Sunday, November 1, 2015

Trip to L.A., October 7-12, 2015

Darren and Dorine at L.A. Temple
Manhattan Beach

Dorine at Griffith Park
Retrieving Murray in Redondo Beach
Van Gogh

Dorine at La Brea Tar Pits

Dorine with Bougainvillia at Getty Center
Panoramic View of Getty Center
L.A. Temple
Getty Center Art Museum
Me with Galen in El Segundo

Dorine and I flew out to Los Angeles on Wednesday, October 7, 2015, to see our son Darren.  We shopped for flights well in advance of the trip, and thus we got dirt-cheap fares on Southwest Airlines ($78 round-trip for each of us). With the money we saved, we rented a car from Thrifty at LAX; apart from the terrible shuttle service to and from Thrifty's off-airport lot, we were happy with the rental.  We weren't counting on seeing Darren on the morning of the 7th; however, Darren's wife Cait's Yorkie, Murray, had wandered off the night before, and Darren had gone out posting "lost dog" posters in their neighborhood in Lawndale before going to work.  Cait was in Minnesota, so Darren was driving to work in her absence; thus we were able to talk to him before he left.  We'd made arrangements to meet up for lunch with my old college buddy, Galen Kekauoha, in El Segundo.  Given that Darren works in El Segundo, he was able to join us at the Chinese restaurant we'd chosen. 

That afternoon, Dorine and I drove north on the 405 freeway to the Getty Center, which is an extremely interesting place. We saw a huge "temporary" exhibit of Hellenic bronze sculpture, the Getty art collection (featuring a great collection of impressionists -- see the photos above of van Gogh's "Irises" and the Monet painting of the Rouen Cathedral), and the gardens on the grounds.  That evening, Darren got a call from a lady who had picked up Murray -- thank goodness -- and wanted to arrange to give him back; we met up with her at a dog park in Redondo Beach.  Later we walked to an In 'N' Out Burger near Darren and Cait's place for dinner.

The following day, the big activity for the day was to go shopping at the Citadel outlet malls in L.A.  I had noticed there was an Adidas outlet store there and was excited to see what it might have in stock.  Na├»vely, I believed it would have a good selection, reasonably priced, of shoes and apparel, whereas it had fairly limited inventory and most of the stock was selling for full retail prices.  We bought shoes for some of the grandkids (both there and at the Nike store next door), and I still managed to buy a pair of mauve-and-gray Adidas shorts (paying about $10 more for them than they were worth to me, driving the final nail into the coffin of any desire I had to shop at an Adidas outlet store).  That evening, we walked with Darren to a Carl's Jr. in the area to eat. 

On Friday, Dorine and I drove up to Griffith Park and walked around for a short while.  In the afternoon we drove down to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and saw most of the exhibits there.  On Saturday, Darren went with Dorine and me to the Los Angeles LDS temple, where we did an endowment session.  I hadn't been to the LA temple since Galen's sealing to his wife Jackie in 1990(?), and this was the first time I'd ever gone through a session there.  On Sunday, Dorine and I ended up not going to church; later, Darren and we went down to Manhattan Beach and walked around for a while before we drove north to Van Nuys and had dinner with Galen and Jackie (and their son Bryan, and the missionaries) at their home.  Later that night, Cait flew back from Minnesota, so we did get to see her briefly.

On Monday, we went to go see the La Brea Tar Pits, which I hadn't realized (a) was pretty much in the middle of LA, and (b) produces fossils dating back only to the last Ice Age (i.e., no dinosaurs).  Dorine and I had both been steeped in LBTP lore in school as children, however, so it was interesting finally to see the place.  We flew back to Albuquerque that night after returning our rental car and enduring what seemed like interminable waits (a) for the Thrifty shuttle to take us back to LAX, and (b) for the plane to load and take off.  I was really glad not to have had to drive to LA on this trip!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bill Shunn's The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary

I have now read Bill Shunn's memoir The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary.  It is a brilliant piece of writing, made even more so by the lengths to which Bill went, utilizing the services of a world-class editor, to produce the definitive version of the book.  I have always liked Bill's writing, as it takes him little effort to serve up some tasty literary "cheeseburgers"; however, the published version of The Accidental Terrorist is truly a slice of filet mignon to be savored with gusto.  I miss some of the humor that was edited out of earlier incarnations of the story -- especially the inside jokes or references that only active Mormons could "get" fully -- but I appreciate Bill's motivation in giving it a serious treatment for its formal unveiling.  (I also appreciate his mentioning me in his author's acknowledgments.)

Although I remain an active member of the LDS church, I share much of Bill's perspective on the notion of serving two years as a Mormon missionary, particularly the often-bleak outlook of a new missionary just starting out and the sheer impossibility of a missionary's spending all of his designated proselytizing time "fruitfully" or even fully engaged.  I well remember my early days as a missionary in Chile in 1979.  My adjustment to mission life in a foreign country was especially hard-fought (and only barely won), although I had an "advantage" that Bill didn't have in Canada, in that I could not have left my mission on the sly -- all roads home passed through my mission president and the full weight of Chilean and American immigration and customs officials.  Thus, when I arrived in Chile I was committed to stay for the duration.  Also, unlike Bill, I didn't feel particularly anguished about giving up two years of my life (though admittedly it was a great sacrifice in retrospect); I had neither great plans nor a girlfriend to put on hold.  Still, I distinctly remember wondering if I'd ever really come home or if I'd be doomed to knock on people's doors for eternity.

However, when it came to active missionary work, I possibly had it even tougher in Chile than did Bill in Alberta (or, later, in Washington and Idaho).  In my mission, we typically tried to be judicious in baptizing teenage girls or single women, so when we went out and tried to find people to teach about the church, we looked for entire families with fathers who might one day provide church leadership.  Unfortunately, most Chilean men's work schedules took them away from home until about 7:00 pm on weekdays, so that meant we had about a three-hour window of potentially "productive" time every evening for "tracting" and teaching.  Given that we were expected to proselytize for up to ten hours per day, that left a lot of time to fill.  We tried lots of things, but "street contacting" was particularly pointless in Chile; almost invariably, the contact would, in order not to be rude in the moment but also not to be bothered further, give a false address.  (I hated stopping people on the street in any case.)  Thus we ended up spending a lot of time in members' homes doing nothing in particular.  Thankfully, I didn't break the most-serious of mission rules -- nor did I break less-serious rules in so persistent a manner that it became serious in my leaders' eyes -- but, for me, as for most of the missionaries presented in The Accidental Terrorist, proselytizing hours ended up being largely an exercise in creative time-wasting.  That caused me to feel a sense of shame that, though it diminished over time, continues to overshadow my memories of the huge, mostly diligent effort that I did expend in trying to "further the kingdom" in Chile.  

Of course, Bill, being an "ex-Mo," presents his missionary memoir from a distinctly critical point of view concerning (a) the various doctrinal, historical, and cosmological claims the church makes, (b) the life of Joseph Smith, the church's founder, and (c) the "guilt" culture that impels so many of its young people -- especially, still, its young men -- to take a huge bite out of their lives to serve church missions.  I don't share most of that part of Bill's perspective, but I will say this: so much of a Mormon young man's training is directed at preparing him to serve a proselytizing mission that it shouldn't amaze anyone that many missionaries come home wondering, anticlimactically, "What now?"  Having been a missionary, no matter the level of one's diligence, doesn't automatically make one a great breadwinner, head of family, husband, father, or administrator; thus I feel it does young Mormon men a great disservice not to allow them to gaze farther into the future and to view their missions, rightfully, as one step on a larger path.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The End of the Road?

"The river of time keeps on pulling us..."
I've become increasingly disinterested in updating this blog and may just call it quits. I have not written about trips I/we have taken, thoughts I've had on the upcoming 2016 presidential election, ongoing events in our family, my personal feelings and struggles, my mother's age and physical state, and any number of other topics that once would have seemed worth commenting on. The biggest problem is that I've tended to "accumulate" topics for one long blog post, instead of picking one and writing about it only. However, I'm also "written out" on a variety of subjects, and still others cause me to feel depressed -- and I'm already in too deep a psychological pit to want to keep "digging." (The odd thing is that I write in my journal more than ever these days, so I know it isn't just a question of making myself write.)

I guess I could write in "stream of consciousness" mode, as I often do in my journal, hopping around from topic to topic without any concern for paragraph structure. don't need a second journal.  So let me say a few things, post some photos, and I'll call it good.

First, I'm thoroughly amazed that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are even in the conversation about next year's presidential election. Clinton is about as scandal-ridden a candidate that there's ever been; the mere fact that she conducted her official business as Barack Obama's secretary of state on a personal server -- including the exchange of classified e-mails -- might have won her prosecution for espionage were she a lesser political luminary (or a Republican). Democrats may ultimately reject her again, as they did in 2008, but it all goes to show that an Ebola virus might run successfully for office if it had a (D) after its name. As for Trump, he has as detestable a personality, and has the least class, of any rich person I've ever seen. However, he's struck a populist nerve with his politically incorrect opinions on illegal immigration, and I think Rush Limbaugh was dead-on in saying that Trump's appeal lies mainly in his not being a card-carrying member of America's corrupt, poll-driven political class. I would vote for practically any other Republican, although I haven't yet decided which of the 'Pub candidates appeals to me most.

Since March, I have traveled to Las Vegas (again) for business. Dorine and I went to Utah for spring break, partly to take Nicole her new car (her great-grandmother Gloria Finnemore's old Mustang). And Dorine and I have gone to the cabin twice, once in April and the other time in July. (Actually, we went a third time a few weeks ago to help install new kitchen cabinets and plumbing, as well as to do some general clean-up of the property, with three of the other shareholders -- Bob Lenberg, Danny King, and Lynn Thurgood.) Here's a series of photographs from some of these travels.

City Creek Mall, SLC (March)
University Mall, Orem, UT (March)

SLC Temple from roof of Conference Center
Ryker and Kayla, City Creek Mall
Plaza Inn, downtown SLC
Devery and her kids at cabin (April)
Church Office Building, SLC
Rainbow Trail, West Forks (July)

Noelle in the loft of the cabin (April)
Mason in the loft of the cabin (April)

Mason and Tyler at cabin (April)
Heidi at cabin (April)

Kids at cabin (April)
Old headboard from cabin, going to charity

Newly remodeled kitchen at cabin
Maddi, Hailee, Ryker (July)

Chris at cabin (July)
Zach at cabin (July)

Alexis and Ryker (July)
Alexis, Hailee, Maddi (July)

Dorine with Hailee and Maddi (July)
Pinegrove cabin

Me with Hailee and Maddi (July)
Campfire at Pinegrove (July)

Dorine with Maddi (July)
At overlook (July)

Garrett, Zach, and Dorine on Rainbow Trail
Nicole at cabin (July)

Nicole with the little kids (July)
Me at cabin (July)
Inside of Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas (March)

Kids getting muddy at cabin (July)

Devery and Heidi and Kids (April)
At Treasure Falls (April)
At Treasure Falls (April)
In Pagosa Springs (April)
Me with Noelle (April)
Card game at cabin (July)
Dorine with Maddi and Hailee (July)
Kristy and Chris and kids (July)