October 31, 2008


Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite
All are on their rounds to-night,-
In the wan moon’s silver ray
Thrives their helter-skelter play.

Fond of cellar, barn,or stack,
True unto the almanac,
They present to credulous eyes
Strange hobgoblin mysteries.

Cabbage-stomps-straws wet with dew-
Apple-skins, and chestnuts too,
And a mirror for some lass,
Show what wonders come to pass.

Doors they move, and gates they hide,
Mischiefs that on moon-beams ride
Are their deeds, and, by their spells,
Love records its oracles.

Don’t we all, of long ago,
By the ruddy fireplace glow,
In the kitchen and the hall,
Those queer, coofllke pranks recall?

Eery shadows were they then-
But to-night they come again;
Were we once more but sixteen,
Precious would be Halloween.

-Joel Benton

Happy Halloween!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:31 | Comments Off on If You Want To Haunt Someone, Be My Ghost
October 28, 2008

Not for Gilbert, Arizona, silly! But here in Atlanta they have a freeze warning up. The cold air feels good, even though I have to admit to being a little underdressed with my shorts and Hawaiian shirt when I checked into the hotel here just a few hours ago.

Not much time for fooling around this visit and seeing family and enjoying the fall weather – I have meetings all day today and tomorrow, and they put me on a plane so I’m back in Phoenix late tomorrow night. Just like working the salt mines…but at least I’m working. At least for now.

If there’s any problem with the economy I didn’t see it today. Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport was packed with people and families with young children, so there are people with money out there.

I’m watching the TV here and the abomination (soon, I’m afraid, to be called “Obamanation”) that is World Series Game 5. The game started in rain and wind, and there were times in the 4th and 5th innings where it looked as if they were playing baseball in a monsoon – except that the temperature was hovering around 40. Mercifully, they stopped the game in the sixth inning as the field was getting more unplayable by the minute.

Question: what kind of umpiring crew would allow the potential deciding game of a professional sports showcase event to be played under such conditions? Is Bud Selig forcing them to? If so, a pox on Major League Baseball, a sport successful in spite of its pathetic management.

The same goes for the National Football League. Actually, for all the major professional sports.

R.I.P. Dean Barnett – a wonderful blogger over at Soxblog and Townhall.com. A great guy, and a wonderful writer and family man, with a big Boston-area that was absolutely over the top on radio. He will be missed.

Here’s to a great nor’easter sliding up the Eastern seaboard the next couple of days. Man, to be staying on the Vineyard or Nantucket! This is absolutely the best time of year to be in New England. You get that first big coastal storm that knocks all the leaves off the trees just before (or just after) Halloween, the kind that tells you there’s a long winter ahead.

Sigh. My garage door opener replacement cost me $500 today. That’s $1K paid out in home repair in the last three days, but not a cent of it went on the credit cards. Dave Ramsey would be proud.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:52 | Comments (3)
October 27, 2008

Constantes estote, videbitis auxilium Domini super vos. **

Apologies for the lack of blogging thes epast few days – things have gotten a little too crazy for comfort at work, and today I’m traveling to Atlanta for two days of meetings with my organization’s top management. So blogging may be light again for the next few days. We’ll see….

Anyways, I’m glad to be back doing my daily Matins and Compline after taking a week off. Every now and then it’s good to take a break from a routine if only to ponder why you’re taking a break from the routine to begin with. In my case, it was all work-related, but still you get an appreciation for what you have missed once you start back up again.

I think I’m back at St. Anne Catholic Church for good. I know, the wacko music woman and her band of musicians is still there, but they seem to have softened the sound a bit and I’m willing to trade living with their music for the convenience of a 5-minute drive to 4 PM Mass on Saturdays. It’s as close to home – literally and figuratively – as I’m gonna get, and that’s OK.

Ahh the joys of home ownership. In one week the pool needed an acid bath ($300), our main sewer line needed a serious cleaning ($200), and now the garage door opener has died (don’t know how much that will cost yet). I thought it had been a little too quiet around here!

You know what makes a damned fine refreshing drink? Three parts Arrowhead (or Poland Spring) sparkling lime water and one part Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail. Yum. And this from a guy who spent the better part of his life hating cranberry juice!

Saturday is All Saints’ Day, and I’m thinking that might be the occasion for formally committing myself to the Roman Catholic faith. Can’t think of a better day, really…


** “Persevere, and you shall see the help of God descend upon you.”

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:05 | Comments Off on The Current State Of Things
October 23, 2008

Feel the soft breeze kissing your cheek in the warm and salty air.

Feel the warm sand scrunching between your toes.

See a rolling blue-green-gray wave reflect a pier.

You squint into the late-day sun as it melts into the ocean like an effervescent fireball, its orange rays glistening like fire-ice on the everlasting and changeless seas.

Some bitchin’ chick walks by, surfboard in hand, leaving in her wake a dream-girl essence of pure desire and the scent of suntan lotion. (OK, so she’s got a dragon tatoo on her shoulder, but doesn’t she look great?)

Or that bleach-blondie surfer dude – yeah, that one over there. He’ll either spend his life in the oil business (“Mornin’ sir – pump your gas, check your oil?”), or in communications (“Ahhh, that’s two tacos and an order of fries. Anything to drink with that?”), or, just maybe – if President Obama doesn’t take all his hard-earned cash and “spread it around” – in ten years sell his start-up Internet web-marketing firm for billions.

I know who you are.

I know what you want.

You want to feel great. You want to be uplifted. And more than that, you want to crank up some groovin’ beach tune and dance around the room like a raving lunatic.

Well your wish is The Great White Shank’s command.

Ladies and gentlemen – one of the best damned surfin’ songs ever recorded – “Mexico”, by The Sandals. Let’s all sing along!

Oh when I ride with my friends surfin’ by my side
Watching the coast and
Making the most of every wave we ride
That’s the sky

Oh when I think of all the places I haven’t been
All of the beaches are waiting for me
Where no one’s ever been
It’s just a dream…
It’s just a dream…
Hey, hey!

Why not take a ride
To some other destination?
Let your soul go high
Your imagination just as far
And just as high!

Oh when I think of all the places I’ve been
West coast, East coast
Probably the most
But not exclusively so
I love Mexico
It’s just a dream…

It’s just a dream…

And so – at least for today – it is just a dream.

God, I’d love to be able to play guitar like that.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:04 | Comments (2)
October 22, 2008

Thank God, the election will be over in just two weeks. I don’t know about you, but at this point I just want it over. I’ve long given up hope that this country will come to its collective senses and say no to Brack Obama and his “Hope And Change Traveling Medicine Show”, but even the most die-hard optimist has got to think the odds, at least right now, are against John McCain and Sarah Palin.

You have to realize that 2008 is a “perfect storm” for Democrats – the nation is tired of eight years of George W. Bush and his pathetic failed Presidency, the Wall Street meltdown, a charismatic and dynamic political figure capable of stirring the hearts and imaginations of a fair number of ignorant voters, a mainstream media completely and utterly in the tank to alleviate its collective liberal guilt by putting an unqualified and untested African-American in the White House, and an unprecedented voter fraud operation committed to doing whatever it takes to put him there.

Like it or not, those are the facts.

Truth is, the only dynamic even keeping this race close at this point is Sarah Palin. Had John MCain picked Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani, or any number of white-bread Republican governors or congressmen, he’d be down a dozen or more points in all the polls. But his choice of Palin has energized his base and countless numbers of working mothers and soccer moms who identify with her. Is she enough to make a difference?

Who knows? And believe, not even the pollsters do.

Which is why I’m just gonna play my surf music, pay my credit cards down, try not to get laid off, and seek the holy solitude of a loving, forgiving, and merciful God in my daily prayer offices and the refuge of Roman Catholicism. I’ve already voted early, so there’s nothing more I can do. Come election night, I’ll open a nice bottle of wine, stay as far away from the Internet and the TV as possible, and crank up the surf music while the rest of the world fixates on Barack Obama and his own form of mind-numbing medication for the masses.

And let the best man win.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 09:01 | Comments Off on Two Weeks
October 21, 2008

Put me down as unimpressed with the Bush administration’s actions of the past month to prop up the financial markets and bail out Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. I mean, when does the Great 2008 Government Giveaway stop? You know the next people showing up at the government’s door will be one or more of the major U.S. automakers, followed shortly thereafter by an airline or two.

Like many, we got our 401K statements in the mail the other day – down 32% for the year – but I don’t see anyone on the horizon coming to bail us out. Oh that’s right – we can’t be bailed out, we (the taxpayers) are the ones doing the bailing out. That makes sense.

The whole Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac thing should have people ready to throw all the politicians out of Washington. I mean, the whole housing crisis is/was not a crisis at all. To me, a housing crisis means there are people living on the streets because they have no place to live due to a lack of housing. But that’s not what happened at all. In this case, banks were pressured by the Democrats – you know, the “champions of the people” – and their Fannie/Freddie flacks to give out loans to people you wouldn’t even lend a $20 to with confidence.

Now granted, there were some predatory lenders out there trying to make quick money off of people they knew couldn’t afford the paper they were signing, but more often than not, people were buying properties they couldn’t afford or using real estate to get rich quick, and they got burned. And now there is great weeping and gnashing of teeth.

A prime example: There was a guy in my office who would spend his entire workdays on the phone with realtors buying properties up left and right so he could turn them over as quick as he could – in some cases, no more than a month or two – so he could turn a profit on them. Talk about greed and stupidity. What happened to him? He got in towards the end of the bubble and all of a sudden had several properties on hand that weren’t worth what he bought them for, and he couldn’t turn properties over to make his payments. Now everything’s in foreclosure and last I heard (he ended up getting terminated) he was considering bankruptcy.

The thing I don’t understand – then again, there’s lots about the priorities of people today I don’t understand – is this: what was wrong with the idea of renting until you have enough money saved up to buy something? Wasn’t that the way it was always done? Such a concept seemed to serve this country well for a long time. But no, we live in a country where immediate gratification trumps logic, and people believe they have a right to everything – affordable travel, affordable housing, affordable health care, etc.

Sure, these are crazy times. And I have no doubt that there are a lot of people losing sleep over the fact they live in houses they can no longer afford, or on properties worth far less than what they originally paid. But real estate is cyclical, and it will come back again. To me, real estate was never a good short-term investment to be treated as a commodity, anyways. To own a house and a little piece of land is something both precious and a privilege, and it’s about time things get back to that frame of mind.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:54 | Comments (5)
October 20, 2008

Tonight the Red Sox season ended with a frustrating loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. You gotta give the Rays credit, they hung in there after that devastating Game 5 loss; how the Sox pitching ever made it through the Rays lineup for seven games is beyond me. They are positively scary, and they oughta to make mincemeat out of the Phillies.

But excuse me if I don’t watch. After seven long games I’m tired of watching the Rays.

Tomorrow the pool gets drained. The water temp got up to 70 today, but with the end drawing so near I couldn’t be bothered going in.

Is there any doubt summer is now over?

Here’s a lovely poem to commemorate this moment:

“The End Of Summer” – by Valerie Bellefleur

The book of summer was long overdue
Should have been returned to the library

I hesitated wanting to hold onto
Its pages of sunshine, blue skies

Balmy winds, beach barbecues
Days at the cottage, all my heavenly flowers

But I was reluctantly forced to return it
And check out the book of October

And although I pined for summer
I did enjoy the harvest moons

Falling leaves of golds and reds
Vivid sunsets and wheat fields

Children dressed for Halloween
Burning piles of sweet hickory leaves

I knew the books of winter and spring
Were waiting for me back on that shelf

And as time went by, I would learn
How to love these seasons also

Hat tip: Poemhunter

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:33 | Comments Off on Summer’s Really Over
October 19, 2008

Solitude has become a very important part of my existence. Let me re-phrase that: the seeking of holy solitude has become an increasing part of my daily existence. I feel a great change taking place within me, something far greater and more all-encompassing than anything I have experienced before; a change that makes all the prior changes seem rather petty and pathetic in the way they were never able to truly change me. After all, shouldn’t changes taking place within result in actual change without? How can one say they have been changed, transformed, converted, enlightened, or awakened when the time comes and you look back and within and see that little has changed after all that time?

My life has always been a noisy one; it is only recently I’ve come to realize just how utterly exhausted I’ve become at having my noisy self around as a day in/day out partner. I have talked too much and too loudly, listened too little and too softly, involved myself in too many areas that are little of my concern, and been too passionate about things that matter little in the grand scheme of things, to the end that my work life, home life, prayer life, and spiritual life seem a howling wilderness of my own making.

And when I find some precious hours away from work, what do I do? I try to fill it up. I read. I write. I cook. I ponder endlessly what I should read next, write next, cook next, ponder next. As if life itself were some kind of vacuum that needs constant filling and feeding. The difference is – and here’s where that “change” thing starts to come into play – I now see it for what it is and has always been, as if I have finally been shown a true reflection of my inner and outer life together in a mirror.

Tracey and I talked about this very thing today over dinner, how I seem to have lately tried to carve out for myself a greater distance between my usual interests, my friends back home, and my co-workers. She was concerned about a growing isolation on my part. My response was that there’s a vast difference between isolation – something external – and solitude – something internal. For example, if you turn off the phone and go “Brian Wilson” on people, you’re isolating yourself; if you’re creating a necessary distance between yourself and others for the purpose of allowing God to fill that space in whatever way He so chooses, that’s seeking holy solitude.

Like I told her, it’s almost like recognizing the necessity of reducing my “carbon footprint” by allowing the peace of God to work within so as to expand my own “spiritual footprint”.

The trick, as Brother Lawrence wrote so well about, is learning, and then incorporating into one’s daily regimen, the practice of the presence of God. You don’t have to become some desert ascetic (although at times I’ll admit this sounds quite appealing to me, but then what about work, or golf, or Mexican food, or surf music, or the Red Sox?). One need only strive to allow God the opportunity to transform you within so that by unknowing you will know, by not seeing you will see, and by not caring you will care. As the Psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God”. (Ps 46:10)

As I write these words, I realize the person I am is not the person I am becoming, and there will come a time when writing words to people who know me will be replaced by non-writing to those who no longer know me as I am now. My friends will always be my friends, but my relationships must change, and necessarily so. In the past I’ve often contemplated, pronounced, or openly questioned (some would say whined, and they might be right) what God was calling me to be; this all seems rather pointless to me now, as I wish to seek only the unknowing darkness of God’s holy solitude, aspiring only to be that whom God created, and unlearning those things that have caused me to knowingly and willingly place barriers between God’s will and my own.

While eastern religions and practices have much to say about this kind of thing, I’m more than willing to allow my drift towards Roman Catholicism to color this change in any way God wishes. It all now seems to be making sense as so many related and unrelated strands that have always been present in my life are being knit together into a new quilt whose final design I can’t even begin to imagine.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:25 | Comment (1)
October 17, 2008

Another bright and beautiful silvery-shiney night by the pool, and I’m blogging by Christmas tree lights at the Tiki bar, a cold Sam Adams Octoberfest providing the refreshment. Let’s get cracking, shall we?

It’s the final three nights for this incarnation of the swimming pool – it gets drained Monday – so I’m gonna do my best to squeeze in a mini-dip each night. Last night, thanks to the second of three days back in the mid-’90s (who said Summer was gone?); we actually got a mini-heat wave as the water temp got to 67 degrees. No, it didn’t feel appreciably warmer than it did when it was 64. But you take what you can get this time of year.

You know how you can tell it’s mid-October around these parts? You start seeing a lot more cars with license plates from Canada, the Dakotas, and the Midwest and upper-Midwest showing up. I’m sure the businesses around here don’t mind that much. East of the Mississippi, the snowbirds all head to Florida – that “sun-shiney state for shady people”; west of the MR, it’s Arizona. Glad to have them and the contents of their wallets.

My real estate guy tells me the Canadians are bringing their dough-re-mi with them this year and taking advantage of the housing market. Around here there probably won’t be a better time to buy – especially if you don’t mind living way out in the West Valley. It seems like prices have stayed fairly stable here in the East Valley, where there wasn’t the huge run-up on home-building that you saw out on the western side.

While I understand my good friend Jana’s sentiments in her comment the other day about John McCain, I have to respectfully disagree. He’s still on the right side (literally and figuratively) of all the economic and cultural issues I support. Why should I worry about putting someone with PTSD in the Oval Office after we’ve had someone with ADD there the past eight years? And why would I want a budding Socialist like Barack Obama in there, either? Heck, with all his campaign’s actions to quell any form of criticism of “The One”, it won’t be ADD or PTSD behind the Oval Office desk; it’ll be more like KGB.

And count me as one who loves the freshness and brashness of Sarah Palin. The only thing that will cure Washington right now is an influx of outsiders. Lord knows they can’t screw things up any worse than the crowd that’s already in there. The country needs new faces – Democrat and Republican – to bring some fiscal sanity back to the nation’s capitol.

…besides, what other VP candidate can do this?

My vote for worst infomercial running on the the late-night cable networks? That idiot selling The Sham-Wow. My question: why on God’s earth does he need the headset? And what’s up with him saying, “Are you following me, camera guy?” I mean, it’s a studio with nothing but the idiot and a table for demonstrating the product – like, what else is the “camera guy” going to follow?

That Red Sox game last night was unbelievable. The only reason I kept it on was so I would know when the game was thankfully over to switch to NESN to watch Tom Caron’s and Jerry Remy’s post-mortem on the 2008 team and hear what kind of moves they thought the team would make during the off-season. Even after “Big Papi”‘s home run I never thought they could make it all the way back. I still have a hard time believing they did. Of course, the Rays still have the edge, and a win by them tomorrow will make everyone forget about last night pretty quick, but if the Sox were to take Game 6….now THAT would be interesting.

And I still can’t believe those great 10-pitch at-bats by Coco Crisp and Kevin Youkilis; it was post-season baseball at its best. Everyone was talking about that game today…

The other day while at the supermarket I heard Carly Simon’s early hit “Anticipation”. What a great tune! Listening to the interplay between guitar, bass, piano, and drums you can really get a groove on. A very clean-sounding recording – I’d forgotten how good a singer she was back in my high school days.

OK, enough – I’m goin’ in for a dip.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:08 | Comments Off on Under The Moonlight
October 16, 2008

Ahhh….64-degree temperature pool water. Is there anything like it? I was hot, bothered, and sweaty after making an Italian dinner for my lovely wife (Caesar salad with real bacon bits, spaghetti and meatballs, homemade garlic bread) while trying to catch the final Presidential debate.

Now I’m no dummy as to how these things go, and I never – NEVER – underestimate the stupidity of either the American people or the talking heads on the cable networks, but in my view, regardless of what anyone else thinks, I thought Barack “Senator Government” Obama got taken to the woodshed by John McCain tonight. Could McCain have delivered his message a little more smoothly? Of course, but when you’re behind in the polls people are looking for substance, not style, and I think McCain did himself some good tonight. He didn’t have to “win” the debate, he just needed to plant more seeds of doubt in the viewing public as to what they’d be getting in an Obama presidency.

Did he succeed? We’ll know in three weeks. This debate review by AOL, I think, has it about right.

On to more important stuff. This is a GREAT column by George Will. His sentiments are on target, and I can only say that having tread over the Gettysburg battlefield several times in my life, anyone who thinks free enterprise and the free market ought to trump history and what we are (or have been) as a nation to the point where strip malls and restaurants replace hallowed ground ought to be shot – literally. I have no patience for idiots. There are some things people – even Americans – ought to hold dear.

But let me tell you about tonight. Ahhhh…. what a night: a silvery moon shining on the patio, the breathless air slightly chilled like a fine Sauvignon Blanc, the pool water slightly (well more than slightly) more so, the sounds of The Sandals providing a reminder of a summer now past. A very quick dip, then another, then another still. OK, that’s it, I’m really done for the year. The towel wrapped around me as the electric shock of chilled water against skin slowly recedes. The world be damned, this is one lovely night.

I don’t care how bad the Beach Boys’ “Summer In Paradise” album was, “Still Surfin’ is a great surf song.

Congrats to the Philadelphia Phillies on getting to the World Series. So much for “Manny Being Manny”, eh L.A.? Guaranteed – he’ll be in either a Mets or Yankees uniform next spring. He might be a great baseball hitter, but he’s a disgrace to the game. And for that reason I’m glad the Dodgers got smoked.

Sorry Phillies fans, no one is beating the Tampa Bay Rays this year. Like I said earlier, they’re “The Cinderella Team” of 2008.

I never thought I’d say this, but watching Barack Obama spew his bull$hit on TV tonight makes me long for Hillary Clinton. Not only wasn’t she afraid to tell you she was going to take your maoney and “spread it around”, but at least she had a clue as to how government works and some clue about America’s role in the world. This guy is clueless, but America deserves what it votes for.

And because Rob demands it – watch this! R.I.P. Justin Wilson.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:14 | Comments (3)


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