Blogbits

Walking – I felt completely fatigued when I got home from work today, but instead of languishing on the sofa, I decided to get some exercise. We walked a couple of miles and I found it very relaxing and energizing.

Gutters – I purchased and installed those solid gutter covers that are supposed to keep leaves out while letting the rain in. I have a nagging feeling that they were probably a complete waste of money.

Macy Gray – She’s growing like a weed and has gained a pound over the last three weeks! She amuses us constantly with her antics and simply couldn’t be cuter.

An evening with Damien Rice

Alyson and I went to see Damien Rice last night at the Lovett Auditorium in Murray. It was my first time there and my first time seeing him live. The auditorium was very old, but well maintained and it had excellent acoustics.

I’ve been a fan of Damien’s music since first seeing the video for “The Blower’s Daughter” almost three years ago. The cello in that song gets me every time and I was thrilled that a cellist accompanied him on most of the songs he performed last night. There were times when I’d close my eyes and revel in the sound of it.

dr

Knowing that most of his music tends to be laid-back and melancholy, I was expecting the same type of atmosphere live. Wrong! This guy was rocking the house. At one point, the bass was literally vibrating the entire building – much to the enjoyment of the mostly college-age audience.

We found ourselves watching one audience member almost as much as DR. A woman on the front row was quite possibly the worst dancer that I’ve ever seen. She would lace her fingers together and twist and writhe like she was possessed, which captured the attention of everyone around her. She seemed to be having a great time, though, so that’s what really matters.

dr_stage

Damien wasn’t very talkative during the first part of the concert, but did tell a funny story about going to the supermarket later in the show. He also invited everyone to leave their seats and come to the front of the stage during the last song, which resulted in hundreds of people pouring down the aisles. The two people between us and the aisle refused to budge, so I went over the chair in front of me and got within 10 feet of the stage, where I clapped, yelled, and snapped pictures until the show ended. It was a great evening and I’m glad I got to experience it with my dear friend, Alyson!

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Set List:
The Professor/La Fille Danse
Older Chests
Delicate
Volcano
Rootless Tree
Amie
Eskimo
Woman Like a Man
Grey Room
I Remember (with Bang Bang ending)
Cannonball

Encore:
9 Crimes
The Blower’s Daughter
Coconut Skins

September 11, 2001

My experience as a small-town Kentucky boy in New York City on 9/11/01

Photo taken from Liberty Island Ferry on 9/10/2001
Photo taken from Liberty Island Ferry on 9/10/2001

It was a beautiful fall morning in Manhattan, and I was coming to the end of a two night stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania. I was still riding high on the experience of the night before – getting to see my idol in concert. Michael Jackson had performed right across the street from my hotel, and it was the first time I had been able to see him in the ten years since I’d become a fan. Needless to say, it was one of the most exhilarating nights of my life.

We had packed as many experiences into our short trip as possible, going to the top of the World Trade Center on 9/9/01 and visiting Liberty Island on 9/10/01. The ferry trip back from Liberty Island gave us an exceptional view of New York City and I turned to a friend and asked, “Can you imagine the skyline without the Twin Towers?” Neither of us ever considered they would be gone less than 24 hours later.

Ticket from trip to top of WTC - Dated 9/9/2001
Ticket from trip to top of WTC – Dated 9/9/2001
wtc_view
View from the top of the South Tower

We got up early on the 11th, knowing that we would be leaving later in the day to start our long drive home. We had seen Times Square at night and loved the energy, so we decided to check it out again in the daylight. After grabbing some breakfast and beginning the short walk, we noticed some people standing on the roof of a relatively short apartment building and excitedly pointing toward the south. We overheard something about a fire, but figuring it was not a big deal, we continued walking.

A lady walked by me in tears a few moments later, but I thought she might be having a bad day and didn’t think much more of it until we arrived in front of the studios for Good Morning America. As we glanced up at the large screen on the outside of the building, we saw an image of one of the towers engulfed in smoke. It took a minute for me to realize that the image I was seeing was real, and even then I just assumed that a small plane had accidentally hit the tower. As we stood watching with a growing throng of people, we decided to return to our hotel where we had an upper-level view of the towers.

Upon entering our room and glancing out the window, I noticed that both towers were engulfed in thick, black smoke. We turned on the television to hear that jetliners had crashed into both towers and someone mentioned terrorism. I immediately panicked and began throwing things into suitcases as quickly as possible, feeling a desperate need to escape. Soon, the news of the Pentagon being hit was reported and I was sure that our nation was under some kind of foreign attack and that we would not get out alive.

View from my hotel window on 9/11/2001
View from my hotel window on 9/11/2001

We were informed by hotel staff that the bridges and tunnels leading in and out of New York were closed to all traffic and that we would be better off staying put, but I knew that Manhattan was a peninsula and that we could get out if we drove far enough to the north. We called for our car to be brought from a parking garage that was several blocks away and a busboy helped us load our baggage and took us down a freight elevator to the lobby. He told us there was no need to check out of the hotel and that he would wait in the lobby with our baggage until our car arrived. We went out to wait in front of the hotel, feeling trapped and helpless.

The scene on the street was rather chaotic. Many of the nearby buildings had been evacuated and hundreds of people milled around on foot, walking in a trance-like state as scores of sirens wailed. It was a kind of hell and I could hear that sound in my head for months afterwards.

The busboy came out soon to inform me that one of the towers had collapsed. I didn’t believe him, so he took me back into the lobby and showed me on the television. It was incomprehensible. A few minutes later, he told me about the second tower. By that point I was convinced that bombs had been placed in the bottom parts of both buildings and that there was a real possibility of further attacks.

There we were, sandwiched in between Madison Square Garden and the Empire State Building and we had no vehicle and nowhere to go. It was the most terrifying situation that I’ve ever been in and I was certain that death was imminent.

After over an hour of waiting, our car arrived and we headed north in the worst traffic that I’ve ever driven in. Multiple lanes of vehicles heading each direction, bumper-to-bumper, inching along at a snail’s pace as emergency vehicles blaring their horns and sirens managed to squeeze through on their way to Ground Zero.

One of the cars next to us had a passenger that was covered in gray ash from head to toe. She saw that we had a cellphone and tearfully pleaded with us to call her family and inform them that she was alright. We tried the number, but couldn’t get through.

After hours of sitting in traffic jams and finally finding an exit ramp that let us get on a highway heading north, our vehicle broke down. There we sat in the median of a busy highway on the worst day imaginable and we were once again stuck and helpless. A wrecker eventually appeared and took us to a nearby repair shop, where we waited as our alternator was replaced. By the time we left the city, it had been nearly eight hours since the attacks.

Throughout the day, I had been unaware of what was happening back at home. I had called my mother when the attacks first happened and told her that we were preparing to leave, but we had been unable to contact her for several hours after that. In the meantime, she had contacted my father, who told her that she needed to prepare herself because she’d probably never see me again. I understand why he said that as I felt exactly the same way, but it threw her into hysterics. People had to come to her house and stay with her just to keep her calm.

It took a long time for me to recover from that day, so I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those directly impacted. However, I don’t regret taking that trip. The only thing I really regret is that instead of rushing to help those affected by the tragedy, I ran away.

Just for the taste of it

I’ve been attending a UCC church for almost a year and a half, but am still amazed that I was able to find such a loving and accepting church within a reasonable driving distance of my home.

I had been away from church for several years, not interested in worshiping in any of the rather conservative and judgmental congregations in my area. I had been seeing some of controversial television spots from the United Church of Christ for a while and had read news stories about their acceptance and ordination of gays and lesbians, but never really took the time to see what they were all about.

One day at work, for whatever reason, I went to their website and looked around a bit. I noticed their church-finder option and typed in my zip code. To my amazement, there was a UCC church around 25 miles away. They had their own website, which had pictures of smiling faces and explained how welcoming they were. It also detailed some of their beliefs and I found myself becoming more and more intrigued.

Deciding to attend was the easy part… talking my partner into it was another story. I begged and pleaded and he complained and griped until, finally, he relented. We got up one Sunday morning in April and headed for church, which felt strangely surreal, yet exciting.

Upon arriving and getting out of the car, we were greeted by a very friendly member who had also just arrived. She introduced herself as “Crystal” and explained that it was Palm Sunday and that they were beginning the service in the fellowship hall. My idea had been to attend service as an observer, but we were soon coerced into participation.

Upon entering the fellowship hall, we took two of the only remaining seats at the front of the room and I immediately recognized Karen from her website photo as she stood to begin the service. After a few congregational responses from the bulletin, some kids passed out palm fronds to each member and we were instructed to wave them and shout “Hosanna!” as we walked down the hall into the sanctuary. I glanced over to see Honey giving me a look that showed he was not pleased with this turn of events. I laughingly told Crystal that he “was going to kill me.”

The service was a far cry from what I’d been used to. The songs were very traditional and accompanied by a piano, where I’d been used to drums, tambourines, hand-clapping, and guitars in the Pentecostal churches I’d attended as a child and young adult. Karen’s sermon was nice, but I was more enchanted with her voice than anything – soft and soothing like a therapist. Toward the end of her sermon, she asked us to bow our heads as she quietly spoke about being at one with our Maker and how He loves us. A wonderful, calming spirit filled the room and I felt the tears begin to well in my eyes. I knew then that I wanted to come back, but as the service ended, Honey told me that he was ready to get out of there. I could tell from the look on his face that I’d probably be attending future services alone.

We walked out of the sanctuary to find Karen standing just outside the door and greeting each person. As we spoke with her, another outgoing, smiling member invited us back to the fellowship hall for coffee and refreshments. Honey told her we didn’t drink coffee and we’d probably just go, but she asked what he liked to drink. “Diet Coke,” he said, before she exclaimed, “We’ve got Diet Coke!”

As he reluctantly slunk back to the fellowship hall – more out of thirst than anything – I kept hoping that something would happen that might change his mind about this whole church thing. We grabbed some drinks and settled down at a table, where we were almost instantly surrounded by inviting and friendly faces who seemed so happy that we were there. I couldn’t help thinking about how different this was from the reception we’d have received at most of the other churches in the area.

We wound up sitting and chatting for several minutes as Karen explained that we’d never be required to believe anything that made us uncomfortable, that no questions were off-limits, and that we didn’t even have to profess a belief in God in order to attend services. Again, not at all what we’d expected. As she told us that she hoped we’d come again, I was stunned when Honey spoke up and said, “We’ll definitely be back.” We’ve been going ever since.

Looking back on everything that happened to lead me to my church, I can’t help but believe that a higher power was involved. There were so many reasons why we might have never went or why we might have never returned, and if it hadn’t been for Diet Coke, I might never have met some of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered in my entire life.