Toad In The Hole I.

As California wildfires rage just a half hour, forty-five minute drive north of me…….the only reason you would know this is happening is from the smoke haze in the air, making particularly astounding sunsets of late out here.

The Red Cross and The Salvation Army are there, as well as over fourteen thousand firefighters from across the world. It’s the biggest wildfire in the State of California’s history. Yes, people are losing their homes. Some life has been lost……but the vast majority is the wild golden hills and chaperral…….the state has blamed this fire on
“climate change” and one outlet dared to lay the blame on “Trumps hostile policies towards the environment”

I guess there was never a California wildfire before 2017. The people swallow it, repete what they hear and say the same buzzline to others to make themselves look “informed” and of course to be a non-conformist…..because we all know “chicks dig that”. In “1984” this was called ‘duckspeak’ in INGSOC / Newspeak

Anyway, last night I decided to finally go out “later than usual” for some dinner, walking downtown……a block away, lights in the trees, crowded…..people eating, enjoying and taking in the scene, busy brew pubs, restaurants full, many stores still open and business looked brisk!

I walked down a narrow side street and came upon a place that said “Toad In The Hole, An English Pub”  I never noticed this place before…….it wasn’t empty, but not too full. I glanced inside through the large clean windows facing the street. Hmmmm, A huge “Srgt. Pepper” framed poster on the wall. I saw “Boddingtons” on tap. Big screen TV at the bar with a rugby match on…….a large Union Jack, along with smaller sized flags from Scotland and Wales. No Irish flags? Good. A place worthy of my business.

I entered, the bartender spake in a thick, street British accent……..”Have a seat anywhere……I’ll be over in a minute.” Music was on, but a small band was setting up to perform……looked like a reggae band of sorts. A bunch of dreads, rasta doohickeys on their clothing….pan-African colors……..but the stereo was on and playing some early UB40 track……..before thay became just a cover band of stupid love songs……..

I sat at the bar, ordered a bowl of mash and gravy. He hesitated…waiting for my beer selection to be ordered. I asked of tea. He nodded, gave me a me a quizzical look and went about his business.

A woman next to me said she loved my jacket, and she had a lovely British accent. She was having a wine, and her boyfriend gave me a quick once-over and seemed assured very quickly I was “no threat” to his amazing skills of getting a cute girlfriend or “stealing her away from him”

I just said “thanks” and looked around the place…..tables with clathces of women talking non-stop, a few solo guys watching rugby. A bunch more people buried in their phones. I was the oldest person in here.

The same woman suddenly touches..my arm….well, lightly pushes my arm…….she says “You know I said I liked you jacket.”

“And I said thanks.” I replied smiling.

“Well, why won’t you tell me about it…..where did you get it?”

She had a lovely accent, but I could tell she was a little buzzed. She was about 30. Tattoo all over her upper shoulder. Boyfriend in a baseball cap, buried in his phone. She was pretty, but I am still puzzled how people meet. Her boyfriend looked like he had a poker shoved up his rectum, and a personality of a doornail……but ahhhhh…….yes, the lethal profile, good head of hair..dimple on the chin..about as tall as me…a guy that never had to do anything from being a teenager onward to get a woman to talk to him, date him, and do anything he asked sexually. Life is just so not fair.

Yes, makes sense now.

I just said “Ben Sherman” coolly, and then continued to check this place out……..the woman was about to say something else to me when the bartender came back with a tea, and the bowl of mash…….he asked “cream? sugar?” I just shook my head ‘no’ said “thank you” and he then said “Noticing your pin, on your postman’s bag…….are you Welsh?”

“Half” I said. “My mother was from there.”

He laughed out of sympathy I think….Brits are so hard to read. They could  be cutting you to ribbons with a smile on their face, and you are thinking that they like you……”Well, don’t be wearing that during a Wales / England match in here, otherwise, welcome……this is my place and I am glad you came by tonight. Enjoy. Just yell when you need anything else…..the band is going start in a bit.” he replied.

I was just about to put a forkful of mash in my mouth, it smelled delicious…the woman next to me drunkenly touches my arm again “Oh you’re Welsh……..you don’t look Welsh, do you speak? Oh probably not…..”

I at this point, interrupted her, and began to speak Welsh, leered in seductively and said “Yes I do frankly, and I would actually like to enjoy my mashed potatos…..and please talk to your boyfriend instead of me unless you are in the process of dumping him.”

She looked at me, shocked and said “Oh, that was so beautiful…….such a gorgeous poetic language……I understand Welsh (I snickered hard), well…not really….only a few naughty words.” She said coyly, and gently squeezed my arm. “….And I didn’t hear you use any.” She winked.

I took a sip of the tea. Man. Spot on. Excellent.

“How on earth did you learn Welsh?” She said, “Did you live or study there?”

“No, my mother taught me.” I replied while picking up the fork again trying to eat my mash.

“How lovely, she must be an intelligent woman……is she here in town? I work for the British Consulate in San Francisco. My boyfriend and I came up here for the weekend to enjoy the wineries……..I would just love to meet her.”

I smiled and said “No, she’s not.” and I leaned back slightly while saying “She’s this.” I closed my eyes, and crossed my arms. After a second or two, I fronted myself properly, and picked up the fork to eat the mash…

Again. She tries to talk to me “Oh, so sorry to hear that…..Mark, his mother was from the UK, and she died.” She said to her boyfriend, still buried in his phone………..Mark is his name…………he ignores her. Mark was not British. He had a SF Giants baseball cap on and was as American as I was……

At this point, I got up, moved one spot over at the bar, slid my bowl of mash over to the new spot, slid my tea. Ignored her and sat back down to enjoy myself.

 

 

 

 

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Young Souls

No, I am not “young” anymore but this short film encapsulates the feeling, drive and life of Northern Soul, classic American sixties R&B and lived with an intensity. It’s about cutting loose and dancing, and throwing it all on the floor. I love dancing to soul music and I do relate in this clip to a few scenes.

This short film is from the UK but have spent many an “all nite” out dancing to this music. A fun, safe, supportive scene. Enjoy!

Never Leave Your Baby’s Side

Recorded at “Hitsville USA” Motown Studio 2, October 1965. Detroit. MI. Released at the b-side to the big hit “My Baby Loves Me”

Martha Reeves by far is my fav Motown gal. She was more urbane and street than Boss Ross (Diana) and I’ve always liked her personality in interviews. She seems like the type of gal back in the day after playing a set, and she’s at the bar…you could have a drink with her, or say “Hey. let’s dance…” and being the kind of woman she is, would oblige.

Anyway, this track pushed that studio to the limits, and done in two takes. Talent.

I’ve danced hard to this at soul nights, and its just a fine song.

In Search Of……

Back in the mid 1970’s thru the early 1980’s there was a prime time TV show called “In Search Of” and the host was Leonard Nimoy. It was a very popular show for several seasons……the show delved into a new topic every week:

  • In Search Of…….The Loch Ness Monster
  • In Search Of…….Atlantis
  • In Search Of……..Count Dracula
  • In Search Of……..Stonehenge
  • In Search of ……….The Mayans

You get the idea……the show explored the paranormal, lost civilizations, myths, extraterrestrials, missing quasi-famous persons, and the unexplained. It combined experts and professionals in the respected area and discussed the topic along with “live action” reenacted sequences; and always with Nimoy’s deadpan narration and quizzical facial expressions.

It looks a little hokey by todays eyes, but it wasn’t a bad show. I remember the haunting theme as a boy, and my parents watching it weekly. Mom doing needlepoint on the couch, dad a book in his lap and the ever-present cigarette burning in the ashtray next to his chair. As I got a little older I enjoyed watching the show with them in the TV room of the house, and sometimes they would talk to me about the topic discussed, their own opinions or it would move on to another topic….and if the conversation was good enough for both of them one of my parents would turn off the TV and a long discussion would happen. Dad would break out the encyclopedias on the shelf next to his chair….my mother might get a dictionary.

My parents actually talked to each other and enjoyed each others company.

In my own life at this point, I have a title for an “In Search Of” episode called “In Search Of…….A Church That Preaches The Word of God”

The haunting intro theme would begin………and so would “the search” no, Leonard Nimoy won’t be narrating this one.

I never knew finding a new church would be this challenging.  I have been in Santa Rosa now for two months and no church I have been in seems “welcoming” or even warm to a new face. This is the Bay Area of California, and the pews in ALL of them are not even a quarter full…….you would think a new face might garnish more than a rare “hello”.

At this point I would have easier time getting reefers or LSD. There are plenty of churches in this city. It’s not a church desert.

Even in my tradition of The Salvation Army, which brought me ‘back’ into the fold of Christendom has a limp and spineless Corps here. Three people on Sunday, all over the age of 65. I guess they forgot about the “marching” part, and they seem content to stay the size they are and eventually die off up here for good. The Corps building is from the 1920’s. Can hold well over 200 people. If I know the Salvation Army, and I do. They would not have built a building this size originally if they did not have the numbers to get it filled. In those days, a very pragmatic attitude ran the business side Army.

In Fresno I attended a large Assembly of God Church (AG) for their “mens ministry” which wasn’t half-bad. I enjoyed the fact that the pastor to the men there did have some real talk and insight in his messages….and it wasn’t just about porn, or being a dad. Many of his sermons focused on not being the “man God called you to be” but to be the man that you are right now. The music was terrible….but I did enjoy the fellowship.

Here in Santa Rosa, the the local AG church has a prancing tart up on the stage a la Matt Chandler who talked nonstop on how we can “never judge, never, never, ever!” It was a man desert here (except for the older men who were married) and the praise was terrible. The church was not even a quarter filled.

However one ministry here struck me. They have a volunteer program of men helping old men in their respected homes / apartments to help with cooking, cleaning and bathing. I met the man running this, and I was struck by his genuine nature. I am currently going through a background check so I can help here. It’s a good idea, and proactive ministry that actually helps men for once. It’s a smaller ministry at this church and it takes actual WORK so I’m game.

I curiously poked my head inside the local Episcopal church on a random weekday evening. A grand Victorian styled church built in the 1870’s. Not a cathedral, but a decent sized church. I was raised culturally in this church because of my mothers COE upbringings back in Wales……..inside this church? Rainbow flags and banners hanging inside off the wooden buttresses. A rainbow cloth over the pulpit…..a bulletin board in the lobby that says “Love Trumps Hate” and with that, I stepped out, almost wanting to throw up my lunch.

Should gays be welcome in a church. Yes. Should gays hear the word of God. Yes. Should gays feel free to get to know people in a church, and ask questions of why Christians believe what they believe. Totally. Should Christians talk to gays, or know people who are gay? If they happen to be in their work circle or social circle. Of course.

But for a church to allow this, embrace it, and muscle it into a position of total acceptance and in positions where it was never allowed??? Satanic.

The local Methodist Church was the same. The one Christian church I looked into online seemed to be the biggest one in town and from the activities listed, it was more about being cool that learning about Christ. The video clip of the one youth minister was in shorts and a tank-top at the pulpit talking about protecting women and girls from predators. Coming from a good-looking muscled gym-rat in a tank top and shorts on the podium on Sunday. No thanks. I already have a complex, I would like it reduced on Sunday.

The local Eastern Orthodox Church was also mostly empty. I went this Sunday past. The Usher said “Hello” and handed me a program. That was the only word that was spoken to me for almost a two-hour service. When leaving, no one said hello. No one even asked “Who are you?” or “What’s your name?” and the clincher “Do you have any questions about us, we’re different from most churches.”

A devout Orthodox on another blog affirmed this by his reply to me when I mentioned that I attended one. You pretty much have to learn or come into that tradition from birth, or be invited / initiated. Kind of like baseball. You cannot teach the French, English or Germans baseball. You have to be born into a culture that plays it.

A part of the problem of American Christianity……all traditions, it’s a closed club. A friend brings you or you are really not needed. At the AG church, I discovered that ministry by reading the program. The only reason I looked for a Salvation Army was because I do consider it still a “home church”

Other churches just don’t seem to want anyone there.

A sad state of Christianity here in California…..it seems the church in general has given up………..and maybe, just maybe a part of this that the people who still do attend don’t really want anyone there.

It looks as if I will have to just pray on my own and dedicate myself to a few hours of Scripture at home on Sunday. Any suggestions fellow-men out there???????

In Search Of………………..a church that preaches the Word of God

 

 

 

Last Train to London…..

Since November 2017 I have begun the process of going to the United Kingdom for a vacation. Many of my fellow Californians have asked “why?” would I want to go to the UK? The hip places now are Vietnam, white-water rafting off the Tibetan plateau, doing opium in Thailand in between sex with nine-year old girls…….these know-it-alls always have to rain on my parade. Whatever I am doing….it’s “nope, nope….this is where I should go or do.” I have an invisible sign above me that says “you can always one up this guy”

I’m half-British by my mother, and I have never visited my relatives in their home country, and I have never been to the land of my fathers (Wales). Many relatives came over for my mothers funeral in 2008, and also in the mid-1980’s on a holiday. My uncle, my aunts and many of my cousins stayed with us for weeks. My grandfather and grandmother would visit as well every five years or so for a few weeks growing up.

It’s time.

With that said, I am also an “Anglophile” of sorts or consider myself one. I like tea. I like British fashion, culture, pop-sensibilities, the accent of course…and all my favorite musicians are from the UK. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, The Who, The Small Faces, Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, and the countless “pop” and “alternative” that has graced my ears over the decades. This list could be a whole entry in itself. Design and style in architecture from the UK is tops in my book….even some of that utility stuff from the 1960’s holds up (some of it does).

It’s time.

I picked up on the “Mod” identity, style and look in high school and as a younger man….and I am still one, but I am not as militant about it anymore. Probably a good thing at my age. Seeing pictures of my mother and aunts  in A-line dresses / Mary Quant from the 1960’s along with a futuristic metallic sheen and gloss on all photography back then gave the times (early to mid sixties) a space-age look.

I know reality will be different from what I expect when I do get there. It’s not the UK my mother grew up in………well, maybe Wales is still Wales. I still am going to have a good time.

In June 2019 I am flying out of San Francisco to London “business class” on British Airways. I have booked six nights at the ultra modern and fashionable “W Hotel” in London. I plan to thrift shop for cool threads, buy something at the infamous “Harrods” department store. I will make the “pilgrimage” to Abbey Road Studios. One night while in London, I will suit-up and go out on the town to a hipper-higher-end nightclub. Oh, yeah….a picture of that “changing of the guard thing” maybe half a day at the National Gallery. I also will be in the studio audience for a taping of “The Jeremy Kyle Show”

Then it’s off to Manchester (Madchester?) for another six days where I am staying at an old Victorian hotel that is modest in price. I will meet my one cousin Robert and his girlfriend (a witch). Planning to shop or is it (shoppe) for records and have a relaxing six days in this city…if it’s soccer season and if the lads are at home……probably a match will be taken in by me. I plan to find a “northern soul” night while in Manchester, and I will dance to soul, Motown and rare r&b………..all night. My cousin hates “northern soul” and the whole scene….him being in the civil service in the UK I think requires him to hate everything. He’s a huge Smiths and Moz fan…….so that probably explains it as well.

A grip of the bands I followed in college are from this city…….esp The Happy Mondays.

Finally. Wales. The remaning of my family has retreated to deep North Wales near Conway…the sticks……and I will be staying with them for six days. Speaking Welsh all the time, eating eels, and a great cool down. I like my Uncle Thomas very much and my cousins Kate, Mary and David will be pleased to see me……Aunt Gladys as well.

It’s time.

I got the mechanics done…..the rail tickets. The airline. The hotels……now its some new clothing, and a grip of money to save. I plan to arrive with over 12K to blow, I mean spend.

SInce I don’t drink or drug anymore….my money will go that much further. If you happen to be from the UK and are reading this…..perhaps we could meet……..until June 2019……sticking to a pretty tight austerity budget so I can really enjoy myself.

Last train to London……..and my first destination. The W Hotel, London and “The Jeremy Kyle Show”

 

Here is a sample of The Jeremy Kyle show.

Jarrid Wilson The Pastor

When the Christian world inside the church wrings their hands, and lips get tearsed about the lack of “men” in church today…….and the usual drivel that comes as solutions are as follows from the supposed leaders (pastors):

  • We need “bold” and “biblical” fellowships for men (another boring Bible study)
  • We need more sermons to tell the men who are here now to “man up”
  • We need to tickle the itchy-ears of all the amazing / saintly / holy / beautiful women during the announcements, and the message…….with lots of self-depreciating jokes about men
  • We need to restore masculinity to the church by having a sermon about football, having the men go to a football game (don’t worry ladies, the pastor will be there to make sure they all behave so it’s okay to give him permission to go and we will have a lesson on the way), or have a bible study about football instead of them watching a game.
  • We need lots of loud rock, contemporary Christian music because “real men” love rock and if you don’t….you might as well be wearing a dress
  • We need to take more worldly activities, slap “jesus” on it and now we have an activity that is “christian” (really sloppy evangelism)

This has been done over and over and over and over and over again. The results are pitiful, and the churches of course claim a major victory with each failed program, or the tearse lips, and shaking of heads “I guess people just don’t want to know Him”

So since these practices have been and still are an abysmal failure……and since pastoring today is a profession, not a passion the discussion always changes to “racism” and “defending the holy / saintly / amazing / beautiful / daughter of the king” which is woman. Safe topics in todays church, mirroring the world in thought action and deed. Which is sad. Because men are needed desperately in todays church. In mine and in yours.

Not that racism is an issue today, it is. Classism is a bigger one in the church and culture today. So is crass materialism inside the church and the culture. Racism is the easiest thing today for the church to take a “bold” stance against because the secular world won’t question that. The church should not have to take a stand against racism, because if they were actually preaching the Word of God and doing their job it would be a moot issue. Will all the atheists now accept Christ and come to church because one, or ten or all churches take a bold stance on this topic of racism and ‘social justice’? The answer is no. The social justice world hates Christians.

Which brings us to a Mr. Jarrid Wilson……..

There was a meme of late about young Christian men preferring a non-tattooed, virginal and wholesome type of gal. Now, the picture in question used in the meme aside and if the statement is indeed a “truth”

Well, out came the defenders of women with tattoos, non-virgins, and whatever other baggage these women have; one was an Associate Pastor named Jarrid Wilson. He’s a big shot in some church in Nashville. Good for him.

My prejudices against The South in general (the accent in particular) will be let go here.

Let me remind Mr. Wilson as a Christian, a former addict, and a man of prayer…real deep prayer (I’ll be on my knees tonight praying while he’s asleep, I can guarantee this).

There are consequences for sin. Any of them. All of them. Even in accepting “jesus as your lord and savior” it won’t make you a physical “virgin” again. It won’t remove the vulgar tattoos. It won’t fix the health problems from past drug use, or cure an STD, or make HIV / AIDS suddenly “go away” because you have “jesus in your heart”

What being born again DOES do is open the “knocking” of that door to your heart to let Christ IN and begin the process of readying for His eternal kingdom. Your past scars from past sin are forgiven by Him, washed clean before the Father when judgement comes……but it does not make the results of sin leave.

I was a filthy addict. A liar. A no good man who could not be trusted with a nickel….

I turned around. Christ showed me a different way, but that acceptance just didn’t make the past consequences of sin leave.

It took a decade to restore trust with my family by my ACTIONS in Christ. It took a decade to clean up financial issues of money owed, debt and “making amends” and a few people who I did make amends with…….did not forgive me of my past. They don’t have to. I pray they may someday……

I caused some mild psychological damage and cognitive damage to myself from drug use and abuse…….okay……I am not a vegetable…..and I am far from dumb….but boy, sometimes…….cognitive cues just don’t seem to work right and that is a consequence of sinful behavior. A reminder of what I once was.

A person can change through Christ. Professing Christ doesn’t make one a Christian, nor does going to a church……even in The South!

Younger Christian men probably DO prefer a virgin with no tattoos, and his immediate “white knighting” is actually driving the flock further from the truth and turning more churches into man-deserts.

Just sayin’

 

 

 

 

 

Even Here……

Last night I was relaxing with a nightcap of coffee (a rarity for me after 6pm) and had a local talk radio program on my stereo. The cat was curled up asleep on the couch. I was leafing through a trade magazine and the most recent National Geographic while the conversation on the radio turned into something……..that I was even surprised at.

The host was a woman……she’s conservative (small letter “c” conservative) probably because she supports lower taxes, and she doesn’t like abortion. That makes her an extreme-fundamentalist-right-winger in The Bay Area of California.

Anyway……she casually mentioned “what happened to men?” she went into the drivel on how we were once “confident, we worked hard, were inspiring, natural leaders” type of thing……….the monologue went on with “she knows so many amazing, educated, sexy, smart, brave, confident women who just want a nice guy…..who want a man who will work, stand by her and for her…….”

A bunch of calls came in……from women……it was a whine fest of more of the same “I totally get you, after my last boyfriend five years ago, I am dateless, alone, no men talk to me” and “Oh amazing radio host! Men today are so useless, all ages……they gripe, they complain, they don’t do anything…” added as well “they all play video games, live at their mom’s house* and only want a Barbie type of woman.” Another caller, “in my church in Marin, all the single guys don’t ask any of us girls out….we are so amazing, have so much to offer……and the guys are wimps!”

*Before I continue, who are all these men who live at their mom’s house???? Not one did in my Corps in Fresno. None here at the local Corps in Santa Rosa. The large AG church I attended here and there for “mens fellowship” did not live in mom’s house. The men I worked with did not. The men I have met in Santa Rosa do not. The men I met at Motown Night in Fresno did not.

It was turning into a gripe-clatch of a conservative-radio version of “The View”

Suddenly a man called in.

He went on about how “women are just not women anymore.” He was immediately cut off and questioned about “exactly what he meant by that statement!”

He tried, guy did try to explain calmly and precisely about the “#metoo” movement, tried in vain to explain the passive aggressive put-downs by women on all men, tried hopelessly to say “hey, a lot of us were tired of being shot down by many women, so we gave up!”

The conversation went down from there. His call ended in defeat.

Another man called in, and he was a divorced fire-fighter living at “mom’s house” because the divorce took everything from him. He was shot down too! He “should be striving for that promotion in the department so he wouldn’t have to live at mom’s house at the age of 35, and your wife must have had a good reason to divorce you.”

Another man called in tried to explain aspects of men today….this radio host could not or would not grasp it. He quoted Dr. Helen’s book “Men On Strike” and this host even had the gall to say “You know……yeah, you bring up some points, but how come a woman had to write a book like this? Why did it take a woman? Where are all you men standing up? Obviously something is really wrong with you guys if an accomplished woman like Dr. Helen has to speak for you all.”

Another man called in, mentioned how “everything is a competition with women today” and he was passively shut-down with “Well, we women just want a nice guy and we love to laugh…..maybe you guys need to learn how to do that and be that.”

It was painful to listen to. More women callers, all validating the hosts’ stance on this “important issue” today.

You are all wondering……did seventiesjason call in? Did he get on the air? Did he talk to this woman?

No. There was no point in doing that. There was no way her stances were going to change, and it would take a very articulate and rare dude to hit with questions in the right way, with the right inflection, tone and attitude to even get this host to listen.

Even here. In Santa Rosa…..the liberal North Bay, that voted over 95% for Hillary in 2016, women are still dateless, lonely, single, and still blame men for this problem. Their problem.