Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Rose

I bet you were all thinking I wasn't going to blog anymore, huh? Well, that's not the case. It's just that I'm so busy with my new job as general manager of Los Hermanos (yeah, I know--ridiculous) that I haven't really had much time to write in here. But today is a holiday, and I'm waiting for Rascal to wake up so we can go play games in Salt Lake City, and also I've been thinking that today would be a good day to get things started and get back into the swing of writing in here again. I also have had several requests for the end of the Rose story, so what better day than, well, her birthday? Because yes, that's what today is!!!

So Wiggle and I couldn't remember what day Rose's wedding was to be. But we were pretty sure we had it right, so a week beforehand we decided to call her and find out. For some reason it didn't dawn on us that we were calling at one thirty in the morning. Wiggle did the dirty deed. She called and woke up Rose, and asked when the wedding was scheduled for. Obviously I couldn't hear what Rose was saying, but Wiggle waited a second and then gasped, "It was today!?" Then her countenance fell and she uttered a softer, "Oh." She talked for a while longer and then hung up and explained to us that Rose claimed to have gotten cold feet and canceled the wedding, but that she was still living with her boyfriend. And we haven't heard from her since, but it looks like our plan to stop the wedding worked, and we didn't even have to resort to Plan Bee, which was to release bees at the wedding, or Plan See, which was to rip off the wedding dress and let everyone, well, you get the picture. The end. Except yeah right, because that's what I thought before, and then I got her wedding invitation.

Other important events in my life: Drove to Phoenix and back in 26 hours (that's about 23 hours of driving). Bought a three-door '93 Ford Tempo. Spoke at a Stake Leadership Fireside in Laramie, Wyoming on the issue of same-sex attraction. Went to Seattle and played with Jessica and saw Wicked again. Got this crazy good new job. Have been doing the dinner group regularly. Got awesome Christmas presents from all of my friends. Went to a Barenaked Ladies concert with Wiggle, Rascal, and Pinetree ON my birthday (thanks for the extra tickets, Dice!), Also went to an Imogen Heap concert with some friends, have hung out with Rascal at least for a little while every day since the fireside in October, got an electric keyboard from the owners of Los Hermanos for Christmas, etc. Man, there are so many good stories in all of that, and I wish I had time to tell them all, but it looks like we'll have to make the abbreviated version suffice. Well, Rascal just emerged from his room, so I guess it's time to go up to Salt Lake. We'll see if I can keep up with this blog for the next loittle while. Maybe that'll be my New Year's resolution. Soon I should be able to report on the big road trip that Rascal and I are going to take back to California, hopefully with Blueshorts. Farewell, gentle reader, Until next time.

Monday, August 28, 2006

There Was a Missionary Went Forth

Here's another I've had in reserve so y'all will have something to read while I'm busy with life. See some of you at EG Conference!

There Was a Missionary Went Forth

After Walt Whitman's “There Was a Child Went Forth”

There was a missionary went forth every day,

And every object he looked upon, that object he became

And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day,

Or for the whole two years or for all the rest of his years.

The mangy perros became part of this missionary,

And the frosted white fig trees and hail, and warm bags of roasted chestnuts tucked under his coat,

And the Antarctic wind roaring across the icy waves,

And the neighbor’s gigantic roan ox, and the fat turkeys, and the gregarious pengüinos,

And the muddy roads that try to swallow travelers’ feet, and the snow falling in the streetlights onto the black rolling ocean,

And the vaulted sky feeling so far away, and the sun setting like mixing paint behind the jagged cerro,

And the clouds parting on the horizon to let through picturesque shards of dawn, all became part of him.

The blackberry bushes and the frambuesa became part of him,

Flaky empenadas and frozen brown bananas, and the guinea fowl chattering in the back yard,

And the angry river threatening to rise right up to the house, and the weeks with no sunlight, and the mist swirling upon the perfectly reflective mountain lake right in the middle of town,

And the old drunk man begging by the bus stop,

And the teenage snakes, whistling, and vying for attention,

And the government employed women gossiping in an empty field with shovels, and the

shopkeepers in their tiendas, mindlessly watching their novelas,

And the viejitos crossing themselves for protection as they walked by, and the sad

Prostitutas on the corner by the bar,

And the crazy Mamita, laughing at her own jokes, kwa kwa kwa,

And the investigator who never quit smoking, and his hijitas with the most beautiful brown eyes,

And the old man in the hut, tending his pollitos and never missing church,

And the escrituras, the only friends from back home allowed to come along,

And all the wonders of ocean and mountain wherever he went.

His parents sent letters, which came to a p.o. box in Panguipulli, and then were forwarded on the bus that was the only inlet and outlet of the town,

The letters that sustained him and tied him to the realities of home.

Mother at home, offering advice and quoting scripture,

Mother asking for prayers, and encouraging and worrying, sending food and ties and most importantly a “Love, Mom” every week like clockwork,

Father, seldom, jocular, narrow-minded, faithless, supportive,

His letters, emphasis steered away from matters of God and faith and accountability,

The postcards, the packages, the biannual phone calls, the newspaper clippings, the admonitions,

The temptations of el diablo, the whisperings of the spirit, the shadow of doubt creeping in,

Hunger for knowledge, trust in companions, whom to teach and where to go,

Whether a day’s labor has made any difference, Whether the standards taught are the standards lived,

Men and women and families walking by in the streets, and which ones would be receptive?

The high, overly paved roads and the silly Toyland-colored houses, and the panaderías with their sticky berlíneres,

Taxicabs, carts pulled by bueyes, ice-slicked hills, frozen dirt paths converging in el centro,

Fallen fences, tundra, grapevines, wood smoke filling the valley,

The view from up on the hill where the whole village, the whole flock, looked like one sunken bustling jewel box,

The workers lining up outside the mousetrap factory and the lechería in the dark hours of morning,

The sheets of ice careening in the Straight of Magellan,

The stars striving to outshine each other,

The fleas and the bedbugs dead from the cold the next day,

The spot on the ground that leads through the earth’s mantle and comes up back home,

The stiff frozen line of laundry, the smells of running water and shivering sweat, the boots tragically still wet when it’s time to put them on again,

The desperate love, the long-sought testimony, the sincere prayers, and the sturdy faith,

These became a part of that missionary who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth and thrust in his sickle every day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

California Love

Here are the highlights from the trip Pinetree, Carrot, and I took to California:


6:30 p.m.: We finally get on the road, after encountering traffic, having to stop to pay a phone bill, waiting for a friend who didn’t end up coming with us, and getting me some delicious succulent Chik-fil-A.

7:00 p.m.: We’re notice we forgot to get gas, so we head back, but only after making a wrong turn somewhere and driving out along some road that seems to go out into the center of the “Great” Salt Lake, surrounded on both sides by stinky water. “This is the place, dammit,” insists Pinetree. We eventually find a gas station in a God-forsaken little pueblo called “Grantsville,” ten miles off the freeway. We consider getting a hotel there, but decide against when we realize we’re still within sight of where we started.


1:00 a.m.: About an hour into my driving shift, Carrot notices that we’re almost out of gas. That’s okay, because there’s a town up ahead. Unfortunately, there’s not actually anything IN that town. We run out of gas about 6 miles east of Winnemucca, Nevada. I manage to get us off the freeway and almost all the way to a rest stop, but not quite. We discover that there is another car broken down nearby, covered in inches of dust. Our prospects look grim. Pinetree reveals that he has roadside assistance, and thankfully an hour and a half later a nice fat man we dubbed “Cesar” and his scary white assistant we named “Large Marge” bring us gas. A cop shows up, and Cesar tricks me into thinking that it’s illegal to run out of gas in Nevada. I totally fall for it. As we get back on our way, Pinetree dedicates Salt & Pepa’s “What a Man” to Cesar. Also we decide to never stop for gas again, since roadside assistance people can always just bring it to you.

5:30 a.m.: We are in Reno. I really need a taco, but every taco place we find is closed. I start to slowly lose my mind, and Carrot begins to look more and more like a taco in my sight. I let her take the wheel, before I eat it.

7:30 a.m.: We arrive in Sacramento at my brother Nanny’s house. We make him get in the car and take us to where there are tacos. It’s a place called Adalbertaco’s, but for some reason by now I’m craving a burrito instead. Nanny and his wife are very gracious hosts.

2:30 p.m.: We wake up and go. Pinetree drives us to Carrot’s Gammy’s house in Napa. Then he goes to hang out with his high school friends in San Jose.

6:00 p.m.: Carrot and I eat with dinner with Tox and two old school chums, PFB and Mack. It’s good conversation, but the service is TERRIBLE. Plus I somehow get tricked into once again eating Italian, which I already know I hate. Ice cream after makes everything better. I spend the night at Tox’s, and Carrot goes to San Francisco to go clubbing with her mission friend. Pinetree and his friend Tootsie Roll come to Tox’s as well.


3:00 p.m.: Our day is just getting started and we’re at the Jelly Belly factory. By the miracle of miracles, we get Jennifer O as our tour guide.

Background on Jennifer O: She’s been in love with me since the day we met, Sunday school when we were both eleven. Also, she’s, well, special. She’s a genius, and I believe she has a wild case of Asperger’s Syndrome. She wrote me every week of my mission, more even than my mother did, special letters on unicorn stationery that covered topics from ESP to the time I said hello to her after 2nd period Choir when we were in 7th grade. She was there at the airport when I got home from my mission, sighing wistfully about how she wished I’d been released already so she could hug me. In more recent times, my obnoxious brother, Ouija encountered her at the supermarket and told her I’d always been in love with her. Thanks Ouija. Bastard.

So here she comes “cascading down the golden staircase” as Carrot puts it, pigtails in a hair net, fanny pack in place, and she’s OUR tour guide. Carrot almost dies in paroxysms of anticipation and delight. After the tour, Jennifer seeks me out and we have a “chat.” Jennifer tells me how crazy it’s been lately. “How long do you expect to be crazy?” I ask with a grin. At least through the summer. Okay, I didn't realize that's one of the symptoms, not being able to figure out when people are making clever jokes about you. I feel bad. Satisfied? Carrot asks about Jennifer’s fanny pack, since she herself used to collect them when she was “little.” Jennifer shows us all the contents of her bag, including a pad which she intends to use to write down my e-mail address. “Why don’t you just give her your cell number?” Carrot pushes. “Murmur murmur cricket phone,” I respond, and give her the address. Both Carrot and Jennifer think is cute, and it freaks me out to see them agreeing. Fortunately at this point, another visitor arrives.

5:00 p.m.: It’s my dad, and he’s driven over to Fairfield to see us, but doesn’t have time to eat with us. He’s acting extra shady, and who even knows what to suspect with him anymore? Carrot runs us through the usual (but funny) jokes about my dad’s being “Hot Rob” and how she’s going to be my mom someday. She tells Tootsie Roll to let her know about the dreams he’s bound to have about my dad the next morning.

6:00 p.m.: Dinner at Chevy’s which I like a million times more than the Mexican restaurant where I am currently a manager. Lad and Carrot’s cousin Dorothy meet us there, along with Dorothy’s new baby, Toby, which during the course of the meal ended up eating limes and french fries, getting stabbed (playfully?) by Carrot with a knife, and kidnapped by yours truly while the mom was in the bathroom.

10:00 p.m.: Back to Nanny’s. His wife has made dinner for us, but we decide to eat it for breakfast. We play Catchphrase, and the wife ends up being the big victor. She’s really great, and I’m glad cousin Dorothy hooked them up on their blind date a few years back.


1:00 a.m.: Captain Moroni helps me trick Carrot into setting up her own Myspace account. We stay up late and laugh a lot.

9:00 a.m.: I wake up and take a shower. Carrot reveals that she is NOT a morning person. Tootsie Roll wakes her up with news of his dreams about my dad, thus endearing himself to all of us. Nanny MAKES doughnuts (I know, I know: who knew you could MAKE them, right?) and we eat the leftover casserole that his wife made.

10:30 a.m.: we meet up with Don Music, who takes us rafting all day. Highlights from rafting include when Tootsie Roll tried to climb up to the jumping rock, but it was too far and he just climbed down again, and also when we tricked Tootsie roll into jumping into the rapids but then we lost track of him and he ended up clinging to a rock for quite a while as we gathered up the tow rope again and again to try to get it thrown to him.

6:00 p.m.: We stop at a gas station to check the fluids. Carrot gets on her gloves and starts doing stuff under the hood until two self-proclaimed “camel jockeys” come and rescue us. We talk religion and politics with them, and it’s great. Instead of “bye,” they wave us off with a “Stop bombing Lebanon!” Also, at one point, I am able to trick the camel jockey man into thinking I am Saudi Arabian, after he’s been railing on them for a while.

7:00 p.m. Carrot and I fake-offer to help make dinner, but are taken up on the offer. Carrot freaks out when onion-cutting gets in her eyes. Don Music’s family decides they love us in spite of our utter uselessness, and feeds us salmon, chicken, squash, fruit salad, cobb salad, and rolls on nice plates with a table cloth and real napkins and everything. Then banana splits for dessert, and we fall asleep on the trampoline watching the meteor shower.

Friday: We drive home. I knock out most of Nevada. We don’t run out of gas. All is well.

The end.

p.s. If you happen to see me, remember to ask me about Becki at the movie theatre.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Lucila: The True Story

When I was in the MTC, I started dreaming about an old Mexican woman. She was standing on a green porch in front of a brick house, shaking out a rug. She had bright red lipstick on, and her hair was dyed black. I would wake up from these dreams with this feeling of love for this woman, though I had no idea who she was. One of our teachers told us that if we desired it, the Lord would bless us with love for the people we would come to teach before we ever even met them. So I figured this must be the case.

I left for Chile, and the dreams ceased for a while. At one point, a letter arrived from Mom that announced that my younger brother, Ouija, had dropped out of high school and moved back to our home state of California (they had all moved to Colorado right before my mission). She said in the letter that he had stopped going to church. I decided to have a fast for Ouija, that he would one day come back to the church and serve an honorable full-time mission. Being hypoglycemic, I knew that I wasn't really supposed to fast, but I figured the cause was great enough that it would be worth a few medical complications.

The next morning, as I was ending my fast, I began to have brown urine. This came and went for the next few months. The mission president's wife told me it was probably dehydration, and to drink more water.

I was transferred to Punta Arenas, a beautiful city at the end of the world where it snows on the beach and all the houses are painted bright gay colors like salmon and chartreuse and turquoise. And the dreams came back. By now I'd seen enough of southern Chile to know that the lady in my dreams wasn't down there at all. She was back in the United States. The dreams came with more and more intensity, until finally I decided to pray about what to do. I decided to talk to my companion about the issue. He agreed with my own idea that maybe I was supposed to go back and finish my mission in the United States. We decided to talk to Elder Moffit, my district leader.

Elder Moffit seemed to agree, upon hearing my story, that I needed to talk to the mission president about the possibility of an inter-mission transfer. First, though, I'd have to talk to the zone leaders and then the assistants to the president, and finally the president himself. So I sat down with the zone leaders, who supported me just as my companion and my district leader had. The next step was to call the assistants. Just my luck, I got Elder Camilla, on whose bad side I'd been ever since I met him at zone conference and, well....

Zone conference: Elder Camilla was up in front of the chapel presenting his new teaching program to all the missionaries. The idea was simple. We would teach the principle of baptism in every section of the first discussion. Part one was about God the father, and during that part, we would mention that through baptism God has prepared a way for us to come back to him. Part two was about Jesus Christ, and we could mention that we are following his example when we get baptized. And so forth. During the presentation, I was squirming a bit in my chair. It all seemed a lot like the Saturday Night Live character Subliminal Man to me. Finally, I had to say something. I raised my hand, and when called upon, I presented a different approach.

"This new system seems like it would work if our end goal were just baptism," I said. "But to me baptism isn't the most important part of the gospel. The atonement is. It isn't doing us any good to keep baptizing people if they aren't learning to utilize the atonement to help them to stay in the church. Why don't we mention the atonement in every part of the discussions? Heavenly Father loves us and wants us to return to him, so he provided the atonement for us.... Jesus Christ atoned for our sins so that we can be clean again.... Joseph Smith's vision taught us much about the nature of God and his love for us, and it's because of Joseph Smith that we now know so much about the atonement.... The Book of Mormon teaches us more about the atonement than we'd ever known before. Then by the time we get around to talking about baptism, we can say, will you accept the atonement of Jesus Christ in your life by repenting of your sins and being baptized in his name?"

Elder Camilla waited patiently for me to say all of that, and then started back in where he'd left off. "Well, Elder Smurf, that's a nice thought, but this is the new system we're going to be using for the next while. In the fourth principle--"

"Hold on a second." It was the mission president, cutting off Elder Camilla mid-sentence. He was standing up now, on the stand behind Elder Camilla. "I think Elder Smurf has a good idea here. Go ahead and have a seat, Elder Camilla." The mission president took the chalk from an aggravated Elder Camilla, erased what he'd had on the board so far, and replaced it with the details of the new system I'd thought up.

Anyway, the point of that aside is that that's the only other interaction I'd had with Elder Camilla before having to call him to tell him I needed to talk to the mission president about my crazy dreams.

So now I was on the phone with Elder Camilla, who informed me that the president was in a meeting. "What is this about?" he asked. So I told him the whole story, maybe a little more succinctly than previous versions of the story, because the call was long distance. He tried to "resolve my concerns," a trick they'd taught us in the MTC to help others to see the flaws in their own thinking. "So what you're saying is that you feel that the prophet called you to the wrong mission." It didn't even feel like a question.

"No, I know I was supposed to come here, but I feel that maybe it's time for me to go somewhere else. I've been praying about this, and I feel I need to at least explore the possibility."

Elder Camilla promised to talk to the mission president about my "concerns." He used the word a bit pointedly, so I'd know he felt this was just something I needed to resolve. Plus, the Spanish word for "concern" is the same as their word for "doubt," calling my story into further question. He said he would talk to the president and I could expect to hear back from him in the next few minutes.

I waited by the phone. It rang after only about three minutes. I picked it up and said "hello."

"Elder Smurf, junior companions are not supposed top answer the phone." It was Elder Camilla, and that was not a real rule. I hung up.

The phone rang again. "Can someone please come answer this phone?" I shouted to the five senior companions who were living with us at the time

"Why don't you?" someone hollered back.

"Because I'm not a senior companion."

My own companion came and answered the phone.

"Hello? Uh-huh. It's for you."

He handed me the phone. "Hi, Elder Smurf, it's Elder Camilla. The President does agree with me that the prophet did call you to this mission and he didn't make a mistake." This time he hung up on me, and I couldn't get in a word edgewise.

I was a little mad at this point. The zone and district leaders and my companion all came in and sat down with me. We all lived in the same house, after all. It was decided that they would all fast for me and my cause. I knew I wasn't supposed to fast, especially after the whole brown urine thing that still hadn't completely gone away, but I couldn't let all these young men fast for me without my doing my part. SO I agreed to fast along with them, starting right then.

The next morning, I woke up with something very, very wrong. I was starving, for one thing, so I got up, grabbed a huge salad bowl, poured in an entire bag of Chilean Cocoa Krispies and a whole box of milk, and ate it all with a gravy spoon. Then I was VERY tired, and I couldn't keep my eyes open. I lay back down on my bed and succumbed to sleep. I awoke just in time for lunch. My companion seemed very worried about me. he was sitting on his own bed, reading his scriptures when I came to. I felt better than before, though a bit weak. There were really no major problems, though. At last not until I stood up. And then everything went haywire. My heart was beating extremely hard and fast, as though I'd just been running. I took my pulse. 120. I knew that a normal heart rate was between 60 and 80 beats per minute at rest. We had a lunch appointment, and I thought we should try to walk the few blocks to the members' house and eat as we normally would. It was a Sunday, and we had church right after lunch, so this would be a good way to get the day started. By the time we got there, however, my pulse was up to 180. It didn't go back down all through lunch. I started to get a pain through the left side of my chest and my left arm and shoulder. "He's having a heart attack!" the mother of the household kept calling. She made me to lie down on the couch as she ran to the neighbors' to use their phone so she could call the family from our ward who had the car. They came and picked me up and took me to the hospital.

The Doctor gave me a pill to calm my nerves and everything went back to normal. He said I'd be fine, but that he wanted me to return the next day so that he could double check everything.

By my appointment the next day, my pulse had sky-rocketed again, and I was feeling dizzy and weak. He admitted me to the hospital to un some tests. I saw all kinds of specialists over the course of the next five days. I had blood taken from veins and arteries, I had sonograms taken of my heart, I was tested in a room where they did something nuclear to me as I lay on a table with some sort of spinning apparatus passing all around me in different directions like I was the nucleus of a cell. In the end, a neurologist came to see me.

I should mention that some time around my third day, I received a call in my hospital room from the mission president. "Elder Smurf, tell me about this dream," was the first thing he'd said. So I did. I told him all about it, and how I'd prayed and felt like I was supposed to go back to the United States. He said that maybe what was happening to me now was the Lord's way of taking care of things. I completely agreed.

The neurologist came to see me on the fourth day, and he had an idea about what was wrong with me. He'd just been to a seminar that weekend, he told me, up in Santiago, and he was the only doctor from Punta Arenas in attendance. There'd been a doctor there from the United States who had taught them all about a new disease that Chileans had never heard of before. They called it "sindrome de falla autonomica aguda," or "acute autonomic failure syndrome." he had some simple tests he wanted to run, makeshift versions of tests they'd have run on me if he's had all the equipment available in the United States. In one test, he monitored several aspects of my health while having me stand up and lie down alternately. All the tests confirmed his theory. He broke the "bad" news to me: he was sending me back to the United States.

It was a holiday that day, some Catholic saint's birthday, and there was a mad rush to gather together all of the missionaries who were in the city and collect enough money to pay for my plane ticket back to the United States, since the banks were all closed. We made it just in time, and I ended up leaving without really getting to say goodbye to the members or the other missionaries. I never got to see the mission president during all of that. Everything was a blur.

Meanwhile, my neurologist, who spoke only Spanish, explained to the mission doctor, a gynecologist who spoke only English, that I had experienced shortness of breath and that I'd need to stay reclined as much as possible. The mission doctor explained that to my mission president, who spoke only Spanish. He, in turn, called some people in Salt Lake City, who called my stake president in California, who called my mom's stake president in Colorado, who called my mom and told her that I was paralyzed and on a respirator.

Mom met me at the airport with a wheel chair.

She was relieved to see me walk off the plain, but cried when she saw that my weight had dropped fifty pounds in the five months I'd been in Chile. I weighed 125 lbs. when I stepped off the plane, and stood 6'2 as always.

I stayed in Colorado at my mom's house for a month. I still arose at regular missionary time, studied my Spanish every day, and did all the things a missionary is supposed to do. And I went to the doctor. I needed a clean bill of health before they'd allow me to continue my mission stateside. Miraculously, the day of the tests, I woke up and everything was fine. There was absolutely nothing wrong with me. The doctor had never heard of something called "acute autonomic failure syndrome," and he explained to me that I had probably caught what doctors call a "funny virus," a foreign virus that hasn't been documented yet. He signed the bill of health, and my mom's stake president faxed it off to Salt Lake. A week later I received a phone call and was informed that I'd be finishing my mission in Tennessee, Knoxville, and that I'd be going with three other missionaries who had just returned home from Spanish-speaking missions, and that the three of us would be the first Spanish missionaries in that mission.

When I got to Tennessee, I explained about the dreams to the mission president. He sent me down to Dalton, Georgia, where my first companion was a Mexican Elder who'd been called to serve in English. Our first day of proselyting, Elder Valdovinos took me to the government housing in a poor area of town. I was dumbfounded when we arrived. Every house in the neighborhood was made of brick and had a green porch. Just like my dream! I started to get excited. We hadn't gone two blocks before I saw her, not shaking out a rug, but rather shaking the dust out of a window fan. She looked exactly as she did in my dreams. Her name was Lucila.

We talked to her. We taught her the first discussion. She was very receptive. I was overcome with those same feelings of love I'd had in my dreams, and she seemed to connect with me very well. I came back with a brand new missionary on exchanges a few days later. She had loved the Book of Mormon, and wanted us to teach her whole family. We taught them all the first discussion. I came back again with yet a different missionary shortly after that, and taught the second discussion, the one that has the baptismal invitation. They accepted. Elder Valdovinos came with me again when it was time for the third discussion. This time a new lady answered the door.

She told us that Lucila and her family had been caught by the INS and that they'd been sent back to Mexico.

And that was it. I never saw her again. I have no idea what became of that family.

And the sad ending doesn't stop there. It was indeed a miracle that I'd been better on the day when I was given my doctor's clearance to return to the mission field, but as soon as we'd gotten out to the car, I'd once again become weak and dizzy and short of breath. I was throwing up a lot. I'd thrown up on the plane on my way out to the new mission. I'd thrown up all the tie between discussions.. I'd gotten so dizzy I had crashed my bike at a high speed and procured scars that I still bear to this day. Now Lucila was gone, and I knew it would be only a matter of time before I could no longer keep my illness hidden from those in authority.

And one day I got bronchitis. I had to go to the doctor to get pills, and he took my pulse and checked my file and confronted me with the truth: "You still have what you got down in Chile, don't you?"

I confessed, and he called our mission president (the doctor was also a member of the church). This was a Saturday. The mission president told me I'd be going home that Monday. I was sad. I spent Sunday night praying/arguing with God. He usually wins those. "I refuse to learn any lessons from this," I remember yelling at him at one point, "because every time I do you just throw something worse and more horrible at me. So that's it. I'm staying right here." Soon, though, my heart was softened and I was overcome with the knowledge that Christ had been with me through all of the trials I'd experienced, and that he was undoubtedly with me even still. I could feel his presence in the room with me.

And I came home. To California this time, since I was going home to stay. I'd lasted two months in the Tennessee Knoxville Mission. After being home for another month or two, I was released as a missionary. It was during that time that I wrote the poem, "Lucila." After my release, I was given the opportunity to speak in the ward from which I'd left. My brother, Ouija, came to hear me speak. I told the congregation the story of Lucila, and her sudden disappearance. I told them that I didn't know why I had to come home when I did, but that I knew the Lord was behind it.

Ouija met up with Don, his old best friend from high school. Don invited him to institute. He came to institute, and came back to church the next week. In fact, he didn't miss church again during that whole year. Don left on a mission. And a year after my homecoming, we were back in my old ward, only this time for Ouija's homecoming. He bore his testimony, shared some stories, and then he looked right at me where I was seated in the congregation. "My brother doesn't know why he had to come home early from his mission," he said. "But I do. If he hadn't come home right when he did, I wouldn't be standing here today." Of course I cried.

Ouija went on to be the top baptizing missionary in his mission in Mississippi.

I still don't know what all of that means. But I know I'm a better person for it.

Closer to God, My pride on a shelf.
I was looking for her, but instead found myself.

Friday, July 14, 2006

You and I

You are the radiant yellow flower, sprouting suddenly in my hitherto well manicured lawn.

I am the child, exhausted and crying, holding your hand at the close of Disneyland day, whelmed by novelty and joy.

You are the centrifugal force, whirling me around so fast I think I might throw up, smearing happiness across the front of my clean white shirt.

I am Actæon, hushing my hounds and peering through the clearing at the goddess bathing in the woods, afraid you might see me.

You are the second source of light and gravity, burgeoning into the closed solar system I’ve created for myself, and exerting a new pull on all my planets.

I am the devourer, sitting at the edge of your world and drinking in the sunset until it sloshes around in my overfilled belly, groaning into the night.

You are the seasons, hitting me all at once and losing me in wonder and confusion and color and sunshine and cold, bitter, snow.

I am Argus, guarding my golden apples in my mighty tree with my hundred eyes, waiting for you to arrive with a happy story to lull me to sleep so you can pluck them all.

You are the neighbor child, coming over to draw me a pretty picture of a horsey, then putting all the crayons back in the box in the wrong order.

I am the baby, shrinking from your grasping, garish new world, trying to escape back into the comfort of the womb.

You are the moon, shining on a lake so serenely it tickles, and I want to shake your silvery beams off lest I laugh and ruin it all.

Please do not be surprised if you are left speeding alone through your flashy universe, while I walk away by myself down my solid familiar path through the dark parts of the forest.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

For the Night

Here's another:

for the night

The jungle grows dark, and I

just lie there, pretending to sleep in
the foxhole with
your skin,
pressed against mine, struggling
to hold my breath as it gets
heavier and
heavier like a rucksack after a
full day's march. You
stir, and
I whirl
inside like I'm avoiding bullets and
dropping to the motherly ground,
exhilarated. I
sense your sleepy softness and
the hard muscle underneath, trying to
breathe you in
through the thin
patch of skin
on my elbow that
connects with your back. The crickets
grow quieter,
if there are crickets at all, afraid
like I am of waking
you and ruining my moment. I
shake, cold and rocks
and fear
are penetrating my
ribcage, but a blanket between
us would grant warmth while
rapaciously robbing me of your touch like
the naked little pickpockets in
the village. Hours
pass, and nothing moves but
my heart, and yours just
behind and the part in
my gut that must have to
hold perfectly still for me to fall asleep. Soon
the enemy is out, spying
on us with his garish
golden rays of
light pouring through the fronds and
tearing at my tired eyelids. It's
time to get up and march and
defend our country before
we are seen.

I do not fight for a nation or a people who
would not let me protect them
they knew
who I am, nor for a dream that
does not count my life
as worthy to sacrifice for it.

I fight for you, and
for the night.


Well, friends and neighbors, I've been about thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis busy with work since my big promotion and I've been training and all. Now, training will be over soon, but for now I just don't really have a ton of time to blog. But in happier news, I found an envelope with tons of things I'd written in the past, so I decided to share some of them here. Some are spiritual, some political, some sad, and some really really dark. This first one is actually based on a true story, which I'll tell you if you ask. It's not my strongest poem, (in fact it's the third I ever wrote, and it can feel a bit sing-songy), but it has special meaning to me. So here you go. It's called


Deep brown eyes and long black hair:
I've seen her before, but I don't know where.
Ruby lips and golden skin.
A smile that seems to draw me in.

Kind of shy, but so am I.
Then everything's blurry and I don't know why.
She fades away. The world turns grey.
The dream is now over and it's time for day.

Lucila, Lucila, the girl of my dreams.
You're with me at night, but it's not what it seems.
I love you, I need you, don't know where you are.
I sense that you're near, but I know that you're far.

My stomach churns, my spirit burns.
I slip into bed as the night returns.
I count the sheep; I fall asleep.
I have an appointment I'm dying to keep.

Then there she is; she's crystal clear.
She smiles at me, assuages me fear.
We talk all might, it feels so right,
But then she is gone, the sun's dawning bright.

Another day just fades away.
The world is so bleak, the sun's shining grey.
Then fading light, O blessed night,
My soul comes alive with peaceful delight.

My spirits rise; I close my eyes.
But this time Lucila just sits and she cries.
"Come look for me. Come set me free.
I'm more than a dream; I'm reality."

I'm out of bed; I clear my head.
I'll keep looking for her until I am dead.
I search the world; I search my soul.
It's breaking my heart; it's taking its toll.

It's all for her, no thought for cost:
The mountains and oceans and deserts I've crossed.
I'm often lost and tempest-tossed.
I've been scorched by the sun, and bitten by frost.

Lucila, Lucila, the girl of my dreams,
You're with me at night, but it's not what it seems.
I love you, I need you, I've traveled so far.
I sense that you're near, but don't know where you are.

A burst of light, my soul takes flight.
Lucila is sitting right there in my sight.
She's here at last; it comes so fast.
I've forgotten the problems and pains of the past.

We both sit down, don't watch the clock.
We're happy together. We laugh and we talk.
But she turns her head, her cheeks turn red,
And her lips say words that bring icy dread.

"I hate to say, I cannot stay.
But our time is up and I must go away.
I'm glad we met. I'm in your debt.
But my heart's with another and my ways are set."

She shakes my hand and there I stand
As she walks away. This is not what I planned.
My heart won't tick. I'm feeling sick.
Oh, how could the fates have played such a trick?

Why did I come? What was it worth?
Why did I travel the ends of the earth?
The miles I walked? The pounds that I lost?
The heart that was broken, the continents crossed?

The road was long, but I grew strong.
I learned how to say, "I'm sorry, I'm wrong."
Closer to God, my pride on a shelf,
I was looking for her, but instead found myself.

Lucila, Lucila, she helped me to see
Who I truly am, and who I can be.
Lucila, Lucila, she's not what she seems.
She's gone from my life, but se's still in my dreams.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Temple Pageant

Well, since I already just wrote all this out in an e-mail, I figured it would be much easier to just copy and paste it. Which is why I'm still not telling you about the eggs and the balloons. Maybe next time.

Okay, so the Manti Pageant. I have to say that I totally expected it to be dumb, mostly because of the way that everybody kept telling me how dumb it was except for the people who kept telling me how great it was, which were mostly dumb people. So I went into it expecting crap. I was therefore at least pleasantly surprised by the special effects, like the pillar of light and all the fireballs and things. Pinetree really hated it. He couldn't stand how melodramatic it was. I think he thought a pageant is more of a play than "2 : SHOW, EXHIBITION; especially : an elaborate colorful exhibition or spectacle often with music that consists of a series of tableaux." I have to admit that the tableaux were pretty unsettling. I didn't like how there were tons and tons of Joseph Smiths running around doing different things at the same time. The narrators had an impressive vocabulary. Jesus appeared to the Nephites directly behind a lighting tower, which I had predicted. Pinetree thinks it was a sign. The worst thing was the way that everybody moved their arms when they talked. Well, actually the real worst thing was this DORK that we took with us who got up in the middle and went to sit somewhere else so he "could feel the spirit." I guess he was annoyed by some of the comments that Pinetree was making. Pinetree later apologized, but I didn't think that was necessary, because his comments didn't keep me from feeling the spirit. When it was over Pinetree said that he didn't like all the patriotic themes running through it (I'm not sure whether the scene in which Brigham young sees Captain Moroni, several of the founding fathers, and some strange Indian who all tell him about the greatness of America is based on a real event, but either way it was heavy handed and seemed to promote the war in Iraq). And then this kid was all, "Well, if you'd ever read the Book of Mormon you would know that it's all about patriotism and America." And Pinetree probably wanted to punch him but he didn't. And then the kid said all these rude things to me and then he just disappeared. And then when I got home there were like a million (okay three) texts from him on my phone continuing the argument, which I thought was extra dumb. Anyway, I actually liked the pageant, I'll admit it, although I'm still trying to figure out whether I liked it as some sort of knee-jerk devil's advocate reaction to all the naysayers or whether I really was whelmed by the small-town charm and rustic coming-together appeal of the whole thing. I could tell that these people were really putting their hearts into this thing. Part of me was thinking, "Man, it would be fun to do this with my kids some day," and the rest was just terrified of all the Angel Moronis running around beforehand in drag-queen makeup asking us if we wanted to refer someone to the missionaries and interrupting our game of Apples to Apples, which I won by a lot.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Easter Eggs

I know it's June already, so here's everything I've done all rapid-fire:

I went to Hero's wedding. Very posh.

Went hiking in Bryce and Grand canyons with the roommies. Astounding. Can't wait to get my pictures developed. Hurt my ankle and prevented us from getting to the bottom, which was way depressing.

Moved. I live with Pinetree and Chris and a kid named Nate and a loveable Spaniard who drives me nuts sometimes but I like him anyway.

Saw Heather Angela Hawks and her husband.

Hung out with all kinds of friends from back home, most notably Carrot.

Got into Fiddler on the Roof in the ensemble with Pinetree and Robb. It seems way fun, but the practice schedule might be too demanding.

Have an interview Thursday for a manager position at the restaurant where I work. That would be a major blessing.

Had my youngest brother come and stay for a few days, which was taxing. He reports that I'm old now, and that I care about things like "other people" and "not getting arrested." Well, it's not so much that as I was just worn out. I love that kid, but I have NO IDEA how to actually talk to him.

Joined a book club with Alecia, Pinetree, Garrett, Blueshorts, and some friends from work. We are starting with "Black Like Me," a non-fiction book about an investigative reporter in the 1950s who dyed his skin black and went about the south recording the differences in how he was treated. My month we'll be reading "The Things They Carried," a fantastic comprehensive novel about Viet Nam soldiers.

Got addicted to "Lost" and have now seen every episode in order with all our buddies except for the last four, which I'm sure we'll watch before too long.

Spoke in church and taught Sunday School and then got called as a district leader in the elders' quorum.

Ok, there were two more things I want to report, which are the Easter Egg Hunt (which was actually quite a while ago) and the Water Balloon War, but those will have to wait until next time, merely because I think I actually have some fodder there for writing.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Methinks the Smurf doth Protest too Much

So I finally found one of these causes that I felt I could get behind.

It's called "Invisible Children." We did what they call a "night commute," which means we all sleep at this elementary school. When we wake up in the morning, we are still where we were when we went to sleep, which was surprising and disappointing, because I couldn't figure out which part made it a "commute," but the whole point was protesting Ugandan children anyway, so at least we got that accomplished. No more Ugandan children! Ever!

What made the protest a particularly foolish idea for me this time was that I ate at Chili's beforehand, and I got food poisoning WAY bad. I was sleeping there in the bark box, running every hour or so to the line of port-o-potties in this mad dash, and then once I made it, diarrhea was shooting out of me like a hose with your thumb over the nozzle. My stomach felt like there were cavemen in it smashing stones together to get fire out of them. After a few trips, I was also vomiting. Oh, man, did I ever vomit all over the inside of this one Johnny-on-the-Spot. I feel bad for whoever went in there next, especially if they were in as much of a hurry as I had been, and they end up sitting in that.

Morning's light revealed that one of my own little personal "night commutes" resulted in my glasses getting trampled underfoot. So, blind, battered, and barfy, I huddled with the masses for the photograph, then ran again for the toilet.

Now here's the part that showed how delirious I must have been--every time I woke up frozen and achy and sick, I would think, "No! Ugandan children don't get to just pack up and go home when they are sick! And neither will I!"

Well, I made it all night. Yes, I did. And was so sick that I spent the next thirty-one hours in bed, and the next day after that still extra sick (I didn't even get to protest Panda Express or Mexicans having to work jobs or any of the other protests planned for that day--gulp!). But I made it. Did my night commute, yessir. And those little starving Ugandan Brats better be grateful, that's all I can say.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Protest seems to be the word on everyone's lips these days. Sometimes it even feels like I'm in a real college town, what with all the demonstrations and campaigns going on around here.

My co-worker Keri, frustrated by the oppressive system we have at work for who gets to wait on which tables, complained aloud and announced her plan to bring about change when she gasped, "Why don't I ever make any tips? I am REVOLTING!"

I told her she'd just answered her own question. I don't think she caught the joke.

My friend Hero, also in the spirit of social reform, performed a small demonstration against the Malt Shop on University Avenue recently. He told the girl that he wanted the Wednesday student two-for-one special and asked for a shake and a root beer freeze. She sent the order back and then charged him almost eight dollars.

"Eight dollars! I asked for the two-for-one deal!"

"well, you can't get the two-for-one deal with the freeze. Only shakes," said the bovine employee, repeating the price through a mouthful of cud.

Well, Hero is the sort of being whose whole night can be ruined by one single interaction with an imbecile. This girl could have told him that he couldn't get the discount on the freeze before sending the order through. She also refused to cancel it. So he paid for the shake and the freeze, and when they came, he dumped half his shake on the carpet in protest. Then he said "whoops," stepped in the mess, and marched out of there. It was funny.

Meanwhile, real and actually organized protests have abounded recently.

One involved unattractive vegetarians standing on the street corner right in front of the restaurant at which I work, making out in their underwear and telling people to avoid meat, and handing out tracts with pertinent quotes about animals and their souls and brains from such leading spiritual and scientific leaders as Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson. As I've said before, I think there must be some sort of animal by-product in soap, because Vegans always seem to need a shower. These ones had a mattress out there and had adopted the slogan, "Vegetarians make better lovers." If anything, having mostly-naked people dancing about in front of our store only increased our business that day, and I made sure to suggest the steak enchiladas or the beef chimichanga to every customer I got. I sold tons.

Then there were some whose causes I respected a little more.

The first surrounded a controversy over BYU's firing of a man named Todd. If you live in the Provo bubble, you have probably heard whispers of this story. The reason I am retelling it now is that I have a little bit of ironic personal involvement in this story.

Todd was a grown-up who worked for the BYUSSR, more legitimately known as the BYUSA. He had a number of job responsibilities, one of which had something to do with BYUSA "elections." Over the course of his years at BYUSA, Todd noticed some unsettling glitches in the operation of the BYUSA electorate machine. So he decided to write a letter in the Daily Universe which decried the entire process, pointing out that an anonymous cadre of randomly selected students were put in charge of disqualifying candidates, a power which he inferred had been used unfairly by members of the group to aid their friends.

Certainly the letter was timely; this past election was once again riddled with scandal as students were disqualified for getting photocopies of campaign papers run off with a discount at a private copying center rather than at whatever the committee deemed to be "market price," whatever that means (there is a rule in the election procedures that students need to spend their campaign funds only on items they purchase at "market price"). The discount they received was actually available to all the other candidates. It was time for somebody to speak up, and Todd was our man. He mailed out that letter to the DU.

So they fired him. That's right, BYU fired Todd for publicly calling into question practices of the organization for which he worked. They offered him hush money, saying that if he would agree to not disclose the reason for which he was fired, they would continue to give him health insurance and other benefits for a grace period. Todd, always one to stand against censure and the man, refused the offer and sent off another letter to the Daily Universe. Soon a full-scale real protest was in full swing, with students duct-taping their mouths symbolically.

Well, I see some interesting parallels between myself and this Todd fellow....


Once upon a time there was a small community of smurfs that lived somewhere in the woods of Belgium in stone houses that looked like mushrooms to the untrained eye. Further into the wood, they had a computer, and it was attached to the internet, and the smurfs found a BYU website called the Hundred Hour Board, where BYU students could anonymously and cleverly answer people's questions about anything and everything. They applied to write for the Board, and were accepted, and in the time during which our story takes place, they had been writing for the Board for several months, and it was their raison d’être. Then one day a dark oppressive shadow loomed over their idyllic little forest. BYUSA decided to censor the Hundred Hour Board. The poor little smurfs ran for shelter, but they were too late. Soon all was black in their forest. Were they defeated? No. They made a last-ditch effort to battle the forces of the evil bureaucracy, answering questions just as they always had. One day a question came in about how to improve race relations on campus. The smurfs pulled out all the stops, giving an informative yet amusing answer, citing examples shared with them by real minorities attending BYU. Before that answer could ever post, however, it caught the attention of one of BYUSA's cronies, who was floating around in the smoggy cloud overhead. He sent the smurfs a letter, demanding that they remove any evidence of actual instances of racism on campus. The smurfs refused, and used the last of their energy to respond angrily (although cleanly) to this unreasonable letter. But they were too late. The next time they tried to visit the computer, it had been slashed to pieces by BYUSA, and they were never able to log in on the computer again.

So you see, I can totally relate to Todd's little predicament. But if you grease the machine for long enough, Todd, eventually it'll slip and cut you.

Also I should mention that this Todd fellow is the selfsame troll who was censoring the Board, and who kicked me off. So while I admire the fact that you finally grew a backbone and tried to take a stand against the monster, I still have to chuckle at the irony of the giant monster swallowing you up after you helped feed it until it grew big enough to eat you too. Hahaha, Todd. Seriously, that's what you get, especially when you mess with THIS smurf.

I'm not still bitter about it, I swear.

Later that same week, there was another on-campus protest, led by a group called Soulforce. Soulforce was a group of thirty-two gays and lesbians who decided to rent a bus and tour religious and military universities to help stop "religious oppression" of homosexuals, as they put it. Their leaders said at a rally the night before the protests began that BYU was the "crowned jewel" of the tour.

I didn't attend any of the on-campus events, but I came near the protests at the park. I couldn't hear much that was being said because the rumble of the generator they used to power the microphone was louder than the microphone itself.

Soulforce's points were many. They cited the numbers of gay Mormon teen suicides (a BYU student named Matt even took the mic and testified about his own failed suicide attempts), said that BYU students are uneducated about and intolerant of homosexuals, and basically just complained a lot. They said that their surveys showed that more than ninety percent of BYU students said they wouldn't want a homosexual as a roommate. I'm skeptical, to say the least.

Your name: Smurf

1) Would you rather have roommates who are gay or straight?

a) gay ___
b) straight _x_

2) Would you be ok with a lesbian roommate?

a) yes ___
b) no _x_

See? Even I don't pass the test. It's all in the way you word it. And I present as evidence to the contrary Asmond, BAWB, Toasteroven, Gravy, and the Snake, all of whom willingly entered roommate situations with gay kids and/or were staunch defenders of them afterward.

At any rate, I had several beefs with Soulforce's message.

1: "Religious oppression of homosexuals?" I'm doubly offended. I don't appreciate three dozen hippies coming to my school to tell me that I'm at once oppressor and oppressed.

2: The use of Gandhi's and Martin Luther King Jr.'s countenances in their logo. I don't care if they DID have permission from relatives of the two men. This was a cause that a Hindu and a southern reverend would NEVER have been behind. In the words of Alecia, my sassy black manager, upon her hearing about the logo, "Oh HEEEEELL no!" That's just plain offensive.

3: The issues presented were for the most part issues from years past. Today's political climate with regard to homosexuals is one of tolerance at worst, even here in conservative Utah. The head lesbian was a minister for some religion and proudly claimed to have been excommunicated thrice, eventually leaving the church altogether and taking up residence with her former visiting teacher. She delivered an angry speech, much like those presented by other alumni, about how horrible it was to attend BYU. The problem was that she was speaking to a bunch of students who currently attend BYU and were having trouble seeing any of the problems she mentioned.

4: The idea of the homosexuals blaming religion for the suicides. It just pisses me off. The problem isn't solely with either side. The problem is the imagined chasm between the two sides, with poor youths feeling trapped with a foot on either side. Religion and homosexual tendencies are not naturally at odds. For years, churches painted the picture thus, but our church has come a very long way in the manner in which its leaders deal with those who experience same-sex attraction. We are aware that feelings of incongruousness between a religion believed to be true and an immutable sexual desire believed to be false can cause great psychological trauma to our young people. But just when our little bubble community seems to be taking steps to find middle ground, the other camp pulls away even more vehemently, and those chasm-straddlers are going to find themselves falling to one side or the other or down into the blackness. We need to be closing the gap from BOTH sides.

5: They weren't friendly. Tell them you're a closeted homosexual fighting to keep your sexual identity under wraps until just barely after graduation, and they'll welcome you with open arms and offer you the drinks they're serving in the corner. But stand with the small peaceful counter-protest (as I did) and suddenly you'll find an angry middle-aged redhead in a pantsuit storming toward you and unsavorily unplugging your music. Many of the lesbians from the bus decided to smoke on campus, or march around distributing fliers and otherwise breaking the protest rules set forth by the university. The smoking thing particularly got my goat, since not only is it a BYU rule that one cannot smoke on campus, but it is also against the state laws of Utah to smoke within a hundred feet of a public building. When students (such as my roommate Asmond) kindly asked the lesbians to refrain from smoking in front of their workplace, the lesbians took it as an affront on their message and their sexual identity and refused to either extinguish their cigarettes or move along.

The counter-protest was kinda weak, really. There was an insane hispanic woman with two people I can only assume were her own progeny, shouting "Shame on you" louder than the speakers AND the generator. "Let me tell jew something jew don't know," she said to me, advancing until she would have been right in my face had she been a foot taller. I let her, but she only told me things I already knew or that I still don't believe, like the idea that the gay movement is secretly being run by politicians and filmmakers who aren't actually gay themselves but rather hope to make a buck off the whole idea. Then there was a guy whose wife and daughter were playing on the playground while he distributed his own manifesto to the classy tunes of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir under a banner that read "You want your freedom of expression; please allow us ours." Then there was me, standing silently in the cold with my arms crossed, the ever non-partisan participant.

Why was I standing with the counter-protest? I just wanted someone to know that Soulforce does not speak for me. I don't think I'm a radical. I don't imagine for one second that I'm typical. But I like to think I am reasonable, at least. I didn't appreciate Soulforce's rhetoric. I didn't like their tying depression and suicide to homosexuality. I especially didn't appreciate that they purported to represent me. AND accuse me. As Wiggle so often repeats, "You don't KNOW me."

My old friend LLama was the one person whose actions that day receive a full endorsement from me. He was out there distributing lists of resources for people who are trying to deal with homosexuality in a positive church context. Way to be, LLama.

So, the point is that BYU seems to be at least taking a step forward by allowing these protests on campus, right? Especially after the American Association of University Professors put us on its list of censured schools in 1997 after a female professor was allegedly fired for being pro-choice and feminist.

But wait, by some coincidence(?), the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities happened to be visiting our school that same week that the protests were being graciously (and uncharacteristically) allowed on campus. This is the organization that every ten years decides whether BYU should maintain its accreditation status. So the question remains, is BYU actually becoming a more progressive school, or is it just trying to save face for the man?

Amid all this chaos, the Mexicans are enojados. It seems they feel they are under-appreciated. I'll agree with that. On May first, there is to be a nation-wide walk-out for all trabajadores of hispanic descent. In other words, the Mexican restaurant where I work is going to have an absolute dearth of cooks and dish washers that day. The owners are considering making Alecia cook fajitas and serving everything on paper plates all day. I guess Alecia is the next closest thing we have to Mexican after the real Mexicans and the Chileans and Salvadorians and all.

Now here's where it gets interesting for me. Norma and the other cooks and dish washers have told me that I'd better not come to work that day. After all, I am one quarter Mexican, and would be doing my old abuelita great dishonor by coming to work on that day. If our restaurant weren't situated exactly in the heart of downtown, I might just ignore their invitation. And also if it didn't have huge glass windows that look right out onto the street where the main demonstrations will be going on. And if the cooks hadn't been whispering about how they fully expect things to turn quickly into a riot.

And really, I do respect their cause, and my grandmother, and all. The last thing I want to be is a scab. So not only am I moderately interested in their cause, and medium terrified of the prospect of a thousand illegal immigrants hopped up on tequila coming at me with whatever the Mexican equivalent of pitchforks and torches is while I'm at work, and extremely excited about the idea of a totally good excuse to not show up for work for a whole day, but I also am relieved when I check my calendar and realize that the whole thing is moot because I have Mondays off anyway. I think I'll go have me some all-you-can-eat fajitas that day, as long as Alecia's cooking.

So there you have it, folks. Three major protests going on, all of which really relate to me (after all, I am a BYUSA-censored, homosexual, Mormon who is descended from illegal Mexican immigrants), and yet while I feel passionately about each of those subjects, I just can't find myself getting behind any of those causes.

You want to know the cause I CAN get behind? Protesting Panda Express. Seriously, Gravy and I always talked about marching in front of that store with signs that say "Don't believe their lies!" and "Panda Express is chicken" and distributing PETA-esque pamphlets that explain that there is no actual panda meat in ANY Panda Express products. I can't believe the number of people who still eat there, seemingly unaware of the flagrant false advertising. I hope Vero will be back in town on May first, because I am off work that day, and I'd bet she would help me with my movement. And that day is perfect, because there won't be any workers there to come out and stop us. Because after all, not only is their panda secretly just chicken, but their Chinamen are secretly just Mexicans.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Double Feature

Part One: Homemaking Night

So Pinetree has this roommate. He's a nice guy, but he has some questionable taste. Like, for instance this poster that he puts up in their living room. It's all, "Marines: liberators, protectors, warriors." And it shows this marine all gussied up in his killing gear and it looks kinda like this, only nighttime:

And so naturally, Pinetree hates the poster, right? I mean, besides being flagrant propaganda, it's not like it's even a cool picture. Seriously it's lots lamer than the above picture. So anyway, Pinetree comes up with this ingenious plan. We're gonna steal the poster. Only we can't just take it down, because then it will be totally obvious that he did it, because who else cares what posters are up in somebody's house? So Pinetree decides to make up some girls and then we can frame them.

So I borrow some pink and yellow construction papers from Wiggle and write in my stupid-girl handwriting a message that's all, "If you ever want to see your poster again come to apartment 9 tomorrow at 7" or something. And then I cut it up in little puzzle pieces.

Then we decide to make some cookies to sweeten the deal, with a little note that's like, "There's more where this came from." But we also decide to make the cookies really nasty just because that's funny, right?

Well, a few days pass, and before we can get in there to do it we end up at Denny's at midnight with a buncha friends, including Vero Awesome. And she's all, "Time for frivolity, yo." So we're all, yeah, let's go make cookies. And somebody has the sweet idea to just buy some cookies at the store and then frost them with something nasty. So we choose toothpaste. The only problem with toothpaste is it might not be nasty enough, and there's a little note on the box that goes, "If more than the normal amount used for brushing is swallowed, contact a physician or a poison control center immediately." So we're worried they'll be all, "Mmmm, minty cookies" and eat 'em all and totally croak, as opposed to them being all, "Blech! Aquafresh cookies! Angry!" and then we all laugh. So we go to the store, and we open one container to see if it's nasty enough, but it's blue stripes, so before we even try it, we decide to close it back up and put it back on the shelf. But it's not staying closed, see, so we go to the tape aisle and get some tape and tape it shut and put it back. And the tape. We put them both back.

And then we decide on the Pepsodent and it's white, and it's me and Vero and Wiggle and Pinetree, and Wiggle says we need sprinkles to heighten the effect, and she's right of course. S owe get those too, and Vero wants to also give cookies to these two dudes we work with named Ryan and Greg who are roommates, so we get more cookies and we get cards for them. And we sit around in the parking lot, frosting the cookies with ghetto plastic knives I horked from the deli part of the store, even though it was closed and all these break-taking employees were sitting over there looking at me like, "What the? Did that Arabian dude just walk in here and steal plastic knives?" And yes, yes I did.

So we frost the cookies, and the womenfolk sign the cards (which are perfect to begin with because they talk about "more love where these come from" or some crap), and Vero gives us two wonderfully horrible long dyed-red hairs to frost into the cookies (one for each plate). Then we are still a bit worried about, like, what if the guy eats the cookies and is all, "mmm, like thin mints, delish!" and eats them all and dies. After all, the box the paste came in has that little warning on the bottom for a reason, I point out. So Wiggle suggests we just cut that thing out and tape it on the bottom of the plate of cookies. Good thinking, Wiggle! So we do, thus assuaging our guilt in a very legally permissible way.

And we go to Greg and Ryan's first, and Racherella tells us where they keep their key, and I go, but I can't find the key, so I doorbell ditch it and go running out of there like a rabbit from a dog show. But on the way out Vero notices that we got the wrong apartment, so I go back, and fortunately the plate and the card are still sitting there, and we take it to the right apartment and I go in and leave it on their counter and this time sneak out like a mouse at a, um, nother dog show.

And then we go to Pinetree's, and Vero Awesome takes the cookies and the feminine puzzle and comes back out with the poster (remember that's why we did all this in the first place?) and we give it to Dice and we go home and go to bed. It was frickin' awesome, and it reminded me that I can have mischievous fun without getting the police involved.

Part Two: Connections

I have been to see Dr. Robinson four times now. He's incredible. He talks to me for forty-five minutes, asking questions and taking these big long pauses as he considers what to say next. When I speak, he writes everything down, scribble scribble scribble, on his clipboard. He goes through several sheets of paper each time, because I can be quite loquacious. I told him next time I'm bringing a clipboard and writing down everything he says, and then pausing for a few minutes and sighing before responding every time, and see how HE likes it. I don't know if he even understood what I was talking about on that one. After the forty-five minutes he starts telling ME things, and the pieces click together, and I feel like I have been tricked into learning so much.

Anyway, the first time we were together, he taught me something cool that I had thought I already knew about myself and the way brains work.

He gave me an example. He said we take the word "cat." And we take the spelling of the word. He drew this all out for me on paper. He said we can take a baby and teach it that the word means the spelling, and it will learn it. You say the word, the baby will pick out the spelling. He said that we can then take the cat itself and teach the baby that the word means the cat. Then he said that we can also teach these things to animals. A dolphin or a dog or a bird can learn to pick the right one from among misleading choices. You say "cat" and the monkey will point to the cat.

The difference, he said, is that the baby will also automatically learn that the spelling means the word, as well. He will learn it both ways. He will also learn that the cat means the word. And then he will learn that the spelling means the actual cat and vice versa. Humans make six automatic connections where the animals will learn only two. It's what sets us apart as humans, he said. Our ability to make connections. Our minds become a web of connections and it's how we learn and deal with the world.

The cool thing is that I am well aware that my mind forms these connections. I assign everything a color, I spell it out in my head. I alphabetize all items in groups. Like you say "colors," and I start to think "amethyst, apricot, azure, black, blue, brown, burgundy, burnt orange, etc...." And that's just now off the top of my head. The Human mind is amazing. Given a minute or two, we can eventually find a specific link, no matter how feeble between any two given things. For instance, if you had to say how turnips are the opposite of marbles, you could. Or you could find a way in which carpets are the parent of Puff Daddy.

Anyway, the good Dr. R. next drew the word "Rob." That's my dad's name, as well as a variant of my own, since we technically have the same name. So then he wrote "Dad" and draws an arrow between the two. Then he wrote "me" and drew an arrow from "Rob" to "me." Are you picturing this? then he draws all the other arrows, back from "me" to "Rob" and from "Dad to "Rob" and between "me and "Dad" both ways. No wonder I balk at anyone's calling me "Rob," he says. I immediately connect myself to my dad, and his failures. He next wrote "disaster" and drew the arrow from "Dad" to that. And then all kinds of other scary things my dad has done. And all of it connected to me and my dad through arrows.

I'd always known my brain does that, you see. I just had only been paying attention to the aspect of the connection building that helps me to win board games. I wasn't aware that it was also leading to problems in my life.

So the goal is not to break down those connections, but rather to loosen them, and to build up stronger connections that will supersede those other ones.

This last time we talked about prayer, among other things. Dr. Robinson said he has some patients whom he can't cajole into praying, and that he thinks that's a major factor for success. And on the way home (I always walk home so I can process what I've learned), a thought struck me. On my mission I worked very hard to actually "pray always," as Second Nephi suggests. I spent a lot of time studying and pondering how to actually do that. And I learned some helpful methods. One has simply to direct his thoughts, whatever they be about, to God, keeping Him in the forefront of the mind at all times. One can in this way be sure that his actions are in step, as well. It's the idea behind the CTR ring. Every time you see it there on your finger, you remember the good that you need to be doing. On my mission I met a man named Elías, who was trying to quit smoking. This is not a happy mission story where we helped him to quit smoking and he got baptized and is now first counselor in the branch presidency. It's just a time that I learned an important lesson. One day Elías had a piece of string tied around his finger. He said it was to help him remember to not smoke. When asked about the efficacy of the string, he replied that it didn't work because it kept coming off, and he'd forget. So I gave him my CTR ring. I told him that every time he saw it or felt it or noticed it, he was to pray for the strength he'd need to quit smoking. And I promised him that every time I noticed that the ring was gone or my finger felt naked, I'd pray for him as well. And it worked, as far as reminding me went. I didn't need the ring to remember to choose the right. The absence of the ring could serve the exact same function.

So on this walk home from my weekly session with the therapist, I came to realize that praying always was simply a matter of making everything remind me to choose the right. I had to make ALL the connections connect back to God. I looked around me at the mountains and the sun and the long straight stretch of University Avenue and saw gospel symbolism and turned my thoughts to God. But it's easy with roads and mountains. I needed to connect EVERYTHING. Turnips and carpet and cats and Puff Daddy and my own daddy all need to make me think of God and the things with which he has blessed me and the things he requires of me.

And when I do spiritual things, like going to church or the temple or reading my scriptures, I need to relate them back to the rest of my life, so that those connections already exist when I go out into the world. I realized that's why Nephi also tells us to liken the scriptures to ourselves. It's why Christ taught his parables using images from the people's daily lives. Not just because those are the things they could understand, but also because those are the images the people would be seeing every day after Christ was no longer in their presence.

At one point this last week, Dr. Robinson just leaned back, sighed contemplatively, and said, "You're very weird." That has to make you feel great, right? When a guy whose job it is to deal with crazy people tells you you're very weird? Anyway, the week before he'd been telling me I needed to cut out everything gay in my life, because it could become a trigger. But this last time he said he wasn't so sure any more. I could tell he was struggling to reconcile this with his hard fast rules he'd (until then) entertained. At any rate, we both left there wondering what to do, but by the time I got home I knew. I need to consecrate myself a little more. I need to keep saying my prayers throughout the day, every time I need something or am thankful for something or thinking of someone. I need to connect my life and my surroundings to my God, so that all things point more directly toward him, because I owe him, and I love him.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mood Music

Some thoughts on music. I put three new songs over on the side here for El Veneno. I hope you guys will listen to all three. I love them all. The first (the one you are probably hearing right now) is from the CD that the Neverbird gave me for my birthday. I love the message it contains, about pressing forward when you're not sure about things. The next is War on Drugs by the Barenaked Ladies. It's one of the most moving songs I know of. They said at their concert that they were singing about a bridge in Canada that had the world's second-highest suicide rate (after the Golden Gate). When the city put a net under the bridge, people just moved up to the next bridge and started jumping from there. So that was the basis of the song, and it has helped me to understand people who suffer from depression more than anything else ever has. Finally, we have a song that is simultaneously funny and sad. It's called Jim Henson's Dead and Gone, by Stephen Lynch, the same guy who does Dead Puppies and If I Could Be a Superhero. I love Muppets, and so I present this song as an homage to Jim Henson. What a brilliant man, who really seemed to understand dreams and making them a reality.

In fact, my dinner group has recently been transformed into a dinner/muppets group. I love that. Turns out my buddy Robb is just as big a muppets fan as I am.

Robb and Pinetree both just got jobs at Los Hermanos. I love that job. I made $15/hour in tips again tonight. I have been making more than anyone else lately. It's been a major blessing. Alecia says I've been doing a great job there, which makes me very happy. I'm learning the joy of hard work, which was what I talked about in my testimony at this Sunday's Latter Day Sounds fireside in Ogden, speaking about the song Come Come Ye Saints. We can't fear toil and labor, but we have to wend our way with joy. The media would have us believe that work and joy are antithetical. That we work only so we can have joy later. But I believe that we are to find joy in serving, and not stop until we have finished our work or died trying. And then either way, it will be a happy day, and only THEN can we join the saints in crying "All is well."

Latter Day Sounds is so good for me. On Saturday Rachel stayed late at work and closed for me (I love that girl) and Nick let me off early so I could catch up with the choir in northern Utah. And so I took a bus to Ogden last-minute to go be with the choir. I ended up screaming in pain and cold in the pouring windy snowy rain, as I got drenched. It was super miserable, but we all have to make sacrifices for the things that are important to us, huh?

Like Pinetree has recently done. Wow. Dr. Robinson says that I'll have to get rid of every gay everything if I want to beat this thing. So of course I thought, "No, that is too much." But then I remembered the rich young man, and how he had been told he would have to give up all he had. And then i remembered Naaman, who really only had to give up his pride, but found that to be almost an insurmountable task, and I started thinking, "What wouldn't I be willing to give up in order to be the man that God wants me to be?" And really, there is nothing. So I am doing what I can with the Dr. Robinson suggestion. Cutting off contact with a lot of people. Identifying which parts of my life strengthen those dangerous connections that my brain makes, and cutting them out, as they stand in my way, triggers to the booby traps I've set for myself in years past, now obscured by dust. Time to bust out the pledge and figure out exactly where those triggers are, and dismantle them. Anyway, I had a long conversation with Pinetree about that yesterday, and then today he tells me he up and cut off someone who I know means a TON to him. I really appreciate his example. I feel like I learn so much from that kid. So now it's my turn to do the same. Time for some major spring cleaning.

I might be losing a lot of things in this process. A lot of friends. We will see.

But I will be okay. I have so MANY other friends who are so good for me these days. My friends from my ward, and from my choir, and from work. I love all of these people. On Friday Jessica and Goat and Wiggle and I are all going to go to see Guster. I am very excited. They have such haunting voices, and can sing melodies both happy and sad. Which brings me to what I really want to say tonight, a message inspired by everything in my life, and most recently and noticeably by the Jim Henson Company movie "Mirror Mask," which I recommend whole-heartedly to anyone who reads this. Anyway, on to today's moral:

I love music so much. It's so good for me. I like to listen to sad music best of all, because "sad" isn't easy for me to feel on my own.

I think sadness is beautiful, like rain and strong battered women and fancy melting candles and rooms all done up in red velvet. Like wildflowers growing raggedly from a crack in a barren rock, or like sputtering, flickering stars, fighting to shine their light down through earth's muggy, twinkly atmosphere. I want to cup the stars in my hand, make someone's sadness my own, protect it from the tempestuous winds of life, shade it from the overpowering glare of sunshine. In the summer, I lie in the crunchy golden grass and look at the ghosts of giants and heroes and magical beasts placed in the night sky to remind us that we all must pass on, that we are only visitors here in this strange land. And I love them. I love their stories. And then the sun comes out, and the stories fade to a soothing baby blue and all can be forgotten. The heroes and their tragic tales are lost. Their beauty exists only in the darkness.

Will Heaven be all light all the time? Or will there be shadows dancing from the fireplace onto the cozy earthen walls? Will there be the dark spaces between the stars, or will they all be filled in with such blinding light that there won't be stars any more at all? Will the forest still hold its dark secretive appeal, or will the leaves in the canopies be forced to move aside and let in the light, stripping the woods of all their murky mysteries? Will all music be in major chords, all clouds cumulus, all stories have happy endings? Will we mourn our damned loved ones? Will we have to forget we ever loved them?

In moving closer to God, will I have to be homogenized? Will we all eventually shine the same bright white, or can I shine golden, or spring green, or vivid tangerine? Will my dark desires be the catalysts that make me more like God, or will they keep me different? Do I give off my own wavelength of light just by moving close to God, a cosmic Doppler Effect that somehow allows my movement to shine my own color of beauty to the stationary viewer, even as I draw closer to the center of the Universe, where gods and matter end? Is my individuality burned up beautifully like a meteor as I draw closer to my goals? Is the incredible journey to sameness the thing that sets us apart in the end? Are our scars what make us beautiful?

I am still discovering so much. I love life. I love the light, and the dark, and the moments like these, right before the proverbial sun rises, when the field is still shrouded in mist, and everything is grey and blurry and coming coldly alive.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Genie in a Bottle

I have finally decided what my three wishes will be when I find a genie. Go ahead, fates, and throw that magic lamp in my path. I am of sound mind and finally prepared for unimaginable fortune.

Here's the list:

1. That when I finally die, it will be by spontaneous combustion.

2. A CTL ring for my left hand.

3. That when I finish counting things, lightning will flash.

I don't think I'm asking for too much.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Odd Shaped Pots and Other Nonsense

Holy Hannah, I've been busy. Sorry I haven't posted recently. Here are the main items of business:

I went to Jon and Sara's wedding. It was so great. Here's the story in pictures:

I am not even going to try getting all that crap in order. Well, actually, I tried really hard, and it is just pissing me off now, and it has caused further delays, and so I give up.

But the point is this: Weddings are a TON of work, but they are awesome when the people are so right for each other and they're worthy and stuff.

I got to be co-best man, and give a toast and everything. It was so much fun. I shared the theory of the odd-shaped pots. I think now we will change it to the theory of the odd-shaped tupperware, and I will explain it here:

So you're looking for the lid to your tupperware, and if your tupperware is square or round, you can find eleven lids that ALMOST fit, but not the one that actually does. If, however, your tupperware is like a heart or a parallelogram or some long, thin rectangle, it's easy cheese to find the right lid. It practically jumps right out at you. So it is for weird people who are trying to find their soul mates. They can scan the crowd and immediately rule out all the normals and the people who are odd but not their kind of odd, and all that's left is their mate. So it is with Jon and Sara. They were so easy to set up because they were also so perfectly right for each other and wrong for anyone else. And yes, that IS what I said in the toast I made at the reception. Thank you to Jessica for sharing the theory with me in the first place.

We stayed at Shelley's brother's house, which made for what is probably the most entertaining story from the trip. When we arrived, it was the middle of the night, and Shelley's mom let us in. She was also staying there as a guest. She tried to get me and Shelley to sleep on the same mattress together, but Shelley was like, "why Don't Natalie and I share and then Smurf can have the mattress to himself. Good thinking, Shelley. Her mom was all, "Oh, please, you'll be in sleeping bags, and you can just put your heads at opposite ends. Ah, converts. Gotta love them.

But what was really strange happened before all of that. Because, you see, the moment Shelley's mom opened the front door, I heard a terrible grinding buzzing noise coming from the house. And the noise didn't go away. It would beep on and off for a minute, and then be a steady on noise for a minute, and then back to the beeping. That first night at the house was hell. I could not stand the noise. When I asked what it was, Shelley told me that it was some sort of ant repellant system, and that we couldn't turn it off. She also said that she couldn't even hear it.

So, I didn't sleep much that night. The next morning, Shelley was saying that if the neighbor's dog didn't shut up, she would go after it with a baseball bat. I tried, but I could not hear the dog over the buzzing. People were starting to think I was crazy. So was I. The next night Shelley gave me ear plugs, and those helped tremendously. I found out that her little nephews had been throwing paper airplanes at me all morning and I hadn't stirred. The following day, the kids told me that the noise was just coming from a little box in the wall, and that we could unplug it at any time. They thought my suffering was funny, especially because nobody else could even hear the horrible loud noise.

I learned a few things at the wedding, though, like that if you are a woman, the word "tool" also means some sort of lacy crap that is nice to spread around at weddings. And that brides care that all their glitter is the right way up on the tables at receptions, but it still has to look just like it fell there naturally anyway. And that taking your friend to Denny's and then walking around with him outside Disneyland and letting him look through the bars but not actually go in may be a lame bachelor party, but sometimes it seems to be just what a stressed groom-to-be needs. And also that you should stop your toast the moment everyone goes "Aaaaaaawwwww" because it can only go downhill from there. And I hope Sara learned that caesar dressing has anchovies in it, and should not be served at your wedding reception when your husband is a vegetarian weirdo.

There was also a little bit of chaos when we couldn't find the dumpster at the church building, but that wasn't enough to go into detail about here.

Seriously, I felt a bit bad about the bachelor party. I told Jon that I was going to get him a cake with a stripper inside, but then I remembered the whole vegetarian thing. I love when I can tell a joke in such a way that the recipient will say two or three more sentences and then say, "Wait, what!?"

Other stuff has happened in my life, so here are the news briefs:

I went to California AGAIN (northern this time) with my mom and Mack and the maggot. I got to sit in the back seat with the maggot and Mom and Mack sat in the front. Here's a sample of the conversation from the trip:

Mom: "Straight!" That has an h and an i!
Mack: But you were still on g!
Mom: Oh yeah.
Me: Uh, mom, "straight" has a g in it too.
Mom: Oh yeah. "Objects!" That has a j!
Mack: You can't use words that are on the truck!
Mom: But it's outside the truck!
Mack: Do you want to be outside the truck?

The point of the trip was to go to my brother Ouija's sealing to his wife, who definitely should no longer be called "flavor" on my blog, since they've been married for a whole year now. So that makes two trips to California for wedding-type things in the same month. An odd fact about the sealing: I accidentally learned her new name when I was working in the temple as a set-apart veil worker. Weird.


n has moved here. I have also discovered Goat. And Carrot is back from her mission. It makes me extra excited that all my old friends are back in my life.


Work is great. I've been super busy with that and my choir and the activities committee. Also, I just want to say that I love my friends in my ward. They are excellent people, all of them.


Rose invited Dee to her bridal shower this past week. So as far as we can tell, the wedding is still going on, but maybe it's no longer a temple wedding. It's hard to say. If this wedding happens, I'm so going. And I'm also so inviting all of you, but you have to act like you don't know me at all the whole time, capiche?


See, you'd expect me to have more to talk about with a whole month gone by, but that's just not the case. Especially when I summarize everything as neatly and compactly as I just have. In any case, My next entry will have much more detail and will deal with the events from a much narrower portion of my life, and will therefore hopefully be much more interesting. Word.

Oh, and everybody watch the Backyardigans. From Nick Jr.'s website:

"Each 3D CGI-animated episode of “The Backyardigans” is a journey into the kind of fantasy play that happens in every little kid’s mind. They’re epic, musical fantasy adventures, preschool-style, fresh from the minds of Five kids – a precocious penguin named Pablo, a laid-back moose named Tyrone, the appropriately named Uniqua, a shy kangaroo named Austin, and a Happy Hippo named Tasha.

"Every day they meet in their adjoining backyards to explore wherever their imaginations take them – be it a deep tropical rainforest, an enchanted castle, or a vast ocean.

"On each fully realized adventure, “The Backyardigans” sing and dance to tango or tap, jazz or hip-hop, calypso or operetta, rockabilly or Irish jigs.
That’s right, it’s a musical. “The Backyardigans” explore different types of music just as they explore the whole wide world without ever leaving their backyards.

"And best of all, after each adventure, they always get home just
in time for a snack!"

Seriously, you guys, this is my new favorite TV show after 24. I've only seen one episode, and the kids were superheroes and the music was salsa. It was so catchy I could hardly believe it, and the kids were pretending JUST like my friends and I used to at that age. My four-year-old sister was singing along and making me pretend to be the various characters with her. It was enchanting. I also loved that some of the characters had black voices. thy were all so freaking cute. I know that the Backyardigans is true with all the fiber in my beans. Amen.