Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ruminations From the Front Porch

Ordinarily I'd be typing from my usual comfortable spot in my recliner, but tonight, circumstances force me elsewhere. Right now, our internet at NMSI is being switched or...tweaked...or...um...reconfigured? Pretty much all it means to me is that we don't have wireless on campus tonight. Since I still had plenty of internet related things to do, I couldn't be deterred from using the internet by a minor detail such as no available wireless connection. About 9:30, my buddy Ty and I walked a few blocks to a 24 hour Dunkin Donuts...only to be kicked out at 10 because it was "closing time". That was the first time I've ever been asked to leave a 24 hour establishment. (it took 3 minutes of racking my brain to confirm this)

Returning to the house, I found that some kind soul near here has an unsecured wireless router...so I'm typing from my porch, borrowing the signal. Even though it's the front porch, I'm still sitting in a pretty great chair...one I found on the side of the road a few weeks ago. Thanks to a little dusting, a bit of stubbornness, and a substantial amount of Febreze, this tweed rocking chair makes for some pretty sweet porch sitting.

So I've been sitting here, working on flight itineraries, emailing people, and searching for a replacement for the Saab (an entire post devoted to how it met its bitter end will be up very soon) in my chair, on the porch. And in the past hour or so, I've decided that I'm still not used to Florida. Not at all. This place is so muggy. So oppressively hot. I can't even chew gum without sweating...and it's March. Even though I'm sitting in a tweed recliner that has at best a questionable history, the mugginess that is Florida compels me to sit here shirtless...which I would do if I were in better shape or had less concern for passers by. Alas, I sit here fully clothed and fully drenched.

Yea, so I'm still not a fan of this state...

Even so, I have found Florida's silver lining.



Yep, a grocery store...not the beaches (I've seen better), not the sun (I already have enough freckles for a connect the dots book), and not the culture (cause it's mostly manufactured). But for real, Publix...it's the best thing about Florida...and that's not even a knock on Florida.

For example, today I went into the store and the following things happened:
I saw my reflection in the clean floor
A nice lady gave me a free sample of some kind of great chicken
I saw a ton of buy one get one free deals (including Gatorade and Cheez-its)
I bought bread for $1.30 and a gallon of milk for $2.80
And now the kicker...they have great sushi....I went to the sushi desk, and again, encountered a very kind lady who offered to make me whatever kind of sushi I wanted! So she did...she made my salmon/cream cheese roll on the spot, and it cost me $6

If grocery stores were cars, Publix is a BMW.

Yep...Publix. The best thing about Florida. I think that should be their new ad campaign...shoot I'd even volunteer to be in the ad!

So that's it...now I have to confront the fact that my life has come to spending a considerable amount of time writing about a grocery store...and other inane details. And now you have to confront the fact that you just spent 2 minutes reading about it...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baby, It's 3 am I must be lonely...

Sleeping has never really been a problem for me. Unless you consider sleeping too much a proble. I slept a lot in High School...in class that is. My Spanish II teacher once gave me a detention for sleeping, even specifying when I was asleep. For example, she wrote on the detention slip: "10:20-10:30 nodding off," and "10:30-11:15 head down." (I still find that super creepy)

I also remember the following dialogue:

Random girl in my Spanish III class: "You sleep a lot in class huh?"
Me: "Um, yea...I guess so."
Girl: "But you make A's in here don't you?"
Me: "Um, yea...I guess so."
Girl: "So, do you have like...a problem? Or something? With sleeping?"
Me: "Like narcolepsy? Haha...no...I just get extra sleep when I get the chance."
Girl: "Oh...are you sure?"

From then, not a lot has changed...pretty much anytime I want to take a nap, I shut the ole brain off and I'm out like Cecil Fielder trying to steal 2nd.

So when insomnia filled nights like this arise, I'm alarmed. I needed sleep, I was tired...my room was dark, cool, and peaceful...yet I just couldn't manage to find slumber. So at 3 AM, I got out of bed wanting to find a Waffle House, get some coffee, and talk about life with a friend...but it was 3 am, and normal people sleep at 3 am. I had plenty of time to think...sometimes I like being alone with my thoughts. So I thought I'd give you a few of the random things I thought...

*I don't want to get a FL drivers license
*I want to see Asia and Australia
*I wish I was better at car repair
*I need to work on my guitar skills
*I wonder if the roaches in the cabinet are dead now? (Ty put some roach killer out)
*I wonder if that guy will accept my $300 offer for his 1993 Saturn
*I think I'd like a Flux Capacitor
*I'd like to go play basketball
*I'd also like a Blizzard

Well, there ya have it..instead of simmering in those random thoughts, I went on over to the office to get started on the day...and here I am! Now, I think I'm going to go to Dunkin Donuts for a Bagel and Coffee. I'm rarely up this early...I think I deserve a reward.

Monday, March 9, 2009

My gripe with Kashi:

To the people of Kashi,

The other day I ambled into a CVS, in hopes of finding some Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Apple Jacks, or some other deliciously indulgent cereal on sale. Instead, I was surprised to find two of your products on sale, for the astoundingly low price of 2 for $6! In an effort to be both healthy and frugal, I purchased a box of Kashi Go Lean! Crunch, and a box of Kashi Heart to Heart. The Go Lean! Crunch box displayed the cereal with blueberries spilling into a bowl. Both the blueberries and the exclamation point made me think that the contents of the box may include considerable flavor. Better yet, the Heart to Heart box said “Honey Toasted Flavor.” Who doesn’t like honey/toasted? My brain told my stomach to anticipate something like Honey Nut Cheerios, only good for you! After carrying myself with a newly found upper caste cereal eater’s walk back to my house, I opened the box of Go Lean! Crunch. I was appalled at what I found…rather, what I didn’t find.

The box contained exactly 0 blueberries and nothing meriting an exclamation point aside from disappointment. This cereal’s flavor was strikingly similar to that of off brand Smacks. Imagine Smacks, minus the stuff that makes it not taste like a tree, and you have Kashi Go Lean! Crunch. Foolishly, I was expecting blueberries and exclamation points…I suggest you consider renaming this cereal “Kashi Liar :o( Crunch.” Truthfully stating that the cereal box lies perhaps evens out the lie itself. The sad face :o( accurately depicts the consumer’s expression upon consumption of the product much better than the exclamation point previously did. These subtle changes should not only give your integrity a boost but also improve the accuracy of your advertising. I figure you guys probably believe in karma anyway, so this will be a good change.

In hopes of chasing away the aftertaste of stale tree bark, I opened the box of Heart to Heart. I was pleasantly surprised to see both “O” shaped nuggets as well as heart shaped ones as the box depicted. Could it be that the first box was an aberration and this box contained the true essence of Kashi products!? Hurriedly, I poured milk into the bowl and dug into Kashi’s second chance. Immediately, the bite made me sad. Sad because it tasted like Puppy Chow (I say this as one who, as a kid, tasted Puppy Chow)…sad because it made me miss my dog. Both my parents’ dog, and my dog who died when I was in high school. Then it made me sad because I was eating it…and not Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Sad because I could have bought 3 Wendy’s Double Stacks for the same price. Sad because at that very moment, I was still really hungry. Though I cannot fault your advertising for this product, I can sure fault the product itself. I hope that this stuff really did help my heart…because it definitely made my heart sad. My submission is that you change the name of this cereal to Kashi h”O”rribles. You should pronounce the “O” with an “o-h” as in “ho-rubbles.” You may sell more that way.

My conclusion: the healthy cereal lied to me, made me want multiple fast food cheeseburgers, and made me miss my dog. Next time I’ll pay double for some Apple Jacks.


Matt Hickman

Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Unexpected Hug

Ok, I should warning you that this is a sort of stream of consciousness rambling. So if everything isn't tightly connected, I apologize...I wanted to get these thoughts down before I lost them.

Before I had an opportunity to react, or even realize what was going on, I found myself in a tight embrace with a withered, elderly Haitian man. His balding, scratchy head barely reached my chin and he lingered for longer than I expected. Next, with passion and gratitude in his voice, he said 3 or 4 things in Creole that I couldn't understand at all...then walked off. About 20 minutes before I preached a sermon as a guest speaker on the first night of a revival week in Bon Repos, Haiti. Though I felt like much of the message was lost in translation, something apparently touched him.

Later that night as I walked out of the small church, my mind began to dissect the past 2 hours of singing, dancing, praising, and praying. Though I had much to ponder, I couldn't leave the thought of the random hug from the random man. What prompted his action? Why was he so excited? I've preached my fair share of times and I've never had someone who I had never before seen bear hug me.

Then I had a thought...it might have been his culture.

If I were an outsider standing across the street from this Haitian church, a person who knew nothing of Jesus, of religion or of culture, I couldn't keep from venturing in. I'd hear vibrant music, voices singing, and passionate messages. I'd see people walk inside a drab concrete building and make it come to life. If I had to give one word to characterize the environment, it would be joy.

I can see how Christianity could become cultural here...and in Africa or Asia...it's because it sure seems like the church is the place to be! Dancing, music, people who are happy...it sounds like a good time.

So, does this apply to America? We could probably work to make the church the most popular place to hang out during. Though I can't say I'm opposed to the church being a popular hangout, I don't think that coffee shops, open mic nights, and Christian dance clubs would ever bring a revolution.

As one who doesn't have a great appreciation for liturgy of any kind (by the way, I've been called plenty of names for this: shallow, ignorant, unappreciative, rebellious, uneducated, even stupid) I struggle to see how Christianity is/has become cultural in much of America. Yet, I read Jesus and all he does is shake up the culture.

So I say these loosely connected thoughts to say this rather concise one:

Liturgy or spontaneity, reverence or exuberance, if motivated by culture isn't Jesus...it's merely culture.

So when he hugged me, what was it Jesus or culture? Considering that roughly half of all Haitians still practice voodoo...

I say Jesus.