Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Now who's grandstanding?

After seeing how badly conservatives have bungled the Terri Schiavo situation, it was encouraging to see "the other side" make a questionable PR move of its own. Michael Schiavo has announced, before his wife is even dead, that he wants Terri to have an autopsy to prove once and for all her condition was irreversible.

So much for dying with dignity. I wonder if Jonathan Frakes is available to narrate this one.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Somebody's home

This post may ruin my reputation as a happy-go-lucky master of sarcasm and wit, but I don't care. It's been a pretty deep weekend.

Below is the text of an e-mail I sent to the pastor of the church Mrs. Z and I attended on Easter Sunday.


I grew up in a loving and extremely close-knit family. My father was an ordained music minister and associate pastor in the Nazarene church. My mother was his pianist, duet partner and colleague in ministry. Once I could sing, I filled out the Sykes Trio, and we spent many years ministering. When I was married, my wife took her place at my side, and our areas of church involvement increased exponentially.

But somewhere along the way, I began to realize that everything I was doing for the church — singing, working with the youth, having a hand in puppets, directing the drama group — all of these were becoming more work than worship and more obligation than celebration. Couple that with all the cumulative experience I had firsthand with the inner political workings of the church, and you had a blueprint for a Christian life that looked secure, but whose structural integrity was in question.

Then, in 1994, my dad — my hero, my pal and my role model — passed away suddenly of a heart attack. The shock wave of his death ripped my belief system apart. I still believed in God, but I found myself with so many conflicted and grief-saturated impressions of church that I did not want to go back. My mother, who loved and depended on her husband like few wives, fell into a sea of sorrow that would sweep her along for many years (and still pulls her under from time to time). Though we had many good memories of church, they were all inextricably tied to Dad, making them too painful to be cherished.

And so, we fell away from church attendance. Though we went to church a handful of times in the 10 years after my father’s death, we weren’t anything close to regular attendees. And though we all still held onto our faith in God and our salvation, more often than not, we were stumbling blindly along as best we could.

Then, this past Sunday, my wife and I came to First Christian Church to celebrate Easter. As we took our place in the second row, I looked around at the beautiful sanctuary and I looked within myself. I didn’t feel the overwhelming guilt of a prodigal son slinking back into the fold. Nor did I feel an electric charge knocking my socks off and proving to me unequivocally that this was The Church For Me. What I did feel was … home. I felt welcomed by the friendly congregation, but not overwhelmed by well-meaning church enthusiasts leaping over pews to be the first to recruit The Visitor into the flock.

The hymns were recognizable. The spirit was familiar. And when you started your Easter sermon marveling at The University of Illinois’ “Miracle Comeback” in the NCAA tournament, I found myself chuckling and breathing deeply the air of fellowship. It felt good. Really good.

Another thing that felt really good was knowing, after looking through the “About the Christian Church” booklet I picked up on the way into the sanctuary, that this was a congregation not weighed down by a dogma or an oppressive political structure.

I just wanted to write you and thank you for being there, five blocks away from our home, when we were ready. Thank you for your warmth. We’re coming back next Sunday, and my mom is coming with us this time. I’ve not been magically transformed into a super Christian by any stretch, but I’m happy to say the lights are on, and somebody’s home.

See you next Sunday.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Coming soon

I have a lot to write about ... er ... about which to write. Time is the enemy. However, in the proud tradition of Mz. Ouiser, I present a list of items on the blog docket:

  • Biscuits and bacon and booze: A St. Patrick's Day tale
  • The Schiavo case: Many questions, few answers
  • My wife, the historical anarchist
  • Beauty pageants for the disabled

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pinch me

I am deeply ashamed. It's St. Patrick's Day, and I'm not wearing green (or even orange for that matter). I feel I've betrayed my Irish ancestry.

I'll have to make up for it tonight by drinking and picking a fight with a relative.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The longest night of the year

For those readers outside central Illinois, you’ll have to forgive me for this provincial entry. While the first Monday following the second weekend in March may sound like a Nicean formula, it is actually the night on which the Springfield Muni Opera makes its casting calls for the coming season. This year, 315 auditionees (yours truly and Mrs. Z among them) will await news of their fate into the wee hours. This is a nightlong ordeal, as the first calls generally don’t go out until after 9 p.m. And when you consider that the staffs for four shows must make between 30 and 50 calls each, the most steadfast can hold out hope until two or three in the morning.

Of course, merely sitting and waiting by the phone for five hours can be a little nerve-racking. With that in mind, I’ve brainstormed a list of alternate activities auditionees can pursue to make the longest night more bearable.

Drink. Lots. This isn’t a terribly innovative idea; in fact, it’s somewhat of a tradition for certain veteran auditionees. This tip comes with a caveat, however: it’s important not to drink SO much that you can’t carry on a lucid conversation when the call comes (if it does). Take, for example, this hypothetical call Joe Thespian receives from an equally hypothetical director (let’s call her Laurie Ann O’Hootsmithen) of a similarly hypothetical show (say, Annie, Get Your Ragtime Music Beast).

LAO’H: Hello, this is the director of …

JOE: So’s yer old man!

LAO’H: I’m sorry, but the Muni isn’t doing The Music Man this year. Actually, I’m calling to offer you the role of …

JOE: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Watch a musical. Now this is sneaky. What better way to take your mind off getting cast in one of four musicals than to watch an entirely different musical? Mrs. Z and I have Brigadoon cued up and ready to go. I’m just waiting for the phone to ring at the very instant Harry utters the line, “The miracle is over!”

Take the kids to Chuck E. Cheese. Forget your troubles. Play games. Laugh at life. And if you’re childless, canned vegetables are a great substitute.

Watch 24. Then, imagine an episode in which Jack Bauer has to go undercover as a Muni auditionee as a matter of national security.

JACK: Dammit, Tony, I need you to upload the grapevine-hitch kick combo to my palm pilot NOW!

Think how free your summer will be if you don’t get cast. There will ever be a better time to jump on the Frisbee golf bandwagon. Sorry, I meant disc golf.

Did I mention drinking?

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The penitent blogger

Bad blogger. Bad, bad blogger.

So go my self-recriminations when I consider blogging colleagues like her and him, both of whom are dealing with as much as I, have somehow have found time to post more regularly.

With that in mind, I present the following quick takes on my life and the world in general:

  • Mrs. Zoom is in a period of mourning, as she will probably never be able to color her hair again. After a five-year hiatus since her last coloring incident (which ended in an allergic reaction), she again tried to color her hair black —this time with a “foolproof” ammonia-free dye. Just over 24 hour hours later, she was in the emergency room, her scalp and neck covered in welts and the pain in her back making breathing next to impossible. It really sucks when the suffering of loved ones causes you tangible pain. But it’s worth the trade-off to know there is another human being to whom you’re that close.

  • This whole democracy in the Middle East thing is starting to gain legs — first in Lebanon, then in Egypt. Bushies should not feel at liberty to back-slap yet by any means, but the president’s idealism is looking a little less fanciful by the day. Read more here.

  • Auditions for Springfield’s largest community theater venue, the Springfield Muni Opera, started last weekend and continue this weekend. Mrs. Z and I both auditioned. Look here in the next week or two for updates.

  • I’m really looking forward to St. Patrick’s Day this year. Not that I don’t always celebrate it with gusto, but I am fascinated to see the subpoena-enforced appearances of many of the central players in baseball’s steroid scandal. That hissing sound you’ll hear is the last of the air escaping from the doomed dirigible of steroid naiveté.

More later …
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