Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life for which the first was made.
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, "A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all nor be afraid!"

--Robert Browning

I love those lines from "Rabbi Ben Ezra" but when I quote them to my wife, she gives me a little attitude. We both know that getting old is a bummer in many ways. When we get together with other people around our age we invariably turn our conversation to what we call "the organ recital." Aches and pains dominate so many hours of our lives.

Now there are some strange advantages. When we find ourselves watching a crime drama and realize that we have seen it before, we go ahead and enjoy it a second (third?) time because we can't remember who done it.

When I am sent on an errand to find something in the next room I've learned to say, "I didn't see it." I used to say, "It's not there." but more and more it is the former statement that is true rather than the latter.

Of course when my wife sends me to look in her purse I have to say, "Can you be more specific?" (See my blog post on "The Black Hole".) But that is another problem.

Dr. Joe Garrisi used to say, "I've been thinking a lot more about the hereafter these days. Why just the other day I walked into the kitchen and then said 'Now what am I here after?'"

Friday, August 27, 2010

Zoo trip

For our great granddaughter's birthday we treated the whole family to a visit to the L. A. Zoo. We are members of the Association, and can bring others with special passes etc. I think everyone enjoyed the trip, but as I tried my hand at the shutterbug routine, I discovered that cute animal shots are very difficult to come by. In the first place the animals are so accustomed to the habitat in which they have been placed that they know how best to hide from all those nosey humans who come gawking at them. There are holes, crevasses and blind spots aplenty for these enterprising creatures. When I see all these beautiful photos of God's beasts posted on the web, you'd better believe how much I will appreciate the patience that went into assembling this array.

Then there is the problem of feeding time. And the Howler Monkeys weren't howling. We were there a few years ago when they were yelping up a storm that was heard all over the park. Do they have a howling schedule? Does it require the right combination of aggravating guests, or something in the water that sets them off? I must do my research for that one.

I got one great shot. Well it wasn't really great, but it was a clear photo of Reggie, the alligator. He was the famed inhabitant of the lake in Molloy park here in the South bay region of the Los Angeles basin. Our friend, Donna Littlejohn, a reporter for the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, was given the assignment to follow this human interest story which must have continued for a year or more before he was finally captured. Someone had owned him as a baby, but decided he was a little too big to keep and surreptitiously gave him freedom in this public park.

Now Reggie has his own pavilion and pond with his name boldly engraved above him. Here he is, basking in the sun. Can you see the smile on his face?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

About 20 years ago I wrote an article that appeared in our denominational magazine about being a grandparent. Stacy was my first grandchild, and at the moment she was born my brain developed that now notorious mush spot that all grandparents know about. She could do no wrong. She was adorable and clever and I was sure she would distinguish herself with a career as an expert mechanic in some racing crew's pit. At that time--and for several years after--her father was the proud owner of a T-bucket racing machine. This was a high powered hot rod that technically had to have some genuine model T parts in order to qualify as a T-bucket. As a teen, Stacy never forgave her dad for selling that cute street racer.

As a squirt, Stacy was compelled by some inner urge to flip every switch or turn every knob within sight. But this genetic tendency seems to have been passed to the next generation as well. Lillianna, her daughter, is compelled by the same urge. Now it so happens that this same urge accounts for the fact that this young generation has developed such comfort with electronic gadgets and switches. Yes, indeed, it was Stacy who successfully attached all the wires for our entertainment center with an independent VHS/DVD unit and DirectTV box. When we lack understanding of some application for our phone, it is Stacy who can explain it to us.

Now it is her daughter, Lilly, who wants to push every button, turn every knob and pull every switch within her view. Today Lilly's brother, David, (rug rat age) who pulled himself on my leg and reached for the remote control to the TV. I had to inform him (in soft, loving tones of course) that this was a "no, no" and had to hold the instrument with some strength against his effort to wrench it from my hand. He said, as he often does just now, "Oh, oh!" Then he proceeded to chew on his sister's soft soled sandal. I think he is still bringing in another tooth. I think guardian angels protect little ones from the snail guts, dog poop and whatever other disgusting remnants may be on the soles of shoes.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sedona 2010

It's hard to beat the red rock canyon of Sedona for sheer beautiful landscape. Last time there we enjoyed a brand new apartment in the condo group Diamond Resorts calls "Sedona Summit". Our memories of this week was one of decadent loafing in pristine luxury. The only complaint we can remember was that the new sofa had such a slick surface that we kept slipping off. On the sly, one of the sales crew told us that we needed to jump up and down on the sofa a few times to break it in. I actually tried that, but I guess it must be done several more times before it "breaks in".

So we were scheduled for a different location this time, and it too was wonderful. It is called "Villas at Poco Diablo". I never completed the several courses in Spanish that I took, but I think that translates roughly into "apartments at little devil". Aside from the inauspicious name, the place was great. It was quiet and private. We were next to a shaded courtyard with trees, umbrellas and barbecue grills and brick flooring. Only once did we see someone else use the grills (and I'm sure I saw him grilling lobster tails). Our fare, though much more bourgeois, was delectable. We had planned to save cash by bringing most of our meals. But we brought steak, salmon, Cornish game hen and hamburger. Actually I made chili with the hamburger, but the others were cooked on the grill.

Immediately behind our unit was access to a gurgling creek that feeds Oak Creek. The whole area is known as Oak Creek Canyon, so you get the idea that this is a dominant feature of the waters of Sedona. Our first night there we were greeted by a visitor--a rather large frog who had come up to our back walk. Other wildlife included many nosey squirrels, a few exotic birds (at least they were birds we don't see around our home in Lakewood), and a lizzard who entered our front door and paused upon the tile of our entryway.

One little hitch in our stay was the fact that Sunday I took sick with something like a 24 hour germ--or food poisoning of some sort. Saturday night I grilled the salmon. They were rather thick pieces and perhaps they were not as done as they might have been. Barara didn't eat much so she was safe, but I devoured all of mine, including the sashimi part. The plan was to save the leftover salmon to make salmon salad sandwiches for Sunday. But after I got sick we ended up leaving the salmon salad mix in the refrigerator for the cleaning crew to snack or toss as they pleased.

Our church has a new fledgling chapel in Cottonwood, just 25 miles away, so I was engaged to preach for them and administer the Lord's Supper. I was too weak to drive, so Barbara served as chauffeur. The intern ran the service up to the preaching part at which time I rose to lean on the pulpit and deliver God's message to this small but attentive congregation. I was gasping for breath when I finished, and then admitted that I needed a chair for administering the Lord's Supper. I completed this service without touching the elements and without collapsing on the floor. When we returned to our loft in Poco Diablo, I went to bed without changing out of my clothes. I was too weak. After sleeping all afternoon and then all night, I woke up Monday feeling fine, and the rest of the week was spent with good health.

We are developing a routine when we visit Sedona (3 or 4 times there now) which includes a trip to Flagstaff where we stop at a scenic overlook that has several tables of Indian goods for sale by their creators. This time we bought a vase with hieroglyphs and a paper that explains the story they tell. BL also picked up some Indian jewelry, but she waited until we got back to town for the better price.

Another tradition is to visit the legendary town of Jerome. It is built on the side of a steep hill (mountain?). The whole road (infamous 89a) is a two lane switchback. The town was first a copper mining town, but evolved to a brothel neighborhood and then an artist's village. The artists have not left (I don't frankly know about the others), and it is now an artsy tourist trap. We ate at "Haunted Hamburger" palace with a fantastic view.

Us old folks had prayed for God's hand of blessing on our week, and He was very good to us.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wedding cake for a cat

Another favorite family story:

In some ways Blondie was to me what Hobbs was for Calvin. Only my tiger was alive. Those who hate cats don't know how cool cats really are. Just like dogs, cats are quite different from one another. I was a latchkey kid before the term was invented, and Blondie was my companion. She sought me out and liked to be stroked by her friend. Or she might feel the necessity of grooming me with her rough and tireless tongue.

This episode begins with my bachelor uncle Walter. His sisters (my mother and aunties) were convinced that he would remain a bachelor all his life, but he surprised everyone and proposed to Mary Smiley. Yes, that was her name, and it seemed to be descriptively appropriate for her. She was a little older than he, and for several reasons, theirs was the wedding of the year for this family. Everyone made a big fuss over it. Everyone wanted to have a part in it.

Since grandpa Saumert was a professional baker, he was asked to make the cake. Those were post-depression days, and our stove was the only one in the family that would accommodate the large pans needed for the lower levels of the cake. Consequently grandpa did the baking at our house. A couple days before the wedding our home was filled with the lovely odors of cake baking. Grandpa carefully laid out the layers on our dining room table to cool overnight. Newsprint contained sanitary ink and so were spread over the cake layers. Well, it turns out that although newsprint may discourage germs and vermin, it was not enough to discourage Blondie. She was a house cat, and she did not sleep in my bed every night. This night the attractive smell of wedding cake cooling in the night was too much for her to ignore. In the morning it was discovered that she had tasted each of the layers, and for good measure was found comfortably curled up on one of them. My parents went berserk. The cat was banished, but the damage had been done. And tonight was the wedding!

Dad took the assignment of picking up grandpa and explaining the tragedy to him so he could plan a repair--and calm down a bit before he arrived. Grandpa was an emotional artist, and there was some fear of his reaction. But first of all, he was a professional. He rose to the occasion and immediately mixed a large batch of marzipan. He deftly filled the bitten holes in each layer, fitted the cake together, and viola! We saw nothing but a beautiful wedding cake.

Mom and I made a few knowing remarks about the delicious cake at the reception, but it was a closely guarded family secret for many years. I don't know if my aunt Mary and uncle Walt ever knew about this. If any guests were allergic to cats, it was not evident by the voracious consumption of this pastry.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Beware of dog names

While we are away for a respite at the resort in Sedona, I thought I would post a few repeats of old posts of mine. Here is one of my favorite family stories.

This is a story about uncle Speed. He told me that I should tell people that he was my "uncle Pud, my drinking uncle." I never remember him being sloppy drunk, but he liked to think he could hold more than most men who are still standing.

I remember Aunt Jean in a condition incapable of pronouncing her words clearly. So when they got a pair of yappy lap dogs it was inevitable that they named them "Whisky" and "Soda". By and by Soda met her demise, and only Whisky was left.

Well, my Aunt Jean told me this story about herself. One Sunday morning she walked down to the local liquor store to get the Sunday edition of the paper. She took the dog with her, of course. But she had mistakenly gone on this errand a little earlier than the opening of the booze emporium.

When she arrived at the door of the establishment, several other people had come early too. Soon the proprietor arrived with the key, and opened the door. Dogs can be impetuous, you know, and so as soon as the door was open just a little, the dog raced into the store like a bullet. My aunt Jean, instinctively called out his name, "Whisky!" she yelled. To which the store manager replied, "Now there's a thirsty woman!"

Monday, August 2, 2010

Stupid Dodgers

They may have moved from Brooklyn, but they are still "Dem Bums"! They are now inventing new ways to lose every day or two. When the hitters are raising their statistics, the pitching throws batting practice to the opposition. But when the pitchers mow 'em down, the offense becomes little league. Someone needs to tell them that they can't win if they don't score any runs. Do you think they might know that? When Honeycutt, the pitching coach comes to the mound to talk to the generous starter who may have just walked two in a row, I'm sure I have read his lips, "Throw strikes!" Okay, so I can't read lips, but what else is there to say?

Don't you hate it when your wife spouts off about baseball even though she has never played the game? Well it's twice as bad when she is right! The first day following the All star Game break, the Dodgers lost. Barbara said, "Here we go again. They always fall apart after the All star Game." I said, "C'mon, Barbara. It's not fair to say that after just one game." But she was right. I hate when that happens. Tonight the Dodgers had 7 hits before the fourth inning. The Padres only had one hit. That's more like it. The only problem is that there were no runs scored. When San Diego got a couple of hits, they followed with a three run home run. I got disgusted and changed the channel. After viewing a cute crime drama, I went back to the game only to find the Dodgers losing 10 to 2. I think I should give up on the Dodgers and start following the Cubs. Okay, it's only a game. Right?

My Star

That's what I call little Daniel, a nine year old piano pupil of Barbara's who plays with feeling. He comes to lessons with wild enthusiasm. When she told Daniel that next week she would begin to show him how to read music from the Trinity Hymnal, and she would give him an assignment, he showed up at the next lesson with the announcement, "I have learned 'Jesus Loves Me'." Then he proceeds to play it through with all four moving parts! She can't give him too much. After his 30 minute lesson has expanded to 55 minutes, she tries to dismiss him, but he objects, "But I haven't played another new piece I've learned." "No, Daniel, that will have to wait til next time. I have more students who are coming."

He is such a likable little kid that I knew I had to make up a nickname for him. I frequently label little friends of mine with a special nickname. For Daniel, the first thing that came to my mind (for some reason) was Elton John's old number about Daniel. The line I sing when I greet Daniel is: "Daniel you're a star..." He seems to get a kick out of that, and even reminds me if I don't sing it right away when he comes. "Here's your star."

Barbara says he is ready for Bach, and he is beginning to play Bach (not simplified versions). He seems to have what it takes to be a concert performer some day. Barbara does not wish that for Daniel. Too many very good musicians just don't make it. But she does have the hope of contributing to the musician pool for church music. She takes special delight in helping young people to play for worship services. Yesterday was special for Barbara because we were able to worship with the folks at Branch of Hope OPC during their 8:30 a.m. service in which another of her pupils is the pianist.

Last night at the evening worship hour, the pastor had scheduled Daniel to play the prelude and the first hymn, "Great is Thy Faithfulness". This little kid plays with feeling and good timing. Few people seem to appreciate just how difficult it is to play for congregational singing. If you make a mistake you can't afford to try to go back and correct it because the congregation sings on. And the parts all must be played correctly or else it confuses anyone who is trying to sing parts. And the timing must be a natural flow for singing. Besides all that stuff, it has to be a bit nerve wracking to accompany 30 or 40 people who are actually following you. Daniel is up to it. My little star impressed me again. I had to hug him and tell him he was great. He brushed me off, but I know he was glad to please me.

Daniel is half Korean, and he looks it. When you get to know him, he is an all American and a dynamo of energy--a very real boy. I love this kid, and still consider him my star.