she had hit rock bottom, drunk and homeless. By this time we had migrated outside, and as she turned to go, she said "Keep that book, keep God in your heart, and don't ever forget that it's His grace that makes everything possible. Good luck!" And with that, plus a big smile, she turned and walked away.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July Adventure

On the 4th of July, after work, I set out on a long walk at about 7:30. I made a video of the first part, which you can watch here if you're just itching to see the retard behind the words.

If you decide not to inflict the video upon yourself, here's a short synopsis. Pretty much immediately into my walk I started to find things. This is a usual thing for me when I walk; I find things on the road. I'm easily amused, so when I find the top part of a gas burner shaped like a radiation hazard symbol, I get a huge kick out of it. Even more exciting than that is finding a dirty knit hat stuffed full of candy. And even more exciting than THAT is following a TRAIL of candy for 2 miles! Of course all of this wild candy was the result of the parade that passed that way earlier in the day, but at the time I thought I was following the desperate clues that would lead me to a wicked witch up in the hills, intent on cooking a couple of innocent kids who had cleverly left this trail for me to follow. I was pretty disappointed when I figured out that this wasn't the case.

So, I continue my sojourn after the video ends and wind up on the docks. All the ships had already left, but I saw a crowd gathered on the last dock.


Some kind of Martian 4th of July celebration. I briefly wondered about the native folk here, and why they would celebrate the 4th of July when they were here long before the white man came and installed a capitalist economy. I guess they're ok with it, because there were a bunch of tribe-like folk on a stage, singing primitive chants and beating on primitive drums.


Even the mayor of Mars... I mean, Ketchikan (I keep thinking this is Mars. I guess it's because that's where I'd rather be) took the microphone and started talking. I didn't really listen to this, and when the Mayor said, after a rousing round of applause, "Wait, I'm not done yet..." that's when I walked away. But not before snapping this picture, which was just too funny not to digitally memorialize for all eternity:


Anyway... enough of the political rally. I wanted action... and action I soon found. As I was rounding a corner, I heard shouts in the distance... a gruff inarticulate shout, answered by a cacophony of distinctly less gruff inarticulate shouts. As it turned out, without describing all the descriptive coming up upon the scene stuff, it was a group of young progressive natives trading shouts with one of the elder statesmen. It was youth against the establishment! Action! Or so I thought at the time... actually, upon closer inspection, it was just an old really drunk guy and a bunch of dime store hoods playing at being heavy metal, shouting 'F YEAH, ROCK AND ROLL' while waving the hook em horns hand gesture at each other. As I approached the old man, he took an immediate interest in me.

"F'ing kids," he said to me as we began to walk together. It was at this time that I noticed just how drunk the guy was. He couldn't walk in a straight line to save his life, and a younger woman was trying to guide him through the parking lot which we were navigating. There weren't that many cars, but the old man was doing a pretty good job of nearly bumping into most of them.

"F'ing kids. F'ing kids!" he said, over and over, looking at me as if to elicit some kind of agreement.

"Kids will be kids. We were all kids once," I replied.

The old man took a long look at me, as if sizing me up. I guess he was trying to decide whether or not I was an f'ing kid. After a few seconds I guess he judged me to be alright, because he said, "Hey, it's good to see somebody with long hair. On a guy, you know. Really good. You wanna go smoke some pot?" All of this came out slurred and slobbery.

"Nah, I haven't smoked pot since I was... well for about 20 years."

"Really? You look like you do. With the long hair and all."

I get this a lot, of course. People see me and immediately categorize me as a dope smoker because of the way I dress and my long hair. I'm used to it and it doesn't bother me.

"Nah, I don't smoke pot."

"Really. That's amazing..." the old man stumbled along for another few steps, accompanied by his daughter, who was struggling to keep him upright. Every now and then she would give me a kind of pleading look mixed with resignation, and say "Come on, pop."

"So, you wanna come smoke some pot?" the old man said to me again.

"Come on, pop. Get you home," said the daughter. They took a turn down some stairs, and after watching to make sure they were safely ensconced in the house, I found myself walking alone again. After doing several circuits of the 'New Town' area... that is, the tourist district, I passed by a window which was level with the sidewalk. I saw that a note was taped to the window, so I stopped to get a closer look. I knelt down, read the note, and my heart almost broke all over again:


How many broken hearts are there on the planet right now? How many people with unrequited love? How many people feeling remorse over things they've said or done to someone they love? How many regretful people? How many lonely people?

After that, my walk was pretty much over, so I headed home... but I snapped this picture of a flag to commemorate the day. It was the 4th of July, after all.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Orthodox Store

What can I say about today? I made a promise to God and broke it, went to work, didn't visit the Episcopal church, and closed the store early. It's the 4th of July, after all. There was a parade but I missed it because I was holed up in the top floor store where nothing happens. That's ok though, because I prefer it up there. I'm a good enough salesman that if a serious customer comes in, I can help them and sell them something and make them happy. Have I ever mentioned how happy it makes me when a customer is happy? I love seeing a happy customer when they buy something they really love. That may sound odd, because I hate this job, I'm not a salesman, and I don't really like talking to people. But it's the excited, friendly person who finally gets that coat or scarf or whatever that is going to put the icing on their vacation, who is just so happy with it, that makes me happy.

I got a customer like that today. He was tall and thin, and was just taken with the Russian trooper shearling hat. It cost $79.00, and he was worried about making an impulse buy. He tried it on, folded the ear flaps down, put them up, folded them down, talked about how much he loved it, put it back, picked it back up, repeat a few times. He walked off just as his wife was coming up the stairs. He told her how much he loved the hat, and she said, "Well, just buy it honey, you love it, right?" So, he came back and bought it. He wore it out of the store with the ear flaps down.

I felt better after that. At about 1:00, Curtis closed his store because it was a holiday, so I went ahead and closed mine. I went down to the store where Ed and Scott were working and they were grilling hot dogs and drinking beer. I had a hot dog, drank a beer, and took a walk down to the Russian store. The Russian girl who works there is really cute and friendly, and she recognized me when I walked in.

"So, you're back for more Orthodox stuff?"

"Yeah. Actually, I want you to translate something for me."

She speaks Russian and translates the backs of the icons for me when I'm in there browsing. I removed my baptismal cross and handed it to her.

"Could you translate the back of that for me?"

She took the cross and examined the back, her brows furrowed.

I said, "I think it might be Greek... or is it Cyrillic?" What the hell do I know anyway?

"No, it's Cyrillic, but very old and ancient writing. I can only understand one part... it says 'Gotha'."

At this point another employee walked up to see what was going on.

"Gothat? Did you say Gotha?"

"Yeah, Gotha. I don't know what the rest of it says."

"Gotha, like... gothic?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"That's creepy! Man, that's creepy!" She looked at me, back at my cross, and then back at me. "That's creepy, man!" Then she walked off.

I was a little miffed. She called my baptismal cross creepy!

"It's not creepy, it's my baptismal cross," I said to the girl who was translating. I don't know her name.

"I know. Maybe your priest can translate it." She knows my priest speaks Russian, I told her when I was in the store before.

I browsed around some more and bought a really pretty Theotokos icon. Then I walked home and prayed for about an hour. I had a lot of praying to make up for, but it still wasn't enough.

So here I am, at 4:52, about to eat supper and watching 'Taken' on TV. Ed and Scott are barbecuing at the lake. I didn't go because I wanted prayer time alone.

Oh and by the way... 5:42. I had just crumpled up the receipt for my new icon and it was halfway into the trash when I stopped. Why would I stop in the middle of throwing away a receipt? I don't know, but something compelled me to. So, I uncrumpled it and looked at it. Blah blah blah... Maria. The name of the person who was logged in on the register. That's the girls name, Maria. The Russian girl who works at the Russian store. Her name is Maria. Huh.

And exactly one hour later too. Is God talking to me here? He usually talks to me with coincidences.

Pinback and Larry Walters

I just have to write a little about Pinback because they are so phenomenally great in ways that are not possible to put into words, but I'm going to try anyway. Every now and then a band will come along, or more accurately; I'll discover a band that will just totally blow me away. They'll kill my soul, resurrect it, make my reason for living change from second to second, depending on what chord is playing, carving new and permanent pathways into my synapses. I think the inside of my brain even hemmorhages a little bit when I'm emotionally overcome by a band like Pinback, and my thoughts will bleed tears.

There is a song called Walters which especially tends to make me cry when I listen to it, if I'm in exactly the right mood, the perfect blend of melancholy and joy. It's about a guy named Larry Walters who yearned to fly but wasn't allowed into pilot training in the Air Force because of his eyesight. Back in the early 80's, he bought about 50 weather balloons, tied them to a lawn chair, filled the balloons with helium and shot up into the sky. He floated over southern California for a couple of hours and was so amazed by the view that he forgot to take pictures.

In 1990 he went out on a hike and never came back. He shot himself through the heart at his favorite place on his hiking trail. I can only imagine the kind of pain it would take to drive one to do that. I've thought about it a lot, but never seriously considered it. I guess I haven't experienced that level of pain and hopelessness. I grieve for Larry Walters... poor guy, poor soul, poor man, poor sad sad man. I cry sometimes just thinking about him and this song. God have mercy on him please.