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It’s Not You It’s Me: Firing Your Military Therapist

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Another week, another therapist… At least that is what it seems like to me. Those who have been following my writings for any length of time know of my struggles with PTSD and its associated maladies, as well as my struggles dealing with the military mental health system. This week is no different.

Last week I got a new “bungee-therapist” who I would have had less than three months before his rotation at the clinic is done. He is a nice young man, only 32 years old, I have been in the military longer than he he has been alive. He still in his residency; well trained, but not very experienced and it shows. Truthfully, though I don’t have as much specific education in psychology as the provider, I do have more clinical experience working with trauma and PTSD than the young man.

So on the second appointment I fired him. I think the biggest issue was what I saw as a lack of continuity in care and the mismatch in age and experience.

I was really anxious about the visit. This was based on an experience with another young provider last year. That experience caused me to crash and have some troubling thoughts about offing myself. Since I love life and am not a fan of taking the eternal celestial dirt nap; which some readers assure me will have me taking the eternal vacation on the Lake of Fire, but I digress….

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Like I said I was anxious due to the previous experience. But, the two of us handled it very well and it was an amicable parting, a clean breakup if you will. I even used the George Costanza tested “it’s not you it’s me” breakup line. But hey, Ces’t l’apres-guerre… (such is life after war)

My plan now is to get with a senior shrink that I know and have worked with to help get me someone more compatible for what I need at this point in life. I just hope that by “breaking-up” with my therapist that I won’t get shafted by the institution.

But I have learned to live with this; I realize that the military mental health system is not in the business of trying to get you better, it is in the business of trying to return young men and women to be able to go back to war. If you actually get better in the process that is kind of a twofer. Honestly I could have gone back to war with  a year of coming home. Going to war is easy, coming home intact is not.

Do not get me wrong, it is not that there are not providers willing to help; there are plenty of them. But the system , crowded with people who need more help than it can provide and without with ever shrinking budgets; almost makes it impossible to get help. If you can be patched up and sent back out, they have done their job, if you crash after you leave the service not their problem. Sadly, I have lost too many friends, some to suicide after they left the military, including men whose credentials as real American heroes were unmatched. This is not a new issue, ask any vet who has dealt with getting post-service care at the VA or anywhere.

Likewise, if you remain in service and have a chronic-long-term condition, of any kind, physical or mental the attitude seems to be “fuck you.” If you get the label as a “broke” Marine, Sailor, Soldier, or Airman your career is pretty much over, unless you are one of the lucky few like me who had some superiors who looked beyond that and protected you. I know that because it is not just my experience but the experience of hundreds of combat vets that I have dealt with.

I can live with this as long as I am on my meds, and have friends and beer, but then I am an old guy looking at retirement at the end of this tour. If I were a young guy, with my whole career ahead of me I would be fucked. So when I retire I will be a pain in the ass to the system to ensure that the young guys who will be fighting our wars in the future as well as those who are out of the military gets the care that they need.

But as far as my condition goes, I am oddly comforted by the words of Raymond “Red Reddington (James Spader) in The Blacklist:

“There is nothing that can take the pain away. But eventually, you will find a way to live with it. There will be nightmares. And everyday when you wake up, it will be the first thing you think about. Until one day, it’s the second.”

Many things haunt me; but unlike many people who have little self-awareness I might have just a bit too much. I have talked about the nightmares, night terrors and insomnia that I have many times following my return from Iraq. I used to believe, at least back in the first year or so after I returned that I thought that eventually I would get over it. I don’t believe that anymore, now I just believe that I will find a way to live with them.

I guess that is the secret to life. Instead of wishing that something would miraculously take way the pain, I guess that it is better to find a way to live with it because one day something else will replace it.

Is that an ideal way to deal with life? Probably not, but I know that I am an idealist anymore. I used to be, but that was a while back. It took time, but war and the lies of men that I voted for, men who I trusted because they professed my faith, my love of country, and some who even shared my vocation as a priest and chaplain took that from me.

Some experts call this “moral injury.” For me it is connected with my tour in Iraq, PTSD and what I experience when I came home from colleagues, and people in my former church. Betrayal and abandonment is a terrible thing, but I am learning to live with it. It is not pretty but I am learning with every passing night and morning. Alexander Dumas wrote in The Count of Monte Cristo:

“Moral wounds have this peculiarity – they may be hidden, but they never close; always painful, always ready to bleed when touched, they remain fresh and open in the heart.”

My life is full again, there is meaning and purpose, but it is tempered by realism and the expectation that every day I will wake up and still think about those painful memories until finally something else takes their place.

I guess that the secret to living with darkness and pain is simply to live with it because the saying that “time heals all wounds” is a lie, it is the fabrication of people that don’t want to deal with the real world. God might heal, but then God may not. I have learned to be okay with that. I know that there are some Christians who might disagree and even say that I do not have enough “faith,” whatever that means, but I can live with this.

So I will live with it and in doing so I will continue on and in the process hopefully be there for others that also struggle with pain that does not want to go away and nightmares that never seem to end. As the late Henri Nouwen wrote: “Ministry means the ongoing attempt to put one’s own search for God, with all the moments of pain and joy, despair and hope, at the disposal of those who want to join this search but do not know how.” Not exactly perfection, but it will work.

This now is my goal and my prayer: God grant me the courage to change the things I cannot accept; Serenity to accept the things I have changed; And the wisdom to know I’m different. Amen.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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My Life is Movie Quotes

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“My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.” Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) 

I have been rather serious the past few days on the blog but in real life I am usually less than serious. It is scary because whether I am at work, at home or out it seems like no matter what the topic, no matter what the situation be it serious, light hearted or mundane a movie or television quote somehow comes to mind. Truthfully sometimes I wonder about me.

However last night Judy found herself doing the same thing and of course giving me the credit, or the blame for her doing the same thing. I love it when a plan comes together.

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In one of my classes on National Security Policy we were talking about the limits of what you could do as a military or a nation and the quote from Magnum Force where Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry played by Clint Eastwood) told Lieutenant Briggs (Hal Holbrook) “A man’s got to know his limitations.” In another discussion I was thinking of the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. But I digress…

Like I said I always seem to come up with movie or sometimes television quotes for the occasion. I think it is because I have one of those phonographic memories that keeps going around and around.

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When someone is too negative I think of Donald Sutherland in Kelly’s Heroes who said to his driver “Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don’t you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?”

Of course my life is a sea of Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Pulp Fiction and other quotes. When I have no idea about something I think of Mongo (Alex Karras) who said “Mongo not know, Mongo only pawn in game of life” or when I’m a bit nervous I think of the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) “But I shoot with this hand.” 

I think that you might be getting the idea. I’m a bit warped, but I’m okay with it. For better or worse I cannot go through a day without a minimum of three or four movie or television quotes. They come from everywhere and nowhere and span the ages and genres.  Sometimes I wonder if I picked “the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.” 

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So there it is. You want the truth? Then you need to ask this question posed by George Costanza (Jason Alexander) on Seinfeld“Do you ever get down on your knees and thank God you know me and have access to my dementia?” 

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Have a good night and great weekend “Set ludicrous speed” and “go do that Voodoo that you do so well!”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A “Soul Vike” Reunion a Ball Game and a Blow Up

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I have been on the road this week for my High School Class 35th anniversary reunion. It was a special time with old friends and quite enjoyable. I am going to keep this a rather short post tonight because I have an ungodly early flight in the morning heading back to the East Coast. 408699_2575280304915_863482896_n

It is really cool because our class, the Edison High School Class of 1978 was amazing. I have written about that experience and how special our class was in a number of articles on this site, mostly ones dealing with civil rights and how we were way ahead of our time. I compare notes with other people a lot and I do not know anyone from any other school or graduating class whose fellow classmates have the long term camaraderie, love and respect that we have for each other that we do. Back then and even today we are the Edison High School Vikings, or more affectionately and appropriately known as the Soul Vikes.

We represent every ethnic, racial, religious, political , economic, cultural background and even sexual orientation of our very diverse home town of Stockton California. The cool thing is that no matter how different we are in some ways we are very much bonded together by our shared experiences at Edison. We were the first graduating class of that school to go through bussing, something that many predicted would lead to race riots. But our class not only made it work we set an example and it is always amazing to me when I see so many communities struggling with racial tensions and prejudice to look back so fondly at what the group of 10th graders who came together in the Fall of 1975 and graduated in the summer of 1978 did then and do today. Many of us stay in contact on social media and those still in the local area of Stockton California stay in touch, but every 5 years we get together. I have made all but one of our reunions.

It is cool because when I get together with these friends and classmates we share the stories, the good times and the bad, the funny and the sad, the touching and the less than touching bringing laughs and sometimes tears as we remember friends who have passed away. It is funny because when you get to be over 50 and you realize that by the time the next reunion rolls around everyone will have their AARP cards that what really matters in life is the people that we care about and the relationships. Ultimately it is not about what we have done or accomplished, how rich or successful we are but what we leave behind.

Sometimes what we leave behind is good and sometimes not so good. In a way I guess it is all because we are human and sometimes we do things right and sometimes we don’t. But in the end hopefully the good outweighs the bad, or should that be the other way around? Do we really want to weigh that much? Never mind I digress…

Like I said the reunion was great and a lot of fun. I hope that we are able to track down some more of our classmates and bring back some of our guys who have done the “D-Day” or Daniel Simpson O’Day routine out of Animal House and drove off never to be seen again. Again I digress…

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We had a couple of great nights of fun and fellowship and I hope that we do it again sooner rather than later.

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We took some time to remember and honor or friends who have passed away, all far too young. Some to natural causes like cancer and others in tragic accidents, victims of crime or those for whom the struggles of life and its demons were too much. As I looked at the pictures and read the names felt tears. Some I knew the stories of what had happened while others came as a complete surprise.

I guess that it is why it is important to stay in contact. Because it ultimately is about us and our relationships.

That being said the trip was also nice because I was able to see my family and despite the obligatory blow up that happened between me and my mother, who I do love despite our differences. This time, maybe unknowingly she got me and I went nuclear in a restaurant and left. Not good form on my part but ever since Iraq I have a lot shorter fuze than I used to on some things. Since I write about those subjects a decent amout I won’t go into them here. Not an excuse but the truth. We are a lot like George Costanza and his mom from Seinfeld. SERENITY NOW!

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I was able to see my brother a number of times and see his wife and their kids who have all grown so much since the last time I saw them in 2010. I do want to make sure that we see each other more often. Thankfully I won’t be doing the geographic bachelor thing anymore and may be able to go with Judy out to California more often as life settles down. Maybe we’ll take her Mustang rather than flying and see some other friends across this land and other sites as well.

I ended the trip with a visit to see the Oakland Athletics play the Tampa Bay Rays at the Oakland Coliseum. It was really nice. The stadium itself is pretty crummy, but the people are great, very friendly and it is a nice atmosphere to see a game, not to mention a lot more affordable than many other Major League ballparks. After the game I went to my hotel where my nephew Joe met me for dinner. It was good to see just how well that he is doing.

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I fly out early tomorrow and since I have to get up way early i’m going to say goodnight.

Peace and blessings

Padre Steve+

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The Royal Baby: George Alexander Louis, A Name Fit for a Costanza

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The Once and Future King George? Serenity Now! 

Like many Americans whose families left the old world, particularly England because of the Monarchy I was fascinated to see what Will and Kate would name their new baby. I was betting on William Robert which would give him the nickname “Billy Bob” or James Joseph “Jimmy Joe” or simply a Boy Named Sue, how do you do?

But alas I was wrong. The young Royal’s who unlike their American counterparts have never won a World Series went back to history for the name. The new babe, the firstborn son of William and Kate is His Royal Highness Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

George, Alexander and Louis. All very royal names, English, Russian and French, alas the Royals are still punishing their wayward cousin Kaiser Wilhelm for that unfortunate 1914-1918 bloodbath called the First World War otherwise Willy might have been in the name somewhere. For a normal Royal Voyeur history might have some meaning when it comes to names, but I am not normal, nor Royal, nor a voyeur. But I digress…

I expected that George might be in the running as the first name of the new Royal heir. It is a good name, George V and VI did pretty well of course George III was one of the reasons that we Americans are no longer British subjects but every name has its share of less than stellar progenitors. It could be worse, he could be a descendent of the infamous Edmund Black Adder who I’m sure would have something to say about the new Royal offspring.

If the babe’s name had been George William Edmund Henry or any other number of good historic Royal names I might have not give it another thought. However when I heard the combination “George Alexander Louis” my PTSD and Mad Cow afflicted brain went other places. I had heard these names before, but where?

Then it occurred to me, Seinfeld… yes Seinfeld. George Louis Costanza, played so well by Jason Alexander. George, Alexander Louis Costanza Windsor. The name just sings, even better than “Seven.”

It was then that signals began reaching my tinfoil hat and entering my PTSD Mad Cow warped brain. No, this was not an accident. It was not just a reference to history. It was kismet. It was if Seinfeld had become a reality, it is the real “Summer of George” manifested in the offspring of Will and Kate.

I am blessed to have such a warped mind that allows me to see what most mortals cannot see, that somehow God or whatever divine or supernatural forces brought this about has a sense of humor. From now on the House of Windsor will be related to the House of Costanza.

Coincidence? I think not.

Serenity Now!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Popular Television Theme Songs

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Well it is time for something less serious tonight and since there is plenty of seriousness to go around on the internet I felt like going back to music. For a while now I have been thinking back, thanks to the Sirius Satellite Radio Seventies on Seven channel about popular songs from television shows that became hits on the Billboard charts.

I don’t know about you, but some of these songs bring back great memories, even of I wasn’t a regular viewer of the shows. Part of this is because a number were always on the radio, particularly on American Top 40 when I was doing the dough rolling and food preparation duties when I worked at the Shakey’s Pizza Parlor in Stockton California.

Of course very few of them were recorded then, but the fact that I was hooked on the AM Pop radio of the 1970s and 1980s meant that I picked up some songs simply because they were on the air as well as on television.

We don’t see many themes from television programs being big hits anymore. I am not sure for the reason but I think that a lot has to do with the proliferation of “reality TV” shows that rely more on people’s intense voyeuristic needs for entertainment than did the sitcoms and dramas of earlier days. As such most of these show do little or nothing for theme songs.

Most of my favorites come from the 1970s and 1980s, of course those were years where I followed more television shows than I do now. Some come from earlier and one,  I’ll be There for You was from the 1990s.

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I have always loved Joey Scarbury’s Theme to Greatest American Hero “Believe it or Not” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4JCehDOy54 or live on Solid Gold countdown http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUEFHZFLAyM . Since I am also a Seinfeld devotee I remember George Costanza (Jason Alexander) making up his own version of the song as his answering machine song.

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Finding it too funny I did the same for our answering machine at one time http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg-TqEFYcfM. Maybe I need to do it for my I-Phone now.

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John Sebastian recorded Welcome Back the theme to Welcome Back Kotter, a song and television show that was very popular when I was in high school. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6o0Cah5kQU

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The Theme from Happy Days was very popular during the 1950s’ nostalgia that gripped the country when I was in junior high school. Recorded by Pratt and McClain it remained part of American life through the early 1980s as Ron Howard and Henry Winkler made the fiction 50s come alive during the turbulent 1970s. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Tqc4FKNzWU

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Cindy Grecco recorded Making our Dreams Come True for the show LaVerne and Shirley which was a spin off from the popular Happy Days. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JijyXS6Sb30. I had pretty much forgotten about the song until I heard it on the Sirius 70s channel.

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Other songs that were Billboard hits from sitcoms included Waylon Jennings song Good Old Boys for the series The Dukes of Hazard. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIVMSnPVXfI and Steve Carlisle theme to WKRP in Cincinnati http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jRXt2Bt1Sc .

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One hit from a comedy that was not an upbeat song was by Johnny Mandel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gO7uemm6Yo who sang the haunting theme from the movie M*A*S*H, Suicide is Painless.  It was a Billboard hit when the movie came out, but when it remained as the theme for the television show  it was done as an instrumental introduction. One can understand why, but the song was popular after the release of the movie and became the official song of the Army Medical Department in the 1980s.

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One tie in that I have to the series is when as a young enlisted man http://search.peopleschoice.com/v/26948942/and-the-9th-annual-favorite-television-comedy-series-is-m-a-s-h.htm . I am somewhere on in the group of soldiers to the left of the cast at the end of the video. I think I can find me, but my screen isn’t big enough to honestly say if the person I think is me is me.

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The theme from SWAT by Rhythm Heritage http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHnx-z0I7SM was one of several instrumental hits for police or detective shows. Other instrumental favorites included several by Mike Post who arranged the instrumental theme to Magnum PI starring Tom Selleck. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIi9iTsbhtg, the theme to Hill Street Blues http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSOeRqNtQtM both of which made the top 40 as did his theme for the Rockford Files staring James Garner http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXtpoO_DlDM

Another police drama song, the them to Miami Vice was recorded by Jam Hammer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQDU-2qMre0

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The Rembrandts recorded their hit I’ll be There for You for the hit sitcom Friends. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUSXZAtCaRQ

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David Naughton recorded Makin’ It http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91D58RuHyVU was recorded for a show called Makin’ It which was far shorter lived than the popularity of the theme song.

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Some earlier themes included Dragnet by Ray Anthony from the 1950s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChE5GHKsgHU Henry Mancini did the theme for Peter Gunn in the 1950s and 1960s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dechpnavTyA which was reintroduced to people like me through the Blues Brothers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CHjYHwNzx0.

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Hawaii Five-0 which was very popular in the 1970s them made it high on the Billboard Hot 100 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASvQ-bNURn4 and has been re-done for the new rendition of that show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwhvByj8YG8

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One of my favorites, and possibly my favorite of all times is the them from Cheers Where Everybody Knows Your Name by Gary Portnoy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-mi0r0LpXo

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These songs are like old friends. When I hear them it is like I am in place where “everybody knows my name.” So anyway, thanks for allowing me the diversion tonight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Laughing All the Way: Padre Steve’s Favorite Christmas Films and TV Shows

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Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.”

This is the time of year that a lot of Christmas movies are shown on almost every television outlet known to humanity.  Of course there are many that are absolutely timeless such as Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and its derivatives and It’s a Wonderful Life.

There are also ones of various religious themes, usually involving the birth of Jesus, like no duh, it’s Christmas. Unfortunately most of these films as classic as they are bore me to tears.  Yes they have nice messages and tug at the heartstrings but without wanting to sound too much like Scrooge I get bored by them, frightfully bored.

I guess part of this is a generational thing.  The ones set in the 1930s and 1940s are from a different era, an era that I know from history books and family members but not something that is a part of my life.  It’s like the film The Bell’s of Saint Mary’s is about the Roman Catholic Church of a half century ago, not the one that I know or that exists now.  They are fictional and while touching are indelibly tied to their time.  The religious themed films tended often to be major productions of the Hollywood Gospel genre, not very faithful to Scripture or the teachings of the church, not that there is anything wrong with that.  But it is certain to me that Cecil B. De Mille did not write the 5th Gospel, or the 6th Book of Moses (You have to know your Luther Bible for that one) thus I have a hard time with films that use the nativity or for that matter the passion of Christ for a quick buck.

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However, every year, there are several Christmas movies and television shows that I cannot live without seeing.  Of the television shows my all time favorite is A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  As a kid I had a deep affinity for both Charlie Brown and Linus. The frustration of Charlie Brown with the commercialization of Christmas was something that resonated in me at a young age and still does today. If you want to see this just look at my articles on Black Friday.  Likewise Linus’ reading of the Luke’s account of the Angel’s message to the shepherds always brings tears to my eyes.  There is something about the sensitivity of Linus to the actual Gospel message that resonates in my heart.

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As for the Grinch, and I mean the television Grinch where Boris Karloff voiced the part of the Grinch not the Jim Carey movie version, it has always been a favorite of mine.  I find the plot of the Grinch to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville to be a masterful account of how the message of Christmas can touch even the smallest and coldest of hearts.  Of course I absolutely loved the Grinch’s dog “Max” a dog whose loyalty to the Grinch reminds me of my dog Molly.

As far as movies are concerned I watch Scrooged staring Bill Murray and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation staring Chevy Chase with almost a religious reverence every year.

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I relate to the main characters in both movies.  That’s not necessarily a compliment to me. Bill Murray’s Character in Scrooged pricks my cynical nature and there are times that I almost need to cover my eyes when in Christmas Vacation where Clark Griswold kicks the decorative reindeer and sleigh across the lawn when he can’t get his house lights on.  His rants when his Christmas Tree goes up in flames and when his family tries to leave the house are so close to the way that I can act under the stress of the holidays that is scary.  Since Judy says this is the case I know that I am not imagining this.

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Three other films that get me are Home Alone and A Christmas Story and though it is not really a Christmas story Trading Places staring Dan Aykroyd whose Christmas season meltdown is at the center of a film about the greed of certain parts of the American financial sector.

These are what I grew up with and which were the films about Christmas as it takes place in the United States that I became an adult in that typify my era, not that of my grandparents.  I think that is why they are my favorites and not the classics of a bygone time.

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Of course there is the Festivus episode of Seinfeld that is almost scary because of how close to home it hits. There are times that I think we only lacked the “feats of strength” and the Festivus Pole to complete the picture.  Sticking to Seinfeld I always feel a twinge of sympathy for George when makes up a fake charity called “The Human Fund: Money for People” to give to his co-workers at Kruger Industrial Smoothing. There are times that I am tempted, but thankfully never will do something similar.

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Finally I like the X-Files Christmas episode How the Ghosts Stole Christmas where Ed Asner and Lilly Tomlin played ghosts in a haunted house that Agents Scully and Mulder get trapped in while investigating a case. When I go shopping anywhere this time of year I am quite fond of Agent Scully’s comment to Mulder: “Sorry. Checkout lines were worse than rush-hour on the 95. If I heard “Silent Night” one more time, I was gonna start taking hostages.” 

Okay, so these are not the classics of a bygone era, but they are my classics and I will enjoy Charlie Brown, Linus, the Grinch, Clark Griswold, Frank Cross, the Costanzas Agents Mudler and Scully and the rest of my warped favorites as I continue to rediscover the joy and hilarity of Christmas as we celebrate it in the United States. After all, to quote Clark Griswold “We’re all in this together.”

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game

Well the Super Bowl is over, my predictions were right and amid the commercials and halftime show a football game was played.

I didn’t have a dog in the fight this year so I was able to watch the game and do running commentary on it, the commercials and the half-time show starring Madonna on Twitter. I tweeted more tonight than any single night that I have been on Twitter and it was really fun.  Seeing what other people were saying about the game, commercials and Madonna actually made watching the game a lot more enjoyable than I normally find it.

There were a number of commercials that I liked for various reasons and some that I thought could have been better.  My favorite was the Apocalypse commercial for the Chevy Silverado.  How could you go wrong with Manilow’s Look’s like we Made It playing amid scenes of destruction and Twinkies?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxFYYP8040A

Likewise I found that the Bud Light commercial involving the rescue dog Weego was really well done. My little dog Molly is a rescue and the commercial was cute.  I love my rescue dog.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoplehNzYoI Budweiser had a great commercial on the end of prohibition but if I had to choose a beer to celebrate the end of that sad period I would do a craft beer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGgosT-v5sw

Honda had a commercial for its Acura NSX starring Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, a space alien and Jay Leno that showed that Seinfeld has not lost his touch.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUFSHzT2xuY It was too bad that he didn’t have a hand in the Jockey underwear commercial featuring David Beckham. That would have been so much better if they had used George Costanza doing the photo shoot with Kramer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NL5wSs-9kI

Honda had a great commercial with Matthew Broderick reprising his Ferris Buehler persona for the Honda CRV.  I love Ferris Buehler and have had a Honda CRV since 2001 so for me it was two memories. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhkDdayA4iA

A different automaker had an ad which was far too funny and that I didn’t expect. It was the ad for the Fiat 500 Abarth. The commercial was really quite well done as only Italians could do mixing sexuality, Cappuccino and cars. This is not how I viewed Fiat for most of my life. When I was in Germany in the 1980s it was not uncommon to see Fiat 500‘s littering the roadside broken down.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7q1Ry0udQY

From an inspirational point of view the best commercial of the evening was Chrysler’s Halftime in America with Clint Eastwood doing the voice over.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8VpW8P8_kU

The halftime show by Madonna was better than I expected. It was kind of a retro 1980s Techno show, the only thing missing was Hans and Franz to pump you up. Madonna did the lip-sync thing well and didn’t do anything scandalous although guest singer MIA evidently have the middle finger salute during one of her solos. I didn’t see it because I was too busy tweeting pithy comments about the show to notice.

As for the game itself. It was about what I expected. It was close, the teams were competitive and it wasn’t a blow out. I really didn’t care who won so that took the pressure off. I saw the game as close enough that either team could have won and New England blew a chance to practically seal a win with about 4 minutes left in the game when Wes Welker dropped a pass that he would normally catch inside the red zone.

Eli Manning as he has shown all of this year showed that he could win when winning mattered. He, the Giants and their coach Tom Coughlin seem to have the Patriots number in big games.  The Patriots season ended with a Super Bowl loss. Tom Brady could not bring the team back in the final minute after the Patriots appeared to let the Giants score a touchdown in order to get the ball back with time on the clock. The move was a bit of twisted genius by Patriots coach Bill Belichick and if the “hail Mary” pass tossed by Brady in the final seconds had been caught by Rob Gronkowski the Patriots might have come out with a remarkable and miraculous win.

So football season is over and we can now get serious. Baseball season is just ahead and not a minute too soon.  Within minutes of the end of the game I flipped the channel to the MLB Channel.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Favorite Christmas Movies and Shows

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye.”

This is the time of year that a lot of Christmas movies are shown on almost every television outlet known to humanity.  Of course there are many that are absolutely timeless such as “Miracle on 34th Street,” “White Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” There are also ones of various religious themes, usually involving the birth of Jesus, like no duh, it’s Christmas. Unfortunately most of these films as classic as they are bore me to tears.  Yes they have nice messages and tug at the heartstrings but without wanting to sound too much like Scrooge I get bored by them.  I guess part of this is a generational thing.  The ones set in the 1930s and 1940s are from a different era, an era that I know from history books and family members but not something that is a part of my life.  It’s like the film “The Bell’s of Saint Mary’s” is about the Roman Catholic Church of a half century ago, not the one that I know.  They are fictional and while touching are indelibly tied to their time.  The religious themed films tended often to be major productions and Hollywood Gospel.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I’m sorry Cecil B. De Mille did not write the 5th Gospel, or the 6th Book of Moses (You have to know your Luther Bible for that one.)

Frank Cross (Bill Murray) with the Ghost of Christmas Past

Instead every year there are several Christmas movies and television shows that I cannot live without seeing.  Of the television shows my all time favorite is “A Charlie Brown Christmas” followed by “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” As a kid I had a deep affinity for both Charlie Brown and Linus. The frustration of Charlie Brown with the commercialization of Christmas was something that resonated in me at a young age.  Likewise Linus’ reading of the Luke’s account of the Angel’s message to the shepherds always brings tears to my eyes.  As for the Grinch, and I mean the television Grinch where Boris Karloff voiced the part of the Grinch not the Jim Carey movie version it has always been a favorite of mine.  I find the plot of the Grinch to steal Christmas from the “Whos” of “Whoville” to be a masterful account of how the message of Christmas can touch even the smallest and coldest of hearts.  Of course I absolutely loved the Grinch’s dog “Max.”

As far as movies I have watched “Scrooged” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” almost religiously and am doing so tonight.  I relate to both of the main characters in both movies.  That’s not necessarily a compliment to me, but when I watch both there are times that I almost need to cover my eyes because of the resemblance, especially the scene in Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold, played by Chevy Chase starts kicking his decorative reindeer and sleigh across the lawn when he can’t get his house lights on and his rants about when his Christmas Tree goes up in flames and when his family tries to leave are scary close to the way that I can act under the stress of the holidays.  The Abbess says that this indeed is me and I agree.  Three other films that get me are “Home Alone” and “A Christmas Story” and though not really a Christmas story “Trading Places.” These are what I grew up with and which were the films about Christmas as it takes place in the United States that I became an adult in that typify my era, not that of my grandparents.  I think that is why they are my favorites and not the classics of a bygone time.  Of course there is the “Festivus” episode of “Seinfeld” that is almost scary in how things were in my house with my folks, I think at times we only lacked the “feats of strength” and the Festivus Pole to complete the picture.  Likewise when George makes up a fake charity called “The Human Fund: Money for People” to give to the folks at Kruger Industrial Smoothing it cracks me up because I know that there are people who give gifts in other people’s names to charity.

Finally I like the “X-Files” Christmas episode where Ed Asner and Lilly Tomlin played ghosts in a haunted house that Agents Scully and Mulder get trapped in while investigating a case.

Okay, so these are not the classics of a bygone era, but they are my classics and I will enjoy Charlie Brown, Linus, the Grinch, Clark Griswold, Frank Cross, the Costanzas and the rest of my warped favorites as I rediscover Christmas.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane…Reflections on the Islands of Unhappy Travelers

The 80’s group Blondie had a hit called “Island of Lost Souls.”  I love that song; it is kind of quirky and fun.  However, there is a time when you run into a place where the song seems more true than not. Airports are one of those places, they tend to be some of the most angst and anger filled venues known to man, excepting of course Fed-Ex Field where Dan Snyder is doing his best to destroy the Redskins and drive off their fans. However, I digress as I couldn’t care a whit about the Redskins because they are a football team, though I have sympathy for the fans that have been banned from bringing signs into the stadium.  With that exception and maybe the U.S. Capitol building and the set of any Cable Television talk show where politics is being debated the airports have to be pretty close to the top of the hate and discontent list.

I had to travel to Florida in the spring for chaplain conference.  Since I came back from Iraq I do travel a lot less well than I used to and to make matters worse conferences of almost any kind at best come close to pushing me to the edge.  Sleep tends to be difficult for me, especially before I travel on commercial airlines and endure the hell of airports.  The night before I travel, I try to anticipate every contingency, going through my packing list and ensuring I have everything that I need. Then after I go to bed I get up an hour later to make sure that I indeed get everything. Once I am sure that I do I go back and check the multiple alarm clocks that I have set just to make sure I don’t miss my flight.  I know why I do this. Before Iraq I traveled a lot and got good at it.  However in Iraq a did a lot more of this and got into a routine of checking, double checking and even triple checking to make sure that I had everything that I needed.  Over there I knew that if I forgot something, even something simple that it would not be available the places that I was going or places that I might get marooned.  I have carried that experience back with me.  I pack and lay out all my clothes the night before I go to work.  I actually use the same pack that I carried on every mission in Iraq.  It is an excellent piece of gear, made by Blackhawk.

Anyway that day was a hellish travel day. The weather across the east coast was crappy.  My first flight was delayed an hour, my second flight as well. If that was not bad enough the good folks at Delta airlines failed to have people at gates and jet ways when gate changes happened, leaving people to miss flights and nearly miss vacation cruises.  On our connecting flight at Atlanta’s Harts-Jackson Field was delayed, in my case that was a good thing as had it been on time I would have missed it.  While in line waiting for the flight announcements were periodically made, each one either delivering a later flight time or excuse for the delay.  The excuses often were inconsistent.  I began to think that they were lying to us.  Now I’m not saying that an airline would lie, but it seemed to my little pea brain that the excuses conflicted and each new excuse contradicted the last pathetic excuse.  I hate bad liars.  Let’s face it, if you are going to lie be consistent and strive to make it believable, politicians, lawyers and TV evangelists are great at this.  Unfortunately the people lying to us were not very believable.  However it may have been that they actually believed what they were saying which would be as George Costanza once said: “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

As I waited that day I surveyed my fellow disgruntled travelers.  I was deep into a PTSD induced ass kinking anxiety attack.  By the time this was going on time I had taken both of my extra meds as well as my 8 AM and 1230 PM doses of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  Normally I’ll wait until dinner for a beer, but I knew that I needed a bit more on that trip.  I try not to self-medicate and over the past year have gotten a lot better in not doing this. However there as something about airports and airline travel that almost inevitably pushes my buttons and so I will do this to take the edge off and keep me somewhat sane until I can get to my destination and hide.

I went to a conference in Orlando in the summer of 2008 shortly after my PTSD diagnosis and that about put me over the edge. If you have PTSD the Gateway to the fricking “Happiest place in the world” is the portal to hell.  Thus only a few months after coming out of a combat zone I discovered that Orlando during the height of the summer pilgrimage to Wally World to see Randy Rodent and Doofey is not a fun experience.

Thanks be to God for her good care during this trip.  She ensured that my doctor had given good drugs and the airport pubs provided good beer not to mention a Chili Dog with mustard.  Thus by the middle of the afternoon I was doing far better than most of my fellow travelers.  It definitely sucked to be them.  It was then that the Blondie song came into my mind.  Atlanta’s airport was not the Island of Lost Souls but the Land of Unhappy Travelers.  I listened to some of the folks around me as they lamented their situation and it sounded like “Lemony Snickets: A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Atlanta had become the vortex of very disgruntled travelers who had missed flights, been bumped from flights or delayed endlessly.  If you don’t believe in the Catholic in the doctrine of Purgatory just try Atlanta on a day like that, which is about 362 days a year.  I looked around, and though barely holding on myself I was able to find some gallows humor in the midst of this agony.  I looked around the people around me and said “Ladies and gentlemen it is my distinct displeasure to welcome you to the land of unhappy travelers.”  I actually got a few laughs.  I then made a comment about the airline, which I had not flown in a couple of years, saying “I’m glad to see that some things stay the same, our airline still has same crappy service that they had a few years ago.”  As we started boarding we boarded by zones as some airlines do.  I personally prefer the first come or first signed in first seated way that Southwest does things, unfortunately the government contract was no longer with Southwest. As they announced “boarding zones one through five,” I commented, “Yep, you guys in zone 92 still have a while to wait.  On each flight we had bad weather, turbulence and on one flight the air condition did not start kicking in until we were getting ready to land.

When I got to my destination I heard stories even worse than mine, all focused around the vortex of doom that swirled around Atlanta.  The only place that I thought it could have gone worse was Washington Dulles, where my experiences have been nearly all bad. I survived but by the time I got to my hotel my ass was kicked. At the end of the day I had survived.  A few beers and a bit of wine with good fellowship with friends made things better.

Saturday I get to fly again and make my third trip to California to see my folks.  I am already making my list and getting mentally prepared for the trip.  I get to fly though Chicago O’Hare and on the way back LAX and O’Hare.  Thank the Deity Herself that Atlanta is not on the itinerary. I’ll do my best to at least find the humor as I pass through these islands of unhappy travelers, so pray for me a sinner.

Peace,

Padre Steve

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Cowboys Stadium meets Seinfeld: A Scoreboard and a Nose that You Can’t Miss

cowboys scoreboardJerry Jones’  Über-Jumbotron

The New Cowboys Stadium opened officially last week as Jerry’s Kids played the team formerly known as the Houston Oilers the Tennessee Titans, or as I will now call them the Toilers. Most people have been focusing on the controversy over the height of the scoreboard from the field, and if it is really in the way of a punter.  Okay, so what? There are other domed stadiums throughout the league where punters have hit the rafters or roof.  I actually could care less if a punt hits the damned thing that is why the NFL has a rule that says something like this: “If a punt hits the ceiling, roof, scoreboard, the Goodyear Blimp, low flying aircraft or a Space Shuttle returning to earth the punt shall be done over” or words to that effect.  So really the whole controversy over Jerry’s Gigantic Über-Jumbotron being too low is a red herring.  Jeff Fisher doesn’t like Jerry and figures that he will make Jerry’s life complicated, especially since Jerry spent something like 43 million dollars on the scoreboard, or the price of three large pizzas and three beers at one of the stadium’s concession stands.

The thing that got me was not that the Toilers punter hit the scoreboard and if it was intentionally done as Jerry’s Kids claim, or if it was unintentional as Fisher and his Punter claim.  It is how the scoreboard appears when you see it on TV and I can only believe that the effect has to be even more pronounced in person.  It is overwhelming; it is all that you see, it is like a really nice looking girl with a nose that is so big that it overwhelms every other facial feature and draws your attention to it so you can see nothing else.    A colleague of mine at work has had season tickets for the Cowboy’s for years.  Every home game she and her husband fly from the East Coast to Mecca to see the Cowboys play.  She has her tickets for the new stadium and she is pretty sure that her seats will be low enough not to have her view of the other side of the field impeded by the Über-Jumbotron.

So back to my point; when I first heard about the scoreboard I thought, big deal it’s only a big scoreboard.   A lot of stadiums, auditoriums and churches have large screen scoreboard.  I think there is a church in Texas that has one that shows the preacher, has his preaching stats on one column as well as that Sunday’s hymn numbers, Scripture readings and the offering count for the previous month noting the biggest givers’ contributions, but I digress as we are talking about the Jerry’s Über-Jumbotron.

This thing is so big that when I briefly flipped past the game I was transfixed by the sheer size of it.  It was all that I could see. It dwarfed everything.  When people say that everything is bigger in Texas, this proves it.  Although one wonders like the old question dealing with the size of a man’s you know what; if size really matters.  Since girls are not as discreet in talking about such things in public I have occasionally overheard conversations in bars, restaurants and malls where women are discussing this rather delicate and sometimes controversial subject.  Once again I digress.

So anyway when I saw Jerry’s Über-Jumbtron I thought to myself “I have seen this before but where?’  Then it came to me…Seinfeld.  The episode where George dates a girl who has a massive nose which the writers focused in on as if it was George looking at her and all that he could see was nose…nothing but nose.  Once again Seinfeld meets life, only rather than a nose it is Jerry’s Über-Jumbotron.  I was astounded at just how large that it is and I was almost mesmerized by it.  I shook my head to break eye contact with the monster before I could be sucked through my TV screen and into the Stadium.

seinfeld noseThe Nose

Like I said, I could care less about the rules and how the scoreboard affects play.  I personally find football only mildly interesting now and a diversion to fill occasional time slots when Baseball season ends.  The only question that I have is about the ascetics of the scoreboard.  I wonder if it will become a distraction from the game itself.  I wonder of people who actually care about football wonder the same thing.  Has Jerry Jones created a monster in putting in such a large and overwhelming edifice in his high tech Temple of Cowboy’s Football?  Or is it like the scene out of the movie ruthless people where Judge Reinhold is talking to a rich couple

buying a stereo:

Ken Kessler: Over here, we have a great speaker, Sentry EV- . Consumer Stereo has just rated this a best buy.  I have a pair myself.

Male Customer in a leather Ferrari jacket: Yeah, uh, what do you think of this one?

Ken Kessler:  The Dominator X- ? The Dominator’s a good marketing idea, but it’s really not a good speaker.  We give it a 100 % markup, so we sell it at 50 % off, give the customer the illusion he’s getting a deal and we still make a bundle.

Female Customer: But it’s so big and impressive!

Ken Kessler: Size means very little. Bigger is not necessarily better. I sound like Dr. Ruth.

Female Customer: You mean the Dominator’s like a, uh–

Ken Kessler: Well, the Dominators are very popular with men who like to have bigger… uh—

Female Customer: Equipment?

Ken Kessler: Exactly!

Have a great football season Cowboy fans!

Peace, Steve+

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