Monday, July 31, 2006

NY'06 Entry #10: You've Got Blog

NYC'06 Entry #1: Early Morning (Opening Thoughts)
NYC'06 Entry #2: Encounter(s) in Stamford (Saturday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #3: The Truth is Served (Sunday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #4: Moments (Monday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #5: Don't Stop Believin' (Tuesday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #6: Popcorn for Jesus (Wednesday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #7: Speechless (Thursday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #8: Crack Pipes, Big Chicks & Cancer (Friday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #9: Manhattan Afternoon (Saturday Review)

Man, it was hard going to work today. It took me a few seconds to remember how many pumps go in a caramel macchiato, or how to ring up a peppermint mocha cream frappuccino... but I finally got back in the swing of things, I guess.

Now comes the hard part. Feeling the fire this week was enormous, but now the challenge is to fuel that fire this week, this month, this year with the Word, prayer and following Christ like never before. Will I do it? I dunno. Will I try? You betcha.

I'd be remiss if I didn't discuss Sunday morning... after all, I promised start to finish coverage, didn't I? Nothing really that special to tell, honestly. I met K-Swiss downstairs for breakfast, costing $11 for essentially a bagel, some toast, some fruit, milk and some apple juice. Coach Tim and Anna Lynn came down a few minutes later, and we ate quietly, not chattering like usual. We were all a little tired, all ready to get going and just worn down.

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Myself and Courtney the Stairstep Child... at 15, she actually could be my daughter...

Courtney the Stairstep Child came down to meet us and see us off, which was nice, especialy considering she was the only Trippe to do so. Landon was also there, he was going to lead us to the airport.

We loaded up the vans with our luggage, I climbed in with Gary, my idol, and The Hobbits and Danielsahn, everyone else dispersed into the other vans, and we were on our way. I asked him, "So, whats it really like to be married to Margie Eubanks?" He smiled and said, "Pretty much like you see it. Drama queen."

We returned the vans, said goodbye to Landon, and took the shuttle over to the main terminal at La Guardia. Baggage was checked, everyone went to the gate--well, I didn't at first, because I got pulled out for checking. I'm wearing my Encounter Church shirt, and here's this dude waving a wand and patting me down, saying, "So, you on a mission trip of some kind? I done seen a few of you people with them Encounter shirts on."

Got to the gate, waited, boarded and took off. The only other tidbit worth mentioning was the chick sitting next to me on the plane. Tall black lady, long fingernails, high heels, very thin, a small heart tattoo on her left arm. She sat by the window, and I debated on whether to strike up a conversation with her. She got on her phone immediately, and I heard the words,"Hey (racial n-word)... yeah, we on the plane..." I tuned her out after that. Any thoughts I might have had of getting to know her ended when she pulled out her magazines. When she sat down, I noted that she was carrying a Cosmopoliton. I was reading, and out of the corner of my eyes, I caught something... "was that what I think it was?" I thought. I carefully turned my head ever so slightly to allow my peripheral to double check what I thought I saw. At first, I thought Cosmo had gotten even more adult, but then I quickly realized the female anatomy I just witnessed (but only for a split second, mind you... I'm pretty good at the 'bouncing my eyes' thing) came from a certain men's magazine beginning with the word "play". I wish I was making this up.

Two hours later, the plane touched down at Birmingham's airport, and slowly but surely, everyone got off the flight. I met K-Swiss' dad and brothers, which put a face to her prayer request of her family. And as a testimony to how much everyone was ready to leave, K-Swiss was gone. Coach Tim & Anna Lynn disappeared a few minutes later, with nary a word. Mama Faith and Natedawg were leaving, and Abby Lohan actually spit on my shirt. I felt loved. I grabbed her and licked her forehead. Perhaps Cindy was right about this whole personal space issue. I'll work on that.

Larry Long & Mackey met us with the vans, Paula Mackey and Nicole in tow... so Yours Truly, the Warners, Chucky and Danielsahn and Gary, my idol, Margie and The Hobbits went to the church, then home. And seeing Stephanie gets better every time I'm gone.

By the way, I called Stephanie today and asked her where our copy of You've Got Mail was... and that led to this:
Steph: I don't think we own it
Me: What? How can we not own that movie???
Steph: Well, we had the videotape. I just don't think we ever bought the dvd
Me: Something's not right when Dave and Stephanie Dollar don't own You've Got Mail.

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That's right, I've got the You've Got Mail poster on my blog. Cause I'm a sensative man.

So, I went out and bought it, and remembered how much I truly loved this movie. I think I could rank it ahead of Sleepless in Seattle... especially now, since I've been to Cafe Lalo, so the movie holds a place in my heart. I watched it today, and thought how perfect it would be to use quotes from this movie to hand out props and feel goody moments... so away we go:

Joe: The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the heck they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino
I’m sending this line out to Gary Eubanks, who doesn't really even like coffee, but seemed to somehow get hooked when I gave him the strawberry lemonade. Truly a fun guy just to be around, I can never see him again as only "Margie's Husband". Glad he was there... heck, Gary Eubanks is my idol.

Kathleen: I love daisies
Joe: You told me
Kathleen: They're so friendly. Don't you think daisies are the friendliest flower?

To the friendliest flower on the trip, Anna Lynn gets this line. Its been a joy to watch her mature just a little more from last year to this year, and I hope she comes back next year too.

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Abby Lohan and Anna Lynn Swinging at orientation

Joe: Let me ask you something? How come you'll forgive him for standing you up and you won't forgive me for a little tiny thing like putting you out of business?
This one goes to Abby Lohan… yes, yes, I made her life miserable at times, so right here, I ask forgiveness for gleekin on you, and promise never to do it again. How can you not love this girl? Everything about her just exudes "cool", plus, she loves God and can beat most of you in basketball. When she makes it big, consider me a fan. I love you Abby Lohan!

Birdie: You're daring to march into the unknown armed with… nothing. Here, have a sandwich.
This is for Mark Warner, who, at the end of the day put alot of planning into this trip, and pulled it off almost perfectly... of course, like any trip, who knows what God will do. I truly could not ask for a better leader and spiritual role model than Mark. Thanks Marky Mark for letting me a part of your Funky Bunch.

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And at the last minute... Marky Mark made the blog!!

Matthew Fox: F-O-X
Kathleen Kelly: That is amazing - you can spell 'fox'? Can you spell 'dog'?
Matthew Fox: F-O-X
This one is a triple send-out, both to The Hobbits and to Danielsahn, for keeping the child-like faith real to us, and for making us laugh. Well, all except Margie, of course.

Kathleen: Forget it. We don't talk about anything personal. We made a rule about that. I don't know his name, what he does or exactly where he lives, so it will be really easy to stop seeing him, because I'm not.
Christina: Kathleen, he could be the next person to talk into the store. He could be... George.

This line goes out to Natedawg, only because he’s the one guy I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with, aside from teaching him the popcorn ropes in Wednesday’s Fall Festival. That's alright though... I can tell he's a good guy. I'm glad you came, bro, and I hope you and I can connect more soon.

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Magically, even with small hands, Natedawg can palm a ball.

Person in Theatre: Do you mind?
Frank Navasky: A HOTDOG is singing. You need quiet while a hotdog is singing?
The funniest line about hot dogs in the movie goes to the man with the most hot dog experience, that being Coach Tim. Seriously, watching Coach Tim get fired up because God is moving is enough to fire anyone up. A huge heart, a love of kids, a great family and the dad on the trip. Thanks Coach Tim for being Coach Tim.

Joe: I like Patricia. I love Patricia. Patricia makes COFFEE nervous
Margie Eubanks, sounds like you. I'm hoping that this trip will dispel the notion that I had that, for the first year I knew you, you didn't even like me. Your antics make me laugh, your heart for God makes me joyous and being around you makes me... well, just happy.

Joe Fox: It wasn't... personal.
Kathleen Kelly: What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All that means is that it wasn't personal to you. But it was personal to me. It's *personal* to a lot of people. And what's so wrong with being personal, anyway?
Joe Fox: Uh, nothing.
Kathleen Kelly: Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.
I give this to Mama Faith, who I think is one of the more personable people I've met. A great mom, talking to her really helped me sort out the Julissa Saga, and she washed my shorts, which is no small feat. I hope God spoke to you lots on the trip, and I'm excited I was there for your first one!

Kevin: The electrical contractor called, his truck hit a deer last night, so he's not gonna be here until tomorrow. And the upstairs shelves are delayed because the shipment of pine we ordered has beetles.
Joe: Very good, very good.
Kevin: And we got a $50,000 ticket for construction workers peeing off the roof.
Joe: Great, that is great. Is the electrician here today?
One of the most disturbing thoughts in the movie goes to Cindy Warner, who had one of the more disturbing visuals of the trip. Whereas I felt like I claimed a kid sister on this trip, Cindy is always a big sister to me. She's funny, she's country, she's cute and she threatens to kidnap small children and smuggle them in her suitcase... what more could you want? You're the best, Cindy!

Patricia Eden: When I get out of here, I'm having my eyeballs lasered.
Send this out to Chucky, because I think that by Wednesday, he was kinda looking like he was ready to go home.
Danielsahn awoke in a fit of coughing one night, and the next day, Chuck looked weary... and he had a few sniffles and coughs of his own. But, I'm glad he came again... and being his roommate, I can say he didn't snore much, which is good.

Annabelle: What is that?
Kathleen: A handkerchief. Oh my, do children not even know what handkerchiefs are? A handkerchief is a Kleenex you don't throw away.

In this scene, Kathleen is feeling kind of old, because young Annabelle doesn’t even know what a handkerchief is. That’s why I send this line out to G-Ann. During the trip, we found out G-Ann's age... which is crazy, because she looks 10 years younger. Anyway, she was a good sport as J-Bo, K-Swiss and I prodded her all day on Saturday. J-Bo, your mom is awesome, don't forget that. Thanks, Georgia Ann for being... well, a great friend on the trip.

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And who could forget our precious J-Bo??

Joe: Kevin, this woman is the most adorable creature I have ever come in contact with. If she turns out to be even as good-looking as a mailbox, I will be crazy not to turn my life upside down and marry her
This whimsical line I thought would be perfect for J-Bo, who is in fact adorable, much better looking than the best mailbox, and though I don’t forsee any marrying happening, I absolutely loved spending time around her
. Her mom said to me that J-Bo thought I had forgotten all about her... absolutely not. But I will say that I haven't had much chance to talk to her, so I was pumped that she came to NYC and we got to hang. Loved every minute of it... and thanks for coming with me to Midtown Comics.

And Finally

Joe: Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms.
To the girl who loves New York as much as I do, this is for K-Swiss herself. We both decided that we aren't even tourists anymore, and we want to seek out the out of the way places next time we come. I don't imagine a time when you and I will get to spend nearly as much time together as we did this past week, but I appreciate you greatly. Thanks for the holy roar, K-Swiss.

And, ladies and gentleman, thats the blog for the Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) 2006 New York City mission trip... this blog will continue with a new posting in a few days, very possibly unrelated to New York City, but who knows. Y'all come back now, ya hear?


Saturday, July 29, 2006

NY'06 Entry #9: Manhattan Afternoon

NYC'06 Entry #1: Early Morning (Opening Thoughts)
NYC'06 Entry #2: Encounter(s) in Stamford (Saturday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #3: The Truth is Served (Sunday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #4: Moments (Monday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #5: Don't Stop Believin' (Tuesday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #6: Popcorn for Jesus (Wednesday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #7: Speechless (Thursday Review)
NYC'06 Entry #8: Crack Pipes, Big Chicks & Cancer (Friday Review)

Before I begin this post, let me set for you the stage right at this moment, 1240am, Saturday morning. Pimp My Ride is on the big screen behind me, and in front of me, there is a table where sits five people at a table that has on it 15 beer bottles, one bottle of Corona, and a bottle of water. Next to them is a table with four boxes of pizza. And a lady just came over to the table about four feet from me and turned on a radio that is playing Stealers Wheel really loud. This is what I'm sitting in.

On my way down, I got into the elevator and realized not only was I in an elevator with nine girls, but someone (one of them, I'm sure) had pushed every button on the elevator. I'm on the 8th floor. I'm going to the lobby. I sighed and just stayed on. They were all chattering, being girls, and one of them apologized. I looked around and said, "I'm on an elevator with all teenage girls? Don't I just feel like R. Kelly." The girls exploded in laughter.

Maurice the bartender just gave me my Coke for free. He said, in his accent, "I didn't think you were coming down tonight." I told him tonight was my last night, we were headed back to Alabama tomorrow. He said, "Oh, well then, this one is on me, as a going away present." I said thanks and still threw some change on the counter for a tip.

So, now you know about the last twenty minutes of my night (I might break in and give you the update as the crowd around me gets more and more obnoxious), let me tell you about the day.

Julissa didn't show up. Part of me felt like that might happen. It's important to note that Matt & Ginger Latta wrote me an encouragement note, which I read last night. I've been blessed enough to have friends that gave me enough to have one for the morning, one for the evening... I've read notes from Mikey Nipp, Jason T'bow, LPSherman, Brooke Smith, Katy Sexton, Kenneth & Amy Poole, Ryan & Melissa Sherman, Teber, Randy Latta, April Adams and a few others I'm horribly forgetting, but none were bigger than the message that I got from Matt & Ginger. It was from I Peter, and though they gave me just one verse, that verses plus the one around it were simply put: Be hospitable in godliness.

So, I went into this morning ready to be just that. I prayed about it last night, and even though I was willing to have Julissa and possibly her mom come to Coney Island with us, part of me still didn't want them to come... I felt this was okay, because as long as I showed the love of Christ to them in my words and actions, didn't matter how I felt deep down inside. That I could mask. So when I read these verses, believe me, it hit me hard.

I met Coach Tim and Anna Lynn, who said they wanted to come with us to Coney Island, down in the lobby. Few minutes later, G-Ann and J-Bo came down, and finally young Emily, the young girl called K-Swiss, Swiss, Kid Sister and Kid Sis all over this blog. The Holiday Inn Select shuttle took us over to the train station, and we even met Mark & Cindy Warner there, along with Mama Faith, Natedawg and Abby Lohan. We told Julissa to meet us there at 930 sharp, because the train was leaving at 954am.

We had our tickets, we were all sitting near the front door, all looking out for Julissa and/or her mom. Even Mark & Cindy, and Mama Faith, Natedawg and Abby Lohan were looking out. Around 945am, I went outside, walked up the street a bit, looked around in the distance to see if they were there or might have been walking up. Nothing. I slowly walked up the steps, looking out the window the whole time... and didn't see them. We boarded the train at 950, late enough to get stuck on the bar car (meaning we were sitting on the unused counter). Both Coach Tim and I had the same attitude... she knew when we were meeting, she knew what time to be here, we did all we could. Poor Kid Sis was taking it harder, upset because she didn't know what happened, but more upset because she felt guilty.

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Here's most of the group, sitting on the counter of the bar-car, riding into NYC... J-Bo, Anna Lynn, Yours Truly, Kid Sis and Marky Mark. Cindy is around the corner, and G-Ann is taking the picture

Note: The train runs to Grand Central Station, where you can take any number of subway trains to wherever, including the #7 train or the S shuttle to 42nd Street, which is Times Square. This was our plan, followed by getting on the Q to 34th Street, then transferring to the D Train, and take it all the way down lower Manhattan, through Brooklyn and into Coney Island.

We got to Grand Central, we made a few phone calls, and apparently it was a misunderstanding, though Julissa said she was there at the station (how she could have been there, I don't know... unless there is another train station, which means its all her fault, because no other station goes to NYC from here, and she knew where we were going) but as Coach Tim says, "She's got to take some responsibility for it. We did all we could and what we were supposed to." I concur. And that's enough of that. We did tell Kid Sis she was no longer allowed to be upset about it.

We lost Mark & Cindy, and the Piersons (Faith, Nate and Abby) at Grand Central... actually, I looked around and they were gone. We found the S shuttle train to Times Square, took it, got off, wound our way around the enormous 42nd Street station, hopped on a train to 34th Street (one stop down) then finally getting on the D Train to Coney Island. For myself, this was my third visit to Coney Island, for Anna Lynn, her second... and I think for Kid Sis, Coach Tim, J-Bo and G-Ann, it was their first.

We got off on Coney Island about an hour later (its a long subway ride...) and as we were walking out of the station, there was a group there handing out fliers that said "Shut Down Guantanimo Prison". One woman stuck one out at me, saying "Shut down Gitmo!" and I smiled and said, "No thanks. I love Gitmo. There should be more of them." She gave me a mean look, and I felt happy for it. On the way out the entrance onto the street, another woman tried to give me one, and I said, "Nope. I think Gitmo is awesome... its like a resort for those guys." This irritated her too, and I loved it.

We walked up to the boardwalk, worked our way around the area, stopped for a lengthy restroom break, and then on to the Cyclone. That led to this exchange:
Kid Sis: So, is this like the Georgia Cyclone?
Me: Yeah, both wooden coasters and both pretty bumpy
Kid Sis: Yeah, but was the Georgia Cyclone modeled after this one? They seem alot alike
Me: Well, yeah but... uh... you know...
Kid Sis: You've never made that connection, have you?
Me: I, uh... well, I mean...
Kid Sis: No
Me: No

I was almost giddy, though I thought it might be anti-climactic, because last year I was geared up for it, and after a three year wait, I was able to ride it. I was almost afraid this would let me down... it didn't. I sat with some dude close to the front, with Anna Lynn and Kid Sis behind me, and a little farther back, J-Bo and G-Ann.

After riding it once, we all got out, Kid Sis said "I'm out." So the four of us paid $4 more to ride again, this time I was in the front. I tried to video with the camera, but I pushed the wrong button. Finally, for the third ride, Anna Lynn and J-Bo and myself were it... they climbed close to the front, I went straight to the back. I now have a 90 second video on my digital camera of the Coney Island Cyclone ride from the back car, a video that I have no idea how to transfer to computer. When I figure it out, though, I'll get it on the site somehow. Oh, and I lost my sunglasses. They have disappeared into the abyss of lost items on rides.

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Nathan's Famous, having lunch. G-Ann is missing from some of these pics, because she's doing the camera work.

After the back row ride, I held my hands up, saying "I'm done." We all walked out, and headed to lunch at Nathan's Famous. I had forgotten that Nathan's Famous bought Kenny Roger's Roaster's several years ago, so by the time I realized that Coach Tim was in the Roasters line for roasted chicken, I had already paid for my lunch and was waiting on it.

The area was packed out, but with my wisdom and genius, I was able to find a table (I spotted one open). Ordered cheese fries and a cheese dog, with a big, fat Coke (that I drank almost half of instantly). We all crammed together around the table, blessed our food with praise to Him and dug in. After lunch, we decided to split up for about 30 minutes, with Kid Sis, G-Ann and J-Bo going to look at a few shops that were recommended by a NYC Lifer we met on the subway, Coach Tim & Anna Lynn were probably going to go back to the boardwalk, and I wanted to walk around to Mermaid Avenue to see if the Salt & Sea Mission was still open. I came to NYC in 2002 with another church, doing 10 days worth of mission work on Coney Island, working with the mission, sorting clothes, feeding homeless, praying for and with the locals.

I was a little disappointed that I didn't even find it to begin with. Finally, I realized I had passed it, which you can probably tell meant it wasn't there. The sign was still there, but the doorway I remember had a garage door over it, the tree that we did homeless Bible study under was gone, and the convenience mart on the corner was boarded up with a "for lease" sign in the window. Still, I called Alex Milner, one of my friends from that trip and left her a message telling her where I was. Haven't spoken to her in over a year, seen her in over three years, so I don't expect a phone call back, but it was a good call anyway.

We then ventured onto the N Train, not the D. We decided--at least, I decided, and they somehow listened to me--that instead of using the D and getting off on 34th, we'd ride the N all the way to 42nd Street. On the way back, I was honored that Kid Sister gave me her testimony and story--any story that ends up with mistakes turned into grace and blessings and God's will is great, but her's was just wonderful to hear.

And about an hour later, we climbed the steps into one of the coolest places on Earth, that being New York City's Times Square. I love this place.

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Man, this is a good picture... good pose, great backdrop, good lighting... if Steph were in this, I'd have this framed. As it is a 17 year old friend of mine, I'll just put it on this site.

Coach Tim and Anna Lynn decided to go play some games at ESPNZone, leaving Kid Sis, J-Bo and G-Ann to wander the streets. Our wandering included:

  • Starbucks. No toilet paper in the bathrooms, though luckily, I had a small roll in my backpack. Whoever decided that Starbucks in Manhattan, particularly anywhere near Times Square, needed only one restroom was taking goofy pills... I mean, most Birmingham stores have them. But I digress.
  • Kid Sis stopped in Jamba Juice for a strawberry pineapple smoothie. We all tried it... I like Tropical Smoothie better.
  • Toys R Us to see the ferris wheel inside. J-Bo wanted to ride it, but G-Ann is on this "oh, we can do our stuff later, we want you and Kid Sis to do what you want to, since its your last day" kick. Problem is, Sis and I had done most of it in the previous three times each of us had been here. We were almost bored, to be honest... is that sad?
  • We walked up to 54th Street to visit the Cadillac Winter Garden Theater where Mamma Mia was playing. My thought was to possibly get Standing Room Only tickets for later at maybe $20 per, but the show had to be sold out and you had to be there at 6pm to get them. First, as of 2pm, when we were there, the show wasn't sold out, and they said we could not call to find out the sold-out-status, we had to inquire in person. Secondly, I think Kid Sis might have done it, but J-Bo and G-Ann were harder to sell on the idea, and no matter how family-oriented my relationship with Emily Reynolds may be to me, it just didn't seem quite right for a 30 year old married guy and a 17 year old high school senior to be visiting a Broadway show together... so I didn't press the issue.
  • Thought about walking into the Hershey's Store, but when I mentioned it to Kid Sis, she said "That store is stupid." Killed that idea. (She later felt vindicated on Sunday morning when Gary, my idol, randomly popped up and said "You know, I wasn't impressed with the Hershey Store... it was kinda lame" to which Kid Sis rasied her hand and said "THANK YOU!")
  • Boy, the people were out pimping their comedy clubs. A guy named Grant from the Improv stopped us first, and we talked to him for a few minutes. The show was at 6pm, it was a family show, and we could see it for $5 each. I love stand-up, so for me, this was an option (though I'm not sure the ladies were convinced). Not too long after, another guy from another club stopped us, telling us the Improv was good, but his was better, only to have another guy from the same club a few yards away stopping us, telling us the Improv was second rate and their place was the best. I'll mention this subject again on down the post, when we met Jessica.
  • I finally found Midtown Comics. I'd been thinking of this store for a while, and was hoping I could see it, which we did. Neither G-Ann nor Kid Sis was into going, but J-Bo piped up and said, "I think it would be fun!" We all went inside, climbed the steps and I was ready for a comic book euphoria... one that never came. I was really not impressed. My goal was to find Uncanny X-Men #416... nothing special about it, I just don't have that one. And they didn't have it. Seriously, it was a big letdown from what I thought it would be.
  • Did you know that Lance Bass came out? Not kidding, he's dating the Reichan from Chip & Reichan who were on The Amazing Race a few years ago. I mean, when I saw him on the cover of People Magazine, with the headline "I'M GAY", my first thought was "duh", but I thought it was interesting anyway. that would explain why "On the Line" was so unbelievable.
  • We decided to have dinner at ESPNZone, and planned on meeting Coach Tim & Anna Lynn later. We were boing back and forth about dinner, when J-Bo piped up and said, "I like ESPNZone". That settled it.

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You can see the ESPNZone building in the link above... however, this is the view from a bathroom stall, complete with a television. Yes, its almost TMI, but you have to know how cool TVs in the stalls is.

Had a pretty good cheeseburger and some fries, and dessert was tempting, but I waited. Kid Sis had been raving about Cafe Lalo for days now, so I was going to trust her and wait on dessert. I did, however, call Wookiee and brag about where I was. Got his voicemail, but its becoming a year tradition--go to ESPNZone, call Chris Fulaytar, tell him "Hey, I'm here and you're home cutting grass!" I also got a call from Tommy McLeod:
Me: Hello Tommy
Tommy: Hey Dave... what's the house number? (I know immediately what he's asking, because there is a social at Jason & Emily Turnbow's house for our Life Connection class)
Me: You know, I'm not sure. You may want to call Stephanie.
Tommy: I know its on Oak Glen Trace, Amy & I just aren't sure of where it is
Me: Well, I'm sort of out of town, so Steph will be there, not me
Tommy (beat): Oh, wait... you are in NYC still, aren't you? (I hear Amy laughing in the background)
Me: Yeah, I'm in Times Square right now
Tommy: Oh, well... hope all is well!

After dinner, Coach Tim & Anna Lynn were headed to the third floor to play some more games, then they were headed home. That left G-Ann, J-Bo and Yours Truly to follow Kid Sis uptown first to Laila Rowe, a small jewelry store, then to Cafe Lalo. She had spent about three days up here last week with her cousin, before we arrived on Saturday, and her cousin had taken her to some great, out of the way type places, places that weren't on the tourist handbook like Empire State, Statue of Liberty and Rock Center might be. This is great, because again, having been there multiple times, it was fun to do something else.

First was Laila Rowe. On the way, we passed by the New York First Baptist Church, which had a sermon Sunday morning (this morning, I guess) entitled "Why I Am a Dispensationalist". This stumped all of us, because we could barely say "dispensationalist", much less define it.

As we walked down to Laila Rowe, I spotted a few people handing out stand-up comedy fliers. We got to the street corner, and I turned to J-Bo and said, "J-Bo... where can we find some good stand up comedy in this town??!!" J-Bo was confused, but immediately, the girl behind her turned around and said, "Are you serious? Oh my gosh!" and she grabbed her fliers. I told her we weren't serious, but I wanted to hear her schpeel anyway... "Some of the guys in Manhattan were pretty agressive, so what do you have?" So she gave us her best "buy comedy tickets from me" speech, which was pretty good and I told her so. Her name was Jessica, and she offered us a deal, but we had to decline. We shook hands and went about our way.

Laila Rowe is a trendy jewelry shop with clunky necklaces, earrings, scarves, purses, flip-flops and floppy hats. J-Bo and G-Ann of course go crazy, with Kid Sis being so pleased because she brought us here. It was fun little shop, and I did look around some because I knew that I hadn't bought Stephanie a single thing--yes, yes, she would say "oh, you don't have to bring me anything" but NO GIRL means that. Granted, I'm a boy, so the novelty of Laila Rowe wore off in about ten minutes, just as the other girls were getting fired up. I stepped outside, then next door to the Candy & Nut Shop, where I figured out what to buy Steph... either Cashews or Pecans. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember what she liked, so I had to call her.

Talked to my wife for a few, and knowing she was at the social, I asked her to ask James Hawbaker what "dispensationalist" meant. James deferred to Jessica, his wife, as he was involved in a game of foosball, and with Jessica's answer through Stephanie's translation, I had no idea what it meant.

About twenty minutes later, G-Ann, J-Bo and Kid Sis came out from Laila Rowe and we were on our way to Cafe Lalo. Now, I've mentioned this several times, but here's the scoop on Cafe Lalo... it's a little Upper West Side cafe between Amsterdam and Broadway, on 83rd Street. You'll know it by the trees in front with the lights on it.

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Here's Cafe Lalo, a place in the Upper West Side that is famous because its where Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks had their mismatched dinner in You've Got Mail. We stopped here for dessert tonight.

If you've ever seen the movie "You've Got Mail", then you will remember the scene where Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) plans to meet her IM friend, MrNY152, which of course, she ends up meeting Joe Fox (Tom Hanks). Unbeknownst to Kathleen, but beknownst to us, MrNY152 and Joe are the same person. Anyway, this is the cafe they met in. In fact, its kinda fun to stand on the steps where Joe and Kevin (Dave Chappelle) discuss whether Joe should go in to meet Kathleen. Now I really want to see that movie again.

Walking into Lalo is a diabetic nightmare, and a sweet-tooth's dream. Desserts fill up a large glass case, tables are packed in like sardines, and cool artwork line the walls. We get seated immediately, and order our food based on the idea that we'll be moving the plates all over the table and eating each other's treats. I got a Key Lime Cheesecake, Kid Sis got some sort of Lemon Mousse pie and J-Bo hooked up on some sort of double-triple chocolate cake concoction that I ate one bite of and determined it too sweet to continue. G-Ann just ordered "coffee and a fork".

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Kid Sis, Yours Truly and J-Bo at Cafe Lalo. You can see the dessert case lined up behind us, and the backdrop of art and flavor in the back of the restaurant.

Outside, Kid Sis had made the comment that there seemed to be a high population of people who played for the American League, and I made a similar joke about myself, sitting in Lalo with three women, enjoying cheesecake. G-Ann made the comment, "Well, David, if you were gay, you'd fit right in here." Kinda funny, mostly because it was Georgia Ann Boutwell saying it.

My Key Lime cheesecake was perhaps one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had. I also ordered Virgil's Root Beer, because both Steph & I are root beer afficianados. They actually brought me a Virgil's Root Beer instead, which was good, but I told them I had to try the root beer in the bottle. (They didn't charge me for the float, either). It was not as good as the root beer we had in Disney World's Liberty Tree Tavern, but darn it, it was good. (just found out that they sell it here in B'ham, at World Market. That's a stop after work). We ate the desserts, I had my Virgil's, J-Bo had a hot chocolate, Kid Sis had a mocha, G-Ann sipped on more coffee... all in all, it was a very, very good time.

I can say this... I would have had fun with the Eubanks & Chucky, the Warners and the Piersons, and I enjoyed my time with Coach Tim & Anna Lynn, but I'm very, very glad that I was able to spend this time with just Emily, Jennifer and Georgia Ann. We had a fantastic time, everyone was in a great mood, the weather was awesome, the conversation flowed wonderfully, the desserts were delicious and... well, it was just one of the most fun nights that didn't included Stephanie that I've had in a long, long time. As for the cafe itself, I highly recommend it, as it will be one of the places that I'll search out to take Stephanie when we go to New York. And of course, Kid Sis was very proud, because you could tell she was slightly worried that she dragged us all over the Upper West Side for something that wouldn't be worth the time. Cafe Lalo was her Coney Island.

After this, our night was pretty much over. We began the trek to the subway, catching the train up to 42nd Street, the S shuttle over to Grand Central, and finally, the 1040 train to Stamford. Unfortunately, I had given Gary Eubanks, my idol, my train schedule, so I didn't know when the local trains ran versus the express trains. The difference? The express train stops, maybe once or twice. The local trains? At least a dozen times. And from what I gathered, there were no express trains this late at night. So we caught the 1040pm local train, which made stops at like, 472 stations... I mean, it was just goofy.

We got on the train, sitting close to a guy and a girl from Brazil, which made Kid Sis just light up. I didn't catch much of the conversation, as I and J-Bo just sat quiet, while G-Ann and Kid Sis asked questions and carried on the conversation. After the Brazilians left, Kid Sis lit up, saying she now had plans to marry a Brazilian. G-Ann was on the other aisle, nodding off, so J-Bo, Sis and I had a good time laughing about her future husband Paolo (said with a head twist) and their wedding.

Jennifer Boutwell is a good kid too. For all my talk about Kid Sister Emily, I can't say enough about J-Bo. She was in WalkAbout Drama her 7th and 8th grade years--thats the middle school drama team at Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) and was just great. While she was a good talent onstage, perhaps she wasn't the best, mostly because she would never project, but I loved putting her in the spotlight because she was totally committed to what we were doing, she was willing to do whatever and it really gave her confidence.

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Myself and J-Bo, on the train back to Stamford, both exhausted and sleepy.

Anyway, G-Ann told me earlier that J-Bo thought I had forgotten about her... nothing could be further from the truth, and I'm soooooo glad she came on the NY trip this year. She almost didn't come, but I think she's glad she did, and I saw God use her alot too. Casey, would you please play "Wind Beneath My Wings" for J-Bo, because she was the wind beneath all of our wings. Dave, here's your request and dedication.

After what seemed like the 46th stop at a station where no one got on or off, we arrived in Stamford. I had already called the hotel about the shuttle service, and they quit running at 1030pm (which was a problem as it was 1030pm when I called, and we were over an hour away). I called the cab company, but they said they have cabs there already. So, when we got there, we all trumbled out to a cab and went back to the hotel.

J-Bo and G-Ann are staying another few days in Manhattan, just to tour and sightsee, so this was the last I saw of them for this trip. I gave them a hug as they came off the elevator, told Kid Sis I'd see her for breakfast in the morning (we agreed to meet in the overly priced buffet) and I went to the room. Chuck was in there already packing, so I packed my stuff really quickly, grabbed the laptop and headed to the bar...

...which is where this night's blog began.

Okay... so you've read the NYC story now. I've got one more posting to write, perhaps Monday night or Tuesday, with Sunday morning's happenings (which is basically, breakfast, van ride, shuttle ride, check in, get on the plane, get off the plane, go home--though the freak woman sitting next to me on the flight must me discussed), my closing thoughts, my shout outs to each person on the trip and a few other comments.

Back to Main Page

Next... Closing thoughts.

Friday, July 28, 2006

NY'06 Entry #8: Crack Pipes, Big Chicks and Cancer

Where do I even start today? I'm really tired, my brain is fried, so I'm going to be all over the board today... I hope I can give you a glimpse of our day, but some of this will be carry over from yesterday's Coney Island issue.

I told Chuck about an hour ago, "I think I'm finally getting to the point where I'm kinda sorta ready to head home." He half-smiled and said "...yeah."

So, shall we start at the crack pipes, the slam in the alley, prayed for cancer, salvation or K-Swiss almost making me cry?

Like a few minutes ago K-Swiss got a phone call that she wasn't happy with. She left to go upstairs, but before she did, she handed me a note of encouragement that made me tear up. Here I am, sitting in the lobby/bar full of half drunk people and Maurice the Bartender, with moist eyes, wiping them away quickly because let's face it, I can't cry in a bar.

By the way, the lobby spills into the bar, so its not like I purposely went into an actual bar--its an area with a lot of dining tables, an outlet that I can plug into, and a bar in the middle for drinks--just to clarify for the people at Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship)

This has been the most spiritual fulfilling, joyous, incredible, life-changing mission trip out of all I've taken--and yet, the most exhausting, and possibly the most spiritually draining. And today was no different... and our free day we thought would be a free day is turning out to be only a slightly free day, possibly more complicated than it has to be... and I hate stuff that is more complicated than it has to be. Am I rambling? Probably.

Okay, let's actually get to today's stuff...

Have I told you about Sylvia yet? She's this older lady with a thick accent who works at the Daily Grind cafe, and has been giving all of us a hard time when we try to order. This morning, I came down around 645am, with the cafe opening at 7. I saw Ms. Sylvia come down the hall, so I purposely waited until about 710 before going on... I walked in, and simply asked, "Are you ready?"
"Yes, yes, I am working now, yes," she said, counting her change in her drawer. And as I started the words, "I'd like a breakfast sandwich and..." she cut me off, putting one hand up to stop me, saying "Give me jus' a minute, please. Jus' minute." Gary, my idol, calls her the Sandwich Nazi.

We arrived at The People's Park around 815, just in time to pick up trash around the court. Its amazing how we leave it pretty spotless at noon, and coming back 20 hours later, its just junked up with cups, paper, glass and whatever. Woodlawn Baptist, who has primarily worked with Graffiti 2 the whole time (instead of splitting time with another ministry, as we have with Encounter Church), gets there first, and has done a great job of picking up stuff even before we get there.

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Gary trying to take it to the basket past Crystal. No luck.

Moments worthy of mentioning, good and bad:

  • Andrew did a great job sharing the gospel during the devotion today, using an illustration of dirtying up a shirt, then bleaching it to make it white again. Afterwards, Gary, my idol, took his group off to the side and said, "You guys have any questions about what Andrew said today?" Everyone said no, but one kid. He raised his hand with a question. Gary asked him to just come over to the side and talk to him, and then two more kids followed. In their questions, Gary could tell they were hanging intently on every word Andrew had to say, because of the details of their questions. Long story short, in their conversation, Matthew (a little Hispanic kid), Greg (a kid who had been seen putting on his jersey and reading his Bible as he left the day before) and Dylan (a rough kid who had tussled several times this week using all sorts of fun language) all prayed to receive Christ this morning. We have three more brothers in Christ now... and I'm just speechless at God's glory.
  • Cindy, who had witnessed a couple of guys doing drugs the day before in a close by alley, saw even more today. Before the camp started, we prayed together next to the alley, asking not only for the alley to stay clear, but moreso for God's protection of us and the kids from whatever may be lurking there. Cindy actually witnessed a man drop trou, take a slam, then whip out his crack pipe. For those of you not in Deuce speak, that means he poo-poo'ed in the alley. She was quite disturbed after this.
  • Cedric, one of the kids in another group, came up and was watching the guys who were doing drugs. He looked at Cindy and said, "That ain't right, man." She said, "Well, are you saying that now because we're here, and later you'll go out and do that, or are you saying that because you know that truly is not right?" and he said, "No, that ain't right. I ain't never doing that." I hope so, Cedric. I hope you keep that mindset.
  • Crystal, whom you can see in a picture with Gary above, is in the group with J-Bo, Mama Faith, Coach Tim, Natedawg and Abby Lohan. She's 13 years old (she might be 12, soon to turn 13) and we've joked all week how Crystal can take any of us down... let's face it, she's a big chick. Not fat, just big. She is an awesome basketball player, but was kicked off the team for fighting. She seems like a good kid at heart, though. Anyway, she came up to Coach Tim, and in joking, did a leg sweep and took him down. Quite funny.
  • Coach Tim had his girls sign his shoes last year, and he's retired the shoes. This year, he brought a new white pair (which I had to put in my bag to keep him under the 50lb weight limit) for everyone to sign. Well, today he took them to camp, and all the girls had fun signing them... apparently, one of the kids put something really foul on the shoes, which Tim later just scratched out, and the girls created an uprising. You would have thought they were going to riot on the poor kid. Coach Tim laughed.
  • Kendall came and stayed a little while today. I moved people and manipulated jobs around just enough to get K-Swiss in the truck with her to be able to talk, which they did. I've said before that all of us can see K-Swiss in five years becoming like Kendall, so it was good they could connect, at least for a little while.
  • We ran out of basketballs. The camps in the area are just so darn big (one camp apparently had like, 140 kids... we had 70 today) that they are running out, so we not only had to give away some slightly used Upward Basketball basketballs, we ended up giving the last six kids some old balls, telling them to come by Graffiti 2 later to trade them in for new basketballs that Kendall was bringing later.
  • Kendall was also supposed to get a picture with Coach Tim and I before she left, and she left without doing so. Leaves me wondering if we'll ever get to see her again (though saying that makes me think of that stupid song at the end of Grease... "we go together like rama lama lama ba bing da de de do boo")
  • The ice cream guy came a little early today, so we had to convince him to stay away a little while longer--I remember last year, the shaved ice guy showed up at 10am the first day, and we lost all of our kids. Anyway, with the help of K.D. (from Woodlawn in Baton Rouge... and it stands for Katherine Denise. She was impressed I remembered it) we told him to come back at 12 noon and he'd make a killing. He did, and he did.
So Upward Camp 2006 in The People's Park for Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship) is now officially over. I was drenched from head to toe in sweat, just feeling nasty. G-Ann had done laundry the night before, and had washed some of my shirts, but I hadn't gotten them from her, so I was wearing shirts that had dried from a few days ago. Quite putrid.

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In front of the Graffiti 2 building, here's J-Bo, Andrew Mann, Yours Truly, Coach Tim and daughter Anna Lynn.

Just looked around and saw my man L at the front desk... remember I told you that we didnt have towels? Yeah, well Chucky didn't get any, so after blogging until 1240, I came back down and waiting 20 minutes to get a towel request in. L was the only one behind the counter, answering phones, helping a line of people (including me) and dealing with a woman who was mad about her key doing something or whatever. He did it with a smile, was friendly to everyone, seemed like he actually cared. This morning, I saw L and told him he did a good job. So, it was 1am when I finally headed up to my room, which was okay, because I ended up meeting Maurice the Bartender, the guy who's been serving me Cokes and Sprites all week as I blog. When you're up blogging late enough to close the bar down, its time to stop. Where was I?

Now that the secret's out, I can tell this story without fearing someone on the NYC trip here will read. Early in the week, K-Swiss wanted to do something for everyone, like maybe a framed picture of each family she had taken on Monday night. She even had some of the families that had come for VBS. Anyway, she had me walk with her and J-Bo to Target a few nights ago, where we figured out some ideas, deciding to do some cards and include the photo. Well, last night, we were going to go to Target as soon as VBS was over, and we ended up meeting in the group until late in the evening. So, after the meeting, here's what we came up with: After Upward Camp, just get dropped off at Target, go in and buy some blank cds, walk the five blocks to the hotel, burn the pictures onto the cd, take the cd back to Target by walking back, get the pics printed, then come back and be ready for the cookout at Landon's & Christy's by 4pm. Which is why last night, I obtained a blank CD from Courtney the Stairstep Child and Alan, which means it cut out a good ten block total walk and an hour of extra work.

With that being said, it let us be free to go to Lucky's (the Johnny Rocket's wannabe, as Anna Lynn puts it) with the Warners, Coach Tim and Anna Lynn. After lunch, we split off and Anna Lynn came with K-Swiss and myself to Target... I had to buy some socks anyway, I am completely out. And I am NOT wearing dirty socks.

Had to be ready in the lobby of the hotel by 4pm, but that didn't stop me from taking a shower when we got back at 345. I was almost giddy that I was going to be clean finally... and I was clean! Met the group downstairs, and we all piled in the vans again to travel the two or three blocks to Avalon Grove, where the Reesors live. The reason we drove, instead of walking? First, we were all tired of walking. Second, it was about to rain, which it did soon after we got there.

We had a good de-briefing meeting at the conference room, the same one we briefed on Sunday, with all of us sharing a little about our week. Notably, Landon shared with us the struggles they've had, especially Christy. She's this beautiful mother of three who, when they lived in Atlanta, had lots of friends in the neighborhood, lived five minutes away from her family (and the kids grandparents), was a stay at home mom and such... well now, they choose to stay in the apartment to help continue to connect, but its hard on Christy because she doesn't have a lot of chances to meet new women she can relate too.

Landon said that she meets other women in a "play date" with the other kids, a group that contains something like five different nationalities and about eight different religions. Anyway, they received news from of the ladies that her husband had been diagnosed with cancer. This is a family who just bought a $2 million dollar home, has gardeners, nannies and so on, you know, plenty and plenty of money. Landon said he felt that this was God's provision, doing whatever He can to make an inroad to the hearts of this man and woman.

K-Swiss spoke up about a conversation she and Coach Tim and I had on Sunday... I think it was Coach Tim who had said that possibly the only way to some of these people is a situation that money can't buy them out of, like cancer or health issues. In our prayer walk, we didn't pray that anyone would get cancer, but it was prayed that God would use what He would to make it happen. So, there you go.

We had VBS tonight, and it went well. Most of the kids came, and later, Julissa and her little brother Kevin came in. This week has been all about being a fisher of men, and being fished in by God, so tonight brought it all home. Lots of music, lots of hugs, lots of pictures in a slideshow that was put together by Alan, lots of goodbyes. I told Christy Reesor how much I respected her and was encouraged by her for the fact that she was so willing to just pack it all up and go, following her heart and Landon's lead in moving to Connecticut. I would like to think that Stephanie and I would do that, but I know it would be so hard to do. Mad props to both of them for the impact they are having.

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Cindy, holding Natalie one final time

Cindy was just convinced that she and Mark were taking home little Natalie, who has been the heartstealer of the VBS show this week. Her slightly older brother was Frederick--who was late yesterday because of, I kid you not, chess lessons. Chess lessons. At age 6.

When it was time to go this morning, she shed some tears over Noah, who she loved at camp. Tonight, after being convinced she cannot pack Natalie into her suitcase, she had to let go. I got to hug several of the kids too, which is always heartwarming and such.

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Yours Truly, and the wife of Gary Eubanks, my idol

And then we began the conversation of Julissa coming with us to Coney Island tomorrow morning. Planning to go now is J-Bo and G-Ann, K-Swiss and myself. And Julissa. And somehow, Julissa's mom wants to go. We've told her that they have to find someone to keep Kevin, the little brother, because there is no way he can come with us... but yet, we're all still a little concerned that Julissa and mom will have Kevin with them tomorrow, and we'll have to put our foot down.

I'm not going to bore you with the details of this ordeal, I'm just a little frustrated because all I wanted was to ride the Cyclone once more, and now its become this ministry opportunity with Julissa that now borders on the edge of "taking advantage" with the addition of her mom now wanting to come. We told Julissa we would take care of her, and G-Ann said she'd front the mom money for the trip... but we just don't want to offer a cookie and be expected to give a bag of Oreos instead. I went back and forth between G-Ann, Mama Faith, Coach Tim, Julissa, K-Swiss and back to G-Ann, first trying to determine who was going, then trying to figure out who wanted to do what, then deciding where to go and so on and so on... finally, after we were done at church, I just walked out, declaring to whoever was listening, "I'm going to Starbucks." I actually intended to walk alone, but K-Swiss piped up and said "I'll go with you."

After a few minutes of walking in silence, she vented. Then I vented. And it was good. We are both wrestling with the whole "we are selfish to not want her to come... yet, we don't to be walked over, so where's the line?"

So, here's our plan... and I only mention this, because I am curious as to how God will work it out... we'll meet Julissa and possibly her mom at the train station at 930 for the 954am train. Go to Grand Central, then Coney Island, ride the coaster, eat lunch probably at Nathan's, hang out around the boardwalk, then head to Times Square around 2pm, where we'll meet Mama Faith, Natedawg and Abby Lohan. We'll probably split up a little and cover Times Square, then meet back, and we'll take Julissa and her mom to the train station. We'll put her on the train back to Stamford (its a straight shot--this cannot possibly get screwed up, can it?), then the Boutwells, K-Swiss, Yours Truly and whoever is left from our team there will go and have dinner somewhere, just hanging as a team.

This is my plan.

We'll see.

Its bad enough that my iPod battery died, forcing me to listen to the sounds of My Fair Brady on the tv behind me, there is a kid in the pool below (the bar overlooks the pool) and she/he is making some really loud squeaking noise, similar to the boga in Episode III... and I want to poke this child, possibly with a spoon (why? so it will hurt more, you twit).

Now that I've got those thoughts in my head, its time to go to sleep.

Next... NYC'06 Entry #9: Manhattan Afternoon

Thursday, July 27, 2006

NY'06 Entry #7: Speechless

This paragraph written at 1228am on Friday morning, right after I finished tonight's blog... it took forever, only if because I had several distractions and other things that got in the way of completing it. There's a pretty good "God really convicted the fire out of me" story right in the middle, and its kind of long, but I hope that you don't lose interest along the way... yes, yes, it doesn't seem like I'm speechless with the lengths of these, but truly, I am.

Also... feel free to comment. Okay, away we go with Thursday:

It's the middle of the afternoon, and I'm taking a little break right now. We were supposed to be passing out water bottles at the weekly concert they have here in Stamford (tonight, its The Nerds... next week, they have Hootie. We get The Nerds, we could have had Hootie). However, Landon didn't get to bed until 3am, and most of our team is just wiped out from the week's constant go-go-go, so Mark is letting us take the afternoon off.

Its 317pm, Chuck is laying on the next bed over, passed out and snoring away. I'm probably due for a nap, but I figured I would get a headstart on tonight's blog by blogging the morning.

Nothing much to tell, other than the usual... I hate to sound too blase about it, but truly, it was a good morning. (I just heard thunder outside...)

We got there late because of traffic, which was the first morning this was an issue. No Warners, Harringtons and Kid Sis for me, I rode with Gary! Actually, Kid Sis switched vans too, because J-Bo and Abby Lohan had to ride with Cindy to practice their skit for tonight. So, Kid Sis and I, Mama Faith, Natedawg, Chucky and Gary (my idol) hopped in one van, following behind Mark's van.

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ReyRey gives Natedawg a little lesson in basketball

We arrived right at 9am, unloaded our stuff and hit the courts. Today happened again without incident, which again is a God thing, because we are in The Bronx. Cindy and Chuck's group of 1st thru 3rd graders were meeting in a far court, and Cindy said she witnessed several drug habits being fed beyond the fence. Thus is the city we live in.

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J-Bo looks on as Mama Faith gives up the jump ball

Upward Basketball gives out gifts to the kids everyday, with Tuesday's being a Bible, and yesterday being a cool, collapsable water bottle. Today's was a Upward jersey, which was a nightmare, because unlike Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship), all of our kids here are all different sizes, short and tall, big and small, which means we needed every size from Youth Small to Adult Medium... doing registration and gift stuff was Kid Sis and G-Ann, with a woman named Brenda from Woodlawn in Baton Rouge.

You could tell it was getting frustrating because Kid Sis was getting snappy, and towards the end, G-Ann was bending over to get something when a bird dropped a bomb on her back. I had to get a bottle of water and spray the back of her shirt down (after I stopped laughing, of course). It still left a slight stain, though I got the clumps out. Pretty crappy, I would say.

Right before we left, the ice cream guy showed up... well, it wasn't quite ice cream, it was more of a creamy ice flavor stuff, but it was awesome. Fifty cents for a small dixie cup, $1 for a large cup, with cherry, coconut and lemon-lime. Coach Tim bought all the kids in the park some, and I treated J-Bo and Kid Sis, and most of us came back for second. Honestly, as much as I want to say God's glory is awesome and these kids are being blessed and so on, the ice cream guy was really my highlight of the morning. I'm just sayin'.

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Here is the creamed ice man with his wares

When we met at Graffiti 2 building after it was over, Andrew shared with us about two of the kids... one was Charmin, who last summer was incredibly tempermental and full of angery. Andrew even said that he stood between Charmin and another kid once, getting pounded in the stomach and chest to keep them apart. This summer, however, he's a different kid. God has really worked in his heart, and Charmin's attitude, life, has been changed.

The other kid was Nana, a little girl that everyone loved. Last summer, the weekend after the camp, Nana was with her family at a cookout. Her uncle and another guy got in a fight... shots rang out. The uncle was shot five times, and a stray bullet struck Nana, killing her. Andrew told us this story because one of the last things this girl had ever heard was that God loved her, and she was created by Him. He stressed that the impact we're making on these children is so, so important... and I agree.

Andrew truly is the Mann... he's got a great rapport with the kids, lives in a rough neighborhood and is able to handle these kids great. God's got a great worker in Andrew.

Alright, its about 337... I'm going hunker down and possibly take a short nap. My neck and nose is sunburned (didnt know half-Mexicans could get burned...) and I would like to just chill for a while. I'll be back later tonight with pictures from the day, and the rest of the day blogged...

...a few hours go by, aaaaaaannnnddddd....

...welcome back to Thursday's edition of the New York City 2006 Blog. Six days down (has it really been six days?) and two full days to go...

I was watching Law & Order this afternoon when I dozed off. I actually woke up around 420pm, when the maids came in, and they said they'd come back (they never did--unless Chucky took care of it, we have no clean towels). Didn't have a clue where everyone else resides (I know that J-Bo, G-Ann and Kid Sis are in 736, because G-Ann is doing some laundry and I took her some shirts--oh, and Mama Faith did laundry yesterday, hence the clean shorts I'm wearing right now), so I didn't know where to go... had to be at the church at 5pm.

It's blazin' hot outside. I mean, I'm decently clean, got on some fresh clothes, toss on my backpack and sandles and am off... but have to go back and put on my sneakers, due to the blister I've discovered on my right foot. For the Glory.

And yes, its hot. I'm already sweating by the time I reach the end of the block the hotel is sitting on... and so by the time I've walked the four or five blocks to the Unitarian Church where Encounter meets, I'm pouring sweat. I'm looking around, wondering if its 2005 and we're staying at The Palace again. Immediately I go inside, toss my bag down and stand in front of the big fan (you know how you can position yourself where the air is going directly up your sleeve and blowing across your chest? Yep)

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Random picture of Landon Reesor, the Encounter Church pastor, and his lovely wife Christy

Abby Lohan and J-Bo are onstage practicing their skit for tonight's KidStuff drama with Cindy, while Coach Tim and Kid Sis were going over their part of tonight, which is the Good Book Look (the Bible study). I'm dragging like crazy, because I took a nap... Stephanie, whom I miss dearly, can take 20 minutes and is recharged to go another few hours. I take a 30 minute nap, and it takes me seemingly hours to get going again, so I'm sluggish at this point.

One of the fun things about blogging a mission trip in a bar is that you see alot of the same people. The au pairs have been au paired up with their au family earlier, so they're all gone, but I met a guy named Tom who has come through here every night. He asked me about my iPod on Monday night when I was blogging, Tuesday night he came through, shook my hand and said hello, and I told him what we were doing here in Stamford (to which he replied "well, God bless you for that"). I missed him last night, but tonight he walked through, saw me, changed directions and came straight to me. I said "Hey Tom" and shook his hand, and he smiled big, cigar and wine glass in hand, saying "Wow. Thank you for remembering my name!" Seems like a good guy.

I also met the location director for a movie that's in pre-production called "In Bloom". The only member of the cast at this point is Uma Thurman. I only noticed the woman because she had a big stack of papers in her hand, one of which was a script titled "In Bloom". I asked her about it, she told me her name was Noreet (sp?) and she scouts locations for movies, including this one. Apparently, there are alot of them here, because Stairstep just came down saying that she and her family (Alan, wife Missy, and Courtney the Stairstep Child and brothers Justin, Nathan and Brandon) had just been kicked out of their rooms... a movie production group have just rented out 50 rooms for 100 days. So they've been moved to a different room. Ah, money and the things it will buy for you.

Where was I? Ah, blazin' hot, yes. For dinner, we had lasagna and salad, which I just inhaled. Starved, and plus, it didn't cost me $9 for a chicken sandwich. Tried Coke Blak too, by the way--good stuff. After days of doing prayer journals and painting sailor hats, tonight I just got to color. I had a stack of pictures to pass out, and so when the kids came up, we all just colored for twenty minutes.

Now comes the part of the show when God teaches me a lesson... bear with me... this story is pretty much half the blog, but I feel like it's important to tell.

So, remember Julissa? She came to VBS, she's 16 years old, she's the older sister of Kevin. She was also helping out last night at the Family Festival, and talked to Landon about possibly helping to translate the sermons in Spanish. Could be a tremendous part of the ministry, though I don't know if any of us know where she is in her relationship with God, or if there is one.

Okay, so she wants to come with us on Saturday to Coney Island. From the outset of the trip, I knew I was going to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone... my history with this coaster goes back to the 2002 mission trip--quick synopsis... I wanted to ride it in 2002, but gave up my chance in order to connect with a local kid who needed to be loved and ministered too. So in 2005, when we went back, I made it my mission to go ride it, which I did.

So, I decided even if I had to go alone, I would go and ride The Cyclone, and then meet up with everyone. Well, imagine my pleasant surprise when Kid Sis, J-Bo, Mama Faith, Natedawg, Abby Lohan, Anna Lynn and even G-Ann all wanted to go. Well, party on, we'll all go have a good time. But then Julissa said she wanted to go. And I'll be honest with you... I wanted to connect with her, I wanted to give the girls a chance to love and minister to her, but I didn't want her to go. I mean, its our free day, right? We've been exhausting ourselves spiritually, emotionally and physically all week long, so can't we have one day when we don't minister or connect?

Of course, as Christ Followers, we should ALWAYS be ministering, but I'll get to that. So, I've been dealing with this all night last night, all day today. I even asked Landon about whether she should go or not, hoping he'd say "Oh, no, that's not a good idea" and then I could tell Kid Sis that Landon frowned on it, and it was a good idea, but out of my hands. What did he say? "Yeah, that shouldn't be that big of a deal. I mean, she's 16. If something happens, it won't be on you."

Thanks, Landon. I mentioned we were coloring with the kids, so the coloring time was up. The kids left, and I just stayed coloring, thoughts running through my head. And God was really coming down on me hard...

Dave Busby was a renowned pastor and Christian speaker who died a few years ago in a plane crash. Well, one day Dave was speaking to several thousand college and high school students. One morning, he was not feeling well, didn't want to talk to anyone, basically in a really bad mood. He was sitting and eating his breakfast, alone in the corner, not wanting to be bothered, when a youth pastor came up to him. "You the guy speaking, right?" he asked, in a heavy southern twang. Dave looked up, saying and thinking two different things. He said "Yes, I'm Dave Busby", thinking "Leave me alone". The pastor was a young guy, and said he was from some podunk town in the South, and said "Hey, man... you think maybe I could get you to come to speak to my kids one day?"

Again, Dave said, "How many kids you have?" and he thought "I don't care. Leave me alone." The pastor smiled and said something like "about fifteen or so." Dave grimaced. He said, "Sure. Here's my card, you can call my office and we'll talk about it." He thought something entirely different... he thought "Fifteen? Fifteen? Don't you know who I am? I'm Dave Busby, and I'm speaking in front of 4,000 students this weekend, and you want me to travel to Nowhere, Georgia, and speak to your fifteen kids?" They shook hands, the pastor went on, and Dave said in his sermon "The Holy Spirit came crashing on me like a ton of bricks. The Spirit grabbed me, and said in a plain voice 'You aren't worthy of speaking to 4,000 students, and you don't deserve to speak to those fifteen, and don't you ever, ever forget it.'"

And I say all that to tell you what I was feeling at that exact moment. We're here to minister to kids, to the community, to each other. If its in a planned arena like Upward Basketball camps, or Encounter's VBS, great. But its our jobs to minister ALWAYS, on the subway, in the hotel lobby bar... and on Coney Island with a kid that God is putting into our lives and is seeking love and attention. It was as if God, in a semi-stern voice, was saying to me "You are only here because of my Grace... you don't deserve to be ministering my Words to those kids. You don't deserve to be ministering to a single child, but by my Grace. And don't you EVER forget it."

Kid Sis came up to the table and said, "Can I color?" I told her sure, and I passed her some crayons and a sheet. In silence, we both colored our papers, when I put my red crayon down, looked down at the bear I was creating, and asked, "Can I share something with you?"

"Yeah, sure," she said, putting her crayon down on her drawing of fisherman. I then told her what I was thinking of, tolding her how God was dealing with me about my selfishness and how I dared to tell God that Saturday was my day of not ministering to anyone. I then told Kid Sis that I wanted to figure out how Julissa could come, and if it was money, we'd figure it out. I felt like the Spirit was telling me that if I can spend $9 on a sandwich, money that was donated for His work, I could definately spent $21 to pay for a train ticket for someone to be shown the love of Christ. I finished, apologetically.

I truly expected her to be disappointed, saying "Oh my gosh... this is our one chance to do build a relationship with her... maybe J-Bo and some of us should take her somewhere else and do something different."

But she didn't say that. Kid Sis sat back in her seat, half smiled, and said "Yeah... I'm dealing with that too. I've been thinking about not wanting her to come, like, all day today." She confessed to me that her mindset was like mine, that Saturday was a Witness-Free-Zone up until now. She even said that she wasnt sure she wanted Julissa to even come tonight because she'd have to deal with what to say to her, and she was afraid with what she was thinking, she might not be friendly to her, and it was good that Julissa wasn't there.

I laughed, and said, "Well, let's figure out how to get her to come with us. Let's get it down where if she doesn't come with us, its because God shut the door and it was out of our control." After a few minutes of logistics and things, we both sat back, almost relieved that we were answering God's correction with humility. I smiled and said, "You do know now that God's dealt with us both, she's going to come in now, right?" Coach Tim was standing at the window, and we both heard him say a big "HEY!" to someone outside. And we knew it. She and I both looked towards the door, and in a few seconds we saw little Kevin come running through the room, followed closely by Julissa. I looked at my new Kid Sis, she looked at me, and we both exploded in laughter.

God's been doing this to me all week.

So, to finish up the night, it went really well. The drama was good, all of our kids came back, and you can tell by how much they love what we are doing as Heaven's family came in towards the end. Margie asked Heaven if that was her family, and Heaven shook her head no, grabbed Josh the Hobbit's hand and ran out of the room. Turns out it was her family--she just didn't want to leave. Another kid told his parents not to come pick him up, because he wanted to stay.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting To sum up this picture of J-Bo and Abby Lohan from the skit, let me just say that Abby Lohan's line at this second was "Down with Tinky Winky!"

We had a great de-brief & sharing meeting later on tonight, then I came to blog. I would have been done long ago, except for my conversation with Stairstep, then her dad Alan for a little while, plus other distractions that keep me from completing my task.

So here's the song lyrics for tonight... I thought it appropriate, as He's left me speechless many, many times this week:

Words fall like drops of rain... Your lips are like clouds. I say so many things trying to figure you out
But as mercy opens my eyes, and my words are stolen away with this breathtaking view of your Grace
I am speechless, I'm astonished and amazed, I am silenced by your wonderous grace
You have saved me, you have raised me from the grave
I am speechless in your presence now, I'm astounded as I consider how
You have shown us a love that leaves us speechless
So what kind of love could this be, that would trade Heaven's throne for a cross
And to think You still celebrate over finding just one soul who was lost
And to know You rejoice over us, the God of this whole universe
Its a story too great for words
I am speechless, I'm astonished and amazed, I am silenced by Your Wonderous Grace.
You have saved me, You have raised me from the grave
I am speechless in Your Presence now, I'm astounded as I consider how
You have shown us a love that leaves us speechless
Oh, how great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the sons and daughters of God We are speechless...
We stand in awe of Your Grace, we stand in awe of Your Mercy
We stand in awe of Your Love, we are speechless

Speechless indeed.

Next... NYC'06 Entry #8: Crack Pipes, Big Chicks & Cancer