Selected works from guest authors of the Territorial Enterprise
The TE has always welcomed guest contributors. Long before I purchased the Territorial Enterprise in 1985, the paper had a tradition of printing contributions from the outside world. Because of its long proud history on the Comstock, folks from far and wide have enjoyed writing articles and essays and musings, which we have published along side our own in-house writers. Heck, Sam Clemens got his start on the TE by sending articles in to Joe Goodman, the then editor/publisher! Joe loved printing the stories and yarns of the then unknown guest contributor, Mark Twain.
So if you have something to say to the world, email Tom Muzzio or write:Territorial Enterprise
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."
According to a current article in Christianity Today, and a direct quote from Dr. Franklin Graham (son of evangelist Billy Graham), Donald Trump has not only repented and been saved, but is now living a truly anointed and spirit-led life.
"Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus Christ taught in the Great Commandment!" Jerry Falwell Jr. shares in an article of August 4th, by Sarah Eekhoff Sylstra in a current issue of CT.
And in an exclusive interview by Territorial Enterprise staff writers with a spokesman for the Trump Presidential campaign, Melania is indeed "excited and thrilled" about her new life in Christ. When queried about their possible upcoming baptisms, Melania is quoted as saying: "We are witnessing to Ivanka and the boys first." Once they accept the Lord and become born again, we are thinking of doing a total whole-family baptism at The American Family Association facilities in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Rev. James Dobson, who broke the story of Trumps conversion in January, will officiate at the ceremony, which will be televised on the 700 Club and other Christian media outlets around the world.
Melania will also host a special program a week later on the newly established TRUMP Christian Network, addressing the questions how proper Christian women should dress. Her co-host on the much anticipated program will be Rev. Kim Davis of Oxboro, Kentucky, who will also share her fashion secrets.
Several notable Christian luminaries will also contribute to the new TCN, including Virginia City's own Brother William George of the legendary Keep Right And Pure campaign and Pastor Joe Blort of the Wings of Healing Revival Church in Gold Hill.
Donald's 2020 Revenge
I remember the years of the prime-ministership of Menachem Begin in the late 70s and early 80s. The joke slogan was: Rock'em Sock'em. Vote Menachem! He was one badass dude during those years when his basic response to any threat – real or perceived, was to blast the hell out of whomever was giving him (of Israel) grief at the moment. Trump is kind of singing that same tune these days.
But Trump is no Menachem Begin. Actually I sort of see him more like a Joseph Kennedy, patriarch of the Kennedy clan/dynasty. Although Joe was kind of a scoundrel, in many ways he succeeded in his ultimate mission: To get a Kennedy into the White House.
Trump appears to be taking a page more from Joe's playbook than dear Ol' Menachem's. So many have recently pointed out that it appears that the Donald isn't really trying all that hard to win the actual presidency at all, but is laying the groundwork for a forthcoming Trump Dynasty that could take shape between now and 2020.
The Donald has three sons (and a daughter). Any of the three would likely be presidential enough for the average Trump voter in the rust belt of Appalachia – or Texas, or just about any backwater disenfranchised region of the USA. Take your pick. Donald Jr., Baron or Eric … mini-versions of the old man himself. But Ivanka? Now there is something to consider. She seems to have a lot of the best of the Drumpf genes. And with four years to polish her serve and the whole family's "ground game", I predict a grand slam Trump extravaganza come next Republican primary season. Just watch.
Now Yazidi … now ya don't!
Donald Trump and every babbling Christian pundit and even the pseudo-Christian radio screamers are singing the same song: "ISIS is beheading Christians over there!" Waa waaa. Those horrible terrorists are cutting the heads off our Christian brothers and sisters "over there" (wherever that is) in Eye-rak and Seeria.
This refrain moves modern American Evangelicals to tears. It drives Pentecostals to shout forth with prophetic messages delivered (with power) directly from the throne of the Almighty himself. "Yea, I say, I say Yea!" We need to defeat ISIS (over there so we don't have to stop them over here). In order to stop the killing of our fellow Christians in that far flung region of our beloved planet – God's footstool, we must declare war on them by name: Islamic Extremists.
But guess what? Those folks are SO not Christians … at least not according to Baptist or Pentecostal theology, that is. Those are "CHINOs" of some weird sort – Christians in Name Only. They are the remnant of some ancient heresy or other. Hell, they likely don't even baptize by immersion or speak in a heavenly language as the Holy Spirit gives them utterance! If it were possible, modern missionary societies would be sending clergy to those unfortunates … so near, yet so far away (from the truth as revealed to those of faith in Dallas, Texas and Springfield, Missouri, that is).
They would be sending missionaries to reach those lost "false" Christians as I was sent (as were thousand more like me), to places like the Catholic Philippines, Mexico and Brazil. Why do we send religious workers out to those "Christian" countries? For the same reason we would send them to the Yazidi. Because they are not Christians in fact. They are CHINOs … so close, but yet so far. For each beheading another Yazidi soul goes directly to a literal burning Christian hell.
Trump, O’Reilly, Hannity and Gingrich all cry crocodile tears for the beloved Yazidi. But I wonder if they really have any idea how far those unfortunates are from any American Christian doctrine. Nowadays, anyone can simply google "Yazidi" and read volumes about those Kurds, whose religion is akin to that of the ancient Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar (See the Biblical story of Daniel). They really don't care about those people at all. Their agenda is driven by their current American political affiliations.
The "Christian" Politicians and right wing media blabbers pull on the heart strings of the gullible and empty their wallets, as they preach and cajole them to "Pray for the poor Christians" in Kurdistan. Or as Trump preaches: "Let's bomb the hell out of ISIS". Duh. Those poor Yasidi are living in ISIS-held territory. So in the end, we have to bomb the hell out of them to get ISIS. I remember an old expression from my time in Viet Nam during that equally stupid war … "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."
By Catherine Woodward –Former Editor-in-Chief of the Territorial Enterprise newspaper
It took Courage—or at least, a well-developed spirit of adventure—for Austin and Rosalie Woodward to leave their comfortable, beach-oriented lives in Southern California for Virginia City, Nevada, in 1952. Austin (or “Woody”, as he was known) was on his way to assume the helm of the Territorial Enterprise, the regional newspaper formerly run by Lucius Beebe, the New York bon vivante, and platform for the writings of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain.
Theirs was a storybook romance. As had so many men of his generation, Austin had been called and had served in World War II, in the infantry, and having fulfilled his obligation to his country had returned from Germany and the Phillipines.
He was already engaged to a childhood friend when he joined a group of friends for a casual game of golf in Pasadena one Saturday afternoon. The group was enjoying a round of beers after golfing when Rosalie Stuart walked into the room.
Austin’s life would never be the same. Even years later, he told people that he “just knew” immediately that she was the girl for him. The prior engagement went out the window, and a year later they ran away to Ensenada, Mexico, and were married.
This turned out to be fortuitous for me and my siblings, because they were our parents.
When I was born on December 2, 1952, in Reno (Virginia City lacked a hospital), my birth was announced on the front page of the Territorial Enterprise. I’m the only one out of four siblings who can claim Virginia City as my birthplace….and what a city it was, and is!
My mother’s anecdote was that I fell off a barstool at the age of 6 months. Ha, ha, ha.
My favorite photo of my parents is one with their TE “Woody” (a 1950 Chevy), in front of their house on A Street. Unfortunately, this photo could not be included herein.
As a graduate of Claremont Men’s College and, with Rosalie, a CORO Foundation member, Austin was well-prepared as a candidate to assume the position of Editor of the Territorial Enterprise. I don’t know much about their life in VC, but I have heard that they frequented all the saloons and hobnobbed with Lucius Bebee and his cohorts.
After a year, however, my parents decided that “roughing it” in Virginia City was a bit more than they could handle—for example, being without water when the pipes froze in the harsh winter—and they returned to balmy Southern California to live by the ocean.
Because I was a mere tot, I had no memory of life in Virginia City. When our family visited it in 1965, I could not believe that I had actually been born in this touristy, throwback-to-the-West town.
They both went on to become political activists, a city planner (my mother), and champions for the environment and local Democratic candidates. They built a successful life for themselves in our beautiful home overlooking the Santa Monica Bay and the south bay curve, all the way to the mountains of Malibu. My dad remained a newspaper man, establishing his own company and publishing newsletters for Unocal, Claremont Men’s College, and Occidental College. I followed in my father’s footsteps and became technical writer myself, with a special interest in photography and the arts, working for many large corporations as a contract employee.
I remain in awe of Virginia City, with its rich history; and thankful to my parents for their adventurous, pioneering attitude towards life.
More than one Intellijunt Dezine?
The first contemporary law mandating the teaching of creationism – now euphemistically called "Intelligent Design"- has been passed in America. And guess where? Tennessee, of course, home of the famous Scopes trial of 1925. Often called "The Monkey Trial", it is well known in historical, religious and legal circles; not to mention literary ones, as the basis for the famous play by Jerome Lawrence entitled: " Inherit the Wind".
The "Fightin' Fundies", as I always call them, are Evangelical Christians who I know well. Having been an ordained minister with the General Council of the Assemblies of God for years, I know how they believe, feel, think and operate. Evangelicals take the Bible seriously. In fact, they believe that it is a factual account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. For centuries nobody challenged the Biblical account of creation. Then somewhere around the time that we refer to as the Renaissance, things began to change. A newfangled thing called science began to emerge to challenge the ancient creation story.
For centuries, the fight was about the nature and operation of the universe. The Catholic church suppressed science by force, arresting, torturing and executing anybody who challenged the Biblical account that the Earth was flat, and that the sun spun around it on a predictable daily trek. Those battles are long over. Now even the Catholic church and fundamentalist Protestants acknowledge that the Earth is not the fixed center of the universe.
However, the current battle, began by Charles Darwin with the publishing of The Origin of Species in 1859, opened up a new can of worms for the literalists to feast upon. This is the battle that is still raging in places like Tennessee. This has nothing to do with the creation of the universe; the sun, moon, stars and asteroids, but of man himself.
Evolution. The unanswered question is: was man created in an instant on the sixth day stark naked in a garden with all sorts of great plants and animals all around, or did he evolve from lower life forms? For the most part, science has answered that question. He evolved. However, all over the great USA and around the world there are millions of dunderheads who genuinely disbelieve this. They are desperate to believe the Biblical account told in the book of Genesis. Man was created out of the dust of the earth and woman from one of his ribs. Although the story is so galactically stupid, believers cling to it like grim death because if they admit it is just a myth, the next question arises immediately: Well, if that is just a story, what else in the Bible is untrue? That question is just too hard for them.
Somebody has to draw a line in the sand, and at present, this is it. We all know the story. The earth was created six thousand something years ago, was populated by human beings who all lived hundreds of years each and were destroyed in a flood. Then two of each animal species repopulated the earth. Here comes the rub. Science. Within the last hundred plus years, geology, paleontology and anthropology have posed totally new befuzzling questions for Biblical literalists. What about the fossil record? What about dinosaurs, and the evolution of non-human spices? Well, that is science, and the fundamentalists have declared war on that "tool of Satan".
Since the Monkey Trial, when it was illegal to teach evolution in public schools in Tennessee and around the rural parts of our great land, science has completely trumped religion in the collective mind of all but the "true Christians" who will have none of it. When I was an evangelical minister, I saw the problem. But I also saw what was coming, namely, the symbiotic relationship developing between the Republican Party and the massive Evangelical voting block. For the past thirty years their mutual back scratching has won elections and now they are joined at the hip and finish each others' sentences.
The Grand Old Party is beholden to the fundies in many ways, including passing legislation adjudicating their religious proclivities. The new requirement that intelligent design be taught along with science as equal in public schools is a perfect example. Although the hyper-rich, corporate Republicans and the Country Club Republicans know it is a pile of crap, they need the religious kooks to maintain power, so they go along with their insanity. The real problem is in the classroom, where young persons K-12 must be taught that the Biblical myths are in fact a viable substitute for pure science. I saw that this inevitability would simply lower the level of science teaching nationwide at some point and further erode our standing in the world community at large.
But lately I have been thinking of a novel "out of the box" idea to counter and dilute this absurdity. One thing I know, the religious right Christians are not the only show in town when it comes to stupidity. I have a proposal. It is kind of revolutionary. Okay, I suggest ... let them teach creationism in science class. However, Oh, BTW, there exist more than one creation story! And they deserve equal time as well.
Then I had this idea - this flash in the middle of the night. I jumped up and googled "creation myths". There are thousands! There are Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Muslim, African (in their hundreds), Greek, Roman, Norse, and of course Native American. I asked myself: "Is the biblical myth any better than any of these?" What makes the American right wing think that theirs is the only account of creation worthy of teaching alongside science? I think I can already hear the cacophonous screams from churches across the country. In fact, I think you don't have to strain too hard to hear the thud as the "Christians" in their millions shit one massive collective brick.
I know what this is called. It is called "Christian privilege". The arrogance of American Christians is unbounded. They don't just think or believe that their religion is superior, they know it. They are right and everybody else is wrong. They were always taught that theirs is the one and only true religion. Well, I hate to burst their bubble, but the Muslims, for example, also know that they are right, and that if the Christians get to teach their creation myth as science, Mohammed will most surely demand equal time.
To tell you the truth, although I personally don't have a dog in this fight, I would certainly buy a ticket.
Terror has always been the hallmark of the Muslim Experience
Convert or Die! That was the war cry of the new religion. It was most effective - and successful. The "Prophet Mohammed" died in 632 CE. He didn't fly up into the sky on his own like Jesus had done six hundred years earlier; he hopped on his magic horse who was waiting on the top of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Together they flew off into heaven. I am not sure if Jesus and Yahweh (aka Allah), were happy to see him when he got there. We just don't know how those two would get along.
But he had left clear instructions to his followers back in Arabia. Kill the infidels. Pretty simple, huh? Give them one chance to convert. If they hesitate, let them taste your sword. It was a very effective means of evangelism. No need to preach, argue, cajole. Just make it clear that they have one choice. Convert or die. It is amazing how successful that method of "proclaiming the message of Islam" was. Historians marvel at how rapidly the new religion spread in the one hundred years that followed Mo's untimely death. It raced out in every direction from Mecca and never looked back. It went North into the fertile crescent and on into Asia Minor, South into Africa, and East clear into India. It hit the high seas and ran down the east coast of Africa and jumped across the Indian Ocean all the way to the "Spice Islands" (now Indonesia) and just kept going (all the way to Mindanao).
The armies of the crescent crossed the burning sands of North Africa and were at the doorstep of Spain in relative short order. After conquering Spain, France was next on their hit list, as were the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Vienna was definitely on the menu. They did all this by shear terror. They were the first international terrorists. Of course there had been others like Genghis Khan and Atilla who likewise conquered by terror, but the Muslims had a message behind their bloodletting, and that helped to make their conquests stick. But, their general lack of compassion for anyone unlike themselves is what makes my blood run cold. Their core message was not one of love, like Jesus, but hate. And because of this contempt for non-Muslims - infidels, their penchant for terrorism is understandable - and unquenchable.
Years ago I was visiting several small villages along the Ligurain Coast in northern Italy where my family originated. Although I had been born in the US, there were still relatives in the "Old Country" who saw my grandparents off on a ship from the pier in Genoa years earlier. My second cousins took me up to Genoa to walk around and see the docks where tens of thousands of disenfranchised Italians had boarded ships to seek a better life in America - as all my grandparents had done. We also visited the birthplace of Genoa's favorite son, Cristoforo Colombo (known to most of us as Columbus). On the way back to our family's little villages, which hang precariously from the cliffs that crash dramatically right down to the sea, we rode the train with windows wide open in the soft warm April air. As we slid effortlessly along the iron tracks - in and out again and again through countless tunnels, it dawned on me that this spectacular train trip and these myriad tunnels did not always exist here … nor did the big wide fast freeway that parallels the rail line some distance above. I wondered what it was like in this place centuries earlier … like in Roman times. So I asked.
Well, I got quite a history lesson and a lot of food for thought to boot. This region of Italy, although settled as early as the Etruscans, was nevertheless definitely off the beaten path. Cut off from the main drag north and south, which runs on the other side of the mountains that form a natural obstacle to troops and commerce, The Ligurian Coast was for centuries a kind of ignored part of mainland Italy. It is not famous for much, as there is no good agricultural land, which would be highly desired. What few crops that could be raised there … like olives and grapes ... are coaxed from the rocky soil on steep terraced hillsides. Most of the historic inhabitants of the region were fishermen, of course.
So, while Papal armies, and various kingdoms, dukedoms and fiefdoms over across the mountains less than a hundred miles inland were fighting endlessly and for centuries, the Ligurian peasants were living quietly and totally oblivious to the endless turmoil over there in places like Florence, Sienna and Bologna. Or were they? My relatives all chimed in with the same basic story line. "It was no picnic over here on the coast either - ever." "Why?" I queried, "You can't possibly march armies through this impossible terrain. And the only real port is clear up in Genoa. So what was the problem?" I had to know.
"Pirates!" they all intoned. "Turkish (Muslim) pirates." OMG, that had not crossed my mind. "Yes, the Turks - rogues from Muslim Turkey (which had been converted to Islam shortly after the death of Mohammed) … and pirates from North Africa as well. They terrorized the entire coast line of the Mediterranean for centuries. People in these parts feared every day that the Islamic terrorists would appear off on the horizon and come a shore and vandalize, steal everything and victimize the population of all these small defenseless coastal towns and villages. These were indeed real and true international terrorists."
When we read today of ISIS, Al Quaeda and the likes of al-Shebaab and Abu Saied, it is easy to think that these professional terrorist groups are something new. Well, the Muslim world has been churning out monsters like those for centuries - long before they acquired modern guns and other sophisticated weaponry. So when they victimize airports, shopping malls and night clubs, just keep in mind … they have a lot of experience. They have centuries of practice.
Losing sight of the prime directive.
Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15). This is what is referred to as The Great Commission. It is a command - given by Jesus Christ himself during his brief sojourn on this planet. It is what I have called the Christian's prime directive, as it is the single most important concept that sets Christianity apart from Judaism and most other of the world's religions. It is what makes the faith a true "missionary religion". It is what has motivated the church - as a world wide body - for centuries, and what compelled me to go forth to preach, teach and baptize for years. But it is largely gone now … a thing of the past in Evangelical churches in America and around the world.
What happened? Well, the Evangelical Fundamentalist people (mostly in the USA) have lost their way. They have abandoned their prime directive in favor of struggle against what they perceive as "the evils of this world". We have called them the "fightin' fundies" for years, and they have certainly lived up to that moniker. They have chosen to fight rather than to evangelize.
I remember when I noticed it the first time. It was 1973 and I was living in Frankfurt, Germany, working for a para-church organization called Teen Challenge. This outfit had originally been created out of thin air by a divinely motivated rural pastor-turned-evangelist named David Wilkerson. He had written a book entitled: The Cross and the Switchblade. That book had motivated thousands of young people of the time, like me, to indeed "go into all the world". We did. But the message began to change.
Something big had happened in 1968. That was the dawn of the Gay Liberation Movement. At least that was what it was called then. Brother Dave, as we called him, was so shocked and overwhelmed by the sight of ten thousand screaming homosexuals marching down Broadway in Manhattan in 1970 (the first ever gay pride parade) that he nearly had a cardiac infarction. He freaked out. He flipped his lid. He was outraged. He was infuriated. He was royally pissed. So he moved to Dallas, Texas and made a movie! It was a shockumentary film entitled: Return to Sodom, and I saw it before it was released and was shocked myself - albeit in a most different way.
I have always pointed to that moment in my personal life when I began to realize that I did not trust Brother Dave any more. The film was not designed to preach the gospel, but to scare people - especially white Protestant Evangelical Christians. It did what it was intended to do. It scared American church-goers to action. Not to go forth and make an effort to reach these wayward sinners, but to stop them! They have been on that tangent for the past thirty some years now, and don't show any signs of resetting themselves; returning to the prime objective.
Likewise, the subject of evolution has freaked out the fundies to the point of abrogating their mission to preach, teach and baptize. They have spent the past thirty years fighting the notion that mankind evolved from lower life forms. It is seen by them as a direct challenge to the Bible, and therefore to them personally. And they have not taken it lying down. They have fought in the schools, they have fought in city governments, they have fought in the courts, they have fought in the media. They have been righteously pissed off about this "theory" since Darwin first published The Origin of Species in 1859! Wow, are they ever ticked off!
Abortion is another subject that sets their Christian heads spinning. In that year, 1973, a famous piece of legislation was passed in the US Congress. It was simply referred to as: Roe v. Wade and it legalized the medical procedure of clinical abortion in the United States. It was at this point that this, and the evolution debate, and the notion that gay people should have equal rights all coalesced to inspire the entire Evangelical movement in the US to change course. Evangelism - the Great Commission - had to be put on hold. It became more important to fight than to preach.
Did Jesus command his followers to rise up and oppose Roman rule? No. Did he tell them to go into the world and preach against the Jews, the Samaritans, the other wicked sinful people of the day? Did he ever teach to "oppose" anything? No. Modern Evangelical Christians have lost the original message - the original concept. Theirs is not to oppose anything, take political stands on contemporary issues of the day or fight against anybody. Their prime directive has always been to go, preach, teach, baptize and make disciples. But they don't do that any more, do they? Well, I sure don't see it.
We face a presidential election cycle in America every four years, and the same battles ensue. This round is already well under way, and true to form, the "Fightin' Fundies" are at it again; but this time with a bit fewer numbers. Why? Well, their demographics are changing and they aren't really noticing. But I am. By ignoring their prime directive, they have been failing to propagate. They steal sheep - mostly Catholic sheep. They are really not much about reaching out to the lost and creating new converts like I was. In the last thirty years since I left the church and the ministry, no one anywhere or at any time has attempted to "witness" to me; to share the gospel message, to tell me about that great guy, the carpenter king from Galilee. Why not? They have been too busy fighting against abortion, evolution and gay rights. That takes up a lot of time and energy. In the end, it appears that they are just too exhausted, wasted and tuckered out to preach the gospel as instructed. They just don't have the wherewithal, it seems, to follow the prime directive any more. (sigh).
You may not be able to go home again; but why would you want to?
Fifty years ago I lived in Mexico City as an AFS exchange student. When I left I swore I would never come back - until I did. Yes, right before Christmas 2015 I boarded a flight with my husband, Danis, a native Spanish-speaker from Belize. We had planned to visit Spain over the holidays but ran into visa issues. Although we were kind of bummed out, we had thought that a few weeks in warm tropical Belize with his family might be the solution to the gray Portland winter that was clearly taking hold at the time. I could tell that he was not wild about the idea. I know, dealing with family is most often not much of a vacation. We talked of options when I learned something unexpected.
Although Denis had spent a lot of time digging in the dirt of southern Mexico on various archeological sites of the ancient Maya, he had never been up to the capital - México DF. I was astounded. I began gushing about the Anthropological (and Archeological) Museum there. It had been opened the year I was living in the city (1965) and it had been the absolute highlight of my otherwise horrible stay.
Okay, what was so horrible? Although I loved my Mexican family they treated me like solid gold and made my sojourn fascinating with trips to the grand pyramids of the Aztec, the famous floating gardens of Xocimilco and various Spanish era relics - like the biggish cathedral in the heart of town, the school that I attended was the pits. Although it was a private school and rich parents had to pay a lot to enroll their children, the place was a dump. But worse than the environment were the students. Rich brats all, they could not necessarily be blamed for their atrocious behavior. The problem was in a nutshell, the seating arrangement.
The obvious shock to me was that not all of the students were of equal age. The ages ranged from about ten or eleven all the way to eighteen. All the smaller younger kids sat in front near the teachers that rotated from room to room on the hour, each attempting to teach his or her specialty ... like math, Spanish, history, and science. The older kids, the delinquents (frequently serving time there instead of in jail), tortured the little kids in the front. The teachers screamed at them, but some of those in the back were full grown adults with facial hair and attitudes. It was no fun. Although I was sort of in the middle, I was of particular interest to the bullies. I stood out like a sore thumb, and being a Norte Americano (read: Gringo), they hated me and made my life particularly miserable. Enough about that. I swore I would never go back.
Well, fifty years passed and finally I did. Things had changed somewhat around town. There were lots of tall buildings now that were certainly not there before. The streets downtown were somewhat cleaner and the traffic a bit tamer - but not much. The old landmarks like Chapultepec Castle were as charming as before - although way smaller than I remember :-)
Then finally, the pies-de-resistance! The Museum of Natural History. It was as fabulous as I remembered it. Nothing had changed a bit (except the security, of course). Signs of the times. Denis loved it and we spent a whole day. I was beat; walking in such an enormous space is a bit more taxing at 65 than it was at 15 :-) But it was worth the re-visit and I considered the trip to be worth the investment of time and money. I am glad I did it, but the second half of the trip was more meaningful in many ways. I left Denis in Mexico to spend a week by himself exploring Oaxaca and environs, another place he had always wanted to visit and experience.
So I hopped a plane for home but stopped off in the Twilight Zone en route. The place is called Florida and I had been there many times before, but always on business. So this could actually be called "pleasure", as that is the conventional opposite of biz. Well, part of it was a great pleasure to be sure. However the rest was more like the above-mentioned zone where everything is weird, unusual and in stark black and white.
All my previous trips to the Sunshine State had been confined to the Miami area - in and around the Convention Center (and South Beach:-). But this time I was on a mission in a place called Tampa. I had never had a reason to visit this part of the peninsula before, but an old friend of mine from the army had retired there with his wife to be in close proximity to their kids and grand-kids.
I first met Arnie in January of 1969, only a few years after my totally terrific Mexico experience in 1965. It seemed like a giant time-gap back then, but those experiences feel somewhat more compressed now … looking back a half a century. We served in the military together briefly but maintained a friendship and correspondence over the decades. We both went into the ministry and into missionary "service" … I in HK/China and he in Japan where he pastored a local church like 25 years.
He retired a few years ago and moved to the Tampa area because his denomination had a retirement facility there. It was nice and I enjoyed our visit. I was not shocked at their domicile, as it was what appeared to be a former US military housing compound of some kind. It reminded me of similar places in Hawaii and Guam where the Navy moved out and church groups bought in. It was clean, wide, sparse with well trimmed grass and intermittent palm trees. Very pleasant. Since my mom had lived in a retirement "home" as well, I was not at all freaked out about the age of the neighbors, who were all former Lutheran missionaries from around the world. We had a communal dinner in the Community Center (which was clearly a former military mess hall) and it was very nice. And having the grand-kids along was a treat for sure.
But the culture shock was not at the facility, but in the surrounding "countryside". Florida is flat. That's no shock. The freeways are wide. Even the secondary roads are wide. Lots of space. I stayed in a motel near the compound, but without wheels in such situations, how does one get around, and where does one get breakfast? I was stuck, as breakfast is an imperative for me - always has been. So I decided to walk. But where? It was a flat landscape with familiar signs for gas and beer, but food? Not even a McDonald's! Damn. Then I saw it: Cracker Barrel . I gasped. The most legendary homophobic restaurant chain in America, and I had to choose to either eat there or starve! I chose to risk it and sneak in. Like who would recognize me? I blended in with the white-haired crowd, but still felt like kind of a kid. I am old, but those folks were elderly. Anyway, I filled my tank and sneaked out again un-noticed.
Risked what?, you ask. My FB (Faggot Badge), of course. I was well aware that I could lose my BF for eating at a Cracker Barrel. There are certain things that gay people just don't do - one of them is eating or patronizing bigot establishments (and that includes bowling alleys and Wal-Mart). It is just not PC. But nobody saw me, so my FB is still in good standing. Of course I suppose the fake nose, black Groucho mustache and glasses helped a bit! (smile).
What a dippy story :-)
A couple of years back in 2011, some low-wage Palestinian day laborers were digging a new sewer line in Jerusalem and stumbled upon the ruins of an ancient pool, bath or spa. It was heralded as the discovery of the Biblical "Pool of Siloam" - mentioned in the gospels as "Bethesda" in John chapter five. The Evangelical world went wild! "This proves the Bible is true and infallible!", the Christian media roared. They were happy. I was happy too. That is an exciting find. Of course that "pool" was known to the occupying Roman administration, who were fanatical note-takers and record-keepers (and bathers). The Bible is not the only source that mentions this place - likely built earlier during the Greek period. So finding it, although cool, does not really prove anything. The existence of the baths at Bethesda do not mean that the stories about it are true too.
The Bible account goes like this:
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie - the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
Archeological finds do not prove the Bible true. They only prove that those historic sites mentioned in scripture actually existed - unlike Xanadu, Atlantis or Shanghai-La, which are unlikely ever to be discovered in modern times (although there are some who keep trying). LOL. Look at the narrative. What is going on here? There is this magic pool right in downtown Jerusalem. It is infested with all manner of societal outcasts - the crippled, the blind, the withered and the "impotent" (KJV). Why were they all hanging out there? Because an angel of the lord - on a whim - would appear and "trouble" the waters. I just love that word from the great King James Version of the Holy Bible, don't you? Anyway the angel would show up unannounced and "trouble" the waters. So what? Well, the good part is next. The first cripple to plunge into the pool got cured! Praise the Lord. How cool is that? I have heard a gazillion sermons about this set-up and never questioned it very deeply. Like I didn't think to ask why only one lucky sickling could get healed at a time. Why not two or more? Heck, if that angle could heal one person - the fastest cripple at the pool - why not just heal them all? Why just one?
Anyway, Jesus interacted with an old geezer who had been infirm for thirty eight years. Very accurate, that, huh? Then Jesus asks him what he is doing there; and the old "impotent" man whines that he is never fast enough and no one is available to help him get into the pool to "go down" first in order to get healed. Wow, that's a bummer, huh?
Anyway, thereupon, Jesus asks him like the dumbest possible question. "Do you want to get healed?" Like Duh! What was he going to say? "Oh, no, not really. I am just here for the entertainment?" Come on! Jesus then simply circumvents the whole pool protocol and heals the guy on the spot. Yea! "Take up they bed and walk!" Great Hollywood ending, but is this a factual account? I doubt it for this reason. If the Romans were aware of this magic pool, they certainly would have been aware of all those gimps hanging around it and above all, the angle troubling the waters and the healings that took place there. It is inconceivable that they would have missed such a big thing happening right in the city center!
Another example of this meme: archeological discoveries prove that the Bible is true, happened to me personally in 1983 when I was living and doing missionary work in Hong Kong, a British colony at the time. Astronaut, Jim Irwin of Apollo 15 fame, was sitting with me in my office discussing his new book entitled: I Walked on the Moon. He had synthesized it into a seven hundred word essay and asked me if I could help him turn it into a religious tract that he and his tour group could hand out during their upcoming trip into China. Piece of cake. I had it translated into beautiful Chinese by a truly gifted translator friend of mine whom I knew well - and I did the layout and design. During the two days that we had to wait for the print shop to produce the brochure, we hung out together. I really liked him, and was quite interested in his many stories of his frequent trips to Turkey to climb around on Mt. Ararat - in search of Noah's Ark.
Lots of people have done that over the years, but he was surely the most famous. Landsat satellite photography was just becoming common place at the time, so he had with him many such marvelous photos of that region, but no ark. They had found some wood samples above the tree line, which hinted of something. As I didn't want to appear too skeptical, I still had to question him. In my most polite voice I simply asked what that proved exactly. "Well, nothing on its own," he confessed, "But we will keep trying. Meanwhile, it is an enthusiasm-booster for us all. That made sense - sort of. He was overjoyed with the product (so was I). As I saw him (and his tour group) off at the HK railway station, I couldn't help but wonder. Even if they did find something of some kind up on that mountain some day, would that really prove the flood story conclusively? I went back to my office and re-read the flood tale from Genesis chapter six. I doubted it. As a fundamentalist and literalist (of sorts) at the time, I was in "the same boat" with Jim Irwin. My theology, my faith, and my whole world was wrapped up in stories like Noah's ark and the Pool of Siloam. If they are just fairy tales, then what else in the Bible is figurative as well? Eden, Jericho, Sodom? It is a classic example of the slippery slope. And in my experience, that slope is very slippery indeed. (end).