Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005's Best Television

Everyone else is doing top ten lists... why can't I?

The Ten Best Television Shows of 2005

1--LOST.
By far one of my all time favorite shows, ever. Are you watching this show? If you aren't, don't even try it now. Rent the first season dvd, take a half day and watch about six episodes... it will suck you in and keep you revving for more. One thing seemingly so insignificant in one episode will turn up to be a major part of another episode, seven episodes later... it makes you go back and rewatch things to see what you missed... keep an eye on the background at all times, but don't lose sight of whats happening to Jack, Claire, Kate, Charlie, Locke, Sawyer, Hurley, Sun, Jin, Walt, Michael, Sayid, Boone and Shannon on the fateful flight of Oceanic Airlines 815.

2--MY NAME IS EARL.
This show is one of the funniest shows I've ever seen... Jason Lee (Vanilla Sky, Kevin Smith's movies, the voice of Syndrome in The Incredibles) is flawless as trailer trash Earl Hickey, trying to improve his karma by going back and fixing all that has gone wrong in his life.

3--SURVIVOR.
Eleven seasons in, and its still the granddaddy of all reality shows... well, perhaps thats The Real World, but Survivor is a front runner. If you have never seen it, season 12 will be popping up in February, where the show goes to Panama for its new Exile Island, a concept yet unseen in Survivordom. My personal favorite season ever was Season 2 in Australia, if only because the hottest thing to ever walk a Survivor aisle was in that season, speaking of Elisabeth Filarski (now she's Elisabeth Hasselback, and you can see her on The View in the mornings). And to top it off, she's a Republican AND a Christian!!

4--DIRTY JOBS.
This one comes on the Discovery Channel at various times... have you ever wondered what it was like cleansing a sewage tank? Perhaps cleaning a grease pit at a Mexican restaurant? Or going on a trash run through San Francisco's Chinatown district? Probably not... but this guy, Mike Rowe, does all this stuff. He spends time with people, doing the dirtiest jobs in America (stirring cheese??), all the stuff we take for granted. Of course, the show is only made better by his quick wit and great expressions when something comes up even he can't handle.

5--COLD CASE.
First of all, I love Kathryn Morris. I would watch her read a science book and enjoy it completely. (She was the grieving mom/wife of Tom Cruise in the movie Minority Report) However, this show is not only underrated, but brilliant... the premise is, Lily Rush (Morris) leads a police team that investigates unsolved crimes, using old evidence and new techniques to figure it out... some crimes are from a few years ago, some are decades old. Just a great show all around.

6--CITY CONFIDENTIAL.
This one is here because I'm a total nerd. I love forensic shows, and stuff on A&E and the like and this one is the best of them all. Simply a tale told of a small town, usually a town that you wouldn't mind living in... except there is always a catch. Usually its murder. It used to be narrated by the wonderful Paul Winfield, but since his death in 2004, Keith David took over. Still a great storyteller, though.

7--COLD CASE FILES.
Like the show of the similar name, old cases are solved... however, this one is real. Bill Kurtis is the narrator, and its like he's a grandfather telling you a tale, except this tale is full of homicides and serial killers. This stuff fascinates me, I can't help it. It recently celebrated its 100th episode with a story about the Green River Killer. Fantastic episode.

8--CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION.
Let me be clear... I have only seen one or two episodes of this show this season. Usually, Stephanie and I rent the DVDs of the previous season during the summer, hence we saw all of Season Four last summer and will see Season Five next summer. (Currently on tv is Season Six). But I would have to put this show down as one of my favorite shows, because it just rocks. Warrick Brown is a mack daddy, and the only reason I didnt rank this higher is because I haven't seen all the episodes.


9--SCRUBS.
Unfortunately, my old employer, NBC, likes to move this show around alot, and doesn't give it the fair shake it deserves. This is one of the most clever, funniest, sharpest shows on television. It will return to the line up I think in January, so I would say check it out. I have the first two seasons on DVD and I love it!

10--DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.
Yes, yes, this show is not the cleanest show in the world. And yes, Season One was better. But still... it rocks. Simply a modern day soap opera for men & women, featuring four neighbors who consider themselves best friends, yet don't know much about each other in the least. Like Lost, it would be hard just to jump aboard and start watching. In fact, I don't know that I recommend it...

Shows I Watch Even Though I Don't Like To Admit It
Clean Sweep on TLC
Pimp My Ride
E!'s True Hollywood Story

Shows I Haven't Seen, or Have Quit Watching, but They Were Excellent and I Wish I Hadn't Stopped:
Veronica Mars
Prison Break

Dave's All Time Top Favorite Shows Ever on Television:
1. The Wonder Years (I grew up with Kevin Arnold. We were like brothers)
2. Doogie Howser MD (Doogie was the original blogger, before anyone knew what blogs were)
3. The A-Team (Now its a silly show... then it was the coolest thing ever)
4. Lost* (i would rank it here... has the potential to climb or drop, depending on the future)
5. Home Improvement (bar none, one of the top two or three funniest shows ever on TV)
6. Scarecrow & Mrs. King (comedy drama from back in the 80s. I used to watch this with my parents)
7. Scrubs* (see note for Lost)
8. The Dukes of Hazzard (at the time, it was fantastic. now its a little hokey, i'll admit)
9. Friends (we became friends my freshman year in college... ten years of my life were spent with ross, rachel, monica, phoebe, chandler and joey)
10. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation* (will definately move up my the time its all over)
Honorable Mention: Judging Amy, Knight Rider, You Can't Do That on Television, Hey Dude!, The Cosby Show

How About You?

Friday, October 21, 2005

Time is Money

Well... I contacted a friend of mine (an ex!) that now works in Huntsville. She used to work at a station here in town, but moved away a few years ago. Anyway, she's good friends with the news director at her old station, so she contacted him, then contacted me with his info. I called him on Thursday, left a message. I'll try back again on Monday.

Another friend of mine works at another station, but she said nothing is available there in what I want... and what I dont want is to get another job that will hopefully lead to another job--I want a job that is directly related to what I want to do.

Got some info of another station here in town... I'll follow that up.

Spent much of the evening (after seeing The Rock in "Doom", of course!) online looking at job sites... McDonald's in Bessmer is hiring! As is the Rave! Both are seeking asst. manager positions. Uh... no. Saw a few public relations jobs online... of course, I'm not qualified for any of them, but that doesnt mean I wont explore them.

Can someone tell me what the crap
Reflex Blu is?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

One Month...

So, today at NBC, some stuff happened. Some stuff that made me step back and realize that I was not made for crunching numbers and such. God made us all for a reason--my reason is not at NBC 13. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it... but I am not fulfilled there, and know its not what I want to do with my life.

Essentially, I wont be at NBC after November, by hook or by crook. At first, it freaked me out... I mean, a month to find a good job, that pays comparable to what I make now? But the more I think about it, the more I pray about it, the more I talk to God about it, the more excited I've become about it.

I have 30 days to find a job. So, I've decided to make this something we can all enjoy... where will Dave be in 30 days?

Im going to begin praying for what God has in store for me, and we'll find out what happens in the next 30 days when I step back and let God be God. Ya wanna come along?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Thoughts on 9/11, Part II

We continue with what was written in September 2002, a year after the 9/11 attacks. I had just gotten back from NYC--and Ground Zero--a month prior.

Thoughts on 9/11 Part II
“This poem makes me feel like my daddy is speaking to me.
‘I give you this one though to keep, I am with you, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glint on the snow.
I am as sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain when you awaken in morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft starts that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone,
I am with you still in each new dawn.’ ”
--Brittany Clark, 11, reading a tribute to her father who was last seen helping a handicapped woman on the 88th floor of Tower 1.

We had been in New York City for eight days now, and were two days from heading home. The trip had been tiring, exhausting, but so rewarding and such a learning experience. I hate clich├ęs, but that’s really the only way to describe it.

On this particular day, we had one task at hand. We had been scheduled to travel down to Manhattan to the First Nazarene Church, where we would meet up with the pastor and get some information on the Festival of Life. The Festival of Life was an upcoming (then it was, it’s already passed now) festival with musicians, speakers and the Gospel of Christ being shared. All we had to do was to take a handful of fliers, which were just postcards with info on both sides, and hand them out around Ground Zero and Battery Park.

For those of you unfamiliar with the area, as I was, Battery Park is the southern tip of Manhattan, close to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, across from Staten Island. Right above Battery Park is the financial district, Wall Street and the Stock Exchange area. To the northwest was the World Trade Center, both towers, and the seven other buildings that make up the WTC. Just so you know, the two towers were only part of the Center itself. There’s your history lesson.

"I was so overwhelmed that day that I couldn't watch anything... My aunt was in NY that day on business... that day they were in the building across the street. The smoke and heat and debris of the first crash literally pushed them out of the building. They were running down the street with t-shirts covering their faces. They looked back to see people jumping out of the towers before they got to Battery Park. This too will be a day to live in infamy. This is our Pearl Harbor. I still haven't figured out what that means for me yet.”

--Kasie Moser, Samford University

We arrived in the Trade Center area, which was weird, because there was this big patch of open clear beautiful blue sky where I know some buildings should have been. I had on my backpack, Erin had hers, we all had a handful of fliers ready to hand out. But as we got closer to the site, it became apparent to me that fliers weren’t even something I was going to be thinking of.

Going to Ground Zero… it didn’t necessarily excite me. Maybe it made me anxious, because we live in Alabama, and though we saw everything live on television, it still seemed like a world away. As we walked closer to the site, I began to recognize stores and shops that I had seen on TV, on specials, in pictures. The Century 21 Department Store building, the Famous Pizza sign on Broadway, things like that. The first thing we saw was the Memorial Wall, a fence that circled a church, a fence covered in things… I began to walk a little faster, ahead of everyone.

The area known as Ground Zero is surrounded by a maybe-seven foot fence, and most of the fence is covered in a black tarp. There are holes in the tarp, apparently where someone had torn through to see, but you still couldn’t see much. On the eastern side, however, is a platform with an uncovered high chain link fence set up for people to view the site. Because you can’t see Ground Zero, or the land itself, from the direction we were walking, the first thing that is noticeable is the high buildings around it, one of which, I am guessing One Liberty Plaza, is completely covered in a black tarp. I’m talking maybe 50 or 60 stories, covered in black. On the far side is another building (Dow Jones, if I’m right) which looks to be in use, with a roof that looks heavily damaged.

I was way ahead of everyone in our group, but it didn’t matter to me. I was ready to see this area. I somehow almost felt like I needed to see it, to piece together what I had witnessed on television to real life. I rounded the corner and came to the viewing platform to see Ground Zero, the site of where the two tallest buildings in the western hemisphere had once been. It was awe inspiring.

"I was, of course, in the best place to be, at church. Still in shock but comforted at the same time. Quietness was in abundance and time for reflection also. I don't think anyone in the office thought anything of any of us stopping to weep and pray for those families and rescue workers who were directly affected. I know that we have all been indirectly affected by the 9-11 attack and that life as we knew it is forever changed. [But we are reminded] God can take anything and use it for His glory."

--Lynn Nipp, Pastor’s Admin. Asst. Valleydale Baptist Church

The hole that was in the ground was indescribable. In addition to the two towers, also destroyed were the Marriott Hotel that sat between 1 and 2, and then World Trade Buildings 5, 6 and 7. So the land obviously had to be big enough for all of these buildings to reside on… and there was even a courtyard in the middle. But they all came down into this big hole, which was the “basement” of the World Trade Center, including shopping areas, restaurants and other office spaces.


The hole I stared at was at least 5 stories deep, and—I’m only estimating—a couple of football fields wide and long. There were 6 billion pounds of steel and wreckage when the buildings came down… it filled the hole I was looking at, and rose above it 7 stories. That’s at least 12 stories… 140 feet… high of stuff. Steel. Metal. Wood. Bodies. Computers. Chairs. Papers. Desk lamps. Counter tops. Pencils. Filing cabinets. Not only was it 140 feet high… the pile was probably a good ¼ to ½ mile in circumference. I never imagined it would be so big.

To be a fireman, or a rescue worker, going to the pile, pulling out stuff bucketfuls at a time… I can’t imagine it. I just can’t put it into my mind how they did it. Just seeing the emptiness of this pit, closing my eyes, and imagining what I saw on television actually being in a crater this size… it takes my breath away and breaks my heart into pieces.

Finally, I couldn’t look at Ground Zero anymore… it was just too much. I walked back towards the Memorial Wall, pulling out my fliers. I tried handing them out with very little luck… because I’m sure they didn’t want to be bothered, I managed to give out one for every ten rejections and pass bys I got. I made my way to the wall… and this is where it finally all hit me at one time.

“My AP physics teacher turned off the TV after a long time of watching, after the pentagon was hit, after hearing about the plane in Pennsylvania. He started to talk to us--mentioning that "if you're a Christian in this room right now, you need to be praying...” That was very bold to say in a public high school. Three girls grabbed their bibles and asked if they could have permission to go in the hall to talk - they went, I followed. I didn’t really know them. One simply asked, "You want to pray with us?" "Yeah." I remember getting tired of the people talking on the radio about it. I drove without any radio or music a lot of times after 9-11, just praying.”

--Tammy McLeod, Then a High School Senior

The church that sat in the middle… I don’t remember the name of it… I have been racking my brain, but I can’t remember the name of it… of this wall was closed. The sign in the front read something like, “This church was a command post and triage for the wounded during the attacks on September 11th. We are now closed to repair and make renovations following the attacks, and will reopen (it gave a date I don’t remember).” The fence that was around it was a tall, iron fence, and the church and fence made up the entire block.

"Working for the Red Cross, it was no time until our donor center was filling up with people wanting to donate blood. Here in Alabama, donating blood was therapeutic and gave people a way to feel like they were helping their fellow man. By lunchtime a long line had formed and people were patiently waiting to donate. As the afternoon progressed the line grew even longer. At one point the wait to donate was 5-6 hours but no one seemed to mind."

--Tad Roose, American Red Cross

I walked to the front of the block, the site of the first area that I had seen when I initially walked up, and began to look at the things on this fence. I was drawn to this fence… I put the fliers in my backpack (I’m sorry Fish, I didn’t do my job… please forgive me) and began to study this fence more closely.

There was a note from a little girl to her dad who had died in the Tower collapse. It said something like, “Daddy, I miss you.” And was written in crayon, laminated to survive the outdoor air.


There were thousands of paper cranes there. A school in Japan wrote, “The paper crane is our symbol of peace and healing. The crane was first created by a woman suffering from the effects of the bomb in Nagasaki, and throughout the century, has meant so much to so many people. We have made 7,000 paper cranes, one for each of your dead and your wounded in New York City.” And the cranes were everywhere.

There was a newspaper clipping of a young guy who had died, and how much his sister misses him

There was, of all things, a plastic mold of a seahorse, the kind you’d use in the sand on the beach. It sat in front of a ceramic angel, now faded and worn, chipped on the wings.
There was an Irish flag there, with the words “Ireland loves NYC! We are praying for you all!”

There was a poem there from a son to a father, who died in the crash

There was a letter from a wife to a husband who was aboard one of the plans.

There was a Mormon Bible there, inscribed to someone who was killed

There was a stuffed rabbit there, with a white coat, now brown from dirt and dust, from being outside so long. The fur was rough feeling, but the rabbit was very squeezable.

There were many I Love NY t-shirts, all with different things written on it, with signatures from California, Alaska, Mexico, Georgia, Japan and many other places.

And a fireman’s helmet, just hanging there on the fence. Nothing else with it, just a fireman’s helmet.

Crosses. Toys. Trinkets. Necklaces. Baby booties. Pictures. Frames. “Missing” photos. It was all there. I looked at a large wooden cross for several minutes, and then tears began to form. A light tap on my shoulder came from Fish, who was walking by. She saw me… I don’t know what she thought I was doing, but somehow I think she understood how taken in I was by all of this. She talked with me for a minute, asking me if I would go across the street to Office Depot and pick up a few things. She spoke very softly, very gently, as if not just in reverence for the lost lives represented on this wall, but almost seemingly out of respect for me, because she could see on my face that this was really hitting me hard.

Fish gave me a reassuring smile, a small squeeze on the shoulder and she walked past me. I turned back to the cross I was in front of, and a tear trickled down my cheek. I quickly wiped it away… was it okay to cry in front of all these people? I mean, some of these people were taking pictures in front of the wall, like it was tourist attraction or something (which totally inflamed me)… could I cry? I think it wasn’t a matter of whether I should or not. I knelt down in front of the cross, took my backpack and laid it under me, and placed my hands on the iron fence and on the curb. I began to pray, and I prayed for at least twenty minutes right there. And as I prayed, the tears flowed. For the families, for the little girls who lost their mommies, for the little boys who lost their daddies, for the parents who lost their little boys and girls, no matter the age… for the lost, for the saved, for the entire area. I prayed for the survivors and their families, and the victims not just in New York, but Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

"[It didn’t hit me] until I was watching the news where all the people were crowding around with pictures of their loved ones, screaming for them, screaming for anyone to help them find them. Knowing deep in my heart that they were probably dead. That's when I cried. That's when I sobbed for 20 minutes or longer. I'll never forget their faces, or their urgent pleas. "My son, he was a window washer on the 102nd floor of the World Trade Center, Tower 2. If you see him, please call. . . ." "My husband. We have a little boy. . . please, please, if anyone has seen him, please call me." Here we are, a year later, and I know that I'll never forget the images I saw over and over again. I'll never forget some of those faces. I'll never forget President Bush's face when he found out, or the comforting words he gave out to the nation."
Stephanie Campbell, Atlanta, Georgia

Finally, I stood up and wiped my eyes. Behind me, I heard several people taking pictures… it would be arrogant to think they were taking pictures of me praying, but it’s possible. I didn’t even see anyone I knew, except for that brief moment with Fish, for another few hours. So I was able to walk the block… I was told to walk the block, from God I believe, and prayer walk. And so that was my afternoon… I won’t dive into that, because that goes into a whole other story…

I’ll stop now. I didn’t know quite how to end this, but I think I’ve found it. It addition to the comments Tammy McLeod sent me above, she included an excerpt from her journal, written on 9/11/2001. And it’s a fitting way to end this email, to end this letter to you guys.

"God, You are such a mighty and awesome God. I thank You for the peace You give me and everyone who trusts in You. I pray for the victims and their loved ones. I can’t pretend to know their suffering and pain. But You've not given me or anyone else more than we can handle. I’m glad that nothing surprises You. Thank You for the promise of working everything out for the good for those who love You. forgive me for all my ignorance - please stop me from making this simply an emotional time - I pray that I will be an effective Christ follower so that the people around me will see You in the midst of their uncertainty and questioning. I love you...”
Tammy McLeod’s journal

Thoughts on 9/11 Part I

Can you believe its been 4 years since the 9/11 attacks? Like the Challenger explosion, Princess Diana's death, and for older people, the moon landing and JFK's funeral, this is one of those rare events where everyone remembers where they were when it all began to unfold.

I wrote the following essay below, in two parts, and I want to add a third part later this week about my re-visit to Ground Zero about a month ago. When 9/11 happened, I attempted to write some things... but nothing made sense. A year later, I finally was able to produce my thoughts on paper; mind you, this was before I dated Stephanie, this was before I worked at NBC, this was in the midst of The Deuce, so this was a long time ago. So, here we go...

Thoughts on 9/11, Part 1

Oh, the rhetoric we are thrown this week… “Tuesday morning began as such a beautiful day…” “Everything seemed so normal on Monday…” “Our lives would change forever on that day…” But here’s the crazy thing… it’s all true. Tuesday morning was a perfect day. Monday was your typical Monday. And nothing would be the same.

To spare you from what you’ll hear over and over and over today and tomorrow and in the next few days, I want to share with you a few different things. I want to give you my Tuesday morning. And then I want to share with you my Wednesday afternoon that occurred eleven months later. These are my thoughts… maybe they ramble, maybe they are boring… but I wanted to share. The stats I have come from USAToday.

I work at 1069 the Point and 973 Oldies, but last September, it was Oldies 106.9, and down the hall was Rock 97.3. Rob and Shannon premiered on Monday on the 106.9 station, stolen from up the hill at Magic 96. I had already me t both of them, and had applied—and been granted—an internship with their morning show. The first day was really hard, being there at 5:45, answering phones, telling people where Burt and Kurt went (the old morning show, now you can find them on 101.1 The Source in the afternoons), telling people about Rob & Shannon, talking on the air some, being introduced as SuperDave. Katy still calls me that… I like it.

I’d been at Cox Radio for almost three months, I was still learning my way around, still learning my place. My computer was old, the only person I knew really was Michelle Carr, then the national sales assistant, and she was even kind of intimidating, because she was tall and knew everyone and everything much more than I did. I made it through the morning show, Rob and Shannon made it through the show as well, and I came back to my desk to work on Alabama Football packages. I didn’t know Katy. I didn’t know Lori. I barely knew Tammy McLeod, Jason Demastus and knew nothing of Alex and Erin and Melanie and the Shades church up the hill.

Tuesday morning, I awoke at 5:30 am, got into the shower and headed to work. Rob & Shannon’s second day on the air, one of today’s big features was that a guy from San Francisco was going to call in about pricing records. He’s a big vintage record expert, and we were going to invite listeners to call in with their records to be priced. I found out my vintage “The King and I” soundtrack album, with the Deborah Kerr and Yul Brenner cover, was worth about 18 dollars.

At 8:50am, the phone rang, and I answered it… it was Ericka Woode, our lovely midday host, also stolen from Magic 96. She was letting me know that since 8:46am, the World Trade Center had been on fire, and that we should turn on the television in the studio. We did, and Rob began to announce over the air that the tower was on fire, and that this was something that everyone needed to watch. We played another song, as Rob, Shannon and I were talking about it, and then at 9:02, Rob was on the air again.

Shannon and I stood transfixed on the TV, watching this image of the tower burning, knowing now it was a jet that had crashed into the side. Rob began to say, “Folks, if you are not hearing the news, it appears that a plane has crashed into the side of one of the buildings…” when I noticed a small image in the background of the TV getting bigger. I pointed it out to Shannon, who said “That looks like a plane.” The image got bigger and bigger and then, on live TV, crashed into the other tower. It was surreal… the people on the news on ABC were quiet for just a few seconds, and then people were screaming, with the newscaster yelling, “Oh my God! A plane has just hit the second tower!”

Shannon and I gasped, as Rob was also quiet for just a moment. “Folks, we have just seen history… another jet has gone into the World Trade Center. You need to turn your television on right now!” Suddenly, everything was different.

The phones began to ring off the hook, the program director came running in the studio, the new director began to go ballistic, pulling every news story he had to put this on the air. Within an hour, we were directed to go straight to news and news only, as every Cox Station joined a news feed. We then began to answer phones, finding out information, answering questions to what we knew, being clueless to what we didn’t know.

At 9:59, on live TV again, I saw the South Tower began to shake and then fall.


At 10:28, I saw the next tower come down.

I was in New York City in 1998, and had visited those towers. I didn’t go to the top, but stood outside looking at their might, their majesty. They were 1,300 feet tall, straight up in the air. I was 5’7, with a straining neck, not able to see the top the closer I got to the base of the buildings. In 102 minutes, the world I knew had gone from pricing records to seeing both of the World Trade Towers collapsed. And I had no clue how to react to that. It was surreal. It wasn’t happening. This was a movie, this was a disaster movie from the 70s starring William Holden and Shelley Winters.

I answered phones for most of the morning, but then just grew weary… I got tired of people saying the same things over and over, asking the same unanswerable questions over and over… I just wanted to go be somewhere else. I tried logging on to the news sites but they were jammed. I remember ESPN.com, my favorite site, having a small picture in the corner with the announcement “North tower struck by plane”. After the South tower was hit, the entire site was devoted to the coverage.

There are several things I will never forget…

The smoke from the first tower

The plane slamming into the next tower

The shrieks of the news people when the second jet hit

And that video of the man with the towel…

I saw video of a man hanging out the window of the North Tower, the first one struck, waving a white towel. He was close to the top of the building, maybe the 90the floor or so… he had no chance. The rescue helicopters couldn’t get to the roof, the firemen couldn’t get past the 90th floor, where the jet hit. He was just waving his white towel… I saw a firefighter later talking about it. He was in tears, simply saying, “This man… wanted us to help him… but there was nothing… there was nothing we could do…”

200 people packed into the 78th floor lobby of the South Tower. They are all there, some going up, some going down, because they were told that the tower was secure. It was that floor, the 78th, that was sliced in half when American Airlines Flight 175 rammed through it. 200 people were there. 12 survived. Twelve people out of two hundred survived the left wing of a plane flying 417 miles per hour slicing through the floor they stood on, waiting for an elevator.

Another thing I can’t imagine is the desperation… being on the 100th floor, knowing you are going to die. Knowing you can’t go down. Knowing you can’t go up. So… you jump. I’ve seen video of this as well… and it’s haunting. What do you do? An estimated 212 people died by jumping. But you have to think that there were scores more that we’ll never know about that found a way to die without jumping… stabbing themselves, hitting themselves, maybe helping each other die somehow. Maybe taking an overdose of Benadryl in a co-workers office to knock you totally out.

I went home that day during lunch, sat in my room and cried. My tears flowed for a few minutes, watching the television, watching the people running around, scared, hurt, lost… watching the thick smoke, watching the fires blaze out of control. When I went back into work, I stopped at a gas station… already, gas prices were rising because of gas shortage fears. There, I ran into a college friend of mine, Donna Tucker.

Donna is my height, very pretty, very plucky and perky. She graduated a few years after me at TSU, but we knew each other instantly, and gave each other a hug. “How are you?” she asked. “Oh, I’ve seen better days. It’s been crazy today,” I replied. “Yes, I know.” We chatted for a few more minutes, about the past, about life and other things… I think God sent Donna that day to me, because for four minutes, I knew nothing about New York City, I knew nothing about Washington DC, I knew nothing about Flight 93 in Pennsylvania… I only knew of Donna and her life, her husband and how she was doing. It was a break from reality, even if ever so brief.

Rudy Giuliani made a good point… we’ll never know all the heroes. Of course, we know the firemen, the rescue workers, the police officers… but there must have been so many people who died we’ll never know of. Those people who helped usher people down the stairs just in time. Those people who gave up spots on the elevator, just in time for someone to be saved. Or maybe those people who helped comfort those others, when they all knew they were going to die. I’d like to think I’d have been that person.

Reflecting back, I’d like to think I’d have been th,e person to stand up and say, “People, Christ loves you. In a few minutes, you’ll have to stand before God, but right now, you can make a decision to live with him forever!”… but I am afraid I might have been the guy (this actually happened, according to reports) who told a lady trying to get on the elevator in front of him, “Lady, this isn’t the Titanic, woman and children aren’t first.” Who would I have been? It scares me to think about.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in silence for me. Usually, my cd player at my desk blares out whatever music I’m in the mood for, but not today. Many people in my office left early to go to their families. I called my mom and told her I loved her. I went home, and as cheesy as it sounds, I was really happy to see Michael, Tom and Shawn there. It was a comfort zone, and right then, on that day, I didn’t want to be challenged with anything. I wanted to be with people I cared about, and it was a relief to see them.

At Bible Study last night, John’s main point was to say there are no accidents. You can say this was or wasn’t the will of God, but you have to know that despite the devastation, so many people know Christ. So many people have heard the gospel. So many people are going to spend eternity with him as a result of September 11th. You can say, “Why would God sacrifice so many to save others?” but you know what, I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a clue. I do know though, that God uses everything for His glory and His purpose.


Friday, September 09, 2005

Win Ben Stein's Attitude...

From one of my favorite sites, The American Spectator, comes one of my favorite columnists, Ben Stein. Truth is, the man is a genius, a funny guy and a complete Right Wing Nut Job, just like me.

Here it is:

A few truths, for those who have ears and eyes and care to know the truth:

1.) The hurricane that hit New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama was an astonishing tragedy. The suffering and loss of life and peace of mind of the residents of those areas is acutely horrifying.

2.) George Bush did not cause the hurricane. Hurricanes have been happening for eons. George Bush did not create them or unleash this one.

3.) George Bush did not make this one worse than others. There have been far worse hurricanes than this before George Bush was born.

4.) There is no overwhelming evidence that global warming exists as a man-made phenomenon. There is no clear-cut evidence that global warming even exists. There is no clear evidence that if it does exist it makes hurricanes more powerful or makes them aim at cities with large numbers of poor people. If global warming is a real phenomenon, which it may well be, it started long before George Bush was inaugurated, and would not have been affected at all by the Kyoto treaty, considering that Kyoto does not cover the world's worst polluters -- China, India, and Brazil. In a word, George Bush had zero to do with causing this hurricane. To speculate otherwise is belief in sorcery.

5.) George Bush had nothing to do with the hurricane contingency plans for New Orleans. Those are drawn up by New Orleans and Louisiana. In any event, the plans were perfectly good: mandatory evacuation. It is in no way at all George Bush's fault that about 20 percent of New Orleans neglected to follow the plan. It is not his fault that many persons in New Orleans were too confused to realize how dangerous the hurricane would be. They were certainly warned. It's not George Bush's fault that there were sick people and old people and people without cars in New Orleans. His job description does not include making sure every adult in America has a car, is in good health, has good sense, and is mobile.

6.) George Bush did not cause gangsters to shoot at rescue helicopters taking people from rooftops, did not make gang bangers rape young girls in the Superdome, did not make looters steal hundreds of weapons, in short make New Orleans into a living hell.

7.) George Bush is the least racist President in mind and soul there has ever been and this is shown in his appointments over and over. To say otherwise is scandalously untrue.

8.) George Bush is rushing every bit of help he can to New Orleans and Mississippi and Alabama as soon as he can. He is not a magician. It takes time to organize huge convoys of food and now they are starting to arrive. That they get in at all considering the lawlessness of the city is a miracle of bravery and organization.

9.) There is not the slightest evidence at all that the war in Iraq has diminished the response of the government to the emergency. To say otherwise is pure slander.

10.) If the energy the news media puts into blaming Bush for an Act of God worsened by stupendous incompetence by the New Orleans city authorities and the malevolence of the criminals of the city were directed to helping the morale of the nation, we would all be a lot better off.

11.) New Orleans is a great city with many great people. It will recover and be greater than ever. Sticking pins into an effigy of George Bush that does not resemble him in the slightest will not speed the process by one day.

12.) The entire episode is a dramatic lesson in the breathtaking callousness of government officials at the ground level. Imagine if Hillary Clinton had gotten her way and they were in charge of your health care.God bless all of those dear people who are suffering so much, and God bless those helping them, starting with George Bush.

More Mysteries of Katrina:

Why is it that the snipers who shot at emergency rescuers trying to save people in hospitals and shelters are never mentioned except in passing, and Mr. Bush, who is turning over heaven and earth to rescue the victims of the storm, is endlessly vilified?

What church does Rev. Al Sharpton belong to that believes in passing blame and singling out people by race for opprobrium and hate?

What special abilities does the media have for deciding how much blame goes to the federal government as opposed to the city government of New Orleans for the aftereffects of Katrina?

If able-bodied people refuse to obey a mandatory evacuation order for a city, have they not assumed the risk that ill effects will happen to them?

When the city government simply ignores its own sick and hospitalized and elderly people in its evacuation order, is Mr. Bush to blame for that?

Is there any problem in the world that is not Mr. Bush's fault, or have we reverted to a belief in a sort of witchcraft where we credit a mortal man with the ability to create terrifying storms and every other kind of ill wind?

Where did the idea come from that salvation comes from hatred and criticism and mockery instead of love and co-operation?

And thats all he wrote...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Encouragement Classic... Stephen

Hey... I thought since I had the blogsite up, I would put my Random Emails of Encouragement in syndication. So, here is the pilot episode, called "Stephen"

So, this is it. The first. I wrote it up, erased it, and rewrote it better, went through my address book, emailed to about 28 people, and let it go. Now, through the power of God utilizing what’s been called a “talent” (I just write like I talk, so I just feel like it’s me talking), you can read what God lets me write:

Stephen
(September 1999)

I go to several different places each week where the Word is shared in one fashion or another, from Sunday mornings at church, to the Bible study I regularly attend, to other odds and ends here and there where I show up, and each week there is always something said during at least one the events that makes me think, encourages me and/or challenges me, so I thought that maybe every now and then I could pass along those encouragements and challenges to you, as my brothers and sisters in Christ, to maybe..... well, encourage and challenge you....

Enjoy.

My friend EJ was speaking and he said something that really made me think. He said one of his favorite characters in the Bible is Stephen, and EJ recalled in Acts the passage about Stephen's death. Stephen was a radical character in the eyes of the Jewish leaders, and his claims that Jesus was in fact the Messiah made the leaders angry enough to yank him outside and stone him.

Check this out, this is awesome... Its says in Acts 7:55, "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to Heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God"
We've always heard about Jesus being seated at the right hand of God. But Stephen saw the Son of Man standing, and EJ smiled and said he likes to think that Jesus was giving Stephen a standing ovation.

Can you imagine... the Son of our God, the creator of the universe, giving someone else a standing ovation? And as awesome as Stephen was, he was a sinner just the same, and Jesus was standing FOR HIM!

I tried to think of the last thing I've done, short of dying for my beliefs, that would warrant a clap from Jesus, much less a standing ovation, and I have to tell you, I came up kind of short there...

Here's the challenge. Although it seems highly unlikely that we would have to die for our faith like Stephen did, we should be vocal in words--and especially in actions--about our faith, like Stephen did. And who knows... somewhere in the background, you might hear the hand clap of His only Son.

Have a good week!
Your friend, Dave

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Dave's Superbash!

The Lovely Steph Leann threw me a birthday party for my 30th birthday last Friday! And it was awesome. I wanted a Superhero themed party, so thats what I got. We spent several days pulling together stuff like game prizes (and games themselves), decorations, she called Edgar's Bakery to get me a Fantastic Four cake, I dropped $17 bucks on a FF shirt, and the night before, my man Stan at Kingdom Comics gave me a box of cards for this superhero game called Vs. Its kind of a D&D kind of thing, so I didnt want to mess with it...

...however...

...it had a ton of cool cards in like, like Batman, Wolverine, Jean Grey and such, that I thought I would just toss into the goody bags we were making. But these were just too cool to just throw away, so at 11pm Thursday night, I came up with this card game to play during the party. I racked my brain, even lying in bed, trying to make it work, trying to make it easy to explain and all...

So, party time came, and Michael and Ty were the first to show up. Essentially, the card game was simple. You were given four random cards at the beginning of the party, and your job was to trade, bribe and collect cards to make sets--like, the set worth the most points was Fantastic Four Set featuring The Thing, Human Torch, Mr Fantastic and Dr Doom. Other sets included Batman, Batman Villians, X-Men Warriors and others... there were extra cards scattered about worth extra points, like Rogue was worth 35, Black Tom was worth 25 and Dr. Light was worth about 30.

The key card was the Invisible Woman card, which only one was in the room... it gave you special trading abilities... anyway, I thought at first the game would be cheesy, and nobody would want to do it. But as people arrived, got the cards, suddenly, everyone was crowded around the wall where the sets & points were posted...

Making an appearance was... Meredith & Willis, James & Jessica, Tyler, Michael, Ty, Katy (sans David), Lori, Natalie & Ari, Tad & Gina, Wookiee & a different Gina, Daniel & Jennifer, Tom & Jill, Tommy & Amy, and of course, The Lovely Steph Leann and myself.

Everyone played that game for a while, then we turned to Dave Trivia... I had made up questions all along the week for Dave Trivia, questions all about me and things that interested me, broken out into five catagories... examples of questions were:

Young Dave Catagory: Dave began playing tennis at 15, inspired by who? A) Chris Evert Lloyd; B) Jim Courier; C) Jennifer Capriati or D) Ryan Frary, who lived five houses down

Troy State Catagory: Name the only sorority Dave never dated from: Chi Omega, Alpha Gamma Delta, Kappa Delta or Alpha Delta Pi

The Deuce: In the Deuce Weekly, what was the subject of the running joke in the top ten list?
Dave's Faves: Who is Dave's favorite Harry Potter character?

Potent Potables: On Stanley Spadowski's Clubhouse, whats the big prize when you find the marble in the oatmeal?

The team of Tyler, Wookiee & Gina, Tom & Jill, Katy and Lori won the game, and Tommy won the card game shortly thereafter. Finally, Natalie's daughter found the special Jean Grey card in the goody bag, so she won the final prize (a cool Hulk keychain).

We probably spent way too much money on the party, but we heard from everyone that they had a great time... even the card game that I thought might be considered silly ended up being a great icebreaker, because friends I had from all over were able to meet and connect... it was like a big icebreaker, but more fun.

Happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

NYC Entry #11: Reflections of a Memory Bliss

Just for a point of reference... this blog will continue. This just happens to be my last entry about New York City...

Today, I turn 30... actually, about an hour or so ago. How's about that? No longer am I in my 20s... I'm a 30something now.

Things feel different... perhaps it will wear off soon enough, much like the tears of most teenagers at most Christian summer camps, but then again, it was the same way when I came home from NYC in 2002. And things remain different then when I went. But this is a different "different", a better "different"... a good feeling "different".

Let me first give some mad props and awards and feel goody moments to the team--these are of course from me, so others may agree or disagree, but its my site, so there....

The "White Boy Thug Leadership Award" goes to Philip. Phil to the Wat to the E-R-S. Few times have I laughed like I did when you did the big pimpin' stance. And beyond that, you led well. Even in the more unpopular decisions (leaving at 730am on Saturday morning?!?!) you led very well. Thanks for putting this trip together. And props to the wife for the notebook.

The "Tall Guy I Didnt Know But Ended Up Being Pretty Cool Award" goes to Colby. Didn't have a clue who this guy was, but he was quite fun to be around. Very solid guy. Enjoyed you being there.

The "Most Likely To Be the Team Mom in the Event of an Emergency Award" goes to Geryl. Happy birthday to you. You brought an incredibly gentle and sweet spirit to the team, and I thank you for that. Nothing against you, Philip or Paula, but had I contracted lyme disease or something, I probably would have called on Geryl.

The "Will Be Breakin' Hearts While Daddy Loads His Shotgun in Seven Years Award" goes to little Anna Lynn. You've got a great head on your shoulders, kid. Keep it up and you'll definately be a Barlow Girl. And with those big blue eyes, you'll have to be to keep the boys away.

The "Hippychick Award" goes to Staci. If you were to have grown up in the 60s, I can totally see the flowers and beads on you. Stac, leading the dribbling session was, seriously, awesome, and I just enjoyed being around you to hear you giggle at your husband and call him "big 'un."

The "Playa to Playa, Pimp to Pimp Award" goes to little Brandon. Though I wasn't there, he apparently was playing basketball with some of the Big G's, even though he's a lowercase g, and someone yelled out "Throw it to the black guy!", to which he responded "Which one?" That's classic. You know, you could have gone either way... either really annoying, or really cool on a trip like this, and you were the latter. Mad props. Enjoy your kabuki mask.

The "Big Sister Award" goes to Paula. I figured it out this morning... you weren't a team mom, you were a big sister. Thanks for your sleeve to dry on and your willingness to be there. You made a difference. Plus, you were just fun to be around, and that says an awful lot.

The "Holy Mother of Pearl Award" goes to Big Josh. You rock. I'm happy that this trip allowed me to hang out with you some, and get to know what a cool guy that Mark said you weren't. Even when you felt like crap, you kept it rollin', which is very admirable. Oh, and you can't beat the comedy when it comes to Big Josh, who shared a bed with Little Josh, paying said Josh $10 just to sleep on the floor one night.


The "We Gonna Make It Do What It Do Baby Award" goes out to Little Josh Blackburn. You my cracka. You were a definate source of comic relief, even when Jordy slipped past you grabbing basketballs because you were stuffing your face with a sno cone. Oh... stick your tongue out and wiggle it. Thats what I'm doing right now. And laughing. Funniest moment for me: Josh, Mark, Brandon and I are sitting in one of the rooms, me next to Josh. Philip comes in and says, "Hey Josh, I need you to give your videocamera to David for filming tomorrow." Josh, with all the sincerity in the world, says, "David who?"

The "Pied Piper Award" goes to Tim. Big man had kids flocking behind him all the time, like they were moons and they were orbiting around the Planet Tim. Truly, though, in my mind, he was the heart and soul of the team--besides God, of course. His passion for the kids, and his "i'm friggin' pumped!!!" attitude was just inspiring, and the bling provided mucho laugho.

The "Did I Just See That? Award" goes to Larry Long. Funny story... he said he was in the bathroom, getting ready for bed (or for the day--either way, he was sweating) and he looked out, and across the way, about 30 feet away in the next building, was a woman standing in a t-shirt and her underlings, and she was cutting a watermelon. He says, "Its like a train wreck... you dont want to look, but yet, you think 'did i just see that?' so you have to look." Larry was the man when it came to the older kids, which for some, the fact that there were no knife fights and gangsta leans meant it was a successful week. He was also a good, quiet, non-snoring roommate.

The "Least Annoying Rugrat Award" goes to Daniel McCammon. Good kid. Great source of entertainment. And also, good knock-knock joke teller.

The "Big Daddy Award" goes to Chuck McCammon. He's a good dad, too. And a great guy... you can see why he's the children's pastor. From what i've been told, he's not good at basketball, but hey, who needs Upward when we're already Home? Thanks Chuck, for being cool, and I'm glad you and I got to spend a little more time around each other.

The "Snugglebunny Techno Geek Award" goes to Mark. I didnt sleep in their room, but he had to share a bed with Josh B a few nights, and Brandon a few nights... and from what I gathered, both boys liked to wiggle and spread out. Mark is a big kid--and I hope to be such when I get 37, which is what he turned this past week... I'm only 7 years back. And he is also a master when it comes to children, and it showed this week. He's on KidStuf with me, and I'm better for it that he is.

The "Dave and Nat, BFF Award" goes to Natalie. Not sure about the "B", or the second "F", but I do know the "F" in the middle makes me smile. She was like my sister-in-arms on the trip (I think I really connect with people who are my age, so that might have something to do with it) and she provided much laughter (even when she didnt think stuff was funny). In leui of my lovely wife not going, Natalie made a decent date. =)

I also have to give props to the Williams Grocery store for their 50 cent water, Twin Mountain Springs, and no-tax 20 oz soft drinks. And their flypaper ridden bathroom. You may hit a swarm going in, but once inside the bathroom no flies for you.

Props to the sno-cone guy, for actually heeding our calls and coming back later in the day instead of right in the middle of our camps. Leche was the popular flavor, though I enjoyed the coconut cream.

Props to Duane Reede, not too shabby of a drug store, open late.

Best cheesecake? Carnagie Deli, definately--of course, I only had that, and cheesecake at Henry's, and the latter wasnt very good.

Best meal? Carnagie Deli's five inch high roast beef sandwich. It was awesome. I wish I had gluttoned myself to eat it all.

Best Moment for Me on the 2005 NYC Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) Trip That Did Not Include Prayer, Salvation or Anything Important Like That? The Coney Island Cyclone rides. I'll do it again, too, one day. Perhaps not in the back car, though.

Hardest Part? The Infernal Stairs at PS 63. If given a choice between no fan for the week and not climbing the stairs, it would be a tough decision to make.

My final thoughts really... God is amazing. God uses who He wants, when He knows it will glorify Himself the best. Who knows, had this trip been two weeks later, perhaps Cindy would have come and not Mark, or Colby not coming and both Philip and Jill would have come... but God ordained this trip for this week for His purpose, and I love Him for His plans.

Those kids are amazing... they just want love. Even Gaby. Even Jason. They want someone to make them feel important, they want someone to let them know that someone cares, and I think for a week, we did just that. Would I have liked to stayed longer? Only to build stronger relationships with them... but thats not what He wanted. Our job was to plant seeds, it will be someone else's job to lead Jordy to Christ. To lead Darrin ("Bob") to Christ. As someone said, Christians are not in the business of sales, we are in the business of advertising.

I hope we go back next year, and I selfishly hope that its in God's purpose for me to do so. I also hope The Lovely Steph Leann comes with me too. Thanks to all of you who went--I can't imagine it being any different, and I can't say that I'd want it to be. Even with AC.

And that's all I have to say about New York City for 2005.

Dave

Monday, August 08, 2005

NYC Entry #10: Finality

Well this is it. The final morning. No subway rides, no trips to West Way Cafe for some french toast, no adventures at Crotona Park, nothing. God seemed to bless us a little extra after a long week, as when I woke up, I was only partially covered in sweat, not completely, due to the breeze slightly blowing through the open window.

The time was 5am, and we were to be outside with our luggage at 545, so we could catch the bus. I had cleaned up most of the room last night, but Larry picked up a few things I didnt get. We had about seven half filled water bottles just laying around the room, so I poured those out the window, and dumped them in our garbage bag. He got a quick shower, then I did right after. The last time to use the cubby hole shower stall... didnt feel bad about it. The water was actually kind of cold, and it felt really good.

I put on my ESPNZone shirt and threw on my backpack, put my drivers license in my pocket, grabbed my celly and was ready to go. Just a sidebar: When doing missions anywhere there will be heavy walking, like NYC, take luggage that has a handle on it. Not a 'pick up' handle, but one you can roll the suitcase with. Learned this lesson the hard way. Just a tip from your ol' Uncle Dave.

Larry was sitting outside when I came out with my luggage. I told him I was going to walk up and find a 24 hour drug store or something for something to nibble on, but when I did, there was nothing open. The City that Never Sleeps, my booty. When I came back, standing outside was Terry (he introduced himself), smoking a cigerette and drinking a beer. Mind you, this was in fact 530 in the morning. Mark was out there as well, and we talked to him for a little while... Terry, and his pal Keith that joined him soon after, were from Dublin, Ireland, and they played soccer. They had to end up in LA in two months, but until then, they were going to see the sights of the USA. Mark mentioned to me that he was thirsty, and I relayed my fruitless search for beverage, but Terry came through with a solution. "You guys wan a coupla birs? I can git them for ya if yuh'd like et" in thick Irish. We both decline, saying that we dont drink this early. Or ever.

Had a black dude come up and say "So, I see you guys are drinking early in the morning! I got one thing to say about that..." and then he began to rap some jibberish that ended with (paraphrasing) "I ain't got no money, I'm hungry, can you spare a buck?" Terry gave him a few bucks, and Tim, who had just come out trying to pawn off some extra food, gave Rapper J (as he called himself) a big bag of BBQ chips. (You cah't fult tha guy fer tryin, Terry would say when Rapper J walked away).

A cab then pulled up, and another guy got out... and I promise, be it my magic or immaculate beer conception, Terry immediately materlized a beer out of thin air and it was in the new guy's hands before he fully was out of the cab. It happened in about 1.25 seconds. This new guy was Trevor. They all stood talking to us for a minute, dropping the "f" bomb a few times--Terry said cursing was so normal in Dublin no one thought about it. Daniel and Chuck were out there by now, and everytime the "F" word came out, he'd turn to Daniel and Chuck and say "oh, I'm sorry", then continue on. "So, my and my boys ur travelin the stits, and for f*$&--oh, i'm sorry--goodness seck, we try to f$&%--oh, sorry mate--do what we kin to..." and it cracked me up.

Terry said he and his guys would love to visit Alabama, so I gave him the number to Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) and told him to call and try to contact someone on the NY trip. Really, I just wanted to envision Lori or Donna Land taking that call--that thought alone amuses me to the point where it would be worth it, but if they actually do call, thats a 100 out of 100 on the unintentional comedy scale. Finally, the time came to walk away from The Palace. Sadly, no more un-airconditioned rooms, no more jacked up showers, no more money hungry internet computers that barely work... of course, the sweat was still there. We went a block out of the way to our stop, which was okay for everyone with handled roller bags, but me carrying my suitcase by its handle.... not good times. Bad times.

Our team was the only one on the bus for a while, though by the time it passed Shea Stadium, it was pretty full--our luggage probably took up 1/3 of the bus room alone. We unloaded off the bus, got in line at the Delta desk at La Guardia (where Mark swears he saw Jake Gyllenhaal a few people behind us in line. Natalie and Paula disagreed. I was torn.)

I had a breakfast combo at the airport Burger King that cost me $6, when in B'ham it cost me $3.02 (joke of the week... what does Jackie Chan order at BK? a Whah-Pah! Do hand chopping motion for full humorous effect). Then I bought a $4 Sports Illustrated and a $3.50 People Magazine. Thats really it. Then what happened?

We came home.

Nothing more to tell, really. The flight was uneventful, and I got to sit next to Natalie again. Neither of us really said a word to each other or anyone else on the way back, but it wasn't an uncomfortable silence--it was more of a "hey, you're tired, i'm tired, we're friends enough now that we won't bother each other" which was good. The plane lifted off, then two hours later, landed in Birmingham, Alabama. After a week in the big city, our town seemed small and definately different.

Ken Mackey (Paula's hubby) was there to pick us up, along with another guy (Dave Harris?) that I dont really know... Philip's wife was there to get him, as was Colby's wife. Everyone else got off at the church, just in time for the 11am service. When we got to the church, everyone grabbed their luggage and went different ways--we'll say our "thanks" and "see yas" another time, I'm sure, because I didnt see anyone else after I went inside.

And up in the choir was my love, Stephanie, singing. I could tell when she spotted me, because a big smile came on her face, and it was sooooooo good to see her.

Well, thats all she wrote. Our New York City mission trip has been blogged, and is over with. I know I've written a lot (trust me, my extra money was pinched for it), and I appreciate you reading even some of it.

I'll have one final blog for NYC to write, which will be more of my thoughts and reflections on the trip, but this blog site will continue on, so don't forget about me. I plan to continue doing thoughts, prayers, movie reviews, encouragement and other fun things here... check back in a day or so for NYC Entry #11--The Conclusion.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

NYC Entry #9: The Bling of Jesus

Welcome to Saturday, the last full day of NYC-dom. Started early, this time meeting at 7am for breakfast... of course, I was wrong in thinking of the departure time. I thought it was 745, it was actually at 730, so I learned of this when Mark banged on the bathroom door. The shower I had used all week was in use by someone else, so I walked around the the other shower on the floor, one that some of other team had used. Let me just tell you how jacked up this shower is... the faucet is on the left side of the shower, where the showerhead is located. The drain, however, is on the right side of the shower. So, as you turn on the water to get it just the right temperature before you turn on the shower, the hot scalding water is draining around your feet, burning you. Or freezing you if you start with the cold water instead.

Made it to the West Way Cafe, where this time, Larry and I were joined by Colby, Geryl, Daniel & Chuck, Mark and Philip--so even though we were supposed to leave at 730a, Philip the fearless leader was with us, so it was okay. Most of us got the Belgian Waffle, which looking back, I liked the french toast better.

Our plans were to travel down to Ground Zero, do some touristy type things, then meet back at Crotona Park by 3pm to set up for the Block Party that was being thrown.

Oh, come to find out, the man who was murdered while we were in the Bronx was a cabdriver from Senegal. It seems a homeless man walked up, and asked the cabbie to buy him a cigar. When the cabbie refused, the man pulled out a knife and simply slit his throat... then just walked away. The cabbie was DOA at the hospital. Very sad and scary... we've been approached probably a dozen times collectively for money, usually without incident even with rejection, but to know that something like that could have happened makes me shiver.

At Ground Zero, they have put up a new memorial fence around the entire area, with pictures, plaques and timelines in various places. GZ is very difficult for me. The last time I came, I knelt in front of the make-shift memorial fence at St Paul's Cathedral and prayed until I cried. This time, I walked down the fence a few times, and read and observed the things that had been placed on the fence. Two stood out at me... a picture of Chris Amoroso, a Port Authority Police officer, and Moira Smith, a NYPD officer. Both pictures showed them with people who appeared to be hurt, and both captions had basically the same text--officers who helped people, and went back inside the towers and never came out. After a little while, while other team members were taking pictures and reading, I had to walk away before I cried. I couldn't help it... it just tears my heart to read and see what happened here, though I personally think we should all be reminded of what happened on a regular basis. Four years later, much of the country has forgotten that yes, we were in fact attacked unprovoked.

Okay, I'll stop before I get on a rant, and this isnt the time nor place for it.

So, we moved on as a group, walking down to Wall Street, seeing the financial exchange building, the Trump Building (making me wonder if thats where the Apprentices get fired--though that could be just a movie set), and other various and assundried money-related building type things. From there, we walked on down to Battery Park. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the NYC area, let me see if I can draw it out for you...

New York has five boroughs, or sections. Coney Island is a part of Brooklyn, on the right lower section--its huge. On the left is Manhattan, it is a long "Florida without the panhandle" looking section. To the southwest of that is Staten Island. Right above Brooklyn is Queens, and right above Manhattan (and next to Queens) is The Bronx. Looking at Manhattan, Central Park's southern border is pretty much right in the middle of the Manhattan island. Of course, it extends up for 60 something blocks, so it ends close to The Bronx border. We were staying close to the upper west side, only a few blocks from Central Park, and from the Hudson River on the other side. Funny story--Paula was so jazzed she went to Central Park, only to find out, she actually had visited Riverside Park, which is right on the beach of the Hudson River.

At the bottom of Manhattan is Battery Park, and you can catch a ferry here to go down to Staten Island, past the Ellis Island location of the Statue of Liberty. Right above Battery Park is the Financial District, where you'd find Wall Street, Trump and the World Trade Center, not to mention the big hole in the ground that is currently the former WTC Tower site.

Geography lesson over.

As we walked to Battery, we met a gentleman sitting with his suitcase on the corner, selling his wares--bootleg dvds. The Dukes of Hazzard was one (which had actually hit theaters yesterday, August 5th), and Lil Josh bought it. Bigger Josh bought Batman Begins, but he had a number of dvds for sale. Mark and I both agreed that we didnt want a dvd that might not play in our player, or would have the back of someone's head in the picture.

We entered Battery Park and we were bombarded by guys selling three things... dvds, watches and sunglasses. Oh, there were purse salesmen too but mostly "Hey, we got Oakleys!" and "You need a Rolex!" and "come and see my movies for sale!". Our team went to wheelin' and dealin', and Tim ended up buying a silver Mercedes logo pendant on a large silver chain for $10. I'm not sure what is funnier, Big Tim with this Mercedes hood ornament hanging off of his neck, or all the really white people on our team using the word "bling" over and over again, like it was a common white word like "Condo" or "Volvo". Geryl negotiated with one guy for something, got him down to $5, then walked away because she was annoyed. I think had she kept going, the man would have paid her a few bucks to take it.

One guy had the little bottle caps with some paper under it, hiding the paper and sliding the caps all over the table, wanting money to gamble to see where it was. We watched for a minute, and one lady there kept winning. A couple of times he turned to me, held out a few hundreds and said "if you got a hundred, you can make it five" or some crap like that. I kept expecting him to say "hey, i am a Nigerian prince with millions in the bank, and all I need is a bank account number to transfer it over--can i have yours, and you can have half!" I told him no over and over, though he kept holding his money out for me to play. We just walked away. Though I think that the winning woman was in on the hustle, this con man was a God blessing, as you'll read later.

Everyone walked down and took pictures of the Statue of Liberty that you could see in the distance, though personally, I would have loved just taking a ride on the Staten Island Ferry. Here's the thing... I've been here already, I've seen this stuff before. I have seen Chinatown, Little Italy, Central Park, FAO Schwartz, The ESB and so on and so forth... really, what I wanted to do was go to Midtown Comics and maybe take in an afternoon at the Metro Museum. However--this wasn't about me. This whole trip wasn't about me, it was about Him. And many people going had never seen this stuff, so hanging out with them made it fun.

Philip and Josh told everyone that we could all split up, go in smaller groups and such, and visit, just be back in Crotona for the Block Party set-up by 3pm. I decided to go with Paula, Josh, Brandon, the Herringtons because they were headed to Chinatown, and also with Natalie, because, well, she's my homegirl. =)

Everyone departed their own way, going to various places and such, so we took the train up to Canal Street where Chinatown was located. We got above ground from the subway station and found it was packed out. A little while later, Geryl, Tim and Anna Lynn decided they would meet us at the Park, because keeping up with all of us was too difficult with the swarms of tourists and Chinese selling their wares.

Josh B had a just a little bit of money, and wanted some cologne. He wanted a big bottle of Ralph Lauren Polo Blue, retailing for $50, but the vendor wanted $18. He said "how mucha you got?" and Josh said "I have ten dollars" and the guy replied "Issa eight-teen dolla!". From out of nowhere, Paula firmly said, "Ten." The guy looked at her, looked at Josh, and defeated, said "Gimme ten". Josh handed the last of his money over, and he got his cologne.

We were all getting hungry, but let me say I don't dig on chinese. Actually, I don't dig dog and cat, so I tend to stay away from the oriental food (Japanese I can handle sometimes) which presents a problem for Steph, because she loves chinese food. However, being the selfless guy I am, I told Paula, the B-Boys and Nat that I would go and sit wherever they wanted to eat. They chose the Hon Wong Restaurant, and to me, it was pretty sketch. I ordered a Coke, and got a can with a big hair on top of it. Needless to say, I drank it with a straw.

After lunch, we walked through C'town, and they ended up buying various things there and here. I bought a pair of NYC Socks for The Lovely Steph Leann (she loves decorative socks) but that was all for me. Natalie got her a Louis Vitton purse, while Paula bought some random stuff as well. We strolled on over to Little Italy from there, where I went in and had some not-very-tasty-for-the-twelve-bucks-i-spent spaghetti at some hole in the wall "authentic" Italian joint while everyone else shopped.

And finally, it came time to head to The Bronx. Our plan was to get on the subway at 2pm, so we'd have a full hour to travel to Crotona Park, but none of us figured into our brilliance that we were on the bottom of Manhattan, and Crotona was on the other side of the top of Manhattan. Didn't help that we got on the wrong platform waiting for the wrong train. When we finally got on the right one, it was 230pm and we had 14 stops to make before arriving at 174th Street station, where we needed to be. Yeah, we walked off the platform at 174th around 310pm. I called Josh & Staci, who were already there, and told them we were almost there. After a quick stop at the Williams Grocery, for some 50 cent water and other assorted items, we walked up to the park.

Philip and Colby to meet us to walk us to the Block Party location, which seemed strange to me until I discovered that not only were we on the other side of the fairly large park, the block party we were to tend to was being held on the same day that the neighborhood did their monthly block party, complete with dental screenings, doctor check up booths and other needed things. "Hmm.. popcorn maker, check. Cotton candy machine, check. Lots of drinks, check. A day when nothing like the monthly neighborhood party is planned... hmmm." Just my thoughts. Didn't feel bad being there at 320 either... Geryl, Tim and Anna Lynn got lost, as did Mark, Chuck & Daniel, on the subways, and the entire group wasn't there until at least 4 or 415pm.

Fluid, baby, fluid--pardon my cynicism. It worked out, though.

The block party was being thrown in conjunction with a local church, Lighthouse (which Pastor Kitchens headed up) one guy said it best: "Pastor Kitchens is a great man. I just wish his congregation was like him." That is to say, there werent a whole lot of Lighthouse people there. The other church that was working on it was Hepsibah Baptist from South Carolina, who was just beginning a five day mission trip in the area, where they'd be doing VBS and Bible camps on a different side of the park.

Josh C started working on the sno cone machine, I took a hold of the popcorn machine, and Satci did the cotton candy, until she decided to be with Josh on sno-cones, which was good, because that was definately a two person job. Nat took over cotton candy then. Slowly but surely, kids and parents came. There were hot dogs and chips available, as well as games and one of those big blow up inflatable jumper-mabobs. Mark ended up doing that with Leslie, one of the mission directors, and became an Inflatables Bouncer. So many kids wanted in that thing they had to let them in depending on size for a few moments at a time. I saw one kid go running and diving in the opening, but before he could get through, Mark grabbed his legs, yanked him out and dropped him on the ground. Quite priceless.

Some of the kids we had worked with all week showed up to help, and before long, we had kids taking our places on sno-cones, popcorn and cotton candy, which was fine with us. I wandered down, got a hotdog, had a cheap (re: free) dinner and then got to watch three girls throwing down on some double dutch jump rope. They told me how, but when I did it, I managed to get in about four hops before the rope (which was a long piece of phone cord, I noticed. Had I money, I would have immediately gone and bought them a proper rope) tangled around my legs. I think Staci got in about six jumps, but neither Josh did much.

Kendall showed up a little while later. I also noticed Tim sitting with another little girl, Vernalisa, whom I recognized from camp. It was her 11th birthday, and turned out to be another birthday as well... her first spiritual one. She accepted Christ right there in the park, and it was awesome. She was the cutest darn thing. Later, Kendall got to pray with another little girl, Arelis, who was probably about eight, maybe younger, to recieve Christ. I only envy that they got to pray with the kids, but I think its AWESOME!

I have to tell you this part though... the coconut shells. Some of the games were set up around the food, and I dont mind telling you, they were a wee bit cheesy. Throw the hackeysack into the hole in the wood, and toss the plastic ring on the plastic dolphin... no, I dont know that I could have come up with better stuff, given the time constraints, but its my site, so I can say that yes, they were cheesy.

Anna Lynn was running one booth that I can only call "Guess Where the Shell the Ball is". It was like the street hustle game we saw in Battery Park, only the small object to find was a blue foam ball, and the cups were plastic coconut shell cups, the kind you'd slap a lid and a crazy straw on, sipping pina colada in a hammock, kicking back, enjoying the... wait. Lords work. So, she was having a hard time with this, and finally asked me to do it because she was tired. Not really wanting to, I stepped in and said "Sure."

My mad skillz at doing such a game, moving the upside down shells around quickly so people lose track of the ball, aren't so much skillz as, well, incompetence. I learned quickly, however, that you dont have any problems guessing when there are price tag stickers on the bottom of the cups, all placed in different places. No wonder they were killing Anna Lynn. "The ball is in the cup with the sticker in the corner. Hmm, I will just pick that one." So I peeled off the stickers, and went to work. I'm a show-off, really, so thats what I did. I started flipping the cups, moving them around quickly, I'd pick them up while moving the cups in a circular motion so as to keep the ball in the cup, I'd pick up two of them together, move the ball between the two then slam the cups down, still moving them... yes, this might sound impressive, but I dropped the ball half the time, or the ball would fall out of the cup when I slammed it down. Still, it made for a good show, and the kids all enjoyed it. One kid was talking smack, and I burned him seven straight times. Felt good. =)

When we were about to leave, I suddenly announced that my time was up, I took a bow, and left the cups... only I had to come back, because one little girl starting crying, saying "I dinna get to do it!". So I did an encore performance, cutting my right hand middle finger in the process somehow. Bleedin' for Jesus.

A few minutes later, Arelis joined the faith family via Kendall's lead, and we all began to walk back to the 174th Street Station. We walked by the Williams Grocery store, and I shook the attendants hand and told him we were gone for good. He looked and smiled and said "see you tomorrow?" and I replied, "no, we're heading back to Alabama." I dont think he understood anything I said. That's allright, though. He was a blessing to us all with his 1/2 a dollar water and no tax 20 oz Cokes and for Colby, cheap pecan spinwheels.

Tim still had his bling on, and I was still getting a kick out of hearing white-bread Paula and white-bread Geryl saying the word "bling" all the time. As we stood awaiting the train, Josh B put Tim's bling on Philip, and made him turn his hat cockeyed... Philip then did this rapper pose that was simply priceless... you can't make this stuff up. Hence, P-Wat, or as I call him, P to the Wat to the E, R, S was born.

And finally, we said our goodbyes to Kendall on the train and walked away. Staci, Josh and Mark all headed back to Times Square for a few more purchases, while we were just too tired to do anything else. I went back and began to pack my junk, finding it strange how I had more stuff than I came with, when all I did was flippin' eat while I was there. Larry and I encouraged each other in that we only had one more night of sweaty backs and wet mattresses to endure for the Glory. We kept wondering if we'd see The Naked French Guy, or if I'd get one more chance to turn my head from Foreign Chick in a Towel, but it didnt happen.

So the plan is to be outside with our luggage by 545am, so we can catch the M60 bus to La Guardia by 6am. Early, once again.

I've got one more day... or morning, rather, to blog, and I'll tell you about Trevor, Terry and Keith, the Irishmen at the Palace, and also about the ride home. Then I think I'll relay to you my thoughts of the trip, my favorite moments and wrap it up. Thats coming Wednesday, so stay tuned.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

NYC Entry #8: Fluid

Can you believe its Friday? Okay, its actually Saturday night, but bear with me here. I'm going to tell you all about Friday... it seemed like a normal day--or normal for us in NYC--but we learned about one word this day, and this week: Fluid. Not just being flexible... being fluid. Ready to go with the flow, because we know as Christ followers that most things never work out as we planned them. John Lennon once said "Life is what happens when you plan". Nice man. Shot in the back, very sad.

We woke up early Friday morning, Larry and I, dripping in sweat again. My thing now is in the middle of the night, I change pillows. One pillow becomes too saturated with persperation to continue its purpose, so I swap it out for another pillow I have on standby to get me through night. Not so with the mattress, which is damp with Davesweat by 3am.

Larry, Chuck, Daniel and I headed out to the West Way Cafe to see Beatrice, our waitress, and have our regular breakfast meals. Tomorrow is Belgian Waffle day, and I think its on our list of "things to look forward too".

Once again, as always, we met up with the gang in the lobby of the West Side Inn, and prepared to lug off to the 103rd Street Sub Terminal. This day, however, proved to be a little different, as we got word that the #2 train, the train we always take up to 174th Street in the Bronx, was temporarily out of service. This posed a problem as we didnt plan on this at all... but we quickly regrouped, and Philip, our fearless leader, worked with Josh Caldwell to come up with a plan. So, we took another numbered train up to another location (I dont remember what it was... something like 145th Street, or something), and when we got off, we had to get on a bus. I called it a "flexi-bus" because its like they chopped off the front of one bus, chopped off the back of another, and connected them with the accordian type material that makes it easier to take corners.

We got on the flexi-bus (which took us by Yankee Stadium! Go O's!), got off at another stop, got onto another bus and arrived at the park at 850am... about 30 to 45 minutes after we had planned to do so. Oh, fun fact. Kendall beat us there because the #2 was working a little after we'd make the decision to go another route.

Fluid.

Josh C had planned a little different schedule this time around, with more scrimmaging and games, with the devotion and the sharing of the gospel in there closer to the beginning. Plus, all the kids got free basketballs today, so we had to be prepared for anything.

Many kids came today, but not the hordes of kids we thought might come. Again, we want what God wants us to have, be it 4 kids or 376 kids... though somewhere in the middle was the selfish preference of all of us, I think. We probably had about 70 or so, most of which we knew, and knew us. Many returns today, like Jason, and Coach of the World Ray, and Juan, and ball hungry Jordan, and helper Mehlaydy and helper Jenny and a number of other kids.

Steve from Montgomery gave the gospel, and unlike the day before, there weren't as many distractions. Staci had misplaced her bible the day before and was frantic to find it, while Paula and Natalie had misplaced the grey folder that held much of the Upward info we needed, plus info about the block party on Saturday at Crotona.

Come to find out, Coach of the World Ray had picked it both up on Thursday, saying he didnt want anything to happen to them. From what Josh said, we might have still been around, but either way, I was picked to go with Ray to his house and retrieve said items. Sure, I replied. So Coach of the World Ray and Dave head down the streets of the Bronx to an unknown-to-me destination. Ray tells me how he's from the area, but he visits Jamaica, Puerto Rico and Mexico several times per year to visit family. We get to a 15 or 20 story complex, take the elevator up several flights, and I follow Ray into the hallway. Very nice and air conditioned, to be honest with you. Also being honest, I was little timid, because I had no idea where I was going, who I was going to see, and what to do if anything happens. Paranoia, of course.

CotW Ray knocks on a door, and it opens to see his uncle there... was that Phito? I dont even know, I can't remember his name. We go in to a very cold apartment--which is AWESOME--and I get a look around, and really, it looks quite nice... the layout would be something Steph and I would approve of for our own apartment down in B'ham.

Ray runs down the hall, through a door, and reappears a minute later with the folder, Staci's Bible inside. I say bye to Uncle Phito, and we're off. Back to camp, without incident, and Ray hands the folder to Paula, grabbing the Bible to run off and give it to Staci.

The camp went without a hitch, really, and at the end, we worked out a pretty good system of giving out basketballs to each kid. We stopped giving out wristbands at 1130a, ensuring no one would walk up at the last minute to register just to get a ball, and when they got their ball, we cut their wristband off, to ensure that no kid would double back to get another one. We also wrote their names on the balls, and made the point of saying "if you lose this, you dont get another one". I dont even think anyone lost theirs.

I saw Gaby at the end as well. He rode up on his bike and I walked up and smiled, "Hey dog, we missed you this morning." He just shrugged. I replied, "Shoulda been here, you could have gotten the basketball." He smirked and said "I've got 13 of them at my house." Quickly, I added, "Really? From camp last week?" He nodded and I asked, "Well, did you learn anything?" He shook his head and said "No, I aint learned nothing". I said, "Thats because you didnt listen, man. You spend too much time trying to be cool and front for your friends." He then got defensive and said, "I listen. I'm good at listening. Man, I listen better than anyone in this park." I replied, "Not sure about that, but I..." before I could finish, he rode off on his bike.

Lunchtime came, and Geryl had organized us getting sandwiches from a local place (the guy at the cafe didnt speak lick of English, but Juan would translate for us). Before I got over there, though, the sno cone guy was up. Everyone got theirs, and Mark even bought mine, a few others and a couple of kids he didnt even know. So , I had a couple of bucks in my pocket, and when Manny came up, I bought his (he looked surprised, almost touched over a sno-cone. I thought it strange, but I dont know his story). Then Jason came up, and I bought his too. The popular flavor is "leche" (sp?), which is some sort of creme/cinnamon concoction. Over ice. Bleeech. I had some of Natalies, and needless to say, I stuck with my coconut. A few other kids came up, and asked me to buy them a sno cone... well, not really asked, more like told. "Hey man, buy me a sno cone!" "I aint got no money, man, gimme one!" Mind you, these werent kids I had seen or even knew their names. I said "No more money, guys, sorry". They called me names. I walked and smiled.

Fluid.

We had lunch, and then the nine of us--Colby, Philip, Tim, Larry, Mark, Staci, Natalie, Josh C and myself headed to PS 63, via the bus stop that Juan had pointed us to the day before.

Song playing right now as I type this... "Be My Glory" by FFH. You oh Lord are a shield about me, You, oh Lord are my refuge. You, oh Lord, are a shield about me, You, oh Lord, lift up my head, be my Glory. Be my Glory. I dunno... I just felt like typing it. Sometimes i go on rabbit trails, good and bad, and I just felt like someone could use it right now.

On the way to PS 63, a man got on the bus, seemingly very upset, talking to the driver about something or other that I couldn't understand. Tim got it, though, and as we got off, he shared with me the man's story.It seems that the man, Sandy, was a cab driver, and a fellow cab driver had been murdered there at a local gas station hours earlier... that being, the same time we were having camp, at a location barely a mile from where we were doing Upward. We knew that God's protection over us was there, but when you sit and think about how there could have been drive-bys, or we could have made one of the kids just mad enough to do something stupid, or any number of unthinkable possibilites, we have been soooo lucky this week that its gone without incident. We haven't even had any fights to speak of.

We made it to PS 63, ready for the final day of The Infernal Steps. Up the flights we went, huffing, puffing and blowing our lungs in. Before we began, we said a prayer for the cabdriver and his family, and a few other things, and afterwards, Jimmy came in and said that the asbestos crew was gone, and that he wanted us to prep and paint that room in the corner, the one that Philip, Colby and Tim had started.

I stayed for a minute in the room that I, Josh C and Larry, with major help from Caulking Tim, had finished to put on a second coat on a border, while Mark and Staci went to their room to clean up a little. Everyone else headed to the other room. When I got in there about 30 minutes later, major prepping had already been done, and some painting had begun. I sat and rolled plastic over stuff, and we worked until about 4pm... and we got the darn room done, save for a few trims spots. We rocked the hizzouse. Off the chain. Jimmy prayed for us before we left, and we headed back down...

You know, after spending so much typing time on camp, I wish I could say more about the school painting, but really, there isnt much to tell.. we just worked our tails off, hard labor, trying to "make it look good, its the Lords work". So there's the reason you dont see a lot of painting stories. Um.. Staci cut her leg slightly. We had cold water in ice (we had sorta cold water on Thursday). We had paint all over us. Priming is crap. Larry and I rolled the heater pipes, while we, plus Natalie, did chalkboards. Boring you, aren't I?

Fluid.

The plan upon returning back to The Palace, or the West Side Inn as its commonly known, was the showers we all needed, then head out for the church office where Kendall would meet us with a couple of ladies to do some praise and worship. After that, whatever time, we would head to Times Square and eat at ESPNZone (boo yah).

We took the train downtown, turning left instead of right this time, and made it to the office (Its also a church, Mandarin Chinese I think, and a few other things, not to mention the fact that Kendall lives on the sixth floor for the summer). She came down, and with her came two ladies she had spoke of...

...let me set up. Kendall was traveling through the subway one day not too long ago and came upon a trio of black women singing some gospel music that blew her away. She immediately approached them and found out one of the ministries of these women was to just go down into the subway and sing about Jesus. Kendall asked if they would be willing ot come and worship with us on this very Friday night, and they agreed to do so.

And here they were. The third sister couldn't make it, but Tamika and Nikki did. They began to tell their stories, and let me just say that though she was little loud in talking, Tamkia has one of the most gentle voices I've ever heard. She spoke of horrible things that had happened to her in the past, including a severe battle with depression and losing children along the way, but she spoke softly of her Jesus, and how her Jesus loves her, and loves us, and by the end of her speaking, we were all in silence and I know I was secretly praying for these two women that God would just bless them beyond measure. They are in a group called New Generation (with some other people) and they said that from singing in various places, they've gotten to do things like sing at Carnagie Hall, and open for Mary, Mary. Kendall, please correct me if I've missed any of this, since I know you are reading this.

And while we are on Kendall... I wish you people back home had the chance to meet her. She's got this huge heart and this huge passion and this big smile and this great desire for doing God's will and you just know when you look at her that God is doing something special in and through her, and though I know that God's timing is perfect, and all of us crossed paths with her at just the right Time, I still wish I had met her before, because I just know that Steph and I would love to have known her since before Sunday. Alrighty, done with that.

Nikki also talked a little bit, and she too had a strong, yet gentle voice, and after a while, they both got up to sing. The room was filled wit the Spirit as I felt like God was ushered into our hearts fully and we prayed and we sang along and we were so encouraged just by the 30 minutes we were there. They were truly amazing.

After Nikki and Tamika left, with hugs and encouragement from all of us, Kendall sat to discuss with us the week. She told us of Manny, and his struggles (of which I wont go into here, but just know he's leading worship at a brand new church, and he and his wife are struggling with jobs and such...) and then told us of another camp that she had done this week in Brooklyn. She told us of one kid that was simply a troubled child, and how he told her that when he acts up, the pastor tells his grandfather who then takes him home and literally bangs the kid's head against a glass wall. Another kid didnt know what to think of the gospel of Jesus, as he mentioned that we all came from monkeys.

As she spoke, I saw myself in her words. She spoke of how easy it can be to get discouraged here... in Birmingham, or in Mississippi where she's from, its easier to wrap our minds around the size of the city, and the enormity of the task of winning souls. Yes, Hoover and Vestavia and Homewood are big places... but we have an idea of size, of population and of values there. Wrapping your mind and heart around the city of New York City, with its five boroughs is almost incomprehensible. But the same grace that saved me and you saves one person at a time here just like anywhere.

I think this is why I have such a heart for NYC... I can understand it, ot a point. So many lost people, so many unloved people, so many people misguided, apethetic, or whatever... just heartbreaking.

I looked down and realized I have 12 minutes left, and no more money, so I'll get through this as quickly as possible...

We prayed for Kendall, and said our goodbyes, as she was headed off to a "buh-bye" dinner with other summer missionaries (though she said she would join us at the block party) we agreed to go to dinner. We took the subway to Times Square, which is just enormously different at night than in the daytime.

It would take a while to get our table, so we all split up into different groups to kill the time. Josh B, Brandon and I made like little boys and headed for the third floor game room, though my joy was killed when I saw how it worked. You buy a card, the cheapest being $5, and it has points on it. The $5 had 15 points, but the $15 had 60 points, and the points went up more and more as you bought more. The games--though all looking high tech--cost different points amounts. Some games cost 4, some cost 21. There was an actual mini bowling alley that let you bowl... 16 points. I had $10 in quarters, but I just held onto it.

We went down to the first floor gift shop, and there I saw my shirt... this crazy looking smooth shirt filled with ESPN logos and such, and I found out it was onsale. Now, two years ago--even maybe a year ago, I'd have bought that puppy in a second, with the "i'll figure it out later" attitude. Not now, though. When the salesman asked me if I wanted it, I told him I'd think about it, and I spend about ten minutes thinking "okay ,where is this coming from? starbucks money? clothing money? okay, if i deposit this, then we can move that and..." as I ran scenarios in my head over and over. I decided to think about it over dinner.

I walked outside and looked around at hustle and flow of the city life there in Times Square, and called my best buddy Wookiee to tell him where I was. Got a voicemail. Called Reverend Ty to see how his stressfilled day went. He had to take another call. Called Tebe. Voicemail. There was no one to brag to. I was disappointed.

Got into ESPNZone after about a paltry 30 minute wait, and though we thought to get seated, we'd have to sits in 2s and 3s and 4s all around the restaurant, she actually seated us all together. The bathrooms rocked... they had small, flatscreen tvs above the urinals and in the bathroom stalls (at one point, Josh B suddenly turned to me, as if awakened by a epiphany and said "Wait... you mean I can sit on the toilet and watch the XGames (what was on currently)? I'm doing it! Not cause I have to, but because I want to!" and he ran off towards the lavatory.)

I had a simple cheeseburger and some fries, and then this wicked toll-house giant cookie sundae. I actually planned my meal around that sundae, so I wouldnt eat too much. Josh C and Mark sat eating, but torn because of a $32 ultimate tailgate appitizer tray that had every appitizer on it. After dinner, I ran inside the gift shop and picked up my $36 ESPN logo shirt. It rocks. This also solves the problem of what exactly I was going to wear home, because my count, everything I had brought was going to be a) dirty, b) funky, c) dirtyfunky.

It was getting late, and some of us were ready to head back while others still played on the 3rd floor game room. Natalie, Josh B, Geryl, Tim and AnnaLynn and myself all caught the subway train back to The Palace known as the West Side Inn. On the way back, as we usually did, we staggered the line a bit... as in, I would be leading with Josh, and about ten feet back, there is Tim and Anna Lynn, and then a few more feet back there would be Natalie and Geryl chatting. Well, along the way, a guy who looked to be in his 30s or so stopped Josh and I, saying, "Can you please help me, I just need some money for a trip back to Jersey." Usually, I dont give money straight-up to people who beg, I'd much rather buy him a meal and send him on his way, not knowing what he'd do with the money I gave.

He said his name was Ed, and he told us that he wasn't a bum (said it several times to make sure we understood he wasn't). Josh gave him a few bucks, and I told him at first that I didnt have any to spare. But something told me to keep on with him, so as he started to walk away, I put my hand on his shoulder. I asked, "So Ed, tell me man, quickly, whats your story? How can we pray for you?" He had a funny look on his face, and said, "Pray for me? You want to pray for me?" I said, "Yes, we do. Josh and myself are up here on a mission trip with some other friends, doing some work in the Bronx, and I want to be able to tell them about you, and how we can lift up your name."

He had a puzzled look on his face, and said,"You're Christians?" I smiled and said, "Yes. Well, I'd like to say we're Christ Followers. The word 'Christian', its bandied about so much that sometimes it doesnt carry the proper meaning." He told us that he was also a believer, and that he lived in New Jersey, and that he was a vet of the Gulf War who just had some struggles. He was hoping to collect $10 to take the train home.

I said, "Man, let me pray for you." So Josh and I did. After we said, "Amen", I started to shake his hand and continue on, but he put his hand on my shoulder and he prayed for both of us, and our team. He invoked Jesus' blessing on us, and God's name several times (I say that because someone later asked me about his prayer, making sure he wasn't praying for The Earth Spirit or some junk like that). I handed Ed a ten dollar bill when we were finished, and he had a surprised look, and I told him we'd pray he makes it, and may God bless him. I was glad Josh was there too, because he seemed to enjoy the whole moment.

Fluid.

After Ed walked away--hopefully not to buy beer (though his pickins were slim because The City that Never Sleeps apparently has nothing open after midnight) we walked back towards The Palace. Tim, Geryl, Anna Lynn and Natalie were waiting on the corner for us, and we relayed our story, which pumped Tim up.

We returned to the Palace, and all climbed in our beds, ready for one more early day... in the lobby at 745am was what I understood, and don't forget... at the West Way Cafe, tomorrow is Belgian Waffle Day!