Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

One Step Forward — May 17, 2023

One Step Forward

The site prompt today was to list my top 5 favorite fruits, and mine is pretty much like everyone’s. The taste of mangoes would make them number 1 by a mile, but as they’re such a chore to eat, it allows blueberries and pineapples to sometimes usurp the top spot. Whatever, like what you like, as long as it’s not red delicious apples.

Now, in an answer to the question “What would you tell other parents about raising a child with autism?” Angie Harrington says, “Parents need to know it’s very normal to feel overwhelmed, to feel like you lack the ability to handle this. All you can do is your best and take one step forward.”

Angie Harrington is a woman who was on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. I have sort of made a point of never having seen 1 minute of any Real Housewives edition. So, the last place I’d expect to find some real, useful wisdom is from one of the cast members. That’s what I know.

One of the things I’m learning is that truth and wisdom can be found any- and everywhere, if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear. Like fruit, we all feel pretty much the same about reality show participants. That’s a generalization, a stereotype, and ideas become generalizations because they are ‘generally’ accurate. But not always. And part of my becoming a wrinkly old man has been opening to the exceptions. That there are exceptions means that judgment is (or should be) nearly impossible. If there’s just 1, but we don’t know which 1, then we have to be open to every one. It’s a great way to live, and keeps me curious and interested, even about Real Housewives.

Angie Harrington said what she did about raising a child with autism, but it applies to parents of children without autism, non-parents, men, women, right and left handed people, of all colors, Dallas Cowboys and NY Giants fans. It applies to anyone who’s ever been overwhelmed by circumstances, which is everyone.

Maybe that’s not entirely correct, but I might (and probably would) suggest if we’ve never been overwhelmed, maybe our lives are too small. Maybe we’ve never risked anything. Maybe we’ve never run faster than we thought we could. Maybe we’re playing small.

Maybe we should be overwhelmed. Maybe we should question if we can handle this. Maybe we should be afraid, unsure, and take the step anyway.

It’s that one step that defines us, not the overwhelm, and not the uncertainty, or the avalanche of doubts. It’s not the fear, it’s the immeasurable courage of moving anyway. We all have an IF, and we all have the big choice of what to do with it. Will those ifs become the block walls that hold us or from which we leap? It may feel like just one tiny step forward but it’s actually the first letter on the blank page where we write our lives.

I hope I never stop being excited about what we’ll write today.

All At Once — March 10, 2023

All At Once

I finally saw Everything Everywhere All At Once. If you haven’t seen it, you know what you have to do. We’re not going to talk about it in this space, specifically. Instead, we’ll talk about great art.

You watch an awesome film, like Everything Everywhere All At Once or Fight Club or Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind or Point Break or Pulp Fiction (there are a million honest examples), and the credits roll. How do you feel?

You hear an amazing song, like There Is A Light That Never Goes Out or Like A Rolling Stone or Let It Be or Party In The USA (again, a million examples), in your car as you’re driving home from work or to your sister’s house on Thanksgiving day. Where is your spirit?

You read a beautiful book, like Breakfast of Champions or Catch 22 or High Fidelity or Britt-Marie Was Here or Chronicles, Nehemiah & Other Books Nobody Reads, and close it after finishing the last words. What is the state of your heart?

I know the answer to these questions, and so do you. You feel soft and open, like you’ve been pried opened by soft, warm, loving fingers, which you have. The door is thrown wide and your mind is free to race around with no boundaries at all, free to jump and even to fly, if you’re so inclined. Anything and everything is possible. The usual rules and cynicism that keep us tethered to the rotted cracked boards that set the limits of our world no longer apply.

Someone exactly like you and me wrote the screenplay for Everything Everywhere All At Once. And we have somewhere bought the idea that “it is what it is,” we are all we’re ever be, and this is all we deserve. These are lies. And sometimes, in a chorus or scene, we are shown the undeniable truth.

Last night, Everything Everywhere won all of the Academy Awards, as it should have, and I am convinced that means we have all been aching to create something new for ourselves, our families, neighbors, strangers & enemies, for our world. Today is cold and gray outside of my window, but feels like sunshine and hope. These are the first moments of the new economy of creativity and love for everyone everywhere all at once

Toothpaste Caps — February 27, 2023

Toothpaste Caps

In the modern classic The Incredibles, Bob (Mr. Incredible) returns home from some forbidden crime-fighting to an angry wife, Helen (Elastigirl, or Mrs. Incredible). They argue about the political ban on superheroes, moving, changing jobs, and sports for their son, but the argument isn’t about any of those things.

It’s the same in all of our relationships, isn’t it? The most common example of conflict in marriage revolves around the toothpaste cap. We all know no one actually leaves the cap off of the tube. Unless they do… Does this come from somewhere in real life? Why haven’t I thought about this sooner? I figured it was just some nonsensical hypothetical scenario, like making “widgets” in business classes. What kind of savage doesn’t put the cap back on? Maybe it is totally imagined, it has to be.

Anyway, it’s a solid example because toothpaste caps are small and insignificant, and the fights are big, loud, very significant, and not about oral hygiene or bathroom cleanliness at all. They’re about respect or value or minimization or resentment or fear or insecurity or inadequacy or regret, any number of reasons, really, and all things that have their roots much older and farther reaching than toothpaste. It’s like treating the cut in the skin rather than the broken bone that caused the tear.

There are 2 monsters in the closet here, 2 “broken bones,” as far as I can tell. First, we often hide, pretending that we’re perfect and nothing is wrong. That if we’re not fighting right now, then that must mean we have peace. We don’t communicate well, we ignore warning lights and signs, choosing to act like the white picket fence doesn’t have termites. This all comes from general, garden variety laziness and more importantly, our propensity to choose comfort, convenience, and ease.

I guess there’s only 1 monster, because that last paragraph was a list of symptoms, too. Helen finally ends the argument in the movie with, “This is NOT. ABOUT. YOU.” The bone that’s broken and in great need of attention is our narcissism. We are very selfish. The Bible calls this idolatry, and all that means is that we are our own gods, we are our own #1. I’m angry about the cap you left off because of what it says to/about me. I’m frustrated and resentful because you don’t do what I want you to do, what I think you should do. I’m offended because you are disrespectful of my wants and needs, scared because you aren’t properly deferential to me and my expectations, inadequate and insecure because you might not want or need me and what will that say about me???

This is almost entirely why we can’t talk about religion or politics like human beings. We identify with a position so closely that another position is not simply judging ideas or concepts or platforms, it is judging us. I’m so thoroughly identified, to discard my opinion is to discard me, to deem it less is to deem me less. We don’t usually do this with choice of condiments or sodas, so we can easily talk about the merits of ketchup without coming to blows. We cannot with our theology or our political affiliation.

Most conversations are variations on that Incredibles scene. We’re talking out loud about Dash playing sports, but barely concealed is a defense of our own worth and fear at becoming obsolete and discarded. And we are way too terrified to be vulnerable enough to drag the real issue into the light. So we dance around sports, tenets, and toothpaste caps, unable to say anything real.

It’s the most depressing scene in the movie by a mile, and every one of us can easily relate. We are all Bob Paar; Incredible, overflowing with so many talents, gifts and abilities…and wildly desperate that you notice. The thing is that all of the ways we try too hard to be these pathetic gods only obscure how super we really are.

Ant-Sized Expectations — February 22, 2023

Ant-Sized Expectations

I saw Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania Monday afternoon. After the pieces of garbage that were Love & Thunder and She-Hulk, I was unsure that I’d see it at all, much less in the theater. But I did, on opening weekend, no less. And despite the terrible critical reviews, I very much liked it. Here are a few reasons why:

Love & Thunder and She-Hulk made fun of me. They treated these movies as if they had heard the criticism of “serious” auteurs and wanted to sit at the cool table, too, so they ridiculed those of us who found ourselves entertained and stimulated by their work. Before those 2 stinkers (and less so the output of the last few years), I made the argument that these movies were the mythology of our generation. Certainly not just sugary snacks for fanboys alone, they explored social and cultural issues through the lens of extraordinary people. The psychology of the characters (and all of us) were on display and gave us all more substance than we were prepared for, if only we had eyes to see and ears to hear. They were never Pulp Fiction or The Godfather, but to lazily write-off these movies as spandex daydreams for teenage boys was an offensively grievous error. Quantumania didn’t make fun of me. It wasn’t The Winter Soldier or Civil War, but it was a stand alone story that did not patronize (or at least, I did not feel patronized.) That’s 1.

The second is its wild visual unreality. Now, this was precisely the reason The Angel did not like it, but we are very different people. If our pop cultural preferences met at a party, not only would they not talk, mine would probably ask hers to leave immediately. Usually, our imaginations are drummed out of us as we age, we are encouraged to leave them behind and focus only on the world that we can see, touch, feel, and prove. When an artist remembers that we have been made to be fantastically creative beings, as in the Star Wars cantina (for example) or the Quantum Realm, we see our original imaging bursting through into an increasingly monochromatic landscape. There were no limits on colors, characters, no restraints on what could be possible. Of course, some of it didn’t work, but that’s what happens with shooting; sometimes, you miss. But I really love the risk of shooting. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it, and that’s inspiring to me.

But that’s enough about the actual movie (not that I don’t have anything else to say about it, I do). I’m wondering how much of my appreciation of Quantumania had to do with the steaming pile that was Love & Thunder. I think I’m sort of out on the MCU. Obviously, I’ll see the movies as they come out, I’ll watch the streaming shows, but they no longer captivate me. It was a beautiful time that I shared with my sons, we saw every one together as they were released. (Quantumania was the first one we didn’t, and don’t even get me started on the heartbreak of that.) Thor convinced me that those movies were of a time that had passed. Thor showed me what I already knew, everything changes. The movies change, we change, our reaction, our connection to them changes. With one swing of his hammer, Thor broke any idea of corporate trust or loyalty. I know, I know, the studios (including Marvel/Disney) care about me only as long as I’m buying tickets and paying for their streaming service, but the delusion is one I would have liked to keep. I took Love & Thunder and She-Hulk like a personal affront, like an act of disrespect. Why? They don’t care at all about me, they care about worldwide grosses and merchandising deals.

And on one hand, that stinks. But on the other, it’s pretty liberating. If I want to see the next one, I’ll see it. If not, I won’t. I don’t owe Disney anything. I’m a product, but so are they. (If it’s seems embarrassing for such an old man to come to such elementary conclusions this late, it’s not for me. I understand/understood perfectly, but I just didn’t want that to be the last word. I want to let my imagination run and dream, too.) I have no more expectations for quality – She-Hulk smashed that into tiny little pieces – so when something is good, like Quantumania, I enjoy myself. I don’t expect greatness, I don’t expect anything. I am free!

Reviews — February 14, 2023

Reviews

It’s been a few months since I’ve reviewed anything – this will happen. Sometimes, the overwhelming nature of living a life you love provides more than enough inspiration. But today, my calendar is clean and I can settle in, think back and hopefully decompress while I tell you what I liked and why.

A quick observation before we begin, about the Rihanna Super Bowl halftime show. No matter what happens, there are legions of trolls saying how terrible it is, and I can’t think of anything less interesting. There are notable exceptions (Thor, Love & Thunder, which is fascinating in it’s desire to devalue the entire MCU and ridicule fans) that prove the rule you’ve surely deduced: I like everything. There is beauty in most all works of art, some might take more time and effort than others to discover, but it is there. And if it’s not (again, like Love & Thunder, though Christian Bale’s performance is terrific), then I prefer to move on without much comment. There is already enough negativity in the world, you don’t need mine. I don’t even need mine!

I’m currently listening to Local Natives cover Gerry Rafferty’s “Right On Down The Line,” and it makes me appreciate The Angel. Today is Valentine’s Day and the best, most beautiful blessing in my life has always been her, right on down the line.

Poker Face is a cool hard to categorize comedy-ish drama on Peacock, starring Natasha Lyonne. After episode 1, I’m firmly in, but I’m pretty sure I’d watch Natasha Lyonne do anything. She’s so good, she gives me hope for tomorrow. It makes me want to watch everything she’s ever done.

Raya and The Last Dragon is an animated film with Rose from the new Star Wars as Raya and Awkwafina as the dragon. You know, the most disappointing reaction from that Star Wars trilogy was the embarrassing treatment of Rose/Kelly Marie Tran. Sometimes, our behavior is just abhorrent. The second most disappointing reaction was the creators of Rise of Skywalker caving and writing her character essentially out of the trilogy. Anyway, my sons are still laughing at how I cried during Raya, but how can I help it? My soft, beautiful heart grew 2 sizes the day we watched.

I finally saw Wakanda Forever, the 2nd Black Panther movie. I wondered if I would, or if Love & Thunder and She-Hulk chased me away forever. I didn’t see it in the theater, and instead watched it from my couch, just in case. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term “woke,” but one of the criticisms was that Wakanda Forever is “woke.” Probably it is. I don’t like being the target of an agenda, especially when it’s so ham-handed that I am conscious to the fact that I am nothing more than a “demographic” – this wasn’t as obvious as other examples, I didn’t think. Women were the leads and most of the important characters, but representation is not “woke.” I wanted to be a superhero because I was a little white boy and all of the superheroes for the last 100 years looked just like me. Now, they don’t. And that is not a bad thing in any galaxy. The cultures (people, music, rituals) are different, and that’s wonderful, in cinema and in real life. I say it’s probably “woke” because Disney usually seems to be trying too hard. However, if the art is as lovely, deep, and honestly moving as this one, “woke” isn’t so bad.

This Is Pop is a series on Netflix and, this week, I watched the Britpop episode. It would be impossible for me to express just how much Blur, Pulp, Oasis, Suede, Echobelly, and on and on through all the disposable B and C ripoffs, meant to me. I’ve been abundantly clear about the Smiths/Morrissey, but it never ended there. The nostalgia I feel sometimes causes my heart to ache, the music was awesome, everything felt far more simple than it does today. I had opinions and understood the world. Oasis fought Blur for Britpop supremacy, but the right answer was that Pulp was better than both of them.

I’m not so certain about too much anymore. I do have some, and hold onto them firmly and passionately. But (I can’t believe I’m going to write this) I don’t care what sort of music you listen to, what your Top 5 desert island discs are, or what your favorite song is – I just care that you do. You see, I find you totally fascinating, who you are, what you think & believe, what you’re like. I want you to have opinions and I want you to know why you hold them. And I really want you to tell me what they are.

Of course I love all forms of art and the effect they have on/for me, but more and more, I love the communal effects. In a dark theater, a great film connects us, to each other, to God, to our world. The same thing happens when we sing along to a song, when it takes us back to a space and time when we were present and alive. Usually we are so wrapped up in surviving, putting one foot in front of another, getting through the day, that some program on a streaming network can jar us out of that monotonous routine like little else, and wake us up to the indescribable divine gift of each moment. We are here and we are alive, so for heaven’s sake, turn it up and move a little.

How Many Tricks Can a Pig Do In 1 Minute? — November 2, 2022

How Many Tricks Can a Pig Do In 1 Minute?

178 people named Hirokazu Tanaka came together in Tokyo on Saturday to break the Guinness World Record for largest gathering of people with the same first and last name, breaking a group of Martha Stewarts. That’s fascinating for lots of reasons. Hirokazu Tanaka? I don’t know 1 Martha Stewart (of course, there is the celebrity, but I don’t personally know even one), for people with that name to hold a world record and to have never crossed paths with one seems unlikely in retrospect. Maybe I have and just didn’t know. And, there’s a world record for this?

Most toothpicks in a beard (3,500), most tricks by a pig in one minute (13), longest duration spinning a basketball on a toothbrush (1 min 8 secs). People are very strange. I don’t know why any of these things matter enough to be noteworthy. Do we really need to know how many cans a parrot can open in a minute (35)? More importantly, do we care? How fast can someone burst 3 balloons using just their back (6 secs) or how many t-shirts can someone remove while heading a soccer ball (22)? I don’t think I care, yet here we are, so maybe I do.

Last week, in this space, I wrote about perspective. Is the world actually falling apart or are we looking only for pieces of the sky on the ground? Is today really a worse, more frightening time to live, or are we simply building a case and finding evidence to support that hypothesis? DO we see the world as it is, or as we are?

I pastor a church and teach the Bible. One of the most dangerous paths to travel is to seek and twist verses to match my already held beliefs, instead of discovering what they mean and bringing my ideas to them. (I do recognize it’s mostly impossible to read/teach an unbiased version of anything. Everything is colored by our experiences and filtered through our minds, hearts & souls. It is the height of arrogance to think we have the right answers on everything, untouched by footprints in the snow. It’s like those who think marketing doesn’t affect them. But we can, and must, try to find truth while remaining open to the very real possibility that the opinions we currently hold could, in fact, be wrong.)

Anyway, back to parrots opening cans, gatherings of Hirokazu Tanakas, and finding what we’re searching for. We read these stories and can come to a great number of conclusions that are not exactly complimentary. But we can also see them from a different angle, which is where I generally choose to stand. Human beings are amazing; interesting, quirky, and endlessly amusing. What makes someone wonder how many tricks their pig can do??? And then, makes them reach out to preserve that number for posterity?

What makes someone choose to be a nurse, or a therapist, or makes them get out of bed at 4am to workout? Why does she have that particular tattoo or listen to that podcast? What is it about that song or singer or movie that makes him love it the way he does? Why do we pick dogs or cats or bunnies or snakes as pets? What is your favorite color or dessert or topping on pizza?

And we are constantly growing and becoming, so the answers to those questions today will certainly (hopefully) not be the answers next year. I married the Angel and every day I learn more about her, every day I am surprised. We’ve been together for almost 25 years.

I get to pastor a church, and that means that one of the best parts of my job is getting to talk with, learn about/from others, and connect. I ask a million questions and listen to what they say, how they move, how their face scrunches up or eyes water, how they shift uncomfortably in their seats. It’s so great because you are so great.

The point is, it’s sometimes easy to think people are awful, untrustworthy, selfish, and sometimes we are. But that’s not all we are. There are other, much larger pieces to us that are smart, funny, generous, loyal, honest. Maybe if we could only open our eyes to those parts a bit more often, the world around us might transform to meet our imaginations, and then there would be less nasty political ads to mourn and more super weird world records to celebrate.

Tragedy — September 26, 2022

Tragedy

This weekend, I watched a Netflix documentary series that was one of the most depressing things I have ever witnessed. And what I’m going to try to do is find beauty and hope in it. Try.

First, let me tell you about what I did Saturday. We (my family and some visiting in-laws) piled in a car and went to the local amusement park. It’s local but it’s also known around the whole world. That’s always an interesting dichotomy to reconcile in my head. Something extraordinarily famous is in my backyard, making it feel familiar and routine, like if Lady Gaga was your sister.

(But I always write about taking amazing things for granted, like kissing the Angel and kindness and Morrissey, so I won’t today.)

What was striking about this park is the extent of the corporate greed on display. I recognize this is nothing new in commercial America, where industry is built at the altar of MORE. Parking fees and food prices are obscene and attendees are shoehorned in until actually riding rollercoasters is nearly impossible, as receipts pile up. I rode 3 rides and waited an hour and a half for the privilege of buying hot dogs.

I am not an idiot. I have a business degree and a working knowledge of insurance and hidden costs. I don’t even have a problem with rising profits. This “wonderland” provides a service that is specific and fantastic, they should all get filthy rich on it. My problem is the contempt they showed for me and all of the other suckers who essentially paid to stand on their property. I can take the fact that I am not their #1 priority. So, I’m educated as a business major and a marketer, but I was raised in the ‘90’s to distrust and rage against any, and all, machines. Especially the machines that can’t even manage to even pretend that I’m in their top 20 list of importance.

Which brings me to the Woodstock 99 documentary, Trainwreck. This is, first and foremost, a story of dollars > people. But it’s also a story of people who are either a) treated like animals because they are, or b) behaving like animals because they’re treated like animals. I happen to believe it’s the second. Probably even the sweetest bunny rabbit will bite if it’s cornered and beaten for long enough. Most of us will lash out if we are hated loudly enough. Maybe we wouldn’t set the town on fire, but we might kick the dumb insincere peace and love signs down. And it does take a special kind of monster to sexually assault another simply because they are in close enough proximity to do so.

Which brings me to the thread that ties all of these together. Simply because we can doesn’t mean we should. Because the amusement park is the only game in town doesn’t mean a 1,000% markup on popcorn is any less offensive. Because the Woodstock promoters can have 1 water fountain for every 100,000 people doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and because some frat boy can grope a woman (and much, much worse) without being stopped doesn’t make it less abhorrent.

Now. There is a bright side. “Mob mentality” was referenced over and over in the doc, and that same concept applies to board rooms and management meetings. We all think so (or we think we all think so), so we all go along. We say, “we could probably raise prices another 100% before it begins to keep anyone away,” and we look around for agreement, salivating over bonuses and perks, drowning out any voices of dissent, and we end up raising them 125%. We see those neanderthals setting fires and pulling down towers and the internal voice that objects goes silent and, the next thing we know, we’re turning over nearby cars and trying to break into ATMs.

We’re social creatures, looking for belonging and acceptance. The good news about this is if we were to, say, replace the violence for generosity, switch anger for care. You know when you’re around someone relentlessly positive and hopeful, you feel buoyant and like maybe this ship doesn’t have to sink? Same principle. If we, just 2 or 3 of us to start, were to treat the women in our midst with respect instead of trying to rip their clothes off at a concert, maybe everyone would. Probably everyone would. Certainly everyone would. And those that wouldn’t would find their actions met with strong resistance and protection. If we would begin to love each other, treat each other like the treasures we are, then we could make new paths that are easier for the rest of us to tread. And then Woodstock might really be about the beauty of humanity and its creative spirit and we’d all be rich beyond our wildest imagination.

Morrissey — September 2, 2022

Morrissey

Lately I’ve been listening to a steady stream of Morrissey/Smiths albums. He has been my favorite singer & songwriter since I was 13ish, and this sort of thing happens from time to time. I’ll think, you know, I’d like to hear Bigmouth Strikes Again (“Sweetness, I was only joking when I said I’d like to smash every teeth in your head” remains the 2nd greatest first line ever in a popular song. The greatest is, of course, from There Is A Light That Never Goes Out: “Take me out tonight,” and continues, “where there’s music and there’s people and they’re young and alive. Driving in your car I never, never want to go home, because I haven’t got one, anymore”) and then it’s several weeks later and I haven’t listened to anything else. I’m never sorry. It makes me feel like me, if you can understand what I mean.

Like so far today, I had a terrific workout, met with a friend for great conversation, played 2 board games with my son, read a little and wrote a lot. I’ll make dinner, eat with the other 3 in my house, and spend some quiet time connecting with the Angel later on. In every moment, this feels like the best version of me. If we had watched me from a distance together, I’d say what we saw is exactly who I am. I’d say the same thing about Morrissey’s voice. If you want a deep insight into who I am, you could do worse than to listen to tracks 10-13 (He Knows I’d Love To See Him, Yes I Am Blind, Lucky Lisp, and Suedehead) on the Bona Drag album. Incidentally, I actually don’t count it as an album, it’s more of a collection – if I did, it may unseat The Queen Is Dead as my very favorite album.

Maybe you care and maybe you don’t, but what I’m wondering is if we pick the things we like because we’re a certain way, OR if we’re a certain way because we pick the things we like.

I am hyper sensitive and given to depression. You could also say that about the entire Morrissey/Smiths catalog. Did I find it because I was predisposed, because I was looking for something that fit? Or did I find it purely by accident, and through its influence, I became someone it fit?

This goes for everything – movies, books, paintings, as well as college majors, interests, even people. Did I find the Angel because I was looking for someone just like her or did I find her and, because she’s so awesome, she became my type? Why did I fall in love so deeply with Jesus? Why do I like Catfish and documentaries on cults so much? Are they finding me, kicking down doors and rearranging the furniture in my mind, or am I looking for them, inviting them into the already existing decor?

I think probably the answer is different now than when I was 13, right?

We’re pretty well formed by now. Of course, we learn & grow & change our minds about things. I vote differently now than I did when I was 25, I value some things more than I used to, but you wouldn’t feel like I’m a totally different person. All the things that make me who I am feel like they are in place (I recognize these are scary words, as they usually lead to uncomfortable transformation), and I happen to like the man I am. I’ll just become more of him, more of who I’m created to be. I couldn’t always say I liked me that much, if at all, but I do now, and that is a cool thing to write.

Anyway, did I like Unloveable and Never Had No One Ever because I felt so alone, or…

You know, it really doesn’t matter at all. These things provide the texture of our lives, bestow such breathtaking beauty on our unpredictable, wildly dynamic lives as they mark the people, places, and events that matter. I don’t care why Morrissey became such a humongous part of my life, I’m just so thankful he did.

D.B Cooper Conventions & Monopoly Tournaments — August 11, 2022

D.B Cooper Conventions & Monopoly Tournaments

I saw The Batman and the 3rd Fantastic Beasts films in the last few weeks and really loved them both. As a matter of fact, as far as Fantastic Beasts, it would be impossible to express just how much. Maybe I’ll try sometime. Maybe not. The Batman was awfully good, but I say that knowing full well that I am the target market, so it’s possible my opinion wouldn’t be the most objective.

We will talk about 2 other films: Under the Boardwalk: A Monopoly Story, and D.B. Cooper, Where Are You?! Now, what could these 2 possibly have in common, right? Not surprisingly, they also share it with Bikram, Holy Hell, and the Rajneeshees of Wild, Wild Country. The more I think about it, they share it with The Batman and Fantastic Beasts, Thor, The Avengers, Stand By Me and Stranger Things, too.

D.B. Cooper was the alias of a guy who hi-jacked an airplane in the 70’s, took $200,000, jumped out somewhere in Oregon, and was never found. The thing that makes it a cool story instead of a terrible story is that no one was harmed, outside of a minor inconvenience for the passengers. Some think he is still alive, may or may not be living in Florida, or that he fell to his death. None of that matters too much to me, it’s an interesting piece of pop culture, a mysterious American outlaw very much of a time.

Monopoly is a 100+ year-old board game that we’ve all played and that the Angel HATES. I was pretty neutral, but I like it very much since this documentary.

There are D.B. Cooper conventions, where people from all over get together and geek out over conspiracy theories, police sketches, and an inch of decayed nylon found in a forest. There are also Monopoly championship tournaments, which are exactly what you think they are. Rooms full of tables where the best players battle over rent, mortgage values and property trades. These people are weirdos, in the very best sense of the word. I know they are, because I’m one of them. We all are. We may not participate in these particular events, but we all have our D.B. Cooper conventions. (If we don’t, we should by all means immediately get one!)

The last 15 minutes (or episode) of the cult docs we all adore the former members are interviewed, and there is always an unmistakable air of melancholy. They miss the time they were involved (before the true insanity of everything was exposed). Thor & Hulk need a team, Batman finds he can not, and should not, be the lone hero vigilante forever. It is the relationships between characters in Fantastic Beasts that remain, none of us really care about wands or spells or CGI creatures.

The biggest lie that most of us know is a lie but tell as truth, and that we all apparently agree to let slide, even though we know nobody actually believes is that we are islands. We don’t need, or want, other people. We are wholely independent. We prefer riding alone.

Except we’ll do pretty much anything to find a community. We’ll drink Kool Aid, let a yogi behave like a complete maniac, play in Monopoly tournaments, or go to conventions for a 50 year old historical footnote. None of this is surprising in the least. I happen to believe we are created for each other, wired for relationship.

In Christian circles, it can be quite tempting to sound super-spiritual and say some variation of “all I need is God.” It sounds awesome and we all ooh and ahh, but can you take a wild guess where that sort of doctrine isn’t? The Bible. In Genesis 1 & 2, before the Fall, everything is “good” except 1 thing: the man is alone. The man isn’t alone, he has God and they walk in the Garden in the cool of the evening, but God still says, “it is not good for the man to be alone,” so He makes a woman. Then in the New Testament, He makes the Church.

Maybe you don’t believe in God or Genesis or the Church, or maybe you do, but don’t think it happened exactly like it’s written. A thing doesn’t have to have happened for it to be True. This Genesis account is as true as anything has ever been, we are made to be together. And I know this, without a doubt, because D.B. Cooper conventions and Monopoly tournaments exist.

Nostalgia — July 23, 2022

Nostalgia

So I watched 2 documentaries lately: Class Action Park, about Action Park in New Jersey, and Humanity Insanity: Throwaway Society, about the modern rush into total disposability.

If it matters, they’re both terrific. But as the final comments wrapped up Class Action Park, I found myself with a knot in my throat and watery eyes. It’s true, I am what’s called an easy cry (which was why my total indifference in the new Thor movie was such a surprising giveaway to how I felt about it), but a documentary about a man’s avarice manifesting as complete indifference to the safety of his customers was an unexpected place to feel that well rising from my soft heart.

I have a business degree and, while I don’t remember everything I learned, I’m fairly certain that seriously injuring (and sometimes killing) patrons is not a viable strategy for long term growth. Who knows? The ‘80’s were a different time.

That’s what I mean, though. I grew up in the ‘80’s and it was a very different time. Does everyone romanticize their childhood? I’ve heard so many jokes about “back in my day…” and “when I was young…” and now I’m discovering that I say the exact same things.

Humanity Insanity detailed a rapid decline into a society where everything is made to discard; goods, feelings, people. That’s true. There are apps on our phones that’s purpose is to erase the messages immediately after they’re read. We delete all imperfect photos. Single serving. Planned Obsolescence. Half of all the food produced on earth is thrown away. Most marriages end in divorce. We shop for our churches and might stay for a few weeks, then move on.

I know, I know, I sound like everyone’s dad, but as I watched the people reminisce about this ridiculous amusement park, their memories were real, the relationships continued, the scars remained, the place is still there (albeit under a changed name.)

With a longer shelf life, we truly experienced these things; toys, movies, seasons, phases & fads. We listened to entire albums for months. Back To The Future was in the Top 10 for 24 weeks!!!! 6 months! The new Dr Strange is out of theaters, streaming and forgotten on Disney+ in 6 weeks. Singles come and go before we know the lyrics and can sing along. My boys barely remember what they did this morning, while I can recall every one of my MASK toys and every episode of Three’s Company. No one is getting weepy over the 2020’s (well, maybe they are, but for wildly different reasons.) No one will remember the 1 hit wonders of the 2 thousands – because here aren’t any. We had a nearby park where everybody went on weekends that looked like Golf N’Stuff from Karate Kid. And pickup games every day. I haven’t seen a 10 year old outside in days.

I wonder if this nostalgia I feel is for the connection. I miss my best friend and going to my neighbor’s house (with everybody else) to watch the premiere of the Thriller video. I miss my friends being flesh and blood and not simply a number on Facebook. I miss playing.

We’ve certainly gained so many great things, but maybe nostalgia is nothing more than an acknowledgment of what we’ve lost. I wouldn’t go back to the ‘80’s for anything, but is it too much to ask to bring some of the ‘80’s into today?