Monday, January 25, 2010

A Surefire Cure for Hypertension

If there is a blood pressure medication manufactured, I'm on it. Ranexa, Tekturna, Lisinopril, Clonidine, you name it. But I've come to find out that the cure for hypertension was sitting right at my feet the whole time: children. Pre-teens to be exact.

No, it's not their charming nature or the fulfillment of life they inevitably bring or the high points of the philosophical considerations of mortality and legacy. It's simply this: they hide my salt shakers.

About every fifth time I go into the Publix, I buy the hermetically sealed plastic salt & pepper shakers. I've got so many pepper shakers on the shelves that the weight of them threaten to topple the pantry. If I were living in the time of the spice trade, between the pepper and three packets of saffron rice that have been sitting there for three years, I'd be freakin' Genghis Khan

But guess how many salt shakers sit in the pantry waiting for me to add a pinch to my brussel spouts? Not a damn one.

In the south salting everything comes in second only to deep frying everything. Sure we put salt on beans and vegetables and in soups and stews like you'd expect. But I also use it on cantaloupe, honey dew, watermelon and apples. My dad even used to give a generous shake into his Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I can come home with a container of Morton's iodized and before I'm done unloading the groceries, it'll be gone. It's like David Copperfield has just zoomed through my kitchen. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to find a salt shaker. It's usually tucked into the seat cushions on the couch. I know the things exist because every time my son or daughter decide to eat in my bedroom while watching television, I have to rake out a handful of salt from my bed before I lay down. Why go to Myrtle Beach when I can get grains in my crack just by going upstairs?

I even found a salt shaker in a potted plant once. The kids swear it fell in there off the table above it. I think they lied. I think they're planning some survivalist exercise where they low crawl through the den, sip water out of the dehumidifier and eat the salt straight out the shaker in the plant to keep their muscles from cramping. It's really the only explanation.

It's gotten so bad that I have my own top shelf, private stock--a single salt shaker placed high up in the top of the cupboard where the kids can't reach. But my wife can, which is only a problem because I think she believes the dishwasher monster must have moved to the cabinets. That's the only reason I can think of that she won't put a damn thing in either one.

I know the origin of the word salt--that it was so valuable that soldiers got paid with it, hence the word "salary." But here's a note to my kids: it ain't the 14th century, you're not Marco Polo. Salt is in abundance now, so much so, that it's the reason the Morton girl logo has an umbrella--so she doesn't get hit by the salt raining down from the sky!

So take heed, kids. The next time one of you takes one of the 400 salt shakers we have and don't put it back where you got it, I'm gonna have Copperfield saw you in half.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cult of Personality--The Rise of the Bubble Gum, Rock & Roll Video Church

I was at a minor league hockey game in Chicago once when a friend noted that the only guys to play hockey at that level or in college were Canadian boys who weren't good enough to go pro right out of high school. I think about that every now and then when my wife drags me to the new religious craze: video church.

Video church starts with head-banging rock & roll and screeching lyrics. It's deafening. It's earsplitting. It's what stodgy, WASPish people used to call devil music, but these, ahem, musicians throw in words like "king" and "savior," and capitalize the "H" in "He" and "Him" and suddenly you have a praise song. I've heard if you play their music backwards, though, you hear, "I'm not good enough to be in a real band..."

Perhaps I sound stodgy, too. I prefer "traditionalist," but who wants to split the numbered hairs on my head? I'm not new to video religion, though. My father religiously (pun intended) watched every Billy Graham Crusade that came on television, even if we had to watch it through a snowy TV screen and cipher his message through static. (This was pre-digital cable, for my young readers.) I was such a Graham devotee that I was 23 years old before I realized you didn't have to hum the third verse of "Just As I Am." But in video church, you're more likely to hear a grunge version of "Up on the Rooftop" than "Silent Night." I mean, would it kill them to sing "How Great Thou Art" every now and then?

This latest phenomenon is based on the Rick Warren mega-church concept, with a main "mother" church and several satellite congregations hyperlinked by computer video. It's like a conference call with God. The first video preacher I saw came across as an arrogant ass--kids who masturbate are going to hell; stay-at-home fathers (like me) don't seem to fall on the Godly side of his get-into-Heaven checklist; and if you disagreed with him, then you, in his words, "Had the right to be wrong."

The last video preacher I saw gave copious lip service to saving souls for Jesus, but his emphasis seemed to be on growing his church's membership to greater than the 15,000 it has now. In my opinion, that's not saving souls; it's putting butts in seats. It's what carnies and pro wrestling promoters do. He made four points during his sermon, one of which was that Jesus is not our "Snuggie." Jesus' purpose is not to comfort and provide succor, it is to agitate and irritate us into making changes in our lives. Hmm..."I am your rock and your salvation, a fortress that cannot be shaken" (Psalm 62:2). "My power will rest on you when you are weak," (2 Corinthians 12:9). I rather like Jesus being my Snuggie, my shield, my protection, my comfort but what do I know?

Video preacher 2 said he wanted sinners in his church--broken people with hurting souls, people who spit and cuss and drink and need a good dose of the Lord. And bless him for that, I wholeheartedly agree. But in the same sermon, he invited "religious, churchy people,"--those of us who prefer "Amazing Grace" to "Bongo Jed and the Jesus Freaks;" those of us who find more inspiration in the Apostles Creed than cutesy little sayings on the church's roadside digital billboard--to leave. Yes, to walk out. These people weren't welcome in flashing strobe light, heavy metal, simulcast church.

He noted that people in "regular" churches walked around with a glassy-eyed, Stepford Wives demeanor. Maybe so, but it struck me as we walked in to the theater,, I witnessed a young woman offer to take a young child to the youth center. She said it with all the sincerity of a "let's do lunch" invitation you say to a college friend you just bumped into after 15 years. In the South when you utter the phrase "How are you?" and make the last word in that phrase eight syllables long, you can tell it's not from the heart...really. When the couple replied their daughter wanted to go to the service with them, the young woman told her the church had a policy of not allowing kids younger than 6th grade age inside. "Suffer the little children to come unto me." Who was it who said that? I can't quite place it...oh, yeah...HIM. Besides, it's tradition in Southern churches for people to bring fussy babies into the sanctuary so the rest of us can talk bad about them later. It's true.

I've noticed a pattern in these video church preachers, Rick Warren included. Narcissism. Video preacher 2 summed it up nicely the other day when he told the congregation that he promised his church would be a one man show. He said, by that, he meant Jesus. Sometimes people reveal more about themselves than they realize. It appears to be a one man show all right.

It's important that we go to a church as a family; that we receive salvation and accept the grace we're offered, but I'll ask the question out loud I've asked myself a dozen times this year: If I've got to listen to a TV preacher, why can't I stay home on the couch in my boxer shorts and watch Jimmy Swaggart?

Feel free to put someone else's butt in my seat.