Asking the big questions.

PBS reran a “Frontline” documentary on the 9/11 aftermath as part of its special programming this week. “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero” is one for you armchair philosophers, or at least Jeff the Mild-Mannered. It’s “Frontline” and public broadcasting at its best, a deep dive into the big questions raised by that day, which all boil down to the biggest one: “Why, God?”

At two hours, it’s a long commitment, but the video online is broken into chapters, which lend themselves to watching in 15-minute chunks. But it takes at least two hours to do what “Frontline” does best, i.e., not settle. The throughlines are a handful of people who lost loved ones that day, and how they integrated the tragedy into their spiritual selves, how they were changed. One woman is still angry and bitter over the loss of her fiancé, and lost her faith over it. Another found it deepened. The climax of the piece comes when two opposing voices consider the most searing images of that day — the jumpers, of course. One says that if you want proof God is a fantasy, look at that, because surely no loving God would throw those innocent souls out the windows of a burning building to die that way. Another says that if you want proof of the divinity within ourselves, look at the people who jumped, holding hands, to give comfort to one another in the final seconds of life. The whole passage is set to Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” which was a bit much, but then again, if there’s ever been a time to use it, that’s the montage.

It all left me with the feeling that if we doubt that God is created in our image, here’s a nice bit of video evidence. I was struck by the remarks of a Lutheran minister who participated in the first healing service at Yankee Stadium, the one that featured clergy of all faiths, Christian and otherwise, even Islam, who joined hands to pray in a moment of spiritual solidarity. In the insanity of the aftermath, it could look, depending on your point of view, like everything from kum-ba-ya multiculti mush to a statement of our strength as a nation to something else. This particular minister got the something else — letters from his fellow Lutherans, calling him out for daring to stand on a stage with other religious leaders and present the dangerous heresy that they might be legitimate, too. They called for his collar.

It reminded me of the moment in my own newsroom, when a staffer offered an op-ed that said that very thing, more or less, a sentiment that would likely have gone over like gangbusters in Fort Wayne. The editor-in-chief put his foot down, however, and spiked it, earning the Strange New Respect Award from me, a moment that said, OK, this bullshit stops here. No Lutherans are flying planes into buildings, but if you can’t see the parallels with Islamist radicalism, I direct you to chapter 5 of “Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero.”

Watching those images of the interfaith service now, I’m heartened, the same way I was watching Jon Stewart’s post-9/11 monologue, where he said, “I grieve, but I do not despair.” We have better angels, and sometimes we get in touch with them.

Which seems a good turning point to the bloggage, because we start out with a bad fairy, from where else, Fox Sports! This is recommended, particularly for you Californians. I don’t get the point of the piece — seek out Asian students at USC who know nothing about football, because they’re such nose-to-the-grindstone types, bent on destroying grade curves everywhere, and get them to deliver highly accented wercomes to new Pac 10 members, Cororado and Utah. Is this funny? As the colleague who sent this to me noted:

I’m just dumbfounded. TV networks don’t just throw anything on the air. They discuss stories in meetings, they plan them and review them. Who on earth said let’s go target only Asians with a poor grasp of English, take advantage of that deficiency and then make fun of them on national television? Astounding.

Via Eric Zorn, yoga is annoying. Why? Well:

There are teachers and students who think flexibility is some kind of indication of how good a person you are. While we certainly hold tension, trauma and rigidity in our limbs and joints and muscles, there is no reason to imagine there’s some absolutely direct correlation between how well we can move and how functional or healthy our mind is. I seriously doubt that Albert Einstein or Susan Sontag had less flexible minds than, I don’t know, Rodney Yee. My point is, some physical limitations can be aided through the practice of yoga and some can’t and no one needs the increased pressure of someone telling them, every time they strain to get their heels on the floor in Downward Facing Dog, that this is because their mind is all screwed up.

So if your teacher tells you that we hold a lot of stuff in our hips and hamstrings and as we begin to let this stuff go and become our authentic selves we will be able to wrap our arms around ourselves eight times, look around the room. You will probably see a guy who can do that, while smiling, and I’ll bet that you will eventually hear from someone in the class about the time he flew into a rage and broke a car window.

And with that, I’m off to take advantage of a temporary break in the rain to get a bike ride in. Happy weekend, all.

Posted at 9:01 am in Current events, Media |

65 responses to “Asking the big questions.”

  1. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 9, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Well, to be fair, he got letters from his fellow Missouri Synod Lutherans. LCMS disciplined him, but your standard issue ELCA Lutherans cheered him on, Oprah on the dais or not. As would most of your mainline Christian denominations (Presby USA, Episcopalians, United Methodists, UCC, Disciples of Christ, American Baptists, & the ELCA) plus Catholicism in general.

    Missouri Synod Lutherans are against quite a bit, up to and including women teaching Sunday School to boys over 12, so there you go.

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  2. coozledad said on September 9, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Buddhists can probably help me out here, but my weak historical interpretation is that Buddha was dismayed by the New Agey crystals-up-the-ass spiritual hucksterism of the various sects practicing yoga in his day, and decided to leave the gym.
    I think I read this somewhere in a piece describing the similarities between this period and the spiritual ferment of first century Rome, but I’ve emptied my mind of it.

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  3. velvet goldmine said on September 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

    From the Frontline piece, I was struck by the tough-talking rabbi who pointed out the flaw in the sentiments uttered by grateful survivors who say it was “God’s plan” that they didn’t die (9/11 or any other disaster). These people, though understandably awestruck by their near misses, unintentionally imply that God was gunning for all the others.

    I thought the punchline for the story involving that one guy who hauled the other one out of the elevator (stairwell?) was going to be that they’re now a happy couple. I’m still wondering if it was more than a bromance.

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  4. Connie said on September 9, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Well Dutch Reformed is at least as bad if not worse than Missouri Synod Lutherans. I am in still in despair over the fact that my childhood church fired and defrocked a Seminary President (husband of one of my high school teachers) for quietly going to Massachusetts and conducting the legal wedding of his lesbian daughter.

    I lost all my faith long ago, I ponder the vastness of the universe. Skeptic and Pharyngula fan.

    On the subject of “why, god” I recommend that great classic, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Rabbi Kushner.

    And I advise to never ever tell a grieving person that God has his reasons. Many years ago when I was grieving I heard that over and over and it just made me mad. Madder. Yes, your god looked over this vast world and decided “That woman’s baby needs to die.” Give me a break.

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  5. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Who the hell is Rodney Yee?

    I’ve had more than a fair share of brushes with death, although never in a mass disaster. Generally, I believe in God, but I’ve never figured He had a plan that kept me from being a victim of my own stupid behavior. More like dumb luck, and an ability to think and move somewhate agilely in tight situations.

    There’s an old joke about “Why me, God”. A voice booms from the sky saying “You just really piss me off.”

    So Connie, you’re a fan of that vertebrate developmental phase when we are all tadpoles?

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  6. Dorothy said on September 9, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I was the same way, Connie. I miscarried twice and that kind of statement would make my blood boil, but I was too polite to vent at the ones saying it. They really did mean well, but it grated on me.

    I do believe in God and have my own faith that differs in many ways from the Catholicism I was brought up with, and prefer to think of good and bad occurrences being part of a very big plan God has. And we may or may not accept it or understand it now, but eventually we’ll come to do so, either in this life or the one that follows. More than anything I think it’s important to respect what others believe and not force my beliefs on others.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 9, 2011 at 11:04 am

    My column tomorrow opens with some squibs about a number of area Christian & Interfaith services in the afternoon and evening of 9-11, noting last the Faure “Requiem” that Denison is doing here in Granville at 7:00 pm (central Ohio folk, please come and join us if you like!).

    The back half goes like this:

    Another combined chorus will lift up a Community Service of Remembrance at 7:00 pm in Swasey Chapel of Denison University, in Granville. Faure’s “Requiem” will provide the basic structure for the time of memory and prayer, with 60 community members ready to work together to provide a solemn, yet hopeful note to close the tenth anniversary day.

    The performance of this choral work will end with prayers for peace from a number of world religions, and a time for reflection in silence, focused on service to others…a point of unity among the religious traditions of the world.

    We come to this point, this grim anniversary, with politics and conflict echoing around the world and causing all of us, I think, to crave some silence along with just a few well chosen words. Some say it’s been only an escalation of hostility and violence since that terror-stained day, and they grieve the world that was lost.

    I believe we should grieve those who died at the hands of vicious criminals, and honor those who ran towards the smoke and flames to serve others, but my grief for the world of September 10th is fairly limited.

    I do not believe God, not the God I worship, wanted 9-11 to happen, or needed it to occur to bring something better out of it. What I do believe God does is work through our pain and our suffering, using the bent nails that we would toss aside to build something better…and when we smash that, God patiently stoops to pick up the pieces and invite us to build again. I believe in miracles, but I also believe that God has chosen some fairly strict criteria in self-limitation for when those may happen, for reasons that are both beyond me, but also make more sense with every passing year.

    I know when there are times that I’d like to be able to call on what I might call “supranatural” intervention, God does not respond as I would choose. When people jump from flames and suffocating smoke, into a hurtling abyss. When priests ministering to the dying are struck by collapsing steel, killing them as well. When you know, you just know there are stairwells being climbed by gasping men in turnout gear, climbing up, as you watch on TV when the towers fall.

    When friends lose their only remaining child to cancer; when age takes memory and mind and leaves only motion without meaning; when parents turn away from their own children right in front of me, and cannot be convinced to try again to love.

    If I were God, I would do things differently, or so I’m saying when I wish things were so. Yet I wonder at what I do not know, or understand, and then I see . . .

    That they did run up those stairs, knowing what could, would happen; that arms carried those whose legs had given out beyond the ring of debris; that thousands dug through “the pile” long after any survivor might remain buried; that love shone forth in startling ways like the lights which shone up over Manhattan in earlier remembrances. Reaching towards the sky, into the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

    There’s still so much sin and brokenness in the world, and I wish God would wipe that away, too, but then what would be left? We again pick up the pieces, and in so doing start to heal our broken hearts.

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  8. Maggie Jochild said on September 9, 2011 at 11:07 am

    I was raised a mix of fundamentalist Bible Babtist (Daddy the Okie’s side) and Hindu/Edgar Caycee/pre-New-Age yellow dog Democrat (Mama, and yes the latter qualifies as a religion in Texas.) I became an atheist at 13, thanks to Frank Yerby, and then at 21 found myself drawn to the secular judaism practiced by West Coast radical lesbians. I was a faux Jew until Quakers got hold of me at 40.

    Anyhow, when my beloved little brother Bill died in a horrific manner at age 42, because of poverty and a long history of being abused, I was too undone by grief to deal with the funeral. Until I found out that Daddy and Brother Dee has asked one of the folks who had molested Bill as a boy to speak at his funeral. I asked for air-time then, too, and figured out how to write a eulogy which named names and events without actually doing so. As it turns out, the pedophile went first and actually publically confessed to one of the things he’d repeatedly done to Bill, passing it off as a “funny story”. Over a hundred of Bill’s stoner, heavy metal friends were there, standing around the outside of the canopy in jeans and K-Mart shirts. Their rage was as strong as the smell of weed. When I stood, leaning on a walker, to speak they looked at me with faint hope.

    It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I finished with the kaddish, which Brother Dee could not quite interrupt because of that sick Hebrew-worship fundies ascribe to. And it was in that recital when I finally understood the point of the kaddish: It’s a way to keep us generically praising g*d when s/he has just shit on us and proved s/he is a comedian playing to an audience too terrified to laugh. (I think that’s Voltaire, not sure.)

    Brother Dee responded by preaching a foam-flecked Jeezus threat literally a foot in front of me, but the damage to a cover-up job had been done. Afterward, every one of Bill’s friends came to shake my hand and weep on my shoulder, refusing to acknowledge Daddy or the pedophile.

    And three months later, on 9/11, I kept repeating the kaddish, knowing if I did not keep open my line to g*d sometimes by rote, it would vanish altogether. Which might be a smart choice to make, but I’d rather wait until it isn’t instigated by dumb rage and hurt. Being a grown-up and all. And not a Republican.

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  9. Julie Robinson said on September 9, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Thank you, Jefftmmo and Dorothy. Let’s respect each others beliefs/unbeliefs. There are many paths to God/a higher power. Yes, trying to defrock a pastor who was simply part of a service which included Muslims is a first step down the path of terrorism.

    I left all that behind many years ago when I joined the tolerant ELCA, but I continue to be saddened by the actions of the LC-MS. (And the actions of those leaving the ELCA because we welcome gay pastors, but I digress.)

    So if someone wants to believe spiritual principles are behind yoga, that’s fine for them. I don’t, personally, but I’ve been taught a lot of yoga moves in physical therapy. I just appreciate that they keep me mobile, and for that, they are a blessing in my life.

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  10. Sue said on September 9, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Next time we’re all at Nancy’s imaginary bar, I call dibs on a seat at the table where Maggie and Cooz are.

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  11. Scout said on September 9, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Some awesome comments here today. I just love all of you. Maggie, your story knocked me out.

    I am a yogi who practices mind yoga (meditation) as well as hatha. I will not take class from any instructor who insists on physical adjustments to make all of our bodies look alike in a posture. It takes away from the true concept of yoga – that it is for “every body.” As long as you’re not experiencing pain, wherever you are is exactly where you’re supposed to be.

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  12. LAMary said on September 9, 2011 at 11:44 am

    Jeff, what you wrote reminded me of the Hemingway quote, ” The world breaks everyone. Some get stronger in the broken places.”
    I don’t believe in God. I have no problem with anyone else believing. I think we all find our own way. I’ve far too many experiences being told it was God’s will that something truly shitty happened and that it would make me stronger or something. After hearing this one too many times I told a person I thought it was God’s will that they should help me out and stop spouting stuff that was easy and presumably unquestioned at me.
    Mayor Bloomberg has wisely said that no clergy would be involved in the 9/11 memorial program in NYC. None have been involved in the annual events. This has pissed off yahoo preachers in distant places who feel the need to be loud and right. They say ground zero is sacred ground, which is ok, but somehow it’s become their sacred ground. Christian sacred ground. Bloomberg has stuck by his policy and stated that if he includes clergy, he would have to include a representative of Islam, which would stir up even more shrill fundamentalists and ruin the memorial.
    All this pushes me farther and farther from having any faith. I believe in many of the teachings of Jesus. The Jesus that is represented by a lot of people these days is not the Prince of Peace, but someone favors some, excludes many, and encourages windbags, charlatans and right wing putzes to invoke his name. This is not Christianity.

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  13. Rana said on September 9, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Prospero, Rodney Yee is one of the main Big Teachers o’ Yoga doing the circuit these days. I have one of his books; it’s pretty good. I’ve heard that he’s a bit annoying in person, but that can probably be said about most of us under the right circumstances.

    Cooz, a recent book has come out suggesting that modern yoga probably has less to do with ancient Indian gurus than assumed, and more with European health-and-fitness types. It’s been interesting watching the yoga community ignore this…

    (An amusing side effect of putting on my pedantic yoga person’s hat is that I’m now sitting up really straight!)

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  14. Maggie Jochild said on September 9, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Thanks, y’all. I’d give a hell of a lot to sit at a table with Cooz, but I’d want alla y’all in the bar. Which, actually, we have every day here, Nancy’s bar. She makes what she does here look easy, but unlocking the voice of others is the mark of a brilliant writer.

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  15. velvet goldmine said on September 9, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Maggie, my brother also died at 42, also not long before 9/11. The funeral, like your brother’s, involved a nightmare of what to say and how to act, and deciding what would most honor my brother. There was a suspicion that his widow might have had something to do with his death; at the time of the funeral the police were looking through her computers and other documentation. At the very least we were dealing with the knowledge that my brother had just found out he was her fifth husband, rather than second, and that he was considering divorce. So when she got up and went on and on about their great love story, it was rough. But since in this case, unlike yours, there was only conjecture and a certain disgust for her actions (like moving her entire family into the house the day after his death), we had to do a painful amount of tongue-biting.

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  16. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I’m sticking with Martin Yan, not Rodney Yee, the greatest television chef who’s not Jacques Pepin. No affectation or ego, just hilarious.

    The events of September 11, 2001 were obviously horrendous, but I’d say the chilling effects on free Constitutional American society are in some ways equally tragic. The immediate response was for all of the Norquist “let’s drown the government in a bthtub” aholes to create the most massive, inefficient purely bureaucratic and costly aspect of federal government in its history, and name it something our of the Hitler/Goebells playbook. How ironic is that development? We’ve seen Congress get all NIMBY about moving Guantanamo detainees to empty supermaxes on the mainland, which would have put expensive physical plant assets to work as well as providing jobs in local communities. My greatest dissapointment in President Obama halfway through is that the US judicial system has not been restored to normal, Constitutional operation. Distrust and fear of “the other than me” drives half of US politics to the grave detriment of every American. Keeping prisoners at Guantanamo instead of bringing them to trial in the federal court system is an uncoscionable and craven concession to the terrorists of the WTC.

    While clearly AQ intended to kill Americans, I think it’s obvious that the true strategic intention of this tactic was to damage the philosophical foundation or American society and civilization. That’s why it’s called terrorism. W sounded like an idiot when he said “They hate our freedom” (well pretty much no matter what he said, he sounded pretty GD idiotic), and his response in the face of this faintest glimmer of insight and understanding was to abrogate freedom and nurture mutual distrust on racial and religious lines as a basic characteristic of all political action and discourse in this country. Creating the 24/7 surveillance society was an abject surrender.

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  17. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Maggie, I really liked your Kaddish point. My father-in-law likes me, respects me, and is happy that I’m married to his only child, but he still can’t enter a church (he has twice in our thirty years together, but it was just too much for him). His favorite uncle died just as he was coming back from Germany in the Army, and he returned home to the hills of Kentucky only just in time for the funeral. At the outset, the preacher stepped around the pulpit on the platform, kicked shut the coffin lid sitting below, and then said to the congregation “it’s too late for that poor sinner, burning now in the fires of Perdition, but it’s not too late for you.” And proceeded to preach hellfire for two hours. In that time and place, he couldn’t leave (sitting next to Mamma), and he couldn’t step up and kill the man with his bare hands. He just can’t attend a service of worship, traditional or otherwise.

    I’ve had plenty of opportunities to tell him that Jesus loves him just fine, and that it wasn’t sweet little Baby Jesus that met the Kentucky Baptist preacher at the gates to have a little talk – but it’s a deep scar. It’s also a story that reminds me what I need to be doing as a pastor, let alone what not to do. I’m truly sorry for your unpastoral experience at the hands of a Christian for your brother’s funeral.

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  18. Dorothy said on September 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    I’m crazy about this place and cannot really have a completely satisfying day unless I read what’s on Nancy’s mind, and everyone else’s. Agree wholeheartedly with what Maggie said @ 14.

    Hey on a different note, I’m gonna bring up my niece’s bookstore again. She got a shout out at Look about 3/4 of the way down the page for the story by Robert Gray called “Deeper Understanding”.

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  19. Connie said on September 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    So LAMary, do you think it is our Dutch Reformed upbringing that has made us unbelievers?

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  20. Jeff Borden said on September 9, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Sorry, in advance, for a long post.

    I remain in a quandary about my faith. I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools through my sophomore year in high school. Aside from one nun principal who, I truly believe, hated boys and went out of her way to spank as many as possible each day, the nuns and priests who taught and advised us were good, gentle souls and I believe they had a profound influence on me.

    My problem began as I began to question some of the basic tenets. We’d been taught that God already knew us down to the number of hairs on our heads, that he knew what we were, are and would be already. . .that he could look into our souls. So, I asked in a catechism class, why we needed the sacrament of confession? If God could peer in my very being, would He not know whether my remorse was genuine or phony? Questions like this began to arise more and more frequently.

    And then, I was in college and getting active in the anti-war movement. Once during a weekend of protests circa 1971, each of our group was asked to call our preacher, rabbi, priest, etc. to ask them to simply suggest from the pulpit that their congregations make it a point to stand in solidarity at a certain moment to ask for an end to the war. The priest at our parish told me it was too controversial, it would offend too many in the parish, etc. This provoked in me the same things LAMary noted, to wit, if Christ was the prince of peace, how could men of God not be howling with outrage over our adventure in ‘Nam?

    Today, I remain perplexed about whether or not there is a supreme being. It is hard to regard the beauty and complexity of the universe as some amazing accident of big bangs and evolution, yet the scientific theories regarding these facts seem based on something very real, while the idea of an amazing entity creating this all in seven days seems far too metaphorical, more of a fairy tale.

    Meanwhile, my views on religion have turned pretty toxic. I keep to myself and seek not to hurt or offend anyone who draws strength and inspiration from their beliefs, but my heavens, isn’t our faith supposed to draw us together instead of divide us into separate and warring clans? The One True’s handling of the pedophilia scandals and its ongoing loathing of gays seems counter to Christ. The fact that so-called Christians like Rick Perry are almost jovial over executing some 243 humans screams hypocrite to me. The prosperity gospels of some of the fundamentalist preachers sicken and disgust me. And those confrontational assholes who insist on burning Korans or defining all Muslims through the prism of a mad tiny minority deserve the largest measure of contempt.

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  21. moe99 said on September 9, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    It’s been two years since the diagnosis of lung cancer, which makes me an outlier by most standards (18-21 months is the median life expectancy) and in that time I’ve had plenty of opportunity to consider the possibility of god, or not. Like those of you who have suffered unimaginable losses and not only had to live through them, but the well meaning but tin eared sympathy of others, I can identify. My worst experiences are when someone comes up to me and tells me, “I’ve been having a very tough day, but then I thought of you and what you’re going through and I realized I was not so bad off.” Thanks so much.

    What I do know is that it is my relationships with others, my children, my dear friends at work and church and here, and some of my relatives, that make this endurable so far. And perhaps I can get a glimpse of god in those relationships and that is enough.

    I think, Maggie, that the kaddish may be a development from the story of Job. Something I need to reflect further on. But thank you for that!

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  22. ROGirl said on September 9, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    I was in a car accident that smashed the front end of my car, but I was able to walk out of it. The other driver ran the red light and I ended up T-boning him. If there had been a split second’s difference in the timing he would have hit my car at full speed in the driver’s door, and I probably wouldn’t be here today.

    It never occurred to me that God had anything to do with sparing me from severe injury or death. I thought about how close I had come to dying and realized it could happen any time without warning, and that there are a lot of stupid drivers out on the road.

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  23. Bitter Scribe said on September 9, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    As someone far wiser than I once said,

    “God’s only excuse is that He doesn’t exist.”

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  24. LAMary said on September 9, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    I believe the Dutch Reform Church has generated many atheists and many hypocrites. The version of Christianity my annoying fundie co-worker practices is very similar to Dutch Reform with the exception of keeping the Sabbath. She golfs on the Sabbath. Otherwise indistinguishable.

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  25. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Yoga is annoying.

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  26. Dan B said on September 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Maggie- thanks for a great story.

    I think you’re on to something about the point of the Kaddish. It entered the liturgy in the wake of the horrific massacres of the Rhineland Jews as armies were heading off to fight in the First Crusade. Hundreds were killed, many more killed themselves and their families in order to avoid having to face the choice of death or conversion. Not surprisingly, the survivors had a very hard time wrapping their heads around what happened and what it meant. I’m sure they wouldn’t describe their mentality as you did, but it’s not necessarily inaccurate for all that.

    After Rana’s post, we really are the Pedantic House today.

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  27. beb said on September 9, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    Moe, bearing up under other people’s sympathy has long struck me as the worst part of suffering.

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  28. Deborah said on September 9, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Excellent post and comments today. I am not worthy to add anything except to say that I was raised Lutheran, Missouri Synod and I don’t go to church anymore because of it.

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  29. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm


    What are you supposed to say? My mom died before my dad. It was devastating becaus even in her 70s, she had youthful attitudes an remarkable vitality. But when my dad died it was worse for me somehow. As things happened, he wanted nothing to do with a hospital, so we set up hospice at home. As it happened, I spent three of his last four days with him, alone. Icee chips and yogurt smoothies, when I could talk him into it, with bananas, which he loved. For some reason, the ice chips brought us to considering Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which everybody in my family had read and enjoyed. Usually when that happened, the book was something I suggested to my bothers and parents, but Smilla was my mom’s discovery. My dad had been devastated since her death. I mean, they’d been together forever. I think our long discussions of the book eased his mind. He certainly started to see his own death as reuniting with my mother. I know that sounds ridiculous, expecially for a man that was an accomplished pediatrician, a certified ER doc, and a successful Law School graduate at 70something when he realized the ER schedule left him fireman’s free-time hours with not a lot to do but think about missing my mom. He took an international law elective, and was exceptionally proud of a letter from Dean Rusk thanking him for his participation in the class.

    Anyway, at my dad’s funeral, I was sad because he was one of the two most astounding intellects I’d ever dealt with, and he was my dad, a NYC cross country champ after a bout with polio in Van Cortland Park.. I know this sounds silly and self-serving, but that is wrong. When I was in about 7th Grade, my parents became involved in CFM, which was an ecumenical program introduced by the Catholic Church. Interfaith outreach based on the idea that religions had more in common than not. Somehow, the syllabus included The Phenomenology of Man, by Teilhard de Chardin, who may well have been the greatest bilologist of the 20th Century. When I read Teillhard’s books at 12 or 13, It struck me that he’d come up with an elegant explanation of biology advancing through evolution, and some inspirited divinity. This is pretty much what I believe now. God made creation and all of creation is God becoming God. Feel free to make fun. It’s harder to explain than to understand. A combination of this idea and existentialism served to impress good looking girls in HS. But honestly, I think it makes sense. The idea that evolution is somehow beyond God’s comprehension is really bizarre. Maybe the design of evolution was meant to deal with that all-knowing bullshit. You can know Robert Mitchum i going to run into the revenuer in the holler, but you can’t stop it from happening.

    So anyway, spending interminable hours of grinding ice cubes and discussing a book, I had a great time with my dad. I have told y’all before about some of his adventures in the civil rights movement. When he was a professor of pediatrics at UArkansas. he entered a vestibule to find his star sudent, a young black mother to be, left without care. He demanded immediate help and got it. And my parents took care of those parents and that baby, including my mom nursing that baby since she was also nursing one of my brothers. We talked about everything that had ever happened to us together, as a family.

    Now, I know I was lucky. This was a ridiculously perfect experience, in the circumstances. I have thought this wasn’t quite fair to my brothers, who love my dad as much as I do. But I was there, and I doubt the catalyst novel would have come up but for me. It was a particularly important memory of mine of my mom. Another favorite remembrance of my mom is that once, out of the clear blue, she said “Wouldn’t ‘No Clarinet Lessons Today’ be a really could title for a novel?” Hell, yeah. One of you could probly write the book from the putative title.

    One of my favorite movies is Contact. There will at some point be a nexus between science and theology. What sort of monster would actually prefer there wasn’t? I doubt it for sure. Read the Teillhard books. Read the Perelandra books.

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  30. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Sorry to run my mouth, bu have you ever read that astounding book? Smilla is my favorite hero ever. She knows a child was murdered by a powerful bastard. Scumbags, like Cheney and blackwater. These people are scum. Just qask Coozledad, These people are teuffelsdroch, straight out of the smartest man that ever live.
    that would be Thomas MaCauley.
    How in the world do they get away with murder and you make it fine?
    whose IQ was 224 or so, These people just lie their fucking asses off. No? McCauley knew these people were murderers. You don’t care these were scumsuckers? You have got to be kidding? Whatever you think? You are pure scum.

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  31. MarkH said on September 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Holy shit, April/Prospy, where’d you get that (#29)?? I mean, within you. That’s a pretty profound post, and on a day where nn.c is filled with pretty profound posts, starting with Nancy. Sort of non-April/Prospy, if I may say. I liked Contact, too, same reasons. But then, I’m a completely helpless sucker for Jodie Foster anyway.

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  32. Jolene said on September 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    It never occurred to me that God had anything to do with sparing me from severe injury or death. I thought about how close I had come to dying and realized it could happen any time without warning, and that there are a lot of stupid drivers out on the road.

    Amen. I’m always amazed by people who, having survived disasters in which their neighbors died, thank God for saving them. What had the neighbors done to offend God? What had they done to warrant God’s protection? I realize this is a primitive conception of God, but it seems to be the conception people who say these things are operating with.

    I think I first began to think that religious orthodoxy might be a flawed system when, at the age of about 10, our otherwise very kind minister that my mother’s stillborn baby couldn’t go to heaven because she hadn’t been baptized.

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  33. alex said on September 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Though I grew up in a secular household, what irrevocably sealed my fate as a nonbeliever was the study of world history. In that context, God and religion represent a primitive explanation of the world, and while much of the teaching that has grown out of God and religion is valid and worthwhile, much of it is also hokum that fosters the sort of magical thinking and denial that I worked so hard to unlearn as a Freudian analysand.

    Funny, my last and current “marriages” have been to Roman Catholics. The first of these was in a family that wasn’t particularly churchgoing and didn’t give a rat’s ass about divorce, birth control, gay people, etc., and they were very warm and loving people. Once you’re in, you’re in and I’m still in. This time around, my partner’s family are the type who spend a lot of time in retreats and bug him to participate despite the fact that he has made it clear he wants no part of it. And I don’t feel as warmly embraced except by his mother and a few others. No one is outwardly unkind, but it reminds me of the sort of cold shoulder families give to spouses they don’t particularly care for and at times this is a source of tension.

    I guess where I’m going with this is that I think it’s a shame people can’t see beyond arbitrary dogma. Even if my partner and I were to participate in organized religion in a church that welcomes gays, these folks would still be worrying about his eternal soul and how to wrest it away from me. Legalized marriage cannot come too soon because none of us knows how long we’ll be around and I want our wishes to be respected when either of us goes.

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  34. LAMary said on September 9, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    My mother died when I was seven. She died on a Friday night, and on Saturday morning my grandmother woke me up to tell me the news. She said, “your mother went to the heavenly home.” I didn’t really understand her since she said it very quietly and she wouldn’t repeat it when I asked what she had said. I think maybe I sort of knew what she was saying but didn’t want to know it. I remember it becoming clear when I went downstairs to breakfast and my mother was not in her room and everyone else in the house looked very sad. No one was talking at all. No one even acknowledged my presence. I ate my breakfast and watched cartoons and I was sent to school on Monday as if nothing had happened. My teacher said she was surprised I was there, and I asked her why. I didn’t know that kids miss school when someone dies.
    If maybe my grandmother didn’t try to couch that bad news in a religious reference and I heard her say, “you mother died last night,” I could have wailed and mourned and refused to go to school, but it was never clear, never said. I think this has something to do with my distaste for religion.

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  35. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    This is amazeing. I do not believe anything about these liars. As what we can consider. These are the most monstrous liars ever. Is somebody supposedly trying to caim there is a way we’re not kidding. You have got to be a moron. Seriously? No shit. Kiss my ass.

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  36. Dorothy said on September 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Oh Mary I don’t know what to say about that. I’m very sad for you, and sad that some adults are so awkward about how to talk to children. That must have cast an awfully long shadow over your life. I was going to say your “young” life but I imagine it is one continuous shadow in some respects.

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  37. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    How is there something whatever you think> Whatever anybody thinks? What ever I think, I couldn’t hurt anybody. zThis is no shit. I couldn’t hurt anybody. Not something I;d ever do.
    What I say Are you considering, not a chance As we should consider. Are you you do obvious what ever she well shet, You are such I Mikael care about Harald forever. I will try to find what happened to Harrieet. I care about that more than anything. I have bought into the idea she was murdered and I want to nail the bastard that did it. I know it’s ridiculous that I should believe this, but I’ve never had a better friend than Henrik Vanger and he believes his niece was murdered. And I believe so too. And I want to solve her murder.

    there is no way my way of lookinf T THIS Xn mKW MW nyrhinf lwaa rhN EISSICULOUA. AHW Qa your friwns. Ahw bwliwvwd in you. as we say no shit, What a dumbass, Are ee kidding how we believe. We are as we say. Are we how you say things. We have you in our way considered. We are somewhat smarter than you. Try to consider the more intelligent way to consider things. The consideration of how much I like Henrik, I ayou can consider me sworn, We belieeve he is a very bastard I can trusst. you morons. He’s my friend, he trusts me and I trust him. That is a fact. She cared about you a great deal/ I cannot imagine, she Cared about you a great deal. Who could say? You could have sais who cared?Swriosly what we’d aY. NO AHIT? RElly hoq ahw qouls hCW Ais.
    I’ve about had it with I’ve had it with this shit.

    Seriously, no joke?

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  38. LAMary said on September 9, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    Dorothy I think it made me a very blunt person. The verbal equivalent of ripping off a band aid is my style. I just get the bad news out there and then sort out what comes next.

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  39. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    No shit? Who do these assholes think they are?

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  40. april glaspie said on September 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    This is amazeing. I do not believe anything about these liars. As what we can consider. These are the most monstrous liars ever. Is somebody supposedly trying to caim there is a way we’re not kidding. You have got to be a moron. Seriously? No shit. Kiss my ass. Are you kiddingOn the absolut as we sais.

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  41. Suzanne said on September 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    I was raised LCMS and have watched them become more and more cult-like. When the whole LCMS pastor at the 9/11 service fracas occurred, I many acquaintances and co-workers ask me if I was one of “those” Lutherans. A close friend of mine worked at the LCMS Seminary in Fort Wayne for a while, but ended up quitting in less than a year to save her sanity. Like any church, there are some wonderful people in the pews, people who don’t know they are supposed to be against everything and everybody. Sad, though, that so many don’t see that they are veering toward extremism, but then, maybe they do but don’t care because they are so sure they’re in the right. I just know that a period of unemployment and seeing how so many religious people react in the face of terrible things has made me do a whole lotta soul searching and re-evaluation of my belief in God. Which I guess, ultimately, isn’t a bad thing.

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  42. MarkH said on September 9, 2011 at 7:53 pm

    Was it something I said?

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  43. Bob (Not Greene) said on September 9, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    Nah, MarkH, just a Prosparoxysm. You take the good with the bad.

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  44. LAMary said on September 9, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    It’s the sudden onset of Prosperoxysm that is amazing.

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  45. Holly said on September 9, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    I am back.I have been without a computer for such a long time. At first I did not miss it.
    After a time I decided I did. But because my daughter is getting married September 30th I needed to save every penny to put towards the wedding. Holy crap are weddings expensive. These places rip you off. The one thing that pissed me off was when you have the wine at dinner. The first bottle at each table is $10.00. If they have to open another bottle it is $20.00. It’s the same damn bottle. All I can say is that our guests better get something at the bar before they sit down for dinner. Also, the wedding is on a Friday night. Most places give you a 10% discount. This place gives a 10% discount to the grooms parents if they have the rehearsal dinner downstairs. All these places are like this. I only have 1 daughter. I only have to do this 1 time. Thank God. I think this might be a way of getting rich. Open a wedding hall and charge for everything you can possibly think of. Make sure to do all the sales pitching to the bride to be and not let the perents get a word in.

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  46. Jolene said on September 9, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Prosparoxysm is an excellent word.

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  47. Sue said on September 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    ’bout time you came back, Hol.

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  48. coozledad said on September 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    I just got this in my spam comments folder:
    I’m impressed, I have to say. Really rarely do I encounter a weblog that’s each educative and entertaining, and let me inform you, you will have hit the nail on the head. Your concept is outstanding; the difficulty is one thing that not sufficient individuals are speaking intelligently about. I am very joyful that I stumbled throughout this in my seek for one thing referring to this.

    These things are starting to resemble written answers to test questions at a college sophomore level. They’ve even got the unintentional admission of binge drinking common in a student who’s mastered the art of writing in a blue book while asleep.*
    Pretty soon all the managers at Wendy’s and most grocery stores will be spambots. They’ll be running for county commissioner’s seats, too.

    *Woke up doing this once. Terrifying.

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  49. Dave said on September 9, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve started a comment about three times now and deleted it because I got mired down. Holly, the wedding industry is a racket, like the college textbook industry and the college tuitions today, and all the other things that keep parents grinding away. Graphing calculators are only a start, a warning shot, so to speak.

    Some of you folks have childhood experiences that are so different from anything in my past, I cannot imagine a childhood that has the Dutch Reformed Church in it, or learning about losing one’s mother in such a cold, arbitrary fashion.

    Jeff, my great-grandmother died in 1969 in Eastern Kentucky, the funeral was in a country Baptist church outside of Louisa, KY. I have never before or since attended a funeral like that but for those folks, I think it was a regular sermon. What a lot of yelling and gasping for breath and carrying on.

    Surely, Pros/April, you sometimes mix up to which group you are posting.

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  50. Cara said on September 10, 2011 at 1:36 am

    Nancy, thank you is so inadequate to say for what I found here today, but having no other words, I say “Thank you” to Jeff,TMMO; to Maggie, to all who shared and to those who still carry immense hurt. Thank you for the Kaddish, and for reminding us of how inadequate our stammered sympathies can be.

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  51. april glaspie said on September 10, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Mark H. I would have figured you more for Anne Coulter than Jodie Foster. but that would be stereotyping, I suppose. She is one awesome woman, I was sold when I saw her on some talk show and she said her car was full of fast food wrappers and she always had a basketball in the car. Shallow, I suppose, But not really. And she is really beautiful. And smart, and talented. But in the end, she’s not Mary Stuart Masterson or Sigourney Weaver. Or Polly Jane Harvey. Dave, college tuitions today are a racket because people like Nathan Deal, who built family fortunes on payday loans saw a niche in offering student loans, And that foul bidness has been a weath of Republican contributions ever since . And it is a bloodsucker bidness. I know I’m full of shit, but everything I said about my mom and dad is true,. Positiveley. I couldn’t make them up, Much to my regret. How many people had perfect parents? I did.

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  52. april glaspie said on September 10, 2011 at 3:19 am

    “I think Jodie Foster is absurdly gorfeous, I think if you don’t get thatm you have something genetically wrong with you, I’m pretty sure about that.

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  53. Deborah said on September 10, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Pros/April, I think you’re confusing MarkH with Mark. Or maybe I’m confused.

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  54. Holly said on September 10, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Along with paying for a wedding I am also still paying for college and all those over priced books that are needed. Dave is correct about it being a racket.

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  55. coozledad said on September 10, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I’m beginning to think Rick Perry is headed for a public implosion. I hadn’t heard about his juvenile habit of confronting people and issuing veiled threats. Getting into old man Paul’s physical space at the debates shows the kind of mania those protracted coke jags ultimately lead to. If he makes the ticket, there’ll have to be a costly disinformation campaign, the likes of which even the Republicans lack the pockets for.

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  56. alex said on September 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Doesn’t the DSM-IV list a disorder known as Delirium Solaris? I think Rick Perry and Jan Brewer both have it. That, or they’ve been huffing way too much hairspray.

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  57. Dave said on September 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Holly, our daughter got married two years ago, July. We actually got off fairly cheap and she’s our only daughter, they had a very nice wedding and reception but neither of them wanted the big blowout reception. Also, his parents wanted to contribute, they absolutely insisted on it, they’ve no daughters and their other son, for whatever reasons, seems to be a confirmed bachelor. No, I don’t really know much about him.

    Our oldest son was married the same year on the banks of the Potomac River in a park in Alexandria, VA, very small, we paid for half of the reception, splitting the cost with her parents. It was more like a party, held ten days after their wedding and after they returned from their honeymoon. Her mother wanted her to have a big wedding and our daughter-in-law, who really wanted to get married on the beach in the Caribbean but soon realized that wasn’t practical, then decided to go small, we think there was a lot of conflict that has all healed now.

    We’ve one more son, who is now 23, he’s currently in Lima, Peru, where he spent a semester as a exchange student. He wanted badly to go back before he settles into the regular things that get in the way of being free to travel like that, so he left this past Tuesday.

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  58. moe99 said on September 10, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    I don’t think I’ve mentioned today how idiotic I think Rick Perry is:

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  59. april glaspie said on September 10, 2011 at 6:56 pm


    Is it possible for a 21st Century American to have no idea what a Ponzi scheme is? If he went to Texas public schools, probably doan’t know shit.

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  60. Holly said on September 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Dave, The grooms parents did not offer to chip in. It would have been nice. I have 2 sons. When they get married I do intend to help out with what I can. Maybe pay for the flowers and the DJ. Just something. I know her wedding will be nice but I just hate all the stress that I have been going through. It’s not fun.

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  61. Linda said on September 10, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Moe99, libertarians remind me of teenagers in that they expect nice things to be there somehow, without payingfor them. But this instance reminds me more specifically of 20somethings who don’t pay for renter’s insurance because those quarterly bills suck, until the place catches fire, and they find something that sucks even worse.

    So here’s what’s really depressing: it seems that all these stories are in lefty blogs, NOT the newspapers in places where those politicians hold sway.

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  62. april glaspie said on September 11, 2011 at 3:54 am


    Kinda like Ayn Rand taking all that gubmint cash after she smoked her lungs. Old Man Paul and little AquaBuddha Paul are ignoramuses but they are the face of the GOP, Teabangers and all. Why don’t the aholes just admit it?

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  63. coozledad said on September 11, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Maybe the administration can pass a tax holiday for the states that carry the dead, stupid weight of the South around their necks, so they can use their own revenue to continue leaving Bibleland in the dust. The only thing the region is good for is an occasional levy of bullet sponges anyway.

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  64. Judybusy said on September 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I wonder how much of the mess of the San Diego power failure was due to lack of upkeep?

    On weddings: ten years ago, my partner and I had a ceremony. Initially, we were going to rent a place, DJ, professional flowers, etc. We came to our senses and asked friends to host it at their big house, made it a planned potluck, and I got flowers at the farmer’s market that morning with my best friend. The only splurges we kept was the cake from the best place in town and great new dresses. One of our friends made the cake even prettier with nasturtiums from our garden. Neither of us is religious, so we created our own, very simple ceremony. My friend sang “You stepped out of a dream” originally performed by Sarah Vaughn. In the end, it was having our friends and family there that made the day. We got many comments that it was one of the best weddings people had gone to–and yes, I’m sure they say that to all the girls. We celebrate on the 22nd of this month! (Flying 12 days after 9/11 was a little scary, but it was the smoothest flight we’ve ever been on…We went to Maine and Boston for the honeymoon. Sorry to go on, but I LOVED that day and the week out east. And the wife? The best.)

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  65. Dexter said on September 12, 2011 at 12:28 am

    I believe everything happens for a reason, and I believe it makes no difference what you think of me, but it means everything as to what I think of you. That about covers everything.

    And to officially close down 9-11 day, the New York Jets, greatly appreciative of being selected over the New York Giants to play the 9-11 game, beat the hated Dallas Cowboys tonight in a close game.
    Last night in the college game, “my” mighty Wolverines beat Notre Dame, 28-24, and now the Cowboys bite the big one in New York tonight. Things are looking up.

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