Tag Archives: the x-files

Perchance to Dream: A Sleep Study and the Paths Not Chosen


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

After about a week of writing about politics, history, and the very disturbing presidency of Donald Trump, I need to take a break, not that there isn’t a lot of politics, foreign policy, and other serious subjects I could write about. But honestly I need to take a break from that, at least for tonight because I am already hooked up and waiting for my official bedtime in the Sleep Lab at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.

I will be hooked up to a CPAP because I am already diagnosed with pretty severe sleep apnea, but tonight it different, they are going to observe my REM sleep disorder, where in my dreams, nightmares, and night terrors my body acts out those dreams. This condition has sent me to the ER or the medical clinic on more than one occasion and I have a concussion in 2014 and a broken nose in 2016 to show for it. Things get a bit sporting in my hi-definition nightmares and night terrors. My dreams have still been pretty vivid as of late but a combination of medicines seem to have lessened the physical acting out in them, according to my wife Judy. However, tonight, in a strange bed and with none of the medicines I get to try to sleep. It should be interesting. I cannot even take my customary shot of single malt Scotch or Irish Whiskey for my knee pain.

So today I write something a bit more introspective, which I think is a good question for all of us who seek the truth and take the time to examine our lives in light of all that happens to us. Since I am stuck here this is as good of time as any to do so.

In the series the X-Files, Agent Dana Scully played by Gillian Anderson made this observation: 

“Time passes in moments… moments which, rushing past, define the path of a life, just as surely as they lead towards its end. How rarely do we stop to examine that path, to see the reasons why all things happen, to consider whether the path we take in life is our own making, or simply one into which we drift with eyes closed. But what if we could stop, pause to take stock of each precious moment before it passes? Might we then see the endless forks in the road that have shaped a life? And, seeing those choices, choose another path?”

I actually think that it is a very good question and truthfully I wonder. I wonder what my life might have been had I, or others made different decisions. How would my life be different? Or would it? I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t really care.

One thing I do know is that whatever my alternate paths might have taken that I am happy. I have been able to fulfill many dreams and I do take the time to ponder all the forks in the road that have shaped my life. When I do I realize that the alternative possibilities are almost endless. Then when I think of the possibilities of alternate universes I wonder, not that there is anything wrong with that. But even so, I don’t think I would want to be on any other path, for since I was a child all that I could imagine ever being happy doing in life was serving my country in the military.  In early 1861, Ellen Boyle Ewing Sherman, the wife of William Tecumseh Sherman told Sherman “You will never be happy in this world unless you go in the army again.”  Ellen had never approved of Sherman’s previous service and in fact hated ever moment of it, but after six years of seeing her husband in civilian life, she knew that he had to return to the army. 

Twenty years ago I made a decision to volunteer to serve as a mobilized Army reservist during the Bosnia crisis. It was a decision that changed my life. I had left active duty in 1988 to attend seminary while remaining in the National Guard and the Reserves, and when I was mobilized I lost my civilian employment, and two and a half years later when I was offered the chance to go on active duty in the Navy, even though it meant a reduction in rank, I did it. 

When I think of all the things that transpired to get me when I am today I really am astounded, and for the life of me I don’t see how I could have chosen another path. It has been twenty years since I volunteered to support the Bosnia operation, and almost thirty-five years since I first enlisted in the army, and like Sherman, I cannot have imagined doing anything different. As for my wife Judy, she, like Ellen Sherman was with her husband has been long suffering in staying with me all these years, and I wouldn’t trade her for anyone. April 1 of 2020 I will be retiring from the Navy, unless the President gets us into a war and the military declares a “stop loss.” One never knows these days, I have known people in 1990 and again in 2001 and 2003 who got caught in such events, or were extended after their mandatory retirements.

But, when I look at my life in total, there are many things that I might have wanted to change or do differently, but if I had, or for that matter,mad someone else made a different decision concerning my life, the tapestry that has been my life would be very different and I might not even recognize me if any of those paths had been chosen, by me, or by others. 

Agent Scully’s words got me thinking and pondering, and that my friends is a good thing. 

So until the next fork in the road….

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Bandit is Dead, Long Live the Bandit: the Passing of Burt Reynolds

Friends of Padre Steve’e World,

I came of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s and back then Burt Reynolds ruled the box office. I think that I saw every move that he made between 1974 and 1985. My favorites were his comedies like Smokey and the Bandit, The End, The Cannonball Run, Starting Over, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and so many others. I did really like his serious films like  Sharkey’s Machine, Deliverance, and his part as “Mr. Burt” in the X-Files episode Improbable which was aired in 2002. But it was his comedies that I continually go back to when I need a laugh. I’m doing that tonight.

One of the movies that I will watch this weekend is The End where he plays a man diagnosed with cancer who tries to kill himself and gets locked up with Dom DeLouise, who then takes it upon himself to help Reynolds try to kill himself. At the end of the film Reynold’s character decides that he wants to live after swimming out into the ocean to drown himself. In a panic he begins to bargain with God:

Oh, God! Let me live, and I promise to obey every one of the Ten Commandments. I shall not kill… I shall not commit adultery… I shall not… I… uh… I’ll  learn the Ten Commandments, and then I’ll obey every fucking one of them!

I love that line.

But for me Burt Reynolds was an icon and it is hard to believe that he has passed away. I heard about his death as my iPhone news notifications started going off for close to an hour, even overwhelming important news going on in the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. All I can think about Judge Kavanaugh and his lack of truthfulness and character is a quote from Reynolds’s character in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd: “Boys, I got myself a pretty good bullshit detector, and I can tell when somebody’s peeing on my boots and telling me it’s a rainstorm.” But I digress…

The fact is that I am going to miss Burt Reynolds. I was looking forward to him possibly being in Quentin  Tarantino’s next film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood; I am sure that he would have been great in it.

Reynolds was more than a sum of his acting parts, he was also a very reflective and appreciate man as he aged. He appreciated his friends. When he friend and frequent co-star Dom DeLuise  passed away he said:

As you get older, and start to lose people you love, you think about it more, and I was dreading this moment. Dom always made you feel better when he was around and there will never be another like him. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much…. 

He was able to recognize his failures in life, relationships, and even in the choices of some films that he made. That being said he was able to express his appreciation for those who stood by him, supported him, and told him the truth during his good and bad times.

He also said something that I can relate to despite not being an actor. Instead of acting I have tried to teach and help younger military personnel, officers, and especially chaplains. In doing so I often make fun of myself and the mistakes that I have made. I can laugh at myself, except when I can’t. As I look at retiring from the military next year after some 38 years of service I know that my legacy will not be the sum of my personal accomplishments, it will be the young men and women that I have been able to teach and mentor over the years. Reynolds said:

I’ve had a tremendous amount of fun making fun of myself! As to my legacy, it’s the kids that I have taught. I love this business so very much that I want to share my knowledge about it. The young actors that I have taught, I hope they think of me as a good teacher like Charles Nelson Reilly. Being a good teacher. I’ll take that over being a good actor any day!

With that I will go back to my Burt Reynolds movie binge watching weekend.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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I’d Like to Believe: Reflections on Death and the Life to Come


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

In the final scene of the final episode of the season nine of the X-Files, Fox Mulder tells Dana Scully “I’d like to believe that the dead are not really lost to us. That they speak to us as part of something greater than us…” 

Over the past couple of weeks I have experienced the loss of three wonderful people. Two of the were expected. My cousin, Betty Dundas who was in her 80s and had been in declining health for the past year passed away on Wednesday. My friend from  high school, Tony Martin passed away two weeks ago after battling cancer for more than a year; and I found out last night that my friend Cara Burke Hartwell, one of the people who helped keep me sane during my tour in Camp LeJeune suffered a massive stroke and was taken off of life support Saturday night. I guess that Cara’s death hit me the hardest because she was my age and it was so totally unexpected.

All three were beautiful people, and all three left the world better off for simply being here. Betty lived a long and full life, until a year effort she died she took an active role in her church choir. Tony and Cara both died far too young, they leave behind many family members and friends.

After chapel today I walked around the grounds of the Staff College and the Naval Support Activity for about an hour. I needed to. I reflected on life, and I prayed for the souls of my friends, and of those that they left behind. The walk was quite peaceful, and I glad that I did it. I am blessed to have had my life touched by all three of these wonderful people, so I do not grieve for myself. I was blessed by all of them, and that is nothing to be sad about, and like Fox Mulder I’d like to believe that Betty, Tony, and Cara are not really lost to us.

I guess that believing that is really important to me, and my faith as a Christian about that is summed up in the final sentence of the Nicene Creed, “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.” 

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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31 Years of Marriage: Thoughts of an Inept Romantic

 

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“A toast before we go into battle. True love. In whatever shape or form it may come. May we all in our dotage be proud to say, “I was adored once too.” – Gareth Four Weddings and a Funeral

“I love you. You annoy me more than I ever thought possible, but… I want to spend every irritating minute with you.” Scrubs 

Today Judy and I celebrate our 31st wedding anniversary. So I won’t be writing much except to say that I am an incredibly lucky man. I have the day off and this morning we will take our oldest dog Molly to the vet for a follow up visit about her eyes, then Lord knows what we will do. I will try to do something special for her, I am sure we will go out to dinner but I don’t know what else yet. I found out this afternoon that  what I ordered for an anniversary gift won’t get here for two months so plan worked out well.

I am a very inept romantic. Though I am very good with the English language I am not very good in how I express myself, which means that I find movies that deal with this pointedly funny.

One of my favorite movies about marriage is the classic Four Weddings and a Funeral. There are a could of great sequences in the film that kind of hit home to me. One is where Charles (Hugh Grant) is stumbling all over himself when talking to Carrie (Andie McDowell). It almost reminds me of the first time that I asked Judy out in college. I was stumbling over my words so badly that she thought I was about to ask her to marry her on the spot. I do happen to be terribly shy and back then just asking a girl to go out with me was a major adventure in fear.

Charles: Ehm, look. Sorry, sorry. I just, ehm, well, this is a very stupid question and… , particularly in view of our recent shopping excursion, but I just wondered, by any chance, ehm, eh, I mean obviously not because I guess I’ve only slept with 9 people, but-but I-I just wondered… ehh. I really feel, ehh, in short, to recap it slightly in a clearer version, eh, the words of David Cassidy in fact, eh, while he was still with the Partridge family, eh, “I think I love you,” and eh, I-I just wondered by any chance you wouldn’t like to… Eh… Eh… No, no, no of course not… I’m an idiot, he’s not… Excellent, excellent, fantastic, eh, I was gonna say lovely to see you, sorry to disturb… Better get on…

Carrie: That was very romantic.

Charles: Well, I thought it over a lot, you know, I wanted to get it just right.

The fact that Judy’s ring tone for me is the song “I think I love you” by the Partridge Family is somewhat ironic in light of both my inept attempt at romance and that scene in the movie. There is another scene in the movie that amuses me, one again because of my shyness, and I wonder if there is some truth in it.

Gareth: I’ve got a new theory about marriage. Two people are in love, they live together, and then suddenly one day, they run out of conversation.

Charles: Uh-huh.

Gareth: Totally. I mean they can’t think of a single thing to say to each other. That’s it: panic! Then suddenly it-it occurs to the chap that there is a way out of the deadlock.

Charles: Which is?

Gareth: He’ll ask her to marry him.

Charles: Brilliant! Brilliant!

Gareth: Suddenly they’ve got something to talk about for the rest of their lives.

Charles: Basically you’re saying marriage is just a way of getting out of an embarrassing pause in conversation.

Gareth: The definitive icebreaker.

We dated for nearly five years before we got married, and got married just six days after I was commissioned as an Army Second Lieutenant. Now 31 years later I am a Navy Commander and we are still married, which is kind of a miracle when you consider some of the things we have been through together and all the years that we have spent apart due to military assignments. I think since 1996 we have spent about ten years apart. Thankfully, since we are married we still have things we can talk about to get around that awkward pause.

But then seriously I have to agree with Agent Dana Scully in the X-Files when she said something that I totally agree with and which is true about us:

“It seems to me that the best relationships, the ones that last, are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. You know, one day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere. And the person who was just a friend is… suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.”

Truthfully, I cannot imagine being with someone else. So here’s to us, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, in peace and war, may we continue to live, love and laugh together.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Calling the X-Files Team: Agents Scully and Mulder Please Find MA-370

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I hate to admit it but the strange disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is beginning to look like an X-File.

When the aircraft was first reported missing I thought the aircraft had to have fallen victim to either a mechanical failure or terrorism. However it looks like that things are not what they would appear to be. The latest information has the aircraft traveling hundreds of miles in the opposite direction of its flight plan.

It has been four, soon to be five days since the aircraft disappeared. In that time there have been reports that the families and co-workers of the presumed victims have been able to get calls through to cell phones which have rang through and some of which have shown up as active on a Chinese internet provider tracker.

Frankly I don’t know what to think. The aircraft a Boeing 777-200 ER had a good maintenance record and the aircraft type has a very safe operational history. The only fatal accident occurred when a Korean Air aircraft crashed due to pilot error while landing at San Francisco International Airport. It was a testament to the design and strength of the aircraft that keep causalities to a bare minimum.

From what Interpol and other police and security agencies are saying right now this does not appear to be a terrorist incident. Of course that could change if evidence is uncovered that shows this to be the case.

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The last reported position was over the Straits of Malacca, one of the busiest maritime transit corridors in the world, but no one on the ground or at sea reported anything out of the ordinary at the time when the aircraft disappeared.

I hope, as I imagine most people hope that the aircraft made a safe emergency landing in some remote area and that the passengers and crew are safe. However with every passing day the chances of that grow more remote and personally I cannot imagine this to be the case to begin with.

Could the aircraft and the 239 souls aboard been the victim of a terrorist incident or hijacking? I assume that it is possible. Could it have been the victim of a catastrophic mechanical failure. Yes, but since it appears that it continued on for hours after its last contact with land based ground controllers I think not.

Authorities in Malaysia and around the world are checking every possible lead that might shed light on this most likely tragic situation. Nothing has been ruled out.

The are other possibilities, but all are at best speculation. Thus I wonder if we should call in Agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder from the X-Files to figure this out.

To me the whole thing is totally weird. I want things to work out and the people traveling aboard her to be safe. However, this is very unusual. A jumbo-jet with an experienced Captain and crew making a turn away from its course without notifying ground control. That is strange.

Likewise no matter what happened I cannot help but imagine the terror that the passengers and crew felt, unless it somehow did land safely in some remote place.

The whole situation is perplexing. I really don’t know what to make of it, though for all concerned I how that the aircraft is found, and the souls aboard are safe.

Maybe we should call the real life versions of Scully and Mulder to figure this out, and I am not kidding. This is pretty weird.

Until tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Creepy Television Shows: Padre Steve Loves Bates Motel and Those Who Kill

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Well my friends after a coupled of weeks of seriousness something a little less serious, unless you take creepy things more seriously than you should. Yes I could be writing more about Gettysburg or other military History tonight. Likewise I could be writing about pressing social issues or world events, faith and religion, politics or baseball. I do promise that I will do some of that soon.

However, I don’t do a lot of television. I am not a fan of a lot of the new shows on today. I can watch Seinfeld, Boston Legal, MASH, any of the Star Trek series, The X-Files, Cheers, House MD or any number of older television series for hours on end. I also love The Simpson’s, Family Guy, Southpark and American Dad and the same is true with many other series.

However, I do not enjoy what is referred to as “reality TV.” The fake nature of this artificial reality bugs the shit out of me. Truthfully I deal with enough real reality every day not to want to deal with the contrived reality of Duck Dynasty or anything else of the genre.

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Neither am I a fan of soap operas, even those of the horror genre. Unfortunately between reality TV and various soap operas it seems that much of television has become a wasteland of prepackaged formulas designed to keep non-thinking people coming back.

Likewise I refuse to watch any supposedly “Christian” television. I cannot think of much more that is less Christian than I see on most Christian networks. The fact that most extol the voices or pride, avarice, greed, and even violence all baptized with carefully selected verses of scripture and done in the name of God makes me think that they are the tools of the Devil himself.

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It is hard to believe that in an era where there are hundreds of television shows to watch on any given night that I have nothing to watch unless I put in a DVD or BlueRay disc of something that is now off the air.

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However, that being said I have always loved creepy and suspenseful shows. I loved The X-Files, which I already mentioned. Likewise always I loved The Twilight Zone, Tales From the Crypt, Tales from the Dark Side and the long running Criminal Minds. I love the creepy, suspenseful and the sometimes somewhat twisted humor and irony of these shows.

However, it is been a while since I have seen any really creepy and suspenseful new shows. I am sure that there are some out there but it has taken me time to find a couple new shows that I really like. That search my friends ended last week when my wife Judy insisted that I watch Bates Motel. I loved it.

Following it there was another show, Those Who Kill. I loved it as well. Very suspenseful, creepy and well done. You cannot ask for much more in two shows that run back to back.

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Bates Motel is basically the prequel to the legendary Hitchcock film Psycho. Last year Judy realized that her decoration of our master bathroom in a Rubber Ducky pattern was not interesting to me. So for my birthday when I was still stationed in Camp LeJeune she redecorated that bathroom in a Psycho theme. I loved it. When I cam home and saw it I laughed myself sick. That being said there are some nights that when I have to get up to do my business that I am taken aback.

Bates Motel is really well done, as is Those Who Kill. I think that the former is really creepy because of the whole story and the fact that we meet Norma Bates, an overprotective mother who happens to be kind of hot.  The latter is about a detective and a professor of forensic psychology who track down serial killers. Both shows are creepy, very well done and very suspenseful. In other words they appeal to me.

I think a big part of the reason I like these shows is because they demonstrate the human condition in a manner not seen in other places. We live in a beautiful but at times scary world.

With that I have to take my attention back to the new Bates Motel followed by Those Who Kill.

Peace and Suspense,

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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