Thursday, June 26, 2008

A World Removed (thoughts on glacier)...

Crown of the Continent.
It's another name for Glacier National Park in Montana.

It's all kind of weird. I think that I had just come to an exuberant love of the city (more specifically - Philadelphia). I love the fact that there are people everywhere. I kind of half expect life with Jesus to be like that (what, with one glorious city and all). I love the fact that I can take my bike onto the train to ride to work. I love the fact that I can walk down the street to buy the sandwich.

Montana was something different though. It wasn't just was wild. Literally, Glacier is said to have some of the most pristine and still untouched wilderness on our continent. There has not been a place that has gripped my core like Montana did, and it has really been hard to get over the experience of just being there.

We visited a few places - we stuck it out in Kalispell while waiting for Laura's folks (unfortunately, they had a 12 hour flight delay). We checked out Whitefish, which was more or less a touristy ski town. We bought groceries in Columbia Falls.

Nothing, however, matched the view we had when we awoke in the morning. The view on the top of this blog is Lake McDonald. The time is around 4:30 in the morning - we were on our way home.

The sun didn't set until after 11:00 pm.

Most mornings, by the time I was out of bed, it was already impossibly bright outside. I would step out into the crisp June air (this isn't a typo or a misplaced colloquialism - it snowed in Montana the day before we arrived in Montana) and took in a deep breath of mountain, spruce, wildflower and glacier. The abundance of wildlife was incredible (to include flora). I've never seen so many deer in my collective life as I did while just hiking the park.

Glacier didn't have the highest peaks I've ever seen.
She didn't have the deepest rivers.
But she was a breathtaking view of unkempt wild.

When I board the train to go to work...I close my eyes and imagine being there again. I know that the unfortunate fact is that a place like that is just not where I'm supposed to be. I don't know if a place like that is where anyone is supposed to be permanently. There's a sort of wreaking of havoc going on when the desire of man to obtain beauty destroys that which it is trying to contain.

If you'd like to see it, go soon - they say at this rate, the glaciers will melt by 2030...

And, for those of you wondering - My love for the city is still there, it's just that something else is trying to crowd for space.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I read this story tonight.

Funny how people with stardom, with talent, with ability...all live lives that seem to be a little empty - kind of clawing at the air to find satisfaction.

The story made me think of my aunt. As far as I know, she didn't have much talent and definitely didn't have stardom. She was born during a time in which racism was institutionalized (the 30's) and a place where it was accepted and at times promoted (Atlanta, GA). Towards the end of her life, she started working on our family tree.

She also smoked.

I remember visiting her in a hospital in Atlanta. I didn't want to be there. I've never stopped to think of how many hospitals I've been in since then, but it's been a lot. I remember seeing her in a gown. I remember being in a room with windows that didn't open, with machines that never shut down... with tubes and tape attached all over my Aunt Nelda's body.

She also had emphysema.
The doctors said that if she didn't quit, she would kill herself.
So she quit. She quit for about a month or two, that is.
Now...she's quit for good.

She was able to quit before my dad did - neither, by their disdain for cigarettes, but by the sheer inability of a corpse to inhale the sweet nectar of nicotine.

I haven't thought of her much. Now that I think about it, I can't remember much about her - nothing except how excited I was to give her a call when we visited my granny.

Now...I'm thinking of all the times I've been in a hospital in the past few years...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I feel like I belong...

"You eat like one of us," she said with an enthusiastic and purposeful smile.

"I'm sorry?" because I didn't understand what she was getting at - plus, it was hard to hear over the box fan.

"You eat like a black person; we like to put hot sauce on everything!" Merl told me this, the smile never leaving her face.

She's the owner of a new breakfast / lunch corner restaurant appropriately named, "Merl's." If you can believe it, for lunch (at this point, a couple of weeks ago) I had fried salmon patties (covered in hot sauce), fried eggs, grits, and wheat toast.

The meal was pretty good. The service was outstanding. Merl's hospitality made me feel like I belong.

There's a lot to make me feel like I don't belong here (that is, in my neighborhood).

The color of my skin.
My family origins.
An accent that slips out every now and again.
Where I work.
Where I play.
My age.
The multiple tickets I've received.

Sometimes, there are stares. When we first moved here, someone saw my truck as an object of their hatred - I think I may have written about this earlier (the scratches). After the truck came the trash - not just normal Philly trash, but the kind that is intentionally left in front of our home in a bag. Following that, there have been at least two people (neighbors - I know where they live on our block) who have asked us for money.

But then, there are the smiles.

There's Mr. Henderson, our next door neighbor who tells us he's missed us when we travel and who tells us he's glad to see us again.
There's Bill and Juliet (members at Tenth Presbyterian) who always greet me with a smile, who always have something to say about what's going on with them or something to ask about what's going on with me.
There's Rahim - our little buddy Rahim - who waves at me from down the street and yells "Hi," to me. He remembers my name too.
There's also Rahim - the adult Muslim who lives down the street - who always has a honk , a wave, and a smile as he's driving past.
There's our neighborhood association - a group of people who want to see a difference in our neighborhood.
There's our church - a group of like minded believers who want to see Christ make a difference in our city.
Now, there's Merl's - a corner restaurant with an owner who tells me that I eat like a black person.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Travel (By the Numbers)

Four airline tickets purchased with frequent flier miles.

32 nights spent in hotel rooms.

7,000 miles traveled by air.
$0 paid to see One Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, UT (more to come)...