Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fireworks, Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet

Happy belated birthday, America.

This is the time of year that makes the Darwin Awards a lot more interesting: Senseless hooligans everywhere will celebrate our independence by mistaking idiocy for entertainment. This is especially true in my home state, Michigan, where they've banned anything that explodes or leaves the ground. In other words, they've banned all the good stuff.

So people are left with tiny things that "emit showers of sparks," like a bad garage band's stage show. Or, like most people, they resort to their own creativity. And desperately bored Michiganders can get creative. People improvise. They build cannons (seriously). They go to Indiana or somewhere else and bring back the goods. Michigan fireworks laws are barely enforced, especially this time of year (which, I guess, begs the question of why we have them in the first place).

In Florida, this is not the case. Much of what Michiganders crave is legal here. Or, at least it would appear that way. As I drove home from work last night, I was treated with a little taste of what it must have been like to invade Normandy. All the way, the booms grew louder, the flashes brighter, and the haze of spent firecrackers thicker. I stopped at one of the many parking lot fireworks stands on the way home, hoping to find something explosive I might use to demonstrate my own patriotism. One of the glorious things about the tradition of fireworks on Independence Day is that it unites everyone with a love for danger, regardless of race, creed, religion, etc. No matter how much time you or your family has been in the United States, you can take joy in blowing something up.

As I was browsing the merchandise, a large man approached the lone employee working the cash register and inquired about a certain firecracker. He was holding a brightly-colored tube about the size of a mailbox. It was ridiculously huge, an obscenely large thing most certainly destined to set off car alarms spanning several neighborhoods. He asked, in a thick Cuban accent, "Is this good?" He was flanked by a muscle-bound friend who eagerly awaited the employee's approval, equally thirsty for destruction. "Is this good, my friend?" He repeated himself with urgency, as if to imply that it was of utmost importance that he procure a top-notch firecracker. This, it would seem, was an emergency. The employee stammered a little, and conceded that the ginormous pyrotechnic in question was, in fact, good. "This," Cuban Man said, "is ezzactly what I'm looking for," and he smiled and winked.

I assume he made a big hole in the ground somewhere. As for me, I didn't get anything. Though I couldn't make it downtown to see the real show, I got a pretty good one from the backyard.


Monday, May 07, 2007

The Great Debate

ABC will be airing a debate about the existence of God. The atheists will be represented by the Rational Response Squad, and the Christians by TCT regular and Christian author Ray Comfort with Mike Seaver, er, Kirk Cameron.

This threatens to be an end-all debate, a fully-satisfying spectacle. I mean, what’s not to like about this: There are the Rational Responders, atheists who embarked on the Blasphemy Challenge, encouraging people to submit videos of themselves declaring there is no God, no Holy Spirit, and no Jesus Christ. On the other side are two intellectual giants who “proved” God’s existence by highlighting the usability of a banana.

Something tells me that an “agree to disagree” will be waiting at the end of this contest. The Christians aren’t going to bring up anything the atheists haven’t heard. The atheists will have no luck convincing the Christians that there’s no God. The Great Debate is unwinnable to both sides: The anti-god logic of atheism won’t comply with Christianity’s supernatural background. Christianity’s blind faith holds little water with people who place a god somewhere between leprechauns and the tooth fairy.

Comfort and Cameron claim they’re going to prove God’s existence in ten minutes, without relying on a blind-faith argument or scripture. I’m interested in seeing how, and I’m hoping it doesn’t revolve around how well a delicious and nutritious banana fits into my hand.

The Rational Response Squat advertises their blasphemy challenge on lots of teen-oriented websites and tells people to deny Jesus Christ's existence (and God's, and the Holy Spirit's). The deity of Christ has been questioned. But his existence is pretty widely corroborated. In the interview linked at the start of this paragraph, they claim that atheism is the last thing acceptable to be targeted with hatred, as though atheists are an oppressed minority. I disagree with this.

I would also disagree with anyone that would make the same claim about Christianity. As I see it, the American Christian has little grounds to complain of oppression.

I am a believer in Christ, and I am saved by His blood. But all the argument and debate in the world didn't convince me of this, and will likely never be an evangelistic boon. He is too big for logic. He is too big to fit into an argument, and He is too big to be a given, to be obvious.

One Love

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dreaming and driving

I have always been afraid of hitting someone while driving.

Tonight, I was reminded of my fears as I was flying down Cottonwood Drive, returning from a delivery. I had the morbid thought of a child darting out in front of me from behind a tree, and me not being able to stop, and the child dying a gruesome death at the hand of my Escort. It’s a horrifying image, I know. I pictured myself screeching to a halt, smelling the burning rubber of the tires on the pavement, and then running from my vehicle as the father of the deceased happened upon the scene and screamed in agony as he found his firstborn dead in the street. We would bravely keep the mother from witnessing the horrifically gory scene. No need for her to see this. The father would scream at me, and I would tell myself I wasn’t going to jail because it wasn’t my fault. Manslaughter, at the very worst. Was I speeding? Nevermind the legal consequences. I would have ended a life. I would be forced to cope with having killed someone, forever indebted to the family. I would be apologetic and I would bring them casseroles as peace offerings, only to have them rejected when the surviving kin saw that it was I who rang their doorbell, the one who stole their child, and they would slam the door in my face.

Still behind the wheel, still driving back to the store, I snapped out of the awful daydream and noticed my speed was naturally, fittingly much lower. I had actually just thought all of those things.

It was such a strange thing to think… I had never hit anything or anyone before. Would I actually ever hit someone? Was this some kind of omen? What if I hit someone this very night? How would I deal with it? It would all be too weird.

Not twenty seconds after I experienced this strange, mental episode, I came upon a car stopped in the left lane of traffic, as though it was waiting to turn left. Just as I was about to pass them on the right, two figures on four legs trotted in front of my headlights, their tags glinting, and I knew the car had not stopped to turn. Two dogs – a big German Shepherd and a slightly smaller shorthair - had escaped their home and run into the street, and the other car had stopped for them. Mine did not. I slammed my breaks and missed the German Shepherd on the right side. My tires were skidding, screeching, the whole car jolting as it collided with the curb, and the smaller dog disappeared beneath me. I didn’t use the clutch, and my engine shut off as I halted. I could smell the burning rubber through my open windows.

Two pedestrians looked on in horror as I jumped out of my car, and they were already asking if I had a phone. Apparently, the owners weren’t around. I was fully expecting to see a skidmark, a trail of guts and fur from what had once been a dog. But where my tires had left their mark, there was no sign of carnage. I looked around – left, right, in front of and behind my car. Nothing.

A few yards down the road, the German Shepherd was trotting on as though nothing had happened, having successfully crossed Cottonwood, oblivious to the fright and plight of me and the other onlookers. Behind him, limping but keeping up on three legs, was the short-haired dog, in full non-skidmark form. I had only clipped his leg, and he was having little trouble leaving the scene of the crime. He was getting on alright, and though I wanted to track him down and find his owners, I was on the clock. I told two of the on-lookers that, if they caught up with the dogs and somehow found their owners, I’d be at the store all night.

This was all such a very strange episode. I had the vivid daydream of hitting a child, and indeed had suspected it could have been an omen, not half a minute before I nearly sent a dog to pet heaven.

I’m really not sure what to make of all this. I hope the dog is alright, and I hope it wasn’t yours.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Avoid the Muffler Man

I wanted an oil change. And so I went to Muffler Man, the one on Lake Michigan Drive, where I got it changed last time, where they did a good job, and where a homeless guy sat down next to me until the Police made him leave. No homeless guys this time. It was 9:30 am, and I had a lot to do today. They told me it might be an hour, an hour I wanted to use. So I put my name in and left, planning to be back before the hour was up. I went to Aman Park, just down the street, where there are some beautiful wooded trails and a creek. There, I saw a curious sight: A squirrel, trapped in the crease of two branches in a sapling, hanging limp and lifeless. It may have fallen from a higher tree, and broken its neck or something. I wondered if it might be an omen. I think I wanted it to be an omen. I can’t remember ever having an omen before, and I figured such a weird thing might be an omen. I inspected it, prodded it with a stick, and left.

After romping around for about a half hour, I left and went back to see the Muffler Man. The guy behind the desk was chatting with some customers, so I grabbed a seat and waited. I kept my keys in my pocket. It was 10:15. More people flocked in – a few middle aged men, a high school kid in a yellow jacket who drove a Sable. I was happy I had gotten in before the others. I waited. Soon, they called the kid in the yellow jacket who drove the Sable. He paid and left. Probably in his Sable. By now, it was 11:00. Strange, I thought. Maybe he had put his name in when I was gone. Whatever. My keys were still in my pocket… as long as they were there, my car hadn’t been started yet. I waited more.

“I should leave,” I told myself. But I had waited all morning. I couldn’t leave now, that would render the whole wait worthless. I sat passively, though it was becoming obvious they had forgotten about me. This, despite the fact I was still sitting in their lobby. Thoughts swirled: “Shouldn’t have been so passive… should have said something right away. Get up. Say you have to go. You don’t need to stay here. Ask how long it’s going to be. I got up and asked how long it was going to be. I saw my name on a piece of paper in the stack. The kid behind the counter – his mom had been the one who told me it would be an hour – told me that I was second in line. I sat down and waited more. It was 11:20. I thought again… “If 11:30 comes, and I’m still sitting here, I’m outta here.” 11:30 came and went. That’s two hours. Two hours is too long. You should leave. I should leave. Why do I call myself “you?” Tell them you have to leave. You do have to leave.” I got up. “I have to get going,” I told the kid behind the counter. Mom was back now. “What’s your name?” she asked. “Jim,” I said, “Gamble.” My sheet wasn’t in the stack anymore. “Oh,” she said, “You came back and didn’t tell us.”

Oh, so this was my fault. I sat for an hour and a half in your lobby and confirmed that I was in line. Right, it’s my fault. I was pretty mad now. She told me they’d bump me up to next in line. I had spent the last hour thinking that’s just where I was. Nope. My business goes elsewhere, now. I’ll go to the place on Chicago Drive where I don’t just get an oil change, I get a stare, some intimidation, and increasingly bad news about my tie rods or my tension bearings or my brake shoes. Kid behind the counter gave my excuse: “He’s gotta go now, though.” And that was the last thing I heard, because I walked out, angry at them for forgetting me, angry at myself for being so passive and sitting there for so long, and angry at the world for never having any good songs on the radio.

I don’t know if the squirrel had anything to do with this.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pre-tourney jitters

Pre-tourney Jitters

I have a terrible bracket. This, I believe, is a good thing. I’ve had lots of brackets that I felt plenty good about, and they’ve always let me down.

Making a terrible bracket is a good idea. Either you’ll get a lot of the shocker picks right and you’ll be a genius, or you’ll be promptly eliminated after the first round. Or, in my case, I’ll get enough of them right to have a false sense of hope and enough of them wrong to start feeling just a tinge of hate for spring.

That being said, here are my stupid picks:

Midwest region:
Winthrop over Notre Dame (Huge has ND as a lock for his final four… I say this is good evidence that I should keep it as is)
Ga-Tech over UNLV (10 over 7 isn’t much of an upset.)
Team that I picked to go farther than I should have, and how far too far is:
Maryland, Final Four

None in the first round. This is wrong, and I know it. Crap.
Kentucky over Kansas (Come on, it’s Tubby Smith. TUBBY!)
Team that I picked to go farther than I should have, and how far too far is:
Kentucky, Elite 8

Arkansas over USC. A 12 over a 5. I’m banking on Arkansas coming back, not petering out.
G-Dubya over Vandy
Texas Tech over BC
Team that I picked to go farther than I should have, and how far too far is:
Texas Tech, Sweet 16. “But Jim,” you say, “Georgetown will be in the sweet 16!” Watch and learn, children.

Albany over VirginiaAlbany is the capital of New York. Their state insect is the ladybug, and ladybugs are neat.
Team that I picked to go farther than I should have, and how far too far is:
Um. Albany, second round. This is a bad idea.

On second thought, don’t pay any attention to me. Unless I’m a genius. Which I probably am.

One Love.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007


I want to talk about the Kevin Federline commercial.

You saw it. It features K-fed in a music video – the typical money, cash, ho’s rap video – rapping about all his money, cash, and ho’s. Hos. Hoes. I don’t know. Anyway, it’s a spot for Nationwide, where Life Comes At Him Fast and he wakes from daydreaming of rap-superstardom to find himself helming the fryer at a fast food establishment.

As a past employee of a fast food restaurant (I would call it an accelerated dining facility) and a current employee of an establishment in the dining gray area (Papa John’s), I have to say that I was offended. Then taken aback, then overcome with rage. Then, briefly, I was consolable. But I quickly went back to infuriation.

How did this commercial make it to air? What about it is not offensive? The time-honored tradition of accelerated dining servitude comes under gratuitous, causeless, and unjustified criticism. As a previous employee of such an establishment, I felt that I, too, was under attack. Clearly they mean to imply that fast-food employment is intended for those on the bottom rung of society – the dregs, the vermin, the ragamuffins. Nationwide has succeeded at making me feel two feet tall.

Fast food work is some of the most demanding and skillful work available for anyone willing to sacrifice their own time, nutrition, clear-skin, social dignity, well-being, family, personal convictions, and the occasional $2.37 for an employee-discounted meal. How dare you disrespect this American institution?

Well, Nationwide, I am no ragamuffin. I have rights, and they have been stomped upon. This was downright unconstitutional. I am a dignified contributor to society and you should not expect me to contribute to your cause. Whether it is selling life insurance or belittling what you perceive to be the common man, I am not interested.

One Love.