Learning About Friendship – Part 2

So I learned what a friend isn’t. At the end of the day, that’s not so important. I also learned (or at least was reminded of) what a friend is. That’s more important. Again, Facebook, for all its inherent faults, helped me along.

Last week, I saw someone I knew from 15 years ago had finally given in and join Facebook. Now I wouldn’t say I’d been best buds with this particular person, but we were well acquainted. We were in the same church, so not surprisingly at one time we saw each other on at least a weekly basis. Though not a lawyer, he had, in his professional capacity and as a friend, referred clients to me in past. I saw that he was FB friends with at least five other friends of mine, so I threw my usual caution and lack of self-confidence to the wind and sent along a friend request. Over the next few days I saw that he added lots of friends.

That’s when it was clear that even though I hadn’t been officially ignored, I wasn’t going to be one of them. Then there’s that little twinge of embarrassment, a bit like when you greet somebody in the street and they look at you and blank you. That has happened to you, right? And then the twinge becomes a cringe, while you remind yourself that it isn’t the the same as putting out your hand to shake someone else’s just to have them keep theirs firmly in their pocket. I withdrew my friend request, as if that gave it some modicum of dignity.

Now this was one those things where you don’t see it coming, but on the other hand it isn’t a total surprise. It happened some time back with another friend. I’d known them a bit longer. Closer to 20 years. Even used to go over to their house every week for food, fellowship and Bible study. We use to hang out with a lot of the same people from church. Though they did end the once-a-week thing rather abruptly, as far as I knew we were still friends. So there they were on Facebook and already FB friends with the same bunch of people, so I thought this was a no-brainer. I had bet they’d be glad to know how I was doing and I really wanted to catch up with them. This time I didn’t have the chance to withdraw. They deleted my request without a lot of pause. It’s times like these when I wish Facebook had the programmed savvy to keep from continually popping up an alert telling me that I should add them because we have so many friends in common.

So what does this have to do with real friendship? Even if you love me, you are probably ready for me to get to the point.

The point is that unlike with these and a few other individuals,  I have taken the opportunity to offend a lot of people. Usually not intentionally, but nonetheless I am often an idiot. I have made some really bad decisions that have affected the lives of some of my friends.  (I’m glad I have some friends upon whom I haven’t placed any baggage. I’m glad I have some Facebook friends that I didn’t know real well and have gotten to know a bit better. But back to the point of my story…)

There are people who would have good reasons to walk away and not have anything to do with me. They are my friends on Facebook and that’s good, because it is a convenient way to communicate and share thoughts and ideas, keep up with what is happening in their lives, whether big events or daily miscellany. And it’s just one way they remind me that I still matter to them. They are also people that I can pick up the phone and call. They probably know that I would be happy to take their call any time, day or night. Well, probably worried to take it at some times of the night, but more than willing. They can disagree with me on political or theological positions (and I provide lots of opportunity to do that). They can put up with my lack of social skills due to being a bit Asperger or that other kind of person that starts with the same first syllable.

So I suppose who I don’t have as friends just helps me to appreciate who I do have as friends. And that’s a good thing.

A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

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Learning About Friendship – Part 1

As I was about to start this, I looked back through my blog archives and discovered that it’s been almost exactly two years since I last mentioned this topic.  So two more years of Facebook and I’m still puzzled about what a friend is. The experiences of this week have caused me to evaluate this further.

I’m glad to have met some new friends on Facebook, whether through playing poker or commenting in the same group or forum. However, I’m not so concerned with Facebook friends, per se, but rather what it tells us about the friends we already had and how we deal with the past. It opens a window on relationships so that we might see them in a way we haven’t before.

There was an interesting interaction this week with someone I’ve known for well over 30 years – and one of those rare individuals who had sent me a friendship request on Facebook. We hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years and I knew that our lifestyle choices had diverged significantly since that time. She posted something on her Wall derisive and mocking toward people she had seen protesting at an abortion clinic.

Having mellowed in my old age, I normally let these sorts of thing pass. It’s her Wall, after all. Instead I very mildly challenged it. (And those who know me know the mildness took some effort.) The result was like being a sheep in the midst of hungry wolves, including my old friend. I was essentially told that I was in the midst of a closed society of real friends and I needed to shut up and and go away. The language wasn’t quite as polite as that statement may imply, but then it wasn’t the sort of language I would repeat. And there was plenty of it and from plenty of people.

But then I saw something else. In a different status update, this same friend offered some sort of offhand remark about a food or a film or something rather inconsequential, saying she f***ing loved it. A mutual friend who has known her as long as I have, replied that she agreed, though she didn’t care for the choice of language. Now I’ve seen flame wars in forums and all sorts of bad cyber-behaviour, but what followed was just repulsive. The mutual friend didn’t see much of it, because she took up the first friend’s subsequent generally broadcast invitation for anyone and everyone to f*** off if they didn’t like the way she behaved. After the mutual friend obliged, the first friend posted about her, mocking and belittling her for “defriending” and deriding Christians generally. The hate fest with her real friends that followed, where this mutual friend – who otherwise had never posted anything on her wall – was called the most revolting of names and as a curative for her Christianity was encouraged, in absentia, to engage in certain sexual  practices that are not even physically possible.

But here’s the telling thing. When I wrote privately and gently (yes, some of you would be again amazed at the self-restraint) to this sorry excuse for a friend, wondering why she would treat someone she’s known for so long so badly, she replied that this person “is not one of the people in my past that treated me with respect or was a great friend to me personally.” I thought to myself, why did you bother to be this person’s friend on Facebook? Why would you ask this person to be your Facebook friend and then when they say anything with which you disagree, not just defriend them on Facebook, but attack them and belittle them?

I could understand – just barely – if we were talking about junior high kids, but these are women on the verge of 40 years old who grew up in the same church and went to the same Christian school. This is clearly an example of how online communication allows people to get away with behaviours they would never contemplate in person. I didn’t get a chance to reply, because after writing back and saying she appreciated my point of view she defriended me.  Oh well.

Even at my age I’ve learned a little more about what a friend isn’t. But I’ve also learned more about what a friend is. It’s been a very instructive week.   But I’ll save that for next time.

Delicious Lamb Stew

Ingredients:
Lamb stew meat – cubed
Floury potatoes (I used baking potatoes) – thickly sliced
Carrots – thickly sliced
Onion – thickly sliced
Fresh thyme
Parsely – fresh if you can afford it after buying the thyme, otherwise dried
Salt
Pepper
Wife – irritated and incredulous
Lamb stock cubes
Flour

Prep time: 18 hours
Cooking time: 7 hours

In a large casserole dish, create layers of lamb, potatoes, carrots, and onion, with a final layer of potatoes on top. On top of each layer added fresh thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Just before you are about to put it into the oven, wife will ring and insist the stew meat will not cook sufficiently in two hours and will not be fit for the dog to eat and besides, since you did not flour the meat it will not yield a stew gravy. She will tell you to put it in the fridge and she will cook something else when she gets home. She will also suggest the meat will probably go off because it has been out of the freezer for two days. Enjoy chicken fajitas.

The next morning, empty the casserole dish into the slow cooker, but pick out the pieces of lamb and roll them in flour before returning them to the cooker. Add the 450 ml of lamb stock that you were just about to make before you got the phone call the day before explaining that you are an idiot. Set the slow cooker to high out of fear that setting it to low will not kill all the food poisoning from the meat being out of the freezer for too long. After two hours set it to medium, because you are not wearing your reading glasses and for some inexplicable reason the settings on your slow cooker knob go clockwise in the following order: high, low, medium. After another two hours, set it to low.

After six hours, you will discover that simply rolling the meat in flour does not magically create stewy gravy. In a measuring jug, add a small amount of boiling water to a stock cube, then add flour and wisk very fast. Really fast. Then add more flour until it is nice and thick. Continue wisking and slowly add water to 450 ml. Wisk again. Pour into the stew and stir it around so it looks like it was always stewy looking.

After seven hours the lamb will be falling apart and the vegetable will be very soft without being mushy. The gravy will both look and taste stewy. Serves two with plenty of leftovers because without tasting it the kids don’t like lamb stew and insist on bean burritos. Their loss.

Walking Home

Being back in my hometown for Christmas, I got my hair cut at the barbershop where I often had it cut as a child. My dad had dropped me off there and told me to ring him with the mobile phone that my mother has never used. I decided to walk back to my parents’ house instead.

I grew up in a small town, so it wasn’t that far to walk. I crossed the main street through town to the parking lot of the Dairy Queen, where I first remember having a hamburger. If I remember right, the Jiffy Burger was 19¢ – it was a thin patty with a red sauce and a couple of slices of dill pickle. I remember always looking forward to the day when I could have a Beltbuster, which despite its name, was not that large of a burger, except to a seven-year-old.

Just down from the Dairy Queen is the Presbyterian Church. As a little boy, I didn’t know what to think of Presbyterians, because we were Baptist and it wasn’t clear to me if anyone other than the Baptists were saved. That was until we became Charismatics and all sort of people started coming over to our house for prayer meetings, including the new Presbyterian pastor. One of the few times I was ill as a child, he brought over the Chronicles of Narnia for me to read. I’d never heard of C.S. Lewis. I’ve been a fan ever since.

After the Presbyterian Church, there is a bridge over the only bayou in town. Looking up stream, I could just about see where I took up smoking for a few weeks in the summer after the third grade. I had a friend whose house was at the end of my street and on the bayou and he used to steal his parents cigarettes. They used to buy several cartons at a time, so they never seemed to miss a pack. But like Bill Clinton, I never inhaled – I couldn’t get the hang of it – so this was a quickly passing phase. We also smoked grapevine. I suppose you can smoke a lot of things if you set your mind to it, but I never smoked any of those either.

Just past that was one of the yards I used to cut. It was owned by a lady in our church who had once had massive prescription drug dependencies and an extremely depressed outlook. After a lot of prayer, counselling, and what is called deliverance in the charismatic vernacular, she stopped taking all the pills and was a generally happier person. But like everyone does, she got old and now has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home.

Just a couple of houses down from there is where my parents first met just a week shy of 48 years ago. It was my mother’s aunt and uncle’s house then and during my early childhood. About the time I started junior high they sold it and moved to another subdivision. It was bought by some Norwegians who started a travel agency and had a very attractive daughter in my grade, upon who I had a crush and about whom I would eventually write my first song on the guitar. I’m not entirely sure she ever truly acknowledged my existence and I’m very sure she never heard the song.  It was a pretty bad song anyway. She’s a friend of a friend on Facebook, so I’ve seen her profile picture. She is still very attractive and married to a captain in the US Navy. She still doesn’t know I exist. The difference is that now I don’t care so much. The Norwegians moved to the next town and the house has been two or three restaurants since.

I turned there, down the short side of one block (blocks in my hometown are decidedly rectangular, with the east/west running side about half as long as the side running north/south) to my street. I probably spent more time playing on this block than anywhere else in my childhood. On the next corner lived the only friend I knew with a trampoline.  I was mostly scared of it, but that’s not surprising, because I was mostly scared of everything. I never once did a flip of any kind. I know we did other things besides jump on the trampoline, but that stands out most in my mind.

Across and up my street one house was the Baptist parsonage. When I was in the first and second grade, as best as I can recall, I considered the son of the pastor my best friend. The summer I was in the second grade, he moved back to East Texas, as did his father, so the church called another pastor who only had daughters. One of them was several years older than me, but the other was a school year younger. I never considered her my best friend – but then I don’t know that I considered anyone my best friend at that point – but we spent an awful lot of time together. I saw her in Walmart a couple of days ago, because she was down to see her parents for the holidays, and she even remembered things I didn’t. I guess we stopped playing together sometime before junior high (though we hunted deer on the same lease during high school), but much of those middle elementary years was spent at her house, my house, or the block and a half between them.

It would have mostly been one of the houses, because in between was the hospital where I was born. In those days it was half the size it is now and took up an over-sized block, so the street zig-zagged and ran straight up into our driveway. The front of the hospital faced that displaced street with a semi-circle driveway that was the site of my only ever physical daring do, when I tried to go around it too fast on my bicycle, leaned over too far, and took the skin off my entire knee. Now the hospital takes up both blocks and the street is gone altogether, so I had to walk around the entrance to the emergency room, in front of the spaces for ambulances and the reserved doctor parking to cross the street to the house where I grew up.

So most of my life happened within a few blocks. I know you must be thinking (if you can still think after all this – I’m just glad that you are still reading) what about school and church? The elementary schools I attended were two blocks one way and the junior high was two blocks the other. When my dad’s first church moved out of our house, it moved one block away to a storefront on that main thoroughfare through town. For a couple of years it was ten blocks away, but before I left home, it was about four blocks away.

I’ve lived a lot of places since I left home, but the biggest single chunk of my life was spent in this small town on the Texas coast, within a three or four block radius of where I sit now to write this.

Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog

Our puppies are now six weeks old. They have been interesting to watch over the last few weeks, as they have found their feet and cut their teeth. Without any sort of instruction or training, they began to fight each other. They will spar until one yields, usually in some sort of pain. They other thing is that they like meat. Again, no one had to tell them to like dead flesh. They will eat other things, but they like meat.

Dogs are predators. They like to kill things. That’s the way they are made. I marvel at the so-called animal rights activists and supporters who do not support the right of dogs to kill. In this country they have ineffectually banned fox hunting and hare coursing. (The hunts continued despite protestors causing criminal damage and sending videos to the police. The police have openly stated they will not enforce the ban of foxhunting, though they still chase hare coursers occasionally.) In the case of fox hunting, fox can be killed after being chased by hounds, but they must be killed by humans. Likewise it is legal to shoot a hare; you just can’t send a dog after it.

This is because there are people who enjoy watching the dogs do what dogs do. It is not the prey that is banned – only the predator. We are supposed to feel that there is something wrong with watching the natural course of predator vs. prey – unless we are watching wild animals on a David Attenborough documentary, of course. So it’s okay to watch an alligator kill a kangaroo or an orca chomp down on a seal, but not a hound chase down a fox.

I also think it is hypocritical to spay or neuter a dog. So many of those who support animal rights also support human reproductive rights (both causes being favourites of the Left). It seems unnecessarily cruel to an animal to take away their reproductive organs merely as a human convenience. If you don’t want puppies, keep the bitch away from a dog.

We breed and sell sighthounds. Many people breed them as show dogs. They try to develop certain qualities in them that appeal to the poncy prima donnas at Crufts and other dog shows, with just the right colour, height, and grooming. We don’t breed show dogs. We breed dogs that can do what dogs do best. We only sell them to people who let them use their natural ability and instinct. They see (with a peripheral range of about 270°), they run really fast (up to about 45 mph), and they kill. And they love it. That’s the way God made them.

I’m Back

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in such a long time. I have started a number of entries, but never bult up the steam to get them done. It’s not like there haven’t been things happening in the news and in my life. In fact, it is probably because there has been so much happening around here that I haven’t given more time to the insightful news commentary you all so desperately crave.

I’ve been job hunting for a situation I would find more appealing. Time consumed on applications and interviews. I only got two interviews and neither was a position I was inclined to take. In the second one, I was the only candidate and I withdrew.

At the same time, work has been quite time consuming.

Then there was getting ready for a visit from my parents. The Woman has been temporarily working full-time outside the home, so it took a lot effort to get is ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Then there was the visit, which was worth all the effort.  We usually only get to see my folks twice a year.

And of course I’ve been working on the book. It may not sound like much by I’ve got two chapters finished and parts of two others written. I’ve been a bit stuck and doing more research to make them historically accurate.  I thought I knew where I was going with a particular storyline that is key to my first act and then got new information which made it unworkable. It is only today that I think I have found a way around it.

I hope I can (and will) blog more regularly in the coming weeks.

Half-way to 90

I suppose this makes me middle-aged.  Not that I want to stop at 90, of course. The scary thing is that 2054 doesn’t seem that far off.

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