New Life Church

Yesterday I took some pictures of local churches, including the one shown above, New Life Christian Ministries. I ordinarily avoid arty filters because they seem inauthentic for someone like me who is lacking the skill to create such an image without putting a photo through an algorithm. I am sharing the one above because it looks like a church service makes me feel. I feel the Spirit at such times, and the above image reflects a little of that warmth. I am grateful for such joy. It is not something I take for granted.

Below is the original photo:

East Kibby

It’s been too long since I’ve answered the proverbial siren call of an abandoned building. Nowadays I wouldn’t dare enter such a building uninvited, and it is in the nature of a derelict building that no one is going to issue such an invitation. When I was on the verge of my teenage years, I’d just open the door and walk around inside. The inside of such places would smell like mice and old magazines, and there would often be a dusty upright piano in residence.

This reflection on abandoned buildings brings my mother to mind. Years after the fact, I mentioned my solitary habit of going inside such buildings, and she told me that she did the same thing when she was around the same age! This led to a tangential discussion of haunted places, and she said something that revealed how bold her mind could be, “Who’s to say that only the dead can haunt people? We may have left impressions of ourselves in places where we used to live. For all we know, images of how we were in the past could be haunting people who now live in those places.”

Back to today’s abandoned building, it looks like it hosted both a barbershop and a church. The church sign is much older than I’d have guessed. I looked up the pastor listed, and I found his obituary from 2007, and he was living several states away from Lima at that time.

There are still plenty of barbershops and churches in Lima, but this building in particular makes me wish that it were a portal to the past. To have heard some of the sermons delivered would have been a privilege indeed. Also, my husband said that he had his hair cut at that very barbershop about 50 years ago. I’d love to have witnessed a moment like that from his past. I didn’t meet him until he was 50, so I can only imagine his young self clad in flared pants and a long-collared shirt as he walked into Allen’s Barbershop.

Gloria

I’ve taken very few photos during the pandemic, as if I could dampen the strength of my memories of this time by avoiding my camera. Of course, this strategy did not succeed in its goal. Instead, I missed taking photos of people and places that I can no longer see physically in the present tense. A few buildings I meant to capture burned down or were demolished. Wind storms knocked over some trees or pruned them ruthless abandon. I also lost someone most dear to me, my mother.

I regret that I took hardly any pictures of family during the past year. If you are blessed to have still-living parents or grandparents, I recommend the habit of taking pictures of each of them on a regular basis. Better yet, record video and audio of them. I wish I had videos and audio of my mom. What I would give to have audio of her colorful commentary when she’d hate-watch her least favorite politicians!

While the pandemic is by no means over, I am ready to venture forth with camera in hand again. Today I took a few photos near downtown Lima, but my camera had lain idle for so long that its battery lost its charge early in the walk.

Speaking of the pandemic itself, I don’t have a job that can be done effectively from home, so I’ve been reporting to work as usual. During height my state’s stay-at-home order a year ago, there was the weirdness of near-empty streets on my way to work. Then we had a motley crew of workers who came and went, some who decided to take a gap year from college, others who seemed to have emerged from cocoons after unknown seasons of dormancy. My husband once told me that the greatest unused band name of all time is Scrotum. I think all of the future members of Scrotum were working around me last summer, including a young fellow who looked like a corn-fed Adam Clayton circa the October album. There was also a guy who looked like an equal fusion of Sammy Hagar and Gallagher, but he evaporated from the scene too quickly to acquaint himself with the future band members.

I will close this post with “Gloria” by U2:

Broccoli Cheese Soup

I’ve decided to end my extended hiatus from this blog by sharing a recipe. There have been many, many times I’ve been tempted to write about the pandemic, but I hesitated out of concern that I’d later cringe over capturing a faulty moment in the work in progress that is my opinion on all things Covid. Right now I’m inclined to think that the 1918 Flu became a “forgotten pandemic” not just due to the horror of the disease itself but also because people learned that some of their friends, family, neighbors and leaders were really just self-centered shitheads.

To take my mind off assorted pandemic controversies, I made a big pot of broccoli cheese soup on New Year’s Day. While the soup has a somewhat healthy title, it’s actually quite indulgent.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

serves 8 (or 2 who are interested in rapid weight gain)

  • 1 quart half and half
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 T dried minced onion
  • 3 heads finely chopped broccoli florets
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 oz shredded parmesan cheese

Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir in flour slowly with a whisk. Let the flour bubble for a couple minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Gradually whisk in half and half, working out lumps. Whisk in milk and broth. Sprinkle in dried onion. Heat mixture until it reaches a gentle boil for two minutes, stirring regularly. Add broccoli and carrots and cook for 10-15 minutes more, until vegetables are as soft as you like. Turn off heat and gradually stir in cheddar and parmesan cheese until all the cheese is melted. Serve with crackers or fresh baked rolls.

Packed Up for Delivery to Mom

Corona

 

COVID-19 is too sterile a name for the disease that’s wreaking havoc around the world. It’s like turning on a police scanner and hearing an APB about a Smart Car whose driver is hellbent on running red lights. Surely such a problem would shortly take care of itself. Somebody driving an insanely bloated pick up truck would crush the Smart Car and its driver within a few intersections.

As Brian Wilson sang long ago, I was not made for these times. I hate the contagion of ginormous pick up trucks driven with no vocational purpose other than telling the world that your real job is being an asshole. Yesterday I dared to make comments on some Facebook news posts, and I was dismayed to learn firsthand just how deeply trolls have infected social media. I didn’t succumb to the temptation of insulting them back. I spent half of my formative years in the sub basement of the working class Midwest. My tongue can be as sharp as my imagination is fearless. While I am well built for solitude, I long ago grew tired of being ghosted because I was willing to say or write appalling words to someone.

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My daughter and I were in line at a grocery a few days ago, and her comment on the National Enquirer cover above shown above was, “How the hell do you get infected with death?”

She uttered these words in a loud, grainy Wilson Pickett sort of voice. Does anyone else have special voices for their pets? It’s kind of like imagining what a pet would say if they could talk but actually saying those imagined words aloud in a different timbre. I’m not sure what sort of roughshod life our guinea pig L’Orange was living before we adopted him, but Eileen gave him a whiskey-and-cigars voice on the day we brought him home. He’s fearless in sharing his opinions, and his fund of knowledge is broad enough to know that the Dough Boys were badasses. His nemesis is our second guinea pig Bud. L’Orange has let it be known that he is like Blu-Ray and Bud is just Betamax. Bud—who has a falsetto voice, btw—says that L’Orange is too pooped to pop anyway.

Yesterday, L’Orange announced that the novel coronavirus outbreak began with Bud and that it should be renamed the Budonic Plague. When Eileen gives voice to our guinea pigs, it’s like a piece-by-piece revelation of her inner world. There’s a pun stuck in Budonic that implies her political leanings, which is the most anyone is going to hear from her on the matter. When she took U.S. History a couple years ago, she refused to turn in a weekly paragraph assignment about current events on the grounds that she would not be compelled to reveal her political opinions. She took a C in the class and life went on. I was both surprised and relieved that she registered to vote and has actually voted.

I’m dismayed and sometimes angered at the level of public denial and myth-making in the wake of the current outbreak. Then I consider that St. Paul was not wrong when he wrote that by judging others, we convict ourselves (Romans 2:1). I have no professional or moral authority to advise anyone in matters of public health. I still bookend my days with morning and evening cigarettes. I’d guess that most of the people who are crowing on about flu vs. COVID-19 deaths would be blown away to learn just how many people die from tobacco use every year.

I happen to have the dubious distinction of having been quarantined due to a different disease. My sister and I contracted hepatitis A in 1982, and we were quarantined for a month. My family had recently moved, and we had no friends yet but each other. We had a sudden descent into poverty, and infectious disease was there to welcome us. I didn’t mind the quarantine. I loved missing a month of school. I don’t recall even trying to open any doors of our house to go outside. I watched too much television and was fascinated by the wide array of extreme generic food my mom stockpiled for the quarantine. This happened in the days when generics were fairly new to grocery stores. Back then generic items had packaging with a plain white background and black block lettering declaring the contents inside. My favorite quarantine snack was a PEANUT BUTTER and government cheese sandwich.

A few months before the quarantine, we happened to do Bible school at an apocalyptic themed church. The Bible school happened during an era when school-aged children still had the freedom to lead lives with compartments that were largely unknown to their parents. While walking through a playground, my sister and I received an invitation to the church, and we decided spontaneously that we should try it all on our own. Who knows why kids did such things with the freedom they had. When my husband was around the same age in the 60’s, he started hanging around a junk yard where he learned to drive a pick up truck.

At the End Times church Bible school, all teaching was done though the lens of Revelation. Life was full of the signs that spiritual warfare was leading shortly to Judgement Day. Beware of finding the numbers 666 on license plates and in telephone books. Learn from the terrible examples of those who’ve fallen prey to Satan, and so on.

Our time at the Bible school was something that I thought I’d tucked away along with other people, things and places I knew in the middle class days of my early childhood. However, a dread of the unseen reared its head during the quarantine. If I slept on my side and burrowed my head deeply enough into my pillow, I could hear my pulse and sometimes imagined that I was hearing the sound of Satan emerging from the molten core of the earth. He was at the edge of the core wielding a pickaxe, and the End Times would begin when he reached the surface of Earth. Such a thought didn’t terrify me because I figured he’d need years to finish his task.

Last week I discovered that my mind hasn’t entirely uncoupled disease from Revelation. I watched a woman grab the last cylinder of disinfectant wipes on a store shelf. She had such a look of relief and anticipation on her face that I wondered if she was going to consume the wipes much like St. John the Divine ate the scroll (Rev 10:8-10).

For anyone who may face isolation during this outbreak, I’d recommend cracking your imagination wide open to cope. Through enduring quarantine, I learned to weave my memories and learning into daydreams that have protected me from boredom throughout the years. As all things both good and bad come to an end, this outbreak too will pass.

As for my own anxieties at this time, I worry more about infecting someone else than the potential reality of being ill myself. Admittedly, it is odd that I’d worry about things out of order, but that is how my mind works.