Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fallor ergo sum: I err, therefore I am

I was flattered to receive an invitation this weekend to a Christian men's retreat, known as Marked Men for Christ, in Spring City, Pa. It's a somewhat mysterious phenomenon – one participants describe with exclamations like, “I can't tell you anything about it. But you gotta be there!”

Well, I can't tell you anything about it, either. Because I never made it.

The buddy who invited me told me just a few things – the essentials. One, he stressed: don't be late. If you're late, you don't get in.

For whatever reason, the retreat started at 6 on a Friday evening. In a location you can't get to without driving through the megalopolis chaos of the Philadelphia suburbs. That's why I gave myself three hours for the  two-hour trip. It wasn't enough. My first screw-up. Then I got lost. Twice. OK, three times. But who's counting screw-ups?

If you ever want to feel completely and utterly powerless, get lost in the Philly 'burbs at 5 p.m. on a Friday. Crawling along in a strange landscape of roofless concrete tunnels, you eat car exhaust and stare at the clock, praying for a miracle that never comes.

I'll spare you most of the details. Apparently I was on some no-stops-allowed grand tour of eastern Pennsylvania, arranged by a demented tour guide. Exton. Pottstown. Malvern. Downingtown. Frazer. Blue Bell. Norristown. King of Prussia. West Chester. I did them all. (All except Spring City, that is.) A few, more than once. Dehydrated, exhausted and ready to have a breakdown, at one point I actually thought it would have been nice to be run over by a dump truck. I would have welcomed the opportunity to lay down.

I know what you're thinking. No GPS? Right. I was on the bike and the bike's not set up for it. I might be asking for that for my birthday this year. (That was a hint for Mrs. Emma.)

I shot another 20 minutes finding an exit to stop and call the guys, tell them where I was and ask if I should keep going. Any grace on the don't-be-late edict? They didn't answer their phones. I called the venue manager. He answered his phone. But he couldn't help. He wasn't at the venue. He was at his son's baseball game.

Praying for divine directional intervention, I re-re-reread my directions and got back in the saddle. After one final wrong turn, I was back in Philadelphia. At 6:45. On the Schuylkill. Smelling mufflers. Feeling dreadful, discouraged, disappointed, defeated and depressed. I threw in the towel and headed for home.

Since my prayer for finding the right route had gone unanswered, instead I asked for some lesson in all this.

After a few hours of dreamless sleep, it was answered, graphically. Over morning coffee, I discovered Kathryn Schulz, the Crazy Wrongness Lady, as she ruefully calls herself.

She taught me the phrase, fallor ergo sum. It's a quote from St. Augustine, paraphrased. It means, “I err, therefore I am.” He wrote it 1,200 years before RenĂ© Descartes penned his more famous “think” version.

Kathryn teaches a valuable lesson. To be human is to be wrong. Embrace it. Own it. Celebrate it.

Watch her TED Talk. It saved me from a weekend of negative energy, ill-spent in self-loathing. Instead, I'm embracing my fallibility. I'm grateful for getting home safe. And I'm celebrating the unexpected gift of a free Saturday.

I think I might transplant tomatoes. Hopefully I won't screw that up.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

It's official. I'm an old coot.

When you get to be my age (206), it's inevitable to have an old-coot moment. It's when you realize that just about everybody you know is younger than you.

It usually starts with people in authority. One day you notice you're like 1,000 years older than your doctor, your pharmacist, your letter carrier and that 12-year-old policeman riding his bicycle through your neighborhood. You know, the guy with the helmet, the gun and the baseball cards in the spokes?

None of those lit the light bulb for me. Like most guys, I just continue pretending I'm still 18 and leave it at that. Fantasy is a wonderful aid to mental health.

No, for me, it wasn't the kids' teachers or the motor vehicle clerks, the cable guy or the President of the United States.

It was Dr. McCoy.

When I was a kid, watching Star Trek, DeForest Kelley was older than my dad. By nine full years. In my mind, he was always the old doctor, aging along with the Star Trek franchise. I hadn't given DeForest Kelly a thought in years. I'm not much of a Trekkie. Liked the original series (most of it), never got into any of the new series and thought most of the movies were disappointing. (Though I did like Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto's reprise of Kirk and Spock on the big screen.)

So when the original Star Trek popped up on my Netflix, I thought - hey, that would be fun. The garish sets, makeup and costumes. (Acid-trip colors were the way to go in 1966, when color TV was brand-spankin' new.) The bizarre props. (Remember the salt shakers?) The camera tricks. The creators' vision of 23rd-century electronics, all obsolete by about 1980. And Bill Shatner's inimitable 60s TV style. It's a kick.

Then Kelley showed up. And I my inner coot came of age. Holy crap! I'm older than Bones!

Kelley was 46 when the show originally aired. Even the old doctor is younger than I. And he was the eldest member of the original cast, IMDB tells me. Gee, thanks. Pretty soon he'll look like those one of those kinder-cops on a bike.

It's OK, not all is lost. I may be older than most of the world. But there's one demographic I can depend on to keep my young man fantasy alive. At least for a few more years.

There's always the Supreme Court.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Play Golf to help Haiti

Hi, gang. A quick announcement - a buddy of mine is among the Hope for Haiti Team, from First United Methodist Church in Cape May Court House. They have been traveling to work in Haiti periodically since the 2010 earthquake.

They repair and build homes, volunteer as health care workers and do whatever else they can to help.

The new focus is finishing a new building for the Ecole Henri Christophe primary school in Bayonnais. There, 600 children grades K - 8 receive much more than education. The school also provides food, clothing, clean water and employment. It's a vital part of the community and its recovery.

And here's an easy way for you to help. To raise money for their 2013 trip, Team Haiti runs a Golf Tournament. Basic info below. I also scanned their registration form - the quality is so-so but it is printable and readable.

Thanks and please share with any golfers on your e-mail list.



From First UMC Church, Cape May Court House

the Second Annual
Hope for Haiti Golf Tournament

Friday April 19, 2013
Avalon Golf Club
Noon registration, dinner at 6 pm

$125 per player
Early-bird discount - $50 off foursome if you register before April 1

For details and sponsorship information,
call Cherie Champion: 609 602 5664,
or the church office: 609 465 7087.