Category Archives: Culture

The Good Shepherd

I lied in my last post. I’m taking eighteen credits this year. I’m a sucker for overwhelming myself; I thrive on stress. Plus I couldn’t resist piling on one more course to fulfill a creative writing minor. My sixth class is a special topics in writing course about trauma memoir. This means I get to relive the most traumatic moments of my life in narrative form and then share them with the class. Considering that writers tend to be a depressed lot, this should be fun.

Unrelated, but during the lent season I am trying to reread the gospels all the way through. I’ve noticed that I tend to ignore the Gospel of John in favor of his synoptic brothers Matthew, Mark and Luke, so I started with John this time and plan to work my way backward. Discovery: it’s by far the most beautiful, theologically-certain of the gospels. (Am I allowed to say that?) No “secret Jesus” here. We get the John 3:16 money-verse, tons of light/dark imagery and some great parables. This one from John 10 particularly stuck with me after I read it:

Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

19At these words the Jews were again divided. 20Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

21But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

–John 10:7-21 (NIV)

Jesus meant that there should be one flock and one shepherd. So why are we Christians continually divided amongst each other? Also how great is it that Jesus came so that we may have life and have it to the full (or have it “abundantly” in some translations).

How I Didn’t Lose My Donkeys

You know how everyone has that one friend whose always talking about the karmic balance of the universe, or the movements of the stars or collective negative energy? It’s that same person who obsesses over people’s moon charts and explains people’s behavior with phrases like “he’s such a Scorpio*.”  Maybe it was the fact that horoscopes were considered borderline occultish and Satanic in my childhood church or maybe it’s because I resent the fact that my “sign” is an unpleasant insect-crap hybrid**, but I don’t really by that stuff. Here in New York I can’t even see the stars most of the time let alone meditate on the effects their slight shift may have on our petty endeavors on earth. Given the borderline catastrophic week everyone and their dog just experiences, I’m tempted to change my mind.

Why did everyone I know experience a plethora of MINOR DISASTERS this week?  I mean, I’m not actually sold on the idea that there’s some crazy cosmic force acting in everyone’s life right now, other than maybe a few demons and an angel here and there, but there’s something going on. For a variety of reasons, I spent a disproportionate amount of time in tears during the last six days or so. Everything I touched LITERALLY turned to materialized Fail. If King Midas had his own soap opera, I’d be the Evil-Twin-Alter-Ego named Julio.

I won’t get into details but suffice it to say this week wasn’t very happy, but I’m happy to report that Friday at midnight my Fail Carriage turned back into a pretty pumpkin and some stuff went well. By “stuff”, I mean the engagement party Graham and I decided to host in my small, enclosed Brooklyn apartment. I actually had to move the sofa out onto the street to make room for more bodies, but 1) I wanted to get rid of that couch anyway and 2)now it’s like our building has an outdoor lobby or something. Next, I’m going to start dressing in a blue blazer and pretend to be the doorman. I could buzz people up and everything.

ANYWAY.

We pulled off the party surprisingly well thanks to help from Graham’s brother, who cooked and cleaned with us all day. People enjoyed the food I/we cooked and even though the guests included a friend from high school, two friends from the non-Harry Potter part of the interwebz and a LOT of  (very loud) Harry Potter fans and the awkward meter could have been VERY, VERY HIGH everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The first thing Mia said when she walked in the door and saw our apartment full of happy people was, “I didn’t know you had friends!”  It surprised me too.

Following yesterday’s exhaustion and elation,I needed a day of recharging. Naturally, I just drank a lot of coffee and some pureed fruit at one of my favorite East Village secret hideaways while sort-of-almost studying for my upcoming Development of Christianity test. All in all it was a successful and non-disastrous couple of days while gives me hope for this week.

Because God has a sense of humor, He lead me to the Book of Job in my daily Bible Study this evening. So much for complaining about MY life, man. Seriously, next time you start feeling self-pitying and complaining to God/friends/family about the crap happening in life, it might be a good idea to read Job. I don’t want to *SPOIL* you since I know you’re probably waiting for the movie to come out, but the guy’s SUPER RICH and COMPLETELY HOLY and he loses everything including all his kids all at once. That’s just the first two chapters. Anyway, the moral of the story is that after that all happens HE PRAISES THE LORD.  Sorry for the capital letters and for sounding like a Sunday school teacher with a bad haircut and no teeth, but how crazy is that? My catastrophes are mostly not life threatening, nor do they involve the loss of my children or donkeys or goats or servants. Not that I have children, donkeys, goats or servants, but STILL. My self-challenge for the week is to praise the Lord even when things don’t go my way. He’s good all the time, after all. Not just when my horoscope says so.

If I were really holy, I’d end this post with a Bible verse from Job, but I’m not gonna. I’m going to make you read if for yourself. Well, I can’t make you, but I’m hoping the part about the donkeys made you curious. Plus, Job is from the Land of Uz which is the early precursor of the Land of Oz. Really. It’s on Wikipedia or something.

How were your weeks? Any catastrophes or blessings or donkeys?

*To some extent, my other half and roommate Mia is this person in my life, minus the karmic balance of the universe stuff. She reads this occasionally. Mia, here’s your shout-out. This long.

**They’re actually arachnids of some sort according to the internet.Whatever. They look crab-like to me.

Things I Am Supposed to Enjoy, But Don’t

    You know how there are things you are just supposed to enjoy as a human being? I half expect to check the definition of “human being” in the Oxford English Dictionary and read something like, “n. A member of the human species as distinguished from animals. Enjoys food, beverage and playing Monopoly on Sunday evenings.”

     But what if you hate monopoly? Are you a little bit less human because of it? Is it right to assume that because 80% of people enjoy a board game, that everyone should enjoy a board game? There are a great number of things I’m supposed to like as a homosapien residing in the Western hemisphere that I just . . . don’t.  Though I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I don’t like these things, I recently realized that maybe it’s just because I don’t like them. I mean, it could also mean that I’m an alien child from a different solar system adopted by human beings and forced to assimilate into earthly society as part of a massive social experiment conducted by the Canadian government, but I’m not really that cool. 

Things I should like, but don’t:

  • Monopoly
  • Arcades
  • Video Games (Including arcade games, guitar hero, mario, anything.)
  • Miniature golf
  • Board games involving fake money or real estate or warfare
  • The majority of movies with spectacular special effects
  • Thrillers (The movie kind. I like some thriller novels.
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • Star Wars
  • Cheese
  • Television Dramas
  • Graphic novels/comic books
  • Riding a bike
  • Alcohol 
  • Fantasy novels with characters whose names contain no vowels. 
  • Rich and flaky pastries 
  • Animated disney movies made after 1995 (Disney-Pixar excluded)
  • Soda

 

   This is a slightly condensed list. Am I less of a human being for not liking any of these things? Does this reveal something terrible about my childhood? Should I just jump of a bridge right now? If so, should  I put you in my will? Discuss.

In Which I am Not Obligated to Remember the Alamo, but Sort of Do Anyway

Yesterday marked the beginning of this year’s Fiesta celebrations in San Antonio, Texas. Fiesta is a San Antonio tradition that initially began as a means of celebrating Texan independence and the victory at the battle of San Jacinto as well as commemorating fallen heroes at the battle of the Alamo. These days, it’s more of an excuse to party between spring break and the summertime, a means of attracting middle-aged tourists and an example of the gentrification of Mexican-American culture, but remains an irreplaceable part of San Antonian identity.

I won’t go into the entire history of the ten day celebration, but here’s an excerpt from the official Fiesta website:

By 1890, San Antonio, Texas, was a thriving trade center with population of 38,000. In 1891 a group of citizens decided to honor the heroes of the Alamo and Battle of San Jacinto with a Battle of Flowers.

The first parade had horse-drawn carriages, bicycles decorated with fresh flowers and floats carrying children dressed as flowers. The Belknap Rifles represented the military. The participants pelted each other with blossoms.

The Battle of Flowers Parade is the only one in the country to be planned and directed completely by women. Today it’s the largest parade in Fiesta. It’s second in size nationally only to the Tournament of Roses Parade.

Fiesta becomes a San Antonio tradition

The Battle of Flowers was an immediate success. Within a few years, more events were taking place on or near April 21—a carnival, balls and coronations of “royalty.” The Fiesta tradition had been born. Other early events included street dancing, children’s fetes, a Trades Display Parade and an orphans party. Fiesta has taken place every year except for 1918 during World War I and 1942 through 1945.

At this point, I’m not entirely sure how many events are included as official Fiesta events, but the number must be in the hundreds. River parades, street parades, dance festivals, carnivals, oyster bakes, masked balls, the coronation, the crowning of “el Rey Feo” and of course La Villita’s Night In Old San Antonio are some of the events I can name off the top of my head. Growing up in San Antonio, participating in some kind of fiesta event is inevitable. If just kind of happens. Last year, I remember being so sick of Fiesta. I hated hearing about it all the time, seeing it on the news every night, having the entire city shut down for over a week while drunk people took over downtown San Antonio in the name of “Texan patriotism.” I was especially sickened by the Fiesta Queen and Princesses Coronation in 2006, but I won’t go into all of my issues with that event here, as I don’t know that much about the specific duties and history associated with the Fiesta court.

I don’t really know why I’m writing about Fiesta. To be frank, it feels weird to be away from it; not as weird as say, skipping Christmas, but kind of like my birthday or Halloween just decided not to happen one year. At the beginning of the month, I remember being excited about getting the Monday of Battle of the Flowers off school, before realizing that they don’t celebrate Battle of the Flowers in New York. I don’t have to go dance awkwardly in Market Square or crack cascarones on my sister’s hair. I haven’t seen a river parade in over a year. As much as I complain about San Antonio, I’m glad I grew up in a place with such rich history, diverse culture and uniqueness. As terrible as it is that the Riverwalk effectively displaced hundreds of people many years ago, I won’t pretend that it isn’t one of the most beautiful places in the world when it’s lit up around Christmastime and Fiesta. It’s really tempting to end this post with some kind of line about how I’ll always remember the Alamo even though I’m miles away, but to be honest, it’s a little hard to forget the Alamo after having the whitewashed, distorted version of its history pounded into my head for the past 17 years. I’ll never stop thinking that those bullet holes in the wall are really cool, though.

There was no point to this post, but I hope you learned something about crazy San Antonio traditions. I’ll leave you with some pictures.

The Riverwalk

The Riverwalk

(Riverwalk at Christmas, with random British flag from Mad Dogs pub.

< Texas Cavalier River Parade

Folklorico

The Alamo at night

And last but not least, it’s not spring until you see bluebonnets covering the side of the road. This is the first year I’ll miss them.

Sorry for the random, boring nostalgia.