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Musings on a DC Monday Night: I’ll have a Beer and watch Baseball thank you

I had a wonderful first day of my conference at the George Washington University Institute for Spirituality and Health.  The conference was thought provoking and made me realize once again that afterIraqI really don’t know a whole lotta anything about anything.  But then as Earl Weaver said “it’s what learn after you know it all than counts.”

Back before Iraq I knew freaking everything. Beliefs, faith, politics you name it I knew it all and it fit in my nice little world.  Iraqwas for me what Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans was when it came out in 1915.  It was said that the book “exploded like a bomb on the theological playgrounds ofEurope.” Iraq was like that for me. It left me searching for answers to questions that I not only thought I had answered and that I thought I had refuted all others.

Sometimes humility sucks even if we need it.

I have enjoyed the conference so far. One of our lecturers Dr. John Griffith the interim Dean of the School of Psychiatry at the GWU Medical School threw about 9 existential questions at us and I realized that had I answered them in July of 2007 that I would have shat out the answers like a baboon who had too many beans, jalapeños and prune juice chasers.  Today I knew that despite knowing a lot that I am still a work in progress and even though I really do know this it is humbling to have it thrown in my face.  Thankfully the God that I know is much more understanding, gracious and forgiving than the theologian that I used to be.

After yesterday I needed a new room and if you have read my previous post you will understand why.  Thankfully the people were more than accommodating and the accommodations though Spartan was a lot more comfortable and healthful than the last. Even the AC works very well.  I can deal with Spartan more in a combat zone than I can in my own country.

Speaking of my own country…. I am residing less than a mile from the White House and the Capitol and pass the White House and the Treasury each night too and from the Washington DC Gordon Biersch Brewery.  It’s not Virginia Beachbut I get good service at the Bar, the bartender remembered me from last night and I basically have eaten and drank for very little money by cashing in some of my rewards points.

While walking about today as well as yesterday I noticed that almost no one responds when I wish them a cheery good morning, good afternoon or good evening.  Instead I find that I am nearly run over by people that seem to have no cognition of anything other than them, their smart phone or tablet or MP3 player.  No one looks up, no one talks and if they do happen to notice you they look like you must be some kind of reprobate, madman, criminal or terrorist.  Now I don’t know how anyone can think that I am any of the above but Washington DC is not on the top of my list of “friendly” cities.  I guess that is the fault of the terrible vain, cynical, corrupt and power mad politicians, pundits, preachers, lobbyists, political hacks, partisan journalists and others that prowl about the city seeking the ruin of souls.

In fact of the over 100 non-conference goers that I greeted today I had just 5 return the greeting. Two policemen, one security guard, one homeless man and one cleaning lady.  No one else said a word.  I wonder what the hell is going on, then I look at Congress and I realized that for all too many people no one else matters anymore.  We have lost our soul.

For me to reach out like this is hard. I am an extremely introverted person that pushes to engage people at work and then comes home in a state of exhaustion. My personality type if you use the Myers-Briggs temperament indicator is INTJ.  For those that don’t know the Myers-Briggs this means that I am introverted, intuitive, thinking and judging.  I am not a touchy feely person and am rather detached, analytical and it is hard for me to come out of that mode. My personality type is rare and is seldom found in decent society and is almost never found in ministry.  According to a shrink that I know my type seldom gets married and is generally considered to be a pain in the ass “know it all” to most people. Dr House is a classic INTJ.  In fact a now retired Navy Chaplain that I worked with at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center referred to me as “Dr. House.”  Yet somehow I am married and in ministry.  Don’t ask me how it is certainly a mystery that the Deity Herself keeps and probably laughs about.

The friendliest people that you meet in DC are the bar tenders and people that you might sit next to at a bar.  I had a wonderful time tonight drinking beer, eating steak tacos and talking baseball with a fellow out of towner also named Steve fromSeattleat Gordon Biersch.  I stayed longer and drank more than I normally would but I wasn’t driving and I got home before I turned into a pumpkin.  I like bartenders, they tend to listen better than most people and actually remember what you prefer.  I’m sorry but most people don’t do that anymore, especially pastors, pundits and politicians.  Unfortunately this “unholy trinity” and their business, banking and brokering financial wheeler dealer buddies are the people driving the country off the cliff because they only seek what is best for them and what will get them or those that they support elected next year.  It is no wonder that regular people in this beautiful city don’t talk to each other. What a shame.

So as I close the night and prepare to read and medicate (with legal medicine thank you) myself to sleep I have to add a final thought about the insanity of the Debt Ceiling and the poisonous political atmosphere that enshrouds the country like a cloud of Mustard Gas  burning our eyes and lungs and scaring us for life.   What I believe is that there are people on both sides of the political chasm that would rather be true to their ideology than to the people that they represent and to the country that each of them took an oath to support and defend.  Truthfully I am frightened.

When I was at Gordon Biersch CNN and Fox News were still playing.  At7 PMI asked the bartender if there was a baseball game or anything else less depressive and negative than was on the news channels.  Thank God that baseball was on as it seems to be one of the few institutions in the country that is running halfway right.

I do have a suggestion to end the impasse about the budget and debt ceiling.  I call it the Beer Party Platform.  I suggest that we get all of the members of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government flat out drunk and let them fight it out like it was an Old West barroom brawl.  Let them get all the poison out of their system and if it means a few broken bones then so be it.  Then when all the fighting was done and Mongo comes to try to kill the Sheriff of Rock Ridge that everyone puts themselves together and works to restore sanity and civility to our society. Admittedly this is a bit Mel Brooks like but what can I say? Did you see the end of Blazing Saddles? It all ends right.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DAziSni2VA&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBSjg5bV4cM&feature=related

So God bless America, the God fearing citizens of Rock Ridge, ,baseball and the American people. We certainly deserve better than what we’ve got.

So tomorrow I will have lunch with a wonderful former commanding officer and in the evening head out to National’s Park to see if I can get a military discount in the cheap seats.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under beer, faith, healthcare, leadership, Pastoral Care, philosophy, Political Commentary, Religion

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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Filed under PTSD, travel