Tomorrow, Eli's third grade class is dressing up like Disney characters. His choice? He wants to be the guy in stocks at the beginning of Beauty and the Beast. Ann asked him if he was going to wear his uniform and he said "No, I need something Medieval... like peasant clothes."
The church here in Starkville has finally called a new pastor! Very exciting for all of us, and I really like him a lot. He's a Westminster East grad from back in the day when Sinclair Ferguson would have been a regular professor. He preached this Sunday on Micah 6:8 and did a really good job. I look forward to his moving to Starkville. I kind of took for granted that there was always someone seminary educated in St. Louis with whom I could shoot the breeze. In a seminary town, not only did all the preachers go to seminary, but quite a number of laypeople earned seminary degrees at one point or another while they were trying to figure out what to do with their lives. Here in Starkville, it's a little different. I don't really talk theology too much, anyway, but it is nice, when you want to do it, for there to be someone with a lot of common ground. And so, I guess I'm hoping that the pastor and I can be friends. I think he seems like the kind of guy one can know. I've known some pastors who were a bit like the animatronic figures in the Disney Hall of Presidents, and I've known some that were regular guys that had friends and could be known. I think he is the latter sort. I like the way he talks, and his diction is good, and his grammar and word choice is pleasing. All of those kinds of things are pleasant to have in a conversation partner. I'm not stuffy, but you know how sometimes you want to drink a beer and watch baseball and sometimes you want to watch a Jane Austen movie? I like entering a world of manners and propriety and proportion from time to time, and so to hear a guy speak that way is encouraging.
I'm really excited about this month's celebration of my dad's 75th birthday. I'm thinking that next week I might have a different post each day about him, his life, and the things I learned from him. So many of my childhood and young adult heroes have flaked out - men who were influential in my life, but who left their wives or got muddle-headed and lost their faith or had mid life crises and went off the rails. But my Dad was not like that. I didn't need any of these other men to show me what a man is like, because I had my father's example. He was loyal, always standing beside the preachers with whom he served as an elder. Loyal to my mom, loyal to us kids. He worked hard every day, most nights, and every weekend, and we never lacked any comfort. I went to summer camps and had lessons and never missed a meal. We went on family vacations and he indulged my hobbies, but never became overbearing. He had a light touch on those things, just the right amount. He was very competent, able to fix anything and I learned just from watching him work that anything was, in principle, fixable. Anyway, I don't need to jump the gun; you'll have to wait 'til next week for my various encomia for my dad.
I still haven't taken any action about the transmission on the Honda yet. I changed the fluid and added this amazing product called Lube Gard. This has really stabilized the problem, and so there is some slipping occasionally, but in general I can be ginger with the transmission and use the vehicle in town. I wouldn't trust it on a long trip, though, so I have to figure out what to do fast. I can't keep renting a car for family trips. Eli wants us to buy a hearse, because he saw one with a shiny metallic fleck paint. My ideal car would be this: a 2001 suburban or expedition built to be a work truck, but still with enough seating for seven, but with vinyl seats and plastic flooring, and a big heavy V8 or diesel engine, and a super duper transmission, but yet had never been used for towing. Man, that would be perfect for family trips or scout trips, and the gas mileage the rest of the time won't matter because I'm just driving a few minutes to the university and back. I never thought that would be my dream car, but it is.
There's this neat guy at church I haven't mentioned yet. I'll call him "Mr. Robbins." He was in real estate for a long time in a major American city and he is very tall and good looking and he is elderly, but stands very erect and has a twinkle in his eye. He is one of those guys who loves people, loves to tell stories, loves to be amazed at the world. He's enthusiastic, and likes to be around smart and dynamic people. He's had a full life, from wealth to poverty and back again, and he is so positive about everything. I wish you could meet him and hear his wonderful patrician southern accent and see the snappy way he dresses. Mr. Robbins is a lawyer and when Nathan's debate team at school had no funding, I mentioned to him that it would be great for the local county bar to support the debate team. He, of course, loved the idea and started making phone calls. To him, that's the whole red meat of life - connecting people together, getting people to do the right things and making the world a better place. He is also a real pray-er, organizing most of the prayer meetings at church. He kids that that the five or six people who gather on Wednesday night for the prayer meeting are the most important people in the church. I know he's kidding, but I think he really believes that all the good things that happen are because someone took the trouble to ask for them.
It's been about three weeks since we've seen the mongoose bicycle. The neighborhood boys just haven't brought it back. I'm not sure what to do. We need an amnesty program to get it back, but I don't even know whom to tell. On Saturday, I wandered for a moment into the next neighborhood over that is mostly an apartment complex, and it was like a maze and a ghost town. I'm not really sure whether wandering around over there is a good idea. Not because I'm worried about safety, but just because it might be a bit rude. It's a sticky thing to figure out because we essentially are not going to let the boys borrow the bike ever again. They probably figure that's the case, or maybe they damaged the bike and are ashamed. I don't know. It's a huge mess. I think it's probably not realistic that I'll ever really be able to be a part of these boys' lives, and so the end result of all this is that we're light one bike. "When helping hurts," illustrated by Barlow.
I mentioned before that Johnny wanted me to help him cut those acid barrels in half. I wanted to update you on that situation. I looked closer at the barrels and it wasn't the kind of acid I initially understood it to be. It was just the kind of acid you use in masonry or concrete laying, and it had been washed out. Further, he didn't want to cut the barrels in half, he wanted to cut the tops out of them so he could put aluminum cans in them. So on Saturday, he asked if I had a saber saw, and when he went inside for a while, I gathered up my drill and my saber saw and found a bit and a blade and walked over there. I saw him the previous Saturday literally using a router to cut the top out of another plastic barrel; it took him almost an hour. So I knocked and he came out. I drilled a hole in the barrel top and then inserted the saber saw blade and drilled around the perimeter very quickly. It was a neat cut and he thanked me, and that was that. No acid problems or anything. While I was cleaning up outside we had a pretty long conversation. The good thing about Johnny is that he knows everything about this neighborhood, and so he was able to explain a few things that I didn't understand. Maybe I'll talk about those another time.
Also, this weekend, I finally met my two doors down neighbor. He lives beyond the poetry professor and is an African American man about 55 or so. I was walking alongside Eli while Eli was riding his scooter, and the man and his "fishing buddy" (that was his description) drove up after a day of fishing on Saturday. He was very nice and showed the boys their catch - a huge mess of bluegills, shell crackers, and one or two large bass. He gestured across the street and told me I really needed to meet Dr. Ling, who is apparently a real musical genius and is one of the best piano teachers around. His wife is supposed to be a famous artist, and their house is far and away the nicest on the street. I can't imagine how beautiful their backyard must be given how nice the rest of their house is.
On Saturday, Nathan, Charlie, and I parked cars with the Boy Scouts. This is the way the boys earn money for uniforms, camping trips, supplies, etc. The troop partnered with a service organization and they manage two large parking lots near campus on game days. Personally, I really cannot stand doing it. The reason is that in order to pack in the cars like they want to do it, we force each alternating row to back in, rather than drive in forwards. And I don't mean to be stereotypical, but a lot of ladies do not like backing up their cars. I would say probably two out of three of the ladies who drive up to the parking lot, when they find out they will be backing in, get out and the guy comes around and does the parking. This is probably because we're talking about rural Mississippi here. No one has to do much backing up. I remember when I first moved to St. Louis how irritated I was to have to parallel park, and how none of the highways had cloverleafs, so there was no way to get back onto the road if you made a mistake. Occasionally a lady would explicitly say something about how good she is at parking. One lady said "I'm from Atlanta, this will be no problem." But you see, even saying that, indicates to me that people know backing up is hard, and so I cannot stand doing it. I don't want to tell people to please try to re-park a little closer to the car next to them. I just can't do it again or my heart will break.
But the cool thing about parking this Saturday was that the lady who was there to take money, representing the partner service organization, was a retiree who worked her whole life for IBM. She was extremely sharp, and used to actually instruct people in programming mainframes. Here's what I learned. She had a degree in accounting, but IBM trained her to program. They provided all her training, and she was so good at it, she ended up being a trainer for COBOL, Business Basic, and RPM on mainframes and micro computers. She said that the image of the "IBM Man" was really the way things were - all the guys wore seriously formal suits and looked crisp and neat by design. And she said the women wore suits too, with a-line skirts. One day, she said, she found a pinstripe wool ladies pant suit in NYC and bought it and wore to a big regional meeting and the people at IBM were blown away, having never seen a woman in a pants suit before at work. When she worked at the New Orleans branch, though, she said all the women wore very colorful clothing. She said that a famous author of the day, the guy who wrote "Dress for Success" (I'm going on memory here), advised women everywhere to wear grey, black or navy suits in the business world, but he explicitly said in the book that ladies in New Orleans can wear whatever bright colors please them! I was telling her where Ann was born, and the lady knew Muscle Shoals intimately. She dated a session drummer from Nashville for a long time and went to Muscle Shoals Sound one time to hear him play in some session recording. Well, it was a lot of fun to talk to her; someone so bright and quick. And she was in my line of work, so to speak, so it was fun to hear her talk about the world of computing before the personal computer. It's also a little sad to think about the corporate world that really doesn't exist too much anymore, but which had a place in America where a person could be trained, climb the ladder, and feel like they were part of something with an identity and a culture. I can't romanticize IBM, obviously, they sold machines to Hitler for pete's sake, but there was something very squared away about their corporate culture and the bright people they sent out to service these amazing machines.
The town hall presidential debate is Tuesday; hopefully that won't be too excruciating. I watched most of the Frontline special The Choice 2012 and it was really fascinating. People are amazing, and so any biography is going to be good, whether I want either of these two candidates to be president or not. I think Obama is basically a good person, but he is damaged in a lot of ways that seem to be so common to world leaders. There is something called the "Bastard Theory" of history that you can look up. So many world leaders have been illegitimate children; it is interesting. I don't know if the theory holds water. And I think Romney is basically a good person. I like that he is a little square and that he literally was holding a sign that said "Go back to your studies" when the hippies were demonstrating when he was in college. I like that he had a good strong family and that he was privileged and understands money and will not be in awe of it. Unfortunately, I think both Romney and Obama are compromisers. Neither one is consistently pro-life, both of them are interventionists, neither of them has any clue about the meaning of history, and neither one is really prepared or eager to do anything about central banking. I'm kind of glad that I missed the voting registration deadline here in Mississippi. It would have been easy to vote for Romney, given the alternative, but it would not have been pleasant. I want a president who doesn't want to be president, and there just won't ever be anyone like that.
Well, dear readers, enjoy your Tuesday. Hopefully the St. Louis Cardinals will get a good day of rest and be ready to totally nail the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday in Busch Stadium.
I'm too tired to proofread this post, so I'll just apologize here for any typographical problems...