Saturday, May 26, 2007


Last Saturday night in the wee hours of the Lord’s Day my friend Matthew and I sat down to some “lick-your-plate-clean” cuisine – so said the hefty good ole boy seated across the way from us in between barely subliminal pleasure moans. Yes, the 1950s technology that allowed yellow checkered diners across middle America to simulate Belgian breakfasts (albeit with a slightly greasy-spoon twist) did serve up some mighty fine food on 10-inch wide porcelain plates. The waffles at the Waffle House (which could be supplemented with onion/cheese/etc. smothered “home”-fries or grits floating in squeezable butter) are small, nicely crisped. I remarked, that with the increase in plate sizes say at less “authentic” budget eateries such as the Denny’s, or dare I say Bob Evan’s, the waistlines of Americans have also increased.

This line of questioning reached its zenith in Matthew’s careful observation that the city of Akron, Ohio (where co-incidentally we were sitting) is best typified by the Chevrolet (spoken “Chevy”) Berretta (which inconsequentially is also the name of a handgun). That perhaps like Denny’s with its “Grand Slam” meals portioned on Texas-sized plates, Akron itself is home to listless souls longing for a sporty look at the cheapest price, not realizing that in their haste to secure the American dream of “the more” and “the faster” they had settled for American trash.

Bob, our goateed waiter seemed unimpressed by our seemingly careless attitude and perhaps what he perceived as a hint of feminine delight in our waffles and conversation (we were taking pictures etc.). This seeming rebuff did little stifle our conversation – which turned to the hegemonic rule of CLP over the Mennonite interpretation of scripture, Matthew’s search for his inner consciousness, and my inability to fully express my intentions in the everyday language of the hell-fearing individual.

After repeated attempts to establish Waffle House as a site of a ritualized rendezvous, I felt as though we finally broke through – we had cresting the surface after dodging coagulated masses of plastic as only endangered humpback whales can.

Matthew tries a choice strawberrynote the grits
talk turns toward CLP
Matthew expresses inner turmoilMatthew is pleased. very pleased

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Aquarium

I'm sitting in Starbuck’s admiring the long line of people waiting for their caffeine while I wait for Barnes & Noble(s) to open at nine so I can buy my dad What Doctors Think for his 54th birthday. There is an endless stream of people streaming by the windows on their way to work and what not. Little girls in polka-dot mini-skirts, average looking guys with cellos strapped to their backs. Across the street a chauffeur is opening the back door of a silver Bentley (that’s a kind of car) that costs $300,000 outside the Sherry House (with italics).

There are a lot of rich and famous people in this neighborhood. Back before I was going to graduate school and had most of my reading directed by professors I used to go through the carefully sorted trash over on 79th street before reporting to work at 12:20 am. I discovered that Tom Wolfe’s wife subscribes to People magazine and Tom himself subscribes to the New Yorker (Tom Wolfe is the famous author of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test among other things). I never did find much in Eliot Spitzer’s (he’s our billionaire governor) or Mike Bloomberg’s (he’s our billionaire mayor) trash – maybe they’re to busy saving the world to sort out their own paper trash. These days though I’m only studying Chinese and reading Chinese history. Maybe I’ve finally put my dumpster diving days behind me (although I do still flitch the occasional 12-hour-old New York Times, but not out of trash cans because the chance of discovering a nice smear of pure-bred dog poop is just too high).

But this is all beside the point because I’m sitting in Starbuck’s watching people swim by sipping their coffee on the other side of the glass. There goes one with huge black Gucci sunglasses. She looks tropical.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Smell of Fame

Last week the museum where I work smelled like death. Actually it smelled like several thousand long-stemmed blood-red roses which one of my colleagues told me smelled like the funeral home which froze his dad so that they could wait to have the funeral until Saturday when people weren’t working. His dad died on a Tuesday. The museum smelled like a funeral on a Tuesday too. But he didn’t notice the stench between co-incidences.

Above the blood-red roses rested a twenty-foot gold-ribbed birdcage which was filled with 3 pea-cocks and 1 white pea-hen for celebrities like Lindsey Lohan and Cameron Diaz to gawk at. I wonder if they liked gawking instead of being gawked at. Of course directly in front of the cage was a giant blood-red carpet leading up the main steps which was surrounded by roaring photographers and flashing strobes. It sounded like an ancient ritual – some sort of hedonistic call for medium-rare blood-red meat.

When I helped the light technicians take down the lights in Jennifer Hudson’s “dressing room” which is actually a gallery displaying a panorama of the palace of Versailles near Paris, he told me he had to make the lights “sexy.” He thought that was funny, because he repeated it a few times. Jennifer Hudson has perfect pitch. Although all the flowers kept making me sneeze, I couldn’t help but stare at the spectacle of it all, the surface of things: jarring. The waiters dumped the remaining wine from the wine glasses into a big white plastic crate type thing. There was a lot of blood-redwine sloshing around in the bottom of that crate when they carted it over to kitchen to dump it out. We were allowed to keep the roses and the rosebushes if we wanted. They say that rosebushes especially the big ones that were climbing up accompanying white lattice trellis things are expensive. But they seemed like a hassle to carry home and feed. They got trashed just like everything else.

To read a pretty boring story about what they call the “Party of the Year” click here ; or to read about how the pea-hen escaped her cage click here

Saturday, May 05, 2007

“Wealth, Spirituality, and Anabaptist Community”

I enjoyed reading through your outline Merle, I think you make some important observations as to the purpose of wealth, power, relationships, and the importance of community. I especially liked your delineation between the “Master-Steward” model and the “Co-Heir with Jesus” model. I think the importance of this distinction is often overlooked and under-analyzed. Sons of God are no longer delivery boys, but part owners of our material reality, how wealth is distributed is our responsibility. Unlike what market libertarians would have us believe, the market should not be treated as if it was supernatural – as an (in)visible hand must be classified.

Wealth does bring power, access to opportunities. In a world in which those with the most money (mostly men, mostly white, mostly Western) forget that others are made in the image of God; that, we are not in fact gods, who can exist as ends in ourselves, we need reminders that we are consciously-embodied humans that need intimacy, trust, and deep love in order to live an un-simulated real life. The objectification of others, denying them power and respect, squelches the possibility for overcoming or living beyond our “natural” self-worshiping subject position. Money is an objectively valuable signifier, a symbol that can be exchanged for useful objects, but it is meant to serve the needs of conscious human subjects, not merely fix “problems” so we can live as we desire. The objectification of others and the worship of the self is what denies this service and, in turn, love for others.

Wealth does not descend directly from Above. Often it is a reward for honest labor; but it can also be the product of dishonesty. Thieves are not blessed into their wealth. They are just rich because of the way they can manipulate or ignore the rules (or are bad thieves). There is though some dangers in the activism of the “Co-heirs” model as well. If we mistake Christ for ourselves (as is often the case), we run the risk of adopting a neo-conservative Bushian strategy of bring liberty (of markets), freedom, and prosperity to the world because this is what the Global South secretly wants whether it knows it or not. Following Christ we must always start from a deeply relational position, not one in which we think we have all the answers and don’t need to carefully observe what is happening to and desired by the people we are reaching out to – and you say this well in point III.A.4. In this case, beggars should be choosers. The purpose of capital is not to make more capital exactly, but to serve the needs of people who help invent it. The purpose of wealth (if there is one) should not be a fulfillment of desire for power over others, but a means by which to rectify disparity and love your neighbor as yourself. The purpose of wealth is to de-center its power; give it away!

Cherry Blossom Festival!
My walk home from work in Central Park.