Friday, January 31, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 37

   I feel strongly that the Program is a place where some of us are broken pieces of metal, brought here to be melted down into swords for the Lord, while others are here to be files to sharpen us up.
   You see a lot of the people at the mission but not in the program love to have headsets, Bluetooths and sun glasses on all the time. They become a part of them as much as a pair of fancy gym shoes or a hair cut. Many of the times you can't hear any music and I suspect they might not even be hooked up... kind of like how the sunglasses indoors hide who you are, the ear buds make it so you can hide from what people might be saying to you. Wearing a Bluetooth all the time just looks silly. I mean, I had one and it was nice for when you're driving or doing dishes, but to have it in all the time seems ostentatious. Maybe they think they are Uhura, lol.
   Most of us work six days a week here, and while they are not hard jobs, I pine for the days of having the occasional three day weekends. It's good to keep the guys busy, give them a solid structure.
  The Chicago skyline is always a draw to my eye, if you walk twenty feet, the buildings change like the facets on a diamond. I look forward to exploring the other views of the city some day.
   The top dog on the Foosball table is Anthony, he has mad skills and can smack the ball so hard it sounds like it will go right through the back wall! Last night we had an epic game, passing, shooting, a blur of action going back and forth for what seemed like an hour and I was finally able to beat him for the first time! I had to laugh, at the end, we where so excited that instead of doing the fist bump right, or the high five type smack, we did the rock, scissors, paper mix up. I've seen that happen more than once here... so many guys that don't know eachother well enough to know which is used the most, a fist bump into a raised palm happens, lol.

Stories from the Mission... bit 36

   At the Pacific garden mission, before we do stages, all the guys gather in a small room across the hall first. We sit around the room in chairs talking, getting to know guys we might have met yet, then when everyone is there we pray in. To tell you the truth, I found it intimidating to pray out loud like that. We start with the guy nearest the door and work our way around till all have prayed. Trying to pray about things that the other guys haven't already mentioned isn't always easy. I look back on my day and find the lessons that God is teaching me and basically shared that with the guys. It has helped me in other ways, like learning about what the other guys pray for that I might not have thought of. Pastor Bower once told us that he never prays for himself, which made me pause. I do pray for others, but it's often self-centered, I admit. Some of the most Biblically knowledgeable guys are also the quietest prayers, I wonder if it's the humbleness? Before Praise and testimony on Saturdays we do pray in's also but it is more free form in who does it. It's always interesting to see who lights it up, especially when the newer guys take up the torch, but we are lucky to get more than 15 different guys to do it. Stage fright?
   On the third floor where the program men stay, there is a TV room/ game room right next to the workout room. One of the games is a Foosball table. I saw those tables all the time growing up and even knew some guys that had them in their apartments, but I never got good at them at all. When I first saw this one I figured I have about a year to practice every day, I'm going to learn how to play. I'd watch the guys that where good at it to pick up the techniques and then to get trounced by them regularly. I saw how the better guys wouldn't grab the control rods, but would put their palms flat vertically, finger tips just touching, and roll the rod with the hand in a downward motion to slam the ball down court. It took me months, playing just a half hour each night, but I got decent at it. That game was a good way to get to know guys that maybe you'd never cross paths with that much.
   One of those guys is Terrance, who works in office C. There came a day when I heard that his grandmother had passed away, and as much as we believe we will see them again, the human side of us takes a hit knowing we won't hear their voice again for a very long time. By this time I had down 8 of those red pen crosses and had just got done with one I was going to keep, but then the Spirit moved me. I walked over by his bunk and saw him laying in the fetal position, his eyes staring off into the distance and I didn't know what to say. So, I just set the Cross on the bed in front of him and walked away. I could see his eyes lock onto the red lines and today he thanked me for it. I thank the Lord that I had something to give. None of us have much here... my art is all I am really good at anyways. I've always like Terrance, he is level headed, quiet and reserved plus he doesn't always suspect what other people are doing is wrong.

Stories from the Mission... bit 35

   It's hard when you get to know and appreciate guys and then they leave. Steve was a medium build guy, extremely strong and had a funny way of saying things so he never got anyone mad at him. Square faced, wide eyed, he was always coming out with something that was at least kind of funny. Brandon was a tall 19 year old that had the widest, goofiest smile I have ever seen.He had self inflicted cuts all over his forearms and was never a gossip. He liked to grab my bald head like a bowling ball for some reason... and beam that big goofy grin at me, lol. I'm going to miss these guys and am belssed for having met them... I just wish I could describe them more.
   Politically, some people see a left or a right, Democrats or Republicans. Now, I only see an up or a down. Politicians want power and money, God wants us to love one another.
   Food. Breakfast ain't that great, but no body is starving and it's free. Once a week we get rice and eggs, plain rice and maybe a Sparrows eggs worth, no meat, or toast. Once a week it is two pancakes and some sausage with some syrup. Occasionally we get cold cereal, which I really like a lot. The main breakfast is a bowl of oat meal and pastries donated by Starbucks, which is pretty cool. Think about that for a second... around 600 homeless people a day eat breakfast donated by Starbucks.
   At lunch it's almost always soup and either baloney sandwiches or pizza donated by Pizza hut. Seems there are a lot of people that order pizza and never pick it up, so they put them in a big fridge and keep them till we pick them up.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Alley walking

   I had a camera back in highschool, but it was stolen from my car one day and that soured me on it for a while. Growing up in the suburbs, the city was a far off movie star that we visited once in  a while but never spent much time down there. Even in my partying days, the only times I was in the city I was on so many drugs it was all a blur. Once I ended up at Pacific Garden mission, the skyline became the mountain range I wanted to get to know better. I would go on-line and look up the names and facts about the taller peaks, read about the history of the L train tracks and how the city had grown. At first, with only a one hour walk, I could just get to the south west corner of the Loop itself before I had to turn back. Soon even that got to where I had seen most of the cool stuff in that area, so I started exploring in other directions. There is a red brick wall south of the mission on Canal street that was one of the first things I took photos of. It stands less than 5 feet from the road where all the salts from winter can be splashed up on it. Over the years they have been eating away at the bricks till it began to look like a canyon wall, smooth erosion and interesting shapes. Down that way on Lumber street is an area that had a huge influence on how I look at buildings. Most of the tallest ones are very crisp, perfectly straight, like guys in corporate suits. The stuff I found myself seeking was more ruffled, more lived in... almost organic in how it grew. I like buildings with character, strange curves and sections that where added at odd angles over the years. Soon I was seeking the alleys where the stuff not seen every day was just waiting to be found. I can deal with being around people, but I seek solitude more if possible, so the places where no one was felt welcoming. It was also back there I found the old sentries, beat up by the years and weather, but still standing strong. Things like old steel fire doors, L train supports with their rusty rivets bricked over windows. Who used to look through them and at what? How many times was the glass broken before they substituted them with bricks? Where I came from out in the burbs you never saw that, a sad cometary on the level of life in these areas. As a mechanic I am fascinated by the pipes and vents that stick out at random places, the old hoists above doors and stubby loading docks angled so that the trucks could make the turn in tight spaces.
   I now have a collection of over 500 doors, each with it's own personality, chosen by the owner to reflect theirs. People take old bits of artwork and instead of throwing them out they will stick them on the walls in alleys. I have seen strange objects that make you shake your head as they come into view. I may not take photos of people, but I capture what they wanted you to see. I've said hi to the occasional homeless guy digging through the trash looking for treasures, and it occurs to me I'm doing pretty much the same thing.
   As I walk up to an alley I glance around nonchalantly to see if anyone is watching where I am going. Many of the best things to take pictures of are in the first 20 feet of the street, but first I look down the length of the alley to see if there are any groups hanging out. I go early in the mornings when most of the trouble is still in bed passed out from the night before or are just getting high and watching cartoons. There are times when I am taking pictures that I am barely looking at the subject. Instead I have my ears wide open and am looking at my peripheral vision to catch any movement around me. If I was going to rob someone, that is when I would do it. Same thing for when walking under the L trains, be careful when they go over as any sounds of someone approaching will be masked. Between scanning for interesting things to take pictures of, scanning for lurkers and all the walking, you burn a lot of energy.
   Some of the stuff I take pictures of is mainly to document what probably won't be there in 20 years. Some stuff is due to a collectors gene, I have to snap it even if it is just filler. I love the colors of rust, the shades of patina and awesome variety of colors you can find in the patterns of peeling paint. I've heard old wood described as distressed, but I see where man will cut down a tree, shape it, paint it and think it's done. God comes along and says, no... let me show you the real beauty.
   I don't do any post processing, no photoshopping, no cropping or any HDR clown makeup for me. I keep the image honest to how I find it. The only 'tricks' I might I might say I use is to take at least 3 to 5 shots of the same thing and pick out the one that is best framed and not shaky. I have a pinched nerve in my neck that causes trembles in my hands. I've had that problem since I was a kid, so the other trick I use is a piece of plastic coat hanger that I grasp in my hand at the same time as my phone, placing the other end against my chest to stabilize it. Yes, I said phone. I use the same phone I got after I graduated the program at the Mission, a Galaxy s2. It works fine, I always have it on me, and it slips into my pocket easily. Part of me doesn't want a big bulky camera in an alley to make me a target for theft. It also seems that it takes too much thought to get ready for a picture meaning people miss many shots instead of going through it all. Many of the best old Blues singers had beat up guitars they knew very well that simply did the job fine, so why change?
   I head into alleys looking for the old, the rusty, the beat up junk and the odd to commiserate with them. I know the feeling.
Zac Lowing

Stories from the Mission... bit 34

   I got an unexpected notice to visit the clinic today, and it turns out to be great news! The optometrist, Dr. Joe came in and I'm getting new glasses within a month now! Joe come in every few months with a couple of helpers to give free of charge his time and glasses for the men that can't afford them. he first talks with all of us about how his ministry is reflected in the Word and prays with us. Then we each take turns going through the examinations and when I got to that big thing that looks like a mechanical Mardi Gras mask with a bunch of lenses, it felt so good to see clearly again that I wanted to stray there all day. How cool is it that this DR. Joe goes out of his way for us? This whole place runs on the goodness of Christians from all over the world that give out of trust in the Lord.
   Wow, so much has happened in the last 24 hours. That guy, 'MD' got caught breaking some rules, then was swearing at one of the Pastors. It wasn't his first time here, they give a lot of grace, but now he is gone. As much as I disliked him, the first thing I did was pray the Lord remove the demon from him, it must be a hard life not trusting. A little while after he was escorted out, J.J. brought over the study Bible he left behind to me as my name was on it already. That was nice of him, but I had one already, and with the bad memories attached, I didn't want that one. I asked around if anyone wanted one and Chris said he had been looking for exactly that type. He was as excited as a little kid, lol.
   J.J. has many names, is from Detroit, has the bunk just to my right and is one of those guys a lot of people just like. He can get angry and won't back down in a dispute, but is quick and sincere when people apologize. he has what could be called a jolly smile, does poetry and is very immaculate about his clothing and everything in his bunk area. Yeah, I dunno if he is gay, I just like him as a person and know that he has demons to fight like the rest of us.
   I saw Jason walk into the Billy Sunday room today, started my stop watch, and it took just 14 seconds to get someone mad at him. It's strange, he not an evil guy, it's not like he is mean or anything, he just loves to get entangled in other peoples issues. Oh, he is also a disheveled slob, never irons anything and wears his tie like a scarf. He has a weird addiction to chicken and for some weird reason I consider him a friend.
   My sister Tracey, her husband Ron and my nephew Rudy came out to visit me at the mission yesterday and it was so good to see them! Tracey and I both had tears in our eyes when we hugged. Guys from the program kept coming up to say hi with big smiles, it was wonderful. We spent some time in the courtyard so I could explain the place and my job and things. We got a tour and I couldn't help but laugh as Tracey named off all the plants in the green house. They took me out to a nice little restaurant near by called Epples for some good food. They even brought out a bunch of stuff from my condo that they grabbed before it was foreclosed. I now for the first time in a long time have a full compliment of underclothing, lol, and  winter jacket that will come in handy in a few months. She also gave me a really nice gift of two sets of markers. Back in Chicago Read I had used some beat up old markers to do some pointillism art and now I am looking forward to doing more with these. It was so good for the heart to see them again... I wish my life had been different, normal.
   And now for a wandering mind story... There is a strange forest preserve at Wolf road and 31st in the western suburbs. In the early 1920's they had started to build a subdivision there but ran out of money at some point. Now it is a prairie of sorts, with sidewalks and fire hydrants, but no roads or houses. It has a very eerie feeling to it. Now you can walk around there on old sidewalks, but when you come to an intersection, there might be a tree in the middle of it instead of cars. It would make for an awesome dream sequence in a movie. Speaking of dreams, not long after I got here I realized I had to find new ways to dream. No longer could I just lay my head down and think nasty thoughts about that cute girl I had seen earlier in the day. I want to change how I think about life, so I shouldn't wallow in wrong anymore.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 33

   I saw Guytano playing the piano again and earlier I saw a man playing Juan's guitar. Amazing how in my hands those things are just lumps of wood and metal, but in theirs they come alive.
   I got my first upper bunk mate, a long haired, strawberry blonde guy named Timothy. He is not the only Timothy here, so we call him Second Timothy, (kind of a Bible pun). He seems really laid back, like he is from California, but is really from Pittsburgh.
   Last Friday they changed the rules on the computers here from 6 months to 60 days. It's nice to be able to e-mail family again but in a way it only reminds me of how few of those voices I have heard since I messed up.
   I've been doing artwork with my pens of scrolls and curly cues like what you'd see on a fancy wrought iron fence. A few days ago I began to use that technique to make crosses that fit on a sheet of paper, and I give them away to the first person that see's them and likes them. For instance, I just spent an hour on a blue, flared ended one and just as soon as I got done with it, Eddy Appleton walked by my bunk, pointed at it and said,"I like that", in his own style. He smiled and walked away into the bathroom, so I got up and set it on his bunk as a surprise. It will be interesting to see his reaction. Not long after I wrote that he came over to my bunk with it in his hand and asked what was going on. I didn't understand at first, but in the world he was from, things didn't happen like that for no reason. He wanted to make sure he wasn't being set up, lol. I explained to him how I appreciated what he said and he told me again how he really likes it.
   I often spend time looking at the huge buildings in the Chicago skyline and being that I am a big fan of science fiction, I got the idea that would make for an interesting story. What if those big towers where really spaceships? Imagine the Sears, 311s Wacker, The Aeon, the Hancock, and the Trump launching to repel and alien force... lol.
   There is a kindly, very old gentleman that plays the Yamaha organ and a nice little gray haired lady that plays the piano for our Praise and testimony events on Saturday nights and I just found out that they are married. They both dress very formal, he of bent back and she is upright, prim and proper, always a smile to shine out. He has been playing for the Mission of over 60 years now! I can't imagine how wonderful a life them must have had, playing together in so many places. I can just see them having a pair of pianos at home even, lol. What a wonderful gift they are!
   I was thinking back last night to the day I came here. After a year of no sun, standing in the cold glare of light on that exposed L platform for the Blue line at Montrose, cars screaming by on ether side, I know I was being carried by Jesus because I know I didn't want to stand. If it had been up to me I would have fallen out. I wanted to quit, but some small, dim part of me way deep inside still trusted. You know that poster with the footprints in the sand? This was that time when I was being carried.
   Did my 5th pen cross today for Earl and am doing another for Yaseem so he can take a picture of it and then I can post it to my Facebook page. Earl is a cool guy and a really great artist! He does cartoon characters that are so professional it's astounding! The dude has tons of enthusiasm that is contagious and at times even looks like one of his drawings, lol.
   Chris just came by my bunk and we where talking about the book of Galatians when the subject of circumcisions came up. I was like "Wow, they talk about it a lot." Chris is like, "Yeah, it's all over in there." I'm like, "Can you imagine? They didn't have anesthesia to knock you out, they just..." and with that Chris put up his hand as if to say, NO more and walked away. A few seconds later he came back and said, "It makes me appreciate Jesus even more!" LOL
   I felt tired down to my soul today, even felt like giving up again. I slept in parts of both classes and now at 6:30 PM I can't sleep.
   Just got done reading 1st peter and it helped me a lot. 1 Pete 2:19-21 and 1 Pete 3:13 specifically. I'm realizing there where some certain things that led to my depression. On is that when I go over 30 minutes on the treadmill I have a real hard time recovering. I'm going back down to 2o minutes and slowly build back up. The second problem I have is with the guy whose Bible I accidentally took. 'MD" is unstable... heck, most of the guys say he is straight up nuts. Two times he has made veiled threats towards me, and when he does, it is spooky scarey. I decided to go see Pastor Green on it. He said he would have a talk with him, that everybody should feel safe in here and that nothing should get inn the way of getting closer to Jesus. I know part of my problem is not in trusting in the Lord enough to protect me, so I have been praying on it a lot, but when a muscle bound street thug glares at you... heh. Up at the farm with the big cats there was an old tiger named Sammy that was so well behaved that we would let him out in the barn for tour groups to pet him. I was on hand a dozen times for these special moments and Sammy knew me well. All the volunteers would get a spray bottle of some stuff called Arbatrol, a flea spray that was harmless to them, but they hated the smell and would back away at the sight of it. We would use the spray to control their movements, but on this one day Sammy looked up at me differently. This time his eyes locked in on me and he lined his body up... it suddenly went from happy go lucky Sammy to predator ready to pounce on me the prey. I had to spritz him several times before he shook his head and moved away... very unnerving. THAT was the same feeling I got around that guy, "MD".

Stories from the Mission... bit 32

   I finally got baptized on Sunday, the 25th of November, and yes, it was COLD! Pastor Bower took a van load of us and a few cars out to just south of Promontory point on the south side of Chicago. If you know anything about Chicago, you know that lake Michigan never warms up, and at the time of year is even colder. It was an overcast, rainy day, the sky was Chicago grey and the colors of the skyline where damp, the copper patinas on the Museum of science and industry and extra deep green. I wish I could describe the colors of the water... it looked warm, but we knew it wasn't. Pastor Bower, jovial as usual, led us with his gray hair, gray belly in a gray bathing suit with palm trees on it. A Hispanic lady named Belen and two others where also going in today, along with 20 other folks wearing winter jackets. I had on some shorts, black socks, a black bath robe and black dress shoes... yes, I was looking very Polish, or as they say down here, Poland representin! Taking off my shoes and socks, I could tell I hadn't planned this out that well. Stepping barefoot onto the cold wet sand was like getting a tattoo, you may not enjoy it, but you keep on going. My Mom would have loved this water. When we'd go on vacations and stay at motels with pools, she was always the first into the water and would tell us the temperature was fine. we would jump in and not be able to breathe till we got back out. This time there was no turning back for me, I was committed. Each fridged wave caused me to involuntarily make odd noises that I hoped weren't swear words, lol. We all let Pastor Bower bravely lead the way as we weren't about to go out any further than absolutely necessary. The waves battered him around, so I had to help him dip the others under. He'd tell them to use one hand to plug your nose and grab onto us with the other, but being so cold, hands where flailing, lol. When it came my turn I was really worried I'd pull him under, or worse yet, not get all the way under and have to do it again. Grab my nose, grab his arm, tilt waaay back, feel the liquid go over my eyes... and then I'm up and reborn into my new life! My first impulse is to get out as fast as I can, but instead I raise both hands and let out a yell of victory!
   Before hand, when I mentioned to the Pastor that the beaches would be closed by that date, he said with a smile of mischievousness, "Then there won't be any lifeguards to stop us". LOL, you just have to love the man! While he may loose his place in the Bible at times during class on occasion, I've never seen him sin. He has gone out of his way to help so many, at times risking his standing at the Mission. He has shown us that he is just as fallible as we are, and shown us what real love is.
   That night we went from Pastors church, Crawford, over to Cicero Bible church to hear a Bluegrass Gospel concert by the Durocher family. WOW! They have 8 kids from 5 years old to 25 and they all play instruments and sing. A base Cello,Cello, Mandolin, violin, guitars and a steel guitar The girl playing the Mandolin was energetic and crisp, the girl Sue playing the base had the most wonderful smile, all the way to her eyes, a spiritual happiness. The girl singing lead was a long necked beauty that sounded every bit as good as Norah Jones. Afterwords everyone went downstairs for some good old fashioned, greasy, square cut, Chicago style pizza, great stuff!
   Last Tuesday, Pastor Schoenberger gave me an ESV Bible as I told him I was having trouble reading the King James Version. ESV stands for English Standard Version and is written is a way that is more like the way we speak these days. I've heard many opinions on the various translations out there, but I see them to be like different pastors and preachers... just another way of learning. Afterwords, the wisdom comes to you from God. This ESV has a hard cover and has a nice thump to it, lol. I have been an avid book reader all my life, but normally I saved money and bought the pulp versions of books. I've really grown to appreciate the fine paper these Bibles are printed on. They have a nice ziiip when you thumb the corners too. I'm sure that some day I will have a tablet that will have every translation version of the Bible on it, but it just won't feel the same... or thump like a real deal Bible, lol.
   Right now I have four Bibles, the one that Conrad gave me along with a bag to carry it in. This is the one that I use in class and have highlighted every verse the pastors have ever discussed, along with small slash marks for every time they went back over that verse. It will be interesting to look in it years from now and see what they thought was important here. I have a bunch of notes, underlines and doodles in it. I also have a red Gideon's Bible I keep as a back up or in case a guy looses his. Then one day I saw a beat up study Bible that had been discarded, so I picked it up and plan on restoring. Study Bibles are really nice in that they have many notes that where carefully thought through, to help you understand verses.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 31

   The past two days have been a riot!I was requested this time by Mr. Fuller to help out in the mail room to help out with the flyers. Down there with me was an interesting group of guys. Yasseen that is a fun guy that can come off a hard guy at times, he is a graduate, Josh, who I used to bunk over but never got to know, and Robert, also known as mighty mouse, or as I call him, the Tasmanian angel. Josh is extremely knowledgeable about the Bible and many of the churches denominations and always sounds like he knows what he is talking about. He acts a bit like a Tony Soprano is that he is always having to get his stories straight with the guys on his crew or having shady conversations with the guys he hangs out with. he also loves to talk food. His stories about working in the prison kitchen are interesting, wheeling and dealing for things and selling squares. Robert would throw out a verse and Josh could quote it and be Biblically sound. Robert is cool, always has a great smile going, full of energy, sings with his whole body, arms bent and tucked into the body at the elbows and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible. All of this, plus his New Orleans accent, though he is not from there, makes him perfect for Office B, the new man intake, his eyes always squinty from the full of spirit smile. Since I have been at the mission I have been staying away from caffeine, but with this group, and because it was free down there, I was hitting it hard to try to keep up. The theological discussions where very educational to me, the jokes and banter almost constant between us, you really had to stay on your feet! At times it sounded like the food channel, Josh would steer it that way, being a self described fat boy. We would talk about restaurants around the city or what our moms used to make us. Discussions on slang or old TV shows (Yasseem actually liked "Mamas family", yech!). This went on for hours. At times it would fall off a bit, then someone would think of fresh meat to toss at a guy to see his reaction and we'd all have a chew on the subject. It was interesting to see the facets of thought, like a mental poker game between the four guys.
   The bunks here in the dorms have been used by many men for a long time, so the pads are pretty well worn out in the middle. I've been fixing mine up by pulling the pad off, laying a blanket down on the springs so the next layer, cardboard, wouldn't squeak after a week. By centering smallish pieces in the middle, you can counteract the general sag of the weak springs. Next came several layers of folded over blankets to add softness, and then the original pad.It's hard enough trying to sleep in that place without having old wires sticking into your hips. I never got it perfect, but if I laid just right through the valley, I got enough winks in. On occasion. If I was really wiped out.
   We got news of some new rules changes today that I like a lot. It used to be that you had to wait 6 months before you could use the computers, but Pastor Bower talked some sense into them and now it has been reduced to just 60 days!
   Things I miss from my old life: Big trees, stars, driving a car, honey naked ham, pretty women, music, pop corn, car magazines, fresh air, two days in a row off, one day with no schedule, walking barefoot, sitting by a lake, double stuffed Oreos, listening to talk radio, doing my art, being with family, carpets, color, the History channel, choosing what to eat, pistachios, steak, Italian sausage, swimming, not having to wear a tie, not having any constraints on how long I am reading, ice cream, buying new clothes (and I never thought I would ever say that) and petting pets. ~Love~
   Last nights stage was so cool! We had a guy come in and play the guitar for the hymns, his name is Ernie Hiens and he plays a bluesy kind of gospel. He did some free form solo stuff to warm up and I was in heaven.
   I get to do my testimony tonight at P and T, I've written a few things down but none of them seem right, so I might just bring a card with basic bullet points and wing it from there.
   We finally got two new guys on our work crew, so I have moved up enough to not have to clean toilets anymore. It's a tradition, new guys get the worst jobs and being I came in during the summer when the Program has the least guys, I was stuck for a while. So, basically, YAHOO! Mike is an 52 year old Italian/Irish guy without any even implied temper and Jeff, a 19 year old Black kid that is a lot more mature than Kurtis. I hope they hang in as they seem to be here for the right reasons, Jeff the more so. Don, our foreman, is really level headed, but seems like he wants to be too much of an inside man. It will be nice when he becomes the I.C. and takes over for 'Gadzookie', LOL.
   I weighed myself and I am down to 216 pounds, which is less than back when I hadn't eaten in 5 days. I was so weak back then, and now the Lord is slowly rebuilding me.
   So, last night I did my testimony on the main stage, lets see if I can remember it right. My name is Zac Lowing and I am from Englewood! Most of the audience that has been at the mission knows the traditions, and once they hear where you are from, they yell out what side of town it is, so they all shout, "SOUUUTH SIDE". I wait a few seconds, seeing guys looking at eachother that knew me in supprise, and then I go on saying "No, no no, I'm really from the suburb of Elk Grove Village, ya know, west side!", to which all the guys started laughing and hitting each-others shoulders in a knowing way. I went on, "We had a nice house, a good family and a tree house in the back yard, but I screwed up, drinking and doing drugs. In the last few years I had a good job, a condo and stuff and I got saved about 20 years ago, or so I thought, as the fruits of my life didn't show it. I was still living with a girl, I was still smoking, I was still doing drugs and I was still getting drunk. Now, I've been a mechanic all my life and I can fix all kinds of things, but I can't fix me. You know why? TOO MANY 'I's! God has to fix me! God is the ultimate artist, you can see it in his sun rises and his sun sets, but his best work I can see is right here in the mission, in the growth I see in the guys here, (pointing to the women now) in the smiles on your faces! by all rights, according to the rest of the world, we shouldn't be happy, but we are! This is an amazing place! I've been to the Art institute, and they have NOTHING on this place! (I could see all kinds of peoples cheering me on now). "Ya know, I grew up with three sisters, but now I have 80 brothers! (everybody is clapping). "Oh, by the way... I need your prayers that I don't catch pneumonia, Pastor Bower is going to baptize me in lake Michigan soon, and it is really cold!" lol. ~ I'm sure I missed a few things in retelling it now, it's all kind of a blur... I remember waving my arms around, gesturing at things and the audience yelling and cheering.
Thank you Lord!

Stories from the Mission... bit 30

   Ugh... yesterday was rough, this will be hard to write. My I.C., Ed, rubbed me the wrong way and started yelling at me which ticked me off, but we worked it out. Just not a good way to start a day. After work I was going to hit the treadmill when I noticed my luggage back was missing. Two guys had left the program and one of them was Scott who had asked me  to look for a luggage bag the day before. He had done some shady stuff before, so in my anger I blamed him. Then, after I had calmed down, I noticed he had left his pillows, blankets and stuff, he was long gone, so I looked through it to see if there was anything I needed. In the pile was a beautiful study Bible! I have been wanting one for a long time, so I grabbed it. The first thing I did was highlight my favorite verse, Ruth 2:12. A while later a new guy showed up... seems his bunk is where Scott was. Poking through the pile on his bunk, he said, "Hey, where is my Bible?" Yeah. My heart sank as he described it. I said I was sorry and reached up to my shelf and got it for him, I felt so bad. I tried to explain it to him, but the fact was, I had screwed up. Things like this have happened all throughout my life, I felt like ending it. My new neighbor that would be living less than 5 feet from me, was a large, solid block of street gang member, was mad at me. I've been around enough actual tigers to know that look when a predator locks in on you as a target. I went down to office C to talk with Pastor Green about it and all the guys in the office told me not to beat myself up over it, but I couldn't help but feel like I had screwed up my life situation once again. Carl, the man in charge of office C, went in and explained it to Pastor Green. I sat on the bench outside, staring down and contemplating what I was going to do... would I have to leave the program, or should I stay and stand the real chance of violence with a guy that has a lot more experience than me at it? Then out walked Pastor Sampson Green, all 6'10", 330+pounds walked out to see me directly. I explained the situation once again, and he simply put his huge hand out to me and said, "Get up." So I stood up weakly and he said, "What you need is a hug." The next thing I knew I was engulfed by this huge mans arms, his chin well over my head, my glasses jammed off to one side! My right arm patted his back, while my left arm just stuck straight out. What an unforgettable site. He let me know he would look into the situation and not to worry, we prayed and I went back upstairs.
   Hard to believe just 24 hours have passed! In the last two days Scott and Eric have left the program and Dave, Joseph, Johnny, mark, big Nate, Vince and Cleveland have moved out of dorm 3026 to 3014. Those where all the main guys I talked with and looked up to, but that is the nature of the program, stay in long enough and you move up and on to other dorms. A nice thing about it is a bunch of lower bunks opened up and I was able to move from that dour situation I had been in to Cleveland's old bunk, 43B. It is a lower bunk across from the clothes rack which means a bit more privacy and not having a guy across from me to bump into all the time and is a little bit quieter area. Noise was always an issue with me in the Mission. I grew up in the quiet suburbs and one of my favorite places to go read my book was in a tree house in our back yards Weeping willow with just the sound of wind outside. These dorms are wall-less communities of many gregarious guys and it only gets actually quiet between 11PM and 4PM. Even then, it is filled with loud snoring and the occasional night terrors from new guys coming down off drug addictions. I made a shelf out of scrap to hang above where my feet to hold my books and it feels nice. Now there is a strange thought... leaving a 6 foot bunk that had felt like home for two and a half months and even stranger to be all excited about another 6 foot bunk. They are the same size as a coffin...
   I am up to 20 minutes at 3.3 Mph on the treadmill and did three sets at 135 pounds on the bench. I am still so weak.
   I've been thinking on the Biblical idea of Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart". I've heard discussion on what each part is and what it means. To me they are simply the top and bottom of the same thing.The top is of God, the spirit, and the bottom is of us, the soul.
   We have two classes a day that are basically sermons, with the early class at 8AM being divided into two halves, the first by Pastor Bower and the second by Pastor Green. Those are Monday through Friday while on Saturday we have Praise and testimony where it's mainly Pastor Phil that preaches and then on Sunday we go to one of 7 churches in the city. Add in the average of 4 stages a week that are also sermons by guest preachers and that comes out to well over 1,000 sermons a year! When you consider that most church goers only go on Sundays, we are getting the equivalent of 21 years of church knowledge concentrated into just a one year period. Amazing and free, you just have to give up everything.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 29

   I went down to stage an hour early last night and heard someone playing the piano really well. It's a man named Guytano and he works down in the radio show area. I sit in the front row with an overnighter to listen appreciatively. That man I was enjoying it with was an old white guy with long gray hair, wearing a suit with a cane in front of him to rest both hands on the top. We sit quietly as Guytano manipulates the keys, his fingers are often so far in that they are between the black ones almost touching the wall. The guy is good and from what I've heard he has taught himself to play in just the last year here at the mission.
   During stage last night I saw the cutest thing, a little boy of maybe 6 years old stood up and thanked God for his daddy! Here is a man taking care of two young sons till they can get a place to stay, in a homeless shelter. To most people that would be very depressing, but to this child, he loves his Daddy. There are two fathers with kids here right now and the other is from south Africa and his eyes are almost a silver color, very interesting. Curious enough, while on the subject of eyes, there are three guys in the program right now that only have one. Jason lost an eye during surgery for a tumor. Hmmmm, Jason... I have an almost tolerate/hate thing with him. He is irritating, always getting entangled in other peoples problems with bad consequences and often does not think through what he blurts out. I do respect the way that when he does tick people off that he can stand in the face of withering criticism without crumbling. I'm trying to help him learn, and for some reason he accepts my advice at times, but it's like he just can't help it. This one day he got someone really really riled up, so I told him that if he doesn't want to get kicked in the groin all the time, quit walking around like a bowlegged cowboy, lol. trouble will find you easy enough, don't go looking for it.
   Now there used to be a guy here by the name of Wilbur that was a chubby, round faced southern boy from Nashville. he was a real character that annoyed the hell out of people at times, but he sure could pray out loud well. He looked like what they talk about when you think of a revival pastor in the 1890s, his white face all sweaty in a too tight collar. he liked to hang out with Mark a lot, a very urban, gay black man. I would kid with them and say they should be in a new sitcom, the Very odd couple, lol. One day in morning class, Pastor Bower was answering questions. Wilbur and Jason seem to ask the weirdest ones and Pastor happened to notice something about the two guys. He had them both stand up and sure enough, Wilbur's tie was so long it hung down to his crotch and Jason's tie was barely 5 inches long! Pastor got them both to walk over to a door along the wall so he could get a picture of them next to eachother. Pastor Bower is endearing that way.
   It's very frustrating... my eyesight is getting worse. It's getting hard to read the small print of my Bible in the dorm, it's not like they have really powerful lights in there. I find them watering a lot, but what can I do? (Writting from 2014, I still have eye problems).
   Old story time... when I was around 13 years of age, my neighbor Jense and I built an elevator in my weeping willow tree. No, really. let me explain. My Dad loved to go antiquing and we would all pile in the car to go with. Once he brought us to an old barn that he had heard they where going to tear down, so he seeing what was still left to grab. He salvaged a couple of blocks and tackles from a rafter way up high in the peak of the barn and took them home with us. One night I was reading one of our encyclopedias and came across an article on how elevators work. It's really pretty simple at the basic level and it got me thinking. The next day I grabbed the blocks, which are basically big pullies, some ropes, weights and an old lawn chair. Climbing up into the tree, we positioned the two blocks about 10 feet apart well up high. Then I rigged the chair at four points and led that rope up through the first block and over and down from the second block. At the end of that far end of the rope we tide on  about 80 pounds of bench weights. Then we tired another rope to the chair and led that straight up and back down to the chair. The weights at the far end made a 110 pound kid effectively only weigh 30 pounds via the counter-weighting, so by sitting in the chair and pulling on the second rope, you could lift yourself all the way up into the tree. We had to rig a hook into the ground to anchor the chair so you could get out of it without it sling shooting up into the air. Eventually we decided to move it to the tree in Jences yard as it was much bigger. We eliminated the chair and extra rope and tide a thick dowel rod to the end of the rope. The counterweights still made us weigh a lot less, so we could grab the rod and jump high into the air like the Six million dollar man, Steve Austin! It was the coolest rope swing I have ever played on, running along, swinging out wide and reeling high into the branches only to float back down softly. Heh... I miss those days...

Stories from the Mission... bit 28

 Brother McCoy is a nice 59 year old Black gentleman of a bright conviction of the good word. He has almost no base to his voice, but he speaks absolutely boldly and clear, a confident man of Christ. 96% of the time, nothing can throw him off, his eyes expressing the smile that is always ready to show forth. He likes my sense of humor, so I liked him right off. When you first get to the Program, they give you a basic blue paperback Bible that most guys trade in eventually on bigger, fancier ones. Not Brother McCoy, he still has that original one, but the cover is very faded from hours and hours of handling, the spine bent so far back it touches itself due to all the thousand bookmarks. He walks with a stiff lean towards his destination, the Bible forever clutched in his hand, his short cropped grey hair and green badge strap signature colors.
   Dave and I where reading the Bible and I noticed he had read one word wrong and that has changed the whole meaning of the verse. It is a lot like math in that way, you have to learn how to read it to get it. It used to be that I could never comprehend how a person could study the Bible for years, now I'm getting it. (Writing now from 2014, I have an app on my phone called My sword that has 3 versions of the Bible, plus a way of showing it with numbers after most of the words that you can click on to get translations.) Many of the Pastors here can pull a half hour out of one verse, helping you see the connections to so many things in life. One of my favorites, as kind of a joke, is how satan took everything from Job, BUT his wife, to make it harder on him, lol. Ugh, Job went through so much, not because he did anything wrong, but to be tested. His friends didn't understand either, they kept ripping on him instead of supporting him. Humans haven't changed much since.
   On my one hour walk yesterday I made it almost to the lake on Roosevelt (2014 here saying, no, there is a lot of walk ways that wind around beyond there yet, lol, another half hour walk at least.) One of the tall buildings I can see from the mission that I walked by there is called 'The Colombian", a slender, red hued tower on the corners of Roosevelt and Michigan avenues. They had large signs advertising condos for sale, a one bedroom starts at $300,000 and the three bedrooms start at $700,000, wow! So many absolutely wealthy people stacked up 70 floors high, how do I get them to see my art? It hit 85 degrees on that walk, and yet I still saw homeless guys wearing winter jackets... weird.
   We had Kent Hall as the afternoon class teacher today and he can be funny! he uses a lot of sayings from his previous life like Stinkin thinkin and Just keeping it real. He'd tell stories about things that messed up his life before to show how dumb we all can be, telling us how he's been there and over come it due to God. I think he has been a big influence on me in that regard. His eyes are always open wide and tend to wiggle a bit when he locks in on people. He makes for a great master of ceremonies on Saturdays praise and testimony, his arms spread out wide to guide people through the songs. I'd almost call him bigger than life, but I have been in too many tight classrooms in front of that big gun of a voice to doubt he is real. I often see him in passing in the hallways, a cell phone held to his solidly, like a military salute.
   Every Tuesday now I have counseling meetings with Pastor Schoenberger. We pray in and discuss how I am moving forward on things. I told him today about a turbo charger idea that would be hooked up to a generator/motor to eliminate turbo lag and generate energy for a hybrid system also. Pastor Schoenberger is a fairly intense guy, his eyes clear, never wandering, and his head perpetually tilted to one side. He is on fire for the Lord and likes to spend periods of time preaching in a normal voice, followed by crescendos of emphasis, occasionally pounding on things to wake people up. An ex-Navy man, he is devout to the Lord, much reading of scripture at each of our meetings is a must. he smiles a lot and I am sure he is deeply happy.
   Around 6:30 AM our work crew gathers in the auditorium to clean up and straighten the chairs after the overnighters get the morning service and head off to eat breakfast. Security, using radios, call back and forth to see if the cafeteria is ready for the guys to go down.  Carl, one of the guards, sits on the stage, his elbows on the piano, leaning forward, talks with the 450+ men. Mr. Friedman will also come in and they don't so much as preach, but relate in a street smarts kind of way, the rules that make things smoother for everybody beyond the walls of the mission. Like don't do things to bother the local businesses, or the people in the stores. They have cameras and contact us when y'all do stupid. He warns them of the flash mobs and to not sit down on the sidewalks near the mission. Dude says, "It was just one guy", Carl says, "No, I saw a group of you sitting in a circle like you had your own campfire going." Another dude pipes up, "Yeah, be sure to bring your own chair next time." Carl, always ready, replies, "You better make that chair your bed then 'cause you won't be sleeping here NO MO!" LOL, everyone gets a laugh out of it. At times one of them might have a bus pass to give out, at others they will take about how the guys should talk with their families or look for jobs. Most all of the guys working at the mission know what it is like, they first lived the life also. Eventually a garbled voice on the radio will tell them the way is clear and they Carl will start releasing a row at a time to walk down to the cafeteria in a controlled way. So many souls, living not how they thought it would be...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

An artistic statement

An artist statement by Zac Lowing

Work of Meta-Art in the Age of Symbiotic Reproduction

The flux creates, the chaos profligates. In the synoptic reality, art objects are reproductions of the imaginations of the flux -- a flux that uses the chaos as a zeitgeist to deconstruct ideas, patterns, and emotions. With the synergy of the electronic environment, the flux is superseding a point where it will be free from the chaos to consume immersions into the machinations of the delphic reality. Work of Meta-Art in the Age of Symbiotic Reproduction contains 10 minimal dhtml engines (also refered to as "memes") that enable the user to make cutting audio/visual compositions.

 Measuring chains, constructing realities,putting into place forms'a matrix of illusion and disillusion,a strange attracting force
so that a seduced reality will be able to spontaneously feed on it.

Zac Lowing's work investigates the nuances of vibrations through the use of jumpcut motion and close-ups which emphasize the Symbiotic nature of digital media. Lowing explores abstract and hyper scenery as motifs to describe the idea of infinite reality. Using grinning loops, vectors, and allegorical images as patterns, Lowing creates meditative environments which suggest the expansion of space...

As an “artrepreneur”,a chaos of sticks unloaded the emotional detours that arise from over developed right hemispheres of our brain so creativity is not in short supply. A conscious drive and awareness,fully energetic and harmonious with visual ideas through the process, and with no relationship to time, the history of its surface involves connections on many levels of being exile, transplantation and shifts in philosophical paradigms.

  Functional utility is non-specific, creating an inherent sense involved in their own passionate urge, what the poet Seamus Heaney once called “the music of what happens.” Of course it could be the combination, I orchestrate these sculptures by accurately, rich in the minerals that promote the growth of life stream!

 The unfolding forms of design, color blending, temperature analysis, fusing, slumping, manipulating, ways of communicating the ancient codes
. Things just flow through our hands. The variations you see in the pieces come from the variations in the temperature outside or even the humidity can effect the outcome. select new thematic content in wildly different contexts, their associations and the difference of contextual perception, slavishly delving into quite deeply demonstrates an Imagist influence.

   As seen through a lava lamp, maintaining the primacy of the visual without be trapped by the questions; the shift to hypo-real lifestyles or do I revel in the visceral experience of viscosity and gravity?

   To those of you who read the above and understood any of it, wow. I did this back in 2009 by doing a Google search on artists statements, cut bits of pieces here and there from a bunch of them and randomly put it back together as this... thing. LOL.

Zac Lowing

Friday, January 24, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 27

   Yesterday Scott, the guy that has been living on the bunk across from me, said he is leaving in a week. Said he has a job lined up at a furniture factory, so I told him about a desk idea I have. We discussed it for a while and I drew up the design and gave it to him. As I handed it to him, I looked him in the eyes and said, "Make jobs with this." You see, I have so many ideas, I just have no idea on how to get them further than just a thought. If anyone can do good with them, it's better than them just dying with me.
   I just noticed yesterday that you can see Soldier filed, home of the Chicago Bears from my bunk. Ok, it's just a part of that new upper section that looks like a silver UFO, between two buildings, about a mile away... it's still cool. 25 years ago I was at both playoff games before they went to the Superbowl. Extremely cold, I was so drunk and stoned, that is about all I can remember of it, that it was extremely cold. I never thought I would be living so close back then.
   At a noon stage today I saw a guy sleeping in his seat in the auditorium. I had to look twice as it looked like he had a knife sticking out of his head and that he was falling over dead. Turns out it was just a hair pick, lol, and he was nodding off. One of the overnight guests has dirty, matted dred locks that he keeps three combs in for some reason. None of us can figure out why, there is no way he can't possibly comb it. Then there is the tall dude. He tends to slump in his seat so he doesn't tower over the other guys, but you can see how long his arms and legs are. One time he dropped a pen on the ground and all he did was reach down to pick it up without leaning over at all! I've seen guys sleeping all kinds of ways... some pull their shirt necks right up over their heads while others let their heads loll back and forth in what must be a very fitful sleep.
   Before our service on Saturday-night all the guys gather in their best suits in the classroom across the hall from the auditorium. There is never a pastor in there, but we all know what to do. At first the guys all talk and laugh, but then as if on cue, they settle down and begin to pray one by one. Truth be told, some can be a bit over the top, but everybody has their own style of praise. Guys take turns praying out loud, giving thanks and relating things learned. Some guys have been here a while and pray with confidence, others start slowly and quietly, at times stumbling. Then you have the prayer warriors, well rehearsed and smoothly building to crescendos. The ones not praying will sound off in support with loud claps of ahmens and thank you Jesus! That actually threw me off the first time I prayed corporeally in there. I'm still kind of the stumbling style right now, but I hope to get better.
   Hmmm, tomorrow is 9/11, maybe I should write something... maybe not. I've noticed one of the biggest hurdles to writing is how long it can take. I've timed myself a few times and it takes about 10 to 15 minuets a page to write them down. (As I sit here at my laptop in 2014, it takes at least an hour to two hours per bit). I get lots of ideas during the day that drift off in the hours before I can grab paper and pen. Many of the other stories are ones I have related before verbally, but telling a tale and committing it to paper, simply does not flow as easy.
   Little Ed is a peacock, clothes are his life. He struts around saying things like 'I'm Lil pimp", or calling guys "my n*****" or telling everyone he is "representing Englewood". Sometimes he has trouble speaking and just says "IIeah". All his clothes have to be perfectly ironed, and his many shoes polished and clean. Like a guy with a fancy car, he will hang his suit up on a bunk, stand back, put his hand on his chin and admire them. he can be annoying as hell, repeating himself a lot, talking about things that no one cares about loudly... but he is trying.
   I was out on the deck at 6am to pray and grab some 'fresh' air. Looking to the east at the 60 story condos and admiring what man has built, I saw a cloud about 3 fingers above the horizon. It started somewhere over lake Michigan and stretched deep into southern Illinois. I figured that at that distance it had to be at least 200 miles long. If man had built it with an elevator from one end to the other, it would take an hour at 200 mph to get across! How puny is man eh? Our best efforts are just one glop of sand on another at the beach.

Stories from the Mission... bit 26

   And now Dameon is gone from the Mission. I heard something about sneaking 6 pies up to the dorm and everyone knows no food is allowed on the third floor. Too great of a chance for cockroaches in the cramped living spaces, so you just don't do it. Now I'm hearing blame running around about so and so, instead of the ones just admitting guilt. If they hadn't been playing with the rules, none of this would have happened. This isn't third grade, it is an adult Bible program, grow up already.
   Here at the Mission we get a lot of guests and volunteers, some of them being the Amish. Now, I couldn't live that life, I like cars and computers too much, but I do admire them. It might be easier to stay on the right path if you have that many less temptations fed straight into my house. The fresh air of the country sounds so nice right now compared to the stuff that's been exhaled by the guys near me.
   I've mentioned the guys singing before and there is another part that I find fascinating. we might finish a song before class and a person will pray us in and instead of moving on to the next thing, one guy will sing the chorus once again. Then another will join in, and it builds till the whole  room is echoing with this encore performance.
   (Hmmmm... writing this 1/22/14. I have stuff in my notes that I really have to think about putting out in the public eye.)
   As I sit writing this on my bunk in dorm 3026, the sun is going down to my left and the steady stream of cars on the raised Dan Ryan expressway is causing the light to flicker. When you don't have a TV distracting you, you see a lot more sun events and learn to appreciate them more.
   The body is just a support system for the living soul. In other news, Dameon is back, things have been forgiven. In my workouts I've cut back to just 15 minutes at 3.3 MPH. I'll do this for a week, the step up to 20 minutes.  My support systems was worse off then I thought. I take notes from class and do some memorization on the treadmill. They have some really nice equipment that had been donated here, and the view as you walk is looking north at the Chicago Loop.
   Oh, I didn't get baptised the other day as it was only 51 degrees and the waves in lake Michigan where over 5 foot! I saw guys surfing out there, which I didn't even know you could do that here. The break water is made up of big chunky boulders and the waves where hitting between them so hard that they where sending up geysers of water at least 20 feet high! In other spots the water was hitting a sea wall like a chain explosion in series for hundreds of feet long. We decided to postpone it all for a week. I did enjoy getting out of the mission and met a bunch of new people. The trees at promontory point park all seem to have their branches pushed to one side from the constant south east winds. Across the road is the Museum of Science and industry... such a reminder of my childhood, the field trips we used to take there. I miss those days.
   On the drive down, around 3500 south, we saw a 6 point buck feeding on the green way by the railroad. It was on the small size, but still shocking for me to see this far into the Chicago maze of metal and men. To the others in the van, having lived in the city so long, it's almost like the deer didn't even register to them at all.
   The weather has gone from decent to freezing so now we have an influx of new guys to the program that someone refereed to as the 'old and cold'. It used to be there was a lot of grey areas in society, jobs you could get that didn't demand constant perfection. Kind of like the old Mom and Pop stores everyone misses now that had the quaint flaws, you now have a bunch of soulless McDonalds to choose from.
   Twice now I have been part of a very powerful prayer circle. The first time a guy came into the classroom on the verge of tears asking us to pray for his baby sister. As he explained what was going on, you could feel the emotion in his voice. We listened to him as other guys consoled him and yelled out "it's ok brother", "we are with you". Sitting near him I felt compelled to reach out and grab his hand... and presently felt other hands on my back... a reinforcing chain formed like a web of connectedness across the room to support him. Wow! The next time happened in the auditorium, when I guy stood up in class to tell of how God has been good to him, he related how much he misses the kids he hadn't seen in so long due to his drug usage. This time I was on the outer edges of the circle of concerned brothers reaching in, heads bowed in prayer. In a world of cols selfishness, these men came from a hundred points on a compass, let down all the walls of street tough and humbled themselves before God to help a man they may have never met.
   Yes, I have seen miracles.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 25

   From the time I had spent as a hermit my body had atrophied, so I was beat for three days after my last workout. Now I've cut back to just 15 minutes on the tread mill alone till I get the basics back up to strength. If I feel ok tomorrow, I will slowly step it back up to a half hour over the next few weeks and only then will I start doing weights again.
   I've been doing some doodling art, strange, complicated stuff with a pen. I showed one to Curtis and he liked it so much that he asked me if he could copy it. Sure, why not? The kid reminds me of a cat I used to have, running around and doing odd things.
   I just realized that I am getting Baptized for the third time in 2 days. I know it says you only need to do it once in the Bible, but to me, you really should know what it means when you do it. I was Baptized as a baby in a Catholic ceremony, and then about 20 years ago I was Baptized by Bill Hybels himself in the lake next to the Willow Lake church. Bill was the spiritual adviser to Bill Clinton and the founder of one of the biggest churches in the United States. Looking back, my fruits really didn't indicate that I had truly believed. I was still smoking, getting drunk and stoned, not to mention all the girls out of wedlock and worse. Now, I have put those things behind me, I am a new creature, so I need to be, or should I say, I need to have a real Baptism. It is a symbolic death and burial of my old life under the water to rise again into my new life in Christ. The last time was at a mega church bigger than a shopping mall, this time will be through a small humble church on the south side of Chicago. I like pastor Bower more than Bill anyways, lol.
   Curtis just told me that when he was a kid he found himself between a heater and an electrical outlet, holding his Dads car keys. He had tried to put them into the outlet, then bounced back and forth a few times. I started laughing and said, "That explains a lot!" LOL.
   Ok, I am surprised I had never written this story down before, so here goes. Back in the winter of '96 I was a volunteer at an exotic animal sanctuary in southern Wisconsin. I helped build cages, clean them out and gave tours, I loved be so close to Tigers and such. We had refurbished the room above the surgery ward in an old corn crib building for the volunteers to sleep in if they came out to help over a week end. It was primitive, but we made do, we even dragged up an old wood burning stove to make it livable in the cold weather of that winter. The owners, E.J. and Jill where having marital problems and decided to separate. I knew E.J. liked to reload ammo, but it wasn't till I helped him move out that I saw the scope of it. It took us all day just to get his guns and ammo out of the farm house. That was a long day... and it was going to get longer. Around midnight I'm trying to sleep in the loft above the room we had put together in the corn crib. Corey, E.J.s son had somehow messed up the wood burning stove, smoking me out of the rafters. I climb down, weary eyed and sit exhausted on a beat up old couch across from where Corey was fixing the stove. Suddenly we hear heavy footsteps coming up the stairs and through the door bursts an infuriated E.J. he is a 350 pound, slightly psychotic ex-cop, his eyes are bulging out and he is mad! Following right behind him is a man I recognize as the guy that was his partner on the force, who looks at me and sits very close to me for some reason. E.J. starts yelling at his son, Corey, "Is there something you want to tell me? Is there something you've been keeping from me about your mom?" He keeps on grilling him at the top of his lungs and the story slowly comes out. Jill had been at the towns Pizza hut with her new boyfriend, kissing him while Corey was there and he never told his father. E.J. felt betrayed by his son and by the way he was yelling, sounded like he was going to kill him. I had a front row seat. I slowly looked up to where I had been sleeping in the rafters, thinking about how my guns where all up there. I now knew why E.J.s partner had sat between me and the ladder and was now watching me closely. As he kept berating his son at the top of his lungs it dawned on me that I was going to die. I simply looked up and prayed to God, "I am in your hands my Lord, do with me as you will." A calm came across me. After what seemed like an hour E.J. calmed down and presently I saw him turn towards me. Zeroing in, he took a few short steps and belted out, "Well, she has been f****ing everyone else, I suppose I have to ask YOU! HAVE YOU BEEN F***ING MY WIFE TOO?" I just kind of weakly sat there and said "" He accepted it and turned away as I suppressed the urge to say that she really isn't my type anyways, lol.
   By two in the morning they where gone and I was thoroughly physically and emotionally whipped out. I couldn't stay and get back to sleep again, so I packed up and drove the hour and a half back home, the events of that night rattling around in my brain the whole way. That was a long drive in stunned silence.
  About six months later I backed my pick up truck along side the gate to the garden at the farm. Under the tarp in the back I had my fully loaded shotgun and AK laying where I could readily reach them. Jill and that there boyfriend where getting married in the garden that very day and everyone that was in the inner circle knew what that might mean. The wedding party all where packing under our nice suits and dresses and now I can say that I have really been to a kind of shotgun wedding.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 24

    At the 3:00 class, Pastor Schoenberger was discussing your God given gifts. He talked on how he was a mechanic in the Navy working on the AC systems on an aircraft carrier, so I approached him after the class. I described several of my invention ideas (The fridge vent, the sea water desalination system that uses almost no power and the no spotter needed work out bench). He liked them and said he would try to find a strong Christian along the lines of an inventor to help me out. He has always struck me as a deep Christian and probably the only reason I never got to know him better before is he is what they call a shouter, lol. For as loud as he can get, smacking the desk at times, guys still fall asleep at times. Then again, I've seen people sleep through anything here. I used to wonder why Pastors didn't get madder about it. Then one day there was a new guy that was obviously arrogant about everything and fancied himself a hood. He was sitting in the front row, where all the new guys have to be, and he started holding up a blank sheet of paper as if to block his view of the Pastor. As the pastor walked back and forth preaching, this schlump would track the pastor with that paper and I was getting mad, and so where other guys in the room. It dawned on me that the little sheet of paper wasn't just blocking his view, it had caused me and other to miss an entire lesson! The reality was that he was not there to learn, satan had sent him in to disrupt. It kind of backfired though... I learned a lot that day. Everything here is a test. God will allow satan to send in minions here to help us grow. Now I wonder how many more are here, or are they just diamonds in the rough?
   Watching the sunrise from my bunk... a building blocks it and I can tell how high it is by the color of the sky. The brightness a parenthesis near the top right edge of a condo, and now to confirm it comes a bit of the blazing bright disk. I recall ages ago, along a far distant shore, on the west coast of Florida, watching the sun depart. My sister Tracy and I as kids being told by an older soul to squat down on the sand and get ready to jump. We watch as the last bit of sun disappeared over the distant horizon, to lose it for a split second and then to spring up as high as we could to get a last tiny view of orange glow. We overcame the speed of the planet, yet a small child, in amazement! I've become that older soul a few times to see that same wonderment in young faces. It's nice to know that ripple of wisdom passed through me into the future along some other far off shores... blessings abound.
   Had a memorable class with Pastor Warfield today, he is a real character! A short, round faced Irish man with alligator arms, he is the fastest talking man I have ever heard! Almost like blurry letters, you have to soak in what he says in chunks and not in particulars. He specializes in the study of cults, so he is like that guy in Harry Potter that teaches them to defend against the black arts. Absolutely vast amounts of knowledge that man has! Facts and figures, he can, and has, debated anyone from other religions like a Tommy gun. He mentioned he is going to Israel next year and I thought how cool would it be to go with him? he knows how to read the old languages, knows so much about history, he would be a great tour guide. heck, from the stories he tells, you might even get into trouble, lol.
   Yesterday I slept a lot and today I was depressed. between the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 and all the screaming demons here, I'm wearing down a bit. I'm starting to think that the only ones to make it through this are either the quiet zombies or the big mouth, oblivious to everything types.
   A few hours later and I'm feeling better. I bought a car magazine, which is the only thing besides a newspaper that I have read in the last 4 months that wasn't over 40 years old.
   Dameon is a 19 year old kid that I am really glad he is on our side. When I first encountered him (you don't necessarily 'meet' him), I had a bad knee jerk reaction to him to be perfectly honest. I saw him as loud, obnoxious, immature and obese. he is definitely a big boy at 380 pounds and around 6'3" inches, with anger issues. In the two months since that time either I have grown or he has gotten better.  Oh sure, he still talks loudly about chain saws and calling people 'vics', but he isn't a bad guy deep down inside. One day in the Billy Sunday room I told him he looked like a Panda bear. He got up, walked to where I was, loomed over me and said "I aught to pull your arm off and beat you with it." I looked up at him and said right back, "Go ahead, if that's the only thing that will remind you that you're in a Bible program, fine!" He sat down next to me in frustration and few minutes later he leaned his forehead into my shoulder like a big dog would. Right now he is the foreman on my crew and is very fair on how things are run. Funny how perspective can change with time and prayer.

Stories from the Mission... bit 23

   Sitting down and thinking back on my own artwork, I can't help but wonder where are all the colors at the Chicago art institute? I have a look at the Marc Chagall stained glass windows and get queasy. It looks like too much whisky, I'm about to pass out spins. No thanks. Now, on the other hand, Wendell Castle had some sensational stuff. 'Magicians birthday' clock, made of woods and metals was great!
   ~Now I am in Millennium park and loving it. Set above and to the east of the two block glass towers fountains are these three metal sculptures. They are each their own color, white, yellow and blue, very nice and technically impressive. Behind them are a series of big blocks, like step seats, each it's own island, set back under some trees and surrounded by ferns. They are perfect to relax and watch the world go by, a soft spot from the summer sun and millions of people running about. From there you can catch glimpses of little kids squealing in the fountain pond, running to the end when the water shoots out of a projected face. How magical it would be to share this view... with her.
   I still find it oddly surreal to see cops on Segways, like a scene out of a sci-fi movie. Walking towards the Bean and I get hit by such a fabulous thick scent of some flowers and bushes separating the flow of people on a walkway. The smell is vivid enough to bite! I stroll through the Pritzger arena, the long metal pipes in huge arcs across the sky, like the fingers of a praying hand making the outdoor area feel cozy. Heading even further east towards the lake, I walk up the curving BP bridge, all cold stainless steel scales, and am struck by the Chicago skyline to the west. There are the old guard whites, greys and brown hued buildings, like stone or bone carvings framed by the newer and much bigger metal and blue glass mirrored skyscrapers behind them. A lot can change in 25 years... I've been missing out.
   The thought occurred to me the other day that this year will be over in a second and I will look back at this as yet another odd period of my life. I kind of look forward to that. LOL, I really appreciate what the good Lord has done for me here, but I am really looking forward to looking back. Maybe that should be the title to my book.
   Yeah, you have a lot of time to think here.
A big city like Chicago is like an ocean harbor with it's ships standing vertical. No wonder we like to look at them.
   I came to the deep realisation tonight at Crawford that I wasn't really saved 20 years ago at all. Back then I was living in sin with Sharon, binge drinking and getting stoned all the time. Another words, if I had really believed, I would have at least tried to do the right things. I wasn't ready to give up the drugs or sex, and that is when my life started to get worse.
   Every once in a while in 3026 it gets quiet and it freaks me out. It's hard to explain, but when you are used to the sounds of 60 guys and it stops, it almost hurts your ears, kind of like holding your breath too long. Not that it happens that often, there is always somebody that doesn't understand where you're coming from so you have to get loud... it seems. lol.
   I just noticed that I am sitting indian style with my legs crossed on my bunk, (20 T), with my notebook pad in front of me. You have to understand that most of my life I would even be able to breathe at all like this before, my guts would have been in the way. I guess the diet is working, lol.
   Two weeks ago a friend said he was going to send me some stuff and still nothing has arrived. People don't realize how important the little things are to people that have little.
   Odd day. I worked out yesterday (After 60 days here you can use the weights in the weight room), so I am sore and tired. It also sounds like everyone is crying and complaining about everything.. At lunch they gave us sslas chips and packages of cheese and some guy immediately complained that the cheese wasn't warmed up! Dude, it's free food! Be happy already, you didn't have to find it in a garbage can!
   I haven't discussed this next thing yet at all, but it's been bugging me... racism here. In all the places I've lived and at jobs I have had, I have been amongst many races and gotten along with everyone, till I came here. In the dorm 3026 there are only 7 White guys, 2 Hispanics and one Asian dude, the rest are all Black. By and large, most are cool, but it is really disheartening when you're sitting in a room by yourself, you hear happy voices approaching, a guy walks in and his face changes to contempt when he sees you for the first time ever. Granted, they are the new guys and perhaps there aren't that many of my race where they are from, I need to be a bit of an ambassador I suppose. I also get that feeling from some of the pastors, a kind of dismissive feeling that shouldn't be there. Many months later, after I had graduated but hadn't moved out yet, I set a guy straight. He was making a grand gesture of how he has Mexican friends, white friends, all kinds of stuff. I told him I don't see race here... I just see Christians.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 22, a visit to the Art institute

8/26/11 Wonderful day! Once you've been in the Program for 60 days, you can have a pass, so I decided to grab a Gyro and go to the Chicago art institute. I had just $20 and headed first to a small restaurant on Jefferson I heard had good prices. They didn't have a Gyro, dang it, so I got an Italian beef sandwich, drowned in Au Jus, fries and a Mountain Dew for $7.93. It had been a long time since I had a real beef, so good! I was worried I wouldn't have enough for the Institute, but I put it out of my mind, God will provide. I get there and find that the price of admission is $17! My heart drops, but I try anyways. I find a pretty girl at the info counter and tell her I am in the Bible program at the mission and am short on money for admission, all I have is about $12. She looks at me for a few seconds and says, "I can sell you a student ticket for $12." Being that I am in classes and plan on graduating, I am a student, so that is fine.
   So, I could have worked my way up to it, taken my time, but nope, I went right upstairs to the Impressionists. Pierre-Augste Renoir is really good with hair and in "The two sisters" did some neat stuff with the colors of their hats. All these years of seeing small prints in art books gave me a false impression of soft outlines, so the sharp edges of the pint daubs was a surprise. Monet seems to be able to diffuse them the best. While I liked his works and Renior's, Van Gogh was definitely my favorite! He made the most intriguing colors, shades and hues not upsetting, yet unusual and wonderful. 'The poets garden' was my favorite, the greens are thick and interesting, slabbed on in large strokes, giving it such depth. I could breathe that one painting in for hours.
   'The drinkers' was a really fun painting, look for the short drunk of the left, almost under the table already. 'The bedroom' looks like something you'd find in a modern magazine, his style used in it has been copied so much over the years. When you consider it's contemporaries, it is really well ahead of it's time. Oh, the self portrait they have of him there... I will remember those flecks of blue in his irises till the day that I die! That painting has so many vivid colors, even in his beard.
   Vincent's 'Grapes, lemons and some other fruits' had some absolutely amazing transparency of light to the grapes, all done with very odd brush strokes, surrounded by ripples on a pond effect that was told to me by another visitor as one of his violent still life's. Genius!
   They have a bunch of Monet's there that are titled sunsets, definitely felt like sunrises. Most likely it would have been noticed by now to have been the other, but... hmmmm, lol. He used a lot of pastels all through a hazy feeling. His 'Waterloo bridge sunlight effects' had me enthralled, so I got as close as I could for a bit to allow it to be my entire view. Another I dug was from his stack of wheat series, 'Sunset and snow effect', stunning blues and orange! It makes me want to paint with oils! I'm not good with human figures or faces, but with my style of abstract and the infinite shades of color that I can directly control would be so liberating. While I have an intimate knowledge of the computer program I use right now for my stuff, it still can be like trying to paint with a piano leg.
   Rodin's 'Eve' is really nice. I've always admired from a mechanical view point any art chiseled from stone... it takes real skill.
   Ok, I'm looking at my notes that I scribbled the day I was there and I wrote Contemporary contemptible'. I'm just not a fan of so much of what they had in the modern art wing. One such painting had just two colors, two. It's like going to see a piano solo and the dude plays two notes and expects applause. Maybe if I had gone to art school and learned to appreciate it's finer points... naw, I have a right to my opinion, lol.
   More notes on the Art institute. 'Scarf dance', a series of statues of girls dancing, love it! Great feeling of flow and grace, sweeping, swirling captured. I went into the Medieval area, and while it is impressive in technique and detail, massive details, it just didn't hold me, or anyone else it seemed. The hall of armor was a disappointment. Small and dark, nothing like the set up they had years before. It's almost like someone didn't like that they where symbols of war so they want it to disappear. Now the Bamboo by Ando was really refreshing. Awesome attentions to detail and form flow within the limitations of the materials. There where other bamboo creations in the Tokonoma room, the globular flower basket was a wonderful mess and the 'knot' was an inspired design.
   In the hall with the Indian sculptures I am surrounded by things made over 1,500 years ago. I know each one had to take months of dedication, if not years, and for them to survive this long is such a testament to how valued they are, yet I keep getting distracted. I sit on a bench looking at them, yet the thing that keeps grabbing my eye are some of Gods greatest works... women!

To see my artworks, this is the link--->

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 21

   My sister Leslie sent me a really nice watch so now when I go out on walks I won't be late getting back, cool! She also sent me some socks. We get a ton of donations of things at the mission, but there are three things we don't that you might not think about. Socks, underwear and reading glasses. It's sad when an elder gentleman comes in wanting to read the Bible but can't due to his vision getting bad. In the time I was at the mission I knew 4 or 5 guys that couldn't read well or at all. One, JT is now working at another shelter and doing great. I helped a few of the others at times, reading the Bible with them out loud, letting them try and gently correcting what they got wrong. It was very rewarding, and I know how embarrassing it must have been for them. How hard it must have been for them to get through life without the basics like reading.
   There is a strange period here in 3026 every night when the day light gets too low to read and they haven't turned on the ceiling lights. I suppose it's our own kind of twilight.
   Unwritten rules chiseled in stone around here last until the next tide washes them away... that is until they come back to trip a person they don't like.
      Wow, did a stage for the over flow crowd (there are two places for Stage, one if the main auditorium and the overflow is in the day room), and I was was asked to go to the podium to ask for testimonials. No one stood up, so I decided to give one myself. My voice was full of confidence and a volume I didn't know I had... if felt great, almost to euphoria! The next thing I know, 7 of the overnight guests had given theirs and we would have run short on time for the preacher, lol. The Spirit was definitely flowing!
   Ok, just got done talking with Ralph at the sinks and he told me I have an interesting voice. Then he asked me if I've ever done radio. I've always thought my voice was odd, if anything, he has the voice and countenance for radio.
   I am reading my first C.S. Lewis book, 'the great divorce'. I am digging his style! It is nothing Like I thought it would be, very surreal.
   I've got to say, we have them in every shape and size here. Lil Nate can't weigh more than 100 pounds soaking wet, then there is Timmy, Damon and Ed, all in the 400 pound class. It used to be I was one of the biggest guys where I hung out, now I'm just in the top third. There are a loot of guys with hair shaved down tight or bald, the short hair showing the scars of growing up in bad neighborhoods. One night in the auditorium I spotted 7 guys in front of me with scars or knots on the backs of their heads. They kind of look like coin slots. I count myself lucky that I didn't grow up in an area where that kind stuff happened much. There was that one night on 3026 where a guy walked around yelling that he was going to stab Scott in his sleep and got thrown out of the Mission, but by and large it's just guys woofin at each other. Some of the guys here are right off the street from gangs or prisons, but they seem to realize it's not the same thing here, they want to change. I know 4 guys from Englewood, a really bad part of the south side of Chicago by their own admission. Two of them, Steve and Cleveland, are totally cool, not thugs at all. Of the other two, Reggie just acts loud and all and then there is Ed. Ed is an odd little guy that loves fancy clothes and repeats catch phrases way too much.
   On my walk today I stumbled across the U.I.C. campus. It's situated in what used to be the Maxwell street market, a very gritty open air street flea market famous for Blues music and interesting characters. Now it seems to be mainly populated with long haired, shorts wearing, adorable Asian women that are completely blind to me, lol.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 20

  Normally I'd say I'm done reading a book when I get to the end, but with The Shack, I'll never be done with it, I'll be re reading it for years to come. Sarayu, thank you, I now know where my art comes from. I highly recommend the book, go get it!
   The old rail bridge south of here with the shed in the middle raised up today. I didn't get to see it happen, but some day I will. (Note to readers, I not only eventually saw it go up, but watched it from less than 100 feet away. Ping Tom park is very close to it and a really nice place to relax.)
   And now another random story from my past. Jr. year of high school, the middle of a very cold winter, gym class. A posting shows up on a wall about something called 'Polar ball', but nobody pays much attention to it. One day a buddy and I decide to go outside and see what it is all about. All we find is a big empty filed, a soccer ball, two nets and no teacher. This says one thing to us... no rules! Snowy and cold, we had a blast! The only informal rule we had was to get the ball in the other goal, any way you can. Kick it, throw it or carry it, it was a free for all. Within three days the word got out to the other kids and there where 25 of us running full speed into each other, our heavy winter jackets acting as football pads. By the fifth day it was over. Seems too many guys where showing up in the nurses office... heck, I had two concussions, lol.
   Some day I want to take two radio controlled boats that have the same radio frequency, and hook them together like a catamaran. They'd need to be at least two foot long and solidly built. In the space between them I'd hook up a motorized fishing reel and use the rig to go fishing. Can you imagine the fun when you hook a big fish?
      DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! In my teens I got a hair brained idea to tie a dart onto a fishing pole to try and go hunting for birds. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! It was a good casting reel and I could zip that dart at least 200 feet, with no accuracy. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! When you're fishing, getting it within a few feet is fine for casting, but hitting a tiny, moving bird is impossible. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! The main draw back, and it's a major scary one, is that the steel tip of the dart had a habit of getting stuck into a tree well above what I could reach to pull it out. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! So the first time it got stuck, I just yanked the pole back a few times. I had to pull it really hard. This time, it's accuracy was really good, but the target had become me now. It returned faster than it went out, and while it should have been obvious, this was shocking! It missed my head by a foot the first time. Yeah, dummy me just had to try it again, lol. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
   I was asked  to help out in the  mail room today, and it was the quietest day I've had since I arrived here. It seems there is always someone yelling in the halls here somewhere. They need help once a month with the news letters we send out. One of the main way we get supported is through the Radio show, Unshackled, and the newsletters we send out are another.
   I'm getting excited about my first 6 hour pass coming up this Friday! I'm going to get a Gyro and then head down to the Art institute. There is something so cool about seeing actual Impressionist artworks in person, I know I'd seen them years ago as a kid, but this is different. Now I am an artist.
   Dave up and left the other day, it's too bad, but it happens here a lot. You get to know a guy, see him all the time and then POOF, he's gone.

Stories from the Mission... bit 19

    I've been having a hard time transcribing the next part of my journal. I had come to the part where I wrote on 8/21/11; 10 years ago today, my Father was dying of cancer. That was all I wrote that day also. I never realized just how deep of a taproot my Father was to me till I looked back and saw how much of my life started to come loose after he passed away.
   This next bit was written well before my time at the Mission, but it better helps you understand that period in my life. I was asked to write about it and it first appeared in the Chicago Tribune years ago.

On Labor day, my father passed away... and my world changed. 8 days later, the world changed for everybody.
   My father had been sick for a while. Cancer had ravaged his body more than we had known as we thought he had another 6 months. He passed away at home in Tampa where he had wanted to be, not in a sterile hospital. My sisters and I all flew to Florida for the wake (I live in Chicago). I decided to stay a few extra days so that my mom wouldn't go from a full house to nothing, to give her a transition period so's to speak. My flight out was to be on Wednesday the 12th of September, 2011. Then 'IT' happened. My mother and I watched it all unfold on TV, surreal to our already wracked emotions of the week before. Phone calls from far and wide came in as our family reached out to each other, while E-mails from 7 different countries showed me that my friends from chat rooms where family also. As the skies went quiet, I realized I may not get home for a while. The options included taking my Dads old car, an 89 Taurus with near 100,000 miles on it... but no, things would be back to normal soon enough I told myself. Then came the day after day of cancellations and building clouds. Of shore, tropical storm Gabrielle was gathering strength, threatening to ground the planes even if the FAA allowed them to fly after 9/11.
   I awoke on Friday morning to whistling winds and driving rains... flying out in time to be back at work by Monday looked dim. Without even showering, I grabbed my packed bags, hugged my mother good-bye, and headed out into the storm. My mother had her own car and had planed on selling this one, so while she was worried about me, I was taking the worry of selling it of her hands. The first 3 hours of the drive where in a dark maelstrom of rain and learning the layout off the cars controls, the whole time listening to the radio tell me how Gabrielle was building up strength and heading the same direction I was. Wind gusts of 75 MPH where reported in towns that I didn't know where north or south of me. I just kept thinking that I couldn't stop for food till I had well outrun the storm. By noon I was halfway through Georgia and listening to the president inspire the country on the radio. I spend the night in Chattanooga Tennessee, nestled in the sheltering mountain pass. I walk outside with a beer to see the building next door festooned with giant neon signs advertising fireworks all along it's 300 foot length. Can you get more American than that?
  All along the drive I notice a few things. Eagles and hawks are flying everywhere, I'm not sure why. I see our flag flying everywhere, from cars to bridges to the pot bellied truck driver standing on a hillside near a rest stop waving a huge flag. I also feel the community our nation has become in how everyone stops to talk with you like a neighbor. I want to be able to tell people of my Dads passing, but everyone has a sadness welling up in them already. At times on my drive I have to force back tears upon hearing stories on the radio... I need to keep heading home. If I stop to let it sink in I'd be a mess.
   1,200 miles later of listening to radio stations through the heartland, the voices of hundreds of callers, I haven't figured out a thing. I just know that 10 days ago I carried my father to his birthplace in an urn, and then he, through his faithful old car, carried me safely to my home.
Zackary Lowing
September 16th 2001

Friday, January 17, 2014

Stories from the Mission... bit 18

I just got back from a walk with some sad news. The people over at Best Buy told me I can't be using their display laptops to get on line anymore. I haven't been in the program long enough yet to use the computer room at the mission yet, so I guess it's down to just a few minuets before service once a week at Crawford church. Dang, this very cute girl from Croatia had taken an interest in my artwork... it was nice to interact with her.
   Ok, check this out, this guy, Jose S. that when I first met him was a really slow walker due to an accident. He even described himself, with a mischievous smile, as walking like a penguin. Now, I've taken to calling him booker he is so fast. He still has trouble walking, but he has come a very long way.
   Had another talk with Pastor Green today... he still seems distant towards me, but we seemed to have a good discussion. heck, with so many guys coming and going here, most of them sucking up to him, I can see why he is that way at first.
   I noticed as I'm writing this that my hands are free from cuts and scrapes. Maybe only a mechanic would understand how strange this is. Normally I would have at least 5 per hand and grease that would take a week in Florida building sand castles to get out. It's been a while since I have turned a wrench.
   Heh, I wasn't going to write about this, but what the heck. last night at stage I saw a stunningly hot young lady. She was black with straight waxen black hair and wonderful bedroom eyes. I don't know how obvious it is that I am looking at her, but it felt really good when our eyes met, almost illicit. I'd turn my head away in embarrassment, then find myself drawn back like a love sick puppy. Then a guy sat down in front of me blocking my view, so I leaned over a bit, only to have a guy sit in that view. She had such a dreamy look about her, my thoughts weren't exactly pure, lol. I had to pray on it to just hear what the pastor was saying.  The the reality hit me... I am no where near ready for any kind of relationship, I'm a homeless schlump, what could she possibly see in me?
   I've noticed an odd thing happening here. The faucets are push button affairs that shut off automatically so the mission doesn't waste water, or so I thought. That would make sense. These though, turn of precisely when your razor gets a half inch from the water. Hmmmmm
   I may as well be in a different country here. I'm doing things I never thought I would, learning new languages, picking up nuances. In my old life I never wore shoes or clothes that I didn't have since new, and now most of my stuff is used and I even know some of the original owners. Maybe if I was in an actual mission abroad somewhere, the people from my old life might understand it better.
  I'm well over half way done reading 'The Shack'. Parts of it I'm having difficulty understanding, but there are so many wonderful concepts and moments of WHOA!
   Last night I hit into a bad funk. I'be tried to get people to see my art and/or innovations but am having a lot of roadblocks with it. I was close to giving up again frankly and all I could do is go to bed early. Then, one of the guys I had wanted to see it, Aaron, who had been rudely rejectional about it before, out of the blue, asked to see it. He has a smart phone and liked the stuff.
   Later on I was talking with Curtis, explaining how my creative side can cause a lot of difficulty. For every good idea I have, I have a lot of evil ideas I have to fight down. Unfortunately, the bad ones are what people find interesting. Anyways, we where talking about writing and I related how I have a Sci-Fi book i'm working on, but I'm no good at doing interpersonal conversations. It turns out Curtis is a budding writer and might help out with the book.  I'll have to read some of his stuff and maybe we can collaborate. Then I saw it... God had heard my anguish and gave me some hope again.
   We get an hour walk after you've been in the Program for 30 days, and while most of the guys head north to the stores or the Loop, I have been exploring south. Yesterday I went across a draw bridge on Canal street built in 1949, dedicated by a mayor I've never heard of.  It gave me a great view of a center lift railroad bridge I  sen from the deck on the third floor of the mission. The bridge is old and rusty, seeming from the same kit and era as the Eiffle Tower. It has these massive cement counterweights that run on the outside of two huge towers and there is a shed that sits in the middle of the span, above where the trains run.
I wonder if at one time there was a guy that lived in the shed, watching for the tall ships that used to sail down the south branch of the Chicago river. This is the branch that connects with the Mississippi, then on down to the Gulf of Mexico and on to the rest of the world. It sure would be neat to see that bridge in operation. There is another huge bridge to the north of here, or I should say a set of them. They are a completely different design with one permanently raised up in the air. Being a mechanic, I look at them and wonder which is the better design? Was one less expensive to build? Was the other more efficient or have a better track record? Or did one designer just have better connections?