Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Jetster

What I feared happened.

One of my cats got away.

When I went to check on my two traveling companions in Chattanooga at the house of friends Hal and Susanne Bowling, Storm came popping out of the car but Jet was nowhere to be seen.

We checked the garage, we checked the car. I went to all my previous stops and asked around. I left messages on bulletin boards and posted a cyber classified on the Chattanooga online paper. No Jet.

He must have jumped out of the car without me seeing him. Too bad. We had traveled from Philly through New York, New Jersey and Manhattan, up to Boston and New Hamphire, stayed the night again near Manhattan at a friends, then back through Annapolis, D.C., Roanoke, and Knoxville. In Chattanooga, our next stop was Orlando, the safe haven. Jet was only one stop away and missed it.

The toughest part was telling my son Jaime. Jet was his cat. Storm was Tabitha's. We have now all decided that Storm is both Tabitha and Jaime's cat now. But Jaime wants the unfixed Storm to have kittens in order to replace Jet, DNA and all. We'll have to sell grandma on that one.

I was pretty sad about Jet for a few days. Still am a little when I see Storm walking around here in the house in Orlando without her brother, with whom she spent every waking moment until a few days ago.

In closing, I wrote a short Ode to Jet.

Ode to Jet

You were graceful and charming,
more meek than your sister.
And always brought joy to others.

You were never a problem,
just a loving companion.
Both humans and felines will miss you.

The Zachster

My brother Mark has often relayed the idea that we are all only three of four relationships away from anyone in the world.

Last night, I decided I'm only one relationship away from kicking back with George W. and smoking a cigar.

After the State of the Union speech last night, President Bush came down and shook the hands of a few Supreme Court Justices. Then Congressman Zach Wamp appeared on the screen next to to the President. Zach is from Chattanooga. He bought 500 of my books in 2006 and distributed them to all his major donors. We've known each other for over 15 years.

When George W. saw him he said, "Wassup Zachster!", then grabbed his hand and slapped him on the back and moved on to more members of Congress.

That's right. Me, George, and the Zachster.

(Zach and George)

P.S. Some of you have had difficulty posted on this blog, saying it requires you to sign up with Google. But if you look just below that field you'll see an option for "Nickname" (just use your real name) or "Anonymous". Choose either one and you are good to go.

Monday, January 21, 2008


I found out this weekend that my book beat out Harry Potter this past year at the big downtown bookstore. They sold 127 of the recent Harry Potter book, 128 of Jim Lehrer of PBS's "Eureka" (He came and did a book signing) and 240 or so of "Old Money, New South."

Today, I received a very large framed photo of Big Ben, London's trademark building, from an appreciative reader of my book and blog. She took the photo while in England with her husband three years ago. The book and blog inspired her, so she gave me the picture as a gift.

It's rather ironic that I no longer live in Chattanooga. Just as I reached a certain place as author and local expert, I got moved out of town by extenuating circumstances. The Lord has his purposes. Then again, if I hadn't been dislodged, I wouldn't have traveled to England last year, I wouldn't have started writing movie scripts, and I wouldn't have gotten Big Ben as a gift today. "All things work together . . ."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Overcoming Tyranny in Roanoke

(Roanoke, Virginia, a medium sized city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.)

The "Tyranny of the Urgent" is our compulsion to accomplish those things that seem urgent while failing to do the truly important things that may not have a particular deadlline.

Today, I accomplished something important. I visited the parents of one of my key childhood pals growing up in Roanoke, Virginia. Jimmy's parents had an open door and we ran in and out constantly, ate whatever could be scarfed up, stayed up all hours of the night, and enjoyed his mom's continuous taxi services. Once, we started a fire in the kitchen unwittingly while his mom was at work.

It takes years, even decades, to begin to appreciate the work and labor that our parents or our friends' parents performed for us. As a rule it generally goes unacknowledged.

Recently, I sent one of my books to my fifth grade teacher, a big black guy (at least he seemed big then) who had old-school standards and commanded respect. I didn't learn anything new until high school. He was mentioned in the acknowledgments of my book so I sent him a copy to see it, along with a letter of thanks for his excellent teaching, 30 years later.

I got a response . . . from his widow. I missed him by about 5 years. Like I said, some things in life rarely get recognized.

Anyway, I stopped by and visited with Jimmy's parents. I've been through Roanoke a hundred times in the past 25 years, but, you know, there's always something more urgent on the agenda.

They were delighted to catch up, and I was happy to hear all that was going on with new generations, grandkids, the old neighbors, etc.

It only lasted an hour or so. But it was extremely important, much more so than all that urgent stuff we are always fussing over.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gus and the Mother of Jesus and Mary

I am in Annapolis, Maryland.

The city was restored to its colonial grandeur back in the fifties and is now rated one of the top 5 places to live in the country. It is 30 minutes from both Washington D.C. and Baltimore, and has it’s own historic port. The Continential Congress met here for a time just after the Revolution and George Washington gave his resignation speech in the Capitol building which still stands (the oldest state legislature building in the country still being used).

Washington’s speech was a big deal. It may have led to the democratic world as we now know it. The immensely popular general could have easily taken over the country. Many wanted to crown him king. General Oliver Cromwell couldn’t quite let loose the reigns after his successful revolution in England a century before. The backlash got the king restored.

(You go, George.)

The Founding Fathers were up on their Greek and Roman histories, and one great Roman hero was a farmer named Cincinnatus, who led the Romans in victory and was slated to lead the country. Instead, he went back to his plow for the remainder of his life. This is what Washington intended (the Constitutional Convention later caused him to reluctantly accept the Presidency).

Maryland. It means land of Mary. Annapolis means city of Anne, who was the mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Fun facts to know and enjoy.

(Grandma St. Anne, Mother Mary, and infant Jesus--by Albrecht Durer)

I was introduced to Annapolis through my college roommate and longtime close friend Gus. I am writing this from a bench on the grounds of the Maryland Capitol. Gus once brought me here to pray for his city. It’s a habit I took with me to Chattanooga.

Gus’s parents owned the Severn Inn restaurant which overlooks the Naval Academy on the Severn River. His grandparents came here from Greece and started the business.

(Here's the view from Gus's family restaurant.)

He was Gus Diamond when I met him 25 years ago, but he now goes by Constantine Sotery Diamondidus. He was raised Greek Orthodox and got saved in a Presbyterian Church here. I was raised saved and became Orthodox.

Gus the dark-skinned Greek is in the yellow sweater.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Chug a brew for a deceptive Jesus guy

New Hampshire makes itself known clearly as soon as you cross the border.

The sign says “Welcome to New Hampshire. Live free or die.” Okay, then.

Strangely, the tall trees started to be covered with snow just as I crossed the line. It’s a lovely, picturesque, New England look. As you approach the capital, Concord, the traditional steeples add to the ambience along with the signature building, the gold-domed state capitol.

I’m supporting Huckabee. I walked into his headquarters and they immediately put me to work making phone calls.

“Will you be voting in the primary Tuesday?”

They all say yes.

“Can we count on your support for Governor Huckabee?”

A few yes’s. Several no’s. A few “hell no’s”.

New Hampshirites take seriously their role as the vetter of future Presidents. They also value their independence. Some of those I called are likely to vote for Huckabee, but they refuse to tell callers or pollers what their intentions are until after Tuesday.

Later, I attended a rally outside the building where the big debate ocurred last night. Pro-life activists stood by the entryway holding giant signs of aborted babies. Also in the crowd were global warming activists and “Health Care Voters,” whatever they are (a Hillary shell group?).

I stood next to a guy who attended Talbot Seminary for two years and has been mixing it up in New Hampshire politics for 15 years. We talked Huckabee, Ron Paul, Steve Forbes, Pat Buchanan, Vince Foster, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Eastern Orthodoxy. After two hours standing in the snow, we all headed to a conference center to watch Huckabee in the debate.

My two cats stayed in the car.

After the debate, the candidate himself, Mike Huckabee, popped in to cheer on the troops. About 150 of us applauded eagerly as he began to speak. But he was interrupted by a guy holding a beer up high who wanted to make a toast. Huckabee said okay.

“To the only candidate who is willing to speak out openly for Christian values!” he proclaimed.

Light applause. Huckabee began to speak.

“And one more thing,” the beer holder said. “As a follower myself of Jesus Christ, the one who reached out to lepers, I’m wondering why you don’t accept people like me with AIDS . . . ”

Three or four other plants in the crowd cheered obnoxiously. The rest of the crowd shouted them down. I went over and got in front of a TV camera, so the intruders didn’t get undeserved press.

As they were being escorted away, Huckabee said, “Well, I guess I’ll mark them in the category of undecided.” Lots of laughter.

I’m staying with Toshi and Christy. Toshi is Japanese and Christy the daughter of missionaries to Japan. Toshi came here as an exchange student in high school. He’s a highly talented impressionist artist, guitar player, and flight attendant. Christy is also an artist and flight attendant, normally anyway. Right now she’s focused full time on daughters Serena (16 months) and Lela (6 weeks).

Serena loves the cats. Toshi is allergic to cats. So Storm and Jet spent the night in the car. Fortunately, it got suddenly warmer up here. The last I checked, they are alive and well.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Heading to New Hampshire. Why Not?

My lease ended on Tuesday this week. It was Monday.

I had planned to pack my stuff in storage in Philly and head to see Mom in Florida for a few weeks (which I still plan to do). 

But then I got to thinking: I have no boss, no lease, and no wife. And the 
leader of the Free World is about to be selected six hours away in the New Hampshire primary. 
Manchester, New Hampshire, (the big red dot) is the largest city, about an hour north of Boston. I don't know anyone in New Hampshire, but I was thinking I might have some contacts in Boston. I asked around. 

I saw Paul at Arny's New Year's Eve party in Baltimore. (By the way, both Paul and Phil have been harassing me nonstop to continue blogging, so this is in their honor.)

"Hey Paul, you know anyone in Boston?"

"No, but my sister-in-law lives in Manchester."

So I'm headed up to Manchester. 

Today, I'm in New York, a half hour north of Manhattan, staying with friends at St. Vladimir's Seminary. Daniel and Nancy's student apartment overlooks a lovely lake. It's frozen. It's really cold, and I'm headed a lot further north tomorrow morning. 

I've entitled this enterprise the New South Blogger. I've been living in the North and heading further that way. Life doesn't always fit our categories. 

I will, however, be viewing the races from a more typically Southern perspective. At least, I'll be socially conservative. I plan to support Huckabee, although Ron Paul has been front and center on my radar all Fall. After being a steadfast, principled, never say die activist all my life despite the results (the South will rise again!), it's my turn to observe the political winds and jump on board. Go Huckabee!

It's a little crazy, jumping in my car on a whim and heading to New Hampshire in the freezing cold. It's even crazier to do it with two cats. That's right. Jet and Storm are along for the ride. Tabitha and Jaime and I got them this summer. The kids love them. Their mother is allergic to cats. I checked out of the apartment. The cats are on board. 

Cats and like women. They find the one most sensitive, important spot in your world, physically or emotionally, and insist on sitting there. Jet and Storm sit by the brake and gas pedal. At home, they sit on my chair and laptop. That's where the action is.

So . . . I'm headed to New Hampshire to watch the action, to help somebody good get elected, and to make some contacts for my documentary. I'll talk more about it in my next blog posting. But Hillary will have to do a lot better for it to matter. New Hampshire election night is Tuesday. By then, Jet and Storm will be looking for some more southerly geography.