Category Archives: Evangelical Christianity

On Being A Grandson…

You would be hard pressed to find a more stressful and depressing environment than an Intensive Care Unit.  People die there every day, and the parade of grieving family members are continually replenished….forced to deal with sudden loss, prolonged sickness followed by the decision to turn off life support; usually with the bonus of discussions about whether or not their loved one was an organ donor.  Because if they were an organ donor, that means they have virtually no time to be with their family member before their body is wheeled off for harvesting.  My family had to watch this go on and on for over a week when my grandfather was admitted to the hospital with stomach pains and things took a very bad turn.  There really isn’t anything that empties you like witnessing human anguish….everyone displays it differently and unpredictably.  My mom, her sisters and my grandmother basically lived at the hospital for two weeks, and I felt bad that this was one situation I could only handle in small doses.  If the worst ended up happening, I knew I had to reserve whatever mind I had left to do the thing that I do for the family when the time comes….like I did for my brother in 1989, my aunt in 1996, and my uncle earlier this year.  I can shut down long enough after someone dies to get through the business end of dying, and managing all of the details of the service…..because I guess that is actually the easy part….grandpa’s wife and daughters took on the worst of it all.  Seeing the man who taught me how to tie a fisherman’s knot when I was eight years old, and loved and supported me through all of the crazy ups and downs that have been my life until now, in the kind of pain he was in, with his wife of 60 years constantly at his bedside, in her wheelchair, holding his hand….was one of the most sobering and sad things I’ve ever seen.  At the same time, it was a testament to how great it is to have the family that I do.  He had some really bad days after his surgery, having to deal with oxygen masks, tubes, machines, and the ultimate lack of privacy that is the motif of the intensive care unit.  So we had a little bit of comfort when we lost grandpa after he had two really GOOD days.

I got to spend some good time with him two Saturdays ago when we lost him.  I was up during the afternoon, playing Phase 10 with my mom and aunts while he slept, and then I went back and talked to him for a while before the nightly “no visitors” window.  I told him about how I was going to be buying my yearly supply of herbs to plant out on my deck….that was something on which we’d always compare notes…he out-planted me every year AND grew a ton of tomatoes as well.  I also let him know how I was on my way to Lowe’s to buy a new lawnmower….and he gave me a crazy look, and told me not to do that when he had a nearly brand new mower in his shed that he couldn’t use anymore since they have a guy who comes to mow since his health got so bad.  He’d always do that sort of thing….he gave me his golf clubs when he couldn’t play anymore because he knew I was shopping for some, and then gave me his prized Honda lawnmower.  Being the first male born into the family, I guess I was always pretty spoiled.  So when the 6:30 shift change started and I had to leave, the last thing I said to my grandpa was that I loved him.  He smiled and said “I know you do, buddy”. 

I hadn’t been sleeping well, so I took about three Sominex around 11:30 that Saturday night, and no sooner had they begun to take effect than my aunt called to tell me I needed to get up to the hospital as fast as I could.  I went to pick up a large Red Bull to wipe out the cobwebs so that I’d be clear headed to deal with whatever I found when I arrived.  That was both the fastest and longest car ride of my life, then when I arrived the regular entrance was only an exit after hours, so I had to find my way in….making the trip even longer.

When I got off of the elevator, my aunt was right there waiting for me.  She just shook her head and said “he’s gone”.  So I hugged her and cried for a minute, and then I did what I do in these situations……be it right or wrong, unhealthy, crazy, whatever…..I told myself “this is the last time I will cry until after the funeral”.  Since he was a d0-not-resuscitate patient, he didn’t need all of the machines he was hooked up to in order to monitor him in ICU, so shortly after I left for the night they were going to move him to a more comfortable and private room where they could begin some level of physical therapy.  Everyone was getting ready to crash on the waiting room couches for the night, and so that she could get ready for bed they took my grandmother back to spend a few minutes with him.  She held his hand, and when his daughters came in he told them “I’ve loved this woman for over 60 years”.  A few minutes later when everyone was lying down to sleep, a call for rapid response came over the intercom, and he was gone.  He went quietly and peacefully in a much friendlier environment, after giving us two very good last days. 

One piece of advice I’d give anyone and everyone who has a family is to plan ahead….buy your plot, your casket, and take care of many of those details as humanly possible.  My grandparents did it several years ago, and I can’t underestimate how much easier it makes it for the family.  Plus, unless you’ve been involved in funeral planning, you cannot imagine the insane expense.  With many of the details already figured out, and the fact that it would be three days before there was an opening in the chapel, it made it somewhat easier on the family to have some extra time to plan, write the obituary, go through pictures and figure out who and what to include in the service.  Anyone who has had to go through sixty years of memories in a home where the family lived for over 54 years, can empathize with what it’s like doing something as simple as going through the thousands of photos. 

My grandmother and my aunts thought it would be a good idea for all of the grandchildren to do the service, and other than my uncle who read the obit, that is what we did.  With the tons of flowers and plants people sent, all of the photos and photo albums to go through, and the DVD of photos my cousin created, the service really couldn’t have gone better.  When eulogizing a man like my grandfather, a patriarch right down to the end…sitting at the head of the table calling out the Bingo numbers….someone who raised five girls and helped build their house himself….a fisherman and avid sportsman throughout his entire life…..a prankster and joker who gave me much of that same spirit….a husband of over 6o years…..there is no shortage of material to draw from.  But honestly, this was a rough one.  Especially so soon after eulogizing my uncle….I didn’t realize until my grandfather got so ill how badly that affected me.  This was just too soon, my family has lost three people so far this year.  BUT those things aside, you have to do your best no matter what…..pick the right memories, craft a perfect outline where the jokes and sadness work together, hit your marks, time the punchlines, and tie it together at the end with a charge to the family to honor the legacy he left us.  And review it enough times that your emotions can’t surprise you during the service.  But yeah, no matter how professionally you try to handle something like that, and you listen to your cousins talk about the man, it is a meat grinder.  It’s hard to say how much you love someone who has impacted your entire life and helped to make you who you are, and to see how broken everyone is now that such a permanent fixture is gone…..forever.  I usually prepare well enough to be a machine when I do these things, but this time I really had to turn into the skid to keep it together.  And I mean, I don’t see any weakness in losing it or showing emotion, my thing is I just want to be strong for my family and with everyone being in so much pain I don’t want anyone having to worry about me.  So when you’re in the middle of talking about how you keep forgetting he isn’t there anymore and your voice suddenly sounds like Mr. Haney from Green Acres, there is definitely an art to reeling it back in and moving on.  But this is a man it will take me a very long time to get over.  It’s safe to say that after all of my disillusionment with the church and my flight from ministry, he’s one of the main reasons I’ve kept the faith that I do have left.  He was a great example, and he lived and laughed his way through the things in life that scare the hell out of all of anyone and even break many of us.

So I write ’em as they happen.  It’s cathartic and plus I would feel irresponsible if I didn’t include some reality in the midst of such genius as the Killers of Comedy writeup.  And as one era ends, another begins……I’m getting married next month, and and I can’t think of a happier event to come in on the coattails of something this rough.  We’re really starting to get excited about it……my fiance’s friends and family had her bridal shower in Richmond over the weekend, and she’ll be here this week so that my family can have one for her on Saturday.  Then next month it’s off to Savannah……and at the end of August, I’m out of a job!  YAY!  Funny, but you just have to take the good with the bad…it’s not like I’m going to be homeless, I’m pretty sure I’ll have a new job before August hits, and then of course there will be two of us sharing the financial woes instead of just one.  I’m glad she got to meet my grandfather, I think the last time we were all together was during a family Bingo night….so that was as good as it gets.  And as shocked as they all are, I think my whole family will be blown away that I’m actually getting married before I’m 40. 

So happier times ahead, and I’ll try to think of something truly absurd between now and the wedding weekend…….

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Killers of Comedy!

Not exactly “news” for those of you who read my blog with any regularity, but I am a devoted fan of the Howard Stern Show (yes, I know, I only have On Demand via Time Warner because I’m afraid of the havoc an actual Sirius subscription would wreak on my life).  Howard was syndicated here in KC for a short period in the 90’s, and other than that my only exposure to the show was on E! and during trips to the East Coast or phone conversations with my Joisey buddies.  I liked his books, his movie, and have always generally loved his brand of precisely calculated non-censorship.  In my opinion, he is without question the greatest interviewer in history……at least when I take my extreme attention deficit disorder into consideration.  I visit the website daily for the rundown of the show and giddily turn to Time Warner Channel 121 every day to see what they have uploaded after midnight.  I promise you, it is much, much smarter entertainment than many people give it credit for. 

So with all of that said…..in my experience talking about my Stern love with others, there are three basic reactions…. #1) The eye roll (usually from self-professed “liberals” who think the show is only about degrading women or the mentally disabled, and pretend to be anti-censorship until, God forbid, something offends THEM!), #2) “Yeah, used to love watching him on E!”, and #3) Real fans of the show, who are surprisingly from all walks of life.   To be honest, to avoid offending real superfans I’ll admit that I’m somewhere between #2 and #3.  I just haven’t had regular access to the old terrestrial radio shows, but the old replays on In Demand have incredible depth and breadth…..so I can have great fun discussing the show unless it’s with one of those rabid archive genies who dismiss you unless you are a 25 year never-missed-a-show fan. 

So Howard Stern In-Demand was running a special 99 cent weekend about 2 years ago or so, and I thought “what the hell”…I knew my girlfriend was moving out and I’d have a happy, peaceful, psych0-free bachelor pad where I could sit around in my drawers and laugh my head off, AND I’d soon be recovering from gastric bypass surgery and would have plenty of free time.  Within ten minutes into my 99 cent weekend I was hooked…….hooked I tell you.  Soooooo much better than the old censored E! shows, plus the immediate gratification….watch it whenever you want 24X7.  The Beetlejuice Retrospectives, Uncut Handcuffed To Jeff The Drunk footage, the Alec Baldwin interview……..Artie Lange’s weight crisis, George Takei’s visits…..Artie “coming out” to George…..The Roasts, Richard and Sal (and Sal’s sham of a marriage)…..pretending that replays of a Leon Spinks interview is actually Leon calling in to ask questions.  Of course, there’s the Sybian, but as an ex porn king it’s never been that big of a novelty to me……unless the chicks visiting are from Penthouse, the nude entertainment is very, very hit and miss.  And you constantly ask, “what’s real and what’s bullshit” as the minutea of staffer’s lives are revealed, leaving no detail unturned……possibly, but you never know, it is a masterfully crafted charade.  

SO AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT……the “Killers of Comedy” came to Kansas City a week ago Friday… a little detail that somehow escaped me until about 2 days before the show.  Still, I did manage to score a 4th row center seat at Harrah’s Voodoo Lounge, which was a sure sign the show would be woefully underattended….and it was.  The lineup of Stern Show staffers and whack-packers varies from town to town, with east coast shows obviously getting more of a selection.  We got The Reverend Bob Levy, Shuli, Yucko the Clown, Richard Christy, Sal Governale and Beetlejuice……not shabby. 

For me the show was just as much about environment as it was content.  Don’t get me wrong, I got some HUGE laughs throughout the evening, but as I stated before the show didn’t sell very well, so it was a small handful of people who actually knew the show and I think we were very outnumbered by people who got free tickets off of the radio or got comp tickets for being regular casino patrons.  THOSE PEOPLE and the visibly upset members of the Voodoo Lounge Staff who had NO CLUE what bomb was about to drop made it just as much fun for me as getting to scream at Beetlejuice “Hey Beet, is Artie a fag?”…to which I think he replied something barely intelligble like “Hey fuck you pal I don’t know nothing but you the one taking it up the ass!”.  So yes!  Racism, sexism, homophobia, beastiality, pedophilia……and probably necrophilia!  If you are even passingly familiar with any of these guys, yeah, you know you’re going to hear at least one white guy use the n-word and women in the audience are going to be asked some of the most intimate questions one can possibly imagine.  That’s the schtick, it’s not high art……unless you’re me and you really believe that this Theatre of the Absurd is a very, very valid form of entertainment far above the liberal and conservative fundamentalist idiocy that asks “now when they say that stuff, how do you know some drunk in the audience isn’t going to bash in some gay kid’s head and tie his body to a fencepost?”.  It’s always the same question….and if you talk to these lunkheads long enough, the next thing that follows is the Hitler-bomb.  So I usually just respond, “Gee, I didn’t even think of that!  I was so busy running out of that show to hurry and abduct a five year old that I didn’t even consider the harm that this humor can do!”.  See? Genius!  That type of humor just writes itself!  Seriously, I promise you that what passes for the gentrified type of humor safe enough for the masses coming to you in the fall lineup is WAY more dangerous than jokes about Shuli looking like an escapee from Dachau.  Everything in moderation…….even moderation.

So we all got the warning about no flash photography and no heckling before Shuli started the show.

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No heckling?  I guess the definition of heckling at a KOC show is “do not wing beer bottles at their heads”….because the fucking CORNERSTONE of these shows is interacting with the comics and trading verbal abuse.  Now, compared to footage I’ve seen from some Jersey shows, the KC crowd was nothing but angelic and very well mannered. So much so that the comics were really trying to get us going.  I think overall, for such a small group, we were respectable.   I got a response to my “Taco Tico” shoutout from Shuli, so that felt good.  It WAS funny to overhear bartenders hissing about “that stuff just isn’t even FUNNY!”…. and watch the Harrah’s suits congregate over by the side the stage to keep a close eye on how things progressed.  Not exactly Gavin whatisname from Bush who will be here next week, huh fellas?

 As a comic and emcee, Shuli delivered, and next up was Yucko…..I think.  I won’t go into the actual material too much, but I will say that I was lucky enough to be sitting right in front of a Stern fan who definitely eclipses my dedication to the show.  Funny story…..as I was walking into the casino some guy was standing there and looked right at me and mumbled something.  I did what I normally do in that situation in a  place like a casino……I kept walking.  I hate casinos, I think that hospitals and funeral homes are less depressing and cater specifically to the distraught, the marginalized and the mentally ill……so no, not going to ask some guy “huh?”….especially since the concealed carry law specifically states you can’t take your weapon into a casino.  But I kept seeing this guy as I walked over to the Voodoo Lounge, and then he was in the bathroom and then IN THE BAR next to me….AND THEN, as luck would have it…..IN THE FUCKING SEAT DIRECTLY BEHIND ME.  So long story short, he ended up being a cool guy and was eyeballing me because he thought I was Benjy Bronk from the Stern show.   I was flattered AND offended equally……I’m not a vain man, but Benjy?  Really?  So anyway, he posts over on the Stern Fan Network and apparently he wasn’t the only one who thought they were having a Benjy sighting.  Pretty hilarious, actually.

So this is how Yucko greets trick or treaters…..weiner through a plate full of candy……

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Next up came Sal Governale and then Richard Christy…….

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Not a whole lot to add about their sets other than the fact I really do think Sal is a total dick.  I know that the wrapup show guys have described him as someone who is likeable in person but does not have any semblance of endearing charm on stage.  The second part I can completely agree with……he just comes off like “hey, how great is it to see ME?”…..and then continues making references to parts of Kansas City he’s obviously never visited….talking about how “dark Raytown is, even during the day”….and I’m all for some good old fashioned racist humor, but at least get accurate information about the town you’re in or you’ll end up coming off like…….Sal Governale.  Oh, and OF COURSE he’s the ONE GUY who didn’t visit the merch table after the show for autographs and pictures.  Richard was cool though, he’s just a likeable kind of guy and he’s from the area….small town metalhead who has made the semi-bigtime.  I had the honor of stumping him buy yelling out the name of his movie “Supertwink”, to which he replied something like “well thank you sir, I think you and I are the only ones who get that reference, not sure where to go with that one”.  He also went on a funny rant about his love of heavy metal and the years and years he went without getting laid, going at an audience member with something like “okay there Mr. Pussygetter, maybe you were getting laid, but can you say that you’ve jerked off on a lampshade in Liepzig, Germany?  Didn’t think so!”.  

Next up was a very, very, VERY drunk Rev. Bob Levy, who was perhaps the most interactive with the audience.  And by interactive, I mean he had some serious questions about the sex lives of audience members.    At the end, he and Shuli bring out Beetlejuice for a round of Q&A with the audience, and THEN the “finale”….which if I understand correctly is either the Reverend eating bleu cheese off a woman’s butt or Beet getting flown into a woman’s butt to enjoy some whipped cream they spray on there.  So the first “volunteer” from the audience ended up being a third grade teacher who had NO CLUE what was going to happen to her……so she bailed pretty quick….

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NEXT VOLUNTEER was this drunk Amazon whose even drunker husband talked her into going up and getting prepped…….she balked, big time, but between her husband and the fellas she was about to go for it……right before the suits who were waiting in the wings came over and SHUT THAT FUCKER DOWN!  Too funny…….I’m pretty sure some of the audience and some staff members suffered signs of post-traumatic stress the next day. 

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All in all, all incredibly filthy jokes aside, the guys all seemed cool as hell when we were chatting at the merch table.  I was telling Bob and Shuli I wished KC could have represented better for them and that they’d still come back…..they sounded happy enough with the crowd, so I hope to see them again soon.  

Bob, Me and Shuli…..

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Me and a smiley Richard…..who I learned after hugging him that he may be suffering from a case of the MRSA due to an untreated sore……..

 

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And last but not least……the one and only miracle of humanity…..Beetlejuice.

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Anyway, rambling on like a bitch here……it was a lot of fun to see these guys I’ve been following for the past few years, and they all seemed like dudes I’d be more than happy to drink with……or go do some hate crimes!

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A Good News/Bad News Kind of Thing…

 

Why yes, I AM your typical blogger for disappearing for so long……but a lot has been going on since I got out of the hospital. 

First of all, in true corporate fashion that demands fewer and fewer people make more and more of the money, my company decided in its shortsighted wisdom that replacing my entire team with “global resources” would be the right thing to do.  Paying Mexican and Brazilian employees 25 cents on the dollar is the trend right now, even though a lot of knowledge and expertise goes out the door when you downsize the domestic talent.  I’m not saying that international employees don’t have a lot of talent, but the problem is the cuts generally go so deep and happen so quickly that nobody in upper management realizes exactly what they are losing when they replace 5yr-25yr employees with people who have zero knowledge of the company or processes.  Throw in the language and cultural differences, the pitfalls of everyone working remotely and relying on Skype or Voicepulse technology, and ultimately, any “savings” are a wash because of the learning curve and interim loss in quality. 

Anyway, it could have been a lot worse….we could have been out the door immediately, but we’ll have our jobs until the end of August, then a severance package along with medical benefits after that.  In the meantime, guess what?  We get to train our replacements!  And of course…. we’re all very eager to do that.  It’s going to be pretty interesting to see the hell that breaks loose between now and August, but the company covers itself…..you can do your job or leave immediately and lose severance.   Not all is lost, it’s still possible to sandbag and “do your job”, and I’ve got at least one lead on a new job…..the trick will be to work long enough to still get the severance payout and transition right into new work.  Ultimately, I think the change will be good, I would have stuck with this gig forever, but now I can start thinking about how to put my masters degree to work.  Speaking of which, the one bright spot in all of this is that since they’re laying us off they can’t ask anyone to pay back any tuition money they gave us like they could if we left on our own.  That’s a net savings of about 30K in my direction……they could have hired a shit-ton of global resources with that money.

So that’s the bad news……..

The GOOD news…..and this is pretty crazy good news (although not new for many of you)…….  it has been almost a year since first meeting the C.H.U.D. out in DC, and well over a year since we first “met” after I posted about my Sopranos dinner last year.  There has been a ton of travel between Richmond and Kansas City since then, and honestly, I just haven’t been as comfortable and happy with anyone else as I have with her.  It has been the kind of relationship that makes you ashamed of all of the past ones, but I guess all of those mistakes make you the person that you are.  When you are my age and have never been married, you have learned enough to know when you find the right person.

So with that said…… I’M GETTING MARRIED!   Yes, you have all been witnesses to the pre-surgery, the recovery, the ensuing learning curve and madness, the ramblings, the travels, the drinking, the major events, the courtship, and now…..the engagement.  Soon to be followed by….the marriage.  Since we’re from different parts of the country, we’re going to make it a destination wedding, a very small one.  Just my parents and a couple of family members and friends, and the same with her.   The event will happen in June in Savannah, Georgia, in one of those cool historic squares.  She’s got a great engagement ring, my wedding band is on the way, the square and hotel are booked, we’ll all have dinner at Paula Deen’s the night before the wedding….we’ve thought of it all!  We’ll be in Kansas City for my 40th birthday, and she’ll be moving up here at the beginning of August. 

Honestly, despite all the layoff headaches, I couldn’t be happier.  I’m looking forward to getting married to someone I truly love and who is a real partner.  And the fact that she puts up with my most demented humor is a plus.  We watched Gummo while I was in Richmond last week, and I have her quoting the junkyard scene…….so sweet.

More about all of this as time goes on….. I know this is a much shorter post than usual, but I was feeling bad about not sharing a couple of huge events.  Hell, I was in Richmond for over a week and didn’t even take the time to share about that…..but it WAS fun packing our wedding registries and shopping for my cool tungsten and carbon fiber wedding band. 

Anyway, as the office madness gets worse I’m sure I’ll come up with something to share.  Tonight, I will have the HONOR of attending the “Killers of Comedy” show at the Voodoo Lounge.  For those of you LOSERS who don’t worship at the altar of Howard Stern, it’s a comedy extravaganza featuring the genius of such people as The Reverend Bob Levy, Richard Christy, Sal Governale, Shuli, Beetlejuice and Yucko the Clown.  I know, between this and the marriage thing I’m just one lucky bastard……..

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I Love Dilaudid More Than ALL of You!

 

Morphine makes me very, very sick, so what a blessing it was to find out that its genetically modified twin, a replacement for medically administered heroin in the early 20th century, makes me so so happy…… like floating on baby angel clouds filled with fluffy sausage gravy, held aloft by swaying hookers who are reminiscent of many of the better 90’s porn stars…..and every thought you have is hilarious and genius and peaceful and kind….dilaudid is arguably the greatest invention in the history of mankind.

Shit, I guess I’m getting ahead of myself here. I forgot to mention how great it is at masking soul-cauterizing pain.  It really is, and I guess that’s about the only way you can get it legally. 

So rewind to last Monday night (and this probably will get way more medical than I’ve gotten in a while)…..I got home from a meeting around 9:30 or so, hung out for a while watching tv and talking on the phone, went to bed around midnight and woke up at 1am or so thinking “damn, I haven’t had a case of gut-rot constipation like this in quite a while”.  At 3 or 4am I started thinking “damn, this is getting worse”.  I had a pretty good idea what it was and after going on WebMD it clinched it….at least for me.  Fucking gall bladder.  Post-gastric bypass patients have about a 30% chance of gall bladder issues within the first couple of years of surgery, so I guess I just got lucky.  I waited for a couple of hours to see if the pain would pass, but it only got worse, so I called my mother and had her take me to the emergency room. 

It isn’t like me to ASK to go to a doctor, much less an emergency room, but when you are in that kind of pain you’re going to do whatever it takes to make the pain stop.  I knew at a minimum I had a couple of hours between the time my mom picked me up and any pain medication I had coming my way….so that was one long ass drive to Overland Park, followed by checking in, waiting in the waiting area, and telling six different people exactly the same thing over and over.  The good thing was, as soon as I told the first nurse the symptoms “agonizing, nagging pain in my lower-right abdomen that travels through to the back” they put me in a real exam room instead of one of those little ER closets.

Once the doctor came in and fucking tortured me by poking my stomach until I about punched him in the face, he agreed with my WebMD assessment that it sounded like my gall bladder.  Well no shit doc, I thought maybe it was just my period.  So after the blessing from the Pope about ninety minutes after arriving at the ER, they hooked me up to the IV and gave me my first dose of pain medication.  I had to go and get a sonogram, so the nurse said she’d wait until I got back to give the the REAL stuff, but the hydrocodone in the IV did help to take the edge off.

You know you are in for surgery when the lab tech doing the sonogram goes back and forth between you and the screen with a weird look on her face, asking you “you haven’t had any problems relating to your gall bladder before now?”.  Nope, now get me back to the little room with the good dope.

Back to the little room for some bad news and some good news…..bad news was the sonogram came back positive for one f’d up gall bladder, so surgery was imminent.  The good news was that the same surgeon who did my gastric bypass would be doing my gall bladder, and it would be arthroscopic.  It was around this time that I was administered my first dose of dilaudid (which the nurse delayed until she knew I was being admitted because it might make me a little “woozy”).  Now there was a time in the mid-90’s when I may or MAY NOT have tried something like dilaudid, I can’t admit that here one way or the other, but if I DID do it I never put it in my vein, just capsule form.  Well she put this shit in my IV, and it was pretty much exactly like how you hear any heroin junkie describe their first fix…..your eyes dim a little bit as your pupils dilate, your face goes flush with a light sheet of sweat, you get a sudden wave of nausea in your gut that lasts for about a minute (I guess with heroin you actually puke), and then…..sweet magical pharmaceutical love and happy ridiculousness.  Bad music that isn’t really there…..stuff like Mac Davis’ “Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me”, which is a hilarious and stupid song you’re chuckling about one minute, and then the next the bittersweet realization that “oh shit, what if she gets HOOKED on me?”……..and then you’re like, “shit, fuck this place, gall bladder stopped hurting, I’m ready to go bowling or something!”.   So yeah, this is basically the greatest shit that has ever been invented in the history of mankind. 

Once I was safely in my room, waiting for my weird specific-drug-seeking roommate to get discharged, we waited……and waited….AND WAITED to hear when I’d actually have surgery.  The debacle that we watched play out from around noon until 9pm reminded me of so many elements of my Masters Degree in Organizational Psychology…….on one hand you can’t get too mad at any one person in a hospital because there are a million little interdependent beaurocracies at play trying to get things done.  On the other hand, you don’t want to take one person’s word for shit.  I had a very nice nurse assigned to me all day Tuesday, probably too nice to be trusted.  In short, after the ER discussion with the doctors we were under the impression that my surgery may happen at any time, but if the nurse had actually followed up with the surgeon’s office instead of waiting to hear from them, she would have found out that due to the level of inflammation they wanted to wait at least a day, maybe two, before they were going to take it out. They wanted to give me a ton of IV antibiotics and let the gall bladder settle down some first.  So about eight or nine Tuesday night we found out what we could have or should have known at noon.  Me being me, I DID track down that stupid nurse the next day and give her one of THESE…   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t245tAdax_w  .  But that really was the only hitch in an otherwise pleasant stay.  The nurses and aides were great.

I forgot how often they bug you to take your vitals and assorted crap when you’re in the hospital, but it was still nothing like gastric bypass.  Mainly, it’s just boring as hell, but these days they have a ton of tv channels including in-demand movies and cheesy video games.  PLUS you have high-grade pharmaceuticals to look forward to every few hours.  The funny thing about THAT is, you can have hardcore shit like dilaudid more often than hydrocodone (which I started taking after surgery).  Before surgery, a dose of dilauded every few hours was more than enough….I was feeling no pain.  But after surgery I was a fiend because the pain was just atrocious….and the nurse would be like “well I can’t give you any more hycrocodone for thirty minutes, but I can give you dilaudid right now”.  Why yes, I’d love some of that……then thirty minutes later they’d come in and go “you still need the hydrocodone?”.  Who did they think they were asking?  Were they being rhetorical?

So anyway, as far as pain goes they never shut up about “if you had to rate it on a scale from 1 to 10…”.   When I first came into the ER, considering I know what kidney stones feel like, I rated the pain at a solid 9.  After the shot of dope, it was down to around a 1.  That is pretty much where it stayed, with intermittent jabs of pain and cramping, until I had surgery the next morning (last Wednesday).  AFTER surgery is a different ballgame. First of all, I woke up too soon in recovery and was literally weeping with pain….it was unbelievable, probably the worst pain I’ve ever felt including anything from kidney stones.  It was so bad that I was having a panic attack and hyperventilating, shaking, freezing, just generally freaking out.  But the folks in recovery are real professionals….no matter how bad I got they kep telling me to keep breathing deep and let the pain meds start working.  It must have been about ten minutes and five shots of meds later, but I started calming down.  I actually apologized for freaking out and the nurse just went “don’t worry, everyone does that, they just usually aren’t awake enough to remember it”.   So overall, recovery totally sucked. Bad.  PLUS, once I got back to the room the pain was WAY worse than before surgery.  I know there are a million different reasons for that, but I had gotten so used to my fun little dilaudid haze. 

After I had my surgery, my main nurse was pretty new to the hospital…she was totally nice and very professional, but no fun at all.  This is when I found out the weird legalism when it comes to getting regular doses of painkillers….you can have dilaudid every 3 hours, but hydrocodone you can only have every 4 hours…which makes no sense, hydrocodone is like aspirin in comparison.  And I know I was sounding like a junkie because I had that shit down to the minute as far as what I could have and when….but the pain was very unexpected. 

So the new nurse was great, but man she stuck to the rules.  Since I’d had gastric bypass she even stuck to the “post gastric bypass diet” for me…..meaning, I could have sugar free jello, but I could also have full-sugar juice…which made no sense to me.  When shift change came around on Wednesday night, my night nurse really pissed her off.  Like I mentioned, they bug you to tell them what your pain was like on a scale from 1 to 10, and after surgery, dilaudid or no dilaudid, my pain didn’t drop below a 5 at any time.  When my nurse came around to introduce her night replacement, the new nurse goes “I’ve heard you’ve been having some issues with your pain.  You say it’s about a 5?”.  “Yes”.  “Would you like it to get below a 5, I can call the doctor to see if he’ll let me up your dosage of dilaudid?”.  HALLELUJAH!  HALLELUJAH!  So my day nurse looked plenty pissed, but again, was that a rhetorical question?  Long story short, they upped my dilaudid dosage and at that point every 2 hours I was either getting shot with that or hydrocodone.  PLUS, the new nurse goes “you want some normal jello, that sugar free is terrible”.  “YES!”   “Well, how many do you want?”.  So she was basically a rock star, getting me the full sugar jello and all the pain meds.  Sure, I figured I’d be going through withdrawal once I got home and all I had was liquid hydrocodone, but fuck it, I was in for-real pain.

The floor I was on happened to be the same one where I recovered from my gastric bypass, it was the bariatric floor, so with my huge post-surgery weight loss success, I was kind of a rock star with the staff.  Honestly, it felt great to be able to talk to the nurses about how I was doing, especially since they see so many failure stories come back for emergency surgery related to people basically being total dumbasses.  I won’t go into an extensive description of my new roommate who showed up on Wednesday evening for a couple of reasons…first, it would take too long, and second, the dude had colon cancer and was back in for surgery that reversed the procedure that forced him to void in a bag.  Cancer or no, the dude came off as a TOTAL FUCKING DOUCHE when he first checked in, because the first thing he mentioned to the nurse was “I was supposed to have a private room”.  Then he asked why he was on this floor instead of the cancer floor, and the nurse explained how there was no room up there and this was the bariatric floor….to which he replied “I guess you have to be politically correct and say that, you can’t just say you put me on the FAT FLOOR”.  So that’s how that started, and he was a douche, but by the next day I had worked my magic on him and he ended up being an okay guy.  He’d lost 90% of his entire colon and rectal area due to cancer, so I gave him SOME slack……but if that motherfucker had been in there for an appendectomy, my ass would have been on CNN.  Trust me.

I know, I’m going on and on, the word count is soaring, but this was kind of an eventful thing for me….first time back in the hospital since my gastric bypass.  I got home last Thursday afternoon and used my my pain meds by Sunday, but honestly, the recovery has been a very quick and forgiving process.  And once you’ve had dilaudid, there is no going back.  This crap they sent me home with was like Flintstones Vitamins compared to that.  But I’m doing great, can drive my car again, am heading out to dinner tomorrow night and back to work on Friday.

In all seriousness, if there is one thing I can say I’m thankful for other than family to babysit my sorry ass when I’m in a bad way, is the fact that I managed to make to to the Platte County Sheriff to get fingerprinted for my concealed carry permit BEFORE all hell broke loose late last Monday night. 

So as far as the general public is concerned, I guess it’s good for all of you that I don’t have regular access to dilaudid AND a permit to carry a large caliber concealed firearm.

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Valentine Dinner….and Firearms!

When I think about it, I haven’t really “cooked” a proper meal for more than just myself since last summer, so a Valentine Dinner at home was just the thing last weekend.  I’ve had maybe one “good” Valentine’s day in my adult life… most of the time I’ve either been single, recently broken up or living through the final death rattle of a relationship.  So this was a great year……breakfast with the parents, a trip to a huge gun show, and finally a relaxed trip to the grocery store followed by an even more relaxed few hours preparing the meal.

I’m more than a little OCD when it comes to cooking…..I’m kind of psycho when it comes to the planning stages.  Once I’ve got a dinner on the calendar, I start by going through most of my cookbook library to get ideas, and this time I was lucky enough to have a partner in crime.  We spent a couple of days going through my books and back issues of Bon Appetit, and came up with the following dishes for at-home Valentine comfort food goodness…..

Spinach Salad w/Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

 spinachsalad

This is a wonderful steakhouse standard and easy to make.  When a major component of a salad dressing is bacon grease, how bad can it be?  The thing is…..you only want to make enough so that you can eat all of it at once.  Once it cools and the bacon grease sets up there really isn’t a good way to warm it up without ruining the fresh spinach.

Caramelized Onion Toast

onionbread

Here’s a winner and it’s one of those things that is even better the next day.  We found this recipe in Tyler Florence’s Ultimate cookbook, and I highly recommend both the book and this recipe.  It’s basically just a baguette covered with a mixture of caramelized onions, thyme, chopped anchovy fillets sliced kalamata olives and parmesan cheese.  I thought I used too much anchovy, but the flavor mellowed out a lot by the next day and even my family loved it when I took the leftovers to family bingo the next day. 

Mashed Potato Casserole

potatocasserole

Another winner…..it’s basically like eating a twice baked potato without the skin.  Pretty simple dish too….just russet potatoes, bacon, green onions, butter, heavy cream and smoked gouda.  I think pretty much any cheese would work in this dish, I really didn’t get that much of the smoked gouda flavor from it, so no sense in spending the money on a specialty cheese next time.  Another dish that is even better the next day.

Beef Filet w/Morel Sauce

steaks

Under the thick blanket of creamy morel mushroom sauce are two prime beef filets that were pan seared and finished in the oven.  Since surgery I’ve gotten more and more into good steaks at home…..the whole protein helps satiety and since I can only eat a few ounces at a time it’s way more economical than it used to be.  It’s a very simple and quick dish to make….all that’s in the sauce is rehydrated morels, butter, heavy cream, tarragon and green onions.  I usually prefer ribeyes, but with all of the fat they wouldn’t do well with this sauce….the filet is the perfect match.

Bananas Foster

bananasfoster

Well, this is what was left in the pan after we’d already eaten dessert…..I forgot to get a nice picture, but you can trust me when I say this is one hell of a great Valentine dessert.  Super easy to make, and extra fun because you get to set it on fire.  We picked up some of the new Shatto farms vanilla ice cream to go with it, and it tastes exactly like homemade.  This was very tasty, but too rich for me.  Between the butter, brown sugar and the ice cream, I did get some of the shaky sweats for a little while….but it was worth it.

So our first Valentine’s Day together was a smashing success….a great dinner followed by watching Mostly Martha. Plus, my girlfriend survived my OCD behavior while we were cooking and was very supportive.  It’s pretty cool to think about how this time last year I was doing my Sopranos dinner, and how that basically was the beginning of my current relationship…..and now we had the opportunity to spend Valentine’s Day cooking in that same kitchen.  It’s so cute I could just die.

Speaking of cute and dying……sure, I hate sports, am a damn liberal, watch shows like Project Runway, love to cook and sample fine wines, wear expensive shoes, but you know what else I’m all about?  GUNS GODDAMMIT!   So say hello to the newest addition to my family….

The Springfield XD Sub-Compact 9mm

springfieldxd

I don’t know if my love of firearms has come up before on this blog, and I’m not what you’d consider a “gun nut”, but I do love some shootin’.  I’ve planned for a long time to take my concealed carry class here in Missouri, but wanted to wait until Kansas allowed it so I’d still be able to carry when I crossed the river.  They finally passed the law last year, and I had my class on Saturday.  Now all I have to do is run by the Platte County Sheriff’s office this week and submit my fingerprints so that they can send them off to the FBI for a thorough background check, and shortly after that I’ll get my certificate to take to the DMV so I can get my CCW designation added to my driver’s license.  I’m not the type of guy who walks around hoping for trouble, and I don’t have doomsday scenarios in mind like so many of the anti-Obama folks who were at the gun show last weekend.  There have been a couple of times in my life when I’ve been at home while someone was trying to break in through the front door….fortunately for me and MUCH more fortunately for them, either a neighbor or passing car scared them off both times.  Those moments are nothing like the movies…even with a gun you’re scared out of your mind.  I do love guns, but I have a very fearful respect for them, and I don’t take the massive responsibility of ownership or concealed carry lightly. 

So I’ve been researching sub-compact pistols for the past month or so, trying to decide on which one to buy.  I went back and forth on a few different brands and models, and a couple of different calibers.  After shooting a couple hundred rounds down at my local firing range, I settled on the Springfield XD Sub-Compact in 9mm.  I’ve got a lot of experience shooting large caliber handguns like .45’s, .357’s and .44 magnums, but in addition to the ammunition being much cheaper, the 9mm is easier to control.  I know a lot of guys who insist that the 9mm doesn’t have enough knockdown power for personal protection, but unless you’re using a round specifically designed to not exit the body on the other side, the knockdown force is going to be limited in any caliber.  One thing that sold me on the XD vs. other pistols from companies like Glock and Kahr is the additional safety features.  Many compact autoloaders from the aforementioned companies don’t come standard with added safeties, the Glock has a trigger safety and that’s it, and I think the Kahr’s only safety is “keep your finger off the trigger”.  Granted, a gun is only as safe as its owner, but the grip and trigger safeties on the XD just give me added peace of mind.  Unless you depress the safety at the back of the grip AND the one built into the trigger, the gun will not fire.  You can throw it against a wall, use it to hammer nails (neither are recommended practices), and it will not fire even with a round in the chamber.  I know a lot of people carry their weapon “hot”….meaning, they keep a round in the chamber when carrying.  Maybe someday I’ll live to regret the extra half second it takes to rack one into the chamber, but I don’t like keeping a live round in the chamber….just my personal preference and added peace of mind.  After adding a magazine extension so that my little finger has a place to rest, the XD ended up being really comfortable to hold and shoot for such a small gun.  It comes with one standard 10rd clip that will be most comfortable in a concealable holster, as well as a high-capacity clip that holds 16 rounds.  I used it to qualify during my class over the weekend, and I look forward to many, many hours of target practice…..if, God forbid, I ever had to use it on something other than paper, I want to be able to thread a needle with the damn thing.  For anyone in the KC area who is thinking about taking a class, my instructor was great and I’d love to recommend him to you.  For a guy who was in Vietnam, spent a few decades as a cop and worked in the custom shop at Winchester, he’s very down to earth, funny and not at all what you picture when thinking of a firearms instructor.  He gave everyone in the class a huge dose of reality when it comes to the responsibilities of gun ownership, and I greatly appreciated it.

Anyway, sorry I’ve been such a slacker with the updates lately.  Before I post this I do want to recommend what is arguably the finest television show ever created……Eastbound & Down on HBO.  I’m a sucker for gratuitous profanity and the genius humor of Danny McBride (of Foot Fist Way and Pineapple Express fame).  If you have HBO, you need to watch this show.  And if you don’t have HBO….subscribe immediately.

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Apocalyptic Literature…..and Bingo!

So I guess that funerals where I have to mingle with the old church crowd aren’t the only things that get me into one of my religious tangents.  Apparently, insomnia kicks it into high gear as well.  At least it did last night as I lie there awake at 4am pondering the universe like the lovable oaf Hazel in Cannery Row, as he stared up at heaven from under that tree regretting his fortune of soon becoming President of the United States……

But here it is in a nutshell……what is it about our nature as human beings to over-simplify the complicated inexplicable stuff and render the simplest things impossible to explain?

Basically, what I’m talking about is the tendency church folk have to take something that theologians can’t truly explain and boil it down into something a retarded third grader can glean from such masterworks as “The Left Behind” series.  Seriously, all of my hatred towards that complete garbage aside…..Revelation just isn’t that easy to sum up, yet it’s the subject that always packed them to the rafters on Sundays when they knew ol’ Pastor Jed Clampett was going to dissect the finer points of how badly you would be tortured by the antichrist’s minions if you were stupid enough to miss the (pre-tribulation….of course) rapture.  Granted, it makes for good drama, and it’s been sixteen years since bible college for me so I’m beyond rusty……but nobody can really even say who authored the book of revelation, and more importantly, nobody can really make a definitive case for why IT made it into the canon while fifty other identical books (whose authors were unknown as well) were rejected at one of the many political conventions in the first couple of centuries A.D. where all of this crap was hammered out.  With such classic moments as a few Jewish leaders getting Song of Solomon included when they went….”oh yeah, it’s an allegory…it’s not just a love story….seriously….and if you throw it in we’ll go easy on you when the book of James comes up or something”.  Throw in the fact that much of what is spoken of in the book may have already happened in the first or second century A.D. in part of Palestine (“mark of the beast”, no buying or selling without it, etc.), and it further complicates a finite explanation of what it’s really saying.  For anyone who has suffered through Apocalyptic lit courses, you know what I’m talking about…..it sucks.  The only way to make it fun is to throw big pageants like the one here in Kansas City called “Tribulation Christmas” that chronicles of the lives of people left behind at Christmas, complete with some guy playing the antichrist and uniformed stormtroopers carrying firearms loaded with blanks that will scare just about anyone down to the altar call after Jesus comes out and throws Satan into the pit. 

So all I’m saying here is….the shit is oversimplified.  And in reality, if people are living the lives they claim to want to…..what does it really matter?  It’s good for scaring kids and doing some really lazy hit-and-run evangelism, but it doesn’t really do anything for church growth.  You’ll pack the house one day with an end-times sermon, but there is no net gain the next week when you’re preaching on Joshua-people or something. 

YET ON THE OTHER HAND……something as simple as the concept of grace is picked apart to the level where entire movements split off to create a new denomination.  What makes grace complicated?  Isn’t it all-encompassing?  I know that hackles raise when someone mentions “eternal security” or “once saved always saved”…..but what is the alternative, and why do people (badly) pick apart scripture in order to PROVE BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT that someone can indeed LOSE their salvation?   And in all seriousness, what exactly are the rules?  How much sin or lack of works constitutes complete salvation-loss?  And what constitutes the one explanation of “well maybe they were never saved in the first place”?  What tangible degree of belief can you put on someone who says they are a believer? 

I talk to a lot of people about this, it has always been a favorite subject of mine, and ultimately it boils down to control.  Apparently, people will just go wild and become libertines if you tell them that there is no limit on grace.  Sharing the gospel message with them and telling them it’s a lifelong journey to continually improve yourself within those guidelines apparently is not enough.  And that attitude begat “the rules”, and the rules begat picking and choosing what part of the gospel you should believe, and that begat the finger pointing that comes from ANYONE who is convinced THEY truly live a righteous lifestyle, and that begat everyone forgetting that EVERYONE is a sinner.  And honestly, chances are really good we do it every day on some level.  And in my humble and unorthodox opinion, THAT is the real point of the gospel……it’s the ultimate Catch-22….everyone is a sinner who should strive to live a better lifestyle, and we really all do sin (some sins are just way less obvious than others…which takes us back to the finger pointing), and as soon as we claim we have no sin…..well guess what, you just sinned!

Sure, lack of sleep makes me ramble, but I really don’t understand why it has to be so complicated.  If someone believes, their struggles and their path is between them and God, you can’t really judge them.  And this was normally always the point in the conversation where someone would bring up Hitler or child molesters…….”if they say they’re saved, but they keep gassing Jews or molesterin’ kids….”.  And yes, that argument would trump me and turn my world upside down…..and then I’d go buy tickets for Tribulation Christmas and pretend I didn’t masturbate at least once a day.  Because it’s those hidden and private sins that spare all Jews and children utter horror that make us the better Christians.  And THAT’S WHY THERE HAVE TO BE RULES!  Very finite and definite RULES……..you have to be like Rob Reiner, but instead of cigarettes it’s the gospel…..you do it for the children.  That’s sarcasm, by the way.  Just in case anyone didn’t catch it.  I know I can be painfully subtle at times, and it’s very hard to discern what I think.  There it was again….the sarcasm.  There aren’t any damn rules guys, it just isn’t that complicated.  So no, I won’t be hosting the twentieth anniversary party for “This Present Darkness”……I know you felt like I was going that direction for a minute.

But that’s about it from me, just some thoughts late at night while enjoying Howard Stern hammer on Bababooey about his poor choice of home theatre layout.  The good news is that the C.H.U.D. gets into town tomorrow night, and we have week of fun and intrigue planned.  Bluestem Happy Hour, Lidia’s w/the parents, me convincing her of the brilliance of Flight of the Conchords, an honest to god full-blown Gun Show, Dave & Busters, Valentine’s Dinner at home, and most importantly…….family Bingo night.  I know I’ve mentioned Bingo at least once, but it truly is a glorious occasion when you have about twenty people hunkered around a table trying to win all manner of prizes…… cereal, shampoo, trash bags, razor blades, salad dressing…the list is infinite and diverse….and people take it deadly seriously.

So I’ll be back sometime next week.  Time for some serious housecleaning and preparation.  I can’t sit here all day explaining the universe to you mouthbreathers!

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A Question for Full Gospel Believers…

Okay, I know I’m extremely delinquent on my post-holiday rundown, but a lot has happened since my return from Richmond, and I write about what’s on my mind…..

There really is a freakish amount of traffic hitting my blog from Google searches on  unsaved loved ones.  With the exception of my minibar post since Tony Bourdain’s DC show last week, the majority of my traffic has always been from my friends and people searching for answers about the unsaved.  I really do TRY not to be such a curmudgeon when it comes to addressing the formation of my Christian worldview, but it’s like Billy Jack said: “I want you to know….that I try.  When Jean and the kids at the school tell me that I’m supposed to control my violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent like they are, I try.  I really try.  Though when I see this girl…of such a beautiful spirit…so degraded….and this boy…that I love…sprawled out by this big ape here….and this little girl, who is so special to us we call her ‘God’s little gift of sunshine’…and I think of the number of years that she’s going to have to carry in her memory….the savagery of this idiotic moment of yours….I just go BERSERK!”. 

So considering all that has gone on with the loss of family members in the past few weeks, and in the spirit of the new year, I’ll try…..I’ll really try…(in THIS post)…to articulate a question that has been on my mind lately without the usual “treatment”.  To my friends and regular readers, I apologize for being so serious of late, but I have an honest question that goes out to those who consider themselves full-gospel, spirit-filled believers.  I know I focus on this topic a lot, but it continues to mystify me….

I’ve shared this story with a few of you, but to begin the journey to my eventual question, I have to start with what I consider the most shameful day of my stint as an Assemblies of God minister.  On Saturdays, we’d generally work at the church to get ready for Sunday, but it was never too busy of a day….we’d usually have to do a funeral, do rehearsals for whatever program we were working on, etc.  One Saturday I guess a few of the fringe-members of the church…..people who do stuff like take bullhorns to the bar district to preach on the corner on a Friday night…were going to go down to the Plaza and protest at the annual gay parade.  So with nothing else really going on, the senior pastor goes “hey, let’s go down there”.  Granted, I was one egocentric Torah-loving turn or burn human being back then, but there was something about holding up anti-gay signs that gave me pause….I never understood how the prospect of eternity in hell was a better motivator than topics like grace and compassion.   I REALLY didn’t want to go down there but was goaded into it, and sure as anything, when we showed up the serious street evangelist types gave us signs to hold up.  I can tell you this….out of all of the crap I did that made me unfit to be a pastor, and there is a laundry list of it, nothing sticks out in my mind like the looks on the faces of the men and women in the parade as they passed by our little group of protestors.  Sure, there was some (deserved) verbal abuse, but mostly we just got puzzled, if not amused, looks from people who may or may not have understood the glaring contradiction of some 350+ pound men telling THEM what sin was and how they should live.

Yes, I KNOW I’ve brought this up a bazillion times, and I KNOW that Christianity is about much more than the hot topic of homosexuality.  However, I haven’t been able to articulate it in the form of a simple question before now, and I’m hoping for a real answer from a black and white thinker who believes a sin is a sin.  I know there are a TON of you who stop by here, but I guess I never give you a chance to reply because I’m too busy with the sarcasm. 

As far as the whole gay “lifestyle” topic goes, I don’t need to hear scripture, I know all of that as well as any former exegete who spent an inordinate amount of time buried in his Hebrew/English and Greek/English lexicons.  The meanings of the scriptures quoted by evangelicals are at the very least debatable, but I’m willing to meet halfway here and just say that for the sake of my question…..GAY = SIN in both the Old and the New Testaments.  If you’ve made it this far, bear with me because I really want to think through this….

I still have many ties with evangelical/full gospel culture, and there are few things that get the big “NUH-UH!” as often as the topic of homosexuality.  If I live in a bizarre midwestern bubble and it’s different everywhere else, my apologies.  The gay topic just seems to be the one thing that every evangelical/fundamentalist/pentecostal can agree upon….it is wrong, it is sin, there is no room for interpretation, to even question that fact would be to give into the gay agenda, nobody is born that way, it is a lifestyle choice, it is an abomination, and most of all….you CANNOT be a born again believer and continue to live a homosexual lifestyle.  They believe it is sin, possibly demonic, and is something from which a person with this affliction needs deliverance.  Am I missing anything?  I think even the most moderate, media savvy evangelical’s “love the sinner” viewpoint would be covered here…..as would the most deplorable “god hates fags” rhetoric.  All of it is covered under the umbrella of “as it was in the days of Noah”…..

In short, if I’m understanding the viewpoint correctly….sin will send you to hell, and the prolonged, unrepentent decision to continue in a homosexual lifestyle despite the knowledge of what the gospel (for which you are accountable once you have heard it) has to say about it….is a damnable sin.  True repentance would mean turning from that lifestyle.  That is not to say you’d be perfect, maybe you’d fail at it, but as long as you TRULY repented and no longer immersed yourself in the lifestyle you could be saved.  On the other hand, if you are like Ray Boltz and believe you can be an openly gay Christian, you are fooling yourself.

Have I about covered it?  Aren’t the wages of sin still death?  By that I mean, if I lived in the aforementioned lifestyle and I contracted AIDS, and I did not TRULY repent and stop living that lifestyle before I died…..where would I spend eternity?  Rhetorical question, but again I think that even the most moderate evangelical would have to give a nod to my logic. 

So now, before the million dollar question, which I hope is not completely anti-climactic at this point, I go back to that day at the gay parade (with the understanding that an unrepentent, prolonged life of what the Bible considers sin will send you to hell)…..  and I think of the puzzled looks on some people’s faces as we protested their lifestyle choice, I ask this:

If a sin is a sin, what is the difference between living a gay lifestyle and dying of AIDS and living a gluttonous lifestyle and dying of a heart attack or stroke?

I know that may be a stretch for some, and others of you are sick of hearing me talk about it, but isn’t the lust of the flesh that drives someone to satisfy their sexual desires the same lust of the flesh that drives someone to satisfy their gluttonous desires?  And I say this as someone who literally had to have their stomach stapled in order to live until the age of 50….I know a million folks who would never smoke one cigarette or have one glass of wine, but they don’t think twice about gorging themselves into morbid obesity.  And nine times out of ten, they’d preach at a gay family member or church member, but they’ll watch their loved ones die of a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, or any number of weight related afflictions.  If you are controlled by your appetite, does it matter what sin you are feeding?  As two 350+ lb men holding protest signs, how different were we from the “out” homosexuals in the parade?  Using the Bible as the standard, weren’t we ALL examples of people who had completely lost control of their habits and given into a lifestyle of excess?

Now, anybody who knows me knows where I stand on all of this…..I don’t subscribe to the black and white interpretation of scripture.  I don’t know all of the answers, but I’ll always error on the side of grace (not libertinism).  In short, and I know this is where I’ll lose many of you, I absolutely think you can be gay and be a Christian.  I’ve seen the “sin” angle debated successfully in the affirmative and negative, so I’m not able to shed any new light on that….I simply think it’s a non-issue when you consider the real message of the gospel and the state of humanity.  We’re all extremely flawed, and I guarantee we all have something in our lives that would qualify as sin…some loss of self-control or something we do to excess without TRULY repenting….but a lot of those things are a lot easier to hide or rationalize.   I mention the whole gay thing because it’s such a hotly contested “sin”, and I counter it with gluttony because it is something I know about personally AND it’s as hard to hide as being flamboyantly gay. 

I hammer on this topic a lot not only because I like playing devil’s advocate, but because I think something that is sorely lacking in fundamentalist/evangelical culture is a sense of compassion and humility.  Admittedly, I target that culture without much of a sense of compassion OR humility…but I speak of what I know.  If the focus could shift from the business side of church and the numbers game, and being God’s army,  to a sense of self-awareness that really DOES include the “full gospel” instead of the sensationalized parts of it, it would go a long way in fixing such a broken church culture.  Everyone knows someone who is obese, but they’re more sensitive to them than someone who is gay …..because they generally know a lot more fat people than gay people.  I swear to you, I do not know how many people in the past few years, bigger than I EVER was at my heaviest, have talked about how digusting it is to be gay without the slightest sense of irony at their use of the word “disgusting”.  Trust me, if as many anti-fat comments came from pulpits as anti-gay ones, congregation numbers would shrink significantly, but I am 100% positive that particular sin is far, far, far more rampant in churches today than just about anything else.  That and closet porn use, but secret porn usage is one of the things you can’t quantify. 

Anyway, I’ll try not to bring this up again for a while, but at some point in the past few weeks I was finally able to come up with what I think is both a succinct and valid question worthy of a self-aware answer that falls outside the usual scripture-slinging and arrogance that are both hallmarks of evangelical culture.  If you believe the full gospel, and a sin is a sin…..how far off am I in saying that if you drop over dead of a heart attack due to a lifestyle of gluttonous excess, how different is that from any other sin-related death?  How many people do you know who  unabashadly hammer on one while practicing the other?  And don’t even bring up genetic predisposition or thyroid issues, because if that’s the case there is the whole gay gene thing to talk about…..

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On Being A Pastor…

 (This is a rare and thoughtful post from me, so if you’re looking for ranting, then just skip to the UPDATE near the bottom)

I was planning on doing a Happy New Year post upon my return from Richmond last week, and I’ll still do that because there is some funny stuff to share about Christmas light displays and my fear of flying, but approximately ten seconds after being picked up from the airport I found out that my uncle (my mom’s sister’s husband) had died at his home last weekend. 

I hadn’t spent much time with him over the last couple of years, but he was a big part of most of my life.  He was a Fire Captain and a genuinely funny guy.  I’d have to say the biggest things he inspired in me are my loves of argumentation and music.  Like me, he was someone who would debate just for the sake of it even if he didn’t feel that strongly about the topic, and the angle of playing devil’s advocate was just a bonus.  He was a truly smart guy and was one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever known…..and if you know me, you know what a premium I put on good conversation.  That is one thing about the guy that will be missed by everyone who knew him. 

So needless to say, last week was a rollercoaster.  I spent a lot of time with my cousin and his wife, who are expecting their first child in June, as well as my aunt.  I’m no stranger to performing funerals or dealing with the business aspects of them, and I was asked to do the service.  I know it had to cause some heartburn with my uncle’s side of the family, I’m sure they wanted their pastor to do it, but one of his son’s many responsibilities last week was to make that call and he asked me.  I don’t know why people think you have to have an active member of the clergy do a service to make it legit, maybe because they are better at keeping it together than family members during these times.  I knew the man very well and have a strong track record of keeping it together, so it was an honor to be able to deliver the eulogy. 

Overall, considering what a terrible time it was for my family, I don’t think the service could have gone any better.  Since he was a captain in the fire department, that was a huge part of what went on.  There was an honor guard, bagpipes, the last alarm, the bell service…..pretty heavy stuff, and it put a lot of pressure on me not to screw up.  Not that last week was about me, it wasn’t….it was about supporting his immediate family and getting them through the week…which added to the pressure.  There was a wealth of material to draw from as far as sharing hilarious stories as well as very serious memories, so the eulogy really wrote itself.  I don’t have any fear of public speaking, and while it’s probably not the most appropriate description of how it went down, I’d have to say “I killed”.  I’m very happy with the way things came together, and I really don’t know where my ability to completely detach in order to get the job done stems from.  I guess a lot of it comes from the experience of performing my own brother’s funeral, because when you live through something like that there is just this inner sense that tells you “if you live to be a hundred, you’ll be able to count the days in your life that were that dark on one hand”. 

Don’t get me wrong, I grieve.  I just have the tendency to do that on my own in my own way….at the times when you are surrounded by people who are visibly going through the stages of the worst human anguish, it is sobering.  It kills me to see members of my family go through that, I would have done anything to take the pain my cousin was going through to spare him.  He’s a good kid, a soft and kind kid, and nobody in their twenties should have to handle everything he did last week.  Sometimes I get worried that I’m missing something that most people possess…..kind of like if you watch Dexter and he talks about feeling alien watching people who feel emotions that he just doesn’t have.  I can be an emotional person, I have VERY strong feelings, passions, etc., but the weird thing is that I can be stoic and strong during times of tragedy and get totally pissed and frustrated over tiny things like locking my keys in my car or spilling a drink on the kitchen counter. 

So I guess the biggest point to make here is that it was strange to be back in “pastor mode”…. a period in my life that I know added to my ability to detach and keep my emotions in check so that other people can deal with loss the way that they need to.  I can’t say that I MISS being a pastor, or that I’d ever be one again, but there was something strangely comfortable and familiar about not only performing the service, but also playing liaison between my family and the funeral home in order to make things go off without a hitch.

Pastors, in general, are attention whores.  There is a weird combination of ego and the need to justify self image that makes the most renowned ones “successful”.   And the job is not rocket science….the hardest thing about it is the amount of time it can take, it can be a real juggling act.  If you have a decent personality, some people skills, can speak in front of people and have ANY grasp of the New Testament…..you can deliver a good sermon.  So if we’re being completely honest, that’s part of what allows them to take the reigns during tough times.  Plus, for some reason there is this instant respect and admiration that they get from parishioner’s……despite just being another man, whatever they say has credibility along the lines of when some celebrity waxes poetically about politics….. “well, Charlie Sheen has a hit tv show, so he obviously knows how we should handle Darfur”.  Fortunately in most cases, and unfortunately in a few, there is enough distance between me and my ministry days for any of that stuff to still be hanging over my head.  As everyone knows, weddings and funerals bring people from your past out of the woodwork, and I can’t count the number of people I ran into at the funeral home who were a huge part of my life since childhood at my church.  Most of my interactions were some real “blast from the past” moments….totally great to see them again and chat about the old days and what we’re doing now.  In the midst of so much sadness it was comforting.  On the OTHER end of the spectrum were the folks I knew from back in the day who either gave me a look like I was the biggest piece of shit on the planet, or COMPLETELY blew me off when I would smile and say hi to them.  Now, I realize that quitting a full time ministry position to attend college, and then later ending up managing an adult bookstore was a shock to many who knew me, even though it’s not like I set out to piss them off or destroy my relationship with the Creator.  But seriously, #1- that was all a long time ago, and #2- if I really am as “lost” as they think I am, then as upstanding Christian people it’s their responsibility to really kiss my ass and make me feel all welcome.  It was more funny than annoying to see grown people go out of their way to ignore me in a way where they made sure I SAW THEM ignoring me.  Screw them, I was there for my family and I promise you none of the local celebrity pastors who showed up to pay their respects could have done the eulogy that I did because they didn’t really know my uncle, it’s just a funny detail to share.  Every congregation has them….people who do enough volunteer work around the church to guarantee everyone has to put up with what true douchebags they are. 

So that was the closest to being a pastor that I’ve experienced since….being a pastor.  And there really couldn’t be a better cause, whatever you can do to take some of the burden off of your family is what it’s all about.  I’m lucky to have the family that I do, everyone pulled together to help out in any way they could. 

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that a local church made their facilities available to the family and firefighters for lunch after the service.  It was a generous gesture, but the main reason I bring it up is because it has been a LONG time since I stepped foot into what most would call a “mega” evangelical church.  It’s not one of those gazillion seat arenas, it probably seats a couple thousand, but it’s in an area of town where the core demographic allows it to be one of those ultra-modern and expensive non-denominational family fun centers.  I know that most people who have never really attended church would be weirded out by a good old fashioned pentecostal tent revival……but it couldn’t be as weird as what it’s like to walk into one of these neo-evangelical entertainment arenas.  You walk in and it’s like you’re walking into the huge reception area of a indoor stadium, complete with a bookstore/gift shop and snack bar, both fully equipped to take your Visa or Mastercard.  There is a commercial grade professional kitchen, special rooms where you can take your crying baby and still watch the service on a flat screen monitor, and lighting and rigging in the sanctuary that resembles a Broadway theatre.  There are all sorts of glossy posters announcing upcoming events like “Principles of Christian Finance Management with Dr. So and So”.  As I was leaving, some big Christian group was doing a sound check in the sanctuary, and their merch tables (complete with…jeans?) were being set up.  Evangelical Christianity is quite a racket, big business to be sure. 

I do enjoy taking the piss out of an industry that I consider the death of modern Christianity, because other than the Christian “branding” it is indistinguishable from any other segment of big business in America.  It’s all about customer service and core demographics, and an MBA would better serve their pastors than a Master in Divinity.  But as much as I love to hammer on it, what are they really hurting?  In the big picture, I do think it dumbs down modern Christianity to a point where it’s no longer about reaching the lost  as much as it is entertaining its customers and creating celebrities.  However…..what are churchgoers choosing to do with their spare time?  They’re going to church and doing church stuff, and as annoying as the shiny happy people can be, they truly are focused on something positive.  While they are out doing all this pop culture Christian stuff and promoting the church, I’m probably sitting at home watching Howard Stern.  I talk a lot of shit, but I don’t go and coordinate volunteers to host a luncheon for a grieving family on a Saturday afternoon.  The level of business professionalism, overall revenues and polished personas weird me out to my core, but if I’m being as open minded as I wish OTHER people were, I have to swallow my pride and admit that they aren’t the devils I pretend they are when I get on one of my rants.  Boisterous Evangelical Christian politicians?  A different story altogether….they never, ever get a pass and they have no place on this earth.

Anyway, not my usual type of witty reporting this week, but I’d be wrong not to include such a huge event in my life on my blog.  As I stated at the beginning, even though it will be very late, I do have some things to write about from my holidays in Richmond.  Going from the best possible vacation to family tragedy so quickly it gave me whiplash just took a lot out of me, but I’ll be back on my game at some point very soon.  I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year.

UPDATE…….  Man, I can’t believe I forgot to add THIS…. 

When I got home last Tuesday, found out about my uncle on the ride home from the airport, got home then went out to pick up my dog, went back home to take a shower……..then I went over to my grandparent’s house which is kind of like Mission Control for any major family events.  My aunt lives in St. Louis (she’s the one who gets me into events like the Nashville wine auction), and my cousin lives in Springfield where he goes to school….so there was some waiting around for them to get into town. 

I know I’ve gone on and on about my ex-girlfriend before, but I probably did not mention that she is the queen of psychic bad timing.  Seriously….you have never met someone who can do or say the worst thing at the worst time in your life….without even knowing what they are doing.  So I’m sitting at my grandparents, waiting to deal with some bad stuff, and my phone rings.  If you know me, you know that unless I know who is calling me when I look at the caller ID, I do not pick up.  Ever.  It just does not happen.  But this was a unique circumstance, so when I saw an 816 area code I went ahead and answered it.  And sure as shit…..it was my crazy goddamn ex-girlfriend…who I have not spoken to in months.  She hasn’t even left me a crazy distress message in at least six months, so I figured I’m done with that for good. But oh no.  I’m sitting at my grandparents with my grieving family, waiting for my uncle’s immediate family to show up, and this psycho calls me…….  for what reason, you may ask?  “HI, this is *****, one of your ex-fiances, and I know you quit taking my calls a long time ago, but I just moved because I lost my job and my apartment, and I went by your house to drop off a box of stuff….there were some cards you gave me at some point, and some things for your bathroom that I had before you made me move out…..”.  And she threw in the usual question about whether I’m still living in the same house…because apparently I’m so fucked by karma that I deserve to lose my house and my job after tossing her out like the fucking match girl….in her insane mind.  So this went on for all of thirty seconds, and I’m sitting there going “yep”, “nope”, “okay”, “thanks” as she rambles on incoherently and very uncomfortably.  And of course, this was all done under the premise of “I’m calling you with things that I promised to do because I keep promises, unlike YOU who promised to MARRY ME, and then you DIDN’T because you don’t believe in being a TEAM with a total PSYCHO!”  Okay, the psycho addition was just me, the rest is her.  A note to any bipolar psycho ex-girlfriends out there…..  just THROW. SHIT. AWAY.  Especially when it’s old Valentine or Christmas cards that your boyfriend gave to you, or little stupid knick-knacks to put in a bathroom.  And if you can’t bring yourself to throw it away or NOT call on the worst of all possible days…..then just kill yourself.  And I say that in the kindest way possible. Simply cease to exist.  Also, don’t stop by your ex’s grandparent’s house unannounced to say hi or call his parents late at night when they are on vacation.  Just a friendly tip, do with it what you will.  Anyway, I’m getting my edge back and wanted to share some good shit with you……

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Central Michel Richard…Washington, DC

 

I spent the weekend in DC with my girlfriend, we took a trip in lieu of giving each other a Christmas present, and I have to say….it’s good to be stupid, or slow, or easily impressed or whatever you want to call it.  Either some of that is true or I just luck out when it comes to having some of the best meals ever.  I know many of you have either read or listened to my rave reviews of various restaurants over the years, so here is another one…..chalk it up to my low standards or the fact that I really REALLY know how to pick ’em.

I’ll skip any lengthy history lessons about Michel Richard and his flagship restaurant Citronelle….because I don’t make it to DC often enough to justify the kind of dough it would take to eat there, and I’m too lazy to do any kind of internet research to make it sound like I know what I’m talking about.  Long story short, Central won the James Beard award for Best New Restaurant this year…and with the prices, attitude and flavors we experienced Friday night I have to say that we are all blessed with Chef Richard’s decision to open a restaurant for “normal” humans. 

The website describes it as “traditional American cuisine with a French flair”, and after visiting that translates to “artery clogging paradise” in Jerry-speak.  I was almost sad that we were experiencing freakishly warm weather for December, because this food is comfort food of the highest order…..perfect for holing up at your table for several hours and blocking out the real world. 

There are already a ton of reviews online, so I’ll just stick to what we ate vs. discussing the menu at length.  We had 8pm reservations on Friday night, and we arrived about 20 minutes early.  We were informed that they could seat us anytime we were ready, but after riding around on the Metro and walking down from Rocket Bar, we opted to sit at the bar for a few minutes and have a drink.  I’ve heard/read a lot about the specialty cocktails at Central, and had my heart set on a Bourbon Blackberry Cobbler cocktail I saw online…….but alas, they are no longer serving it.  That worked out just fine because I ordered the Bourbon and Maple Manhattan…. a mixture of Bulliett (sp?) Bourbon, Maple Syrup and a dash of orange bitters.  Not bad at all, and easy to replicate at home.

Next up….two major pieces of advice for anyone who is going to Central; when you reserve your table ask very nicely for them to make a note that you’d like to have a view of the kitchen, and if she is working that night ask if you can have Pamela as your server.  These two things will help to make the evening perfect.  Watching the constant action in a massive and well-oiled kitchen, and having a friendly, knowledgeable server who genuinely loves the restaurant and food in general (and in no way makes you feel like they need to turn the table one more time…in fact, more than once we were asked when we wanted her to actually place the order w/the kitchen so we could pace ourselves) takes what would normally just be a fantastic meal and makes it one of the best ever.  So for those of you taking notes: #1- view of the kitchen, #2- Pamela.

 

kitchen2kitchen3kitchen4

 

The menu is pretty large, and as I said before everything sounded good.  Cassoulet, braised beef cheeks w/tagliatelle, calf’s liver and bacon, the famed “faux gras”…… fat heaven.  We had a lot of questions, and Pamela was invaluable with her knowledge of the menu and detailed reasons why she loved individual dishes.  We knew we wanted to start with the gougeres, but after that it was all up in the air.  In the end we settled on the onion and lardon tart to accompany the gougeres, and entrees were the Pied de Cochon for me and the Lamb Shank with Creamy Corn Polenta for her.  The wine we chose was a Cab Franc and ended up going so well with the food that, for the price, we went ahead and got a second bottle….. Frederic Mabileau St. Nicolas de Bourgeil 2006.  Easy, easy drinkin’ wine, and I think you can get it for under fifteen bucks retail. 

The bread, while it is not made in-house, is probably the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant.  Super crunchy, thick crust, with a rich, airy, eggy, sour and light interior.  The cheese puffs/gougeres are just one of those things you have to order when you go to Central…..very tasty and light puffs of cheesy, savory pate choux.  Surprisingly, the leftover puffs were even great the next day.  We went around and around on the other appetizer selection…the onion and lardon tart sounded good, but in my mind I had images of your run of the mill savory tart with too-crisp edges and that soggy puff pastry bottom.  Pamela assured us that it was one of their best items, and what we received was one hell of a tribute to fatty richness.  The tart crust is somewhere between paper and cracker thin…but it holds up under a blanket of crisp, thick cut and cubed bacon, caramelized onions that are first soaked in milk to mellow them out, creme fraiche and chives.  Beyond rich, but the super-thin crust helps it from filling you up too much. 

onionlardontart

 

After we got to our hotel, I happened to read an online review of Central that included a description of the Pied de Cochon.  While I’ll eat pig’s feet, it may not be the greatest thing for you and your girlfriend to stare at…..so it wasn’t even in the running until I read the review, and when Pamela gave it the thumb’s up I went with it.  For lack of a better term it is an “egg roll” (pasta dough?) filled with the meat from the pig’s foot that has been pulled off the bone and mixed with sauteed wild mushrooms.  It was accompanied by a lardon and frisee salad, mashed potatoes, fried shoestring potatoes and a creamy whole grain mustard sauce. Delicious to be sure, practically an opiate, and the most ingenius thing about the dish was how the chewier bits of the pig’s feet matched the texture of the thickly chopped wild mushrooms.  The crust was maybe a little thicker than it needed to be, and did not carry that much flavor itself compared to the filling, but still a smart way to put the dish together.  Pretty incredible, and it carried the theme of collagen rich lip-smackety goodness that was well represented in both of our entrees. 

cochon

 

I can’t even estimate how many braised shanks of all varieties that I have eaten before, and when my girlfriend chose the lamb shank in order to try something totally out of her normal comfort zone, I knew it would be good but did not expect the depth of flavor that was infused into the meat.  Sometimes the flavors can get muddled or boring by the time you get down to the last of a braised piece of meat, but the spicy rosemary flavors went all the way down to the bone, and that skin……oh man, it’s like your lips are going to get glued shut from the aforementioned smackity goodness.   We both got another meal out of our entrees, so bonus.

lamb

 

 I do like dessert, it’s just never the first thing I think of when dining at a new restaurant.  With all of the talk about the “Kit Kat Bar”, we had to give it a try.  It is worth mentioning that it is now called “Michel’s Chocolate Bar”, because apparently the restaurant got a slap on the wrist from using the trademarked Kit Kat name.  In addition to my lack of enthusiasm for dessert, and the fact that at this point in the meal I’m already in a wine/fat coma, I’ll just say this thing was chocolatey.  Very smooth, creamy, and…….chocolatey.  My girlfriend was whacko for it, and it WAS damn tasty, but I stuck with my glass of Sauternes.  Next time for dessert I think I’ll just get a second lardon and onion tart. 

kitkat

 

 Overall, probably the best restaurant experience of 2008, even with minibar thrown into the mix.  We sat down before 8pm, left around 11pm, and on the way out I made it a point to stop by the kitchen to announce as they were cleaning up….”thanks for the best meal of 2008!”.   Sometimes you are lucky enough to get that perfect storm of details, where the food, the service, the atmosphere, the company, the wine and overall vibe criss-cross into one big inexplicable party.  Granted, I love food and fine dining so much that I had to have surgery to add years to my life, so maybe I over-romanticize a great restaurant experience…..but as I have said before, ignorance is bliss.  The food nerd world already has enough people who don’t like food as much as they like hearing themselves deconstruct it ad nauseum, or revel in finding something wrong with the place everyone is raving about, or have enough money to approach food tourism like hyperactive children trading baseball cards……so I guess even though I may be too easily impressed I’m still just superior to any of them, and I promise you I’m a way better dining companion.  Give me two, maybe three meals like this one per year and I’ll call it good.

couple

 

Oh, the cost for a meal like this…….I know I’m not normal when it comes to what I’ll drop on an occasional extravagant meal, but I consider Central a bargain, at least if every meal goes off without a hitch like this one.  Two bottles of wine ($40 each), two appetizers, two entrees, one dessert, a glass of dessert wine, tax and a very healthy tip came to about $216.  In my world, that is not bad for three very memorable hours….especially considering this trip was our Christmas present to each other (and we each got a second meal out of it).  Holy shit, it was WAY better than any card and sweater we may have received.  Plus, we went all out, you could eat WAY cheaper than we did on Friday.  We’ll be talking about our trip to Central for quite a while, and will probably be back in May or June to commemorate the first weekend when we met in DC earlier this year.

Next up……some kind of rambling crap about the two weeks I’m spending down in Richmond….the people down here are some tacky Christmas light loving motherfuckers……

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My Dog Is A Whore!

 Okay, to kick things off…..it is an indisputable fact that the most rabid sin-bashing fundamentalists are often the worst offenders when it comes to their “pet” sins.  And I’m not just talking about your high profile examples like Haggard and Swaggart, or the plethora of secular crossover baby Christian celebrities who make their fortune off of recounting their sinful pasts in front of packed audiences (a whole other annoying subject for another time).  I don’t know how many familiar church faces I’d see stroll into Priscilla’s when I worked there, how many dogmatic future church leaders would end up knocked up, shacked up or get caught getting a blowie in the parking lot…….not all of them of course, generally a small percentage of the whole, but the common thread that ran through 99.999% of these shameful examples was their fervent and outspoken hatred of the very sins they got caught committing.  They are usually the same people who will also tell you that it’s wrong to question your church leaders.  Although hypocrisy seems to be the cornerstone of much of evangelical Christianity, it’s no excuse to dismiss the entire faith, I’m simply raising awareness.  The knee-jerk fundamentalist you know who rails the loudest against homosexuality, masturbation, pornography or alcohol probably has an issue with it because it is a problem for them (or they have no problem with it and use it to mask some other sin…. i.e. the morbidly obese anti-gay preachers).  How much better would it be if they just came clean, admitted their humanity and got on with their lives?   Anyway, the main focus of this post isn’t to ramble on and on about church-dads with secret stashes of porn, it is simply to focus on one heinous example that has personally impacted me recently.

I’m not an idiot.  I know that my dog likes to get on my computer when I’m not around and sling shit about the hundreds of people who end up at my blog when they Google phrases like “where to take unsaved friends” or “should I stay with my unsaved girlfriend”.  I let it go on because I figured at some point she’d screw up and I’d get to out her for the hypocrite that she is.  Well that day finally came last week, so think of these photos every time you read her bullshit and think she must be right just because she’s cute….

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 That is my parent’s dog Brutus.  I am babysitting him while they are on vacation.  My whore of a dog NOT ONLY decided to share a bed with him, she got into some perverse gender confusion and started humping him about fifteen times a day.  The pictures speak for themselves.  Be sure to bookmark this page and refer to it the next time she starts acting so superior to everyone else.

Like I said, all of that crap isn’t the only focus of this post.  My girlfriend was in town from Richmond over the Thanksgiving holiday and it reminded me how cool it can be to showcase your town for a visitor.  Kansas City is a decent sized city, and after living here most of my life I take it for granted that there is plenty to see and do.  Living here you tend to forget that something like the Plaza Lights are impressive by anyone’s standards.  Even though I wouldn’t count KC as a bustling hub for tourism, there are tons of “touristy” things that I generally don’t do until someone comes to town.

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 Case and point…. Arthur Byrant’s BBQ.  I cook world class BBQ, so I rarely buy it from a restaurant.  But Bryant’s is world renowned….if you’ve seen ANY of the Food TV or Travel Channel shows highlighting the BBQ meccas of Kansas City, Memphis or the Carolinas, you’ve seen Bryant’s.  So I thought it was probably C.H.U.D.-worthy during this visit.  I do have a love/hate relationship with the place….. in my experience you have a 50/50 shot of getting decent food there.  When it’s an off-day you get overcooked beef or undercooked pork….but when it’s ON it is, without exception, the favorite BBQ of my entire life.  Our sandwich was an okay example of what Bryant’s has to offer, but it was good enough to win a new fan during our visit.  You love or hate that sauce…..there isn’t anything else like it on earth.  And Bryant’s sauce is only good on Bryant’s BBQ….I never use it at home just because it isn’t close to the same thing.  Brisket for brisket, pork butt for pork butt, I think my food runs circles around theirs, but there is something about the combination of their meat, sauce, and fresh-cut, lard fried french fries that is magical.  Be warned, if you decide to visit Bryant’s, their burnt ends and pulled pork are terrible……they stew them both in their sweeter sauce, which defies all BBQ logic…..I can’t figure it out. 

Our next stop on that Wednesday was the famous Liberty Memorial and Museum….

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I’m sure there are plenty of World War I memorials in the United States, but Kansas City has the only WWI memorial AND museum.  And with the recent renovations, the museum is world class……we’re both museum nerds (actually, I’m a museum SUPER-nerd) and we both thought that it rivaled the Holocaust Museum in DC as far as presentation, layout and content.  WWI is the forgotten war…..not many people you meet know anything about it at all, and when I was getting my undergrad at UMKC my entire history minor was comprised almost solely of WWI classes.  It is my firm belief that every war-mongering hawk who supports the idiocy of the Bush administration should get knee-deep in the guts of WWI……the comparison we drew to the Holocaust museum was not only due to the style of the exhibit, but also due to the fact that the war was one of the darkest and saddest periods in modern human history.  Just like WWII, our elementary and high school history books paint the picture that the United States was the savior of the day, and tend to gloss over the period before our involvement.  The Liberty Memorial Museum does a great job of showing the entire timeline of the war and the grim reality that my favorite professor referred to as “the family food fight that served up ten million dead”.  We truly are lucky to have this museum, I can’t recommend it enough if you live here or are visiting. 

So that was pretty goth of us…..feasting on the flesh of dead animals and sauntering over to the war museum……but the rest of the visit was far more light-hearted and festive.  Dave & Busters, fancy food at Bluestem, Dim Sum, Whole Foods, a Thanksgiving family extravaganza at grandma’s, the humongous Asian grocers in the River Market, and of course…the Plaza Lights.   Not to mention discovering the wonderment that is buying thrift store clothing now that I can find something that fits……

The last thing worth mentioning was a lazy, snowy morning in beautiful Weston, Missouri.  If you live here, you really need to get out there if you haven’t been recently.  It is the true Missouri “small town” experience for residents and visitors alike.  Especially if you visit during a holiday weekend when the snow is falling…..

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 Oh sure, it’s kind of cheesy with all of the knick-knacky shops and antique dealers……but put your jaded side on hold long enough to show up for a nice midwestern breakfast at the local lodge and then lube yourself up with 25 cent sample shots at the McCormick Distillery General Store, and free tastings at the Pirtle Winery….

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 We love the Pirtle Winery!  Weston is great, but it’s even better with a little bit of a wine buzz as you stroll the chilly, quaint streets…..  Believe it or not, we do have some good wine here in the midwest.  Sure a lot of it is on the sweeter side, but there are also shining examples of big, bold (although not multi-dimensional) dry reds to enjoy. 

So anyway, nothing groundbreaking here…….a whorish canine revelation and your regular bloggy sort of tourism report.   I hope everyone is having a great holiday season so far, mine has been wonderful.  Not sure what I’ll have on my mind between now and when I leave for Richmond for the remainder of the holidays in a couple of weeks, I find the best way to blog is to never plan too far in advance.

Oh yeah, go and buy a TruckerFish t-shirt!

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