Old Dog, New Tricks

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In my last post, I discussed my recent trip to Washington for the Colorado Capital Conference.  While the event was interesting, it was also disheartening to marinate in the unhealthy atmosphere of the D.C. political miasma-even for a few days.

However, on the last night of the event, a “happy mistake” at the hotel caused me to miss the scheduled trip to watch the famed Evening Parade at the Marine Corps Barracks.  In truth, I was not too downcast; I had to catch an early flight the next morning and the Parade would run late.  Maybe next time.

Instead, I asked the concierge for his recommendation for a good place to get oysters.  After all, D.C. is a lot closer to the Chesapeake Bay than Denver is; how could I go wrong?

He recommended Hank’s Oyster Bar.  So, after a short cab ride, I found myself at a quiet table on the sidewalk outside the restaurant.  The concierge knew what he was talking about; Hank’s slippery little rascals went down very satisfactorily.

But as I sat waiting for my dinner to come, I began thinking about getting back to the hotel.  And giving Uber a try.  After all, my kids use it routinely and like it.  And when I had been in the Legislature, I had enthusiastically supported allowing it and Lyft to compete with traditional cab companies.

Thus, old dog and grandpa that I may be, I went to the App Store on my iPhone and loaded up the Uber app.  If my kids could see me now!

So, when dinner was over, I put in a request for my first Uber ride.  And there, as I watched transfixed, the little car icon on my phone began making its way toward me.  Soon enough, the real thing pulled up in front of the restaurant.  I got in and was back at the hotel in about the same amount of time as the taxi ride in the other direction.  But at a lower price and without the hassle of having to dig out my wallet for the cash or a credit card to pay the fare; all that was built right into the app.

I repeated the process well before the crack of dawn the next day for the ride to Dulles. With the same satisfactory results.

Would I use Uber or Lyft again?  Absolutely.  Now if I can just persuade my skeptical wife to give it a try on our upcoming visit to Boston.

 

Into the Swamp

Capital Washington DC

I had breakfast with Joe Rice last winter; it had been quite a while since we had seen one another.  We served together in the Legislature for two years.  While we didn’t always see eye to eye-he’s a Democrat-Joe was a good legislator.

But he was also, perhaps, foolhardy at times.  He sponsored the bill to raise car registration fees for highway improvements.  It was an end run around TABOR, the provision in the Colorado constitution that requires voter approval for tax increases.  Drivers-voters, in other words-hated it.  So they threw Joe out after only one term.  I never quite figured out why Democratic leaders allowed Joe, who represented a very competitive district, to carry the bill.

But, then again, Joe’s a Colonel in the Army who’s done several tours in Iraq.  I don’t imagine that angry voters put much of a scare in him.

Over breakfast, Joe suggested that I apply for the 2017 Capital Conference in Washington.  I did, was accepted (I suspect that Joe had his thumb on the scale on my behalf), and so, I  recently found myself in the D.C. swamp.  When they describe the place as a swamp, it’s both literally and figuratively true:  while the temperature was in the 90’s during the conference, with the humidity, the heat index said it was in the 100’s.  By the time we finished the three block death march from our downtown hotel to the Capital, men were sweating through their suit coats.

The figurative swamp is harder to describe.  Let alone understand.  And that’s just what Washington politicians and bureaucrats, no doubt, intend: like mushrooms, they do their best to keep the rest of us in the dark and under a pile of manure.  Nonetheless, here are a few thoughts.

The event was co-hosted by Colorado’s two U.S. Senators, Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner.  At the opening reception, we got a load of happy talk by members of our Congressional delegation about how bipartisanship guides “the important work” of what gets done in Washington. While I’m sure that many of those at the conference like to think that’s how things operate, I suspect that a good deal fewer really believed it.  Especially given the toxic nature of politics in our country these days.

Questions about “why can’t Washington get anything done?” were common.

For my money, Senator Bennet gave the best answer:  “It’s supposed to be hard to get things done,” he replied.  “That’s the whole point of the separation of powers and the checks and balances set out in the Constitution.”  I expect what attendees really meant when they asked the question is, “Why aren’t they passing the legislation want.”

Conspicuous by their absence were questions about how much longer we are going to be fighting bloody, costly wars all over the world. Wars that, if nearly 20 years of futility is long enough to judge, we aren’t going to win and which are doing little more than kicking over more hornets’ nests.

Madeline Albright, the former Secretary State, was one of the speakers.  It’s not infrequently that I suffer from delayed intelligence.  And during the brief Q&A following her talk that the syndrome hit me again: I didn’t think of asking the war question of someone who was pretty well qualified to address the issue until the opportunity was gone.

But during a break I did have the chance to pull Senator Gardner aside and ask him, “How much longer are we going to be fighting all these crazy wars?”  I have a bit of an in with Cory; he and I served two years together in the Colorado House.  “I’ve talked,” I told him, “with several other people here at the conference and we just don’t get the point of these endless wars.”  Although I didn’t mention it to Cory, a couple of the people at the conference who agreed with me was a prominent Denver businessman who has made a fortune selling furniture and a Fountain rancher whose missing finger tip was mute testimony to his work around farm equipment.

“Spencer,” Cory responded, his face clouded over with its characteristic intensity,  “if you knew what we know, what we hear about in our secret briefings here at the Capital” (he gestured vaguely to his left), “you would understand.”

No, I’m sorry, I don’t understand.  Our government has had us continuously fighting wars for over 16 years and they can’t tell us “Why?”  Preposterous is not a strong enough.  Given the staggering costs in terms of broken bodies, minds, and families, inexcusable is probably more like it.

Unfortunately, however, the hits just kept on coming.

On the next day, we were addressed by the South Korean Ambassador to the U.S., Awn Ho-young.  He touted, of course, the warm relationship between his country and the U.S.  He highlighted the bloody price American G.I.s played in saving his country from communist aggression when the North swarmed across the 38th parallel in 1950.  “When we were invaded,” said the Ambassador, “we were the poorest country in the world.  We badly needed your help.”

It got creepy, therefore, when Mr. Ho-young to told us how important it is that the close military ties between his country and the U.S. be continued.

“Now,” he boasted, apparently not recognizing how weird his argument was, “South Korea’s GDP is just behind Japan’s-and we’re gaining on them quickly.”  But if that’s true, why do we still have nearly 30,000 troops in South Korea?

Is the ambassador anticipating a military confrontation with Japan?  Hardly.  It’s North Korea’s nut job dictator, Kim Jong-un, as we hear in the news almost daily, that’s rattling the saber.  But by comparison with North Korea’s 90 pound weakling economy, South Korea’s is now a muscle bound Charles Atlas.  And the same is true when you compare the two nations’ populations, military expenditures, and per capita GDPs.

The signature campaign issue that propelled President Trump to a stunning upset victory was his promise to build the Mexican wall to defend the U.S. border.  Not defend a Korean border half a world away from our shores.

Would it make sense for this county to have a robust missile defense system to protect the continental U.S. from the North Korean dictator’s insane threats?  Absolutely.  But the 30,000 U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula probably look like no more than a tempting target to the mad man.  Especially given that the newly elected South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, has suspended the deployment of a U.S. antimissile system in South Korea that could defend our troops.

How weird is this?  Putting thousands of American lives at risk for a country that refuses to give them the tools to defend themselves?

For my money?  Come home America.  And quit letting establishment political hacks in the Washington swamp, both Republican and Democrat, keep dragging us into costly, bloody, futile wars.

 

 

 

Let Down Your Nets

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Joyce, with the windblown buster brown cut, surrounded by her family on the North Dakota prairie. Before the Depression was over, they had all been blown off their farm.

My 93 year old Aunt Joyce died recently.  She was the last but one of my mom’s six siblings.  Joyce’s was a life well lived.  The funeral and celebration were in Boise, her home town.  I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

My sister, Linda, and her husband, Jim, came in on the same plane from Denver with me.  We met up at the luggage carousel.  Jim and Linda are well acquainted with these devices; since they retired, and even before, they have seen more of them in more different parts of the world than I can even begin to guess at.  But aside from the two of them, I didn’t see anyone else in the terminal who would be at the funeral.

“I hope we get a good turnout,” I said, watching the bags begin dropping off the conveyor belt.  “It would be a shame if we can’t give Joyce a good send off.”

“I know there will be more, but I don’t know how many,” answered Linda. “You know how funerals are; not much notice.  We’ll just have to wait and see.”

With that, her bags came around and they took off to get their rental car.  My bag came a few minutes later and I headed out of the terminal; I was going to be riding with my cousin, Mike Lee, another of Joyce’s nephews.

When I got to the sidewalk, Mike and his big F-100 pickup and camper were to my right.  As I headed his way, we both raised our arms in greeting.  Mike is a character.  And a guy with an interesting history.  After graduating from Nampa Nazarene University just west of Boise, Mike went “North to Alaska” where he spent most of his career as a park ranger.  But also on his resume are bush pilot, moose hunter, dog sledder, snowmobiler, cross country skier, and logistical support for fighting forest fires. Now retired, he spends summers in Fairbanks.  He winters in the Northwest where he lives a semi-nomadic life from his camper with family and friends.

“Mike,” I said as we shook hands, “how are you?  Thanks for picking me up.  I’m looking forward to catching up.  Are we going to head right over to Monica’s?”

“Yep,” replied Mike, “that’s where everyone is gathering.”

“Remember,” I said as we left the airport, “I’m buying the gas.”

We left the airport, got on I-84 and began rolling west toward Eagle.  When I was a kid and we drove from Denver to Boise for fondly remembered summer vacations to visit family, Eagle was a small farming hamlet.  Now, it’s being swallowed up by nearby Boise, where big box stores incongruously bump up against rapidly disappearing fields of alfalfa and corn.

Monica Davis, Joyce’s very successful mortgage broker granddaughter, lives in Eagle and was playing host for the the celebration. Monica has a spacious home with a kidney shaped swimming pool in the backyard.  She’s generous with her house; over the years, many similar family gatherings have taken place around that elegant little pool.

With the limited visibility afforded by his rear view mirrors, Mike awkwardly maneuvered his big rig into a space at the end of Monica’s cul-de-sac. And, as we have done several times before, we let ourselves into her home through the garage.  I couldn’t help ogling a curvaceous Alpha Romeo that was partially visible behind a mound of stuff and a car cover.  “Just like Monica,” I thought, “to drop a bundle on a car like that and then let it gather dust in the garage.”  She also likes Las Vegas, where, I’ve heard, she qualifies as a “whale.”

We stepped into the kitchen down a short hall from the garage.  The food, as usual, was spread over wide kitchen counters just inside the sliding glass patio doors.  It was not so much a meal as grazing; just the way the Lee family likes it.  At least judging by the amount of food that appeared to be in the offing, my concerns about an inadequate turnout for the event were badly misplaced.

On a nearby end table, there was an urn with Joyce’s ashes.  Again, just the way she would have liked it; in the middle of the action and near the food.

My other sister, Catherine, also from Denver, was already there.  When Mike said he had heard that she “likes the finer things,” he pretty much hit the nail on the head with her. Peter, Catherine’s son, was also there.  An REI executive who looks the part, Peter had come in from Seattle for the weekend.  Following his mom’s lead, he had developed a warm relationship with Joyce over the years.  But, taking his cue from so many smart and perfectly eligible young men these days, he can’t seem to get the wife and kid thing figured out.

I recognized many of the other faces; the names were going to be more of a challenge.  It had been a long time since I had seen many of them; a few were strangers.

Mike’s sister, Joy, stepped forward with a broad grin on her freckled face.  “Spencer! How are you?  It looks like we’re going to have a good turnout for Auntie!”

“Boy,” I replied, “you got that right.  It’s great to see you.  How’s . . . Craig?”  I hesitated before I could summon up her husband’s name; I didn’t see him there.  Joy and her husband, live on a farm near Pendleton, Oregon.  But that doesn’t, of course, mean they make a living farming.  She’s supplemented their income driving school busses, taught, and worked somewhere in the welfare system.  He commutes back and forth to Portland every week, where he is a supervisor at a factory, living out of a camper.  Aside from Monica, Joy and Mike were the ones Joyce relied on most during her last years in the nursing home.

Joy and Craig, if possible, are even more conservative than I.  Which places them somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t immunized her family from tragedy.  A drug addled daughter who lives in Alaska recently witnessed her boyfriend get murdered in a drug deal gone bad; Joy went to Alaska to provide moral support during the trial.  The daughter, to my knowledge, hasn’t changed her ways.

There’s a strongly Nazarene musical thread that runs through the Lees-although it bypassed me entirely.  Joyce loved to hear her nieces and nephews perform.  Byron, Mike’s half brother, sang for years with the Seattle opera.  Mike carries a rich base harmony line to the old time Nazarene hymns that he’s always itching to sing.  Joy sings and plays the electronic organ, which she had brought along for the event.  Merilee, Mike and Joy’s sister, has a sweet voice and is a pastor’s wife.  The quartet led us in song as the sun began to find us under the porch.

I could go on; the weird uncles at what, in effect, was a family reunion provide endless fodder.  There was the fundamentalist preacher with the wide, crucifix tie that faithfully preached at Joyce’s nursing home.  Joyce, just as faithfully, had planted herself in the front row of his nursing home flock on Sunday mornings.  And, as a result, he was asked by Monica to officiate.  But, within a few minutes of his launching into his fire and brimstone sermon, it was obvious that Monica had played hooky at every one; she had no idea what was in store for us.  To her obvious discomfort, the sermon went on way too long for her liking.  But who knows? It may have hit someone right where they lived.

A weekend, in my mind, is just about right for an event of this sort.  Long enough to reconnect with most of the folks I yearned to.  But not so long that our inevitable annoying tics overshadowed the era of good feelings.

The next day, Mike gave me a lift back to the airport.  Jack in the Boxes, luxuriant potato fields, shopping malls, and rows of corn snapped by on either side of us as we drove east on I-84 through the Treasure Valley.

Over the growl of the motor and the hum of the tires, I said, “Mike, that was a great weekend.  I’m really glad I was able to make it.”

He gave no sign of hearing me; he may not be stone deaf, but it’s a tolerably good imitation.  I turned up the volume another notch and tried again.

“You’re right,” he said this time.  “Joyce would have liked it.”

“I only have one regret,” I added. “None of my kids were here.  Next time, I’m going to do a better job of encouraging them to come.”

And I will.

 

Your Neighbor As Yourself

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My wife and I went to Spokane recently to visit our daughter, Jocelyn, and her family.     I’ve gotten to know the city pretty well over the last 10 years or so.

Following in her mother’s footsteps, our older daughter, Lauren, got a nursing degree from Eastern Washington State in Spokane.  Lauren met her husband, Haden, at Whitworth, another Spokane university.

At least in part because she wanted to be near her sister, Jocelyn got a degree from Whitworth.  Where she also met her husband, Aaron.  They were married there on a beautiful, but searing late summer evening at a vineyard overlooking the Spokane Valley.  They now have a year old daughter, Lucy.  Named after, you guessed it, Jocelyn’s favorite sitcom.

I can’t tell you how many times Marleen and I have flown back and forth from Denver to Spokane for all these doings. But it’s a lot.

I wish I could still say that Spokane reminds me of what Denver probably looked like back in the ’50’s.  But I don’t think I can.  The city seems to be in the throes of a development frenzy that is more like Denver’s than the Spokane I remember from even two or three years ago.  Cranes and construction everywhere.  Half the downtown streets closed for one reason or another.

But, enough whining.  There are still plenty of aspects of the town that will make many more trips there rewarding.  And, as is invariably the case, they deal primarily with people.  Since it has been years since my wife and daughter Lauren have been in Spokane, they now primarily ripple out from Jocelyn and the roots that her family has sunk into the city’s flinty, volcanic bedrock.  Near their fixer-upper home in the South Hill neighborhood, it appears that hideous, black monsters of the underworld are forcing their heads into lawns that are perfectly manicured around them.

Since they were in college, Aaron and Jocelyn have attended New Community Church.   At that time, the church met in what was a store front in a shopping center.  The ceiling of the dimly lit sanctuary pressed down from just over the heads of congregants. The music of the band on the stage careened wildly around the room, beyond the ability of the sound crew, including my son-in-law, to tame it.  Just the ticket, in other words, for the many college students who go to church there.

This year, however, the church bit the bullet and bought a large old church, steeples, stained glass, organ, and all, from an aging congregation that was ready to fold its tent downtown.  And now, after several weeks of scrubbing and painting, New Community has moved into it’s new home.  The acoustics are still unruly beneath the domed skylight over the sanctuary, but now the energetic singing is matched by the light that pours in through the rose windows.  And the Light that is defused, as it always has been, through the faithful preaching of the Word.

They might not like me to say so, but the congregation is pretty much white-bread.  Which is fine with me.   Lots of young, white couples with little kids.  A stubborn remnant of the historic American nation which, despite the efforts of our political elite to extirpate it by electing a new people through mass immigration, endures.

For ballast, there are also some older couples at the church-which is important.  Our daughter and her husband hit a pretty rough patch in their marriage a while back.  One of those older couples took Jocelyn in while she and Aaron worked things out.  As a small token of my appreciation, I was very pleased to be able to prepare dinner for them with a wild turkey I shot which we had frozen and brought along from Denver.

At the heart of New Community are the many small groups that get together in homes around town, often on a weekly basis.  Jocelyn and Aaron have been active in theirs for years.

Hope and Derrick have also been part of their small group since college days.  Hope is a labor and delivery nurse that was at Jocelyn’s side when she gave birth to Lucy.  Hope also gave birth to her first right around the same time.  Derrick is in medical school.  They, to put it mildly, have their hands full.

But despite their medical training, Derrick and Hope, don’t quite seem to have this baby thing figured out: surprise!  Kid number two came along about a year after the first one.  Did it make any difference that Hope was still nursing?  Evidently, not in God’s economy.

www.kcengland.com

A foot shot of Jocelyn, Lucy and Aaron

– – –

The second Great Commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  But to say that this is only a command doesn’t do full justice to Jesus’ words.  This is also an observation of a law of the universe that can’t be broken, pretty much like he law of gravity.   It might as well say, “You WILL love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

As young, white people Aaron and Jocelyn and Derrick and Hope face extraordinary challenges to living out the Second Commandment.  They are swimming upstream against a relentless barrage of leftist propaganda from the media, the political establishment of both parties, educational institutions, business, and, sadly, too often from the church itself, that merely because they are white, they should hate themselves.  You know, “white privilege.” and “black lives matter.”  In other words, the monotonous drum beat of the Left.

But assert that all lives matter, or even worse, that white lives matter, and the best you can hope for is the all purpose epithet, “Racist!”  And the worst?  A riot and a vicious beat down by thugs.  These racial crimes have been perpetrated all over the country.

The question is, of course, are white people willing to endure the slings and arrows that will come their way as they try to swim up stream to put themselves in a position to love themselves and, hence, their neighbor?    Not, of course, to claim that they are perfect.  Or that their forbearers were without fault.  But to claim that they, like everyone, are a mix of light and darkness, of good and bad.  And that they, like all humanity, are in need of grace.

And not to just wage this fight for themselves, but even more importantly, for their children.  It won’t be easy; there are already plenty of threats to the well being of their kids.  Affirmative action, which pretty much puts a target on their backs simply because they are white.  And, of course, particularly white boys.  Mass immigration, both legal and illegal, which, in only 30 years, threatens to make them strangers in their own land.  And if you think it’s easy to go against the grain to oppose either of these wildly politically correct orthodoxies, then you just haven’t been thinking.

This temptation for white people to, somehow, believe they are doing the world a favor by hating themselves plays itself out in a host of very practical ways.  But at it’s root, it is a spiritual question.  Do they believe the culture they represent, Western Civilization and their Judeo-Christian heritage, is worth preserving?  Or should it, along with themselves and their descendants, be consigned to the dust bin of history?

Charles Murray, the Harvard educated sociologist with the American Enterprise Institute, is, ahem, controversial.  His most inflammatory work, The Bell Curve, argues that there is a connection between race and intelligence.  It has caused the Left to lose its diminuitive, collective mind.  And helped trigger a riot at Middlebury College when Murray attempted to give a speech there this year that resulted in a left leaning female professor who was playing host for Murray being attacked by the college Brown Shirts.  For her thought crime of believing in academic freedom, she wound up in a neck brace.

Another of Murray’s books, Human Accomplishment, attempts to analyze and quantify human achievement world wide by quantifying the amount of space allocated to individuals in reference works.  It’s a fascinating book; you should read it.  But take care.  If you’re a leftist or a doctrinaire feminist it may drive you to another riot.  According to Murray, more than 80% of history’s highest achievers in the sciences, arts and philosophy are “dead white males.”

They are, in other words, representatives of Western Civilization and our Judeo-Christian heritage.

So what does all this mean for my Spokane daughter and her family and their church friends?  Just this: rather than apologizing for who they are, they should be proud of it.  In fact, they have every bit as much a right as anyone to be proud of who they are and what they represent.  And to ignore, if they can, the claptrap of the political elite, the liberal media, Hollywood, big business, the “white privilege” and “black lives matters” crowds.

And if they don’t?

Well, here are some dystopian, alternative futures they should ponder.  Especially if they believe their kids fall into the category of neighbors worth loving as themselves.

First, James Burnham’s, Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism.

Burnham identifies the World War I as the “seminal catastrophe” that marked the beginning of the West’s decline.  And World War II was nothing more than the continuation of the catastrophe: a brief intermission to allow the combatants to catch their breath before continuing what Churchill described as a conflict in which “torture and cannibalism were the only two expedients that the civilized, scientific, Christian States had been able to deny themselves.”

But, as Burnham goes on, the real disaster of these bloody cataclysms wasn’t some external event, it was spiritual.  They may have caused the West to lose its collective nerve, to commit suicide.

And what will be the weapon of choice for this civilizational suicide?   Who knows for sure?

But unlimited Third World immigration would probably do the trick.  There’s even been a dark novel on the subject, The Camp of the Saints, by award winning French author, Jean Raspail.  In it, impoverished Indians commandeer a hulk fleet, come around the Cape of Good Hope, and, like the volcanic outcroppings in Jocelyn’s neighborhood, force their way into the perfectly manicured environs of the French Rivera.  From there, they lay waste to the rest of Europe.  And then the world.  The West, having lost its nerve, lays down and allows itself to be overwhelmed.

Far fetched?  Not hardly.  Consider what some are calling The World’s Most Important Graph.  While it deals with the exploding population of Sub-Sarahan Africa rather than India, you have seen the images of illegal immigrants surging across the Mediterranean and pouring into Europe.  Pay particular attention to the U.N. produced Utube at the end of the graph that tries to persuade us that such immigration is not only inevitable, but desirable.

–     –    –

When my wife and I fly to Spokane, we invariably take Southwest-I’m not even sure there’s another choice.  The plane is always packed and prices have gone up commensurately.  But really, how much longer can they expect our super-sized populace to wedge themselves into their mini-sized seats?

But one compensation for Southwest passengers is that the airline doesn’t take itself too seriously; some of their attendants could make pretty good stand up comedians.  And the best opportunity for these frustrated comics to show their stuff? The inflight safety lecture.  I wonder, in fact, if Southwest has ever been sanctioned by the FAA for their light hearted approach to a procedure the other airlines seem to treat as an opportunity to anesthetise their passengers to the ordeal they’re about to endure.  Not sure.  But Southwest’s has even been considered newsworthy.

But there’s a lesson to be gleaned from the numbing repetition: you have to love yourself before you can love others.  What else is the significance of the direction to “put on your own mask before assisting others around you”?

Those who are heirs to the astonishing achievements of Western civilization need to realize that they serve no one, not themselves, not their children, not any other potential neighbor, by failing to put on their own mask first-before assisting those around them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Fire Drill

South Metro RescueThe city recently finished repaving the streets in our neighborhood.  They were overdue; smooth as silk now.

Our daughter, Lauren, and her two little girls came for a visit to our neighborhood swim pool while the work was still underway.  Our street was blocked off so she had to park about a block away and hoof it from there.  Talk about a beast of burden.  The one year old, Caroline, in a pack to the front. A large, all purpose diaper bag slung over a shoulder (I can’t imagine what all she has in there). And a bunch of towels and other swim paraphernalia in a bag on the other arm.  Bridget, the three year old, thankfully able to navigate on her own.

Don’t get upset with me; I wasn’t there as she schlepped all this stuff from her car to our house.  I did help on the return trip.

And that’s were this little adventure begins.

After the girls got up from the extended naps brought on by the exuberant splashing under a blazing sun at the pool, and after all the gear had been packed up (with me carrying one of the heavy bags this time), and after all the kisses and hugs had been dealt out to Grandma, the four of us began trekking up the block to Lauren’s Honda Pilot.

Bridget, who takes after her Mom, looks like a little Viking:  blond tresses, long legged.  Two gears only: 100 mph and zero. Her turquoise Croc knock-offs often on the wrong feet.  Talks a mile a minute.

Caroline (and don’t get it wrong: it’s Caroline as in “pine,” not as in “pin”) takes after her half Korean father: luxuriant brown hair from birth, a vaguely swart complexion.   Irresistibly plump; a regular Buddha baby.  Look away for even a moment and she’s crawled-where?!

At the car, we buckled the girls into their rocket-launch-ready car seats and tossed the gear in back. Next, it was my turn for kisses all around.

I’m not quite sure why Lauren was distracted, maybe the unfamiliar parking location, maybe the traffic that was heavier than usual because of the paving equipment.   But, when she closed the passenger door, the first words out of her mouth were, “Oh, shit!”

Which, as you probably know from one of my favorite movies, Blast From The Past, is a 16th century French colloquialism meaning, roughly, good.

Actually, NOT.  “I just locked the girls in the car!”

“Is the air conditioning on?”

“Yes,” she answered.  Which was a relief; it would have been a lot hotter in the car than it was outside.  “Do you have another set of keys at home?”

“I don’t know.”

“You stay here,” she continued, the urgency rising in her voice.  “I’ll run down to the house and see if there’s a key there.  If there isn’t, I’ll call 911.”  With that, she set off at a brisk lope, her long legs taking her out of sight before I got around the car to see what I might be able to do with Bridget.

Although she’s quick, Bridget wasn’t quick enough to make much sense of my shouted urgings to get out of her outer space ready car seat to see if she could unlock the door from the inside.  (I can only imagine what a passerby might have thought of my ravings.)  All this produced no more than a blank look of bewilderment from Bridget’s side of the glass.

As the minutes dragged on, it crossed my mind to hurry back to the house for a hammer.

Fortunately, before it came to that, Lauren hove into view.  Her cell was pressed to her ear, ” . . . I can’t really see a house address from here, but I think we’re on Geddes Circle.  I know we’re in the Homestead neighborhood.”  She stooped to be able to see underneith  some tree branches to get a view of the street sign at the nearest intersection.  “The cross street is Ivanhoe Court.”

With that, I thought I heard the first faint wailings of a siren; I certainly hoped so.  In less than a minute, I knew I did.  A minute more, and a red pumper truck, siren, lights, and horn blazing, led a parade of South Metro Fire District response vehicles into the street next to the car.

Years ago, when I was campaigning door to door, I actually came upon a house that had flames leaping out of an upper story window.  (Someone else had already reported the blaze.)  What impressed me most about the incident, was the matter-of-fact way the firemen went about their business when their truck pulled up.  They calmly hooked up the hoses, carefully put on their equipment, knocked in the front door, and walked into the burning structure behind a wall of mist.  They were up to the second story in seconds. Visible flames disappeared almost as quickly.

400x550 house fire

It was the same here.  While they didn’t waste any time, the firemen very methodically went about their business of freeing my trapped granddaughters.  No panic, no drama.  A crow bar to pry open the door enough to force in a heavy duty coat hanger that, soon enough, released the door lock button.  And, voilà, the little ones were back in their mother’s arms.

And while Bridget shed a few tears, especially as the trucks pulled up with sirens screaming, they vanished when she got her official “South Metro Fire District” badge.

“Papa” didn’t do much to contribute to the happy outcome.  I noticed that the passenger window frame was bent as Lauren pulled away. I sent her a text that she might want file an insurance claim; the old insurance agent in me speaking.  Always thrifty, Lauren replied, “Good idea. We sprayed some water at it and there was a leak. ”

But even that came to naught.  Haden, her husband, muscled the frame back into place so that it looks good as new and doesn’t leak.

But, of course, all’s well that ends well.  And that’s what counts in fire drills.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Coffman and The Deplorables

coffman 650x400

Since I began blogging recently, I have spent a good deal of time at coffee shops.

One of them is Solid Grounds on South Broadway at Arapahoe.  It’s a shambling, multi-level store that shares a large parking lot with the South Fellowship church.  Given its “.org” domain name, I suspect it’s associated with the church.

I owe Solid Grounds a lot.  Back when I was campaigning for office, my manager, Wes Skiles, often convened strategy meetings at the store.  And we never lost.  So, in much the same way that the crowing cock makes the sun rise, Solid Grounds must have made me a winning politician.

But it’s not just the location and domain name that makes me think that Solid Grounds has a Christian connection; it’s not uncommon to see pastors and other folks I recognize from current or past church affiliations.

One of these, Charlotte Smith, came into the shop the other day.  Charlotte still has the blond, wispy hair I remembered from the days we worked together on the Missions Committee at Grace Chapel.   Her complexion is fair to the point of being pasty.

“Charlotte,” I said, “great to see you.  Long time. How have you been?”

“Good, she replied. “Are you still in the legislature?”

“No.  But it’s a question I get a lot,” I replied.  “I was termed out a few years ago.  Do you still go to Grace Chapel?”

“Yes, we’re still there.  Where do you go?” she asked.

“We go to Greenwood Community.  How’s your family?”

“Good.  I still teach at a Christian School.”

Charlotte is faithfully committed to seeing the Gospel preached throughout the world, especially in the Philippines.  In 2001, when we were on the missions committee together, she was the one who first became aware that New Tribes missionaries, Martin and Gracie Burnham, had been taken hostage by the Islamic terrorist group, Abu Sayyaf, in the Philippines.  Charlotte, as I remember, had a personal connection with the Burnhams.  After a standoff that lasted a year, Martin was killed during a rescue attempt; Gracie was shot in the leg.

“Our son is at West Point,” Charlotte continued.  “Mike Coffman helped him get in.”

“That,” I replied, “is a quite an achievement.  I just hope we’re out of all these crazy wars in the Middle East before he has to go.”

“Well,” she replied, never one to back down, “if we’d just finished the job the first time, we wouldn’t have to worry about it.”

I hoped she didn’t mean that we should have turned the desert to glass, but I left it at that.

“Our daughter,” she continued, “got married recently.  She owns her own house painting business.  And her husband owns a business repairing sprinkler systems.”

“That’s good,” I replied, but was thinking that was a somewhat unconventional career choice for a woman.  “I hope she’s careful.”

“She is,” Charlotte replied. “She’s very good at what she does.”

To describe Charlotte and her family as “salt of the earth folks” is an understatement.  They’re also the kind of people Democrats like Barack Obama are likely to dismiss as “clinging to their guns and Bibles.”  And, truth be told, many establishment Republicans probably feel the same way; they just don’t say it out loud.

Of course, I’m pleased that Charlotte’s son has been accepted at West Point; he has the opportunity to get a great education.  But if he’s killed or maimed for life helping the American empire pursue its imperial goals in distant wars that should be none of our business, I would consider it a tragic waste.

But despite that, I’ll concede that Mike Coffman may have done Charlotte’s son a favor.  I certainly hope it turns out that way.

But I can guarantee you he hasn’t done her daughter or son-in-law any favors.

I was a delegate at the 6th Congressional nominating assembly where Coffman was nominated  for his 5th term in Congress.  The venue was the large auditorium at the Heritage Christian Center in Aurora.  When Mike took the stage to accept the nomination, it looked like he was running for Secretary General of the United Nations-rather than the US Congress.  The platform was packed with every conceivable ethnic group, including women in hijabs.

At the assembly, Coffman had all the money, all the organization, all the years in D.C., all the support of the Arapahoe County Republican establishment.

But despite this, his acceptance speech got a tepid reception.

Coffman’s opponent at the assembly, Kyle Bradell, was a 20-something, completely unknown newcomer who took the stage with exactly one supporter-who also gave the nominating speech.

In his acceptance speech, Bradell basically talked about one issue:  ending illegal immigration. And how Coffman has flip flopped on the issue to keep his cushy job as the district has gone from being solidly Republican to hotly competitive with redistricting.

In sharp contrast to Coffman’s speech, Bradell’s fiery address got a rousing reception from the rank and file Republican activists in the seats.

And the proof that Bradell’s support was more than just applause deep?  Despite Coffman’s apparently overwhelming advantages, he managed to keep his long shot, wildly underfunded opponent off the August primary ballot by a mere 3% points.

I voted for Bradell with a clear conscience.  Why?  If you can’t trust what Coffman says on immigration, how do you know when you can believe him?  In my estimation, he’s most likely to be looking out for just one person in the Washington swamp: himself.

But maybe, you say, things changed as the 2016 moved into the fall and Donald Trump secured the Republican Presidential nomination.  And Coffman locked up the nomination for the 6th.

Well, yes, they did change.  But for the worse.  Mike Coffman was the first Republican member of the House to release a paid ad claiming he would “stand up” to Trump if he were elected.  Here’s what he said about Trump in his TV spot that ran in English and Spanish:  “Honestly, I don’t care for him much.

Funny talk from a guy who, before his district became competitive from redistricting, sponsored legislation in 2011 to make English the nation’s official language. And suggested that voters who couldn’t read their ballots “should pull out a dictionary.”  And now he’s stooped to running bilingual campaign ads.  And making a big deal of learning Spanish by watching Spanish language soap operas.  If this isn’t pandering, what is, for heaven’s sake?

But what does all this mean for Charlotte’s daughter and son-in-law?

Just this.  A house painter or a sprinkler repairman were never going to be wealthy in this country.  But they were honorable, blue collar occupations that gave their practitioners, with hard work, the opportunity to enjoy a middle class life style and raise a family.

No longer.   The unprecedented waves of immigrants, both legal and illegal, currently washing up on our shores haven’t hurt attorneys, CPAs, Wall Street money manipulators, and others like them at the top of the income distribution.  Their incomes are rising nicely, thank you.

But those relatively low skill, low income native born American workers, like Charlotte’s daughter and son-in-law, are falling ever further behind.

Does Mike Coffman care?  If asked, he would no doubt say that he is “fighting” for small businesses like those owned by Charlotte’s daughter and her husband.

But, as is true with everything, actions speak louder than words.  What actions would really help native born individuals like Charlotte’s daughter?  Limiting immigration-of both the illegal and legal variety.

But what is Coffman actually doing?  More pandering.  Putting up bilingual websites that tout his efforts to sponsor legislation granting citizenship to illegals who are doing jobs that would otherwise go to native Americans like Charlotte’s daughter and her husband.

I have no idea how  voted Charlotte in the 2016 election.  Heck, maybe she voted for Hillary-but from what I know of her, that would be far out of character for her.

But I do know this.  Charlotte’s family fits the profile of the The Deplorables that supported President Trump and which Hillary Clinton so contemptuously referred to during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

Again, Mike Coffman is unlikely to repeat the mistake of saying out loud what Clinton thought of people like Charlotte’s family.  After all, you don’t survive nearly 30 years as a career politician by making foolish mistakes.

But Mike doesn’t have to say it out loud.  Just look at what he’s doing.

The Kindness of Strangers

pot of beans on fireI practiced law for 10 years, which, according to one of my favorite gag lines, “was about five years too many.”  But law was by no means my only career mistake.  And today, shortly after having cleaned out my office in preparation for retirement, is not a bad time to reflect on a life that could serve as an illustration of Malcolm Muggeridge’s autobiography, Chronicles of Wasted Time.

But, in such a target rich environment, where to begin?

An image that easily comes to mind is in the upper reaches of Gore Creek, beneath Red Buffalo Pass and above Vail in about the spring of 1975.  Alone with my backpacking gear, I had parked my ’69 VW Bug at the foot of Vail Pass when it was still a two lane road, and hiked several steep miles up the trail to timber line.  I pitched my yellow pup tent on a huge ledge, just as the sun was setting down the valley to the west.

As I sat there admiring the view, a small herd of deer cautiously emerged from the dark shadows of the forest to graze in the lush meadow beneath me.  Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they vanished; something had spooked them.

Not too far away, a faint column of smoke rose from another campsite.  On my way up, I had talked briefly with the man, about my age, who was camped there.

“Mind if I sit down for a bit?”

“Go ahead,” he replied, “make yourself comfortable.”

I lowered my pack, found a smooth spot on the log on the opposite side of the fire from him, and took out my water bottle.  The grass around the rock fire ring was gone, beaten down to ash smudged dirt.  Pinto beans seethed in a soot encrusted pot over the flames; I didn’t see anything else on the menu for dinner.

Assuming that he was in need of my back packing expertise, I said, “It’s going to take forever  for those beans to get cooked at this altitude.”

“That’s ok,” he replied, “I have time.  I’ve been up here about a month.”

“Wow,” I replied, regretting I had said anything about the beans.  “You’ve been up here since before the snow melted.  What have you been doing?”

“I got home from Vietnam a while back.  I wanted to get away and try to clear my head.”

Vietnam: that miserable war had just wound down to it’s miserable conclusion.  But, unlike our current miserable wars, at least it did, finally, come to an end.

I don’t remember much else about that encounter.  And it’s likely that I wouldn’t remember it at all if it hadn’t been a sort of echo of my own experience in the Gore Range that weekend:  camping alone, seeking direction. Having just graduated from Colorado University with a European history degree, I wanted time alone to think and pray about what I was going to do with my life.

The decision facing me was a binary career choice:  law school or seminary to study church history.

Why nothing beyond more schooling?  For one, I had actually grown to enjoy the academic life since becoming a Christian two years earlier. Unlike my first years in college, I had taken school much more seriously, was learning how to write, and had excelled in most of my classes.  One semester, for the first time, I got straight A’s (not counting the Russian History class that I had dropped when I got so hopelessly behind.)

But there was also an element of fear, fear of facing the real world.  School was a safe, familiar environment.

A few weeks before, at a loud graduation party a friend who was getting an engineering degree asked me over the din of Led Zeppelin, “What are you going to do when we’re done?” When he heard that I was thinking of law school, he scornfully asked, “Why don’t you get a real job?”  I had no ready answer.  Maybe this time in the Gore Range would help.

I had submitted law school applications at CU and Denver University.  And for the graduate program at Princeton seminary for church history.

With my checkered academic record, the Colorado University law school rejected me outright.

The Denver University law school was only willing to admit me to the night program.  And, to make that achievement even more dubious, it was about then that DU was in financial hospice care; they were probably admitting anyone who could fog a mirror.

With the encouragement of a German History professor who took an enthusiastic liking to me, Robert Pois, I applied to Princeton Seminary.  They rejected me, but I figured there were plenty of other places out there where you could study church history.  True, I had only the vaguest idea of what I would do with such a degree: even I knew that the job prospects for teaching history at the college level were dismal.  Nonetheless, I stubbornly clung to the notion that this was an option worth keeping open.

I was certain of one thing, however: I wasn’t going to seminary to become a minister.  To this day, I can’t attempt much more than speculation about why I was so averse to that career path.  It wouldn’t have been without precedent in my family.  My grandfather Swalm was a Nazarene pastor.  My uncle was a Nazarene Army chaplain in Korea; he was killed by friendly fire during the chaotic retreat down the peninsula in the first few days of that war.

Yet another war in a far distant part of the world which, even now, threatens to drag us into a conflict that should be none of our business.

But it wasn’t just family history that could have led me into the pulpit.  Since shortly after becoming a Christian, I had been an enthusiastic participant at the Hillside Church of the Savior. It was a Jesus Freak  church that met in the home of Gene Thomas.

Like Gene himself, the house was a hulking, physically unattractive structure overlooking Boulder Creek just north of the CU campus.  On Sunday evenings, the place would be packed with students sitting on the floor and the overstuffed chairs strewn through the house.

Before church began, dinner would be served; one evening I made split pea soup for 100 in the Thomas’ cramped kitchen.  The congregation, many of whom looked like the main reason they had come was for a free meal, formed a line around the dining room table and then found a place to sit.  How much split pea got spilled on the carpets?  Plenty, I expect. Very young families were just making an appearance at the church; infants on blankets, some discretely at their mothers’ breast.  Gene’s wife, Gerri, put up with a lot.

Dinner over, Doug Bush led the rousing choruses on his ringing, 12 string guitar.

Gene, whose day job was operating his phone answering service, would then perch himself on a stool at the foot of the stairs that led to the second floor.  From there, he made Jesus’ parables come alive.  He was generous with his talents and resources, nurturing young leaders, allowing his home to be overrun each week.

I was baptized by one of Gene’s young assistants in the CU swimming pool; it wouldn’t have made sense for Gene to haul his bulk in and out of the pool.  My parents came from Denver to see me get dunked.

For my last two years of college I shared a two story house with a few other guys from the church in Boulder’s “The Hill” neighborhood just west of the campus.  To this day, it’s a good memory; one of my roommates became a brother in law.

Years later, after I had moved back to Denver, I learned that Gene had been forced to resign when it came out that he was a homosexual.  When I heard it, my stomach was tied in a knot of disbelief.  With a new Believer’s naivety, it was unimaginable.  But, it would not be the last time my church life was touched so nearly by such a resignation.  Gene died in 2012, survived by his wife of 63 years and a host of grandkids.

Somewhere along the way, I spoke with one of the guys at the church, Bobby Winters, about my career dilemma.  Young, in his 20’s, bold in sharing the Gospel, he was nonetheless dying from kidney failure.   His intense face had already taken on a sallow, yellow pallor; he died when his first kidney transplant failed and a second organ couldn’t be found.  His advice was straightforward:  “Have you prayed about it?”  He asked the question with a calm certainty that my answer would be forthcoming.

“I have,” I replied.  But I said it with what I hoped was a poker face that didn’t betray my uncertainty.

My problem with prayer is long standing:  it’s more like daydreaming than prayer.  Much of what I did that weekend was daydream.  And, truth be told, not much has changed for my prayer life in the intervening decades.

So, how was the decision made?  Not by me.  I flipped a coin.  Not much of a career counselor.  So, sometime during the weekend, it came up “law school.”  And that’s what I did.

In “A Street Car Named Desire” Blanche DuBois utters the play’s most famous line:  “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  So have I.  And despite having treated Him at times like a stranger, He’s been kind to me far beyond my just desserts.

Under Construction

gccucUnder Construction is a men’s group at Greenwood Community Church that meets on the first Saturday of every month to do handy man jobs for people in the area.  The folks we assist are  usually single women, usually elderly, usually church members.  But not always.  We also do work for a variety of ministries unrelated to the church.  And for individuals who have no other connection to the church other than a need that we have somehow been made aware of.

Some of the 25-30 guys in the group are experts in the construction trades; they have pickups loaded with more tools than you can shake a stick at and they can take on some pretty complex jobs.  But most are just men who can do things like rake leaves, drain a sprinkler system in the fall, or fix a leaky faucet.  The one thing they have in common is a desire to serve the Lord by serving their neighbor.

I used to be one of the duffers until NHP got the best of me-at least to the extent that it made no sense for me get on a ladder or do other jobs that most would consider routine.  But are now a white knuckle adventure for me.

So now, John Greene and I take turns fixing breakfast for the crew before they head out.  Cooking is something I enjoy. And the guys enjoy eating.   For a recent Saturday I made an over night breakfast casserole that  was simple and very tasty.  I also picked up some Duffy Rolls-a Denver institution and the best sweet rolls in town.  John provided the fresh fruit and juice this month.

What we do is very simple-but greatly appreciated.  We think there might be some other churches out there that might like to replicate the idea.  If you are interested in more information, please let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

On My Honor

 

Philmont_Scout_Ranch_entrance_signI had breakfast with Jeff Brandel a while back.  An attorney, he serves as the chair of the Arapahoe District of the Denver Area Boy Scouts.  He also volunteers as a leader in his son’s troop.  Busy guy.

I wanted to talk with him about how the Scouts are responding to the seemingly infinite number of bizarre sexual controversies that society has thrust on an organization which, as the founder, Robert Baden-Powell, said, was intended to be “a game for boys under the leadership of boys under the direction of men.”

Like Jeff, I’ve been involved in the Scouts for years.  First, when I was a kid.  They gave me my first taste of backpacking on the eastern flank of Mount Evans, where playing delightfully chaotic games of Capture the Flag in willow choked meadows are fond memories. And which I now look back on with an almost unbearable wistfulness since my NPH has put any hope of repeating such experiences forever beyond reach.  At least on this side of that particular manifestation of Paradise.

When my son, Byron, joined when he came of age I was enthusiastic.  Although he never made it to Eagle (neither did I), he went on some great high adventure trips, including one to the Florida Sea Base.  Although he disputes the point, I still contend that this trip played a part in one of the best decisions he ever made: enlisting in the Navy.  Together, in my pre-NPH days, we did a 10 day backpack through Philmont Scout Ranch.

Perhaps the best way of summarizing the impact Scouting had on our family?  Something that Byron’s sisters said over dinner one evening after he had finished regaling us with tales of his latest weekend outing: “We sure wish the Girl Scouts did the kind of things the Boy Scouts do.”

After a several year hiatus when Byron left home, I re-engaged with the Scouts for what, I admit, were initially mercenary motives. The upper echelon leadership of the Denver Area Council is widely considered to be one of the most influential group of business movers and shakers in town.  An insurance agent, I was hoping for some scraps that fell from the masters’ table.  But, not being a particularly good salesman, the crumbs were few and far between.

Nonetheless, while I came for the money, I stayed for the values.  The Scout Oath and Law, which the boys memorize and recite at every meeting, embody the enduring principals that are the bedrock of a successful civilization.  And if culture is the dog that wags the tail of politics (and my eight years in the Colorado House persuades me that this is a truism), we must have some organizations, like the Scouts, that stand in opposition to the relentless and nihilistic promotion of sex and violence that Hollywood and MTV have on offer.  So, feeling an obligation to do my part, I enlisted as a volunteer for the Arapahoe District for several years.

And, although they never asked for it, the Scouts now find themselves at the sharp tip of the spear in the culture war.  An initial salvo was fired at the Democratic National Convention in L.A. in 2000, when a group of Eagle Scouts were invited to lead the Pledge of Allegiance at the opening ceremony.  For their trouble, they were booed by some delegates because the Scouts didn’t, at the time, allow homosexuals to serve as adult leaders.  Despite efforts by the main stream media to push this event into George Orwell’s 1984 memory hole, there is plenty of evidence that it did,  indeed, happen.

A full accounting of the Left’s war on the Scouts is beyond the scope of this post, but you can get the flavor of it here.

So, now retired and wanting to re-re-engage with the Scouts, I asked Jeff over our recent breakfast, “How goes the war?”  And, specifically, what was the impact on Scouting of the admission of homosexual and transgendered (whatever in the world that signifies!) Scouts and leaders?

“You know,” he answered, “I’m surprised by how little difference it has made.  I haven’t heard anything more about it.  Nothing from the Troops or parents.”

The answer was not entirely satisfactory-I guess I was expecting something more confrontational.  But I was upset about what was happening to an organization that was supposed to be a game for boys.  And restless enough to begin writing a post that, however, wound up in a terminal cul-de-sac.  Was the post too angry?  Or badly out of step with the relentless niceness of the Scout oath and law? Or just a mean spirited manifestation of my own personal pique?  I wasn’t sure.  After all, I was not an expert on the issue and I had only followed it from afar in the media-a less than reliable source on such a vexed topic.

And there the post remained for several weeks until I, along with other leaders in the Arapahoe District, received an email from Jeff.  The body of the email praised the work of a group of adult Scouts that had produced an understanding with the Denver Archdiocese that would allow the organization to continue using Catholic facilities despite the decision to admit individuals professing virtually any sexual preference.  The email contained such phrases as “great work,” “gratified,” “positive program,'” “supporting . . . the Boy Scouts.”

Unfortunately, however, the self congratulatory, happy talk of the email was a jarring contrast with the stern missive from Archbishop Aquila that came as an attachment to the email and appeared under the heading “Scouting in the balance.”

These are the Archbishop’s opening sentences:  “I was dismayed to learn this past January that the Boy Scouts of America decided to end their practice of more than 100 years that allowed only boys to be members.  They did this by permitting transgender boys to join troops, that is, girls who struggle with gender dysphoria and are living as though they are boys.”

He goes on to describe the Scouts’ decision to be part of a “slow retreat in the face of the secular culture’s advancement of an LGBTQ agenda.”

Bishop Aquila concludes with what is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the organization: he names several other “acceptable alternatives” to the Scouts that “currently are not problematic.”

The Archbishop’s words are thoughtful and concerning.  If you are like me, and Scouting and what it stands for are important to you, I urge you to read them for yourself.

A couple of closing thoughts:

  • I predict that the LGBTQ crowd that is baying at the heels of the Scouts won’t rest until it has driven them out of a Church that holds that homosexuality, as Aquila put it, is “contrary to the natural law and the Church’s teaching on sexuality.”  Unfortunately, with the political and economic pressure the LGBTQ lobby can bring to bear, I place little confidence in the Scout’s promise to defend the Church in a lawsuit-at least vigorously-when push comes to shove.
  • And even if it did, it’s probably a losing battle.  Again, culture is the dog that wags the tail of politics.  And in this fraught age, everything is political.  Even the games of young boys.  So, at least for the time being, the culture has decided:  when it comes to sex, pretty much anything goes.
  • What remains undecided is whether we, as a culture, want to continue riding along with a dog that promises to drag us into waters where “here be dragons.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowbelly

image2 (10)My daughter, Lauren, and I have made the decision to embark on an Odyssey of sorts-a foodie exploration of Denver’s dining hot spots.  And then occasionally blog about them.

Lauren will captain the ship. I’m just along for the ride; get me further than two blocks from my office at I-25 and Colorado and I’m out to sea.

By rights, her half-Korean husband, Haden, should be first mate and navigator.  A car guy, his sled can probably drive itself to most of the chichi Asian restaurants around town.   And, once there, he can expertly guide other wayfarers through the seemingly endless menu choices.  But, someone has to work-you know, the curse of the laboring class.

Our fellow Argonauts will be Lauren’s daughters, Bridget, nearly 3, and Caroline, almost 1.  They’re an important part of the crew.  Bridget to make sure the mac and cheese and chicken tender offerings are shipshape.  And Caroline to make sure that scraps of food eaten directly off the table aren’t the culinary equivalent of walking the plank.

We went to Yellow Belly Chicken on the site of the old Stapleton Airport the other day.  Tucked in just north of Colfax in the Stanley Marketplace, a cavernous former hanger. I, of course, was clueless of both the location and the cuisine.

But, as a native Denverite, I do know something about Stapleton Airport.  When I was a kid, my dad was a traveling salesman.  And I mean TRAVELING.  I don’t know how many United Airlines 100,000 Mile Club plaques hung from the knotty pinewood paneling in our basement-but it was a alot.  And when he got home at the end of the week, it was a big deal.

Mom would pile us four kids into the 1957 Cadillac sedan, head north on Monoco to 32nd (now Martin Luther King Boulevard), go east past Quebec, and glide up to the passenger terminal.  On the way, a quarter mile to the north and behind a chain link fence, was the Stanley Aviation hanger.  Apparently parked at random between the fence and the hanger was a flotilla of private, general aviation prop planes.  It was an adventure.

Especially when dad, with his million dollar smile, came through the self-opening doors of the terminal carrying his brushed aluminum suitcase.  It must have weighed a ton.  He’d put it in the trunk, trade places with mom, and off we’d go.

I would take up my usual station, standing behind him and looking over his right shoulder.  Before we were off the airport property, he’d push in the electric cigarette lighter and fire up a Kent-the one with the famous Micronite Filter.  I’d savor the first whiff of smoke as it came off the faintly pink glow of the lighter; after that, the smell was good, but not great.  (Now, I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes.  And, as you know, it’s very rarely encountered in a state where cigarettes are seen as something like the unforgivable sin-and marijuana shops were on every other corner as I drove along Colfax after lunch.)

So how did our merry crew fare at Yellow Belly?  Well, to be frank, sort of like the second pressing of my dad’s cigarette smoke: good, but not great.  Bridget’s chicken tenders and mac and cheese were gobbled up with little prompting.  I pushed Caroline out of the restaurant in her stroller with no apparent ill-effects from the table scraps.  But my fried chicken thighs were on the greasy side, although the brussel sprouts slaw was just fine.

But the highlight of this port of call?  A guilty pleasure: the dark chocolate milk shake that I shared with Lauren at Sweet Cow, an ice-cream joint in the mall and just around the corner from Yellow Belly.  Bridget enjoyed both her single dip sugar cone and romping on the Bouncy Cow in the kids’ corral.

So, on we sail across the wine dark sea until we arrive at our next culinary harbor.  Stay tuned.