Keeping up with The Jones

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sing like the saved

I’ve been getting up at 5:30 every day this week to go to the SI ferry terminal with Capt Steve and sing carols from a little after 6 to 9. This has made for some very long days, but has also been very rewarding.

I’ve been singing carols at Salvation Army kettles since I was 12. My dad is a big proponent of it. Even as I’ve gotten older and been away, he and I have maintained our tradition of singing on the last day of kettles (a tradition that will regrettably be broken this year).

The value of singing is quite obvious and fairly quantifiable: we raise more money (yes, believe it or not, people put money in the kettle when I sing). It also makes the time seem to pass more quickly, no small feat when you are stuck in one place for several hours.

But only in recent years have I realized the real value in singing these carols: we are preaching the gospel. In years past it’s been something I’ve often taken for granted, or at times even shied away from. I admit with some regret that years ago I was embarrassed to sing some of the extra stanzas. The first verses are so familiar, and everyone pretty much accepts them as christmasy. But some of those carols have other verses that get downright “religious”! Maybe even Christmasy!

“…our heavenly Lord, that hath made heaven and earth of naught, and with his blood mankind hath bought…”

“….from depths of hell thy people save, and give them victory over the grave…”

“….so God imparts to human hearts the blessing of His heaven. No ear may hear his coming but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in….”

“….cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today….”

“….Holy Jesus every day, keep us in the narrow way…”

“….for sinners the silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me, for you…”

Today a security guard who has seen us the last few days made a donation and thanked me for the music. Then he made a comment whose full truth and significance may have been lost on him.

“You guys are singing your hearts out.”

Yes, we are.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Chivalry is not dead

I’ve had a lot of long days of late. Yesterday I was standing kettles at The Christmas Tree Shop, one of our coldest and windiest stands. At one point, a woman exited the store and her receipt blew right out of her hands. Since I’m the nicest guy you’re ever going to meet, I immediately sprang into pursuit. I was having some difficulty rescuing the damsels purchase record due to a number of factors:

1) The wind was strong but gusty, causing the paper to move quickly but unpredictably.
2) I was wearing thick gloves, reducing dexterity.
3) I was wearing ill-fitting dress shoes, reducing agility (I was in uniform for another stand later that night that required it, but crammed in double socks to keep warm in the mean time).
4) Even during the chase, I found the whole thing quite hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing.

Every time I thought I had it, it would skirt just past my grasp. I felt quite a bit like Wimpy trying to pick up his hat. Eventually I was too far from the kettle to continue, and had been passed by her male companion who eventually caught the paper prey. I’d like to tell you that my hustle at least secured me a donation, but the woman was already planning to give. In fact, it was in opening her wallet to do so that the receipt escaped in the first place.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

This can't be what Henry Ford intended

Today I was supposed to go to the annual luncheon in Manhattan. We arrived at the hotel right at the noon start time and then I had to go park the van. A 15 passenger van. In Manhattan.

One of my worst memories from childhood is the time when we still lived in Maine and decided to take a day trip to the Boston Aquarium. We only had a 15 passenger van to take, and my dad drove around for what seemed to me like an eternity (about an hour as I recall now) trying to find a place that would let us park. Let’s just say that the availability of van parking in major cities has not improved since that time.

I kept circling the various blocks, seeing over and over “no full size vans.” Eventually I passed the point of no return, time-wise, and just resigned myself to my fate: I would not be getting any lunch.

During my 2 ½ hours circling the area one thought was constant: why would anyone drive in Manhattan? It is literally faster to walk, to say nothing of taking the train. Unless you absolutely had to, why would you choose a mode of transportation that lets you travel a mere 2 blocks in half an hour? When you throw in the fact that everyone, including the pedestrians, is constantly cutting you off, or beeping at you as you sit helplessly boxed in on all sides (sometimes as the first car at a green light even), it just seems like a no-brainer. Driving in Manhattan is for suckers (I realize there is a contingent that claims to like this brand of city driving. This is posturing, and it is absurd).

All in all it wasn’t too stressful once I accepted the impossibility of my task. I just stopped trying to get anywhere, which is the one way to succeed at what you’re attempting in Manhattan traffic. I was already getting nowhere; once I changed that to my goal I was blissful.

And I didn’t go hungry either. When I picked everyone up, Capt Steve was thoughtful enough to sneak my dinner out in a league of mercy bag. And after all this, if you think I was too proud to eat out of a bag, you’re crazy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A great day for football

I officially give up on this batch of Giants (particularly the coach). But yesterday was not a complete waste for football. I taught my teens the hook and ladder.

I remember when I was much younger, Kyle Townsend and I would take on our dads every year in a game of touch football. We were always psyched to try and beat them. They had been playing together for years, but we wanted to prove we could rival their connection. Each year as we got bigger and faster, our dads would dig deeper into their bag of tricks to beat us. The flea flicker, the halfback pass, the double pass; they pulled them all. But I will always remember the first time they pulled the hook and ladder. We were dumbfounded, and we were toast.

Yesterday was my turn to pass on some backyard wisdom. Even as the play was being executed for a length of the field touchdown, players on both teams were going nuts. For my money, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Go Gadget! Go!

I was just thinking today of this one episode of Inspector Gadget. It went something like this:

The Chief was camouflaged in a trash can (or it may have been a tree. Or a locker. I can’t remember for sure). He passed Gadget the paper with his top secret mission, the last lines of which read “this message will self-destruct…” Seemingly oblivious, Gadget crumpled it up and tossed it back right before it exploded on the Chief.

Inspector Gadget began investigating and soon ran into some of evil Doctor Claw’s agents, who he mistakenly thought were on his side. Then he ran into his dog Brain, who was in disguise and Gadget mistook him for an evil agent. The Inspector quickly tried one of his many “go-go-gadget” tricks, which malfunctioned but ended up accidentally hurting the real Claw agents. Then, unbeknownst to Gadget, his niece Penny came in with her computer book and solved the caper. The Chief arrived with reinforcements and said, “Well done, Gadget” while Doctor Claw pounded the table next to his frightened cat and escaped vowing, “I’ll get you next time Gadget, next time!”

That was a really good episode. Probably my favorite one.

Full House

Last night my roommate for December (Eli, the Project 117 intern) moved in, and was soon treated to a bonus surprise: my friend Pierre was also crashing for the night. There’s always room for one more.

Eli will be sleeping on the futon underneath the loft bed. I normally sleep on the loft, but last night told Pierre to take it and I would take the pullout couch. This way, when Eli and I rose before him, he could keep sleeping.

After a brief chat, we began readying for bed, since it was late and we had kettles today. I went in the bathroom and when I emerged a few moments later I was greeted by the spectacle of Pierre trying to scale the loft.

Pierre is many things: generous, hilarious, level-headed, faithful, and one of my best friends in the world. One thing he is not: agile. Or graceful for that matter. Needless to say, Pierre would not be sleeping in the loft bed.

This sight harkened back a memory for me of when we were young and foolish and at Youth Councils. One night, Pierre, Cornejo and I were roaming the grounds of the Frank Davis Sunrise Resort with one other companion when we encountered a building whose roof was sufficiently low to the ground to invite mischief (It may have been the Frog, I don’t remember). We of course decided to climb on top, for no real reason other than the fact that we were teenage boys and we could. Three of us got up without significant difficulty, but Pierre was dangling. Try as we could, we could not pull him up. Before we could devise another plan, we were spotted by security.

We all hurried down before they drove over and tried to pretend nothing had happened. They gave us the obligatory “Don’t do that again or there will be trouble” lecture while we nodded gravely and silently waited for them to finish yapping so we could walk away with no repercussions. We kept our game faces on and were ready to escape without discussion, when Pierre (remember him? The guy who wasn’t even on the roof?) decided he needed to “talk his way out of this one.”

“We went up there to investigate because we heard there was some guy up there.”

Oh, boy. At this point the authorities rightly asked why it took four of us to “investigate” this “guy.”

“We heard he was really big.”

Thanks, Pierre.