February 13, 2013

Hot on the heels of a weekend in Vegas comes the holy season of Lent – now there are two exact opposites for you. One is all about humility and introspection, hopefully with a little self-denial tossed in for good measure. The other? Well, let’s just say that self-denial and humility are not exactly traits associated with a place commonly referred to as “Sin City”.

Lent is an important time of the year for Christians, because it provides the opportunity for a sort of annual self-check of one’s own spiritual and physical life – not just now, but in comparison to years past. Biblically, we are called to imitate and contemplate on the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness before he emerges to the life and ministry that will ultimately lead him to death on the Cross.

The purpose of Lent is to be a season of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning: a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one’s head or forehead. However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit, and help us become more like Christ. Eastern Christians call this process theosis, which St. Athanasius describes as “becoming by grace what God is by nature.”

Deacon Keith Fournier at Catholic Online has a nice homily on this Lenten season – one made even more poignant by the recent announcement by Pope Benedict XVI that he plans on stepping down as Pope at the end of the month:

Here are the Holy Father’s words for us this Lent about faith and charity:

“The relationship between these two virtues resembles that between the two fundamental sacraments of the Church: Baptism and Eucharist. Baptism (sacramentum fidei) precedes the Eucharist (sacramentum caritatis), but is ordered to it, the Eucharist being the fullness of the Christian journey. In a similar way, faith precedes charity, but faith is genuine only if crowned by charity. Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith (“knowing that one is loved by God”), but has to arrive at the truth of charity (“knowing how to love God and neighbor”), which remains for ever, as the fulfillment of all the virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).

“Dear brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, as we prepare to celebrate the event of the Cross and Resurrection – in which the love of God redeemed the world and shone its light upon history – I express my wish that all of you may spend this precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ, so as to enter with him into the dynamic of love for the Father and for every brother and sister that we encounter in our lives. For this intention, I raise my prayer to God, and I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon each individual and upon every community!”

If there is one lesson this world could stand to hear a little more of it is the humble words of a gracious man who sees in his own increasing age and frailty the need for more humility and less power in exchange for greater anonymity and less title. Of course, there are many (and their numbers are increasing) who will turn a deaf ear to such a simple and powerful message – after all, self-gratification and self-aggrandizment have become a virtual way of life in our increasingly coarse and sick culture. The Church is not immune to these powerful temptations, of course, and one doesn’t have to look far to see how much of the wounds afflicting today’s Christian Churches are self-inflicted.

Still, this world needs Christianity more than ever, and the lessons of Lent – self-examination of where one’s spiritual journey (or lack thereof) has taken us, self-denial, and a call to individual holiness – are lessons even the most hardened agnostic would have a hard time admitting aren’t a little bit in short supply these days. We live in a culture and world gone absolutely mad; we are Rome and the end times are near – the only question is who the Visigoths and Ostrogoths will be that take us down. It’s in times like this that the gentleness, humility, and holiness of Lent and its call to us listen to and for the better angels of our nature is needed most of all.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 23:24 | Comments (0)
February 12, 2013

Another fab Vegas weekend is in the books, and this one, like all others prior, provided a much-needed time for fun and frolic away from the snow (for some) and stress (for others) of everyday life. Sure, the weather was a tad on the cool side, but the bar-hopping, golfing, clubbing, gambling and recreating couldn’t have been better. This year, unlike the past few, we decided that the deal at Wynn Las Vegas was too good to pass up – especially after the disappointing service and vibe we had experienced at Treasure Island. After all, if you’re gonna do it, do it right – in Vegas there are just too many restaurants, casinos, bars, shops, pretty girls, and golf courses more than happy to take your money and do it with flair and passion, and that’s what you get in spades at Wynn. You simply can’t be treated any better.

Hits: The usual Goodboys stops never failed to please and impress. The Parasol Up bar (our mustering place) and the B Bar (home of what we’ll always remember for “The Greatest Show On Earth” – a blood secret we’ll keep just between us!) at Wynn were great places to hang, enjoy a cocktail or two or three, watch all the pretty people, and just drink in the Vegas vibe. The Wynn Spa was a perfect place to warm up after a chilly day golfing. The Peppermill was as it always is: good food at a good price (the latter something you won’t see at Wynn). Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Las Vegas was a great place to hang, munch on some nachos and replenish my depleted collection of T-shirts. The Paiute Resort was a fantastic place to play golf – one of the most beautiful golf destinations we’ve ever seen. ‘Tis a shame the temperature hovered around 50 all day with 30-40 MPH sustained winds – we froze our asses off but had a great time doing so. I’ll have a golf report in the next post.

Misses: A stop at the Kahunaville bar at Treasure Island showcased the unique lack of service we’d come to know at TI the past few years – hard to believe that kind of thing even happens in Vegas. Sure, it was fun to watch a bunch of guys take in the “Kahunaville Special” – for $20 you get a free drink, get to breath in the flavored oxygen of your choice, and receive a back rub and head message via a device that looks something straight out of “The Jetsons”. But the whole place has a dark, tawdry kind of feel to it. While Saturday night dinner at Mr. Lucky’s at the Hard Rock was OK, there’s nothing about that place that makes it stand out from any of a hundred other potential Saturday night dinner destimations in the future.

All and all, it was another fun weekend, and there are places already checked off for a visit next year: La Cave at Wynn and the Seahorse Lounge at Caesar’s Palace look like very cool places to visit, and a return visit to Paiute Resort (hopefully under better weather conditions) is without question.

All in all, just your typical Goodboys Vegas weekend: you start looking forward to it as soon as the holidays arrive, by Monday of that week you can’t wait to get there, by the following Monday you’re ready to leave, then a few days later you’re already thinking about your next trip there (for me it could be when my wife and her twin sister turn 50 in May, we’ll see). Which is what makes a weekend in Las Vegas unlike any other.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 23:53 | Comments (0)
February 11, 2013

I’ve always liked wind chimes but have never been a nut about them – I mean, there are people out there (I know, the lady in the apartment just outside my parent’s place is one of them) who go so overboard every time the wind blows it’s just a cacophony of noise.

But I like the different sounds you can get from wind chimes – the guy next door has some with very deep sounds that sound like church bells in the wind – very soothing. I’ve got a few – some small tinkly things, a ceramic thing that makes clinking sounds as opposed to tinkles, and a metal thing that was given to us by our realtor as a housewarming gift that demands a force 5 wind or greater to even make a clang.

My favorite wind chime is the new one I found last week at the garden center – it’s algot all the necessary requirements a wind chime (at least in my view) should have – a bit of whimsy, a unique design, and – especially given my mid-modern century taste in design and architecture, a bit of art deco in it. It’s got some great colors that blend really nice with all the colors all around it.

Of course, the big question about wind chimes is their sturdiness. While this lovely piece should handle your usual breezy day I might have to keep an eye on it when the monsoon comes and kicks up the windy thunder and dust storms.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:10 | Comment (1)
February 10, 2013

By this time New England is digging out from what by all accounts should be a pretty heavy snowfall. I’m in Vegas and I can tell you there’s no snow here! Were I in New England and shoveling and sanding my walkway and driveway I’d be looking for anything symbolizing warmth and light.

So allow me to share this video with y’all. I actually came across it by mistake, but it just reaffirms that no one – and I do mean no one could beat The Beatles when it came to sheer artistry. You think you know George Harrison’s “Here Comes The Sun” from Abbey Road? Listen to this version featuring a previously-unheard guitar piece unearthed in session tapes while famed producer Sir George Martin and his son were overseeing the remastering The Beatles’ original recordings back in 2009. As someone who has heard countless unreleased Beatles recordings via bootlegs, remixes, re-releases, etc. I have to say I was absolutely blown away by the difference this unreleased Harrison solo makes to the song – soaring and melodic in its beauty, it takes the song to (at least in my opinion) a different place. I’d love to hear it mixed into a properly-released version just to experience the audio tapestry Harrison was attempting to weave. Makes one wonder why it was left out. It’s fantastic.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:52 | Comments (0)
February 9, 2013

So here I am in Vegas, and we’re having a great time – Sin City never fails to live up to expectations. And Wynn Las Vegas has a great business center for blog posting!

But today, let’s talk about music and this iconic and fabulous tune. We all know “The King” has the de facto primo version, and in the past I’ve linked to really good remakes by the likes of ZZ Top and Bruce Springsteen, but I have to say this version by Shawn Colvin beats them all.

I’ve haven’t posted about Shawn Colvin before, but she’s always been a Great White Shank favorite. Somehow she, like Mary Chapin Carpenter and Emmylou Harris have always seemed to fly underneath my radar, but I love their music as much as anyone else’s. Colvin in particular brings a really unique, kinda soft and gritty, world-weary kind of voice that does this song proud, doesn’t she? Whereas the others play up the fabulous fun and exciting nightlife of Vegas, Colvin’s soulful, moody arrangement effectively communicates the flip side – the darkness and emptiness of Vegas that’s always there lurking beneath those bright lights and that big city. One listen to the song’s haunting fadeout suggests everything ain’t quite as it might seem. She does such a great job on this tune, but then again, everything she does is great. I’ve got more to say about her and others in a future post.

And you thought The Great White Shank was only about surf, exotica, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Phil Spector, and The Sandals. You might be surprised at some of The Great White Shank’s not-so-publicized music faves. Stay tuned.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:52 | Comment (1)
February 8, 2013

Sure, we’ve still got a mountain of debt (diminishing, for sure, but still there), but the one thing I simply cannot give up my weekend in Las Vegas with my Goodboys pals. We’ve been going the weekend after Super Bowl for the past seven years and, since with age comes wisdom (at least supposedly) every year it gets better: we worked out all the kinks, the mistakes, and the lack of tempo and judgment a long time ago. These days, we’re all older and wiser and look forward to this weekend as a way of enjoying each other’s company, play a little golf, and exchange the stress and long hours of our work lives for a few days of harmless fun and reindeer games.

As I wrote last year, what I love most about Las Vegas is its other-worldliness, the things you can or would do there that are just so far beyond anything you would do in the town you live in. Sure, there are the casinos, the bars, the strip clubs, the gambling, the restaurants, and the people-watching (as far as I’m concerned, you can’t beat the latter), but it’s just the fact that money means nothing (as long as you have it, of course). The saying goes, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, but I prefer, “if you go looking for trouble don’t be surprised if you find it”. Nowadays I get as much joy out of a fun round of golf or an afternoon at the hotel spa as I do anything else anymore.

The important thing, of course, is that, while in Vegas you can bend the rules to your heart’s content, you can’t take the city, the gambling, the money, or the pretty people too seriously; otherwise you’re likely to find yourself in a world of hurt. Have a great time, but don’t do anything stupid or something you’d regret down the line. Because the temptations are always there, and Vegas thrives on temptation and the weak. Which is what makes Vegas what it is and why I love it. The only place I know where you can’t wait to get there, three days days later you’re glad to get out alive with the shirt on your back, then two days later you’re already conjuring up ways to get back and do it all over again.

Viva Las Vegas, baby!!

Filed in: Goodboys by The Great White Shank at 00:42 | Comments (0)
February 7, 2013

Warning: Cute rabbit photo below – scroll at your own risk!

One of the great advantages of working from one’s home is the lack of a morning commute. I still remember those days back when we lived in Dracut, Mass., getting up at 5:45 AM to hop in the shower and head out to Dunkin’ Donuts an hour later – no matter what the weather conditions were – for some positive reinforcement knowing Tracey and I had a good 1 1/2 – 2 hours (or more) commute ahead of us working the same congested roads day after day when we worked in Waltham and Burlington. Back in those days you listened to all the traffic reports as if your life depended on it because, well, it did – after all, you had to be prepared to use any number of residential side roads and alternate routes whenever the weather or traffic conditions demanded.

When we lived in Louisville it wasn’t so bad – unlike in Massachustts we didn’t share a ride in those days because of our work locations, arrangements, and schedules, but it wasn’t nearly as bad. Oh sure the Watterson Expressway, the “Gene Snyder”, or Hurstbourne Parkway could get a little scruffy at times, but it was nothing compared to what we had been used to.

Upon our return to Massachusetts, Tracey had all of ten-minute drive to her workplace while I did the Mass Pike / Route 128 thing – given our Milford location I had no other choice. And boy, those commutes were absolute bears – metrosexuals, yuppies, suburbanites, and soccer moms in expensive cars and minivans shaving, brushing their teeth, and doing their makeup all while dodging in and out of traffic at speeds that turned me white and made me look as if I was standing still.

For Tracey, those days are still part of her working life, and while for several years I was part of her commute, I’ve had the best of every world possible the last 3-4 years – it’s been so long I can’t remember what it’s like to do a morning and evening commute. Call me “Mr. Lucky”. I know if I can avoid it at any cost I’ll never work in a regular office ever again. This home-based work thing is where it’s at, and I have no desire to change. Are there disadvantages? Why, sure: when you leave a regular office for the day you really leave work behind. At a home office work is always there – even more so when you’ve got a team of India developers starting work around the time you should be heading to bed and finishing up work for the day when you’re grabbing your first cup of java in the morning. I can’t imagine what it would be like having that arrangement and a work place you actually had to drive to and from.

Still, it’s pretty damned fine when the only congestion you witness every morning is the rabbits rushing to get their breakfast of Nibble Rings, dried pineapple, and a leaf of romaine lettuce with a handful of parsley, as Cosmo, Peanut, and Marlie are shown doing here:

Yep. I’m a lucky guy, indeed! It may not always be this way – after all, who knows what the future can bring? I just thank God and my lucky stars every day and never take it for granted.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:36 | Comments (0)
February 6, 2013

So I’m at the pizza joint down the street having a Pinot Grigio with my buddy Kevin, a regular there whom I haven’t seen for more than a year. He’s on a different job shift, and we’ve cut back on take-out big time while we flail away at our debt. He looks good, having dropped a good 30 lbs and it’s great to see him. He’s had a few tussles matrimony-wise and is doing what he can to keep his head above ground.

Kevin orders another small pitcher of Bud Light (I politely decline). He’s happy I came through my cancer surgery great and compliments me on how I look, saying I don’t look a day or two past retirement (something I take in good humor). I tell him you don’t marry twins and get away unscathed, but I also know that Tracey would probably say that there are parts of our marriage she didn’t necessarily sign up for, either. But such is life.

For whatever reason the topic gets around to things one might have done differently if we’d have a chance. Kevin’s surprised when I tell him that my life is full of regrets, and that I’ll go to my grave with regrets – more than just a few, in fact. But that’s OK, they’re my regrets and a part of my life. He tells me he’s always been afraid to admit to himself that he too has regrets; he’s afraid that to admit to regrets is to have somehow lived one’s life as a failure.

You see, I don’t see it that way. Anyone who says they’ve lived a life without regrets is fooling themselves. Me, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of things I might have done differently to have convinced the Bishop of Massachusetts, or the Diocese of Kentucky, or the Bishop of Georgia to admit me into the ordination process for the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. One can talk circumstances all they want, but the fact is (and especially in the case of Kentucky), I screwed up big-time and will never forgive myself for it. Does it mean I’m in some kind of life straitjacket unable to function and handle the basic responsibilities necessities of life? Of course not – I’m from a generation where you pick your ass up off the ground, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

Quite different from the generations that followed me, for sure.

Kevin thinks I’m foolish to carry that kind of a burden more than a decade out. But I’ve always felt life is meant to be lived to the fullest, and I don’t believe in sugarcoating anything. I’m not, nor ever have been satisfied, at just playing the game of life and just existing like so many people do. Warren Zevon once sang, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, and that’s always been my creed. I crave that moment of a soft breeze rusting the palm trees around the pool, or the tinking of the wind chimes on our patio, or the smell of green grass, or the happy sounds of golfers hitting balls on the range, or the taste of the Blessed Sacrament on my lips at Mass, or thunder in the distance, or rabbits munching happily on their lettuce at breakfast, or that soft quiet moment just before you fall to sleep. I don’t take any of these things for granted.

Are there things I wished I had done differently? You bet. Would I change the way things are now? Of course. But that doesn’t mean that now is bad or then was good or anything – that’s not the way the game of life is played. I’m not perfect – in fact, I’ve probably been trouble and a quite bastard more than a few times to those I love and care for. But one can’t change the past, you can only go forward. I’ll always hold me the one most accountable for everything that’s happened to me in my life, and that is where the regrets come from. And people who say they have no regrets in their lives are just fooling themselves.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:02 | Comments (4)
February 5, 2013

Here’s a quiz for y’all: what’s a sure-fire way of knowing Spring is on it’s way?

a) Super Bowl is over
b) The Goodboys go to Las Vegas
c) Punxatawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow

The answer is neither. Well, I guess that’s not true. But around these parts it’s when the mourning doves start appearing during the day on the east wall of our house behind the citrus trees. I swear, the doves have a hundred thousand years of evolutionary practice ahead of the rest of us mere mortals, and while I’m certain they don’t have a calendar posted on some dove wall showing the first full week of February circled in black marker (or whatever a dove would use) and annotated with the words,

“Find 2013 Breeding Mate and Nesting Site!!”

…indicating it’s time to get crackin’. And today was THE DAY.

For the past several months the only time you saw and heard the doves would be late in the day when they’d start queueing up on the south wall behind the swimming pool fountain for a drink of water, but today after hearing some extremely close dove sounds I spied outside my office window a pair on the east wall doing all those dove-y kinds of things mourning doves do when checking out prospective lodging (and mates) for coming mating season – lots of preening, a wee bit of vegging out, and that unique form of aimless (at least to us!) walking back and forth on top of the wall as only doves can do. It’s intriguing and fun to watch.

Not sure the lime or lemon trees are gonna meet their rigid requirements this year – I did a fair amount of pruning last fall, so they may be just a little too exposed for them this year, but we’ll see. At any rate, it’s good to see them back and active again. Spring is definitely on the way!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:26 | Comments (0)
February 4, 2013

Not being not much of a football fan I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but my whole thinking about Super Bowl weekend echoes that of Rob’s. Power issues aside, of course!

Of course, now that football season is over that means baseball season is nearly upon us. Pitchers and catchers start arriving next week.

Congratulations to Phil Mickelson for a great wire-to-wire win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. You can bet the PGA Tour’s marketing folks must be smiling with Phil’s win following hot on the heels of Tiger’s win at Torrey Pines the week before. Sets up for some pretty intriguing and splashy marquee matchups down the line.

This is such a sad story, a tragic end to an American hero. Rest in peace, Chris – prayers offered up for you and your loved ones.

This is just the kind of link to whet one’s whistle when you have a weekend trip to Vegas coming up. I can’t wait.

Glad to hear about this – I can only say this would be a great thing for America if I wasn’t already convinced that, Barack Obama being what he is, his replacement isn’t going to be any better.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 00:06 | Comments (0)


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