30 October, 2007

Not for all the Tea in San Luis Obispo

Despite the potential squabbles with my possible, future wife (yes, we are getting theoretical today), I have given serious thought to naming a child of mine “Linnaea.”

“That’s an interesting name Eric,” you may ponder, “but where does it come from? Was that the name of a relative?”

No, dear reader – Linnaea is the name of an old woman in San Luis Obispo whom I barely knew. The most important facet of her history lies in the founding of Linnaea’s Café in downtown San Luis Obispo – I place that I haunted frequently in my college years and a place my spirit haunts to this day.

I am actually visiting San Luis Obispo today, and I thought paying homage to this fine town outweighed the risk of flirting with diary. Who’s to say you agree with me? I suppose you’re continued reading is at that will tell.


A view of Linnaea's from Higuera and Garden


Back to Linnaea’s… I have a sordid history with the place. If I look back on my four years in San Luis Obispo, I can point to three of them revolving around the Café. Perhaps, Linnaea’s regular, John Feeno (pony-tail dreadlock, linguist) is right in his deduction that his table at Linnaea’s is the center of the universe? Every girl that I liked in college shared with me at the Café. You knew that you were becoming good friends with someone outside when you took them into Linnaea’s for the first time and you had to make an effort to take your Linnaea’s friendships outside of the Café because you didn’t know where else to go. For my last year and a half in San Luis, I pretty much went to Linnaea’s every weekday morning at 7:00 (when they opened) and had a cup of tea with the baristas (whom were invariably my friends). If San Luis were my world, than certainly Linnaea’s as a world within it (wheels in wheels, plays within the play).

So, as I sit here today, I raise my cup of tea to you, dear readers – I raise it to you, dear Linnaea’s – I raise it to you, dear San Luis. And as Tiny Tim observed, “God bless us, everyone.”

27 October, 2007

Happy 300!

We did it! We have lasted for 300 days this year! Congratulations everyone. I never thought October 27 would ever come, but here we are.

Oh, in other news, it is also Navy Day! We are just celebrating right and left here at Oolong Fancies (i.e. Eric Garner).

“Wait a minute, Eric,” you should probably interject. “What does Navy Day or 300 whatsacoohoosits got to do with your blog?”

Well dear friends, I am taking a stab at patriotism because I have been reported to be a communist!

“Eric, haven’t you claimed to have socialist leanings all along? And why are you writing such short paragraphs today?”

Both good questions my friend, and I will attempt to answer at least one of them.

I have always had a strange affinity for socialism. Granted it has gone in fits and bursts; sometimes I see it is naïve idealism and at others as a valid individual goal. Regardless of how my opinions have changed, it is fair to note that I am drawn to socialism in both an academic and practical sense.


A Birthday Card for Megan Hansen Hansen


My academic curiosities have lead me to study the modern history of countries such as Russia and China; speculating as to where they went wrong and what they did right. I’ve read communist literature, and while Marx’s Manifesto was the most interesting treatise I read, I also waded through Engels’ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. I also examined some of the literature of the Soviet Union’s dissident writers. I even at one point in an essay wrote the ridiculous line, “[the] Soviet Russia (Narnia before the curse had been lifted: always winter, never Christmas).” So, a bit of time in my academic career was focused in the red.

However, my interest was not just in the intellectual questions surrounding a communist world, but penetrated as deep as the spiritual and remained as opportunist as a capitalist venture. I wondered if the doctrines espoused by the socialism were the same as Christianity; however, it lacked (or rather denied) the impetus by which this could be accomplished – namely Christ. Was being a good socialist the same as being a good Christian – choosing to work charitably for your fellow human? However, these pure thoughts could not last forever, and I conceived of a children’s doll that you would tickle until it confessed its socialist leanings – I called it Tickle Me Pinko.

Before I completely forget why I’m writing this entry, allow for me to tell you of my accusation.

One night early this last summer, I went to check my email with a fellow counselor up at Mount Hermon’s Conference Center. It was a nice little get away from what had been an emotional first couple of weeks, and we were enjoying what I came to call “Big-Word Conversation.” A surprise awaited us in the staff lounge – the most awkward Mount Hermon Summer Staff employee of them all. I felt a little sorry for this guy, it was obvious that not many people wanted to talk with him, and so I engaged him in conversation over a game of pool while my friend checked her email.

As I sank ball after ball, I left my awkward companion ample time to make bold claims and ask me bizarre questions. I generally responded with as brief of answers as I could – I’m not very good at multitasking (talking-doing anything). It came out that I had been a student of history – my competitor made it very clear that the only history he was interested in was American, particularly if it had to do with The Civil or Second World Wars. I flippantly noted that I had primarily studied Modern Russia and China.

I want to pull you, dear reader, aside for a moment. What would be your response to a statement like mine about what I studied in school?

“Well Eric,” you would hopefully state, “I suppose that I would ask something along the lines of, ‘why did you choose to study that?’ or, ‘are you interested in comparative socialist history?’”

Those would both have been very good questions… I’m glad I have such astute readers. No, he did not respond that way – he simply blurted:

“So, are you a communist?”

This was neither a joking question, nor was it asked as a friend. This fellow wanted to know right now whether I could even possibly be a Christian – he may need to report me to the director post-haste! We have a pinko-commie bastard in the sanctum sanctorum! Alert the guards!

“I have socialist leanings, yes, but I am not a communist,” I answered, my face flushed and my hand tightening around my cue. What gall!

The conversation shot back and forth for a while, my attempting to explain why it was very Christian to be a personal-socialist and his looking at me like I had a lobster stuck up my nose.

I called the Eight and sunk it. We parted ways. But I continued running into this guy over the summer. I continued to work charitably (by which I mean in practical love) toward him, and he continued to be awkward. By the end of the summer he wanted frequently sought me out for conversation, and while I didn’t seek him out, I did not avoid him. Could his heart be beating a little pinker today?

Oh, and I don’t know why those paragraphs were so short.

26 October, 2007

Confessions of a Prehistoric Bird Monster

Today I have something vile about myself to confess – something that I had always figured I would take with me to the grave… Sometimes I am transformed, against my will, into a hairy, reptilian beast with a dog peeing on a baby for a heart and a portly hog loose in a sweet shop for self-control. I just figured you hadn’t heard enough about my encounters with the supernatural, and thus I decided you might want to know what to do when you note: “My, Eric certainly has an animal-magnetism about him today. He could use a shave though.”

Where to begin? Where to begin? I suppose I ought to give you the history of this curse, lest you become irritated with my recent misfortune. So sit back, kiddos, this will be a long one.

The year was Fourteen-Ninety-Two, and aside being when Columbus (that bastard) sailed the oceans blue it is also when everything of consequence happened in Spain. In the small city of Verín in southern Spain there was an unholy beast that stole young women from their vegetable gardens and planted them like one would a potato. Some thought the fiend who fed on human flesh was making the first attempts at a vegetarian lifestyle, while others presumed it to be a giant squirrel-like imp who wanted to store food for the winter. Regardless of what the creature was doing, it really irked the local towns folk, and so they vowed to rid their land of this pestilence.

It being the height of the Inquisition, the people sought the help of their Grand Inquisitor to lead the attack on this brute. And so, with religion at the helm of this miniature crusade, the people set out to slay the beast. They eventually caught up with the monster near the coast. Its rotting teeth and unkempt hair frightened the irate mob, but could not shake their resolution. With ire boiling in their stomachs they charged the creature and fell it thus. And there was much rejoicing.


Seal of the Inquisition


However, no party can last forever (no matter how much I wish they could), and the revelry of the villagers was cut short by their attempts to destroy the pestilence forever with fire. It would not burn. Despite their best efforts, they could not get the gremlin to ignite! This left the Grand Inquisitor with quite the dilemma. On one hand, he could not leave the monster where it lay; for fear that it would reincarnate and strike against the village with proliferating malice. However, on the other hand he could not take the monster back to Verín with him because it was unclean. Thus he made the choice to leave it with Isaac, a Jew who had managed to escape from the oppressive ghettos. (Please remember that 1492 was also the height of persecution against the Spanish Jews).

At first Isaac did not much mind the brute, as he was somewhat impish himself. He delighted himself with using it to play pranks on his neighbors. Every afternoon for months the monster was having tea with him, sitting in Senorita Estrella’s bathhouse, or doing giant summersaults down the hill into Senor Pantalones’ pasture. Isaac came to think of the monster as his best friend; however there was a problem with his playmate… He wasn’t very mobile. It really was exhausting to move the brute from Point A to Point B. And so, Isaac concocted a plan to make his accomplice a more transportable one.

Isaac shorn the brute and wove a wig out of its fur, he also tanned its hide and crafted a mask out of its leather. Donning the body of his partner, he set off about the countryside causing all kinds of mischief.

Eventually the Grand Inquisitor had quite enough of this and had Isaac's heads cut off, and Isaac’s blood cried out from the ground. He wasn’t a bad chap… being a Jew in Spain at the time of the Inquisition seems like a pretty good reason to be pissy to me. And so, a terrible curse came upon the mask, and it corrupted all who touched it unless they had the purity of a child. Thus it was taken in by a virtuous order of monks and stored within the confines of their cloister, safe from the prying eyes of the world.

The mask fell out of human memory.

Centuries later, a young priest in training by name of Stephen Akers caught word of this mask while pouring through tomes of church history. He discovered that the monastery that housed the mask had been destroyed by a brief Moorish incursion onto the Spanish shores. He was so fascinated by this unholy relic that he set seas (actually airs) for Spain. Upon arriving he hunted for this impure article of clothing and eventually found it at a street fair in Grenada being peddled by an innocent child, unawares of the evil he carried. Stephen took the burden of the mask upon his person and returned to the States.

Eventually Stephen could no longer bear the weight of the mask weighing upon his soul, and so after great deliberation he opted to lay the fardel upon the most pure person he knew…

Hey! Wait a minute! I don’t want to see those smirks. You can just take those snickers and throw them in the rubbish bin or you can stick them in unpleasant places – you hear me? I am plenty pure! However, it wasn’t me, Stephen thought to give the mask to. Stephen knew Alicia, my beloved roommate Paul’s girlfriend, to be the most virtuous woman alive. However, Stephen could not leave the mask at her house because his arch-nemesis lived there, and he would do anything to thwart Stephen’s purposes, even wear a cursed bird mask. Thus Stephen laid the mask in our house’s care. It was placed inside our coffee table’s (which was made from wood taken from the hull of Noah’s Ark) drawer and locked with a bolt that was crafted from the sword of King David. The mask was safe.

Almost…

One day in an epic, wrestling match, I collided into the coffee table and (miraculously?) knocked the lock free, opening the drawer. I lay face to face with the unholy mask, its blank eyes boring into mine. Before Johnny could stop me, I was completely seduced by the mask and placed it firmly against my face. Without a moments delay I was transformed into a great beast. However, while I thought it would be really cool to plant girls in our front yard, I was more interested in lokian misbehaving.


One time I waited outside of the bathroom for half an hour while Johnny was taking a shower. I didn’t even make a sound, I remained as still as a gargoyle perched atop a barstool. Johnny wouldn’t speak to me for a month after that little stunt.

On another occasion I tried to spook the Arlen kids by playing a Sounds of the Haunted House record and dancing around eerily amidst smoke. To quote Jesse: “I just really wanted it to end.”

Eventually I became really lonely as a Prehistoric Bird Monster. No one really liked me very much. I would often just perch in trees and let out melancholy howls at the moon. All alone.

However, in time I learned to control my curse and could shift back and forth between the suave Eric you have all come to love and the hideous beast that now lay within. It was actually pretty easy to take charge again once my favorite Greek restaurant accused me of being a Turk and denied me entry… That simply would not fly!

In later news, I can now bring out the Bird Monster when needed – it’s a regular party animal! Not to mention it’s quite popular with the ladies.


So, I now live my life as a Prehistoric-Bird-Monster-American, and while I may not enjoy all of the rights many other Americans do, I still know how to have a good time. So, next time you see someone like me, remember that Prehistoric Bird Monsters are people too.

24 October, 2007

I don’t like Talking about Recent History, But…

…Apparently I am the target of any blood-sucking creature. I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if an army of Chupacabras attacked me! Allow for me to explain my indignation…

Last night my beloved roommate Dan was nearly consumed by an enormous arachnid! I am not usually scared of spiders if they are smaller than a toaster oven, but most spiders don’t approach people with a gun. This spider just started making wild demands about letting it eat Dan’s intestinal tract, but we would have none of it. I’m not sure how the scuffle went down, it was dark, but by the end of it Dan still had his intestines and not an atom of the spider remained in existence.


But that’s not the story I want to tell you about now.

Back in the early summer, before I was a seasoned spider fighter, I faced the most grotesque spider I had ever seen. Finished brushing my teeth, I was alone in the rotator’s cabin at Redwood Camp. I began to step out of the bathroom when I noticed the usually off-white wall miraculously painted black. To my surprise, this was not furry, eight-legged paint, but rather a behemoth of a spider. Still unable to accept the reality of this spider, I considered myself to be at the worse end of a prank by one of the other Redwood staff – but then it moved. I jumped a full yard-and-a-half back as its glistening body pulsated against the wall. Quickly devising a plan, I grabbed a discarded shoe and smote the spider atop the abdomen with all the righteous fury I could muster. The lob reared and I perceived it to fall into the trashcan bellow.

I was not about to sleep with a presumed dead spider-dragon in my room. I lifted the burdensomely heavy trashcan to bring it up to the light, but instead of witnessing a deceased araneae, the corner of my eye caught a falling darkness. Deftly dropping the wastebasket, I saw the spider drop atop a chair. I swung at it with the shoe, but missed as the monster slid beneath the chair. I overturned it and began striking at the beast with my trusted weapon. The spider leapt away from its broken defenses and attempted to scurry beneath the couch for shelter – unfortunately for the spider, I was too quick. With an impressive blow I brought the beast to halt, and then with one final swing it exploded. Its body crumpled to a hundredth its original size, leaving me without a trophy, but I had bested it regardless.

Spiders around these parts have been a tad bit more respectful since that fatal day – which is largely why I’m so shocked by the spider’s recent behavior in Dan’s room. Fortunately for Dan’s intestines, I’m still around to keep spider aggression down.

23 October, 2007

“Ms. Bennet, I would like you to meet Cobra Commander”

I may be one of the greater GI Joe game players of the last twenty-two years. My stories were as sprawling as War and Peace and as society-minded as Anna Karenina; however this was often just in private. I initially started playing GI Joes with my childhood friend, Logan Beardsley – prior to this go ahead from the expansive Beardsley family, my parents had been weary of what may be the most perfect action figure ever made. This day back in the mid-90s was probably one of the more formative of my childhood.

I may be getting ahead of myself – do you all know what GI Joes are? It looks like I see a few tentative hands in the back, so allow for me to clarify. The GI Joes that I reference here are not the Barbie-sized, 12” figures of my grandpappies’ days, but their stunning, 1982 reinvention with the 3 3/4” action figure. These GI Joes had more joints than any other action figure I’d seen and they twisted about the waist with a rubber band comprising their internal organs. These action figures lived up to their gun-touting name and came with a varied arsenal of warlike gadgetry.


If Morrissey had sung about GI Joes, he would have noted, “some GI Joes are better than others.” Sadly this often held true for Cobra (an ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world) – and GI Joe (America’s highly trained special missions force) often lagged behind in coolness factor. Now that you know the important stuff, allow for me to continue.

After that fateful day with Logan, I began to collect these impressive toys. More often than not, I would play with Danny Henson – a boy not afraid to destroy his toys (army men and fire, X-Men and chemical warfare). Be it a product of being poor as a child or being too attached to my beloved GI Joes, I did not allow for my toys to participate in the massacres Danny’s toys so often met. Needless to say these games with Danny became increasingly violent and rarely ended well for even our most preferred of characters. As the Italian proverb goes: “At the end of the game, both the king and the pawn go back in the same box.” Danny was a wrathful playmate, and rather than lift his poor soldiers out of the fire, he let loose the full holocaust of their destruction.

This was something that I could stomach with someone else’s toys, but it never sat right with my own. Don’t get me wrong, I was still a violent youth who allowed for characters to be gunned down, but like bad television, these people often reemerged to reveal that they had not in fact died and had returned to exact their revenge.

These campy stories began to evolve from mindless violence with contrived plot-twists to tales of intrigue sprawling across entire worlds. I would keep journals with information on all of my characters in each unique local. I drew maps of cities and charted trees of family lineage. I’m not that good of a writer, so my stories remained pretty juvenile with post-apocalyptic worlds and damsels in distress. However, the vast improvement came with the social interview playing as much (if not more) importance in a story as the shootout resulting from attempted regicide.

My GI Joes stopped being mere soldiers; they were people with real pasts, real hurts, real sins.

Multiple hour retreats to my room were far from uncommon. And so, with classical music blaring, I would enter new worlds where there was significance in each wink and ulterior motives in every act. The greatest hero had been kissed by the devil and the lowest villain flirted with redemption. Avatars rarely existed in these worlds.

Suddenly my Lt. Falcon’s and Destro’s became less reminiscent of Rambo and looked more akin to the proud Mr. Darcy.

13 October, 2007

Why I Always Carry a Rosary


Over the summer, it was often noted that I carry a rosary on my person. Some thought that I was simply a pious person; however, prayer is only one of the reasons I don this holy article. My name is Eric Garner, and I am a vampire hunter.

Before I launch into my adventures, let’s first cover our vampire basics. Prior to being called ‘vampires,’ there have long been myths surrounding beasts/demons that either ate the blood or flesh of humans. My particular favorite myth circulates around Adam’s apocryphal first wife, Lilith.

In a heretical interpretation of the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, Jewish mythology claimed that Adam had a wife prior to Eve who abandoned normal practices, (both in copulation and diet) and thus she got the boot and enter Eve from Adam’s rib. Lilith, now a servant of Satan, subsisted on blood (something God strictly forbid human’s to consume) and became a demoness. She is the forerunner of all vampires.

The word ‘vampire’ came into use around 1000 AD in an old Slavonic dialect as ‘Upir,’ but our view into vampirism will pick up another eight hundred years later during the height of Gothic literature. Starting with Dr. Polidori’s “The Vampyre,” the modern world became enamored with these undead creatures that existed by sucking the life from others. The vampires of the Romantic age were as much social commentary on the aristocracy as they were possessed by demons.

The greatest achievement in vampire lore was published 1897 – Dracula would revolutionize the way we view vampires. Stoker, combining Slavic myth and enlightened Western European sensibilities, created a vampire that was both myth and fact; demon and man.


Stoker’s vampires were werewolves as they had been to the Romanians. They were aristocrats to a liberalizing world. They ate blood as they always had. They were as sexual as Lilith had been from the beginning. What in that doesn’t spell good story!?

In Dracula, Dr. Van Helsing informs his friends that in order to kill a vampire one must utilize an array of weapons. It is best to fight a vampire during the day when they either sleep or are diminished in power. Vampires can only sleep on their native soil (as seen by Dracula sending boxes of Transylvanian soil to London), and thus if you can desecrate their soil (ironically by introducing something holy to it) it is rendered useless to them. The standard weapons of garlic, stake through the heart, cutting off the head, holy water, crucifix, and (ideally) the Host are all good tools for killing vampires, but we see in the case of Dracula that it doesn’t hurt to use multiple weapons at once.


The amazing thing about killing a vampire – according to Van Helsing – is that this killing ought not be done in hate, but in love, for in killing the vampire you are liberating its soul from its purgation on earth in its state between death and life. Killing a vampire is offering the soul that has been corrupted salvation.

Okay, now that I’ve talked your ears off, on to my journey.

It was in the December of 2005, and I was reading Dracula in the chilled solitude of my living room. There was an unseen fly buzzing about the room and the sound of a melancholic howl not far from my doors. I was freaked out. Deciding that I could no longer sit waiting for a vampire attack, I decided to take action. Garbing myself in a dark coat, I headed out the door with rosary in hand.

If there were vampires about, there was no way of knowing that my friends Sarah and Haley were safe at their house, and thus I went to offer my defense. When I came to the steps of their house, there were no signs of attack, and so I informed them of what I had learned about the nefarious vampires I now feared were lurking about my fair town. We began to conduct some research on these undead in hopes of better understanding how to best our foes.

Then it happened.

A story of an 80’s murder in San Luis Obispo popped up, but this story was more than unusual. A disturbed young adult had killed both of his parents, claiming them to be vampires who were designing his demise. Why did this sad tale from decades past sift its way through years of backlogged stories? Apparently this same youth who had killed his parents died in a car accident in San Francisco with a mysterious old woman in his car that the police were unable to identify. With a little further research we somehow discovered that the killer’s brother still lived in the house where the murder had taken place over twenty years earlier. We quickly utilized the White Pages and found that there was only one person listed with his last name in San Luis Obispo, and with that we were off. It was after eleven o’clock at night, we were armed with a rosary, a meager amount of minced garlic, and a wild dream of protecting our fair town.

We drove through a foggy evening, the car’s lights illuminating the haze in front of us. We parked about a block away from the alleged vampire lair and began a feigned pleasure-walk at night through ghoul-infested streets. It was a particularly dark night despite the fog hugging our bodies, and not a light was lit in a home bar one. The dull thud of an axe reverberated through the dense air. I pulled my coat tight against my body and gripped my trusted rosary in my pocket. The axe continued to fall. Sure enough the single light emanated from the house in question. A sad middle-aged man stood in his front yard chopping wood; seemingly he had not notice us. The axe fell again, but the by howling of two dogs that leapt out of hiding hid the expected noise. The two dogs began a to circle us -- one of my friends let out a sharp gasp. However, there was something queer about these hounds circling – they never came closer than ten feet. At this point our woodsman of the city looked up spoke:

“Just the dogs – heh? They won’t hurt you.”

I shrugged and laughed something like, “oh yeah,” but inwardly I thought: “Because they can’t come any closer!”

We continued to pass on by and the dogs returned to from whence they came.

After we returned to our car we discussed what had happened. Could it be that this crazed boy had actually attempted to kill two vampires but had not adequately exorcized their demons? Were the two dogs transformed images of his parents? Was his brother also a vampire?

The house was perfectly situated near a hospital and a mental health ward – two ideal places for feeding undetected. It seemed serious enough to me that I ought to go back and face my fanged foe, but when I returned the next day, the house appeared to be deserted. Where the vampires moved on to, I am not certain. One thing I do know is that the vampires saw my face, and they know that I am aware of their existence, and thus I will carry a rosary close by my side until the day I finally rid the earth of their foul pestilence.

12 October, 2007

Eric Confesses All Part XIV

After a brief absence from the posting world, I realized that I missed confessing. I confess that I am addicted to confession! My blogs definitely follow a pattern -- let us examine it:

1. I make some bold statement
2. I try to be witty
3. I make a confession
4. I try to show why that confession is witty
5. I lose sleep at nights waiting for you to validate me in the comments section

Will I break the mold today? No, I don’t think that I will.

One may think: “That sweet Eric is such an honest boy; he can’t bear the burden of an encumbered conscience and thus must lay bare his soul to the world.”

My dear friend, I wish your generous assessments of me were just and true; however, it is hardly astute. I am a depraved insect of a boy and I could hardly muster the courage for honesty lest it brought me some sort of reward in return. Why can I admit my fear of Otter Pops and my love for talking animals, but I cannot admit to you the idolatry of my heart? I enjoy cheap confession.

I will admit that in part I do not actually consider this an appropriate venue to inform you all of my thoughts, dreams and hopes, nor will I give you my pain, fear and remorse. This blog was never meant for more than the most self-congratulatory of essays. What’s more, I don’t think that is wrong.

However, this does not absolve me from my cheap confessions. Perhaps I could either redefine what confession means or rename these musings. Whatever I choose to do, let us recognize that I can only give so much here, and lamentably it will always be second best.

As I also seem to be in the habit of after mentioning something that makes me think of Pedro the Lion lyrics, I make sure to explore them:

Second best oh second best
I can learn to live with this
Plus I really need a rest
After all what's wrong with second best
What's wrong with second best

(Pedro the Lion - “Second Best”)

Not particularly hopeful, is it? I'll try to let you know when I'm trying to actually say something rather than cower behind contrived ideas.

All of that being said, let life continue. Listen to the rain over head, enjoy the tea in your cup, and embrace the peace found in the eyes of friends. Please, hold me that which is better.

05 October, 2007

I used to have Wussy Pansy Lips

Can taste buds change? After all, the average human mouth contains ten thousand of the little buggers; I imagine from time to time there is a popular movement to elect a new taste sensation as the primary goal of the mouth. I ask because I have observed a dramatic transformation of the foods my mouth wants in it.

A brief history: My father’s name is Hot-Sauce-McGritz Garner and his mother aptly named him. My dad is the type of guy who will look at a food, gauge its spiciness prior to it entering his mouth and then add about four or five bottles of Tabasco before determining whether or not it needs some more kick.

Needless to say that when I was born, there were high expectations for palate (sometimes my father would smear cayenne peppers on my bottle). However, there was a big problem: I couldn’t handle the slightest bit of spice. It quickly became clear that I could not be Hot-Sauce-McGritz Garner Jr., and my parents renamed me Eric in an attempt to cover their shame.

My wussiness became more and more apparent as I entered my early childhood. It was not uncommon for me to think ketchup too hot to handle. The slightest vapor of Tabasco in the air would set my lips aflame. I cried when I ate peach salsa upon the urging of my father (eating the salsa, not crying). There was nothing too mild for me, and everything was too hot.


So, what transpired that transformed my mouth? That is a very good question. I’ve heard that there is no accounting for taste, and perhaps that is the best explanation for what happened to me. One day I grew tired of little children pointing and laughing at the tears in my eyes when I had ketchup with my fries and I decided that I would eat spicy food. (As an aside, mind over matter techniques have also kept me healthy and have allowed for me to transform a roommate of mine into a woman.)

The impressive thing is that my transformation has been complete. Sometimes I light jalapeños on fire and eat them by the bushel load without even breaking a sweat!

While I currently enjoy spicy foods, there is always a pervading fear about what could transpire with my taste buds – they overthrew the old order once, who’s to say that can’t change again?

04 October, 2007

God is not Our Co-Pilot

A Quick Disclaimer:

I don’t mean to offend with this story, but that being said, I don’t recommend it for those who are easily offended. I’ve probably been thinking too much about Flannery O’Connor. I won’t apologize any longer for my work.

---------------------------------------------

“If your parachute didn’t open during the jump, where would you go?”

The engines’ roar reverberated throughout the plane’s hold, making it nearly impossible to hear the question just posed. Twelve young adults huddled together, hardly encouraged by the words “He will command his angels concerning you, on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” written above the bay door. It was difficult to tell with jumpsuits, but it seemed as though several of the students had slightly damp drawers.

Once again Captain (as she liked to be called, while possessing no military rank) Barbara Lewis deliberately asked the question: “If your parachute didn’t open during the jump, where would you go?” Her muddy brown eyes took on an intensity of a bog-monster rising out of the muck. She wanted results, and she was going to get them.

“I-I’d go home to Jesus, Ma’am,” one freckled boy from Tennessee weakly offered.

“Good, but I don’t hear very much conviction in your voice, son.” She crossed hold floor to stand directly in front of the shaking boy. “Do you want to say that with a little bit of faith?”

“I’d go home with my Lord, Jesus!” the boy said louder without stopping his shaking.

~

Wings of Eagles Christian Skydiving Camp had long been the dream of Captain Barbara Lewis. Ever since she had been born again, she just knew that she was going to do something big for God. She was no great author like LaHaye or Jenkins, nor was she as gifted of a speaker as Pat Robertson – so her options were limited. She tried her hand at Campus Crusade for Christ in college, but they never came across as confrontational enough in their evangelistic approach. If she was ever going to really do something big (BIG) for God, then she was going to need to come up with something entirely new.

One day, while particularly perplexed about the whole situation, Barbara went to her fridge for an O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer (her sin from her life before being saved that she just couldn’t seem to give up). She reached for the refrigerator handle, and as she gripped it she had a vision of an eagle soaring over scenic landscape with the famous line from Isaiah 40:31 emblazoned above it – soar upon wings of eagles. (It is only fair to note that many discredited Barbara’s vision as merely being a magnet on her cluttered fridge, but she always insisted upon it being prophetic). From that day forward she dedicated herself whole-heartedly to ministering to children by bringing them up into the sky with wings of eagles (although, really any wings would do) and then pushing them out of a plane. This was the humble beginning of Wings of Eagles Christian Skydiving Camp.

~

“I’m not here to scare you, honey, because this parachute will open and take us safely to the ground, but as the Apostle James writes, ‘we don’t know what this day will hold.’ There’s no place for fear about death.” She gave the freckled boy a diminutive tap on the chin and turned to face the rest of her campers.

The tension was humid in the air, mixing with the perspiration of the quaking students. Captain Lewis leered at the students and reminded them that God offered a spirit of power, not timidity. It was time to ‘cowboy-up.’

~

When initially trying to sell the idea of a Christian skydiving camp to potential contributors, Barbara Lewis needed to present her vision in a way that really packed a punch. She had great analogies of needing to hand over the pilot’s seat to Jesus and eventually move back with the passengers in economy; and of not putting God in a box, but rather in a plane. However, these teachable moments were not enough to entice the donation of a plane. In the moment when it seemed as though all hope was lost for Wings of Eagles, serendipitously a well-known millionaire of the area passed-away leaving his vast fortunes not to his family, but rather to Ms. Lewis. While the case was briefly argued in court, no relationship suggesting fowl-play could ever be established between the recently deceased and Barbara.

And so Wings of Eagles Christian Skydiving Camp was born. Barbara quickly donned the title of captain and set off about the country, recruiting both staff for her camp and students to attend its pilot (in all seriousness, no pun intended) run. Drumming up a moderate amount of excitement in her program, Captain Barbara Lewis secured seventy-eight students to participate in a weeklong camp, culminating in two days of jumps in which the students could put their faith (but obviously not their God) to the test.

~

“Son,” Barbara told to the freckled boy, “you and I will go first. Come here and strap-up.” She pulled the boy forcefully to her and turned him around, and as she began to strap the two of them together she shouted out, “the rest of you pair up with one of the other instructors and prepare for your turn to jump.”

“I-I don’t know if I’m ready for this, Ma’am.” The freckled boy tried to turn his head around to address the Captain.

“Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will not fear. Now suck it up.”
Barbara carried her hostage camper to the jump doors, looked over his helmeted head, and smiled as she let out a warm sigh. God had vindicated everything she had done – He had silenced all of her opposition. She knew that this first jump was going to be like leaping into Abraham’s bosom.

“You ready?” she asked the boy

He shook his head no.

She took a leap out of the plane. The air beat against their faces as they began their freefall to the ground bellow. Barbara, feeling sufficiently vindicated in her jump, reached for the ripcord of the parachute and gave it a firm pull. Nothing. Her other hand clawed for the emergency chute, but once again nothing deployed.

The freckled boy, unaware of the failed deployment, had the prayers for his soul interrupted by a voice cracking behind him: “Oh shit! Oh shit!”

02 October, 2007

Would an Otter Pop by Any Other Name Taste as Sweet?

I sometimes wonder if there is a single person in America who has never had an Otter Pop. I think that if we were to buck nationalism and consider dissolving the Union, that movement would ultimately be silenced when it was realized that all Americans have a common heritage; all Americans have had Otter Pops.


I’m all about unity and common experience – it just isn’t seen that often now a days – but have we ever stopped to think about what Otter Pops represent?

“But Eric,” you may interject, “what more could Otter Pops represent than summer lovin,’ sugary sweetness, and semi-aquatic mammals?”

I appreciate your thoughts, but let us leave the speculation to me in this instance. The collective group of Otter Pops (individually known as: Poncho Punch, Little Orphan Orange, Louie-Bloo Raspberry, Alexander the Grape, Sir Isaac Lime, and Strawberry Short Kook) disguise themselves as having little substance more than syrup and water, but in fact beneath their plastic skin lays a darker truth. Every time you snip the top off of one of these Otter Pops, you are cutting away conventional values. Every lick of an Otter Pop is a vote for totalitarianism.

“Eric, you’ve made some big claims before, but don’t you think you’re taking this one a little too far? Otter Pops are just fun and frozen oblong-water-weasel-sugar-sticks! Let’s not vilify what you’ve already claimed to be foundational to American Democracy.”

Just hear me out a little longer. What are the favorite Otter Pop flavors? People always go for Louie-Bloo Raspberry first, followed by either Strawberry Short Kook or Poncho Punch, and then Sir Isaac Lime. This leaves Alexander the Grape and Little Orphan Orange. What message does this send? Well, let’s start off by getting rid of all the ethnic people, then we should do away with those pesky crazy folk, oh, and while we’re at it, we should get rid of them smart people too because they just might raise protest. Yes, we teach our children that it is fun to get rid of not white people, the infirm, and those who are smarter than us – oh, and while we’re at it, we should be used to tyrants and the unfortunate running rampant. We can’t get rid of the despots, so we’ll just let them be. We can’t help the orphans, so we’ll just accept them as part of life. You see kids, when you grow up the world will be so bad that we figure you should get used to it now.

Are we going to stand for this willful brainwashing of the youth today? Or is that at the heart of what holds America together? This is not meant to be a political rant, but rather I am voicing honest concern for the well being of your children!

So, the next time you go to Costco and see that bulk-sized box of Otter Pops, take a moment to reflect on what all of those left-over Little Orphan Oranges are relating to your kids.