Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I Can't Handle The Truth!

I heard something on the evening news tonight that stopped me dead in my tracks.  The reporter who lives inside my television teased me by saying "Coca-Cola responds to the report of its secret recipe being discovered and!"  I was on my way out the door at the time, and my hand was actually on the remote control ready to hit the power button.  I really wanted to continue standing in the middle of my living room waiting through the tiresome Boniva and Doritos commercials for the nice lady to return to my screen to tell me what the heck was going at Coca-Cola headquarters.  However, Andy was already in the car waiting for me, and if anyone knows Andy or me at all, they know that by 6:30 in the evening, I have long since gotten on Andy's last nerve and he is barely holding it together until he can get a much needed breather from what I like to call my endearing ways.  Plus, I was late.  I reluctantly turned off the television and left the house.

My mind was working overtime as Andy drove us to our destination, a funeral visitation for the son of a dear friend of the family.  I tried to use my phone to access the internet, but I had no signal.   When we arrived at the Rockhouse Pentacostal Church, I made a small, selfish wish that the church would have wireless internet access. Of course it didn't.  Why would it?  The last thing a minister would want would be a congregation full of texting, facebooking, and tweeting parishioners.  I decided to put the Coca-Cola scandal out of my mind until I could back home and get some facts via the worldwide web.

However, on the way home I had an epiphany, right there on Rockhouse Creek.  If someone had actually revealed the secret formula of Coke, I did not want to know.  I certainly did not want to read what was in a formula that turns water into the nectar of the gods.  For me, that would be too much knowledge and responsibility.  Usually, I want to know exactly all the ingredients of the things that I eat or drink, but Coca-Cola is different.  It is a magical, iconic drink that has always been part of my life.  To me, breaking it down into small bits and simple ingredients would just make it too common.  Heaven forbid if the ingredients were such that we could start making it at home!  Would I then be expected to whip up my own Coca-Cola for visiting friends and family?

Worse yet, with the popularity of cooking shows today, it would just be a matter of time until each celebrity chef would have their own version of Coke they would show us how to make:  the Barefoot Contessa would have a Kicky Coke in the Hamptons, Rachael Ray would have a speedy quick Yum-O Coke-O for hurried weeknights, Martha Stewart would have some pretentious, haughty Cola with a Sprig of Lemongrass cocktail, and Sandra Lee would show everyone how to make a rum and Coke using a store-bought can of Coke (Sandra isn't very creative).

I further expanded my fears of knowing the truth about other secret formulas.  I decided that I have no desire at all to know the eleven herbs and spices that make up the Kentucky Fried Chicken legacy, the ingredients of McDonalds special sauce, or Heinz Ketchup's secrets.  I am happy in my ignorance of these secret formulas, and prefer them just to be already made and served to me when I want or need it.  I would, however, be amiable to knowing the ingredients of the stuff that was inside the Stretch Armstrong dolls that were popular when I was a little boy, but I suppose that is a story for another time.

This epiphany, and all that was written above, came flooding to me in the car on the way home from the Rockhouse Pentacostal Church.  As I rambled it all out to Andy, who had no idea that I had seen the news clip before I left the house (I forgot to tell him that part), he just nodded and agreed and kept his eyes focused on the road.  It was long past 6:30, and his last nerve was stretched thin.

I can happily report that after immediately scanning the internet upon my arrival home, I found that the Coca-Cola formula was not revealed.  It is still safe and sound in some underground bunker in Atlanta, Georgia.  I was so relieved, not only for me, but also for poor Sandra Lee.  I am fine with the knowledge that in some instances, I simply cannot handle the truth.
You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Losing My Religion

Lyrics from "Why Shouldn't We" written by Mary Chapin-Carpenter:

God is all around, Buddha's at the gate,
Allah hears our prayers,
It's not too late.

I bet you did not know that I am a miracle child.  Being born and bred in the remote hills of Southeastern Kentucky, somehow I was raised in neither the Pentacostal church nor the Southern Baptist.  I was one of the few, strange Presbyterians that were known to roam about the hills and hollers.  There were, and still are, three Presbyterian churches in Leslie County, and the collective active membership of all three is probably around 150 people, hardly enough to field to a men's league softball team or buy a church van and drive slowly in the passing lane of I-75 on the way to a youth rally in Central Kentucky.  But, the Presbyterians have played a major role in the history of the county, and they ain't going anywhere.

Presbyterian services are fairly formal services, full of rituals and congregational responses.  They are not full of musicians and instruments.  Central Presby always had a pianist, and on very special occasions, an organist.  That was it.  Horns? Nu-uh. Gituars? Whaaat?!  Percussion and tamborines?  Now you are just talking crazy!  I can not speak for the other Presbyterian churches in the county, but Central Presbyterian was also chock-full of horrid singers.  The piano could sometimes drown out the bad singing, but most of the time it was just plain bad.  Had a Pentacostal been visiting our church and heard the sounds, I am sure she would have left heartbroken at what we had done to a perfectly good hymn.

(Not my church, but wouldn't it be cool if it was?!)
But, that was what I grew up with, it was what I knew, it was how I expressed my gratitude to the Lord.  Jumping and shouting, loud music, encouraging individual participation in a service made me nervous.  I was sure it probably made God nervous, too.  So, when I moved to Florida, I decided I would find my comfort zone in the good ol' Presbyterian Church.

The first church I attended was the Maitland Presbyterian Church, in Orlando, FL.  It was a huge church, full of nice, welcoming people.  I sat in the approximate center of the church, in the middle of a pew.  During the service, the pastor read from the Bible.  After finishing the verse, she looked up and said, "This is the word of the Lord."  At my home church in Hyden, the congregation always responded to the phrase "this is the word of the Lord" with "Thanks be to God" said in unison.  Naturally, I assumed that this Presbyterian church was no different, so after hearing, "This is the word of the Lord,"  I enthusiastically said, "THANKS BE TO GOD!"  However, as I belted out the words, I realized that no one else was saying it.  I was in the direct center of about 300 people, screaming "THANKS BE TO GOD" for no apparent reason.  Drawing this sort of attention to yourself in a Presbyterian church is a cardinal sin.  We do it together or we don't do it at all.  People were staring from all angles.  I noticed the little old lady beside me scoot away from me.  I tried to explain to no one in particular that I was new this week and that is what we said at my church, but the service was moving on, and people were trying to ignore me.

Needless to say, I did not return to the Maitland Presbyterian Church again.  In fact, it took several tries to find one that suited me.  The Longwood Presbyterian Church service was delivered in Spanish only.  The Winter Park Presbyterian Church had a weird smell.  The list goes on.

(My Lexington church home)
As I have gotten older, my ideas of religion and church have evolved and changed.  I no longer seek out a church that is only Presbyterian, although I am still a member of Central.  In fact, I honestly believe that you can find the Higher Power by seeking it in places other than actual churches, for example,  I can be spiritually moved in nature very easily.  Meditation is another very effective way to tap into a higher plane.

I was lucky to find the Central Christian Church in Lexington, KY.  Both Andy and I were openly accepted and welcomed.  It was progressive and had a lot of the rituals that made it Presbyterianish enough for me.  Of the many differences in returning to a town such as Hyden from Lexington, finding a suitable place to worship is probably the most difficult for me.  I will not attend a church that does not welcome both my partner and myself or one that does not think men and women are equals.  If there are any readers who may know of a church both Andy and I would be accepted, please let me know.  Until then, I will seek refuge on my own.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Strong Man's Thoughts on Gun Control

Don't worry, dear readers.  From the title of this post you may be thinking that I am going to get all mavericky on you.  Well, you would be wrong.  Many of you think I am a bleeding heart liberal who has forgotten his conservative roots, and although the former is true, the latter is still suspect.  Unless I have enough knowledge and have researched the subject myself, I do not like to make blanket political statements.  So you will not be reading, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" or "Shoot them all and let the lord sort them out" or even "The 2nd amendment was never intended to allow private citizens to 'keep and bear arms.' If it had, there would have been wording such as 'the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.'"  Nope, not in this post.

But, after the recent shooting of a US Congresswoman in Arizona I started considering the issue of gun control.  Born in the hills of eastern Kentucky, I was raised in a pro-gun community.  As a child, every man I knew owned at least one gun.  Many of the women did as well.  However, the majority of these guns were used for hunting or sport.  I have no problem with this type of gun ownership.  The hunters I know actually eat, or share,  the meat of the animal they have killed.  Sport shooting, such as skeet or target, is also a legitimate past time.  However, semi-automic guns and the type of gun that the shooter used in his Arizona rampage were built for only one reason, killing fellow humans.  These guns were invented by armed forces throughout the world for the sole purpose of war.  I do believe that restrictions of some sort should be on ownership of these weapons.

In my experience, though, there is one particular group of people I think should be restricted on gun usage and ownership.  That group is the eldery.  As I stated above, most of the adults I knew as a child owned guns and packed heat.  This included both my grandfather, Poppy, and my grandmother, Granny. 

Block of Gov't Cheese!
My family owned different businesses in downtown in the 1970's and 80's and Poppy always helped out with them.  Mostly, he used it as his home base for his trading.  Guns, knives, and government cheese were his three main inventory items, and he kept them tucked away in a back room at the store.  I am not sure how many blocks of commodity cheese a gun went for, but I can tell you that both our refrigerator and my cousin's refrigerator were always stocked with huge 10 pound blocks of creamy processed government cheese.

Although they acted like young boys, Poppy and his trading buddies were, let's face it, old men.  Old men sometimes get a little carried away and careless.  Such was the case one day when Poppy brought one of his friends, Mr. Sizemore, into his back room to check out his new gun.  No one is sure if the men knew the gun was loaded or not, but what we do know is that as my Aunt Ruby tended the counter at Stewart's Entertainment Center, Poppy and Mr. Sizemore unloaded the magazine of a pistol from the back room into the showroom, totally destroying one Pioneer Home Stereo System and one front window.  Aunt Ruby was stunned silent, thankful she was not shot, as Poppy and Mr. Sizemore just locked up the back room and left the store as if nothing had happened.

Poppy's bride, Granny, was no better.  Granny was a typical mountain woman who always wore a house dress, sensible shoes, and never moved a fast pace.  She always kept a loaded pistol in her purse.  Always.  Anytime she was riding in a car with anyone in the family (she didn't drive), and the car was stopped by the police, be it for speeding or a standard road-block that was common in the 1980's, the family member who was driving would sweat bullits because Granny was sitting as the co-pilot with loaded heat in her purse.

Granny was also very protective over her pistol purse.  If she was going to leave it at home for any reason, she would hide it.  One particular time, she hid it in the washing machine.  The next day, she decided to wash her kitchen rugs.  She threw the rugs in the machine, set it to wash, and thankfully, left the laundry room and went into the living room to watch her stories on television.  What happened next is what one would image happening if you had to shoot your way out of a washing machine.  Granny had forgotten about her purse, complete with the loaded gun in it, when she loaded the washing machine and turned it on.  The jarring from the machine set off the pistol several times, leaving holes in the washer, dryer, wall, and window.  Remarkably, Granny was not hurt, but was upset that she had to miss the second half of The Young and the Restless that day.

So you can see, dear reader, why my concern for gun control really centers around the older population.  In fact, my Dad has a gun safe that I am considering changing the lock on and keeping the key.  He is a direct desendent of Poppy and Granny.  What chance at all does he have?