“Can You Imagine Us Years From Today …”


“The first thing I remember, I was lying in my bed
I couldn’t’ve been no more than one or two
And I remember there’s a radio, coming from the room next door
My mother laughed the way some ladies’ do

Well it’s late in the evening, and the music’s seeping through”

I don’t remember not knowing Simon & Garfunkel. How old was I when I first heard El Condor Pasa? “I’d rather be a hammer than a nail…” I don’t think I ever didn’t know that song.

I remember when I became aware of Paul Simon as a solo artist. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world when I found out this guy with this catchy song on the radio was the “Simon” from “Simon and Garfunkel.” I went back to check to make sure he wasn’t also the “Paul” of “Peter, Paul & Mary,” another fave of the time. It would have been, what, 1986. Halfway through middle school.

“A man walks down the street, he says, ‘Why am I soft in the middle now? Why am I soft in the middle; the rest of my life is so hard.'” I’m not going to claim that I really understood the song about a roly-poly little bat-faced girl and dogs in the light and being someone’s bodyguard and calling them Betty.

Heck, for that matter, it would be decades before I really began to really understand the song at all. “Whoa my nights are so long. Where’s my wife and family? What if I die here? Who’ll be my role model, now that my role model is gone, gone?” I needed a few incidents and accidents of my own.

And that’s long been the appeal of Paul Simon for me. Yes, he’s a musical genius, with an uncanny ability to synthesize musical styles into something that becomes entirely his own, crossing genre from one song to the next in an album while still creating a cohesive whole. Whether the musical style is from South Africa, South America or south Louisana, it’s still, without question, a Paul Simon song.

But for me, that’s lagniappe. For me, the appeal that crosses through that, what makes a Paul Simon song a Paul Simon song, is that he’s one of the most brilliant lyricists of our time. He’s a brilliant writer, with an uncanny ability to capture the human condition, and the fact that he can make that writing fit music is incredible.

My musical tastes have changed over the years. Artists come and go. Entire genres come and go. Paul Simon remains. From the time I had developed having tastes of my own until today, there has never been a point where Paul Simon was not one of my favorites, because there has never been a time when his music doesn’t speak to something deep within me. With most artists, I eventually tire of their music or outgrow it. With Paul Simon, I grow into it. Every year that passes gives me a deeper understanding, a deeper appreciation, a deeper identification.

This month marked the first time I met my old lover on the street last night. Well, granted, it wasn’t the street, and, frankly, she didn’t seem so glad to see me she just smiled. But it was that much more real. Still crazy after all these years, indeed. (And, of course, she was from “Lafayette, state of Louisiana” and loved the sound of a train in the distance.)

It turns out that losing love is like a window in your heart. Everybody sees you’re blown apart. And, sometimes, even music cannot substitute for tears.

Fat Charlie the Archangel was right about filing for divorce. And I don’t want no part of this crazy love either.

But that’s all part of it, isn’t it? I’m older than I once was, but younger than I’ll be; that’s not unusual. Paul Simon gets that. He’s marked the passage of time, and its effects on us, from the very beginning. He was twenty-one years when he wrote a song about the leaves that are green turning to brown. He’s sixty-eight now, but he won’t be for long.

And that was what made seeing Simon and Garfunkel in concert Saturday such an interesting experience. I’ve long wanted to, and for the longest time believed that even just seeing Paul Simon was an unreasonable goal. But in January, I crossed off the penultimate item on my concert wish list and so decided it was time to look seriously at the ultimate one. When I saw they were going to be at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, I had to go.

It was an amazing concert. It was incredible hearing the songs live. It was great knowing that I was seeing them live, in their presence, for the performance. It demonstrated how blessed I was to be hearing live songs I had listened to with Heather at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland just three days earlier.

But it added something to the experience that not only was I seeing Paul Simon, not only was I seeing Simon & Garfunkel, I was seeing them in 2010. When they were 26, the duo released a song where they talked about how terribly strange it would be to be seventy. Now, that’s only a year and a half away.

That song wasn’t sung Saturday, but, intentionally or not, the theme was present from the very opening line of the concert — “Time, time, time, see what’s become of me.”

I’ve grown up with their music. Heck, they’ve grown up with their music. Most of the songs they did were 40 to 50 years old. Can you imagine? But there, that Saturday, there we all were. Memories brushing the same years.

For a while there, it seemed the years had not rocked so easily while rolling past Art Garfunkel; the voice that came out when he began singing was not the perfectly smooth, beautifully sweet one of the albums. But it turned out that it wasn’t age that was the issue; he was sick. Despite that, he poured his heart into the concert, getting everything out of his still-amazing voice that he could. It was obvious to the audience how much he was giving, and it was deeply appreciated — I had the rather unusual pleasure of being at a Simon & Garfunkel concert where the star of the show was indisputably Art Garfunkel. And it was obvious that meant a lot to him as well.

The duo closed the show, pre-encores at least, with Bridge Over Troubled Water, which is completely driving by Garfunkel’s voice. And he poured himself into it, obviously struggling, obviously suffering, but pulling it off. And during the song, Paul Simon looks over, sees him, and just rests his hand on his shoulder, finishing the song that way.

Old friends, indeed.

Decimation


This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Tithing.”

And now it’s time for Heresy with Dave, the part of the blog where Dave comes out and spouts out heresy.

First of all — I’m not opposed to tithing. I’m really not. It’s a good thing.

OK, do we have that out of the way? Because the last thing I want is for you to read this entry and come away from it thinking I believe you shouldn’t tithe. If you want to, if you feel called to, please please please do. You have my support and respect. My problem isn’t with tithers.

But …

Let’s do a quick word problem; a good elementary school math problem. I give you ten apples. I make you give one back. How many apples have I given you?

Sure, you could make the case that I gave you ten apples. When I gave you apples, I gave you ten of them. But an elementary school student solving that problem is going to count the number of apples left and come up with the answer that I gave you nine apples.

And I don’t think God is a 90 percent giver. “I have a blessing for you, that I want you to have 90 percent of!” “I want you to have life, and life 90 percent abundantly!” I believe God gives fully and unconditionally. And I have a problem with any preacher that gets up and says God gives to you generously, but wants a refund. I’ve heard it countless times, in almost those words. And it maligns His character.

And this, to me, is the issue — Preachers lie about tithing. And in doing so, they lie about God.

How many times has a preacher told you it’s important to tithe? How many times have preachers told you it’s not a New Testament concept? That latter part kinda gets left out, doesn’t it. They tend to be much bigger on the first part.

Tithing is an interesting thing in the church. I know far more people who believe it’s something you must do than people who actually do. It’s important that you do it, but it’s much more important that you think it’s important that you do it. But why is it important?

In the King James, the word “tithe” appears only three times in the gospels. (In NIV, it doesn’t appear in the New Testament at all.) Want to know what Jesus says about tithing? “Woe unto you!” Jesus mentions tithing only once, in a story that appears in Matthew 23 and Luke 11 in which He criticizes Pharisees for being hypocrites in their tithing. How many times have you had a preacher point out that the only thing Jesus says about tithing is “Woe unto you!”? I never heard that. You? Yeah, that’s kinda what I thought. How about the fact that in the rest of the New Testament, tithing is only discussed historically? Yeah, kinda figured that, too.

Old Testament Israel was a theocracy, with a God-appointed king. Tithing was taxation; it supported the government and provided for the general welfare. By the time of Christ, that function had been taken over by secular government. “Render unto Caesar … ”

Preachers preach that tithing is important, because it is. It pays their salary. It pays for staff. It pays debt service on construction projects. It pays the mortgage. It covers overhead.

And you can’t have a modern church without overhead, can you? You have to have a preacher and a minister of music and a building. And if you’re a good church, you have a bus service and a nice projector system and a minister of outreach and a new Family Life center. And those things don’t pay for themselves. A business would charge a usage fee. Movie theaters cover the cost of their fancy new projectors by selling tickets. Churches can’t do that. So how do you make your usage fees mandatory without charging people. You let God do your dirty work. “Sorry, God only wants you to have 90 percent of what He blesses you with so that we can afford a new projector. Not me, you understand, just the way God withholds, you know?” And that, to be blunt, is sick. And the preacher who lives better than his congregation because he tells them that God demands they let him? Wow.

Make no mistake — God likes for us to give. But the most meaningful gifts are the ones that are heartfelt. If it’s a requirement, it’s not a gift. And He wants us to care for others. He wants us to support the church. He wants us to spread His word. He wants us to minister. And those things require money. But He wants us to want to do those things. He wants us to do them out of love, not obligation. The heart is more important than the action.

And giving is a gift; like others. Some people are called to teach. Some people are called to evangelize. Some people are called to show mercy. Some people are called to give. That doesn’t mean that everyone shouldn’t give some. Even if you have no gift for teaching, at some point you’ll probably have to teach some. It just means that each gives according to their gifts. Teaching comes more easily to someone gifted with teaching, and is its own reward for that person. Same with giving. Trying to codify some rigid universal standard for giving denies the beauty of the diversity of the body. And if what He’s gifted you with, or what He’s called you to do, is to give 10 percent of what you have to Him, then that is an honor and a blessing. And if you choose on your own to make that sacrifice out of love for Him, then that is an amazing show of love indeed.

God gives us gifts for our enjoyment, not His. It blesses Him to see you appreciate and be grateful for the firstfruits of His gifts. If He were really that concerned with the 10 percent, He would keep it in the first place. He doesn’t have to give it to us. But, you know, He’s sort of God. He’s got plenty. He’s not jealous of 10 percent of your paycheck. He’s jealous of your heart.

And 10 percent of that is not nearly enough for Him.

Hello, Cleveland


So as I think I’ve mentioned, I went on a business trip last week to Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, with my co-worker and friend Heather.

I’ve written a post about food eaten during the trip, and my subsequent trip to New Orleans, and one about the Rachael Sage concert we went to while there. And I need to write at least one more post about the Simon & Garfunkel concert I went to in New Orleans. But, while those topical posts are relatively easy, the omnibus “this was my week” post is a bit tougher. In fact, I’ve been tempted to just post a link to Heather’s blog entry about the trip, since she does a better job than I would and you should read her entry.

But, I had a few personal notes to share, and I need to get some of it out of the way from a plot perspective before writing my S&G concert post, so here’s random Cleveland thoughts:

I’m not posting a picture of it, but I got to see the wall of wood in the Memphis airport, for which I owe a debt of gratitude to my well-traveled friend Kristy.

I have a goal, which doesn’t really go on The List since accomplishing it is beyond my ability to ensure, to visit all eleven-or-so NASA field centers.

Glenn Research Center was my sixth, following, obviously, Marshall Space Flight Center, along with Kennedy Space Center, Johnson Space Center, Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and Ames Research Center in California, and thus put me above or at the halfway point.

On a more trivial note, last week also completed my second set of NASA-center-cities-and-Mississippi-namesakes. I’ve been to Johnson’s Houston, Texas, and worked in Houston, Miss.; I spent a decent amount of time in Cleveland, Miss., and have now been to Glenn’s Cleveland, Ohio. I imagine I’ve probably completed the entire collection of such pairs, but I don’t know for sure. (And if there are any others, they probably involve tiny Mississippi towns I’ve never even heard of.)

I was rather impressed with Glenn. I knew little about the center before going, and, to be honest, even shortly before the end of our three-day-visit, was asking our amazing guide what, exactly, Glenn does. The answer, as the name implies, is research. You’re not going to see a lot of Glenn-managed programs. They don’t have a space station like Johnson or launch pads like Kennedy or whatever. But chances are, if it’s a major NASA program, Glenn researchers have laid groundwork to make it possible. The center has an incredible array of capabilities, from microgravity research to medical modeling to propulsion testing to aeronautics research to wheel design. And, I should note, I was similarly impressed with their education department. We met several of their officials there and learned about their extensive but very cohesive portfolio of education projects.

I had a rather cool moment at the very end of the trip. We were getting ready to leave, and I happened to notice in the window of the building next to the one where we’d spent most of our time — the window of a building I’d actually been in — this:

“Um, is that an Apollo Command Module?” In fact, even just from the brief glimpse as we were passing, it was pretty clearly flown. They had a flown Apollo Command Module just tucked away. The building used to be the visitors center, but that had been moved to the Great Lakes Science Center downtown, and thus far the capsule hadn’t. So it was just sort of sitting ignored in a corner of a building. Our guide took it in to see it, and I was even more amused to discover that I had been seconds from being right there next to, and yet completely missing out on seeing, Apollo CSM-117, the vehicle used by my Homesteading Space co-author Owen Garriott on the Skylab II mission. Seeing another CSM is rare enough. Seeing one used by a friend? Kinda cool. And I almost didn’t.

We did a limited amount in Cleveland proper. I’ve already written about the concert we went to the first night, and given an overview of the nice selection of food we had over the course of the trip.

The second night, we had dinner with our guide, Chris, and his wife, Janet, and had a great time with them. My favorite part of the conversation was about a telephone poll that Chris had participated in. It started off fairly innocuously, about his impressions of Vancouver after the Olympics, and then got into more and more bizarre questions. How do you feel about robots? If you could clone a celebrity, which of these would it be? If you could put a celebrity’s brain in a robot body, which of these would it be? If one of these companies were going to take over the world, which is more likely — Microsoft, Apple or Google? How likely do you think it is that robots will rise up against humans?

Which, let me point out, is the most awesome telephone survey ever. It made me want to go home and immediately start calling people at random to ask the questions. My only complaint was that it didn’t go far enough. If Google and robots were battling for dominion of Earth, which would you support? And so forth.

Also that night, after dinner, we watched Lost, which was good fun. It’s only the second time I’ve seen Lost on television (versus my iPhone) this season, and, despite the fact that we talk about it all the time, the first time Heather and I were able to watch an episode together and discuss it in real time.

The third and last night, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Before the trip, we’d asked for suggestions of where to go while we were there, and that was THE suggestion. One person pretty much said, do the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and nothing else. Which was a bit unfair, though I will say that tourism in Cleveland on a sports off-week largely wraps up around 5 on weeknights. Though that’s probably true of a lot of places.

I’d been told that we should allow as much as six hours to do the museum, which I took with a grain of salt. I’m a pretty quick going through museums; I’m largely a skimmer. As it was, we spent about three hours there, and could have easily been there much longer. The irony was, even in this iPod era, the thing we spent the most time on was the digital kiosks that played influential songs from rock history or songs by artists inducted into the Hall of Fame. Heather and I took turns picking songs to listen to. Arguably, we could have spent more times on exhibits and just played iTunes songs for each other when we got back, but, hey, it was fun.

The funny thing was, there’s something for everybody. I talked to my friend Jen from the improv troupe, and she had favorite exhibits that I didn’t even notice. Our Glenn guide, Chris, talked about seeing musicians’ report cards, an appropriate favorite given his background as a teacher. For me, the stand-out item was in the Bruce Springsteen exhibit — handwritten lyrics from his notebooks. As a writer, it was cool getting a glimpse into his writing process. It made me jealous; there was no musical notation, just words on a page. He could write that, and see a song. I would love to write a song, but have no clue how about going to make words on a page into music.

That’s the sign for the Glenn Visitor Center at the Great Lakes Science Center. I have nothing to say about it. We didn’t actually get to go in. The gift shop had even closed earlier than the museum, so we didn’t even get to shop for Glenn swag. (I was able to get some at their gift shop at the center, so I didn’t come home empty handed. I got my sixth center magnet.)

And that’s my report about my trip to Cleveland.

365rejects


After missing Tuesday entirely, yesterday was one of those rare days were I actually had multiple candidates for my picture of the day for the 365project. In addition to the picture I used for yesterday’s blog post, I also had hiking pictures and some other fire pictures. Here are samples of other possibilities.

Memento Amore


I promised back in January I would tell the story of the Polaroid film. And now I am.

So way back in December, a couple who go to my Wednesday night Bible study, Kyle and Meghan, got engaged.

And, I have to note, they got engaged via the most awesome proposal ever.

At the time, they posted the proposal, which involved, among other things, a series of Polaroid pictures, on Facebook, where I got to see that it was incredibly awesome, but you can’t. However, they’ve posted a story about the incredibly awesome proposal on their wedding website.

Shortly after the proposal was posted on Facebook, Meghan posted a status saying that she wished she had more Polaroid film, which, as you may or may not realize, was discontinued last year, making it rather difficult to acquire more.

As it turns out, I had some.

When I heard that it was being discontinued, I was depressed at the idea of a world without Polaroid film, and the idea that if I ever needed some in the future, it wouldn’t be there. So I did the only logical thing I could do; I started buying it and sticking it in the fridge for long-term storage.

My fiancée at the time found out I was saving it, and asked if I wanted more. “Uh, sure?” Turns out there was a large stash where she worked that was about to be thrown away. So into the fridge it went.

At that point in time, I had not only enough to last a very long time, but enough in addition to that to do something with. Ideas were discussed, including most notably, but not limited to, using it as a wedding “guest book.” Rather than just signing their names, guests would take their pictures with a Polaroid camera, and then we’d make an album of attendees. Maybe even leave the cameras out during the reception for people to take random shots.

I still think it would have been cool, but, inasmuch as we didn’t get married, the idea never came about, and the film stayed in the refrigerator, waiting for a worthy use.

Meghan’s status provided the opportunity to take some out. Ol’ romantic Dave sent her a message on Facebook — “So, are you wanting Polaroid film for engagement-related purposes.” Which she said that was part of what she wanted it for, I was more than happy to set her up with a little.

While I was gone last week, the firstfruits of that small gift were posted online, in the form of engagement pictures. (I even got namechecked when they were posted!)

I once had hoped to use the film for my own engagement or wedding, but it wasn’t to be. So the opportunity to see a fraction of it used for that purpose by someone else was a huge blessing for me. It made me very happy to see the original intent and spirit redeemed, by a couple who put it to good use and really appreciated the coolness factor of it.

I don’t know what the future holds. I may someday have the opportunity to use some of the film myself for similar purposes. I have no idea.

But I do know that seeing some of it used by Meghan and Kyle gives me hope. They’re a great couple, and it’s a blessing to me to be a part of the Bible study group with them. They’re smart and funny and all around awesome and very much in love and have a promising future ahead of them. And seeing them, it restores your faith, in love, in marriage, in hope.

It gives me hope for my own future. After all, sometimes the impossible happens.

I’m fortunate that a random Facebook status allowed me to bear witness to a little more of their story.

Sage Words


Angie Haze

Opening act Angie Haze, courtesy of my co-worker Heather

Many many moons ago, I went to a Garrison Starr concert at Hal & Mal’s in Jackson, Miss.

People were yelling out requests, and I joined in, wanting her to play Passing, which has one of the most blisteringly awesome guitar intros ever. And she did, in fact, play Passing for me, and it was, in fact, even more blisteringly awesome live. So there’s that.

So, as I’ve mentioned, I think, last week I was in Cleveland. And in advance of the trip, I was looking for things to do, and one of the things I checked was the Cleveland concert calendar. It turns out Bryan Adams was going to be in town, but, eh, you know? But also on the calendar was a small club show by Rachael Sage. I have no clue how I first discovered her; I believe it was one of those “if you like X, you’ll like Y” suggestion things, on eMusic or Amazon or something, but who knows who was the X that led to her as Y. It’s been a while. Regardless, of what the X was, I did in fact like her, and picked up one of her CDs shortly thereafter and went on to download a few albums.

We were having trouble finding things to do in Cleveland, and it seemed a nice bit of serendipity to me that she was going to be playing on an evening I had nothing to do, so my coworker Heather and I went to see her. The opening act was Angie Haze, whom Heather actually preferred. I bought the CD she had for sale, which was just acoustic solo versions of her songs; it had some good stuff, but I’m looking forward to hearing some of the full-band versions she’s recorded.

She finished up, and Rachael Sage started setting up for her show. Like I said, I have a good bit of her stuff, but I only really know a fraction of what I have. Of that, there’s a handful of songs that have floated to the top, but probably my favorite is “Sacrifice.” I love the lyrics; they’ve spoken to me at different times, and I’ve shared them as encouragement with others. In fact, I wanted to share them once and discovered they weren’t online, so transcribed them myself. If you find the lyrics anywhere online, I’m the original source. (Well, you know, after her.)

I really wanted to hear her play Sacrifice. I didn’t know if there would be a chance to just call it out during the show like I did with Garrison Starr all those years ago. So I went up while she was setting up to ask. I played the great card I had in my hand — “I came up here from Huntsville, Ala. …”, which was true — and asked her if she’d be willing to play it. She said she hadn’t played it in years, and wasn’t sure if she could, but that she might be able to play a vignette from it at some point. She asked my name, and thanked me.

And, she did, in fact, play part of the song for me, enough that I was quite happy. And it was quite awesome. Despite her protestations, she completely nailed it. But, the cool part was, she mentioned me when she did, said that she was playing it for David. I’d never had an artist do that before, and it was rather neat.

Even cooler, though, was that wasn’t the only time she did. Throughout the show, she threw in references to me. “Can we keep going, or do we need to stop? Who’s in charge here? Is that you, David?” It really was a great experience, and a lot of fun.

And, in the wake of that rather cool evening, I would like to share this bit of completely unbiased advice: Buy her stuff!

Rachael Sage — “Even Love Dies” Lyrics


Rachael Sage — Even Love Dies

Eighteen hundred degrees in the palm of your hand;
I am waiting for the ocean to drop me in the sand.
Your silence is anything but deafening when
You unknowingly know me; I’m melting.

You say you have six cats,
But all I imagine
Are the tips of your fingers unravelling twine.
Could I be any more insecure;
Could I be any less courageous than it takes to go blind?

God forgive me I want who I want,
Need who I need,
Love who I can’t have.
Give me the grace to look into this face
And to realize even love dies.

Secretly you give me the keys to your garden
Where the sweetest tequila runs wild from the stream.
And you lie like Ophelia, a ghost in the water.
Are you sleeping or is this midnight a dream?

God forgive me I want who I want,
Need who I need,
Love who I can’t have.
Give me the grace to look into this face
And to realize even love dies.

Hey, now, now do I have enough patience
To swallow down this daydream in my mouth?
Time can be a liar, a cheater;
It’s impossible to beat her, when every breath is as deep as the sun.

Forgive me I want who I want,
Need who I need,
Love who I can’t have.
Oh, Give me the grace to get out of the place
And to realize even love dies.

God forgive me I want who I want,
Need who I need,
Love who I can’t have.
God forgive me I want who I want,
Need who I need.
Love who I can’t …
God forgive me I want who I want,
Need who I need.
Even love dies