Saturday, May 28, 2011


I heard there was quite an interest in the hats worn at the Royal Wedding last month and specifically Princess Beatrice's.

Personally, I don't think it holds a candle to Patriarch Bartholomew's Paschal hat.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Moo Awarded Honorary Doctorate

Moo was invited to receive an Honorary Doctorate and give the commencement address to the graduating class of Saint Vladimir's Seminary on the topic of "Change in the Orthodox Church in America: Lettuce Attend!". Unfortunately Moo was unable to accept the invitation due to a conflict with his sister's high school graduation (pictured here with him).

St. Vladimir's Seminary awarded Moo an honorary doctorate in "Orthodox Phronemaology" for being the only thing on earth slower than change in the Orthodox Church in America.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Of Friends, Deer Heads, Vans and Death

To my shame I can't remember exactly how many years it has been since I knocked on the door of my best friend's ex wife to tell his 8 year old son that his Father was dead.

It wasn't that Josh hadn't seen his Dad nearly dead a dozen times.  He had stepped over his urine soaked, trembling body on the living room floor of his apartment many times.  He had called 911 or me enough times to have him taken to the indigent's detox center.  But this time Josh wasn't with him when he passed out.

Joe worked for me that Friday.  He had been clean for a few weeks again. He was supposed to get a pass and stay at my house with his son for a visit.  I asked him when I should pick him and Josh up.  He said, "I have plans tonight..."

He and a group of his friends had scored some dope and that night they went AWOL from the rehab, bought their alchohols of choice, and rented a motel room.  When Joe passed out no one paid attention.  When someone finally shook him, he was dead.  They left his body in the room and snuck back into the rehab. In the morning one of them anonymously called the police.  They found my phone number on a card in his wallet.

I was on the job Saturday morning working alone.  Joe didn't show up for work. I knew he was probably drunk again.  I got a phone call about ten o'clock.  "This is Sergeant --- from the Phoenix police department.  Do you know a Joe ---?"

It was a short conversation.  I was able to positively ID his body on the phone by his tattoos and scars.  I packed up my tools and drove to his ex's apartment.  His ex answered the door.  I didn't say anything but I guess the look on my face said it all.  She said, "Joe?...."

Josh cried.  His ex said, "That son of a bitch".  Then she cried too.  I couldn't.  I still haven't.  I think by the time it happened I was too ready for it. 

I met Joe on a job.  Our introduction was a practical joke by the general contractor.  I tell the story of his hatred for Jesus and Christians and his conversion HERE .

Over the next few years he did everything he could to destroy himself and I did everything I could to keep him from it. No amount of dysfunctional or functional love could restrain him.  I cannot presume to know what it is like to wrestle with his demons, and they were legion.  I think the best lesson he ever taught me was by his death:  that is, that I am not Jesus Christ.  He died imprisoned, bound and casting himself into the fire, and in the end all I could do was watch because I had run out of ways to love him and prayers.

I presided over his funeral at the rehab center. For years I was angry at the parade of guys who abandoned him in the motel room, who came to the microphone and wept.  They were supposed to eulogize Joe, but it really wasn't about Joe, it was about themselves "See how much I loved him..."  But now I realize they probably loved him like I did, helplessly and cluelessly and eventually angrily because he would not validate our love for him by staying alive and being our friend, Joe.  At the intersection of whatever within me was "real love" and Joe's free will, or his will bound up by the sins perpetrated on him and his own sins trying to loose himself, lies his death that still hurts in places I do not understand.  And perhaps it is best that it remains a mystery and a conviction of my own finiteness and lack of faith and understanding.  For that gift I am still grateful.

Somehow Josh found me on the internet a few months ago and I got an email from him.  He has moved out of state and is doing well.  He asked if I had any pictures of his Dad.  I had two.

This one is a Polaroid of us in front of my 1952 bread truck/work van probably taken around 1990.  My ex didn't like my deer head over our fireplace so I mounted it on the front of my truck.  One Christmas Joe and I decorated it with a wreath, Christmas balls and a red light glued on the nose that lit up when the key was turned on.  The decorations never got taken off.

We were working at an office building one day and one of the office workers complained that she was staring at the deer head out her window and was offended.  The building manager came and told me I was technically in their office parking spaces so I had to move my van.  When I went out to move it, there was a vacant general parking space immediately behind my van and I backed it up 15 feet into it.  The building manager laughed and said, "You're legal."  Yeah, I can be  passive aggressive.

Eventually some kids stole the deer head in the middle of the night and the van broke down irreparably, probably out of grief.
This is another Polaroid that we took with the Easter Bunny when we were working at a Mall one year.  Joe put on his "Easter Joy" face for the picture.

I guess there was no real point to this post except that I had part of the day off and I found the pictures and scanned them and emailed them to his son today.  If any of you who read the blog pray for the departed, please remember Joe for me.  I don't remember him often enough after all these years.  But our friendship is such that he would tell me that he expected that of me and doesn't mind because he would do the same for me if the tables were turned.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Life vs. Blog Showdown

I can't believe it has been over a month since I started painting repo'd houses.

I ended up missing all of Holy Week, including Pascha services.  I put in a 14 hour day on Holy Saturday, got home at about 8:30pm and had to be back on the job by 7:00AM on Sunday morning to finish it in time for carpet layers and to start another job on Monday morning.  I took a day off on Mother's Day to visit my Mom in northern Arizona, and today is my second day off in almost 7 weeks. Not that I'm complaining....

During the last two and a half years there have been weeks that I had no work at all and most weeks I had less than 15  billable hours.  But during that time I got to build a Church for our Mission and for St. John's Monastery and a dormitory and chapel for St. Anthony's Monastery.    As much time off as I had, I didn't lose any weight, however.

As cool as it was to have a real Church building for our Mission, a few months ago QT Gas Stations bought the land that our Church was on.   We couldn't afford another piece of land or to move the building, so this is what became of our Church. 
Now we're renting a chapel from a Coptic Church and looking for another office/warehouse space to move into again.  "God works in mysterious ways" is probably the only thing anyone can really say about that without trying to rationalize it, spiritualize it, or become cynical or despondent. 

But that's not the point. The point is, I've had a LOT of time on my hands for the last couple years and no time on my hands for the last couple months.  When I have a lot of spare time it is easier to find time to be "holy", well... do things that make me at least look holy, and to tell everyone about it on the blog.  The Church benefits from my unemployment, my skills and, yes, even my ego.

The last couple months I've been working for about a third of what I used to make but getting three or four times the billable hours. I've found I'm getting up and down 24 foot extention ladders a lot slower than I used to. I've found that gravity gets stronger after 8 hours of painting baseboards. I've found that it is easier to get up and down ladders if I don't have to carry a Whopper with cheese, large fries and a Coke with me in the afternoon. I've found that cleaning gutters buys groceries just like painting a wall does. I've found pride comes before a fall and lack of pride comes before a meal. I've found I'm still the same person whether I am unemployed, under-employed, broke, rich or busy climbing the 30 steps of the Ladder of Divine Ascent for Lent or climbing a 24 foot fiberglass ladder for ten bucks an hour.  I've found that neither exhaustion is more sacred than the other.

I've also found as hard as I think my work has been there are other people working harder for less. I haven't had to do this yet for minimum wages. Yes, that is a running chainsaw in his hands.

So all in all, all is good.  Or is it, "All is well"?  Or perhaps it is both.  Even when it doesn't feel good and seems like it isn't going well.  God works in mysterious ways.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

18 Years Today

19 years ago I put this on a cassette tape and sent it off with a dream. 

18 years ago today she said "I do" not knowing what she was getting herself into.

I love you more now than then.  Thank you for saying yes, my beloved.

Happy anniversary.