Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bush Regime Triggers Gay Marriage in Iraq

Bush Regime Triggers Gay Marriage in Iraq
In a turn of events that has caught the Bush administration with its pants down, the newly-formed Federal Supreme Court of Iraq voted unanimously to legalize same-sex marriage for all Iraqi citizens. Their 13-0 decision paved the way for same-sex marriages to be legally recognized beginning October 1, 2006.

“Ever since the U.S. invaded and occupied our country, no one in Iraq has been able to get married at all,” reports Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. “We had to do something to save the very order and fabric of our society.”

Al-Maliki cited Islamic marriage law in which a man must pay a dowry (mahr) to the woman he intends to marry; a dowry which becomes her own personal property.

“When the U.S. occupied Iraq, every man able to provide mahr immediately fled the country. The only men remaining have absolutely no hopes of ever being able to marry a woman -- especially with the 70 percent unemployment rate since the occupation. But now that we’re a democracy, the prospect of same-sex marriage has given hope to millions of Iraqis.”

Qudumah Al-Nedjari, a 27 year-old unemployed electrician, fully embraces the idea of gay marriage.

“Under Saddam Hussein, I had a great job and was engaged to be married to a beautiful woman. Sadly, my fiancé was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and there has been no available work since then. I have no hope of ever providing mahr to a woman.”

Al-Nedjari drew a deep breath and continued. “But since George Bush brought democracy to Iraq, I can now marry my best friend, Mustafa. I’m not gay or anything, and especially don’t like being on the ‘bottom bunk’ when we have sex, but at least I won’t be alone for the rest of my life.”

Mustafa Abd-al-Hadi is also enthused over the prospect of marrying Al-Nedjari.

“We’ve been best friends since childhood. Sure, I’d like to marry a woman but that’s no longer possible under the Bush regime.”

He pauses and gives Al-Nedjari a peck on the cheek. “I’m sure we can work things out.”

The new marriage laws also have many benefits for Iraqi women.

“The U.S. military took my husband to Abu-Ghraib three years ago and now he’s presumed dead,” reports Dima Yusriyya, a 32 year old widow. “The Qu’ran forbids me to marry without mahr but there are no men left who can provide that. Luckily, women aren’t under such obligations and so I’m marrying my sister-in-law, Salwa, next week."

Prime Minister, Al-Maliki, cited a recent poll result. “Eighty-five percent of single Iraqis are expected to enter into same -sex marriages within a year. George Bush has truly brought new hope and vibrancy to our people through the spread of democracy."

Al-Maliki wiped a tear from his eye. “God bless America!”

© 2006 by Jonathan Wheat

Friday, September 29, 2006

It Starts Earlier Every Year . . .

Here it is. September 29th and the tops of all the skyscrapers here in Chicago are lit up in pink.

Sigh. The decorations for Breast Cancer Awareness Month begin earlier every year.


The One O'Clock Whistle

When I was growing up in my little-bitty home town (Goliad, Texas, pop. 1,700) my grandparents owned and operating the local dry-cleaning establishment on the town square. (I'm including a recent pic of the town) My grandfather had bought the place in 1945 right after the war.

I would often hang out there as a kid, doing odd jobs, mainly just bored. By the time I was in fifth grade, my grandmother put me to work after school.

The first job for which I was trained was to place the cardboard guards on wire coat hangers which was excruiciatingly boring. The task was to fill up this three-foot rack with cardboard-guarded hangers. I'd space them out so that the rack would look full and expect my 50 cents as payment. My grandmother would inspect my handiwork and, scruuuunch! push all my coat hangers to one end of the rack and have me fill it up properly. I later graduated to more responsible tasks. By the time I was thirteen, I was waiting on the customers, running the dry-cleaning equipment, steam-pressing the clothes and making the bank deposit at the end of the day. It was really huge, old machinery and its a wonder I didn't get killed.

Anyway, my grandfather was a very punctual man, very much "by the book." The place wasn't air-conditioned, so all the steam-pressing was done in the early morning hours while it was coolest. By lunch time, all the clothes had been pressed and the big boiler behind the shop could be emptied.

My grandfather kept to such a consistent schedule that he ended up empying the boiler at 1:00 pm every day. It would make a very loud whooosh! which could be heard all over the town square. Soon, the locals would know that it was one o'clock when they'd hear him empty the boiler. They'd often comment that they could set their clocks by the sound of the steam being released.

So, my grandfather obtained a real train whistle and attached it to the end of the pipe where the steam would come out. That thing could be heard all over the town. Of course, he'd make sure it was exactly 1:00 pm when he'd sound it off and it soon became the official one o'clock whistle by which everyone could set their clocks.

If I was there on a Saturday, he'd let me release the steam and sound the whistle. I remember being about nine or ten years old and watching the second-hand on his official clock. Then, fifteen seconds before 1:00, I'd crank-and-crank-and-crank the big valve with all my might to sound the whistle and thus herald one o'clock in Goliad, Texas. If several of us grandchildren were there, we'd dart in and out of the huge cloud of steam in the back alley until we'd be soaking wet.

Gosh, that was exciting!

Isn't that a poignant story?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The new furniture is all in place. It's excellent for chaise-lounging around. (i.e. couch-taterin')

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sometimes, Only a Hag Will Do

My big beautiful furniture from Ikea arrived earlier this week. The first day, I managed to put together the big, heavy, sleek coffee table that had no instructions. The drawers don't fit, but I've got an idea on some strategies. It may involve some Vaseline and a Venti extra-dark roast at an opportune time, but I'll bring it all together.

It's fine with me that Ikea furniture doesn't come with instructions. It only comes with a little-bitty booklet with step-pictures. I imagine it's because Ikea is based in Sweden where they speak at least twelve European languages; quite unlike Americans who can only speak rudimentary English and "Rap."

Frankly, I much prefer the directions be based in pictures rather than twelve different languages. I'm a completely spacial-type of guy. I bombed Algebra I and II, and aced geometry. Giving verbal directions will cause my eyes to glaze over; just give me the address, let me glance at Mapquest, and I'll be there. Five minutes ahead of time.

So, whenever I see directions provided in twelve various languages, I can rest assured that NONE of the directions will be accurate in any language with which I can decipher: Place part B-63 in screw nut P-24X turn but not down clockwise slide upward Do Not!! Repeat step 2-B at length part B-64.

Tonight, The Hag and I planned our usual Sunday evening out together:

1. Dinner at Chili's: Three appetizer-samplers, salads and drinks. The Hag and I are completely okay with double-dunkin'.

2. Shopping at our downtown grocery market with my big 'granny cart' so that we'd be able to wheel everything back. (Chili's checked my 'granny cart' at the coat rack)

3. Back to Iwanski's apartment to unload the granny-cart, feed the cats.
Pudding cups were administered.
Iwanski also tweaked my blog which was awfully nice.
The Bears had won something which was awfully nice.

4. Back to my place (one block away) with the granny-cart.
I kicked the granny-cart with my big feet. A cabbage fell out along the way onto the sidewalk and almost tumbled into the river. I caught it just in time.

Note to self: Must wash off the cabbage

It turns out that The Hag (i.e. Miss Healthy-Pants) had been employed by a furniture establishment during college and had a LOT of experience at assembling put-together furniture. Wow!

I didn't expect that.

Miss Healthy-Pants-slash-The Hag suddenly became Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants.

OOoo. We arrived at my apartment which contained three huge, multi-hundred-pound plastic wrapped boxes. My entire apartment smelled like a brand-new set of Tinker-Toys.

Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants kicked into high gear and, frankly, she scared me a bit.

I hadn't even thought about dis-assembling my sad little futon, but within minutes, Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants had me unscrewing everything in sight and carrying the remnants into the stairway. Every time I tried to re-enter my apartment, Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants had more bits of my futon at the front door for me to carry away.

While I was littering several floors of my apartment building with remnants of a futon, I could hear Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants ripping, shredding, slicing the packing material away from the three huge boxes that contained my Ikea sofa/sleeper/chaise lounge. Every time I returned to my apartment entrance, I'd hear these awful, loud ripping sounds of cardboard, packing material, and plastic wrapping being flung about my apartment. This was a woman on a mission!!

During the next two hours, Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants got me to shove-n-screw more furniture, coffee tables, and modern rugs than I'd ever thought imaginable.

I didn't think it was possible, but with the help of Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants, we assembled 272 kgs of Swedish put-together furniture, arranged and re-arranged rugs and switched and re-switched heavy accessories.

She required two slices of pizza and then went home.

I did strip one big bolt; the only casualty. I'll just need to ensure that no one slams against the far left side of the sofa. I'll need to keep that in mind.

I'll need to wait a while before posting pics yet of my new fantastic living room. (I'll do that soon)

But here are two pics of what Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants can do within ten minutes.

Bottom line: Don't ever mess with Miss Furniture-Assembly-Pants!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Let's all sing 'Happy Birthday'

Hey everyone. Let's all give a super-sized Happy Birthday to Lorraine over at Here's the Thing. And just lookee here. Even Ronald McDee is getting in on the action too.
If you haven't read her work, you should. It's witty, clever, entertaining, and soooo well-written.
So go on over and wish her a big happy-happy.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Funniest Blog EVER!

I just love it when I find a blog that makes me laugh out so loud that I almost peed a little. Almost peeing a little is one of my favorite things to do. I recently came across this hilarious site about a woman named Bunny Lynn who lives in a trailer house with her "poodle-dog" named King Louis the 15th. In Bunny Lynn's world of fashion, "leopard" is a neutral color and hair rollers are perfectly acceptable fashion accessories. Bunny Lynn can often be seen with her friend, Phyllis, at the Wal Mart which thankfully supplies scooter-chairs.

So, in honor of dear Bunny Lynn, I give you my

"Wedding Rehersal Day Chicken al'Orange"

1 Roastin' Chicken

1 Jar of Tang Instant Breakfast Drink

1 circular saw

Preheat oven to 425

Rub your chicken with as much Tang as will stay on. Put your chicken in a good-sized roastin' pan and roast until Tang becomes nice and crispy. It carves real nice with a circular saw.

Serving Suggestion: It's real good with Rice-a-Roni and Pilsbury crescent rolls.

It was bound to happen . . .

I've noticed that the new "thing" in roller coaster design has been the use of 90-degree angles on the first drops of some new coasters.

In the coaster industry, "more" is always better. So, Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio is constructing a new coaster featuring a first drop that goes five degrees past verticle. Looks like a tummy-tickler to me.

Click here for some really cool animated video of what the ride will be like.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I'm Going to Eat a Hissing Cockroach. Really.

I've always been a huge fan of riding roller coasters. For a number of years, I was an avid member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts. So when I heard about a promotional event at Six Flags, Great America, I became very excited.

Each year during the month of October, the Six Flags parks have "Fright Nights", a Halloween-based theme going on. It's a lot of fun and the weather is always cool, if not downright cold. (Coasters run faster in cooler weather). This year, the Six Flags here in Chicagoland is having a promotional event where if you eat a live Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, you and three friends get to skip to the front of the lines for the entire day.

I'm so gonna do it!

First of all, the idea of not having to wait in any lines all day is sheer heaven to a coaster hound like me.

Second, I have a history of eating weird things and have always been curious about strange delicacies. For example, when I was ten years old, I noticed that our elephant-ear plants in the flower garden smelled like bananas. I broke off a stalk and began chewing on it.

As it turns out, they're poisonous.

My entire esophagus began burning really badly and I had trouble breathing. I had to be flushed out with lots of milk. Stupid kid.

When I was a kid, my family would always eat at Valerio's italian restaurant when we'd venture to San Antonio for the weekend. The house salads came with an anchovy on top of each and everyone in my family would automatically give all their anchovies to me. I loved 'em. Still do.

I've eaten fried gobbler testacles. They're featured in my home-town's annual Turkey Fest each year. I only tried them once. They're really nothing but a grey, chewy thing.

So, the idea of eating a big, live bug in order to have quick access to a dozen roller coasters is kind of a no-brainer. Besides, I'll enjoy the attention.

I get to bring three friends. (The Hag already said 'no'). Any takers?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Couch Tater

My new furniture arrived today!


I ordered it three weeks ago and they said they'd have it here in 7-14 days. NOT.

It took them a week to figure out that they messed up the order. Finally, the delivery company called a couple of days ago to arrange for a delivery time. They were supposed to be here between 8:00 am and noon today. So, of course, I overslept and didn't want to hop in the shower because it would be then that they'd arrive and I wouldn't hear them. So, I putzed around with my hair all messed up waiting and waiting.

At 11:30, I was getting really anxious. I had to be at work at noon for an audit. I was just about to call when finally, they showed up at 11:40.

This furniture is perfect. You see, I really really really like blue. All my cars have been blue. Most of my clothes are blue. Even the combination lock on my bicycle is blue. Guess what color my dishes are? . . . . they're beige.
And blue.

Also, I don't like patterns. Solids are great. No stripes, swirls, or anything.

So, when I saw this combo sofa/chaise lounge/sleeper, it was just perfect. Okay, it's from Ikea, but I don't care. It's just what I want. And the coffee table is blond which compliments blue. It's also very sleek with no patterns and has compartments for all my remote controls and what-nots.

But is this sofa just perfect for couch tatering?

I'm just gonna couch-tater all over this thing.

Fresh Ground Pepper?

The pepper-guy at the restaurant has always made me uncomfortable.

I think it's a guy-thing. I wouldn't feel right, say, letting a guy change my windshield wiper blades because, as a guy, I should be able to do it myself. I'm also fully capable of operating a pepper mill and administering my own pepper.

Since when did fresh-ground pepper become a sacrament anyway? The moment your salad is served, the pepper liturgy begins. There he is, all smiles, with his pepper mill cocked and ready to festoon your salad with this super-special spice. "Fresh ground pepper?" Everyone becomes silent. He grinds and grinds until you hold up your hand indicating for him to stop and then he moves on to the next guest.

And it's always a guy. I can't recall ever being serviced by a pepper-girl. And who are these guys anyway?? Do they go to school for that? What kind of training is involved? How do they "move up" in the business? Are there parents who, when asked what their son does for a living, actually reply, "You know the guy that serves fresh-ground pepper in the restaurant? That's what my son does!"

Another thing I've noticed: You can always tell how fancy the restaurant is by the size of the pepper mill. If your sitting there and a pepper mill the size of a baseball bat appears over your shoulder, you'd better have a good credit line available.

I like fresh-ground pepper but I don't like pepper mills. You can never get enough pepper out of them.
gritch-gritch-gritch gritch-gritch-gritch.

Pause. Hmmm, not enough.
gritch-gritch-gritch gritch-gritch-gritch

At home, I grind little batches of it up in a coffee grinder and that way I can dump on as much as I like. But in a restaurant, the pepper-guy always says, "Say when," and begins grinding:
gritch-gritch-gritch gritch-gritch-gritch.

And I'm thinking, "Get comfortable, pepper-boy! You're gonna be here for a while."

Another thing: What if I want fresh ground pepper later in the meal on something other than my salad? Like a baby lamb chop. You're pretty much outta luck. Once the pepper-guy transubstantiates your salad, you never see him anywhere. Fresh-ground pepper, it seems, is a one-shot opportunity. You'd think that the restaurant could afford more of it and not have to ration it out like that.

The next time I'm in a fresh-ground-pepper-type-of-restaurant, I'm just going to ask the pepper-guy to simply leave the mill at the table and leave me alone. How does that sound?

Monday, September 18, 2006

On the Way to Work

It's a simple ten-block walk from my apartment to work.
Today, I took my camera with me and was pleasantly surprised to learn how many fun things there are on the way. (click on pic for larger view)

This looks awfully boring. I screamed and waved at them from the bridge but they wouldn't wave back.

Donald Trump's new building.
Eighty more floors to go.
He better be a nice neighbor.

The "UFO" Church
(Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist)

I'd love to party with a woman named "Filene"

I've got to find out what a "Helluvaburger" is.

Under the EL

Curb your Chihuahua!

At work with my 2-liter "Ultimate Gulp"
Refills are only a dollar.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Loonies and Toonies

We need to bring back the dollar coin and get it right this time. I lived in Canada for three years where they use dollar coins and there are so many advantages to it. However, the dollar coin won't ever catch on unless there's also a two-dollar coin. Soon after Canada switch from one-dollar notes to coins in 1987, they soon came out with the two-dollar coin and it worked.

You see, people don't want to end up with a bunch of one-dollar coins in their pockets. For example, if something is 75 cents and you pay with a five, it's a hassle to end up with four one-dollar coins in change. But if there are two-dollar coins, you'll get two of those.

Canada calls their dollars "Loonies" for two reasons: (1) There's a loon on the coin and (2) it says L'une on the coin. "Loonie" became the official name of their currency soon after that. You'll hear on the news, "the Loonie is up five cents since yesterday." Subsequently, they call their two-dollar coins, "Toonies."

Here are some advantages to one-dollar and two-dollar coins:

1. They're great for vending machines. You never have to use those dollar-bill changers that never work anyway.

2. Coins last a lot longer than paper notes. It would save the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving millions, no, billions of dollars in the long run; money that'll undoubtedly be needed to clean up after the Bush legacy.

3. Dollar coins are great for laundry machines. No more quarters needed.

4. Toonies are great for tipping. No more conspicuous dollar bills flying around the table.

5. In Toronto, the subway fare was $2.00 (well, it was when I lived there six years ago) Toonies could be used as subway tokens. Plink!

And the best reason of all:

Strippers make out like bandits. You just can't put a Loonie or a Toonie in a g-string, so strippers are happily festooned with five-dollar bills instead of ones.

So, I say it's high-time we make the switch. Cinnamon, Cody, and Miss Kitty Litter will thank you for your patronage.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Nineteen Sixty TWO!! Correction

JP at All Things Bitter brought up a good point regarding the date when Marina Towers was completed. I re-checked and I was wrong. I've been screaming "Nineteen Sixty-Two" at the tour boats, (see previous post) when actually, it was completed in 1964. Still, the boat tour guides are way off, telling everyone they were completed in 1967. I'll just have to scream "Nineteen Sixty Four!" at them now.

By the way, if you want a truly good laugh, you gotta read JP's recent post about a visit to the orthodontist. I wish I could write like that. He makes me mad.

Oh, by the way again. I found a floor plan to my little apartment at Marina Towers. One really nice thing that makes it seem bigger is that the wall between the living room and balcony is all glass, from floor to ceiling. The balcony is pretty big too, (175 sq. ft) big enough for George Jetson to fly his space-car onto.

Oh, and here's a really cool pic of the fireworks as seen from the roof deck. (I love the roof deck)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nineteen Sixty TWO!!

I love my little apartment here in Chicago. It's on the 49th floor of Marina Towers which has been a Chicago landmark since 1962. I remember as a kid growing up in Hometown, Texas (pop 1,700) watching the Bob Newhart Show and seeing the funky, oh-so-hip-and-modern Marina Towers. I wanted so badly to live in a city up north where it snowed, like Bob Newhart and Mary Tyler Moore got to do. I wanted to run down the city streets with my mouth agog at all the lights and tall buildings like Marlo Thomas did in That Girl.

Mainly, I just wanted to get the hell outta Texas where it was hot and high school football was an all-encompassing, fascist religion.

I moved to Chicago in January, 2001. A year-and-a-half ago, I was walking by Marina Towers downtown and thought I'd just ask to see an apartment there, just for fun. It was much more affordable than I thought it'd be. Hey, neat.

I signed a two-year lease. I hadn't even looked at a single other apartment in all of Chicago. I was going to be living in the Bob Newhart building, the George Jetson building, the "corn-cob towers", the That-Girl Building.

It definitely has an early-60's kitsch thing goin' on. Big time. The bathtub and toilet are yellow the bathroom wall tiles are chocolate and aqua. The kitchen has yellow-green metal cabinets. I keep meaning to buy an aqua rotary-dial Trimline wall phone for the kitchen, you know, to go with the yellow-green metal cabinets.

Anyway, my biggest pet peeve are these tourist boats that go up and down the Chicago river right outside the building. I'll be walking to work, crossing the bridge and a tourist boat will pass under with the tour guide bull-horning: "And on your right are the sixty-story Marina Towers, a Chicago landmark completed in 1967. . . . "

I'll scream down, "Nineteen Sixty TWO!!"

A few heads will snap up, but they never listen.

The very next week, another boat will have the narrator announcing, "And on your right are the sixty-story Marina Towers, a Chicago landmark completed in 1967. . . . "

"It's Nineteen Sixty TWO!!"

One of these days, I'm going to take the river-tour and when it floats by Marina Towers, I'll be ready to leap up, grab the microphone and set everyone straight.

Meanwhile, there are probably people all over the world talking about this crazy guy in Chicago that does nothing but shriek "Nineteen Sixty TWO" from the State Street bridge.

A Thorough Exam

Recently, I've been in the process of applying to be a Big Brother in the Big Brother/Big Sister Program. In my line of work, I've seen so much evidence of dysfunctional families, abuse, crime, the whole gamut. I enjoy kids, feel that if I can do my little bit to defuse some of the dysfunction, then that would be a good thing. Besides, I know everything.

I had heard that it required a very thorough application process (as well it should be) but I think you'll all be surprised when you read just how extensive it was. I certainly was . . . .

I completed an application, an essay, signed a release so they could do a background check on me, and provided five references. Then there was the interview which was to take place in my home. I was a bit curious as to why it had to take place in my home, after all, I didn't plan on bringing the kid to my apartment nor do I think that should be allowed. Perhaps it was just to see how I lived, to see if I was a raging slob or whatever.

I cleaned really well, of course. I keep a neat apartment, but not freaky neat like one friend of mine who has never even used his oven or his own shower (He showers at the gym in his building so that his marble shower remains unsullied. That's freaky). I'm quite happy to sully my shower.

Then I got carried away . . . . I ordered new living room furniture. Really.

Okay, okay, it was stuff I'd been thinking about getting for a long time, anyway.

So, the social worker shows up for the interview. The furniture delivery had been held up so she didn't get to see the new stuff. Dang. We chit-chat. It turns out that she's from a very small town in Texas near the Mexican border (McAllen, Texas) which was relatively close to where I grew up. "McAllen, Texas?? Oh, gosh, my mom lives in Victoria!" Small world.

She goes through the usual questions: What do I have offer? What kind of child would be a challenge? What activities do you enjoy? What's your religion? Do you smoke?

What's you sexual orientation?

"Umm. . . . Left."

More questions, more questions. I did not tell her about the time when I was 13, tied my little brother to the side of the house , climbed on the roof and repeatedly spit on him. (Well, he was bugging me.)

Then she asked to look in my drawers. "Gosh, on the first date? I'm not that kinda guy." It was to see where I kept knives, prescription medication, cleaning products.
Oh, okay.

Then she asked to look at the browser on my PC to see the website history. Wow! (I'm sure it's to see if there's any suspicious sites on there). No problem. "Knock yourself out. I suppose I'll be meeting your parents next."

She mentioned that the organization often sends out letters that suggest things for me and my "Little" to do. She said, "You'd be surprised at how many people can't think of things to do."

I replied, "Good god, this is Chicago! It's not as if this was McAllen, Texas!"

Ha Ha.

An hour and a half later, she was on her way.

I felt like I needed a Silkwood scrub-down.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The War on Terror

يرى الكثيرون أن فترة حكمه تميزت بالميل الى التوجهات اليمينية المحافظة، والتعامل مع القضايا الخارجية بالقبضة الحديدية و اعتبار ان خوض الحروب هو الحل للمشاكل التي تواجه امريكا. و يريد طاقمه المحافظ فرض الديمقراطية بنهجها الأمريكي على العالم الإسلامي بالقوة، وتغيير مناهج التعليم الدينية لتصبح أكثر مهادنة للفكر الغربي.
كما يتهمه الكثير من العرب بارتكاب جرائم حرب في حروبه في العراق و أفغانستان، و بانتهاك حقوق العرب والمسلمين في معتقلات امريكا السرية والمعلنة في مختلف أنحاء العالم.
[تيرى الكثيرون أن فترة حكمه تميزت بالميل الى التوجهات اليمينية
أفاد استطلاع للرأي أجرته صحيفة (يو.اس.اي توداي) وقناة (سي.ان.ان) ومعهد غالوب أن شعبية الرئيس الأمريكي جورج بوش انخفضت إلى أدنى مستوى منذ توليه السلطة في 2001 لتبل. وأفاد الاستطلاع أن هذا التراجع يعود جزئيا إلى الفضيحة التي أثارها الكشف عن هوية عميل وكالة الاستخبارات المركزية (سي.اي.ايه) وارتفاع أسعار النفط والملف العراقي. المحافظة، والتعامل مع القضايا الخارجية بالقبضة الحديدية و اعتبار ان خوض الحروب هو الحل للمشاكل التي تواجه امريكا. و يريد طاقمه المحافظ فرض الديمقراطية بنهجها الأمريكي على العالم الإسلامي بالقوة، وتغيير مناهج التعليم الدينية لتصبح أكثر مهادنة للفكر الغربي.كما يتهمه الكثير من العرب بارتكاب جرائم حرب في حروبه في العراق و أفغانستان، و بانتهاك حقوق العرب والمسلمين في معتقلات امريكا السرية والمعلنة في مختلف أنحاء العالم.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cistercian Monastery -- The Good Stuff

It's true that I did leave the Cistercian Monastery after four years. I left to join another Order in New York who had wooed me. I enjoyed being wooed while my Cistercian directors had been challenging me, just as they should have been.

In retrospect, I was a big, monastic wimp who'd bailed out to a new, inviting ball-club (The Franciscans) with whom I remained for the next four years. While with the Franciscans, I truly blossomed and found my 'calling' as a counselor. I completed tons of graduate studies at U. of Toronto as well as three internships as a substance abuse counselor in New York and Toronto.

However, in retrospect, I only look back on my years with the Cistercians with unalloyed fondness, with happiness, and with quite a bit of longing. Perhaps my past years with the Cistercians is similar to that feeling one has for their first love: You never forget the love and euphoria; the remembrance also wipes away anything negative.

Yadda-Yadda-Yadda, I left Religious life soon before ordination in 2001. (I hated having to leave Canada)

Back to Cistercian life . . . .

Confession We were expected to go to "confession" at least once a month and choose a confessor with whom we felt a spiritual bond. I easily chose this elderly, Hungarian monk who I'd not heard anything negative about. He had been with the Order since 1947, left Hungary in 1949, and joined up with the Dallas order in 1956. He was this short, elderly fellow who always seemed to be smiling.

Every time I entered his room at our appointed time, he'd have nothing on his desk but a Bible that he'd be reading. So many other monks were so scholarly, with huge hoards of books stuffed in their rooms, some with obvious obsessive/compulsive hoarding disorders. But not my confessor. He'd been a professor since 1956 and had recently retired. I can honestly say that I never entered his room without seeing him reading his Bible. That's all he had in his room, aside from his bed and desk. No books. Not even the Imitation of Christ. Just a Bible, opened, in the middle of his desk.

His room was always spotless and clean as a whistle. Upon entering, you could practically feel that his life was un-cluttered, that his soul was un-encumbered. Gosh, he was an inspiration without uttering a word.

To this day, I have made it a point to keep my life as un-cluttered as possible. Each day, I make it a point to toss something down the trash chute. (A magazine, an unused spice, there's always something)

Father Roch was my spiritual director while I was converting to Catholicism, long before I ever considered religious life. While participating in RCIA, someone suggested Fr. Roch at the Cistercian Monastery as a spiritual director.

I met with him once a month and he loaded me with TONS of intellectual challenges and literature. I'd meet with him in his cell for two hours each month discussing the challenging material he had previously assigned.

It turned out that Fr. Roch was also the vocation director for the monastery. Soon after becoming a Catholic, I read Thomas Merton's Seven Story Mountain and well, I wanted nothing more than to become a member of Fr. Roch's monastery.

(Note: If I were a vocation director, I'd immediatly disqualify anyone who had read Merton's Seven Story Mountain. It's like accepting a vocalist into a Verdi opera who'd been inspired by The Sound of Music.) That may sound rough, but it's the truth. Getting featured in a big opera and becoming a monk both require a lot of fortitude and gonads; inspiration should play a lessor role. That's the most applicable advice I can give.

It was a long process. I stayed several weekends with the monks, attended the 6:00 am mass every day on my way to work as a Corporate Cash Manager with Bank One, while continuing to live in my glassy high-rise in downtown Dallas.

After what seemed an interminable wait, Fr. Roch told me that I could enter on August 31, 1993.

I don't think I've EVER experienced any more stress than I did after that! Woah! Big surprise! I had to get rid of an entire apartment of furniture, kitchen appliances, a new car, IRA's, everything! My bread machine?? My wok that I've had since I was ten years old? Home videos of my roller coaster adventures? My exercise equipment? My piano?

It all had to go. And you gotta find someone to take it that will give it all back if it doesn't work out.

But Fr. Roch became my postulant and novice director. After cherishing my once-a-month meetings with him, I now got to meet with him every day. And boy did he challenge me!

After I completed the novitiate with him, I also had him as a professor for three semesters of Systematic Theology in graduate school. Fr. Roch knew me by heart. He knew all my foibles, and could challenge me like no one else.

He was a treasure.

One day, I came to him just completely frustrated over that fact that I couldn't bring myslef to study. I had no incentive. Motivation was completely arid. Futile . . . .

He plucked out an essay by the 20th-century philosopher, Simone Weil. It was a heady thing titled, "Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of Prayer."


Simone Weil provided all the answers. I became a Simone Weil addict and I still am to this day.

Whenever I doubt anything about God or Christianity (as we all should) my dear Simone provides answers.

I had Fr. Roch as a professor for Christology, Sacramental Theology, and Ecclesiology (the three Big Hunks of Systematic Theology). Those were the most challenging courses I've ever taken.

My God, did he challenge me! Tough, hard, mean, Christ-the-King theology! (I'm including a candid pic of us together. We actually did smile a lot.)

I'll have to admit that I didn't apply myself as well as I should have in Ecclesiology. Fr. Roch knew that. He gave me a C+ which was a failing grade in graduate school. I challenged him on that, and he raised my final grade, raising it to one-tenth below the passing grade but balked over one phrase that I wrote on an essay.

I blew up at Fr. Roch. Big time. I remember slamming my fist on my desk. I acted like a spoiled little brat. I banged on my high-chair and went to the Abbot who quickly put my in my place. . . "How DARE you challenge a man who has loved you so much!"

" . . . . Ooops, okay, you're right!"

I knew that I didn't deserve a passing grade in Ecclesiology. I had been lazy and Fr. Roch knew it. I was SO mad at Fr. Roch even though I knew I was the one who'd been a complete asshole.

When I went to take my comprehensive exams to obtain the Master's of Theology (M.Th), Fr. Roch had given credit for completing Ecclesiology

. . . . Once again, death and Resurrection hit me right in the face. That's always as it should be . . .

Friday, September 08, 2006

More Tales of the Monastery

I've been working on an article about Sam's Club providing sex-change operations (with Ann Coulter as spokesperson), but I'll put it aside to reflect on monastic life again for a while.

I think I'll touch on the reality of monastic life here for a bit. Sort of "Things you've always wanted to know about monastic life but were afraid to ask."

The Vows: Contrary to what everyone thinks, monks don't take a vow of celibacy or chastity. Whaat? That's right. The vows are obedience, stability, and conversion. "Does that mean they can have lots of hot sex?" No, silly bean! The vow of obedience is an "umbrella vow" covering a whole bunch of things, including celibacy. The vow of stability basically means that you'll die and rot there at that particular monastery. (That's the one that did me in) The vow of conversion means that you'll always strive to change, grow, and be a good boy.

Note: This particular monastic order to which I belonged was not "The Trappists" (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance) but rather, it was the "Cistercian Fathers (Order of Cistercians). All the monks in my order were also ordained priests and worked as teachers or professors. Thus, we were a bit more active "in the world" than the Trappists.

Money Again, monks don't take a vow of poverty, but again, it falls under the vow of obedience. I think the vow of conversion hits on it as well. During the Novitiate year where you're really, really cloistered from everything, the novice director would dole out about thirty bucks when I'd need it; basically, once every two months to cover your basic toiletries. After the novitiate when I took temporary vows of three years and was a full-time student, I got a little more. When one takes final vows and becomes ordained, you get $200 a month. For some elderly monks, that's way more than they'd ever spend but they get it anyway. When one particular hermitty monk passed away, the Abbot found that the old guy had stashed away thousands of dollars in traveller's checks.

The Habit (See pic) consisted of a full-length, white, cotton dress. Over that, was the scapular, which was a black, full-length tapered apron that was tied around the waist with a cincture. The Trappist have a black hood connected to the scapular but our order did away with the hood and had a Roman collar instead since all members were priests. The black scapular was developed back in the old days (circa 1100 C.E) as an apron when the monks did a lot of manual labor. Back then, it was also used when they sat on the communal potty to cover their heads. (I tried that once and it just messed up my hair).

The Cell Monks and nuns rooms are called "cells" but our rooms were larger and quite well-appointed. It was a 10' x 14' room with an additional walk-in closet and private bathroom. (I don't think I could have done the communal bathroom thing). It came with a single bed, a desk, easy chair, a phone and even a little bitty Mac computer for churning out scholarly papers. No internet. I was there during the big Venitian blind-to-mini blind conversion of 1995. It was awfully exciting.

Laundry The cook's wife was our laundry maid and she did an excellent job. We had to mark all our clothes with our name (socks would go into a mesh bag that was labeled with our name) and we'd only have to plop them down the clothes chute. She would do our laundry, fold it an place it in these open cabinets labeled with our name. One day, I was gathering my clean laundry from the bin and I noticed these bright red, bikini style underpants in one of the cabinets. They belonged to this elderly, rotund, eccentric fellow who I liked a lot. When I saw the red underpants, I thought, "Well, good for you!"

Traveling We had seven Toyota Corollas (in various colors) to be shared among the 25 members which was more than adequate. There was a sign-up sheet where you could reserve a car for the time-slot that was needed. The abbot had his own car but he was always ready to let someone else use it if it was needed. One monk was assigned with automobile upkeep; inspections, maintenance, license plates, etc, and he did a fantastic job of it. I, on the other hand, would have been a disaster at that assignment. Monks would have ended up stranded or arrested if that had been my responsibility. My philosophy is that you put gas in a car and it goes.

As far as gas purchase, we had a charge account at a nearby Texaco. It was a rule that you weren't to return a car less than a quarter full. Of course, there was one monk who consistently neglected that guideline and would return with a half-teaspoon left in the tank. Bastard.

Exorcism I don't know of anyone performing any exorcisms, but I did come across the Rite of Exorcism one day while cleaning the sacristy. It's basically just a list of nice, intercessory prayers. I was disappointed. It was so not Linda Blair!

Naughty Monk As the sacristan, I was in charge of keeping the holy water fonts filled. The reserved holy water was kept in a gallon jug and when I needed more, I'd fill it with tap water and get one of the priest/monks to perform the rite that would make it holy. (It consists of the priest placing his hand on the jug and reciting a short prayer. Boom. It's holyfied). One day, I was just about out of holy water and I asked a member to bless it. He was gruff and too busy. Boo! So was the next one. Fine! So, I filled the jug and blessed it myself even though I was not yet a priest. I figured that (1) the water would be happier being blessed by me rather than a grumpy, resentful priest (2) the remaining holy water in the jug would diffuse itself into the new water and make it all holy (3) it's the congregation's belief in the holy water that blesses it anyway. How's that for sacramental theology? I was covered.

Another secret of mine concerning the holy water: It kind of grossed me out to think of four hundred people dinking their fingers into the holy water font every week. After all, people pick their noses at stop lights you know. So, I would put a small glurg of Clorox in the jug before dispensing it into the fonts, thus keeping it sterilized as well as holy. Additionally, I never bless myself with holy water when I go to mass, for that sponge probably hasn't been changed since the Eisenhower administration. I don't even keep wet sponges in my kitchen, for crying out loud. Yet, it's been touched by thousands of people and sits in a dark, wet environment. Sort of like Paris Hilton's hoo-hoo.

Another thing I must confess to: Monks weren't allowed to keep credit cards or bank accounts, but I just couldn't part with my Visa card when I joined. No way! I had worked for Bank One for eleven years, for crying out loud. What if I saw a tiara on the Home Shopping Network that I just couldn't live without? Or was kidnapped and had to make an emergency phone call while on an airplane? Giving up sex? Well, okay, I can do that. But not my Visa card. There is a limit, after all.


I took this pic a couple of years ago here in Chicago when a storm was blowing in. What's strange is that this is a color photo. Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Paris Hilton Causes Mother Teresa's Sainthood

In honor of Paris Hilton's recent charges of DUI, I couldn't help but re-run one of my articles. Click here for the published version.

HOLLYWOOD—In a move that has shocked Hollywood insiders, Indian film director T. Rajeevnath, says Paris Hilton is on his short list to play Mother Teresa in a biopic he's planning about the Nobel Peace Prize winner who worked among Calcutta's poor with the Missionaries of Charity.

"Hilton's features resemble Mother Teresa's," Rajeevnath – whose films include Janani (Mother), an award-winner in India about nuns caring for an abandoned infant – told Agence France-Presse yesterday. "A meeting with Paris Hilton is scheduled for the end of April," he said.

Mother Teresa­, who died in 1997, has since been beatified by Pope John Paul II and is up for sainthood once two miracles attributed to the nun’s intercession are documented.

Immediately after the director’s intent to have Hilton play the role of Mother Teresa was made known, the blessed nun’s opinions were made all too apparent.

Ms. Hilton woke yesterday and suddenly began screaming uncontrollably, frightening the household staff. Apparently, her beloved Chihuahua, Tinkerbelle, had been horribly disfigured into a cycloptic canine. “It’s just horrible!” said one of the maids. “That poor dog can’t even figure out how to go poo with just one eye.”

The wrath of the blessed nun continued unabated. Later that day, the actress was afflicted with a particularly virulent type of yeast infection. “Man, that girl smells!” reported comedian, Margaret Cho. “It reminds me of when my Korean mother used to ferment cabbage to make kim-chee. Frankly, I can’t stand the stuff.”

Her gynecologist later furnished his professional evaluation: “Ms. Hilton’s hoo-hoo won’t be in commission for at least eighteen months. There’s even a chance that she may never regain the use of it again. It will all depend on the regimen of physical therapy, medication and her own ability to keep it out of circulation during the treatment process.”

Upon attempting to pay for her medical visit, Ms. Hilton was horrified to learn that all her credit cards were invalid. “She just crumbled to the floor and began whimpering,” reported the receptionist, Carla Iwanski. “That one-eyed dog is still around here somewhere, too.”

Upon learning of Mother Teresa’s interventions, Pope Benedict XVI immediately elevated the blessed nun to sainthood. “These actions are clearly the evidence of miraculous works from our beloved Teresa.”

Life in the Monastery, Con't.

I thought this would be a boring subject, but there seem to be some interest in it and I've made a couple of new blog buddies, Kyle and Antony. Both of these guys have some very interesting sites that I've enjoyed reading and are well worth a visit.

A New Name In my previous post, I had outlined the daily schedule while in my novitiate year. One thing I forgot to mention was that this monastery still employed an old tradition of giving each member a new name upon "taking the habit" as a novice. The prospective novice would supply the Abbot with three names of saints that he'd like to have. Additionally, they couldn't be names that anyone in the community already had. During the rite in which the novice would be clothed with the habit, the Abbot would announce to the community what the new name would be.

The three names I submitted were St. John, St. Dunstan, and St. William. Strangely enough, no one had chosen St. John yet. I chose St. Dunstan because he was the patron saint of organists and I was now the organist for the community. St. William of Bourges was an obscure Cistercian saint and, to be perfectly honest, I chose it because my last name is 'Wheat' and I liked the alliteration. I also remember wanting to change my name to William when I was seven because Will Robinson on Lost in Space was my hero.

The Abbot chose St. William. From then on, I was Br. William.

Fr. Placid was my Latin and Russian teacher during the novitiate year. The man was pretty amazing due to the fact that at 81 years old, he still put in a full day of work in the monastery and also as a language professor at the nearby university. He was also in charge of compiling this very detailed and complex schedule of readings for each of the five Divine Offices each day. (community prayers, readings, chants, etc) He'd type up the schedule for each day on a typewriter, but then he had switched to using a Macintosh a few years prior.

One day, he asked for my assistance in getting his schedule to print. When I saw his computer, I just couldn't believe it. He was working on a little-bitty Mac (circa 1985) and was using Word 1.0 . One-point-0! The network printer decided it just couldn't use version 1.0 anymore and that's why it wouldn't print. But hey, it served his needs perfectly well. You should have seen Fr. Placid using the computer. He'd type a key and look at the screen after each keystroke, I guess to make sure it was there.

I shouldn't make fun of him and I certainly don't mean to. The thing is, the daily schedule was very detailed, complex, and there was a lot of room for error. I can honestly say that I never recall there being any errors whatsoever on his print-outs that he spent so much time laboring over. He was an incredibly detail-oriented person. It's a darn good thing there are people like him in this world to make up for the people like me.

The University After completing my one year of "monk boot-camp" I began university studies in order to become a priest. The university was next to the monastery and was actually begun by the monks in 1956 when they fled the Communist takeover of Hungary. The university was, of course, a private Roman Catholic institution with about 2,000 students. For some reason, this university attracted a super right-wing faction of students and faculty. (Rick Santorum was the keynote speaker at the 2004 graduation ceremonies). I came up with a good motto that accurately described this place: "The University of Dallas: Where Vatican II is Just a Vicious Rumor."

The monks always wore our habits on campus, I guess to give it that Pre-Vatican II feeling. One day, I didn't wear my habit and several of my classmates were all, "Why aren't you wearing your habit!" They were actually a bit perturbed over this fact. Amazing.

Once a month, a bunch of the Pre-Vatican II faculty and students would come over to the monastery for a "real" mass; an actual Tridentine mass in Latin where the priest has his back to the congregation. As the sacristan, I'd have to figure out how to set everything up for the darn thing with all the weird vestments, incense, ding-dongs, etc. The chapel was already packed with men in suits and women with doilies covering their heads and I had a great idea. What if I went to the rec room, got a guitar, and propped it up next to the altar? I could just see everyone running out, screaming like when The Blob attacked in the movie theatre. Gosh that would have been fun!

One day, I was having a talk with the Abbot, moaning about all the super-conservative students in my classes. The Abbot, in all his wisdom (which he really had) said, "Br. William, you may encounter these people for, say, twenty minutes during your day. But they have to live in their own heads 24/7. Imagine what that must be like?"

Excellent point. I've used that analogy very frequently.

The Food Fortunately, the food was very good. There was none of this bread-n-water type of thing going on. We weren't even vegetarian. The Abbot had recently hired a new cook who was well-trained and provided us with tasty, healthy meals with lots of fresh veggies. One year, I tried my hand at growing a vegetable garden, hoping to supply the kitchen with lots of home-made tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and beans. The bugs and rabbits ate everything.

The Giggles Chanting the Divine Office five times a day along with mass each day can get pretty monotonous. Since we were placed in order of seniority, the guy next to me was about my age and it was not uncommon for us to hear something funny (a burp or fart) or make a silly mistake which resulted in a horrible case of the giggles. It would really get ridiculous at times. A searing glance from the Abbot or Prior would usually end it.

Well, sometimes anyway.

I'll now open this discussion up for questions. Yes, you in the second row . . . .

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Life in the Monastery

Exciting topic, huh?

I haven't spoken about it much on here, preferring to keep things light and humorous as possible, but for seven years in the not too distant past, I was indeed a monk. I also came incredibly, frightfully close to becoming a Roman Catholic priest as well. In hindsight, I don't regret those years even though, in hindsight, I entered too quickly and with somewhat skewed, idealistic motives. I also remained longer than I should have, refusing to admit the fact that I was unhappy and disillusioned. (Which always happens when we rush into things -- lessoned learned). However, on the positive side, I learned so much about myself, completed a whole lot of graduate school which resulted in my current field of counseling.

Like I said, I've preferred to keep things as humorous as possible here (and in my life), so why can't life in the monastery be viewed that way as well?

I'm posting pics of the inside of the monastery chapel here. It was an incredibly beautiful place and was brand new when I entered in 1993. It was made of these incredibly huge limestone blocks but juxtaposed with the wooden ceiling being entirely outlined with glass, thus giving it a lightness amonst the huge stones. Additionally, the natural light gave it an ever-changing look throughout the day as you can see by the two photos. The place would look, feel, sound and smell entirely different every two hours which made the place seem magical. The blond wood also gave it a lightness that was awfully appealing. I don't think I would have joined this monastery had they not had this chapel.
Anyway, I'd like to present my daily schedule during the first year at the monastery. It's called the "Novitiate". It's a year when you're allowed very little contact with the outside world. Only one phone call and one letter to your parents per month is allowed, you're not allowed to leave the monastery except for medical appointments. I referred to it as "monk boot-camp" which is pretty accurate, except for the fact that the military novitiate is infinitely less strenuous.

Twenty years ago, Novices had to keep their heads shaved but that'd been relaxed. I got to go to a nearby barber who turned out to be a cool high school jock buddy that I hadn't seen in twenty years. He cut my hair whilst in the monastery.

Daily Schedule:

5:30 am: Buzzer goes off in the hallway. Time to rise. Shower, shave, put on habit. (I was often asked what we wore under our habits. For me, it was simply black Levi 501's and a white undershirt)

6:00 am: Morning Prayer (Lauds). This consisted of singing hymn in Gregorian chant, chanting Psalms, plus listening to two readings by various saints. We always sat in the same place in the "monks' stalls" which was according to seniority. There was this elderly monk behind me who refused to chant the Psalms in English even though this monastery had changed from the Latin fifteen years prior. Every day, he'd be behind me whispering the Latin to himself.

It caused me to want to slap him. Hard.

6:30 am: Mass. This mass was open to the public and I always enjoyed it. Since we did sing the mass parts in Latin, there were always a lot of "severe Catholics" in attendance. (Rick Santorum would have had an orgasm over it). I attended it for over a year before joining the monastery and it was always a very auspicious way to being the day, though I was never in danger of having an orgasm.

Since I was the youngest member, I had to be the "sacristan"; a glorified alter-boy, responsible for setting everything up for the Mass. I'm not the most detail-oriented person in the world and, inevitably, I'd forget something significant, for example, the ashes on Ash Wednesday. However, I'm also a musician who's used to covering up mistakes and improvising. I'd remember the ashes, scoot out the side door, slink in and plop the ashes on the altar just in time. Lots of drama and attention, which is a good thing in my book. I was always pretty proud of myself until the Abbot made it known that my abilities as a sacristan were not really something to be proud of. Whaaat?? Really??

7:00 am Breakfast. Eaten in silence, no talking. Most Cistercian monasteries are of the "Strict Observance" which observe silence 24/7. Our members were all teachers and professors, thus we were the "Common Observance" and we only observed silence from 10:00 pm until after breakfast. I'm not a morning person, so the fact that no one could talk to me during breakfast was actually a little slice of heaven. I always had a bowl of shredded wheat in hot milk, butter, with stewed prunes. As I said before, my constitution has never benefited from early risings.

7:15 am This was when I'd "make my rounds" to the infirmed and incapacitated brothers, for my past experience at caring for AIDS patients had come into use. I became the de-facto "infirmarian" and it was an incredible blessing in disguise. There were three bed-ridden elderly monks, two of whom were diagnosed with terminal cancer that I nursed each morning. It entailed getting them up, feeding and bathing and washing them. One incontinent fellow refused to wear adult diapers or let rubber sheets be placed on his bed (He was a previous Abbot). So, I'd help him to his bath and while he'd be splashing around, I'd change his soiled bedding and clothing and clean the puddled urine in his room without his knowledge. The other fellow was a hermit but had terminal lung cancer with incredible pain. He hadn't seldom spoken to anyone in over ten years. I'd bath him, clean him up and take him to radiation treatment every other day. He came to trust me. One day when we were driving back from his treatment, I told him how inadequate I felt compared to the others who had three PhD's and Master's of this-and-that... He replied, "Jonathan, you have so many talents that they only wished they had. You can't have everything!"

I just bawled after we got back. Here was this man who'd been a hermit, pretty much written off by everyone in the community, was dying, smelly and had been so nasty and caustic to me every morning, yet he supplied so much wisdom and beauty in my life during those few moments. Wow. That is Christianity!

9:00 am Classes. Intensive studies. Latin. Latin. Latin. Church History, Spirituality. Latin. Latin. Latin. My Latin teacher was this incredibly charming, elderlyHungarian monk, Fr. Placid, who was in his 80's but still loved teaching (and learning). He actually had taught fifteen languages. While in Hungary, he taught all the Slavic languages, Russian, Turkish, etc. In the monastery he taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. At the University he taught all the Romance languages. Fr. Placid loved teaching me Latin and I hated learning Latin. I love languages but how enthused can you get over learning a language that has no culture to embrace?

One day, we were learning the declarative verb forms such as "fac" for "do!" (as in to facilitate) I just wasn't getting it, and little Fr. Placid was slamming his hands on the desk, yelling, "Fac! Fac! Fac!" During then, I saw one of the other younger monks, Br. Paul, walk by while Fr. Placid was yelling his Latin explitives. Paul reared his head back, raised an eyebrow and began laughing. "Fac! Fac! Fac!" Paul knew what I was being impaled with.

Fr. Placid taught me well. I went on to study intermediate and advanced Latin. Once amonth, I'd drive him to his sister's house in Dallas where we'd spend the day. She showed me pics of them when they were in their 20's in Hungary -- the two of them looked like the most appealing models you'd ever seen, even in black-n-white. She showed me how to make Hungarian food for the rest of the Hungarian monks, we'd eat, laugh, and he'd tease me about my Latin. When Fr. Placid suddenly passed away at the age of 86, I was studying Russian and Latin poetry with him and he was studying a Hebrew dialect, Swedish and Urdu on his own. That's just how it should have been. . . .

. . . Selah

12:00 pm Daytime Prayers. Just 15 min of chanting and then we'd go single file into the refectory for lunch. Remember the monk behind me, continuing to whisper in Latin. Grrr! Grrr!

1:00 pm Ora et Labora - - Manual Labor and Prayer. For my manual labor, I was in charge of mowing and watering the monastery grounds. Not an easy job in Texas!. I remember tearing my lawn mower around some bushes and seeing something white explode within a big bush. Burrfff! Turns out, it was a huge nest of baby-bunnies that I'd annihilated with the lawn mower. Oh, it was horrible! There were baby bunny-guts and fur festooned completely across the plate-glass window of the prayer room that overlooked the monastic garden. I grabbed some Windex from the kitchen, a broom and a garden hose only to realize that the remnants contained bunny-heads and paws that kept sticking to the glass. The more I tried to clean the baby-bunny-bits from the 12-foot windows, the worse it got, for I just kept frantically smearing them higher and higher, hoping that no one was in the prayer room . . . .

5:00 pm Evening Prayers. More Chanting. We were all dressed in our habits and it was nice, relaxing repose at the end of the work day. The monk behind me would still be whispering the responses in Latin. Grrrr. Grrrr. God, will it ever end??

5:30 pm We'd single-file into the refectory (dining room) for dinner. During the first five minutes of dinner, the junior member (me) would read some inspirational text from a Saint while the others ate in silence. (Once, I was reading about an inspirational saint who punished himself by caring for the sick and "eating buckets of pus." I saw that phrase coming and improvised a completely different "authentic" text while the good brothers were eating) . The Abbot would ring a bell at the end of five minutes and I'd have to end, even if I was in the middle of a sentence. The next evening, it was my job to supply an introduction and begin where I'd previously left off.

We were allowed to have a beer with our dinner. We also sat in order of seniority, thus, we were always seated next to the same person during every meal, for the rest of your life. I was seated next to this guy who hogged huge portions of the entree for himself at every meal and left very little for the rest of us. This went on for three years, day after day. I brought this up to my Novice Master, Fr. Roch. Know what he said? "I'd like you to find a way to help Brother X enjoy his meal even more. That would take your mind away from your resentment."

Again, that's an incredibly useful lesson to apply to anyone we find obnoxious or afflictive. Very Effective. Very Christian.


6:00 pm Vespers (Evening Prayers) We'd chant the closing prayers according to each week day. (With the monk behind me whispering everying in Latin). Grrr. Grrr. At the end of the prayers, the junior member (me) would light the candles surrounding the Virgin Mary, the chapel lights would be shut off and we'd sing the Salve Regina in Latin by candlelight. On Feast Days, we'd sing the elaborate Cistercian Salve Regina which is, indeed, the epitome of Gregorian Chant. To this day, I cannot begin it without getting all teary-eyed. Not even the first few notes. . .

All the monks would walk out in single file. I'd remain behind to extinguish the candles. We'd meet for tea in the novice's classroom for about 20 minutes (except for the old monk who refused to chant in English - - he was so resentful of everything) and retire.

Fifteen minutes later, I'd go to the monastery exit in my shorts to meet my novice master, Fr. Roch, (age 65) and we'd do a three-mile-"how-are-you-doing" walk. It was those 3-mile every-evening power-walks-n-talks with Fr. Roch that quickly got my 6'3" self back into 32-waist Levi 501's to wear under my habit. By the end of my novitiate, I was one lean, mean, Christ-the-King, monk-machine. (Too bad I couldn't date!)

Mostly, I'd bitch about the guy behind me who'd continue to chant in Latin. Grrr. Grrrr.

5:30 am Copy and Paste the day above, three hundred sixty five times.


"We Have To Pee"

Saturday, September 02, 2006

My Past

God has a sense of humor. Here's a Halloween pic of me as The Church Lady. A few years later, I was this totally serious Cistercian monk but still spent a lot of time on my blades.

Life is short. As Janis Joplin says, "You gotta get it while you can."

Rick Santorum Photos Re-Touched

Just as it was recently discovered that CBS news anchor, Katie Couric's publicity photos had been re-touched in order to make her appear more appealing, so too was Senator Rick Santorum's official publicity photo re-touched in order to make him appear less revolting:

Re-touched Santorum

Un-retouched Santorum

Friday, September 01, 2006

Just Messin' Around

It was such a purdy day today. The anti-depressant I'd finally remembered to take after three days finally kicked in, so I was merrily walking to work. Chirp Chirp. (birds singing) I gave a friendly wave at a tourist bus.

There were these fervent young people out in full force, asking pedestrians to sign a petition for some environmental cause. I approached a pair of them and our conversation went like this:

JW: (that's me) "Hey, ya know what's fun to do? See how many people will sign a petition to remove dihydrogen oxide from Lake Michigan."

Ugly Girl: "We're asking people to sign this petition to . . .

JW: You didn't get it, did you?

Cute Guy: I don't understand . . .

JW: Do you know what dihydrogen oxide is?

UG: No, but we'd like you to sign. .

CG: That's, um, . . . H . . 2 . . . O

JW: Very good! I'll bet you'd be surprised to see just how many people will sign up to remove it. It'll be fun.

UG: We'd like you to sign this . . . .

JW: Have a nice day!