April 21, 2018

A few thoughts while considering that maybe it’s time to get that MLB Extra Innings package on DirecTV – the Red Sox are so hot right now that it might be time to actually learn something about them.

I haven’t been following anything about the Sox – or virtually anything else – because of work and “The Client Who Shall Remain Nameless”. Tuesday and Wednesday were extraordinarily bad days, as bad as they get. The whole effort was teetering on the edge of a “China Syndrome” collapse, and then one of our India guys pulled a rabbit out of a hat and found a flaw in our programming that has enabled our part of the project to get back to where it should have been a week ago. A week late, perhaps, but at least we’re still standing. Which means the heat gets transferred to one of our vendor partner to fix their own personal version of Armageddon that is now threatening the project. By next weekend I’ll have a much better idea of where all of this is going.

…with the heat off of us – at least temporarily – I went out to hit balls today and promptly threw out my back on just the third ball I was hitting. Felt like a knife twisting into my lower-left lumbar region. This has never happened before, so I’m not sure what I did to cause it. I tried to man-up my way through the bucket but finally had to surrender halfway through so I wouldn’t end up on the ground writhing in pain in front of everyone. But the Goodboys would have been proud of me: an elderly couple two bays down were just getting ready to hit their bucket, so I offered them the rest of mine. Told them about my back but kept one for a “mind over matter” moment win which I grabbed my 9-iron, picked out a target 110 yards away, and promptly stiffed one so close it hit the stick.

“Good enough”, I said, before barely being able to limp away.

…I then went over to the chipping / putting area and tried to do some short-game work, but it was no use; I couldn’t even pick up my balls after chipping them on the green without using my club as a cane. I was trying not to make too much of a scene of it when a teenager came over to his friends on the other side of the green and asked his buds if they had an extra glove since he had forgotten his. His friend said, “but you’re a lefty!”, upon which the lad said, “that’s OK, I’ll turn it around.”

“Here”, I said, offering him my glove. “We lefties have to stick together.”

The grin on his face was something you never forget. “Thanks, dude!”, he said, and off he trotted towards the first tee’s tee box.

…I should have asked him to pick up my balls for me.

Onto other matters…

One of these days, when (if ever) work slows down, I have to figure out how to download photos from my IPhone 6SE to the computer. There’s a mourning dove who has taken to nesting in a small planter next to the house on top of the piling by the gate that opens to the side and back yards. She’s been there for three weeks now, and doesn’t seem to mind me opening the gate to take the trash barrels out as long as I do it gently and quietly and do not – do not place the lock next to the planter like I normally do. We’re hoping in the next week or two to have a baby dove join the family of creation! I took a nice picture of it and will get it for y’all once things settle down. Of course, by then it will be meaningless, won’t it?

With Tracey’s shoulder in such a bad way our plans to get our concealed carry licenses and pick out our weapons of choice are on hold, but that didn’t stop me from joining the NRA today. Screw the Democrats and the snowflake gun-confiscation warriors out there. Gun control my ass – once I have my gun they can try and pry it from my cold, dead hands.

First it was Randy Wayne White with his Doc Ford series of novels. Then it was James Lee Burke and his Dave Robicheaux and Billy Bob Holland series of novels. Now it’s Wayne Stinnett and his Jesse McDermitt “Caribbean Adventure Series” of action-adventure books. Never thought I’d ever get so much into fiction, but these have become my means of escape during this lengthy stretch of work and stress.

I can’t help but think my back going out today while hitting balls is to a great degree work-related. My sister-in-law Tam gave me a muscle relaxant and I’m going in for a long, hot soak in the tub. What I wouldn’t give to be at the Wynn Las Vegas spa for a hot whirlpool and a deep-muscle massage!

Tomorrow it’s back into the meat grinder and another 14-hour day. We’ll see what the next week brings. I can tell y’all this: I’m getting too old for this sh*t.

The Ventures’ “Blue Dawn” is a surf classic, dontcha think? Surf music and golf are a great combination.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 19:58 | Comment (1)
April 17, 2018

15-hour work days.

Tracey reinjuring her surgically-repaired shoulder and is going to be on the shelf again for six weeks, maybe more.

The pool desperately needing a backwash and a good cleaning.

Patrick Reed winning the Masters.

A mourning dove has made a nest in a planter next to the gated entrance to our back yard.

It’s the middle of April and the year has passed by in a blur of work and wasted days and wasted nights.

And there’s no end in sight.

Last night the wind came up out of nowhere. It was around three AM and Tam’s rabbits (they’re staying with us so Tam can play house nurse to Tracey’s needs), all of a sudden started tearing around the bedroom. I could hear the royal palms next door being stirred in all directions, and a dream I was having about being fired from a company I used to work for back when we lived in Kentucky started to recede into my brain.

I went into the kitchen and steadied myself with a small glass of wine and stepped out onto the back patio. The wind had turned into the west and was blowing hard. One of the large branches on the queen palm tossed lifelessly in the breeze above me, its stalk broken by the winds.

I looked up and said to it, “I know how you feel, and I’m sorry.”

It has been an incredibly dry and windy year thus far here in the Valley of the Sun; more wind than we typically get this time of year, for sure. The local weather folks say we’re likely to have more dust storms than usual this year because everything is so damned dry.

I sat in a patio chair for a few minutes and allowed the night to clear my head. I’ve been having a lot of dreams lately about employment; they always seem to center around me being in the wrong place and either not having work to do, getting fired, or worrying about getting fired. No golf dreams. Unlike most folks, I’m guessing, I’ve never dreamt about things in the past. I’ve never dreamt about growing up or being a kid living in Tewksbury, or re-living past events. I do have one other recurring dream – that I’m in college and have to take a final exam but hadn’t known about the class to begin with, so I’m faced with taking an exam I know nothing about.

It’s all very strange.

But even in my waking hours, I no longer think about the past, don’t think about the future, don’t really think about anything. The days just stretch on one after another, like miles on a long, straight interstate westward across the Texas Panhandle, every day’s sunrise and blazing-red sunset no different from the previous day’s, just as they’ve been for the past 4 1/2 months. I wake, grab a cup of coffee, handle the inevitable incoming related to the “Client Who Shall Remain Nameless”, then twelve hours later either veg out for a few hours to take a bubble bath and/or read a James Lee Burke or (most recently) a Wayne Stinnett paperback, before an hour’s worth of e-mailing and calling it a night. There are no sleepless nights – I’m usually asleep in ten minutes’ time, only to dream once again about being soon-to-be unemployed and wake up as the birds are just starting to chirp to do it all over again.

Two weeks ago, I had started working on my golf game again and was really looking forward to becoming a “Ranger Rick” ahead of this year’s Goodboys Invitational; now it’s pretty much a given that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

You might be saying to yourselves, it’s not much of an existence for The Great White Shank. But that’s the way life has become. I oftentimes see myself laying in a hospital bed, dying of something, and regretting all this time not being put to better use, but honestly, I’m not sure what else I could be doing that’s so much different. I have to work, there’s no other choice. Find another job? I could, I suppose, but here I have the luxury of working from home, and who’s to say that any job I might take would be any better and any less stressful, with the prospect of having to travel or at the very least having to commute. No thanks.

…not to mention the fact that I’d never make as much dough-re-mi as I do now.

…and the idea of this 62-year old staring down a job market is a worse nightmare than the ones I’m already having.

By this time in the project I truly thought things would be getting better, but this past weekend’s results were pretty dispiriting, and today we discovered yet another problem that’s likely to set the project back weeks, if not a month or more. I can’t help but wonder how much longer our management or the “Client Who Shall Remain Nameless” will put up with this. Everyone’s tired and burnt out, and we’re making mistakes we shouldn’t be making. Another guy on this project was told in no uncertain terms by one of the VPs that he needed to get him some numbers by end of business. Like me, he had just come off working three fifteen-hour days on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and made the mistake of just wanting to rest his eyes for a couple of minutes. He slept for over four hours. When I suggested to him the VP wasn’t going to like that, he just said, “Good, then they can fire me. At least that way I’ll be off this damned project.”

And that’s the way I feel. We’re all serving life sentences on a chain-gang on the Brazos with little hope of parole…

Ain’t no more cane on this Brazos, my boy
Oh, oh, oh…

Where we been ground down all to molasses
Oh, oh, oh…

When I come down here had a number for my name
Oh, oh, oh…

Well they chained us together and we started chopping cane
Oh, oh, oh…

I wish you was here in nineteen and ten
Oh, oh, oh…

They was driving the women just like they was men
Oh, oh, oh…

I wish you was here when the storm winds came
Oh, oh, oh…

With that man lyin’ dead and we cut him off the chain
Oh, oh, oh…

If I had a sentence like ninety-nine and nine
Oh, oh, oh…

Ain’t no dogs on this Brazos could keep me on a line
Oh, oh, oh…

…Why dontcha go down Old Hannah, dontcha rise up no more
Oh, oh, oh…

Well they worked me so hard that I can’t work no more
Oh, oh, oh…

Ain’t no more cane on this Brazos, my boy
Oh, oh, oh…

Where we been ground down all to molasses
Oh, oh, oh…

..with the end coming only with execution or exile to the Sunnyvale Nursing Home after you’re all broken down and incapable of creating Gantt charts for dickhead VPs who couldn’t even fart without written instructions after a plate of enchiladas and beans.

There’s another high wind warning up for Thursday.

Meaning more debris in the pool, sure hope I don’t lose any more palm tree branches.

Hoping that mourning dove has her babies soon.

Don’t know where or how all of this will end.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:47 | Comments (0)
April 15, 2018

This was supposed to be the week where my team finally got control of the situation at “The Client Who Shall Rename Nameless”; instead, after a weekend of two 18-hour days we’re slightly behind where I’d hoped we’d be, and, even worse, encountering new issues that are only going to slow us down further this coming week.

Some of this, to be brutally honest, was self-inflicted – one of the India guys wasn’t paying sufficient attention and really screwed up (hence, the long weekend hours). But the client helped put us in the situation where we are, so there is plenty of blame to toss around on both sides.

We’re 4 1/2 months into this implementation and I wish there were an end in sight. I thought this past week was the week that was finally going to put us on the road to that light, yet, here we are, in some ways closer, in other ways further away. Because every step we take towards bring this engagement to a close only results in us discovering yet another issue. It’s pretty disheartening.

Were I the client (who, of course, shall remain nameless), I’d have told my company to shut the whole damned thing down a month ago. And I wouldn’t have blamed them in the least – our solution doesn’t scale and there are way too many moving parts and points of failure, and my team, while talented and enthusiastic, is young and prone to mistakes if you’re not bird-dogging them at every moment. And it’s not as if this project is the only one on our collective plates.

Didn’t hit balls this weekend. Never got to attending to the pool, which needs a serious backwash. Never got to blogging except for this minor blurb. At this stage I’ll either be ground down to a pulp or fired. That’s like having to choose between Billy Joel and Huey Lewis and the News. My boss had to intervene between me and one of our executive VPs last week, so the latter isn’t out of the question. Everyone in the project is tired, worn out, sick of each other, and desperate for any light at the end of the tunnel that isn’t an oncoming train.

This sucks.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:53 | Comments (0)
April 11, 2018

Good Friday. Everyone at work had bailed by the time my afternoon nap following six very hard hours of work was over. I looked at the clock, saw I had plenty of time to hit a bucket of balls down the street at Kokopelli G.C. and still have time to go over to Lowe’s to arrange the install the last of the plantation shutters in our master bedroom. So that’s what I did.

The Kokopelli G.C. range was mobbed – doesn’t anyone work anymore? – but a guy and his three ghurkins were just finishing up so I grabbed the next to last spot on the left side of the range. A line of scruby pines on a hillside separating the range from the first fairway were filled with the pleasing sounds of cooing mourning doves and squawks and squeaks from a group of comical foo-foo birds. 70s disco music was obviously the choice of the day, and the likes of Donna Summer and Kool and the Gang mixed with the whooshes of fat hits, thin hits, and on-the-screw hits by folks of all ages. I paid for a large bucket with the intent of working on the Paula Creamer wide, low, and slow takeaway that she does so well and walked out into hazy blue skies, a warm sun and the emerald green of the range. I dumped the bucket of balls on the grass by my bag, stashed my wallet and keys, donned my sunglasses and glove, and began working through my session.

Right away I was struggling with my irons, lots of fat hits, then pulled a muscle in my lower abdominal but still kept flailing away. This was my third time out on the range since my three-month sabbatical, and the excuse of needing to “shake the rust off” was getting old, and fast. I didn’t feel comfortable with any of the swings I was making, so about halfway through the bucket I took a break and enjoyed a cold Pacifico.

In the spot next to me was (I’m guessing) a father and teenage son who were sharing a large bucket between them before heading out for a late afternoon nine. The father looked to me like a dead-ringer for Johnny Miller; his son, like most teenagers these days, could hit it a country mile. Unfortunately for him, that meant a country mile anywhere. Curiously (I could tell from their discussion), the son’s bag was filled with half brandy-new PXGs and half brandy-new Pings – high-end weaponry, for sure – and he’d smack a few with one, then smack a few with the other.

It wasn’t just the father’s looks that reminded me of Johnny Miller, it was his verbal demeanor and his obvious knowledge of the game. He didn’t push his son on anything, just offered up helpful advice while taking swings that were gorgeous to watch in terms of style and tempo. He was trying to convince his son (tell me if you’ve heard this before!) to take a little off and stay within himself. “You hit the ball a ton but you’re jumping out of your shoes”, he says. He quoted some Jack Nicklaus book (now I’m rolling my eyes) but encouraged his son to “swing your swing, not someone else’s” – something I thought to be fairly ironic, given what I out there trying.

The father then had his son do something that caught my attention. He used his smart phone to video his son launch a 5-iron over the netting on the far side of the range towards the area where the putting green, chipping area, and 18th green all kind of coalesce together, then asked his son to set up normally and take swings without a ball being there. The son, being the teenager he was, of course protested, telling his dad his idea was stupid, but there was no arguing with his father and the smartphone. I guess comparing the two swings must have resulted in a “come to Jesus” moment for the son (and why not, it being Good Friday!), because starting with the next ball, his swing and footwork all of a sudden became much more controlled. “Nice swing”, said the father, “swing as if the ball isn’t there and you’ll be more than fine.” While the son still hit it a country mile, the change in accuracy and consistency was nothing less than amazing. He didn’t like the whole idea of swinging in a more controlled fashion, but he sure couldn’t argue with the results.

In the meanwhile, I finished my bucket feeling fairly disenchanted and disheartened – not to mention hurting from my pulled abdominal muscle. Driving out of the parking lot, I decided then and there the next time I hit the range I wasn’t going to try and mimic anyone else’s swing but my own. But what exactly was my swing? I decided that whatever swing came out of me naturally would be the swing I would try to commit myself to going forward. I had built my own swing from the ground up last spring (slightly strong grip, irons slightly closed at address with a fairly upright take-away, hybrids and woods square-faced, the take-away flatter than the irons), and that was the swing I would return to and commit to as my own.

——————-

Holy Saturday. My abdominal muscle was feeling much better, and having finished a lunch of Mexican food and a margarita, then looked in on my sister-in-law Tam’s rabbits, I had a few hours to kill before suppertime. My clubs were still in the trunk from the previous day, so I figured I’d head over to my old haunts at Superstition Springs Golf Club and check the driving range out there. Again, it was pretty busy, but I grabbed a slot on the far right side of the range, dumped the bucket of balls on the grass by my bag, stashed my wallet and keys, donned my sunglasses and glove, and grabbed a pitching wedge out of my bag. I didn’t try to mimic anyone’s swing (sorry Paula!), I just did what felt most comfortable and natural.

The first couple were dead pulls, but I then remembered what the father had told his son the day before about swinging as if the ball wasn’t there. And all of a sudden, everything seemed to fall into place. All of a sudden, I was in mid-season form. All of a sudden, all of the confidence I had been lacking in my swing were a thing of the past. My irons became crisper, and my hybrids much more under control and consistent. And whenever I started over-swinging my driver (a tendency I’ll probably always have) I’d take a practice swing without a ball and then replicate that swing and realize quality results. As for Paula, I could keep her putting set-up and stroke (something I’ve grown very comfortable and confident with), but everything else would be home-grown, Great White Shank style.

I’ve had two range sessions since that Holy Saturday session at “the Springs”, and I feel like I’m in a really good place. My confidence is sky-high, and with a little more short-game work I’ll be ready to “take it to the course” for the first time in 2018. Lots of folks go to the range to hit balls; more than once I have found that you can learn as much by simply observing what’s going on around you as you can hitting a bucket of balls. I’m not sure who that “Johnny Miller” father figure was, but I can tell you I learned as much from him as I have any pro I’ve worked with in the past. And I’ve finally come to terms with owning up to my swing. Far better embracing the role of expert with your own swing and its limitations than trying to be something (and someone) you’re not.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 23:56 | Comments (0)
April 9, 2018

And so the 2018 Masters is now history. I think history is going to look back on this particular edition as significant in a number of ways. A round of thoughts in that regard:

1. Congratulations to Patrick Reed for a well-deserved and hard-earned green jacket. He’s not my cup of tea: his arrogance and edginess is a bit much for my taste, but that’s OK. He putted lights out and killed the par 5s pretty much over the four days, and that’s what you have to do to win at Augusta National.

2. That being said, Rory McIlroy choked in the final round. Positively choked. He’ll never have a better chance to win the coveted Grand Slam than he did this year. All he had to do was make some putts early and it would have been him wearing the green jacket, not Reed. Yesterday was as much about McIlroy’s poor play under pressure and Jordan Speith’s stellar play than it was about Reed just going about his business in a very workman-like way and persevering by playing the course one shot and one hole at a time. I like watching Rory play golf, but boy he is infuriating in how he manages his way around a course when the pressure is on.

3. Some might think it hokey, but I like the dignified way CBS covers the Masters from beginning to end. The ESPN coverage on Thursday and Friday tried too hard to be “edgy” with that dopey hard blues music serving as intro and their personalities all trying to get their moments of “insight” before the cameras. Hey ESPN, just shut up and let the tournament play out.

4. We all knew it would happen, but between ESPN, CBS, and Golf Channel the coverage of Tiger Woods bordered on the insane – primarily at Golf Channel during their “Live From the Masters” coverage where virtually every stat they conjured up over Masters week had Tiger’s name on it, as if all the coverage of him actually playing golf and his post-round reactions to his golf wasn’t sufficient in itself to hold people’s interest enough.

5. Time is the great equalize in all sports, and this year you could see the impact of time between the past (Woods, Mickelson, O’Meara, Couples), and the future, with all those great young American golfers and Australia’s Cameron Smith.

6. As far as Tiger is concerned, he can talk all he wants about his irons not being crisp one day, his driving not being good another, and then his poor putting on yet another day, but the fact is that the older you get the harder it is to put all the facets of your game together and have it hold up over four rounds of golf. And that is especially true at Augusta National, where placement and precision is everything.

7. …and the same holds true for Phil. Sure, he’s been playing great and had been playing particularly well going into Augusta, but there’s a huge difference between your average PGA Tour stop and Augusta National. There was a time when playing the role of “Phil the Thrill” might have worked for him, but he’s older now and he’s just not able to put the ball where Augusta demands him to, hole after hole. It’s kind of sad to watch, but there are just way too many young golfers out there who are (to be truthful) better and more capable than either Tiger and Phil are at their respective stages in their careers.

8. …and not just better than Tiger or Phil, they’re fearless as well in their total and utter disregard for par. Looking at the leaderboard on Sunday and seeing all those players with one or more major wins under their belts was pretty amazing. And now that Reed has one, you just know that Rickie Fowler’s gonna get one, and soon.

9. I really enjoy watch Jordan Spieth play golf. The guy is not just incredibly talented, but fun to watch. I love how he talks to his ball and how he wears his emotions on his sleeve; he’s a modern-day Arnold Palmer in that regard. And boy, does he know Augusta National like the back of his hand! I don’t think it’s a reach to project him winning another two or three green jackets in the future.

10. Maybe it’s just me, but Dustin Johnson does nothing for me as far as watching golf is concerned. He might be able to blast his way around your average PGA Tour stop and the other majors, but his game isn’t suited to Augusta National at all.

11. #4 aside, Golf Channel’s “Live From the Masters” following the CBS coverage was great viewing. Brandel Chamblee and Frank Nobilo are consistently good, and David Duval has really come into his own as a former player with insight into the player’s mindset. Of course, Rich Lerner remains a borderline insufferable Tiger suck-up, but he’s just reading what the teleprompter is telling him. And I really like the different settings they use during the telecasts. All very tasteful and dignified, as it should be.

12. The best shot of the tournament? It had to be Marc Leishman’s massive hook around the trees on #15 on Friday. He had to have hooked his ball 50 yards or more.

13. …but Charley Hoffman’s hole-in-one on #16 on Sunday was pretty cool to watch as well.

14. I’m looking around for lightweight bucket hats to play golf in this year and found a Masters version on the internet for $89. I dunno, I think it’s a bit ostentascious if you haven’t actually been to the Maters, never mind kind of expensive. But it does look good!

15. Justin Thomas is destined to win a Masters one day. The same holds true for Jon Rahm.

16. I wish I could say the same for Rickie Fowler, because that a green jacket would look awesome against Rickie’s orange motif, but I think a PGA Championship is more in line with his game and the more likely scenario.

17. Hearing the Masters theme song never gets old for me.

18. The biggest winner over the weekend, of course, was Augusta National. The course layout, the colors, the sounds, the roars on the back nine, and the tradition make it perfect for viewing on a big flat-screen TV with snacks and beverages in the comfort of one’s own home. Masters week for me is the best week of televised golf, and this year’s edition didn’t disappoint.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 11:55 | Comments (0)
April 4, 2018

We’ve been waiting for, like, forever but it’s finally here: the Masters. Between now and Sunday we’ll be treated to the best professional golf has to offer, and in the most beautiful of surroundings. Here’s ten predictions for the Masters:

1. Jim Nantz gets all folksy and greets us each day with “Hello, friends.”
2. All the ESPN guys commentating on golf – especially Mike Tirico – will stand out like brown shoes on a tuxedo, and the late Ken Venturi will once again be turning over in his grave.
3. Tiger Woods’ name will be mentioned 14,659 times over the four-day broadcast.
4. The azaleas will astound.
5. It will sound as if every blue jay and sparrow, and nuthatch will have gathered on the Augusta National grounds.
6. We won’t get tired of the limited commercial breaks.
7. Tiger Woods finishes second to Bubba Watson.
8. Rory McIlroy misses the cut.
9. …as does Sergio, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Thomas.
10. Anticipation to do it all over again in 2019 will begin.

Speaking which, queue the music!

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 21:33 | Comments (0)
April 2, 2018

Lots going down this coming week. For one thing, it’s Masters Week, my favorite professional golf week of the year. On the weekends, I’ll set up a Bloody Mary bar for me and Tracey, and we’ll watch the before, during and after proceedings on Saturday and Sunday with cocktails and a special lunch on Saturday (usually Harvey’s Specials) and on Sunday a big breakfast with all the trimmings. I sure hope I get to see it all in a stress-free environment.

I mention this because it’s also a big week at the Client-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless – the first of three weeks where I’m hoping all the work we’ve been planning for over the past two months to fix everything that ails that client finally gets put into motion. There’s a lot riding on what’s about to happen because a lot of folks think all the ongoing issues they’ve been having will be fixed and everything that ails them will be cured with a single magic bullet of changing file formats. Will it? My personal feeling is no, and it’s still 50/50 that our solution in place since December will be yanked and the lawsuits will start flying. All I – and my team – can do is control what we can control, start making things happen this week, and try not to f**k things up any more than we have to date. Next weekend should be one filled with a lot of activity – hopefully good activity that will allow me to enjoy the Masters without a laptop in my, well, lap. We shall see.

Last but not least on the list is taxes. I’ve done my part to get everything where Tracey needs them, now it’s her turn to bring the ship into port.

It’ll be interesting to see what things look like on all of these fronts come a week from now.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 03:41 | Comments (0)
April 1, 2018

Happy Easter to everyone from Goodboys Nation weblog and the Goodboys!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 14:43 | Comments (0)

First of all, a happy and blessed Easter to all. It’s important, especially given the tone of this thread, to remember the overriding lesson of Easter, that the death and suffering of Good Friday does not have the final say as to how the game is played out in biblical terms. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith”.

Still, my Easter is not a time for joy nor sadness, just another reminder of how everything associated with it is gone.

…I remember a Holy Saturday afternoon service at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church in North Billerica, Mass., sitting in the back pew, bathed in the colors of the stained glass windows above, and being overwhelmed by the imagery contained in the lyrics of that mournful Easter hymn, “The strife is o’er, the battle done”:

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
the victory of life is won;
the song of triumph has begun.
Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst,
but Christ their legions has dispersed.
Let shouts of holy joy outburst.
Alleluia!

The three sad days are quickly sped;
he rises glorious from the dead.
All glory to our risen Head.
Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
the bars from heaven’s high portals fell.
Let hymns of praise his triumph tell.
Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded thee,
from death’s dread sting thy servants free,
that we may live and sing to thee.
Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

…I have a picture on my nightstand of my godfather Milt, who was our choir director at St. Anne’s back in the early to mid-Seventies, smiling and happy in his choir director robe (something few, if any, musical directors or organists do anymore, BTW), and opposite him, a picture of me, Charlie Corkum and his wife Marem, and Don McKeown (me, Charlie, and Don served as the bass section of our choir) with two of our sopranos, Gladys Cerrato and Eleanor Daley, taken at Milt’s parents’ house – a big, rambling two-story house that until recently sat at the corner of Boston Road (Route 3A) and Treble Cove Road down the road from St. Anne’s – during a choir breakfast between the early and late services on Easter morning.

…I remember us as a choir trying to process down the aisle while Milt played this horrendous Easter hymn I still somewhat remember, “Hail Thee Festival Day”, at breakneck speed. I think Milt just wanted to get it over as quickly as he could, but I remember Auntie Marge complaining about being practically out of breath by the time we ascended to the choir stalls!

But they’re all gone. Some many years ago, others, like my mom, Auntie Marge, and the old Gullage house, more recently. And as for the old St. Anne’s choir, I think my dad and I are the only ones left. It’s not surprising – we’re talking over forty years ago!

…I remember a Good Friday in the mid-’90s, standing at the altar with my good friend Pete Jeffrey and our interim priest at the time, Fr. Hendy Webb, consuming the last of the consecrated Host in preparation for Easter.

…I remember one of the years I attended the Great Vigil of Easter at the Church of the Advent in Boston and hearing thunder and rain pelting down on the roof as the story was told of Noah and the Great Flood, the lighting of the Paschal fire, the infant baptisms (they’d all be in their early twenties by now!), and the glorious sounds of “Jesus Christ Has Risen Today” sung by the choir. I would love to go back there some Easter Eve to experience it all over again, but I’d be afraid of seeing it fall short of the what I remembered it as being.

…I remember all the years – I’m talking decades here – the combined Richard and Fudge families would gather at the Hilltop Steakhouse in Saugus. There were some great times, and I’m glad my Auntie Marge and I were the ones to end it in a proper fashion before it became something akin to an obligation as the restaurant started to go downhill and the family kept on getting older and more spread out!

…I don’t remember any of the Easter services at Christ Episcopal Church in Elizabethtown, KY (or, for that matter, anything associated with Easter during our four years in Kentucky). I find that strange. I see their website is pretty minimal, and that they now share the building with a Lutheran church, so things can’t be going all that well there.

At any rate, all I’m saying is that I used to love Holy Week and Easter. But everything I associate with that time is gone.

I grasp onto George Harrison’s “Be Here Now” as a lifeline, feeling a combined sense of gladness and melancholy to have had such wonderful memories that I can still remember and cherish. But it also makes me sad: sad to know I’ll never experience those memories again; sad to know there will come a time when those memories will die with me as well.

And there’s no resurrecting that or them in any way, manner, shape, or form.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:37 | Comments (0)
March 31, 2018

It’s Holy Saturday.

There was a time when songs like this would fill my soul with a sense of despair and emptiness, anticipating The Great Vigil of Easter at the Church of the Advent and the Feast of the Resurrection. God and Church seemed close and intertwined with each other, and I felt not just a part of it, but – especially during my time at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary – in some ways touched and blessed.

Today I found myself gravitating to this great tune. (It’s a song, BTW, I’d like to have played after my passing – yo, Dave, pay attention to this! :-) ) It’s one of my favorite top two-three songs of all time, full and gorgeous, Spector-esque, yet filled with both melancholy and a sense of longing of times past and gone forever. Laugh all you want, but it makes me cry every time I hear it.

Some might say how the mighty have fallen. As far as I’m concerned, things are no better or worse now than they were then. They’re just different, as I am different. Nothing is as it was, everything has gone to shit, and I’m nothing but a dinosaur roaming an unfamiliar landscape until its inevitable extinction. But perhaps that’s the way it always was. I always thought that Rolling Stones classic was about some posh bird; now I hear it and think Mick and Keith were writing about folks like me. Oh well, better to simply be here now and try to forget about everything and anything else.

Say, a man could do worse than to have all the tunes linked on this post played after my passing. It’s like they’re life songs. My life songs.

I should have been a monk.

BTW, lots of folks are criticizing the current Pope for what he said, but I think he got it right. I’ve never believed Hell as a physical, eternal torment of the soul; what loving and compassionate God would allow such a thing? But I do believe in the concept of Hell as the absence of God and the eternal casting out of the soul from the love and light of God’s eternal love and care. As in death as true death. You’re gone. Poof. The eternal separation of the soul from the eternal light and love of God. Wouldn’t that be considered chilling enough?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:02 | Comment (1)

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