Monday, January 26, 2009

Michael J. Walden - R.i.P.

Mercury Courts, where I live on Murfreesboro Road in Nashville, is part of Urban Housing Solutions. This organization, founded to help get folk off the streets, recently gained a portion of the Drake Motel across the street, to expand their services. In December two staff members were over there to "Mercury North" investigating a report of gas leakage. A water heater explosion severely injured both, especially Michael Walden. Michael was taken to the Burn Unit of Vanderbilt Hospital.

The next morning, when at first I learned the details of the event, the names didn't signify anything special. But then I remembered that Michael was director of housing and that I had been in his office back in September about paying my rent. I'd been scared that since I didn't have a job yet he would put me out on the street. But Michael was understanding and kind, and I went away with a positive feeling about my encounter with him. Now, finding out that he was critically burnt and in Vandy, where I had been back in January of 1988 (see my post of 13 Jan.), I simply HAD to go see him. Three times I tried to visit and failed, because he was either in therapy during visiting hours or the docs were examining him.

Then last week came word that Michael Walden had taken a turn for the worst and died. His funeral was at the end of the week in his hometown of Glasgow, Kentucky. I couldn't go, for more than one reason, but word was out that there would be a memorial service for him here on Monday, today.

The service was held this morning in the church at the entrance to adjacent Trevecca Nazarene University. Preliminary music included "Go Rest High on That Mountain" by Vince Gill. Even in the one time I'd met him, Michael had affected me so positively that upon listening to Gill's elegy for his dad my head leaked. An ordained clergyman who works for UHS led the service and at one point invited anybody who wished to speak regarding the departed. Several staffers spoke about Michael, and I also briefly talked about that one meeting with him, and how what I'd heard staffers say subsequently about him confirmed my positive impression about Michael.

UHS founder and CEO Rusty Lawrence didn't say anything much, but he did pass out a sheet containing his tho'ts about Mischael, who had been his dear friend as well as co-worker. Here are Rusty's words -- In Memory of Michael:

Michael Walden was a unique person. He had a wicked wit and constant sense of humor. He spiced up all of our meetings, lunches and get-togethers. I remember one time when he was coming to the staff Christmas party at my house... He arrived in an enormous white limo!!!... and we were all impressed.

But he was also a very loyal and devoted member of the Urban Housing Team. How many times I have come into the office early to find him here... he had spent the night so that he could bet his late notices out. And my most vivid memory of him was walking around the property talking on his cell phone... he must have received 50 calls a day.

Yes... Michael had a way with people... he was tough... but had a soft heart that he kept hidden some of the time. He had a hard job to do... he had to determine who got to move in to our apartments... and who had to move out. He did a lot of our "heavy lifting" here at Urban Housing.

Michael was special, and we want to do something special for him. The next playground that we install. . . will become "Michael's Place" and we will put up a plaque that celebrates Michael and his life.

Michael was a friend, and I will miss him. --Rusty Lawrence

By the way... even the color of this paper reminds us of Michael... he was one of the only guys who could wear pink... and get away with it!!!

At the end of the service attorney Alan Mazer, who works for UHS in Mercury Courts, said the ancient Kaddish Prayer for Mourners. He'd recite a portion of it in Aramaic and then in English, then the next portion. I'd read or heard reference to the Kiddush Prayer many times, but this was my first experience of hearing it recited. It's beautiful! It praises God as Creator and petitions for peace for His Creation. Here's Alan's English adaptation (respecting the Jewish custom, I do not print out the entire divine Name):

May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as he willed. May G-d reign in our lifetimes and in our days, and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Man. And let us say, "Amen."

May G-d's great Name be blessed forever and ever. Blessed, praised, glorified,exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the Name of the Holy One. Blessed is He, beyond any blessing and song, beyond any praise and consolation. Now say, "Amen".

May there be abundant peace from Heaven and life upon us and upon all mankind. Now say, "Amen".

May G-d Who makes peace in the heavens grant peace to us and to all mankind. Now say, "Amen".

To which I say not only "amen", but. . .

may Michael Rest in Peace. . .

the undying and invincible peace of our Heavenly Abba.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Music of Music City -- Verse 2

In my last posting I was reporting Nashville news that I'd intended to post on Friday. So what was I doing yesterday that had me so distracted? Well, one factor -- 'tho I really do not care to blame it -- is that I was listening to music.

Imagine that, in "Music City"!

After eating a delicious lunch with J.R. (a fellow resident of Mercury Courts) and Tim of Building Lives (vets aid group) at Tex's World-Famous Barbecue on Foster Ave. off Murfreesboro Rd., I prepared to go out again and run errands. One involved a visit to a library -- so the question remains, why did I forget to also visit my blog site while there?

While preparing to go, awaiting the MTA bus, and then riding the same, I was listening to WSM-AM 650. That time of week day Keith Bilbrey is serving as deejay. I'm not going to say that Keith is my favorite WSM personality, because I treasure them all! What does set him a bit apart, I suppose, is being the "dean" of WSM deejays/Opry emcees. Besides, his voice and demeanor are those of a genuine Tennessee "country boy" (he's from Cookeville): friendly, hospitable and warm. How could anybody NOT like a guy like Keith?

Well, as I was listening around midday Friday Keith enhanced my "fan-ness!" For among his superb repertoire of songs aired was my favorite of all country songs of all time: "Love Without End, Amen". Aaron Barker wrote this celebration of a true daddy's unconditional love and George Strait recorded it. This was a Number One song in country music in 1990, and it remains #1 in my heart to this day!

Keith also aired a song by Kitty Wells. The Queen of Country Music isn't an artist with whom I'm really familiar. But she could sing a good song, such as this one; the acoustic beat of the upright bass added even more pleasure to the listening. My deejay friend also played the current hit "In Color", recorded by Jamey Johnson. The lyrics present a dialog between the singer and his grandpa about b & w photos from the latter's youth -- Depression, WW II, wedding -- "you shoulda seen it in color."

Also, Keith aired a former hit of several years ago, when I first ever came to Tennessee. This is "Kay", recorded by John Wesley Ryles. It's a revelation of the seedy side of life here, that it's NOT all shiny guitars, rhinestones and sequins in America's Music City. But dear reader, don't take "Kay" as a slam on Nashville. The lyrics will fit any urban entity in these United States. "Kay, I'm livin' yet I'm dyin', staring out at Music City from my cab." The singer could be staring at ANY city. Like any genuine country hit song it tells the unvarnished reality of life.

As Harlan Howard once said, "Country Music is three chords and the truth."

That quote is displayed in no less a place than the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. I read it today; it captivates me with its accurate appraisal of the music I loathed as a lad -- did I also loath truth? -- and came to adore as an adult!

I read it today because as Keith Bilbrey and others announced, admission was free. Thank you, Ford Foundation (sponsor of the freebie)! I'd been to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum many years ago, when it sat at the downtown end of Music Row, in a building with a barn-like roof. In the 1990s it moved into a newly-built home downtown just two blocks from historic Ryman Auditorium. I'd been in this new location, which is much larger than the old and outwardly features architectural elements that resemble a piano keyboard and other items of music and broadcasting -- but entered only as far as the information desk or the gift shop.

Today I saw all of this new home/house museum for Country and Western music. It would have been well worth regular admission, had I needed to pay it. Thank you, Ford Foundation!

After being in a long line to receive the comp ticket (lots of my neighbors as well as tourists apparently had learned of the freebie) I queued up in another line to ascend the elevator to the top (third) floor and the start of the museum tour. The Harlan Howard quote adorns a first-floor wall opposite the elevator.

The exhibits, all fascinating, chronicle the history of country music from its various roots, which melded to give birth to the genre about a century ago. The third floor includes a few big screens which show interview-type presentations by such stars as Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride and Patty Loveless speaking about various country music topics.

Interspersed on the third and second floors are listening stations. Alas! the printed instructions and selections were so small and dim (lacking sufficient contrast with the background) that I could only plainly read one of the first. My selection at this station was Deford Bailey's "Pan American Blues". This Afro-American harmonica wizard's rendition served an integral role the evening of the late 1920s, when the "WSM Barn Dance" got a name change to "Grand Ole Opry" thanks to an ad lib remark.

The second floor, continuing the music genre's progression thru the mid and late 1900s into the current century, has a small semi-enclosed auditorium with a video showing country music on TV shows. Shows such as "The Beverly Hillbillies" (Flatt & Scruggs recorded the theme song and actually cameoed an episode or two), "Andy Griffith" (with Mayberry's resident folk-country group The Dillards), "The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" and or course "Hee Haw".

Confession: the latter show began its run when yours truly still loathed country, so I avoided TV's cornfield for years. Having later warmed to the music I also found the televised show in syndication to be just as delightful for the watching as the music is for the listening!

Farther along -- entering the era when I became a country music fan, late 1970s and into the '80s -- I arrived at an exhibit case which holds among its artifacts one for my "main man", George Stait. It's a saddle given him to honor his CMA and ACM top accolades. How fitting! for "the Strait man" is hardly "just" a singer wearing a Stetson. Nosireebob! George is the REAL DEAL: a ranch and rodeo cowboy in South Texas whenever he isn't on the road strumming and crooning his latest hits. No mere "hat act", he even sponsors and competes in a horseback roping contest in Kingsville, near Corpus Christi.

My tour concluded with a stroll into and around the very Hall of Fame itself. The round, vaulted shrine presents the bronze plaques which honor each inductee, from the first three in 1961 (Jimmy Rodgers, Fred Rose & Hank Williams) to last year's (Tom T. Hall, Emmylou Harris, The Statler Brothers & Ernest "Pop" Stoneman).

The names I just listed indicate that the honor of Hall of Fame membership not only goes to singing stars but also to key movers "behind the scenes" (Rose was a songwriter and co-founder of Nashville's first music publishing house). It's awarded not only posthumously (e.g. Hank) but also goes to currently-performing and recording artists (Emmylou).

The wall being round and the plaques set in three irregular levels on it in no alpha or chrono order, no one inductee gets greater honor than the rest. I saw in this democratic display the plaques of so many folks who mean much to me: Emmylou, Minnie Pearl ('75), Ray Price ('96), Roy Rogers ('88 -- my boyhood hero), "Bud" Wendell ('98 -- as Opryland's boss my boss a few years prior), Alabama ('05), Charley Pride ('00) to name just a few of so-o-o-o many. Of course I saw and delighted in the plaque for my "main man" George Strait ('06). He's the singing REAL cowboy from Texas who "rode in" to help save REAL country music when in the 1980s it threatened to get lost forever in its own "pop"-ularity!

Thank God that George and other neo-traditionalists -- yes, and the "hat acts" who emulated him -- rescued the genre. Thank God the new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum preserves and promotes the genre. And thank you for the free-admission day, Ford Foundation!

Nashville remains diverse & welcoming

Oops! I meant to compose this posting yesterday (Friday the 23d), and I was even online for a significant time in the afternoon. But I guess I was distracted (read, "engrossed in whatever") -- and I guess that I forgot. Oh, rot! I know that I forgot!

The BIG news in Music City, a.k.a. Nashville, is the special elections held on Thursday, 22 January A.D. 2009. And it was the news given yesterday concerning the voting results that I had intended to report. And report them herein I do.

Two issues were on the ballot. Once concerned amending the Metro charter (combined Nashville City-Davidson County government) to make changing that charter easier. It failed.

The more newsworthy issue was English-only. A certain councilman here, Mr. Crafton (who is - alas! - an alumnus of Vanderbilt) has been agitating to get Metro government to conduct all its business (except emergency) only in English, to the exclusion of all other languages. When he couldn't get that done as a member of Metro Council, he led a petition drive to include the issue on the ballot for the US Presidential Election of last November. Failing to meet the deadline due to a procedural problem, Mr. Crafton pushed for a special election, with all the added expense that such entails.

So Mr. Crafton got his wish. I would certainly agree with him or any other native-born American, that immigrants and residents whose first language is other than English, should be strongly encouraged to take ESL courses and get familiar with the majority tongue of these United States. However, for some learning another language is more difficult than it is for others. A nd it takes time for anybody to learn another language. So for the many who haven't yet mastered English we who have must make some accommodation. Especially if we wish to be considered welcoming, helpful and friendly. Nashville has always had a reputation of being high on hospitality, good ol' Southern hospitality.

So I was dead-set against English-only. First thing I did Thursday morning was ascend the mountain of the adjacent Trevecca Nazarene University campus to Trevecca Towers and cast my vote. Alas! the voting room was almost empty -- and would have been had precinct workers and one other voter not been there. This contrasted strongly with the crowd present when I made that mountain climb back in November for the Presidential Election!

In vain that evening I tried to learn how the vote went. I didn't know 'til Friday morning, when I read the results splashed across the front page of the Tennessean, Nashville's daily newspaper. English-only had been soundly defeated! Hooray for common sense and for Southern hospitality!

A couple of additional notes regarding this issue. When I lived in Nashville previously (1984-91), English was about the only language one heard being spoken. The Hispanic element was small; it began to grow noticeably by 1990. And there were few if any immigrants from overseas. It's all changed now. As I've mentioned in earlier postings, Nashville is now an African-majority city. Not just African-Americans born here but also evacuees from Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans who have made this their new home. And many immigrants from Somalia and other African countries, whose first language is Arabic or an African tongue. Nashville also is having a huge influx of Southwest Asians such as Kurds, whose language is also Arabic. Most times when I ride the Route 15 MTA bus into downtown on a weekday morning there are a dozen or more hotel workers riding to work and conversing with one another in Arabic or reading pamphlets printed in Arabic. So this city has pointedly diversified since the Eighties of the past century! It's no longer simply a white majority and a large African-American minority. We need to remain hospitable to the newcomers and just say "No!" to English-only.

As for the vote itself, alas! my own precinct, where the turnout was so uncharacteristically low (uncharacteristic both of the prior Presidential election AND of the city-wide turnout of Thursday), voted overwhelmingly in favor of both issues. English-only got over two-thirds "yes" votes. What's wrong with my neighbors here on Murfreesboro Road?

Well, I guess this means I'm a minority twice over now. Minority race/ethnic heritage and minority in voting. But so be it. . . . at least Metro citizens overall are still wise and hospitable.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Sunday of Church, Chili's, Vandy. . .

Last week, for numerous reasons I was looking forward to Sunday (i.e., yesterday's Sun.) more eagerly than usual. And wouldn't you know? It turned out even better than anticipated!

Arriving early at church -- a sure sign of my eagerness -- I found my Vanderbilt Alumni coffee mug, got myself a filling of the java stuff, and proceeded to converse with anybody and everybody who cared to chat. I then attended a special session of Sunday School for new members of Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples), which was mostly about how Eastwood functions and how we as new members can fit into the church community. Pastor Jay led this, and did a fine job; afterward I felt even more "fired up" about participating in this outstanding spiritual family!

Since I still hadn't been able to attend choir practice on Wednesday evenings due to work, I didn't know what we'd be singing for an anthem until I perused a copy of the worship bulletin while sipping the Vandy mug of coffee mentioned above. It was unfamiliar to me, but a Fannie Crosby-composed piece. And I'll gladly sing Crosby any time! As it turned out, the piece was not difficult, and again I felt blessed to be part of our choir singing it. Afterward, as usual, I changed out of my choir robe and sat out in the congregation (the better to hear the sermon; the chancel is "dead" space when it comes to listening to someone unless they're directly facing you in the chancel). And Pastor Jay gave a great sermon, a lot of which expressed very positive things about the members of Eastwood Christian Church. The things he said are much like my experience of and response to the folk at ECC -- I almost wanted to shout, "Amen!" several times.

Now, last Sunday Del Dorr had asked me about having Sunday dinner with him somewhere right after church the next Sunday (yesterday's Sun.). I'd accepted, and then later realized that we'd be limited in where to eat, by the fact that I had tickets to the Vanderbilt women's basketball ("Lady Commodores") game beginning at two that afternoon. But not to worry! The two of us ended up being invited to join some other church folks for dinner and then a ride to the game. Del gained admission via my extra ticket.

We ate at Chili's on West End across from the Vandy campus. I usually eat Sunday dinner solo, which I don't mind much. But it sure was terrific to have five brothers & sisters from church with whom to share food and conversation! And let me tell you, Bob Frech, who sat on my right is a great talker. The conversation among all six of us roamed thru several topics, such as our associations with Vandy, folks at church and the upcoming Super Bowl that wouldn't include our beloved Titans.

And then we topped it all off by going to a basketball game together!

I think the only time I'd been at an athletic contest on the Vanderbilt campus since I last lived in Nashville (1984-91) was a men's basketball game where the Governors of Austin Peay State University in Clarksville visited VU's Memorial Gym. (We were living in C'ville at the time, and I worked at APSU.) It was oh, so good to get back in that magical place -- and Vandy alumni & fans DO speak about the "Memorial Gym magic". How even when the Commodores are huge underdogs or hosting a number one team they'll still win in the home confines of Memorial.

Well, it was neither homey nor pretty for THIS contest, at first. During the first period the Lady 'Dores played poorly, and couldn't seem to make any baskets. They were lucky to be ahead by one point at the half (after trailing most of the first period). However, during the second half the gals in black and gold quickly widened the lead. Then they kept a decent margin over the visiting women of LSU all thru the final period. Del and I, whose tickets were for seats on the second level to one side, came down at the half to sit behind the others from ECC, who were at floor level behind the visitors seats. Or more exactly, we were sitting behind the goal there.

You see, Memorial Gym has the distinctive if not unique layout, that the teams sit along the ends of the court rather than at the side. Also, the playing floor is actually higher up than the first row or two of seats on either side (but not the end rows). This may explain in part the "magic" of the place that favors Vanderbilt athletes; surely this configuration throws off visiting athletes at least some. As it must have thrown off the women from LSU. Final score: Vandy Lady 'Dores 75, LSU 67.

If at the start the women VU students handling the round ball weren't performing so pretty, the pep band students certainly were making up for them. The musicians were eye-catching as well as ear-pleasing in their performance! Before, during and after the game. Not only did they play plenty of tunes that had yours truly and a few others in the audience clapping to the beat, but they often did choreography. Okay, it was simple choreography: moving their brass instruments from left to right in rhythm, sometimes with a rhythmic body English to boot. But it looked good! Sort of a dance! After the final buzzer and playing the fight song one more time, they also played the Vanderbilt alma mater song, I got a big lump in my throat! It may have been years since I'd been in this gym rooting for Vandy, but that time spread hadn't evaporated my love and support for this outstanding institution where my wife had earned her Bachelors and I my Masters.

Yeah, Vanderbilt! Go, Commodores!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Frigid city and baked Alaskas

One thing I didn't think about when I chose to move from San Antonio to Nashville was the severity of winters here further north. After all, it was midsummer; why should fierce winter weather be on my mind then? Still, I do know that it crossed my mind that in nearby Clarksville I'd suffered my coldest temperature ever: 40 below zero on Christmas Eve night of A.D. 1983!

But this winter's been almost as severe, even if actual measured temperature has yet to fall below zero. Indeed, once winter began in early November, we've lived thru very few "comfortable" days of sun, light or no breeze and highs in the sixties or higher.

Well, last night (early this a.m.) the Farenheit reading dropped to almost zero -- in some local low areas it may have hit the ought mark! Br-r-r-r!

An amusing observation about this frigid winter in Music City is the choice of apparel among a good percentage of the African majority. Young women particularly seem to be fond of a certain type of parka for outer wear. These are coats of mid-thigh length or jackets of waist length, of slick polyester (or nylon or some artificial material) in a very dark color (most often black, but some deep blues or browns), with hoods that are fringed with faux fur of a lighter color. When I see the Afro women (and a few Afro men) sporting these I always think of the parkas that Eskimos wear in the Arctic regions. And I guess due to the garments' dark colors and the wearers' dark skin color I'll then think of the term "baked Alaska"!

Yeah, I know that baked Alaska is a dessert. But it's made of an ice cream center with a meringue covering, which when baked for a very short time preserved the center's firmness while giving the meringue a roasted patina. Anyway, it's not the dessert definition I'm thinking of but rather that parkas are from Alaska and citizens of Africa-south-of-Sahara heritage have dark flesh tones, sort of like they've been baked!

Get it?

Okay, so I have an active imagination and make creative word associations! What can I say? It's how I'm "wired".

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Last evening, & 21 years ago

It was twenty-one years ago. . .

A long time. Two decades plus a year. My adult children were little kids back then. But. . . before going back that far, here's last evening, Monday, 12 January A.D. 2009.

I was on the Vanderbilt University campus at my fraternity's chapter meeting. Lambda Chi Alpha didn't have a chapter at VU while I was here. But while I lived in San Antonio (2002-mid'08) I got quite involved in the LCA alumni association and in participating as an alumnus guest in the three chapters there (UTSA, St Mary's and Incarnate Word). And I've wanted to keep this participation going now that I'm here in Tennessee and LCA has a chapter at VU, Gamma-Delta Zeta (we call our chapters zetas). The teachings of the fraternity and its rituals are firmly based on Christian teachings and on the Bible -- indeed, these helped yours truly to understand those teaching more clearly

So last evening I felt blessed to be in the chapter house, when following the business meeting the chapter conducted the Associate Member ceremony for 24 young men who have chosen to associate with us. I was already impressed that there were 24! By contrast my home chapter, Epsilon-Gamma Zeta at Idaho, associated only 18 in our largest class. And as I heard the obligation recited I sort of got choked up, remembering the evening in fall semester of 1972 I had said the same obligation in Epsilon-Gamma Zeta's house in Moscow, Idaho! As I heard various officers explain the first couple of our symbols to those 24 new associates I considered how I could have been more diligent about living up to those ideals inculcated by Lambda Chi Alpha.

Afterward I was waiting to catch the bus on West End in front of the Carmichael Towers hi-rise dorms (the LCA house is the old Gamma Phi Beta house on Kensington directly behind the Towers). Last evening I waited right there at West End and Twenty-fourth Ave.

It was twenty-one years ago. . . .

Yep! This was kind of eerie to be thinking back on the most harrowing experience of my life, and how it occurred 21 years ago, and a few days, at this very spot! In the middle of the day I was crossing West End right here, and got hit by a car. My right shin bones broke, the impact threw me thru the air some 40 feet, and I came down on my head. So I suffered internal head trauma, and was in a coma three days and once I came to I was recuperating in VU Hospital and then Baptist Rehab several weeks.

Of course, as I've mentioned many times in telling my story to others, I remember nothing about the accident. I don't even remember how I got across the campus to this place. My last memory beforehand is of meeting with Latin American Librarian Ms. Paula Covington in the Central Library across Vandy's campus, to discuss career options and the future.

It was twenty-one years ago. . . .

I hope you don't mind my sharing this with you, dear reader. Please know that it doesn't frighten me to think about it, it simply makes me cautious about jaywalking or about crossing a busy street without heeding a pedestrian walk light. I'm told me that because of my experience the city put in the traffic signal there. Good for them!

Certainly I wouldn't want any of my fraternity brothers or any other Vandy student to go thru what I went thru, twenty-one years ago!

Win some, lose a big one

Dear reader, it's taken me three days to recover from something that happened Saturday evening. That is, to no longer be numbed by it. Indeed, I've endeavored to concentrate on the GOOD that I experienced this past weekend in order to overcome this numbness.

Such as: a delightful work day at Eastwood Christian Church (Disciples). Several folks showed up, and had a scrumptious breakfast before fanning out to do chores. I chose to go around the two buildings and replace burnt-out light bulbs. While doing this task, I considered that I was a natural for this, because my Dad had worked for the so-called "light company" (more accurately the electric or power co.) back in Idaho. (Indeed, my last visit to Idaho was in 1994 when he retired from Idaho Power Co.) And after things were pretty much finished and I was walking along Eastland to catch a bus at Gallatin Rd., fellow church and choir member Steve Walls was pulling out of his driveway to go to the work day and being told that it was accomplished, he gave me a ride home. So I had a good conversation with my brother church member and choir member!

Such as: Sunday morning during Worship at Eastwood we the choir sang an anthem which I'd never seen or heard before that day. But here's a clue: part of the anthem the congregation joined in the singing! It was that simple to pick up "cold turkey"! It's called "Rain Down", was composed by Jaime Cortez and arranged by John Carter. The lyrics, based on Psalm 33, are a touching praise-prayer to the Creator.

Such as: Following Worship I chose to bus north to Madison, a long-established suburban municipality of Nashville's. I was planning to dine at a Shoney's there (that's a popular and ubiquitous sit-down restaurant with a great buffet). But upon stepping off the bus I chose instead to go to the Picadilly Cafeteria next door. It was a good choice! The line was long, but the food excellent-tasting and reasonably priced, and I had some light conversations with folks nearby in the serving line, such as about suits and ties, Scots tartans, caps & hats, what had occurred the evening before -- we'll get to that, it's the subject/title of this post. Best of all, I'd say, is that while dining we were entertained by live music! A three-piece band played a delightful variety of instrumental pieces: hymns, gospel songs, country hits, pop hits. . .

All of this from the second paragraph down to here is to affirm that GOOD things did occur over the past weekend. Nevertheless, one bad event was kind of numbing.

I had to work Saturday, clocking in at 3 PM. At 3:30 PM the NFL Titans versus visiting Baltimore playoff game would be kicking off in LP Field just a mile or two away on the east bank of the Cumberland River across from downtown. Work was sort of busy at first, for a Saturday. The later dlow-down allowed me to surf a web site that carried the game in progress, the site refreshing every half minute. When I first surfed into it it was halftime, score tied seven-up. That was rather shocking in itself. But the final score was worse. Titans 10, Ravens 13 as the visitors kicked a field goal in the final seconds. So the hometown team -- the best-record team going into the playoffs -- lost to a team they had beaten on the road during the regular season. A wild-card team led by a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback! Bleah! (as Snoopy would say)

Yes, I've tried to concentrate on the GOOD rather than that numbing bad. Still, it will hurt for a long time that our Titans will not even be IN the Super Bowl 2009 that I was so sure they would win! Plus I have another contrast between my two recent hometowns. San Antonio has an NBA team, the Spurs, who every other year are the world's basketball champions; Nashville just has an NFL team that is talented and often wins, just not the big ones that count!

Oh, well, c'est la vie, as they say in French. . . .

Friday, January 2, 2009

A very merry and musical bowl

New Year's Eve of A.D. 2009 included the annual Music City Bowl. In the plethora of NCAA football post-season bowl games, I've supported this one from its commencement. I'm as glad that Nashville has a bowl game as I am that San Antonio has the Alamo Bowl, Dallas the Cotton Bowl and Pasadena the Rose Bowl. Of course I'm glad that the post-season gridiron romp bears the title it does, one of the nicknames of the host city. (I doubt that "Athens Bowl" or "Bible Belt Buckle Bowl" would fly.)

This time around -- the eleventh -- the Music City Bowl was a special one. Our alma mater -- my wife's and mine -- played in it, spreading the icing on the cake of the Vanderbilt Commodores' first winning season since 1982! And just as I had longed to attend the Vandy-Vols game here back in mid-November, and then was glad I didn't due to terrible weather, so with the Bowl. IT was FRIGID in Nashville on New Years Eve!

Besides, I had to work, and clock-in was a half hour after kick-off. However, after a couple hours at work I chose to bring up a window on my computer terminal screen, to see if I could raise the ESPN televising of the game. No luck there, but I did surf into a website that informed me that the game was early in the final quarter, the score by quarter, how the scoring happened, and the latest play in the game. This site refreshed itself every 30 second, so I was able to sort of keep up with the game, even if not able to view it live.

At the start of this cyber-following of the Music City Bowl, the screen informed me that Vanderbilt was behind 13-14. But within minutes (real-time, not necessarily game-time) the 'Dores kicked a field goal to gain the lead, 16-14. Then then stopped Boston College's next drive, with so little time left that I knew that Vandy had won!

Thus, Vanderbilt not only played in a bowl game for the first time since 1982 but also won a bowl game since 1955! (I was a year old back then.)

Now, yours truly isn't really anything of a night owl. So I started the day of New Year's Eve planning nothing concerning staying up 'til midnight. (By contrast, in San Antonio I did stay up by attending a church "watch night" concert and prayer meeting.) However, after the 'Dores' won the bowl game I considered going somewhere after leaving work, to celebrate not so much the calendar change as the gridiron victory. Consider is all I did, getting into bed about an hour before midnight.

One final note re the Music City Bowl. I was glad that I didn't actually pay for a ticket and attend the game, first of all due to the chilly, blustery winter weather. A second reason for not going became evident when I viewed on-line photos of the game. The Commodore football players wore about the ugliest version of their uniform I've ever seen. That's one thing about VU; in the many years I've followed athletics at the Nashville campus, they keep changing the looks and colors of their uniforms. In the past some have been classy and attractive to the beholder. Not those the guys wore for the Music City Bowl. They were simply UGLY!

Oh, well, the Commodores won the game, and that's what counts. After all, a post-season bowl game isn't a beauty contest.

New Year's Wishes for A.D. 2009

You may wonder, dear reader, "why 'Wishes' and not 'Resolutions'?"

Well, yours truly has had difficulty with the whole custom of New Year's resolutions. Both the making and the keeping. So, for years now I haven't heeded the old custom.

However, herein I should like to offer some wishes for the new Year of Our Lord (A.D.) 2009. (Hm-m-m! this is the final year we can shorten to "Ought-something"; in this case, Ought-nine.)

FIRST, I wish a blessed year, from beginning to end, for my family and my close friends in Tennessee and Texas (and my Best Man & fraternity Little Brother, Dwight Fillmore, out there in 'Vegas), and for you, too.

I wish for a "normal" weather year for all the globe and especially for Middle Tennessee and South-Central Texas. Part of "normal" would be for precipitation to be within an inch for the year (above or deficit) and within half an inch (above or deficit) for each month. I truly wonder if that has ever happened? Has there EVER been a real, bona-fide "average year" for rainfall in Middle TN or South-Central TX? Oh, for this wish to come true!

I wish for relationships to continue to improve within my family relationships -- and for me to find the strength & wisdom to DO MY PART.

I wish for the Emmaus spiritual renewal movement and its equivalent for inmates, Kairos Prison Ministry, to prosper -- and I don't mean fiscally -- this year and to bring great revitalization to the Body of Christ worldwide.

I wish for the Tennessee Titans to win the 2009 Super Bowl and the San Antonio Spurs to win the 2009 NBA crown. (Oh, and it would be nice if also my beloved S.A. Missions win the '09 Texas League AA Baseball crown!)

Call this my "wish list" for A.D. 2009. Oh, yeah, let me add a wish for the end to all this "politically-correct" alteration of the "King's English"! Don't get me wrong, I endorse some changes of vocabulary, such as avoidance of gender-specific pronouns and the banishment of most pejorative words (except, perhaps, to make a point and make it vigorously). But much of the alteration is foolish, silly or misguided. E.g., just go ahead and keep calling it a "used car" -- "pre-owned" admittedly is a more literally accurate adjective, but it's longer and I'm sure it's a euphemism for a career that's been the butt of jokes and allusions to the untrustworthy: the used-car salesman.

Most of all, I object to the relabeling of historical dates as BCE and CE. There's a REASON why Western history is divided into two parts. The division acknowledges the birth of the man who has had more influence on the subsequent history and culture of Western civilization than any other man. Historians and the general public may not accept Jesus the Nazarene as the Anointed/Messiah/Christ, Son of God and Savior, and they're free to hold such opinion. However, the most able historian cannot deny the impact that this one man has had on everything that happened subsequently in Western civilization. Ancient Romans dated years from the foundation of their city - that's okay for them. Moslems date years from their founder's fleeing from Mecca (A.H. - Anno Hejira - Year of the Flight) - okay for them. So let's retain the dating and cataloguing that's been used for centuries in Europe and America. Let's keep labeling the years as B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini - In the Year of Our Lord).

And may you, dear reader, have a blessed A.D. 2009, and may your good wishes come true in it!

Well now that I think of it, I could simply include a seventh and final wish, one which when it comes true will make my other six superfluous: that this same divine Nazarene return in this two thousand ninth year since His birth (yeah, I'm quite aware that He was actually born in 4 BC or earlier). That He return THIS YEAR and put an end to all the sorry story of humankind's constant search for progress, improvement and the divine -- usually resulting in a worsening of the whole situation. As the Good Book says, "Maranatha!" ("Come soon, Lord!")