Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Section Bleed

You know the day is off to a bad start when you open the paper to an entertainment section only to find news. It's certainly not unusual in this tabloid era to find an addicted or otherwise addled celebrity's police blotter taking up the column inches once reserved for movie or theater reviews, and it's been a generation since you could open the sports section without finding stories about off-field misadventures of athletes, coaches and fans.
But this month marks a new lowpoint. First there's the ongoing steroids-shadowed home run record chase of Barry Bonds. Then the background noise of more performance-enhancing drug use by riders on the Tour de France. By themselves, those stories are old news.
But when an NFL quarterback is indicted for trafficking in dog fights and an NBA ref is the target of a federal investigation of gambling and fixing games -- all in the span of 10 days -- well, all I can say is "thanks be for Harry Potter!"
I want my summer back!
Of course, I suppose that's what fans of the 1919 Chicago "Black" Sox said after their heroes were accused of throwing the World Series. Boys will be boys ... even the boys of summer.
All of which is to say, Calvin was right on two scores: human beings are totally depraved; and if you don't have grass stains on your knees at the end of the day you ought to seriously reexamine your life.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


I haven't done much blogging of late -- been traveling some and tending my own garden a good bit. Indeed, I've been thinking that I ought to share both some photos and some reflections on such tending. Then this evening, as I was out watering said garden, a fire engine and rescue vehicle pulled up our quiet street. This is not particularly unusual, as we live just down the hill from a station and they sometimes run the trucks up our way -- perhaps for practice.
But this time they stopped right in front of our house. I was pretty sure nothing was on fire, but having the fire department stop in front of the house does give one pause. They were here to tend to a neighbor across the street -- a middle-aged man in poor health with diabetes and kidney issues.
We met him some months after we moved in four years ago, but only after many months of scornfully referring to him as "boat man" because he kept a big-butt boat parked in the street and drive a honking SUV. In our environmentally concerned, liberal superiority we scorned and mocked him.
Then one day he approached me and said, "you have dogs."
It sounded like an accusation and I was instantly defensive anticipating some complaint about barking.
Instead, "boat man" held out a bag of dog biscuits and told me that his aging dog has been diagnosed, like him, with kidney disease and could no longer eat the biscuits. He wanted to know if our dogs would like them.
A few weeks later he knocked on our dooor. I answered, surprised to see him. He said, "you're a preacher, right."
Again, having just been in the news a great deal, I was defensive and anticipated an attack on my liberal views.
Instead, "boat man" -- whose name I now knew -- told me that his father was in the hospital dying and, though he was estranged from his dad and from any faith community, he thought his father would like to have the Roman Catholic last rights administered so he thought I might be able to help him find a priest.
These days I tend the garden, which is in the front yard, in large part so that I can be connected with my neighbors, so that I don't dismiss the ones I don't well know, so that I might be open to the grace that happens when the boat man becomes a neighbor instead of a stranger.
Now he's in the hospital and we will tend to him as best we can.
Meanwhile, Cheryl is across the street engaged in a long conversation with the extremely conservative man who lives just up the street from us. And it all makes me wonder, which of these is my neighbor?