Tag Archives: where everybody knows your name

Last Night at Rucker Johns: The Place Where Everyone Knows My Name

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Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7U3lo80YrQ

Yesterday I did my final check out at Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune and today the movers came. It was too hot and humid. with the door open to allow their access while doing cleaning I felt sick by the time that they left. After resting a while I went to the bar at Rucker Johns restaurant. It has become over the past year and a half my local version of “Cheers.” A place that everyone knows my name.

Cheers

I have written about leaving my duties at the hospital recently and I will miss the people there. I will stay in contact with quite a few. They are friends and colleagues, some who have walked through difficult times with me and I with them.

That being said for many years my life has been centered on work, and quite often when done with work I would withdraw to be alone. This was the case more often after Iraq, especially when I took up my assignment at Camp LeJeune. I would go to work and then go home. The only time that didn’t happen is when I would drive the 50 mile one way trip to Kinston to see the Kinston Indians baseball team. I met wonderful friends there, a number of whom have remained in contact, and one couple, Jerry and Toni Brophy have become like family.

Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name,

and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Having a place where people know you and care about you matters.

Apart from that the isolation for the first year and a half was at times maddening and even dehabilitating. When I did see Judy it was as if we were miles away from each other. By the summer of 2011 both of us wondered if our marriage would survive.

cheers-1007

In December of 2011 Judy and I spend a month together after she had surgery on her Achilles Tendon. It forced us together and when she went back to Virginia our dog Molly decided that she wanted to live with me. In that month and over a couple of other visits Molly had discovered the joys of chasing deer and going to the beach and like any kid she decided that she wanted to be where it was really interesting.

Molly brought me back to humanity and in the process I began to seek contact with actual humans again. Since Judy and I have a place like the bar in the television show “Cheers” in Virginia Beach I sought something similar here. I found it at the Rucker Johns bar. There I met some wonderful people, Mike, New York Mike, Eddie, Dave (Ito), Wild Bill, Bill the future mayor, Lisa, Hancock, Felicia, Brian, Ron, Terry, and the bartenders, Billy, Christi, Tara, Caitlin, Grace, Michelle and Lexi and managers, Mark, Chris, Jeff, Wallace and Mark. There were others as well. They all welcomed me. We bought drinks for each other and this week I don’t think that I paid for a meal or a drink.

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What I loved about this group, especially the core “4 O’Clock Club” was that they were real. In fact it was funny for the first couple of months they didn’t know that I was a Navy Chaplain or Priest. I find that advertising such things often puts a distance in relationships. especially in light of how many clergy treat people that don’t go to their churches or those that hang out at bars. Sad because Jesus seemed to hang out with the very people that many clergy have treat shamefully.

So initially the folks at Rucker Johns got to me as “Steve” the guy who wears Baltimore Orioles hats, jerseys, jackets and t-shirts every day. I think I can were something different every day for a month without breaking my Orioles habit. Soon I was going every day that I was in town, I found that I wanted to be around them, they were real, refreshing and fun.

They found out inadvertently that I was a Chaplain because New York Mike knew the secretary of our Legal Officer. She broke the news to him that I was not only a Chaplain and Priest but a Commander too. My cover was blown. Soon some began to call me Father Steve, Padre Steve or still just Steve. But our relationships grew. I was in the various NASCAR and Football pools, threw my money in on the Powerball lottery and played cards with them.

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Tonight they gave me a t-shirt signed by all of them. The picture speaks more about it than I can write. I have received many going away gifts in my career, but this is something specially, because it had nothing to do with my position in the military. It was about friendship and still is. I plan of framing it.

Almost everyone I knew was there tonight. It was a wonderful time. I will miss these people and this place, a place were everybody knows my name.

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It is so much like Cheers and I will miss it. The theme song to that show speaks to me in so many ways. The last verse of the song, which did not air on television said:

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

I found that with the 4 O’Clock Club at Rucker Johns. In the morning I pack my car and drive home to be with Judy and my friends in Virginia Beach. But I will miss my friends here and I do plan on coming back whenever I can to this place, where everybody knows my name.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Thinking About Community: A Place Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Cheers

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

Some years ago the theme song of the television show “Cheers!” struck a chord with people, because it expressed the desire of many people. I have talked about it before and the song is a favorite of mine.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. 
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

We live in an increasingly disconnected world despite the proliferation of devices designed to make communication easier. Our dependence on these devices often serves to disconnect us from community because we use them to accomplish things without any human contact.  I mean really, what percentage of our Facebook “friends” really know us and how many can we go to when the chips are down.

We shop in massive stores, attend mega-churches, exist on fast food bought at a drive through and we don’t know our neighbors. To most organizations we are not real life human beings but statistics whose only value is in profit and market share.  And we wonder why so many people are depressed, lonely and even despair of life.

Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name,

and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Having a place where people know you and care about you matters.

In a time where many people feel alone and disconnected community really matters because as Americans we are all in this together. Today, as they have for the past few years large numbers of American cities and towns are enduring great hardship, and this disconnect between people, evidenced by the fact that we often don’t even know our neighbors has created a social isolation that only breeds hatred and discontent.  With this true lack of community we should be surprised with increasing crime, violence, discrimination and prejudice.

The sad thing to me as a religious leader, a Navy Chaplain is that for many people that I encounter the Church is not a place of love, safety, community or acceptance. Many have suffered greatly at the hands of religious people and institutions and some though raised in devoutly Christian homes across the denominational spectrum have not only left the church, for some other church but no longer believe.

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Community doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes illusion of perpetual prosperity only serves to drive us apart.  However, sometimes communities are reborn when facing crisis, people begin to look out for one another again and the welcome sign means that you really are welcome.

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I have found that in a number of places, in Virginia I have my friends that the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant,  Harbor Park in Norfolk and St James Episcopal Church inPortsmouth. In North Carolina I have found that community at Rucker John’s in Emerald Isle and with my friends from Kinston, from when that town still had a Minor League team. Those friends have remained and I am grateful, especially because of how broken I was when I returned from Iraq. I don’t think that until one experiences that kind of brokenness that one really appreciates a place where people care for you, accept you and make you feel like you belong.

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But, what has been neat for me and what is true for others is when we do find that special place for ourselves it is a beautiful thing. Likewise, when we can provide that kind of home to others we can really understand the last stanza of the song from Cheers which never aired on television.

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,

People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name: The Importance of Community for Military Families

Some years ago the theme song of the television show “Cheers!” struck a chord with people, because it expressed the desire of many people.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

We live in an increasingly disconnected world despite the proliferation of devices designed to make communication easier. Our dependence on these devices often serves to disconnect us from community because we use them to accomplish things without any human contact.  I mean really, what percentage of our Facebook “friends” really know us and how many can we go to when the chips are down.

We shop in massive stores, attend mega-churches, exist on fast food bought at a drive through and we don’t know our neighbors. To most organizations we are not real life human beings but statistics whose only value is in profit and market share.  And we wonder why so many people are depressed, lonely and even despair of life.

Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows Your name.

Having a place where people know you and care about you matters. It is important to us as individuals and it is important to the people that come to us for their medical care. Cheers was a neighborhood bar where people from all walks of life knew and cared for each other. We miss that a lot and we often suffer because of it, especially those that go to war and their families.

You wanna go where people know, people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows your name.

In our military communities be they Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force we have shared hardships and culture but even with that it is a difficult life. The military does its best to provide a multitude of support services including unit based Family Support Groups, family service centers as well as centers and associations for single servicemen and women.

But even still those support structures often are insufficient due to the transitory nature of military life, changing and sometimes uneven leadership of these organizations. Add to this the unrelenting demands of the wars and deployments and the wounds of war brought home which affect even the most resilient families.  PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, traumatic amputations, substance abuse, domestic violence, high divorce rates and suicide are everyday parts of the military family and community life.

One of the other aspects not directly attributable to the wars is how the communities around the bases treat the military.  In some major metropolitan areas the military simply blends in to the civilian community, even where there are large bases such as in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.  In such places there may be a large military footprint but it is easy to blend in.  In other areas where the military installations are the sole reason that the areas have large populations such as Killeen Texas, the home of Fort Hood, Jacksonville North Carolina the home of Camp LeJeune and Fayetteville the home of Fort Bragg the military presence is loved and loathed. There are many retired military in these areas as well as many veterans and often they are supportive. However in each of these cities there exists a large contingent of individuals and businesses who take advantage of military personnel and their families and some of these are former military personnel. Sometimes people in these communities despite their outward show of support for the troops do all they can to make the military personnel unwelcome.  Now this is not helped by the bad behavior of some military personnel and their family members which is then used to discriminate against good and law abiding military personnel.

But there are good people, organizations and businesses which do their best to help make these “strangers in a strange land” welcome.  For me that welcome has been often linked to people that I know at minor league ballparks such as Harbor Park in Norfolk and Grainger Stadium in Kinston. There is a special church, Saint James Episcopal in Portsmouth Virginia that I enjoy on the rare times that I have to visit it is a place I can call home and my friends at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant in Virginia Beach.

Community really matters because as Americans we are all in this together.  While I have focused on military communities large numbers of American cities and towns are enduring great hardship, and this disconnect between people, evidenced by the fact that we often don’t even know our neighbors has created a social isolation that only breeds hatred and discontent.  With this true lack of community we should be surprised with increasing crime, violence, discrimination and prejudice.

Community doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes illusion of perpetual prosperity only serves to drive us apart.  However, sometimes communities are reborn when facing crisis, people begin to look out for one another again and the welcome sign means that you really are.

But, what is neat is when we do find that special place for ourselves and when we can provide that kind of home to others we can really understand the last stanza of the song from Cheers which never aired on television.

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy

Sometimes You Wanna go Where Everybody Knows Your Name

The hit long running comedy Cheers set in Boston Bar is something that I have grown to appreciate more and more throughout the years.  It comes from the community of disparate people who find refuge in that bar each with their own lives and stories which all intersect at Cheers.  The lyrics to the theme song from the show sum up where I sometimes find myself in life, especially coming back from Iraq.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

The last verse to the song “Where Everybody knows Your Name” never aired on the show and continue….

Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to go where people know,
People are all the same;
You want to go where everybody knows your name.

The need for community is something that I didn’t think that I really needed for most of my life.  It took a huge amount of time isolated in the military as well as coming back from Iraq with a nice case of PTSD to realize that I could not exist without some kind of local connection.  This is something that when I returned from Iraq I knew that I did not have.  For a good amount of time this didn’t matter because I was always on the road or deployed.  It is easy to cover up the need for local relationships and community when you aren’t around.

For me this isolation really began when we moved to the Hampton Roads area back in 2003.  I was assigned to a command where I was on the road a lot.  However I sought to make build relationships with the local mission of my church in our area as well as other local clergy.  After a clash with the local idiot masquerading as a priest I was forbidden by the bishop to have any contact with any of his priests or parishes.  I guess since that bishop didn’t get my tithe that I didn’t matter. A couple of years later both the bishop and the idiot priest had left our church for happier hunting grounds.  So when I came back from Iraq in 2008 I was isolated.  I had transferred in October 2006 from a Marine Command where I felt absolutely comfortable to a different command where I was new and about everyone else was going about 95 different directions.   The command chaplain who I had come on board under in the larger command had transferred during my deployment, while the one officer that I had developed a relationship with at my new command was deployed a couple of months after me.  When I returned from Iraq even my office had been packed up and I had no-where to work from for over a month.  My belongings, including many military mementos and awards were crammed into a trailer and it took almost a year to find the majority of them.  A couple of items were not recovered.  So on the military side I was pretty isolated and feeling pretty down.   As I said I had no church ties from my denomination anywhere near me and had not, due to my own pathology and hectic travel and deployment schedule did not establish a relationship with another church until this year.   Other friends had transferred over the years and I had one other chaplain in the area that I can call a friend.  We have known each other since 1999 and our wives are best friends.  Apart from that I was about as isolated and alone as I could get.  It was then with my PTSD kicking my ass that I knew after all these years that I needed to be in community and in relationships with people locally.  It was no longer good enough to simply check in with guys that I had known for years but who lived far away.

It took a while to get from knowing that I needed something until I was able to get established in a number of places and begin to build my local ties.  The first two places were Harbor Park where I see the Norfolk Tides play and the local Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant.  Harbor Park was something that I went to before Iraq as I love baseball.  I was no stranger there, I’ve been around long enough to get to know staff, vendors and ushers and have met the General Manager Dave Rosenfield on a good number of occasions as he walks the concourse among the Harbor Park faithful.  However something happened when I came back from Iraq.  In most places I could not handle crowds, even going to church at the fairly large Catholic Church where I occasionally attend with Judy who is a member there.  It is large and rather busy and since I only know a few people there I get a bit anxious, even though I love the Pastor, Deacons and the few people that I know.  However every time I would step onto the concourse at Harbor Park and the lush green field came into view I could feel stress and anxiety leaving my body.  Somehow almost magically I am at peace when at a ball game.  I felt the same thing even in crowded Major League Parks at San Diego and San Francisco when I made trips to the west coast.  When the season ended last year it was terribly difficult as the PTSD and Anxiety, nightmares and chronic pain were still raging.  When this season came around and with Harbor Park now on my way home from work I knew that I needed to get a season ticket.  I cleared with Judy and for the first time in my life I had a season ticket.  Since the season began in April the Park has become more of a place of refuge and place of fellowship with some great people.  Seeing Elliott the Usher, Ray and John the Vietnam Vets at the Beer Stand behind the plate, Kenny the Pretzel Guy, Skip the Usher in the section above me, Mandy up in the Tides Store my next seat over neighbor Barry, Barry’s daughter Julie, Tina and her husband, the Judge and others has given me a sense of community that is like a comfortable pub.

The same has been true at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant has become another place where I feel at home.  I think this began with Kira, the choir child from Judy’s Church as well as guys like Mike, John and girls like Kai Ly who been incedible.  We began by being frequenters of the dining room but have over the past several months moved to the bar as it is a bit more laid back and we get to know more people.  Now the noise can occasionally be a bit much, but the kids who work there are really great to be around.  I was just recently inducted into the Stein Club.  Both Harbor Park and Biersch were important because even though the people that I met were those in the intersection they were places and people that began to get me back in touch with community.

Another really key part of building community for me is my work at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center. Somehow I am at home in the surreal environment of the ICU and PICU and the great folks who work on those floors. On call I am beginning to feel the same way about our NICU.    The relationships formed in these areas as well as with my fellow chaplains have become especially important.  My boss and some of our other chaplains have really helped me through some really rough times since I got here as I have dealt with the PTSD and other issues from Iraq. As I have made the adjustment to being back in the hospital setting I realized just how much I enjoyed the challenge of Critical Care chaplaincy, the care for patients, families and especially the staff and residents.  I am at home here.

The final piece fell into place a few months ago, that was beginning to worship at St James Episcopal Church in Portsmouth.  I had met the Rector (Pastor) of the Parish, Fr John at the hospital as he visited two of his parishioners who were patients in my ICU.  We not only met but we became friends and he invited me to St James.  Now Fr John is from Nigeria and the parish is predominantly African American, West Indies or Nigerian.  The church reminds me a lot of East Side Presbyterian Church in Stockton CA which I attended with Judy.  The liturgy while Episcopal is punctuated with familiar hymns and Old Negro Spirituals.  The Church itself was founded in the 1890s as a place for African American Episcopalians to worship, Jim Crow being quite strong in those days.  When I first went there I wondered about the wisdom of it but I knew that I needed a place to worship outside my little guestroom altar.  I didn’t know what to expect, but the folks at St James love worship, music and have enfolded me, a Priest from a different communion into their community and for the first time since I came in the Navy, and certainly since I came back from Iraq I feel a sense of connection with a local parish.  One thing that I believe is quite significant is that prior to the Civil War my familyowned slaves in what was then the western part of Virginia.  I even met a man from Liberia who has my last name. His family went from the United States, to Canada, back to the UK and then on to Liberia before his family came back to the United States.   His brother even serves in the US Navy.  I’m sure at one point Cecil Dundas’s ancestors once were owned by some part of my family in Virginia.  But we are both of the Dundas family and I think that is pretty cool.  Small world.

I don’t necessarily think that I am alone in the search for community.  I think for a lot of people they would want to find such a community in church, but from what I am seeing across the denominational spectrum and the move to large churches or mega-churches I am seeing more lonely people who attend church regularly but never feel a sense of family or community.  Some of the things I hear from these lonely and disconnected Christians remind me of the lyrics to Abba’s hit Super Trouper:

Facing twenty thousand of your friends
How can anyone be so lonely
Part of a success that never ends
Still I’m thinking about you only

Part of this I think is that many churches have places more value on “Church growth” and programs than they have on people.  There has been a shift, especially in larger churches to proliferate programs which take up a lot of time, but don’t foster relationships.  Often the senior pastor is unreachable and untouchable in large churches.  Someone may get contact with a staff pastor, but often this is even driven down to minimally trained small group or home group leaders.  The churches themselves are so large it takes a long time for a new person to get to know anyone.  Now large church can do a lot of good, but I do think what they lack is intimacy.  Some home groups have this but others are train wrecks full of pretty bad juju.  So I wonder if this is a part of the isolation and disconnection of people.  Just a thought….

It has take me about five years to get connected in this area.  The cool thing now is that there are a number of places where I can go where just about everybody knows my name.  Slowly but surely I’m getting better as I get more connected.  I now have the beginnings of a community which is rich and diverse, military and civilian and have the blessing of friendship with so many people that that make up the communities of which I have become part. The Deity has a wry sense of humor to take this introverted rugged individualist to put me into community with such a great bunch of people.  She had to about throw me under the bus to do it, but I am glad that she did.

Peace, Steve+

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