Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lost in the Depths of Worship

As the he entered the chapel, the young boy remembered that he didn’t have his arms crossed and quickly folded them. The hustle that prevailed over the need to get to church on time seemed to give way to a higher, more sacred quiet. This was not a place to play. The importance of this large room seemed to create an incredible weight that pressed down on him from all directions. There was no place in the world where the boy felt smaller. Without any of the comforts afforded by upholstery, the pews were hard, slick benches that seemed to tower over the boy. Rows of these benches led up to the pulpit, which was made from the same blonde-stained hardwood. From the boy’s perspective the ceiling was a mile high from which hung very large chandeliers that lit the room well. The boy felt guilty when he would think how fun it might be to climb the rock on the walls. The organ pipes hanging from the wall behind the pulpit made a design that seemed to the boy a face starring down at him. He’d close his eyes tightly, trying to avoid that glare. Every time he looked up, it was still there.

This was a solemn place. A place for worship. A place to be quiet. Young boys didn’t know what worship was anymore than they knew why the sky was blue. It just was quiet, a very heavy quiet. Always there was a man – sometimes a woman – who would stand at the microphone and talk about things the boy didn’t understand. These were interminable moments. Trying hard to listen, it mostly didn’t make sense. The boy liked to hear about Jesus – it seemed to comfort him. He’d sometimes hear stories about the man who built his house on the rock and the other guy who built his on the sand. He enjoyed hearing that. He liked to hear about when Jesus helped a man see or walk. He really liked to hear the story about the man who needed help but the only help came from a stranger. But most of the time, the grown-ups would talk about something that just didn’t make sense to his young ears.

The boy did understand the music, though. This young boy liked the singing part. That was the only time when he could raise his voice and push back at that heaviness he always felt here. Some of the hymns weren’t loud enough; that bothered him a little. The hymns didn’t all provide an equal measure of relief. Some brought a greater reprieve while others were simply a break in the talking. Although the Choir might sing sometimes, those times weren’t as fulfilling when the boy could sing with the congregation. That was his time.

It was hard to sit quietly, being still. Sometimes, the boy couldn’t stand it any longer. He would get fidgety – just a little – drawing Dad’s attention. A stern look told the boy to straighten up, stop moving and be quiet. The boy knew that was a warning he must heed. He hated to hear the admonition from his Sunday School teacher to “be reverent”. What does a four-year-old know of reverence? When they taught about reverence, most of what the teachers might say was hardly understandable to his young mind. He only knew quiet and nice. So, he would do his best to be nice and quiet.

The pressure in this solemn place was terribly heavy on the boy. Once, he forgot to pick up his little book when they left after the meeting was over. After realizing what he had done, he asked Mom to go back to get it. Mom was busy and told the boy he could go get it and then they would go home. He had to go in there alone. With no one else in the room, the silence seemed to hang even heavier. The boy didn’t know what fear was. Well, not until he had to go into the chapel alone. Mom and Dad always chose to sit toward the front of the chapel, which made the trip from the back doors a very long, difficult journey into this profoundly quiet, hallowed room. Once he picked the book up, his legs made to run out of the room but he knew he was to never run in the church. He held back, walking as calmly as he knew how. Still keeping his arms folded in front of his chest, he held the book with one hand under his arm. His pace picked up and by the time he was nearing half way back he was almost running – he never ran, though. That would be wrong.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

A Date With The Vampires

I walked into the room, which wasn’t dark at all. You’d think the vampires would be skittish about sunlight and such. You see this in the movies all the time. Where else are you going to learn about vampire lore beside the movies? Of course, there’s always Brahm Stoker’s Dracula. That’s more about a single vampire and could hardly be considered a complete definitive work as it is focused on a single Romanian vampire. So, we turn to the movies. Oh, and the internet because the internet is always so full of truth. There we find that a vampire is thus confined to the world of the night and must refrain from even entering sunlight. Just a side note: the best vampire movie out there is Vampires, starring James Woods, although it is less a horror flick and more a western gone terribly bad.

Anyway, I walk into the room full of vampires and their prey ready to do my part. It’s a vile scene indeed. On one side of the room are interview rooms; the other has a table full of snacks. I’m sure the vampires realize how difficult it would be to lure willing participants without the benefit of food. Besides, after losing a pint of blood, some people are a little woozy and need a bit of a pick-me-up before they go back to the bustle and hustle of life. The center of the room has a few beds organized so a single vampire can multi-task, focusing on two donors at a time. This is all about efficiency. People aren’t going to wait around all day just to give some stranger their blood.

Today, I notice some newer devices. Apheresis machines. I’ve been hooked up to one of these before. The process then was for platelets, which took about 2 hours. The vampires that day were thrilled to get just a portion of my blood rather than the normal whole blood.

I was invited into the interview room. No, this was not your typical Interview with a Vampire – Tom Cruise was not in attendance. I guess the world has come to a point where even the vampires are a bit picky about from whom they choose to draw blood. The movies seem to make you think just any warm body will do. Here, however, they’ll take a sample of your blood, your temperature and blood pressure then ask a lot of questions about where you’ve been and with whom you visited those places. A lot of personal questions, too. In previous interviews, there was an interviewer asking the questions. Anymore, they set you up on a computer and have you take the interview. It’s not unlike those Facebook quizzes the kids are all doing these days. Of course, the questions and the resulting conclusion have a little more correlation than those online quizzes.

I guess I passed the quiz because the interviewing vampire asked if I had ever done the apheresis machine. I told her that my experience was limited to platelets. She explained that the purpose would be to draw out red blood cells but like my previous experience the rest of the blood would be returned to my body. Of course, they’d take twice the red blood cells than they would have if they were to take a pint of whole blood. I accept the offer. You’d think the hypnotic ability of the vampires would be a little more devious. Here I am willingly giving up my vitality. You can only give whole blood once every eight weeks. Doing it this way that period is extended by double to sixteen weeks. They can’t take more because it takes that long for your body to replenish what they’ve taken.

Anyway, the machines were busy with other victims, er, donors. So, the vampire suggested I move directly to the snack table to wait for my turn. Whoa, cookies! The point wasn’t about fattening me up, was it?

When my turn came, I was ushered to an empty couch where I lied down. Another interview, though shorter, began. These vampires were all about education, it seems. After declining the opportunity to ask any more questions, the bloodletting began. Just in case there was to be blood splatter, the vampire grabbed a face shield. Blood splatter? Well, I guess the movies can’t all be wrong, can they? To my great relief, there wasn’t any blood splatter at all. I’m sure there were some who would have enjoyed the spectacle but I’m a little squeamish about my blood splattering anywhere.

The machine started drawing out my blood. There wasn’t any pain, I could hardly tell much was going on at all. When the red blood cells were removed from the blood, it was returned to me. That’s when I could feel something but not at the needle site. My lips started tingling a little. The vampire probably thought this was happening so she asked about it. A strange sensation, I didn’t know what to make of it. But as the machine started drawing out whole blood again, the sensation went away. The process repeated itself four times. Then, I was done. More Snacks! I got a T-Shirt for my efforts too.

Anyway, the vampires aren’t taking the blood for themselves. That’s another movie myth. The story here is that the blood is used to help others who need the blood for some reason. Accidents, surgeries and other ailments will sometimes leave people in a place where their bodies need the blood. An act of service unlike most other opportunities, the chance to donate blood is probably one of the more selfless deeds a person can do. You know what? The vampires are very nice, too. Besides, they feed you snacks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Stache-O-Rama

So many people and so many different styles. The mustache is so personal it seems silly to name them but we do. Everything from Fuman-chew to the Ringmaster, there’s something unique in each style.

I’ve always been enamored with the idea of facial hair. In the movies, in sports, even on the news, there’s always someone who’s decided to give up the razor preferring instead to grow a statement in the form of hair. In most cases, the good guy’s mustache is distinctly different than the bad guy. It’s rather unrelenting though, even the Duke did it once in a while. There’s something about facial hair, a well manicured stache, that says, “hey! I’m tough enough.”

Look, it isn’t that the mustachioed are all tough and manly. Sometimes the stache says, “hey, I’m a perv!” Those are the ones you want to avoid at all costs. Why a guy would decide to grow a flag on his face of that nature, I’ll never know. It just seems in some instances, it’s the wool under the nose and above the mouth talking. It takes significant dedication to build yourself a respectable handlebar mustache. Few can actually pull it off. Fewer can take that into the mean streets and survive.

So, what kind of mustaches are there and what do they say about the guy wearing them? Does this hair-lip provide a window into a man’s soul? It does seem that the mustache has as many rights in certain industries as the man.

As depicted on TV, and at traffic stops across the nation, a policeman sports a certain look that says, “you don’t want to mess with this.” It’s about survival on the streets in a world of surprises. I have a few friends who’ve decided to embrace this profession. Each of them sports a mustache and each mustache looks almost the same. I think you’d find this style of mustache very similar to the one Tom Selleck’s Thomas Magnum drove around the islands in that sleek Ferrari. I’ll admit I was more interested in the car. In any case, many people do not know that most police departments have regulations limiting officers’ facial hair to mustaches only. I would suggest this is more in the name of standardizing appearance and possibly to avoid strange soul patches or goatees. Still, this type of mustache seems to be a symbol of following the rules, and not expressing oneself in a way that might offend other citizens.

The Walrus has nothing on some of the more stringent of the tough guys out there. This stache named after a rather tough animal, is found on many in the blue collar world, primarily the service and repair sector. Many of these guys are self-employed. A prideful mustache, the walrus represents the no holds barred caliber of the men that helped to build this country. It also seems to complement the wearer’s credibility when quoting prices to housewives for dishwasher repairs.

The chevron mustache seems to lend its wearers the personification of panache. You’ll find many in the broadcast news industry showing off this style. It seems there’s no better way to conduct journalistic affairs than by letting this tasteful representation of manhood precede a dramatic presentation of the facts!

Salvador Dali had a style about his facial hair that has come to be synonymous with the artist. Also, known as a “spaghetti mustache” the tips can be used as paint brushes – in a pinch.

Although funny-man Charlie Chaplin wore this mustache during Hollywood's silent era, it certainly is better recognized as the choice among dictators. Recent appearances have included ex-Zimbawean ruler Robert Mugabe's upper lip. The most famous - or infamous - would be Mugabe's hero, Adolf Hitler. Incidentally, this mustache is named the toothbrush.

I recently came across a useful tool – the internet is full of the useful and useless. This one is useful, I say. I’ve seen my kids playing with those paper dolls, where you can place different styles of clothes and fashion on a model to see how they look. Well, Lord Likely has come to the rescue with a more manly version of this old trick. Check it out: Lord Likely's Extra-Ordinary Interactive Mustache-O-Rama.