Saturday, June 30, 2007

Goodbye, Northeast Y

Yet another piece of my childhood bites the dust.

I'd noticed a lot of work taking place at the site of the Northeast YMCA, located right near the intersection of the Beltway and I-95 northeast (get it?) of Baltimore. It turns out the property was sold to a developer who will be putting townhomes on it, after the property is leveled. Meanwhile, major reconstruction is going on at the aforementioned interchange.

For a couple years, my mom and dad, my (then three) siblings, and I had traveled way out to Black Rock YMCA in northern Baltimore County. But it was indeed a long trip, although the facility was in a pastoral setting with a stream right beside. Black Rock would eventually be sold.

So we began going instead to the Northeast Y. While certainly not as bucolic as Black Rock, and quite a bit more noisy, the main advantage that Northeast had was its proximity to the neighborhood. This meant that more of our friends were there, as well as some of my cousins.

We spent many a summer day at the Y. Many of these days would include a cookout in one of the picnic areas, meaning that it wasn't quite the restful day for Mom and Dad. They did most of the work before and after said cookouts. Then we'd all sit around the pool waiting for 30 minutes to elapse before we could go back in.

It was rare that we'd make a whole meal out of what was served at the concession stand, but that didn't stop us from hitting it up frequently for candy, drinks, and snowballs. I remember the stand playing a lot of old Chicago and Carpenters music.

The pool was huge, with two shallow-end wings on either side, a five-foot section marked off with lap lanes in the middle, and a diving pit at the far end. In there we played many games of Marco Polo or Sharks and Minnows, diving for coins/shoe heels/whatever, walking races (before someone discovered it would make a nifty exercise), and a game we made up where one of us had to jump in and touch the line crossing the lane marker before the other tagged him, not unlike trying to steal second base. We also learned to use masks and snorkels there, playing Sea Hunt/Jacques Cousteau. Some of us went to swimming lessons also, but most of those we took at an inner-city school. There was also the obligatory kiddie pool.

Other Northeast Y amenities included a swing set with flexible rubber seats, which we could get going almost parallel to the ground (I once made the mistake of jumping off from about 10 feet up, and was fortunate only to hurt my jaw when it struck my knee); a horseshoe pit; volleyball courts; softball fields; a trampoline, on which I'm surprised none of us sustained serious injury; and a wooden obstacle course through the woods.

Being an outdoor facility, the main use of the Y was in the summer. But I did spend one fall playing six-a-side football in a Y league. I love the game of football . . . when others play it. I discovered I had no desire to knock the stuffing out of whoever was on the other side of the line.

You could not drag us out of the pool. Our fingers would be as wrinkled as prunes, and we loved being there after dark as well with the underwater lights. When Mom or Dad told us to get out, we dragged out our exit as long as possible, taking the longest way out or begging them for a few more minutes.

And now, one more thing that the Y meant to me:

Three years after our membership to the Y ran out, I was between my sophomore and junior years in high school. I had a summer job, but it was mostly on weekends. I was bored silly one weekday.

I found out that my aunt was going out to the Y with her daughters, my cousins. They were quite a bit younger than me at the time (come to think of it, they STILL are, but it made more of a difference then!), but I figured I could make the best of it and come as their guest. They told me there was this friend they wanted to introduce me to. I figured I'd humor the kids and meet their playmate.


Leanne was a neighbor of theirs. Being of Italian extraction, she had a nice deep tan. Her hair was shoulder-length, thick, and brunette. I think what I'll always remember was her legs, nice and shapely and not the bird-legs that many girls her age had. She was wearing this cute pink polka-dotted swimsuit (not a bikini).

She too was about to be a junior in high school, and was about six months younger than me. For the next year, we went swimming at the Y and dated fairly frequently. We went to each other's ring dances (we were so nervous!) and her junior prom. I eventually chose to obey my Christian community's disapproval of dating in high school and initiated the breakup late the next summer. Last time I saw Leanne, which was over 20 years ago, she was working at Macy's and had gotten engaged.

We were each other's first, and I'll never forget her. We'll always have Northeast Y.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cheap Schtuff

What mega-bargains have you gotten lately?

LC recently scored an unused HP 952C printer for $10 from Goodwill, and it's worked perfectly for us. Conversely, we freecycled our old printer (an HP 882C), and those who picked it up fixed the leaky color cartridges and have it working fine also!

At Big Lots, I found the best hands-free cell phone mic and earpiece I've ever had for $5. It's not Bluetooth, but who cares?

Years ago, we snagged a white noise machine (we love the surf noises) at a flea market for $5. We still use it today.

Christian parody music?

LC and I were playing miniature golf on Sunday at Family Recreation Park in the lovely town of Boonsboro. The 19-hole course is rather challenging with many inclines, elevated holes, and difficult greens. I edged LC to keep my streak intact. :-D

The place is run by a Christian family, which is cool. In the background, they play Christian contemporary music (CCM). There's very little CCM I care for these days; either it's praise and worship which blurs the line between authentic worship and entertainment, or it's feeble attempts by musicians of various talent levels to stick their fingers in the air and see What Secular Act We Can Sound Like. (Exceptions: Daniel Amos/Swirling Eddies, Phil Keaggy (formerly of Glass Harp), and Steve Taylor, who put it pretty aptly when he said, "If your music's saying nothing, save it for the dentist's chair.")

This day, we were serenaded by a series of covers of classic rock tunes with altered "parody" lyrics by the band ApologetiX (it turned out to be their album Grace Period). As we approached, I noticed "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" playing, but it didn't quite sound like the Blue Oyster Cult version. When they did a cover of Rush's "Tom Sawyer", I was ready to throw something through the loudspeaker. Their "Smells Like Teen Spirit" parody was nothing less than disturbing.

What this album, and apparently others by ApologetiX, aim to be is an evangelistic tool to folks who like secular rock. It fails miserably, sounding more like a basement band mumbling the lyrics. All I knew is that the lyrics weren't the same, although the music was fairly faithfully reproduced. I had no idea what their altered lyrics were really supposed to be, or what they were supposed to be getting at. Here's their explanation.

True, Weird Al Yankovic has made a career of parodying others. But. He hasn't done only parodies; his albums are full of funny original tunes also. Some that come to mind are "When I Was Your Age," "I Was Only Kidding," "You Don't Love Me Anymore," and the probably-never-to-be-played-again "Christmas at Ground Zero." Also, his polka medleys of actual tunes require solid musical knowledge, not just a sense of humor.

In short, Weird Al puts more into his parodies than just new words. ApologetiX is just self-indulgent mush passing for CCM. And that's not much to aspire to.

Open wider, please.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Look who I found!

Many of you may not be familiar with the saga of Bruiser, Carmen, and Sanjana . . . the Inflatable Touring Bananas. You can kill a few hours get caught up at the Banana Blog. I haven't really been involved with this . . . until now.

When returning from Mass this morning, LC and I noticed something among the trash of my next door neighbor:

This must be Smedley, the uninflatable banana relative that doesn't get talked about much.

My neighbor is a teacher, and she apparently got this banana from a student who won it at a carnival. She didn't trust it because it was made in China and, as her husband put it, probably "filled with mercury" or something.

Smedley, we hardly knew ye.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I've heard of homers, but . . .

(As in homer announcers.)

Count the euphemisms for extra credit. It's believed that the announcer in question has a Newcastle accent, but don't ask me how that makes him a shrill for Real Madrid.

It gets me through the day

Why there is no life on the FM dial: The Mix!

Of course, the local women's station only plays "Walking in Memphis" about 7 times a day.

Thank God for XM.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Great prediction

On Steve Czaban's "Lock It Up!" prediction segment yesterday, someone called in to say:

Sam Alexis Woods
will win a major before Michelle Wie.

I agree.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And Baby Makes Ten

Check out our friends' new arrival: baby Gabriel from Liberia.

Getting Gabriel

That's their tenth child; the other nine were all their own. I ask you: does Stephanie (the mom, in the black top) look like she's had nine children? She, her husband Gary, and the kids are all great people. Oh, and most of the kids are homeschooled.

Speaking of Stephanies, don't forget to follow the adventures of baby toddler Stephanie as told by her mom, my former co-worker:

Steph's World

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I'm so done with . . .

(Apologies to The Czabe)

I'm so done with:

  • Trent Lott
  • Jack Murtha
  • Martin O'Malley
  • Lennie "The Country Bumpkin Lawyer" Thompson
  • Embryonic stem cell research advocates, bravely ignoring the reality of stem cell advances in non-destructive lines
  • President Bush's press for more amnesty for illegals
  • The nominations for President being wrapped up next February (whaddya even need a convention for?)
  • Mike Nifong, the Duke Gang of 88, and anyone in Durham who voted for Nifong
  • Planned Parenthood
  • Algore, Dr. Heidi Cullen, and other "global warming" alarmists
  • San Francisco - 'Nuff said
  • Red light and speed cameras

I'm also so done with:
  • Peter Angelos and the Baltimore Ambulance Chasers (nee Orioles)
  • The NHL (still)
  • The NBA (still)
  • Britney, Paris, and the rest of the Brat Pack - heck, all of which passes for "Entertainment News" these days
  • Mass songs by David Haas, Marty Haugen, Michael Joncas, Dan Schutte, Tom Conry, Carey Landry, et al.
  • NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)
  • Parking in DC (after getting my third ticket in two years)
  • Two-second radio commercials
  • NPR (but then, I was never started with them)
  • Poker and other card games on TV
  • Public television beg-a-thons
  • Medical things in and on my arms
  • Reality shows except for The Amazing Race (and even it's not as good as it used to be)
What are you so done with?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Eight Random Things About Me

Having been tagged by Dragonflies, here goes:

  1. I attended the final Baltimore Colts game . . . and the first Baltimore Ravens game. I even went to a few games of the Baltimore CFL Colts/Stallions.
  2. When trying to interview former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich after his declaration to run for that office, I slipped and fell on the hill of his front yard.
  3. I do not like anything pineapple, and I eat almost nothing with mayonnaise.
  4. I actually like watching golf on TV. If I fall asleep, that's not a bad thing.
  5. When I was in 4th or 5th grade, I went with my family one Sunday in early December to visit some of the Smithsonian museums in DC. I had not yet finished my homework (I ALWAYS procrastinated with my homework!), but I was sure that school would be cancelled the next day because the weather was so bad and the forecast was for snow. Imagine my horror when I awoke the next morning to blue skies.
  6. My confirmation name is David.
  7. I was the house food man in three of the guys' houses that I lived in. I took the job in the first house because the guy who was supposed to do it . . . was never home. We awoke more than once to an empty refrigerator.
  8. I still like playing video games from the eighties. My favorites are Robotron, Battlezone, Gorf, Tempest, Vanguard, Black Widow, the original Mario Brothers, and Pengo.
I now tag Ladycub, Silvergirl, Em B, Scarlet, and Dymphna.

Monday, June 18, 2007

But Wait . . . There's More

I'm about to restart physical therapy for my elbow, upper arms, neck, and shoulders. But . . .

Today I learned that my broken left wrist? Still is.

But with all I've been through, the surgeon wants me to give it six months or so before more surgery. There's an outside chance it may not be needed, but I bet it will be, considering this has been 5 months so far and it hasn't healed.

Sigh. Fortunately, it only hurts when I do certain things.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pot Pourri Some Sugar On Me

Nicer Sediments

I had better results last week with draining the hot water heater than I did last time. I still needed to use a coat hanger to break up the sediment, but there wasn't nearly as much of it. And I acted quickly to prevent any fountains in the basement by placing a towel over the open valve until I could get the nozzle back on it (nice suggestion, love!) I can still use the sediment for sand, concrete, or a poor substitute for Metamucil. And I learned that I could avoid this by just drawing a Bouquet bucket of water from the heater each month.

Your Papers, Please

We waited about as long as we possibly could to submit our passport applications; the passports just may arrive before we head to my brother's wedding in Buffalo (with a reception at Niagara Falls!) and our subsequent visit to The Great White Waste Of Time Canada in early September. Ehhh, we should have done this a month ago. Now if the passports don't arrive, we'll be able to return to the U.S. without them, but not as of next year. Plus, passports are good to have as proof of citizenship for a new job, and I suspect we may leave the country again in the next 10 years.

So on Saturday afternoon we trekked down to the city post office. We couldn't find anywhere to go for the passport applications, so we made the mistake of asking one of the helpful (ha!) employees behind the desk. She steered us toward the forms, not the office. LC noticed another couple who had come for their passport application asking a different employee who knows where they needed to go. (This postal employee, naturally, will be fired.) I went outside and, at about the same time, discovered that there's a separate office door that leads upstairs. The four of us converged on the door and headed up.

We felt for the examiner in the passport office; she was about ready to crack. The couple she was with came from a Francophone country and hadn't filled anything out; applicants are to bring their completed but unsigned forms with them. Meanwhile, we got our pictures taken. We had gotten passport photos taken at CVS, but the lady said she couldn't accept them. Either CVS or the State Dept. has a racket going, and I don't know whom.

Well, all we had left to do was pay the examiner for the applications. Oops: we had forgotten the checkbook! Now we're part of the problem. Going back downstairs to the post office proved fruitless; for money orders; they wouldn't take a credit card! So I drove back home and got the checkbook (these things are pricey!), and hopefully, our passports will arrive before the first week of September.

The Final Day

After the arduous passport applications, we headed north out of town toward Gettysburg, and enjoyed a nice pizza lunch at the Mamma Ventura Pizzeria Restaurant & Lounge just off the downtown square.

Off and on over many years, we'd gone up to the battlefield armed with the Army War College guide to the battle, featuring original reports from the generals involved. The book took us on a different route from the more popular auto tour, and even had us off the battlefield on Day One so we could track troop movements before the battle started.

Having completed the first two days of the battle before, we started out on the third and final day over near Spangler's Spring, where both sides drew water. We took in a field hospital encampment going on at the time and learned about what nurses had to deal with when treating badly wounded soldiers with . . . not much. I ascended the observation tower at Culp's Hill, where the Union held its strong defensive "fishhook" as the Confederates repeatedly tried to drive them out.

From there, we headed across the battlefield to the General Lee statue, from which Pickett's Charge (actually largely led by Gen. Lewis Armistead, who would die from injuries sustained in the attack) ensued. In addition to marching nearly a mile into withering cannon fire and gunfire from the Union on Cemetery Ridge, the Confederates had to climb over numerous fences, making them easy targets. It was a gallant but futile effort. That's where our tour ended.

Afterward, Lee withdrew into Maryland, passing through several towns near us toward the Potomac. President Lincoln was quite upset that Gen. George Meade didn't pin Lee's army back against the Potomac River; instead, he escaped into the Shenandoah Valley.

Following this, LC and I went into battle ourselves . . . on the miniature golf course at Mulligan MacDuffer. It was a challenging course, making copious use of gravity and water. Guess who won? |-D

Oh, you do NOT want to knock your ball into the rushing water here; you likely won't see it again because of how fast the water goes! Someone on another hole made a diving stop to save my ball, injuring his knee in the process. Hey, guy, it wasn't THAT important!

After getting some much-needed liquid refreshment, we traveled west through Fairfield and Carroll Valley toward Blue Ridge Summit, the one-time home of Wallis Warfield Simpson, the woman King Edward VIII abdicated the throne for. I showed LC the Jesuit Retreat House where I had been on retreats in high school, college, and afterward. This is the view from one of the houses toward Pen Mar (get it?) Park back in Maryland.

The park was our next destination. At one time, Pen Mar Park was a full-fledged resort and amusement park! Unfortunately, the current scaled-back park was closed by the time we got there. It still has bands and dances on Sunday nights.

So we headed instead further uphill to High Rock. At one time, an observation deck sat atop this mostly flat rock (toward which the above picture is looking) with a sheer drop of several hundred feet toward the forest below. Sadly, a number of people have died from that precipice, whether intentionally or accidentally. I made sure I knew who was behind me.

Hang gliding remains a popular activity off High Rock. Large microwave towers used to sit atop the hill, and some of those who hang-glided reported feeling like they were being microwaved flying in front of the towers! I have no idea how true that is.

The last thing we were going to do before heading home was to show LC where a good friend of ours and his family lived near Carroll Valley. I saw in my map that a back road would take us right into his neighborhood! But instead, we found ourselves on this back road heading toward Emmitsburg. So I turned around and looked for the turnoff toward my friend's place. Turns out it was a dead end, which isn't what my map said! (Google Maps, however, confirmed the dead end. Time for a new map, I guess.)

So I turned around again and headed to Emmitsburg, passing a family sitting in front of their trailer a total of *three* times. They waved at us the third time, knowing we had to be lost. "They can't be from around here!" they were probably snickering to themselves.

Then we went home without further incident. What a nice day with my sweetie.

My Pa

(Chuck Jones rules.)

What my dad lacks in words, he makes up for (and then some) in deeds. He instilled in me the need not to be afraid of home projects, and even as an adult he's helping encourage me with these efforts. He's helped out numerous people with plumbing, electrical, or other such emergencies. And he worked up to three jobs at once to provide for us. Finally, I'm blessed by what a prayer warrior he is for each of us.

I competed for "Dad time" with my other siblings, but he certainly gave me what he could. When we were young, he'd take me for walks in the English countryside. Now that we're older, we walk in the American countryside . . . a golf course. I hope my elbow and shoulders hurry up and heal completely so we can play again!

One of the things I cherish most from my dad is the manger he built for me and each of his kids. I could tell he did so with great care and detail, and I want to make sure it lasts a long time.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I'd say more, but I need more info for future posts!

Monday, June 11, 2007


I had my PICC line removed from my left arm today; it looked like a long piece of spaghetti. I am now devoid of any external antibiotics, and am now taking some internal antibiotics. My right elbow (the one that was operated on) still hurts, but the scar is healing nicely.

I just want to stop feeling so tired all the time. Some of that, however, could be stress-related; I'd really like a full-time job with consistent hours and pay. Sigh.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Why I Am No Longer In Covenant Community

It couldn't be more aptly put than by the father of the Covenant Community movement himself, Steve Clark:

Having our lives in common also means sharing other personal aspects of our lives. In our culture, if we sin, if we are plagued by sexual temptations, if we are anxious or depressed, we keep these problems to ourselves. Victories over difficulties are similarly private. We might share our personal lives with our spouse or a very close friend. But most of us grow up with the firm conviction, perhaps arising from bitter experience, that our personal lives are strictly private.

However, as brothers and sisters in Christian community nothing in our lives is entirely our own. My life belongs to my brother. I cannot construct elaborate strategies to keep him from finding out what I am really like. In fact, opening up our lives to our brothers and sisters in the Lord is usually necessary to begin overcoming our problems and experiencing the freedom that the Lord wants us to have.

Most people who belong to Christian communities where personal sharing is encouraged find quickly that they can be more free about their personal lives than they ever imagined
[just the way Clark intended it -- Cyg]. Personal sharing must be done with discretion and in the appropriate circumstances. But it should be done, for it is part of sharing our lives in Christian community.

Ummmm, no. This sort of "sharing" is exactly what caused considerable harm in the Lamb of God Community, with the "coordinators" learning details of members' lives when they had absolutely no need to know. That happened to me and my sister both. And oh, did the coordinators hate it when members (like me) started going to 12-Step programs over which they had no control!

More about the covenant community phenomenon. And still more.

I'll have much more to say about my days in the Lamb of God in future posts.

P.S. I've been surprised to find out how many of my other friends from cyberspace were involved in this covenant communities movement in some way, shape, or form.

Mean Ol' Mr. Crabapple

Back when David Letterman was actually funny, he played a sometime character called Mean Ol' Mr. Crabapple, the old guy who tells the kids "Get out of my yard!" through clenched dentures teeth. We had no shortage of such characters back in the neighborhood where I grew up, Mr. Goetzke (and his wife) being the most memorable.

I fear that I am becoming that old man.

Last night, I called the Sheriff's Office about kids shooting off illegal fireworks near our house. Yes, kids will do that, but a few years back, some of them torched a couple doors and a car in our neighborhood in the process. A deputy was injured when one of these punks resisted arrest.

We've also been besieged with solicitors, despite the presence of a No Soliciting sign at the front of our court. So I am forced to endure the Girl On Something Not Normally Found In Nature Selling Subscriptions To God Only Knows, and Speaking Of God, I'm The Guy Come To Bother You Into Coming To My Church. I called the church where the latter guy came from, and the pastor admitted he had no guilty conscience about sending his flock to neighborhoods where soliciting has been banned (such as that may be). Heck of a witness, no? And by the way, a sheriff's deputy admitted to me that the No Soliciting sign is just about as enforceable as the warning not to remove the tag from your bedding.

The Bonneville Salt Flats may as well be behind our house. The four-lane divided roadway is well banked as it winds its way unimpeded for over 1/2 a mile. Rice-Burner Motorcycles and Cars That Just Have To Show How Loud Their Exhaust Systems Are regularly do anywhere from 50 to 80 mph through this stretch. I and others have called the Sheriff's Office about this, but after one biker was nabbed for racing up and down, he's gotten smart; he races twice and stops before any deputy can see him. Doesn't matter if I set up a video camera; it's inadmissible. Also, I believe the road was designed and built too well; if the county builds a road that begs people to speed on it, they will.

What I hate is that the do-no-gooders know exactly what they can get away with. But that's an old story that I can go ask King David about:
(Ps. 37: 7-8)

Be still before the LORD; wait for God.
Do not be provoked by the prosperous,
nor by malicious schemers.
Give up your anger, abandon your wrath;
do not be provoked; it brings only harm.

Amen. Often easier said than done, though.

And I can't fault the Sheriff's Office. The deputies have one of the largest counties east of the Mississippi to patrol, and if they need backup, it could come from anywhere between the Pennsylvania line or the Potomac River.

So other than stop shaking my cane at those durn kids, what else can I do so I can avoid becoming Mean Ol' Mr. Crabapple?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

I Hate Red Light Cameras

They're unconstitutional (one cannot face one's accuser -- 6th Amendment), and they exist solely to raise revenue.

When they work.

And even when they DO work, they get so much compliance that they have to be discontinued because . . . they don't generate enough revenue. Or they cause more accidents, like rear-end collisions.

Yesterday in Baltimore, I saw someone get zapped on Mulberry Street at Greene. . . who wasn't even over the white line. I hope he or she can prove his or her innocence (what, no presumption of innocence?).

I will happily take any and all red light cameras to the nearest scrap metal facility, where they belong. (FTR, I have never gotten a ticket from a red light camera.)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Better Health News

My latest endoscopy has so far turned up nothing of significance. There are no signs of my nodule growing back, nor do there seem to be any further problems with Barrett's esophagus. Thank you, Lord!

And thanks again to my 'rents for sitting through the procedure to take me back home.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Going Postal

It's not just that the Postal Service raised the first-class stamp rates. It's how they're rooking people who have larger packages to send that has me riled up.

A couple weeks ago I sent a package to Sharnina. The employee at the downtown post office assured me that so-called "Priority Mail" was the way to go. It was . . . for the USPS. I paid much more than necessary for it to get there in "two or three days" because the guy said it had to be shipped that way.

As the late Phil Hartman would have said, "Beggull sheggit."

I would have saved a lot of money by sending the box via ordinary first class. And it wouldn't have taken A WEEK AND A HALF to get there!

So when I had a smaller package to send today, I went to the USPS postal rate calculator page, weighed the package here, and found that I only had to spend $1.31 for first-class, as opposed to more than $4 for Priority Mail that might get it there . . . whenever. I recommend you do the same.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Fire

Things were buzzing around the radio station on June 3, 2004, three years ago today. I and the news team were getting ready to pick up 12 awards from the Associated Press at the annual AP convention in Ocean City that weekend, after which LC and I would spend a week of vacation there. It was a gorgeous, warm day.

I ducked downstairs to the production area to record a newscast for a DC station. Then one of the production interns told me that he heard on the scanners that a large fire had broken out at St. Peter the Apostle church in Libertytown.

I had just gone to church there the previous Sunday, not yet a member of the parish. I knew a few families from my former covenant community who went there. I recall the 133-year-old church as being rather dark, but very traditional and peaceful. It wasn't the largest sanctuary, and probably needed expansion of some sort; the possibility of building a new church on some land to the north had been kicked around, especially with the parish approaching 2,000 families. Father (now Monsignior) John Dietzenbach was all set to transfer to another parish to the west.

So it was with mixed feelings that I drove out to the Church. And it didn't take long for me to see the smoke billowing in the distance. By the time I arrived, the fire was fully involved with a snorkel truck trying to put out the fire in the steeple -- or what was now left of it -- and water pouring down the marble front steps.

Only days after Fr. John had climbed up on the scaffolding where the steeple was being rebuilt to bless and dedicate it, the heat from a worker's device ignited the fire in the steeple. It quickly spread into the roof, where the dry timbers gave the fire more than enough fuel. Fr. John rushed in early on to save the Eucharist and his vestments when the fire was first reported by some truck drivers heading toward the industrial town of Union Bridge. He later said he could already see the fire in the roof.

Over 100 firefighters, including some from the parish who were volunteers in Libertytown, were called in. But the scaffolding didn't allow for the fire to be fought properly, so the incident commander issued an evacuation call. Miraculously, only one firefighter was injured. Eventually, five alarms (not four as reported) had to be called out.

The steeple and the roof collapsed, guaranteeing that the historic church would be a total loss. But later found in the wreckage were the Book of the Gospels and the huge painting of the Crucifixion behind the altar, both salvageable. The side walls and the entrance were more or less intact, but the walls had to be supported lest they fall. The fire also damaged Fr. John's residence next to the church, although he also ran in there to grab his appointment book!

Church staffers, parishioners, local residents, and passers-by watched the flames helplessly. But as I talked to them for my news story, I got the sense that they were rightfully saddened by the tragedy, but they also knew that the parish was much more than a building. No one was despairing. And it seemed that everyone was being drawn together. That really affected me.

I made sure that the station made mention of the fire that afternoon during breaks in the Orioles game, which pre-empted normal newscasts.

It was then that I decided I wanted to be part of that parish, and LC agreed. We haven't regretted it since. I also appreciated that St. Peter's was going to continue many of its outreaches to the poor and needy in spite of its own need. Also, numerous churches, both Catholic and not, helped out, as did many other area organizations. Ever since, we have held Mass in the parish hall.

Since then, there have been numerous fund-raisers for the new church that is being built around the walls of the 133-year-old one. One of them was a yard sale yesterday that LC and I participated in (we did well, but sure didn't raise as much money as we paid for all that schtuff!), and our space fee and the proceeds from the BBQ chicken lunch went to the building fund. A Tex-Mex restaurant donated proceeds over two nights to the fund. We bought a cross made from the wood of the destroyed pews, and that money went to the fund. And just a couple weeks ago, an area Lutheran church gave $10,000. Wow. We still have a way to go, but I believe God will get us there. Fr. John has stayed on as pastor to oversee the rebuilding.

Here are several different stories on the fire from the Gazette. And you can actually order a DVD telling the story of what happened before, during, and after the fire; proceeds go to the building fund.

Oh, and one more thing: I won another AP award for my live coverage of the fire. :-)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Chain Lightning, it feels so good . . .

(Sorry for my absence: I had to work a lot this week.)

Tonight, Ladycub and I did something we hadn't done in a long time: We shut everything down (including this computer) and watched the lightning of a passing storm from our darkened living room for about half an hour.

I get so used to being wired in with my computer, my XM radio, my cell phone, the car stereo, etc. It was nice not to have to worry about them for a change, and just take in Mother Nature's fireworks show. It delayed the fireworks show at the Frederick Keys game also!

I hope it rains long enough to put a little dent in what appears to be a drought. And it looks like we may get skirted by a tropical storm . . . already. Again, we can use the rain, as can northern Florida and southeast Georgia. (UPDATE Sunday June 3: And they got it, although the storm itself fell apart. We may see some remnants in the next day or so.)

The night we began dating (again), we were in Ocean City and sat together on the balcony of Sandy's room. We watched a storm disperse lightning out over the ocean. It was a fitting end to a memorable day, which was the start of our progress to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony two years later.