Monday, August 29, 2005

A modest proposal

Hurricane Katrina promises to raise the price of gas by 20-30 cents, so they say. That means it will probably hit $3.00 a gallon in the next few days. My question is this: How long does it take to refine a whole bunch of oil into gasoline?

The gas currently in your local filling station did not come from $70 a barrel oil. So how come the oil companies are permitted to immediately raise the price on current retail gasoline stocks when the oil used to produce that gas cost less than today's oil?

How long does it take to process crude into gasoline anyway?

How about we have somebody(Congress, Bush) step in and say to the oil companies, "You can't raise prices on current gasoline stocks already at the point of retail purchase for "x" number of days."?

Sound good?

Monday, August 22, 2005

So what does this mean?

So as I said, we were in church when the tree crunched our house.

Sitting in the pew, Kathy was upset all over again about the pastor, about other people we saw sitting in these reserved pews ahead of us. Turns out they were on this big deal committee I used to belong to, and some were members of the new parish council. We knew them all, so that was good. Kathy felt I should be up there, but I wasn't so sure I wanted any more responsibility at church.

Anyway, I started praying about what to do about changing parishes. Should we stay in the place where she grew up and where we were married and where all our kids went to school and where we are both Eucharistic ministers and I recruit and train lectors and am in charge of the Social Justice group? Or should we go to a new parish where some of our former members now belong? What's a good reason for leaving a faith community?

I asked Jesus for a way to know.

So we get home and see a tree laying across our driveway--a small scale disaster that we missed because we were in church. A tree fell four feet from where Kathy sits in the kitchen, and we weren't home. We were in church. The same church we've been going to for the thirty years we've lived together here. So what does this mean? Everything? Or nothing?

"Fall" 2005 Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Is it "fall" yet?

If a tree falls on your house and you’re not home at the time, do you still have to pay your deductible?

Saturday afternoon, yesterday, Kathy asked, “Do you want to go to church tonight or should we go in the morning?” “Let’s go tonight!” I said, “That way we can get out to your sister’s house for swimming in the morning.”

So off we went to 4:30 Mass. At about 5 o’clock the sky looked black and scary and it started to pour. It was still raining when we left the building at 5:30, and people were getting soaked running to their cars. We drove the few blocks back to our house and noticed some small tree branches in the streets and saw that our neighbor’s flag had been torn from his front porch.

As we pulled into our driveway, we were shocked to see the big maple from our neighbor’s backyard stretched across our back porch, blocking the garage. The big old tree had snapped at its base and crashed into the porch roof, splintering the frame and crushing the gutters. The top came to rest on the roof of the back room. Live electrical wires were splayed around the backyard. Miraculously, the phones still worked since the line hadn’t snapped, but was straining under the weight of the trunk.

The series of phone calls started then, as I got on the cell to the insurance company and Kathy used the kitchen wall phone to spread the word of our disaster to her sisters. I called the electric company and there began a comedy of errors.

Various utility workers made six trips to the house beginning last night. Some came to look, some came to restore power, and still others came to fix what the others had already fixed. Each crew disparaged the work of the previous group, saying things like, “They never should have left hot wires lying in the grass like that” and “They never should have run wires over your garage like that.” Really quite confidence inspiring. These visits were made at 10:30pm, 11:00pm, 4:00am, 1:00pm the next day, 1:30pm and finally at about 5:00pm today. Evidently we reached the top of the pyramid, since the last crew set us up properly and told us to call once the tree had been removed.

So who takes care of that? A call to the electric company and we were told, don’t worry about it—we’re working with the tree companies. One crew said no, it’s your problem. Another call to the company office, and sure enough, the first person was wrong and we were the ones who had to arrange removal.

I called seven tree companies and only one answered the phone today—not surprising since other towns were also hit hard by the weather. So the guy who picked up the phone got the job. He should be here tomorrow (Monday).

So of course, if we had decided to go to church on Sunday morning, we would have been home when the tree fell onto the house, the car would have been in the garage and hopelessly blocked in, and most importantly of all, Kathy would have been forever traumatized, her worst fears realized.

Friday, August 19, 2005

You can’t make this stuff up

Tonight Kathy and I went to the Cleveland Indians game downtown. The ballpark is only a few blocks from where we work, so we changed into our play clothes at the office and drove over there.

The first restaurant we wanted to go to was packed and no one looked like they were leaving any time soon, so we walked across the street to another one. There was no air conditioning, but the windows were open and there was a vacant booth, so we jumped in. All we wanted was some appetizers, figuring we’d get something else at the park during the game.

Some people think a hot dog at a baseball game is the ultimate treat, but at the Cleveland park, the hamburgers are so good, I usually wind up with one of those instead. But I digress.

Kathy asked me to go to the bar to get her a glass of wine. OK. Simple enough.

I walked up to a young woman working behind the bar and asked her for a glass of chardonnay. She was an attractive blondish twentysomething, wearing one of those skirts that has you wondering what holds it up, since it’s halfway down her hips. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I digress.

Blogger: “A glass of chardonnay, please.”

Ms. Skirt: “I’m sorry, we only have white wine.”

Blogger: “That will be fine.” No point in belaboring the obvious. She was wearing that skirt after all.

Ms. Skirt: “I have to go into the back to get it.” No need to apologize for leaving me. Women do that all the time.

Blogger: “OK.”

So the young lady disappears momentarily and returns carrying a heavy looking green glass container that doesn’t look quite right, but I can’t see the label. She struggles to open it until a manager comes by and saves her. Turns out she was trying to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne.

To be fair, it looked like a number of people were in training this night. I saw one young lady being instructed by a veteran server on the fine points of swiping a credit card through the machine. Other neophytes were dashing from table to table with drink orders. One of them inexplicably grabbed our check off our table and ran off with it. We looked at each other wondering if it was free chicken fingers night or something. She returned a few minutes later and set it down again saying, “I don’t know why I took that from you.” Now mind you, we had never seen that server before. The woman who was helping us was quite competent (tall, blond, too much make-up), but she had gone around the far side of the room to work.

So in the end Kathy wound up with a margarita in a plastic cup. Who says we don’t know how to have a good time?

Did the bar back get a tip? Well, she was almost wearing that skirt, so what do you think I did?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

So where have I been?

St. Louis is lovely this time of year—just like Cleveland: hot and steamy. I just came back from a couple days in the gateway city. As secretary for the board of the Midwest Association of Colleges and Employers, I spent Wednesday night through Friday afternoon there in meetings. The president of our association works at Webster University, just outside St. Louis, so we all traveled there for the board meeting. He arranged for the board members to stay in on campus housing for $40 a night, so we appreciated that. The accommodations were typical college apartments, with a common area and kitchen and two bedrooms. The thing I appreciated the most was the fact that each bedroom had its own bathroom.

When I walked into the apartment, I was struck by how small it was. Then I remembered what my dorm rooms were like and I thought, “I’m back in school!” The bed was one of those extra long twin beds, but in order to be comfortable on the mattress you had to find the groove left by the previous tenant and conform to it.

I did have a roommate—a professor from Michigan State who had been invited as a guest speaker for a different event. I knew him from previous conferences and meetings. He showed up late Wednesday night and mentioned that a student had picked him up at the airport and taken him to dinner. Now I know he got special treatment since he was to be a speaker at an event, but it made me mad that someone had driven him out to the campus from the airport after I had just paid thirty dollars for a cab to do the same thing!

Our president did a very good job organizing the meetings over the next two days and we got a lot done. I did not bring a laptop this time since I didn’t want to lug it around, so I just took notes in longhand. (Friday night I had to sit in the airport for four hours waiting for my flight, so I used that time to transcribe them—now I still have to type them up. Hmm, maybe I will bring the computer next time.)

It is a fun group, this board. The president is very creative guy who doesn’t call these gatherings meetings, but rather, they are “information parties”. The board consists of eight people, but we were joined by another sixteen people who also serve in leadership roles for the association. (We all came together at one point for a big strategic planning meeting after the board meeting was finished.) One night we all trooped over to the president’s house for a dessert party and got to know each other a little better.

His place is a big old country house that seems to have at least two doors to every room. You can wander around in a big circle through the living room, dining room, kitchen, his bedroom and back to the front door again. A couple of us were standing in his bedroom talking and he came in and told us the story of his headboard. It looks like an ordinary headboard until you walk up to it and see that it’s a boxspring mattress standing on end with a rough woven blanket covering it. He had no headboard when he moved in and one night at 2:30 in the morning he got the idea to cut an old boxspring in half so he jumped out of bed and did just that. Manic behavior? You be the judge.

I shared a pleasant cab ride back to the airport on Friday afternoon, made even more enjoyable when someone else picked up the entire tab! I passed the time until my flight by writing up my notes and eating terrible airport food. The hour and half flight passed quickly since I had a great seat mate—a former English teacher from the Youngstown area. We talked books and authors and the state of education in the state of Ohio.

Not being much a of jet setter, it's taken me until now--Sunday morning to recover from all this travel. Time to check out the rest of your blogs and see what I've missed!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Dinner with Max

Since Max's mom is visiting family in California this week, we took Shane and three year old Max to dinner this afternoon. He was fresh from his nap, so he was especially entertaining. He wolfed down his chicken fingers and fries and then started eyeing my plate. He snatched a dill slice off it and took a bite. As the waiter passed by, Max turned and remarked, "I really like the pickles!" I'm sure the waiter was relieved that everything went so well.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Still, maybe we should have gone after all

Right about this time of year I pop the Woodstock CDs into the nearest player for my own private celebration of the anniversary of the concert. August 1969. I was 19, working for the summer in a post office in New Jersey. I had been working in a factory for minimum wage ($1.65) when the post office job came open. I jumped at it, since it paid a magnificent $3.15 an hour. One guy I worked with made everyone mad by blowing off that weekend of work and going to Woodstock.

We kind of followed the story, since we lived in the general region, and were alternatively tempted to go and relieved that we hadn’t gone after all. The tickets were $12 and we just didn’t think we could spend that much. Then we saw the traffic jams, the rain and the general horrendous conditions and felt justified in our decision to stay home.

“What was it like?” We wanted to know. The guy came back and said, “Never heard a single note.” Another group of old high school friends tried to go up, but were turned away and some point and just spent the weekend in someone’s farmhouse.

All through high school the music I heard on the radio was very important to me. I was interested in the Beatles, the blues, rock of all sorts. There is a short list of concerts that I saw:

-The James Cotton Blues Band opening for Janis Joplin in Asbury Park. The girl I was with was a classical flutist and so did not appreciate Janis at all.
-A concert at the Fillmore East that featured The Doors, Richie Havens, The Blues Project, Janis Ian and one more act I can’t remember. Price for the whole thing: $4.00. Pretty steep, but we thought it was worth it. OK, it was 1967.
-The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band opening for The Doors at Hunter College in New York. The girls we were with went to the ladies room and didn’t return to their seats for some time. When they did show up again, they told how they had opened the wrong door and walked in on Jim Morrison and the gang! The Doors invited them to stay and party but they wisely declined and raced back to us.
-Led Zeppelin opening for Jose Feliciano. This was sad. Feliciano, as you may know, is blind, and when he came out, many of us who had only come to see Led Zeppelin left the arena. I made my date stay for a song or two to be polite, but then we joined the exodus.

So who do we go to see in this century? The Rolling Stones, of course.