Monthly Archives

January 2017

DHS Classmates

Hoosier Daddy? Kurt Olsan, that’s who!

January 23, 2017

Kurt is superfreaking out…

Kurt and Amanda on their first blind date at Wash U.

Hey, Nick…I know you feel like you’re dying, but there’s fresh fruit and water over there!

BFFs!

This is about the only picture you’ll find of Kurt by himself without the wifey or kids or family.

Tyler Marcum at the mic, Ryan Mader in the tutu, Kurt to Ryan’s left and Josh Wagner to Kurt’s left.

Kindergarten pic
front row – don’t know, Kim Hagler (I think), Don’t know, Kim DeLa Houssaye, Trina Flanagan (I think), Kurt, Jennifer Powell (Probably), Blanca Hernandez, Sheri Sharp
2nd row – 1st three I don’t know, Bobby Montgomery, Stanley Holmes, don’t know, John Smith, Timmy Bowen
3rd row – Brad Hilton, John Wilson, Steve Hillman, Not sure, Archie Williams

Kurt’s HS grad party, with Josh Wagner, Ralph Youngblood, myself, and Ben Neubauer

Kurt, Ben Neubauer, Jeremy Parks.  Looks like Tom Ward in the background.

1st row – Bryan Mitchell, Tate Markey, Charlie (?), Brian Harstad, Josh Wagner, Ralph Youngblood, Klaas Tadema
2nd row – Paul Carmona, Ben Neubauer, Keith Dawson(?), Ryan Mader, Robb Painter, Kurt, Chris Gomez
Coaches – Don Wagner, Russ Olsan

Eric Johnson, Mel Bousley, Jeremy Parks, Jose Lopez, Michael Dickerson, Kurt (in back), Nick Payne (in back)

Here’s the audio.  As always, be patient.  We eventually start talking.

http://www.tapeacall.com/n2htk6hpjq

 

  • I don’t think Kurt invests a ton of time on social media.  In order to get Kurt’s attention, I had to reach out to his wife.  No, I didn’t know her.  She was quick to respond and very warm on the phone.
  • Kurt is decidedly old school.  He has an AOL-based email address and I called him on his home phone.
  • For those who like romance, Kurt’s marriage is an interesting story.  He and Amanda went to college together at Wash U.  They then went their separate ways, but reunited years later through a distance relationship.  Kurt moved to Indiana to be with Amanda.  Sometimes people leave an imprint on one another’s soul that keeps bringing them back together, no matter how inconvenient.  Best love story yet on this project!
  • Amanda’s family is connected to Maine.  I like her already!
  • Kurt lives and teaches in a rural community with 300 kids in the HS.  Listen to Kurt talk about the political climate in Indiana and the impact on schools.  He contrasts the $800 budget in Dickinson he had for the classroom vs. the $80 now.  BTW…that $80 could be less based on whether the kids families paid their fees.  Sounds very challenging.
  • Kurt spent some time after college experimenting with different careers.  Medical research, car sales, culinary school, then teaching high school kids.  Teaching is what stuck.
  • I knew Kurt quite well as a younger man.  He never had much patience for BS or immaturity, which to me is a prerequisite for teaching in a public school.  To listen to him speak with such passion about education after he’s made it a career for so long is a startling revelation.  He is dialed in.
  • Kurt’s impatience with BS is still there, by the way.  Listen to him talk about his single season stint as a varsity football coach at Dickinson.  That segment is both comical and sad.  It’s comical because Kurt had no interest in playing football and because other coaches toil in a slow upward moving hierarchy to coach on varsity.  He just kind of backed into the opportunity.  It’s sad because, as Kurt points out, there was a ton of wasted time that sucked energy and motivation from preparing for the classroom.
  • Hearing Kurt talk about coaching girls soccer teams is entertaining.  The idea that HS girls are not passing to an open teammate repetitively because of something she did in junior high is beyond my comprehension.  I have a 4 YO daughter who is about to start team sports, which I’m sure I’ll try to coach.
  • The conversation on Dickinson soccer was kind of a fun one.  Not surprised to hear Kurt list Brent Bell as the best player with whom we played.  He gave some hard-earned love to Ralph Youngblood and Bryan Mitchell, as well.
  • Kurt didn’t remember the game our senior year where we almost beat Clear Lake, a team that could regularly beat us badly.  Kurt asked if it was the game we played their JV.  For Kurt, varsity soccer was a nightmarish farce.  He had the skill to contribute for teams like Clear Lake or Brazoswood.  Instead, he played on an undermanned squad with less skillful soccer and sometimes football players…like me.  And, of course, Hugh Forque.
  • Kurt did have a vivid memory of Coach Burton racing and, narrowly beating, an oncoming train in a Dickinson school bus.  That and Coach Pike leaving us on the bus at Dairy Queen while he and his staff went in to eat were some of the better memories of Dickinson soccer.
  • To think the Dickinson men’s team won a state championship in soccer shortly thereafter is almost unfathomable to me.  I guess it helps to have a kid that later goes pro.
  • For those of you who ran cross country, Kurt is still an active runner.  You’ll be pleased to know that he’s training for a 50K ultra marathon race.
  • For those of you who read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I’ve used the platform as a way to seek forgiveness from things that haunted me into adulthood.  In a GOL first, Kurt asked to use GOL for a similar purpose.  He sent me an apology addressed to a member of the class of 1990 and asked me to publish it.  Let’s hope the person to whom this is intended sees this apology and accepts it.Kurt’s words:This is my apology written to a member of the class of 1990.  If someone is reading this and they don’t know why I am apologizing, this apology is not for you.  If you understand why I am apologizing, then you know that this apology is long overdue. My actions that night were completely abhorrent, and indefensible.  My actions in the days afterward were, and are, totally inexcusable. If there is one huge regret that I have from my high school days, this is definitely it. If there is one thing from my time in high school that I think about more than this, I can’t think of it.  I have learned from this huge mistake in judgement and it is in the forefront of my mind when I speak with other high school aged kids about how they behave and talk about their fellow students.  I humbly apologize for my actions that night and the days following.  I will totally understand if you won’t accept my apology.Very sincerely,                Kurt Olsan
DHS Classmates

City of Stars…Are you shining for Em?

January 17, 2017

Here’s the recording – the link immediately below.  As usual, give it thirty seconds or so to get going.  I’ve added two new sections: 1) “Overview of Call”, which gives the approximate times for specific parts of the conversation; and 2) a transcript.  Credit “Overview of Call” to my older sister, Stephanie, who has recommended a more professional approach for people who want to listen but maybe not for an hour.  The transcript is for anyone who wants to listen but can’t.  The transcript isn’t perfect but it’s close enough…

http://www.tapeacall.com/7cut6e39kt

Overview of Call

* This is a new section.

Min 1: I dropped the gauntlet and, without needing to coerced or shamed, listen to Emily sing the opening lines from “City of Stars” from La La Land.  Now that’s how you start a call!

Mins. 2-3: Emily talks about who she was in HS.

Mins. 5:30-8: Who she is now.

Mins. 7:30 – 10:30: Em talks about the struggles in her 30’s that led to a turning point in her life and her current career as a entrepreneurial “matchmaker”, doing business development to bring manufacturers, retailers, and the folks of the entertainment industry together.

Mins. 10:30 -19: Emily lives in Hollywood near the sign.  She dishes on the LA’s most infamous cougar, housing frustrations, and celebs in the neighborhood.

Mins. 17-24: She and I discuss Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and our mutual connections.  This comes up numerous times over the course of the hour.

Mins. 24-55: The story of Emily’s post DHS education and career.  Three highlights…She’s lived in London, worked for Disney, and flew right into the SARS scare in SE Asia.  There’s a lot here.

Thoughts

  1. I had spent some time on the karaoke machine in advance of my call with Emily learning the beginning of “City of Stars” from “La La Land” to coax Emily into a duet.  She beat me to it and sang solo!  If you don’t know her, she’s just a blast to be around or to talk to.
  2. If the definition of integrity is that the person on the inside matches what that person shows the world on the outside, Emily has as much integrity as anyone I’ve ever met.  When she says that she’s basically the same person now as in HS, I believe her.
  3. My lifelong tendency has been to overrate my older sister’s friends and underappreciate my younger sister’s friends.  That is probably pretty normal, especially with the age differences.  I’ve always liked Emily (who wouldn’t?), but I lacked the imagination to foresee how amazing she would turn out.
  4. Let me also confess I didn’t have an appreciation for her risk taking and accomplishment.  She pretty much took studying French (but not as a major) and has daisy-chained her corporate experiences into interesting work in some of America’s biggest name corporations.
  5. My favorite anecdote was Emily having to choose between working at HQs of Toys R’ Us or Disney.  I was beginning to wonder if she has a trampoline in her apartment like in the movie, “Big”.
  6. Em has lived in the UK and France, as well as traveled extensively in Asia, esp. China.  Being parked in the Casio exec. suite during the SARS scare and the challenges of being a woman in charge in China is worth a listen.
  7. What’s most impressive about Emily?  She experiences some rough times in her career with the downturn of the economy.  Is her response to run for shelter?  No; she doubles down and started her own high risk / high reward business.  She’s treating life like the rodeo.  Life bucks her a little and her response is to give life the spurs!
  8. Listen to Emily talk about how 9/11 brought her back to the US, seeking reconnection.  9/11 changed all of us in different ways.  It’s also interesting to hear Emily say she wouldn’t live abroad again without someone with her.  Testimony to how difficult it can be, even for someone as adventurous as she is.
  9. I’ve been around Emily more than anyone else that Maryann has brought into my life.  Crazy to think how little I knew of her life.  Life is all around us if we can just recognize and pay attention to it…
  10. My favorite learning about Emily?  The way she explains her connections with people from Dickinson.  When I asked with whom she keeps in touch, I expected to hear 3-8 of the people from her graduating class.  Instead, she listed families.  Some of the families had no one her age in them.  The relationship tree she described grew out of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.  I was both fascinated and impressed at how she thinks about those relationships and the interconnectedness that persists, even with all the time that has passed and distance travelled.
  11. I spent time participating in the Holy Trinity youth group in HS.  That church raised an amazing group of people + or – four years of my age.  Maybe I’ll do a Holy Trinity month and try to reach out to some of these people: the Curtis sisters; the Bell sisters; the Matocha sisters; the Smith twins; Kathy Rose; Brady Goodgame (church whore that he was when it came to basketball); Tommy Watkins; Gary Gana; the Clock sisters; Tom Ward; Lee Richards…the list could just go on and on.  It’s like a “Who’s Who” of who kicked ass at DHS and thereafter.
  12. Funny…I seem to have better recall of the women from that youth group much better than the men.
  13. French phrase that describes Emily…Joie de vivre.  She’s got it.
DHS Classmates

Yet Another Assist From Archie!

January 15, 2017

      

Here’s the recording.  It’s long, thought provoking, and worthwhile.  Give it 30 seconds to get going.

http://www.tapeacall.com/xavyb6u97n

  1. This is the first call I’ve done with someone that has continued to reside in the Houston area.  The reason is simple…I’ve been surprised at how many people follow this blog.  It’s my belief that people who are reading this know, for the most part, what’s going on with people that live in the area.  Especially classmates that were as popular in HS as Archie.  That said…it’s MLK Day.  The best way I could think of to celebrate is to reach out to someone who thinks and writes frequently on the topics of civil rights and race.  Archie was an easy choice.
  2. I’ve done eight of these calls so far.  Best story I’ve heard yet?  Archie committed to his daughter when she was a child to work on basketball with her anytime she wants.  She then proceeded to wake him regularly at 6am or 7am to play basketball.  With that kind of desire, no wonder she played and graduated from Georgetown University.  What a great way to bond with your daughter!
  3. It’s great that he’s been able to coach and give as much of himself to kids as he has.  Sounds like he’s been very successful as an AAU coach.  No shock there!
  4. The call is the longest I’ve done yet at 2 hours.  I tried to limit it 45-50 minutes, then an hour and twenty minutes.  It just kept going.  Archie has a story to tell and it’s worth a listen.
  5. Fun to listen to Archie talk about his days of starting his own business and running the barbershop.  What was even better was to hear him talk about teaching special education.  My Mom played that role when I was young, which left an impression.  That takes a ton of heart and patience.  I couldn’t have been any prouder to know Archie Williams for what he’s taken on with his career and who he is as a man.
  6. You know those kids love him, just like we do.
  7. I found it fascinating to hear Archie discuss where the desire to live in a certain kind of house and in a certain kind of neighborhood originated in his mind.  Interesting to hear him talk about how and why he moved his family back to the neighborhood where he grew up around Dunbar.  The key?  That diverse middle class neighborhood had more headaches for him and wasn’t where he wanted to raise his family.
  8. Listening to Archie talk about a police officer pulling him over, asking him to step out of his brand new vehicle, and put his hands on the car was tough.  That the officer knew went to school with Archie and did it anyways made it even tougher to swallow.  Listen to that segment.  It will eat at you.
  9. Black Lives Matter.  So do the lives of police officers.  Those are in no way mutually exclusive.  Officers have a tough job.  I get it.  That said, the idea that the US military has stricter rules of engagement on foreign soil than police forces have with our own citizenry just doesn’t make sense to me.  The US military changed their rules of engagement for the same reason our police forces should…because that’s what it takes to win trust and hearts and minds in the community.
  10. Listen to Archie talk about his frustrations black community.
  11. I didn’t remember that Archie had missed games and tournaments his senior year because of a questionable grade issue.  I never knew the problems that issue caused him in terms getting a chance to play after HS.  His discussion about the meeting between he and his parents and Mrs. Annexstead, Dr. Copenhaver, Coach Knotts, and Dr. Bourgeois is riveting.  You’ll listen to Archie talk about how his teacher admitted to making an example of him because he was an athlete.  You’ll also hear how the administration claimed Saturday counted as a school day in order to justify the grade he was given.
  12. Another part of this interview that I found fascinating concerned Archie’s on the court relationship with his teammate and classmate, Billy Zimmerman.  The on court tension was visible from the stands.  I always assumed that rivalry stemmed from two alpha competitors who both wanted the ball in their hands.  Archie shared that thebasketball coach had played a major role in creating that environment by suggesting that the offense run primarily through Bill than through the point guard.  Yep…that would do it.
  13. Archie may invite disagreement from some with his passion and willingness to put himself out there.  I love him.  I love following him on FB.  I love the affection he has for his family.  I love watching the highlights of his son, which I’ve watch more than ESPN this football season.
  14. I also love the parties at his house that I can see on FB.  I’m sure I’m not the only person wondering…exactly what does it take to get an invite?

 

 

DHS Classmates

Life in the Fast Alayne!

January 8, 2017
 
Alayne Markland (formerly Kulvicki) and I caught up.  You can click on the link below and listen.  I also have my write up below.
 

·        Some of my New Year’s resolution were about this blog.  Specifically, I wanted:
o   to shorten the recordings
o   to be more organized and disciplined in my questioning so I could direct time-strapped people to specific areas of the recording
o   to stop talking so much, especially about myself (man, is it annoying to listen to myself)
o   to stay in the present and avoid nostalgia.
·        So much for New Year’s resolutions!  The recording is like an hour and forty minutes.  70% of this recording is Alayne and I going back and forth between present and past.  The best parts are when we talk about growing up together.  The connection (or, maybe as she aptly suggested, the kinship) is still there.
·        Alayne’s path has carried her from Sacramento to San Antonio to now the suburbs of Birmingham, AL.  Sounds like she’s happy, but wouldn’t mind living in CA.  Especially post-election.
·        Beautiful family!  Kids 13 and 15.  She said that their teenage experiences definitely had her thinking more about her own days back at DHS.
·        Alayne is both a doctor and a professor.  If you didn’t see that coming…I just don’t know what to tell you.  She was always smart, driven, prepared, and ambitious.  She was also kind of adventurous in a subtle way.
·        BTW…Here’s Alayne on TV recently in a professional role…http://abc3340.com/station/talk-of-alabama/talk-of-alabama-010617-uab-division-of-geriatrics.  One of her quotes is “nobody wants to talk about bladder health”.  No truer words have ever been spoken!
·        It was a pleasure to listen to her talk with such enthusiasm and compassion about the work she does with the elderly (esp. the vets), the social nature of her career, and specifically on her work on memory.  People who love what they do make me love what they do.  When she’s writes her first book, I’m reading it!
·        How many people can you think of that you would say are both serious AND fun?  Alayne balances those two states of mind and shifts effortlessly between them.  It’s an amazing skill, really.  It’s what I loved about her when we were in elementary school.  It’s great that she’s never grown out of this duality.
·        How would I describe Alayne in one word?  Charming.  She’s just so easy to talk to.  She’s quick to laugh, agreeable, positive in an understated way, and someone that has a great skill for build up in a conversation.  She can just effortlessly let it fly, which is why it was both weird and resonant to hear her talk about feeling shy growing up.
·        Part of the fun of these calls is remembering.  We have the same favorite teacher – Ms. Thomas from 3rd grade.  We worked the election together at Silbernagel.  She loved “Little House on the Prairie”.  I had forgotten that she attended the 8thgrade dance with Mike Reed.  Alayne was also the first girl I ever invited to my birthday party!  
·        Something we never had talked about previously but had fun discussing was her transition from 6th grade to 7th.  She and I completed 6th grade on the same team at the State Competition for Problem Solvers at UT (for those in attendance, you should listen it – we discuss dropping quarters in the vibrating beds at the Motel 6).  6th was barrettes and rubber bands.  I didn’t see her all summer.  Alayne then returned to school for the 7th grade well-coiffed and a seemingly a grown woman.  I can remember seeing her and the attention she was getting before school started on the first day back…I’ve never felt so left behind!
·        I enjoyed listening to her talk about that coming of age time in her life and acknowledging the changing of friends and the new attention to appearance.  
·        One of the topics we discussed was our perceptions of dating within our school class versus dating out of our school class.  Alayne dated someone two years older.  I dated…no one, really.  My perception is that it sucks to be a guy through freshman and sophomore year.  Then, if you’re lucky enough to go to college, it starts all over again.  Alayne’s had a strong rebuttal that I will distill as follows: guys can date their own age (she didn’t really try to suggest that many would be successful dating up like the girls do).  They just need to be studs.  Couldn’t really argue that.
·        I knew Alayne was talented musically, but I never knew that her prowess on the clarinet helped pay her way to Southwestern.  You could hear the competitive streak in her voice as she talked about Symphonic band and first chair.  It also made me laugh to think that she loved band, but not marching band.  That must have made for some long falls!
·        Nothing that there is anything wrong with it, but I can’t believe she still listens to Classic Rock.  I couldn’t believe she listened to Classic Rock in HS.  Did I mention how fun she is? 
DHS Classmates

Listening to Jeremy…after all these years

January 3, 2017

 

 

  1. Jeremy Parks has taken a major physical weakness and limitation (his hearing) and he has made it his strength, his career, his life’s work. You have to admire that.
  2. Please read what Jeremy has written. Where Jeremy is deaf, we chose to communicate via FB Messenger.  There is no audio (sorry, Nick!).  A portion of our communications are included in transcript form.  Read this, too.  Here’s why:
    1. Everybody in America has an opinion on Islam. Jeremy is informed and has experience.  He’s lived in Islamic states and even non-states (Gaza Strip).  Read what he has to say.  It’s insightful.
    2. He’s managed to grow his faith over the years. He’s pretty open about where he stands.  He can explain what he believes and why.
    3. Americans that live or have lived outside the US have a better perspective on our country, the world, and how those two interact. They just do.
  3. One of the aspects of going back and forth with Jeremy on these topics is that it allows me to measure the change in my religious beliefs through the years. I value that part of our interactions immensely.  This can probably best be viewed in our discussions on homosexuality and whether Christ was a “revolutionary”.  On the latter, we have different views of history and the role that Jewish leaders of the day played in politics.
  4. Jeremy and his wife both have limited hearing. They have three children.  I have to believe there is a reality TV blockbuster in there somewhere.  Jeremy has a made for TV, bigger than life personality.  The pictures tell you all you need to know.
  5. I keep hitting new highs and lows on this project. My new high is genuinely reconnecting with Jeremy Parks.  We’re in regular contact now.  That feels good.  He’s such an interesting guy.
  6. Our relationship now looks a lot like the State Farm commercial where the wife comes down and catches her husband on the phone in the middle of the night and suspects he’s up to something. Because Jeremy is living in Asia, he’s messaging me in the middle of the night.  I don’t sleep well, so it works…for everyone except my wife who is suspicious when she finds me typing like a madman on FB in the wee hours of the morning.  It’s both funny and endearing to know that she feels like another woman would have any interest in the 45 year old version of me.
  7. Of course, my new low on this project is learning how Jeremy felt in junior high and high school. That’s not a part of the below transcript.  It’s heartbreaking.  Jeremy has hearing issues.  I knew that as a kid.  His Dad was an educator and had high standards for academic performance.  If Jeremy didn’t make the grades, he had consequences.  I knew that, as well.  I wasn’t smart enough to put together how these things mixed together to create really tough and sometimes toxic teenage years for Jeremy.
  8. The part about being deaf that I’ve never troubled myself to understand is how much you miss of what’s going on around you when you’re deaf. This became very clear as Jeremy and I began to share information about mutual experiences.  It’s as if he only took in half of what I was able to take in.  Some of that is the hearing.  A lot of that is withdrawing over time when you have less information and you’re not able to keep up with the others.  If I had a time machine, I’d go back and have a talk with the younger version of myself.  And maybe be an adult friend to Jeremy.  He could have used one.
  9. I viewed us as being friends and Jeremy as being part of a G&T tribe that went through a lot together. He viewed himself as more of a loner, with one close friend (David Gregory).  I’m struggling with the cognitive dissonance of it all.
  10. I’ll close with this. Jeremy always had a twisted but hilarious sense of humor. I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorites.
    1. He and a friend carried a toilet into Mr. Fore’s classroom and put it on stage. When Mr. Fore entered the room, Jeremy was sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper with his pants around his ankles.  Fore asked what was the meaning of this.  Jeremy responded that there was a line and he’d just have to wait.
    2. Jeremy didn’t remember a number of the funny moments that you simply had to remember from Mr. Bailey’s class. I, mean…Mr. Bailey got a toothpick stuck in his zipper one day that stuck out direct and horizontally.  That was unforgettable!  The reason Jeremy didn’t have those memories (did anyone know he was doing this?) is because he would take attendance for Mr. Bailey each day, leave the absentees cards on the clip outside the classroom door…and then just leave without coming back.  That just kills me!

 

Here’s Jeremy in his own words, then our discussion…I’ve inserted heading titles that are bold, enlarged, and centered to identify important topics to allow people to skip around to what they find interesting.  These include Islam (two sections), homosexuality, politics, and Christianity.

 

In Jeremy’s own words…

 

Listeners and readers, Steve asked me for a summary of the last 28 years, for a listing of random lessons, and names of four people from high school with whom I’d like to have supper.  I genuinely hope this isn’t too long.

Moved to Texas Tech U in Lubbock.  Met the girl of my dreams.  She’s deaf, which works for me because I’ve been losing my hearing since I was but a wee lad. We moved to Lamar Univ. in Beaumont, marrying in Dec 91 (25 years!).

After graduating we started moving. Gaza Strip. West Virginia. North Carolina. We thought settling in NC in ‘97 would allow time for roots to grow, but after First Born arrived we moved to the Czech Republic for a two year stint. From there the pattern took us through ten years in S. America, a couple in SE Asia and now Central Asia.  Our reproductive output maxed at three kids, the oldest of whom is a freshman at North Greenville University in Greenville, SC. We tried adopting, but can’t seem to stay in one place long enough to complete the process.

We’ve done a variety of things, but all of them relate to the Deaf communities in places we’ve lived.  Growing up Deaf, there were a thousand things my wife missed, social cues and tidbits of information that she never understood until adulthood. While my experience was different, I still remember going through high school sometimes sitting on the edge of a conversation, literally and metaphorically. I was a pretty good faker at times, and had enough hearing that it was not terribly obvious. At any rate, we have great compassion for Deaf people who live at the edge.  Deaf people around the world are largely disenfranchised members of a larger, dominant culture that does not always view them as capable of contributing to society at large; a personally insulting concept for us to say the least.

Our faith plays heavily into our work and moves, but that’s not a topic on which we can stay very long, at least not here. Our current environment is wonderful, but many folks here do not favor religious pluralism.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

Steve wanted me to name four people I’d like to have over for supper, folks from high school I’d guess.

–  First would be David Gregory. Dave was my best friend, but died from cancer several years ago. My kids know about Dave, and I routinely comment, “Wish Dave could have seen this…he’d love it.” He was a far better friend to me than I knew how to be to him, and I’d love to have another shot.

There’s one of life’s lessons for me: be a better friend than the ones you have. I’m naturally a little hard to know, and moving as I do this translates into fewer friends than I might otherwise have. I’m still trying to figure out how to be a better friend than others are to me – to give more than they give, take less, etc.

–  Second: Kyle Gupton.  Something I’ve treasured about Kyle is his thoughtful intelligence. He and I diverge in various ways. I’m socially conservative-ish; he’s more liberal.  He’s childless, while I have three and wish we had another. He’s a tech guy while I border on Luddite. We occupy different ends of the religious spectrum. For all our ideological differences, I loved the brief debates we had. Regardless of the issue, Kyle thinks it through. He knows what he believes and why. That sort of careful reasoning is more rare than we’d like to admit. Kyle’s thinking challenges me, and he’s pretty fun, to boot. I would enjoy bantering, laughing, and honestly disagreeing with Kyle for an extended evening.

If the racism debate and past election cycle have taught us nothing else, the pool of people capable of intelligent, respectful disagreement shrinks daily. Heartbreaking.

–  I was in college before I heard the notion that girls couldn’t do math or science. Apparently society assumed this sort of thing for decades. Honest to goodness my first thought when I heard this was, “Hello? Dana Weigel!” Dana seemed driven, intelligent, and a focused problem-solver in class. She’s gone on to an engineering career that led her to NASA. I’d love to hear about her travels and travails as a woman in such a male-dominated field like science and technology.

My daughter (12 yrs) and I have a running joke about girls and math. I imply her incomprehension of her math homework is gender-related. She hits me. Lather, rise, repeat. Periodically she tries to prove me wrong by mentioning Dana; yes, I’ve told her names and shown NASA photos and all that. Our sons will ensure my baby girl knows how to fight. I’ll make sure she knows her own strength.

–  This one surprised me – Stanley Holmes. I don’t believe we’ve ever said a word to one another, but Steve’s description of Stanley through their interviews piqued my interest (I didn’t listen to it for obvious reasons). Racism is a scourge, a blight on humanity that needs examination and resolution. I can only see what my blue eyes allow; I want to see and feel the issue from the perspective of someone from the same town and class as I.

Want to see racism a little differently? Travel as a foreigner to a place where ethnic groups struggle with one another (and ignore you). Look for the slights, the economic disadvantages, the jobs people hold. Ask why all the garbage men look different from the bankers, or why schools are conspicuously absent in some provinces.

I’ve been places where my skin color made me the recipient of racism (“White guy…has money….pull him out of line and serve him first.”), but I’ve also lived where my lily-whiteness was a liability (“White guy…has money…let’s rob him” or “White guy….ignore him. He’ll leave eventually.”). It changes things, seeing how they see me in terms of skin tone or culture or other assumptions.
It makes the US look and feel very, very different.

I tell my kids – especially my sons – of the unfortunate advantages that accrue from their skin color. It’s not just in the US.

Steve wants a list of things I’ve learned, so here goes:

  • Venezuelans know how to party. Wow.
  • If you love the outdoors –fields, volcanoes, jungles, rivers flowing through ancient lava fields – go to Ecuador. Oh, and the people in those tiny little towns…simply some of the best. If you like fish, get the encebollado.Of course, Ecuadorians love a good fiesta. We’ve blown up veggies with firecrackers, ziplined at 8,000 feet, engaged in a foam-and-water fight with 1,000 strangers, and even got in the ring at a bull fight.
  • Sooner or later, we all have to deal with the matter of our origins. We like to think we stand alone in our existence, as if nothing has come before us, but that’s not true. Of course, we deal with the parents who raised us and determine whether we’ll be like them or reject them. That’s an origin to consider.Ultimately, though, we have to consider whether the Origin question has an answer in evolution, natural selection, or God. Intellectually we have to face our roots, whether its humanism, The Enlightenment, modernism, postmodernism, et. al., and whether to view those systems of thought through a filter of a naturalistic assumption or a theological one.
  • I pursued my love affair with spicy food through the kitchens and bamboo eateries of SE Asia. If you want your cuisine so hot it should come with health warnings about blood pressure, heart rate, and short-term memory loss, Thailand’s your place.
  • I love being independent, but what an American trait. So much of the world is collectivist in mindset; as I learn to see these places through the eyes of the residents, the appeal becomes obvious. So much of our angst and emotional hand-wringing could be lessened if we were more invested into a community that sheltered and nurtured its members properly.
  • There’s a fine line between making your own decisions – and keeping your own counsel along the way – and not caring about the decisions others make.
  • Around the world, there are some constants. Near the top: people need to be loved – it’s just that simple. I wish I had known that in high school, and had the wherewithal to act on it.
  • Another constant: so little love exists that we too often fail to recognize it. Love takes many forms, and not all of them are warm and fuzzy.
  • I see people on Facebook who live within 100 miles of where they grew up and I absolutely cannot fathom that. It’s not a negative; I just can’t wrap my head around it as a concept. Work forces us to move far too often for that to be a part of our reality.
  • We’re the only people in this region of the city with a Christmas tree. Wonder what the neighbors think.
  • If given the choice of having all my hearing back, I’d turn it down. I just cannot imagine a life other than the one being a part of the Deaf community has given me.

+++++

ST:Have you seen my blog? Would like to catch up with you. Seems like you’ve been living a fascinating life.

JP:Yes I’ve seen the posts on FB. Sadly I don’t listen to the blog. Not sure if you remember but I was losing my hearing in high school. It’s gotten to the point that I listen to very little these days.

ST:Can you hear well enough to do a call? Could we go back and forth on email?

JP:I couldn’t do a phone interview. I just don’t hear well enough. I haven’t tried talking on the phone in years, but email is great.

il you in the next few days.

JP:No problem. I get significant internet access about every other day here. I gotta walk up to the mall to get it, but I do get it eventually.

ST:You’re missing an interesting time here in the US. Maybe the most interesting of our lifetimes.  It’s just great to be in touch with you.

JP:I see some news. Trump. Clinton. Racial strife and it’s ramifications. Heartbreaking. As for the political festivities that just concluded, it was a mixed bag. Clinton was more qualified based on knowledge and experience but I dislike her political positions on some issues. Trump….well, he has no political position of any real significance and was less qualified in terms of knowledge and experience. It’s VHS vs Betamax all over again. VHS was just more popular regardless of its technical flaws.  And what about you? Maine? Why?  Was Vermont closed?

ST: Yes. I love it here. When you come back, come visit. You’ll get it immediately.

JP:If it has an outdoors, then I’m sure I will.

Married how long? And forgive my asking but is this a second go round?

ST:Married for 2nd time. Going on 7 years.

JP:Where did you meet?

ST:Work

JP:Which is…?

ST:Software product and engineering

JP:Is that your degree field?

ST:English and Philosophy. So no.

ST:Didn’t you go to Tech?

JP:Yes, I attended Texas Tech for two years. Met a girl. We transferred to Lamar U in Beaumont.  We got married in December of 1991so it will be 25 years end of this month. Stunned she hasn’t straight up murdered me by now.  We loved Tech. Just didn’t work out for her degree. So we moved.

ST:Didn’t we work together at the school dept. in those summers in college?

JP:Yeah, you and I worked together at the DISD maintenance department at least one summer. I worked there for 4 years running, every summer till I married. It paid $5 an hour when minimum wage was $3.25.

 

On Islam

ST:Can you share your thoughts on Islam and the Middle East? Living over on that side of the globe and all…

JP:Most of my opinions relate to Muslims who do not live in the United States. I do not know any North American Muslims.  The biggest thing that springs to mind is that there is an entirely different sense of logic, only part of which can be attributed to purely cultural concerns. In most countries in this part of the world it is impossible to separate national culture from Muslim culture.  As a result, attempting to separate, for example, Iranian culture from Muslim culture is an exercise in futility. Iranian culture is by definition a Muslim culture, and even more so than calling the US a Christianity-flavored nation.

That’s just an example, of course.

So when President Obama says things like we are struggling against terrorists from a specific nation, not against Muslims, that statement does not make very much sense to some of the people involved. They do not differentiate between their own identity and the notion of Islam because Islam is their identity.

Of course in the US we have in many places what we call a Christian identity, but this is different. Christians have always understood that for some people faith was a matter of identity and not a personal conviction.

You know, Christians in name only. Or as some people used to say, Sunday Christians.

ST:Christmas and Easter Christians.

JP:Right, Christmas and Easter.

Over here, you can either be a good Muslim or a bad Muslim or a mediocre Muslim. However, if you were born into a Muslim family in a Muslim nation, you are by definition Muslim. It’s not a personal choice any more than your genetic code is.

Therefore, because they identify themselves as Muslims due to family history and nationality, they get somewhat confused when we attempt to claim that America is not a Christian nation. Christianity as they see it it’s not a matter of conviction. It is a matter of personal identity that is determined by family history and national faith.

ST:Sounds like Catholicism, as a Christian corollary.

JP:This helps us understand why they are so hurt and so emotional when they hear of someone leaving Islam for another religion. That person is rejecting family, history, and nationality, for something that they do not believe can replace it.

It also helps understand why they grow so angry when someone disparages an aspect of their faith. When someone mocks Islam, they are mocking a faith, a family identity, and a national characteristic.

Changing gears to the US….When I hear of my friends in the United States objecting to the presence of Muslim refugees in the US, in a certain sense I understand, but in a certain sense I do not. If you truly believe that these people are our enemies, why reject them? Why not invite them in, have them over for supper, show them that you care about them?

Why not show them that you’re not some terrible enemy to be feared or eradicated? If we truly believe that our way of life as Americans or, for some, as Christians is better than their way of life, why be afraid of them? Why not give them a chance to see for themselves?

Over here of late there have been some violent actions. By and large the average Muslim on the street seems very offended by these actions. They are appalled at the way in which the world is probably going to view them as a result of the violence.

ST:It’s an irrational fear, this view of Muslim refugees. A lot of Americans think terrorism is a real threat in the US. Your chances of dying by bee sting are much higher.

That makes sense.

 

On Homosexuality

Knowing your background, where have you ended up on the topic of homosexuality? The Pope tolerates, but Evangelicals still reject as abomination.

JP:My views on the subject have undergone a number of mutations, always drifting closer to a greater sympathy and compassion on the subject. It’s something evangelicals have been bad about, this lack of understanding, and sadly it’s hurt far too many people. As for viewing it as an abomination, I think that’s a mistake.

I am sympathetic to those who object to the language of choice on the matter of homosexuality. For many years the Evangelical community has insisted that like all other sins homosexuality is a choice. That was a flawed perspective in many, many ways.

Very rarely do we choose what sort of thing is going to attract us, excite us, and turn us on. Even evangelical Christians will admit that they don’t choose heterosexual tendencies, or opt to be more excited in red-heads, cowboys, or athletic partners.

ST:Must be genetic

JP:And I think for too many years evangelicals have been very unsympathetic and very cold in their choice of language and in their attitudes towards those who find themselves staring at homosexually from a personal perspective.

At the same time, I believe the Bible clearly lays out the position on the matter. I believe that position is very clear when we read it with an awareness of our own filters and biases. The Bible draws a line – and places homosexuality (with a host of other things) in a no-go territory.

I have many friends who are homosexuals. I’ve had them in my home. I help them when their car broke down. We’ve cooked together and gone to festivals together. They were made in the image of God and they deserved no less than my best friendship.

And yet, just because something comes to us naturally and without our own choice does not necessarily mean that it is good or wholesome.

And I think Christians have a burden, a responsibility, to address the matter (when needed) honestly and accurately but with a great deal of sensitivity and compassion.  And that is something that has been lacking in our community for far too long.

And if that were not enough of a mistake, for some reason there is a strongly visceral emotional response to the question of homosexuality from within Evangelical churches. You called it earlier: it’s viewed as some sort of abomination.

ST:I’ve had to part company with Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. For reasons like this. I have a hard time with topics like this.

JP:I understand your need to step away.

My usual position on a variety of matters is to live and let live. I truly wish that I could stand back and say that people can love whom they choose. And by love I mean in a sexual sense and emotional sense.

But I don’t think that this is one of those areas that the Bible is going to allow us to say that. Even so, we make a larger issue out of this than necessary.

ST:I agree

JP:I recall several years ago a church association in North Carolina decided to remove any church that had actively practicing homosexual church members. My response was to ask whether or not they were going to kick out all of the people who are engaged in habitual gluttony, who are shacking up with someone to whom they were not married, and who had problems with anger that was observed by everyone in the church – all patterns of behavior the Bible rejects.

Why choose this particular act? Why not go after the man that everyone knows cheats people in business? The Bible spends far more time objecting to dishonest financial practices then sexual morality, though sexual morality is certainly an issue it addresses.

So I think evangelical Christians have erred in their lack of sensitivity and their bizarre emotional response to this particular issue. I believe they have made mistakes and how they attempted to love and care for people, fearing that love equates to approval.

But I don’t think that alters the fundamental question of the morality issue. And I wish I could convince people how sad it makes me to have to say this but I really don’t see much wiggle room when it comes to pursuit of homosexuality.

(As an aside, I differentiate between the homosexual drive and desire on one hand and engaging in homosexual acts on the other.)

Many of us struggle with a drive or a desire to engage in something, anything. If our drives push us towards something wrong, things become immoral when we actually engage in it with our hands.

Take, for example, someone with an anger problem. He did not choose to have an anger problem. Whatever caused him to have this anger issue, whether it was the way he was raised or some sort of genetic work, it really is not his fault. Having that inner tendency to lose his temper is a problem, but it isn’t really a major issue until he starts punching people.

I believe there was a difference between someone who struggles with same-sex attraction, and one who embraces it gladly and pursues it.

ST:Anger is a great example. Anger effects other people. Who exactly is homosexuality effecting other than the adults involved?

JP:That is an excellent question. And there are a number of ways to respond to it.

The first response is to say that we have a perspective on the morality of an issue not because of its impact on us but because it is the right thing to do.

For example: my opinion about racism has nothing to do with its impact on me. I stand against racism because that is the correct posture on the subject. Even if my racist grandfather hurts no one, he’s still wrong.

So when my gay friends ask me what the problem is, why I object on a moral level to the issue of homosexuality I would say it is because it is a moral issue, not because it hurts me. And honestly, if I truly believe this is a moral issue then I’m probably going to be worried about it’s impact on my gay friend even if he denies my basic premise.

ST:All of morality neatly falls into offenses against other people and harm caused. Except homosexuality. Being gay doesn’t hurt anyone.

JP:The second response is to point out that no one lives on an island. What hurts you hurts me sooner or later.

Homosexuality is not the only issue that falls into the category of not hurting anyone. I can be an angry misanthrope who cannot stand to interact with other people. As long as I do not spew my anger and hatred on to others, I could argue that I am not hurting anyone.

We can say the same thing about watching pornography. We can say the same thing about alcoholism. There’s a whole list of things that people can engage in that only hurts themselves.

Our teachers forbade certain things (cheating on tests, fights behind the gym, skipping class) even if no one was going to be hurt by it. It was, in the school milieu, “morally” wrong.

ST:People that we both knew that have come out as gay. We knew they were gay in grade school. We can’t say that about porn or alcoholism. Those affect society in a clear, negative way

JP:I see your point. And I grant you that that is very different.

I don’t think Christians should run around screaming about the sins that other people are committing. And I think this is where some of the disconnect occurred on this subject. I am not for a moment arguing that it is my right one my place to stand up and judge

ST:I get it.

JP:When the subject comes up we should be clear as to our position on the matter, and we should relate it to the Bible. I mean, that’s a Christian’s base. In the meantime though, we should care for and love and be friends with people who are different from us.

ST:Makes sense.

JP:I would never dream of elevating myself to some sort of judgment to position, meddling in the life of someone who happened to be gay. And I think that’s a problem that the church has done too often

 

On Christianity

ST:What’s your take on the Prosperity Gospel types like Joel Osteen?

JP:Heresy. And I have never said that about anyone else in my entire life

ST:Yeah. I don’t get it. Literal translation of Bible or not.

JP:There are moments in the Bible that make clear that God does not have a problem with financial success for comfort. However they were just many times where the Bible makes it clear that finance is not what we were about as Christians; just as many times if not more.

As someone else said we don’t come to Jesus to get rich. We come to Jesus to get Jesus.

ST:Clear delineation between new and old.

JP:Hmm?

ST:New and Old Testament

JP:Yes largely due to the shift in divine emphasis from corporate-Israel to corporate-church. As well, the continuation of OT promises into the NT changed when followers lacked then Israeli state religion protection.

ST:Christ talked about the rich man and the eye of a needle. Seems pretty clear. Christ was a revolutionary.

JP:Osteen and other prosperity gospel types rarely know the Bible. Hate to say that. I am confident he does what he believes is best.

Christ as revolutionary? He was only revolutionary in the sense that he called people back to what it should have been at the top of the list all along. That is, devotion to God.

He asked some of his followers to sell their possessions, while others were allowed to retain those positions. The difference in those situations seemed linked to the attitude the owners had about their material possessions

ST:People have known the Bible and twisted it for their purposes since it became available.

JP:Yes, this is true. I can only hope and pray that I do not do the same.

In the Old Testament, if you read some of the shorter prophetic books, the people were taken to task for elevating financial gain above love for God and for his people.

In the story you mentioned about the rich man and the camel and the needle, Jesus was primarily targeting the difficulty most wealthy people have been letting go of their love of money and replacing it with the love of God

ST:Christ was also a revolutionary in the sense that he created a movement to topple the existing structure. He didn’t live to see it. You can argue whether it happened or didn’t. What is unarguable is that what came out of the oven was different than what went in.

JP:I have never been comfortable with the idea of Christ as a revolutionary. It sounds dangerously close to liberation theology that came out in the 60s and 70s.

ST:I don’t mean that.

JP:I see what you mean by revolutionary, though. Don’t worry.

I’m not convinced that toppling of the existing political structure was one of his priorities. Just because his spiritual adversaries happened to be a part of the political structure does not mean the structure was his target. But you are correct in that he came along and in many ways did not play by the rules that the local authorities had established.

ST:Dude…he called out the priests at every turn. He called out the religious. He called out those who used the words of the Bible, twisted them, and used them for opportunism.

JP:Yes, but we have to wonder whether his point was to call them out on a political level or to correct their bad theology.

I agree with you in the sense that he did spend a lot of time talking to them in about them.

ST:He was a non-violent man that was essentially killed by the leaders of his parents’ faith. He was dangerous in his ideas. Like MLK.

JP:You’ve got a point, but this leads back to something to which I alluded to earlier.

Christ saved his most scathing critiques for those who should have known better. That is, he looked at religious leaders who had access to the truth and he blistered them for their failures to do and believe that which they knew was proper.

One of the mistakes Christians make and have made in the last 50 years is that some of our most scathing critiques are directed at those who do not believe what we believe or those who – for lack of a better way of drawing the analogy to a close – do not know any better.

I think somewhere along the way churches began to assume that we really were a Christian nation and therefore preachers could speak to culture at large the way Christ spoke to the Pharisees.

Contrast that with the way in which Christ spoke to people who are not Jews; that is, did not claim to know what God was all about. Jesus did not shy away from calling them out if necessary, but he showed a great deal of compassion as he highlighted the proper way to go. His opponents within Jewish society received a lot less grace.

But back to something you said: he certainly did not come with temporal peace in mind. He assumed the clash of morals and values and authority would rupture something in people.

ST:

I can see where you’re coming from. We see it slightly differently. You see it as Christ’s message based on their exposure to “God” or the teachings of the Bible. Especially where that was limited in those times (widespread reading is a modern thing). I’m with you. I see it as him speaking Truth to Power. Which is about Faith but is also political.

JP:He was clearly apolitical even as He likely knew there would be some sort of political fallout. He even emphasized His lack of interest in political matters.

ST:Apolitical in terms of the Roman Empire. I can buy it that. But he was still political. Christianity was and is a movement.

JP:Perhaps we disagree on the definition of political. Government and temporal power disinterested him.

Where do you stand on ideas of Muslims and refugees?

Free passage? Limited numbers? Temporary halt?

ST:Probably where we most differ is how effected the Bible is by the hands of men.

JP:

Perhaps.

On Islam

ST:I don’t view Muslims as the enemy.

JP:I suppose you voted for Clinton, yes?

ST:The US economic leadership depends on immigration and the belief that the US is the best place to be. Asians are a big part of what we’re able to do.

Yes, I supported Clinton.

JP:So to you the Muslim question is immigration not security, right?

ST:Are we going to kill all the bees for the 100 or so deaths they cause each year? Bathtubs and showers for the 1000 they die in those?

JP:I hope not. I love a good bath.

ST:You want security from Muslims in the US? Don’t discriminate against them. Treat them with respect.

JP:Amen.

I agree.

Open your home. Play soccer with them.

If we truly believe our nation and, in some cases, our faith is a great thing, why not let them come in and see for themselves?

The only thing I would ask that all the paperwork and citizenship work and registration be done in a transparent and clear process. If we are going to welcome them here, let’s make sure they are completely plugged into the process. Taxes. Schools. Rights. Limitations. Let’s see to it that they are invested in the country.

ST:Yes. There are crazies everywhere. I’m more concerned with the ones that grew up here and feel justified as such.

 

On Politics

Rebellion happens when people think they deserve one thing but get something much less. We’re headed there with our own people because of economic disparity and it’s widening. Less than half of Americans will live better than their parents, which is a societal expectation.

JP:But is that a reasonable expectation? At some point there’s no more money to be had.

ST:Marx had it right in his criticism of capitalism. He wasn’t a particularly good problem solver.

JP:Traditional cultures often believe in the law of limited good. Any good positive resource is finite. If you have more, I have less. Power, money, luck, fortune….all finite. We live in the US as though money and fame and power are unlimited commodities.

ST:I agree. GDP has matured. At some, income distribution will have to be addressed. Otherwise, revolution will come. Socialism seems imminent.

JP:I’ve lived under socialism. I cannot see it being a success in the US. It would be terrible.

ST:It comes in different forms. Think Europe. Canada. We’re already there in so many ways.

JP:That said, we have many areas in which our basic American assumptions are flawed.

Health care, for example.  Not a fan of Obama’s health package but we badly need reform of the billing system.

Another example: the two party political system. It drives our candidates to more extreme positions in order to prove themselves distinct from the other guy.

ST:Yes, Obamacare was a weak attempt.

JP:But it WAS an attempt. I’ll give the man credit for attempting to shore up a badly gaping hole. He tried something, even if it was just a first step.

Another area where we’re falling apart: politicized media channels. So much for freedom of the press and its benefits.

ST:Hey, I’m done here; duty calls.  Send me a note with some more data and I’ll go with it.

JP:No problem.  Thanks for thinking of me.

Before you go, I appreciate the fact that we’ve disagreed without being disagreeable. I treasure that, and I think we’d all be better off if we could do this more often. Thanks for debating.